News

Palo Alto Housing Corporation sells Maybell site

With housing proposal rejected, nonprofit developer sells orchard site to Cupertino-based Golden Gate Homes, LLC

After seeings its plan for a housing complex on Maybell Avenue collapse in a referendum last November, the Palo Alto Housing Corporation has completed the sale of the 2.46-acre site to a Cupertino-based buyer, Golden Gate Homes LLC, county records show.

Candice Gonzalez, executive director of the Housing Corporation, declined to comment on the buyer or the details surrounding the terms of sale, citing her organization's "obligation to the buyer per a confidentiality agreement." She confirmed, however, that the terms were sufficient for the Housing Corporation to recoup its costs for buying the site.

"Our goal was to be able to pay back all of our lenders and recover our significant carrying costs, which we have been able to achieve with this transaction," Gonzalez said in an email to the Weekly.

The Silicon Valley Business Journal reported the purchase price at $22 million, well above the $15.6 million that the housing nonprofit paid for the site in December 2012. The price is also significantly higher than the $18.7 million Palo Alto officials had projected the site to bring in when they last discussed it in December.

The Housing Corporation, a nonprofit that develops and manages affordable-housing complexes throughout the city, has received several loans to make its purchase of the old orchard site around Maybell and Clemo avenues. It was planning to build a 60-unit complex for low-income seniors and 15 market-rate homes, a number that was later reduced to 12. Though the council unanimously approved the proposed housing development in June, the decision was later overturned by voters in a November referendum.

Palo Alto had loaned the nonprofit $5.8 million for the purchase and council members agreed in December not to demand immediate repayment of the loan.

Tim Wong, a Palo Alto city planner, said the escrow on the property sale was closed on Friday and the Housing Corporation repaid the city's loan on Monday.

The site zoning designation, R-15 (with a small portion that is R-2), makes it likely that the orchard could see an influx of housing, though proponents and opponents in last year's Measure D referendum reached different conclusions over how much housing it should accommodate. City officials have said the site's zoning would accommodate between 34 and 46 housing units, depending on the number of units the developer chooses to devote to affordable housing.

The Santa Clara County clerk's office lists the grantee in the April 25 transaction as Golden Gate Homes, LLC, an entity with a registered address on Stevens Creek Road in Cupertino. The agent for the corporation is listed as Yurong Han. The address listed for the corporation on the Secretary of State registry places it in the Pacific Business Center. When reached by phone, a receptionist at the center could find no record of either Han or the Golden Gate Homes in the business complex.

Even with the transaction complete, the Housing Corporation isn't celebrating.

"We remain disappointed at the loss of a very rare opportunity to build 60 affordable senior housing units in Palo Alto," Gonzalez said in an email.

Comments

Posted by Other shoe, a resident of Greenmeadow
on Apr 29, 2014 at 10:37 am

I must have missed something. Wasn't the City Council supposed to spend $22 million to preserve the heritage orchard? Didn't the Weekly say that we were going to get affordable housing on this site after sending a message? This sounds like a commercial developer who is going to do stack and pack development on this site?

Oh reality, why have you forsaken us?


Posted by Domadiful, a resident of Barron Park
on Apr 29, 2014 at 10:47 am

[Portion removed.] You vote down a measure that would have enhanced the community and had minimal impact on traffic with a bunch of non driving seniors. NOW you're going to get stack and pack with young techy professionals and families that are going to have a HUGE impact on traffic and make the community even more fast paced hustle and bustle!

Congratulations, that's what you get for being so greedy.


Posted by baron, a resident of Barron Park
on Apr 29, 2014 at 11:02 am

just for the record that I live in Baron Bark and I wanted the senior housing to be built. Now , now senior housing, only house to the rich. 46 of them. that is the neighborhood want to become more rich. there you have it.


Posted by whatnow, a resident of Green Acres
on Apr 29, 2014 at 11:09 am

[Post removed.]


Posted by Green Bean, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Apr 29, 2014 at 11:13 am

We were disappointed that the senior housing project was voted down. It would have helped solve our unbalanced housing situation. [Portion removed.]


Posted by Domadiful, a resident of Barron Park
on Apr 29, 2014 at 11:17 am

[Post removed.]


Posted by Predictable Outcome., a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 29, 2014 at 11:17 am

This is exactly what PAHC said they would do. Given their options, it is the only thing they can do.

Rule #1: Before you vote against a project, make sure you understand what you will probably get instead.
Rule #1: Before you vote against a project, make sure you understand what you will probably get instead.
Rule #1: Before you vote against a project, make sure you understand what you will probably get instead.

Please copy 3,000 times and and memorize...


Posted by Domadiful, a resident of Barron Park
on Apr 29, 2014 at 11:24 am

How many of the seniors at the proposed measure D site would have been sending their kids to PAUSD schools? ZERO. How many of the NOW future tenants will be sending their kids to PAUSD schools??? I'd guess more than 50%. How are you gonna solve that issue?


Posted by green gables, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Apr 29, 2014 at 11:26 am

It was not the low-income senior housing that Palo Alto residents voted against. It was the density of the houses to be built.

By the way, seniors drive whether they are low-income or not. I'm a low-income senior volunteer driving for door-to-door at Avenidas. What do you do to volunteer?


Posted by Domadiful, a resident of Barron Park
on Apr 29, 2014 at 11:32 am

@green gables, I volunteer as a basketball coach for youth, special needs children in our community, and offer free professional consulting to families in need. Is that ok with you?

Seniors that DO drive, would have had a lesser impact compared to young families that will be driving at peak commute hours.


Posted by Tony Carrasco, a resident of Green Acres
on Apr 29, 2014 at 11:42 am

Too bad we lost senior housing and Congratulations PAHC for recovering all your costs!


Posted by gameofthrones, a resident of Midtown
on Apr 29, 2014 at 11:53 am

@ predictable outcome - how true - Rule #1: Before you vote against a project, make sure you understand what you will probably get instead.

[Portion removed.]

Where are the ringleaders who ran around Palo Alto last year that lied and deceived citizens for their signatures placing a referendum on the ballot that would surely be defeated by motivated nimbyists versus a typically apathetic voting public with no other measures or officers to vote for?

Thought it was a resounding, overwhelming victory for the opposition.

Sounds now like a lot of regret and should-a, would-a, could-a now that the property will clearly be developed for families. With lots of kids that become teenage drivers. With live-in grandparents under the same roof.

You get what you reap.


Posted by Retired Teacher, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Apr 29, 2014 at 12:08 pm

I'm in favor of affordable housing in Palo Alto, and against having badly-designed projects jammed down our throats. Too early to determine what sort of project will be built on the property. Let's hope it's a better-designed one with some affordable housing. If not, the people of Palo Alto have every right to put pressure on the city to uphold reasonable standards.

Let's also hope that PAHC and the city council are open to taking away some lessons about working with the residents of Palo Alto instead of ignoring their concerns and judgments.


Posted by Accountability, a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Apr 29, 2014 at 12:23 pm

Not ideal, but the existing zoning and comprehensive plan (which states the low end of the rm15 range is to be used when abutting r1 zoning) will protect the neighborhood. The result won't be much denser than just the 15 stack and packs that PAHC tried to gift a for profit developer in the first place, to say nothing of the 60 PAHC apartments.

[Portion removed.]


Posted by Anonymous, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 29, 2014 at 12:29 pm

As long as the zoning hasn't changed, I'm satisfied with this outcome.


Posted by A neighbor, a resident of Barron Park
on Apr 29, 2014 at 12:35 pm

Let's see if the city hands the new owner all the exceptions and zoning changes that they gave to PAHC. If they don't the builder can not build those stack and pack houses that PAHC was going to build to make money for the senior building.

Also, the city should require that enough parking be planned on the property itself so that we don't have the parking issues that PAHC would have created for the neighborhood. Yes, seniors do drive especially if they live near no amenities and have no cafeteria on sight, etc.

So from here on it is the city council that needs to control the urge to hand developers whatever they ask for.


Posted by Craig Laughton, a resident of College Terrace
on Apr 29, 2014 at 1:00 pm

[Post removed.]


Posted by Ellie, a resident of College Terrace
on Apr 29, 2014 at 1:04 pm

They likely are very happy to build at current zoning. So little oversight by city cuz they build by right. With density bonus that is automatic if they build some BMR housing there can be up to 45 units. That is what the anti D argument states in ballot book.
So congratulations no on D - you have messed us up just as we said during the campaign. Duh.


Posted by Demosthenes, a resident of Addison School
on Apr 29, 2014 at 1:24 pm

To most, but not all, the previous posters: Are not your crude attempts at humor premature? The New Owner cannot build more than City and State law permit, and any dispute about what that is will be determined. This Sale does not change what that amount is.

What does need to change in the November Election is to get rid of the Council Majority-That-Can't-Say-No, and there is a good chance that that will happen. Given the vote on Measure D and considering that a large chunk of those Yes votes were strong housing advocates, not fans of the current Council, this appears to be ripe.

What a Town! We have a Council Majority-That-Can't-Say-No, completely and arrogantly out of touch with the Citizens and which never never never follows its own Comp Plan and even seems proud to ignore it. And we have the previous posters who seem happy with that situation and derisive of those of us that think COMP PLANS AND ZONING SHOULD BE FOLLOWED. How strange of us!!!

IT IS TIME TO ELECT A GOOD COUNCIL!!! DO IT !!!


Posted by Retired Teacher, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Apr 29, 2014 at 1:43 pm

[Portion removed.]

Demosthenes, I am sometimes critical of the city council, but I also realize that they have a very difficult job and deserve respect, not vilification. It's our job as citizens to let them know what we think is right. As I said before, I hope they listen to all the citizens, rather than just marching ahead to their own set of drummers.


Posted by Domadiful, a resident of Barron Park
on Apr 29, 2014 at 1:52 pm

[Post removed.]


Posted by Max Von sydow, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Apr 29, 2014 at 2:05 pm

[Post removed.]


Posted by ok with outcome, a resident of Barron Park
on Apr 29, 2014 at 2:07 pm

Its interesting to see all the vindictive comments about how some folks hope or expect a big, huge, housing development there that makes traffic, schools, etc. worse for Barron Park, just to punish folks who weren't in favor of the high density PAHC housing. How righteous and childish. For the record, I was against the PAHC proposal because of the high density, not because it was affordable housing. This was the case for everyone I talked to who was against it. And, also consistent with almost all the folks I know who were opposed to the PAHC high density proposal, I am good with anything built there that conforms to the current zoning.


Posted by Joe, a resident of Barron Park
on Apr 29, 2014 at 2:13 pm

This is good news. Many of us would much rather see a private developer with the site. There doesn't seem to be much information available about Golden Gate Homes, LLC but my gut feeling is that they will not do BMR housing.

PAHC appears to have made a nice profit on Maybell which they can apply to a future project. All in all, this seems like a positive outcome for Palo Alto.


Posted by Craig Laughton, a resident of College Terrace
on Apr 29, 2014 at 2:16 pm

[Post removed.]


Posted by Palo Alto Native , a resident of College Terrace
on Apr 29, 2014 at 3:38 pm

Voting NO on Measure D was a very important victory for Palo Altains. We said NO to further dense development, no matter who it may serve. Moreover, we are saying NO to a City Council out of touch with the quality of life for all Palo Altains who have been the YES council to commercial development and the demand it places on providing more dense housing in Palo Alto via mandates by ABAG. If the Council continues to ignore us homeowners, then we continue to use the referendum vote until we replace those members with a new no-growth membership. This is the beginning of the end for overdevelopment in Palo Alto - a process that began in the early 1980s and has now finally reached a saturation point. Of course, as a Palo Altain from 1960, I thought the 1980s were too hectic for Palo Alto. Thirty-years later, enough of us have finally got on board with the over saturation of our beloved town.

True, I wish the orchard could be preserved as a Park. However, if we have to build on that site, at least they will be only large single family homes within zoning requirements. No more condos, apartments, or multifamily homes in Palo Alto. In fact, instead of building up to 46 homes I hope they make say only 25 mansions with large front and backyards. One can hope.

We will always be successful here in Palo Alto given our proximity to the R+D center of Stanford, the existing high tech firms in the area, and the clustering of Law Firms and Venture Capitalists. And believe me, if we dropped back to the population and business demand of the 1980s, I would be thrilled (sadly, not likely).

No more commercial development in Palo Alto; no more apartments, condos, multifamily homes. We are done. Time for new start-ups to head out to the East Bay, East Palo Alto and other parts of the country that can really use the intellect, drive, and economic vitality of this region. In short, more Silicon Valley's need to be launched around the nation. Spread out the wealth.


Posted by jane, a resident of Barron Park
on Apr 29, 2014 at 4:33 pm

Palo Alto Native - RM15 is the zoning this is not going to be single family homes. These are condos. Congrats you are now going to have approx 40 condos coming your way with a huge impact on traffic and schools.


Posted by Domadiful, a resident of Barron Park
on Apr 29, 2014 at 4:35 pm

@pa native

Good luck with that! Populations are only growing in the Bay Area. I suggest buying land in some remote area if you wish to live in a "no development" environment. There are smart ways to approach growth and there are stupid ways. Hopefully Palo Alto takes a balanced approach.


Posted by Jerry Underdal, a resident of Barron Park
on Apr 29, 2014 at 5:19 pm

Jerry Underdal is a registered user.

Still lots of uncertainty about the outcome at Maybell/Clemo. Will the developer go fewer but bigger or build lots of small units? Will traffic be impacted any more or less than if the senior affordable housing project had been allowed to go through? Will the orchard survive?

I believe the narrative line of this year's city council election campaign will be "What We Learned from Measure D." But for now, any campaign plan focusing on Measure D should be considered a rough draft. The triumphalism of Measure D's opponents may prove premature.

Don't forget the community meeting at Terman, 6:30–8:30 this evening, Tues. April 29, to get feedback on the El Camino Way–Maybell–Donald–Georgia bicycle corridor plan.


Posted by Palo Alto Native, a resident of College Terrace
on Apr 29, 2014 at 5:27 pm

Hi Jane - I did not know RM15 is zoning not for single family homes: instead condos. If that's the case, two items: one, the city council is good at rezoning for overdevelopment - now we can rezone for Underdevelopment! Rezone for homes! And if we are stuck with 40 Condos that certainly less than the denser development that was overturned. Not ideal but better than the first alternative. I remember attending Terman at the start of the 1970s - traffic was bad then! One good thing though - wealthier families tend to have fewer offspring. Ironic (but a function of education), those that can afford larger families and those that can not produce opposite conditions. So another benefit of higher prices for homes tends to be smaller size families.

Hi Domadiful - not so. There is only room for growth if we continue to urbanize Palo Alto with more density of high tech office space and its corresponding demand for dense housing. We are done. The population bulge is already here. We are just preventing further development so our quality of life does not continue to erode. As noted before, High Tech needs to move to other parts of the country and state. Nonetheless, thanks for your perspective.


Posted by chris, a resident of University South
on Apr 29, 2014 at 5:59 pm

Palo Alto Native,

You have a severe case of Not in my Back Yard.

As the others have pointed out, the more stone walling you do now,
the more disasterous the end result will be.

Time for some realistic planning before it is too late.


Posted by Eric F, a resident of Downtown North
on Apr 29, 2014 at 6:02 pm

It's not true that density is inevitable in a strong economy. In the last twenty years the population of Los Angeles County has grown 33%, yet in the same period the population of Santa Monica has grown 3%. That's slower growth than Atherton.

Reasonable people may disagree about whether 3% or 33% or something in between is the right number for Palo Alto, but the point is the density is not Fate; it's a choice.

But you can't actually make that choice if you have no process. It remains to be seen what will be built on the Maybell site, but even if it ends up being high density, I'd argue that high density which complies with zoning laws is much better than high density which doesn't. When the city constantly end-runs its own zoning laws, it throws away its ability to use those laws to choose the density that best makes sense for Palo Altans.

Every one of the 8,500 people who voted against Measure D understood this. While something will certainly be built on the Maybell property, the Measure D revolt was about more than just a piece of land; it was also about Palo Alto's ability, and willingness, to control our own future.


Posted by Domadiful, a resident of Barron Park
on Apr 29, 2014 at 6:09 pm

[Post removed.]


Posted by Eric F, a resident of Downtown North
on Apr 29, 2014 at 7:17 pm

I don't know about such a dream; mine is the dream is having municipal zoning codes that actually get followed.

And, indirectly, the dream of the City looking at the "system" impact of its land-use decisions, as opposed to considering each one in isolation, a la "it's only 50 more cars without parking spaces, it's not that many."


Posted by Domadiful, a resident of Barron Park
on Apr 29, 2014 at 7:30 pm

[Post removed.]


Posted by J Verango, a resident of Barron Park
on Apr 29, 2014 at 8:24 pm

I think that the sale of this site is truly a loss to the community, seniors, the neighborhood and the city. Irrespective of all the hiding behind 'holier-than-thou-follow-process-we-did-not-oppose-housing-for-seniors' comments; the underlying feeling reeks of NIMBYism at it's worst. I am truly concerned about seeing the new owner of the site build (within existing zoning)30-45 stacked pigeon coops occupied with large families, potentially having relatives use the addresses to get into PA schools overcrowding our schools, parking and neighborhood. [Portion removed.]


Posted by ok with outcome, a resident of Barron Park
on Apr 29, 2014 at 8:57 pm

Its amazing how people raise the same old tired arguments. First, those gloating that 45 condos will be built there, with many school kids, etc. - I, like many people, feel this outcome is better than 15 big houses holding big families, and with insufficient parking, and 60 additional apartments needing extra parking. If you look at the condo size that fits 45 condos on the site, they would be small, 1 & 2 bedroom condos, ideal for singles or young couples, and likely would have many fewer kids or families than the 15 3-4 bedroom houses proposed along with the 60 apartments. Secondly, its not clear what current density would support, if the now required zoning for wider internal road widths, setbacks, etc. were enforced. Finally, its not clear that it would all be condos, as bigger houses with a park view across the street would likely sell for enough to make them a better choice than density maxing out with smaller condos on the entire site. But, as many of us have said, apparently to deaf people, we're ok with the outcome as long as it conforms to zoning. I personally read and studied the zoning, walked the area several times visualizing it with the PAHC over-dense monstrosity compared to max density from current density, looked at how many kids on average would come from small condos vs big houses, the number of driving trips 120 apartment dwellers plus 15 big houses worth would generate vs up to 45 small condos, and frankly I don't think it will be worse, regardless of what some wish. But, as Gerry says, lets wait and see. I can live with it. Apparently some people can't get over the idea that most people did not see it their way.


Posted by Bill, a resident of Barron Park
on Apr 29, 2014 at 10:53 pm

Generally, this seems like one of the best outcomes for home owners in Barron Park. The site is in walking distance of great schools, easy access to Standord, the research park, Foothill Expressway and 280. If offshore money is backing the venture there is almost no likelihood of BMR housing in this development.

The biggest losers are the residents of Buena Vista. The price paid for this site pegs the Buena Vista location at just under $40 million as an empty lot. By selling at this price so close to the Buena Vista closure hearing in a little over two weeks, PAHC puts any hope of the city kicking in funds to help purchase the mobile home park millions of dollars out of reach. Well, that will leave more for PAHC and their future projects.


Posted by Thanks Weekly!, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 30, 2014 at 8:15 am

Most people in Palo Alto trust the Weekly to inform the community about things like Measure D, the schools, and local issues.The Weekly is a valuable asset and an award-winning local publication that we should be grateful to have in these days of shrinking journalistic resources. In this case, however, the Weekly has played a wholly negative role. Its editorial urging people to vote No on D was outrageously irresponsible. In particular, the assertion by the Weekly that the City could just somehow pay out of city funds to ensure that senior low income housing was built on the site with fewer units if D lost was crazy, wrong, and doubtless misled some people into voting down the measure.

The vast majority of Palo Altans had no idea what was happening with Measure D. They looked at the Weekly endorsement, as they do with other local elections, to make their decision. To imply that people could have their cake and eat it too -- vote down the measure but somehow some kind of fantasy low income city funded project that would satisfy everyone would result -- was pure conjecture, wishful thinking, and fantasy.

I do blame the Weekly more than I blame [portion removed] who ran the anti-D campaign because without a megaphone they would have remained just that. The Weekly provided them with more than just journalism that reported on their desire to defeat public housing. The Weekly amplified those concerns, endorsed them, and then created a fabulist account of how it was not what it appeared to be. It appeared to be a NIMBY group trying to hijack the local planning process and that is exactly what it was.

I'm not sorry that they will end up with stack and pack condos for tech professionals. People have to live somewhere. I wish it was going to be that nice senior low income community. But oh, well. This has an element of poetic justice.

I think the Weekly should stop publishing editorials. They are often really terrible and display a lack of judgment.


Posted by Rupert of henzau, a resident of Midtown
on Apr 30, 2014 at 8:34 am

Thanks weekly-- that is the problem-- thinking that you ca trust the PA weakly to act in the best judgement of the city. Do not forget they are a for profit that solicits " donation" from the readers. They are all about the profit. Therefore their endorsements are all about who they want to impress-- be it city " big shots" and/or vocal residents led by our "movers and shakers". There is , IMHO, a correlation between advertisement bought and an endorsement by the Weakly. My advice ignore weakly endorsements and do not buy from advertisers that buy space in the weakly.


Posted by DZ, a resident of Terman Middle School
on Apr 30, 2014 at 9:12 am

When I become less productive, I will go live in a place that is less productive, yet cheaper, less stressful. Leave best places for the most productive ones among us, that is good for this country. I don't feel shame or wrong with that.


Posted by Power!, a resident of Barron Park
on Apr 30, 2014 at 9:47 am

When someone doesn't get their plan for the best for a neighborhood or city, then wants the worst, it's hard to understand them as really wanting the best to begin with. Really, they demonstrate that they care more about control than impact on neighborhood and city.

These cries of "Told you so! Hope you rot in hell" indicate that the crier's main concern was and is power of control rather than best outcome.

And that validates the side claims with the "no on D" campaign that attacked PAHC for its heavy handed disregard of local community input, and disregard of safety, parking, and facilities impacts. Not to mention disregard of the comprehensive zoning worked out as guide for Palo Alto years ago. PAHC had run amok and was determined to get its own way on a wave of concern for senior and low cost housing whatever the reality was. There was never a sensible reason to put a concentration of seniors there, except that PAHC wanted to.

Since they didn't get that, people are upset over it. Concerned enough with control to pay $100K to help get it, but not concerned enough with best outcome to pay a dime.



Posted by zoning, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Apr 30, 2014 at 10:11 am

For reference, from the City of Palo Alto website: RM-15 Low Density Multiple-Family Residence District [RM-15]
The RM-15 low-density multiple-family residence district is intended to create, preserve and enhance areas for a mixture of single-family and multiple-family housing which is compatible with lower density and residential districts nearby, including single-family residence districts. The RM-15 residence district also serves as a transition to moderate density multiple-family districts or districts with nonresidential uses. Permitted densities in
the RM-15 residence district range from eight to fifteen dwelling units per acre.

The Maybell site is 2.46 acres, so the number of units that can be permitted ranges from 20 to 37, assuming no variances.


Posted by Domadiful, a resident of Barron Park
on Apr 30, 2014 at 10:16 am

Love how the moderators are removing my posts. All I'm doing us painting a realistic picture of Palo Alto's future. Maybe it was my Zuckerberg comment. Is PA weekly in bed with Zuckerbro?


Posted by Crescent Park Dad, a resident of Crescent Park
on Apr 30, 2014 at 11:34 am

The people in this thread who are casting all sorts of negative to the No on D campaign are choosing to cling to their inaccurate claims they pushed during the election.

The bottom line: If PAHC had designed a facility that fit within the existing zoning requirements (e.g., density, height, etc.), there would have never been a Measure D and PAHC would be digging footings and pouring foundations right now.

It is as simple as that.


Posted by As the Stomach Turns, a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Apr 30, 2014 at 11:44 am

[Post removed.]


Posted by Jerry Underdal, a resident of Barron Park
on Apr 30, 2014 at 11:52 am

Jerry Underdal is a registered user.

All three local papers called for a No on D vote. The Daily Post's call was no surprise. The Weekly's was. The Daily News endorsed No on D even though its mothership, The San Jose Mercury, said it would be better to vote in favor of Measure D. There was a debate here in TS about whether that constituted a full endorsement of a Yes on D vote.

So what happened? The city council and the "establishment" got blindsided. They thought Palo Alto citizens, who generally have favored affordable housing in the past, would agree this this was a creative, cost-efficient way to provide 60 units of low and moderate housing for seniors.

Behind the 9–0 votes, not only to approve the project but to take this to a referendum in November, lay a belief that once Palo Altans got the facts about the project and the financing for it they would surely see that this was in the neighborhood and city's best interest.

The mayor's weekend intervention to try to persuade leaders of the Maybell Action Group (and successor organizations) that the project would not pencil out if pieces of it were significantly altered encountered a solid wall of resistance and denial.

The ensuing campaign and election pitted the energy and enthusiasm of an insurgent movement on the one hand, against the city council's confidence that voters across the city would recognize the reasonableness of its decisions even if the neighborhood involved wouldn't.

But the vote showed that something's changed. A property rights movement has taken root in our political life in a way that challenges assumptions about the character of Palo Alto. The good side, from my point of view, is that some very large developments have been derailed.

The down side is represented by this organizing appeal on the web site of the San Francisco Bay Area chapter of the Citizens' Alliance for Property Rights: "Words like Sustainable Development, Smart Growth, Going Green Could be harmful to your property rights." "Is there anything I can do about it?"

I happen to be attracted rather than repelled by those political buzz words. They represent concepts and practices that I love about Palo Alto. So I take it seriously that Mimi Steel, a key figure in the CAPR, spoke to a full house of Palo Altans for Sensible Zoning supporters last month. I hope others will as well.


Posted by Thanks Weekly!, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 30, 2014 at 12:08 pm

Good post Jerry.

Yes it is alarming to see the publisher of our local paper, and a solid liberal like Bill Johnson climbing into bed with the likes of the [portion removed] Mimi Steel and her local fan club. It saddens me to see such a smart person falling for such a dumb Trojan Horse.


Posted by Craig Laughton, a resident of College Terrace
on Apr 30, 2014 at 12:13 pm

>But the vote showed that something's changed. A property rights movement has taken root in our political life in a way that challenges assumptions about the character of Palo Alto.

Indeed.


Posted by Crescent Park Dad, a resident of Crescent Park
on Apr 30, 2014 at 12:23 pm

Question to "Thanks Weekly" - do you deny that if the PAHC project had been designed to the existing zoning rules that Measure D would not have been brought to the voters?

You can blame all of the newspapers on your radar. But you continue to deny the foundation for all of this - trying to build an over-sized, out of zoning, project in a residential neighborhood. All PAHC needed to do was follow the RM-15 zoning.


Posted by question, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Apr 30, 2014 at 1:30 pm

Why is there a confidentiality agreement as to the buyer - when a company is named in the story? I am confused.


Posted by HUTCH 7.62, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Apr 30, 2014 at 1:46 pm

How many readers here have felt the need to sell get out of Palo Alto while they still can?

-The city council is out of control

-The school system is overcrowded and is under federal scrutiny

-Traffic is horrible (especially on the "new and improved" Arasterdero Rd.)

-Housing is being bought only to remain empty for years making many wonder if a bubble is gonna pop.





Posted by Thanks Weekly!, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 30, 2014 at 4:18 pm

CPD -- there's no point in refighting the facts of the Measure D fiasco. [Portion removed.]

The fact is that it was not economically viable to build fewer than 60 units for low income seniors because of federal and state aid. It was not economically possible to build those units without subdividing the lots and selling for a few private homes. PAHC cut it to the bare minimum number. The neighborhood wanted it to be 8 at market rate, PAHC wanted 15 and the City Council brokered a deal to reduce the homes to 12. The property rights advocates [portion removed] refused to accept that deal and the ballot initiative resulted.

That means that the gap was 4 homes.

We had all this over 4 homes.

Now there will be a big ugly for profit condo development on the site instead of 60 well-landscaped senior units and a few homes. Personally I hope it makes 800 High Street look like a Frank Lloyd Wright home, but that's just me. [Portion removed.] I think that they screwed the poor over 4 homes, and I think that they were a stalking horse for the right-wing property rights movement and for private developers.

They got what they deserved. Now the only question is why the Weekly showed such poor judgment and when it will admit its mistake and apologize.



Posted by Jerry Underdal, a resident of Barron Park
on Apr 30, 2014 at 5:08 pm

Jerry Underdal is a registered user.

@CPD

I hope you and Thanks Weekly won't mind if I make a stab at answering that one.

If the PAHC project had been designed to the existing zoning, it would have gone no farther than the designer's desk, so in a sense you're right, Measure D would not have been brought before the voters.

More to the point, though, is that PAHC could not have bought the property without the funds that came from the various pieces of the project as it was put together.

Yet I never heard voices from the No on D side insisting that PAHC instantly sell at market price the property it had just bought, repay its debts and go about its business elsewhere, leaving the property and surrounding neighborhood to the mercies of the marketplace. Instead we got appeals for the city to put money and support into projects of the bloggers' choosing on that property.


Posted by Jerry Underdal, a resident of Barron Park
on Apr 30, 2014 at 5:15 pm

Jerry Underdal is a registered user.

@question

"Why is there a confidentiality agreement as to the buyer - when a company is named in the story?"

I think the confidentiality applies to the terms of the sale and the plans of the developer rather than the identity of the parties involved. The terms will eventually be made public, I believe. Maybe someone familiar with real estate law could clarify for us.


Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 30, 2014 at 6:17 pm

"Personally I hope it makes 800 High Street look like a Frank Lloyd Wright home"

Now there's a helpful insight.


Posted by Facts please, a resident of Green Acres
on Apr 30, 2014 at 6:32 pm

"The neighborhood wanted it to be 8 at market rate, PAHC wanted 15 and the City Council brokered a deal to reduce the homes to 12."

This is completely untrue. The city did not broker any deal. 12 was a number that the city council arbitrarily chose to make it look like they were addressing the residents concerns. The residents did not bite. That is the furthest thing from a "deal." The fact is that if the project worked financially with 12 units (and it clearly did, as PAHC spend hundreds of thousands of dollars fighting for it), PAHC should not have asked for 15 in the first place. This buffering is a simple dirty developer tactic -- ask for more than you need, so that you can give a little back and say you're compromising. Same goes for the 11 driveways out onto Maybell -- they never should have been designed in, and when PAHC moved them to the inside of the project, they felt they deserved something in return for their meaningless giveback.


Posted by Realtor, a resident of Crescent Park
on Apr 30, 2014 at 7:30 pm

Regarding the Confidentiality Agreement between the buyer and seller:
A buyer can pay a small fee to the title company to have the price they paid for the property hidden from the public. (The title company puts the sales price on the "back" side of the sales document, thus not about to be seen by the public.) However, the sales price is easy to calculate once the new property tax base is determined. The yearly property taxes on a property is public information. You just need to multiply the property taxes times 1.1 percent. That gives you the price paid for the property. (Property taxes are 1.1 percent of the sales price of the house.) Hope that helps. Nothing is private anymore.


Posted by For the record, a resident of Community Center
on Apr 30, 2014 at 8:12 pm

Divide the property tax by 1.1%, do not multiply.


Posted by Neighbor, a resident of Green Acres
on Apr 30, 2014 at 9:24 pm

RE: ZONING LIMITS

The Comprehensive Plan state for multi-family zoning such as RM-15:
"density should be on the lower end of the scale next to single family residential areas. "

RM-15 is 8 units per acre on the lower end of the scale. That means 16 or so units on the whole property, not 41. It is possible to build LOWER density that zoning suggests, that's consistent with the comp plan. If someone honors all the setbacks and lot sizes, etc, and wants to build most profitable, marketable homes, they'll put in really large single-family homes on lots that make the most sense under market and zoning conditions.

A builder could put in 15 houses and make $35-45 million if they play their cards right. If they are really nice to the neighborhood and present a plan they can buy into, the neighbors will even support the new owners in rearranging the zoning so they can have properties big enough for in-law units -- single-family homes in this neighborhood above 2500 or 3k sq ft on lots large enough to take an in-law unit (even if not built) go into a whole other level of price stratum.

It's uncertain a Cupertino builder would know that, though.


Re: MEASURE D PROPONENTS' REVENGE ON TREES AND DISABLED STUDENTS

The only take-away is that the City really, really wanted to co-opt the otherwise tree-huggers around here so they could make all of you glad some developer was chopping down 100 established trees in the last historic orchard in town in a drought.

This was never a foregone conclusion. The City could have listened to the neighbors and formed a working group to save the orchard and get the housing. Palo Alto has 17% seniors as opposed to 11% in most of CA. Seniors are the wealthiest demographic. The trees and the disabled students in the school across the street from the orchard are who really deserved the help, and would have if the City had been willing to form a working group. Ah, but so what, so long as you thwarted get your revenge, right?

The City had the right to buy the property and hold it, and put deed restrictions on it for safety's sake before reselling it. But clearly children's safety was never on their radar throughout this whole thing anyway. Let's hope the new developer realizes that Measure D came about because of children's safety in the first place, and none of that concern has changed. In fact, the situation here has only gotten worse. Let's hope the new developer realizes that the City Council told PAHC to go after that property and told them the neighbors couldn't do anything then, too.

If the City Council told the new developer, if they build under the existing zoning the neighbors can't do anything, and it's the Council's vision of what can go there, history will repeat itself for the new developer and the City Council. If the City Council told the developer they had nothing to worry about and do whatever they want because of the bike "safety" plans on that corridor, they'll also be unpleasantly surprised, especially since City people told neighbors (in writing) they couldn't take potential development on that parcel into account in that effort. If the developer made plans based on talking just to PAHC and the City (the same City employees who provided demonstrably false information to the state throughout the Measure D debacle to try to get what they wanted), without understanding the neighborhood, they will find out what the neighbors had planned had they lost the referendum, they are not powerless.

PAHC and the City never gave the neighbors the chance to find a way to save the orchard. That was all their doing. They could have, and it wouldn't have cost anything.

Just realize - had they not been so bent on revenge and rewriting all of this to suit their ideological biases, and proponents had been willing to give their neighbors the benefit of good faith, the same people who made opposed the rezoning could have saved that orchard and found a way to put in some affordable housing (probably for disabled students, though, which would have been a far more needed use at that location). THAT's what Measure D proponents including Council and PAHC have prevented from happening in their quest for revenge. Hope that makes you feel real good.

As someone who was involved in this from the start, Maybell Action Group only formed much later, after a lot of work trying to convince PAHC and the City to compromise to make the development closer to the neighborhood. Neighbors like Joe Hirsch and Bob Moss who helped ensure the low-income Terman Apts got built in a working group would have made sure the housing got built in another way, if given the chance. Their asking for a working group had a proven history of success, but they were ignored. No one wanted to go to referendum.

With all due respect, Jerry Underdal -- as one of the people who started this, I can tell you your retelling is almost entirely fabrication to suit your opinions. It's not what happened. But I can tell you that if we had been given the chance, we would have saved the orchard, and ensured affordable housing was built for disabled students on the parcel, too, close to that school. That was an easier prospect than winning a land use referendum against PAHC. But PAHC and the City didn't want to allow that to happen, and never gave us the chance. They only had that option politically because of people like you.

This could end up being ugly if the developer follows the above desired path of revenge, but if challenged, we will win that, too, if children's safety and our neighborhood's character are at stake. Just realize, we could have been putting the effort into making a real asset for the entire City and for the disabled community, saving the orchard, making sure the most beneficial affordable housing was built there, and putting effort into ensuring the senior housing was built in a more service-accessible location -- and we would have made it happen. Again, it would have been far easier than Measure D given what we faced. I realize you'll go back to just demonizing us in your mind. Hope you understand for at least a millisecond what was really lost here. Enjoy seeing the trees chopped down and realize your own part in it.


Posted by read it first, a resident of Midtown
on Apr 30, 2014 at 9:52 pm

[Post removed.]


Posted by Neighbor, a resident of Green Acres
on Apr 30, 2014 at 9:55 pm

I found this snippet using Google but the link doesn't work:

"sold the development site for a cool $6.4 million more than it paid for it back in 2012. ... The buyer is a limited liability company called Golden Gate Homes that is registered to a Cupertino outpost of Pacific Business Centers"

I wonder if the purchase is speculative.


Posted by Thanks Weekly, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 30, 2014 at 9:56 pm

[Post removed.]


Posted by BL, a resident of Barron Park
on May 1, 2014 at 12:27 pm

BL is a registered user.

I have a simple question: If the developers of the Maybell Senior project really cared about seniors why didn't they continue with the project and build within the zoning requirements or less homes to complete the project? Instead they moved on to something more profitable.


Posted by Crescent Park Dad, a resident of Crescent Park
on May 1, 2014 at 12:39 pm

Crescent Park Dad is a registered user.

So the lesson learned --- for-profit or non-profit developers should not buy a PA property and expect to get all sorts of zoning waivers in order to "make it work" financially.

Both the PACC and PAHC severely underestimated the potential for resident push back. Despite the obvious signs from the 27 University Ave. outrage, the negative opinions on the JCC, Alma BM housing, Alma Plaza, etc.

Speaking for myself (though I would expect many more have the same opinion), the PACC has evolved into possessing a "we know better and we're smarter than you" attitude. [Portion removed.]

Fail.


Posted by JLS mom of 2, a resident of JLS Middle School
on May 1, 2014 at 1:03 pm

JLS mom of 2 is a registered user.

[Portion removed.]

This community clearly no longer supports low income housing, because low income housing cannot be built without some variances, exceptions, and special help. That's because this is a very expensive real estate market. Everyone understands what actually happens except the poor dupes who thought that they were getting a smaller housing complex courtesy of this [portion removed] editorial written by this paper. For which it should apologize.


Posted by Jerry Underdal, a resident of Barron Park
on May 1, 2014 at 2:13 pm

Jerry Underdal is a registered user.

@BL, a resident of Barron Park

"If the developers of the Maybell Senior project really cared about seniors why didn't they continue with the project and build within the zoning requirements or less homes to complete the project?"

That's a really good question, and one that has been answered many times over the months. But many people of good will continue to reject the answer.

You can't build a project on a piece of property that you can't pay for, much less be assured that you can keep the units affordable to low and moderate income seniors for at least 55 years as would have been the case if the project had not been rejected in the referendum.

It's not from lack of will but lack of funding that PAHC pulled out and sold the Maybell/Clemo property in question.


Posted by Jerry Underdal, a resident of Barron Park
on May 1, 2014 at 2:26 pm

Jerry Underdal is a registered user.

@BL

PAHC does not make what we would consider to be "a profit." They have to pay off existing loans as they look for ways to leverage available funds to build and maintain affordable housing in Palo Alto.

It's been very frustrating to see PAHC lumped in with large for-profit companies and corporations as a "greedy developer." Confusion on this subject was rampant during the Measure D campaign. It should not have been.


Posted by Craig Laughton, a resident of College Terrace
on May 1, 2014 at 2:52 pm

Craig Laughton is a registered user.

[Post removed.]


Posted by steven rosenberg, a resident of Barron Park
on May 1, 2014 at 3:35 pm

steven rosenberg is a registered user.

Gerry, others,

Regarding whether PAHC could have afforded to build within existing zoning - during the weekend of discussions with them and some neighborhood folks, it was proposed to PAHC that they subdivide and sell separately the single family housing lots around the perimeter of the development. This was done based on polling some realtors and contractors familiar with the Barron Park market on what such lots would sell for. It came to more or less what PAHC needed to make from selling that part of the property to a big developer, at least as the figures they presented on this subject showed it. Close enough that the gap, if there was one, could have been closed. The response from PAHC was to dismiss this out of hand as too much trouble. A reasonable person, looking at the background and day jobs of the PAHC board, might think there was a conflict of interest here. In any event, PAHC had no interest in pursuing any plan other than developing the property the way they wanted to, even if other ways might have made it work.

A developer is a developer. Saying it is for a good cause doesn't mean the development should get a pass on being over sized and too dense. Nor does it mean PAHC should be immune from a hard look at its business practices, conflicts of interest on its board, and whether its mission is still appropriate. And saying that is not a criticism of PAHC - its not prejudging the outcome. Its just saying those are valid questions or concerns to raise about any publicly funded organization.

As far as I am aware, we still live in a country with a constitution and bill of rights. We have not entered the socialist/fascist utopia that some commentators seem to want, where in the name of a vague "public good" the ordinary rights of citizens should not count because they are enemies of the people, as defined by the folks commenting about NIMBYS, rich Palo Altans, etc. and hoping they get what they deserve, which is apparently a horrible development that will affect traffic, safety, etc. for all Palo Alto, because they had the nerve to oppose a dense over development that others have decided is the right thing for them to have. Agree or disagree - it was perfectly ok to oppose this over development, and nobody who opposed it needs to defend themselves for doing so or justify why they did it.

As to whether it happens or not, that's for the ballot box, and we know how that turned out - an exercise in grass roots democracy that some folks seem incapable of understanding or accepting. Apparently they only approve of democracy when people vote the way they "should". What arrogance.


Posted by Jerry Underdal, a resident of Barron Park
on May 1, 2014 at 6:04 pm

Jerry Underdal is a registered user.

@Steven Rosenberg

Thank you for clarifying one of the major sticking points in the discussion between the mayor and some interested neighborhood folks. From comments I heard last spring I gathered that there was resentment that PAHC proposed to deal with a single developer (not yet selected) for the market-rate single-family houses.

Among the comments I heard was that a single developer would do an unattractive cookie cutter job. Another was that local contractors should be able to buy single lots to share in the profits of development while bringing a variety of building styles to the private homes along Maybell and Clemo.

I never heard a real discussion of the pros and cons of such an approach. In the neighborhood, only the pros got mentioned somehow.

Yet I recall thinking that it would be a nightmare for whoever PAHC selected to build the senior apartments to have to work around 15 (later reduced to 12) sets of architects and contractors working on their own projects at that site. Was that part of the argument PAHC and the mayor made for putting the whole market rate housing property out to bid as a single unit?

You mentioned polling realtors and contractors about the project. Did it ever come up that realtors would prefer not to have half of that property (the apartment site) locked up for 55 years as affordable housing owned by PAHC when it could be generating profits for the real estate folks and tax revenue for the government if it was all in private hands and subject to turnover in that half century?


Posted by SWE, a resident of Green Acres
on May 4, 2014 at 4:24 am

SWE is a registered user.

If PAHC had been willing to build the houses and take the profit from the houses themselves, they could have afforded to build just 6 single-family homes consistent with the neighborhood, within zoning. In their plan, they were only taking the profit from selling the upzoned land to a contractor who was going to put in houses at twice the normal density, some of them 3 stories high, and the profit from the houses was going to the for-profit developer, not PAHC. If PAHC had built the houses and profited from those, it could have built far fewer of them.

City Council asked PAHC why they wouldn't just build the houses themselves, since they were building the senior apartments. They said it was because that's not their mission. Huh? When they want to upzone and subdivide property for the benefit of a for-profit developer, it's their mission because it makes money for their purposes, but when they could make the same or even more money in a way that would work for the neighborhood, suddenly it's not their mission?

JLS Mom of 2 - you usually make reasonable posts on some issues, so I'm not going to lay into you about this, but I'm just really fed up with people whining about how this community doesn't support affordable housing, at the same time as antagonizing the majority of the community who would otherwise be supportive. Jerry Underdal has been one of the worst that way. If not for people like him painting his neighbors as [portion removed], it would have been possible for both sides of the rezoning debates to come together to create that housing and save Buena Vista. PASZ has made an official statement in support of BV, and one of the leadership members has even put up a website for the friends of BV, but from the inside, I know a lot more would have been done - a lot of the same energy that went into Measure D could have gone to help -- if the people who wanted to volunteer didn't feel so browbeaten and outright rejected from helping by rezoning proponents.

In fact, the City committed $7.2 million in low interest loans at Maybell, money that was tied up and couldn't be used to help add to the BV offer. Our City Council very cynically gave lip service to saving BV, but tied up money that, added to the money the residents found, might have made all the difference. They told PAHC to go after Maybell, committed that money to that property, knowing full well what was happening at BV (and our then Mayor former head of acquisitions for Prometheus, who wanted to develop BV). Certainly constantly banging this drum that every one hates affordable housing hasn't helped convince the developer at BV that their high density proposal will be rejected by residents.

You lost the high ground with this when PAHC, the City, and all the eventual Measure D proponents refused to honor requests for a working group and deal honestly with this. JLS Mom of 2, do you realize the same people who asked, officially at City Hall, that a working group be formed at Maybell in order to try to work things out, are the same people who saved Terman School site from being turned into apartments, while working out what is now the 92-unit low-income Terman Apartments?

Compromise for the neighborhood would have meant an honest traffic study, and putting the traffic out at Arastradero rather than Maybell. It would have meant exploring how to accomplish the housing AND studying safety AND honoring zoning AND possibly even saving the orchard. I appreciate the mission of PAHC as much as anyone else, but the people running that rezoning show are not exactly the most flexible. Doggedness used to be the most important trait, but it wasn't a good fit for the development circumstances, particularly when the people in the community actually value the affordable housing. Or, valued, I can see how many people have had their minds changed -- all the haranguing has been a self-fulfilling prophesy.

Working with the community would have also had the side effect of rehabilitating PAHC's reputation in the community. They could have done a great deal to help that by how they handled the Maybell sale. Apparently, they still feel that antagonizing the neighbors is somehow the right approach politically, even though it worked so catastrophically in the rezoning.

We all walk, bike, or drive by that site daily, because it's the only way out of the neighborhood to Palo Alto. We all know PAHC and the City never at least even gave us the chance to save the orchard (AND find a way to make the housing a reality). People [portion removed] can try all they want to rewrite what happened to suit their opinions, but the rest of us know. I don't know why Nancy Shepherd is even considering another run.


Posted by JLS mom of 2, a resident of JLS Middle School
on May 4, 2014 at 9:52 am

JLS mom of 2 is a registered user.

@CWE thanks for your post. There was obviously a lot of heart that went into this campaign for you, and I respect that. I think that the unfortunate reality is that no matter how good your intentions, the site is now going to be occupied by many for-profit condos and now you may experience some buyer's remorse over defeating Measure D. I understand the fact that you blame others for that outcome -- others should have worked harder or compromised more. But that option was not on the table. At the end of the day, you had 2 choices: a large for profit condo development or 12 market rate homes and 60 low income senior units. I don't agree with what you chose, but that is what you did. I believe you will be very dissatisfied with the ultimate outcome. That remains to be seen.

Life often does not present every choice you would like. In this case you preferred a lot of choices that were just not on the table. There were basically 2 choices on the table. All the finger pointing about how someone else is at fault for the ultimate result does not matter. You had two choices only and you selected one that I think you will probably come to regret.

Nancy Shephard will absolutely win if she runs for re-election. She's an incumbent, she's Mayor, and she's well-liked in her community which is not your community. She wasn't the major proponent of this project, the vote was unanimous, and no one outside Barron Park really cares that much. Incumbency is always a massive advantage and thinking about defeating an incumbent over something like this is fantasy.

Unfortunately the anti-D crowd really is left without any good options. You killed of the project that was most likely to work and compromise and try to accommodate your desires. A private developer will not care. They will need to maximize profit on every inch of ground [portion removed.] And they have a lot of lawyers who will just go to court and defend their property rights.


Posted by SWE, a resident of Green Acres
on May 4, 2014 at 11:56 am

SWE is a registered user.

"But that option was not on the table."

But that option WAS on the table. In fact, the City actually HAD TO consider the option.

The City, by virtue of its close involvement in aiding in the purchase of that property and providing loans, had to consider what to do, whether to purchase it after Measure D. There was a meeting in which the option was specifically weighed.

They could have purchased it and held it temporarily, even 6 months, to give residents a chance to save the orchard. They could have purchased it and let residents have that working group after all and figure out how to provide some affordable housing there, as they would have if that option had been given them.

Marc Berman warned that it wasn't safe as is, and all of Council indicated that a market-rate development under existing zoning would be even less safe, and a belief that they couldn't do anything about it if a market-rate developer wanted to build under zoning. Given that City Council's primary responsibility is to safety, and they have a policy of greater scrutiny and standards for safety on school commute routes, and given that the route has only recently been subject of a major safety improvement (was as safe as it was going to get), the City could have temporarily purchased the orchard, done the safety analysis the neighborhood was demanding all along with the bikes and pedestrians included, and put any deed restrictions necessary on the property before selling it.

The City could have made a profit, as we now see, and at least discharged their duty to safety. But no, that would have meant they would risk having to put low-traffic restrictions on that parcel, and lose the chance to rub the uppity neighbors' noses in it. PAHC began quietly shopping the parcel to their stack-and-pack partners the next day.

As for what will happen with that parcel and Nancy Shepherd, we shall see. Before the rezoning and election, City Councilmembers and PAHC refused to acknowledge that there was even opposition to the rezoning, to the new way they intended to finance new projects as implemented there, or even to the way they were densifying Palo Alto. Most of them insisted the majority of Palo Alto was with them, in statements that sounded very much like the one you just made.

You may be right about the advantage of incumbency. But we just won a land use referendum that 3 former mayors told us was impossible — in which the City Attorney was able to write the ballot and make an unbelievably biased analysis and ballot question in the City's favor, a massive advantage that outstrips the usual incumbent advantage — and we did it because we got connected to much of the rest of Palo Alto, who hate what this Council, including Nancy Shepherd (especially Nancy Shepherd) are doing to Palo Alto.

Most of them, including me, like Nancy Shepherd as a person but do not like her as a Councilmember, and if they are reminded every day because they have to fight against overdevelopment at that parcel again, they will be actively trying to unseat Nancy Shepherd. Hubris didn't serve her well in the last election, we'll see how well it serves her in this one.

Someone can put in 15-18 homes on 6000 square foot lots on that parcel and make many, many millions in profit, with no controversy, and homes almost certainly sold before built. Or they can try to put in condo development as you say, with the number of units the Council has publicly already deemed unsafe, and face certain litigation and seeing what we would have done if we had lost Measure D. We are neither without options nor the will to do so. So we will see how smart a for-profit developer chooses to be.

If you think we are without options, I invite you to take a drive over to the Glenbrook extension, and see what was put in by a for-profit developer on that RM-15 property. You forget, we have been consulting with land use attorneys, and will continue to fight if someone thinks they can put in any high-traffic use there.

Regardless of what goes in there, it will have to comply with height, setback, daylight plane, parking, density, and other restrictions of the zoning. If someone wants to go for density, they will have to build smaller and smaller units that are less desirable, and lose the premium they get for larger homes in this neighborhood, and have to invest a great deal more in the planning and structure, with an uncertain timing because of certain legal challenges from the neighborhood. If they want to maximize profit, they aren't going to give a rat's ass about your revenge fantasies, either.

Those of us who live here will continue to work to protect children's safety — which is an issue for many people beyond Barron Park, and was the primary motivator for what we did with Measure D. We were also hoping for the best but planning for the worst, so we already know we have recourse.

But back to the original point: City Council overtly chose to do nothing, as was the staff recommendation, when it came to saving the orchard. People like you gave them political wind to do it. Enjoy seeing the trees bulldozed, because we would have otherwise saved them, AND ensured the affordable housing got built.




Posted by SWE, a resident of Green Acres
on May 4, 2014 at 12:34 pm

SWE is a registered user.

JLS Mom of 2,
One more thing: You seem to need to distill everything to simplistic choices, the referendum was never inevitable, either. I know, because I know how hard many neighbors worked to try to find alternatives (including alternatives that would have made concessions to zoning but would have been much more cognizant of safety, such as putting a light at Clemo), which were roundly ignored because the City and PAHC didn't think the neighbors had recourse (much as you are portraying now).

All of the political action in the months before the rezoning and before the election was not easy - there were "historic" levels of participation - and we did it even though no one really expected Council to listen, if there was any chance of avoiding a referendum. (Hope for the best, plan for the worst.)

The sad thing is that all that energy that went into Measure D, WOULD HAVE gone into trying to find a solution that worked for everyone, including finding the affordable housing, if Councilmembers and PAHC had chosen that OPTION. Most of the people who put all that energy into Measure D are proponents of affordable housing. All that energy that people like you put into demonizing them and trying to force that rezoning down their throats as the only way to accomplish it did far more to hurt affordable housing in this town than anything anyone imagines in their bitter fantasies, beginning with all the lost opportunities to save BV.

The fact is, there were many choices in how this was going to go, and this Council and people like you made overt decisions that got us here. If you want to indulge in any Too-Bad's, think about the role of the kind of thinking you just displayed in making that referendum inevitable, instead of the same energy going into producing a favorable outcome - and favorable opinion of - the affordable housing you claim to support.

Let's hope you put the time into ensuring the City, now that Maybell is sold and that $7.2 million in loan commitments is available, puts the resources into saving BV. Something that could have happened if not for their pushing that rezoning.


Posted by mom of teenagers, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on May 4, 2014 at 5:23 pm

mom of teenagers is a registered user.

@SWE - I'm curious how do you think the City can "put its resources into saving Buena Vista". The land is now worth somewhere between 35-40 million, the $7.2 million merely puts a dent into that, even with the $14 million the current BV residents offered. The land does not require a change in zoning to be valuable, it is valuable at its current zoning. The owners have followed all the steps they are required to follow by State law and I don't think the City can over rule the State laws regarding the closing of Mobile Home parks. Even if someone offered to donate the purchase price, no one knows if the Jisser's can even entertain another offer instead of the current one they have from Prometheus.


Posted by steven rosenberg, a resident of Barron Park
on May 4, 2014 at 11:24 pm

steven rosenberg is a registered user.


Gerry,

I don't recall there was resentment that PAHC proposed to deal with a single developer, as such. (By the way, the developer was not yet announced at that time, but may have been selected at that point). The concern had to do with the fact that by not doing something as simple as sell off the lots individually, they could have made enough money to afford to reduce density. When this was proposed to them, it was dismissed out of hand as not what they wanted to do. There was no discussion of the pros and cons. They did not disagree with the analysis regarding the potential profit. They chose to leave most of the money on the table, and enrich a large developer. To me it looks like a conflict of interest, or at best incompetence in serving their mission. BTW, the mayor did not argue for either point of view. And you can do your own back-of-the-envelope calculation - look at the selling prices these days for tear-downs in Barron Park, and what the houses built on those lots are selling for.

Regarding your second question, we only polled realtors and developers in regard to the likely value of the lots. I have never heard anyone complain that the site, or part of it, would be locked up for 55 years, rather than commercially developed in whole or in part.

However, you raise a good question regarding lost taxes that has not been discussed much. My understanding, which may be incorrect, is that there is a cost to the city to provide services (police, fire, schools, etc.) each year of a few thousand dollars a unit, due to the lost property taxes that otherwise would be paid. Adding up all units in all the non-profit developments, this can come to a considerable sum each year that is in effect a subsidy paid by everyone else. Perhaps someone else can provide more accurate figures, or tell me I misunderstood about this. In any event, I am raising this neither to complain about or approve this subsidy, but to point out that like all new tax burdens, people should have a chance to understand and decide this is something they (in aggregate, by majority vote) want to take on. It happens all the time in Palo Alto when we vote for new libraries, or the council votes to give money to support the arts or various non-profits, etc. People should know the true costs so that they can make informed decisions.


Posted by Jerry Underdal, a resident of Barron Park
on May 5, 2014 at 4:21 pm

Jerry Underdal is a registered user.

Steven,

Thanks for your comments. I look forward to a time when we all can find out what was going on behind the scenes on all sides.

I hope someone more competent than I will address your important questions regarding lost taxes and the costs of public services and how they play out in setting public policy re housing. I agree with your final point about the importance of knowing "true costs," as long as knowledge of "true benefits" is included as well. That gives more room for different values to be included in the discussion.

I wonder if someone could do a rough calculation of how much difference 55 years of zero market activity on the apartment side of the project would make to the real estate industry in comparison to what we're likely to see built now for the private home market. I think it would be considerable, maybe enough that we should keep it in mind in assessing positions taken on affordable housing proposals.


Posted by Jerry Underdal, a resident of Barron Park
on Jun 8, 2014 at 8:20 am

Jerry Underdal is a registered user.

We still don't know (June 8) what the new owner will put onto the Maybell property, but a recent, unsuccessful proposal suggests that developers figure there's more money to be made in multi-family housing than luxurious single family homes on large lots in this corridor.

A co-owner of one of four adjacent properties on Arastradero, close to Alta Mesa Cemetery, has campaigned hard to have all 4 rezoned for multi-family housing so they can be developed as such by a single developer. He has pleaded with the city council to do this quickly because the opportunity will be lost as soon as any of the properties has a single family house built on it.

The proposal is a non-starter, but it indicates that there would be a premium on multi-family over single family housing along Arastradero (and, by extension on the nearby Maybell property) if it could be done. So the odds that the owner will choose to build a few luxurious homes on large lots rather than condos at Maybell don't look so good right now.

But who knows? Maybe we'll get a single grand mansion with park-like landscaping to complement beautiful Juana Briones Park across untrafficked Clemo. That would be nice.


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