THE NEXT BATTLE ... Fresh off two successful petition drives and riding a tidal wave of both enthusiasm and rage, Palo Alto's land-use critics are now plotting their next battle. The group includes opponents of a recently approved housing development on Maybell Avenue, a development that they hope to quash through a referendum. The effort hit a milestone last week, when they submitted more than 4,000 signatures for the drive, more than enough to qualify for the next general election. But now they are preparing to take aim at a bigger fish — the city's "planned community" (PC) process, which allows developers to exceed zoning regulations in exchange for "public benefits." Bob Moss, a Barron Park resident who took part in the Maybell signature drive, said the group is now discussing an initiative that would eliminate or severely restrict this zoning, which was used for the Maybell project and for two proposed developments on Page Mill Road. Moss told the Weekly that one idea he supports is not allowing PC-zoned projects in residential zones and requiring a vote of the people on any PC-zone proposal. He noted that the exact nature of the ban has not yet been determined, but he said many residents agree that this issue needs to be addressed. "I think, from talking to people, that they're not happy with the PC zone. I've been saying for years; it's a racket. The private-versus-public benefit comparison — it's a joke," Moss said. His idea comes at a time when foes of dense developments are coalescing into a formal coalition. The new group "Palo Altans to Preserve Neighborhood Zoning," which led the petition drive for the Maybell referendum, has formed an official political-action committee. Former City Council candidate Tim Gray, who is the group's treasurer, told the Weekly that he has recently filed the needed paperwork for the coalition.
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