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How much more housing can Palo Alto handle?

Original post made by Arthur Keller 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 )

Comments (124)

Posted by Bill, a resident of Palo Verde
on Feb 22, 2007 at 9:40 am

Arthur, for my two cents' worth, your brief article was the wisest and clearest one I have seen yet. Would that our honorable Councilpersons would all ponder it. Would that the School District Supervisor and Board would become active in espousing their need for help in the coming flood. Would that the citizens could see at this time the size of the various bonds they will be asked to pay for to support all this growth. Would that someone would calculate if developers' fees come close to supporting even 5 % of the costs from the developments that they so handsomely profit from. For the sake of Palo Alto, may your voice remain strong !


Posted by Resident, a resident of Palo Verde
on Feb 22, 2007 at 11:11 am

Arthur, are you planning to run for City Council? If so, you would get my vote!


Posted by Anonymous Coward, a resident of Evergreen Park
on Feb 22, 2007 at 1:33 pm

Arthur's analysis points out salient problems and trade-offs with housing growth, and transit. Both are dilemmas that will not be solved unless we find a way to better coordinate housing growth and transit access among ALL our neighboring municipalities.

That said, how is the latter going to happen, without a serious restructuring of the decision-and-policy-making apparatus among ALL municipalities in our region? Who is going to take the lead on this?

My sense is that Palo Alto and its neighbors are suffering under the weight of structural decision-making constraints that will keep us from optimal solutions in housing and transport - leading to unbalanced solutions that defeat the social, housing, and transportation equilibriums we seek.

Also, it's legitimate to question the impact of growth, but I have seen precious little in the way of projections for the massive upward impact on housing prices and commercial viability that would result from long-term caps on housing here. Creating housing caps would also provide *disincentives* to strive toward affordable, accessible mass trnsport here, and throughout the region.

We need to create more effective means toward regional planning than we currently have. Palo Alto is part of a *region*, as are our neighboring municipalities. We need far more effective and **coordinated** regional planning than we currently have. How are we going to make the latter happen?


Posted by Walter_E_Wallis, a resident of Midtown
on Feb 22, 2007 at 2:16 pm

If not here, where?
Developers do not make people, people make people. I believe Palo Alto is enriched by new residents, and I believe we are weakened by the drawbridge mentality that would make a Brigadoon of us. I believe that our children will question our reluctance to continue the accomadation to the future that made out present so nice. "Stop the World, I Want to Get Off" made an interesting play but hardly a recipe for the future. Life is a process, not a goal.


Posted by Tim, a resident of Crescent Park
on Feb 22, 2007 at 2:38 pm

I believe Palo Alto needs more retail (tax base), not more homes.


Posted by Parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 22, 2007 at 4:48 pm

Agree with Tim.

And for a few other posters
If not here, where???? The dumbest thing I've ever heard. How about anywhere other than Palo Alto? How does lack of new housing development hurt Palo Alto? It wouldn't - it would just aggitate developers who are circling like vultures.

We don't need to pack people into this small town like sardines - it damages the quality of the city to grow population beyond our capacity. Its just dumb and it lowers quality of life for everyone.

Its time Palo Altan's start feeling a little more protective of Palo Alto, and acting like we have a treasure, not just another plot on the map for developers to have their way with.

Don't kid yourself, developers see dollar signs or else they wouldn't bother. And when they've reaped their $ (for no better reason than 'because they can') they'll be gone, and everyone in Palo Alto will be left with an overcrowded, service, school, traffic and open space poor community.

Its a really disgusting shame that the city council isn't acting in a more protective way of the gem that was (used to be?) Palo Alto. Sickening.


Posted by Mark, a resident of Palo Verde
on Feb 22, 2007 at 8:39 pm

If the city council was more business friendly, then maybe Palo Alto would have more retail instead of housing. Does anyone recall the 7 year holdup with the expansion of Hyatt Rickey's? Well no wonder the Four Seasons built a hotel in East Palo Alto without even bothering going through Palo Alto's Planning Department.

Anytime a business petitions to expand, the city seems to suppress the idea. First Hyatt Rickey's, now Toyota Magneussen's and Fry's Electronics? Lovely, University Ford shut down a few months ago and now Toyota might relocate. The city counci's actions discourage commercial growth. From the business owners' perspecitve, what's the point of moving into Palo Alto if they can't expand in the long run?

Fry's Electronics wants to expand its size, and what does the city council do? Offer to rezone the lot type and reduce the square footage of Fry's. The city council's actions are shunning business growth, leaving only one option for development, housing.


Posted by Jeremy Loski, a resident of Ventura
on Feb 22, 2007 at 8:54 pm

I rarely agree with Walter, but his point is well made. We're setting Palo Alto up as an enclave with a moat.

Arthur's comments make sense, as far as they go, but the analogies with New York City's housing, jobs, and transport variables don't quite mesh with the reality of _this_ region. "Anonymous Coward" nailed it - we have a structural, and regional, problem with adaptive decision making around these issues. Every community is "on its own", with little coordination, and collaborative planning that has teeth.

What's ironic about the no growth argument is that it will eventually *increase* the demand for dollars to support services. I want someone to explain how limiting population will make housing more affordable around here. With capped demand, what kind of community will we see, long-term? The no growth supporters don't talk about that.

I could be wrong, but my guess (from what I have seen over the years) is that most no growthers are older Palo Altans, from the northern part of the city - or they're young Palo Altans who have inherited housing here.

If one speaks with people in the fast-growing southern portion of our city, or most newly minted residents, there is very little concern about municipal expansion.

Our city is going to grow, and change. If we're smart about planning for - AND making the best adaptations to that change - we'll have something to be proud of, and leave to another generation.


Posted by Walter_E_Wallis, a resident of Midtown
on Feb 22, 2007 at 9:06 pm

Thank you, parent for making my point. All you who snear at "greedy" developers, I assume you hand back your paycheck and work just for the good feeling it gives you. Ludd and Malthus, the patron saints of Palo Alto.


Posted by curious, a resident of Downtown North
on Feb 23, 2007 at 12:07 am

Palo Alto is at a crossroads - it's future budgets will not support the current services, the need to address some sorely needed deferred maintenance, as well as the capital outlays for a new public safety building & library upgrade.

The choice is either cut services, or increase the tax base of the city. Unfortunately, there is a bias against big retailers in Palo Alto - you can see all the "big box" stores located close to the Palo Alto city border though - Walmart, Target, Best Buy, Home Depot, Office Depot, Staples, ... So forget about using retail sales tax to help out.

Another would be to pass parcel taxes - but that is pretty hit or miss in the past. The school parcel tax took two tries; the libary parcel tax failed.

That leaves getting property re-assessed to it's current market value. So what's happened over the last few years is that the city has been approving housing developments from Commercial/Industrial sites - property taxes go way up because of the sale, and since residential property turns over more frequently than a commercial/industrial site, it provides a continued stream of more dollars.

If Palo Alto doesn't want more housing, then the alternatives are to 1) cut services, 2) pass more taxes, or 3) allow some big retailers into town.


Posted by Arthur Keller, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Feb 23, 2007 at 1:36 am

1. I am not planning to run for City Council in 2007, but thanks to Resident for the endorsement.

2. I remember when Palo Alto forcibly shuttered neighborhood businesses, like Rudolfo's restaurant on El Camino and Los Robles, so it could be converted to housing. That was going to happen to Fry's Electronics, but the City Council has now changed the zoning to allow Fry's to stay.

3. University Ford went out of business in both Palo Alto and Menlo Park, and that was while Menlo Park had a pro-growth City Council. Maybe people around here are buying fewer American cars. The Volvo dealership took over the larger location next door that formerly housed the Ford dealership. The Toyota dealership is proposing to expand with a used car lot across the street, an item that will appear before the Planning and Transportation Commission on March 14. And the City Council is working with Anderson Honda to provide expansion space for storing cars.

4. Palo Alto is not the only city concerned about the growth of housing. The Mayor of Mountain View is proposing to freeze housing in their city while a new General Plan is written.

5. Palo Alto has had an Below Market Rate (BMR) housing program for decades. We're one of the few cities in the Bay Area with a significant requirement for BMR housing that actually provided something near our allocated quota. But there is practically no physical way that Palo Alto could actually build enough BMR housing units to satisfy demand. And land is so expensive in Palo Alto that developers have to build expensive housing to recoup their costs. They can sell that expensive housing because people want to move into Palo Alto, especially because of the schools.

6. Since Palo Alto is a basic aid district, every additional student merely slices the budget pie into a smaller pieces for each student. New housing does not pay for the expansion of the schools to cover the exta students, nor the extra per student costs of the extra students. We're filling in the fields with permanent modular classrooms. How many years until those modulars will need to be replaced?

7. To Mr. Loski, I didn't inherit my house, and I live in South Palo Alto. My daughters will attend Gunn High School in the fall.

8. Perhaps the reason you hear no-growthers in North Palo Alto is because their elementary schools are already full. Once the housing at the former Hyatt property, the 150 townhouses at East Meadow Circle, the 100 townhouses at West Bayshore, and the Bridge housing complex are occupied, the schools in South Palo Alto will also be full, as predicted by PAUSD for 2011. You'll then likely hear a lot more no-growthers in South Palo Alto.

9. Palo Alto has approved more housing units in the last 9 years than in the preceding two decades. In spite of that housing growth, housing prices have gone up considerably in those 9 years. I'd say that the housing growth is because of the dramatic increase in housing prices.

10. Years ago, Palo Alto may have needed pro-housing growth policies because housing was not the most profitable use of land. Economics and policies were working in opposite directions. Now that housing is the most profitable use of land, economics and policies have accelerated housing growth. Now that economics is the driver for housing growth, policies that promote housing growth are no longer needed. Instead policies that promote preservation of our tax base are needed.

11. To Mr. Loski, where would you put the new PAUSD students, children of the new residents? Where would you put the new parks, the new playing fields, for these children?

12. To Mr. Wallis, the Luddites smashed the looms not because they didn't want progress. Rather, it was because the loom owners lowered their wages to the fewer workers needed. The Luddites did not smash the looms of the loom owners who paid the same wages as before. The reason we think the Luddites were anti-technology is because history is written by the victors, in other words, by the loom owners who paid low wages but wanted to deflect attention from those low wages as the cause of action.

13. To Mr. Wallis, Malthus seems to have been two centuries ahead of his time. With the world on its way to 9 billion people, which most population scientists think is beyond the carrying capacity of the earth, and with climate change increasing as a result of man-made activities (most notably greenhouse gases), the effects Malthus predicted are happening. Most fish species are down by 90 percent in population due to factory ocean harvesting. Our farming topsoil is disappearing at an alarming rate. The Oglala Aquifer under the Great Plains is being drained at an unsustainable rate. One day we may well see the Great Plains become a giant Dust Bowl when the aquifer dries up.

14. To Curious, there is some debate whether housing pays its way in covering the cost of city services, but housing does not pay its way in covering the additional cost of school facilities and per-students costs. Also we did not have a Library parcel tax, but a bond issue that failed. When Proposition 13 passed, residents paid 1/3 of property tax and businesses paid 2/3. Now it is the opposite. Prop 13 limits property tax growth in the absence of a sale to 2% per year. Perhaps it is time for a split roll, where commercial real estate increases at, say, 7% per year.


Posted by Does not matter, a resident of Green Acres
on Feb 23, 2007 at 7:17 am

More housing or more retail--it does not matter as far as PA is concerned--the issues will be tied in discussions for years. If you propose housing, people complain about to much housing or too much traffic etc. If it is retail, people only want boutique stores that do not serve the needs of most PA residents--then also there are arguments about traffic etc.
The City Council refuses to take the lead--they are afraid of angering anyone. So they let things languish for years, hire consultants, postpone votes and basically let a small group of NIMBYists lea them around by the nose. While all this is going on, our mayor is promoting "environmental" issues while our city crumbles before us and other city council members are spending thousands of dollars jetting around the country in the delusional belief that other cities are interested in what PA does.


Posted by Walter_E_Wallis, a resident of Midtown
on Feb 23, 2007 at 7:30 am

The looms old Ned didn't smash made cloth available to the masses. The work building looms paid much better than operating them. The Stanford Malthus, Ehrlich, predicts no better than Malthus the First, and "many scientists" are proving that many scientists can be as venal and deceitful as politicians when there is a grant or a buck in it for them. Have another sip of populist PC Koolaid.


Posted by curious, a resident of Downtown North
on Feb 23, 2007 at 7:37 am

Arthur,

Housing may or may not cover the cost of additional students, but the change in use does bring in more taxes to the city and to the school district. Take the condo development at East Meadow Circle. It was an office building before, probably assessed for $1 or 2 million dollars, bought in $10,000 - $20,000 in property taxes a year. Its now being developed into 75 condos, at an average price of $900,000 - $950,000 per unit, for an assessed value of around $67 million. It will now bring in $670,000 in property taxes, another $37,500 in school parcel tax, and there is the city transfer tax on each time a unit is sold (roughly $200,000 on the initial conversion). Then there are the fees that the city charges for development.

The city could have stopped the development, and continued getting its $10,000 - $20,000 per year, which would not really help with the budget; it approved the development, and now it will bring in 30 - 60 times the taxes. On a cost per student, the portion that goes to school district will probably cover 40 students. Will there be 40 students per year from the new residents of those condos? I don't think anyone knows.

As to the bond issue for the Library - it would come back to the residents as more taxes, and the residents didn't approve it.

I doubt there is enough voter sentiment in all of California to change Prop 13 specifically just for businesses.


Posted by Tim, a resident of Crescent Park
on Feb 23, 2007 at 9:05 am

I could be wrong but I remember the property tax person telling me that for every $1000.00 you pay in property tax- the city gets about $90.00. The rest goes to the feds and state.


Posted by curious, a resident of Downtown North
on Feb 23, 2007 at 11:10 am

Tim,

What I heard from the city was around 8% goes to the city, 8% to the county, and most of the rest to the school district, because Palo Alto is a basic aid district...

Feds don't get anything, as this is a local tax.


Posted by Jeremy Loski, a resident of Ventura
on Feb 23, 2007 at 1:11 pm

Arthur - back to you...

1) There is little connection between what happened to Rudolpho's on El Camino, and the recent coddling of Fry's. I want someone to convince me that the location managers at Fry's didn't lick their chops over that Council decision (highly influenced by locals who have little understanding of Fry's business model, or the sector that it operates in). Will Fry;s stay because we're pampering them? Don't bet on it. In fact, don't bet that the pampering even so much as increased the odds that Fry's will stay.


2) University Ford went out of business because 1) Ford makes an inferior product. In fact, Ford has actually managed to reduce the perceived value of Volvo's products since Ford rolled up the Volvo company some years ago. Nice going, Ford.


3) Why aren't the mayors of all Peninsula cities insisting on the creation of a strong regionally-based strategic initiative to manage growth and transport? Could it be that this is because that most mayors are appointed, and have little power to effectively impact change?


4) Regardless Palo Alto's BMR builds, there is little true innovation in housing here. Look to Europe and the Far East for innovative housing solutions. We *can* have more affordable housing here, created in ways that would not compromise out quality of life. It takes political will and leadership to make these things happen


5) My sense is that your fear of modulars filling in the fields is unfounded. When is PAUSD going to bring in management that begins real innovation in educational structure - something that prepares kids for something other than excellence in academia. How about excellence in *doing*, as well as studying. The latter is what drives adult excellence. How long are we going to wait for municipal leadership that locates a way to cure the separation that has existed between city and school since Prop 13? I'm waiting.


7. You may not have inherited your house, but most of the City Council meetings I've witness with large "no growth" contingents speaking meet the condition of being from the northern part of the city, and being older residents - you may be the exception.


8) When the schools fill up, we can build new ones, based on innovative designs that don't cost an arm and a leg; we can start unique co-op programs that don't depend so fully on on-site education; we can demand these and many other reforms (that work elsewhere) from our school administrators. All the latter instead of the constant mantra of how the sky is going to fall if we add more good citizens to our community, a community that is already beginning to stagnate.



9. You're somewhat correct in that higher prices for housing have spurred housing growth here, but that can be said of other communities as well. Wait to see what happens if we cap housing growth. Prices here will _really_ go through the roof, and skew our demographic far to one side.



10. Yes, we need policies that promote increase in tax base. Where are they? Also, do the latter policies imply less population growth? Not necessarily. We need to think a little more successfully _inside_ the box in Palo Alto. What we need to do is innovate within our known constraints; this is exactly what we're NOT doing. Instead, we're tackling problems as they appear. What about creating inter-municipal efficiencies (police, library, etc. etc.) efficiencies that would make ouru tax dollars go further. the opportunity is sitting right under our noses.


11. You ask where I would put the new students. See #8, for starters. In a way, your question reinforces my claim that we're not willing to think in ways that solve the problems yo bring up. There are models out there that solve these problems. Why aren't we talking about those models. All I hear is how the sky is going to fall if we increase population. I think humann beings are more innovative and adaptable than many Palo Altans give them credit for. Why won't school officials engage innovation that is something other than a new wrinkle in a language program. We need broader thinking, and far more effective _execution_ of innovation coming from our elected and appointed leaders.


12. I think you took Mr Wallis' comments out of context. He was not using the Luddite example to exactly parallel the experience of the Luddites, but rather to point out how resistant to change some in this community seem to be.


13. Yes, Mathus was right, and so have been many others who have, in series, solved some of the vexing environmental problems that Mathus predicted. To be sure, we have some big challenges ahead of us, but the sky is not falling. Let's roll up our sleeves and work together in a way that forces innovation (instead of just talking about it). Let's stop trying to roll back the clock to the "good old days". They're gone. Live forward, adapt, innovate, and _celebrate_ the past - don't let the latter, and nostalgia for same, keep us from resisting whatyou and I and everyone else around here can count on happening - i.e. change


Posted by jq public, a resident of Fairmeadow
on Feb 23, 2007 at 1:22 pm

I thought I could figure out the answer with a quick google. good grief this is difficult. I can't find one county or local document that just lays out the percentage in simple aggregate terms. unbelievable really.

the closest that I could come is this generic chronicle story:
Web Link

It seems to indicate that about 30 cents on the dollars goes to schools in revenue limit districts. Since Palo Alto is a basic aid district that gets perhaps 50-60% more, I might extrapolate that 45% or so of property taxes go to local schools, but that's just a SWAG.

if somebody has a readable document that breaks out the percentages I'd be happy to see it.


Posted by Bill, a resident of Palo Verde
on Feb 23, 2007 at 3:34 pm

To Jeremy Loski---

I thought point 8 of your analysis was interesting
1. Can you share with the rest of us WHERE you plan on having new schools built? Is
tahat PAUSD land on privately owned land? What do you reckon its cost or value to be?
Does the school district have the funds?
2. And share also, if you please, some details of "innovative designs" that don't cost much.
3. Are yor recommending home schooling part-time? Do parents like this? Do most kids?
4. Not at question is whether adding overwhelming student populations has anything to
do with "goodness" of the added folks. I haven't seen an argument which deplores overwhelming school capacity by specifing that the added kids are inferior or lack goodness.
5. Can you provide more info as to what you mean by PA "stagnating"? Are you referring
to lack of citizen-oriented commercial operations, such as Mtn. View has?


Posted by Steve Raney, a resident of Crescent Park
on Feb 23, 2007 at 4:50 pm

I think it's interesting to examine this subject from a global warming standpoint. This coming Tuesday night, there will be a very interesting and educational talk that explains the terrible choices we face related to {regional population growth, housing in Palo Alto, and global warming.}

Tuesday, February 27, 2007
Briefing: "Greenbelts and Green Livable Urban Environments (GLUE)"

In this second in a series of Acterra environmental issue briefings, Michele Beasley, South Bay representative for Greenbelt Alliance, and Don Weden, retired Principal Planner for Santa Clara County, will explain why we must pursue Greenbelts and GLUE simultaneously. In the Acterra conference room.

Time: 7pm - 9pm.
Location: Acterra, 3921 East Bayshore Rd., near San Antonio Rd. and Hwy. 101, Palo Alto.
Cost: $5 (free with Acterra membership).
Info: 650-903-3419, debbiem@acterra.org.


Posted by Erin, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 23, 2007 at 5:06 pm

I would like to ask all the folks commenting on this growth issue:
Do you have any children? How about your siblings? How many kids? (Rhetorical Q-you do not need to all answer on-line) We have experienced medical and sanitary advances that have majorly increased human lifespan such that our entire planet needs to make MAJOR changes to stop our population explosion. The reality is that the world cannot afford to have much more growth. Perhaps the majority of individuals will eventually take ownership of this task that we should all strive toward in order to save our planet from resource depletion and people overload, but things just aren't "uncomfortable" enough yet for people to take that seriously. Too easy to jump in a gas-guzzling SUV and head for Tahoe with the 2-plus kids, for example. Given that our country will not pass a China-esque 1 baby policy, we need to have plans for "smart growth" for the known population expansion. I hear you- we have a lovely place to live and we don't want it massed up. We do not need sprall into the wonderful foothills, however. We don't need to dump all this burden on our neighboring communities either and selfishly protect our own little spot. The reality of market forces will not make this very feasable anyway- there are a number of things that draw people to the area. Just focusing on Palo Alto's growth is short-sighted related to the big picture problem, as others have noted.

I think there is room for regional planning and smart growth that helps us and does not overburden our neighbors. We (meaning the whole country) may need to live in smaller homes, have greater numbers of people living in one space. Things will be less comfortable--much of the rest of the world deals with this-- but in the long run it may be better for future generations and the planet. We (Palo Alto) shouldn't just dump people to the central valley-meaning loss of farmland (so we need to get our food from even further away), and increased commuting and green house gas emissions. Thisis a band-aid on a time bomb. Smart growth should occur near jobs and transport. It will not do any good to build a moat around our Brigadoon if the surrounding areas are paved over to get out to the Central Valley and there's a smog cloud floating above.

City Council does a public service and serves long hours for little pay ($600/month). It is easy to complain about them or just go and whine for 3 minutes. Harder is to volunteer to be active in the city by serving on various committees or do other types of public service efforts. If you have concrete ideas for ways to make things better-consider serving in this capacity.

There are serious issues that need to be addressed, but I think to say our city is cumbling around us is a bit strong. Take a trip to Afghanistan or Iraq or much of Africa for a reality check.
Our country uses many more resources than we are alotted by population count, so we all need to learn to live slightly less high on the hog.


Posted by Walter_E_Wallis, a resident of Midtown
on Feb 23, 2007 at 6:54 pm

Our community pays back for whatever we use, and more. Power and intelligence increase the holding power of the earth. At the turn of the last century, up to half our population was engaged in feeding us. I think it is down to 2% now. We are guided as much by our failures as by our successes. This requires the unfettered ability to try. Directed growth has never worked and it never will. As for Global Warming, amazingly, the cure is exactly the same as global cooling, the Yellow Peril and California falling into the sea - more control over our lives, higher taxes, retreat to the village.


Posted by Paolo Rossi Altobelli, a resident of Downtown North
on Feb 23, 2007 at 7:35 pm

For those isolationits Shallow Altans, Calm down. No insults. Live and let Live. Let people express their feelings. If you are scared of more housing, then, no one is holding you here, on to the Nevada desert where the housing is scarce, you can build your schools, your whole foods, and your sad Cafe Verona.
Shallow Alto is thriving because of the housing. Look around. Shallow Alto in the 80's was like dumpster, now the housing made it what it is today. I too think about the days when you see no one on University Avenue after 9pm but I rather see it the way it is now. Again, Isolanist Shallow Altans, the Nevada desert is vast and you can form your own council and vote for each other.
All the best,
Paolo Rossi


Posted by Bob Gardiner, a resident of Midtown
on Feb 23, 2007 at 8:32 pm

Incredible technical innovation from Stanford and Cal, Not high density housing, brought the wealth to Palo Alto, which spurred the resurrection of downtown through professional offices, boutique retail shops and high end restaurants. They do not cater to low income folks.


Posted by Anonymous Coward 2, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Feb 23, 2007 at 10:32 pm

A little off topic, but as a "recent younger pro growth" resident of the North part of Palo Alto, paying nearly 20,000 dollars a year in property tax - surrounded by neighbours paying 2,000 - there must be some middle ground there that could really introduce a phenominal amount of revenue for cities and schools. The system is just so unfair right now.


Posted by Jeremy Loski, a resident of Ventura
on Feb 23, 2007 at 10:33 pm

Bill,

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
Web Link

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 Bob Gardiner, a resident of Midtown
on Feb 23, 2007 at 11:30 pm

JL please clarify your comments.........

"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). "

'Palo Alto is stagnating, I mean less economic diversity'?
you want more economic diversity; i.e., more distinction based on wealth?

what do you mean by 'our city's necessary growth'?
necessary for who?

'growth has saved Palo Alto' from what?


Posted by Jeremy Loski, a resident of Ventura
on Feb 24, 2007 at 12:15 am

Bob,

Economic diversity: Palo Alto's economic base is becoming more and more dependent on niche, high-end retail. Let's look at ways to change that. The window is closing, fast.

Not distinction based on wealth - not at all - - that's only one part of the wealth recipe - how about more wealth based on based on distinction other than financial wealth - like health (ohysical and mental), community, etc. etc. What we're heading for is a community that will distinguish itself based mostly on one's ability to afford to live here, and little else. That's unfortunate. If we're as intelligent as we think we are, we will adapt to change, and thrive as we grow. Where's the talk about the latter as a possibility? All I hear is whining about how the sky will fall if we pass the projected 80,000 citizen mark. Nonsense.

"Necessary growth" is growth that is going to happen here and everywhere else unless you and some friends can find a way to create birth control techniques that keep people from having babies.

Bob, you're stuck in a conundrum. You want to make Palo Alto the "most special place to live" by controling housing supply. That makes people work even harder to find ways to move here. Think about it. No matter how hard yuo try to keep it from happening, Palo Alto and surrounding communities are going to grow, and those that don't like it will complain, learn to adapt, or leave. You have three choices; I suggest the middle way (smart adaptation).

Growth happens no matter what you do, unless a municipality reaches true exclusivity via price disincentives, or decays from economic collapse (not likely here).

Growth has saved Palo Alto from remaining a stuffy summer enclave for folks from San Francisco; we grew away from that, thank goodness. What we currently see is a relatively small number of citizens trying to keep new citizens out by creating FUD in the policy-making arena. btw, The history archive at Main Library is fun to look through, Have a go :)


Posted by Tim, a resident of Crescent Park
on Feb 24, 2007 at 8:53 am

I have lived in Palo Alto for 26 years and every year I find myself spending more of my money outside the city. Why? Because Palo Alto is failing in bring in the big retail that the surrounding cities are doing to build up their tax base.
New housing is fine but where do think these homeowners are going to shop? Not in Palo Alto.



Posted by Wolf, a resident of Palo Verde
on Feb 24, 2007 at 10:34 am

The believers in Malthus and Ehrlich may want to read Web Link before scaring us all to death, or taking control of our life in the name of saving us from a disaster. Those that lived long enough have seen such prophets of doom come and go. And the damage they did with their prophesies.


Posted by Bob Gardiner, a resident of Midtown
on Feb 24, 2007 at 12:13 pm

JL says: "you're stuck in a conundrum. You want to make Palo Alto the "most special place to live" by controling housing supply. That makes people work even harder to find ways to move here. Think about it. No matter how hard yuo try to keep it from happening, Palo Alto and surrounding communities are going to grow"
BG: JL,you may be, but I am not "stuck in a conundrum". Those residents that own houses do not have to work harder to find ways to move here. Whose interests are you advocating, PA homeowners, or non-PA wannabees? Your arguments support wannabees/renters, not homeowners.


JL says: ""Necessary growth" is growth that is going to happen here and everywhere else unless you and some friends can find a way to create birth control techniques that keep people from having babies."
BG: That does not make any sense. Births do not necessitate growth in Palo Alto. Most people born and/or raised here do not live here.


JL says: "Growth happens no matter what you do, unless a municipality reaches true exclusivity via price disincentives, or decays from economic collapse (not likely here)."
BG: Communities without planning end up with unfettered growth. But planned communities do not require constant growth. However, even in planned communities, growth will continue if special interests are successful in pushing their interests over the interests of existing residents/homeowners, and thereby earning big bucks by changing zoning in their favor.


JL: "Growth has saved Palo Alto from remaining a stuffy summer enclave for folks from San Francisco;"
BG: ? What century are you referring to? For the last 70+ years, growth in Palo Alto, and the bay area in general, reflected the availability and price of land.


Posted by Another perspective, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 24, 2007 at 10:49 pm

Yes our schools are overcrowded and yes, things in education will change, probably from the top, down. Our highschoolers will be sitting in joint classes, some at a room in Gunn and Some at a room in Paly, all studying math with a teacher sitting in a room in Churchill, an aide in command and about 10 different classes going on in the same room. District staff know this will happen, it is happening already at Stanford (so they tell me) and this will change education all the way down to kindergarten. But that does not tell me that our schools will not suffer from overcrowding. There will still only be one lead in the school play, one captain of the football team, one homecoming queen - it will just be that much harder for any one individual to get there. There is not enough room in the shade (or out of the rain) for our middle schoolers to eat lunch. There is not enough room in the MP rooms or cafetoriums for all the school to have assemblies together, or for parents to watch school concerts. Our schools are overcrowded because they were not designed for these numbers.

As for recreation, anyone who has a child in ayso, basketball, little league, etc. knows how difficult it is to find enough play space at our parks or gyms to make these leagues work efficiently and every season there are more players than the season before.

Waiting lists for camps, after school activities, child care, preschool, swim clubs, tennis clubs, etc. etc. are all long and can't be extended due to lack of facilities space.

Palo Alto is bursting at the seams. If we want more housing, then fine, but we have to sort out facilities for recreation too. And, this is only one aspect. Our drains, road system, shopping, parking, in fact everything that we use, need to be upgraded. Has anyone even thought about how something like the shuttle is overcrowded.

We need to think about the basics of what makes Palo Alto a good place to live before inviting more to live here. If we can find more space for residents to live before finding them more space to be housed then we might be getting somewhere.


Posted by Walter_E_Wallis, a resident of Midtown
on Feb 25, 2007 at 7:32 am

A pity the city does not have someone responsible to see that the physical plant is kept up and improved.


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 Arthur Keller, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Feb 25, 2007 at 9:20 am

To Mr. Wallis: The Director of Public Works has the responsibility "to see that the physical plant is kept up and improved." The Director of Public Works reports to the City Manager, who in turn reports to the City Council.


Posted by Walter_E_Wallis, a resident of Midtown
on Feb 25, 2007 at 11:03 am

In theory. Then the council prioritizes.


Posted by Tim, a resident of Crescent Park
on Feb 25, 2007 at 11:18 am

Arthur,

Great info! Don't forget the Elks just sold most of their property for high density housing too. I bet most of these new homes will work and shop outside our city also.


Posted by Jeremy Loski, a resident of Ventura
on Feb 25, 2007 at 12:53 pm

Arthur has done a fine job of expressing his opinion, but is conveniently conflating the failure of various markets and the addition of more housing with policy failure and economics. There's some truth to what he says, but his ultimate assumptions are somewhat misleading, and designed to support his argument about how we have too much housing. He opened his essay with a question, but it appears he has already made up his mind about growth.

Another truth indicates that much of what we have in Palo Alto in terms of downtown development and a MUCH larger population (which most appear to be happy with as we've grown considerably since the 60's) is a DIRECT result of growth. How can anyone argue otherwise? Are most Palo Altans unhappy with PA, today? That's not what I'm hearing.

We have the Marguerite because of Stanford's willingness to help relieve intra-city transport. We have a better school system because the demographics of the population coming in has demanded better schools, etc. The sky did not fall down. Yes, "the good old days" are different than today, and for most, not worse. Who wants to come out and argue for today's Palo Alto being a worse-off place than in the 60's? I want to hear those arguments. Growth made "today" happen.

More planned growth, led by innovative ideas that are executable on the ground will take us forward.

Arthur says that "limitations of geography and the foresighted preservation of open space rule out large scale increases of housing in most places on the Peninsula". Does Arthur's statement allow for housing and commercial space innovations that permit more growth? It doesn't appear so. Thus, we hear the same old saw about the evils of growth. Friends, growth is not evil; unplanned growth is. The problem with PA is that the no growth crowd won't even let our policy makers consider how to plan effectively *allowing* for innovation. That will not work in the long run, and will hurt our community relative to others - in quality of life, and opportunity.

Here's an interesting statistic: about 12% of newcomers to this area will be able to afford to buy a home (that's the Bay area). Is that a good thing? Don't forget, many PA homeowners will be cycling out of their homes, and selling them. What does all this imply for PA's demographic, in terms of a skew in only one direction? What does that imply in terms of demand for certain kinds of services? Think about it.

Arthur's stats about where PA workers live are interesting; I've seen them before. What they indicate is a regional distribution of commuters, yet we have very little in the way of starting initiatives to create unique, new approaches to municipal development with our neighbors. Why isn't PA talking to Redwood City and Mt. View - or San Jose? We're all connected, but we're not talking. In fact, it's the parochialism of our and our neighbor's respective approaches to development that is creating our largest problems. We'd better get together, soon.

It's always fun to see CalTrain stats used in a way to prove that we can't increase ridership, or using statistics accociated with the present *ineffective* (compared to almost anywhere else in the world) systems of mass transit that we have here to project that (as Arthur states) "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."

What's concluded in Arthur's argument is that we can innovate with the population we have to improve alternate means of transport, but if we add people, we won't be able to do that. Arthur's seems an argument made to support his conclusions. Unfortunately, this is an argument that has played very effectively in front of prior policy makers. It's an argument put forward by a rather small contingent of dedicated "no growth" proponents who have cost Palo Alto a LOT of revenue and diversity by keeping productive retail away from our city, or causing such delay by abuse of process that only the most hard-knuckled developers dare to venture here.

What's ironic about all this, from the "no growthers" perspective is that their dedicated stance and obfuscation of process has led to an evolution of developer tactics that have figured out how to get growth happening here *anyway*. In fact, and in a very large irony, it's the "no growth" crowd that is responsible for the current patterns of growth that they currently decry.

Careful planning has a place in community development, but if that planning is based on faulty assumptions and projections that are cobbled together out of fear, then we're going to hurt ourselves in the long run. We will continue to grow for some time; let's do it right, and do it in a way that isn't attached put forward by those who are against growth to begin with. Palo Alto needs to turn a corner on this; it's my sense that we're on our way to doing that, by listening to measured approaches to growth, and eschewing the fear tactics put out there by those who want to live in the past.


Posted by Tim, a resident of Crescent Park
on Feb 25, 2007 at 4:33 pm

Mr. Loski,

Where do you shop? No problem with growth as long as it is balance with growth in our tax base. Look at the surrounding cities from Mt Veiw to Gilroy. Auto dealerships, high end supermarkets, box retail. All to support city services as more housing is built in their cities. Palo Alto is way BEHIND in this balance. I hope we can catch up!


Posted by Palo Alto Mom, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Feb 25, 2007 at 5:22 pm

Mr.Loski said "growth is not evil; unplanned growth is."
That's right. Palo Alto has a Comprehensive plan for growth but the City Council ignores it. The recent approval of 195 Page Mill Road is a perfect example of unplanned growth.

Where will you put new schools? and how will you raise the huge sums to build and support them. The school board is struggling to keep up with increased enrollments. There is a limit to the magic they can perform.
When new people move into new housing or buy existing houses they are usually young families with children. That's mostly what attracts new people here, the schools.
Young families are intense users of city services; what about playgrounds, there are already lots of complaints about waiting lists and crowded playing fields. Where will you put them?

Being in favor of innovation is so trite. Like people who think technology is the solution to all problems. Thanks to Mr. Keller for bringing out the facts and the real issues.


Posted by Bob Gardiner, a resident of Midtown
on Feb 25, 2007 at 7:51 pm

JL says: "Another truth indicates that much of what we have in Palo Alto in terms of downtown development and a MUCH larger population (which most appear to be happy with as we've grown considerably since the 60's) is a DIRECT result of growth. How can anyone argue otherwise?"

Apparently JL is the keeper of 'the truth'. The population increase in Palo Alto did not bring back downtown. It came back due to increased wealth from technological advancements in the valley in general, and PA specifically. The city council made zoning concessions which increased land values. Palo Alto's downtown is not any better than any others (Los Altos, Menlo Park) in the area. More traffic does not imply a better downtown.

JL: "Are most Palo Altans unhappy with PA, today? That's not what I'm hearing."

How many people do you talk to that have moved out of Palo Alto? Apparently, not a lot. Most people raised in Palo Alto leave. Not because they cannot afford to live here. But because they do not want to raise their families in high density housing on busy streets. For their money, they can find a better standard of living outside of Palo Alto. High density housing is NOT going to change that. It only exacerbates the problem.

You choose to ignore the external costs and hidden taxes (traffic jams, noise pollution, increased utility rates) resulting from High Density housing. All of these things make it more expensive for everyone, and especially senior citizens to live here.


Posted by Jeremy Loski, a resident of Ventura
on Feb 25, 2007 at 8:04 pm

Tim, I shop all over the place, but a lot of my bulk shopping happens outside of Palo Alto. Too bad.

I'd love to be able to shop at a Costco in Palo Alto. Why not? Perhaps when Fry's leaves - and it probably will - we can replace it with Costco, or another large, comprehensive retailer. I can't wait for Trader Joe's to move into Town and Country. How about a big box at Edgewood Plaza? Any chance of that happening, even though it's a perfect spot to consider big box, given the neighboring big box retailers in nearby EPA, located near 101? I doubt it; the developer who bought that land will be harrassed to no end by citizens (all with different aesthetics).

Palo Alto Mom, If we grow, we'll have a larger population to pay for needed services. Isn't that easy? The sky won't fall, just as it didn't fall as PA has expanded in population over the last few decades. This is a great place to live, just as it was in 1960 - albeit a different place.

As far as 195 Page Mill goes, I can't wait to see kids playing, and people living and working when it's built out and settled. Finally, after years of neglect that derelict spot (where undesirables gather in the evening, and on weekends) will no longer be a blight and saftey hazard to the neighborhood. Funny, a relative few people want to stop this project, and keep things the way they are, or cause delays that would cancel development there for another several years. What are they thinking? Literally every one of my neighbors, and many others I've spoken with about this project WANT it built.


Posted by Palo Alto Mom, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Feb 25, 2007 at 11:51 pm

Mr. Loski said >> If we grow, we'll have a larger population to pay for needed services. Isn't that easy? The sky won't fall, just as it didn't fall as PA has expanded in population over the last few decades.<<
Nobody said anything about the sky falling. I just said the schools and playgrounds are crowded. Why misrepresent what I said? And the new residents won't remotely pay for the costs they create.
I happen to have the population figures for 1985 because of some work I was doing at the time. According to the Calif. Dept.of Finance our population was 56,815 in 1985.
Our population now is approximately 61,000.
So in the past 21 years we have grown by a little over 4,000 people. We have NOT grown much in the past 21 years. Mr. Loski said: "growth has saved Palo Alto" and "Growth made "today" happen" That is simply not true.


Posted by Jeremy Loski, a resident of Ventura
on Feb 26, 2007 at 2:01 am

PA Mom,

Here are some more facts:

population (from the US Census)
1980 55,142
1970 56,040
1960 52,287
1950 25,475
1940 16,774
1930 13,652
1920 5,900
1910 4,486
1900 1,658

We more than doubled our population between 1940 and 1960, and guess what? Palo Alto became a better, more interesting place to live.

By 2030 we're projected to have just over 80,000 people. Starting at 1980, that's only a 45% population increase in **50** years. Why worry?

Growth, properly planned for, and permitted to accomodate innovation, is a good thing.


Posted by Jeremy Loski, a resident of Ventura
on Feb 26, 2007 at 2:09 am

Bob Gardiner says more housing will make senior living more expensive. Hogwash!

Innovative, small footprint homes (in high density clusters), group homes, condos, and granny units, would help senior citizens stay. I remember a few years ago when no growth advocates kept seniors and others who wanted to build granny units on their properties from doing so.

When the cit ysaid they would limit such permits to a measly *6* granny units per year, the no growthers came out of the woodworks. Thank goodness their day in the sun is passing!

How many senior citizens would have been able to maintain a residence here, enabled by building a granny home on their property. Were you one of the people crying out against the granny units, Bob?


Posted by Arthur Keller, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Feb 26, 2007 at 10:48 am

Mr. Loski observes that Palo Alto grew from 1940 to 1960. However, that expansion was both in population and land area. During that period of time, Palo Alto built numerous schools within walking distance of all the houses. Those schools included playing fields for our student athletes.

Mr. Loski also observes that between 1980 and 2030, we will grow by 45% in 50 years. However, during that 50 years, it is likely that Palo Alto will not have opened one new school, but it did close and sell off some, and reopen some it had previously closed.

Where will you put the schools and playing fields to accommodate the new growth you advocate?

------------

Stanford's Marguerite shuttle was created first the reduce driving by students, and second to reduce the need to build parking (which gobbles up expensive land). No new-net-car-trip limitations are more recent, and the shuttle is one way to meet that requirement.

-----------

The price of housing is largely based on geographical limitations. Most of the housing growth in the last 25 years has occurred in the last 10 years (built, permitted, or planned), as housing prices have continued to climb. Increased housing prices is driving new housing growth.

The suggestion that increasing population to 80,000 will somehow slow down the rise in housing prices is interesting. Right now, homes in Palo Alto sell for a premium, primarily because of the quality of the schools in Palo Alto. A home in Los Altos Hills in the Palo Alto Unified School district is worth considerably more than the comparable Los Altos Hills home with Los Altos schools. If our schools get more and more crowded, with a tax base split over more and more students, that premium will decrease. In my opinion, that's not a desirable way to make Palo Alto more affordable.


Posted by Too crowded now, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Feb 26, 2007 at 11:01 am

Mr. Loski,

Who is projecting that Palo Alto will have 80,000 people in 2030?


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?

Arthur,
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 Jay, a resident of Midtown
on Feb 26, 2007 at 1:33 pm

We can all complain about the city council and school board as much as we want. But, in the end, what it comes down to is that the city is hamstrung by Prop 13. Revenue growth will continue to lag spending, and things will just get worse.


Posted by Jeremy Loski, a resident of Ventura
on Feb 26, 2007 at 2:09 pm

Jay, What assumptions underlie your conclusion about revenue growth? How is it that some municipalities manage to invent ways to attract substantial new revenue growth, and opportunity - while others seem not to be able to do the same? Does Palo Alto automatically - for some unknown reason - fall into the latter category?

Why should it be a foregone conclusion that Palo Alto, or any other municipality, should live with the same structural revenue constraints brought on by Prop 13, as we have for years - WITHOUT looking for innovative ways to change that?

The means to change are out there. What it takes is political will, vision, and leadership to make that happen. Palo Alto is going to change; there's no stopping it.

The next 4-5 years will determine whether we become a backwater enclave, with a lack of commercial and residential diversity, or an enclave protected by unecessarily restrictive development policies that lock future citizens into furture alternative that they will come to regret.

Your post reinforces my conlusions about those who fear growth here. Thtose fears are largely made on projections that emanate from conditions, and a policy-making culture, that exist TODAY, without any seeming allowance for innovation in policy TOMORROW. That's disappointing, especially in a place that is always touting itself for innovative chops. Can Palo Alto walk the talk? We'll see.


Posted by Palo Alto Mom, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Feb 26, 2007 at 2:56 pm

Fear?
You say You keep repeating this nonsense.
How about contentment. We love our town and don't want radical change. A modest amount, yes, sure, but not your fantasmagoric projections of the future.
In fact, most big-growthers expect financial gain from growth, either financial or poltical gain. Is greed is preferable to love of community?


Posted by Jeremy Loski, a resident of Ventura
on Feb 26, 2007 at 3:25 pm

PA Mom,

Thank you for confirming what I have stated in earlier posts about the more determined fringe of the no growth movement here. My hope is that he will come to see more of a middle way than the one he appears to be currently supporting.

Of course, none of this will bring us to agreement on philosopies about growth here. We'll have to agree to disagree.

All that said, your statements about those who support growth are unecessarily generalized, and yet another mistaken assumption about growth and development here.

My sense is that in 1960 there were those who spoke about growth as you do now. What we're most likely going to see is well-planned, innovative (I hope( progess toward growth here that will make our community more vital, and diverse, and thus more able to cope with the large changes that we are certain to face in the future. There's strength in numbers, as long as diversity (in thought, and culture) in the mix; that's what will bring Palo Alto forward, and past the misguided (although well-intended) nostalgia of those who would freeze time in a bottle.


Posted by Arthur Keller, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Feb 26, 2007 at 6:03 pm

It is sometimes said (and recently by Mr. Loski) that new housing pays for new services. Councilmember Beecham's study Web Link shows that this notion for paying-for-itself is not the case.

"In very broad terms, our 26,500 housing units (including rentals) pay on average about $1,275 per unit a year to our general fund through all forms of taxes. But the city spends about $2,500 per unit on average for net residential services (78 percent of our budget, excluding user-paid services). The difference is subsidized by business.

"The typical Palo Alto homeowner (at the 50th percentile) pays about $375 annually in property taxes to the city. The new (2005) homeowner pays $1,000 more. While this extra $1,000 yearly from new homeowner helps cover the $1,225 subsidy, there is still an annual deficit per housing unit. (New homeowners probably pay a higher portion of sales and utility taxes but I did not find any reliable data for this.)"

By my reckoning, that means that the new homeowner pays $2,275 per year and costs $2,500 per year. First, this figure is for *operating* costs, not *capital* costs. Existing homes already paid for the infrastructure for our parks and schools and fire stations back when they were new and cheaper. New homes do not pay the full capital cost of their expansion at current costs.

Second, when an existing home resells, the City of Palo Alto gets the same $1000 increased revenue even though there isn't a need for increased City infrastructure. The City is therefore much better off when houses sell then when new ones are built.

Third, this data is for the City of Palo Alto. A separate calculation is needed (both for capital costs AND operating costs) for the Palo Alto Unified School District. PAUSD's general fund expenditures per student is $10,215 (2005 data). PAUSD receives 45% of the property tax collected within the district. So a newly sold $2 million home pays about $9,000 in property taxes and $493 in parcel tax. So it's a net loss if that $2 million home has a child, and even more so if it has two. "The [capital] cost of adding a classroom is approximately $264,000." (source: PAUSD packet 01/16/07) That's $13,200 per additional student. I doubt whether school impact fees on developers completely cover that cost.

Go ask the "Got space?" community whether there are enough playing field space in Palo Alto.


Posted by curious, a resident of Downtown North
on Feb 26, 2007 at 7:18 pm

Arthur,

Based on the same logic, with about 10,000 students, and 26,000 housing units, then only 40% of housing unit will produce students... that means every 2.5 units of new housing will produce a student; assuming an average of $1,000,000 per unit, then new housing brings in $13,500 in property taxes + $1,250 in parcel taxes for each student.

Lets use the development of the old Palo Alto Medical Foundation site as an example. Based on the your conclusions is the city better off financially when the developed the Palo Alto Medical Foundation into residential? or would the city have been better off making all park lands and playing fields? If the site were parks and playing fields, the city would have to spend more money maintaining the parks, and would not be receiving any additional property tax money.

There were approximately 100 units in that development (between the condominiums and single family houses. Since the condominiums were selling for over $1,000,000, I'm guessing that development added about $150 million in property values - this works out to $120,000 to the city each year (plus about $500,000 when they were first sold because of the city transfer tax), and about $725,000 to the schools. I didn't see any new fire stations, libraries, etc. being built to deal with the added population. I also think the residential community generates less traffic than the PA Medical center.


Posted by Bob Gardiner, a resident of Midtown
on Feb 26, 2007 at 7:42 pm

Jeremy Loski says: Hogwash! that more people in PA won't make senior more expensive in Palo Alto.

"Innovative, small footprint homes (in high density clusters), group homes, condos, and granny units, would help senior citizens stay. I remember a few years ago when no growth advocates kept seniors and others who wanted to build granny units on their properties from doing so. "

So, his solution is to have them build granny units, or better yet, move out of there homes into high density clusters.

Nice solution. That definitely provides them a better standard of living.


Posted by Bob Gardiner, a resident of Midtown
on Feb 26, 2007 at 7:55 pm

Curious, you previously reported:
"Housing may or may not cover the cost of additional students, but the change in use does bring in more taxes to the city and to the school district. Take the condo development at East Meadow Circle. It was an office building before, probably assessed for $1 or 2 million dollars, bought in $10,000 - $20,000 in property taxes a year. Its now being developed into 75 condos, at an average price of $900,000 - $950,000 per unit, for an assessed value of around $67 million. It will now bring in $670,000 in property taxes, another $37,500 in school parcel tax, and there is the city transfer tax on each time a unit is sold (roughly $200,000 on the initial conversion). Then there are the fees that the city charges for development.

The city could have stopped the development, and continued getting its $10,000 - $20,000 per year, which would not really help with the budget; it approved the development, and now it will bring in 30 - 60 times the taxes. On a cost per student, the portion that goes to school district will probably cover 40 students. Will there be 40 students per year from the new residents of those condos? I don't think anyone knows."

I am curious, I am guessing office space is valued at about $200/sqft ($30/sqft/yr in rent, GRM of 7). Therefore, if the E. Meadow property is worth $1M - $2M, then the building was only 5,000 square feet.

You said the city allowed development of 75 condos, at say 1,000 sq ft each (probably low if they are selling for close to $1M).
That means the city allowed a 5,000 sqft facility to be re-zoned to allow 75,000 sqft.
A re-zoning like that would have been a huge windfall to the landowner or developer. What did the city get for the give-away/upgrade?
Either the city manager ought to be fired for not negotiating something for the city, or our numbers are way off.
Please clarify. Thanks


Posted by curious, a resident of Downtown North
on Feb 26, 2007 at 8:38 pm

Bob,

The property valuation of East Meadow Circle, when it was an office building, was artifically low because of Prop 13; Property doesn't get reassessed to market value until they are sold. This especially hurts when corporations, like Hewlett Packard own property, because they rarely sell their property, versus residential owners.

The East Meadow circle units will range between 1200 - 1600 sq ft.

My point though, is the city better off financially if the owner never sold the property, and kept paying his $10,000 - $20,000 in property taxes/year, or is the city better off having it developed into 75 condominiums, paying $670,000 in property taxes? What does the city spend to support the 75 new residential units? (ie. more police, fire, library staff, etc?)


Posted by curious, a resident of Downtown North
on Feb 26, 2007 at 8:39 pm

Bob,

The property valuation of East Meadow Circle, when it was an office building, was artifically low because of Prop 13; Property doesn't get reassessed to market value until they are sold. This especially hurts when corporations, like Hewlett Packard own property, because they rarely sell their property, versus residential owners.

The East Meadow circle units will range between 1200 - 1600 sq ft.

My point though, is the city better off financially if the owner never sold the property, and kept paying his $10,000 - $20,000 in property taxes/year, or is the city better off having it developed into 75 condominiums, paying $670,000 in property taxes? What does the city spend to support the 75 new residential units? (ie. more police, fire, library staff, etc?)


Posted by Jeremy Loski, a resident of Ventura
on Feb 26, 2007 at 11:07 pm

Bob Gardiner:
"So, his solution is to have them build granny units, or better yet, move out of there homes into high density clusters.

Nice solution. That definitely provides them a better standard of living."
-----
Tell me, Bob, how many seniors are going to be able to afford to live in their current homes until they require nursing care, especially as our population kigrates to a majority of seniors (compared to other age ranges)?

What innovative ways are being suggested in other municipalities?

Seems to me that you're making assumptions about what seniors want, en masse. You seem to think that quality of life in their original homes i swhat they want? Is it? you might inquire at Channing House, or some other senior facility to get a different viewpoint. You might also look into innovative senior housing solutions that *work*.

Like I've been saying, the no growth crowd won't consider innovation in housing - for any population. They're stuck in a one home/one lot perspective, or worse.


Posted by Mike, a resident of College Terrace
on Feb 26, 2007 at 11:11 pm

Curious, you get it. And so did the city when the development was approved. We're on the right track with that development, and hopefully there's a lot more like it in the pipeline.


Posted by Jeremy Loski, a resident of Ventura
on Feb 26, 2007 at 11:28 pm

Arthur, I read Councilperson Beecham's article when it came out, and was wondering why yuo hadn't quoted it earlier.

Arthur, do you have any stats that show what kind of sales tax revenue is generated by the high-end demographic that is buying into Palo Alto? How about the sales tax revenue generated from the high-end niche shops that cater to our demographic, as downtown Palo Alto beginns to migrate more and more to an open sky version of Stanford Shopping Center?

The point I'm trying to make is that anyone can be slective with *available* numbers to show how housing doesn't pay for itself, in terms of service cost recovery. Guess what? That's largely true in other places to. So, do those other places eschew housing development? Not really, not from what I see in my travels, or read in the Wall Street Journal and various real estate development rags that I frequent.

What you- and other determined nno growth proponents - are missing in your equations are the multiplier effects brought to community by the various demographic groups that occupy it.

btw, Curious has it just right. I hope this helps to somewhat change your perspective on housing, and that you'll look deeper than spreadsheet numbers for the hidden multipliers that are generated by new residents - both social and fiscal. I'm very happy to see Palo Alto expanding. We're gonna continue to love our city, even as it changes and morphs into a somewhat different, but very desirable place to live.


Posted by Jeremy Loski, a resident of Ventura
on Feb 26, 2007 at 11:36 pm

Arthur, one more thing. Please ask your Open Space friends to post cameras at PAUSD campuses, and then do an analysis of how much daylight playing time (during all 7 days) the campus playing fields are utilized. Please ask them to do the same with the parks.

The only open space problem we have in Palo Alto is not keeping available space open long enough, or failing to turn mostly closed space (at PAUSD campuses, and other places) INTO open space available for play. Go look for yourself.


Posted by Arthur Keller, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Feb 27, 2007 at 12:50 am

To curious: You state a payment of $670,000 in aggregate property taxes for 75-unit East Meadow Circle development (and there are two such developments in progress). However, the City of Palo Alto gets only 9% of that figure or $60,300 each year. But the cost of providing services to those 75 households (@ $2,500 each) is $187,500, or over 3 times as much.

The school district gets 45% of the property tax or $301,500 per year plus $36,975 in parcel tax or $338,475 in tax revenue. Based on the school district estimates, about 40 students would come from that development. At an average cost of $10,250 per student, that's $410,000 or about 21% more than the projected revenue. The school district would have increased expenses of $528,000 for two classrooms for those students.

So the townhouse development was a net loser for the city and the school district.

One of the developments is on two parcels: 1101 Meadow Drive (paid $125K in property taxes in 2002-03), 1010 East Meadow Circle (paid $21K in proerty taxes in 2002-03). That's $13K in property tax to the city and $66K in property tax (with no students) to the school district. So the school district gets $273K more in revenue and $410K more in costs.

---------

Please don't confuse "open space" with neighborhood and regional parks with school playing fields.


Posted by Arthur Keller, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Feb 27, 2007 at 12:55 am

To Mr. Loski (to whom the last comment was also): you are assuming that the families who move into Palo Alto are all wealthy enough to have significant disposable income after paying their huge mortgages on those expensive homes. I bet a significant number of them can barely afford those mortgages even with both spouses working.


Posted by Arthur Keller, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Feb 27, 2007 at 2:35 am

Mr. Loski provides a link above (in his posting dated Feb 23, 2007 at 10:33 pm) about rethinking high school. Interestingly enough, all of the schools cited in the report had fewer than 500 students. The innovative school ideas also cited in Mr. Loski's posting was about the small schools approach of a school within a school. Palo Alto once had small neighborhood elementary schools. But many of those small school sites were converted to housing. Now our elementary schools are growing, with portables sprouting from the fields like weeds. Since we have limited school sites, we will likely have larger and larger elementary schools over the next two dozen years (the fabled 2030 with 80,000 Palo Alto residents).

As far as I can tell, neither of Mr. Loski's citations advocate putting more and more students in a fixed amount of space. Rather, they specifically advocate small schools. And we do not want our students sitting around computers all day without access to playing fields for recess, lunch, and physical education.

So I fail to understand what Mr. Loski's innovative references have to do with the growth of the Palo Alto school population beyond existing capacity, and why that growth is a good thing.


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.
Web Link
Web Link

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 Feb 27, 2007 at 3:57 am

"Please don't confuse "open space" with neighborhood and regional parks with school playing fields."

Who's confusing them? Why sholdn't they be considered open space, or leveraged in unique ways for oopen space? How about using those fields for local recreation? After all, most citizens are paying for those school facilities, yet they lie fallow most of the time.

I'd love someone to work up a spreadsheet that computes the opportunity cost of vacant and unused or underutilized facilities. What does it cost up not to use public infrastructure, Mr. Keller, and why aren't we thinnking ofo new ways to maximize what we al;ready have, and get more with less. That's what innovation is all about, and it's time we jumped on the new Mayor's bandwagon and figured out how to DO innovation, instead of just talking about what an innovative place this is, when it appears lately - especially from those who fear growth - that we're not.


Posted by curious, a resident of Downtown North
on Feb 27, 2007 at 5:58 am

Arthur,

In the case of East Meadow Circle, please detail out the $187,500 in city services that the city provide? How many extra police, fire, library staff, etc are hired? Is a new firestation being built? We know that much of the city budget is devoted to staff.

You also forgot to include the city transfer tax of about $200,000 when the residential units are first sold. Then in future years there is the added city transfer tax that is paid each time a unit is sold.

Based on your previous posts, you base your assumptions that 40% of housing units have a student, so only 30 students (not the 40 kids that I first assumed) at $10,250/student, or $307,500 of operating cost - the residential units bring in $31,000 more. Also residential developers pay a school impact fee of $2.24/square foot. The units at this complex range between 1200 - 1600 sq ft; assuming an average of 1400 sq ft, then the school impact fee of $235,000 is paid - close to one additional classroom...

Compare the East Meadow development, and the development of the Palo Medical Foundation site, one can perhaps look at two adjustments - raise the school impact fee to $2.50/sq ft, or allow more square footage to be built per unit. For example, if the average unit size were 1550 sq ft, then the current school impact fee would cover the cost of adding the classroom.

Another detail on school cost - if we assume $10,250/student, and a classroom of 20 kids, then each classroom is $205,000. The average teacher's salary in Palo Alto is $73,000 in 2005/2006 school year. Where does the other $132,000 go? Did we hire more principals, administrators, janitors, etc for adding 1.5 classrooms for this development?

Before assuming that this development is a net loser, let's dig into the details, especially in the "additional city expenses".


Posted by Arthur Keller, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Feb 27, 2007 at 8:58 am

School impact fees for developments are capped by state law. I assume that the current impact fee is the maximum it is allowed to be.

I believe that there is no specific unit size limitation in the multifamily zoning code. There is an overall Floor Area Ratio limitation, and a maximum number of units per acre. Developers choose the unit size to maximize their profits. I believe that some part of Palo Alto officialdom (before I joined the Planning and Transporation Commission) actually requested the developer to increase the number of housing units from 15 per acre to 17 per acre, thereby reducing unit size, at least for the first 75 unit townhouse complex on East Meadow.

The 40 students per 75 new townhouses is based on PAUSD's demographic numbers. Resold homes and newly built homes are apparently more likely to house schoolchildren than currently occupied homes. That's because people move here for the schools, and not jobs.

It is not fair for residents of new housing units to be expected to pay their incremental share of the costs and not the fully amortized share of the costs. I used Councilmember Beecham's data. Unless one have better data, it is better to use the best available published data. And to use the school district per student general fund expenditure figures and not some made up incremental ones.

The school district states that every extra teacher costs $100,000 when fully burdened with benefits. And why should new development pay for the teacher only? Why shouldn't new development pay for part of the principal, secretary, guidance counselors, etc.? Who pays for the administration and operations when the school district reopens Garland School, for example?

One of the costs of the redevelopment of the Palo Alto Medical Foundation site is that Addison Elementary School is now full (and so is every elementary school north of Oregon Expressway and east of Alma).


Posted by PAUSD Parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 27, 2007 at 9:26 am

As for confusing school facilities with parks, I think confusion is the wrong word. School playing fields are utilised considerably out of school hours. We have child care, brownies and cub scouts utilising facilities after hours which use the fields and often their are class picnics, etc. at schools which use the facilities into the evening hours. During soccer and baseball seasons, the fields are used by ayso and little league who actually pay to use them as well as the local parks. Middle and high schools are also well used. As for confusing them, I think we should actually look at them as different aspects of the same facilities. These are so well utilised that the neighbors of the Jordan School playing fields have set up a neighborhood group to try and lessen the use due to the noise and parking problems they create.


Posted by Bill, a resident of Palo Verde
on Feb 27, 2007 at 10:05 am

Jeremy L.

Thank you for your well researched info, and hopeful comments. Innovative thinking is great, I believe. And planning for the future is also great. Do you have any data about
public acceptance of your plans? I am 98% sure the idea of letting kids who could be in school stay home with their computers won't fly. Especially with parents who want to work
to afford their mortgages.

To me, this suggestion is close to your saying "Arthur is right. But let me toss out a
thought." Who wants the future to be planned around a cliche like "Where there's a will,
there's a way," or "Let's innovate," or intimations that thinkers who see problems on
the way are on the fringe.

It sounds to me as if Arthur has facts, and wants serious planning. No?


Posted by curious, a resident of Downtown North
on Feb 27, 2007 at 10:40 am

Arthur,

Could you give a link to the PAUSD demographics that indicates new housing is more likely to have kids? I think condominium units, especially 2 bedrooms units are less likely to have kids.

Many of the housing units developed at the old PA Medical Foundation site were condominium units, which were bought by older citizens who were downsizing, so I believe that the additional enrollment to Addision is less than statistical average.

I don't dispute Council Beecham's statistics, but I do think it is a fallacy to extrapolate and project the "per housing unit cost" onto each additional housing unit.

Although you say "It is not fair for residents of new housing units to be expected to pay their incremental share of the costs and not the fully amortized share of the costs.", I haven't seen any data that even suggests that the residential development will consume even anything close to what they providing in additional property tax revenue. Using your data on the previous commercial use of the property, the residential development is providing about five times the revenue - does 75 condominiums use five times the city resources that the 2 office building on 4+ acres of land?

I was not able to find the $100,000 figure for each teacher; perhaps you can also give me a link to the webpage as well... But that still leaves another $105,000 for "adding" a classroom. Assume a typical elementary school has around 20 classrooms; adding the 21st classroom, doesn't cost that extra $105,000 (as far as I know the principal, and staff don't get paid on a per student basis). Some part of the $105,000 gets used to restore cuts or add programs.

I believe that if you were to take a census, you would find that the biggest contributor to Addision enrollment (as well as all the other elementary schools) are from kids who come older housing units.


Posted by PAUSD Parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 27, 2007 at 11:22 am

I have no figures for this, but anecdotally, from a realtor in this area, I understand that condos are very often being bought by divorcing parents of school age children. In this set up, the children are already in PAUSD schools and when the parents divorce the family home has to be sold and since the family want the children to stay in their regular schools, at least one if not both parents buy a condo as being the best financial option of staying in the neighborhood. I know of at least one family where this has happened. This then makes their original family home a target for new families moving into the area for the schools.


Posted by Jeremy Loski, a resident of Ventura
on Feb 27, 2007 at 11:26 am

Bill,

Innovation is not ideas. Ideas are a part of innovation. It takes will and grit and willingness to work together to innovate. Waht we hear from the no growth contingent is "we can't". Think about it.

Instead of exaggerating my comments, and doing your level best to denigrate the possibility for real innovation here, why not re-read my posts and show me where I have suggested that Palo Alto kids should study at home. Tell me, what is your feeling about PAUSD building UP on its current sites, or moving toward more coop programs to deliver on-time curriculum? These kinds of things have been done elsewhere. Your thoughts. I want to hear someone bring a thought forward, other than how we "can't" deal with growth here.

Arthur, You continue to rank citizens from the perspective of "cost". That's what we've been doing here forever, around infrastructure projects, schools, playgrounds, etc. How about new citizens as an investment? How about looking at what new citizens bring to a community in terms of intellectual capital?

Without taking your logic - and the no growth logic to a far extreme - it appears that you would have been in favor, some years ago, of keeping Palo Alto a certain size. Cann yuo tell me what that ideal size is?

The current "no growth" argument is hobbled by its dependence on spreadsheets, instead of another view - a view toward an expanisve inclusiveness and a willingness to roll up our sleeves to come up with possibilites for our community that are larger than a bookkeeper would render as s/he looks at the books. Shame on us.


Posted by KC Marcinik, a resident of Greenmeadow
on Feb 27, 2007 at 11:36 am

Only 27% of Palo Alto households have children under the age of 18. In my Palo Alto neighborhood they did a very detailed demographic survey a couple of years ago. Even though the percentage of houses with children in these 270 houes is slightly higher (33%), more than half of the residents are over the age of 50 and have lived in their home more than 20 years. I don't see many people downsizing as they get older, maybe because the older homes ARE the same size as the new developments (1200 to 1600 square feet).

Forty and fifty years ago all of the houses were occupied by families of 4, 5 and 6, now 2/3 are occupied by 1 or 2. Palo Alto is hollowed out, less dense than it was in 1960 - fewer people per household. Yes, the new families moving are the families with children, and I think they will also move into the new housing being built. Why not? And why would senior citizens give up their small one-story private home for a similarly-sized townhouse or condo with stairs?

The only reason there is a shortage of school space as new families move in to old neighborhoods is because several schools were torn down when the first boom generation of kids graduated. That was incredibly short-sighted, but today, the school district still seems incapable of making any kind of forecast of how many kids to expect in class even one year ahead. Jeremy Loski, maybe you could apply your energy to this one immediate problem - seems like one technology could fix.

Meanwhile, the trend I see is that Palo Altans are setting up private schools and opting out of the public system: Bowman (1995), Kehillah (2000), Gideon Hausner (1990), Challenger (1999), GMS (1998), Stratford (?). Those are in addition to the existing older private schools in Palo Alto.


Posted by Beth, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 27, 2007 at 12:39 pm

A related note: In my neighborhood in just the last year, two 3-unit buildings and one 2-unit building were all converted into single family housing, so effectively 8 "more affordable" housing units (rentals) went away. I believe the area is zoned R2 so this is legal. It seems like it's easier to decrease housing than to add granny units and such to these lots.


Posted by Jeremy Loski, a resident of Ventura
on Feb 27, 2007 at 1:18 pm

KC,

Interesting post. You ask "And why would senior citizens give up their small one-story private home for a similarly-sized townhouse or condo with".

Answer: needed money.

It turns out that 4,000 Palo Alto households subsist on roughly $40K per year; my bet is that those households are mostly senior-populated. What options are those who are near seniors going to have in 10-15 yers when they're in retirement? they will be able to "sell and leave", or "sell and struggle with fixed income in a place that has very high maintenance carry costs". Why aren't we thinking forward about how to provide housing for this senior population that woul permit then to sell their existing home, make a profit, and downsize to an appropriate dwelling - with cash left over?

Where are the cooperative efforts between developers and organizations like Avenidas, to create high density group home projects that make sense from a development point of view? Why aren't we addressing what is surely going to be a big factor in how we run our city, going forward. Remember, those citizens - most of them - are going to be on fixed incomes. They will comprise a large voting block in our city. Do you think if we just let things happen, without addressing this looming problem now, that those seniors will feel sufficiently enabled in their lives to vote up tax and bond measures? They won't.

So, given this *one* looming reality,, why aren't we working toward small cluster, small footprint housing that is designed to accomodate the realities of senior finance, and senior well-being? This would create cash flow for seniors, go some way toward solve their housing problem, and free up their homes for newly minted Palo Altans?

You also - with unfortunate condescension - state: "The only reason there is a shortage of school space as new families move in to old neighborhoods is because several schools were torn down when the first boom generation of kids graduated. That was incredibly short-sighted, but today, the school district still seems incapable of making any kind of forecast of how many kids to expect in class even one year ahead. Jeremy Loski, maybe you could apply your energy to this one immediate problem - seems like one technology could fix."

THere is no "technology fix" to this problem. Rather, it's a complex problem that requires something other than thinking about our school physical plant as a given, just the way it is. Please do respond to the ideas I've put out there for using the physical footprint we already have on PAUSD campuses, and building them UP, with a resultant doubling of space? What about other inovations that many communities and school districts across America have put into play to provide more choice to parents, thereby stopping the bleed to private schools?

Why won't you consider the possibility of solving these problems by getting people together to roll up their sleeves and CREATE something new, that works, instead of repeating the same old saw about how "we can't". The latter is NOT the kind of thinking that brought Palo Alto to prominance on the commercial side. Now that PA no longer enjoyscommercial hegemony in the region, perhaps its time to turn our attention to more social innovations. Why not? Maybe because it's easier to spend one's energy denying change, and grumbling as the future passes one by.

The latter seems to be the case among those who make dire projections about the future of a city that has more intellectual capital among its poulace than any one or three nearby municipal neighbors. The sad fact is that true social (and municipal) intelligence will be judged on how well we ADAPT to change. One doesn't do that by denying change. One learns coping meachanisms, and gets busy inventing new ways to thrive. Instead, what I'm seeing in too many threads on this site and from the more determined no growthers who speak at City Council meetings, is that "we can't", "we shouldn't", "we're in crisis".

It's a trite fact to mention, but the Chinese character for crisis is comprised of two sub characters - one signifies "danger", the other signifies "opportunity". We'd better start giving our full attention to BOTH of those things, and figuring out how to use one (via executable innovation) to solve the other - instead of the current approach of running away from change, growth, and new citizens with the *opportunity* they bring to community.


Posted by Jay, a resident of Midtown
on Feb 27, 2007 at 1:30 pm

Jeremy,

When I made my comments about Prop. 13 hamstringing the city, I wasn't being anti-growth, I was just being realistic. Given that I only moved here last year, trust me, I am not anti-growth. However, there are several severe constraints on Palo Alto's budget:

1. Infrastructure has been severely underfunded for over 20 years.
2. There is heavy opposition to any commercial development of the size necessary to bring in major amounts of revenue
3. The city workforce is has negotiated a high level of salary and retirement benefits that will lead to greatly increased costs in the future.
4. It is extremely hard to cut any part of the city budget.

So, the city hasn't invested during either the dotcom boom, or the current real estate boom. The next time there is a down turn, we will have problems.


Posted by KC Marcinik, a resident of Greenmeadow
on Feb 27, 2007 at 2:18 pm

Jeremy;
I didn't mean to be condescending. After 16 years here w/ 2 kids in public school it still amazes me that an increase in students catches us by surprise every single time. When you see more people pushing strollers, you should be thinking ahead a few years to more kindergartners.

As I said, I live among senior citizens. I'm hoping to become one myself . I don't want to offend anyone by projecting a financial situation which may be in error, but many senior homeowners have owned their home for twenty years or more. The maintenance carry costs (?) are extremely low compared to those carried by younger families moving into Palo Alto. We're talking no mortgage or whatever's left on a mortgage taken out on a house that cost $150,000 - $250,000.; and property taxes that are a fraction of those paid by the newer residents. Our utitilities are even low here.

For that matter, why build specialized group housing for the low-income seniors you believe to be in our future? Three individuals could share an existing 3-bedroom house, selling 2 homes for income and freeing them up for resale, and increasing the property tax base.

I don't want to attack your enthusiasm and I'm not anti-growth. It just sounds like you're scolding even though you don't seem to be very closely connected to either of Palo Alto's growth demographics - seniors and schoolchildren.


Posted by Jeremy Loski, a resident of Ventura
on Feb 27, 2007 at 3:34 pm

Jay,

1. Yes, infrastructure has been severely underfunded for over 20 years. What we need to do is replace it NOW, because delay will cause us more money for replacement in the future. Construction inflation is roughly 15% per year.

2. Yes, there is opposition to commercial development of the size necessary to bring in major amounts of revenue. So, rather than listening to a small contingent of no growth proponents, we need to do for our city what must be done - namely, attract more retail (including big box), and otherwise commercially incentivise other businesses.

3. Yes, the city workforce is has negotiated a high level of salary and retirement benefits that will lead to greatly increased costs in the future, but Palo Alto has planned well for that event, and simply needs to continue to aggressively grow our community so that we're able to better handle looming problems down the road, with the *additional* revenue that cones from commercil and smart housing growth.

4. Yes, it is extremely hard to cut any part of the city budget. Why not look for ways that we can increase efficiencies across municipal lines? Some of that has already been done, but we need to get better at that. The money saved will permit us to keep social and other services that are under the knife.


Posted by Jeremy Loski, a resident of Ventura
on Feb 27, 2007 at 3:43 pm

KC,

Yes, one would think that PAUSD would have a better grip on planning,, and would be far more proactive than it currently is in working with city to manage forward and projected problems. I hope the BOE is reading this and other threads, and consider that we require leadership within PAUSD that will work to eliminate and/or better cope with the artifacts of Prop 13.

About senior carrying costs. I'm not just talking about housing infrastructure. Many seniors are going to *have* to move for health reasons. What about simple mobility? Why aren't we aggressively addressing local and regional mass transport in ways that will reduce the cost and convenience burden for seniors, which would also help with the rest of the population? We are simply not doing enough to ameliorate these problems. Why don't we create policy that senior citizens in the future can feed into and live with? Why not start thinking about and acting on solutions to these problems, NOW?

You say: "For that matter, why build specialized group housing for the low-income seniors you believe to be in our future? Three individuals could share an existing 3-bedroom house, selling 2 homes for income and freeing them up for resale, and increasing the property tax base"
-------
Excellent idea! This would be an excellent project for Avenidas or other senior related organization, or even our development group to look into. This is the kind of thinking we need more of, instead of the one dimensional "we have enough people" rant I keep hearing from some others.

For your information, I am very close to the senior problem, in more than one way, and am intimately familiar with the schools here, with both direct, and indirect involvement - as well as having raised children here.


Posted by Arthur Keller, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Feb 27, 2007 at 4:03 pm

When Palo Alto built new housing in the 1940's and 1950's, it was on land that was converted from farm use. Walkable neighborhoods of schools, shops, and parks were laid out. Now the development is infill, with no new schools, hardly any shops, and only occasional parks. The growth in the 1940's and 1950's added to city amenities, while the currently growth largely spreads it thinner.

School district growth is inevitable. Even if no additional housing units were built, resale of homes from elderly residents to families with schoolchildren will result in growth of the school district.

While the new Hyatt facility by the shopping center, the Sunrise facility on El Camino by Page Mill, and the housing part of the Campus for Jewish Life (not the Bridge Housing) is dedicated for seniors, most of the rest of the housing that has been and is being built is not geared towards seniors. Seniors tend not to move into multistory townhouses and houses.

We do need better support for seniors to "age in place" and more assisted living facilities and skilled nursing facilities. Those facilities do not add children to our schools, and they allow current Palo Alto residents to stay nearby (although be replaced by families with schoolchildren). So I am not categorically against new housing. There is a role for more Below Market Rate housing in enhancing the diversity of Palo Alto.

But we do have to consider how much more market rate housing geared to families with children Palo Alto should allow to be built. And that's as part of considering *all* the impacts of new housing.


Posted by Arthur Keller, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Feb 27, 2007 at 4:42 pm

To Curious: The figures on costs of a classroom and a teacher were from the January 16, 2007 school board meeting on the PAUSD website. Please note the comparison of adding more portables compared with re-opening Garland school in the 1/16/2007 report.

These figures come from the Lapkoff and Gobalet studies for PAUSD (1/11/2007, labelled attachment J):


Resale single family houses generates 75 children per 100 homes (up from 65 in the 1990's). Newly built (since 2000) single family houses generates 93 children per 100 homes. Condos have a yield of between 3 and 58 students per 100 units. BMR units have high yields, with Oak Court growing from 70 per 100 units in Fall 2005 to 83 per 100 units in Fall 2006. The projection for Classic Communities (on West Bayshore and Loma Verde states, "This development is located on West Bayshore Avenue and will have 60 townhouses, 26 single family units, and 10 BMR multi-family units. First occupancy is expected in 2008. By the end of our forecast period, 45 students are expected."


Posted by Palo Alto Mom, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Feb 27, 2007 at 5:15 pm

JL refers to a "rant I keep hearing from some others."
OTHER people rant! I'm falling off my chair laughing.
Next thing you know, he'll accuse OTHER people of being insulting and demeaning! Pardon the digression.


Posted by Bob Gardiner, a resident of Midtown
on Feb 27, 2007 at 6:53 pm

Curious and Mike,

Yes, the city is better off if we all move every year, and the assessor adjusts property taxes - that is freakonomics California style.
Should we create public policy to encourage that? Obviously not. City policy should not be to maximize property taxes. Higher government revenue does not correlate to a higher standard of living. In your case, the residents of south Palo Alto are paying hidden taxes of more traffic, more accidents, more noise, etc. Thank you very much.


Posted by Bob Gardiner, a resident of Midtown
on Feb 27, 2007 at 7:09 pm

With respect to senior housing, my experience and observations are that older people genrally want to stay in the homes they have lived in, and are familiar with. They do not want to move into a retirement home or other new facility if it can be avoided.

So, instead of finding ways to disrupt them, why don't we have public policy which supports them? Instead our public policy encourages population growth, which has a big impact on our environment, causing utility costs to grow faster than inflation, and makes our streets significantly more dangerous.


Posted by curious, a resident of Downtown North
on Feb 27, 2007 at 8:22 pm

Bob,

I'm not encouraging people to move each year - but there are budget issues with both the city & schools; in one of my earlier posts, the alternatives are cut services, raise taxes, provide more retail, or develop existing property to higher values (ie. office to residential).

The city has no appetite for cutting services, nor for the addition of the type of retail (ie. big box/chain store retailers) that is required. Raising taxes is very problematic. The council has gone down the path of doing redevelopment. Much of the redevelopment has been in condominiums (Hyatt is 179 condominiums out 189 units, East Meadow Circle is 75 out 75). According to Arthur Keller "Condos have a yield of between 3 and 58 students per 100 units", so depending on the kid yield, the burden or benefit for the school system is really indeterminiate. For the city, they get alot more revenue, which hopefully they use to address all the infrastructure issues that have been building for the past 20 years.

I agree there are oosts - more traffic, longer wait times - but the citizens and the government won't cut services, won't raise taxes, and won't do big box retail.

I think there is a demographic difference for seniors in North Palo ALto vs South Palo Alto. I seen the high end condominiums built at the PA Medical Center and 800 High street filled by quite a few seniors who downsize from their homes in Old Palo Alto, Crescent Park & Atherton. South Palo Alto will have more seniors who transition directly to assisted living and skip the downsizing step.


Posted by Jeremy Loski, a resident of Ventura
on Feb 27, 2007 at 8:39 pm

PA Mom,

See, you fell off your chair laughing; but I don't hear a "thank you" for bringing joy to your life. :)))

Sorry you take my comments as insulting; I guess that happens when one can't see facial expressions. I write this sitting with a bemused grin, happy to bring some joy,, and new ideas into your life. :)


Posted by Jeremy Loski, a resident of Ventura
on Feb 27, 2007 at 8:58 pm

Arthur, let's make lemonade with the lemons you've identified.

I don't agree that city services have been spread thin; rather I think of those services being accessed by more people, and although they're often challenged services, I tend to focus on how our citizens have profited from the provision of those services - to the point where they're probably willing to pony up to keep most of them in place. That's what I call municipal success.

You've correctly identified the projected growth in school population due to the inevitable cycling out of seniors. And, while you correctly identify the various senior facilities that are built (or being built), in the same breath you make an assumption about how seniors "tend not to move into multistory townhouses and houses". With that last phrase - said without considering how small footprint cluster housing, and other innovative physical layouts - it appears that you want to place the cabash on executable innovation in senior housing. What I'm hearing is "we can't do that because, well....because....". We HAVE to get beyond thinking like this. We have to get together, roll up our sleeves, and MAKE a new future happen for this city

You correctly state the possibilities of "age in place", but please consider that "age inplace" has many variations. I would urge you to look into those possibilities, as our city changes and grows. Further, I support your enlightened stance on BMR housing.

And yes, we need to consider the impact of "at market" housing, while *at the same time* looking toward the horizon with functional innovation in mass transit, school-city cooperation, municipal sharing, etc. etc. to ameliorate some of the constraints of additional "at market" and other housing additions. Palo Alto will grow, or die.

We do - as you correctly state - have to consider *all* the impacts of housing, just as we must open our minds to *all* the possibilities available (and yet to be invented) to cope with new growth. New growth IS an opportunity that will create more economic possibility, create dynamic new multipliers (positive ones), increase diversity, and make our city less vulnerable to the ravages of slow stagnation.

Last, I personally want to thank you for raising this delicate topic, and putting yourself on the line - that, in addition to your public service. I've learned a few things, and appreciate the interaction.


Posted by Arthur Keller, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Feb 27, 2007 at 10:49 pm

To curious: let's separate condos from townhouses. Condos with 1 or 2 bedrooms are less likely to have schoolchildren as residents than 3 or 4 bedroom townhouses. Two two East Meadow Circle developments are townhouses not condos. Classic Communities on West Bayshore is townhouses not condos.

To Mr. Loski: Senior housing like that at the Campus for Jewish Life, Channing House, Hyatt Senior Residences, and Lytton Gardens, are all condo-type developments. Each unit is all on one level, although one may use an elevator to get to the condo. Building dense senior housing is quite reasonable from a planning perspective to support those seniors who are not willing or able to stay in their existing residences. But multistory townhouses, like those being built at East Meadow Circle and West Bayshore, are not geared for senior housing, but more suitable for younger families. Similarly, seniors don't typically buy single family residences, but younger families do.

The last time I walked around the new developments at SOFA, I saw a number of too-young-for-school children. The townhouses are quite appropriate for families with small (or large) children.


Posted by Arthur Keller, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Feb 27, 2007 at 11:03 pm

The notion that housing should be placed where there are jobs is, in my opinion, bad public policy. It's far better to concentrate the jobs in a few places, build effective transit to those places, and then locate the housing in bedroom communities. If you put jobs all over the place and you put housing everywhere, you get Los Angeles-style planning and poor public transit. If you concentrate the jobs in one area, and have varying densities of housing, you get San Francisco-style planning and good public transit. Even sparsely populated Long Island has the Long Island Railroad commuter line all bringing commuters to Manhattan. (Think several Caltrain lines running up the Peninsula converging in San Francisco.)

From my point of view, the only reason to force housing on communities offering jobs is because our tax system in California is so distorted (in part due to Proposition 13, for all its merits and flaws). Because housing doesn't generally pay its way, those communities that benefit from the tax revenue of businesses get stuck with housing allocations.


Posted by Arthur Keller, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Feb 27, 2007 at 11:12 pm

The Mountain View school district lost many students with the closing of Moffett Field (and the removal of members of the armed services with families from there). The Mountain View school district, being a revenue limit district, would like to have more students so they can get more revenue.

Yet the Mayor of Mountain View recently called for a moratorium on new housing until their general plan is updated. It sure looks like Palo Alto is not the only city for which new housing units don't pay their way. In Palo Alto's case, our school district is a basic aid district. Every additional student merely slices the pie into small pieces among more students.

It's like the old joke of the salesman who lost money on every sale but made it up in volume. It appears that some people commenting on this topic are proposing to have the City of Palo Alto and the Palo Alto Unified School District make it up in volume.


Posted by Arthur Keller, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Feb 27, 2007 at 11:23 pm

Mr. Loski's steadfast faith in the ability of progress and invention to cure the problems of overcrowding reminds me of the famous Sidney Harris cartoon, "Then a Miracle Occurs." (See Web Link ) "I think you should be more explicit here in step two."


Posted by Jeremy Loski, a resident of Ventura
on Feb 28, 2007 at 3:23 am

Channing House is a high rise; the residents appear to love it - ditto Lytton Gardens; there are others.

Also, the suggestion is not to "make it up in volume" as regards your schools comment. rather, it's more about "let's find ways to adapt to the necessary reality of growth, so that we can profit from it, rather than deny growth's possibilities in service of some Utopian dream of optimal population size". What's the perfect number of residents, Mr. Keller?

Mr. Keller, I'm not surprised that you chose a cartoon that makes fun of ideas that are not explicit in a way that is all-encompassing, or expressly formulaic - even though in their early stages. I guess that I should accept the fact that there are those that don't quite have the knack to make innovative leaps that, once realized, appear in retrospect to have appeared just like a miracle. ;) Here's an education example
Web Link

In fact, it appears that your cartoon may very well reveal an "inner-denial" on your part to be willing to consider the possibility that "miracles can and do happen".

Marconi helped to transmit information wirelessly; "a miracle!" said some, but was it? Or, was it a leap made from a hunch, followed by a lot of hard work, a series of small failures and successes in the face of "you'll never do it" - all resulting in the miracle and realization of wireless transmission?

"Explicitness" comes *after* invention is realized, Mr. Keller. But that realization cannot take place unless accepting and fertile ground exists to permit innovation in the first place. Instead, we continually bow to the spreadsheet mantra of "that's not possible". Sad, given our city's heritage.

Innovation comes from the fertile ground of permissiveness, in service of creation. It doesn't come from "we can't do that", or "that's too hard", or "stop thinking, because you're barking up the wrong tree", or "you don't have all the details; here look at *my* spreadsheets".

This all points up the sad fact that naysaying innovation, and writing it off as fluff, largely represents the demeanor and voice of those who tend toward "no growth" in Palo Alto.

One must be prepared to wrong to be innovative. Is that possible here? Rather than engage possibility on this thread, we've seen those opposed to housing growth deny that there is any possible new territory to consider. All I've seen so far is number-based rationales that deny even a cursory look at some of the ideas suggested (and that have worked in other places). Why is that?

With the help of your cartoon, I rest my case.






Posted by Arthur Keller, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Feb 28, 2007 at 8:02 am

I welcome miracles, but I don't rely on them.

There is a famous book by Dana and Dennis Meadows called "The Limits to Growth," published around 1970. Growth is NOT inevitable. World-wide, humans are finally outstripping the carrying capacity of the planet. Fish species are being overfished to near extinction. While the shortage of wild salmon has led to the invention of farmed salmon, farmed salmon is not only less healthy but bad for the environment. Farmed salmon has a much worse ratio of Omega 3's to Omega 6's than wild salmon, and the only reason it is pink is because the fish food has pink dye in it. Farming salmon is a tremendous source of pollution. Many inventions have their downsides.

Let me say that the positions I've posted here represent a philosophy, not how I will vote on a particular project as a member of the Planning and Transportation Commission (PTC). Decisions on individual projects are based on conformance with zoning regulations. Zoning regulations are enacted based on the Comprehensive Plan. Palo Alto will soon undertake a revision process for the 1988-2010 Comprehensive Plan to extend its life until 2020. Ideas about how much growth Palo Alto can accommodate are right in the center of the issues we should consider as part of the Comprehensive Plan revision process and the development of the new Housing Element, as mandated by state law and as set forth by ABAG. My intent in writing this article and in engaging in this serial conversation on Town Square was to engage the community as part of my personal outreach towards broad civic engagement in the Comprehensive Plan revision process. I hope that everyone who has participated in this discussion will also choose to attend the PTC meetings on this topic and will address the commission with their perspectives. I specifically encourage Mr. Loski to participate in our public meetings, since he has put forth a cogent discussion on a distinct point of view. I hope that the rest of you who have commented anonymously will also choose to participate in the debates that matters, the ones that will set policy for the coming decade and beyond.


Posted by Bill, a resident of Palo Verde
on Feb 28, 2007 at 8:40 am

Arthur, thank you for your continuing patient look at facts and data.

Jeremy, thanks for your hope that we can be innovative.

Everybody, do we have any innovative ideas for school capacity that the Bd of Education (as reflecting in part public opinion) will accept. If the notions have not first been shown to be
acceptable, before the growth occurs, then the growth is unplanned. That is not good.

To one person, you DO insult the existence of people who express sincere concerns
that you wish to brush aside. To say that you are secretly smiling does not excuse
your written word.

So, why don't we get together. We have a looming and potentially massive problem.
Do we have any ACCEPTABLE solution for this problem? If we don't know, then we would
do well to have a moratorium on new housing until we figure it out.


Posted by Carol, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Feb 28, 2007 at 9:57 am

There are a few piecemeal fixes I could suggest, mostly to do with how capital improvement money is spent:
I would trust a neighborhood organization poll in south Palo Alto on a new library; I'm not even interested in the poll the City is doing. If my neighbors in south Palo Alto want a library twice the size of the Main Library, I'm willing to vote for it. If they want one the same size, I'll vote for that. At present, I'm inclined to vote against the whole library bond because my interest was in older children having a nearby library attractive to them. I do not want to inflict extra traffic on south Palo Alto for a vanity project, I do not want to pave large parts of Mitchell Park, and I do not want this project "sold" to my neighbors. They know what they want; the City will not ask them the right questions.
As for my own library, leave it alone. Main has had more than its fair share of funding, clean the carpet, don't add meeting rooms for which there is no existing parking, and for God's sake don't touch the Downtown Library unless you're going to give those big meeting rooms for the City back to the library.
Ditto for the enormous police station, twenty years in the making, and twenty years out of date in the concept.
School bonds. Kids need classrooms with teachers. No more housing until the school board redirects its funding to providing that.
People will respond to the existing neighborhood organizations, but only if the City government makes it clear that the process will be public and the recommendations will go on the Council Agenda.


Posted by KC Marcinik, a resident of Greenmeadow
on Feb 28, 2007 at 12:46 pm

What if large new housing developments were required to include a community center building that could be used for a satellite kindergarden classroom. The kindergartners do not have the same schedule or playspace as the older kids at elementary schools and mostly are kept separate from them already. This would free up a couple of classrooms at the elementary schools most affected by the new development.

If the program did not work out or if the new residents didn't have small children, the space could be used for other communty acitivities, even rented out for income.

Obviously this would require a great degree of cooperation between PAUSD, Palo Alto and the private sector.


Posted by Carol, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Feb 28, 2007 at 1:08 pm

to KC Marcinik: a variant of your suggestion might be simpler, involving only one jurisdiction: branch libraries in senior housing, serviced by a delivery van. Again, I think we all have ideas worth exploring, but I think the people who need to have the final say are not usually consulted. (Maybe acknowledge and ignore?) TK might actually want a branch library, and the neighbors might agree, to mitigate the traffic.

Parents have gotten a raw deal in the expenditure of funds for classrooms. I agree with you that solving that problem is more important than solving the library problem. It's just that no one but the parents concerned is presently prepared to admit how much planning needs to be done for that aspect of development. (In fact, I like high-density areas; that's where we have our second home. It's just that Palo Alto does it so badly. "God Willing, and the creek don't rise." So we have a new playing field, courtesy of Stanford, and it's next to a major traffic artery. You'd think the pulmonologists at Stanford Medical Center might have been consulted about that one.)


Posted by curious, a resident of Downtown North
on Feb 28, 2007 at 3:27 pm

Arthur,

In all our discussion, we forgot to factor in other sources of revenue for the schools; property taxes have been about 64% of the district's revenue for the past few years, while other sources have been 36%. So although, an allocation of $11,000 (budget/# students), $7,000 are currently from property taxes... This would change the ratios of kids that a new development would support.


Posted by Jeremy Loski, a resident of Ventura
on Feb 28, 2007 at 3:35 pm

Arthur, Thanks for yuor final comments. One thing: please do show me where and when in history that human populations have NOT grown, and migrated, unless forced to do otherwise by central planning.

Bill, There is a difference between insult and strong opinion directed at opposing strong, aired in a forum of mutual respect. I respect - in fact, cherish - your right to an opinion. One irony is that it makes my life more interesting, and provides an opporutunity for contrast.

To Carol and KC: the current library plan "3B" that asks for construction of a library/community center at Mitchell Park, as well as improvements to the other branches, is really the only way that makes sense. If we delay building the Rec Center, construction inflation (currently 15% per year, and climbing), we will spend more for simple construction inflation costs some years hence than we would to replace that dilapidated structure now. As far as just going for something at Mitchell Park, we will need a 66.67% vote to pass a tax or bond to support the library/rec center build. The library is a _system_ - all parts interdependent on one another. Think about the great economies and efficiencies we could derive with new cooperatoin among the schools, library and rec center, for starters.


Posted by Bill, a resident of Palo Verde
on Feb 28, 2007 at 7:44 pm

To KC Marcinik

Your idea about KG classrooms in new developments is fantastic. Never heard it mentioned befpre.

I hope you know somebody on the PAUSD Board you could feel out.

There will probably be administrative objections at the school hdqts and possibly dis-
pleasure at the developers' offices, but if they feel they're being treated equally,
they will merely figure how to pass the costs on to buyers, much as happens with
BMR ("affordable") units now. Costs for teachers and aides will remain, but at least
some school space will be preserved.

Do you know any BOE members? Or else get Penny Ellson to help you. She's active in
the Greenmeadow area and is politically savvy. You probably know her. GOOD LUCK.


Posted by KC Marcinik, a resident of Greenmeadow
on Feb 28, 2007 at 9:04 pm

Thanks Bill! I was trying to think of a way for school growth to happen incrementally along with housing growth, and without the need to find a 5 acre site for a new facility.


Posted by JL, a resident of Ventura
on Mar 1, 2007 at 12:10 am

Kudos! KC


Posted by Carol, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Mar 1, 2007 at 7:39 am

Jeremey Loski: yes, I know the thinking behind stuffing in something for every library. Out here where the bond issue votes are stored, the padding seems to backfiring. Three friends who live in the Community Center have decided that they had enough with the redo of the Children's Library. Consensus: "If THEY think they are going to add meeting rooms to my library, I'm voting no on the whole package. Haven't we got enough problem parking?" In Old Palo Alto, only four people have mentioned the bond: "Grandiose""didn't they stuff in tennis courts last time?" People are really weary of the City planning for the far future (where they always get it wrong) while neglecting the repair of what's broken today. I'd like to see the Weekly run its own polls on what people will vote to pay for, and where the breaking point lies. I do not think you will find the votes for those "much-needed" meeting rooms. A friend who uses Main all the time referred to them as a "poison pill."
Construction costs? After the Bike Underpass, few voters outside of the City Council circle think that the cheapest way to build something is under the current City management.
What I hear is "yeah, Benest is hands off management. Hands on my money, though. Don't you agree?" In fact, I do agree. I used to vote for all bond projects. Benest has changed my "yes" to a "maybe" and on BIG plans, "no"


Posted by Carol, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Mar 1, 2007 at 7:46 am

A bigger community center in Mitchell Park would take the pressure off the old community center. It's only fair to inflict the traffic and construction on south Palo Alto if the people who use Mitchell actually want this enough to go through it. As I said, I'm willing to pay if they want it. I don't approve of drafting them into the Army under a leadership that thinks it knows what people will want, and doesn't listen to what they want NOW.
I'm not willing to pay for a PR firm to lie about it to make it look like something they want. There are neighborhood associations all over south Palo Alto. Ask them to poll their membership, reporting all the number: yes, no, decline to respond.


Posted by Arthur Keller, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Mar 1, 2007 at 2:17 pm

To Carol: I suggest starting a separate thread for specifically for the Mitchell Park Library and Community Center rebuild. Note that the new facility is a larger library to accommodate the fact that Mitchell Park library has more circulation than any other branch, including Main. The expansion of the Mitchell Park Community Center could replace community functions that will be displaced when (part of all of) Cubberley reopens as a small high school.

To curious: It's actually somewhat higher than 64%. It was about 68% in the 2005-2006 budget year, with another 8% coming from the parcel tax. Unless the other sources are obtained on a per student basis, unless the new revenue from new housing exceeds the current budget amount per student, the budget amount per student will go down. Unless you have evidence about the amount of additional revenue to the school district will come from the Federal and State sources, it is unreasonable to expect that those will go up in proportion. And the over 6% lease revenue does NOT go up with more students, but will go down as schools are reopening to accommodate more students.

To set the record straight, I want to correct an error I made above. The 40 students represent both 75-unit townhouse complexes based on the school districts projections that equate large townhouses (that are likely to house students) and small condos (that are less likely to do so). The correct figure for one 75-unit townhouse complex is about 20 students. The corrected data is as follows:

"Curious" stated a payment of $670,000 in aggregate property taxes for 75-unit East Meadow Circle development (and there are two such developments in progress). However, the City of Palo Alto gets only 9% of that figure or $60,300 each year. But the cost of providing services to those 75 households (@ $2,500 each) is $187,500, or over 3 times as much.

One of the developments is on two parcels: 1101 Meadow Drive (paid $125K in property taxes in 2002-03), 1010 East Meadow Circle (paid $21K in proerty taxes in 2002-03). That's $13K in property tax to the city and $66K in property tax (with no students) to the school district for the 75-unit townhouse complex.

Thus, the city gets an additional $47K in property taxes.

The school district gets 45% of the property tax or $301,500 per year plus $36,975 in parcel tax or $338,475 in tax revenue. Less the $66K the school district received before, gives net new revenue of $273K. Based on the corrected school district estimates, about 20 students would come from that development. At an average cost of $10,250 per student, that's $205K. The school district would have also increased expenses of $264,000 for classroom for those students. This estimate is dependent on lumping together small condos with large townhouses, an approach I think is flawed. Hopefully the school district will separate condos from townhouses in future demographic studies, so we can make better comparisons. The breakeven point for the school district is 27 students.

So the city is clearly a net loser in annual revenue (I've not compared the capital costs), and the school district may gain revenue depending on how accurate those projections are. The figures I cited above would be accurate if the new townhouses provided students to the district at just over half the rate of new single family homes.


Posted by Carol, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Mar 1, 2007 at 3:44 pm

Arthur Keller: you're right. Skipping to later posts, it's too easy to get off topic. I forgot that this started with your op-ed about housing, and I was responding just to the post I read. (You succumbed, also, in responding to me, when you followed your justified rebuke with a defense of the Community Center part of the proposal.)

I wouldn't want to start a thread on the new library bond. It would have been a slam-dunk for Mitchell Park Library alone, and now I think it's going to be very divisive, and very unlikely to pass.

I would have thought you'd agree that the needs of people immediately adjacent to a large project should be taken into account in planning for its size. The PR phrase NIMBY is getting tossed around a lot. Of course, the alternative is to let people who don't live her at all impose their vision of what we need, want......and should pay for.


Posted by Parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 1, 2007 at 5:13 pm

Another source of revenue, albeit small, that no one has mentioned is the fact that even on a small remodel, a homeowner has to pay a fee to the school district. We are doing a small remodel, but I have yet to understand the reason why this small remodel is supposed to increase the number of children we have in PAUSD. Yet, we have to pay it. Now with all the remodeling, tearing down, etc. over the city, the school district must be getting a constant flow of money coming in even if it is only a drop in a bucket.


Posted by Arthur Keller, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Mar 1, 2007 at 5:57 pm

OK, Carol, I'll give a brief response about the library and community center expansion. I am founder and past president of the Adobe Meadow Neighborhood Association, which covers the neighborhood across Middlefield from the MP Library and Community Center. So we would be the neighborhood most impacted from the construction and increased size. I will be happy to ask our new association president to ask for a show of hands straw vote at our next get together. I do agree that the opinions of the people who live near the project should matter.

I won't give a personal opinion of the desirability of the library and community center expansion because that project may come before the Planning and Transportation Commission at some future date.


Posted by curious, a resident of Downtown North
on Mar 2, 2007 at 12:16 am

Arthur,

Thanks for clarifying the projected "kid yield" on the East Meadow project.

One additional piece that needs to be factored in the analysis is the "school impact fee" that is collected on developing property...
I believe it is around $2.24/sq ft, and on the East Meadow Circle project will more than the classroom cost of $264,000


Posted by Jeremy Loski, a resident of Ventura
on Mar 2, 2007 at 11:14 pm

Arthur said:
"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.


Posted by No Growther, a resident of Menlo Park
on Mar 3, 2007 at 12:26 am

Jeremy, your logic is so flawed, and your imaginary no growthers so evil, it is just silly. Your fear of stagnation has taken over your imagination.
Just one example, you imagine that the woman who moves here will be nurturant to teenagers. But if there were fewer people there would be fewer teenagers requiring nurture. Fewer in trouble, fewer drinking and driving and so on and on.
The pro-growthers almost always expect to profit personally from growth. Usually it is obvious why they want growth. They build, they design buildings, they sell houses, or property, or baby clothes, or computers, whatever.
Come clean Jeremy, stop blowing smoke. What's in it for you financially?


Posted by Jeremy Loski, a resident of Ventura
on Mar 3, 2007 at 10:49 am

No Growther, That was funny. You ask what's in it for those who favor measured, planned growth that avoids the pitfalls of a relative few extreme naysayers.

What's in it for everyone, from a financial point of view, is more opportunity to realize municipal revenue, more opportunity to diversify community, and counterintuitively, to generally improve out lives. Following your logic, Palo Alto would never have beem settled.

It's instructive that yuo ignored the real, tangible benefits mentioned above to prove your point. I would like to see you and those who aregree with you argue on substance - the main points in #'s 1 and 2 in my last post, but I don't expect we'll see that anytime soon. :)


Posted by Carol, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Mar 3, 2007 at 11:13 am

How about asking the City Council to map the existing school capacity, and impose a moratorium on additional housing where the nearby elementary schools can't offer parents a guarantee of admission?

I'm not disagreeing with Arthur that capacity in Junior High School won't also be a problem, but the elementary schools are in trouble now.

The City Council can't force the school district to open a new school.


Posted by No Growther, a resident of Menlo Park
on Mar 3, 2007 at 1:26 pm

As someone said earlier, you misrepresent what people have written. Then you shoot it down. I did not write "what's in it for those who favor measured, planned growth". Usually it is obvious.
I asked, what's in it financially for YOU.


Posted by Jeremy Loski, a resident of Ventura
on Mar 3, 2007 at 11:13 pm

No Growther, I amswered you question. Again, you'll gain as much (maybe more than I do) as we expand. I know it seems a difficult pill to swallow, but Palo Alto will gain advantage as it grows. You're going to love it!


Posted by Doug J, a resident of Midtown
on Mar 5, 2007 at 11:55 am

I just have to say, as a young professional trying to stay in Palo Alto where I grew up...

It's really hard given the home prices. *IF* we won't build some condo's or small homes (near Caltrain & El Camino makes sense) then no one should get to have more than one kid - who lives at home and inherits the house.

Otherwise, where to? Manteca?


Posted by Steve Raney, a resident of Crescent Park
on Mar 7, 2007 at 9:56 am

If you are reading this post, then you are FAR too deep into this thread!

Here's today's Guest Opinion on the topic, followed by an exhaustive reference (letter to Council) making the connection between Land Use (Housing) and Warming. This issue is far too simple for PhD climatologists to comprehend: Web Link

The CA Climate Action Team listed "smart land use" as the second highest impact strategy for reducing CO2 for 2020.

Weekly Editor Jay Thorwaldson: "Well-intentioned and environmentally conscious Palo Alto has restricted housing to create a terrible environmental situation with long commutes wasting fuel. It's an insoluble situation. Long commutes damage the social fabric and create lower quality of life. Workers are forced to commute from Manteca, etc. Palo Alto has a drawbridge mentality."


Posted by Reader, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 7, 2007 at 10:00 am

Steve

I am not "far too deep into this thread", it just came up top on the list of most recent threads.

However, this is an important topic and possibly one of the most serious problems that Palo Alto has. Please keep on keeping on.


Posted by KC Marcinik, a resident of Greenmeadow
on Mar 7, 2007 at 11:59 am

If you really want to stop people from commuting, you need to raise the price of gas to where it no longer makes sense, full stop.

New houses in Palo Alto will not necessarily "replace" future houses in Tracy and elsewhere because they will offer different amenities. Tracy offers large houses and large lots, open space. Palo Alto has its own strengths: good weather, good schools, shopping and services within biking and walking distance, and a tradition of community activities that has frankly outgrown the available facilities.

We should play to our strengths and grow our infrastructure of schools, local shopping and community activity space so this will be an even more desirable real estate market when gas prices are high enough that people make the choice of local over larger.


Posted by JoAnn Fisher Heyl, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jul 11, 2009 at 10:02 am

Looking for anyone that went to Lytton Elementary school around 1955 or so. whitneyheyl@msn.com


Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 11, 2009 at 10:37 am

Glad this old thread has resurfaced, there is a better original post for the debate.

This region is growing to the East and the South. Transportation to those areas need to be improved and coordinated with other areas of the region. Growing at the edges of the region makes much more sense than trying to infill in areas like Palo Alto. I agree that more upmarket housing can be built in our foothills - I don't mean the luxury end but the middle income housing - but the areas of present blight should be turned into useful retail to give us the tax base we are losing each time a Palo Altan goes elsewhere to shop.


Posted by Native, a resident of Walter Hays School
on Jul 15, 2009 at 3:20 pm

I grew up here and traffic is a bear now. There are way too many people and they need to stop building. City Council, quit being pushovers.


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