Council to rule on divisive senior-housing plan
Original post made
on Jun 7, 2013
After two emotional public meetings, Palo Alto officials are preparing to make a major ruling tonight on a development that has stirred anxieties and stoked anger around south Palo Alto -- a project that includes 60 senior-housing units and 15 single-family homes near the intersection of Maybell and Clemo avenues.
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posted Monday, June 10, 2013, 9:20 AM
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Posted by Long-time resident
a resident of Green Acres
on Jun 9, 2013 at 10:03 pm
I want to correct a serious misrepresentation by those trying to push through this development at Maybell.
The neighbors in Greenacres and Barron Park opposed to the rezoning of Maybell are NOT opposed to senior housing. We're not opposed to low-income housing. We're not even opposed to having a low-income senior housing development in that spot, in our neighborhood.
What we are opposed to, and have always been opposed to, is the size and scale of the project, and the fact that PAHC has threatened to make it all-or-nothing unless they can rezone part of the property on Maybell and Clemo, residential streets with 4 perfectly good ranch houses there now, and sell the rezoned property to a for-profit developer for his benefit to put 15 tall, skinny 3-story houses with almost no setback, and completely out of scale with the residential neighborhood, on Maybell, a pastoral neighborhood by Juana Briones Park with mostly ranch homes.
The neighborhood has been asking all along for the following important compromises:
1) Build the houses on Maybell/Clemo within existing zoning. This is a residential neighborhood, and those tall 3-story houses are completely out of character with a pastoral neighborhood of mostly ranch homes. The market-rate developer would be taking advantage of the rezoning for the benefit of his own profit, that's not a good reason to rezone.
2) Build the senior development within the existing zoning. The existing zoning would allow 40 units with a density bonus. If the other 20 spaces are needed, as of last month, there were 20 senior BMR units at Moldaw that had gone unfilled for 3 years. With the publicity from this rezoning controversy, PAHC seems to have filled 8 of those, and the City is finally renegotiating the terms to make the rest attainable for PAHC's actual clientele. Such a compromise would make the scale of the Maybell senior project more appropriate for the neighborhood, and provide just as many low-income senior units as was originally proposed.
3) Regardless, the City must conduct a good quality traffic study before rezoning. Their own consultant admitted their study did not include the impact on the bicycles and pedestrians, nor traffic from the last 2 years or future developments in the pipeline. The proposed development can ONLY outlet onto two safe routes to school, Arastradero and Maybell, traveled by over a thousand children on foot and bike every school day. Because of the schools, peak travel times happen throughout the day, not just rush hour. Updated data show their projected number of trips per day are far too low. (See the professional review of the traffic study, linked to on www.paloaltoville.com ) In addition, Arastradero is an important east-west corridor, and the new Vmware campus will double the business traffic. The City's study didn't include traffic patterns of the last two years, the bicyclists and pedestrians, or any future developments already planned.
The neighborhood would actually prefer for PAHC to build a senior complex within existing zoning to a market-rate development.* PAHC planners are threatening if they don't get their way in rezoning to put this completely out-of-scale proposal in this residential neighborhood, they won't build the project at all, as a way of getting housing proponents on their side against the neighborhoods.
This claim is completely untrue. The financing scheme, where they sell off a portion of the land to a market-rate developer and promise to rezone it so the developer can maximize his profits it's not essential to the low-income development. There are other developers who would be able to renovate those 4 existing ranch houses and put a house or two on Clemo, and make them almost as much money. What the existing proposal does is make the low-income development cheaper per unit, which is great, except that in doing so, they are making the neighborhood pay for it, rather than the City accepting the actual cost.
If the City wants affordable housing, the City should be willing to pay the cost of it, not ask a residential neighborhood to bear the cost. The City paid the full cost of the units at the new development on Alma near University, they should do so at Maybell, too. At the new Alma development downtown they could have, too, peeled off 20% of the land and allowed a developer to put up a for-profit high-rise of 15- to 18-stories high (whatever 3 times the scale of the neighborhood is) for the market-rate developer's benefit, in order to finance the rest of the project. Anyone could see that would be ridiculous. Yet if they rezone Maybell to allow this, they would be allowing the equivalent of that in the middle of our residential neighborhood.
The neighbors would actually support PAHC to ask the City to pay the cost of the complex rather than putting the cost onto the neighborhood, but so far attempts by people in the neighborhood to offer compromises have been rejected because of the above financing scheme.
Please reject the financing scheme and the rezoning. It's bad for the neighborhood, and a bad precedent for Palo Alto. PAHC owns that property, if they don't get the rezoning, it's not the end for putting a senior complex there. They can work with the City and come back with a proposal that fits the neighborhood, where they've done a proper traffic study, and they won't see any of this opposition from the neighborhood (opposition that will continue if they rezone).
I'm personally for a low-traffic use of that site, to convert it to a community orchard with the Julia Morgan building relocated there from 27 University (John Arrillaga will move it there at his expense). Senior housing would be better as part of the 27 University public benefit, because that location is so walkable and adjacent to everything seniors need. But my next favorite option is to have a senior development at Maybell, within the existing zoning, and would support it. Most of my neighbors feel the same way. I very much doubt the above posters are from Greenacres -- more likely proponents trying to characterize the neighborhood negatively to get their way.
*The City's claims about what a market developer would build there are exaggerated using setbacks within the existing zoning, it would mean homes of less than 1400 sq ft (confirmed by Tim Wong), which no developer would do at that location because larger homes are far more desirable with higher resale per sq ft.