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How much more housing can Palo Alto handle?
Original post made
by Arthur Keller, Adobe-Meadows,
on Feb 21, 2007
We read the headlines that Palo Alto schools are filling up. By 2011, the school district is forecasted to exceed its capacity at all grade levels.
How much housing growth can the school district accommodate if it reopens closed elementary schools, expands our middle schools, reopens part of Cubberley as a small high school, and fills in open space or playing fields with portables?
What are the other impacts of converting part of Cubberley to a high school? Can our school district even afford that much growth? Will our schools be as desirable with that much growth?
How many residents can our parks, libraries, community centers, roads and other services support? The Association of Bay Area Governments (ABAG) predicts that Palo Alto will have 80,000 residents by 2030, a one-third increase over today's population. What impact will there be on the quality of life in Palo Alto with that many people?
As we plan for Palo Alto's future, we must consider all factors when we ask: How much growth in housing can Palo Alto accommodate?
(A longer version of this posting can be found at Web Link
Posted by Jeremy Loski
a resident of Ventura
on Feb 23, 2007 at 10:33 pm
Some answers, and comments:
Read this link on innovative school design. Web Link
As to "where" we put our schools, why not consider a way to embed more education within the community? We're not thinking like 21st century learners, or workers.
What percent of 5-year-olds are gamers? Answer: almost 100% What does that say for curriculum and pedagogy, going foward? How many times have you heard a BOE conversation, oro a Curriculum and Instruction committee discuss gaming and pedagogy? These are a few of probably hundreds of questions that we, PAYSD, and the BOE should be pondering, in addition to the nuts and blots about finance, infrastructure, etc. etc.
I am a HUGE proponent of public education, but I am sorely disappointed by the utter lack of innovation in public education and how that impacts our ability to think curriculum, space design, and learning to "do" (instead of learning to learn, the current emphasis).
Why don't we think of ways to reconfigure current space toward more effective learning, as well as more student carrying capacity? Why aren't we discussing that sort of thing? Why do we only think of new _campuses_ when we dialogue about the need for more student space? We need to get on ball.
Here is another link on rethinking high school, from one of the most noteworthy foundations of our, or any, time
Have you ever heard any of the ideas expressed in the above paper discussed within PAUSD? Nope. Why not?
I bring all this up as a reminder that this community is stuck - like many others - with "either/or" thinking about community growth and its various impacts.
For instance: "if we expand housing, we'll put pressure on schools". OK, let's take that assumption and turn it on its head. how about "If we expand housing, what functional innovations can we create that will accommodate additional students within the space we have"? Instead, we get "the sky is falling" arguments from those who think that more housing means the death of our community, rather than breathing new life, ideas, and diversity into it. What a sorry, whiney, run-on statement for a community that prides itself as having grown as a result of tech innovation. Where is the NEW thinking, thinking that results in functional, executable change _on the ground_,, where it matters? We're too self-satisfied here, and the world - and other parts of our own region - will pass us by if we're not careful.
By "stagnation" I mean less economic and social diversity. We are very close to becoming one-dimensional because we are losing real cultural diversity. We are not engaging our municipal neighbors in ways sufficient to help us ALL adapt. Why not? Why does commercial or residential housing have to be a zero sum game?
Last, what I mean by Palo Alto is stagnating is the result of efforts by too many people with limited innovative vision slowing our city's necessary growth to a halt - i.e. those attempting to "keep our quality of life" (who never seem to admit that growth has saved Palo Alto). Rather than listening to that small minority of well-meaning people (btw, they're entitled to their opinion, and perspective), our policy makers need to be listening to more ideas that come from _outside_ the usual crowd that shows up at city hall on Mondays. We need to follow Hewlett and Packard's lead by "getting out and looking around" (management by walking around") to that we can become something other than a high-priced enclave that implies that "you have to drive, until you qualify". We can do better than that, if we challenge ourselves, and stop being afraid of what the future can bring, and have more faith in our children's ability to adapt to changing times, even if we have a hard time doing so.
Posted by Arthur Keller
a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Feb 25, 2007 at 9:18 am
It's hard to say that growth saved Palo Alto from anything. As Palo Alto was laid out through the 1960's, walkable communities were created. Elementary schools were within walking distance of all housing. As the children of baby boomers aged out, schools were closed and sold for housing by the short-signed school board.
We have seen walkable community markets like the All American Market, the Palo Alto Co-Op, the Midtown Market, and two Albertson's close, partly due to economics and partly due to city policies.
We have seen the Hyatt property turned into all housing because city policies allowed housing to go anywhere.
Limitations of geography and the foresighted preservation of open space rule out large scale increases of housing in most places on the Peninsula.
Consider where the people live who work in Palo Alto. According to the 2000 census data, 78,109 people work in Palo Alto. The top 15 locations where they live comprise 74% of the workers, and these happen to be the places where at least 1000 Palo Alto workers live. The top six are San Jose (13,560), Palo Alto (11,065), Mountain View (5,555), Sunnyvale (5,090), San Francisco (3,690), and Redwood City (3,250). The remaining nine in descending order (all less than 3,000) are Fremont, Santa Clara, East Palo Alto, San Mateo, Cupertino, Los Altos, San Carlos, and Milpitas. These 15 cities comprise 73% of those who commute by car or van to Palo Alto. A total of 2,798 of Palo Alto workers live outside the nine Bay Area counties (less than 4%). An additional 1,621 workers in Palo Alto don't live in Santa Clara, San Mateo, San Francisco, and Alameda counties but do live in the nine Bay Area counties. That's 2% of the workers in Palo Alto. You might want to add 932 workers (about 1%) who live on the other side of the hills in Alameda county. So the idea that Palo Alto employment is causing the paving over of the Central Valley is just not borne out by the facts. Will those workers in large houses with land in the Central Valley move to Palo Alto for any high density housing we might build here?
Now let's look at where employed Palo Alto residents work. Only 11,065 of the 30,747 employed Palo Alto residents work in Palo Alto. Stanford adds another 2,135. So 57% of employed Palo Altans commute work work outside of Palo Alto and Stanford. When we add more housing to Palo Alto, are the new people already employed in Palo Alto? Probably not.
Consider Caltrain use by Palo Alto residents. Only 538 out of 30,747 (less than 2%) employed Palo Alto residents take Caltrain. Of those, 200 take the train to San Francisco and 120 people take it to San Jose. In contrast, 1,733 Palo Alto residents bicycle to work (primarily to within Palo Alto (765), to Stanford (545), and to Menlo Park (115)). And 420 people take the bus from Palo Alto (150 within Palo Alto, and 95 to Stanford). Adding housing to Palo Alto will barely move the needle on Caltrain use or transit use at all.
About 74% of employed Palo Altans drive alone to work. Nearly 6% carpool. Nearly 6% bicycle and just over 3% walk to work. Nearly 7% work at home. Only about 3% of employed Palo Altans take any form of public transit to work. Adding housing to Palo Alto will not significantly increase transit use. Improving bike lanes, enhancing walkability, facilitating working at home, and expanding the Palo Alto Shuttle will have a greater impact at reducing cars off our roads.
Because this census data is public information, feel free to email me at the email address in the Guest Editorial to request a copy of the data.
Posted by Jeremy Loski
a resident of Ventura
on Feb 26, 2007 at 1:06 pm
Too Crowded Now,
the 2030 number comes from Palo Alto's Planning Dept. at City Hall - it's a well-known and published projection. btw, 35,000 of those 80,000 residents are projected to be senior citizens, so we'd better figure out some ways to house them - BMR senior units, and other senior housing innovations, anyone?
Education, and the delivery of same, is going to change quite a bit over the next decade. Certainly by 2030, new models of education delivery, physical structure of learning space, advanced cooperative education, etc. etc. will be put in place, IF we put leaders into position at PAUSD who have vision, know the difference between ideas and innovation, and understnad how to deploy innovative thinking on the ground, where it makes a difference.
We are also going to require new ways of cooperation between the city and schools, to overcome the artifacts of Prop 13. Are we up to this? I hope so. If not, we'll have to begin to rethink the fast-coming-nostalgic idea about what an innovative community we are.
You ask where we will build our schools? Almost certainly, Cubberly will reconvert to another high school as the southern portion of our city expands in population. Playing fields are currenly not used to capacity. Drive by most PAUSD playing fields on the weekend, or PAUSD campuses - they lie largely unused. How about multilevel expanion at some of the current sites, as they age? What about new modes - already under discussion - of curriculum delivery? etc. etc.
And again, about schools and housing, you're making assumptions that bloster pre-made conclusions. Is it written anywhere that increased student use of facilties, **allowing for innovative changes in educational facilities and curriculum, that work*** will somehow lead to to a decreased quality of education? Who says? And if so, please support that contention.
It's not productive to get into a discussion on this thread that deals with educational innovation, but we see precious little of it within the K-12 sector (btw, as stated earlier, I'm a strong proponent of public education).
What I've witnessed over and over on this thread - and others - are assumptions that don't include the variable of executable innovation within their various rationales; that's unfortunate. What I keep hearing over and over is how the sky is going to fall if we increase population, even though we've managed to do quite nicely with population expansion in the past, without much innovation (in fact, at many times, in spite of tripping over far less-than-optimal policy)
What I think the real subtext of the no growth movement is really all about is a general fear of change, resulting in dire projections about the future based primarily on fear of unknowns, compounded by projections based on a general lack of confidence in the ability of our policy makers and citizens to roll up their sleeves and work together (including among neighboring municipalities) to accept the notion that Palo Alto will continue to expand its population, and solve problems. There seems a endency among no growth proponents (the most dedicated of them) to see only negatives, without thinking about solutions to solve forward problems. Is that the kind of thinking that we want driving local policy? I hope not.
Incidentally, the above represents a way of thinking that is perfectly understandable, but hardly optimal as we move inot the future - with the need in that future to make more from less - to innovate in all social policy areas - because we're going to have to. Those who don't will be left behind. I don't want to see that happen to Palo Alto, and neither do our current crop of policy makers who - for the first time in years - are starting to "get it" and look beyond the fear raised by thhose who see nothing but doom and gloom, instead of opportunity - social and fiscal - with growth.
Posted by Jeremy Loski
a resident of Ventura
on Feb 27, 2007 at 3:52 am
The links to innovative schools were a pointer to a possibility. Please don't generalize from my suggestion to innovate, to yet another assumption designed to support your conclusions.
Maybe the design possibility wouldn't play well here, or maybe it would - in a limited setting. Have you considered that it could work in a limited setting? Why would the implementation have to be universal? Here are some more places to turn, unless you're satisfied with the 1950's physical design and management of public schooling.
Are you saying that we should NOT attempt to innovate in the area of school design, Mr. Keller? If not, why not.
As for portables sprouting from the fields like weeds: Yes, there are portables, but there is a LOT of open space on our campuses. Please don't exaggerate the reality. It's not as bad as you think.
What about PAUSD building UP, which would result in a doubling (or more) of available space? What about sharing some administrative services with neighboring districts? Gee, what an idea!. Something modern corporations have been doing for decades. I guess we just have to settle for the status quo. Right, Mr. Keller?
Perhaps we shuold have capped our population at 40,000. My goodness, think of all the trouble we would have avoided.
Really, Mr. Keller, more people in Palo Alto will not create insurmountable problems. You and others imagine they will because we're simply not including the possibility for inventive solutions to almost *anything* here. In fact, the only people creating those problems are those with limited vision who want to stop the natural flow of populations, and muck up the natural (but carefully managed growth) of cities with layers of control, trying their best to stop progress.
We tried that over the last 15 years with retail, and look where it got us. Now it looks like we're going to swing the pendulum back to muck up the natural demand for housing.
Tell me, Mr. Keller, how will capping our population, say, at 70,000 impact our city, with projected senior population in 2030 at 36,000 (the vast majority of whom are senior residents, who will have voting power at the polls, and will be exempt from having to pay for various taxes)? What do you think that will do to the forward quality of our schools?
What do you think this city will look like? Let me tell you; it will look like a retirement community, with an unnatural bifurcation between old and young, created by uberplanners who thought that 2007 was Utopia as they wondered why "should I risk change?". The no growth arguments reek of exclusivity and lack the spark of creative inventiveness, while masquerading as rational fiscal policy.
What I'm hearing from you, Mr. Keller, is that we CAN"T deal with more people. I think you and some other Palo Altans who think they can read the future of Palo Alto like so many tea leaves - using spreadheet numbers as leaves - need to take a lesson from our Governor, and strike "can't" from your respective vocabularies.
The botom line here is that there is a healthy number of homes in the pipeline, and I can't wait to see them filled up with people.
It's time to get busy with creating EFFECTIVE mass transit, EFFECTIVE solutions to schools, LEVERAGING the exceptional open space we already have, COOPERATION with neighboring municipalites for shared services, COOPERATION between city and PAUSD, and so on. Let's get on with forward innovation that will both accomodate and MAGNIFY the BENEFITS of increased population.
Maybe it's easier to say "can't", or "that's too hard", or "I'm afraid of what might happen". Maybe that's what Palo Alto is coming to. Sad.
Posted by Jeremy Loski
a resident of Ventura
on Mar 2, 2007 at 11:14 pm
"So the city is clearly a net loser in annual revenue" (when it comes to calculating property tax revenues in certain scenarios, against the cost of city service provision to the taxpayers in question).
Arthur also states that the school district is probabbly a net winner from new housing. That's what I've been trying to say. :)
Let's look at this from another perspective - the perspective of net citizen cost to our city: Right off the bat we have a positive multiplier in education, as indicated in Arthur's personal rediscovery of my long-held claim - that citizens contribute a tangible "+" to the PAUSD balance sheet. Also, education is additive, in a non-linear way. Every dollar gained over cost of service use in education pays back on more than a 1-to-1 ratio. This doesn't even begin to address the intangible benefits of education, and the many multipliers present therein.
About municipal service costs:
Citizens _do_ require city services that "cost" the city revenue. On a balance sheet that's reported as a net loss. That's fine as far as it goes, especially for the no growth contingent, because this is the *only* part of the fiscal spectrum that they focus on - i.e. cost. However, there ARE *many other* colours in fiscal rainbow of cost/benefit that they exclude. In other words, the "no growther's" fiscal chops need updating.
Let's begin with the cost "benefit" of an additional citizen, from three perspectives (all based on established buyout and equity metrics):
1) How much does every additional citizen contribute to the city as a result of local purchases, contributions to charity, and partaking of personal efficiencies (recycling, and other eco-friendly habits, in addition to other efficiencies) that result in a "plus" in the balance sheet section. These suggestions are just starters? Cost/benefit analysis, anyone?
Time to get busy, folks, and be thorough in your analysis.
In fact, this, and most other (maybe NO other) municipality has ever done a comprehensive benefit analysis of a tangible benefits brought to community by additional citizens. (especially citizens representative of our demographic). There are many reaosns for this, but that's another thread.
2) How much do additional citizens who enter entrepreneurial activities, or work in Palo Alto contribute to the bottom line - directly via increasing taxable service and product production in the city, or indirectly by creating opportunity for others (many who are not residents) to spend revenue, or themselves enter into actions that are taxable?
3) What other, *intangible* benefits does a citizen bring to community? Those no growthers with their bookeeping visors on will sneer at this latter metric, but it's viable (in fact, this metric is used in equity diligence during equity rollups; it's called "goodwill"). How much is a citizen who takes time to volunteer with teens, thus keeping those teens out of trouble worth? How much is a citizen worth who sees to it that her children are nurturant toward other children? What's the long-term cost saving of something as simple as that? There IS a benefit, even in these intangible metrics (although difficult to tease out)
Where is the SROI metric analysis for #3, coming from no growthers? I don't see it; nobody will, because they want to use only cost figures to prove already-made conclusions. Too bad, especially when one considers the opportunity cost of delay, in terms of lost commercial opportunity, construction inflation (passed on to our citizens), and otherwise lost tax revenue that neither they or anyone else has ever taken the time to tease out.
What's amusing about the extreme no growthers is that they represent themselves as fiscally repsonsible. This is almost a joke when one considers the historical alternative costs of catering to the alternative no growth crowd, especially as they have also kept viable big box retail from settling within our borders.
I point these things up to illustrate that those who compute the value of *anything* based only on cost metrics are skating on thin ice, if their diligence to discover benefits are not sufficient to match their diligence expended to discover costs. This is trivial stuff, and shouldn't be glossed over, especially when the distorted picture of growth presented by no growthers is taken as gospel by some (thankfully, a recently decreasing number of policy makers).
In fact, the buyout equity sector is great at determining hidden benefits, and making great bargains for itself. Talk to Warren Buffet about this.
All this talk about "growth being dangerous" or bad, in the absense of serious diligence toward the discovery of the *benefits* of growth, is just so much fear-mongering, clearly indicating that the Emperor of No Growth Metrics has no clothes.