Palo Alto: New owners want to evict tenants, turn building into hotel again

- Don't let the name fool you: The Hotel President in Palo Alto hasn't been a hotel since the 1960s.
Instead its studio apartments are home to architects, entrepreneurs and piano teachers.

But now their homes are in jeopardy The building's new owners, AJ Capital, want to turn the Hotel President back into a hotel, evicting the current tenants in the process.

Resident Diane Boxill says, "Getting the actual eviction just kind of stops you in your tracks. And for many of us grief at the loss of our homes and for some of us our livelihoods."

There was a glimmer of hope for residents. In recent weeks, the city of Palo Alto determined the building could not be converted. They sent a letter to the new owner saying the project didn't meet the zoning requirements.

Amy French, a chief planning official with Palo Alto says, "It's not compliant with height, floor area ratio, density and other items as well."

But that wasn't the end of it. The new owner sent a new letter this week, saying they won't renew the tenants' leases anyway.

They're being offered $3,000 and relocation assistance.

Boxill says, "They are being really clear that they want us out. And we're saying we would like to remain in. But in the eventuality that we move out, just kicking us out in the way that they have done, is insufficient."

AJ Capital's representatives declined to comment. But Palo Alto officials believe they intend to fight the city's decision. 
And for now they say there is nothing the city can do to stop the evictions.

French says, "We're very concerned about the loss of affordable housing, very concerned about this. The fact that the owners can serve eviction notices, it's not something the city can prevent. There is no rent control in Palo Alto."

The tenants have sought legal representation, and have started a petition to try to save their homes.
They say in the middle of a housing crisis, the city can't stand to lose 75 affordable units.

Boxill says, "There is a dearth of housing to begin with and then they're giving this up, while not having enough already. so it just doesn't make sense."

A group of residents plan to attend tonights' planning meeting as well as Monday's city council meeting. As it stands, they have until November to move out.

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