Voters to decide Measure D's fate today

Mail-in ballots must be dropped off or received by the county Registrar of Voters Tuesday

After months of contentious battles between senior-housing advocates and rezoning hawks, Palo Alto voters today will decide the fate of the proposed Maybell Avenue housing project.

The single issue on this year's ballot concerns whether to allow a property at Maybell and Clemo avenues to be rezoned to allow 60 affordable apartments for seniors and 12 single-family homes.

Mail-in ballots for the election must be received by the registrar's office on election day, Tuesday, Nov. 5. Postmarks do not count.

There are no preliminary figures available for how many Palo Alto mail-in ballot have already been returned. The county doesn't separate mail-in ballots by city before votes are counted, a Santa Clara County Registrar of Voter's staff member said. However, there were 167,220 mail-in ballots issued in the county, and so far 36,171 (21.63 percent) have been returned.

Ballots can be dropped off Monday at either Palo Alto City Hall or at the Santa Clara County Registrar's Office at 1555 Berger Drive, San Jose. On election day, ballots can be dropped off at any of the following polling locations.

• Palo Alto High School, 50 Embarcadero Road

• The Children's Health Council, 650 Clark Way

• University Lutheran Church - Sanctuary, 1611 Stanford Ave

• Palo Alto Fire Station # 05, 600 Arastradero Road

• Palo Alto Community Childcare Center 3990, Ventura Court

• St. Andrews United Methodist Church 4111, Alma St.

• Fairmeadow Elementary School - Mp Room, 500 E Meadow Drive

• First Church Of Christ, Scientist, 3045 Cowper St.

• Grace Lutheran Church, 3149 Waverley St.

• Feldman Residence, 2121 Waverley St.

• Gamble Garden Center - Carriage House, 1431 Waverley St.

• Walter Hays Elementary School - Room 16, 1525 Middlefield Road

• Channing House - Board Room, 850 Webster St.

• Lytton Gardens Court Yard - Lounge, 330 Everett Ave.

• First Palo Alto United Methodist, 625 Hamilton Ave.

• Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church, 1295 Middlefield Road

• Kartchner Residence, 577 Patricia Lane

• Palo Alto Buddhist Temple, 2751 Louis Road

• First Congregational Church - Narthex, 1985 Louis Road

• Palo Alto Buddhist Temple, 2751 Louis Road

• Friends Meeting Of Palo Alto, 957 Colorado Ave.

• Palo Alto Fire Station # 02, 2675 Hanover St.

• Unity Palo Alto Community Church, 3391 Middlefield Road

• Cubberley Community Center - Room H1, 4000 Middlefield Road

• Barron Park School - MultiPurpose Room, 800 Barron Ave.

• Palo Alto Church Of Christ Multipurpose Room, 3373 Middlefield Road

• Palo Alto Christian Reformed Church, 687 Arastradero Road


Posted by Thanks Weekly!, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Nov 4, 2013 at 10:24 am

The Weekly has played a negative role in this campaign. Its coverage has been confusing, its editorials have been muddled, and rather than serving to explain and sharpen the debate it has served to whip up uninformed hysteria in the neighborhood. Town Square has played a particularly bad role, even in light of how horrible and negative a role it plays in nearly everything -- which is saying a lot. The way that the Weekly has allowed the individual posting as "AGAINST D" to drown out all conversation, posting huge long slabs of mostly incorrect information and driving sane people off the forums has been disappointing, to say the least. Some damaged souls have regrettably latched on to this building as a threat to "safety" which is merely symbolic not real. Those of us who know the players know this is true. Anonymity has made this opaque, however, so score one more for TS and anonymity.

Worst of all the Weekly's endorsement against the Measure in order to send a message to the City Council just displays the poor political instincts of the Weekly's publisher. You don't use the basic needs of poor people -- like affordable housing -- as pawns to send a message. And your fantasy world in which the measure loses and then everyone negotiates a happy ending is very very very unlikely to happen. It would be nice to think that you can have your "message" without the negative consequences but you probably can't. It is discouraging that our best local paper is as incapable as our worst local paper (the Post) of distinguishing between projects by for-profit developers like 27 university and non-profit PAHC.

If measure D loses, you deserve a lot of the responsibility for your poor coverage and your lousy editorials. This "story" contains no news and is just trolling for posts from AGAINST. So please, don't let me stop you. Please, go on.

Posted by Curmudgeon, a resident of Downtown North
on Nov 4, 2013 at 11:49 am

Curmudgeon is a registered user.

I totally disagree with "Thanks Weekly!" This newspaper has done an exemplary job o investigative journalism since its "the fix is in" wakeup call about this yet another City Hall steamroll-the-residents job.

In all sincerity: Thanks, Weekly!

Posted by Green Gables, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Nov 4, 2013 at 12:15 pm

Green Gables is a registered user.

The senior housing is just fine; it's those stacked up houses that are not okay. As a volunteer driver for door-to-door I pick up clients in the area where Palo Alto Housing Corp wants to build. Even during the middle of the day, there is already lots of traffic. I am a financially poor person (according to the State and the City), and I own a house. I was also a single parent with 3 kids and worked full time. I've a NO sign in my yard.

Posted by JustMyOpinion, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 4, 2013 at 12:28 pm

JustMyOpinion is a registered user.

All three local newspapers listened and made informed decisions. This is truly about up-zoning in the middle of a residential neighborhood. Unfortunately, senior housing has been thrown in the middle of this issue. Senior housing can be built at Maybell no matter what the election results are. The question is whether the building height will go from 30' to 50' and whether the for-profit developer will be able to build three story rather than two story homes. There is no reason to supersize this property. The plan now calls to leave very little open space. There is not enough parking which will add to the problems that already exist with the PAHC facility next door. PAHC claims that they need to supersize the lot to make it work for them, if this is true then they may not be the right organization to build senior housing. This has not been done before and therefore others have been able to build senior housing without such a major impact on a neighborhood.

Voting Against Measure D is the right thing for Palo Alto.

Posted by Jean Valjean, a resident of Barron Park
on Nov 4, 2013 at 1:19 pm

Jean Valjean is a registered user.

When you vote do not fall into the trap of comparing apples to orchards.

Both the Weekly and the Daily News have focused on the 12 family homes as their primary reason for recommending a No vote on Measure D. Sadly neither of them have presented the facts accurately in regards to this part of the PC zoning.

The city website page for 567 Maybell see Web Link provides detailed information about what can be built under the existing R2 and RM-15 zoning. It also gives a history of the public process and describes changes to the PC zoning that resulted from public and council input. As a result there has been a reduction of family homes being built on Maybell, seven instead of the 8-10 family units(as duplexes) that could be built with the existing R2 zoning. In addition the PC removes driveways from Maybell that are allowed under existing R2 zoning and adds a much needed sidewalk on Maybell. Similarly on Clemo where multi-unit three story buildings can be built under existing RM-15 zoning there will now be five free standing homes with 10 foot side yard setbacks.

Here is the staff analysis from the FAQ's about 567 Maybell Web Link

3. If the approved PAHC does not get built, what could be built under the existing
Under the existing zoning (R‐2 and RM‐15) approximately 34‐46 homes could be
built. The ultimate number of homes would be dependent on the size of the homes, the affordability levels, site layout and roadway configurations. Included in the potential 34‐46 home development could be up to 8‐10 homes (as duplexes) along Maybell Avenue. One home on each lot along Maybell Avenue would be a standard single‐family home and the second home on each lot could be up to 900 sq. ft. (or more, potentially up to 1,350 sq. ft. because of the State Density Bonus Law). Automobile parking access to all of these Maybell facing homes could be obtained via driveways on Maybell Avenue. Up to 36 homes could then be built on the rear portion of the property.

Staff believes that the resultant "market rate" housing would have a greater impact on both traffic and the generation of school‐age children.

Posted by Jim45, a resident of Green Acres
on Nov 4, 2013 at 1:50 pm

Jim45 is a registered user.

The Weekly has done an excellent job of presenting both sides of the Measure D discussion. They have enlightened all of us on both sides of the issue. A free press is part of the democratic process. So is sending a message to the city about dissatisfaction with recent development projects through PC zoning. Unfortunately, a referendum is the only way to try to get the city to listen.

Posted by Annika, a resident of Barron Park
on Nov 4, 2013 at 2:04 pm

Annika is a registered user.

The Yes on D keeps throwing facts and figures out as evidence that D is a good idea. Something is amiss when I am getting calls at home from telemarketers urging me vote Yes on D. (When I told one young girl I had already voted no, she stumbled on her script...uhh, you already voted no? and hung up). I've received through the mail (not door to door from volunteers) at least five 8 x 11 glossy flyers showing happy grandparents with smiling toddlers on their laps. Do they think we are idiots and therefore don't notice that half the project -- the money making half -- the half with the tall blocks of single family homes that will line Maybell is absent from their propaganda? If this debate were not about money, how could Yes on D defend wanting to squeeze an oversized block of homes and a senior center onto a too-small lot in a peaceful residential neighborhood, on a street that is through way for hundreds of school kids on bikes and on foot? Senior housing is important, but it doesn't work when shoehorned in with 12 tall skinny houses on a tiny lot, and not at the expense of neighborhood families and children.
Please vote No on D.

Posted by PalyDad, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Nov 4, 2013 at 2:16 pm

PalyDad is a registered user.

Yes please do tell us more about the tall skinny houses. Go on! I am very interested to know all the facts about how tall and skinny houses are a very serious threat to the health and safety of the children on their way to school. If the houses were shorter, I am sure there would be a less-lethal threat to children on bikes. At least that is what everyone here who is against D keeps posting and no one ever questions the logical connection between house height/girth and horrible tragic accidents that maim children. Rivers of blood will flow from the tall, skinny houses. They won't even need to pipe in water for the construction because they can use the tears of mothers and babies crying piteously over the bodies of their sisters and brothers, mowed down by the tall, skinniness of those stovepipe homes.

Posted by Joe in Green Acres, a resident of Green Acres
on Nov 4, 2013 at 2:21 pm

Joe in Green Acres is a registered user.

Dear Jean Valjean,

I loved Les Mis and your character, but I simply do not love your flawed site analysis.

Does it make any difference to you that Section 18.10.040 of the Palo Alto Zoning Ordinance specifies that the minimum lot size in the R-2 zone permitting two units is 7,500sf. The 4 lots in the R-2 zone on Maybell are all under 7,000sf. 5 lots would be under 5,600sf, No second dwelling units on any of those lots no matter what size, let alone 1,350sf!

Developers do not build spec homes with a second dwelling unit as it dramatically cuts down on the number of potential buyers. Also Sections 18.10.010(b) and 18.10.070(a) specify that any second dwelling unit must be under the same ownership as the initial dwelling unit.

There are other complicating Ordinance requirements for what you suggest. Don't dream the dream (I know it wasn't your role anyhow) - read the Ordinance before suggesting something that simply can't happen under existing zoning.

And don't always believe what you read in print (excepting this comment, of course). Best to verify if you want to rely upon another's computations.

Posted by Curmudgeon, a resident of Downtown North
on Nov 4, 2013 at 2:42 pm

Curmudgeon is a registered user.

" If the approved PAHC does not get built, what could be built under the existing

That's an easy one: Nobody has ever gotten a "Planned Community" zoning exemption so they could build less than the normal zoning allowed.

Posted by JustMyOpinion, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 4, 2013 at 2:44 pm

JustMyOpinion is a registered user.

Re Jean's comment: "Staff believes that the resultant "market rate" housing would have a greater impact on both traffic and the generation of school‐age children. "

There is a question regarding the city's calculation for two residences on each lot as well as other facts presented. When asked about staff reports, City Manager Keene emphasized the limitations, "The findings in the staff reports tend to support the particular staff recommendation rather than represent all views"(Jul '13)

Hmmm, seems that not everyone believes the staff analysis to be unbiased. This is another reason to vote
Against Measure D so that an unbiased evaluation can be conducted on the Maybell site.

Posted by Jean Valjean, a resident of Barron Park
on Nov 4, 2013 at 3:15 pm

Jean Valjean is a registered user.

@ Joe in Green Acres
Please cite your basis for the lot size for the four R-2 lots. If you look at the first site plan for the PC (before reducing the number of homes on Maybell) it shows dividing the four R2 lots into: 7 lots @3426 sq. ft., 1 lot @3,194 sq. ft. and 1 lot @3819 sq. ft. for a total of 30,995 sq.ft.. Dividing the total by four gives an average lot size of 7,749 sq.ft. which over the threshold of 7500 to allow maximum building allowances under R2. On a substandard lot,second units are still allowed but restricted in size and height.

Posted by Becky Stillwell, a resident of another community
on Nov 4, 2013 at 3:25 pm

Becky Stillwell is a registered user.

I think I love you, PalyDad !

Posted by Joe in Green Acres, a resident of Green Acres
on Nov 4, 2013 at 3:50 pm

Joe in Green Acres is a registered user.

The site plan provided by First American Title and used, I am told by my colleagues, by PAHC in its site plan, shows that the R-2 portion is 339'wide x 82.5' (on the average) deep = 27,968sf divided by 4 = 6,990sf/lot. The City Attorney has agreed that the R-2 portion of the overall site is approximately 25% of the 2.46 acre site (see her so-called Impartial Analysis) = 0.615 acres = 26,789sf (or 6,700sf/lot). Those two numbers are consistent to support my analysis that the 4 lots are each well below the 7,500sf minimum requirement.

Posted by rick, a resident of Midtown
on Nov 4, 2013 at 4:09 pm

rick is a registered user.

@Joe & Jean, I believe this square footage discrepancy comes from the PC site plan adding several feet of the RM-15 area to the back of the R-2 lots. If D passes, the current zoning can be co-mingled. If D fails, the R-2 land area remains around 28,000 sq ft, not 31,000 sq ft. Correct me if I'm wrong -- I haven't researched this lately.

Posted by Kenneth Scholz, a resident of Green Acres
on Nov 4, 2013 at 4:28 pm

Kenneth Scholz is a registered user.

Why I'm voting "No on D"

It's about the "Private Element", the high impact part that's not Senior housing, that pushes high density development into a residential neighborhood, and which the proponents would rather the voters not examine.

Over half of the property – some currently single family all that fronts the surrounding single family neighborhood - is being rezoned under Measure D to very high density solely for financial benefit - creating tiny lots before flipping to a for-profit developer to build full market rate homes (3 story on Clemo). PAHC gets to sell the lots for more and the for-profit developer profits from more private houses than ever would have been approved had this not been linked to Sr. housing. The City Council has an additional motive, collecting "in-lieu" fees of $1.5M on this full priced part that's not Sr. housing. The promoters of this measure, with large financial backing, are using PC zoning of this retail element as an ATM while sticking the community with substantial burdens – higher traffic on an already dangerous "Safe Route to School", further loading schools, etc. This is their new, favored development model and this is what's wrong with D.

There needn't be conflict between Sr. housing and the community. Below market rate housing can and should be funded as it has by Palo Alto in the past, with housing funds from in-lieu fees and the $40M collected from Stanford. Palo Alto has both the values and the means. It can be built here, built better, and built without the detriments of "D".

Vote "No" on D - protect neighborhood integrity and help steer the City Council (and the developers they coddle) away from this damaging funding model.

Kenneth Scholz
Palo Alto

Posted by Bobniederman, a resident of Palo Alto Orchards
on Nov 4, 2013 at 4:41 pm

Bobniederman is a registered user.

Please vote No on D. This will encourage the City Council to rethink their rezoning strategy and consider more carefully what residents really want for their town. In this election, Sunnyvale is taking the great step in voting for gun control in their city. Palo Alto should take the step of voting for community control over how our land is used. We don't want our city rezoned without our agreement. We need to help the council change their strategy to make sure the community supports the steps they take. We want Democracy to work, at least here at the local level. Please vote No on D!

Posted by Midtown Citizen, a resident of Midtown
on Nov 4, 2013 at 4:46 pm

Midtown Citizen is a registered user.

I watched the debate, and made up my mind to vote NO.

One thing that really caught my attention, though, was the Mayor Scharff argued in the debate like a slick, sleazy politician.

In seeking to counter the Against D argument that no neighborhood is safe if such a project is allowed to set precedent, Mr. Scharff repeatedly stressed that this election was about Maybell, and nothing else. In taking this position, he's admitting that this project is a bad thing for the neighborhood -- Why else would he spend so much energy re-assuring other neighborhoods that they wouldn't get "Maybelled?" He then continued to argue that despite the feelings of the referendum signatories, the Maybell project is actually good for the neighborhood: he knows better. If it was such a wonderful thing, why work so hard to try to reassure other neighborhoods that it will never happen in your neighborhood?

Then the issue of sidewalks that PAHC has promised as a benefit. When told that no sidewalks to El Camino would be possible without using Eminent Domain to seize neighbors' front yards (the yards run right to the street: a carryover from Old Barron Park days), Mr. Scharff laughed indignantly that the words "eminent domain" would even be mentioned, despite the fact that they were introduced to the discussion by a city employee Jamie Rodriguez at an earlier meeting. He filled his whole two minutes with faux outrage and never addressed the issue of how PAHC's promised sidewalk improvements could even be built at all given the complete lack of space.

I voted for Scharff once because he promised a lot of things in his candidate's statement (standing up to ABAG, control government spending) that he hasn't come close to delivering on. I will not make the same mistake again.

Posted by PalyDad, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Nov 4, 2013 at 5:42 pm

PalyDad is a registered user.

Please tell us more about how Greg Scharff, who is Mayor of the city is "sleazy." Especially please elaborate on his "sleaziness" and how when he says that we should vote Maybell up or down he is being "sleazy" because only a true "sleaze" would say something idiotic like "vote on the actual issue on the ballot." Please would you also elaborate on or comment on your opinion of the many other adjectives that have been used by the No on D people to describe the city council, members of the board and staff of PAHC, and others who support senior housing: "corrupt," "crooked" "backroom dealers" "self dealers" "scammers" "dishonest" etc? I think that these are great adjectives! I love it when totally unsupported and libelous adjectives are used in TS because they are used anonymously and that's the best kind of libel in my book.

Posted by JustMyOpinion, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 4, 2013 at 5:48 pm

JustMyOpinion is a registered user.

Mayor Scharff (was against PCs when running for council) now says "PC zones are not springing up in your local neighborhood." (Oct '13) The council has approved three PC projects ( Lytton Gateway, Edgewood Plaza and Maybell ) since Scharff joined the council in January 2010.

Posted by PalyDad, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Nov 4, 2013 at 6:02 pm

PalyDad is a registered user.

So do you think that everyone who moderates their position on any issue between the time of an election and after having served a few years and being more familiar with the exigencies of governing is "sleazy"? Would President Obama qualify as sleazy because he hasn't closed Guantanamo? I just want to make sure that I have the right definition of "sleazy." Or how about Bush I with no new taxes who approved a tax increase -- sleazy? Just want to make sure we all have the same working definitions.

Posted by Joe in Green Acres, a resident of Green Acres
on Nov 5, 2013 at 6:38 am

Joe in Green Acres is a registered user.

I concur fully with Ken Scholz's very well stated opinion. It is a major problem for Maybell and could be, if followed, a problem in the future for acquired parcels in other areas of Palo Alto. In fact, correct me if I'm wrong, the Mayor or some other City Councilmemeber, said that it could be the funding mechanism of the future.

Posted by kludged, a resident of Barron Park
on Nov 5, 2013 at 8:49 am

kludged is a registered user.

What does Palo Alto do well? Schools. What is the result of this? Expensive housing! Why must we be all things to all people? Increasing the density of Barron Park would endanger the school children traveling down maybell. Couldn't we look at this from a county wide view and develop senior housing in less expensive parts of the county and develop low cost family housing that lives within zoning restrictions in Palo Alto?

Posted by Jerry Underdal, a resident of Barron Park
on Nov 5, 2013 at 9:22 am

Jerry Underdal is a registered user.


Please consider that both sides of this debate are equally concerned about traffic safety.

Supporters of Measure D argue that there will be marginally less impact on vehicle traffic with the senior housing project than under any likely alternative. Opponents disagree.

[Portion removed.]

I'll be glad to have this vote over with. But I fear our neighborhood will continue to be used as a pawn in the arguably laudable fight against inappropriate zoning concessions for big developers.

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