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City charts new path toward updating Comprehensive Plan

Original post made on Mar 18, 2014

After a meandering eight-year slog, Palo Alto officials agreed on Monday night to bring a fresh approach to upgrading the city's land-use bible, the Comprehensive Plan. This means more outreach, more data and -- perhaps most crucially -- a deadline.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Tuesday, March 18, 2014, 5:05 PM

Comments (5)

Posted by Steve Raney, a resident of Crescent Park
on Mar 18, 2014 at 6:47 pm

"Design sprints" (week-long intensive problem-solving and brainstorming) and high-tech participatory democracy (a la California Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsome's book Citizenville) can shrink 48-month public processes down to one week, with more innovative outcomes, higher impact mitigation, richer quantitative analyses, and increased public participation, all at much lower cost.

In Citizenville, Gavin Newsome draws on his frustrations from his term as San Francisco's Mayor. Within public processes, loud citizen voices drown out others. Feedback is monopolized by a small, passionate group of people with hours of free weeknight time to spend sitting through plodding public meetings. At these meetings, staff/electeds spend four times longer than normal to say half as much, in order to not to offend anyone. The views of the too-busy-to-attend silent majority are ignored in favor of more extreme views. Old-fashioned processes enable defensive, obstacle-seeking strategies, dampening problem-solving creativity.

According to Newsome, "new digital tools can dissolve political gridlock and transform democracy." These tools address complex, messy, seemingly-intractable issues and augment citizen capacity to find ways through messy situations. Rapid-fire processes break down creative barriers.

According to Google Ventures Design Staff, "design sprints" produce predictably good results for startups and new products in only one week. Such sprints also promise to revolutionize city planning processes.


Posted by Wondering?, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 18, 2014 at 8:51 pm

[Portion removed.]

As to Google Design Sprints -- Google does not generally design, develop and sell products that people are willing to pay for. Google is an engineering-centric house that churns out a lot of Beta-quality software, that often disappears about as quickly as it is created. If it doesn't work, they can can the project as quickly as they green-lighted it. Given the City's ability to take people's property with eminent domain, got to wonder how often Google would simply take property owners homes and business, and bull doze them down as the simplest way to get from point A to point B?

If Google were building airplanes--wonder how many people would actually be willing to Fly Google?


Posted by Citizen, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 19, 2014 at 2:03 am

"...is monopolized by a small, passionate group of people with hours of free weeknight time to spend sitting through plodding public meetings."

You mean, our current City Council?

We need a paid Council. It's time we had full-time Councilmembers who could afford to take the time from their jobs to work for us as we need.

Where in the above mix is the parent community from different sides of town? We are often the least able to attend City meetings, but we make up a huge contingent in this town that is known for its schools.

Why don't we have the ability to participate remotely in City Hall meetings? Someone stood up and suggested this at a recent meeting and mention San Carlos (?) already does this?

I fear this coming into the community is less to know what we think and more about trying to find people who know less about what is going on than the historic numbers who have been newly participating in the past year, and whose message they would like to give themselves a reason to ignore. I think they feel if they can reach people in smaller groups, they can elicit the echo they hope for. Shepherd, Price, Kniss, and Klein are inclined to do this.

City Council needs to give residents some teeth to enforce protections in the comprehensive plan, at least in regards to important state-mandated provisions like safety and traffic circulation. We don't have a separate safety and traffic circulation element you say? I wish I believed part of the consultants'' job would be to examine where our current plan needs improvements to further the goals of maintaining neighborhoods and quality of life as in the existing plan, but I see no evidence that this council has changed its spots. It's more likely they'll be figuring out how to hijack the thing for developers. I would like to see the timetable extended beyond where THIS Council decides its ultimate form. We should all be willing to go to bat over that, or it's kiss Palo Alto college town goodbye, hello San Jose Mini-Me.


Posted by resident 1, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Mar 19, 2014 at 6:05 pm

I think as part of the Comprehensive Plan there should be included a inventory of the number of apartments, condominiums, and houses throughout the city - with approximate rental value where appropriate. There is a considerable number of apartments on Alma between Green Meadow and Embarcadero that are one story, older, and relatively inexpensive. There is also a large number of older apartments in the El Camino / Park Blvd quadrant. It should be clear where people should be looking for apartments / housing based on their budgets. I keep hearing that there is no lower cost available housing in the city and that is not true.

There should also be a inventory of the commercial space in the city. There are a high number of buildings "for lease" which tells you that the availability exceeds the demand. There has to be a numerical basis for evaluating what is on the ground today to determine where the need is.

Once there is a baseline for the city in total that is published and available for residents / newcomers through the city central system then we are meeting a basic need as a starting point. The housing inventory should include the school systems it is in proximity to.

This information is available in pieces through the real estate indexes but I do not believe that there is a total city picture available through the city systems. If so where is it?

When people speak to development then they should be locating exactly what is on the ground today and what are they replacing it with. There has to be a numerical basis for comparison that is evident in the planning documents.


Posted by resident 1, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Mar 19, 2014 at 6:18 pm

I think the concept of south and north Palo Alto is an over simplification of the city. I saw today that Louis Road has consistent numbering to Charleston - but once you cross Charleston it becomes Montrose with a different numbering system. It looks like Charleston / Arastadero was an outer edge border at some point with Cubberly and the shopping center anchoring that edge. The housing between Charleston and San Antonio was built at a different time period and has a different zip code.
Mitchell Park would represent what was the outer edge at some point in time.
How the city was built is more complicated than simply saying north and south.
I know from the geological map of the city that there are layers of type sediment which determine if you are in a flood zone based on land fill.


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