Former Yahoo CEO pitches $200 a month private women's club, community not buying it

Former Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer spoke to Palo Alto city leaders Monday night, making her pitch for the Corner House. She’s hoping to breathe new life into an old mortuary she purchased back in 2013. It sits on the corner of Middlefield and Addison Avenues in downtown.

“This would be a community center for busy modern families, offering a specific focus on working women as well as children,” said Mayer. 

She’s envisioning a center to help mothers work and network with a coffee house feel and an indoor and outdoor play space. 

“We’ve tried to design a space that's playful, thoughtful and promotes creativity and lifelong learning and wellness,” said Mayer. 

Right now, the property is zoned for a funeral home or for multi-family housing. Mayer wants that amended. However, many neighbors questioned how the private club would benefit the public. The cost for membership would be $200 per month.

“It’s not a community center,” said Neighbor Winter Dellenbach of Palo Alto. “It's an exclusive private club for entrepreneurial professional women.”

“If you approve this zoning change, are you benefitting one segment of the community at the expense of another,” said Judy Steinhart of Palo Alto. 

Other concerns among neighbors include limited parking, traffic and noise especially with a school across the street. 150 people are expected to use the center daily. Special events could bring up to 400 people.

“I’m a work-at-home mom and I strongly support the Corner House project,” said Catherine Ross Stoll of Palo Alto.

Some residents support Mayer's vision and said the city is changing. They called it perfect for working families with young children who seek work and family life balance.

“The Corner House would be life changing for our family,” said Nicole Pollock of Palo Alto. “It would enable a more efficient time in the day together. It would prevent the current modern struggle of parental burnout.”

“I believe it's a city's responsibility to support women and families,” said Matt Ocko of Palo Alto. “I believe that's an essential to a city that attracts young vibrant families.”

About 30 people spoke up during public comment. Some of them advocated the property be turned into housing for teachers. City staff must now make their recommendations. The city attorney will review the city council's options.