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Want More Density, Height, and Overbuilding? No?

Original post made by res, Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Aug 29, 2014

I received this today from our Comp Plan rep:

This story contains 1386 words.

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Comments (38)

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Posted by Jerry Underdal
a resident of Barron Park
on Aug 29, 2014 at 4:11 pm

Jerry Underdal is a registered user.

@res

I didn't even know we could post without even making a claim of neighborhood affiliation.

Your personal plea for us to engage would be more persuasive if we had some idea of who you were, even if it's just your preferred anonymous handle--best if registered, of course.

Just a suggestion.


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Posted by res
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 29, 2014 at 5:29 pm

@ Jerry Underdal,

There's a book called Blink by Malcolm Gladwell, with a section in it about a very successful car salesman. One of the reasons he's successful is that he lives by an absolute maxim of treating people well regardless of who he thinks they may based on appearances. Why does it matter who posts? Isn't the issue itself what's important?

I would rather you spent your time reviewing the state links, the statutory requirements, the comprehensive plans, than engaging in attacks on posters, as some on these lists are prone to do instead of talking about the issues.

Just a suggestion.


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Posted by Jerry Underdal
a resident of Barron Park
on Aug 29, 2014 at 6:26 pm

Jerry Underdal is a registered user.

@res

"Why does it matter who posts? Isn't the issue itself what's important? "

I used to teach history in high school. One of the key concepts that I tried to get across was that knowing the source is important in analyzing both historical accounts and positions taken on current events.--Who is saying this? What interests are involved? Are they acknowledged? Is money involved, or a political strategy that isn't visible on the surface?

I still believe it's an important concept in civic life, especially when someone is pushing for action, not just tossing arguments into the air.






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Posted by Et Moi?
a resident of Stanford
on Aug 29, 2014 at 8:24 pm

I was a history major, and we are repeating dangerous history. The rights of the residents have been impinged upon at the very least--completely ignored at the worst. This is illegal


Take back Palo Alto from the corrupt city Council, Planning Commission, and Architectural Review Board !


Like this comment
Posted by resident 1
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Aug 29, 2014 at 9:27 pm

I think we need to assess the density level in comparison to Los Altos, Los Altos Hills. We have cities in the county that do not have a high rate of commercial business. Those people are driving a couple of blocks across the city boundary to Mountain View, Palo Alto to work. Their presence increases the number of people working in the city that do not live here which skews the end results. Those people do not want to live here - just work here. We are not working this the right way. We cannot let ABAG isolate PA from the other bedroom communities to derive the results.


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Posted by res
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 29, 2014 at 10:48 pm

@resident 1 and Et Moi?

You have made a good point, but no one will listen to it at City Hall if they co-opt the Comprehensive Plan for their development purposes.

Please re-read the original post and send a letter to the state email mentioned, with your concerns about the revised Housing Element.

If you look back at old TS threads from 2011, we're all saying the same things. Don't just talk, do something. If you do, you will make an impact, because right now, the state got NO input from anyone except people who want to density Palo Alto. Is that what you want? Is that what the Comprehensive Plan vision was?


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Posted by Mr.Recycle
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Aug 30, 2014 at 1:12 am

@Jerry - As a history teacher you should be particularly aware of the history and value of anonymous discourse. Would you have been advising the early citizens of the United States to disregard the Federalist (and antifederalist) Papers because they were written under pseudonyms? You might have better served your students if you had taught them to judge arguments on their merits, not the merits of the presenter.


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Posted by Jerry Underdal
a resident of Barron Park
on Aug 30, 2014 at 10:17 am

Jerry Underdal is a registered user.

@Mr. Recycle

"As a history teacher you should be particularly aware of the history and value of anonymous discourse."

I am.

"You might have better served your students if you had taught them to judge arguments on their merits, not the merits of the presenter."

You're setting up a false choice. Both are important to consider.

[Portion removed.]


Like this comment
Posted by Resident 2
a resident of Barron Park
on Aug 30, 2014 at 10:29 am

[Post removed.]


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Posted by Ahem
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 30, 2014 at 11:19 am

[Post removed.]


Like this comment
Posted by Jerry Underdal
a resident of Barron Park
on Aug 30, 2014 at 12:06 pm

Jerry Underdal is a registered user.

[Post removed.]


Like this comment
Posted by res
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 30, 2014 at 12:50 pm

[Post removed.]


Like this comment
Posted by Jerry Underdal
a resident of Barron Park
on Aug 30, 2014 at 1:04 pm

Jerry Underdal is a registered user.

[Post removed.]


Like this comment
Posted by Craig Laughton
a resident of College Terrace
on Aug 30, 2014 at 3:01 pm

How can we have subsidized housing without increased density? Put another way, if we ban subsidized housing, we can avoid increased density.


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Posted by Ahem
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 30, 2014 at 3:09 pm

Jerry,

I have seen comments posted, and then removed, for using multiple names in the same comment-thread. This leads me to believe that this is enforced by the editors, as opposed to some sort of computerized bot, so I would encourage you to report any abuse.

It does seem like it would be possible for one user with multiple computers and/or multiple IP addresses, to post to a single comment-thread under different pseudonyms, so readers should be aware of the possibility for this type of abuse.


Like this comment
Posted by res
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 30, 2014 at 3:15 pm

@ Craig Laughton,
"Put another way, if we ban subsidized housing, we can avoid increased density."

You are wrong. Developers and their profits are driving the push to high-density. They are using affordable housing as cover. In fact, all this for-profit high-density development is actually making for a lot more animosity and resistance towards any form of affordable housing. People would probably accept a development here or there for a good purpose, but they are balking at the wholesale destruction of their quality of life. It's most not because of subsidized housing.

You are an intelligent person. Please take a look through the statutory requirements per above, the old and new comp plans, and send your comments to the state THIS WEEKEND.


Like this comment
Posted by Craig Laughton
a resident of College Terrace
on Aug 30, 2014 at 3:36 pm

res,

I urge you to not to confuse "affordable housing" with "subsidized housing". They are opposite of each other. If I can afford housing in PA, I will be able to write a check for the down payment and then make the mortgage payments; If not, then I am relying on someone else to subsidize me, meaning that I will not be in affordable housing.

You completely miss the point that up-zonings of properties in PA are very often the result of a subsidized housing "public benefit" approved by the city (this is at the center of the 'planned community' scandal). If subsidized housing is banned, then the city will no longer have its favorite excuse to increase the density of the zoning.

The developers want to maximize profits, by getting an up-zoning from the city...thus they sprinkle in some BMRs, and the city is all too eager to take the bait. I don't blame the developers for understanding the system, I blame the city for allowing the bait in the first place.


Like this comment
Posted by Craig Laughton
a resident of College Terrace
on Aug 30, 2014 at 3:59 pm

res,

Per your request, I sent the following to James.Johnson@hcd.ca.gov :

Mr. Johnson,

I want you to know that many people in Palo Alto do not approve of a required housing element. I believe we are the ‘silent majority’. We have been steamrolled by ABAG, and we resent it.

Please do not make any statements about Palo Alto “approving” of any such program.

Sincerely,

Craig Laughton
Palo Alto CA


Like this comment
Posted by resident 1
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Aug 30, 2014 at 6:21 pm

I sent an email to Mr. Johnson questioning the conclusions of number of people working in PA relative to number people living here. It is based on skewed results when people from Los Altos and Los Altos Hills drive a couple of blocks to work in PA.

Also people from San Mateo County come to work here - they do not want to live here. Redwood City rocks as to community advantages - if they grew up there they are not moving here. Their families, churches, and school mates are there.

The state should not be allowed to take mathematical conclusions and arrange the circumstances to fit their agendas. I worked in San Jose - is there a reverse calculation for how many people commute to other locations to work? I do not want to live in San Jose.

Push back - demand more facts on how the calculations are manipulated to skew results.


Like this comment
Posted by Justin
a resident of Mountain View
on Aug 30, 2014 at 8:14 pm

"Also people from San Mateo County come to work here - they do not want to live here."

You have evidence for this? By the way, the whole of San Mateo County has a higher population density than Palo Alto. Los Altos even is more dense than PA.


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Posted by Ahem
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 30, 2014 at 8:37 pm

Justin,

Can you supply some numbers and/or web links to support your claim that San Mateo County, and Los Altos, have a higher population density than Palo Alto?

San Mateo County seems to have a similar population density to Palo Alto, but my subjective impression is that Los Altos is quite a bit less dense.


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Posted by res
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 30, 2014 at 8:51 pm

And also, you'd have to calculate Palo Alto population density by just urban Palo Alto, we have a lot of unpopulated open space that isn't in our midst.


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Posted by Jerry Underdal
a resident of Barron Park
on Aug 30, 2014 at 10:08 pm

Jerry Underdal is a registered user.

@Ahem

Thank you for acknowledging my concerns and suggesting a way to address them.


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Posted by Justin
a resident of Mountain View
on Aug 31, 2014 at 12:43 am

@Ahem
I'm getting my numbers from Wiki, which is from the 2010 Census. Obviously the numbers have changed since then, but I think the general comparison holds. Palo Alto's population density was 2,500 per square mile and Los Altos was at 4,500 per square mile. Even subtracting 4,000 acres of open space, Palo Alto would be at 3,650/square mile. That's not quite a fair comparison because Palo Alto has a lot more jobs/commercial space, but it still goes to show how low-density it is.


Like this comment
Posted by Al T
a resident of Meadow Park
on Aug 31, 2014 at 5:28 am

The wiki numbers also included the water area in the bay within Palo Alto's boundaries to calculate the 2,500/sq.mi. density number. If you measure the areas in Palo Alto, east of 280 and west of 101, which are mainly residential (i.e. excluding the industrial parks), it covers ~9 sq miles. This makes the density closer to 6500-7000/sq. mi.


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Posted by resident 1
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Aug 31, 2014 at 5:39 am

Folks - Palo Alto is a city in the Santa Clara County. Why are you comparing a city to the county of San Mateo? Justin is from Mountain View, Santa Clara county - what is his investment in this question?

Mountain View is the home of Google. Mega commercial people. Mountain View will have a proposition on the November ballot concerning the increase in density in that city due to proposed high rises in the city. Are you talking about the resident population vs the commercial population vs square miles in the city? How much is commercial space, park space, open space. Commercial space - how many people are there during the day? Is Moffett included in that calculation - that is a huge amount of space that is government directed. Is that skewing the numbers for Mountain view? All of the buses coming in - those people live in San Francisco - the Disney land for young adults. The rent is higher in SF but that is where they want to live. You are not going to get them to live in Mountain View or Palo Alto

San Jose - look at the amount of commercial space, airport, county government buildings, university space. A huge amount of space that has people passing through but not living there - but that is changing - North San Jose is in a major building boom for apartments. You have high traffic patterns that support the commercial sector but the people do not want to live there.

Facebook is building up Menlo Park on one end - Redwood City is the last deep water port on the bay so has a lot of dedicated space to port facilities. You also have Oracle and other tech businesses in Redwood Shores. That whole area is a tech area and now building up a Stanford hospital facility, PAMF facility, Kaiser facility. People who worked at Stanford hospital will now be working in the annex facilities in those cities. PAMF is trying to move more patients to those RWC facilities - also PAMF in Mountain View. Kaiser is opening a huge hospital. Workers who commuted to Palo Alto in the health care business are now working at facilities that are being built in their cities.

If you go to the Friday night events at RWC there are more than 1,000 people there every Friday night. They went to school together, they go to church together. It is like AT&T Park - same people. Palo Alto does not have that type of draw for events - nor does Mountain View - exception is Shoreline Amphitheater. Palo Alto is not a baseball / football city for major teams - exception college sports. Palo Alto does not have the diversity seen in other cities that have more commercial space.

People keep trying to implode Stanford property onto Palo Alto. Stanford is its own zip code and is a separate city for population and land quotas. A lot of people appear at Stanford events for sports, music, health, education - but they do not live on campus for the most part - they are coming by car and train.

Palo Alto has open space - Foothill Park, Baylands, city parks. Note that the facility in the baylands is processing other local cities which do not have their own facilities.

Get out your AAA maps for the cities - they clearly show the size of the city and amount of open space - the open space in all cities is dedicated. Also the location on the peninsula - the higher you go up the more is open space / mountain land that is owned by the city/state / private trusts. Look at the space for the SFO area - that is hotels and commercial to support the airport. Lots of people during the day and night passing through.

Density is in part what is going on during the day to support the local business elements - that is what is driving the transportation numbers - but still - the people want to live in their other cities.

Maybe Justin lives in Mountain View but works on PA city staff? I think he appeared during the bicycle trails issues. Justin has some interest that wants to direct more growth in PA vs Mountain View.


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Posted by Ahem
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 31, 2014 at 8:32 am

Justin,

The idea that Palo Alto is 55% of the density of Palo Alto, or even 80% of the density of Los Altos, just doesn't pass the smell test. Something wrong with your numbers.


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Posted by Justin
a resident of Mountain View
on Aug 31, 2014 at 12:13 pm

The number does not include water (which is only 1.9 square miles anyway).

I didn't mention the density of Mountain View, but it is actually *higher* than in Palo Alto by quite a bit. I would presume that it includes open spaces like Shoreline Park, not sure if it would include Moffet.

I do think that the Wiki data isn't a good representation. Here's a better picture: Web Link . Zoom out and you'll see that very few areas can really be considered "high density."

I have no vested interest in any of this other than I grew up in Palo Alto and will live at home in Mountain View until I graduate from college. Do any of you seriously believe that no one wants to live in Palo Alto or Mountain View? Sure, San Francisco has its benefits, but there are many people who want to live closer to work. There's a reason that rent for 1 bedroom apartments is $2000+ a month.


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Posted by Florilegium
a resident of Professorville
on Aug 31, 2014 at 1:03 pm

There is so little charm left in Palo Alto today as a result of the overbuilding of cheesy, cheap-looking, cold and uninviting glass and steel buildings built recently. It makes Palo Alto look and feel like an unfriendly town. Proximity to sidewalks, lack of setback, declining green areas, oppressive density and unrelenting amounts of traffic on too-narrow streets that were never intended for such give a claustrophobic feel to a small town stuck between the hills and the bay.

No longer a decent place to raise families,,with an emphasis on phony values, Palo Alto is quickly losing its attractiveness.


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Posted by resident 1
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Aug 31, 2014 at 1:20 pm

Justin - so you grew up in the area - you represent the minority - and you are still in school. You do not represent the young adults that work at Google or other large companies like Facebook. Those people are traveling in a different age group and set of concerns. And they make good salaries.

I do not open sites or provide sites - everyone has different operating systems on their computers. I can see what I need to see from my own resources. Good luck in school.


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Posted by stephen levy
a resident of University South
on Aug 31, 2014 at 1:41 pm

stephen levy is a registered user.

@Florilegium

You speak for yourself. Certainly not for the five families with young children that live happily downtown in our 17 unit condo.

Three families moved in recently, paying high prices because this area was an attractive place to raise their families.

They walk and bike to school, shopping and services and use their cars when necessary but much less than if they lived in a neighborhood with fewer everyday walking opportunities.

I think a community should offer a wide variety of choices for families with children as well as other types of families remembering that only 1/3 of all households here have school age children.

People do have different preferences.


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Posted by resident3
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 31, 2014 at 2:13 pm

stephen levy,

You're right that people have different preferences and you have named a segment of people who are willing to pay a price to live in Palo Alto, which is not a new segment. It's for the value of the schools - combined with the facility to bike or walk to school, and other "amenities" (note the thread on parks).

I lived on Ramona years ago and we were lucky to have Addison as our assigned school. The word those days was that Walter Hayes was the place everyone wanted to be, so we were supposedly settling for second best in the area. Over the years several "bubble" classes were added and Addison became quite popular. Since then, Addison has had neighborhood families on waiting lists. It appears to be bursting at the seams, or certainly only capable of adding on a slim margin.

I can't even imagine what would happen with your vision of massive housing growth downtown, in the style you speak of. For the type of young families you just mentioned or budding families. Has anyone consulted with PAUSD about what kind of numbers you are thinking about?

I would think that for a relatively developed and educated community, density would be at a sustainable level for the type of living people value and are willing to support. On both marks, the density growth at this time seems to be off kilter. The infrastructure is to set up to sustain the growth, and it is on average not at the level where the residents are willing or able to support.

What you propose is easy - stack, pack, and wing it. The road less traveled is doing the hard work of seeing if this is feasible, how much it would cost, and to listen to the residents who are heavily invested in the crown jewels of PA, such as the schools, parks, trees, green, and residential living. Stanford is of course a centerpiece but letting it take over and its related industries would make this into any corporate town.


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Posted by resident 3
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 31, 2014 at 2:22 pm

Infrastructure is not set up to sustain the growth, and it is on average not at the level where the residents are willing or able to support.

Meaning the rate of growth is way over what anyone could have expected so suddenly.

I am in favor of a building moratorium given also the political conflicts between residents with Council, the planning commissioners and the ARB.


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Posted by res
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 31, 2014 at 2:42 pm

@ resident 3,
Please realize the employees at the City are proceeding as if your very sensible opinion above does not matter. They are representing a picture to the state in our housing element that is very different. If you do not look through the housing element and immediately send the state your concerns, and ask your friends to, our opinions will not matter.

It really doesn't take that long to skim through the Comp Plan and Housing Element. Your eyes will be opened. Make notes, and send your views to the above email adress.


Like this comment
Posted by stephen levy
a resident of University South
on Aug 31, 2014 at 2:53 pm

stephen levy is a registered user.

@ resident 3

You are making a respectful argument that we disagree about and then you wander into the put down of stack and pack. I do not call single family homes, especially those that have added a second story, by disrespectful names even though many if not most of the added children in the system come from these homes and they are much less water efficient than where I live.

In addition to the five families with children there are six couples both young and old, six single residents and a daughter and her dad. Some live here because they wanted to downsize and remain in PA. Some live here because they have a work travel schedule that makes condo living attractive. Some live here because they have more limited mobility and being in a walk able neighborhood is a great benefit.

More than 40% of homes in PA are NOT single family and more than 60% of households do not have school age children.

Why do you put down where we live and why do you write as if the only people who come here or count are a result of our good schools?

Do you favor prohibiting more children in single family homes? do you favor requiring all single family home owners to stop watering their lawns? When we sold our home and downsized there were no children at our home. Now there are. Should we not have sold to a family with children or to a family that had more children than we had?

Or are you only upset at people who prefer not to live in single family homes?


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Posted by resident 3
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 31, 2014 at 3:21 pm

stephen levy,

My use of the term stack and pack was not meant to hurt anyone's feelings about living in non-single family residences. Before moving to the Bay area, the previous 20 years my residences were in high rise buildings in relatively large cities. I lived in a high rise during high school, and took public transportation to school. Oddly enough, the family living spaces like kitchen and dining areas in the apartment we lived when I was in high school were bigger than my current single-family home in Palo Alto.

You missed my point, which was that Palo Alto infrastructure is not appropriate for the type of living that would allow housing to go "up" in height, or to squeeze in more people into new housing downtown, just because people enjoy non-singe family living. At least not now and maybe not until there is a catch up of some sort. It's obvious that Palo Alto never planned to accommodate for such growth.

I see no credible planning to justify allowing for building growth until you answer the hard questions about schools, traffic and sustainability of things like parks, and other city services. The physical space of Palo Alto is extremely limited in the areas near transit, and there are few arteries to get in and out. There is no public transportation to speak of, Caltrain even seems maxed out, and that only goes North/South.

I'm not an expert but even if you looked at five blocks in Soma in SF, you get the idea that Palo Alto is tiny. It just is. So the hype about housing boomtown here is out of place. And offices too?


Like this comment
Posted by stephen levy
a resident of University South
on Sep 1, 2014 at 12:26 pm

stephen levy is a registered user.

@resident 3

Thanks for the clarification. I still think the term is not necessary for your argument.

Noe we are back to our content disagreement and I will respond later.


Like this comment
Posted by resident 1
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Sep 1, 2014 at 2:21 pm

There is a whole argument going on based on one condominium building and the people who live there. Mr. Levy is attempting to use that fact to support some overall argument for the city as a whole. One condominium building is an address on a street. So What!

The city as a whole has a combination of apartment buildings and houses like any other city. If you drive around this city you will see many apartment buildings - both old and new south of Oregon Expressway. There are also apartment buildings in the north side of the city.

From where I am sitting we have a good combination of housing now and do not need to exercise ourselves over specific buildings. It is time to STOP the building of multiple housing units and let the school system get up and running to assess its ability to handle what we have on our plate now.

The school system has to project where the next middle school and high school will be - Cubberly? The area I live in had a number of elementary schools eliminated to build two story homes - all to increase the tax base of the city? So now we have a lot of school age children and need to sort out how we handle it. We do not need more housing - we need additional schools - or increase the size of the existing schools.
Bottom line is stop now where we are and asses what we have to deal with to support our current city requirements. Continually grappling to increase the tax base of the city at the cost of everything else is getting very old.


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