A four-story downtown office building would overshadow a gourmet restaurant and result in the demolition of a historic home if the City Council approves the developer's proposal Tuesday.
Calling the building "a four-story wall next to Chez TJ" (the gourmet restaurant), zoning administrator Peter Gilli recommended against the project on June 13, and the project's design has not changed significantly since. An 1870s home on the quarter-acre site at 902 Villa St., which is on the city's historic register as the Pearson House, would have to be demolished.
Los Altos-based developer Roger Burnell claims the four-story building height is "pretty normal" for the area, which has buildings of similar heights nearby. But the Michelin-star winning restaurant next door, Chez TJ, has come out in opposition.
"It's going to be a huge detriment to what we do here," said Joey Elenterio, executive chef at Chez TJ, where the prix fixe dinner costs well over $100 a person. "There's going to be this large building overshadowing this beautiful Victorian house."
"A giant office building doesn't add culture to the city, maintaining a high-class restaurant does," said a neighbor at the June 13 hearing, "It would block out all of the light into our building (condos at 108 Bryant Street) And having a garage as a first floor does not add anything to our street."
Burnell proposes to tear the Pearson House house down after searching for places to move it, including the city's Cuesta Annex, with no luck.
"You shouldn't assume that because the porch is falling apart that the historic building is as bad," Gilli said of the home's dilapidated appearance. "The porch didn't have same quality as the original construction."
The project's ground-level garage may be a bone of contention for council members who had seen a previous iteration of the project with 17 parking spaces in an underground garage, and two ground-level spaces. Gilli called for the garage to be moved back underground on June 13, reducing the building to three stories, but it remains at ground level in the proposal submitted to council.
Burnell says the 21,745-square-foot building meets city guidelines for the site, even at 61 feet in height and set back only 5 feet from the Chez TJ property line. A 932-square-foot retail or restaurant space was added to the ground floor of the project at the request of city staff members.
To make up for a lack of parking on site, Burnell said on June 13 that he and another downtown office developer would pay $4 million in fees to help build a new city parking garage nearby. He added that there would be a historic display on the building about the Pearson House and the history of Silicon Valley.
There were also several supporters of Burnell on June 13, including one woman who said he had "worked his heart out" on the project and another who said Burnell "proposed a lot of options to save the (Pearson House) building. All of these proposals have been put down. It's not a perfect world."
Gilli also noted that the building also lacks environmentally friendly features and would be rated LEED silver, the city's minimum requirement for new office buildings.
"Most projects that are coming through the process are LEED gold," Gilli said. "I'd say this is doing the minimum in terms of sustainability."