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Why contentious local politics? More examples from ADU at Council

Uploaded: Apr 18, 2017
Observations from the Council discussion on ADUs (Accessory Dwelling Unit aka granny units).

----Advertising contempt for those that disagree----

If someone were to use a well-known slur (ethnic, gender, orientation ...) against an established target, but then claimed that it was not intended as a slur, would you believe him? Something very similar happened at Monday's Council meeting on ADUs.

Palo Alto Forward (PAF) and its allies have long falsely labeled people who disagree with them on a range of issues as NIMBYs (Not In My Backyard). The correct meaning of NIMBY is someone who advocates for a policy but opposes themselves sharing in the impacts. PAF uses NIMBY for the opposite: People who would have impacts and costs inflicted on them for a policy they oppose. YIMBY (Yes ...) was created to evoke the NIMBY slur, if not subsidiary to it: "You're a NIMBY, I'm a YIMBY."

Yet at the Council meeting, many of those supporting the ADU ordinance chose to wear the label "YIMBY", thereby invoking the slur. Slapping a slur on your chest is no way to promote respectful dialog.

----Doubling down on bad process----

Judge LaDoris Cordell (and former Council member) testified that she saw the process that adopted the ordinance on March 7 as violating California's Brown Act (transparency in government), not just in spirit but in the letter of the law ((update: @1:46:35 in the video)). At the beginning of the public testimony, Bill Ross--a lawyer specializes in government matters--enumerated several acts that he saw as legal violations of that approval ((update: @1:18:25)). The City Attorney's office (later) took the position that there was no violation.

One of the major points in the discussion before the meeting was about the ordinance being substantially changed after public comment was closed, and without any Staff assessment of those changes.

At the beginning of the meeting, the Mayor announced that the ADU item would be moved to later in the meeting. He announced that there were currently 58 citizens requesting to speak and that they would be given 2 minutes each (I didn't track how many were added/dropped, but it took a little over 2 hours). Many (most?) of these speakers speaking to the need for a proper, legal process. Despite the length, listening to the public comments do give a good sense of where the public was. The video should become available on Wednesday at MidPen Media Center. ((update: Agenda item 9a.))

So how does changing where this item fell within the meeting address the problem of there being no Staff evaluation so that residents could make informed comments? Some of the residents' comments and questions from several Council members demonstrated how ill-considered the original vote was (Lydia Kou's comments were cited positively by many speakers ((update: @1:12:29)) ). One of the speakers called the rescheduling "a mockery".

One of the infuriating aspects of the public testimony by the advocates was the illogic and vitriol. I heard the people asking for a proper process being described as "afraid", "driven by fear", "wanting to freeze ourselves in time", "afraid of change" and claiming that their concerns are not sincere, but that it was obstructionism and opposition to any increasing in housing. Anyone who followed the 2016 or 2014 Council campaign should recognize these as the standard talking points of Palo Alto Forward, and especially Council member Cory Wolbach.(foot#1) And I heard one speaker denounce Residentialists as having a "lack of human empathy to real human suffering".

The various disingenuous arguments by many of the supporters of the ADU are revealing about their lack of respect for those that disagree. For example, to the objection that the Wolbach-Fine amendments had not been publicized and had not been studied Staff, the response from advocates was that the general topic of ADU had been studied, ignoring that the amendments in question hadn't. It was amusing to hear a Councilmembers Wolbach and Fine claim that the proposal had been fully vetted, and subsequently saying that there were unaddressed problems to be fixed. Or claiming that it needed to be implemented now and then wait 3, 6 or 12 months to see what happened, ignoring the permanent negative impacts on residents from foreseeable problems.

And the advocates' response to the bad process? That the housing shortage in the region is so dire that the City needed to pass it immediately (that meeting). None explained why there was no time to properly study the impacts and take citizen input on the many different situations that Staff may not be aware of in making its assessment.

On the other side, some of the email/social media blasts from some advocates for not approving the ordinance at this meeting was very misleading, most notably "How do you feel about City Council to DOUBLING the number of dwelling units EVERYWHERE in Palo Alto?" The measure technically allowed an additional units on an R-1 lot, but that didn't mean they would actually be built, either because of owner's choice or technical issues.

----Council Deliberations----
I am writing this as I listen to the meeting. Interesting point: At the beginning of Council deliberations, Mayor Scharff minimized the impact of ADUs in Palo Alto by saying that lots in Atherton and Woodside have ADUs without that affecting the "single-family" feel of the neighborhoods in those cities.

The primary driver for the ADU ordinance drafted by Staff (before amendments) was a response to State Law. Councilmember Holman talked about a number of the parts of the State Laws that weren't addressed in the ordinance that was passed.

Councilmember Filseth mentioned a form letter he had received urging him to support the amendments being advocated by Palo Alto Forward. Wolbach responded that his amendment was crafted by him.

Wolbach allowed that questions about setbacks might need to be revisited.

Wolbach makes an attempt at humor by wondering how things got so contentious -- I can't believe that he is so clueless as to be unaware of his out-sized role in this, and he was reminded of it by an early speaker (Bill Ross).

On questions about parking permits for an ADU in an RPP zone (Residential preferred Parking Permit program), the response from Staff was that it would add complications and be very difficult to administer, and acknowledged current complaints about the process being slow.

I gave up on the remainder of the Council discussion--it was a painful testament to the confusion and inefficiency that occurs when a body this size tries to make major changes on the fly--ones for which there hasn't been appropriate preparation. At 12:01 I heard the first loud yawn from an unknown Council member, and then more. I missed the vote--the video feed became spotty (network problem?). See the news article that I expected to be posted soon.

1. Discussed in my blog: "The 'You're despicable' style of politics".

An abbreviated index by topic and chronologically is available.

----Boilerplate on Commenting----
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 particularly 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", do not 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, do not waste your time protesting when you get treated like one.
What is it worth to you?


Posted by Nothing new to see in this blog, a resident of Charleston Meadows,
on Apr 18, 2017 at 8:42 am

[[Blogger: Deleted. Ad hominem attack. Accusation without providing evidence.]]

Posted by Todd, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood,
on Apr 18, 2017 at 12:53 pm

If there's a level of contentiousness, it probably stems from the fact that so many people are concerned with who where and how other people are living. The very fact that Doug and others think it's their or the city's place to be involved with who lives in my home or on my property is, to put it politely, misguided.

Posted by Douglas Moran, a Palo Alto Online blogger,
on Apr 18, 2017 at 1:46 pm

Douglas Moran is a registered user.

RE: Todd

As was repeatedly pointed out in the meeting, the issue was how ADUs on one person's property affected neighboring properties and those neighbors. This is a basic of zoning. And as was pointed out, zoning originated to segregate incompatible uses.

So Todd, since you reject the basics of zoning, I presume that you would be willing to have a toxic waste dump be placed right next door to you, with toxic chemicals leaking from barrels coming into your yard? Would you be willing to have cyanide stored without protection from rain being stored mere feet from your house?

Todd's arrogance and contempt for the rights of others is a good example of the roots of the contentiousness that I wrote about.

Posted by Todd, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood,
on Apr 18, 2017 at 2:03 pm

I would hope you're being facetious Doug, but nobody thinks that a toxic waste dump is compatible with a residential neighborhood. Housing would be a compatible use; why, some might go so far as to say that residential neighborhoods are actually appropriate places for people to live.

Posted by Douglas Moran, a Palo Alto Online blogger,
on Apr 18, 2017 at 2:14 pm

Douglas Moran is a registered user.

No Todd, I was not being facetious. Your position was that your neighbors have no rights when it comes to what you do on your property.

The objections to the ADU ordinance included
- excessive parking, both on the street and in front yards
- windows that looked into neighbors' houses
- daylight planes
- fire hazards (the ordinance ignore the Fire Marshall's report)
- not providing means to enforce abuses, such as Airbnb or ADUs that are not used to provide housing but instead use the bonuses and exemptions to expand the house (for example, for offices).
- ...
But apparently you think that you, and others, have the right to inflict these and other problems on your neighbors.

Posted by Online Name, a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland,
on Apr 18, 2017 at 2:19 pm

Thank you for a much-needed piece.

I'm VERY tired of and disgusted by the constant organized attacks on people as old, out-of-touch, regressive, etc etc. when they/we ask specific questions and raise logical objections.

When someone asks a simple question like how parking will be dealt with to ensure that fire engines and ambulances can get through narrow streets -- already a known problem -- and how to address parking congestion, having an elected official suggest parking on front lawns is mind-boggling.

Recommending million dollar houses looking like Hillbilly Haven does not exhibit deep and/or constructive thinking. Nor does mindlessly repeating that ADUs will automatically and magically reduce rents.

We're Palo Alto. We're supposed to be educated and logical and able to address problems rationally.

Serious question: How did things get this intolerant and contentious?

Posted by Online Name, a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland,
on Apr 18, 2017 at 2:44 pm

Todd, when 2 separate owners of the house to the north renovated, we and other neighbors next to and behind them were kept informed by the city and the owners as required by law.

A second story was added during the second renovation. The 2 owners and their architects went out of their way to ensure their big windows didn't intrude on ours or our neighbors' privacy.

Given the push to eliminate all design review and given the raucous disrespectful attitudes seen at the meeting last night, I seriously doubt these courtesies will continue.

Posted by Nothing new to see in this blog, a resident of Charleston Meadows,
on Apr 18, 2017 at 3:28 pm

[[Blogger: Deleted. Ad hominem attack based on false statements.]]

Posted by Jonathan Brown, a resident of Ventura,
on Apr 18, 2017 at 3:48 pm

Maybe I'm just a fearful, frozen-in-time old timer, but I'd like to think the zoning laws mean something, and we shouldn't be overturning our carefully balanced system with a last-minute midnight flurry given all of the very sound objections left unaddressed.

And Doug: how is calling out "Todd's arrogance and contempt for the rights of others" helping your attempt "to foster more civility"? Maybe there's a more respectful way to disagree?

Posted by Contributing to Contentious Local Politics, a resident of Charleston Meadows,
on Apr 18, 2017 at 3:58 pm

Doug - you have some good points and document some specifics of the meeting at CC last night.. but I find this article really venomous and accusatory. I think you're contributing to the exact problem you're trying to solve. Unless you're not interested in solving it?

Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood,
on Apr 18, 2017 at 4:07 pm

Doug Moran is a little snarky in his post here, but one of his basic points is right. The Go Big on Housing advocates on these boards really do use a lot more of the "if you don't agree with me you must be a villain" rhetoric than the others, though there are a couple of exceptions for sure. But the righteous outrage thing really does come across a lot stronger from one side.

Anybody who watched the council meeting last night heard a whole series of speakers saying, "we're concerned about the details of this, take it off consent and let's hear some more about it," punctuated by a few who said "you people are all acting out of fear" and "you're just trying to kill this with (fake) kindness."

The woman who said "everybody who supports ADUs stand up," and then one guy said "but we all support ADUs" and everybody else stood up too, and some of the first people got mad.

Probably somebody will say, "but we ARE outraged!" Everybody ought to think about that.

Posted by Douglas Moran, a Palo Alto Online blogger,
on Apr 18, 2017 at 4:13 pm

Douglas Moran is a registered user.

@Contributing to Contentious Local Politics:

Are you saying that people shouldn't stand up to abusive behavior? I have encountered many people in Palo Alto who are uncomfortable with conflict and in trying to avoid it wind up appeasing bullies.

What did you find venomous and accusatory? For example, was it citing phrases used by commenters that were at the core of their testimony? Was it pointing out self-contradiction by Council members?

Posted by Douglas Moran, a Palo Alto Online blogger,
on Apr 18, 2017 at 4:22 pm

Douglas Moran is a registered user.

@Jonathan Brown: "And Doug: how is calling out "Todd's arrogance and contempt for the rights of others" helping your attempt "to foster more civility"? Maybe there's a more respectful way to disagree?"

Todd's argument is a long-standing one: "My rights trump your rights" and even "I have rights, you don't". It's not that he was unaware that his position involved trampling on the rights of others.

My training and experience is that it is important to take strong public stands against such attitudes.

Posted by Douglas Moran, a Palo Alto Online blogger,
on Apr 18, 2017 at 4:55 pm

Douglas Moran is a registered user.

Update: The video of this agenda item is now online: as Agenda item 9a.

As time permits, I am inserting in the original posting links to specific points in the video with the word "update" and surrounded with double parentheses.

If you want to help other readers "see for themselves" by providing a link to a spot in the video, you can pause the video at that spot, bring up the menu with the right mouse button and select "Copy video URL at current time". To move forward and back in small time increments -- 5 seconds -- you can use the right and left arrow keys.

Posted by Douglas Moran, a Palo Alto Online blogger,
on Apr 18, 2017 at 5:25 pm

Douglas Moran is a registered user.

If you were to ask me for only one speaker to give you a sense of the pass-it-tonight advocates, it would be Lisa Van Dusen @2:45:13. Part of my reason for picking her testimony is that she is not some random resident, but a member of the political Establishment and routinely very active in the campaigns of Establishment/Pro-growth candidates (such as the current Council majority).

She talks of those wanting proper assessment:
- as "afraid", "driven by fear"
- falsely characterizing them as wanting to "freezing ourselves in time"

Notice the disingenuousness in her dismissing the complaint that the March 6/7 decision was made after midnight as being a claim that Council otherwise doesn't make decisions after midnight. The actual complaint was about the effects on clear thinking by Council of a complex measure being crafted on the fly at that time.

Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood,
on Apr 18, 2017 at 6:21 pm

[[Blogger: deleted not for its content, but because it responded to a comment that was deleted for violations. Without the context of that deleted comment, this one would have only confused readers.]]

Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood,
on Apr 18, 2017 at 6:47 pm

They were both funny, though. (Though only one intentionally.)
[[Blogger: Agreed with "both funny". However, I didn't see a way to save enough of "Resident"'s funny post to have it make sense. Apologies.]]

Posted by Todd, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood,
on Apr 18, 2017 at 6:59 pm

"Your position was that your neighbors have no rights when it comes to what you do on your property."

Ok? I mean I can't really stop you from completely misrepresenting what I said, but I absolutely believe the neighbors have rights;

[[Blogger: You may believe that, but that is not what you said. In a discussion of competing rights of property owners and their neighbors, you explicitly rejected neighbors and others having rights about the effects on them of that property owner's decisions.]]

however you keep bringing up things like "fire hazards" and "toxic waste dumps" when it's pretty clear, based on speakers at the meeting and comments on any article on the topic, that the overriding concern is a desire to limit the number of people in homes and neighborhoods.

[[Blogger: False about the speakers and me. And malicious: evidence: a single mention by me isn't "keep bringing up"]]

It's a theoretical discussion at this point, the state correctly saw that cities were using ADU zoning for this inappropriate purpose and took that decision out of their hands.

[[Blogger: Again false. State law mandated various changes to city ordinances regarding ADUs. The draft ordinance that went to Council on March 6/7 involved updates to bring Palo Alto's ordinance into compliance with the new State law and some other updates. The amended version made many changes that were neither mandated nor addressed in the Staff report.]]

Posted by Curmudgeon, a resident of Downtown North,
on Apr 18, 2017 at 8:11 pm

"The correct meaning of NIMBY is someone who advocates for a policy but opposes themselves sharing in the impacts."

A NIMBY is someone who advocates for something to happen in someone else's backyard so it won't happen in their own backyard.

Hypocrisy weaponized

Posted by Gordon Gecko, a resident of Barron Park,
on Apr 19, 2017 at 8:58 am


Why criticize Doug for his "snarkiness" when he's calling them like he -- and many of us -- see them while ignoring the constant nasty and often illogical attacks in the other topics?

That's hypocritical and thin-skinned and increasingly typical. Check out the false outrage and personal attacks when Lydia Kou called aspects of the ADU POLICY "schizophrenic" in the ADU topics.
[[Blogger: FYI for the curious reader: Some/all the attacks occurred on Town Square Forums on this website under the news article about the Council meeting. The attacker, whom I regard as an established troll, ignored a common meaning -- confirmed by checking several online dictionaries, for example "of or relating to conflicting or inconsistent elements; characterized by unusual disparity" @ dictionary.com -- that Kou clearly intended and instead treated her as having used another meaning (the psychiatric term).]]

Posted by PA Mom, a resident of Old Palo Alto,
on Apr 19, 2017 at 9:35 am

There is pent up demand for housing in Palo Alto. Rational discussions about density have been stonewalled for years- ADUs are the unintended consequences of a town trying to remain a 1950s style suburb. I think we could have done better than this had we been willing to consider density sooner and with a more open mind.

Posted by Online Name, a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland,
on Apr 19, 2017 at 10:22 am

PA Mom, of course there's a real housing issue, along with the real issues of sexism, ageism, gridlock, under-paid H1-B visa employees packed 10 to the house, etc etc.

I'm considering putting an ADU on my property. I've let friends in need stay in my home for free when they've been laid off or are getting long-term care at Stanford Hospitals.

But I would never rent an ADU to the incredibly rude ADU advocates who reflexively attack others, who don't respect the opinions of others and who refuse to debate the ISSUES rationally because I doubt they'd have any respect for my personal property or privacy.

Posted by "Who me?", a resident of Crescent Park,
on Apr 19, 2017 at 10:55 am

"Wolbach makes an attempt at humor by wondering how things got so contentious -- I can't believe that he is so clueless as to be unaware of his out-sized role in this"

I don't think Wolbach is clueless, he won his seat by dissembling and refusing to answer questions, playing the 'nice guy' role. He fooled a lot of housing for the poor advocates. His "who me?" act is well practiced.

Posted by Many sacrificed for our backyard, a resident of Midtown,
on Apr 19, 2017 at 12:25 pm

Re: And I heard one speaker denounce Residentialists as having a "lack of human empathy to real human suffering".
Looks like someone ought to get far out of Palo Alto a bit to see real human suffering.

I'm a homeowner (call me a residentialist if you wish) and I'm supportive of ADUs, particularly for family members, if they can fit on a lot in a way that respects reasonable neighbor privacy. It would also be great to prioritize teachers and care workers and city employees to have a shot at a shorter commute.

How many people who spoke from PAF were representing this group of people?

I saw more than a few 30-somethings who came across as feeling entitled to a shorter commute, just because they went to Stanford or work here now. The lack of housing is a failure of unchecked commercial growth and it kinds of totally stinks that high paying jobs are being offered without commensurate housing benefits. There is a real need for certain groups to be at the front of the line. Not many PAF comments gave me hope for that.

This always has been an expensive place to live. I had many housemates throughout my 20s, scrimped and saved, lived in "bad" neighborhoods (hello East PA), had a long commute, traded up, and did not own a home in PA until my 40s, despite having a pretty good salary. Any rate, I certainly did not expect a discount.

Posted by Civility, a resident of another community,
on Apr 19, 2017 at 12:59 pm

Mr. Moran, I do think perhaps you misunderstood what Todd posted. He posted this:

"who where and how other people are living"; "to be involved with who lives in my home or on my property"

And you extrapolated that "Your position was that your neighbors have no rights when it comes to what you do on your property."

I don't think anyone (namely Todd) is including having a toxic waste dump in the scope of "living" on a property.

Merriam Webster online defines NIMBY as "opposition to the locating of something considered undesirable (as a prison or incinerator) in one's neighborhood"

Posted by Douglas Moran, a Palo Alto Online blogger,
on Apr 19, 2017 at 3:47 pm

Douglas Moran is a registered user.

@Civility: "Merriam Webster online defines NIMBY as "opposition to the locating of something considered undesirable (as a prison or incinerator) in one's neighborhood" "

Dictionaries prioritize short definitions over full meaning. For example, notice that this definition does not include that it is a pejorative or slur. Or that it is used by people seeking to gain value by taking it away from those they designate as NIMBYs.

Various dictionaries cite this term as originating circa 1980, but not where. Wikipedia: NIMBY : Origin and History cites usage by the Toxic Waste Industry against those who would be affected by their proposals.

Do a thought experiment on usage: The Romic toxic waste site in East Palo Alto was closed circa 2007 after a long history of leaks and fires that sent toxics into the surrounding neighborhoods. Would you denounce those neighbors as NIMBY for fighting for its closure? I wouldn't.

Another experiment: After a release of toxic gases into an adjoining neighbor from CPI, it was discovered that they were storing cyanide roughly 10 feet from adjoining houses and that they had moved a large manufacturing operation involving various volatile toxic chemicals from an industrial park to that site. Again, are people concerned about toxic releases coming onto their property NIMBYs?

Summary: There are two usages for "NIMBY". One is a (proper) pejorative for hypocrisy (the definitions offered by me and commenter "Curmudgeon" above). The second is for bullying and is used by those who are the actual NIMBYs against those who aren't.

Posted by Douglas Moran, a Palo Alto Online blogger,
on Apr 19, 2017 at 4:27 pm

Douglas Moran is a registered user.

@Civility: "I do think perhaps you misunderstood what Todd posted....I don't think anyone (namely Todd) is including having a toxic waste dump in the scope of "living" on a property."

When someone advocates for a position, they are responsible not just for what they want/hope to happen, but for what they are enabling to happen.

Please go back and read what I wrote. I pointed out that Todd was rejecting the basics of zoning: providing a level of protection for neighbors (and others) from the actions of one property owner. This aspect of zoning was cited repeatedly during the discussion before Council and in earlier hearings and in online discussions.

I did not say that anyone was thinking of having a toxic dump on a property. What I did was point out that that was a possibility under the position that Todd was advocating and then asked him if he was willing to live with the consequences.

I chose toxics because of its role in the origins and justifications of zoning, because of recent local examples (previous response to you), because of its role in the term "NIMBY" (both its origins and in examples accompanying various dictionary definitions).

Can you explain why you don't think it is civil to ask someone to defend the consequences of their advocacy?

Even if you assume that someone like Todd did not mean to reject zoning in total, but willing to limit it to "residential" uses, there are still problems. Significant parts of the discussion on ADUs involved size, height, setbacks, and parking. And that these units not be used for "hacker houses" or Airbnb. Todd rejects such limitations--and protections for neighbors--in his "who where and how". A consequence of Todd's position is that he, or someone else, would be able to build, for example, a 5-story building in an Eichler neighborhood and rent it out via Airbnb or as a hacker hotel or ...
Note: Don't argue that existing City ordinances prohibit such rentals because the City Hall has long established that it will not enforce these ordinances.

Posted by Asher Waldfogel, a resident of Old Palo Alto,
on Apr 19, 2017 at 5:19 pm

Asher Waldfogel is a registered user.

Online Name's comment got me wondering: do ADU tenants get Fair Housing protection? Fair housing exempts roommates, but not sure what it says about Junior ADUs with a shared bath.

I don't remember this question coming up in any of the hearings.

Posted by Online Name, a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland,
on Apr 19, 2017 at 6:49 pm

Asher, yes, there are so many unanswered questions about all of this including whether I can even choose my tenant(s) without being sued for discrimination.

Can I be a nice person and give one needy person /friend/ relative a break on rent without fearing I'm discriminating against others? Can I easily get rid of tenants in the event of an emergency where the ADU is needed by a friend/relative etc.?

Is there any limit on how much rent I can charge in total? Each tenant?

Is there a limit to how many tenants I can have? Can I evict one but not the other nine tenants? Is there a limit on how much I can charge in rent?

Do the local eviction lawns apply to ADUs? Some savvy tenants of real rentals know how to live rent-free for a year while dragging out their eviction process forever.

Are homeowners who rent ADUs subject to rules governing landlords / apartments? Do I have to ban my tenants and personal guests from smoking like rental complexes do?

At what rate would rental income be taxed? Would I be taxed for renting to my kid, cousin, friend, granny, lover? What are the alleged promised tax benefits we'd get for housing low-income workers or government?

What happens to my homeowner insurance rates? What are my liabilities? Protections?

And those questions are just off the top of my head!

Posted by Douglas Moran, a Palo Alto Online blogger,
on Apr 19, 2017 at 7:13 pm

Douglas Moran is a registered user.

A related concern came up in informal discussions of supposedly "car-lite" buildings, such as the one proposed for the corner of Page Mill and El Camino, and how to enforce it.

To the question of whether the lease of an apartment could require that the occupant(s) not have a car..., a lawyer said that this probably ran afoul of ADA (Americans with Disability Act) and that the landlord would quickly be sued for discrimination, for example, by someone in a wheelchair who had a specially configured van to allow them to get around.

A subsidiary question was then raised: What if such a (under-parked) building had such a person move in and thereby requiring that the landlord allocate to him two spaces that were contractually dedicated to other tenants?

City policy is being set by those who are too often unwilling to ask the hard, but vitally important, questions.

Posted by Online Name, a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland,
on Apr 19, 2017 at 10:51 pm

Asher, I mentioned your question to a few people tonight and they thought Fair Housing Protections only to tenants of a building with more than 4 units.

They weren't attorneys and of course that's pre-ADUs so many some attorneys would have a real answer if the ADUs are even covered yet by the law.

Posted by Cue the Lawyers, a resident of Old Palo Alto,
on Apr 20, 2017 at 7:58 am

I've spent 5 minutes looking at Fair Housing Laws. Before I offered an ADU for rent, I would consult an attorney. Under California law (which is different from Federal law), it doesn't seem that you can specify the unit is for "teachers", "first responders", or "a nice elderly lady". See the following article:

Web Link

Posted by Barron Pork, a resident of Barron Park,
on Apr 20, 2017 at 7:39 pm

NIMBY: Someone who supports a policy direction.when generalized, but opposes it when it will directly impact their lifestyle or it is perceived to directly impact their lifestyle.

Those who claim to support additional housing in Palo Alto, but then oppose any development within their neighborhood (including potential ADUs) is a NIMBY under the classic definition. In order to not be classified as a NIMBY and still oppose relaxed requirements for ADUs, one would need to state that they are not supportive of the construction of addional housing in Palo Alto.

[[Blogger: This is a heads-up that this statement is very ambiguous.

For example, does "oppose any development" mean that one opposes "every development" or that there is a single development proposal that was opposed, regardless of the reason? This is not an academic question because the Palo Alto Forward crowd has a multi-year history of characterizing anyone who objected to the market-rate housing portion of the Maybell Upzoning as opposing affordable housing and housing for seniors in general.

As to the second/final sentence, I am unable to find a reading that makes logical sense -- probably an inadvertently omitted word or two.

Posted by DTN Paul, a resident of Downtown North,
on Apr 21, 2017 at 9:54 am

DTN Paul is a registered user.

It seems somewhat unfair to dwell so much on the fact that YIMBY is a passive aggressive slur against Residentialists while generally ignoring or underplaying the fact that Residentialists almost always attack (without much merit at all) their pro-housing neighbors as being in the pocket of either developers, or Palantir. That latter ad hominem attack seems the more harmful and unfair one.

Posted by Twist & Pout, a resident of Fairmeadow,
on Apr 21, 2017 at 10:56 am

PTN Paul, then maybe you'd like t explain why 3 of the uber-growth CC candidates have been under investigation for campaign financing dirty pool? Or why they TWICE hijacked the political process, first with invalidating years of work on the COMP plan by lots of people and second with their midnight change to the ADU rules.

Or perhaps you'd like to answer some of the specific questions about the ADUs here and in the other topics that the uber-growth folks keep ignoring to keep the discussion on track and away from personal attacks,

Posted by Gale Johnson, a resident of Adobe-Meadow,
on Apr 21, 2017 at 1:02 pm

I wrote a lot on Doug's piece and sent it. But it never showed up as being sent. I put a lot of time and effort into writing it and wonder why it never got posted. Can the Weekly on line explain that.

Posted by Douglas Moran, a Palo Alto Online blogger,
on Apr 21, 2017 at 1:14 pm

Douglas Moran is a registered user.

I get an email fro PAOnline almost immediately after a comment is posted and I don't find one for a long comment by you. Also, I can see a history of all comments posted -- deleted ones are simple hidden from public view -- and I don't see it there either, so it wasn't deleted/hidden by the PAOnline staff (or me).

I have forwarded your comment about the long comment being missing and asked him to look into it.

Posted by Douglas Moran, a Palo Alto Online blogger,
on Apr 21, 2017 at 2:37 pm

Douglas Moran is a registered user.

@DTN Paul: "...Residentialists almost always attack (without much merit at all) their pro-housing neighbors as being in the pocket of either developers, or Palantir."

I see that assessment was "with merit" because the so-called pro-housing advocates so often advocate for developers' interests over those in need of housing. A few examples:

1. At the Council meeting on ADUs, the Council majority ("pro-housing") passed a 30% decrease in affordable housing fees on commercial development (relative to what the previous Council had passed based upon an analysis of fees throughout the region). The explanation -- by Eric Rosenblum of Palo Alto Forward (PAF) and the Planning Commission -- was that they "feared" that it would discourage commercial development. No credible analysis, only the supposed "fear" passed on from developers.

2. The scenario for the Comprehensive Plan update: The self-proclaimed pro-housing Council members backed a scenario that would produce substantially more jobs than housing. One would think that someone who is actually worried about the affordability of housing would not be advocating increasing demand faster than supply.

3. Downtown development cap: The intent was to slow -- not stop -- commercial development in order to allow breathing room for increases in housing. The so-called "pro-housing" advocates oppose the cap.

4. One of the reasons given by PAF for opposing any Downtown Development Cap was that higher densities would support more restaurants. Do you think that one of Downtown's problems is "too few restaurants"? And would people skimping to save enough to buy/rent housing in Palo Alto be concerned about needing even more restaurant for dining out?

5. El Camino Grand Boulevard: The supposedly pro-housing advocates, especially PAF, back this proposal to incentivize the redevelopment of large swaths of Palo Alto that now contain much of its affordable housing. The replacement: shops, offices, and some housing that is almost certain to be far more expensive than what is there now.

6. Buena Vista Mobile Home Park: many "pro-housing" people advocated replacing this housing for low-income people with housing for young professionals.

7. Alma Village: The pro-housing advocates backed the developer in going against City policy by moving the BMR units to an undesirable location and having them provide less than the market-rate units.

8. Cherry-picking statistics to favor developers: One of my first encounters with PAF was an analysis of how many children should be expected in a development. That study included senior-only housing and explicitly excluded Arbor Real, at the corner or El Camino and Charleston, as not being near transit. It is directly on VTA bus lines, although the service on Charleston was subsequently reduced. And it is closer to Caltrain (San Antonio station) than some of the housing developments that were classified as "near transit". Underestimating the number of children allows developers to avoid impact fees.

Posted by Online Name, a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland,
on Apr 21, 2017 at 3:10 pm

@Douglas, you missed PAF's Kate Downing's blatant LIE that Mayor Burt wanted to ban all technology companies from Palo Alto when what he really said was that he objected to billion-dollar companies like Palantir pushing out the small tech startups that made the valley great.
[[Blogger: The point is true, but it is relevant only to PAF's established pro-developer and pro-growth agenda. It is not a good example of them pushing for commercial growth at the expense of affordable housing.

Did she or PAF ever retract that lie? No. She/they kept spreading it as far as their well-funded, well-oiled "pr" machine could reach.
[[Blogger: I don't know of evidence of an actual "'pr' machine. With so many "news" sites so hungry for content and so unwilling to do basic journalism, anything sensational has a good chance of spreading on its own.

One has only to count the number of Palantir buildings in downtown Palo Alto. I believe they have 21 buildings but I forget how many seats Palantir controls on our various city commissions.
[[Blogger: Unsupported claim. Because young professionals need to spend so much time on their careers, you don't *expect* to see many involved in demanding activities such as the Planning Commission. However, "unexpected" is not evidence that they are there at their employer's bidding. It is also possible for a company to subsidize its employees' participation as a "good corporate citizen" and not to exert influence. For example, HP seems to have done this.

I know they control the TMA that's decreeing that WE pay to make it easier for commuters to over-run PA in the form of subsidies for worker carpools, taking public transit, parking meter charges, parking permit charges and now more parking garages.
[[Blogger: City Hall, that is taxpayers, are paying for the TMA. While it might be appropriate for the City to do "angel funding" to create the infrastructure for a TMA to build up (capital expenses), most of the public funding being spent by the TMA is as subsidies for individual commuters (operating expenses).

DTN Paul, please feel free to refute any or all of the above without making silly attacks.

Posted by Gale Johnson, a resident of Adobe-Meadow,
on Apr 21, 2017 at 3:59 pm

@Doug Moran. Thanks for your last comment. I tried mine again on the ADU issue and it still didn't get posted. This is a test to see if this one does. Same procedure. Type in verification code and hit submit. That's what I just did and that's what I did two times before on the ADU issue. Next time I'll type my comments off line and save in a word processor application (mine is Pages on my iMac), then try to paste it in later. That way I won't have to recreate it. Very disturbing.

Posted by DTN Paul, a resident of Downtown North,
on Apr 21, 2017 at 4:07 pm

DTN Paul is a registered user.

None of the examples being cited about pro-housing / density Palo Altans is actually evidence that these residents (of which I consider myself one) in the pocket of developers and / or Palantir.

Developers want to develop housing and so do pro-housing / density advocates. Residentialists disagree. And maybe some of the logic of some of those arguments wrong.

[[Blogger: Ask "Why would someone claiming to be pro-housing show up to support a developer's proposal that increases the jobs-housing imbalance by having far more jobs than housing, if any housing at all?" Ask "Why would such people advocate for lowering the costs to developers when there will no corresponding benefit to the person in the housing -- housing prices (buy/rent) are set by demand and are considerably above costs?" That is, why do pro-housing people advocate for increasing developer profits and making the jobs-housing imbalance worse? To me, that contradictory behavior is more than enough to not bother challenging those who make the inference "in the pocket".

But that's not the same thing as 'being in the pocket.' Where's that evidence? Since the author is aggressively deleting comments, labeling them ad hominem attacks,

[[Blogger: This statement should make you skeptical of the sincerity of the commenter. There were six comments by the *same person* deleted because were "Slurs not arguments". I hid the later 4 from view because they were simply variations on the original slurs. There was a 7th comment deleted because it was a response to one of the deleted slurs, ridiculing the slur.

it is worth pointing out that labeling pro-housing Palo Altans compromised and in the pocket of developers with that set of facts is a classic ad hominem attack.

[[Blogger: DTN Paul doesn't understand the meaning of "ad hominem attack". The "set of facts" were about actions -- *relevant* positions taken and consequences -- not the personal appearance, character or the imputed motives.
For example, repeated ad hominem attacks under various of my blog entries centered on the appearance of my beard.

Just saying...

Posted by Douglas Moran, a Palo Alto Online blogger,
on Apr 21, 2017 at 4:10 pm

Douglas Moran is a registered user.

@Gale and other readers on the verification code:

The verification code expires after a relatively short time, but the display is not updated to show this has happened. Consequently if you have typed a long comment, or have been interrupted, you still see that original verification code, but it will be rejected. Most of the time, the "rejected/try again" message comes quickly, but sometimes there is a considerable delay (slow web server?).

Advice: wait to see that what you entered is displayed in the comments section -- the window refreshes when you comment is added to the discussion thread.

Posted by Not ad hominem, a resident of Adobe-Meadow,
on Apr 21, 2017 at 6:59 pm

[[Deleted: Troll]]

Posted by musical, a resident of Palo Verde,
on Apr 22, 2017 at 3:45 am

@Gale, if you're adept at copy-and-paste, you can "select" and "copy" your text before attempting to submit. Then if it doesn't post properly, you can re-paste your work back into the comment box and try again. Less cumbersome than firing up another application for your composition, but not as foolproof. @Doug, thanks for the code expiration info.

Posted by mauricio, a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland,
on Apr 22, 2017 at 6:20 am

I have yet to find one pro density/pro housing development person who opposes office development, the main cause for job/housing imbalance. Just read Steve Levy's blogs in which he almost violently rails against curbing office development, while complaining, often in the same paragraph, about the job/housing imbalance, as do all his pals at the PAF/Palantir contingent. Perhaps this is why the pro development axis is suspected by some as being in the pocket of developers.

Posted by Former PA resident, a resident of Mountain View,
on Apr 22, 2017 at 10:32 am

But mauricio, don't ever try pointing out that inconsistency to Steve Levy himself on his blog. Unlike the point-by-point, reasoned rebuttals Doug Moran gave above to answer even marginally serious criticism, anything questioning Levy's assumptions is curtly deleted as "off-topic." On the other hand, post something there sounding the right notes -- like the currently visible April-8 snipe about "Prop. 13 and nimbyism exacerbaring the housing crisis" Web Link even after Levy asked for responses on that post only to rank named topics, with "no other comments" -- and it's left up for weeks, unchallenged. (A comment criticizing that inconsistency itself was, however, promptly deleted.) Even regardless of specific stance, that blog displays a lot of "all animals are equal, but some are more equal than others" logic.

Posted by Twist & Pout, a resident of Fairmeadow,
on Apr 22, 2017 at 11:32 am

Mauricio & Former PA Resident, thank you both for your posts. So true.

I'm disgusted with the way the uber-growth crowd attacks anyone and everyone who disagrees and/or questions them. But I REALLY don't get how they can call themselves "progressive" with a straight face when I've never seen them advocate for anyone but themselves and their developer buddies.

We need a new name to describe their scam and a new way to frame their nouveau robber baron attitudes.

Posted by mauricio, a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland,
on Apr 22, 2017 at 12:01 pm

90 percents of my posts on Steve Levy's blog are deleted by him. Each time I point out his blatant inconsistency in advocating for unlimited office development while bitterly complaining about the job/housing imbalance in Palo Alto, my posts is deleted as "off topic" or" irrelevant", or without any explanation. When I asked him whether he gets paid by developers he deleted my post without answering it. He does it off course to most others who question his inconsistencies and relationships with the building industry.

The used to claim on his blog that significant housing development would bring housing prices down. When I and others presented data that contradicted this notion, actually proving that every example from around the world indicates that just the opposite happens, he suddenly acknowledged that massive development would "probably" not bring down housing prices, yet religiously kept pontificating for big office and housing projects, never addressing issues like environmental concern, quality of life, inadequate infrastructure and livability.

Posted by Curmudgeon, a resident of Downtown North,
on Apr 22, 2017 at 3:45 pm

"90 percents of my posts on Steve Levy's blog are deleted by him."

Give Steve a break. He runs a think tank with paying customers he has to keep happy. Your postings disturb them.

[[Blogger: Please no additional comments on Steve Levy deleting conflicting perspectives and confounding facts -- there are too many affected and this could become a distracting tangent.
BTW: Levy's blog often functions as what colleges call a "safe-space" (Web Link with developers and their allies being cast in the role of the "marginalized group". I think it is counterproductive, but that is his choice -- bloggers here get little to no compensation.

Posted by Gale Johnson, a resident of Adobe-Meadow,
on Apr 25, 2017 at 10:13 pm

Thanks, Doug, for the archived video link of the meeting. I watched all of it. The night of the meeting I watched most of the public comment period but didn't stay up, or record, the rest of it. Most of the public speakers were articulate and stated their positions, ‘for' or ‘against', very well. But even some of those tagged YIMBY's, in favor, spoke out against what happened at the 3/6-7 meeting with the late flurry of amendments at the end. LaDoris Cordell and Bill Ross voiced their opinions on that very directly and succinctly, and they know the law. I hope Wolbach and Fine take a lesson from this, on better governance, and that they should have stopped short of those amendments and just settled for staff's recommendation based on the new California law...then wait for another time to introduce those amendments, after public review and comments.

I was really impressed, for the most part, by CC's discussion after the public comment period, and Mayor Sharff's leadership in that. He took them thru it in a very thoughtful way, giving everyone a chance to speak.

I was especially impressed with Tom Dubois, one of the newer members on council. He is soft spoken, but very steady and firm in presenting his opinions. He does his homework, with deep and thoughtful analysis before he speaks. That makes for more efficient CC meetings. He introduced the first motion on the subject, followed by amendments, and then later there was a substitute motion by the mayor. Don't ask me to repeat how that all ended up, but it passed by a 7 to 2 vote. And I saw a new relationship develop between Dubois and Sharff. That was good to see and a good sign, encouraging for the future.

I learned so much from the discussions and about individual candidates. Karen Holman was very proud to be an owner with an ADU cottage. It's worked out very well for her. I'm sure it was in full compliance with the old ordinance that was in place for many years. Good for her. And she addressed the subject of ADU's in neighborhoods, citing the state law to preserve the feeling of a neighborhood and respecting the neighbors around you if you choose to add an ADU. And she was spot on about the confusion involved, and I think still exists, about what was approved before and maybe what was approved at this latest CC meeting. And that was a great idea to have a chart to compare state law, staff recommended changes, and the late night amendments to staff's recommendations.

Lydia is growing into her new job and role on council. She's gaining more confidence and speaking out more assertively on issues. She demonstrated that at the meeting. And she fessed up to a rookie mistake or oversight...her ‘abstaining' vote at the 3/6-7 meeting. Not many people would admit to that. And she pounded away at all the issues, important ones, that haven't been seriously addressed.

Vice Mayor Kniss added a lot to the discussion also. She recounted her main theme during campaign season...affordable housing, affordable housing, affordable housing. We got your message, Liz, so what's going to happen on that front in the future to alleviate the problem. She cited that there hadn't been any affordable housing projects built since 2010 or 2012. Why not? Tell us what you propose to make it happen. And even tho you support ADU's, don't tie that in, in the same breath, with any relationship between affordable housing and ADU's, or that ADU's will begin to make a dent in housing, other than at market rate prices. Start working on affordable housing like you said you would do. I'm starting to question all CC members who are for it but don't have a clue how to effect it. Please, don't try to run on that idea during the next election cycle, if you don't have answers. PA citizens are watching and waiting for action. We can be fooled once, but not twice.

I voted for Greer Stone in the last election. I hope he comes back to run again for council. He sounds like a truly committed citizen with no plans for future political office advancement beyond our CC. That's who we need on CC.

Wolbach was consistent, stuck to his guns on the 3/6-7 meeting results, including no design reviews, no additional parking rules, et al. I have a lot of disagreement with him (we are personal friends) on this issue but are totally in agreement about the need for housing in general, and I've supported denser housing and higher height limits in areas near our transit centers. I can't imagine living in a micro unit, but if that becomes the norm for a new way of living/housing for our new single renters in the future, I can't argue with that proposition. My prediction...they will not always be single, but get married eventually, and then have kids. Then where do they go? Will those micro units be backfilled by new single renters? Hmmm!

Fine said what I would expect him to say, very little, because his mind had already been made up on this issue. And he reminded us that it was well vetted when he and Tanaka served on the transportation and housing committee together.

The Dubois/Sharff routine. It was fun to watch and even at the late hour there was a little bit of humor added in. But about the relationship. Tom introduced a motion for a minimum lot size for ADU's of 6000 sq ft. Greg challenged him, asking where he came up with that number. Tom stuttered a little but and then said it was just a number he felt comfortable with. Greg countered with, ‘How about 5000 sq ft? I'll support that'. Tom said fair enough and within 30 seconds an agreement was reached. Cory added to that by saying, and I think I'm quoting him correctly, that there were 3100 homes in PA that were built on 5000 sq ft (or more), lots. Who really knows what the right size lot minimum is? I suggest ‘nobody'!

Yes, I was an early opponent of ADU's, mainly as to how the new, recently and loosely defined regulations, or non regulations, would apply, be implemented, and enforced. I am in favor of ADU's. ADU's have been part of our landscape for years, with the good intention of providing housing for real ‘grannies' and other family members, and more recently kids moving back home to live with their parents where they grew up. That's all good. But these are dire times and in these times people needing money to support their lifestyles, to get above water on mortgages, and to stay in PA, might be tempted to do things that are not in the best interests of our community, and definitely not contributing to the community. They will build ADU's for the profit incentive. I know I'm painting the bleakest picture and I hope that doesn't come true.

There was lots of discussion on the parking issue. Lots of confusion re RPP's and how they would apply to homes with ADU's. I think it got worked out but you never know.

There is still so much information lacking about the possible impacts...infrastructure, traffic, parking, et al. If I understand it correctly this last meeting will be considered a new first reading. I hope that's true.

Enforcement.: We don't have enough enforcement officers. With the lack of design reviews, that requires some diligent work at the approval desk in the planning office. That's a big burden on them to make sure the plans presented comply with this very complex new ordinance. And Sharff said it would come down to local policing and complaints by neighbors to enforce the ordinance. Bad, bad, bad idea...to pit neighbor against neighbor to enforce a flawed ordinance. Put me on the city's payroll if you expect me to be an enforcer of the ordinance,. Minimum wage is all I ask.

I guess I shouldn't be so fearful of all the bad things that can happen. I know most of my neighbors very well and I know they don't have plans for adding ADU's. I also have neighbors, living in rental houses (I think four next door, each owning a car.) They are good neighbors for the most part, with a few exceptions. In the summer, on hot nights, they party hardy out on their back patio, until 1 or 2 o'clock in the morning, and they are very loud. I just close all my double paned glass doors and sleep away.

Back to the main theme: Housing, and affordable housing. ADU's are not the answer, and some, but hopefully not all, of our CC members recognize that. So get back to the real problem and how to solve it. The ADU discussion is just a diversion.

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