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City mulls response to Maybell referendum

Original post made on Aug 6, 2013

With tension in the community mounting over a housing development on Maybell Avenue approved in June, the Palo Alto City Council has hastily scheduled a special meeting for Thursday to consider its options.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Monday, August 5, 2013, 9:45 PM

Comments (72)

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Posted by Neighbor
a resident of Green Acres
on Aug 6, 2013 at 4:00 am

City Council not only doesn't seem to grasp the depth of community dislike for the rezoning, they seem to have underestimated the intelligence and commitment of the community to children's safety. They have been looking so far down their noses at us all along, I'm not sure they'll wake up til the board actually hits them and wakes them up, but one can hope.

They should also probably discuss their proposal to extend their term limits. If they double down on this rezoning, there's no way they're going to get the term limit extension anyway, may as well save the election money. For every one of the 70 people who collected signatures for the referendum, there were several willing but unable during the summer. There will be a small army of unpaid volunteers (and their friends) working on the referendum election. None of those people is going to take kindly to term limit extensions, City Council is lucky no one is out to recall them. Yet.

City Council in the case of that property, has the ability to take over the property and do the safety analysis of the bicycle and pedestrian traffic on the school commute routes it should have done in the first place, and place deed restrictions on the property before reselling, or even turning it into a low-traffic use like a community orchard if the analysis points to it as a better land use at that location.

Certainly, with the Council tearing out 500 trees at the golf course, saving 100 established trees at Maybell will help balance that. The financials are realistic, too, as the City's own estimate of the land value is less than their loan to PAHC.


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Posted by Elaine
a resident of Barron Park
on Aug 6, 2013 at 8:09 am

The Council must act responsibly and fight the referendums. The vote must be scheduled ASAP (11/13) so as not to do irrepraable harm to the project that would occur if the vote were put off till 2014. The responsibility for expense of a special election is on opponents, not the city or PAHC. The city would be irresponsible to force PAHC to wait a year to be able to build - outrageous. Construction costs are skyrocketing and project funding is at risk. While opponents don't care about harm to PAHC and their ability to build affordable housing, most in PA do. There is no way opponents will be allowed to deprive us of this badly needed affordable housing by recision by the city council or putting off the vote for so long it destroys the project. That would be a terrible precedence. PAHC has a duty to defend the Maybell project strongly given the terrible attacks on itby opponents including the many statements saying they intend to "shut It down", or "run it out of town". This after 40 years of service to Palo Alto and our low income residents.


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Posted by stick to facts
a resident of Crescent Park
on Aug 6, 2013 at 9:09 am

"they seem to have underestimated the intelligence and commitment of the community to children's safety."
Seems like a purely emotional argument. Even with the re-zoning, it's still safer than Downtown.


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Posted by member
a resident of Barron Park
on Aug 6, 2013 at 9:56 am

The above comment is full of hyperbole. This referendum is about high density rezoning that is out of character with the neighborhood. It is about a project that will DECREASE safety for masses of school children on bikes by adding 72 housing units between two intensely busy routes to 4 schools. This is about an "acceptable" traffic study that did not even take into account the bike traffic on Maybell and Arastradero, and which used outdated data to support its findings. This is about inadequate parking and excess cars parking on adjacent streets. This is about seniors, who become unsafe drivers, and the unpredictable kids on bikes that are in their way. This is about warehousing independent seniors in locations that require driving to services. This is about questioning the integrity of selling taxpayer-funded land acquisition to a for-profit developer and giving that developer the high density allowances that the housing corp acquires by creating low cost housing. (None of the homes on Maybell and Clemo will be below market rate, and all are enabled to violate R1 lot size, setbacks, daylight plane. Five are in violation of height limits.) This is about the city loaning (now we find out over 7 million dollars...not 5.8 as was previously reported) the PAHC funds for this project PRIOR to having any public input about rezoning. This is about PAHC wanting to qualify for 19 million dollars in tax subsidies and needing to meet an application deadline no matter what the cost to the neighborhood. This is NOT about senior housing at all: it's about bad governance, bad placement, safety, parking, zoning, and lack of care for the taxpayers who ultimately are the funders of this project. We need a project that can live inside the rules. For all of the above reasons, the city is responsible for the cost of this referendum. If we do not ask citizens to step forward and challenge the process that created this, every neighborhood is at risk. High density using faulty "studies" to justify ABAG density requirements. The city should avoid this fight, and repeal their vote and save taxpayer dollars, and use the money "saved" for revising this plan. Lacking that, the referendum rules state that this be on the November 2014 ballot.


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Posted by mutti
a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Aug 6, 2013 at 10:54 am

60 seniors with probably fewer than 1 car each is much less traffic concern than 47 single-family homes with multiple drivers commuting at the same times as school starts. The 47 houses is what is allowed on this site with no zoning changes or special city allowances.
There are a lot of us in the city nearing 'seniorhood' who think this is a great idea and whole-heartedly support this project.


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Posted by More NIMBYism
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 6, 2013 at 11:05 am

These arguments are blatant NIMBY speak. "masses" of school children, "seniors who become unsafe drivers," get real. 60 seniors driving leaving home for errands after school begins is far less impact than 47 families......this same NIMBY speak blocked the development of the Hyatt Rickeys property, so they instead built to zoning, and look at the monstrosity we now have. Too bad the signers of the petition don't need to pay for the election if they fail.


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Posted by Craig Laughton
a resident of College Terrace
on Aug 6, 2013 at 11:13 am

>These arguments are blatant NIMBY speak

What is wrong with NIMBY? It reflects people wanting to protect their own properties and neighborhoods. Since you claim to be from Midtown, then put it to a vote there: Does Midtown want this project?


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Posted by Voter
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Aug 6, 2013 at 11:19 am

The "47 homes" argument is misinformation spread by PAHC. The actual number of units that could be built on such a small lot at the current zoning is closer to 20. If PAHC Did not want to face potentially project harmong delays, they should have performed a traffic study and analyses that did not pretend bicycles and schoolchildren simply don't exist on this designated safe route to school.

The developer has brought this referendum on themselves with their own arrogance and dismissive attitude to the parents whose kids would be endangered. They felt they had the project big, up to and including getting the city to invest tax dollars prematurely, and took this as license to steamroll the neighborhood. I'm glad the neighbors checked the rampant city abuse with the referendum, and if the city Council has any sense remaining, they will kill this debacle instead of doubling down on it with more wasted tax dollars.

I expect the city Council will completely roll over and invest more tax dollars in trying to help PAHC extricate themselves from this self-inflicted mess. The council has shown no backbone for holding PAHC accountable in the past and I do not expect them to start now. Shameful. Great work signature gatherers.


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Posted by curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on Aug 6, 2013 at 11:25 am

" Does Midtown want this project?"

Dead on, Craig. "NIMBY" is the desperate cry of someone who is afraid the project will be built in his/he own backyard if the other "NIMBY" successfully fights it off.


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Posted by Craig Laughton
a resident of College Terrace
on Aug 6, 2013 at 11:36 am

>I expect the city Council will completely roll over and invest more tax dollars in trying to help PAHC extricate themselves

Yep.

PAHC [portion removed] should be put out of business, because it is hurting Palo Alto. However, our city council has taken the bait, because it has bought into the flawed concept of a need for low cost housing in Palo Alto.


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Posted by Let's put everything to a vote
a resident of College Terrace
on Aug 6, 2013 at 11:36 am

Craig--shouldn't we wait for the vote on the referendum before we start engaging in your favorite past time--proposing expensive elections?
But why should Midtown vote on it? Green Acres/Barron Park did not have a vote on it--they did an informanl survey.


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Posted by neighbor
a resident of Green Acres
on Aug 6, 2013 at 12:13 pm

Oh brother. This neighborhood already has more affordable housing developments than any other RESIDENTIAL neighborhood in Palo Alto. There are already 4 affordable housing developments in a small area near this property, including next door, and 2 others in close proximity.

It's laughable that PAHC has been attacking neighbors with "NIMBY" charges when PAHC has a large development next door to the one they want to put at Maybell, and neighbors have been saying to just build the affordable housing under the existing zoning -- which, if they think it would allow 45 units, is nearly as many as the 60. If they put the 20 out of 24 senior BMR units that have gone unfilled at Moldaw for three years in service - which I understand this controversy has helped/will help them do - they'll have 65 senior affordable units from all of this, just as many, but if they build under existing zoning, they won't essentially be asking the neighborhood to bear the burden, they'll have to live with height, density, daylight plane, parking, and other restrictions that will lessen the burden to the neighborhood.

Please, other people who do not live here, stop with arguing over NIMBYism. It's a red herring used by PAHC to stir up emotion and divert attention from the real problems, like a 50-foot building where the current zoning allows only 30 feet, or the financing scheme that allows a market-rate developer to upzone and build substandard dense houses on the shirt-tails of the affordable project, or the lack of city-policy-promised "heightened scrutiny" of the development on heavily traveled school commute routes that are the only ways in and out of that property. In all this time, I have never heard people in the neighborhood make any of the nasty charges Elaine above has claimed, and I've seen good people wrestle with having to oppose a bad proposal while they want the affordable housing. Larry Klein, no friend of the neighborhood, even said that he's never seen so much "stonewalling" from an applicant (PAHC). PAHC has treated the neighborhood truly shabbily, and rolled out their boilerplate NIMBYism attacks, rather than compromising.

member above has it wrong, though. PAHC may have pushed the rezone too fast, but they didn't push it fast enough. The City's own staff report says the rezoning doesn't take effect until 31 days after the 2nd reading, in other words, end of July (and now, not at all because of the referendum). PAHC's funding application deadline was July 3, and if they certified the rezoning then as is a basic application requirement, it means they falsified a basic requirement under penalty of perjury. The funding is competitive, in other words, if they get money based on falsifying an application, they are taking it away from someone else with a worthy project who played by the rules. They are better off if there is a delay, or if the City overturns the zoning and goes for a community orchard-type arrangement which would allow the City to buffer PAHC from any losses they would otherwise have incurred because of unwisely choosing a site with such specific, serious, safety drawbacks from the infrastructure.


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Posted by Craig Laughton
a resident of College Terrace
on Aug 6, 2013 at 12:16 pm

>Craig--shouldn't we wait for the vote on the referendum before we start engaging in your favorite past time--proposing expensive elections?

Since the Maybell referendum is a done deal, then it will already go to a vote...unless the city council gets smart and cancels this turkey.

For other large decisions that affect our neighborhoods, they should go to a vote in each neighborhood, upon a post card survey (majority rules). Our city council can easily ignore surveys, unless it mandates a vote. To put it mildly, our city council is out of touch with the people who actually live in our residential neighborhoods [portion removed.]


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Posted by neighbor
a resident of Green Acres
on Aug 6, 2013 at 12:33 pm

@stick to the facts,

The traffic safety issues and the safety of our children is the crux of this whole thing for the neighborhood.

The development sits at a location that is a traffic bottleneck for the area. It sits between two streets, Maybell and Arastradero, that are both heavily traveled school commute corridors for 4 major schools, traveled by over 1,000 children on bicycle and foot every school day. There is not way to route traffic from the development out except via those school commute corridors.

Currently, there is an orchard and 4 ranch houses there, so any development will put traffic on those same school commute corridors, especially since the location is just not walkable to anything people need. Whether the traffic happens at peak times or not is irrelevant, since school traffic peaks throughout the day, and at unpredictable times. I live near a school and after years still have trouble planning around the school rushes.

One of the streets, Maybell, is of substandard width. There is no room to put even on full-sized bike lane or sidewalk. Even though Maybell has been the subject of a thorough and expensive safety review and six-figure improvement in the last few years, Despite the improvements, the stop sign in front of the school is regularly hit and sometimes hit so seriously it is knocked to the ground and has to be replaced on average once a month. Marc Berman, despite his being no friend of the neighbors and twisting anything he can in favor of the rezone, came out and looked and admitted it is unsafe.

The City's own policy is to accord those school commute corridors heightened scrutiny for development, yet they did not do an environmental impact report, they did only a mitigated negative declaration, and the traffic study failed to assess safety impacts to the bicycles and pedestrians, among other serious shortcomings. It may very well be, in that location, because of the all the developments the City has been approving willy nilly all around, the infrastructure in that location cannot safety take a dense development. Residents realize this because they live it.

The City refused their calls for better data so that we could be speaking from a good quality study, rather than emotion. Neighbors would have liked to argue the facts. That we don't have them is not for lack of effort on the neighbors' part to call for the comprehensive study. It's absolutely glaring that the City ignored its own policy in this, especially when it comes to the safety of our kids.

We take the safety issue dead seriously. Whether anyone thinks that's emotional or not is irrelevant. The City has a duty to safety, it has a duty to do the heightened scrutiny of the development, and in its zeal to approve the rezone because of the money it already loaned PAHC, it failed in its duty to thousands of children and their families. The parents will not be so cavalier with the safety of our kids.









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Posted by neighbor
a resident of Green Acres
on Aug 6, 2013 at 12:34 pm

Oops, clarification from the above (correcting typos):

The traffic safety issues and the safety of our children is the crux of this whole thing for the neighborhood.

The development sits at a location that is a traffic bottleneck for the area. It sits between two streets, Maybell and Arastradero, that are both heavily traveled school commute corridors for 4 major schools, traveled by over 1,000 children on bicycle and foot every school day. There is NO way to route traffic from the development out except via those school commute corridors.


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Posted by neighbor
a resident of Green Acres
on Aug 6, 2013 at 12:36 pm

Oops, another typo correction clarification:

One of the streets, Maybell, is of substandard width. There is no room to put even ONE full-sized bike lane or sidewalk. Even though Maybell has been the subject of a thorough and expensive safety review and six-figure improvement in the last few years, Despite the improvements, the stop sign in front of the school is regularly hit and sometimes hit so seriously it is knocked to the ground and has to be replaced on average once a month. Marc Berman, despite his being no friend of the neighbors and twisting anything he can in favor of the rezone, came out and looked and admitted it is unsafe.


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Posted by resident
a resident of College Terrace
on Aug 6, 2013 at 12:50 pm

While I am against widespread of "zoning changes", in this case I hope you will lose. Self-serving group of people like you give bad name to people who really have something to complain about.


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Posted by Garrett
a resident of another community
on Aug 6, 2013 at 12:51 pm

If the stop sign gets hit once a month and this project is not even built. It tells me that this area suffers from bad driving and impatient drivers. Time to seriously narrow streets down forcing drivers to slow down.


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Posted by Bill
a resident of Barron Park
on Aug 6, 2013 at 1:07 pm

> PAHC's funding application deadline was July 3, and if they certified the rezoning then as is a basic application requirement, it means they falsified a basic requirement under penalty of perjury.

Do we know the source or agency for this portion of PAHC's funding on the Maybell project? I and others would be happy to write a letter reminding their funding source of this detail.


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Posted by neighbor
a resident of Green Acres
on Aug 6, 2013 at 1:07 pm

@Garrett,
The area has a lot of teenage drivers because of the schools. The area has a lot of cut-through (impatient) traffic from Arastradero. The area has ALREADY had a street-narrowing on Arastradero to one-lane, which contributes to cut-through (impatient) traffic on Maybell, where the stop sign is. Maybell ALREADY Is seriously substandard in width and cannot be widened.

We have hit the limits of the infrastructure here. The City and Cal Trans have just made one very costly attempt to improve the safety, with heavy neighborhood involvement to push them to go further than originally intended, but the circumstances have limits. We do not need a huge dense development right in the middle of this.

But you make a good point. We can't even talk about what can be done or whether anything can be done, because the City refused to do a good quality study that looked at the impact on the bicyclists and pedestrians, and traffic safety, even though city POLICY is for "heightened scrutiny" of developments on school commute routes.


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Posted by neighbors
a resident of Green Acres
on Aug 6, 2013 at 1:16 pm

resident,
This neighborhood already hosts vastly more affordable housing developments than College Terrace, why do you think they are being "self-serving"? I have seen the opposition to the rezoning, and have seen no such self-serving sentiments. On the contrary, I've seen a lot of deeply caring people who have had to sacrifice much to fight for safety and the neighborhood, against a professional organization where people on salary have the luxury of attacking them as their day job. Many people who already live in the affordable developments here are opposed to the rezoning. Come with your children and walk a mile in our shoes, after school starts, on rain days.


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Posted by Ellie
a resident of College Terrace
on Aug 6, 2013 at 1:21 pm

Fact: the PA Weekly confirms up to 47 single family houses may be built by right on the property. Just as the city and PAHC have said.
Fact: the PAHC has never called anyone a nimby. Others have - hard not to when so many opponents state classic nimby arguments (oh I love senior housing - it just here isn't the right location). Groan.

[Portion removed.]


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Posted by neighbor
a resident of Green Acres
on Aug 6, 2013 at 1:30 pm

@Ellie,
Here we go again.

The Weekly REPORTED what the rezoning side has been saying about the number of units that could be built on the property. Joe Hirsch, former planning commissioner for Palo Alto, puts the number at more like 18 or less.

You think "47 single family houses" could be built on that orchard? I invite you to look at the satellite photo on Google maps: 567-595 Maybell, which is the address of the 4 existing ranch houses there to the left of the orchard. Do you think you could put 47 "single family houses" there in that orchard space to the right of it, with internal lanes, setbacks, and parking restrictions? Good luck.

The FACT is, that claim isn't even important. The City has the right to take over that property as a condition of the loans they made to buy it. If this thing falls through, it is within their power to take over the property and resell it with deed restrictions that prevent whatever catastrophic predictions they are holding over everyone's heads. If they think it's unsafe, they can prevent the unsafe from happening, fully within their power and without cost (as they claim the property will sell for more), and since a duty of the City in development is safety first, they have a duty not to let that unsafe scenario happen.


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Posted by "Fact?"
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Aug 6, 2013 at 1:32 pm

Ellie, you have a loose definition of the word "Fact."

> Fact: the PA Weekly confirms up to 47 single family houses may be built by right on the property.

This is highly deceptive. In order to build under current zoning, floor area ratios and setbacks must be honored. To fit 47 units, there would be no room for two car garages, back yards, etc. (and hence limited to studios and one bedroom units on tiny tiny lots). About 20 is the realistic number for a market-rate developer optimizing profits.

> Fact: the PAHC has never called anyone a nimby.

Wrong. The PAHC sent a letter to its' residents stating that a "vocal group of neighbors OPPOSED TO AFFORDABLE HOUSING" is fighting the project. The neighborhood is only fighting a high-density rezone, and for proper diligence (traffic studies, etc.) and mitigations.

[Portion removed.]


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Posted by resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 6, 2013 at 1:35 pm

I agree with Elaine above and others in the community who are so very tired of some comments slamming the character of the PAHC volunteer Board. Of course everyone is entitled to their own opinion on the Maybell project, but to slam PAHC with some of these ridiculous and inaccurate comments is maddening. The PAHC has a long history or helping individuals, families, and seniors in our area. I am not a PAHC volunteer but rather a Palo ALto citizen who personally knows people who have been helped by this wonderful organization. It's okay to fight zoning changes but please try and keep in mind how much good this organization has done in our community through their decades of work to help those less fortunate.


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Posted by neighbor
a resident of Green Acres
on Aug 6, 2013 at 1:51 pm

@Ellie,
[Portion removed.]

If you want facts and not emotion, perhaps you will join the neighborhood in demanding the City finally do the the traffic study it should have done, with current data, and looking at bicycle and pedestrian impacts and safety. We have been calling for good data, it is the City and PAHC who have refused it.

This area was the subject of serious safety concerns and debate before this development came up. My own email history is littered with letters within the neighborhood and school over bicycle and pedestrian safety problems involving Maybell. It's why there was such an expensive attempt to "improve" Maybell recently.

[Portion removed.]

As for their calling neighbors NIMBY's despite the fact that we already host more affordable housing developments than any RESIDENTIAL part of Palo Alto -- You are welcome to look at the streaming videos of the City Council meetings. [Portion removed.] Neighbors have invited PAHC to build under the existing zoning, which would give them almost as many units but lessen the impact to the neighborhood, but as Larry Klein commented, he has never seen so much "stonewalling" from an applicant. I happen to know of a neighbor who early on, even drove over to implore them to just reduce the height and the number of market-rate units to closer to the neighborhood, and they wouldn't.

[Portion removed.] They rolled out a boilerplate strategy without actually considering the circumstances or the people or the children. Many of their problems today stem from the fact that they have taken this stance and not listened to the actual facts and circumstances. There's a reason there is already so much affordable housing development already in the neighborhood and peacefully co-existing, yet this proposal is receiving all the pushback -- because there are real problems with this proposal, and PAHC and the City are not listening.

You are trying to set up a world where no one who has an affordable housing proposal ever does anything wrong and no matter how massive or out-of-character the proposal, the neighbors are in the wrong for opposing it. [Portion removed.]

So to state again, for neighbors at least, they are opposed to the REZONING, not to the affordable housing going there.


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Posted by neighbor
a resident of Green Acres
on Aug 6, 2013 at 1:56 pm

@resident of another community,

I, too, was a huge PAHC advocate before this. Just before this happened, I was actually talking up PAHC bigtime to a relative writing a book about affordable housing.

PAHC's behavior in this has been extremely disillusioning to the neighborhood, most of whom were also previous supporters. PAHC has taken the low road. [Portion removed.]

I'm still in favor of affordable housing in Palo Alto, but PAHC's behavior has really shaken my faith in them. Fortunately, there are other affordable housing operators in town, including the one to whom the running of the new development on Alma was given (it's not PAHC).


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Posted by fed up
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 6, 2013 at 3:22 pm

I vote that the board keep the zoning as it is and make the entire project an affordable housing one. Let's then see the BP crowd argue that their objection was about traffic, not home values, as they stomach the new configuration of the project.


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Posted by neighbor
a resident of Green Acres
on Aug 6, 2013 at 3:35 pm

@ fed up,
Since you seem to be new to this issue, you may be surprised to learn that, in City Council meetings before the rezoning, some neighbors have actually spoken publicly in favor of just what you propose. I have heard neighbors in neighborhood meetings ask bitterly why PAHC can't do that instead of foisting this massive scheme on us. One woman spoke before City Council and that was all she brought up -- please JUST put the senior housing there. Make the entire site affordable senior housing under existing zoning to lessen the burden on the neighborhood, and honor the setbacks and other design restrictions of the existing zoning.

I don't think anyone in this neighborhood has EVER argued that this is about home values, by the way. In case you haven't been reading the above, there is a lot of affordable housing development in this neighborhood already, including a large development next to the one being proposed. This really is actually about the limits of the infrastructure and the safety issues specific to that site. If the City had done the comprehensive traffic safety study, we could maybe be talking over actual data.


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Posted by Neighbor
a resident of Green Acres
on Aug 6, 2013 at 3:51 pm

@Bill,
"> PAHC's funding application deadline was July 3, and if they certified the rezoning then as is a basic application requirement, it means they falsified a basic requirement under penalty of perjury.

Do we know the source or agency for this portion of PAHC's funding on the Maybell project? I and others would be happy to write a letter reminding their funding source of this detail."

I don't think it's a good idea for neighbors to take it on themselves to do that. If you want to remind someone, remind the City Council this Thursday at City Hall during public commentary, because they have already been asked to withdraw any improper verifications of zoning already made, if made. The funding sources do their own investigations, and it's very unlikely that they would miss the public controversy over the rezoning of Maybell. Besides, the City knows very well the implications of the fact that they didn't actually meet the deadline, that there is now a CEQA suit, two referenda, and probably more opposition down the pike (contract zoning, violation of comprehensive plan, incurred liability, a PC zoning initiative especially if these referenda fail, etc etc) Better to address the City and ask them to listen to the residents and face facts, and reverse the rezoning now.

PAHC's application itself is public record and can be obtained through a public records act request. If you are considering any citizen involvement, I'd suggest you do so through an attorney, really. The application regulations are at
Web Link


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Posted by neighbor
a resident of Green Acres
on Aug 6, 2013 at 4:28 pm

@ Bill,
I think this may be the link to the City staff report where they said the rezoning isn't valid until 30 or 31 days after the 2nd reading. I got it from another Weekly forum thread, but wasn't able to download it to see. It says the statement is on Attachment A, page 6.
Web Link


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Posted by Greenacres Resident
a resident of Green Acres
on Aug 6, 2013 at 4:42 pm

How very ironic. With respect to the recently-passed vehicle dwelling ban, the Mercury News quoted Councilwoman Kniss as saying "We are attempting to take care of the needs of some of the neediest in our community and at the same time we are trying to take care of the safety of those residents who live in this community...and who have told us they are uncomfortable with the situation we now find ourselves in".

If the safety and repeatedly expressed discomfort of Maybell Avenue residents had been given the same consideration from City Council as the Cubberley residents, there would have been NO referendum and NO lawsuit.

This city talks out of both sides of its proverbial mouth.


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Posted by Crescent Park Dad
a resident of Crescent Park
on Aug 6, 2013 at 5:07 pm

[Portion removed.]

IMHO, the referendum goes beyond Maybell...it's all about the CC continuing to grant PC exceptions at an overwhelming rate. It's time to stop and (for a change) just stick with the existing zoning in *ALL* neighborhoods and/or districts in our city.

They have gone too far too often. Just stop it. If an expensive special election is required, then so be it. Clearly our current CC is not getting the message. Don't blame BP residents, NIMBYs or other concerned/involved citizens for a complete failure to listen and abide to the people of this city.

And please stop with the "you're against senior and/or housing" rants. I have no issues with either --- just build it within the current set of zoning parameters. It's just that simple!


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Posted by neighbor
a resident of another community
on Aug 6, 2013 at 5:42 pm

[Post removed.]


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Posted by Crescent Park Dad
a resident of Crescent Park
on Aug 6, 2013 at 5:48 pm

Crescent Park Dad is a registered user.

See, totally misrepresenting the issue. No one is saying you can't build senior housing at Maybell. All they are saying is build within the current zoning designation. How tough is this to understand?


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Posted by neighbor
a resident of Green Acres
on Aug 6, 2013 at 7:46 pm

@Crescent Park Dad,
Thanks for the supportive words. One note - BP/Greenacres residents for the most part think the City should save the money and just rescind the rezoning decision, which they have a choice to do with the referendum signatures verified now.

But if they wish the matter to go to a vote, it does not have to be that costly if they just put the ballot measures on the next general municipal election (in November 2014) pursuant to the City Referendum rules.  The Council is not being asked to spend taxpayer money on a costly special election, it is not required under the City Referendum rules.  The Council should not favor a single developer at the cost and expense to Palo Alto taxpayers.

See City Referendum Rules Article VI, Section 3 (5) <Web Link:

"the petition shall be found to be sufficient, the clerk shall submit the same to the council without delay and it shall be the duty of the council to reconsider such ordinance. If the council fails to entirely repeal such ordinance, it shall be the duty of the council to submit the question of the approval or rejection of such ordinance to the electors at the next general municipal election or a special election that shall be held not less than eighty-eight days from the date of the clerk's certificate of sufficiency and, until such election is held and the ordinance approved by the electors, such ordinance shall be suspended and inoperative.

So they have a choice, they do not have to hold a costly special election.


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Posted by stick to the facts
a resident of Crescent Park
on Aug 6, 2013 at 8:13 pm

@neighbor,

"The development sits at a location that is a traffic bottleneck for the area. "

Addison sits on Middlefield. Walter Hays is on Middlefield and Embarcadero. Your traffic is worse than these?


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Posted by Joe Rolfe
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Aug 6, 2013 at 8:39 pm

This is a disappointing display of NIMBY and perhaps selfishness. This site will be developed. 47 single family homes will generate more traffic, demand more municipal services, and add additional kids in an already crowded school system.

Is the real senior housing complaint about sharing the neighborhood with people who are different or poorer than they are? A healthy community is both compassionate and diverse.


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Posted by Voter
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Aug 6, 2013 at 9:00 pm

"This is a disappointing display of NIMBY and perhaps selfishness"

Says the man from Old Palo Alto, which supports essentially 0 affordable housing, to the neighbors in Barron Park, which have the most outside of downtown. How ironic.


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Posted by Joe Rolfe
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Aug 6, 2013 at 9:08 pm

Hi "Voter",

I would very much like to see a more affordable mix of housing in Old Palo Alto. In the past, I've tried to work on projects to accomplish this, Including a senior housing project.


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Posted by neighbor
a resident of Green Acres
on Aug 6, 2013 at 9:41 pm

@Joe Rolfe,
In case you didn't realize, this neighborhood is already the most diverse in Palo Alto, and has more affordable housing developments than any other RESIDENTIAL neighborhood. Seniors are actually the most prevalent demographic, and most of them are not wealthy, having bought in here many years ago.

As has been pointed out, the 47 homes is just a scare tactic that (assuming it's even possible, which it isn't) will only happen if City Council fails to do its duty to the neighbors in regards to safety, and to the rest of taxpayers when it comes to liability. Because the City loaned millions, they put conditions on the loan and can have total control over the property should this thing fall through.

In other words, they can and should put deed restrictions on the resale that would prevent 47 units from being built, if they believe it is possible and would be so dangerous. And they should do the traffic/safety review their own policy promises for developments on school commute corridors. If they fail to do this, given the amount of disclosure that has been made, anything that happens to a child because of it is on their heads, and the liability they incur for taxpayers will be a foregone conclusion and inexcusable.


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Posted by neighbor
a resident of Green Acres
on Aug 6, 2013 at 9:56 pm

@Joe Rolfe,
Well, speak of the devil. There is almost 1 acre property in Old Palo Alto for sale right now near Alma, in fact, far closer to Alma than Maybell is to El Camino.

Putting the same scheme as is being done to Maybell in practice, it could be PC zoned and turned into affordable housing. It's very expensive, so you would have to peel off a bigger chunk of it for very high density market-rate homes, but as they will benefit in price from being in Old Palo Alto, the developer will make a pretty profit and be willing to pay more on the promise of having it upzoned for his benefit, just like at Maybell. You could get 15-20 tall chimney homes on the market-rate end (maybe 47 by the City's math).

Then there will be half an acre on which to put a tall, high-density high-rise of 4 or 5 stories in the middle of the residential neighborhood. It's near Alma, and there are no affordable developments in Old Palo Alto, so residents would have no defense when the City rolls out the NIMBY steamroller. Since you are clamoring to have this done to Maybell, I'm assuming you'd have no problems getting your neighbors to invite such a thing to be done in the middle Old Palo Alto, which is far less diverse than Greenacres and Barron Park, economically or ethnically. Perhaps you will save us all the trouble of the election by inviting the rezoning to be moved to Old Palo Alto?

Naturally, I am writing with irony above, I do not personally think any neighborhood's zoning should be so violated. But you never know - are Joe Rolfe and his neighbors serious?


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Posted by neighbor
a resident of Green Acres
on Aug 6, 2013 at 10:20 pm

@ stick,

If Middlefield and Embarcadero have unsafe levels of traffic, and are the sole routes for thousands of children to make their way to those schools, are you saying the City shouldn't also scrutinize huge, high-density high-rise developments should they decide to make them possible through PC zoning on Middlefield or Embarcadero, catty corner to one of those schools as they are to Juana Briones Elementary?

City policy is of heightened scrutiny for developments on school commute routes, and they should have to do such traffic and safety analysis for major developments across from Walter Hayes or Addison, just as they should have across from Juana Briones Elementary but didn't.


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Posted by neighbor
a resident of another community
on Aug 6, 2013 at 10:47 pm

Although my previous comment was erased, it was simply in agreement with earlier posters who believe this project should be built. The number of seniors -- 60 --is actually low and not a threat to traffic or to any other safety issue.

Seniors are the best neighbors possible. [Portion removed.]


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Posted by neighbor
a resident of Green Acres
on Aug 6, 2013 at 11:16 pm

@stick,
As to the bottleneck. I'm talking about an actual, physical bottleneck because of the infrastructure at Maybell. The neighborhoods you mention are on grids with outlets in every direction. The Maybell property sits at a true bottleneck to Greenacres II right between the only routes in and out of the neighborhood, which are Maybell, and Arastradero between Foothill and El Camino. All of the neighborhoods on the east side of Arastradero ONLY outlet onto Arastradero on that same stretch. Greenacres II has no outlet at all to the south or to the west. The other neighborhoods I mentioned have no outlet at all to the north, south, or east.

Both of those streets are heavily traveled school commute corridors for 4 local schools. Maybell is SERIOUSLY substandard in width, there isn't even room for a full-sized bike path or sidewalk one either side, much less both. When traffic is at a standstill on the school commute routes, that's actually a serious scenario in an emergency that ought to be more carefully thought out, since it happens frequently. There are no other routes in and out of the proposed development except along those same routes.

Neighbors have expressed concern about emergency vehicle access and outlet, and potential evacuation in the event of emergency, especially since 4 schools are similarly affected. The City staff's advocacy for the project even went to the extent of compromising the fire department's safety review, since fire personnel rely on traffic staff to tell them when there is a problem, and traffic staff not only failed to do a comprehensive traffic study, they gave the fire department the inadequate conclusion as if it were the last word. City staff and PAHC then twisted the fire department's statement that they didn't expect problems reaching the proposed development (which is right across the street from the fire department) and claimed the fire department had independently reviewed the traffic for response times to the neighborhood, which never happened. Furthermore, when neighbors met with fire officials to get more information because of PAHC's claims, the City sent them a message in advance of the meeting, basically warning them that Council wanted the development to go forward and not to mess it up.

We here in Greenacres would join you if the City tried to make an unsafe situation worse over by Addison and Walter Hays by putting high-density developments in the middle of those neighborhoods. We hope you will support us in the same to restore our neighborhood character and demand the City take its responsibilities to safety seriously.


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Posted by neighbor
a resident of Green Acres
on Aug 6, 2013 at 11:19 pm

@ neighbor,
Your opinion about what is safe is no substitute for a proper traffic analysis, especially since the City has a policy of heightened scrutiny for developments along school commute routes. Not doing the safety analysis at all does not meet that standard.

Asking the City to follow its own policies and to put safety first (also in the comprehensive plan under traffic) is not exactly "hysteria". [Portion removed.]


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Posted by Neighbor
a resident of Green Acres
on Aug 6, 2013 at 11:22 pm

@neighbor from another community,

Seniors are not the problem here, the 4-story, 50-foot building in the middle of a residential neighborhood, where 30 feet is the height limit under the previous zoning, is. Neighbors are simply asking that things be built under the existing zoning -- meaning, the affordable housing development, under the existing zoning.


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Posted by Alice Schaffer Smith
a resident of Green Acres
on Aug 7, 2013 at 3:05 am

Alice Schaffer Smith is a registered user.

I support the proposed Maybell project. I have attended many of the meetings; the project has taken into consideration many of the suggestions made about not having garages open onto Maybell. The traffic on Maybell is unsupportable and therefore isn't the solution to make this street one way with a bike lane on the other side?

That will be a huge help and alleviate the risk to our biking children on Maybell. Traffic calming bumps in addition are called for. By making the traffic one way from West to East, Maybell will no longer be a "short cut" to the industrial park in the morning (or to Gunn High School).

Consider the yet to be seen impact of the development in Stanford Industrial Park at VmWare and Tesla, inter alia; then add the El Camino development including many housing and hotel units; the increase in traffic density is real.

Senior housing will be less impactive than market-priced housing with teens, potentially 4 to 5 cars per family or Stanford students renting as they currently do on Alma and similar locations in the city, if the R15 housing is developed in the orchard. And that development can be done without council approval; so I think we should support the Housing Corporation's fine work to address specific housing needs of our community and look for solutions to the existing traffic on Maybell.


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Posted by Jerry Underdal
a resident of Barron Park
on Aug 7, 2013 at 6:24 am

Jerry Underdal is a registered user.

@ Alice Schaffer Smith, a resident of the Green Acres neighborhood

Thank you for your post and for taking the risk of identifying yourself by name. Anonymous [portion removed] has made it difficult for people in the Barron Park/Green Acres neighborhoods to weigh in with views that run contrary to the Maybell opposition's expansive and long-repeated narrative.


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Posted by stick to the facts
a resident of Crescent Park
on Aug 7, 2013 at 8:43 am

@neigbor,
"We here in Greenacres would join you if the City tried to make an unsafe situation worse over by Addison and Walter Hays by putting high-density developments in the middle of those neighborhoods."

I guess you missed 800 high, Oak Court & other high-density developments on Channing and other areas of North Palo Alto. Why do you think Addison students are chronically overflowed?
Middlefield is always at a standstill during commute hours and there is no room for any bike lane.
Give up on this argument. If you have a problem with traffic on a street, you solve it. You don't use it as an argument to block all future development and do nothing about it for years, as seems to be the case here.


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Posted by pavoter
a resident of Barron Park
on Aug 7, 2013 at 9:28 am

@Alice - you don't mention the important and worrying precedents being set by the city. The reason I have a problem with this project is that the city did a back room deal. Money was loaned for this project before it was vetted, so the city needed to upzone no matter what. Upzoning without going through the proper process sets a bad precedent. Furthermore, taking R-1 homes on Maybell and replacing them with tall skinny townhouses sets a new precedent too that should concern all of Palo Alto.


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Posted by Alice Schaffer Smith
a resident of Green Acres
on Aug 7, 2013 at 9:41 am

Frankly, the McMansions going up all over town are worrying. We seem to be selling houses only to be torn down and rebuilt by the very rich. What has made Palo Alto special is that we have had a genuinely economically mixed neighborhoods where good education has been provided to all. The bias to the super rich and their progeny may backfire on the quality of life here. Professorville, College Terrace, South Palo Alto were all affordable middle class neighborhoods.


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Posted by Crescent Park Dad
a resident of Crescent Park
on Aug 7, 2013 at 9:42 am

Again....just stop with re-zoning/waivers and stick with what is on the books.

This is not rocket science.


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Posted by Ellie
a resident of College Terrace
on Aug 7, 2013 at 9:42 am

Whoa - how interesting that the poster from crescent park a couple comments above would use Oak Court as a cause of traffic problems and ivercrowded schools. Odd because Oak Court, all affordable housing, is one small component of many in a big 7-acre planned development that replaced PA Medical Clinic. It is no bigger than many other components, including upscale market rate condos right across the street. There are a lot of single family houses, agencies, etc. as part of this development. Stop scapegoating poor people's homes downtown and at maybell from where you live in the richest neighborhood in town.


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Posted by stick to the facts
a resident of Crescent Park
on Aug 7, 2013 at 10:01 am

@Ellie,
Try reading the whole post.
I also mentioned those across the street "other high-density developments on Channing". As well as 800 high. There are a load of recent high-density housing added Addison including low and high-income.

What was your point?


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Posted by inconvenient facts for opponents
a resident of Terman Middle School
on Aug 7, 2013 at 10:22 am

Inconvenient fact # 1: The Maybell site is NOT R1 zoning -- a fact the opponents are either deliberately obscuring in their statements or perhaps just clueless about. Key point is that if this site were to be developed under the existing R2 and R15 zoning, with the state's density bonus for affordable housing, the result would be much less compatible visually with what's across the street. It would look much more like the houses on the Rickey's site. Do not believe anyone who tells you otherwise.

Inconvenient fact # 2: What matters about the 60 senior affordable housing units is that 59 of them would be 600 sq feet one bedroom units. The traffic generated by these units during the peak morning commute on Maybell is minimal by any engineering standards. It would _not_ worsen the congestion. And by contributing $200,000 toward making continuous sidewalks on the south side of Maybell up to the adult crossing guard at Clemo, safety for anyone walking and biking would be improved 24/7.

Let's work together to manage the existing congestion which is due to school commute peaks and improve the safety for everyone. Holding the PAHC hostage on this issue is stunningly misguided.


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Posted by palo alto parent
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Aug 7, 2013 at 10:32 am

Ellie - next time you are downtown, drive around North of University. There are TONS of apartments, multi-family units, etc. Even most of the single family homes are on tiny lots. The Addison school area contains extensive high-density housing in addition to the new housing on High street and at the old PAMF location.

Walter Hays school area, on the other hand, contains only single family housing, but no vacant land that is not already schools or parks. It is also the most expensive acreage which makes it really tough to put anything affordable there. A 20 square foot lot sold for $9 million which makes it cost prohibitive...


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Posted by no rezone
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 7, 2013 at 10:36 am

@"And by contributing $200,000 toward making continuous sidewalks on the south side of Maybell up to the adult crossing guard at Clemo, safety for anyone walking and biking would be improved 24/7."

Palo Alto does not own the land to make these sidewalks therefore they would have to purchase the front yard of residents' yards in order to follow through with this.

Bottom line, there is no easy fix or answer to this issue.


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Posted by Neighbor
a resident of Green Acres
on Aug 7, 2013 at 12:21 pm

@inconvenient facts,

The site is well-known to be R-2 and RM-15 which are "LOW-DENSITY RESIDENTIAL" and low-density multi-family residential, in the middle of an R-1 area. They were slightly upzoned from R-1 as a transition area from the apartments that were historic exceptions. At the time, RM-15 at most had even fewer units than it does now.

The proposed development is the equivalent of RM-60, placing 60 units on 1 acre, so no, it's not worse to leave the existing zoning.

Existing zoning also includes limit on height, setback, daylight plane, parking, etc. For example, existing zoning has a height limit of 30-feet, the main building of the proposed development is almost 50 feet, and some of the market-rate houses exceed that, too. So no, you could not build anything like at Rickey's Hyatt under existing zoning, but they can, and will, under the PC zoning, which is why residents are holding the referendum.

This misinformation campaign is not only tiresome, it only makes PAHC look back to the neighbors. Will you please stop?


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Posted by Neighbor
a resident of Green Acres
on Aug 7, 2013 at 12:23 pm

Clarification:
The main building of the proposed development is almost 50 feet.
Existing zoning has a height limit of 30 feet.

Some of the market-rate houses exceed that, too (meaning the 30 foot limit).


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Posted by Neighbor
a resident of Green Acres
on Aug 7, 2013 at 12:27 pm

I just want to point out that despite the interplay here, the majority of Barron Park residents support overturning the rezoning, and among Greenacres II residents, the sentiment is nearly unanimous, because we are the most impacted by the overdevelopment of that property.


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Posted by Neighbor
a resident of Green Acres
on Aug 7, 2013 at 12:31 pm

I would also like to point out that among Barron Park residents and Greenacres II residents, not all, but the majority would have liked to see PAHC build the senior housing, just within the pre-existing zoning, or something close to it.

PAHC committed themselves to this financing scheme, where they buy a property they otherwise can't afford, promise a developer to upzone part of it for their benefit and sell it off in order to afford to put a higher-than-they-could-otherwise-build property next to it.

Palo Altans should be very concerned about letting anyone do this in the middle of a residential neighborhood, it essentially means no part of town is off limits to dense development, especially parts of Old Palo Alto and Professorville that are closer to thoroughfares like Alma and currently have no affordable housing but do have very large single lots.


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Posted by stick to the facts
a resident of Crescent Park
on Aug 7, 2013 at 12:46 pm

@neighbor,
As Ellie accidentally pointed out above, what is happening at Maybell is identical to what happened to the old PA Medical Clinic. With low-income and high-income dense housing estates including sub-standard lots for oversized houses to pay for it. The area was re-zoned to allow it.
You paint it as "doom and gloom" but it turns out it can be managed as part of the overall growth of the city. That's why we're arguing about a new elementary school. Yeah, reality sucks.
If there was an open site the size of Maybell of the old medical clinic in Old Palo Alto or Professorville, it would be up for grabs. Though if you could find one, I doubt the city could afford it.


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Posted by Neighbor
a resident of Green Acres
on Aug 7, 2013 at 6:35 pm

Refer to above post beginning with "speak of the devil..."

You keep trying to say Maybell is identical to other projects it s nothing like, to make false points. The Maybell circumstances are unique and unprecdented, which is why the rezoning has faced such unprecedented opposition in a neighborhood that already has, and supports, so much affordable housing already.

I'll tell you what is unique about this site. It is the last piece of historic orchard in Palo Alto. There are 100 trees that seem to be so established, they need no irrigation, that will be torn out for this development. There are 2 hundred year old oaks that suddenly and conveniently in the most opportune place for the developers, can no longer be saved. Maybe so, but given the lack of candor and honesty from the City in this, I'd want a second opinion.


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Posted by stick to the facts
a resident of Crescent Park
on Aug 7, 2013 at 8:12 pm

At least you've dropped the "think of the safety" argument. Now trying for "save the trees"?

"The Maybell circumstances are unique and unprecdented"
No they're not. The circumstances are identical to those along Channing. That resulted in severe overbuilding of the area. There is even a large child-care center on a busy street in the same locale made worse by all the building if you want to bring up safety again.


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Posted by Neighbor
a resident of Green Acres
on Aug 8, 2013 at 2:28 am

@stick,
Who has dropped the safety argument? The circumstances and concerns of the neighborhood have been well outlined, perhaps you might read what others write.

I don't know much about Channing. Are you saying that because the situation is unsafe on Channing that the Maybell neighbors should just live with a massive development proposed on an overburdened street of such substandard width that there is no room for even one full-width bicycle lane or sidewalk on either side? A street where the sign in front of the elementary school is hit regularly and knocked to the ground so it has to be replaced on average about once a month?

Are you saying there has been massive recent development on Channing - that it is a safe route to school of substandard width traveled by over a thousand children on foot and bike every school day - without any scrutiny as promised by the City's own policy?

If that's the case, then they are similar. But then, the neighbors at Channing deserve our support. Of which massive development are we speaking that is 50-feet tall and catty corner to the school that the City rezoned a residential area for recently?


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Posted by stick to the facts
a resident of Crescent Park
on Aug 8, 2013 at 10:31 am

As I've said above, if you already have an issue with traffic safety, that needs to be solved independent to this development. It's a non-argument in this case.

"But then, the neighbors at Channing deserve our support. "
As you supported them when they had a referendum against 800 High putting further burden on Addison and the children travelling to school? Web Link

"In places like Barron Park or Greenmeadow, I don't know if people will feel strongly about this, unless the proponents make a case that it effects them, too."

Where was your support then?!!!

Amazing how you've conveniently forgotten that election. Yeah, thanks for your "support"! You keep claiming this isn't NIMBYism but when the development isn't in your district you vote with the city.


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Posted by let's talk #s
a resident of Downtown North
on Aug 8, 2013 at 11:53 am

Barron Park and Greenmeadow residents say they're OK with having low-income senior housing on Maybell, but argue that adding 12 market-rate townhouses would increase traffic to an unacceptable level, endangering the safety of children biking to school. What about a single market-rate townhouse? What number of new townhouses do neighbors think would be acceptable for that area?


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Posted by Crescent Park Dad
a resident of Crescent Park
on Aug 8, 2013 at 12:44 pm

It's not just the MR houses. It's the re-zoning. It's the height limit getting re-zoned from 30 feet to 50 feet.


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Posted by no rezone
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 8, 2013 at 4:44 pm

As much as this is about the neighborhood and the everyday issues this really is about up-zoning property for the benefit and gain of the developers. This is happening all over Palo Alto and the City has a long list of future projects. This is not really about who lives on the property (seniors are welcome) but it is about the quality of their life and the sustainability of the neighborhood. We need a plan for Palo Alto as it grows with increased population at VMWare, Google, downtown, Stanford, the schools, etc. Right now the comprehensive plan and zoning needs to be followed. Palo Alto deserves a well thought out plan for the future. If the plan is not working then work needs to be done on changing it before these random acts of re-zoning continue.


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Posted by Responding to Alice
a resident of Green Acres
on Aug 8, 2013 at 5:13 pm

@Alice,

The problems on Maybell began when Arastradero was narrowed. Common sense would tell you that the traffic will move to alternative routes when Arastradero became a parking lot, and it did.

Making Maybell one way is not the solution. The solution is to undo the road diet on Arastradero and use Arastradero as the arterial road it is. Maybell is a little, narrow side street, go see for yourself.

BTW, I have many pictures of the traffic problems on Maybell, taken on many different days. I asked both this paper and the Merc to publish pictures of what Maybell looks like when school is in session and the weather is bad. Neither paper was willing.


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Posted by stick to the facts
a resident of Crescent Park
on Aug 8, 2013 at 6:15 pm

"this really is about up-zoning property for the benefit and gain of the developers. "

So was 2003. What has changed? Where is the "public benefit" promised from 800 High? The only difference is that it's now in YOUR neighborhood and you want support from other neighborhoods that voted against in 2003. Karma and all that.


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