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New vision for California Avenue advances

Original post made on Feb 13, 2014

As Palo Alto prepares for a physical transformation of California Avenue, city planners are advancing a new vision document for the dynamic and eclectic area -- a plan that they hope will spur more high-tech startups, smaller apartments and higher density near transit hubs.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Wednesday, February 12, 2014, 10:28 PM

Comments (147)

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Posted by Stop the Once-lers
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 13, 2014 at 6:26 am

I used to welcome this, but since this new crop of planners and Council seem to think things like sunlight, sky, views, natural environment, open space, trees, setbacks, traffic circulation, communal feel, and the good opinions of residents are less important than dog do to be scraped from their heels, and safety distant to that, I am bracing myself for another extension of the El Camino Aboveground Tunnel Projèct come to California Avenue. They seem particularly bent on helping us forget that there are hills and sunlight here.

"mixed use" to them is simply a euphemism for no setback or natural environment. Please stay forever, Fry's!!


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Posted by Stop the Once-lers
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 13, 2014 at 6:31 am

Sorry, [portion removed] - since when does building with so little setback and sidewalk that you guarantee the " boulevard" can only ever be walked single file for the next 75 years make someplace walkable? Especially with such ugly giant edifices looming above and all around?


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Posted by Midtown
a resident of Midtown
on Feb 13, 2014 at 9:42 am

Why this huge push to pack and stack Palo Alto? I know, the developers make money, the rest of us suffer.


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Posted by 35 year resident
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Feb 13, 2014 at 10:53 am

[Portion removed.] The MAJORITY of business and property owners DO NOT want this. Why can't they just LISTEN for a change.


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Posted by Pack and Stack
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 13, 2014 at 10:59 am

Midtown sums it all up so well in one sentence. They just don't let up.


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Posted by Dave
a resident of Crescent Park
on Feb 13, 2014 at 11:41 am

Densification - just what Palo Alto needs!


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Posted by Kate
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Feb 13, 2014 at 11:42 am

One requirement for Palo Alto "planners'. First and foremost, they MUST live here, own a home here - not rent -
and have a stake in the community. Like OURS, it has to be be THEIRS also. If they foul it up, then they suffer like the rest of us do.....and we ARE suffering. This is not the place to experiment with kooky ideas!!!


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Posted by John
a resident of Barron Park
on Feb 13, 2014 at 11:46 am

One man's amenity is another man's poison!


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Posted by Hambone
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Feb 13, 2014 at 11:47 am

I hope they bring back an excellent nightclub like the Edge. Chibby and I used to sarge there every Thursday night!


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Posted by But we NEED the Density
a resident of another community
on Feb 13, 2014 at 11:49 am

I grew up in Palo Alto and while visiting recently I thought to myself, "what this place needs is a little densification. It's just not dense enough. There just isn't enough traffic, or people, and the buildings are too short, too spread apart. I'm so glad the city is moving in this direction because in my view, Palo Alto is SO behind in everything! It's time the city really prioritizes more growth, but DENSITY in particular, as it is so lacking and will result in a much more favorable and livable environment for all.


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Posted by MadamPresident
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Feb 13, 2014 at 11:50 am

forum users: please don't be absurd in using the "suffering" word - cos we, including low-income PA residents - have no idea what suffereng means


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Posted by Member
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Feb 13, 2014 at 11:51 am


What a good idea from Kate (see above). All involved with the massive building in Palo Alto MUST live here. Perhaps that would at least lesson the destroying (in my opinion) of our town.
Disgrunted resident of almost fifty years.


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Posted by jerry99
a resident of Barron Park
on Feb 13, 2014 at 11:51 am

No more development, not a single new apartment, condominium or house in Palo Alto. The streets age gridlock from 3PM to 7PM. Leave California Street alone, it is just fine and does not need yet more lunacy to add unnecessary garbage or new businesses or fewer lanes or less parking.

When the hell is the City Council going to understand- NO MORE DEVELOPMENT IN PALO ALTO. We tell them time and time and time again and they just ignore it. [Portion removed.]

WORRY ABOUT THE EXPLODING CRIME DOWNTOWN AND IN THE CITY AND THE LACK OF PARKING IN DOWNTOWN PALO ALTO. PERIOD


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Posted by Eclectic Palo Altan
a resident of Crescent Park
on Feb 13, 2014 at 11:55 am

The City's MO: take anything that was eclectic about Palo Alto. Beat the eclectic out of it.


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Posted by Robert
a resident of another community
on Feb 13, 2014 at 11:59 am

Its unfortunate that so many residents feel left behind, so that what most people would view as a booming city, they see as some kind of siege by newcomers. The real problem is that, rather than try and figure out how to preserve Palo Alto's qualities through these inevitable changes, they believe they have the power to stop those changes, not understanding how their fight to do so is what's destroying the very qualities they are trying to protect.


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Posted by Silly
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Feb 13, 2014 at 12:10 pm

What a relief that they're removing traffic lanes as they contemplate higher density.

What could go wrong. And how long do they think the "eclectic retail" will last landlords could develop for high-density residential and offices.

We all know the new residents and new workers won't have cars, right?


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Posted by Pete
a resident of College Terrace
on Feb 13, 2014 at 12:21 pm

This plan sounds great. It's about time Palo Alto moved away from 1960's style suburban planning. California Ave and the surrounding area are the perfect spot for more density.


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Posted by Annette
a resident of College Terrace
on Feb 13, 2014 at 12:40 pm

I have some questions.

1. How is policy really set in this town? Does it start with City Council as it should since they are the only elected body? Or does it start with the City Manager? Or does the City Manager leave that to his top staff?
2. What is the process for acountability for the City Manager?
3. What is the process for accountability for City Staff, particulalry those who may in fact be setting policy simply because of the way things have evolved?
4. What is the process for accountability for the ARB and the Planning Commission?

I thought City Council was supposed to determine what the City Manager and City Staff worked on, but I am doubting that. If that were the case, surely our CM and Staff would be spending most of their time solving the various big problems the city has instead of developing new projects that can, arguably, wait until current issues are sorted out (and that might add to our problems). As it is, Palo Alto compounds problems instead of solving them. This is not smart.

The more I pay attention to issues involving city planning, the more concerned I am that there really isn't much accountability and that City Staff gets ideas and runs with them even if the community has registered disapproval through the long-established democratic process call elections.

Periodically this venue includes the suggestion that we need to clean house. That idea will gain merit if the status quo continues.


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Posted by Grandpa
a resident of University South
on Feb 13, 2014 at 12:48 pm

Well, as now things stand, my children, who grew up here and went to Paly, cannot afford to live here in Palo Alto, although they have good jobs. Leaving Palo Alto the way it is means that only the super wealthy will be able to live here. Is that what really we want? Do we want Palo Alto to be just another Atherton?


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Posted by hard to deal with
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 13, 2014 at 12:48 pm

When you see this kind of destruction of a City which defies your sensibilities and just makes no sense from a planning and public interest
standpoint, questions arise. What is going on here? How much of this is due to Council/ARB/staff incompetence/ ignorance/ delusions and misconceptions and how much is due to political influence/money? How do you sort it out? When you look at the results on the ground,which are so bad,it seems to me that it must be a combination of all of this, it's all intertwined, which makes it so hard to deal with.


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Posted by Pete
a resident of College Terrace
on Feb 13, 2014 at 12:55 pm

There is congestion because the Bay Area economy is booming and there are a ton of jobs here. If you want to ease congestion you need to offer alternatives to driving from home to work. Mixed-use developments near Caltrain allow some people to walk to work and others to commute via Caltrain. Burying your head in the sand and saying "no more development" just means people will have to drive in from further out leading to more congestion and more pollution. I'm happy the planning commission is being proactive.


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Posted by KP
a resident of South of Midtown
on Feb 13, 2014 at 1:20 pm

Anyone who wants density can move to the City or SJC - Let our suburb stay a suburb. Our little city has grown so much. And in the case of Alma Plaza, too fast for proper planning to make sure it's done right.
If the development has to happen, they need to leave the lanes on Cal Ave alone and make sure they make plenty of parking (underground would be nice) for all the cars they DON'T expect to come with our new tenants!
[Portion removed.]


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Posted by Annette
a resident of College Terrace
on Feb 13, 2014 at 1:28 pm

@Pete - I don't think the objections should be categorically labeled as "No More Development" or that the people objecting should be characterized as having their heads buried. Many residents are expressing CONCERN about the direction the City is taking. The list of planned projects is long and the true impact of each cannot possibly be known until completed. And yet the City keeps adding more to the pipeline. From my perspective, people who are speaking up want the City to take a breather and a reality-based look at cumulative impact. What's really going on with high speed rail? If there's still a possibility that it will be at or near CalTrain how does future development really fit with that? What's the plan for paying for the additional infrastructure work that is needed? What I am taking from all this discussion is a growing concern that the people who made the decisions that helped get us where we are now are not the right ones to take us into a well thought out future.


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Posted by Pete
a resident of College Terrace
on Feb 13, 2014 at 1:47 pm

Annette, I didn't want to single anyone out in my comment but I was mostly replying to jerry99 who said: "When the hell is the City Council going to understand- NO MORE DEVELOPMENT IN PALO ALTO."


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Posted by Thirsty
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Feb 13, 2014 at 1:56 pm

Where will the water for these massive developments come from?

Where will the people (most probably young) who live in these smaller apartments and condos go to live when they have children and need more room?
I understand that there are older singles and couples who might also live in these places but I suspect most will be young people.


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Posted by Remember 2009
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Feb 13, 2014 at 2:01 pm

To Annette's questions. I reply as a resident of Evergreen Park, that has been watching the Cal Ave area for several years, with interest, and I took the time to check facts, speak with people that had first-hand experience:

1. How is policy really set in this town? Does it start with City Council as it should since they are the only elected body? Or does it start with the City Manager? Or does the City Manager leave that to his top staff?
**********

Response:
In the case of California Avenue, a district that has had no visible improvements in 40 years, this is based on need. Just look at the condition of the street, trash cans, benches (or lack thereof), etc. Regarding the area including Fry's, there was a Planning Meeting to create a Concept Plan for it, and everyone interested in that area from around the city was invited to come and it drew a group of around 75 people, pretty good turnout. That was in February 2009.

While the city council *should* listen to residents and then bring ideas to council, that is not the way it happens. Staff, in particular, upper management, decides what it wants to do in each department, and then they go to the City Manager, who goes to Council, with recommendations. That is why there are so many do-overs in projects, or projects that take umpteen years to complete, with anger abounding, and needlessly.

NOTE TO THE PA WEEKLY STAFF & INTERESTED READERS --
This Frys topic has been on the table for 5 years, not three. Two years have been erased in news reports, not only regarding the Fry's area, but also for the Cal Ave Streetscape that has also been reported as "new", when most of what we now see is 7 years old, and the project was on the radar screen for at least 10 years total.
*********************************************************

2. What is the process for acountability for the City Manager?

Response:
I can safely say: none. Remember that the "Executive Summary" regarding the California Avenue Streetscape, dubbed "The Project", was an internal investigation, not everyone involved was asked for their perception/facts of what happened, and the Summary was illegally leaked to the press, without anyone asking questions. No penalty. It all just went away.
***********************************************
3. What is the process for accountability for City Staff, particularly those who may in fact be setting policy simply because of the way things have evolved?

Response:
I can safely say: none. The conditions in place when Phase One of the Cal Ave Streetscape was halted, Sept. 2009, likely exist today. City staff go to umpteen meetings each week, but communication is not shared among departments, not to department managers, not to the City Manager's office and as a result, council is not in the loop. There is a lot of turnover, and many new staff members have no memory of past history, so everything is "new" to them. For those that know more, they would go with the flow, with no one really being accountable, until residents learn something that they do not like. City Hall is not proactive, but reactive. That applies to council members too. I learned former Councilman Jack Morton never paid any attention to the California Avenue district at all, until he was no longer on the council, and his office is/was in our area.
*******************************************

4. What is the process for accountability for the ARB and the Planning Commission?

Response:
From observation, these volunteer groups are not on the same page. The data they receive may differ. Because the people change, they often indicate ideas are "new", when previous ARB and Planning Commissions have reviewed (and even approved) the same work, years prior.
**************************************************

Annette wrote:
I thought City Council was supposed to determine what the City Manager and City Staff worked on, but I am doubting that. If that were the case, surely our CM and Staff would be spending most of their time solving the various big problems the city has instead of developing new projects that can, arguably, wait until current issues are sorted out (and that might add to our problems). As it is, Palo Alto compounds problems instead of solving them. This is not smart.
*************************
Response:
While I agree with your conclusion, this project is simply not "new", in spite of what news reports indicate. Plenty of paper-trails exist.

Annette wrote:
The more I pay attention to issues involving city planning, the more concerned I am that there really isn't much accountability and that City Staff gets ideas and runs with them even if the community has registered disapproval through the long-established democratic process call elections.

Response:
You are very observant. Congratulations on being interested. I first took note, in 2009.
*****************************

Annette wrote:
Periodically this venue includes the suggestion that we need to clean house. That idea will gain merit if the status quo continues.

Response:
Good luck, because the problem is systemic, and a mindset among everyone needs to be changed. It is not just in Palo Alto. Menlo Park may be worse.


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Posted by Marie
a resident of Midtown
on Feb 13, 2014 at 2:19 pm

Marie is a registered user.

We should replace Palo Alto's Planning Board, ARB and senior planning staff with the people who planned and implemented the SOFA development when PAMF moved. It is a beautiful area, great for walking and a great combination of housing, parks near retail. Let those who like narrow sidewalks with no setbacks and no landscaping and 10 story buildings go work for SF. Oops, it turns out that SF residents don't like this either. Maybe Moscow?

Palo Alto has a great number of local residents with vision who could do a great job designing true multi-use neighborhoods. Let's stop enabling lawyers and architects who work for developers whose only goal is to maximize profits by pack and stack developments. It is time for a change. [Portion removed.]


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Posted by Jerry99
a resident of Barron Park
on Feb 13, 2014 at 2:34 pm

@Pete

Do you think about the repercussions? Over crowding schools, lack of parking, high rise buildings blocking sunlight?


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Posted by Twenty-Year Resident
a resident of Southgate
on Feb 13, 2014 at 3:16 pm

Yes, the Planning Commission members, the ARC members, the City Council members, and [portion removed] Ken Hayes all have dense heads and thick skulls. As a result, everywhere they look they see density and desire more of it. None of them have any artistic sense or ability,,either, and could not identify it if it hit them in their faces.

This present crop of powers-that-be should just leave Palo Alto alone until their terms all run out. They have yet to do anything but harm for Palo Alto [portion removed.]


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Posted by dray
a resident of South of Midtown
on Feb 13, 2014 at 3:30 pm

[Post removed.]


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Posted by Pete
a resident of College Terrace
on Feb 13, 2014 at 3:39 pm

The article says the sidewalks are to be widened and the proposed buildings are only 40 feet high. Why are people talking about 10 story buildings with narrow sidewalks?

Jerry, those are all things to consider. However, 40 feet really isn't that tall so I'm not too worried about blocking out the sun. Also I don't imagine many school kids will be living in the apartment buildings.


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Posted by Chibby
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Feb 13, 2014 at 3:53 pm

[Post removed.]


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Posted by Annette
a resident of College Terrace
on Feb 13, 2014 at 3:57 pm

@Remember 2009 - thank you for your informed and thorough response. Sadly, the term SNAFU sprang to mind.

I did/do know that the Cal Ave project is not "new". I agree the area needs updating but have serious concerns about the lane reduction given all the new building that is underway or approved. I don't know where the idea comes from that people will not use cars; I think it is an unsubstantiated data point used to validate the sort of planning decisions that have contributed to the problems we have.

@Pete - thank you.

I want to encourage people to comment under their own name. If a comment is worth posting, it's worth owning.


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Posted by Jerry99
a resident of Barron Park
on Feb 13, 2014 at 4:47 pm

@Pete

FYI pal I went to Paly, a highly esteemed and rated public school. If you, for one second, would "imagine" people would not move into lower rent apartments to send their kids to PAUSD schools you have a rather poor imagination.


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Posted by Imagine that
a resident of Green Acres
on Feb 13, 2014 at 6:03 pm

Yes, remember the city planners who imagined that only senior citizens would move into Arbor Real to live in those tall skinny three-story-high townhouses. It's now a nice community for families with kids, hard to imagine any seniors living there, though.


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Posted by Imagine That
a resident of Green Acres
on Feb 13, 2014 at 6:04 pm

Oops, posted already under a different moniker, Stop the Once-lers.


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Posted by observer
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 13, 2014 at 6:08 pm

So the staff report recommends that the Gilman lot behind the Post Office
be used for a multi-story garage. This lot is the site of the Farmer's Market and is an attractive mixed residential area.Burt blows the cover
off the staff report saying that the logic presented to support this
recommendation is not there. The consultant is presented and he has no
credible explanation either. Holman questioned this recommendation too, and thankfully it did not get rubber-stamped as proposed by the staff. So where
did this recommendation come from, which had so much relevance to the Farmer's Market, a community asset which support's the City's endless rhetoric about environmental consciousness and sustainability, and walkable, livable neighborhoods, and all the rest? So there you have it in
a nutshell, folks.


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Posted by Donald
a resident of South of Midtown
on Feb 13, 2014 at 6:42 pm

We do not live on an island. Palo Alto is not free to choose its land use policies on its own. ABAG and other regional agencies push mandates onto local agencies. Like it or not, that is reality.


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Posted by Safari Song
a resident of Meadow Park
on Feb 13, 2014 at 6:59 pm

That new vision is 20/100


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Posted by Elaine
a resident of Ventura
on Feb 13, 2014 at 7:12 pm

I'm concerned about the plans for California Avenue. For one, though the street isn't fancy right now, it's easy to get around and you can always find a parking place. I'm also wondering how the plan to reduce the street to one lane in each direction is going to affect the farmers' market. It's a great scene there on Sundays, with tons of people out enjoying the scene.


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Posted by Save Palo Alto
a resident of Professorville
on Feb 13, 2014 at 7:46 pm

The current city council will be known as the council that destroyed Palo Alto. They are an utterly unqualified group of people, allowing Palo Alto to become nothing more than an office park. The city manager is incompetent.


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Posted by Not again
a resident of Green Acres
on Feb 13, 2014 at 8:00 pm

Cal Ave businesses don't want high density and Palo Alto residents don't want it. So why does the city keep pushing this? Follow the money.

Thankfully there is a referendum process to check this. But how many referenda like Maybell will it take for the city to listen to businesses and residents?


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Posted by PA Voter
a resident of Mayfield
on Feb 13, 2014 at 9:44 pm

@Save Palo Alto, regarding the current city council being "utterly unqualified", the only qualification needed is to get enough votes.


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Posted by Alan
a resident of Ventura
on Feb 13, 2014 at 9:47 pm

@Elaine - why would reducing the striping of lanes affect the Farmers Market, when the road is closed for that? The Farmers Market will still be great.


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Posted by MrRecycle
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Feb 14, 2014 at 12:08 am

I love density. In cities, not suburbs. So leave the density to San Francisco, Oakland, and San Jose, and leave Palo Alto alone. That said, the California Ave update is one if the least offensive project in the last 20 years,,,


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Posted by Pete
a resident of College Terrace
on Feb 14, 2014 at 8:37 am

Palo Alto is in no danger of approaching the kind of density that San Francisco has. You could quadruple the amount of people in Palo Alto and still not be close to San Francisco.


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Posted by Crescent Park Dad
a resident of Crescent Park
on Feb 14, 2014 at 9:50 am

@ Kate. Recognize that you're ranting...but be serious. Are you willing to pony up the additional tax dollars that will be required in order pay the city staff enough money so they can afford to live in PA? You can't have it both ways.


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Posted by bb
a resident of Midtown
on Feb 14, 2014 at 10:26 am

I called city council to ask where the small businesses on California avenue are going to go after all the redevelopment and whether Palo Alto is providing a way for businesses that people use on a daily basis to stay in business on California avenue. The person I talked to referred to "Cal ave" as synonymous with University avenue and advised the small businesses currently on California avenue (some who have been there for many years) to move elsewhere in Palo Alto, and suggested midtown or Charleston center as options. So California avenue is no longer meant to provide service to the people who live in the neighborhoods (think Palo Alto florists, Cho's dumplings, The Bargain Box, Palo Alto violins, and private services in those buildings, all walkable for people in the neighborhood). I walked passed the florist shop last night and it was buzzing with activity. These businesses provide services and add a sense of community to the area. If the planning commission of PA sees CA avenue as just another University ave, it seems that means catering to high end eating places and coffee houses en masse. Please city council, tell me what you doing for the businesses that provide real services for the community? California avenue now is an actual walkable business district with real businesses. The planning commission isn't even aware of building being bought and sold on the street...... so how are they planning?? Palo Alto, put something in place to provide help for small businesses - not just start up social media. Those businesses can be virtual and anywhere on the planet.


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Posted by MadamPresident
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Feb 14, 2014 at 11:17 am

@Grandpa

Why don't let your kids move in with you?


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Posted by Robert
a resident of another community
on Feb 14, 2014 at 11:51 am

@MadamPresident

I think he was making the point of prices getting so bad, even those with high paying jobs can no longer afford to buy a home in Palo Alto. I really doubt 40 years ago, the only ones who could buy a decent house were CEOs and foreign investors.


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Posted by Jens P
a resident of College Terrace
on Feb 14, 2014 at 11:55 am

with some of these comments I feel reminded of the Washington stalemate where the right and the left are lobbing grenades at each other without much consideration given to increase insight into complex issues. The bay area economy is healthy and growing, I am grateful because I benefit, so does Palo Alto. There is no way to ignore the growth around us. Scaling up to more car traffic and more parking needs is not the answer. We need to introduce alternatives. Higher density, more walking, more public transport. California Avenue has the infrastructure ingredients to start this change. If we had stayed with horses and buggies, we would be drowning in horse manure by now. Not exactly an improvement in living standards. I am looking forward to a revitalized and vibrant California Ave!


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Posted by Vanessa Warheit
a resident of College Terrace
on Feb 14, 2014 at 12:04 pm

I was raised in Palo Alto, attended Stanford, and am currently the mother of a PAUSD student. We have never been able to afford a home in Palo Alto, but I fail to see how that makes me any less of a citizen. (Last I checked, voting rights in this country were based on residency, not on land ownership.) If Kate is serious about requiring the city planners to own property here, she might want to pony up the extra couple of hundred thousand a year in salary, per planner, that would require...

As for density - of course no one likes traffic and congestion. No one likes air pollution either. But a very cursory study of basic urban planning and design principles will show that density increases walkability, bikability, and transit options - which ultimately leads to less traffic, less air pollution, and less congestion. Look at the most livable places in the world (Vancouver, Melbourne, Vienna): all are fairly dense. So is Paris - remember, density doesn't necessarily mean high-rises. It does mean mixed-use development; prioritization of pedestrians, transit, and bicycles over cars; and incorporation of green spaces into the landscape.

What I think is most important for us long-time Palo Alto residents to understand is that it is no longer realistic to expect Palo Alto to remain the funky sleepy little intellectual community it once was. That all changed in the 80s, when high tech startups moved in, and the beat-up volvos were replaced with BMWs (and now Teslas). The question is, do we want to be just another south bay community that suffers from traffic congestion & air pollution, where we are forced to get in our cars to buy groceries, where our kids can't ride their bikes safely to school? Or do we want to make Palo Alto - 21st century Palo Alto - a lovable, functional place, a model of sustainability for the rest of world to envy? Based on the information listed in this article, I feel pretty strongly that plans like this one for Cal Ave are a big step in the right direction.


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Posted by Jerry99
a resident of Barron Park
on Feb 14, 2014 at 12:18 pm

@Pete

That was very insightful. Thanks? Last time I checked, San Francisco schools were a disaster as it relates to zoning and the schools that are held in higher regard are ridiculously competitive for children that are barely 5 years old! You think that is a model community? Look, Palo Alto is a wonderful community, I think we can all agree there, but transforming what we have into major urban development will carry major repercussions. Think about those.


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Posted by Pete
a resident of College Terrace
on Feb 14, 2014 at 12:29 pm

Jerry,
my point was that we are nowhere close to becoming like San Francisco so it's ridiculous to compare us to them (as the previous poster had done).


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Posted by Pete
a resident of College Terrace
on Feb 14, 2014 at 12:34 pm

bb,
wouldn't a bunch of new residents be a boon to the businesses on California? I don't understand your concern.

BTW, Cho's is already going out of business. I've seen a few petitions going around to try to save it.


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Posted by Hambone
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Feb 14, 2014 at 12:42 pm

@Jerry99 Don't you want a sweet nightlife scene to come back? Did you ever go to the Edge to meet babes?


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Posted by Jerry99
a resident of Barron Park
on Feb 14, 2014 at 12:48 pm

@Pete - OK, apology accepted.

@Hambone - Is that a joke? Let's keep this discussion serious.


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Posted by Crescent Park Dad
a resident of Crescent Park
on Feb 14, 2014 at 12:48 pm

Palo Alto house prices have been higher than the neighboring cities for decades...beyond the 40 years referenced above.


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Posted by Stop the Once-lers
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 14, 2014 at 2:57 pm

@Hambone,
I don't know about babes, but I am partial to sky and sunshine, we have enough tunnel effect going on on El Camino in this town.


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Posted by Stop the Once-lers
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 14, 2014 at 3:24 pm

@Vanessa,
I used to think as you do, too, until I got up and close with how this City Council works. You can also find plenty of background showing the ills of poor planning, how abrupt changes in density are associated with greater crime, etc., and how exactly do we expect to eventually have a walkable city when our Council thinks setbacks and sidewalks should account at most for someone proceeding single-file next to a busy roadway, with no thought whatsoever to the disabled, either? The most dangerous and dilapidated cities and urban areas in the nation were also built up for density and even walkability - many so that people would be accessible to bustling economic job centers (often by public transit and without cars).

The state of California actually mandates that cities provide for certain things, like safety. It gives them broad latitude for how they do it, but things like traffic circulation are included. Our Council doesn't even have those things on the radar, and as a charter city, and one of the few that doesn't require the comprehensive plan to be mandatory, they just don't feel enough responsibility to their core responsibilities, and residents can't make them. (Unless we change our city charter - which I hope someone does.)

There is nothing at all inevitable about densification of Palo Alto. It is a choice. My living in a stack-and-pack development on one edge of Palo Alto does nothing but increase congestion as I make my way to the other end without the benefit of a realistic transportation system that would make getting out of my car a realistic alternative. And what of my spouse? My spouse doesn't work in Palo Alto. We're here for the schools. And actually, my spouse used to and WOULD be going to work by bike in Mountain View except for the density and exceedingly poor planning that has just made it far too dangerous for that route in recent years. You speak about density as if it magically solves problems -- solving those problems by addressing them (sometimes using denser housing) solves the problems, but using excuses to create density for developer benefits only creates problems which is more of what we have.

The arguments you make include nice words about greenspace, but in practice, they translate to densification at all costs, even if it means razing the last piece of established historic orchard in town, across from an existing park, when there is every opportunity to save it, cheaply. Where are we ever going to get another chance like THAT? When greenspace is gone from an urban setting, it's gone. Yet those arguing for density make the nonsensical argument that we must raze the trees for density, because density is a necessary good unto itself. (Not so.)

There is no immutable law that says we have to turn Palo Alto into Manhattan just because developers want it. This is a democracy, and those who live her get to have a say. And guess what? This is a big nation, and a large region, and we don't have to own all the jobs, we can share. This isn't mecca. Times will change, we do not want to have made compromise after compromise of UNliveability for the short-term.


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Posted by Hambone
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Feb 14, 2014 at 3:35 pm

@Stop the Owners - I know about babes. A sweet nightclub won't block any sun or the sky. True story, I saw Smashing Pumpkins at the Edge in 1999. I woke up at 5 am to wait in line. Do you think that happens in today's Palo Alto? We need to bring that back!


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Posted by Jame
a resident of another community
on Feb 14, 2014 at 3:35 pm

I don't see how adding density to a couple blocks of the city is going to "change the character" dramatically. I am not saying PA needs to build one new housing unit for each new job in the region, but adding a couple hundred more isn't going to kill PA's charm.


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Posted by Jens P
a resident of College Terrace
on Feb 14, 2014 at 3:48 pm

@ Stop the Once-lers
for you to see, I am a resident of College Terrace and I am looking forward to the changes coming to the California Ave area. You wield a good dose of judgement that does not draw much on objective reasoning. The growth of local businesses and local populations combined with the general attractiveness of Palo Alto require us to find new ways of living here since we do not have the option of urban sprawl, thankfully.


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Posted by Stop the Once-lers
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 14, 2014 at 4:40 pm

@ Jens,
I spent a lot of time on these online forums defending the need for improvements to CA Avenue. But based on what this City Council values and does, no more.

That's a separate discussion from whether we need to turn Palo Alto into Manhattan, which is a choice, not a need. It's a choice that those in a democracy need to know they have the right to make or reject. Just because they voted for certain people, does not mean they are powerless to live with their boneheaded decisions.

I choose a Palo Alto where we think about growth in the context of liveability and open space, environmental values, safety, smart transportation, protecting residents in existing affordable housing from eviction, etc., not giving away the quality of life for the short-term benefit of a few shortsighted developers.

By the way, have you read The Lorax lately?


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Posted by Annette
a resident of College Terrace
on Feb 14, 2014 at 7:46 pm

@Vanessa - I assume you meant livable and not lovable, but the latter is a quaint idea! There's no question that things have to evolve and you make the case nicely, but it seems as though projects are approved on a case x case basis w/no thought of a grand plan, that the Comp Plan is ignored, and that projects are not sequenced sensibly. We schedule playing fields so as to avoid conflict, why not take the same approach to construction projects? Also, with all the approved projects going on in and around California Avenue, why reduce the lanes BEFORE those projects are done instead of waiting to see if the lane reduction is indeed the right thing to do? And shouldn't we have a definite NO on the HSR issue before spending public funds in the CalTrain corridor area? As for your reference to dense but lovely and livable cities elsewhere in the world - what those places have in common is charm. Looks to me like we're going the ugly density route. Some of the bldgs going up in this town are flat out hideous.

@ Stop the Once-lers - what does your name mean?


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Posted by demo
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Feb 14, 2014 at 8:13 pm

demonstration in front of jobs and mayer homes. stop police violence.


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Posted by Stop the Once-lers
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 14, 2014 at 9:20 pm

@Annette,
Thank you for putting that so concisely and beautifully, agree with you 1000%.

This should explain "Stop the Once-ler"s Web Link

The old cartoon from the '60s or '70s gets the whole tension between selfish development and the future much better than the recent movie.


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Posted by Sunshine
a resident of Barron Park
on Feb 14, 2014 at 10:36 pm

What should be considered is to sloes california ave to cars. Make it pedestrians only. Cars can run one way on Cambridge and the opposite direction on the street on the other side of California ave. bikes and pedestrians can then move along California ave safely. Parking would be either side of California ave.
then trees can be planted and tables set out for lunchers. This allows restaurants to accommodate more people for lunch.


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Posted by Annette
a resident of College Terrace
on Feb 15, 2014 at 12:02 am

@Stop the Once-lers - I should have known! Thanks for directing me to the explanation.


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Posted by Stop the Once-lers
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 15, 2014 at 12:15 am

@Robert,
"Its unfortunate that so many residents feel left behind, so that what most people would view as a booming city, they see as some kind of siege by newcomers."

It's unfortunately that anyone feels like they have to couch stupid and short-sighted development that hurts the liveability of our town as some kind of irrational fear of the future. Shame on you.


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Posted by pat
a resident of Midtown
on Feb 15, 2014 at 10:27 am

@bb: When you called city council, what was the name (or title) of the person who " advised the small businesses currently on California avenue … to move elsewhere in Palo Alto,"?


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Posted by Unapologetic
a resident of Community Center
on Feb 15, 2014 at 2:35 pm

The old people in this city suck. They're fighting change at every intersection. At the same commission meeting, bob moss, who apparently has nothing better to do than to be a know it all on every topic, also providing some ridiculous suggestions about a bike route but not before stating that he hadn't been on a bike in some 40 years and hopes he never rides one again. Honestly, did he need to provide input on bike routes for kids. Does he have any humility? Is there a topic he's not informed enough to speak on?

All you lot should move to Palm Canyon or Desert Canyon. I think that the boring suburb located near Palm Springs. Your Palo Alto is gone. And nobody wants to fight with you lot. We want more transit oriented development. We want more young people. Smaller apartments is the new reality for many young families and that's nothing to be frowned upon. Seriously, take your money and go. Go to a place where no one will drive on your street and you can feel safe and bored and live the rest of your life without standing in the way of forward progress.


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Posted by Craig Laughton
a resident of College Terrace
on Feb 15, 2014 at 3:09 pm

>The old people in this city suck....

I'm 63, so I guess that makes me old. However, I am young enough at heart to use my own name. What is yours...assuming that you are younger than me?


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Posted by Donald
a resident of South of Midtown
on Feb 15, 2014 at 4:17 pm

Unapologetic is right, and this is not just about Palo Alto. Every one of our neighboring communities is having a similar debate. This is a generational dispute, so the long-term outcome is clear. Those of my generation grew up in the midst of classic suburbs, and we like our single-family home with a garage and large yard, but many of the younger people want things different. We can slow them down but they will eventually get their way, and it would be wiser to pitch in and be constructive about how it happens instead of just digging in our heels and shouting "No".


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Posted by Stop the Once-lers
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 15, 2014 at 4:55 pm

You don't have to be that old to remember the last wave of yuppyism -- when young people (I was one of them) ran up the cost of small apartments and rentals. We didn't want homes with the responsibilities. But then came the wave of young people who were starting families, buying up all the big houses with big yards in Los Altos. Then we had a recession, and now we have a lot of people moving here, once again discovering that the area is unaffordable. And developers wanting to hurry up and cash in just like before.

Guess what -- assuming Donald and unapologetic really are what they claim (which I have serious doubts about, given your very strange attack on Bob Moss, and the lack of young people generally attending City meetings of their own accord) -- this area has never been cheap for anyone since before it was even Palo Alto, and building even thousands of new units is not going to make it cheap. Don't expect people who sacrificed to live here for decades to want to pay for you to have what you want when you want it. When you move into even a very expensive apartment here, guess what -- you aren't pulling your weight to pay for the City services you get.

But I doubt very much that those posters are what they portray. The elders among us have been the ones traditionally willing to take the time out of their busy lives to engage civically, recent events are no exception. As a parent whose kids take the bike paths Bob Moss is trying to keep safe, when City Council seems to think safety is as old-fashioned as Donald and unapologetic seem to think quality of life and open space are, I am quite grateful we have such old people. You suck for dumping all over them, when's the last time you did anything for anyone but yourself?

It occurs to me this is just more of the same -- developers trying to figure out another "kryptonite" argument that they can make stick to roll over residents -- you're NIMBYs, you're afraid of change, you're too old, you're too selfish, you don't care about the environment, you care too much about the environment -- do I go on? Because none of those things makes that stupid development at Alma Plaza any more likely to improve the quality of life in Palo Alto, make it more pedestrian friendly, reduce emissions, or even -- guess what -- reduce the cost of housing here.

So you can continue on to the next strategy, sorry, we ain't buying this one, either.


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Posted by Stop the Once-lers
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 15, 2014 at 5:31 pm

On that point about building thousands of new units not making it cheap: perhaps you're too "young" to understand Prop 13. The only housing anyone can afford to rent out cheaply is older housing stock. When older housing stock is razed and new built in its place, the cost of that housing is so astronomical compared to what was there, it prices out anyone living there.

Look at the rents of those new apartments at San Antonio and El Camino -- over $4,000 for a 2-bedroom apartment? That's not an enticement for a family being displaced from an affordable mobile home in order to make way for dense luxury apartments (that can only be built by huge violations of existing zoning).

I want a Palo Alto where we still have a place for the diversity of a mobile home park and real affordable housing there for families. I want a Palo Alto that is more like, well, Palo Alto than Manhattan or (sorry, but, ugh) downtown San Jose.

Why don't you development-crazies go burden someone else, like the good people of Atherton, who have way more space to put up apartment buildings than we do?


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Posted by Donald
a resident of South of Midtown
on Feb 15, 2014 at 6:32 pm

If you read my statement carefully you would have seen that I identified myself with the older generation. I have lived in Palo Alto for decades, and my children grew up and graduated from high school here. I like the suburbs and am happy with Palo Alto the way it is now. I see the writing on the wall, though, and I don't think that the present model is sustainable. I also pointed out that this goes way beyond Palo Alto and is a regional issue. We are not an island and cannot survive by choosing one route while everyone else chooses another.


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Posted by resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 15, 2014 at 6:52 pm

Unapologetic wants "more transit oriented development". First you need a transit system. Caltrain is not the Paris Metro. This development push in
Palo Alto is unsustainable by the infrastructure constraints and is destroying all the qualities and character of the City. This is not
a life-style or generational issue. And the ultimate constraint, water supply, is flashing red in case you haven't noticed.


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Posted by Annette
a resident of College Terrace
on Feb 15, 2014 at 8:43 pm

@Donald - thank you for restating nicely what Unapologetic wrote rather rudely. There's no doubt that there's a generational aspect to this debate. Are manners also generational? I get why a small apartment is attractive to the millenials. I do wonder, though, what sort of housing they will seek when children come along. If "small apartment" remains the preference will they also want public parks and gardens to be a part of this new suburbanism? If yes, now is the time to protect space for that. And an observation: two of Palo Alto's young professionals, Mark Z. and Marisa M., are hardly opting to live in a small apartment. I suspect that what is really desired is housing near to work and services, not necessarily SMALL housing near to work and services.

Idea: instead of moving to the desert, maybe all Palo Alto's senior citizens should be patient and wait to move into one of the small apts vacated by the millenials as they move into a bigger place or to San Francisco.

Also: if the millenials are serious about transit, now would be a good time to start proving that point b/c empirical evidence suggests that people are opting to drive a car more often than they are choosing alternative modes of transportation.


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Posted by Stop the Once-lers
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 15, 2014 at 10:53 pm

@resident,
Thanks -- EXACTLY!!!


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Posted by Justin
a resident of Mountain View
on Feb 15, 2014 at 11:40 pm

@ Stop the Once-lers
How much housing is being razed for luxury apartments? I don't think you have any evidence that the new supply of apartments are so much better that they have actually decreased overall affordability. I don't think the mobile homes should be destroyed and I would love to see less luxurious housing. Increasing housing supply throughout the Peninsula is going to make housing more affordable everywhere else in the Bay Area as people may decide not to move away from their jobs. There should be more housing in Atherton too, but there are not as many jobs there. If people living there work in Palo Alto/Mountain View, they will contribute more to traffic/parking problems than if housing is built closer to centers of employment.

As far as transit is concerned, I can't speak for everyone when I say I don't want a car. However, the evidence does show that young people are driving less and using transit more. VMT per capita have gone down a bit and are likely to fall in the future. I'd love to have a better transit system, but the anti-development crowd is getting in the way of the transit as well as the transit-oriented development. I think that cycling, car-sharing, ride-sharing, and in the not-too-distant future, self-driving taxis can fill in the gaps where public transit is insufficient. It is not a foregone conclusion that increasing density will bring about a massive influx of new cars and traffic.


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Posted by Stop the Once-lers
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 16, 2014 at 12:32 am

@Justin,
The affordable housing of over 400 PaloAltans at Buena Vista mobile home park is being razed for luxury apartments, for starters. If you want to understand how the very high rents of new housing is affecting average rents, contact your local real estate agent and chart it yourself.

Increasing the already obscene incentives to raze existing housing stock to replace it with dense new (and by definition, expensive) housing is what is increasing costs, not decreasing them. Especially because of our tax structure, true affordability is pretty exclusively the domain of older housing stock.

You wrote " Increasing housing supply throughout the Peninsula is going to make housing more affordable everywhere else in the Bay Area as people may decide not to move away from their jobs. "

Huh? Do you know what a "non sequitur" is?

Let me repeat what resident said: "Unapologetic wants "more transit oriented development". First you need a transit system. Caltrain is not the Paris Metro. This development push in Palo Alto is unsustainable by the infrastructure constraints and is destroying all the qualities and character of the City."

Building more locally just lets the developers cash in at the expense of those living here already. If people decide - as they inevitably do after a boom - to move to greener pastures, that tends to make for typical market corrections, but things never get cheap here.

Are you even listening to yourself about Atherton? So, by that logic, perhaps we should stop creating jobs in Palo Alto so that we can get the state off our backs about turning this place into mini-Manhattan? This is a regional issue. Someone driving to downtown Palo Alto from Atherton is making approximately the same "contribution" to our traffic problems as someone driving from South Palo Alto, home of the council's focus on densifying our town. We don't have a very functional transit system in either direction, and I very much doubt anyone coming from Atherton would be taking it anyway. What are you going to do, bar people who live in Atherton from working in Palo Alto?

You wrote, "I'd love to have a better transit system, but the anti-development crowd is getting in the way of the transit as well as the transit-oriented development."

And where exactly did you pull that out of your @ss? Cheryl Lilienstein, who headed up the anti-Measure D election, stood up before the City Council well before the rezoning vote and told them they needed to work on improving our transit system, that they should be requiring developers to pay enough so that every development provided for the kind of transit system we need in order to have shuttles on El Camino or maybe even some kind of light rail. She was laughed at.

The "anti-development crowd" as you put it, is against stupid, stupid, stupid development causing Palo Alto to be ugly, poorly laid out, congested, and lacking in sunlight, open space, and anything like good quality of life. They are FOR having better transit. They are also for being realistic about the infrastructure. And for you moving to Manhattan or San Francisco or San Jose if you prefer that so much better, rather than trying to turn Palo Alto into a poor copy of them.

People are moving to Palo Alto for the schools and not even necessarily living here. People are commuting to Palo Alto for the jobs, and don't necessarily want to live here. The answer is to start with better transit and more walkable, bikable communities, not to let every developer have their way with us under the guise of "progress". (Look at my moniker again - and read the Dr. Seuss before parroting the Once-ler arguments again.)


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Posted by Stop the Once-lers
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 16, 2014 at 12:36 am

Oops, meant:

People are moving to Palo Alto for the schools and not even necessarily working here. Good schools increase property values. That's an old story.


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Posted by bus rider
a resident of College Terrace
on Feb 16, 2014 at 8:15 am

For transit oriented development, which comes first, the transit or the development? VTA won't add transit lines to places without riders, so I think the development has to come first. Cal Ave is already better served by transit than most places in Palo Alto.


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Posted by Annette
a resident of College Terrace
on Feb 16, 2014 at 9:23 am

@Resident - maintain your "cover" so that City Council doesn't know who you are and apply for a position on the Planning Commission - please! Your statement about water is one that should scare us all a little. We largely ignored the pension train when it was heading down the tracks; let's hope policy makers don't also ignore water demand issues. I cringe a little when I read about new hotels. I know they are needed but it is so much easier to over-use water when it isn't "yours". Maybe one of the valley's geniuses can develop an inexpensive water meter for use in hotel rooms that will allow users to see how much water they are using; might raise consciousness and maybe save some water.


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Posted by pat
a resident of Midtown
on Feb 16, 2014 at 11:14 am

@Stop the Once-lers: Bravo for your logic and beautifully-stated arguments! Would you be interested in running for city council? Please think about it. We need some rational thinkers at City Hall.


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Posted by Ricochet Rabbit
a resident of Palo Verde
on Feb 16, 2014 at 6:30 pm

It does seem that the new vision for Cal Ave is myopic--or legally blind, even.


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Posted by Stop the Once-lers
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 17, 2014 at 12:31 am

@bus rider
"so I think the development has to come first"

Your question has already been answered -- The development already has come first. We now have parking problems, traffic circulation nightmares, gridlock and no holistic planning. The answer is to put our attention to solving the problems from the existing development, focusing on infrastructure, transit, holistic planning, not prioritizing more development and figuring the rest will work itself out.


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Posted by Stop the Once-lers
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 17, 2014 at 12:37 am

@pat,
Thank you for the kind words. I only wish I could even consider such a thing -- if we transition to a City Council with perhaps fewer members who represent districts around town, and are paid a salary to work full time rather than paid a small honorarium and expected to volunteer (meaning the only people who can do it have the time and resources or maybe are willing to be beholden to various interests or see it as a political stepping stone), then people like me could consider it.

We could pay for it by having the new Councilmembers on a new council find redundant staff positions to eliminate when we have a full-time Council.

It would take an initiative, but it's doable. If anyone is interested in fixing City Hall, that might be a place to start, because it would enable a wider cross-section of our citizens to serve.


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Posted by Garrett
a resident of another community
on Feb 17, 2014 at 12:26 pm

Once upon time, city planners, managers and city council viewed large suburban type developments as the future. Rip out mass transit, build freeways, build a sea of low rise buildings.

Then a group of people rose up in the name of stopping development of large scale suburban development, the future will be infill transit friendly projects.


Either we build here near jobs or build the jobs someplace else. If the high paying jobs go somewhere distance, chances are you will leave also.


I don't see anyone from Palo Alto commuting to Sacramento. San Francisco has its share of No More Development hangups.

I am waiting on Oakland to jump on No More Development.


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Posted by Stop the Once-lers
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 17, 2014 at 1:37 pm

@Garret,
What's wrong with spreading the wealth around? Go drive around the state sometime, or the states to the east of us, the money would be better spent on urban renewal. Why artificially pile all the jobs in one place at great expense? Makes sense for Hong Kong, not so much the US.

Let people decide it's too expensive here and improve Fesno. I hear that's already happening. Residents here have no earthly reason to want to make this unique place into a poor facsimile of San Jose downtown. I say the views of the hills, sun, sky, open space - worth fighting for. If you prefer urban jungle, there are many choices around, some that would benefit mightily from development dollars and jobs going there.


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Posted by Justin
a resident of Mountain View
on Feb 17, 2014 at 1:38 pm

@Stop the Once-lers
Come on, Palo Alto could double in density and it would be nowhere near a mini-Manhattan. I don't think the mobile homes should be forced out because there is plenty of room to build without removing low-cost housing. Aside from that, increasing supply will almost always increase affordability. And yes, the cost of housing throughout the Bay Area is a problem. Unless you want to live in a vacuum and pretend that middle class people being forced out of San Francisco don't matter.

As far as transit, all I see on these message boards are complaints how there is not enough parking, yet very few seem to be supportive of actually charging for it. There is no support for a BRT system from the anti-development crowd or for more efficient bike routes. Yes, I want walkable bikeable communities, but the "stupid, stupid, stupid" mess of ugly, flat, car-oriented sprawl is not the solution.


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Posted by Tired of Youthful Arrogance
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Feb 17, 2014 at 4:49 pm

Dear Unapologetic: Sounds like you're pretty young and want a hip urban lifestyle. Fair enough. You can find that elsewhere. Just be aware that those "old folks" that "suck" moved here years ago to get away from the urban density and congestion you want to recreate here. We're really not all that old, although it might seem so to you, and we'll be around for a while. We've lived here for years, paid taxes here for years, and created a safe, thriving, comfortable community that for some reason you seem to have been attracted to. Which begs the question: exactly what brought you to Palo Alto? Wouldn't you be more at home in San Francisco or San Jose? I'm sure you could find a Google bus to transport you back and forth for free. Our Palo Alto is not gone and we will continue to fight for it's future. Someday, you'll understand.


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Posted by Grow up
a resident of Barron Park
on Feb 17, 2014 at 5:27 pm

Today's young adults who live in Palo Alto have a lot more money at a much younger age than any previous generation. Because of this,they have a steep learning curve ahead of them.

They are also incredibly near-sighted and unsettled. For now, they would do better to be in SF, from which they can commute to SillyConniving Valley for free or next to nothing via bus or train. Then, when they mature a little and are ready to settle down with a family, and only then, should they consider living in Palo Alto.

Palo Alto has ALWAYS been about the family-friendly lifestyle and exceptional public school education for kids. It is about nurturing the future generation through education, recreation, and a healthy lifestyle hard to find in an urban setting.

BTW, before I was thirty I HATED the 'burbs!


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Posted by Stop the Once-lers
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 17, 2014 at 6:56 pm

@Justin,
"Aside from that, increasing supply will almost always increase affordability".

Dorry, not here. You say that in the same breath as bringing up how increasing the supply is also destroying affordability and driving out low income people in San Francisco. This isn't nor has it been a normal market for 200 years.

Given the tax structure and inexhaustible demand here, increasing supply will only increase the average rent and purchase price, push out older, lower income residents, and put more pressure on City services and infrastructure which are already overtaxed. Again, you want urban, we have that around here in abundance such as in San Jose (and also more affordable digs). You want nice college town with hills and sky and open space instead of a tunnel on El Camino, that's what the residents want to protect. Measure D was just a start.

The people against stupid stupid ugly dumb overdevelopment like at Alma Plaza also tend to be for a walkable and bike able city. You cut off all opportunity for that by letting developers build right up to a single-file sidewalk right on a busy street. Your mischaracterization only makes it seem like you either have no real idea of what is going on here or have an agenda.


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Posted by Stop the once-lers
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 17, 2014 at 7:05 pm

@Grow up & Tired of Youthful Arrogance,
Your points are very well said, but I doubt the supposedly young posters are entirely who they portray themselves as. I think special interests try to throw up whatever they can and see what they can make stick. They tried to pit north against south in the Measure D and only succeeded in creating networks of connected neighbors across town, united against city hall. Don't let them set this up as an inter generational fight. My young next door neighbors just pinned their life savings on having a home with a yard in the local school system, and are here instead of urban downtown San Jose by choice. Yes, I'm sure there is a yuppy element, but they have always been transient, and they don't tend to have time for local politics. Beware the special interests pretending to speak for them.


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Posted by Rainer
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Feb 17, 2014 at 10:06 pm

Rainer is a registered user.

Annette Wrote:
"
Maybe one of the valley's geniuses can develop an inexpensive water meter for use in hotel rooms that will allow users to see how much water they are using; might raise consciousness and maybe save some water.
"
Just look a little bit: WiFI enable wrap-around [no cutting into water-lines] meters already exist.
For both hot and cold temperatures.

All is needed is a city ordinance mandating those for Hotels, and Apartment and Condominium Complexes.


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Posted by Rainer
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Feb 17, 2014 at 10:55 pm

Rainer is a registered user.

I am always puzzled by the venom heaped on HSR.
But maybe haters of High Speed Rail (HSR) should look at the verbal abuse heaped on the proponents of such developments in the past. And the proponents should take consolation from it, because it is clear that the naysayers will end up on the ash heap of history.

Maybe the 200 mph capability from LA has not to go beyond San Jose, but the priciple of construction will be hailed as forward thinking wise by future Californians.

Just 3 examples:

a) the Expansion of the Kentucky Wagon Road in the 1790s. Just read one of the Biographies of Thomas Jefferson and the political mud-fight which accompanied it.

b) the Continental Railroad. Even today the new darling of the Republican right, John Taylor of Stanford, uses as an argument against HSR the fact that it took 10 years for the TransCont to become profitable after completion!
But we know full well, if California would hand over building and financing of HSR to a new "Crédit Mobilier-like", Koch-Brother-run entity, Republicans would fully support it.

c) The Eisenhower supported Interstate System. It was either fascist, or communist, but in any case a boondoggle for Unions!



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Posted by Justin
a resident of Mountain View
on Feb 17, 2014 at 11:05 pm

@Stop the Once-lers
I never said that the increase in housing supply in SF is destroying affordability. Quite the opposite, it's an increase in demand and not nearly enough new supply to meet it. Rather well-off people are willing to live in fairly dangerous neighborhoods. If Palo Alto doesn't accommodate them, they're going to start to move to EPA too.

Yes, I do like the hills and views-when I'm actually running or biking in the hills. I'll miss being so close to Skyline if I end up living in San Francisco or Oakland. El Camino isn't exactly beautiful now, just filled with cars, unsafe for biking (and I am fine biking on Foothill and Central), and lined with restaurants that mostly aren't all that impressive. I think that tall apartments are much more attractive than flat Eichlers or whatever that I have lived in.


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Posted by Stop the Once-lers
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 18, 2014 at 12:07 am

@Justin,
" If Palo Alto doesn't accommodate them, they're going to start to move to EPA too. "

And what exactly is wrong with that? I know people who live in EPA long-term and have lived in EPA for affordability. LIke I said, where's the need to put all of everything in Palo Alto? This is not Hong Kong island.

Oakland, by the way, is my favorite place to live in the bay area. If you move there, you will see what I am speaking about. I wish it was easier to commute from there on transit.


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Posted by Stop the Once-lers
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 18, 2014 at 12:10 am

@ Rainer,
I have been advocating for HSR in California for 30 yrs, but that ship has sailed. We should be looking to the future. The kind of flexibility we have by looking to the possibilities of autonomously driven electric vehicles (driverless cars) would be a better use of resources. We've waited so long, it's time to lead.


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Posted by Robert
a resident of another community
on Feb 18, 2014 at 10:39 am

>where's the need to put all of everything in Palo Alto

Nobody is trying to put all of everything in Palo Alto, other cities are accommodating much more growth, but there still is need here due to the fact that, whether you like it or not, Palo Alto is a major jobs center.


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Posted by Pete
a resident of College Terrace
on Feb 18, 2014 at 10:45 am

Can we please stop the pearl clutching about Palo Alto becoming another Manhattan? It's ridiculous. Manhattan is more than 20 times as dense as Palo Alto (even if we exclude Foothills Park).

It's also ridiculous to call San Jose "urban." San Jose is a sprawling monstrosity full of 8 lane boulevards lined with strip malls. It was designed to be another Los Angeles. Neither place is known for it's walkability or public transit.


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Posted by UnfairAllocations
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Feb 18, 2014 at 10:59 am

Robert - why do you say other cities are accomodating more growth? In the latest allocations from ABAG, Palo Alto has one of the highest allocations! If you look at it by city or by county, it definitely seems out of whack. Low allocations for Alameda county, San Mateo county, Marin, relatively low for San Francisco. Santa Clara took it in the shorts.

Cities like Burlingame and San Mateo - popular with startups and right on Caltrain have miniscule allocations.

The process is opaque and indefensible - but also pretty much unappealable. We're being told we need to build a large number of houses with little participation in the process or a way to create a data-driven process


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Posted by Exhausted by tirades.
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 18, 2014 at 11:10 am

To Palo Alto Online: The uncivil tenor of this discussion is not good for our city. Please require people to identify themselves. Anonymity encourages rants and personal attacks which shut down thoughtful civil discussion of issues.

While there is some truth posted here, it is grossly outweighed by generalizations that are poorly supported by facts, misinformation and emotional ranting. None of this contributes to useful community dialogue.

Requiring people to attach their name to their comments might cause them to think more carefully before they post. I hope you will make this change soon. Palo Alto Online, in my opinion, has become a very destructive force in our community.

Who wants to engage in community conversations that are so base, barbed, and unproductive? If we want people to engage in democratic process, we need to create an environment that helps people feel we can make a positive difference by participating. I find the PA Online environment disheartening and uninviting. Rather than inviting me into a civil and interesting discussion, it makes me feel like turning away. Is that the role of the press in democracy?--to turn people away from public engagement?

Is that helpful to a productive public process? I ask you, Palo Alto Online Editor, is it the job of the media to spread gossip and misinformation? These postings are essentially opinion pieces that you have opted to post broadly without fact checking. Therefore, you should require the authors to take responsibility for their opinions and OWN them.

I won't post my name here because you don't require anyone else to do so, and this post is likely to draw ugly anonymous fire that will live on the internet forever. I am asking you-- begging you-- to fix this. Require all posters to identify themselves.

Civility starts with self-restraint.


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Posted by Robert
a resident of another community
on Feb 18, 2014 at 11:58 am

@UnfairAllocations

I'm assuming that's because those other cities have actually been accommodating growth for the past few decades. Don't worry though, you're not being told you have to build anything.


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Posted by Jerry Underdal
a resident of Barron Park
on Feb 18, 2014 at 12:28 pm

Jerry Underdal is a registered user.

@Exhausted

As you can see, I believe in using my own name to post and have expressed concerns about anonymity on the Town Square in the past.

You've put your finger on the problem--if you break your own anonymity, it may just mean "bombs away" on a now-named target. But It may be a step too far to call for no anonymous posts at all.

Ideally, all posters would be registered. If they use their own name, great. If they prefer to pick a single, anonymous handle to represent themselves in the Town Square, not as good, but you would at least have some accountability.

A sad side effect of what we have now is that good people with really useful information don't even consider posting and repeated unwarranted assertions of fact go unchallenged. The self-corrective aspect of civic dialogue that we count on is rendered much less effective than it could be


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Posted by resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 18, 2014 at 1:46 pm

There is very little misinformation posted here. That is not a problem. What you are seeing is the emotion and anger of the residents reflected here. This is nothing in comparison to the garbage which comes out of City Hall in staff reports, ARB decisions, Council meetings. And the destruction of our neighborhoods and our City.


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Posted by Jerry Underdal
a resident of Barron Park
on Feb 18, 2014 at 4:40 pm

Jerry Underdal is a registered user.

You've posted a clear message, resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood.

Can I assume now, that if I read another message from "resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood," either in this thread or another, that I'm still hearing from you?

Town Square posters do form a little community. We like to have a sense of where someone's coming from on a topic based on prior experience with that person in the Town Square.

I hesitate to make that leap with the name you've used here. There may well be at least one other person who posts as "resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood."


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Posted by blax
a resident of Palo Verde
on Feb 18, 2014 at 4:52 pm

[Post removed.]


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Posted by Rupert of henzau
a resident of Midtown
on Feb 18, 2014 at 4:55 pm

"And the destruction of our neighborhoods and our City."

A gross exaggeration. If there was so much destruction we would be looking like Detroit!! The opposite is happening. People are paying top dollar for properties in town. The tales of palo altos demise are grossly exaggerated.
But that claim is a common refrain from those that hate change, are against development and newcomers in town. If things were as bad as everyone claims people would be escaping from the city.
Unfortunately these claims are put forth, often, by organized groups of naysayers ( I.e. The clique behind the measure d defeat). People that like that the status quo and think Palo Alto should remain locked in a time capsule circa 1985. And more often than not they are aided and abetted by the Palo Alto weakly, who people should remember is in the business of increasing their profit, not necessarily reporting the news in an accurate manner.


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Posted by Stop the Once-lers
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 18, 2014 at 6:07 pm

@Jerry Underdal,
I think names like resident, anonymous, anon, parent, palo alto parent, citizen - lots of others -- get used by a lot of different people. I have myself posted using generic names only to see other people use the same generic name in the same thread. I have myself used generic names I saw other people use on other posts because they seemed like good generic names for the topic under discussion.

The Weekly doesn't delete them if several people use the same name, especially on different threads, but they delete you if you make multiple posts on the same thread under different names. The only way you know if someone is the same person is if they register.

I appreciate the anonymity factor on this list, that way people have to deal with your arguments instead of going after the person, as some are prone to do. Cheers!


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Posted by Stop the Once-lers
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 18, 2014 at 6:09 pm

" The opposite is happening. People are paying top dollar for properties in town. "

And those people would like us not to look like Detroit. Hence the opposition to throwing out the zoning code and principles.


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Posted by Stop the Once-lers
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 18, 2014 at 6:19 pm

@Rupert,
You think those opposed to Measure D are a "clique"? When they won by shear grassroots efforts, without any campaign war chest to start and ultimately with a small fraction of their opposition's funds, while City Council, the mayor, City staff, higher elected officials, PAHC, PAHC's hired elections' firm, the LWV, and others worked against them and the City Attorney was able to use the ballot materials as a biased platform to plug the Yes D side?

Why did the No side win? Because people are so opposed to the overdevelopment, they chose opposing the overdevelopment even when they had to choose being against something they otherwise support, the work PAHC does. Not understanding that is why you lost. Not understanding that and continuing to pass out your sour grapes only aids those who really do oppose affordable housing. Stop it, please.


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Posted by Stop the Once-lers
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 18, 2014 at 6:22 pm

Dear Jerry Underdal,
Please start a new thread about your anonymity concerns and let us discuss the development topic here at hand. I realize you probably don't mean to do this, but that's a trait of trolls -- to focus on something unrelated and completely divert from the topic at hand when they don't like what's being said.


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Posted by Rupert of henzau
a resident of Midtown
on Feb 18, 2014 at 6:22 pm

"" The opposite is happening. People are paying top dollar for properties in town. "
And those people would like us not to look like Detroit. Hence the opposition to throwing out the zoning code and principles."

You miss my point, stop, things are not as bad as certain vocal critics make it sound like. As Madame president pointed out, we are not suffering. Trying to make it sound that way, just goes to show how wrapped up in themselves certain Palo Alto residents are.


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Posted by Rupert of henzau
a resident of Midtown
on Feb 18, 2014 at 6:26 pm

". Not understanding that and continuing to pass out your sour grapes only aids those who really do oppose affordable housing. Stop it, please."

Stop-- I guess only those that are in agreement with your position are allowed to post? Cal my opinion " sour grapes" if that makes you feel better. I stand by my comments.
[Portion removed.]


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Posted by Stop the Once-lers
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 18, 2014 at 7:09 pm

[Post removed.]


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Rupert of henzau
a resident of Midtown
on Feb 18, 2014 at 7:20 pm

[Post removed.]


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Posted by Annette
a resident of College Terrace
on Feb 18, 2014 at 7:27 pm

@Exhausted by Tirades - I wish you had signed your name as that would have leant credibility to your comments about anonymity.


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Posted by Tired of Tirades
a resident of another community
on Feb 18, 2014 at 8:30 pm

This "discussion" has been blown out of all proportion. The decision made by city counsel was very vague and nonspecific. It is not going to destroy our way of life. When the time comes to make specific decisions then we need to pay attention and make sure that there are no ridiculous buildings like at alma plaza, but right now there are no details.


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Posted by resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 18, 2014 at 9:05 pm

"things are not as bad as certain vocal critics make it sound like" -
until they are. When you are heading in the wrong direction, you can
get into big trouble quickly depending on where you are heading and how
fast you are going. Sound familiar? The City Council rented a cheap car
with no GPS, declined the damage waiver, had unlimited mileage and headed
out for a joy ride, in the wrong direction.




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Posted by Jerry Underdal
a resident of Barron Park
on Feb 18, 2014 at 9:14 pm

Jerry Underdal is a registered user.

. . .but they (Weekly editors) delete you if you make multiple posts on the same thread under different names

That's the way I thought it worked too. But I guess if you call the foul yourself (see earlier posts on this thread for an example) you get a suspended sentence.


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Posted by Stop the Once-lers
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 18, 2014 at 9:55 pm

@Jerry Underdal,

"That's the way I thought it worked too. But I guess if you call the foul yourself (see earlier posts on this thread for an example) you get a suspended sentence."

Can you explain? Are you also Rupert?

Is there some point at which we can get back to the discussion about Cal Ave and development and convince you to bring your main issue to its own thread?


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Posted by Jerry Underdal
a resident of Barron Park
on Feb 18, 2014 at 11:02 pm

Jerry Underdal is a registered user.

No, I'm not Rupert. I always post under my own name. Please continue the discussion, which I do follow quite closely and learn a great deal from. I just entered it to respond to another person's post.


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Posted by Stop the Once-lers
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 18, 2014 at 11:30 pm

@Jerry,
But all of your posts have been about the issue of anonymity, instead of the issue at hand. Anonymity is an issue that has come up before on Townsquare -- please post it as a separate discussion to be polite to users who are trying to discuss the issue at hand, it does throw off the discussion. Thanks.


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Posted by sunshine
a resident of Barron Park
on Feb 19, 2014 at 9:14 am

Palo Alto does not need more densification!
Even in many parts of NYC buildings have setback from the sidewalks. Also, the sidewalks are much wider than in PA.
If you don't live near and shop/visit both California and University Ave areas you should not make a comment here. You don't have to live with it every day.
This current Council, Planning Dept, Architectural Rev must go in the next election. Please vote Palo Alto.
Complaints were limited at first because there had been only a few large developments. However, there are now far too many without building any more.
A walkable boulevard would be similar to Las Ramblas in Madrid, Spain, Park Are in NYC. Such requires wide sidewalks--at least 12-15 feet--some green space around each building and between the building and sidewalk, and windows in the side that faces the street. Instead Palo Alto is building tunnels along El Camino (worse to walk now than it was 30 years ago when there was a variety of business along it), California Ave, and University Ave.
Yes, everyone wants to live in Palo Alto. I did too when I first arrived in 1964, instead I lived in Mt View and Los Altos as both were more affordable. Later we moved to PA where I have been since.

No more. The time to stop this addiction is now.


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Posted by resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 19, 2014 at 10:49 am

@Sunshine
I agree with you. Minor correction: You meant to say Las Ramblas is in
Barcelona!


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Posted by Pete
a resident of College Terrace
on Feb 19, 2014 at 2:22 pm

Sunshine,
I agree that wide sidewalks are important but the attached article says the city will be expanding the sidewalks.


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Posted by Stop the Once-lers
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 19, 2014 at 3:17 pm

@Pete,
And there's the rub. That's EXACTLY what they promised on Arastradero, and I was so looking forward to it, but it turns out the bike lanes and sidewalks are the same width -- it's basically a single-file walk, if you walk it often with friends (I try) -- the walkability wasn't improved AT ALL, they just took out a lane of traffic.

This Council talks a big game about walkability and all those things, but they don't walk the walk (literally).


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Posted by pat
a resident of Midtown
on Feb 19, 2014 at 3:28 pm

@Exhausted by ranting
Are you reading the same comments I am? You complain about "uncivil tenor," "rants and personal attacks," "emotional ranting," "destructive force," "base, barbed, and unproductive" conversations.

What's wrong with emotion? What you call ranting are people expressing their views in a way that is perhaps passionate and intense, but I don't see any destructive forces at play.

Yes, the PA Online staff is giving us all an opportunity to post "opinion pieces," and I'm grateful for that. Are we not entitled to our opinions? What difference does it make if we use our own name or a "handle"?

I agree that we should present facts when we have them, but do we need facts to back up opinions such as "I prefer high-rises to flat Eichlers" or "I don't want tall buildings in my suburban neighborhood"?

You will no doubt consider my comments to be "ugly anonymous fire," but I assure you it's simply my opinion and not an attack – personal or otherwise – on you. I'm sorry if you find emotion and opinions to be "disheartening and uninviting."

@ Rupert:
The folks behind the Measure D defeat are neither "an organized group of naysayers" or a "clique."

Branding people with negative labels is an easy way to dismiss them and their position. The Against Measure D campaign was supported by people all over town and endorsed by all three local papers – including the paper you describe as the "Palo Alto weakly," another negative label that entitles you to discount what it prints.

California Avenue "streetscaping" is a prime example of why Measure D failed: densification.

Read the article: "city planners are advancing a new vision … a plan that they hope will spur more high-tech startups, smaller apartments and higher density near transit hubs."

The CA Ave. traffic study in 2010 ignored all the big developments that the city knew was coming. The cost of the project has more than doubled. The city has no data to show that people living near transit hubs take public transit. It's all based on wishful thinking.


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Posted by It's pat
a resident of Downtown North
on Feb 19, 2014 at 4:36 pm

But, pat, it is okay for the leader of the anti-D movement to label the pro-D people as being thieves with regard to the disappearance of anti- D signs and for the Weekly to report that as a fact?. In fact, the anti-D people were quite organized.
All of sudden you are a cheerleader for the Weekly since they endorsed the position you supported. Considering you did not have a vote on the matter, I am not sure why you are so concerned.


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Posted by Rupert of henzau
a resident of Midtown
on Feb 19, 2014 at 5:10 pm

Pat-- how true, pat, the no on D people never branded the supporters with negative labels. I see that all of a sudden you are a big fan of the weakly-- all it took was one editorial. I discount what the weakly prints because they are a for- profit entity, that solicits donations from its readers and whose goal is to increase profits by whatever means necessary.
BTW, also remember that the person behind the anti-d gang was the person who is against everything and anything in the city ( which may explain why his name was not mentioned much and figureheads were put into the leadership positions).


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Posted by pat
a resident of Midtown
on Feb 19, 2014 at 5:15 pm

@Rupert: Please reveal the identity of the secret figurehead behind the Against Measure D campaign. I worked with the group and never met this mysterious person.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Rupert of henzau
a resident of Midtown
on Feb 19, 2014 at 5:39 pm

Pat-- bob moss. But everyone knows he was the leader. See the articles below:

Web Link
"Similarly, resident Bob Moss, who helped get the referendum on November's ballot, called the council's approval of the project a "done deal — done under the table." Moss softened his stance on Sept. 30, when he addressed the council and clarified that he believed the council's action was ill-advised but not illegal."

Web Link

"Bob Moss, a land-use watchdog who was one of the leaders of the campaign,"

Cheryl and Tom were just made " leaders" because of bobs reputation and did not want him fronting the campaign.

Another question is do,property owners who do not live in the city have a say in city elections? What about corporate property owners, should they have say in local elections?


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Posted by Jerry Underdal
a resident of Barron Park
on Feb 19, 2014 at 6:58 pm

Jerry Underdal is a registered user.

@Rupert of henzau

Bob Moss, Cheryl Lillienstein and Tim Grey, although important in the No on D campaign, were not the organizers of the Maybell Action Group, the precursor to the Against D campaign and other follow-on organizations.


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Posted by Anonymous post because of Jerry Underdal
a resident of Green Acres
on Feb 19, 2014 at 8:27 pm

[Post removed due to same poster using multiple names.]


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Posted by Jerry Underdal
a resident of Barron Park
on Feb 19, 2014 at 10:05 pm

Jerry Underdal is a registered user.

Factual error. I never said that people who opposed the PAHC project were *****s or that *****ism was the primary driver.

I recall a particularly vocal insistence from a leader of the group at both the April meeting at Arastradero Park Apartments and the first meeting at Barron Square that no one associated with the Maybell Action Group should say anything against affordable housing because it would just give ammunition to people who wanted to argue that this was a case of *****ism.

As the referendum campaign came together, Against D worked hard arguing, pretty effectively, that it, not PAHC, was the true friend of affordable housing, so voters who favored affordable housing but were upset about overdevelopment could in good conscience vote against PAHC's low- and medium-income housing for seniors.

There were many reasons behind the opposition, including disgruntlement over the Arastradero traffic calming project, a sense that the city council wasn't listening, worry over student safety on the streets, a determination to fight denser housing, anxiety over losing the neglected orchard, an eagerness to set up a political organization that would carry on through the election this fall and bring about major changes in the way the city does business.

The election is over. You won. But I have a greater appreciation than ever of our neighborhood since so many people did stand up for the affordable housing project. This whole episode has been portrayed as Against No's David fighting against the City Council's and PAHC's Goliath and triumphing. But in Barron Park, those who put up the yellow and green Yes on D signs were underdogs willing to publicly disagree with a popular position. And we're still good friends and neighbors with people who took a different position




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Posted by Craig Laughton
a resident of College Terrace
on Feb 20, 2014 at 2:01 pm

>I never said that people who opposed the PAHC project were *****s or that *****ism was the primary driver.


Jerry, go ahead and spell it out. I am a proud NIMBY (which is what I think you are saying), but what is the other word?

I happen to think that the secret vote Measure D ballot, largely organized from BP residents, was as close as we get, at this point, to underlying opinions. The anti-D voters won. I tend to agree with you that public support for welfare housing, by the organizers against D was a cover. The overriding questions is: What neighborhood wants to raise its hand and vote (secret vote) for welfare housing in that neighborhood? Any of the elite neighborhoods? If BP really wants more welfare housing, it should be allowed to have a secret ballot...do you agree?


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Posted by Stop the Once-lers
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 20, 2014 at 10:12 pm

@ Craig Laughton,
I do not agree. I think if you took a secret poll of people in BP and Greenacres right now, as to whether they would want to spend that $7.2 million from the affordable housing fund to loan to the residents of Buena Vista and keep the mobile home park there and affordable, you would get better than 80 percent, maybe better than 90 percent saying yes, to save the mobile home park as low-income housing. The mobile home park is in the same neighborhood.

Your contention is ridiculous because the last time residents in the same neighborhood faced a similar situation and asked for -- but that time, got, unlike here -- a working group, they achieved the goals for the neighborhood, which was to save the school site at Terman for the school district, AND achieved a 92-unit affordable housing development in the neighborhood. The City didn't want to give the very same neighbors like Bob Moss and Joe Hirsch a chance to do it again because the City and PAHC had worked out all the details without regard to the neighborhood beforehand to their own advantage and really had no leeway or desire to really compromise. The conflict was inevitable.

@ Jerry Underdal,
You wrote, "I recall a particularly vocal insistence from a leader of the group at both the April meeting at Arastradero Park Apartments and the first meeting at Barron Square that no one associated with the Maybell Action Group should say anything against affordable housing because it would just give ammunition to people who wanted to argue that this was a case of *****ism. "

That April meeting was a PAHC informational meeting that was well-attended by neighbors because planners there had insisted to several neighbors that the surrounding neighborhood was mostly for the rezoning, and they really wouldn't believe it wasn't true unless people showed up. There was no talk or leadership from any "Maybell Action Group", it was a PAHC-led event at a PAHC apartment site -- I don't think a Maybell Action Group even existed then. PAHC and the people from their traffic study were giving a presentation, and neighbors were asking questions at that meeting. Pretty upset about the rezoning.

As for people telling each other not to give others ammunition -- they WERE attacked relentlessly for NIMBYism from the start. PAHC had some blurb on their website at one time to reassure developers that they had the strategy to overcome the NIMBYs (meaning anyone opposed to whatever they planned) all worked out. I think you confused an attempt to avoid giving ammunition to an almost un-counterable smear as proof of the smear. That's a shame because demonizing one's opponents means there's no hope of compromise. Or are you saying you understand people had legitimate reasons and you know it wasn't NIMBYism? Sorry, I don't understand your point.

I happen to know both Craig Laughton and you are wrong, and that the whole thing was painful for pretty much everyone involved because they were never given any choice about their own neighborhood and were called names for wanting their neighborhood zoning respected.

I also seem to remember the Yes people saying the No people were in the minority and the people on the Yes side having an almost unimaginable amount of funding compared to the No side, and the Yes people having people whose day job it was and City employees to push their agenda. I think your characterization of the Yes side as underdogs is a little big of selective amnesia.


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Posted by Jerry Underdal
a resident of Barron Park
on Feb 21, 2014 at 12:13 am

Jerry Underdal is a registered user.

The April shout-down of PAHC's presentation of its revised proposal at Arastradero Park Apartments did happen before the Maybell Action Group was formed, but the person and the message were as I have indicated.

I'm not saying there weren't charges of *****ism being thrown about, just that I wasn't doing it. I knew that there was much more than that involved, but I also recognized as nonsense claims that there was no element of anti-affordable housing sentiment involved.

I believe my previous post shows that I recognized the range of concerns that got people engaged. For myself it was worry over bicycle safety for students in the Maybell corridor.

My underdog characterization was for the Barron Park/Green Acres part of town. People were cautious of being openly skeptical of arguments promoted here in Town Square and within the Barron Park Association, which donated membership funds to support resistance to the PAHC project. Reasonably enough, many felt that to openly disagree online, either in Town Square or elsewhere would be to open themselves to distressing personal attacks.

You may have read my letter to the editor which appeared in the Daily Post and Daily News in which I characterized the vote against Measure D as a "tainted victory" for residents pushing back against abuse of zoning loopholes by the likes of the Jay Paul Corporation since it involved recklessly attacking PAHC as a profit-seeking, "greedy developer"despite the fact that its sole purpose is to build and maintain affordable housing in Palo Alto.

I still feel that way.










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Posted by Stop the once-lers
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 21, 2014 at 9:59 am

PAHC gave a presentation the audience listened to and did not "shout down". (Perhaps the traffic consultant felt shouted down, I can see why on both sides.) PAHC had told community members that they believed there was no opposition to the rezoning, despite community members trying to reach out to them to alter the plan in a way the neighborhood would accept. Despite several community members expressing opposition to PTC members, the vote was characterized as having no opposition. People having to speak up to be heard is not a shout down, Jerry. You have a selective memory - I can recall core Yes people on BPA calling Cheryl Lilienstein denigrating names and chiming in with each other, I do not recall anything like that from people who were just at that meeting - they were told the developers believed they were FOR such upzoning of their neighborhood and Councilmembers told them a big public opposition was the only way to counter it.

"I also recognized as nonsense claims that there was no element of anti-affordable housing sentiment involved."

I think your "recognition" of this via observing only a sliver of time and taking what you wanted are a big reason there were such divides in the community. I happen to know the sentiments for affordable housing were genuine and far more people struggled with being put in a position of opposing PAHC. It's why support for a working group was so high, people wanted to find another way to achieve the goals, not just oppose them. You only fed the witch hunt, I'm afraid, at just the right time.

Certainly there are NIMBYs wherever you go, but even among the very few who may have been ideologically against affordable housing (I'm assuming they exist, I never actually witnessed it), there was no sense of their opposition being to having low-income neighbors as they were charged. There was certainly ample opportunity to express it given the large low-income development already next door which is part of the neighborhood. This is an unusual community even in liberal Palo Alto for how welcoming we are, it's one reason Council told PAHC to focus on the area. Making more of NIMBYism than was really there was a political tactic for the developer side, and destroyed any possibility of meeting in the middle, if it existed at all. You may not have started it,but you played a big role in furthering it at a key time.

I urge you to examine your own motives for such revisionism. If the Yes side really believed they were underdogs and unpopular, the Council should have recognized this, exercised its option to set aside the ordinance and work with the community when presented with a qualified referendum, rather than making us pay an extra $660,000 for the soonest and most expensive election possible. The thing never should have been put to vote, If they already thought the Yes was such a small group, it was the height of fiscal irresponsibility to hold the election anyway. They had the choice not to.

You say one thing about every thing being hunky dory, then express your negative bias about your neighbors again. I think you saw one slice, took it out of context, and did great damage because of it. The damage continues. If City Council really understood these weren't NIMBY motives over here, I think they would have already seen the handwriting on the wall and pre-emptively announced they will not upzone Buena Vista. But if they think the Maybell opposition was mostly NIMBYsm, they'll continue to reject the suggestion that neighbors want to keep the low-income park rather than allow a high-density market-rate condo there. They act (or not) once again based on their wishful thinking, but you on their side in the election have given them every reason to.


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Posted by Jerry Underdal
a resident of Barron Park
on Feb 21, 2014 at 10:33 pm

Jerry Underdal is a registered user.

I hope that Buena Vista can be saved, and support efforts to keep the issue in the public eye and on the agendas of city council members and agencies.

The argument that people who support affordable housing should support the residents of Buena Vista in their long-shot attempt to keep their homes instead of supporting the Maybell project has always bothered me. Support both, and others besides, has been my position, since the need is so great (Bob Moss's arguments to show that there was no need for affordable housing for seniors in well-off Palo Alto weren't persuasive for me.) Either/or seemed like a false choice to pose.

I believe that supporters of PAHC who lived outside the Barron Park/Green Acres hot zone probably did feel, even months into the controversy, that if it came to a vote the traditional affordable housing constituency citywide would kick in and save the project. They didn't realize that this was a movement, a matter of emotions and values more than facts.

Even Karen Holman, the one sitting member on the City Council with a strong reputation for skepticism about Planned Community zoning, voted in favor of this project and later voted to defend it in a costly special election. The 9-0 votes show how much the facts seemed to show that this was a responsible thing to do.

This was the first time a PAHC project had gone to a referendum and they were ill-prepared. The personnel of PAHC are professionals who develop and manage affordable housing. They are not political campaigners, and it showed.

PAHC was shadow boxing while the Maybell Action Group was training for the Ultimate Fighting Championship. And all the money that eventually got tossed into Yes on D was of no avail. There was no vigorous spirit of support for the concept of affordable housing that would get people out to vote across the city. The multiple gauzy fliers that showed up in folks' mailboxes were unpersuasive if not outright annoying.

This was a lost opportunity to build affordable housing for low and middle income seniors. I'm anxious about the prospects for future affordable housing projects unless there's an honest debate about the value of economic diversity that results in clear community understanding and support of the concept. Without that--or a credible threat of government action to enforce affordable housing regulations--affordable housing proposals will languish and die, to our detriment, in my opinion.


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Posted by Stop the Once-lers
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 22, 2014 at 8:33 pm

"The argument that people who support affordable housing should support the residents of Buena Vista in their long-shot attempt to keep their homes instead of supporting the Maybell project has always bothered me. Support both, and others besides, has been my position,"

Jerry, we already know how you feel. Do you think people can't have legitimate disagreements about how things are done without being closet NIMBYs? Because that's what you're saying. Is it always "if you're not 100% for me you must be 100% against me" with you? I am offended by your characterization of the people who didn't agree with you, and by extension, your characterization of me, which is wrong and has always been wrong. It was one thing during a political race. It's quite another now when all it is doing is making Palo Alto seem like a hostile place for affordable housing, giving aid to people who really are against it, and hurting relationships between neighbors. It's quite another thing when it's keeping people who want to save BV from using the sleeping giant that could be enlisted to help, because of a whole worldview you've conjured in your mind and want to cling to more than you'd want all the help you could get.

So long as our City Council thinks the Maybell opposition really was NIMBYism, they have no incentive to understand that the majority of people on both sides of that debate want to save BV and they should act accordingly. They would have seen the handwriting on the wall.

I and most people who were against the UPZONING of Maybell (and for saving the orchard) would have welcomed the opportunity to assess and meet the needs in ways that would have respected the neighborhood zoning, just as was done with the Terman Working Group. The zoning in the neighborhood clearly didn't matter to you; as a result, you demonstrated an utter lack of respect for the feelings of your neighbors, treating them as if they are selfish for asking for others to just TRY to meet the goals within those promises, laws and rules we have on the books.

If the needs are so great that you are asking to violate all those rules, don't expect people not to examine them. I was upset to find out through all of this that we have empty housing, that we are making housing available that doesn't get filled because we do such a poor job of assessing and matching the need with the programs and supply we have. That needs to change. Please join me in calling for better examination and planning for matching the need with how we provide for supply.

I hope you can also accept that there are legitimate disagreements about how to provide -- and IMO, KEEP -- affordable housing. I feel very strongly that preserving existing affordable housing is better than knocking it down in order to put in far fewer units of far less affordable housing, and then having to sequester low-income people in gilded fishbowls bought at maximum expense. I think that's ultimately bad for the cause of affordable housing and bad for the people in it (and there is plenty of government data to back me up, I'm not coming from left field).


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Posted by Stop the Once-lers
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 22, 2014 at 9:06 pm

"This was the first time a PAHC project had gone to a referendum and they were ill-prepared. The personnel of PAHC are professionals who develop and manage affordable housing. They are not political campaigners, and it showed."

Oh please. PAHC and the City ganged up on the neighbors, never thinking residents could pull together or have any recourse. The last land use referendum was High Street, which the City Council won by a hair using the City Attorney to write a totally biased ballot, which they did at Maybell, too.

In San Francisco, where they had an almost identical measure, but an impartial ballot committee, the impartial ballot asked whether to keep an ordinance that allowed the height to be violated by 80 feet, even though that ordinance had arguably more in it for affordable housing. The purpose of the ORDINANCE, the change in LAW at Maybell, was NOT, as our City Attorney portrayed it, to allow affordable housing where it wasn't allowed before (because it was allowed), but to allow the height to be exceeded by so much, the density to be exceeded, daylight plane to be violated, parking provisions to be seriously undercut, etc. Had those been just factually listed in the ballot the way they were on the San Francisco ballot -- had the City Attorney been impartial and simply listed the changes that were the subject of the ORDINANCE in the ballot question, the against side would have won by an even larger margin, closer to the 67% the SF Against side won by. But the City knew before they even began that they would have the advantage of biasing the ballot, and didn't think they could lose.

PAHC was not ill-prepared. The City Council helped them buy the property and was with them at every step. They had over $120,000 to run a campaign, people whose day jobs were spent working against the neighbors, they warned well in advance that if there was a referendum, they would fight it, and they hired a professional campaign firm that specialized in squashing citizen referenda right off the bat.

Contrast that with neighbors who were elementary parents taking care of children, elderly neighbors some with very serious health problems and a few who experienced deaths in the family during all of this. No one had the expertise in land use, and there was barely enough money to pay for the expertise they needed. There was barely enough money to pay for lawn signs. Neighbors were literally pulling money out of their pockets and putting it in a pile at most of the meetings to meet ad hoc steps along the way. Everyone hoped a good enough appeal at City Hall would make further steps unnecessary. Many had tried behind the scenes before April to get the plan changed so it would work for everyone. Back then, CC and PAHC didn't think they had to give the neighbors any more than lip service.

You do realize that PAHC and the City continued the application process for government funding as if their win was assured? Their deadline to apply was in July, and they had basic requirements to meet, including that they needed to have the zoning they needed and all CEQA appeals expired, neither of which were true on that day or ever, even as of today. Our City continued to verify that they qualified, and PAHC continued to submit those papers, even after the neighborhood qualified the referendum and the soonest PAHC would have had even just had the rezoning would have been November, if they won.

This gave the City Council an even greater incentive to spend all that taxpayer money on that November special election instead of setting the rezoning aside and working with neighbors: they and PAHC were just proceeding as if their win was assured, and when they won they election, as they clearly thought they would, they would take they money they were already awarded by the state and feds based on incorrect verifications having been provided by Palo Alto employees, and move on. This is not the behavior of an "ill-prepared" organization. Jessica de Wit began this telling neighbors she had gotten residential neighborhoods upzoned in the past and was not afraid of opposition. They had other housing organizations assisting them politically at every step in the City Council meetings prior to the rezoning, organizations they would have had to approach in advance.

Parenthetically, does it not bother you that other eligible affordable housing projects outside of Palo Alto were not considered because the state funding agency doesn't revisit the info in this funding round, and left other projects out of consideration because of this one that didn't really qualify? Can you not understand that people who care about affordable housing would prioritize ALL affordable housing and not just a particular project in a particular place by a particular organization, especially a proposal they don't hold the same high opinion of as you do?

I, too, thought it was a lost opportunity to build affordable housing and create something better than anyone initially envisioned through a working group and real compromise. Ultimately, that would have been a much more positive path. PAHC and the City never really considered that path.

In the end, I believe Measure D was about the power balance between City Hall and the neighborhoods, and whether the residents' views of what they want for their town need to be respected. I think if the City had felt they needed to consider the neighborhoods more from the start, this whole thing would have proceeded in a more democratic way.

I am having a lot of trouble with the idea that those who say they are for affordable housing could be so vociferously for spending $30million at Maybell while a fraction of those public funds -- in particular, the $7.2 million being loaned from the City — could have been put to use to save Buena Vista a year ago.

I disagree with you Jerry, stop calling me names or characterizing my neighbors as terrible human beings to get your way. If you want the hunky dory picture of neighbors you provided earlier to be for real, I hope you will start to entertain the idea that people can legitimately disagree with you without having some horrible secret agenda. The sooner you realize that, the sooner you can see they would actually join you for some of the goals you have.


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Posted by Jerry Underdal
a resident of Barron Park
on Feb 22, 2014 at 11:03 pm

Jerry Underdal is a registered user.

". . . ,stop calling me names or characterizing my neighbors as terrible human beings to get your way"

I think I've been pretty consistent in attacking your positions without calling you names (I'm assuming here, without confirmation, that I have in fact addressed you on this subject in the Town Square over the past several months even though I've not seen the monicker Stop the Once-lers before this current thread.

And aren't your neighbors my neighbors too, the ones I hoped would see that there were other legitimate ways of looking at the Maybell/Clemo proposal than the Maybell Action Group's total rejection of the project? I have never characterized our neighbors as terrible human beings for any purpose, including getting my way (whatever that might mean in this context).

"So long as our City Council thinks the Maybell opposition really was NIMBYism . . ."

What makes you think they do? It seems to me that they chose to interpret the results of the election as a message that the community would not put up with continued extraordinary zoning exemptions, even for affordable housing. This was exactly the message that the Against D movement intended to send--message received.

As far as I can see, we're in agreement about Buena Vista although I think you're more optimistic than I am. A lot of pieces would have to fall in place for it to happen, including reassuring property rights hawks that an inappropriate "taking" wasn't being forced on the owner.

Let me agree with you, at least partially, on another matter. It would have been better overall to just let the marketplace determine what would happen at Maybell/Clemo rather than persist in trying to get an unpersuadable neighborhood to buy into this project.

I assume that what goes in will be attractive to buyers looking for nice housing near great schools, with easy access to Foothill Expressway and a host of other advantages. I further assume that it won't involve affordable housing. That ship has sailed.


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Posted by Stop the Once-lers
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 23, 2014 at 1:50 am

"I think I've been pretty consistent in attacking your positions without calling you names (I'm assuming here, without confirmation, that I have in fact addressed you on this subject in the Town Square over the past several months even though I've not seen the monicker Stop the Once-lers before this current thread. "

We have addressed each other, though not nearly as much as you seemed to think. I've seen posts by other people with similar writing style as mine, one or two unfortunate enough to have chosen similar moniker's as I'd used before, one I think even used the same, I have no idea who they are, and you've often obsessed about all of them and me as if they are the same person.

Your characterization of people and ascribing to them motives that are base and untrue is as much calling names as using the name itself, so, no, you have not restricted yourself to attacking positions. In fact, you have seemed obsessed with figuring out how to go after people individually rather than dealing with just their positions. From my perspective, the No on D people have focused more on the positions and behavior, and the Yes on D people have attacked people. The whole PAHC strategy in front of Council was based on NIMBYism, and the word was used, that is undeniable. You chimed in on BPA lists discussions when people outright made ad hominem and denigrating statements about Cheryl Lilienstein (though I give you that you did not make the denigrating statements, neither did you refute them). So again, you are having a selective amnesia here.

I think you just characterized some of your neighbors as having base motives in this thread, and you were nicer here than usual, so your denial rings hollow.

"Maybell Action Group's total rejection of the project"
Maybell action group was only formed because PAHC would not change their rezoning goals or proposal at all. I don't really understand your obsession with them either as there were probably half a dozen or more groups formed, all loosely connected. I happen to know that if PAHC had knocked the big building down to 3 stories, even if it had still exceeded zoning, provided more on-site parking, gone for 6 consistent houses instead of 12 or 15 (which they could have done if they took the profit from the houses instead of just from the upzoned properties), and done the traffic safety analysis (perhaps getting a light at Clemo and putting the traffic from the project out at Clemo instead of Maybell) Maybell action group would probably never have been formed. I also happen to know several people involved early on who really tried to get PAHC to listen that there would be opposition to that plan and make changes.


>""So long as our City Council thinks the Maybell opposition really was NIMBYism . . .
What makes you think they do? It seems to me that they chose to interpret the results of the election as a message that the community would not put up with continued extraordinary zoning exemptions, even for affordable housing. This was exactly the message that the Against D movement intended to send--message received. "

This is an important discussion for us to have. I think this because I've been told it point blank by some of our Council, because if you go back through the statements made even publicly, you'll see they didn't really get the message. (Mark Berman who got 18% of the vote for office, including mine, somehow thinks this makes his opinion trump a landslide vote against the upzoning.) And most importantly, because the ballot itself was manipulated by the City to be a choice about affordable housing.

I think our City Council doesn't give up on its favoring of developers unless they have just no thread to hang their hats on. All the signs were there before Measure D to make a decision when the referendum was qualified, without putting it to a vote, but they reasoned all of those signs away because they didn't want to believe it.

One of those lines of reasoning got them deep into believing the motivations of the neighborhood were really, as you've expressed, NIMBYism. I heard it in my own discussions with Councilmembers. So long as they believe that, they can talk themselves into believing the neighbors won't bother to overturn an upzoning at BV, especially if the Council allows the eviction to go forward and the residents are no longer there. As long as they can believe Prometheus will prevail in the end, especially since they didn't see the No and Yes people speak as one voice against upzoning of BV after the election, the Council will believe the neighbors are really NIMBYs and the development agenda will prevail at BV. How can you question that when you yourself have expressed a deep-seated belief that so much NIMBYism played such a role (that I am telling you, is just not true).

Don't give up, first of all, for a better fate for Maybell. Some of us are working on it, and if we succeed (by no means certain), it will involve some affordable housing, some saving the orchard, but it will be along very different lines. I can't say I'm sorry that "ship has sailed" as you say, because I think the orchard and open space is worth trying to save. I AM very sorry that a working group didn't come out of the Maybell debates, because I think it could have rehabilitated PAHC's reputation in the community, it could have led to a better way to provide the housing (probably not involving bulldozing the trees).

I'm not being "optimistic" about BV -- objectively, I think the chances of saving the mobile home park are better than the chances of overturning the upzoning ordinance at Maybell when it happened. I'm appalled that you would suggest any kind of "taking" anything from the owner, especially since it's just not necessary for saving the park for the residents as a place of true affordability.

I think the Jissers are decent people, based on everything we know about how they've behaved historically. I think if their contract with Prometheus allows it, they would consider taking a decent offer. The current offer on the table is just too far from what they could reasonably be expected to take, but I think there are ways to make up the difference that are reasonable and eminently doable.

So Jerry, can we agree on this:
1) We will stop fighting about the election and speak with one voice about Buena Vista: the majority opinion in the neighborhood is to save the park. City Council should do what it can to retain it.

2) We should ask the City Council to make a pre-emptive statement to Prometheus that they will not be upzoning that parcel regardless. Neighbors should give Council the ability to do this by immediately circulating a petition that Council can point to when they come out and say it. Again, Council will not believe this, I promise you, unless we make it tangible. Maybe this time they will accept a petition with hundreds or thousands of signatures without making us referend, but they won't just go with the letters and phone calls.


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