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About this blog: I grew up in Los Angeles and moved to the area in 1963 when I started graduate school at Stanford. Nancy and I were married in 1977 and we lived for nearly 30 years in the Duveneck school area. Our children went to Paly. We moved ...  (More)

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My Day at the Comp Plan Summit

Uploaded: Jun 2, 2015
First I want to thank all the staff and volunteers who made the event run smoothly and who were always around to answer questions and help out. Second a shout out to the food from Ada's Café at Mitchell Park Library. And finally, a thank you to all who made the new community center such an inviting place to be.

When I arrived I was given a packet and name tag that had my table number on it. The first hour was a welcome by Mayor Holman and an orientation with background information by City Manager Jim Keene and Planning Director Hillary Gitelman.

The rest of the day was spent in small groups, each discussing first Mobility and Transportation, then Effective Growth Management Tools and, finally, Housing the Next Generation of Palo Altans and their Grandparents. Each session began with a short video and was oriented to answering three questions. A volunteer wrote ideas from the group on a piece of paper and at the end of each session the groups selected a small set of key ideas to text, which were shown to all participants in each room. This week the staff will tabulate and distribute the texts.

Over the course of the day there were six other people at my table, one whom I knew from serving on the infrastructure commission and five who I did not know at all or knew very slightly. We took turns scribing. I am from downtown and the rest of our group was from midtown, south and the hills.

Our group did not have trouble coming to agreement on key takeaways.

On transportation and mobility our key ideas were

--Expand biking options
--Have much more frequent shuttles
--Expand and underground CalTrain and consider housing above

On growth management our key ideas were

--Embrace growth with tough love and mitigation

--Locate development in walkable areas

On Housing our key ideas were

--Accept more height and density for housing in return for community benefits including retail and affordable housing

--Look to downtown, Cal Ave and El Camino BUT also other potentially walkable neighborhoods like midtown shopping center and the Charleston/Fabian Way area.

Our group did not talk much about office development, focusing instead on housing, neighborhoods, mobility and retail. I do not remember any negative or personal comments and no discussion of council members or various groups in the city. I was very pleasantly surprised by the interest and open mindedness of the residents at our table and it made for a very enjoyable day.

Our group was open to more growth but wanted to make sure 1) we got benefits in return and 2) we were working actively to mitigate the impacts (mostly to do with traffic and parking) that we experience.

The people who mentioned making the midtown shopping center and Charleston/Fabian Way neighborhoods areas for more density and retail were the people who lived nearby, not the two members who live north of Embarcadero. There was a lively discussion of the challenges in making El Camino a more walkable area and people were interested in the possibility of Stanford Research Park and the Shopping Center as locations for more housing.

Please share your stories and experiences from the Summit. If you did not attend and have questions, I will try and find someone to answer them if I cannot.

Comments

 +   11 people like this
Posted by Eric Rosenblum, a resident of Downtown North,
on Jun 2, 2015 at 6:08 pm

Eric Rosenblum is a registered user.

Thanks for kicking this off, Steve.

I attended, and found it really useful.

I ended up being part of 2 tables (somehow my morning table had shrunk by the afternoon, so I joined a 2nd table). Between the 2 tables, I had met one of my table-mates before, but even he was not someone I had ever talked to.

My first table was talking about transportation, and as a group we were persuaded by one of the participants who made a strong argument about taxing externalities and funding desired outcomes. In this case, he proposed a congestion tax for cars entering Palo Alto through the major entry points (off of 101 and 280) with satellite parking and frequent shuttles located at these entry points. The aim would be to reduce congestion within the city, potentially reduce incentive to drive, and raise money for very frequent, smart shuttle service. There was also a lot of agreement that there shouldn't be free parking. In this, we had a hold-out: one person was very concerned with the inconvenience/ friction associated with paid parking-- as a result, our group talked about how to make a parking permit program as frictionless as possible.

My other table was entirely composed of people I had never met. During the discussion about development pace, we talked a lot about protecting retail, and had some discussion about what sorts of policies would make a retailer successful. We were all supportive of the proposed "ground floor retail protection", but all felt that's not enough. There will have to be more mixed use and denser housing to allow for employees and a diverse range of patrons to both work at and patronize the retail.

Our housing discussion was very similar. The theme was about how to encourage diversity-- age diversity, economic diversity, etc. In general, there was a lot of enthusiasm for denser, mixed use developments. One member of our group felt that Palo Alto will never be affordable, and proposed subsidizing housing for people working in Palo Alto in San Jose, near Caltrain. The rest wanted to try to invest in taller, denser buildings close to existing Palo Alto Caltrain stations to provide more affordable housing. There was discussion about putting more housing along, El Camino Real, especially if Bus Rapid Transit can be done in a first class way.

So... my take-away... People came relatively informed and ready to have open minded discussions. There was very little ideology on display, and I think that people listened respectfully and built on each others' ideas.

Mayor Holman described this as "our constitutional convention", which I really hope was the case, because there were a lot of good ideas discussed that could find common ground among both old timers and new comers.


 +  Like this comment
Posted by Kris, a resident of Southgate,
on Jun 3, 2015 at 6:45 am

deleted

SL: please do not tell other people what they think or opine on what voters think. Speak for yourself and report on what people at your table talked about as Eric did above.

This is a blog for people to share their experiences at the summit or ask questions about the summit process and follow up.



 +  Like this comment
Posted by mauricio, a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland,
on Jun 3, 2015 at 7:47 am

mauricio is a registered user.

I was wondering if there was any discussion of the fact that residents of the dense housing developments near the Caltrain stations on University and California actually keep using their cars and don't use public transportation (portion deleted, unsupported allegation not responding to anything said on the blog)


 +  Like this comment
Posted by Curmudgeon, a resident of Downtown North,
on Jun 3, 2015 at 10:08 am

"I was wondering if there was any discussion of the fact that residents of the dense housing developments near the Caltrain stations on University and California actually keep using their cars ... "

How gauche!


 +   1 person likes this
Posted by stephen levy, a resident of University South,
on Jun 3, 2015 at 10:44 am

stephen levy is a registered user.

At our table we discussed the fact that housing in areas like downtown reduce the need for car use for many activities such as shopping, dining, access to services and amenities. I told my story of being able to do all these things without needing a car plus my location has access to the great Stanford shuttle system.

As I said above our table participants urged more biking options and a trial of shuttle service with frequent route times.

If residents have better access to CalTrain and bus service that is an added bonus but not the primary advantage of locations like downtown and Cal Ave for reducing car use.


 +  Like this comment
Posted by mauricio, a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland,
on Jun 3, 2015 at 10:52 am

mauricio is a registered user.

I was responding to Eric Rosenbaum's comments: "The rest wanted to try to invest in taller, denser buildings close to existing Palo Alto Caltrain stations to provide more affordable housing. There was discussion about putting more housing along, El Camino Real, especially if Bus Rapid Transit can be done in a first class way. "

portion deleted--Mauricio continues to speak for others and discuss comments not made above.

Mauricio, I have argued and our table discussed the fact that housing near services, shopping, dining and public transit options including shuttles reduces car use compared to other locations.

If you have any evidence or reasoning that this is not true, please discuss. Moreover, as I read what Eric wrote his table discussed the location of housing near CalTrain as a place for more affordable housing, not because those people might use CalTRain. Please stop misquoting comments on this blog.


 +   8 people like this
Posted by Elaine Uang, a resident of Downtown North,
on Jun 3, 2015 at 11:01 am

Saturday was great - it was fantastic to see so many people attend on a sunny weekend day, and to hear from such a diversity of viewpoints. To me, that's what makes Palo Alto wonderful and I hope our city acts on the great wealth of ideas our residents have.

I met amazing people at my table. We spent a lot of time discussing ways to improve bike infrastructure to make it easier to use the bike for everyday travel, how ECR a more European like thoroughfare with wide sidewalks, shops and housing, a beautiful Alma corridor if the train was undergrounded with a linear park on top and key nodes of buildings and activity.

Housing was important for all sessions, a major impact of the growth that we need to manage better. Our table wanted to encourage more interesting diverse people of all professions, backgrounds, economic status and interests. We also wanted retail businesses of many types to flourish and companies and industries of all types to start and grow in Palo Alto.

We also strongly about "insourcing" housing, not outsourcing it to other communities. Of particularly concern were senior housing models to keep our aging population in town and connected: such as home matching/sharing programs, second units, intentional communities. We also wanted to find ways to keep young folks so they don't be come an endangered species. (18-34 year olds whose population rate has significantly declined in the last 25 years). Smaller units on Univ, Cal Ave and ECR, near transit, near activities were high on everyone's list.

I was so jazzed after The Summit, and hope we keep creating ways for our community members to connect more frequently on these topics and that we move to make more good things happen in Palo Alto.


 +   4 people like this
Posted by eric rosenblum, a resident of Downtown North,
on Jun 3, 2015 at 12:40 pm

@mauricio

actually, the relationship between downtown transit-focused development and parking needs was discussed.

There were a few items that made a lot of sense to me:
1) If we're going to go down the path of unbundling parking from buildings, then we do want to make sure that people aren't just cheating and parking in neighborhoods. A well managed RPP program would be important to this effort
2) At the moment, we make parking free and convenient but transit is expensive and inconvenient. In my previous job (in San Mateo), my building had plentiful free parking for everyone in the building. Despite this, I took Caltrain to work every day (I don't like to drive if I don't have to). For making this decision, I paid over $1500 for my caltrain pass (this compares to ~$400 on gas if I drove my Prius instead). Our table discussed how to make transit much, much more convenient (ie., make shuttles smarter and more frequent) and cheaper (ie., give Gopasses to residents of the building who don't use parking)
3) If we're going to invest money in parking, make it mostly centrally available. We have been demonizing "in lieu fees" (and yes, we have to make sure that these fees are actually spent on parking), however, forcing each building to be individually fully parked makes lots of pockets of underused parking inventory (and is much more expensive to build). Much better to have well-managed central garages with intelligent capacity monitoring

In general, the themes were
-- charge for parking and congestion
-- subsidize transit
-- make "mobility on demand" a reality
-- put people in places where they can make transit viable and vice versa


 +   3 people like this
Posted by Crescent Park Dad, a resident of Crescent Park,
on Jun 3, 2015 at 1:00 pm

I've enjoyed reading various comments about the summit. I don't necessarily agree with everything said - but that doesn't mean I shouldn't try to understand and then provide input that is civil and (hopefully) intelligent.

Off the top - this is a long posting. To save any potential reader the time --- my bottom line is this:

My pet peeve is idealistic thinking without considering the paths and the costs to get there. (portion deleted, unsupported allegation)
-------

I don't know where PA will end up in the end. But one thing is certain...the concept of adding housing, with or without changes to density or height limits, is a noble idea. (portion deleted) SL: If you were at the summit and heard this, please repost. I heard no such thing),

I understand the concept of "walkable" neighborhoods with appropriate services. But there doesn't seem to be any credible thought to how these services are going to appear in the University Ave or Cal Ave corridors. An example - Whole Foods & Trader Joe's (University corridor) or Molly Stones (Cal Ave corridor) aren't exactly mainstream grocery stores. No slam on the stores or their patrons (I go to TC TJ every other week) --- but it's not an MP sized Safeway where you can purchase decent sized boxes of Cheerios (for example) at a decent price. Even the Safeway by ATT Park in SF is bigger than the Midtown Safeway, TJ or WF!

Another (Portion deleted) concern is the need to expand infrastructure capacity to support these housing ideas. Fresh water (never mind we don't have any - but how does it get there?). Sewage lines and processing capacity. Electric and gas. (portion deleted) SL: CPD, it ids fine to be grumpy but please share your views and not speak for others. we still live in California - where "you can't get there from here" still prevails when you want to go to Santa Cruz, Half Moon Bay, Tahoe, the Delta, etc. It takes over 2-hours just to take the train and bus combo to get to downtown Santa Cruz (I've done this)...and you're still not at the beach. You're going to have to provide expanded roads for the additional cars --- how do you do that given that the targeted transit districts are only accessed by roads that have built-out housing up against them today? For example...Embarcadero Road or University Ave.

Lastly, reading above...no mention of school capacity. Zero. There is Cubberly, the school site rented out next to Jordan and then the recently purchased property over by San Antonio Road. I'll leave out the Fremont Hills site (rented to Pinewood) as it's too far away from Univ. or Cal. Paly and Gunn are almost finished with their updates - but the space is maxed out. The elementary schools that support Univ. area - Walter Hayes and Addison are maxed. There is no other vacant space for another school. You want 2-stories? Take a look at the impact of the 2-story building at Duveneck --- not exactly neighborhood friendly. Looking to Stanford to solve the problem is not realistic as these housing ideas are all Palo Alto's doing.

Sorry for the rant (I just read through all of this). To summarize: you *cannot* significantly expand housing without solving these other issues before you put a shovel in the ground.


PS: The other idea, a very good one in fact, of tunneling the train and building housing on the right-of-way. But...we're talking multiple Billion$ to do the entire corridor. How is this economically feasible? I want to build a 4-story apartment building over the train---I have to pay my share for the tunneling where my building will go...that makes each apartment or condo cost approximately $10mil/unit to build. It's just not going to happen. And no way are people going to tax themselves billions so that some developers can build housing for other people (and make millions in profits while doing it).

Hate to be Grumpy Gus on all of this --- but the expectation that existing residents and businesses should foot the bill to acquire land, tunnel trains, expand infrastructure, build schools on non-existing properties --- it's just not realistic. Those who want to build such things, should be the ones that have to pay for all costs of expansion, not just for the gleaming brand-new condo. You want to build an 80-unit condo building? Then pay for infrastructure, the new school space and construction, the portion of train tunnel, the new non-existent modern-size shopping center, etc. Existing development fees don't come close to what it's going to take.


 +   3 people like this
Posted by eric rosenblum, a resident of Downtown North,
on Jun 3, 2015 at 2:40 pm

@ crescent park dad

These sorts of community engagement events are not the places for detailed EIR-type studies. The community meetings are a chance to have residents engage with each other and staff and understand what the political appetite is for various planning changes for the long-term direction of the comprehensive plan.

Having said that, nothing that was proposed/ discussed is "flying cars and jet packs". Investing more in transit while subsidizing car ownership less to enable greater density is what _every_city_in_most_of_the_world_already_does. It's really not a crazy moonshot. If there is political will to go down that path, then Staff, Commissions and Council can work on utility capacity planning, etc.

One of the false choices that is often brought up is around resource consumption. It is fairly obvious (and well-documented) that water consumption per person is inversely proportionate to density. The largest consumer of non-agricultural water is for landscaping. It is indisputable that apartment dwellers use far less water per person vs. their single-family home counterparts. If we really cared about water consumption from residential uses, we would be encouraging density.


 +   2 people like this
Posted by Justin, a resident of Mountain View,
on Jun 3, 2015 at 3:19 pm

@eric rosenblum
It's not water consumption that's the problem, but upgrading the supply system. Even if the additional water demand isn't much, it can be a lot more expensive to upgrade infrastructure to support higher density.

I'm wondering if inequality ever came up in discussion. It seems as if nearly every Bay Area city is doing it's best to keep out more rich people who want to live there, which means that they are forcing (or going to displace) people out of EPA, Mission, and every other previously affordable place to live. No, Palo Alto is not the full problem nor can it provide the full solution, but it is part of the problem and can be part of the solution. (portion deleted)


 +  Like this comment
Posted by mauricio, a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland,
on Jun 3, 2015 at 4:55 pm

mauricio is a registered user.

Adding more density to Palo Alto is not a noble concept. (portion deleted). Palo Alto needs to have less density, not more. We don't have the geography, infrastructure and schools for a dense urban metropolis.

The noble thing to do would be to encourage new companies and some of the existing ones to relocate to depressed areas around our country, areas that desperately need economic development and an infusion of capital. Those area can also provide affordable housing. (portion deleted).


 +  Like this comment
Posted by stephen levy, a resident of University South,
on Jun 3, 2015 at 6:00 pm

stephen levy is a registered user.

[Web Link OurPaloAlto website]

For readers with comments on the summit topics, the website above gives several ways to communicate.

The Comp Plan update is at the beginning stage and the city staff is encouraging comments, particularly from people who were unable to participate last Saturday


 +  Like this comment
Posted by Dan, a resident of Midtown,
on Jun 3, 2015 at 6:01 pm

This will probably get deleted, but based upon the limited postings permitted on this blog so far, the summit unfortunately comes off sounding like it was a religious convention for acolytes.

(Portion deleted)

My main concern with what happens there is mostly how it impacts the shared city-wide infrastructure: water supply, roads, schools, budget, police, etc. I really share the concerns noted above by CPD that the discussion usually comes off sounding as "taxing externalities" onto existing residents so that in addition to quality of life generally degrading, it costs more too.

Steve, its your blog, so feel free to delete, but my advice would be to acknowledge the dissenting views rather than just dismissing them.

SL: Dan, if you did not go to the event, it is really unfair to guess at what the majority felt. We are sharing our experiences and at my table non of the allegations you made that I deleted were voiced.

The city will post a list of the main ideas so you can see for yourself. People sharing your views about growth were there and passing out literature. And Eric's posts reflect some disagreement at his table. It was not a monolithic group by any means.


 +   1 person likes this
Posted by Crescent Park Dad, a resident of Crescent Park,
on Jun 3, 2015 at 6:35 pm

@ Dan: You bring up another good point that I didn't think about - the need to expand city services (equipment and staffing) for any significant housing impacts...starting with safety services.

@ eric: I understand your point about time and place as far as the meeting goes. But my comments still ring true in terms of what we read on this blog or other Town Square entries. And at some point, a reality check needs to enter the discussions at these summits.


 +   2 people like this
Posted by PAF, a resident of Barron Park,
on Jun 3, 2015 at 10:39 pm

It sounds like the meeting (or at least the discussions at your table) were dominated by the members of Palo Alto Forward (PAF). It's nice that young folks have such flexible schedules that they can attend meetings like this summit. This should result in more dense housing, allowing them to gain a foothold in the Palo Alto real estate market.


 +   3 people like this
Posted by PAF activists, a resident of Downtown North,
on Jun 4, 2015 at 9:19 am

Yes, PAForward was active in encouraging attendance and they are here on this blog reinforcing their views about dense housing near transit.
Steve Levy, Eric Rosenblum and Elaine Uang are leaders at PAF. See their website.


 +   1 person likes this
Posted by mauricio, a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland,
on Jun 4, 2015 at 9:37 am

mauricio is a registered user.

deleted, inaccurate statements

see below this pm for clarification


 +  Like this comment
Posted by Curmudgeon, a resident of Downtown North,
on Jun 4, 2015 at 10:25 am

deleted, speculation and put downs, not related to the summit discussion.


 +  Like this comment
Posted by Curmudgeon, a resident of Downtown North,
on Jun 4, 2015 at 11:22 am

deleted, if you were at the summit, please share your experiences there.

I assume from your comments that you were not there and so your comments as to what did or did not happen are speculation and contrary to my experience at the summit.


 +   2 people like this
Posted by chris, a resident of University South,
on Jun 4, 2015 at 11:36 am

People who criticize dense housing for seniors need to understand the following:

As they age, seniors drive less and less. It is better for traffic and congestion, if they live where they can walk or use shuttles. That is a lot more efficient than the current model of volunteers driving hither and yon getting seniors where they need to go.

The forces against density need to critically examine their flawed assumptions.


 +   1 person likes this
Posted by Downtown Worker, a resident of Menlo Park,
on Jun 4, 2015 at 1:28 pm

Crescent Park Dad - I used to live downtown for many years before moving across the creek to the Willows. University and Cal Ave _are_ walkable neighborhoods with plenty of services, at least if you are in your 20s or early 30s. When my wife and I lived downtown, we did 90% of our shopping at Whole Foods because it was just a short trip away. I was also able to walk to work (I have to bike now). We frequently walked a few blocks to eat at restaurants in the evening. Yes, we made trips to Target and the like - we weren't 100% carfree - but those tended to be non-peak trips and there's not a lot of traffic even on Alma at 2pm or 9pm.

Suppose that we hadn't been as lucky in our jobs and we had to move to Fremont instead of Menlo Park in order to buy a house. Now, I would have been driving to work instead of biking and traffic in Palo Alto would actually have gone up!

It's definitely the case that these don't have enough services for everyone. But I know a number of singles in their 20s who work downtown and also live downtown and don't own a car. (Don't worry - they have an assigned parking space in their complex anyway!) If we can build more car-light or car-free housing in these areas, we don't need to attract everyone - just make it possible for people to live here and walk or bike to work instead of driving in.


 +  Like this comment
Posted by Crescent Park Dad, a resident of Crescent Park,
on Jun 4, 2015 at 1:38 pm

@ chris: Your points are well taken. Except at the same time you have to acknowledge the personal economic impacts for the long-time Palo Alto (or Menlo, Los Altos, Woodside, Portola Valley, Atherton, etc.) homeowner.

Huge amounts of equity built up in their homes. Given the current tax structure, it is disadvantageous to sell your home and downsize unless you have no choice. You're allowed a 1x exception for a $500K break (assume married) on the home sale proceeds...but when you net a couple of million $$$, that isn't really going help...you're looking at $1mil. going to Uncle Sam & Uncle Jerry. Whereas you can milk your equity (if your short on retirement funds) with reverse mortgages and remain in your own home without giving away half of your estate in taxes. And then pass the house onto their heirs and they can take on the property without an increase in property taxes.

My point is that in areas of great affluence, the likelihood of seniors abandoning their beautiful PA homes is not as high as some may believe.

If you were to build senior housing in PA - how many seniors from PA would go for such a thing versus how many from outside PA? I don't know the answer but that is something that needs to be researched.


 +  Like this comment
Posted by Crescent Park Dad, a resident of Crescent Park,
on Jun 4, 2015 at 1:46 pm

@ DW. Yes, I agree that it can work for the young single professionals. Who dine out, etc. But the model that is getting pressed is for large numbers of family housing, not just for singles or couples. Huge impact on all sort of infrastructure and services === and the schools.

Like I said, nothing against WF...but I've got to have my Cheerios! ;-)


 +  Like this comment
Posted by PAF activists, a resident of Downtown North,
on Jun 4, 2015 at 1:51 pm

PAF advocates for small units for downtown workers, single people.
Is there a contract they will sign, not to get married and have children?
PAF leaders have children and cars and the usual suburban luxuries (though they only take photos of themselves biking).


 +  Like this comment
Posted by stephen levy, a resident of University South,
on Jun 4, 2015 at 4:06 pm

stephen levy is a registered user.

There has been a lot of discussion about Palo Alto Forward, who was at the summit and what policies PAF supports. I will try and answer these questions and invite others who know to do so as long as you post under your name.

In terms of who went to the summit, the staff had a map where people could post where they live and did a text poll for age ranges. I think the city will share the data. My impression of the map was that attendees lived all around the city.

In terms of ages, when they showed us in the room, the largest group as I remember was 45-55 followed by 55-65 and then 65+ and 35-45. The lowest percentage was under 35. That was how the room looked to me. At our table four of us were over 60, two in the 40-60 range and possibly one under 40.

In terms of PAF membership, I was the only active member at our table, another was on our mailing list and five had no affiliation that I know of.


 +   2 people like this
Posted by stephen levy, a resident of University South,
on Jun 4, 2015 at 4:16 pm

stephen levy is a registered user.

[Web Link PAF Steering Committee]

The link above takes you to the Palo Alto Forward website. Of the faces shown in the link

One is an architect, one a lawyer, one an environmental volunteer, one an economist, two with backgrounds in public, private and non profit housing issues and two in tech.

Six live in single family homes, one in a townhouse and I live in a downtown condo complex.

Six have children (two with adult children), and one couple is expecting.

It is absolutely true (see the blog page) that Palo Alto Forward supports more housing options for seniors, families and young singles. But it is also true that the steering committee members already have housing in PA (most own) and our concern is for people like us. In terms of age, two on the steering committee are over 60, another two I believe are over 40 and the rest are over 30.

PAF tries to be very transparent so check out the website, come to an event or meet with some of us if you are interested. You can read the mission on the home page.


 +  Like this comment
Posted by PAF activists, a resident of Downtown North,
on Jun 4, 2015 at 11:55 pm

deleted, false statements, post not related to the summit


 +  Like this comment
Posted by mauricio, a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland,
on Jun 5, 2015 at 6:17 am

mauricio is a registered user.

deleted, false statements, not related to the summit


 +   5 people like this
Posted by Mark Michael, a resident of Community Center,
on Jun 5, 2015 at 8:12 am

Thanks, Steve, for yet another thought provoking blog article. I echo the positive comments about the Summit and hope this is a major step for the community to understand how to meet the challenges of the future. Insofar as the Summit focused on updating the Comp Plan, it seems critical for the updated Comp Plan to present a coherent "vision" for the period ending in 2030. The current Comp Plan begins by acknowledging there are many different visions in the community. This seems to be a flaw in articulating an overall direction with policies and programs that will be the litmus test for actions. When "consistency with the Comp Plan" may include a wide variety of different possibilities, it compounds the difficulty of decision-making by the Council and strains public trust in the process.

What does it mean for Palo Alto to be a "city"? Might we prefer to be a "town"? Putting aside the rationalization that we can aspire to be a great "small-medium" city, doesn't our bias for single family housing, height limits and automobile transit reflect an attachment to a smaller, lower, less dense, leafy, less urbanized feel? If so, why not aspire to a vision in the updated Comp Plan of opting for small town amenities, scale and infrastructure? By the way, this is okay with me, particularly if we are collectively clear on the choice. (I grew up here and then moved away to complete my education and professional training, and moved back because there is no place I'd rather live and raise a family.)

Alternatively, if it may not be feasible to go back to the future, what are the implications of a robust local economy and high demand for additional people to make their home here? The data suggest more jobs are being created here and inevitably people who can't find (or afford to buy) a home in Palo Alto will be commuting, with additional pressure on traffic congestion and parking woes. What if -- in order to create space for even a little more affordable housing -- Palo Alto opted to allow a 5th floor in neighborhoods close to transit and/or places of employment, but only if at least 25% of the top four floors (ground floor retail?) were dedicated to affordable housing. The incremental density might allow for better utilization of to-be expanded shuttle service and other transit enhancements and parking management.


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Posted by stephen levy, a resident of University South,
on Jun 6, 2015 at 10:51 am

stephen levy is a registered user.

[Web Link ]

The link above is a way to get involved in the Comp Plan update and respond to the questions asked at the summit.


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Posted by Way, a resident of Gemello,
on Jun 6, 2015 at 7:49 pm

Posting an item on Town Square is simple and requires no registration. Just complete this form and hit "submit" and your topic will appear online. Please be respectful and truthful in your postings so Town Square will continue to be a thoughtful gathering place for sharing community information and opinion. All postings are subject to our TERMS OF USE, and may be deleted if deemed inappropriate by our staff.


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Posted by Pat Markevitch, a resident of Downtown North,
on Jun 8, 2015 at 9:28 am

I was at the summit and I felt the city staff did a terrific job. I had one person at my table who works in Palo Alto and lives in Menlo Park. I asked her if she was a member of Palo Alto Forward and she said yes. I know that the city invited people to attend if they worked in Palo Alto. PASZ also had members in attendance. Our table had some very fruitful discussions and came up with some great ideas.

With regards to high density housing near downtown, where would it go? How will the city address the burden on infrastructure, traffic, parks, schools, water usage, etc...?

I am not a member of PA Forward or PASZ.


 +   2 people like this
Posted by Crescent Park Dad, a resident of Crescent Park,
on Jun 8, 2015 at 10:50 am

I realize this may be a bit off topic, so I won't take it personally if this comment is removed for that reason...

In the end, it should be the registered voters who live in Palo Alto that have the final say. While I don't mind non-residents (who work in PA) contributing to the discussion - I do mind that there is a potential for non-residents to have more of a voice than residents.

I have no idea how my concern played out at the summit. That's why I'm not making a big stink over something that may have not been an issue. However the CC needs to filter whose votes count most here. And certainly the latest CC election points to the direction that PA voters are leaning - despite what PAF may say or what non-residents want.

Just my two cents.



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