Our opposition to the ordinance is not about senior housing.
We are not opposed to development of senior apartments on the Maybell site if developed within the current RM-15 zone.
We are against high-density rezoning in residential neighborhoods, particularly by the Planned Community process, which creates problems for all Palo Altans. Palo Altans concerned about high density, parking, traffic and child safety need to send a clear message to the City Council that this rush to higher and higher density in the name of "public benefits" must stop. For us, the Maybell rezoning is symbolic of what is happening throughout Palo Alto and, if confirmed by the voters, will set a bad precedent for more bad development that violates historic zoning protections.
Bottom line: 41 senior apartments can be built on the Maybell site within the current zoning. Rezoning is not required. A vote against is a vote to stop high density rezoning in residential neighborhoods (ours today, yours tomorrow).
The language of Measure D on your ballot is misleading. It was drafted by the City Attorney who refused two written requests to make it more accurate. This is what we think it should say:
Shall the Palo Alto Municipal Code be amended to rezone the property at 567-595 Maybell Ave. from R-2 Low Density Residential and RM-15 Low Density Multiple Family Residential that permits 4 single-family homes and 41 affordable senior apartments to Planned Community Overlay Zone having 12 single-family homes and 60 affordable senior apartments?
This shows the two true choices: (a) vote against, as we urge, and allow 41 senior apartments, or (b) vote yes and allow 60 senior apartments, but greatly burden our neighborhood.
The zoning chapter of the Palo Alto Municipal Code states:
"RM-15 low-density multiple-family residence district is intended to create, preserve and enhance areas for a mixture of single-family and multiple-family housing which is compatible with lower density and residential districts nearby, including single-family residence districts. The RM-15 residence district also serves as a transition to moderate density multiple-family districts ..."
The highest multiple-family zone in the code is the RM-40 High Density Multiple-Family Residence District, which reads:
"RM-40 high density multiple-family residence district is intended to create, preserve and enhance locations for apartment living at the highest density deemed appropriate for Palo Alto. The most suitable locations for this district are in the downtown area, in select sites in the California Avenue area and along major transportation corridors which are close to mass transportation facilities and major employment and service centers ..."
The Maybell site isn't within the RM-40's "The most suitable locations ..." sentence quoted above and thus wouldn't be appropriate for an RM-40 designation. Yet PAHC intends to sell off more than half of the site to a for-profit developer for 12 single-family, market-rate homes on small, substandard lots leaving just 1 acre for the 50-foot high, four-story 60-unit senior building with only 0.6 resident parking space per unit. PAHC is thus creating an RM-60 zone, one that doesn't exist in the municipal code. What's higher than "highest density?" Most highest? In a residential neighborhood?
We are also against Measure D because we think Palo Altans need to send a clear message to the City Council that we expect development applications to be reviewed under the current zoning. What has been happening is that the City Council has repeatedly allowed the use of Planned Community rezoning that sweeps away long-standing site development restrictions protecting residential neighborhoods and Palo Alto in general. In other words protecting you.
This results in Miki's at Alma Plaza built out to the sidewalk sticking out like a sore thumb and three-story houses built on extremely small lots, which is another example of poor land-use planning approved by the city.
Planned Community zoning has become the de facto zoning for projects downtown. The four-story Gateway Plaza at Lytton/Alma is the latest in a pipeline of projects that have been approved with inadequate on-site parking adding to the huge — and growing — deficit of parking spaces plaguing commercial and residential areas bordering downtown (Downtown North, Downtown South and Crescent Park), as well as Southgate and Evergreen Park near California Avenue.
The massive multi-story development on the former Palo Alto Bowl site is, as with Alma Plaza, built out to the sidewalk with no pleasing setback from the street, packing in as much as possible.
These developments bring massive traffic jams throughout the day, not just during peak-period traffic. The Jay Paul project on Park Boulevard, if approved, would create further traffic jams at Oregon Expressway and El Camino Real with long lines of cars waiting to get through highly impacted intersections. Drivers cutting through residential neighborhoods jeopardize the safety of children going to/from their neighborhood schools, which is of particular concern to us on Maybell Avenue, a designated Safe Route to Schools, with four schools nearby.
These developments will continue unless a clear message is sent by residents to the City Council that enough is enough. The council needs to be told that we expect them to follow current zoning that has, until recently, protected our residential neighborhoods and, frankly, all of Palo Alto. If we do not do so now, this trend of using Planned Community applications that remove protective site restrictions will escalate. (Think of the huge 27 University Ave. project proposed for the MacArthur Park site). We will have no one to blame but ourselves, as more and more huge projects are built and gridlock on our streets remains commonplace. The Palo Alto we know and love is slipping away, project by project.
In summary, we are against Measure D for two principal reasons:
(1) It allows high-density development on the Maybell site that is harmful to our single-family neighborhood, as 41 senior apartments could be built on the site under current zoning in a way that would be consistent with our neighborhood, and,
(2) To send a clear message to City Council to stop the incremental degradation of Palo Alto by approving Planned Community zoning that sweeps away protective site regulations to our collective detriment.
Vote against Measure D.