News

Cities in no rush to meet housing mandates

But Attorney General Brown's lawsuit against Pleasanton suggests state might become more vigilant over housing, traffic requirements

California's effort to require cities to provide their "fair share" of housing gained some muscle last month when Attorney General Jerry Brown sued Pleasanton over the city's housing cap.

But in Palo Alto, Mountain View, Menlo Park and other California cities currently revising their long-term housing plans, planning officials aren't exactly rushing to meet the state's ambitious housing mandates. Some, in fact, argue that state guidelines for housing construction should essentially be ignored.

Palo Alto, like other Bay Area cities, gets its housing mandates from the Association of Bay Area Governments (ABAG), a regional planning association. After revising its numbers last year, ABAG determined that Palo Alto would need to build 2,860 housing units by 2014 -- 1,969 more than the city has approved for construction thus far.

Last week, when the Palo Alto Planning and Transportation Commission met to discuss the city's vision for housing, Commissioner Arthur Keller suggested that the city not base its growth plans on ABAG mandates. Instead, Palo Alto should identify sites where new houses could be constructed and where they wouldn't significantly impact schools and existing communities, Keller argued.

"I think that in terms of our various priorities, meeting the ABAG housing requirement is the lowest priority," Keller said. "You want to do a bottom-up analysis of where it makes sense to put housing."

Commissioner Lee Lippert, meanwhile, said he was concerned about the city's recent practice of allowing housing to be built at sites formerly occupied by neighborhood retailers. He also questioned the city's vision statement, which states that Palo Alto "will aggressively pursue a variety of housing opportunities and enhance the character, diversity and vitality of the city" and that the city is "committed to increasing the development of affordable and market-rate housing, including converting non-residential lands to residential or mixed use."

Lippert argued that the city has been too aggressive in promoting housing around El Camino Real, where an Italian restaurant and a major hotel were both transformed into housing developments in recent years. As a result, the neighborhoods along the busy stretch have suffered.

"Our vision statement is contradictory, if not dysfunctional, in terms of what we're doing," Lippert said. "Take El Camino -- the aggressive policy has really done a disservice to those neighborhoods.

"There's been vibrant retail along El Camino Real that has slowly been poached and turned into housing."

Palo Alto officials, like those in other Peninsula cities, note that Brown's lawsuit deals only with Pleasanton's voter-approved decision to institute a 29,000-unit housing cap, a limitation that other Peninsula cities do not have. In that sense, Brown's decision is expected to have no immediate effect on other cities.

But at the same time, planning officials say Brown's decision to take Pleasanton to court over the housing allotment suggests that state officials are becoming more concerned with enforcing mandates dealing with housing, traffic and air quality.

"I don't think (the lawsuit) is a concern yet, but I think we need to be aware of it," said Curtis Williams, Palo Alto's interim planning director.

"Someone is watching the air-quality requirements, the climate-change legislation and CEQA (California Environmental Quality Act) compliance.

"It's something we'll continue to make the (planning) commission and the council aware of."

Mountain View Planning Director Randy Tsuda, said he doesn't expect the Pleasanton ruling to have any impact on his city's effort to update its Housing Element. Mountain View, like most cities, doesn't have a housing cap, he noted.

Douglas Frederick, Menlo Park's housing manager, also said it's too early to tell whether the lawsuit will impact his city. Menlo Park has been asked by the state to build 1,800 housing units.

"It might signal that the state is trying to reach further into enforcement of the housing-numbers mandate," Frederick said. "But so far, there's really not a lot of teeth to it, other than through the courts."

Comments

 +   Like this comment
Posted by anonymous
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 29, 2009 at 8:10 pm

"Palo Alto should identify sites where new houses could be constructed and where they wouldn't significantly impact schools and existing communities, Keller argued."


Monroe Park?


 +   Like this comment
Posted by NIMBY
a resident of Midtown
on Jun 29, 2009 at 10:12 pm

How about East Meadow Circle/Fabian Way or the site of Fry's Electronics?


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Paul
a resident of Downtown North
on Jun 29, 2009 at 10:41 pm

To meet the ABAG mandate we only need to convert one in eight existing dwellings to a duplex. That's two houses on each residential block. What's so hard about that?


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Anon
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jun 29, 2009 at 10:44 pm

Where does this vision statement come from? when was it written, and who wrote it?

...the city's vision statement, which states that Palo Alto "will aggressively pursue a variety of housing opportunities and enhance the character, diversity and vitality of the city" and that the city is "committed to increasing the development of affordable and market-rate housing, including converting non-residential lands to residential or mixed use."


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Gennady Sheyner
Palo Alto Weekly staff writer
on Jun 29, 2009 at 11:12 pm

Gennady Sheyner is a registered user.

Anon,

This vision statement comes from the Housing section (Chapter 4) of Palo Alto's current Comprehensive Plan:

Web Link

The City Council adopted the plan in 1998.

-Gennady


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Sharon
a resident of Midtown
on Jun 29, 2009 at 11:17 pm


Brown has no children, his only concern about the future is abstract and narcissistic


 +   Like this comment
Posted by alex
a resident of Midtown
on Jun 29, 2009 at 11:55 pm

Time to bunker-down, call a spade a spade and screw the State.

------alex


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Kate
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jun 30, 2009 at 8:56 am

Has anyone every challenged this "big brother ABAG" state law'? Taken ABAG to court?And Jerry Brown wants to run for Governor. Heaven help us.
I think most of the laws that come out of the US Congress are not even constitutional, let alone California's laws. This Legislature and many before it are destroying California. The State even governs the city's speed limit, e.g. Embarcadero from Middlefield to 101.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by ABAG go home
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 30, 2009 at 9:53 am

Jerry Brown is at it again. I think this is a very good reason NOT to vote for former Governor Moonbeam again for Governor.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Walter_E_Wallis
a resident of Midtown
on Jun 30, 2009 at 10:17 am

Walter_E_Wallis is a registered user.

Within the bouds of public healh and safety, planning should be a function of ownership.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Evan
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jun 30, 2009 at 11:11 am

To ABAG Go Home:

Jerry Brown is at it again? By "at it," you mean...enforcing the law of the state of California, as he's elected to do?

Palo Alto should accommodate its fair share!


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Frank Flynn
a resident of Ventura
on Jun 30, 2009 at 11:40 am

From the article:

>"There's been vibrant retail along El Camino Real that has slowly been poached and turned into housing."

Where Commissioner Lippert talking about? Not here (vacant lot 3600 El Camino - building on both sides are empty have been for years; building on other side of the street has been empty for over 20 years) :

Web Link

just go up and down the street and notice half a dozen vacant lots of empty buildings - and this is a year or so old, many are still empty. El Camino has never been what I'd call a 'vibrant' commercial zone; not that I'm advocating turning these lots into housing. We need the housing, we need El Camino to be a vibrant commercial zone.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Mike
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jun 30, 2009 at 11:59 am

What is the opposite of 'Vision'?


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Concerned Retiree
a resident of Midtown
on Jun 30, 2009 at 12:17 pm

Enough is enough. Not everyone needs to live in Palo Alto. We need to cap this run away housing growth and offer more retail, neighborhood serving and tax paying businesses. Houses always take more tax money than they bring in.

I agree with Lee Lippert's comments above. ABAG should not hold this housing requirement ax over our heads.

It's time to bag ABAG.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Marsh
a resident of another community
on Jun 30, 2009 at 12:26 pm

First I'd like to clear up what appears to be a common misunderstanding: ABAG does not create the housing allocations. ABAG, the Association of Bay Area Governments, passes on the State's housing allocations that are based on US Census forecasts. Santa Clara County should consider doing what San Mateo County has instituted; rather than accept the ABAG community allocations, divide the total county allocation among the communities by negociated agreement of these communities. Local jurisdictions know far better what fits the comunities' plans and characters.

The wide spread, seemingly parochial references to development along El Camino Real are worrisome to me. Aren't there other usable housing sites in Palo Alto? Any development along El Camino Real should create, enhance, and/or promote what several commenters have referred to as a "vibrant" nature of this road that links all of the communities from San Francisco to San Jose. Palo Alto should use the Grand Boulevard [www.grandboulevard.net] vision to guide their future plans.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Mike
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jun 30, 2009 at 12:46 pm

ABAG does far more (unfortunately) than just 'pass on' state allocations to the communities. They have developed their own methodologies and models to determine what type of housing for what income levels, etc must be built in each community.

Read their web site housing section yourself:

Web Link



 +   Like this comment
Posted by Stu Berman
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jun 30, 2009 at 1:06 pm

The housing mandates are a classic case of urban planning gone awry. The US needs to have a goal of slowing or stopping population growth. Also, there are a myriad of places for people to live in this country. We don't have to put everyone in California or the Bay Area. At a micro level lets look at some of the unaddressed problems:
Too much Traffic
Overcrowded, under-resourced Schools
Inadequate Recreation facilities (see todays Express article on Gym allocation policy)
etc.
We need to work on solving the problems that we have before we add more people to the mix.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by hard worker
a resident of Midtown
on Jun 30, 2009 at 7:51 pm

i agree with "concerned retiree". what is with this city and it's concern to try and fit everyone in this city? there are plenty of other cities for people to move to. i worked extremely hard to be able to live here. i abhor this push for so much below market rate and high density housing. there are not below market rate cars or resorts or other highly desirable items. why should a house be any different?


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Irvin
a resident of University South
on Jun 30, 2009 at 8:51 pm

In terms of "Jerry is at it again" - if you mean by "it" - environment and global warming, I think he's on the right track.

The article only mentions that the AG is on Pleasanton's case over not meeting its 'fair share housing requirement', but doesn't mention why this is an issue for Brown.

"Attorney General Edmund G. Brown Jr. today (6/24)sued the City of Pleasanton to remove its "draconian and illegal" limit on new housing, a significant cause of traffic congestion, air pollution and urban sprawl in the East Bay and Tri-Valley area.

"Pleasanton's draconian and illegal limit on new housing forces people to commute long distances, adding to the bumper-to-bumper traffic along 580 and 680 and increasing dangerous air pollution," Brown said. "It's time for Pleasanton to balance its housing and its jobs and take full advantage of its underutilized land and proximity to BART....."continues

Read "ATTORNEY GENERAL BROWN SUES TO INVALIDATE PLEASANTON'S ILLEGAL HOUSING CAP"
Web Link


 +   Like this comment
Posted by architect
a resident of another community
on Jul 2, 2009 at 3:03 pm

Transit oriented development, as it is called, is quite appropriate along corridors like El Camino. Well-planned and designed, having residential above street-level commercial & retail, is an age-old model. We find it charming in North Beach or Chinatown. There are actually people who don't have or don't want cars (shocking!), who could walk to work. The waiter in that restaurant or the clerk in that shop, they could live upstairs. What a revolutionary concept?! There's your diversity and small carbon footprint. NIMBY communities need a nudge from the state if they aren't doing it on their own.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Nora Charles
a resident of Stanford
on Jul 2, 2009 at 5:33 pm

Great comments, Concerned Retiree. "Not everyone needs to live in Palo Alto." So true! I'd love a reduced-cost palazzo in Venice, but sincerely doubt the Italian government will accommodate this desire!


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