Palo Alto's official housing vision, already years overdue, will undergo further revisions after residents around Maybell Avenue protested the inclusion of a controversial and yet unapproved -- senior-housing development in the document.
The City Council was scheduled to approve on Monday night the Housing Element, a state-mandated document that includes the city's housing goals and visions for the planning period 2007 to 2014. Years in the making, this critical chapter of the Comprehensive Plan includes the city's housing goals and programs along with a housing inventory listing all the housing projects that have either been approved or are in the works. One of the objectives is to demonstrate to the state how the city is planning to accommodate a regional housing mandate of 2,860 units.
The city has made numerous revisions to the document in recent months, partially as a result of its negotiations with the Housing and Community Development Department, but one change in particular has enraged dozens of residents: the city's decision to include a proposed housing development at 567 Maybell Ave. on the inventory. The development, which will be reviewed Wednesday by the Planning and Transportation Commission and which is scheduled to go to the council in June, includes a 60-unit apartment building for low-income seniors and 15 single-family homes.
Over the past two weeks, the city has been deluged with letters from area residents complaining about the city's inclusion of 567 Maybell in the Housing Element, with many arguing that his effectively predetermines the outcome and ensures the project's approval. At a May 9 meeting of the council's Regional Housing Mandate Committee many residents from the Barron Park and Greenacres neighborhoods claimed that the proposed development will substantially worsen the area's traffic conditions and make the roads less safe for the children in the neighborhood.
"The traffic on Maybell near Juana Briones School is already congested in the hours when school starts and is dismissed," Heather MeiLing Marson wrote in a e-mail to the council Sunday. "Arastradero has a steady stream of cars and bicycles going to Terman and Gunn. I have to watch very carefully already when I drive through that area and more traffic will make it even more dangerous."
The council committee voted on May 9 to approve the proposed Housing Element though it also directed staff to consider alternate housing sites that could be included in the inventory, in lieu of the Maybell project. On Monday, staff proposed to delay adopting the Housing Element until staff conducts this research and comes up with alternatives. The council voted 7-0, with Councilman Pat Burt and Councilwoman Gail Price absent, to do that.
The council now plans to discuss the Housing Element on June 10.
City Manager James Keene confirmed Monday, upon questioning from Mayor Greg Scharff, that staff has identified several sites that could go into the Housing Element (thereby excluding the Maybell project) but has to confirm "whether those sites are feasible" with the state Housing and Community Development.