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ABAG assignments unlikely to change, staff says

Original post made on Nov 29, 2007

Palo Alto is almost certainly stuck with an assignment to plan for 2,860 housing units by 2014, city staff members told the Planning and Transportation Commission Wednesday.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Thursday, November 29, 2007, 8:33 AM

Comments (196)

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Posted by Mike
a resident of College Terrace
on Nov 29, 2007 at 10:56 am

"Palo Alto also might join with other cities to challenge the assignments in court, Williams said."

Certainly, that's possible, and it wouldn't surprise. What I'm more curious about is why municipalities in this region can't get together to challenge the commuting problem by putting up their fair share of housing. The leaders in this region want it both ways, so they are talking from both sides of their respective mouths. "We want a clean environment, but we won't do anything to *significantly* relieve the 40% contribution that transport makes to fouling our environment, by building more housing closer to commercial sectors". Sad.

So, the irony here would be that Palo Alto, a city that has (to be fair) done more than its share of building housing, would - because of it's fear of adding additional housing (complicated by a rather weak approach to housing innovation) would side with municipalities that have been letting Palo Alto carry a heavier load. Thus, the *entire region* would get off the hook for carrying its fair share of the responsibility for removing carbon load from the environment, and would at the same time, unwittingly, create even more of a housing problem in this region that is at the *heart* of the commercial sector's concern for drawing new employees, and opening new businesses.

This is *short-sighted* thinking.

Any policy maker who supports a position like the one above - knowing what commuting does to the environment, and people's lives - is not considering the long term in a way that makes the region *sustainable*, relative to many other regions that are beginning to gain commercial hegemony, worldwide.

We have been hearing about water shortages. To let housing construction sprawl is to crate more demand for constrained water supplies, thus driving the price of water way up.
Why do that?

What about carbon load in the environment?

One commissioner called the schools Palo Alto's "crown jewel". Wrong. Palo Alto's citizens and many institutions are its crown jewel. Pulling out one part of the whole, and driving policy *for* the whole from that one part is a big, big mistake.

We need more comprehensive, collaborative, and innovative thinking on this matter than we have been getting.

What's worrying is that regional policy makers really don't see what is happening relative to the development of competing regions - in America, and elsewhere.

Unless we get a LOT more creative about these problems than we have been, we are going to cause this region to lose its front-line status in many commercial sectors. We will always be a wealthy region, but what will be the cost of losing the opportunity to be more optimal, with all the advantage that that brings.

We CAN approach optimal solutions, if we stop thinking short-term. Maybe that's not possible, because long-term thinking may not be in our DNA. If that's the case, commercial and cultural evolution will take care of the rest. Se la vie.



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Posted by Marvin
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Nov 29, 2007 at 11:06 am

It will be interesting to see how the Planning Commission and the City Council spin this--on the one hand demanding that Stanford build housing, while on the other hand trying to get out of it's requirement to build more housing.


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Posted by Mary
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Nov 29, 2007 at 12:46 pm

Marvin and Mike,

Please list five places in Palo Alto where you would put some of this housing, three places where you would put new super markets to feed the new - and old - residents, and new acreage to expand the schools or build new ones. Will there be high-rises, and if so how high? Transportation? Will there be a law stating that there can only be one auto per household? What kind of auto? Can Palo Alto refuse to pay any tax for the VTA and plow it into our own bus system? How many more police and fire personnel would we need - and how many more public safety vehicles? From where is the money coming to pay for all of this? I'm not arguing with your point of view or disputing it. I just want to know your solutions for your point of view.


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Posted by Henry W
a resident of Midtown
on Nov 29, 2007 at 12:50 pm

Despite the negativity of the Mike-Marvin pas de deux, the Planning Commission is very interesting to watch. Every one of the commissioners is knowledgeable and serious. I find it educational. Even enjoyable, if you enjoy learning about a subject that's outside your expertise. That's saying a lot about a city meeting.
And the chair keeps a polite, but tight rein on any tendency to speechify. That is a real talent in a chairperson.
Unlike other city meetings, I don't get the urge to escape. Every commissioner has something to add (unlike the council where some take the opportunity to talk about themselves or blow smoke).
I wish other commissioners would watch them and learn how a city commission should operate.


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Posted by Mike
a resident of College Terrace
on Nov 29, 2007 at 12:52 pm

*Exactly* the contradiction that I've been trying to point out. How does a policy body reconcile such contradictory behavior, without chicanery, or disingenuous spin?

There is a real challenge here, and an *opportunity* to face down the vocal minority in Palo Alto, and *take our city to the next level*, while at the same time doing what we need to do to LEAD this Valley out of the humdrum morass of its legacy poor long-term decision-making.

We'd better start thinking beyond the longitude and latitude borders that define Palo Alto's geography, and start finding ways to leverage what we have in the larger sphere of influence.

We will be rewarded one-hundred fold if we have the courage to make the next paradigm. There a lot of talk about "innovation" and "reducing carbon load", and "preserving the environment", and "regional cooperation". These are all great sentiments, but making things happen in those realms is not an easy task.

Many political and structural legacy forces mitigate against change that can both profit this community, and make our lives *better*. We have to look beyond our parochial interests, while at the same time staying faithful to preserving the quality we have in this community. This CAN be done. It doesn't have to be a zero sum game.



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Posted by John
a resident of College Terrace
on Nov 29, 2007 at 1:03 pm

The key statement is:

"If the city doesn't comply, it could lose state grants such a $1 million it is currently receiving to help with the proposed Alma Street affordable housing project, Chief Planning and Transportation Official Julie Caporgno said."

Translation: If we just say "no", we will lose the ability to get subsidies for even more BMRs. So what? We don't need (or want) BMRs.

Just say no.


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Posted by Gonzalez
a resident of South of Midtown
on Nov 29, 2007 at 1:09 pm

I'm with John. A subsidy for BMR's that will harm our schools, burden our infrastructure, and crowd our community is no "subsidy" at all. The Opportunity Center is counted among our BMR units. We don't need ABAG uber-bureaucrats telling us how to run our city.


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Posted by Mike
a resident of College Terrace
on Nov 29, 2007 at 1:12 pm

Mary: "Please list five places in Palo Alto where you would put some of this housing, three places where you would put new super markets to feed the new - and old - residents, and new acreage to expand the schools or build new ones. Will there be high-rises, and if so how high? Transportation? Will there be a law stating that there can only be one auto per household? What kind of auto? Can Palo Alto refuse to pay any tax for the VTA and plow it into our own bus system? How many more police and fire personnel would we need - and how many more public safety vehicles? From where is the money coming to pay for all of this? I'm not arguing with your point of view or disputing it. I just want to know your solutions for your point of view. "

Mary, Much of this has been gone over on prior threads.

Housing? Start with the California Avenue Corridor, followed by the southern border where PA meets Mt. View. Then we could look at housing over retail (this might satisfy your need for supermarket space) btw, are you aware that the average size for a market is 49,000 sq. ft. but some vocal Palo Altans won't let those spaces go past 20,000 sq. ft. - so whose fault is it that we don't have more market space? Consider that we could up our height limitations by one or two stories - say 15-20 feet. That would take some of the land pressure off.

El Camino is ripe for further development. We could make El Camino a very nice boulevard, with wide sidewalks and more shopping (and even narrower streets). Why not talk to some developers about this idea? How about bringing the state into the conversation?

Schools? Go to multiple stories. San Mateo and Los Gatos have done this, with great success. Why not Palo Alto?

Money? That comes from all our new citizens, and all the business that they bring. It comes from a revitalized series of small neighborhood commercial centers, serving those neighborhoods, and well-integrated with housing. It comes from the added social capital and contributions of new residents.

Transportation? We don't want to mandate one car; this isn't Soviet Russia. That said, there is a lot more that we can do to get people out of their cars. Why aren't we talking to other municipalities in our region to push forward a coordinated mass transport effort that lights up the enthusiasm of our citizens?

What I keep hearing from too many people around here are the words "we can't do it". That's not how this city, or this region, were built. That's not how this city, or this region, will remain sustainable.



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Posted by Anna
a resident of Southgate
on Nov 29, 2007 at 1:14 pm

"We'd better start thinking beyond the longitude and latitude borders that define Palo Alto's geography, and start finding ways to leverage what we have in the larger sphere of influence."

Great Idea: I propose we put all this ABAG housing, not in Palo Alto's geography, but rather in the geography of Woodside, Portola Valley, Atherton and Los Altos Hills. That way the rich corporate titans who think they'll benefit from cheap worker housing also bear some of the costs.


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Posted by Anna
a resident of Southgate
on Nov 29, 2007 at 1:19 pm

"Money? That comes from all our new citizens, and all the business that they bring. It comes from a revitalized series of small neighborhood commercial centers, serving those neighborhoods, and well-integrated with housing. It comes from the added social capital and contributions of new residents."

Let's see. ABAG's mandate is that half of the new housing we build will be subsidized Below Market Rate housing. So we're going to get the money to build the BMR housing, the infrastructure, the schools, and etc from these "new citizens"...half of whom will live in the very same BMR housing we subsidize.

Sounds like an economic perpetual motion machine to me. The more we build, the more new citizens we get and the more money they bring....


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Posted by Marvin
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Nov 29, 2007 at 1:24 pm

Henry--no negativity. i am just interested how PA will try to get out of fulfilling it's ABAG requirements while asking Stanford to build more housing.

How the Planning Commission acts is not an issue here, although I am not that keen on them having followed the nitpicking of the Alma Plaza project by said commission.

Regarding places to put housing--not sure when the ABAG counting starts--in other words does the housing at the old Hyatt site count? What about the housing being built at the end of east Meadow. the alma plaza housing and Edgewood plaza housing will count, as will the portion being built on the PA side of the Old Mill Shopping Center site.
There is also the Fry's location to think about.

There will be a new market at Alma Plaza and probably one at Edgewood, but remember due to PA restriction on grocery store size (a miniscule 20K square feet) no large chain will want to open in PA anyway


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Posted by Carole
a resident of Midtown
on Nov 29, 2007 at 1:29 pm

I agree with John, but I think he left a key phrase:

"It also states that the city would need to provide a $375 million to $500 million subsidy to pay for the 1,875 affordable units."

Yes, John, "Just say no!"


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Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 29, 2007 at 1:53 pm

One way to achieve the ABAG goal would be to make us all build a granny flat in the backyards of larger single family home lots. Oh, that was suggested sometime ago and not allowed.


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Posted by Lois
a resident of Midtown
on Nov 29, 2007 at 2:55 pm

The logical place to build all these BMR units is East Meadow Circle. The City has already proposed that the empty commercial buildings be torn down and housing units be built there. Remember the Charette we all went to about a year ago on the future of East Meadow Circle when the Planning Department proposed thousands of housing units for those sites.

Where would they go shopping? Mountain View of course.

Where would the children go to school? Reopen Greendell and Cubberley.




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Posted by Anonymous
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 29, 2007 at 6:45 pm

Easy. ABAG housing in Monroe Park neighborhood. Palo Alto address with great Los Altos schools! Skyline slightly south of Page Mill works, too. Where there's a will there's a way.


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Posted by ABAG Rules!
a resident of Monroe Park
on Nov 29, 2007 at 9:00 pm

It's really amusing to see the same old arguments posted with the same old tired cynicism. It's especially amusing to watch the same old tired jokes about where to put housing.

For the life of me, I can't imagine anyone taking these anti-housing proponents seriously. Their arguments are rationalized by statements like ""Just say no!" and "ABAG housing in Monroe Park neighborhood". These statements are really from the brightest bulbs in the bunch.

One thing to note in all the thread about housing is the "just say no" stance that this vocal minority puts out there. It would be more compelling if they said more than "no", but that's all they have going for them.

Even when someone proposes a way to accommodate housing in a novel way (e.g. housing above retail), it just goes over their heads, because they're not thinking about "novel" anything. They're stuck in a nostalgic past, looking beyond possibility, and focused on the rear view mirror that shows "the good old days".

btw, I have yet to see ONE young person (under 35) at City Council meetings railing about "too much growth". Could it be that young families moving into town support the growth that afforded many of them with an opportunity to live here?


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Posted by Henry W.
a resident of Midtown
on Nov 29, 2007 at 10:08 pm

Mike, what is it about No that you don't understand.


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Posted by common sense
a resident of Midtown
on Nov 29, 2007 at 11:49 pm

Much of the ABAG housing is suppose to be allocated to moderate, and below moderate income households. These units would fall under the BMR program, and would be eligible to either those who live in Palo Alto or work in Palo Alto.

If they are qualified because they live in Palo Alto, it seems unfair that Palo Alto should be subsidizing someone else's workers.
Similarly, if they are qualifed because they work in Palo Alto, why should Palo Alto be subsizing housing for corporations like HP, or the big law firms, or chains like Cheesecake Factory? Shouldn't those firms pay their worker sufficient wages to afford housing? and if those corporations choose to locate somewhere else, wouldn't that help to solve our jobs/housing imbalance?


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Posted by Dan
a resident of Midtown
on Nov 30, 2007 at 2:51 pm

>btw, I have yet to see ONE young person (under 35) at City Council >meetings railing about "too much growth". Could it be that young >families moving into town support the growth that afforded many of them >with an opportunity to live here?

Could it be that they are working long hours, are more involved in local school issues, want to spend a little time with their families and don't generally have as much free time to attend meetings as older, established residents?
Also, there has been no single galvanizing issue to discuss since individual development projects are evaluated piecemeal. The whole picture isn't easily evident so people can see, much less influence, the cummulative effects of development (good and bad) on city residents. So, I do think the ABAG controversy is good for Palo Alto if it leads to more thought going into overall development patterns and the consequences, rather than just piece-by-piece tunnel vision. You'll probably never get the beneficiaries of high-density housing development and people who want a bit more personal living space to agree on the impacts.

One assertion made here by high-density housing supporter is that it is only a small minority opposed to his/her desires. Saying this over and over won't make it true. We should look to things that may actually weigh on the real direction forward, like the recent city council elections, to judge the truth. Still, it is *gratifying* to see the more extreme pro-density views on these forums supported by only a small vocal *minority*... sometimes it seems like the same person using multiple *aliases*.
Everyone is entitled to have their personal axe to grind whether its the belief we can extrapolate previous population growth indefinitely without consequences by just packing people more densely or that everything will be solved by nuclear power, public mass transit, cutting down all the trees, not cutting down any trees, a new political leader, etc.


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Posted by Mike
a resident of College Terrace
on Nov 30, 2007 at 6:02 pm

Henry, Toddlers say "no" all the time. Do you listen to them? Point made.

We need maturity in measured decision making, which means not listening to citizens who have been spoiled as a vocal minority over these past years.

It's stunning to see all those who wave the "green" flag cop out on the reducing the largest component of carbon emissions - i.e. emissions from commuting.

This will be an interesting debate to follow, and participate in. Certainly, we're going to get a very good look at what those who have been hollering "I support green initiatives" are made of, when it comes to "walking the talk".



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Posted by Sashok
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 1, 2007 at 7:29 am

Hard to believe "progressive" Palo Alto is just a community of conservative myopics who want to preserve their way of life at the expense of pollution, urban sprawl and pain and suffering to everybody in the future who has was not lucky or born earlier to buy into their way of life. Why were 10-story apartment buildings possible in downtown decades ago and aren't now? Why are lots along El Camino being filled in with brand new 3-story buildings instead of pretty 10-story towers with condos and apartments? Why are artificial height limits artificially limiting construction and Palo Alto is seeking ways to wiggle out and fight what's INEVITABLE? That's pathetic.


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Posted by Higher and Higher
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Dec 2, 2007 at 7:31 am

Sashok and Mike are right. San Francisco is building 30 and 40 story residential structures south of Market as fast as developers can write permit applications. There's no reason Palo Alto, with its copious open space and low rise corridors can't outdo San Francisco, take our share of the growing Bay Area population, and save the environment at the same time. The small minded nostalgic vocal minority of oldtimers in town can't grasp the glorious future to come. When Palo Alto was mostly fields and fruit orchards, few could imagine that we'd have 60,000 residents. Only the visionaries in town can see the future when we have hundreds of thousands or even millions of residents living in harmony with our environment and with one another.

Sashok is right, let's lift our height limits now and get moving toward the future!


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Posted by Mike
a resident of College Terrace
on Dec 2, 2007 at 12:44 pm

" The small minded nostalgic vocal minority of oldtimers in town can't grasp the glorious future to come"

Of course, 'higher and higher's' exaggerated extension of Sashok's reasonable plea if *exactly* the kind of thing we se coming from the no-growthers here. They are experts at making a 10-20' height increase appear to be the beginning of increases into infinity.

The problem with this group is that their "sky-is-falling" scenarios never come to pass - ever.

Look at *any* housing development that has been opposed by this group, that ended up being built. *Every one* of them has added a positive dynamic to our city - new residents, new social capital, new shoppers, new ideas, new possibilities, new taxes, etc. etc.

We'll battle this out over the next decade, and we will have some compromise, but the no-growthers are not going to end up with the prize. Our many new residents will: their respective homes, condos, and apartments, in one of the great little cities on the West Coast.


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Posted by realist
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Dec 2, 2007 at 10:16 pm

Association of Bay Area Governments (ABAG) goal is a to even out the benefits. Palo Alto with its extra resources, due to rich residents, will be burdened with extra number of BMR units, which will fill up first with people wanting cheap good schooling for their kids.

The schools will get worse, the community poorer, (more people less per capita revenue) and Palo Alto will no longer be such a rich ghetto.

If you have paid a fortune for your house here, this is not what you want to happen. However fair it is.

Palo Altos future will be more like everywhere else.


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Posted by Mike
a resident of College Terrace
on Dec 2, 2007 at 11:16 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


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Posted by Karen White
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Dec 3, 2007 at 10:24 am

One factor that bears on this discussion is the means by which affordable housing is typically generated in Palo Alto, i.e., via "inclusionary zoning," whereby developers construct affordable units as part of market-rate developments. On parcels of less than 4 acres, 15% of units must be affordable; on larger parcels, 20% must be affordable. Readers will see that the actual number of units "needed" to generate 1,875 affordable units via inclusionary zoning would be a whopping 9,375, assuming a 20% yield.
Even to generate ABAG's allocation of 641 "moderate" units would mean 3,205 total units -- to satisfy this subset of affordable units alone. If the city subsides the rest -- at $400K-$500K per unit -- we'd be looking at a total of 4,439 new units and a substantial new demand on scarce city funds.
Total population growth? The standard multiplier of residents per household is 2.7. Readers can do the math and envision the monumental impacts that growth of this scale would bring. Car trips alone would mushroom: each housing units brings 6-10 car trips per day, with only 2-4 of these job related (calling into question the assertion that building homes near jobs reduces car trips).
Yes, it's time for Palo Altans to challenge pro-growth state policy, as seen in our outsized ABAG allocation.


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Posted by Mike
a resident of College Terrace
on Dec 3, 2007 at 11:59 am

[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

Palo Alto has been given a housing allocation by ABAG, wherein the BMR allocation *will be* negotiable.

What about the possibility of working with innovative developers who are satisfied with smaller margins - or even help with the BMR subsidies - and thus enable Palo Alto to meet the ABAG requirement in a way that helps Palo Alto fulfill its responsibility to the environment? Have we even *begun* a conversation like this, with any developer? Has any other municipality? I doubt it.

Also, what is the timeline for ABAG construction goals? Can they be negotiated? We are not going to have to build these homes all at once.

Have we spoken to the private equity sector about participation? (the private equity sector is beginning to look at home financing - and home equity leveraging - in new ways).

If Palo Alto can't figure out a way to satisfy its requirement (as well as other cities on the Peninsula), the state should penalize this city, and others - *severely*. Perhaps a strongly worded and nicely timed shot across the bow about our Basic Aid status will do? And why not? Why should Palo Altans get away with polluting to record degrees, all in an effort to protect the status of their schools. "Selfish" is a word that comes to mind.

Yes, we are in constrained times. Constraint should *force* innovation. That's "supposed" to be our tradition -or are we just a bag of wind when it comes to living up to our tradition?

Population growth? Ms. White's numbers are presented in an exaggerated way, to cause concern; they really don't show growth that is far from what our own planners predict for 2030.

Palo Alto planners are projecting 80,000+. Ms. White's numbers show 85,000. Maybe the difference between what ABAG and Palo Alto wants lies between those two data points? Again, this is a time for reasonable negotiation, and not fear.

[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

Ms. White's numbers re: car trips per day represents a passive accepetance of the transportation *status quo*. Why is that? Who is to say that disincentives to driving (or incentives, for not driving) can't be put into place in a way that reduces car trips. Perhaps letting some of our neighborhood commercial centers develop naturally, instead of holding them up forever, would reduce car trips.

[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

What is it about the anti-growth movement in Palo Alto, whose members are on the one hand claiming "environmentalist" status, but on the other raising fear and doubt about our responsibility to reduce commutes that come from our severe jobs/housing imbalance?

I wonder how many of this group will be out front, demanding that Stanford build housing units to serve its increasing employment population.

Yes, it's time for Palo Altans to challenge no-growth policy at the municipal level, as seen in the outsized and out-of-context scenarios that are visited on policy makers every time we see a potential for new development here.

Last, I want to question Ms. White's claim about "scarce resources". How is it that new residents - with all their social and financial - have suddenly become a burden, instead of a welcome addition to community?

There is a phrase that rings true in all of this, what I think is the real subtext to the argument, especially since BMR housing is included in the ABAG projections. That phrase is "not in my back yard".

We're going to see just how "liberal" our city is - a city that has been taking liberal bragging rights for granted, for years.

We have an opportunity to lead this Valley in creating comprehensive solutions that include innovative housing and mass transport, as well as creating an economic development strategy that begins to generate substantial revenues, so that we can *attack* problems, instead of submitting to the passive fate of "scarce resources".

Speaking of "scarce", I can scarcely believe that this city is the same city that holds its head high as the place where the most premier Valley innovations happened. How can we claim to be a "center of innovation", when we can't figure out ways to solve serious problems, other than by saying "no", or avoiding them altogether?

How is it that we cannot find ways to meet our responsibilities by innovating, once again?

That's the challenge. We'll soon find out if Palo Alto has swapped its innovative DNA for the more meek kind.



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Posted by Jack
a resident of Palo Verde
on Dec 3, 2007 at 12:28 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


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Posted by Jack's Ripper
a resident of Crescent Park
on Dec 3, 2007 at 12:36 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


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Posted by Anonymous
a resident of Downtown North
on Dec 3, 2007 at 1:32 pm

You know something is seriously wrong with housing when a $300K cottage in Downtown North sells 5 years later for $1.3M (in 2007). We've become a City of NIMBYs (Not In My Back Yard) and BANANAs (Build Absolutely Nothing Anywhere Near Anything). We need more innovative housing. Housing above retail. Housing near transit. Housing near JOBS. However one looks at it, the status quo can't survive. The loss of $1M for BMR housing is chump change - watching the City get sued by low-income housing advocates for not building enough BMR housing is quite another. Just ask Pleasanton.


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Posted by Karen White
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Dec 3, 2007 at 3:38 pm

Readers who question the factual statistics I offer regarding housing numbers, inclusionary zoning yields, subsidies, population growth that can be anticipated from ABAG allocations, are free to confirm them with City staff (as I have done).


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Posted by Mike
a resident of College Terrace
on Dec 3, 2007 at 6:47 pm

There's more to statistics that the face value they present. In fact, the *context* within statistics are presented, and the *range of options* considered within that context, can make a statistic appear one way in one setting, and altogether another way in another.

More than a few residents are familiar with the numbers you present, but you have presented them in the way that is most liable to raise unreasonable fear about new homes, and therefore, the residents that would occupy them.

Note that the no-growth contingent is talking here about *keeping people out of Palo Alto*. That's the bottom line. What potential resident does any one of the no-growth contingent want to face, and say "you can't live here, because we're full"?

Getting back to the ABAG numbers, there is no doubt that the projections are there, but why aren't those projections countered with innovative alternatives that would accommodate the ABAG request, or some large percentage of that request?

[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

What about the jobs/housing imbalance here, and the commuter trips that that imbalance causes? What about the carbon load from those commuter trips.

This evening's City Council meeting will present a number of purchasing and other tactics that will reduce our intra-municipal carbon load by 5%, almost immediately - and by another 20% by 2012. I expect our green oriented City Council to approve these tactics with glowing praise.

But what about that elephant in the room? What about the 40% of pollution caused by car trips? What about the *extra-municipal* pollution that our high job count brings? What about THAT? Will our "Green" City Council grab that difficult bull by the horns?
I can quote carbon load numbers; and health impacts from pollution; and diseases caused by commuter-induced stress; and raw inefficiencies caused at the organizational level by excess commuting, and so on. Why doesn't Ms. White balance out her position with those numbers?

[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

We just don't see that happening. Where is the leadership on this issue? So far, the only leaders are those saying "no" to growth, and valuable new residents.

We can't have it both ways, and shouldn't. Either we praise ourselves for being "cutting edge" in terms of reducing carbon load (as one Council person has put it), or we're not. We can chip away with the easy wins - like buying recycled paper, leasing lower emission vehicles, requiring LEED standards for buildings, etc. etc. These are easy things to implement, and popular with voters.

That said, our refusal to do *everything* we can (even though it may cause some initial sacrifice and pain) to meet the FAR more dangerous and insidious pollutants generated via our jobs/housing imbalance make everything we do look like so much "greenwashing" (a term that is used to describe the actions of a company, government, or other organization which advertises positive environmental practices while acting in the opposite way).

[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

We are asking Stanford to pony up housing for its job growth, while refusing to meet that same standard for jobs *that are already here*. We are praising ourselves to the high heavens about how liberal, and green, Palo Alto is - while at the same time creating a fear-filled scenario about how much new citizens cost, instead of the benefits that they bring, as we shuck and dive our responsibilities to our neighbors, and our own citizens.




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Posted by Greg
a resident of Southgate
on Dec 3, 2007 at 7:11 pm

"I can quote carbon load numbers; and health impacts from pollution; and diseases caused by commuter-induced stress; and raw inefficiencies caused at the organizational level by excess commuting, and so on. Why doesn't Ms. White balance out her position with those numbers?"

Mike, please give us the numbers. Then comapre and contrast them with low-carbon commute alternatives provided by nuclear power. All of your command designs will pale, compared to switching to nuclear power.


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Posted by Karen White
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Dec 3, 2007 at 9:17 pm

Mike asserts,

"Like I said above, we're going to find out what our city's policy makers and citizen leaders are really made of in the next two years. If our city's leaders don't come through on this, certain powers-that-be are going to right after some mof the "favored city" advantages that we hold, starting with Basic Aid for PAUSD. Do we want that?"

In contrast, my posts rely on facts (not assertions) that can be independently verified. Toomorrow I'll address the incorrect inferences that some, including Mike, make in their assertions regarding carbon loading.



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Posted by manhattan are us
a resident of Downtown North
on Dec 3, 2007 at 9:26 pm

Isn't adding more residents going to increase the amount of pollution? Unless you force those residents to work within walking or biking distance of their homes, to take public transportation (what public transportation?) when they need to go anywhere, and to refrain from having children, seems to me that more people=more carbon loading.


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Posted by Mike
a resident of College Terrace
on Dec 3, 2007 at 10:23 pm

[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]
One could easily take your narrowly-focused, data-point-based analysis, and apply it to a 1950-1960 scenario, when Palo Alto's population expanded at a greater rate than is currently projected (we more than doubled our population in ten years). We adapted quite nicely to that.

By 2030 we're projected to have just over 80,000 people. Starting at 1980, that's only a 45% population increase in **50** years. Why worry?

[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]
Could it be that some Palo Altans want to enjoy the benefits of a high job index, but want others to pay the environmental cost for our "quality of life"? Why isn't there a clarion call innovate new solutions to the coming population juggernaut, instead of a retreat into "protectionism", based on city limits?

[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]
As stated prior, we're going to find out whether Palo Alto is all that it claims to be. Will our legacy be one of a city that got rich by dumb luck, and then turned the other way when the going got rough; or, will our legacy be that we hunkered down and led this Valley to a new resurgence, hand-in-hand, with the private sector?




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Posted by Henry W
a resident of Midtown
on Dec 3, 2007 at 11:15 pm

The city recently appropriated something like 10 million dollars to give property to a BMR developer on Alma Street on the Ole Auto Repair site and the electric substation (which is being relocated at city expense) right next to it. Actually the construction will be a full block long and contain about 100 or more BMR units.
Mike makes it sound as though there has been a moratorium on construction when he prattles on about "no growthers." Actually there is and has been a huge amount of housing going up, just look around and check the statistics.


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Posted by Mike
a resident of College Terrace
on Dec 4, 2007 at 12:02 am

Henry,

We are building in at normal rates. The no-growthers have been complaining about that for years, as they continue to complain about future projected growth.

and

Editor, why did you cut quotes form ABAG reports and citizen commentary that *clearly* show 1) Ms. White's position to run directly against Palo Alto's responsibility to manage the carbon load that emanates from its jobs/housing imbalance, and 2) her refusal to include variables that clearly show how "car trip" numbers are managed by other cities, in terms of carbon load.

Ms. White is touting her use of accurate data; I'm questioning her use of that data to make a point that doesn't hold up under scrutiny in the REAL experience of many other cities.


for instance:
""..development plan of dense transit corridors along with a plan to

phase in Bus Rapid Transit on major corridors that eventually will

convert into a Busway and around existing transit centers plan dense

TODs. **Curitiba redeveloped high density corridors where prior to its

development transit had only a 7% mode share but after the development

of dense corridors with buses operating on Busways the mode share

increased to 70%**"

Why did you edit that out?

There were other points made, as well.


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Posted by Karen White
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Dec 4, 2007 at 11:40 am

The Climate Protection Plan is informative on carbon load numbers. Readers can refer to the Cost-Benefit Analysis and Erratta sheet to the Plan, presented on 12/3/07 and available at Web Link
From a public policy standpoint, given the data presented, one could never justify building new housing units -- at a public capital investment of $400K-$500K per unit -- as a means to reduce carbon loading. Only 11% of our total community emissions come from work-related commute into Palo Alto. Emissions from non-commute travel within the city is twice that, at 22% -- equaling emissions from community natural gas use. Emissions from community electricity use constitutes 19% of total emissions.
It's far, far more effective for residents to turn down thermostats, replace incandescent bulbs with energy-efficient bulbs and take the shuttle, walk or bike to their intra-city errands than to build new housing units subsidized through scarce public funds. As other readers have aptly pointed out, new housing units here means net new car trips (and carbon emissions) here.
Our daunting infrastructure-housing imbalance constitutes yet another set of arguments against the over-building that the state proposes, via ABAG allocations.


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Posted by Carol Mullen
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Dec 4, 2007 at 1:06 pm

The only consequence to ignoring ABAG is the loss of some state funding which would not cover the costs, financial and environmental, of following this out-of-date mandate. (Calculated before the subprime crisis began to spread to prime loans as well.)

The most conscientious step Palo Alto could take with respect to its regional neighbors is to stop adding new condos while they try to stabilize their falling home prices.

Competing with cities facing streets or blocks with multiple foreclosures is arrogant, destructive, and very short-sighted. Overall, the median price of California homes fell 13.4%, as of last month. 94304 is one of the zip codes needing to stabilize home prices because of foreclosures.

Palo Alto shares that zip code with East Palo Alto, which is actually closer to many job centers in this area than, say, Palo Alto Hills, or the furthest reaches of Barron Park.

With the exception of new housing specifically on Stanford land, for Stanford's Medical Center, any new housing we add makes our neighbors' problems more severe. Until we have median prices for sale of condos, we won't even know if Palo Alto's prices are sinking. Comparables are the gold standard for retail prices, and our single family homes tend to be different enough to make comparables dicey.


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Posted by Anna
a resident of Southgate
on Dec 4, 2007 at 1:26 pm

The ABAG "proposals" are out-of-date central planning mannequins dressed up in fancy new clothes. As the data referenced by Karen White show, the "environmental" case for the ABAG mandates is nonsense. Besides the tendentiousness of the ABAG supporters Karen exposes, it is fatuous nonsense to think that the occupants of any new housing will be commuting by public transit to local jobs. In this flexible economy, where almost all workers have multiple jobs and careers, we commute to various locations all over the bay area no matter where we put down residential roots. (In the past 18 years, I've had jobs in San Francisco, San Jose, Fremont and Menlo Park. I'm currently looking at a new position in Hayward. I'm not moving because I like it here. How many people do you know who've had similar careers all while living in Palo Alto == and commuting.)

Build the ABAg housing and they'll be filled with people looking for a bargain way to buy into the Palo Alto School system - and look for the increasing enrollment occasioned thereby to take the luster off our crown jewels as School Board members already are warning. Get ready for more traffic, more noise and more local pollution in the meantime for anyone who think all these newcomers will be taking public transportation is smoking something more potent than the tailpipe emissions of the ABAG residents' cars.


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Posted by Carol Mullen
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Dec 4, 2007 at 1:34 pm

Build it, and they may not buy it. We'll still have costs over contributions by the builders for utilities and storm drains and streets.

Palo Alto has often lost money, pursuing state or federal funding, getting it, then spending far more than anticipated or covered.

Instance: the bike tunnel to Palo Alto Medical Foundation. Wasn't that supposed to be covered by a grant? If I remember, the cost was millions more - at least $3,000,000. It was more than double, it was poorly planned, since it didn't have to go before the voters, and traffic safety corrections aren't included in the cost, but should be.

This is what will happen if Palo Alto goes after ABAG. We'll get a little more state money, and we'll spend much, much more.


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Posted by Mike
a resident of College Terrace
on Dec 4, 2007 at 2:16 pm

"From a public policy standpoint, given the data presented, one could never justify building new housing units -- at a public capital investment of $400K-$500K per unit -- as a means to reduce carbon loading."

That would be correct, if the $400-500K assumption per BMR unit wasn't bogus -which it is. It's a number designed to put the scare into residents, a put the kibosh on any attempt to build BMRs here.

There is *no way* that Palo Alto will have to cough up that kind of capital for BMR units, not if we find innovative ways to work with innovative developers. Also, where is the benefit metrics shown for new residents? It's NOT THERE! Why is this information missing, as if new residents are only a cost burden?

Also, keep in mind that we do NOT have inside staff sufficient to do the kind of development work necessary to *find* innovative developers and financiers that would work to keep Palo Alto's exposure to BMR capitalization FAR below these BOGUS estimates.

With respect to our hard-working city staff, there is a built-in bias at city hall *not* to have to deal with revenue constraints (especially the outlandish, bogus ones) that are projected for BMR units, because our resources are already stretched thin and further *caused* by our inability to go after new revenue - with the latter being a POLICY decision.

[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

Ms. White adds:
"Only 11% of our total community emissions come from work-related commute into Palo Alto. Emissions from non-commute travel within the city is twice that, at 22% -- equaling emissions from community natural gas use. Emissions from community electricity use constitutes 19% of total emissions."

Does the analysis say - or even compute for - "non-commute" trips made *inside* Palo Alto by outside commuters? NO! What % of "non-commute" trips is comprised by commuters coming to Palo Alto. Where's that number?

How many commuters do "in-city" commuting - to the Mall, after-work dinners, picking up kids at schools, grocery shopping, visiting a library, etc. etc.. Why isn't it in there?

Will ABAG buy this? Will the state? Nope.

The Climate Protection Document is a good report, but it will be used to put more pressure on an already constrained City Hall. I'll write about this more, on another thread.
[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


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Posted by Gary
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Dec 4, 2007 at 2:28 pm

"Also, where is the benefit metrics shown for new residents? It's NOT THERE! Why is this information missing, as if new residents are only a cost burden?"

Ok, I'll bite. What are the cost "benefits" of BMR residents - who by definition cannot afford the market rate, including taxes, that others in town pay? They will be driving on local roads, sending kids to local schools, using other local infrastructure, etc. - so I think I understand the "cost burden". Not to sound insensitive, but if they're paying less of the common expenses of their residency in Palo Alto, exactly what is the "benefit metric" of low income people?


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Posted by Mike
a resident of College Terrace
on Dec 4, 2007 at 2:34 pm

"exactly what is the "benefit metric" of low income people"

A family of four, making $126K, qualifies for BMR - not exactly "low income". That's a perfectly reasonable number, and is up over the median income here. It's a salary that two mid-range teachers, with two kids, would qualify for.

What benefits? How about the transferred social benefits of teaching thousands of kids, over a career? How about that? These residents pay taxes, they but products and services, they serve as community volunteers, they invent new companies, and so on - just like everyone else.

It's sad to see those who qualify for BMR housing, in a community where the normal cost of housing is one of the highest in the country, called names, or having to endure aspersions cast on their relative worth.

How about the benefits that the hypothetical two teachers would bring? Or the owner of a small retail shop? Or a social worker and her three kids.



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Posted by Geoff
a resident of Professorville
on Dec 4, 2007 at 2:40 pm

How many of the current Palo Alto BMR units are occupied by Palo Alto teachers?

When asked a year or so ago, the answer of the city's BMR coordinator was "None that I know of".

Anyone have other information to the contrary?


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Posted by Gonzalez
a resident of South of Midtown
on Dec 4, 2007 at 2:47 pm

I believe Gary's point was that taxes on BMR units, because they are assessed at "below market" valuations, also are "below" the taxes paid by market rate units. Thus the rest of residents subsidize BMR housing when it's built, and then in an ongoing manner to make up for the foregone taxes. This seems pretty unremarkable to me.

I don't know if we should build all this BMR housing or not, but it's clearly going to cost the rest of us plenty to do so. We should at least be honest about that.


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Posted by Carol Mullen
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Dec 4, 2007 at 2:48 pm

"BMR" is a misnomer, because the price of the units cannot be determined by the market. These units are allowed to be smaller than other units in the project, and less desirably situated. They are not supposed to be of inferior construction. I believe the interior finish is required to be equal, but I'm not sure.

The formula is determined by federal law, and is based upon the needs of the mortgage industry. Specifically, Fannie Mae's requirements for a qualifying mortgage.

We might provide housing for people who work in the city if Palo Alto itself were to go into the mortgage business.

Some high-priced housing areas, including ours, have earned an upward adjustment in the formula for setting the price. I've no idea what is going to happen in the near term, as major lenders (Wells Fargo Bank) turn out to have had risky standards for their prime loans.

The ill wind of the subprime crisis might possibly blow us some really affordable housing, out of the resale market.


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Posted by Karen White
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Dec 4, 2007 at 2:51 pm

Again, readers are free to confirm independently the statistics I offer. Mike asserts, "That would be correct, if the $400-500K assumption per BMR unit wasn't bogus -which it is. It's a number designed to put the scare into residents, a put the kibosh on any attempt to build BMRs here."
Perhaps Mike will be so kind as to phone our Planning Department if he has questions about the cost assumption I've offered (though he may be disappointed in the answer he receives).
My practice is always to fact-check and re-confirm before posting, and always to post under my real name.


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Posted by Gonzalez
a resident of South of Midtown
on Dec 4, 2007 at 2:51 pm

Not to quibble with Mike, who clearly is the smartest guy here by far, but don't we get the "transferred social benefits" of teachers teaching thousands of kids whether they live in BMR housing or not?

Last time I checked, PAUSD wasn't having difficulty hiring teachers without the ABAG BMR's. So it seems to me that whatever benefits we get from teachers, we don't need to spend more on BMR's to attract them. Maybe we should put the BMR money into improving the schools in some other, more effective, way.


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Posted by Sally L
a resident of Green Acres
on Dec 4, 2007 at 3:02 pm

Gonzales seems right to me. Not only will ABAG do nothing to help our schools (by attracting teachers or otherwise), there is a real risk that the School Board members who say that it will greatly harm PAUSD are right.

We shouldn't take the risk. Let the state fine us - or whatever. Our schools are are paramount.


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Posted by Mike
a resident of College Terrace
on Dec 4, 2007 at 3:53 pm

[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]
DEVELOPERS pay for BMR units, not our city. THAT's a FACT.

For instance, how much did it cost our city for the 34 BMR units put into the old Hyatt-Ricky's location? Answer: NOTHING (except the egregious delay costs brought about by those opposed to more housing, Ms. White among them)

How does that compare with Ms. White's claim of $400-500K per BMR unit?

How about the various funds created by development impact fees. The DEVELOPERS are the ones that pay for these units. [Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

It's true that for very low income (almost all rental) units built by non-profits, the city has a tradition of offering some financial help, along with state, federal and private subsidies - but PA's contributions to those builds are *voluntary*.

So, where is Ms. White getting this number from?

[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

Is the city paying for BMR housing, or isn't it? If the claim is made that it is how is it that we've only paid for a *tiny fraction* (if that) of BMR units which are, in reality, sold to buyers other than the city - even though the city has the right to buy them, and almost never does).


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Posted by Mike
a resident of College Terrace
on Dec 4, 2007 at 3:56 pm

Gonzalez: "Not to quibble with Mike, who clearly is the smartest guy here by far, but don't we get the "transferred social benefits" of teachers teaching thousands of kids whether they live in BMR housing or not?"

Yes, we do. That said, we also get the benefit of less carbon loading into the environment from their otherwise commute from San francisco, or some other far out municipality. The same goes for public safety officers, fire prevention personnel, public institution facilities maintenance cleaning personnel and engineers, retail works, small business owners, and the many thousands of other who this city would profit from, if they were in closer proximity.


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Posted by steve levy
a resident of University South
on Dec 4, 2007 at 4:52 pm

ABAG does not expect cities to pay for BMR units. Mike's posts on this point are correct. ABAG and the state ARE asking cities including Palo Alto to plan sites for BMR units. If we have a good argument for ABAG it will only come after we put a good faith effort into the Housing Element update to see what we can do if we really try.

Karen has a good point about housing and commuting although it leads to the opposite answer from where she ends up. It is absolutely true that the major travel benefits from building more housing in PA will probably come from reducing non-work trips. But this is an argument FOR allowing more housing in areas like downtown where residents can walk instead of drive for many non work trips. And it is also true that buildign more housing in PA is likely to shorten commute trips as well.

All the arguments about schools and money are true for low and moderate income housing but they do not provide a rationale other than NIMBY for pushing low and moderate income housing onto other cities just so we can avoid our share of addressing a serious regional and social challenge.


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Posted by Sharon
a resident of South of Midtown
on Dec 4, 2007 at 5:25 pm

"It (refering to the draft letter from the Planning and Transportation Commission) also states that the city would need to provide a $375 million to $500 million subsidy to pay for the 1,875 affordable units."

Steve Levy, are saying that this statement iw wrong?


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Posted by steve levy
a resident of University South
on Dec 4, 2007 at 5:37 pm

Sharon,

If the city chose to pay for all the BMR units, it could cost that amount. But ABAG does not expect cities to pay for the units and that has not been the practice to date.

ABAG, which is a voluntary association of Bay Area cities, IS concerned about the challenges of providing housing for low and moderate income residents. And it is true that ABAG has a policy of asking cities to plan for and encourage development of this housing.

But any implication that ABAG expects Palo Alto (or any of the other cities all of which have low income housing allocations) to pay for and build all the units is misleading and deserves to be characterized as a scare tactic.


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Posted by Mike
a resident of College Terrace
on Dec 4, 2007 at 6:36 pm

When will the Weekly perform its journalistic responsibility (aside from editing out my hard questions that refer to the fiscal *basis* for Ms. White's "mystery number) and call a spade, a spade?

Why does the Weekly, in its everyday print reporting, let Ms. White and others blithely spew exaggerations about the ABAG issue, including reportage of our Planning Department's BMR cost number as "gospel". Please, dig deeper, just past the surface exaggerations of those who haunt Council chambers with their NIMBYISM.

Does it occur that city management works for the policy makers, and that there might have been requests to staff by *some* policy makers to make BMR housing, or the ABAG requirements, look "ridiculously expensive" - with the current majority of Council holding 180 contradictory positions on the environment.

Here's hoping Palo Alto doesn't turn out to be a greenwashing city.


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Posted by Carol Mullen
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Dec 4, 2007 at 7:08 pm

Sharon, the subsidy is the cost of schools for the children in those units, increase in utility infrastructure, wear and tear on existing roads, libraries, parks, etc. No one could build these units at $200,000 each, which would produce the $300,000 figure. Nor could most Bay Area cities buy the units at the higher figure at present construction and land costs. (But just wait. The real estate recession has just begun.)

For the last fifty years, the argument for economic growth has been for retail growth, which yields a net return in sales tax revenue. In some cities, office development is taxed, so that it at least is economically neutral.

Residential growth, even in single-family houses, is a net economic cost, a tax on existing residents. The arguments that Bern Beecham and Steve Levy have made recently are that Palo Alto has a moral obligation to make the economic and quality of life sacrifice that fruther residential growth will require. Bern Beecham went even further than Steve Levy, maintaining that all of us living here are a net loss to the city because of the services we want, so it's wrong of us to complain about new residences, just because they'll be a greater loss.

Bern forgot to allow for inflation, or for the many years over which we've paid for the structures and parks and schools, but at least he knew, and acknowledged, that advocates of residential growth are asking for a taxpayer subsidy.

I don't see how the subsidy can be accurately calculated. Not that it isn't real, but the further out into the future it's estimated, the fuzzier the figures. Also, infrastructure can't be purchased incrementally. An additional child who can be fitted into an existing school is a net gain in income. When the increase requires the district to add schools, the net gain becomes a very large loss. It's the same with power stations, storm drains, streets.

What is incremental is the increase in City staff. Council could control that, but unfortunately, staff management keeps increasing, while we really need more employees at the working level.


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Posted by Pete Averil
a resident of Midtown
on Dec 4, 2007 at 7:17 pm

Once again, Mr. Levy brings up the "fair share" argument for Palo Alto acceding to the ABAG demands. In fact the paradigm of "sharing" the burden of new housing is only a creation of the ABAG and state bureaucrats who imagine they can plan the future, and not some sort of iron clad economic or moral law.

There is no inevitable "growth" of which Palo Alto is obligated to take a "fair share". In fact, causation runs the opposite direction: if we allow developers to build more housing, we'll grow accordingly. And if we don't allow more housing, we'll not grow as much. It's a choice, not an inevitability.

Nowhere is it written that the Bay Area or Palo Alto can, must or will grow at the rate the ABAG bureaucrats predict and desire. If Palo Alto and other cities reject building the ABAG housing quotas, we won't grow as fast or as much as the bureaucrats and their corporate masters want --- but so what?! If companies can't hire workers locally, they'll expand somewhere else. But so what?! We aren't obligated to change the character of our city to satisfy some central planning bureaucrat's pipe dreamed notion of right-sized growth. Maybe (though not certainly) we'll have a less vibrant economy if we don't litter our town with 21st century tenements. But so what?

Similarly, we're not destined or obligated to have some perfectly designed demographic mix of people in town. Does it not bother Levy and Mike that bureaucrats, by dictating what kind of housing is built, and how much and to whom it can be sold are engaging in social planning that would make any soviet era apparachik proud? What makes them think that ABAG knows the "correct" number of "moderate" income people who should be living in Palo Alto or Atherton or anywhere else? Isn't this what political economists call a fatal conceit?

Mr Levy accuses Karen White of scare tactics when she quotes public estimates of BMR housing costs, and yet offers no numbers that would refute her or any mechanism by which housing can be sold at below its market rate and pay taxes forever at lower than market rate and not be subsidized by somebody else. Mike makes the similarly fatuous argument that "developers" will pay for the BMR housing as they allegedly did at Ricky's. Kind of like corporations, not people, pay taxes.

Don't fall for the ABAG supporters smokescreen. Obeying the ABAG mandates will cost us plenty in financial terms. It will crowd and change the character of our city and our schools. It's not something we have to do: it's choice to which we can say no.



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Posted by Karen White
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Dec 4, 2007 at 7:25 pm

One point that should be highlighted is that to the extent we do not subsidize the construction of affordable units, the way they are generated is through inclusionary zoning - using the formula that four market-rate units are built to yield one affordable one (with the market-rate units essentially subsidizing the affordable). It is under this scenario that developers "pay for" affordable units -- but it is by building five times the the number of affordable units in toto (4 x market rate units + 1 x affordable units).
Thus to yield 1,875 affordable units via inclusionary zoning (without City subsidy) would be a whopping 9,375 new units total, assuming a 20% yield. And yes, this number would mean monumental growth that could not be supported by either our services or infrastructure. It's easy to see why some who post are uncomfortable with these growth calculations, but the numbers are valid.
To generate ABAG's allocation of 641 "moderate" units through inclusionary zoning, as has been the practice here, would mean 3,205 total units merely to generate this subset of affordable units. If the city subsides the balance -- at $400K-$500K per unit net capital cost -- we'd be looking at a total of 4,439 new units and a substantial new demand on scarce city funds, not to mention unsupportable new strain on our obsolete infrastructure.
I'm not saying there are easy answers, but we should recognize what the facts are.



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Posted by Carol Mullen
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Dec 4, 2007 at 7:34 pm

Pete Averil is correct. The figures don't exist. They're not hidden; they're impossible to estimate in any reasonable way.

If city amenities could be purchased incrementally, simple calculus would do it.

Somehow, the growth we already have will have to be paid for. Palo Alto does not offer the freeway access or large open parcels that would make it attractive to big box stores, even if these were welcome. Stanford Shopping Center is all there is going to be, and its growth will come, to some extent, at the expense of retail elsewhere in Palo Alto and Menlo Park. (So Palo Alto gets an unfair advantage there, since we get all of the shopping center sales tax.)

Serrano v. Serrano ruled that cities could not keep their property tax revenue for their own schools.

So I think the question isn't, how are we going to pay for growth beyond what we've already allowed. We have to decide how we're going to pay for the housing binge we've been on, ever since the dot.com flop made housing more profitable to build than offices.


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Posted by steve levy
a resident of University South
on Dec 4, 2007 at 7:41 pm

Pete, So you don't pay have to pay taxes if you choose because they cause "financial harn" and it is ok to ignore laws becasue they are passed by so-called "bureaucrats". Or you run red lights when you choose because traffic laws are imposed by so-called "bureaucrats".

Are we free to choose to break any laws we wish because laws are passed by bureaucrats?

If you think BMR requirements are bad law, try to get the law changed. Otherwise how about trying to obey the rules even when you don't like them.

Is that what you want Palo Alto to become--the city that ignores any policy or law that it doesn't like? Why does being able to afford a house in Palo Alto give us any special rights when it comes to obeying the law, which in this case is to make a good faith effort to find sites for 2,800+ new housing units in our Housing Element update?


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Posted by Donnie
a resident of Professorville
on Dec 4, 2007 at 7:51 pm

Levy's latest screed is exactly the kind of smokescreen that Pete Averil complained about.

ABAG is a loose association of Bay Area local governments. It has NO legal authority to impose housing quotas on any of its members. It only can cajole and try to get the state to withhold funds from recalcitrant cities.

Moreover bureaucrats, of whatever stripe, cannot "pass laws". Again the bureaucrats employed by ABAG, by Palo Alto, or by the state can only study and recommend. They have no legal authority over Palo Alto or any other city.

Palo Alto would not be violating any law by failing to accede to ABAG. Palo ALto can withdraw from ABAG completely if it wishes.

Only the city council has the power to pass a law mandating we obey ABAG. And they have the power, and legal right, NOT to pass such a law as well.

Levy should know this, and yet he obfuscates about "obeying the law". Shame on him.


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Posted by Mike
a resident of College Terrace
on Dec 4, 2007 at 8:02 pm

C Mullen: "The real estate recession has just begun"

Another scare tactic. Please, speak with any real estate analyst worth her salt, and you'll find that Palo Alto real estate is "golden". It's not going down, recession or no recession. the only thing that will happen here is that the rate of increase in value may slow down.


Pete Averil: "If companies can't hire workers locally, they'll expand somewhere else. But so what?! "

So what? Go ask regional significant corporate leaders that same question; they're scared to death about the rise in housing costs here, and what that means to their businesses, and their ability to attract employees (and other new businesses).

Put Silicon Valley on your trajectory of rejecting a significant increase in residents here, and Carol Mullen's scare tactic about housing values falling just might come true. Are you even remotely aware of the competition juggernaut that the region will face in the next 5-20 years, and how the lack of affordable housing will create massive opportunity cost losses? The ignorance, and narrow thinking on this issue is just plain stunning.

I don't even want to think about the consequences to our city's schools )and our pocketbooks) is we don't put forth the good faith effort to meet ABAG requirements that Steve Levy is calling for. How much will it cost us if we lose Basic Aid? That's another cost that those who are thumbing their noses at ABAG haven't even begun to consider.

As usual, the anti-growth contingent is suggesting strategies that will COST Palo Alto FAR more than taking on new residents in numbers that meets our responsibility to the rest of the Valley, and the environment.





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Posted by Mike
a resident of College Terrace
on Dec 4, 2007 at 8:10 pm

Donnie: "Palo Alto would not be violating any law by failing to accede to ABAG. Palo Alto can withdraw from ABAG completely if it wishes."

See my comments about Basic Aid. Bureaucrats talk to each other.


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Posted by Carol Mullen
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Dec 4, 2007 at 8:18 pm

Donnie's suggestion that Palo Alto withdraw from ABAG really appeals to me as a good first step in getting our fiscal house in order. This is a layer of government that's lost all direction. There are many higher priorities than giving their employees a job. Six months' notice?

I wonder if the people working for ABAG live near their place of work?


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Posted by steve levy
a resident of University South
on Dec 4, 2007 at 8:38 pm

Donnie and others,

Try actually reading what I wrote. Palo Alto is required by state law to have a Housing Element that is in compliance with state and regional housing goals and policies. That means as I have been writing that PA is required to plan for (but not pay for or build) the housing allocation from ABAG. That's why the upcoming Housing Element update is where all of this will play out.

The regional housing allocation is determined by the state in collaboration with regional planning agencies, which have the responsiblity for allocating the regional total among local jurisdictions within the region.

Similarly the arguments abotu schools and money as reasons to ignore housing have been tested in court and are not legal reasons to avoid planning for housing.

So it still comes down to arguing that it is ok to break the law when you don't like the consequences. I don't know for sure whether 2800 is the "right" number just as I don't know whether 65 miles an hour is the "right" speed limit or whether 45% or 35% is the "right" top income tax bracket. If I think policies are wrong, I have to try and convince other people to agree and change the rules. I don't get to impose my judgment and just ignore the rules or laws.


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Posted by Karen White
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Dec 4, 2007 at 8:46 pm

Please note the internet links included in my Guest Opinion on this topic (Web Link. An excerpt follows (and apologies for the repeat):

"Let's look at some of the influences on policy in Sacramento. The California Building Industry Association (CBIA) -- the "official voice" of 6,500 member companies -- outlines its mission on its Web site: www.cbia.org/index.cfm?pageid=425.

It lists a "top ten" set of reasons to join, one of which is to improve a firm's bottom line. But the number-one reason to join is: "Advocacy. Our lobbyists work year-round in Washington, D.C., Sacramento, and your community to promote the homebuilding industry and protect your livelihood."
Another influential organization, Home Builders of America, Northern California (HBANC) has a political action committee. The committee's purposes, according to HBANC's Web site (www.hbanc.org are to "identify local and state elected officials and candidates for office of the State of California who have supported the political and economic interests of the California building industry, or who are or may be in a position to support those interests, and to make financial contributions to their campaign funds, and to participate, where consistent, with the objectives of HBANC, in local, regional, or statewide ballot measures and issues campaigns."
State policies appear to reflect building-industry objectives while ignoring costly infrastructure backlogs that exist right now.
The Division of Housing Policy Development, part of the State Department of Housing and Community Development (www.hcd.ca.gov describes its own work as follows:
"HPD also administers state housing element law, including the review of local general plan housing elements; prepares numerous state plans and reports and conducts research to facilitate housing development and improvement, including an annual report on redevelopment agencies housing activities; and provides a wide range of technical assistance to local governments, public and private housing providers, business and industry groups, housing advocates and interested citizens." .)
The top "Strategic Objective" of the state Department of Housing and Community Development is to "Increase housing supply by strengthening the effectiveness of housing law as a tool to reduce local regulatory barriers." Performance measures include introduction, approval and passage of legislation; the number of stakeholder groups who support the legislation; and higher issuance of building permits in compliance with housing element law." (www.hcd.ca.gov
So the state DHCD intends to 1) increase housing supply and 2)reduce our authority to control our own destiny, imposing top-down unfunded mandates that seem to closely reflect the wishes of the building industry.
The crux of my concern on this issue: we lack the fiscal and facility resources to keep up with the population we have now, much less accommodate the pace of growth being pushed at the state level. Mike, Steve and others can talk all they want -- but no one with regulatory authority is talking about a "good faith effort."


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Posted by Carol Mullen
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Dec 4, 2007 at 9:37 pm

Adopting these quotas does amount to the abolition of local government. Few residents would have reason to be interested in the future of Palo Alto.

If our local zoning is overturned by the State of California, then there is little purpose to maintaining such a large City Council, except to choose which departments to eliminate first, which employees to let go. We need a fire department, but perhaps we can strike a deal with Stanford. As Palo Alto fades, they will have to arrange for services they used to buy here.
Perhaps we should abandon the Charter, and become part of the County?

There is also no source of funding to help the local School Districts which are unprepared for the growth already approved.

In any case, ABAG has shown itself to be both blind and deaf, and it should be abolished. Perhaps that idea would appeal to a Republican governor. Real Estate interests generally fund Democrats.



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Posted by Mike
a resident of College Terrace
on Dec 4, 2007 at 9:47 pm

"we lack the fiscal and facility resources to keep up with the population we have now, much less accommodate the pace of growth being pushed at the state level"

We do *not* lack the fiscal and facility resources to serve our present and future populations. The only thing we're lacking in Palo Alto is political will, held back by those whose desire it is to freeze Palo Alto in time.

Regulatory authorities mandating population growth? Laughably absurd. They are attempting to manage growth that - like it or not - our region is going to experience over the next few decades. (a 20-25% growth in population)

Ms. White, Carol Mullen, Donnie are now putting forward outsized conspiracy theories about "authorities", to keep Palo Alto from fulfilling its obligations to its own citizens, neighboring communities, and the environment. Any serious look at the no-growth arguments reveals a tendency toward an unwillingness to share the consequences of growth that Palo Alto has been fortunate enough to enjoy. That's unfortunate, and shrinks from the possibilities that remain dormant in this potentially great city.













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Posted by Carol Mullen
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Dec 4, 2007 at 10:09 pm

These quotas deserve a slap.
Recall is the sinplest.

How many are ready to recall Council members who think the City Council is a minor branch of the State?


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Posted by Jeremy Loski
a resident of Ventura
on Dec 4, 2007 at 10:27 pm

Here are some good and bad examples of development
Web Link

Here's an article showing how it's necessary to bring housing in closer to - and into - town.
We have to build new housing, period. There is no other way out.
Web Link


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Posted by Chris
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Dec 4, 2007 at 10:47 pm

Here's the money quote from the article cited by Loski:

"There's still time. We can still choose how development should look."


That's exactly right. We - not ABAG - can choose how development should look in our town. We do not have to alter the fundamental character of Palo Alto to fit in with the social utopianism of the ABAG bureaucrats. Carol is right that we should pressure our councilmembers - through recall if necessary - to reject this nonsense. That's democracy.

If you get the petitions, Carol, I'll sign.


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Posted by Dan W
a resident of Midtown
on Dec 5, 2007 at 9:29 am

The poster above who referenced bureaucratic "fatal conceit" is really on to something. I just spent a half hour perusing the ABAG website. Web Link

I was both appalled and alarmed at the level of control the ABAG people think they can and should assert over our cities and our lives. I was equally shocked at the hubris displayed in the various "predictions" about the future in the several reports referenced on the site.

Carol Mullen's paean about the end of local government is not an exaggeration if one reads the AGAG site critically and literally. The only reason there isn't more outcry about this gross usurpation of local control and governance has to be that most people aren't paying attention to this shadowy bureaucratic creation, and the designs it has on our futures.

We have great reason to suspect the ability of planners at any level of government to accurately accommodate the future. But at least when planning is done at the local level, residents who know most about local conditions and have reason to care most about their communities, have direct input into the process. When detailed "planning" about population growth, income distributions of new residents and types of housing allowed are done by a remote body like ABAG, we're smart to be wary of what we might get.

When residents of Bay Area communities become aware of what ABAG is up to, they apparently are as upset as I have become reading the ABAG plans. Web Link, Web Link, Web Link, Web Link,

Don't take my word for it. Go to the ABAG website and see for yourself what these hubristic planners have in store for us. We need to thank Karen White and Carol Mullen for spreading the alarm on this.

We need to impress on our council the need to fight this. And any councilmembers who want to give in to the blandishments of real estate developers, corporate shills (like some on this thread), and social Utopians need to be reminded that recall remains an option.

I don't think Palo Altans will stand for this.


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Posted by Bob Davis
a resident of Midtown
on Dec 5, 2007 at 9:42 am

Steve Levy says about housing development in Palo Alto, "I don't know for sure whether 2800 is the "right" number [of units]".

What Levy seems (intentionally or not) to miss is that the prime issue is not what the right answer to how much development we want in Palo Alto. It's "who decides".

Nobody in Palo Alto elected anyone at ABAG to do anything - let alone tell us what the character of our city should be, what our obligation to the poor is, and what our schools should look like.

If our city council does something on these issues we don't like, we can complain to them and vote them out. Who elects the ABAG bureaucrats?

I don't know what the right number of housing units for Palo Alto is either, Mr. Levy. But I know exactly the amount if influence the ABAG bureaucrats should have on our decisions on that issue: ZERO.


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Posted by Karen White
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Dec 5, 2007 at 9:56 am

The City Council will discuss its response to ABAG at its meeting Monday, 12/10. If you'd like to share your views directly with our elected officials before then, so they will have time to consider your thoughts before the meeting, please email city.council@cityofpaloalto.org.
Readers can also email a Letter to the Editor of the Weekly, editor@paweekly.com and Daily, letters@dailynewsgroup.com.


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Posted by steve levy
a resident of University South
on Dec 5, 2007 at 10:27 am

The following quotes taken from A Place to Call Home published by ABAG in June 2007 should serve to clarify what is the role of laws in the regional housing allocations and whether ABAG is requiring cities to build or plan for the housing. They also shed light on whethr ABAG is some clueless bureaucratic monster seeking to ruin our cities at the behest of developers.

"In the RHNA process the California Department of Housing and Community Development gives each region a number representing the amount of housing needed, for all income groups, based on existing need and expected population growth. As the Bay Area's designated Council of Governments, ABAG is requires by the State to create an allocation methodology that allocates a portion of the region's housing need to each local jurisdiction and sets targets for developing homes that are affordable to people of all income levels.

Several laws were passed in 2004 to clarify the policy objectives of RHNA, to give local governments more input, and to make the planning process more transparent. By law, the methodology that ABAG adopts must satisfy the objectives and rules spelled out in the statutes, and must be adopted using a fair and open public process.

Once it receives its allocation, each jurisdiction must demonstrate how it will accomodate these units in the Housing Element of its General Plan."

The ABAG docuemnt acknowledges that cities have concerns about the RHNA process and about what is actually required.

"Many juridictions resent the goals set by the State because they believe that the estimates do not adequately consider local issues and growth constraints. Many communities in the Bay Area consider themselves to be "built out" with no room for growth.

Another concern about the RHNa process is that it focuses on planning for housing rather than producing housing. Even though most jurisdictions are able to identify sufficient development potential to satisfy the RHNA targets, the housing oals set by the State are generally not met. The plans local governments create influence how and where growth occurs but they cannot control the market forces and decisisons that determine if the housing actually gets built.

Although local planning alone cannot solve the problem, ensuring that development can occur is a key first step in meeting housing needs. Thus, despite the limitations of the RHNA process, many cities acknowledge that Housing Element updates spur them to fucus attention on the housing needs in their communities and to develop creative solutions for addressing them"

So let's get moving on PA's Housing Element update and find out whether PA can develop these "creative solutions" when we really try to honor the law and the ABAG and state goals.

Having PA drop out of ABAG does not relieve PA of its obligations any more than saying you don't support the war in Iraq relieves you of the obligation to pay taxes.

If people want to try to change the law about planning for BMR housing, that is their right. If all that is going on is that some PA residents would rather have BMR housing built elsewhere, find a local NIMBY group and we will fight it out in the Housing Element update.

As far as these CBIA conspiracy theories, if anyone has a logical reason why the CBIA would lobby to force cities in the Bay Area to plan for BMR units, put it out there so we can understand why they would engage in such a conspiracy.


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Posted by Carol Mullen
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Dec 5, 2007 at 10:39 am

There's information to use in the letters to City Council Karen White requests, compiled by someone who hasn't yet posted in this thread.

Here is the link to Elaine Meyer's list of projects already built or approved in Palo Alto. She has put it up with the review comments of Palo Alto's Planning Department.

Web Link

Those whose primary concern is the school district really need to review what Elaine Meyer has organized and map it onto current elementary school boundaries. What's built or approved is going to have a brutal impact on the schools; one that money can't fix.


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Posted by Karen White
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Dec 5, 2007 at 10:43 am

I wouldn't suggest a "conspiracy," but Steve should bear in mind that under inclusionary zoning, a developer here can build 4 market-rate units for each affordable unit. Thus an exaggerated pace of market-rate development is practically guaranteed under inclusionary zoning.


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Posted by Jeremy Loski
a resident of Ventura
on Dec 5, 2007 at 11:01 am

"Having PA drop out of ABAG does not relieve PA of its obligations any more than saying you don't support the war in Iraq relieves you of the obligation to pay taxes."

Very true, but you won't find a resonance with that reality, here. The NIMBYs have no idea how hot it's going to get. There are chips on the table, and one of those chips is labeled "Basic Aid".

If those who are so inclined toward 'exclusionary' zoning win the NIMBY wars, our Basic Aid status *will* be threatened, and most likely, lost.

City policy and PAUSD policy makers had better put their heads together and think *really* hard about this one, because given the forward pressures re: population/housing that this state is going to experience, those municipalities who don't pony up for their share of the impact on growth will be offered various - shall we say - disincentives to their propensity to selfishness. Just desserts.

Either we find a way to put forth the *best* effort we can to accommodate *our share* of the consequences of growth, or there will be lobbied efforts to bring on consequences.



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Posted by Carol Mullen
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Dec 5, 2007 at 11:22 am

Intent doesn't matter; except in criminal law. Let's assume that ABAG was just unable to generate useful solutions to traffic.

These ABAG proposals are incompetently done. They didn't collect the information they needed to make better projections. They were married to a concept which is a demonstrated failure.

If Palo Alto doesn't like this quota, just wait for the next one.

If Bay Area's cities, most of them in no better shape than we are, don't stop now, at least every city willing to let ABAG do its zoning should dump its Planning Department. No sense pretending to have power you've surrendered to ABAG.

Use the money you'd have spent on pipe dreams to fix the storm drains and beef up the fire protection.


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Posted by Dan
a resident of Midtown
on Dec 5, 2007 at 11:57 am

The tone of much of the support for ABAG on these forums is personally troubling. I've seen it argued over-and-over (albeit probably by a single poster)

#1. The rich and powerful are going to bring "magnum force" against any residents who dare to stand in the way of this i.e. expensive lawsuits targeting private citizens, state-level punitive actions, trying to damage PAUSD by removing Basic Aid (The only sensible school funding component of prop 13)

#2. Its our "responsibility" to the region and the environment. Right now seems the environment card is being played as the strong card ... but the growth-centric emphasis here is about economic growth, not about saving the environment. Build more housing and they will come, cheaper labor and credit-card happy consumers ...but its not going to cause people to abandon settlements in Gilroy, Fremont, Tracy. Houses there are still going to be bigger and much cheaper ... so we will definitely have more commuter traffic from outlying areas, AND much more local pollution. What is going to lead us the way of the dinosaurs is the unquestioned assumption that economic stability can only come from steadily increasing population rather than innovation and improved efficiency.

#3. Name-calling anyone who doesn't agree that more denser housing is a positive for everyone (NIMBY, parochial, no-growther, selfish, etc)

#4. everyone is missing the point ... mass transit can solve the problems with central planning and the new residents will cover all the school/infrastructure costs. We're all going to love living in tigher quarters with all our friends.

Mass transit can help ... but ABAG is pushing to build housing and bring in more people way before any of these to be discovered transit solutions could be implemented. Anyone think we'll be able to really use public transit on a daily basis within 7 years, 10 years, ... ? So you're talking about perhaps decades of much local environmental degradation until real transit solutions can come to pass. i.e. densify first, then figure out how to deal with the problems later (maybe). I do agree it might work (in a particularly unpleasant way) ...make the traffic /pollution problem so bad, it will drive people to look for alternative transit solutions. Having lived in Manhatten, I can vouch for the fact that there are conditions where anything is better than driving a personal car.

If new residents in high-density housing are just a boon to the municipal coffers, how come Bay Area governments aren't out protesting that they've been given too small a share of the housing assignments?

#5. Fairness ... Sorry Steve Levy, I respect you for keeping your posts more level-headed, but this is a hard argument to make seriously since anyone can justifiably ask, fair to whom?

From the perspective of a resident it is nearly inconceivable that some un-elected bureacracy at state level should have a legal right to dictate how municipalities manage development within their boundaries. Personally I don't see ABAG having any moral authority to dictate BMR housing as long as its development is left up to the profit-maximizing private sector. This is essentially forcing municipal governments to finance BMR on the backs of their residents since developers have no reason to not seek maximum profit. Convert BMR development to a not-for-profit model and you'd probably see more success and less resistance. Take the many, many thousands of dollas in profit the developer makes for each BMR unit and turn it over to the local municipality to pay for school / infrastructure impacts and that would be more "fair".
Only way I can see to do this would be to have a governmental-style development agency manage the development ... but we've seen examples in the past of how well that works.

Generally I don't think its worth effort trying to convinvce people on these forums ... since no policy decisions are made here. Better to concentrate on City Council and other elected representatives who do have some influence. One thing is true ... those most in line to benefit from high-density development have a lot of money at stake and a lot more political clout than the average resident.


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Posted by Dan W
a resident of Midtown
on Dec 5, 2007 at 12:12 pm

Carol Mullen is right. Every city in the Bay Area needs to think carefully about the creeping loss of control over our destiny represented by ABAG and its planners. This will only get worse over time unless it is confronted forcefully.

The palaver quoted from the ABAG website by Steve Levy only reinforces the overweening control freakism that is a part of the faceless ABAG process.

Anyone not bothered by this quote really isn't paying attention to the danger that is posed by giving control over something as basic as local development to distant bureaucrats:

"In the RHNA process the California Department of Housing and Community Development gives each region a number representing the amount of housing needed, for all income groups, based on existing need and expected population growth. As the Bay Area's designated Council of Governments, ABAG is requires by the State to create an allocation methodology that allocates a portion of the region's housing need to each local jurisdiction and sets targets for developing homes that are affordable to people of all income levels."

As Carol points out, what makes anyone think that state and regional planners have any capacity to determine "a number representing the amount of housing needed for all income groups..."? What makes anyone think that an "allocation methodology" dreamed up by functionaries with planning degrees will have any relevance to the needs and desires of the wide variety of cities and neighborhoods in the Bay Area? Why don't we just farm out our planning to some Grad Student seminar at Sacramento State University?

Levy and Mike/Jeremy spent all day yesterday accusing Karen White and Carol Mullen of using scare tactics about ABAG and its cost. Today, they're telling us that we're going to lose Basic Aid our schools if we don't comply with our "obligations". This is not only alarmist. It's false. Neither ABAG nor CDHDC has the legal authority to withold Basic Aid for failing to comply with ABAG mandates. Basic Aid is dispersed by the California Department of Education under provisions of the California Constitution. That can't be changed without a statewide vote. Neither ABAG nor CDHDC have anything to do with it -- and cannot by law affect Basic Aid. .... Scare Tactic indeed.

Typically the bureaucrats have attempted to withold development funds for BMR housing from jurisdictions that fail to comply with ABAG mandates. Doing more would create political problems for ABAG even if they had the authority to do so.

That means if we don't allow enough housing to suit the bureaucrats, they won't give us money to build the housing we don't allow. Please throw us into that briar patch!

But whatever penalties the ABAG and their online thugs threaten us with, Carol Mullen is right that they won't go away if we ignore them. This will only get worse with time. Now is the time to fight ABAG before we lose control of our own destiny.


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Posted by Mike
a resident of College Terrace
on Dec 5, 2007 at 1:37 pm

"Neither ABAG nor CDHDC has the legal authority to withold Basic Aid for failing to comply with ABAG mandates. Basic Aid is dispersed by the California Department of Education under provisions of the California Constitution. That can't be changed without a statewide vote. Neither ABAG nor CDHDC have anything to do with it -- and cannot by law affect Basic Aid."

You're partially correct,in that "Neither ABAG nor CDHDC has the legal authority to withold Basic Aid for failing to comply with ABAG mandates."

However, it wouldn't take a statewide vote to repeal Basic Aid - entirely, or selectively.
Think about how the wheels turn in Sacramento, especially when honest attempts to ask local governments for help in managing growth are resisted by those communities that have been the most favored recipients of that growth.

There is a storm brewing in Sacramento right now, because Arnie is determined to see environmental standards accomplished in this state - on way or another. There are the beginning footsteps of a concerted effort to begin to link various programs together, as incentives, to encourage compliance around a host of initiatives.

Housing and education are inextricably linked in many Basic Aid districts. That is not lost on bureaucrats in Sacramento. Be aware that this is no scare tactic.

It's ironic that you speak about the "danger that is posed by giving control over something as basic as local development to distant bureaucrats", because the greater danger for this region, and the state, going forward, is how to plan foro the adequate housing necessary to fuel continued growth, reinforced by the *real* fear that companies are beginning to look elsewhere to start up enterprise (in addition to other problems).

What continues to surprise is all fevered resistance to ABAG, when in the end an accomplishment of the ABAG goals, or something close to that, would profit our region - making it more desirable to do business in, make it more sustainable, and largely contribute to our California Governor's *determined* commitment to keeping our environment intact.

To all who think that Palo Alto can continue to put its hand in the cookie jar, while depriving neighbors of their due, the advice is "proceed to aggressively deny ABAG at your own risk". The wheels have begin to turn


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Posted by Lois Warton
a resident of Esther Clark Park
on Dec 5, 2007 at 1:43 pm

"So you're talking about perhaps decades of much local environmental degradation until real transit solutions can come to pass. i.e. densify first, then figure out how to deal with the problems later (maybe)." - - Dan W.

888888888888888888888

Why are those who oppose ABAG taking such a passive approach to coordinated mass transit? Where are the lobbying efforts to make these things scale in a coordinated way.

This is what makes many suspicious of the strong subtext of NIMBYISM, in the anti-ABAG argument; really, it appears nothing more than an extension of the determined efforts of certain elements who have railed against developing our city for years. I was kept from building a granny unit on my property by this element. What was the sense in that?


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Posted by Anna
a resident of Southgate
on Dec 5, 2007 at 2:13 pm

I don't know whether Mike of College Terrace knows what he's talking about in general, but it is clear he has no idea of the legal basis for Basic Aid.

Basic Aid for schools is guaranteed by the California Constitution; it's not legislative. It would take a constitutional amendment to eliminate Basic Aid. This can only be done by a statewide vote (or by a Constitutional Convention - something that has no prospect of happening.)

In any event, Basic Aid accounts for only $120 per student. This is only a little over 1% of the Palo Alto school budget. We need all the school funding we can get, but if the comments of various school board members are correct, the damage to the school district from complying with the ABAG mandates would considerably exceed the Basic Aid amount. If so, the trade-off of losing basic aid for maintaining the overall integrity of our school system budget might be worth making.

It's a trade-off we don't have to worry about however since there is no authority in Sacramento to "turn wheels" that would cut basic aid, and a vote to rescind basic aid would have little chance of passing.

In fact, I would think a vote to rescind the authority of ABAG and the DHCD to regulate development in local cities would have a much better prospect of passing. As the links in Dan W's post show, people all over California don't much like bureaucratic meddling in local development decisions.


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Posted by Stewart
a resident of Barron Park
on Dec 5, 2007 at 2:25 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


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Posted by Threads
a resident of Meadow Park
on Dec 5, 2007 at 3:29 pm

Perhaps there is some confusion about the term "basic aid"?

It almost sounds like certain posters think the state would act in a punitive manner to force PAUSD to lose their Basic Aid status and become a Revenue Limit district. Or are they suggesting that the increased population density would bring PAUSD back to Revenue Limit status because the number of students in the district would be increased by so much?

In any event, I don't see why the California would actively seek to force a district to lose their Basic Acid status, because as was pointed out above, the state only spends a very small amount of money on PAUSD students.

According to Edsource:
The California Legislature set revenue limits for each district in 1972, roughly according to the district's expenditures on general education programs. The variation among revenue limits was great, and the Serrano v Priest court case eventually required the state to make districts' general purpose money more nearly equal per pupil. By 2000, 97% of the state's students were within a band (known as the "Serrano Band") of about $350.

The Legislature and governor almost always provide inflation (cost-of-living) adjustments to revenue limits. However, neither the school board nor local voters can increase the revenue limit. If local property tax revenues rise within a district, the increase goes toward the district's revenue limit. The state's share is then reduced by the same amount.

In 60 to 80 of the districts, property taxes exceed the revenue limit. In the past, these districts were allowed to keep the money and also get the constitutionally guaranteed state "basic aid" of $120 per pupil. Beginning in 2003-04 the state meets the requirement through categorical funding, and these "basic aid" districts are now called "excess revenue."


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Posted by Dan
a resident of Midtown
on Dec 5, 2007 at 3:53 pm

>Why are those who oppose ABAG taking such a passive approach to >coordinated mass transit? Where are the lobbying efforts to make these things scale in a coordinated way.

interesting question. I attended one of the original route 88 VTA bus meetings a while ago ... but it didn't make much difference, the service is still being pruned (and I don't blame VTA, from a resource allocation viewpoint this move makes sense currently). I can't speak for others, but public mass transit is a less and less attractive option the closer you live to your destination (unless you can actually walk/bike most days, which is generally unlikely given that most people change jobs frequently and we have a paucity of viable grocery/retail in Palo Alto). If I live far from my destination it makes sense to take Caltrain, Bart, etc for the log-haul commute (if I have some way to connect at both ends without excessive delays). I know quite a few people who commute this way Silicon Valley <=> San Francisco, South Bay <=> Silicon Valley or East Bay <=> San Francisco. I don't know anyone who commutes by local mass transit, such as buses, to a workplace near where they live... its just too slow and inconvenient relative to a car. If I live < 10 miles from my destination, the amount of dead-time I suffer waiting to make the various transit-connections to get from point A to point B swamps my total normal point-to-point commute time via personal car. So under local travel conditions I'd need to have extra time to burn for it to make sense for me to leave my car at home.
I've never seen a viable proposal to overcome the deadtime problem of local mass transit ... so what would we lobby for that would support a proposition of ABAG housing leading to more effective mass transit? I could equally ask why isn't ABAG involved in first finding, and more importantly funding, transit and infrastructure solutions to the problems their housing assignments will cause if implemented?


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Posted by Mike
a resident of College Terrace
on Dec 5, 2007 at 5:04 pm

fyi,

Basic Aid *is* constitutionally mandated. That's not in dispute; however, Basic Aid is satisfied (funded) through categorical grants. Categorical grants can be reduced (or increased) by the Governor and/or the Legislature, in the budget. It's helpful to be aware of this fact.

It's a given that $120 per student isn't much, but think what that immediate loss would mean to PAUSD. Doesn't anyone remember the near-panic a few years ago, when Basic Aid was threatened by the Governor? Why was that?

Another way to leverage compliance (among many) would be a lawsuit pointed at communities that create policies that constraints for "fair housing". Given the absolutely crazed valuations of residential property here in California, the term "fair housing" will take on a whole new meaning.

One way, or another, Palo Alto will build a good deal of what ABAG is asking for. Many carrots and sticks can - and will - be devised to make sure that California's future is not compromised by a small number of cities who don't want to pull their weight.

I'm looking forward to watching the state monitor Palo Alto's (and some few other cities) "good faith" efforts toward providing the housing supply to meet Palo Alto's expanding future.



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Posted by not buying it
a resident of Downtown North
on Dec 5, 2007 at 5:20 pm

I sure hope that the state hasn't truly sold out to the housing developers, because those are the only people whose interests seem to be promoted by ABAG. If ABAG even tried to disguise its true intentions, maybe by talking about schools or public transit or sewage systems or traffic or anything that accompanies growth in housing, it wouldn't seem quite so single-mindedly rapacious.

Threats about Basic Aid are groundless, and one reason is that many Basic Aid districts do not have boundaries almost identical to city boundaries, unlike Palo Alto. Just across the creek, Menlo Park and Atherton share three Basic Aid districts (Las Lomitas, Menlo Park, and Sequoia). Given that Atherton has essentially no housing requirements (because ABAG decided to exclude Atherton, Hillborough, and other upscale communities from its formula) it's unlikely that the town will offend ABAG. So if the state decided to punish a non-compliant Menlo Park by taking money away from the schools, it would be penalizing children from Atherton. Not going to happen. And if it isn't going to happen in Menlo Park/Atherton, it's not going to happen in Palo Alto.

You need to come up with something more frightening. How about...letting the market decide how much housing we need. Seems to have worked so far, and if anything, this area seems to have a housing glut rather than a housing deficit.


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Posted by common sense
a resident of Midtown
on Dec 5, 2007 at 6:26 pm

Palo Alto Unified services Palo Alto, Los Altos Hills & kids who on the Tinsley program from East Palo Alto.


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Posted by Alyssa
a resident of Midtown
on Dec 5, 2007 at 6:56 pm

Categorical grants cannot be reduced below the Basic Aid minimum by the governor, by the legislature, or by any other arm of California government without a constitutional amendment requiring a statewide vote. Moreover, no one at the California Department of Education, which administers Basic Aid has anything to do with ABAG. This loss of basic aid isn't going to happen for these reasons and for the reason that it's politically (as well as legally) impossible.

Thus we don't have to "think about what the immediate loss [of Basic Aid] would mean to PAUSD". The only reason this seems to be brought into the conversation concerning the ABAG mandates is to divert attention for the paucity of reasons to adhere to ABAG's mandates.

Maybe our council will buy the specious arguments in favor of ABAG, though more likely they'll be overwhelmed by residential sentiment against ABAG as is obvious from the commentary on this thread and in the responses to Karen White's article in the Weekly. But whatever they do, they won't be cowering in fear of the laughable scaremonger talk about loss of basic aid. Even our clueless council isn't gullible enough to fall for that nonsense.


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Posted by Mike
a resident of College Terrace
on Dec 5, 2007 at 7:09 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


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Posted by Carol Mullen
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Dec 5, 2007 at 7:09 pm

We have a lame duck City Manager. It might be the last chance anyone will have to get an accounting from the City Council on how Council and school district are planning to get us to pay for the growth they've already approved, let alone the urban future they've been planning for us.

They could see the Utilities Department.

The school district could run double sessions.

They could abandon the new police station.

Do they have any of these in mind?

Because if they don't care for any of these possibilities, they're going to need the good will of the residents who've been living with construction for the last ten years.


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Posted by Carol Mullen
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Dec 5, 2007 at 7:22 pm

I meant sell, not see, the Utilities Department.

Judging from past performance, if we'll pay for it, the Council will sell us any rubbish that appeals to the City Manager.


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Posted by Too-Many-Is-Too-Many
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 5, 2007 at 9:53 pm

> Palo Alto Unified services Palo Alto,
> Los Altos Hills & kids who on the Tinsley
> program from East Palo Alto.

AND also kids whose parents are graduate students on the Stanford Campus, or whose parents live in the Staff housing on the Stanford Campus, and the children of PAUSD Staff who don't live in the PAUSD jurisdiction who elect to go to school here, and kids who transfer here under the Allen Act because their parents work in the PAUSD jurisdcation and kids who are at the Packard Children's Hospital for extended treatments.


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Posted by Basic-Aid-Is-Confusing
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 5, 2007 at 10:01 pm

> Basic Aid *is* constitutionally mandated.

There seems to be some confusion about the term "Basic Aid". In one case the term means funding of the school district from local property taxes, and the other use is the Constitutional guarantee that the state would provide some money to any district that was a Basic Aid District (about $120 per student). The Governor and the Legislature found a way around this a few years ago, so Basic Aid Districts are not getting this additional money at the current time.

School Districts can shift from Basic Aid status to Revenue Limit status, based on the amount of property tax generated by the property within the district's boundaries.


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Posted by Karen White
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Dec 5, 2007 at 10:01 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


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Posted by Tom
a resident of Professorville
on Dec 5, 2007 at 10:01 pm

It is a cherished canon of our faith-based suburban planning that adding housing in Palo Alto will reduce commuting. If hard data to support this notion exist, I have not seen it. But I have seen contrary data.

In 2004 Joe Kott, Palo Alto's then transportation chief, conducted a survey of commute patterns in this town. He found that only 46% of working Palo Altans worked at jobs within 10 miles of their homes. To drive (no pun) the point home: ten miles from anywhere in Palo Alto is out of town, therefore more than half our working population was employed outside Palo Alto. Will that pattern change if we add more residents? Why will they find the local jobs more alluring than the current population does?

Kott also found that 88% drove to work in private vehicles (57% of these single occupancy), 10% biked or walked, and only 2% used public transit. Only 2% used public transit. Not surprising in an affluent town, perhaps. So why would we expect our new neighbors to be more inclined, or more able, to use public transit than we the existing residents?



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Posted by Live-Here-Work-There
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 5, 2007 at 10:57 pm

> It is a cherished canon of our faith-based suburban
> planning that adding housing in Palo Alto will reduce
> commuting. If hard data to support this notion exist,
> I have not seen it. But I have seen contrary data.

In order to impose Impact Fees, cities have to perform a review of the jobs and residences of workers. This study is called a "Nexis" Study, and must be done by a "qualified" consulting house, not a city's planning department.

One of the most important data points revealed by this review of work/residence patterns is the number of workers who actually live in the same town/city where they work. From reviewing a few of these around the Bay Area, it would seem that this work-in-town/live-in-town ratio is between 14% and 20%. Given the number of hi-tech industries around the Bay Area, it's inconceivable that people would be able to find work in their specialty and live in any number of the smaller towns that surround the Bay. This is particularly true with start-ups that move three to five times before they get big enough to stay in one place for a while, or go out-of-business.


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Posted by a solution
a resident of Barron Park
on Dec 6, 2007 at 9:24 am

The answer to all this is that the state needs to assign everyone to jobs and housing. That is the only way to ensure that we all live within walking or biking distance of our jobs. The state, in its infinite wisdom, will also need to assign families to residences close to schools.

Also, once assigned, people will not be permitted to change jobs, nor will companies be allowed to move.


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Posted by Tom
a resident of Professorville
on Dec 6, 2007 at 9:45 am

I think "Live-Here-Work-There" has nailed the issue. People change jobs, or jobs change location, much more frequently than people change where they live. Commuting makes up the difference.

"a solution" describes the solution. Some may take it seriously (don't even think it, ABAG). I prefer to live in a free country and put up with the chaos.


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Posted by Karen White
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Dec 6, 2007 at 9:57 am

"Solution" and Tom are onto something. The argument that building housing here because jobs are here fails completely on the merits. The Jones family moves from Sunnyvale to Palo Alto to be closer to a Palo Alto workplace. But what about the family that moves into the now-vacant Sunnyvale home, in what's called "backfill"? There's absolutely no guarantee that these new Sunnyvale residents will not also work in Palo Alto!


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Posted by Born-A-Baker's-Son
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 6, 2007 at 10:25 am

> Also, once assigned, people will not be permitted
> to change jobs, nor will companies be allowed to move

During the reign of Roman Emperor Constantine I, due to chronic labor shortages, sons were required by law to succeed their fathers in whatever trade the father was engaged (at least butchers and bakers).

After a bit, the Roman Empire was no more.


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Posted by Anna
a resident of Southgate
on Dec 6, 2007 at 10:49 am

The "environmentalist", "commute reducing" justification for the ABAG housing is only the most recent of a series of tendentious claims put forward to support the ABAG mandates. It, like the claims preceding it are only red herrings, and fail miserably when analyzed rationally.

The real reasons underlying the fervent push for housing mandates, as Karen White has detailed, have more to do with the alliance of convenience among interests who support this kind of regional planning: the building industry, activist do-gooder groups, Utopian dreamers bent on remaking society, and rent seeking corporate interests who want cheap worker housing.

Previously, we've seen ABAG supporters tell us we need to build the housing because growth is "inevitable" and so we have no choice but to accommodate our share. Left uncommented upon is the obvious fact that if the housing we're told is needed to accommodate "inevitable" growth isn't built, the growth that would fill that housing can't occur.

Then we're told (mostly by the corporate shills who inhabit this site) that the economy will fail if we don't grow. This ignores the plain fact that the local economy has done just fine for 40 or so years without heavy-handed regional planning. Local business leaders have been able to accommodate to rising housing costs by moving jobs to where the lower cost worker housing is, like Texas and Idaho. The higher priced labor remains here. No reason that can't, or won't, continue without the ABAG mandates.

In other threads, Steve Levy, has tried the "moral obligation" argument for the ABAG housing since so much of it will be BMR subsidized housing. This too has failed to gain much traction among residents who sacrificed to be able to afford Palo Alto, and who wonder why we need to accommodate lower income people here in town who would do just fine in neighboring cities with lower housing costs. Even in liberal guilt centers like Palo Alto, the argument that anything that putatively helps the poor should be done by the government is wearing thin. The increasingly obvious failure of the Opportunity Center - which not totally coincidentally qualifies as ABAG BMR housing - has awakened more than a few residents to the real harm that can be caused by social activism run amok.

The "environmental" case for the ABAG housing is only the flavor of the week in this litany. As Tom, solution and others point out, it is laughably at odds with the reality of life in the Bay Area. Build more housing, and the workers won't be riding bikes to local jobs. They'll be getting in their cars and driving like the rest of us. More housing here, will only make the local roads more crowded and cause more local pollution - while doing NOTHING to solve the climate crisis - which seems to be the popular corollary to the current justifications for ABAG.

The closer people look at the ABAG mandates, at the real harm they would do to our schools and to the character of our city, and at the specious justifications for them, the more alarmed they will become. The only way the ABAG housing will come to pass is if it is sneaked stealthily past an uniformed citizenry. Thanks to Karen White and other concerned citizens, that's less likely every day.




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Posted by steve levy
a resident of University South
on Dec 6, 2007 at 11:13 am

How about obeying the law as a good reason? The law requires a Housing Element update that plans so that the development goals of ABAG and the state "can occur" if market forces concur and, in the case of BMR housing, if subsidy money can be found.

What's the big deal with following the law and doing this in the 2008 Housing Element update?

Do you tell your children to break laws when they don't like the consequences?

Most of the "reasons" put forth here against the ABAG allocations have been tried and found to be not legal reasons for avoiding the good faith effort in doing local Housing Elements.


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Posted by Tom
a resident of Professorville
on Dec 6, 2007 at 11:26 am

Steve Levy totally misses the point, which is this is a bad unworkable law, and our system of government allows us to protest and change bad unworkable laws. Government OF the people, yes, but most importantly BY the people and FOR the people.


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Posted by Karen White
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Dec 6, 2007 at 11:37 am

In my previous posts, I have illuminated the efforts of state-level industry lobbying groups to influence "the law." Among their previous successes have been elimination of school and water impacts from environmental review of development projects. So, borrowing Steve's phraseology, school impacts are now "not a legal reason" to challenge new housing development projects.


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Posted by Pete
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Dec 6, 2007 at 11:43 am

Tom is correct. It's also instructive to understand that the Housing Element update requirements are not the same as civil or criminal laws that apply to individuals as Levy implies with his comment about children and law breaking.

Rather the requirements for Housing Element Updates are in statutes passed by the legislature. The only penalties for not producing an acceptable updates are possible loss of state funds - which so far have never really been applied. While there has been discussion of "fines" for cities that don't follow the statues, this has been roundly rejected by the legislature time after time.

As Tom suggests, it would be in the spirit of honorable protest for if California cities objected to unworkable and/or unjust statues by failing to comply. This kind of pressure and the publicity it would engender could be enough to get the law changed.

Residents in many other cities are already discussing just this kind of action, as the links in Dan W's post above show. This kind of concerted protest is just what we need I think.


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Posted by Janet
a resident of South of Midtown
on Dec 6, 2007 at 11:47 am

"Do you tell your children to break laws when they don't like the consequences?"

Steve,

Do you tell your children to ignore the law and give sanctuary to illegal aliens (thus breaking the law)? I seem to remeber that you support such law breaking.

The penalty for refusing to comply with state BMR housing mandates is simply that we will forego future subsidies to build BMR hosuing. Great!


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Posted by Davey
a resident of Palo Verde
on Dec 6, 2007 at 12:00 pm

Of interest to the ABAG supporters might be these studies indicating that non-compliance with ABAG style Housing Element Updates does not reduce the amount of affordable housing that actually gets built:

Web Link

Web Link

To quote from the summary of the latter:

"the report finds no strong connection between noncompliance [with Housing Element Update requirements] and the underproduction of new housing-even of multifamily housing, which tends to be more affordable than single-family homes"

Thus, the only evidence available indicates that the ABAG requirements - complicated, expensive and contentious - don't produce any meaningful results.


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Posted by Anna
a resident of Southgate
on Dec 6, 2007 at 12:06 pm

I think Janet is right. It's pretty cheeky high-hatted moralizing to peg protests against ABAG as "lawbreaking". Many people protest laws they regard as unjust - and civil disobedience in the form of failing to comply with unjust laws openly and take the consequences has a high pedigree - especially here in the Bay Area.

By telling the state to keep their BMR funds, and their overbearing regulation of local development to themselves, we'd be sending a strong message about what we think is fair - and about the value of local control of local issues.


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Posted by Anonymous
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 6, 2007 at 1:36 pm

We can accomodate ABAG including BMR components with zero effect on PA schools.


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Posted by Irrepressible
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 6, 2007 at 2:42 pm

No kidding, eh


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Posted by The-Law: Just-Words-On-A-Piece-Of-Paper
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 6, 2007 at 3:53 pm

> How about obeying the law as a good reason?

Hmmm .. wonder what Steve Levy would say about the Dred Scott decision, and whether one should obey the law of the land where slavery was concerned--as sanctioned by the US Supreme Court?


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Posted by Emoney
a resident of Crescent Park
on Dec 6, 2007 at 4:05 pm

Comparison this to law-sanctioned slavery? Wow. You're something. Palo Alto should accomodate the growth. It's much better prepared to deal with it than placing these housing units on undeveloped land without infrastructure.

People are going to be moving to the Bay regardless. Let's put them somewhere logical. If it means a new elementary school or two, go for it. The increased tax revenues should be able to pay for it.


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Posted by Parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 6, 2007 at 4:12 pm

Emoney, where would you build two more elementary schools in Palo Alto. And where would you put the middle and high schools that would also be necessary.


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Posted by The-Law: Just-Words-On-A-Piece-Of-Paper
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 6, 2007 at 4:14 pm

> Comparison this to law-sanctioned slavery?

Absolutely not!

Levy's ill-considered logic was being called into question. (Never hurts to read the posts with comprehension!)


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Posted by Carol Mullen
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Dec 6, 2007 at 5:20 pm

Perhaps our City Council should ask for a meeting with neighboring City Councils on this matter.

Control of zoning drives most local governments, most local economies. I think ABAG threatens everyone whose income doesn't depend upon speculative development. If they are smart, even speculative developers will see problems ahead, if they're committed to this region for the long haul.

For all sorts of reasons, including overlapping school districts, wanting the economy and the real estate market to stabilize, it may be that speculative housing development isn't welcome in any of ABAG's constituent cities at this time.


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Posted by Mike
a resident of College Terrace
on Dec 7, 2007 at 9:53 am

"Solution" and Tom are onto something. The argument that building housing here because jobs are here fails completely on the merits. The Jones family moves from Sunnyvale to Palo Alto to be closer to a Palo Alto workplace. But what about the family that moves into the now-vacant Sunnyvale home, in what's called "backfill"? There's absolutely no guarantee that these new Sunnyvale residents will not also work in Palo Alto!"

What's inherent in literally *every* post that criticizes ABAG (and increased growth) is an assumption that housing and mass transit cannot both be increased and scaled *together*, to vastly improive our carbon loading, strees from commute, and economic position.

Not ONE of the persons who are slamming growth (and ABAG) on this thread are talking about that.

Instead, we have the SAME group of people - AND the same sentiments - who argued against 800 High, Hyatt-Rickey's, Alma Plaza Edgewood Plaza, big box retail, etc. etc.

I wish I had a reach into every living room in Palo Alto, so that anti-housing and growth proponents could defend what has amounted to a pretty miserable record, in terms ofo the impact of their past efforts on economic sustainability here.

What's truly ironic is that we HAVE the revenue constraints we're dealing with BECAUSE anti-growth and housing residents opposed the very things that have caused our revenue constraints.

Now, the attempt is to force their philosophy on the rest of Silicon Valley, by leading an effort (through Palo Alto policy makers) to ignore the fact that we ARE going to grow, and that that growth HAS to be better planned to accommodate the environment.

The latter is a variable that wasn't considered in the past. Now, because of our success, and the environmental problems that that success has caused, we HAVE to consider this variable. There will be some discomfort as we change gears toward more rational housing and transportation options, but we MUST do these things if our Valley is to maintain hegemony with the rest of the world's rising economic regions.

Palo Alto has a chance to LEAD in the right direction, for its own, and the rest of our region's future. Do we want our legacy to be that we lead our region in an effort to encourage sprawl? That's *exactly* what proponents of the anti-ABAG group are implyinh in their efforts; there si just no other way around this argument.

If we don't build housing in Silicon Valley, we are sending the problems that accrue from success of our own development, elsewhere.




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Posted by Walter Pastor
a resident of Midtown
on Dec 7, 2007 at 10:21 am

What's this guy Mike talking about? I've lived in Palo Alto for 33 years. Since 800 High, Ricky's and the many other development projects that anti-growthers protested were built, the traffic, conjestion and noise - all impacts the anti-growthers warned about - have come true in spades. Contrary to what Mike says, I think the anti-growthers have a stellar track record. What is he talking about when he says "miserable"?!

I also dont understand what he is thinking when he says that "mass transit and housing can be scaled together" in the context of the ABAG mess. As I understand it, the ABAG housing is for the immediate 5-7 years. There is NO plan on the table for mass transit that could possibly come to fruition in that time frame. Anyone watching the so called BART extension, the SJ Light Rail or any of the other local mass transit projects knows it takes decades to get them up.

If we build the ABAG housing, the people living there will be clogging our roads, our schools and over-burdening our infrastructure. As one guy above said, they won't be riding their bikes to local jobs. The no-growthers are exactly right about that.

If the supporters of ABAG were at least honest about the effects of their proposals, we could have an actual discussion about the real problems we have respecting jobs and housing.

But as long as they're spouting all this Utopian social scheming that no rational person can take seriously, there will never be honest policy making that includes most residents as participants.

Arguments like Mike's only discredit ABAG because they reveal both a lack of seriousness, and the paucity of thought that has gone into the ABAG mandates. Perhaps that's a good thing.


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Posted by Carol Mullen
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Dec 7, 2007 at 11:09 am

Karen White emphasized the "unfunded mandate" aspect of the current ABAG push to preempt local zoning.

Who can pick up that idea, and flesh it out with the history of the transit that never arrived for the housing built since this idea of Regional Planning was first launched by ABAG?

Someone must have already marshalled the data on housing increase=car increase=garage increase=transit decrease.


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Posted by What Happened To Common Sense?
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 7, 2007 at 12:37 pm

> What's inherent in literally *every* post that criticizes
> ABAG (and increased growth) is an assumption that
> housing and mass transit cannot both be increased and
> scaled *together*, to vastly improive our carbon loading,
> strees from commute, and economic position.

We are a tiny little town of 60,000 souls, of which about 12,000 are children. The idea that Palo Alto knows more than all of the other people in the world (enough, anyway, that "we can lead" is preposterous on face value. Palo Alto can't even pick a decent City Manager, as the last two have been right regular disasters!

> I wish I had a reach into every living room in Palo Alto, so
> that anti-housing and growth proponents could defend what
> has amounted to a pretty miserable record, in terms ofo
> the impact of their past efforts on economic sustainability here.

Sounds a lot like the sentiments of the "Brown Shirts" and the "Black Shirts" of the 1930s, who bullied their way into power and then unsuccessfully tried to dominate the world.


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Posted by Mike
a resident of College Terrace
on Dec 7, 2007 at 12:40 pm

Carol, The rub to your argument is the fact that there has NEVER been a mass transport element to development here, or in many other places -

Here's the problem: Palo Alto has grown; it's a successful, desirable place that has no trouble attracting business, or residents. It's one of the most desirable places to live in California, if not the world. Much the same can be said for the rest of Silicon Valley, with many of our neighboring municipalities having enjoyed radically stellar growth in the last 50 years.

Prior to the last decade, very little thought was given to suburban sprawl as the PRIME generator of most of the municipal problems that we have today - e.g. traffic and its concomitant pollution, the high cost of housing, massive corporate inefficiencies.

An additional problem that I've alluded to is the rising hegemony of other regions, worldwide, that are already becoming a threat to this and other regions who were there when the current technology booms (bio, and tech) began.

Looking forward, our challenge is to make this region be able to *maintain* its hegemony, *and* its quality of life. These two goals are not incompatible.

When it comes to unfunded mandates, the unfunded mandate that most have continued to overlook is the mandate that we're currently living with - one we have virtually excepted by default, without argument. That mandate is the one that has had taxpayers (you and me) paying for the pollution, high (and much higher to come) water costs, health costs, corporate inefficiency cost, and future loss of business costs (relative to other coming regions, worldwide). All theses have come as a result of the unfunded mandate that says "commuting, and suburban sprawl, and oil is where it's at".

The amazingly ironic thing about all this is that most people arguing against the correction of this latter unfunded mandate (those who, locally, call themselves environmentalists) are fighting against the REAL unfunded mandate - the one that is REALLY costing all of us a LOT of money.

I find that rather strange, especially in light of the one-dimensional aspect of the argument against housing, and ABAG, in general. It's not easy to look in a mirror, and be honest. That said, we must start doing that if this city and our Valley are to do their part in creating a sustainable future.


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Posted by Tom
a resident of Professorville
on Dec 7, 2007 at 4:20 pm

Here's a fact-based challenge to my forum mates. Let's presume for the sake of discussion that we absolutely must build 2860 more dwellings in Palo Alto. We can hardly contain our breathless anticipation at the prospect.

OK, where do we put them? Someone mentioned 800 High Street on this thread, so let's use it as our paradigm of contemporary massed-residential construction in Palo Alto. It has 60 dwelling units. I recall that someone did this calculation before, but here it is again for reference: 2860 divided by 60 equals 47 2/3 800 High Street buildings. Now, will somebody (else) please go have a fresh look at this exemplary structure -- it's downtown on High St. between the 700 and 900 blocks, then study a map of Palo Alto, and tell this forum where we will put 47 2/3 more 800 High Streets in Palo Alto. No credit for partial answers; it's 47 2/3 800 High Streets or nothing.


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Posted by Jeremy Loski
a resident of Ventura
on Dec 7, 2007 at 4:41 pm

Tom, why are you presenting such an inflexible example?

Here are some other suggestions:

Ground floor retail/office, upper story residential. We could do that - if we chose - in every new retail development in town, including many that are scheduled for retrofitting or renewal.

Increase our height limits by 2 stories.

Permit the building of granny units, and other residential home additions, of varying sizes.

Appropriate one or two zones in PA to high rises. Three or four of these would really make a dent in our ABAG requirement.

Permit some developers to do apartment and dwelling re-conversions with smaller units, so that a building with 60 units could be reconverted to a building with 80 units.

There are many other viable solutions, most are far from the fixed and rather outsized solution that you suggest.


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Posted by steve levy
a resident of University South
on Dec 7, 2007 at 5:00 pm

Tom,

The point of the Housing Element update is to be creative and diligent in searching for ways to meet the housing goals.

So if you are so sure you know the answer, why not just say "Go ABAG supporters, boy will you be surprised when you can't find room for the allocated units".

All the anti-ABAG folks are trying really hard to short-circuit a process that the City should do (ABAG or not) of regularly updating PA's Housing Element. It feels to me like you think we might be able to find space for the housing and you don't want that result.

Challenge away if you wish, but there will be a Housing Element update and we will find out what is possible soon enough.


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Posted by Good Lawdy Miss Clawdy
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 7, 2007 at 5:05 pm

> An additional problem that I've alluded to is the rising hegemony
> of other regions, worldwide, that are already becoming a threat
> to this and other regions who were there when the current
> technology booms (bio, and tech) began.

Cost-of-labor is the underlying issue here. With 3rd-world countries offering (more-or-less) skilled labor at 1/10th the cost of American labor, there can be little doubt about a shift from the US to foreign labor sources. But we went through all of this in the 50s/60s/70s/80s with the de-industrialization of the US Manufacturing Sector. Housing costs/availability are an issue, but base labor costs, labor availability and local/state/federal taxes are the more important variables in this equation.

> Prior to the last decade, very little thought was given to suburban
> sprawl as the PRIME generator of most of the municipal problems
> that we have today - e.g. traffic and its concomitant pollution, the
> high cost of housing, massive corporate inefficiencies.

Sprawl contributes to crime in the city? Sprawl contributes to corruption of municipal employees, or low productivity of labor unions? Or low educational performance of the nation's public schools?
Sprawl is synonymous with "not urban". Infrastructure in most cities is poorly maintained, and in dire need of repair. Sprawl contributes to the city management decisions to not repair their bridges, roads and underground piping? It's common knowledge that "baby boomers" are soon to retire with inadequate finances for their futures, which will cause various pressures on city governments. Sprawl is responsible for the irresponsible personal financial management of millions born right after WWII? Illegal aliens by the millions have targeted cities to live and work--creating immense problems. How does Sprawl cause illegal immigration?

The idea that people not living in urban spaces are the "prime generator" of problems in urban spaces is ridiculous.

> massive corporate inefficiencies

And then there is this little jewel--but anyone can string words together.

Sorry .. such claims do not hold water.


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Posted by Mike
a resident of College Terrace
on Dec 7, 2007 at 5:33 pm

Good Lawdy,

On further analysis, you will find that many of the problems you mentioned have their roots in suburban sprawl.

Some of those are:
-Crime in the city
-Low educational performance of our nation's urban schools
-Lack of funding priorities for road and bridge infrastructure

Other problems that you didn't allude to:
-Massive environmental pollution and degradation
-Health problems like asthma, lung cancer, allergies, etc. etc.
-Massive corporate inefficiencies related to lost job time, problems recruiting employees, on-the-job-inefficiencies

Incidentally, the low wages scenario is not the only thing driving the challenge to Silicon Valley's hegemony. I suggest a talk with someone at the Silicon Valley Manufacturing Assn, or a local CEO, on what real problems our local housing shortages are causing - or, you might have a chat with a company CEO who decided to locate elsewhere, where housing was affordable, or another CEO who moved her company because housing here had become too expensive.




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Posted by Good Lawdy Miss Clawdy
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 7, 2007 at 6:03 pm

> the low wages scenario is not the only thing driving
> the challenge to Silicon Valley's hegemony

Here is a typical article about "outsourcing" to China:
----
Web Link

As competition heats up, jobs fly into China

By Kristi Heim

Seattle Times business reporter
----

If you read through this story, you won't find any talk about "housing shortages" as a reason why both Airbus and Boeing are moving jobs to China. However, you will find that the salary of one of the Chinese workers identified in the story:

** She earns about $3 a day. **

As is so typical of the lame-stream press, the salaries and benefits packages of Airbus and Boeing workers is not specified. However, it's unlikely that either of the two highly "unionized" firms pay their workers only $3 a day!

Business magazines and trade journals are full of stories like this one. It's virtually impossible to find a story about housing shortages being the reason that a company has opens a Billion dollar Fab in a country like Vietnam (as Intel recently committed to do).


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Posted by Good Lawdy Miss Clawdy
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 7, 2007 at 6:09 pm

> Crime in the city

Yeah! The papers are full of stories of middle-class suburban house wives, driven to near-madness by the sameness of their homes and the utter sterility of their existences--driving into urban areas to rob, mutilate and pillage in order to regain a sense of individuality and purpose.

And all this crime --- because of Sprawl!


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Posted by Dan
a resident of Midtown
on Dec 7, 2007 at 6:50 pm

My garage has hot and cold water, a gas line and a separate entrance. If we change residential zoning laws, a lot of us could cheaply convert our garages into 1 bedroom studios. I could make another $1000 per month and it would satisfy the ABAG low income housing requirements. Everyone is happy...
Maybe I could even scratch together enough money this way to buy a house somewhere not subject to forced densification. But I guess property values in those areas would rise so much more rapidly as to be completely out of reach except for VCs, CEOs.

A look at the ABAG housing document shows housing allocation according to a nice closed-form formula:

(Housing Growth x .45) + (Employment Growth x .225) + (Existing Employment x .225) + (Houshold Growth near Transit x .05) + (Employment Growth near Transit x .05)

When I first saw these discussion threads I was primarily concerned about the very large size of the ABAG allocation for Palo Alto and its negative impacts on the city if implemented. As I read more , I become more and more concerned at the potential for local municipal planning, zoning and development control being usurped by a group like ABAG which isn't answerable to any local considerations. Fortunately, ABAG's own literature says "As an advisory organization, ABAG has limited statutory authority."
Whatever the outcome of the current round of housing allocations, I hope ABAG can be contained to remain only an advisory organizaton with no statutory authority.


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Posted by Tom
a resident of Professorville
on Dec 7, 2007 at 7:39 pm

Steve Levy has missed the point again, and so has Jeremy. I don't know the answer. I don't know where to put the 2860 more dwelling units in Palo Alto. That's why I asked the proponents of this notion. Surely they would know.

I assumed they had thought this proposition through and come up with at least a draft plan. I would just like to see it. Perhaps others would, too. Draw a definite map, with counts, and post it on the web.

Or maybe I'm wrong: nobody has really thought this thing through.

Somebody has to do some reality-based thinking if this notion is supposed to become reality. So, for starters, I tried to make my challenge as easy as possible by basing it on the superdense condo complex at 800 High Street. That approach would require the least real estate. Take it and run with it, if you can. But vague references to unspecific "granny" units (BTW, I hate that term), mixed use office-residence developments, and other buzzwords don't begin to answer the question: Where in Palo Alto are we going to put 2860 more dwelling units?


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Posted by Good Lawdy Miss Clawdy
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 7, 2007 at 7:51 pm

> Where in Palo Alto are we going to put 2860 more dwelling units?

Not one of these pro-growth advocates has been willing to answer the following question:

What will Palo Alto look like in 2015, 2025, 2035, 2045, 2055?

(Please answer this question with following metrics for each year cited above.)

Population
Number of Dwelling Units
Number of Children in School
Budget for the School District
Budget for the City
Number of employees of City Government
Number of employees for School District
Price of Median Home
Property Taxes for Median Home


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Posted by steve levy
a resident of University South
on Dec 7, 2007 at 8:39 pm

The Housing Element update will answer the questions about where the housing can go as required by law and common sense.

There are really two camps going on here in oppostion. One says it can't be done but these posts are nearly always by people who think the housing is a bad idea--two separate questions.

The other camp is arguing straight out that it is a bad idea by citing traffic, schools and fiscal impacts. They would prefer that the traffic, children and costs go eksewhere but have no coherent theory of where this should happen or why it is fair.

Then there is a third camp that argues that freedom to control the City is involved. They argue in the name of freeedom for restricting opportunties for people who want to live here to have housing built for them--a truly one-sided definition of freedom.

Cities ultimately control their land use so why don't we do the Housing Element update, see what creative people can find for housing opportunities, and have the Council vote after hearing input from residents (which I am sure will be forthcoming).

The burden of proof is on the opponents of making a good faith effort to provide the housing and as the original part of this post indicated, PA's legal appeals will almost surely lose.

I agree that protesting against "bad" laws is a basic right but hardly think junking the Housing Element update process is in the same league as opposing slavery or going to jail to avoid fighting in a war or marching in civil rights protests in the South in the 60s'--all instances where the protestors were risking injury or prison.

And my guess is that religous leaders would be talking in support of the social goal of low-income housing unlike in the real kinds of protests that call forth our support where religous leaders stand for freedom and peace.


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Posted by Good Lawdy Miss Clawdy
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 7, 2007 at 9:03 pm

> The Housing Element update will answer the questions
> about where the housing can go as required by law
> and common sense.

The State's Housing Element law saws nothing about where housing must go--it simply allows the State to mandate that cities absorb some arbitrary number of housing units as it commands.

It's very unlikely that the questions previously posed will be answered by any future housing element updates.

> but hardly think junking the Housing Element update process is
> in the same league as opposing slavery

No one suggested that it was. What was suggest was that "the law" is not always moral--and if people believe that just because something is the law and must be obeyed then those same people would be required to obey all of the laws that permit slavery (as was the case here in the US prior to the Civil War) no matter what they might think, or believe, about the practice.


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Posted by Jon
a resident of St. Claire Gardens
on Dec 8, 2007 at 12:10 am

"Then there is a third camp that argues that freedom to control the City is involved. They argue in the name of freeedom for restricting opportunties for people who want to live here to have housing built for them--a truly one-sided definition of freedom."

I want to live in Atherton. That freedom-usurping Atherton city government won't rezone their town and "have housing built for me".

I've never seen such ridiculous pap.


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Posted by Jon
a resident of St. Claire Gardens
on Dec 8, 2007 at 12:22 am

"The other camp is arguing straight out that it is a bad idea by citing traffic, schools and fiscal impacts. They would prefer that the traffic, children and costs go eksewhere but have no coherent theory of where this should happen or why it is fair."

Levy apparently wants us to accept that no matter what we and other Bay Area cities do, the Bay Area population is going to grow as much as his corporate masters want, and as much as his bureaucratic buddies at ABAG predict. This is self-evidently false. If Palo Alto and the other many bay area cities who are starting to recoil at ABAG don't build all this new housing, then by definition we won't have all these new people living in them. So they'll go to Idaho or Arizona or Fresno or any of myriad places that have the room and desire for them.

Nothing about this ABAG "growth" is foreordained or inevitable. It's something we and other Bay Area cities can control. And we'll do just fine without it.


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Posted by Dan
a resident of Midtown
on Dec 8, 2007 at 12:47 am

"Cities ultimately control their land use so why don't we do the Housing Element update, see what creative people can find for housing opportunities, and have the Council vote after hearing input from residents (which I am sure will be forthcoming)."

I have no problem with this ... its local control of land use, which has historically been the basis for many municipal incorporations in the first place... in many cases to fight over-development and sprawl.

"The burden of proof is on the opponents of making a good faith effort to provide the housing and as the original part of this post indicated, PA's legal appeals will almost surely lose."

It seems cities have the right to decide land use only IF it largely conforms to the imposed housing mandates. OK I get it. We are assigned housing numbers which are unrealistic, based upon a random formula... then when "good faith" efforts that don't involve destroying local zoning fail, we can be sued (probably by developers) to force us to change our zoning. This really does sound quite "fair".

Its also nice to see the Home Builders Association represented on the HMC committee as a stakeholder in deciding how to allocate the housing.




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Posted by steve levy
a resident of University South
on Dec 8, 2007 at 6:46 am

In response to the last four comments:

Hmmm, I think the PA Housing Element is exactly the place where we are to think about where (including up) new housing might go. It amazes me that we have residents arguing against updating the Housing Element. I think they are mostly arguing about the result that they want but that can all be discussed during the update.

As far as "the law is not always moral" that could be but as I argued above if the "housing law" weren't moral we would see many religious leaders on the side of the ABAG opponents but in fact they are on the side of building more housing for low-incoem families.

And, in a true bit of irony and confused thinking, the same people who have been arguing that my "fairness argument for housing" is no good are now arguing there own fairness argument against housing. So obviously they agree that fairness is a legitimate argument.

Jon is wrong. The Bay Area will grow because it is a highly desirable area for technology job growth and cities are eager for these new jobs and revenue. Cities have long had the chance to reduce their job growth potential and have refused (correctly in my opinion). The ABAG opponents are just whining becasue they have lost every battle to turn the Bay Area into an no job growth region and have virtually no support for that position. Then they turn around and and refuse to plan for the housing that goes with the jobs that cities and companies both choose to locate here.

The idea that people should live (notice that freedom goes out the window here and we are into "let them live in Salinas whether they want to or not) far out and we should spend billions and billions on transit to bring them in is really bizarre when we 1) can't even get full funding support for BART to San Jose (and you think we can for Salinas??) and 2) we could use the billions more wisely on our own local infrastructure.

Dan has a fairly reasonable post but he like all the other "the Home Builders made them do it" folks conveniently overlooks that the sameHMC also had the Greenbelt Alliance and the Non Profit Housing Association. I don't know for sure but I think it is more likely that these two groups were the main outside stakeholder supporters of BMR units.

Any of you posters want to write about the conspiracy of the Greenbelt Alliance and Non Profit Housing groups? The Home Builders make an appealing target but I think the HMC, which had mainly city members, had broad support for the housing goals and allocations.

Remember that ABAG is just a group of cities and no one yet has provided an explanation of why cities making an agreement among themselves about a tough allocation challenge is some kind of immoral conspiracy.

Carol Mullen had a good suggestion a while ago. It probably would be good to get a group of cities together in our subregion to discuss the housing issues. By the way the reason that San Mateo county cities did not get an allocation from ABAG is not that they bribed anyone to avoid an allocation but that the group of cities petitoned ABAG and got approval to determine their own allocation of the county total. Santa Clara County citieds could have done the same but I doubt that the allocations would have been much different becasue if you look at the numbers most of the county's allocation went to south county cities anyway.




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Posted by Dan
a resident of Midtown
on Dec 8, 2007 at 7:46 am

In case anyone else has been wondering why Palo Alto's housing assignments have jumped so high in this latest round, remember the nice ABAG housing formula:

(Housing Growth x .45) + (Employment Growth x .225) + (Existing Employment x .225) + (Houshold Growth near Transit x .05) + (Employment Growth near Transit x .05)

It turns out on more critical reading of their document, that:

"Following the Smart Growth Strategy / Regional Livability Footprint Project that was completed in 2002, ABAG's Executive Board resolved to use these regional policies as the basis for projections. Since that decision, Projections assumes that, over time, local land use policies will move the region closer toward regional policies"

Wow! Unless I'm totally misreading this (Steve Levy?), the above formula, in addition to being random, isn't using best-case factual driven estimates... it is using fudged "Projections" in an attempt to drive the region towards conformance with ABAG's desired regional land use goals. i.e. The large housing assignment comes about because ABAG (for whatever reason) WANTS to see outsized housing growth in Palo Alto. Also notice the very low weighting factor for "Household Growth near Transit" ... seems even ABAG is assuming new residents are going to be commuting by car (at least this IS pragmatic)

As far as Steve Levy's 2 camps described above, both are saying the same thing based upon factual information
1. Palo Alto can't absorb this much new housing ... without significantly altering existing zoning laws. Posters are asking you how the housing can be accomodated and your answer is basically to change Palo Alto zoning practices.
2. Increasing housing at a pace not even influenced by local conditions absolutely will lead to more local traffic/pollution, infrastructure overload, and school capacity issues. To deny this is laughable at best.

For both reasons it can be argued that this rapid housing increase is not desireable. To deny that either of these self-evident things are true makes it difficult to take any other arguments seriously about the sum total impact of population growth where ever it occurs.

Finally, for those of you wishing to move to Atherton, there is a ray of hope contained in the ABAG document:

"The effect of this (income) allocation method is that the income distribution in each juristiction moves closer toward the regional distribution, as both a juristictions existing conditions and future development is taken into account. By addressing existing concentrations of low-income households, this allocation more aggressively promote (sic) an equitable regional income distribution"

Of course I have seen it said on these forums that BMR numbers in the ABAG assignments are "negotiable". Since the formula is based upon "Projections" with circular policy reasoning, it would also be quite easy to game the system to maintain and even enhance selected income distribution inequalities. One example: make the largest weighting factor "Household Growth" and assign a particular city a small "Projected" household growth and another city a large one.


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Posted by Carol Mullen
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Dec 8, 2007 at 9:20 am

Steve Levy, it was negligent for Palo Alto not to apply for exemption, given it's struggling with an infrastructure which is inadequate for growth already approved to come online. I still think it's time to demolish ABAG altogether, given its failure with respect to all true regional issues: transit, parks, environmental damage to the Bay, bridge construction, etc.

However, the housing crash may be slowed but not by much, unless Congress makes the Bush proposal over; making it mandatory, not voluntary.

Redwood City may be exempt, but it has a large number of foreclosures, many short sales - so does East Palo Alto. Many homes in both these cities should be applying for reduced property taxes, because values have fallen. The few comparable sales, and especially the short sales, show that.

If Palo Alto decides to compete with these communities trying to fill empty existing housing, property values here and there will decrease. I'm not as sure as you are that neighboring communities are foolish enough to believe their property values aren't theatened by the national (international) recession looming because of the subprime follies.

More housing for low income families would be welcome to me. The BMR hypocrisy that ticks me off is that I do not see $450,000 condos going to low-income families. Nor do I see most of the families who are able to qualify for these units able to pay the sky-high monthly fees the condominium will charge them. (These are the same for BMR as for all the other units.)


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Posted by steve levy
a resident of University South
on Dec 8, 2007 at 10:16 am

Dan and Carol,

Thanks for keeping to the issues and moving the converation back to the heart of our probable disagreements.

Dan, as you noted ABAG is inserting a policy goal into a portion of the housing projections and allocations. If you envision the Bay Area as a circle, the ABAG projections reflect the policy goal that more of the housing associated with regional job growth be built "in the circle" instead of outside the circle in the Central Valley or south.

BUT only one of the housing allocation factors is policy driven or, in your words, possiblY "circular".

The existing employment and job projection factors are not policy driven nor is the existence of transit stations.

I would estimate it is fair to consder that perhaps 25% of the total housheold growth has been put "inside the circle" by ABAG to meet policy goals.

The math is then 25% of the 50% weight for future household growth is policy driven or perhaps, at most, 350 of PA's housing unit allocation exists as a result of ABAG policies to locate more housing "inside the regional circle" than outside.

I would argue that this policy almost surely will reduce net travel both for work and non-work trips. ABAG's goal is to shorten, not eliminate, commute travel and this will surely occur if more housing is built "inside the Bay Area circle".

Housing growth may or may not be desirable to the region's residents but planning for job growth without at the same time planning for the associated housing growth is surely "laughable" to use your words.

I personally think that we can handle the school and infrastructure needs and that the major issues are about money. But the present debate always ends up with Bay Area cities planning for and taking the job and revenue growth and then when it comes to housing we say it should go anywhere but in our city. I think it is fair to characterize that as a "not in my backyard position".

And I have not seen any reason in these posts why it is better or fairer for the jobs to be "in the circle" and the housing to be more and more "outside the circle". No one in PA is preventing people from living in Salinas or Manteca if they wish. This is all about whether it is good policy and fair to plan for more people to live in PA if they wish.

And even that discussion has two parts--one about allowing more expensive condos where the fiscal and school impacts are probably neutral or positive and one is about planning for more BMR units.

The posts are a real mixed bag here where many who are opposed to the whole concept of regional planning actually are sympathetic to BMR units and many who violently oppose BMR units are ok with expensive housing because it "pays its way".

Carol, I am not clear about your comment about PA applying for exemption. Could you try saying it a different way? Thanks.


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Posted by Anna
a resident of Southgate
on Dec 8, 2007 at 10:24 am

Dan of Midtown, thank you for taking the time to read the ABAG site, and for exposing the tendentious logic, faulty reasoning, and most of all shaky data and assumptions upon which the housing allocations are based.

The ABAG mandates are nothing more than raw politics and authoritarian impulses masquerading as scientific policy analysis. The more people see what is being forced down our throats by those who would use regional planning to remake society in their "enlightened' vision, the more protest we'll see.

Carol Mullen is right. We need to stop this before we lose both control over our own city and the quality of life we moved here for.


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Posted by Dave
a resident of South of Midtown
on Dec 8, 2007 at 10:40 am

"I personally think that we can handle the school and infrastructure needs and that the major issues are about money."

Gosh. It's a relief to discover that the problems are only about money. That's something we have no problems with in Palo Alto.

Anyone following these boards knows that both the school district and the city are having seemingly insurmountable difficulties coming up with funding for current infrastructure needs.

To dismiss the financial problems presented by building all this new housing, especially the BMR housing, which almost by definition cannot pay its own way, with one sentence borders on irresponsibility coming from someone who seems to want to come across as a policy expert.

How seriously can we really take the ABAG supporters when they write like this?


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Posted by Dan
a resident of Midtown
on Dec 8, 2007 at 11:36 am

Just one clarification ... I'm not trying to present conspiracy theories saying there is one single controlling interest behind ABAG "The home builders made them do it". To be "fair" there are many self-interested parties involved. I am hoping that people can recognize a positive feedback loop being intentionally set up here and think about the potential implication beyond the current ABAG assignments. More dense housing in a municipality amplifies the policy goal of putting more housing in those areas, hence increasing the "Housing Growth" projections. So these areas become yet more dense in the next iteration and therefore get a higher weight each iteration. If ABAG is given real statutory powers, what local control does anyone have over this process? This is a very important consideration over the long term and means even relatively small biases get amplified significantly. In the past, it was arguably a similar density effect that exceeded carrying capacity in the inner-cities, contributing to the flight to suburbs and the resulting sprawl. A sustainable future would be more livable if we can preserve a mixture of dense and non-dense living options within some proximity of each other, distributed employment centers and residential areas that don't necessarily directly overlap. The reality is that the non-dense, residential regions will continue to be more desirable places to live for most people with families and therefore more and more accessible only to the extremely wealthy if we go through multiple iterations of this positive feedback loop.


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Posted by steve levy
a resident of University South
on Dec 8, 2007 at 12:21 pm

Dan,

I agree that these are serious issues and that the policy push is for more dense housing.

I disagree that the region's population will, in the next 20 years, prefer more non-dense residential areas. But, if you are right, nothing that PA does in any way stops a household from living in Salinas or Manteca. so, if you are right and I am wrong, then more housing in PA will be shunned by buyers and that will end the story.

But I think you are better off sticking to the argument that what I want is bad fcr PA rather than that no one would buy. Nearly ALL of net growth in household formation in the next 20 years is in households aged 55+ and 20-34. The growth in households in the prime single-family buying group is virtually zero despite the region's population growth. So I think the market will be coming to cities in the Bay Area with a good case for increased deman for denser, smaaller units.

Dave, I am mostly pushing the posters to come clean in their arguments. We have now established that what I support is, indeed, what the law requires, which brought forth the new argument that it is sometimes ok to flount the law if your case has high moral ground. Now we can debate whether BMR housing in PA occupies the high moral ground or that not allowing more housing is the moral position.

Similarly, many people have argued that we "can't" handle the school enrollment despite that we handled a much larger enrollment on a lower tax base. I am only pointing out that this is actually about money (opening schools where we now get lease income and, perhaps, building more capacity.) I only get one vote just like you and am voicing my willingness to pay for added capacity to meet a growing population.

I do not dismiss the money issues. I am just trying to clarify what is about money so we can debate whether we can or should support increased infrastructure investments. I myself am not moved much by the argument to push school enrollment and people elsewhere without knowing why that is a better solution for all involved.


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Posted by Chloe
a resident of Southgate
on Dec 8, 2007 at 4:44 pm

Why can't we just put the ABAG housing suggestion to a vote of the people of Palo Alto?


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Posted by steve levy
a resident of University South
on Dec 8, 2007 at 4:53 pm

Chloe,

That is a question often asked on this post.

There are lots of things that PA residents don't get to vote on

like paying federal and state taxes, whether the City can discriminate against people on the basis of their race, religion or sexual orientation, whether we should be in Iraq.

there are lots of cases where broader issues or laws prevent us from doing just what PA residents in 2007 decide. But we did get to vote for the City Council that is in charge of updating the Housing Element and this issue was front and center in local debate so in that real sense we did get to vote our preferences.


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Posted by Mike
a resident of College Terrace
on Dec 8, 2007 at 5:29 pm

" It's a relief to discover that the problems are only about money. That's something we have no problems with in Palo Alto."

Agreed. In all phases of our recent growth, Pall Alto has manages - quite easily in the end - to generate forward revenues sufficient to underpin that growth. Our cit has become more desirable as a result.

The same will be true as we approach the 2030 population projections of 80,000+ residents.

I wonder what part of the phrase "clean up your own commuter-generated pollution" those argue against more housing here don't understand.

This is about growing up, and taking responsibility - instead of saying "I can muddy the environment, but someone else is going to have to clean it up, and pay for that cleaning up". Is this a substantial environmental position for a city population that is patting itself on the back for being "green"? I don't think so.


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Posted by Chloe
a resident of Southgate
on Dec 8, 2007 at 5:29 pm

Steve, I don't think there were any council candidates that took a strong stand on the ABAG housing. If I am wrong, please let me know.

This is a very important local issue, so why can't we vote on it? We are not talking about voting on whether the earth is flat, or whether wars should ever be fought again. We are being asked to consider major new housing in Palo Alto. My feeling is that our council is not very comforatable with this issue. I think a vote would be a good solution for us.

Our council has put other housing issues to vote, so why not this one?


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Posted by Good Lawdy Miss Clawdy
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 8, 2007 at 5:38 pm


> Why can't we just put the ABAG housing
> suggestion to a vote of the people of Palo Alto?

Well, you can. Most of the angst about ABAG is misplaced. ABAG is simply following directions from Sacramento. Joe Simitian is the problem here. Time to start talking to him.

And .. if you don't like his answers--exercise your vote and don't return him to Sacramento.


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Posted by Frustrated
a resident of Professorville
on Dec 8, 2007 at 5:39 pm

If the City builds these below market rate homes in Palo Alto, our family is leaving! There are loads of tech jobs in Oregon and Washington, and the schools are on par with those in Palo Alto.
We have relatives in both states and their children excel above our children in their AP courses. I believe that others will follow this trend, and there will be a surplus of homes available here.


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Posted by Frustrated
a resident of Professorville
on Dec 8, 2007 at 5:40 pm

If the City builds these below market rate homes in Palo Alto, our family is leaving! There are loads of tech jobs in Oregon and Washington, and the schools are on par with those in Palo Alto.
We have relatives in both states and their children excel above our children in their AP courses. I believe that others will follow this trend, and there will be a surplus of homes available here.


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Posted by steve levy
a resident of University South
on Dec 8, 2007 at 5:48 pm

Chloe,

I remember the candidates being asked about the ABAG allocations in the paper and in meetings. I think you can probably look up in the Weekly archives to see what was said.

I am not a lawyer but here is what at least one dilemma is about voting. A vote to refuse to consider planning for BMR housing would be directly in defiance of a state policy. But I think the even more delicate legal situation is whether advocates can claim reasonably that PA is discriminating against low-incoem residents in the City's housing planning.

I am sure that some legal experts and low-income housing advocates who read the Town Square can give a more complete answer.


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Posted by Chloe
a resident of Southgate
on Dec 8, 2007 at 6:06 pm

Steve,

I appreciate your response. A vote from us would let all of us know how we are feeling on this important issue. I don't know what the legal issues are, or what the penalties are, but I feel that we should have a say on this issue. What is wrong with that?

About candidates taking a position on ABAG housing, I don't remember any, even if they were asked about it. Do you?


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Posted by Alyssa
a resident of Midtown
on Dec 8, 2007 at 6:16 pm

Steve Levy, following the California zeitgeist, seeks to turn this into an argument about morality, rather than policy. This is not about morality. It's about policy and who makes it.

Those of us who moved to Palo Alto because we like its size, scale and character aren't "immoral" if we want to keep it that way. And any moralizing to the contrary only serves to illustrate the lack of real substance in the arguments in favor of densifying our city toward an urban-ness that the majority of us do not want.

Similarly, Steve Levy attempts to equate those of us who want to tell ABAG to bug off with lawbreakers - as if the statutes directing compliance with ABAG housing quotas were some sort of criminal or civil law. This misleads to the point of dishonesty. The state requires cities have housing elements much as Levy describes. But the directives contained in the statues contain no clear penalty for not doing so. (The most commonly mentioned by the CHDC is loss of funding for BMR housing programs.) Whether Palo Alto should forgo BMR development funds in exchange for keeping control of its own zoning and development rules is the real question presented by the "laws". Perhaps the financial inducements are enough for us to cede this power to ABAG. But either way, it's a stretch to present it, as Levy does, as "obeying the law". (The same questions are presented by Bush's No Child Left Behind law. The only thing lost for violating this "law" are Federal Education funds. Usually this is enough to force compliance....but one would be hard pressed to term a state that said "no thanks, we'll educate our kids as we think fit, not as Bush does" and refused Federal funds therefor, a "Lawbreaker".)

We should say "no" to ABAG.


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Posted by Donn
a resident of South of Midtown
on Dec 8, 2007 at 6:21 pm

Chloe is exactly right. Her proposal speaks to the frustration at the attempt by ABAG supporters to wrest local control from residents in favor of a faceless bureaucracy.

Let's have an election. We can debate what the various pros and cons are to protesting ABAG quotas by ignoring them during the campaign.

Chloe is right. The various candidates in the council election failed to take articulable stands on ABAG. An election on this vital issue would clarify how the people feel. The council can put it on the ballot. They should.


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Posted by Cari
a resident of Meadow Park
on Dec 8, 2007 at 6:33 pm

It is curious that those worried that a vote on ABAG quotas would be "in defiance of a state policy" do not mention that our council "defies" federal policy on Iraq, Iran and any other issue that they take a fancy to.

I doubt if they'll have difficulty expressing some sort of "defiance" on ABAG if we have some sort of advisory vote, and the people express the kind of opinions we're seeing here.

Let's vote.


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Posted by Walter
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 8, 2007 at 6:59 pm

I think I can answer some of the questions here.

I believe the reason that the penalties imposed by the state on a local jurisdiction for failure to update their zoning according to state directives is limited to loss of state funds is that this is all the state has the power to do under the state Constitution.

The areas in which state law can supersede local laws are specific and limited. (Safety and some traffic laws, etc.) I may be mistaken, but I do not believe zoning is included in this list. Thus unless I am wrong about this, there is nothing the state CAN do for failure to obey directives (in areas where the state is not allowed to dictate local policy) is to withhold funds. The state has no power to affirmatively require local jurisdiction to change zoning.

The more real threat to a local jurisdiction for failing to plan for BMR housing would be an anti-discrimination lawsuit by a private advocacy group. This would not be under zoning regs, or ABAG quotas, but under state anti-discrimination law and provisions of the state constitution. I am aware of several of these suits, which have been settled. I believe one proceeded to litigation in Southern California. It was dismissed at one point, and I do not know what happened with any appeals.

Hope this helps.


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Posted by Mike
a resident of College Terrace
on Dec 8, 2007 at 6:59 pm

Alyssa: "following the California zeitgeist, seeks to turn this into an argument about morality, rather than policy. This is not about morality. It's about policy and who makes it."

How does policy making not have impact on the moral position, or stature, on the citizens responsible for making it. Please, argue that, if you can.

Cari: "let's vote" (on ABAG)
you mean like we voted on 800 High St.? what a waste of community cohesion, time, and money - just to satisfy the minority position. Remember the hullabaloo over that development - and Hyatt-Rickey's, Alma Plaza, etc.

Speaking of morality, the MASSIVE elephant in the room on this threadis the DEAFENING silence on the interrogative put to anti-ABAG proponents about how their position comes right up against, and contradicts, known environmental facts about sprawl, commuting, pollution, the health effects of pollution, projected water shortages, etc. etc.

The NIMBYISM displayed on this issue is shocking.

I think Palo Altans will be surprised at the blowback that comes from a vote that defies state policy. Our policy makers are aware of what the negative potential is - or will, once they look into this. YOu won't see a vote on this issue; instead, we WILL see an update on the Housing Element, with many interested parties watching from the sidelines (for now) to see whether we make the "good faith" effort that is expected of us.

I'm betting we never see a vote on this issue, which is exactly why the issue was skipped over by most of the Council candidates this past election. Reality is a hard taskmaster.


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Posted by Mike
a resident of College Terrace
on Dec 8, 2007 at 7:04 pm

Walter: "The state has no power to affirmatively require local jurisdiction to change zoning."

Yet...stay tuned.



"The more real threat to a local jurisdiction for failing to plan for BMR housing would be an anti-discrimination lawsuit by a private advocacy group."

Exactly; as mentioned earlier, the definition of "fair housing" will be read FAR differently within the context of the demographic skew we have in Silicon Valley. There is ialready a lot of take about this in Sacramento.


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Posted by Kathy
a resident of Palo Verde
on Dec 8, 2007 at 7:08 pm

Let's vote.


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Posted by Alex
a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Dec 8, 2007 at 7:28 pm

"Let's vote"

Won't happen.


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Posted by steve levy
a resident of University South
on Dec 8, 2007 at 7:47 pm

Chloe,

Here is the link to the Weekly's Council race coverage. I don't know how many of the links are still active but you can see whether the candidates said anything specific about ABAG.

Web Link


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Posted by Chloe
a resident of Southgate
on Dec 8, 2007 at 8:38 pm

Steve, thank you for your references. I am in the middle of trying to get my two young children to bed. Could you please identify which candidates were specific about ABAG issues? I don't remember any, but you could be right. I am just too tired to look at all your references. Please help me!

Thank you, very much.


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Posted by Good Lawdy Miss Clawdy
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 8, 2007 at 8:49 pm

Non-compliance with Housing Elements-- recent postings about the consequences of non-compliance with Housing Elements are true up to the moment. However, back in the 2001-02 Legislative year, SB 910 was introduced to provide "teeth" to the enforcement of Housing Elements beyond the rather innocuous tools available to the State currently.

The following describes SB 910 (with a link to the Bill History on the Legislature's web-site):

---
Web Link

BILL NUMBER: SB 910 INTRODUCED
BILL TEXT


INTRODUCED BY Senators Dunn, Burton, Haynes, and Monteith

FEBRUARY 23, 2001

This bill would declare the intent of the Legislature to withhold
unidentified state funding from any city, county, or city and county
that does not have a housing element in substantial compliance with
state law and to redistribute the money to those cities, counties, or
cities and counties whose housing elements are in compliance. The
bill would state that, for the purposes of this provision, an
authorized self-certification of a housing element shall be deemed to
have been approved by the department.
----

It seems that someone has written a book about the general issue --

California's Housing Element Law: The Issue of Local Noncompliance:

Web Link

This link points to a discussion of SB 910.
---

There is every reason to fear that this bill could be resurrected one of these days. Sadly, Joe Simitian has been rather non-committal on his views. The records shows that he voted "NO" on the bill, but he only did so after an initial ABSTAIN was recorded in the record.
----


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Posted by Alex
a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Dec 8, 2007 at 10:38 pm

Good Lawdy,

you ain't seen nothin' yet.


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Posted by Karen White
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Dec 9, 2007 at 11:47 am

Now readers can ask growth advocates to come clean in their arguments. On the one hand, Steve asserts that "ABAG does not expect cities to pay for BMR units," on the other seems to suggest that this discussion centers on what he calls the "morality" of offering affordable housing. Notably, he fails to connect the dots to show the explosive market-rate housing growth needed to generate 1,875 affordable units (multiply by 5 or more) if public subsidies are not to be required.
Do the math. Between 9,375 and 12,500 new housing units would need to be built by 2014 to yield ABAG's "allotment," assuming Palo Alto's BMR yield factor of either 20% or 15% BMR and if inclusionary zoning is the means by which these units are generated. So in our current fiscal environment, where massive public subsidies are simply not available, the call for affordable housing can be seen instead as a call for much greater market-rate growth generally.
As a related matter, inclusionary zoning has the net effect of driving up the price of market-rate units to the extent developers are building lower-profit affordable units within market-rate developments. Through this mechanism, inclusionary zoning actually reduces affordability.
If we're being honest, arguments about housing allocation center instead on state vs. local funding and control; the fiscal, service, and infrastructure carrying capacity of our city and others; and the effects of the growth -- in sheer numbers -- the state would impose by 2014.
ABAG is merely our regional messenger for the state, and it is at the state level that growth decisions are made. Thus readers who wish to make their concerns known might email State Sen. Joe Simitian at senator.simitian@sen.ca.gov and Assemblymember Ira Ruskin at assemblymember.ruskin@assembly.ca.gov, as well as sharing their concerns with our City Council at city.council@cityofpaloalto.org.


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Posted by Mike
a resident of College Terrace
on Dec 9, 2007 at 12:15 pm

"Between 9,375 and 12,500 new housing units would need to be built by 2014 to yield ABAG's "allotment," assuming Palo Alto's BMR yield factor of either 20% or 15% BMR and if inclusionary zoning is the means by which these units are generated. So in our current fiscal environment, where massive public subsidies are simply not available, the call for affordable housing can be seen instead as a call for much greater market-rate growth generally."

Karen's assumption is a very typical tactic in pre-negotiation proceedings, where one takes a common prior algorithm (in this case, the 5x BMR/market rate multiplier), and projects it to a final outcome.

Why do we have to assume that ABAG's requirement will project to the outcome that Ms. White predicted?

For instance, there may be a way for Palo Alto to work with innovative development groups to create the sufficient BMR requirement, and then work at the policy level to limit the market rate housing "result" that she predicts? Perhaps the ABAG negotiations might consider this a good faith effort.

What about Palo Alto leading a consortium of neighboring municipalities to devise a sub-regional solution that allots some proportion of BMR housing to nearby municipalities, in exchange for some as yet unstated mutual advantage?

Ms. White's other assumption, regarding the net effect of BMR installs driving up the rate of market rate housing is true in theory - in a fully unregulated market, but we're not playing in an unregulated market. The latter is proven by Ms. White's and anti-growth positions and actions in the past, that in themselves have caused the rate of market rate housing to inflate. This is a special irony re: the no-growth position, here.

It would be interesting to do a correlative study (which would be exceedingly difficult to carry off, given the complex variables involved) about how much real capital has been lost by the delays in development (both housing and retail) by those in Ms. White's camp. It's an irony of large proportion that the current position we have re: lack of sufficient retail has itself been caused by the same no growth element that is now saying we should no do the right thing re our responsibility to the environment, and our region.

Last, it's gratifying to see Ms. White realize that this is indeed a matter that WILL be negotiated between our (and other) municipalities and the state.

I can assure all involved that there are going to be many letters written that oppose the current no-growth position in Palo Alto, with much of what has been said in this thread presented as a good example about why the larger interests of our region and environment should prevail over the smaller interests of a few people in our region, who appear to want to pass the responsibility for the problems associated with their community's success onto the shoulders of others. I wonder how the current trend toward NIMBYISM (here, and elsewhere) will play with state officials.

It's time for Palo Alto to do its share, and lead. It's time for us to live up to the self-generated PR about how innovative we are.


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Posted by Good Lawdy Miss Clawdy
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 9, 2007 at 5:16 pm

> It would be interesting to do a correlative study
> (which would be exceedingly difficult to carry off,
> given the complex variables involved) about how
> much real capital has been lost by the delays in
> development (both housing and retail) by
> those in Ms. White's camp.

So hard, in fact, that no one would fund such a study. For instance, how relevant is studying the "lost opportunity costs" for people in 1945 not building for the facilities/housing needed in 2000?

This is the kind of specious logic that one might characterize as a "Brain F**t"!


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Posted by Mike
a resident of College Terrace
on Dec 9, 2007 at 7:18 pm

Good Lawdy,

Thanks for reinforcing my point about the study.

It's important to note that my point about anti-growth constituencies having caused an increase in market rate (at-market) pricing, and a general decimation of the possibility of significant retail opportunities remains unchallenged. In fact, throughout this debate I have raised two primary points:

1) Anti-growth and anti-housing proponents (essentially the same group of residents) cost Palo Alto citizens real dollar value in quality of life - from cost of market rate housing, loss of retail opportunity, loss of tax dollar base, etc. etc.

2) This group has also created policy positions that are in direct conflict with the stated individual positions of its loosely related membership, and Palo Alto policy in general, regarding the "green" and "environmentally responsible positions that Palo Alto has declared. In that many members of this loose coalition of anti-housing proponents proudly wear the "green" moniker on their sleeve, even as they attempt to generate rationalizations about how Palo Alto and other cities should maintain policy positions that let that let suburban sprawl and the negative environmental and health impacts of same continue - at someone else's expense.

Thus, there is a very clear anti-environmental and anti-diversity subtext to the surface arguments of the anti-housing coalition in Palo Alto - one that state officials and Palo Altans who *really* care about the environment will be somewhat surprised to discover.

This thread will be fertile ground to help the right people at the state level make that discovery.


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Posted by not suffering fools
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 9, 2007 at 7:43 pm

1) Anti-growth and anti-housing proponents (essentially the same group of residents) cost Palo Alto citizens real dollar value in quality of life - from cost of market rate housing, loss of retail opportunity, loss of tax dollar base, etc. etc.
***

Housing is the most expensive use of land for a city. And the greater the density, the greater the expense, especially with Prop 13 capping the increase in revenues from property taxes. Providing services to residents is expensive!

Few cities the size of a Palo Alto have a retail sales tax base the size of Stanford Shopping Center (never mind University Ave and small retail centers).

If the residents for the past 50 years have treated the city so abominably, how come it manages to remain such a desirable, vibrant community? Maybe the "no growthers" know something the people in Sacramento can't even fathom.


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Posted by Mike
a resident of College Terrace
on Dec 9, 2007 at 7:51 pm

It's a fact that we *doubled* our population in the last 50-or-so years. It was good for us. You'll note that there was not a significant "no-growth" contingent, then.

What we have now is a longing for nostalgia, instead of a direct encounter with problem solving that will leave our city, the region, and our state more sustainable (and environmentally CLEANER) well into the future.

btw, only a small number of Palo Altans are ardently anti-housing - by no means do most residents feel this way.


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Posted by not buying ABAG
a resident of Downtown North
on Dec 9, 2007 at 9:08 pm

Well, get your story straight, Mike. Have the members of the dark side (be they no growth, sensible growth, moderate growth, or anything but ABAG growth) impeded progress, as you said two posts ago, or has Palo Alto grown despite, or perhaps because of them?

Your last comment is very telling. Residents may not be "anti-housing" (we live in houses!) but that doesn' mean that most support the kinds of growth advocated by ABAG. Most people who live here, moved here because they like the look & feel of the city. Not because they wanted to live in a city that looked and felt like Seoul. The real question is whether you plan for future in accordance with the needs of your residents, or whether you focus on the needs of people who don't live here but would like to move here. That's what the overstated ABAG numbers are about.

No matter how much rhetoric you use [portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff], anyone with any sense is going to look at the ABAG numbers and ask "who benefits?" The city may or may not, the residents may or may not, but the developers for sure will benefit, and they will bear none of the costs. The rest is just sales hype.


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Posted by Mike
a resident of College Terrace
on Dec 9, 2007 at 9:21 pm

" Most people who live here, moved here because they like the look & feel of the city. Not because they wanted to live in a city that looked and felt like Seoul. "

An exaggerated example, don't you think? Seoul? Really?

Who benefits?

1) You (cleaner air), and anyone else who breathes.

2) Our city - more diversity, more new residents with new ideas, social capital, intellectual capital, etc. etc.

3) Our city - we have ann opportunity to create innovative solutions to housing here, and/or lead Silicon Valley forward in a way that resolves the housing problem here.

4) Our region - we can use ABAG as a lever to gain better access to mass transit, and to build more mass transit.

There are many more benefits, but it;'s hard to see them if your mind is made up. :)




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Posted by Mike
a resident of College Terrace
on Dec 11, 2007 at 9:41 am

Last evening's Council commentary on a letter of rejection (of housing requirements) to be sent to ABAG was enlightening - especially as it followed an earlier debate about whether to form an Environmental Commission in Palo Alto.

In an irony of major proportions, two of three main supporters of the Environmental Commission - Mayor Kishimoto and Vice-Mayor Klein both spoke to parochial interests and constraints, without once mentioning the environment - as they both supported a letter that is essentially a whining, excuse-laden document about why Palo Alto is not going to - and *can't* (we'll get back to this in a minute) meet the ABAG housing requirement, and do its share to make this an environmentally sustainable region. Kishimoto and Klein were joined by Council members Cordell, Morton, Drekmeier, Kleinberg, and Beecham - with only the latter three admitting that the Council position is contradictory to stated "green" policy.

On this issue, the only Council members showing real leadership, conviction, and courage last evening were Dena Mossar and John Barton, with Mossar (a "large E" Environmentalist) seriously calling the document (which should be characterized as "Palo Alto's Big Whine") into question.

Mossar showed true leadership in her questioning of the document's whining tone, and thus its failure to offer any alternatives to the proposed ABAG requirement.

Barton called into question PAUSD conclusions (and others) that he labeled "disingenuous".

A further irony is that Mayor Kishimoto - who made "Innovation in Government" one of her clarion calls, has failed to approach this ABAG requirement - with all its implications for environmental responsibility - with even one iota of innovative solution. All we've heard from the Mayor on this issue is "no".

Perhaps the Mayor (and the rest) should give a listen to Al Gore's Nobel acceptance speech (ironically, given yesterday), where he again calls our environmental problems an "Inconvenient Truth" - implying that we WILL be inconvenienced by some of the solutions to the environmental problem, and that we will require LEADERS who can take us to the next level of innovative action.

Where was the leadership and innovation last evening? With the exception of Mossar and Barton, it was MIA.


Council members Kishimoto and Klein - both self-proclaimed "environmentalists" (spelled with a small "e" for good reason, in this instance) showed their true colors last evening - with the color "green" not being among them; in addition to five of their fellow City Council members, they were followed by one School Board member (Barb Mitchell) and Lee Lippert, the Chair of Palo Alto's Planning Commission, the latter (on this issue) having been altogether berift of any overt concern for the large environmental and sustainability picture that the ABAG requirement is meant to address.

It's been revealing to read the Planning Commission's commentary about ABAG, with members like Arthur Keller and Pat Burt (recently elected to City Council) openly opposing ABAG (including Keller's often mocking and derisive comments re: the ABAG request. I'm sure the latter will play well in Sacramento with those who are going to be passing judgment on Palo Alto's whiny little note, full of reason why we can't meet ABAG's requirements *without even ONE alternative suggested".

Clearly, Palo Alto policy makers, for the most part, showed their true colors last evening. As well, other members of other policy bodies clearly showed that Palo Alto is looking more and more - like so many other private sector entities, just another greenwashing entity, looking for the easy sound bites and photo ops that paint a pretty picture of environmental leadership, but failing to act significantly when the rubber meets the road toward action and real solution-making.

Dena Mossar pointed out last evening (to paraphrase) that we either are (environmentalists and innovators) or we're not; it was a stark point that revealed the truth about what lies inside all the *convenient* talk and action about the *inconvenient* truths we're having to face.

With respect, my advice to Council members Kishimoto, Klein, Drekmeier, Kleinberg, Beecham, Morton and Cordell (especially Drekmeier (who sent a bulk main about Gore's speech to his supporters)) is that they read the full text of Al Gore's Nobel acceptance speech, and think hard about the real difficulties of making policy in this time. Then, consider how courage, leadership, and conviction - qualities that all the aforementioned have shown at other times - can be called upon again to meet our most serious challenges to the environment, and come up with innovative solutions to our jobs/housing imbalance in a way that maintains the essential integrity of our community, and at the same time takes Palo Alto and our region forward to a time when we can HONESTLY call ourselves a "green" community, because we ACT like one.



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Posted by Paul
a resident of Downtown North
on Dec 11, 2007 at 10:07 am

Mossar an environmentalist? Mossar? The stalking horse of the big development lobby? Spare me.


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Posted by pro-green
a resident of Downtown North
on Dec 11, 2007 at 10:28 am

If the goal is truly to make the city green, then let's talk about environmental measures. Note that Menlo Park just had a green task force that suggested a whole list of possible strategies for the city to pursue.

Relentlessly insisting that dense housing is the only way to help the environment (and disregarding the fact that adding thousands more residents can only have a negative impact on the environment) seems at best ingenuous and at worst manipulative and deceptive.


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Posted by Mike
a resident of College Terrace
on Dec 11, 2007 at 11:02 am

"Relentlessly insisting that dense housing is the only way to help the environment (and disregarding the fact that adding thousands more residents can only have a negative impact on the environment) seems at best ingenuous and at worst manipulative and deceptive."

A few challenges:

1) Please show how population projections of every serious planner in N. California - showing 20-25% increase in population are wrong.

2) PLease show us who said that increasing our housing allotments (toward infill) along with better mass transit is the "ONLY" way to help the environment - as you suggest.

3) Please tell us why Palo Alto City Council members are not on the telephone with neighboring municipality policy makers, in an attempt to lead our neighbors toward housing and transit solutions - instead of simply whining about meeting our responsibility to the environment.

4) Please show conclusive evidence that suburban sprawl - the alternative to building more in-urban housing - is better for the environment, than not.

5) Please show that the effort by local anti-growth forces, to diminish the projected effects of commuting to Palo Alto is not more disingenuous than anything you suggest. [Please note that there has been NO attempt to measure the impact of "in-city" driving by commuters]

6) Please show how a coordinated housing, mass transit, and information infrastructure efforts - driven, and LED, by determined and focused political will - would not, over time, convert our region to one that is FAR more environmentally friendly (and people friendly) that the untenable situation we find ourselves in now.

About relentless: Churchill was *relentless*; others were not. Thank goodness for Churchill.


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Posted by John
a resident of College Terrace
on Dec 11, 2007 at 12:40 pm

[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

The vote last night reflects the fact that the council has heard from its constituents. This ABAG mandate is slowly waking up otherwise sleepy PA voters. It will no longer be the elephant in the room that no politician will talk about.

This ABAG mandate should go to a vote of PA citizens. Let us express our views via the ballot box. I am willing to bet that it would increase voter turnout significantly. It would also tell our council that there is no wiggle room on this matter. Just say "NO"!


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Posted by Mike
a resident of College Terrace
on Dec 11, 2007 at 3:12 pm

John, Relative to the ABAG requirement, you're the pot, calling the kettle black. Where is your substantive, *measured* debate points on this issue? Is that all you have?

Please answer the questions that have been put, above. btw, My children were raised here, and are now grown; they would expect that the city they were raised in would support environmental policy. How about your kids? What have you taught them about environmental responsibility, other than mouthing catchy phrases that appear not to be backed up with substantive action?

Some few residents (even some of our own city staff) are throwing numbers around that cannot be verified - things like school capacity, missing numbers about how many intra-city trips are made each day by commuters, etc. etc.

Do you and those who agree with you really think that ABAG is going to let your weak arguments (which really are not arguments; they're preferences, shouted out loud with no alternatives offered - - it's a "just say no" campaign, just as vapid and without context as Nancy Reagan's weak campaign on "just say no" to drugs. [Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.] Do you really think that ABAG will take our city's letter seriously - even if it is backed up by 200 letters from the same anti-retail, anti-growth, and anti-housing residents that have been holding up progress in our city for the last 15-or-so years?

Note that the ONE person who tramples on the ABAG number has suggested a viable alternative to ABAG - you all just say "no".

Someone I know at ABAG is already laughing about the absurdity Palo Alto has just offered as an excuse, last evening - by a City Council (excepting two members) that appears to be talking from two sides of its mouth on environmental issues.

[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.] How about Jack Morton whining that "how come we get penalized for stimulating job growth?", as if job growth here was a result of political policy. That's a side-splitter. As if Palo Alto hasn't profited from its dumb luck proximity to Stanford, and it's further dumb luck serendipity to have housed people like Hewlett and Packard some years ago.

What are we following that up with? Not much, it seems - other than one defensive parochial posture after another, as we go about bragging how "green" we are, while denying the inconvenient truth of the harm related to suburban sprawl. Sad.

Combine that with the limp letter that's going to ABAG, without even so much as suggesting an alternative, and Palo Alto's actions will be put under a 5000x microscope by certain individuals in Sacramento.

I heard one anti-ABAG speaker predict that California's population would not be growing at all in the next 20 years, because of water problems, and a downturn in economic development. What? Simply whacko, and completely uninformed.

Palo Alto WILL make its best "good faith" effort to meet the ABAG requirements - either on its own, or by leading a Silicon Valley coalition that satisfies ABAG, or we will see some serious blowback from Sacramento that brings a pile of hurt to this city (and region).

What's really ironic here, on this issue, is that PA seems to want to lead a Valley effort to help us and our neighbors deny responsibility for our share of the consequences of growth, and pass that responsibility on to others. Is that "green"? Sounds more like "greenwashing", to me - especially in light of all the flowery claims to "environmental leadership" that certain policy makers (and others) in Palo Alto wear on their sleeves.


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Posted by John
a resident of College Terrace
on Dec 11, 2007 at 4:31 pm

Mike always threatens Palo Alto with state power. That's what socialists do. Sacramento can threaten all it wants, but if there is no compliance on housing elements (or anything else, except taxes, for that matter), it will back down. This a great opportunity for Palo Alto to actually lead the charge against state power.

As I have said before, we need efficient electric trains to transport workers to PA, if the damand exists for those workers. BART should be completed around the bay, then extend to Salinas. Workers deserve the oppotunity to live in the single family homes that they desire, and not be forced into sardine cans in already infilled cities.

CO2 footprint reductions can be easily achieved by switching to nuclear energy.

Put ABAG on the ballot. Let us PA citizens decide!


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Posted by Anna
a resident of Southgate
on Dec 11, 2007 at 7:11 pm

John is right: ABAG and Sacramento are not about to "bring a world of hurt" through the kind of bureaucratic thuggery Mike seems to crave. First, as John points out, Sacramento politicians probably find this kind of action politically unattractive when so many residents (read "voters) in most cities affected by ABAG are outraged by the housing quotas. Second, Sacramento bureaucrats don't have many arrows in their quiver that would be a real threat to Palo Alto. The only penalty they likely can Constitutionally assess is loss of development funds: something Palo Alto residents would be glad to forgo since (as evidenced by this thread), we don't want the development the funding would support. There are Constitutional limits to Sacramento's power to remove non-related funding for noncompliance with housing mandates - which is part of the reason a vague bill to increase possible penalties for such non-compliance was dropped in 2001.

How many posters here are cowering because this thread "has been pointed out" to ABAG? How many are fearful of being put under a microscope by "certain individuals" in Sacramento? I guess we all should be expecting a midnight knock on the door from jack-booted ABAG police for daring to question the revealed truth of their "projections" and the laughably absurd "environmental" justification for cramming Manhattan style housing into suburban Bay Area Towns. [Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

As to their projections, it has been pointed out above, ABAG's projections for population growth are really just a boot-strapped circular result of their housing mandates. There's a real simple hard relationship between housing and population: if we don't build the ABAG housing, the people projected by ABAG to be living in this housing won't be here. They'll be living happily in Fresno, Texas or Idaho: places which want and can afford them. And no doubt some of the projected Bay Area job growth will follow them - just as has been happening for the past two decades. These places will be better off and so will we.

Mike wants a "viable alternative" to following the ABAG mandates. Here's one: let's leave our General Plan alone. It's working just find without paying attention to meddling by out of touch remote bureeaucrats with fancy theoretical planning degrees.

And if the city council is too fearful of the imaginary jack-boots to do this themselves, then the posters here who say, "Let's Vote" should be listened to.


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Posted by Mike
a resident of College Terrace
on Dec 11, 2007 at 8:54 pm

"John is right"? We'll see about that. :)

Here we have someone who is angling for nuclear power, in the Bay Area!! :) I'm taking $10K bets on that one. Anyone up for it?

btw, there are no threats being made, just placing on notice that certain things can be made to happen at the state level that will create a lot of discomfort for cities that are unwilling to put forth their best "good faith" effort to fulfill their obligations re: the consequences of growth. It isn't going to be a free ride any longer; that's another "inconvenient truth".

The wishful thinking about driving potential residents to Fresno, Idaho, etc. etc. merits submission to a fantasy series on population migration. In case you haven't noticed, California is a population *magnet*, and our (and some of our municipal neighbor's preferences) are a drop in the bucket of political leverage when "decision time" arrives.

What person in her right mind would predict a population drop, or a relatively sudden arrival at population homeostasis, in California, today? This is the result of fantastical and wishful thinking.

Palo Alto has a choice; we can find an innovative middle way that includes our neighbors in building a new development paradigm in this region; or, we can attempt a policy-making coup d'etat that will lead us right into the courts, with various state agencies and powers that be (including commercial powers) working to penalize this city and this region for its unwillingness to play ball.

Palo Alto and the region have been spoiled; there has been little constraint in the growth path we've experienced for the last 50-60 years. We've pretty much had our way.

I was talking to a game theorist the other day; his notion was that there are many win-wins possible through cooperation with ABAG, but that if we fail in our "good faith" efforts, showing real effort to change our current behaviors, we will most likely find ourselves in a worse mandatory conundrum than the one most anti-ABAG opponents are whining about.

I don't think that this city, or our region, are going to find much - if any - sympathy with the powers-that-be in Sacramento, and other power centers. We've been taking for a long time; now we have to grow up and learn to clean up after ourselves. Habits are hard to change; it's pretty normal to see all this anti-ABAG thrashing about, but we'll come around, just like the unruly toddler who learns that there is someone in the house who has the power to withhold, and set limits.

btw, the state has all kinds of power re: construction licensing, rights-of-way, etc. etc.

Another thing: there are several *principal* cities that are anxious to see a re-ordering of housing priorities. Start with LA, where there is already a chronic shortage of even mid-range affordable housing. I wonder how our numbers here would match up with S. California in a referendum - i.e. be careful what you wish for [portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

Remember, "fair housing" in this marketplace is beginning to take on an entirely new definition. Again, be careful what you wish for.

If anything, our city - and the region - may find itself the defendant in a fair housing lawsuit brought by the state AND by fair housing proponents. I wonder what will happen after we lose that lawsuit (which we surely would, especially if the demeanor of our defense in any way resembles the weak and selfishly parochial anti-ABAG thinking represented in this thread?



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Posted by John
a resident of College Terrace
on Dec 12, 2007 at 11:18 am

Mike is still at it, with his veiled threats or state actions and lawsuits (redfining the notion of "fair" housing).

The ABAG mandates are something that could stir up the voters, similar to overtaxation that stirred them up enough to pass Prop 13. State politicians will drop this thing like a hot potato.

Let us vote on it! Are you afraid of the will of the people, Mike?


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Posted by Mike
a resident of College Terrace
on Dec 12, 2007 at 11:23 am

"State politicians will drop this thing like a hot potato."

Really? Perhaps you might travel outside this little bubble of a burg and sample sentiment toward more effective housing and mass transit solutions in the very LARGE urban environments in California - like LA and San Francisco (San Diego is beginning to climb on board).

Go ahead, put it to a statewide vote. I would love to see this happen, and so would most politicians, who would love to place the phrases "affordable housing", and effective mass transportations" on their resumes.

The parochialism of most of the anti-ABAG blather here is stunning in its ignorance of what's happening outside of Palo Alto. In that respect, as with other issues, it's nothing new.


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Posted by not so dumb
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Dec 12, 2007 at 11:35 am

You will have to look hard to find people who want big brother to make decisions for them. Sure, we're all insulated in our own local cocoon, but all the same, if you asked people statewide "who should make decisions for your town--your local government or Sacramento?" I'm betting on close to a 100% vote in favor of the former.

It's almost laughable to talk about ignorance of what's happening outside Palo Alto. What's happening, statewide as well as nationally, is that the housing market is collapsing. We should feel darn lucky that it hasn't happened here (yet) instead of trying to cram in so many new units that the housing market implodes.

I believe there are still some countries that favor the kind of heavy-handed intervention that a few people on this board seem to advocate. Why not move to one of those instead of trying to impose a Stalinistic mindset on this community?


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Posted by John
a resident of College Terrace
on Dec 12, 2007 at 11:37 am

Mike, the way to get it on a state wide ballot is to put it on local ballots as advisary votes. Let's start with Palo Alto. Still interested?


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Posted by William Pentrum
a resident of another community
on Dec 12, 2007 at 11:41 am

"btw, the state has all kinds of power re: construction licensing, rights-of-way, etc. etc."

I'm agnostic on the ABAG housing requirements, but this statement is just plain wrong - or at least misleading. The state government currently does not have the power under the California Constitution to withhold non-related funding for local jurisdictions' failure to comply with state policy on a particular issue. It's highly likely that the only power the state has over development policy in Palo Alto (or any other city or county) is the withholding of development aid. It would take an amendment to the Constitution to change this.

(I'm also unsure of what the poster means by "construction licensing". The state licenses contractors, but I'm not sure failing to renew the licenses of local contractors would be an effective means of enforcing compliance with housing mandates - even if the state had the power to do so, which it does not. Similarly, it's unclear what the poster means by "rights of way". It' hard to imagine the state blockading noncomplying cities.)

Additionally, with many analysts predicting 30% declines in some Southern California real estate markets over the next few years, the "affordable housing crisis" may at least partly take care of itself.


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Posted by Mike
a resident of College Terrace
on Dec 12, 2007 at 11:49 am

Sure, but it won't happen. Why? Because our City Council (and Planning and Transportation Commission, and PAUSD) know what a fine line they're *already* walking with the demeanor that they appear to be putting front and center.

In other words, just how far are we willing to push the state? I wonder if Joe Simitian would support a local vote, especially in that he has to negotiate on a daily basis with politicians from large urban regions that are already clamoring for more affordable housing and vastly improved mass transport.

Pragmatically, knowing how wheels turn in this city, I think you might win that vote if it was put to the people - at least the people who turn out to vote here, which is only 33% of those who are eligible.

Now, think about the additional, adverse impact that that vote (of you won) would have on state officials as they go forward with plans (supported by any governor in his/her right mind, because it involves the economic and environmental well-being of the *entire* state - including the rational management of growth that we *know* is coming).

Do you still want that vote, and the rain of pain that would result from Sacramento - whether it passed, or not?

I don't think Palo Alto policy makers want to go there. They have more important, more immediate fish to fry.

Essentially, we have been backed into a corner quietly, subtley, by the very things that have made this region a success.

We will grow, and we will adapt nicely to that growth - in spite of multifarious strategies and tactics put out there to stall the inevitable.





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Posted by Mike
a resident of College Terrace
on Dec 12, 2007 at 11:58 am

W Pentrum: " The state government currently does not have the power under the California Constitution"

Perhaps this poster should listen to last Monday evening City Council meetings, where one or two of our more astute policy makers (who know the score) weighed in on a similar question.

Perhaps Mr. Pentrum might take a trip to S. California, and talk to a few local real estate investors, to see where those current equity investors are putting their real estate investment money; they're VERY bullish on apartment buildings. I wonder why that is, Mr, Pentrum?

Mr. Pentrum might also take a look at the forward population increase projections for S. California and the Central Valley (for starters), and realize that a temporary decrease in already-far-inflated property values will solve a housing crisis in S. California that is *already* there, and going to to get much worse.

Again, we keep seeing and hearing all kinds of misinformation, and inaccuracy, in a seemingly desperate attempt to avoid the responsibility for managing (in a cooperative way) our future growth, and the consequences of our success.

Instead of aiming for win-win, the anti-ABAG contingent is aiming for zero sum. That's not the future that California wants, or deserves.





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Posted by John
a resident of College Terrace
on Dec 12, 2007 at 12:03 pm

"the rain of pain that would result from Sacramento "

Personally, I'm not afraid of the big bad bear. I doubt that most PA citizens are, either. In fact, I think the bear is afraid of the people.

You keep conflating efficient mass transiet with infill density. BART is efficient mass transit. I take it every time I have a chance, in order to get to downtown SF or to an A's game. I take CalTrain on a regular basis to SF, becasue I can walk to my job from the train station. Such mass transit to Salinas, Tracy, Modesto, etc. will provide sufficient workers for Bay Area jobs, and those workers will be able to live in the kinds of houses that they want. BMRs in PA will not accomplish that, and you know it.


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Posted by Anna
a resident of Southgate
on Dec 12, 2007 at 12:08 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


 +   Like this comment
Posted by The Real Anna
a resident of South of Midtown
on Dec 12, 2007 at 12:18 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


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