The Palo Alto City Council is considering a proposal by home design company Houzz to build a downtown rooftop dining patio that would violate current building regulations.
Houzz intends to install the structure on its five-story building across from City Hall, which will grant employees a bird’s-eye view of the surrounding neighborhood. However, the city’s 50-foot building height limit prevents the company from moving forward with the installation.
“What they [Houzz] are asking for is a policy discussion with the city council to consider whether or not they want to allow these buildings … that are taller than they’re allowed to be,” said Jonathan Lait, assistant director of planning and community environment.
Houzz spokesman James Walgren argued in a letter to Lait that approval of the project could set a precedent for innovation among community property developers. City Manager James Keene conceded that rooftop patios hold various benefits, calling them a “nice amenity” that could “provide an opportunity for outdoor breakout space, employee break areas, outdoor lunch space, and employee events.”
Nevertheless, Lait cited numerous concerns the council must consider before greenlighting the project, including invasion of privacy, light and noise pollution and the need for increased parking space.
According to Hillary Gitelman, director of planning and community environment, the project could also generate significant pushback from locals.
“There’s a large segment of the community of Palo Alto that holds our 50-foot height limit as sacrosanct,” Gitelman said.