The opponents of Measure D claim that under existing zoning, 41 affordable homes could be built on the site next to the four existing market-rate homes.
This is simply not true. Affordable housing projects cannot be financed at such a low density. Nor can existing zoning guarantee that any units will be permanently affordable for low-income seniors.
The City Council's zoning decision is the only legal tool to ensure the 60 Maybell apartments remain affordable and age-restricted for seniors in perpetuity.
As people learn more about Measure D between now and Nov. 5, and they hear arguments on both sides of this issue, I would only ask that they evaluate the facts of the Maybell project and this project alone.
If they agree we need more affordable senior housing, then I urge them to vote "yes" on Measure D.
Alma Street, Palo Alto
Reasons for "yes"
Vote "yes" for affordable senior independent housing. That's yes to 60 housing units that will shelter low-income people age 62 and older. There are many types of housing specifically for people who are 62 and older. The Maybell development is a rental project whose rents are being kept low through several funding sources. This is an independent development meaning that the residents provide their own care or make arrangements themselves for additional care if needed. This is not assisted living.
Vote "yes" for well-planned housing. These 60 small units are located directly behind the 100-foot-tall Tan Apartments complex. The 50-foot height of the building is a transition to the 30-foot standard height of the two-story single-family units that face Maybell Ave. A transition down in height is good zoning.
Vote "yes" for an excellent nonprofit manager of affordable apartments. The reputation of Palo Alto Housing Corporation is among the best. Their units are kept in excellent condition.
Vote "yes" because funding for senior units is difficult to obtain. There is competition to fund our many community needs. The city dedicated money from the Stanford Hospital expansion that should have gone to affordable housing, into youth services and infrastructure. If the Weekly knows of other money that can be used to fund affordable housing please find it!
Let us celebrate a creative solution to providing senior affordable housing units.
Vote "yes" on Measure D!
Phyllis C. Cassel
Wellsbury Way, Palo Alto
More affordable housing
We are all residents of Barron Park, and the Maybell affordable senior apartment project is in our neighborhood. In fact, one of us lives on the same block.
We fully support this project, and we will all be voting "yes" on Measure D.
We can all agree that Palo Alto is not the same place it was 10, or 20, or 30 years ago when many of us moved here. Progress is inevitable, and we empathize with the growing concern about the pace of development, traffic congestion and overall impacts to our quality of life.
But the fact remains Measure D is about one thing and one thing only — the ability to build 60 much-needed affordable senior apartments and 12 single-family homes on a large parcel of land at the corner of Maybell and Clemo avenues in our neighborhood.
Here are some of the reasons why we support Measure D:
- Building this project will allow Palo Alto seniors on fixed incomes to remain close to their families and in the community they call home.
- The need for affordable senior housing in Palo Alto is well-documented and undeniable.
- Maybe someday our parents or one of us may need a safe, affordable place to call home.
- We have carefully evaluated this project from a neighborhood and quality-of-life perspective and we support it.
So if people agree Palo Alto needs more affordable housing for senior residents, then we hope they will join us in voting "yes" on Measure D.
Alta Mesa Avenue, Palo Alto
McGregor Way, Palo Alto
Magnolia Drive, Palo Alto
Zoning for sale
In 2009, when running for city council, Mayor Scharff said that "Planned Community zoning has the advantage of requiring the developer to give something to benefit the community."
The mayor has unusual standards as to what constitutes a "benefit."
In May 2012, Scharff was one of seven council members who voted in favor of the Lytton Gateway project, calling the building itself a benefit: "I think this is a prime site and having an office building — a Gateway project — is itself a public benefit."
Councilwoman Nancy Shepherd agreed, saying the building itself was a contributor to the public-benefit package.
Back in the 1990s, council member Micki Schneider said that PC zoning allowed developers to benefit at the city's expense. Another council member at the time, Ron Andersen, said it was "zoning for sale."
More recently, Councilwoman Liz Kniss said developers gained too much at the public's expense and PC zoning was one of the biggest issues raised during her council campaign.
In March of this year Planning Commissioners Martinez, Michael and Alcheck called for major changes to planned-community zoning, calling the existing process "the greatest challenge to land-use planning in Palo Alto today."
With all the talk, it took the Maybell community to finally stand up and say, "No more rezoning!"
As the owner of a Palo Alto home in which a family member lives, I urge people to vote against Measure D.
Oakhurst Avenue, Los Altos
A godsend for seniors
There are many senior and retired couples living on fixed incomes in Palo Alto who have children and grandchildren living in the area. When the rents exceed their income, and they certainly will, where are they going to live? Palo Alto would not be an option for them. They would be forced to get out of town.
There are also seniors, who have lived and worked in Palo Alto for many years and who have established a network of friends, and relationships, for whom it would be very stressful to move away and start a new life.
Do we want our city to be a place where only young professionals and the very wealthy can live? For many seniors, these 60 new below-market units would be a godsend. Vote "yes" on Measure D.
Linda Lopez Otero
Curtner Avenue, Palo Alto
Preservation of values
I am one of the many Barron Park residents who hope people will vote "yes" on D. The opponents of this measure have, in my opinion, tried to frame the measure as the complete opposite of what is really at stake.
The truth is that Measure D, for all its rezoning, is actually about preserving the values of our community as they have always been. Opposition to Measure D is about changing the town and, in particular, saying goodbye to a group of people who want to be here and whom we always previously wanted as neighbors.
One of the many unfortunate side effects of the housing boom that hit us a few years past was that it made it difficult for many people who had lived here all their lives to continue living here. In current conditions, if we want folks like our low-income seniors to be able to live here, we can't rely on an overheated market — we have to take steps to make it possible.
This actually is a fairly stark choice. If people want a new kind of town with a single-income level, they are likely to be against the measure. But if they want to preserve the diversity that is our heritage and enable low-income seniors to live in our town, they will vote for Measure D.
Chimalus Drive, Palo Alto
A better place with D
I have lived in downtown Palo Alto for many years. There have been many changes over these years: some good, some bad. I appreciate the increased vitality of our downtown; I don't like the traffic and parking problems. One thing I know for sure is that the problems have been the result of rampant commercial development, not residential development.
I understand the frustration of Measure D opponents, but affordable senior housing developments by nonprofit developers are not the problem. A vote for Measure D will allow this single project for low-income seniors to move forward. Palo Alto will be a better place for it.
Emerson Street, Palo Alto
A vote for inclusion
A "yes" vote on Measure D is a vote for an inclusive community, one that makes optimal use of our painfully scarce land. The Palo Alto Housing Corporation has always worked to maximize the benefits and minimize the negatives of its projects. Financing low-income housing is not work for the faint of heart — there is no single way to do it, so PAHC has to piece together many sources to make a project work financially.
With the Maybell project, we will have a development we can all be proud of, and we'll have embraced low-income seniors in a time when meeting their housing needs needs to be way up in our community priorities. Vote "yes" on measure D.
Webster Street, Palo Alto
A good choice
In a suburban town in the 1970s, a local official said publicly, "If you people can't afford to live in our town then you'll just have to leave." I'd like to think that Palo Alto of 2013 has nothing in common with that time and place.
"Yes" on Measure D honors neighborhood zoning. "Yes" on Measure D creates both market-rate and below-market-rate residential housing within an existing residential neighborhood. "Yes" on Measure D does not threaten any Palo Alto neighborhood with inappropriate non-residential development. "Yes" on Measure D expands affordable living opportunities for seniors to stay in our community.
Don't let the tactics of fear and prejudice cloud the facts. Vote "yes" on Measure D.
Emerson Street, Palo Alto
We want to stay here
"Where would we live if something catastrophic happened in our lives?" This is a question that I've asked myself many times. We've been prudent and done what we can to protect ourselves financially, but what if it isn't enough?
As newlyweds moving here 45 years ago, we soon learned that Palo Alto was the place we wanted to stay and raise a family. It had things important to us — community values, good schools, access to cultural events and ideal weather. As our children grew, we were active in their activities and in the community.
Over the decades, Palo Alto has changed — mostly, but not always, to our liking. It's not a small town anymore but part of a larger, vibrant area with more to offer. Our lives here revolve around our family, friends and community.
We want to stay here. If it became necessary to drastically downsize our lives, we'd want to remain in a safe, comfortable place. The Maybell senior affordable apartments would be such a place. It's a safety net for many, including us. It has been carefully designed to blend into the neighborhood surrounded by existing apartments, a park and homes across the street. It will be an asset to the community.
Please join us in voting "yes" on D.
McGregor Way, Palo Alto
Let's encourage equality
I am a City Council member. I strongly support more affordable senior housing in Palo Alto and voted for the Maybell project. I live in Barron Park and welcome this well-designed project.
What is unstated in the debate is inequality. Our town will increasingly become one of privilege where housing will only be available to those with means (earned or inherited) or those who have lived here for some time. Without "affordable" options, the result will be less economic, cultural, social and age diversity.
The site redevelopment will consist of 60 affordable housing units and 12 single-family homes and will yield significantly less greenhouse gas emissions, traffic and parking requirements than permitted under current zoning.
This is not "Manhattanization" but a four-story building located adjacent to 10- and three-story residential buildings. Be compassionate and socially responsible, and vote "yes" on Measure D.
Orme Street, Palo Alto
A record of our values
The 19th century British politician William Gladstone remarked that budgets are not simply matters of arithmetic, they are also a record of our values. So it is with Measure D.
On the arithmetic side, it is not possible to build low-income housing in a high-income area like Palo Alto without increasing density. While opponents of measure D argue a project with fewer units is an option, this ignores the reality that, given the costs of land here, low-income housing projects need to qualify for federal grants and tax credits to be sustainable. For example, the affordable-housing facility that recently opened at the corner of Homer and Alma was only feasible at its current density, which necessitated that it be four stories tall. Had it been less dense, it wouldn't have qualified for the federal, state and local financing needed. The alternative would have been a three-story condominium development, with units selling for $1.5 million.
This then raises the issue of values. We agree with some of the values opponents of D raise: They are rightly concerned that zoning variances not be misused to line private coffers without contributing to the public good. But this is not at issue in Measure D, which offers a substantial public benefit: a more economically and socially diverse community. Given the dichotomous choice under current regulations — affordable housing at a higher density or market-priced housing at a lower density — we are strongly in support of the affordable-housing option and will vote yes on D.
Debra Satz and Don Barr
Ramona Street, Palo Alto
Let's be realistic
Although most homeowners in Palo Alto would like the city to stay small and quaint, that isn't realistic in 2013. We need housing not only for seniors but for the workers in our restaurants, hair salons, car-repair shops, drug stores, etc. — people who help make Palo Alto the place we love.
I'd also like to think we could have a town made up of all kinds of people, not just the wealthy and senior homeowners who were lucky enough to buy their piece of nirvana before prices went through the roof. I'm voting "yes" on Measure D.
Mackall Way, Palo Alto
Not a huge impact
In my discussions with people about Measure D, the vast majority of those who object to it have one overall reason: They feel Palo Alto is getting over-populated and believe voting "no" will help reduce that problem.
If one considers the impact of the 60 mostly one-bedroom, low-income senior units plus the 12 single-family homes that Measure D provides for, one will find it is much less than the 46 multi-bedroom units that the city's current zoning allows for. Low-income seniors don't have kids who attend local public schools, and they drive much less. They usually don't even make much noise (if you don't count snoring).
A person may take the position that we can change the zoning, but who will be the driving force behind that? The City of Palo Alto certainly cannot afford to buy it. What developer is going to spend additional money and time to reduce profits? The Palo Alto Housing Corporation should be able to go ahead with the plan for affordable senior units.
Vote "yes" on Measure D on Nov. 5.
Toyon Place, Palo Alto
For seniors in need
As a long time Palo Alto resident, I urge voters to support Measure D so our community can offer 60 more affordable homes for lower-income seniors. The nonprofit Palo Alto Housing Corporation is an experienced developer and manager of quality affordable homes that has since 1970 built and managed over 700 affordable rental units all over town — including 68 deeply affordable family units in my neighborhood next to Addison School. The City Council wisely (and unanimously) approved the plan for the Maybell development, which also includes the sale of 12 single-family-home lots in order to make financially feasible the 60 apartments.
Most deed-restricted, below-market-rate homes built throughout the Bay Area have been developed with Planned Community zoning that requires and regulates the affordability of the housing. Most, if not all, affordable senior housing built throughout the Bay Area includes reduced parking. The seniors who will live in these homes will be mostly retired, will not all own cars and will not typically drive during school commute hours.
No place is ever perfect and this location is more convenient and healthy for our seniors who have family and connections here than moving across the bay, out of state or becoming homeless.
I will be voting "yes" on Measure D so the doors to these much-needed homes can open for those among us who must retire on low, fixed incomes.
Let's open our minds to the facts and our hearts to the greater good to build a better, more responsive community.
Kingsley Avenue, Palo Alto
Imagine the good
I have lived and worked in Palo Alto for about 30 years. I urge everyone to vote "yes" on Measure D in Palo Alto. Simply put, it will provide safe, affordable housing for seniors with the same or less of an impact on the neighborhood from what is permitted and likely to move forward if Measure D fails.
The opposition would have you believe that Palo Alto Housing Corporation, the developer, is some suspect evil developer out for themselves rather than the community. Nothing could be further from the truth. Palo Alto Housing Corporation has done many exemplary developments for many years that have done nothing but add value and retain diversity in our city. Whatever problems there may or may not be with planned-community zoning, this is not the time, place or way to work them out.
I heartily commend and congratulate the City Council members who voted unanimously on this effort. I am deeply saddened that so much time, effort and money has been spent by both sides on a referendum that should never have been.
Imagine the good we could have accomplished with all that time, effort and money if directed elsewhere.
Waverley Street, Palo Alto
Stop PC zoning
The Maybell development proposed by Palo Alto Housing Corporation (PAHC) typifies what is wrong with Planned Community (PC) zoning and demonstrates how staff and the City Council ignore the Comprehensive Plan and Zoning Ordinance to the serious detriment of the community. It also violates established practices for predicting traffic impacts and proposing mitigations.
This PC is unprecedented in the policies and positions it violates — putting high-density development in low-density residential zones, including high-density market-rate housing to fund below-market housing, using obsolete data and models to justify incorrect predictions of little traffic and parking impacts, doing traffic analyses that ignored pedestrian and bike traffic along Maybell that serves four schools. These are just some of the violations. An expert traffic consultant detailed 11 major errors and omissions in the traffic study from PAHC.
Last year the council adopted a policy of protecting single-family residential areas and to not increase development scale in low-density residential zones. Less than a year later they have violated that policy by approving a project that quadruples the housing density on much of the Maybell site.
Neighbors offered to compromise on Maybell if PAHC would trim it down, reduce the bulk, density, and scale of the development. PAHC refused, saying size and density was dictated by competition for state and federal government grants. Effectively land use and project scale in Palo Alto are being determined by outsiders bestowing grants. This must stop. Vote against Measure D.
Orme Street, Palo Alto
Follow the Golden Rule
My 11-year-old son rides up the Maybell "safe route to school" every day and knows about dodging cars in the crowded traffic around the site of the Measure D high-density rezoning. He knows about the plans to build three-story homes on 3,000-square-foot lots and knows many of the Barron Park families who have great concerns about the unprecedented high-density project.
We saw a "Yes on D" sign and he asked with contemplative innocence: "Dad, why do people who live far away from the orchard get to vote on Measure D?"
The truth of that innocent question sunk in — a simple truth.
It goes like this: Neighborhoods are like family members who need to stick up for each other. The neighbors have properly expressed great alarm at the density that is being imposed. Zoning protections are being stripped away by big money proponents of density that offer the tempting thought that "just a little" San Jose-style stack-and-pack market-rate housing is OK as long as it is not in my backyard.
I propose we should follow the Golden Rule and do onto others as we would have them do unto us. Just the fact that more than 4,000 residents signed the petition to bring the council's actions to a referendum is evidence enough. We need to offer unconditional support to a "family member" in distress.
Next time it will be someone else's turn to be supported, it will take a unified city to retain our quality of life. Vote against Measure D.
Park Boulevard, Palo Alto
Support affordable housing, values
Everyone agrees that affordable housing in Palo Alto is an ongoing and critical need in our city. Measure D, which provides affordable housing for our senior population, is a key step to alleviating this problem. In building the senior housing that Measure D provides, we are preserving the diversity and values of our community that makes our city a unique place to live. The alternative of leaving the zoning as is, with the likelihood of building up to 46 multi-bedroom homes on the same property, will increase traffic flow at peak commute hours and school enrollment much more than the Measure D project. This is a well-thought-out and researched measure supported unanimously by our elected City Council. That's why we're voting "yes" on Measure D on Nov. 5.
Mid and Cheryl Fuller
Mackall Way, Palo Alto
What happens if we vote "no"?
Measure D is about what will be built if we pass Measure D vs. what is likely to be built if we don't pass Measure D.
If we vote "yes," we get 60 units of affordable senior housing, tucked far back from the street. We get less commute traffic because seniors drive less. We get two-story housing on Maybell, with 10 feet between the houses. We get Clemo houses that no one will notice because they are shielded by huge oak trees.
If Palo Alto votes no on D? There is no saving the orchard and there are no further negotiations, since the future development will be within zoning. The houses on Maybell will still be two-story and they will be as large as possible, because that is what developers do today, even in single-family zoning.
We've all seen it. There will be more commute traffic and no affordable senior housing. Measure D is the better deal. Vote "yes" on D.
Alma Street, Palo Alto
Recent discussion has mentioned Moldaw Senior Residences as a comparison to the Measure D Maybell project. I am a resident of Moldaw and would like to clarify some of the points made in recent articles.
Moldaw Senior Residences is an independent and assisted-living residence facility in Palo Alto. Independent Living units are now 84 percent occupied and Assisted Living and Memory Support units are essentially 100 percent occupied. The City of Palo Alto requires 24 below-market-rate units for seniors in Moldaw. To date, 12 of the BMR units have been sold at the required discounted rates. They are not rentals such as are planned for the Maybell project.
Even though these units sell at below market rates, it is difficult to find buyers who qualify and can afford the discounted prices and monthly rates — both assets and income are taken into consideration.
Buying a unit in a facility such as Moldaw is very different from renting and would not be appropriate for the population that is under consideration in the Maybell project.
East Charleston Road, Palo Alto
The deck is stacked
I'm a resident of Barron Park who is voting against Measure D. I have been talking with people from all over Palo Alto explaining my position.
The PAHC proposal is a high-density intrusion into our residential neighborhood, and not a good one at that. It brings high-density burdens that none of us in the area want: spillover parking into the nearby residential streets due to inadequate on-site parking — both for seniors and the 12 new single-family homes; increased traffic along Maybell will compromise Safe Routes to Schools; a poorly designed senior apartment building with no senior-serving amenities making senior living only remotely pleasant. As a senior, I wouldn't want to live there, far from basic services. People understand that.
People from all Palo Alto neighborhoods are disappointed and dissatisfied with the high-density development throughout Palo Alto that has been approved by the City Council, maybe even encouraged by the council. Current zoning regulations, which we all rely upon and expect to be followed, are swept aside in favor of whatever can be negotiated between the developer and council. City staff seems to understand what the council wants and drafts their reports accordingly. The deck is stacked against the residents as our voices are barely "listened to," and apparently "dismissed."
Those residents, as do I, want that to change. That is why I, and they, are voting against Measure D.
Thain Way, Palo Alto
"Yes" for diversity
The main reason I'll vote "yes" on Measure D is that I value economic and social diversity in Palo Alto.
I live on the same block as the proposed low-income senior housing on Maybell and two blocks away from Juana Briones Elementary School. When my daughters were at Briones it had the most diverse population in the Palo Alto district. Unlike half our Barron Park neighbors with school-age children, I chose to send my daughters to their local school, to learn and become friends with a mix of children from widely different backgrounds. I also chose to teach there.
To me, voting "yes" on Measure D is consistent with a commitment to diversity. We need a place for everyone in our neighborhood.
Alta Mesa Avenue, Palo Alto
Real, positive impact
We urge readers to vote Yes on Measure D in Palo Alto. This will allow the nonprofit Palo Alto Housing Corporation to build affordable housing for low-income seniors. Despite attempts to redefine the facts by the opposition, this has been shown to have real positive impact on available housing and minimal impact on traffic, in fact less than the likely alternative. The current development plan has been designed with significant community input over many months, has the look and feel of the surrounding neighborhood, is supported by both residents and city leaders, and reflects the values of the community. We strongly support this project for our city.
Markus Fromherz and Heike Schmitz
Amaranta Avenue, Palo Alto
Some telling quotes
Quotes that are very telling about the Palo Alto process:
When the Planning Commission voted to initiate a "planned community" zone change, allowing developers to break zoning rules in exchange for "public benefits." Commissioner Tanaka marveled at the lack of people attending the meeting and surmised that neighbors were unaware. "I think if the people really knew what was being built across the street, there would be more of an outcry there." (February 2013)
What is allowed at Maybell was critical in the council's decision on whether to approve the zone change. The R-2 zone allows a second unit but requires a 6,000-square-foot lot. The R-2 site is 14,000 square feet with four homes, meaning the lot sizes are nowhere near the 6,000-square-foot minimum. That calls into question the city's calculation for two residences on each lot. When asked about staff reports, City Manager Keene emphasized the limitations, "The findings in the staff reports tend to support the particular staff recommendation rather than represent all views." (July 2013)
Mayor Scharff (against PCs when running for council) now says "PC zones are not springing up in your local neighborhood." (October 2013) The council has approved three PC projects (Lytton Gateway, Edgewood Plaza and Maybell ) since Scharff joined the council in January 2010.
This has become divisive for a neighborhood that has embraced low-income housing. The process is flawed and the outcome is a flawed development with no winners. Maybell should not be rezoned. It makes perfect sense to start over with unbiased information and work within current zoning.
Maybell Avenue, Palo Alto
No on supersized Maybell
Measure D is about a misguided City Council. The Council "upzoned" to create "monster buildings" in downtown and the failed Miki's Market — eyesores that will last decades. It spent $1 million (despite objections from most neighbors) to redesign Arastradero. Now, its dysfunctional lane switches and constrictions make a more congested, dangerous thoroughfare. The Council is considering redesigns of California Avenue (over objections from merchants and neighbors) and the massive Jay Paul project that will substantially worsen traffic and the housing imbalance. The Edgewood market appears empty. The Council's study of downtown traffic may omit the Arillaga development. The list goes on of myopic projects that fail to fit together, and exacerbate traffic, housing and fiscal problems.
The Maybell project is another example. It could be built without "upzoning" — 40 units of affordable senior housing and modest market-rate housing. But PAHC insists on "supersize," even as it apparently converts its nearby property to market rate. PAHC has accomplishments, but it's also a wealthy (look at all those flyers), politically connected developer. It gets millions in loans in advance of zoning from the Council, big city grants and a "pass" on doing solid studies of traffic, demand and services.
Most citizens support PAHC, but not every PAHC project is worthy. "Supersized" Maybell is a poor idea. Let PAHC come back with a balanced plan. Remind the Council about Comprehensive Planning and voices of ordinary citizens. Thanks, Weekly, for incredibly accurate reporting. Please vote "No on D."
Donald Drive, Palo Alto