The coalition, led by residents of the Barron Park, Green Acres and Green Acres 2 neighborhoods, is circulating two petitions to hold referendums. One would specifically overturn the council's approval of the project and one would nullify a recent change in the city's Comprehensive Plan, which is designed to guide land-use decisions. The change effectively made the Comprehensive Plan compatible with the project proposed by the Palo Alto Housing Corporation.
In each case, the group needs to collect 2,298 signatures within 30 days of the council's decision to bring the issue to a November vote. The decision on the project itself wasn't officially made until June 28, when the council voted on a "second reading" of its earlier approval, giving the group until the end of July to file its petition.
The deadline for the Comprehensive Plan petition is much tighter because the group got a late start in gathering signatures. The council's vote to change it was made June 17, making the deadline July 16, but the group only decided to circulate the second petition after consulting an attorney last week, said Bob Moss, a Barron Park resident.
Though Moss said he believes the first one would suffice to reverse the council's approval of the proposal for 567 Maybell Ave., he and other supporters of the referendum decided to circulate the second one "to be on the safe side."
"Since the council had passed two separate resolutions, (the attorney) thought it was best to referend both of them," Moss said.
Information about the referendums is available at paloaltoville.com, the group's website. Hundreds of opponents had also attended recent council meetings and submitted letters and emails arguing against allowing greater density at the 2.4 acre site, which is near a popular corridor for commuting to schools.
Opponents had also formed two separate groups, Maybell Action Group and Coalition for Safe and Sensible Zoning, dedicated to reversing the council's decision.
"We care about these referendums because they go to the heart of over-development in Palo Alto, leading to traffic congestion, lack of parking, densification of neighborhoods, downgrade of quality of life in Palo Alto, and other symptoms of poor land use planning," Coalition for Safe and Sensible Zoning, a smaller group that has focused more on technical land-use issues, wrote on its website.
The grassroots move to reverse the council approval of the project gained some momentum last week when the Barron Park Association released survey results that showed members supporting the referendum of the project by a three-to-one margin. Furthermore, 117 of the 177 respondents said the association should contribute up to $1,000 for the referendum effort.
Though the signature drive for the referendum on the Comprehensive Plan is facing a deadline of next Tuesday, Moss said he's seen a high level of interest from the community. He also noted that the second referendum package has an advantage over the first one in that it is only five pages long and can thus be easily emailed to people (the first one is about 60 pages). Even with the tight deadline, Moss said he believes the needed signatures can be gathered.
"There's an awful lot of people collecting signatures," Moss said.