Uploaded: Thu, Nov 29, 2007, 8:33 am
ABAG housing allotment 'unlikely to change'
Commission adds concerns to Dec. 11 letter of appeal
Palo Alto is almost certainly stuck with an assignment to plan for 2,860 housing units by 2014, city staff members told the Planning and Transportation Commission Wednesday.
But that goal is "nigh impossible," Assistant Planning Director Curtis Williams said.
Nonetheless, the city is preparing an appeal to the regional organization, the Association of Bay Area Governments (ABAG), that assigns state-mandated housing goals to local communities.
Wednesday, commissioners added their concerns to a draft letter appealing the "highly unrealistic" goal for Palo Alto, which the city plans to send to ABAG after the Dec. 10 City Council meeting.
"I feel like we're being squeezed unfairly," Commissioner Paula Sandas said, echoing views of other commissioners.
The letter argues that ABAG's methodology ignores factors in certain transit-oriented zones and penalizes cities such as Palo Alto that have already planned for dense housing near public transportation.
It also states that the city would need to provide a $375 million to $500 million subsidy to pay for the 1,875 affordable units.
Williams said staff has tried to focus on issues that are discussed "in the normal communication mode between agencies and ABAG."
"They just kind of blow off things like school issues," Williams said. "But I do think the point has been made that this time we're really up against numbers that are not achievable."
The housing assignments are the state's attempt to provide an adequate housing supply and a diversity of housing types and costs in part to balance the number of jobs and reduce lengthy commutes. But the goals face strong opposition from local communities.
Palo Alto does not necessarily have to construct the units but is required to set aside space for them and ensure they can be developed, Williams said.
ABAG is expected to hold a hearing on appeals sometime early in 2008, according to a city staff report. It is expected to finalize housing assignments by June 2008 and Palo Alto would have until July 2009 to include the allocations as part of its housing element of its Comprehensive Plan.
If the city doesn't comply, it could lose state grants such a $1 million it is currently receiving to help with the proposed Alma Street affordable housing project, Chief Planning and Transportation Official Julie Caporgno said.
And, it could be subject to lawsuits from the state or pro-housing groups, Assistant City Attorney Donald Larkin added.
Cities that haven't followed ABAG requirements in the past have been sued by developers, low-income housing advocacy groups and others, ABAG's Research Director Paul Fassinger said. And the housing element of a city's General Plan will not be approved by the state if it doesn't follow regional allotment, creating problems for future planning, he said.
Currently, the city plans to appeal its assignment until it is finalized by ABAG. Then, it intends to do its best to accommodate the assigned units and finally provide detailed explanations why it was not able to plan for or achieve all 2,860 units, Williams said.
Palo Alto also might join with other cities to challenge the assignments in court, Williams said.
In a meeting that went well past 11 p.m., commissioners said they also wanted to document that the jobs associated with the Stanford Medical Center and Shopping Center expansions are included in this round of allocations, Commissioner Samir Tuma said, citing an issue also stressed by Commissioner Pat Burt.
The Palo Alto Unified School District's already swelling student population is a key concern, several commissioners said.
"This will crush the crown jewel, in my opinion, of this city, which is our school district," Tuma said.
The city should also receive credit for achieving or exceeding its housing assignments in previous years, commissioners agreed.
The commission designated Tuma and Burt to work with city staff to edit the letter.
The council is expected to discuss the ABAG assignments Dec. 10.
Posted by Mike,
a resident of College Terrace
on Dec 11, 2007 at 9:41 am
Last evening's Council commentary on a letter of rejection (of housing requirements) to be sent to ABAG was enlightening - especially as it followed an earlier debate about whether to form an Environmental Commission in Palo Alto.
In an irony of major proportions, two of three main supporters of the Environmental Commission - Mayor Kishimoto and Vice-Mayor Klein both spoke to parochial interests and constraints, without once mentioning the environment - as they both supported a letter that is essentially a whining, excuse-laden document about why Palo Alto is not going to - and *can't* (we'll get back to this in a minute) meet the ABAG housing requirement, and do its share to make this an environmentally sustainable region. Kishimoto and Klein were joined by Council members Cordell, Morton, Drekmeier, Kleinberg, and Beecham - with only the latter three admitting that the Council position is contradictory to stated "green" policy.
On this issue, the only Council members showing real leadership, conviction, and courage last evening were Dena Mossar and John Barton, with Mossar (a "large E" Environmentalist) seriously calling the document (which should be characterized as "Palo Alto's Big Whine") into question.
Mossar showed true leadership in her questioning of the document's whining tone, and thus its failure to offer any alternatives to the proposed ABAG requirement.
Barton called into question PAUSD conclusions (and others) that he labeled "disingenuous".
A further irony is that Mayor Kishimoto - who made "Innovation in Government" one of her clarion calls, has failed to approach this ABAG requirement - with all its implications for environmental responsibility - with even one iota of innovative solution. All we've heard from the Mayor on this issue is "no".
Perhaps the Mayor (and the rest) should give a listen to Al Gore's Nobel acceptance speech (ironically, given yesterday), where he again calls our environmental problems an "Inconvenient Truth" - implying that we WILL be inconvenienced by some of the solutions to the environmental problem, and that we will require LEADERS who can take us to the next level of innovative action.
Where was the leadership and innovation last evening? With the exception of Mossar and Barton, it was MIA.
Council members Kishimoto and Klein - both self-proclaimed "environmentalists" (spelled with a small "e" for good reason, in this instance) showed their true colors last evening - with the color "green" not being among them; in addition to five of their fellow City Council members, they were followed by one School Board member (Barb Mitchell) and Lee Lippert, the Chair of Palo Alto's Planning Commission, the latter (on this issue) having been altogether berift of any overt concern for the large environmental and sustainability picture that the ABAG requirement is meant to address.
It's been revealing to read the Planning Commission's commentary about ABAG, with members like Arthur Keller and Pat Burt (recently elected to City Council) openly opposing ABAG (including Keller's often mocking and derisive comments re: the ABAG request. I'm sure the latter will play well in Sacramento with those who are going to be passing judgment on Palo Alto's whiny little note, full of reason why we can't meet ABAG's requirements *without even ONE alternative suggested".
Clearly, Palo Alto policy makers, for the most part, showed their true colors last evening. As well, other members of other policy bodies clearly showed that Palo Alto is looking more and more - like so many other private sector entities, just another greenwashing entity, looking for the easy sound bites and photo ops that paint a pretty picture of environmental leadership, but failing to act significantly when the rubber meets the road toward action and real solution-making.
Dena Mossar pointed out last evening (to paraphrase) that we either are (environmentalists and innovators) or we're not; it was a stark point that revealed the truth about what lies inside all the *convenient* talk and action about the *inconvenient* truths we're having to face.
With respect, my advice to Council members Kishimoto, Klein, Drekmeier, Kleinberg, Beecham, Morton and Cordell (especially Drekmeier (who sent a bulk main about Gore's speech to his supporters)) is that they read the full text of Al Gore's Nobel acceptance speech, and think hard about the real difficulties of making policy in this time. Then, consider how courage, leadership, and conviction - qualities that all the aforementioned have shown at other times - can be called upon again to meet our most serious challenges to the environment, and come up with innovative solutions to our jobs/housing imbalance in a way that maintains the essential integrity of our community, and at the same time takes Palo Alto and our region forward to a time when we can HONESTLY call ourselves a "green" community, because we ACT like one.
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