Council approves PAMF building: Project receives thumbs-up despite size, impact

Photo By: Courtesy of PAMF
Photo Courtesy Of PAMF The Los Altos City Council approved plans for a Palo Alto Medical Foundation building on Altos Oaks Drive, despite objections from neighborhood residents.
By Diego Abeloos

The Los Altos City Council Dec. 11 unanimously approved the proposal to build a two-story Palo Alto Medical Foundation (PAMF) building on Altos Oaks Drive, despite some public reservations about its size.

The project at 715 Altos Oaks Drive calls for the construction of a 25-foot-tall, two-story structure totaling 8,785 square feet. The building would replace two existing single-story medical buildings. According to PAMF officials, the new building will serve as a plastic and cosmetic surgery center.

The project calls for setbacks ranging from 20 to 55 feet, 8-foot-tall standards with directional lighting in the building’s parking area and 37 parking spaces – eight more than required by city code.

A handful of nearby residents expressed concerns about the project, specifically that the proposed building was out of scale with the surrounding residential area. One resident told the council PAMF’s efforts to create a buffer for nearby neighborhood homes with its 20- to 55-foot setbacks was “like moving an elephant in a bathtub.”

“This building does not look anything like any of the other buildings in that area,” nearby resident Teresa Morris said. “It doesn’t look like any of the other buildings on Altos Oaks, it doesn’t look like any of the residential buildings that are behind it, and it doesn’t look like the houses on Golden (Way).”

Others had privacy concerns and pointed to the expected increase in traffic the building’s occupants and patients would have on city streets.

Linda Slattery, a Brentwood Place resident, told the council she feared the project would set a precedent for other property owners in the neighborhood to build bigger structures in the future.

“As buildings age in that area, there’s going to be the likelihood that (property owners) are going to want to have megabuildings like this built into that area,” she said.

Prior to casting her vote, Councilwoman Val Carpenter said that while she recognized the residents’ concerns, she found no reason to vote against the project, noting that it met the city’s Office-Administrative (OA-1) district zoning code requirements.

City staff noted during the council discussion that the building was subject to the same floor-area ratio – 35 percent – as residential structures in the OA-1 district.

“There’s no question this is a much larger building in terms of its mass than what existed there before,” Carpenter said. “This does set a new trend. It’s much larger and much taller than any of the other buildings currently in that area, although it is (designed) to code.”

Councilwoman Jan Pepper later added that she was “a little bothered by the scale (of the building), too.”

“If it meets our zoning requirements, how can we deny it, other than to say, ‘Well, it’s too big,’” Pepper said. “But that’s what we allow.”

Councilwoman Jeannie Bruins, however, said she was inclined to support the proposal, noting that reactions to the project reminded her of public concerns over the new Packard Foundation building at 343 Second St.

“There was a similar type of reaction to some of it, and I think we all agree that it’s a beautiful building that’s out there,” Bruins said of the Packard headquarters. “I have a similar inclination that this will be that as well.”

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