Palo Alto protests 'unachievable' housing goals Schools & Kids, posted by Editor, Palo Alto Online, on Dec 11, 2007 at 2:49 pm
A housing goal assigned to Palo Alto is "unachievable" and would burden the school district and city services, according to a lengthy letter opposing the Association of Bay Area Governments (ABAG) housing allotment for Palo Alto.
Read the full story here Web Link posted Tuesday, December 11, 2007, 4:43 AM
Posted by Seriously?, a resident of the Crescent Park neighborhood, on Dec 11, 2007 at 2:49 pm
Seriously? The population of Palo Alto has only grown by 4.7 percent over the past 30 years (that's in the letter)? Huh, now I understand how there's no way in hell I can afford to buy a house in the town I grew up in. Maybe people should stop being so close-minded and allow other people to share in the paradise that this city represents by allowing it to grow.
And you complain about stress on schools? Maybe if the city had planned for growth and not shuttered and sold off its schools (like in Crescent Park), we'd be more prepared. How's about we play catch up and expand our schools to make room. Taxes from new properties will more than pay for it.
Posted by Mike, a resident of the College Terrace neighborhood, on Dec 11, 2007 at 3:30 pm
Last evening's Council commentary on a letter of rejection (of housing requirements) to be sent to ABAG was enlightening - especially as it followed an earlier debate about whether to form an Environmental Commission in Palo Alto.
In an irony of major proportions, two of three main supporters of the Environmental Commission - Mayor Kishimoto and Vice-Mayor Klein both spoke to parochial interests and constraints, without once mentioning the environment - as they both supported a letter that is essentially a whining, excuse-laden document about why Palo Alto is not going to - and *can't* (we'll get back to this in a minute) meet the ABAG housing requirement, and do its share to make this an environmentally sustainable region. Kishimoto and Klein were joined by Council members Cordell, Morton, Drekmeier, Kleinberg, and Beecham - with only the latter three admitting that the Council position is contradictory to stated "green" policy.
On this issue, the only Council members showing real leadership, conviction, and courage last evening were Dena Mossar and John Barton, with Mossar (a "large E" Environmentalist) seriously calling the document (which should be characterized as "Palo Alto's Big Whine") into question.
Mossar showed true leadership in her questioning of the document's whining tone, and thus its failure to offer any alternatives to the proposed ABAG requirement.
Barton called into question PAUSD conclusions (and others) that he labeled "disingenuous".
A further irony is that Mayor Kishimoto - who made "Innovation in Government" one of her clarion calls, has failed to approach this ABAG requirement - with all its implications for environmental responsibility - with even one iota of innovative solution. All we've heard from the Mayor on this issue is "no".
Perhaps the Mayor (and the rest) should give a listen to Al Gore's Nobel acceptance speech (ironically, given yesterday), where he again calls our environmental problems an "Inconvenient Truth" - implying that we WILL be inconvenienced by some of the solutions to the environmental problem, and that we will require LEADERS who can take us to the next level of innovative action.
Where was the leadership and innovation last evening? With the exception of Mossar and Barton, it was MIA.
Council members Kishimoto and Klein - both self-proclaimed "environmentalists" (spelled with a small "e" for good reason, in this instance) showed their true colors last evening - with the color "green" not being among them; in addition to five of their fellow City Council members, they were followed by one School Board member (Barb Mitchell) and Lee Lippert, the Chair of Palo Alto's Planning Commission, the latter (on this issue) having been altogether berift of any overt concern for the large environmental and sustainability picture that the ABAG requirement is meant to address.
It's been revealing to read the Planning Commission's commentary about ABAG, with members like Arthur Keller and Pat Burt (recently elected to City Council) openly opposing ABAG (including Keller's often mocking and derisive comments re: the ABAG request. I'm sure the latter will play well in Sacramento with those who are going to be passing judgment on Palo Alto's whiny little note, full of reason why we can't meet ABAG's requirements *without even ONE alternative suggested".
Clearly, Palo Alto policy makers, for the most part, showed their true colors last evening. As well, other members of other policy bodies clearly showed that Palo Alto is looking more and more - like so many other private sector entities, just another greenwashing entity, looking for the easy sound bites and photo ops that paint a pretty picture of environmental leadership, but failing to act significantly when the rubber meets the road toward action and real solution-making.
Dena Mossar pointed out last evening (to paraphrase) that we either are (environmentalists and innovators) or we're not; it was a stark point that revealed the truth about what lies inside all the *convenient* talk and action about the *inconvenient* truths we're having to face.
With respect, my advice to Council members Kishimoto, Klein, Drekmeier, Kleinberg, Beecham, Morton and Cordell (especially Drekmeier (who sent a bulk main about Gore's speech to his supporters)) is that they read the full text of Al Gore's Nobel acceptance speech, and think hard about the real difficulties of making policy in this time. Then, consider how courage, leadership, and conviction - qualities that all the aforementioned have shown at other times - can be called upon again to meet our most serious challenges to the environment, and come up with innovative solutions to our jobs/housing imbalance in a way that maintains the essential integrity of our community, and at the same time takes Palo Alto and our region forward to a time when we can HONESTLY call ourselves a "green" community, because we ACT like one.
Note the commentary about leadership and hard choices. the lessons from this speech should not be lost by our - and neighboring - City Councils
SPEECH BY AL GORE ON THE ACCEPTANCE
OF THE NOBEL PEACE PRIZE
DECEMBER 10, 2007
"Your Majesties, Your Royal Highnesses, Honorable members of the Norwegian Nobel Committee, Excellencies, Ladies and gentlemen.
I have a purpose here today. It is a purpose I have tried to serve for many years. I have prayed that God would show me a way to accomplish it.
Sometimes, without warning, the future knocks on our door with a precious and painful vision of what might be. One hundred and nineteen years ago, a wealthy inventor read his own obituary, mistakenly published years before his death. Wrongly believing the inventor had just died, a newspaper printed a harsh judgment of his life's work, unfairly labeling him "The Merchant of Death" because of his invention - dynamite. Shaken by this condemnation, the inventor made a fateful choice to serve the cause of peace.
Seven years later, Alfred Nobel created this prize and the others that bear his name.
Seven years ago tomorrow, I read my own political obituary in a judgment that seemed to me harsh and mistaken - if not premature. But that unwelcome verdict also brought a precious if painful gift: an opportunity to search for fresh new ways to serve my purpose.
Unexpectedly, that quest has brought me here. Even though I fear my words cannot match this moment, I pray what I am feeling in my heart will be communicated clearly enough that those who hear me will say, "We must act."
The distinguished scientists with whom it is the greatest honor of my life to share this award have laid before us a choice between two different futures - a choice that to my ears echoes the words of an ancient prophet: "Life or death, blessings or curses. Therefore, choose life, that both thou and thy seed may live."
We, the human species, are confronting a planetary emergency - a threat to the survival of our civilization that is gathering ominous and destructive potential even as we gather here. But there is hopeful news as well: we have the ability to solve this crisis and avoid the worst - though not all - of its consequences, if we act boldly, decisively and quickly.
However, despite a growing number of honorable exceptions, too many of the world's leaders are still best described in the words Winston Churchill applied to those who ignored Adolf Hitler's threat: "They go on in strange paradox, decided only to be undecided, resolved to be irresolute, adamant for drift, solid for fluidity, all powerful to be impotent."
So today, we dumped another 70 million tons of global-warming pollution into the thin shell of atmosphere surrounding our planet, as if it were an open sewer. And tomorrow, we will dump a slightly larger amount, with the cumulative concentrations now trapping more and more heat from the sun.
As a result, the earth has a fever. And the fever is rising. The experts have told us it is not a passing affliction that will heal by itself. We asked for a second opinion. And a third. And a fourth. And the consistent conclusion, restated with increasing alarm, is that something basic is wrong.
We are what is wrong, and we must make it right.
Last September 21, as the Northern Hemisphere tilted away from the sun, scientists reported with unprecedented distress that the North Polar ice cap is "falling off a cliff." One study estimated that it could be completely gone during summer in less than 22 years. Another new study, to be presented by U.S. Navy researchers later this week, warns it could happen in as little as 7 years.
Seven years from now.
In the last few months, it has been harder and harder to misinterpret the signs that our world is spinning out of kilter. Major cities in North and South America, Asia and Australia are nearly out of water due to massive droughts and melting glaciers. Desperate farmers are losing their livelihoods. Peoples in the frozen Arctic and on low-lying Pacific islands are planning evacuations of places they have long called home. Unprecedented wildfires have forced a half million people from their homes in one country and caused a national emergency that almost brought down the government in another. Climate refugees have migrated into areas already inhabited by people with different cultures, religions, and traditions, increasing the potential for conflict. Stronger storms in the Pacific and Atlantic have threatened whole cities. Millions have been displaced by massive flooding in South Asia, Mexico, and 18 countries in Africa. As temperature extremes have increased, tens of thousands have lost their lives. We are recklessly burning and clearing our forests and driving more and more species into extinction. The very web of life on which we depend is being ripped and frayed.
We never intended to cause all this destruction, just as Alfred Nobel never intended that dynamite be used for waging war. He had hoped his invention would promote human progress. We shared that same worthy goal when we began burning massive quantities of coal, then oil and methane.
Even in Nobel's time, there were a few warnings of the likely consequences. One of the very first winners of the Prize in chemistry worried that, "We are evaporating our coal mines into the air." After performing 10,000 equations by hand, Svante Arrhenius calculated that the earth's average temperature would increase by many degrees if we doubled the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere.
Seventy years later, my teacher, Roger Revelle, and his colleague, Dave Keeling, began to precisely document the increasing CO2 levels day by day.
But unlike most other forms of pollution, CO2 is invisible, tasteless, and odorless -- which has helped keep the truth about what it is doing to our climate out of sight and out of mind. Moreover, the catastrophe now threatening us is unprecedented - and we often confuse the unprecedented with the improbable.
We also find it hard to imagine making the massive changes that are now necessary to solve the crisis. And when large truths are genuinely inconvenient, whole societies can, at least for a time, ignore them. Yet as George Orwell reminds us: "Sooner or later a false belief bumps up against solid reality, usually on a battlefield."
In the years since this prize was first awarded, the entire relationship between humankind and the earth has been radically transformed. And still, we have remained largely oblivious to the impact of our cumulative actions.
Indeed, without realizing it, we have begun to wage war on the earth itself. Now, we and the earth's climate are locked in a relationship familiar to war planners: "Mutually assured destruction."
More than two decades ago, scientists calculated that nuclear war could throw so much debris and smoke into the air that it would block life-giving sunlight from our atmosphere, causing a "nuclear winter." Their eloquent warnings here in Oslo helped galvanize the world's resolve to halt the nuclear arms race.
Now science is warning us that if we do not quickly reduce the global warming pollution that is trapping so much of the heat our planet normally radiates back out of the atmosphere, we are in danger of creating a permanent "carbon summer."
As the American poet Robert Frost wrote, "Some say the world will end in fire; some say in ice." Either, he notes, "would suffice."
But neither need be our fate. It is time to make peace with the planet.
We must quickly mobilize our civilization with the urgency and resolve that has previously been seen only when nations mobilized for war. These prior struggles for survival were won when leaders found words at the 11th hour that released a mighty surge of courage, hope and readiness to sacrifice for a protracted and mortal challenge.
These were not comforting and misleading assurances that the threat was not real or imminent; that it would affect others but not ourselves; that ordinary life might be lived even in the presence of extraordinary threat; that Providence could be trusted to do for us what we would not do for ourselves.
No, these were calls to come to the defense of the common future. They were calls upon the courage, generosity and strength of entire peoples, citizens of every class and condition who were ready to stand against the threat once asked to do so. Our enemies in those times calculated that free people would not rise to the challenge; they were, of course, catastrophically wrong.
Now comes the threat of climate crisis - a threat that is real, rising, imminent, and universal. Once again, it is the 11th hour. The penalties for ignoring this challenge are immense and growing, and at some near point would be unsustainable and unrecoverable. For now we still have the power to choose our fate, and the remaining question is only this: Have we the will to act vigorously and in time, or will we remain imprisoned by a dangerous illusion?
Mahatma Gandhi awakened the largest democracy on earth and forged a shared resolve with what he called "Satyagraha" - or "truth force."
In every land, the truth - once known - has the power to set us free.
Truth also has the power to unite us and bridge the distance between "me" and "we," creating the basis for common effort and shared responsibility.
There is an African proverb that says, "If you want to go quickly, go alone. If you want to go far, go together." We need to go far, quickly.
We must abandon the conceit that individual, isolated, private actions are the answer. They can and do help. But they will not take us far enough without collective action. At the same time, we must ensure that in mobilizing globally, we do not invite the establishment of ideological conformity and a new lock-step "ism."
That means adopting principles, values, laws, and treaties that release creativity and initiative at every level of society in multifold responses originating concurrently and spontaneously.
This new consciousness requires expanding the possibilities inherent in all humanity. The innovators who will devise a new way to harness the sun's energy for pennies or invent an engine that's carbon negative may live in Lagos or Mumbai or Montevideo. We must ensure that entrepreneurs and inventors everywhere on the globe have the chance to change the world.
When we unite for a moral purpose that is manifestly good and true, the spiritual energy unleashed can transform us. The generation that defeated fascism throughout the world in the 1940s found, in rising to meet their awesome challenge, that they had gained the moral authority and long-term vision to launch the Marshall Plan, the United Nations, and a new level of global cooperation and foresight that unified Europe and facilitated the emergence of democracy and prosperity in Germany, Japan, Italy and much of the world. One of their visionary leaders said, "It is time we steered by the stars and not by the lights of every passing ship."
In the last year of that war, you gave the Peace Prize to a man from my hometown of 2000 people, Carthage, Tennessee. Cordell Hull was described by Franklin Roosevelt as the "Father of the United Nations." He was an inspiration and hero to my own father, who followed Hull in the Congress and the U.S. Senate and in his commitment to world peace and global cooperation.
My parents spoke often of Hull, always in tones of reverence and admiration. Eight weeks ago, when you announced this prize, the deepest emotion I felt was when I saw the headline in my hometown paper that simply noted I had won the same prize that Cordell Hull had won. In that moment, I knew what my father and mother would have felt were they alive.
Just as Hull's generation found moral authority in rising to solve the world crisis caused by fascism, so too can we find our greatest opportunity in rising to solve the climate crisis. In the Kanji characters used in both Chinese and Japanese, "crisis" is written with two symbols, the first meaning "danger," the second "opportunity." By facing and removing the danger of the climate crisis, we have the opportunity to gain the moral authority and vision to vastly increase our own capacity to solve other crises that have been too long ignored.
We must understand the connections between the climate crisis and the afflictions of poverty, hunger, HIV-Aids and other pandemics. As these problems are linked, so too must be their solutions. We must begin by making the common rescue of the global environment the central organizing principle of the world community.
Fifteen years ago, I made that case at the "Earth Summit" in Rio de Janeiro. Ten years ago, I presented it in Kyoto. This week, I will urge the delegates in Bali to adopt a bold mandate for a treaty that establishes a universal global cap on emissions and uses the market in emissions trading to efficiently allocate resources to the most effective opportunities for speedy reductions.
This treaty should be ratified and brought into effect everywhere in the world by the beginning of 2010 - two years sooner than presently contemplated. The pace of our response must be accelerated to match the accelerating pace of the crisis itself.
Heads of state should meet early next year to review what was accomplished in Bali and take personal responsibility for addressing this crisis. It is not unreasonable to ask, given the gravity of our circumstances, that these heads of state meet every three months until the treaty is completed.
We also need a moratorium on the construction of any new generating facility that burns coal without the capacity to safely trap and store carbon dioxide.
And most important of all, we need to put a price on carbon -- with a CO2 tax that is then rebated back to the people, progressively, according to the laws of each nation, in ways that shift the burden of taxation from employment to pollution. This is by far the most effective and simplest way to accelerate solutions to this crisis.
The world needs an alliance - especially of those nations that weigh heaviest in the scales where earth is in the balance. I salute Europe and Japan for the steps they've taken in recent years to meet the challenge, and the new government in Australia, which has made solving the climate crisis its first priority.
But the outcome will be decisively influenced by two nations that are now failing to do enough: the United States and China. While India is also growing fast in importance, it should be absolutely clear that it is the two largest CO2 emitters -- most of all, my own country -- that will need to make the boldest moves, or stand accountable before history for their failure to act.
Both countries should stop using the other's behavior as an excuse for stalemate and instead develop an agenda for mutual survival in a shared global environment.
These are the last few years of decision, but they can be the first years of a bright and hopeful future if we do what we must. No one should believe a solution will be found without effort, without cost, without change. Let us acknowledge that if we wish to redeem squandered time and speak again with moral authority, then these are the hard truths:
The way ahead is difficult. The outer boundary of what we currently believe is feasible is still far short of what we actually must do. Moreover, between here and there, across the unknown, falls the shadow.
That is just another way of saying that we have to expand the boundaries of what is possible. In the words of the Spanish poet, Antonio Machado, "Pathwalker, there is no path. You must make the path as you walk."
We are standing at the most fateful fork in that path. So I want to end as I began, with a vision of two futures - each a palpable possibility - and with a prayer that we will see with vivid clarity the necessity of choosing between those two futures, and the urgency of making the right choice now.
The great Norwegian playwright, Henrik Ibsen, wrote, "One of these days, the younger generation will come knocking at my door."
The future is knocking at our door right now. Make no mistake, the next generation will ask us one of two questions. Either they will ask: "What were you thinking; why didn't you act?"
Or they will ask instead: "How did you find the moral courage to rise and successfully resolve a crisis that so many said was impossible to solve?"
We have everything we need to get started, save perhaps political will, but political will is a renewable resource.
So let us renew it, and say together: "We have a purpose. We are many. For this purpose we will rise, and we will act."
Posted by puleeze!, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Dec 11, 2007 at 4:08 pm
green green blah blah blah - fine. Explain how houses in Palo Alto are greener than houses in other cities. Are there jobs in palo Alto? Really? Where are they? Specifically. I live in Palo Alto and I commute out - and so most other working people (Sure there is a big fat comfy contingent who are 'stay at home' moms or luxuriously retired who don't commute here, and don't commute anywhere else either!
How about we start by getting Palo Altans' employed in Palo Alto (now THAT would be green) - but that can't be done because these jobs are a figment of your imagination. People will move to Palo Alto as commuters. Period. That argument is a total FAKE put forth by real estate developers who want to suckle at Prime PAUSD real estate.
Posted by Things Cost, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Dec 11, 2007 at 4:32 pm
> Taxes from new properties will more than pay for it.
Pay for what? The financing of the PAUSD is very complicated--given that it is a Basic Aid school district and there are so many properties within the boundary of the PAUSD that contribute nothing in property taxes. The PAUSD does not include the capital costs of the school sites in its budget in any meaningful way, so the actual costs-per-child are somewhat higher than people realize. The incremental "ad velorum" and special taxes of additional residential properties will not cover the costs of additional school services and building needs.
Posted by No More Apartments!, a resident of the Barron Park neighborhood, on Dec 11, 2007 at 8:32 pm
No, no, no! We don't need anymore apartments or houses. At this rate, we will soon be forced to open up a third high school. (And I don't hear anyone jumping for joy to pay for it.) Anybody remember Hyatt Rickeys? It was replaced with a bunch of ugly condos. What we really need are more businesses. How about more supermarkets to generate taxes? I do all my shopping in Mountain View. "Puleeze" has it right! We need more stores and less houses!
Posted by PA mom, a resident of the Crescent Park neighborhood, on Dec 12, 2007 at 10:13 am
I agree with the request for more practical stores - I'd love to be able to grocery shop in PA instead of Menlo Park or Mountain View
I also know VERY few people who live in Palo alto and work in Palo Alto. Most people I know moved here for the quality of the schools and communte to other towns. The ones I know who work in PA and live elsewhere do so for non-housing issues (spouse works in the other direction, elderly parents, more rural setting...)
The Council didn't say we shouldn't add any new housing, just that the goals were not attainable.
Posted by not buying it, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Dec 12, 2007 at 10:26 am
Lets see MIke and Seriously and others who claim this is all about being 'green' put their money where their mouths are. If the city council approves this growth, I say they approve it along with ordinances that say this growth must be 100% green. For example, lets start with zero parking spaces per unit. That's right - no cars needed here. These new residents are going to be GREEN, and they're going to be stepping out their front door and walking across the stree to work or to the train station - so what do they need cars for. Each unit should get a bike locker instead of a car garage. Secondly, 100% electrity self generated through solar/wind energy. Water self-recycled. So forth.. (There are plenty of GREEN building strategies that can be incorporated - from water and energy conservation to recycled building materials.
Oh, and don't forget the nice big fat developers fees to retrofit the schools (and build the new required schools) to the green building standards as well.
Too expensive to build you say? Whats the matter - worried that the developers won't make any money$$$? Yep being green is expensive, but hey - that what this is ALL about isn't it??
Posted by not buying it, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Dec 12, 2007 at 10:42 am
In fact! If they are required to build these units with solar/wind power generation built in - then they could actually subsidize themselves! instead of the taxpayers of palo alto subsidizing them. Its perfect, they can be required to generate 200% (or more - whateve it takes to self-fund) of the energy required for that complex, then sell the unused portion back to the city utility -thereby creating a subsidy fund to be distributed back to the homeowners or builders over time. (or whoever is lining up for that subsidy windfall)
Wow, now THATs green!
(I mean sure, the developers might cry about how all this green energy construction will be cutting into their profits on the front end - but I'm sure they won't mind - after all this all about stepping up to the plate, right?
Posted by Mike, a resident of the College Terrace neighborhood, on Dec 12, 2007 at 11:11 am
not buying it, Good ideas about going green - everything you say could be done, with a moderate exception for very limited parking, with just *one* parking unit per property, and adjacent neighborhoods parking permitted to prevent parking overflow. This would be an effective way to create an incentive for one-car households. Also, the parking spaces (maybe underground, if soil conditions permit) would be sized for compact cars - no Ford Suburban would fit in a space.
Of course, along with all this, we would insist that our - and neighboring - policy makers would be working overtime with each other, and officials at county and state levels to create truly effective mass transit solutions. This would be an ongoing mandate.
Things cost, YOu're right about some of the funding constraints re: PAUSD, but remember, PAUSD has 3.5 sites *already available*. This, in addition to the fact that school sites can nicely be built UP (look at Los Gatos and San Mateo schools, and others, for excellent examples). So we DO have physical capacity to handle the additional student load that WILL happen here. Let's not kid ourselves.
We will, as we have in the past when Palo Alto expanded, find the means to pay for a higher student load. I see no current new thinking around this. Instead, PAUSD and city policy makers are going on the defense. Thus, we are evolving a public policy stance that SHRINKS from leadership, and plays defense. It's embarrassing - especially in a place where real innovation has been part of our tradition (at least in the private sector sphere.
It IS getting a little old to hear certain public policy officials claiming innovation as their birthright; there has been little to show for it on this issue.
PA mom, the ABAG goals will no doubt be negotiated, but I wouldn't hold out hope that they will be greatly reduced. There are those anti-ABAG residents who spew their amateurish projections about forward population growth - projections that run counter to local, state, and national planning organizations who know a thing or two about population demographics and migration patterns.
The fact is that California - and our region - is going to grow at a rate close to 20-30% within the next 2-3 decades. There's no reason we can't find ways to better manage the growth that we have already attained, and the growth that we know is coming.
It's important to keep pointing back to those who have vision on the environment, and how that vision relates back to the housing issue.
California - for lots of reasons - is a growth magnet. Those that decry more housing - especially in-fill housing along transport corridors - because they say that "commuting will continue anyway" are only correct insofar as we fail to do nothing to implement effective mass transit.
Thus, the anti-ABAG, anti-planning-for-growth advocates (because that's what their position comes down to - i.e. continued suburban sprawl) create through their own machinations a continuation of a growth process that has *gotten us into the mess we're in*.
The anti-ABAG folks are *definitely* implying that growth should continue to sprawl throughout this state, and damn the consequences, as long as they can preserve some mythic, long-past ideal of a bucolic, pastoral exurbia.
The only way they get around that contradiction (one, among many) is to make the further false claim that growth will not occur. If you believe the latter, I have a bridge to sell you.
For those who are worried about retail, we should immediately begin to create incentives for housing built over retail. This is a great way to maximize space, and create walkable neighborhoods.
IN sum, the arguments so far generated against ABAG are invented over a subtext. That subtext is defined by the phrase "we don't want new housing because we just don't want to have to invent new logistics and other necessary infrastructure to manage it". THAT's the main argument; it's an argument that translates to "we don't want change". This is in direct opposition to the spirit that settled this Valley.
It's high time we lived up to the tradition we keep praising ourselves for being a part of, generate some enthusiastic and visionary political will, and MAKE the future happen - instead of whining about the inevitable, and as a result costing ourselves (and our environment, and health, etc. etc) a LOT of future pain.
Posted by Thats what I thought, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Dec 12, 2007 at 11:32 am
No, I didn't say one car housing and parking underground. I said step up to the plate for the green ideal, as you say we should be, and make this mandatory no-car housing. Afterall they're all working, shopping, going to school and playing right across the street from where they live in your utopia - why do they need cars?
Oh, you mean there's inadequate infrastructure in place to support that vision?
Posted by Mike, a resident of the College Terrace neighborhood, on Dec 12, 2007 at 11:39 am
that's what, And that's what will - in the end - cause your side to fail. Your side appears absolutely unwilling to show good faith toward an effort to moderate the impacts of growth that we know is coming. That was made plainly clear in the less-than-good-faith-letter that our City Council is sending to Sacramento. I would love to be a fly on the wall when that letter is discussed, and then passed around from agency to agency, in Sacramento.
You ask about infrastructure; I ask about political will. I have not see one iota of support for vastly increased mass transport coming from your side. Thus, your self-fulfilling prophecy (lack of transport infrastructure). Thus, the lack of serious attention and consideration your side's rather weak plea will receive when it comes down to decision time.
Posted by perspective, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Dec 12, 2007 at 11:48 am
Hey Mike, I'm not in support of sprawl. I'm in support of paying the right price for the resources we use. Yes, we should be paying alot more for gas (because the market model should be pricing in the cost of environmental impact.) We should be paying alot more for disposing of garbage (and alot more for product packaging) - factoring in environmental costs), and we should be paying alot more for using up space, air and water resources - same reasoning. Not alot less.
Subsidized housing is no greener than subsidized oil.
Posted by Jim, a resident of the Downtown North neighborhood, on Dec 12, 2007 at 12:07 pm
There are far more people driving down Alma Street than riding the Caltrain on the adjacent tracks. "Vastly increased mass transport" won't happen as long as there's an option to drive. The Human Element may be inconvenient, but it has to be taken into account.
Building massed housing on the deep peninsula will only give us urban population densities with suburban driving habits -- the worst possible combination. Stop and go traffic on clogged roads generates enormously more CO2 than freely-flowing traffic.
Posted by Pirates, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Dec 12, 2007 at 2:19 pm
The real truth of the matter is that the 'green' argument is a false pretense - if the problem is 'we need to be more environmentally sound' then the solution is in transportation and alternative energy and conservation, not in packing people in like sardines.
And the fact that the ABAG pushers are pushing dense home building without any regard to infrastructure solutions first - proves that they really don't care about the green issue at all. Its a "convenient' stick they can use to bludgeon communities that don't normally buy in to growth, into going along with their development designs.
The FACT is that if a builder spends an amount to build a dense housing project here, they spend the same amount to build a dense housing project somewhere else - they will reap 5X the sales price, and therefore 5X the profit for the Palo Alto sale than they will for a Sacramento sale or even an east bay sale. The bottom line is its about the real estate developers' bottom line - they've found a way to write in to law that they get to force prime real estate communities that have so far protected their quality of life to hand over their treasure for next to nothing
They're nothing but pirates, trying to use environmental arguments to cover their greed grab. And anyone dare to argue with WE MUST BE GREEN argumetns? Heck no. Its almost a perfect cover for them. Its the new form of callng someone a racist. Nothign like calling someone a racist to humiliate them into shutting up.
Posted by Mike, a resident of the College Terrace neighborhood, on Dec 12, 2007 at 3:10 pm
"And the fact that the ABAG pushers are pushing dense home building without any regard to infrastructure solutions first - proves that they really don't care about the green issue at all."
This is a poor attempt to construct a straw man argument *against* environmental responsibility.
Professional (public and private) planners, environmentalists, housing advocates, green advocates - ALL have condemned the continuing sprawl in California (and elsewhere).
It's true that a comprehensive mass transit (and other) infrastructure must *accompany* (scale in) with housing growth, but to make an attempt to present sound environmental policy look like a developer conspiracy is one more in a legion of falsehoods that we can expect from those who want to push the consequential problems of our success into the laps of others.
Posted by Mike, a resident of the College Terrace neighborhood, on Dec 12, 2007 at 6:09 pm
PA Mom, "we are realists who would like Palo Alto to grow at a pace we can keep up with while maintaining a wonderful city"
I respectfully disagree with your main assumption - i.e. that we will not have a "wonderful city" if we experience the growth that ABAG requests. How can you know that? What dire predictions are implied in your statement.
The devil re: your assumption is in the details. Can the state, or the region, control its incoming growth? I don't think so - at least not to any extent that would be significant.
Thus, while Palo Alto and some of its neighboring communities sit on their hands, or complain incessantly about new growth, growth will continue anyway - with much of it contributing toward more sprawl, which is *doubly* dangerous for our environment, and this region's economy.
We must attack this problem NOW, with haste, before we come closer to tipping points that require even more dire consequences, most of which will be far less palatable than the meager requirements (comparatively speaking) that ABAG is requestiing of us, and our neighbors.
Can you imagine how much worse off our roadways and bridges will be if sprawl continues?
Can you imagine the continued lame response to mass transit needs if development funds are diverted to sprawl.
Can yuo imagine how many more 10's-of-millions of tons of Co2 will pour into our atmosphere if we neglect our responsibility to get cars of the road, people closer to workplaces, and sound mass transit in place?
Can you imagine what all that will COST us in real dollars and quality of life?
"Wonderful life"? I think we're in danger of ruining what we have left of our so-called wonderful life, if we don't take action to change the irresponsible development patterns that have evolved over the past 3/4 century.
Posted by C02-Is-A-Natural-Gas, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Dec 12, 2007 at 6:31 pm
> Can yuo imagine how many more 10's-of-millions of tons
> of Co2 will pour into our atmosphere if we neglect our
> responsibility to get cars of the road, people closer to
> workplaces, and sound mass transit in place?
CO2 is a natural gas. Once in the atmosphere, it eventually finds its way into living matter (photosynthesis) and O2 is generated for living things to breathe, or combines with water to form a natural acid (carbonic acid) or is "fixed" in shells of invertebrates or minerals (such as carbonates).
People shouldn't vilify C02, but accept it as one of the gases necessary to sustain life.
Posted by John, a resident of the College Terrace neighborhood, on Dec 12, 2007 at 6:58 pm
"Can yuo imagine how many more 10's-of-millions of tons of Co2 will pour into our atmosphere if we neglect our responsibility to get cars of the road, people closer to workplaces, and sound mass transit in place?"
If the goal is to reduce carbon emissions, then let's sign on to nuclear/solar power contracts. It really is as easy as that. Densification will make little or no difference (in terms of CO2), but it will drastically affect our lives here in Palo Alto.
So-called sprawl is horrible to those who already have their piece of the pie, but it is a wonderful opporunity for those regular folk who want to live the American dream, like many of our current police and fire and utility folks. They refuse to live in itsy-bitsy BMR units with their three kids per family. Mike is ignoring the needs of families...he is content to focus on non-family occupants. He claims to have raised kids here, but he shows no sympathy to the needs of families with kids in Palo Alto. His main beef, when it is distilled to its pure form, is CO2 and his lack of control of individual choice. Another word for this phenomenon is 'urban planner'.
Palo Alto should continue to try to encourage new jobs with intellectual content. Our future is our brains, not our brawn. Our housing will reflect our marketplace. We should demand efficient trains (for mass transit) and low cost (and nearly limitless) nuclear energy. However, whatever we do, we should oppose ABAG mandates as well as any more BMR units.
Posted by generous, a resident of the College Terrace neighborhood, on Dec 12, 2007 at 7:11 pm
Rather than expect people to give up their 4-bedroom homes in Tracy for BMR studios in Palo Alto, why not create more jobs in Tracy? That will be a win for the environment, for the residents of that community, and for that town's economy. Let's spread the wealth around!
Oh, wait...never mind. That solution wouldn't make anyone rich, so no power-wielding quasi-government entities are likely to support it.
Posted by David, a resident of another community, on Dec 12, 2007 at 7:15 pm
I agree with Pirates - "Green" is about greed. Al Gore's venture fund and "carbon credits" scam is at the top of the list. Get past the emotion and look at the science..."global warming" is a scam. Man-made impact is not scientifically proven...it's a fantasy. Oh that's right, it's a "concensus". Didn't it used to be a concensus that the Earth was flat? Don't get me wrong, we shouldn't trash the planet, but all this hype about going green is simply meant to consolidate political power and investment. No doubt, there's business/political interests that will label their drab "green" to win approval, but don't buy into it! If you're so convinced that mankind is at fault, and you want to do all you can do to eliminate your carbon footprint, stop breathing.
As for housing, face-it...Palo Alto is an expensive enclave populated by a bunch of elitist NIMBY's who want to keep high-density, "affordable" projects out of the community. Could you imagine what would happen if the "little people" lived here?
Posted by believe in human migration, a resident of the Monroe Park neighborhood, on Dec 12, 2007 at 7:16 pm
Mike, the way to limit growth is to only replace what we have. Building denser and denser housing means only that more and more people move here, more cars (can't outlaw them), more everything. If we don't build denser, cheaper housing, more people don't come here. They move elsewhere and build up less dense areas.
This is happening all over California. I don't want our town to become a major city of over 100,000 people in the name of "Green". It is circular thinking and I reject it. I prefer to let natural human migration occur, which means people will move to areas they can afford and build them up.
Posted by Mike, a resident of the College Terrace neighborhood, on Dec 12, 2007 at 7:33 pm
"If we don't build denser, cheaper housing, more people don't come here. They move elsewhere and build up less dense areas."
Thanks. A perfect definition of sprawl.
And what do you think will happen (i this very large state) when Tracy is bursting at the seams? THere is no way around the fact that we need to develop with a plan, and stop sprawl; that's what ABAG is designed to do.
Posted by OhlonePar, a resident of the Duveneck/St. Francis neighborhood, on Dec 13, 2007 at 1:06 am
Hasn't anyone noticed that there's a *surplus* of housing in places like Tracy. That nationwide the real-estate market's in dire straits?
Why on earth do we need to build 2000-plus units in Palo Alto when there are empty houses on the market all over the place.
New construction pollutes. We have enough housing right now. Pirate's right--insisting that Palo Alto, one of the very, very few places where prices haven't fallen, isn't about the environment, it's about developers wanting to build in one of the few areas where they can sell homes.
And the obvious thing to do re: commuting is to create more incentives for telecommuting.
And as to why Palo Alto's population hasn't risen much in 30 years--it's kind of obvious--the city's been built-out for years.
Posted by Goose, a resident of the Crescent Park neighborhood, on Dec 13, 2007 at 10:10 am
In response to Puleeze: "green green blah blah blah - fine. Explain how houses in Palo Alto are greener than houses in other cities. Are there jobs in palo Alto? Really? Where are they? Specifically. I live in Palo Alto and I commute out - and so most other working people (Sure there is a big fat comfy contingent who are 'stay at home' moms or luxuriously retired who don't commute here, and don't commute anywhere else either!"
I'm starting a job in downtown Palo Alto in January. Facebook (not my employer) will also be DOUBLING in size over the next year (HQed in dtPA) -- and they give $600 bonus each month to anyone living within a mile of the office. There are and will be more jobs in Palo Alto. And people (me included) want to live near them.
Posted by Mike, a resident of the College Terrace neighborhood, on Dec 13, 2007 at 10:14 am
"Hasn't anyone noticed that there's a *surplus* of housing in places like Tracy. That nationwide the real-estate market's in dire straits?"
Haven't you noticed one report after another - and one responsible state, city, and county planner after another - saying that continued sprawl is a threat to our local economy, long term, as well as creating an undue burden on the environment.
Built out? By whose standard? By the standard that says 2500+ sq ft single family homes with basements is the only way to go? By those who say the 50' height limit is sacrosanct? By those who say we can't build multi-story school buildings, like other communities do? By those who whine about how homes built in PA won't drive people to mass transit, as they themselves do NOTHING to encourage their policy makers to move aggressively toward new mass transit models? By those who think Palo Alto is some mythic suburban nirvana, only beyond whose borders the problems of mortals lie?
Yes, there are houses in Tracy; there are also houses in lots of other outlying suburbs that require 1.5-2 hour *one way* daily commutes? What does THAT cost.
Ohlone Par, but you're behind the curve on the inconvenient truth that ALL cities on the Peninsula - not just Palo - MUST DO THEIR PART in helping to abate suburban sprawl, and the problems associated with sprawl.
We're in a friggin' WAR because we have an inordinate dependancy on oil. INordinate commute times require lots of that resource.
We are dumping 10's-of-millions if tons of Co2 into the atmosphere, just because we have not had the long term vision to MAKE sure that people don't have to commute 4 hours every day.
There are MASSIVE health and corporate efficiencies that go begging because we have not been able to re-make the myth that a home in the 'burbs is the ideal American goal.
OP, there is going to be some INCONVENIENCE, as we reorder our housing and commute patterns, as well as other long-ingrained habits. That's the way it is. Suck it up, and let's get on to solving this problem, because it isn't going away.
Posted by Goose, a resident of the Crescent Park neighborhood, on Dec 13, 2007 at 10:15 am
PA Mom said: "Many of us who protest the numbers of the ABAG are not anti-growth or even anti-ABAG, we are realists who would like Palo Alto to grow at a pace we can keep up with while maintaining a wonderful city. "
And you're comfortable with 4.7 percent over 30 years? Because that's the growth rate. Shameful.
Posted by Not buying it, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Dec 13, 2007 at 10:56 am
Mike you keep wanting to say that building more houses in Palo Alto solves the environmental problems, when in fact if you want to solve the environmental problems the actual issue is transportation and alternative fuel and energy technologies.
Because Mike - there are no jobs, (no public transportation, and virtually no walking accessible city services) in Palo Alto.
Building more houses has nothing to do with solving the issues you claim to want to solve - global warming (which I believe is a real issue) is a convenient excuse for real estate developers to use for packing in to a town with ripe real estate values - like Palo Alto.
Its completely unrealistic to assume that with population growth you can keep all the bodies contained to one developed area. As people pack in, the quality of life is degraded and human nature will inevitably be to escape overcrowded cities and towns (and tiny stacked up homes) to spread out. Instead of putting YOUR head in sand and whining about sprawl, Mike, you should be recognizing that a second and third concentrated "bay area' like urban center must inevitably happen in California.
And then, if it was environment that you actually did care about (which I don't believe), you would be hounding the ABAG equivalent in those areas (such as the the builders and city planners in Roseville) to QUIT bulding 5000-10,000 square foot houses for families of 4, and asking for legislation that asks those areas to knock that nonsense off to make reasonable land per person allocations in those new upcoming areas.
Mike the majority of residents here in palo alto live in 1000 square foot homes built in 1950. Have you ever even been in Palo Alto?
If you want to stop sprawl, then you should be be after legislation that prevents unchecked building in open space areas that builders are gobbling up all over the state.
And if prices rise because housing is more scarce - so be it. It's exactly the right thing to happen when resources (land space) gets scarce. Its totally appropriate for the price of real estate in prime locations to be HIGH.
If you want less car polution (which you claim is your agenda), then you should be after the oil and auto indutries (and the crooked politicians that represent their interests) to change their technologies to green energy technologies. You should be after company's to foster telecommuting in a real way.
But instead you're harping on the rights of builders to build more houses in Palo Alto. It DOESN'T HOLD WATER.
(Mike, why so adamant about 2000 more units in Palo Alto? Why not LA? Sacramento? South San Francisco? What's so magical about units in Palo Alto? all those places are close to employement centers and have transportation and would not represent "sprawl". Could it be the magical real estate values in Palo Alto?)
The trumped up excuse about why its an absolutely necessity to build 2000 units in Palo Alto to solve environmental problems - with no actual solutions on the issues that REALLY effect the environment, but with an ASSURED degredation of the environmetn here in Palo Alto - a bunch of garbage - everyone sees through it.
Posted by Mike, a resident of the College Terrace neighborhood, on Dec 13, 2007 at 11:20 am
Not buying it,
Good points on how to improve our environment; I agree with every one of them, except for the argument that Palo Alto and other California cities should continue to AVOID THEIR FAIR SHARE of responsibility to contain sprawl.
I would love to see development access to far outlying areas abated (by law, if necessary); we should also go after the oil and auto companies; we should support a woman's right to choose abortion; we should insist on making developers pay for their fair share of impact; we should insist on mass transit that is an order of magnitude better than what we have today; we should *mandate* conservation levels, and insist that certain wasteful behaviors change (through incentive pricing and policy), and so on
We should also do our fair share to stop sprawl, and redress our jobs/housing imbalance - as well as improve our city by increasing its diversity and dynamism.
Posted by skeptic, a resident of the Crescent Park neighborhood, on Dec 13, 2007 at 11:48 am
Mike, I notice you haven't responded to several posters' comments about developing more urban centers rather than trying to concentrate all development in our area. What you call "sprawl," most others see as the kind of positive growth that has characterized this country. If our country's founders had had the same feelings about "sprawl" that you do, we would all be living in 50-story buildings in the 13 original states...and I doubt any of us would be enjoying it much.
Also note that it is hard to sell any of us on California's need for high density housing when there are brand new single family homes on the market all over the state--and no buyers for them, even though prices have been slashed dramatically.
Posted by Mike, a resident of the College Terrace neighborhood, on Dec 13, 2007 at 11:58 am
"I notice you haven't responded to several posters' comments about developing more urban centers rather than trying to concentrate all development in our area"
That would create more sprawl, under the guise of relieving sprawl. What you call "positive growth" has now been officially redefined by every major planner in the business.
"houses all over the state" that go unwanted leads to a conclusion that people don't want them, wouldn't you say? (especially since you appear a free market type [even there is no such thing as perfect markets])
Most people *want* to live near work (within reasonable limits). That's a good thing, because this is exactly what the ABAG initiative will enable, as we begin to change our development patterns for more healthy alternatives.
Posted by Just-Say-No, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Dec 13, 2007 at 12:09 pm
> and they give $600 bonus each month to anyone living
> within a mile of the office
It would be more impressive if they would start building housing for their employees, rather than creating an arbitrary "shortage" for the time that the company is located in Palo Alto.
Companies move all the time, and there certainly is no room in downtown Palo Alto for a large technology company to expand as much as it would like. While some technology companies have lasted in Downtown PA for a goodly number of years, most have move out because of high rental costs, and/or mergers/acquisitions that have move personnel to more cost-effective locations for R&D activities.
Posted by John, a resident of the College Terrace neighborhood, on Dec 13, 2007 at 12:15 pm
It is abundantly clear that Mike (and other "planners") want the power of control. It is a Stalinist mindset, but that doesn't bother them (they know what is right). The omelette they are scambling will break many eggs...and they intend to enjoy every broken shell.
Happily, Palo Alto citizens will reject their ambissions.
Posted by Mike, a resident of the College Terrace neighborhood, on Dec 13, 2007 at 1:01 pm
About rethinking: ABAG's detractors might consider that their numbers, and power, are small - relative to who can do what, and the absolute number of people who want change, statewide.
From these threads (about which ABAG has been informed) to the lame excuses for "why we can't meet our responsibilities to our region, or the environment" - excuses that are an embarrassment to our tradition of innovation, and the "can do" attitude of those who made this place what it was (a tradition that seems to have been overrun by those who talk one game, and walk another)
Posted by Lanny D, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Dec 13, 2007 at 1:37 pm
"From these threads (about which ABAG has been informed)..."
Is this supposed to be some sort of Orwellian threat to which we cower in the fear that some sort of secret ABAG police are about to descend on Palo Alto to coerce compliance with its Big Brotherish directives? Is ABAG going to subpoena the Weekly for our real identities so those of us who don't have the correct thinking on housing quotas can be sent to re-education camps?
If not, what is the relevance of telling us that ABAG "has been informed"? Widespread public dissatisfaction among Palo Alto residents with ABAG has already been formally communicated to them in the form of a protest letter sent by the City. I'm glad that ABAG knows most residents consider them overbearing and out of touch with the needs of Palo Alto (and the other cities who are protesting.)
Maybe the poster above who alluded to a Stalinist mindset on the part of ABAG supporters is onto something.
Posted by Mike, a resident of the College Terrace neighborhood, on Dec 13, 2007 at 2:28 pm
"Is this supposed to be some sort of Orwellian threat"
No, it's a counter to the modern Orwellian doublespeak spouted by a number of citizens who on the one hand call themselves environmentalists, but on the other hand, when the rubber meets the road, fail to live up to the tenets of that moniker.
There are many citizens in this Valley who want to do the right thing, even though it means some temporary inconvenience. We are determined to let our state officials know that there is another side to the incessant whining coming from those who are showing their true colors re: the environment (among whose spectrum the color 'green' is conspicuously missing).
As far as what *most* residents want, I don't think we know that, because "most" residents don't even vote (a darned shame). As far as what most residents of this state want, we're going to find that out soon enough.
What's apparent to this observer is that the primary objections to ABAG's numbers are coming from the very same group of citizens who have made it their business to hold up residential and retail development in Palo Alto for the last 15-20 years. That, and sadly from an otherwise well-focused group of policy makers who - among them self-styled, staid environmentalists - seem to have lost their way in the search for convenience, among a passel of inconvenient truths.
Posted by Jeremy Loski, a resident of the Ventura neighborhood, on Dec 13, 2007 at 2:50 pm
Palo Alto is acting like a spoiled brat. I want more housing here including more affordable housing. Like Mike says, we're losing our way, and throwing our Valley-leading traditions aside - in favor of the puny excuse that says "we can't".
Posted by Mike, a resident of another community, on Dec 13, 2007 at 3:21 pm
What "Valley-leading traditions"? Silicon Valley? Here's Palo Alto triumphalism at its zenith again.
The Silicon Valley phenomenon happened in Mountain View, Sunnyvale, and Santa Clara, after Palo Alto had burned out (or grown out of) its own techhie phase. It's had a few tech crumbs since, but crumbs hardly a banquet make.
Palo Alto is post-Valley. It's major leadership contribution to Silicon Valley has been to lead the phenomenal housing price runup.
Posted by Mike, a resident of the College Terrace neighborhood, on Dec 13, 2007 at 3:33 pm
PA *did* play an early role - you're correct. To hear some around here speak, one would think that the DNA from those days had embedded itself here. Not so.
Palo Alto *is* post-Valley - I agree.
That said, this is a talented community with good people - many of whom would be shocked if they had the time to follow debates on things like retail development, housing development, infrastructure development, and so on.
Why would they be shocked? Because they would be taken back by the same small number of City Council chamber regulars - along with about 75-100 stalwart old-timers here who have been *against* anything that would contribute toward making this community a leading beacon of political policy change - for its own citizens, and the region.
Like you, I have begun to cast a cynical eye on the self-congratulatory statements that many citizens and leaders have been making about the environment, and the state that our State is in.
When it comes down to crunch time - all the paeans to the environment, fair housing (even though out past BMR housing rates are good), etc. - it appears that a small group of those who would be leaders are looking for the easy way out.
Posted by Neighbor, a resident of the College Terrace neighborhood, on Dec 13, 2007 at 4:01 pm
go to Web Link for some good studies on the consequences of suburban sprawl
Suburban sprawl - which is one of the major problems that the ABAG effort is meant to address causes:
Shortened lives, and other health problems
"Study: Oregonians' lives shortened by sprawl: Car-centered sprawl shortens Oregon residents' lives because it contributes to some of the state's leading health risks, reports Cascadia Scorecard 2006: Focus on Sprawl and Health...The 2006 Cascadia Scorecard expands on research that shows a link between sprawl and health risks, such as obesity, chronic illness and fatalities from car crashes. The report also rated Northwest states on other trends, including energy use, wildlife, population growth, pollution and economic security...Seattle, King County and Washington state have made progress in combating suburban sprawl. But there is a lot more to do. The struggle is more urgent than most of us tend to think."
Posted by Josh, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Dec 13, 2007 at 4:37 pm
While Palo Alto officials and residents maintain the insane cost of living around here, the Palo alto Company where I work is laying off many of it's Bay Area employees in favor and re-hiring in Houston, were people can actually afford to live. Ironically, there is increasingly empty office space around here. Maybe this living where you work issue is working itself out.
Posted by Alyssa, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Dec 13, 2007 at 5:05 pm
Josh is pretty much right. The ABAG housing really is a solution looking for a problem. If companies can't afford to hire workers because the ABAG housing isn't built, they'll put their lower wage jobs in Houston.
It's important to remember that this growth isn't inevitable, as some have asserted. If we don't build the ABAG housing, the growth that would have occurred as people occupied this housing won't happen. And as Josh points out, companies who can't hire workers here because prices are too high and commutes are too long will head elsewhere for their expansion.
We have a choice in the matter of how we develop as we should. I agree with those who say we should vote to express that choice clearly to ABAG (and any of the council members who waver as they quiver in fear of the ABAG storm troopers who are monitoring this forum. Who do you think spilled the beans about us to ABAG?!)
Posted by Josh, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Dec 13, 2007 at 5:16 pm
No, there is definitely a problem. Just pointing out that while you sit on your inflated million dollar property, unless your very gifted children become CEO's, they will not be able to live near you when they grow up.
My employer can hire workers here (deep pockets), but it makes no sense if the talent (employees) can get more for thier earning power somewhere else?
Posted by There's-Only-So-Much-Room-Here, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Dec 13, 2007 at 6:56 pm
> The Silicon Valley phenomenon happened in Mountain View,
> Sunnyvale, and Santa Clara, after Palo Alto had burned out
> (or grown out of) its own techhie phase.
Given the number of tech businesses that have come along over the years, there was no space for them in Palo Alto. By 1970, just about all of the livable space was claimed for houses, schools, parks and other government purposes.
Posted by Paul, a resident of the Downtown North neighborhood, on Dec 14, 2007 at 1:06 pm
Palo Alto property stays unaffordable because people keep buying Palo Alto property no matter how unaffordable it gets. Palo Alto is a very desirable place to live.
A sure way to break this escalator is to make Palo Alto a much less appealing place. ABAG offers the perfect solution.
Go directly to the source. Bust the price spiral at its cutting edge. Let the city or ABAG emiment domain strategically-placed blocks in the leading cost escalator neighbrhoods -- Crescent Park and Old Palo Alto. Clearcut them and build the mandated affordable housing projects there.
It can't miss. The resulting revolution will sweep ABAG from the universe.
Posted by Paul is wrong, a resident of the Fairmeadow neighborhood, on Dec 14, 2007 at 1:18 pm
more housing would mean a more diverse population with less commutes, properly scaled as Palo Alto grows in the next several decades, would make Palo Alto a MORE desirable place to live. Property values in established neighborhoods will rise, retail variety will increase, and we will evolve (hopefully, along with neighboring municipalities) a far more municipally and environmentally stable profile.
Posted by The rest of the story?, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Dec 14, 2007 at 1:54 pm
Now lets see - huge housing glut across california, including Bay Area, and the green solution (ala ABAG) is to tear down stuff, fill the landfill with tons of demo debri, burn up natural resources to build new stuff, instead of using up what already is built all over the state.
Perhaps ABAG's charter should be changed to figure out how to get employement to locate where the housing is instead of to build more and more and more houses.
And how does the ABAG vision jive with the other article we just saw that says that the bay level is going to rise three meters and sink everything east of 101, and some low lying areas west of 101, in the next 50 years or so. It says we need to build levees and relocate threatened infrastructure, but in the meantime we're over here madly building dense housing to satisfy ABAG? Reading the other article, sounds like there should be a MORATORIUM on building in Palo Alto until that is figured out.
If ABAG is reading this, then maybe someone in ABAG would like to tell us how the Palo Alto population and housing numbers should look after 20% of Palo Alto is under water.
Or we could just keep building like mad, and rename Palo Alto; New New Orleans.
Posted by Paul, a resident of the Downtown North neighborhood, on Dec 14, 2007 at 2:39 pm
"My dear," said the Queen in a matter of fact voice, "more housing would mean a more diverse population with less commutes, properly scaled as Palo Alto grows in the next several decades, would make Palo Alto a MORE desirable place to live. Property values in established neighborhoods will rise, retail variety will increase, and we will evolve (hopefully, along with neighboring municipalities) a far more municipally and environmentally stable profile."
"I can't believe THAT!" said Alice.
"Can't you?" the Queen said in a pitying tone. "Try again: draw a long breath, and shut your eyes."
Alice laughed. "There"s no use trying," she said: "one CAN'T believe impossible things."
"I daresay you haven't had much practice," said the Queen. "When I was your age, I always did it for half-an-hour a day. Why, sometimes I've believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast."
Posted by neverland, a resident of the Duveneck/St. Francis neighborhood, on Dec 14, 2007 at 3:58 pm
"Perhaps ABAG's charter should be changed to figure out how to get employement to locate where the housing is instead of to build more and more and more houses."
That's part of the *comprehensive* solution that the anti-ABAG crowd argues *against*. Ironic, eh?
Actually, there have been many proponents of moving jobs to areas that have cheaper housing on this thread and other threads. Most of those people have been anti-ABAG. In fact, the only person who has argued against this solution is Mike, who suggests that rejecting ABAG's numbers is irresponsible. Transforming a housing/jobs balance that should be resolved by natural market forces into some kind of ethical struggle.
The ABAG sock puppets make no effort to enlighten; rather, they are the people perpetrating the "stories, myths, and fiction" on this board.
Posted by Wonderland, a resident of the College Terrace neighborhood, on Dec 14, 2007 at 5:17 pm
Mike points out that increasing the density of Palo Alto will reduce the pollutants produced by traffic in Palo Alto and from people driving to Palo Alto and from Palo Alto.
It is hard to imagine. But he argues that a higher density of population will force better mass transit, and change the dynamics of commuting to work. This is related to lower income earners or BMR residents not commuting out of Palo Alto (perhaps because they can't afford the gasoline to commute to jobs outside of Palo Alto).
But the last 20 years of growth has made it *less* convenient to live in Palo Alto with or without a car. I'm not sure, but my own observations are that there are actually *fewer* options to travel without a car in Palo Alto (I went without a car here a few years in the early eighties). And traveling by car involves much more stopping, waiting and polluting than it did 20 years ago. Why would further increasing the population density reverse this trend? The argument is that the problem is "not enough people." It is wonderland. Adding lower income people to Palo Alto is supposed to fix our transportation problem. Actually, it will likely increase the number of older cars on the local roads and add to the pollution.
Surely this problem will grow exponentially as we further overpopulate our roads, schools and other resources?
This is called, "thrashing." We're close to it.
Or perhaps the argument is that these people will be polluting in other places anyway, where they currently live or somewhere else. So we should bring them to Palo Alto because PA is better able to absorb the increase in population with less pollution impact than where they are now, or where they would otherwise go.
(There are people in PA this arrogant, but the thought most likely comes from someone in a more exclusive neighborhood).
Many of the jobs in the area (outside of Google) are moving toward jobs that do not require physical presence at the office everyday. This is a more promising approach to reducing the pollution caused by commuters in and out of Palo Alto.
Posted by Tom, a resident of the Professorville neighborhood, on Dec 14, 2007 at 5:44 pm
I concur with Wonderland, except on the last point. Relying on telecommuting to reduce physical commuting would very tightly restrict our eligible population. Very few jobs can be effectively telecommuted. Plus, many of those can be offshored, and many have been.
Posted by Mike, a resident of the College Terrace neighborhood, on Dec 14, 2007 at 7:13 pm
"my own observations are that there are actually *fewer* options to travel without a car in Palo Alto"
You must to be kidding.
btw, mass transit is part of the comprehensive whole of ABAG-like change. Read the last two threads on this for the answers to why ABAG is the right way, and how the anti-ABAG lobby is full of name-calling, no real argument, and parochialism to the extreme.
I'm not worried, because this group is only about 75-100 strong.
Posted by The emporer has no clothes, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Dec 14, 2007 at 8:32 pm
I'm not kidding. I want to know if you know if ABAG has factored in the projections of impact on sea level rise (San Francisco Bay) on Palo Alto in their housing/population density/transit/job projections?
If not, are we to believe that ABAG has its head in the sand on Global Warming?
If so, what is the impact they have factored in? What will be the impact on 101, available buildable land in Palo Alto and surrounding Peninsula communities, jobs, drinking water, access to transit, displacement of current residents, etc.? These factors should be reducing the amount of people packing in to Palo Alto as we approach the precipice of this disaster. No?
Posted by Mike, a resident of the College Terrace neighborhood, on Dec 14, 2007 at 11:42 pm
"There are about 20,000 R1 home owners in Palo Alto. Maybe they are not speaking out loudly today, but they will when they understand how their properties and futures are being endangered by ABAG."
New development here, done right, will increase property values. That has been our history in the past, and it will trend the same in future.
Once residents fully understand ALL sides of the picture, with a full rendering of where our region is going - and more importantly, how much it will cost us if we DON'T adapt in rational ways to incoming growth - they are going to support most of the coming changes.
In any case, those changes are coming, anyway. The ABAG effort is simply an attempt to prevent population growth from trending toward more sprawl, environmental and health damage, and economic inefficiencies visited on our economy.
Posted by MPKid, a resident of Menlo Park, on Dec 15, 2007 at 10:09 am
I became an active environmentalist when the branding was "sustainability."
Borrowing metaphorically from the biological concept of "carrying capacity", we acknowledged that every environment had a limited capacity to carry population, and if those limits were exceeded, the quality of life in that environment rapidly diminished. In biological environments, overpopulation is quickly reversed.
It was an argument for limits, and I watched as sustainability became compromised and co-opted over time.
Now some, with no data or complex models to back them up are advocating non-sustainable land-use policies as a solution to reducing carbon footprints, though there is very little data to suggest that compactness per se reduces carbon footprints, given that it’s really the direct or indirect consumption and use of fossil fuels that drives carbon emissions. Hence, the major thrust for compactness can only be derived indirectly, based on its alleged impact on other consumption patterns, driving for example, or by making theoretical comparisons against fictitious alternative futures.
My concern is that some are now exploiting climate change the way the others exploited 9/11. Under the cover word "green", climate change is being used to re-invigorate every pet housing and environmental policy that ever existed regardless of whether or not the policy has any substantive impact on carbon emissions, affordability, or congestion.
Is compact housing the Iraq-war of climate change? A non-solution sucking all our resources and attention away from more important and effective solutions?
Sprawl is not deforestation, which *is* a major contributor to climate change. And sprawl is not necessarily occurring how you might think. Consider this from “Who Sprawls Most? How Growth Patterns Differ Across the US?” Web Link
"For example, this report finds that many of the densest metropolitan areas in the United States are located in the West—most specifically, in California, Arizona, and Nevada. Meanwhile, the older metropolitan areas of the Northeast and Midwest— while their underlying densities are high by national standards—are sprawling far worse than their counterparts elsewhere in the nation.
The West is experiencing a fundamentally different type of metropolitan growth than any other region of the country. Although much of the West is auto-oriented and characterized by single-family residential development, the region is consuming land far more efficiently than any other part of the nation.”
If there are fundamental mis perceptions about the most basic facts pertinent to the very concept of “density”, how many more bad facts and bad concepts are being circulated in these debates?
The relationship between compact housing and travel patterns is extremely complicated and equally complex. Similar counter intuitive results can be obtained from nationwide traffic data.
And the impacts of compact “transit-oriented” housing projects on travel patterns have been particularly disappointing. One Bay Area advocate of compact housing, Dena Belzar, writes:
"Sadly, a review of the projects emerging across the country reveals that many of the first phases of the new transit towns fail to meet these objectives. ... In short, the amount of hype around transit-oriented development far exceeds the progress to date, with many transit proponents selling new transit investments on the basis of land-use changes yet to come. The result has been that transit opponents have begun to brand transit oriented development a failure by critiquing the performance of flawed projects."
Consider me among them. And consider me among those who feel that critiquing policy based on performance is sound practice.
No local government that I'm aware of has, demonstrated any consistent, effective proficiency in impacting measurable outputs (i.e. housing price, congestion) through zoning policy. I suggest that failure to demonstrate the theory is instead evidence that contradicts the theory, but even if the theory is valid when practiced purely, what good is it, if it cannot be practiced purely enough to work?
I am not trying to say these quotes characterize the respective reports, or represent the final word on the matter, only that, I really doubt that's there very good empirical data about land use available AT ALL, let alone a trustworthy study of how global land use development does or does not impact global carbon footprints, or travel patterns or affordability. I have read quite a bit of professional planning literature and there is no consensus on the facts or the solutions, in part because the local goals being pursued are so diverse and the measures and results are all over the map.
What am I saying is that ABAG’s number has never been an actual solution to any problem before, and if it partially solves fifteen problems, then it probably really doesn’t solve any problem at all.
But the worst part of all is that housing debate is a religious debate pretending to be a scientific one. Or, perhaps, its an economic one, pretending to be environmental one.
Meanwhile there’s no evidence that Palo Alto is increasing its affordability or reducing its congestion by fiat, and there’s lots of evidence that its GDP, land values, and wealth are increasing. So what social output is really being maximized?
Is compact housing a manageable, effective solution to any important problem? Or is it just another case of market economics co-opting the environmental agenda, lost in government process, and now cloaking itself in green marketing?
What I wish for Palo Alto is that its leaders acquire the power to stop herding and at least resist ABAG in favor of local agenda, and if not, then establish a legitimately factual debate complete with facts about Palo Alto and how land-use polices substantively effect target performance measures for local affordability, congestion, and carbon emissions.
Posted by Another-Residentialist, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Dec 15, 2007 at 11:16 am
> Sea level projections - even real sea level elevations, have never
> stopped development. Look at places like New Orleans, Amsterdam,
> Bangladesh, London, Miami, NYC, etc. etc.
These examples, while true, represent massive investments on the part of the countries/states/cities referenced. Some of these locations have seen public works projects to reclaim land that might otherwise be underwater for centuries.
Palo Alto is a tiny little place. The idea that Billions should be spent to provide protection from rising sea levels (fantasy projections at best) so that Millions can be spent on development is delusional.
> New development here, done right, will increase property values
Right --- building 50,000 new housing units (or high rise apartments) is really going to increase our property values. One delusion after another!
Posted by Another-Residentialist, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Dec 15, 2007 at 11:52 am
> "Palo Alto is a tiny little place."
The comment was used in relation to your use of references to large land reclamation projects in other cities/countries. It's impact on regional "sustainability" (whatever that is), can only be seen as very minimal, at best!
> Pure exaggeration. Which one of your hats did
> you pull that number from?
You and the other "growth advocates" have been asked time and again on this (and other threads) akin to this topic: "how many dwelling units do you see in the coming years?" (or words to that effect). You (and the others) have failed to answer this question, time and again. Growth (as stated by you and the others) has no cap! Therefore, 50,000 new dwelling units" is as likely as not!
Now, if you would like to answer the question about "how many" ..?
Posted by Mike, a resident of the College Terrace neighborhood, on Dec 15, 2007 at 12:04 pm
MPkid: " And consider me among those who feel that critiquing policy based on performance is sound practice."
Really? With respect, yours is a long-winded And how are we to "prove zero" - essentially what you're asking for, in a multivariate, and inordinately complex, scenario?
Do nations think that war will bring peace? Apparently, they do, but wars don't result in peace, do they? So, using your argument, why do we let those results drive policy?
he same goes for economic policy, and many kinds of social policy.
The environment is a new *inconvenient* variable. We have some good evidence about the consequences of sprawl (mentioned at length, above).
We need to do something about that, rather than sitting, frozen, on our theoretical "behinds" because "none of the evidence" (which is terribly short term) supports a policy that you think is *inconvenient*.
In fact, yours is the kind of thinking - used at another time - that got the world into trouble when "good people did nothing"
Posted by Mike, a resident of the College Terrace neighborhood, on Dec 15, 2007 at 12:06 pm
above, I meant to say "With respect, yours is a long-winded cop-out, based on the impossible request to "prove zero" - essentially what you're asking for, in a multivariate, and inordinately complex, scenario."
Posted by Mike, a resident of the College Terrace neighborhood, on Dec 15, 2007 at 12:37 pm
"It's (increased housing near jobs) impact on regional "sustainability" (whatever that is), can only be seen as very minimal, at best!"
Regional sustainability = environmental and natural resource sustainability = our ability to *sustain* what we have and evolve as a region, without enduring outsized forward costs.
Lots of "little efforts" make a whole effort. :) This is the message that so many of our own community have been making about the environment, and the jobs/housing imbalance, but appear to conveniently whitewash when it comes to our own community taking inconvenient steps to remedy the problem.
IN fact, both you and MPkid's rationales are the *same* as the regrettable rationale that our own nation (the US) is making re: the Kyoto Conference, and the ongoing efforts to block progress at the Bali Conference.
"You and the other "growth advocates" have been asked time and again on this (and other threads) akin to this topic: "how many dwelling units do you see in the coming years?" (or words to that effect). You (and the others) have failed to answer this question, time and again. Growth (as stated by you and the others) has no cap! Therefore, 50,000 new dwelling units" is as likely as not!"
Yet another exaggeration! You keep pulling numbers out of a hat that don't mean anything, relative to what has been stated, prior.
I - and others who support the ABAG position - are using ABAG numbers as general guidelines to expected growth. We expect that Palo Alto will put forward its BEST "good faith" effort to meet those goals.
Using our *own* planning department's (and state) population projections, we're looking at roughly 80,000 residents by 2030. With roughly 60,000 residents currently, that's another 20,000 residents in the next 25 years (roughly - it could be a few thousand more, or less).
With 2.7 people per household, that comes to 7,407 units (theoretically) over the next 22 years - breaking down to an average of 336 units per year, which is - on average - less than we build each year, anyway.
Now that we've cleared that up, perhaps Palo Alto can start with that number, and work with other regional entities, and its municipal neighbors, to forge agreements that bring this Valley more toward a sustainable development course - based on the population increases that we KNOW are coming.
We can lead and innovate, or keep whining about how *inconvenient* this all is. Why not put your energy into the former, instead of fighting the inevitable?
Posted by Mike, a resident of the College Terrace neighborhood, on Dec 15, 2007 at 1:02 pm
"Is compact housing a manageable, effective solution to any important problem? Or is it just another case of market economics co-opting the environmental agenda, lost in government process, and now cloaking itself in green marketing?
What I wish for Palo Alto is that its leaders acquire the power to stop herding and at least resist ABAG in favor of local agenda, and if not, then establish a legitimately factual debate complete with facts about Palo Alto and how land-use polices substantively effect target performance measures for local affordability, congestion, and carbon emissions.
The key issue is always, who benefits, and how?"
Your last question is very germain, but not in the way you think.
This has to be addressed, because MPkid's anti-ABAG rationales are some of the best put together arguments I've seen, **relative to how the argument uses reverse logic that ends up with MPkid's argument itself, as the pot, calling the kettle, black.** If anything, MPkid is the one who creates a smoke-screen, to obfuscate the need for a necessary change in our development and transportation behaviors.
Implied throughout MP's argument is that ABAG, and the underlying rationales behind ABAG's current housing requests) is a developer conspiracy. We've heard the same from Ms. White and other posters on this thread. They say that as part of the general line of unproven statements that anti-growthers have been making about developers in Palo Alto for years.
For them, it's all about the "developer conspiracy". What's amusing about this is that developers at one time, or other, built the very homes and dwellings that MPkid, Ms. White, and other anti-housing proponents reside in. That was "convenient".
[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]
We need leaders who see long term; who will walk the talk; who will not obfuscate with parochial thinking (because this problem is bigger than us but needs us as part of the solution); who will not claim that "the numbers are in" before our city, region, and nation give our collective "BEST good faith effort" to alter the consequences of our success.
Is that to much to ask of a city, or nation that prides itself on "can do" and innovation?
Posted by John, a resident of the College Terrace neighborhood, on Dec 15, 2007 at 1:24 pm
There he (Mike) goes again. If he gets his way, there is only one way to accomdate population growth (which he insists is coming): UP...way up. That's why he hates the 50 Ft. height limit in Palo Alto.
If sprawl (aka housing for families) is a degredation of the environment, it can only be true if it is displacing non-farm land. Farm land that is tilled, sprayed, fertilized, irrigated is already degraded environment.
The choice is crystal clear: Build to the sky or allow homes to build on previous farm lands (with efficient mass transit).
Posted by Mike, a resident of the College Terrace neighborhood, on Dec 15, 2007 at 1:31 pm
Trains, We have very *spotty* mass transport - at best.
In addition to that, we have decades of ingrained consumer behavior - relative to driving solo - that flies in the face of efforts to get people out of their cars.
This is a long term effort. Mass transport has LONG way to go (pun not intended). We must do FAR better at integrating mass transport services schedules among transport services agencies (that, or bringing multiple agencies under the umbrella of one entity, for efficiency).
We also have to encourage private mass transport vendors (on the micro scale - e.g. jitney busses, taxi, etc. etc.).
We are embarking on LONG TERM solutions to housing and mass transport in ways that will help us maintain economic and environmental sustainability.
America spews 40% of the world's Co2. Do we just keep pointing out one or another failure - within what has been a VERY non-committal system to change our habits - or do we look at failures as an attempt TO LEARN HOW TO DO IT BETTER?
It's getting pretty old hearing from residents who want it all, claim to be pro-environment, but choose not to invest their energy in the time and *inconvenient* solutions that will be necessary for sustainability.
The contradictions spouted by self-appointed "green" policy makers, and residents (here and elsewhere), so far has been very disappointing - and indicative of the mind set that got us to where we are with the environment (and other inefficiencies) in the first place.
Posted by OhlonePar, a resident of the Duveneck/St. Francis neighborhood, on Dec 15, 2007 at 1:39 pm
You went off on a wild tangent that never addressed some of my key points. You may be "anti-sprawl", but the fact is California has a bunch of empty new construction. When the national real-estate market is in a downward tailsping, it's *idiotic* to insist that Palo Alto build 2000 more units.
And, again, where--you claim that construction done right will add value, but the suggestions you make would detract from value--Ever lived next to a 50-foot-building. Say goodbye to the sunshine (and, say, growing your own organic produce.) Have you looked at the average lot size in Palo Alto? It's small--it's part of the reason McMansions around here look absurd--they're crammed onto small lots.
My house, like those of most of the people I know, is small, energy-efficient and, because it's old, isn't polluting rivers.
As others have pointed out, there's a natural economic cycle. If we become too unaffordable, jobs leave and then our prices drop. It's happened in the valley before. We're facing a recesion nationwide--so, again, it's a bad time to push for massive housing growth in Palo Alto--particularly when we do not have the infrastructure to support it.
Take the very, very simple matter of roads. There are four East-West arteries in Palo Alto. Exactly one--Oregon--is designed for large amounts of traffic. Two of them--University and Embarcadero--are relatively narrow, congested and surrounded by housing. Embarcadero, in addition, has three schools fronting it. We already have a situation where every artery in Palo Alto has *major* traffic congestion.
Again, places like Tracy have a surplus of housing. Why build more here when houses are sitting empty. Wouldn't the truly logical anti-sprawl thing to do is to encourage business development where the housing *already* exists? Maybe even reverse the current trend of housing-housing-housing to a better mix of business and housing.
As someone else mentioned, PA has gotten less walker friendly over the past 20 years. I live in walking distance of Edgewood. Once, I could have (and did) bought my groceries there. Now, I can make a long trek to Middlefield, but I can't haul groceries at that distance.
With the push on housing, how likely is it that I'm going to get a supermarket at Edgewood and reduce my carbon footprint?
I know from experience that I *did* reduce my driving when Midtown came back to life and I was able to shop there, get coffee and fill prescriptions when I lived in Midtown.
I don't believe your claims about development-done-right, simply because your actual suggestions are so bad--i.e. big, high PUDs, focus on stuffing in residential units, instead of residence/business balance.
And, oh yeah, numerous flawed assumptions about Palo Altans living in big houses on big lots. You should check out the open houses sometime.
Posted by Mike, a resident of the College Terrace neighborhood, on Dec 15, 2007 at 2:10 pm
OP, " You may be "anti-sprawl", but the fact is California has a bunch of empty new construction. When the national real-estate market is in a downward tailsping, it's *idiotic* to insist that Palo Alto build 2000 more units."
What does this have to do with the ABAG request? Our region is going to grow; it is growing as we speak. Why should ABAG pull back its request, and ebncourage people to move to Stockton and Tracy for commutes, because the housing prices are in a slump? How does that get us to a place that relieves the jobs/housing imbalance, and creates disincentives to sprawl? Essentially, you're arguing for things as they are. You're arguing for nothing to change.
btw, there are some properties around her that DO lies within shouting distance - in fact, directly across the street from 50' buildings, ,and they have enjoyed quite an increase in value, and have no trouble selling on the market. Talk a walk near City Hall and other large buildings here, for proof. That aside, 50' is nothing. It's a small change that would make a major difference on our carbon footprint.
Housing prices here are NOT going down, nor will they. Talk to any established realtor about this, or to a good real estate economist (I have) who will go to great lengths to explain the variables in perception-based buying in the housing markets, and how several micro-regions in the Bay Area will continue to rise in vale, regardless of national trends to the contrary.
You mention traffic congestion. Part of the infill housing initiative will be efficient, cheap, easily accessible, and affordable mass transit. We're talking about changes here that are going to take *decades* to play out. This is not a *convenient* path of "things-continuing-as-they-are". We must take steps now - AS A REGION - in cooperation with other regions, to make necessary changes happen - changes that will make our future economic and environmental scenarios sustainable.
We MUST think beyond short term. This will be a MAJOR challenge, especially in a place like Silicon Valley, which has been blessed with seemingly automatic increases in wealth. If we want to sustain that, we must reduce commute trips. Infill housing near transport, and BMR units are a part of that solution.
You ask why more business development doesn't occur in Tracy. That's an interesting question. the answer is because there is not sufficient social, intellectual, or physical capital infrastructure there necessary to attract business.
Palo Alto is FAR more walker friendly than it has ever been - better bike lanes, more small-shuttle transport, etc. Your personal experience may have changed, but overall we do have a more walkable community than we used to. That's easily shown. We need to extend that walkability throughout the region. Palo Alto could lead in this regard.
Most likely, Edgewood Plaza will contain a retail/housing component.
You may think that 10-15' increase in heigh limits are bad, or that smaller, higher density residential structures are bad. So be it. We are probably going to go in that direction. 50-50' height limits are not the end of the world; they're far from the skyscrapers that anti-housing activists paint them as. Look around the Valley.
As far as retail/residence balance, we need to be doing more housing over retail (a la Santana Row, and other places). This will begin to happen very soon, The California Ave. PTOD is a good beginning.
Again, we need to hunker down and wrestle with the environmental consequences ofo our success. If we do this the right way, in a way that follows the ABAG spirit, we will not only make a significant impact on pollution, but will increase our region's economic and social sustainability for the future.
To argue against the spirit of the ABAG request is to argue against environmental and economic sustainability. The changes that ABAG is asking us to make are challenging, but isn't that waht innovative and leading communities are best up to - meeting challenges?
We need to be thinking more like that, instead of looking for excuses.
Posted by wonderland, a resident of the College Terrace neighborhood, on Dec 15, 2007 at 2:59 pm
I kid you not. My subjective experience is that it is harder to live in Palo Alto without a car now than it was 20 years ago.
In addition, the quality of life has deteriorated. I believe this is in part because developers have been able to convince the city that they should be allowed to change and violate the reasonable zoning that the city laid out.
Now, you are asking for wholesale changes in zoning. Is it not reasonable to expect that developers would successfully argue for even more density than you want to code for? Why do you think that such a fragile plan of "high density housing so near nearly non-existent mass transit that mass transit would be used by those living in the high density houseing in spite of its incredible inconvenience" won't be distorted beyond usefulness by the power of developers?
And, 20 years ago, my intent was to support others with high environmental consciousness. I am biased toward environmentally helpful activity. But I can't twist my mind enough to see that accelerating the population growth of Palo Alto is environmentally helpful to anyone at all.
You're arguing for something as effective as asking Palo Alto to buy a big air conditioner to fight global warming. The side effects are worse than the benefits.
Posted by Mike, a resident of the College Terrace neighborhood, on Dec 15, 2007 at 3:15 pm
"You're arguing for something as effective as asking Palo Alto to buy a big air conditioner to fight global warming. "
No, I'm arguing for Palo Alto to play its proper role in the purchase of that air conditioner, and providing some leadership in the direction of its deployment, instead of letting our environment spoil. It's about our kid's future.
Your assumptions about mass transit are without foundation, and made a priori.
Posted by John, a resident of the College Terrace neighborhood, on Dec 15, 2007 at 3:57 pm
Uh well, there are laws of thermodynamics that determine that air conditioners, like refrigerators INCREASE the heat of a closed system (like Planet Earth). Mike's views are lacking in scientifc merit. He cannot show any of us that increased density makes sense, either from an environmental or social basis.
Posted by Secret Agent, a resident of the Old Palo Alto neighborhood, on Dec 15, 2007 at 4:21 pm
[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]
It is apparent from this (and other threads) that the overwhelming body of opinion in town is against ABAG. It would long ago have died (with the Council Letter to ABAG) if it had been any other issue. Is it a few connected insiders who will keep it alive and sneak (or foist) it past an unwilling populace when the new council takes office?
Posted by OhlonePar, a resident of the Duveneck/St. Francis neighborhood, on Dec 15, 2007 at 4:41 pm
So you're so positive about the future that you can ignore the present? Wow. Remember when Houston was going to grow and then the S&L crisis hit and they literally plowed under developments?
Again, the state has a surplus of housing. Greed and bad planning at work. So why bring it here?
You're assuming that Stockton and Tracy must be commuter towns. You *assume* that they will commute here ad infinitum.
That's a lot to assume. After all, all of Silicon Valley began as either suburbs or college towns, not industrial centers. It changed here and it could certainly change in the Central Valley.
Fact is, there's no sprawl here--though there once was. It's dense on the Peninsula for the simple reason that we're surrounded by water on one side and hills (and then a lotta water) on the other.
There's no reason that Tracy and Stockton can't develop their own business centers in the future. You don't seem to know either city well or you'd know they were already heading in that direction.
Much as Sunnyvale, Cupertino and Santa Clara did 35 years ago. In other words, instead of trying to force more and more into a limited area, why not acknowledge that, over the long run, other areas will grow and develop?
You didn't address the arterial traffic/infrastructure problem. In terms of walkability, proximity, not bike lanes, make the difference.
There's no question that Palo Alto was once much more accessible to pedestrians--every kid could attend an elementary school without crossing a major intersection. Green Gable kids now cross Embarcadero, Ventura crosses El Camino. That's not walkable for kids; that's suicide.
50-feet means 3 to 5 story buildings. In other words, apartment buildings and high-density PUDS. As I said, no sunlight, no place to grow food. (And more traffic, naturally)
If you really cared about the environment, you'd realize you're proposing making a fertile area even more dependent on outside food sources. Growing a vegetable garden probably seems trivial to you, but I get nearly all my produce for four months a year that way. Can't get more local than that.
I bring this up because I really don't buy your environmental sledgehammer tactics here. Ideally, you want communities to be as self-sustaining as possible and limit the size of the global food chain.
Now excuse me while I go make marmalade from my lemon trees.
Posted by Ron, a resident of the Fairmeadow neighborhood, on Dec 15, 2007 at 4:56 pm
O-par. Excellent points. I moved here 40 years ago, and then almost all professional people commuted to San Francisco...a few to San Jose. The valley was just getting started and there was no such thing as the "reverse" commuting phenomenon we see today. (Most days on the bayshore, the traffic heading south out of SF to Silicon Valley, Redwood shores, etc. is MUCH heavier than the traffic into the City.
There is no reason to think that places like Stockton aren't where we were in 1960: pleasant bedroom communities that are a hefty commute away from jobs, but that are on the cusp of developing their own business and employment centers. What people like Mike fail to realize in all their fulmination about the failure of the rest of us to have imagination is that the Bay Area is growing - but its growing geographically. Stockton will have the same relationship to Palo Alto in a few decades as Palo Alto has to San Francisco now. Who knows but that maybe Mike or his kids will be reverse commuting to Stockton from Palo Alto.
Posted by Another-Residentialist, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Dec 15, 2007 at 5:29 pm
> Regional sustainability = environmental and natural
> resource sustainability = our ability to *sustain* what
> we have and evolve as a region, without enduring
> outsized forward costs.
The point was made in sarcasm, as none of this is meaningful! While it might be possible over time to actually track all of the "resources" used by a region, to what end would that be unless resource quotas (or rationing) were invoked? For the moment, we have vague ideas about our use of energy, such as electricity and petroleum-based fuels. The idea that one region should be required to live within some government set guidelines based on this resource use would be the end of America as we have known it. Such a country would not be worth living in (and there are many examples to point to which you and your side seem to want to force us to be like with each word you post on this Blog).
> We expect that Palo Alto will put forward its BEST
> "good faith" effort to meet those goals.
And how many votes do you have? It's clear that saying NO is an option which needs to be exercised by the rest of us!
> Using our *own* planning department's (and state) population projections,
> we're looking at roughly 80,000 residents by 2030.
If you say so, but up until recently the ABAG numbers suggested an increase of about 5% per decade, which does not come close to the 30% increase in population you are now demanding. (And how many additional day job people will be required to pay for the infrastructure and services for this new population?) Oh, and these numbers are not binding, by the way. There is nothing that will keep ABAG/State from trying to double or triple these numbers if they think that they can get away with it.
Posted by Another-Residentialist, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Dec 15, 2007 at 6:05 pm
> America spews 40% of the world's Co2.
This is so mindless that it needs to be seen in the same light that we now see Ernst Roehm's brownshirts villifying segments of the German population in the 1930s. C02 is a natural gas! It is a by-product of our use of fossil fuels, which are used to power our vehicles, which take us to work, to build things that we export to people in other parts of the world who can not, or will not, manufacture/grow products that we can.
The USA feeds much of the world. Those products are grown via the use of tractors and other mechanical devices that consume either gasoline or electricity. So, for every bushel of corn, or wheat, or whatever that is shipped out of the US--some of the so-called "carbon footprint" has to go along with goods. If there was no market overseas, we would not be burning the coal or gasoline just because we were "Americans"!
US One Of Leading Exporters of Manufactured and Agricultural Goods:
In the United States, although greenhouse gas emissions grew from 4.8 in 1990 to over 5.4 billion tonnes in 1998, the amount emitted per unit of GDP or economic growth declined by 11 per cent. These figures take no account of the carbon sequestered in reforestation and reduced agricultural land use, both of which are increasing with economic development.
And then there is the fact that China is now emitting more C02 than the US --
A public policy think tank says the news that China has passed the United States as the world leader in carbon dioxide emissions reinforces the need for developing countries to be included in plans to reduce greenhouse gas emissions
Not a peep about China's contributions-- one can only wonder why?
While we may be generating 40% of the world's C02--it's because the world can't provide basic needs like food, housing and manufactured goods needed by the worlds residents for a decent quality of life. If all of the contributions of C02 attributed to exports were reduced from our tally it's clear our total would be a lot less than it is now.
Posted by MPKid, a resident of Menlo Park, on Dec 16, 2007 at 10:26 am
Bluntly put, to date TOD has been a failure at producing affordability or congestion relief. Even prominent advocates of TOD admit this. I support the vision, but I’m not holding my breath.
The ABAG agenda is a top-down economic growth agenda driven by market economics, principally employers, internalized by higher level public decision makers who become politically vulnerable if not enough economic growth takes place during their tenure.
It hides an important local policy choice, and it transfers control of local land use policy from local councils and citizens to non-local economic and political interests.
That is the key point.
ABAG robs us of a policy choice by assuming speculative rates of future growth as an uncontrovertible fact, and then insisting that each city do its part to make the fact real.
ABAG does not engage in “bottom-up” planning by asking each city to choose a local growth rate by presuming some level of future build-out of it’s General Plan.
I happen to work in sales. The company could predict next year’s revenues by adding up the amount of sales each of us has in our individual pipeline, but that’s nuts. The executives arbitrarily set a growth target which they dictate to us in the form of individual goals or quotas.
ABAG is effectively dictating growth quotas. Thankfully ABAG has no power to enforce its goals, but it is always threatening to do so.
I think the key issue in the ABAG debate is how “regional” growth rates are determined, top-down or bottom-up.
To me, this is the heart and soul of what is meant by “residentialist”, and though its convenient for establishment types to label residentialists as anti-growth, I would simply say that as a residentialist I support a system that maintains local control over community growth rates.
Posted by Mike, a resident of the College Terrace neighborhood, on Dec 16, 2007 at 11:03 am
OP: "you're so positive about the future that you can ignore the present? Remember when Houston was going to grow and then the S&L crisis hit and they literally plowed under developments?"
Honestly, OP, I admire your missives on PAUSD, but your analogies on this issue leave something wanting. Houston? The very armpit of America, compared to Silicon Valley? Good grief! And the S&L crisis, compared to subprime overreaching that, for the most part has NOT hit Silicon Valley. Note that most foreclosures in the Bay area are not from Silicon valley.
Also, your assumptions re: height limits are without substance. 50' buildings get you 4 stories, which has been shown in the architecture vernacular to be the optimal maximum height for residential dwelling (over 4 stories and the dweller loses a sense of "connection" to the street).
We plainly disagree on walkability. Palo Alto did suffer some walkability losses early on, but has gained them back as intra-urban transit and bikes have become more accessible.
Also, why do *you* assume that we cannot generate even *more* walkable infrastructure. In fact, THAT's one of the things that infill infrastructure is about.
Finally, we don't see significant infrastructure investments in Tracy, and we won't. Why? Look at the outlying demographic there. You talk about market economics as if it was your whipping boy. Sorry, that's not the way it works.
MPkid: "The ABAG agenda is a top-down economic growth agenda driven by market economics, principally employers, internalized by higher level public decision makers who become politically vulnerable if not enough economic growth takes place during their tenure."
You've just described one of the priming pumps for development. Include your home and our schools under the umbrella of "market economics" That's what most of the anti-ABAG residents around here keep forgetting. They also forget the new fundamentals of long-term sustainability re: the consequences of sprawl.
Ron, Yours is a perfect example of the nostalgia that has been discussed prior. With due respect for your desire to return to the "good old days" ( I liked them, too!), we're past that stage, and need to generate the courage and vision to move forward, in a way that creates long-term sustainability. This will not be easy; no one said it would be - but the consequences of inaction will be severe, and not something our kids will be proud of us for.
Another-Residentialist: "A public policy think tank says the news that China has passed the United States as the world leader in carbon dioxide emissions reinforces the need for developing countries to be included in plans to reduce greenhouse gas emissions"
There's no point in debating whether or not there is global warming with you. Your position re: the environment reveals you a "true believer' (read Eric Hoffer, to see exactly what I mean) on this and other issues.
That said, your point this time appears to be that we're OK because we're only second to the most irresponsible polluting culture that the world has ever know. Frankly, I have some quibble with that, because much of that pollution is coming from AMERICAN contracts for material manufacture in China. How about throwing that fact into your calculations.
And while you're at it, perhaps you might plan a cruise through the North Pole in 12 years, as the latest estimates show that the Polar ice may well be gone in summer, by then (with outside projections at 20-30 years).
All said, what I keep getting from the anti-AbAGers is 1) an understandable, but unfortunate nostalgia for a past that will not return; 2) a denial that California (and Silicon Valley's) population will increase significantly over the next 2-3 decades; 3) a failure to admit to the degree of environmental degradation (already shown over and over in research) caused by suburban sprawl; 4) an inability to see Palo Alto as part of a larger problem, with the capability to lead partners forward to solve that problem; 5) a confounding contradiction of the stated "green" goals of the city they live in, whose green policy most anti-ABAGers support; 6) a general NIMBIST attitude re: BMR housing, that shows itself in the scraping up of incomplete data to support positions to prove points about how we should keep BMR housing "somewhere else"; 6) an absolute denial of the necessity to scale in easily accessible, affordable mass transport that gets you where you want to go, when you want to go, at a price one can afford - and the use of the "self-proofs" (with no reliable data, by dredging up one poor short-term example after another - while failing to look at one large example after another [Europe, Japan,, etc. etc.) where mass transport is a key to forward sustainability.
There are other failings coming from the anti-ABAGers on this issue. I only hope that our leadership can find a way to politely listen, but in the end turn aside from arguments that, if acted on (the anti-ABAG arguments) will leave our future population (her and in the Valley) wondering what we were thinking about.
Again, I would urge a re-read of Al Gore's Nobel speech.
Posted by John, a resident of the College Terrace neighborhood, on Dec 16, 2007 at 12:00 pm
Before Mike falls off the deep end with the global warming hysteria, I suggest he adjust to the fact that global sea ice is currently equal to mean area, 1979 - present, as measured by satellite imaging. ( Web Link).
It is down some in the Arctic and up some in the Antarctic areas. Ho-humm (yawn).
Posted by Mike, a resident of the College Terrace neighborhood, on Dec 16, 2007 at 3:42 pm
John, Amusing...I suggest looking up the word "extrapolation", so you can learn what that means (pun included) when you select a number (or statistical trend line) to make a judgment re: other data that is overwhelming in the opposite direction.
I can generate pretty compelling evidence from isolated sources about most controversial topics, but that's a pretty lame thing to do in the global warming arena, where most attempts, like yours, ask to 'prove zero'.
In any case, try making a case that global warming isn't happen, and do that in front of our City Council. Let's see how far you get with that as a rationale for not doing what ABAG suggests.
btw, read Thomas Kuhn, so that you can get a clue about how scientific theories become established, and then apply what you learn from that to global warming. You need this book. "The Structure of Scientific Revolutions"
Posted by John, a resident of the College Terrace neighborhood, on Dec 16, 2007 at 4:53 pm
Mike, is that a long-winded way saying that global sea ice is NOT below measured standards? Simple question for you, Mike: Is Antactic sea ice at near record levels now? If so, what does that tell us about global warming, since it was such a central part of the argument when Antactic sea ice was down for a year or two. Now Mike, if Acrtic sea ice heads to record levels in the new few years, will you agree that it was a lousy proxy of global warming?
Sea levels will only be affected by melting of terrestrial ice. Greenland and Antactica ice are both near-equal or above norms. No way I would invest in jacking up a low lying house, near the ocean, based on that fact.
Variable currents, like El Nino, can expalin sea ice events (as well as variations in terrestrial ice). The global warming hysteria needs to be deconstructed, and anyalzed part by part. It doesn't hold heat (pun intended). For example, CO2 levels are a VERY minor component of greenhouse gases...water vapor is, by far, the major domo. Solar fluctuations can be a factor, on a cyclical basis. Volcanoes are an occasional major event. Overgrowth of forests can also contibute, becasue they retain heat, instead of reflecting it. Bottom line: Climate is WAY too complex to predict.
This current global warming hysterial was created by Margaret Thatcher, becasue she saw it as an angle to defeat the coal miner's union in the UK, and she wanted to develop nuclear power plants. It spun out of control. As much as I support nuclear power, global warming is not a truly rational reason for doing so.
Posted by Mike, a resident of the College Terrace neighborhood, on Dec 16, 2007 at 5:31 pm
"This current global warming hysterial was created by Margaret Thatcher, becasue she saw it as an angle to defeat the coal miner's union in the UK, and she wanted to develop nuclear power plants. It spun out of control. As much as I support nuclear power, global warming is not a truly rational reason for doing so."
Again, John, I would like to see you sell your rationale to *any* municipal body that will listen. I doubt you will find many takers in California, or other places.
Finally, because I won't engage in further debate on global warming - something that is settled in the larger scientific community (you can take it up with them). There is no way that your argument will every be considered here as a reason not to engage the ABAG goals.
Posted by John, a resident of the College Terrace neighborhood, on Dec 16, 2007 at 5:45 pm
Now Mike, the fact that local entities, who have next to no critical analysis regarding global warming, will not attempt to deconstruct the arguments, is no reason to avoid actual facts. You can dodge all you want, but that will not make the sea ice in Antartica shrink to below record high levels. The interesting thing about climate is that it has a mind of its own. There was time, not so long ago, that the majority of PA citizens bought into the Paul Ehrlich resource limitation hocus-pocus. Are you old enough to remember that one, Mike? Peter Drekmeier is still enchanted by that myth.
Posted by Pan Gloss, a resident of the Old Palo Alto neighborhood, on Dec 18, 2007 at 11:31 am
Paul Ehrlich's resource limitations on growth and population are just more typical environmentalist fantasies. The inconvenient truth (for them) is that increasing our population will actually bring all of us more food and space and highways and elecricity and fuel. Also more rain, more snow, and more rivers to dam to get more water. Look at the Old West. Everyone knew the rain followed the plow, and all our manifest destiny proved they were right. We just have to have faith and let the marketplace work.
Posted by Mike, a resident of the College Terrace neighborhood, on Dec 18, 2007 at 5:11 pm
Pan, would that the anti-ABARs would follow your panpipes, down the road of economic development. Keep playing that tune.
btw, Erlich was wrong, but he heralded in a few new memes that wer - and still are - important to consider. It's important to consider what kinds of dislocations can occur with too much growth, within the context of poverty. There, Erlich was right on.
Posted by steve levy, a resident of the University South neighborhood, on Dec 20, 2007 at 9:05 am
A while back one of the posters mused about Mike's real name and asked if I was Mike.
I wrote back that I am not Mike and that people could take a look at my website www.ccsce.com to see who I was and what I did. I wished the poster good luck becasue I knew the question of "Who is Mike" had replaced "Where's Waldo" as the latest party gag.
At the end of my post I teased the anonymous posters as to why if they thought that defending PA from ABAG was akin to standing up against slavery, they were unwilling to sign their names as all the people who fought against slavery and marched a century later in the South did by taking on the personal risks associated with their positions.
In the jousting that goes on in these posts I figure that if you are going to say somethig negative about another poster, might as well show the courage to sign your name. I have no complaint about anonymity except in this one case where personal attacks are made, not against public figures, but about fellow resident posters.
At the very end of the post I thanked Karen White and Carol Mullen for signing their names to posts that passionately disagree with the policy position that I have on ABAG and PA. I am always hopeful that the Town Square can serve as a way for people who disagree on policy to tell the community that they still respect each other.
We are in the end stuck with each other in a common goal of making PA a great community.
The prior posts contained other material that gave the editors reason to delete them. I hope this post can remain.
Posted by Mike, a resident of the College Terrace neighborhood, on Dec 20, 2007 at 10:27 am
Steve, well said.
Following your lead, I'd like to pay respects to all those I disagree with; each and every one is a good person.
With that, I would also like to wish a happy holiday to all; I wish I knew the real names of all those I disagree with on the housing issue (and a few others), because then I could make a gift of my favorite logic book to each and every one of them - sent anonymously, of course. :)) (said with tongue firmly in cheek)
Posted by steve levy, a resident of the University South neighborhood, on Dec 20, 2007 at 3:14 pm
Don and Buster,
Sorry that it bothered you and other posters. It was mostly as a gag. I apologize if it offended anyone.
If you remember before they were deleted, two consecutive posts accused me of 1) being so clueless because everyone knew who Mike was and how could I not know followed by b) accusing me of being an insider and asking for special privileges. Kind of funny if you think about it since "everyone knows who Mike is".
I do write an occassional column for the Weekly and if that makes me a bad guy or an insider there is not much I can do about it. I write occasional op-eds for other papers and talk to the editors as part of writing the op-eds and this accusation has never come up before.
I do agree with "Mike" that in wishing everyone a happy holiday.
Posted by Buster, a resident of the Greenmeadow neighborhood, on Dec 20, 2007 at 6:25 pm
I appreciate the explanation too, Steve. But I'm still a little confused about it.
Everyone understands there are insiders, and that doesn't make you a bad guy. But if you use your insider status in attempt to gain knowledge about posters - knowledge most of assumed is private - then that's where the trouble begins. Secondarily, it's troubling if Weekly indicated NOT that they didn't give that information to you as a matter of policy, but because they didn't know who Mike is, implying that they might tell you if they did know.
I'd have felt a little better if you hadn't used the quibbling phraseology, it was "mostly a gag", which seems to elide past what we're worried about: did you use your connection with the Weekly to try to find out the identity of a poster (or poster) on here? And instead of being told, "that's not something we can tell you" by the editor, were you told instead "I don't know", as you indicated in the post that was deleted?
I don't mean to belabor the point unnecessarily, but some of us post here with the idea that our identities are not revealed, even if they're known by the Weekly. The reasons some of us feel like that have been discussed previously - you may agree or not. You make good points about why people SHOULD post under their real names, but we mostly don't post under our real names and the possibility of revelation to others of our identities is not the expectation most of us have.
Anyway, that's how I approach the matter and why. Whether or not you choose to clarify your answer, I join in wishing you and others here a Great Holiday and happy new year. Thanks to everyone for making this a useful place to thrash out the issues in town.
Posted by steve levy, a resident of the University South neighborhood, on Dec 20, 2007 at 8:02 pm
But it was a gag. At least six people have told me over the past six months who they think Mike is and they all had the same name. So I really was joking around in response to a previous poster who had asked whether I was Mike.
I suppose I could have ignored the question but turning it into a "Who's Mike" gag appealed to me more.
Posted by Don, a resident of the Palo Verde neighborhood, on Dec 20, 2007 at 8:11 pm
I completely accept your explanation.
However, I think it would clear the air if the PA Weekly editors would state, categorically, that, under no circumstances, no matter what, would they reveal the identiy of those who wish to remain annonymous. Just a good business practice.
Posted by Buster, a resident of the Greenmeadow neighborhood, on Dec 20, 2007 at 8:26 pm
Posted by Bill Johnson, publisher of the Palo Alto Weekly, on Dec 20, 2007 at 8:52 pm Bill Johnson is a member (registered user) of Palo Alto Online
We have no way of knowing the identity of an anonymous poster on Town Square, but even if we did, we would never reveal it, either on the site or "privately," and certainly not to someone due to their relationship with the Weekly or the Weekly's staff. Steve Levy's earlier postings relating to speculation over "Mike's" identity were removed because we do not want such speculation on the site. We don't consider it a "gag." It merely distracts from discussion on the issue at hand and attempts to unmask someone who has chosen, for whatever reason, to remain anonymous.
If we had concrete evidence that someone was responding to their own posts under different names and we had reason to believe who the person was, we would warn that person to stop and delete their posts if they didn't. This has happened once, but is difficult to pursue due to the very nature of anonymous postings.
Posted by steve levy, a resident of the University South neighborhood, on Dec 21, 2007 at 11:37 am
from a local newspaper's editorial today re ABAG and PA
"...Palo Alto raises valid concerns about the number but, at the same
time, it's hard not to contrast the city's action with cities in San Mateo
County, which have adopted an entirely different can do approach. These cities face some of the same complaints from residents worried about the pitfalls of new growth, yet they formed a first-of-its-kind subregional group to tackle the problems."
I think we should give it a try, i.e., good faith effort in our Housing Element update or any other kind of city/subregional discussion you may think helpful.
Posted by Jeremy Loski, a resident of the Ventura neighborhood, on Dec 21, 2007 at 9:15 pm
Here's an excellent editorial in the Palo Alto Daily, giving deserved praise to San Mateo County municipalities for cooperating on their ABAG-defined responsibilities. Would that we had this kind of leadership in Santa Clara County. Palo Alto is one of the few cities that could turn the negativity about ABAG around, and lead the effort to meet its responsibility for bearing its share of the environmental and social costs of our success.
Posted by Jeremy Loski, a resident of the Ventura neighborhood, on Dec 22, 2007 at 11:40 am
On the contrary, they have looked at the quota and worked together to come up with a solution.
from the link, above...
"Officials from all 20 cities in San Mateo County, along with a county representative, agreed on a plan to divvy up the housing allocation for the next seven years. The county and its cities were allocated 15,738 units to meet state housing targets, which is no small amount."
"Palo Alto raises valid concerns about the (ABAG) number but, at the same time, it's hard not to contrast the city's actions with the cities in San Mateo County, which have adopted an entirely different, can-do approach. These cities face some of the same complaints from residents worried about the pitfalls of new growth, yet they formed a first-of-its-kind subregional group to tackle the problem.
"We commend the cities of San Mateo County, which also could have balked but instead worked together to tackle the regional housing need. That is how the process is supposed to work."
Posted by John, a resident of the College Terrace neighborhood, on Dec 22, 2007 at 12:10 pm
It's one thing for a committe of believers to come together to divvy up the pie. It is quite another to sell each slice of that pie to indivdual cities. We'll see what San Mateo and Redwood City citizens have to say about the impact of this stuff on their schools....
A PA Daily editorial is worth as much as the paper it is written on.
Posted by say no to ABAG, a resident of Menlo Park, on Dec 22, 2007 at 3:06 pm
I don't know who attended the meeting, but this is news to those of us living in Menlo Park. The ABAG numbers are ludicrous, and I have yet to meet anyone who supports that kind of development in our small city.
I would be interested to know how "fair" the alleged allocations were, given that Atherton, Hillborough, and perhaps some of the other SMC high pricetag towns have managed to convince ABAG that their culture is not conducive to dense housing, and have therefore been mostly exempted from any requirements.
Posted by John, a resident of the College Terrace neighborhood, on Dec 27, 2007 at 6:59 pm
steve levy is trying to blow smoke. Here's how it works: The steve levys (true believers of ABAG housing elements) of SMC got together and decided to split the pie. They then claim pure innocence when naive citizens of those cities affected protest that they were never consulted. Put another way, this is an inside job. Levy is an inside player, who clearly promotes ABAG housing demands.
If the true believers are confident of their position, they will demand that it be put to a vote of the people in each city, town and district. What is wrong with that?
Posted by steve levy, a resident of the University South neighborhood, on Dec 27, 2007 at 7:14 pm
I am sorry for the cancer caused by your hallucinating smoke inhalation.
But you have an interesting theory. Since the city governments were the participants in the SM allocation, you must think a) all the cities support ABAG (wouldn't that be wonderful) or b) the cities got duped into appointing only "true believers".
It sounds like you are having trouble accepting that the cities asked ABAG if they could handle the allocation themselves and then pulled it off.
Posted by John, a resident of the College Terrace neighborhood, on Dec 27, 2007 at 9:30 pm
steve levy, I have no idea what your post means. I have hardly "made a serious allegation about ABAG giving favor to San Mateo cities like Atherton." I have made serious allegations that ALL SMC cities and towns and districts are under attack by ABAG true believers.
Steve, really, it is very simple. Just put it to a vote of the people. You keep dodging the obvious, and invetable, solution. Again, Steve, what are you afraid of?
Posted by Burling, a resident of the Old Palo Alto neighborhood, on Dec 28, 2007 at 6:31 am
Apart from the vitriol between Steve L and John, I can't see anything wrong with voting on something so important to most people. We vote on all kinds of stuff. What's wrong with putting ABAG allocations for PA to a vote?!
Posted by Voter, a resident of the Old Palo Alto neighborhood, on Dec 28, 2007 at 11:16 am
The posters wanting a vote on something as complex as ABAG's housing goals are wrong.
The ABAG studies were done by experts like Mr. Levy. It is simpleminded hubris to think that common citizens who have their own selfish interests can evaluate them intelligently. The ABAG proposals are for the *common* good and as such are not a topic for popular referendum by uninformed and uncaring voters.
Moreover, the ABAG goals were developed by *REGIONAL* experts who have great understanding and competency far beyond what local politicans - who are only looking to the next election - can be expected to demonstrate.
Steve Levy is correct. There should be no vote on these important and necessary steps to insure a secure future for us all. We should build our share as should all the other cities and towns in the Bay Area. Only by paying attention to the experts - whose opinions we are paying for with our tax dollars - can we expect to move to a happy and sustainable future.
Posted by John, a resident of the College Terrace neighborhood, on Dec 28, 2007 at 12:53 pm
"The ABAG proposals are for the *common* good and as such are not a topic for popular referendum by uninformed and uncaring voters"
Voter, us common folk are also for the common good. For example, it would be good if our schools are not overburdened by extensive new housing. Same for our parks. Same for our infrastructure in general. ABAG mandates give next to no credence to our concerns on these issues...it is all about density infill, and to hell with the common folk with their parochial values.
If Steve Levy, you and your fellow believers can make their case to voters, then he, you and they will win. What are you and Steve and the others afraid of? We are talking about extreme new pressures on Palo Alto. This is not one to leave up to the experts. We deserve a vote on it.
Posted by steve levy, a resident of the University South neighborhood, on Dec 28, 2007 at 2:23 pm
I am not stopping you from having a vote.
Why don't you tell us all what the wording of your proposed vote is?
And why exactly are we having a vote since no major new housing gets approved without a vote of Council?
So are you asking Council not to do a housing element update?
Anyway, I am hardly the bad guy stopping you from having a vote so you can stop the taunting and get on with organizing a vote so we can debate a) whether your proposed vote is legal and b) whether it is good policy.
Besides the arguments that your ideas afre bad policy are the twin arguments a) that the vote could trigger a discrimination suit and b) that there could be repercussions from blowing off the regional and state policy.
Voter, were you pulling my leg? I think residents have every right to debate the issue and I agree that there are regional interests that sometimes outweigh local perspectives.
Posted by Mike, a resident of the College Terrace neighborhood, on Dec 28, 2007 at 3:25 pm
Cities far more challenged than Palo Alto have found a way to organize and reach agreement on splitting up their ABAG allocation; that will not work in favor of naysyaers here, or in other holdout cities in Santa Clara.
Instead of the leadership exhibited by San Mateo municipalities, we have Palo Alto and a few of its Santa Clara County neighbors creating a steaming pile of poor excuses for not doing *everything we can* to to ameliorate housing shortages near jobs; to put a determined stop to suburban sprawl, etc.
This is shameful behavior from a city that keeps priding itself on its ability to look forward, and innovate.
California's population is going to dramaticaly increase over the next 2-3 decades. Rather than do *everything* we can to neutralize the impacts of that growth, we're chipping away at it by forcing inconveniences on workers at City Hall.
Look at all the policy posturing that was done over the "green" recycling and purchasing decisions announced a few weks ago - with everyone congratulating themselves about how environmentaly responsible Palo Alto is.
But when it comes to the HEAVY lifting, we fall back on the eternal excuse ("we can't") used by humans lesser than those who made this Valley great. We fall back on excuses like "we're built out" (as if we can't change height limits and zoning); or "we're going to lose our neighborhoods" (as if we're going to build high rises in established neiborgoods) - and so on.
Instead of saying "let's see what we can do", we have members of the Planning Commission mocking ABAG, and some City Council members trying to cobble tpgether the best wording to a letter that is nothing but a steaming pile of half-baked excuses (some of which are just plain disingenuous).
We won't vote on this issue, because that will put our city at great risk for lawsuit. So, we'd better start figuring out a way to gather our municipal neighbors and figure a way forward. Let's use San Mateo's example as one way forward.
I never thought I would see San Mateo County trump our county, but they have.
I was driving down 101 today, marveling at the huge redo of Stanford's newly purchased Stanford Hospital campus.
If we keep up the small minded parochialism that comes from a convenient hubris borrowed from the accomplishments of earlier generations, we shuldn get used to seeing nearby municipalities continue to chip away at Palo Alto's once-proud reputation, as we turn into a tony retirement community.
Posted by Karen White, a resident of the Duveneck/St. Francis neighborhood, on Dec 28, 2007 at 4:02 pm
Relying on inclusionary zoning rather than public subsidies, as Mike will know, we'd need to build 9,375 - 12,500 new housing units to generate the 1,875 "affordable" units that the state, via ABAG, directs us to build. Multiplying by the accepted 2.7 residents per unit yields from 25,313 to 33,750 new residents - an overwhelming rate of growth -- when our infrastructure, schools and public facilities are completely inadequate to serve even today's population.
When the new Council re-calculates our infrastructure backlog to factor in the 15-20% annual cost increases that we're now seeing, one can imagine we'll learn we're even further behind than we thought we were.
ABAG's allocation of 1,875 BMR units is merely the tip of the iceberg. Further, inclusionary zoning is not effective in producing true affordability and drives up the cost of market-rate housing.
Mike and other aggressive-growth advocates ignore basic facts that show their vision to be completely unaffordable -- and unsustainable.
Posted by Another-Residentialist, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Dec 28, 2007 at 4:27 pm
> when our infrastructure, schools and public facilities
> are completely inadequate to serve even today's population.
This point is very debatable -- particularly given how poorly the public infrastructure has been maintained by the city government and the school district over the past three decades.
However, Ms. White's point about upwards of 30,000 new residents is worth review. Some are using 2030 as an endpoint for this set of projections. What comes after that? Since there doesn't seem to be any talk about capping the numbers, there is no reason not to believe that ABAG (or its successor) will not hit Palo Alto up with similar (perhaps larger) housing requirement. 2030 may be a ways out, but it's not the end of time.
Posted by Mike, a resident of the College Terrace neighborhood, on Dec 28, 2007 at 6:42 pm
Re: Karen White's main argument, and her number projections: not ONE of those numbers represents any end point reality. Karen, are you taking bets? 30,000 additional residents by 2030? Are there any more magicians in the house?
Karen and other anti-ABAGers understand how to tweak the Palo Alto populace with fear on this issue. We're a community that has a special quality of life - a quality that can evolve to a *better* quality of life if we plan growth in this region by proper planning. Karen's scenarios, full of blather and fixed formulas, threaten the perception of that quality.
Those of us who want a *truly* sustainable earth (and state) understand that certain "inconvenient truths" mandate certain changes in our behavior.
This doesn't mean selling out to developers; it means going out and finding developers that our various cities can work with to create sustainable growth - growth that meets our state's need for balanced and sustainability.
First, what Karen and some few others are talking about is a serious deacceleration of local growth, to almost zero. It's common knowledge that anti-housing and anti-ABAG groups want Palo Alto's population to *permanently* plateau at roughly its current level. This is a petty scary thing, when one considers our current population demographic. This will be a pretty staid place if we continue at zero growth. We will become a semi-retirement community, kind of like a large version of Atherton.
Second, Karen knows full well that the ABAG numbers are a beginning point for negotiation. San Mateo's muncipalities did just that, and we didn't hear the bellowing of fear and "sky-is-falling" scenarios that we're hearing from the anti-ABAG folks.
Why does Karen insist on projecting forward a formula that is open for negotiation? Is that what municipalities in San Mateo did? No, of course not. They got together and solved a problem, instead of whining about how "we can't do that".
I respect Karen's stance, and her preferences, but I have to admit to a chuckle or two when hearing about Karen's arguments for local sustainability, especially in that her argument - within the big picture - is *unsustainable*.
About sustainability: Karen and other anti-ABAG residents are making a choice. they are saying that they want to keep Palo Alto the way it is, because of a wrong-headed assumption that growth is wrong. They will exaggerate in the same way that other locals have exaggerated about growth - about the Hyatt, about Alma Plaza, about 800 High St., etc. etc. As with then, they will be shown wrong, and will cause more harm than good.
Palo Alto has grown before, and adapted nicely. We will do so again. We need not shift the burdens of our success to others, not unless we have lost the political will and courage to wrestle with inconvenience and constraint, and LEAD an effort toward a sustainable region that will continue to GROW. The latter means environmentally responsible planning.
Anything else is a shirking of responsibility that creates the myth of parochial sustainability within a larger economic system that always manages to blow back inefficiencies that cost way more to pay for, after the damage has been done.
Do we want our legacy to be as a participant in helping our region plan forward for sustainable growth, population diversity and mass transit - or will we continue to be the fading star (the path we're currently on) that continues to make claims like "this is where the tech revolution started" as other regions pass us by, as if nodding to someone well past their prime.
John, Palo Alto can be sued on fair housing issues, and discrimination. If you don't think that's possible, check out the law.
Posted by Lawyers-Don't-Need-Guns-To-Steal, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Dec 28, 2007 at 8:32 pm
> "John, Palo Alto can be sued on fair housing issues,
> and discrimination. If you don't think that's possible,
> check out the law."
It's doubtful that this bag of wind could much detail about these laws .
Unfortunately, the City can be sued by special interest groups for any number of reasons--thanks to the legal industry's heavily backing Democratic party candidates in this state via campaign contributions.
The scam is that some laws allow individuals/groups that ordinarily would not have standing to sue a municipality to acquire standing in order to persecute cities that don't tow the "party line" .. and before long, a suit has been filed and the City government has to defend itself against some bogus claim or another.
The lower-than-low lawyer still has to win the case, but these guys often settle out-of-court rather than risking defeat in the court room.
Posted by Mike, a resident of the College Terrace neighborhood, on Dec 28, 2007 at 8:55 pm
John, I suggest a review of the minutes of the last City Council meeting about 2 weeks ago, where ABAG was discussed in detail. (check the agendas). Note that this very (of a lawsuit) possibility was brought up by one or two Council members, who, no doubt, had sought legal guidance prior to mentioning this possibility.
Also, consider how the "Fair Housing" clauses work. "Fair Housing" is a 'relative' element in the law; it's there as a lever to make sure that communities don't try to legislate fair housing to too-low levels, relative to local, regional, or state needs.
The ABAG documents include tables labeled as "Fair Housing Needs". There's a reason they're labeled as such.
Posted by anon., a resident of Mountain View, on Dec 29, 2007 at 2:39 am
Just offering another perspective here. I am a Gunn graduate (mid-80's) who then lived in PA for 10 yrs after college graduation, working in various places around the peninsula including Stanford Research Park. I couldn't afford to purchase a home in PA so bought my condo in Mt View, still commuting to PA. I only know a few people at work who live in PA and they are long-time employees, no one else can afford it!!!! And, almost none of my fellow Gunn graduates live in PA due to housing costs.....in fact, my high school economics teacher lectured us one day how our generation would be the first to not do better than our parents, due to housing costs. PA does need more housing, however not at the expense of tax paying businesses like Hyatt Rickeys or grocery stores.
Posted by Karen White, a resident of the Duveneck/St. Francis neighborhood, on Dec 30, 2007 at 8:36 am
"30,000 additional residents by 2030?" No, by 2014 (please see the link that starts this thread) if the 1,875 affordable units are generated via inclusionary zoning, as is typical in Palo Alto. A total of 9,375 - 12,500 units would need to be built to generate 1,875 BMR units, factoring in our 15-20% BMR yield. The multiplier accepted in planning circles is 2.7 residents per unit. So readers can do the math and see the enormity of the state's unfunded mandate.
These numbers and yields are not exaggerations, though they certainly should be alarming to those of us to value our community and its institutions.
Posted by Mike, a resident of the College Terrace neighborhood, on Dec 30, 2007 at 2:23 pm
"by 2014 (please see the link that starts this thread) if the 1,875 affordable units are generated via inclusionary zoning, as is typical in Palo Alto. A total of 9,375 - 12,500 units would need to be built to generate 1,875 BMR units, factoring in our 15-20% BMR yield. "
These assumptions are without merit, and conveniently thrown around because they generate the kind of fear that anit-ABAGers want to infect our community with. This is a large version fo the 800 High St. effort, and the anti-granny unit effort. It won't work this time.
With respect, this is simply more fantasy, fear, and sky-is-falling blather, that conveniently avoids the real costs of permitting suburban sprawl.
By implication, a vote for Karen's position is a vote for large scale environmental degradation, by default. There's no way around this inconvenient truth, but we won't hear any of that from the fear-mongering that surrounds this issue.
We're going to find out, very soon, which ones of our policy makers are really green, and which ones are little more than soft-sell greenwashers, on this issue. The press and the blogosphere will take note.
Notice that Ms. White says not one word about what the rejection of the ABAG agenda would mean - i.e. suburban sprawl, millions of tons of Co2 spewed into the environment, more clogged highways, more money spent on highways at the cost of developing mass transit, more health problems due to increased pollutants in the air, more stress from commuting, more pressure on regional firms to house badly needed talent that can no longer afford to live here (the latter is the *top* concern of Valley CEO's), a contradiction of Palo Alto's stated dedication to "green" mandates, a long-term jobs and development threat to our region, etc. etc.
Notice how Ms. White is working backwards from inclusionary zoning "tradition", as if tradition is a given.
In fact, there is NO hard and fast rule that says inclusionary zoning rules and "custom" can't be - and shouldn't be - changed. If that's what it takes to meet the ABAG requirements, so that we can properly scale population growth while meeting our responsibilities to the environment, so be it.
Note also how Ms. White admits this, as she states "as is typical in Palo Alto". This is a knowing nod to formulas that have *traditionally* been put in place, and mostly dictated by developers, and at the same time a subtle admission that these formulas can (and do) change. Everything is up for negotiation, *as long as* we DO OUR BEST to meet the responsibilities for our success.
I will not name names here, but we do NOT want, nor do we need, development companies that are not willing to accept lower margins for modifications to standard inclusionary zoning formulas. If the developers who have become wealthy from the half century of commercial success here cannot find a way to come forward with development ideas that meet the ABAG goals, then we need to find some new developers who will. That's what we have an economic development team for (which is now part of the planning department, even better).
Remember, we're facing is an *inconvenient truth*, re: the environmental and social costs of continuing on the path of suburban sprawl, as our state grows. This means there will be some inconvenience for everyone, *including developers* - some, who have become accustomed to "settling" on certain BMR formulas. A new day is here, which will require new thinking and negotiation strategies from developers. If local developers don't want to play ball, we'll find developers who can. There is a lot of housing innovation taking place in America - with non-profit and other development groups taking on the challenge to drive development at lower than traditional margins. We've seen this happen in many sectors. The market will be kind to developers who can adapt to these new realities.
It's important to emphasize, again, that the challenges we are facing will require LEADERSHIP on the part of our policy makers. They are going to have to LEAD our region (or leave it to another regional municipality, if that's the legacy they desire) in doing their BEST "good faith" effort to meet ABAG requirements. They are going to have to LEAD the commercial sector by soliciting (perhaps through city staff - e.g. planning and development) by soliciting offers from commercial and housing developers who understand the challenges we are facing, and who are willing to assume smaller margins in return for the right to build here.
Let's make this new year a good one for what sustains us - our environment. We need bold vision and leadership more than ever - we're up to it.
Posted by ?what's he saying, a resident of the Meadow Park neighborhood, on Dec 30, 2007 at 3:07 pm
You haven't written anything at all that weakens Karen's statements, or assumptions. You have simply waved arms around how ABAG is good and we should try harder to support its requests.
Which numbers do you disagree with and what do you think they really are?
For example, she thinks there will likely be 2.7 people per housing unit, based on history. You question this. Lower income housing tends to support more people per unit. Are you suggesting there will be even more than 30,000 more people by 2014?
Please, if you want to make some sort of argument, make it. Otherwise, you are essentially growing opposition to ABAG.
Posted by Born Here, a member of the Gunn High School community, on Dec 30, 2007 at 3:28 pm
My wife and I recently purchased our first home in Palo Alto (my home town).
We are 50. I am a Gunn graduate-1976.
Palo Alto, Atherton, Woodside, and Portola Valley have always been expensive. My parents purchased their first home in Palo Alto when they were in their mid 40's. Their friends were all over 40.
We saved for 25 years to be able to put a down payment on our first home here. We lived in many apartments and condos in other places to achieve this.
People can rent an apartment, or condo for 20 years and save like we did if they desire to move here.
Commuting from Mountain View, Menlo Park, Redwood City, Cupertino, Sunnyvale, or even Fremont is not as difficult a commute as many others endure. The Pacific Northwest, The South, and The East Coast, and Southern California often have commute times exceeding 45 minutes in each direction.
I reject ABAG housing, and more BMR units. We chose Palo Alto to come back to because of the ties with family and friends.
I have asked my friends who work for the city, elementary school teachers, and our long time physician at the PAMF if she would want to move here. They all said "No". Our physician has been commuting from Morgan Hill for more than 10 years, and told me that her family loves the community and schools out there. She could afford to buy a home here, but she prefers living in Morgan Hill. Her children like the schools, and they would never uproot their family to change them midway through their education.
Our school system and programs are already pushed to the limit.
I worry that opening other schools will be adequate to accommodate the already crowded classes and the expected growth (without the imposition of ABAG). We have recently had many homes and new apartments built here.
The people in Stanford West apartments have many children which attend our schools. Many of the parents of these children have no relationship with Stanford. Stanford built this housing, but could not fill it with enough people affiliated with Stanford (even with rent subsidization), so they filled up with families who just wanted to get into Palo Alto schools at a low price.
This seems unfair to many families who pay "over the moon" property taxes to pay for our schools, and contribute money and time to our children's schools through PIE and PTA donations. Our schools are dependent on property taxes to survive. Once the schools lose the income from the lease of their buildings to free up these schools, they would need to make up for this loss.
ABAG, BMR, and subsidized rent housing does not help pay for these pupils.
Additionally, adding even more population to the an already dense suburban city would greatly affect the quality of life here.
I support Karen White and others who are against this.
Posted by Karen White, a resident of the Duveneck/St. Francis neighborhood, on Dec 30, 2007 at 5:29 pm
I'd offered "by 2014 (please see the link that starts this thread) if the 1,875 affordable units are generated via inclusionary zoning, as is typical in Palo Alto. A total of 9,375 - 12,500 units would need to be built to generate 1,875 BMR units, factoring in our 15-20% BMR yield."
Mike challenges these facts, stating: "These assumptions are without merit, and conveniently thrown around because they generate the kind of fear that anit-ABAGers want to infect our community with."
Unfortunately, Mike is incorrect. He can refer to Palo Alto's Comprehensive Plan, our "land-use constitution," at Program H-36 as follows:
Program H-36 - Description of the BMR Program Requirements:
Implement the City's "Below Market Rate" (BMR) Program by requiring that at least 15 percent of all housing units in projects of five units or more, be provided at below market rates to very low-, low-, and moderate-income households. Projects on sites of five acres or larger must set aside 20 percent of all units as BMR units.
Posted by steve levy, a resident of the University South neighborhood, on Dec 30, 2007 at 6:26 pm
Actually you are wrong and I think you know better.
There is no mandate to build any kind of units.
There is a planning goal to accomodate Palo Alto's ABAG housing goal.
ABAG is quite clear in the distinction between planning and producing units.
You are wrong that PA is required to pay for the BMR units.
You are wrong that cities are expected to use inclusionary zoning as the only means of planning to meet the BMR goal and to build enough market rate housing to meet the BMR goal that way.
You are wrong that PA has a policy of requiring enough housing to be built to meet the BMNR goal exclusinvely through inclusionary zoning.
Your math is correct but it is simply not legally required, expected or City policy. Residents regularly protest the number of BMR units in new projects and often win a reduction.
You have no proof for your accusations while the ABAG policy statements I have quoted in numerous threads are completely clear.
You have as many facts on your side about what ABAG is requiring as the folks who claimed Saddam Hussein plotted 9/11.
If ABAG policy meant what you are contending you would at least have some case but it doesn't mean what you are saying.
You have legitimate fears about schools and traffic but I am pretty sure they have no legal standing because all cities could say low-incomefamilies cause financial problems.
All of the posters fail regularly to provide any evidence or logic that the net result for the region would be better if PA blew off the Housing Elment update and trying to meet the ABAG goals. I know some of you think PA might be better off but other cities can and have made the same claim.
Moreover no one is forcing people to buy in PA. If they want to live in Fremont, Salinas or the moon and commute into the region, they can. It is the anti-housing posters who are advocating limiting freedom, they claim for good reasons.
Moreover the school and finance arguments are weak for high-priced housing that could actually help the city and local merchants.
If the posters want to have a vote on whether PA should build BMR units, you are welcome to try but I encourage you to get legal opinion that such a vote is legal.
I am not a lawyer but I think such a vote would be interpreted as trying to discriminate against low income residents.
I have not heard any Council members or staff suggest such a vote or policy and I suggest that it is easy to ask Council or the City Attorney about similar cases in other areas.
I know the "it will hurt us financially" won't pass legal tests becasue all you are doing is moving low-income families to other areas.
Posted by Karen White, a resident of the Duveneck/St. Francis neighborhood, on Dec 30, 2007 at 9:01 pm
Steve, I make no accusations but merely illuminate facts that can be independently verified. You and Mike will know that there are only two ways for BMR units to be created: through inclusionary zoning (the method you're referring to when you say that Palo Alto would not be not expected to pay for BMR units), or through public subsidy.
Inclusionary zoning brings an overwhelming multiplier effect such that many thousands of market-rate units would need to be built to achieve ABAG's "allocation."
If not through inclusionary zoning, then these units are built with public subsidies. The potential fiscal impact is clear. In her letter to ABAG representatives, Mayor Yoriko Kishimoto states:
"In order to develop the 1,234 units of low and very low income housing under current funding conditions, the City would be expected to provide a subsidy of approximately $245 to $310 million, which is clearly unrealistic and unattainable as the City struggles to maintain revenues adequate to support basic services to its residents and businesses."
Subsidizing the entire 1,875 BMR units ABAG is allocating would cost $375 to $500 million in public subsidies, according to City staff.
In short: Palo Alto cannot afford or sustain the sheer number of housing units the state, through ABAG's allocation, would mandate for us by 2014.
Posted by Long Time PA Resident, a resident of the Old Palo Alto neighborhood, on Dec 30, 2007 at 9:55 pm
Lament of a Broken System, Dedicated to Steve Levy and Mike:
If our government would have done more about immigration reform years ago, we would not be in this predicament today, discussing ABAG and BMR housing. We simply cannot house the entire immigrating populations of the developing world. They are taking advantage of our weak immigration regulations which are based on Judeo-Christian morals and principles. They are laughing at us about it.
The population keeps steadily growing here, and the people who were born here have no other place to go. Many Palo Altans have been reducing, reusing, and recycling, and have managed to control our family size to 2 or 0 children, and we have always conserved fuel. I feel that we (Californians, and Palo Altans in particular) have been abiding by these principles for at least 3 decades.
Now you are asking us to crush ourselves even closer together, to make room for a huge chunk of the developing world to move here? I say “No.” I have worked hard to keep the quality of life and our environment protected in California so my child may enjoy it. If you think I am selfish, you do not know me.
Besides the illegal immigration crossing our northern and southern borders, we have many people coming over here on the premise of being a students, but with their original intent being the one chosen in the family to come here to study and secure a passage for all the rest. A specific area of study was not the motivation. It is a common filial duty of a child in a developing country to do this. Others arrive on tourist visas, and get lost in the system. Even our religious institutions have become entangled in this abuse of our policies.
Major corporations are also to blame for allowing thousands of disingenuous workers to arrive here under the illusion of being perfect tech workers. These workers typically work a year or so until the remaining members of their large extended “families” arrive, the worker later transfers to a new company, and eventually gets lost in the system. Many of these people over stay so long, that they eventually become naturalized.
It is like the flood gates are open in regards to immigration. When they close for awhile, they still badly leak, because of the hundreds of loopholes in them. There are simply not enough social engineers around to patch these holes.
Additionally, immigration is not what it used to be. Many people keep their ancestral homes and jet back and forth several times a year. They are here for the free school, and for the higher status they attain back in their homelands by showing their friends that they now own property in America. These people are not American citizens.
Foreign landlords own hundreds of private, commercial, and rental properties throughout Palo Alto, and California, and the U.S. Many of these landlords live back in their homelands, collecting rent on real estate here. The money is wired directly to foreign bank accounts and our government turns a blind eye, or does not have the ability to trace these enormous fund transfers. These investors can afford to buy new homes here (high, moderate, and very low price). There is no way for anyone to know the true wealth of these landlords.
Americans are not allowed to own property in SE Asia, the Philippians, and many other developing countries. Even if your spouse is a national, you will never be able to fully own property in that country. If you have children, they would be half Western, so they would also be deemed ineligible to own property in that country. Think about that for a moment, in terms of population. This is only one very small part of a much larger problem.
Why are we so gullible to allow foreign landlords and developers who are not citizens? Many return to luxurious lifestyles back in their homelands while collecting rent from real estate in the Bay Area and other areas of California.
Steve and Mike, both of you are obviously smart and seem to have quite a bit of pull. I wish that you could please redirect your energy, and your brilliance to help fix some of these terrible loopholes in our system. If you would like a list of these loopholes, I will email them to your office. If you are able to repair a third of these problems, I will personally award you with a plaque and a hug.
Seriously, people who were born in America feel stuck. I wish both of you would address some of the root problems rather than try to mitigate problems as they arise, such as housing.
If you build more housing (no matter how much), people will arrive. They will buy it up and rent it back to “us”. The double slap in the face is when they laugh at me and tell me that I can’t do a darn thing about it.
Check the names on all the deeds of the new homes at Santana row. By the way, housing above shops is not unique. This is a step backwards, and shows we are on the verge of a crisis. It is not innovative at all. This kind of housing is seen in highly dense Third World countries. It is a way for the landlord to double his income. These “shop houses” easily go downhill when the shops and tenants turn to slums.
Posted by Anna, a resident of the Southgate neighborhood, on Dec 31, 2007 at 10:07 am
"All of the posters fail regularly to provide any evidence or logic that the net result for the region would be better if PA blew off the Housing Element update and trying to meet the ABAG goals. I know some of you think PA might be better off but other cities can and have made the same claim."
The contention that the region would be better off if PA and other Bay Area cities "blew off" acceding to the ABAG bureaucrat-imposed housing quotas is not something that's subject to evidence or logic, and neither is the contention that the region (or PA) be better off if it crammed all the housing ABAG wants into the area.
Whether we want a more densely populated city and region - even with the added economic growth Levy contends would come with it - is a matter of taste and opinion, not logic. Levy wants the higher density, and thinks all the externalities that go along with it - traffic, infrastructure expenses, crowds, etc. - are worth it. Some of us think the reverse. He can't "prove" his opinion is better any more than we can prove ours.
PA or Bay Area growth isn't inevitable, despite what Levy says. If we don't build all the ABAG housing Levy wants, there won't be people living in them and we won't have the population he wants. The idea that if we don't build the housing here, we'll have them all commuting from outside the Bay Area because companies are going to create the jobs here, rather than were the workers are, is a similarly untested (and fatuous) claim. Companies may WANT to expand here, but they can't hire enough workers willing to put up with 3 hour commuting days at the wages they want to pay...so they'll end up putting the jobs where the workers are. We don't have to accommodate the corporate interests Levy represents.
Levy's ludicrous contention that we are denying freedom to low income workers who want to live in Palo Alto by failing to build subsidized housing for them fails the laugh test. This concept of "freedom" would have me living in Pacific Heights with a view of the Golden Gate Bridge - at Levy's expense....He's tried to sell this silly argument in other posts, and comes across as a truly out-of-touch 60's pretend-socialist when he does.
It's time PA and othe Bay Area cities protested this assault on our sovereignty and local control. Hooray for the PA Council for standing up to ABAG thugs and their supporters.
State housing bonds provide another major source of funding. Proposition 1C on the November 2006 ballot contained money for low-income housing.
Community organizations like Habitat for Humanity help prospective homeowners build their own homes.
Religious charities build low-income housing.
There is no way that cities should be required to put up teh majority of money for construction and that is not what is intened or required by HCD or the regional agencies like ABAG.
All parties know that financing the majority of low-income housing is beyond current financial capabilities. That is why the "mandate" is a planning mandate, not a build or finance mandate.
There is a difference in this debate between people who do not want poor families living in their city or dislike all public attempts to provide low income housing and those people (I think like you) whose objections are not about the families per se but about the impact on the community.
I support the public goal of fostering more housing for low income residents and the public goal of mixing low income housing into all cities. I personally don't think the reasons you offer are persuasive in objecting to Palo Alto's share.
But the impacts you discuss are real or potentially real. Moreover, there can be agreement between us that the goal only makes sense if outside financing is available beyond the inclusionary zoning approach.
However, I am disappointed when residents argue to reduce low-income housing numbers in existing proposals. That seems inconsistent with a good faith effort and undercuts the argument that attaining the ABAG goal is impossible because we do not have enough land or financing. If we approved all low income housing proposals that were brought before us and did not require substantial city construction subsidy, your arguments would have more credibility.
I vividly remember a meeting several years ago with perhaps 150 Edgewood area neighbors arguing against housing on the Edgewood Plaza site. They wanted a Trader Joe's or something comparable.
And they argued that a TJ's would have less traffic than 30 or 40 homes. That is insane and convinced me that those neighbors were being less than truthful about their reasons for opposing housing in their neighborhood and where there was little or no mention at that time of BMR housing on the site.
Posted by Stephen Rock, a resident of the Adobe-Meadows neighborhood, on Dec 31, 2007 at 10:57 am
Some basic definitions I would like to get clear about. Can anyone help me?
1) What does "below market housing" mean? e.g. in a luxury condo development is it some of the luxury units being sold to some lucky people at a lower price, or less luxury units being sold at less then they would normally get on the market? Or something else.
2) For Condo developments, is each condo considered a real estate "parcel" in the sense that the owners pay the full parcel tax. (which now are a very significant part of property taxes (at least mine).
As for housing, from what I have heard the goal of some people is
to have places to live which are closer to where they work, but not necessarily within the same city. Often cited are retail workers whoes
salary is less than programmers.
So Instead of million dollar condo's with some "below market units"
why not build more modest condos/apts with non gourmet kitchens, closets that are not live-in and bathrooms that are not day spas.
Stanford has developments like that on campus. There were many on Coleman Ave where grad students lived. I realize that profits
of developers would be less and property taxes less.
If we want to be green, then there should be no housing built for anyone with more than 2 children. Also when housing units share walls
and floors/ceilings the heating requirements are greatly reduced
Posted by Karen White, a resident of the Duveneck/St. Francis neighborhood, on Dec 31, 2007 at 11:01 am
Steve, you write: "But the impacts you discuss are real or potentially real. Moreover, there can be agreement between us that the goal only makes sense if outside financing is available beyond the inclusionary zoning approach."
We definitely can agree on this, and thank you for providing information on additional ways to fund affordable housing. Potentially related: may I ask you, as a professional with considerable expertise in economics, to post your thoughts on the impact on home-ownership of the jumbo loan ceiling of $417,000 nation-wide, regardless of local markets, and whether raising this ceiling might benefit would-be homeowners in Californians and other high-cost areas?
Posted by Mike, a resident of the College Terrace neighborhood, on Dec 31, 2007 at 11:23 am
"Implement the City's "Below Market Rate" (BMR) Program by requiring that at least 15 percent of all housing units in projects of five units or more, be provided at below market rates to very low-, low-, and moderate-income households. Projects on sites of five acres or larger must set aside 20 percent of all units as BMR units."
Steve beat me to it, so please consider what he is saying about alternate means of financing.
Also, as clearly stated prior, the housing element update can *alter* the above formulas. Thus, by ignoring everything that can (and should) be done as part of a Palo Alto good faith effort on this issue, we see otherwise smart people trying to hoodwink their fellow citizens and policy makers with projections that are based on formulas that are themselves *fungible*.
Karen, here's a question for you. Where did the housing element come from? Was it a number that was extracted by some process than accessed the golden mean, or was it a subjective rendering made by policy makers? I think we all know the answer.
These questions put the lie to some of your assumptions. Who says the units have to be generated by inclusionary zoning? And who says the inclusionary zoning formulas have to remain the same? Who says the city has to finance these homes? Who says that housing has to be designed for a carrying capacity of 2.7 residents per home (maybe we're talking about some senior housing in the mix [but not to the exclusion of families).
Thank goodness that the anti-ABAGers are not running businesses; they'd be gone in a flash. When creative entrepreneurs see a problem, they don't go running from it, especially is they sense that the solution to that problem can make large-scale economic (and even social) ROI that in the near-long-run will come to benefit them.
What I'm hearing from anti-ABAGers is "we don't have any room", with no attempts to show good faith toward alternate housing construction or location methods; without looking into alternate financing schemes; without looking for developers who are more centered around the scaled impacts that their developments have (instead of making a fast buck).
What's sad about all this is that *because* there is no good faith effort in this direction by policy makers, or anti-ABAGers (some community leaders), the latter's entire effort takes on a pure "anti-housing" demeanor. It (the anti-ABAGer) effort becomes starkly transparent for what it has always been - i.e. we don't want additional housing in Palo Alto.
What's even more telling is the whining tone, from the Mayor, on down, about the real challenges that more housing will produce.
OF COURSE we're gong to have more challenges if more housing is built; OF COURSE we're going to have to be more creative to solve those challenges. Whining about how "we can't do this", and then throwing ridiculous number assumptions (that any smart 10th grader can see through) into the mix will get this city nowhere.
Like I said before, we're going to see who backs up their respective talk about being "green". Can they walk the talk? It's easy to stroll down the "green" path by asking City Hall to by purchasing recyclables, but it's more difficult to walk a path where a large part of the way is unmarked, with a shovel and some signs in your hand. That's what leaders are supposed to do. That's what we all - as members of a very successful community that has generated a COST to our success - must face. Are we up to it? We'd better be, or there will be a severe environmental price to be paid, in addition to a stunting of this Valley's economic growth.
Palo Alto will meet this challenge. Those who don't want to play ball in this game are not going to make up their own rules, nor are they going to be able to whine their way out of our joint responsibility to the environment and our region.
"30,000 additional residents by 2030?" No, by 2014 (please see the link that starts this thread) if the 1,875 affordable units are generated via inclusionary zoning, as is typical in Palo Alto. A total of 9,375 - 12,500 units would need to be built to generate 1,875 BMR units, factoring in our 15-20% BMR yield. The multiplier accepted in planning circles is 2.7 residents per unit. So readers can do the math and see the enormity of the state's unfunded mandate.
Posted by Billy M, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Dec 31, 2007 at 11:33 am
We have enough housing in Palo Alto, and in most of the rest of the cities in the Bay Area as well. I don't care if it's paid for by George Bush or the Tooth Fairy, whether it's a mansion fit for Bill Gates, or whether it's tenement housing for the homeless: we don't have room for it while maintaining the quality of life.
I agree with Anna: there are plenty of other areas where all the newcomers pouring into our state and country can live: places that have the room for them, and that want the new residents. Why cram them into our town?
Posted by Mike, a resident of the College Terrace neighborhood, on Dec 31, 2007 at 11:38 am
"impact on home-ownership of the jumbo loan ceiling of $417,000 nation-wide, regardless of local markets, and whether raising this ceiling might benefit would-be homeowners in Californians and other high-cost areas? "
First, that's a temporary cap; second, it has already begun to loosen.
As the cap eases, it will help those who want to pursue home ownership in California.
That said, the market shakeout in places like the Central Valley will continue well into 2008.
So, what does this mean for suburban sprawl? We'll see a resurgence of buying behavior that's aimed at taking advantage of market-reduced housing in places that were hit by the subprime crisis.
Furthermore, until we see ABAG-like mandates put in place, we can expect to see continued outlying suburban sprawl, accompanied by all the environmental degradation that sprawl causes.
Just on the basis of severe coming water shortages alone, one would think that intelligent communities like Palo Alto would be doing all they could to limit suburban sprawl, instead of encouraging its continuation by a refusal to cooperate with good faith efforts to build more housing near jobs (as part of a regional effort).
Are we a greenwashing community? We're going to find out, very soon, along with the blogosphere, and all the impact that has on the future electability of sitting policy makers who desire to move up the political ladder in the near future, which will be a time even more replete with the demand that ANY candidate for public office show more than a mere surface interest in the environment, and a further result that those who were willing to wrestle with the most vexing environmental problems being rewarded at the polls.
Those policy makers who have future aspirations in politics would be well-advised to carefully consider their stance on the ABAG issue.
Those policy makers without future political aspirations might begin to consider that Palo Alto is *part* of a region, and not an environmental entity unto itself. We have a responsibility to the environment, and the region; That must be measured against any rational self interest, with the latter being expressed in ways that show that we have done out BEST, in good faith, to meet our responsibilities. So far, we haven't even come close.
Posted by Mike, a resident of the College Terrace neighborhood, on Dec 31, 2007 at 11:44 am
btw, please forgive the accidental inclusion of Karen White's erroneous assumptions at the end of my second-last post.
I'm perfectly willing to make a long bet about Ms. White's numbers, to any amount that she suggests. There is no way that her projections are correct, as they're made in a way that concludes that the underlying assumptions for her numbers cannot change. Her conclusions are false, because we all know that times, and metrics - especially as realities to political strategies - are ever-changing, and not the static thing that Ms. White pretends, and beses her entire argument on.
Posted by John, a resident of the College Terrace neighborhood, on Dec 31, 2007 at 1:17 pm
It is no surprise that Mike is off on another one his pipe dreams, but Steve Levy should know better. To suggest that private charity is going pay for the huge increase in BMR units in Palo Alto is absurd. Karen White's numbers are based on solid historical facts. To speculate that some tooth fairly is going to show up to save the day is ridiculous, Steve.
Also not mentioned by Steve is that California Avenue is the target for the majority of these BMRs. Perhaps the neighborhoods near that zone should take notice. Concentrated welfare housing does not a good neighborhood make. If Steve Levy wants to save the poor, then he should organize his own neighborhood to take a disproportionate share of welfare housing.
Posted by Stephen Rock, a resident of the Adobe-Meadows neighborhood, on Dec 31, 2007 at 2:08 pm
Does anyone know how much it costs to build a 1200 ft^2 apartment (as part of a larger complex)? I lived in a 3 bedroom house of that size in PA. I guess that the land for a 6 unit 2 story building is less than a million dollars. So the cost of land per unit might me $150,000.
Someone wrote that the subsidy for about 1200 units was about 280 million or about $250,000 per unit. This seems like the subsidy is more than 50%. But if anyone has the actual building costs, we would be more precise.
Regarding someones thoughts on housing above commercial property: It is not only a third world phenomenon. Perhaps the writer thinks that San Francisco or New York is third world. In the most ritzy areas of NY lower floors are commercial and upper floors residential.
Some people like to be close to the action: restaurants, shops etc.
And the following education data comes from the California Department of Education:
API Scores (2005-06)
San Mateo Union High 774
San Mateo-Foster City Elementary 801
Palo Alto Unified High Schools 885
Palo Alto Unified 903
Comparing the two, one comes to see that there are about one third more people in San Mateo in about 2/3rds the area. However, if one takes Stanford, and the parks, opens pace out of the equation for Palo Alto, then the living space tends to become about equal.
The housing data is interesting, in that there about about the same number of dwelling units for both towns, with the exception that there are about 4,000 more apartment buildings in San Mateo, housing 20 (or more) units. The bulk of the housing is priced about half of that of Palo Alto.
So--the difference between San Mateo and Palo Alto is that San Mateo has far more apartment buildings. This factor is also reflected in the fact that the home owner/renter ratio is lower in San Mateo than in Palo Alto.
The last data set is the API scores between the two cities. Notice that San Mateo high is below proficiency, and the elementary system is only one point over proficiency. The Palo Alto schools are significantly better in their testable academic performance.
So -- the census/educational data says that if one wants Palo Alto to be more like San Mateo .. expect the housing prices to be much lower than they are today, that there will be thousands of new apartment buildings, and the educational performance will likely be much lower than it is today.
Posted by Long Time Palo Alto Resident, a resident of the Old Palo Alto neighborhood, on Dec 31, 2007 at 3:48 pm
This is not San Francisco or New York City.
I am pretty sure that this is not the direction we want Palo Alto to be headed.
As a parent, I cannot imagine living over a restaurant, dry cleaner, video, or any shop. Asides from the risks associated from such living, families with children would undoubtedly not be able to contain their children to playing inside all day, and that would put them out into the streets, "hanging out" right outside these stores.
Why are we even discussing this?
No more housing. Palo Alto was built up years ago.
We have closed the land fill.
We can not sustain any more growth.
What about our Public Works Department?
How can we treat the sewage generated from Stanford's massive buildup, combined with the additive wastewater generated from new hotels, and the addition of these homes from ABAG? It is not possible.
People are worried about the water rising in our bay as it is, without these massive projects.
What about potable water (freshwater). We are in drought!
I hope citizens contact their Council Members, our County, and officials in our State to have this stopped immediately.
The parents have advised the school board members, who have gone to the city, and told them the problems. These are genuine problems, and our council cannot ignore this. Every parent knows about massive problems. Even if new schools are opened, they cannot possibly accommodate additional enrollment of this magnitude.
Posted by steve levy, a resident of the University South neighborhood, on Dec 31, 2007 at 4:18 pm
It makes sense to adjust federal loan limits for the higher incomes and home prices in CA. It is similar in some ways to why wages are higher here, say for teachers or city workers, to compensate for the higher cost of living (mainly housing).
Similarly universities face competitive challenges re salaries and housing allowances to compete for professors in a nationwide market.
Such a change would help prospective homeowners in CA but we must also go through a period of price adjustment in many areas of the state and return to lending based on down payments and verifiable ability to pay.
Posted by steve levy, a resident of the University South neighborhood, on Dec 31, 2007 at 4:30 pm
LTPAR and others,
It is against the evidence of your eyes to say that people don't want to live above commerical uses.
Everyone is my building does so. 800 High and many other downtown and California Avenue housing developments have some retail underneath.
All such housing sells and more housing above retail would also sell. You may not like such an arrangement but the evidence is that other people do and if they didn't such housing would not sell and quickly not be built anymore.
We continue to accept and encourage job growth. I think these efforts such as expanding Stanford Hospital and shopping center and having companies like Facebook treasure PA locations are good policy.
You may want the companies to go to Salinas or the moon but 1) they don't agree with you and 2) you would get wiped out in a vote.
So you are left with taking the jobs and asking the housing to go elsewhere. That is the essential reason for the regional housing allocation process--to attempt some good faith balancing of jobs and housing within subregional areas.
The argument that other cities want housing is not backed by evidence, particularly when the housing you want to shove off on your neighbors has lots of low income residents. How can you honestly claim that other cities are crying out for low income housing.
You all have a reasonable claim that more housing in PA in a short period of time would be inconvenient but 1) that is unlikely to happen and 2) doesn't answer the question of what is right to do.
Posted by John, a resident of the College Terrace neighborhood, on Dec 31, 2007 at 5:32 pm
"You may want the companies to go to Salinas or the moon but 1) they don't agree with you and 2) you would get wiped out in a vote."
Nice try, Steve, but pigs don't fly. The thing that would be put to a vote is whether we want ABAG mandates, or not. Companies, like Facebook and Google, will find Palo Alto even more amenable to their interests (especially their high paid employees), if PA remains a brainy and elite place.
Let the people decide, through the ballot. Why are you so afraid of the people of Palo Alto, Steve? You can only dodge the issue of a vote for so long....
Posted by Another-Residentialist, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Dec 31, 2007 at 5:43 pm
> Similarly universities face competitive challenges
> re salaries and housing allowances to compete for
> professors in a nationwide market.
And this is relevant to this discussion, how?
Universities frequently have campuses with lots of land, and "sugar-daddies" in terms of fawning alumni that can be tapped for money, money and more money--for just about anything that the University wants to make a pitch for.
Palo Alto can't ask people who used to live here to "give until it hurts".
Best stick to arguments that are rooted in reality.
Posted by Mike, a resident of the College Terrace neighborhood, on Dec 31, 2007 at 7:42 pm
A few comments, so that basic error is simple logic can be pointed out:
Another-Residentialist: 1) Correlation is not causation; 2) What makes you assume that poor performance accompanies population growth? I would like to hear more about your fundamental lynchpin for this argument. I think I know what it is, but I want to hear you say it.
Another thing: Palo Alto residents LOVE to contribute to the betterment of their city. That's been our history. We're an altruistic bunch. And, just in case you haven't read the research, there is mounting evidence that giving leads to more personal wealth. Just a thought.
Long Time PA Resident: 1) There seem to be a lot of people vying for residential space above retail on Santana Row, and other housing over retail complexes. You should travel to some of the tonier Parisian, London, or Fiorenza neighborhoods in Europe - or even New York - it would show your concern to be baseless.
John, I know more than a few Google and Facebook executives, and I can pretty much guarantee that you that you are not an executive from either place. They don't think the way you think they do. In fact, the changes we are discussing will draw more high tech employees and other professionals. In fact, hearing those who say ABAG initiatives will hurt commerce is practically laughable. In fact, most of the people I hear railing against ABAG are NOT business owners; they're mostly pundits from the sidelines, or so-called "residentialists" that have a negative reflex action against an increase in Palo Alto's population.
Posted by Long Time Palo Alto Resident, a resident of the Old Palo Alto neighborhood, on Dec 31, 2007 at 8:31 pm
Steve and Mike,
Have you ever taken course in biology or psychology?
Question: What happens when you put a bunch of rats into a small cage that must compete for limited resources like food, water, and space?
Answer: They start to fight for these limited resources and end by killing one another, then cannibalism begins.
Carry this argument to people.
Increased housing density = increased competition for limited resources = increased hostility for one another = increased crime = fleeing to another area.
Many people have already left Southern California (The area surrounding Los Angeles) for this very reason.
What happened to the area surrounding USC? Do you know the history behind this once prosperous and affluent neighborhood?
Most employees at USC commute for at least an hour each way to get to work. Attempts to revitalize that area never worked.
I have known corporations in Southern California that have moved an hour south of Los Angeles, not because of the lack of housing, but because of the decreased quality of life in the area.
These corporations decided that Los Angeles and the surrounding area were no longer considered areas where employees would want to raise their families. They worried that they would not be able to attract good employees based on this.
Housing was inexpensive and abundant, but the quality of life was awful.
Posted by Another-Residentialist, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Dec 31, 2007 at 9:01 pm
First -- the housing cost tables for San Mateo and Palo Alto were inadvertently switched. Hopefully people probably recognized that the city with the median housing price at $850K would be Palo Alto.
> 1) Correlation is not causation;
So you keep saying.
However, correlation does not preclude correlation, as you would like to have us think!
> 2) What makes you assume that poor performance accompanies
> population growth? I would like to hear more about your fundamental
> lynchpin for this argument. .
School performance has little to do with schools, and much more to do with parents than most people have been led to believe by the government schools. The California Department of Education has posted millions upon millions of records of test data on its web-site. If anyone takes the time to rummage through the raw data, the correlation between parent education and student performance jumps out like a sore thumb. (Actually, this relationship also can be seen in the US Department of Education (nationwide) NAEP (National Assessment of Educational Progress), and just about every bit of data ever released by schools.)
As related to this discussion: the term BMR appears in the preceding comments about 37 times. The term "affordable" appears 15 times. The term "low income" occurs 9 times. One frequent poster wrote:
"I support the public goal of fostering more housing for low income residents and the public goal of mixing low income housing into all cities."
Well, this means (for some at least) that thousands of "low income" people will be soon streaming into the city. Since there is a clear correlation between income and student performance, the schools aggregate performance will begin to dip. (We have seen that with the PAUSD's so-called "performance gap" for many of its minority students.)
Again, appealing to the US Census for insight (1999 data, unfortunately):
High School: 85.9%
BS or Better: 38.6%
Median household income (dollars) . . . . . . . . . . . . . $64,757
High School: 96.2%
BS or Better: 74.4%
Median household income (dollars) . . . . . . . . . . . . . $90,377
Demonstrating wholesale correlation between income and school performance is not hard to do. Demonstrating wholesale correlation between income and housing prices is not hard to do. What is hard to do is correlating future home prices as the median income of a town goes down because of government-mandated "social engineering" policies that can not be controlled, once set in motion.
While there might be some that consider these views "elitist", the data stands and can not easily be interpreted in any other way.
Leaving us with the question: "why is San Mateo the way it is, and Palo Alto the way it is?"
Posted by Anna, a resident of the Southgate neighborhood, on Dec 31, 2007 at 10:13 pm
Has anyone else noticed how much like the Soviet economic planning system this whole ABAG/CHDC mandate system is.
In the collapsed Soviet union, the Central Government predicted the number and types of tractors that would be needed for a 5 year period. They passed this prediction in the form of a production quota to regional planners who drew up detailed plans on the numbers and kinds of tractors to be produced in each factory.
As we all know, this kind of planning failed because it's impossible to make this kind of prediction with any degree of accuracy.
We have the same thing going on here, just with housing quotas instead of tractor quotas. The CDHC presumes to predict the amount and kinds of housing needed. It passes this along to regional uber-bureaucrats at ABAG and its counterparts across the state who then hand out detailed production quotas to localities on not only the numbers, but the prices of the "needed" housing.
Does this kind of nonsenese seem hubristic to the point of humor to anyone else? What makes Levy think his state planning experts can make these kinds of predictions with any more success than Soviet tractor bureaucrats? This is politics masquerading as economic science.
Levy is right that other localities aren't crying out for low income residents if they have to subsidize their housing. But there are areas of the state (and country) where people can afford housing without subsidy at their income level, who WOULD need a subsidy to live in Palo ALto or other parts of the Bay Area. They'd be happy to have the new residents who would be (by definition) contributors to the economy rather than welfare utilizers. Lots of people don't have the income potential to live in Palo Alto (or Atherton or Pacific Heights) without subsidy. Levy talks about doing the right thing. Are we really morally obligated to subsidize everyone who wants to live in PA? I'd be happy to put that to a vote.
Once more Levy talks about local job growth as if it's inevitable - something the corporations will do no matter what conditions they're faced with. This is false. Companies who can't pay people enough to afford housing locally, or enough to compensate them for backbreaking commutes from outlying areas will move their low paying jobs elsewhere, where it's more affordable - as they have been doing for decades. They'll go to Salinas (or to the Moon) and they'll make it work. Levy says "they don't want to". Since when are we obligated to do what corporations want? Levy may have to do this to earn his paycheck. We don't. I'd be happy to put that to a vote also.
I don't want state bureaucrats deciding how many of what kind of residents we're going to have in Palo Alto based on some pseudo science. I think there are a lot of others who think the whole idea seems kind of creepy and Orwellian. I want us to have control over what kind of city we're going to have. If Palo Altans decide they want a lot of apartments over commercial areas, or a lot of high rise condominiums, that's one thing. It's quite another to have that dictated by people who have no familiarity of us or our needs and desires.
Posted by Mike, a resident of the College Terrace neighborhood, on Jan 1, 2008 at 12:54 am
Wow! it looks like people have been hitting the bubbly! :) Happy New Year!!
LTPR: People are not rats; that's why when rat studies show a result, the same result most often does not present in humans. Please stop anthropomorphizing rats! :) What does this have to do with ABAG? We're not being forced into cages. Good grief, please gain some perspective!
Another-Residentialist: ""why is San Mateo the way it is, and Palo Alto the way it is?" huh?
what makes you think that more people translate to lower "quality" people. You're walking a fine line, showing true colors? And what does this have to do with ABAG and the environment? Demographic scares seem part and parcel of the anti-ABAG coalition. Sad.
Anna: "Has anyone else noticed how much like the Soviet economic planning system this whole ABAG/CHDC mandate system is."
KGB, anyone? :)
PA-Patrice: "How come we never read about Los Altos' ABAG requirements?"
Posted by Not impressed, a resident of the Crescent Park neighborhood, on Jan 1, 2008 at 12:30 pm
Studies have repeatedly showed a high correlation between dense populations and aberrant social behavior in humans. Obviously, it is easier to conduct these experiments on animals or on controlled populations (eg prisoners) but the scientific evidence is overwhelming.
In any case, why should we trust the state projections about population? Can anyone point to an example of the state's predictions being accurate? I can think of many examples that indicate the opposite, beginning with the budget.
I suspect this whole argument may become moot in any case given that the housing market is in a national downward spiral and has yet to bottom out. Instead of planning more housing, we should be grateful that we have not yet been affected and hope that our luck continues.
Posted by Do your homework, a resident of the Greenmeadow neighborhood, on Jan 1, 2008 at 1:10 pm
Not impressed, "Studies"? How dense? What studies? How much aberrant social behavior? You mean Calhoun's rat studies, where the animals didn't have a choice. Yours is such a weak argument that it hardly bears refutation. Also, your knowledge of the local housing market is juvenile, with no understanding of what keeps property values stable here. We're the exception to national peaks and valleys in housing value. Also, please let's see your countervailing studies showing population remaining stable. What is this thread becoming, amateur hour?
Posted by OhlonePar, a resident of the Duveneck/St. Francis neighborhood, on Jan 1, 2008 at 1:46 pm
Right now we're an exception, but not always. Housing prices have been known to plummet 20 percent around here in a bad economy. We're being held up by two things--our schools and Web 2.0. However, if the national market continues its downward spin, don't expect a total exception here. My own family, for example, has a mortgage that's no longer sold--and we had excellent credit and a down payment. A lot of people living in Palo Alto would no longer qualify to buy here.
While we're helped by buyers who have option money, a lot of the run-up in housing prices was due to the manipulations in the mortgage security market. Palo Alto was hardly immune from this. The manipulation of mortgages created buyers and, thus, demand. The buyer pool is now smaller--though, nationally, we're now getting some swooping in by foreign buyers taking advantage of a weak dollar. I don't know that that's going to totally shield Palo Alto from the overall downturn.
I'd say it's literally juvenile to assume our market's not affected by larger cycles--i.e. you weren't around the last time it happened.
Posted by Mike, a resident of the College Terrace neighborhood, on Jan 1, 2008 at 2:13 pm
"We're being held up by two things--our schools and Web 2.0"
This is just wrong-headed, period. This is a relatively mature real estate market with fundamentals that are rarely seen *anywhere*. Weather (some of the best in the world), superb access to capital (financial, social and intellectual); Superb public and private education; and so on.
Web 2.0? The latter is immaterial to local success in the real estate markets, and has been largely overvalued even in the private equity markets.
OP, stay with your excellent perspectives on PAUSD, and avoid losing points by dipping into things that you have little intuition for. :)
Posted by No on ABAG, a resident of the Community Center neighborhood, on Jan 1, 2008 at 5:42 pm
"This is a relatively mature real estate market with fundamentals that are rarely seen *anywhere*."
Exactly, but I am astonished to see you acknowledge this fact. We have all been arguing on behalf of preserving the character of this mature, fully developed community, whereas you want to shift the paradigm and transform Palo Alto into a very different kind of place. If that were to happen, all bets would be off.
As others have noted, given all that is happening in the housing markets, it is likely that this ABAG initiative will die a well-deserved death.
Posted by Homework?, a resident of the Meadow Park neighborhood, on Jan 1, 2008 at 6:15 pm
Your comment may or may not be juvenile. But it's is a good example of intimidation, which is a common juvenile approach to posting online. It's used to respond to a meaningful comment in order to try to stop the poster when you have no information or insight to add, but don't want the poster to keep posting because others will learn something you don't want them to learn.
Posted by steve levy, a resident of the University South neighborhood, on Jan 2, 2008 at 2:47 pm
The only ABAG "mandate" is to develop a Housing Element update that identifies sites and strategies (in a good faith effort) to meet the housing targets provided a) the market demand is there and b) that financing is available.
If PA wants to vote on that please try to organize such a vote. If you want to vote no to ABAG forcing PA to pay for and build 2,860 units, I guess you can vote on whatever you want but that vote would have nothing to do with "ABAG mandates" because ABAG is not asking that.
At least if you are going to get mad, get mad at something real.
Using the current housing downturn to say that ABAG goals are crazy is like saying after a big rain year that CA doesn't have to worry about water any more. Housing is a long-term challenge and the current downturn is a painful blip that does not erase the challenge posed by ABAG and others to the region re housing.
Just for my curiosity would any of the no to ABAG posters take time to state your position on the Stanford hospital and shoppign center expansion. If you are opposed are you opposed becasue you think the impact on the city would be too great or becasue you think the hospital and shopping center are wrong in their market analyses?
And without regard to how it does or does not affect this debate about housing in PA, are all the no posters clear that large differentials in educational funding based on wealth are unconstitutional and that this has been tried before the Supreme Court more than once?
Posted by John, a resident of the College Terrace neighborhood, on Jan 2, 2008 at 3:16 pm
There goes Steve Levy again.
He is afraid of a vote of the people of Palo Alto. He tries to avoid the issue by saying that we are not under any real threat, becasue ABAG's only mandate is to develop a plan for future housing. He conveniently ignores the "camel's nose under the tent" reality that any such approved plan would become an assumed obligation by PA, as funding became availaible (probably through our own taxes). It is a transparent ruse, and he knows it. Beware the snake oil salesman!
Steve Levy has no answer to the BMR issue. He and his circle in Palo Alto have always tried to sell BMR as housing for police, fire, teachers, etc. Yet, with over 250 exisiting units, they cannot come up with evidence that such productive workers in PA are living in those units. Why? Becasue it is welfare housing, plain and simple. Productive workers, of the categories that are used to 'sell' BMRs to us PA citizens, do NOT want to live in those little sardine cans with their families. They would rather live in Tracy, in a three-bedroom home with a yard.
Levy also ignores the crowding issues in our schools and parks and playing fields and libraries. He has a social engineering plan, and he intends to get his way. His utopia would have us all agree to give up our current way of life, and get over our 'selfishness' by agreeing to infill high density living environments.
I agree with those who say, "...put it to a vote". We can vote to just say "NO" to ABAG plans. Then Mr. Levy can go to Sacramento to lobby to take away Basic Aid funding for our schools. He likes to make threats, so let him act on it. Let's just call his bluff.
Posted by Alyssa, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Jan 2, 2008 at 3:43 pm
I'm with John.
This whole ABAG planning rests on ideas that are questionable to say the least. In Levy's Weekly column, he says that he (and) ABAG come up with housing "needs" by forecasting job growth and then figuring how many housing units are needed to warehouse the resulting workers. (In ABAG's ridiculous version of this, they go on to forecast needs in various income categories - giving several variations of BMR units that are "required"). Anyone even vaguely familiar with the worldwide events of the past two decades knows this kind of thinking fell with the Berlin Wall. As John notes, the previous attempts of the utopian socialist planners like Levy to put police and teachers in BMR units failed - as somehow people just don't usually act like these dreamers plan for them to act if they have a choice.
Levy and others now apparently think that the BMR houses will be filled up with bicycle riding gardeners, waiters and nannies. I don't know who will live in the BMR units if they're built, and neither does Levy. But I'd be willing to bet more of them are driving cars commuting to jobs in other Bay Area cities than are taking mass transit to local jobs - just like the rest of us who live here - no matter what our income level.
And I KNOW, as John says, that they'll be crowding our schools, increasing the load on our infrastructure and altering the character of our city in other ways large and small.
Levy doesn't get what we've been saying. This has nothing to do with BMR units or who pays for them. It has to do with the simple notion that most of us consider Palo Alto built out. We don't want more density, more crowding and more of everything that brings. Even if the new residents are all Google millionaires, paying lotsa taxes, we don't want them. Yeah..parochial, selfish, NIMBY, drawbridges and all that...but we have a right to control the kind of city we want - not Levy or ABAG bureaucrats Let's vote. As John says, if Levy wants to try to get Sacramento to punish us for wanting to preserve our town, then we'll fight that war when it comes.
Posted by Mike, a resident of the College Terrace neighborhood, on Jan 2, 2008 at 4:05 pm
Alyssa, Guess what? You're not "we", you're you. You're also not a City Council member who will have to wrestle with the fact that this city may very well be sued if we don't show good faith efforts toward fulfilling our responsibility.
It seems that the only things the anti-ABAGers have left is spouting numbers (a la Karen) that are presented as gospel, when they're clearly not; and, another contingent equating ABAG's attempt to balance and scale development as "Soviet Style Planning". What policy maker will take that kind of rhetoric seriously; or, take those numbers seriously.
We WILL be working with ABAG, and hopefully other communities (ifi we take the lead) to work something out that will balance growth in this region, and ameliorate the environmental impacts of sprawl.
btw, it's an easy bet to make re: whether those who say "no" on ABAG are against the hospital and mall expansion. There are not very many no growthers in this city (although to look at these boards one would not think that). What we have here is a determined, *tiny* minority, who comes out with guns loaded every time anyone wants to build anything here, as if one more house, or even a few thousand homes, are going to sink Palo Alto. Chicken Little, anyone?
Posted by John, a resident of the College Terrace neighborhood, on Jan 2, 2008 at 4:40 pm
"...wrestle with the fact that this city may very well be sued if we don't show good faith efforts toward fulfilling our responsibility."
There you go again, Mike (new or old). More threats and scare tactics. Exactly, Mike, how will we get sued? Be specific. Name some case law that will hold water.
The reason some people accuse you and Levy and a few others (an extreme minority in this town) of "Soviet Style Planning", is that the shoe fits.
You guys always ignore the owvercrowding of our schools and infrastructure. You are single-minded about environmental effects of suburban and ex-burban living, yet you fail to provide the data to support your claims. You never answer the question about BMR tennants that get into their cars to drive to Santa Clara for a job, nor the fact that police/fiore/teachers refuse to live in those cramped units.
The true visionaries in Palo Alto understand that high density infill housing will be a disaster for Palo Alto.
If you think you are capable of making convincing arguments, you should be supporting the call to put it on the ballot. What are you afraid of, Mike (and Steve)?
Posted by steve levy, a resident of the University South neighborhood, on Jan 2, 2008 at 5:20 pm
The joke is on you. I have encouraged you to try for a vote several times now and you keep ragging on Mike and me.
If you are so sure of yourself go for it and stop just talking about it.
I doubt you can find one elected official or attorney on the city staff to support your version of a vote but go ahead and prove me wrong. What are you afraid of?
I think it is a waste of money but am happy to argue the merits if there is a vote.
You want to use the power of governement to prevent low-income families from living in subsidized housing in Palo Atlto--programs that are completely legal--and you accuse me of being a socialist. Now that IS funny.
Posted by John, a resident of the College Terrace neighborhood, on Jan 2, 2008 at 5:51 pm
"You want to use the power of governement to prevent low-income families from living in subsidized housing in Palo Atlto--programs that are completely legal--and you accuse me of being a socialist. Now that IS funny."
I am glad you wrote what you just wrote, Steve. Upside down reasoning by the advocate is always an advantage to the adversary of such reasoning.
I want our PA government to STOP subsidizing welfare housing in Palo Alto. There is absolutely no legal requirement that we build even MORE welfare housing...it is only a choice that you and your circle have saddled us with. I (and others) simply want to vote to make sure that our PA governemnt does not commit us to obligations that are not legally mandated. I am completely comfortable with such a vote, Steve. Will you support me, by advocating that PA citizens can make their own choice? Who knows, you might prevail in such a vote. If you are confident of your postition, you should have no fear.
BTW, I have challenged you, several times, to explain why ABAG housing mandates will not overcrowd our schools and infrastructure. You never provide a rational answer. You just make threats about law suits and Basic Aid (school financing). Your bullying won't work. PA citizens are too smart for that stuff.
Posted by Mike, a resident of the College Terrace neighborhood, on Jan 2, 2008 at 6:31 pm
John, Please stop meandering and go for it! (the vote). See what happens. :)
I'm putting a walk to my talk, and will continue to lobby and do what else it takes (outside this forum) for ABAG initiatives to gain attention.
Every one of your questions has been answered, on one ABAG thread or another. You're simply not showing a good faith effort to re-read what I (and others) have already written. Whether you consider those answers "rational", or not, is your prerogative. "Rational" or not (and we could easily argue the merits of the anti-ABAGers arguments on rational grounds, relative to the contradictions present between those who spew negativity about this gallant effort, and their claim to being "green", or environmentalists.
btw, do you consider yourself an environmentalist? Please create a study that counters what we already know about suburban sprawl, and the environmental degradation that ensues. I'd also love to see *your* plan (as well as otyher fervent anti-ABAGers, here) for how to manage growth in California, and this region, for the next 20-30 years. I won't hold my breath for those studies, because the real subtext for the anti-ABAG position is NIMBYISM. You're entitled to hold that position, but let's call it what it is, instead of cloaking it with paeans to enlightened capitalism, and laughable references to Soviet-style planning.
I'd also love to see you or Karen White defend her 2014 projections of an additional 30,000 residents, based on ABAG algorithms that are clearly stated as fungible.
Rant not, want not. Do the homework; let's see your studies, and rationales.
Posted by Alyssa, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Jan 2, 2008 at 6:49 pm
Levy and Mike hide behind legalisms concerning elections to avoid the fact that the only way they can get their way is for unelected bureaucrats in the state to impose these ABAG style quotas on cities and localities like Palo Alto. "I doubt you can find one elected official or attorney on the city staff to support your version of a vote ..."
We can have a local vote to decide if we'll accede to the ABAG quotas. The city council can and should put it on the ballot.
As these kinds of overbearing impositions on local control of a fundamental local process - zoning decisions - become more apparent, other cities will be protesting. Indeed some are already. It wouldn't be surprising to see a statewide vote on this issue - if the politicians in Sacramento don't feel the pressure and take some action to ameliorate it first.
These ABAG "smart growth" initiatives have been tried in other states - Oregon, for example. They have been marginally effective in countering the environmentalist bete noir, "sprawl". But the cost in terms of the character of the affected areas has been disastrous for the people who live there.
As people realize the degradation of our neighborhoods, infrastructure and schools that will result from ABAG quotas, and as they realize the fundamental changes that acceding to the ABAG mandates will cause to the character of our city and to the lifestyles we came here to enjoy, more will support protesting the ABAG dictates.
The City Council has already heard from the citizenry on this issue, which is why they sent the letter protesting ABAG. Levy and Mike may talk about the few non-representative no-growthers on this board, but if it were true that we ABAG protesters are a "tiny" minority, the legions of "visionaries" represented by Levy and Mike should have carried the day with the council. They didn't. They won't. This is why Levy gets so wobbly when the idea of voting comes up - why you hear talk of lawyers, lawsuits and veiled threats. They know they can't win a vote and so they hide behind legalisms.
Levy says he's willing to argue on the merits...but even he must see that he's been arguing the merits on this thread for weeks without apparently converting a single person to his cause. This isn't surprising when he describes ABAG opponents as evil selfish people attempting to prevent low income people from living in Palo Alto. As he must see, I can't live in Atherton on my current income either. That doesn't mean Atherton is preventing me from living there because they refuse to rezone to allow subsidized moderate income housing there. He's attempted the "freedom to live where you want" argument throughout this thread. No one has bought it yet.
John is right: Palo Altans are too smart to fall for either the silly economic arguments underlying the ABAG mandates, or for the moralizing by some ABAG supporters. No wonder Levy wanders off into lawyer-land when the subject of voting comes up.
here's a very interesting and much-talked-about study that puts a valuation to New Jersey's natural assets. We will see more of this; I look forward to a similar valuation of California's natural assets.
These valuations are important because along with the priceless, intangible benefits we get from our natural assets, we must come to understand that protecting those assets from development is important to our pocketbooks, and our human souls.
Natural assets are the first things to disappear when suburban sprawl increases; this is one of the things that ABAG-like templates will keep from happening.
ABAG's impact goes far beyond Palo Alto; it impacts our region, and state - indeed, the very earth we all live on. THis may sound a bit flowery, but we are only beginning to understand how interconnected we are, and why we must plan appropriately for future growth in ways that mitigate future harm to the environment.
This is one more, of many reasons, why performing a good faith effort in the direction of accomplishing ABAG goals is important.
Posted by Mike, a resident of the College Terrace neighborhood, on Jan 2, 2008 at 7:53 pm
Alyssa: " Palo Altans are too smart to fall for either the silly economic arguments underlying the ABAG mandates, or for the moralizing by some ABAG supporters."
It might interest you to know that all nine of our policy makers are wrestling with these "silly economic arguments" as we write. We're going to see just how silly the ABAG suggestions *aren't*, if our community does anything but a best effort to meet the environmental responsibilities that cascade as a result of our economic growth, and other accidental blessings.
Posted by Mike, a resident of the College Terrace neighborhood, on Jan 2, 2008 at 10:16 pm
ABAG is the creation of the same enlightened government process that has resulted in our governor's suit against the EPA to allow our state's fight against climate change continue.
You free marketers might not like it, and Milton Friedman cartainly would not approve, but enlightened and visionary government is the only way we will address the crisis *the very earth we all live on* is undergoing.
Local governments simply are not capable of accounting for the myriad externalities of their policies and they are elected by short-sighted people interested only in their own well-being. The only way we will avert the rolling catastrophe that the earth now is experiencing is by large scale planning with real teeth.
We *must* submit to the wisdom of people well versed in looking at the whole picture of the environment, the economy, our lifestyles and so much more. The rampant individualism which has trickled down through our society for the past 25 years has reached its logical dead end. It's time for us all to act individually and together for the collective benefit of ourselves, our state, our nation and most of all for our planet.
ABAG is but a tiny cog in the machine. We will see much more iniatives that look toward building a better society and economy as time passes. I have been in touch with a *very* important person in the know in Sacramento recently. You have no idea of either the gravity of our situation, nor of what will be required to address it. And you have no idea how many plans are already being laid to thwart the flimsly roadblocks you anti-ABAGers are putting up.
You'll be amazed at what's coming down the pike. The interests of few naysayers in Palo Alto doesn't amount to a hill of beans in the big mountain of trouble that we'll all be in if we fail to act.
Posted by We must submit, a resident of the Barron Park neighborhood, on Jan 3, 2008 at 9:21 am
This guy seems to think that Palo Alto was primarily built by government and developers. That the kind of executives that would sacrifice quality of life of its employees for more convenient cheap labor have made our great companies or made them great.
Residents are incidental to his vision, which is happy to include asking many who live here to move in order to find the kind of place we've made Palo Alto. Engineers are despised.
It is clear from his writings he does not live in Palo Alto, or have any sense of what has happened here, or what can happen here.
Posted by Not buying it, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Jan 3, 2008 at 10:30 am
Its pretty well established that Mike doesn't live in Palo Alto, and never has.
Hey Mike - did ABAG take in to consideration the land/housing that will be torn up/consumed and other wise inundated by a) global warming, as everything east of 101 goes under water in the next 25-50 years, b) the high speed rail line that will emminent domain a wide swath of Palo Alto right down the middle.
So how did these enlightened politicians factor the pending massive reduction of available Palo Alto land, and the pending (being planned by ANOTHER enlighted group of policitians) massive displacement of property owners into their calculations?
Maybe these enlightened politicians should get together and get their stories straight.
Posted by steve levy, a resident of the University South neighborhood, on Jan 3, 2008 at 10:58 am
The folks questioning voters support for housing subsidies might ponder the fact that Prop 1C passed statewide in 2006 with more than 57% approval for $2.8 billion in assistance to low-income residents.
So at least some voters are ok with spending their state tax dollars on housing subsidies.
Posted by Alyssa, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Jan 3, 2008 at 11:30 am
Levy still gets it wrong. The objections are NOT about subsidies. They're about changing the character of our city by building high density housing and by increasing substantially the population of a city that most of us consider built out.
If Levy really cared about the plight of low income workers rather than about his Utopian planning schemes and insuring that corporate interests have a supply of workers, he'd advocate using the limited Prop 1C subsidy dollars somewhere where they'd stretch farther than in Palo Alto, perhaps the place with the highest cost per square foot for residential building in the state. Instead of stuffing low income people into little 700 square foot boxes here in PA, they could get real living space with yards for the same amount of money..and more units could be built.
Additionally, since most low income people are by definition low skilled, they'd be in communities where they have a better chance of fitting into the economy and the society than here in high tech, high education level Palo Alto.
But Levy likes ABAG with its intrusive coercion and its social engineering more than he likes helping poor people.
Levy's tendentious moralizing and insinuations that those of us who are anti-ABAG are insensitive to the poor are getting tiresome. When you look at the facts, it's Levy and his cohorts who are placing other interests above making sure the poor are truly helped. Not that he really cares.
Posted by Pat Gillette, a resident of the Palo Alto Hills neighborhood, on Jan 3, 2008 at 11:43 am
I have some first hand knowledge that might be relevant to this discussion. The woman who cleans my house recently got her green card, making her eligible for BMR housing.
She now lives in Burlingame and pays $1100/month for her apartment. She's under the understanding that she can get something in one of Palo Alto's BMR program for $700/mo. She rather stay in Burlingame since most of her jobs are in that area, but figures the $400/month is worth the cost and inconvenience of commuting most days.
This is a fine woman, and I'm happy she's a permanent resident and I also think she'll be a valuable addition to Palo Alto. But I think those who are arguing that BMR housing will reduce emissions or commuting are being pretty unrealistic. People make complicated trade-offs when choosing where to live. If you save someone money on housing costs, they're likely to spend part of it doing very unenvironmental things.
Posted by Miike, a resident of the College Terrace neighborhood, on Jan 3, 2008 at 12:26 pm
Karen White: "are you saying that the state will provide the subsidies that Palo Alto would otherwise need to pay?"
State subsidies will no doubt come into play in some municipalities. As it is, the ABAG mandate itself IS a subsidy. That's what some people keep missing.
ABAG implementation can be understood in one way as a *conscious* subsidy, made b y local citizens, to help manage the growth that we all know is coming - and further insure that 1) the costs of our success are not born by others; and 2) that our state environment is protected from the exceeding damage caused by suburban sprawl.
Again, it;s important to point out that we are facing "inconvenient truths"; this means that we are going to have to adapt. We can do that if we stop thinking only of ourselves, and take the initiative to lead.
Alyssa:"since most low income people are by definition low skilled, they'd be in communities where they have a better chance of fitting into the economy and the society than here in high tech, high education level Palo Alto."
On the one hand, I'm happy to see some posters continually point to their perceived "problem" of letting "low skilled" workers liver here. It's important that ABAG and state officials get an eyeful of the NUMBYISM that drives a lot of anti-ABAG residents.
In fact, many lower income workers would be able to avail their kids of our excellent public school system, and at the same time, we'd be better off having retail, teachers, social workers, etc. etc. living close to where they work.
The fact that most BMR units have not been occupied by lower paid professionals (like teachers) really says more about suburban sprawl than it does about the ability of new BMR strategies to draw those workers closer to home.
San Francisco has just begun a very successful program of enabling teachers to live in San Francisco, through incentives. If we were to do the same with small business owners, public safety personnel, social workers, home workers, etc. - and give those workers an opportunity to assist in the design of BMR units with the new crop of nurturing developers that is beginning to appear, we could help change the face of commuting in this Valley. We could lead the way, if only we can generate the political will, borne of a newfound (and so far, seemingly missing) responsibility toward the environment, and the future of our region.
Pat Gillette: I would refer you to my response to Alyssa, above. This will help provide a new perspective on what can be done to change the demographic character of BMR residents, anmd why it's important to include BMR units in our planning.
Lastly, we have to realize - looking through the distortions that have been created to make us believe that the current inclusionary zoning formulas are forever fixed in stone. They're not, and even the anti-ABAGers know that.
I expect to see continued ferment on this issue, but in the end I'm confident that our policy making group - declared environmentalists, every one - will do the right thing, see the big picture, and act accordingly in favor of the spirit that underlies the ABAG request.
Posted by Karen White, a resident of the Duveneck/St. Francis neighborhood, on Jan 3, 2008 at 12:47 pm
My question, "are you saying that the state will provide the subsidies that Palo Alto would otherwise need to pay," was directed to Steve, not Mike.
Mike writes: The fact that most BMR units have not been occupied by lower paid professionals (like teachers) really says more about suburban sprawl than it does about the ability of new BMR strategies to draw those workers closer to home.
No, Mike: what it says is that given a choice, people would rather live in single-family homes with yards than in high-density sardine cans for the same dollars, and that having the single-family home with yard is worth some commute for those who make that choice.
Posted by Mike, a resident of the College Terrace neighborhood, on Jan 3, 2008 at 1:02 pm
"what it says is that given a choice, people would rather live in single-family homes with yards than in high-density sardine cans for the same dollars, and that having the single-family home with yard is worth some commute for those who make that choice."
Karen White: Just because people prefer a particular choice does not mean we have to give it to them if that choice is deleterious to the environment or if it conflicts with a shared vision of the common good.
Similarly, just because we in Palo Alto might choose to zone our city in ways that do not share the regional responsiblility to manage growth with innovation and a can-do sprit, does not mean Palo Alto should be allowed to make that choice.
It's time to show the mantra of those who chant "choice" and "freedom" for what it is: a selfish, individualistic charade that mocks our professed concern for the environment and the commonweal.
Posted by Mike, a resident of the College Terrace neighborhood, on Jan 3, 2008 at 1:03 pm
First, a question posted to a bulletin board is fair game.
Second, the assumption that BMR units are - or have to be like - "sardine cans" (as you put it) is just plain wrong. You might tour some of Palo Alto's BMR housing (as I have). Much of it is very nice, attractive, roomy, and well-integrated into our great community.
That some would choose to commute several hours per day goes without saying. However, that said, that *choice* is exactly what ABAG and other organizations are attempting to correct. That *choice* is a choice that results from an *informal* policy of non-action re: the containment of suburban sprawl.
I would point you - and others - who doubt the value of undeveloped land (that will be lost to suburban sprawl, if we don't do something about it) to the link posted about the recent New Jersey study that puts valuation metrics to open space, in an effort to help citizens understand why we have to limit suburban sprawl.
I understand your consternation in all this; we are going to be challenged by the ABAG request. What I don't understand is why people are making assumptions that are simply unproven, relative to that request - instead of rolling up our sleeves to do our best to make it work in a way that *enhances* our environment, our community, and the lives of the many generations that will *profit* from open space that is kept from suburban sprawl development.
We're talking about *responsibility* here; it's time to challenge ourselves, instead of shuttling the costs of our success onto the backs of future generations.
If we take responsibility (with a "small r") only for keeping nthings pretty much the way they are, we are being *irresponsible* re: the larger effect of our actions.
Palo Alto is more than capable of the latter. The reputation and "can do" attitude of our forebears precedes us; we need to live up to that.
Posted by Original Mike, a resident of the College Terrace neighborhood, on Jan 3, 2008 at 1:26 pm
Please note: the second last post placed by a new "Mike" from College Terrace, is not my doing. It is, however, the doing of someone who is unable to argue on the merits. That's OK. Besides, the meat of his arguments (minus the harsh language) is correct. I appreciate the support. :)
I will continue to morph my name, as necessary - because it's the content that counts.
Posted by Steve Raney, a resident of the Crescent Park neighborhood, on Jan 6, 2008 at 5:58 pm
Karen White wrote that "given a choice, people would rather live in single-family homes with yards than in high-density sardine cans for the same dollars, and that having the single-family home with yard is worth some commute for those who make that choice."
I want to make a clarification about the current U.S. housing market. The housing market is far from an efficiently functioning market. The housing market is highly regulated and poorly regulated. Hence, if the housing market operated efficiently, people would be able to make housing choices that they were more enthusiastic about. As of today, those choices are limited and lousy. Too often, folks pick the "least worst" housing option. No one likes picking a house with a two-hour commute; no one likes living in a sardine can. If the housing market was more efficient, the Bay Area would look different than what we see now.
In addition, when a family selects a residential location that creates high mileage commutes, this creates a "negative economic externality" - the family creates negative traffic, particulate pollution, and greenhouse gas emissions, but does not pay for this impact. Instead, the impact is borne by society. This is yet another way in which the housing market is inefficient and results in a Bay Area that isn’t as nice as it could be.
Posted by Steve Raney, a resident of the Crescent Park neighborhood, on Jan 6, 2008 at 8:34 pm
re how would the Bay Area look:
1. This is from a national transportation sustainability paper by Martin Wachs (now with Rand, was a Berkeley prof):
"Jonathan Levine’s research, for example, shows that more conservative Americans often assert that it is 'market forces' and 'personal preferences' that lead us to prefer low-density single-family homes in areas characterized by single land uses. He disagrees, pointing out that often market forces and household preferences actually would lead to higher densities and communities consisting to a far greater extent of mixed land uses except for the fact that they are excluded by zoning and subdivision regulations prohibiting those land uses and requiring the traditional American suburban land use patterns. Those regulations were in many cases put into place decades ago to keep residences away from heavy industries. Today they inhibit rather than enhance our ability to achieve more current versions of appropriate land use mixes that support sustainability."
Reference: Levine, J., A. Inam, and G.-W. Torng. 2005. A Choice-Based Rationale for Land Use and Transportation Alternatives: Evidence from Boston and Atlanta. Journal of Planning Education and Research, Vol. 24, No. 3, pp. 317–330.
2. Proposition 13 is wildly popular, but very distorting to the housing market. Without Prop 13, my dad's (midtown) property taxes would have gone way up, and he and many others would have been priced out of PA homes as property values increased. It's a bit hypotethical to think through what PA would be like without Prop 13, but there would probably have been lobbying for higher density (lower cost) PA ownership housing for folks to "move down to." Weekly Editor Jay Thorwaldson characterizes the last 40 years in PA: "PA has a drawbridge mentality." I would imagine that PA's drawbridge would have been lowered in a world without Prop 13. I think PA would be more racially diverse. You might come up with a different "no Prop 13" scenario.
3. If the negative economic externalities of buying a home with a really long commute were priced according to true cost, then there would be less constant outward expansion of human settlement patterns, so less sprawl.
When cities act on their own, they optimize land use based on local voter concerns. When an entire region is planned in this manner, the result is extremely inefficient human settlement patterns. It's really a tragedy of the commons, because city land use decisions made in each city's local interest harm other cities and harm the region as a whole. See: Web Link.
Posted by Karen White, a resident of the Duveneck/St. Francis neighborhood, on Jan 7, 2008 at 9:48 am
Steve, you say "when cities act on their own, they optimize land use based on local voter concerns." I'd say that cities do or should carefully weigh the fiscal, service, infrastruture and facility impacts of growth.
Agreed that Prop 13 has brought distortions. It's also wrought all kinds of deleterious unintended consequences that we're clearly left trying to grapple with. Would you or Steve Levy share your thoughts on how our tax structure might be redesigned to generate sufficient resources for local communities to accommodate growth? I'm thinking here of our own infrastructure and public facility deficit, but a solution should apply generally.
Posted by Anna, a resident of the Southgate neighborhood, on Jan 7, 2008 at 10:19 am
Steve Raney makes an interesting point about the negative externalities of long commutes. He is right about that: in theory there are negative externalities with emissions, as well as with congestion associated with long distance commuting. But, as he likely knows, there are huge measurement problems associated with valuing these external costs. Studies have been done that reach wildly different results.
Even assuming that Raney (or others) could come up with a "correct" cost figure for commuting, the most efficient way would be to add that to the commute costs - probably through a gas tax increase. The ABAG solution to this problem of building subsidized housing to balance the putatively "subsidized" long distance commute cost only compounds the problem and inefficiencies. If commuters paid the whole cost of their commutes, they could make choices about the size and location of their residences - which might (or might not) lead to a major relocation to the Bay Area.
The urge to live in single family housing with yards is very strong in the US - despite the efforts of the ABAG type Utopian planners. Companies might find they have to relocate some of their jobs to where the workers and their preferred housing types are -- which would achieve the environmental goals Raney seems to want.
On Prop 13, Raney is confused about "distortions". All taxes distort the market. If we raised everybody's property taxes by 500%, it would lower real estate prices and distort the market in other ways. Similarly, if we lowered everybody's taxes by half it would affect (distort?) the market in other ways. Whether either of these policies would be good or bad, depends on your viewpoint -- but to argue that Prop 13 is a "market distortion" that would be absent in a post-Prop 13 world is just wrong.
Finally, Raney's unconventional use of the tragedy of the commons (TC)concept obscures more than it explains. TC generally is used to refer to overuse of a publicly or commonly owned resource by multiple private entities because each one of the private parties has incentives to use up the resource before the others do, and no one has the incentive to conserve the resource.
It's unclear what "resource" Raney is talking about cities using, but his use of the phrase "extremely inefficient settlement patterns" seems to suggest his mindset. Free people, left on their own, perhaps do choose to live in ways that a collectivist-minded planner would view as "inefficient". That's because these kinds of people give no value to the positive utilities of freely chosen lifestyles and would (per ABAG) force people into the boxes their planning programs dictates would be most "efficient."
Raney does bring a fresh set of arguments to the pro ABAG dictates side. But they're really not much more persuasive than Steve Levy's and Mike's repetition on the issue.
In an open vote, Palo Alto voters will never agree to ABAG mandates. The ABAG supporters know this, which is why they waffle when voting is suggested.
Palo Alto has a right to choose the kind of town we will be. Let's vote.
Posted by Anna, a resident of the Southgate neighborhood, on Jan 7, 2008 at 11:21 am
Steve Levy's linked piece is a predictable counterpart to his pro-ABAG argumentation in this thread. Levy believes strongly in the ability of government to improve our lives by making decisions for us and spending our money. So his "solution" to California's financing woes: a huge tax increase.
California already is among the highest taxed states in the US, and Levy would have us move smartly up that ladder. Fortunately, even most Democrats in Sacramento know that we compete not only with other lower taxed states, but with lower-taxed countries around our globalized world. None of them are talking about the economy-crushing "revenue raising" measures Levy spins out.
The only way California (and Palo Alto and the rest of the cities in our state) will exit the ongoing fiscal morass is to get a firm grip on spending, including particularly the escalating pension and benefit costs for public workers. Taking a further 1/2 percent (or more) from the state's private sector (a huge increase, which Levy inappropriately minimizes as "only"), would crush an economy that already is wobbling because of real estate woes.
Responsible leaders in California aren't talking like Levy. Let's hope they don't fall for the temptation he lays out in his piece.
Posted by Mike, a resident of the College Terrace neighborhood, on Jan 7, 2008 at 4:23 pm
"The only way California (and Palo Alto and the rest of the cities in our state) will exit the ongoing fiscal morass is to get a firm grip on spending, including particularly the escalating pension and benefit costs for public workers. Taking a further 1/2 percent (or more) from the state's private sector (a huge increase, which Levy inappropriately minimizes as "only"), would crush an economy that already is wobbling because of real estate woes."
Wobbling real estate woes? As if temporary dips in real estate valuations (brought on by the highly dubious, but much touted (by you) "free, unregulated market") will make a long-term difference in a state that is projecting substantial population increases? Sorry, your argument here is wrong-headed on its face.
Steve Levy's suggestions are good ones. We do need to increase revenue, as well as begin to hold government accountable (with firm milestones) for meeting goals - *assuming that government has the resources necessary to accomplish those goals*. We all have to share in the pain, so that we can all share in the gain.
Posted by Steve Raney, a resident of the Crescent Park neighborhood, on Jan 8, 2008 at 3:58 pm
Steve Levy did a nice job weighing in on our fiscal constraints. I also wonder if new Councilmember Yeh will be able to contribute over time to wrestling with our fiscal constraints – he works for a firm that consults on public financing, etc.
On my end, I also hope that private sector actions can help achieve common ends. For example, I believe that each high-density, market-rate senior housing unit we build in PA will generate a fiscal surplus for schools and city services. Such housing produces no new students and relatively little traffic impact. Maybe there’s a way to let the market work to generate a fiscal surplus that can be applied elsewhere.
I agree that it's crazy to add two million more people to the Bay Area over the next 20-30 years. I'd also add that sustainable world population is closer to four billion, not 6.8 billion (from John Holtzclaw, Sierra Club). Hence, "pro-shrink" is best policy - but it's not a realistic policy for this decade.
I agree that in an open vote in January 2008, PA voters will not agree to the ABAG 2,860 home allocation. But, in an open vote, PA voters will not agree to maximizing carbon. So from my standpoint, I believe there is a chance to educate voters on the land use => global warming link, and then start changing minds on the housing allocation. Land use is really complex, it’s not taught as part of “civics education,” and the press has difficulty explaining land use. If we achieve a “land-use conversant” voting population, then the housing allocation will be less controversial.
Like you, I’m also in favor of a gas tax increase. For years in Europe and Asia, gas has cost $8 per gallon. Now it’s up to $12 per gallon. This level of pricing does produce much more efficient human settlement patterns than in the suburban US. Suburban US has the highest carbon footprint in the world, and, when you account for PA’s jobs/housing imbalance, PA has the highest carbon footprint of all US suburbs. In the Bay Area, MTC and TALC are proposing a tiny increase to the gas tax. It’s a good start.
I need to clarify that the labels “Stalinist,” “socialist,” and “utopian” are being applied to a land use/housing policy adopted by our pro-business Republican governor. I think he did play a Russian in one of his movies, and his sci-fi work often features totalitarian governments.
A. Our statewide 2006 Climate Protection Law, AB32, is championed by our governor. The CA Climate Action Team, Web Link, is the state’s collaborative climate effort, featuring Environmental Protection Agency; Business, Transportation and Housing Agency; Department of Food and Agriculture; Resources Agency; Air Resources Board; Energy Commission; and Public Utilities Commission. Smart land use is the Team's second largest 2020 carbon reducer, with three primary strategies: increased housing density, transit oriented development, and jobs/housing balance. It must be emphasized that the state wouldn’t take on affluent suburbs like Palo Alto unless this was absolutely necessary to protect the climate – no politician in their right mind welcomes a fight with affluent, well-educated, vocal suburbs – that’s where all the political fundraising $ comes from. See also William Fulton’s Feb 5 LA Times OpEd: “California's Golden Opportunity To Reshape Growth, ” Web Link. Reductions in CO2 can only occur “if the overall amount of driving significantly drops” and only if we “rethink the way CA grows.” The second largest statewide CO2 reduction (from the CA Climate Action Team: 18 tons per year) “will have to come from changes in CA’s growth patterns.” “Technology alone won’t solve the problem.” “Among other things, that means building more affordable housing closer to where people work.”
B. ABAG is only implementing state policy, ABAG is not the villain. If ABAG were the villain, then PA is also the villain, because PA is a member of ABAG. Some people think of ABAG as being a sinister organization staffed by PA-hating aliens. In reality, ABAG is a very weak organization that is controlled by Bay Area cities. It must be emphasized that ABAG does not want to pick a fight with PA.
C. Furthermore, the governor has a compassionate housing vision: "each community should house its own." That means the Guv wants PA to house teachers, gardeners, and baristas who work here. Hopefully, compassion is simply a basic human trait, a trait that transcends labels such as liberal or conservative, socialist or capitalist.
More debunking of the myth of US preference for single family homes, based on happiness theory:
A. Robert Putnam (author: Bowling Alone): For every 10 minutes of commute that a person reduces, that person obtains one more social connection. The more social connections a person has, the happier they are. Hence, sprawl reduces happiness.
B. NY Times writer David Brooks (from his 2004 book, On Paradise Drive) finds that the average home square footage per American is 770 square feet. Australia comes in second at 550 square feet, but the rest of the developed world requires far less square footage. Japanese take the least space, 136 square feet. It does not follow that bigger homes produce happier people. It not true that Americans are happier than the rest of the developed world.
Posted by Let Freedom Ring, a resident of the Barron Park neighborhood, on Jan 8, 2008 at 5:04 pm
Who is Steve Raney to define happiness? Utopians have always thought they could do so. Many tens of millions of people have been murdered by such people.
People will live where they choose to live, according to their means. No need to get fancy about it. Freedom is a hard pill to swallow for the uptopians, so the sane people need to force them to take their medicine.
Posted by Anna, a resident of the Southgate neighborhood, on Jan 8, 2008 at 6:19 pm
Steve Raney is the most reasonable of the ABAG supporters on this thread, and he should be complimented for avoiding most of the invective and ad hominem of the other ABAG people. But he is dangerously wrong about ABAG.
I admire his confidence that with voter education, the ABAG mandates can be sold to voters in PA - quite unlike the other ABAGers who run and hide behind legalism when the subject of voting on ABAG arises. I think he's wrong however. Palo Alto voters could be convinced if there were a reasonable argument based on environmental (or other) factors that ABAG is good for the community - or even for the region.
But there is no such case. ABAG is very unlikely to reduce commuting to any significant degree. As the many comments on this thread seem to show, commuting distance is only a very small reason why people pick residence locations. Many, many people live here and commute elsewhere. And even if you start working in PA, in the Valley, job tenures are short. Your next job is unlikely to be local. This applies to gardeners and waiters too. All the new residents of the 2800 ABAG residents aren't going to be riding bikes to local jobs. They'll be clogging our roads with their cars --- just like those of us who currently live here. Any contention to the contrary is certainly unsupported by the commenters in this thread - and is likely unsupportable per se. Raney (as well as the Utopian planners who came up with the legislative scheme that produced ABAG) are letting their aspirations and desires interfere with their logic.
The rest of Raney's post is - despite his protestations to the contrary - central planning authoritarianism run amoke cloaked in the language of compassion.
Read the ABAG mandates, and you will see that it divides the housing "needs" determined by the "experts" into various sub-categories, and then specifies the types of people (grouped by income) who will live in each. These wards of the state are then shoehorned into the kinds of housing that Raney's planners think is best for them. The overall numbers come down from the state bureaucrats at the CHDC, and it's ABAG that divies up the numbers into quotas for each city, which then produce the Housing Element Updates that in turn produce the BMR housing.
In the old Soviet Union, the central committes came up with tractor needs, which were communicated to regional commisars who came up with the production quotas for each factory. The factories were to produce the numbers and types of quotas. Sorry, Steve, but the comparison with Stalin's USSR is not totally off base.
The most offensive part of Raney's post is his attempt to define happiness for others based on theories and formulas ginned up by social theorists - rather than relying on what people choose when given the free choice. Thus he would have us think that we'd really be happier in the high density, transit oriented housing he's chosen for us than in our suburban gardens we chose for ourselves. This has a totalitarian flavor that we all should object to, and reveals more than anything else where Raney and like minded people who developed this planning scheme are coming from.
People all over the world are breaking free from the stifling central planning model of development. What an irony and a shame that people like Raney would try to implement it here under the guise of compassion and environmentalism. Reject this attempt to regiment the state of California according to the whims of elitist bureaucrats.
Posted by Mike, a resident of the College Terrace neighborhood, on Jan 8, 2008 at 6:52 pm
"Steve Raney is the most reasonable of the ABAG supporters on this thread, and he should be complimented for avoiding most of the invective and ad hominem of the other ABAG people."
That's damning with faint praise, even as you sink to comparing Stave to a Soviet planner.
I feel sorry for Steve's sincere attempt to explain the ABAG rationale - a *regional* rationale to NIMBYIST nostalgists. Of COURSE we're not going to see fantastical reductions from commuter Co2 emissions from *just* PA's contribution to the ABAG request. But if we look toward a future where most new housing is built near urban centers, and we mostly halt suburban sprawl, THEN we will se a reduction. There is plenty of evidence to that effect presented in multiple links (and real results, elsewhere) to back that up.
Anna has obviously not read about the recent New Jersey study, about the real dollar contribution of natural assets that are LOST when we submit to suburban sprawl.
Most of Anna's - and other anti-ABAG - posts either present information about the environment that is downright wrong, or they conveniently deny the fact that the continuance of suburban sprawl has a deleterious effect on the environment. How convenient, especially when the latter is espoused by persons who broadcast their "green" philosophies. We're going to get a good look at just who is, and is not, "green", as we go forward with ABAG negotiations.
Last, Anna, please do make an appointment with one of Arnie's staffers, so you can tell her how "Soviet style" the ABAG plan is. Then, carefully watch as the staffers eyes begin to look away from your face, in uncomfortable, darting directions - as she says to herself "how do I get this crazy person out of here".
Posted by Isabella, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Jan 8, 2008 at 9:45 pm
Anna, you are so right in your analogy to central planning in USSR!
My own opinion - let's just non-comply with ABAG and lose the funding, we will eventually save by not having to incure additional costs (such as schools) associated with additional housing developments
Posted by Steve Raney, a resident of the Crescent Park neighborhood, on Jan 8, 2008 at 10:03 pm
Jim, re a vote.
1. For the housing allocation, you could put an advisory ballot measure of some sort together (you have to have someone loiter at the farmers’ market and collect signatures). Council already hears loud and clear that a majority of PA voters are no/slow growth. In addition, Council is easily 5-4 (if not 7-2) no/slow growth. Part of new councilman Pat Burt's campaign schpiel was strongly opposed to the housing allocation. But, for the housing allocation, Council will not take any legislative action. Hence there’s nothing obvious for citizens to vote on. But, you can still bring about an advisory measure.
2. Council is responsible for the city's General Plan. The General Plan is composed of various "elements." One such element is the Housing Element (Here’s the last PA Housing Element: Web Link). Per state law, the city must update the Housing Element to address the housing allocation by early 2009. The Council's job is to vote to adopt a Housing Element (and give direction as the Element is formulated). Once the Council adopts the Housing Element, citizens can repeal the Council's action with a referendum. But as the Council is no/slow growth, the Council will likely adopt a Housing Element that voters will be pleased with. Hence, there doesn’t seem to be too much for no/slow growth voters to worry about. On my side of the argument, a few folks are hoping to change this, but we’re not exactly winning the Town Square popularity contest.
3. There are a few penalties for a city that adopts a Housing Element that does not comply with ABAG’s housing allocation, but, in the past, basically nothing has happened to cities. On my side of the argument, I’m hoping that tougher penalties are put into place, but I doubt seasoned no/slow growth proponents are fearful of new penalties coming about. But, global warming is changing the political dynamic, so you never know.
Posted by Mike, a resident of the College Terrace neighborhood, on Jan 9, 2008 at 12:25 am
Steve, a very good analysis. I have counted 5 who will essentially be voting "no" on ABAG. It could be "7".
Of those "5", it will be interesting to watch those who claim environmental sustainability as one of their primary political themes "do the dance".
One thing for sure - if anyone claiming to be "green" moves against the ABAG suggestions, or fails to lead a good faith effort - those persons should be castigated in the press, and elsewhere, for moving against the greater good, and submitting to short term parochial and political gain. We're going to see - very soon - how sincere about environmental sustainability some of our most public "green" policy makers are. I'm hoping that some one ot two of the "5" comes to his/her senses.
I also hope for more severe penalties for those communities that do not comply, and do their best for the environment. In no way should any community "get away with" meeting its responsibility to the environment, long-term.
If Palo Alto fails to meet its responsibility, it will stand out as a failure among other municipalities that do. What a sad legacy that would be.
Posted by Karen White, a resident of the Duveneck/St. Francis neighborhood, on Jan 10, 2008 at 10:03 am
It's sad to see Mike continue to repeat the same arguments that have been so thoroughly discredited. Palo Alto's Climate Protection Plan makes abundantly clear that building sardine-can housing here, purportedly to serve those who work here, is not a cost-effective way to address global warming and, considered through metrics independent of the cost, wouldn't make a dent in our carbon footprint. And this doesn't even take into account the mushrooming growth, and additional CO2 emissions, that inclusionary zoning (where you need to build 4 - 5 market-rate units to yield one affordable one) would add to the equation.
Posted by Anna, a resident of the Southgate neighborhood, on Jan 10, 2008 at 10:35 am
"One thing for sure - if anyone claiming to be "green" moves against the ABAG suggestions, or fails to lead a good faith effort - those persons should be castigated in the press, and elsewhere, for moving against the greater good, and submitting to short term parochial and political gain. We're going to see - very soon - how sincere about environmental sustainability some of our most public "green" policy makers are. I'm hoping that some one ot two of the "5" comes to his/her senses."
This nonsense is not "for sure" at all. Karen White is correct: most people just don't buy the so called "smart growth" central planning model as an effective measure to combat climate change. Instead of making such bold "for sure" assertions, ABAG supporters would have a chance of changing minds if they'd provide substantiation. Instead they issue threats and taunt: hardly a way to win converts.
One would guess that the insubstantiality of their arguments echoes the insubstantiality of their cause.
Posted by Not buying it., a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Jan 10, 2008 at 11:20 am
By the way - take a look at who the 'experts' are that determine the "needs". The California Department of Housing and Community Development push number down to ABAG, which pushes those numbers down to the bay area cities.
Here's a nice little tidbit from the California Deparment of Housing and Community Development website:
from the link to powerpoint slide:
California's Housing Needs.
"Why Housing is Important
Housing Industry Contribution
to the California Economy
Contributes $273 billion per year to the economy.
Generates 960,000 jobs.
Accounts for approximately 11% of all economic
activity in the state.
Housing industry is the first largest industry group in the state, when all economic multipliers are considered."
So, we have a governmental agency - basically mouthpiece for one of the most powerful sectors in California, pushing dense development down our throats in the name of fixing global warming. And thankfully (for them) global warming came along just in the nick of time - a convenient invisibility cloak to disguise their agenda.
By the way, another interesting powerpoint on that website all about the 'myths' of dense housing development. The introduction says:
"When anyone proposes the development of affordable or multifamily housing, ambivalence about growth often shifts to hostility. Hostility feeds and strengthens certain myths, and deep emotional perceptions of how the world works. Myths— important sources of meaning in all societies—provide shared rationales for community members to behave in common ways, having a strong moral component, with clear lines between right and wrong. Although myths are sometimes positive, they can also serve as shields for deeper and
uglier motivations: racism, fear of outsiders, and/or greed. When people argue against new high-density and affordable housing, often myths are used to convince decision-makers that the new development and its residents don’t belong there. Traffic will be too heavy; schools will become overcrowded; buildings will clash with existing neighborhoods; people won’t fit in; and maybe even a criminal element."
Wow, a real honest to goodness old-school propoganda machine.
And notice how they expertly dismiss the objections by throwing racism, fear, greed, (and enemies of the environment now too). All the ugliest name calling possible to divert attention away from the issue, and place 'blame' via weakness of character on those who might argue the merits of their proposals. This harkens back to the recent MI debate, where everyone who wanted to discuss merits was clearly a racist for resisting.
(This powerpoint sounds like the source for alot of what we hear above from the ABAG defenders on this thread.)
Both these slides are in the 'quick links section of hte weblink below.
Posted by Karen White, a resident of the Duveneck/St. Francis neighborhood, on Jan 10, 2008 at 11:54 am
And the California Building Industry Association is now lobbying to further constrain cities' ability to manage growth, by advocating the 2008 legislative adoption as a building standard the "regional blueprint model" Check out their website at Web Link. The whole objective is to push dense infill on cities, in conformance with a "regional approach," a la ABAG, in a further effort to support their industry objectives regardless of the deleterious effects on everyone else. Special Interest Groups in Action! Maybe this and the lobbying efforts of Home Builders Association are what Mike alludes to when he threatens citizens, saying, basically "the big guns are gonna force over-building on you regardless of the impacts, and whether or not you like it." Pathetic.
Posted by Mike, a resident of the College Terrace neighborhood, on Jan 10, 2008 at 1:02 pm
When anyone proposes the development of affordable or multifamily housing, ambivalence about growth often shifts to hostility. Hostility feeds and strengthens certain myths, and deep emotional perceptions of how the world works....Although myths are sometimes positive, they can also serve as shields for deeper and uglier motivations: racism, fear of outsiders, and/or greed. When people argue against new high-density and affordable housing, often myths are used to convince decision-makers that the new development and its residents don’t belong there. Traffic will be too heavy; schools will become overcrowded; buildings will clash with existing neighborhoods; people won’t fit in; and maybe even a criminal element."
If the shoe fits...:)) Looks like an apt analysis...:)) Perhaps there are counseling sessions available for members of the anti-ABAG cult...:)))
Kidding aside, there's propaganda on both sides. What's rather unfortunate about those who argue against ABAG is that they are engaging in behavior that is exactly, and unbelievably, as described.
And, predictably, some continue to perpetrate their personal myths even further even in the face of an analysis that deconstructs their behavior, by labeling any meta-analysis or deconstruction of their argument "propaganda".
For proof of the outsized distress and unnecessary paranoia generated by the most vocal anti-ABAGers, a look at the last few preceding posts is revelatory - where Karen refers to inclusionary housing formulas as if they are fixed in stone, when, in fact, they are not. And, where another poster named "not buying it" (or Anna, who still lies in fearful wait of the Soviet Bear) refer to the ABAG initiative as a "central planning" conspiracy.
At times, I begin to wonder about some of the essential myths that propagate here, and how they develop; it would be an interesting study in its own right. "Odd" is a gentle way to putting it.
btw, this isn't to cast personal aspersions, as mythic thinking is something that we're all subject to (the development industry has its own set of binding myths). We're all good people, we simply disagree.
That said, sensible people (hopefully, our policy makers) will see through the mythic flim-flam, and...
1) look at the *hard* evidence about the damage to our environment caused by suburban sprawl;
2) realize that Palo Alto contributes more than its fair share to the encouragement of that sprawl - and thus, environmental degradation;
3) realize that the ABAG solution is a starting point for a *shared* negotiation among cities in our region;
4) make an effort to *lead* our region in ways that create forward solutions that will severely limit sprawl;
5) make the best "good faith" effort to create a housing element that deals with our fair share of pollution, and sprawl
6) walk the "green" talk
7) realize that this IS a regional and statewide problem, and that we must begin to face the inconvenient truth about the environment
8) understand that increased density, properly managed will *enhance* and not destroy our quality of life
9) work hard to lead our Valley in mass public transport accessibility and deployment
None of this will be easy; there are many challenges that face our city. As our region becomes dependent (for its future success) on rational solutions to growth, we're going to have to look beyond parochial interest, and do our very best to balance our own needs and constraints with larger variables that we knew little about, until the inconvenient truths that we're now facing began to realize themselves in ways that threaten the sustainable future that we all desire.
Here's hoping that our policy makers will see through the outsized and fearful myths propagated by determined anti-growth residents. Without vilifying those persons (they're entitled to their opinions), we can see - today - what the results are of the cululative effort to keep Palo Alto "small" have been.
Our retail base is suffering; we have a massive jobs/housing imbalance. The answer to this problem is not zero sum, as regards housing, or retail. We can develop both, with walkable neighborhoods, housing over retail, more and better senior housing, improved infrastructure, better relations with Stanford, etc. etc. We CAN do all these things, if only we begin to look with VISION at POSSIBILITY, instead of being taken in by the fear-mongering that comes from what is basically an essential misunderstanding of what fate will befall this region if we don't have the courage to move forward with innovation and inventiveness, instead of retreat.
Posted by Dave, a resident of the Professorville neighborhood, on Jan 10, 2008 at 1:06 pm
Terrific Research, Not Buying It!
The "green" case for the ABAG mandates continues to unravel, as the entire ABAG scheme is being exposed for what it is: special interest legislation pushed by one of the richest and most powerful lobbies in the state.
Those who are allowing themselves (and their names and reputations) to be used in this shoddy way to act as shills for real estate development interests ought to be ashamed.
Posted by Mike, a resident of the College Terrace neighborhood, on Jan 10, 2008 at 2:11 pm
:( More mythic thinking, and name calling, even in the face of submitting to the very myths that have been pointed out. This is indeed unfortunate. Again the mythic metaphor is engaged by another anti-ABAG resident. I'm sorry to see our community so mired down in irrational fear, instead of facing up to our obligations, and moving forward.
Posted by busted, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Jan 10, 2008 at 2:58 pm
Right - so thank goodness Mike can now use the word 'myth' in all his posts to avoid the actual discussion and disparage every other poster. At least he can stop using global warming. Perhaps he'll next trot out the race card.
I couldn't believe that rant/lecture about myths. Our tax dollars at work! I hear Arnold is looking for cuts, maybe he can cut some of the philosophers and psycho-analysts out of the housing department.
Posted by Steve Raney, a resident of the Crescent Park neighborhood, on Jan 10, 2008 at 6:07 pm
So let me see if both sides agree with the following summary of where we're at:
Regarding ABAG's Regional Housing Needs Assessment (RHNA) 2007-2014 allocation, is it possible to plan and construct the 2,860 new housing units requested for Palo Alto? At least one PA council member believes that meeting RHNA is impossible. We can more accurately re-state this sentiment as, "given our knowledge of current smart growth / real-estate development best practices, it is impossible to:
* add 2,860 housing units
* meet ABAG's affordability requirements
* balance city and school budgets
* mitigate negative impacts such as traffic growth
* develop a voting majority in favor of a 2,860 home scenario."
Meeting the RHNA allocation will be very difficult and will require either a) pioneering significant new innovations beyond current best practices or b) living with negative impacts without effective mitigation.
Posted by Karen White, a resident of the Duveneck/St. Francis neighborhood, on Jan 10, 2008 at 6:18 pm
You'd need to add to the list "fund our unfunded infrastructure backlog, 2008 cost unknown, from funds that are now stretched even to fund basic services and capital maintenance" and
"create new or remodeled community infrastructure and facilities, including but not limited to public safety and library buildings, at a cost now unknown with certainty but escalating rapidly in an environment of enormous global demand for construction materials."
Posted by Steve Raney, a resident of the Crescent Park neighborhood, on Jan 10, 2008 at 6:54 pm
Tell me more about your expectations for funding public safety and library buildings, etc. Is this a fiscal issue that you expect all PA residents and businesses to grapple with? Or would you be looking for new 2008-2014 residents to exclusively fund these buildings? I'm trying to understand your thinking on the link between the public safety and library building fiscal gap, and the fiscal feasibility requirements for new 2008-2014 housing.
Posted by Anna, a resident of the Southgate neighborhood, on Jan 10, 2008 at 8:08 pm
Interesting post, Steve. Let me challenge your paradigm, and set forth one which I believe more accurately reflects the feelings of most Palo Alto residents - who are overwhelmingly opposed to changing the Housing Element to suit the ABAG mandates.
You pose your question as if it's only a question of whether we can afford the ABAG housing, or at least a question of who pays for the housing and for the huge (I agree with Karen) costs on our infrastructure.
This does not accurately reflect the nature of the opposition I have, and which most people I have spoken to have, to ABAG. As succinctly stated as possible: We don't want the ABAG housing crowding our city and changing its character - even if it's "free" to us and comes with all kinds of bonus contributions to our treasury. We don't want it if it's BMR housing, and we don't want it if it's occupied by Google millionaires. We think Palo Alto is largely built out as we conceive of our city. We don't want transit oriented housing, densifying, or any of the other things under which ABAG tries to sell its program. And we don't buy the "green" case for ABAG - which to us sounds contrived and something you and Steve Levy dreamed up when your other tendentious arguments were failing to work.(Go ahead and chime in with your usual invective, Mike)
It's this paradigm you have to address if you're to win this argument, Steve. And I don't think the "fiscal feasibility" path you are taking your argument is going to do it.
Posted by Mike, a resident of the College Terrace neighborhood, on Jan 11, 2008 at 1:23 pm
"Let me challenge your paradigm, and set forth one which I believe more accurately reflects the feelings of most Palo Alto residents - who are overwhelmingly opposed to changing the Housing Element to suit the ABAG mandates."
Baloney! I think that most Palo Altans - and I get around - would support some version of ABAG if all the issues were made clear, and all the smoke and mirrors from the anti-ABAG fear-mongering was cleared away.
This board is mostly populated by anti-municipal-worker, anti-housing, anti-growth, ultra-fiscal-conservative residents when it comes to discussing things like infrastructure, environmental sustainability, employee benefits, new retail, housing, etc. etc.
What's ironic is that most of the naysayers are always accusing the few who disagree with having multiple sigs, but I know for a fact that the anti-ABAGers produce their own share of clones.
This forum is certainly no place to judge the relative weight for, or against, ABAG.
I suggest a well-informed effort to educate our citizenry, from the persepctive of ABAG's intended concern - i.e. a concern for the environment, and the reduction of harmful suburban sprawl.
I think most Palo Altans would LOVE to see FAR more mass transit, more affordable housing, more retail, more schools, etc. etc. I know for sure that most Palo Altans want leadership on these matters. Let's see what happens.
Posted by Anna, a resident of the Southgate neighborhood, on Jan 11, 2008 at 1:28 pm
"Baloney! I think that most Palo Altans - and I get around - would support some version of ABAG if all the issues were made clear, and all the smoke and mirrors from the anti-ABAG fear-mongering was cleared away."
Easy way to find out if you're right. If you're so sure of yourself, LET'S VOTE.
Posted by steve levy, a resident of the University South neighborhood, on Jan 11, 2008 at 5:00 pm
Since we keep going round and round I guess it is still helpful to review the basics
1. There is no mandate to build or subsidize housign units. So the people who rail against such a mandate are clearly in stubborn denial since this point is clear from the ABAG website.
2. There is a mandate to update our housing element but that has always been true and has nothing to do with the current ABAG housing goals except that the housing element update is to identify ways that these units could be built if there were market demand and financing for the subsidized units.
I have always been up for voting on whether the City should update our housing element becasue I know that all 9 Council members plus a majority of voters will approve. So stop yakking you VOTE folks and go for it.
3. There certainly are potential negatives for Palo Alto from becoming a more built out City whether we are built out in jobs or housing or both. I believe the positives outweigh the negatives and am happy to discuss these points as Karen White mostly tries to do but the thread seems less about debate and more about taunting these days.
4. I am also happy to have a vote on whether housing elements are Leninist, socialist tools of big corporate interests (we will win that vote as well) as long as folks recognize that it is zoning (a government action) that keeps even more housing from being built in PA as the market would dictate. Some cities in Texas and elsewhere do not have much zoning and lots more housing gets built.
I have seen the debate as trying to puzzle out the best role of government and am still mystified that people who want to use government powers to limit the size of the City are calling folks Leninists.
5. I do not think the "green" argument is the only or best reason to update our housing element to plan for a best efforts approach to meeting the ABAG housing goals.
Yet it seems indisputable that having more of the region's housign within the region instead of outside will reduce total commuting and car use even if PA workers don't liver in PA. Also the energy and water use of homes in the Central Valley are higher than in the Bay Area.
6. The "sardine can" argument is just garbage. If people want to live in smaller units to be near amenities who are you to tell them not to. This is another instance of how the freedom aspect of the debate gets turned on its head. I am certain that if more smaller units were built in PA (the way the market is going anyhow given prices) that they would be sold.
7. Finally, cities do retain the final say on approving projects as long as what they do is legal. So PA usually does get the final vote. So I am not sure what all the fuss is about.
Unless--rather than us being cowards for avoiding a vote (a a clearly false charge given what I have repeatedly said), it is the "antis" who are afraid of getting to the housing element update and finding out that there are many ways to meet the ABAG housing goals without ruining the city.
Posted by New Residentialist, a resident of the South of Midtown neighborhood, on Jan 11, 2008 at 6:34 pm
Over the past week I have spoken with 8 locals - all renters , 5 have small families (all have one child); the others are single or young marrieds. I asked them all if they would be interested in living near transit, in a 900-1000 sq. ft home, for $350-$425K. The homes might be attached, and or multi-level. All 8 enthusiastically said "yes".
To Karen White: One woman's sardine can is another woman's hearth and home.
Posted by Anna, a resident of the Southgate neighborhood, on Jan 11, 2008 at 6:55 pm
As usual, Steve Levy avoids the central argument of those of us opposed to the ABAG mandates - whether that's a mandate to update the housing element or for something else.
We think the city is close to being built out as we concieve it. We moved here because we like its scale and amenities. We think there's already enough traffic. We don't want more difficulty upgrading our infrastructure than we already have. Levy admits there are positives and negatives. We just disagree that the positives outweigh the negatives. In fact, we can't see much in the way of positives, despite the thousands of words that Levy (and others) have written here.. Maybe that's because Levy isn't good at articulation of these kinds of things. More likely it's because he hasn't got much substance to work with.
Whether Levy objects to the analogy made to socialist planning, it us undeniable that the ABAG mandates are centrally planned. The numbers come down from the State bureaucrats for heaven sake. And that fact, if we haven't been clear, is the more fundamental reason we have for opposing the ABAG mandates. We think Palo Alto should decide what kind of housing Palo Alto allows in Palo Alto. We think we know more, and care more, about our city than any bureaucrats in Sacramento or at ABAG. If we decide we want to build more housing (or update our zoning so it is possible to be built), that's for us to decide without the meddling of out of touch functionaries in some regional planning body.
Levy is right that we advocate using the power of government to decide what kind of city should have - but it's LOCAL government. If Levy wants Palo Alto to look like Texas, he should say so.
Meanwhile, until you address our arguments, please spare us the laundry list.
Posted by steve levy, a resident of the University South neighborhood, on Jan 12, 2008 at 11:38 am
All the opponents of more housing have to say when you cut out the taunts is that there might be more traffic and pressure on the city's infrastructure.
But that is true (possibly) of growth anywhere in the region and does not offer a solution. It is simply an "opt-out", let the challenges go elsewhere response.
Anna talks about "until you address our arguments" but is silent and apparently uncaring about causing challenges for other jurisdictions. If that is not the essence of NIMBY then I am not sure what NIMBY means.
I have repeatedly addressed "your arguments". I think they are possibly true, generally irrelevant becasue they do not solve the challenges of growth, possbily illegal and lacking in the spirit of cooperation that I hope to have in my neighbors. Your problem apparently is that you don't like my answers. Well, I don't like yours either.
As to your recent claim that you now favor LOCAL government action, that is more garbage and disinformation because ABAG is a cooperative association of LOCAL GOVERNMENTS in the region. I think what you mean is that you like to have the power of your local government to opt out of regional challenges when you wish to hide from the world.
You are entitled to think whatever you wish. It just isn't very persuasive and you would get wiped out in any vote where the issues are fairly framed. So go ahead and have your vote and get your butt kicked. Then the rest of us can go about seeing what we can do in a positive way in the housing element update.
If achieving the ABAG goals is truly "impossible" I am sure you can convince us during the update process. I repeat my challenge that it is the "antis" who are scared of finding out what is possible.
Posted by Anna, a resident of the Southgate neighborhood, on Jan 12, 2008 at 3:14 pm
"there 'might' be more traffic and pressure on the city's infrastructure."
"Might?" It's hard to see a scenario where we build 3000 more housing units in town where we don't add 5-6000 cars to our roads, several hundred children to our schools, and the proportionate load to our sewers, libraries and other infrastructure. The minimization of this seemingly obvious fact naturally leads us "antis" to suspect the rest of what you "pro"s say.
It's important to correct another misimpression Levy makes in his answer. The regional housing mandates do not arise ab initio from ABAG. They are handed down by state bureaucrats. ABAG is only the middleman - like the regional commissars following Kremlin dictates in the old USSR - which analogy Levy objects to. We would like to have the power to opt out of that dictatorial assault on what is the prime prerogative of local government: what kind of city we should have and how we should zone it. If Levy calls that hiding from the world, so be it. But we have a right to preserve what we liked about Palo Alto when we moved here.
Levy says he's repeatedly addressed our arguments. But I haven't seen one argument by him that points to concrete "benefits" to offset the many negatives we see in the ABAG proposals. We get all kinds of wispy moralizing about "spirits of cooperation" and unconvincing theories about helping the poor. We get illogical philosophizing about giving people "freedom" to move here by building subsidized housing for them. But what of this is a real benefit? Nothing that I see. I don't think Levy really thinks there is much of a case for "benefits either. Instead he tries (unconvincingly) to tell us the negatives won't be so bad. "Might" indeed. You're right Steve, we don't like your arguments.
I'm unsure what Levy means about his ability to convince us doubters in a "fairly framed" discussion. He's had the ability to frame the issues to his liking all through this thread and despite yeoman effort doesn't seem to have brought along either us "taunters" or the more measured opponents like Karen White.
Perhaps that's because he's not a good debater. But I've read some of Levy's stuff and he can be convincing when he's got facts on his side. Here, it's more likely he isn't carrying the day because his position is weak.
It might be interesting to review how the bureaucrats pretending to be clairvoyant economists come up with their detailed prescription of the "needed" numbers, income-class, prices and locations of housing units they want to dictate for us. They first estimate the number of jobs which will be created and then slot housing for the workers to fill those jobs. But anyone with even reasonable familiarity with what really goes on in the Bay Area knows this is rubbish. Jobs and housing are in a dynamic equilibrium. If there aren't houses to house all the employees that employers want to hire locally or within a commute workers are willing to bear, they move their jobs closer to the workers. Why do you think there are essentially ZERO new semiconductor factories in the region? It's because they build them in Idaho, Oregon and Texas...where workers can afford to live.
It seems axiomatic that if no city in the Bay Area builds the ABAG housing, job growth will eventually go elsewhere. Levy and the corporate interests whose water he carries might not like this, but we don't run our cities to please them.
Levy's last refuge seems to be the green argument. He imagines that building housing near transit will reduce sprawl and - by channeling the growth toward "densifying" existing suburban areas into a more urban pattern - we'll save the valley from farmland-destroyng development while we eventually find we're living in an urban nirvana.
Interestingly, Portland Oregon has tried out just that philosophy and so we have a idea of how Levy's scheme might work in practice. The more credulous readers of this post might wish to do a Google search on "Portland smart growth traffic" to see what happens when bureaucrats take control in the way Levy likes. Despite the fact that Portland has made MUCH greater effort to build more mass transit than is planned here to accommodate this theory, traffic there is MUCH worse since the smart growth plan there was implemented.
Portland has crammed more housing into the metropolitan core ("closer to jobs" = just like Levy wants), given these workers great mass transit and bike paths, and otherwise followed Levy's fantasy. And people still are driving to in polluting cars. It just takes them longer to get anywhere. Average traffic speed has decreased so much that people spend a lot more time idling in traffic - which as even Levy must know is the time when cars spew the most pollutants into the air.
While it is true that some sprawl has been reduced in Portland as a result of the "Smart Growth" plan, it's reasonable to ask at what cost this has been for the overall environment and for the lives of Portlanders. Moreover, because of a property rights initiative and certain court decisions, the Portland area may now be facing more intensive development in the "green" areas the smart growth plan was meant to protect. They may end up with the worst of both worlds.
Pick your favorite high traffic intersection in Palo Alto. Imagine what it will be like with the cars from 3000 (or if you follow Karen White's fears, 20,000) new housing units. That's what you're looking at if we follow ABAG. And there's no assurance that any central valley farmland will be saved from development since there always is a ready supply of people who want to live in single family housing with yard at affordable prices.
I don't know if Levy or his businesses get funding or support from real estate developers and other corporate interests who - as the post from 'Not buying it' above shows - are the special interests pushing for the ABAG scheme. But whether Levy is just arguing the case for his clients, or whether he's merely mistaken in his analysis because of some sort of irrational ideological commitment to ABAG type schemes, it is clear that the real beneficiaries here are not the citizens of the Bay Area, but real estate interests who are paying for the enabling legislation for ABAG.
In his denouement, Levy raises a straw man argument about "impossibility". It would not be "impossible" to implement schemes requiring even more dense housing than the current ABAG mandate specifies. (In fact, there are many ruminations that this current ABAG proposal is only the first of a spate of similar mandates in coming years. Once the camel's nose is under the tent, it will be difficult to resist the rest of the beast - and the excrement that comes with it.)
We could turn Palo Alto into Manhattan. It's not "impossibility" that is the test, it's desirability - and our right to make the choice of what kind of city we want.
Growth of the kinds Levy talks about - either in local jobs or population is NOT inevitable. It's something we have a choice about. We should exercise that choice by saying NO to ABAG.
Posted by Mike, a resident of the College Terrace neighborhood, on Jan 12, 2008 at 5:02 pm
Certainly, Steve is right in saying that when all the anti-ABAG bluster is seen through, it's still all about "traffic and pressure on our city's infrastructure" Steve has copped to this, several times, but the taunts continue. "Might?"
What's mind-boggling about the anti-ABAG position - coming from some people who call themselves "ardent environmentalists" - is that over and over and over again they avoid the known consequences of suburban sprawl - in all the multifarious negative ways that those negative consequences have been shown - over and over and over again.
If anyone is avoiding "truth" here, it's those who are berating the "spirit" of what ABAG is attempting to bring about - i.e. a renewal of how we think about development, in a place that will *continue* to grow.
There is *no doubt* that additional pressure will be brought to bear on municipal infrastructure - that's a given. We will have to find ways to deal with, and pay for that.
What is completely missing from the anti-ABAG argument is what it will cost our region, and our State, if we fail to halt suburban sprawl. Right now, we are on our way to becoming a northern version of Los Angeles. If anyone doubts that, take a look at the way LA has developed, and then take a further look at how we're following a very similar pattern.
If we want that, all we have to do is continue with more of the same - development as it is currently happening.
It's really amusing to see Anna and Karen and the rest talk about "central planning conspiracies", and developer conspiracies, as if they really exist. What's even more compelling - as a study in collective mob behavior - is the denial of a kind of mass demonization of all who support more development near urban transit corridors. This was pointed out earlier, ironically by someone who opposes ABAG.
Anna says nobody has pointed out benefits. Not so. This was posted some time ago - above
So much for Ann's put-down of the idea that saving undeveloped rural areas from sprawl has no social or revenue benefit. Let's see Anna's, or Karen's, study to the contrary.
There seems no willingness to even consider alternatives to our future development in a way that includes an increase in housing in the region - ann increase that will happen *in any case*. Mr. Levy correctly points out the NIMBYIST quality to this stance - a stance that makes the case for "things as they are", instead of "things as they might be"
Anna's "analysis" (I have a hard time gracing her efforts with that word, as it implies a certain kind of thoroughness of diligence) of how housing elements and allocations are made at State level is pretty wanting.
In fact, and incredulously, Anna creates her own conundrum (relative to her argument" when she says that" If there aren't houses to house all the employees that employers want to hire locally or within a commute workers are willing to bear, they move their jobs closer to the workers. Why do you think there are essentially ZERO new semiconductor factories in the region? It's because they build them in Idaho, Oregon and Texas...where workers can afford to live."
Anna, that's *exactly* right. And how long do you think it will take for those other regions to gain infrastructure sufficiency necessary to attract the kinds of *other* workers that CEOs here are worried about attracting. This is another completely missed point by the anti-ABAG component; they are looking over the Palo Alto moat with rose-coloured glasses, as if stresses and strains on the rest of the region, and our State, coming from our inability to cooperate toward a plan, will ultimately impact our region, and us. This is called "short-term" thinking.
Anna's bring up Portland is utterly transparent. Portland IS Oregon, relative to development in that State. Yes, traffic is increasing in Portland, but that's because there is no *state-wide* or even regional effort to maintain sprawl, Portland is on its own.
In spite of this, Portland's mass transit efforts and other initiatives have been ground-breaking, and have begun to be used by other cities who share Portland's unique profile - i.e. as a city unto which development comes, because it is the only such place to go in one's region. That's completely different than what we have in California.
Anna says: "Pick your favorite high traffic intersection in Palo Alto. Imagine what it will be like with the cars from 3000 (or if you follow Karen White's fears, 20,000) new housing units"
What's almost tragically funny about this is that that is what we're going to be seeing anyway - as our region and state grows. And if Anna thinks that the *same* number of new residents living elsewhere (as Palo Alto's job base increases with "smart" jobs) will somehow magically not impact other areas of our community - beginning with air quality, impact on schools (as more people angle for the development of private schools, etc. etc.) - then she's either naive, or keeping something from the rest of us.
Another high price that we will pay here is increased crime, because it's the clear case that economic diversity - and planning for same - gives some people a "way out" of poverty, by sheer proximity to more successful people. Is that a long-term cost that Karen and Anna want to burden this community with.
What about mass transit? Does anyone believe that mass transit will receive its rightful share of political mind space if we keep developing houses and highways as we have been in recent decades?
The idea that Palo Alto will become Manhattan is just plain ridiculous. It's more fear-mongering. ONe thing for sure, we could stand to increase our height limits in code to one or two more stories. We should also be clearly designating certain development pockets for high density growth, and simultaneously planning (and lobbying for) mass transit solutions to serve that population.
Anna's false argument that growth in population is a choice ITSELF smacks of the "central planning" paranoia that is part and parcel of some of the fear-mongering on this thread. Perhaps Anna is suggesting we build a fence around our State's border?
This region - the Bay area 0 is due for SUBSTANTIAL growth in the next 2-3 decades. We'd better plan for that, and we'd better plan in a way that helps people get where they want to go faster than they do currently - that means more, better, cheaper, and more accessible mass transit.
We'd also better find a way to limit suburban sprawl, or population growth will put us into an LA-like development pattern, with no impetus to stop this once one-after-another satellite city has begun to develop serious urban infrastructure.
So, we DO have a choice, but the choices are not limited to two. We can choose the LA model, or we can choose the NY model. We ann also choose the moderate and innovative model of regional cooperation in a way that keeps all cities in our region in the mindset of sharing burdens and costs. This will force more coordinated planning, and begin an era where we can begin to control the currently mindless and random patters of development that we have now - patterns that will bring this State's economy and environment to its knees, if permitted to continue.
Thus, our policy makers have a choice, as our representatives. They are all smart people, and there's no way that any one of them can deny that this region will experience significant growth within the next two decades; nor can any one of then deny that Palo Alto will play a significant role in the future economic growth of the region.
Thus, it's our policy maker's obligation - to Palo Altans in the future - that we plan to expand our community, and urge our neighbors to do the same - in ways that will limit the ravages of our current non-pattern of random growth. This will be a challenge; there's no doubt about that. But isn't that what leaders are for?
Posted by Karen White, a resident of the Duveneck/St. Francis neighborhood, on Jan 12, 2008 at 8:49 pm
Mike, community members been told that you own property in the California Avenue area and therefore would profit handsomely by the kind of aggressive up-zoning you promote. Would you kindly reply to let us all know whether or not you own commercial property in town, how much by way of square footage, and where it's located? Clearly, this would influence the views you're expressing.
Posted by Mike, a resident of the College Terrace neighborhood, on Jan 12, 2008 at 9:10 pm
Karen, These community members have been misinformed. I own no commercial property in Palo Alto, or any other municipality, open space area, or oceanfront - anywhere in California.
With respect, this is just one more mistaken made by those who disagree with the inconvenient truths we are facing.
btw, everyday residents stand to gain much from the ABAG initiative, if only they can get past incomplete information, and understrand what the long term, severe, consequences of continuing development in outlying areas will mean to Palo Alto, our region, and our state.
I stand to profit no more than any one of my fellow citizens, if only we choose to do the courageous, and right, thing - support our best good faith effort to meet the ABAG suggestions, while leading our region forward to innovative solutions in infill and affordable housing near transport corridors, and mass transit systems.
Posted by no koolaid for me, a resident of the Downtown North neighborhood, on Jan 13, 2008 at 1:06 pm
Most residents are affronted, and rightly so, at the idea that a centralized bureaucracy should be dictating what sort of housing, at what price points, should be added to each community. As a former Russian civ major, I'd say the analogies to Soviet-style planning are apt. And what a joke, coming from a state that can't even manage its own budget projections yet has the hubris to insist that they know who will be moving into our city as well as the income distribution and job preferences of those new residents.
Mike, the link you provide is fascinating inasmuch as it highlights the disconnect between your logic and the situation we are facing. In many older cities, residents have largely abandoned the downtown areas in favor of suburbs. It makes a lot of sense from social, economic, and environmental perspectives to revitalize those core areas and develop housing that attracts people back from the suburbs.
That is not the case in Palo Alto or in any other mid-peninsula city.
That said, adding new housing to meet or exceed ABAG numbers is the easy part. We can always find developers hoping to make a quick dollar by shoehorning some more cheap high-density housing into already crowded city neighborhoods. The hard part is dealing with the ramifications of all that housing, and I find little comfort in Mike's constant allusions to bright, creative people who will develop solutions to these complex and expensive problems. Maybe we should locate these people first?
Posted by Steve Raney, a resident of the Crescent Park neighborhood, on Jan 13, 2008 at 3:37 pm
Let’s call the anti-growth side “residentialists” and the pro-growth side “regionalists.” This is a heated issue. For instance, both sides believe their position is pro-environment - this is a deeply held belief because folks believe they are acting benevolently, making the world better for others. Both sides claim that the other side is doing harm. It’s not going to be easy to come to a win/win solution – it’s not easy for a human to change their view of their position from it being benevolent to it being harmful. And, “pro-environment” is just one of 10 passionate components to this debate. So, it’s quite human for both sides to be name-calling.
1. Here’s a well-respected, influential explanation of the link between Smart Growth and climate protection:
"Growing Cooler: The Evidence on Urban Development and Climate Change." This book and companion report represents a collaboration between Urban Land Institute, Smart Growth America, Center for Clean Air Policy, U. MD’s Reid Ewing, and the Bay Area’s own Jerry Walters (transportation consultant at Fehr and Peers). The report points to more compact development patterns, where jobs, housing, and other activities are closer together, as being an essential element in reducing global warming, as the proximity of these activities results in reduced driving, encouraging walking and biking, and facilitating sustainable public transit. Please see: Web Link for a two-page summary with a link to a 14-page executive summary. I know Ewing and Walters, and I’ll vouch for their research skill. They are top-notch folks. Their resumes prove this.
1A. Anna, I would say that articles/research on Portland smart growth are about 50% pro and 50% con. I find that the “con” arguments are very powerful and can work to convince many folks that Portland’s effort has been a failure.
If you search planetizen.com for “Portland” and dig into the search results a bit, you can find pro and con arguments. Web Link
For my own analysis of the con arguments, I find the following problems:
a) the conclusions are not based on primary research, but are based on weak-methodology secondary research. The con authors begin with pre-conceived conclusions and cherry pick data (or mis-read) to back up their conclusions. The reputations of the con authors do not stand up to the reputations of the pro authors.
b) Generally I can figure out within 6 paragraphs whether the author believes Global Warming or not. The con articles are compelling, until the reader figures out that the author denies global warming, so is conducting an analysis based on false, oversimplified assumptions.
c) I characterize some of the con articles as “faux libertarian.” These articles are often underwritten by Exxon. I’ve found that if you trace many of the con authors’ backgrounds, it’s a real disappointment. I wish that the press would trace author backgrounds and provide disclaimers about the authors. It’s easy for people to take things in the press at face value.
1B. Further, Portland isn’t the last word on smart growth, we’re going to have to have smarter smart growth to address global warming. Portland heads in the right direction, but we have to go farther. The pro Portland side is so defensive about the con side’s arguments that they can’t admit that “Portland is a good example of smart growth, but we need something better.”
Posted by steve levy, a resident of the University South neighborhood, on Jan 13, 2008 at 6:22 pm
Palo Alto is not some quiet sleepy suburban community on the outskirts of regional activity and issues (as Atherton might be considered).
Palo Alto has and has been the site of for a long time
1) a major university
2) a major regional hospital
3) a major regional shopping center
4) a major regional research park
These activities serve the community, the region and beyond the region. And we, in turn, have some repsonsibility to be part of the solution for housing that residents that live in the region as a result of these activities. All the ABAG housing goals are is an attempt to share the responsbility for housing the population growth that has and will continue to come as a result of job growth and the desore of companies and families to live and work in the Bay Area.
We have welcomed these activities into our midst, taken their money in the case of the shopping center and research park despite the large amount of traffic that they bring--an amount of activity and traffic that has grown over the 45 years I have lived in the PA area.
And an increase in traffic far beyond anything that 3,000 housing units might bring. Moreveor, no one has answered why the region is better off if the 3,000 units go elsewhere.
Growth in the region IS inevitable although the amount might be less if we make the region a truly terrible place to live and might be a bit more if we make the region attractive.
Nearly all of the increase in household formation over the next 30 years will be in households headed by someone over 55 or under 35. Thus the idea that the demand is primarily for large single family homes is simply wrong. Change is coming.
All of the talk about greedy developers is wild invective without any evidence offered except to impugn the name of some posters.
Moreover for every builder/seller there is a willing buyer who sees value in the unit no matter what the snobby putdown PA posters think. If the so-called greedy developers were building junk they would soon go out of business.
My answer to Gene's question above is "of course not". Even if global warming were a hoax
a) the region would need to provide housing for 2 million more residents (actually this is probably a low projection)
b) there is no doubt that travel, water and energy use would be less if the units were built within the region rather than outside
c) there will be strong market demand for smaller units in walkable neighborhoods and more so as the baby boomers turn 70 and 80
d) the costs of providing transportation (roads or transit) for these residents if they live outside the region is enormous compared to what we can spend to expand our local infrastructure
Posted by Gene, a resident of the South of Midtown neighborhood, on Jan 13, 2008 at 6:47 pm
Steve Levy, We already have an active real estate market. Homes are available in Palo Alto, Mt. View, EPA, Menlo Park, Atherton, RWC, etc. I fail to understand your reasoning, not to mention your guilt trip.
Posted by Mike, a resident of the College Terrace neighborhood, on Jan 13, 2008 at 6:55 pm
Gene, we also have a real problem with global warming, and suburban sprawl's effect on same. Given the sheer *weight* of evidence to support global warming, I fail to understand your reasoning, or the rather short-term nature of your thinking.
Based on the New Jersey study (posted twice), I also fail to understand yuor inattention to the lost revenue and benefits caused by further suburban sprawl.
Might I suggest looking hard into the research, instead of weak two-liners; you'll gain more respect that way.
Posted by steve levy, a resident of the University South neighborhood, on Jan 13, 2008 at 7:00 pm
Well, the region will have at least 2 million MORE residents over the next 30 years. How exactly does an active real estate market and one undersupplied by the types of housing these folks will want respond to the growth?
If by guilt trip if you mean that I would prefer to participate in solving regional challenges and you want to opt out, I am "guilty" as charged. I wonder why you feel guilty about not wanting to be part of helping the region you live in grow and prosper?
Posted by Mike, a resident of the College Terrace neighborhood, on Jan 13, 2008 at 7:02 pm
Certainly, we should change the title of this forum topic to "Palo Alto protests 'achievable' housing goals.
With the attitude - right out of the chute - exhibited by the title that currently graces this forum topic, we'd never accomplish anything around here.
We really do need our leaders to transcend the constraints, and show us how to accomplish this most worthy ABAG goal, so that our kids can breathe cleaner air; our economy can be more robust; and our state can continue to grow in a way that enables it to compete at continuing high levels.
Posted by Gene, a resident of the South of Midtown neighborhood, on Jan 13, 2008 at 7:30 pm
This past year was one of the coldest on record in the southern hemisphere, including snow in Buenos Aires, not to mention Bhagdad . The Pacific ocean is cooling (not warming). Russian scientists believe were we are entering a cooling period, due to sun spot events. This, and other facts, suggest to me that global warming is, at best, questionalbe. It doesn't matter how many sciientists belive the earth is warming if, in fact, it is cooling.
It is best to argue the case for or against ABAG housing on its own merits, and not to confuse the issue with global warming.
Posted by Gene, a resident of the South of Midtown neighborhood, on Jan 13, 2008 at 7:55 pm
Steve Levy, I have serious doubts that the Peninsula will have 2 million more people, however the region, including south Santa Clara Valley, Salinas Valley, Central Valley will probably have at least this number of additional people. I don't feel guilty about that fact. Why should I?
Posted by Gene, a resident of the South of Midtown neighborhood, on Jan 13, 2008 at 8:19 pm
Steve Levy, I don't need to explain why Palo Alto, or any other city, should be forced to build housing for all those who "want" to live here (or there). If 750,000 people have enough money to buy their way into the Peninsula, then I suspect that the market will adjust to build homes to accomodate them. This would probably mean high rise luxury aprtments, or some version thereof. I fail, completely, to see how those of us who have sacrificed in our own perosnal lives to accumlate the wealth to buy into Palo Alto (or any other city) should be required to provide for those who "want" to get here at our expense.
Steve, you seem to be of the opinion that we owe to the least of us. I don't.
Posted by Mike, a resident of the College Terrace neighborhood, on Jan 13, 2008 at 10:00 pm
"I fail, completely, to see how those of us who have sacrificed in our own perosnal lives to accumlate the wealth to buy into Palo Alto (or any other city) should be required to provide for those who "want" to get here at our expense."
On balance, you will gain. So rest easy about having to spend money on something that will benefit you and all who live in California. It's a good investment.
On balance, you are somewhat of an extremist in your belief that warming is not happening - and you're not even a climate scientist. Even if you were, the sheer *weight* of scientific evidence and peer agreement is against you. Sorry, but you're on the wrong side of the paradigm.
In fact, one might surmise - again, based on what we know about warming - that you don't care one bit about the environment. That's a fair assertion, based on your prior posts.
It's laughable that "Gene" should bring up "Russian Studies", as Russia's massive oil reserves, as well as the current Russian government's grim determination to leverage those reserves to increased political power, lead many to believe that these "studies" are nothing more than the junk science that our own Bush administration (run by an oil magnate's incompetent son) has put forward about the environment.
It looks like "Gene" is one of those who cries "central planning", until he comes to depend on "central planning" science from Soviet cronies who want to keep oil prices high.
Now, back to our regularly scheduled debate on ABAG, and how it will - among other things - reduce our dependence on oil, and help prevent environmental degradation.
Posted by steve levy, a resident of the University South neighborhood, on Jan 14, 2008 at 10:26 am
Gene is helping to clarify two of the issues connected with the housing discussion.
First, there IS a market-rate component to the new housing that can be built in PA. I assume from Gene's last post that he agrees that there is demand for what he calls "luxury apartments".
If this is true then he and I agree on one part of where PA should go, which is to allow market-rate apartments of condos in certain parts of the City.
Gene may not be aware that this position is contentious or that there was a major lawsuit over the 800 High project.
But I welcome his support for this part of the housing discussion in PA.
I assume that when Gene says "the least of us" he is referrign to families with relatively low incomes. It is a pretty obnoxious statement in any event but if he chooses to judge the moral fitness of people ("the least of us") he is certainly way over his pay grade here as any of us would be.
I think he and I simply disagree. I think the responsbility for allowing housing for low-income families is a shared responsiblility and he apparently thinks that his higher income gives moral justification to opt-out of participating in this and other regional challenges.
Posted by Anna, a resident of the Southgate neighborhood, on Jan 14, 2008 at 11:04 am
Terrific thread. In between all the inane insults and name-calling, there's actually a fair amount of substance coming through.
I am amused by the complaints about the comparison of the ABAG mandates to Soviet style planning. It's hard to deny that the CHCD quotas for housing isn't central planning of a sort we don't usually see in this country. Perhaps it's not "central planning" so much as the invective "Soviet" that some object to.
Whatever term one uses for the ABAG/CHDC planning scheme itself, it's more instructive to look in more depth at the process used in coming up with the numbers. Others have commented upon the absurdity of "forecasters" predicting the total number of jobs in an area - let alone the wage rates and implied income levels from these jobs, the locations of these jobs - and finally the "needed" worker housing units in each income level.
I am surprised that no one has commented upon the absurdity of the basic assumptions behind the ABAG processes. We are told that the so-called jobs/housing imbalance is a regional problem - not a series of local ones. But then we are told that, instead of this problem being something requiring a regional solution (for example, the matching of jobs and housing numbers region-wide), each city has to build housing to match the jobs it has. So, Mr. Levy tells us, Palo Alto has a responsibility to build more houses because it has more jobs. I don't get it - which is it: a regional issue requiring that the workers who work in the region have houses in the region - or a city-by-city problem requiring that each city build match jobs and houses? (Interestingly, Levy doesn't tell us that Atherton has to take more of the coming job growth because they have more houses than jobs. Oh..wait...for his purposes, they're not part of the region, but rather "some quiet sleepy suburban community on the outskirts of regional activity and issues". I guess some of his clients live in Atherton.)
The jobs/housing imbalance isn't a new issue, nor one restricted to the Bay Area or California. Every metropolitan area has some localities that are primarily housing and some that are industrial or commercial. People generally don't like to live next to factories or office complexes. When I first came to California, the Peninsula was largely a bedroom community for San Francisco. There was a huge jobs/housing imbalance: the City had jobs and the Peninsula had houses. Now that's changing so that some places on the Peninsula have more jobs than housing, and some areas have the inverse. It will change again - without meddling bureaucrats.
If you divide the area into small enough parcels, we have jobs/housing imbalances even within Palo Alto: Midtown has a surfeit of houses. The Stanford Industrial area has too many jobs. So what? Do we need to balance them.
As others have pointed out, the idea that building more housing locally will cut down on commutes seems largely fanciful. Consider your neighbors: in our fluid local economy, how many of them to you know who've commuted locally their entire careers? Not many: and you can be sure there will be fewer in the future as short job tenures have become the norm in most occupations.
No one is talking about building mass transit in preparation for the new residents the ABAG housing will bring either. Rather the idea seems to be that if we force local cities to allow developers to get rich by shoehorning so many housing units onto an infrastructure that can't handle all the resulting automobiles, the overtaxed local governments and outraged residents will at last be forced to come up with public transportation to handle the overflow. Anyone who's paid the least attention to the saga of any recent transit project in the Bay Area knows how entirely ridiculous this is. Build the ABAG houses and get ready for a lot more waiting through several red lights at busy intersections for all the cars to clear. All those new residents with their likely 2 or more cars per household, won't be riding on the BART extension in any of our lifetimes. They'll be waiting at that red light in front of you.)
Apart from these glaring inconsistencies - which seem to call into question the entire ABAG scheme, Mr. Levy seems to have switched his previous emphasis on the prime reason for ABAG - as a boost for low income people who want the freedom to live in Palo Alto. (Perhaps it's become apparent to him that this is a bridge too far even in liberal minded Palo Alto.) Now we're told that we need to build all this housing not so much for poor people, but to hold all the seniors who he assures us will need local housing soon. (With his usual clairvoyance, he has no trouble telling us exactly what kind of people will want to live here 20 years from now - income levels, ages, favorite colors....)
Left unanswered is why, if now the reason to build 3000 housing units is to house seniors moving out if $2 million tract homes, that most of the ABAG housing is slated to be below market housing. I'm 55 years old, and I've been inside some of the BMR units we have already. Somehow, no matter how much Mr. Levy desires it, I don't see myself living there any time soon.
Look at the whole ABAG scheme for what it is: the result of special-interest legislation passed for the benefit of real estate development interests abetted by environmentalist Utopian dreamers still trying to push tired "smart growth" solutions that have failed everywhere they've been tried. If you're unconvinced by the arguments of Mr. Levy and other people involved in the pro-ABAG spin doctors, it's not because they aren't good spinners. It's because they haven't got a product that people - even gullible people - are willing to buy.
Posted by Karen White, a resident of the Duveneck/St. Francis neighborhood, on Jan 14, 2008 at 11:54 am
Readers may want to check out California Senate Bill 303, sponsored by the California Building Industry Association. It's available at Web Link
Here's an excerpt of what the CBIA wants written into state law:
"The bill would revise the open-space element and require local governments to consider the guidelines adopted by the Office of Planning and Research. The bill would also define "regional housing need" and "existing and projected housing need" to mean the MINIMUM amount of housing needed over the next 10-year period." (CAPS added.)...
Steve Levy, in an earlier post, says basically not to worry; all cities have to do is zone for ABAG's allocation, and cities have complete control over their zoning. Well, the CBIA certainly intends eliminate city authority to manage its growth as just one more obstacle. The CIBA proposes eliminating "zoning" land and is pushing, instead, for cities to "designate" land for housing growth, as follows:
"This bill would require the city council or county board of supervisors to DESIGNATE in its land use element sufficient land for residential use to accommodate the jurisdiction's 10-year housing need." (CAPS added.)
Thus if we're using inclusionary zoning to build housing and if the California Building Industry Association and other lobbyists get their way, we'll see over-building at a rate that I can't even fathom.
Posted by Sally L., a resident of the Old Palo Alto neighborhood, on Jan 14, 2008 at 12:11 pm
Karen White is right. If the California Building Industry Association lobbyists have their way, every city in California will be planned from above by state bureaucrats, and we might as well as forget about control over our local environment through the traditional tools of local government: zoning decisions.
The developers know they have difficulty bribing and cajoling local governments - primarily because local politicians are more responsive to local needs and local residents. So they've turned to lobbying at the state level where - they hope - their money goes further and their influence is stronger.
The posts in this thread show beyond question that the CIBA is trying to do an end run around the ability of local governments to have any control over their desire to build regardless of the consequences to local needs or the interests of local residents. It's sad to see that they've gained influence over some who fancy themselves local opinion makers. Money talks, I guess.
We need to turn back this assault on local control and governance. The CIBA is no friend of us, or of the environment.
Posted by Real answer, a resident of the Evergreen Park neighborhood, on Jan 14, 2008 at 12:18 pm
Mike, maybe you don't own commercial property but you do have a business on California Avenue. You tend to answer questions as though you were in court. This isn't a murder trial. Hows about a real answer this time.
Posted by Gene, a resident of the South of Midtown neighborhood, on Jan 14, 2008 at 12:25 pm
"Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me"
My "to the least of us" statement was a takeoff on the biblical quote, above. I am not a Christian, and I do not turn the other cheek. Yes, I was referring to low income (poor) folk. My charity is my business, Steve, not yours. If you want to open up your home to the poor, please feel free to do so (as long as you do not violate any zoning laws). However, your socialist notion that I and other homeowners in PA owe the poor a home in Palo Alto is absurd. I don't want any more welfare housing in Palo Alto.
Posted by Donnie, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Jan 14, 2008 at 12:33 pm
Gene's language may seem intemperate, but on substance he is right. Land and building costs in Palo Alto are among the highest in the state. We have a limited amount of subsidy dollars for low income housing.
Much more and better housing could be built in areas with lower costs - providing better habitation for more poor people. Steve Levy's social engineering approach actually is quite anti-poor people when looked at in this way.
Posted by Mike, a resident of the College Terrace neighborhood, on Jan 14, 2008 at 12:52 pm
Karen White: quoting CIBA ""This bill would require the city council or county board of supervisors to DESIGNATE in its land use element sufficient land for residential use to accommodate the jurisdiction's 10-year housing need." (CAPS added.)"
and then, to add the spice of fear, Karen says:
"Thus if we're using inclusionary zoning to build housing and if the California Building Industry Association and other lobbyists get their way, we'll see over-building at a rate that I can't even fathom."
Talk about manipulation; Karen's continued attempts to raise fear are master strokes. If there's any manipulation going on, it's by some residents who themselves are in full retreat from the imagined burden of helping to save our environment, that they will keep knocking at the door of illusion until they find someone to open it.
In fact, Karen's fear-based mandate supports - by default - suburban sprawl, continued degradation of our region's environment, and a continued attack on all developers, as if they were evil personified. Question: Karen, didn't a developer build your home?
Anna continues to fly in the face of environmental findings, even as she softens her Soviet Bear tone.
Anna continues along with a perverse understanding and continued distortions about ABAG, which calls for regional sharing of burdens. Instead, she mindlessly plods on as if her queries haven't been answered at least 15 times. This says something about the quality of thought behind the anti-ABAG coalition.
I really had to laugh as Anna tried to reduce the ABAG suggestions to neighborhood-by-neighborhood quotas. This is the desperate attempt at reductio-ad-absurdum by someone who has lost a debate, and is now trying to sabotage the debate. Sour grapes.
There is no sense of the shared spirit, or even political will to create mass transport as a part of Anna's continuing screed of seeming ignorance about the policy that she portends to understand (she doesn't).
Amazingly, Anna creates her own inconsistencies, in her own Sim City scenario, and then blames it all on ABAG. She completely ignores everything that experts far more knowledgeable than her have said about this matter.
Anna claims to have seen BMR units - I doubt it, as many are quite nice. (in fact, some are very forward in their design)
IN all, Anna's is an uninformed rant, spewed by someone who has only opinion, and no real data to back it up.
And then there's Gene, who rationalizes away the inconvenient truths we all face, as our environment becomes more challenges by the day. Gene is Gene's keeper - and it seems another resident who rants on about "socialist planners" Oh, well...
Posted by Mike, a resident of the College Terrace neighborhood, on Jan 14, 2008 at 12:55 pm
Real Answer: "Mike, maybe you don't own commercial property but you do have a business on California Avenue. You tend to answer questions as though you were in court. This isn't a murder trial. Hows about a real answer this time."
I do not own or operate a business on California Avenue, or anywhere else in Palo Alto.
You might lighten up a bit, instead of interrogating with the style of a DA who is desperate for a win. :)
Posted by steve levy, a resident of the University South neighborhood, on Jan 14, 2008 at 1:53 pm
Some of you have been throwing around wild and unsubstantiated accusations or innuendo about my motives and the motives of HCD and Mike.
Let's see if we can find some spirit of forgiveness and, perhaps, even apology.
1. Three years ago I sat in the room with the then cabinet secretary and others discussing an earlier version of the bill Karen While described for city by city job-housing matching. I told the secretary that matching at the city level was a very bad idea. Matching jobs and housing is a regional or, perhaps, a multi-county within the region challenge. I then wrote several memos over the next year repeating the argument for a regional, not city by city approach.
I was very unpopular and let me tell you ended with consequences far more bothersome than your sometimes silly and unfounded accusations.
I don't believe in city quotas, which the ABAG goals are not.
I do believe in city's sharing responsibility for solving regional problems and do not see an obvious reason why PA is different from most Bay Area cities and deserves special consideration.
2. I know the people who make HCD's review of ABAG's regional housing projections and those of other regional planning agencies in California. They have been doing this job for many years during Republican and Democratic administrations.
It is a technical job and nearly always they accept the regional planning agency work. The idea that there is political inflence by administrations or the CBIA is unfounded, insulting and false.
They believe and I agree that Califoria is best served by policies that seek to promote housing that keeps pace with job and population growth. This is no different than saying that California is best served by having policies that provide (through conservation or other means) enough water and energy to meet the demands of our residents and busienesses or that the state is well-served by planning for enough space in colleges to meet the projected growing enrollment.
I am sure you all agree with this except you would for various reasons like to limit housing in PA, which is a different issue altogether.
3. You all are of several minds about Mike, whom I do not know.
If you accuse him of owning property that prejudices his responses I have two ideas. One, that means you know who Mike is and if so can either prove your charges or not. So I suggest you offer proof or shut up.
Two, of course, most of the posters own property in PA so if owning property makes our Town Square responses suspect, then we are all suspect.
Posted by Jack, a resident of the Barron Park neighborhood, on Jan 14, 2008 at 2:44 pm
"They believe and I agree that California is best served by policies that seek to promote housing that keeps pace with job and population growth."
This is simplistic to the point of being incorrect. There is a virtually unlimited demand for housing in California and the Bay Area providing that the price can be driven low enough by subsidy or increases in supply. Where supply is restricted because of limited building, or through zoning restrictions, demand - and the resulting population and job growth - also will be limited.
The statement that we must build housing to accommodate the population growth is a self-fulfilling proposition. Of course if you build housing, you'll have population to fill it. But the converse also is true: if you don't build the housing, you won't get the population or corresponding job growth.
Put in the vernacular of a recent movie: "If you don't build it they won't come." This is true in Palo Alto, in the Bay Area, and in the state as a whole.
Current zoning around the Bay Area already contemplates some increases in housing supply, and therefore increases in population growth. By forcing cities to greatly increase the housing allowed under current zoning, and by contemplating the subsidization much of this new housing, the ABAG proposals will insure that the 'inevitable' population increases they foretell will indeed occur. In other words, the ABAG predictions for population growth are nothing but bootstrapped circular arguments for those who would like faster and more population growth than would occur with current zoning patterns and no subsidy.
So those above are really correct when they say there is a choice about how much growth we'll have. If none of the ABAG cities follow the quotas, there won't be as many houses built - and the population will grow more slowly.
Whether that's a good thing or a bad thing depends on your viewpoint. Commercial and building interests may well have a different opinion from current residents. Either way, more housing, and more population - as well as more jobs - really isn't the inevitability that some contend, except in the narrow sense herein described. It's a choice.
Posted by Sally L., a resident of the Adobe-Meadows neighborhood, on Jan 14, 2008 at 3:30 pm
Jack makes a good point. There is a very high demand for low and moderate priced housing in the greater Bay Area region, and in most of the state. There is no way we can build enough housing, BMR subsidized or not, to satisfy all the demand in the Bay Area and nearby counties. If we build the ABAG housing, it seems highly probable that we'll still get about as much housing built in outlying areas that are within commuting distance - albeit perhaps at a slower pace.
We're likely to end up with BOTH the dense development ABAG wants us to build and people who are willing to commute to live in moderately priced single family houses with yards in outlying ares. That doesnt seem like a good idea to me, no matter how much local companies want workers.
Of course the ABAG supporters could say we could (somehow if legal) restrict building in Modesto and Stockton to stop people from buying housing and intending long commutes. But if we could do that with the ABAG housing, we could also do it without the ABAG housing.
It really does seem like a choice any way you look at it.
Posted by Abago, a resident of the Charleston Gardens neighborhood, on Jan 14, 2008 at 9:17 pm
I think ABAG supporters are saying something like:
"It looks like we are going to have more people. So let's bring them on as fast as we can!"
But I would have expected planners to say, "we're going to have more people. So let's see what we'll need to support them. Oh, we have a problem. We're not ready for them. We can't support the people we have now. Let's slow down the growth as we get our infrastructure in order."
Don't we need better local (intra Palo Alto) public transportation facilities before we are able to bring in more people in a way that doesn't clobber the local environment (and pollute the rest of our region as well)? Don't we need to get on top of the schools and library issues? The rising crime rate? The likely floods? The communication infrastructure? New public safety properties? The impact of a growing Stanford? (Not to mention the multipliers of all these factors and parameters). We can't even figure out what to do with our dogs or web sites, apparently because the city's focus is spread so thin on these other problems.
And since we can't seem to get infrastructure right even when it's better funded than other cities, we need planners to look at and suggest ways of fixing the funding->success path. Before we further overload the city's capacity with more people.
Bringing in many more people before we are ready for them will likely make these problems worse, not better. I don't get how that represents the best planning of experts who know lots more about this than any of us who live in Palo Alto.
Posted by Adagio, a resident of the College Terrace neighborhood, on Jan 14, 2008 at 9:47 pm
Excellent points, all.
If, as Mike says, the primary concerns are protecting the environment and avoiding suburban sprawl, then there's a relatively simple answer: impose a real high tax on gasoline. That would go a long way to cutting down on the kinds of commutes that contribute so negatively to the environment. Yes, such a tax would have other consequences, but so would all the proposals, and if our main goal is to save the earth, then a high tax surely is the most expedient means of achieving that objective. Plus it would generate funds to help fix our aging infrastructure. Simple, eh?
Posted by Mike, a resident of the College Terrace neighborhood, on Jan 14, 2008 at 10:13 pm
Jack says "The statement that we must build housing to accommodate the population growth is a self-fulfilling proposition. Of course if you build housing, you'll have population to fill it."
But you're completely missing the point of ABAG's intention; it's about spreading the downside risks of growth, in a shared way.
Sally L makes the same error; it's an easy one to make, because we all (me, too) tend to think of immediate and local consequences first. You're both looking at this as a municipal plan, rather than a regional (or state) plan. If everyone pitches in, then we will curtail suburban sprawl.
Abago says, "Bringing in many more people before we are ready for them will likely make these problems worse, not better"
There will be some constraints, and challenges. That said, growth is not going to wait for us to get our act together. We're going to be the recipients of the consequences of uncontrolled growth, or controlled/planned/scaled growth. My preference is for the latter.
Adagio, I think a gas tax - a hefty gas tax - would be a great idea. That would be a good incentive for some people to live closer, but where would they live? My point is that ABAG is just ONE part of a comprehensive effort to better control the negative consequences of the growth that we know our state is going to produce. We need gas taxes, more housing (including BMR housing) near transit corridors, far better inter- and intra-urban mass transit; more privately run "fill-in" transit (like jitneys); better inter- and intra-regional planning and cooperation. And finally, strong leadership that's capable of showing citizens the promise of better planning, and then *making* that happen.
Better planning for growth in a place as popular as California is something ithat we MUST do, or pay dire consequences down the road.
Posted by Pam, a resident of the Palo Alto Hills neighborhood, on Jan 14, 2008 at 11:15 pm
Abago is right: even if we should eventually build ABAG housing, what's the big rush? We have many problems right now that we don't seem able to get a handle on. Why compound these problems with thousands more residents in the next few years? The fact that many of the intended new residents are low income only assures they won't be contributing financially to solving the problems their presence will exacerbate.
Once the ABAG housing is built, it's here forever. We need to step back and take a breath before we embark on something that will permanently change the character of our city, and add to the annual budget load for infrastructure and support.
When we get things a little more under control in our budget and infrastructure problems, we can decide how many and what kinds of new housing we should build.
Posted by moving on, a resident of the Barron Park neighborhood, on Jan 15, 2008 at 9:32 am
Mike, you are the only poster on this thread who is retreating from problem-solving. Instead of dealing with the (many) problems at hand, you seem to want to add fuel to an already well-stoked fire.
Building a lot of housing may sound like an easy fix to you, but it doesn't take much reflection to see that it doesn't solve any problems, least of all those pertaining to the environment. Perhaps it's time to step back from the ideological stance and try to see the big picture.
Posted by Mike, a resident of the College Terrace neighborhood, on Jan 15, 2008 at 12:43 pm
moving on: "Perhaps it's time to step back from the ideological stance and try to see the big picture."
It's extremely ironic that you put it that way - in that your stance represent exactly the opposite.
The NIMBYISTS here are looking at the small, local, parochial picture, with concern for their own interests placed above the interests of necessary change that would BENEFIT them,, in the long run.
Go ask the Polar Bears, and further-north-migrating -birds-insects-and-other-wildlife if mine is an ideological stance. Go ask the vinters in Napa Valley; go ask the thousands of scientists who see global warming as more than an ideology.
THen, go ask local CEO's what they see for the future of this Valley if we don't get planning for population growth under control. Go ask them about their "ideology".
My friend, you have it wrong.
What's sad is that there seems not a shred of interest in copping to the environmental and growth vectors that are starring us in the face.
Ultimately, the "intelligence" of our region will be judged by our long-term ability to adapt to conditions that emanate far beyond our collective municipal borders, not by our collective IQ's.
Presently, instead of the kind of cooperative behavior that results in diversity (adaptation's fuel), we see a choking off of possibility. That doesn't bode well for our long-term future.
Posted by Mike, a resident of the College Terrace neighborhood, on Jan 15, 2008 at 1:24 pm
[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.] The nuclear power question is over. To prove that, I suggest that you pitch your nuclear power proposals to the anti-ABAGers here, and see what you come up with. I'm sure they'd be even faster to disagree than I do about this dangerous technology.
And, oh, just a reminder. I wonder why the investment community isn't rushing to fund nuclear technology? Could it be that they know something that you don't?
Posted by Greg, a resident of the Southgate neighborhood, on Jan 15, 2008 at 1:39 pm
However you or the pro/anti-ABAGers want to slice it, there will be NO reduction in greenhouse gases without nuclear.
There is a large private investment interest in nuclear, but it can only go into play if the luddite lawsuits are stopped. India and China and Russia are much smarter than us...they are full steam ahead with nukes. How sad that a great nation, like the U.S., is left out of the picture by the luddites. We should be leading the way in nuclear technology. If we did lead, the efficiencies and safety of nukes would be better that what is already coming down the pike in foreign countries. The luddites, like you, Mike, need to hang your heads in shame. You are ANTI-environmental.
There were some current posts by "Engineer". I don't know him, but he is spot on with his notion that there is no free energy lunch. His focus is on electrical transportation, like high speed rail, but he points out that every new elctron that is used comes at the expense of the environment, UNLESS those electrons come from nuclear/alternatives.
Posted by Greg, a resident of the Southgate neighborhood, on Jan 15, 2008 at 2:53 pm
Quite to the contrary, Mike. As India and China use nukes, they decrease their use of coal and oil. They are leading the way. You are the reactionary.
The USA needs to lead the way to the future. We can no longer afford to be foolish luddites. Without nuclear power, there is only a very bleak environmental future. That is why important environmentalist support nukes.
Yes, China and Russia and India are currently much smarter than us. They understand the future.
Posted by the answer, a resident of the Downtown North neighborhood, on Jan 15, 2008 at 6:36 pm
As I understand it, Mike's rationale for building houses is to minimize the commutes of people who work here but live elsewhere. And who knows, maybe some of those Manteca or Tracy residents, especially the ones under age 35 or over age 55, will trade their big houses for a PA address and pied a terre.
But what will happen to those big houses in Manteca and Tracy? Won't more people (maybe those between the ages of 35 and 55) move into them? And won't those people be commuting to their jobs?
It's hard for me to envision any truly regional solution that doesn't entail adding more business and jobs to the places where people actually live. The ABAG supporters seem to think that's shifting some kind of burden, but I see it as sharing the wealth Why not accept that the Stocktonites want to stay in their homes and provide incentives for companies to expand there? That would be the most environmentally conscious solution and a win-win for everyone except housing developers.
Posted by Anna, a resident of the Southgate neighborhood, on Jan 15, 2008 at 7:08 pm
The answer has the answer. Unfortunately, the last clause in his post holds the key. While the ABAG mandates are being sold as "environmental" palliatives, they are anything but that - and the real push for them comes from housing and development interests who are pushing this in Sacramento.
Some of the pro-ABAG people here are just naive or have ideological blinders, but there is at least one poster here who apparently has business associates who have a financial interest in pro-ABAG style legislation. (At least he doesn't deny it when given the opening to do so.) That person should be ashamed.
Posted by Mike, a resident of the College Terrace neighborhood, on Jan 16, 2008 at 1:01 am
Anna: "Some of the pro-ABAG people here are just naive or have ideological blinders, but there is at least one poster here who apparently has business associates who have a financial interest in pro-ABAG style legislation. (At least he doesn't deny it when given the opening to do so.) That person should be ashamed."
Weak. Who is that, and why are you castigating someone for pursuing rational self-interest? It's not as if you don't have YOUR financial interests at heart. Pure hypocrisy is what you have just spewed. Whether for or against ABAG, *everyone* has a vested interest, simply by dint of being a community member.
"the answer": "But what will happen to those big houses in Manteca and Tracy? Won't more people (maybe those between the ages of 35 and 55) move into them? And won't those people be commuting to their jobs?"
The idea is to alter the *pattern* of suburban sprawl; this has been gone over several times in this thread.Of course people are still going to live in Manteca, but if we build more housing closer to transit corridors, and create additional supporting infrastructure - far less housing will be built out there (and in open spaces) - this will help our environment, and our region.