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Palo Alto mulls changes to building-height limits

Original post made on Oct 10, 2012

Faced with a stampede of massive new developments, Palo Alto officials are taking a fresh look at the zoning code and considering whether it's time to puncture the city's 50-foot height limit for new buildings -- a critical provision that has guided local development for nearly four decades.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Wednesday, October 10, 2012, 10:21 PM

Comments (80)

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Posted by City mulls?
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 10, 2012 at 11:11 pm

"We want to come up with something that covers the whole city and not one project," Tuma said. -

busting the 50 foot ceiling height for the whole city?

City of Palo Alto, who could not even get their website right - being in Palo Alto and all, is now ready to turn Palo Alto into an overdeveloped tourist trap? I am sure they will succeed, worst things do happen.

It will probably take less time to destroy the character of a city than it took them to fix their website.









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Posted by Fallacy
a resident of Crescent Park
on Oct 10, 2012 at 11:45 pm

There is a repeated fallacy, repeated again at the Planning Commission, that allowing a building to be taller "allows more flexibility for improving the design." If that were the case the bigger buildings would be better designed. In fact the ugliest building here are the bigger ones.
Hogwash. Allowing a taller building just allows for making more money.


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Posted by Gus L.
a resident of Barron Park
on Oct 11, 2012 at 7:02 am

"Faced with a stampede of massive new developments"
So because of the Massive Development That Billionaires want, the City of Palo Alto wants to increase the height limit to appease the great Developer?
Just Say NO to MASSIVE!
We have to vote these people out who are puppets for property addicted.


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Posted by NO-NO-NO!!!
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 11, 2012 at 7:19 am

Who didn't see this coming?

The idea of raising the limit to 100, or more feet, all over the city is reprehensible. There is no excuse for this--other than to feed the insatiable demands of three or four rich developers.


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Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 11, 2012 at 7:53 am

This is the most illogical argument I have ever heard in favor of tall buildings. Absurd, really, but it shows just how significant a threat the city is facing.

Just say no to tall buildings. Time and again, tall buildings have been shown to destroy the character of traditional downtown shopping areas. And, there is absolutely no way to accommodate the massive amount of traffic that these massive buildings would generate. Palo Alto is at its traffic limit now.


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Posted by Martin
a resident of Downtown North
on Oct 11, 2012 at 7:56 am

Please sign my petition against tall buildings in Palo Alto: Web Link


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Posted by Jan H.
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Oct 11, 2012 at 8:11 am

What on earth happened to Palo Alto being an upscale bedroom community with a great school system? A wonderful place to live and raise a family?

This is turning it into an ugly, dirty, urban metropolis! The elementary and middle school scores have dropped considerably, the high schools are so high-pressure that kids take drugs to keep up with the home work load and extra-curricular activities necessary to get into college. The police force has been cut down, but in spite of the budget crisis the city hires an over-priced fire chief. Over-priced, three-story homes on sub-sub-sub-standard lots are built on a parking lot. A grocery store is built without regard for parking.....and now the City wants to increase the height limit of new buildings to 100 feet (or more?).

Where does it end? With no one wanting to live here?


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Posted by City mulls?
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 11, 2012 at 8:33 am


The City fails to do the math.

Because of Prop 13, you could have a property paying $5,000 in property taxes, the business on that property generating 5 million in rent, but Palo Alto only gets the 5,000.

If the business is a tall building, it will have thousands of people putting pressure on City Services, and they will pay for none of it.

The costs make it prohibitive for the City.

Reporter, and Editor,

Can you please report how much the CIty currently makes from commercial properties compared to residential properties?



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Posted by City mulls?
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 11, 2012 at 9:38 am

Gennady Sheyner

"Faced with a stampede of massive new developments, Palo Alto officials are taking a fresh look at the zoning code and considering whether it's time to puncture the city's 50-foot height limit for new buildings -"

Can you please report

What does "massive" mean? How many applications for buildings in Palo Alto? Compared to how many in previous years.

"Palo Alto already has several buildings that are much taller than 50 feet, including 11-story Channing House, the 15-story office building at 525 University Ave, and the eight-story Casa Olga building on Hamilton Avenue."

Please report

Exactly how much taller than 50 feet are these buildings, are they over by 3 feet or 30?

More importantly - what is the added value to Palo Alto from the increased height in these particular buildings, compared to buildings which are under 50 feet in height?

How much does the City make on these tall buildings, for example compared to Bloomingdales?





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Posted by John
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Oct 11, 2012 at 9:59 am

City bureaucrats are looking to sources to pay for the bloated salaries and pensions.

Just saying no to the "stampede", which can easily be done is not an option.

We built paradise and now it is being paved over by greed.


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Posted by City mulls?
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 11, 2012 at 10:22 am

John,

The City is actually being alarmingly stupid even about making more money.

1) What makes more money, property taxes from residential property or from commercial property. Residential (because of turnover and prop 13)

2) What makes more money, retail or office space? Retail (check city revenues from Stanford Shopping Center)

The City is pushing for the absolute lowest yield projects for Palo Alto, and potentially risking the unique residential value of Palo Alto. Think schools pre-K to graduate school.

If the City was not so busy being overwhelmed by developers, and keen on "puncturing" stuff they would be attracting high value retail to the City, near transit. People can come, shop, leave us their shopping dollars, with much less pressure on City services than office space.

All under 50 feet in height!



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Posted by City mulls?
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 11, 2012 at 10:45 am


Meant to clarify that the absolute lowest yield projects for Palo Alto, are commercial office space, compared to retail, especially near transit.

City planning is not planning, they are reacting. And they provide no numbers.


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Posted by Alex Panelli
a resident of Monroe Park
on Oct 11, 2012 at 11:08 am

As a current member of the Planning Commission, I am disappointed in the PA Weekly's description of our study session last night. The quotes, taken out of context, incorrectly paint one-dimensional characterizations of each commissioner's perspective on this topic.

I believe that we need to clearly distinguish between the issue of height and the issue of density. Many of the buildings that were constructed prior to the adoption of the 50 foot height limit would not meet the City's current FAR (floor area ratio) limits. My question for the community: in the zoning districts that allow for a FAR greater than 1.0 (and assuming that either development choice would have the SAME maximum square footage), would you prefer a taller building that provides for significant open space, or would you prefer a shorter, squatter building that takes up the entire parcel?

I would also like to offer my interpretation of Commissioner Tuma's comment about coming up with something for the whole city and not just one project. I believe that he meant that we would develop an objective policy for any project that comes to the City, not that we would allow every parcel in town to build over 50 feet.

I would encourage all Palo Alto residents and stakeholders to attend future study sessions for two reasons. First, we would, in all sincerity, like to hear your thoughts on this subject. Secondly, I believe that you will have a better sense of how thoughtful and deliberate each commissioner is. While we don't always agree, I have the utmost respect for my fellow Commissioners.

We will have several more study sessions on this topic over the course of the next 12 months, so the community will have many opportunities to provide public comment on this controversial topic. I hope that you will all find time to participate in the process.


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Posted by Ronald L.
a resident of Downtown North
on Oct 11, 2012 at 11:15 am

the 15 story office building is what led to restrictions in the 1st place, that section of University lost its charm after it went up.


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Posted by Palo Alto Neighbor
a resident of Los Altos Hills
on Oct 11, 2012 at 11:22 am

I started working at Stanford in 1976, just after moving here from the East Coast. Rented in Sunnyvale but always wanted to live in Palo Alto becuase it had great neighborhoods. Couldn't afford PA so bought in Menlo Park and continued working in and around PA. Over the years, PA has moved from a neighborhood town to a renters town with high density. And it is not for the good.

With ABAG pushing housing down every cities throat, why is PA even considering adding more office space??? Why not build apartment buildings at 27 University? Access to public transit (the train), high density, and small units (studio and 1 bedroom apartments) could keep rents low, and help PA answer the question about where to put all those housing units without adding a ton of kids to the schools.


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Posted by Tall buildings can help
a resident of Ventura
on Oct 11, 2012 at 11:24 am

If you take an unemotional view, tall buildings aren't all bad if they are put in the right spot. I for one think that placing tall buildings near Caltrain stations would be a good thing, and won't cast shadows on residents. If city revenue is your issue, don't forget that more employees means more people eating at restaurants and more people shopping at our retail stores. Perhaps an office building does not directly produce as much tax revenue as some other buildings, but the overall impact on the tax revenue is better than some of you are suggesting. Also, why do you think Palo Alto has so many great restaurants? One of the major reasons is because there are lots of employees around here!

If your only issue is that emotionally, you don't want tall buildings in Palo Alto, then I have no counterargument.


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Posted by the_punnisher
a resident of Mountain View
on Oct 11, 2012 at 11:26 am

the_punnisher is a registered user.

Congrats, the city government is accepting it's thirty pieces of silver.

Your sister city of Boulder, CO FORCED NIST AND OTHER AGENCIES TO FOLLOW THE HEIGHT RESTRICTIONS!

As a result, the mountains are still visible to the RESIDENTS WHO PAY THEIR TAXES!! That means if YOU value your city and the views that come with it, replace the people who supported this developer.
This issue is very like the way you boil a frog.

" We only relaxed the standards a little bit " is like " we only heated up the pan with the frog in it a little bit "


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Posted by A
a resident of Meadow Park
on Oct 11, 2012 at 11:32 am

In response to Alex Panelli:
When you ask, "would you prefer a taller building that provides for significant open space, or would you prefer a shorter, squatter building that takes up the entire parcel?", my answer is definitely NO! open space is not open if it is at the bottom of a canyon. Besides, we are not dumb enough to believe this is the reason developers want to build tall buildings. Most residents, unlike developers, Do NOT want Palo Alto to turn into an urban city.

Many South Palo Alto residents are outraged over the many planning disasters regarding developments here that have snarled traffic, overcrowded the schools, and provided insufficient parking. I am sorry, but we can not help but think you have only the interests of developers in mind.


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Posted by SPB
a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Oct 11, 2012 at 11:47 am

"Is an eight-story building with a lot more open space better than a four-story building that's built sidewalk-to-sidewalk and road-to-road?" Panelli asked.

Why does he assume we have to have one or the other? Here's a novel idea – no sidewalk-to-sidewalk, no road-to-road, and no eight-story buildings.


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Posted by Fallacy
a resident of Crescent Park
on Oct 11, 2012 at 11:47 am

Mr Panelli says "My question for the community: in the zoning districts that allow for a FAR greater than 1.0 (and assuming that either development choice would have the SAME maximum square footage), would you prefer a taller building that provides for significant open space, or would you prefer a shorter, squatter building that takes up the entire parcel?"
FALSE CHOICE. The developers will fill the lot to the max and the planning dept. and city does not stop them. Look around you!


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Posted by Jan H.
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Oct 11, 2012 at 11:50 am

I second everything that City mulls? has stated! There is something fishy here, and it smells like dirty money


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Posted by No to More Traffic
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Oct 11, 2012 at 11:59 am

I am confused. Palo Alto approved 1 million more square feet of building on Stanford land which will add massively to traffic through our town (e.g., University Ave, Embarcadero, El Camino.) We got money to study how to mitigate the effects of that development from Stanford, I believe, and it's being spent to study another massive project: building 4 office towers and a theater at 27 University? How on earth will we transport all the people who will work there without causing a lot more traffic?

Palo Alto should not turn into Santa Monica where it can take over an hour to go a mile on roads similar to University and Embarcadero. We can prevent Northern California from becoming Southern California, I hope.


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Posted by City mulls?
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 11, 2012 at 12:38 pm

Alex Panelli,

"As a current member of the Planning Commission, I am disappointed in the PA Weekly's description of our study session last night. The quotes, taken out of context, incorrectly paint one-dimensional characterizations of each commissioner's perspective on this topic."

Mr. Panelli,

I think we should thank the Weekly for reporting on this study session, it was not clear where all this mulling came from. The Weekly did what should be the Commission's job, to keep the public informed? Thank you for wanting to clarify some things.

Can you get us caught up on the process and status of your deliberations?

1. How many study sessions, and when are the next planning sessions scheduled for?
2. What is the mandate of the Commission? does it include proposing to change the comprehensive plan on zoning?
3. If the commission itself is proposing to the public to change zoning, do you have the reasons why - economic reasons? aesthetic reasons?
4. Please provide DATA for everything you talk about - how many commercial applications, historical, expected - the split between retail, office and residential. Split between Stanford, and others.
5. How do you get on the Commission? What are the qualifications of the current members?
6. Are you directed by the City Manager? Who is your "boss"?


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Posted by City mulls?
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 11, 2012 at 12:42 pm



Tall buildings,

If you take an "unemotional view", tall buildings - per square foot - offer the least amount of value to Palo Alto.

The City makes piddle on property taxes, and even less if they are rental properties.

I


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Posted by JLC
a resident of University South
on Oct 11, 2012 at 12:47 pm

Taller buildings with more plaza/small park areas sound good to me. Those areas seem good for people who laze out of the way of busier pedestrians. I don't have a single-family detached home, and 95% of the time I don't have a car, so most of the other issues don't affect me. Oh, I forgot, I'm pale, so avoiding direct sunlight is actually a plus for me.


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Posted by And what about view shed?
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 11, 2012 at 12:49 pm

Over 50 ft. means obstruction of view shed. Imagine Palo Alto's views of our beautiful hills obstructed by concrete,steel, and glass. So much for enjoying our tree canopy, too. Have look at the what the CJL did to our views of the hills from Charleston Road. Have a look at the monstrocity being built in Mountain View at San Antonio Shopping Center. The spectacular view shed that presently graces our community will be a memory.

The ARB and PTC seem to have no sense of scale. They leave no place for trees. The "open space" referred to in the hideous Arillaga project is a huge concrete plaza surrounded by glass and concrete.

The project doesn't provide a natural avenue of conveyance and transition from the train station that connects downtown and Stanford at all. If anything, it further separates them with a dissonant architectural design and HEIGHT that looks like a fortress. This is REALLY bad design. Back to the drawing table.

The 50-ft. height limit is a good thing. It provides adequate height for higher densities where needed. Get creative, and work within the thoughtful height limit that protects the views of sky, hills and trees that DEFINE the natural beauty of our community.


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Posted by City mulls?
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 11, 2012 at 12:49 pm



Jan H.

Please, I am not saying it's dirty money.

I am asking for the relative value of additional square foot planned to be built above 50 feet height limit. And wondering about numbers, magnitude of what is being discussed and why.

I have no reason to not trust the commission or the City except in the LOGIC behind all of the recent news on this topic.




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Posted by JLC
a resident of University South
on Oct 11, 2012 at 1:00 pm

I have a friend who lives in the Hotel President Apartments, and the view from the roof is amazing. It would be great to have more publicly accessible roof-level or near-roof-level spaces. I would pay a premium for a restaurant or bar that looks over the peninsula.


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Posted by City mulls?
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 11, 2012 at 1:06 pm


And what about...

"The 50-ft. height limit is a good thing. It provides adequate height for higher densities where needed. Get creative, and work within the thoughtful height limit that protects the views of sky, hills and trees that DEFINE the natural beauty of our community."

For Palo Alto, 50 feet definitely provides adequate height.

There is no logic to changing the 50 feet height, whether it's for 1 project or 100 because the relative value of building above 50 feet weighs heavily against Palo Alto.

Anyone saying otherwise needs to provide numbers, data, and not just say they like tall buildings, though JLC's representation of the sidewalk community is pretty funny.


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Posted by Alex Panelli
a resident of Monroe Park
on Oct 11, 2012 at 1:10 pm

City mulls?,

Regarding your questions about the structure and mandate of the Commission, I will refer you to the City's webpage regarding the topic:

Web Link

We are a volunteer citizen's commission. Palo Alto citizens apply for open positions and the City Council selects the members. We do not serve the City Manager; we serve at the Council's pleasure. We do not approve or disapprove projects; we make recommendations to the Council.

Our agendas are published in advance of each meeting and are available at the webpage I posted above; the minutes of each meeting are also published here. Our deliberations, by law, are held publicly.

I do not have the data that you requested, but will ask Planning Staff at an upcoming meeting.

To those who have responded to my question in my earlier post, thank you for your feedback.


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Posted by JLC
a resident of University South
on Oct 11, 2012 at 1:11 pm

City mulls: "Sidewalk community" - I like the sound of that. :-D


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Posted by Scores have gone up
a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Oct 11, 2012 at 1:42 pm

Jan,

Test scores for PAUSD elementary and middle schools have gone up over the years, not down. You can get the data here: Web Link


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Posted by City mulls?
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 11, 2012 at 2:02 pm

Alex Panelli,

Sorry to only have more questions.

Can anyone explain?

If City Council appoints commission members, are commissioners also allowed to campaign for council members?

On a different commission, I noticed a campaign message for City Council member Pat Burt, launched by Pat Markevitch a member of the Parks commission. This same commission is involved in making decisions about open space?

Web Link

If this is allowed, how can residents rely on unbiased analysis, or is bias allowed.






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Posted by Gunn Class of 67
a resident of Barron Park
on Oct 11, 2012 at 2:04 pm

With soaring buildings and shrinking roads, Palo Alto might consider rickshaw lanes.


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Posted by Gunn Class of 67
a resident of Barron Park
on Oct 11, 2012 at 2:05 pm

With soaring buildings and shrinking roads, Palo Alto might consider rickshaw lanes.


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Posted by A Question
a resident of Palo Verde
on Oct 11, 2012 at 2:19 pm

We have an election coming up. Which council candidates are in favor of these big developments, and who's opposed?


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Posted by Tom
a resident of Community Center
on Oct 11, 2012 at 2:25 pm

@ Alex Panelli a current member of the Planning Commission-

You are new to the commission and your lack of procedural knowledge and specific knowledge of the subject matter is clearly displayed in your post.

You need to seek advice from the City Attorney Office or the Planning Department Staff about posting on public forums. If three other members of the Planning Commission read your post, then that constitutes a majority of the body engaging in a substantive discussion of a matter before the commission. That is a Brown Act violation if it happens outside of a public hearing.

Before you criticize a journalist who has attended more Planning Commission meetings than you have, take responsibility for understanding and upholding the duties of your office.


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Posted by Paly parent
a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Oct 11, 2012 at 2:40 pm

How about we let the citizens of Palo Alto (not the elected officials) make a decision on the 50' limit? Maybe then the squeaky wheels won't be the only ones being heard.


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Posted by Mark Weiss
a resident of Downtown North
on Oct 11, 2012 at 3:06 pm

This is my platform, in 70 words:

1) Commercial real estate developers have too much say and sway; leadership –council, commissioners and staff – should listen to residents first.

2)"Planned Community" (PC) zoning is the most concentrated form of abuse of the system in recent years and should be amended, enforced or outlawed;

3) the 27 University project, "Arrillaga Office Towers" should be vigorously opposed by residentialists, as part of taking the town back from these powerful, oligarchical special interests.
Web Link


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Posted by City mulls?
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 11, 2012 at 3:30 pm


Mark,

Instead of using this issue to campaign, why don't you answer many of the questions I posted above?

These sound bytes, and roulette game of electing officials is annoying.

Somebody please provide the possible logic for increasing building height with DATA.

Tom,

Thanks for scaring off the guy who was maybe going to provide data from the planning commission.


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Posted by JLC
a resident of University South
on Oct 11, 2012 at 3:55 pm

Tom, good catch!

(A Brown Act violation would only cost the city money....)


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Posted by Nick
a resident of Midtown
on Oct 11, 2012 at 4:03 pm

Some data please: How tall are the ten tallest buildings in Palo Alto---and which and where are they?


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Posted by Katie
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Oct 11, 2012 at 4:04 pm

The City is laying the foundation to allow Arrillage to build monstrocity high rise office buildings. My understanding is that Palo Alto won't get added tax revenue from the Arrillaga project

I'm for lowering the 50 foot height limit, not raising it. The City Council is just looking for ways to make more city tax money to fund their retirement packages.


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Posted by City mulls?
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 11, 2012 at 4:18 pm


What actually works in the City?

from a thread on Council candidates.

"Posted by David Pepperdine, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, 5 hours ago

I'm for Tim Gray.

@Jo Ann:

The Utilities Department will never tell you ways to reduce your utility bill. It cuts into their budget (raises, bonuses).

Neither will the City Council make this a priority as long as Utilities' profits go to the general fund.

In fact, Utilities is the golden egg-laying goose for the city. It enables them to in effect, raise taxes on us without being held accountable. Because where else are we gonna go to get water or sewer service?! It is an end run around Proposition 13, the will of the people. And people like Pat Burt are all for it.

This will continue until voters get wise and demand that Utilities return profits to the residents, and any services that are not cost effective be outsourced to other cities.

And don't even get me started on water rates. We have the highest rates in the country. And the City Council laughs all the way to their retirement benefits."


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Posted by City mulls?
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 11, 2012 at 5:01 pm

Tom,

you seem to be in the legal know

Can the people who gave the OK for the 70 ft tower for the Lytton project (in this article photo) be fired?

Is that 20 feet above the 50 feet?

How and why can that happen, and what prevents the City from approving anything they want?



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Posted by Wayne Martin
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Oct 11, 2012 at 5:18 pm

> not that we would allow every parcel in town to build over 50 feet.

But what do the Developers want? Why wouldn't they want to be able to build as high as they want? Clearly the "Arts District" project is pushing this limit, but certainly seeing this limit ended would benefit every Developer with eyes on Palo Alto projects.

This limit should go to the voters. It's too important to the future of the City to be left in the hands of unaccountable "commissioners".


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Posted by Jan H.
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Oct 11, 2012 at 6:07 pm

PAUSD scores, especially at the elementary and middle school levels, are not as high as they were when I moved here in the 90's. There are other districts and schools, such as Union School District, Willow Glen, etc, that test higher, just. Ot at the high school level. Yet, they spend less.

As for the traffic problems: look at Amsterdam....protected bike lanes, lots of bicycle rickshaws in those lanes (they are cheap and FAST), very little air pollution, no overweight people. Very little traffic congestion in spite of the fact that most, if not all, of the city streets are only one lane in each direction.

Bicycles in Amstrdam are made so that they can carry two children plus groceries, and have covers on the rear wheel so that women can wear dresses and not get them caught in the spokes or chain. Most of them have clear plastic covers to protect children and cargo from rain. So, the majority of citizens ride.

The same is true for Copenhagen. Tall buildings are limited to 17th century five-story buildings.

Why do we not learn from the hard-won experience of other nations who were once in our shoes, but worked it out?


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Posted by Wayne Martin
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Oct 11, 2012 at 7:07 pm

> My understanding is that Palo Alto won't get added tax
> revenue from the Arrillaga project

The City will get 9% of whatever property taxes generated. It also will get 7% of utilities sold to these businesses. By and large, the City will probably get no more than $400K-$500K a year in new taxes, with unknown costs that will be increased with these new businesses.


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Posted by Elaine
a resident of Ventura
on Oct 11, 2012 at 8:19 pm

When you ask, "would you prefer a taller building that provides for significant open space, or would you prefer a shorter, squatter building that takes up the entire parcel?"

How about neither? Palo Alto is already too big--too tall and too dense. Who says it has to get bigger?


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Posted by More Funny
a resident of Downtown North
on Oct 12, 2012 at 7:25 am

Each of the City Council members running in November should be required to state in writing whether or not they support raising the height limit above 50 feet.

I think this is critical in understanding how the upcoming election impacts planning decisions and the livability of our town.

Its a simple question...and requires either a Yes or No answer.

From that point...we can vote for Council members who support our view of the City.


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Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 12, 2012 at 7:28 am

Another rule that would truly make a difference for the public good is the one that prevents us having a large, full size supermarket in town. That one would be well supported by the majority of Palo Altans.


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Posted by City mulls?
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 12, 2012 at 8:42 am

Funny,

On a separate thread, when pressed - Tim Gray was unwilling to say he would vote against increasing building height.

Does it matter who gets elected? After they are elected they change their mind, elect their commissioners who then help them get re-elected, architectural boards selected with similar personal connections, and do whatever they want - as they are now, by already giving permits to build above 50 feet.

Playing political roulette is bad enough, but with buildings already built over your head, it's too late to stop them. They can't help themselves.

Katie,

"I'm for lowering the 50 foot height limit, not raising it."

Me too. But this is not just about height, it's also about more building, much more.

It may be this is about Utilities. It appears Utilities is the way the City of Palo Alto taxes us, and Utilities need buildings.

from another poster on another thread,

"Utilities is the golden egg-laying goose for the city. It enables them to in effect, raise taxes on us without being held accountable. Because where else are we gonna go to get water or sewer service?! It is an end run around Proposition 13, the will of the people. And people like Pat Burt are all for it.

This will continue until voters get wise and demand that Utilities return profits to the residents, and any services that are not cost effective be outsourced to other cities.

And don't even get me started on water rates. We have the highest rates in the country. And the City Council laughs all the way to their retirement benefits."

After I read this, the article about Stanford's new energy facility made me think, the title should have been

"Stanford on way to becoming energy independent from Palo Alto Utilities."

Web Link

So, City officials can't help themselves, they want more buildings. That's why a four building development in one small space is better than one, And why 160 feet is better than 50.

The CIty could care less about Palo Alto and what all the building actually does to the town, the residents, or the schools.


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Posted by neighbor
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 12, 2012 at 10:51 am

Well, for a long time (early 70's) this 50 foot height limit stoodpretty strong...interesting that a handful of projects listed (as well as the Campus for Jewish Life) were permitted to violate that limit. I think it has to be fair for everyon; either everyone lives by the old limit or everyone gets to use some new limit, whatever that may be. I strongly disagree with certain key constituencies polluting the skyline and benefiting from exemptions.


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Posted by Garrett
a resident of another community
on Oct 12, 2012 at 1:49 pm

Before we even starting changing height, we must look where and when? In Europe most cities have a newer part that is served public transit, or even have a central planning board. Maybe we should send the offices, tall buildings, big tetail centers to the outer Bay Area or even San Jose south.


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Posted by pat
a resident of Midtown
on Oct 13, 2012 at 2:46 pm

Here's an important petition that goes to the heart of the problem: Plan Bay Area/ABAG, which promotes and subsidizes massive, unsustainable growth.

Read more and sign the petition at www.PlanBayAreaMyth.org


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Posted by Garrett
a resident of another community
on Oct 14, 2012 at 6:18 am

Have any of you read the newspapers lately, business news or tech news. Office market is hot, space needed. I am not saying go out and build whatever comes along. Study, take a look and see where a 5 story building can be built. On housin, again have you been teading the newspapers, foreclosed homes are pretty rare, Las Vegas, and other places are high. Housing Crunch and the need to build housing, not the first time the issue has been debated.


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Posted by Garrett
a resident of another community
on Oct 14, 2012 at 6:25 am

Foreclosed homes in the Bay Area which we are still a lot less then Las Vegas, Leigh Acres in FL, or some of the south western part of the U.S.


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Posted by City mulls?
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 14, 2012 at 9:31 am

Garrett,

The City of Palo Alto, behind closed doors, is doing an analysis which is exactly as you suggest, "oh everybody is doing this."

But there is zero logic to building tall buildings in Palo Alto, which is not to say there isn't a way to develop responsibly. And any growth should first address Palo Alto's governance failures before this issue gets more out of hand.

Pat,

"Here's an important petition that goes to the heart of the problem: Plan Bay Area/ABAG, which promotes and subsidizes massive, unsustainable growth.

Read more and sign the petition at www.PlanBayAreaMyth.org"

We need to demand the City of Palo Alto present hard analysis of the planned commercial growth in Palo Alto and address the PlanBayAreaMyth.org's major concerns from the lens of Palo Alto. And to just through City Council election sound bytes. These people are so weak in hard analysis, with data, numbers, and community input.

Traffic and Air quality:
Jobs and Housing:
Increased Carbon Emissions:
Exemption from Environmental Review:
Backers and Supporters:

In Palo Alto's case, Palo Alto could face TOO MUCH growth, so all the concerns are even higher and riskier than for anyone else in the Bay Area. I include some of the concerns described on their website, and they are indeed all very relevant.

Plan Bay Area claims that housing 2.1 million new residents in transit-based apartments will decrease carbon emissions and traffic congestion. However, the fact is that even if individual emissions drop 15 percent by 2035 (the goal of S.B.375) if population increases at the same time by 30 percent (2.1 million), then total emissions will rise by 10.5 percent (.85 x 130 = 110.5% of current emissions). The math is the same as asking whether you'll have more money if 130 people give you $0.85 each ($110) than if 100 people give you $1.00 each ($100). That would be the right choice for dollars coming in but not for carbon emissions going out into the air.

Traffic and Air quality: Transit-based development may be environmentally sound in theory: Pack people into high-rises near public transportation and they may drive less. However, a closer look at this real estate plan suggests a greenwash of business as usual (think vertical sprawl), making it inconsistent with the existing California environmental laws, which aim to improve air quality by reducing carbon emissions, among other goals. Read more...

Exemption from Environmental Review: "Transit-priority projects" (transit-based development), as defined by California law S.B. 375 are supposed to help achieve the carbon emissions reduction targets mandated by A.B 32. However, rather than strengthen environmental protections and facilitate emission reductions, S.B. 375 provides loopholes that allow "transit priority projects" to be fast-tracked by developers and avoid compliance with the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA).

Zoning Authority and Local Control: Cities are required to sign on to the plan if they wish to qualify for much-needed transportation funding, between $200 and $240 billion dollars in the next 10 years. But by signing on to the plan, they agree to implement the zoning plans of the nine-county panel. It's hard to imagine how local residents living half a mile from a main street (with frequent bus service) will be able to protest a 5 or 6 story apartment building next door.

Backers and Supporters: Plan Bay Area has the financial backing of a broad coalition of realtors, bankers and developers who stand to benefit financially from construction and sale of the 660,000 to 903,000 new units. Several of the environmental groups that are offering the most enthusiastic support are also receiving funding from this coalition.


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Posted by City mulls?
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 14, 2012 at 9:40 am

Meant to say, and not just (pretend to do hard analysis) through city council election sound bytes,

I recall City Council Greg Scharff getting elected and hearing a spiel form him about these very concerns.

They all say they are concerned but end up voting for developers. I imagine developers do long term planning and they get their people elected.

Governance in Palo Alto needs to be scrutinized and have a NEW system which actually represents the people.

Look at how half of the (handful) of city council candidates could be considered not serious candidates, and is this really smart Palo Alto? It's quite a scam.


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Posted by Garrett
a resident of another community
on Oct 14, 2012 at 12:33 pm

I wouldn't 5 to 6 floors of rental housing to be built. I would like to see planned and built more mixed housing styles, density and tall buildings that seem anything over 4 floors. Open Space if we don't build here in the Bay Area we are going to build on greenfield What is a greenfield you might ask yourself? Think Farm, dairy land, cattle or somewhere near no job centers. Think Elk Grove, Roseville or Bakersfield.


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Posted by pat
a resident of Midtown
on Oct 14, 2012 at 12:50 pm

> "I recall City Council Greg Scharff getting elected and hearing a spiel form him ..."

Greg Scharff is the one who started the latest City Hall infatuation with declaring office buildings themselves a public benefit.

From Web Link

'Scharff praised the package of public benefits and said that the building itself [Lyttone Gateway] can be considered a benefit.

'"I think this is a prime site and having an office building -- a Gateway project -- is itself a public benefit," Scharff said.

'Councilwoman Nancy Shepherd shared his view and lauded the project's design. She said she considers the building itself a contributor to the public-benefit package.'

Former planning commissioner Owen Byrd took up the cry when he said of the proposed Arrillaga project, "The offices are a public benefit themselves" and "I look forward to this project being a part of a pattern to urbanize Palo Alto." (Daily Post 9/21)


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Posted by City mulls?
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 14, 2012 at 1:04 pm

pat,

What a stinker.

When these "elected" city council officials "change their minds" after they are elected, it's abominable that they get away with it - making decisions with absolutely no hard analysis, no real planning, no comparables, no weighing different stakeholder issues, no transparency of current city problems, nothing.

They simply say a couple of sentences, the Weekly publishes them verbatim, there is no follow up, and one the most educated communities in the world is committing the most STUPID city planning and corrupt governance system, known possible.

We shall become even more famous.



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Posted by Garrett
a resident of another community
on Oct 14, 2012 at 3:29 pm

Also with the cost of Gas, the NIMBY effect on high speed rail, highways, other transpotation improvements and bike improvements. We build job producing projects, retail, hotels but not much housing. This is Bay Area wide.


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Posted by City mulls?
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 18, 2012 at 2:01 pm


Garrett,

Building tall and dense is dumb, especially for Palo Alto.

Serious panning mistakes are being made, and the people in charge need to get some brains.

Instead of being in the drivers seat, city officials are allowing developers to do the driving. That alone is dumb and reckless, and unnecessary.

If one developers goes, 100 will be there to replace them.







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Posted by Midtowner
a resident of El Carmelo School
on Oct 18, 2012 at 2:12 pm

A little off the thread of the building height limit, but I find all the tear downs in South Palo Alto dismaying. At any time there are a number of these projects going on, noisy, dirty, disruptive. Long time residents feel our voices aren't heard, and are told how our property values increase, houses were too small or in disrepair so they must be leveled. Truth is many of these were just fine, and maybe didn't meet expectations for a 3000 SF house (in a neighborhood where most of the houses are less than half that). The paint is barely dry and the for sale sign goes up, and another property is demolished. Properties are grabbed up by developers who with their fistfuls of cash outbid folks looking for a starter home.

For the last 4 years within earshot of my home there has been a scrape and build. Most recently, the property next door was rebuilt. Plans were changed and I now have 2 upstairs windows that look right into my bedroom. I constantly pick up debris from my yard. Workers smoke, throw butts, food wrappers and gum in my yard. Work continues till after the posted time. I have talked to the contractor and to the city permit department but nothing really changes. I haven't felt that our city cares about long term residents, or preservation of any quality of life in the neighborhoods. Sad.


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Posted by City mulls?
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 18, 2012 at 7:52 pm

Midtowner,

Some of the new spec homes being built are so cheap, and tasteless, they will likely be tear downs again in the not so distant future.

Speaking of cheap and tasteless, Palo Alto's architectural board apparently wants taller buildings, and recently called a proposed project "too flat." Instead of focusing on what makes sense for preserving nature throughout the area, around the building and the people around it.

Developing for money or power is a thoughtless process like fast food.



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Posted by HUTCH 7.62
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Oct 18, 2012 at 9:18 pm

Lets fire the city council and elect candidates that are not in the developers pockets. This city is overcrowded as it is.


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Posted by Garrett
a resident of another community
on Oct 19, 2012 at 6:13 am

Find places for tall buildings, places that can support, near transit, most important no where near single family homes. The only other place you can build is open space, we have lots of it. On the issue of those tear downs of south Palo Alto, again wrwe have open space. Overcrowding, we haven't overcrowding, remember non rush hour, sundays, when the kids are in school, or just drive around.


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Posted by Judith
a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Oct 22, 2012 at 11:06 am

Dear City mulls?

The ARB comment about a building being "too flat" referred to the walls, not the height.


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Posted by Jo Ann
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Oct 22, 2012 at 12:38 pm

Of course no one in these massive developments will have cars. MORE gridlock.


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Posted by Garrett
a resident of another community
on Oct 22, 2012 at 12:56 pm

We need to sit down and look at transit, shuttles and other non car options. Even if we build within height limits, will it be transit friendly or become another building with sea of parking?


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Posted by City mulls?
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 22, 2012 at 3:43 pm

Judith,

Flat walls?

ARB is concerned about flat walls, but keen to bust building height?

The ARB's thinking on busting height is more consistent with rubber stamping ugly commercial projects than good taste. Or they are having visions of grandeur that Palo Alto can somehow be Chicago.

For starters, we have no water, and eyesore tall buildings will just compete with trees. They will look like crap sticking out of our trees. I know, the next idea will be to cut some trees, and forget zoning altogether.

Interestingly, the projects at Stanford,, Bing Concert Hall and the upcoming Art buildings, are all tree level. Also the new Facebook building in Menlo Park by a world class architect (a real one) will be tree level. NO towers planned there. WHy would you even want to work in an ugly tree scraper?

Building tall is easy, but not smart. It's harder to build respecting nature.



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Posted by City mulls?
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 22, 2012 at 4:00 pm

Actually, the Frank Gehry building in Menlo Park will be a single story building "covered with trees."

Facebook wanted " someone to understand our culture and Frank got it. We consider it to be a pretty big honor."

Palo Alto City Council and their rubber stamp architectural board should reflect on the concept of understanding culture, not their personal culture but that of a town that is already famous precisely because it is not about tall buildings or office complex monuments.

more on a world class architect's thinking form the Mercury News....

"Award-winning architect Frank Gehry may not have his own Facebook page, but he's become such a good friend of the social networking giant that he is going to design its new West Campus building in Menlo Park.

"Frank was the perfect architect," Facebook spokesman Slater Tow said about the man who has designed such celebrated works as the Guggenheim Museum in Spain and the Walt Disney Concert Hall in downtown Los Angeles. "We wanted someone to understand our culture and Frank got it. We consider it to be a pretty big honor."

The design unveiled Friday shows a long, single-story building that encompasses about 10 acres and has a roof covered with trees. It snakes alongside the western side of Bayfront Expressway, north of Willow Road, and connects via an underground tunnel with Facebook's East Campus on the other side of the expressway."

Web Link


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Posted by Community Center resident
a resident of Community Center
on Oct 22, 2012 at 6:04 pm

Please DO NOT increase heights of buildings. The height limit is what has kept Palo Alto the charming, attractive city it is. Developers like Arriaga should be banned from having anything to do with our overall, voted-upon requirements for any building in our city. I am keeping track of who in our City Council is considering changing the present, excellent limits. Others should see who in the City Council is encouraging height changes, so we can get them OUT of P.A.City Council, and get someone who really cares about the future of Palo Alto.


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Posted by Concerned resident
a resident of Community Center
on Oct 22, 2012 at 6:05 pm

[Post removed due to same poster using multiple names]


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Posted by Michele
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Oct 22, 2012 at 7:48 pm

I find the new buildings at Alma Plaza very unattractive, built completely to the sidewalk as they are, and I will not go in those businesses ever. I really would like to vote against any city council members who allow this kind of construction.


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Posted by Vote 'em out
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 23, 2012 at 8:39 am

City council take note of the citizen's reaction in these posts. Ignore at your peril come election day.


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Posted by City mulls?
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 23, 2012 at 10:49 am

Vote 'em out,

Unfortunately, everyone who gets voted in, eventually succumbs to reacting to developers. Developers say jump, and Palo Alto says how high?

No real planning, no real thinking.









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Posted by Garrett
a resident of another community
on Oct 23, 2012 at 12:51 pm

Planning is out of whack, transit thrives on density, not spread out buildings covering 10 acres. Drive around any office park at night and on the weekends or better yet certain times of the day. Spend all day driving around, not just your area but other areas, pay attention to the times during non rush hour, when the kids are well into school, and other places away from offices and businesses. Then look at our office parks, notice the vast amount of parking, the lack of people walking around, notice that you have to drive almost anywhere to eat, bank or anything. I am not saying run out and building tall buildings, lets plan to get people into areas where we can lessen the car, lessen the amount of trips, find mixed use options that goes for green space.


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Posted by LizKniss likes Arrillaga project
a resident of Community Center
on Oct 24, 2012 at 3:25 pm

Remaining true to her earlier big development support, when asked what she thinks about the 50-foot height limit her complete reply is:
You have to address the planned community zoning first. I believe this policy needs to be discussed and revisited by the City Council.
In other words, lets talk, not act. If you want 4 immense office towers to replace MacArthur Park Restaurant, vote for her.


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