Want More Density, Height, and Overbuilding? No?
Original post made by res, Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Aug 29, 2014
September 2nd seems to be a preliminary date the city will receive initial feedback on the State's approval of the housing element. If you have opinions to share please forward to:
I know it's a bit late, but comments can be sent to state officials who will comment on Palo Alto's Housing Element proposal.
The city shared about 5 comments which the state received. The comments were generally that the city is not doing enough to increase density, increase building height and housing opportunities."
Did everyone understand that? I don't think I did, I am really confused by how inconsistent this is with media coverage.
Almost 60 days ago, our City submitted a draft of our Housing Element to the state for their approval. After Sep 2, when the state will send back their approval, the City will vote to adopt it, as they will almost certainly do so they can set it in stone before our next City Council election.
The only letters the state seems to have gotten were to the effect that we should increase density and height even more. Is that what you want? If not, you need to write a letter. Because even one or two letters will just be trashcan liners. The first thing you should complain about in your letter is lack of a diligent effort to include you in this feedback process.
Please send your comments to the email address given above, the state is obligated to review them if received before Sept 2. It's a little late for them to do anything about it, but your input would help. Please send a copy to the newspapers. Then send it to the state again after the City adopts the revision, so the state can consider your input before the final approval, though it's even less clear to me what that means after the City adopts it.
If you only have time to write your opinion, then send your opinion.
Better than just sharing your opinion, you can:
1) Review the existing Comprehensive Plan, and the new revised one. Not just the Housing Element, the whole thing, especially including Traffic Circulation (which is in the natural environment element). Can someone please post links to both? (I had trouble with links on the City site that were broken before.)
2) Did the City implement the policies from the existing Comp Plan, particularly where it comes to protecting neighborhoods, safety, traffic, etc? If not, note what policies they didn't do in your letter.
What happened to the vision statement, which front and center was about protecting neighborhoods? Did that disappear in this Comp Plan? If it did, then the Housing Element needs to be far stronger to incorporate the vision directly into the Housing Element.
I'd like to suggest just one existing policy the City never does and that people always overlook, and that is our housing element is supposed to deal with inclusionary housing which includes for the disabled. The City has been approving stack-and-pack new housing in recent years that either completely shuts out the disabled or at least discourages their living and working locally. There seems to be no consideration whatsoever to making our town friendly for the disabled and allowing the disabled to participate in the prosperity of Silicon Valley. It's not just people in wheelchairs, about 10% of the population (not just old people) have one form of mobility problem or other. Did they give more than just lip service to this issue? Did they address the way the overbuilding and the type of building makes our city unpleasant and impossible to live in and independently navigate for the disabled?
3) Review the statutory requirements the housing element is supposed to comply with. Government code 65580.
4) The Housing Element is supposed to maintain internal consistency with the rest of the Comprehensive Plan. The City is supposed to describe how they will maintain that, even though they are trying to get approval for the Housing Element in advance of taking any kind of serious look at the Safety and Traffic Circulation Elements (which frankly shouldn't be part of the Natural Environment element anymore, they should be separate as they are described in the state mandate anyway).
There are new requirements for things like the traffic circulation element -- did you know they are supposed to consider your CONVENIENCE? How does the housing element proposed retain consistency with that? Take some time to review the statutory requirements, review the proposals, and think about how all this applies to your experience in recent years in Palo Alto.
We need LOTS of eyes and minds thinking about this, because as you already know, the City Manager had admitted the existing staff cherry pick the comprehensive plan for what they want. In fact, the current person in charge of the revision was the person who was pushing through the Maybell development and providing all kinds of documents and information to the state that simply weren't true, in order to keep that upzoned development going (figuring the City would win the election and no one would notice).
No one is going to do this for you. *I* can't do it for you, I have a serious family emergency. It's not going to take a whole day, make it a party and get together with some concerned neighbors and it will go even faster. Make notes, and write a letter together that you all sign.
Do you have comments about the City's likely ability to maintain consistency with the rest of the Comp Plan if they approve this draft of the housing element? Do you have comments about how the approval of the housing element now will impact revisions of other elements, like traffic circulation and safety? For example, during the Maybell controversy, there was an irreconcilable argument because the City had a policy of heightened scrutiny of developments on school commute routes, didn't review the safety impact to the children on foot and bikes, and yet there were no specific policies, steps, or even mention of what to do about it in the Comprehensive plan to point to, so it remained an unresolved argument and never got done.
Does the natural environment element and safety element together deal with growth, development, the water shortage and drought?
Our town has grown a lot. Our infrastructure has been strained. The Safety Element is supposed to deal with things like evacuations in an emergency. Has our City done any work in that regard or included policies in a Safety update? Have they even engaged in looking at what a Safety update would entail? if so, how could they possibly maintain consistency with an approved Housing Element now? It looks for all the world like they're trying to ensure the Housing Element gets approved and the time citizens can sue to overturn it lapses before the next City Council election.
I saw a note that perhaps someone had inserted a minimum density in what could be built on RM-15 property - meaning, they want to take away any incentive to build more single-family residential areas, but rather they want to leave all the policies to increase density right up to residential neighborhoods, but take away any ability to potentially expand residential housing if developers choose to build nice residential housing. (Seems like someone is trying to go after the Maybell property again!)
Do you have any concerns regarding this issue - express them in your letter.
5) Do you have concerns about how the City may have violated existing policies and intent of the Comprehensive Plan? Do you have concerns that the very same people engaged in actively violating those policies when it came to development are now in charge of this revision? Make mention of it in your letter.
Here are some resources
General Resource Page
Online Housing Element Assistance
Housing Element Overview
Housing Element Statute (Starting with Government Code Section 65580)
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