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Palo Alto ranks 4th nationally in housing prices

Original post made on Sep 11, 2008

Palo Alto has the fourth most expensive housing market in the nation, according to the Silicon Valley/San Jose Business Journal reporting a Coldwell Banker annual survey.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Thursday, September 11, 2008, 9:44 AM

Comments (52)

Posted by carlos, a resident of Green Acres
on Sep 11, 2008 at 10:58 am

If the city council keeps on pushing for below-maket-rate projects, the average price will come down soon, and so will the value of our home equity.

We need to have a rule that every council member should get a bmr built in his/her neighborhood before they get to decide this for other neighborhoods.

Posted by San who?, a resident of another community
on Sep 11, 2008 at 11:07 am

"San Mateo was 10th at $1.37 million and San Jose was 13th at $1 million."
That's weird. What happened to Woodside, Atherton, Los Altos Hills, Los Altos, Cupertino, Hillsborough and other cities associated with being more expensive/exclusive than San Jose?

Posted by alex, a resident of Midtown
on Sep 11, 2008 at 11:17 am


Those cities probably aren't large enough to constitute a market in their definition. I don't think Cupertino rates anyway.

Posted by Bill, a resident of Midtown
on Sep 11, 2008 at 12:11 pm

According to the Mercury News, this ranking was based on a 4 bedroom, family room, 2/12 bath home. But if our 'quality of life' deteriorates due to this 'in fill housing ABAG driven housibng pushed by all the guilt ridden 'hair shirts' and the developers, everything will go down. Do we recall this council now or wait a year?

Posted by Keep Scholars, a resident of Professorville
on Sep 11, 2008 at 12:39 pm

Do they make Hillsborough, Bev Hills, LaJolla build low income housing also? It is the govt. which is requiring this for PA, isn't it?

Posted by OhlonePar, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Sep 11, 2008 at 1:53 pm

Hillsborough and Bev Hills don't have big job-generating companies in them. We get hit with the housing demands because we're a job center. We're really a small city, not a bedroom community.

Not that I think we can take a lot of infill--we don't have the schools or infrastructure for it, but that's why we get hit with the demands. It's a weird situation because we're not very big physically or in terms of population, but we're important because of our technology centers and Stanford.

Posted by Voter, a resident of Midtown
on Sep 11, 2008 at 2:06 pm

If we recall the council now, then we would also need to revoke the voting rights for residents who are not house owners. They are the ones who spoil property values by the way they vote, because they might actually gain from lower market prices. (End of sarcasm).

Posted by Casey, a resident of Midtown
on Sep 11, 2008 at 2:14 pm

Is there any more land we can annex? Then we can dump our BMR housing onto another neighborhood without affecting our current residents.

Posted by Look South, a resident of Menlo Park
on Sep 11, 2008 at 2:21 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

Posted by Tim, a resident of Crescent Park
on Sep 11, 2008 at 2:50 pm

Look South,

Keep laughing while Mt View keeps taking all of our tax base. Sunnyvale too. I never shop in Palo Alto these days. Mt View downtown is alot nicer than Palo Alto's.
I can hear it now- go live in Mt View!

Posted by Citizen, a resident of Midtown
on Sep 11, 2008 at 3:22 pm

Voter - why exactly do none landowning residents have the right to vote on parcel taxes and bond measures? Its not like they are picking up any of the cost of these measures. Its insane that a bunch of 18 year olds at Stanford have the right to burden me with parcel taxes that they will never have to pay.

Also, why can't we count East Palo Alto as part of our affordable housing burden - aren't we including some EPA kids in our schools? If we have that burden, why not some benefit.

Posted by Voter, a resident of Midtown
on Sep 11, 2008 at 3:50 pm

Citizen, you are of course absolutely right. With the same logic, only murderers should have a say in whether we have a death penalty or not. (End of further sarcasm).

Posted by Greg K, a resident of Downtown North
on Sep 11, 2008 at 4:17 pm

People with jobs in Palo Alto should be able to live in Palo Alto. I am in favor of high density housing near the train stations. Those areas are already noisy enough that a few more people won't make any difference. Since all the major bus and shuttle routes stop at the train stations, these residents shouldn't need to drive that much.

Posted by Light Bulb, a resident of Downtown North
on Sep 11, 2008 at 4:45 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

Posted by Kate, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Sep 11, 2008 at 5:04 pm

Re: parcel taxes. If I remember correctly, parcel taxes are voted o only by the property owner. Am I wrong on this?

BUT Stanford students and those who live on campus and are registered can vote in matters relating to the PAUS but not City issues.. Years ago, at least one candidate for the PAUSD Board went all out to get students to vote and I think Stanford students can vote on PAUSD bond issues. But I don't think they can vote on parcel taxes. Can renters in Palo Alto vote on parcel taxes? I think they can on bond issues.
Can someone confirm that? It's complicated, and I just don't know.

Posted by The Cure, a resident of Crescent Park
on Sep 11, 2008 at 7:48 pm

I used to think this of EPA, but now it's becoming obvious it now applies to PA proper.

For all your petty useless inconsequential problems, there is nothing there that an airstrike from Moffet can't fix.

Posted by 2200 sq ft? I WISH!, a resident of Green Acres
on Sep 11, 2008 at 11:29 pm

Having looked for housing in PA not so long ago, the survey was skewed because of the house type chosen for comparison - most "affordable" 4 br, 2.5 ba homes in PA come in under 2000 feet.

We live in a city of relatively small homes in the 1200 - 1600 ft range, and expensive homes above 2200 ft. Any 4 br, 2.5 ba home that is 2200 sq ft or larger is in a completely different price category from the smaller homes. I know, we looked long and hard for a 4 br house - getting anything above 1800 ft in our price range was very tough. There doesn't seem to be a linear price progression when it comes to square footage either. Anyway, the typical home chosen for the survey fell in that higher price tier here - if they had chosen 3 br 2ba homes 1600-1800 sq ft, I think our ranking would have been lower (though still not cheap).

Posted by Ashamed to come from PA, a resident of another community
on Sep 12, 2008 at 7:47 am

I am sad to read so many negative comments on the BMR projects.
Grew up in PA in the 60's and 70's, joined the armed forces, and return to work for several PA manufacturing companies. Tried for decades to aquire enough funds to byuy a home in PA, but always found that there are individuals who insist on buing homes for profit only.
Get real people. If you own a home in PA, than feel fortunate that you were in the position in the first place! Instead of bashing those who are trying to make it in your oh so precious Palo Alto, try helping them feel welcome. Maybe folks will try harder to fit in.
You know, PA used to have a very friendly atmosphere, but now it seems that everyone is just plain greedy, and mean.
I am glad to have left Palo Alto. Have fun with your over rated one million dollar homes.

Posted by It's Clear, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Sep 12, 2008 at 8:44 am


It's clear, busing doesn't work. Kids do not interact just because they are forced together. EPA kids do not interact with Palo Alto kids (in general). My daughter was friends with an EPA girl at school but everytime I talked to the mom about getting together, she had an excuse. I think she was embarassed of being from EPA. Kids who are being bused feel like outsiders and it's not because we make them feel that way. They know they are from a different town and have less.

BMR would not work either. It would just divide the town more. Better to have people who share common backrounds live in a town together.

Posted by proud of it, not ashamed at all, a resident of Midtown
on Sep 12, 2008 at 8:44 am

I too grew up here in Palo Alto in the 60's and 70's, I worked hard to be able to afford a house, why should someone get one for less? BMR, in my opinion, is not good. You live were you can afford to live. Entitlement programs are slowly wrecking this city.

Posted by Regular homeowner who supports BMR, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 12, 2008 at 9:59 am

I think there are a few trolls on PA online that don't represent the community as a whole. Just look at the political discourse and you'd think this town was overflowing with knee-jerk neoconservatives with no common sense. But compare that to the voting record in this town, and you see something very different.

The best way to combat the trolls is to ignore them and state your reasoned opinion about the issue, instead of painting the whole town with their invective. There is nothing they hate more than just being ignored.

Posted by Why BMR, a resident of Crescent Park
on Sep 12, 2008 at 10:10 am

Regular, I would love it if someone could just provide the argument(s) for why we have BMR housing? I have never seen it clearly explained.

The argument that it is so lower-paid people who work in/for the city can live here seems wrong - it isn't required that the housing go to local workers (so most who live there are not), and even so, why would taxpayers want to subsidize some workers' shorter commutes? So that probably isn't it.

I guess there is an argument that economic diversity is the city population is a good in itself, so we should subsidize it - but in that case, we should measure what we are getting, have a target diversity level, etc., not to mention a vote on whether we want to actually subsidize that goal. I haven't seen any of that.

I'm guessing there are other/better arguments, but have not heard them. Do you know?

Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 12, 2008 at 10:13 am

BMRs are often misnomers

I know of one couple who lived in a nice neighborhood in another city and got divorced. He was in a good job getting a good salary and she was a stay at home mom. Because of the divorce, their home was sold and they both moved into rented apartments. Soon after the wife and kids moved into a bmr home in a very nice neighborhood. The husband continued to pay a hefty part of his salary in support. The problem is that the wife did get a part time job and her income enabled her to get a bmr. She also got toys for tots at Christmas and other low income benefits. However, if you take into account the alimony and other moneys (taken at source from the husband's salary) she was on a large income, too big for low income handouts.

I am not saying that this wife and her children did not deserve to live in such a nice home, but that she could have afforded to get something equally nice without any special treatment.

Therefore, I think we have to be careful just what we think bmr qualification really is.

Posted by JC, a resident of Downtown North
on Sep 12, 2008 at 12:29 pm

Regular homeowner, let's put BMR up for a vote. I bet it would fail. We choose to live in Palo Alto for a reason. If we wanted to live in a lower income, less educated town, there are plenty around. You are the one who should move if you want to live in towns like those.

You don't even have the courage to state your neighborhood. People are PC and don't outright sound elitist, but they think it. Life isn't fair; we can't house everyone here.

Posted by Adolph, a resident of Evergreen Park
on Sep 12, 2008 at 1:36 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

Posted by Sarah, a resident of Midtown
on Sep 12, 2008 at 1:51 pm

I agree with you voting no to "BMR" housing, we work hard to live in Palo Alto. We live with our high mortgages, high property taxes, people shouldn't take advantage of it. Plus we need to protect our house value. We already have too many high density housings building in PA, schools almost can't support the growing students. Rinconarda swimming pool can't open during school days since no budget to hire non-high school students. Let's put our money in the right place.

Posted by Comment, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 12, 2008 at 3:20 pm

Back to the topic of Palo Alto being the 4th most expensive town in the US.

I really wish it was not. We moved here and bought a house here in the early 90s, at the end of the era when a middle class family like ours could still (albeit barely) afford a house in Palo Alto.

Since then, house values have tripled or quadrupled and the quality of life in this town has plummeted. [Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

I am counting the days until my last child graduates from high school and when that happens I am out of this place. I'll be happy to leave it to all of you who think you are the center of the universe.

Posted by Huh?, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Sep 12, 2008 at 3:25 pm


Who the heck are you talking about? I have never encountered those in Palo Alto. You sound like you are talking about the people who shop at Stanford Shopping Center, which is not a good representation of Palo Alto.

Posted by Comment, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 12, 2008 at 3:59 pm


I am talking about a large number of Palo Altans (and yes I do own a home and live in Palo Alto). I've run into those at schools, at stores, at offices, on the street. Everywhere. And if you have not detected them, either you are incredibly lucky or maybe you are one of them.

Posted by Battle Scarred, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Sep 12, 2008 at 5:02 pm

You've apparently never shopped at Whole Foods or tried to drive by it, have you, Huh?

Posted by palo alto mom, a resident of Crescent Park
on Sep 12, 2008 at 5:21 pm

I want to know where I can buy a 4 bedroom 2/12 bath house in Palo Alto for 1.74 million.

But the people of PA - for the most part - I have found to be a caring, welcoming and not condescending. Of course there are a small amount of people who fall into that category, but I have found most to be nice.

Posted by Me Too, a resident of Meadow Park
on Sep 12, 2008 at 5:35 pm

There are snooty people in PA, to be sure. To be honest, the snootiness comes in two forms - the new snooty (mentioned above), and the old snooty, who, like Comment above, think the place has gone to the dogs and view new residents with disdain and suspicion.

But I think both are a minority and there are lots of very nice, smart, educated, relatively together people here - some laid back, some type A, but generally fine and fun people.

Posted by Living the Palo Alto Dream, a resident of Midtown
on Sep 12, 2008 at 8:22 pm

Palo Alto Mom - the area you can find a 4 bedroom 2/12 bath house in Palo Alto for 1.74 million is called "south" Palo Alto. Of course, the square footage is less and you probably won't get the half bath but "affordable" housing does exist in Palo Alto.

Posted by Paly Alum, a resident of Jordan Middle School
on Sep 12, 2008 at 8:51 pm


I have kids who attend Duveneck, Jordan, Paly. [Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.
I grew up here and think I know why you perceive people here as snooty. Palo Altans have opinions. Don't be surprised if they say something to you if you are double-parking, etc. I am guessing you are from the Midwest, where everyone is reserved and quiet. I lived in the Midwest for a bit and that is what I observed. When I returned to PA, I was taken aback by the opinionated people at first. The flip side is that people here will help out others rather than not saying anything. A good example was one time when the back of my dress was partially unzipped. Three different people told me about it. I would much rather live here than elsewhere where everyone clams up. Out there, we would attend a soccer game and talk to parents for maybe 10 min. and that was a stretch. In PA, we can talk with people the entire game because people here talk.

The other reason you may call people here "snotty" is that some people dress well. Don't misinterpret them as snobs. Maybe it makes you feel inferior, but that is your issue.

Here's a tip for you: don't move from here to the East Coast.

Posted by Downtown Property Owner, a resident of Professorville
on Sep 12, 2008 at 10:26 pm

Wow, what a bunch of NIMBYs! Sure, get people out of our neighborhoods so they can commute even further to their jobs causing more traffic and pollution. Let's have SMART growth, not NO growth. You're in Palo Alto and you want to shut the gates and lock them to protect your precious way of life and send the "problems" to other communities. How about some great mixed-use HIGH DENSITY in-fill projects near the transportation hubs. You're lucky to live in the hub of a first-rate university, ground zero for high tech, venture capital, green tech and biotech. This isn't a small town any longer -- you're benefiting from the enormous energy of being the center of all this.

Posted by Vocal Residents v.s. Screwball Developers, a resident of Community Center
on Sep 13, 2008 at 9:02 am

What is SMART growth for you is UN-SMART growth for me.
I rest may case and so should you. The real problem developers on this forum are facing (yes there are developers write a LOT on this forum) is that Palo Altans are a vocal group. Other city residents take it simply lying down.

Posted by NotJustMe, a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Sep 13, 2008 at 10:06 am

Apparently, The developers are making a run on our money and they are playing part of us. They love projects big and small.. They know where to get the voters to vote for ANYTHING..Yes This is their money tree. Damnit!

Posted by Al, a resident of Community Center
on Sep 13, 2008 at 2:15 pm

By the way .. housing prices have doubled in PA every ten years, or so.

That means -- in only 10 years, these $1.7M homes will be selling at $3.4M .. or ..

Anybody got any idea how much family income is required to pay the mortgage and taxes on a 3.4M home?

and 10 years later ..

That $3.4M home becomes $7.8M.

Wonder if the past is going to repeat in the future .. home price wise?

Posted by No Way, Al, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Sep 13, 2008 at 6:38 pm

History will not repeat itself. You can't expect 1900 sf houses to sell for 3 million dollars. A 3 million dollar house would require the income of about $800,000 a year.

Posted by narnia, a resident of Midtown
on Sep 14, 2008 at 7:53 am

Just what's wrong with the East Coast where I also live (and own a house in one of the most exclusive parts of a celebrated, vibrant, financial and cultural active big city)?

Posted by narnia, a resident of Midtown
on Sep 14, 2008 at 8:29 am

What I get from most of these posts is that people have no idea at all about:

history of prices (in the mid-eighties they dropped about 25%)

effect of proposition 13 ( a neighbor who bought his house in 1952 for 12,000 still pays about $800 in taxes)

population growth of which THEY, the NEWCOMERS are a part

the selling of schools properties for housing (when my son was in school the school population was dropping but later on Palo Alto was touted as a family place and population equilibrium was lost to the newcomer families and their children- the very people complaining now)

population growth in general (in 1980 we were about 250 million, now we passed the 300million mark and pretty soon we will be 450million)

there are other factors specifically in this area that make high density unavoidable and in a way very desirable as population ages- I myself have been looking for a good apartment with a 24/7 doorman and other amenities and found nothing.

It is astounding to me that Kate asks if renters (some of whom just are smart enough not to want to buy right now) can vote. It would do her good to be a little less ignorant of civic matters.
Renters are residents and voting is not reserved for owners anymore (it hasn't in more than a century) neither is anybody required ( thank God) to provide proof of minimum wealth or even a modicum of intelligence for that matter to cast their vote.

Density is unavoidable, get used to it. Now let us rethink transportation before it's too late and cultural priorities and amenities so that we don't die of boredom). We should also rethink PAlo Alto as "a family " oriented place. We should rethink it as a "people" oriented place and produce housing that caters to all kinds of people and all kinds of "families" (even a family of one). We should also not go about displaying both crass ignorance and self importance because our housing become expensive with no action of our part (population growth/demand did it). BRM's are not for poor people or even those on a "low"
salary. The snooty remarks and silly anecdotes just show how out of the mainstream of life those self important Palo Altans.

Posted by No BMRs, a resident of Menlo Park
on Sep 15, 2008 at 8:40 am

Hey Narnia,

Some people on this board are complaing about being able to afford houses, but there are many that can. Look at Days on Market, so based on your estimates, there are a lot of people making $800,000. You know this is not the case. Someone buying a $3.4M house isn't putting 20% down, they are usually paying cash.

Work hard my friend, work hard....

Posted by Take a bow, my friend, a resident of Crescent Park
on Sep 15, 2008 at 9:55 am

Hey Narnia,
Most people buying houses in the 2M+ price range do not take out loans to buy a house. You underestimate Palo Altans, my friend.

Next time you see a Palo Altan walking down the street - turn on your "high regard" emotion.

Posted by narnia, a resident of Midtown
on Sep 15, 2008 at 10:58 am

I don't really know why you are responding to my post citing affordability because i said NOTHING , NOTHING at all about affordability-others did. Please READ the posts before attributing arguments to somebody if you want to be nice and honest.

my post touched briefly on some of the issues of housing demand:bit of history of prices, prop 13, the newcomers (from my point of view) that are now complaining of the very crowding they created, the selling of schools t make way for housing, the lack of housing diversity for all stations of life.
Some renters are indeed waiting, smartly in my view.
that's all I said.

Posted by Comment, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 15, 2008 at 2:03 pm

Quote from Take a bow: "Next time you see a Palo Altan walking down the street - turn on your "high regard" emotion."

There, you have it. Another of those arrogant, snooty Palo Altans that I was mentioning in my prior post.

Some people really do stink.

BTW Paly Alum, you are way off base in your guess about where I am from. I am not from the MidWest at all. Try again.

Posted by To Comment, a resident of Professorville
on Sep 15, 2008 at 3:49 pm


If Palo Altans are snooty and you can't handle it, you didn't do your research on the neighborhood before you moved in...

Posted by She's So Lonely, So Lonely, a resident of Jordan Middle School
on Sep 15, 2008 at 4:18 pm


Around-the-clock bad attitudes are not healthy for children to be around. Kids have enough stress from the Paly workload and race to the universities. I have lived in South PA and now North PA and everyone is down-to-Earth and friendly even when I dress as a slob without makeup (school mornings). People speak their minds here, but they are nice. Palo Alto is Paradise and anywhere else is second best, which is why top people move here.

Posted by Josephine, a resident of Professorville
on Sep 15, 2008 at 7:58 pm

I am a therapist. An angry person here needs therapy. Hatred is not a healthy lifestyle and her poor children have to put up with it.

Posted by anon., a resident of Mountain View
on Sep 15, 2008 at 9:37 pm

This comment is regarding property taxes - I own a townhouse in Mt View, I believe only property owners vote on raising property taxes for special school funds. For ex I voted yes to give more money for school music programs. This was a special ballot sent thru the mail.

Posted by zanon, a resident of Esther Clark Park
on Sep 16, 2008 at 12:40 pm

I totally agree with other people on this board.

1. We should ban all future development in Palo Alto. It will bring down property value.

2. We should halt any current construction in Palo Alto. See above.

3. We should find some houses in Palo Alto, tear them down, and make them into parks. Parks great for quality of life, and this will further improve property values. It's a win/win.

And no -- i am not a NIMBY -- I'm just someone who cares about this place.


Posted by Anonymous, a resident of another community
on Sep 24, 2008 at 4:04 pm

You people are so concerned about your property values. Its disgusting. It makes me sick to know that is whay Palo altan's think of the "outsiders". Look at all those other people who have been kicked out of their homes and likely will not buy again in a very long time. Look at those people whose values have gone down and wanted to use the equity to get into the city for their kids. No. While the rest of the county works hard to get what they want, you all think you work harder and are better. Blow some smoke up your behinds while you're at it.

Posted by prices are just too high and you know it, a resident of College Terrace
on Dec 23, 2008 at 9:27 am

Almost all of us know that there have been a HUGE housing bubble there that has caused much of the HUGE economical disaster.

The lofty housing prices here are a reflection, and they will have to go down much lower as they had gone much higher than it was within just 10 years.

Calm down. Let them drop, and talk more objectively later on.

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