http://paloaltoonline.com/print/story/print/2013/05/24/divisive-senior-housing-proposal-scores-zoning-victory


Palo Alto Weekly

News - May 24, 2013

Divisive senior-housing proposal scores zoning victory

Palo Alto planning commission votes to recommend rezoning Maybell Avenue site to enable 60 senior residences, 15 homes

by Gennady Sheyner

Everyone agrees that Palo Alto, a city with a graying population and sky-high property values, has a drought of housing for low-income seniors.

But it's the details of the latest proposed development that have driven a deep wedge in the community a split that was on full display during Wednesday's packed and emotional meeting of the Planning and Transportation Commission. In the end, the commission voted 4-1, with Alex Panelli dissenting and Arthur Keller and Greg Tanaka absent, to recommend a zone change for the controversial project.

The proposal by the Palo Alto Housing Corporation, a nonprofit developer of affordable housing throughout the city, includes a 60-unit building for low-income seniors and 15 single-family homes at 567 Maybell Ave. The former orchard currently includes four houses, which would be demolished.

To build the project, the Housing Corporation needs the city to rezone the site to "planned community," which would allow greater density in exchange for "public benefits." In this case, the main benefit is the project itself affordable housing in a city in short supply. It was this benefit that prompted city staff to recommend the zone change, which the planning commission first considered in March.

"We strongly believe that regardless of our regional housing requirement or anything else, all that aside, that the city does need to provide opportunities for affordable housing, particularly for low-income seniors," Planning Director Curtis Williams told the commission.

Land for affordable housing in Palo Alto is "precious," Williams said. There simply aren't many vacant lots out there, particularly with residential zoning that would allow a senior complex.

"It's hard to find any sites for affordable housing," he said.

The commission was far less emphatic, particularly after hearing from dozens of residents who argued that the new development would worsen traffic congestion and endanger school-bound children. During two-and-a-half hours of public comments, often punctuated by applause from spectators, one resident after another warned that the neighborhood's roads cannot accommodate a major housing project and that the city's traffic analysis of the project severely understates the expected amount of new traffic and its danger to kids walking and biking to school.

Commissioners agreed with the residents that traffic around Maybell is an important problem that needs to be addressed. But the Maybell project didn't cause the current situation, commissioners reasoned, and isn't expected to exacerbate it.

Commissioner Michael Alcheck observed that more residents attended Wednesday's meeting than had attended all prior meetings throughout the year combined. Vice Chair Mark Michael called the public participation "of historic magnitude."

Many of the speakers represented larger groups. Kevin Hauck, speaking for some residents, said the street is already too narrow and that stop signs routinely get mowed down.

"The thing that's most maddening is that we're forced to play defense about concerns that our kids are going to be in a very dangerous situation every morning and afternoon," Hauk said.

The commission also heard from plenty of supporters of the Maybell project, many of whom wore green stickers imprinted with the words "Yes on Maybell." These included affordable-housing advocates and residents who agreed with staff's and Housing Corporation's contention that seniors drive far less often than other types of residents and that most of their driving occurs outside of commute hours.

Marlene Prendergast, a Palo Alto resident and former executive director of the Housing Corporation, said it's not uncommon for residents to oppose the agency's proposed housing projects, which end up having no negative consequences and being largely unnoticed.

"Each time we went through this, and each time we made it through, and now there are no problems," Prendergast said, recalling her experience in development.

But others contended that this is not a NIMBY issue it's about traffic. Maurice Green, a Barron Park resident, showed the planning commission a video of traffic in the area of Maybell and Clemo avenues a trail of cars moved slowly, with groups of bicyclists more quickly navigating down the road to the right of the cars.

"The question we're raising is: Is this the right project and is this the right place?" Green asked. "Seniors may not drive very much, even during morning hours, but what about their caretakers, the staff that comes to the senior housing project to take care of them?"

Another area resident, John Elman, bemoaned the lack of grocery stores and other nearby amenities and wondered aloud how the seniors would get around the area, given the congestion.

The lack of amenities was a major driver for Panelli's dissenting vote. The site, he said, isn't truly transit-oriented, despite its proximity to El Camino Real. He said he doesn't consider the amenities in the area sufficient to satisfy the needs of most seniors.

The Wednesday discussion further illustrates the challenge Palo Alto is facing in its effort to bolster its stock of affordable housing. The city is under a regional mandate to plan for 2,860 units of housing in the planning period of 2007-14. To help meet the mandate, staff had recommended including the Maybell project in the city's Housing Element, a state-mandated document that lays out the city's housing vision and identifies potential housing sites.

On Monday, with the City Council set to approve the Housing Element, staff recommended deferring the approval after a torrent of criticism from residents, many of whom argued that including the Maybell project in the document would essentially render the development a fait accompli. The fact that the council has already loaned the Housing Corporation more than $5 million to purchase the Maybell land only added to the residents' frustration about the process.

Joseph Hirsch, a resident and former planning commissioner, said there were numerous reasons to oppose the project, but NIMBYism wasn't one of them.

"This should not be characterized as 'neighborhood versus affordable housing.' We have plenty of affordable housing here. ... What I object to is the scale and intensity of the project, and the appearance that it is already politically a done deal, notwithstanding what the neighborhood feels," Hirsch said.

Under the existing zoning, the Maybell site could already be redeveloped as up to 34 houses. Planning commissioners agreed Wednesday that the proposal by the Housing Corporation, because of its focus on low-income seniors, would actually have a much smaller impact than a potential future project that would comply with the underlying zoning. Alcheck, who made the motion to recommend the zone change, said 30 three-bedroom homes at the site would create far more traffic without accomplishing the laudable goal of adding senior housing.

The traffic analysis for the development estimated an increase of just 16 car trips during the peak morning hour and 21 car trips during the afternoon commute.

Michael called the decision complex, noting that it pits an important community need against reasonable concerns about traffic safety. The city has plenty of work to do on the latter issue, Michael said. But given that the area will likely be developed anyway and that change is, to some extent, "inevitable," the city doesn't have any "feasible alternatives" to the proposal on the table.

"Here I'm convinced that the need for housing, the need for affordable housing, the need for senior housing, is a significant public benefit," Michael said.

Martinez voiced a similar sentiment earlier in the meeting, when he argued that the city needs to "brainstorm this and really come up with good solutions to reduce the traffic and make it safer."

But, he quickly added, "Let's not lose sight of the fact that this is a community that needs housing like this."

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

Comments

Posted by Please no rezoning, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 22, 2013 at 11:29 pm

"Commissioner Michael Alcheck, who made the motion to recommend the zone change, said 30 three-bedroom homes at the site would impact the traffic far more without accomplishing the laudable goal of increasing senior-housing stock."

You seem to be forgetting that in this deal we are already getting 15 three-bedroom homes on top of the 60+ senior housing.

Hmmm, 15+15 single families or 15+60 single residences, which one would you choose?


Posted by musical, a resident of Palo Verde
on May 22, 2013 at 11:43 pm

Condolences on yet another change for the worse.


Posted by Please no rezoning, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 22, 2013 at 11:45 pm

I will try this again, since my first post got deleted for some reason.

This is wrong on many counts. Wrong because the for-profit houses do not fit in the neighborhood. They are too high, no setbacks, no side yards, no backyards. They are over two stories high. The entire complex does not have a parking place for every unit being built much less spaces for families visiting, caregivers, physical therapists, etc.

Nothing about this adds to the quality of the neighborhood. Reduce the height the number of houses and give normal setbacks to the for-profit houses. Do not take up grass on the park to make sidewalk when it really does not help. Read the study that was done on Maybell that the city paid for and you will find that the city does not own enough of the land down Maybell to make sidewalks all the way down. No one said not sidewalks here. You have the study. Maybell was already been "improved" before Arastradero was "improved".


Posted by Moss Roxx, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 23, 2013 at 7:39 am

Please no rezonong said it all, and said it right. This is a bad idea all around, and does.not allow for the fact that the narrow neighborhood streets have no room to be widened to accommodate all the traffic this will cause.

This plan sucks all around


Posted by Lisa, a resident of Barron Park
on May 23, 2013 at 7:48 am

Never have I seen so much ignorance and baseless fear in a public meeting as I saw last night. Many say you are for affordable housing - just not here at one of the last available sites in town. You want changes that would sink the entire project - that isn't support, that is being Nimbys in sheeps clothing.

And where does the Barron Park Association get off voting to oppose the project with no authorization from BP residents? We don't elect this group (board) and why they presumed to take any position in our name without consulting us is wrong. The neighbors were't told the board would be discussing taking a position and had no input. This was not on their meeting agenda. They did this on their own but their statement spoke of the BP Association - all of us. The 3 question biased "survey" done by the projects opponents is certainly not reliable for gauging actual neighborhood opinion. The board should stick to donkeys and may polls.

Not surprising it passed as it will at city council. Yea!


Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 23, 2013 at 7:55 am

The PTC reports to the City Council. Any change must come from there. No support will come from the current Council, but it might from the next.

The election is in 18 months.


Posted by Parent, a resident of Juana Briones School
on May 23, 2013 at 8:09 am

I'll let the fact that this neighborhood already has the most high density housing of any residential area speak to Lisa's claims of NIMBYism. This is about as welcoming a neighborhood as can be found.

I've never been at a meeting where so many well articulated flaws with a project were so blithely dismissed. The arrogance of our city government and staff is staggering. The developer's behavior has been downright sleazy. They've dodged public scrutiny at every opportunity, gave insufficient notices to residents, flip flopped repeatedly about critical traffic and parking concerns such as egress points and barrier placements, commissioned a traffic "study" that ignored pedestrian and bicycle safety and isnt worth the paper it ia printed on, and successfully maneuvered to get the city council so financially committed to the project that they're guaranteed to get their zoning change.

This project will probably die in court, and the city government will waste more of my tax dollars trying to defend it because they already wed themselves to PAHCs position on the matter. This council needs to be flushed. Palo Alto is not Bell. Our residents deserve better.


Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 23, 2013 at 8:21 am

I suppose the next thing for the City to do is put in barriers to prevent cars from using Maybell as they have done in other parts of the city.

The lane reduction of Arastradero and the increase in the size of Gunn enrollment means that more students and staff have to use the same window of time to arrive and leave school. As yet, we have not been able to teleport to school so all the routes around a school are going to carry all the people who need to get there regardless of what means of transport used.

It is about time that school buses were considered as the only realistic solution to schooltime commutes. This does not have to be the conventional yellow school buses, but private shuttles could be considered.


Posted by barron park resident, a resident of Barron Park
on May 23, 2013 at 8:25 am

Great public benefit would be "side walks", really that is all the benefit the neigbors can realize from this site???? Was that a joke.


Posted by Resident, a resident of Green Acres
on May 23, 2013 at 8:42 am

The message from the four consenting commissoners was plain and clear:
The senior housing project was more important than the safety of the children biking to school. And I think I know why; their children and grandchildren don't live here. They already made up their mind before the meeting.


Posted by Please no rezoning, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 23, 2013 at 9:24 am

The sidewalks discussed by the commission were suggested from "their property" to Coulombe (without even looking at a plot map to see where they were adding cement. This would mean that they would add cement to the park grass and leave the rest of Maybell toward the Walgreens without sidewalks. Kids have no problem walking on public park grass but they do have more of a problem walking on someone else's front yard.

It appears that the commission did not know the structure of Maybell. The property runs in a zigzag all down the street. Some homeowners own the property right up to the street. This is the case with a house that sits between "their property" and Coulombe. I doubt that these folks will just say, sure take my property and put a sidewalk in my front yard.

I wish that the commission could have really understood the true issues before they voted. As Commissioner Michael Alcheck said in the meeting, if he had known how much opposition to the Arastradero calming there was then he may not have voted for the change. Now that he has seen the traffic mess, he sees what a problem the neighborhood has. Nothing is permanent on that street, it is just repainting of lines if he really wants to see if that corrects some of the issues.

I hope that the commission does not have to say, "I wish that I had known....." after the high density, three story for-profit homes add a visual nightmare to our neighborhood.


Posted by Maria, a resident of East Palo Alto
on May 23, 2013 at 9:35 am

Instead of crying about the streets in the neighborhood put your time in finding other area's of Palo Alto to fit this project. I applaud the council in this move. Thanks for your comment Lisa. The same issues is taking place with a low income development in Portola Valley.


Posted by A neighbor, a resident of Green Acres
on May 23, 2013 at 9:35 am

"One of the last available sites in town"? I beg to differ. If the scheme is now to buy large expensive tracts of land in residential areas with the City loaning money to do it, peel off part of it on the edge to sell to a developer who will profit by getting to sell tall, out-of-character, high-density homes for a premium because of the surrounding residential area, and put the affordable high density project on the rest of the property (with no limits on density, height, setback, and daylight plane because of the PC zoning), it seems to me virtually all of Palo Alto is now available, especially those that have not taken any of their fair share to date (which is most of the rest of Palo Alto except downtown).

And last night was a perfect example of how easy it is to mow over residents' legitimate concerns about even seriously inadequate infrastructure and safety, the rest of you have no defense if your concern is just your quality of life and quiet enjoyment of your property. They'll trot out the same attacks: you're against affordable housing, you're just making excuses, you're a NIMBY, etc etc.

That neighborhood already has several affordable housing projects, whereas many parts of Palo Alto, including those with very large lot sizes, have none. Anytime a lot goes for sale on University, wouldn't that be fair game? How about Lincoln, in Old Palo Alto? After all, there are apartments on University, it's near downtown, and actually near things seniors need, unlike this project.

The reason there was so much opposition there last night is because of the circumstances of this project. PAHC representatives have gotten so used to fighting opposition -- and winning, their sweeping generalizations are like kryptonite in this town -- they have long stopped honestly analyzing their projects.

Which the rest of town would do well to take heed of, if this scheme succeeds.


Posted by A neighbor, a resident of Green Acres
on May 23, 2013 at 9:41 am

The contention that building market-rate under the existing zoning would have more impacts than the proposed project doesn't add up.

For one thing, it's based on the contention that the existing zoning would have 34 dwellings. The site has R-2 which could take 4 units, and RM-15, which is "Low-density Multiple Family Residential, and zoned for 8-15 units per acre. The Comprehensive Plan States: "Density should be on the lower end of the scale next to single family residential areas." That means 8-10 units per acre for the just under 2 remaining acres. So max use under the existing zoning is more like 20-24 total structures.

I would note that the lower end of 8 units is higher than the lower end of RM-15 zoning when that orchard was zoned for RM-15 originally, as a transition zone from that island of older apartments. It was raised to 8 in the last Comprehensive Plan. So the original zoning actually was envision for even lower density than 20-24 total structures. Compare that to 15 market-rate houses and 60 affordable structures? It's a spurious claim that building within existing zoning would have less impact, especially if they built within the existing zoning for seniors, which the neighborhood truly welcomes.


Posted by A neighbor, a resident of Green Acres
on May 23, 2013 at 9:43 am

Calling the desire to build within the existing zoning for seniors a "wolf in sheep's clothing" is wrong, but par for the course for those who spoke for the project, who mostly trotted out boilerplate strategy for attacking neighbors rather than addressing the very real concerns. As one of the neighbors said, the project has no benefits to the people in the neighborhood**, the affordable housing benefit is for the City as a whole, so the City, not the neighborhood, should bear the cost, not the neighborhood. In other words, the City wishes to put an affordable housing complex here, the neighborhood truly welcomes it WITHIN EXISTING ZONING, the benefit of the project is to the City, not the neighborhood, so the City should find ways to bear the additional costs to make the plan feasible within the existing zoning.

For example, one speaker suggested they build within the existing zoning, and make up the rest of the spaces by finding a way to renegotiate to fill 20 units of affordable senior housing at Moldaw that have gone vacant for 3 years (because it wasn't negotiated to be actually affordable, probably -- but if supply is so tight, how come that wasn't motivation enough to fill those units?). They won't do this, because when it comes down to it, it's not about affordable housing numbers, it's about ABAG, and those Moldaw units have already been counted. So what if they go vacant while there are waiting lists? On to the next thing!

**(Greenacres is most affected, where a lot of seniors live who would never be able to quality for the project even if a space were available for them. They live in affordable housing by virtue of having purchased decades ago, and don't necessarily have large incomes, but could never stay here if they sold their homes. They generally wish to stay in their homes til they die anyway.)

Since the need for affordable housing is essentially limitless in such an expensive town, that alone should not be the sole public benefit to rezone a residential area to PC zone with no restrictions whatsoever, because it means zoning essentially has no meaning. Any home sold in Palo Alto should disclose this if this scheme succeeds.


Posted by A neighbor, a resident of Green Acres
on May 23, 2013 at 10:05 am

So let me get this straight: They can't find a better location for seniors, because none are available, because it's too expensive. But the only way they can afford this project is to set aside all zoning rules and put in whatever they want?

It seems to me, if they can just set aside zoning to make things work, they have all of Palo Alto to choose from, and probably should since they claim to not want to concentrate affordable housing in one location, something that project does (there are several other PAHC projects nearby, including one adjacent).

Seems to me they are crying wolf - and NIMBY - to get their way, regardless of the circumstances. PAHC just put in a huge new affordable complex on Alma downtown. Closer to downtown would be a much more suitable place for a large senior complex, as it would be walkable, nearer to Avenidas and other amenities seniors need. If there was such a need for seniors especially, why didn't they make the Alma development for seniors, or half-dedicated to seniors? Or try to buy up a large property on University to implement the same financing scheme?

The biggest problem the neighbors have with the development is not even the affordable units, it's the 15 tall skinny market-rate homes like they have behind Miki's Market, where currently 4 single-story ranch homes sit. Those homes are not affordable stock, they are purely for the sake of the market-rate developer to maximize his return.

Go to www.paloaltoville.com, look at the video of the traffic. When you see the yellow ranch homes at Clemo and Maybell, imagine more than 2 homes will go in where one of those stands (9, where 4 now stand), at three times the height. It violates every zoning principle in the book.

The developer could make good money by just renovating those homes, which are all over 2,000 sq ft and would bring in around 2.5 million each if renovated. Add 2 new homes on Clemo, consistent with that, and the financials still work out pretty well. Cut the project size to 40 seniors (making up the difference to 40 by figuring out how to fill the 20 long-vacant senior spots at Moldaw), and the neighborhood opposition goes away, particularly if the project requires anyone entering to sign a pledge (with stiff fines attached) that they and their visitors will always park on-site, and never drive between 7-9am and 2-7pm (1-7pm on Wednesdays) when school traffic is high or rush hour is on. They've basically promised this anyway, so putting it in writing with consequences shouldn't be difficult.

It would help if those who want to push this on the neighborhood would stop calling names and start working on a solution.


Posted by A Neighbor, a resident of Green Acres
on May 23, 2013 at 10:08 am

Oops, in the above I meant:
The developer could make good money by just renovating those homes, which are all over 2,000 sq ft and would bring in around 2.5 million each if renovated. Add 2 new homes on Clemo, consistent with that, and the financials still work out pretty well. Cut the project size to 40 seniors (making up the difference to **60** by figuring out how to fill the 20 long-vacant senior spots at Moldaw), and the neighborhood opposition goes away,


Posted by Anna, a resident of Barron Park
on May 23, 2013 at 10:09 am

The conflicts of interest in this process are astounding. The residents legitimate concerns are being heard in a court that is completely rigged. The process reminds me of the kangaroo courts and show trials that went on in my birth country under Soviet rule when I was young.

The city put the wagon before the horse and got into bed with PAHC financially on a project that only works with the city's consent to rezoning. This is a conflict of interest that is clear as day. How can they be objective in the permitting process if they'll lose millions if they don't approve the rezone?

Question for the legal types: Are there self-starting checks in place for government corruption (IE, could a DA launch an investigation) or do these issues have to be resolved in court?


Posted by Carlos, a resident of Green Acres
on May 23, 2013 at 10:32 am

Developers and the PAHC will do whatever they can get away with. I still think there are some special ties between them and the city officials who make these decisions that go against the wishes of the immediate community.

I don't see them doing this to the more politically influencial neighborhoods in North Palo Alto.

Neighbors, don't get discouraged. We have a legal system that gives you a fighting chance against these big interests and unresponsive city officials.


Posted by A neighbor, a resident of Green Acres
on May 23, 2013 at 10:40 am

"Michael called the decision complex, noting that it pits an important community need against reasonable concerns about traffic safety. The city has plenty of work to do on the latter issue, Michael said. But given that the area will likely be developed anyway and that change is, to some extent, "inevitable," the city doesn't have any "feasible alternatives" to the proposal on the table."

What about a playing field? We can always argue we don't have enough affordable housing in Palo Alto, in this expensive area, that is an inexhaustible need, but this is a far rarer opportunity to turn the space into a far lower-traffic public benefit like a playing field, or even better, a community orchard, across the street from an existing park. For example, why not move Hostess House there and make a community orchard with some of the existing 90 fruit trees and 100-year-old oaks? It solves a problem for John Arrillaga about what to do with it, and neighbors would welcome it. The neighborhood is near the Veteran's Hospital - it could be a meeting place for veterans again as it was historically.

The City hasn't explored any of the other potential uses for it. Does the statement that there aren't any feasible alternatives mean the City would entertain them, despite its $5 million loan to make this project happen, if a proposal were made?

Curtis Williams claimed the site wasn't large enough for a playing field, yet it's larger than virtually anything local except the fields at Gunn, which are not open to the public.

The site is approximately 115 yards by 103 yards (please send exact dimensions if you have them, I couldn't find them online), large enough for a full-sized regulation soccer field with end zone, and certainly more than large enough for a medium or small sized regulation field (with parking). It's certainly far larger than the alternative he mentioned, Juana Briones Park, which doesn't really have a real playing field or flat space large enough to house one. Kids shoe-horn in their peewee games there, but it's not a real playing field. Of course, he handwaved about using one of the fields at nearby schools - when Juana Briones school has a patch of land barely large enough to do informal pick-up games. The only real field is behind Terman, and is also not available to the rest of the public most of the school day and after school.

A park or playing field, and especially community orchard, would be a lower-traffic use for the property. If John Arrillaga would help, and wants/is able to relocate Hostess House there and make it a community orchard, similar to Gamble Gardens on the other side of town, I will personally see to it that the neighborhood has a welcome event for our veterans at least once a month from the nearby Veterans' Hospital. We would all much rather be supporting our veterans than fighting PAHC from pushing this immense, completely out of scale project on the neighborhood.


Posted by Facts please, a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on May 23, 2013 at 10:41 am

Re: "The contention that building market-rate under the existing zoning would have more impacts than the proposed project doesn't add up.For one thing, it's based on the contention that the existing zoning would have 34 dwellings...So max use under the existing zoning is more like 20-24 total structures."
You apparently were not paying attention when staff clearly stated that 34 units could be built without ANY additional city approvals whatsoever other than Architectural Review, more units if they include BMR for bonus density. The Comp Plan is merely advisory though you repeatedly invoke it as a restriction. 34 units non-senior units would clearly have more traffic and school impacts than the proposed project.


Posted by Dick Evans, a resident of Barron Park
on May 23, 2013 at 10:50 am

The statement by Marlene Pendergrast is comparing apples to oranges. I don't believe that PAHC's other projects have been funded spining off market rate high density housing into residential areas. Further, PAHC probably fails to log and keep records of neighborhood complaints. I know our neighborhood has complained to the city about all of the on street parking generated bo Arastradero Park Apartments. Perhaps the city neglects to forward these complaints to PAHC?

The saddest thing about this project is the total disregard of the neighborhood resulting in a decision to fund by violating the neighborhood with these 15-3 story units and insufficient parking for the proposed 5 story senior apartment building.

The data supporting parking sufficiency is also flawed. Stevenson House parking, for example, is grossly inadequate. Ask any resident there. A more reasonable approach, which will not be taken by PAHC is to have a neutral poll of the residents of its other senior housing developments and ask them whether they consider the ratio of one parking place to every three units to be adequate for residents, stasff and guests. If the answer is "no" then ask them what ration would be adquate. None of them will recommend a ratio less than one-to-one.

I would also ask every supporter of the proposed project if they would go on record stating that they would unequivocally support a zoning change and development plan from their 6 immediate neighbors to tear down their 6 one or two story houses, and build 15 three story townhomes in what used to be the front yards, 12 feet from the street.

They would all be screaming in protest if this happened in their neighborhood. This high density, incompatible, market rate cram down on the Maybell neighborhood is an inequitable way to fund senior housing.

Make the PAHC provide full parking for all of their units, only develop market rate housing compatible with the neighborhood, and let the city make up the difference. This will spread the burden of financing low income housing on the greater community rather than placing the lion's share of the burden on the Maybell community.


Posted by Maurice Green, a resident of Barron Park
on May 23, 2013 at 10:52 am

If you want to see the full 7 minute version of the video I showed the commission last night it is at Web Link.
It includes some of my introductory comments about the effects of the Arastradero project and the reluctance of Palo Alto to enforce its own existing zoning ordinances, all of which have contributed to the overwhelming traffic on Maybell Avenue and represent a real and significant danger to our school children. The bike lanes on Maybell only extend from El Camino to Pena Court and there is no space to extend them. Simply painting green 'sharrows' on the road isn't going to mitigate the problem. A truly 'safe route to school' is no longer possible on Maybell Avenue.
The staff report and talking points of the PAHC contained a number of inconsistencies.
Why did they tout the fact that the each of the private townhouses can accommodate up to 4 cars when they claim that the project will only generate 16 net trips in the morning?
Why do they claim that eliminating the current driveways on Maybell will add more street parking spaces and then immediately make this a NO PARKING zone from 7AM to 7PM?
If they are so concerned about making space for traffic, why don't they extend the proposed No Parking zone to include Maybell Avenue next to the Arastradero Park complex next door?
Why did they compare this project with Stevenson House which is directly across the street from the Charleston Shopping Center (with Piazza's Market, two barber shops, dry cleaners, ice cream parlor, etc)?
WHY?


Posted by A Neighbor, a resident of Green Acres
on May 23, 2013 at 10:57 am

"I have never seen a project that has had more community opposition than this one," Moss told the commission."

The opposition to the project is far greater than even was present at that meeting. Neighbors are only beginning to organize, because there wasn't sufficient notice. It's been the most grass roots thing I have ever seen, with no clear leadership. There are clear problems here that the Commission and Planning Department are minimizing and failing to properly study or address. People who live here realize this and are responding to it, because they live it every day. This will not just "blow over" as PAHC reps seem to believe. The thought of even what will happen in all of our lives when construction vehicles impede local traffic and egress is alone enough to make people fight this.

The project impacts far more than just the immediate neighborhood, because of where it would add traffic and parking, right at Arastradero near El Camino and along Maybell. All of the families whose kids are at the local schools, who come from other parts of Palo Alto, are affected, and as they learn about it, increase the opposition, because they, too, experience the traffic and safety issues firsthand.

P.S. Was any of the traffic data taken during rainy school days? Rainy days are pretty common in winter, and traffic is exponentially worse, and conditions more dangerous. Have they considered not just number of trips, but risk per trip, given that seniors are more likely to collide with bicyclists and pedestrians (the only routes out of the complex are heavily traveled safe routes to school), and are themselves more likely to be hit as pedestrians? Have they considered the hundreds more students who will be attending Gunn in the next few years? Or what would happen to traffic when someone is hit and more parents decide to get in their cars to drive their kids to school? Or if there is an emergency requiring fast emergency response or evacuation? (No)


Posted by A neighbor, a resident of Green Acres
on May 23, 2013 at 10:59 am

Previously stated:
Re: "The contention that building market-rate under the existing zoning would have more impacts than the proposed project doesn't add up.For one thing, it's based on the contention that the existing zoning would have 34 dwellings...So max use under the existing zoning is more like 20-24 total structures."

"You apparently were not paying attention when staff clearly stated that 34 units could be built without ANY additional city approvals whatsoever other than Architectural Review, more units if they include BMR for bonus density. The Comp Plan is merely advisory though you repeatedly invoke it as a restriction. 34 units non-senior units would clearly have more traffic and school impacts than the proposed project."


I was paying attention, I said I disagree if we actually use the Comprehensive Plan and Zoning rules as anything more than toilet paper. Under the existing zoning, if it were respected, the number of units for the entire property would be 20-24.


Posted by j99, a resident of Barron Park
on May 23, 2013 at 11:01 am

Seniors are not working and can live in Gilroy or Hollister, not Palo Alto


Posted by Not a Transparent Process, What a Sham!, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 23, 2013 at 11:05 am

What a shameful process. Of course, despite the numerous well spoken residents who attended and participated in this meeting last night, it was very obvious that the PTC had already decided well prior to the meeting to approve the zoning change. After 40 years, it should be very clear that the PAHC is in bed with the city of Palo Alto, and no amount of factual, and structured resident protests will ever force the city to stop, and listen to resident concerns. The residents made it very clear that they were not protesting affordable housing, yet the PAHC in their monthly newsletter to their resident base made it sound like the residents in Barron Park and Green Acres were protesting affordable housing "Palo Alto Housing Corp. has purchased a piece of land on Maybell St. (Barron Park neighborhood) that we plan to develop into 60 units of new affordable housing for seniors. A vocal group of community members are stating their opposition to more affordable housing in Palo Alto....Help us show the human face of affordable housing & the real people who benefit. Come to one or both of the City Council meetings listed above. Fill out a card to speak during the public comment portion of the agenda." The residents of Barron Park and Green Acres are raising valid points about the dangerous traffic overload on Arastradero, Maybell, and potentially Clemo. Just as the city of Palo Alto did not listen to resident concerns about the Arastradero "Road Diet" forced on this neighborhood by Jaime Rodriguez (Chief Transportation Guru), the city is not listening to the residents about the traffic over spill to Maybell from Arastradero Road. Obviously, someone has to die before the city will take the appropriate actions. Why can't the PACC simply accept, and announce that they made a critical error with respect to Arastradero Road, and "right" the wrong, so that the residents of these affected neighborhoods can regain their respective lifestyles. Without the correction, I am certain these neighborhoods will file a lawsuit against the city for forcing yet another housing complex, and 15 single family homes in their neighborhood with the resulting traffic. And, it is bs that by building a property within the existing zoning would result in more people being housed. Did the thought ever occur to the city simply to leave the area as open land? Just saying...


Posted by PA resident, a resident of Green Acres
on May 23, 2013 at 11:09 am

Nimbyism in North Palo Alto means huge ugly development projects in South Palo Alto.


Posted by A Neighbor, a resident of Green Acres
on May 23, 2013 at 11:17 am

@j99,
I disagree with you - we should have affordable senior housing locally.

But you bring up an interesting point, which is that most of the seniors who live here, including me in the future, will have to move away when we are seniors. That's the classic choice everyone faces in every expensive city around the nation, moving somewhere affordable for retirement. There's no way Palo Alto can make a place for even a large fraction of people who would want to stay, and this project privileges a select few.

No one who owns their home in the neighborhood or across town would be eligible for PAHC housing, and probably not interested anyway as at least those in the neighborhood tend to want to stay in their homes until they die. The homeless wouldn't qualify.

PAHC has been frustratingly cagey about who would get the privilege of living there. They say they won't add to the cars because they don't work, then made a point of saying it's people working at Home Depot and Orchard (a long list I forget), and volunteering (where they will be teleported without cars). They say no one will sneak in a younger relative to attend the local schools, but haven't discussed the very real drawback of restricting a project to only sole seniors who don't want multi-generational housing.

Besides, the biggest bone of contention is the market-rate homes anyway. They said the project will generate only 16 trips during rush hour. Really? With 15 market-rate homes? just the traffic from those homes will be more than that.

Comparing trips generated to other sites was spurious, as they failed to find data from other projects that have no other nearby amenities, e.g., don't sit practically across the street from a grocery store and other amenities.


Posted by neighborhood, a resident of Green Acres
on May 23, 2013 at 11:35 am

If seniors take the local housing where all the jobs are, then should the younger folks live in Gilroy and drive into Palo Alto?


Posted by The Devil is in the details, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 23, 2013 at 11:40 am

Low income seniors cannot afford rents between $800 to $900 per month. Who is the PAHC kidding? The average Social Security check, or SSI check of a low income senior is about that amount or slightly higher. How will they eat, pay utilities, or have any quality of life from a financial perspective? What these seniors need is section 8 subsidized housing, not tax credit housing. Again, the PAHC is trying to pull the wool over our eyes. [Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.] Of course, everyone needs a place to live, but the entire PAHC resident base needs to be reviewed to see if PAHC housing services are really helping the Palo Alto community.


Posted by curmudgeon, a resident of Downtown North
on May 23, 2013 at 11:43 am

Awright, posters, fess up. How many of you voted to build 800 High 10 years ago, which opened the gate for egregious overdevelopment all over town?


Posted by A Good Neighbor, a resident of Midtown
on May 23, 2013 at 11:46 am

The Planning and Transportation did a courageous thing and made the right decision. We do not need more homeless seniors on our streets. It kills me to see some of our seniors wandering the streets in tattered clothing and shoeless.

I watched the entire hearing and the main complaint was about EXISTING traffic. It is clear from the staff report and the independent traffic study that the proposed project has minimal impact on traffic. As a matter of FACT, the seniors do not drive at PEAK times. It would behove the neighbors to improve Maybell with Bike Lanes and sidewalks instead of attacking a much needed project. In other words, use all that energy for positive things!!!!

I am proud of our City Staff and Officials for seeing through all of the SMOKE, and making the RIGHT decision.


Posted by Grandma needs a place to live, a resident of Barron Park
on May 23, 2013 at 12:08 pm

The PTC made the right choice. I agree with what "A Good Neighbor" said above.


Posted by Please no rezoning, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 23, 2013 at 12:15 pm

To: A good neighbor,
Did you hear that this is not restricted to Palo Alto folks? Anyone can apply from anywhere? This does not solve homeless seniors on our streets.


Posted by Resident, a resident of Midtown
on May 23, 2013 at 12:20 pm

The amount of people who would like to live in Palo Alto at a reduced rate well exceeds 60. If we are serious about solving the problem of housing stock and affordable housing, we need to remove all height restrictions from the whole city. Residents and developers should have equal rights and opportunities to build out properties to drastically increase the housing stock. Only if we create enough housing to lower the demand can we lower the housing costs for ALL people who want to live here. Anything short of that is just a "feel good" project.


Posted by A Good Neighbor, a resident of Midtown
on May 23, 2013 at 12:37 pm

I am saddened and offended by the comments of "The Devil is in the details" above. Making wild allegations about people living in The Tree House Apartments is bigotry at it's worst. Also, those kind of unfounded and prejudicial comments gives rise to the NIMBY charges that have appeared.

The opponents of the Maybell Development should speak out and condemn that type of stereotyping and bigotry. This has no place in the discussion of the merits of the project before us. Please speak out about this type of hateful comment!!!!


Posted by Robert, a resident of another community
on May 23, 2013 at 12:41 pm

@Please no rezoning

Maybe they should just pass a law saying that nobody new is allowed to move to Palo Alto? That seems to be the solution that you and others like you are driving at.


Posted by Please no rezoning, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 23, 2013 at 12:48 pm

Robert, you misread my comment. I was replying to someone who believes that this will solve PA senior homeless issues and the facts were stated last night that anyone can apply for the housing. This is just a fact not a condemnation for others to move to PA.


Posted by Michele, a resident of Greenmeadow
on May 23, 2013 at 1:13 pm

"Commissioners agreed with the residents that traffic around Maybell is an important problem that needs to be addressed. But the Maybell project didn't cause the current situation, commissioners reasoned, and isn't expected to exacerbate it."

Gotta love it. How are 75 new homes (60 senior, 15 single family houses) not going to exacerbate the current situation. This is a tiny road. Period. Already overcrowded with traffic.


Posted by Marianne, a resident of Green Acres
on May 23, 2013 at 1:16 pm

I was present at the Planning and Transportation meeting for the entire evening. The closing comments and questions of the commissioners to staff and PAHC made it clear that PAHC and city officials are still in lock-step with each other. Valid points make by the neighbor were dismissed - while statements from staff/PACC were no longer further challenged.

The PTC just took the easy route and passed the buck upstairs.


Posted by Please no rezoning, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 23, 2013 at 1:54 pm

Did you love the question by one of the commissioners to PAHC that asked if any of the for-profit housing could be make less than three stories (to fit in more with the neighborhood) and they said, "No" so the commissioner said, "ok". That just really shocked me.


Posted by cynical, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 23, 2013 at 2:06 pm

I bet the affordable housing seniors who don't drive can't wait to walk to the McLaren dealership and the Jiffy Lube everyday.


Posted by teacher, a resident of Green Acres
on May 23, 2013 at 2:34 pm

Whoever say yes to this project did not consider the school kids safety.


Posted by Floyd, a resident of Green Acres
on May 23, 2013 at 2:34 pm

@j99:
I've lived in Palo Alto for 55 years. Why should I move to Gilroy or Hollister?
I'm not in favor of the Maybell scheme but like most great local projects they're decided before the public has a chance to provide their input. But it can be changed with enough public pressure. I know from experience.


Posted by neighborhood, a resident of Green Acres
on May 23, 2013 at 2:51 pm

@Floyd

May I ask who has stated that people who can afford to live in Palo Alto has to move to Gilroy? We are talking about new residences. If it is taken up by a retired senior, then someone who needs to work here would have to drive here. This increases traffic and pollution. As long as we are OK with that trade off.

Also, living in an exclusive neighborhood is not a right, but a privilege. It doesn't matter how long you have lived in the Upper East Side, Pac. Heights or Palo Alto. Palo Alto real estate has become a luxury item and should not be subsidized. IMHO


Posted by neighborhood, a resident of Green Acres
on May 23, 2013 at 3:08 pm

@ Floyd

My response was wrongly pointed to you. It was just venting. My apologies.


Posted by Some facts please, a resident of Barron Park
on May 23, 2013 at 3:12 pm

Can someone list some bottom line facts, please.
Names of commissioners who voted for this project:
Names of the architects:
Source of funds:
Supporting institutions:
City Planner in charge:
Council members known to be in favor:


Posted by 14 yr resident, a resident of Barron Park
on May 23, 2013 at 3:24 pm

What is most disturbing is the city underwriting the cost of a portion of the sale of this land BEFORE voting, before a public hearing. I won't mention the traffic studies bc those are rediculously unreliable. And now the commission / developer is whining they "have" to sell a portion of the lot to help pay for said sale??? By building 3story, zero lot line single family condo-style homes. Wow. Shame on u, looks shady.

And the impact of 59 units on the senior housing needs: "like a mosquito fart in a hurricane".... Just watch, senior will definitely move in--with their married kids and their 3 grand kids so they can attend Juana Briones. Lol


Posted by A resident, a resident of Green Acres
on May 23, 2013 at 4:15 pm

City Planners in charge:
Tim Wong
Curtis Williams

Curtis Williams and the city council members I called told me before even the first PTC vote that "This is going to go forward" "This is going to happen" - a done deal.

In charge of the project at PAHC:
Jessica de Wit

She also expressed a belief that it was a done deal, because the City is who told them to concentrate on this neighborhood. Before the April meeting, she also expressed the opinion that there was no opposition to the project.

Councilmembers known to be in favor:
Virtually all (this was a cart before the horse thing, they've already loaned the money) The Mayor claims he hasn't made up his mind, but still recommended to leave the rezoning in the Housing Element.

Commissioners who voted are named above, and in the previous article on this issue.

Don't know the architect. The funds came from City of Palo Alto $5million, the rest I"m not sure, Santa Clara chipped in a few million. You can get the financials with a public records request.

I'm really upset about how they dismiss any other uses for this, such as to preserve all of the 100-year-old oaks and many of the historic orchard trees, and make an extension of the park that would actually be a public benefit for the community, and an even rarer opportunity. PAHC tries to make it sound like that's the last place available for them to ever build in Palo Alto, and it's just not so. But it may be the only opportunity that side of town has to create a public space like that. Once it's gone, PAHC will still be building housing, but there will be no more opportunities to create park or playing field space there.

One speaker asked the commission to give the community a chance to raise the money, yet they seem to have bent over backwards to portray that there are no other better uses of the property.

Those of you in the North who can afford it -- we've taken the density for you already, won't you help us create a community asset here? We have a lot of seniors in this neighborhood on fixed incomes, and not so many who can afford to pay for the comprehensive traffic study that should have been done, or for offering an alternative proposal like a community orchard. Contact: info@paloaltoville.com


Posted by Vote No on Maybell Project, a resident of Green Acres
on May 23, 2013 at 4:28 pm

This project will not continue as long as this neighborhood exists!! The fight is not over yet! Just watch!!

During the 4.5 hours hearing, no one from PACH can clearly articulate the benefit that this neighborhood gets from this development?

Conflicting of interest. It is unlawful that City of Palo Alto lends money to the developer and gives the green light to the project. They rewrites the codes to their favor at the expense of tax payer's money. Dont forget how they got elected to the office!

Most of those who voted yes on Maybell project are apparently not living on this street. They have NO RIGHT to make comments on traffic! Why dont you build the apt in your backyard if you are so passionate about this project and see how your neighbors have to say!











Posted by Please no rezoning, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 23, 2013 at 4:40 pm

Does anyone know if the rezoning allows for for-profit houses to be built without and setbacks? Seems like the corner of Maybell and Clemo will look like the corner of Charleston and El Camino with multi color buildings, three stories, no side yard and built right up to the street and sidewalks that they promised to put in.

Does anyone know the rulings?


Posted by Vote No on Maybell Project, a resident of Green Acres
on May 23, 2013 at 5:05 pm

No dispute there, this lot will be developed for housing. But not high density housing! Do the math yourself.

If you build 34 single homes with average 2 cars per family, that is 68 cars. With 60 units apt (42 parking space) plus 15 single homes (with 2 cars per family), that is minimum of 72 cars! Not to mention some senior couples likely have two cars! The number of cars in that complex could potentially reach as high as 150!! You tell me which development has more impact on this neighborhood!

The truth of the matter is that YOU the housing dev. has NO control over the future situation. Your assessment is ridiculously wrong. WE the neighborhood and our children will inevitably suffer the consequences. To protect our children, our neighborhood, our seniors who have lived in this neigborhood for several decades, we will fight for them!



Posted by Carlos, a resident of Green Acres
on May 23, 2013 at 5:45 pm

Aside from the legality issues that this process has raised, this is just a public slap on the face to all of us who live in the neighborhood.

The city is saying they don't care about our opinion (for whatever reason, and I think socio/economics is a big factor), and they will build whatever they feel like and disregard our safety/traffic concerns.

If you know, please share the names of the council members who support this monstrosity. Will they be around and will they be personally liable when something ugly happens as a result of this decision?


Posted by Straight Talk, a resident of Community Center
on May 23, 2013 at 7:19 pm

I am befuddled by all the special privileges.

Why do certain developers get to bypass the zoning law when all other residents have to abide by it? What's the point of having zoning laws if the law can always be side-stepped to build high density housing? It's not just happening once or twice. It's happening over and over.

Why do we need any low income housing? For any person who gets a special rate to live here, someone else who is able and willing to pay market rate is being displaced. Is there fairness in allowing some people to cut in line? Should the government require Mercedes Benz to sell a portion of their output at below market rate, so that a low income person can buy an E-Class for 10 grand? Does that sound reasonable or ludicrous?

Finally, why special privilege for seniors? There is already an abundance of senior housing all over Palo Alto. What's the rationale for building even more on scarce land?






Posted by A resident, a resident of Green Acres
on May 23, 2013 at 7:31 pm

@ Please no rezoning,
"Does anyone know if the rezoning allows for for-profit houses to be built without and setbacks?"

That has been the biggest problem for the neighborhood. The for-profit houses are currently R-2 zoning. The developer will only make it worth PAHC's while if the City rezones that part, too, so the developer can build whatever they wants. So PAHC promised it would get the for-profit part rezoned, too. The proposed for-profit houses exceed all reasonable height, density, and setback rules, and it sits right across from Juana Briones Park and on the narrowest part of Maybell.

Why is the City allowing all these tall, chimney houses anyway? People with limited mobility and the disabled can't live there, can't even visit comfortably. Those with limited mobility make up 10% of the population. It's the most poor design, purely about profit. In this project, they're going to stick those 3-story chimney-like monstrosities right across the street from the park where the kids from the OH go almost daily (the back end of Juana Briones school houses the OH, which is catty corner to the development), new homes they could never live in will loom over the park and the daily trips of those who visit from around the county for physical therapy, an edifice to the fact that Palo Alto is building as fast as it possibly can to exclude the disabled. (Ironic that it will front a senior complex.)

@Carlos,
The Council voted 8-0 to loan PAHC the $6million. So essentially, they all supported the monstrosity a priori.


Posted by Billius, a resident of College Terrace
on May 23, 2013 at 9:35 pm

If the Fix was not in for this project, I would be shocked. Way to go city 'planners'.


Posted by Elaine D., a resident of Barron Park
on May 23, 2013 at 9:43 pm

Dear Friends,

At the meeting of the Planning & Transportation Commission meeting last night, the commissioners voted 5-1 in favor to recommend to City Council the rezoning of 567-596 Maybell Avenue to allow for the development of 15 single-family homes and 60 low-income senior housing units by the Palo Alto Housing Corporation (PAHC) as developer.

For over two hours, 61 speakers took to the mike to voice their concerns about the serious and significant traffic safety issues in this neighborhood. One refrain came through over and over: Maybell is unsafe for bikes, pedestrians, and motorists. We have reached a crucial tipping point, and this project will put us right over the edge. The increase in traffic is largely due to the Arastradero re-striping/"calming" project that drove traffic away from Arastradero and directly into our neighborhood, thus negatively and seriously impacting our once-peaceful and safe side streets. The City Staff and PAHC argued that the development would only result in an increase of 1 additional car per hour per day ("trip rate") on Maybell.

Kevin spoke on behalf of 5 residents to question Hexagon's traffic study (hired by PAHC to conduct a traffic impact study of the proposed development), which he contended was based on deeply and fatally flawed data, such as data from two years ago, data during school Spring Break when volume is obviously low, and smoothed data showing "trip rates" over the course of an hour, when in reality, traffic in the area occurs in erratic bursts. He further challenged the City's conflict-of-interest position, as the City made a ~$5M loan to finance the acquisition of this property by PAHC in the fall of 2012. He argued that, as a result, the City did not have the impartial and independent ability to make neutral decision about this matter: here, the developer gets to write their own permits in this matter.

Dr. Maurice Green showed us an incredibly impactful video of the congested traffic at Maybell and Clemo during peak hours. The video demonstrated that Maybell is unsafely congested with a barrage of bicyclists, pedestrians, and motorists sharing the road with traffic flowing in unsafe and scary "bursts." It also showed student bicyclists routinely ignoring traffic stops, forcing cars to ignore the rules of the road to accommodate them so no one gets hit. Dr. Green also showed photos of the enormous car transportation trucks that sometimes park on BOTH sides of Maybell to on/off-load vehicles from the Volvo dealership at Maybell and Thain – effectively barricading the entire access way, and making the route for pedestrians, bicyclists, and motorists nearly impossible to pass, except by dangerous means - through the very middle of the road.

The video showing the blockage at Maybell and Thain also provided a clear demonstration of a broken promise made by the City in earlier times when they first approached Barron Park and Green Acres residents regarding the installation of car dealerships on the corner of El Camino and Arastradero. Other speakers informed us about the long string of broken promises to Barron Park residents over the years made by the City – from the redevelopment of Hyatt Rickey's to the "calming" of the Arastradero re-striping project.

Debi S. poignantly told us about how she has to drive her kids to school despite living five blocks away, as the neighborhood roads are not safe, especially with no sidewalks. She told of recent accident of a car flipping over (and carrying a mother and two children) due to another reckless driver speeding through the neighborhood as a cut-through. Her story, along with many others who spoke to cut-through traffic the repeated mowing down of stop signs on Maybell, directly challenged and negated the very narrow claims made by Hexagon, the private traffic consultant hired by PAHC, that they found there had been no accidents in several years on Maybell.

A representative of the Barron Park Association spoke comprehensively about the incompatibility of the project with the character of the neighborhood, cut-through traffic and overflow-parking issues, lack of public benefit, and PC zoning. She also effectively poked holes in the comparisons made by PAHC to other projects in the neighborhood with respect to density: the adjacent Arastradero Park Apartments (APA) project has 65 housing units on over 3 acres, the Tan Plaza has 61 over 3 acres, but this proposed project (which PAHC claimed was very similar to these existing projects) provided for 65 housing units and 15 single-family homes on 1-2 acres of land – over 4 times the density allowed with the current zoning. Furthermore, parking spaces allotted are clearly inadequate, and the APA project clearly doesn't have enough parking. This results in more parked cars on Maybell, and less safe access for pedestrians and bicyclists. PAHC's proposed mitigation of "no parking" would only result in increased parking in the side streets, and decreased access for pedestrians and bicyclists on those streets. She called for the project to be more appropriately reduced to half the density and size in order to adequately address all these concerns.

Some of us wanted more information and transparency: Why weren't we told, or why were we told in the 11th hour? Why this location? Why this density? Why not the El Camino corridor (which is obviously underdeveloped with blocks of empty buildings)? Why the need for high-density when there are low-income senior housing projects nearby that have had ongoing, unfilled vacancies?

Many of us strongly emphasized that our residents are not against low-income housing, and are not against senior housing, but we are against unreasonable and irresponsible high-density housing that makes existing unsafe traffic conditions much worse. We implored the commissioners to vote against the rezoning and keep the existing rezoning. We asked them to compel PAHC and the City to consider other feasible alternatives such as (or to show us they had considered other alternatives): the identification of other locations/sites, reduction in density and height of the proposed project, and more effective mitigations and improvements (bike paths and sidewalks).

Despite the concerns presented, the commissioners felt that the decision before them was not between the existing zoning and status of the land as four single-family homes and this project; but between this project and other potential development projects. They contended that under the existing zoning, PAHC or another private developer could "by right" – with no review from the Planning and Transportation Commission or public input – develop up to 34 3-bedroom family housing units with 7 residents in each unit (impact = 238 residents) versus the current project of 60 1-bedroom housing units with 15 single family homes (impact = 120-180 residents).

The commissioners all agreed, however, that traffic and safety is a serious and significant concern in this neighborhood of which they were not fully aware until last night. They also rebuked the City Staff and PAHC for failing to adequately acknowledge and take into account the daily, lived realities of traffic and safety for residents in this neighborhood.

In the end, the commissioners seemed to feel they had no choice but to choose the lesser of all possible evils. The Chair of the Commission, however, firmly spoke to the City Staff and PAHC that "public benefit" is not just about affordable housing, seniors' needs, and impersonal data on "perception of impact" – true public benefit does not mean positive benefit for some in exchange for the negative benefit of many. True public benefit must include positive public benefits for all impacted – and a small piece of sidewalk or a commemorative plaque are vastly inadequate for addressing real traffic safety concerns in this impacted neighborhood.

They didn't ask us to join the dance until they played the last song – but this is not the end: OUR WORK IS NOT OVER.

We can still take action by appealing to the final decision-makers, the City Council, to deny the project or adjust the project to reduce scale and density, require additional neighborhood-wide impact studies, and/or provide for additional mitigations and improvement in the proposed plan. Web Link
We can still take action on making sure the "friendly amendment" (PAHC and City must work together to provide contiguous sidewalks on Maybell extending from Clemo – and maybe even Coulombe – to El Camino) is properly implemented and enforced.
We can still take action on the traffic effects of the Arastradero restriping/"calming" project.
We can still take action to ensure safe-to-school bike paths and common-sense sidewalks throughout the neighborhood for our children and our residents.
We can still take action when the construction trucks start rolling into our neighborhood.

It will take patience. It will take persistence. Most of all, it will take GRIT. And we all showed last night that we have it. We have to keep working so the City continues to hear us, continues to see us, and does everything it needs to do to make sure we have SAFE ROADS in our neighborhood for our children and our residents.

WE WON'T ACCEPT ANYTHING LESS.


Posted by Proud Resident in Mountain View, a resident of Mountain View
on May 23, 2013 at 9:46 pm

A resident of Green Acres says,

"Curtis Williams and the city council members I called told me before even the first PTC vote that 'This is going to go forward' 'This is going to happen' - a done deal."

"Jessica de Wit also expressed a belief that it was a done deal, because the City is who told them to concentrate on this neighborhood. Before the April meeting, she also expressed the opinion that there was no opposition to the project."

To me, it's frightening. What kind of place is this?


Posted by Mario, a resident of Gunn High School
on May 23, 2013 at 10:00 pm

I believe the city council is trying to provide senior housing because it lessens the strain on our schools and senior projects probably generate less traffic than one family per unit.

Many neighborhoods have absorbed the housing mandate impact but not this neighborhood yet.

There should be a fair distribution of housing and better traffic planning for Maybell which is why the nay sayers are applying presure to begin with hoping to get more dollars perhaps.

Lets be fair and all do our part for the city housing madate.


Posted by A neighbor, a resident of Green Acres
on May 23, 2013 at 10:24 pm

@Mario,
What are you talking about? Greenacres is a small neighborhood, and already has 2 major affordable housing projects, one of them next door to the proposed rezoning. That's even though the PAHC promised they wouldn't concentrate or "ghettoize" low income housing by putting it all in one place but spread it throughout the city.

There are several affordable housing projects in the immediate area, and a large high-density senior complex already just a few thousand feet away on El Camino Way. The traffic from El Camino is impacted by the redevelopment of Rickey's Hyatt and many other high density projects on El Camino of late.

You say "Many neighborhoods have absorbed the housing mandate impact"

You tell me, which other neighborhoods except downtown -- which, lets fact it is DOWNTOWN -- have absorbed the housing mandate impact? Old Palo Alto? Professorvlle? College Terrace? Everygreen? South Gate? Crescent Park? Greenmeadow? Duveneck/St. Francis? Community Center? Which of those has ANY projects like Greenacres already has much less more than one?

Somebody above is right. Nimbyism in North Palo Alto means huge ugly development projects in South Palo Alto.


Posted by Barron park action, a resident of Barron Park
on May 23, 2013 at 10:42 pm

We lost the vote but it's not over yet, what are our next steps to stop this project from moving forward? I don't accept the contention that the city, the city council and the planning commission know our neighborhood better than the people who walk, ride and drive it. Let's organize!

Next steps?


Posted by A neighbor, a resident of Green Acres
on May 23, 2013 at 10:53 pm

@ Barron Park,
People are already organizing and can use all the willing volunteers. Send an email to info@paloaltoville.com


Posted by Joe, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 24, 2013 at 7:10 am

It would be really interesting to have all of the votes of the Planning&Transportation Commission on-line, so that we could get a clearer picture of what projects were supported by which commissioners. Same for the City Council.

This town is quickly being gutted by property developers. It isn't happening in a vacuum. The idea that some of these Commissions will be running for City Council one of these days, and not have their voting record on-line, is disappointing.

We should be able to review their voting records of both Council incumbents, and candidates who have been on City Boards and Commissions—before going to the polls in future elections.

There really is no room on the Council for people who believe that "the building is the benefit!"


Posted by senior supporter, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 24, 2013 at 1:16 pm

@ Elaine D/Barron Park
You wrote, "Why the need for high-density when there are low-income senior housing projects nearby that have had ongoing, unfilled vacancies?"
Can you please specify.


Posted by Straight Talk, a resident of Community Center
on May 24, 2013 at 3:46 pm

I am not in any way opposed to low income housing or assisting low income people. However, assisting low income person does not mean you put them in the lap of luxury. For example, if one cannot afford transportation, it's entirely reasonable to subsidize that person with public transportation or low cost alternatives. It does not mean you buy them a Mercedes.

It makes zero sense to build low income housing in Palo Alto, the equivalent of Mercedes in land value. Build it where it makes sense both logically and economically. This is not nimbyism, just common sense and fairness to society.


Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 24, 2013 at 4:12 pm

If I was a Gunn parent and my student were riding along Maybell on a bike on a daily basis, I would be up in arms about the traffic problem.

I commend all the local residents, parents, teachers, etc. for all they are doing to keep the students safe riding to school.

I think that anyone in the bicycle lobbying group seeing the video that has been taken should start lobbying for making this a safe school route. These bicycle lobby groups are well organized and experienced at getting the right people to hear their concerns. It is time for them and all of us in town to take this bike route to school a major concern for all Palo Alto.


Posted by A Neighbor, a resident of Green Acres
on May 24, 2013 at 6:27 pm

@Resident,
Those ARE designated safe routes to school. The only routes out of the proposed development are along existing "safe routes to school".

PAHC didn't address these issues at all. The closest they got was the imperious handwaving of "people always complain and after it gets built, they're always wrong".

@senior supporter
Moldaw, a senior community, has 20 out of 24 set-aside affordable units that have gone unfilled for 3 years. This is because the way the terms were negotiated, they were predictably not really affordable. Yet in all this time, despite what PAHC describes as an urgent need, they haven't fixed the problem to at least provide for 20 spots.

This brings up a troubling aspect of this proposal. PAHC has been similarly fuzzy about who exactly would live there. I seem to recall seeing a survey a long while back looking at why they had other spaces that went unfilled, and I seemed to remember it was that they just assumed anything they built would fill and didn't really do a good job trying to first assess exactly what they best needed for the clientele they had. (Can anyone find this and post it?)

I'm not suggesting this would go unfilled, I"m suggesting it might not do the best job meeting the greatest need, because they are building first to get the space, to meet the needs of the constrained financing scheme, to get things through politically, and not really able to articulate who would live there. (They say residents won't be working so they won't use the streets, then at the meeting they said they would be working at Home Depot, etc.) What of seniors who would do better in a multigenerational setting? They're shut out. I just think it's ridiculous to put seniors in a location where they have no nearby amenities. (The PAHC rep said it's just a mile from Whole Foods -- okay all you mobility-impaired seniors who want this project. I'd like you to have someone drop you off with your cane at Clemo around 8:00am -- much later and it gets too hot -- have at it and walk to Whole Foods, then wheel your groceries back. Alternate with Barron Park Market. Do this for a month, and don't shop anywhere else for your food. Remember to leave some money left over for your medication. And sign a waiver that you won't sue anyone if you get hit or fall. Then report back here.)

PAHC has gotten too used to just pushing over anyone in their way with ugly ideological arguments. Yes, affordable housing is a good goal, and they do good work, but that doesn't mean everything they want or think of is a good idea, especially since they seem to have long stopped caring about the problems faced by the community. When the community asked about emergency response delays because of the very real possibility of both driveways of the fire station being blocked at intervals on a daily basis, they said they checked into it and the fire dept said there was no problem. Yet when one speaker called to check up on that, apparently the fire marshall said they had been called and asked if response would be delayed to the development! (No, it's right across the street!) No thought at all for the safety of the rest of the community.

This community also has endured the consequences of broken promise after broken promise: The arastradero restriping wasn't supposed to cause traffic in the neighborhood, the auto dealerships weren't supposed to unload on narrow neighborhood streets, the market at Alma Plaza would be a community benefit to offset those narrow, packed homes. What happens here if the community is right again and they are wrong? Children die.


Posted by Parent, a resident of Charleston Gardens
on May 24, 2013 at 8:28 pm

Resident, the reason why us Gunn parents don't get more up in arms is because the biking situation is SO unsafe that we simply are required to solve the problem ourselves, by either giving the kids a ride to school - or giving them some kind of car. My daughter just got a '91 (yes, 22 year old auto), gas-guzzling, tank given to her by her grandfather (worth less than about 2K).

Ironic isn't it? They've done such a "good job" at 'traffic calming that it forces more cars, and WAY dirtier cars, on to the road - to defend against the SERIOUS safety problem they've created.


Posted by Watchful Resident, a resident of Barron Park
on May 24, 2013 at 10:34 pm

We, residents, are just wasting our time trying to stop the proposed project. This project is a done deal, period. The City and developer will eventually agree to reducing the number of senior housing and market rate units by 10-15%. The City and developer will make it look like that they have listened to our concerns and issues. But in reality, the plan is to realy build 50 senior housing units and 10-12 market rate units. Have we not learned from the past? For the last 40 years, the City and PAHC have always negotiated a 10-15 reduction in the number of housing units for a proposed project to address public outcry, and the City has never rescinded approved funding for PAHC's project.


Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 24, 2013 at 10:40 pm

Parent

Thank you for your input.

I still think that getting the bike lobbyists, PTA, neighbors etc. is a better idea than putting all teens in cars as a safe option. Getting the students off bikes and into cars is not a solution!

My biggest fear from this idea is that it would be an inexperienced student who could be the driver that has an accident with a fellow student on a bike!


Posted by concerned citizen, a resident of Green Acres
on May 24, 2013 at 10:51 pm

If you go to the PAHC website and click on the map of all PAHC properties as well as click on each site, you will find that there are indeed properties sprinkled about Palo Alto, as proponents of this project said at the last housing hearing. However, most properties have a small number of units or are in either downtown or the California Ave. walking distance from stores and services.

Our neighborhood has too much density as it is. We have a goodly share of low rent units already (Arastradero Park 66; Tree House 35; Los Robles 33), not counting the HUD Terman Apartments 96. We are well represented in low income housing and have embraced the diversity.

We have also endured a decade of other high density housing development along El Camino. Arastradero is beyond it's capacity in traffic during school hours and so traffic is being routed through our neighborhood, well documented online.

If you click on pictures of all other PAHC sites, you will see properties set back from the road and in proportion to the surrounding community. The THREE STORY minimal set back proposed 15 skinny houses which are being proposed by the developer to off set the senior housing is grossly out of character with surrounding houses. We will have a little "Arastradero/El Camino" corner in the midst of a narrow road and residential houses. The senior housing, backed into the corner of the site is next to an existing Arastradero high rise and in character, but backers of this plan have sold out the neighborhood by promising the developer free range in maximum profit to achieve their goals.

Promises of sidewalks and bike lanes cannot be achieved unless the city takes over private property. The street has zig zag property lines and is unconventionally narrow. There is no possible way to fit in two cars, a bike lane and a sidewalk. In addition, the idea of no longer permitting parking on Maybell, although better for the hundreds of school aged bikers going down the road, will prevent all parking for Juana Briones park. Anyone using the park will be forced to park on side roads and walk to the park, adding pedestrian traffic and not a safe solution for the preschool and elementary aged playground. And, how many cars drive to Little League for late afternoon games and where will they park?

Once again, in the single focused desire to create one good change, there has been no foresight in predicting the consequences to our community; a community that has not safely absorbed the changes already foisted upon us (the "calming" of Arastradero Road, in part). Most proponents of this project have no idea of the local difficulties and safety issues. Come walk with your children down our street at start of school. See if you would feel comfortable with a "urban development style project", 15 three story skinny houses, in the middle of your residential neighborhood.

Great project, and the wrong site given our current high density traffic problems and the financial package to fund the project. Watch out Palo Alto: apparently any lot can now be zoned high density even if safety issues have been clearly delineated and even if it comes with a little side project of 15 three story skinny houses in the middle of residentially zoned properties.


Posted by A neighbor, a resident of Green Acres
on May 24, 2013 at 10:55 pm

@Watchful,
Don't be discouraged. There is more recourse here than you realize. Residents are giving the City the chance to do the right thing, but planning for the worst -- even the City Council vote is not nearly the end of it. Bob Moss said this is the most opposition he's seen to a project in 30 years, and that's just what has coalesced organically, the neighborhood is still organizing.

The developers are making the mistake of underestimating the resolve of the neighborhood, because they clearly have dismissed the concerns as some kind of weird NIMBY pretense. But neighbors live with the problems they are trying to convey already, and the developers completely underestimate their resolve to protect their children from further safety risks, and their resources to do it.

The City also clearly doesn't understand that opposition goes well beyond the immediately neighborhood, as kids/families who come from across Palo Alto to the schools are affected by the addition of traffic at that juncture, too.



Posted by Feeling Duped, a resident of Green Acres
on May 24, 2013 at 11:01 pm

In response to Watchful, I did notice in the Housing Element that the number in the Maybell project unit line was 50 which confused me. So, they did plan on 50 all along but have presented 60 plus 15 single residences so they can negotiate down to 50!! My distrust in this project is growing. We need to ask for far more transparency.


Posted by A neighbor, a resident of Green Acres
on May 24, 2013 at 11:13 pm

@feeling duped,
If they reduced it to 35 and made the market-rate houses consistent with the neighborhood, it might fly, but I think the neighbors want to have the chance to present some even lower-traffic alternatives. Under the circumstances, there needs to be a real environmental impact study, not the sham that was done.

I find it really sad that on the one hand, the City has this Stanford money and talking about visionary things they can do, yet their conflicts of interest in this scheme mean they can't even think about the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to make that plot into a community orchard or playing field. They talk about it as if it's the last spot in the whole City to ever put an affordable development, while they're putting the finishing touches on another large affordable development downtown. (What happened to not concentrating the affordable housing but spreading it out?) There will be other opportunities to put in affordable housing, and I have no doubt that the persistence of those in charge of this project will stand them in good stead. But opportunities to create park and community spaces like that don't come around again, once the property is built on, it's gone.

But none of the Council or Commission live on this side of town, who cares if we don't have amenities like in the north? (i.e., Why don't they build the complex on the Bowling Green if it's such a priority over existing residents? It's a big open space in a more appropriate location, and the City already owns it.... Plus none of the safety and traffic challenges of Maybell...)


Posted by Please no rezoning, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 25, 2013 at 10:02 am

BREAKING NEWS: ANOTHER SIGN KILLED ON MAYBELL AVENUE
Friday a new sign was knocked down by a vehicle. This time it was a "No Parking" sign that was placed in the side of Maybell Ave that the city put there in their attempt to make the street safe for students traveling to and from school. This sign was plowed down mid-day and was down in the afternoon when students were heading home from school. This sign was place in an area that normally has students walking on the sidewalk on one side of the pole and the bicyclist would be on the other side of the pole. This sign is at the same area where the proposed development of 70+ residences will exit their driveway access onto Maybell. The averages of signs being hit have now been increased to over one per month.We have a big problem here without adding 70+ folks to the equation.

This is not an accident waiting to happen; the accidents are continually happening. Fortunately, so far the victims have been signs. When is enough, enough?


Posted by Voter, a resident of Barron Park
on May 25, 2013 at 4:12 pm

The last stop sign was repaired about 2 weeks ago after being flattened. It's only a matter of time before it's a kid.

If the city council votes for this rezone, they're announcing to the people of Palo Alto that our children's safety is less important than developer interests. Too bad they didn't bother to look at the facts before spending millions of dollars backing the project, poisoning any ability they have to remain objective.




Posted by A neighbor, a resident of Green Acres
on May 25, 2013 at 4:53 pm

@Voter,
I know! I'm so upset that we have no opportunity to even bring to the city a plan for making that existing orchard, with 100-year-old oak trees and over 90 fruit trees, across from the park, into a truly low-traffic asset for this entire side of town in the form of a community orchard. They city already committed themselves to rezoning that property from the getgo!


Posted by Carlos, a resident of Green Acres
on May 25, 2013 at 6:25 pm

As shocking as I find that city officials are pushing for this development despite all the overwhelming neighborhood opposition and negative traffic evidence, I find it even more shocking to find out that one of the coucil members supporting this project is Gail Price, a Barron Park resident.

If this is the kind of 'support' we get from one of our own, I have to believe there are big $ from developers and special interests flowing in the direction of our elected officials.


Posted by A neighbor, a resident of Green Acres
on May 26, 2013 at 12:17 am

@Carlos,
Gail is on the other side of the school and isn't directly affected. No one else even lives close. There are only 2 councilmembers who live south of Oregon, even though 50% of Palo Altans do.

I'm just shocked by, still, how little the Planning Commission or the City Council, and even the people at PAHC, actually know about the neighborhood. It's all been boilerplate ugly-NIMBYism-attack strategy, no real consideration of the problems. Arrogant disregard for the neighborhood and the concern of parents for their kids. Anything impacting school corridor streets is supposed to face a higher level of scrutiny.

But, as you point out, there really isn't anyone in City Hall or the Planning Commission who represents this side of town.


Posted by Mother, a resident of Juana Briones School
on May 26, 2013 at 9:53 am

The government has lost the trust of much of the community. When did our council start steamrolling the people's interests for its own in such blatant fashion?

Before the restripe, I used to ride with my kids to school, me on my bike and them on their scooters. After my oldest almost got sideswiped by a car, I now drive them. The kids aren't happy, I'm not happy.

Worst of all, the council has predetermined this rezone and seems hell bent on pushing it through over neighborhood objections. They've backed the developer already and will lose money if they don't now give the rezone. This is, as someone above posted, a show trial.


Posted by registered user, Eric Van Susteren, a resident of online editor of Palo Alto Online
on May 26, 2013 at 3:00 pm

The following comment was moved from a duplicate thread:

I am a senior and longtime resident of Green Acres II. A very important point raised by one of the speakers who opposed the Maybell/Clemo project was left out of the above article. It is also a point of great concern to many others in the neighborhood. Maybell and Arastradero are already so congested at times that it would be virtually impossible for emergency vehicles to reach schools and residences quickly. Should there be a need for evacuation of a building as a result of a disaster, that would also pose a huge problem.
by senior May 24, 2013 at 4:10 pm


Posted by registered user, Eric Van Susteren, a resident of online editor of Palo Alto Online
on May 26, 2013 at 3:00 pm

The following comment was moved from a duplicate thread:

Please explain why Palo Alto needs to provide any low income housing. I wasn't under the impression that i.e. Atherton and Hillsborough were doing so. Why is Palo Alto mandated to build low income housing on precious land?
by PA resident May 25, 2013 at 10:19 pm


Posted by registered user, Eric Van Susteren, a resident of online editor of Palo Alto Online
on May 26, 2013 at 3:01 pm

The following comment was moved from a duplicate thread:

PaloAltoOnline loves the word "divisive". Are they trying to stir up hatred or documenting hatred that already exists or a little of both?
by divisive May 26, 2013 at 10:44 am


Posted by Please no rezoning, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 26, 2013 at 5:16 pm

This rezoning allows for 15 for-profit homes that will be three stories high and in their plan show as multicolored homes built 30 feet from the street (Maybell and Clemo).

So picture Charleston and El Camino complex (old Rickey's Hyatt) and that is what the neighborhood will get. This completely compromises the neighborhood in more than just safety. It makes the neighborhood much more commercial looking. From a quiet neighborhood street just a few years ago to our own El Camino Real. Picture it now.


Posted by A Neighbor, a resident of Green Acres
on May 26, 2013 at 7:51 pm

I think the setback is 12 feet for the ones on Maybell, unless they turned them around so the back of the houses faces the street, which they proposed as a "mitigation".


Posted by A Neighbor, a resident of Green Acres
on May 26, 2013 at 7:55 pm

Actually, picture those tall skinny homes behind Miki's at Alma Plaza.

How come we even allow those to be built? No one with a mobility problem or disability can live in them, which is like 10% of the population. It's one thing if people are building what they want within zoning. But the developer is requiring PAHC to get that plot rezoned so they can build those market-rate houses that way, instead of within zoning, or renovating the existing housing, which is single story and fairly accessible.


Posted by a neighbor, a resident of Green Acres
on May 27, 2013 at 2:55 pm

@Eric,
Palo Alto should provide low-income housing because this area is so expensive, it's impossible for many people to work and live here at the same time. Many of those jobs we need locally, and it's better for everyone if they can live near their jobs.

That said, this project is for seniors who won't be working, according to PAHC. PAHC has actually been kind of cagey about who would live there, even inconsistent with their answers. (First they're working when they want to make a point about them being in the community, then they're not when they want to claim they won't add to traffic.)

In the past, when PAHC has just assumed if they build it, it will fill the endless need, they've ended up with vacancies in a number of places, Abitair, the Redwoods, and most recently 20 unfilled spaces in a senior center (Moldaw). In addition to the cost issues at Moldaw, there are apparently some issues with lack of nearby elevators for people with mobility problems (from what I've heard) -- people who need low income housing do actually have to assess whether they can live in a given place, and drawbacks (like the elevators) could cause people to choose other alternatives, including moving away for affordability when they retire, something virtually everyone considers at a certain age, regardless of where they live (not just Palo Alto or California). In the case of this development, there are no nearby services or resources seniors need, not medical, grocery, etc. It's not really on a transit corridor, as the Commissioner said.

Palo Alto is an expensive place for everyone to live. Most seniors living here are long-time residents who stay in their homes -- many of them on fixed incomes, as the homes ARE affordable housing despite the value, just by virtue of the tax structure. So, such a project wouldn't be serving seniors in the neighborhood, or across much of Palo Alto, who wouldn't qualify if they sold their homes. The development is not a homeless shelter, people who qualify are supposed to live or work in Palo Alto, the homeless would not be eligible.

What about seniors who have needed the affordable housing all along? If so, they've had decades to work their way through PAHC waiting lines and already live in PAHC affordable housing. Or by the time they're that age, they've found alternatives.

Like most people, we've scrapped for our housing over the years, living in our share of substandard conditions in other communities and commuting. We have always assumed if we got to retirement age and couldn't afford to live here, we would move away to somewhere more affordable. That's what people typically do, everywhere across the nation. It's what many of our friends locally have done. It's what our own parents have done after they retired. Move somewhere more affordable after retirement. So why are we spending millions to provide affordable housing for retirees in Palo Alto, which would be horrendously expensive despite housing assistance, and in that location, not near any services or necessities?

PAHC representatives have themselves admitted that the underlying driver here is to push through what they can, because designating it for seniors would be easier politically in an area with schools, not because the project does the best job meeting the needs.

The vacancies over the years at PAHC facilities have been acknowledged to be in part about desirability. This project is a problem for seniors, in that the constraints of the financing have been driving the design, not the actual need, and not the accessibility of nearby necessities. And there are traffic and safety issues the neighborhood is really up in arms about, that were a problem before this proposal and will affect the residents as well. PAHC has compared traffic numbers with other local senior communities that have nearby amenities, including grocery, library, etc., just across the street, they frankly don't have any comparable experience with facilities anyone was dumb enough to build so far away from anything residents need.

PAHC has 20 senior spots at Moldaw that have gone unfilled for 3 years. In the past, they've had to actually advertise units that went unfilled so long to the general public. And they end up filling a substantial portion of their units with people from other communities. For younger workers, this makes sense, because there's a rationale for making affordable housing available to people who work in Palo Alto. But building something so controversial, in such an unsuitable location, with many drawbacks for seniors (and the neighborhood) -- it could very well end up being an expensive subsidy for people from surrounding communities to finally get to move to Palo Alto. Is that how we want to spend our tax dollars? Should we really be compromising our kids' safety over such a dubious thing? (School transit corridors are supposed to be accorded a higher level of scrutiny anyway, which has not happened, so keen is everyone to cry "NIMBY" they can get away with prioritizing this project over the safety of local children.)

I think PAHC really should be working on filling those 20 spots at Moldaw first, and understanding the needs and wants of that segment first before pursuing a huge project like this with so many drawbacks. In fact, there should be a lot more soul searching at the City level before we decide it's a priority to privilege the retirement of a few people in Palo Alto over the majority of long-time residents who could never make that choice, even if they don't need affordable housing now. This has proceeded because PAHC CAN do this, because they've found their boilerplate NIMBYism arguments work like kryptonite in this community and they don't have to ever answer for the merits of any given project, not because it's the best way to answer a clear problem.

Someone who is very good at it is burnishing their professional credentials, at the expense of safety and common sense. The City Council should never have put themselves in such a compromised position that they can't decide on this project objectively.


Posted by Anna, a resident of Barron Park
on May 28, 2013 at 2:47 pm

Good article in the Daily Post today about the City's conflict of interest. PA Online, you were ahead of this issue with your earlier editorial, but I encourage you to keep it out front.

Trampling residents rights by effectively pre-determining outcomes unilaterally, not to mention reckless use of tax dollars, are not behaviors that the government should be allowed to get away with so easily.


Posted by Enlightened, a resident of Charleston Meadows
on May 28, 2013 at 7:24 pm

I recall a conversation I overheard standing in a checkout line in one of the area's ethnic food stores. A middle-age-looking woman was boasting to another one how she just got into an affordable housing for low-income senior citizens. They apparently didn't realize I could understand the language they were speaking.

Answering the question about how she managed to get into such a premium location apartment at such a low price, the "lucky" lady answered: "Oh, it is just like in our old country, you just need to figure out whom to bribe and how much!"

If you want to stop this project, investigate who are the beneficiaries of similar projects in Palo Alto and surrounding communities, and how they got there. Also, who are the most vocal proponents. You will find plenty of people connected to city government in one way or another, and at least some sleazy characters with no obvious justification for getting such a sweet deal.

Really, I would rather have a housing community for retired policemen and firefighters than one for former city government bureaucrats, government activists, and the ones who know how to milk the socialist benefits distribution schemes.


Posted by AS, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on May 28, 2013 at 7:37 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


Posted by Enlightened, a resident of Charleston Meadows
on May 28, 2013 at 9:59 pm

The below looks like a reasonably accurate depiction of what's going on. For some mysterious reason, city officials believe they are immune to lawsuits they are begging to bring upon themselves.

First they designate a street a "safe route to school", and then they take a series of actions that bring the daily number of cars on said street over the safe limit even for a regular street.

Parent, please read the below carefully. You may need it one day, to sue the city.

California Penal Code Section 11165.3

11165.3. As used in this article, "the willful harming or injuring
of a child or the endangering of the person or health of a child,"
means a situation in which any person willfully causes or permits any
child to suffer, or inflicts thereon, unjustifiable physical pain or
mental suffering, or having the care or custody of any child,
willfully causes or permits the person or health of the child to be
placed in a situation in which his or her person or health is
endangered.


Posted by neighbor, a resident of another community
on May 29, 2013 at 12:04 am

Enlightened: So this senior housing project -- or any form of multifamily housing in this neighborhood -- is a form of child abuse? Are you kidding?

These hysterical comments are going off the deep end.


Posted by A neighbor, a resident of Green Acres
on May 29, 2013 at 9:19 pm

neighbor,
I don't quite get the comment above either, but the fact is, that location really doesn't have the infrastructure to take a large development of any kind, and maybe it shouldn't even be built on at all under the circumstances. The surrounding neighborhoods have very real concerns about safety that preceded this unwise rezoning plan.

The only outlets for that property are these two major school commute corridors, one of them so overburdened even the planners of the project don't want to put the traffic onto that street, and the other so substandard, it is often effectively a one-lane street during the day. Traffic that originates on the former right there tends to go around the block and come out the latter anyway, producing even more traffic for that overburdened road, which is why the intersection in front of the school has the stop signs knocked completely over at least once a month (and hit many more times than that).

The substandard street, Maybell, is not only listed as a school commute corridor, it's also listed in the city bicycle and pedestrian transportation plan as an "existing bicycle boulevard", one of only two including Bryant. Of Bicycle Boulevards, the plan says, "Bicycle boulevards are signed, shared roadways with especially low motor vehicle volume, such that motorists passing bicyclists can use the full width of the roadway. Bicycle boulevards prioritize convenient and safe bicycle travel through traffic calming strategies, wayfinding, and other measures"

The City's website says, "On October 27, 2003 the Palo Alto City Council adopted the School Commute Corridors Network. Council adoption of the School Commute Corridors Network is a statement of policy for the City of Palo Alto that principal school commute routes be given priority for public investment purposes and be accorded enhanced review as regards proposals for new commercial driveways and other street changes."

Despite this, the traffic study for this project didn't look at the effect on or of the bike traffic. It just basically said, no one has been killed yet, so it must be fine.

If you live here and you see what goes on daily during the school year, it's clear that putting a development there without even following policy to give the traffic an extra level of scrutiny, and to accord those routes a priority in city investments, would at least be negligent.


Posted by Please no rezoning, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 29, 2013 at 9:38 pm

In neighborhoods across Palo Alto there are zoning rules to protect the quality of life in that neighborhood. Some neighborhoods carry more of a burden of traffic or schools. However, I think most Palo Altans would like to protect the nature of their neighborhood.

The vote on June 10th by the PA City Council could forever change the value of your neighborhood. By approving rezoning of the land in Barron Park, the city is allowing a developer to have benefits that go beyond anything that current homeowner can have. This is a for-profit developer that is getting mixed into the senior housing project.

As a homeowner, can you build a three story home with no setback on your lot? Can you build high density with small side yards? Can you remove two heritage oak trees for your benefit? This is what this change will mean to the quality of Maybell Ave. Once the City votes yes for the developer (which is separate from the senior housing) then developers will be all over this city looking for other ranch houses to tear down and ask for rezoning. If they say yes on June 10th then they will say yes again to other projects around town.