Palo Alto Weekly

News - April 29, 2011

Developer fights for south Palo Alto housing

SummerHill Homes alleges commission unlawfully rejected housing plan

by Gennady Sheyner

A developer whose proposal to build a 23-home community in south Palo Alto was rejected by the city's planning commission last month is now protesting the decision and claiming the school district's interest in the property unduly influenced city staff.

The city's Planning and Transportation Commission voted March 23 to recommend that the City Council deny a proposal by SummerHill Homes, LLC, to build a residential community at 525 San Antonio Road, present site of Peninsula Day Care. The plan faced opposition from the nearby Greenmeadow and Greendell neighborhoods, with dozens of residents claiming at the commission meetings that the area cannot accommodate more housing.

SummerHill argued the project would provide a perfect "transition" between the single-family houses in the nearby Eichler communities and the dense, multi-family housing developments on San Antonio. The company also cited the proximity to Charleston Shopping Center on Middlefield Road as a good reason for bringing more housing to the area.

SummerHill sought to placate the community by reducing the number of houses from 26 to 23 and by positioning seven one-story houses between the existing residences and the 16 proposed two-story houses.

But the planning commission voted 6-1, with Eduardo Martinez dissenting, against the development, with the majority agreeing the proposal is inconsistent with the city's Comprehensive Plan and that the area doesn't have sufficient public transportation and amenities to justify the density of the housing.

The council is scheduled to review the project Monday (May 2).

SummerHill is alleging that the commission's rejection had "no reasonable basis." The company's attorney, Michael Patrick Durkee from the firm Allen Matkins Leck Gamble Mallory & Natsis, sent the city a letter challenging the commission's denial and arguing that SummerHill's proposal "will conform to the city's planning and zoning regulations and promotes the city's critical goal of providing adequate housing."

Durkee wrote that the commission's finding that the project is not consistent with the Comprehensive Plan — the city's official land-use bible — is "not a basis for denial" because the application seeks to amend the Comprehensive Plan. He calls the commission's denial of the application based on the Comprehensive Plan a "circular argument."

"By definition, an amendment proposal is inconsistent with what it seeks to amend," Durkee wrote.

The letter also alleges that the city's opposition to SummerHill's zone change was influenced by the Palo Alto Unified School District's interest in the property. The Peninsula Day Care site abuts the rear of the Greendell School property, which in turn is next to the district's Cubberley campus. With recent housing growth in south Palo Alto, district officials have been eyeing the 2.65-acre property as a possible site for a new school facility. The day care center is slated to close in May after 37 years in operation.

In January, school district Superintendent Kevin Skelly wrote the city a letter expressing the district's "potential interest" in acquiring the site. Skelly specified, however, that the school district's board has not made any formal decisions about buying the property.

"We understand that SummerHill Homes, Inc., is currently under contract with property owner, A&D Protocol, Inc., to purchase the property," Skelly wrote. "Should development on the property be proposed by any party, including the owner or SummerHill, we wanted to emphasize the fact that (the district) has not made a decision to acquire the site, and the City should feel free to process any applications for development as it otherwise would."

But Durkee claims in his letter that Palo Alto's planning staff has "informed SummerHill that the District's interest in the project site is the primary reason for the City's abandonment of support for the project." To investigate the matter further, Durkee's firm has submitted a Public Records Act request to the city to get more information about the project.

"Based on the events that have transpired, the concern is that the City intends to either delay the application or deny the project so that the District can obtain the Property at a reduced price," Durkee wrote.

Palo Alto's planning director, Curtis Williams, disputed this assertion.

"This was not based on the school-district issue," Williams said, referring to the staff's recommendation to deny the application. "It was based on the Comprehensive Plan direction we got from the council."

In May 2010, council members agreed that new developments should be focused within half a mile of Caltrain. The direction will be integrated in the city's Comprehensive Plan, which is being revised.

Williams said at the beginning of the March 23 planning-commission meeting that the school issue is "not something we can consider as part of our deliberation."

The commission's discussion, and a new staff report released this week, instead focused largely on the site's proximity to transportation.

"Though bus service is provided, the closest train station is located more than 1/2 mile away from the subject property, in Mountain View, and that station is not afforded frequent train service," the report stated, referring to the San Antonio Caltrain stop.

Durkee argued in his letter the project is, in fact, consistent with existing city policies. He also claimed that the commission was wrong to use the council "direction" as basis for denying the project because this direction "does not rise to the level of adopted planning or zoning regulations."

"Thus, the project will conform to the city's planning and zoning regulations and promotes the city's critical goal of providing adequate housing," Durkee wrote. "The city recognized this and supported the project until the district expressed interest in the project site.

"Although staff and the commission have attempted to provide justification for their recommendation to deny the project, none of these justifications have merit, and it is clear that the district's interest in the project site has caused staff to withdraw its support for the project."

Staff Writer Gennady Sheyner can be emailed at gsheyner@paweekly.com.

Comments

Posted by Fight-Back-With-Money, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 22, 2011 at 5:06 pm

Maybe it's time for Palo Alto to create a reserve fund of $5M-$10M to be used to buy up properties like this one, that will ultimately be used by developers to further burden our quality of life, our streets, and our schools.

Sadly, with all of south Palo Alto potentially "up for sale" in the coming decades, it's not clear that the City would be able to buy up all that much property. But this one parcel would be a good place to start.


Posted by Enough, a resident of Menlo Park
on Apr 22, 2011 at 5:19 pm

How many of you readers...
-- had your child on a long waitlist for preschool?
-- feel your child's current public school needs more children?
-- enjoy sitting in traffic on our city streets?
-- feel that the Peninsula needs more housing and thus, more people?
Send SummerHill packing - we all suffer from their profit.


Posted by enough, a resident of Fairmeadow
on Apr 22, 2011 at 5:42 pm

Those developers are sitting in their bank counting their money, there is one piece missing,"let's go out grab it."


Posted by Walter_E_Wallis, a resident of Midtown
on Apr 22, 2011 at 5:52 pm

Walter_E_Wallis is a registered user.

So the developers hope to make money? How horrible!!!


Posted by enough, a resident of Fairmeadow School
on Apr 22, 2011 at 6:26 pm

What do you think they are going to do,lose money?


Posted by neighbor, a resident of Greenmeadow
on Apr 22, 2011 at 10:03 pm

Of course they're in it to make money. And area residents are in fighting to maintain a good quality of life. I'm hoping residents win. South Palo Alto has carried way more than it's fair share of high density housing projects in the past decade (see previous PA Weekly/Daily/Online articles). I see no value in them -- more polution, crowded schools, more traffic, lack of/loss of privacy. Yes, these projects add more to the city coffers, but they also place great burden on the city in the form of services and school overcrowding (or having to build more). Palo Alto has always been known for its small town feel and it is why many want to live here. Let's keep it that way. Why become another Sunnyvale?


Posted by enough, a resident of Fairmeadow
on Apr 22, 2011 at 10:08 pm

Not only they only care about money, their housing project will cause our local housing bubble as well.


Posted by HUTCH 7.62, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Apr 22, 2011 at 10:19 pm

Stick to yer guns city council! No more high density housing! Parking is already PA's biggest issue. And affordable housing will never be a reality here unless the market completely collapses.


Posted by Alan, a resident of Greenmeadow
on Apr 23, 2011 at 7:48 am

If you or I buy some land we don't get to change the zoning of that neighborhood, and the developers shouldn't either.


Posted by Color of Money, a resident of Greendell/Walnut Grove
on Apr 23, 2011 at 1:04 pm

Now we know the true color of Summerhill--it's not the red, white, and blue--it's the color of money--green. This is a perfect spot for PAUSD preschool presently at Greendell. Open up Greendell as an elementary school to fix overcrowding and wall-to-wall mobiles at Ohlone and Fairmeadow.


Posted by Dan, a resident of Greenmeadow
on Apr 23, 2011 at 1:26 pm


Fellow Residents,

Every argument you folks put forth is incorrect and your righteous indignation is embarrassing to a homeowner who lives in the Greenmeadow neighborhood. I have spoken with many people in our neighborhood who agree with my family or at least don't have an opinion one way or another and yet they have been bullied by the vocal negative neighbors.

1. This is not "HIGH DENSITY HOUSING": it is" LOW to MEDIUM density". Read the Staff Reports (They are online.) If SummerHill was asking for 80 condominiums or apartments on this property that would constitute high density and be unacceptable. The RM-15 zoning SummerHill is requesting is low to medium density—not high density as Commissioner Arthur Keller mistakenly claimed. As a Commissioner he does not know what he is talking about.

2. Let us be clear about zoning request: 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.
3. Why is a Developer who provides a service and happens to try and turn a profit the bad guy but all of you residents seem to think their motivation is wrong. I suppose you have no desire to make money and turn a profit and yet your self righteousness speaks volumes to your holier than thou attitude.

4. Concerning Traffic: The Day Care according to another article generates around 700 additional automobiles a day at the Center. SummerHill is asking for 23 homes. Figure the math: the traffic will be far far less.

5. It's going to put too much pressure on our schools. Well according to the Staff Report they said:" The environmental document concluded that there is "no significant demand for school services resulting from the project and therefore a "less than significant impact" to schools under Public Services (Section M.)."

6. One more issue and that is the transit concern: mile is 2640 feet—we measured it from the Day Care to Caltrain and it is 3066 feet or 426 feet or just a little over the length of a football field—and this is an issue? How goofy can the City be.


Posted by Dont miss the humor, a resident of Nixon School
on Apr 23, 2011 at 9:41 pm

"Durkee (the lawyer) wrote that the commission's finding that the project is not consistent with the Comprehensive Plan -- the city's official land-use bible -- is "not a basis for denial" because the application seeks to amend the Comprehensive Plan."

The project is consistent with the Comprehensive Plan IF the Plan is modified for them. Yessiree, this is high quality lawyering.
Summerhill is accustomed to getting what it wants in Palo Alto and they are downright indignant that something isn't going their way. But this is a funny one.


Posted by get over it, a resident of College Terrace
on Apr 23, 2011 at 9:44 pm

"2. Let us be clear about zoning request: 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."

Yes, and a lot of them get turned down. Just because you ask, doesn't mean the answer has to be "yes". You sound like my 6 year old child "but I said PLEASE!".


Posted by Dan, a resident of Greenmeadow
on Apr 23, 2011 at 10:34 pm

Correct, just because a homeowner or developer ask for a variance or rezoning does not mean it should be approved. When a homeowner or developer asks for a variance or rezoning they are asking for a proposal that is inconsistent with that which it seeks to amend. This is always the case. To think otherwise is silly at best.

In the case of SummerHill, the density exceeds that allowed under the existing Single Family Residential designation, thus SummerHill seeks an amendment to the Comprehensive Plan and allow development at 525 San Antonio Rd. proposed density. This is America and they have every right to have that proposal considered on its merits whether you or I like it or not. Whether their proposal is accepted or not is not up to you or me but the people we have voted into office to make excellent decisions for our community.

We can set here and debate how SummerHill must be so "downright indignant that something isn't going their way" or "you sound like my 6 year old child" but hopefully the Council will make an intelligent decision that will serve Palo Alto as a whole rather than just a few group of self righteous homeowners who demand their way or the highway.

Oh, and by the way, since you are in to bashing developers—I would think that once upon a time the areas of Greenmeadow and Greendell were probably zoned farming land but guess what—they probably got rezoned to R-1 and were developed by a DEVELOPER. That is just terrible that a DEVELOPER developed this land.



Posted by get over it, a resident of College Terrace
on Apr 23, 2011 at 10:50 pm

Dan, they considered and and rejected it. Just because you don't like the outcome - tough! And to then sue because you don't like it when you're the one asking for the re-zoning - sheesh!


Posted by Concerned Parent, a resident of Palo Verde
on Apr 23, 2011 at 11:38 pm

We should ask the city, that they do not approve it, unless they are willing to open another elementary and high school to accommodate the children who will be coming to the schools; which are already packed, otherwise, people who have been living here for a long time might have to send their children to Barron Park Elementary, which is not a good school. Not fair.


Posted by Dont miss the humor, a resident of Nixon School
on Apr 24, 2011 at 12:00 am

Dan, maybe I can make it clearer. You cannot say a project is consistent with the Comprehensive Plan if you are requesting a change in the plan. If the change is approved, then the project conforms.
It's like saying a criminal pleads innocent to a crime and the basis of his request that that crime be made legal. It depends on a future action by the authorities.
It will be interesting to see which council people will want to bow to this big developer.


Posted by Arrested Development, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 24, 2011 at 7:59 am

Greendale School has been eyed by the City for years now, and was nearly acted on before the new development proposal. It is unfortunate PAUSD/City did not go forward with Stratford/Garland School and Greendale when they had the funds, plans and community agreement - rather they placed it on hold. The nearly acted on school plans were indeed - A bird in the hand on this Easter day.

New developments have led to the realization of unprecedented surges of enrollment in our schools, thanks to inaccurate enrollments numbers by consultant reports. The City's report for impact on schools for this project seems inaccurate based on new demographics from other new developments and their enrollment percentages.

The proposed site does not have transportation to Cal Train palo alto stations.

There is development impact all over Palo Alto and it's changing the face and nature of our once small community. The upside is that some of the changes are in best practices as Palo Alto can afford excellent consultants and planners. Our new development could look much worse.

Greenmeadow should consider their contribution to space for housing, very few areas in Greenmeadow have been impacted by developments. The area is nearby the High Speed Rail for transportation. They can lobby for bus service to transportation hubs. Greenmeadow should do their part for housing as all other areas of Palo Alto North and South have done and absorbed.


Posted by Thomas Paine, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 24, 2011 at 10:21 am

Arrested Development:

"The area is nearby the High Speed Rail for transportation" In your dreams! HSR will never service the San Antonio station. Indeed, that station is always on CalTrain's "proposed" closure list. Only the annual CalTrain "Yes, we have no money" miracle budget dance saves it from closure.

The real issue is the development will add two classrooms full of children to our schools. The net annual cost to the PAUSD, after state reimbursement, is $175,000. Maybe the city council should recommend an additional school parcel tax measure on the next ballot as part of their recommendation if they approve.


Posted by Janet, a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Apr 24, 2011 at 3:49 pm

Thomas, where did you get information that this development of 23 homes was going to generate 2 classrooms of students. I went to the City of Palo Alto Website and found the Staff Report from Amy French.

On page 7 it says "The average household size in PA is 2.24 persons, which would mean the project could generate a total of 59 people. Based on the PAUSD student generation rates of 0.75 students per single family detached dwelling unit and 0.7 per Below Market Rental unit, the project would generate 21 school age children."

That figure as they state later was based on the original 26 homes and now with 23 homes requested it means between 16-18 school age children.

There is so much misinformation on this blog I would urge people to get their facts straight and read the Staff Report instead constantly whining.


Posted by JD, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Apr 24, 2011 at 8:37 pm

Dan......what do you do for a living?


Posted by Judy, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Apr 24, 2011 at 10:14 pm

Arrested Development says: "Greendale School has been eyed by the City for years now." Wrong, where did you get that info?

The City may get together with Foothill College and sell the City owned 8 acres of Cubberley closest to the Charleston Shopping Center but that has nothing to do with Greendell.


Posted by stephen soos, a resident of Barron Park
on Apr 24, 2011 at 10:19 pm

Yes, these projects add more to the city coffers, but they also place great burden on the city in the form of services and school overcrowding (or having to build more).

Web Link


Posted by Just-Say-No, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 25, 2011 at 10:07 am

> the project would generate 21 school age children.

If these 21 children were of elementary school age, then with a class size of 20, it would take two class rooms to handle all of them.

Of course, the current size of 20 per class leaves a lot of space for "just one more" in many of the district's classrooms. Maybe someday there will be a return to common sense, and the "space issue" will be resolved by better space utilization in the elementary schools than is going on now.



Posted by Anon., a resident of Crescent Park
on Apr 25, 2011 at 10:20 am

I just was reading or viewing something about a city in Southern California that halted all development. They were taken to court and ended up winning and being validated, but I wonder how many Palo Altans would be happy to vote to end development in Palo Alto - or to put all development plans to a vote of the people so they had to appeal and bring something valid to the city and not just some corrupt subset of decisionmakers before they were approved.???

Just wondering????


Posted by Just-Say-No, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 25, 2011 at 10:22 am

> Worst Case Scenario for 21 new kids in a school district

BTW, the worst case scenario is that all of the classrooms are full. Assuming (for the moment) that the kids are uniformly distributed in ages (6-10), that would give us 4 kids (+1) in each of 5 age groups. This means that it would take four new class rooms to accommodate this 21 kids, if the district refused in increase the loading factor.

Of course, if these kids were older than 11, then these limits on class size are not in place, so they could probably be absorbed easily.


Posted by Just-Say-No, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 25, 2011 at 10:24 am

> four new class

woops .. make that five new class rooms.

sorry ..


Posted by Lies, More Lies and Developers, a resident of Palo Verde
on Apr 25, 2011 at 12:01 pm

The issue here is overcrowded Palo Alto schools.

The Developer can easily sell houses in Palo Alto because we have great schools. The schools are the centerpiece of all housing development sales in Palo Alto. Its the first thing you get hit with when you visit an open house or sales model.

Developers have purchased legislation to prohibit local K-12 school impacts from being considered when local communities review what development can occur.

Developer fees do not pay the real cost of adding the proposed children to Palo Alto schools. Not even close.

Developers lie about the number of new students their proposed development will introduce to the local schools. In every case, new South Palo Alto housing developments have delivered more kids to PAUSD than promised. Its a big lie.

And Summerhill laughs all the way to the bank.


Posted by jen, a resident of College Terrace
on Apr 25, 2011 at 12:37 pm

Bloody hell, just what we need.......more monster houses, less schools. I hate the overdevelopment in Palo Alto. Its not quaint anymore. So sad.


Posted by Elizabeth, a resident of Midtown
on Apr 25, 2011 at 12:38 pm

I've not often found reason to align with the city council in recent years, but I'm definitely for this one.

It's challenging to find suitable parcels for schools when they're needed so to go through the process of changing the zoning to lose that school parcel and pack in more residential structures would suit only one small ground of people who happen to be the developers.


Posted by Just-Say-No, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 25, 2011 at 12:55 pm

> school impact fees

This is one of the keys to being against a lot of new housing in PA. The current impact fee is set in Sacramento, at roughly $3/sq. foot for residential housing, and about $0.50 for commercial buildings.

So .. what will this project generate in terms of fees?

Let's assume that there will be 23 units, with an average area of 2000 sq. ft. and that the impact fee is $3/sq. ft. This means that the Summerhill project will generate about $140,000 in impact fees. Any changes in the number of units and average size of the units will change the fee generation.

Now .. what about school costs? This is more difficult, because it involves many factors, so let's just look at a possibility--

School class rooms at 2000 sq. ft, with construction costs at $600-$1200/sq. ft. (without financing costs included). This 2000 sq. ft. classroom can run between $1.2M and $2.4M (and perhaps double that when the costs of financing is added). Then, there are all the hidden costs of "staff/consultants" salaries, that are not likely to be in these construction costs in any easy-to-find way.

Portables, used often in the PAUSD, cost, perhaps, $250,000, based on various factors.

Who picks up the rest of the cost for adding new students from new housing? Well, the other property tax payers in Palo Alto. Sometimes there are State grants, which means that taxpayers in other communities are on the hook, and then sometimes there are Federal grants. What's missing from this complex equation, is grants from Developers.

The total impact of these units also needs to consider property taxes, and parcel taxes paid by these units, as well as rising costs of labor at the school district. There will doubtless be reduced "grants" from the State and Feds in the coming years, so that means if the outrageous spending at the PAUSD is to continue .. then there will be more, and bigger, parcel taxes coming our way .. in part due to developers "proving a service and making a profit at the same time".



Posted by Concerned Mom, a resident of Palo Verde
on Apr 25, 2011 at 5:55 pm

I am a mom of a 5 yr old boy. This year, we have 128 kids registered for Palo Verde elementary kindergarten. The total available spots: 66.

128 vs. 66, you do the math.

So for anyone who said these new houses will not crowd our school, i want to slap his face!


Posted by resident , a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Apr 25, 2011 at 6:20 pm

Above poster asks about a $$ fund to buy property for the city. Why not charge a higher transfer fee? an extra $1 / 1000.
The highest sale in the last year (369 churchill at $8.595m) would raise $43,000 !! I think the Facebook COO guy buying would not mind paying that $.


Posted by Palo Verde Mom, a resident of Midtown
on Apr 25, 2011 at 7:17 pm

Concerned Mom----I agree!

Developers walk away with the money and we are left with the problems.

We already have "a significant impact to our schools."

Thanks goodness for the Moms and Dads who help out in the school classrooms!


Posted by very simplified math, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Apr 25, 2011 at 9:07 pm

Every student in our District costs us about $10K a year. For 13 years that is $130,000. So for every housing unit that could support one (or more) student(s), the developer should pay the School District 130,000. In a fair world that is.

Many other states actually require developers to set aside land and build an actual school for ALL their potential students (of course, they make them provide sufficient parking for business and housing too).


Posted by Janet, a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Apr 26, 2011 at 7:45 am

First of all you didn't read my post correctly. If you had read the Staff Report it said SummerHill was now 23 houses instead of 26. Thus, instead of 21 school children it now equates from 16-18 but most of you keep using 21. Read the Staff Report and get your facts straight.

Secondly, the population of PA is around 62,000 give or take and the day time population is 111,000 because of all the businesses we have here. Therefore, people are driving from Sunnyvale, Redwood City, San Jose, and Gilroy to work here because our homes are so expensive. Homes that SummerHill were going to build were not for the elite but in the 1.4 mil range. I know that's still relatively expensive but it's better than the 2 mil and up. In addition, what is so ironic is with these 50,000 driving here to work we're creating global warming at an alarming rate. But, I suppose many of you would just prefer we close half ours businesses so people wouldn't drive here and hopefully people would move away so our City would be sweet and quaint again.

Palo Alto has become the most unhappy, depressed and selfish town on the Peninsula and stated in my other post the BIGGEST WHINNERS. From reading your post you need some Prozac. Here are a few quotes from my last post.

"Yes, these projects add more to the city coffers, but they also place great burden on the city in the form of services and school overcrowding (or having to build more)."

"If these 21 children were of elementary school age, then with a class size of 20, it would take two class rooms to handle all of them."

"I just was reading or viewing something about a city in Southern California that halted all development."

"BTW, the worst case scenario is that all of the classrooms are full. Assuming (for the moment) that the kids are uniformly distributed in ages (6-10), that would give us 4 kids (+1) in each of 5 age groups. This means that it would take four new class rooms to accommodate these 21 kids, if the district refused in increase the loading factor."

"Woops ... make that five new class rooms."

"The issue here is overcrowded Palo Alto schools."

"The Developer can easily sell houses in Palo Alto because we have great schools. The schools are the centerpiece of all housing development sales in Palo Alto. Its the first thing you get hit with when you visit an open house or sales model."

"Developer fees do not pay the real cost of adding the proposed children to Palo Alto schools. Not even close."

"Bloody hell, just what we need.......more monster houses, less schools. I hate the overdevelopment in Palo Alto. Its not quaint anymore. So sad."

"I am a mom of a 5 yr old boy. This year, we have 128 kids registered for Palo Verde elementary kindergarten. The total available spots: 66."


Posted by Just-Say-No, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 26, 2011 at 8:05 am

> Palo Alto has become the most unhappy, depressed and selfish town
> on the Peninsula and stated in my other post the BIGGEST WHINNERS.

Well .. maybe .. but it's not really this 27 (or 23) .. or whatever number of homes that is the issue--it's the 12,000 homes/dwelling units that ABAG/Sacramento wants to shove down our throats in the coming years. Where do you think that 12,000 homes are going to go in Palo Alto--with the HSR tearing up a fair swath of our town too?

And what do you think the costs of providing schools for 12,000 near homes will cost? 5,000 to 6,000 new kids would increase the currently increasing school population by 50%. The $2M-$4M classrooms, plus $100+K per year staffing costs will blow the roof off the costs of educating these kids. If the PAUSD remains a Basic Aid school district, then all of these costs will have to be borne by all of us. Now maybe you are independently wealthy--lots of people are in this town--but the cost of government at all levels is becoming crushing. Most people who have bought into PA recently, whose homes are in the $2M-%3M range, are going to be paying increasingly high property taxes in the time frames that ABAG proposes. People paying a mere $20,000+ a year will see that tax bill almost double over the years, due to the 2% escalator in Prop.13. The $30,000 base property tax will grow to almost $60,000 for people who will one of these days want to retire. Adding $3K-$5K a year (minimum) in new taxes just for school construction is a real possibility.

So maybe you're ecstatic about seeing high rises darken the sun. Maybe you're gleeful about seeing multi-millionaire developers become multi-billionaires. That's your right. The rest of us have a right to take note, complain, and engage in community action to stop this tsunami that will destroy Palo Alto.





Posted by Janet, a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Apr 26, 2011 at 8:33 am

Just Say No,

I agree with you, 12,000 homes is ludicrous and its not going to happen. I don't care what ABAG/Sacramento wants to shove down our throats. Nonetheless, at this moment in time we are addressing and I suppose arguing over 23 homes--I repeat 23 HOMES. As far as developers are concerned they have been hammered in the last few years. I doubt very many are doing well and many have gone out of business which I assume most people on this blog are ecstatic about.


Posted by Steve, a resident of Mountain View
on Apr 26, 2011 at 9:41 am

Folks, ABAG wants all of those homes to improve your housing/jobs balance. Since you fancy yourselves very green, you should want this too, as it would, as noted above reduce all the inbound and outbound commuters.

Of course, the other way would be to eliminate the appropriate amount of jobs, reducing your property values, and the budget and quality of your schools, presumably solving your perceived overcrowding issues.

Unfortunately, even in Palo Alto (of all places) you cannot have it both ways, but you are certainly welcome to discuss it forever, I might add to the great amusement of those of us in neighboring cities.

Have no fear though, as long as your precious homes are still within the triangle formed by Facebook's new digs, Stanford, and Google; your property values are probably secure for awhile anyway.


Posted by narnia, a resident of Menlo Park
on Apr 26, 2011 at 4:42 pm

I don't know of any place In the USA (including Manhattan) in which a dwelling costing 1.4 million dollars is not for "the elite". There are very few people in the USA and the great majority in Palo Alto who can afford such prices. Mostly, the majority of Palo Altans, wouldn't be able to afford their own houses if they had to buy them today. It's mainly because of prop 13 that that housing prices are inflated ( because of diminishing number of housing units on the market). Why should people downsize when they are not paying for their full share of services?

Palo Alto schools are comparable ( or even worse statistically) to many others around here.
I recently moved from Palo Alto to Menlo Park, but I remember very well that up till the construction of the many McMansions there was no overcrowding of the schools. The people who are complaining have only themselves to blame.


Posted by bikes2work, a resident of Santa Rita (Los Altos)
on Apr 26, 2011 at 7:07 pm

You could stop all new housing development in Palo Alto and the school enrollment will still increase. The root cause is the turnover of the existing housing stock. A vast majority of it was built in a relatively short timeframe in the 50's and 60's. The school population peaked in the 70's. Those original parents are now passing on, and the housing stock is turning over toward a new peak in enrollment.

The ironic downside is that PAUSD sold off a bunch of school sites (for new housing, LOL) in the early 80's. Those sites are now gone forever. Fortunately, a few sites are still available such as Ventura, the Stratford School campus, and the Pinewood School campus. However, PAUSD would rather overflow kids than shift school boundary areas and lose the private school lease money. They also don't seem to consider the idea of building 2-story schools.

Summerhill is arguing that City staff encouraged their project right up to the minute that PAUSD expressed an interest in the property. After that, City staff changed their stance. It is a very well written letter with many valid points. You can read Summerhill's complaint at this link (starting on page 41) Web Link


Posted by Janet, a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Apr 26, 2011 at 8:08 pm

If schools are in such an incredible hardship why in the heck has the large Cubberly Community Center with somewhere around 30 acres been underutilized by the PAUSD with only about a third of the property developed and even then the buildings are all only one story high.

This piece of property is extremely underutilized. Much of the property is leased to outside users and is not occupiedby by PAUSD.

Can someone, anyone tell me why PAUSD doesn't develop their own property if they are having a difficult time with increased enrollment in the future. Instead, we are asking the PAUSD to spend millions of tax payer dollars in order to acquire property like the one on San Antonio Rd. What a sham! I dare anyone to explain this fiasco.


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