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Solve ABAG and Sr Housing by Channing House Increasing Density?

Original post made by Resident, Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Apr 14, 2014

The more I think about this, the more it makes me wonder why no one thought of this before:
Web Link

Channing House has 2,000 units, most pretty spacious for senior - or any Bay Area - apartments, a population that has expressed a desire to densify Palo Alto, and provide for seniors to remain here.

They are undergoing a renovation now to add to their medical center and add more full-care units so people can age in place. What about renovating more of the building so people who want to provide for more senior housing in Palo Alto, I'm assuming most of the Channing House residents, can be the solution? It would easily be possible to increase the density of Channing House by twice, many of the units are multi-room 800 to over 900 square feet. Even one bedrooms are large.

It seems like residents now should be allowed to sublet to a low-income resident, or a friend in Channing House who could let their unit to more than one resident who couldn't otherwise afford to live there. Residents have expressed such a strong desire for this during the Measure D debates, doubling the capacity at Channing House would also provide the extra 2,000 housing units for ABAG, wouldn't it?? It could stop the densification of the rest of Palo Alto. Everyone would be happy.

Comments (45)

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Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 14, 2014 at 3:03 pm

What, no comments? We've been arguing about this vociferously for so long, and the solution was right under our noses! And the people at Channing House have led the charge to tell us this is what we should be doing! Let's start at Channing House, it solves the problems for decades to come.


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Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 14, 2014 at 4:29 pm

The post linked to above was deleted, so here is the full-text:

The City and PAHC argued vociferously for the need to bulldoze the 100 trees, ignore significant street safety issues, and dramatically increase the zoning at Maybell to provide 60 apartments for seniors. Residents at Channing House were some of the most vocal proponents of the plan and the rezoning via Measure D.

What has happened since Measure D?

One of the things Measure D highlighted was the lack of a market study or data on the actual need and wishes of retiring Palo Altans - our new head of planning promised us that data. Do we have it yet?

Another thing Measure D highlighted was that we currently had empty below market rate units, sometimes long empty units, many in senior facilities, and no attempt was being made to assess the most urgent needs among our residents and how to best match that need to those units. What has been done in that regard?

Another thing Measure D highlighted was how much Channing House residents wanted to increase density of housing in Palo Alto and availability of senior low-income housing. What steps have the residents made at Channing House to do this within Channing House? I'm assuming none of them like to think of themselves as NIMBYs who would push for density and overlooking things like safety in someone else's backyard because they think the need is so great, so I'm also assuming the residents would be just as willing to start where they live.

There are around 2,000 units at Channing House, most of them "spacious" (from the website) - 800 to over 900 square feet multi-room units, which are indeed large for senior rooms that can typically be 300-500 square feet and even shared at that. Many if not most Channing House units are multi-room units. I have frankly been surprised at how large the living spaces there are. Most floors have extremely large common areas, as well.

It sure seems like Channing House residents have both the interest and resources to solve this problem themselves. They could probably increase the density of just Channing House by two to four times, without seriously hurting quality of life, or at least compromising in a far lesser way than they have indicated is acceptable for everyone in town to make, since the living spaces there are already so large relative to many other senior centers. In the meantime, many residents could even sublet part of their multi-room units -- or move in with a friend in a multi-room unit and make a multi-room unit available for more than one low-income senior.

That's 2,000-4,000 low- to moderate-income seniors that could be accommodated at Channing House alone.

Channing House has an in-house medical center and age-in-place capabilities that Maybell would never have had. And real community. No one really knows what will happen to their income when they age, because medical is such a wildcard, and Channing House residents don't throw anyone out if they can no longer pay, they do walk the walk and keep those people on.

The current renovation increased some of the higher-care spaces -- I'm assuming the focus of the ongoing renovation has been expanded to increase the number of regular and low-income units since Measure D? Maybe it could be done in a way to access some of that public money from the state to help with it, though it's doubtful they'd need as much of it. A charity-begins-at-home attitude as the residents displayed during Measure D would go a long way to providing hundreds of spaces for low-income seniors at Channing House without any new renovation. What's news on this?


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Posted by resident 1
a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Apr 15, 2014 at 12:24 pm

This is a brilliant idea. I keep seeing these comments in the SJM Opinion section about the horrible people in Palo Alto who do not want to increase the housing density - and the people commenting are typically the older people.
I think there is some group that is focused on this so this should give them some good conversation. They can solve the problem right there is their own neighborhood.


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Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 15, 2014 at 12:58 pm

@resident 1,

I wonder if it's possible to coordinate efforts so some of the money going to new construction (which is horribly expensive for relatively little housing) could be made available to help renovate existing housing like this.

I mean, the impossibility of creating a new Channing House is daunting, but the property itself is so spacious, and the residents themselves are civically-minded (look at how they stepped up to invite Abilities United in for awhile) and have a strong co-op-like organization, it just seems like making plans to create the housing by densifying that property would solve so many problems and be less costly or controversial. It is easily conceivable to increase the population there by double, and all the support services are already there.

It's probably possible to do it in a way that is attractive to the owner - attracting more full-paying guests - and to those who want to provide for more low-income residents. I'm guessing it's probably even easier to get some of that LIHTC money if the investment by the property owner is part of the densification renovation. Everyone knows that low-income housing works better when it's integrated in the community and not segregated in "projects".

I wonder if the City could be encouraged to provide incentives, seeing, again, that they could totally solve the ABAG housing by just a renovation of that one property, while also providing easily 20 times more new senior housing than Maybell ever could have accommodated.

Wow, why didn't someone think of this before the election?!!


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Posted by Interesting idea
a resident of Crescent Park
on Apr 16, 2014 at 8:53 am

This is an interesting idea. Some residents of Channing House are leading housing advocates, including signers of the Maybell ballot measure.


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Posted by curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on Apr 16, 2014 at 9:45 am

All we need to do to satisfy ABAG is convert one house on each block face to a duplex. That solves the problem in everyone's backyard.

But how about this for outrageous: Crescent Park and Old Palo Alto are stock full of huge homes, far bigger than anyone could ever need. Convert them to SROs and ABAG will be ecstatic for the rest of the century.


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Posted by Herb Borock
a resident of Professorville
on Apr 16, 2014 at 12:22 pm

Since the original post was about Channing House, I thought you might be interested in the views expressed by Neilson Buchanan (they are not my views) that were posted as the first comment on the thread, "What is Measure D really about?", on October 11, 2013, at 8:51 am. Neilson Buchanan is the person who has documented the number of commuter cars parked in various residential neighborhoods. Buchanan's comments are reproduced below from the following link: Web Link

Posted by Neilson Buchanan, a resident of Downtown North
on Oct 11, 2013 at 8:51 am

I oppose Measure D because it shows how shallow Palo Alto Planning process really is. The whole Peninsula lacks a real plan for senior housing...whether it be low income or making it more feasible for aging baby boomers like me who want to move into affordable, quality alternatives to our single unit homes. Two things could and should happen after Nov. 5 if the Mayor and Vice-Mayor move the Council to strategic not tactical action. First, energize the staid Housing Element in new Comprehensive Plan. Small projects like Maybell do not add significantly to the senior housing supply. Menlo Park, Mountain View and Palo Alto need at least one new, large, quality continuing care center every five years for the foreseeable future. Think about Vi, The Forum and Channing House. Convene a tri-city call to action and act on it. Second, face the facts. Future high-quality, cost efficient senior housing is not possible with 3 and 4 story projects like The Forum and Vi. Vacant land does not exist. The only alternative is to "zone up" for seniors. Does this Council have the courage to acknowledge senior housing means tall buildings like standard-setting, time-proven Channing House. OK, Greg and Nancy, show us your stuff after the Nov 5 election.


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Posted by Lefty
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Apr 16, 2014 at 9:20 pm

Cute. The NIMBYs in our top-end neighborhoods want to dump the housing burden on our seniors in another neighborhood. Uh-huh. Right. What should we expect. Just stuff them oldsters into jail-cell-sized units, with shared pottys and showers, and we're done. Spare our 'hoods. Better them over there than us right here.

Palo Alto at its finest.


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Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 16, 2014 at 11:40 pm

What are you talking about? Most senior living is in spaces that are what you call "jail-cell-sized" units. At 800-900 square feet, the units at Channing House are twice as big as the units at Maybell would have been, and Channing House has services (that Maybell never would have had). Plus, Channing House has a dining hall, a medical center, and huge expansive spaces that could be converted to additional living spaces through renovation. It is a tall building that is already there, with units that are significantly larger than typical.

Many of the units at Stevenson House, against which the proposed Maybell project was compared by its proponents, are in the 300 to 400 square foot range. In fact, the "Jumbo" units at Stevenson house are around 400 square feet.

Channing House is CURRENTLY being renovated to add more age-in-place units. The residents of Channing House are very civic minded and on the side of densifying in order to make room, they would walk the walk. It wouldn't be much of a stretch either. Simply doubling the density would produce another 2,000 units!! That's over 33 TIMES more units than Maybell would have provided even with so dramatically violating the zoning. They would still be larger units than available at Stephenson House, and have services right there in the building, and a great community.

Man, you're as hard left as teapartiers on the right, meaning so ideologically driven you don't veer even when the outcome is idiotically opposite of your ideology. The City Council knew what they were doing when they pushed PAHC to put something at Maybell, how else were they going to get people like you to scream FOR bulldozing the trees and the nesting redtail hawk, etc., especially after they took so much flak for cutting down the lesser, fewer, and less-well-established trees on California Avenue.

And here there's an opportunity to provide way more housing, without controversy, for far less money -- the owner of Channing House might very well even welcome the opportunity to put in thousands more units (if a good percentage were full paying), with the full blessing of the residents.

Well, the new owner of Maybell needs to know that residents of the neighborhood were sincerely not NIMBYs and were only not fighting the City's estimation of what could go there because it was PAHC and because there were bigger issues. But if someone tries to put anything more than what the comprehensive plan provides -- which is EIGHT units per acre next to R-1, NOT 16 units -- they and the City will find out what the neighbors were going to do had they lost the referendum. Lest anyone not take that seriously, the City never thought the neighbors could win a referendum to stop a land use/zoning change in a million years. Our reasons were not pretense and they have not gone away. If anything, the problems have only gotten worse.


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Posted by resident 1
a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Apr 17, 2014 at 2:00 am

Housing for aging people is more complicated then just providing housing. You need to have a represented medical assistance team in place - or a plan for how to address medical situations. You also need a communal eating area so people are not expected to be cooking in individual units.

In another local home for the seniors it started with the idea - selling point - that there would be a medical team - but that ended up being too expensive and fraught with insurance issues. Expecting the city to take on the medical / legal - insurance issues is a very expensive proposition.

The organizations / corporations that support senior living facilities are organized for that specific purpose. Churches have a senior living plan - note local area facilities supported by churches - Webster House, the Sequoias, the Forum, etc. Not sure about Stevenson House or the Commons.

Channing house has already worked out these issues and is ideally set up to expand its services - it already has the right elements in place. You cannot build a bunch of small apartments on Maybell and duplicate the real requirements for a facility for seniors.

It is like someone slapping a label on a project to sell it and provide justification that it is addressing the problem. Reality says that unless you have all of the required pieces in place it will end up like the Housing Authority in San Francisco - a horribly run set of facilities.


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Posted by curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on Apr 17, 2014 at 9:44 am

I find it amusing that each resident in this thread wants to solve the ABAG problem in Another Palo Alto neighborhood.


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Posted by resident 1
a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Apr 17, 2014 at 11:09 am

Curmudgeon - you are trying to classify this as a ABAG problem. It is a senior living problem and who has the correct management team to run a senior home. I have had senior relatives in senior housing and know first hand that it works well if the individual is in 100% health. Try the situation when the person is recovering from a surgical operation and requires in-home care - watch all of the pieces start falling apart and who is liable for what. That is not an ABAG problem - it is a life problem. And you need that person in the right type of care home when it happens.
That is when you need professionals in the senior living business who have the right credentials to run the business.


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Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 17, 2014 at 11:22 am

@curmudgeon,
That's the beauty of this solution. It provides for the additional housing in a place where the facilities exist, and where the existing residents are already the most vocal proponents for densification. They are also, in my experience, sincere, would not want to be NIMBYs, and have a strong resident group that could help.


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Posted by curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on Apr 17, 2014 at 2:51 pm

"Curmudgeon - you are trying to classify this as a ABAG problem."

It's not MY classification. I was echoing the headline on this thread: "Solve ABAG and Sr Housing by Channing House Increasing Density?"

"They [Channing House residents?] are also, in my experience, sincere, would not want to be NIMBYs, and have a strong resident group that could help."

Imputing attitudes to a group which is not participating in the discussion is a hoary propaganda technique. Of course they would not want to be NIMBYs in your imagination, else you could not make your "would not" statement. Why don't you poll them? I double-dog dare you.

In my experience, the real NIMBYs are the people who label others as NIMBYs because those putative NIMBYs object to putting something in their backyard that the real NIMBY fears will otherwise wind up in his/her own backyard. This thread is a classic example.


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Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 18, 2014 at 12:52 am

@ curmudgeon,

To repeat the old cliche, some of my best friends live in Channing House...

Channing House led the charge for Measure D, they were very forceful in the election, and you can get the information about how they voted, it's not secret. Channing House is also adding units and services through renovation right now anyway. Why not continue that in order to add that housing? It's a 2,000 unit building, with exceptionally large units. I never had apartments that big when I was younger living here. Adding the same number of units that was planned at Maybell, 60, involves renovating/diving only THREE PERCENT of the units! That could be done for FAR FAR less than the $30million necessary to build Maybell, while providing real senior housing in a real senior center with lots of community and services.

Renovating 10% of the units and making some of those additional units full-paying would mean Channing House could easily add far more low-income housing for seniors than Maybell ever could, in a more flexible way, and pay for it without government subsidies.

For you to assume that people in Channing House were just pushing the Maybell project because they are hypocritical NIMBYs is just insulting, and it's wrong. The people I know there are very civically minded and live their beliefs. Some are even apologetic for how large their units are. Look at how they stepped up and invited Abilities United in when they had to close the pool.


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Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 18, 2014 at 1:06 am

Why oh why are people so ready to dismiss obvious solutions that make SO much more sense than the proposals that create terrible controversy (for obvious reasons)? For crying out loud, it's like it's TOO easy. Channing House gets natural attrition. The units could be divided in a natural way over time so that no one is badly impacted and the additional residents integrated slowly into the business model over time.

This is such an obvious solution. How exactly do people buy so easily into a project that requires a zoning ordinance to violate zoning by many times over, bulldozing 100 established trees (especially when we are headed into such a drought), ignoring City policy when it comes to school commute corridors, on such a congested corridor, paying so much money for just 60 units of housing without any services seniors need and no easy access to transportation, and that requires the City employees to make untrue representations to the state and feds to get funding?

And yet when there is a way to accomplish far more of that housing in an easy way, for far less money, without government intervention, in a location filled with residents who have publicly indicated their strong support for filling the need (and a real world willingness to walk the walk) and with most needed services including even a huge dining hall and meals and medical right there at the location, near downtown -- you dismiss it offhand??

Cheez whiz, that's what's wrong with this town! Put your thinking cap on -- sometimes the best solution is the most obvious one!


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Posted by curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on Apr 18, 2014 at 9:52 am

I've never heard the euphemism "natural attrition" used in this context before. We live and we learn.

I don't think anybody has called Channing House residents NIMBYs in this thread. At least not this poster. But the person you see in your morning mirror stands accused. It's so easy and so pat: solve the problem in one half block, at a safe distance from your back yard and out of your sight. Then "they" won't try to solve some of it near your backyard.

I asked if you had polled the Channing House residents. A "few friends" does not constitute a poll. And be sure to ask them how they would like the incessant construction commotion as the "natural attrition" units get subdivided into smaller ones. That's heavy, noisy, dirty work, especially expanding the supply and drain plumbing for the new bathrooms.

Since the Channing House is located in an already densely populated neighborhood, maybe you should also poll the neighbors. You know—a NIMBY census. After all, it is they, like the Maybell neighbors, who have to live with the consequences.


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Posted by resident 1
a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Apr 18, 2014 at 11:32 am

Curmudgeon - you clearly resent the idea that Channing House could absorb more residents. It also appears that you would like the issue of ABAG resolved in a backyard very far from you.

Since housing for seniors has been a big topic what are you proposing? If we can resolve two topics - ABAG and Senior Housing in one location why is that so upsetting to you?

What are you proposing to happen? You can criticize everyone else's ideas but you need to offer up an idea that is REALISTIC.


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Posted by curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on Apr 18, 2014 at 12:31 pm

"It also appears that you would like the issue of ABAG resolved in a backyard very far from you.'

I'll do my share. I already live in the densest part of town; I'm used to having lots of neighbors and routinely welcome more. It makes for a lively scene.

But over the years I've observed that, with very few exceptions, advocates of increased housing density live in the R1 suburbs and are very protective of the R1 zoning in their own neighborhoods. Like: "We need dense housing but it's not appropriate in an R1 zone." I have heard residents actually use those words at city council. What could be NIMBYer than that?

"What are you proposing to happen? You can criticize everyone else's ideas but you need to offer up an idea that is REALISTIC."

My proposal is that everyone shares. ABAG wants an additional housing unit for each eight existing units. There are on average eight houses per block face. Convert one house on each block face to a duplex and we're there. Everybody's contributed to the solution; everybody's equally happy.

You're it now. Your turn to be REALISTIC.


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Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 18, 2014 at 1:19 pm

@curmudgeon,
>But over the years I've observed that, with very few exceptions, advocates of increased housing density live in the R1 suburbs and are very protective of the R1 zoning in their own neighborhoods.

I'm not an advocate of increased housing density. I think it's short-sighted and stupid to make these big land use decisions that degrade every other measure of quality of life, in the name of "progress".

However, many other people are advocating increased density, first and foremost, our development-centric City Council. During the Maybell situation, probably THE loudest voices for densification and for the need to build the housing came from Channing House. Again, you're welcome to check the voting record.

The Maybell zoning was overturned. The project was never going to produce a real senior center nor was it ever going to provide that much housing, whereas the answer has been there all along: absorbing an extra 60 units at Channing House would be easy, especially since they are already renovating to add units! And since the population there clearly seems to appreciate and promote the need better than anyone.

Many of us through the Measure D situation felt that the need wasn't even well enough articulated. There continued to be empty BMR units FOR SENIORS in Palo Alto throughout that debate. The cost of subsidizing those existing units would have almost certainly been smaller than the per unit cost at Maybell, there just wasn't an existing mechanism to make that happen, but that's not something that couldn't be changed.

If, on the other hand, Channing House were to put in the units, the owner would do that kind of market analysis as a matter of course. Not everyone who retires here is going to want to stay or move into a senior housing apartment. They would know how many full-paying units they could put in, how many they would need to subsidize those who couldn't pay as much, etc. Having low-income seniors mixed in with high-income seniors actually means it's easier to cover the low income ones than if everyone low and lower income is put in a very expensive, subsidized building off by itself. Creating those units would actually probably create additional demand, because it would create options for people considering what to do in retirement. But that would be part of the analysis.

It occurs to me that this is very consistent with the image PAHC tried to promote in the campaign, of the Ruby Slippers from the Wizard of Oz. Channing House residents were the most vocal about densifying Maybell, and I think because they sincerely believe in the need. But Dorothy Channing House, you see you never had to look outside yourself, this whole time you had the power to accomplish it in your own home!


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Posted by resident 1
a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Apr 18, 2014 at 1:35 pm

Curmudgeon - you comment regarding the ABAG requirements I do not believe is true. I have not seen it printed anywhere that there is a requirement for 1 duplex on every block for 8 homes. That is unrealistic as it causes a rezoning of every block in the city.

That is what you call a Developers Dream - they would be employed for the next 10 years tearing down existing homes and building duplexes. We are not in the business here of making developer dreams. And I can assume that the Developer then would own the property and lease it out - a transfer of wealth. Those people who get their retirement payments from large developers definitely have an agenda.
Your comment on the plumbing in Channing House - I believe that many larger units have two bathrooms. Not a big problem to split existing units.


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Posted by curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on Apr 18, 2014 at 2:11 pm

"I have not seen it printed anywhere that there is a requirement for 1 duplex on every block for 8 homes."

To my knowledge it isn't printed anywhere else but here. But it's simple math: the ABAG number is about 1/8 of the dwelling units Palo Alto now has. The zoning is easy: the city council simply re-designates all R1 areas to R2. Presto! Done.

But if the Maybell Revolt was dramatic, wait until this one goes down.

"The Maybell zoning was overturned. The project was never going to produce a real senior center nor was it ever going to provide that much housing, whereas the answer has been there all along: absorbing an extra 60 units at Channing House would be easy, especially since they are already renovating to add units! And since the population there clearly seems to appreciate and promote the need better than anyone. ..."

What more can I say? There's always a rationalization. And it always boils down to "In their backyard, not mine."


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Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 18, 2014 at 2:41 pm

@curmudgeon,
"And it always boils down to "In their backyard, not mine.""

Not really. In this case, the people in Channing House were vocal about putting it in someone else's backyard, but they never had a chance to think about solving the problem themselves.

If you have two people, one is living their lives and the other says, Hey, there's a problem! I have to fill your backyard to solve it! And the other says, I don't think that's the way to solve the problem, but shouldn't you start in your own backyard? - it's not the same thing.

What are you talking about with the ABAG numbers? A meeting I attended at the City over the housing element showed that had produced more than the number of units ABAG requested, and the Mayor made a point of saying they didn't even need the Maybell units (implying that wasn't WHY they were so anxious to upzone Maybell), but that the state liked to see a buffer.

The number of housing units was around 2,000. Like I said, we could produce a large chunk of that with no impact at all on the rest of Palo Alto, no impact on the traffic, no impact on the infrastructure, and provide for seniors, by simply renovating Channing House and allowing them to increase their density. The residents there have already indicated that they feel this is our duty as citizens. Sure, I will grant you that I don't know everyone there, but I do know very active people there, and again, the voting record was indisputable.

Most of those residents benefitted mightily from Palo Alto in its heyday. Most of them are essentially living an easy retirement at Channing House paid for by some hardworking family up to their eyeballs in debt to send their kids to the local schools. A family who will never get to enjoy the quality of life they did.

Many of those families, including me, realize this is a vast nation, and that it's not necessary to keep densifying this one place as if there are no market forces, market busts, or other cities in the state or nation. But here's a group that believes it's necessary, especially for seniors who want to stay in Palo Alto. Why not satisfy our ABAG allotment, and let them fulfill that need?

See, I'm not saying build anything in someone else's backyard, I think all this idiotic building without regard to quality of life is stupid. But Channing House residents do, they made it clear in the election. And they have the capacity to meet that need themselves, what could be better than exploring that?

What is it about this nation - we need Snopes.com because people will believe anything if it doesn't make sense, and as soon as you bring up the obvious where all the ducks are in line -- forget it!


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Posted by resident 1
a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Apr 18, 2014 at 2:44 pm

Curmudgeon - Do you live in a senior center? If so which one? Do you appreciate that you do not have to cook in each unit - and the meals are prepared for you? - Do you appreciate that you have some support in the event of a health emergency? Do you appreciate that the facility plans some trips for you so you are not housebound? Do you appreciate that your quality of life is better if you cannot do a lot of things for yourself anymore - like drive? Do you appreciate that you are centrally located so that you can enjoy the downtown -its shops and events and go to church within a few blocks - you can walk there?
Maybe you are not a senior - maybe you can do all of the above yourself. But most seniors are happy that all of the above is available to them. If they have spent their life in PA then they can visit with their friends.

Your plan would not promote the above - it would isolate the people all over the city and not provide any of the benefits of some help and companionship. Your plan is not a happy plan - it is a plan of isolation.
The Maybell units would provide none of the above - there was no central place to provide those services. And the people would be trapped and isolated in a corner of the city. The Maybell plan was not a good plan.
And why would the Channing House people who have so many amenities wish that upon anyone?


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Posted by Herb Borock
a resident of Professorville
on Apr 18, 2014 at 4:27 pm

Channing House does not have 2,000 units.

The Planned Community zone district regulations for Channing House permit a maximum of 320 units.

Prior to the approval and construction of the new health center to replace the 40-year-old health center on the second floor of the original building, Channing House had a total of 260 units, consisting of 21 skilled nursing units, 48 assisted living units, and 191 apartments.

The 2006 approval of the new building allowed Channing House to increase the number of skilled nursing units and the number of apartments, while decreasing the number of assisted living units.

The total number of units was thus reduced from 260 units to 258 units, consisting of 26 skilled nursing units, 27 assisted living units, and 205 apartments.

Maybe somebody should start a new thread to replace this thread with an argument based on the correct number of 258 units instead of the 2,000 unit number used in this thread.

See page 3 of October 10, 2006, staff report at Web Link


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Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 18, 2014 at 5:17 pm

@Herb Borock,
You are correct, the number of units originally built was 320 units
Web Link

Unfortunately, that must have been a misprint on a site I saw related to the new construction, my apologies.

Nevertheless, it does not change the argument that increasing the density by dividing some of the properties when they change hands could provide far more housing than could ever be provided at Maybell, far better, since they are unusually large senior residences by today's standards, since Channing House is an actual senior center with services, and since the Channing House residents themselves clearly believe it's time to do this in Palo Alto and that it's important to provide for seniors who want to remain in Palo Alto.

Having low-income people among those who pay full is known to be a far better implementation of providing for low-income residents. And it's financially more sustainable.

Adding 60 units as at Maybell would involve renovating only a fraction of even 250 units. I think it Channing House asked for a rezone to add that kind of density, it's not going to result in an outcry. More a big Thank You from the rest of Palo Alto for providing the residences in such an appropriate place, and the taking on of the responsibility to provide for the need they feel is there.


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Posted by Interesting idea
a resident of Crescent Park
on Apr 18, 2014 at 5:18 pm

Resident 1 asks >why would the Channing House people who have so many amenities wish that upon anyone?

Because there are at least 2 factions there: Housing advocates for whom low cost housing is like a religion, and a strong advocate who supports whatever Stanford wants.
Stanford wants Palo Alto to build housing to take care of its uncontrolled growth.


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Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 18, 2014 at 5:23 pm

@ resident 1,
There is one aspect to Curmudgeon's proposal that deserves consideration. Lowering the size of property that can add an in-law unit, and then providing funds for people to build those units if they commit to a regulatory agreement to keep the rent to a certain percentage (less than 1) of the prevailing market rate, for a certain period of time. That would provide for BMR housing all over Palo Alto.

Such plans have been discussed before, but maybe it's time to revisit them. I would personally consider this a better way to add units than giant ugly blocks of skyblotting, souldeadening up-to-the-street monstrosities like our Council approved on El Camino by Los Altos and are going in as we speak.


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Posted by curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on Apr 18, 2014 at 9:47 pm

Thanks to Mr Borock for introducing a weird semblance of reality to this thread.

Likewise to Resident. However, it is hard to feature the residents of our R1 neighborhoods accepting "in-law" units as a city policy. Especially in the high-end P-ville, Crescent Park, and Old Palo Alto neighborhoods, although such arrangements seem to be tolerated if they quietly exist off-code (A friend of mine lived in such in Old PA). Money trumps.

But would ABAG count those backyard hovels toward our quota, or will it insist on real housing units with kitchens and indoor plumbing?


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Posted by resident 1
a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Apr 18, 2014 at 10:26 pm

The only lack of semblance to reality is your comments. I know that Webster House had a configuration when fist built that assumed care if a person became disabled. That was a selling point. The cost and insurance liability for that plan caused it to go by the wayside. That section of the first floor was reconfigured to create more living units. The plan then was that if a person became disabled they would go next door to Lytton. That included recovery from an operation.

Webster House went through a number of sales and currently is managed by the Episcopal Church - not sure how they handle that now. The Presbyterian Church has a number of residential centers for older people throughout the country - a number are local here. They also have hospitals so they are covering all of the bases.

This is a interesting business fraught with many corporate sales and turn overs. I think the Vie was built by a major hotel chain then sold. The city of Palo Alto with its track record to date is in no position to take on this type of responsibility when corporations that supposedly know how to do this keep bailing out.

I recall that Channing House was trying to evict a lady because she required 24 hour care. She sued - can't remember how that turned out.

The point here being that the corporation that runs Channing House can turn on a dime and make any changes it wants to if it creates a good business decision for them. And if it creates a value to PA by adding more living units then so much the better.

The in-law units are a different topic with different laws.


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Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 18, 2014 at 10:42 pm

@curmudgeon and resident 1

>"... it is hard to feature the residents of our R1 neighborhoods accepting "in-law" units as a city policy. Especially in the high-end P-ville, Crescent Park, and Old Palo Alto neighborhoods, although such arrangements seem to be tolerated if they quietly exist off-code (A friend of mine lived in such in Old PA). Money trumps.

But would ABAG count those backyard hovels toward our quota, or will it insist on real housing units with kitchens and indoor plumbing?"

I think in order for such units to be legal, they would have to meet state rental requirements, which would mean kitchens, indoor plumbing, etc. I think making it possible for people to build such units doesn't mean they will. If no one in Old PA wants them, they won't build them.

I think it's worth exploring options like this. Including allowing the slow adding of more units to Channing House as units turn over.

As for whether it would work - I take it Channing House is zoned for a certain number of units. In exchange for the owner getting to have more units to sell, the City could always try to negotiate for the low-income units, which would just be an agreement with Channing House, not some fiat. Once the people are moved in, Channing House is a real community - people will be cared for, it's a close community and another reason to add the housing this way.

I think if a corporation does this, we'll finally get a better market study of the needs and wants of Palo Alto seniors, including low-income seniors.


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Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 18, 2014 at 10:55 pm

I want to be really clear that I'm not suggesting anything be forced on Channing House residents, either. Only that it be considered. It never even occurred to me before!

I do think if it occurs to the residents of Channing House, and the City indicates that they will consider rezoning to allow it, and the owner thinks it's an advantage, the residents group at CH would find a way to make it work in the most practical, acceptable manner for the existing residents and all involved.

As I said, sometimes the best solutions are the most obvious ones. The rest is just logistics.


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Posted by Craig Laughton
a resident of College Terrace
on Apr 19, 2014 at 1:40 pm

Simple fact: Channing House is never going to agree to subdivide their units for the sake of ABAG or welfare housing or taking in poor people, etc. That they may be hypocrites, because they want to dump such limo-lib guilt trips on others, is no reason to believe that they want to step up to plate. They are just serving their own interests, which is the only interest that should be believed ("who's ox is getting gored?"). I see nothing wrong with that, if only they would admit it.


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Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 19, 2014 at 7:39 pm

@Craig,
I disagree with you - Channing House residents I know, including active ones in their residents group, are genuine about living their convictions and I think would be willing to find a way, especially if it became clear that it was possible.

It's my understanding that they don't throw anyone out if they can no longer pay. After a certain age, it's really a lottery who can hang onto their assets anyway because of medical costs in our system. Taking on some full-paying extra units plus low-income units is a better way to provide for the low-income units, or people who lose everything.

I think the most important aspect of this is that a for-profit manager is going to first get really good market data about the desires and behaviors of aging Palo Altans, and will know what the needs and wants are on both ends of the income scale. This issue was never satisfactorily dealt with in the Maybell debates - who really wants to stay here as opposed to cashing out and living near a child somewhere else, etc., or who wants to move somewhere where an average income allows a decent standard of living on retirement, etc.


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Posted by Craig Laughton
a resident of College Terrace
on Apr 19, 2014 at 8:41 pm

>Channing House residents I know, including active ones in their residents group, are genuine about living their convictions and I think would be willing to find a way, especially if it became clear that it was possible.

Resident, no they won't. They won't subdivide their own apartments. You are delusional dreaming! They are blowing smoke at you, if you think they are genuine. It is all limo-lib rhetoric on their part. Actions speak louder than words...let then announce a plan to subdivide their own living units. Don't hold your breath!

When can we get beyond all this ridiculousness? Pretend is not reality.


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Posted by Lefty
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Apr 19, 2014 at 9:40 pm

Do not mistake the Channing House for a benevolent Senior refuge. It is a business.

Three decades ago I lived in the neighborhood near Channing House. I got acquainted with many of its residents and had many informative conversations with them, although we were two generations removed.

There are two Channing Houses: the residents, and the Corporation set up by Dr. Russel V. Lee. The residents plan their various community activities, but the Corporation absolutely runs the business. The residents may dream as they wish, but the Corporation controls who lives there, for how long, and how much they pay, and the dwelling units architecture.

Like, the residents cannot one fine day just decide to subdivide various living spaces for charity. The Channing House Corporation rules. And it seems to be just fine with how things are set up right now.

It was an amazing bit of luck that the original thrust for the project came from Dr. Russel V. Lee, Medical Director of the Palo Alto Medical Clinic, just a few years before Medicare happened. Channing House, then fortuitously located just 1 block from the Clinic, quickly morphed into Medicare Manor in all but name, a milking barn for Lee's Clinic to extract voluminous Medicare $$$ at close range from its resident patient herd.

It has seemingly continued as such since then. The new medical facility being built in its back yard will offer a very, very convenient onsite opportunity for its residents to spend their Medicare $$$.


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Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 19, 2014 at 10:34 pm

@Craig and Lefty,

Everything about my posts above assumes Channing House is a business. In case you are not familiar with Channing House, it was built in a day when a much larger senior unit was expected. I have friends in very lovely, expensive senior complexes in other towns that are much, much smaller. And not suffering for that, they are bright, well-thought-out, and comfortable for someone in their waning years. Channing House also has a lot of communal space.

If I'm a business that has built out to the max under the zoning, and someone offers me the opportunity to increase the number of units, so that whenever a large unit becomes empty and needs to be renovated, to make 2 units out of it (remember that there are 2 bedroom 2 bathroom very large units for one person usually) and make more more money, I would take it. The owner is already voluntarily adding units by expanding the number of age-in-place units in the recent renovation. If this were not desirable to the owner, he wouldn't be doing it.

The City would essentially be selling the zoning like they were at Maybell, only in this case at Channing House, they are asking the City to densify and provide for low-income residents. Just as at Maybell where more than half of the proposal was market-rate, such a proposal could work if the owner benefited and the result also provided some lower-income units. The residents at Channing House already provide for residents who lose their assets while living there. Perhaps this is done by the residents and apart from the owner. Regardless, if the owner wants such a deal to make more money and further maximize the use of his existing property (as this area gets more and more expensive, too), then the deal could be proposed from the City end to provide the zoning in exchange for the needed low-income housing. In the case of Channing House, the residents have made it clear that they are completely aligned with the goals, and if they understood this was possible, they would probably help figure out how to do it.

I'm assuming the owner is a big boy capable of doing a business analysis. Re-read what I wrote.

The residents group is quite influential, in our community and in theirs. We will have to agree to disagree about their sincerity, Craig, until proven otherwise. I think if someone proposes this in the right way to people in the residents group, they would try.

Again, the services are already there. There would be no increase in traffic as a result of it. It could be done gradually. It allows people with very strong convictions about housing to live them in a way that provides the housing in a cost-effective way AND doesn't force anything on anyone. I think the biggest barrier is just getting people to see the possibilities. Then it's just logistics.


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Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 19, 2014 at 10:36 pm

"I have friends in very lovely, expensive senior complexes in other towns that are much, much smaller"
LOL Of course I meant their units are much smaller! I have a friend who just moved from one senior complex into another with a even smaller room (for more care). It's a very good place (East Bay).


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Posted by change through attrition
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 20, 2014 at 10:21 am

It seems making incremental change through the obvious attrition in this large facility would make sense; increasing the density within this system sounds feasible and not painful and puts seniors right where the services are all located. What a better idea than the voted-down scheme to oddly place that senior apartment building off in Barron Park area.


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Posted by Lefty
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Apr 20, 2014 at 3:03 pm

>In case you are not familiar with Channing House, it was built in a day when a much larger senior unit was expected.

Yes. Seniors were respected back then. Today they are considered a monetizable commodity.


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Posted by curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on Apr 20, 2014 at 4:02 pm

[Post removed.]


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Posted by Lefty
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Apr 20, 2014 at 4:48 pm

[Post removed.]


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Posted by Lefty
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Apr 20, 2014 at 8:03 pm

[Post removed.]


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Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 21, 2014 at 9:34 am

@Lefty,

"In case you are not familiar with Channing House, it was built in a day when a much larger senior unit was expected.

Yes. Seniors were respected back then. Today they are considered a monetizable commodity."

If units at Channing House were divided, they would still be many of them bigger than the "Jumbo" units at Stevenson House, and about as big as the units planned at Maybell, which I'm assuming you were clamoring for when it was a a $30-million-zoning-violating-underparked 4-story building for only 60 people.

My own grandparents lived in European senior housing that was far, far nicer than anything I've seen here, and we could create three rooms for every room at Channing House for the space. In case you didn't catch it, people usually move into senior housing to DOWNSIZE and for the services and community. Those can be had in spades at Channing House, and making more room through renovation makes sense for both the owner from a business standpoint, residents, and even actual lefties who want to provide more housing. Because far, far more housing could be provided at Channing House, including for the low-income, than could have ever been provided at Maybell, and at Channing House, there are services, a beautiful dining hall, a medical center, even a beauty shop. Everything right in the building.

[Portion removed.]


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Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 21, 2014 at 9:50 am

[Portion removed.]

Renovating Channing House could create far more senior units than Maybell ever could, in a place that already has all the services, in a way that could work beautifully for both the owner and the existing residents, and allows the most vocal housing advocates who lost in their quest at Maybell to have some peace by having a hand in making the housing available themselves (the only downside being how smug and self-righteous they will be for doing it), and allowing the City to better fulfill its ABAG allotment without adding any traffic, without it costing anything to the City. And no views, children's school routes, trees, skylines, sunsets, or open space will be harmed in the making of such a solution.

I'd like us to solve our problems while also protecting our quality of life. It's just striking how much of the development in the last few years has totally blotted out the views of the hills, sunlight, and caused so much congestion because of poor planning. My family's life has been terribly impacted in just the last few years. Once, this place was worth sacrificing to remain here after school. Now, we're looking around for where we want to move next. ALL of Palo Altans need to start worrying about how all of this development will affect their property values they have been counting on appreciating down the line. Those property values come mainly from the schools and quality of life.

You do have one thing right, we in the South do have a fight on our hands. But the sleeping giant is already awake, thankfully!


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