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About this blog: So much is right — and wrong — about what is happening in Palo Alto. In this blog I want to discuss all that with you. I know many residents care about this town, and I want to explore our collective interests to help ...  (More)

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Get cars off our streets??

Uploaded: Jun 20, 2018
As outlandish as it sounds to me, while there are a number of Palo Alto residents who feel our streets are too crowded (they are!), their solution is to get more of our cars off the streets. Instead, people should walk or bike around this city, they say. And if you happen to work here, don’t drive to your job but take public transportation – like Caltrain that only goes north and south, or the VTA buses that ride along El Camino and Middlefield, but reach little of the rest of town. Let’s admit that our public transit system is pathetically inadequate.

But some city officials still say don’t drive, use public transit. As one resident pointed out in a recent blog, “It’s sad that so many people are now guilt tripped driving their automobiles, as if it’s something we should ‘give up’ for the ‘good of the community.’”

There’s more traffic here because there’s a lot more new office space in town, which results in more people, and more cars. For the past decade however, those same city officials have been extremely generous to developers, and approved of all sorts of new office space, especially around California Avenue. So they had a big hand in creating the traffic mess.

Discouraging drivers to use their cars keeps on resurfacing in different forms. Recently the city allowed Windy Hill Property Ventures to build a “car-light” 57-unit “workforce” apartment building at Page Mill Road and El Camino that instead of the required 102 parking spaces, would only have 65 spaces. Renters of the studio or one-bedroom apartments (average size 526 square feet) would get bus and Caltrain passes to encourage them to use public transit to get to work. Some council members were really excited at the prospect of getting people to buy into housing that discourages car use. Councilman Adrian Fine said this housing is “exactly what we've been asking for and exactly the kind of units we need in Palo Alto.”
But I keep on wondering what will the tenants do about getting groceries, making a trip to a doctor’s office, shopping at Costco or a pharmacy, having guest parking or not usurping neighborhood parking spots. None of that was really answered. My guess is that tenants will soon tire of relying on bikes and public transportation to obtain the basics they need.
Then there’s the city’s revised comprehensive plan, in which the embedded philosophy calls for discouraging driving and encouraging bicycling and other types of alternative transportation.

So cars are not wanted. The city’s Rail Committee recently considered grade separations at Churchill Avenue, but the two options of having cars go over or under the tracks would involve getting rid of some 40 homes, which, for very valid reasons, the committee didn’t want to do. Instead the current suggestion is closing Churchill to autos, and letting only bikes and pedestrians across the tracks. That would send cars to Embarcadero Road, crowding an already traffic-intense area. Staff suggested maybe the train underpass near Paly High School should be widened to four lanes, to accommodate the increase of autos.

Former Mayor Yoriko Kishimoto objected to the widening, and urged the Rail Committee to eliminate the option. She argued that there is no evidence that the underpass causes a bottleneck. Adding a traffic lane, she said, would lead to more traffic and more speeding. And this would add more cars, contrary to the comp plan’s philosophy.

For nine years the city has unsuccessfully been struggling with the traffic jams that arise on Embarcadero and El Camino Real at the left-turn signal. I’ve oftentimes waited through three light changes to get onto Embarcadero because cars are clogged on the road that becomes one lane just before the underpass. Widening it would help ease the jam. This squeeze is a problem that can only get worse, and no solution is in sight – even before closing Churchill occurs.
I think the notion of curtailing car use in this city is a pie-in-the-sky hope, but one not grounded in reality. Making it more difficult to drive around the city will not deter car use, but it sure will get residents angry when nothing is done to solve an apparent problem.
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Comments

 +   21 people like this
Posted by Let's have the truth, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood,
on Jun 20, 2018 at 12:18 pm

Former Mayor Yoriko Kishimoto objected to the widening for purely self-serving and personal reasons. She lives right near the underpass. I think we all know that when you have to go from 2 lanes 1 for the underpass, you have a bottleneck. And remember that Yoriko ran for city council and served for 8 years with the express purpose of having Embracadero Road converted to 1 lane of traffic in each direction.
She failed miserably since most people realized that Embaracdero is one of the city's main arteries and narrowing to satisfy a resident of that road was not an option.
I have long since stopped being fooled by Yoriko's claims of caring for the city
And BTW, Diana, I totally agree with you about your closing comments about curtailing car use in the city. Unfortunately that disconnect from reality has been ingrained in city thinking for decades


 +   23 people like this
Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood,
on Jun 20, 2018 at 12:34 pm

Diana, you are saying exactly what so many of us have been saying for years. We have not been listened to, we have not been heard. Perhaps your voice will be louder. I hope so.

We need some common sense and sadly none of our CC has any.


 +   24 people like this
Posted by Norman Beamer, a resident of Crescent Park,
on Jun 20, 2018 at 4:38 pm

The recent "car-lite" apartment building is a cynical label that is used to justify allowing the developer to make more profit by skimping on parking. Of course the tenants will still have cars, and park them on the street in nearby neighborhoods.


 +   18 people like this
Posted by Resident, a resident of Midtown,
on Jun 20, 2018 at 4:52 pm

At a meeting last night about the city's plans to constrict the lanes of Louis Road (between Marshall and Bruce), we were told this was to get Ohlone parents to stop driving their children to school and to encourage the children to bike. Besides making Louis more difficult to navigate, a number of parking places are being eliminated to help get those evil autos off the road. Palo Alto, we were told, is becoming a bicycle city.

This epitomizes the brain-dead leadership we have in Palo Alto. Ohlone is a commuter school, where enrollment is based on a lottery and few of us who live nearby ever have the opportunity to have our children enroll. It is also an elementary school! Expecting first and second graders to bike miles to school is moronic. The $8.7 million spent on making Ross, Louis and Moreno more difficult to navigate progresses the anti-automobile agenda of our city council, but makes the commute longer, access by buses and emergency vehicles more problematic and, ironically, bike travel less safe. (Car traffic is slowed by forcing bicycles to divert in front of automobiles to avoid obstacles intentionally build into the road.)

Our city's leaders have demonstrated themselves to be ideologues, fiscally irresponsible and contemptuous of the ideas and preferences of the people they are supposed to represent. If you want less traffic stop promoting high-density projects, stop promoting endless development and stop making our roads impassable.


 +  Like this comment
Posted by Robert Hook, a resident of Mayfield,
on Jun 20, 2018 at 11:44 pm

Post removed


 +   4 people like this
Posted by Johnny, a resident of Midtown,
on Jun 21, 2018 at 10:39 am

Don't you know Palo Alto is leading the fight against climate change! We are leaders in reducing the carbon footprint.
All the political leaders across every city in our region have reached the consensus that taking cars off the road is the ONLY way to relieve traffic! They are experts with degrees and knowledge! They have done studies. They have consulted traffic engineering experts. They can't possibly be wrong. Single-occupant commuting is inexorably on its way out!
We must be more like Denmark. Everyone knows this. How can you be so stupid!
How dare PAOnline allow this article to be published.
Blasphemy!


 +   6 people like this
Posted by Robert, a resident of another community,
on Jun 21, 2018 at 1:13 pm

Wow, talk about a fundamental misunderstanding: NOBODY IS TELLING YOU NOT TO DRIVE. Simply put, you have no right to complain about traffic when (if you're driving) you're as responsible as anyone else for it.

Local governments and agencies are promoting new housing that doesn't REQUIRE driving because (reasonable people should be able to agree on this) as our population doubles we want to avoid doubling the number of cars on the road, however those who chose to drive (which they have every right to) are choosing to be stuck in traffic.


 +   4 people like this
Posted by Johnny, a resident of Midtown,
on Jun 21, 2018 at 1:32 pm

Thanks, Robert!

I rest my case.


 +   6 people like this
Posted by StarSpring, a resident of Adobe-Meadow,
on Jun 21, 2018 at 4:42 pm

StarSpring is a registered user.

Vote them all out!


 +   15 people like this
Posted by Curmudgeon, a resident of Downtown North,
on Jun 21, 2018 at 5:57 pm

"Local governments and agencies are promoting new housing that doesn't REQUIRE driving..."

They're promoting ever more development, under cover of a cherished pipe dream. Gotta pay back those campaign contributors, ya know.

There is no housing that doesn't require driving. Eat-in senior housing comes closest, but offsite medical trips are still needed. No housing for families is remotely in this category outside of urban neighborhoods which offer shopping for groceries, medicine, medical services, sundries, and clothing within a block or two. And absent a politically impossible investment in a USABLE public transit system, it ain't gonna happen here.


 +   15 people like this
Posted by Sanctimonious City, a resident of Barron Park,
on Jun 21, 2018 at 8:48 pm

Sanctimonious City is a registered user.

Liberal Progressive governments have figured out they don't need to be responsive to their voters if they can just replace their constituents.

At a national level it is done with open boarders. In Palo Alto, it is being done with densification.

With a few more stack and pack developments, the demographics in Palo Alto will be an unbreakable majority of transitory software engineers trying to strike it rich and out of city families claiming a local zip code so they can avoid the school parcel tax and the $3M mortgage.






 +   3 people like this
Posted by Doesn'tWorkville, AZ, a resident of Crescent Park,
on Jun 22, 2018 at 1:29 am

I agree with the blogger that cars and the need for them are a fact of life and will
remain a fact of life probably in some form long after anyone reading this is dead
and gone. The whole city was designed around the automobile and to change it
now or try to impose a different order or make people take some kind of public
transportation that does not work and will never work is a plan doomed to fail
and make people very miserable while doing it ... not to mention making our
city uncomfortable and lowering the quality of life and possible property values.
Already most of Palo Alto is under the roar of SFO and SJC aircraft most of the
day and night most of the week.

But while I agree with the blogger on this issue of cars, what can be done to
update Palo Alto for the future. Most older current residents think it is possible
for Palo Alto to maintain a small time character, but I am afraid that is not only
long gone in form and density, the character of the people and city just do not
fit it any more.

I was driving down Middlefield past Midtown today and a bum-looking character
just walked across the street forcing cars to stop for him, not in a cross-walk,
against the light at the nearest cross-walk, and then giving the finger to drivers
who did a double take. As I drive I rarely see anyone stopping for stop signs, and
the amount that people even bother to slow down is minimal as well. Palo Altans
are rude, and the ones that aren't are getting mad because of the ones that are.
Diversity and the melting pot are key aspects of America, yet the segmenting of
various communities also breaks up the character of the city.

I think facts should be faced, that if we wanted to maintain the character of a
small town we should have done something like what Atherton did and not build
so many businesses and offices. The horses are out of the barn never to return.
The problem is that there are no obvious or workable gradual steps to take to
evolve into something else, though much as I dislike to say it, we are probably
doing the best we can and the complaints generated though valid are just the
growing and changing pains that are unavoidable.

If we are going to stick with cars, then we need to find a solution to parking them
and moving them, and aside from the roundabouts that seems to deal with a lot
of problems and people are just complaining about them, there is not much else
to do with already existing streets. The speed bumps don't seem to do much
but get some people to drive through the city at 10mph and hold up everyone
else.

This city just does not work in the long run, so bringing in lots more people and
packing them in without cars is not going to help anything. The only way this
city works is for the extremely rich, and today's extremely rich are also extremely
aggressive and obnoxious. Even their kids are rude and annoying for the most
part. Just letting money do whatever it wants doesn't work ... and I hope at some
point we move into an age of questioning bully-capitalism because the communities
that decided to take control of things by citizens to the extent they have seem to
be doing better. Democracy ... what a concept.


 +   2 people like this
Posted by Doesn'tWorkville, AZ, a resident of Crescent Park,
on Jun 22, 2018 at 1:45 am

Sanctimonious City, sounds like the basis for a great science FICTION book, why don't you write it.

Curmudgeon, it is an interesting idea, and probably our local city government is about money, but I don't see any citizen lining up to run. I think the realities of having to interface with all the corporations is more what limits the pool of candidates than just money. I don't really know this for a fact, but I am skeptical about Palo Alto city council people getting bags of money dropped on their desks.

If any resident had some idea about how to evolve Palo Alto over time there would be no way they could get that done, even if they could get some kind of majority, and that would be impossible and cardiac or stroke inducing to try to herd the many cats of Palo Alto.

The only success I have heard in this model is the candidacy of Gayle McLaughlin for Mayor of Richmond who got some moderate success with programs ... but then she had the evil oil refineries to combat.

In Palo Alto the Social Networking droids, financial and developers are not as monolithic and harder to rally people against even through residents always rail against them ... they are also responsible for holding our real estate prices steady and growing.

Instead of trying to find some solution we the citizens of Palo Alto should be more on the lookout for smaller things we can do to improve life, and of course better ways to improve citizen involvement and civility. What seems to work to keep people away is this model of having every discussion being taken over by those who rant and rave against Liberals and socialism and of course foreigners and their money. So, I think people just get disgusted with the whole process and let the biggest interests do what they want.

So far, that has not really seemed to make residents happy about what is going on in our city.

Changing the model of City government, perhaps a real Palo Alto City Town Forum where people's comments can be organized for the City council to address rather than the pathetic 3 minute speech interface.


 +   4 people like this
Posted by Too many cars cause the traffic, a resident of Adobe-Meadow,
on Jun 22, 2018 at 6:04 am

Such blindness. Yes, it's all the fault of ANYTHING and EVERYTHING except too many people crammed into too little space. Keep banging your head against the wall then complaining about the headache. We simply cannot expand lanes hoping it will solve things. Study after study has shown that increasing freeway lanes does not ease traffic, as we have also witnessed here.

What we need are more people willing to get out of their cars.If 20% of drivers pledged to get out of their cars, who would fight for them to "Don't do it, Stay on the road"? We would see better traffic immediately, because we would have adressed the actual cause of our traffic.

Until then, well-intentioned but woefully ignorant people like the author will continue to blame the other guy.

Build more lanes indeed: Web Link


 +   5 people like this
Posted by Let's have the truth, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood,
on Jun 22, 2018 at 8:05 am

"We simply cannot expand lanes hoping it will solve things."

ANd getting rid of lanes will certainly not help either.
It is all very nice to say that people should get out of their cars-- sure children bike to school, but then tehre are afterschool activities, doing shopping (especially since palo alto is a bastion of low cost affordable palces to shop!!!!), the elderly etc etc etc.
For years we have heard about "walkable neighborhoods"--that means shopping and other amenities near by in every neighborhood. But if you ever try to build that, you will surely hear the naysayers with their usual litany of excuses--"can't build it here--too much noise/traffic/choose your excuse


 +   3 people like this
Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood,
on Jun 22, 2018 at 8:15 am

The best way to get cars off the streets (if that is an aim) is to give better alternatives.

We already do very well at getting children to ride bikes to school, but there are some parents who still feel the need to drive their children to school. We need to get the city shuttles to do a better job of serving the schools. There is no need for them to be free either, an affordable fare could be charged to enable a more comprehensive service that serves the middle and high schools as well as the Caltrain stations.

As far as inbound commuters, we should be concentrating on parking at the offramps with dedicated, efficient shuttles to downtown areas and business areas. The Marguerite is great for Stanford destinations, but they don't serve commuters coming off 280 or 101.

As for those of us who live in Palo Alto, there will always be times we need to drive - some of us even work outside Palo Alto and need to get to those work venues. The City has made us feel guilty for using a car to get to Costco, to get to the Main Post Office, to see a movie, or to visit friends outside town. We don't all have what we need in walking distance and for some of us we can't be expected to ride a bike everywhere. I am tired of seeing and smelling sweaty people standing in line by me in a coffee shop, let alone sitting at the table beside me in a restaurant. People can only ride a bike to work if they have a shower at their destination as who wants to work with smelly coworkers.

The real problem is that our streets are impacted by too many obstacles and too many gridlocks and instead of getting traffic to move efficiently, traffic calming measures mean that people are looking for short cuts. This is nothing new and can't be blamed on traffic apps, I have been good at looking for short cuts on my regular trips ever since I started driving, too many years ago to count.

Getting traffic moving efficiently has never been discussed as being a goal. If it was we would have less traffic lights and less fourway stops and more roundabouts of all sizes on all types of roads. We would have peak time traffic lights that get turned off outside commute hours. We would get more pedestrian/bike bridges over Caltrain, 101 and ECR. We would have traffic lights to control bikes at places near the schools which are highly impacted by bike traffic for short times at various times of day.

If we were really interested in helping Palo Alto residents we would be making things more efficient, not putting up obstacles on side streets on the way to the Y that those who are unable to walk there have to deal with.


 +   2 people like this
Posted by The Truth is, a resident of Adobe-Meadow,
on Jun 22, 2018 at 10:05 am

People come up with all sorts of excuses why they cannot ride a bike in certain instances, but then they'll use that as a reason they why they would NEVRER use a bike in ANY situation.
It's all a percentage game. If 20% of drivers used alt transport 10% of the time...Its amazing how it ads upp, like how nice traffic is on 3 day get-a-way weekends.

If you're an able bodied person and cannot think of a single time where using transport other than you car would work, then you're not being truthful with yourself.
I bet everyone could find at least 1 trip per week that they could do without a car; easy!
Traffic sucked hard 15 years ago people, well before "traffic calming" came into vogue. The reason was that there were too many cars for the roads, even back then. There is NO SINGLE MODE that works for all, but there is also no reason why an able bodied person should only commit to one single mode to get around locally.


 +   11 people like this
Posted by Annette, a resident of College Terrace,
on Jun 22, 2018 at 10:57 am

Annette is a registered user.

Bully Capitalism = great phrase; explains so much that is happening here and elsewhere.

I wish to weigh in on the side of balance. We need some. Obviously different people have different needs. Cars, bikes, pedestrians and even those beastly dirt haulers all need to be on our roads to varying degrees. Planning as though public transportation will provide traffic relief has so far proven to be a myth. Ditto for plans based on significant automobile reduction. People clearly will continue to have cars and those cars need to be parked. They also need a functional network of roads to drive on. But our leadership is addicted to development, so we are looking at a future of more and more of what we so obviously cannot support: people. Either of the sort that commute here or the sort that live here.

Pretty ridiculous to have a City Council that plans more assiduously for those who do not live here than for those that do. The President Hotel evictions stand as Exhibit A for the true cost of this city's policies.


 +   2 people like this
Posted by Let's have the truth, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood,
on Jun 22, 2018 at 11:55 am

The truth is--you are making the assumption that EVERYONE In the city can give up driving for a day a week, for example. That is the kind of rhetoric that certain people have been pushing for years.

Annette--the president hotel is a private sale between 2 entities. They plan to turn it back into a hotel. The fact that people have to move is a daily reality in this world. Expecting the council to somehow block the sale to help these people (and do we know that all of the residents would be eligible for low cost housing?) is ridiculous. ANd ask yourslef this--if someone would suggest building a building like the President hotel for renters in Palo Alto, do you think the usual suspects would agree? I bet not.


 +   4 people like this
Posted by Truth be told and shown, a resident of Adobe-Meadow,
on Jun 22, 2018 at 12:43 pm

There are never absolutes like "Everyone" If I used that after I spoke of able bodied people then that was mis-leading. Every able bodied person, (we can leave more road space for seniors or others who have no choice, which I'm happy to do)
Also, I said one trip per week. Any one single trip that someone might usually take in a car, on any day, for however long.

Here it is again:
"If you're an able bodied person and cannot think of a single time where using transport other than you car would work, then you're not being truthful with yourself.
I bet everyone could find at least 1 trip per week that they could do without a car; easy!"

People should quit trying to find unique examples and broadly apply them as reasons why they should never once do or even try something. Anyway, it's up to the individual, I'm just shining the light on things people don't want to admit, but obviously you can only lead horses to water. It's all up to them after that. I believe in you though.


 +   6 people like this
Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood,
on Jun 22, 2018 at 1:06 pm

I live in Palo Alto. I walk a great deal. I carpool quite often. I try to do several errands on the same trip when I am out in my car.

I still need to drive a car quite often and the way things are I am put on a guilt trip anytime I drive my car. This is so wrong. I live here. These are public streets. I need to navigate these public streets to get out of town and to live my life. I walk when I can for exercise and for getting to some of my destinations. Don't guilt me or others who are doing what we can. When the City starts helping by increasing 30 minute parking spots, enabling me to park for 3+ hours without a trip to City Hall to pay high fees for it, by getting commuters off the arteries by providing off ramp parking lots and dedicated shuttles, by building a bike/pedestrian bridge to replace the tunnel that is closed half the year, etc. etc. etc. I will be much happier on the occasions I do drive my car.


 +   5 people like this
Posted by Annette, a resident of College Terrace,
on Jun 22, 2018 at 1:12 pm

Annette is a registered user.

@Let's have the truth - I fully understand that the President Hotel sale is a private transaction between two entities. Frankly, I find it peculiar that the buyers sought to meet with Council members before sealing the deal. My point is that this city has no comparable housing available for those who are being displaced with the result that those Palo Altans may well find themselves unable to remain in their own home town. THAT is a situation that exists b/c of the untenable demand on our limited housing supply. CC has had the latitude to impact that for years. So far the choice has been to make matters worse. Our CC (the majority) prefers to add Office/R&D development which of course increases the demand for housing.


 +   4 people like this
Posted by Annette, a resident of College Terrace,
on Jun 22, 2018 at 1:23 pm

Annette is a registered user.

@Let's have the truth: I failed to answer your question. I would absolutely support construction of a hotel/apartment building like the President. It is well placed on a corner which minimizes certain impacts. It is taller than what is usually allowed these days, but not aggressively so. And it is visually appealing with features that stand well with what I think is the best of Palo Alto. Said differently, it is not an over-sized, in-your-face, ugly, uninspired big box of a building. (Want me to tell you what I think of 2180 El Camino? or 801 Alma? How about the "condiment" buildings going in on Park near the Cal Ave station?!?) If we had a talent like Birge Clark we might be well on our way to win-win solutions to at least one of our problems.


 +   4 people like this
Posted by Curmudgeon, a resident of Downtown North,
on Jun 22, 2018 at 7:25 pm

"if we wanted to maintain the character of a small town we should have done something like what Atherton did and not build so many businesses and offices."

We can reverse a major part of that mistake if we simply de-annex the Stanford Industrial Park and Stanford Hospital. Why do we continue to take on the burdens while Stanford gets the benefits?


 +   5 people like this
Posted by Downtowner, a resident of Downtown North,
on Jun 22, 2018 at 9:22 pm

I've lived downtown for 6 years in an apartment. I'd like to add a few points to the discussion.

- I usually parked my car on Friday and didn't see it again until Monday morning. I walked to all my weekend activities - restaurants and recreation. I walked to the Stanford Mall. I walked for exercise and fun through the Stanford campus. I walked to all health care needs at Palo Alto Medical Foundation. I had surgery at Stanford Hospital - walked there for the surgery. I found living downtown to be a really great experience. I am between 65 to 70 years old.

- The issue is not whether you own a car. It is how often and when you use it. Yes, people will want one but if they find they can leave it parked a number of days a week - that is a huge plus for everyone.

With all that love of living downtown I left. Why - my rent went from $2,750 in 2009 to $4,250. I've seen downtown become a home for digital nomads. Mostly young men living 3 or more to an apartment. They eat out almost all the time so the restaurants are full. They make great money - they can't believe it. And then about 9 months after landing here they realize they have been spending near everything they make on lodging, food and entertainment. So they leave - but don't worry landlords - there are plenty more to take their place.

For those who have the quaint notion that Palo Alto is a small town oasis - yeah right. You have hollowed your town out by allowing the development and very importantly by allowing the landlord's greed to determine the make-up of your town. The churn of people who come then leave because of housing costs is leaving Palo Alto with families that are growing older; who have lived here for 20 years or more, a number of quite wealthy 30 somethings, then the young nomads who are here for a year or maybe 3. Replaced by more for sure - but the gap in the demographics is becoming very clear. The younger residents have no stake in the city - they won't be here in just a few years. Your own children won't live here either and you know it. I see a near 20 year gap - from age 30 to 50 because of the churn.

So who likes this? Children whose parents die - they inherit the old home. It needs repairs, getting kind of shabby. But why put a penny in it if we can just make 4 or more apartments and rent each for $2,000 or more on average. They don't care about the schools, the roads, the local government. And they sure don't want more apartments because their rental rates might be affected.

Well by now you know the story.

Anyway - a final thought I have. MacArthur Park Restaurant. Boy if that property could be taken over and some apartments could be built right there next to Caltrain. That would be great. How about an apartment that promises 10 Zip Cars or the like so residents can use a car without buying a car (and parking a car).

I hope somehow you all solve the problem. You have one of the greatest communities in the country but you are losing it and it isn't because of the office development. You are losing it because of the lack of affordable housing. Young people cannot make a home in Palo Alto over the long term.


 +   8 people like this
Posted by Abitarian, a resident of Downtown North,
on Jun 22, 2018 at 11:15 pm

Downtowner wrote:

"Anyway - a final thought I have. MacArthur Park Restaurant. Boy if that property could be taken over and some apartments could be built right there next to Caltrain."

----------

My home at the Abitare is directly across the street from the downtown Caltrain station, see Web Link

Public transportation, such that it is, couldn't possibly be closer, at least at the home end. Nevertheless, you do *not* see a parade of residents from my building marching to/from the Caltrain station at the beginning and end of the business day, or at any other time for that matter.

Unfortunately, it is wishful thinking to believe that building downtown will not add to our traffic woes. To replace more than a modest percentage of car trips, public transport needs to be fast, frequent, extensive, and inexpensive. This type of public transport does not exist, and is not envisioned to exist in our area.


 +   10 people like this
Posted by Personal Corporate Responsibility, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood,
on Jun 23, 2018 at 10:03 am

Hong Kong is always illustrative because it demonstrates the end game.

Web Link
According to this article, Hong Kong has close to a 90% public transit usage rate. Yet "Only 21.4 percent of working residents are employed in their home districts, including those who work at home. This is only slightly higher than in highly decentralized suburban Los Angeles County..."

In other words, despite it's extreme density and highly used transit system, the best in the industrialized world, Hong Kong has about the same jobs housing balance as Los Angeles. That problem will simply never be solved by densification, transit, nor by making car travel a nightmare.

And Hong Kong has some of the longest commute times in the industrialized world.

Densifying only creates density and longer commute times. For Hong Kong, this was reasonable as they became a bigger job center, because they are a small island. For the United States, this makes no sense whatsoever, because forcing longer commute times because of forcing density and transit on people reduces everyone's productivity -- not to mention the devastation of the natural environment which we have here and they don't in HK -- this is not what we want nor is it what we have to choose here.

The cities that exist in this country have arisen for historic reasons that have nothing to do with the needs of today. Our problems of overdevelopment are being reflected in other desirable cities across the nation. Companies (and the wealthiest among us) have gotten used to an idea, since the '80s, that public investment comes from thin air, and certainly not from them, and they are entitled to never pay their fare share. Hence, they want to crowd into existing cities to benefit from what the public built so they can attract workers, with no regard to how their attracting so much additional population impacts the localities.

This pressure on cars is intended to get people to give up on getting around and to sit in one place like they are coral, awaiting a solution that will never come. In Hong Kong, walking drops as density goes up. Almost no one walks. That's because it just sucks. Only the poor walk to get around in HK. And only the very rich drive. Why? Because of time.

The reason this pressure on cars is bad is that people's time and productivity are valuable, especially here in sunny SV. We should have a better public transit system, but a good system will invite people to use it, it shouldn't have to rely on creating pollution and unsafe road conditions. Just making driving hard without creating a good transit system simply means people lose productivity and quality of life. The example of HK shows that even if you optimize transit and its use, you still destroy quality of life and hand people really long commute times, and you never create a situation in which people work next to the jobs and never move. That's just a pipe dream.

I think all this talk about the "benefits" of getting people out of cars by making driving horrendous is just a smoke screen for developers and companies that have brought in too many workers. Instead of having the finger pointed at them, they have made up a line for the public that blames something else. What these companies are doing is disregarding the damage they do to the places they want to crowd into and grow in unchecked, because they figure it's always someone else's job to pay. To pay for the place, to pay for the civic amenities their workers want and use, to pay for the infrastructure and schools and local governments. To pay for the hits to quality of life and time lost.

What really should happen is for all the impacted cities to get together and think about whether it makes sense at this juncture in human history for us to found a few new cities, with all companies who want to move there paying into a fund that will create the perfect urbanscapes they desire. And then we create a density tax for companies who are simply too large for the area or are violating codes to take over downtowns, ahem. This will never happen, of course. (We could really use some cities between the coast and Salt Lake City/Boise, though. It's impossible to find a place to stop and go to the bathroom, much less stay, and flyover seems the only reasonable alternative...). Going to the recent eclipse was illustrative, Medford Oregon has industry and yet the entire state seems practically empty by comparison. Yet Portland is being overrun -- the companies only want to go where someone else paid for what they need.

Beginning to solve this problem starts with our coming to grips with the importance of public commons and public investment. There is a reason people do not move to the Sudan to start their companies.


 +   13 people like this
Posted by Personal Corporate Responsibility, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood,
on Jun 23, 2018 at 10:14 am

@Downtowner,
You may wish to also study HK over the idea that somehow densification and just building more will ever create affordability. It doesn't. The problem has been perpetual there even as they have built such small units they are called "coffins" (a 4X6 space that is basically like a coffin). And yet still they have this problem. The trouble is that a job center creates its own gravity, and the more housing you build, the more people move there, and the more larger companies entrench instead of moving where they would have space and the housing actually would be more affordable.

Creating a few new cities at this juncture would actually be the only way to "create" affordable housing on a large scale. And the only way to restore a more reasonable environment here. The takeover of Casa Olga, the President Hotel, the attempted takeover of BV, this was all motivated by the economic incentives from overdevelopment and densification. Using that as an excuse to push for more overdevelopment and densification is only ratcheting up the problem.

Silicon Valley never had trouble attracting people, especially young people, here, even in the '80s which were arguably even more expensive (studio apartment $1,000/month on a $28,000 salary). But at that point, we had not overstressed the infrastructure, we have now.


 +   3 people like this
Posted by Johnny, a resident of Midtown,
on Jun 23, 2018 at 10:43 am

^Interesting post.
I read an article in SFGATE and one of the hotshot elected liberal leaders said something to the effect of: "taking cars off the road is the only way to control traffic, because population.controls.are.unethical."

This reveals a lot about what is going on... the virtue signaling these days is completely over the top and crushes any chance of a balanced debate.

I left Palo Alto and was kind of dismayed to see the same thing going on in many places that I thought would not be affected by the density trend.
But it's happening all across the nation, in nearly every state, exactly for the reasons that are so well elucidated in the above post.

So I think it has a lot to do with morally pious, purist progressives pulling wool over their eyes and thinking that anyone who wants to live in the USA has the right to do so and we can endlessly absorb infinite amounts of people.
Just look at the uproar over immigration right now.
If we become like Hong Kong then it will be a mighty reality check.

The fundamental issue is human overpopulation.
Maybe they're not teaching this in colleges.


 +   2 people like this
Posted by Johnny, a resident of Midtown,
on Jun 23, 2018 at 10:47 am

And of course anyone who reads my post will instantly let out of a primal insult, screaming "racist!" and completely annihilate the discussion. I know what you're thinking, so don't even bother.


 +   6 people like this
Posted by Personal Corporate Responsibility, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood,
on Jun 23, 2018 at 1:36 pm

@ Johnny,
But it's not really about overpopulation in general, just in highly desirable places where companies figure they can piggyback on what the public built without paying their way.

I don't think this is a "liberal" versus "conservative" issue, either, although you would be right that the overdevelopment crowd has found a way to get "liberals" in line (and to forget any sense of logic or concern for the environment, the same way "conservatives" have gotten their voters to forget any sense of logic or supposed morality or Christianity through their hotbutton issues). On the left, the developers are using them, on the right, the top 0.1% to keep their "Feudal Economics"/no taxes. People are misled to vote against their own interests. Lather, rinse, repeat. It happens to everyone. Overdevelopment also affects everyone, so it's not really a partisan issue as strongly as the culture wars manipulations are on the right.

If you think the problem is population, start driving to Salt Lake City from here. Drive to Boise (and try to cell phone reception just a few minutes outside the city). Note how many times you can't even get a decent place to stop and get a meal and a restroom. Drive north across Oregon where they feel they're being overrun by Californians - but there are some pretty nice places that really aren't very populous. They would feel really put upon if they did get lots of new folks, because they aren't set up to grow.

At a national level, we need to deal with this issue of civic growth, and asking the large corporations and .1 percenters who are benefiting most from what the public built already to pay their fair share.


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Posted by Johnny, a resident of Midtown,
on Jun 23, 2018 at 2:54 pm

Well, that's capitalism for ya.
I am no fan of big corporations -- the employees/managers have no free will and they have to put up with irrational policies. Corporations are more concerned with potential lawsuits than individual employee performance, so it hardly matters how good they are at their jobs or their level of productivity.

However, big corporations aren't entirely bad. They have more resources to invest which helps stimulate the economy in small places that need stimulation, where a small business stands on brittle foundations -- it would have to raise prices or be open for limited hours or close up shop.
Corporations are big enough to provide much-needed services in smaller towns, and they can offer more products and more convenience.

Overregulation creates too many loopholes which gives power and money to lawyers and encourages rampant lawsuit abuse. I'd rather embrace capitalism than beg the government for solutions like a "density tax" and watch more lawyers laugh their way to the bank.

But aren't we going off topic a little. Back to cars being OK to drive...
It's really hard to boycott corporations because they are so conveniently placed, although I definitely try to not buy from Amazon anymore because they are seriously out of control.


 +   3 people like this
Posted by Curmudgeon, a resident of Downtown North,
on Jun 23, 2018 at 4:02 pm

"The fundamental issue is human overpopulation."

Pro-business conservatives heatedly dispute that liberal tree hugger notion. A growing population means more consumers and a larger labor base to cull the lowest wage employees from.


"I think it has a lot to do with morally pious, purist progressives pulling wool over their eyes and thinking that anyone who wants to live in the USA has the right to do so and we can endlessly absorb infinite amounts of people."

Only from Norway, according to our Conservative in Chief. Others only infest the USA.


 +   1 person likes this
Posted by DianaDiamond, a resident of Midtown,
on Jun 23, 2018 at 4:31 pm

DianaDiamond is a registered user.

Let's try to get back on the topic of cars, and whether the nation that to be good Palo Alto citizens, we should use our cars far less and walk or bike, because that's the politically correct thing to do these days.


 +   7 people like this
Posted by Personal Corporate Responsibility, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood,
on Jun 23, 2018 at 11:17 pm

I tried to take transit recently for some events in San Francisco. I found the options sadly lacking, unsafe for taking small children home late in the evening, rideshares no cheaper than taxis of limos (all of them way too $$$), exhausting and longer even than the horrendous car trip. (By the way, the difficulty of driving just meant some students missed a really unique opportunity, it did not mean we were able to take transit instead because there just were no options we could use.)

I can't personally use it, but I would love to see us tunnel the train and reclaim the land above it for innovative transit solutions from one end of palo alto to the other. I think it would be a way to get far more kids able to get around town.


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Posted by Personal Corporate Responsibility, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood,
on Jun 24, 2018 at 2:26 pm

@DianaDiamond,

I agree that the discussion has seemed to diverge from the point. But the whole car debate comes from somewhere. You mentioned the new companies and workers, and the pressure to get out of cars. That pressure comes from a narrative developed by those who benefit from that narrative. Developers make a lot of money here, whether their developments make sense or make a mess, and furthering the idea that somehow the problems will go away if we just get out of our cars let's them keep profiting from overdevelopment. Countering their arguments that "progress" is inevitable and that we have to let this happen otherwise we are communists (summarizing) requires a hard look at what's driving the manipulative narrative.

I think it is thus relevant to talk about why the pressure is happening, and why at this juncture, our response needs to be to put our feet down. One, the nature of transportation and even the cars themselves will change dramatically in the next ten years, it already is. Choking down the ability of cars to be part of that picture chokes down that innovation. Secondly, the world is only getting more crowded, and there are limits to the infrastructure, hence my discussion about founding new towns in strategic places (possibly built in the optimized way urban planners keep trying to force on existing towns where it makes no sense.) We need to stop thinking in a completely laissez-faire way about the companies and making all the problems they create the public's problems, which as Hong Kong amply demonstrates, do not get solved by the developer-centric measures we keep hearing about, including making life hard for car drivers. Making life hard for car drivers is doing nothing but giving us more pollution, wasting people's time, hurting quality of life, and it's not driving a first-class transit system either. But when developers can get the public to inadvertently carry their water for them by convincing them that chasing this pipe dream will solve the problems, they can keep profiting unchecked.

People are in a lot of old ruts when it comes to getting to the root of the problems, which is being driven by various economic interests and the opposite of a thoughtful public response.

@Johnny above said it well, "That's capitalism for ya" yet capitalism isn't just one thing, it has many flavors. If everyone truly had to pay their way before becoming a big winner in capitalism, they would have to invest to build the transportation systems, the roads, ports, airports, right of ways, public sanitations systems, the education of their workers, a modern healthcare system for healthy workers and customers, developing and keeping a first-class military and public safety system, traffic systems, legal systems and courts, etc, etc, before they could profit. That's not realistic. Everyone who starts a business in this country has opportunities because of a history of gifts from the public. When they profit, that's when they can pay back what they could not pay to start their business. As I said, there is a reason people aren't flocking to the Sudan to start their businesses. In a rigid definition of capitalism in which public investment is equated to socialism, there would be, ironically, very little capitalism. But people like to bring up the argument that there's nothing anyone can do about [too many workers for the infrastructure, companies not paying their way, too much pollution, etc] as if anything else is akin to being a communist.

In the '80s, a rightwing political movement began to equate public investment and public commons with bad. Drown government in a bathtub (because then government of the PEOPLE doesn't stand in the way of concentrations of wealth and power). Suddenly this form of government we fought a revolution to get and fought communism for because we believed it to be the best freest way to govern became like a disease we had to eradicate.

Reagan's own budget director (no liberal) quit, admitting the whole laissez-faire thing was a Trojan Horse to cut top tax rates. But then this whole "Feudal Economics" thing became like a religion to a whole political sector, and was bolstered by those who benefited to remain like a religion. 40 years later, the current state of the right is the logical endpoint of prioritizing above all else a big economic lie to cut top tax rates.

This is not beside the point to this discussion, because that is the economic water we drink that made it impossible in the last 40 years to even talk about public investments the same way Eisenhower did, or to solve problems in a productive way through public commons since. Much of our critical first-world infrastructure, whether it's dams, school buildings, highways, many state college systems (with GI bill money) -- and civic institutions -- was built in the '50s and paid for by heavy taxes on those who made the most. It has allowed our nation to be what it is today. In the '80s, the narrative changed from where those who make the most have a responsibility to pay back, to everyone who makes money did it from pulling on their own bootstraps with no help from anyone and "public" is a dirty word.

This whole worldview poisons the water in the car debate. The developers have found a way to completely obliterate the tree-hugging sector by claiming that if they build build build, they will create affordable housing. They will solve the traffic jams. No such thing happens in a desirable job center (again, see Hong Kong), but in the meantime, the developers can keep building like there's no tomorrow, regardless of what it will do to SF in the next big earthquake or to their tourism industry, or regardless of what it does to SAFETY and quality of life here.

This area was, like it or not, built around car use. Even in HK, the wealthiest drive because those who use transit face some of the longest commutes in the developed world. That's even though HK is really not optimum for driving. That is not to say that we shouldn't find ways to improve transit and other options like biking. But no one is incorporating the human element, the productivity or time issues. Around 10% of the population has mobility issues, many of them invisible, that make using transit all but impossible. I drive for individual health reasons; trying to bike almost killed me. (I can walk, which I do, not bike, but the overdevelopment has led to making it HARDER to walk as transportation, not easier.). Having to deal with all the ways driving has been made a mess by overdevelopment and the City's stupid response to it has only taken away immeasurable time and productivity from my family, and when we have needed public transit, when we have wished to get out of our cars, transit hasn't been there for us (the above was only one example).

The need to refocus the narrative onto the limits of the places that are being impacted by overdevelopment, Palo Alto is not alone. I hear things from all over the Country, Santa Barbara, San Antonio, Nashville, etc, about how the overdevelopment is causing the same problems. And yet, there are vast stretches of this country where the development would be welcome, and a few new, well-designed cities would make our nation stronger and nicer.

That would solve our car debate in a much more fundamental, more positive way, while also solving the overdevelopment problem. But it's a complete non-starter in an economic environment in which companies (that are growing too big for the towns they are impacting) expect public investments to come always from thin air or from the public who can far less afford it.


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Posted by musical, a resident of Palo Verde,
on Jun 24, 2018 at 4:22 pm

Saudi Arabia has potentially doubled their number of drivers.


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Posted by Johnny, a resident of Midtown,
on Jun 25, 2018 at 2:13 am

So you're insinuating that cutting the corporate tax rate lets them get away with murder?
I disagree. Cutting the corporate tax rate is necessary because that is the highest amount of capital that is being put back into the private sector, and therefore maintains its value, whereas keeping it in the hands of the wasteful, inert Congress for example, is where people are getting away with murder.

Capitalism is imperfect but corporations are at least held accountable while government has the leeway to raise taxes with no accountability -- this is exactly what we are witnessing in Palo Alto. The public sector is not truly public, its not truly "for the people", because elected officials aren't held accountable and it is human nature to be wasteful when we aren't held accountable.

If you have a problem with certain corporations then don't do business with them.

So I'll go back to my original argument that traffic congestion means too many people, and too many people is caused by overpopulation, wrought by unfettered immigration. Its a tough red pill to swallow but in my opinion that is the truth and why people are so confused that there is "no solution" to the problem.


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Posted by Johnny, a resident of Midtown,
on Jun 25, 2018 at 2:30 am

So traffic becomes unspeakably bad, quality life goes down, and people might move out and build new cities in remote places to spread out the population a little.
Let the problem eventually take care of itself.
But it's pointless to start punishing corporations.

One thing we do agree on is that suffocating traffic to punish "single-occupant commuters" is the most inexplicably stupid thing they could be doing right now, but that's literally the dogma that is ruling the Bay Area -- no one in Sacramento or beyond is questioning or fighting this at all in any way whatsoever, except us posting our grievances in an inconsequential comments section. Its surreal.


 +   1 person likes this
Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood,
on Jun 25, 2018 at 9:39 am

I think commuting is a fair topic apart from whether those of us who live here should use our cars less.

Commuting for the most part is people who work at jobs with similar hours at the same job site on a regular basis. These people, like school children, usually have fixed hours and their commutes have to be done at the same time.

There are many ways society can get around this.

School shuttles should be brought back in Palo Alto and they should not be just for the students but for anyone who needs to get to that area. They should not be free shuttles but a small fare would seem right to me.

For others who regularly work in Palo Alto from out of town, we need parking lots at off ramps with efficient shuttles into downtown and business areas.

Places that have people working late night or early shifts, restaurants and the like, should be able to coordinate with each other or a localized app to enable their workers to park in satellite parking lots at off ramps.

Telecommuting is still being done, but it should be better organized. I know one person whose company allows people to telecommute on Tuesdays and Thursdays with no onsite meetings planned on those days. This only works well if the neighboring business does the same for two other days, say Monday and Wednesday.

Corporate buses seem to work for the big companies and Facebook now has a cross Bay ferry service for its employees. It would be useful if others who work for smaller companies could avail of these services. In other words, if a small company situated near Google could arrange with Google to allow their employees also to use the shuttles, it would be good for the region.

Traffic is a regional problem and anything Palo Alto does will not help a regional problem unless something is done with other cities on the Peninsula. We do not have a traffic commission for the region, the Peninsula or even good coordination between Menlo, RWC, Palo Alto, Mountain View and Sunnyvale. Even that smaller area having a goal for those 5 cities would help because even though they are in different counties, the problem crosses counties.

Somebody, like Diana, could be a great advocate for getting these 5 cities to coordinate their traffic problems much better.


 +   6 people like this
Posted by Personal Corporate Responsibility, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood,
on Jun 25, 2018 at 10:37 am

@Johnny,
Concentrations of wealth and power stagnate economies, because a lot of money in the hands of very few tends to sequester wealth (as is happening). More money in the hands of hundreds of millions tends to lead to circulation of capital, which is what happened in the '50s until Reagan's policies put a stop to it. More money circulating from hundreds of millions of people is what puts the most capital in the private sector, grows that many small businesses that serve those hundreds of millions of people and meets their complex needs.

Seriously, you think immigration is why we have too many people in Palo Alto? (Seriously?) Not too many jobs and too much office space that invites companies to grow beyond what is reasonable for the infrastructure?

You are idealizing accountability in the private sector, and failing to account for all of people's motivations, including destructive ones that make no sense, altruistic ones, or job satisfaction ones in the public sector. Corruption is a human trait, and checks and balances exist in both private and public sectors, with neither being perfect. Private concentrations of wealth and power are less accountable to the public than democratic government. (One man's regulation is another man's ability to be free of being shaken down by moneyed interests. Or to be free of having to live in the other man's pollution.) You are also going back to the framing that fails to take into account any debt people owe back to the public once they are successful for the foundations of their success that the public paid for and for which those companies never could pay themselves.

The point is that the companies aren't going to go start new towns somewhere else from scratch, because they cost money that companies aren't willing to pay. They want those things free from the public. Plus in a new place, developers don't have incentives because they can make more money densifying and ruining existing places (that the public built).

Companies will continue to pack into and grow in existing places so they don't have to pay for the infrastructure, the public buildings (courts, municipal buildings, safety, fire, police), public works (sanitation, plumbing, electrical grid), etc etc. they would have to pay for by starting a new place. Plus all the amenities that grow up around existing cities, such as theaters, music, arts, public parks, also would have to be paid for and built to attract their workers.

Companies prefer to try to take over what the public built and, since the ‘80s, act like paying back for that is “punishing" them, as you framed it. They don't care what it takes away from the public for them to just take these public investments and not pay back. There isn't a point where it makes sense to them to make the public investments of their own volition. The only way they will ever pay back for what they got from the public is if they are taxed once they do well.

The rich did just fine under Eisenhower (who was a Republican, by the way) when the marginal tax rate on the richest was over 80%, but the poor and middle class did substantially better than now under Feudal Economics because the public need public investments, too, as foundations of their success, just as companies do.

Why are the members of the public expected to pay for the investments they need, such as higher education, healthcare, childcare (and why does suggesting these could be public investments get equated to communism when many other successful democracies do), when companies who disproportionately use the major public investments for their needs (infrastructure, ports, airports, roads, legal system, the safety and stability of the military, the monetary system, etc etc) aren't expected to ever pay for them, even when they can? This is not "punishing" this is just to whom much is given, much is expected -- corporations can pay the public back in small measure or any measure, after they are successful, but somehow have developed the expectation that they should expect the public investments for free and give back nothing when they are successful.

There is no reason to believe this will take care of itself, and every reason to see that the pressure to densify in existing places will continue even when there are vast areas of this country that it makes sense now, in this time, to create a few cities in. That will not happen on its own because it requires public investment that has gone completely out of ideological fashion.

If someone magically created a few new cities between here and Salt Lake, and they were attractive, with many amenities, companies would be moving there voluntarily. There would be a housing boom in unpopulated places which is the only chance anyone gets to get in the ground floor on truly affordable housing that will appreciate. There would be an exodus until those places filled. It would take some of the pressure from existing areas. But companies and developers aren't going to pay for such a thing, only the public does that.

Thus, we will continue to get some flavor of punishing residents for just living their lives here, including pressure to get out of their cars (even though there are no reasonable alternatives, especially not ones that are respectful of their time).


 +   3 people like this
Posted by Pedi Cab Service , a resident of Greenmeadow,
on Jun 25, 2018 at 1:04 pm

A pedi-cab service in town would be so cool. Inexpensive comfy, fast, friendly open air ride with room for groceries and time for multiple short distance stops along the way. Plan any day with a pedi-cab door to door service! Try one the next time you are in SF or Scottsdale, Boulder, Portland etc.


 +   2 people like this
Posted by Pedi Cab Service , a resident of Greenmeadow,
on Jun 25, 2018 at 1:04 pm

A pedi-cab service in town would be so cool. Inexpensive comfy, fast, friendly open air ride with room for groceries and time for multiple short distance stops along the way. Plan any day with a pedi-cab door to door service! Try one the next time you are in SF or Scottsdale, Boulder, Portland etc.


 +   16 people like this
Posted by Willfull Ignorance, a resident of Adobe-Meadow,
on Jun 25, 2018 at 1:55 pm

If you feel "guilty" driving, that's between your own ears. Don't gripe to others because your brain is making you feel uncomfortable

Suggesting that it's EITHER cars OR bikes is either truly ignorant, or willfully ignorant to try and start an argument. Any thinking person knows that a mixed blend of options will benefit everyone more than any group is benefiting now.
Some people just don't want to think, like the author. This is a click-bait blog


 +   6 people like this
Posted by DianaDiamond, a resident of Midtown,
on Jun 25, 2018 at 2:06 pm

DianaDiamond is a registered user.

I don't feel guilty about driving, although I think there's psychological pressure from city officials that to do the right thing here, one should walk or bike around town.

For clarification, II did quote one resident who said she feels guilty:
As one resident pointed out in a recent blog, “It's sad that so many people are now guilt tripped driving their automobiles, as if it's something we should ‘give up' for the ‘good of the community.'"

-- Diana


 +   1 person likes this
Posted by Johnny, a resident of Midtown,
on Jun 25, 2018 at 7:14 pm

Government has the power to legislate and make new laws. That power is what leads to corruption and corporations may be greedy, but they don't have that power, which is why corporations are fundamentally held accountable in a way that government isn't.
You could say "we could vote them out" but that takes an election cycle, and God knows we keep electing people who don't really work in our or "the public's" interest because once again, power corrupts.

Come to think of it, government and corporations are bedfellows in corruption, both in the Left and Right. It's why we have this binary 2-party system in the first place. We're all being played by the Swamp.

I am no fan of megacorporations but at the very least they create jobs, offer an abundance of products and services, and they actually do show up and help the economies in remote, smaller places that need that infusion, because they are massive and bring an abundance that local small businesses simply can't muster. So let's not demonize them completely.
If people choose to go to big chains and spend their money there, then the company is not "taking from the public", they are providing a service. You use the word success as if it's something bad. And you fetishize the word "public" using it over and over again but I refer to the concept as Collectivism.

I don't buy the idea that government needs to keep raising taxes to provide anemities.
Money in the hands of government loses value. They do what ever they want. They print more money, draft legislation, or else they spend it on themselves.
Sure the rich CEO's get richer and buy themselves private jets but someone's gonna be building that jet. I am in favor of the optimal creation of value rather than a lowered-standard safety net where "everyone wins!".

Of course immigration is the cause for overpopulation and densification, especially in Palo Alto and the Silicone Valley. A recent survey found that even as so many people leave the Bay Area, they are being replaced twice as fast by people from other countries. You know why? Because tech companies love to bring in the "best and brightest" from all over the globe and concentrate them all in one small place. Its obviously immigration!

You keep hammering home the accepted and well-educated economic theory shared by people around here (who complain about the actions of our local politicians, but still vote for them) but at the end of your piece you are still throwing your hands up in the air and offering no solution, other than tax business and trust the government to take care of the problem because their policies are oh so effective... like trying to force us out of cars and onto bicycles.

We have different values -- you are clearly a Socialist and I am more into Objectivism and individual rights. You believe that wealth corrupts, I believe that power corrupts. We may both be right in different ways. Thanks for the debate.


 +   1 person likes this
Posted by Personal Corporate Responsibility, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood,
on Jun 25, 2018 at 8:28 pm

@Johnny,
Don't tell me what I think, you have got it wrong from start to finish.

I don't think there is a label for what I ascribe to, except that I believe in autonomy and balance of power in democracy. I believe the most well-functioning system is the one in which autonomy is optimized across a population. (In other words, if one person believes their greatest freedom is in killing a bunch of people, then that person is robbing a bunch of people of their autonomy, so this is the opposite of optimizing autonomy across a population, for example. There is no perfect state in which everyone's autonomy is optimized, but things function best if individual autonomy is optimized across a population, taking into account the interconnections.)

You still have avoided dealing with the big issue of corporations paying for the benefits they receive, compliments of the public, that allow them to prosper. Why shouldn't individuals have similar opportunity?

Again, our country is a powerful first world country because of the stability we have from our powerful military (public investment), because of our technological prowess (large amount of public investment), because of our healthy population (large amount of public investment through sanitation systems, dams, water systems, public health measures), because of our legal system (courts, law schools, law enforcement - largely public investment), our educated public (largely public investment), our stable governments, our roads, airports, ports, etc etc etc. No company could possible create that singlehandedly from scratch, but they need all of it for their workforces, for their ability to even conduct business or have customers.

There is no value judgment here to say that they should pay back something when they have prospered to a degree that allows them to, and which they could never have done without the long history of public investments. Again, you don't see these companies rushing to Somalia or Sudan to start their businesses, places where they don't have such massive history of PUBLIC investment.

In Eisenhower's day, what both of us ascribe to was called "fiscally responsible", as in, when a leader insists we pay for what we spend (such as in building the interstate highway system and paying for the war) instead of racking up gigantic debts the way modern Republicans always seem to do. Reagan clearly believed that governments are a large part of creating jobs, that's how he got us out of the recession he got us into with his tax cuts, he did a huge amount of defense spending through deficit spending on Star Wars.

Of course concentrations of wealth equals power. This is why we had a revolution to get this exact form of government, which allows ordinary people to have a say. If governments are so corruptible as you say, and where the power rests, it naturally follows that the wealthy have more power to hire people, hire lawyers, wage lawsuits that ordinary people never can, buy government through contributions, through the ability to hire lobbyists, through the ability to write legislation and hand it to a party who passes said legislation almost unchanged, etc.

You seem to be ascribe to the ridiculous idea that megacorporations are the only job generators. Perhaps that is so when the playing field favors the megacorporations (because they have more power). But in 1950, a far higher percentage of the population owned their own business than now. We didn't lack for jobs then.

Government is also a major employer, the military and military contractors being the most major example. The private sector has never invested in solving health problems the way the NIH has. I can go online today and get information from Pubmed that no private company makes available. The CDC ensures public health the way no private corporation ever could or would. NASA has given our nation a huge advantage in technological reputation and ambassadorship. There is NOAH, I think I already mentioned the military -- let's not forget our soldiers (for some reason, mercenaries are more expensive and are... surprise... more prone to CORRUPTION). Right now, I can mail my packages more cheaply by USPS, and no one else would deliver the letter mail. The Manhattan Project, the Marshall Plan, the GI Bill, eradicating smallpox, rural electrification, the interstate highway system, most of our school buildings across the nation -- we would not be the nation we are today if not for PUBLIC investments.

We almost can't have a conversation if you believe that corporations don't have a corruption problem or that they are somehow more accountable to the public than government (can you say Enron?) Corruption comes from greed, and greed is human, so corruption is a potential aspect of every human endeavor, from the PTA to the Boards of too-big-too-fail banks. Checks and balances, as the great innovation of our Constitution provided, allow us to try to counter corruption, they will never eliminate it.

The only backstop accountability ordinary people have when it comes to large corporations is through democratic government. Which is why those who favor concentrations of wealth have tried to destroy our democratic government ever since Reagan. Because concentrations of wealth does mean concentrations of power.

"The Public" = We the People, which is foundational in our form of self rule. You debase our democracy by trying to frame the public with an ideologically-tinged term that doesn't even have the same definition.

Our debate is illustrative here, because it shows again the ideological ruts driving us into the dirt. We take an entirely laissez faire attitude toward corporations even though they are massively avoiding paying for what they use to become successful, and then we talk about all of the negative consequences as if the public should somehow suffer them or pay for fixing them.

I have suggested a very good solution, that we need to consider creating a few more cities in strategic places across the nation. That would solve many of the problems we are facing as companies try to crowd into the cities we have. It's a good problem to have in a way, but the incentives are leaning toward creating more and more problems in these existing places that don't have the capacity. In a more crowded world, growing companies want to commandeer what the public built, and crowd into cities (thereby ruining them when the infrastructure cannot support the growth) rather than rehabilitating smaller places that want the investment and bringing workers there or starting new towns altogether. Companies won't do this, because they expect the public to pay for these things.

This is the backdrop for the relentless push by developers for unhealthy overdevelopment. It's the backdrop for unresolvable narratives such as that cars are "bad" or family houses (which by the way, the majority of millenials want, not cramming into apartments) are "evil" as I've seen on these forums.

We have too many companies who want to grow beyond the capacity of these communities to support the workforce without transforming them into something that ruins what's good about these communities. In places like Hong Kong, they had no options because of being a small island. Here, we have a giant nation that would actually benefit from a few more cities between here and the Mississippi, and benefit from bringing jobs and more population to some of our dying cities. But when most companies expect to get the benefit of a long history of PUBLIC investment and never to pay back, who is going to volunteer to do it? Just as in Eisenhower's day, the public will have to solve the problem if it's to be solved for anyone else except selfish corporateers.


 +  Like this comment
Posted by Personal Corporate Responsibility, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood,
on Jun 25, 2018 at 8:29 pm

@Johnny,
I, too, thank you for the debate. I appreciate that we can disagree so thoroughly and yet both of us air our views.


 +   1 person likes this
Posted by Personal Corporate Responsibility, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood,
on Jun 27, 2018 at 9:29 am

@Johnny,
PS - I think I am much more an advocate of individual rights than (think you) are you, because you do not see the connection between wealth and power, and how that impacts the individual rights of everyone else. You also seem blind to how the failure of the wealthiest to take responsibility for what they take from everyone else (the public) to become wealthy (which I think is fine, they need that investment) results in stagnating economies. This is not socialism, this is the greatest exercise of market economies, this is even more in line with individuals having rights and taking responsibility to pay back.

I think this is why I cannot be a libertarian. They do not accept the obvious connection between wealth and power, and thus have a serious ideological disconnection from reality.

This debate between us illustrates why it's impossible to have a discussion about solving this overdevelopment problem (and hence the ridiculous pressure to make driving horrible where there are no equivalent or better alternatives), because corporatists have tied the hands of any move in the public interest in order to avoid any ethos of their responsibility to pay back for what they have used of public investment to become successful. Any discussion of this solution usually devolves into just this same ideological back and forth, where any suggestion of public solutions (as opposed to just the public dealing with and paying for all the negative consequences of failing to make real public solutions on the front end) becomes an accusation of "socialism" (which in this instance really means unworkable old ideas of communism).


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