News

Eden Housing's 801 Alma St. project approved by council

Downtown development would feature 50 units for low-income families on Alma Street in downtown Palo Alto

Palo Alto's seven-year-long quest to build a dense, affordable-housing complex in a transit-friendly downtown location surged forward Monday night: The City Council approved the Eden Housing development at 801 Alma St. despite heavy opposition from a neighboring development.

The council voted 7-2 to approve a four-story development on Alma Street that features 50 units for very-low-income families.

In doing so, the council rejected a flurry of criticism about the proposed project from residents of 800 High St., a condominium complex that survived its own publicity firestorm and referendum before earning the city's approval.

The new complex, a collaboration by the city and nonprofit groups Eden Housing and the Community Housing Alliance, would be located at 801 and 849 Alma, former sites of Ole's auto-repair shop and a city electrical substation.

Councilmen Larry Klein and Pat Burt were the only council members who dissented, but on a technical point. They argued that the project should be reviewed by the Planning and Transportation Commission before coming back to the council for final approval.

But the majority of the council sided with more than a dozen housing advocates who argued that the project has already had enough scrutiny during its seven-year crawl through the city-approval process.

"It's a fabulous architectural piece," said Councilman John Barton, an architect, who proposed approving the project. "It's going to be a stunning piece at Alma Street.

"It's exactly the kind of project we need."

But residents of 800 High argued that the project's density is too high for the downtown area and that its parking is insufficient. The project's opponents, who formed a group called Neighbors for a Livable SOFA 2, have made similar arguments at previous public hearings on the project. Their criticism prompted the applicants to scale down the project, which originally featured 96 units of senior- and low-income-family housing, commercial space and a rebuilt Palo Alto Hardware store.

Joop Verbaken, an 800 High resident who co-chairs the group, was one of many condominium owners demanding further revisions. Verbaken said the condominium owners would like to welcome the affordable-housing project into the neighborhood, but not in its present form. He called for better traffic mitigation and a lower density.

"When the process is cut short, projects go wrong," Verbaken said, pointing to the much maligned Arbor Real development and the tree removal project at California Avenue as examples.

Klein and Burt both argued that steering the project through another review would only strengthen it. But Don Barr, president of the Community Housing Alliance, told the council that delays could undermine the project's financial viability.

The two nonprofits are eligible for a $1 million state grant provided the project is completed by October 2011. A three- or four-month delay could jeopardize that grant and potentially sink the project, Barr said.

"Without that $1 million, the viability becomes much more questionable," Barr said.

Supporters of the project, including former Mayor Dena Mossar, argued Monday that 800 High's opposition is ironic if not hypocritical. The dense condominium project had to survive a referendum in 2003 before construction could begin. City officials approved it with the understanding that the condominium complex would be sharing its underground parking garage with a future affordable-housing development -- although only the city's electrical substation was envisioned for such a project at the time.

Sally Probst, a housing advocate who supported 800 High St. during the referendum, denounced the condominium residents' opposition to the new complex.

"It seems ironic that the people who benefited from our work to get 800 High approved in the face of extensive community opposition are now opposing affordable housing in their neighborhood," Probst told the council. "It's a NIMBY manner that makes me very unhappy"

In September, the city's Architectural Review Board unanimously approved the project, which features a design that includes a large garden, lightwells, a bench-lined sidewalk, a courtyard and a community room. On Monday night, board Vice Chair Alexander Lew and his two board colleagues, Judith Wasserman and former member David Solnick, all spoke in glowing terms about the project's design.

Vice Mayor Jack Morton agreed and said he wished the project's architect, Robert Quigley, had designed the 800 High St. project.

"These people are getting something pleasant, attractive and green to look at," Morton said. "They're getting something with lightwells -- they're getting a project that's just amazing."

Comments

Posted by stephen levy, a resident of University South
on Nov 10, 2009 at 6:41 am

stephen levy is a registered user.

Thanks to the council members who moved the project forward and to the many voices in support of the project at the council meeting last night.


Posted by Ruben, a resident of Monroe Park
on Nov 10, 2009 at 7:07 am

Does anybody know what the ongoing costs of this housing will be on the city and school budgets?


Posted by Pull the Ladder Up!, a resident of another community
on Nov 10, 2009 at 7:45 am

NIMBY attitude of 800 High residents: "Pull the ladder up, Jack, we're on board!"


Posted by Howard, a resident of Crescent Park
on Nov 10, 2009 at 8:23 am

The fact remains that the new project will put a heavy load on parking in the area. It would have been better to allow the larger project, with the new hardware store, and with more parking underground.


Posted by Marvin, a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Nov 10, 2009 at 9:33 am

"When the process is cut short, projects go wrong," Verbaken said, pointing to the much maligned Arbor Real development and the tree removal project at California Avenue as examples.

On the contrary--the Arbor Real project went on for years before Hyatt pulled out and the Arbor Real was built. the California tree issue is not about the process.
The big example of Mr Verbaken's comment being wrong is Alma Plaza--that has been in the "process" for 12+ years.
Interesting that Mr Verbaken lives at 800 High Street and he opposes the new development. Pull the Ladder Up's comment is right on


Posted by Paul, a resident of Downtown North
on Nov 10, 2009 at 9:40 am

"The fact remains that the new project will put a heavy load on parking in the area. It would have been better to allow the larger project, with the new hardware store, and with more parking underground."

Yes. 800 High Street's strategy backfired on all of us. The residents evidently planned to kill the project by downsizing it to nonviability, but they only made it dependent on life support from the neighborhood. NIMBY becomes OMGIMBY (NIMBY - N + OMG).


Posted by Grandma, a resident of Fairmeadow
on Nov 10, 2009 at 10:05 am

Ruben says: "Does anybody know what the ongoing costs of this housing will be on the city and school budgets?" Ruben, it is State law that the Council may not consider possible impacts on schools when considering housing developments. The good news is that apartments in Palo Alto have traditionally produced very few children for the schools.


Posted by An Electrical Engineer, a resident of Barron Park
on Nov 10, 2009 at 10:13 am

Since I've been raising my family in Barron Park for over twenty years, I guess most wouldn't consider me a NIMBY.

A major understated FACT about this project is the future impact of the lost of the downtown electrical substation. IF the information I've received is accurate, the costs to date of upgrading the downtown electrical grid to remove this substation has exceeded the cost of the land ((smoothe move - I wonder why D. Diamond doesn't focus her attention on this information versus her shots on city employees}}. Also the loss of the electrical substation severely limits future growth of electrical consumption / needs in the downtown area. Seems like more of a FEEL GOOD project for the city council members; versus creating effective sustainable planning. Though that's nothing new... Not worried about the density downtown either; since the collective leadership of this city won't build the types of mercantile businesses / shopping that my neighbors and I prefer, we shop in Mountain View... Poor Palo Alto, will we ever learn. Take care and if you live downtown, start practicing turning off your lights now...

Kilowatt signing off...


Posted by Paul, a resident of Downtown North
on Nov 10, 2009 at 10:24 am

"Take care and if you live downtown, start practicing turning off your lights now."

Not so fast, EE. The city upgraded the nearby Quarry Road substation to handle the lost Alma capacity, and it extended the 60 kV feeder line from Alma to Quarry. It was a move long planned, but 800 High Street contributed $1M to get the thing out of its backyard ahead of schedule. Those people have money.


Posted by jim H, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Nov 10, 2009 at 10:28 am

Grandma says, "The good news is that apartments in Palo Alto have traditionally produced very few children for the schools. " Try telling that to the families at Addison. The school has been bursting at the seams with all of the high density housing that's been added in their district when the PAMF land was developed.


Posted by Steve, a resident of Palo Verde
on Nov 10, 2009 at 11:04 am

Has there been analysis on whether "very low income" housing increases crime rates in areas where it's built? How is the housing subsidized e.g. taxes, donations. How much ongoing subsidy does a project like this require?


Posted by True cost, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 10, 2009 at 11:26 am

Electrical Engineer points to a little-discussed aspect of this project. The cost of moving the electrical substation involved the huge cost of the move and updating of equipment plus the huge increase in annual rent paid to Stanford for the Quarry Rd. site. (That move was "planned" only in the sense that the plan was to free up the substation site to give away to the housing project). Add to this the cost of purchasing Ole's car shop for this housing project, the value of the substation land (contributed to this housing project), and millions of dollars from City coffers given to this housing project (a portion of which was money that was diverted away from the general fund, such as money from selling other miscellaneous pieces of property). When you add up all the money that the City has given away to this project and taken away from residents in increased electricity costs, it comes to many millions of dollars that I think could have been better used to close the budget deficit and to keep our electricity rates down. I wish the newspapers would investigate and add up all the costs so that Palo Alto residents and ratepayers can know the true cost of this project.


Posted by Ruben, a resident of Monroe Park
on Nov 10, 2009 at 12:04 pm

I believe I heard that 70 additional children will be added to the school burden. [Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

The assumption appears to be that Palo Alto owes it to the world to house as many poor people as possible. This type of liberal guilt will kill off this town, financially. The people living in this welfare housing will not be teachers or firefighters or police officers, as is often promised. The vast majority of them will be the ones on the list that have waited long enough to get to the top of the list. There is much gaming of the system that gets them to the top of the list.

Again, I ask, what will be the ongoing costs to Palo Alto, versus having just sold the land at market rates for standard commerical development? I don't really expect an honest answer from the current leadership, becasue the figure would be too high for them to defend. Nevertheless, we Palo Alto citizens are being sold down the river, in the name of 'social justice'.


Posted by next door neighbor, a resident of Menlo Park
on Nov 10, 2009 at 12:20 pm

I am just stunned at the misplaced sense of liberal guilt that apparently motivates Palo Altans to lemming along with these market-distorting projects. What, exactly, is the point? I consider myself fortunate to be living in this area, but if I hadn't been able to afford to buy a house here, I would have moved to a city where I could afford a home. I would never have expected anyone to build affordable housing for me -- any more than I expect Atherton to build affordable housing for me -- and I can't understand why anyone considers that an appropriate use of public resources.

I'm all for supporting free public education so that kids can learn what they need to know, get into good colleges, and land jobs that will pay them enough so that they can support themselves. That's the American way, right? I realize there are many people who have not taken advantage of the myriad of opportunities to succeed, and that's their prerogative, but I'm mystified by the fact that so many of you feel the need to give these underachievers homes in Palo Alto.

Thank you, PA City Council, for making my city's council look brilliant in comparison!


Posted by Mike, a resident of Stanford
on Nov 10, 2009 at 12:49 pm

Parking parking parking. That is already the biggest problem in the neighborhood. 105 bedrooms and 63 parking spaces?


Posted by makin' bacon, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 10, 2009 at 1:21 pm

if the average 2 bedroom house in town DID not have more than 3 people, the population in or out o school would drop.
ABSTAIN!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


Posted by Marvin, a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Nov 10, 2009 at 1:24 pm

Rueben--how do you refute something that has not happened yet?
You do not know how many children will be living there. You do not know their real financial state. You appear to be assuming that the people living there will be minority--though you do not really who will be living there. [Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]
Why don't you provide your proof of what will be in the future and how you arrived at said proof.


Posted by Ruben, a resident of Monroe Park
on Nov 10, 2009 at 1:38 pm

The official projections, as expressed at the last council meeting, was that 70+ school age children will be living in these FAMILY low cost apartments. If you have a problem with that number, then take it up with the city staff.

I spent five years in low cost public housing, as a kid, and I KNOW that there were no rich kids in that apartment building. [Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

Although I am a minority, myself, I did not mention race or ethnicity. Poor white kids, placed in such circumstances will do the same thing as minority kids. It isn't ethnicity, it is poverty that is concentrated that helps to create gangs. There are always a few who get out, like myself, but most do not.

[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


Posted by Marvin, a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Nov 10, 2009 at 1:46 pm

Your statements are not based on fact--they are based on projections, your life experiences and your skewed view of middle class and minority people. Nothing you have said is based on any facts whatsoever (as you state above--go ahead and re-read--no facts, just speculation, extrapolation and a wild imagination).
[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


Posted by Frequent Shopper, a resident of Crescent Park
on Nov 10, 2009 at 1:57 pm

Here's a radical idea: Guarantee that each "development" in Palo Alto is built with a street set- back for strolling, with landscaping in order to reduce the cramped feeling of the Bronx and 19th. Ave in SF. We are in danger of becoming a 19th. Ave. look alike. Also, guarantee more trees in this city so proud of its canopy.


Posted by Billy, a resident of College Terrace
on Nov 10, 2009 at 2:18 pm

> Does anybody know what the ongoing costs of this housing
> will be on the city and school budgets?

This housing property will no doubt be exempt from basic property taxes, so the cost of sending any children from this project to school will be about $16,000/child/year (and generally growing). These costs will be shifted to the property owners of the PAUSD, businesses in Palo Alto and residential properties in Palo Alto, some residential properties on the Stanford lands, and the PAUSD side of Los Altos Hills.

The residents of this place will contribute nothing to pay for City services, which are "free" (they will be required to pay for fee-for-service services, unless the City Council decides that they should somehow be subsidized). They will not be expected to pay any "impact fee", like the taxpaying residents who move into new single family homes, or new commercial multi-family residents.

For the most part, these people will be getting a "free ride" when it comes to funding the schools, City services and City infrastructure that is funded by property taxes.


Posted by Ruben, a resident of Monroe Park
on Nov 10, 2009 at 2:20 pm

All of the assumptions about this welfare project are projections, pro or con. The city tells us that they project 70+ school age kids. Is this a proven 'fact' before the place is built, or will there actually be 80+ kids? [Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

Could you please take them one at a time? For example, how do you project that the kids who live in this welfare housing will be rich or middle class, when their parents are poor?

Then please tell us why you think the city projection for the number of school age kids is off base. What is the basis of your assumption that it will be significantly less?

Have you ever lived in low cost public housing, Marvin? I would be interested in sharing stories with you. You "project" as being very naive.

You have failed to address the ongoing costs of this project, Marvin. What do you think they will be? What will be the structural effect on the PA budget? As the budget deteriorates, what will be the effect on property values in Palo Alto?


Posted by Marvin, a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Nov 10, 2009 at 2:39 pm

As i stated earlier--you do not know how many children will be living there, you do not know their financial state and you do not know that it will become a ghetto. You have decided to project that there will be 70+ children (the actual number of children is irrelevant),all poor and it will become a ghetto because a development with "poor" people will naturally become a ghetto.

"how do you project that the kids who live in this welfare housing will be rich or middle class, when their parents are poor"
This development is not "welfare" housing and I do not make any projections on the financial state of these people. I will wait for the facts unlike some people who extrapolate their distaste for lower income and minority people by stating unequivocally that the places they live in will become a ghetto.

If you consider someone to be naive who waits for the facts and does not allow hatred and racism to color my opinions then I am proud to be naive.

The fact that you may or may not have lived in low income housing and may or may not have stories to share is irrelevant to this discussion.
I will wait for the facts


Posted by Billy, a resident of College Terrace
on Nov 10, 2009 at 2:40 pm

> What do you think they will be? What will be the structural
> effect on the PA budget?

The effect will the difference between getting zero dollars from this project in terms of property tax, and the contribution that some other land use would have generated, had that property been put to another use--such as retail.

There is also the cost to move the substation, which is most likely being paid by the Utility ratepayers.

The PAUSD is where the biggest budget impact will be seen, should there be 70 children in this place. Depending on apartment turnover, this number could go down, or stay pretty much the same, in the future.

By the way, the Planning people has a formula for ordinary housing that provides the "yield" for school-aged kids. Most apartments are so expensive in Palo Alto that they are not attractive to many families.


Posted by Paul, a resident of Downtown North
on Nov 10, 2009 at 3:06 pm

"I spent five years in low cost public housing, as a kid... I also know that gangs are the natural culture that develops in concentrated situations like this."

OK, Ruben, OK. We'll believe that you're a minority of some sort and that you spent years in a project doing the gangs and crime bit. But that doesn't mean THOSE people will be like YOU people.

"The residents of this place will contribute nothing to pay for City services"

Nonsense. Like everyone else, they'll pay the sales taxes which fund everything from street cleaning to freeways.

[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]
Come out from under your beds, people. There's a big bright world out here.


Posted by Bill, a resident of College Terrace
on Nov 10, 2009 at 3:18 pm

> Like everyone else, they'll pay the sales taxes

That depends on whether or not they buy "stuff" in Palo Alto. Perhaps the point of "paying nothing" is overstated. But given that anyone moving into Palo Alto/Los Altos Hills is paying property taxes through the nose ($10K to as much as $300K a year [for a couple of very lucky families in Los Altos Hills]) .. people living in "affordable" housing pay very little.

According to the Daily Post, the income levels of the people moving into this place will be from $22K to $43K. That doesn't provide a lot of "wiggle room" for buy "stuff" that generates a lot of sales tax. Perhaps they will buy gasoline for their cars in Palo Alto, perhaps not. If they use public transit (which is hard to believe), this generates no sales tax for PA.

They will be paying Utility User's Tax, but this will generate very no more than a couple hundred dollars for the General Fund (at most). So .. the claim stands. While there may be the odd penny here or there that these people will pay in taxes that make their way into City coffers .. they will not be contributing like the people who live in single family homes.


Posted by stephen levy, a resident of University South
on Nov 10, 2009 at 3:26 pm

stephen levy is a registered user.

The site has long been planned for an affordable housing project. Part of the approval for the 800 High project was to prepare for the adjacent site to be used for an affordable housign project.

All nine council members said they understood and approved of having an affordable housing proejct on this site.

There were differences of opinion about parking, size and design although most people were talking only about a small number of fewer units.

But on the basic issue of whether this project met City goals and was a good fit for the site, there was a strong majority support. In addition the 800 High neighbors knew what was going on the site as part of their ability to have the 800 High project.

As far as schools, the question was asked directly at the meeting and staff answered that 35 children were expected and that they had received that estimate from the Palo Alto School District.

As always this debate has an invasive nature with people who will not live there saying how other people (the residents) should live. If the project is horrible for the residents and a lot of discussion was in this vein, then no one will live there and certainly no one is forced to live there.

Finally, there is the repetitive claim of entitlement that poor childen and often just any new children should live elsewhere for our convenience.


Posted by Bill, a resident of College Terrace
on Nov 10, 2009 at 3:53 pm

> As always this debate has an invasive nature

Really? Well, this is probably in response to the "invasive nature" of the governments' taxing some people (working people and property owners) at about 65% (statutory) of their income. The idea that the "less fortunate" deserve the same as the "fortunate" and that this "equality of outcome" will be put into effect by progressive taxes is more than a little "invasive".

> there is the repetitive claim of entitlement that poor
> childen and often just any new children should live
> elsewhere for our convenience.

The reality is that "entitlements" have become so expensive that the US Government has or will likely) assume $107T of debt to pay for Americans' (and who knows other people in the world) healthcare, pensions and other transfer payments (which is another world for "entitlements").

The reality is that the US has bankrupted itself with this notion that "it's a rich country and everyone deserves a share". We have not yet learned our lesson on this point, but that time is rapidly approaching.

Resisting any thing that looks like a subsidy, or an entitlement, is simply the reawakening of good, sound, public financial policy--rather than having anything to do with "convenience".


Posted by HATE ME if you will, a resident of Midtown
on Nov 10, 2009 at 4:55 pm

I am a veteran (your welcome) and I live in Palo Alto with an income of LESS than $250 PER MONTH.

Apparently, there are folks who believe they are unworthy of sharing this space.

My guess is YOU have the where-with-all to move, I know I don't.


Posted by HATE ME if you will, a resident of Midtown
on Nov 10, 2009 at 4:56 pm

BTW-----
You pay my health care------------


Posted by Paul, a resident of Downtown North
on Nov 10, 2009 at 4:58 pm

OK, Bill, you're on. Total up your own sales taxes for a year and let us know. For a bit of spice, try going for a month without paying sales taxes.


Posted by stephen levy, a resident of University South
on Nov 10, 2009 at 5:13 pm

stephen levy is a registered user.

Bill,

I understand that you do not like the laws approving and funding affordable housing projects.

But all nine council members do understand and seem to approve of the law and the long-term plans for the 801 Alma site for affordable housing. So you have a lot of elected officials to get mad at in Palo Alto if you wish.

Not only are efforts like the Eden Housing project supported by law, but affordable housing projects in California are eligible for funding from bonds that are regularly passed by a majority of voters.

So you are arguing against the law and the vote of Californians.

As to entitlement, I was referring to the apparent mind set of some in Palo Alto that they are entitled to avoid coming in contact with the residents of affordable housing developments.


Posted by next door neighbor, a resident of Menlo Park
on Nov 10, 2009 at 6:02 pm

Bill, you shouldn't expect your rational arguments to get a lot of love in Palo Alto. Why, complaining is tantamount to breaking the law, isn't that right, Stephen? (So much for those silly free speech values.)

It isn't too late to leave the dark side. Come on over to Menlo Park, where we still have an ample supply of unmitigated capitalists plus enlightened souls who nearly as fond of social engineering experiments as your neighbors seem to be.


Posted by next door typos, a resident of Menlo Park
on Nov 10, 2009 at 6:03 pm

...who aren't nearly as fond of...


Posted by MBA student / worker, a resident of Stanford
on Nov 10, 2009 at 7:39 pm

I am very grateful to be able to live and study in this area. Some of my fellow students and I are amused by you. Palo Alto is the birthplace of so many amazing companies that have generated billions of dollars of revenue and have made so many contributions... Yet, you are letting your community slip away. Mountain View has developed a better tax base, rebuilt it's fire stations, built a beautiful police facility, and performing arts center, have you been to Castro Street lately? While you in Palo Alto seem to suffer from active, conscious neglect and denial... You have and continue to generate so much incredible wealth and yet you are unable to nurture effective, sustainable growth and a vital healthy happy community. Your children are putting their heads down on the railroad tracks that run through your town! WAKE UP! Expand your thinking! The quality of your thinking and your decision making is not working for all {most especially your children}. Live in integrity. Laying off employees / cutting compensation will create longer term problems. If not for you, then for your children. There is great wealth and opportunity here; from one perspective you a wasting away... How will you, your schools, firefighters and police officers work together when their is another big earthquake. If your community is so GREEN and Effective, why is it that an ambulance had to come from Cupertino to take care of my girl friend last month? Why is it that the residents of other areas were unprotected while that ambulance was taking care of my girl friend? How would you feel if you had to wait for an ambulance to care for your child or loved one? You have incredible weather, I wonder if I can still transfer to MIT? You are living in scarcity. There are plenty of ways to generate the funds necessary; expand your thinking. Practice Compassionate Listening. Compassionate Living. My apologies. Good luck. Thanks again for a great education; yet, when I graduate, I believe I'll be moving on.


Posted by Outside Observer, a resident of another community
on Nov 10, 2009 at 8:41 pm

Ruben,

You are a voice of practical experience and logic in a sea of denial and liberal guilt.

Unfortunately, All you'll get across to most Palo Altans is an "I told you so" when this welfare housing pans out the same as 99% of all welfare housing.


Posted by Paul, a resident of Downtown North
on Nov 10, 2009 at 10:15 pm

"Bill, you shouldn't expect your rational arguments to get a lot of love in Palo Alto. Why, complaining is tantamount to breaking the law"

Well, not quite, but the constant whine gets tiresome. Import Bill if you like, but please don't put him too near the Creek.


Posted by Marvin, a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Nov 11, 2009 at 7:03 am

I am not sure why Ruben and Outside Observer seem to feel the need to perpetuate the lie that this is "welfare housing"--this housing is for low-income people. Does low-income=welfare to Ruben and Outside Observer? These are the people that serve your coffee at Starbucks, clean your offices and bus your tables when you go out to eat at fancy restaurants. These people are hard working individuals who are trying to make ends meet--calling them welfare people is wrong. This has nothing to do with denial or liberal guilt, this is an issue of being honest and not spreading lies.


Posted by Ada, a resident of Midtown
on Nov 11, 2009 at 10:04 am

Marvin,
Very very few of hard working Starbucks barristas and waiters at restaurants are there for the long term. They are usually quite young people or students and it is often a temporary thing for them. These are not the people who had waited for years in line for low income housing. Neither are teachers, or firefighters whose salaries are higher than the qualified minimum. What is the profile of people who are stuck in low income jobs for years and years to come and woudl qualify for that housing? Perhaps janitors...


Posted by working parent of PAUSD alums, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Nov 11, 2009 at 10:06 am

I couldn't agree more with Mayor Peter Drekmeier that Palo Alto needs housing for people who work in Palo Alto who can't afford to live in Palo Alto (as reported in today's Mercury News). Does anyone know if actual employment in Palo Alto can be a requirement of acceptance as a resident of this housing?

I sure know many PAUSD teachers and staff who are unable to live here. They are the reason we are able to continue Palo Alto's long tradition of providing an excellent education to ALL residents. Our property values certainly do.


Posted by Marvin, a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Nov 11, 2009 at 10:08 am

Anything wrong with janitors, Ada? i mentioned janitorial people above and why do you think that people that work as waiters and at coffee places are all temps?


Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 11, 2009 at 10:19 am

Many PAUSD teachers do not want to live in this type of housing. They are willing to commute longer so that they can live in traditional family type housing, and so do police, firefighters, and others who work here. Additionally, police and firefighters often do not want to live where they work to protect their families and personal life.


Posted by palo alto mom, a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Nov 11, 2009 at 10:31 am

the income requirements for this housing will be somewhere in the 40K range, way less then a teacher, fireman, policeman make...


Posted by pat, a resident of Midtown
on Nov 11, 2009 at 10:35 am

Marvin: Re low-income vs. welfare. I assume you mean that a person on welfare is getting food stamps and/or welfare checks from the government, whereas a low-income person would not.

Seems like a person living in these low income apartments is receiving a form of welfare as subsidized housing.


Posted by Ruben, a resident of Monroe Park
on Nov 11, 2009 at 11:41 am

There is no requiremnt that this welfare housing is preserved for Palo Alto workers. It is just for poor people, period. My niece wanted to me to get her on the BMR list, so that she and her boyfriend could float to the top of the list, over time. All she wanted from me was to verify that she lives with me in Palo Alto. She told me that "lots of people do it". I told her no, because it would be dishonest, and that she needs to earn her own way in life. Her intention was not to work in Palo Alto, just to qualify for low rents, and send her (future) kids to PA schools. She is still mad at me, however it did open my eyes up to what is really going on in BMR housing.

The Palo Alto Housing Corporation, as far as I can tell, does not verify emplyoment in PA. It doesn't even know what its welfare housing is being used for. I think they purposely do not ask questions, because they would then have to provide answers to such questions as, "How many teachers or fire/police live in your units?". Yet these projects are always sold as providing 'critical housing for essential workers'. I have watched this circus for several years. It is a lie.


Posted by anony mouse, a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Nov 11, 2009 at 11:47 am

To all the rational right wing opponents of this project:

Please exercise your freedoms. Express your opposition. Free speech rules.

Another freedom has been exercised here. We, as a polity, have elected officials who have approved this project. We, as a polity, have agreed to tax ourselves to fund these projects, however misguided and liberal they may be. That's how this democracy thing works. This is a liberal town. If you don't like it, work to elect officials more amenable to your views or exercise a different freedom...

Move away.

Is a person's worth based on how much tax they pay? I am more worthy since I bought my house recently and am paying 13K in property taxes? The old people who have lived in their homes forever and are paying less than $2k? What about them? Apparently renters are the least worthy of all. Or actually, from what I've seen so far in this thread, the least worthy are children of renters of below market rate housing. Nice. I'm glad that Palo Alto is making this small effort to give those unworthy folks an opportunity to succeed. I know it's a terrible thing to give away anything, but that's how this democracy thing works.


Posted by anony mouse, a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Nov 11, 2009 at 11:58 am

Ruben,

I think your personal experience with your daughter cannot be equated with the entire universe of housing applicants. You are a fine, honest person for refusing to help your daughter, I guess. This does give us all some insight into the antipathy you have for anyone who dares to use publicly financed housing. Given your history in public housing and this incident with your daughter, we see that you have an emotional investment in your arguments. It's more than "rationality" that is driving your opinions. Is it a vendetta?


Posted by Paul, a resident of Downtown North
on Nov 11, 2009 at 12:19 pm

"She is still mad at me, however it did open my eyes up to what is really going on in BMR housing."

Hopefully it opened your eyes to how you have raised your daughter.


Posted by Ada, a resident of Midtown
on Nov 11, 2009 at 12:22 pm

Marvin,
Nothing wrong with janitors. I just wanted to make a point that this housing will not be for teachers but for those who are stuck in low income jobs for years due to lack of education or other reasons. If diversity is the sole reason to bring low income housing into PA, then these types of workers are certainly underrepresented in Palo Alto population.


Posted by Just reading, a resident of Southgate
on Nov 11, 2009 at 12:23 pm

Anony mouse, instead of looking into Ruben's motivation and questioning his reasons, you should check on the truth of what he says. Your motivation is just as questionable. You too have an emotional investment in your mean comments.
Ruben is correct in what he says.


Posted by Ruben, a resident of Monroe Park
on Nov 11, 2009 at 12:31 pm

"Hopefully it opened your eyes to how you have raised your daughter."

I don't have a daughter. My two sons would never have thought they could ask me that question.


Posted by Lena, a resident of Escondido School
on Nov 11, 2009 at 12:50 pm

Ruben, never say never:) You sons might not have thought of that particular request, but can you bet your life that they never cheated at school or their taxes, that they never thought of a creative way around some rule or regulation, so let's not get into this argument, ok? "He who is without sin among you, let him throw the first stone".


Posted by Dmitry, a resident of another community
on Nov 11, 2009 at 12:58 pm

How will the housing be awarded? Can I get it? I am not a janitor, I am struggling artist from another town... But if I get the housing, I will be a Palo Alto struggling artist:)
Can someone please publish the qualification requirements, who manages the official waiting list, how does one get in?


Posted by Ruben, a resident of Monroe Park
on Nov 11, 2009 at 1:25 pm

"that they never thought of a creative way around some rule or regulation, so let's not get into this argument, ok? "He who is without sin among you, let him throw the first stone".

Lena, I am sure you are well meaning, but I am not your typical Palo Alto parent. I always fought the small battles with my sons, so that big ones did not surface. I often hear such statements as, "forget the small battles, save your energy for the big stuff". I could not disagree more.

To each his/her own, but my sons would never think about asking me the question that my niece asked me. My sister raised her daughter her way, and that is why she thought it was just fine to ask me the question. You can believe it, or not.

My main point is that concentrated welfare housing is a destructive thing. I was able to get out, psychologically, but my sister never did. The PA city council has now structurally changed this city. It will prove to be a very expensive mistake, IMO.


Posted by Lena, a resident of Escondido School
on Nov 11, 2009 at 1:58 pm

I agree that concentrated welfare housing is a destructive thing. I also believe concentrated welfare/low income housing universally fails, they tend to "breed the like". What works much better is scattering/sprinkling BMR units in standard priced developments/apartment buildings. In that case low income people just blend in, their kids socialize with neighbors and not just with kids from low income families. I used to live in a townhouse development where one out of 12 units was BMR, and it worked great, the family integrated very well.
Diversity develops and unifies best when people from different backgrounds and incomes classes are neighbors, rather than simply residents of the same town. Have you noticed that kids from EPA or kids of poor immigrants tend to cluster together in middle and high school and there is very little crossover, kind of defeats the diversity purpose.


Posted by next door neighbor, a resident of Menlo Park
on Nov 11, 2009 at 2:26 pm

Anony, we can care about poor people, children, renters, baristas, and custodians without giving them handouts or new houses. But then, I'm the kind of parent who doesn't believe in giving my kids cars when they turn 16. In general, I'm not a fan of entitlements.

I am still not at all in touch with this whole guilt thing, but I guess it reflects a certain hubris associated with being a Palo Alto resident, as though living within the city borders -- even in a tiny highrise unit -- confers a unique specialness on you. Really, the main thing that has differentiated Palo Alto from a lot of other Bay Area cities is that its ratio of rich:poor people has been skewed to the left. You're afraid of becoming too much like, say, Atherton, and want to become more like San Jose? I don't get it, but hey, hope it works out for you.

Realistically, though, I agree with Ruben, and expect that this decision will prove not to be a good one. It may not be disastrous, but it's a step down a path better not taken.


Posted by Ruben, a resident of Monroe Park
on Nov 11, 2009 at 3:28 pm

"What works much better is scattering/sprinkling BMR units in standard priced developments/apartment buildings."

Lena, if one wants to accept the welfare housing idea, aka BMR housing, then disperal is a much better idea than concentrating it. This has been the argument among BMR supporters for years in Palo Alto. However, there is now a desperate attempt to get 'numbers'. This, IMO, is a combination of ABAG mandates and an eagerness of PA officials to follow a liberal guilt mandate to take care of the poor, no matter the costs.

I don't support welfare housing, even if dispersed. For me, it is a fundamental issue of earning one's own way. I had dreams of getting out of my predicament, and I worked my butt off to do so. My sister thought it was owed to her. She is still mired in that attitude. It won't end, until it is no longer offered.

This new housing project, just approved by PA city council, is a dependency that will backfire in many ways. It is wrong policy, and it is very expensive in both direct and hidden ways. Most everyone involved with it will become the victim of it. That includes those liberals in PA that are currently comfortable with their property values. This a structural change, precedent setting, and we will all live to regret it.


Posted by PA resident, a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Nov 11, 2009 at 4:30 pm

Many Palo Alto residents employ gardeners and housecleaners and have developed close relationships with them. Most of them prefer to be paid in cash and do not declare these earnings for tax purposes, hence they don't qualify for this low income housing, but I wish my gardener who lives in EPA and my housecleaner who lives in South San Jose have a chance to live here in PA where most of their clients are. Is there a way to help them get it?


Posted by next door neighbor, a resident of Menlo Park
on Nov 11, 2009 at 5:17 pm

Yes, indeed, Palo Alto absolutely should provide subsidized housing for those who flout the law. Love it!


Posted by Outside Observer, a resident of another community
on Nov 11, 2009 at 7:28 pm


Anyone who needs an explanation of "liberal guilt" need look no farther than PA Resident's post for an perfect example.


Posted by Paul, a resident of Downtown North
on Nov 12, 2009 at 10:04 am

"Anyone who needs an explanation of "liberal guilt" need look no farther than PA Resident's post for an perfect example."

Actually, they need look no farther than the Bible. Matthew in particular lays it right on. Got the same reaction then, too.


Posted by Pull the Ladder Up!, a resident of another community
on Nov 13, 2009 at 8:37 am

Time for 801 High folks to move on. They should count their blessings that the city wide referedum to even allow an 801 High passed a few years ago.

Instead of furiously trying to pull the ladder up and move ahead full sail before the 801 Alma people have a chance get on board, they should welcome their new neighbors instead. If 800 High people join arm in arm with their new neighbors at 801 Alma to build a better community, everyone wins.

Drop all the excuses and welcome your new neighbors!


Posted by pat, a resident of Midtown
on Nov 13, 2009 at 10:13 am

Palo Alto (and every city) is forced into building BMR housing like the 801 Alma project by the state.

The state legislature assigns housing numbers regions, and gives these "requirements" to regional bodies like ABAG, which is charged with assigning numbers to cities, based on assumed growth, jobs and transportation.

The city is then required to do the necessary planning and zoning for the proposed units.

The reason for building dense "transit-oriented" units is to reduce building in open spaces, prevent sprawl and get people to take public transit. So if a city has public transit and lots of jobs, like Palo Alto, it will be assigned more units.

The Palo Alto Housing Corporation manages the BMR program on the City's behalf. They maintain the BMR waiting list which is years if not decades long. Preference is giving to workers in Palo Alto first but if qualified buyer/renters can not be found, BMR participants can be selected who work outside the city.

There's a law that the city can NOT consider the impact on schools when building this housing. This law was passed under the influence of developers who say, "We're paying a school impact fee when we build these units, so that should take care of any school issues."

Developers get all kinds of tax breaks when building BMR units, so it's a good deal for them.

So it's not the fault of the Palo Alto government that the city is changing -- and the changes will keep on coming.


Posted by Mike, a resident of another community
on Nov 13, 2009 at 12:00 pm

I own a business in Palo Alto, yet I can only affford to live in Redwood City, which does not even get listed in the "neighborhoods" above. I am much more supportive of including BMR units amongst other projects, rather than concentrating them. However, I do not believe that that was the crux of the resistance to this project. The issue is about density, which is higher than the original guidance of SOFA area development, and the PARKING, which is way less than what is needed for that many people and in an area that already has a huge parking problem. 800 High developers had to provide 220 parking spaces for 60 units. 801 Alma is providing 63 spots for 50 units (which are on 1/2 the space as 800 High). It seems that the city should have to play by its own rules!


Posted by Ruben, a resident of Monroe Park
on Nov 13, 2009 at 1:23 pm

The way I understand the state mandate is that if Palo Alto, or any any other city, rejects welfare housing, the state will penalize that city by refusing to provide state funds to build welfare housing. Therefore, if Palo Alto just says "no" it will not qualify for even more money to build even more welfare housing.

The current city leadership is hiding behind this state mandate. The truth is that liberal guilt is dripping all over the place. Current welfare housing advocates want to "do our part", probably much more than that, whatever that part is.

The structural change of this decision to Palo Alto will have very detrimental ripple effects, including a reudction in property values.


Posted by Paul, a resident of Downtown North
on Nov 13, 2009 at 2:00 pm

"The issue is about density, which is higher than the original guidance of SOFA area development, and the PARKING, which is way less than what is needed for that many people and in an area that already has a huge parking problem."

Those were the cover stories for deeper, unspeakably un-PC reasons. 800 High Street itself vastly exceeded the SOFA density allowances, yet its developer pushed it through the process by getting an exception. The voters of Palo Alto decided to allow it. 801 Alma is only about 110% of 800 High's density.

What you people need to learn about the PA planning process is that whatever exists nearby sets the bar for what can be permitted. Ergo, 800 High created the opening that now allows its neighbor at 801 Alma to be built. It's the law of (perhaps) unintended consequences.

Parking will be self-regulating - there simply won't be anyplace for everyone to park every car they might want to own, unless they're willing to walk several blocks. They got to give up something for cheap rent. If that doesn't suit the tenants, they can move to other, more suitable, housing.


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