A housing goal assigned to Palo Alto is "unachievable" and would burden the school district and city services, according to a lengthy letter opposing the Association of Bay Area Governments (ABAG) housing allotment for Palo Alto. (Read the letter)
ABAG has told city officials that Palo Alto should plan to add 2,860 housing units by 2014.
The council approved sending the letter by a 7-2 vote, with council members John Barton and Dena Mossar opposed, despite recognizing that ABAG is a messenger assigning a statewide housing target to local communities.
The council had approved a shorter letter in mid-October, but the Planning and Transportation Commission on Nov. 28 almost doubled its length. The current four-page draft says construction of 2,860 units is "unachievable" and would place a costly burden on the Palo Alto Unified School District in addition to straining city services and facilities.
Also, the city should receive credit for achieving past housing goals and not be "penalized" for its transit-oriented policies, the letter states.
"Palo Alto's diligence and success in implementing smart-growth policies appear to have led ABAG to assume that the city has no limit to further intensifying infill development," the letter states.
To pay for the 1,234 units earmarked for lower-income families, Palo Alto would need to develop at least 3,200 market-rate residences and provide a $245 million subsidy, it says.
The additional housing would require the Palo Alto Unified School District to add two elementary schools, half a middle school and a third of a high school, school board member Barb Mitchell told the council. She said the district intends to send its own protest letter to ABAG.
Mossar said she believes the expanded letter represents the community, but she said it should at least point out how many residences the city could add. The letter also doesn't explain why Palo Alto should be treated any differently than other communities, which are also struggling with the same budget, space and transit constraints, she said.
Barton said he thinks the city should step up and assume its share of the region's housing needs. A former school-board member, Barton said the school district has several facilities it could reopen as schools.
"At the end of the day, we're going to have to develop a housing element that at least comes close," Barton said. "They're the implementing agency of state law. We can't just walk away from this."
But building that many units is just impossible, Councilman Jack Morton said.
It would be a "disaster" for Palo Alto, Vice Mayor Larry Klein said.
The ABAG board is expected to consider the appeals in early 2008, but Planning and Transportation Director Steve Emslie reiterated that it is unlikely the city's assignment will be changed.