By Diana Diamond
How Much More Growth Should Palo Alto Allow?Uploaded: Jul 25, 2018
To grow more, or a lot more: That is the question that Palo Alto voters will face in November, when a ballot measure will ask us whether we should cap this city’s future growth to 850,000 square feet by 2030 rather than 1.7 million square feet the city’s new comprehensive plan calls for.
Palo Alto residents are again facing a very important decision on how much more office development and research space they want this city to allow -- the 850,000 number, which is the rate it has been growing the past 20 years – or twice that rate, 1.7 million square feet.
The ballot has qualified, and the city may try to amend it at its July 30 meeting. There’s a possibility we may have two similar growth issues before us in November, which would really confuse voters, I think.
I know this is only July but this will be a big issue, especially with a council election also on the fall ballot, so now’s a good time to start debating the proposal. Note:
The ballot proposal isn’t "no growth” but rather a slower growth measure. And both sides say they want the city to remain economically healthy.
City Council growth proponents – Mayor Liz Kniss, Greg Scharff, Cory Wolbach, Adrian Fine and Greg Tanaka want more office growth. Scharff convincingly argued at one recent council meeting that Palo Alto needs to keep its business community growing, especially high techs and startups, because they are this city’s future.
The city hired a consultant to see what kind of $$ loss Palo Alto will experience if it limits growth to 850,000 sq. ft. That report will come out the end of the month. But, in turn, I must ask what will be the $$ cost to our community if we have more offices and traffic in town?
Spearheading the lower growth measure are Joe Hirsch and former Vice Mayor Greg Schmid. That would result in an estimated 9,500 jobs, and 5,000 new residents, Hirsch said. That growth is not including any impact from Stanford’s new housing and expansion plan adding some 2.4 million square feet of buildings on campus.
Having 1.7 million square feet of new office space in town compounds the problems we already have – heavier traffic, lack of parking, need for more housing and affordable housing and construction everywhere. The town is changing from a pleasant suburb to an urban community. I don’t want to double our growth. I am tired of the traffic and problems due to higher density.
The ultimate question for me is why? Why do we want to grow faster than we’ve been allowing? What is compelling us to build, build, build when we can’t handle to current problems from growth? What’s in it for residents? Why do the five growth proponents on the city council continue to push for more?