Uploaded: Tue, Dec 11, 2007, 4:43 am
Palo Alto protests 'unachievable' housing goals
ABAG allotment would require more schools and strain city services and facilities, City Council warns
A housing goal assigned to Palo Alto is "unachievable" and would burden the school district and city services, according to a lengthy letter opposing the Association of Bay Area Governments (ABAG) housing allotment for Palo Alto. (Read the letter)
ABAG has told city officials that Palo Alto should plan to add 2,860 housing units by 2014.
The council approved sending the letter by a 7-2 vote, with council members John Barton and Dena Mossar opposed, despite recognizing that ABAG is a messenger assigning a statewide housing target to local communities.
The council had approved a shorter letter in mid-October, but the Planning and Transportation Commission on Nov. 28 almost doubled its length. The current four-page draft says construction of 2,860 units is "unachievable" and would place a costly burden on the Palo Alto Unified School District in addition to straining city services and facilities.
Also, the city should receive credit for achieving past housing goals and not be "penalized" for its transit-oriented policies, the letter states.
"Palo Alto's diligence and success in implementing smart-growth policies appear to have led ABAG to assume that the city has no limit to further intensifying infill development," the letter states.
To pay for the 1,234 units earmarked for lower-income families, Palo Alto would need to develop at least 3,200 market-rate residences and provide a $245 million subsidy, it says.
The additional housing would require the Palo Alto Unified School District to add two elementary schools, half a middle school and a third of a high school, school board member Barb Mitchell told the council. She said the district intends to send its own protest letter to ABAG.
Mossar said she believes the expanded letter represents the community, but she said it should at least point out how many residences the city could add. The letter also doesn't explain why Palo Alto should be treated any differently than other communities, which are also struggling with the same budget, space and transit constraints, she said.
Barton said he thinks the city should step up and assume its share of the region's housing needs. A former school-board member, Barton said the school district has several facilities it could reopen as schools.
"At the end of the day, we're going to have to develop a housing element that at least comes close," Barton said. "They're the implementing agency of state law. We can't just walk away from this."
But building that many units is just impossible, Councilman Jack Morton said.
It would be a "disaster" for Palo Alto, Vice Mayor Larry Klein said.
The ABAG board is expected to consider the appeals in early 2008, but Planning and Transportation Director Steve Emslie reiterated that it is unlikely the city's assignment will be changed.
Posted by Mike,
a resident of College Terrace
on Dec 11, 2007 at 3:30 pm
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.
Posted by Anonymous,
a resident of Barron Park
on Dec 11, 2007 at 3:51 pm
Here's Al Gore's inspirational Nobel acceptance speech:
Note the commentary about leadership and hard choices. the lessons from this speech should not be lost by our - and neighboring - City Councils
SPEECH BY AL GORE ON THE ACCEPTANCE
OF THE NOBEL PEACE PRIZE
DECEMBER 10, 2007
"Your Majesties, Your Royal Highnesses, Honorable members of the Norwegian Nobel Committee, Excellencies, Ladies and gentlemen.
I have a purpose here today. It is a purpose I have tried to serve for many years. I have prayed that God would show me a way to accomplish it.
Sometimes, without warning, the future knocks on our door with a precious and painful vision of what might be. One hundred and nineteen years ago, a wealthy inventor read his own obituary, mistakenly published years before his death. Wrongly believing the inventor had just died, a newspaper printed a harsh judgment of his life's work, unfairly labeling him "The Merchant of Death" because of his invention - dynamite. Shaken by this condemnation, the inventor made a fateful choice to serve the cause of peace.
Seven years later, Alfred Nobel created this prize and the others that bear his name.
Seven years ago tomorrow, I read my own political obituary in a judgment that seemed to me harsh and mistaken - if not premature. But that unwelcome verdict also brought a precious if painful gift: an opportunity to search for fresh new ways to serve my purpose.
Unexpectedly, that quest has brought me here. Even though I fear my words cannot match this moment, I pray what I am feeling in my heart will be communicated clearly enough that those who hear me will say, "We must act."
The distinguished scientists with whom it is the greatest honor of my life to share this award have laid before us a choice between two different futures - a choice that to my ears echoes the words of an ancient prophet: "Life or death, blessings or curses. Therefore, choose life, that both thou and thy seed may live."
We, the human species, are confronting a planetary emergency - a threat to the survival of our civilization that is gathering ominous and destructive potential even as we gather here. But there is hopeful news as well: we have the ability to solve this crisis and avoid the worst - though not all - of its consequences, if we act boldly, decisively and quickly.
However, despite a growing number of honorable exceptions, too many of the world's leaders are still best described in the words Winston Churchill applied to those who ignored Adolf Hitler's threat: "They go on in strange paradox, decided only to be undecided, resolved to be irresolute, adamant for drift, solid for fluidity, all powerful to be impotent."
So today, we dumped another 70 million tons of global-warming pollution into the thin shell of atmosphere surrounding our planet, as if it were an open sewer. And tomorrow, we will dump a slightly larger amount, with the cumulative concentrations now trapping more and more heat from the sun.
As a result, the earth has a fever. And the fever is rising. The experts have told us it is not a passing affliction that will heal by itself. We asked for a second opinion. And a third. And a fourth. And the consistent conclusion, restated with increasing alarm, is that something basic is wrong.
We are what is wrong, and we must make it right.
Last September 21, as the Northern Hemisphere tilted away from the sun, scientists reported with unprecedented distress that the North Polar ice cap is "falling off a cliff." One study estimated that it could be completely gone during summer in less than 22 years. Another new study, to be presented by U.S. Navy researchers later this week, warns it could happen in as little as 7 years.
Seven years from now.
In the last few months, it has been harder and harder to misinterpret the signs that our world is spinning out of kilter. Major cities in North and South America, Asia and Australia are nearly out of water due to massive droughts and melting glaciers. Desperate farmers are losing their livelihoods. Peoples in the frozen Arctic and on low-lying Pacific islands are planning evacuations of places they have long called home. Unprecedented wildfires have forced a half million people from their homes in one country and caused a national emergency that almost brought down the government in another. Climate refugees have migrated into areas already inhabited by people with different cultures, religions, and traditions, increasing the potential for conflict. Stronger storms in the Pacific and Atlantic have threatened whole cities. Millions have been displaced by massive flooding in South Asia, Mexico, and 18 countries in Africa. As temperature extremes have increased, tens of thousands have lost their lives. We are recklessly burning and clearing our forests and driving more and more species into extinction. The very web of life on which we depend is being ripped and frayed.
We never intended to cause all this destruction, just as Alfred Nobel never intended that dynamite be used for waging war. He had hoped his invention would promote human progress. We shared that same worthy goal when we began burning massive quantities of coal, then oil and methane.
Even in Nobel's time, there were a few warnings of the likely consequences. One of the very first winners of the Prize in chemistry worried that, "We are evaporating our coal mines into the air." After performing 10,000 equations by hand, Svante Arrhenius calculated that the earth's average temperature would increase by many degrees if we doubled the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere.
Seventy years later, my teacher, Roger Revelle, and his colleague, Dave Keeling, began to precisely document the increasing CO2 levels day by day.
But unlike most other forms of pollution, CO2 is invisible, tasteless, and odorless -- which has helped keep the truth about what it is doing to our climate out of sight and out of mind. Moreover, the catastrophe now threatening us is unprecedented - and we often confuse the unprecedented with the improbable.
We also find it hard to imagine making the massive changes that are now necessary to solve the crisis. And when large truths are genuinely inconvenient, whole societies can, at least for a time, ignore them. Yet as George Orwell reminds us: "Sooner or later a false belief bumps up against solid reality, usually on a battlefield."
In the years since this prize was first awarded, the entire relationship between humankind and the earth has been radically transformed. And still, we have remained largely oblivious to the impact of our cumulative actions.
Indeed, without realizing it, we have begun to wage war on the earth itself. Now, we and the earth's climate are locked in a relationship familiar to war planners: "Mutually assured destruction."
More than two decades ago, scientists calculated that nuclear war could throw so much debris and smoke into the air that it would block life-giving sunlight from our atmosphere, causing a "nuclear winter." Their eloquent warnings here in Oslo helped galvanize the world's resolve to halt the nuclear arms race.
Now science is warning us that if we do not quickly reduce the global warming pollution that is trapping so much of the heat our planet normally radiates back out of the atmosphere, we are in danger of creating a permanent "carbon summer."
As the American poet Robert Frost wrote, "Some say the world will end in fire; some say in ice." Either, he notes, "would suffice."
But neither need be our fate. It is time to make peace with the planet.
We must quickly mobilize our civilization with the urgency and resolve that has previously been seen only when nations mobilized for war. These prior struggles for survival were won when leaders found words at the 11th hour that released a mighty surge of courage, hope and readiness to sacrifice for a protracted and mortal challenge.
These were not comforting and misleading assurances that the threat was not real or imminent; that it would affect others but not ourselves; that ordinary life might be lived even in the presence of extraordinary threat; that Providence could be trusted to do for us what we would not do for ourselves.
No, these were calls to come to the defense of the common future. They were calls upon the courage, generosity and strength of entire peoples, citizens of every class and condition who were ready to stand against the threat once asked to do so. Our enemies in those times calculated that free people would not rise to the challenge; they were, of course, catastrophically wrong.
Now comes the threat of climate crisis - a threat that is real, rising, imminent, and universal. Once again, it is the 11th hour. The penalties for ignoring this challenge are immense and growing, and at some near point would be unsustainable and unrecoverable. For now we still have the power to choose our fate, and the remaining question is only this: Have we the will to act vigorously and in time, or will we remain imprisoned by a dangerous illusion?
Mahatma Gandhi awakened the largest democracy on earth and forged a shared resolve with what he called "Satyagraha" - or "truth force."
In every land, the truth - once known - has the power to set us free.
Truth also has the power to unite us and bridge the distance between "me" and "we," creating the basis for common effort and shared responsibility.
There is an African proverb that says, "If you want to go quickly, go alone. If you want to go far, go together." We need to go far, quickly.
We must abandon the conceit that individual, isolated, private actions are the answer. They can and do help. But they will not take us far enough without collective action. At the same time, we must ensure that in mobilizing globally, we do not invite the establishment of ideological conformity and a new lock-step "ism."
That means adopting principles, values, laws, and treaties that release creativity and initiative at every level of society in multifold responses originating concurrently and spontaneously.
This new consciousness requires expanding the possibilities inherent in all humanity. The innovators who will devise a new way to harness the sun's energy for pennies or invent an engine that's carbon negative may live in Lagos or Mumbai or Montevideo. We must ensure that entrepreneurs and inventors everywhere on the globe have the chance to change the world.
When we unite for a moral purpose that is manifestly good and true, the spiritual energy unleashed can transform us. The generation that defeated fascism throughout the world in the 1940s found, in rising to meet their awesome challenge, that they had gained the moral authority and long-term vision to launch the Marshall Plan, the United Nations, and a new level of global cooperation and foresight that unified Europe and facilitated the emergence of democracy and prosperity in Germany, Japan, Italy and much of the world. One of their visionary leaders said, "It is time we steered by the stars and not by the lights of every passing ship."
In the last year of that war, you gave the Peace Prize to a man from my hometown of 2000 people, Carthage, Tennessee. Cordell Hull was described by Franklin Roosevelt as the "Father of the United Nations." He was an inspiration and hero to my own father, who followed Hull in the Congress and the U.S. Senate and in his commitment to world peace and global cooperation.
My parents spoke often of Hull, always in tones of reverence and admiration. Eight weeks ago, when you announced this prize, the deepest emotion I felt was when I saw the headline in my hometown paper that simply noted I had won the same prize that Cordell Hull had won. In that moment, I knew what my father and mother would have felt were they alive.
Just as Hull's generation found moral authority in rising to solve the world crisis caused by fascism, so too can we find our greatest opportunity in rising to solve the climate crisis. In the Kanji characters used in both Chinese and Japanese, "crisis" is written with two symbols, the first meaning "danger," the second "opportunity." By facing and removing the danger of the climate crisis, we have the opportunity to gain the moral authority and vision to vastly increase our own capacity to solve other crises that have been too long ignored.
We must understand the connections between the climate crisis and the afflictions of poverty, hunger, HIV-Aids and other pandemics. As these problems are linked, so too must be their solutions. We must begin by making the common rescue of the global environment the central organizing principle of the world community.
Fifteen years ago, I made that case at the "Earth Summit" in Rio de Janeiro. Ten years ago, I presented it in Kyoto. This week, I will urge the delegates in Bali to adopt a bold mandate for a treaty that establishes a universal global cap on emissions and uses the market in emissions trading to efficiently allocate resources to the most effective opportunities for speedy reductions.
This treaty should be ratified and brought into effect everywhere in the world by the beginning of 2010 - two years sooner than presently contemplated. The pace of our response must be accelerated to match the accelerating pace of the crisis itself.
Heads of state should meet early next year to review what was accomplished in Bali and take personal responsibility for addressing this crisis. It is not unreasonable to ask, given the gravity of our circumstances, that these heads of state meet every three months until the treaty is completed.
We also need a moratorium on the construction of any new generating facility that burns coal without the capacity to safely trap and store carbon dioxide.
And most important of all, we need to put a price on carbon -- with a CO2 tax that is then rebated back to the people, progressively, according to the laws of each nation, in ways that shift the burden of taxation from employment to pollution. This is by far the most effective and simplest way to accelerate solutions to this crisis.
The world needs an alliance - especially of those nations that weigh heaviest in the scales where earth is in the balance. I salute Europe and Japan for the steps they've taken in recent years to meet the challenge, and the new government in Australia, which has made solving the climate crisis its first priority.
But the outcome will be decisively influenced by two nations that are now failing to do enough: the United States and China. While India is also growing fast in importance, it should be absolutely clear that it is the two largest CO2 emitters -- most of all, my own country -- that will need to make the boldest moves, or stand accountable before history for their failure to act.
Both countries should stop using the other's behavior as an excuse for stalemate and instead develop an agenda for mutual survival in a shared global environment.
These are the last few years of decision, but they can be the first years of a bright and hopeful future if we do what we must. No one should believe a solution will be found without effort, without cost, without change. Let us acknowledge that if we wish to redeem squandered time and speak again with moral authority, then these are the hard truths:
The way ahead is difficult. The outer boundary of what we currently believe is feasible is still far short of what we actually must do. Moreover, between here and there, across the unknown, falls the shadow.
That is just another way of saying that we have to expand the boundaries of what is possible. In the words of the Spanish poet, Antonio Machado, "Pathwalker, there is no path. You must make the path as you walk."
We are standing at the most fateful fork in that path. So I want to end as I began, with a vision of two futures - each a palpable possibility - and with a prayer that we will see with vivid clarity the necessity of choosing between those two futures, and the urgency of making the right choice now.
The great Norwegian playwright, Henrik Ibsen, wrote, "One of these days, the younger generation will come knocking at my door."
The future is knocking at our door right now. Make no mistake, the next generation will ask us one of two questions. Either they will ask: "What were you thinking; why didn't you act?"
Or they will ask instead: "How did you find the moral courage to rise and successfully resolve a crisis that so many said was impossible to solve?"
We have everything we need to get started, save perhaps political will, but political will is a renewable resource.
So let us renew it, and say together: "We have a purpose. We are many. For this purpose we will rise, and we will act."
Posted by Mike,
a resident of College Terrace
on Dec 12, 2007 at 11:11 am
not buying it, Good ideas about going green - everything you say could be done, with a moderate exception for very limited parking, with just *one* parking unit per property, and adjacent neighborhoods parking permitted to prevent parking overflow. This would be an effective way to create an incentive for one-car households. Also, the parking spaces (maybe underground, if soil conditions permit) would be sized for compact cars - no Ford Suburban would fit in a space.
Of course, along with all this, we would insist that our - and neighboring - policy makers would be working overtime with each other, and officials at county and state levels to create truly effective mass transit solutions. This would be an ongoing mandate.
Things cost, YOu're right about some of the funding constraints re: PAUSD, but remember, PAUSD has 3.5 sites *already available*. This, in addition to the fact that school sites can nicely be built UP (look at Los Gatos and San Mateo schools, and others, for excellent examples). So we DO have physical capacity to handle the additional student load that WILL happen here. Let's not kid ourselves.
We will, as we have in the past when Palo Alto expanded, find the means to pay for a higher student load. I see no current new thinking around this. Instead, PAUSD and city policy makers are going on the defense. Thus, we are evolving a public policy stance that SHRINKS from leadership, and plays defense. It's embarrassing - especially in a place where real innovation has been part of our tradition (at least in the private sector sphere.
It IS getting a little old to hear certain public policy officials claiming innovation as their birthright; there has been little to show for it on this issue.
PA mom, the ABAG goals will no doubt be negotiated, but I wouldn't hold out hope that they will be greatly reduced. There are those anti-ABAG residents who spew their amateurish projections about forward population growth - projections that run counter to local, state, and national planning organizations who know a thing or two about population demographics and migration patterns.
The fact is that California - and our region - is going to grow at a rate close to 20-30% within the next 2-3 decades. There's no reason we can't find ways to better manage the growth that we have already attained, and the growth that we know is coming.
It's important to keep pointing back to those who have vision on the environment, and how that vision relates back to the housing issue.
California - for lots of reasons - is a growth magnet. Those that decry more housing - especially in-fill housing along transport corridors - because they say that "commuting will continue anyway" are only correct insofar as we fail to do nothing to implement effective mass transit.
Thus, the anti-ABAG, anti-planning-for-growth advocates (because that's what their position comes down to - i.e. continued suburban sprawl) create through their own machinations a continuation of a growth process that has *gotten us into the mess we're in*.
The anti-ABAG folks are *definitely* implying that growth should continue to sprawl throughout this state, and damn the consequences, as long as they can preserve some mythic, long-past ideal of a bucolic, pastoral exurbia.
The only way they get around that contradiction (one, among many) is to make the further false claim that growth will not occur. If you believe the latter, I have a bridge to sell you.
For those who are worried about retail, we should immediately begin to create incentives for housing built over retail. This is a great way to maximize space, and create walkable neighborhoods.
IN sum, the arguments so far generated against ABAG are invented over a subtext. That subtext is defined by the phrase "we don't want new housing because we just don't want to have to invent new logistics and other necessary infrastructure to manage it". THAT's the main argument; it's an argument that translates to "we don't want change". This is in direct opposition to the spirit that settled this Valley.
It's high time we lived up to the tradition we keep praising ourselves for being a part of, generate some enthusiastic and visionary political will, and MAKE the future happen - instead of whining about the inevitable, and as a result costing ourselves (and our environment, and health, etc. etc) a LOT of future pain.
Posted by MPKid,
a resident of Menlo Park
on Dec 15, 2007 at 10:09 am
I became an active environmentalist when the branding was "sustainability."
Borrowing metaphorically from the biological concept of "carrying capacity", we acknowledged that every environment had a limited capacity to carry population, and if those limits were exceeded, the quality of life in that environment rapidly diminished. In biological environments, overpopulation is quickly reversed.
It was an argument for limits, and I watched as sustainability became compromised and co-opted over time.
Now some, with no data or complex models to back them up are advocating non-sustainable land-use policies as a solution to reducing carbon footprints, though there is very little data to suggest that compactness per se reduces carbon footprints, given that it's really the direct or indirect consumption and use of fossil fuels that drives carbon emissions. Hence, the major thrust for compactness can only be derived indirectly, based on its alleged impact on other consumption patterns, driving for example, or by making theoretical comparisons against fictitious alternative futures.
My concern is that some are now exploiting climate change the way the others exploited 9/11. Under the cover word "green", climate change is being used to re-invigorate every pet housing and environmental policy that ever existed regardless of whether or not the policy has any substantive impact on carbon emissions, affordability, or congestion.
Is compact housing the Iraq-war of climate change? A non-solution sucking all our resources and attention away from more important and effective solutions?
Sprawl is not deforestation, which *is* a major contributor to climate change. And sprawl is not necessarily occurring how you might think. Consider this from "Who Sprawls Most? How Growth Patterns Differ Across the US?" Web Link
"For example, this report finds that many of the densest metropolitan areas in the United States are located in the Westmost specifically, in California, Arizona, and Nevada. Meanwhile, the older metropolitan areas of the Northeast and Midwest while their underlying densities are high by national standardsare sprawling far worse than their counterparts elsewhere in the nation.
The West is experiencing a fundamentally different type of metropolitan growth than any other region of the country. Although much of the West is auto-oriented and characterized by single-family residential development, the region is consuming land far more efficiently than any other part of the nation."
If there are fundamental mis perceptions about the most basic facts pertinent to the very concept of "density", how many more bad facts and bad concepts are being circulated in these debates?
The relationship between compact housing and travel patterns is extremely complicated and equally complex. Similar counter intuitive results can be obtained from nationwide traffic data.
And the impacts of compact "transit-oriented" housing projects on travel patterns have been particularly disappointing. One Bay Area advocate of compact housing, Dena Belzar, writes:
"Sadly, a review of the projects emerging across the country reveals that many of the first phases of the new transit towns fail to meet these objectives. ... In short, the amount of hype around transit-oriented development far exceeds the progress to date, with many transit proponents selling new transit investments on the basis of land-use changes yet to come. The result has been that transit opponents have begun to brand transit oriented development a failure by critiquing the performance of flawed projects."
Consider me among them. And consider me among those who feel that critiquing policy based on performance is sound practice.
No local government that I'm aware of has, demonstrated any consistent, effective proficiency in impacting measurable outputs (i.e. housing price, congestion) through zoning policy. I suggest that failure to demonstrate the theory is instead evidence that contradicts the theory, but even if the theory is valid when practiced purely, what good is it, if it cannot be practiced purely enough to work?
I am not trying to say these quotes characterize the respective reports, or represent the final word on the matter, only that, I really doubt that's there very good empirical data about land use available AT ALL, let alone a trustworthy study of how global land use development does or does not impact global carbon footprints, or travel patterns or affordability. I have read quite a bit of professional planning literature and there is no consensus on the facts or the solutions, in part because the local goals being pursued are so diverse and the measures and results are all over the map.
What am I saying is that ABAG's number has never been an actual solution to any problem before, and if it partially solves fifteen problems, then it probably really doesn't solve any problem at all.
But the worst part of all is that housing debate is a religious debate pretending to be a scientific one. Or, perhaps, its an economic one, pretending to be environmental one.
Meanwhile there's no evidence that Palo Alto is increasing its affordability or reducing its congestion by fiat, and there's lots of evidence that its GDP, land values, and wealth are increasing. So what social output is really being maximized?
Is compact housing a manageable, effective solution to any important problem? Or is it just another case of market economics co-opting the environmental agenda, lost in government process, and now cloaking itself in green marketing?
What I wish for Palo Alto is that its leaders acquire the power to stop herding and at least resist ABAG in favor of local agenda, and if not, then establish a legitimately factual debate complete with facts about Palo Alto and how land-use polices substantively effect target performance measures for local affordability, congestion, and carbon emissions.
The key issue is always, who benefits, and how?
Posted by Mike,
a resident of College Terrace
on Dec 15, 2007 at 2:10 pm
OP, " You may be "anti-sprawl", but the fact is California has a bunch of empty new construction. When the national real-estate market is in a downward tailsping, it's *idiotic* to insist that Palo Alto build 2000 more units."
What does this have to do with the ABAG request? Our region is going to grow; it is growing as we speak. Why should ABAG pull back its request, and ebncourage people to move to Stockton and Tracy for commutes, because the housing prices are in a slump? How does that get us to a place that relieves the jobs/housing imbalance, and creates disincentives to sprawl? Essentially, you're arguing for things as they are. You're arguing for nothing to change.
btw, there are some properties around her that DO lies within shouting distance - in fact, directly across the street from 50' buildings, ,and they have enjoyed quite an increase in value, and have no trouble selling on the market. Talk a walk near City Hall and other large buildings here, for proof. That aside, 50' is nothing. It's a small change that would make a major difference on our carbon footprint.
Housing prices here are NOT going down, nor will they. Talk to any established realtor about this, or to a good real estate economist (I have) who will go to great lengths to explain the variables in perception-based buying in the housing markets, and how several micro-regions in the Bay Area will continue to rise in vale, regardless of national trends to the contrary.
You mention traffic congestion. Part of the infill housing initiative will be efficient, cheap, easily accessible, and affordable mass transit. We're talking about changes here that are going to take *decades* to play out. This is not a *convenient* path of "things-continuing-as-they-are". We must take steps now - AS A REGION - in cooperation with other regions, to make necessary changes happen - changes that will make our future economic and environmental scenarios sustainable.
We MUST think beyond short term. This will be a MAJOR challenge, especially in a place like Silicon Valley, which has been blessed with seemingly automatic increases in wealth. If we want to sustain that, we must reduce commute trips. Infill housing near transport, and BMR units are a part of that solution.
You ask why more business development doesn't occur in Tracy. That's an interesting question. the answer is because there is not sufficient social, intellectual, or physical capital infrastructure there necessary to attract business.
Palo Alto is FAR more walker friendly than it has ever been - better bike lanes, more small-shuttle transport, etc. Your personal experience may have changed, but overall we do have a more walkable community than we used to. That's easily shown. We need to extend that walkability throughout the region. Palo Alto could lead in this regard.
Most likely, Edgewood Plaza will contain a retail/housing component.
You may think that 10-15' increase in heigh limits are bad, or that smaller, higher density residential structures are bad. So be it. We are probably going to go in that direction. 50-50' height limits are not the end of the world; they're far from the skyscrapers that anti-housing activists paint them as. Look around the Valley.
As far as retail/residence balance, we need to be doing more housing over retail (a la Santana Row, and other places). This will begin to happen very soon, The California Ave. PTOD is a good beginning.
Again, we need to hunker down and wrestle with the environmental consequences ofo our success. If we do this the right way, in a way that follows the ABAG spirit, we will not only make a significant impact on pollution, but will increase our region's economic and social sustainability for the future.
To argue against the spirit of the ABAG request is to argue against environmental and economic sustainability. The changes that ABAG is asking us to make are challenging, but isn't that waht innovative and leading communities are best up to - meeting challenges?
We need to be thinking more like that, instead of looking for excuses.
Posted by Mike,
a resident of College Terrace
on Dec 16, 2007 at 11:03 am
OP: "you're so positive about the future that you can ignore the present? Remember when Houston was going to grow and then the S&L crisis hit and they literally plowed under developments?"
Honestly, OP, I admire your missives on PAUSD, but your analogies on this issue leave something wanting. Houston? The very armpit of America, compared to Silicon Valley? Good grief! And the S&L crisis, compared to subprime overreaching that, for the most part has NOT hit Silicon Valley. Note that most foreclosures in the Bay area are not from Silicon valley.
Also, your assumptions re: height limits are without substance. 50' buildings get you 4 stories, which has been shown in the architecture vernacular to be the optimal maximum height for residential dwelling (over 4 stories and the dweller loses a sense of "connection" to the street).
We plainly disagree on walkability. Palo Alto did suffer some walkability losses early on, but has gained them back as intra-urban transit and bikes have become more accessible.
Also, why do *you* assume that we cannot generate even *more* walkable infrastructure. In fact, THAT's one of the things that infill infrastructure is about.
Finally, we don't see significant infrastructure investments in Tracy, and we won't. Why? Look at the outlying demographic there. You talk about market economics as if it was your whipping boy. Sorry, that's not the way it works.
MPkid: "The ABAG agenda is a top-down economic growth agenda driven by market economics, principally employers, internalized by higher level public decision makers who become politically vulnerable if not enough economic growth takes place during their tenure."
You've just described one of the priming pumps for development. Include your home and our schools under the umbrella of "market economics" That's what most of the anti-ABAG residents around here keep forgetting. They also forget the new fundamentals of long-term sustainability re: the consequences of sprawl.
Ron, Yours is a perfect example of the nostalgia that has been discussed prior. With due respect for your desire to return to the "good old days" ( I liked them, too!), we're past that stage, and need to generate the courage and vision to move forward, in a way that creates long-term sustainability. This will not be easy; no one said it would be - but the consequences of inaction will be severe, and not something our kids will be proud of us for.
Another-Residentialist: "A public policy think tank says the news that China has passed the United States as the world leader in carbon dioxide emissions reinforces the need for developing countries to be included in plans to reduce greenhouse gas emissions"
There's no point in debating whether or not there is global warming with you. Your position re: the environment reveals you a "true believer' (read Eric Hoffer, to see exactly what I mean) on this and other issues.
That said, your point this time appears to be that we're OK because we're only second to the most irresponsible polluting culture that the world has ever know. Frankly, I have some quibble with that, because much of that pollution is coming from AMERICAN contracts for material manufacture in China. How about throwing that fact into your calculations.
And while you're at it, perhaps you might plan a cruise through the North Pole in 12 years, as the latest estimates show that the Polar ice may well be gone in summer, by then (with outside projections at 20-30 years).
All said, what I keep getting from the anti-AbAGers is 1) an understandable, but unfortunate nostalgia for a past that will not return; 2) a denial that California (and Silicon Valley's) population will increase significantly over the next 2-3 decades; 3) a failure to admit to the degree of environmental degradation (already shown over and over in research) caused by suburban sprawl; 4) an inability to see Palo Alto as part of a larger problem, with the capability to lead partners forward to solve that problem; 5) a confounding contradiction of the stated "green" goals of the city they live in, whose green policy most anti-ABAGers support; 6) a general NIMBIST attitude re: BMR housing, that shows itself in the scraping up of incomplete data to support positions to prove points about how we should keep BMR housing "somewhere else"; 6) an absolute denial of the necessity to scale in easily accessible, affordable mass transport that gets you where you want to go, when you want to go, at a price one can afford - and the use of the "self-proofs" (with no reliable data, by dredging up one poor short-term example after another - while failing to look at one large example after another [Europe, Japan,, etc. etc.) where mass transport is a key to forward sustainability.
There are other failings coming from the anti-ABAGers on this issue. I only hope that our leadership can find a way to politely listen, but in the end turn aside from arguments that, if acted on (the anti-ABAG arguments) will leave our future population (her and in the Valley) wondering what we were thinking about.
Again, I would urge a re-read of Al Gore's Nobel speech.
Posted by Mike,
a resident of College Terrace
on Dec 30, 2007 at 2:23 pm
"by 2014 (please see the link that starts this thread) if the 1,875 affordable units are generated via inclusionary zoning, as is typical in Palo Alto. A total of 9,375 - 12,500 units would need to be built to generate 1,875 BMR units, factoring in our 15-20% BMR yield. "
These assumptions are without merit, and conveniently thrown around because they generate the kind of fear that anit-ABAGers want to infect our community with. This is a large version fo the 800 High St. effort, and the anti-granny unit effort. It won't work this time.
With respect, this is simply more fantasy, fear, and sky-is-falling blather, that conveniently avoids the real costs of permitting suburban sprawl.
By implication, a vote for Karen's position is a vote for large scale environmental degradation, by default. There's no way around this inconvenient truth, but we won't hear any of that from the fear-mongering that surrounds this issue.
We're going to find out, very soon, which ones of our policy makers are really green, and which ones are little more than soft-sell greenwashers, on this issue. The press and the blogosphere will take note.
Notice that Ms. White says not one word about what the rejection of the ABAG agenda would mean - i.e. suburban sprawl, millions of tons of Co2 spewed into the environment, more clogged highways, more money spent on highways at the cost of developing mass transit, more health problems due to increased pollutants in the air, more stress from commuting, more pressure on regional firms to house badly needed talent that can no longer afford to live here (the latter is the *top* concern of Valley CEO's), a contradiction of Palo Alto's stated dedication to "green" mandates, a long-term jobs and development threat to our region, etc. etc.
Notice how Ms. White is working backwards from inclusionary zoning "tradition", as if tradition is a given.
In fact, there is NO hard and fast rule that says inclusionary zoning rules and "custom" can't be - and shouldn't be - changed. If that's what it takes to meet the ABAG requirements, so that we can properly scale population growth while meeting our responsibilities to the environment, so be it.
Note also how Ms. White admits this, as she states "as is typical in Palo Alto". This is a knowing nod to formulas that have *traditionally* been put in place, and mostly dictated by developers, and at the same time a subtle admission that these formulas can (and do) change. Everything is up for negotiation, *as long as* we DO OUR BEST to meet the responsibilities for our success.
I will not name names here, but we do NOT want, nor do we need, development companies that are not willing to accept lower margins for modifications to standard inclusionary zoning formulas. If the developers who have become wealthy from the half century of commercial success here cannot find a way to come forward with development ideas that meet the ABAG goals, then we need to find some new developers who will. That's what we have an economic development team for (which is now part of the planning department, even better).
Remember, we're facing is an *inconvenient truth*, re: the environmental and social costs of continuing on the path of suburban sprawl, as our state grows. This means there will be some inconvenience for everyone, *including developers* - some, who have become accustomed to "settling" on certain BMR formulas. A new day is here, which will require new thinking and negotiation strategies from developers. If local developers don't want to play ball, we'll find developers who can. There is a lot of housing innovation taking place in America - with non-profit and other development groups taking on the challenge to drive development at lower than traditional margins. We've seen this happen in many sectors. The market will be kind to developers who can adapt to these new realities.
It's important to emphasize, again, that the challenges we are facing will require LEADERSHIP on the part of our policy makers. They are going to have to LEAD our region (or leave it to another regional municipality, if that's the legacy they desire) in doing their BEST "good faith" effort to meet ABAG requirements. They are going to have to LEAD the commercial sector by soliciting (perhaps through city staff - e.g. planning and development) by soliciting offers from commercial and housing developers who understand the challenges we are facing, and who are willing to assume smaller margins in return for the right to build here.
Let's make this new year a good one for what sustains us - our environment. We need bold vision and leadership more than ever - we're up to it.
Posted by Long Time PA Resident,
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Dec 30, 2007 at 9:55 pm
Lament of a Broken System, Dedicated to Steve Levy and Mike:
If our government would have done more about immigration reform years ago, we would not be in this predicament today, discussing ABAG and BMR housing. We simply cannot house the entire immigrating populations of the developing world. They are taking advantage of our weak immigration regulations which are based on Judeo-Christian morals and principles. They are laughing at us about it.
The population keeps steadily growing here, and the people who were born here have no other place to go. Many Palo Altans have been reducing, reusing, and recycling, and have managed to control our family size to 2 or 0 children, and we have always conserved fuel. I feel that we (Californians, and Palo Altans in particular) have been abiding by these principles for at least 3 decades.
Now you are asking us to crush ourselves even closer together, to make room for a huge chunk of the developing world to move here? I say "No." I have worked hard to keep the quality of life and our environment protected in California so my child may enjoy it. If you think I am selfish, you do not know me.
Besides the illegal immigration crossing our northern and southern borders, we have many people coming over here on the premise of being a students, but with their original intent being the one chosen in the family to come here to study and secure a passage for all the rest. A specific area of study was not the motivation. It is a common filial duty of a child in a developing country to do this. Others arrive on tourist visas, and get lost in the system. Even our religious institutions have become entangled in this abuse of our policies.
Major corporations are also to blame for allowing thousands of disingenuous workers to arrive here under the illusion of being perfect tech workers. These workers typically work a year or so until the remaining members of their large extended "families" arrive, the worker later transfers to a new company, and eventually gets lost in the system. Many of these people over stay so long, that they eventually become naturalized.
It is like the flood gates are open in regards to immigration. When they close for awhile, they still badly leak, because of the hundreds of loopholes in them. There are simply not enough social engineers around to patch these holes.
Additionally, immigration is not what it used to be. Many people keep their ancestral homes and jet back and forth several times a year. They are here for the free school, and for the higher status they attain back in their homelands by showing their friends that they now own property in America. These people are not American citizens.
Foreign landlords own hundreds of private, commercial, and rental properties throughout Palo Alto, and California, and the U.S. Many of these landlords live back in their homelands, collecting rent on real estate here. The money is wired directly to foreign bank accounts and our government turns a blind eye, or does not have the ability to trace these enormous fund transfers. These investors can afford to buy new homes here (high, moderate, and very low price). There is no way for anyone to know the true wealth of these landlords.
Americans are not allowed to own property in SE Asia, the Philippians, and many other developing countries. Even if your spouse is a national, you will never be able to fully own property in that country. If you have children, they would be half Western, so they would also be deemed ineligible to own property in that country. Think about that for a moment, in terms of population. This is only one very small part of a much larger problem.
Why are we so gullible to allow foreign landlords and developers who are not citizens? Many return to luxurious lifestyles back in their homelands while collecting rent from real estate in the Bay Area and other areas of California.
Steve and Mike, both of you are obviously smart and seem to have quite a bit of pull. I wish that you could please redirect your energy, and your brilliance to help fix some of these terrible loopholes in our system. If you would like a list of these loopholes, I will email them to your office. If you are able to repair a third of these problems, I will personally award you with a plaque and a hug.
Seriously, people who were born in America feel stuck. I wish both of you would address some of the root problems rather than try to mitigate problems as they arise, such as housing.
If you build more housing (no matter how much), people will arrive. They will buy it up and rent it back to "us". The double slap in the face is when they laugh at me and tell me that I can't do a darn thing about it.
Check the names on all the deeds of the new homes at Santana row. By the way, housing above shops is not unique. This is a step backwards, and shows we are on the verge of a crisis. It is not innovative at all. This kind of housing is seen in highly dense Third World countries. It is a way for the landlord to double his income. These "shop houses" easily go downhill when the shops and tenants turn to slums.
Please give the above some consideration.
Posted by Another-Residentialist,
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 31, 2007 at 3:08 pm
One poster has tried to hold San Mateo (city) up as a model for Palo Alto to follow. It wouldn't hurt to look at the basic census data before getting carried away with this suggestion:
San Mateo: Square Miles: 14
Palo Alto: Square Miles: 25
SM Population: approximately 90,000
PA Population: approximately 60,000
The following is from the 2000 Census data:
Less than $50,000. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 28 0.2
$50,000 to $99,999. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 119 0.9
$100,000 to $149,999. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 13 0.1
$150,000 to $199,999. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 38 0.3
$200,000 to $299,999. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 137 1.1
$300,000 to $499,999. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1,186 9.4
$500,000 to $999,999. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 7,450 58.9
$1,000,000 or more. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 3,671 29.0
Median (dollars) . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 811,800 (X)
UNITS IN STRUCTURE
1-unit, detached. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 17,668 46.2
1-unit, attached . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 3,491 9.1
2 units . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1,123 2.9
3 or 4 units . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1,879 4.9
5 to 9 units . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 3,252 8.5
10 to 19 units . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2,470 6.5
20 or more units . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 8,308 21.7
Mobile home. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 41 0.1
Boat, RV, van, etc . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 4 -
Less than $50,000. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 151 0.9
$50,000 to $99,999. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 97 0.6
$100,000 to $149,999. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 24 0.1
$150,000 to $199,999. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 134 0.8
$200,000 to $299,999. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1,127 6.9
$300,000 to $499,999. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 7,609 46.4
$500,000 to $999,999. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 6,148 37.5
$1,000,000 or more. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1,093 6.7
Median (dollars) . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 477,300 (X)
UNITS IN STRUCTURE
1-unit, detached. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 15,387 58.8
1-unit, attached . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 978 3.7
2 units . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 474 1.8
3 or 4 units . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1,254 4.8
5 to 9 units . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1,653 6.3
10 to 19 units . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1,602 6.1
20 or more units . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 4,642 17.7
Mobile home. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 156 0.6
Boat, RV, van, etc . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 9 -
And the following education data comes from the California Department of Education:
API Scores (2005-06)
San Mateo Union High 774
San Mateo-Foster City Elementary 801
Palo Alto Unified High Schools 885
Palo Alto Unified 903
Comparing the two, one comes to see that there are about one third more people in San Mateo in about 2/3rds the area. However, if one takes Stanford, and the parks, opens pace out of the equation for Palo Alto, then the living space tends to become about equal.
The housing data is interesting, in that there about about the same number of dwelling units for both towns, with the exception that there are about 4,000 more apartment buildings in San Mateo, housing 20 (or more) units. The bulk of the housing is priced about half of that of Palo Alto.
So--the difference between San Mateo and Palo Alto is that San Mateo has far more apartment buildings. This factor is also reflected in the fact that the home owner/renter ratio is lower in San Mateo than in Palo Alto.
The last data set is the API scores between the two cities. Notice that San Mateo high is below proficiency, and the elementary system is only one point over proficiency. The Palo Alto schools are significantly better in their testable academic performance.
So -- the census/educational data says that if one wants Palo Alto to be more like San Mateo .. expect the housing prices to be much lower than they are today, that there will be thousands of new apartment buildings, and the educational performance will likely be much lower than it is today.
Posted by Steve Raney,
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jan 8, 2008 at 3:58 pm
Steve Levy did a nice job weighing in on our fiscal constraints. I also wonder if new Councilmember Yeh will be able to contribute over time to wrestling with our fiscal constraints he works for a firm that consults on public financing, etc.
On my end, I also hope that private sector actions can help achieve common ends. For example, I believe that each high-density, market-rate senior housing unit we build in PA will generate a fiscal surplus for schools and city services. Such housing produces no new students and relatively little traffic impact. Maybe there's a way to let the market work to generate a fiscal surplus that can be applied elsewhere.
I agree that it's crazy to add two million more people to the Bay Area over the next 20-30 years. I'd also add that sustainable world population is closer to four billion, not 6.8 billion (from John Holtzclaw, Sierra Club). Hence, "pro-shrink" is best policy - but it's not a realistic policy for this decade.
I agree that in an open vote in January 2008, PA voters will not agree to the ABAG 2,860 home allocation. But, in an open vote, PA voters will not agree to maximizing carbon. So from my standpoint, I believe there is a chance to educate voters on the land use => global warming link, and then start changing minds on the housing allocation. Land use is really complex, it's not taught as part of "civics education," and the press has difficulty explaining land use. If we achieve a "land-use conversant" voting population, then the housing allocation will be less controversial.
Like you, I'm also in favor of a gas tax increase. For years in Europe and Asia, gas has cost $8 per gallon. Now it's up to $12 per gallon. This level of pricing does produce much more efficient human settlement patterns than in the suburban US. Suburban US has the highest carbon footprint in the world, and, when you account for PA's jobs/housing imbalance, PA has the highest carbon footprint of all US suburbs. In the Bay Area, MTC and TALC are proposing a tiny increase to the gas tax. It's a good start.
I need to clarify that the labels "Stalinist," "socialist," and "utopian" are being applied to a land use/housing policy adopted by our pro-business Republican governor. I think he did play a Russian in one of his movies, and his sci-fi work often features totalitarian governments.
A. Our statewide 2006 Climate Protection Law, AB32, is championed by our governor. The CA Climate Action Team, Web Link, is the state's collaborative climate effort, featuring Environmental Protection Agency; Business, Transportation and Housing Agency; Department of Food and Agriculture; Resources Agency; Air Resources Board; Energy Commission; and Public Utilities Commission. Smart land use is the Team's second largest 2020 carbon reducer, with three primary strategies: increased housing density, transit oriented development, and jobs/housing balance. It must be emphasized that the state wouldn't take on affluent suburbs like Palo Alto unless this was absolutely necessary to protect the climate no politician in their right mind welcomes a fight with affluent, well-educated, vocal suburbs that's where all the political fundraising $ comes from. See also William Fulton's Feb 5 LA Times OpEd: "California's Golden Opportunity To Reshape Growth, " Web Link. Reductions in CO2 can only occur "if the overall amount of driving significantly drops" and only if we "rethink the way CA grows." The second largest statewide CO2 reduction (from the CA Climate Action Team: 18 tons per year) "will have to come from changes in CA's growth patterns." "Technology alone won't solve the problem." "Among other things, that means building more affordable housing closer to where people work."
B. ABAG is only implementing state policy, ABAG is not the villain. If ABAG were the villain, then PA is also the villain, because PA is a member of ABAG. Some people think of ABAG as being a sinister organization staffed by PA-hating aliens. In reality, ABAG is a very weak organization that is controlled by Bay Area cities. It must be emphasized that ABAG does not want to pick a fight with PA.
C. Furthermore, the governor has a compassionate housing vision: "each community should house its own." That means the Guv wants PA to house teachers, gardeners, and baristas who work here. Hopefully, compassion is simply a basic human trait, a trait that transcends labels such as liberal or conservative, socialist or capitalist.
More debunking of the myth of US preference for single family homes, based on happiness theory:
A. Robert Putnam (author: Bowling Alone): For every 10 minutes of commute that a person reduces, that person obtains one more social connection. The more social connections a person has, the happier they are. Hence, sprawl reduces happiness.
B. NY Times writer David Brooks (from his 2004 book, On Paradise Drive) finds that the average home square footage per American is 770 square feet. Australia comes in second at 550 square feet, but the rest of the developed world requires far less square footage. Japanese take the least space, 136 square feet. It does not follow that bigger homes produce happier people. It not true that Americans are happier than the rest of the developed world.
Posted by Mike,
a resident of College Terrace
on Jan 10, 2008 at 1:02 pm
When anyone proposes the development of affordable or multifamily housing, ambivalence about growth often shifts to hostility. Hostility feeds and strengthens certain myths, and deep emotional perceptions of how the world works....Although myths are sometimes positive, they can also serve as shields for deeper and uglier motivations: racism, fear of outsiders, and/or greed. When people argue against new high-density and affordable housing, often myths are used to convince decision-makers that the new development and its residents don't belong there. Traffic will be too heavy; schools will become overcrowded; buildings will clash with existing neighborhoods; people won't fit in; and maybe even a criminal element."
If the shoe fits...:)) Looks like an apt analysis...:)) Perhaps there are counseling sessions available for members of the anti-ABAG cult...:)))
Kidding aside, there's propaganda on both sides. What's rather unfortunate about those who argue against ABAG is that they are engaging in behavior that is exactly, and unbelievably, as described.
And, predictably, some continue to perpetrate their personal myths even further even in the face of an analysis that deconstructs their behavior, by labeling any meta-analysis or deconstruction of their argument "propaganda".
For proof of the outsized distress and unnecessary paranoia generated by the most vocal anti-ABAGers, a look at the last few preceding posts is revelatory - where Karen refers to inclusionary housing formulas as if they are fixed in stone, when, in fact, they are not. And, where another poster named "not buying it" (or Anna, who still lies in fearful wait of the Soviet Bear) refer to the ABAG initiative as a "central planning" conspiracy.
At times, I begin to wonder about some of the essential myths that propagate here, and how they develop; it would be an interesting study in its own right. "Odd" is a gentle way to putting it.
btw, this isn't to cast personal aspersions, as mythic thinking is something that we're all subject to (the development industry has its own set of binding myths). We're all good people, we simply disagree.
That said, sensible people (hopefully, our policy makers) will see through the mythic flim-flam, and...
1) look at the *hard* evidence about the damage to our environment caused by suburban sprawl;
2) realize that Palo Alto contributes more than its fair share to the encouragement of that sprawl - and thus, environmental degradation;
3) realize that the ABAG solution is a starting point for a *shared* negotiation among cities in our region;
4) make an effort to *lead* our region in ways that create forward solutions that will severely limit sprawl;
5) make the best "good faith" effort to create a housing element that deals with our fair share of pollution, and sprawl
6) walk the "green" talk
7) realize that this IS a regional and statewide problem, and that we must begin to face the inconvenient truth about the environment
8) understand that increased density, properly managed will *enhance* and not destroy our quality of life
9) work hard to lead our Valley in mass public transport accessibility and deployment
None of this will be easy; there are many challenges that face our city. As our region becomes dependent (for its future success) on rational solutions to growth, we're going to have to look beyond parochial interest, and do our very best to balance our own needs and constraints with larger variables that we knew little about, until the inconvenient truths that we're now facing began to realize themselves in ways that threaten the sustainable future that we all desire.
Here's hoping that our policy makers will see through the outsized and fearful myths propagated by determined anti-growth residents. Without vilifying those persons (they're entitled to their opinions), we can see - today - what the results are of the cululative effort to keep Palo Alto "small" have been.
Our retail base is suffering; we have a massive jobs/housing imbalance. The answer to this problem is not zero sum, as regards housing, or retail. We can develop both, with walkable neighborhoods, housing over retail, more and better senior housing, improved infrastructure, better relations with Stanford, etc. etc. We CAN do all these things, if only we begin to look with VISION at POSSIBILITY, instead of being taken in by the fear-mongering that comes from what is basically an essential misunderstanding of what fate will befall this region if we don't have the courage to move forward with innovation and inventiveness, instead of retreat.
Posted by Mike,
a resident of College Terrace
on Jan 12, 2008 at 5:02 pm
Certainly, Steve is right in saying that when all the anti-ABAG bluster is seen through, it's still all about "traffic and pressure on our city's infrastructure" Steve has copped to this, several times, but the taunts continue. "Might?"
What's mind-boggling about the anti-ABAG position - coming from some people who call themselves "ardent environmentalists" - is that over and over and over again they avoid the known consequences of suburban sprawl - in all the multifarious negative ways that those negative consequences have been shown - over and over and over again.
If anyone is avoiding "truth" here, it's those who are berating the "spirit" of what ABAG is attempting to bring about - i.e. a renewal of how we think about development, in a place that will *continue* to grow.
There is *no doubt* that additional pressure will be brought to bear on municipal infrastructure - that's a given. We will have to find ways to deal with, and pay for that.
What is completely missing from the anti-ABAG argument is what it will cost our region, and our State, if we fail to halt suburban sprawl. Right now, we are on our way to becoming a northern version of Los Angeles. If anyone doubts that, take a look at the way LA has developed, and then take a further look at how we're following a very similar pattern.
If we want that, all we have to do is continue with more of the same - development as it is currently happening.
It's really amusing to see Anna and Karen and the rest talk about "central planning conspiracies", and developer conspiracies, as if they really exist. What's even more compelling - as a study in collective mob behavior - is the denial of a kind of mass demonization of all who support more development near urban transit corridors. This was pointed out earlier, ironically by someone who opposes ABAG.
Anna says nobody has pointed out benefits. Not so. This was posted some time ago - above
So much for Ann's put-down of the idea that saving undeveloped rural areas from sprawl has no social or revenue benefit. Let's see Anna's, or Karen's, study to the contrary.
There seems no willingness to even consider alternatives to our future development in a way that includes an increase in housing in the region - ann increase that will happen *in any case*. Mr. Levy correctly points out the NIMBYIST quality to this stance - a stance that makes the case for "things as they are", instead of "things as they might be"
Anna's "analysis" (I have a hard time gracing her efforts with that word, as it implies a certain kind of thoroughness of diligence) of how housing elements and allocations are made at State level is pretty wanting.
In fact, and incredulously, Anna creates her own conundrum (relative to her argument" when she says that" If there aren't houses to house all the employees that employers want to hire locally or within a commute workers are willing to bear, they move their jobs closer to the workers. Why do you think there are essentially ZERO new semiconductor factories in the region? It's because they build them in Idaho, Oregon and Texas...where workers can afford to live."
Anna, that's *exactly* right. And how long do you think it will take for those other regions to gain infrastructure sufficiency necessary to attract the kinds of *other* workers that CEOs here are worried about attracting. This is another completely missed point by the anti-ABAG component; they are looking over the Palo Alto moat with rose-coloured glasses, as if stresses and strains on the rest of the region, and our State, coming from our inability to cooperate toward a plan, will ultimately impact our region, and us. This is called "short-term" thinking.
Anna's bring up Portland is utterly transparent. Portland IS Oregon, relative to development in that State. Yes, traffic is increasing in Portland, but that's because there is no *state-wide* or even regional effort to maintain sprawl, Portland is on its own.
In spite of this, Portland's mass transit efforts and other initiatives have been ground-breaking, and have begun to be used by other cities who share Portland's unique profile - i.e. as a city unto which development comes, because it is the only such place to go in one's region. That's completely different than what we have in California.
Anna says: "Pick your favorite high traffic intersection in Palo Alto. Imagine what it will be like with the cars from 3000 (or if you follow Karen White's fears, 20,000) new housing units"
What's almost tragically funny about this is that that is what we're going to be seeing anyway - as our region and state grows. And if Anna thinks that the *same* number of new residents living elsewhere (as Palo Alto's job base increases with "smart" jobs) will somehow magically not impact other areas of our community - beginning with air quality, impact on schools (as more people angle for the development of private schools, etc. etc.) - then she's either naive, or keeping something from the rest of us.
Another high price that we will pay here is increased crime, because it's the clear case that economic diversity - and planning for same - gives some people a "way out" of poverty, by sheer proximity to more successful people. Is that a long-term cost that Karen and Anna want to burden this community with.
What about mass transit? Does anyone believe that mass transit will receive its rightful share of political mind space if we keep developing houses and highways as we have been in recent decades?
The idea that Palo Alto will become Manhattan is just plain ridiculous. It's more fear-mongering. ONe thing for sure, we could stand to increase our height limits in code to one or two more stories. We should also be clearly designating certain development pockets for high density growth, and simultaneously planning (and lobbying for) mass transit solutions to serve that population.
Anna's false argument that growth in population is a choice ITSELF smacks of the "central planning" paranoia that is part and parcel of some of the fear-mongering on this thread. Perhaps Anna is suggesting we build a fence around our State's border?
This region - the Bay area 0 is due for SUBSTANTIAL growth in the next 2-3 decades. We'd better plan for that, and we'd better plan in a way that helps people get where they want to go faster than they do currently - that means more, better, cheaper, and more accessible mass transit.
We'd also better find a way to limit suburban sprawl, or population growth will put us into an LA-like development pattern, with no impetus to stop this once one-after-another satellite city has begun to develop serious urban infrastructure.
So, we DO have a choice, but the choices are not limited to two. We can choose the LA model, or we can choose the NY model. We ann also choose the moderate and innovative model of regional cooperation in a way that keeps all cities in our region in the mindset of sharing burdens and costs. This will force more coordinated planning, and begin an era where we can begin to control the currently mindless and random patters of development that we have now - patterns that will bring this State's economy and environment to its knees, if permitted to continue.
Thus, our policy makers have a choice, as our representatives. They are all smart people, and there's no way that any one of them can deny that this region will experience significant growth within the next two decades; nor can any one of then deny that Palo Alto will play a significant role in the future economic growth of the region.
Thus, it's our policy maker's obligation - to Palo Altans in the future - that we plan to expand our community, and urge our neighbors to do the same - in ways that will limit the ravages of our current non-pattern of random growth. This will be a challenge; there's no doubt about that. But isn't that what leaders are for?