News

Zone changes bridge gap between city, critics

City Council walks a fine political line in adapting to state housing mandates

Palo Alto's elected officials and land-use watchdogs rarely walk in stride on zoning issues, but as the City Council approved a series of revisions to the city's zoning code Monday night, the two sides found themselves united against a common foe -- state bureaucrats whose housing mandates are creating massive planning headaches for the city.

With much discussion and little enthusiasm, a reluctant council revised its zoning code to create a new menu of incentives for developers of affordable housing and to codify some of the policies in the recently adopted Housing Element. The policies include increasing the number of housing units that could be built at certain commercial zones and planning for a homeless shelter on an industrial parcel east of Highway 101. But in an overture to resident critics, the council also agreed to scrap the most controversial proposal on the table: one that would have given council members the leeway to approve design concessions beyond those in the code to developers whose projects consist entirely of affordable housing.

In approving the changes, council members stressed again and again that their action is an attempt to make the best out of what they all see as a terrible situation. Under the state's Density Bonus Law, the city is already required to adopt a local density-bonus ordinance and to offer "design concessions" to builders of affordable-housing developments -- concessions that could include added density, greater heights or smaller setback requirements. Traditionally, the city's negotiations with developers have proceeded on an ad hoc basis, with the developer requesting and the city generally assenting. The city's newly approved law seeks to add some predictability to the process by creating a menu of concessions for developers to choose from, including the relaxing of daylight-plane requirements, height exemptions and less stringent side-yard setback requirements.

Planning Director Hillary Gitelman said having a local ordinance in place will "hopefully steer developers toward concessions and design exceptions that we think are less objectionable and less problematic than others." Without such an ordinance, she added, "the field is wide open" for developers to request any concessions they can think of and the city has a very limited ability to say no.

"There's an opportunity that we leave on the table if we don't adopt a local ordinance," Gitelman said.

The council ultimately agreed and voted 8-1 to enact the local density-bonus law. The only vote of dissent came from Councilman Larry Klein, who strongly objected to having the city cater to a state process it so vehemently opposes. The city, he said, is already forced to comply with state law. By approving a local density-bonus ordinance, the city is "implicitly going along" with the state agenda, he said. He characterized the state's requirement for a local density-bonus as a bureaucratic "loyalty oath."

"I'm really scratching my head and trying to think of another example where the state says, 'You shall include in your ordinance laws that we, the state, have already passed,'" Klein said.

Klein called the housing-allocation process (which is driven by the regional Association of Bay Area Governments with the goal of encouraging housing construction near job centers and transit hubs, thereby reducing traffic and decreasing greenhouse-gas emissions) as a "bureaucratic nightmare" and treats local council's like rubber stamps.

"I just can't believe that we have a legal system in California where a Legislature can say to a City Council that it has to vote for a particular item," Klein said.

His colleagues generally agreed. Mayor Nancy Shepherd said the state-driven process is "clearly in violation of everyone's democratic values," and Vice Mayor Liz Kniss said it's "tempting to just say no" before she voted yes. Both were convinced by Gitelman's arguments that time is of the essence. Failing to comply with state mandates, Gitelman said, could leave the city vulnerable to lawsuits and subject to new state restrictions on housing policies.

Gitelman said staff is facing stiff time pressures to implement the policies of the existing Housing Element, a state-mandated document that lists the city's housing policies and its strategies for addressing the state's housing mandate. The Housing Element that the council adopted last June after years of delay has a planning horizon of 2007-14, which makes for a very short shelf life. This means the city has to approve a new Housing Element within a year or face possible lawsuits and "significant penalties." These include a requirement that the city submit a Housing Element every four years rather than every eight.

"All of this would cost a lot of time and energy, in addition to taxpayer dollars," Gitelman said.

Codifying the existing Housing Element policies now will give staff more time to work on the next version of the document, she said. The revisions that the council approved include an increase in the number of affordable-housing units a developer can build in certain commercial zones from 15 to 20 per acre; and the designation of an industrial site east of U.S. Highway 101 as a possible site for an emergency shelter.

The former policy proved particularly controversial, with several residents urging the council not to enact any new laws that encourage densification. Joe Hirsch, a Barron Park resident who was one of the most vocal opponents last year of a proposed housing development on Maybell Avenue, cited the "extremely strong sentiment in this community against high-density development" and its impacts and asked the council not to enact any new ordinances that would support such development.

The proposal to increase density in "commercial neighborhood" zones from 15 to 20 units per acre would apply to 32 local parcels (mostly along El Camino Real) and is expected to yield an additional 64 units citywide, according to a report from city planners. Not everyone was thrilled about this revision. Cheryl Lilienstein, president of the citizens group Palo Altans for Sensible Zoning, said she was "puzzled" by the city's decision to encourage more density on El Camino Real, which she said is not a transit hub and offers little neighborhood-serving retail.

But Lilienstein, who led last year's successful "No on Measure D" campaign, also said that while she understands that the city is responding to a state mandate in raising the number of units allowed on El Camino, she would like a "remedy" to help neighborhoods deal with the impacts of densification. In response to concerns about increased density, the council voted to direct staff to explore reducing the "floor-area-ratio" FAR) requirements in commercial zones, an action proposed by Councilman Pat Burt.

"While it's true that we have to go from 15 to 20 (units), we're not bound to the FAR that we have in our current zoning," Burt said.

He also observed that while the changes the council was considering are in response to state mandates, changes, most are "actually favorable to our community." Burt and his colleagues also agreed that the most contested part of the local density-bonus ordinance -- one that gives the council discretion to go beyond the menu of concessions for affordable-housing projects -- is far too broad and should be scrapped.

Councilwoman Karen Holman called the provision "way too open-ended," thanked the community for flagging it and suggested deleting it. The city's new density-bonus law, she said, pushes against the state mandate.

"While we'd all like to have local control, we just don't have that right now," Holman said.

Councilman Marc Berman agreed.

"This is a bad state law but we're doing our best to make it better," Berman said, summing up the view of both the council and its fiercest critics.

Comments

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Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 14, 2014 at 1:24 pm

The thing that is really bothersome to me is that how are we going to school all these new families that will live in these new units, how will we find enough water for them to use, how will we find enough space on the roads for them when they commute to work or go out to shop, and what will they do in their spare time other than sit in traffic or hike the Baylands or Foothill Park? Where is more public transit, parking, recreation space and affordable shopping in this agreement?

I don't approve of stack and pack housing because it is ugly. But I approve even less of more and more residents without any mention of the infrastructure that supports them.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Joe
a resident of Barron Park
on Jan 14, 2014 at 1:45 pm

> But Lilienstein, who led last year's successful "No on Measure N" campaign,

I'm pretty sure this was the "No on D" campaign.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Eric F
a resident of Downtown North
on Jan 14, 2014 at 3:03 pm

Pat Burt's suggestion to revise the FAR downward in these zones is a really creative idea. I hope we'll see that back before the Council soon.

As for @Resident's implied question above --- "given the various limits we have, how many people should live in Palo Alto?" --- nobody should rely on the State for an answer. I hope there'll be some level-headed dialogue on that one as the election gets closer.


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Posted by Data
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 14, 2014 at 3:23 pm

Eric F.

The issue of "how many" seems to be tied to jobs, and the basis of the law tied to transportation related to these jobs. Not that it should even be legal to make a law forcing housing for each job! Especially when the housing is not tied to employment in the town.

And how are jobs counted? For example, are the jobs at Stanford counted in the Palo Alto count? Who actually keeps track of the jobs for these bizarre housing quotas?

When Facebook left to Menlo Park, did we not get a reduction in the job count? Where are these numbers published?



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Posted by gsheyner
a resident of another community
on Jan 14, 2014 at 3:26 pm

gsheyner is a registered user.

Thanks, Joe. Sorry for the typo. I fixed it.

-Gennady


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Eric F
a resident of Downtown North
on Jan 14, 2014 at 3:57 pm

Data,

Agree -- jobs needs to be part of the equation. I don't know that a hardwired "x housing units for each y jobs" city law makes sense either, but there's a correlation. And in this town of infinite demand, jobs correlates to new office capacity, which in turn goes back to zoning.

So to set zoning without thinking about the original question -- "how many people are we designed to have living here?" -- surely can't end well.


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

Data

I don't think jobs should be part of the equation at all.

I think many people who live in Palo Alto are commuting out of Palo Alto each day. If you discount people who work at Stanford, I think you would find that most Palo Alto residents work outside city boundaries, although I have no idea of knowing this for a fact.

Also, people change jobs more often than they move house. Facebook is one employer who moved out of town, but there are a lot of others that move too.

Another thing to realize is that a lot of teachers, police, firefighters, healthworkers, to name but a few, do not want to live in the same area in which they work, they feel that they want to keep their home life separate from their professional life for privacy and safety reasons.

You are never going to find that the majority of people who live in Palo Alto are going to work here also. It won't happen.

So once again, where will all the proposed new residents send their kids to school, get their water from, buy affordable groceries, affordable household stuff, affordable children's clothes, spend their fun time, park their visitors/guests/cleaners/gardeners cars, use public transit, play Frisbee/grill at the park, take their dogs to play, etc. etc. without getting stuck in traffic.

Go to the streets around some of the latest residential developments at Rickeys, E. Meadow Circle and Loma Verde/Bayshore. Look at the number of cars that are parked on the street at any time of day. Look at how many kids are playing on over filled playing fields in the parks and in our schools. Look at how parking around our schools is being affected because there is no room for all the staff to park, let alone parents or other visitors. Look at how our schools are putting in buildings where there used to be play space to house the increased enrollments. Look at the lack of space for commuters to park at Caltrain. Look at how hard it is to find a seat on Caltrain at peak commute times. Look at all the traffic on our arterials at commute time in both directions. Look at how full the buses going to Gunn and Paly are at school times.

We do not have the infrastructure or space for all the increase in residents that is being proposed.


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Posted by Data
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 14, 2014 at 5:44 pm

Resident,

I referred to jobs in the context of the State mandates which I disagree with. I'm a transplant, so this California housing mandate is unexplainable to me for the same reasons you list,

My point was that even now, as Council is "rubber stamping" these quotas, what data is used? And what data should be used, if jobs are ever supposed to be a factor in deciding "how many" the City can sustain.

I'm of the belief that if you impose a burden, you need to step up to share the burden. What is the state providing in return for accepting this nonsense? Is this even legal????


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Data
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 14, 2014 at 5:46 pm



I mean is it legal in the United States of America. I realize it's law in California. WHo else does this?


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Posted by Neilson Buchanan
a resident of Downtown North
on Jan 15, 2014 at 9:59 am

Dear Data,

There are several residents who feel that City Council and Staff could be making better decisions if better data were available. "You can manage what you can measure" is one positive way to approach some of our concerns about Palo Alto's future. If you would like to collaborate with a small group of citizens on "data and mgt information", contact me 329-0484.


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Posted by pat;
a resident of Midtown
on Jan 15, 2014 at 10:21 am

@Neilson Buchanan: I absolutely agree about the data. City Hall makes too many critical decisions without good data.

For example, the recent transportation survey was done on "the honor system," according to the chief transportation officer. There was nothing to prevent one person from taking the survey multiple times.

The survey had two sections: resident responses and employee responses.

Residents were asked if they lived within a mile of a Caltrain station and 50% of the 2,745 respondents said YES. But I couldn't find anything in the survey results correlating commute mode with closeness to a train station.

Only 852 employees responded to the survey.

According to the city's 2012-2013 Comprehensive Annual Financial Report at Web Link page 155, there are 40,203 employees working in the city, excluding city and school district workers. So I doubt the 852 responses in the city survey are statistically significant.

Results of the survey are at: Web Link

The city paid $5,000 to a designer to do the graphics in the report.


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Posted by pat
a resident of Midtown
on Jan 15, 2014 at 10:27 am

@resident: "people change jobs more often than they move house."

Absolutely true. The "new urbanists" who encourage large, dense housing projects say that people who live near public transit will get out of their cars. Hopefully that's true, if their job is also near a transit hub.

But what happens when they change jobs and the new job is not easily accessible by public transit? And what about other members of the household? Where do they work?


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Posted by curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on Jan 15, 2014 at 10:35 am

The jobs housing thing is very simple. We fine tune our residents/jobs ratio so the gridlock on our roads is evenly balanced between inbound commuters and outbound commuters.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by reasonable
a resident of Professorville
on Jan 15, 2014 at 10:45 am

Seems clear that the city should sue the state with regard to this mandate.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Tom DuBois
a resident of Midtown
on Jan 15, 2014 at 10:50 am

Tom DuBois is a registered user.

Moving my commnent here since this seems to be the active thread.

I thought the Palo Altans for Sensible Zoning (PASZ, of which I am a member) and other citizens who spoke at the meeting monday 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 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 (Thanks Pat Burt) 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!


 +   Like this comment
Posted by anciana
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jan 15, 2014 at 11:06 am

What has been happening with new housing construction here has forever changed the character of our city. I don't see Atherton having to do these things. Where is their low income housing? Did somebody pay off the state so they could be exempt????

The other thing that really bugs me is the setbacks are so awful. That wall of stuff running down Alma street has setbacks that are so narrow there might as well be none at all.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Resident 1
a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Jan 15, 2014 at 11:27 am

The PA Comprehensive Plan for the period 2007 through 2014 has been reporting the same requirement since 2007 - it never changes. There is no follow-up which provides the data as to how many housing units have been added in each year through 2013, and how many are on the approved planning and construction process for 2014. I believe that we have exceeded the state mandated requirement at this time as we have had continual construction in South PA since 2007.
Please provide that data in the Weekly which should be provided by the Planning Department so we can comment on the whole program in total - what has been accomplished to date and what needs to be done.
The CC is making decisions without all of the facts. Or we the citizens are not being provided the facts.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by llfried
a resident of Midtown
on Jan 15, 2014 at 11:33 am

llfried is a registered user.

I like "reasonable's comment. If we (read City Council) can prove actual financial damage or perhaps even emotional damage to the city or its citizens we have "legal standing" to sue the State for damages and/or for passing an unconstitutional law that infringes on our voting rights of self-determination.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Craig Laughton
a resident of College Terrace
on Jan 15, 2014 at 7:29 pm

>The only vote of dissent came from Councilman Larry Klein, who strongly objected to having the city cater to a state process it so vehemently opposes. The city, he said, is already forced to comply with state law. By approving a local density-bonus ordinance, the city is "implicitly going along" with the state agenda, he said. He characterized the state's requirement for a local density-bonus as a bureaucratic "loyalty oath."

Larry Klein is all over the map, because he is a major global warming alarmist...which leads to this state mandate. He just doesn't like it when the chickens come home to roost. On the other hand, it is always good to get a convert to the side of sanity.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Anne
a resident of Downtown North
on Jan 16, 2014 at 7:48 am

Gennady- It is not "local council's" as that is the possessive, it is " local councils" which is the plural.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Herb Borock
a resident of Professorville
on Jan 16, 2014 at 1:50 pm

Now that the City Council has revised its zoning code to codify some of the policies in the recently adopted Housing Element, city staff has issued a Request for Proposal to hire a consultant to help revise the Housing Element so that the Council can approve the revision by November 2014 to qualify for Streamlined Update Review by the State Department of Housing and Community Development: Web Link


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Jobs and housing
a resident of another community
on Jan 16, 2014 at 2:01 pm

Palo Alto has about 60,000 residents and about 120,000 jobs. For all of the people wondering how to provide schools, water, etc. for residents - it's ok to hand these responsibilities off to other communities to house the people who work in Palo Alto? It's ok to claim to be sustainable, and then to expect people to drive to work from Gilroy and Contra Costa County?


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Crescent Park Dad
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jan 16, 2014 at 3:46 pm

You could also say the opposite....why aren't the towns who don't have the jobs doing something to encourage employers to locate there so that those residents can walk to work. It's a two way street. You can't dump this all on PA or SF.

What is stopping Gilroy from setting up its own tech center and start up zone?


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Posted by stephen levy
a resident of University South
on Jan 16, 2014 at 3:53 pm

stephen levy is a registered user.

@ Crescent Park Dad,

Nothing is stopping Gilroy or Stockton from competing for jobs.

But despite their lower costs, they are not where most companies want to locate. The evidence on that is pretty clear.

Some of the reasons are that they are much more isolated from the key labor force firms want to attract and most firms at least in tech want to be where the action is.

The reality is that PA is where folks want to be. We have a world-class university, a regional research park, a regional medical center, a regional shopping center and a downtown that continues to attract growth.

You are one of the most reasonable posters on TS. You may not like the implications but it is very real that lots of people and firms want to work here, not in Gilroy or Stockton. But all who wish are free to go or move there.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by pares
a resident of Barron Park
on Jan 16, 2014 at 4:50 pm

CPD has an excellent point. Gilroy isn't that far away from all the advantages that Levy mentions in the above post. Morgan Hill is even closer. So it is a puzzle to me that jobs stay so concentrated in Palo Alto. Why not offer jobs where people can afford to buy homes? Still close to Silicon Valley if not exactly in San Jose.

Furthermore, Levy mentions the jobs/housing imbalance but doesn't mention that many (if not most) who live in Palo Alto do not work here. So, even if you build more and more denser housing, people most likely will work elsewhere.

Another point: ABAG is pushing dense housing here because Palo Alto has so many jobs. But nothing is mentioned how surrounding cities, such as East Palo Alto, Mountain View, Redwood City, etc., can offer more housing at a better cost.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Jerry Underdal
a resident of Barron Park
on Jan 16, 2014 at 5:13 pm

Jerry Underdal is a registered user.

@Crescent Park Dad

The landscape is littered with the bones of tech enterprise zones where local authorities or investors thought they could replicate Silicon Valley's success by offering infrastructure, a favorable tax environment, and a lower cost of living.

As we're seeing, even with bad traffic, inadequate housing and a sky-high cost of living it's tough to dissuade tech innovators and corporations from locating here.

Denver, Salt Lake City, Minneapolis, Austin, Portland--a company that gives up on its hopes to stay on the Peninsula would perhaps look at these and other regional tech centers as better choices than Gilroy, no matter how hard Gilroy tried to woo them.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by jobs and housing
a resident of another community
on Jan 16, 2014 at 5:33 pm

So it's ok to ask RWC and MV and SV to add housing, and not PA? Why would they agree to that? Also, housing in Gilroy and Stockton is false economy. Workers with 90 minute car commutes need more cars per household, higher gas and insurance bills. If you include transportation along with housing costs, it makes sense to live closer to work.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Craig Laughton
a resident of College Terrace
on Jan 16, 2014 at 5:43 pm

Palo Alto is, and has been, an elite 'brain trust' for some decades. Its housing should reflect that fact, through normal market mechanisms. This means that housing will get more expensive over time. Welfare housing has no place in PA. When it comes my time to leave PA, I want my private property rights protected, and I want to sell to the highest bidder (probably a rich entrepreneur or venture capitalist or top level professor, etc.). This will serve two main purposes: 1. I maximize my investment, and 2. Those brainy people can live next to where their wealth and societal contributions can be optimized.

Palo Alto should not continue to fall into the trap of liberal guilt and global warming alarmism...which means hugely increased density (ABAG, anybody?). I am hopeful that the recent defeat of Measure D will focus some minds. The ultimate test is to put any such schemes of welfare density housing/transportation nodes to a vote in any neighborhood where it is proposed.

State mandates should be fought, tooth and nail, through lawsuits coordinated with other cities in CA. All the way to the SCOTUS, if necessary. Larry Klein might be a good one to lead that legal fight.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Resident 1
a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Jan 16, 2014 at 5:46 pm

Where are these jobs concentrated? The school system - teachers and staff; the medical center - doctors and administrative help; law firms - lawyers and administrative help; restaurants; shops. The big technical jobs are located in Mountain View (Google); Menlo Park (Facebook), Sunnyvale and San Jose. The major tech companies are not in PA. HP has buildings here but also elsewhere. Tesla's main manufacturing plant is in east bay. Are you putting Stanford in this mix? They have a very large employee base but relatively little housing for all of the people who work there - including their hospitals. If you are putting Stanford in this mix then they need to step up to the plate and create more housing for the people that work there. They have a lot of undeveloped land.
I think people keep confusing that we are essentially a bed room community for the major employers that work in the directly surrounding cities. The surrounding cities need to add their housing for the equivalent tax base generated by the businesses in their cities. Someone in the city needs to report on what companies are using PA as the tax base for their companies.


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Posted by jobs and housing
a resident of another community
on Jan 16, 2014 at 6:29 pm

"we are essentially a bedroom community" - how do you square that statement with the fact that PA has 60K residents and 120K jobs?


 +   Like this comment
Posted by resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 16, 2014 at 6:42 pm

We know there is booming demand for office space in Palo Alto. The record or near record price paid for the Palantir Building at 100 Hamilton in 2011 underscored that and really propelled the current development frenzy. The issue is what is the capacity of the City to serve this demand while still maintaining the unique qualities and character of the City and its long-term
viability in terms of infrastructure.

Unfortunately and tragically the City has completely failed this test of government in terms of planning, design control, environmental standards. Now the City is open to criticism for the worsening jobs/housing imbalance which the City actually underwrote by subsidizing oversized office projects with parking exemptions which also destroyed surrounding residential areas. Now the City is in a cycle of more office development leading to calls and mandates for more residential development with increasing traffic and congestion the net result. Yes, you can dump all this on City Hall.






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Posted by resident 1
a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Jan 16, 2014 at 6:47 pm

The majority of jobs in PA are related to school, medical, government / public support,restaurants and shopping. Look at the staff at the medical center alone - a lot of people. But most of the people who live here as "breadwinners" are driving to Mountain View (Google) (NASA), Menlo Park (Facebook), Redwood City, San Jose and Cupertino (Apple)or Stanford (different tax base). The question is specific to what businesses are claiming PA as their tax base - get a sort on the statistic. Then get a sort on where the PA residents are working.
A of people who work here are coming in from Redwood City - they like living there. Everyone who works here does not necessarily want to live here. A lot of people are working part time at a number of jobs.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on Jan 16, 2014 at 7:05 pm

Plenty of non-University high tech workplaces up Page Mill, Hanover, Hillview.


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Posted by pares
a resident of Barron Park
on Jan 16, 2014 at 7:09 pm

I agree with the above comment by resident 1 that there are many people who would not choose to live here. I know people who live elsewhere because they could afford more or a better condo/house. Furthermore, many, if not most who live in Palo Alto, do not work here.

So even if you build more and denser housing in Palo Alto, it does not mean that they will also work in Palo Alto.


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Posted by jobs and housing
a resident of another community
on Jan 16, 2014 at 7:23 pm

that is a circular argument. People don't live in Palo Alto near where they work because there is not enough housing for them. Therefore, other cities should provide the housing.


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Posted by resident 1
a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Jan 16, 2014 at 9:44 pm

Jobs and Housing - you don't live here - where do you live? If you don't live here what is your point? A lot of people prefer to live in Redwood City because it is a vibrant community and these people went to school together. If you go to the Friday Night events at the Civic Center during the summer it is obvious this is where the fun is. It is like being at AT&T when there is no game. Same People. They have a great culture there. Lots of events everyone goes to. They have big families there and hang out together. They have their children in the schools they went to and their churches. Our culture revolves around sports at Stanford and our schools.
I have lived here a long time - South PA was the home for over 30,000 Ford Aerospace, Loral and Lockheed Employees. Those homes are know being sold to young Google families. My neighborhood has Google and other firms in the Santa Clara business areas - Applied Material, etc. The young families moving in have great jobs at large companies - Fortune 500 companies. If you get the listings from the realtors they are selling homes like hot cakes. Older people are moving on to other lower cost states and cities.
The younger people moving in with families are here for the schools. The jobs are the fortune 500 companies in the surrounding cities.
PA is selling the school system - we even have Chinese families that are coming for the school system. That is what PA is offering.
Drive down HWY 237 - more big companies than you can count.


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Posted by jobs and housing
a resident of another community
on Jan 16, 2014 at 10:12 pm

Aha, so Palo Alto's school district benefits from the tax revenue brought by the jobs, and by not having to pay for the education of the children of people who work in Palo Alto. Meanwhile, San Franciscans are protesting that Silicon Valley communities have more jobs than housing, bidding up the value of real estate in San Francisco also.

In San Francisco they want Silicon Valley to build housing. In Silicon Valley, people want San Francisco and maybe Contra Costa County to build housing. I live in a neighboring community where the obligation to provide housing is also unpopular. It's always somebody else's responsibility.


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Posted by Resident 1
a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Jan 16, 2014 at 10:30 pm

Jobs and Housing - sorry - still do not get your point. Mountain View, Los Altos, Cupertino, Redwood City have good school systems supported by the people who live there. Palo Alto has a bond issue paid for through property taxes that is for the schools, as does San Mateo County Schools.
In case you haven't noticed all the cities on the peninsula are building housing. There is new construction all up and down the peninsula. San Mateo, San Carlos, Redwood City. The people living in SF and commute tend to be single and they want to live in SF. They want to be there.
Maybe you live in Atherton - don't see any new construction there except for pulling down older homes and replacing them with bigger homes. Really - Atherton is the town we all need to jump on - I have had my fill with them over the Surf Air debacle. They definitely won that argument. So where is the low-income housing in Atherton?


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Posted by Crescent Park Dad
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jan 16, 2014 at 10:52 pm

@ J and H: PAUSD is a basic aid school district. Not sure if you know what that means - simply put, PAUSD is funded primarily by PA property taxes and PA parcel taxes. Very few dollars come from the state.

Jobs and out of town workers do not fund PAUSD. Perhaps you thought that sales tax or employer tax went toward schools? Not the case here.

Sorry, but your assertion does not work.


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Posted by Resident 1
a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Jan 17, 2014 at 11:34 am

One last point here - there are designated commercial zones in the surrounding cities - Mountain View east of the 101 - Google, Intuit; Moffatt Park is the home of YAHOO, Juniper, Lockheed Martin. Move down 237 - Cisco Systems, Brocade, SAMSUNG is building a huge campus on 1st Street in San Jose. These are the major employers - Apple in Cupertino. Oracle in Redwood City. Commercial zones are typically using property that has been bare so a lot of infrastructure has to be included for water, parking, refuse, electrical capability, etc.
Palo Alto's "commercial zone" is limited to Fabian Way (formerly Ford Aerospace, now SSL), Stanford Research Park, and area on Deer Creek Road (Tesla Corporate and SAP). Palo Alto is built out - with exception for Stanford Property which is Not part of Palo Alto's to designate for development. Much of Stanford property is now being used for increased medical buildings and new housing.
How do you convert housing to Commercial? what is the point? The people who are moving in here are still going to drive to the large company's in the major commercial zones. Palo Alto has a defined role that works - why trying to disrupt it?
Many of the comments come from other communities on this subject - I always suspect they prefer some other city to disrupt it self so their community can remain as it is.


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Posted by pares
a resident of Barron Park
on Jan 17, 2014 at 12:04 pm

*j&h -- Why should the number of jobs in a city determine how many new residences/apartments must be built in any given city? Sounds like a rigged way to get around the democratic process and the residents rights to determine zoning. Surrounding cities such as Atherton, Los Altos and Los Altos Hills, Hillsborough, and Portola Valley are not being forced to add new housing stock (at least not to the extent as Palo Alto is told it should add).

Many residents in those communities probably work in Palo Alto and elsewhere up and down the valley. So the whole valley has to be considered when discussing adding new housing.

Point is, building denser housing where the land is more expensive means cramming and smaller units. Many folks prefer more space. So suggesting that new housing be built where land is not as expensive makes more sense.


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Posted by Tom DuBois
a resident of Midtown
on Jan 17, 2014 at 7:48 pm

Tom DuBois is a registered user.

Three points to add to this discussion:

1. Part of PA's attractiveness and curse is geography. We're on a peninsula mid-way between San Francisco and San Jose. If you're looking for a place to live and want to keep your employment options flexible, it's hard to beat. Assuming you're willing to commute a certain distance, you have many more employment options by living in Palo Alto. One-size-fits-all laws like the State housing mandates don't really consider our unique geography.

2. We don't actually know how many people work in Palo Alto. We need a business registry so we actually have data on how big our day time population is. It's crazy, but we really don't know.

3. We need to break the cycle of housing mandates based on a jobs-housing imbalance. As some of the comments noted - we have more housing and less large commercial zones. Yet through a broken planning process, we've managed to greatly increase the number of jobs, which leads to the state giving us increasing housing allocations. Somehow, we need to break this cycle in order to build up our infrastructure to support the increased load.


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Posted by resident 1
a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Jan 17, 2014 at 11:52 pm

Many cities are mid-way - San Mateo all the way down to Cupertino - depending on where you are sitting. If you work at Apple then Cupertino is better than Gilroy or Hollister. It is all a matter of context and relationship. There is a large commercial zone in Mountain View and Sunnyvale west of 101.

The freeway is filled up in the morning all the way to San Mateo so if you use that measurement then Redwood City to San Mateo is where the heavy load of cars are. A lot of activity is in Redwood Shores.
If you are using CalTrain as a measure then you have a lot of people getting off to go to Stanford - either as students or employees.
As in the Comprehensive Plan you see the requirement but not the results of the requirement.
The city needs to report on the number of housing units built in the years 2007 to 2013 and the number scheduled for 2014. We have already exceeded the requirement. That information is never provided. The correct information is being withheld to leverage what ever is being planned.


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Posted by anonymous
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 20, 2014 at 1:05 am

The saddest thing of all is that new housing in California, especially in this area, is by definition not affordable. Older housing stock is the only kind of housing that can be inherently affordable, especially because of Prop 13. The incentives should be to convert and upgrade older housing stock to be maintained as affordable housing. These incentives make it more likely that affordable enclaves like Buena Vista Mobile Home Park will be razed and gone forever. Lots of real affordable housing will be replaced by new dense NON-affordable housing with a tiny number of supposedly affordable units that won't be that affordable. Once that affordable housing stock is gone, it's gone.

The Daily Post had an article today about skyrocketing rents, especially in Mtn Vw, but much of that increase is because of new apartments which command such high rents and skew the market. When averages go up because of it, other landlords think rents are rising and it becomes a self-fulfilling prophesy, making the area even less affordable for everyone in the middle.

There is no evidence that these incentives actually make an area more affordable.

Palo Alto actually had a BMR program that required developers who were already going to build to include a certain percentage in the BMR program, without allowing concessions or density. The state program gives away the farm for nothing, if anything, it creates an incentive to destroy real affordable housing all the faster.

And is the state going to give us any money to pay for the consequences of this densification? Communities where developers make the most money will be hardest hit. We should study the cost of these rules and sue the state to pay us -- so either they stop it, or pay for mitigating the problems -- or maybe we should have instead of enacting our own rules to allow it here anyway (sorry, I think it was idiocy to do it)!


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Posted by anonymous
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 20, 2014 at 1:15 am

Just off the top of your head -- what percentage of the people you know of working age are married, and how many of them work for the same company, and if they have kids, how many of them choose where they live based on not having to drive to work versus being close to good schools and finding a home they can afford?

No really, How many of them will get a job based on whether or not they can arrive at work without a car as the first criterion, and their spouse will work there too, and neither will change jobs or housing circumstances for their careers?

Just asking.

This whole idea is a sham and developer giveaway. Who do we sue to stop it before it's too late (for quality of life, environment, safety, zoning, etc?)


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Posted by Resident 1
a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Jan 20, 2014 at 5:34 pm

Most young people who work change jobs as a matter of routine and career development. That means changing location, possibly from west coast to east coast - or to Colorado. Most older people who are transferred here get a housing boost by their companies. The San Jose Mercury reports on a regular basis the companies in the Silicon Valley and where they are. Those are the companies that have corporate offices in the cities they are in. That does not include subsidiaries that have east coast corporate offices. Then there are the workers at restaurants, shops, bars, medical offices, law offices, etc. Some may be part time workers so company is reporting more than 1 person for the same job. It is difficult to see how the number of workers was derived and what industries they are in. Many students have part time jobs.
Are we suppose to turn the city upside down for inconclusive information that has no actual impact if all the supposed housing was built. Don't think so.
The Mercury News reported last year that a Chinese delegation was setting up shop on Page Mill - it is tops in the Chinese stock exchange and focused on finance.


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