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By Steve Levy

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About this blog: I grew up in Los Angeles and moved to the area in 1963 when I started graduate school at Stanford. Nancy and I were married in 1977 and we lived for nearly 30 years in the Duveneck school area. Our children went to Paly. We moved ...  (More)

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What Supports High Home Values in Palo Alto

Uploaded: Jun 14, 2012
Another title would be "Why do people want to live in Palo Alto".

I believe it is because we have great schools and lots of amenities, many of which are publicly funded.

I think residents agree as they pass school and library bonds, raise money privately for our public schools and value the extra public sector amenities that Palo Alto offers.

Town Square has a series threads questioning the value of money for our public schools and asserting that Palo Alto spends money on frills defined as programs that they don't think necessary.

Are residents stupid to pass parcel taxes and bonds for our schools and raise private money? Are they stupid to value libraries and Children's Theater and other amenities not found in all neighboring communities?

Isn't it reasonable to assume that these investments are a major reason why people want to live here and push housing prices up?

A great community benefits the economy, benefits residents who gladly pay for services and also benefits homeowners who personally don't like all the spending.

Don't you think housing prices would be less if Palo Alto did not have great schools and special amenities?

Comments

Posted by Random Resident, a resident of ,
on Jun 14, 2012 at 12:08 pm

Steven: Spot on. Every effort to raise our standard of living (schools, libraries, parks, thoughtful development, etc. ) incrementally raises the desirability of PA vs. neighboring communities.

As a case in point, you can see that over the past few years PA home prices have held up better than Menlo Park.


Posted by James, a resident of ,
on Jun 14, 2012 at 1:48 pm

Palo Alto grew up around Stanford U. It is still the case that Palo Alto is dependent on Stanford, and its Research Park. Thus, I surmise that our number one asset is Stanford.

PA home prices flew up during the dot.com era, very much related to Stanford contributions. During that time, PA land was going per square foot (and I mean raw land, not just the little shacks that stood on the land).

In the meantime, Aisans and their wealth and hard work began to wash over PA. I think they have helped sustain home prices in PA. They have also demanded higher school standards.

Are PA schools really that great? The people now buying PA homes, at a premium, are mostly part of the upper 10%, in terms of students training and dedication and intelligence. If they had educational vouchers, local home prices would probably rise, not fall.

PACT should be contrasted with PA Little League. PACT is subsidized, directly, by CPA. PA LL is not...they run a great shop over there. Both are youth ammenities and enhancers, but one demands public money (PACT), and the other (PA LL) does not. When will PACT learn to play hard ball? Perhaps, as importantly, when will the City learn to play hard ball with PACT?

There are many more examples.

Stephen Levy's post is, at the end, about raising taxes in PA. His basic argument is: Spend on public ammenities, at the expsense of infrastructure, then demand higher taxes to fix broken infrastructure.




Posted by palo alto mom, a resident of ,
on Jun 14, 2012 at 2:23 pm

I think people move to Palo Alto for the schools, the neighborhood feel with some great old houses and the Palo Alto address. Period. If you are part of the tech world, you value education and Palo Alto is the "center of the universe".

Once people live here, they appreciate and enjoy amenities such as the libraries, Children's Theater, etc. but I don't think they have much to do with the decision to move here. A parcel tax for schools makes fiscal sense. The other "amenities" they should pull their own financial weight so we can invest in our infrastructure instead.


Posted by Douglas Moran, a resident of ,
on Jun 14, 2012 at 2:44 pm

Douglas Moran is a registered user.

On "great (public) schools": If this is a key factor, why do so many people move to Palo Alto and put their children in private schools? And only roughly 20% of the households in Palo Alto have children in K-12.

An alternate hypothesis is that a major factor in people moving to Palo Alto to be close to the type of people already here. You can see this effect in parents preference for an elementary school being driven by who the parents of the other students are rather than the quality of the school itself.

On "lots of amenities": When I deal with the City about trying to fix problems with various amenities, a common reply from City Staff, and sometimes Council, is that most residents won't notice the difference.

While there definitely are a few people on the various threads that are "asserting that Palo Alto spends money on frills defined as programs that they don't think necessary", there is a much larger group that is complaining that the City is ignore the basics in favor of the amenities. Put another way, the City prioritizes the hobbies and causes of the (influential) few over the welfare of the many.

A personal example: I live on a narrow (20-foot wide) residential street that is plagued with speeding vehicles: 35mph is routine and 45mph is not uncommon. Pets (cats and dogs) are routinely killed by the speeders, and there are routinely near-misses with pedestrians -- for example, parents pushing a baby stroller -- even though visibility is _not_ an issue. There is construction across from my house and multiple flaggers have commented to me about how dangerous the street is, and how little heed many drivers pay to them and to pedestrians.

The street is also heavily used by bicyclists because it is a major connector between the bike paths paralleling El Camino (on the east and west). These bicyclists are high school students, residents and commuters.

I am in year 14 of (unsuccessfully) fighting for safety improvements, with promises of improvements evaporating as soon as the heat is off. Instead, the City chooses to focus its money for improvements such as better signage to various destinations for the bike commuter.

This is so representative of City government: It favors a trivial amenity for a tiny group -- their not having to consult a map -- over protecting the lives of residents.


Posted by palo alto mom, a resident of ,
on Jun 14, 2012 at 3:23 pm

Doug - the majority of people I know who move to Palo Alto then put their kids in private schools don't do so until middle school. Although only 20% of residents may have kids in school, how many new Palo Alto residents don't have kids?

I agree that most of the people I know would prefer that Palo Alto spent money on basics such as public safety, streets, and not on programs which benefit just a small section of the population. For example, I would personally rather that your street (and all others) are safe to travel both because they are well paved and well patrolled. I would much rather have a well staffed police department in a safe building than 5 libraries and a new art center. I would much rather have more traffic officers than Children's Theater productions.


Posted by Hmmm, a resident of ,
on Jun 14, 2012 at 3:55 pm

palo alto mom - you always write such thoughtful, practical posts. When I was growing up, I never much thought about local amenities until I traveled as a teen. Then I saw areas w/fewer amenities, less safety & more challenges for everyone. I recall many great productions I saw at the Children's Theater, but I had no clue about its funding, etc. - I just figured it was part of the rec center's offerings.

How does a city balance its love for its precious trees w/public safety? How do kids get great options growing up that don't leave gaps in other areas - or in the paved streets? It's complicated, but the first steps would be a willingness to look for balance, no?

Today a friend of mine just joked how some of the PA streets are worse than EPA streets (the literal streets, not crime).

I found Random Resident's post thought provoking because in actuality, Menlo's had a lot of recent improvements to parks & rec, & it's always had a decent main library - but it lacks an art center. I wonder, as things stay fiscally challenged, if some of these amenities might become regionalized in order to save costs but to save the amenities.

Finally, now as an EPA resident, I've gotten used to paying non-resident fees for PA, MV & MP amenities. EPA has definitely improved & its Y is great, but it'll be a long while before I can take an Italian language, photography or underwater basket weaving class. However, yoga, meditation & healthy cooking are now available, our Farmer's Market is wonderful & so are the CSA boxes we've been getting.

And frankly, a lot of PA's prestige comes from Stanford, not just the amenities. There are many locals who don't partake in civic amenities much but love the prestige.


Posted by Ela, a resident of ,
on Jun 14, 2012 at 4:00 pm

Another title would be "Why do SOME people want to live in Palo Alto".

Lately Palo Alto has been a magnate for a lot of rich Asian immigrants. The actual fabric of the community was woven over many years. What you have now is just crazy.


Posted by CoffeeNut, a resident of ,
on Jun 14, 2012 at 4:19 pm

I second PA mom. Also, I disagree a little with Mr. Levy's premise. Are you saying that virtually all of these "amenities" are equal in terms of necessity and in the respect that they benefit most or all residents? Some do, some don't, some are in the middle, and some depend on who you ask (and when!)

If I were to prioritize, I would put schools, public safety/utilities and parks at the top of the list in that order. The library is important too, but perhaps we could have just put some air conditioners in the old one instead of spending $70 million on a new one.

In any case, Palo Alto IS a pretty special place to live. No, its not perfect. I don't think any community is, but I wouldn't spend too much time complaining or getting out of breath about this or that. Just be happy you are alive, then be happy you are free, then be happy you live here. Think of how bad things are in places like Syria. They aren't too worried about weather their Children's Theater is publicly funded or not.


Posted by CoffeeNut, a resident of ,
on Jun 14, 2012 at 4:21 pm

Sorry, I misspelled "whether." See, I wasn't lucky enough to grow up attending Palo Alto schools!


Posted by curmudgeon, a resident of ,
on Jun 14, 2012 at 4:28 pm

Mr Moran is up against a key fact of the Palo Alto city government: almost none of our city staff live here. Their commitment is to furthering their jobs and careers, which happen to be here, not to enhancing our town as their community. That accounts for city hall's preference for promoting grandiose projects -- for example, building a needless anerobic digester in the bay lands -- over addressing the everyday quality of life and safety concerns Moran raises.

Ultimately this will be Palo Alto's undoing as a quality place to live.


Posted by James, a resident of ,
on Jun 14, 2012 at 4:46 pm

>almost none of our city staff live here. Their commitment is to furthering their jobs and careers, which happen to be here, not to enhancing our town as their community. That accounts for city hall's preference for promoting grandiose projects -- for example, building a needless anerobic digester

That is a good point. City staff is about building their own resumes, while satisfying city council political themes. Anaerobic digestion is one of them...a really crazy thing.

The main thing, realted to the above, is that there is a major push to raise PA taxes, by those who support all the goodies...like Stephen Levy.


Posted by CommonSense, a resident of ,
on Jun 14, 2012 at 5:27 pm

There is no way I would want to live in Palo Alto if not for access to the public schools. I would gladly save myself $500k living in a neighboring town if I could still have my kids in the schools. Living in the AREA is great. But PA instead of a town 15-20 minutes away? I don't see any reason to stay after the kids graduate.


Posted by Douglas Moran, a resident of ,
on Jun 14, 2012 at 5:38 pm

Douglas Moran is a registered user.

Mr Levy has a contradictory position. On one hand, he touts the schools and amenities, and on the other hand, he is a prominent advocate of "growth" strategies that are, and will continue, to undermine the tax base that supports the schools and the amenities.

Mr Levy advocates high-density development whose taxes (property and sales) fall significantly short of covering the costs of services for those residents. He advocates policies that have and continue to drive sales-tax generators out of Palo Alto.

His housing policy also means that people will be paying more and more for less and less. My sense is that for more and more people, the sacrifices of living here are exceeding the benefits -- we are killing the goose that laid the golden eggs.

And the public transit policies that he advocates have been shown to roughly triple commute times. If you currently have a 20-minute one-way commute, those additional 80 minutes per day almost certainly come out of the time you would have to enjoy the amenities.

As others have pointed out, Mr Levy is pro-tax. He and his ilk are oblivious to the additional hidden school tax burden on parents: all the fees and "contributions" expected of parents. I know of too many families that had to leave Palo Alto because those costs turned "expensive" into "unaffordable".

Mr Levy advocates policies that make Palo Alto increasingly unaffordable to the middle class. I worry that this will turn Palo Alto into a city with two extremes: Those for whom cost is largely irrelevant, and those that need subsidies to live here.
Note: It is easy to underestimate those with "subsidized" housing. For example, Prop 13 has me paying only 1/4 the property tax of a new resident in an identical house, something that I regard as a subsidy. One can argue that this is a worthwhile subsidy because by reducing turnover, it supports the continuity that is important to maintaining a community. On the other hand, it is not a solution, but merely delaying the day of reckoning.


Posted by jobs jobs jobs, a resident of ,
on Jun 14, 2012 at 5:57 pm

The number one reason for high home prices is large numbers of high paying jobs (upwards of $100K/year plus stock options) within the city limits. Kicking Facebook out of town cost thousands of quality jobs. HP has announced thousands of job layoffs this year. All of these losses are putting huge downward pressure on home prices unless we can replace them with more jobs of the same caliber.

Yes, some of the Facebook people will still buy homes in Palo Alto, despite the congested routes to get there from here. Investing in a high quality car-free bike path from the residential parts of Palo Alto out to Facebook will surely encourage more home buying. On the other hand, alot of the Facebook people are buying in hipper cities like San Francisco, especially areas with easy access to public transit. Can we make Palo Alto more exciting for these home buyers, instead of the downtown that currently shuts down soon after dark?

Schools, parks, etc. do affect home prices, but not nearly as much as jobs jobs jobs. Most Facebook people are currently too young to be starting families.


Posted by A lesson in irony, a resident of ,
on Jun 15, 2012 at 12:41 am

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


Posted by A lesson in irony, a resident of ,
on Jun 15, 2012 at 12:59 am

People buy homes here because status is important - i.e. it's an embedded, hard-wired, human drive. Many studies have been performed to show what great lengths - to the point of great suffering and personal inconvenience - individuals will go to in order to gain status, even if that status is imagined.

What I find amusing about property prices in places like Palo Alto is that the drive for status is never mentioned. We're talking hardcore behavior economics; it's in the literature.

About education: it has been very well demonstrated that the ATTITUDE a student brings to the endeavor of study and learning is the most important factor in achievement. Achievement can be enhanced in certain ways, if environments are optimized for achievement, but the latter is small potatoes when compared to attitude.

Money afford status in our transactional culture; money enables access to Palo Alto. Those who come here know that they are buying status, and the need to maintain that status encourages them to gladly pony up $$$ to create additional amenities that enhance that status. This is so basic that it's trivial.

Last, Palo Alto's position among its Peninsula neighbors has almost nothing to do with the way Palo Alto was/is governed, or any great collective vision for our City. Palo Alto just happens to be adjacent to one of the greatest places of intellectual discovery on our planet, Stanford University - just like Cambridge, MA is adjacent to Harvard. Without the advantage of that proximity, Palo Alto and Cambridge would be average cities, at best. I find this to be another great irony, because our "Council Watchdogs" (and too many Council members, who like to lap up favor), like to beat up on their sugar daddy; the very sugar daddy that made their collective prosperity possible - i.e. Stanford University.

What has resulted in PA is a kind of inbred inefficiency, and very poor adaptive capabilities - all gone unnoticed because the people that REALLY run things in Palo Alto, the thousands of people who buy in for status, will pony up whatever it takes to keep the advantage that they bought into. Really, the whole thing is kind of a laugh. Palo Alto gets away with all kinds of things that would ruin many other cities, because it has that status barrier to protect it from itself, and its "Council Watchdogs", who carry on, willy-nilly with their hobby, while the rest of the citizens of this good city are the ones who make the important things happen. Want proof? Just look what has happened to most "Council Watchdog" initiatives. They have succeeded only in their failures. Have fun!


Posted by EYE YI YI, a resident of ,
on Jun 15, 2012 at 8:18 am

So interesting that Palo Altans begin to discuss the real issues listed here. Doing the right thing and working together is more useful. Stop approving projects that add to traffic - demand the City to design area plans for neighborhoods - create a paid city council with regional council representation. Amazing that 60 trees can be put down and not much has changed. We need to steer our cruise ship in the right direction and away from the rocks.


Posted by Wayne Martin, a resident of ,
on Jun 15, 2012 at 8:24 am

Let's look at a little historical data, and some projections based on that data—

The data for 1994-2004 is real, taken from on-line sources, for home sales here in Palo Alto. The data from 2005-2025 is projected, based on the real data--

---------------------------------
Year| # |Ave. Price | %...|
------------------------------
2025|487|$5,672,042 |8.93%
2024|487|$5,207,052 |8.93%
2023|487|$4,780,182 |8.93%
2022|487|$4,388,306 |8.93%
2021|487|$4,028,556 |8.93%
2020|487|$3,698,298 |8.93%
2019|487|$3,395,114 |8.93%
2018|487|$3,116,785 |8.93%
2017|487|$2,861,274 |8.93%
2016|487|$2,626,709 |8.93%
2015|487|$2,411,373 |8.93%
2014|487|$2,213,691 |8.93%
2013|487|$2,032,214 |8.93%
2012|487|$1,865,615 |8.93%
2011|487|$1,712,673 |8.93%
2010|487|$1,572,269 |8.93%
2009|487|$1,443,376 |8.93%
2008|487|$1,325,049 |8.93%
2007|487|$1,216,423 |8.93%
2006|487|$1,116,701 |8.93%
2005|487|$1,025,155 |8.93%

2004|569|$941,113 |-7.65%
2003|507|$1,019,064 |20.69%
2002|401|$844,369 |-0.41%
2001|278|$847,827 |3.60%
2000|411|$818,331 |32.71%
1999|610|$616,625 |0.37%
1998|572|$614,370 |25.02%
1997|552|$491,401 |8.75%
1996|410|$451,861 |2.47%
1995|447|$440,954 |3.74%
1994|603|$425,064 |

As a reality check on the projected data, it seems that the median price of a home in Palo Alto has crossed the $2M mark recently:
Web Link

The projection for 2012 is $1.8M, so the long-term yearly increase in prices based on the 10-year data seems to be good. (Using the rule-of-sevens, prices double every ten years when the yearly rate of increase is 7%. So, the doubling in price is more rapid as the yearly price increase becomes greater than 7%).

What's interesting about the real data is the number of homes actually sold in Palo Alto on a yearly basis. The average is just under 500. Notice that when the economy tanked in 2001, housing sales dropped by half. So, the attractiveness of Palo Alto is definitely linked to the regional economy—rather than "the schools".

If this cost increase were to hold for any length of time into the future, home prices are going to be out-of-reach for "young families" that are not holding tens of thousands of shares of some newly IPOed tech company, or some corrupt party boss whose wanted on charges in Beijing, and looking to hide some of his loot in American real estate.

One also has to wonder how many people who can afford to pay $5+M for a home in Palo Alto are going to spend any significant time in a public library, or park? The who fabric of the town must necessarily change, over time, to accommodate the tastes of this class of home buyers.


Posted by Wayne Martin, a resident of ,
on Jun 15, 2012 at 8:35 am

Home prices vary quite a bit here in Palo Alto, based on the section of town where the home is located. The median price of a home has shifted over $2M for April, 2012, but we're beginning to see a "gap" in home prices that can be easily $1M for different neighborhoods. We're also seeing a pretty aggressive rebuilding of older Eichler homes in South Palo Alto, which includes replacing these small, post-WWII homes with much more expansive 21st Century homes. These newer properties are commanding the higher prices. Census tract data shows that the averages home prices range from about $1M to over $3.5M.

You have to wonder how many people are spending $3+M to put their kids in a public school system.

Housing Prices For Palo Alto (End June 6th, 2012):
Web Link


Posted by Wayne Martin, a resident of ,
on Jun 15, 2012 at 8:46 am

What is the cost of owning a home here in Palo Alto for 30 years? The following is an estimate, but people should be aware of the likely costs:

Price: $3M
Interest: ~$3M
Property Tax: ~1.3M
Total: ~$7.3M

What is the cost of sending a child to top-flight private school? Assuming $30K-$40K per year, a G.1-G.12 education for one child comes to something less than $500K.

So .. we left with the question: "Why would I spend over $7M to live in Palo Alto (over 30 years) for "the schools" when I could live somewhere else, and send my child to a top-flight private school anywhere in the world for about $500K?


Posted by curmudgeon, a resident of ,
on Jun 15, 2012 at 9:03 am

"Why would I spend over $7M to live in Palo Alto (over 30 years) for "the schools" when I could live somewhere else, and send my child to a top-flight private school anywhere in the world for about $500K?"

Attitude, Mr. Martin, attitude.


Posted by Thinking things through, a resident of ,
on Jun 15, 2012 at 9:08 am

"So .. we left with the question: "Why would I spend over $7M to live in Palo Alto (over 30 years) for "the schools" when I could live somewhere else, and send my child to a top-flight private school anywhere in the world for about $500K?"

That's a misleading comparison. First, the cost of a home in Palo Alto is not $3M (yet, granted). Also, if you live somewhere else, you still have housing, interest, and property tax costs.

The real comparison is the premium for housing in Palo Alto versus, say, Mountain View or Menlo Park.

Speaking of Menlo Park, since it is also "right next to Stanford", how come it doesn't have the same over-inflated housing costs?


Posted by Resident, a resident of ,
on Jun 15, 2012 at 9:10 am

I don't know anyone who moved here for the amenities. Most moved here for the schools or because it was convenient for their job.

Interesting what Wayne just posted about the cost of living here v the cost of private school education - I would say that the cost of living here also covers the cost of living and not just the cost of the public school education iow you might be spending $500k for one child's education but you still have to live somewhere and that is an additional cost.

As the product of a private school education, I am not a fan. The cons to me as a student definitely outweighed the pros. I spent too much time traveling to and from school each day, either by car or public transport, lived nowhere near any of my school friends, and my school peers were demographically similar to myself. As a result I knew very few other people my own age and those I did I felt I had nothing in common with. This was a good way to leave high school when I suddenly felt reality set in.

I agree that Stanford is probably the other bigger plus about living in Palo Alto (after schools and convenience for jobs). My kids have definitely been positively influenced by our proximity to Stanford and Stanford people. When you discover by accident that your kid's best friend's Dad is one of the best heart transplant surgeons in the world it really is a boost, and I know very few occupations of my kids' parents.


Posted by Resident, a resident of ,
on Jun 15, 2012 at 9:12 am

oops, I meant that leaving high school knowing only similar demographic people was NOT a good thing!


Posted by Wayne Martin, a resident of ,
on Jun 15, 2012 at 9:17 am

> Speaking of Menlo Park, since it is also "right next to Stanford",
> how come it doesn't have the same over-inflated housing costs?

Housing Prices For Menlo Park (End June 6th, 2012):
Web Link

The answer to that question requires a lot of hard work digging through the MLS data, to see what kinds of homes are being sold in Menlo Park. One simple price is not really very helpful.

For instance, one metric is cost/square foot. Homes with one floor will have fewer square feet to offer prospective buyers. Bigger lot sizes may offer room for pool, larger garages, etc.

The MLS listing do have this sort of information, but ordinary people can not gain access to their databases. Other sources, like DataQuick do have this sorts of information, but it's pricey.

And even trying to get this information from the County Assessor requires hundreds, or thousands, of dollars in fees.

Certainly paying $1M for an old Eichler is "overpaying", but paying $2M-$3M for some of the newer homes that have been replacing the older Eichlers becomes a matter for the people signing on the dotted line.


Posted by Wayne Martin, a resident of ,
on Jun 15, 2012 at 9:24 am

> That's a misleading comparison.

More incomplete than misleading. I agree that there are off-setting costs that need to be in this "equation". There are thousands of other places to live, so that would take a lot of time to run down the housing costs. This is just a straw-man to remind people that there are real (and often hidden) costs to everything.

> First, the cost of a home in Palo Alto is not $3M (yet, granted).

The links to the price of homes currently on (or just sold) suggest that housing prices are now moving into the $2+M zone. Of course, with only about 500 houses on the market every year, this could represent a goodly percentage of the homes that are being rebuilt, and hence can be considered as "new".

> if you live somewhere else, you still have housing,
> interest, and property tax costs.

That's true. Why not pick three or four places, say in Florida, or Texas, or Alaska, and see what your $3M would buy in terms of a home, and let us know the results.


Posted by Palo alto mom, a resident of ,
on Jun 15, 2012 at 9:31 am

Palo Alto is more expensive than Menlo Park because (as mentioned "A lesson in irony") there is more status to a Palo Alto address than Menlo Park. As the home to Stanford, the birth place of many start-ups, the home to the heads of Google, Facebook, Apple, famous athletes, etc., there is a certain status to a Palo Alto address (also noticeable by the cost of renting office space in PA).

Add to that a more interesting housing mix (at least in North Palo Alto) of "historic" homes, a great K-12 school system that includes 2 high schools that are perceived as much better and safer than the Menlo high school (I said perceived, M/A is a really good school too).

Palo Alto has status and character.


Posted by homeowner, a resident of ,
on Jun 15, 2012 at 9:32 am

Certainly the school's reputation is good (maybe better than it's reality), and this attracts people to Palo Alto. Equally attractive are the amenities, cityscape, downtown, tree-lined streets, parks, proximity to work. These are what appeal to real estate shoppers coming from outside.

They don't notice the street safety issue, are unaware of the infrastructure backlog, and don't know that many families apply to private school for middle school. These are issues you discover once you move here.

Does this mean you pack up an move out? Unlikely - I think people stay because they develop strong relationships with other like-minded people in the community. The amenities, activities, and elementary school culture all foster that sense of community. Also they stay because they see their house value going up. Far better to make money on the house and send Johnny to private school if you don't like the public options. Similar for roads - you can tolerate some infrastructure problems if your house is making $$/year.



Posted by parent, a resident of ,
on Jun 15, 2012 at 9:38 am

Menlo Park schools are just as good as Palo Alto's, if not better, and there's no nasty north vs south infighting. Having sent a child to Palo Alto HS and another to Menlo-Atherton, I would recommend the latter over the former. M-A does not have the high overall test scores because it is a heterogeneous school, unlike Paly and Gunn, but the teachers are excellent and the rate of admission to top tier colleges is about the same if you compare apples to apples.

If you truly care about your kids' education and not the fleeting faddishness of the Palo Alto name, no need to pay inflated Palo Alto prices. Atherton is hugely undervalued from what I can tell -- much better place to spend your $3mm


Posted by Amenities? Really?, a resident of ,
on Jun 15, 2012 at 9:43 am

What do people think are the 'amenities' of Palo Alto that are paid for by city taxes (as opposed to structural ones, like 'next to Stanford')? The libraries have for years been a total dump - I remember when I first went to the Main library I thought I must have gone to the wrong place! Lucie Stern, City Hall, public safety buildings (!), other city facilities - dumpy at best. Parks are fine - some are dated, but they ok. A golf course, the Baylands, Foothill Park (very nice, though not heavily used overall) - these are more structural. Pretty lights at night downtown - ok, I'll grant that. PACT - hands down, the most highly funded per capital children's theater in the country - I imagine that's a draw for a tiny percentage of people.

I have always thought that in terms of amenities that PA rates a B at best. Am I missing something?


Posted by Wayne Martin, a resident of ,
on Jun 15, 2012 at 10:20 am

> What do people think are the 'amenities' of Palo Alto that are paid
> for by city taxes (as opposed to structural ones, like
> 'next to Stanford')?

For the record, most of the "amenities" that belong to Palo Alto, at least in terms of book value, are the vast acreage of parks and open spaces that are available, generally, to the public.

Most of this land was purchased a long time ago, was donated to the City, was taken via eminent domain proceedings, or was acquired in settlement from law suits involving possible illegal "takings". In general, "taxes" paid for very little of this land, or paid very little for this land, over the years.

Given the nominal cost of $5M an acre, the City is sitting on upwards of $20B (or more) in property. Because the City does not seem to have an asset management system that identifies its property, original acquisition costs, and current market value (even an estimate), most of us have no idea how large the asset base that the City owns, or what the cost of maintaining this asset base might be.

I've done some back-of-the-envelope calculations over the years that puts the City's assets at $30B to $35B. It's really a shame that the City does not adopt a meaningful asset management system, and make its numbers available to the public.


Posted by James, a resident of ,
on Jun 15, 2012 at 10:45 am

>at least in terms of book value, are the vast acreage of parks and open spaces that are available, generally, to the public.

I don't get that one. Parks and open spaces are usually zoned for parks. Are you suggesting a rezoning, Wayne? If not, then there probably is no meaningful book value, regarding potential commerical development. Please clarify.


Posted by A lesson in irony, a resident of ,
on Jun 15, 2012 at 11:00 am

LOL! the so called "editorial staff" at the Weakly (a far more appropriate name for this so-called "newspaper") eliminated my post; the post that pointed out the irony in Doug Moran's statements about how some people get more preference in Palo Alto, than others.

Now, Doug Moran says:'Mr Levy advocates policies that make Palo Alto increasingly unaffordable to the middle class."

Hey, Doug! How much have the interminable delays and lawsuits that you and your merry band of "Council Watchdogers" caused by lawsuits, forced delays, community dissension, etc. etc. caused the prices in this town to escalate.

If citizens only knew how much delays cost by these "Council Watchdogs" cost them, I wonder how much attention that they would get.

For instance, has anyone calculated the dollar impact of delays at Alma, or the undeveloped mess on Park Blvd?

Would the Weakly ever report on something like that? Of course not! Rather, the Weakly is too busy inventing it's own versoon of "Emily Post" rules for online communication. LOL! Oh, well...


Posted by Wayne Martin, a resident of ,
on Jun 15, 2012 at 11:00 am

> If not, then there probably is no meaningful book
> value, regarding potential commerical development. Please clarify.

I am operating on the premise that everything has a "book value", regardless of its current use. The fact that a park is zoned a park today does not mean it can not be zone as "industrial", or "residential" tomorrow. Hence, creating, and maintaining, a comprehensive asset management program that recognizes that everything has a monetary value, even if it is not for sale today, helps to create an understanding of the cost of the City's assets/infrastructure, as well as helping to generate a model for long-term asset management costs.

It would be very simple, given how small Palo Alto is, to create a database of assets, and using various parameters, to predict the short-term, intermediate-term and long-term costs to maintain all of these assets, based on this database.

It's a shame that this crew that spent 18 months studying the "infrastructure" did not seem to posses a systemic understanding of asset management in the public domain. Their study is very short-sighted, and ignores hundreds of millions of dollars of "infrastructure" management costs.

Given the pressure on Palo Alto to increase its housing density, the continued use of some of this vast acreage for parks/open space will be challenged in a number of ways, in the future. It's not hard to believe that "affordable housing" advocates won't be suing to overturn some of the zoning/dedication of these acres in the future. If successful, then these acres will have to be sold. It would be nice to have some sense of what those sales would generate in terms of revenue, rather than to be blind-sided by the Courts, with the City Manager dolefully telling the City Council: "this could not have been foreseen".



Posted by A lesson in irony, a resident of ,
on Jun 15, 2012 at 11:04 am

Amenities: "The libraries have for years been a total dump"

That is about to change. Go to the College Terrace Library. Soon, Mitchell Park will be finished. BEAUTIFUL!


Posted by Amenities? Really?, a resident of ,
on Jun 15, 2012 at 11:10 am

@Lesson - with due respect, the College Terrace Library is barely worthy of the name - it is tiny. We happily pay the $80/year required for borrowing privileges at Los Altos/Santa Clara County library, which also has rapid access to the other SCC libraries. It is a shame that PA does not just hand over its library to SCC.


Posted by Hmmm, a resident of ,
on Jun 15, 2012 at 12:27 pm

Menlo Park might lack the "status & character" of Palo Alto, but it also lacks the number of suicides of young people. Having been educated in both cities, I can attest to the challenges of public school in both as the Menlo Park parent can. What's not often discussed much are the M-A grads who go on to university, including prestigious ones and who do interesting things w/their lives - & I don't just mean things that attract status & notice, but a range of interesting things.

Menlo's always been more stealth about its wealth, less "look at me, look at me!" & more "whatever" about its snobbery. Menlo also has more diversity for a town half the size of Palo Alto. It's amenities have been varied, & depending on interests, may be satisfying or leaving one wanting more. Hey, to me, Roger Reynolds Nursery is a marvelous amenity & it's historic. So is St. Patrick's Seminary. Even if Catholicism isn't your bag, it's a peaceful place where you're welcome to walk around.

I recall a fun kids' theater program, good rec programs, a nice swimming pool AND local private swim clubs. Back in my day, the library had wonderful programs for kids & still has some interesting programs for adults. While the parks were okay, they were well visited.

More recently, the prestige of Sand Hill Road has become well known & SRI has been that way for a long time. Both cities have issues w/their downtown areas. One thing that has always struck me is the number of schools, both public & private, in Menlo, given its size. Menlo's also had its share of celebrities but for some reason, its not been a big deal. Menlo's also had its fair share of known musicians, which I think is interesting. As a kid, I saw many more interracial couples, economic & cultural diversity than I did in Palo Alto. One of the benefits of going to a high school like M-A is seeing how people from other backgrounds live & what they do w/their lives.

I think the 2 cities have a lot to offer & a shared love of nature. In this economy, it does makes sense to check on these amenities and make sure that if they wish to be maintained, that there's really some "there there."


Posted by former Paly parent, a resident of ,
on Jun 15, 2012 at 12:45 pm

As someone who has a lot of experience with both private and public education, I am definitely a fan of private education. I greatly admire two major private schools with which we have had some affiliation (not in California) and these will be in my will.
Schools as a major attraction to live in Palo Alto:
I think it is more about how terrible public education is in most other areas of California (compared to other middle class/upper middle class areas of some other states). People who come here - say, in a job transfer - are scandalized at how bad it is, then force themselves to overpay to live in Palo Alto.
Of course, if you are a Stanford alum, then you want to live here to bask in Stanford.
Mr. Levy, Palo Alto Children's Theater is only one of numerous equally deserving regional youth performing arts groups. I resent 1M taxpayer money going each year to someone's pet group, over others.
Palo Alto is a good place for those who value driving a BMW.


Posted by James, a resident of ,
on Jun 15, 2012 at 1:05 pm

>The fact that a park is zoned a park today does not mean it can not be zone as "industrial", or "residential" tomorrow.

OK, Wayne, you are talking re-zoning. Now you are making rational sense to me. However, re-zoning is a pandora's box. For example the book value of the Fairmeadow neighborhood might be a lot higher, if a nuclear power plant (industrial re-zoning) was allowed there. I surmise that Palo Alto could have no budget deficits for many decades to come, if we choose that route. Some little canary is telling me that re-zoning will not happen for Fairmeadow or the parks lands. If you think I might be right, then what is the book value of our park lands?


Posted by Wayne Martin, a resident of ,
on Jun 15, 2012 at 2:03 pm

> However, re-zoning is a pandora's box.

I don't disagree, but sooner or later that box is likely to be opened.

> I surmise that Palo Alto could have no budget deficits
> for many decades to come, [if we allowed a nuclear
> power plant to be built there].

We need not jump to "nuclear" to talk about this. From my point-of-view, you are on the right track, however.

Palo Alto has a golf course, that sits on about $500M worth of land, and the Airport sits on another $500M plot. Based on the book value of this land, the return to the City on whatever money does come its way, is for all intents, and purposes, zero. Same can be said for the Arastradero Preserve, which sits above Foothill Park.

And the same can be said for the Palo Alto Utility. It could be sold for $1B-$4B, and those revenues invested so that the City could see from $40M to $100M income per year. The long-term benefits of having 300+ fewer employees on the City payroll would take a little analysis to understand, but certainly all of the "infrastructure" could be paid for by selling some/all of these City-owned assets.


Posted by Douglas Moran, a resident of ,
on Jun 15, 2012 at 2:44 pm

Douglas Moran is a registered user.

RE: A lesson in irony
I didn't see your first posting before it was deleted by the moderators, but based on your second posting, I presume that it was because of your penchant (under a variety of aliases) for falsehoods -- for example that I was a party to the lawsuit about 195 Page Mill.

I _have_ opposed a number of projects on two basic grounds:
1. The developer seeks to enrich himself at the expense of the community by trying to offload costs that are normally part of the project (what economists call "negative externalities").
2. The developer is falsely representing the project. For example, in the first go-round of the 195 Page Mill project, Holbach used conflicting sets of numbers: He claimed that the project would generate little peak hour traffic -- so that he wouldn't have to pay for improvements to the surrounding streets -- but then to justify having fewer parking spaces, he took the reverse position (lots of residents commuting by car).

If you believe that the role of government is to increase income inequity -- through transfers from the many to the influential few -- you should simply state that as part of your posting.


Posted by Douglas Moran, a resident of ,
on Jun 15, 2012 at 2:59 pm

Douglas Moran is a registered user.

RE: "Amenities? Really?" : "... The libraries have for years been a total dump. ..."

This illustrates what are amenities to one are a waste to another. My personal use of the libraries is for information resources, both electronic and physical (books, DVDs, ...). I spend minimal time in the library, so appearance is largely irrelevant to me.

However, part of library services involve activities where people are physically present for extended periods (studying, public computer use,...) For those activities, appearance is important.

I have a problem with the remodeled Downtown and College Terrace libraries because appearance was prioritize for the _whole_ of the building. Specifically, the stacks were thinned out (wider aisles, lower bookcases) to provide "a feel of greater openness" and to make them "more inviting", with the resulting significant decrease in the number of items available. This is a tradeoff contrary to my usage of the library -- to me, it is an unnecessary waste of space.


Posted by Heckler, a resident of ,
on Jun 15, 2012 at 3:33 pm

Well, Steve, I have no excuse but spare time.

I do have a point of view which drives me to heckle this thread.

First, I would suggest you save effort by setting up a script that sends at random times posts that alternate between simply saying, "we should pay more taxes" and "we should increase our population density." I say this because every one of your posts leads to these conclusions, but your arguments sometimes damage your credibility.

For example, (and this is my second cent) who can choose a city based on amenities? Only singles who can easily move when the convenience or cost changes, or as their life evolves. And those who don't have to worry about income or safety or relationships or time consumed in housekeeping.

For most Palo Alto family units (including singles) it is downright irresponsible to choose a city because of its amenities.

It is obvious that Stanford is the most important draw to Palo Alto, and the mistaken notion that the schools are great is next. The schools are not great, because students do no better, by any measure, than their demographics predict.

Palo Alto is a case study in taking money and the opportunity of being near a world class university and just blowing it.


Posted by pat, a resident of ,
on Jun 15, 2012 at 5:49 pm

> "Are they stupid to value libraries and Children's Theater and other amenities not found in all neighboring communities?"

I don't think people are stupid, but I wonder if they know how much the amenities cost, especially when weighed against the infrastructure backlog.

James pointed out that the Children's Theatre is subsidized, but the Little League is not.

In June 2010 I asked the city, "how many kids are involved in sports (of any kind) in Palo Alto, how many of them are residents, how many non-residents?"

Answer: "We are unable to determine how many youth are involved in sports (of any kind) in Palo Alto and how many of them are residents vs. non-residents with any accuracy. There are approximately 11,000 students in the Palo Alto Unified School District ... For the programs the City oversees we have data and we have some estimates from sports groups that request use of City athletic facilities."

Unfortunately, I can't paste the tables here, but the estimated number of participants in youth sports, including various soccer, baseball and other sports was: 8,624 residents + 965 non-residents. That's a total of 10,200 young people participating in non-subsidized sports.

Question: The budget says the CT expenses for 2009-10 were $1,159,421. Does that include salaries, benefits and allocations for IT, administrative services, etc.?

Answer: "The amount of $1,159,421 is only inclusive of theatre staff salaries and benefits (part-time and full-time staff), program materials, costume supplies, script royalties, set materials, marketing expenses and general supplies. This amount does not include allocations for Information Technology, administrative services, or other City overhead expense. $3.1 Million is budgeted to be charged to the Community Services Department ... in FY 2011. It is charged to the department as a whole and not to a specific program area. It is also charged based on an allocation methodology rather than actual costs."

Question: The PA Daily News, May 12, 2010 says that CT fee hikes, "... would come on top of a plan to bring in $100,000 annually by raising ticket prices for major shows, which the committee endorsed unanimously. Even with that infusion, the theater is expected to cost the city $ 1.3 million more than it brings in next year." Is this $1.3 million figure accurate?

Answer: "The subsidy for the Children's Theatre program and educational outreach program is expected to be $1.28 million for Fiscal year 2011."

Question: The budget says the "benchmark measure for Number of Children's Theatre class, camp, and workshop registrants" is 400. Is that the goal?

Answer: "... enrollment in Children's Theatre classes and camps has increased to above 600 with a projection of 680 for Fiscal Year 2010. The enrollment projection for Fiscal Year 2011 is 750."

BOTTOM LINE: 750 kids were subsidized in an expensive program while 10,200 kids in various sports programs were not.


Posted by Outside Observer, a resident of ,
on Jun 15, 2012 at 6:29 pm

What supports high home values in Palo Alto?

It's really quite simple. It's make-a-need and fill it marketing, and marketing to the inferiority complex of people who have more money than sense.

Tell them Palo Alto is special. Tell them they are special, then tell them they deserve Palo Alto. Really no different than "You deserve a break today at MacDonalds".

How else could Eichlers, the cheapest post-war houses built for blue collar workers, go for seven figures.




Posted by James, a resident of ,
on Jun 15, 2012 at 6:42 pm

>We need not jump to "nuclear" to talk about this.

Wayne, why not talk about nuclear? It could probably maximize book value, according to your metric. After all, nuclear does not produce carbon emissions, and it fits into the PA green agenda. Fairmeadow is no great shakes, as a PA neighborhood. Neither is Midtown , btw (where I live). A big old nuke plant in Fairmeadow could solve so many fiscal problems. Or Midtown, if you wish.

If you want to go down the path of re-zoning, be prepared for the logical (and extreme) results.

Palo Alto needs to make choices: Infrastructure vs. non-essential (but nice) stuff. Without the re-zoning paradigm that you suggest, it comes down to cutting the ammenities, or raising taxes. I, personally, support cutting the ammenities, including the bloated wages and benefits of our city workers. If we pass another bond for more taxes, there will be no serious solutions. I think you should abandon your metric of book value, assuming re-zoning...it will never work, politically, in this town.


Posted by A lesson in irony, a resident of ,
on Jun 16, 2012 at 2:13 am

Doug Moran: "If you believe that the role of government is to increase income inequity -- through transfers from the many to the influential few -- you should simply state that as part of your posting."

The way Palo Alto is currently run results in transfers of Palo Alto taxpayer money to attorneys; transfers of the cost of delays to citizens, because of the meddling acts of a few "Council Watchdogs".

In fact, the latter have cost Palo Alto FAR more in opportunity cost revenue than all the developers combined!!

It's really a joke on the public to have them believing that these "Council Watchdogs" are helping anyone. They're not. They are simply helping themselves, by getting their jollies as meddlers in municipal affairs, with influence that is FAR beyond what they deserve.

As for housing prices, it's a pure status thing. I like Levy's columns, but he's an economist; he should at least be presenting findings from behavioral economics re: the relationship between status seeking and paying more than someting is worth, just to maintain the "staus quo"


Posted by Wayne Martin, a resident of ,
on Jun 16, 2012 at 9:01 am

> In fact, the latter have cost Palo Alto FAR more in
> opportunity cost revenue than all the developers combined!!

An interesting premise. But how to prove it?


Posted by Wayne Martin, a resident of ,
on Jun 16, 2012 at 9:17 am

> why not talk about nuclear? It could probably maximize book value,
> according to your metric. After all, nuclear does not produce
> carbon emissions, and it fits into the PA green agenda.

Am not really following this logic.

> assuming re-zoning...it will never work, politically, in this town.

Oh .. I see .. short-circuiting the proposal for a comprehensive asset management program for the City as (effectively) politically out of the question.

> Fairmeadow is no great shakes, as a PA neighborhood. Neither
> is Midtown , btw (where I live). A big old nuke plant in
> Fairmeadow could solve so many
> fiscal problems. Or Midtown, if you wish.

Nuclear plants generally are located near large bodies of water, to provide for the necessary cooling, and are best located outside of seismically active locations. Fairmeadow/Midtown don't really work from a site-location point-of-view. And then, there is the matter of a multi-billion dollar investment to get the plant up and working, as well as hundreds of millions in decommissioning costs. Really not a great idea, is it?

Perhaps the use of the term "industrial" was hasty. Suppose we consider land use for "Research Parks". The land where the golf course sits would be a great site for a Research Park that would cater to emerging industries like nano-technology and Bio-Technology. Currently the golf course caters to mostly non-residents. One City Council member claims that Palo Alto golfers play 14,000 rounds of golf a year at this course. It doesn't take long to see that playing only two rounds of golf a month, this 14,000 rounds requires only 583 unique Palo Alto golfers, out of a town of over 60,000 people. If the average Palo Alto golfer plays more than 2 rounds a month, then this total PA Golfer number goes way down. It makes no sense tying up a $500M public asset for the benefit of so few people.

Selling the golf course, airport and the PAU would provide plenty of money that would make managing this City a lot easier in the future.


Posted by stephen levy, a resident of ,
on Jun 16, 2012 at 11:10 am

stephen levy is a registered user.

To a lesson in irony,

I do think status is important and probably influenced my own decision to live in Palo Alto. But I think also that schools and amenities are important and wonder whether status and schools are at least partially connected.

Thanks for the kind comment. Usually when my name is mentioned, something nasty comes next.

Since you are like irony, do you remember the posts from other threads, some of which I think came from posters above, complaining that people were living in "rabbit hutches" (talk about put downs) so their kids could be in PA schools.

I take that and also the large vote majorities for school and library taxes and general support for amenities to mean they are important to residents.

To continue the discussion take a look at the next post also.


Posted by stephen levy, a resident of ,
on Jun 16, 2012 at 11:20 am

stephen levy is a registered user.

Let's add Cupertino to the mix. Yesterday it was annoucned that Cupertino has some of the highest ranking k-12 schools in California.

Cupertino also has above average housing prices in our immediate area.

From the DataQuick data for April 2012 median prices

PA $1,445,000
Cupertino $1,070,000
Mountain View $716,000
Menlo Park $570,000
Sunnyvale $639,500

The numbers do jump around from month to month but this pattern of PA and Cupertino having a wide gap in housing prices is real.

I would explain both the PA and Cupertino advantage as largely connected to the good schools.

I have read all the reasons why PA housing prices are so high not counting schools and find some good reasons but still think schools are the most important.

So how do the posters explain why Cupertino housing prices are also on average higher than in neighboring cities as some of these cities are much closer to and connected with Stanford and as close to jobs.

And if schools aren't important and everyone sends their kids to private schools (whoever said that has to be joking, right?) how do you explain the recent votes to raise taxes for both schools and libraries if everyone drives BMWs and doesn't care about public libraries?


Posted by palo alto mom, a resident of ,
on Jun 16, 2012 at 12:03 pm

Stephen -

The DataQuick info supports the status comments about why PA housing prices are so high. (The actual PA median price is probably even higher since I suspect DataQuick does not include the Palo Alto home sales where people pay to have their tax stamp on the back and therefore not publicly reported or the ones where people pay for the info to stay out of MLS.)

Schools are important and help with the home values - particularly the $2 million and under homes. The high end of the PA market is about prestige and living in a town with neighborhoods vs. a fenced and gated town like Atherton or more rural properties in Los Altos Hills and Portola Valley.

The "amenities" of Palo Alto are incidental to just about anyone choosing to purchase a home here. In fact, its kind-of questionable to say that Palo Alto has great amenities. Mountain View probably has more true amenities in terms of a great library, lots of public pools, updated parks, a nice performing arts center, vibrant downtown, an affordable mix of retail, paved streets, etc.


Posted by Wayne Martin, a resident of ,
on Jun 16, 2012 at 12:24 pm

All homes are not equal. Just citing average/median prices and trying to link those prices to some particular thing is very difficult to prove. Homes sizes and lot sizes vary, zonings vary, and some towns were targeted for "affordable housing" more than others. Access to transportation, availability of employment locally, also enter the equation. Intrinsic home values, such as cost/sq. ft at initial construction, as well as $$$ spent in upgrades, do not show up in these simple numbers.

Without comparing intrinsic values, these comparisons are not all that meaningful.


Posted by Wayne Martin, a resident of ,
on Jun 16, 2012 at 12:26 pm

> And if schools aren't important and everyone sends their
> kids to private schools

The PAUSD generally concedes that about 15% of the children in town are enrolled in private schools.


Posted by stephen levy, a resident of ,
on Jun 16, 2012 at 12:27 pm

stephen levy is a registered user.

OK, Palo Alto mom. I understand what you are saying.
I am interested to hear what you think the reaons for

--the large votes for libraries as well as bonds in PA
--and how do you explain Cupertino


Posted by Wayne Martin, a resident of ,
on Jun 16, 2012 at 12:54 pm

> how do you explain Cupertino?

Look at the 2010 Census:

Web Link

Asians: 63%

Clearly people with a lot of money are immigrating into Cupertino for reasons that perhaps they would be able to explain better than the rest of us. Some say it's the schools, but when you see Chinese signs up on the roadways, the "strength in numbers" theory of why immigrants often live in the same place when they first immigrate into a new country in large numbers.

It would pay to find out how many homes are sold in Cupertino each year, who buys them, and who sells them.


Posted by stephen levy, a resident of ,
on Jun 16, 2012 at 1:39 pm

stephen levy is a registered user.

Wayne, I appreciate that a lot of recent buyers in Palo Alto and Cupertino are Asian--Chinese and Indian but also from other parts of Asia.

Maybe some of the more recent buyers want to live in a growing Asian community but that doesn't explain the first waves of Asian residents who chose Palo Alto and Cupertino.

Don't you think it was the reputation of the schools and the support for schools in these communities as a primary reason?


Posted by common sense, a resident of ,
on Jun 16, 2012 at 3:46 pm

Stephen,

How do you explain that although Palo Alto & Cupertino score about the same on the California STAR tests, Palo Alto will spend on average $12,900 per student, while Cupertino spends on average $7,600 per student? (source is greatschools.org)

Stephen, comparing Palo Alto real estate prices versus Mt View, Sunnyvale & Menlo Park and drawing a conclusion that schools are the driving factor is very superficial. If you beyond the superficial analysis, you will fin that Mt View, Sunnyvale & Menlo Park have several different school districts which cover different parts of the city, and depending on the mix of which neighborhoods sales are reported in, the average price will vary greatly. For example, the city of Menlo Park is covered by 4 different elementary school districts, and Sunnyvale is covered by 3 different elementary school districts.


Posted by former Paly parent, a resident of ,
on Jun 16, 2012 at 3:57 pm

I agree that Mountain View amenities and attractive downtown look appealing compared to Palo Alto, at times.

Thinking back,I lived right directly on the east Cupertino/w San jose border for awhile, (some years ago). That is the "cheap" side of Cupertino. The schools on that side weren't that great (then) and I know for sure Cupertino schools have typically had huge class sizes. I think Portal was put in as a choice or special public elem. school of some variety and has had very high scores.
HOWEVER, Cupertino IS a "known" place and the ritzy Monta Vista High School (located on the other, better side of the city) as well as nearby Lynbrook (w San Jose) have a large number of Mandarin speakers, and I just think the word has spread overseas about these schools. I seem to recall very high math related scores (like Math portion of SAT, but much lower performance on English or language related tests.)
Apple certainly likes Cupertino - they have the choice to go anywhere and they have stayed!
If you want to know a lovely school (again, my info is a few yrs out of date but I assume still valid): SARATOGA HIGH. And - we all know Saratoga is a costly place to buy a home.


Posted by Walter_E_Wallis, a resident of ,
on Jun 16, 2012 at 4:27 pm

Walter_E_Wallis is a registered user.

If you really want an indice of why people live somewhere, wait until everybody but factory workers and retail clerks walks to work.


Posted by palo alto mom, a resident of ,
on Jun 16, 2012 at 5:13 pm

Stephen - The support for the library and the schools bonds are by existing residents, who value both (as I do). However, I don't think anyone moves to Palo Alto for the libraries... Wayne Martin had the perfect explanation for Cupertino, a huge amount of people that put an emphasis on education over everything. Many people choose both Palo Alto and Cupertino for the schools.


Posted by Wayne Martin, a resident of ,
on Jun 17, 2012 at 6:43 am

> What made the first wave of Chinese pick Cupertino

So when did the first "wave" of Chinese hit the beaches? Let's look at some Census data for that answer:

Web Link

Asians:
1970:1%
1980: 2.6%
1990:13.2%
2000: 44%
2010: 64%
2020: ??%

This percentage of Asians in Cupertino also needs to be seen in terms of a constantly increasing population—

Cupertino/Population:

1970: 17,895
1980: 34,000
1990: 40,918
2000: 50,000
2010: 58,000
2020: ??,???

Source: US Census

We don't have school enrollment data for Cupertino, but presumably it was increasing with the population and reflected demographic changes in the population.

So, starting around 1980, Cupertino began to grow remarkably, seeing a disproportionate number Asians choosing Cupertino as their home. Presumably these Asians were immigrants, but this level of Census data does not provide that information, unfortunately. It might also be interesting to know the origins of the Chinese immigrants, on a per-decade basis. Immigration from the Chinese mainland was not all that free in the 1970s and 1980s. Presumably the Chinese immigrating in those days were from Taiwan, or other countries with Chinese populations interested in living in the US.

Of course, companies like Apple also chose Cupertino as their home, which provided employees of these companies to think favorably of Cupertino as a place to live and keep the commute time down. (It's not clear that there were any "amenities" in Cupertino in the 1970s when Apple opened its doors.)

It would really help to have immigration information (such as the number of H1B visas that companies like Apple were awarded during those days, but that is out of our grasp, at the moment.

But back to the Schools of Cupertino..

> Don't you think that the Chinese picked Cupertino because
> of its schools?

How would the average person know the answer to such a question? School evaluation is a hundred times more complicated that trying to make any sense out of housing data? The average person only knows a little bit about his own school/school district, and most couldn't name the schools/school districts in the next town over.

As it turns out, I happen to have an interest in these things, because the local media is so poor when it comes to investigative reporting, and the State of California happens to be pretty good about collecting, and releasing school-related data.

I've built many databases over the years, which provide some clues to school performance that suggest that the tax-and-spend claims of certain economists are off-the-mark, where school performance is concerned:

The following data was provided to the PAUSD recently—

Six County API vs Cost-to-Educate Data.
Web Link

One of the most important factors in high student performance happens to be parent education. This relationship is one of the few positive relationships involving the hundreds of "variables" in the data files released by the Education Department that can be established readily.

The following was also provided to the PAUSD recently:

API Scores vs Parent Education For Six-county SF Bay Area School Districts:
Web Link

Notice how the API scores drop off almost linearly as the years of parent education decreases. Or perhaps it would be better to say: As the years of parent education increases, the standardized test scores for individual students increases so that the API for the school district increases.

We obviously have a Chicken and Egg problem here. Which came first—the high quality of the Cupertino schools, or the education levels of the Chinese immigrating to the US and choosing Cupertino to live?

Unfortunately, API data only goes back to about 1998, or thereabouts, so trying to do a full analysis on the Cupertino/Chinese immigration question can go no farther without having access to records not generally available to the public—if these records even exist.

The physical appearance of the schools could also be a factor in this choice, but that data is not generally collected. Perhaps someone could provide it, but it's outside the realm of readily available statistical data. There are other, very difficult to characterize issues too—for instance, is Mandarin taught in the schools? How much control of the School Board did the newly arrived Chinese immigrant population acquire? We parents integrated into the education process in Cupertino that could not be found in other school districts?

Difficult to Measure Variables

The following was found on a web-site a Cupertino school web-site a couple of years ago--
---
Parent Commitment

We believe a strong partnership between school and home is an essential component of our program and is key to our students' educational success. Students should remain in the program at least through fifth grade in order to gain the full benefit of the program. Parents need to make this long-term commitment and are expected to be active participants in their child's education at school and home.

Parents agree to provide transportation for their child to and from school daily and to arrive on time.

Parents agree to a six-year minimum commitment to the
Two-Way Language Immersion program.

Parents agree to support fundraising activities and direct donations to the program.

Fundraising

The Cupertino Union School District supports the program with teachers, facilities, and the English portion of the program. All aspects of the Mandarin portion of the curriculum must be financed by parent donations and other outside sources. Funds raised, primarily from direct donations by the parents and supporters of the program and educational grants, have financed the Mandarin curriculum development, all Mandarin specific classroom teaching materials (books, posters, workbooks, writing materials) and classroom equipment (PCs and related Mandarin software), instructional aides in the classrooms, and Chinese cultural and enrichment activities.
---

It is clear that parent commitment is crucial to the educational model being practiced in Cupertino. Something that most educators, as well as people promoting more spending on the public school system have tried to erase from their doctrine, and practice in the creation of the education delivery models in place in most of the schools today.

It also doesn't take much to see that the public schools in Cupertino are being used to create a kind of Chinese enclave—which has little to do with education in the American sense, and much to do with education in the Chinese sense.

So—for those who believe that the Chinese are somehow better educated a people, or a culture, and their decisions about education need to be seen as somehow "superior" to those of us who are not Chinese---your beliefs need a reality check.


Posted by stephen levy, a resident of ,
on Jun 17, 2012 at 1:45 pm

stephen levy is a registered user.

Hi Wayne,

That is a really long post. I suggest the next one be much shorter.

Try, Steve, I apologize for misquoting you twice. Or you could explain that you have a serious reading disaability. It sounds to me like [erhaps you have some issues with Chinese residents

Anyway here is what I wrote

Wayne, I appreciate that a lot of recent buyers in Palo Alto and Cupertino are Asian--Chinese and Indian but also from other parts of Asia.

Maybe some of the more recent buyers want to live in a growing Asian community but that doesn't explain the first waves of Asian residents who chose Palo Alto and Cupertino.

Don't you think it was the reputation of the schools and the support for schools in these communities as a primary reason?

So how did you come up with pretending it is a direct quote

What made the first wave of Chinese pick Cupertino

or

Don't you think that the Chinese picked Cupertino because
> of its schools?

The Asian community in Cupertino is varied as you can see in the next post. And my own personal experience as well as my interpretation of the data is that the reputation and results of the schools are a big draw in Cupertino.


Posted by James, a resident of ,
on Jun 17, 2012 at 1:50 pm

Wayne, If we are going to provide your metric, across Palo Alto, why limit it to public assets? Why not add private assets? That way we could determine the best ROI for the city. For example, if a neighborhood be could be bought out, or forced to sell out through emminent domain, our tax base might be much higher than it currently is, if the industrial (or research) use provides higher property and commerical income values, compared to residential. BTW, there are modern nuclear technologies that do not require water for cooling (e.g. micro-nuclear, aka nuclear batteries)...these nuclear plants are impervious to seisment events and have a very small footprint and are fail safe. I am using the nuclear option to test your metric model. If you'd like, consider the nuclear battery option as a research model.

If we really want to open up PA to maximum value, in terms of fiscal models, we could simply get rid of all zoning laws. Then the property values will soar. In that case, parks would (probably) disappear, as would many neighborhoods. I could sell my lot to a research facility, close to Stanford. You could do the same thing, and make a ton of $$!

Now, let me suggest something, Wayne...it ain't gonna happen! Zoning is locked into stone around here. Parks and open spaces ain't going anywhere. The airport has a lot of history, and it might provide for a nexus of destination entrpreneurs (like Monterey, for example).

However, I think your idea of total property values in PA, assuming that you include private values, would provide an interesting basis of discussion. Good luck.


Posted by stephen levy, a resident of ,
on Jun 17, 2012 at 2:05 pm

stephen levy is a registered user.

Here is the Cupertino population data

In 2010 there were 36,895 Asian residents of which 16578 or slightly less than half were Chinese. There were 13,179 Asian Inidan residents and the rest came from other Asian countries.

In 2000 there were 22,462 Asian residents of which 12,031 or slightly more than half were Chinese, 4,408 were Asian Indian and the rest came from other Asian countries.

So most of the recent growth in the Cupertino Asian population were people of Asian Indian descent.

My intent in this post is to explore the relation between good schools and amenities and home prices, not whether money matters for schools (voters in PA and Cupertino think so) or which amenities are the favorite of posters. The question is about home prices, not posters' personal views about Palo Alto city budget priorities.

It is fair I think to note that the majority of posters remain trying to convince readers that they have the right priorities and that residents who have not agreed with them previously will change their minds if they repeat one more time how stupid the city council and staff are.

In that regard most of these posters say they favor infrasture spending, know that they will be asked to pay for their prioroity and are trying mightly to avoid that choice.


Posted by James, a resident of ,
on Jun 17, 2012 at 2:27 pm

"In that regard most of these posters say they favor infrasture spending, know that they will be asked to pay for their prioroity and are trying mightly to avoid that choice. "

No, Stephen. I can only speak for myself. Your argument is sophistry.

When Vic Ojakian decided to take on the issue of infrastrucutre over the various boutique projects in PA, he was opposed by many in this city...were you one of them? Please tell me which "ammenities" you were willing to cut, in order to fix our sidewalks? Be terribly specific, Stephen...then provide your evidence that you publicly supported those cuts.

Now, Stephen, you use the argument that PA citizens, if they support infrastrucure, should be willing to tax themselves even more for something that should have been paid for as a priority, but boutiques won out, thus we need to support the continued existence of the boutiques (aka ammenities), by raising taxes to pay for infrastructure.

Pure sophistry, Stephen. Pigs don't fly.


Posted by Crescent Park Dad, a resident of ,
on Jun 17, 2012 at 4:27 pm

I expect the city council to step up and make the tough decisions and live within our collected means as they are today. They (and their predecessors) messed up by not budgeting and partitioning funds for infrastructure needs. They robbed Peter to pay Paul way too many times. To expect the citizens to pay additional taxes for something that should have been managed on an incremental and pay-as-you-go basis is folly.

To the city managers, council members, etc.: Just do your jobs and make it happen --- with the money you get now! If that involves cuts to "services and amenities", so be it.


Posted by common sense, a resident of ,
on Jun 17, 2012 at 5:45 pm

Stephen,

I have never met anyone in Palo Alto who decide to move here because of the Children's Theatre or because of the library. Everyone that I have asked about why they moved to Palo Alto is either because of the schools, Stanford, or it's convenient commute location to their work place. Any other cities with high price real estate values, such as Saratoga, Los Gatos & Atherton don't offer some of the amenities that you mentione, but it hasn't affecte their real estate prices.

If you do some research, you'll neighboring cities offer many of the same amenities that Palo Alto offers:

Mountain View has it's own equivalent of Children's Theatre, here's the weblink Web Link

Mountain View has a library as well..

So all the amenities that you mentioned, Mountain View has as well.

You haven't addressed why Cupertino schools spends $7,600 per student, while Palo Alto spends $12,900 per student, yet they both have equally high test scores (weblink greatchools.org)


Posted by Numbers, a resident of ,
on Jun 17, 2012 at 7:47 pm

"You haven't addressed why Cupertino schools spends $7,600 per student, while Palo Alto spends $12,900 per student, yet they both have equally high test scores (weblink greatchools.org)"

District spending per student can be found here: Web Link

Interesting that Mountain View-Los Altos and Sequioa Union spend about the same as Palo Alto.


Posted by Outside Observer, a resident of ,
on Jun 17, 2012 at 8:09 pm

He can't answer the question about $$$ per student vs same outcome.

You know the answer, so does Stephen, but to say it is not PC, so no one will.


Posted by former Paly parent, a resident of ,
on Jun 17, 2012 at 8:43 pm

I see the focus is now on school districts and their funding levels and test scores.
Be careful not to mix unified school districts, like PAUSD which is k-12, with others which have elementary and then separate HS level districts(Los Altos and Mt. View) -- also, Cupertino has an elementary district but most of the city is in FUHSD - Fremont Unified High School District, which includes quite a variety of high schools and cities: Sunnyvale, Cupertino High, San Jose (west side -- Lynbrook) and perhaps Saratoga High, I can't recall. I know Monta Vista is in FUHSD -- overall, we are talking about a large geographic area, I believe.
Los Altos Elementary District is EXTREMELY well supported by parents - I think they have had incredibly small class sizes and top teachers and amenities (like their luxury school lunches) unless these have been changed in recent years. Los Altos has also had VERY high test scores, but I think one must recognize the very high socio-economic demographics to account for that. When you get to Los Altos-Mountain View HS district (Mt View, Los Altos HS and Alta Vista), I believe the test scores are lower.
p.s. don't put ALL your faith or base ALL your opinions or decisions on standardized test scores...there is an undefined element of individuality in all places.


Posted by former Paly parent, a resident of ,
on Jun 17, 2012 at 8:46 pm

Oh, Los Altos Elementary doesn't have anything like Tinsley transfer students to affect their very high test scores, unlike PAUSD.
In addition, please do not attribute high test scores exclusively to a certain ethnic group. As we know, there is self selection of a portion of any ethnic group that has the capability and mobility anfd money to move to a costly area of the U.S. To extend some sort of superiority to an ENTIRE race is incorrect -- check with the peasants back home under the Communist rule.


Posted by former Paly parent, a resident of ,
on Jun 17, 2012 at 8:51 pm

I also do not believe there is a direct line between money spent on public education and results. Some appear to believe that while less money is spent in Cupertino (note also above where I point out you can't compare a unified district like PAUSD with non-unified areas, like Cupertino...)compared to Palo Alto, that the supposed higher results (which I question) in Cupertino are attributed to someone's ethnic superiority. What then about places like Washington, D.C. and Newark, New Jersey, etc. where there is massive funding but horrible test and graduation results...are you truly going to say it is because there is a predominant ethnic group THERE?! (I would say that, once again, very low socio-economic levels of the parents -- poverty, crime -- low education of parents-- are the predominant factor in poor results in public education in those places -- even with a lot of funding, that factor is awfully tough to overcome.
Still, when teachers' unions demand ever more funding, I am skeptical that will lead to better "results" (hard to accurately measure anyway in public education)


Posted by OhlonePar, a resident of ,
on Jun 17, 2012 at 9:24 pm

Little League and theatre are two very different things. Baseball's seasonal and pretty much takes little more than some flat grass, bats and balls to run. As long as there's a field--and the Little League has had one for years--what sort of costs are there

The Children's Theatre has a much larger reach--it operates year round and does several shows--both on-site and at the local schools. Way more than 400 kids participate, while the tickets sold are in the tens of thousands. Comparing it to a seasonal activity that doesn't provide entertainment to anyone but the participants, is comparing moccasins to oranges--two very different things. PACT shows sell out on a regular basis--that speaks to both the quality of the product and its popularity.

Do people buy here for PACT? To some extent, in that the schools AND the concentration of kid-oriented amenities are a big draw. The Junio Museum, the Zoo, the Children's May Fete parade and, yes, PACT all help create an environment that comes across as very family-friendly.
It's rare for a small city to have the *variety* of children's activities that Palo Alto does. (And once you're here you don't have to drive all over the place to get your kids to their class/team/camp of choice. And, no, neither Cupertino nor Mountain View has that kind of density of family-friendly stuff.)

Of *course* the schools are a big factor in stabilizing Palo Alto's home prices. If you've got school-age kids, you can't wait until housing prices drop--the kid's got to go to school. Good public schools, because of the state's educational funding structure, are in short supply in CA, so home prices in Basic-Aid districts are higher as a result--this shouldn't be a surprise--it's supply-and-demand in action.

One last thing--if you have more than one kid, it's easily more cost-effective to be in a good school district than to do the private route. It's also less of a hassle--yes, there are some great private schools, doesn't mean your kid will be accepted.

And, of course, there's a return on a real-estate investment while there isn't one on private-school tuition. For that matter, even if your family doesn't avail itself of the public schools, you still get that return.




Posted by paloaltotreewatch, a resident of ,
on Jun 17, 2012 at 9:27 pm

one item which separates Palo Alto from other cities is the extensive
tree-lined streets. Without these trees the city would be very boring,
especially since alot of the interesting folks have been forced out due to high costs and now all who can afford to live are those super aggressive $ comes first folks who seem to care less about nature, and cultural items if it gets in the way of their triple machiatto fredo with cup holder for their BMW.


Posted by palo alto mom, a resident of ,
on Jun 17, 2012 at 9:39 pm

OhlonePar- just as an FYI - baseball is far less of a season sport than you might think between Fall Ball, Babe Ruth, Little League, All Stars, baseball probably occurs 9 or 10 months of the year thanks in part to our great weather.

I;m guessing a lot more kids play baseball (at no cost to the CIty) than participate in Children's Theater. We are a well off and generous City, there is no reason that any kids program can not run on payments by participants and donations. Happens in our high schools all the time. Happens at AYSO, etc.

I still believe that Palo Alto residents enjoy our "amenities" but very few make the decision to move here because of them.


Posted by PACT? Come on, a resident of ,
on Jun 17, 2012 at 10:01 pm

The idea that PACT justifies a $1M+ tax subsidy each year, while all other activities get pretty much nothing - there's no way. Please find any other public children's theater anywhere in the country that spends anything like that amount on a absolute basis - forget about per capita.

The "costs" in theater and little league (and any other youth activity) are largely the same - staff. The difference between theater and baseball is that in baseball, the coaches, admins, groundspeople, etc., are all volunteers (plus travel at higher levels), or paid for via participant fees, while at PACT, some or all of their counterparts are paid city staff (presumably with benefits and pensions to boot, but I'm just guessing on that), paid for by all of our taxes.

We have PACT not by thoughtful design based on needs and benefits - it is an historical accident based on what a very different group of (wealthy) people favored four or five generations ago. While tradition has a role, we're not bound by their choices. If they'd chosen, say, water polo, would we be justifying spending $1M a year on our Olympic pool and coaching staff (there are a couple of SoCal towns like this)? Let's throw off the yoke of tradition, migrate to PACT participant fees, and put that $1M to city services that benefit a larger group of people.


Posted by common sense, a resident of ,
on Jun 17, 2012 at 10:19 pm

I haven't checked recently, but a few years ago, the city did the field lining for the baseball fields. I would suspect these costs are no where close to what the city pays to staff the Children's Theatre.

Soccer fields are done by volunteers supplied by the leagues.

All sports leagues pay the city to rent the fields they play on. I don't think the Children's Theatre pays rent for Lucie Stern.


Posted by Resident, a resident of ,
on Jun 17, 2012 at 10:56 pm

I don't think we want to get into a Little League v Theatre debate.

However, I know very little about PACT, but know more about Little League and AYSO. I know they are both extremely popular and cost money to the participants and that there are rigorous proofs of residency and age necessary to join. As said above, the oversight, coaching and upkeep of the Middlefield Ballpark are done by volunteers and the only paid positions are the teen umpires who are able to get their first "paycheck" at 13 with experience of responsibility that brings.

Please don't call it a simple thing to organize, or a seasonal sport. Both have two seasons which involve months of preparation beforehand and afterwards for those who volunteer their time. Yes, tickets for games are not sold, but parents, grandparents, neighbors, friends and also just neighbors who enjoy the atmosphere come to watch games and support the kids. The quality of the games must be equal at age level to the quality of any theatre production and the support of the supporters must also be equal to any theatre audience.

Please do not try to belittle our sporting kids as not being involved in something as "quality" as the theatre kids.


Posted by OhlonePar, a resident of ,
on Jun 18, 2012 at 3:21 am

In other words, most of you don't actually know much about PACT and its programs. If you did, you'd know it really is a lot more involved than AYSO and other sports organization. I'll go a step further and guess that most of you spend more time with sports than the arts.

Resident,

I agree, I'd rather not have a sports v. theatre comparison going--but that seems to be what's happening here. I figured it was about time that someone pointed out that they're not the same.

I've been to plenty of kid ballgames--I'd say the average "audience" is about 10-15 people, all of whom are related to the players. Quite different from the sold-out shows at PACT.

PACT doesn't have a huge staff--and staff is not the major cost with theatre productions--equipment, costuming, lighting, sets all cost money. So, for that matter, does licensing.

It's a lot more complex than putting together a ball game--and, yes, I
do have personal knowledge about what's involved with both.

A more apt comparison/discussion of PACT is not with private sports teams, but with other city activities for kids--such as the Junior Museum, the zoo, the Children's Library, etc.

Again, PACT sells tens of thousands of tickets a year--and attendance has been going up. And, yes, there's a long history of the government subsidizing the arts--this is a version of that.

And, to bring this back to Mr. Levy, cities that support the arts tend to attract people and are considered desirable. Palo Alto also has a little museum (and children's programs there).

Before you decide whether something should or should not be funded, why not actually find out something about it.


Posted by James, a resident of ,
on Jun 18, 2012 at 7:47 am

>And, yes, there's a long history of the government subsidizing the arts--this (PACT)is a version of that.

There used to be a long history of government providing and maintaining infrastructure in Palo Alto. However, over the past few decades, infrastrure has a lower priority than PACT (and other similar ammenities).

>Baseball's seasonal and pretty much takes little more than some flat grass, bats and balls to run. As long as there's a field--and the Little League has had one for years--what sort of costs are there

I have heard that the PA Little League budget is about $200k per year. Uniforms, equipment, field repair, water (the city charges LL for it!), insurance, painting, etc. PALL owns its own main field, and it gets no subsides from the city. It pays user fees on various city fields. The city does not line any fields for PALL.

OhlonePar, did you ever volunteer to manage a LL team? You don't sound like it, because you fail to understand the level of "production" that is involved.

The bottom line is that PACT should not be subsidized by the city. It is an ammenity that we cannot afford.




Posted by common sense, a resident of ,
on Jun 18, 2012 at 7:51 am

Ohlone Par,

You actually don't know what it takes to put on a sports league, like AYSO or Palo Alto Little League. It involves, literally hundreds of thousands of hours of volunteer effort. Each season, and each league can have have multiple seasons per year, each league will have a couple of hundred games; multiply that by your audience number, and the audience counts will total in hundreds of thousands. Ticket sales for PA Childrens Theatre total around 30,000.

And in terms of attracting "desirable" people, that's way over the top.

Both the sports activities and Childrens Theatre are valued activities for youth development. What's being discussed is why Childrens Theatre needs a $1 million subsidy, while the sports activities are mostly self funded via volunteer efforts or by fees charged to those who participate.

Since you are so assured about the value of Childrens Theatre, then let's use the current $1 million in funding for infrastructure, and put a vote to raise everyone's taxes to support Childrens Thatre.


Posted by Resident, a resident of ,
on Jun 18, 2012 at 8:17 am

I don't know where to begin now.

Little League and AYSO are well run volunteer organizations and there has never been any type of accounting or organizational discrepancies that has put either of them into any type of investigation.

Both provide more than bats, balls, goalposts to participants.

Scheduling, uniforms, lighting (yes Little League provided funds to install its own lights), snack shack (very high standard food provided for sale at ballpark), equipment, utilities, rents, and sponsorship, all involve huge amounts of volunteer hours and money to cover costs. When you think of all the people who are filling the bleachers at the ballpark from 8.30 am to beyond dusk in the spring and fall on Saturdays plus the midweek evening games, it is far beyond the 10 - 15 relatives who you suggest support each game.

On top of that, Middlefield Ballpark has been the host to many AllStar competitions bringing out of towners to support games and yes I am sure that Midtown and Charleston businesses have benefitted from extra business from visitors during these competitions.

The number of Palo Alto kids taking part in sport at parents' expense every season is huge. They benefit from learning how to be part of a team, how to lose as well as how to win, how to exercise and prepare their bodies for sport, how to apply the rules of the game, loyalty, reliability, respect, accountability and many other life lessons. Soccer in particular is particularly hard exercise, but all youth sports emphasize the importance of exercise to a healthy lifestyle.

I am not trying to play down PACT because I admit I know very little about it - only what I have read and seen from myself in elementary school outreaches.

There is absolutely no reason why the families who choose to do theatre as opposed to sport should get a government handout.

This is not about government supporting of the arts. This is about funding of children's activities. It is also about getting the roads repaired and the storm drains maintained.


Posted by PACT? Come on, a resident of ,
on Jun 18, 2012 at 8:19 am

"PACT doesn't have a huge staff--and staff is not the major cost with theatre productions--equipment, costuming, lighting, sets all cost money. So, for that matter, does licensing."

@Ohlone Par - given your deep knowledge of PACT, please let us know - what portion of the $1.2M budget (netted against $330K in ticket sales and participant fee) is taken up by staff vs. the other items you list? It looks like there are 6 FTE's on the city payroll in the theater department, plus presumably they hire contractors, temporary personnel, etc.

Note that the city budget says there were 555 participants in the theater performances/programs (I'm guessing that double/triple counts children who participate multiple times, which I gather is many of them). Ohlone Par, do you know how many unique kids there were? 300? 400? Class/camp/workshop registrants are 1400, which is nice, but again, I expect those who come repeatedly are counted each time.

I chuckle because I know from first hand experience how other children's theaters operate - on a shoe string, with heavy reliance on volunteer support - just like other PA activities! And the kids have fun and learn theater skills, pretty much the same way.

There's nothing wrong at all with Children's Theater, btw - it is a great program. But after 75+ years of steep city subsidies - can't they figure out a way to fund themselves and give other youth programs a turn??



Posted by palo alto mom, a resident of ,
on Jun 18, 2012 at 9:23 am

Lets compare Children's Theater to say, the high school productions at Paly. One full-time employee who also teaches the drama classes. The school provides the theater (which is used for MANY other things besides plays). The parents and students do the rest from fundraising, building sets, running lights, selling tickets, providing refreshments, etc.

There is great value in all the children's programs in Palo Alto, from the Summer Camps to AYSO to Little League to the Junior Museum. They should NOT be paid for by the City, they should be paid for by the participants. It is generous enough for the City to provide the space in many instances (the Museum, the Theater, field for camps, etc.) They should not be using money from the budget to pay for the rest.


Posted by Wayne Martin, a resident of ,
on Jun 18, 2012 at 9:30 am

> why limit it to public assets? Why not add private assets? That
> way we could determine the best ROI for the city.

Actually, I have looked at that, and the numbers are kind of staggering. While it's not easy to come up with that number with any precision, I estimate that the total public and private property values come to at least $150B for Palo Alto (within the municipal borders). No doubt there is some error in that number, but it clearly is above $100B.

What's frightening is that the City has no asset management program to deal with the property it owns, and it isn't even clear that the Fire Department is fully on-board with the issues associated with having to protect $100B-$150B worth of our property.

There are linkages between private insurance and City-provided protective services. The City of Palo Alto has not really ever made any gesture to the public that it understands these relationships and is providing the maximum (or minimum) protective services to keep the private insurance levels to a minimum.

A clear example of that involves levees and flood plains. While the City has done a lot since the Flood 0f '98, the matter of how to get all of Palo Alto residences out of mandated Flood Plain insurance program is still unresolved--in large part because we decided to spend $100M-$150M on a library/community center, rather than deal with the more pressing issue of fixing San Francisquito Creek.

To be sure, we are talking a lot of money for infrastructure management/refurbishment. The largest number ever presented by the City was about $550M. But this number never involved running an airport for the non-residents, or the San Francisquito Creek, nor did it include all of the PAU infrastructure that is hidden because it is managed via an Enterprise Fund. This $550M also did not involve bond financing costs.

It is really difficult to see how we can continue to fund "services" like the Children's Theater, or to operate an airport for which there is no demand by Palo Alto residents, for the benefit of non-residents who have come to believe that they have a right to use the public assets of Palo Alto.





Posted by PACT? Come on, a resident of ,
on Jun 18, 2012 at 9:42 am

A last question on PACT - I am pretty sure there is no residence requirement. Any sense of what % of the participants are residents vs non-resident?


Posted by Wayne Martin, a resident of ,
on Jun 18, 2012 at 9:45 am

> My intent in this post is to explore the relation between
> good schools and amenities and home prices,

And just how do you propose to do that without providing a reasonable framework that permits the characterization of a given school, or school system, as "good", and then provides the basis for understanding why that school system is "good", relative to one that is "not good". So far, all you have done is assert that the Cupertino schools are "good", without providing any evidence as to why that might be.

Perhaps survey of the people who actually chose Cupertino would be a good place to start. It would also be interesting to see the school metrics for the past forty years or so. Were the schools actually excellent in 1980, when the rapid growth in Cupertino started, or did the schools actually became better, over time—as the education levels of the parents immigrating into the Silicon Valley changed the home-school dynamic from that of the previous population?

> My intent in this post is to explore the relation between
> good schools and amenities and home prices,

Exploring is a lot different than proving. Asserting, or saying "in my experience", and expecting people to accept such claims as "holy truth" is not going to carry much weight in this community.

We also ought to look at the price of homes in Washington, DC and NYC, to see how those correlate with the schools. If there is any correlation between good schools and high home prices, then there should be a negative correlation between bad schools and low home prices--right?


Posted by Wayne Martin, a resident of ,
on Jun 18, 2012 at 9:47 am

> Any sense of what % of the participants
> are residents vs non-resident?

That question was put to the City about two years ago. At that time, there were about 15% non-residents participating.


Posted by former Paly parent, a resident of ,
on Jun 18, 2012 at 12:41 pm

It isn't "PACT vs. Little League,"
OR theatre (with PACT supporters persisting in their claim that PACT is the "only" youth theatre group, or the only worthwhile youth theatre group)vs. youth sports. This is highly offensive.

Look, there are various longstanding nonprofit youth music/performing arts groups in this area, some based in PA, some not (some have moved their HQ sometimes over the yrs, but draw a lot of PA participants, for example)

Many of us have been volunteers, ticket-purchasers, board members, writers of grant applications and so on.

I am TIRED of notable, hardworking, longtime non-city taxpayer-subsidized youth music/performing arts groups being dismissed or consciously overlooked in favor of this PACT, which has had certain powerful city proponents. Let PACT stand on its own two feet like all other nonprofits. We have been completely unaffected by PACT in our time here in this city, and I wish them well along with all OTHER youth nonprofits.


Posted by OhlonePar, a resident of ,
on Jun 18, 2012 at 12:45 pm

Resident,

You said that it shouldn't be a sports v. theatre debate, so why are you going back to sports? Different set of issues and requirements. You want someone untrained hanging heavy lights over the head of kids? I don't. What you describe takes some time and planning, but once in place isn't that hard to manage.

Let me put it this way--a single production can have as many performances packed over a few weeks as there will be games in the entire season of a sport. Then an entirely new game with entirely different equipment will be done.

So, Little League and AYSO--since they're private organizations, do you even have access to their books? And just out of curiosity, what percentage of those Little League swatters in PA are girls? (No, don't bother, I know it's a small percentage since girl's softball here is handled by PAGS--and even girls who start with Little League tend to switch over since there's no girl's baseball in high school.)

Do you propose turning over the zoo, the children's library and the junior science museum to the private sector? Shall we do that with the Cubberly fields as well--or should those stay public so kids who play sports can use them? Hmmm, oh that's right, the pressure is on to create more playing fields--all of which seem to have to be maintained by the city and the school district. Winnowing down the golf course while raising its fees seems to be next.

But really, why should we spend money on all those parks and playing fields? Do we really need that many in this small a city? Kind of lavish, don't you think? No? Hmmmm . . .

PACT, Come on,

What's with those out-of-town teams coming into to play our kids on our (literal) turf? I hear there are *entire* teams of non-residents who trod upon our hallowed grounds.

Let's see, are we making sure that non-residents don't walk into the Junior Museum? Stay away from the Pat Doherty sculpture by the Main Library? Keep out of the Children's Zoo? Are we staying out of San Francisco so that we don't take advantage (as non-residents!) of that city's cultural amenities?

Palo Alto Mom,

Paly isn't putting on plays around the year--and, as I recall, we're paying an awful lot for their new theatre.

Wayne,

Your sense of magnitude is curious--you throw out $150 billion in terms of property values, you talk about $500 million and $150 million bonds--and then you fuss about the million-dollar PACT budget--which is less than one percent than either of these bonds. But it's PACT we can't afford?

Nah, we can afford PACT--but for people who don't care about the arts, it seems optional. Which is what this debate about PACT comes down to--well, that and the bookkeeping keeping scandal a few years back.
--a scandal that turned out to be sloppy bookkeeping instead of intended malfeasance. The people who were implicated are gone.

I might add that the city's contribution to the PACT budget has been cut several years running, but thanks to a young and dedicated staff, they've, nonetheless, increased participation and ticket sales (even though they've had to raise ticket prices.)

PACT's just become an easy target.

Oh, and Wayne, yes, there are published studies about the correlation between good schools and housing prices going back for more than 40 years. It's a strong correlation with a premium being paid for top school districts. Palo Alto benefits, IMO, from having strong schools at all levels and having strong schools throughout the city--it's not a disaster if you get bumped to Barron Park or go to Paly instead of Gunn. This means the overall home prices in this city are higher as a result--as opposed to districts where school quality is less even.


Posted by OhlonePar, a resident of ,
on Jun 18, 2012 at 12:52 pm

Former Paly Parent,

PACT's not a nonprofit--it's a city program whose programs go quite a ways beyond your, say, local choral group. Are you in favor of shutting down the Junior Museum, the art museum, the Children's Library and the Zoo?

Well, maybe you are, since these things aren't of personal interest/benefit to you. They are, however, of interest and benefit to those of us who still have kids who are children.


Posted by PACT? Come on, a resident of ,
on Jun 18, 2012 at 12:55 pm

Ohlone Par - when you just toss around sarcasm, the conversation becomes less interesting. I was curious about non-resident kids not because I resent them, but because I thought any city subsidy should be measured just against the number of residents who participate, and trying to figure out what % to apply to the total # of participants.

I agree, PACT is an easy target - I have never heard any reasonable justification for it. It is just an historical accident with a vocal and influential constituency. Your arguments above have not done anything to move the needle on that, I'm afraid.


Posted by OhlonePar, a resident of ,
on Jun 18, 2012 at 1:46 pm

PACT? Come on,

A lot less interesting? Less interesting than soccer v. PACT non-comparison comparison that one sees over and over and over?

I'd say I just made things a lot *more* interesting by pointing out a few implicit assumptions--i.e. you want to know about non-resident participation in PACT, while not even thinking about the fact that we have nonresidents use our playing fields all the time.

Indeed, if we restricted our playing fields to Palo Alto residents only--city-only leagues--we wouldn't have a shortage of them and wouldn't be talking about spending millions to winnow the golf course and put in some more soccer playing fields.

I don't actually oppose publicly owned and maintained playing fields, but I am willing to point out the assumptions people make here. It's funny that you think that's "sarcasm" on my part--I think it's interesting what assumptions we make about what is or is not valuable.

As for convincing you, I don't plan to--but other people read this--and not all of them have a Pat-Brigg-sized chip on their shoulder about public funding of the arts. Your comments will be used by me to dissect and counter some of the assumptions that get all too easily made.

In a nutshell, the arts, historically, are not self-sustaining, but by funding them we benefit over the long term by living in a richer, more creative and culturally vibrant place. Hell, the Globe was not self-sustaining--Shakespeare needed and had patrons. I think, though, overall the long term, we benefit from Shakespeare having written those plays.

The current PACT is not the Pat Briggs cozy-with-the-infrastructure PACT. Judge Lucky is a hard-working guy and the city's getting about four different jobs out of him--he's also running the main theatre at Lucy Stern, expanding the educational offerings and school outreach at PACT, running the teen arts council and directing shows at PACT. He's young and dedicated. The city is lucky to have him.


Posted by James, a resident of ,
on Jun 18, 2012 at 2:18 pm

>Let me put it this way--a single production can have as many performances packed over a few weeks as there will be games in the entire season of a sport. Then an entirely new game with entirely different equipment will be done.

That is a crazy statement, OhlonePar. Palo Alto Little league has dozens of games per week, over its various age groups.

PACT is no more special than the other kids' activities, even though the artsy crowd continues to insist that it is. PACT must fund its own operational budget, including paying use fees (rent) for the facility that Palo Alto provides for them.

It is completely unfair for PA Little League, AYSO, etc., to pay their own way, while PACT gets a free pass, at the expense of our infrastructure. BTW, this is just the tip of the iceberg, there are many other subsdized ammenities, in Palo Alto, that have drawn away resources from our infrastructure. It is time to pay the piper.


Posted by former Paly parent, a resident of ,
on Jun 18, 2012 at 2:48 pm

Directed from you to me:
"...these things aren't of personal interest/benefit to you..."
How the heck do YOU know?
- You don't.
The Arts are EXTREMELY important to me.
I just happen to have massive involvement with a whole raft of music/performing arts organizations in and out of this area, and my perspective is that PACT shouldn't be singled out for 1M of Palo Alto taxpayers' money each year, when we are informed our city budget is strained and the roads are potholed.
I dislike one project being a pet project for politically connected staff and parents.


Posted by pat, a resident of ,
on Jun 18, 2012 at 2:53 pm

> "Zoning is locked into stone around here."

Except when it's PC (Planned Community) zoning and then anything goes, as long as the developer has enough money to pay for "public benefits."

> "The question is about home prices, not posters' personal views about Palo Alto city budget priorities."

Stephen, you start out by saying people want to live in Palo Alto " because we have great schools and lots of amenities, many of which are publicly funded."

That's an obvious invitation to discuss budget priorities, since the budget pays for lots of the amenities.

James is correct when he says: "Now, Stephen, you use the argument that PA citizens, if they support infrastrucure, should be willing to tax themselves even more for something that should have been paid for as a priority, but boutiques won out, thus we need to support the continued existence of the boutiques (aka ammenities), by raising taxes to pay for infrastructure."

While the city council debates how big an infrastructure bond to put on the ballot (police building or ???), it makes plans for a bike bridge ($9M), wider sidewalks on CA Ave ($1.5M) a road/path/public square between the Art Center and main library ($1M).

And, while planning ways to create more infrastructure while unable to maintain what it's already got, the city wants residents to pay $6.66/month (any significance to that number?) for street sweeping, surely a basic city service that one would expect to come out of our tax dollars.

> "I expect the city council to step up and make the tough decisions and live within our collected means as they are today."

As James said, pigs don't fly. The Kool-Aid at City Hall is potent. Just what sort of tough decisions have you seen the current council make? They wouldn't even increase the fee for the community garden from 50-cents to $1.00. They had to make it 62-cents.

> "Shakespeare needed and had patrons."

And the CT has its "Friends." Let them support the future Shakespeares. I'd to choose which arts programs I support, while my tax dollars go toward fixing the streets and paying for street sweeping.


Posted by pat, a resident of ,
on Jun 18, 2012 at 2:56 pm

A good read for Ohlone parent -- and others: Web Link


Posted by paloaltotreewatch, a resident of ,
on Jun 18, 2012 at 2:56 pm

the real costs to the city is the bloat of management.
Get an org chart - compare against other cities of similar attributes.
the costs to be saved are at the top - this current administration
strategy is to outsource everything. Lets outsource management and
save $20 million a year.





Posted by Resident, a resident of ,
on Jun 18, 2012 at 3:34 pm

Ohlone

I am only harping on about sports because that is where my experience has been. I know very little about PACT because the only experience I have had is with the outreach programs in elementary school. But, I am not running them down. I am sure that the parents and volunteers work as hard as any other organization.

I don't know about girls softball, or music, or dance, but I do know a little about martial arts and gymnastics at the kids' levels.

I won't write about things I know nothing about.

Little League does have some girls but as you say the girls tend to move elsewhere. AYSO has probably equal girls/boys teams. There is also NJB, CYSO, Y basketball, middle schools sports, and probably loads more I know nothing about.

I am not criticising PACT in anything other than I don't see why they should be funded by City funds when none of the others are. No other youth organized sports or arts, get city funds.

Please don't criticize me for writing about what I know. You seem to know and support PACT. I am writing about my experience and I know that all the volunteers put in endless hours for a large part of the year to provide a fun activity with lots of benefits for hundreds if not thousands of PA kids at no expense to the City.


Posted by OhlonePar, a resident of ,
on Jun 18, 2012 at 4:05 pm

James,

I didn't specify Little League. There's more than one sport in this town. My point stands.

Sports teams in this town get a break on their facilities in that they use city and school maintained and owned lands. Use fees don't begin to cover what those lands are worth and take to maintain. You think the city couldn't make a bundle off of the Cubberly fields, the one at the corner of Page Mill and El Camino or the proposed ones at the golf course?


But, again, sports v. theatre is apples to oranges. Are you in favor of cutting funding to the Junior Museum, the Zoo, the Children's Library and other entities that require a greater infrastructure than a sport that requires a flat green playing field?

Pat,

I'm aware of the speech--doesn't have much, IMO, to do with whether there should be public funding of the arts. If anything, I'd say it speaks to the importance of having publicly funded programs that don't exclude kids for financial reasons.

And, honestly, the current set of high-school graduates don't strike me as nearly as entitled as some of the older generations.

former Paly,

How the heck do I know? I know it from you--you said you've been "completely unaffected by PACT." You're also a "former Paly parent"--i.e. no longer a parent in the district.

Now, it appears you have a chip on your shoulder about a long-established program has been successful for decades because it's not struggling as much as some nonprofits.

Yep, the solution for an underfunded theatre group is to make sure *other* theatre programs are equally underfunded. Yep, that does the local arts scene lots of good.

The arts may be "EXTREMELY important" to you, but not as important as your resentment and envy. Take a look at your posts and tell me why I shouldn't think that?





Posted by common sense, a resident of ,
on Jun 18, 2012 at 4:29 pm

OhlonePar can't justify the subsidy for Childrens Theatre, so instead she is trying to degrade all the other activities for youth that do so without any subsidy from the city...

This is where the city faces it's biggest challenge in trying to fund a bond measure to address the infrastructure needs of the city: favoritism towards a few activities, and no or feeble attempts to self fund those activities to get them off the taxpayer dollar (or at least change the proportion of what is subsidized by the taxpayer), especially since such a small proportion of the population (around 300 kids) participate in the activity.


Posted by OhlonePar, a resident of ,
on Jun 18, 2012 at 5:26 pm

Common Sense,

Nope, I have no problem justifying PACT's funding. It's a successful, popular program that's served the community well for decades. If you support public funding of the arts and children's enrichment programs, which I do, then PACT's a piece of cake--ticket sales have been increasing as has participation. It's doing a better job of filling its mission than it did five years ago. It's a good program, getting better. This is one of the reasons I'm tired of seeing it scapegoated. I get the anger over Pat Briggs, but she has retired.

So no desperation about it, simply pointing out that many, many activities in this city rely on some sort of public subsidy. No one seems to be willing to say that there should be no public subsidizing of youth activities.

So if you *do* agree that there should be public support and subsidizing of cultural and youth activities, where do you draw the line and why?

I think it's interesting that not one person has been willing to address the issue of other publicly funded children's programs--so again, the library, the junior science museum, the zoo? And, yes, what about the dispute over Cubberly--the city needs that third high school, but the local sports groups are among those angling to keep their very-valuable playing fields.

I'm more than willing to answer questions. Now it's your turn.


Posted by James, a resident of ,
on Jun 18, 2012 at 6:25 pm

>Are you in favor of cutting funding to the Junior Museum, the Zoo, the Children's Library and other entities that require a greater infrastructure than a sport that requires a flat green playing field?

Palo Alto should *not* be providing operating funds for the arts, period. The various arts groups should be treated like the various sports groups. It is absurd that PACT is subsidized by our tax dollars. Same thing for the Junior Museum, Zoo, Children's Library. What makes them so special, except for the fact that our city council has been hijacked to support them, over the years...at the expense of our infrastructure?

The correct model is Palo Alto Little League.



Posted by PACT? Come on, a resident of ,
on Jun 18, 2012 at 6:54 pm

We should expect PACT to be popular and successful, since it gets $1M in city subsidy annually, and presumably has been well-subsidized for many decades. If you can't create a popular program with that kind of support, you'd have to be pretty terrible ;-)

As others have pointed out, it makes some sense for the city to provide infrastructure, perhaps for a usage fee, while the organization provides its own operating expenses. That's generally the case with playing fields, basketball courts, etc. All we're asking is for the participants to support their own activity. And this isn't "the arts" - this is a children's activity. That's the point here.

PACT is an easy target because it is so big, with $1M subsidy. The Junior Museum and Zoo appears to have a $600K subsidy, and I'm not sure what kind of usage it receives - it does generate almost twice the revenue that PACT does, which suggests it is well-used. The Children's Library has a budget of $767K and probably a little revenue - my sense from having been in there is that it is also well-used (though the separate facility would probably never be replicated today). So of the items you mention, PACT is the biggest subsidy, and likely has the smallest user base, perhaps by far.


Posted by palo alto mom, a resident of ,
on Jun 18, 2012 at 9:18 pm

OhlonePar -You ask if I'm in favor of cutting funding (I assume that's tax funded vs. personal) to the Junior Museum, Zoo, and Children's Theater - absolutely. They should absolutely be funded by private $$ just as Little League. I have no problem with the City providing the venue - everything else should be paid for by the participants.

Kind of like your argument against Mandarin Immersion (which I agree with) its only far. A tiny amount of kids should not benefit at the expense of a large number of residents.


Posted by OhlonePar, a resident of ,
on Jun 18, 2012 at 9:32 pm

James,

The zoo, the museum, the library and PACT need more than a green field top operate but at least you're willing to answer the question. You think everything should emulate a group that does no outreach to girls by offering a sport they can actually play in high school and college.

There are plenty of cities that offer just about that level of support to children's activities and guess what? They don't tend to draw families. They also don't tend to pass education bonds and get all the more walloped by state budget cuts. You really do get what you pay for.

PACT Come on,

PACT isn't simply a children's activity. It's an educational program with substantial outreach to the schools. It requires a certain amount of know-how to run and running it *is* a full-time job that requires professional know-how. And, yes, it's an arts program that trains young artists (along with providing a place for occasional appearance by James Franco and his mother . . .)

I'd say that in addition to the Children's Libary operating costs, you have to factor in the construction bond we're all paying off.

The Junior Museum, which is free, does get a lot of visitors, but most of them are just that--visitors. I'm not sure a 20-minute walkthrough offers the same level of enrichment as, say, participating in a show as cast or crew. I don't think the "user base" is a useful comparison for that reason. (It's not like PACT has a drop-in space open five days a week.)

But, anyway, PACT has, like other city programs has had its budget reduced had to depend more on its donor network than in previous years--and I don't have a problem with that. I do have an issue with a longtime, successful city program being axed because of a rather short-sighted notion that the arts and children's programs shouldn't receive public funding.

Im my opinion, the museum, the library, the zoo, PACT and, yes, AYSO and Little League create a synergy that does help attract families who pay our steep housing prices. It's not simply the schools--Cupertino has higher test scores, but lower housing prices. It's the schools AND the sense that this is a family-friendly community with a reasonable cultural life and a variety of restaurants--i.e. if you live here there are "things to do."

People pay for the variety and the convenience--and indications are that as fuel becomes more expensive and we continuing to suffer the consequences of the overbuilding a decade ago--this will continue to be the case.

Culture's a selling point--housing prices have a way of soaring when a town gets a reputation as an artist's community--generally to the dismay of the artists.



Posted by pat, a resident of ,
on Jun 18, 2012 at 10:38 pm

> "There are plenty of cities that offer just about that level of support to children's activities and guess what? They don't tend to draw families."

What are you saying? That there are no families in Mountain View, Los Altos and surrounding cities? That Cupertino is NOT a family-friendly community? Good grief!

> "PACT isn't simply a children's activity."

Then why is it called the CHILDRENS theatre?

> "It's an educational program ..."

It teaches kids how to act. That's a very specific "educational" program for a relatively small number of kids who are interested in acting. The Junior Museum and Zoo (which also should not be subsidized) offers more than 20-minute walkthroughs. They have programs and camps on a variety of topics.

> "Culture's a selling point housing prices have a way of soaring when a town gets a reputation as an artist's community "

Culture is a selling point in NY, hardly in Palo Alto. Are you suggesting that Palo Alto is an artist's community? Because of PACT? Double good grief!

> " providing a place for occasional appearance by James Franco and his mother . . ."

Triple good grief! Should we support PACT because James Franco made a guest appearance? He's a fine actor and a very talented young man, but that's one huge success out of how many participants?


Posted by PACT? Come on, a resident of ,
on Jun 18, 2012 at 10:49 pm

I'm confident that if PACT were moved to private funding, our city, families, and housing values would be none the weaker. After 75 years of priming the pump, the program should have a good enough base to continue on - other communities manage to have children's theater without the big subsidy. If the program is so strong, and the community support so deep, the appropriate funding will be available.



Posted by former Paly parent, a resident of ,
on Jun 19, 2012 at 9:12 am

pat is correct.
@ Common Sense, thanks for your general support. OhlonePar has it in for me because I am a former Paly parent and therefore my opinion doesn't count in this city. Huh? Err - I am a taxpayer, and an interested party, and a knowledgeable party, and when we are discussing the oddity (to me) of PACT being singled out for 1M/yr taxpayer funding, I believe I am entitled to voice my opinion. Sorry this doesn't meet OhlonePar's approval.
Futhermore, I am knowledgeable about a lot of music/performing arts organizations and I chuckle at the notion advanced about PACT having merit and others not having merit; it also has nothing to do with supposedly wanting all these groups to struggle. I am also not jealous of PACT. Huh? What weird ideas.
It has to do with - again - the sheer oddity of PACT being a pet project of certain city-affiliated persons in past and parents, at ALL our (taxpayer) expense. Sorry OhlonePar doesn't want me to question this- it is a legitimate question.
We are constantly told the city is short of money. Rather than raising fees in a multitude of ideas, I personally would prefer closer examination of city spending.


Posted by Crescent Park Dad, a resident of ,
on Jun 19, 2012 at 12:30 pm

If anyone is wondering why PACT is such the pinata...here's another way to think about the subsidy abuse it is receiving.

400 individual kids (approximately) are benefiting from a $1mil subsidy. That is $2500 per kid. Wow.

Comparing PACT to LL baseball is a little bit of apples/oranges. But nevertheless - it is a compelling argument of why the PACT subsidy is way out of line.

Comparing PACT to all youth sports in terms of field or facility use actually works against PACT/OhlonePar. Yes, the teams/clubs do not cover the full cost of maintain the fields/parks - but the fields are also open to general and public recreation. Lucie Stern is not open to anyone. Probably impossible to do, but the better comparison is to calculate the total number of distinct individuals who use our parks (organized or not) and then calculate what the city subsidizes after subtracting out rental fees.

My guess is the per capita subsidy for parks/fields will be a small fraction of the $2500/kid PACT receives.

Nothing wrong with the arts or the activities. My kid is an artist. But given the city budget and the need to upgrade/repair the infrastructure the benefits 65000 residents and who knows how many local businesses and their employees, it seems that gravy train needs to cut back for the time being.

Nothing personal, but we have to focus on what is best for the (much) greater good, not just on a small minority of residents (and non-residents).


Posted by OhlonePar, a resident of ,
on Jun 19, 2012 at 5:12 pm

Palo Alto mom,

I don't think PACT, the zoo and museum are comparable to MI--there's no inherent exclusion factor and I think ALL the kids in the community benefit from having a nexus of city-funded programs catering to kids. I don't see anything comparable to the harm that MI has done to Ohlone (whose enrollment's now 600-plus and has an Ohlone-main waitlist in the hundreds.) Yes, we as taxpayers fund it, but we also receive the housing price premium that comes from owning in a desirable area.


Pat,

My James Franco comment was tongue-in-cheek. I think it's funny given Franco's reputation for showing up all over the place.

And housing prices are lower in Mountain View--a number of those families would be here if they could afford it.

My point is that Palo Alto homes sell at a premium that goes beyond the school quality and the convenience--and part of that premium stems from the cultural life and children's programs offered here.

What about that do you not understand? There are studies that back up my observation--though I think it's also pretty self-evident.


Former Paly Parent,

Oh, I see, you're a *victim* because I pointed out the issues with what you wrote? It's all personal, somehow? My honest feeling about that sort of thing is that it's a dodge--a way of not staying on topic.

If you're knowledgeable, show it. Yes, you're free to voice your opinion and I am free to question it. That's how discussion works.


Crescent Park Dad,

The "400" number is completely misleading--it refers to a small segment of PACT's programming--not the kids in the shows, the tickets sold (in the tens of thousands), the school outreach or even all of the educational programs at the theatre. Take a look at the revenue raised by the productions and the classes and tell me how the math would possibly work. You don't generate $250K in tuition from 400 kids.

PACT and Lucy Stern ARE in fact trying to generate more revenue--ticket prices were double, while a participation fee has been covered by the friends of Children's Theatre. The groups are also actively seeking to rent out Lucy Stern and PACT to lecture groups and such. It's hardly closed to everyone.

One last comment to everyone--there seems to be this notion that private funding is a panacea that will give us what we want without having to pay for it--there's always some *other* guy who will pay for it. If for some reason, Palo Alto stops funding these programs, they'll all exist anyway.

No. My experience with nonprofits is that a huge amount of time an energy goes away from the mission and goes towards constantly/constantly begging for money. It's actually a pretty inefficient way to do things. We're actually getting more bang for our back and better-quality programs by publicly funding these programs.

As for the city's budget problem--well, no amount of fussing about this pet project or that is going to change the inequities brought about by Proposition 13. If you want to really change things around, make it harder to rent houses and make it easier for seniors to sell.

Palo Alto has been its own little kingdom and avoided most of the economic turmoil of the last several years--because it's perceived as that desirable by the people most likely to buy a single-family home--people with children. I think it would be economically foolish to dump the programs that make our city appealing to those would-be buyers. I've been to those cities that have slashed popular programs right and left--they're not pulling in new families and they're depressing to be around.

(Though, yes, I'm all for nixing the connecting road between the library and museum driveways and putting those funds elsewhere. I don't think anyone will find Palo Alto more appealing because of it.)

So, I am with Mr. Levy here. You get what you pay for.


Posted by PACT? Come on, a resident of ,
on Jun 19, 2012 at 5:58 pm

"My experience with nonprofits is that a huge amount of time an energy goes away from the mission and goes towards constantly/constantly begging for money. It's actually a pretty inefficient way to do things. We're actually getting more bang for our back and better-quality programs by publicly funding these programs."

It is hard to know even what to think about the logic behind a statement like that, esp. for one of the city's smaller youth activities.


Posted by palo alto mom, a resident of ,
on Jun 19, 2012 at 7:54 pm

OhlonePar - my only comparison between MI and PACT was that both benefit a small number of kids at the expense of all the taxpayers of Palo Alto,

As far as the "cultural life and children's programs" being part of why people move to Palo Alto - our cultural life is somewhat minimal and although the programs are appreciated by the residents - a minuscule number of people would ever move here for them.

All the non safety and infrastructure related programs (from PACT to the airport) should pull their own weight financially until PA recovers from its economic issues. At that point, perhaps the taxpayers should vote on what "boutique" programs receive the tax dollars of ALL the PA taxpayers.


Posted by stephen levy, a resident of ,
on Jun 19, 2012 at 9:34 pm

stephen levy is a registered user.

Here's what I get from reading from reading the last flurry of posts.

Most posters agree that programs for children (schools, parks, playing fields and cultural amenities support PA's high housing prices by making the community a great place to live.

Most posters agree that infrastructure, which includes parks, playing and playing fields (the infrastructure commission agrees) as well as community centers, theaters, zoos, etc. are important for maintaining a high quality of life.

Some posters argue strongly that certain activities like the Children's theater program should not be subsidized as much as presently done.

This is a fair argument to make (I don't agree but that is a different matter) BUT this small ("boutique"?) group of psoters then blames special interests that they acknowledge have somehow persisted over decades (are these the same special interests in each decade) despite several intervening council elections. That one is a little hard for me to accept.

Then there are posters who claim council is beholden to public unions and developers (a strange combination--can both be true?)

So a thread that started pondering what makes PA housing prices high compared to neighboring communities has become yet another thread by this small "boutique" group of posters who claim infrastructure is a critical priority but only if other spending is cut. It is a priority that they want other people to pay for. Where have we heard that before?

Our children participated in Little League and Children's Theater. We enjoyed the parks, playing fields. libraries and the zoo. I have gone to many meetings at Lucy Stern and now enjoy the new meeting room at the downtown library.

I feel that PA gave our family a gift with the wonderful resources paid for by an earlier generation of residents and I want to pass on these resources to the next generation, which is why I think many older residents support school and library bonds and will support bonds to maintain our legacy of infrastructure.

The main financial struggle facing PA and other cities is the rising cost of retirement benefits and the aging of the workforce (not Children's Theater) and the staff, council and city employees are gradually working toward a more sustainable set of promises.

I am sure the council wants to minimize any new request for funds related to infrastructure while doing what is needed. So if yoy have ideas, take them to council.

if you think that is hopeless or that you can not after decades of complaining convince enough people, perhaps you are living in the wrong community. Perhaps a less confrontational and angry srtance might lead to more cost sharing for city programs although I think the complaining posters are in a minority.

Palo Alto is now seeing a great demand to live here so perhaps people like what they see. Posters are complaining that people are filling our schools so perhaps they do come to PA because it is a great place to raise kids.

I think OhlonePar got it right. You get what you pay for. I would add "I am proud to give back to a community that gave so much to our family."


Posted by James, a resident of ,
on Jun 19, 2012 at 9:46 pm

>because it's perceived as that desirable by the people most likely to buy a single-family home--people with children

Since many of the homes in PA are being bought by Asians, many of whom have children, who sacrifice to make it happen, how many Asian kids are currently in PACT? I do see an increasing number of Asian kids in PA Little League.

Asians are not moving into PA because of Little League or PACT. A much larger issue, for them, is the schools, and proximity to Stanford.

As a theoretical, a poll of newly-arrived Asians in PA would, I surmise, bolster my opinion. On the other hand, a poll of the old artsy crowdin PA might agree with you, but they are being displaced very quickly, both by business-oriented non-Asians and the newly arrived Asians. Put another way, OhlonePar, the future is not in your direction.


Posted by former Paly parent, a resident of ,
on Jun 19, 2012 at 11:59 pm

Mr. Levy, I think I posted way back when that one reason PA is so popular for public schools is because so many other schools/districts in CA are so awful. There are quite a few reasons for this situation, of course.
Separately, I have known Asian families who believed that living in PA with proximity to Stanford would bring greater opportunity for acceptance to Stanford - and that isn't really the case (owing to legacies/faculty already here, the need for geographic diversity in each incoming class, the great competition because of larger number of apps from locals to Stanford). A better strategy would be to move to another area and commute in to Silicon Valley.
I know a kid (non-Asian, but from another country, with some yrs of residency here in Silicon Valley) whose highly educated family sent her to a non-notable private school in downtown San Jose and she got into UCLA -- I don't think she would have currently gotten in from PAUSD with our competitive pool.


Posted by PACT? Come on, a resident of ,
on Jun 20, 2012 at 8:15 am

Of course we get what we pay for. In this case, we get gold plated Children's Theater, which has no impact on housing prices or much else for most people. At a quarter the subsidy, we'd still have PACT, a fine facility, the same 400 kids being served, and the same housing prices - and we'd also have $750K to spend on other sorely needed projects.

Steve, you may be a fine economist (no data, sorry), but your political analysis skills are lacking if you don't understand why PACT has sustained itself through the decades. Influential people, who use the amenity or just like having it around, intertwined with the elected decision makers and the folks who give them campaign money, or both, and a tradition of a council that listens to those folks - there's nothing unusual about it, it is just garden variety politics, with a vested special interest group protecting its perk. Show me the other established amenities that's have cut in our town - I would love to hear about it.


Posted by palo alto mom, a resident of ,
on Jun 20, 2012 at 9:42 am

Stephen - While some might agree that the Lucie Stern structures - including the theater, the zoo, and the community center might be considered "infrastructure" because they are buildings, the programs which occur in them are not and should not be the financial responsibility of the whole City any more than the soccer teams that play at Jordan or Theaterworks at the Lucie Stern theater.

Programs should pay for themselves - from sports to the zoo to the children's theater. When and if Palo Alto is back in the black and their streets, gas mains, sewer system, etc. have been repaired and are in good working order (including $$ set aside for continued maintenance) and once our Public Safety officers are at appropriate staffing for a city our size, then we can choose what nice - but non-essential programs - we should fund.


Posted by C, a resident of ,
on Jun 20, 2012 at 11:00 am

Mr Levy, House's price on the same street but fall into different school district. Does this scenario help answering your question? Forget about Children's Theater, or parks etc.. Cause there's no boundary limitation for using these facilities. Residents may pay a dime less than the non-residents. And we know the parks are free to use by non-residents anyway

I urge you to start another topics such as "PA infrastructure Expense". Try it!


Posted by James, a resident of ,
on Jun 20, 2012 at 11:21 am

>You get what you pay for(from Stephen Levy).

We all paid for infrastructure, but we didn't get it.


Posted by pat, a resident of ,
on Jun 20, 2012 at 11:51 am

> "My point is that Palo Alto homes sell at a premium that goes beyond the school quality and the convenience--and part of that premium stems from the cultural life and children's programs offered here. There are studies that back up my observation--though I think it's also pretty self-evident."

It is not at all self-evident. Please provide a link to the studies.

> "The "400" number is completely misleading—"

Somewhat misleading. From a May 2010 email from city staff: " enrollment in Children's Theatre classes and camps has increased to above 600 with a projection of 680 for Fiscal Year 2010. The enrollment projection for Fiscal Year 2011 is 750."

Let's assume the 750 projection came true. The CT budget in 2011:

Expense $1,144,175
Revenue
Ticket sales $108,074
Program fees $153,026
Travel reimbursement $69,000
$330,100
Net -$814,075

That's $1,0875/participant vs. ZERO subsidy for kids in other activities.

> "My experience with nonprofits is that a huge amount of time an energy goes away from the mission and goes towards constantly/constantly begging for money. We're actually getting more bang for our back and better-quality programs by publicly funding these programs."

That is incredibly self-serving. How nice that you don't have to be "constantly begging for money" because taxpayers are forced to subsidize you.

> "You get what you pay for."

Not in the case of PACT. A select few benefit from it, but all pay. I prefer to choose the causes I support vs. having them forced on me.

And James is right: we all paid for infrastructure, which is crumbling because our taxes went to PACT and the zoo and other non-essentials. We all thought we paid for street sweeping, but now we have to pay again.

BTW there are 16 billionaires living in Palo Alto. Maybe they could be convinced to support PACT.

Re the insertion of Asian issues into the discussion:
Web Link


Posted by OhlonePar, a resident of ,
on Jun 20, 2012 at 3:04 pm

PACT, Come on,

The operative word is "smaller"--baseball, once there's a field available, doesn't take a lot of money. Ergo, you don't need to spend much time raising it. Not everything valuable is readily self-sustaining. To use a business example, the average new drug takes ten years of development with a lot of misteps on the way--but are you willing to say a new, effective cancer treatment isn't worth it? Even though it takes more time and costs more to develop than a new software program?

Palo Alto mom,

I know we often agree on matters and I appreciate your calm approach here, but I do differ with you on this one--I don't see how the city-sponsored activities infringe on the nonparticipants--whereas MI actively does. And while I don't think families move here exclusively for the cultural activities, it *is* a factor. And for a town of 60,000, there's a lot going on--a professional theatre company, local opera, amateur musical and theatre groups and, of course, the wide array of performers who come to Stanford. We also have both a city museum and the Cantor arts center. Can you name me a city of a similar size in the U.S. that has more? I know of several families who choose to live here because there "are things to do." Remember, our housing price premium isn't just school scores--Cupertino's noticeably cheaper.

Pat,

Yes, misleading--because *AGAIN*--the camps are a small segment of what PACT does. It does not include the kids who are in a school play run by PACT--Ohlone's last PACT play had around 70 participants. It does not include classes. It does not include classes. It does not include the kids performing in the plays. It does not include the Saturday Playhouses.

PACT's ticket sales are in the tens of thousands, but not a *single* ticket sale comes from those camps. Not one. (And, for that matter, people pay for those camps. There's a summer fee as there is for other city activities.)

I mean, your fiscal "analysis" is so off-base that I'm going to have to read all your comments with more skepticism than I previously did.

You also ignore the fact that PACT's current management is actively working to increase participation in its activities and, oh, *succeeding*--750 quite a boost from that earlier 400.

Your comment about the billionaires exemplifies the having your cake, but not having to pay it for attitude that I mentioned earlier. We all benefit from the work done by earlier generations to make Palo Alto a vibrant, culturally rich community--I don't see why we have to run to the rich lords of the Internet to pay for it. This isn't the middle ages and I'm not a serf.

James,

The city could be more efficient, no question, but I don't blame PACT for the Palo Alto process which, IMO, hinders the development of a better tax base. I'm near Edgewood Plaza and we *all* want something there. There even seems to be an agreement on what should go in, but who knows when the hell they'll get something done.

Mr. Levy points out some of the deeper issues--a lot of the complaint about the *relatively minor* (and, yes, in terms of overall costs and budget, they *are* minor) costs of Lucy Stern and the nearby offerings is a clear case of not seeing the forest for the trees. Wiping out PACT, the zoo and the museum would leave us in the same budget fix we're currently in while making our city a noticeably less-interesting and less pleasant place to live. And, once they're gone, they're not that easy to bring back.

Given that there's a Palo Alto premium for housing, we, frankly, need to keep those little "extras" that add to quality-of-life here--because there are *other* good school districts and certainly plenty of housing that costs less elsewhere. Honestly, we need would-be buyers to fall in love just a little bit with our city.

And while there *is* a perception among some that PA schools are somehow a funnel to Stanford, I think that's balanced by those who know their kids will have a better chance of getting into many schools (including the UCs) if they're *not* in this district--i.e. it's a lot easier to be in the top 4 percent of a mediocre school than it is here.

Mr. Levy, in general, people with time to spare and complaints to make *are* going to be the most likely to post here, so it is skewed. People who think everything is fine are doing other things besides posting how great everything is.

As for "special interests"--I think Pat Briggs at PACT did have a cosy relationship with city managment and oversight of PACT did get sloppy. Judge Lucky, though, is an outsider who's just working hard as he can to make a good program. I think this is a program that has made real strides in living up to its mission.

But, in general, the "special interests" in Palo Alto are simply small-town politics. People who grew up here are better connected than people who arrived, oh, 20 years ago. We seem urban and sophisticated, but the city government is more akin to Main Street USA than people might realize. There are people who know people--you want something turned around fast--you use a contractor who knows how to work the city regulations and is known to the city.

The more established and savvy someone is, the easier it is to get things done around here. Ironically, the core of Palo Alto doesn't care much for outsiders. I think it is because so many people are transient.

As a relative outsider, I have mixed feelings about it--it can be frustrating and insular, but I also think it has helped maintain Palo Alto's character.


Posted by pat, a resident of ,
on Jun 20, 2012 at 3:55 pm

> "Not everything valuable is readily self-sustaining. To use a business example, the average new drug takes ten years of development with a lot of misteps on the way--but are you willing to say a new, effective cancer treatment isn't worth it? Even though it takes more time and costs more to develop than a new software program?"

I hope you're not comparing a cancer treatment drug with PACT!

> " the camps are a small segment of what PACT does."

I said nothing about camps. What I got from the city is that there were projected to be 750 PARTICIPANTS in the CT. I have no idea what those kids do.

> " your fiscal "analysis" is so off-base "

You'd better take your concerns up with the city, because all my numbers came from the city budget and the city staff.

> "Your comment about the billionaires exemplifies the having your cake, but not having to pay it for attitude that I mentioned earlier."

Huh? You're the one that's having the cake baked by taxpayers.

> "This isn't the middle ages and I'm not a serf."

Glad to hear it. Then you can afford to pay for your own "cultural" activities and you don't need the rest of us to subsidize them.

> " people with time to spare and complaints to make *are* going to be the most likely to post here, so it is skewed."

So that would apply to your posts, Ohlonepar?

BTW, I'm still waiting for the study proving that home price premiums stem "from the cultural life and children's programs offered here."


Posted by pat, a resident of ,
on Jun 20, 2012 at 4:06 pm

Peninsula Youth Theatre
Web Link

- 1,692 young people participated in PYT classes or performances in our 2008/09 season.

- 31,199 families, school groups and individuals attended a PYT performance

- Voted "Best Children's Theater Workshop" by the readers of Bay Area Parent magazine in 2007

- Recipient of the City of Mountain View's Mayor's Award for Outstanding Social Program in 2006

- PYT is the only nonprofessional home company at the Mountain View Center for the Performing Arts

- Kids participating in our shows get community college credit.

- Ticket sales make up only 32% of PYT's costs.

- As a nonprofit, 501(c)3 organization PYT depends upon donations to carry out its mission.






Posted by Don, a resident of ,
on Jun 20, 2012 at 5:22 pm

I note that Cupertino had 3 out of the top 10 elementary schools in the State; Palo Alto had Hoover in the top 10. This in a recent article.


Posted by former Paly parent, a resident of ,
on Jun 21, 2012 at 3:43 pm

I don't think anyone has mentioned the role of location when comparing Palo Alto and Cupertino.
I have lived in both and I do describe Palo Alto as "more central" to Silicon Valley - for commute reasons, getting to SFO and so on. I don't know what role visibility and convenience plays in selecting a city to live in (for people with $$$) - you can have a very nice home near 101 in Palo Alto and hop right onto the freeway and save time (over living in a place like Saratoga, which is very ritzy but far out of the way).
I also don't know if people are attracted to PA because Steve Jobs lived here (this has been mentioned to me when I have been out of state) and other luminaries.


Posted by OhlonePar, a resident of ,
on Jun 22, 2012 at 1:29 pm

Pat,

Ah, yes, PYT--doesn't do nearly as many productions and then shoehorns everybody into them and charges hundreds of dollars per kid to stick them in the back row of the chorus. I understand why they do it, but that and the required parental volunteer time are serious barriers to participation for a lot of families. It's fine for what it is, but to compare it to PACT is quite a bit trickier than you make it.

Also, *because* PYT relies on large (double) casts to make its budget, it does musicals for its main productions. Again, fine, but narrow--it lacks the diversity of PACT's programming.

The number of participants--well, I've explained the issue with the "400" figure that's being cited. I noticed you don't have a response for it. You just kind of ran to PYT's Web site.

As for Bay Area Parent--I'll guarantee that PYT is an advertiser and PACT isn't. What you think there's no crossover between advertising and editorial in a local freebie publication?

Paly Parent,

Cupertino has Apple and is closer to the clump of businesses in North San Jose. So I don't think it's lacking in centrality. It's arguably more central--though less expensive Sunnyvale is probably the most central of them all.

And I really doubt Steve Jobs living here (particularly when his more widely advertised home was in Woodside) has a greater effect on housing prices than the number of kid/cultural activities.

But, then, am I the only one here who, uh, knows people who've bought houses here in the last 10 years? They're families with school-age or about-to-be school-aged kids. They come here for the schools, the downtown, the relatively high number of activities. They like the idea that you can walk to a park, that it's safe enough to send kids out to trick-or-treat, but there are still some things to do.

And, yes, (sigh) even those oh-so-mysterious Asian immigrants take advantage of those things.


Posted by sandy zoe, a resident of ,
on May 8, 2013 at 10:16 pm

why do we live here? All the interesting people, of course!

Why are all these interesting people here?

THE FARM
For many of the same reasons Stanford chose to locate his 'Farm' here--beauty, weather, the S.F. Bay, the Fog, brought the great Sierras' Hetch-Hetchy water to Stanford/Palo Alto, etc. And his home was close by in San Francisco.

Important reasons we stay:

1) Number #1 - the Cafes (St.Michael's c.1964 --thank you North Beach Italians)
bike and/or walk to cafes downtown and in some neighborhood, e.g., Midtown.
2) San Francisco, of course. Performing arts. Museums.
3) Stanford University: science, humanities, performing arts open to public.
4) UC Berkeley and the great Cal Performances, Zellerback- Dance.
5) P.A. schools reflect the parents--educated and accomplished
6) P.A./Stanford Ph.D.s and Professors are not Doctors--only M.D.s are doctors.
7) Palo Alto is a 'town' - not a Suburb

People arrive, drive through and think: I could live here.

Once they know the prices of homes, shock sets in.

Both my children returned from college and told me: "You could have a mansion."
But,I would never move just to live in a mansion (well maybe NYC upper East Side $20M+!)

The way I see it, the value of homes here is pure Supply and Demand.

Don't forget we are on the Coast--and what a magnificent coast it is--thanks to all those
who gave their money to protect it--a continuous on-going battle with developers.

Somewhere I read that theXmjps san francisco bay area was not settled by those of the
judeo-christian faiths, but by those who believed in the pursuit of GOLD.

please forgive all the errors-i'll proof read tomorrow.


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