Town Square

Post a New Topic

City looks for allies against housing mandates

Original post made on Feb 22, 2012

Seeking to carve out a leadership position in what promises to be a prolonged battle against regional housing mandates, Palo Alto officials Tuesday night vehemently rejected a proposal to designate El Camino Real and University Avenue as areas ripe for dramatic growth.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Wednesday, February 22, 2012, 3:32 PM

Comments (33)

 +   Like this comment
Posted by Anon.
a resident of Crescent Park
on Feb 22, 2012 at 3:37 pm

>> Councilman Larry Klein also suggested that staff consider hiring a Sacramento lobbyist to work on this issue -- a suggestion that the rest of the council quickly endorsed.

What a load of crap it's not like the city council has done much to prevent development downtown or on El Camino. There is new housing all over the place. Until the city council can start accomplishing things for Palo Alto they should not criticize Sacramento and especially should not be spending money on lobbyists.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 22, 2012 at 4:00 pm

People would move in (??) to more housing not because they want to live here, not because of the transit, but because of the schools.

We don't have space in our schools for more housing.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Franklin
a resident of Midtown
on Feb 22, 2012 at 4:18 pm

Palo Alto has one of the most lopsided housing to jobs ratio of any city in the Bay Area. We pretend to be environmentalists, but we want our workers to show up to work in our sales tax generating stores, and then disappear at night, so we don't want have the responsibility of educating their children. Meanwhile, people who actually can afford to work in Palo Alto, often leave every morning to work at a high paying Silicon Valley job miles to the south. If you both live and work in Palo Alto, chances are you are an overpaid city employee. Unlike other cities such as San Jose with its revitalized downtown, we have arbitrary 50 foot height limit on new construction. Nobody can build an apartment building as high as city hall. We can find plenty of room for new housing if we can think outside the box and we have a school buidling that is no longer being used as a school (Cubberly. The next time Stanford wants to expand its shopping center, it could be required to build housing for the workers on top of the stores. If this seems like a crazy idea, consider Santana Row, or the new construction that is being built at the old Sears site in Mountain View.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on Feb 22, 2012 at 6:30 pm

You must have meant people who can actually afford to LIVE in Palo Alto. But many of us work in well-paying jobs right here. I have both lived in worked in Palo Alto my entire life, and not as a city employee overpaid or otherwise. Other points: We have less than our share of sales tax generating stores. And the 50-foot height limit is not arbitrary, our fire truck ladders don't reach much higher, and taller buildings rob neighbors of sunlight.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by 50-Foot-Height-Limits-Stop-Big-Buildings-From-Being-Built!
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 22, 2012 at 8:49 pm

> And the 50-foot height limit is not arbitrary

Yes, it is. This restriction was put in place by the City Council after the Bank of America Building was constructed. There were supposed to be four of them, which made a number of people unhappy. So, the 50-foot height limit was passed to put an end to that sort of thing.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Len
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Feb 22, 2012 at 10:31 pm

I've never understood the power ABAG has over local governments, especially considering the absurd mandates they excrete in regards to housing units that each city must build. Who are these people (ABAG), and how did they get a hold of the purse strings of the funds that they hand out to subservient cities? I think the latest housing is something like $1.5M from ABAG in exchange for adding thousands of housing units, somewhere. Has the city considered the long term costs to the city of continually adding housing units (ABAG demands more housing each year I believe) compared to the long term benefit of a one off $1.5M grant? Think about it, thousands of new housing units or $1.5M. $1.5M represents about $50 per household. Barring other information, I'd probably prefer pay $50 to the city and have ABAG and its unfunded mandates take a hike.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by ABAG POWER?
a resident of South of Midtown
on Feb 22, 2012 at 11:24 pm

I believe there is no direct punishment for ignoring ABAG. There is the threat, we are told, of not being eligible for certain transportation grants.
(so what?)


 +   Like this comment
Posted by 50-Foot-Height-Limits-Stop-Big-Buildings-From-Being-Built!
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 23, 2012 at 8:25 am

> the power ABAG has over local governments, especially considering
> the absurd mandates they excrete in regards to housing units that
> each city must build.

ABAG, itself, does not have a lot of power. The power comes from the legislature, which simply conveys various decisions to local authorities to deal with, rather than have "mystical edicts" come from "on high" (mean Sacramento).

If there were any "ignoring" to do, it would be ignoring the edicts of the Legislature. There are some who claim: "It's the law, so we have to comply". There people don't seem to consider the consequences of bad law on little towns, like Palo Alto.

Maybe it's time to rethink the California Constitution, and take this sort of power away from the Legislature. The whole idea of limited government has gotten lost, both in Sacramento, and DC. Time to remind the political class that they work for us, and not the other way round.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Keenplanner
a resident of Downtown North
on Feb 23, 2012 at 10:40 am

Palo Alto likes to portray itself as some sort of enlightened urbane city, but that's far from the truth.
Ask any planner or developer about Palo Alto. It seems that they're beyond NIMBYS. I've seen great, in scale projects in good location shot down just because they were denser that the surrounding areas. I've seen neighbors (who all have big garages) object to denser housing (which also has garages) because they're afraid that people would partk on their deserted streets.
FACT: The Bay Area is growing in population. People of all income levels must be housed. All cities must participate in this effort to add market-rate and affordable housing to their vicinities, and it's always better to build in a location that has walkable services. Using "form based" planning, new building would have the same weight and scale as the existing neighborhood, and have the flexibility to mix retail, professional offices, and housing.
Will PA ever see the light, or will the continue to be the brunt of so many NIMBY jokes?


 +   Like this comment
Posted by A
a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Feb 23, 2012 at 11:11 am

To Keenplanner,

I think people might trust planners more if the recent projects that have been completed were not such absolute planning disasters. Planners apparently did not anticipate that every single family who can pay for a unit in a new development would have AT LEAST two cars. As a result, residential streets are overcrowded with parked cars and can not be swept clean. Planers thought that new developments would have a mix of older residents, singles, and families. Instead the ONLY reason people buy these units is to put their children in the PA schools. If they did not have kids, they would go to a town with less expensive real estate. As a result, schools are overcrowded. Any realistic intelligent person with a knowledge of PA could have predicted this.

Planning has to deal with realities, not some hopeful ideology.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by jerryl
a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Feb 23, 2012 at 12:33 pm

The fundamental problem seems to me to be that developers are not (can not be) required to pay for construction and other costs of the schools and other infrastructure requirements resulting from their developments.

Another problem, mentioned above, is that developers are allowed to get away with woefully unrealistic parking assumptions and are not made to provide AT LEAST 2 parking spaces per small residence unit and more for multi-bedroom units.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Tina Peak
a resident of Downtown North
on Feb 23, 2012 at 12:44 pm

It is pretty clear that this whole "growth is inevitable" mantra and the idea that "planned growth" can be all good with no negative effects is the cool-aid spouted by politically-connected developers and their friends who profit from the growth and drive the process. We are fed the line that growth is good for our economy, for our community's livability, for the environment. It is not True! In a finite city continuous growth is not good, (think crowding, pollution, water shortages, basically living beyond the carrying capacity of the area) nor is it inevitable. It has serious negative effects. If residents want to preserve livability and quality of life in Palo Alto we need to end these massive developments. We don't have to accept and accommodate unsustainable growth. The discussion should be about limits to population growth and sustainability, not how to cram more and more people on top of one another as if there is no other choice.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Traci
a resident of another community
on Feb 23, 2012 at 12:47 pm

Palo Alto is not alone in this issue. Many cities in the Bay Area are in the same boat. We are all getting pressure from ABAG and MTC to expand our population and housing. The carrot of course is transportation funding. I am encouraged to see city officials standing up to these groups, who I might add are not elected, but are appointed to these positions. I hope that more cities, including my own, stand up and fight for local control of their cities. One more thing, ABAB and MTC are wanting to spend millions of dollars to relocate their offices to SF. They will be using our toll bridge dollars, money that is suppose to be used to maintain our bridges. Instead they want to spend it on buying new offices. I say NO.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Linda C
a resident of Menlo Park
on Feb 23, 2012 at 1:13 pm

One has to be RICH to live near THE GOOD PUBLIC SCHOOLS and/or in a walkable area. Since it's not so feasible to park near the train for most area residents - P.A. -Redwood City- Atherton - why not STRESS SHUTTLES for people to get to the train !!! Heck we could model it after Stanford's and make it an extension of that - picking up where it leaves off.

Next - how can we have free public schools in RWC be great !! There is a ton of housing there ! Or think out of the box for starters.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by don johnston
a resident of University South
on Feb 23, 2012 at 2:07 pm

Ihopeyoudonthavekidwherewilltheylive?Turlock?


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Finally!
a resident of Palo Verde
on Feb 23, 2012 at 9:44 pm

Hooray, city council!
It's about time that we voiced a resounding NO to these outrageous housing "requirements". We should maintain the city that WE WANT to live in.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by OccupyABAG
a resident of another community
on Feb 23, 2012 at 10:28 pm

ABAG is ruled by developers and bureaucrats. This is not "smart" regional planning. Follow the money. Ken Kirkey, ABAG Planning Director should resign effective immediately.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Perspective
a resident of Greater Miranda
on Feb 24, 2012 at 6:19 am

Honestly, all I can do is laugh. Even far left Palo Alto is beginning to realize that centralized power, the leftist dream, takes away local freedom.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Karen White
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Feb 24, 2012 at 10:11 am

Tina Peak is right on. We don't need to drink ABAG's Kool-Aid. Here are some thoughts I posted recently on another thread that apply here as well:

Growth will occur, no two ways about it. But we should be planning for our natural growth, i.e., ballpark 10% population growth per decade both state- and City-wide, rather than having ABAG "impose" an egregiously inflated floor for the number of housing units zoned for. We should plan for 20% growth in housing units over 2 decades, rather than ABAG's demand for more than 40% growth!

Under current zoning and the Housing Element NOW IN EFFECT, we can build, as a practical matter, 1,589 housing units on top of the 28,216 we now have. So figuring natural growth, needing around 5,600 additional housing units by 2035 -- and incorporating the 1,589 currently zoned for but not yet built, we should zone for an ADDITIONAL 4,011 housing units during the next two decades.

What we should reject is ABAG's demand that we build 12,000+ housing units -- just so MTC can maintain a fat funding stream. And ABAG demands that these 12K+ housing units are on top of the housing units that are part of our CURRENT housing element -- but haven't even been built!

Check this out:

"MTC Transportation for Livable Communities (TLC) & Housing Incentives Program (HIP)///

"As part of the TLC program, the Housing Incentive Program (HIP) rewards local governments that build housing near transit stops. The key objectives of this program are to:

Increase the housing supply in areas of the region with existing infrastructure and services in place,

Locate new housing where non-automotive transportation options are viable transportation choices, and

ESTABLISH THE RESIDENTIAL DENSITY AND RIDERSHIP MARKETS NECESSARY TO SUPPORT HIGH-QUALITY TRANSIT SERVICE." (Emphasis added.)

So what all this is about is keeping those dollars flowing to developers and public transit agencies by pushing density, regardless of overwhelmingly harmful community impacts. All the high-brow and self-righteous analyses that growth advocates serve up are just a smoke screen for this simple truth.



 +   Like this comment
Posted by Wanderer
a resident of another community
on Feb 24, 2012 at 11:04 am

If Palo Alto was willing to distribute all the tax revenue it earns from having more than twice as many jobs as employed residents, then it would have the right to take a no housing growth stance. But what Palo Alto is saying is "We'll take all the moneymaking parts, and leave it you benighted other cities to take the part that doesn't make money." Not exactly an environmentally sustainable or progressive position.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by "Rural" PDA is an oxymoron
a resident of another community
on Feb 25, 2012 at 8:12 am

This past August ABAG decided to offer funding incentives for Priority Development Areas in semi-rural communities such as Penngrove, Graton, Forestville, and Guernville. This decision was made by the ABAG Planning Director after Sonoma County officials took ABAG officles on a van tour of rural Sonoma County. The lobbying effort by Sonoma County officles lasted for two years and resulted in ABAG redefining Priority Development Areas to include semi-rural areas that are far from jobs and transit. Sonoma County planners offered ABAG significant infill development in exchange for the funding incentives that come with a PDA designation. This is not about reducing carbon emissions.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by stephen levy
a resident of University South
on Feb 25, 2012 at 7:46 pm

stephen levy is a registered user.

On March 9 ABAG will release draft growth scenarios for the region including for Palo Alto. These will REPLACE the numbers that everyone has been talking about although the changes may not be large.

After that there will be an open discussion period of several months after which the ABAG members, not the staff, will select a growth vision. plan and policies for the region.

In developing these new projections and plans, ABAG and othe regional planning agencies are responding to two major parts of SB 375 although the planning would and has been similar before SB 375 was passed. one component is reducing total travel distances to save energy, increase mobility and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The second component of SB 375 is to provide housing within the region for new workers and their families who come in response to job growth. The housing goal would remain even if the emission reduction target were absent.

In the existing distribution of growth within the region (and expected to remain so in the March 9 new numbers) Palo Alto is expected to see job growth at a rate faster than the region as a whole (similar to many peninsula cities) and will be asked to plan for an above average share of regional housing.

The overall projected regional growth is in the range of 1% per year, close to but slightly above the national growth rate. I have not seen the new projections for Palo Alto but I would expect them to show a higher growth rate as Palo Alto is a job and transit access center.

The release on March 9 should provide additional explanation for the regional and local area projections.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Crescent Park Dad
a resident of Crescent Park
on Feb 26, 2012 at 8:42 am

It's time to bag ABAG.

We have no room in our schools and a shrinking educational budget. Our crumbling infrastructure is lacking in repair funds and/or capacity.

Palo Alto is over-built as it is.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by OccupyABAG
a resident of another community
on Feb 26, 2012 at 12:21 pm

Rural towns have a dog in the fight. The San Mateo County unincorporated coastal towns of El Granada, Princeton, Moss Beach, and Montara are joined by the Sonoma County unincorporated towns of Penngrove, Graton, Forestville, and Guernville in opposing the new ABAG "Rural" Priority Development Area designation.

Don't miss the ABAG Executive Board meeting!
March 15, 7:00pm
Metro Center
101 Eighth St.
Oakland CA 94607


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Smart Growth is an oxymoron
a resident of another community
on Feb 26, 2012 at 12:53 pm

It seems that "Crescent Park Dad" beat me to the punchline by 3 hours. ABAG should be eliminated. They are not elected by the people they're impacting. I applaud any city or county which chooses to ignore ABAG. As to the lost transportation grants, here's an idea: take the money that ABAG distributes and return it to the local areas that it came from, for them to do with it as they wish, not as some unelected dictators from afar wish. This whole concept of higher levels of government collecting money and then doling out "grants" is seriously broken. Keep the money at the local level where it comes from, eliminate all grants and therefore all meddling from afar.

As partial proof of the folly and fallacy of this imposition from above of housing expansion requirements, consider that under ABAG's scheme, no area will or ever can have an upper limit to how much housing they are required to have. ABAG (and Sacramento!) is simply dictating required growth RATES, not end-points. So when a city, Palo Alto for example, has ruined parts of the city by changing the zoning to provide for ABAG's ivory-tower housing mandates and that housing is completely built out, ABAG will simply raise the numbers again expecting to repeat the cycle.

In my extensive experience, what I've discovered is that planners do not believe that people have a right to live in a small and/or low-density town. In a meeting with a San Mateo County supervisor, I asked the planner who was there "Do you think people have a right to live in a small town." His short answer was "No." His long answer was "buy property zoned for low density." The problem is that ABAG won't let low density exist.

California itself must reverse course and take a hard line against growth. California is out of water. Continued growth means that every resident will continually be required to do with less and less water, and mandatory rationing will become more and more frequent. Transportion will end up being a minor issue compared to water. Go find and watch the movie "Cadillac Desert."

A better solution to mandates from above would be a complete restructuring of how sales tax is distributed. Cities compete for business and shun housing because housing doesn't pay for itself through property taxes and sales taxes from business are what keep cities afloat.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by This Is Not Democracy
a resident of another community
on Feb 27, 2012 at 12:41 pm

‎I just love California's "leadership". Next they'll be selling Californians as slaves to foreign countries.

Another example of top down government:

"Voters will NOT make the final decision...Regulators will ultimately decide whether the state should build either a canal or a series of massive tunnels to make it easier to move water from Northern California without it flowing through the delta's circuitous sloughs and channels."

LINK: Web Link

Let the Lawsuits begin.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Franklin
a resident of Midtown
on Feb 27, 2012 at 2:53 pm

The current way that sales tax revenue is allocated makes city governments try to get as much retail as possible, and as little new housing as possible. - And proposition 13 has made things worse.

Suppose 100% of sales tax revenue went to the state, and then was redistributed to the cities based on the population of registered voters. Then cities would have a motive to build more housing and send the retail businesses elsewhere.

Cities like Portland, Oregon where there is no sales tax have a much better mix of housing and retail.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Stop autocracy!
a resident of another community
on Feb 28, 2012 at 10:09 am

ABAG is implementing OneBayArea grant funding without adequately engaging the public. One public workshop per County is an unacceptable outreach effort. ABAG controls the grant funding purse strings with very little public scrutiny. The ABAG Executive Director recently came up with a new type of Priority Development Area (PDA) specifically designed to increase housing in semi-rural communities far from transit and jobs. "Rural" PDAs are a perversion of SB375. ABAG Board members are chosen by city councils and county boards. The SB375 top-down, state-controlled planning paradigm relies on existing organizations such as ABAG for implementation. This is a problem because ABAG staff and the board makes decisions based on lobbying not based on the goals of SB375. ABAG staff and the board are unaccountable to the local people whom they are supposed to serve.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Stop autocracy!
a resident of another community
on Feb 28, 2012 at 10:09 am

ABAG is implementing OneBayArea grant funding without adequately engaging the public. One public workshop per County is an unacceptable outreach effort. ABAG controls the grant funding purse strings with very little public scrutiny. The ABAG Executive Director recently came up with a new type of Priority Development Area (PDA) specifically designed to increase housing in semi-rural communities far from transit and jobs. "Rural" PDAs are a perversion of SB375. ABAG Board members are chosen by city councils and county boards. The SB375 top-down, state-controlled planning paradigm relies on existing organizations such as ABAG for implementation. This is a problem because ABAG staff and the board makes decisions based on lobbying not based on the goals of SB375. ABAG staff and the board are unaccountable to the local people whom they are supposed to serve.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Rural PDAs Suck!
a resident of another community
on Mar 27, 2012 at 11:05 pm

The ABAG Executive Board did NOT approve RURAL Priority Development Area (PDA) place types at the March 15, 2012 meeting. The board was concerned that too many PDAs have already been approved. Mark Green, Mayor of Union City and ABAG past president said, "The PDA club has gotten too big to fund."


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Rural PDAs are a scam
a resident of another community
on Mar 27, 2012 at 11:08 pm

The proposed San Mateo County Midcoast "Rural" PDA designation is an oxymoron.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Shameless lobbying effort by Sonoma County planners needs to stop!
a resident of another community
on Mar 27, 2012 at 11:10 pm

This past August ABAG decided to offer funding incentives for Priority Development Areas in semi-rural communities such as Penngrove, Graton, Forestville, and Guernville. This decision was made by the ABAG Planning Director after Sonoma County officials took ABAG officles on a van tour of rural Sonoma County. The lobbying effort by Sonoma County officles lasted for two years and resulted in ABAG redefining Priority Development Areas to include semi-rural areas that are far from jobs and transit. Sonoma County planners offered ABAG significant infill development in exchange for the funding incentives that come with a PDA designation. This is not about reducing carbon emissions.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by regional planning implementation results in joint lawsuit
a resident of another community
on Mar 27, 2012 at 11:13 pm

"Sustainable Communities Strategy" faces joint lawsuit in San Diego

link: Web Link


Don't miss out on the discussion!
Sign up to be notified of new comments on this topic.

Email:


Post a comment

Posting an item on Town Square is simple and requires no registration. Just complete this form and hit "submit" and your topic will appear online. Please be respectful and truthful in your postings so Town Square will continue to be a thoughtful gathering place for sharing community information and opinion. All postings are subject to our TERMS OF USE, and may be deleted if deemed inappropriate by our staff.

We prefer that you use your real name, but you may use any "member" name you wish.

Name: *

Select your neighborhood or school community: * Not sure?

Comment: *

Verification code: *
Enter the verification code exactly as shown, using capital and lowercase letters, in the multi-colored box.

*Required Fields

Grab a Bowl of Heaven soon in Mountain View
By Elena Kadvany | 0 comments | 2,913 views

Don't fund the rape culture at my alma mater
By Jessica T | 36 comments | 2,551 views

Quick Check List for UC Applications
By John Raftrey and Lori McCormick | 0 comments | 1,989 views

Mothers, daughters, books, and boxes
By Sally Torbey | 4 comments | 1,171 views

Campaign Endorsements: Behind the Curtain
By Douglas Moran | 10 comments | 1,061 views