Palo Alto Weekly

News - March 25, 2011

South Palo Alto housing proposal dealt a blow

Planning commission rejects plan for 26 homes at site of Peninsula Day Care

by Gennady Sheyner

A proposal to build 26 homes on the site of a soon-to-be-closed day care center in south Palo Alto suffered a possibly fatal setback Wednesday night when the city's Planning and Transportation Commission voted it down.

The plan by SummerHill Homes called for the creation of a residential community at 525 San Antonio Road, the present site of Peninsula Day Care. The child care center, which stands adjacent to the Greendell neighborhood on the city's southern edge, is scheduled to close in two months after 37 years in operation.

SummerHill cited the area's proximity to the San Antonio Road Caltrain station and the nearby Charleston Shopping Center as good reasons for building homes at the 3-acre site. But after hearing from skeptical residents from the Greenmeadow and Greendell neighborhoods, the commission reached the opposite conclusion.

The commission voted 6-1, with Eduardo Martinez dissenting, to recommend that the City Council deny SummerHill's proposed zone change. Commissioners cited a variety of reasons, including the area's insufficient access to transportation, a shortage of services in the neighborhood and the recent influx of dense housing developments in south Palo Alto.

The SummerHill proposal isn't nearly as dense as other projects the city has approved in the south Palo Alto over the past decade. Unlike recent developments such as Altaire, Echelon and Arbor Real (each of which has more than 70 units), the SummerHill plan called for a "low-density multiple-family residential" zone that would allow for 26 two-story homes.

After hearing community opposition, the developer agreed to reduce the number of houses to 23. Seven of these would be one-story homes that would serve as a buffer zone between the development's 16 two-story homes and Greendell's houses. The new plan was meant to address concerns about privacy from the Greendell and Greenmeadow neighborhoods, which largely are composed of one-story Eichler-style homes.

"It's quite a low-impact residential development," SummerHill Vice President Katia Kamangar told the commission. "We feel it is appropriate in the context of adjacencies, access to retail and access to transit."

But the revisions weren't enough to sway the neighborhood residents, about 40 of whom attended the Wednesday meeting. Lisa Steinback of the Greenmeadow Community Association said members of her group voted 60 to 3 to oppose the proposed zone change.

Recent housing projects and zone changes in south Palo Alto have "undermined the residents' trust in the city's commitment to the Comprehensive Plan and zoning ordinance," Steinback said.

"Approval of this project would exacerbate a critical problem of unplanned housing development that already is affecting south Palo Alto schools, playing fields, space availability and transportation systems," she told the commission.

The city's planning staff also recommended the commission reject SummerHill's proposal for a zone change. Planning Manager Amy French noted in her report the proposed development would include a "relatively significant population increase" and would be located more than half a mile from the Caltrain station. Based on these factors, she wrote, the proposed zone change is "inconsistent with the council direction to focus increased housing densities near transit."

Commissioner Arthur Keller, who made the motion to reject the project, agreed with most of the speakers and called the site of the development "not a good location for high-density housing." Keller disputed SummerHill's claims that the area around San Antonio Road is transit-friendly. He also argued the area doesn't have enough amenities to justify more development.

"We've put (housing) in East Meadow Circle, Bayshore and different places where there were no amenities and no services nearby," Keller said. "Here's another one adding to that mix."

SummerHill is not the only party interested in developing the San Antonio land. Last October, the Palo Alto Unified School District expressed interest in acquiring the property to meet the needs of the city's growing southern population.

Staff Writer Gennady Sheyner can be e-mailed at gsheyner@paweekly.com.

Comments

Posted by Enough, a resident of Menlo Park
on Mar 23, 2011 at 10:51 pm

SummerHill needs to find another town to ruin. Their work here is already done.


Posted by Parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 23, 2011 at 11:41 pm

Wow, PA's P & T finally made a right decision for our overcrowded schools.


Posted by parent, a resident of Midtown
on Mar 24, 2011 at 7:28 am

the palo alto school district should stand out and oppose this monster project too,coz it causes our school overcrowded and make the gunn high school even bigger and put our students in a even more stressful situation.


Posted by Bill, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 24, 2011 at 9:44 am

> it causes our school overcrowded and make the gunn high school
> even bigger and put our students in a even more stressful situation.

Statistics show that there are about 1 child in every five homes in Palo Alto. So, there were be 5-7 new children introduced into this project, if built.

The P&T probably made a good choice here, but not clear that their logic is solid. If Mountain View has allowed a huge residential project across the street, why is the Palo Alto side "unsuitable" for residential dwellings?


Posted by ComprehensivePlan, a resident of Greenmeadow
on Mar 24, 2011 at 9:59 am

Bill, statistics can predict a lot of things. If you introduce 26 new single family homes, do you really believe that will only increase the school burden by 5-7 children? Please.

Here are some statistics from last night that are not predictions:
According to the census figures from 2000 to 2010, the number of new housing units in north Palo Alto went up by 22 units, in the same time period, south Palo Alto unit increased up by 861. Where is the comprehensiveness in the Comprehensive Plan? The burden of new developments have been pushe south for far too long.



Posted by Bill, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 24, 2011 at 10:15 am

> statistics can predict a lot of things. If you introduce 26
> new single family homes, do you really believe that will only
> increase the school burden by 5-7 children? Please!

I stand by the statement/prediction.

But since you seem indignant at the thought of using historical data to predict the future (mathematical modeling), please state, for the record, how many kids you know, for a fact, will be introduced into the schools from this project.


Posted by resident, a resident of Ohlone School
on Mar 24, 2011 at 10:18 am

The Commission made an excellent decision. There is no public transit hub on San Antonio Road. The public transit hub is near north palo alto on Alma, and north palo alto areas on University Avenue. That is where the planning is occuring now for higher density projects.

Finally the City Council and P&TC are making development decisions in line with the City's comp plan. The school overcrowding affects both North and South schools, with the influx of Palo Alto development as school children are only guaranteed a place somewhere in the Palo Alto school district once their nearby north palo alto school maxes out and becomes overcrowded That includes Jordan and Paly too.


Posted by neighbor, a resident of Greenmeadow
on Mar 24, 2011 at 10:19 am

Congratulations on the great job of advocacy for South Palo Alto. We have been targeted as the high density section of Palo Alto, and enough is enough. We do not need anymore of these types of developments where everyone is packed in tightly, no one has yard space, no privacy, additional traffic and exhaust, and overcrowding of schools.

Great decision and kudos to the city on this one!


Posted by common sense, a resident of Midtown
on Mar 24, 2011 at 10:36 am

Bill,

You are averaging across all single family housing in Palo Alto, including homes owned for 20+ years, where many of the households already have graduated their kids.

More appropriate is to use the number of kids from the new housing developments: Arbor Real, Vantage, Classic Communities, etc. If you do, you will find that 35 - 50 kids would be added.


Posted by pausd reject, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 24, 2011 at 10:38 am

It's only fair that this proposal should be shot down. I live in a community on the other side of San Antonio that has a Palo Alto zip code. Our community of 40 almost identical townhouses, all with the same street address, is divided by an invisible line that puts 18 of the houses in the Mountain View school district. Our petition to correct this historical error and have all the houses in PAUSD was rejected in part because it would have added 5 more children to Palo Alto schools. So it would be unfair to us to create new housing that adds any more children to the Palo Alto schools while our Palo Alto children are excluded.


Posted by ComprehensivePlan, a resident of Greenmeadow
on Mar 24, 2011 at 10:46 am

Bill,

"for the record" I will predict that there will be well more than the statistics put forth by SummerHill. If you are confortable with their statistics, then there is a collect call waiting for you from Bernie Madoff.


Posted by Jim H., a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 24, 2011 at 10:51 am

Thank you "CommonSense"
Bill's way of thinking is exactly why the city is in the over crowding situation it is in currently.

His mathematical modeling has faulty assumptions. And, I'm sure, even Bill knows that you can work the numbers to make them say anything you want.

Pretty sure the school district has data which can tell you exactly how many new students have come from the recently built housing developments.

Also, I believe the city can not reject (or approve) a development based on school enrollment.


Posted by Julia, a resident of Midtown
on Mar 24, 2011 at 10:56 am

Just to let people know, not as a statistics but real number. I personally know 12 families with kids that moved in to a new housing last year. 10 out of those 12 were already renting in Palo Alto, their kids were already in the district. So, with all this talk about bringing in new kids to PA schools, you are not exactly correct. The flow comes mostly from people who rent and not from home-buyers (who, by the way, are contributing to the community with their tax money)

What the city needs is careful financial planning, because for sure they have plenty of money, seeing how they can enjoy re-stripping poor E. Charleston over and over.


Posted by Anon., a resident of Crescent Park
on Mar 24, 2011 at 11:11 am

> Statistics show that there are about 1 child in every five homes in Palo Alto.

What statistics are those? I'm thinking most people aim for Palo Alto because they have kids ... there are less single people who will pay the real estate premium for Palo Alto's schools when they do not take advantage of them. Just curious.


Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 24, 2011 at 11:17 am

Julia

You may be correct that people buy into new developments from rental properties, but just think about it, those rental properties are again on the market and new families rent those.

Likewise, housing that is designed for seniors is often filled by Palo Alto seniors who are leaving their family sized homes which are then available for more families.

The statistics Bill is quoting may well be true for other cities, but Palo Alto is just not fitting into well known scenarios. The demographers over the past decade or so have been wrong and as more housing is being built, they are being proved even more wrong.

Three generational families are becoming more common also and often it is adult children with their own children moving back into family homes (sometimes due to divorce) and these are hard statistics to track.


Posted by Charlie, a resident of Meadow Park
on Mar 24, 2011 at 11:27 am

"Julia: I personally know 12 families with kids that moved in to a new housing last year. 10 out of those 12 were already renting in Palo Alto, their kids were already in the district."

Q: So, who moved into the houses that they had been renting?
A: Families that want their kids to attend PAUSD! That means there are now 22 families with school aged kids: 12 in the new houses plus 10 new families that moved into empty rentals. School district demographer calls that "families that migrate into the district with school aged children." Biggest part of growth PAUSD see now is turnover from older residents who sell and new families move in. Slightly different than rental turnover, but same trend.


Posted by Too much traffic, a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Mar 24, 2011 at 11:33 am

Maybe the council needs to pass a law that will ban families with school age children from moving into Palo Alto. This is another example of the "too much" syndrome that is affecting the quality of life in Palo Alto (the quality of life for those that already live here, that is)--we have too much traffic, too many children in our schools, too many people parking on public streets near the downtown area, too many shuttle busses in College Terrace, too many cell phone antennas etc. I am sure there are there manifestations of this syndrome in the city. The city needs to take action to protect our quality of life and drag us back into the early 20th century when things were simpler here.


Posted by Bill, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 24, 2011 at 11:36 am

> If you do, you will find that 35 - 50 kids would be added.

That comes to 1.5 to 2 children per dwelling unit. Not at all likely.

The PA Planning Dept. has given the PAUSD data in the last couple of years that looks at the "yields" for various dwelling types. The numbers provided do not support these kinds of numbers.

The bottom line is that as the costs of housing goes up, the attractiveness goes down for lower income families, which are likely to have more children than higher income families. There is nothing in the article to reveal Sumberhills proposal in terms of housing costs, but it stands to reason that these units will cost #1-$2M each. (And this adds another $10K to #20K (base) to the yearly living expenses of anyone wanting to purchase these units.)

> What statistics are those?

US Census, and various data provided by the PA Planning Department, from time-to-time.

> I'm thinking most people aim for Palo Alto because they have kids

There generally only about 550 homes sold in Palo Alto per year. Sadly, the number of these sales of these homes "with kids" is not recorded. There is some indirect data associated with school enrollments, but new enrollments can also come from children born to families already occupying a dwelling. It's a shame that this kind of data is not more readily available. Of course, new homes (projects mostly) create a slightly different demographic. Many of the new dwellings in Palo Alto are senior housing. These units don't introduce new kids, but they do put political pressure on the City to create "affordable" housing for workers at these senior housing facilities. These "affordable" units do introduce kids. Apartments are generally very expensive in Palo Alto, so the "yield" for these units is a lot lower than the capacity of the projects might suggest.

The underlying problem is that Palo Alto property nominally goes for about $5M an acre. Anyone wanting to do a little "modeling" quickly realizes that there are untold billions sitting around, waiting for those "pesky" developers to buy and redevelop. There is nothing illegal about it, and this redevelopment will, over time, "rebuild" Palo Alto. The question is: "in whose image?"

> Bill's way of thinking is exactly why the city is in the over
> crowding situation it is in currently

Unfortunately, this is not so. The City has never really done much modeling as a practice. It's a shame. While the projections of modeling are never "quite right", they are much closer than the traditional "flying blind" that has been at the root of Palo Alto planning. Certainly no one really believes that Eichler would be able to build his postage stamp houses in today's Palo Alto ..

> "for the record" I will predict that there will be well more
> than the statistics put forth by SummerHill. If you are confortable
> with their statistics, then there is a collect call waiting for you
> from Bernie Madoff.

Thanks for your "comprehensive" input on the matter.


Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 24, 2011 at 12:00 pm

Bill

The professional demographers the school district use have been proven very wrong in the past year. They are using all the statistics you quote including birth rates for 5 years ago in our various zip codes. If the professional demographers, who are right when they predict trends for other cities, are wrong for Palo Alto, then all your rationale is quite likely to be wrong also.

And, for the record, senior housing does produce more children because the seniors moving out of their family sized homes make those homes available for new families.

If you don't like these facts, then just look at then enrollment increases over the past decade in PAUSD, particularly in terms of elementary aged children and not just kindergartners.




Posted by Ryan, a resident of Mountain View
on Mar 24, 2011 at 12:02 pm

Palo Alto already added the Jewish Community Center near 101 and the school across from Peninsula Day Care. And, there is going to be another new facility built on the other side of San Antonio just past Charleston in the future. With these two recent additions and one more to be built, the traffic on San Antonio is unbelievable. I voted against the residential development on the old Mayfield Mall site. Unfortunately, it will be built, unless something disastrous happens. If CalTrain has its way, the San Antonio stop will be eliminated. So, viable transportation is not an option. Plus, everyone knows, most people are going to drive their cars rather than public transportation. And, in the near future, when they start building the new San Antonio Shopping Center, traffic will be a total nightmare. Please, Palo Alto, stop building in South Palo Alto on the Mountain View border. Enough is enough.


Posted by Enough!, a resident of Greendell/Walnut Grove
on Mar 24, 2011 at 12:12 pm

This is a perfect opportunity to have a new elementary school at a property that adjoins Greendell which can be preschool through 2 and a new school which can be 3-5. Summerhill only has self-serving statistics which provides more $$$ for them. The projections of the 70's were totally "off" causing destruction of schools in order to build monster houses, not affordable unless you had 1-2million. So now we have a situation of needing 40 rooms that will be more expensive. Enough is enough!


Posted by Dan, a resident of Southgate
on Mar 24, 2011 at 12:19 pm

Right.

"Palo Alto schools, playing fields, space availability and transportation systems" will definitely be better off if all new housing costs more than $2M per residence. Banning new children would help as well.

Also, no one would walk "more than half a mile" to the Caltrain station. That would take ten minutes (or 2 minutes on a bike).

Clearly, SummerHill Homes doesn't understand what it means to be a Palo Altan, but the board does.


Posted by BMR Lover, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Mar 24, 2011 at 12:30 pm

It makes me so sad to think of the BMR housing that will be lost by this decision.


Posted by Corrupt commissioners, a resident of Southgate
on Mar 24, 2011 at 12:44 pm

You should have heard Commissioners Garber and Lippert apologizing to the developer because they were going to vote against the project. They practically wept.
But they couldn't find any reason to approve it. Even the staff said no.
Commissioner Tuma also apologized, and said we need housing, just not this kind. Yes, he said we need housing.
I guess he couldn't hear the large number of residents who were proving that the area was overbuilt.
We need to get these people off the Planning Commission. They are financially tied in to development interests. We need citizen advocates, not private money advocates.


Posted by Bill, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 24, 2011 at 1:26 pm

> The professional demographers the school district use have been
> proven very wrong in the past year. They are using all the
> statistics you quote including birth rates for 5 years ago in our
> various zip codes. If the professional demographers, who are right
> when they predict trends for other cities, are wrong for Palo Alto,
> then all your rationale is quite likely to be wrong also.

Just how wrong have they been? 2%, 5%, 10%, 20% or more? If you are going to assert failure on their part, could you at least provide some basis for their failure? Have they been so wrong that the PAUUD has dismissed them?

Perhaps you might provide some understanding of exactly what you think these people should be predicting?

> And, for the record, senior housing does produce more children
> because the seniors moving out of their family sized homes make
> those homes available for new families.

Seniors living in their own homes do not qualify for the title of "senior housing". Senior housing is complexes where only seniors live. In your example, this is just a normal "turn over". One family moves out, another moves in. This particularly mechanism most certainly has been the source of any student enrollment over the past few years.


> If you don't like these facts, then just look at then
> enrollment increases over the past decade in PAUSD, particularly
> in terms of elementary aged children and not just kindergartners.

Enrollments (if memory serves) have been under 3% for the past few years. This isn't that many children, given the small number of houses in Palo Alto. Don't forget that Stanford (graduate students and faculty) add to the enrollment, as does the one side of Los Altos Hills. There have also been a goodly number of students enrolled over the past decade that don't live in Palo Alto, but are cross-district transfers. These students are the children of staff. This number is not easily over 200, and could be expected to grow in the future. This students provide no financial support for the district.

This project, on the other hand, would probably have generated well over $2.6M a year (base assessment) with about $1.2M of that going to the School District.

But back to the issue of this project. This land is not going to sit idle. If this project doesn't fly, then the owners will be back with another one. Sooner, or later, something will be built on this land.



Posted by Too much traffic, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 24, 2011 at 1:30 pm

"This land is not going to sit idle. If this project doesn't fly, then the owners will be back with another one. Sooner, or later, something will be built on this land."

Well, I bet you the Greenmeadow Community Association will take a page from the anti-Alma Plaza activists who managed to derail the project and keep the location vacant for years.
Do not expect anything to be built there for years.
It would make a great location for Palo Alto's first large grocery store--a welcome addition to the city, now that JJ&F is gone and the city no longer needs to protect it from competetion.


Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 24, 2011 at 1:38 pm

Bill

Here is an article about how enrollment has exceeded expectations in Palo Alto

Web Link


Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 24, 2011 at 1:43 pm

Bill

And here is another

Web Link

And yes, a neighbor of mine has just moved into a senior development in Palo Alto and has rented out her home to pay for the costs, and a young family with one elementary and one preschooler has moved in.
This is an example of how senior housing brings in more children. This particular lady loves Palo Alto, has lived here for 50 years and doesn't want to move out of the area where she has many friends and memories. This is a typical scenario.


Posted by Kate, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 24, 2011 at 2:11 pm

To Too much traffic:
Right on!! Let me add that for all that increased housing, we have one very small
Safeway where the motto is "The truck comes in tomorrow". Even the PAFD shops at
Safeway in Menlo Park. Then we have a new TJ's where getting there is a daunting challenge (the traffic pattern is insane) , but we have the high price grocery stores like Mollie's, Piazza, etc. for the Googlers, FAcebookies, and the well-to-do. And now we have a shortage a day-care centers and providers for all this new housing. Stay-at-home moms? Are you kidding?. And empty Edgewood Plaza just sits there and grows weeds. How long has that been going on? Twelve or more years?


Posted by Bill, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 24, 2011 at 2:42 pm

> This is an example of how senior housing brings in more children

No, it is not. If this lady had died, and her home was inherited by her children, who rented it out--it would be an example of how senior "deaths" cause increases in school aged children, wouldn't it? Sorry, but this is just another example of a "turn over".

The linkage you cite, while real, is not predictable, and should not be considered in this discussion. Far too much of our "senior housing" is being populated by the parents of people who move here (often Asian immigrants) who do not want their parents living with them, but seem to want the taxpayers to subsidize their parents twilight years in local senior housing projects that either are tax exempt, or are paid for with tax money directly.

From the first link provided above--

> Demographers for the district have said last fall's kindergarten
> and first-grade enrollment numbers were "surprisingly high," far
> exceeding previously reliable predictors such as data on local
> births and housing turnover.

What's interesting is that there is no margin of error provided here. Just how much are they off?

There is a difference between being "off" and "wrong". Back in the 1980s, the demographers hired by the PAUSD claimed that when Hong Kong become the property of the Communist Chinese, that "thousands" of HK residents would flood the US, many targeting Palo Alto as their new homes. When hand-over time came, that "flight" did not occur. In that case, the demographers were clearly "wrong".

What would be interesting to know is how many of those that "exceeded" the expectations of the demographers were in rental housing, and how many were from houses that the family purchased within the six months preceding the opening of school.



Posted by Speak of the truth, a resident of Palo Verde
on Mar 24, 2011 at 3:32 pm

I am a mother of 2 young kids, working for a software company. In the past 14 months, four people in our team bought houses in South Palo Alto, together we brought in 7 young kids.

I used to live in Fremont. In north Fremont, with half the money, we can buy a house twice bigger and in much better condition. The commute time is comparable. (we save about 20 minute's commute time by moving from north Fremont to south PA). Besides, Fremont is a nice, safe city and very friendly to immigrants, partly because it is a city of immigrants. (I am Asian myself)

Then Why do we move here? only one reason. north Fremont's school is ranked 8 while PA's is ranked 10.

So whether it is new construction or a 100 year old house, more often than not, it will be bought by family with young kids, coming here for the schools. good or bad, that's the truth.


Posted by OY!, a resident of St. Claire Gardens
on Mar 24, 2011 at 4:01 pm

So what do neighbors, the Planning Commission, and planning staff member Amy French want on this property. Maybe a pony farm with free unicorn rides or create a large dolphin swimming area. Didn't hear any constructive ideas for this property, just the word "no". Progress is defined as moving forward.


Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 24, 2011 at 4:19 pm

Oy

The school district have expressed an interest in buying it for, guess what, a school.

Otherwise, a decent grocery store!


Posted by Dan, a resident of Greenmeadow
on Mar 24, 2011 at 4:40 pm

Most of you folks do not have a clue concerning how many school age children would be brought in with SummerHill's RM-15 zoning. The City of Palo Alto has specific guidelines on average persons per home and average school age children per home. SummerHill was going to build 23 homes which would generate 52 (at 2.24 persons per household according to the Planning Commission) new occupants, of which only 17 would be school age children. Quoting from City of Palo Alto Planning department: "The average household size in Palo Alto is 2.24 persons… Based on the Palo Alto Unified School District (PAUSD) student generation rates of 0.75 students per single family detached dwelling unit and 0.7 per Below Market Rate rental unit." As stated above that represents 52 occupants and 17 school age children.

That brings up one further issue and that is one of density. The audacity, selfishness and ignorance of Arthur Keller to call this project "high density" along with many neighbors of Greendell and Greenmeadow that agree that this project is high density. The site is already zoned R-1 which a developer could build 12-14 homes and we are arguing about an additional 9 homes. What absolute foolishness. Instead of 52 occupants (23 homes) if a developer builds 12 homes we have 27 new occupants and 10 school age children. Oh my god, our beautiful city is being run over by so many new occupants it's hard to count them all.

I'm embarrassed to be an owner in the Greenmeadow neighborhood.


Posted by Dan, a resident of Midtown
on Mar 24, 2011 at 6:47 pm

Dan (a resident of Greenmeadow):

The developer is asking for a change in zoning ... not to build what is allowed by current zoning. So yes, it is higher density than what is allowed by the existing zoning standards. Do residents not have a reasonable expectation that the city occasionally abide by the zoning even if it means the developer makes less profit? Every time these issues come up, it seems always because a developer is asking for a CHANGE to existing zoning. If the project conformed to existing zoning, I would agree with you... nobody's business except the property owner. It is the expectation that zoning change is guaranteed for any housing development project that is particularly troubling. If I could demolish my house and build 2 townhouses on the land I could probably turn a tidy profit ... but my parcel isn't zoned for 2 homes and I knew that when I bought it. Do you think SummerHill had someone check the zoning of the land before putting together this project proposal? ... or they were shocked to learn that the parcel wasn't zoned to allow that many houses?


Posted by google geek, a resident of Los Altos Hills
on Mar 24, 2011 at 7:29 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


Posted by bike2work, a resident of Santa Rita (Los Altos)
on Mar 24, 2011 at 8:58 pm

More housing for Palo Alto is what the regional government wants. See this report that was released earlier this month:
Web Link

The ABAG Initial Vision Scenario for AB 375 is asking for 44.9% growth for Palo Alto by 2035. That's almost 12,000 more households. Rejecting this MEDIUM density housing now might actually backfire. I wouldn't be surprised if an even more dense development was proposed for this site. It is within easy walking distance to Caltrain. I bike the route everyday and see many people walking it.

Either way, I'm just sad to see PDCC close.


Posted by check the census, a resident of Gunn High School
on Mar 24, 2011 at 9:49 pm

Bill - I think 1 in 5 may be nearer the fraction of Palo Alto residents that are children. According to the 2010 census, 21.2% of Palo Alto residents are under 18. In contrast, Palo Alto had 26,493 households and PAUSD Fall 2010 enrollment was 12,024. So 1 PAUSD student for every 2.2 occupied housing units.


Posted by Crescent Park Dad, a resident of Crescent Park
on Mar 24, 2011 at 11:53 pm

@ Ryan - most of the future building on San Antonio is within the Mountain View city limits, not PA. Mayfield is about 90% MVw. San Antonio center 100% MVw. The mega-Safeway 100% MVw. The school across from pen day care was already there and is a site being considered from re-transfer back into the district.


Posted by Observer, a resident of South of Midtown
on Mar 25, 2011 at 8:50 am

It would be better for Palo Alto if this property was developed with modestly sized homes in reasonable numbers. As it is now, the place is not only an eyesore, but it brings in a great deal of traffic, tired hurried parents darting in and out of the parking lot at all hours, as well as school busses. Housing will reduce the number of car trips per day on San Antonio. Palo Alto owns plenty of properties with schools on them, which are not being used as schools. Since the growth is coming, why not get on board, insist these developers subsidize the nearby Caltrain stop, keep the development attractive but reasonable in density, and include recreational space within the development? Instead of a childish roadblock, how about a grownup counter offer? It is in a negotiation that we keep our power to influence the outcome. Use the additional tax revenue from this and other developments to reopen Cubberly and Greendell as a high school and elementary school.


Posted by laura, a resident of Midtown
on Mar 25, 2011 at 8:51 am

A super sized grocery store similar to the Safeway in Menlo Park would be fantastic at that location. Palo Alto certainly deserves it given our small inadequate groceries. Does zoning have to change for this to happen? If not that then a new elementary school to serve south Palo Alto!!


Posted by Grocery Store Won't Happen, a resident of Ventura
on Mar 25, 2011 at 9:44 am

A large grocery store in Palo Alto is impossible because the residents and city are too concerned about traffic impact. I have accepted this reality and will continue to shop at Safeway in Mountain View and occasionally Menlo Park. On the positive side, I hope the school district gets that property!


Posted by parent, a resident of Midtown
on Mar 25, 2011 at 9:58 am

reject the project,save our kids,our school.


Posted by Patricia, a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Mar 25, 2011 at 1:57 pm

I wish the "deciders" in Palo Alto had been responsive to years and years and years of battling developer D.R.Horton AND our own city planners. The massive housing project that is Arbor Real practically sits on top of El Camino. Everything that was predicted has occurred including but not limited to a marked increase in congestion and traffic and having our residential streets turned into a long-term used car lot. While it was still a twinkle in D.R. Horton's eye, our association vigorously protested in vain about inadequate parking within the densely populated compound itself. This, plus the fact that many occupants fill their garages with "stuff" rather than their own cars shifts their problem into being our problem. Adding insult to injury, the A.R. homeowner's association doesn't want its single family dwelling occupants to park in their own driveways!! Instead, cars and trucks are routinely parked in front of our houses. The ongoing SummerHill housing project will include a path that extends directly to Wilkie Way so even more cars can be parked throughout our streets. The city willfully turned South Palo Alto into a high-density housing dumping ground. More housing construction is in progress nearby even as I type this. We didn't and still don't enjoy the benefits of more affluent Palo Alto residents who often have services within walking distance. It's not a surprise that newer construction in their area is significantly less dense far more aesthetically pleasing. What we do have now are some of the same problems. It is an unpleasant and irrevocable outcome for long established residents of what was once a quiet little area.


Posted by Too much traffic, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 25, 2011 at 2:04 pm

"The ongoing SummerHill housing project will include a path that extends directly to Wilkie Way so even more cars can be parked throughout our streets."
Correction. They are not "your" streets. They are public streets, available for use by anyone and everyone. Home ownership does not mean the parking spots by your house belong to you.


Posted by Dan, a resident of Greenmeadow
on Mar 25, 2011 at 4:28 pm

To Dan a resident of Midtown and other neighbors who rejected 525 San Antonio's request for rezoning:

You stated "The developer is asking for a change in zoning." You are correct that the developer was requesting a change in zoning. My point was this particular zoning request was miniscule as far as zoning or variance request go. Let us be clear, zoning and variance request are not limited to developers. Homeowners are constantly asking for variance request and some are valid and some aren't and the same goes for developers.

I agree with Lisa Steinback of the Greenmeadow Community Association where she said recent housing projects and zone changes in south Palo Alto have "undermined the residents' trust in the city's commitment to the Comprehensive Plan and zoning ordinance," I think she is correct that there have been zoning changes that were too large for some existing sites.

The problem I have here is a Day Care which has serviced the community for 35 years and because of past mistakes of the Planning Commission in creating ultra high density developments SummerHill and Peninsula Day Care are being singled out, maligned and seriously hurt because of past mistakes. If SummerHill was asking for 80 condominiums or apartments on this property that would constitute high density and be inappropriate—but they weren't. They were asking for a zoning change that was absolutely reasonable to increase housing from 14 to 23 homes in an area that is appropriate for 23 smaller and less expensive homes rather than larger ones costing 2 million and up.

For many home buyers in the present economic environment the evidence points to a stronger demand for modest, energy-efficient homes. When times were good buyers were flushed with home equity chasing rising prices to larger and grander homes. Granite countertops, once reserved for Palo Alto & Los Altos Hills, became standard cul-de-sac attributes. Today, that granite, along with the two-story foyers and home theaters are not in as great a demand. We've built enough of these monster family-oriented homes to last a long time and Palo Alto can do its part creating a bit more low to medium density in a few chosen areas. And by the way, the RM-15 zoning SummerHill was requesting is low to medium density—not high density as Commissioner Arthur Keller mistakenly claimed. As a Commissioner Mr. Keller you need to do your homework.

The leaders of Greenmeadow (Srini SanKaran) and Greendell (Penny Ellson) and the people living in these neighborhoods should be ashamed of what they have done. As stated before it's not that I agree with over the top density in South Palo Alto but what they have done to Peninsula Day Care and to a quality Palo Alto business is mean-spirited at best.

You also stated Dan "Do residents not have a reasonable expectation that the city occasionally abide by the zoning." Well of course they do but zoning requirements are not sacrosanct. Some zoning requirements are well founded and need to be followed and there are times when adjustments need to be made for a variety of reasons. It's just not developers that ask for zoning or variance changes—homeowners ask for changes all the time. So stop blaming developers because they are not the only ones requesting changes.

Finally Dan you state: "Do you think SummerHill had someone check the zoning of the land before putting together this project proposal? ... or they were shocked to learn that the parcel wasn't zoned to allow that many houses?" Come on, of course they checked the zoning. There is a letter going around written by one on the family members who owns the property at 525 San Antonio and he made it very clear that before they ever put the property on the market they went to Curtis Williams and Amy French (Planning Directors for the City of Palo Alto) and we told straight up that RM-15 zoning looked doable and appropriate for that area. Do you think a developer would not do the same thing before risking money and time not to check with city officials to where they stand on such a project?


Posted by parent, a resident of Midtown
on Mar 25, 2011 at 4:56 pm

our school is getting bigger and bigger as a result of poor planning and those high density housing. our kids are feeling the pain, now parents in schools are talking about elimating AP classes or inflating grades reducing our schools' repututation. it won't take a while no body waNTS TO BUY THOSE OVERPRICED NEW HOUSING BECAUSE THE SCHOOL ARE DETERIORATING AND THOSE HOUSING BUBBLES WILL BURST IN PALO ALTO.BY THEN HOME OWNERS WILL STUCK WITH OVER SUPPLIEE HOUSINGS.


Posted by History, a resident of Fairmeadow
on Mar 25, 2011 at 6:51 pm

History is laughing at all of you- It's a funny thing about history, it has a way of teaching us things we know but cannot remember.
For the people that were ok with the rezoning change, its unfortunate but history teaches us that things tend to work out ok. The classic statement the "Fat Lady has not sung yet" is true.
For those that are happy that the zoning request was turned down, history teaches us that you better not have chosen the wrong path because you might get exactly what you didn't want.
I have heard from excellent sources, that the owners have been contacted about a health facility for mental health patients (could be anything), trying to get back into the main stream. This is a government sponsored program, with money backed by several foundations. With the backing of the government and who knows how much money, getting any zoning they want is a slam dunk. History teaches us to be careful, you just opened Pandora's Box and you are not going to like it.
Good luck to all, for or against rezoning. One will win and one will lose. I know who I am betting on. The answer will come in reasonably a short time. My guess in about 10 years you will know, but I would have taken the zoning change.


Posted by parent, a resident of Midtown
on Mar 25, 2011 at 7:10 pm

history teaches us the vietnam war are injust and bad,look we were still repeating with our money and lives on iraq war.


Posted by parent, a resident of Midtown
on Mar 25, 2011 at 7:13 pm

it has been proved again and again the overcrowded schools are bad for our kids,and when the things go south,we will stuck with this last bubble.


Posted by pat, a resident of Midtown
on Mar 26, 2011 at 6:17 pm

> "The ABAG Initial Vision Scenario for AB 375 is asking for 44.9% growth for Palo Alto by 2035. That's almost 12,000 more households."

Each new housing development is adding to that 44.9% growth. Like a frog in water, we approve them one-by-one. What's the city going to look like when ALL are built and that 44.9% growth has been achieved?

Will it be a city you want to live in? Will the schools still be highly rated?

Forget about history and statistics: Why hasn't the city done a survey of EXISTING high-density housing to find out how many people living in those developments (a) have 1 or more cars, (b) drive to work, to shop to school, (b) have kids in school ….

According to Diana Diamond's 3-24-11 column in the Daily Post, no such survey has been done by the Palo Alto planning department, nor by Mountain View.

WHY NOT?

Diamond refers to a study conducted by the Policy Research Institute at San Jose State University. Two thousand Palo Alto and Los Altos homebuyers were asked what was their most important motivation in purchasing their home: 1 = Neighborhood, 2= schools, 3 = investment 4 = other, 5 = convenience to work.


Posted by pat, a resident of Midtown
on Mar 26, 2011 at 10:14 pm

Apparently, there were 2 surveys, NOT by the city, on how many people that live by train stations commute by train.

1. Taken by the president of the Palo Alto Central homeowners association - the condo project at the end of California Ave. next to the train station. He found that 90% of the residents drive to work, no more than 10% take the train.

2. People in the housing by the San Antonio CalTrain station between California Ave. and the railroad tracks. Only 9% of them take the train to work.

WHY DOES PALO ALTO IGNORE THIS INFORMATION?


Posted by Bikes2work, a resident of Santa Rita (Los Altos)
on Mar 27, 2011 at 9:03 pm

And what percentage of people that don't live next to a train station use public transportation? I doubt is anywhere near 10%. Building denser housing near transit at least open up options for commuting.

The over crowded schools are mostly a result of natural turnover of 1950's developments coupled with fewer schools available now. Previous school boards chose to sell off under utilized properties when enrollments were low. Now there is no room to expand where classrooms are needed. The PDCC site isn't located where Palo Alto needs classrooms. Ashby Drive and Ortega Drive were once schools. Those sites are where schools are needed now. Developers pay school impact fees to mitigate for their new units. It is the school distict's responsibility to bank those funds and provide more classrooms where needed. Has this been done?

Environmental Impact studies don't (and can't?) consider school capacity. It isn't one of the factors that can be used to deny new housing.


Posted by Corrupt commissioners, a resident of Southgate
on Mar 27, 2011 at 9:54 pm

Bikes says The over crowded schools are mostly a result of natural turnover of 1950's developments coupled with fewer schools available now
That is only one reason. The city has been approving construction of mass housing for years. In the past 10-15 years they have approved the construction of over 3500 new housing units. The Planning Commission was dominated by housing advocates for many years, now it is dominated by architects and land businessmen. The result is the same. Even senior housing creates vacancies filled by families with children.


Posted by grand dad, a resident of Greenmeadow
on Mar 29, 2011 at 9:50 am

I am no bike rider but I am a walker. I pass the PDCC 3 times a week, since 1953. I remember when it was just a church before the day care
I just don't get it sometimes. People say this is an eye sore I see kids playing, and having fun, parents trusting this Day Care. eye sore? I don't see it that way.
The high density question is crazy, some say 23 homes is high density, some say it's not, they get 14 anyway, High density is 80 apartments with 3 per house hold, keep the day care. Oh yes the traffic, if it's all about the numbers, day care - 500 kids (parents in and out all day) - 30 teachers – 15 support staff - 8 busses (in and out all day) vs. 23 homes. Do I need to spell out the math for you? The traffic will be 200% better with 23 homes, just stop acting like it's any other way, it's not becoming of a true Palo Alton.
Here is my last two things to say, Everyone complains about the schools being over crowded, really, if we are at the point that 9 more children are going to throw us into an abyss, blame yourselves, if we really have schools that we don't use and 20 plus acres available, whose kidding who.
The last thing to say, I agree with the comment from the history posting. I added my own touch - You nose in the air persons better not have opened Pandora's Box.
Each problem you come up with has a lifespan, so you have to stand ready to innovate again, even if it means disrupting yourself. This is the courage that excellence requires.

Live to be old


Posted by palo alto mom, a resident of South of Midtown
on Apr 1, 2011 at 8:43 am

Hold builders accountable for the increase in student enrollment.


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