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ABAG housing projections split PA City Council

Original post made on Oct 16, 2007

Pitting the preservation of Palo Alto -- as we know it -- against the need to combat greenhouse gas emissions and crowded freeways, the city's assignment to add at least 2,860 new housing units by 2014 divided the City Council Monday night.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Tuesday, October 16, 2007, 1:15 AM

Comments (18)

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Posted by Resident
a resident of Meadow Park
on Oct 16, 2007 at 11:49 am

Because the cost of living has increased in Palo Alto while wages have remained the same or increased slightly, the percentage of income going to housing costs has increased. You could say that the problem isn't due to the lack of low cost housing but rather to wage increases too low to fairly compensate employees.

Or, you could say that the tax payers should pay for 2,860 new housing units in fees and property taxes and decreased quality of life here because businesses can't afford to increase wages enough to keep up with housing costs and after all, Palo Alto collects taxes from businesses.


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Posted by Marvin
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Oct 16, 2007 at 12:01 pm

I am surprised that Yoriko was not more forceful in pushing PA to meet their ABAG commitment--after all this is a matter of climate change!!!
Maybe pushing for climate change is okay when it will directly affect you--but once they start talking about building more housing in your neighborhood then it is a different matter. Or maybe yoriko was afraid to upset those that feel that PA is built out.
That would be par for the course for our city council--try to avoid conflict and the upsetting of anyone.


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Posted by Parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 16, 2007 at 12:26 pm

Palo Alto is being alotted housing growth because we provides jobs? Has anyone bothered to find out how many of those jobs are tele-commute type jobs? I work in a high tech company, and I work from home half the week or more! My job is directly responsible for reducing emmission from my car by 50%!!!!

This MUST come in to the equation = if we are creating high-tech telecommuting jobs, that would mean we are doing MORE than our fair share of reducing commute pollution, and we're being PENALIZED by being required to load our own streets up with TRAFFIC CONGESTION

And when our schools overflow we create MORE TRAFFIC congestion, because kids are DRIVEN to schools across town - instead of being able to walk or bike.

Has anyone in ABAG or City Council or League of Women Voters (SHAME ON YOU) or greenpeace, bothered to attempt to give proper credit for the cities that create jobs that reduce traffic all together with alternative work options?

Lets demand these numbers before we start penalizing Palo Alto for creation of jobs which are are probably providing MORE than their fare share already of environment improvements.

Instead of penalizing cities for creating good jobs that reduce traffic at the source, ABAG should be looking for ways to send these communities public transportation funding, school funding, etc - inducements for creating MORE ENVIRONMENTALLY SMART JOBS.

Barton, Mossar - shame on you for your willingness to hand out the priceless family jewels without so much as a blink of an eye. I find it disgusting that we've got city council members who have been given the responsibility of protecting this city, and you aren't fighting this tooth and nail.

NO more building in Palo Alto!!!! MORE HOUSING is a backward way to measure whether a city is GREEN 'enough'.

But the reality is - this isn't really about being green is it? Its about powerful real estate interests slobbering and salivating all over our Palo Alto real estate. Yum Yum Yum... Well, lets start charging some developer's fees then: $150 Million (cost of building one school, plus transportation, park and library infrastructure), plus 6 acres of land space, to be provided by the devloper for every 400 occupants. Prorated per occupant. That's about $1.5M per unit in infrastucture fees. Then let them go build "low cost" housing till the cows come home. It won't happen. C'mon city council - get tough and smart on this.


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Posted by Anna
a resident of Midtown
on Oct 16, 2007 at 12:48 pm

Parent is right. It is shocking that nobody in responsible positions is questioning the ABAG assumptions, and that this crazy set of allocations is being sold as a "Green" measure.

I question the whole idea that merely putting more living units here will reduce greenhouse gases. There is a tenuous relationship, at best between housing and job location. This issue was discussed at length in another thread. Web Link Here is a post from this thread I found pretty valid based on my experience:

"Stephen makes a very good point. I don't have data on the issue, but my own impression is that housing and job location are only loosely related. My wife and I moved here in 1982. I worked in San Francisco then and she worked in Menlo Park. In the interim, we each have changed jobs numerous times, as is common here in Silicon Valley. Between us, we've had jobs in San Francisco, Redwood City, San Jose, Livermore, Emeryville, Hayward and Santa Clara. We've stayed in Palo ALto all this time because we like it here more than we dislike the various commutes involved, and because it's too expensive and too much of a hassle to move.

I know many people who move here for the schools even though it increases the commute for the parents. I bet any real estate agent will tell you this is very common.

I have a friend who has been commuting from Piedmont (near Oakland) to Palo Alto while his wife commutes to Santa Clara for 20 years. They are attached to the community there and don't want to move.

I would venture that most people reading this thread have similar experiences. There simply isn't much connection between housing location and job choice. And in this fluid economy, anyone who chooses a place to live based on his commute stands a good chance of having to face moving or commuting longer several times in a career.

There's no reason to think that if we build all the ABAG recommended housing they'll be populated any differently. Those workers won't be riding their bikes to jobs in town any more than the rest of us. They'll be driving to the East Bay or to San Jose, or if they're lucky, taking a train to SF.

Carol is right. Get ready to breath a lot more dirty air if we do the ABAG thing, with very little reduction in commuting either to Palo ALto jobs or from Palo Alto residences .
Posted by Chris, a resident of the Old Palo Alto neighborhood, on Sep 23, 2007 at 7:00 pm "

What is wrong with our Council that they'd be steamrollered by this propoganda. If you will read the linked post, you'll see that Steven Levy, virtually shilling for the business community, reveals the real motivation behind the ABAG proposal: cheap housing so they can hire workers locally instead of expanding outside the bay area.

Maybe we should accomodate the growth wanted by local corporations (I am against it myself.). But we should debate that openly, rather than pretend this has something to do with commute distances and Global Warming. That argument is a canard.


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Posted by John
a resident of College Terrace
on Oct 16, 2007 at 12:51 pm

"Palo Alto received its preliminary allocations in January. This year, for the first time, ABAG used a formula that included a city's number of jobs and access to transportation hubs such as Caltrain stations. The new formula resulted in Palo Alto receiving a higher allocation than in previous years."

In other words, we are being penalized BECAUSE we supported a decent hub at our Caltrain stations! Unbelievable.


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Posted by rick
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Oct 16, 2007 at 12:51 pm

Palo Alto and Stanford have plenty of empty land and it's between Foothill Expressway and Hwy 280 and also the airport land. The airport should be relocated to the Eastern edge of Moffett Field.


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Posted by Dave
a resident of Professorville
on Oct 16, 2007 at 12:55 pm

"Palo Alto and Stanford have plenty of empty land and it's between Foothill Expressway and Hwy 280 and also the airport land. The airport should be relocated to the Eastern edge of Moffett Field."

Plenty of land....so let's fill it all up with high density housing?? What kind of argument is this?


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Posted by Mike
a resident of College Terrace
on Oct 16, 2007 at 1:17 pm

In this, I disagree with most members of the City Council.
Larry Klein's argument is especially puzzling, because he'sm always prresented himself as a large-scenario environmentalist, but ends up creating an abstract assumption (the worry that growth will continue elsewhere, no matter what we do) to support his prior conclusion. It's a politically astute move, but not at all forward-looking, and absent anything that one might label as visionary. I could say "said just like a lawyer", (Klein is an attorney) but I won't, because I have a lot of attorney friends. :)

Beecham's authenticity is appreciated. Yes,, we have a problem, a vexing problem - and, it's very frustrating - but at least he leaves the door open to possibilities, and correctly states the case that we must try to *lead* the fight against pollution.

Cordell and Morton? What can I say, other than these two otherwise intelligent people are too "short-term-pragmatic" on this issue. That's often the case with these two.

Morton's argument, that ""The whole thing seems designed to punish those who succeed economically" is just cynical, and out of character of the intent for ABAG's numbers. Mr. Morton's statement might be construed as pandering to citizens in a way that divides relative "haves" from "have nots". Why can't this be seenn as helping *everyone*, instead of punishing those who have the economic power to comfortably agree with Council member Morton's convenient cynicism on this issue.

Judy Kelinberg's statements was also disappointing. Ms. Kleinberg is a sterling member (and employee) of a regional development group (Joint Venture Silicon Valley). Yet she "worries" that we don't have sufficient public transport to deal with housing growth, and conveniently moves away from committments necessary to deal with growth *that will happen anyway!*. Council member Kleinberg shuold be talking to he peer, our Mayor (who sits on a public transportation board - the VTA) about LEADING a DETERMINED fight to get this region moving toward more and better public and mass transportation - that, instead of using "worries" as a safe haven for coping out on the housing issue. I'm disappointed.

Mayor Kishimoto, another intelligent and thoughtful person, regrettably continues to deploy her penchant for wringing every last concession from Stanford University, uses the ABAG conflict to reinforce her argument that Stanford (the engine that drives a lot of our region's economy) should underwrite housing costs for their medical expansion. And then we wonder why Stanford only looks at Palo Alto as "that neighbor down the road", instead of a true partner in co-development.

Among the firm dissenters (medtioned above), I heard not one iota of vision, or leadership on this issue.

Yes, Palo Allto should be concerned about housing growth - and yes, Palo Altans should rightfully be concerned about the quality of future life in our city.

That said, we also MUST come to realize that we are not going to stop growth in Silicon Valley. We MUST also realize that we cannot solve this housing problem all by ourselves.

So why aren't our policy makers going out AGGRESSIVELY after regional solutions that *compliment* the ABAG requirements. SOMEONE has to lead this effort. Why not Palo Alto?

This is a perfect opportunity for the policy makers in neighboring cities to be brought together o *publicly* wrestle with this issue. We have to frame the conversation about housing growth and mass trasport as a *shared* responsibility (Palo Alto has been doing it's part, compared to some of its neighbors), and forcing that frame into the conversation.

We need LEADERSHIP and VISION to tackle this issue, not backpedaling.

Instead, what we are getting is short-term tactical preferences that pander to parocial interests, and that will do NOTHING to help lead this city, and our region, out of the housing, transportation, and associated growth challenges that we're facing.

As for the "family jewels". Please, spare us metaphors that make it seem as if we somehow aren't part of something larger than ourselves. Right now, we may be - relative to some of our neighbors - somewhat more gifted, and "jewel-like", but we sit in a tarnished setting.

The fact is that growth WILL continue to happen in Silicon Valley. It is a fact that growth will present enormous challenges. So, rather than backpedaling away from those challenges in fear, perhaps we should consider meeting fear head-on, and coming through that with a regional bond that makes us stronger, instead of trying to deny reality and closing ourselves off to a diminished future, where we have lost *regional hegemony*, because the parts of the Silicon valley whole couldn't find a way to make themselves bigger than they are.


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Posted by Pearl
a resident of The Greenhouse
on Oct 16, 2007 at 1:35 pm

I'm not so sure we should be prepared to resign ourselves to the "growth will happen" argument Mike makes, as thoughtfully as it is presented by him.

We don't *have* to follow ABAG's dictate (suggestion?). There's no reason we have to pave over our diminishing open space with high density housing: it's a choice. Other cities have the same choice we do, and if enough of them say "no" we won't have as much growth in Silicon Valley as predicted by ABAG under its proposal.

If corporations can't find enough people to work for wages that won't compensate them for the resulting high real estate prices (or long commutes from the Valley), they'll take their jobs elsewhere.

Is that a bad thing? Not necessarily. We don't need to Manhattanize - or even further urbanize the Bay Area. It's not necessary that we have the job growth ABAG contemplates. It's certainly not inevitable, despite what the ABAG bureaucrats would have us think.

The Bay Area has a strong constituency for conservation, environmental and quality of life issues. We don't need to be go-go all the time.


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Posted by Marvin
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Oct 16, 2007 at 1:44 pm

"Manhattanizing" may not be a bad idea--we would be a center of arts, culture, museums. We would have world class public transportation system. We would pull in tons of tourists (paying an exorbitant hotel tax) etc.
However, I am not sure if our leaders really know what they want. They want tax revenue--people shopping in Palo Alto, people staying in PA hotels--but they do not want the traffic.
They want shops and stores and companies, with people eating and shopping in town--but they do not want people commuting to town.
They want people to work in restaurants and bars and stores, but they do not want to have to provide housing for them.
They want to benefit from the technology and advances of Stanford and the Hospital/Medical Center, but they want Stanford to provide housing for their workers. News flash--Stanford is a university--universities have clear goals and one of them is not to provide enormous amounts of housing for it's workers.
They want new housing built so commuting can be cut down, but they do not know where to build it.
So, in conclusion, our leaders do not know what they want and/or are unable to come to any concrete decision about what PA should be like because of the usual lack of desire to make crucial decisions in a timely manner.


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Posted by Daisy L
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Oct 16, 2007 at 1:49 pm

Manhattan is a great place to visit...but I wouldn't want to live there. Wouldn't want it built up around me either, because the city leaders decide that's what their contributors want, or because they don't know what they want (pace Marvin), and it "just happens."

Keep Palo Alto small...and green.


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Posted by Mike
a resident of College Terrace
on Oct 16, 2007 at 1:52 pm

Pearl,

Why must we assume that we have to pave over diminishing open space? I'm not advocating that. Frankly, that's a most disturbing scenario, and one of the FUD factors that keeps getting bandied about, without challenge.

You're right, we don't need to Manhattanize, nor do we need to gut the quality of life that many of us cherish.

I'm very disappointed in our leadership on thisi issue, and also disappointed with those in the residential and development development communities who have left it to municipalities to hash this out on their own.

I am not pro-developer, or anti-housing. Rather, I'm for putting some high-powered players together here, in Palo Alto, from BOTH sides of the housing fence. There has been too much fear-based rhetoric on this issue, mostly coming from anti-growth zealots, as well as too much convenient avoidance by the development community.

The latter, like it or not, DOES have a responsibility to its fellow human beings, in terms of the impacts that development brings.

Change is not a comfortable thing to encounter, but encounter it we must.

We are at a vector that requires our policy makers to figure out how we can grow sufficiently, and *efficiently*, so as to maintain the economic and innovative integrity of our individual cities, and the region. That vector also impacts developers, who are going to have to come to the table, and then both sides need to come forward with inside and outside the box solutions that permit growth in ways that ameliorate the current negative impacxts of growth (developers should be doing this of their own volition, because the more they stay away from the fray, the more that unrealistic fear-based rhetoric coming from no-growthers will impact the developmer's future success).

What baffles me is why aren't we havingn that conversation - or, more germain to this moment, why isn't any local policy maker LEADING us down the path to having that conversation?

TRUE innovation is sparked mostly by combinatorial effects that result from the effort of experimentation. Most innovations are, in a very real way, incidental accidents that get discovered in a moment of serendipity, and then smartly deployed. Unless we're willing to put the elements involved in this challenge (developers, and municipalities) together inn a new kind of conversation, with understood goals, how are we going to innovate?

We need to experiment, so that we can counter the challenges of the future. In this case, 'experimentation' means a new determination, with the newly combined elements of developers and municipalities negotiating toward *common* goals.

Sure, some goals are going to be disparate, but we ALL LIVE HERE. We have that in common, so let's start the conversation with that.


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Posted by anonymous
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Oct 16, 2007 at 2:12 pm

Interesting workshop you all might want to attend:

Web Link

Housing Leadership Day 2007

Building Great Communities For the 21st Century Friday, October 26, 2007, 8 am - 3 pm Oracle Conference Center 350 Oracle Parkway, Redwood City


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Posted by John
a resident of College Terrace
on Oct 16, 2007 at 2:15 pm

I think Manhattan is a good model for us, in some ways. It delivers its workers by trains. We do need more development of jobs and opportunities and technological progress. But we do not need more housing.

What we need is efficient public transportation to devliver the workers from Tracy and other outlying areas. Caltrain needs to be electrified, and it should connect with BART in San Jose (from both sides of the Bay). Pollution-free buses and vans should deliver workers to and from their work areas.

This whole ABAG thing is nonsense. People live where they can afford to live and want to live. They commute to work. Get over it.


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Posted by Forum reader
a resident of Stanford
on Oct 16, 2007 at 2:51 pm

What an odd headline. There was no split. The usual split is 5 to 4 with the pro big development faction winning. The ABAG discussion was 7 to 2 with only Mossar and Barton in favor of the big housing push.
That's a landslide, not a split.


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Posted by Mike
a resident of College Terrace
on Oct 16, 2007 at 3:12 pm

There were no winners in that discussion. We're still left with the fact that our region will grow, and a sad patchwork strategies and tactics to deal with it.

If the current non-movement on these issues continues, our region will pay a severe price in the future, relative to other regions, worldwide.

I hope we don't have to learn that lesson, because if we do, it will be from a position fo relative disadvantage.


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Posted by Resident
a resident of Green Acres
on Oct 16, 2007 at 4:58 pm

No building between Foothill Expressway and 280, but there is alway East Meadow Circle. This industrial/commercial area has already been identified for housing.


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Posted by anonymous
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Oct 16, 2007 at 5:14 pm

Where is more housing supposed to go? Surely they can't build high-density housing on the site of the PA Airport, as someone suggested above --that must be marshy, bay fill land that would not perform well in a major earthquake. Isn't it like Foster City (wouldn't move there...)


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