|By Diana Samuels, Palo Alto Daily News,
Calif.McClatchy-Tribune Regional News
May 27, 2011--A boutique hotel proposed for the former site of the Palo Alto Pet Hospital could potentially bring the city half a million dollars annually in taxes, but planning commissioners say the project should include more public benefits.
Property owner Clement Chen wants to build a five-story, 44-unit hotel at 711 El Camino Real as a "concierge wing addition" to the nearby Westin and Sheraton, which his company, Pacific Hotel Development Venture, also owns.
Chen described the proposed hotel to the Palo Alto Planning and Transportation Commission on Wednesday as ritzier than the Westin or Sheraton, comparing it to a Four Seasons or Ritz Carlton, according to Commissioner Lee Lippert.
"The proposed Concierge Wing will be an expansion of the Hotel Complex, designed to serve and appeal to very upscale individual business travelers visiting Silicon Valley and Sand Hill Road," Chen wrote in his project application to the city.
"The Hotel Complex is currently serving some of those business travelers at The Westin Palo Alto. ... However, many other very upscale business travelers are using the Four Seasons East Palo Alto hotel and the Rosewood Hotel in Menlo Park."
The 43,000-square-foot building would be about 50 feet tall with two levels of underground parking, according to a city staff report. The first floor would include a reception area, a bar and lounge open to the public, a dining room and a business center. Guests would have access to two fire pits and a hot tub on the roof.
The hotel could generate more than $500,000 per year in transient occupancy taxes, according to the report.
The planning commission, however, held off Wednesday on launching the process to rezone the former pet hospital site.
Lippert said the commission wants Chen to bring back a proposal that includes more public benefits.
Chen offered a number of incentives in his application, including a $50,000 contribution for El Camino Real median landscaping and an easement that would allow a new sidewalk on Wells Avenue.
But Lippert said the proposed hotel is more than twice the size typically allowed on such a site, and "the public benefits should be commensurate with the entitlement."
Lippert suggested Chen offer hotel rooms to Stanford University Medical Center and Palo Alto Medical Foundation patients at a discounted rate, as is the practice of the Sheraton and Westin.
The hotel proposal is to return to the planning commission for further review on June 22.
Email Diana Samuels at email@example.com.
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