After Maybell defeat, city to rethink zoning policies

Palo Alto to delay hearings on other proposed developments, hold a 'community discussion'

Days after Palo Alto voters overwhelmingly shot down a proposed housing complex on Maybell Avenue, city leaders announced that they're hitting the brakes on two colossal rezoning proposals and launching a broad community discussion about future development.

The Tuesday announcement by Mayor Greg Scharff about the forthcoming "community dialogue about our city and where we should be going" came exactly a week after voters defeated Measure D, effectively killing a housing development that the City Council unanimously approved in June. The proposal included 60-unit complex for low-income seniors and 12 market-rate homes.

Throughout the campaign, opponents of Measure D repeatedly framed the debate as a battle to preserve neighborhoods in the face of dense new development proposals that exceed zoning regulations. Opponents talked about the need to send a message to the council that residents don't want to see any more "planned community" developments (which toss aside zoning regulations in exchange for negotiated public benefits) in residential areas.

On Tuesday, Scharff acknowledged that the message was clearly received. In a surprise announcement, Scharff said that the City Council will postpone its scheduled review of two of the largest and most controversial proposals in the development pipeline: Jay Paul Company's "planned community" application for two large office buildings at 395 Page Mill Road and a new police station for the city; and John Arrillaga's concept for four office towers and a theater at 27 University Ave., the current site of the MacArthur Park Restaurant. Both projects were previously scheduled to go in front of the council in December.

Instead, the council will now hold a special session on Dec. 2 to discuss the myriad development issues that have been cropping up at council meetings in recent months and that were at the heart of Measure D's opposition campaign: the controversial "planned community" zoning process; the city's parking shortages and the traffic impacts of new developments in residential neighborhoods. The council also plans to discuss on Dec. 9 the city's future steps with the Maybell site, which was purchased by the nonprofit Palo Alto Housing Corporation with the help of a $5.8 million loan from the city.

In his announcement, Scharff stressed that the issues involving local development had been on the council's agenda long before the Maybell vote. Even so, the result of the Nov. 5 election, where more than 56 percent of the voters opposed Measure D, underscored the need to get the conversation rolling.

"This is not just in response to the Maybell project, though it obviously played a role," Scharff said, citing prior colleagues memos from council members and planning commissioners calling for reforms to PC zoning and upgraded design guidelines for new buildings.

"It is anticipated we will discuss topics form PC zoning, to the Comprehensive Plan to strong traffic and parking policies," Scharff said.

Scharff's announcement came near the beginning of the City Council's first meeting since the election, which occurred because of a successful referendum effort by opponents of the Maybell project. At the beginning of the meeting, Councilwoman Karen Holman alluded to the election results and made a plea for the council and residents to move forward together. The defeat of Measure D, she said, offers the council an opportunity to rethink its process for approving new developments.

"I think this will be a good opportunity to take a fresh look at how we review projects, what our criteria is and hopefully we can work together with the community and come forward with a more positive approach and more positive outcomes," Holman said.

The council also heard from several leaders of the "No on D" campaign, which started out in Barron Park but which ultimately ballooned to other neighborhoods. Joe Hirsch, a member of the steering committee for the newly formed citizens group, Palo Altans to Preserve Neighborhood Zoning, called the proposal to rethink the PC-zone process a "step in the right direction" and said his group will continue to "oppose high-density developments in residential neighborhoods," as well as those in commercial areas that "degrade the quality of life in Palo Alto."

"Residents need to be fully engaged before any new high-density projects are approved," Hirsch said. "We want a voice in our future."

Resident Ruth Lowy read a statement from the group's spokesperson, Cheryl Lilienstein, who urged the council to put a halt on rezoning proposals that allow density exemptions.

"Voters have said that we don't want more high-density rezoning and that we want to retain quality of life that has brought us here in the first place," Lilienstein said in the statement.

Before the Nov. 5 election, the council was scheduled to review the Arrillaga and Jay Paul proposals in early December. The city was scheduled to unveil on Dec. 2 its outreach plan for creation of a new "arts and innovation district" at 27 University Ave., a plan that would include several community meetings and an official grassroots "vision" for the prominent site near the border of Stanford University and downtown Palo Alto. The initial concept, which caused a major community backlash, included four office towers, each more than 100 feet in height.

The Jay Paul proposal, meanwhile, continues to slog through the city's development process despite an effort by the council's Infrastructure Committee to accelerate the review. The plan, which includes 311,000 square feet of office space, is scheduled to be reviewed by the council next year.


Posted by Thanks Weekly!, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Nov 12, 2013 at 11:17 pm

So the affordable housing project for the elderly was not sacrificed in the service of addressing concerns about Page Mill and 27 University, right? Right.

Posted by musical, a resident of Palo Verde
on Nov 12, 2013 at 11:52 pm

Since when does 62 equal "elderly"? I was called a "senior" at age 17 and again at 21, so I don't mind that label so much.

Posted by anon, a resident of Evergreen Park
on Nov 13, 2013 at 8:00 am

I wonder if the Jay Paul company is going ahead with the two planned community meetings ?

they were scheduled Wednesday, November 23, and Wednesday December 2 @ 7:00 pm
@ the conference room 395 Page Mill Rd.

The second meeting now in conflict with the City Council special meeting!?

Posted by Confused, a resident of Barron Park
on Nov 13, 2013 at 8:43 am

Wait. I thought the next step was to figure out how to get affordable housing at Maybell? Isn't that what the Weekly editors have been promising? When does that start? Gennady probably knows. Can you please let us know the time and place of that conversation?

Posted by Know Better, a resident of Green Acres
on Nov 13, 2013 at 9:15 am

Candace Gonzales has already indicated publicly that they will sell. Neighbors have always indicated a willingness to have the affordable housing there, but have never thought it was a good place for seniors. Many suggested putting a light at Clemo so the traffic would outlet onto Arastradero instead of Maybell, but planning dept wouldnt do that because of the impacts to Arastradero. Hmm.

I'm confused as to why you are still engaged in the campaign? There was at least an understandable political end in the way your side demonized your neighbors, but it's only going to work against affordable housing if you alienate people by keeping it up.

Posted by Read the story, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Nov 13, 2013 at 9:16 am

Read the story. The Council is going to discuss how to proceed with Maybell on Dec. 9. That's when you can urge them to do nothing, if your desire is to torpedo any hope of an affordable housing project on the site. Then you could say, "I told you so." Nice strategy.

Posted by curmudgeon, a resident of Downtown North
on Nov 13, 2013 at 9:20 am

EVERY PC zone approved by city hall should automatically be referended.

Posted by Not a Fool, a resident of Community Center
on Nov 13, 2013 at 9:24 am

They mayor apparently thinks we're fools. Notice how 18 months conveniently takes us through the next council election, but allows the council to get back to their old developer-friendly ways soon thereafter. Last election, you can fool people, but now you have a track record that you cannot hide from.

Where is the man who ran on a platform of fiscal discipline and standing up to PC zoning abuse? All I see left is a developer crony who just wasted the better part of $1M tax dollars to hold a special election for a developer friend engaged in exactly PC zoning abuse, when simply listening to the public (and their 4000 signatures) would have achieved the same result at no cost. Mr. Scharff does not listen to the people, but prefers to take a "Greg knows best what's best for you" approach. He's muting it a bit because its an election year but I don't think very many are fooled this time.

Price and Sheppard are just as bad, and unfortunately the worst of the lot (Kniss and Berman) are safe until 2016. Looking forward to replacing the devloper incumbents with some residentialists.

Posted by BV resident, a resident of Barron Park
on Nov 13, 2013 at 9:46 am

Does this mean the city will not rezone Burna Vista for the developer that the current owner is trying to sell to?

The residents can (and did) make a competitive offer for the land but only if it is zoned as it currently is for mobile homes. Against an up zoned, we have no chance. I completely respect the owners right to sell. It's his land. But when it gets rezoned it moves the target so much that our market rate offer is less than half of what is needed, and the owner and developer get all the extra money. I just want a fair playing field.

Can we referendum the zoning like Maybell? Would the voters side with it?

Posted by Confused, a resident of Barron Park
on Nov 13, 2013 at 9:52 am

Woah, color me gobsmacked! I'm not trying to demonize anybody, last of all the good neighbors who ran the anti D campaign. I'm just wondering when we're going to have the next part that the Weekly and many many posts here promised. Because everybody still supports affordable housing, right?

Posted by Thanks Weekly!, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Nov 13, 2013 at 10:09 am

[Portion removed.]

The Weekly said that we could still have affordable housing on that spot, but only if voters rejected Measure D. "There is a still a chance for a win-win with this project, but only through a fresh start after the defeat of Measure D."

So now we have our fresh start. Voters were doubtless persuaded by the Weekly that a vote against Measure D was somehow a vote for affordable housing.

Meanwhile, the [portion removed] have gone on to repudiate the idea of affordable housing altogether, now hatching and promoting a plan to have the city provide them with a park or an orchard on that land at public expense. The neighbors are NOT asking for affordable housing on that spot. In fact, they now (see above) say that they never thought it was a good location for senior housing. Their true colors are flying, and they want an orchard.

Weekly, when are you going to apologize for throwing in with the [portion removed] in order to stop transactional zoning for big developers such as Jay Paul and Arrialllaga?

You could have written an editorial that said "there are real concerns about zoning giveaways in PA. These are valid and should be addressed. The residentialists have made their point and the City Council should listen. But PAHC is not a big developer and this is not the right place for the objection. Maybell should go forward and these other issues should be promptly addressed."

You don't use the basic human rights of poor seniors to send a message to rich developers and politicians. How cynical can you be?

Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 13, 2013 at 10:26 am

This smacks of self-centeredness on behalf of the cc. They are already in pre-election mode and worried about their seats.

Fortunately, the PA electorate have long memories.

Posted by Craig Laughton, a resident of College Terrace
on Nov 13, 2013 at 10:31 am

There is no established need for senior welfare housing in Palo Alto. Why are people still harping on this subject?

'D' failed in a secret ballot...that should tell us all something.

Posted by Allen Edwards, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Nov 13, 2013 at 10:44 am

Zoning should be done without the possibility of conflict of interest. Zone a city and tell the developers to stick to the zoning. Don't do zoning on a parcel by parcel basis. The public benefits are illusory. I am not saying would take a bribe to approve a public benefit zone, but they may very well be influenced by lobbying and the allure of the illusive public benefit. Is an empty grocery store in the old Alma Plaza a benefit? Will Grocery Outlet thrive on Alma? Have you ever been to a Grocery Outlet?

Posted by Confused, a resident of Barron Park
on Nov 13, 2013 at 10:55 am

[Post removed.]

Posted by Cur Mudgeon, a resident of Greenmeadow
on Nov 13, 2013 at 11:00 am

The majority of seniors who now live in Palo Alto, in homes, will never qualify for downsizing to subsidized "senior housing" due to the equity in their homes. Don't lie and say the subsidized housing is for low income "Palo Alto" seniors. Maybe there are a few, but I would suspect that high rents drove those folks out a long time ago. So just who are these low-income seniors that PAHC wants to serve? I guess they will become Palo Alto seniors once they move here from wherever?

(Refer to a recent Weekly article along the lines of "Why You Aren't Selling Your House" for some insight.)

Posted by barron park res, a resident of Barron Park
on Nov 13, 2013 at 11:01 am

We are being surrounded by big money developer projects here in the Ventura/Barron Park/Monroe Park area. We feel like the City Council would like to turn our end of town into a cityscape while the other neighborhoods such as Professorville and Crescent Park keep their valuable landscape profile. There are three "high rise" developments (>2 story) being built right now at El Camino and El Camino Way and at Monroe and El Camino. How did that happen? We need to make sure that strip along El Camino between Page Mill/Oregon and Charleston does not turn into a big wall of ugliness like the development at Ricky's.

Posted by Carol Gilbert, a resident of University South
on Nov 13, 2013 at 11:02 am

re: Not A Fool, that was my exact thought when I read the term of the referendum, 18 months. How come not 6? Interesting how that works out to after the council election. I don't think the current sentiment will be erased that easily.

Posted by useyourmoney, a resident of Palo Verde
on Nov 13, 2013 at 11:14 am

In response to curmudgeon's post: EVERY PC zone approved by city hall should automatically be referended.

You can get *your* checkbook out and pay for each of those elections if you wish! But it is far too expensive to do that.

Posted by Thanks Weekly!, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Nov 13, 2013 at 11:33 am

[Portion removed.]

Weekly, please report on efforts by the neighbors who stopped Measure D (to preserve their "residences") to now have affordable housing on that site. Please call up these fine folks and ask them about all the meetings they have had with Eden or other affordable housing developers to ensure that affordable housing is built there within the zoning. I'm sure these "residentialists" have met with the City to discuss that blank check you mentioned in your last editorial, and I am sure they are all in to make sure that we knock down that orchard and build the 46 units of affordable housing that you said we would now get, right? And if not, if they have moved on to pressing not for affordable housing but for their orchard (i.e., vacant lot) you would report that about-face, right? Right.

Posted by resident, a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Nov 13, 2013 at 11:33 am

The problem with Maybell is that the location and acreage does not support the use we voted on. There are no infrastructure elements - market, drugstore, cleaners, church, etc within walking distance for seniors, assuming that having transportation is very limited. It is a very short street so the combination of 12 market rate homes with the senior housing translates to chaos. That is not an attractive situation for seniors to isolate them. And the 12 market rate homes are now in a situation which also translates as chaos. Not a good situation.
The increase of workers in this area is more specific to Stanford U which has increased their medical and educational facilities. They have extensive open land and should be building low cost housing for the people working at the medical centers. As they grow they need to invest in housing for their employees instead of PA absorbing the brunt. PA is built out - Stanford is not built out. They need to step up to the plate here.

Posted by 35 year resident, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Nov 13, 2013 at 11:49 am

"Not a Fool" has it exactly right. he shift in thinking from city hall is all about election cycles. Let's tell them what they want to hear and we get reelected, we'll shove our agenda down their throats. Vote out the incumbents up for reelection.

Posted by Wayne Martin, a resident of Fairmeadow
on Nov 13, 2013 at 1:18 pm

> You can get *your* checkbook out and pay for each of those elections
> if you wish! But it is far too expensive to do that.

Not if--

1) Local elections like this are done on-line.

2) The Developers pay for the special election.

Posted by Reevaluate, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Nov 13, 2013 at 1:22 pm

The Weekly is a publication and cannot "promise" anything. The council is right to reevaluate the process. The No on D vote has become more than just about one project. I agree with the election cycle arguments, but at least someone is getting the message.

Posted by resident, a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Nov 13, 2013 at 1:26 pm

now I'm confused. Is PAHC lying about the existence of low income seniors, as stated above, or do we admit their existence but can't find the perfect spot for them, so can't help them?

Posted by anon, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 13, 2013 at 1:27 pm

They can put the senior housing in one of the baseball/soccer fields at Cubberley. Huge acreage. As an indigent homeless guy, over the past 15 years I unsuccessfully tried to join a team in the softball league. This would be good punishment for the city's rec department and the born-again "intended use" crowd.

Posted by Thanks Weekly!, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Nov 13, 2013 at 1:33 pm

[Post removed.]

Posted by Kate, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Nov 13, 2013 at 1:36 pm

Let's recall this city council. A leopard doesn't change its spots. This council will continue its destruction of Palo Alto as soon as the next council election is over. They will continue to try and approve big developments behind the backs of its citizenry. The council cannot be trusted and needs to be held accountable. I urge Palo Altans to write the council and express your disapproval at the way they are running the town. This council only cares about getting re-elected. They will placate us until they get re-elected. They will then continue with their love affair with developers. More people need to speak at the city council meetings, too, to express their outrage at how the council cares more about developers than it does their constituents.

Posted by Craig Laughton, a resident of College Terrace
on Nov 13, 2013 at 1:43 pm

>Is PAHC lying about the existence of low income seniors

You betcha. It actively recruits, throughout the county, to keep its list full. There is very little, if any, need for welfare housing for PA seniors.

Next time you hear about the need for welfare housing in PA, demand a secret ballot vote.

Posted by Anti-NIMBY, a resident of another community
on Nov 13, 2013 at 1:57 pm

Why should a developer that properly took a project through the (very long) proper process have to pay for a special election?

If anyone should pay the cost of a special election it is the group that puts it on the ballot!

18% of the potential voters saying "NO" to a measure is not "overwhelmingly shot down" based on my math. That still leaves 82% that did not vote against.

Posted by curmudgeon, a resident of Downtown North
on Nov 13, 2013 at 2:14 pm

"You can get *your* checkbook out and pay for each of those elections if you wish!"

Tell that to the developers. If they can't afford to buy an election they gotta stick to the existing zoning.

Posted by Wayne Martin, a resident of Fairmeadow
on Nov 13, 2013 at 2:20 pm

> Why should a developer that properly took a project through the
> (very long) proper process have to pay for a special election?

The suggestion was made in response to another suggestion that every PC project be referended. Given that projects in Palo Alto often run into the hundreds of millions of dollars, the additional cost of a specialC election would not be much of an increase in the cost of the project. For smaller projects, the added cost might well be enough to convince the Developer to build elsewhere, or to stay within the existing zoning.

If the elections were held on-line, then the cost would be limited to those people who felt that they had to vote by paper. If these sorts of referenda were conducted under the asupices of the City Clerk, then the cost would be virtually nothing.

Looking forward, we need to look for alternatives to the status quo. For instance, your suggestion that all PC projects are very long in the permitting/authorization phase would be better appreciated if the City actually kept on-line files for all of these projects, which provide hard data about how long each phase took. Right now, all we have is various claims, posted on blogs such as this one.

Posted by Know Better, a resident of Green Acres
on Nov 13, 2013 at 2:29 pm

I have no axe to grind except to prevent overdevelopment at Maybell, since I am in favor of affordable housing but prioritize things like safety and smart planning first. I was referring to the article that aired right after the election "Voters shoot down Maybell development" in the Weekly:

"Candice Gonzalez, executive director of the Housing Corporation, said Tuesday night .. . The defeat, she said, likely means that the organization will end up selling the site for which it paid more than $15 million last year.

"I'll meet with the board of directors to discuss it, but we'll likely sell the land," Gonzalez told the Weekly.

She said it will be sad to lose the site…"

She has already indicated a desire to sell publicly. Her supporters have been all over the lists making [portion removed] comments as if they hope something worse will go there. What they miss entirely is that this never was about rejecting affordable housing but overdevelopment, and market-rate abuses will be met with now MORE resistance because now we are connected. If City Council allows anything like that to happen, or forces neighbors to engage in a fight like that by taking retaliatory steps, they will have learned nothing by seriously underestimating us and continuing to knock our motives as they did for political purposes. Because of what happened with Measure D, there are now people (not me, but I know) seriously against a few of our council members politically.

If City Councilmembers value their political futures, they will themselves stop and take stock, and realize they gain nothing by political suicide by continuing to believe all the cr@p they leveled at neighbors in their attempt to railroad that project through.

As for you, the Maybell site was never a good site for seniors. If Gonzales is indicating their done there, can you stop with the campaign now? You are only alienating people who otherwise supported PAHC in the past, myself among them.

@BV resident,
I think you are spot on about the land not being as valuable if City Council wasn't giving away up zoning. While I do think the neighbors could be rallied around preventing that up zoning, unfortunately the neighborhood people trying to save BV are also all yes true-believers, and they have so demonized their fellow neighbors, I don't know if they are big enough to get over it (doubtful) and that kind of acrimony will make rallying people pretty hard. Particularly if the yes people are determined to push for something high-density there as a kind of sick retaliation.

I do think most people in the neighborhood support retaining BV and would fight an up zoning there. It would be a shame if such fight were too late to save the residents.

Posted by Know Better, a resident of Green Acres
on Nov 13, 2013 at 2:33 pm

The City Council did not have to put the matter to vote. They could have chosen to set aside the ordinance, as is their choice in the City code, and which they did for the 2nd referendum. They could have chosen to put the election on the regular ballot next year at a savings of $600,000, But they didn't, because they thought they would win, and they simply continued in applying for federal and state money as if neighbors had never qualified the referendum. Now PAHC is going to have to lose a deposit -- oh, but wait, the City upped the amount of money they gave them this year, which means taxpayers are paying for their "hearing aids".

Posted by Know Better, a resident of Green Acres
on Nov 13, 2013 at 2:37 pm

Why not ask the City Council to give up its unnecessary $2.1 million beautification of Council chambers, and use the money to pay the buy in for almost 10 empty senior BMR units at Moldaw? It's the holiday season, set up a donation fund to defray the yearly fee, and you could immediately house 20 seniors by New Year's.

Posted by Confused, a resident of Barron Park
on Nov 13, 2013 at 3:07 pm

Thank you for clarifying your strong support for affordable housing. You can imagine how I might have been confused. I am afraid I often too literal minded. Another example: I thought Measure D was about senior housing! Come to find out it was about respect or safety or Arillaga (still a little confused). Who knew?

Posted by Thanks Weekly!, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Nov 13, 2013 at 3:10 pm

@know better

Please outline all the steps you have taken since the election to ensure that affordable housing is built at Maybell within existing zoning.

Posted by resident, a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Nov 13, 2013 at 3:27 pm

Some questions came up about PAHC providing low income housing in perpetuity for future generations of the family vs only for the people that originally qualified for it. That is out of the box and needs to be negotiated in any future actions.

Also, I have had parents in senior housing in PA and the legalities involved in that situation are a surprise as they unfold. A lot of us have been through that legal crunch. Senior housing has a lot of long term medical implications attached to it - not sure PAHC factored in the cost.

Posted by Support for BV, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 13, 2013 at 3:36 pm

Pretty amazing that the defeat of Measure D may indeed stop the rezoning of the BV Mobile Home Park. This may give a chance to save the homes of over 400 low income families. These families are current Palo Alto residents who deserve to be heard. By stopping the Planned Community rezoning on Maybell the council is delaying decisions on future rezoning. Maybe now the BV residents have a chance to stay with the assistance of supporter of low income families. Thank you to the voters who helped to wake up the city to the developers and the profits that they are seeking all over PA. Support of current low income families at BV should be at the top of the city's priorities

Posted by Confused, a resident of Barron Park
on Nov 13, 2013 at 3:47 pm

So now it's about BV? Kind of like a bank shot? Thanks Weekly, indeed! You folks really had this figured out!

Posted by Richard, a resident of Barron Park
on Nov 13, 2013 at 5:10 pm

The idea of requiring a referendum vote on any PC development is to put a very strong deterrent against PC zoning. It should be a requirement of any PC development. It should not require a citizen referendum petition drive. The city should act immediately to pass an ordinance requiring at least majority voter approval of any PC zoning change. I believe that, if the city does not enact such an ordinance, an ordinance drafted by a citizens group will be placed on the ballot by referendum and will pass.

Based on the PC zoning abuses suffered by Palo Altans in the past, such a deterrent is desperately needed. Having the developer pay for the incremental cost of adding the PC zoning exemption on the ballot serves the purpose of increasing the deterrent. This is a good thing. Our past experience has shown that the city does a poor job in balancing private zoning exemptions and public benefits from past projects. A developer wishing to avoid substantial referendum costs should either work within the existing zoning or work with the city to have the PC on a regular election ballot where the incremental cost will be less.

Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 13, 2013 at 6:42 pm

@Know Better

The $600,000 for the special election was no problem. We've got loads of money, and besides it wasn't our money anyway.

Sincerely, C. Council

Posted by resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 13, 2013 at 7:09 pm

We know that slowing down the PC's on the development agenda is a pragmatic
political response by the Council and not a substantive response based on a sudden recognition and understanding of the downward spiral and ongoing destruction of the City under current policies. We are too far along to believe otherwise.

We don't need more "dialogue" at this point. We need action. First to
demonstrate good faith, and that it is not just political motives, the Council needs to stop the extraordinary, really unbelievable proliferation of signs along our street corridors, residential and commercial. This kind of sign clutter does not make it safer and just contributes to the ugliness washing over the City. What is going on?

Also,a build-out of the City under existing zoning with the current FAR's is too much for the infrastructure and the environment. The City is in crisis without even feeling the effects of projects already in the pipeline. We need to evaluate the capacity to absorb more development with consideration of downzoning.

The City Council needs to act to demonstrate that it is not just playing
games with the electorate.

Posted by Know Better, a resident of Green Acres
on Nov 13, 2013 at 7:10 pm

@Support for BV,
If PAHC is not going to build there, it sure seems like the money the City was loaning PAHC could be repurposed, since part of it drained the affordable housing fund and the other came from the Stanford funds. Given that the loans were so long-term and such low interest, maybe they could work out a similar arrangement where the City would get the right to purchase the property when and if the mobile home park nonprofit ever went to sell it, at less than market rate. So similar to existing BMR, residents could build some equity, the City would get interest, and eventually get the property back at a discount.

I also think the City should use Stanford funds to temporarily buy the Maybell property, maybe give it a year or two in order to allow a working group to figure out the best use for it. It really IS an opportunity -- save the orchard? provide a space for Betty Wright swim center to rebuild (right across the street from the county rehab center for disabled students and the OH at Juana Briones)? Corporate housing with a small park? (Having 4 >2000 sq ft houses together like that, which can so easily be renovated, in this neighborhood, walking distance to elementary, middle, and high school, is a great opportunity for executive housing for a corporation with such a need...) The City has first right of refusal should PAHC sell, which it sounds like they intend to.

Posted by Reality check, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Nov 13, 2013 at 7:17 pm

Perhaps after the 46 units of stack-and-pack housing are built on the Maybell site, we can have a dramatic reading on the sidewalk in front of them of all of the various alternative plans floated by armchair project managers online:
- a "heritage orchard"
- a swimming pool
- 4 houses with a nice little park
- the Weekly's "blank check" funded affordable housing
- the Weekly's modified PAHC project that was supposed to happen after D was voted down
- a tot park
I also saw mention of an Amish settlement, but I think that was in jest. But it doesn't seem completely out of place...

Posted by resident, a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Nov 13, 2013 at 7:21 pm

While we are talking about re-zoning - how about re-marking Charleston back into two lanes each way. I had the misfortune of trying to turn onto it at Louis at 5:45 PM. Traffic built up so went the other way towards Alma. Unbelievable line of cars, people trying to go down bike path on right - while bikers were also on the road. People were making it into a two lane. Other people got frustrated and were turning around in the middle of the street to go through neighborhoods. It is bad enough when it is light outside - but now it is dark and people are aggravated, frustrated, and putting other people in danger - bikers. I think this "experiment" is not working and needs to end. People trying to cross the street were also at risk. Since we are trying to put a higher concentration of people on Charleston / Arastadero then I think we need to put it back the way it was - it worked better.

Posted by Know Better, a resident of Green Acres
on Nov 13, 2013 at 7:26 pm

@resident of Charleston Meadows,
The housing proposed at Maybell was only apartments, not a senior center, not even on-site meals. Residents would need to move for medical care.

"We don't need more "dialogue" at this point. We need action."
One of the things the Maybell controversy highlighted is how the City has the power to write ballots for referenda and initiatives. In a close election, this gives them the ability to defeat a citizen referendum by biasing the ballot question and analysis. Simply demanding the City adopt the same kind of impartial ballot committee that San Francisco has would help a lot. (They have an impartial committee system.) Luckily, this election was not close, but it was closer than it would otherwise have been. Surely, one of the reasons the Council was willing to go to an expensive election rather than overturning the ordinance was that they could write the ballot and didn't think they could lose. That's too much of a conflict in a democracy.

Fixing that alone would make Council less likely to ignore a citizen referendum in the future, because they would know they couldn't sway the election in the ballot.

Posted by resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 13, 2013 at 7:44 pm

@resident- Charleston Meadows
Yes. Most of the restriping, etc is making things worse on the streets of our City. The over-development creates more traffic and the City's response
is to just makes things worse,and less safe. The City is in a total downward spiral.

Posted by Native Palo Altan, a resident of Greenmeadow
on Nov 13, 2013 at 7:53 pm

Let's just face facts: No on D won, Yes on D lost. Some are celebrating, some continue to lick their wounds. We all need to move on.

@Confused and @Thanks Weekly: Sarcasm rarely translates well in written form.

Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 13, 2013 at 7:58 pm

Yes, our traffic is a mess. Partly due to the increasing in jobs and housing but also due to the incompetence of the traffic management to attempt to move traffic efficiently around town in commute times. Today I was on Alma going sb around 4 pm. Crossing Charleston I needed to wait for the 3rd green light to cross.

Traffic slowing is a big problem because it stagnates traffic. Efficient traffic management means getting traffic where it wants to go without hindrance. Alma, Charleston/Arastradero, T&C and Alma/SandHill does the opposite.

Posted by palo alto resident, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Nov 13, 2013 at 8:21 pm

Regarding all the comment aboeut Buena Vista, the land does NOT need to be rezoned to be worth 30 million, it just has to,have the trailer park gone. This is per the appraisal posted on the City website. That is why the the owner turned down the 14 million dollar offer.

Posted by Wayne Martin, a resident of Fairmeadow
on Nov 13, 2013 at 8:23 pm

> Yes, our traffic is a mess.

Well, we have the City Council, in large part, to thank for that--

Web Link

Chief Transportation Officer Jaime Rodriguez said the new plan also positions the city well to receive grants that could make some of the projects in the document possible. The city is looking to invest between $7.5 million and $10 million in bicycle projects over the next five to 10 years. These "priority projects" include expanded traveling lanes, more bike parking, new bike-friendly trails and a new bicycle boulevard at Park Boulevard to complement the existing one at Bryant Street.

For many years now, the Transportation "Engineers" have been trying to reduce the lane count/flow of Palo Alto's streets. It started back in the mid-90s, when various people wanted to reduce Middlefield Road to two lanes. (One Transportation Offical" actually tried an experiement between Colorado and Oregon Expressway. This experiment lasted for just a very short time before it became clear that there is a big difference between fact, and fancy.

Then there was the attempt to reduce the number of lanes on Embarcadero to two. That resulted in open warfare, and the Transportation people were sent packing. Around the same time, there was some discussion about downsizing Charleston/Arastradero--which seems to have been approved by the City Counci with virtually no evidence of the ultimate success of the project. Now they have agreed to downsize California Avenue--in the face of the addition of three very large projects, and a new office building where the dance hall usd to be.

The main thrust of the Traffic Engineering people seems to be: "let them ride bikes". And the Council has agreed.

Rather then listen to the thousands of motorists that use Palo Alto's roads, the Council chose to listen to voices like this resident's:

David Coale, a member of the Silicon Valley Bicycle Coalition and the environmentalist group Acterra, was among those who praised the document for promoting projects that would benefit not only bicyclists but drivers and pedestrians as well. He also said the plan would be "good for the rest of the 7 billion people on the planet, in regards to reducing global warming."

There is an election coming up. Perhaps it's time to confront Mayor Gregg Scharff, who said at the time this plan was approved by the Council:

"I think this is a fantastic plan and implementing it will definitely increase the quality of life in Palo Alto," Scharff said.

Maybe it's time to ask him directly--Mr. Scharff, how has our quality of life actually increased because of this plan?

Posted by Joe, a resident of Barron Park
on Nov 13, 2013 at 8:39 pm

Remember when the PTC wanted to make Embarcadero Road one lane in each direction and add traffic circles (See: Web Link)

From the article: "I'm really excited about using modern roundabouts to implement the city's traffic plan," said Yoriko Kishimoto, a resident on Embarcadero near Bryant Street and a member of the citizen's advisory committee on the Embarcadero plan.

Oh, yes, the string of wonderful ideas never ends!

Posted by resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 13, 2013 at 9:05 pm

Our City puts more signs, more paint, more barriers on the streets, then encourages more bikes on narrow streets with parked cars, which along with the fast "commuter" traffic from the over-development has created both ugly and unsafe streets for everybody - bikers, motorists, pedestrians.

The City's infrastructure and surrounding neighborhoods cannot support or tolerate massive office development. This City is doing everything wrong.
It is a disaster.

Posted by Not Sarcastic, a resident of South of Midtown
on Nov 13, 2013 at 9:33 pm

[Post removed.]

Posted by Thanks Weekly!, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Nov 13, 2013 at 10:23 pm

[Post removed.]

Posted by OPar, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Nov 14, 2013 at 1:31 am

Thanks Weekly,

Constant snipes at people who disagree with your views? Demands that can't possibly be met in the week since the election?

What on earth do you think you're accomplishing here? You're not persuasive or particularly entertaining. I don't think you make people want to agree with you.

Obviously, you think you're in the right. Maybe it's worth considering why your team lost--and move past simply demonizing the opposition.

Posted by boscoli, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Nov 14, 2013 at 6:55 am

There is no low income senior problem in Palo Alto. Seniors living in their cars, if there are any, wouldn't be able to afford living in the Maybell development anyway. Homelessness is a very serious and tragic issue, but it has nothing to do with this matter. There is no certainty that even one Palo Alto senior would have ended up living in the Maybell development. What we have is an issue of seniors who own multi million houses in Palo Alto but refuse to sell them and live out the rest of their lives in comfort, because they want to leave their house to their children.

Posted by Thanks Weekly!, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Nov 14, 2013 at 7:30 am

You mean you're not going to agree with me about the referendum that is already over? The Weekly which should have known better wrote a series of misleading editorials stating that the result of a loss on D would be affordable housing minus the few houses. Now that the election is over that is nowhere to be seen. [Portion removed.] All of the chatter about how the opponents were for a smaller affordable housing development was false, and that was just the sugar coating on the pill. [Portion removed.]

Posted by Not Sarcastic, a resident of South of Midtown
on Nov 14, 2013 at 7:55 am

[Post removed.]

Posted by Anneke, a resident of Professorville
on Nov 14, 2013 at 8:43 am

The Maybell voting decision points out that good marketing, truly understanding your customers' needs, is critical in making the right, non-emotional decisions not only in business but in city government as well.

The fact that the City Council unanimously voted to approve Measure D clearly shows that effective prior "customer" research was not done, as that research would have most likely shown that 60% of the City Council might not have been in favor of Measure D.

The City Council has an immense responsibility to every side in the community, and their job is not an easy one. I believe all of us need to appreciate the enormous time and effort City Council members spend on many issues that affect us all.

It is easy to criticize from the sidelines, but we need to help our City Councel members in doing their job well. Good, non-emotional communications based on facts will support these and future members do their job to the best of their ability for all of us.

Posted by Anna, a resident of Palo Alto Orchards
on Nov 14, 2013 at 8:53 am

[Portion removed due to deletion of referenced comment.]

And I agree with you. I liked hearing the City Council is open to reviewing plans based on the clear voice of the community. It gives me hope in the democratic process.

Posted by Thanks Weekly!, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Nov 14, 2013 at 8:58 am

[Post removed.]

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