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City looks to redesign 'critical' downtown site
Original post made
on May 30, 2013
When billionaire developer John Arrillaga proposed last year to build a complex of high-rises and a theater near Palo Alto's downtown Caltrain station, his vision didn't exactly wow the community. Now, the city wants to give the community a chance to offer its own vision for the site around 27 University Ave.
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posted Thursday, May 30, 2013, 9:52 AM
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Posted by We are here, we are here, we are HERE!!
a resident of Green Acres
on Jun 3, 2013 at 11:41 am
Moved from the related thread:
I wish all of you on the North side of town crying out about traffic and density would extend your concern to those of us in the South who are being forced to take the dense housing in the middle of our residential neighborhoods, without any protections from this "Palo Alto Process". Most of the dense housing in Palo Alto is either going in around downtown -- which let's face it, is DOWNTOWN -- or in south palo alto, including in residential areas.
The City has loaned Palo Alto Housing Corporation over $5 million to help partially finance the purchase of an old orchard with 4 ranch houses across from Juana Briones Park. They plan to sell part of the parcel with the 4 homes to a for-profit developer who will tear down the 4 perfectly good homes and put up in their place 15 tall skinny 3-story houses like at Alma Plaza, completely out of character with the neighborhood, and benefitting in sale price because of that neighborhood. The developer will only make things work out for PAHC if he gets everything rezoned to maximize his profits. PAHC will then put a 60-unit development there -- which they admit they decided would be for seniors not because they had any analysis that it would best meet the needs, but because it would be the easiest to get their way politically. (Their failure to analyze the needs left them with 20 of 24 BMR units at Moldaw vacant for 3 years.)
The development would sit on a parcel right between two overly congested school transit corridors. You think you have traffic problems downtown? Try Arastradero and Maybell during the school year. Maybell has traffic signs that are mowed completely over replaced more than once a month, yet is the only other designated bicycle boulevard besides Bryant. Even though over a thousand children on foot and bike travel to and from school every school day, the bikes weren't studied in the City's traffic report, even though school commute corridors are supposed to be accorded a heightened level of scrutiny. There is no way to route traffic from the 15 dense houses and 60-unit-development anywhere except the existing overcrowded school commute corridors (to Terman, Gunn, and Juana Briones) of Arastradero and Maybell.
Neighbors with kids, dealing with cancer, dealing with job crises -- have to drop everything to battle this project or face even worse problems than we already have.
That location is the WORST place to put a dense development. Those of you in the North have no idea, because no one is trying to do away with the zoning in the middle of Professorville or Old Palo Alto. You even get to combine lots and tear down houses. Even though, if you came over here and drove up Georgia to Donald to Willmar, you'd see why any old 2,000 sq ft home here goes for over $2 million, we are never accorded the same respect of the zoning rules. Here, even though we already have 3 large affordable housing units in a relatively small neighborhood, we're told the need is so great, and the City is under so much pressure to put in these units, we have to do our share.
Honestly, putting in senior/affordable housing is like kryptonite against anyone who wants to enforce zoning in this community -- I don't know why Arrillaga hasn't proposed it already. He could have gotten away with anything if he had. There are other properties on this side of town where the developers have stopped even pretending they won't get their rezoning, and just proceed as if everything has been rezoned. The City included the Maybell property in its Housing Element as if it had been rezoned, but when neighbors protested, put off the vote on the Housing Element until after their fait accomplit of rezoning Maybell so they could claim it didn't affect their decision (even though they didn't take the Maybell rezoning out of the draft of the Housing Element).
I think putting some housing at 27 University is a great idea. It's a far better place than right in the middle of an R-1 residential area with no nearby services at all. It's right on the rail and bus lines, walkable to PAMF, Avenidas, Stanford, any amenity you could think of. If you're worried about traffic, in THAT location, it would be possible to ask residents to take a no car pledge. They wouldn't need cars there, and thus would not add to traffic.
27 University is a far better place than the middle of a residential neighborhood, especially since it would be possible to create the housing without cars. It's all well an good to complain about ABAG, but it won't help our neighborhood now. If you think housing density is drowning Palo Alto, try walking in our shoes over here!
As for Hostess House, we'd be thrilled to take it on that orchard instead, it could be made into a community orchard, a counterpart to Gamble Garden house only for trees and on this side of town. But the City will never go for it unless other housing units are found. At least at 27 University, the housing could truly be made in a way that created no new traffic.
From what we've seen with this proposal at Maybell, if Arrillaga were to propose to put, say, 75 units of affordable housing for seniors at 27 University - especially if it were a visionary green no car proposal (since it's right on the rail and bus lines, and right downtown - perhaps the complex might have a few shared vehicles), it would put a teflon coating on his project as far as City Council is concerned. With a performing arts center - which we really could use, 400 seats at Lucie Stern is not large enough - and affordable housing for seniors, green no less, there are no concerns, real or imagined, that will take precedence. The project would go forward.