News

Father, son sue Palo Alto over low-cost-housing

Father and son file separate lawsuits against Palo Alto, characterizing program as 'special tax' against developers

Following in his father's footsteps, Forrest Mozart filed a lawsuit against Palo Alto earlier this month, claiming that the city's affordable-housing program is illegal and amounts to a "special tax" against developers.

Mozart filed his lawsuit just four months after his father, John Mozart, filed a similar suit, arguing that the city is unfairly forcing him to devote 10 percent of his 96-unit "Sterling Park" development on West Bayshore Road to below-market-rate housing.

David Lanferman, the attorney representing both Mozarts, could not be reached for comment Friday.

The younger Mozart's suit pertains to a much smaller project: a 6-condominium "West Meadow Oaks" project on West Meadow Drive. But the argument is the same. Both suits challenge the city's practice of requiring developers to either devote a portion of their projects to below-market-rate (BMR) housing or to pay the city an "in lieu" fee to build affordable housing elsewhere.

The city approved West Meadow Oaks in 2008 with the understanding that the developer would comply with the BMR terms and pay an in-lieu fee. The fee would be 7.5 percent of the project's sales price, which is expected to total hundreds of thousands of dollars.

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Though the applicant agreed to the terms, he argues in the lawsuit that he executed the documents "under duress and compulsion." Forrest Mozart's lawsuit also claims that the city "improperly, and without legal or evidentiary justification, arbitrarily set its requirement for payment of the disputed 'BMR in lieu fee,'" -- the same argument his father made when he filed his lawsuit in October.

Forrest Mozart's lawsuit likens the fees to a "special tax" and "an arbitrary and unjustified development exaction." It also claims that that the city's practice of demanding that a fixed percentage of homes in a development be below-market-rate houses "unlawfully required the project to bear costs and burdens necessary for the city to cure its existing perceived deficiencies of 'affordable housing' in the community."

Donald Larkin, Palo Alto's assistant city attorney, said the city is planning to go to mediation to resolve the lawsuit with John Mozart. He said the two lawsuits appear to be very similar in that they go beyond the specific projects and challenge the city's entire below-market-rate ordinance.

"It seems to be a pretty broad-based facial attack on the validity of the ordinance," Larkin said.

The ordinance, which the city adopted in 1974, has been producing 7.5 units of below-market-rate housing a year. In a response to John Mozart's suit, attorney Scott Pinsky wrote that "local affordable housing ordinances are well-established as a constitutional means of addressing both prior exclusivity in housing practices and existing market shortages of affordable housing."

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Larkin said the city believes the ordinance is "valid and enforceable." He also said the city is willing to consider any offer the developers make.

Gennady Sheyner
 
Gennady Sheyner covers the City Hall beat in Palo Alto as well as regional politics, with a special focus on housing and transportation. Before joining the Palo Alto Weekly/PaloAltoOnline.com in 2008, he covered breaking news and local politics for the Waterbury Republican-American, a daily newspaper in Connecticut. Read more >>

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Father, son sue Palo Alto over low-cost-housing

Father and son file separate lawsuits against Palo Alto, characterizing program as 'special tax' against developers

by / Palo Alto Online

Uploaded: Fri, Mar 26, 2010, 4:07 pm
Updated: Mon, Mar 29, 2010, 6:54 am

Following in his father's footsteps, Forrest Mozart filed a lawsuit against Palo Alto earlier this month, claiming that the city's affordable-housing program is illegal and amounts to a "special tax" against developers.

Mozart filed his lawsuit just four months after his father, John Mozart, filed a similar suit, arguing that the city is unfairly forcing him to devote 10 percent of his 96-unit "Sterling Park" development on West Bayshore Road to below-market-rate housing.

David Lanferman, the attorney representing both Mozarts, could not be reached for comment Friday.

The younger Mozart's suit pertains to a much smaller project: a 6-condominium "West Meadow Oaks" project on West Meadow Drive. But the argument is the same. Both suits challenge the city's practice of requiring developers to either devote a portion of their projects to below-market-rate (BMR) housing or to pay the city an "in lieu" fee to build affordable housing elsewhere.

The city approved West Meadow Oaks in 2008 with the understanding that the developer would comply with the BMR terms and pay an in-lieu fee. The fee would be 7.5 percent of the project's sales price, which is expected to total hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Though the applicant agreed to the terms, he argues in the lawsuit that he executed the documents "under duress and compulsion." Forrest Mozart's lawsuit also claims that the city "improperly, and without legal or evidentiary justification, arbitrarily set its requirement for payment of the disputed 'BMR in lieu fee,'" -- the same argument his father made when he filed his lawsuit in October.

Forrest Mozart's lawsuit likens the fees to a "special tax" and "an arbitrary and unjustified development exaction." It also claims that that the city's practice of demanding that a fixed percentage of homes in a development be below-market-rate houses "unlawfully required the project to bear costs and burdens necessary for the city to cure its existing perceived deficiencies of 'affordable housing' in the community."

Donald Larkin, Palo Alto's assistant city attorney, said the city is planning to go to mediation to resolve the lawsuit with John Mozart. He said the two lawsuits appear to be very similar in that they go beyond the specific projects and challenge the city's entire below-market-rate ordinance.

"It seems to be a pretty broad-based facial attack on the validity of the ordinance," Larkin said.

The ordinance, which the city adopted in 1974, has been producing 7.5 units of below-market-rate housing a year. In a response to John Mozart's suit, attorney Scott Pinsky wrote that "local affordable housing ordinances are well-established as a constitutional means of addressing both prior exclusivity in housing practices and existing market shortages of affordable housing."

Larkin said the city believes the ordinance is "valid and enforceable." He also said the city is willing to consider any offer the developers make.

Comments

undrgrndgirl
Midtown
on Mar 26, 2010 at 4:49 pm
undrgrndgirl, Midtown
on Mar 26, 2010 at 4:49 pm

affordable housing in palo alto?? that's a laugh!


norm
South of Midtown
on Mar 26, 2010 at 5:30 pm
norm, South of Midtown
on Mar 26, 2010 at 5:30 pm

studios <$1k/ month are not unheard of.


John
Midtown
on Mar 26, 2010 at 5:35 pm
John, Midtown
on Mar 26, 2010 at 5:35 pm

This is probably going to end being a negotiated solution. However, I hope the developers will sue the heck out of the city, because BMRs are unconstitutional on their face. A $25M settlement in favor of the developers might get the council's attention.


Norm (real-sorta)
Midtown
on Mar 26, 2010 at 5:49 pm
Norm (real-sorta), Midtown
on Mar 26, 2010 at 5:49 pm

If you are one who believes anyone can live in the community of their choice, but that there is no obligation for a community which agrees with that concept to make such housing available, are you not giving license to the invited to sleep where they will?


John
Midtown
on Mar 26, 2010 at 6:07 pm
John, Midtown
on Mar 26, 2010 at 6:07 pm

Norm,

You can live in any community you can afford to live in, as long as you abide by the law. It is not up to me to provide for you.


Old Palo Alto
Old Palo Alto
on Mar 26, 2010 at 10:43 pm
Old Palo Alto, Old Palo Alto
on Mar 26, 2010 at 10:43 pm

We do not live in a communist state. We have learned communism does not work. BMR housing is communism. I think ALL developers should sue Palo Alto until the BMR BS is repealed.


Please build more BMR's
Gunn High School
on Mar 26, 2010 at 11:00 pm
Please build more BMR's, Gunn High School
on Mar 26, 2010 at 11:00 pm

So, I would like to continue to live in the town that my grandparents toiled in and made it what it is today...I am proud of my heritage but have not been able to "get my footing" into it's housing market.

If the people here who are making all the noise down at the courthouse will notice, they did not have to build in Palo Alto if they did not want to....their choice.

Now they are complaining.

As I hear it, they had the right to contribute to a fund if they did not want to deal with the BMR's. I also understand that cities such as Los Altos Hills, Portola Valley and other upper class towns are not wanting to build BMR housing (NOT in their backyards!) so they just contribute the money so they will not have any "low income" people living among them, breathing the same air.

Think on THAT one.....

I fold my towels the same way yours are folded..because I am the one who just folded yours.....


Old Timer
Greene Middle School
on Mar 26, 2010 at 11:12 pm
Old Timer, Greene Middle School
on Mar 26, 2010 at 11:12 pm

You live where you can afford to live. We saved for 30 years before we could afford to live here. During those years we endured "hardship" living in one bedroom apartments until we could afford to come back to be near my husband's hometown. Interestingly, I never considered a one bedroom apartment as a hardship, even when I lived in states where I had no connection, and a Yankee accent.

As a newer homeowner, I am not sympathetic footing the bill for anyone desiring to live here.
I suggest that you do what we did, and move to where you can afford.
We would never have stooped to welfare housing.

You must move to where you can afford. Try Mississippi, Louisiana, or Upstate New York, and make the best of it.


John
Midtown
on Mar 26, 2010 at 11:22 pm
John, Midtown
on Mar 26, 2010 at 11:22 pm

"So, I would like to continue to live in the town that my grandparents toiled in and made it what it is today"

This is the classic argument of trust fund babies, whose trust fund has run out of money.


hard worker
Downtown North
on Mar 26, 2010 at 11:29 pm
hard worker, Downtown North
on Mar 26, 2010 at 11:29 pm

I would like oceanfront property and a 5000 square foot home. Anyone want to contribute? Poverty shouldn't have to stand between me and my dream!


Builders bild on, please
Gunn High School
on Mar 27, 2010 at 1:00 am
Builders bild on, please, Gunn High School
on Mar 27, 2010 at 1:00 am

Downtown North..go ahead and sell your million dollar property in downtown and you can move to the beachfront..move out of town if you don't appreciate it, which is what your comment suggests you would like to do, correct????

John...I am stating that a lot of people move here because of all that has been here before they arrived..the "foreigners" arrive and are picking the fruits of our ancestors labor~ plus mine.
Is THAT classic? There is NO argument there.

Old timer: your attitude needs adjusting. Can tell you are not a "locally grown" person....sorry you had to suffer in "squaller".I can somewhat understand your mentality.


Diversity is Good
College Terrace
on Mar 27, 2010 at 8:11 am
Diversity is Good, College Terrace
on Mar 27, 2010 at 8:11 am

I hope Mozart spends a pile and loses. Share the wealth, Sparky. Either we get mixed housing into this community or we're going to end up like a large urban Atherton. If Mozart doesn't like the rules, he should "get out of town". Who needs greedy developers who want to optimize profits at the cost of long term community diversity. What a shame that this guy's name is Mozart; he sullies the memory of a great composer.


Darwin
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 27, 2010 at 11:56 am
Darwin, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 27, 2010 at 11:56 am

Since this community doesn't allow retail establishments, it must rely on other taxes (like from hotels and property). Palo Alto is already loaded with prop 13 residential and commercial paying less than others.

And every BMR residence is taxed at a lesser rate as well. I honestly don't see these kinds of programs lasting.


too late
College Terrace
on Mar 28, 2010 at 9:21 am
too late, College Terrace
on Mar 28, 2010 at 9:21 am

Well, they could always go back, knock down what they've currently built and re-request another plan without a BMR.
They should never have agreed to it in the first place if they felt that way. "Under duress"? Yeah, right! It's just another money grab.


Nora Charles
Stanford
on Mar 28, 2010 at 7:53 pm
Nora Charles, Stanford
on Mar 28, 2010 at 7:53 pm

Old Timer, I completely agree with you. I don't understand the feeling of entitlement of those who feel they must live in a certain city or in special housing. And I'm with with you Hard Worker, I'd love to live in a big, beautiful house overlooking the ocean, but it's not going to happen (unless I win the lottery).

I wish the Mozarts well with their lawsuits.


Paul
Downtown North
on Mar 28, 2010 at 10:03 pm
Paul, Downtown North
on Mar 28, 2010 at 10:03 pm

Let's face this issue square on. The problem with BMRs is a lot of the kind of people some poeople don't like live in them.


R Wray
Midtown
on Mar 29, 2010 at 9:49 am
R Wray, Midtown
on Mar 29, 2010 at 9:49 am

The progressives usually bring up racism. The actual issue is justice. Why should I have to pay for my neighbor's housing? I also wish the Mozarts well with their lawsuits.


developer
Downtown North
on Mar 29, 2010 at 10:05 am
developer, Downtown North
on Mar 29, 2010 at 10:05 am

If you don't want to play by the rules, then build your apartments somewhere else.


BMR fan
Midtown
on Mar 29, 2010 at 10:28 am
BMR fan, Midtown
on Mar 29, 2010 at 10:28 am

PA Alto's low cost housing is mostly one and two bedroom appartments and townhomes. Entry level school teachers qualify to live in such places. I support the now 36 year program of Palo Alto to make housing to avoid displacing seniors, teachers, and other important parts of our diverse community.


resident
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 29, 2010 at 10:32 am
resident, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 29, 2010 at 10:32 am

One reason to have low(er) cost housing in town is to make homes available for our emergency workers. In an earthquake, for example, we want all our firefighters and police officers to be here, not in Tracy.
Another reason is that it is a state mandate. You don't want to obey state law, there goes your "law-abiding citizen, aren't I perfect," argument.


Morris
Barron Park
on Mar 29, 2010 at 10:55 am
Morris, Barron Park
on Mar 29, 2010 at 10:55 am

> One reason to have low(er) cost housing in town is to make homes
> available for our emergency workers. In an earthquake, for example,
> we want all our firefighters and police officers to be here

First off ... with police officers and fire officers making $150-$200K (and family income easily up to $300K for some 2-earner families) .. why are these city employees not expected to buy their own homes?

Many firemen and police officers are more "outdoorsy" .. they like to fish, hunt and involve themselves in activities that would horrify most Palo Altans .. so if they were forced to live here .. they might find the kinds of social engineering imposed on most Palo Altans just a bit "binding".

And then there's the possibility of a nuclear attack. What's the likelihood that police living in Tracy might survive a 20MT-50MT strike here in Palo Alto? What's the likelihood that police/firefighters living here in Palo Alto would survive?


Jon Parsons
Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 29, 2010 at 11:02 am
Jon Parsons, Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 29, 2010 at 11:02 am

Its good to see fathers and sons doing things together, sharing interests, and having common goals. Let's hope they use this opportunity to nurture those filial bonds, and maybe discover a bit more about themselves along the way.


Stop the fantasy please
Greenmeadow
on Mar 29, 2010 at 11:11 am
Stop the fantasy please, Greenmeadow
on Mar 29, 2010 at 11:11 am

Someone always brings up teachers, firefighters and police. They just repeat this fantasy because it feels good.
Teachers, firefighters and police DO NOT live in below market housing for many reasons. Like, THEY EARN TOO MUCH.
Could people please stop repeating this nonsense!


DZ
Fletcher Middle School
on Mar 29, 2010 at 11:25 am
DZ, Fletcher Middle School
on Mar 29, 2010 at 11:25 am

"One reason to have low(er) cost housing in town is to make homes available for our emergency workers. "
Give me a break. If you count, PA has much more BMRs than the number of currently employed emergency workers, junior teachers... For some seniors, they give their houses to their kids, and then move into a BMR, rest of us have to pay for it. What a communist paradise. Some BMRs really just think they can get things the easy way, and they really don't have respect what is going on around them and a changing environment.

"Live in a million dollar home but only paid a fraction of it" is not a right! It is taking advantage of others.


Anon.
Crescent Park
on Mar 29, 2010 at 11:33 am
Anon., Crescent Park
on Mar 29, 2010 at 11:33 am

If the developer does not like it ... go develop somewhere else ... whatever happened to personal responsibility and independence, this whiny guy wants to the city to make special allowances for him since he cannot handle the market ... Palo Alto does not owe him a living.

Tear up the airport and put up some nice low cost housing out there. Better yet, let's put some in the hills right next to the multi-million dollar homes that do not add anything to the community and just seek to be up in the hills away from everyone else and pay zero taxes.


Lee Thé
Charleston Gardens
on Mar 29, 2010 at 11:48 am
Lee Thé, Charleston Gardens
on Mar 29, 2010 at 11:48 am

I’ve lived in a large condo complex in Palo Alto for decades, with lots of BMR neighbors. They’ve included:

1. An insane woman and her son. The woman would talk to herself loudly day and night and go door to door begging in the complex. The adult son would follow kids around all day, trying to play with them.

2. A criminal who used our parking lots as his used car “dealership,” with as many as 17 of his cars parked at any given time, making it impossible to find parking. After many complaints to the city, the Palo Alto City attorney’s office wrote us—to demand that stop harassing this poor man. Finally the garage he used to fix up the cars he bought from junkyards caught fire and nearly burned down a building.

3. Various single mothers with their teenage hoodlum sons and their teenage hoodlum sons’ hoodlum friends. Normally we have very low crime rates here, but every few years people like these move in and cars start getting broken into and the like. It stops when they move out. And of course while they are here we get cars blasting around the complex in the middle of the night, along with weekday parties lasting ‘till 3am.

4. People from the lower classes who are perfectly nice but whose lifestyle conflicts with that of middle class people. Think of junk motorcycles and bicycles and other bric a brac stored around the garages and the landscaping. Think of, again, late night parties on weekdays and a general level of racket that conflicts with everyone else’s lifestyles.

5. People from the lower classes of former Eastern Bloc countries. This is a special case. There’s a scandal brewing about visa manipulation by the Russian mafia getting people over here who wouldn’t be able to come normally. Looks like we have some neighbors like this. Two of them recently cornered me in the dark outside our clubhouse and threatened to murder me (literally) over an altercation I’d had with one of their wives (I’d taken too long pulling my car out of my garage to suit her and she started honking at me, leading to an exchange of words). You just haven’t lived until you’ve have ex-Soviet Army vets threatening to take you apart by your home.

It’s easy to advocate for BMRs when you yourself don’t live near them. So tell you what. You get to lecture me about how wonderful they are after Palo Alto rezones the whole city to allow high density development everywhere, and the single family dwelling next to you is replaced with a five story apartment house built out to the property line (see the development on San Antonio by 101 for a model), and fill it with BMRs next to YOU.

Live with them for a few years. Then come talk to me about my social obligations.

The New Urbanism is wonderful as long as it’s someone else who has to live with the consequences, eh?


Elizabeth
Midtown
on Mar 29, 2010 at 11:53 am
Elizabeth, Midtown
on Mar 29, 2010 at 11:53 am

Wow! Fascinating to read how many mean-spirited people are posting on this topic.

The selfish are certainly coming of age and affluence.

Palo Alto has lost much of its interesting, artistic diversity because of this ever-accelerating upscale building.

Next stop boring vanilla people who only care about their money and possessions. Yuck!

Perhaps if you save enough money you can purchase some humanity, but I won't hold my breath!


Anon.
Crescent Park
on Mar 29, 2010 at 12:03 pm
Anon., Crescent Park
on Mar 29, 2010 at 12:03 pm

Lee ... I think you have a good point, there are a lot of problem people, and I really do not see the need for people who cannot socially fit in with other people to live in Palo Alto. I don't mean that in a snobby way, just practically, who wants to have to put up with craziness or violence ... in the name of what? poltical correctness ... screw that.

That housing should be for productive people who need to live in Palo Alto because of jobs or family, not for warehousing social misfits. I wonder does it cost more of less to keep those people in the state institutions we used to have before Reagan and Prop 13?

We pay and support our government to manage these kinds of things, and all they do is throw up their hands and invite chaos. I am all for helping everyone in our society to the extent they can be helped ... but in an appropriate and reasonable way.

This is not an argument against BMH, but a plea for better management and rules for it. Do not house criminals or problem people in inappropriate places.


pat
Midtown
on Mar 29, 2010 at 12:47 pm
pat, Midtown
on Mar 29, 2010 at 12:47 pm

Thanks to Lee The for posting from real experiences. Certainly not all BMR residents are criminals, but the city bears a heavy responsibility when offering space to people like those Lee mentions.

And thanks to "Stop the fantasy please" for reminding us that police, fire fighters and teachers earn too much to qualify for BMR units.

There is also some mythology around BMRs being provided to people who work in Palo Alto. Not true.

The Palo Alto Housing Corporation manages the BMR program on the city’s behalf. Preference is given to workers in Palo Alto first. But if qualified buyer/renters can't be found, then people working outside the city can be selected.

And if someone gets preference because he works in the city, then changes jobs to work elsewhere, he doesn't lose the BMR unit.


Frank
Ventura
on Mar 29, 2010 at 12:53 pm
Frank, Ventura
on Mar 29, 2010 at 12:53 pm

I am very familiar with Palo Alto's BMR program. I've lived in one when I worked for our school district earlier in my career. School teachers, police and fire fighters do indeed live in them. So do artists, office workers, janitors and probably someone who works at a fast food place.

This BMR program is not free; you will have to qualify for and get a mortgage then purchase the unit. You would pay homeowners dues and property taxes like anyone else. If you stop paying you get foreclosed and kicked out.

There are other programs for homeless and indigent but that is not the BMR.

Today I live in my own private home and hopefully you'd see me as adding to our community. But I am still here in part because this program allowed me to live here.

It is so easy to say - these people who live in these BMR houses (condominiums really) are criminals, welfare abusing, lazy, non contributers... but nothing could be further from the truth.


R Wray
Midtown
on Mar 29, 2010 at 12:57 pm
R Wray, Midtown
on Mar 29, 2010 at 12:57 pm

"mean-spirited" comes from when everyone is trying to pick someone else's pocket. Benevolence and goodwill comes when people look after themselves, and when individual rights are respected. Those who need help may politely ask for charity; those who deem them worthy can voluntarily contribute if they wish.


janisw
Charleston Meadows
on Mar 29, 2010 at 1:20 pm
janisw, Charleston Meadows
on Mar 29, 2010 at 1:20 pm

Having a lower income than most Palo Alto residents does not make me (or my adult son who lives with me) insane, criminal, sloppy, inconsiderate or degenerate. I am a good citizen and a good (BMR)neighbor. I work in a respectable position at Stanford University making what would be considered a decent wage most places in the country. Without the BMR housing program (which is based on household income - and the % of the average median income for the state) I would not be able to afford to live (rent or own) within a reasonable commuting distance of my workplace. To keep quality people working for you in this community you need to make sure there is housing available for all income levels. I love Palo Alto. My then teenaged daughter and I felt welcomed into the school (Gunn High School rocks!) and community when we moved here from Fremont in 2004. And I DO fit in here, despite my lower income - better than anyplace I've ever lived. LOWER INCOME DOES NOT = LOW CLASS. Low class comes at all income levels as is demonstrated by the many mean spirited, ignorant,uninformed & selfish comments posted here. I'm glad that it is NOT the predominant sentiment of the city I am proud to call home.


Palo Alto native
Ventura
on Mar 29, 2010 at 1:41 pm
Palo Alto native, Ventura
on Mar 29, 2010 at 1:41 pm

Janisw-
You go girl! I simply cannot believe the mean-spirited people here who seem to be tormented constantly by those in need. We need people of all stripes here and I for one, want my kids' teachers and our police and firefighters here and not commuting in from Tracy. Today more and more hard-working people are being victimized by their companies and being forced to live on lower and lower wages - I guess what the people who don't want BMR around really want is to not be faced with those they victimize every day.


Shelley
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 29, 2010 at 1:54 pm
Shelley, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 29, 2010 at 1:54 pm

Do they have low income housing in Beverley Hills or LaJolla? Why should Palo Alto try to save the world? It will just make for more conflict. Just as racial busing never worked, or the Tinsley program doesn't work well. The kids don't mix with each other - why force it?

On the other end, do BMR dwellers feel completely comfortable living in a town with others who have so much more?

The bleeding heart liberals here - sheesh - Join the Peace Corps.

Thank you, Lee, for your fantastic posting.


hard worker
Downtown North
on Mar 29, 2010 at 2:17 pm
hard worker, Downtown North
on Mar 29, 2010 at 2:17 pm

PA Native, the firefighters, police, and teachers will continue to commute from Tracy no matter how many BMR units are built. They want 4-bedroom houses with swimming pools and 1-acre lots, not a second floor condo.

Stanford doesn't pay that well, but they do publish their salary ranges online, and from what I can tell, a two-adult household living on a Stanford income can afford to rent or buy within a few miles of campus. Maybe not in Palo Alto and probably not in Atherton or Woodside, but nothing wrong with Mountain View or Sunnyvale. Why, pray tell, should we subsidize someone who has a job at Stanford? If you really must live in PA, perhaps you should get a raise or look for a different job.

For whatever reason, the BMR residents I know are either city employees or relatives of city employees. Perfectly nice people, not sure how they qualified or why we should be subsidizing them. And why we should even think about importing the crazies and hoodlums Lee describes, I do not understand.

Bottom line: BMR housing has proven to distort the economics of the housing market and provides no perceptible benefits. Some of you seem to think we're morally required to do some social engineering to ensure that the right mix of people--by your definition--live in this community. I say enough tinkering; let the unfettered market do its thing.


Shelley
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 29, 2010 at 2:20 pm
Shelley, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 29, 2010 at 2:20 pm

Well said, Hard Worker.


janisw
Charleston Meadows
on Mar 29, 2010 at 2:33 pm
janisw, Charleston Meadows
on Mar 29, 2010 at 2:33 pm

Beverly Hills: YES!! Web Link
La Jolla: YES! (through the City of San Diego) Web Link
La Jolla: YES! (through the County of San Diego) Web Link

BOTH have much more generous plans than Palo Alto- with more options.
And it's not the kids who are bigotted (unless they've learned from their parents not to "Mix"). And I DO feel comfortable living here . Maybe you are the one who is now less comfortable here. Open your mind and your heart. I am not a threat to you.


Palo Alto native
Ventura
on Mar 29, 2010 at 2:35 pm
Palo Alto native, Ventura
on Mar 29, 2010 at 2:35 pm

The "free market" has gotten us where we are, which isn't very free for those whose jobs are being squeezed by the likes of big corporations. And why is it that only big corporate America is the only entity that seems deserving of welfare anymore? I would be all for the Free Market if it really was a Free Market.


resident
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 29, 2010 at 2:39 pm
resident, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 29, 2010 at 2:39 pm

It is a state law that each city provide housing at 4 income levels: market rate (no problem there, right? - we all love the market, when it works for us), moderate income, low income and very low income. Non-profits provide most of the low and very low income (BMR) units. It doesn't cost the city. What we have very little of in PA is moderate income housing.
No one on this thread has yet to explain how we get around the state mandate.


stretch
another community
on Mar 29, 2010 at 2:44 pm
stretch, another community
on Mar 29, 2010 at 2:44 pm

Obviously, no one's been paying attention to the success of the Palo Alto Housing Corp all these years (over 30, I'm sure). People who live or work in Palo Alto can buy below market and actually live in Palo Alto! Hey, "hard worker", why don't you ask the people who are living in these units that were set aside for lower earners than can usually afford to buy in PA. If the City were to go on its own way, then only rich people would live there. Homogenized to the max! Ugh - same old town that got rid of the communes by condemning them, the massage parlors and (horrors!) video machine establishments. I'm hoping that this policy of setting aside housing in exchange for something else proves to be legal, constitutional and just the right thing to do, and that this Forrest Mozart, who agreed to it "mans up" and keeps his word.


DZ
Fletcher Middle School
on Mar 29, 2010 at 2:56 pm
DZ, Fletcher Middle School
on Mar 29, 2010 at 2:56 pm

Janisw-

For you, it is a plan well worked out. But for others, it is a dream broken. Without BMR, PA’s housing price should fall a bit. That a bit, several percent or more, prevents many other families to afford PA. Many families live in BMRs have a much easier life than rest of us. Because they don’t have to work day and night to earn a house here. BMR is also a good investment for some, as long as they can fool/corrupt the city to get one. They will hold them forever and make a lot of money from them. Attending PA schools doesn’t automatically means good to your kids. Although we teach our kids to share with others, we also tell them it is not right to take things belongs to others...


DOWN OUR THROATS
another community
on Mar 29, 2010 at 2:56 pm
DOWN OUR THROATS, another community
on Mar 29, 2010 at 2:56 pm

Its blackmail...get it?


Miss Knows Better
Downtown North
on Mar 29, 2010 at 3:02 pm
Miss Knows Better, Downtown North
on Mar 29, 2010 at 3:02 pm

Hey everybody, don't get bent out of shape about those folks buying BMR units.... they are usually the less desirable ones... nearest the busiest roads & highways, smaller and sometimes dark, directly over the machine room or utility closet for the entire building, in the back like the ones at 800 High Street, and the older ones esp are clustered together in one part of the complex so they don't have to mix with the regular paying residents. in some ways the city does the developer a favor by assuring the less desirable units will sell.

and a reminder to everyone about socialism and communism, under those regimes, gov't supports and runs banks and industry, similar to our bank and auto company bailouts. in a free market system those entities would have gone bankrupt. so don't worry about the BMR program bringing us dangerously close to a socialist state... we're already there...


stretch
another community
on Mar 29, 2010 at 3:11 pm
stretch, another community
on Mar 29, 2010 at 3:11 pm

DZ - sorry, you don't know what you're talking about re the resale of the BMR housing. The rules are clear that the price they sell for still has to be below market. Tell me, how do they get fantastic money out of that? And, if they keep these for a long time, it means they've been living in them, since you can't buy one and rent them out! Check the facts, instead of just making things up to -what - look smarter? NOT. Also, you can't fake yourself into one of these units. They check to see what you make, where you live, work, etc. sheesh.


Paul
Downtown North
on Mar 29, 2010 at 3:23 pm
Paul, Downtown North
on Mar 29, 2010 at 3:23 pm

OK, now let's look at another advantage of building BMRs: PR for developers. 800 High Street's ads always prominently featured the 15 or so BMR units in the building, for the "benefit of our teachers, firefighters, police, and city employees." Truth of the matter aside (and it sometimes is in these things), I'm sure it helped get them enough votes to get the thing built. The Mozarts simply don't understand the system. Hint: hire someone with more experience in Palo Alto processes as a consultant.

"The progressives usually bring up racism."

This purported "progressive" whose observation promoted this riposte= only mentioned "people some people don't like." Nothing about race, etc. Racism here is in the interpretation of the responder. A Freudian slip, perhaps?


KJK
Stanford
on Mar 29, 2010 at 3:27 pm
KJK, Stanford
on Mar 29, 2010 at 3:27 pm

Geez, lighten up on the socialism thing, all cities have the right and duty to organize themselves in a way that best establishes a community. Visit Houston if you want to see what no zoning does, strip club next to a day care center.
Requiring a developer to include varied income housing is perfectly normal and reasonable. I grew up in the San Fernando valley and there's no doubt the fact that all the police lived in Simi Valley contributed to increased tension when they drove into 'different' communities to work.
Meet someone who works hard but doesn't have a ton of money, be very surprised how much you have in common.


janisw
Charleston Meadows
on Mar 29, 2010 at 3:30 pm
janisw, Charleston Meadows
on Mar 29, 2010 at 3:30 pm

I understand the concerns expressed here. But no one is getting rich from purchasing a BMR property. When they are resold, they are sold at a BMR price, calculated by Palo Alto Housing Corp using the current BMR formula and sold to someone who has been on the (VERY long - 5 years or more) waiting list, who is living and/or working in Palo Alto that whole time, and has met a rigorous vetting process (updated annually) to qualify. And then we still have to qualify for a mortgage (no easy process these days). I am grateful every day for this privledge I've been given and don't want my neighbors to hate me because I got some help. If I still own my house when I die, the only way my children can keep the house is if they live in it and can qualify under the BMR guidlines in place at that time. Otherwise the property will be sold to another BMR applicant at the current BMR value. Any profit is strictly limited by the BMR guiedlines. The main advantage for me is that I can live in the community where I work and get the tax benefits and stability of home ownership.


John
Midtown
on Mar 29, 2010 at 3:35 pm
John, Midtown
on Mar 29, 2010 at 3:35 pm

"BMR units in the building, for the "benefit of our teachers, firefighters, police, and city employees." "

Paul, are you saying that teachers, firefighter, police and city employees" are currently living in BMR units? If so, how many? Care to give a few examples?

BMR units are always sold under this rubris. It is a lie. BMR units are a tax on common neighbors, as well as the general Palo Alto community. I suspect that it is unconstitutional.


pat
Midtown
on Mar 29, 2010 at 3:48 pm
pat, Midtown
on Mar 29, 2010 at 3:48 pm

Facts are always good.

Palo Alto Housing Corporation in 1970 as a private non-profit agency.

BMR RENTAL units: Web Link
Managers at each property maintain a waiting list for BMR units, and each property has different income requirments.

BMR homes for SALE: Web Link

“ When a BMR unit is available for sale, PAHC sends an information packet to persons at the top of the Waiting List (usually applicants with Waiting List numbers below 200) who live or work in Palo Alto, and who have applied for and qualify for a unit of the size being offered for sale." (Note "live OR work.")

Income limits are set at 80% or 100% of the Area Median Income (AMI) for Santa Clara County depending on the sale price of the unit. Most BMR resale units are in the $100,000 to $200,000 price range.

More than 500 people are on the waiting list for 246 BMR units.

From Web Link , the starting salary for a teacher in PAUSD was $51,422 in 2008-09. So, I stand corrected. Some teachers would qualify for a BMR.


KJK
Stanford
on Mar 29, 2010 at 3:49 pm
KJK, Stanford
on Mar 29, 2010 at 3:49 pm

Requiring a developer to vary income housing within the city bounds is no more unconstitutional than requiring a massage parlor or liquor store not be built next to an elementary school.

Lighten up and go to City Hall, there are plenty of conspiracy theorists in attendance at any given session ready to rage against the machine.


Paul
Downtown North
on Mar 29, 2010 at 3:54 pm
Paul, Downtown North
on Mar 29, 2010 at 3:54 pm

"Paul, are you saying that teachers, firefighter, police and city employees" are currently living in BMR units?"

I am not saying that, but some might be. Let us know if you turn up any.

I was quoting the developer's promo as an example of the usual hype. As I recall, the firefighters got fed up with being misrepresented and came out against the project. But whoever fools enough of the people enough of the time often wins.


John
Midtown
on Mar 29, 2010 at 4:02 pm
John, Midtown
on Mar 29, 2010 at 4:02 pm

"Requiring a developer to vary income housing within the city bounds is no more unconstitutional than requiring a massage parlor or liquor store not be built next to an elementary school."

Of course it is. Zoning exclusions related to liquor stores and massage parlors can be related to a threat to local neighborhoods. BMR units are a direct taking from market rate members of a given housing unit. Completely different things.

This thing is probably heading to the Supreme Court in a few years. Palo Alto is liable to a huge lawsuit.


DZ
Fletcher Middle School
on Mar 29, 2010 at 4:30 pm
DZ, Fletcher Middle School
on Mar 29, 2010 at 4:30 pm

For those still haven’t figure out how to make money on BMR unit, what can I say.
Ex, for a person 63 year old, don’t have to be a PA resident, has a job and a house. But he can buy a BMR unit even he has asset 200% more than the unit price. He can let his child live in the BMR unit, so his/her kids can go to PA schools. While he can live in a much cheaper house. Does PA check who is really live in those units?

... ...

Don’t tell me I made things up. I am seeing it happening.


pat
Midtown
on Mar 29, 2010 at 5:38 pm
pat, Midtown
on Mar 29, 2010 at 5:38 pm

“Requiring a developer to vary income housing within the city bounds is no more unconstitutional than requiring a massage parlor or liquor store not be built next to an elementary school.”

Zoning and BMRs are apples and oranges.

Unless I’m mistaken, citizens don’t subsidize massage parlors or liquor stores.


Stop the fantasy please
Greenmeadow
on Mar 29, 2010 at 11:56 pm
Stop the fantasy please, Greenmeadow
on Mar 29, 2010 at 11:56 pm

Paul, there are not 15 BMRs in 800 High St. there are 10. The developer promised 11 during the approval process then quietly reduced it to 10 at the end.
The prohousing people certainly influenced its approval. The League of Women Voters Housing Committee zealots fought for the developer and pushed the tight vote over to approval.
They are doing the same teary eyed advocacy for Stanford now. The bigger the developer, the more they work for them. Be prepared for more tears.


Care about Community
Southgate
on Mar 30, 2010 at 10:40 am
Care about Community, Southgate
on Mar 30, 2010 at 10:40 am

Housing has been subsidized for thousands of years. This is not a new concept. Government, private enterprise, churches and non-profits have provided this for years. Is affordable housing such a horrible idea for people who are working hard and contributing to the community. The people who live in this housing would be considered middle class in any other community. These folks have to have income and a down payment. Also, environmentally, having people live close to where they work is a wise thing. It means cleaner air for all of us, and means children not having absent parents who spend 2 to 3 hours per day commuting (family values).


Care and Think about Community
Esther Clark Park
on Mar 30, 2010 at 11:05 am
Care and Think about Community, Esther Clark Park
on Mar 30, 2010 at 11:05 am

Re:

"having people live close to where they work is a wise thing"

What does this have to do with BMR?

Those in BMR units have less flexibility to choose their place of employment, not more. Therefore, they are more likely to have higher pressure to work away from where they live over the course of normal changes: changing jobs, changing careers, changes in their company's office locations and worker needs, etc.

BMR encourages people to live further from where they work, because there is a reward for staying in your house even while the jobs move.

Renting at market rates encourages people to live close to where they work.

(Logic does not allow you to conclude that because BMR is a noble goal, and getting people to live near where they work is a noble goal, that one helps the other. Perhaps ideology does, but ideology won't help us improve our community as much as thought will in this case).


hard worker
Downtown North
on Mar 30, 2010 at 1:43 pm
hard worker, Downtown North
on Mar 30, 2010 at 1:43 pm

>>>Housing has been subsidized for thousands of years<<<

Nice sweeping hyperbolic statement without a shred of substantiation. What model are we looking at here? Does it include serfs and lords of manors?

To belabor the obvious, there's a big difference between putting a roof over the heads of the indigent and giving people houses. Between using public tax money to fund housing for the impoverished and expecting individual developers to build homes for middle class people who can easily afford to live in a less expensive community.

There's something downright creepy about the idea that a city is lacking unless it includes a full complement of residents, a few from each ethnic/professional/socioeconomic/DSM diagnosis/etc sector. As I said before, who gets to play god and decide which subgroups need greater representation?

BMRs are wrong on so many levels, and appealing to people's charitable instincts (sorry, BMR owners are not charity cases!) or accusing us of racism doesn't strengthen the argument of favor of them.


Lee Thé
Charleston Meadows
on Mar 30, 2010 at 2:46 pm
Lee Thé, Charleston Meadows
on Mar 30, 2010 at 2:46 pm

Despite this avalanche of comments pro- and anti-BMR, I find some things not addressed:

1. BMR units are just one symptom of the New Urbanism. This is an informal cult whose members can be found in all levels of government, as well as in the community--especially in the more affluent areas.

Its beliefs presuppose:
a.That population growth is inevitable;
b.That cities with lots of jobs should be forced to build housing to accommodate everyone who works in that city, at all price levels;
c.That cities (like Atherton) with far more housing than jobs, are not to be forced to add jobs;
d.That the suburbs from which city workers arrive on long commutes are not to be forced to add jobs.
e.That it's good to mix classes (see Berkeley High School for the results of a long-term experiment in doing this).
f.That the affluent proponents of the New Urbanism are not to be discomfited by all that low income housing added next to them--instead, it's to be ghettoized with the lower-income--but not BMR--housing in the city.

Most of this has been agreed to and mandated by the state legislature without public debate. It's just taken for granted that all these things are true--so true they don't even merit debate--so true that if you bring them you must be some kinda racist/classist/NIMBY/selfish bad guy.

But I disagree with most of these assumptions.

Population: The Bay Area's population has doubled--DOUBLED--since I move here in the 1960's. This is good how? And if it is good, does that mean that the next doubling is good? And the next? Are we supposed to keep going until Palo Alto--and the rest of the Peninsula--looks like Manhattan, where you only see the sun from 11am to 1pm? And if that isn't good, at what point is it not good?

Not to mention the fact that our infrastructure is already badly compromised.

Zoning: Everyone agree we shouldn't put steel mills in residential neighborhoods (I've been in Houston). But class segregation of housing? If the affluent New Urbanists think high-density housing for poorer people is great, why mandate that they all be next to me? Why not thee?

Case in point: I live near the massive residential development on the old Loral plant site on San Antonio near 101. It's built out to the property line, presenting a blank, multistory, windowless face (for the most part) to neighbors like me. It's an eyesore, to put it mildly.

So why not put such developments in the middle of the city, plopped right in the middle of Palo Alto's nice, single-family-house neighborhoods? If you think that blank development is so terrific...why don't you want it next to you?

The New Urbanists are the real NIMBYs.


stretch
another community
on Mar 30, 2010 at 5:35 pm
stretch, another community
on Mar 30, 2010 at 5:35 pm

Bottom line here: Forrest Mozart agreed to the terms of the permit to get something for himself. He got it, then decided he didn't like the terms, after all. Ha! Right now (and for the past 40 years) the BMRs have been an advantage and must have been legal. I was offered one in the early 80's and could not leave my father, so I had to turn it down. The only person here making sense and using facts seems to be pat, of midtown. DZ is still throwing out vague, unsubstantiated accusations. DZ - if you see "this" going on, report it to the PA Housing Corp! This system works as long as people (the Mozarts included) follow the rules.


Lee Thé
Charleston Meadows
on Mar 30, 2010 at 6:21 pm
Lee Thé, Charleston Meadows
on Mar 30, 2010 at 6:21 pm

Stretch said "This system works as long as people (the Mozarts included) follow the rules."

My experience (over 25 years in the same large condo complex) is that if a BMR resident doesn't follow the rules and makes life miserable for his or her neighbors--even threatens violence--the City will do nothing to remedy the situation. You're on your own.

Has anyone experienced otherwise?


pat
Midtown
on Mar 30, 2010 at 8:40 pm
pat, Midtown
on Mar 30, 2010 at 8:40 pm

BMR units are for people making 80 to 100% of median income. Thus, the program doesn’t really solve housing problems for people whose incomes fall substantially below this area’s high median.

“Hard worker” makes some excellent points about “who gets to play god.” If the waiting list for BMR housing is years long, how are decisions made?

The application form isn’t very detailed, so assuming there are lots of people who meet the financial requirements, what other factors are considered? How do people like those Lee The mentioned get screened out?

And what happens when a BMR resident gets a raise or gets married and the joint income exceeds the BMR requirements?

This thread is primarily about BMR units, but the bigger problem is the state/ABAG decree that PA should build an additional 2,860 new housing units by 2014. See
Web Link

Lee The, with more direct experience than anyone else on this thread – and probably more experience than anyone making the laws! – exposes a lot of critical issues, e.g., “Are we supposed to keep going until Palo Alto—and the rest of the Peninsula—looks like Manhattan?”

Everyone talks about Zero Waste, Green-ness, preserving open space, car emissions, yadda yadda. But no one has the guts to attack the root of all the problems – overpopulation! That would involve challenging a lot of institutional hypocrisy.


Morris
Barron Park
on Mar 31, 2010 at 2:40 pm
Morris, Barron Park
on Mar 31, 2010 at 2:40 pm

> BMR units are just one symptom of the New Urbanism.

New Urbanism:
Web Link

If the BMR is important to "new urbanism", it isn't exactly clear from the various descriptions of this architectural approach to city planning.


Nora Charles
Stanford
on Apr 1, 2010 at 2:30 am
Nora Charles, Stanford
on Apr 1, 2010 at 2:30 am

Lee Thé,

Thank you for your great posts and true understanding of this situation.

I am still laughing over your wonderful description of BMR neighbors. I trust you are safe of limb after having your life threatened by the Russians thugs! Many here refuse to accept that we do not all follow the same accepted social codes, or realize that major annoyances or big trouble can result when such vast differences exist. Of course, as you point out, they are not volunteering to live next door to these developments....


Concerned Resident
Ventura
on Apr 5, 2010 at 6:58 pm
Concerned Resident, Ventura
on Apr 5, 2010 at 6:58 pm

This forum sickens and saddens me. I would never in my dreams have thought that my fellow Palo Altans would hold their BMR neighbors in such contempt. Let's look at some facts. Stanford Professors who live in Palo Alto do not have a starting salary sufficient to buy a home. Did you know that a family of four can have a salary of over 120,000 per year and qualify for a new BMR unit? Try a Stanford starting salary of 60,000, a spouse with a starting salary of 60,000, and a couple kids. We're looking at some very "high end" BMR neighbors here. THIS is Palo Alto. Anecdotal evidence about "thugs" and "mentally ill" neighbors does not tell the whole story.
As for lowering oneself to receiving subsidy, this is false. There is no financial gain in BMR housing for the resident. The property does not appreciate while you live in it. In addition, the people who qualify to buy $400,000 units (and by the way, the newer, larger units have very high monthly maintenance that IS NOT subsidized) do not have a lot of extra money around to invest in the stock market, as one of the posters implied.
Educators are not paid well, BUT that doesn't mean the are pariahs on your community. They are the people who teach your children.
Please, Palo Alto. I'm sickened.


John
Midtown
on Apr 5, 2010 at 7:29 pm
John, Midtown
on Apr 5, 2010 at 7:29 pm

Concerned Resident,

How many educators, either from Palo Alto or Stanford, with families, are currently living in BMRs in Palo Alto?

If you are going to get on your moral high horse, you should have facts straight.




Concerned Resident
Ventura
on Apr 6, 2010 at 10:53 am
Concerned Resident, Ventura
on Apr 6, 2010 at 10:53 am

John,
I don't know. I just know that as an educator myself, I have looked into the program, and was surprised how high your income could be to qualify. That's when I realized what the BMR program really is. It isn't for low lifes who feed off the community like pariahs.
I would definitely prefer to purchase a home in Palo Alto, even a condominium, because the BMR units never increase in value. However, I am in a unique situation because of a modest inheritance, and I would never look down on my fellow educators (and I know at least two who are considering the program, and yes, they have children) if they didn't have any capital to invest.
I agree about having one's facts straight, but I also think the members of this forum should think before they judge the recipients of BMR benefits.


John
Midtown
on Apr 6, 2010 at 2:27 pm
John, Midtown
on Apr 6, 2010 at 2:27 pm

Concerned Residant,

I think it is safe to say that BMRs are not reserved for critical Palo Alto jobs. However, BMRs have always been sold as such. It is a huge ruse. BMRs are inhabited by those who can get to the front of the line, period. Their neighbors, within their complexes, are paying a hidden tax to support them. The rest of us are required to pay for social programs to support them, including schools and police and medical, etc.

The real name of BMRs is welfare housing.


Lee Thé
Charleston Meadows
on Apr 6, 2010 at 6:21 pm
Lee Thé, Charleston Meadows
on Apr 6, 2010 at 6:21 pm

Re: the anonymous resident who was "sickened" by all this trash talk about BMRs, based on "anecdotal evidence."

It's true that anecdotes aren't proof. But it's also true that they are data points.

I'd be delighted to live near BMRs inhabited by teachers, firefighters and cops. Especially cops. I'd feel safer. But I don't know of a single family in our large complex that belongs to these categories.

But the problem isn't what happens when the BMRs are good neighbors. It's what happens when they're bad neighbors. In my experience, the city of Palo Alto takes no responsibility for parking people among us whose lifestyles conflict seriously with that of normal Palo Alto residents.

And I asked if anyone else had gotten help from the city in similar circumstances. I haven't noticed any yet on this thread.

I think many Palo Altans take it as article of faith that we're all the same. Speaking as someone who's traveled in 17 countries, ranging from the Netherlands to Indonesia, my observation is that we're not.

Cultures vary a great deal. And even apart from the odd sociopath, it can be a major imposition on one group to park them next to another with widely different standards.

It isn't evil, for example, to party all night. But if you have party-harty neighbors who prevent you from sleeping when you have to go to work next day, you're going to feel imposed upon.

In Indonesia we saw this playing out in a way that could lead to serious violence in the future. Bali is 95% Hindu, while Indonesia in general is 80% or so Muslim. One day we visited one of Bali's most important Hindu temples, on the shore of a mountain lake. The temple has been there many hundreds of years.

But since the last time we visited it, Muslims (using Saudi oil money) have built a big blue mosque on a hillock overlooking the Hindu temple. The mosque is equipped with a PA system that Metallica would envy. From those giant speakers, calls to prayer and other harangues issued regularly from dawn to after midnight, at Shoreline Ampitheatre volume, without regard to any Hindu ceremonies that might be going on at the time.

In such cases, someone wins and someone loses, just as the worker bee loses when he's stuck with raucous night owl neighbors.

I'm sure many BMR residents are perfectly compatible with their more affluent neighbors. I'm equally sure that some are not, because I've experienced it more than once. And as I said, I'm also sure that when this is the case, you have no recourse with the city that put them there.

Isn't it reasonable to ask whoever's doing the social engineering that they take responsibility for it when problems arise?

-----------------------------------------------------------

Another poster denied that the New Urbanism philosophy has anything to do with BMRs.

It's part and parcel of New Urbanism. Take this quote from the Wikipedia entry on New Urbanism:

"...numerous studies by independent think tanks provide support to the basis for addressing poverty through mixed-income developments, because these developments facilitate the bridging of social capital, and thus provide for a higher shared quality of life across socioeconomic cleavages."

Translated into English, New Urbanism promotes aggressive class mixing: precisely what BMRs do.

The problem being the underlying, unspoken assumption that everyone's identical and that all cultural practices are compatible.

This isn't purely an income thing. Many educated, decent people don't have much, while some New Money types are unspeakably crass.

Nor is it a national thing per se. I have friends from Russia, Belarus, South Africa, Germany, Scotland, Mexico, Japan, Indonesia and more. But they're all educated, middle class people from those countries, and all are considerate of their neighbors.

And there's one more problem: New Urbanism advocates don't normally expect to be participating in this social experiment themselves. This is hypocrisy, and that's what sickens me.

If New Urbanism is great, zone the entire city for it. Not just the areas outside the large single-family-home neighborhoods. When I see New Urbanists willing to do that, I'll start taking their beliefs seriously.

A prime sign of societal decay is when the rich manage to decouple their lives and fortunes from everyone else's. "New Urbanism for thee, but not for me" exemplifies this.


Concerned Resident
Ventura
on Apr 7, 2010 at 3:12 pm
Concerned Resident, Ventura
on Apr 7, 2010 at 3:12 pm

In the interest of facts... it would be useful to know:
1) what percentage of BMR housing recipients are educators, cops other hardworking citizens serving the people of Palo Alto
2) how the city enforces violations, such as too many people living in a unit, people being too loud, or any other disrespectful behavior.
3) why the city does not include single family homes in their BMR program, since the system they have basically forces people who buy in condominium complexes at the full rate to carry the burden


John
Midtown
on Apr 7, 2010 at 3:53 pm
John, Midtown
on Apr 7, 2010 at 3:53 pm

Concerned Resident,

You are starting to wise up.

You will not get the statistics that you request, because there is a concerted effort, by PAHC and the City, to make sure that they are not allowed to be collected. The entire foundation of sand by the PAHC and the City is to pretend that BMRs are for critical workers. They are not. They are welfare housing.

Lee The is giving the realistic picture, from the vantage point of those who have to suffer through the BMR expierience, as a neighbor.

You must be kidding about "enforcement"!. You are joking, right? If not, please inform all of us about which city officials go out to enforce rules against roudy and lazy families in BMR units.

Single family homes? So, if I can afford three homes, I have to give one to a welfare family?

Is this America?


Norm (real-sorta)
Midtown
on Apr 9, 2010 at 3:44 pm
Norm (real-sorta), Midtown
on Apr 9, 2010 at 3:44 pm

John never answered the question

Who screened you neighbors??


John
Midtown
on Apr 9, 2010 at 4:04 pm
John, Midtown
on Apr 9, 2010 at 4:04 pm

Norm,

My neighbors paid for their own private property, full market value. They did not get subsidized by the welfare housing department of the city of Palo Alto. Since Palo Also has always insisted that BMRs are for critical city workers, why don't they prove it, by collecting information/statistics on those subsidized (welfare) residents?


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