News

Palo Alto may change incentives for affordable housing

City Council to consider revisions to 'density bonus' law

Seeking to comply with state law and encourage more housing for low-income residents, Palo Alto officials will on Monday consider revising a local law that grants incentives to developers who build affordable housing.

The City Council will consider on Monday a revision to the city's Density Bonus Ordinance, which allows developers who offer affordable housing to exceed normal density regulations. If adopted, the revised law would limit the types of "concessions" builders can request from the city to a menu of exceptions deemed by the city to have "minimal adverse impacts." A developer who asks for a concession that is not on the menu would have to provide financial information demonstrating why this concession is necessary for affordable housing, according to a new report from the Department of Planning and Community Environment.

Menu items include an increase in height limit and a 25 percent reduction in side-yard requirements (provided, in both cases, that the project is not next to a low-density residential zone); and additional density.

The report notes that because of the state law, the city has "very little discretion to deny concession requests." One goal with the new law is to limit the impacts of these concessions by steering developers toward pre-vetted concessions. Another goal is to promote affordable housing and to make it easier for the city to meet a state mandate that it provide zoning for more housing units.

"Without a local ordinance, builders and developers have broad flexibility to request concessions and the City has limited flexibility to deny them," the staff report states.

The granting of incentives to affordable-housing developers is far from new. A state law first adopted in 1979, developers may already receive a 25 percent density bonus if they meet certain affordable-housing requirements (the bonus depends on the income level being served and the percentage of units devoted to affordable housing).

The State Density Bonus Law was further beefed up in 2004, when lawmakers instituted a sliding scale of density bonuses from 20 to 35 percent, depending on the number of units. To sweeten the deal for developers, it also enabled them to receive three "development concessions," a heretofore vague concept that Palo Alto's new ordinance aims to clear up.

Thus far, the city has been granting developers concessions largely on an ad hoc basis. When Eden Housing applied to build the housing development at 801 Alma St., the concessions it received included permission to and encroach into required setbacks, density bonus and the waiving of a requirement to provide private open space. A developer at 195 Page Mill Road requested as a concession an addition to the density bonus he would have already received.

The revised law will not apply to "planned community" projects, which grant developers zoning concessions in exchange for negotiated public benefits, which have ranged from tiny public plazas and funky statues to affordable housing units and cash contributions toward parking programs. The designation, which was used by developers of the new Lytton Gateway building and which the Palo Alto Housing Corporation applied for in its ultimately doomed quest to build affordable housing on Maybell Avenue, has been widely criticized in the community in recent years, prompting the council to talk about reform.

Comments

Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 8, 2014 at 10:01 am

No, No, No, No.

From my reading of this, we could have huge, tall, high rise apartments right up to the sidewalk.


What can we do to stop this, please??????????


Posted by jobs, a resident of Downtown North
on Jan 8, 2014 at 10:06 am

The easiest way to reduce the demand for housing in our city is to reduce the number of jobs. Kicking Facebook out of town was a start. Maybe kick HP out of town, too? And stop Google from buying up land in southern Palo Alto.


Posted by Employee, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 8, 2014 at 10:20 am

How about affordable housing for the middle class? With Palo Alto's below market rent/purchase programs a single person can only qualify if making below $79K. Who could possibly afford a mortgage and taxes on a $500k+ house making $79k or less. The city needs to increase the limits higher, so someone in the middle class can actually afford the American dream in silicon valley.


Posted by Robert, a resident of another community
on Jan 8, 2014 at 10:26 am

What the people in these forums want for Palo Alto: Illegal to be homeless, and illegal to build homes.


Posted by Melinda , a resident of Palo Alto Hills
on Jan 8, 2014 at 10:41 am

BMR should exterminated, We don't need affordable housing here. This is Palo Alto not San Jose or Redwood city.
We should not force people to live in an expensive area. To me this like forcing people making minimum wage to shop at whole foods market. In life we have poor people and rich people and they do not have to live side by side.
I don't see Beverly Hills or Atherton being forced to have affordable housing.


Posted by Neighbor, a resident of Downtown North
on Jan 8, 2014 at 10:43 am

Many of the affordable housing being built are studio or one bedroom apartments. Would love to know more. Why are 2 and 3 bedroom units not being built?. Also, who determines who is eligible? Is there a general wait list or do developers decide?


Posted by Agrre with Employee, a resident of Downtown North
on Jan 8, 2014 at 10:50 am

I agree with Employee. In several recent instances, owners of BMRs have not been able to keep up with either the maintenance or mortgages of their homes and treated them essentially as rentals or have even defaulted. The Palo Alto Housing Corp has a very successful rental program that also excludes the middle class but those not in the middle class can apply for both the rental and purchase programs.


Posted by Help to Neighbor, a resident of Downtown North
on Jan 8, 2014 at 10:56 am

If you want to know more about the BMR program go to the Palo Housing Corp web site. Also most of the affordable housing built most recently by the PAHC has not been studio and one bedroom units but bigger places with a considerable no of even-larger units.


Posted by MT, a resident of Greenmeadow
on Jan 8, 2014 at 10:58 am

We have to develop more housing in Palo Alto. There is no way around it - the industry in Silicon Valley growing fast and more people are moving into the area. Palo Alto is one of the least friendly cities for the developers and housing stock does not increase as fast as the demand for the housing. It has to change or even the executives will be soon priced out of Palo Alto.


Posted by palo alto parent, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jan 8, 2014 at 11:08 am

Because of ABAG, cities are required to allow a certain amount of affordable housing to be built - based on the jobs and projected jobs in the City. @Melinda - Atherton and even Beverly Hills which you mentioned, have very little jobs, therefore is not required to build much affordable housing. It is not up to the City to decide that "We don't need affordable housing here", the State has already decided for us.

@employee - I agree with you that middle class housing would be great in Palo Alto, I would love for our teachers, police force, etc. to be able to live here. Unfortunately, BMR housing is for low income by the State/County definitions. (I think the income level is a certain percentage of the average income in the county).

We need more housing, but it should be proactively designated by the City, not the developers. A great example of a well done project is the housing that replace the old PAMF site. It includes single family homes with separate studio apartments, multifamily condos that are lovely, BMR housing that is well maintained and a park, all within walking distance of downtown services and transportation.


Posted by annoyed, a resident of Professorville
on Jan 8, 2014 at 11:17 am

I'd be happy with density caps for buildings.
I'm really tired of the parking problems that are getting continually worse because space is being converted from retail (which serves the needs of the neighborhoods) to office.


Posted by Eric F, a resident of Downtown North
on Jan 8, 2014 at 11:26 am

It remains to be seen what will happen, but reforming the City's Density Bonus code is long overdue.

DB is supposed to be about housing, but in fact it gets widely (ab)used in high-density office -- er, "mixed-use" -- construction, in which a developer builds a giant office building with 5 housing units in it, which qualifies the entire project for DB and other perks. Like parking exemptions, setback exemptions, and so on.

The State has DB mandates, but the City has considerable latitude in how to apply them. One major reform ought to be figuring out a way to make DB really apply to housing, and not to great big office buildings.


Posted by musical, a resident of Palo Verde
on Jan 8, 2014 at 11:35 am

Why do I see mandatory water-rationing in our immediate future?


Posted by resident, a resident of Downtown North
on Jan 8, 2014 at 11:48 am

Regarding water-rationing - the majority of water in Palo Alto goes to landscaping. High-rise housing has relatively little landscaping per person.


Posted by tricks, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jan 8, 2014 at 12:59 pm

City of Palo Alto is playing tricks to build more high rise building with no parking spots again!!!


Posted by jerry99, a resident of Barron Park
on Jan 8, 2014 at 1:05 pm

[Post removed.]


Posted by Robert, a resident of another community
on Jan 8, 2014 at 1:06 pm

@tricks

And have you seen that high density residential on Forest and Gilman? There should be a petition circulated to tear those down, totally out of character with the rest of Palo Alto, and nowhere near enough parking.


Posted by jerry99, a resident of Barron Park
on Jan 8, 2014 at 1:07 pm

To NT
Palo Alto already has too much housing and too much traffic congestion and very bad parking. If there is a need for more housing, put it in East Palo Alto. [Portion removed.]


Posted by Susan, a resident of Mountain View
on Jan 8, 2014 at 1:23 pm

I have yet to see a definition of Affordable Housing.


Posted by Enough!, a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Jan 8, 2014 at 1:23 pm

I'm with employee on this one. I have lived in Palo Alto for 40 years, and it hasn't been easy. If it hadn't been for some old school Palo Altans renting me their cottages based on a sense of community, I could not have raised my kids here. I can pay rent, I have a professional job, just not the kind of job that would allow me to pay the exorbitant rent that people are demanding these days. I would like to stay in the place I've been all along, near to my mother, but due to the greed of the landlords (more and more people from other countries buying up Palo Alto properties as 'investments' then renting them out at sky high prices)I can't afford to stay here. It breaks my heart, and frankly, also makes me feel very resentful. I'm tired of hearing "market rates." There's something to be said for continuity of community. I dream of finding a small cottage to rent where I can live quietly with my two dogs and spend my off hours gardening. For years, I figured out how to make that happen...I've finally hit a wall.


Posted by Enough!, a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Jan 8, 2014 at 1:26 pm

PS: And take a look at what Jerry99 had to say. THIS IS TYPICAL OF THE RESPONSE I SEE ALL THE TIME ... exactly what people always say no one ever says. Sorry, not rich? Not a techie? Not welcome in Palo Alto. Whydontchya move to Modesto and commute? Other people do it ALL THE TIME.


Posted by bobgnote, a resident of Mountain View
on Jan 8, 2014 at 1:32 pm

Aw. Some don't like more density.

But too bad. Heard of climate change? This is going to throw a wrench in somebody's little go-cart, full of rants, against progress, since eventually, the virtual Nazism, of US hegemony will neglect climate change AND mass extinction AND failure, of habitat, all underway.

That means the east coast and LA basin will get flooded, while we dam everything, and we accept acidification, of waters, so jellyfish become the top oceanic predator.

It seems some people just don't realize this long-term outcome is already happening. Palo Alto will survive all kinds of problems, so get used to compression, in other areas, which will also come to see us, in Mtn.View.


Posted by Council/developer axis, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 8, 2014 at 1:33 pm

It's not about affordable housing. It's about greedy developers and the city council they bought. The situation is completely out of control. The fox is guarding the hen house.


Posted by stephen levy, a resident of University South
on Jan 8, 2014 at 1:36 pm

stephen levy is a registered user.

@ Robert.

Hahahaha--I knew some posters wished I would leave town but tearing down the building I live in IS an innovative solution.

By the way we have underground parking spaces for all residents.

FYI, I think at least one of the other regular posters lives in the building opposite where we live.


Posted by Robert, a resident of another community
on Jan 8, 2014 at 1:51 pm

Sorry, Steven, I was actually referring to the "Laning Chateau" apartments. Absolutely no setback, no parking, whoever allowed that high density monster to be built should be kicked off the city council.


Posted by Brian, a resident of Evergreen Park
on Jan 8, 2014 at 2:20 pm

I'm pretty sure the post from jerry99 is just someone trolling. It (along with my post) should/will be deleted in short order by the Town Square staff.


Posted by Change, a resident of Barron Park
on Jan 8, 2014 at 2:24 pm

Get the speculators out, and you would see affordable housing and rents. For example, anyone who rents out a house they have not personally lived in for at least five years or owned for 10 without living there, get a tripled property tax bill.


Posted by Brian, a resident of Evergreen Park
on Jan 8, 2014 at 2:31 pm

The city's plan seems totally appropriate to try to reduce the concessions that developers get for BMR when they are actually not providing much BMR in their project (i.e., they are building mostly office space). I thank Eric F. for his thoughts. He seems to understand the city's plan, and addressed the issue that this thread is supposed to be about. Most people just seem to have taken an opportunity to trash the BMR concept and display their elitism.


Posted by all talk, a resident of Southgate
on Jan 8, 2014 at 3:59 pm

once again, its all talk about something and no changes. all talk no action about some injustice. have they got rid of the judges thjat give one year to drunken killers? noooo...but give you ''one year'' for some thing. do something not just go to forums waiting for someone to hold your hand. some ''authority''.they dont want to change their steady life.they are scared too. everyone is too scared,but you are adults.time to get going.


Posted by Berry, a resident of College Terrace
on Jan 8, 2014 at 4:32 pm

This is BS! The law says we need affordable housing IF WE WANT THE STATE MONIES! Sooooo, PA has plenty of money so why don't we stop building affordable housing and tell the state to keep their cash.


Posted by llfried, a resident of Midtown
on Jan 8, 2014 at 5:12 pm

llfried is a registered user.

Is what Berry said true? If all we give up is State money, that's fine!
Screw the State if they are destroying our way of life!
Is it true what Berry says?


Posted by Fred Balin, a resident of College Terrace
on Jan 8, 2014 at 5:16 pm

My understanding is that the city has never adopted a density bonus law and, therefore, in its absence is controlled by the state's density bonus law (Government Code 65915-8).

Tomorrow, I am completing a "Resident's Report" on the law density bonus law and its proposed implementation in Palo Alto. If you wish to receive it, email me at fbalin@gmail.com .


Posted by marty, a resident of Midtown
on Jan 8, 2014 at 7:07 pm

I think that we have all seen a very large traffic impact of development in the past few years. Some projects that were built were so demonstrably negatively impactful that it should be clear that our existing traffic infrastructure cannot keep up with continued thoughtless growth of the nature of what we have seen recently. It doesn't matter whether the added units are techies or BMR owners/tenants.
That being said, I do believe that we should add projects to target goals for our community that many of us can agree on and that reflect the community we want to be, such as teacher housing, police fire and utility/disaster worker housing, housing that keeps our seniors close, housing for our community's developmentally disabled, and workforce housing. Mind you, it doesn't all have to be for sale, but where it makes sense it should be. By the way, families of four who make $60K qualify for affordable rental housing, so we should rethink our image of who moves into affordable housing and what the impact is on "us".
This type of housing also can come with reduced parking and traffic trips, such as senior and DD properties.
To sum up, I think that the rampant development has to stop. Special purpose development should be all that is allowed, with a moratorium put in place until a commission of City and citizens has a much more thoughtful plan so that we don't have the kind of revolt with just witnessed on Measure D.


Posted by They need a Trip to the Woodshed, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 8, 2014 at 8:44 pm

What IS it about these guys that they keep trying to find ways to tie their hands so they can screw us and say they couldn't help it? During the Maybell mess, they even directed the City Attorney to try to find ways the law would tie their hands and they would HAVE to rezone (it's in the minutes). The Devil Made Us Do It! Don't blame us!! Beware of them trying to make ordinances that tie their hands, they will be trying to codify the giveaway of Palo Alto to developers! Who will step up to begin the recall? If you think it's bad now, wait til these guys ruin the Comprehensive Plan.

@Fred,
Well, that's very interesting that we don't have a density bonus law, because during the Maybell mess they kept saying they could have 40% density bonus increase because of Palo Alto density bonus rules. You may wish to revisit some of the minutes and especially staff reports in order to see the Council's perspective on our rules.

Here's something we should probably pay attention to:
Web Link
"The City of Los Angeles's closely watched density bonus ordinance has been struck down because the city did not subject the ordinance to California Environmental Quality Act  (CEQA) review.
Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Thomas McKnew Jr. ruled that a fair argument could be made "that portions of the ordinance which go beyond the minimum standards set by state law" may have a significant adverse impact and, therefore, must undergo environmental review."

This is also interesting:
Web Link

A project is eligible if ten percent are affordable to those earning 80 percent of median or less... Which IMO is NOT a poor person. Anyone earning that much is better off doing what the rest of us (making that much or less) do, buy in San Jose or Santa Clara or Sunnyvale, and move up over time, developing equity along the way. The Weekly actually did an article in which some of the long-time middle class residents of BMR units expressed some bitterness over not understanding the financial trap side of taking the affordable housing unit in the long run.

Also, the law only requires the low-income housing to remain affordable for 30 years, which is nothing, and many of the developers get concessions on parking based on an assumption that poor people don't drive (which doesn't seem to be a very good assumption anyway) -- it's an incentive to upzone without a promise the property will remain affordable in perpetuity, and promising yet more parking problems down the line.

The above article makes a really interesting point relevant to Palo Alto, that the Authors of SB 1818 intended the density bonus to be over the maximum density otherwise allowable by the zoning ordinance, or the max allowable under the zoning when a range of density is specified. But does this mean they get to actually also BUILD that maximum allowable under the rules? Our City Council apparently thinks so. The article goes on to say section 65915(g) states that the density bonus is an increase over the max allowed under the land use element of the general plan, too. (Remember the City Council TP we call the Comprehensive Plan? This City Council is just as likely to boobytrap it so we have no recourse, beware!)

The above article says,
"Local agencies can attempt to clarify this by stating in their local ordinances that the
density bonus is to be calculated over the zoning maximum. ...."

Think about it. At Maybell, about 2.5 acres, RM-15 allows 8-15 units per acre, and according to the general plan, it's supposed to be on the lower end near R-1 residential. But City Council simply assumed the maximum of the range could go there (and for as much as they were maligned about NIMBYism, residents didn't argue about it because it was for affordable housing, but they would argue if it were a market rate development).

Whereas, if the Comprehensive Plan were followed, that property really is only supposed to be 8 units per acre, meaning, 20 units, plus a 25% density bonus, makes 25 at most in a market-rate scenario. That's nearly half the 46, 48, 49 units the Council was saying could go there under a market development, claiming their hands would be tied. And all for a handful of units that won't even go to really poor people.

In fact, I've seen other analyses of what residents did in LA that the laws are encouraging the razing of existing affordable housing to net a much smaller amount of less affordable housing -- with developers laughing all the way to the bank -- as is happening in Palo Alto, where the Council seems very concerned with giving the developers advantages by using affordable housing (to tie their hands!), but they seem not to be lifting a finger to save actual affordable housing, such as at Buena Vista, even though they could eminently accomplish it without much cost as these things go. Once the over 400 low-income residents are evicted from BV, Prometheus will take advantage of this density bonus law in order to put in a high-density, almost entirely market-rate high rise, with far fewer, far less affordable units. So much for the state "incentive" for affordable housing.

Bottom line, if the Council proposes an ordinance, residents should insist it be subject to CEQA analysis.(!!!) In Palo Alto, such ordinances will have significant negative development impact without adding in any meaningful way to affordability, in fact will encourage the loss of existing housing which is the most affordable. The exception is all-affordable developments, I think these bonuses should be available to those who are building ALL affordable unit.



Posted by Dommy , a resident of College Terrace
on Jan 8, 2014 at 8:53 pm

Elitist Palo Altans who have no heart or sense of community, you should be ashamed of yourselves.


Posted by They Need a Trip to the Woodshed, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 8, 2014 at 9:02 pm

@Dommy,
You think that opposing things that mostly benefit rich developers, of at the EXPENSE of poor people is being elitist?

You should be ashamed of yourself for calling names instead of looking at facts. Many of us are neither rich nor elitist, but people like you sure make me want to be.


Posted by my penthouse, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 8, 2014 at 9:44 pm

Dommy,

You're referring to affordable housing being used as a developer perk to make way for elitist housing which will house 20 somethings working at Google, FB, etc?

2 units of affordable housing for 200 penthouses.

yes, this is elitist.





Posted by MT, a resident of Greenmeadow
on Jan 8, 2014 at 10:07 pm

WOW! All the anti-development voices! If not for the valuable service the previous generations of developers provided most of us reading this discussion would not have a place to call home. Have you seen 50s pictures of Palo Alto? I am with Dommy - we have to welcome the newcomers, scoot over, make space, and drop this elitist "not in my community" attitude.


Posted by Crescent Park Dad, a resident of Crescent Park
on Jan 8, 2014 at 10:36 pm

Make room where?

And when you identify the neighborhood, please explain how our roads, infrastructure and schools can absorb any more people.

Ever try to get through Page Mill and ECR during rush hour? Ever been around the Paly/TC intersection between 3 and 6pm? University Ave at anytime during the work week?

PAUSD has already declared that they need a new grammar school and either expand Terman or build/open a 4th jr high. And they know Cubberly will have to reopen for HS. And that's just based on the current residents. Where exactly will you put all of the new families and their kids if we are already at capacity and no other campuses available?

And let's talk about fresh water or the lack thereof.

It's time to look at other places to develop new economic centers. Stockton has a great university, cheap housing (many houses are empty), room to grow.

Not everything and everybody has to be in Palo Alto. Instead trying to concentrate all of the wealth and population here - why not let some other well deserving California cities have a shot a prosperity?


Posted by Fred Balin, a resident of College Terrace
on Jan 8, 2014 at 10:46 pm

They need a Trip to the Woodshed, wrote
"@Fred,
Well, that's very interesting that we don't have a density bonus law, because during the Maybell mess they kept saying they could have 40% density bonus increase because of Palo Alto density bonus rules. You may wish to revisit some of the minutes and especially staff reports in order to see the Council's perspective on our rules."

Hey Woodshed,
Palo Alto DOES NOT have a density bonus law and in its absence the state law (GS 65915-8) controls which allows a maximum 35% (not 40%) density bonus.

I am extremely familiar with the arguments made regarding Maybell, including a potential maximum buildout on the site by a market rate developer making use of the state density bonus law, I wrote a nearly 5,000 word piece on the matter that included that issue, it was posted on the VoteAgainstD.com site now renamed PaloAltoville,com as the group moves into broader territory and where the article still resides via a link on its main page.

Get a sold grip, before blasting away on the keyboard and possibly alienating folks, including those you may be aligned with.

With regard to the LA lawsuit you cite; yes CEQA is still a factor in the Density Bonus Law (state or local), but the result of case you cite was severely constrained in a court clarification a few months later. Let me now if anything happened beyond that.

Stay cool and concise, you'll have more punch.


Posted by anonymous, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 8, 2014 at 10:52 pm

Actually, it's because Palo Altans stood up against overdevelopment a generation ago that Palo Alto isn't covered in tall high rises like San Jose. Do you want Palo Alto to be downtown San Jose? I don't. Perhaps you think Zoning is an elitist concept. Well, zoning is a fundamental protection that protects property values, safety, quality of life, without which, there wouldn't be the tax base to support education and all the services you demand.

Residents pay for the development with loss of quality of life, time, neighborhood character, parking and traffic problems, etc. Or, I should say, they pay for BAD development, which our City Council seems partial to.

Putting up high-density high rises all over Palo Alto isn't going to make it affordable, it's just going to make some developers rich. The only way it will make Palo Alto affordable, is if the people who create the tax base that supports the great schools decide to flee for nicer communities after these City Council development wh0res (rhetorical flourish) have had their way.

I for one am very grateful for predecessors in the 50s who stopped the overdevelopment and set Palo Alto on course to be a nice place to live. This is not Hong Kong island, the US is a vast place, we do not have to build over every inch of Palo Alto, or let developers have every whim. If Palo Alto is fully developed, there will be spillover development to places in need of urban renewal. That is ultimately healthier than ruining the quality of life in Palo Alto.

Wanting to stay a university town instead of a San Jose wannabe doesn't make me an elitist. Calling names rather than engaging over the issue is manipulative, though.


Posted by anonymous, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 8, 2014 at 10:53 pm

P.S. In case you hadn't realized it, development needs are a little different today than in the '50s.


Posted by anonymous, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 8, 2014 at 10:55 pm

P.P.S. I just saw an article about what a great place Fresno is shaping up to be for young people. I suppose you'll want to call the news station to tell them it's elitist to suggest anyone live anywhere except Palo Alto.


Posted by my penthouse, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 8, 2014 at 11:31 pm

Is there any way to tie the density CC and developers have in mind to infrastructure.

Listening to Keene's report and slide show on infrastructure did I hear

sidewalks?
safe routes to school analysis?
park and play structure renovations?

Infrastructure is play structures?

Please let's "tie" our hands to infrastructure.

I want my penthouse with a good view of all the traffic flowing, not stuck and all. Oh, I forgot, I won't have a car. I will be going in the designated directions of Caltrain. North, South, North, South, North, South. Yes, forget going to Menlo Park or Los Altos, I will need to FLY there on the new noisy planes wanting to park on my patio.


Posted by anonymous, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 8, 2014 at 11:43 pm

@my penthouse,
Take a look at what the state requires to be in a comprehensive plan. These are state mandates. Our comprehensive plan is being rewritten. There are supposed to be things like a safety element, a traffic and circulation element, etc. Unfortunately, the way our city handles those effectively violates the mandate, IMHO. We actually have an open space requirement in our City Code, but how it is calculated and enforced is a mystery.

I guess the question is, what is our recourse as citizens if we feel our comprehensive plan does not include the state mandated elements, and if our Council feels it doesn't have to really follow it, either. (This Council will try to change it to fit their diabolical purposes, be vigilant!)

We should recall and find residents willing to deal with the actual running of the City.


Posted by Joe in Green Acres, a resident of Green Acres
on Jan 9, 2014 at 7:35 am

Joe in Green Acres is a registered user.

I agree completely with Crescent Park Dad. High density development brings more people, but can our infrastructure handle them? Not really, and it's not going to get better.


Posted by Sunshine, a resident of Barron Park
on Jan 9, 2014 at 7:51 am

Forget about it!!!!!!! What is it about NO! that our current City Council does not understand?
Council claims that they want the city to be more walkable. The effect of sheer walls coming right up from the edge of the sidewalk will do the opposite, especially if there are no large windows in those walls at street level.
Palo Alto was once a walkable city. This was because there were many individual shops, each of which had a large front window on the street. There were a few restaurants for lunch, an occasional movie theater, an Art club where member art was displayed. The shops were varied--clothing, crafts, shoes for the family, furniture, sewing, jewelry, etc. Each was locally owned and had its own unique flavor. Now there is almost no place to shop downtown. Clothing stores carry only over priced things, often in "one-size-fits-all" (truly fits no one decently). Shoes are also overpriced and sizes do not fit many feet. There is nowhere to buy a spool of thread, small household items, or a pair of good scissors, for example. In short: there is no reason for residents to visit downtown and walk around.
Now the City wants to put high rise, low income housing in residential neighborhoods. NO! Don't even think of it!
For low income units to be acceptable by current residents and viable in the long term they should be incorporated into regular housing buildings. Segregating the low income units leads to what you can now see from the train as you ride into NYC--failed, falling down, drug infested concrete buildings. For any lower income housing to work and be accepted by current residents of the city, it should be similar to Lytton Gardens with significant green space surrounding each building.
Council thought they could get their way with Prop D so they rushed it to the ballot in an off year (at great expense), wrote it as a double negative, and hoped no one would tie it current council members when they stand for re-election this year. The resounding defeat of Prop D (actually a win for those who put it on the ballot) showed that support for fewer such proposals is much lower than they thought.
If you want such a project to succeed, put it in Old Palo Alto or where most council members live.


Posted by Craig Laughton, a resident of College Terrace
on Jan 9, 2014 at 11:21 am

>If you want such a project to succeed, put it in Old Palo Alto or where most council members live.

Exactly! Any future welfare housing should be put in the elite neighborhoods. Why? Because that will assure it will never get built.


Posted by neighbor, a resident of Professorville
on Jan 9, 2014 at 12:36 pm

@Robert

Are you suggesting that buildings nearly 100 years old should be torn down simply because they wouldn't be allowed to be built with the same density and lack of parking in 2014? The Laning Chateau is a wonderful old apartment building, whose residents are in walking distance of so much. Don't fault the current owners who came around long after the building was put in place.


Posted by Garrett , a resident of another community
on Jan 9, 2014 at 3:03 pm

Just what we need more 50's style.development in Frenso, Tulane and more in Patterson. Went to Redding for the holidays, saw nice new affordable housing in Wllows being built.


Posted by anonymous, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 9, 2014 at 9:01 pm

The salient point is that these kinds of incentives make it attractive for developers to come in and raze existing older housing stock, like the Buena Vista Mobile home park, that is actually affordable (especially because it hasn't changed hands and the owners taxes are so low they can keep the rents down), and make a killing building mostly market-rate homes and a very tiny number of affordable units that aren't nearly as affordable as the large number they destroyed.

This density bonus is ill-conceived and does not result in actual affordable housing. And now, the CA Supreme Court has ruled that the BMR units are essentially a fee in which developers have up to 3 years to appeal (our illustrious City Attorney lost that case in the CA Supreme Court).


Posted by Carlos, a resident of Green Acres
on Jan 9, 2014 at 9:46 pm

Neighbors, I think most of you already figured out the game that our city officials are trying to play under the 'euphemism' of Affordable Housing and some other politically correct labels.

The defeat of Prop D already sent a clear message that the city should not be in the business of subsidizing housing and building high-density projects, but I guess their ties to developers are so strong that they are still looking for ways to provide them with new projects (as long as they don't get built in the neighborhoods where they live).

Let's not forget these elected officials are supposed to represent our best interests, and if they aren't doing their jobs, there are ways to get rid of them and elect others who can make better decisions.


Posted by anonymous, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 10, 2014 at 1:33 am

@Carlos,
I think it was actually the supporters of D who made it about affordable housing. A lot of the opponents really did not like opposing affordable housing. I do think it was eye opening how the developers are using affordable housing. Private corporations like PAHC that get all the benefits of public agencies should have to be subject to the same levels of disclosure and transparency as public entities, and they aren't.

I disagree that the City should not be in the business of subsidizing affordable housing. Look at the school superintendent, he gets a generous housing allowance. It sure seems like assessing the needs of existing Palo Altans and finding ways to subsidize housing for people we say we want to be able to live here, like teachers, doctors, firefights, seniors - may actually be cheaper than giving money, concessions, and developer giveaways in order to build expensive complexes for small numbers of people who will almost surely come from outside Palo Alto anyway.


Posted by my penthouse, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 10, 2014 at 10:44 am

Anonymous,

"I disagree that the City should not be in the business of subsidizing affordable housing."

I agree with you, I think affordable housing is both an obligation, but it is also philanthropy.

How much of the City budget and taxpayer money should be devoted to affordable housing? 10%, 30%, 60%?

The problem is that the City wants to use zoning as currency to fulfill obligation and philanthropy, and both are masks for giveaways to business developers.

There are boundaries to the affordable housing story, 20 AH units at a time developers are getting billions in zoning privileges.


Posted by Garrett, a resident of another community
on Jan 10, 2014 at 10:54 am

How we got into this mess? We prevented building on open space near cities, down zoned open land or just prevented growth 5, 10 or 15 miles from job rich centers. We have prevented growth within site of San Francisco which was job rich in the 1960's.

We don't to build out or up but yet we keep develop products that sell, became popular and create jobs. We keep attracting money, talent and brains. Prices for housing, business space or space in general will make it hard for the next generation. Not just welfare people, cashiers, teachers artist or even the young college grad. It is already happening.


Posted by my penthouse, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 10, 2014 at 4:13 pm

Garrett,

"How we got into this mess? We prevented building on open space near cities, down zoned open land or just prevented growth 5, 10 or 15 miles from job rich centers. We have prevented growth within site of San Francisco which was job rich in the 1960's."

It's only a mess for you because you assume that some bigger "We" decides how people should live. The "we" in Palo Alto is what the voters of Palo Alto decide, and so far it does not look like residents subscribe to being manhandled into living a prescribed "job rich center" existence.

There is a good reason for open space, except for developers or for those obsessed with consumption.


Posted by Midtown, a resident of Midtown
on Jan 11, 2014 at 1:37 pm

Buena Vista is a litmus test. Anyone that supports affordable housing by the developers and does not support the retention of the residnts at Buena Vista is a hypocrite. We know how this one is going to play out, just watch the council.


Posted by marty, a resident of Midtown
on Jan 11, 2014 at 6:29 pm

all affordable housing is funded from a variety of sources, including from city funds
if the city wants the density to be less than the bonus amount, all they need to do is increase their contribution to the project so that it cash flows due to lower mortgage and the property can sustain itself financially


Posted by Fred Balin, a resident of College Terrace
on Jan 12, 2014 at 10:42 am

Fred Balin is a registered user.

Anonymous writes:
"This density bonus is ill-conceived and does not result in actual affordable housing. And now, the CA Supreme Court has ruled that the BMR units are essentially a fee in which developers have up to 3 years to appeal (our illustrious City Attorney lost that case in the CA Supreme Court)."

You are conflating two sets of laws.

The density bonus law, mandated by state law, certainly will result in actual affordable housing, because it provides significant concessions to developers for including below market rate units, with the density bonuses easiest to obtain for very low income units, and because it requires that the below market rate housing units be built as part of the project, rather than allow the option of paying an "in lieu" fee into a fund for subsequent development. The problem for residents will be the impacts of the concessions.

The other law is called inclusionary zoning and it is local. Palo Alto's inclusionary zoning law requires -- I repeat, requires -- a developer to set aside 15% or 20% of the housing units in a project as below market rate and also does not entitle -- I repeat, does not entitle -- the developer to any deviations to the zoning for the property.

So if in your first sentence above, you meant to say "Inclusionary zoning laws are ill-conceived and does not result in actual affordable housing," it comes closer to making sense, as some argue that the additional costs to developers to provide the BMR units inhibit their development. In Palo Alto, however, over 1800 BMR units over 40 years have been build via its inclusionary zoning laws.

Inclusionary zoning laws have come under challenge in the courts, and there are currently three Calfornia cases that I know of, including the one involving Palo Alto, which you allude to, that either have been heard by the State Supreme Court or will be.

The Palo Alto case relates to the Sterling Park project, approved in 2006. The Supreme Court ruling in favor of the developer has to do with the correct statute of limitations for an appeal and overturns an appellate court ruling to which the merits of actual challenge to Palo Alto's inclusionary zoning laws will now return and be heard. The ruling also allows the developer to proceed with construction in the interim.

Web Link
Web Link

Both a San Jose and an LA challenge to inclusionary zoning are to be heard before the Supreme Court. In the LA case (Palmer / Sixth Street Properties), a 2009 appellate court ruling stopped the use of inclusionary zoning in rental housing projects. A legislative workaround, "The Palmer Fix" was passed by the legislature in each of the last two sessions, but the Governor did not sign it. He and cities with inclusionary zoning laws now await the court's ruling.


Posted by Craig Laughton, a resident of College Terrace
on Jan 12, 2014 at 1:24 pm

Fred,

Thanks for the update.

Palo Alto, for some strange reason (liberal guilt?, global warming alarmism?)decided to support welfare housing in some of the most expensive real estate in the nation. Yet those who support it usually do not want it in their own neighborhoods. Now the courts have taken on the CPA, and we are paying attorney fees to defend the welfare housing.

A simple question, Fred: Is CPA required, by the state, to provide welfare housing? If so, what is the penalty if we decide to ignore the state mandate?


Posted by Fred Balin, a resident of College Terrace
on Jan 12, 2014 at 2:22 pm

Fred Balin is a registered user.

Craig,

I'll go with the term BMR housing. For BMRs via inclusionary zoning, I could see it being termed a developer impact, and in the case of the density bonus law, a community impact.

Palo Alto is required by state law to implement a local version the of state's density bonus law (Government Code Sections 65915-8) and for the local code to be consistent with that law. Even without a local ordinance, all cities -- charter or general law -- have to follow it. What that means is that projects that come before the city can get a density bonus, parking exception, and up to three development concession by meeting a minimum threshold of BMR units. If the city refuses without good cause (and on which there are limited grounds, which are specified in the law), the city can be sued and have to pay court costs. Three project have already utilized the density bonus law even though we do not have a local ordinance in place.

Palo Alto's decision to pass an inclusionary zoning law dates back to 1973. It was the first city in the state to have such an ordinance and today, 40 years later, it remains part of only a quarter of California cities to have such a law. Over 1,800 BMR rental units have been built via the inclusionary zoning law and I do not know how BMR ownership units.


Posted by Craig Laughton, a resident of College Terrace
on Jan 12, 2014 at 4:23 pm

>Palo Alto's decision to pass an inclusionary zoning law dates back to 1973. It was the first city in the state to have such an ordinance and today, 40 years later, it remains part of only a quarter of California cities to have such a law. Over 1,800 BMR rental units have been built via the inclusionary zoning law and I do not know how BMR ownership units.

In other words, Palo Alto lead the charge for forced welfare (BMR, if you prefer) housing. Now we are stuck with the consequences. The fairness issue is in terms of what neighborhoods this welfare housing is forced into, in PA. The same mindset of people (liberal guilters and climate warming alarmists) who pushed this disaster are ensconced in neighborhoods that are not directly affected by it. Seems fair to me that they insist that any new welfare housing projects be put in their own neighborhoods...why not?


Posted by Mary Anne, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jan 13, 2014 at 1:43 pm

"In other words, Palo Alto lead the charge for forced welfare (BMR, if you prefer) housing. Now we are stuck with the consequences. The fairness issue is in terms of what neighborhoods this welfare housing is forced into, in PA. The same mindset of people (liberal guilters and climate warming alarmists) who pushed this disaster are ensconced in neighborhoods that are not directly affected by it. Seems fair to me that they insist that any new welfare housing projects be put in their own neighborhoods...why not?"

It may be that some neighborhoods are more amenable to BMR housing than others, but that is no reason to question the moral bona fides of those of us who live in already built out single family neighborhoods where BMR housing just would not fit in. We have every right to advocate for the poor and housing-dispossessed as those who live in places where they are fortunate to be able to experience the benefits of diversity that BMR housing affords. (In some ways, though there may be temporary dislocations to neighborhoods where BMR housing is built, you who live adjacent to BMR residents BENEFIT in the long run.) So let's have more BMR housing wherever it fits. Our city will be better for it!


Posted by Craig Laughton, a resident of College Terrace
on Jan 13, 2014 at 4:23 pm

> So let's have more BMR housing wherever it fits. Our city will be better for it!

Mary Anne, since you claim to live in Old Palo Alto, what street do you want future welfare housing to be built in Old Palo Alto? Do you live on that street? Or do you just want welfare housing dumped into any neighborhood that is not yours? [Portion removed.]


Posted by Robert, a resident of another community
on Jan 13, 2014 at 6:21 pm

Craig, here's a straightforward question, do you pay taxes on the full value of your home, or are you being subsidized, like many if not the majority of Palo Alto residents, by new home buyers, aka are you yourself living in "Welfare Housing". Many people are very good at rationalizing, in order to maintain the belief that welfare is the break that the "other" guy gets...


Posted by Craig Laughton, a resident of College Terrace
on Jan 13, 2014 at 6:34 pm

>Craig, here's a straightforward question, do you pay taxes on the full value of your home

Yes, Robert, I pay taxes on the full assessed value of my home. [Portion removed.]


Posted by Robert, a resident of another community
on Jan 13, 2014 at 6:41 pm

On the assessed value not your home's actual value, in that case you should probably tone down the vitriol.


Posted by Mary Anne, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jan 13, 2014 at 6:44 pm

I'm surprised that Craig is so upset with citizens expressing their opinions. But I think Craig should reconsider his position. I understand that BMR housing may temporarily be frustrating to neighbors when it's being built and occupied. But In the long run, BMR housing adds so much needed diversity to our city and those living near the BMR housing benefit most from this diversity, which enhances our town and neighborhoods. To answer Craig's question, I live on Seale Avenue. Unfortunately it is all built out and all single family - except for the very end near Alma street. No room for it here. But Craig is in some ways lucky that the city has chosen his neighborhood for the BMR housing. If only people would be tolerant and open minded, they might find new people different from themselves interesting and fascinating contributors to new life experiences; we could solve so many of the problems we face as a society if we attempted to understand one another rather than pushing those who are different away.


Posted by Mr., a resident of College Terrace
on Jan 13, 2014 at 6:46 pm

[Post removed.]


Posted by Craig Laughton, a resident of College Terrace
on Jan 13, 2014 at 6:50 pm

>On the assessed value not your home's actual value, in that case you should probably tone down the vitriol.

My income tracked the assessed value of my home, and has long been locked in place. [Portion removed.]

If the elite neighborhoods in Palo Alto want to support welfare housing, they should step up to the plate and volunteer to take it in their own neighborhoods. Period.


Posted by Mr , a resident of College Terrace
on Jan 13, 2014 at 6:55 pm

[Portion removed.]

"If the elite neighborhoods in Palo Alto want to support welfare housing, they should step up to the plate and volunteer to take it in their own neighborhoods. Period"
And this is coming from a person who lives in THE elite neighborhood in town.


Posted by Craig Laughton, a resident of College Terrace
on Jan 13, 2014 at 7:08 pm

> To answer Craig's question, I live on Seale Avenue. Unfortunately it is all built out and all single family - except for the very end near Alma street

Mary Anne, there should be no sacred zones. CPA could decide that diversity and welfare housing are so important that it is worth taking private properties via eminent domain. Seale Ave. might be a good place to start.

[Portion removed.]


Posted by Mr, a resident of College Terrace
on Jan 13, 2014 at 7:19 pm

Actually, Harvard avenue in college terrace is a better place to start. And that street is in THE leading elite neighborhood in town.
And people that constantly make false claims ( I.e. Lies about so- called " welfare housing") can not actually be trusted with any claims they make.


Posted by Sean, a resident of Midtown
on Jan 13, 2014 at 9:39 pm

I am amazed by how many ignorant, self-righteous, frightened people live in Palo Alto. This town is full of brilliant, educated, successful minds, many of them absolutely wonderful. But a shocking number of our residents -- extravagantly wealthy by the standard of almost anyplace else in the world -- don't have an ounce of common sense or a shred of human decency.

This area is becoming a monument to greed. Either it's the greed of the billionaires, tearing down bungalows to build mansions, or fencing off "private" beaches on the coast , or the greed of the 30-year residents, who haven't paid a cent in tax increases in decades, despite exploding home values, and ever-improving services and quality of life. To a significant degree, it's because of countless beneficiaries of Prop 13 that "normal" people, making a good professional salary, can't possibly afford a home here (a million dollar home costs next to nothing in taxes for a long-time resident, but $12,000 or so per year for a newcomer -- on top of enormous house payments for average families). Yet the people living here seem to have no conscience about getting their mail delivered, their streets cleaned, their garbage taken away or their lawns mowed. They don't wonder where the guy selling groceries or the teacher educating their own children or grandchildren is supposed to live. Just "somewhere else." Anywhere but their bucolic elm-lined streets in Palo Alto.

What I can't help reading between the lines is that Palo Alto residents think they are too good to share their precious, insanely over-priced town, their parking spaces, or their parks, with "poor" people who haven't had the same enormous luck they have had themselves. Well, I've been squeaking by, renting a home here for my family for more than 10 years, on the merits of a good education, a steady and demanding job, and the amazing grace of a very kind landlord who has kept his rents at a rate based more on his own modest changes in cost of living than on the hyper-inflated values of the real estate in this town. That's incredibly generous, and almost unheard of. It is winning the affordable housing lottery. Without him, my children wouldn't have been able to attend Palo Alto Schools, where I and my wife have volunteered literally thousands of hours. We've paid our taxes, and paid into the school's "PIE" fund to support special programs. We've coached Little League and Soccer. We've taught classes for developmentally-disabled children. We've tutored and mentored young kids and high school kids. We've grown a beautiful garden. We've helped our elderly neighbors. We've joined the community watch. We've driven for hours around town on the hunt for lost children, not our own. We've taught other people's children to ride their bikes safely. Our daughters are Girl Scouts, close to earning their "Gold Awards", the girls' equivalent of an Eagle Scout badge, and they, too, have done hundreds of hours of voluntary community service. One of them is working to become, like so many of her adult neighbors, an inventor and engineer. But even if they work their way into the best colleges, earn scholarships and internships, get good jobs and good salaries, invent products, and maybe even start companies of their own, and then come back, they almost surely won't be able to afford to live here -- unless they also happen to be very, very, very lucky. Housing, except for the extremely wealthy, is simply too expensive.

Although this town has done much for our children, our family has been even more of an asset to this community. We have given back easily as much as we have received, and much more, in fact, than most of our wealthy, cocooned neighbors in their 5,000-square-foot McMansions, driving their Mercedes into the garage and shutting themselves in every night. Many of those people are simply investors biding their time to make a profit in real estate. They have driven up the home prices, but they haven't done a real thing for the community. If anything, they have contributed to making it a cold, characterless, uninviting place.

Please, please, build affordable housing - tens of thousands of units. Put it in the very best, wealthiest neighborhoods, so the kids there can go to the best schools and the senior citizens - parents of people like me -- can enjoy walking on the shady sidewalks and sitting in their rockers to admire the rich folk driving their fancy cars. Force people to walk or bike. Force them to see and appreciate people who earn less money. Take away the precious parking spaces and put in bike lanes and pocket parks. Build tall buildings right next to the big wide streets like El Camino (Leonardo da Vinci figured out that this made more beautifully-proportioned boulevards.) Bring in lots of good, efficient public transportation, like light rail. For God's sake, change the tax laws, finally, to make long-time home owners pay more of their fair share. Make this town a good place for decent, normal, hard-working people to live in -- without their having to win some kind of lottery.

Shame on anyone who thinks we "low income" people shouldn't live in Palo Alto. It is narrow-minded, uncharitable, uncaring, selfish, ignorant cowards who should be ashamed to live here.


Posted by anonymous, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 13, 2014 at 10:07 pm

"What I can't help reading between the lines is that Palo Alto residents think they are too good to share their precious, insanely over-priced town, their parking spaces, or their parks, with "poor" people who haven't had the same enormous luck they have had themselves. "

You make some good points, but it's hidden in a lot of generalizing and prejudice of your own -- please stop "reading between the lines" and start listening to your fellow residents. Luck? Are you kidding? I still live in bare repair in Palo Alto, after living in substandard conditions in other surrounding and less expensive (but still horrendously unaffordable) communities and commuting here for years. Shame on you for equating the market-rate developers' using the cloak of affordable housing to break all the rules and laws and turn Palo Alto (and some of these other communities I have lived in) into terrible places to live through poor planning and land use for their own short-term benefit. Shame on you for crying NIMBY when the people living in real affordable housing (older housing) are displaced out of greed because developers get all kinds of advantages to raze older housing in favor of new profitable developments with some token "affordable" housing that isn't all that affordable. Not all of us here are rich, in case you didn't notice, and City Council has prioritized placing all the high-density in the parts of town where those of us just trying to eke by are more heavily concentrated.

Shame on your for equating any attempt to care about open space, safety, liveability, low emissions, environmental concerns, traffic circulation, and yes, beautiful environment with NIMBYism. Building more and more high density market-rate housing is not going to make Palo Alto more affordable, it's just going to add more of those rich people you seem to despise. Have you looked at the prices of that new dense housing they built in Mtn Vw just over the border?

There is a large parcel of real affordable housing in Palo Alto as we speak, at the Buena Vista Mobile Home park. The very incentives at issue here, densification of market-rate developments that include a few units of BMR, are why it's threatened. If the City Council really cared about affordable housing, they would pursue saving BV with the same zeal as they tried to push the Maybel rezoning (when 60% of that project was market-rate, profits to a market-rate developer). If you stopped trying so hard to see NIMBYism where it isn't, you would see the majority of your neighbors WANT to keep that low-income housing.


Posted by who am I, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 13, 2014 at 11:22 pm

Sean,

Buildings on El Camino would cost a fortune because high tech millionaires will want a view. These would not be homes, they will be investments for even greedier landlords and residents will become "yields." High yields. By the way, high yields do not ride bikes, they drive fast and fancy cars.

It may be hard to fathom but not all current residents in Palo Alto are rich. Some of us are property rich but not otherwise, whereas whoever comes into buy our homes are really really really rich (cash). Right about now there is actually some balance of resident income and you can measure that with the demographics in the schools.

If the City develops the way you envision, adding more housing, the balance will be tipped towards double, triple, more rich people and the number of affordable housing not materially different.

The case you make is only to throw out whoever is here, to replace with richer people, and to have that repeat itself. Nobody likes that. Ask the people who had the Mission in San Francisco as their home if they like the change underway.




Posted by Sean, a resident of Midtown
on Jan 14, 2014 at 2:18 am

I don't agree at all that new housing is automatically housing for the rich and I didn't suggest building more market rate housing at all, not that we couldn't use that, too. New housing developed specifically as below-market-rate affordable housing is good. It's that simple. Is it perfect? No. You have to pay for it somehow. That usually means combining the low-priced housing, with some high-priced, money makers. Got a better way to pay for it?

Having too many people living in the Bay Area sucks, just like it sucks everywhere else there are too many people. It sucks that we're a couple of decades form 9 billion people on Earth. But at least people here have jobs, mostly.

While you're at it, more high-density condos for rich people takes a little bit of the pressure off some of those old $1.5 million fixer-uppers the rest of us are trying, desperately, to rent.

We could make it so hostile for companies and their workers that they pack up and leave. You want to stop growth? Fine. Tell the new companies that are starting up here every day to find a new home...try China.

This *is* NIMBYism, plain and simple. It's exactly the same arguments NIIMBYs make everywhere that NIMBYs are. "We're special. Don't do it to me. Do it to someone else."

Housing on El Camino doesn't have to be condos for rich people. It can be affordable housing developed with financial need requirements help people into a home. If it has to be mixed development, so the affordable part is affordable, that's just economic reality. What are you whining about? If more people could live here, fewer people would have to drive to work here. It's a good trade.

Nobody is going to convince me that this is a "pro environment" or "open space" debate. El Camino, The Ugliest Strip Mall Street in America, "Open Space?" Tens of thousands of people work here. They should to be allowed to live here. Pro environment means not making them drive from Hayward, or Salinas or Morgan Hill to get here. You don't like it that Stanford wants to build housing on Stanford land? I'm not crazy about it, either. Those old golden hills and oaks are are beautiful. But the entire Bay Area, like much of the country, is blighted by leapfrog development and the American dream of living in low-density suburbia. Look around Europe some time. See how much low-density suburbia you can find in any country. Once places get crowded enough, they're a lot more comfortable and convenient if you pack people together and make the open space truly open where you can. Here, we've got "open space" checkerboarded all the way to Skyline by millionaires' mansions with gated driveways, and we're whining about a few acres a few blocks from town. You protect the stanford land, you're forcing people to build in the rolling golden hills of Morgan Hill or Gilroy, and then to get in their cars and drive here...It's way, way better to have them living in high-rises along El Camino, with sidewalks and light rail to get them to work.

I don't believe in throwing anyone out (But I do want to vomit on someone's shoes when I near the same old NIMBY rants). I believe in higher-density affordable and market-rate housing, to make it more affordable, and more livable here. We are basically living in a place with the economy of an industrial urban center, but we're trying to preserve it as a cutsie little bedroom community. We don't like high-density housing? So we live with high-density (always horrific) traffic, instead.

No thanks.


Posted by Anonymous, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 14, 2014 at 9:12 am

"While you're at it, more high-density condos for rich people takes a little bit of the pressure off some of those old $1.5 million fixer-uppers the rest of us are trying, desperately, to rent."

I have lived in the Bay Area for decades, and that has never been true. Building more just brings in more people for the schools, who may even commute elsewhere themselves. You create more emissions with gridlock and people still having to drive across town that has no good public transit, compared to,,say, someone biking from Mountin View where they are lucky to live and work near the bike path. If you think the world is so crowded, and the only place anyone can live is Palo Alto, I invite you to start driving on almost any road east for about 20 hours. When companies decide Palo Alto is too expensive, they will move and create jobs elsewhere, creating urban renewal and spillover tech, a good thing. When they can't get enough lower end workers, they'll either pay more or move, or create their own housing as some companies around here have. If you keep building to make it unpleasant, the very richest will eventually go elsewhere. But it won't make the rent on your $1.5 million house lower. I have news for you,that's luxury renting in Silicon Valley and always has been for decades 'I've been here.

Housing here has been unreasonable for the last 100 years. The only difference now is that developers have found a line that people like you are naive enough to push for them. And who are such snobs, you think Palo Alto is the only place to live around here.

If you rent here, it never gets easy - that has always been true. The only way for it to get easier is to buy in, but most people want a shortcut so they can live like the rich people who buy, not those of us who don't.

You know how to own? Do like me and my friends, buy a home in East Palo Alto (and a big dog), use 60% of your income on housing and live frugally, and live there for 10 years ands move up. Not to Palo Alto just yet. Buy a home in San Jos, fix it up, then move somewhere nicer farther away so you can have property and a big new home and commute to Palo Alto (not everyone lives here who could). Sacrifice everything to buy a hellhole somewhere far away for ten years, then sit on it for another eight while the market rebounds so you dont lose your shirt. Buy something so uninhabitable, the neighborhood isn't safe and no one else wants it in a much less desirable town, then move up to a more desirable location in a less desirable City than PA (what we did)and everywhere you go, rent out your rooms until you can afford to be there yourself, and get acquainted with real DIY. Choose locations so far down the chain, no one even wants to bulldoze them. They exist. Work your way up and then own a decent home anywhere you can find one. In our case, it was here, but we were looking anywhere in the Bay Area all the way to South SF, not aiming for here.

If I talked like you around my friends, like Palo Alto was the only place to live in the world or area and somehow, there is a God given right to live here in new housing, I'd quickly find myself alone. You can find cheaper houses here by working up as I described and living frugally in a broken down place On the RR tracks. Living in a $1.5 million fixer rental, even with friends, is a middle class person's luxury shortcut and always has been. Why not try to buy a place with friends and all live there fixing it up, then sell it for a profit? How do you think your sense of snobbery and entitlement comes across to people who have been willing to bite the bullet?

Some of the people who rented rooms from us have homes now in places like Los Altos and parts farther south, but no one waltzed in and plunked down the cash. If you want to put down roots here and you aren't Zuckerberg, you have to find a way to buy, and it willnot be as nice as that rental you are complaining about, guaranteed. Even if two or three times more BMR units are built, you have no guarantees as your competition to get one will remain far more fierce from other people wanting to move here. I have a friend who was finally convinced to buy a horrible place in PA (theyexist) they literally had the laundry on the back porch and slept in an illegal garage conversion, for a horrendous, sacrificial amount of money, wondering if they would lose their shirts if the market dropped. Eventually, they sold for a profit and moved to a nicer home across the bay. And work there and SF (that's the other thing, uually there is this thing called a spouse who works somewhere else anyway)

Better transit is the answer, not letting developers do whatever the hll they want. - because people will change jobs over their careers, and gridlock creates more emissions not fewer. And recognize no matter what you do it's not going to be cheap here until it s so blighted everyone goes to crowd in somewhere else. Stop asking people who were willing to make sacrifices you apparently aren't to build you a new cheap place to live.

Read what I wrote above. We have affordable housng, let's do what we can to retain it, not make ways for giveaways to developers to destroy it like these density bonus rules do to destroy Buena Vista. (Tell me, did you try to rent a more affordable mobile home before that 1.5 M rancher?)

I know places in the country with good Internet access where you can live n a nicer home than that 1.5M fixer, and own it outright or 40k. If you have $100k, you could have serious acreage. I know because that's where the CA family moved, and it's not all just one place.


Posted by Eileen Wright, a resident of Crescent Park
on Jan 14, 2014 at 10:02 am

"Housing on El Camino ... can be affordable housing developed with financial need requirements help people into a home."

Yes, put that kind of stuff in the El Camino ghetto. Just keep it away from my area.

We're special. Don't do it here. Do it somewhere else.


Posted by Crescent Park Dad, a resident of Crescent Park
on Jan 14, 2014 at 11:22 am

@ Sean. Just move already.


Posted by anonymous, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 14, 2014 at 11:43 am

@Eileen,
New housing is expensive, on El Camino or anywhere else. These rules are just a giveaway to developers.

We HAVE affordable housing. On El Camino. These rules make it attractive to tear it down.

Finding new affordable housing is much more realizable by converting existing and older housing to keep it affordable than build new housing. That's where the incentives should be.

Your kneejerk NIMBY-baiting sarcasm is only aiding developers against low-income people. But if you are serious, you should realize your NIMBY councilmembers in Crescent Park will make sure you never have to deal with it anyway.


Posted by Eileen Wright, a resident of Crescent Park
on Jan 14, 2014 at 1:00 pm

"your NIMBY councilmembers in Crescent Park will make sure you never have to deal with it anyway."

We certainly hope they can stand against the liberal tide. Our single family neighborhoods are much too valuable for this intrusive massed housing. If we must build these projects, put them on El Camino or downtown where such things belong, not in our residential neighborhoods.


Posted by who am I, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 14, 2014 at 1:42 pm

Eileen,

[Portion removed.]

The plan to divide North and South Palo Alto is a good one actually, but what will hopefully prevail is that there are smart enough people on both sides.

Sean,

The problem with your assumptions is that housing built in Palo Alto (affordable or not) is a match to people who work in Palo Alto. That is impossible to control. Or that the they are bikers. State laws should be challenged on that alone. Can anyone actually explain these laws?

The other point Sean is that turning up-zoning into a moral decision can go only so far. Once you turn over the privileges to a developer, it is their profit to keep in perpetuity. You have no more clout or money left for affordable housing. Saving or losing Buena Vista will be a good test.


Posted by who am I, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 14, 2014 at 1:46 pm



I'm assuming the affordable housing units across the street from Addiosn Elmentary are Crescent Park? maybe not.


Posted by Tom DuBois, a resident of Midtown
on Jan 14, 2014 at 1:57 pm

Tom DuBois is a registered user.

I thought the Palo Altans for Sensible Zoning (PASZ)(of which I am a member) and other citizens who spoke at the meeting last night did a bang up job. This is a complex, nuanced issue dealing with what vision we want for the future of our city, large numbers of housing imposed by state and regional MANDATES, and limited space in a built-out edge city. Citizen comments last night offered constructive clarifications and questions that resulted in two much improved ordinances. Open, ill defined clauses were removed from the zoning code and a major plank of PASZ's platform - redefining zoning based on total area vs housing units was discussed at length and will be moving forward. This is huge as the conversation is shifting to overall density and having zoning laws that are meaningful. Very encouraging and great job!


Posted by who am I, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 14, 2014 at 2:02 pm

Tom DuBois,

What was that comment from Pat Burt objecting to something Bob Moss said abut PCs?

I caught the end of the meeting online, this is not the first time I see Burt testy with Moss on issues of PC.


Posted by Crescent Park Dad, a resident of Crescent Park
on Jan 14, 2014 at 2:53 pm

Honestly, I'm not getting where some folks feel it's their right to buy a home in Palo Alto...at a price they can afford. The prices for homes are high for many reasons, including the school district. We all get that. It's called the open market.

I'd love to have a 5-acre property in Atherton or Woodside. La Jolla would be nice - nice schools there too. But it's not my right to demand and receive a lower priced home (subsidized by taxpayers no less) so I can live in those towns.


Posted by Hmmm, a resident of East Palo Alto
on Jan 14, 2014 at 3:26 pm

Hmmm is a registered user.

Crescent Park Dad - it's always made more sense to me to buy something affordable and find private schools if one doesn't care for the public ones. OTOH, I don't have kids, so I haven't had to cross that bridge. But the place we own, outside the US, is exactly due to a similar reason. It's weird - there's barely any rental stock in that area, so it's actually easier for people to buy a small place without having to be a gazillionaire. Public transpo is really good, so cars aren't necessary, cutting out that expense.

I really feel for people (like myself) with deep roots in this area, or because this really is the best place for them due to their profession (like my DH). But is home ownership always necessary?? It's the American Dream, sure, but at what cost, literally? I think the hyper-focus on buying a place in such an expensive area is not always the way to go.


Posted by who am I, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 14, 2014 at 4:47 pm

Hmmm,

You make no sense.

What is this central landlord system you envision for expensive areas?

How would it work exactly? Everyone gives up home ownership so that more can find a rental?

What is the country you own in?


Posted by Hmmm, a resident of East Palo Alto
on Jan 14, 2014 at 5:15 pm

Hmmm is a registered user.

Who am I - I don't understand your questions, except for which country you're asking about. I'm not going to say, but it's in Europe. I actually make utter sense, but it's clear from your questions that you either don't understand my post, or you're not able to figure out what I meant. I don't envision a central landlord system at all, nor do I advocate giving up home ownership.

Perhaps you're confused because I meant to type "But the place we own, outside the US, is exactly opposite to what we have here, due to a similar reason."?


Posted by Michael, a resident of University South
on Jan 14, 2014 at 8:06 pm

"I'm assuming the affordable housing units across the street from Addiosn Elmentary are Crescent Park?"

Good God, no!. They're in University South.


Posted by Anonymous, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 15, 2014 at 4:44 pm

Hmmm,
Living in ths area is like trying to catch a moving train. If you rent, it's always a chase. The only way to get on board is to buy. Then you accumulate equity and your expenses say the same. You can also plan because you're no longer at the mercy of a landlord. Unless you have a good friend who wants to cut you a deal, you're better off buying if you want to stay in this area. Even that's not always the greatest thing - some elderly friends had to suddenly leave their home of 30 yrs because their friend died and the heirs gave them little more tan a month o move out in a tough market.

Those of who aren't Zuckerberg have to take the long road to purchasing, as I described above. It's the only way to eventually have stability. We are also not rich, you do not have to be rich to get in the market, but many people are not willing to make the trade offs. We coudnt afford to rent our own home today, even though we have rented in the neighborhood in the past.


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