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Why does Anyone Think Palo Alto is a Quiet Suburb?

Original post made by stephen levy, University South, on Jun 27, 2009

When I moved to Palo Alto I knew a lot about the place I was going to live. I knew about Stanford where I was going to graduate school. I knew PA was a university town, that Stanford had a great medical complex and that the area was known for innovation -- at that time in defense electronics. I knew that I was not moving to a quiet suburb.

I think most people know what they are getting when they move to PA or a neighboring community. And if you think about it, most people should know that the world-class university town, school, medical center, shopping center and industrial park are on the cutting edge of change.

So no one should be surprised when these institutions and our area feels the pressure to "keep up with the competition" in our medical center, university, hospital and high-tech private businesses. When you are on the cutting edge of change, things will change. And in the world we live in change often means growth.

People get that when they write about grocery stores on Town Square. We know that over time the size of a competitive grocery store has increased and that grocery stores now compete with new institutions like Wal-Mart and Cosco.

Universities, medical centers and shopping centers also need to keep up with the competition. And if companies wanted to build larger space in downtown Palo Alto, are we supposed to say "sorry, it's too much traffic -- what kind of town did you think this was, the old cutting edge Palo Alto or the new only if it doesn't increase traffic or inconvenience the existing residents Palo Alto."

Does it matter that the institutions driving our growth were here first; that they were here when we moved in?

And on another matter, does it make any difference that businesses pay more than 50 percent of the city's revenues?

And, finally, should we think about future residents and businesses or only our families and our time in Palo Alto?

One of the first columns I wrote in the Weekly was about living next to the then potential site of the new public-safety building. If the building was appropriate for right outside our living room window, what right did we have to put our personal convenience ahead of the city's need?

Who says that every new development has to cause no more traffic or inconvenience or that every new development has to pay more in taxes than the associated public service costs? That wasn't the rule when Palo Alto was developing 50 years ago.

I know I don't live in a quiet suburb. I came to an exciting university town in an exciting and growing technological center. And I know that I am passing through. The university, the city and the technology center will be here when I have gone.

All developments go through a public process to balance public benefits and costs. I spend most of my professional life working for public institutions, in part trying to balance public good with private development. I will vote for a business license tax to help raise funds for city services. I do not believe that everything businesses or Stanford wants are automatically good.

But I am also willing to take a little more traffic and growth to keep up with the competition and to keep faith with those institutions that were here first and made Palo Alto great. There is a difference between "inconvenient for me" and "bad for the city."

Often I think Palo Alto residents come across as wanting all the goodies with being on the cutting edge of change and innovation but are unwilling to take the "what comes with."

Comments (149)

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Posted by So strange...
a resident of Stanford
on Jun 27, 2009 at 3:47 pm

Steve -

So strange. I think you have it wrong. I can agree with every word in your first paragraph, except one. Here's the truth for me:

When I moved to Palo Alto I knew a lot about the place I was going to live. I knew about Stanford where I was going to graduate school. I knew PA was a university town, that Stanford had a great medical complex and that the area was known for innovation—at that time in defense electronics. I knew that I was moving to a quiet suburb.

But since then, some force has been trying to make Palo Alto into a San Francisco or Berkeley wannabe.

Is the net benefit greater or the net harm greater? I think there will always be highly populated cities, which evolve to cities designed in older times.

But it's harder to find a quiet place with the opportunities Palo Alto has.

The excitement in Palo Alto is manifest in conversations that take place in quiet coffee houses or restaurants, or the halls of Stanford.

You don't have people moving to Palo Alto because "it's a happening city."

You have people moving to Palo Alto with deliberation, desire, creativity, and yes, families.



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Posted by Sharon
a resident of Midtown
on Jun 27, 2009 at 4:04 pm


Stanford owes nothing to Palo Alto, Menlo Park is a better partner and this will be more the case moving forward.

When I was at Stanford Palo alto was a very different town, small, local, friendly, fun and safe.

None of these are the case these days, Palo Alto politicians chose a strategy of a weird combination of greed and PC growth which we now experience on University Avenue every day and night.

Beggars and vagrants next to high priced stores and dining places which very few locals go to, and increasingly less outsiders.

Last summer there was an execution style murder outside the PAPD headquarters, last week a young Stanford student was violently beaten and robbed in College Terrace, violent crime is now an everyday event in North Palo Alto.

Stanford can easily restrict access to campus from Palo Alto, and I understand is working on it. Campus members can easily use 280 to get from home or work to SF, SJ, HW 5 or the airport etc.

The warning signs have been blinking on red for years, I am not surprised that that the property values and school ratings now favor South Palo Alto over the North.
We have gone our separate ways.


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Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 27, 2009 at 6:16 pm

Not sure how long Steve and the two posters above have lived in Palo Alto, but I suspect longer than me. When I moved here just under 20 years ago Palo Alto was a convenient place to live in respect to job, in fact biking distance. We liked the tree lined streets and we were told that the schools were good and not too big. We had one car and a toddler and found it relatively easy to get what we needed for our modest needs. Since then our family has grown in size and age and our needs have also grown. We have increasingly found ourselves needing to go outside Palo Alto for almost everything. The schools are no longer small and one small car is not enough.

We had no impression of Palo Alto being anything other than a nice place to live which was convenient. During the time we have been here, Mountain View, Menlo Park and other cities have changed. Palo Alto has not. In fact, some of the local amenities we enjoyed have closed (Alma Plaza, movies at San Antonio, car dealerships, family restaurants) and all that seems to have replaced them is more housing which means that the high schools we originally thought of as being not too big are becoming much too big.

Grocery shopping is one example quoted by Steve as being completely out of date in Palo Alto. When we moved here innovations such as instore bakeries, instore coffee and sandwich shops, hot take home food, and international sections were not the norm anywhere, but now they are. Palo Alto is getting a reputation for being old fashioned when it comes to services. One of these days the likes of Facebook and other leading edge companies are going to see Palo Alto as too stick in the mud for their image and want to move to where they can fit into the cutting edge mold.

Steve, I agree with you and although I am not sure about the business tax as I think it will turn off new business ventures starting up here, I think what you are saying needs to be said and needs to be listened to.

When are you standing for City Council?


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Posted by Ken
a resident of Midtown
on Jun 27, 2009 at 7:05 pm

I have lived in Palo Alto almost 40 years. It has changed somewhat, and for the better, IMO. I agree with Stephen Levy that it is a cutting edge place, espcially Stanford and the Stanford Research Park. Many of my neighbors are very interesting people, and they are here, directly or indirectly, because of Stanford. I think Stanford should be supported, as it continues to stay competitive.

When I first moved to Palo Alto, I lived in College Terrace. The traffic was horrendous. It has now been calmed down over there, and that neighborhood has become family friendly. There are ways to promote Stanford growth, without deteriorating neighborhoods.

Downtown PA is much improved, comapred to 40 years ago. Yes, there are bums there, but they were also there 40 years back. If you want them to leave, quit giving them money, and shut down the Opportunity Center. Crime is still not much of an issue, although an occasional murder or armed robbery makes headlines. Does anybody think PA was crime free 4 decades ago? I remember the College Terrace rapist, for example.

As Stanford continues to grow and improve, PA will also grow and improve. What's wrong with that?


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Posted by Old Palo Alto
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jun 28, 2009 at 11:26 pm

These institutions do not make Palo Alto great. It's the people that live in Palo Alto, who work at these institutions that make the institutions great. Most of these "great institutions" were started in garages by the citizenry of Palo Alto. This line of rationale puts the horse before the cart.

I don't believe change = growth, nor does growth = increased competitiveness. Indeed, I don't even understand the correlation at all. In fact, most of the world's leading research institutions are small from a comparative population standpoint, Stanford included; and history as shown us that many large corporations are non-competitive (ie GM).

I think the author should re evaluate his logic. Which to me makes no sense at all.


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Posted by A long time resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 29, 2009 at 1:03 am

I think Palo Alto is going downhill, and fast, as a nice livable community.
When shopping centers are closed so that high profit housing projects can be built people like Steve see it as an opportunity to double their investment money quickly and to H with the neighborhood.
I doubt that a four story apartment will be built next door to his house like what is happening on W.Charleston Rd.
I doubt that tandem gasoline trucks drive thru his neighborhood like what happens on Charleston Rd.

Businesses should be paying a lot more in taxes or fees as they get probably over 80% of the benifit of the fire and police services.
Very few people who live in Palo Alto work in Palo Alto.
Also Palo Alto is one of the most backward cities as far as tecknology being used in the city goes. Over 20 years of talking about computer controlled/synorized traffic lights, but nothing happening. A million $$ spent trying fiber to the home without any plan to implement it. Only selected neighborhoods getting underground power and those not getting it paying for it. If you are politically connected you can get anything you want from the general fund.
The storm drain millions of $$ going to keep the wealthy flood prone neighborhoods from having water in their streets when flooding occurrs. While miles of city streets don't even have any storm drains.
High density housing but no money from them for new parks,police or fire protection. " Let the fools who have lived here a long time pay for those things"attitude. Also no new schools for the thousands of new residents that are planned to move here in those high density condos.


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Posted by Mike
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jun 29, 2009 at 10:31 am

I suspect what constitutes a quiet suburb will differ from person to person. Because we also have a town and lots of business parks we are not just a suburb, never will be.

My wife and I have lived in PA for 25 years, most in Crescent Park. When we first moved here downtown was full of optometrists and mom and pop shops and restaurants. But just because downtown has changed with the times (as has CA Ave) doesn't mean that the neighborhoods can't still be quality places to live once you are beyond the condos located right in town.

For us, the quality of life in PA is first our neighborhood, then ease of access to it and other local places we go and finally the sense of 'safe' and civilization we feel in the community at large-parks, downtown, etc.

Ultimately the pressure to infill with new housing to meet ABAG requirements, and the accompanying demolition of buildings to make way for new housing is what provides a host of negative drivers with potential to destroy what makes this a special town for us.

Housing infill creates: density, sometimes disparate design, additional traffic (residents and service vehicles) requiring maybe the need for road widening plus demands for other services that strain the current system like schools, storm drains and related community services.

Look at what Sunnyvale did to their downtown (a disaster) versus what Mountain View has accomplished (a success in my opinion.)

I hope a way can be found to keep from transforming PA into the equivalent of a planned community with lots of dense housing, packed roads and trendy retail. We like living here, and hope that in the future folks with the same desire to live in this kind of community will seek out Palo Alto for these qualities too.

I do not believe there is a need to transform what we have in PA into a clone of many other newer communities that have been designed for a different lifestyle. That's why there are other towns and communities-so that everyone can live in a place that fits their desires and needs.


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Posted by Charlie
a resident of College Terrace
on Jun 29, 2009 at 10:50 am

Sharon:

You said that last week a Stanford student was violently beaten in College Terrace. I live there and hadn't heard about this -- could you please elaborate?

Charlie


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Posted by svatoid
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Jun 29, 2009 at 10:58 am

Charlie

Here you go:

Web Link


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Posted by BP resident
a resident of Barron Park
on Jun 29, 2009 at 11:50 am

3600 El Camino is not College Terrace. This beating is horrible, but he was walking along a commercial strip of El Camino after midnight, not within the College Terrace neighborhood.


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Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 29, 2009 at 4:45 pm

Dear Stephen Levy,

We need to think in larger terms – the scarcity of water is part of all planning issues. Coastal states like Florida and California face a water crisis not only from increased demand, but also from rising temperatures that are causing glaciers to melt and sea levels to rise. Higher temperatures mean more water lost to evaporation. And rising seas could push saltwater into underground sources of freshwater.

One group prospers when population is added to the bay area. They make money from the development of property, they spend money from increased taxes paid by additional residents, they look forward to investing in water desalinization plants, waste management plants, perhaps look forward to owning the water we use and selling it to us. The second group prospers when population grows very slowly, when contaminated ground water is cleaned up, when rain water falls on soil and plants rather than on concrete and asphalt. Tax money is spent on maintaining infrastructure, health and safety – not going into the pockets of developers and large corporations.

Your arguments contain fallacies:

Palo Alto needs to grow in order to help Stanford remain on the cutting edge of change and keep up with the competition.

Palo Alto needs to take a little more traffic and growth to keep up with the competition.

Palo Alto needs to keep faith with those institutions that were here first and make Palo Alto great.

More traffic and growth is inconvenient, not bad.

Logical fallacies: Web Link


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Posted by stephen levy
a resident of University South
on Jun 29, 2009 at 4:56 pm

stephen levy is a registered user.

To "old palo alto"

I think the people make a place great BUT 1) many of the people are here because the institutions are here and 2) I think the institutions are important also. Palo Alto would not be as exciting without Stanford.

To "mike"

I know a lot of people don't want more housing. One point of the post is to question whether that is a fair expectation since residents have chosen to move to a "happening place". You might wish it could be exciting, inviting and smaller but I am arguing that is an unrealistic vision. Anyone moving here shoudl be aware of the whar comes with in moving to a major university town and world technology center. The university, hospital, shopping center and all of the Valley's research facilites will change and likely grow as part of that change.

To "a long time resident"

You are absolutely correct--the two apartment buildings (maybe condos) we face are not four stories--they are five stories.

Palo Alto can remain a great community but our destiny is not as a quiet suburb and all residents should realize that is part of the deal in moving here.


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Posted by t
a resident of College Terrace
on Jun 29, 2009 at 5:12 pm

police have taken over,you cant trust people anymore


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Posted by Anna
a resident of Downtown North
on Jun 29, 2009 at 6:24 pm

"Palo Alto can remain a great community but our destiny is not as a quiet suburb and all residents should realize that is part of the deal in moving here."

This is rank nonsense. Our "destiny" insofar as it concerns the items being discussed here (the amount of housing and commercial development, associated traffic, pressure on our schools, etc.) is not some fate we have no control over. It's something we have the ability, and every right, to decide for the most part....it is not some inevitability.

And this is not something new. In the 60's, real estate interests, making the same arguments Levy is making now, imagined a downtown Palo Alto with multistory buildings, like the 14 storey building at 525 University (corner of Cowper). Residents were horified when they saw that and imagined the whole street full of them and put restrictions on high-rise development in Palo Alto. The land where Foothills Park now is was once slated for dense residential development. Again, residents voted to take the land (in part by eminent domain, and in part by purchase) to preserve what many like about Palo Alto and feel is part of its essence. These and similar measures did not prevent Palo Alto from suceeding and even prospering as a much more quiet suburb than the developers told us we'd need to be if we were to move forward to urban greatness.

Nothing has changed: people like Levy still want to change out town into something different from what attracted many of us here in the first place.

And we STILL have the ability to say "NO" to Levy and the interests whose water he appears to want to carry. There is no reason we have to acceed to ABAG's plans for dense multi-family development in Palo Alto, to Stanford's desires to further urbanize our town, or to any of the other special interests who would bend the decision making process in town to their benefit to the detriment of those who live here.

As to whether saying "no" would lead to a diminishment of "excitement", make Palo Alto less of a "happening place" or prevent us from realizing our "greatness", I am skeptical. But many of us (I would think most of us) would reject the trade-off implied, even if ABAG housing were necessary to make Palo Alto "happening".

And I expect that we will as we have done in the past.


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Posted by Sharon
a resident of Midtown
on Jun 29, 2009 at 6:35 pm


Palo Altans are living in a dream if they think Stanford has any allegiance to Palo Alto.
Stanford does not need Palo Alto support or approval for whatever they do.
Maybe the only advantage of the coming Palto Alto HSR Berlin Wall is that it will make the separation of town and gown permanent, clear and physical for generations to come.

Palo Alto is to Stanford as Oakland is to UCB, there is no there there anymore.


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Posted by Paul Losch
a resident of Palo Alto
on Jun 29, 2009 at 6:36 pm

Paul Losch is a registered user.

Just what is the character of Palo Alto?

What are the things that those of us live here truly value about the place?

What is broken that needs to be fixed?

I generally share Stephon's point of view that this is not just another bedroom community. The schools are great, but there is a great deal more about this town than making sure one's kids get a great education. There are many other places that people here can afford to live that offer a comparable education experience, if that is the family goal.

I will tee something up--simplicity -vs- complexity.

My view is that the complexity of Palo Alto is a big part of its appeal. I also will assert that there are altogether too many times that the subtle minds of residents here get in the way of getting simple issues resolved in a practical way.

Stephen describes the environment here appropriately. That's what those of us who live here signed up for. If for some it no longer is a fit, that's fine, but it is a matter of making personal choices in light of an environment.


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Posted by Ken
a resident of Midtown
on Jun 29, 2009 at 6:44 pm

Stanford growth and expansion does not require ABAG housing, which is a complete scam. It is just welfare housing. Stanford success also does not require density/corridor uber plans. Stanford can expand and grow and prosper, without adversely affecting Palo Alto, in fact it will enhance PA. It's just a matter of how it is done.


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Posted by Sun and Sand
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jun 29, 2009 at 7:59 pm

Tick, tick, tick. That's the sound of a clock that is about to announce the Changing of the City. "Small Town" is over, folks. That was 1950-60-70. This is now. Tell me, do you see housing prices going down? Do you see retail rents decreasing permanently? Do you see any more room for large retail? Do you see anything like Liddicoat's coming back to downtown? Do you see a near-long-term trend of less children in Palo Alto? I don't see any of these things. Now, I may *want* to see these things, and even convince myself that they're possible, but that would be a foolish exercise. Paul's comment about "subtle minds" is so very kind. Paul, always a gentleman. Look, Palo Alto is part of a *growing* region. That's for real. Population in this region is going to increase by some 10's of percent over the next few decades. That's unstoppable. And, if there are a few "subtle minds" who think it is unstoppable, you can ask to buy a bridge from most any one of them at City Council proceedings and various neighborhood association gatherings, where they persist in trying to project the past into the future. Opinion: Palo Alto needs more diverse housing. Opinion: Palo Alto needs more aggressive business development and partnering vehicles. Opinion: Palo Alto needs a far more nimble governance model (shrink City Council, and elect a Mayor). Opinion: Palo Alto needs to leave bad habits behind and find City personnel who understand how to negotiate with Stanford's excellent business and other development groups (who regularly eat our lunch). Opinion: Palo Alto needs to find ways to leverage Stanford's presence to Palo Alto advantage, instead of the tired "Sky is Falling" cry, heard every time Stanford proposes anything. (subtle minds, anyone?). Opinion: Palo Alto needs to unlock local economic diversity by thinking *inside* the box, and innovating within constraint (that's our heritage, or at least I thought it was). Oh, and btw, Palo Alto stopped being a "quiet suburb" at least two decades ago. Living inside that little house that one builds in one's mind can become a mighty comfortable place for those who don't want to step outside and see what's really happening. (I know, you can turn that around on me, but I said it first) :) We need less "subtle mind", and nedd more "innovative mind"; more "future mind"; more "diversity mind"; more "nimble governance" mind.


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Posted by Paul
a resident of Downtown North
on Jun 29, 2009 at 9:21 pm

"Often I think Palo Alto residents come across as wanting all the goodies with being on the cutting edge of change and innovation but are unwilling to take the "what comes with.""

Actually, that seems a very apt characterization of attitudes in Los Altos, Menlo Park, Atherton, and other bedroom communities in the area. How often have I heard somebody from, say, Menlo, urge the PA city council to let Stanford expand its medical and shopping centers for their personal convenience, scolding Palo Alto to "do its part" for the region [so Menlo Park won't have to].

Palo Alto should not have to carry the region. It is time, for example, for Menlo Park to connect Willow Road to Sand Hill Road and help mitigate the traffic congestion of Stanford's expanded enterprise.

It is time to recognize that our string of towns on the Peninsula is the legacy of a nineteenth century haphazardstance that must be rethought for the twenty-first century. We need regional-size governing units. Most importantly, we need an effective mechanism for regional-size planning and resource/impact allocation.


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Posted by Sharon
a resident of Midtown
on Jun 29, 2009 at 10:00 pm


Menlo Park, Woodside, Portola Valley and Stanford made their decisions years ago about growth and development, Palo Alto went another way.

The HSR ,Berlin Wall ,will make the divide between Palo Alto and these other communities permanent, pervasive and personal.

Those parts of North and much of South Palo Alto, west of the train tracks, will thrive, the rest will become the equivalent of Oakland and join with EPA.

That will be good for EPA and East Menlo Park.

Very few Palo Alto residents go to University Ave these days, if they can possibly avoid it, day or night.
If you have kids you shop in MP or MV, if you are rich you shop in Stanford Shopping Center, if you are poor you shop in RWC.

I am glad that the new Town and Country Village, with a book store and a Trader Joes ,will be on the right side of the tracks, good planning.


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Posted by pat
a resident of Midtown
on Jun 29, 2009 at 11:03 pm

Anna says: Our "destiny" ....is not some fate we have no control over. It's something we have the ability, and every right, to decide for the most part....it is not some inevitability.

See Web Link
Cities in no rush to meet housing mandates
But Attorney General Brown's lawsuit against Pleasanton suggests state might become more vigilant over housing, traffic requirements

With Brown's lawsuit and the HSR authority being given emininent domain powers, we may have less control over our destinies than we would like.


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Posted by Sun and Sand
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jun 29, 2009 at 11:19 pm

Pat: "With Brown's lawsuit and the HSR authority being given emininent domain powers, we may have less control over our destinies than we would like."

Yup. Growth = more control, to keep order. This will become more the rule, than not - and not just in PA. Not so bad, either, seeing as the pervasive myth of control that has permeated this place has led to so much hand wringing and "subtle mind". Paul, I love ya!

Sharon: "Menlo Park, Woodside, Portola Valley and Stanford made their decisions years ago about growth and development, Palo Alto went another way."

Yeah, and that's why those places are boring backwaters.


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Posted by Sharon
a resident of Midtown
on Jun 29, 2009 at 11:37 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


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Posted by I'm just a kid
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jun 30, 2009 at 4:01 am

Look. I'm a junior in high school and i've lived in many different cities - big and small. Palo alto is safe in comparison to most. Families move to palo alto because its a good and safe place to raise us kids. We have good parks, everything is decently maintained, the violent crime level is almost nonexistent with an occasional beating or other. Look people. we cannot complain about the one violent crime thats happened in the last 6 months. In most towns, these crimes happen EVERY DAY. So please stop bitching about how its not safe anymore and the police are taking over. I feel safe in palo alto. I know that i can walk home from a party - or tell otehr drunk people to walk home and i know that they will be safe and fine. Its a good safe place. I've lived here most of my life and i wouldnt chose to live anywhere else.

On palo alto becoming more commerical and whatnot...yeah i've seen Cal ave and university ave change alot and its really fine. Its completely unrealistic to believe that palo alto is not going to change and become somewhat more commercial. the whole world is doing it. Palo alto is a business powerhouse. Some of the most important and wealthy people live here or in this area. As long as they dont put a wallmart in the middle of university ave i think we're fine. i really dont think they would do it because there is no space. But there is no problem with putting more reasonable retail space in.

yeah palo alto is somewhat boring when you need to find something to do. but you can drive somewhere else. it would be cool to have more community events i.e. music performaces/concerts/shows held in palo alto.

Steven levy...i agree with you to a certain extent. i think the people of palo alto and our oficials are going to do whatever is best. But they will never get the ok to completely change the environment and view that people have of palo alto being a good, safe place to raise a family. but change is good, in moderation. and the people who are completely closed to change need to go get a wake up call.


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Posted by Gunn Parent
a resident of Gunn High School
on Jun 30, 2009 at 6:52 am

Sharon: "Menlo Park, Woodside, Portola Valley and Stanford made their decisions years ago about growth and development, Palo Alto went another way."

Sun and Sand: "Yeah, and that's why those places are boring backwaters."

Yes, they are backwaters, but why does it seem as if most of our esteemed Palo Alto developers who so want to improve Palo Alto just happen to live in these backwaters. Maybe they should improve their hometowns first before they continue to ruin Palo Alto.




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Posted by maguro_01
a resident of Mountain View
on Jun 30, 2009 at 7:34 am

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


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Posted by Mary Carlstead
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jun 30, 2009 at 11:01 am

Readers, please go to <www.cities21.com> and read what this organization is all about.It is about developing mass transit for transit 'corridors' and business parks. Two are listed for Palo Alto. And the transit corridors envision townhouses, apartments, and condos along major routes such as Page Mill, El Camino, and Alma in Palo Alto and that's just for starters. Mr. Levy, what is your role in this organization along with Steve Raney? Cities 21 has close ties with the building and trade organizations which has known close ties to the Legislature. Residents, read about this organization. One idea by Steve Raney was a "people mover" chair lift transit system from the California Ave. train station up to HP, Cost? - Multi-millions. Palo Alto turned it down.


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Posted by Mike
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jun 30, 2009 at 12:21 pm

Palo Alto will be what we want it to be if we don't allow a few ambitous politicans or city planners with the need to realize their master's thesis to have their way.

If you take a little time to walk through the neighborhoods of Downtown North, Crescent Park, Old Palo Alto and others you will quickly get an idea of what kind of life most people here want.

Others who want to live in 15 storey hamster habitats, wear mylar suits and spend all day in a downtown coffee house on the internet may someday be able to realize that here if they can figure out how to defeat the rest of us, or wait until we all die.

Or they can live in other local communities that are busy now enacting their 'progressive' vision of the future.


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Posted by Mike
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jun 30, 2009 at 12:26 pm

Jerry Brown lived in a 'converted' warehouse as a single guy when he was mayor of Oakland not too long ago.

Best we not ever count on Jerry's sensibilities in any matters to do with community, housing, neighborhoods or town centers. The progress he made over several years in Oakland seems to have been negative.


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Posted by Sun and Sand
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jun 30, 2009 at 3:39 pm

Mike, Funny thing, most of the civilized, developed world lives in multi-level, multi-use residential facilities. That's the norm. Palo Alto is *growing*. Are you going to stop that? If you can, fine, but I'm betting hard cash that you (or anyone else that tries something so silly) can't. So, where are the people going to go, Mike? Where is the room for more single family housing in your idyllic "small town" (or is it "mall town"?) Paul's aptly-described "subtle mind" demographic is all over topics like this on these boards, making one think that most Palo Altans feel as they do. I can assure you they don't. Why? Because most recent residents form 10 years out, and forward (soon to be a majority, within 5-10 years) have cone to live in a far more metropolitan place than you and the "subtle mind" crowd remember, and continue to project into the future in spite of all evidence of growth and population projections to the contrary.
"Hamster units" - you say? - seriously, you're dating yourself, and revealing an unfortunate ignorance of how most Europeans, a large portion of Americans, and Asians live. The world is changing; living units are going to become smaller, and more dese; they're going to be better coordinated with local and inter-regional mass transit. Many other changes will become associated with that. Are you going to stop that trend? No, you're not. Whether you like it or not, these things are going to happen. You can either choose to become part of the solution for more economical, environmentally-friendly, cost-effevctive, diverse population growth, or yuo can choose to become a diversity Luddite, fighting tooth and nail all the way. I can guarantee one thing if you choose the latter (yuor current path) - you'll end up just like the Luddites did - laughed at and derided as poor souls who just didn't "get it". Bob Dylan said it - "The times, they are a-changin'" - why not try a trip to Japan, Copenhagen, etc. etc to look at their "hamster units", or even some of the smaller-than-Palo Alto towns all over Europe where people have integrated their "hamster units" so well with business centers that they bring constant delight to anyone who lives there, or visits there. Get with it, Mike. Check it out. "Subtle mind" is not the one, true way. Another way exists. It's called "open mind"


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Posted by palo alto mom
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jun 30, 2009 at 4:25 pm

Sun and Sand -

I think what makes the "hamster" living work so well in other places is making them multi-use, not just dense housing. Well done multi-use housing is delightful.

Unfortunately, we seem to be build dense housing-only developments (excluding the Taube Koret development, a great idea, too bad it it SO unattractive.) If downtown PA or Cal Ave was more like Santana Row or Newbury Street in Boston, with attractive housing built above retail, a mix of offices, walkable streets, grocery shopping within walking distance, etc. Zoning which required any knew buildings along those corridors to include first floor retail, 2nd floor office and third floor residential would be wonderful.


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Posted by Paul
a resident of Downtown North
on Jun 30, 2009 at 4:27 pm

"Jerry Brown lived in a 'converted' warehouse as a single guy when he was mayor of Oakland not too long ago."

And as governor he lived in a Sacramento apartment and walked distance of his office, eschewing the gargantuan luxury governor's mansion Ronald Reagan built and daily limo rides to work. Gotta admire the guy's thrift, especially with government (taxpayer) money, very unlike the high living Reagan.


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Posted by narnia
a resident of another community
on Jun 30, 2009 at 6:01 pm

Palo alto is a suburb of San Jose, that what Palo Alto is. Quiet? Nah.


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Posted by stephen levy
a resident of University South
on Jun 30, 2009 at 7:04 pm

stephen levy is a registered user.

I know lots of people think they have the right to stop development and growth to reduce traffic and make their life simpler by forcing regional growth to go elsewhere.

I am arguing that this position is not considerate of who we are as a city and that people arguing this position are content to take the goodies (like all of the money that allows PA schools to spend more than most) without recognizing any obligation to the institutions and history that make PA what it is.

We have libertarians who post regularly about the evils of government infringing on the rights of people yet have no trouble infringing on the rights of people and businesses who would like to live or expand in Palo Alto including the institutions that made PA what and who we are. The best the libertarians can do is sometimes stand up for the jobs but never the people and traffic that are part of the jobs and market economy.

They see the dangers of being told what to do by government but never see themselves as imposing their self interest on others or our future. What gives then or us the right to close the gate after we take goodies just becasue there is some inconvenience as we are passing through our time in Palo Alto.

Mary Carlstead, thanks for posting with your name. I view your post as accusation by innuendo. If you are accusing me of acting for financial gain or in bad faith, state it clearly and bring some proof or apologize and keep this garbage to yourself. We can disagree without this type of ad hominem BS.


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Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 30, 2009 at 7:38 pm

I would not object to expansion if we could somehow find some unused space in our congested city to build homes and infrastructure which could complement what we already have. However, the way homes are being built without any thought to how the residents are going to shop, be schooled, recreate or even get to the highways or transit. The San Antonio ramps to 101 are badly designed and the Oregon Expressway ramps get really congested and on top of that it is the method of choice for USPS mail deliverers and other places along Embarcardero out to the Baylands. In other words, these streets cannot cope with more traffic, let alone the arteries. Our schools are filled without any thought of where extra students get pushed and without school buses and poor transport options, more traffic gets on the roads just to get the kids to school. As for groceries, we have tiny stores and no shopping apart from high end stores at Stanford and T & C. We have good restaurants but almost none that are kid friendly. Our parks are congested at weekends and our sports facilities full of out of towners while our kids have to be taken out of Palo Alto to play basketball.

No, I have no objection to growth, but let's plan the growth sensibly. At present, we can't have growth because we don't have the infrastructure.


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Posted by Sharon
a resident of Midtown
on Jun 30, 2009 at 7:42 pm



Since Adam Smith and, The Wealth of Nations, the foundation of the UK/ USA economy has been the pursuit of self interestWeb Link

"It is not from the benevolence of the butcher, the brewer, or the baker that we expect our dinner, but from their regard to their own self-interest.
We address ourselves, not to their humanity but to their self-love, and never talk to them of our own necessities but of their advantages".


I know there is now a brief fashion and folly in DC regarding retrograde socialism, but that is not going to catch on here in Palo Alto, particularly among immigrants and their children, who are a greater part of the population and wealth every year.

Look at the demographics of Gunn

We came here to escape socialism, it always leads to fascism on way or another.

There are a few aged socialist hippies left in Palo Alto but they are very close to retirement community status, they can implement their socialist/ commune dreams there.

Towns like Woodside, Portola Valley, Carmel etc are wise to preserve their quality of life, there is plenty of space for development in the East Bay or in the Central Valley and Nevada.


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Posted by Irv
a resident of University South
on Jun 30, 2009 at 9:52 pm

I was prepared to respond to Anna, who wrote,

"And we STILL have the ability to say "NO" to Levy and the interests whose water he appears to want to carry. There is no reason we have to acceed to ABAG's plans for dense multi-family development in Palo Alto, ....."

But Midtown Pat beat me to it by citing Attorney General Brown's lawsuit against Pleasanton (Web Link).

For the record, ABAG isn't demanding "dense multi-family development". Rather, it is only requiring the city to plan to meet its 'fair share housing requirement" of ~ 2800 units by 2014. As another resident posted - it could be met by converting many single-family homes to duplexes.

However, in reading Anna's "Just say no" post, it reminded me of what's happening in Congress, in our legislature, and with our governor.

One political party comes up with a plan - to tackle climate change ("No - it's a job killer, an energy tax, claim the opponents"); one party comes up with a plan to avoid having the state pay IOUs ("No, these are just games to avoid fixing the budget, claims the Gov"), and that party also comes up with a plan to raise certain taxes so as to avoid massive service cuts to those who depend on them ("No, claims the opposition - we took a "no new tax pledge").

Anna - "No" is an appropriate response to an unreasonable request.
The ABAG 2,800 housing units requirement may appear unreasonable to many - but it's ABAG's job to assign these numbers - to Palo Alto and the 100 other cities and 9 counties in our region.

I much prefer, "Yes, We can!".


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Posted by Anna
a resident of Downtown North
on Jun 30, 2009 at 11:50 pm

"For the record, ABAG isn't demanding "dense multi-family development". Rather, it is only requiring the city to plan to meet its 'fair share housing requirement" of ~ 2800 units by 2014. As another resident posted - it could be met by converting many single-family homes to duplexes."

The extremism of ABAG supporters like Irv and Stephen Levy is made manifest by statements like this, which is so out of touch with what the majority of Palo Alto residents think about ABAG and its mandates as to stand laughably on its own ridiculousness.

"Fair shares" housing mandates that require 2800 more housing units in 5 years and converting much of the city's single family housing into duplexes are so at odds with most people's vision of Palo Alto that they hardly require refutation.

As Pleasanton's challenge to ABAG shows, more and more people and local governments are standing up for the right of localities to control their destinies. We'll see how the lawsuit comes out.

Levy's simplistic take on regional growth, and his idiosyncratic view that people who don't live in Palo Alto have some sort of "right" to live here (which we must accomodate by altering the fundamental character of our city) were discussed and largely laughed out of Town Square when the ABAG mandates were promulgated a year or so ago. Suffice it to say that growth of the sort envisioned by Levy and his corporate and government masters isn't inevitable either in Palo Alto or in the region. Companies may want to expand locally but they don't have a right to do so as Levy seems to think, and we have no obligation to accomodate them. If enough Bay Area cities like Pleasanton and Palo Alto reject the attempt by ideologes like Levy to control their future, then the regional growth Levy wants won't happpen.

Will we be a less 'exciting', "happening" place if we don't accomodate Levy's bosses? Maybe, though I doubt it. But either way, the issue is who plans our city: ourselves or Sacramento bureaucrats enabled by sophists like Levy?

In the ABAG threads a year ago, several posters made the suggestion that we have a vote on whether the city should cave into ABAG's demands. Levy demurred. I expect he still feels that way. Control freaks of whatever stripe fear nothing so much as letting people have a say in their own futures.


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Posted by another concerned parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 1, 2009 at 1:20 am

"All developments go through a public process to balance public benefits and costs."

Maybe all city developments, but PAUSD developments don't. They seem geared to give a veneer of public input while avoiding real public input.

Look at the planned construction at the high schools. There was an article in the Weekly recently by a Ms. Essenmacher questioning the process, specifically for lack of public input. (The title was something like 'problems in process could lead to bad outcome'.)

The district owns three high schools sites, but is planning to spend a premium of tens of millions of Measure A dollars to continue packing all of the high school students on two sites. (When I say "premium", I mean money spent over and above what the same square footage would require if we renovated existing buildings or could build single-story instead of building up.)

This promises to not only cause traffic headaches in surrounding neighborhoods, it brings the very real threat of diminished academic standards as the student populations get into the range where research shows learning suffers. It also threatens to continue the negative trends that erode community and social networks in our schools.

All of this is unnecessary if we instead open the third high school (particularly as a choice school as this obviates the need for redrawing boundaries and allows the third school to draw down enrollment from all parts of PA). Sure, it's expensive to open a third school, it's also expensive to build multistory buildings. We have to hire the extra teachers regardless of where they teach the extra students. If we're talking cost per academic outcome, opening the third high school is likely to be far more cost effective.

But my point is not to argue that, my point is that the district has failed to come up with actual numbers for comparison, to take any stock of whether the public wants these crowded megaschools and their attendant academic risks, and to take an unbiased look at which option is the best use of our money in relationship to outcomes.

If our school district quality declines over the long-term because of poor use of Measure A funds now, you can kiss your high property values goodbye. The impact will go far beyond the school community. At least the worries in this essay will be moot.


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Posted by Anna
a resident of Downtown North
on Jul 1, 2009 at 5:04 am

Note that the problems with the schools that another concerned parent complains of are a direct result of the city's efforts to build pall mall more and more housing. This effect will be greatly exaggerated if the city accedes to ABAG's demands for 2800 MORE units of housing, along with the school age children that will inhabit them, within 5 short years.

Expect this kind of school overcrowding and consequent deterioration of educational performance, traffic and infrastructure wear, overcrowding of all of Palo Alto's vaunted services, even more crime and a general diminution of the kind of lifestyles and quality that we all thought we were getting when we moved to Palo Alto. And yes....downward pressure on property values as another concerned parent fears.


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Posted by Rob
a resident of Woodside
on Jul 1, 2009 at 8:21 am

I don't think Palo Alto residents have much too worry about when it comes to growth, but need to be more concerned about decline. Young people don't exactly want to live in PA. I hate to say, It's a boring town filled with boring people and it's extremely overpriced. Add to that, the overrated schools basicly suck and are not immune to the problems of drugs. The schools are basicly a factory for (A)useless MBA's to create useless social network sites, or (B) adults who are good at taking LSD and shooms and posting such useless info on A's network sites. Downtown PA is (yawn)dead and if you do find a couple folks at a coffee shop they are (yawn) stuck up and constipated. For a college town, PA doesn't have that liberal freaky vibe to it either. PA has the feel of an expensive buttoned down retirement complex, full of conservatives wearing their wealth as a badge of honor and prestige. So, don't worry about growth people, it's not going to happen.


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Posted by teacher of well rounded and smart kids
a resident of Menlo Park
on Jul 1, 2009 at 9:56 am

Rob, you are so right on the money!


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Posted by pat
a resident of Midtown
on Jul 1, 2009 at 12:01 pm

Sun and Sand writes: try a trip to Japan, Copenhagen, etc. etc to look at their "hamster units", or even some of the smaller-than-Palo Alto towns all over Europe where people have integrated their "hamster units" so well with business centers that they bring constant delight to anyone who lives there, or visits there.
I grew up in "hamster units" in New Jersey. They did not bring "constant delight" to anyone. They were crowded and noisy with no place for kids to play, no place to sit outdoors except on a fire escape.
If people want to live in a "happening" place close to traffic, let them move to SF or San Jose or other big cities. I can definitely understand the appeal for some, e.g., Rob, who thinks Palo Alto is "a boring town filled with boring people."
But many of us want to live in single family homes with peaceful back yards where kids can play and old folks can relax.
Levy writes: "I know lots of people think they have the right to stop development and growth to reduce traffic and make their life simpler by forcing regional growth to go elsewhere. I am arguing that this position is not considerate of who we are as a city ."
HUH? The city is the people who live in it. Obviously, we moved here because we like it as it is.
He also says: "What gives then or us the right to close the gate after we take goodies just becasue there is some inconvenience as we are passing through our time in Palo Alto."
Levy is big on rights. Don't current residents have the right to keep our environment the way we like it?
Who says we're closing the gate? Anyone can move here. Yes, it's pricey. But if we build high density housing and massively increase the population, what happens to schools and quality of life?
Where is it written that everyone has a right to live in Palo Alto?
If Levy is so big on rights, why doesn't he respect Mary Carlstead's right to voice her opinion on his post?

He views her post "as accusation by innuendo. If you are accusing me of acting for financial gain or in bad faith, state it clearly and bring some proof or apologize and keep this garbage to yourself. We can disagree without this type of ad hominem BS."

I don't see any accusations or BS – ad hominem or otherwise – in what Ms. Carlstead wrote. She simply disagrees with you. And she is not alone.


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Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 1, 2009 at 3:53 pm

I agree with Ken.

"Stanford growth and expansion does not require ABAG housing, which is a complete scam. It is just welfare housing. Stanford success also does not require density/corridor uber plans. Stanford can expand and grow and prosper, without adversely affecting Palo Alto, in fact it will enhance PA. It's just a matter of how it is done."

Also, Stanford University and other large employers should pay their staff wages that fit with the cost of living in this area. If large employers want to locate here, they should be required to pay salaries that allow people to live in the East Bay and the South Bay.


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Posted by Sun and Sand
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jul 2, 2009 at 2:06 am

Pat, you grew up in a 1950's "hamster unit". You're living in the past, and projecting it into the future. You haven't been to Copenhagen, or Estonia, or Tokyo recently - have you? I didn't think so. An earlier poster here suggested that we compel mixed use developments. I agree. Let's just keep the "subtle mind" types out of that conversation (or humor them, let them speak, and then get on with making things work in a way that they continue to fail to understand). Just look at the havoc and derelict properties that the "subtle mind" crowd has brought down on Palo Alto. It continues to need to be said that this isi a *growing* region. It continues to need to be said that we can't put a moat around Palo Alto. So many of the "subtle mind" crowd like to wear their card-carrying liberal qualifications on their sleeves, until they are asked to share - then, watch out! And, there are the libertarian types, like Sharon, who always seem to look at the benefits of libertarianism and "hands off" government even as they enjoy the multifarious benefits that government has brought them. This isn't to say that governments are enlightened; often,, they're not. But let's not throw the baby out with the bathwater. The thing is that America is - over the next 2-3 decades - going to become a LOT more like Europe. Get used to it. We're going to have better mass transport - from intra-urban to inter-urban and inter-regional. We're going to to see a LOT of population growth in our city, with more housing to accomodate that. Frankly, I look forward to the latter, because Palo Alto has lost a tremendous amount of socioeconomic diversity over the last two decades. We're too skewed toward upper-middle-classdom, causing (as someone pointed out above) our city to begin looking like a stuffy retirement community. We have a vibrant new group of new families moving into town. Many of these people come from international metropolises; they have significant life experience and intellectual capital to offer. I want to more from *them*; I want our city leaders to *actively solicit* diverse opinion as we grow into the future. We need to unlock the social capital thats been bound up too long by small-town thinking and small but significant minority that has been able to hold sway during the go-go years, when things went so swimingly well that Palo Alto looked good even when it made disastrous developmental decisions. Too many are still living in that past - or thinking it's going to "come back". Forget it! Then was then and now is now. Let's roll up our sleeves and make growth a *benefit*. **Unlock diversity**. MAKE it work. We can. If we don't, we're lookingn at this becoming a very boring place, bereft of dynamism, and natural renewal. I have talked to young people who qualified for admission to Stanford who decided not to attend because Palo Alto was "too boring". Just think about that. We need to juice this place up. Let's get going!


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Posted by Sun and Sand
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jul 2, 2009 at 2:12 am

Association of Bay Area Residents Resisting the Future - ABARRF - lots of members of that organization in this thread. I like the way it sounds when you say it...onmatopoeic...that's the word :))))))))


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Posted by Mike
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jul 2, 2009 at 11:19 am

Sun and Sand appears to be a weak thinker with a firm belief that his personal lifestyle preference needs to be carried to every corner of the earth, as if it were destiny. Eventually he will learn the world does not revolve around his or his friend's ideas.

There are plenty of examples of the type of life he describes around the world, and even in the US and here in the valley. That does not mean it is the inevitable conclusion for everyone. I have traveled extensively and can tell you that density extracts a price. Those that don't realize the price never knew any difference- like the 'caged bird' analogy.

Is Cairo a good example of life as it should be? Too dense? How much too dense? Foreign cities don't always make good role models.

We have absolutely no obligation to add massive population accompanied by increased density in order to absorb it. If you like living in hamster habitats take the light rail ride from Mountain View to San Jose and along the way pick a habitat of your liking. Its all there for you-a habitat, a light rail and 'excitement' at the San Jose end.

Each community has the ability to define its character and set zoning and other policies accordingly. I hope we choose the lifestyle we came for and keep would be activists like Sun and Sand in some other community of his liking.

By the way, I think Steve Levy's initial opinion was apparently colored by where he once lived in PA. Sounds like he lived in a condo by Caltrain somewhere near California Avenue. No wonder he questions whether Palo Alto is a quiet community!


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Posted by Mike
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jul 2, 2009 at 11:43 am

The 'boring place' theme throughout this topic has reminded me of how I came to live in Palo Alto. 25 years ago My wife and I were ready to leave a condo in Mountain View and buy a single family home. Our realtor showed us places in Saratoga, Los Altos, Los Altos Hills and most other towns in this part of the peninsula. Nothing felt right. Our realtor suggested looking in Palo Alto, and we at first resisted because we thought it was an 'odd' place. After a while though, having looked at and rejected over 50 homes, we agreed to look in Palo Alto.

What a difference! The neighborhoods were nice, and somewhat eclectic. But it was the inside of most homes that clued us in. The homes in Palo Alo looked like interesting people lived in them-books, paintings, hobbies, gardens. In contrast most of the other places we looked at outside PA looked like the were decorated for the sole purpose of being stylish or cool. TVs dominated several rooms. The people who lived in them appeared to have no real life.

So we moved to PA. What we thought is indeed true. In 25 years we have met a lot of neighbors and others in town. They are mostly extremely interesting people with a wide variety of interests and expertise. We don't always agree with their ideas, but there is no denying they are interesting.

I have heard the 'bored' line before-mostly from people who have 200 cable channels and still can't find enough to fill 8 hours of viewing a night.

If you are bored in Palo Alto, it is almost certainly your fault. Either develop some real interests of your own, or go live in a community with other people who are also looking for your kind of excitement. I think that is what all the multi-unit housing is intended for at Santana Row.

When you develop a life someday, think about moving to Palo Alto. It will almost certainly still be the interesting and colorful place it is today.


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Posted by OhlonePar
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jul 2, 2009 at 12:11 pm

Lots of holes to pick here.

Mr. Levy, whaddaya mean we're just taking the goodies? Sorry, with all those bond issues and the high prices of PA homes--I am *paying* for those goodies. And I am paying a lot.

Paul, turning one in eight houses into a duplex is a big thing, not a small thing--that's a hell of an increase.

Now, one of the things I'm not seeing discussed are the very basic limitations of geography. The demand for space in Palo Alto has, for a long time, outstripped what's actually available. Like it or not, the downtown is a physically small space--three blocks wide and about ten blocks long. It is not conveniently located in terms of access from the freeway--only a couple of streets, both of which are heavily residential will take you there.

Stanford has slightly better access because of I-280, but it, too, has access problems. However, because of I-280, any residential growth in response to Stanford should be near the Page Mill and Sand Hill corridors. In other words, in Menlo Park for Sand Hill and in the very residential parts of the Palo Alto Hills and (yeah, like this will ever happen) Los Altos Hills. And, hey, west Palo Alto has less of an overcrowded elementary problem.

Let's face it, the most logical expansion physically isn't going to happen--but by the same token, I don't feel like being lectured on how out of touch I am when I see a situation where growth is difficult. Our schools are overcrowded and we have a school board that seems to think bigger is better and has done little to investigate opening a third high school. (It would also help if they started checking out residency more aggressively.)

As far as high-density developments. Fact is, we have a glut of them at this time and I think it's a mistake to keep converting commercially zoned real estate to residential. The result is that we're getting more people and fewer services. Over and over that's been at the crux of disputes in Palo Alto. Residents want local stores and services at the run-down shopping centers (Edgewood, Alma Plaza), developers want the quick gain of residential real estate.

Fact is, we residents *are* better off with neighborhood shopping centers. Sorry, it may not be PC, but my quality of life will be better if I can walk over to Edgewood for coffee and a bag of groceries. A cluster of townhouses won't do a thing for me.

My quality of life will be better if my kids aren't attending elementary schools with more than 500 kids and high schools with 2,000 kids.

I see no compelling reason to work against my self-interest here. Palo Alto is already dense enough and contains enough jobs that I certainly don't feel like I'm contributing to sprawl by wanting a back yard and not live next to an apartment complex.

Again, let's keep in mind the overall condition of real estate in this state and country, which is that we have too much housing, way too much housing and if new construction stopped dead, we'd have enough housing for the population for some years.

So let's stop thinking that everyone needs to come to Palo Alto. If anything, the overall focus should be on creating viable more self-contained small cities throughout the state. In some ways, we should be less focused on changing Palo Alto than in seeing in it a model for what should be throughout the state--a small, viable city with a wide array of services and a strong job base. (And for those who are bored here, sure, no reason other small, viable cities can't be more like Santa Cruz with a funkier vibe.)



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Posted by Sun and Sand
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jul 2, 2009 at 2:34 pm

I love this board because of the lacking-in-substance, thin-veneered liberal subtext that runs through it, laced with references to "holier than thouism", relative to taste, lifestyle preference, and other things - *especially, where the rubber meets the road in any way that means "change". It's really stunning. (It's kind of like watching Evangelical TV, where *some* of the rationalizations made against one's own long-term self-interest are so confoundingly beyond belief that it's hard to turn off the damned tube. One just stares in amusing disbelief at how so many people could get it so wrong.) That's what this anti-growth-"I've-got-mine-now-you-figure-out-how-to-get-yours"-"we-don't-want-no-infiltration" rationales sound like. Mike, *that's* what makes this place so boring, as in 'predictable'. Yeah, we know that many "subtle minds" like the interesting dinner party status chatter (Derrida vs Alien vs Jimmy Carter - anyone? - or whatever cockamamie erudition happens to come along, posing as status-seeking talk for that particular evening's outing). Yeah, and we know about shared cultural preferences (allowing for minor differences that don't too blatantly threaten one's particular world view) - at least one can discuss pro-life vs. pro-abortion without getting one's hands dirty, right? In the end, it was all just a heady conversation; right? And, I guess predictability is something we all want - me included; the drive for social homeostasis is surely as "do or die" as the analog process in our physical bodies. The problem is that change, like aging, happens. Sooner or later, the lattter wins over the former. And Palo Alto growing out and up is no exception. It will happen. Yup, we're a very "intelligent" community, and "predictable" place, but more and more lacking in the true diversity that makes up a mixed community. So, a few on this board continue to make rationales for keeping Palo Alto as it is, because they like it that way. That's all well and good; it's easy to understand. If only there was a large mirror to hold up to some of the more transparent postings here. OP thinks that some people think that everyone wants to come to PA. Nonsense! Say who? OP? I know plenty of people who think Palo Alto is too staid; too old; too expensive; too "precious"; too 'high-falutin'; too full of itself; too uninvolved; and so on. However, like it or not, more people (many more people) WILL come here, and many of those people will have no memory of what this place was like 30 years ago - so, they won't have that to hang their hats on. What they will want is more mixed housing, more diversity, cheaper and better delivered services (very possible, btw), more proactive government, etc. etc. They will welcome changes that most of us will think of as personal sacrifice. We'd better start adapting to that, or we're all going to end up as bitter old men and women. And, we - along with our municipal neighbors, assuming we are really as liberal a town as we say we are, have an obligation to cooperate - if not lead - our region in getting people out of their cars, doing something about helping new residents live closer to home; making it possible for people to educate their children in ways that don't necessarily mean having to build new schools (OP, how about pressuring the Board for new educational paradigms, instead of framing all your anti-housing arguments based on the staid 1890-style of educational facility (and process) that PA and the other 1000 California school districts maintain? - get out and look around at different educational models - who says that kids shuold be sitting in classrooms all day - talk about booooorrrring!). What kind of person does an environment like that self-select for? Think about it. Soon, we will have a majority of Palo Altans that are not from the old school. [Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


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Posted by P.A. Native
a resident of Mountain View
on Jul 2, 2009 at 4:11 pm

When I read this thread I see what a mess you have on your hands here. The self righteousness here is glaring and abundant. I can't imagine how hard it must be to work out an agreement or compromise in Palo Alto when there's so many convinced and deadset in their own beliefs and opinions.

Don't agree? Just look at the length of some of these comments. I think I'll come back here and read them again before I go to bed. It should put me to sleep in no time.


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Posted by pat
a resident of Midtown
on Jul 2, 2009 at 9:01 pm

Sun and Sand: You are so creative with your labels: "subtle mind" crowd, card-carrying liberal, libertarian types, .

And you are so self-assured. What a great crystal ball you must have to predict
- "We're going to have better mass transport - from intra-urban to inter-urban and inter-regional."
- " more people WILL come here, .What they will want is more mixed housing, more diversity, cheaper and better delivered services (very possible, btw), more proactive government, etc. etc."

Just where will the money come from for all that mass transport? We can't even fund HSR. And exactly how will services be delivered cheaper and better?

The state (if not the world) is waiting for your solutions, not to mention your "new educational paradigms."

Why are you still living in boring Palo Alto when Copenhagen, Estonia and Tokyo are so appealing?


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Posted by stephen levy
a resident of University South
on Jul 3, 2009 at 1:22 pm

stephen levy is a registered user.

I started the thread because I think there are additional rights and interests related to the future of Palo Alto than the ones often expressed in Town Square. I think there are issues of taxation without representation and the rights of people who are not PA voters or do not have kids in school right now that ought to be incorporated into these discussions along with the views of voters and families that currently have children in school.

Other posters and I often have strong disagreements that will not be resolved here or elsewhere. But I am asking readers to consider the voices and rights of others.

It is true that growth brings more people and traffic, even if it is handled really well. But that is a probable fact not an answer to what to do. The activities that bring people and traffic have benefits for now and for the future and these benefits need to be included both as a matter of rights and as a matter of getting the analysis correct.

We are a city where more than half of the revenue and a substantial portion for the school district come from the activities of private businesses including activities associated with Stanford. Beyond that much of the economic vitality of the region--the good jobs and high incomes--come from these activities.

And as I argued at the outset most families have a shorter life in PA (we are passing through) compared to say H-P or Stanford.

In response to OP, I completely acknowledge the awesome willingness of local residents (most of whom by the way do not have kids in school) to support our city and schools. Still it is true that lots of revenue comes from entities that do not have votes. How do their interests and the interests of maintaining a strong economy get represented if the only important people are families with children?

I apologize if I came across as lecturing you. On the other hand am I wrong that you have written that people without kids in school (right now) aren't entitled to vote on certain issues because they just can't care enough?

But the meaning of taking the goodies but not the what comes with is still valid because as many posters argue we can take the jobs and have the people live elsewhere.

The arguments about ABAG, Stanford producing the need for welfare housing and hamsters are just distractions.

Some people want single family homes. Some people do not want (my wife and I now) or cannot afford single family homes. We can debate the exact commitment and what is good planning but I argue that we do not have the right to deny them the chance to live here. If "hamster housing" is truly offending than there is nothing to worry about because no one will want it and no one will build it.

But this is a market issue and I am right on this one. Smaller units will attract buyers or renters in PA and other posters lecturing them about living in hamster housing is just hot air.

This is a large and growing region. The need for housing is not caused by ABAG. It is caused by the private entrepreneurs and institutions like Stanford that engage in exciting activities that draw families to the region. The region benefits from these freely made decisions and those benefits also come with some costs in terms of more people and traffic.

Having more housing in a city is not the same as locating a garbage dump or oil refinery in the middle of Palo Alto. There are degrees of inconvenience.

When posters argue against ABAG allocations, they pose as arguing against the heavy hand of government. First the allocations are the result of private market initiative and innovation that creates the demand. But the main argument I am making here is that posters are actually arguing against the freedom of individuals to live here and the freedom of businesses to expand.

When posters argue against developers they see one part of the transaction. But for everyone who builds a home, there is someone who buys the home or soon the homes would not be built.

None of this is completely clear cut. Planning for the future of a city and region always involves competing rights and any change or growth will not leave everyone better off.

But my idea in the thread was to explore what rights others have in PA's future--institutions that provide significant financial support to PA and school budgets, institutions trying to grow and change and stay relevant and people who might like to live here but are not currently registered voters.


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Posted by Anna
a resident of Downtown North
on Jul 3, 2009 at 2:26 pm

Stephen Levy puts forth the notion that people who don't live in Palo Alto, but wish to, have a "right" to live here that we must satisfy by approving (and in many cases) subsidizing ABAG housing - housing that will within a short period of time fundamentally change the character of our city.

Levy never describes the source of such rights for the very good reason that there is no such right - in logic, law or morality - of people who don't currently live here to be facilitated in their desires.

[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

There are serious arguments in favor of regional planning schemes (though I think they are fatally flawed in the case of ABAG), but Levy's philosophizing isn't one of these arguments.


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Posted by Rob
a resident of Woodside
on Jul 3, 2009 at 3:19 pm

Yes, Palo Alto isn't boring, we have books, gardens and art in our houses. Everybody outside of Palo Alto watches TV and is unenlightened. We're too good for that here. We also have Palo Alto online forums to defend our position of how exciting a town this is.

I also drive a Prius and voted for Obama. I am the most interesting person on earth. How can you be bored of me? Too bad this town is soo exciting that everyone will move here and cause the sewers to back up, etc.


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Posted by Tomhawk
a resident of Professorville
on Jul 3, 2009 at 4:20 pm

Don't have much to say, but i love the topic, read a few posts, agree with some points disagree with other points

Though i do have to say i would have a nice big shopping mall on charleston/arastradero and el camino intersection, it would have been nice to have something there, or something else besides more housing.

It's always nice to have something to do, and the more organized activities you have the less time people, teens for my point do other stuff, such as drink and other interesting stuff. There are a few cases i admit, actually quite a few were i don't understand high schoolers, and that's given the fact that i graduated a couple years ago myself. The school culture has definately changed, it has become much more sexual, and it seems from what i've heard that the sophmore turning Junior class is quite at the forefront of that, with basically the upper classes seeing them as (you know the term).

People here are talking bout change over years, but i think they overlook a few things, they don't have look over the period of 20 years or more, look at 4 years.

Now i'm just rambling on...

hmmm. Let's just try to put it this way, Palo Alto was said to be on the forefront of change, city wize. Now the soph/junior class are on the forefront of sexuality well beyond their age, and i'm saying not like many times with a single partner, but abandon that is usually associated with college, counting probably in the teens of different people per person.

yeah, offsubject, but whatever


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Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 3, 2009 at 5:30 pm

The Taube Koret development is an example of bad planning. A smaller scale development on the same model except not a community for one group but a diverse group of people, would be fine. A few homes, apartments, condos, playing fields, child care, elder care would not use too much water and power. Where will the extra water come from? Has the City Council found space on Stanford land for a water resevoir? We need our local farms, we need uncrowded schools and streets not clogged with air-polution causing traffic. Why are our water bills, utility fees so high?


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Posted by OhlonePar
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jul 3, 2009 at 10:21 pm

Stephen,

Yes, you're wrong in saying that I've written people without kids in schools don't have the right to vote on certain issues. I've never said anything even close to that. Perhaps you are confusing me with someone else? Or if you could show me the statement I made that you think says this?

It's a complete matter of self-interest for any land owner in this town to support the local schools. The value of our real-estate is closely tied to the desirability of our schools. Frankly, it's those who have owned the longest who benefit the most from this. All you have to do is look at the housing prices in areas with poor schools.

What entities don't have voters? Yes, corporations don't have votes, but those who work and own those corporations will vote in the interest of those corporation. Beyond that, money has been known to talk--I haven't noticed that Exxon's desires were neglected during the Bush Administration even if Exxon couldn't go to the polling booth.

But you write as if ramping up the housing market in Palo Alto was desirable--let's build smaller units because they'll attract more people. As a lowly PA resident, again, I ask why is that in my self-interest to do that? My quality of life suffers.

And the area isn't currently experiencing growth--it's experiencing the opposite. Housing prices have crashed in parts of Santa Clara County. Unemployment is up and the state has tons of empty houses. For that matter, PA has a number of empty townhouses--all those new developments are far from full.

Fact is, the state is overbuilt and Palo Alto has a surplus of multifamily units--or will unless prices drop here. And, again, it's not in my self-interest to see a price drop here.

One of the things you didn't address, Stephen, are the geographic limitations of Palo Alto. We don't have a good grid for becoming more dense. While I, personally, would use an HSR station in Palo Alto, when I looked some of the documents over, I had to agree that Redwood City has a better set-up for handling an HSR station than we do. It has more and wider arterial roads to its downtown and they run through light industrial instead of residential areas. For that matter, residential areas aren't adjacent to the downtown the way they are here.

We already have a lot of traffic congestion for a small city and greater density will make it worse. Ideally, the city would have been designed better to handle growth, but it wasn't.

And, yes, Stanford's a world-class university, but I don't see that I, therefore, owe it dense housing.

In fact, I don't get the argument that we residents owe people the right to move here, per se. I scrimped and saved and waited a long time to buy. My choice and not the end of the world. In fact, I think the benefits of renting have been overlooked these past few years.

People don't *have* to live in Palo Alto any more than I have to live in Hillsborough. There's actually a large range of housing within a five-mile radius here.




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Posted by susanMD
a resident of Midtown
on Jul 4, 2009 at 5:10 am

I've lived in Palo Alto for 42 years and I must say that most of my neighbors were Stanford professors or scientists when I came here. Interesting, welcoming people, who created a supporting community for me and my husband through the final years of my Stanford Hospital residency. Since about 2000, most of them have been leaving the area to be replaced by newcomers with very different priorities.

There's a new, overwhelming selfishness, even in "lowly" south Palo Alto, and lack of community ethos. I barely get "hello" from most of my new neighbors-- and I promise it's not because I'm a b****. I remember the days of street potlucks and trips to parks, camping, etc. Now they race by on their preppy cars, run over people's pets, and don't seem to have an iota of self-evaluative ability. I don't think it's that humanity's sinking to new lows (well, at least not by this), but it does reflect that this is no longer the community it was, and you CAN'T blame the Silicon Valley boom for this alone. City really dropped the ball with supporting public amenities (remember Alma Plaza? Bergman's? Midtown Market?), and much of our community seems to be a through-way. Homes are now just "places that are not the office" with a garage, and perhaps a decent spouse and a child who will be sent to one of the impersonal factory schools here.


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Posted by Steve U
a resident of Barron Park
on Jul 5, 2009 at 11:07 am

I first moved to P A in the 60's, Went to Foothill, served in the Navy.
When I got out, I interviewed with companies on Page Mill Rd for a technicians job.
Not everyone who lived here was associated with Stanford or had BS degrees. The community was fairly well rounded in skills.

These days Quality of Life is now being measured with $$$,$$$ signs.

Young Technicians and service trades can't afford a /room/ , let alone, raise a family here these days. This forces long commutes into our town and adds to the "traffic problem" of the area.

Manufacturing jobs have all been driven away, leaving mostly retail jobs for those of our youth that may not be qualified or inclined to, for "Higher Education".

We have driven away Car Dealerships, Hotels and Grocery Stores. All which created jobs and generated tax revenue.

People seem to have forgotten that this is a place to *Live*, Play and Enjoy Life.


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Posted by Dave
a resident of another community
on Jul 5, 2009 at 10:47 pm

I lived in Palo Alto for 11 years then moved to Mt View.

I like Mt View's clean downtown, and the fact I'm not hassled by panhandlers. I like Mt View's great facilities like the CPA and outstanding library.

Meanwhile PA coddles neighborhood associations that are willing to block progress at the expense of the entire city.

Palo Alto's hands off policy has allowed Lytton Square to become a garbage strewn hangout for juveniles to mingle with transients and other questionable people while the police stand by.

Time for PA to get serious. Who wants to shop in a town that caters to the people that make being there unpleasant? Meanwhile they stand around wringing their hands about tax revenue.

Another case of people so open minded their brains have fallen out.


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Posted by stephen levy
a resident of University South
on Jul 6, 2009 at 7:03 am

stephen levy is a registered user.

In response to OP and Anna,

Thanks OP for helping to clarify our strong disagreement.

First, let's put housing aside to start with. I started by thinking about the Stanford proposals for the hospital and shopping center and similar proposals that may come in the future for job growth to expand and to maintain competitive institutions.

I do think that Stanford and similar companies and institutions have a right to expand in Palo Alto if desired and necessary to maintain competitiveness as, for example, Stanford argues about the hospital and shopping center.

I argue that they have that right as taxpaying and economically contributing members of our community. I also argue that people moving to Palo Alto knew the regional economy was about and have no right to complain that growth and change is occurring. Moreover, I argue that expansion of the hospital and shopping center, for example, or expansion by companies like Facebook contribute benefits to the region.

I acknowledge some inconvenience to some local residents from growth and argue that these considerations need to be taken into account with the regional and local benefits conferred by the growth and the rights of property owners (and taxpayers) of institutions located in Palo Alto.

More housing is part of "what comes with" a growing economy and region. If you accept the rights and benefits of institutions to create job growth in the region, then the additional demand from housing must be considered a collateral effect.

Anna turns the appropriate use of regional planning on its head.

Regional planning and discussion is the only solution when communities and the region expect and solicit job growth and are less receptive to the housing growth that "comes with". To give you another example Southern California and San Diego have been involved in regional airport planning for decades. All parties agree that a long-term expansion of air traffic capacity is needed yet no local jurisdiction with enough space wants the airport expansion near them.

As OP argues there are situations where being part of the regional housing solution is not in the self-interest of particular individuals. OP's measure of self interest belongs to OP—it is not for me to question.

But there has to be a process to adjudicates situations where individual self interest and regional self interest collide. ABAG is the agency delegated to work these potential conflicts out for housing.

Anna knows she is wrong about "legal rights" or she wouldn't be always calling for votes to overthrow the legally required allocations of future housing planning required by ABAG. Anna doesn't like the ABAG process but has no cause to argue that ABAG does not have the legal right.

Moreover, people are on both sides of the powers of government debate. Anna rails against ABAG mandates while seeking government power in Palo Alto to block property owners and taxpayers to build developments that the market will support. Anna, do you believe that rights and freedom only belong to PA residents?

OP, if you think California or PA is overbuilt, so be it. You can leave if you wish. But overbuilt is in the eyes of the perceiver and what did you expect when you moved to PA—that the Silicon Valley economy would stop growing or bypass PA?

OP, your argument about the location of the HSR station makes no sense to me. I am sure that PA is the destination of preference for riders as opposed to Redwood City given that most people in Southern California have no clue what is in Redwood City. It may be that Redwood City is an "easier" station location but are travelers to PA supposed to extend their trip by 30 minutes or more so the station isn't in downtown PA, where the passengers want to get off. By the way do you live in downtown—I do?

I understand that growth brings more people and traffic. That is a fact not an answer to the policy questions I am raising.

Tell me why the rights and economic facts I argue for should be trumped by the potential inconvenience of some residents. I completely understand that these are complicated issues but why should my arguments be dismissed out of hand so PA can push the "what comes with" of regional growth off on its neighbors.


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Posted by palo alto mom
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jul 6, 2009 at 9:12 am

Regional growth makes more sense when it is truly regional and planned. The planning needs to include more then just housing. In many parts of the country, new developments are required to include parks and build schools (including donating the land) as part of the permit process. The need to build public roads, including sewers.

Regional growth should include Woodside, Atherton, Portola Valley, Menlo Park and EPA as part of the Palo Alto area, since many of the workers in PA live in those places.


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Posted by Anna
a resident of Downtown North
on Jul 6, 2009 at 9:32 am

Stephen Levy fails to address the counterarguments to his assertions about putative "rights" held by institutions and by individuals not living in Palo Alto.

Levy has several times, and over several threads, asserted a right of nebulous provenance, of people who don't currently live in Palo Alto to live here in his support of ABAG bureaucrats ideas supersession of the rights of Palo Alto residents to plan their city. There is no such right. Nothing in law, morality, or logic gives rise of any person to claim residency in Palo Alto merely because he wants to live here and cannot otherwise afford to do so.

Levy is similarly obtuse on why or how local institutions like Stanford have "rights" to influence the city's planning process beyond those to lobby, and to have people with actual legal rights to vote in Palo Alto, agree with them when they are convincing. Language Levy uses ("the rights and benefits of institutions to create job growth in the region") shows a misconception of the term "rights" as its understood in this country where rights belong to individuals, not to "institutions". Again if Levy has facts that point to some "right" to create job growth" he does not present it.

To the extent that Levy's most recent post has any coherence, it is on the issue of local residential growth and ABAG's role in deciding that growth. And on these matters he is mostly wrong on factual matters, and mistaken on the economic and policy matters.

Levy's arguments on this point really boil down into two controversial assertions:

First that because local employers want to grow, we are obligated to accommodate these desires to a large extent by altering our city plan to accommodate more residential growth.

Second, Levy thinks that Sacramento and ABAG bureaucrats, not local residents, should make these decisions about how much housing to allow in our city.

Levy and ABAG come up with their "needed" housing figures by "projecting" growth into the future and then assuming that this projected growth will occur because local cities alter their plans to supply the housing needed to accommodate the growth. That is, it's a circular argument. As has been argued previously by many posters, if Pleasanton, Palo Alto and enough other cities in the region refuse to supply the rabbit-warren worker housing ABAG wants, employers will be forced to put any expanded operations in places like Modesto and Tracy) that have housing and are eager to build more. The Bay Area may grow slower or not at all, and may be less of the "exciting" place that Levy wants, but who is to say that Levy's dreams should supersede what the majority of residents want?

Whether or not ABAG's authority to recommend, let alone dictate, local planning and zoning decisions is constitutional is suspect and will be decided by the outcome of the lawsuits that Pleasanton and several Southern California cities are pursuing. But even if the law putatively authorizing ABAG's mandates is upheld, the penalty paid by localities that refuse to relinquish local sovereignty on this issue is loss of state funds for affordable housing.

Levy scoffs at the idea that residents should have a vote on whether to meekly comply with ABAG, or resist. But even if AGAG's authorizing legislation were to be upheld legally (something very much in doubt), it's not written in stone. A simple Google search reveals rising opposition to ABAG, regional planning mandates and loss of local control across the state. By registering opposition to ABAG with a vote, Palo Alto would provide a powerful voice against the out-of-town bureaucratic who would have us alter the character of our city to suit their Utopian whims. No wonder Levy recoils at the thought.

Levy has very different opinions about how our city should look than the majority of Palo Alto (and likely Bay Area) residents. That's fine. It's fair to have a debate about how much growth we should have in Palo Alto. [Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


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Posted by Mike
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jul 6, 2009 at 12:11 pm

Stephen and some others seems to view the pressures (real, imagined or contemplated) from growth in housing and jobs acting upon Palo Alto, its neighborhoods, and businesses as material for a lab experiment for testing their planning textbook theories. If you are a hammer, the whole world looks like a nail.

For most of us our homes and neighborhoods are dearest to us but for family. I don't want to be experimented upon-I like what I got in PA, That is why I chose to be here.

[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

If a Brave New World is what you want, please get a co-op together, buy some land elsewhere and experiment to your heart's content. I am not signed up to be experimented upon, and will resist by organizing with other like minded residents. Write up the results and we can all read about it.

There may be a lesson here; there are apparently forces at work thinking of changes that will alter your life if they are allowed to do so. If we sit on the sidelines one day soon it may be too late, and our lifestyles changed forever.


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Posted by Anna
a resident of Downtown North
on Jul 6, 2009 at 2:05 pm

Mike has it exactly right. People like Levy are busy conjuring up a vision for Palo Alto which is quite different from what we have now and a radical departure from what most residents want.

Even more disturbing is the argument for transforming Palo Alto into one of imaginary non-democratic "rights" belonging not just to non-Palo Alto residents, but to faceless non-person, powerful "institutions" like Stanford and locally based international corporations.

[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

Whether we are to be a high growth, dense urban area with lots of multifamily housing as Levy wants or a largely suburban town with predominantly single family housing as most residents seem to prefer is a legitimate policy debate. Levy's side evidently has lost the debate locally which is why he wants it decided by outsiders and bureaucratic institutions like ABAG, not through the local political process.


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Posted by Mike
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jul 6, 2009 at 2:51 pm

In order to take appropriate action in order to avoid being blindsided or steamrolled by future urbanization efforts that may affect the neighborhoods, it seems we may well need our own special interest group. I have come to the conclusion in recent months that the local government and city council are mostly into acting as if they care about community opinion, but are really not interested.

So what group could represent us? I am familiar with two neighborhood groups-Duveneck St Francis and Crescent Park. However it seems that alone they are too small to be a real influential force. Is there a current master association of PA neighborhood groups not beholden to elected officials?


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Posted by OhlonePar
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jul 6, 2009 at 4:51 pm

Stephen,

First of all, I don't oppose all growth--you can see that in some of the HSR threads.

People who move here "don't have the right to complain". No, that's exactly what they *do* have. In fact, the right to complain is far more enshrined than Stanford's right to expand. And in some cases I agree with Stanford and disagree with the residents. But, yeesh, Stanford and Palo Alto have been negotiating for decades.

And, you know what? It's not so bad.

Again, we have a surplus of housing stock right now. Again, there's no critical reason that Palo Alto needs to house everyone who works here. One of the advantages of living in a densely populated area is that living in Mountain View or Redwood City doesn't put undo burden on commuters to Palo Alto.

It's not my perception that we're currently overbuilt--simple statement of fact. You should check out some of those empty townhouses on the south side of town.

It's not my perception that unemployment is high in Santa Clara County and people are leaving the area. Again, it's fact. So are distress sales and record rates of foreclosures.

Yes, you can't decide what's in my self-interest. Fact is, though, my self-interest is similar to many of the people who live here. You, as an economist, may not see our view as being that of the greater good, but to say we've no right to complain is just odd.

Thing is, most of us aren't tradition NIMBYS. What you see over and over is the desire for small retail centers that have *already* been established to continue being retail centers and not converted to housing.

In some ways, it feels like I'm talking to a Victorian touting unstoppable progress. There's no implicit right to progress at any cost. My rights are simply those of one man, one vote. It's just in Palo Alto there's a majority that has a similar view.

But, hey, if you don't like your neighbors you are *also* free to leave.

As far as RWC and HSR go--what half hour? You mean round trip? Presumably, though, there could be a transfer between CalTrans and the HSR. If you're talking about commuters to SF, anyone who does that commute will tell that the real problem is at the SF end--the train station is a long walk from the financial district.

Frankly, given your earlier concerns about the to and fro in the Town Forum I hope your touch of snippyness here is an attempt to provoke a response. Honestly, though, I'd rather you really engaged--Anna's right in that their is a legitimate policy debate. There are arguments on either side with merit.

In other words, you really don't need to snipe at me here.


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Posted by Sharon
a resident of Midtown
on Jul 6, 2009 at 5:05 pm


Clearly Levi is pursuing his economic self interests in his rhetoric, just as Gore is pursuing his economic self interest and that of the local VC firms, in which he is a vested partner, in their Cap and Trade and greendoggle energy related investments.

Follow the money


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Posted by stephen levy
a resident of University South
on Jul 6, 2009 at 5:32 pm

stephen levy is a registered user.

OP,

Help me out here. Below is everything I said related to you in my post. Why do you think I was sniping at you. I thought your post elevated the discussion.

1) Thanks OP for helping to clarify our strong disagreement.

2) As OP argues there are situations where being part of the regional housing solution is not in the self-interest of particular individuals. OP's measure of self interest belongs to OP—it is not for me to question.

But there has to be a process to adjudicates situations where individual self interest and regional self interest collide. ABAG is the agency delegated to work these potential conflicts out for housing.

3) OP, if you think California or PA is overbuilt, so be it. You can leave if you wish. But overbuilt is in the eyes of the perceiver and what did you expect when you moved to PA—that the Silicon Valley economy would stop growing or bypass PA?

4) OP, your argument about the location of the HSR station makes no sense to me. I am sure that PA is the destination of preference for riders as opposed to Redwood City given that most people in Southern California have no clue what is in Redwood City. It may be that Redwood City is an "easier" station location but are travelers to PA supposed to extend their trip by 30 minutes or more so the station isn't in downtown PA, where the passengers want to get off. By the way do you live in downtown—I do?

Finally and not personal to you

I understand that growth brings more people and traffic. That is a fact not an answer to the policy questions I am raising.

Tell me why the rights and economic facts I argue for should be trumped by the potential inconvenience of some residents. I completely understand that these are complicated issues but why should my arguments be dismissed out of hand so PA can push the "what comes with" of regional growth off on its neighbors.

I have not yet heard any reason why my arguments don't have merit.

Surely you are not suggesting that because the economy is bad now, no one should plan for future growth. I am arguing that once you acknowledge as you have that growth is likley to come and often has merit, I think the other questions follow.

How would you handle the task of planning for the housing that will be needed as the region grows?

I think my math is good on the RNC HSR example. For people coming from the south they would overshoot PA. If CalTrain trains run every half hour, then the average wait is 15 minutes and the trip back is 8-9 minutes. Add these up and half an hour seems reasonable.

By the way do you dispute that most people coming from Southern California will prefer a Stanford versus RNC stop?

Also in the last four years the population of Santa Clara County has grown by more than 100,000 residents and net migration into the county is plus at close to 30,000.








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Posted by ABAG Arguments
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jul 6, 2009 at 7:50 pm

Steve -

What are your arguments? All I see is that you think the regional speculation (you position as needs) outweigh the city needs (you position as selfish desires).

I think there can be fair debate about regional "needs" vs. more local "needs."

But is there an argument that the region needs to accept more people than can currently afford to live here? A region is not a corporation that must grow to satisfy its stockholders. A region need not quickly grow in population to thrive. A region need not grow at all to be a wonderful region in which to live and work, and deliver unique value to the larger society.

And for me, the whole thing revolves around the word "quickly." Palo Alto is growing too fast relative to its ability to handle the problems and challenges growth brings, and too fast for its population to adjust to a more dense environment. It is glib (if not snide) to argue, "let them leave!"

I think it's fair to say we can consider more housing when we have solved the serious problems resulting from the last round of growth.

It is not a situation of "we will have more residents whether we want them or not, and many will be low income, so we need low income housing."

The city, and region, can make a plan for itself. (And it needn't throw out the plan because someone proposes a money-making deal to develop land into more housing).

If you prefer an urban landscape for personal or ideological reasons, and want to leverage the political and economic forces to make that happen, fine, that's your prerogative. But it is not a historic fact that Palo Alto's population grew quickly from 2009 to 2015. The premise of this thread, that Palo Alto is an urban center, is wrong in the present. As for the future, even the writers of T3 know "there is no fate but what we make."

Seriously, what percentage of the world population do you believe we have an obligation to house? How did you arrive at that number? What's the logic - weather, Stanford, schools, proximity to beaches, etc., therefore x% of the world deserves to live here and we should provide a low enough cost of housing to allow x% to afford it?


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Posted by stephen levy
a resident of University South
on Jul 6, 2009 at 8:26 pm

stephen levy is a registered user.

ABAG Arguments,

The region has a plan. It is the legally required and broadly approved plan that looks at likely future job growth and plans for the associated population and household growth.

You and other posters don't like the plan. I get that.

I am arguing that the growth forecasts in the plan are reasonable, even conservative, and that all cities participated in a very difficult and complicated process of balancing local and regional needs.

I can live where I want and you can live where you want. I did not write the ABAG plan. If you don't like it, participate next time.

But unless you want to argue that the planners had no right to assume that the Bay Area would get a steady share of U.S. job growth because we have innovative companies in fast-growing industries with plans (broadly approved by most cities), your dislike doesn't counter my arguments.

I understand that people want to see the housing growth that "comes with the job growth" not in PA. It is no different than San Diego residents knowing that airport expansion is needed but not wanting it near them.

We have a legally authroized regional planning body and they have a plan. The region's communities are doing a reasonable job of coping with immense near and longer-term challenges.

Moderate increases in density are coming to the region--the market and the law support such increases as the most reasonable approach to growth.

Palo Alto is one of the centers of innovation and regional activity. The reason I started the thread was to explore the reasonableness of complaining about a regional planning outcome that anyone who moved to PA should have expected.

Not liking taking PA's share of regional growth (jobs, hospital beds, shopping center growth---and housing is one thing. Arguing that PA has some moral right to opt out of the inconvenience and thrust it onto to others is different.

We are exploring these differences.


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Posted by ABAG Arguments
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jul 7, 2009 at 12:29 am

Steve -

Still trying to see what your arguments are.

Does a smaller group of people ever need to make sacrifices for a larger group? Yes. Do they in this case? We have to look at the substance of the sacrifices and the benefits of the larger group.

When an industry group lobbies for and succeeds in making laws, are they sometimes as good as or better than any other? Yes, and sometimes worse than any other.

Should we follow laws whether they are good or bad? Often, but sometimes we should change the laws.

Those seem to be your arguments, but they sidestep the substance of the discussion, so I am quite sure they are not your real thoughts.

It could be that for private or political reasons, you merely want to help people soften up to this law and change even it is bad. But it does seem as though you don't think ABAG's guidance is bad.

Throw out ABAG and give the arguments. The process that has led us to this point really is irrelevant to whether this is the right thing to do. (It's relevant to how to change the law or what to do about it.)

The substance of the discussion has to include some discussion of things like: Why should central population planning take precedent over the market? Hasn't that approach failed throughout history far more often than it has succeeded? Do you think Palo Alto should make a sacrifice because the rest of the region wants it to? Is there something unfair about Palo Alto's current institutions continuing to grow without adding more housing in Palo Alto? Do you think Palo Alto itself needs or would benefit from more growth? How much and how fast and why? Do you think Palo Alto needs or has a moral obligation to bring more people with lower income or lower levels of education? Why?

Do you believe that Palo Alto has a moral obligation to house more people, even if it lowers the quality of life for many existing Palo Altans?
What is the context that leads to that moral judgment?

I haven't seen or understood your arguments along these lines.

If you are trying to argue that a governmental process was followed, so the result must be right, I don't think that that is too hard to refute.


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Posted by Irvin
a resident of University South
on Jul 7, 2009 at 12:49 pm

I think it was Rob who mentioned that PA need be worried about decline rather than growth - I think that is an excellent point. While he pointed to what he perceived as a 'dead' or boring downtown, I look at decline from a different perspective. I am reminded of a similar suburban area where I hail - Long Isld. It's going through rough times due to a lack of affordable housing. A group, Vision Long Island (Web Link), was created to tackle some of their problems which I see as being comparable to PA's.


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Posted by pat
a resident of Midtown
on Jul 7, 2009 at 2:55 pm

Stephen,

Changing the character of Palo Alto by turning it into an urban transportation center with dense housing is a lot more than an inconvenience. We've already lost businesses and local retail, we already have (ugly) dense housing on El Camino and it's spreading to other single family neighborhoods. Schools are affected.

You are trivializing the impact by calling it an "inconvenience" compared to the "rights" of the growth proponents. This is not a winning debate tactic.

Anna and Mike: Have you considered running for city council? We desperately need logical thinkers to help straighten out our city. Please consider it!


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Posted by Steve Raney
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jul 7, 2009 at 3:09 pm

"You're Not an Environmentalist If You're Also a NIMBY"

It is fascinating to see the "pro-growth, pro-climate" argument being made so directly in the East Bay, going directly after "liberals."

Web Link , July 1

[Portion removed due to possible copyright infringement.]

Oct 26, 2007. "A Nation of NIMBYs," Web Link

[Portion removed due to possible copyright infringement]

**** to my mind, PA coming to grips with the smart growth => climate link is the one really huge, divisive, unpopular looming climate battle we face in PA over the next 12 months. Light bulbs, etc just aren't controversial.


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Posted by OhlonePar
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jul 7, 2009 at 3:10 pm

Stephen,

If you don't like it, you can leave is a pretty snippy approach to a debate. Telling me my argument on HSR makes "no sense" is also snippy. What's nonsensical about saying that Redwood city's lay-out is better able to handle the traffic of an HSR station? You may disagree with it--and, yes, there are arguments in favor of the station being in Palo Alto--but to say any other take makes "no sense" is dismissive.

You have yet to show that growth has a "right". And some inconveniences are pretty severe.

Okay, back to HSR--surely the train systems are capable of, oh, co-ordinating train arrivals so that there isn't a large wait. In fact, that kind of co-ordination will be mandatory as HSR will not be stopping in most Peninsula cities. Transfers between platforms should be a matter of course.

Since HSR needs to function as a transportation hub, concerns about the grid are, again, relevant.

As for handling housing--others here have said the planning needs to be truly regional. Palo Alto is not a large place--when we look at housing, we need to look at the overall area, not just within city limits.

We may have a lot of things here, but we're just not that large a city--we don't have that kind of infrastructure. You say Palo Alto's not a suburb--and there's some merit to that. At the same time, though, we're not set up to become truly urban. Part of the reason for that, by the way, is that Stanford University has a large chunk of the frontage on El Camino. The city's natural pattern of growth (denser in the downtown, more residential and less dense as it spreads west) is disrupted by that. Not in a bad way, but in a way that we should consider. It is amazingly circuitous and cumbersome to get from downtown Palo Alto to either 101 or I-280.

I think, overall, ABAG would be serving us all better if it treated the Peninsula as sort of a large city instead of trying to make each city have X amount of housing for X no. of jobs.

You talk of moral rights. I don't really see this as a moral question. Is it "moral" that Woodside is largely estates? Is it "moral" that Los Altos Hills requires one-acre lots? After all, both cities benefit from being near Palo Alto and Stanford.

Is it "moral" for me to say that my child's school should have more than 500 kids in it because it's for the nebulous greater good--even though schools that large have a negative effect on the quality of education?

You're assuming moral absolutes that are arguable, to say the least.


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Posted by Adolph
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Jul 7, 2009 at 3:49 pm

(From the statement leading off this thread)

> Who says that every new development has to cause
> no more traffic or inconvenience or that every new
> development has to pay more in taxes than the
> associated public service costs?

Perhaps it's time to put this question to the voters, so that there is some sense of what the residents (hopefully property owners) have to say about this matter. It the voters endorse this point, then "that's who" will have said it.

> That wasn't the rule when Palo Alto
> was developing 50 years ago.

True, but then Palo Alto was only about 3.2 square miles (around 1950). It grew to its current 25 square miles since then. There isn't much room for it to grow in the next fifty years.

> Universities, medical centers and shopping centers
> also need to keep up with the competition

The US (and the world) has yet to fully understand the promise of "broadband" and a host of allied digital technologies. As this promise begins to deliver services that allow for the remote delivery of information and data—there is no reason that people might not be able to have (for example) surgeries in robot-assisted operating rooms all over the world, with the surgeons being somewhere else. Maybe they might be on the Stanford campus, or maybe in Paris .. or maybe smaller, satellite "operating control rooms" anywhere that is convenient to the hospital.

As organizations become more virtual, they need not be located at any particular place.

> But I am also willing to take a little more traffic and
> growth to keep up with the competition

What a 20th-century, parochial, attitude. This is certainly one that we might expect from a person connected to the construction industry—but not one who understands the promise of the Silicon Valley and the 21st century.


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Posted by OldPAResident
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jul 7, 2009 at 4:09 pm

Everyone here forgot to add the following:

"Get off my lawn you dadgum whippersnappers!"


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Posted by Adolph
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Jul 7, 2009 at 6:19 pm

In Response to: A long time resident --

Most of the following statements are wrong, or false:

> Businesses should be paying a lot more in taxes or
> fees as they get probably over 80% of the benifit of
> the fire and police services.

This is simply not true. Nationally, and locally, only about 4% of the call-outs are for fires. Most of the call-outs are for EMS calls--typically at car accidents, residences, and managed care facilities. The Fire Department does provide non-emergency service for HazMat inspections; however, these are all fee-for-service services.

Web Link

> The storm drain millions of $$ going to keep the wealthy
> flood prone neighborhoods from having water in their streets
> when flooding occurrs. While miles of city streets don't
> even have any storm drains.

The City has provided a significant amount of material over the past ten years about its Storm Drain system. The flooding tends to be in areas where the original storm drains were not well thought out, or where additional capacity should have been added over time, but wasn't, or where additional pumping station(s) turned out to be needed to increase the flow rates of the drains through some of the more flat parts of town.

Places like Baron Park don't have storm drains .. but this is a long story, and needs someone from Barron Park to tell it.

A computer model was developed in 1991-92, which identified a number of "ponding points"--places where the storm drains were likely to "outflow" and cause water to stand during heavy rains. Some of these areas are in the older part of Palo Alto (where the first storm drains were installed). As it turns out, some of the locations are in well-to-do neighborhoods. But there are a number of areas in South Palo Alto which have are on the "to do" list for storm drain improvements.

The most important issue to remember is that with only about 16 inches of rain a year--there is much opportunity for any "ponding" to last very long, if it occurs at all. There do seem to be the fairly big storms every 10 years or so, which seem to leave all sorts of impressions in people's minds about the underground, and out-of-site, storm drain system.

> High density housing but no money from them for
> new parks,police or fire protection

The commercial projects are all generating impact fees (probably a too low), and market-rate property taxes. New non-profits get a pass on property taxes .. but so do older operations, like Channing House, Webster Woods and Lytton Gardens (to name just a few). As to "new parks" -- Palo Alto has somewhere around 4000+ acres of parks, open space, and other non-developed resources:

Web Link

Regional Parks:
Web Link

Most of these parks are empty during the day. The larger parks, like Mitchell Park does get some use by local schools, and non-resident soccer players. There is no more empty space for "parks" in Palo Alto. For each acre of new park land, an acre of business, or residential, property would have to be seized from its rightful owners. So .. even if the City had money for more parks--where would it seize the land for them? And what person can claim that 4000+ acres isn't enough for himself/herself?

With people as misinformed as this one, there is little hope of every making an progress in a town where so much energy is needed just to stay in place.


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Posted by stephen levy
a resident of University South
on Jul 8, 2009 at 5:19 pm

stephen levy is a registered user.

OP.

I am interested in seeing if we can end with some agreement.

On the HSR station location I agree that on logistical grounds RWC could be an easier location than PA. Do you agree that the majority of Peninsula arrivals from SoCal would prefer PA?

I was arguing that there are mixed interests in all of these decisions and some with a legitimate voice (might have been a better choice of words than rights) live outdside PA.

Can we agree that station location is a) one of the flaws of the whole HSR arrangement and b) if ever needed should be decided on technical grounds?

Re the timing I agree that CalTrain should coordinate with HSR. I do maintain that there will be some time loss involved for most Peninsula arrivals. I also think that HSR is planning to run more trains and more midday trains than CalTrain can economically meet.

Re Peninusla planning. I can go for that. Actually if PA can get agreement from nearby cities to take more housing I will not complain.

As a matter of fact, the San Mateo allocations were determined not hy ABAG but by the local cities. So any complaints anyone has about the housing allocated to Woodside or Atherton or Portola Valley should know that these allocations came out of negotiations with other San Mateo cities.

Whether PA would or should have a smaller housing allocation if determined by Peninsula cities is an open question.

I think the ABAG allocations were determined fairly in a fair process but that does not preclude even better processes.

In the end, though, can we agree on two points relative to this discussion--1) that your idea would result in the same amount of housing allocated differently and 2) that a fair process include voting (and voice) for people outside of PA?

Job and housing growth are regional challenges and we are just one voice in the region.


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Posted by Sharon
a resident of Midtown
on Jul 8, 2009 at 6:01 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


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Posted by OhlonePar
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jul 10, 2009 at 12:30 am

Stephen,

Of course there are points of agreement--which is why I didn't get the tone of some of your earlier comments.

Yes, PA is more of a destination than RWC. However, given that "Silicon Valley" sprawls all over the Peninsula, I don't see a compelling need to have the station in PA--will there really be that many daily commuters working in downtown Palo Alto coming from Fresno? If not, then I think the five-to-seven mile difference isn't a huge deal. For me, personally, a PA station would offer some advantages, but the problems it creates for our city are very real.

I think you need to understand that I've always supported HSR--and, yes, that includes the SJ to SF component. There are people on this board who do strongly oppose HSR, but I'm not one of them (and have taken a certain amount of heat as a result), which makes this a little ironic.

I don't agree that outside agencies should determine how much housing we should build in Palo Alto. I believe in self-government and allowing market forces to play a role. I think there's a lot to be said for local control--and for all the complaining that goes on here about our city government I think Palo Alto has benefitted tremendously over the years from keeping some of its government functions very, very local.

Our school district is small and local--having gone to school in a giant, merged district, I can tell you that you get better schools and better funding when districts are small.

Our utilities are also local--and that has meant better control over our resources over the years.

There have been various points when the state government has done a decent job of running things. At this point, however, it's seriously dysfunctional. Have you checked out the situation in cities that aren't like Palo Alto? That don't have a strong tradition of tight, local control? It's not pretty. Basic services are nonexistent. And we won't even get into the schools.

Right now, I am very skeptical about handing a voice to outside interests. Because to some extent I see the push for building more residential in Palo Alto as something that benefits developers (who want to build in a place where they can sell units for a premium) but offer lowly residents like myself nothing in exchange.

So I do think some things require regional solutions--and transit's one of them--and it always has been. Building within city limits, though, is traditionally a local matter. I don't see an overwhelming need to change that.

That, I'd say, is more of a real disagreement than HSR.


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Posted by stephen levy
a resident of University South
on Jul 10, 2009 at 11:05 am

stephen levy is a registered user.

OP has again clarified the key issue of importance and disagreement. I want to use two of OP's statements from the last post to continue the discussion. OP wrote

"So I do think some things require regional solutions--and transit's one of them--and it always has been. Building within city limits, though, is traditionally a local matter. I don't see an overwhelming need to change that.

I don't agree that outside agencies should determine how much housing we should build in Palo Alto. I believe in self-government and allowing market forces to play a role."

In response I argue that there is often a conflict between the "voice" of market forces and the "voice" of Palo Alto residents about growth and development. The question is how to reconcile these legitimate voices or "rights" if they point in different policy directions.

I offered Stanford as an example of where market forces pointed toward modernization and expansion of the hospital and shopping center. In the larger case market forces point to moderate job growth rates but numerically large numbers of new jobs for the Bay Area over time.

Today's paper reports on a proposed 500 unit housing and commercial development on the old Century 12 site in Redwood City. The report goes on to say that city officials had originally hoped to have another auto dealership on this site but that they now understand that market forces make that impossible and understand the owner's desire to substitute a project that market forces may favor over the next few years.

So I wonder what it means to be both for market forces and local control when these are in conflict.

Or take my San Diego airport example. Market forces point to the need for expanded airport capacity over the next twenty years. "Local control" says not here in every city.

These are cases where OP is correct in saying that regional planning is necessary. But regional voices are most important in housing. Housing is the prime example of where market forces and local control are in conflict.

It is wrong to portray Palo Alto the only villain or upset city in the regional planning effort for housing. Still, I continue to argue that Palo Alto has a role to play in the regional solutions to planning for the housing demand created by market forces both on the job and housing sides of regional growth.

If market forces were the only determinant of housing growth there would be more housing in Palo Alto because it would be bought by new residents.

So I am still looking for a response as to why regional voices representing market forces and competitive forces are not a legitimate voice in the planning in Palo Alto. I don't see a solution if all cities exercise "local control" that promotes and allows job growth while restraining housing growth.

I also think portraying developers as villains misses an important point, especially for people who give some legitimate voice to private market economic rights and voices. Developers do the final building but in nearly all cases they 1) follow market demands and 2) have bought the land from other private owners. These other private owners sell for a variety of purposes but one of these is to realize the profits on their investment that comes because economic demand leads to developers bidding to buy the land.

Are posters arguing that property owners should not be allowed to sell their land if it is to a "developer"? How can you argue that this is fair and then argue that you give any legitimate voice to "the market"?

This has been a strange thread in a way since (despite the occasional accusation of self-dealing) I work almost exclusively for public entities and am here arguing for the legitimate voice of private parties to be included in city and regional planning discussions.


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Posted by Quilt
a resident of Escondido School
on Jul 10, 2009 at 3:27 pm

Stephen and OP -

Let me offer a POV that bridges your 2 viewpoints. Developers (and market forces) play a necessary role. However, they must operate within the guidelines established by local or city governments. It is strking the proper balance that is difficult.

Think of a "quilt" metaphor. Local governments (e.g., the City of Palo Alto) should be able to define the "outlines" of a quilt. What it should look like overall, what is aesthetically pleasing, what is verboten.

Then, the developers (e.g., market forces) should be able to define what each "patch" of that particular quilt looks like. They have design freedom within that patch, as long as it is within the design parameters set out by the quilt weaver.

Both sides need each other; there are no "villians" here. Each side has a legitimate role.


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Posted by stephen levy
a resident of University South
on Jul 10, 2009 at 6:53 pm

stephen levy is a registered user.

Quilt,

I think I understand what you are proposing. This is more or less my vision at the regional level.

Explain how you think this works if all the cities set guidleines that allow lots more job growth than housing growth. I keep going back to my San Diego region airport dilemma. The regional "guidelines" or planning says airport expansion is needed and no city "guidelines" allow it or plan for it.

Housing has become the "prison" or "garbage dump" dilemma of planning. They need to be someplace but where and what is the process for siting them? or in this case all of the regionl housing needs?


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Posted by Sharon
a resident of Midtown
on Jul 10, 2009 at 7:14 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


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Posted by Dan
a resident of Midtown
on Jul 11, 2009 at 1:37 am

Mr Levy's central contention seems to be that local control of land-use (zoning) should be over-ruled by outside "voices" when it is in their economic interest in order to allow optimal growth. Economists always seem to avoid the issue that a constant growth rate is ultimately unsustainable in a world with finite resources. By outside "voices" I take his meaning to be primarily people who run businesses creating jobs or perhaps levels of the government hoping to continuously grow tax revenues . I dismiss outright the assertion that everyone has some kind of "right" to live in the city of their choice even if they can't afford it. Unfortunately it is extremely problematic on many levels to assert that outside "voices" ought to control local living conditions and this should encounter serious resistance from residents. The business owners themselves also have a right to have some control over the type of environment that they choose to live in. Do a survey of business CEOs and ask if regional housing quotas should override local zoning control and you'd probably get a lot of positive responses. Do the same survey targeted to the CEO's local neighborhoods specifically and I bet the response would be less positive. Lets build a high density high rise affordable housing project next to Larry Ellison's place. Of course, these people have enough money they can always buy a moat around themselves. My point is that the Larry Ellisons of the world deserve a right to choose their living environment and so do less powerful people who only have the local zoning control to help preserve the neighborhoods/communities they pour their lives into.
First and foremost, the further up the government command/control hierarchy you get, the less likely workable local solutions will be achieved. Who would you trust more in setting the future growth patterns of your neighborhood and Palo Alto as a whole... city council, county government, Sacramento /ABAG or the federal government? (I know its a hard choice... even the PA city council seems to be tilted against the interests of local residents on many issues).
Still I have to agree the zoning process in Palo Alto seems broken. The standard mechanism for a developer to extract profit appears to be to buy a property at the over-inflated value for the current land use designation. Then the expectation is that they can derive their profit by applying for an automatic exception to the pre-existing zoning. If the zoning change/exception isn't granted they say that they aren't being allowed to develop an economically viable project. My feeling is that they should have considered that when they approached the project knowing the existing land use restrictions. We as a city should have a look at zoning to determine where housing and businesses can be added/re-developed, but this process should be under local control. We need to tilt the balance away from pure housing development and insist on a balance with basic service business and infrastructure that would make living with more dense population tolerable (how about some affordable grocery stores before we add a lot of "affordable" housing?). We shouldn't promote a system where political connections and intense lobbying allow zoning exemptions to be the norm. When "public benefits" are extorted in exchange for violating existing zoning plans, the outcomes always seem to be sub-optimal. I think that difficult balance "quilt" talks about is really the balance between having very tight local zoning laws so residents really do know what they are getting into when they move to a neighborhood vs having flexibility in zoning to allow projects to move forward that really do have a net benefit for the city and region as a whole. One important factor is that profit maximization for developers often dictates that they push the limits of the existing zoning to the breaking point. This makes it natural for local residents to push back for as restrictive zoning as possible.


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Posted by OhlonePar
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jul 11, 2009 at 12:54 pm

Stephen,

If you're addressing me, when did I say anything about *any* body being a villain?

I find it odd that you consider housing as something cities consider undesirable. There are cities where getting anything but housing creates a ruckus. The debate tends to be over *dense* housing. I should point out, though, that Palo Alto has a fair amount of dense housing. In some cases, it's worked (the ex-PAMF site) and in others it's actively annoying.

Developers and outside interests do have a say--money will do that. The final say, though, should be with those of us who have to live with the results--local control.

Again, in the case of Palo Alto, the desire has been to retain retail areas as retail instead of converting it to housing. Sorry, I just don't see what's villainous about that. Long-range, I think it makes a lot of sense. I would *love* it if Edgewood had useful retail. But housing prices, even now, are such that the most profitable solution for a developer (housing) is not what's best long-term for the city.

And this is what we see over and over again. Outside interests want housing, city residents want retail where there's been retail. In other words, we like the balance.

You've said you live downtown. In other words, you already live in a place where you can walk to stores. Nice, isn't it? That's what we Duv-y types would like--again--at Edgewood and what Charleston folks want at Alma Plaza.

What we want makes sense in terms of livability, sustainability and, frankly, use of space. But, frankly, if you're living in Sacramento, this all probably seems pretty small potatoes--because, after all, you're not living in those neighborhoods.

There are numerous examples of developments run amuck. If there was high-quality regional planning, I'd be more open to it, but I don't see that--say what you will about the Palo Alto "process", it's a sign that people care and I think that that's a good thing.


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Posted by Stefan
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Jul 12, 2009 at 12:10 pm

The arguments for increased local housing density seem to be made by a group of people who are part of the same inside club. This clubby atmosphere keeps them insulated, and isolated from what the majority of people, including workers want in Palo Alto and the greater Bay Area.

There is a ton of housing in the greater Bay Area. For example, Salinas is begging people to come buy up all those foreclosed homes. Same with Tracy and Manteca. People have been commmuting from those places, often using van-pools (a very efficient mode of transportation), for decades. They do this, because they can get a better deal on the types of homes they like (usually single family with yards for the kids to play in). They do not want to live in very small, densely packed units that are bad for kids.
The dense housing promoters are, essentially, anti family, becasue they either do not have families, or they have raised their own family, and now are OK with moving down in home size. They could care less about younger couples who actually want a healthy environment for their kids.
It is a foolish to insist upon Stalinist-style uber planning to solve an imaginary "jobs/housing imblance". Some of these advocates are talking about 30 year plans. Even Stalin, at his best, had a hard time with five year plans. We should not forget that the enforcement of such plans resulted in the gulag and mass murder.
The state laws that some of them refer to are, undoubtably, ones that they supported in the first place. Now they use them as a reason that they are obligated to support them, and to plan for them.
We should be discussing efficient means of transportation for the workers that want jobs in this region. High density housing is not the answer, and never will be. Suburds are very good things, in so many ways. Ask the families who live in them.


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Posted by Anna
a resident of Downtown North
on Jul 12, 2009 at 5:36 pm

Why should we "[a]sk the families who live in them" about their housing preferences when we think about ABAG and its plans for all of us?

As should be clear from the musings of Levy and others who agree with him, the entire ABAG mandate, regional zoning, employer growth shtick is about keeping people from making the lifestyle choices they prefer and directing them to the choices their technocratic betters think best for them and for society.

Stefan is exactly right about the people pushing to remake Palo Alto and the Bay Area according to their enlightened superior taste. And he's also right about the totalitarian roots of this kind of thinking (which is why Levy recoils about the notion of letting people vote on ABAG mandates, for example.)[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


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Posted by pat
a resident of Midtown
on Jul 13, 2009 at 4:36 pm

In January, I wrote to Council saying, "I am also concerned that there is much talk -- and zoning changes -- to promote urbanization around transit corridors. This is all perceived as good and green and sustainable. But is it based on wishful thinking or reality? And just what does "livable" mean to the majority of current residents?"

In reposne, Councilwoman Kishimoto send me a link to "TCRP Report 128 Effects of TOD on Housing, Parking, and Travel"
Web Link

I don't see any real data in this report. It proves nothing. For example:

* Among the factors that attract households to TOD, households consistently place high value on neighborhood design, home prices and perceived value, and transit proximity. (The first 2 factors are the same for non-TOD housing. SO it would seem that only transit proximity is the differentiating factor for those who want to live near public transit.)

* TOD commuters typically use transit 2 to 5 times more than other commuters in the region. (This is pretty obvious, but is it chicken or egg? Why did these people choose to live in a TOD? Because they don't have a car? Because they couldn't afford to live elsewhere? Because their workplace is near a train station? Or?)

The report focuses only on traffic. What about the impact of increased density on schools? On surrounding neighborhoods? On quality of life for those in suburban neighborhoods who would have multi-level high-density housing down the street?

Kishimoto did not respond when I sent questions about the report.


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Posted by Anna
a resident of Downtown North
on Jul 13, 2009 at 4:52 pm

"TOD commuters typically use transit 2 to 5 times more than other commuters in the region."

I am surprised that it is not much more than this. Like most people who aren't "TOD commuters" and who get around primarily by car, I take public transit three or four times per year (at most) - mainly when I take the train to SF. If I am typical, and I believe I am, then TOD commuters take transit six to twenty times per year according to Kishimoto's favored report.

There are 200+ commuting days per year. I find it hard to comprehend how taking transit less than 1/10 of the time makes much of a dent in traffic or on other environmental variables.

This whole ABAG/transit oriented development thing appears more and more like a grad school project that's gotten way out of hand. Are we really going to change the whole character of our city in hopes of achieving this nebulous environmental nirvana?


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Posted by Sun and Sand
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jul 13, 2009 at 11:15 pm

Anna: "I find it hard to comprehend how taking transit less than 1/10 of the time makes much of a dent in traffic or on other environmental variables."

This is pretty typical, as you commit the fallacy of projecting present metrics into the future. Your assumption doesn't bear out in reality.


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Posted by Anna
a resident of Downtown North
on Jul 14, 2009 at 3:33 am

Actually, the report has nothing to do with the future: if you would read it, you might see that it gives statistics for persons CURRENTLY living in or seeking TOD housing vs. statistics for persons who CURRENTLY don't live in (or aren't seeking) TOD housing.

People living near TOD housing don't take all that much public transit.

And if we build the ABAG housing, it will unfortunately be the reality of it, and all the extra traffic added to our city, that we'll be living with.


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Posted by Sun and Sand
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jul 14, 2009 at 10:30 am

Again, you are projecting a current metric into the future, not taking into consideration the change in transportation trend lines, new transportation availabilities, etc. Basically, it's a bogus projection informed by your bias. The bottom line is that you don't know what's going to happen if TOD is deployed in ways that compel more public transport use, or create disincentives to car ownership. YOu also don't know what the impact of sure-to-be-increasing-again gasoline prices will have on transport behavior. [Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


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Posted by Anna
a resident of Downtown North
on Jul 14, 2009 at 11:27 am

"The bottom line is that you don't know what's going to happen if TOD is deployed...."

And you do know??

I did make a factual statement about the present affinity of TOD residents for public transportation, which is that there isn't much of it in evidence.

S and S has no basis for concluding that future residents of TOD housing will behave any differently from people who live in TOD housing now. Absent that, it's perfectly reasonable for Palo Altans to think that if we build the 2800 TOD housing units that ABAG wants us to build, we'll have thousands of new automobiles competing for space on our increasingly traffic-clogged roads along with all the other negative effects of overcrowding that have been discussed ad-nauseum on this thread.

Even Stephen Levy admits that building the ABAG housing will increase traffic and will negatively affect current residents. He just thinks it's our moral duty to grin and bear it. People on our side have been pretty tough on him, but at least he tries to be intellectually honest and deal in facts and reasonable forms of analysis.

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


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Posted by palo alto mom
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jul 14, 2009 at 12:08 pm

Until we have public transport that takes us to more then SF efficiently (can't even get to SFO from here in under 2 hours) it is not realistic to expect people not to drive just because they live near a train. In addition to the public transport infrastructure, we need practical shopping (grocery, laundry, stuff you get at Target) accessible by public transport EASILY. Until then high density housing will only bring lots more cars and too many kids for our schools.


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Posted by stephen levy
a resident of University South
on Jul 14, 2009 at 1:06 pm

stephen levy is a registered user.

Let's put aside Palo Alto for a moment and say PA never has to build another housing unit.

And let's rename transit-oriented development (TOD) as building walkable communities.

At the regional level there are strong market forces and policy reasons to house many of the 2 million additional residents over the next 25 years in medium density or higher density developments in areas that also have jobs, shops, restaurants and, when possible, access to regional transportation systems.

The folks that say that future residents will prefer and can be fitted into places liek Salinas or Manteca are both wrong on the arithmetic, wrong on preferences and wrong on what policy will (correctly) require.

The trip saving potential of these walkable communities (stioll not being built in PA) is that they save on non-work trips. The debate on whether they will reduce commuting and by how much is interesting but is not where the major travel and parking savings come from.

When we lived on Edgewood Drive for 21 years I still walked to work but there most other trips for the family required a car. Now that we are downtown many non-work trips are done by walking.

Building portions of towns where housing and other uses are mixed is a good way to increase housing density and a good way to plan for the region's future. If you want to bring laws into the picture each region is now required to develop a regional greenhouse gas emission reduction plan. While technically not requiring a land use component (we try to find other ways to reduce vehicle emissions) most regions will try to meet the legal requirements partially through land use polciies that favor walkable communities.

Now bring Palo Alto back in. There is broad agreement that if PA is to increase housing and housing density that the best places are in downtown, around California Avenue, along El Camino and in a very few other places but not in the middle of single-family neighborhoods.

I argue that it is fair for PA to be part of the solution to our regional challenge. I argue that if we opt out and similar cities opt out that the regional planning for the future falls apart. So I have been arguing both that opting out is unfair and that it leaves the region without a way to have communtiies jointly plan for the growth that is coming.


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Posted by stephen levy
a resident of University South
on Jul 14, 2009 at 1:28 pm

stephen levy is a registered user.

The comments about voting are interesting.

Right now the law is that land use decisions are made by cities and also that regional planning is required and requires a process to make sure that the sum of city decisions meet regional goals.

The ABAG process had lots of meetings, lots of votes and lots of time for appeal and more votes.

With regard to housing, the original allocation was determined bya vote of the subcommittee of city members charged with designing an original allocation. Comments were taken and soem changes were made including changes to reduce the number of units for Palo Alto.

Then a vote of the ABAG board approved the plan.

There was an appeal process and PA appealed. There was a vote of the appeal board and we lost.

So there were lots of votes and open process. Many posters don't like the result so they propose another vote.

We can debate who should have the right to have their voice (vote) counted. That was one reason I started the thread.

But PA residents have a poor history of accepting votes, even if only PA residents or city council members can vote.

The council approved 800 High and then there was another vote. The council approved a project at Alma Plaza and now people are proposing another vote.

It seems like posters are making one of two arguments--1) we vote until we win or 2) it is a great way to run a city if we vote on every individual project that a group of residents doesn't like.

People who claim I want to reign totalitarian horrors on PAseem to have no trouble keeping property owners, residents and city council in a perpetual state of concern over whether every micro decision will be subject not only to the "PA process" but endless votes afterwards.

One way to try and settle and discuss our differences is to use the Housing Element update as a forum to discuss alternative visions (with numbers and locations) for housing in PA and try to come to some agreement so that individual decisions (take the JJ&F site) can be considered in a context of an agreed city plan instead of taking a piecemeal approach that seems to satisfy no one.


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Posted by Anna
a resident of Downtown North
on Jul 14, 2009 at 2:05 pm

"I argue that it is fair for PA to be part of the solution to our regional challenge. I argue that if we opt out and similar cities opt out that the regional planning for the future falls apart. So I have been arguing both that opting out is unfair and that it leaves the region without a way to have communities jointly plan for the growth that is coming."

This paragraph contains the essence of Stephen Levy's differences with the many who disagree with him here.

Levy bases much of his argument on "fairness". But fairness is entirely subjective. [Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.] Let others who want to live here sacrifice to do so. And let the corporate bosses who live in Los Altos Hills and who want more workers with access to affordable housing put some of their operations in Tracy.

I think most of us agree with Levy that if Palo Alto and similar cities opt out of ABAG, then "regional planning" falls apart. But a lot of us think that if planning is done locally, we'll end up with a better result than if some distant bureaucrats, with no knowledge of and no stake in our city, plan for us. We don't really have a problem with regional planning falling apart. It was a bad idea from the get go.

To many of us opting out is not only "fair". It's something likely to lead to better communities, which is what self-government is supposed to lead to.

If there is a factual dispute between Levy and his detractors, it's contained in his paean for regional planning based on "the growth that is coming." To many of us Levy has it reversed: He takes growth as an unstoppable given and argues that therefor we must plan for it - preferably regionally. The rest of reject the notion that growth gives us no choices because we think that we're more in control of future growth than growth is in control of us. We think if we plan for low or moderate growth (or even no growth) and zone for only the amount of housing that will accommodate that growth, then - by mathematical tautology - the higher growth that Levy projects won't happen (because it can't).

We can have an argument about the desirability and even the fairness of high growth in Palo Alto, but in my view, we don't have to accept growth as inevitable. And neither do other cities. (Atherton has about 8000 residents now. It's had about 8000 residents for the past 30 years and likely will have about 80000 residents 30 years from now. There's lots of land in Atherton: they COULD choose to double their population. They don't and they won't. Neither should we.)

There are lots of places that want more growth, even if they're not located in the Bay Area proper. I'm sure the people in Tracy would love to have the people that Levy would warehouse next to the train tracks on the Peninsula. Let them vote on the matter, and see what happens. I would guess that most Bay Area residents don't want the kind of densities, traffic and overcrowding problems that ABAG would force upon us. Let us vote too.

I think Levy knows how the votes would come out which is why he is afraid of letting people choose their own futures and how their communities should look. But letting people choose is to me much more "fair" than dictating to them from on high.


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Posted by Anna
a resident of Downtown North
on Jul 14, 2009 at 2:25 pm

Stephen Levy's second post misrepresents what those of us arguing for a vote have said, and tries to conflate it with the "Palo Alto Process", local zoning methodology and other completely non related issues.

There are plenty of problems with how Palo Alto plans and with the individual "Planned Community" decisions that are so ripe with opportunities for corruption and graft as well as the uncertainty Levy describes.

This has NOTHING to do with whether we should follow ABAG dictates when updating our Comprehensive Plan. We can vote on whether ABAG is a a body we want to allow to govern our zoning decisions whether we fix the Palo Alto process or not. One has absolutely nothing to do with the other. Levy's conflation of them only confuses unnecessarily.

Similarly, his description of ABAG as an open process is misleading and wholly beside the point. ABAG is the end result of a state law passed at the behest of politically connected developers, environmental zealots, and bureaucratic Utopians. The fact that in the process of forcing these mandates down the collective throats of local governments, ABAG allowed some participation does not ameliorate in any way their coercive nature or make them in any way democratic. We don't think that the fact that an ABAG "appeals board" heard some of the concerns of the city did anything to give the process popular legitimacy. This is just more smoke and mirrors.

We need a real vote of real people on whether the city should heed ABAG's dictates.


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Posted by Stefan
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Jul 15, 2009 at 4:04 am

"The folks that say that future residents will prefer and can be fitted into places liek Salinas or Manteca are both wrong on the arithmetic, wrong on preferences and wrong on what policy will (correctly) require."

That is an opinion, not a statement of fact.

Allow people to make free decisions, then the market will sort it all out out by supply and demand. The concerning thing is that you and your friends are making restrictive policies that take away those freedoms of choice. If a police officer or teacher or fireman, who works in Palo Alto, decides to live in Salinas, and commute, who are you to stop him/her and her/his family?

We should be focusing on efficient transportation modes that allow such commuters to arrive at their jobs. Van pools have been around for decades, and they work. CalTrain, if extended to Salinas would be a good thing. BART allows similar efficient means of transportation. Large corporations provide shuttle buses for their workers who live in San Francisco, but work in Silicon Valley.

This is not a complex algorithm.


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Posted by LAURA
a resident of Midtown
on Jul 15, 2009 at 6:05 am

Talk of higher density and the "future" of Palo Alto makes me laugh. We have a well educated populace here and yet we don't have a decent grocery store or library system. Crime is rampant, our schools are overcrowded and the buildings are ancient/falling down. We can't manage the city/town now and yet more people are planned over the next 40 years.....


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Posted by Common Theme
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jul 15, 2009 at 10:03 am

Looks like we can all agree we NEED more grocery stores in PA


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Posted by pat
a resident of Midtown
on Jul 15, 2009 at 10:06 am

Sun and Sand wrote: "The bottom line is that you don't know what's going to happen if TOD is deployed...."

As Anna pointed out, S & S doesn't know either. No one knows, but everyone has theories.

In the email I sent to Yoriko, I also wrote the following:

We now have many people living in dense housing along transit corridors in Palo Alto and neighboring cities. Why not survey those residents to find out whether the assumptions are accurate? How far from home do these people work? How many use public transportation to get to work? How many have a car or cars? How many have children in our schools?

This study could be done jointly with other cities. It might even be done by a Stanford student as a project, thus saving consulting fees.

Before we make dramatic changes to our city, we should gather as much data as possible to determine whether our assumptions and projections are correct. A "livable" Palo Alto depends on it.


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Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 15, 2009 at 10:15 am

We may or may not need more grocery stores in Palo Alto, but we do need one large full service affordable supermarket that is not aiming to serve niche customers only.


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Posted by P.A. Native
a resident of Mountain View
on Jul 15, 2009 at 2:10 pm

Uh, it's called Safeway. You can find it on Middlefield Rd. and Colorado Ave. behind the 7-11. My guess is that half of the people there wouldn't even know what a "niche" is. Maybe they're better for it to.


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Posted by Paul
a resident of Downtown North
on Jul 15, 2009 at 2:21 pm

"We now have many people living in dense housing along transit corridors in Palo Alto and neighboring cities. Why not survey those residents to find out whether the assumptions are accurate? How far from home do these people work? How many use public transportation to get to work? How many have a car or cars? How many have children in our schools? ... Before we make dramatic changes to our city, we should gather as much data as possible to determine whether our assumptions and projections are correct."

Hear, hear. One might wonder why this obvious thing hasn't been done.

Here's a clue: A few years ago, when the city council was debating adding more housing density in the California Ave "transit-oriented area," an informal poll taken by a resident of one of the condo complexes next to the Caltrain station found that 5% of its residents commuted by transit; the rest drove.

Moral: if you don't want the answer, don't ask the question.


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Posted by Anna
a resident of Downtown North
on Jul 15, 2009 at 2:35 pm

"The trip saving potential of these walkable communities (still not being built in PA) is that they save on non-work trips. The debate on whether they will reduce commuting and by how much is interesting but is not where the major travel and parking savings come from."

After being told over and over that the reason we have to build dense housing along train tracks and other transit routes is because we need to reduce auto commuting to the jobs corporations want to create in the Bay Area, we're now told, "Never mind. We were just joking. This was just an interesting academic style debate with no major effect on travel and parking (i.e. Congestion during commute times, which people who haven't been walking to work for the past 30 years know is THE major auto related problem in the Bay Area)."

So, says Levy, we have to fundamentally change the character of our city, put up with even more horrendous commute traffic, overcrowd our schools and otherwise "sacrifice" the qualities we moved here to find so that he and a few like-minded sybarites can walk to a local coffee shop in the morning instead of driving like the rest of us workaday slobs.

Now that the falsehood that ABAG housing has something to do with reducing auto commuting has been admitted by the primary proponent of it here in Town Square, perhaps we can get on to discussion of the real issues.

For a start, we might wish to ask if, since ABAG housing has nothing to do with reducing auto commuting, why we should tolerate the efforts of outsiders to remake our city (and the whole Bay Area) into a Europeanized fantasy city catering to the lifestyle whims of Levy and his like-minded class of people who have no objections to forcing us all to live in their preferred manner?


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Posted by Rob
a resident of Woodside
on Jul 15, 2009 at 3:45 pm

I didn't even read through the whole comment completely, but someone mentioned Caltrain to Salinas? It takes almost an hour to get to San Jose. Is this a joke? Maybe a bullet train, but why would a train built as a city connector stop in Salinas?


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Posted by Stefan
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Jul 15, 2009 at 4:11 pm

Rob,

CalTrain stops in Gilroy, because there are communters to jobs in Silicon Valley. There are also commuters who come from the Salinas Valley to jobs in the Silicon Valley. If there ae enough such commuters, it is logical to extend the service. Salinas-Gilroy-San Jose-Santa Clara-Mt. View-Palo Alto. That is a logical first approach as a semi-express train, run once per day, during commute hours, each way.

Why would you call this a joke?


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Posted by Sun and Sand
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jul 15, 2009 at 4:33 pm

Paul: "A few years ago, when the city council was debating adding more housing density in the California Ave "transit-oriented area," an informal poll taken by a resident of one of the condo complexes next to the Caltrain station found that 5% of its residents commuted by transit; the rest drove."

Might that have to do with the fact that the condo complex is almost 2 decades old, and the residents who live there bought in way before mass transit was even on the map? Really, using this as an example is pretty weak.

Also, pat says that nobody knows how development will go. Really? Go take a look at TOD projects *all over the world*, and see how they thrive, especially when build in coordination with increased transport capacity that enables individuals to get out of their cars.

There is simply no way that TOD projects and more dense housing here and on the Peninsula is not going to happen. There are a few here who always argue against that, but it doesn't mean anything. This stuff is going to get built, and the sooner, the better.

Also, we need to be sure that our policy makers are on top of the appropriate housing/transport mix. This is where TOD has fallen down in America, where housing gets built, and officials think that people are willing to wait for inconvenient, expensive, and ill-timed transport. We need to get on the stick and make BOTH these things happen - housing and transport, to prevent poor development patterns and traffic chaos as the Peninsula expands, which it sure is going to do (it's happening as we speak).


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Posted by laura
a resident of Midtown
on Jul 15, 2009 at 5:59 pm

I said a "decent" grocery store - not a small, cramped Safeway with nothing in it and inadequate parking. Maybe a Whole Foods would qualify but unfortunately they went to a neighboring town, just like all of the others with good sense.


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Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 15, 2009 at 6:09 pm

Not a Whole Foods, too expensive and caters to a niche market. We need a proper grocery store that sells the best selection of everything so that we don't have to keep running to one store for this and another for that, all over the Peninsula (except for perhaps to stock up on specialty items for different tastes once a month or so).


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Posted by stephen levy
a resident of University South
on Jul 16, 2009 at 10:34 am

stephen levy is a registered user.

I don't argue that denser housing in walkable neighborhoods near transit will immediately or substantially reduce commuting to work by car.

There are two other significant ways that walkable communities with demser housing will reduce car travel and greenhouse gas emissions (a new regional plannign requirement).

The first way is that walkable neighborhoods (enough housing to support retail and services) is that they convert some non-work trips from cars to walking or biking.

The second way (and it is at the heart of ABAG's regional planning goals) is to bring homes and jobs closer together. Forget PA for a moment and forget arguing about whether people in PA must work in PA. If folks commute from San Jose to Sunnyvale or San Mateo, that is better in terms of vehicle use and emissions than if they commute from Salinas or Manteca.

These are simple ideas. They will help and they don't require endless arguments and accusations about using transit for work trips.


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Posted by stephen levy
a resident of University South
on Jul 16, 2009 at 10:40 am

stephen levy is a registered user.

The argument that I argue for the heavy hand of government while other posters favor freedom and market solutions for housing is backwards.

If people want to live in Salinas or Manteca and the market provides housing they like so be it. I am not arguing for restricting housing in these places.

I am arguing for allowing housing in PA and similat communtiies to meet market demand. If no one wants to live in denser housing in PA, then none will be built after builders understand the market.

From my perspective it is other posters who want to use government to prevent the market and families from living in new housing in PA.

They may argue that they have reasons but it is still they who want to interfere with the market by government decree or the endless calls for votes.


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Posted by stephen levy
a resident of University South
on Jul 16, 2009 at 10:51 am

stephen levy is a registered user.

The call for votes on this thread is not a pure act of democracy. The people calling for votes appear to favor votes they think will end in a result they like.

The issue of who has a vote or voice is a serious issue that I hoped the thread would gather diverse opinions.

But let me tease a little since I take a lot of flak most of the time.

The calls for votes on this thread are what I owuld call the "selective theory of democracy". Votes where my side wins are good and legitimate. Other votes don't count for a variety of reasons that mock democracy.

The ABAG votes that some posters don't like are called "uber-Stalinist" although the voters are cities like Palo Alto.

The state votes for legislation requiring regional land use and greenhouse gas emissions planning are called undemocratic and the machinations of developers, environmentalists and generally bad sorts of people.

One might suspect that if we actually had a vote in PA and these folks lost, they would call for a vote by neighborhood or block until they found a group whose vote provided their answer.

My challenge to posters who disagree is to tell us how they would solve the challenge of housing the people who will be added to the region's population over time as the Bay Area continues to priduce job growth as a center of innovation and technology.


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Posted by Stefan
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Jul 16, 2009 at 12:12 pm

"My challenge to posters who disagree is to tell us how they would solve the challenge of housing the people who will be added to the region's population over time as the Bay Area continues to priduce job growth as a center of innovation and technology."

They can live in Palo Alto, or wherever their job is, if they care to, and can afford it. If they cannot afford it, or they do not care to live here, they will probably live in a less costly housing market, then commute to work.

If employers want cheap labor, they should develop their enterprises and employment base in other areas. If they want high end educated workers, and are willing to pay for them, I fail to see the problem; that is what they currently have. If employers want a mixed situation, with high end being paid high end salaries, and low end being paid lower scale, then they will need to figure out transportation modes that allow them to get their workers to the job. Telecommuting, van pools, trains, buses, etc., which can dramatically reduce carbon emmissions, can also satisfy regional commitments to same.

I fail to understand why our cities should be forced to (uber Stalinist style) jettison our own local control. We are capable of coming up with solutions to regional air quality standards. A rational approach to transportation issues for workers is grounded in experience and theory. Commands to increase density are unproven 'solutions', and they fundamentally change the lifestyle and ambience of our town, which are protected by zoning restrictions, locally determined.

I am quite willing to accept a vote of Palo Alto citizens on the ABAG commands. I think my side will win but, if not, I will accept the results of the vote. Don't worry, Mr. Levy, I will not insist on a vote within my own neighborhood. Are you afraid of the will of the people? I am not.




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Posted by Anna
a resident of Downtown North
on Jul 16, 2009 at 12:23 pm

It's getting very difficult to have a rational discussion about ABAG mandates and their effects on car commuting when one poster makes radically and wildly contradictory claims in successive posts.

Yesterday, Stephen Levy, dismissed the argument that ABAG housing mandates will have a major effect on car commuting as an intellectual side show: "The debate on whether they [ABAG mandates] will reduce commuting and by how much is interesting but is not where the major travel and parking savings come from."

Today, he says, "The second way ABAG [will reduce car travel and greenhouse emissions] (and it is at the heart of ABAG's regional planning goals) is to bring homes and jobs closer together."

Levy can't have it both ways: either ABAG's transit oriented housing mandates will reduce car commuting or it won't. It's becoming increasingly clear that Levy doesn't know and maybe doesn't care, and that he'll say anything that makes his argument of the moment for ABAG.

Levy says,"These are simple ideas. They will help and they don't require endless arguments and accusations about using transit for work trips."

He's right that they're simple. But the problem is that they say pretty much opposite things. They may not require endless arguments from the rest of us anymore, but that's because Levy is clearly having an argument with himself on whether car commuting will be reduced by the ABAG mandates.

The fact is that most of the arguments of ABAG supporters argumentation is increasingly based on misdirection and mischaracterization of opponents' points.

Levy's confusion about the arguments of those of us who would like to see the citizens of Palo Alto have a chance to weigh in on this issue by voting on whether to comply with ABAG mandates is similarly marked by disoriented thinking. There is a big difference between a vote by citizens on whether we should pay any attention to ABAG at all and a vote by ABAG bureaucrats on how to split up the ABAG mandates. The fact that Palo Alto sent somebody to the ABAG meetings does not make the process responsive to local democratic demands in any meaningful way. It's a matter of who votes (bureaucrats or people) and what is voted on (whether to comply with ABAG or how to comply with ABAG). We haven't had a vote of real people in a real election about whether to comply with ABAG mandates in Palo Alto. And no matter how much Levy tries to turn gatherings of ABAG bureaucrats into expressions of democratic will, most of us don't think our views have been expressed in these parlays.

Finally, Levy issues challenge after challenge to tell him how we can accommodate the population growth he wants to happen without ABAG style regional planning. He's been answered time after time, but refuses to hear the answer, which is that we disagree with his premise that population growth is inevitable and that we have no control over it.

Corporate bigwigs may want us to accommodate their plans for more employees locally by building lots more residential units, but we don't have to. And if we don't, and Pleasanton (which has sued ABAG over the issue) doesn't, and most of the rest of ABAG-plagued cities don't then these bigwigs will have to make other plans....like moving some of their operations to places that actually want more residents.

It's like this, Mr. Levy, "if we don't build it, they won't come". How difficult is that to understand?


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Posted by Anna
a resident of Downtown North
on Jul 16, 2009 at 1:40 pm

I am amused by Stephen Levy's claim of late conversion to Milton Friedman-style market economics after decades in service to the Leviathan state enterprise that is California government.

In fact neither Levy or those of us on the other side are arguing for any sort of libertarian style solution. Houston has no zoning codes and is as close to "letting the market decide" than anything we'll ever see here. Levy isn't advocating that. He's in favor of zoning: he just wants ABAG to set the rules. That is, both Levy and his detractors want to use Palo Alto's zoning powers to influence their respective ideas of what Palo Alto should look like.

The difference is that some of us think Palo Alto's zoning should be decided by residents and local elected leaders. Levy thinks Palo Alto's zoning should be set by unelected ABAG bureaucrats who are only vaguely and distantly responsible to any electorate.

It might be interesting to have some genuinely free-market advocates on this issue, but Levy ain't it.


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Posted by housing vs. people
a resident of Downtown North
on Jul 16, 2009 at 2:19 pm

I think Stephen, your argument has at least two parts. First, there's a part that says, "here's what we want you to do, because we think it will be good for everybody." But there also seems to be a part that says, "you have to do something, even if you ignore what we want you to do, in order to respond to absolute changes in your environment."

I think the second part of the argument is something like this:

- The US will increase its population quickly, mainly from immigrants [I suppose that in the time frame we are discussing, this is immigrants from India, China, and Mexico, and includes immigrants who come without following legal processes].

- California is a big state, and will take its share of these people, especially because of job growth within California, and because California is on the path to other states from India, China, and Mexico.

- The Bay Area and peninsula in particular is big and will take its share of the people entering California, especially because of job growth in the Bay Area.

- Palo Alto is centrally located in the Bay Area, therefore, it will grow its population quickly. That is inevitable.

Because of these things, we should build more affordable housing in Palo Alto, even if that changes Palo Alto. Change, if well managed, is good.

Is that a fair characterization of the part of your argument that does not argue from a "here's what we want you to do" goal?

But Stephen, are you saying that we will increase our population whether we increase our density or not?

If we don't build in a way to accommodate more residents, do you expect that we will still grow our population? We will have 5000 homeless "living" in Palo Alto if we don't build 5000 more homes? Or if we don't build housing, we will have single family homes with a much higher average number of people?

You have suggested that the math and preferences will bring people to Palo Alto rather than Salinas or Manteca - are you not assuming an increase in housing density for that to work out?

I can't sort your assumptions from your conclusions.


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Posted by pat
a resident of Midtown
on Jul 16, 2009 at 3:33 pm

Stephen, you write: "I am arguing for allowing housing in PA and similat communtiies to meet market demand. If no one wants to live in denser housing in PA, then none will be built after builders understand the market."

Of course people will come if you build it because it will be cheaper than single family housing and there will be subsidized units. That's what our city council keeps pushing for. But it's not what current residents want.

You keep predicting what WILL happen, but you don't really know. What about my suggestion for taking a survey of people already living in TOD?

Sun and Sand wrote: Go take a look at TOD projects *all over the world*, and see how they thrive, especially when build in coordination with increased transport capacity that enables individuals to get out of their cars."

Go and ask those who live in TOD projects *all over the world* -- particularly those with children -- if they would rather live in a dense housing project or a detached house with a back yard.

"There is simply no way that TOD projects and more dense housing here and on the Peninsula is not going to happen."

That will only happen if we let it happen. Someone mentioned Atherton as an example of a city that has limited growth.

Anna says it perfectly: "If we don't build it, they won't come."

(Anna: PLEASE consider running for city council. Read Diana Diamond's column in the Post today, July 16.)


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Posted by stephen levy
a resident of University South
on Jul 17, 2009 at 2:35 pm

stephen levy is a registered user.

It looks like we are winding down here. Let me try and tie up some loose ends.

On regional growth--it is not "inevitable" BUT cities throughout the region are actively planning to accomodate the job growth that would normally come from the Bay Area economy's relative strength.

In a great irony to Anna's constant calling for a vote, there actually have been votes and Anna and Pat and others lost. The region's cities have looked future job growth in the eye and voted YES. Once the jobs vote is in "don't build and they won't come" is straight hypocrisy on the part of all cities combined although individual cities like PA can clamor for votes to opt out of the regional housing challenge they helped to create.

The region and the region's cities are now dealing with planning for the housing growth that they agreed to implicitly by zoning for and approving job growth. That was part of the original reason for the post--certainly peninsula residents and PA residents in particular knew they were moving into a happening place.

On walkable communities, TOD, transit and commuting--there is no having it both ways in my argument.

Walkable communities decrease non-work auto travel.
Having more housing within the region's core communities decreases the amount of auto miles driven for commuting, even if people still drive to work.
And slowly the share of people using public transportation for work trips can increase although this is a distant third in terms of quantitative significance.

On affordable housing--This is a separate argument. If you will grant that there is a strong market for relatively high-priced dense housing in PA, then we can sort out the fairness issues on how to plan for the lower-income housing that is part of making the region work.


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Posted by Anna
a resident of Downtown North
on Jul 17, 2009 at 3:16 pm

[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

For an example of what the Bay Area is in for if ideologues like Levy have their way, it's instructive to look at the example of Portland Oregon where a state law like that which spawned ABAG has been in effect for a couple of decades now. Portland's law tried to force all growth in the Portland area into the existing urban/suburban footprint by increasing density (much like ABAG's mandates). Additionally, unlike ABAG, Portland included major increases in mass transportation, bike lanes and features designed to make neighborhoods "walkable".

The results are in, and they're not encouraging for those of us about to be assaulted by a similar program here. Not only has Portland's scheme not controlled urban sprawl. (Web Link). It's also led to intolerable levels of traffic as (despite the availability of mass transportation), Portlanders find themselves trapped in round the clock traffic where average speeds have been reduced by half since the smart growth movement got underway. (See, Web Link). The housing market has become increasingly unaffordable as buyers attempt to escape the density corridors set up by the Portland law. And there is a rising political movement to undo the law as an assault on quality of life.(Web Link)

Unlike here, there was actually a vote in Portland on whether to pass the scheme. (Levy's continued attempts to portray the ABAG process as a democratic measure on which there have been "votes" is self-evidently laughable, which has been discussed at length). There's a lot of buyers' remorse in Portland now. We need to make sure we don't go down the same path.






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Posted by JC
a resident of another community
on Jul 17, 2009 at 8:11 pm

O.K. folks, WAKE UP!

Here is a great thread full of history in regard to growing up in Palo Alto, prior to the Huge homes on the tiny lots, the stuffy folks in the SUV's and dare I mention, the conserv------ moved in.

Take a deep breath now!

Web Link


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Posted by J.C.
a resident of another community
on Jul 17, 2009 at 8:34 pm

After you read the "growing up in Palo Alto thread" consider this...

I grew up in South Palo Alto in the 60s in a typical 1000 sq ft Eichler. If families were large, garages were converted into bedrooms. My father built a "playroom on the back of our home and even a second story addition around 1964. We were living Large! We had certainly one of the biggest houses in the hood. Mind you, here's a man who married in 58 in Canada and he and my mom built a 10x10 shack "home with an outhouse. They added on to the home little by little wit ALL CASH until it became a regular 800 sq ft home.
My folks bought his home for 18k and sold it around 73 fro about 100k. They bought a home in Los Altos ALL CASH and now my mom still lives there,. It's a two million dollar home now. Last time I drove down my old street there were more HUGE homes with basements pushed to the lot limits and as high as the law would allow. Mind you these monsters hover over the tiny Eichlers beside them. There were NO children playing out side and the few people who I did see drive up, opened their garage doors with automatic openers, pulled in and down went the door! This time of day back in the 60's there would have been around 35 kids out on my block alone!

I go down that street I grew up on about once every couple of years and I used to park and walk down the street. Perhaps on occasion, I would chat with someone I saw outside and tell them about growing up on the street. Of coarse the normal reaction was quite standoffish and the people felt threatened, like I was scoping out the neighborhood to rob a house or something!

I remember when someone took down our family home and build one of these monster homes. When I drove up, I almost died! I sat on the other side of the street going through my entire childhood it seemed. A man pulled up and this time instead of closing the garage door, he walked over to his lawn. He gazed at me with a rather suspicious eye for 10 minutes. Feeling quite awkward, I said hi to the guy. In stead of saying hi back, he said " can I help you with something". I said no, just sitting here relaxing. He said "do you know someone on the block". I said " no but I grew up in the house that used to be where your house is now". he said to me, "well it's not here anymore and if you don't have any business here, it's best you move along".

Ah the good ol days!


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Posted by pat
a resident of Midtown
on Jul 18, 2009 at 1:06 pm

Levy thinks if he just says keeps saying the same thing often enough, it will be true.

He says, "In a great irony to Anna's constant calling for a vote, there actually have been votes and Anna and Pat and others lost." I don't remember any vote asking me about growth, dense housing, TODs or anything related.

Re TODs, Levy says, "Having more housing within the region's core communities decreases the amount of auto miles driven for commuting, even if people still drive to work. And slowly the share of people using public transportation for work trips can increase although this is a distant third in terms of quantitative significance."

This is a feeble argument and points out how we have been oversold on TODs taking people out of their cars to commute to work.

And again, Levy talks about "fairness": ".then we can sort out the fairness issues on how to plan for the lower-income housing that is part of making the region work."

Stephen, how do you define fairness? What's fair for people already living here?


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Posted by CompPlan says no
a resident of Midtown
on Jul 18, 2009 at 2:04 pm

In talking about laws and mandates and fairness, has anyone mentioned the Comprehensive Plan? It is Palo Alto's ruling document.
Palo Alto has been violating its basic law for years, by building much more than the Comprehensive Plan allows.
Any comment about the CP, Mr. Levy?


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Posted by Longtime resident
a resident of Palo Verde
on Jul 18, 2009 at 5:33 pm

J.C.,

Sorry to hear about your unfriendly experience in visiting your old neighborhood. I grew up in Palo Alto and now live in an Eichler with my family. I've had the experience of meeting a woman who stopped by my house because she grew up in it, and I was happy to let her see it and note what had changed (and stayed the same). She told me a few stories about growing up in this house that made me smile. Many of the owners in my neighborhood of Eichlers are original owners and all are friendly with each other. We still have block parties and a neighborhood bookclub. The "good old days" are not gone in this neighborhood, thankfully.


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Posted by J.C
a resident of another community
on Jul 18, 2009 at 9:37 pm

WoW long time resident! Thanks so much for the reply. That is SO good to hear! That gave me chills! What year did you graduate? Cubberly?

I was in Los Altos for the last year of school, so graduated at homestead High, class of 1979.

I grew up On Emerson street. I wonder if they tore down Lucky's on Alma yet? I worked my first job at the old Chevron gas station that used to be there in front of Round Table Pizza. Did you check out the above link I posted, "growing up in Palo Alto?

I am now in Pleasanton and it's a great family town, however more and more conservative. Growing up in the 60's in P.A. one almost is Liberal by default! LOL Really!


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Posted by Longtime resident
a resident of Palo Verde
on Jul 19, 2009 at 8:52 am

J.C.,

I graduated from Gunn in '79. Several of my friends from high school still live in Palo Alto and are raising their families here. Good to hear that Pleasanton is a great family town, even if it is more conservative than Palo Alto. I did check out the "growing up in Palo Alto link," which was fun to read. Best of luck!


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Posted by stephen levy
a resident of University South
on Jul 19, 2009 at 11:49 am

stephen levy is a registered user.

J.C. and Longtime resident,

Thanks for bringing some memories of what PA was like when you grew up. I cane as a 21 year old and my memories are of the 60s here--the Varsity, the original St. Michael's Alley, Mrs. Fields cookies and Liddicoats, the civil rights movement and ant-war protests in PA--later the Good Earth restaurant with our kids.

To comp plan says no there are several answers.

One, comp plans change with time. PA is now updating the housing element of our Comp Plan. I think the community should develop and discuss alternative plans and visions for the future. I might argue for one end result based on what I have been posting and the regional requirements of the RHNA and SB375 greenhouse gas emission reduction goal. Other people will have different visions.

But at least we could try to reach a resolution on a framework for future land use decisions so council doesn't take each project as a completely new chance to debate what should be decided in a Comp Plan.

Second, I agree that the PA Comp Plan and those of other cities do not provide enough housing to match the job growth the cities are planning for. One major purpose of this thread was to discuss what to do when the city job and housing plans don't match within the region.

Third, I have been arguing that PA comp plans (past and future) that contributes to regional job growth and say go take a hike to regional plans for housing are unfair. Even if you disagree with my concept of fairness as other posters do you are till left with points one and two.

Here is the concept of fairness that stuck in my mind when Rawls taught several classes at MIT. It is a concept that asks people to act independent of their current position or wealth.

Justice as Fairness is the phrase used by the philosopher John Rawls to refer to his distinctive theory of justice. It is also the title of an essay on the subject written in 1958. Justice as Fairness consists of two principles: First, each person is to have an equal right to the most extensive basic liberty compatible with similar liberty for others. Second, "Social and economic inequalities are to satisfy two conditions: (a) They are to be attached to positions and offices open to all under conditions of fair equality of opportunity; and (b), they are to be to the greatest benefit of the least advantaged members of society."[1] The first of these two principles is known as the equal liberty principle. The second principle is split into two parts; the first, known as fair equality of opportunity, asserts that justice should not benefit those with advantageous social contingencies; while the second, reflecting the idea that inequality is only justified if it is to the advantage of those who are less well-off, is known as the difference principle.
Rawls argues that the two principles would be chosen by representative parties in the original position — a thought experiment in which the parties are to choose among principles of justice to order the basic structure of society from behind a veil of ignorance — depriving the representatives of information about the particular characteristics (such as wealth and natural abilities) of the parties that they represent. Justice as Fairness is developed by Rawls in his now classic book, A Theory of Justice.


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Posted by Sun
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jul 19, 2009 at 1:17 pm

Steve Levy: "Rawls argues that the two principles would be chosen by representative parties in the original position — a thought experiment in which the parties are to choose among principles of justice to order the basic structure of society from behind a veil of ignorance — depriving the representatives of information about the particular characteristics (such as wealth and natural abilities) of the parties that they represent. Justice as Fairness is developed by Rawls in his now classic book, A Theory of Justice." - - - I love and resonate with Rawls' core stance re: fairness,and liberty. The problem is that they don't work in current reality because they don't take into account many things we now know about human behavior. For instance, issues of status appear to be hard-wired, with status (whether monetary, socioeconomic, or other) driving individual opinion about what's "fair". In fact, even claims to "non-status-driven" behavior turn out to be status driven.

Thus, there isn't any way around the conundrum of strong propensities for human beings to act certain ways when it comes to property, and other material issues. This is why we need leaders and policy makers who are able to acknowledge the theoretical ideal, and at the same time make policy that optimizes the potential of the polis. - - So, when it comes to housing, we know that populations are going to increase dramatically in this region - and elsewhere. We know that the world is becoming "flatter" in terms of access to power and opportunity; we know that global structural changes have for at least the near-long-term created almost do-or-die challenges for nation and regional economy; we know the other nations and regions are adapting to these changes in pro-active ways that are providing them positional advantage for the future. We have to change, and we have to become more nimble. We have to figure out how to integrate more people into our housing schemas, and at the same time figure out how to get people "closer to work" via mixed use development, building out broadband, etc. etc. Either we find ways to deal with these and otehr problems, or we will lose advantage in ways that have a direct impact on the bucolic lifestyle that we now take for granted. We can become insular, or we can adapt. There are extremes on both sides; it's our job to innovate policy that makes it possible to largely preserve the wonderful assets of our community, and at the same time make the adjustments necessary to keep evolving in ways that don't disadvantage our city or our region in the long term, compared to others. If we fail in the latter, we will be giving in to our baser, and shorter-term interests. (this is where behaviorl exonomics comes into play, with startling revelations about how often short-term thinking rules, to the detriment of our long term future)


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Posted by Stefan
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Jul 19, 2009 at 1:20 pm

"Justice as Fairness", as you describe it, is warmed over "Give according to ability, take according to need". It is a socialist mantra that has brought so much death and destruction. Is is amazing, to me, that is is still being pitched as a rational ideology. It has no moral or ethical basis.

Ethics or not, we do not need to be driven into the absuridty of dense housing and unproven transit corridors, based on such questionable pablum.


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Posted by J.C.
a resident of another community
on Jul 19, 2009 at 1:51 pm

"Justice as Fairness", Wow, reading this thread reminds me of why I am who I am today, having grown up in P.A. in the 60s-70s!

Check out Pleasanton Weekly On-Line, P.A. weekly sister paper.

Libs and Conservatives are at each others throats with attacks!

If you even mention "Justice and fairness" especially "social justice" people call you a leftist Liberal Socialist!

Perhaps I should think about selling my home here and moving back to P.A. Maybe I could even afford one of those high density units? LOL Kidding!


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Posted by J.C.
a resident of another community
on Jul 19, 2009 at 1:54 pm

Consider yourselves very lucky to live in P.A.
Perhaps it hasn't changed as much as I think??

I bet there are still a fe V.W. buses and volvos with "save Tibet" stickers on them.

Actually, last year I get together with The Hanko's and some others from P.A. and low and behold, they all had bumper stickers on their cars! Some things never change! Groovy!


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Posted by stephen levy
a resident of University South
on Jul 20, 2009 at 4:19 pm

stephen levy is a registered user.

Sun,

I think we mostly agree. There is a difference between power and fairness. I think you are right that in the real world the folks with money and guns have an edge up on making the rules.

Apart from fairness I have been arguing that we need to work together as a region to plan for future growth. I think we can "preserve assets and make necessary adjustments to change".

I was asked for my views on fairness which are that fair rules or agreements are made when the folks with power act as if their current status did not count. In that sense the ABAG agreements about housing were fair. They picked objective criteria apart from political power and applied them fairly. The criteria included jobs and transit accessibility and towns like PA got more housing to plan for than towns like Portola Valley (whose allocation was determined not by ABAG but by all the cities in San Mateo County.

Steve


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Posted by stephen levy
a resident of University South
on Jul 20, 2009 at 4:28 pm

stephen levy is a registered user.

Stefan,

We disagree. I know what Rawls meant becasue he talked about it a lot in class. He, not you, get to decide what he meant by justice as fairness.

The concept does say that fair rules are not made for and by the interests of the folks with the guns and money. Our constitution was an attempt to give rights and voice to people without political power.

There is a difference between not liking the result (as for the ABAG planning goals for housing in PA) and thinking that the process is some foreign political ideology. [Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

To all the folks who are clamoring for a vote take a look at the business tax thread. Sometimes on TS it is confusing about when people want a vote, when the city council is gutless or principled, who should get to vote and what to do if the vote goes against you.


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Posted by Anna
a resident of Downtown North
on Jul 20, 2009 at 4:46 pm

[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

Even John Rawls' son, Alex has defected from the unworkable Utopia imagined by Rawlsians, and while he was at Stanford wrote for the Stanford Review, a conservative/libertarian student paper.

Even so, Levy's citation of this academic theorizing indicates where he's been coming from in his posts and explains a lot about why he's been unwilling or unable to truly engage in the technical debate on regional housing mandates that many of the rest of us have been trying to have here.

It's easy to be so blinded by long-held ideology that one just doesn't see the other side.

Mr. Levy's concern for the disadvantaged is certainly commendable as a moral or religious matter. But as with so many attempts to address these kinds of concerns through alteration of government policies (See, e.g. the history of socialism in the 20th Century), attempts to secure fairness for some undefined poor through regional planning are bound to have negative side effects that outweigh their benefits.

[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


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Posted by Stefan
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Jul 20, 2009 at 4:58 pm

Levy,

Rawls was a socialist, and he never really addressed the mass murder and mass control that he advocated. I don't want to waste any more time on that absurdity. It is on the ash heap of history.

I am much more concerned about ABAG housing. Let's put it to a vote of Palo Alto citizens. I am not afraid of the results, but you seem to be. Why is that?


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Posted by mike
a resident of Midtown
on Jul 20, 2009 at 5:01 pm

Those complaining about new high-density housing and people not paying their fair share for public services should look in the mirror (even assuming it's true).

Folks who have been here for 20 years or more are paying a pittance in property taxes. I see counteless examples of people leaving up single walls as they rebuild their homes to keep their basis. I can count at least 6 houses in my neighborhood where a slack-off second generation are living in their parents's homes, paying $1,000 a year in property tax (you can look it up), yet living on home equity. Hardly the instruments of innovation.


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Posted by *************
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jul 20, 2009 at 6:47 pm


Everyone, just be careful now, in Palo ALto. Someone has stolen our bicycle and lots of memories were one with it. We used go to the famers market most sundays with our family.It had our little one seat on it. If you see anything suspicious please just call the police.

So sad that people can steal, and now in our neihborhood.
Sad and heartbroken, (our little one does not know yet).


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Posted by jason
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jul 21, 2009 at 5:30 pm

We just left and moved to a surrounding community. The schools are not that great, and you don't get much for your money. There are better places on the penninsula. Stanford will get what it needs/wants. Silicon Valley will become the next detroit if we don't allow growth. It's always about maintaining the status quo.


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Posted by Mike
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jul 23, 2009 at 11:38 am

Jason,
You have my thanks and gratitude. I hope your new community and home meets all of your family's expectations for a good life.

What you did is what anyone should do who does not like an already established community populated by those who do like it-move someplace else you like, or don't go there in the first place!


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Posted by Toady
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jul 24, 2009 at 2:26 pm

Conservatives? Where are you J.C.? I'm surrounded by card-carrying limo liberals in my neck of Palo Alto. They drive the SUVs with Obama stickers on them.


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Posted by pat
a resident of Midtown
on Jul 26, 2009 at 10:31 am

Levy wrote:
- "PA is now updating the housing element of our Comp Plan. I think the community should develop and discuss alternative plans and visions for the future."

How does one get an opportunity to provide input to the plan? In general, the "civic engagement" priority of the city is a joke.

- "I might argue for one end result based on what I have been posting and the regional requirements of the RHNA and SB375 greenhouse gas emission reduction goal. Other people will have different visions."

But he said that TOD doesn't really reduce work commutes. So how much are we talking about in terms of reducing greenhouse gas emissions? Is that number worth destroying a community?

- "One major purpose of this thread was to discuss what to do when the city job and housing plans don't match within the region."

What's a "region"? How is it defined? Who defines it? Where is it written that people have to live in the same city where they work? Most people change jobs more frequently than they changing homes.


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Posted by stephen levy
a resident of University South
on Jul 26, 2009 at 12:44 pm

stephen levy is a registered user.

Pat,

I asked a friend who is following the Housing Element update process closely to answer your good question about how to get involved.

On the TOD question, I said that TODs will not significantly reduce the number of commuters who use cars at least initially although that number can grow over time.

But reducing the number of car commuters is not the only way to reduce commuting related greenhouse gas emissions. Reducing the commute starting point from Salinas to south San Jose will reduce commute travel to Sunnyvale or San Mateo even though both trips are by car. The ABAG goal is to reduce total commuting miles, not necessarily or primarily at first by switching from driving but by reducing commute lengths.

And the other great travel-related advantage of TODs or walkable communties is in reducing non-work travel--in this case by replacing car travel by walking or biking.

And no one says that people have to live in the same place as where they work to reduce either commute or total car travel.

Moreover, movements by households within the region and outside are voluntary. No one is forcing a family not to live in Salinas if they wish. The controversy about the ABAG housing goals is whether it is appropriate to PREVENT more people from living in existing communities and force them to live further and further away from the region's job base.

In our area there is a formal definition of a region as well as non-legal definitions. The nine-county Bay Area is an official regional planning area (the Association of Bay Area Government or ABAG planing area), which has the legal mandate for federal transportation funding planning as well as state housing and now greenhouse gas emission reduction planning.

At a less formal level a region is a set of communities bound together by common planning challenges. These usually relate to the fact that the region is a close approximation to a labor market area, an air quality basin, a connected housing market and so forth.




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Posted by Irvin
a resident of University South
on Jul 26, 2009 at 6:41 pm

"How does one get an opportunity to provide input to the (housing update)plan? In general, the "civic engagement" priority of the city is a joke.", wrote Pat.

I did attend two "Technical Advisory Group" meetings on the housing update - both at Lucy Stern, I believe.
The TAG is the main vehicle to provide community input.
The Planning & Transportation Commission just had two study sessions (they meet bi-monthly on Weds nights @7; the study sessions were from 6-7pm).

Being a bit new to the actual workings of the PTC and the housing element update process,I'm not sure I can 'blame' the city for insufficient community input - frankly, it's pretty dry stuff.

At the first TAG meeting I attended, I was truly surprised to see the members actively engage in a discussion on a new German suburb (Web Link is essentially car-free, discussing its (in)applicability to Palo Alto, but also recognizing its contribution in terms of reducing global warming (transportation emissions are the fastest growing sector, with vehicle-miles-driven far surpassing the growth of population in the US).

I would also mention that the Alliance for a Livable Palo Alto (Web Link) has an open-Yahoo group - all community members are welcome to join.


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