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Transportation Element of the Comprehensive Plan: Big Questions

Uploaded: Aug 27, 2015
The Citizens Advisory Committee (CAC) will be discussing the draft of the Transportation Element at their September 8th meeting and part of their October 20th meeting. The Comprehensive Plan is an awkward mashup of Vision Statement, Mission Statement, Priorities, To-Do List, fanciful wishlists, reassuring nods to various interest groups?

The draft Transportation Element is heavy on the first two: 60 of its 101 policies are statements of principles, that is, they have no programs intended to implement them. The remaining 41 policies have a total of 120 programs attached to them.

Background: The CAC discussions are confusingly based on three versions of the Comp Plan. City Hall has invited Online Commenting relative to the current version. However, discussions are relative to draft of 2014 that the Council sent back for more consideration (hence the CAC). Shortly before the August CAC meeting on another section of the Comp Plan, Staff distributed a substantially augmented version of that section from 2014 draft, and it was used as the basis for discussion at that meeting.
My discussion here is based on the Draft Element. The numbering scheme is "Tx.y.z", where "T" identifies the item as being part of the "Transportation Element" (replaced by "RC" for items related to the Rail Corridor); "x" is the number of the Goal within that Element; "y" is the number of the Policy within that Goal; "z" is the number of the Program for implementing that Policy. The current Comp Plan uses a different number scheme, and the draft Plan provides a mapping between the current items the proposed organization.

I have provided links into the draft document?a PDF?so that you can double-check my copying, and to see what I have elided and the context of the item being cited. Let me know of errors (there is an email link next to the photo of me at the top of the page).

I expect that many of you readers have been involved in the development of a Vision Statement or Mission Statement, either in a commercial enterprise or another organization. These debates often extend for hours, but I have been surprised by how many of the participants don't recognize that the purpose of the exercise is the "journey", not the "destination". For example, there often is intense debate on selection of exact words: Forcing the participants to examine precisely what they want to say and what the various candidate wordings convey is a proven mechanism to force the desired discussion of what is most important. Yet days later, I have heard some of those participants dismiss questions about the meaning of the wording, saying that the meaning is "obvious". All the knowledge and understanding developed in reaching the result has disappeared. Analogous to going on a long vacation, and the only pictures you keep are of unpacking the suitcases upon your return.

Absent this "legislative record", it can be very hard to judge the intent of the wording. Especially when there is problematic wording: Was it the result of author not understanding the complexities, or of the author not bothering to be precise, or of the author trying to slip something by the reader?

For example, Policy T1.4 states "Locate higher density development near transit corridors?" Is this a policy trying to be a restriction?that such developments should only be in such locations?or is it a call to enable more such developments?

For example, Policy T4.1 "Provide sufficient motor vehicle and bicycle parking ? to support vibrant economic activity. ?" Is this more free parking? Only two of the 13 implementing programs mention financing, and then only at the level of "evaluate" (T4.1.4) and "explore options" (T4.1.10), whereas the policy reads more as "Do it now, regardless!" Consequently, my reading of this item in isolation would be that it calls for taxpayer-financed construction, but this is contrary to what I know of current thinking.

----Who was "at the table"----

During the Public Comment period at the August CAC meeting, Annette Glanckopf pointed out the imbalance in the items addressing different demographic groups, citing seniors as an example of getting short shrift (paragraphs 5-6 from end of article "Residents challenge membership of new citizen panel" (2015-08-14) plus online comments). Gross disparities are a warning sign of an underlying problem in the process?one that cannot be fixed simply by adding more items relevant to those groups. It is a warning that those groups' concerns and interests were not adequately represented in the consideration of all the items in the draft.

When one looks at the draft Transportation Element, the disparities indicate that one interest group was overwhelmingly dominant: a subset of bicyclists. As I read the various items, I saw instance after instance where there seemed to have been no one to challenge them about practicality, cost-effectiveness and other tradeoffs. For example, Policy RC3.1 "Seek to increase the number of east-west pedestrian and bicycle crossing along Alma Street, particularly south of Oregon Expressway." Yes, there are long stretches without crossings, and there have been a couple of times a crossing between Oregon and Meadow would have been convenient to me. However, I have never gotten a responsive answer to the practical question "What is the actual need? That is, where would people be coming from and going to, and how many such people are there?" Tunnels and overpasses are ridiculously expensive, and there are so many more cost-effective things you can do for bicyclists and pedestrians. Oh, I forgot?for some, Palo Alto is a "Cost is no object" zone.

For those that like numbers, Goal T3 "Protect Neighborhood Streets?" has 5 policies and 4 programs. Bicycle Parking has 3 policies and 5 programs.

The second group with disproportionate influence as "sustainability advocates". For example, Policy T7.3 "Support the efforts of the Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC)? that support greenhouse gas reduction. Encourage MTC to base the region's ? on greenhouse gas reductions." So, prioritize GHG considerations, with no mention of providing service. I have been at MTC-sponsored meetings where they put zero value on people's time: Turning a 30-minute commute into a 2-hour commute was acceptable, simply on the notion that it would reduce GHG (no attempt at quantifying it). Recognize that MTC is a primary partner of ABAG in pushing high-density development on the theory that this region needs/wants high rates of population growth, and "sustainability" is part of how it tries to justify its assumptions.

----Transit Corridors----

The term "transit corridor" is used throughout this document without being defined, but the interpretation of that term is crucial to many policies and programs. The term has a long history of abuse in Palo Alto politics. For example, El Camino is classified as a transit corridor because of the VTA 22/522 bus line, and that classification is used as a rationalization for development decisions based on hypothetical transit usage, rather than observed usage. Arastradero Road is often characterized as a transit corridor, despite having a bus route (#88) that runs infrequently (hourly), only weekdays, and doesn't go much of anywhere (judge for yourself). And then there have been the "Built it and they will come" transit corridors: The belief that if you build high density housing and offices where there is no transit, that will result in usable transit being expanded to that area. This attitude resolutely resists understanding the level of density needed to support viable transit. Hint: If you build 40-60 housing units not on a bus line (think Alma Plaza), no way are you going to get a bus line stopping there every 10 minutes.

Recognize that when many pro-development advocates use the phrase "near transit" that they mean all of Palo Alto (including Foothill Park?), because their basis for comparison is Tracy and Los Banos. I kid you not. These is not just random ideologues, but include elected officials (then and now).

Consequently, any time you see phrases such as "transit corridor" or "near transit", anticipate that developers and their allies on Staff will use that term to put high density housing and offices in locations that a typical person would see as too far from transit to be relevant.

----Anti-Affordable Housing----

Policy T7.20 "Support the regional Grand Boulevard Initiative for El Camino Real?". That Initiative calls for massive redevelopment of the area 0.25-1.0 miles on either side of El Camino into offices, high-density housing and retail that fits into that style of development (example, restaurants on the first floor of office buildings). T7.20 includes one Palo Alto-specific exception?no dedicated bus lanes?but ignores a host of other problems that the Initiative would pose for Palo Alto. It omits Council's direction that exempts single-family neighborhoods from being rezoned to encourage redevelopment. For visualization: Middlefield Road is within this 1-mile distance until you get south of Charleston Road. However, unaddressed by both Council and the CompPlan is that much of Palo Alto's more affordable (less unaffordable?) housing is inside this band. Experience has demonstrated replacing older apartment buildings with new higher-density ones does not improve affordability?quite the contrary.
Note: A majority of the 17 voting members on the current CAC either come from groups advocating this type of redevelopment or personally advocate it.
Aside: I discussed other problems with the Initiative in my blog "El Camino Sidewalk Width and the 'Grand Boulevard' Delusion" (2014-03-29).

----Promoting Redevelopment----

Policy T1.3 "Make land use decisions that promote infill, redevelopment, and reuse of vacant or underutilized parcels employing minimum density requirements that support walking, bicycling, and public transit use" (emphasis added; the grammar is awkward). Without the emphasis, this probably seems innocuous. However, recognize that to many developers, growth advocates ? virtually all parcels in Palo Alto are "underutilized". For example, I routinely hear single-family homes attacked as wasteful and a scourge on the environment. And the 50-foot height limit is constantly criticized. And we "need" denser, taller buildings along El Camino and in the CalAve area.

Experience demonstrates that in Palo Alto's current situation, redevelopment increases prices, not just for occupants of building being redeveloped, but those in nearby buildings. So you might ask "Why does City Hall want to promote making the city even less affordable to residents?" You might well ask that.

----What sets the pace? Development or Infrastructure?----

There are some items that recognize the need to balance development and infrastructure capacity. For example, Program T1.7.4 "Consider Caltrain capacity in evaluation of proposed Transportation Demand Management measures" (Caltrain is running near capacity already). And Policy T4.1 "?Limit under-parked development while there is insufficient public parking." However, there are more items that are pro-developer, with the implicit assumption that the burden of providing infrastructure is on the public. With it becoming increasing more expensive and difficult to expand infrastructure, this can translate into developer profits coming at the expense of diminished infrastructure for residents. For example, Goal RC5 "Infrastructure should keep pace with development" is the reverse of what is in the interest of the city and its residents.

For example, Goal RC4 and Policy RC4.1 effectively acknowledge a significant deficiency in the plans for high-density development in the Rail Corridor?it is poorly connected to parks, community centers, libraries, schools??and calls for infrastructure improvements (public spending) to support this high-density development, including ways to increase school capacity.

Policy T2.9 "Prohibit development that causes Level of Service (LOS) E for a particular intersection unless the City Council or the Director of Public Works finds that (1) there are no feasible improvements?" Claiming "no feasible improvements" has long been successfully used by connected developers to avoid having to take responsibility for the traffic generated by their projects, although they usually first claim that those projects will only generate traffic below the level of significance.

----Traffic----

The draft is surprisingly less hostile to vehicle traffic than you might expect, which is to say, it is not entirely hostile. There are items that call for "slowing" traffic without regard to its current speed (Program T3.2.2 and Policy T3.4) I am not being pedantic: During the public meetings on the Arastradero Road Restriping Trial, complaints about a level of congestion that had cars moving at 5-10 mph were met will calls that traffic should go even slower. Aside: In actual parking lots (in shopping centers, office parks), I know of no attempt to have vehicles go less than 5 mph.
Note: Although the authors of these items mention Traffic Calming, they seem to misunderstand the concept, equating it with slowing traffic. As the name implies, "calming" involves making movement safer by making it smoother and more predicable, eliminating both the high and low speeds, rapid changes in speed, unnecessary lane changes?

A number of the items suffer badly from tunnel-vision or lack of coordination with other sections. For example, Policy T2.4 "Ensure that additional lanes are not installed at the expense of bicycle lanes, sidewalks, or landscaping." Many residential streets suffer from cut-through traffic because of congestion on major streets. One way to reduce that cut-through traffic would be to increase capacity on the major street, such as by adding a lane (acknowledged on that same page in Policy 2.8). I suspect many residents would be more than willing to lose some landscaping on thoroughfares to increase their capacity if it improved safety on residential streets. Narrowing little-used sidewalks would also be an acceptable tradeoff to me. But this policy prohibits that.

Policy T5.1 "? Prioritize pedestrian, bicycle, automobile safety and transit accessibility over vehicle Level-Of-Service at intersections." Unless you have been in a bunch of meetings on bike safety, you probably don't realize how counter-productive, even dangerous, this policy is (it is inherited from the current CompPlan). You are at a meeting and a lone bicyclist or pedestrian claims that a particular feature of an intersection makes them "feel" unsafe, and request/demand substantial changes, often ones that are likely to increase congestion (decrease LOS). Since these are personal feelings, they cannot be subjected to considerations of facts, logic or risk-assessment. That person will reject simple work-arounds with little more than "I shouldn't have to." For pedestrians, this may mean refusing to detour tens of feet (crossing elsewhere in the intersection); for bicyclists, refusing to take an established bike route 1-2 blocks away. Even though these people make only a modest attempt to cover their self-absorption with a thin veil of ideology, this policy makes it hard for Staff to tell them "No". Recognize that caving in to such people isn't simply a matter of inconveniencing thousands of others, reduced LOS (increased congestion) pushes traffic onto residential streets, creating a disproportionate danger. This policy fails both in how it makes tradeoffs at the intersection in question and in failing to consider the ripple effects of reduced LOS.

----Parking----

The draft plan replaces the current Policy T-47 "Protect residential areas from the parking impacts of nearby business districts" with Policy T4.5 "Create and maintain residential permit parking programs in appropriate areas of the City when supported by impacted neighborhoods." We live in an era of greatly reduced expectations.

----Wasting Transit Funding----

T7.15 "Support the development of an efficient and quiet regional rail system that encircles and crosses the Bay,?" These have long been the code words for BART. Do not think for a moment that this includes Caltrain: In the discussion of transit between the BART station in Fremont and the South Bay, this criteria was used to reject a Caltrain-style system?only full-fledged BART was acceptable, regardless of cost. Remember that the BART-to-SanJose decision took funding away from Caltrain improvements. So why should Palo Alto be advocating for a hyper-expensive rail connection to feed East Bay commuters into northern San Jose (and eventually northern City of Santa Clara)?

Policy T7.18 "Support design and implementation of a Dumbarton rail crossing?". Sorry. It died during a mugging by VTA looking more money to feed its insatiable BART addiction.

T7.19 "Collaborate on extensions of VTA Light Rail?" The VTA Light Rail system is consistently rated one of the worst, often the worst, such system in the US on both cost and service. In 2012, an extension into the West Valley was estimated to cost $175M to build and to add only 200 new riders ($875K/rider). Since official estimates routinely turn out to be a fraction of actual costs, guestimate $2-4M per rider for that extension (if/when it gets built). Yet, I don't see that Palo Alto considered the cost-effectiveness of a similar extension to us.

----Insufficient paranoia----

A basic problem with people attracted to government?official, employees, and many advocates?is an over-confidence in their ability to predict and control events. They tend to ignore unintended consequences ("The road to hell is paved with good intentions") or the ability of others to "game" the system. This is a major failing throughout the draft CompPlan (and the current one). For example, in Program T1.7.1 "Formalize the City's Transportation Demand Management (TDM) program by establishing an ordinance?provide a system for incorporating alternative measures as new ideas for TDM are developed. ?" The laudable intent is to allow flexibility for better measures, but notice that it says "alternative" rather than "better". City Hall has a history of knowingly allowing "aspirational" TDMs (simply hoping that building occupants will somehow find a way to make fewer vehicle trips). For example, delusionally high rates of transit usage, or assuming that the occupants of the housing units in a mixed-use complex will also be employed in that very same building. This also allows for vanity TDMs, that is, they look good in the brochure/resume but effectiveness is irrelevant.

----Vanity "Sustainability"----

The draft embraces long-discredited attitudes about sustainability and Greenhouse Gases (GHGs), for example, looking only at the emissions from a vehicle rather than full life-cycle effects. This tunnel vision of the problem has led Sustainability advocates to support a range of counterproductive measures. I term it "vanity" because it allows those advocates to feel good about themselves without having to do the work needed to actually be effective. The first two policies in this draft (T1.1, T1.2) reflect this problem.

----Humorous?: Planning to implement a by-then obsolete plan----

In this draft plan, implementation of the Bicycle Pedestrian Transportation Plan of 2012 is called for in 2 Policies (T1.20, T1.24) and 4 Programs (T1.19.1, T1.19.2, T1.19.5, T4.14.1). And Program T1.19.3 calls for updating that plan every 5 years. So we have a draft plan calling for the implementation of an existing plan, but this draft plan is unlikely to be approved before that existing plan is supposed to have been superceded.

On the other hand, given the current track record, we probably shouldn't expect the work on the 2017-2021 Bicycle and Pedestrian Plan to begin before 2019 or to be completed before 2026 (local estimating rule: work on a plan should start late and last longer than its intended duration).

----Cruft----

Cruft is a description for items, or portions thereof, that shouldn't be in the draft CompPlan because they take up space, and thereby inhibit focusing on what is important. Some are too trivial. Some have clearly not been thought out. I discussed this in my previous blog entries on this update to the CompPlan
? The Remedy to Inadequate Citizen Input? More of the same (2015-07-31)
? 143 important decisions in 150 minutes by a 20-member committee (2015-08-05)

Desirable, but any idea about how to do it?
Goal RC3 "Connect the east and west portions of the City through an improved circulation network that binds the City together in all directions."

Public Financial Support for Private Enterprises?
The draft language uses words like "support", "promote incentives" and "encourage" relative to private commercial activities. Some of these are undoubtedly intended only as vanity statements?allowing members of the ruling class to congratulate themselves on Palo Alto being a "leader" in these areas, without actually planning to do anything practical or effective. However, this is an official planning document and there is the ever-present danger of vacuous statements being turned against the City and its taxpayers.

Examples: car-sharing companies (T1.2.2) and services (T1.18); taxi service (T1.17);

Example: Program T2.6.3 calls for the City (taxpayers) to provide shuttle buses between the train station and Stanford Shopping Center, Stanford Medical Center and Stanford housing in the Sand Hill corridor. Is this really intended to be a commitment by the City, or is it just sloppy writing (inherited from current CompPlan)?

Do we really need to mention that?
There are four programs involving publishing maps (T1.19.4, T2.1.1, T5.7.4, T5.7.6); one to maintain the security fence at the airport (T8.1.3); "In business districts, keep sidewalks clean?" (T1.25.3); ?
Lobbying other agencies to "Do your job": for example, there are at least 3 policies T1.14, T1.15, T1.16 that could easily be rephrased as "Encourage VTA to provide competent service" (VTA: Santa Clara County's Valley Transportation Authority).

Hubris/Puffery
Although they were fewer than expected, the instances of hubris or puffery were still present.
For example, "highest quality general aviation-related services" in Program T8.1.1.
For example, Palo Alto needing to be a regional leader: Policy T7.1 " Lead and participate in initiatives to manage regional traffic" (emphasis added). Why should Palo Alto get involved in decisions on carpool lanes between Redwood City and San Francisco (Policy T7.4)?

Program T4.3.2 "Provide way-finding for parking?" : Since the draft provides no explanation of items, we don't know whether a practical case was made for this, or if it was just someone wanting to have the latest toys.


----Boilerplate----
An abbreviated index by topic and chronologically is available.

The Guidelines for comments on this blog are different from those on Town Square Forums. I am attempting to foster more civility and substantive comments by deleting violations of the guidelines.

I am particular strict about misrepresenting what others have said (me or other commenters). If I judge your comment as likely to provoke a response of "That is not what was said", don't be surprised to have it deleted. My primary goal is to avoid unnecessary and undesirable back-and-forth, but such misrepresentations also indicate that the author is unwilling/unable to participate in a meaningful, respectful conversation on the topic.

If you behave like a Troll, don't waste your time protesting when you get treated like one.

Comments

 +  Like this comment
Posted by Curmudgeon, a resident of Downtown North,
on Aug 27, 2015 at 6:19 pm

"I expect that many of you readers have been involved in the development of a Vision Statement or Mission Statement [snip]. I have been surprised by how many of the participants don't recognize that the purpose of the exercise is the "journey", not the "destination".

In my experience, the purpose of the exercise is to "have" a Vision Statement or Mission Statement, for the sake of form. Its operational meaning or relevance is immaterial. You just gotta have one or nobody takes your enterprise seriously.

"For example, Policy T1.4 states "Locate higher density development near transit corridors?" Is this a policy trying to be a restriction?that such developments should only be in such locations?or is it a call to enable more such developments?"

Restrictive. This is dog-whistle code for "Keep those high density mega-monstrosities out of, and out of sight of, our single-family neighborhoods."

Yet it has a very strong feelgood factor as an ostensible enabler. Build 'em, -- elsewhere. But, there being no land to build on, and since no sane developer would build mass housing in our hyper-commercial market anyway, it's a no-risk slogan.

I could go on and on, but in the end what gets into the Comp Plan does not matter. Like a Vision Statement or Mission Statement, the objective is to "have" a Comp Plan, not to apply it in any meaningful way, except as a hallowed document to carefully cherry pick to support major development applications, etc.

Plus, the Plan can always be spot-revised so it conforms to whatever proposal might not conform to it.


 +  Like this comment
Posted by Sheri, a resident of Midtown,
on Aug 28, 2015 at 1:32 pm

Thanks, Doug. You've echoed many of the same concerns I had when reviewing the draft element. The overemphasis on biking and walking ignores the geography of south Palo Alto, as well as the increasing number of seniors who may have trouble doing either. And the call for Palo Alto to be a regional leader is just more of our hubris; can't we just be a good team player? We need a Comp Plan that deals with realistic vs idealistic solutions to issues. I was also amazed at the backwardness of the "Infrastructure should keep pace with development" goal. Did no one pay attention to the last Council election?


 +  Like this comment
Posted by Douglas Moran, a Palo Alto Online blogger,
on Aug 28, 2015 at 2:13 pm

Douglas Moran is a registered user.

RE: "Did no one pay attention to the last Council election?" (Sheri)

The draft being used pre-dates the 2014 Council election. The CAC deliberations seem to be a restart without regard to intervening events, such as the Dumbarton Rail connection being killed off. Thus it is not "Did no one pay attention", but rather one of why Staff didn't annotate the draft about such issues, rather than leaving it to a large committee (20 now; 25 by the time of the meeting) to deal with.


 +   2 people like this
Posted by Contrarian, a resident of University South,
on Aug 29, 2015 at 9:33 pm

@Sheri

City staff is not used to responding to elections. It is used to controlling the City Council, which in theory responds to elections and directs Staff accordingly, but in reality eventually comes around to dutifully following Staff's directives. So bother the recent elections.

In that context the CP is at most a meaningless nuisance; its content is immaterial. Might as well write in the feelgood boilerplate in case some pilgrim actually reads it.


 +   2 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of Atherton,
on Aug 30, 2015 at 11:18 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Doug - Thanks once again for a brilliant and articulate analysis of this process. In particular I welcome your shining a light on how very small special interest groups can warp the process to serve their ends, Sadly elected officials count the number of people in a meeting or in the Council chambers as a proxy for what the entire community wants.

A 630 page Menlo Park study on El Camino Real was so captured by one special interest group that here are the results in that study:

fire = zero mentions
emergency = 1 mention
disabled = 1 mention
wheelchair = 1 mention

From its inception this project was driven by and captured by a small special interest group, bicyclists, that has no interest in any other users of ECR.


 +   5 people like this
Posted by Todd, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood,
on Aug 30, 2015 at 10:37 pm

"Recognize that MTC is a primary partner of ABAG in pushing high-density development on the theory that this region needs/wants high rates of population growth"

Sorry, when you start with an incorrect premise like this, it should make people question any point you try to make based on it. Nobody is pushing population growth in the bay area, its simply occurring, that's an objective fact. Despite Palo Alto not allowing any significant amount of housing to be built, if you've been to Gilroy, Tracy, Vacaville, its still happening in other parts of the Bay Area. When a tech firm downtown opens a new position (which fortunately doesn't need your or anyone else's blessing), that worker can choose to live in a newly built house in Livermore or a new condo in downtown Palo Alto. They may end up driving, contributing to traffic and taking up parking in either situation, but if they live in Livermore that outcome is guaranteed.


 +   3 people like this
Posted by Douglas Moran, a Palo Alto Online blogger,
on Aug 31, 2015 at 3:08 am

Douglas Moran is a registered user.

Todd makes one of the most basic fallacious arguments of the pro-growth advocates: That millions of people will continue to move into this area even if they don't have any hope for a job, for housing, for schools for their children,...

The argument goes that since these millions of people are going to arrive regardless, we need to provide jobs and housing and schools and ... for them.


They reject the notion that development policies that demand adding massive numbers of new jobs in this area is responsible for people moving here.

Notice that Todd is an advocate of corporate welfare: The corporation gets to put a job in Palo Alto despite there not being the supporting infrastructure (housing, schools, transportation) and it is up to the rest of us to pay for all those externalities, both financially and in loss of quality of life.


 +   6 people like this
Posted by Todd, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood,
on Aug 31, 2015 at 11:08 am

"That millions of people will continue to move into this area even if they don't have any hope for a job, for housing, for schools for their children,..."

You appear to be presenting this as a hypothetical. The jobs are already being created, thats not up for debate:

Web Link

Though it would be nice if you would explain to us how all these jobs are being created by "development policies" rather than, say, successful companies. Are you suggesting all this job growth is due to hiring in the real estate development industry?


 +   1 person likes this
Posted by mauricio, a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland,
on Aug 31, 2015 at 11:37 am

mauricio is a registered user.

__Nobody is pushing population growth in the bay area, its simply occurring, that's an objective fact__

Has the poster actually read this before posting? Companies who insist on moving into an area that has one of the most expensive real estate price tags in the nation and world, severe lack of land and space with incredibly limited housing options and infrastructure, are pushing the population growth. Unless these companies hire only employees with already established bay area housing, the responsibility to provide housing for them falls on local communities, who lack the land and infrastructure (no pro development fan is ever mentioning the fact California is running out of water and may already be in a pattern of chronic and severe drought). The corporations insisting on moving to, or expanding operations in the bay area, are not only acting irresponsibly, they perpetuate the socialism for corporations, capitalism for all others tradition. The local residents are supposed to pay for corporate selfishness, irresponsibility and hubris..


 +   1 person likes this
Posted by Neilson Buchanan, a resident of Downtown North,
on Aug 31, 2015 at 12:02 pm

Thanks, Peter Carpenter

Do you have advice on how we can better address risk management (for example fire, traffic,safety outcomes) into the process?

City government, especially top-level city staff, is not driven by quality management, outcomes or process. As you must realize, modern city government is much like the healthcare industry in the 1960s.

Driven by modern QA process, insurance costs and the courage to do the right thing........our local physician and hospital top managers have, in recent years, transformed their hi-tech and hi-touch services.

Our city government has much to strive for if we really want promote public confidence. The comp plan process is very vulnerable to willingful blindless by being all things to all persons..yielding to the most vocable narrow interests. A great deal rests on the two new co-chairs and super talented staff support.


 +   1 person likes this
Posted by Douglas Moran, a Palo Alto Online blogger,
on Aug 31, 2015 at 2:44 pm

Douglas Moran is a registered user.

Re: Todd, comment #2 : "Are you suggesting all this job growth is due to hiring in the real estate development industry?"

This is an excellent example of why the debate is so contentious: People like "Todd" are willful blind to what others are saying and disingenuous in their responses.

For example, Google wants Mountain View to rezone to allow them to build offices for 10,000 more employees. In Town Square Forums and elsewhere, you find Todd-type people claiming that it is essential to Google's operation that 40,000 employees be co-located on the same campus.

Throughout history, industries have found ways to operate in a geographic dispersed manner, but apparently it is impractical for Google to locate more than a small fraction of its jobs elsewhere. Yeah, right.

Consequently, people like Todd claim that the population growth associated with rezoning to allow office building for 10,000 employees is not a result of "development policies" but simply the consequence of "successful companies".


 +  Like this comment
Posted by Curmudgeon, a resident of Downtown North,
on Aug 31, 2015 at 4:47 pm

We have no obligation to accommodate private entities that want to muscle in. It's that simple.

I gently suggest that such discussion is off topic, since it presumes the Comp Plan has an actual influence on development or population growth or transportation. Experience with its present incarnation demonstrates it is a showcase document which is not taken seriously when a concrete development proposal comes along.


 +  Like this comment
Posted by WilliamR, a resident of Fairmeadow,
on Sep 2, 2015 at 8:18 am

@ Douglas Moran--

Has anyone asked Google why they need to hire 10,000 more people HERE, and not Livermore or Modesto or Santa Rosa or Salinas? Google is just an example, the question could be asked of other expanding companies as well.


 +  Like this comment
Posted by Douglas Moran, a Palo Alto Online blogger,
on Sep 3, 2015 at 12:26 am

Douglas Moran is a registered user.

RE: WilliamR

Google claims that having "everyone" on a common campus simplifies interaction and encourages the ideas that come from chance encounters, such as discussions in hallways and cafeterias. There is no question that there are such benefits, but there are also costs. Companies such as Apple are famous for isolating key product teams not only to maintain secrecy, but to avoid distractions. The Lockheed "skunkworks" approach to fostering innovations seems to be far more common than the notion of that happening from tens of thousands of employees being randomly thrown together. (Google, I mean "Alphabet", has its "Google X" division located off-campus).

But the question of cost/benefit for a company such as Google changes radically when they don't have to pay for the costs to the larger community ("externalities").


Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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