News

Palo Alto won't limit housing sizes in foothills

City Council scraps plan to set maximum house sizes after recommendations from residents, planners

Faced with ferocious neighborhood opposition, Palo Alto officials decided Monday to scrap a proposal to limit housing sizes in the foothills.

The City Council last year directed the city's planning staff and its Planning and Transportation Commission to consider setting housing limits in the foothills -- a request that outraged residents in the scenic and affluent open-space (OS) district.

More than 90 property owners from the area signed petitions dismissing the new proposal as a waste of the city's time and resources. Dozens attended the Monday night meeting to urge the council not to create new restrictions.

One resident, Peggy Law, told the council that the city's recent efforts to change the zoning rules in their neighborhood leave residents uncertain about their property values and the city's future requirements.

"This level of uncertainty interrupts people's lives, inhibits economic activities and creates fault lines in the level of trust residents have in their local government," Law said.

The council revised the zoning laws in the open space district a year ago to restrict density of development. Area residents argued that these revisions suffice to limit development size in the foothills and boycotted the city's outreach meeting to discuss the subject.

The planning commission and staff agreed and recommended against making further changes in the zoning ordinance. Commission Chair Daniel Garber told the council Monday that the council's recent revision to zoning ordinance "satisfactorily addressed the maximum house size that can be accommodated on any particular lot."

The commission also agreed that if the council decided to set maximum housing sizes, it should consider 12,000 square feet as the limit. Under this proposal, developers would also be allowed to exceed this threshold if they employ green-building practices beyond what the city requires.

The council agreed with the recommendations from residents, staff and planning commissioners and voted unanimously not to set any housing limits in the foothills. Council members agreed that the city's existing laws, as well as its green-building requirements and its stringent architectural-review process, suffice to ensure new developments won't be too massive for their environments.

Councilman Greg Scharff proposed not setting a housing limit, a proposal that was quickly accepted by the rest of the council. Scharff noted that the subject had already been considered at length by the city's planning officials and said he agrees with their conclusions.

Vice Mayor Sid Espnosa said the city's current policies and regulations "really do set out parameters for good decision making."

Comments

Like this comment
Posted by Comment
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 5, 2010 at 9:00 am

Sad... giving in to conspicuous over-consumption... and destroying the hills in the process.

This country is definitely headed in the wrong direction. A few uncontrolled über-rich and the masses of ever poorer, ever more struggling others. More and more of a third world country in other words.


Like this comment
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 5, 2010 at 9:49 am

I took some visitors from England up to the view area in Foothill Park. We looked down on this enormous roof which dominates the view. My visitor asked: "Is that a cow shed"!!!

I had a hard time explaining that we have some really rich people living in our town who build over-sized, ostentatious houses. You know the kind usually occupied by Queens and oil rich Middle-eastern Sheiks in other parts of the world.

Unfortunately that house now dominates what would otherwise be a spectacular view of the entire South Bay. It's even bigger than Hangar 1 at Moffett Field!!!


Like this comment
Posted by Toady
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Oct 5, 2010 at 9:58 am

If you don't like those houses, go buy the property and do with what you please.


Like this comment
Posted by John
a resident of Midtown
on Oct 5, 2010 at 10:04 am

John Chambers' 17000 sq ft monster house really ruins the Foothills Park viewpoint.


Like this comment
Posted by NIMBYs in town
a resident of Stanford
on Oct 5, 2010 at 10:14 am

Sounds like jealousy to me. Mr Chambers just did not build his house--he went through the process and got the okay. Some people seem to think that not only can they control their own property, but they can control other's property also. This seems to be a common theme in Palo Alto.
Resident needs to get a grip and stop with the ridiculous exaggerations.
Web Link
"Hangar One is one of the world's largest freestanding structures, covering 8 acres (32,000 m2), "


Like this comment
Posted by resident
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Oct 5, 2010 at 12:27 pm

"Some people seem to think that not only can they control their own property, but they can control other's property also. "

So true. Some residents in the Fairmeadow neighborhood are trying to impose Single Story Overlay to prevent people from building second story homes in this neighborhood . The survey last year showed that there's not sufficient support for it. So they blame the city for not doing enough to reach out to the residents. The city is planning on doing another survey. What a self-serving act and a complete waste of city resources .


Like this comment
Posted by David
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 5, 2010 at 2:50 pm

Yes, the house are large. Those like Chambers, Arrillaga, McNealy and countless other build large houses in Palo Alto foothills. These houses provide a huge property tax bill that goes along way to helping pay for services in Palo Alto. The tax bill on a multi millon dollar estate goes a lot further than you can imagine. If treated correctly, these wealthy citizens will donate some of their wealth to the community they live in on charitable events and causes. Rather than scorn them because of their wealth, welcome them into our community. It will pay off more than you realize.


Like this comment
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 5, 2010 at 4:16 pm

Most people building these huge homes do not want to be overlooked by people taking in the view in Foothills Park. That large "cow-shed" is soon going to be hidden by the landscaping. They are not going to be seen and they are not going to be in photographs or in someone's binocular range.


Like this comment
Posted by Henry
a resident of Midtown
on Oct 5, 2010 at 4:29 pm

They are not being scorned for their wealth.
They are being scorned for their lack of taste, their ostentation, their greed and their despoiling of the environment that belongs to all of us.
And for their pretense, some of them, that they don't really despoil the future development on their acreage. Liar, liar, pants on fire.


Like this comment
Posted by Me Too
a resident of Midtown
on Oct 5, 2010 at 5:43 pm

Jealousy is an ugly thing. Definition of "conspicuous consumption" = spending more than 2x what I can afford.


Like this comment
Posted by Peter
a resident of Palo Alto Orchards
on Oct 5, 2010 at 6:07 pm

The same planning folks approved the removal of 73 beautiful trees from Mitchell Park Library and Community Center.
Sadly the last ones were cut today.
And yes that house from the top of Foothill Park is out of character
for its surrounds - but it generates alot of property tax revenue.


Like this comment
Posted by Henry, Henry, Henry
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Oct 5, 2010 at 6:55 pm

"They are being scorned for their lack of taste, their ostentation, their greed and their despoiling of the environment that belongs to all of us."
No, Henry, they are being scorned because you are jealous. Everyone's tastes vary, so you saying that they lack taste is ridiculous. The environment belongs to everyone, but property belongs to the people. the area around Foothill Park could have been bought and made part of the park, it was not. As other's have observed, this is sour grapes from those that feel that they can tell everyone what to do with their property--stick to your own house Henry and keep out of other's business.


Like this comment
Posted by hat
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 5, 2010 at 7:09 pm

The peninsula is home to some of the most successful businessmen in the country if not the world. Some of them would like to live in Palo Alto. I think they should be encouraged to live in Palo Alto. These giants of industry lend tremendous prestige to the communities they live in. Palo Alto should provide a wide range of housing options in its 25,000 housing units. What kind of housing needs do billioaires have? Should not Palo Alto be able to accommodate their housing needs as well as efficiency apartments?


Like this comment
Posted by Comment
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 5, 2010 at 7:24 pm

They removed 73 trees at Mitchell Park ??!!

<Gasp>

Ridiculous city.


Like this comment
Posted by A marginalized baby boomer
a resident of Crescent Park
on Oct 5, 2010 at 10:30 pm

Mine is mine. Yours is mine, too, under the names of environment conservation, privacy, etc.


Like this comment
Posted by Big Al
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 6, 2010 at 4:29 am

when you run to the hills, the hils will be burning


Like this comment
Posted by Bunyon
a resident of Midtown
on Oct 6, 2010 at 8:07 am

Has the City of Palo Alto cut even more trees?? Stop this madness once and for all!!


Like this comment
Posted by local gurl
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Oct 6, 2010 at 9:36 am

Many of the trees that were cut were a danger to the public. Just wait until a branch falls in a park and kills or injures a child. Then the folks who are complaining about cutting trees will be complaining about NOT cutting trees.


Like this comment
Posted by Koa
a resident of Palo Alto Hills
on Oct 6, 2010 at 10:00 am

Thank God we don't have to deign to live in a house that's only 12,000 sq ft! The humanity!


Like this comment
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 6, 2010 at 10:02 am

Aren't the trees being cut down in Mitchell Park at present to make way for our wonderful new library?


Like this comment
Posted by Lois
a resident of Midtown
on Oct 6, 2010 at 12:16 pm

Resident Fairmeadow says referring to the petition for single story overlay in the Fairmeadow neighborhood: "The city is planning on doing another survey."

The residents who want single story overlay are supposed to do their own survey. I think the City is doing another independent survey because our current City Manager has insisted that all PA departments and employees be more responsive to citizen's requests.

In this case they've obviously over extended themselves. I suggest you speak to Council at "oral communications" about this.


Like this comment
Posted by Cutting 73 trees
a resident of South of Midtown
on Oct 6, 2010 at 2:12 pm

Cutting down 73 trees <to make way for our wonderful new library?>
More accurately, to make way for a large childcare facility. That's what most of it is really for.


Like this comment
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 6, 2010 at 2:18 pm

"Aren't the trees being cut down in Mitchell Park at present to make way for our wonderful new library?" sorry, the sarcism in my tone didn't come through, I don't think it is going to be so" wonderful".


Like this comment
Posted by Anon.
a resident of Crescent Park
on Oct 7, 2010 at 12:03 am

is there no way to get the palo alto city council to ever do the right thing?


Like this comment
Posted by Peter
a resident of Palo Alto Orchards
on Oct 7, 2010 at 6:13 am


Some of the trees were deemed safety hazards in the parking lot. The Palo Alto Tree Technical Manual provides guidance on hazard trees. The solution is NOT to just cut it down - that is a last resort. Other remediations include cordoning off the area. It was proposed to the city to remove parking spaces around the large trees. The city never responded technically to this proposal.

It looks like it was also really a long term maintenance decision. Remember one of the reasons given for CA Ave "tree maintenance to trim trees around street lamps and building fronts".

City needs to be up front about this issue and let there be a real debate about it.


Like this comment
Posted by jb
a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Oct 8, 2010 at 1:53 pm

Wow, from mega-mansions to trees in the blink of an eye!


Like this comment
Posted by Nora Charles
a resident of Stanford
on Oct 12, 2010 at 1:47 am

Palo Alto bans plastic bans in grocery stores, yet allows the building of absurdly large houses in sensitive areas if residents are rich or loud enough to override the regulations. Mature tress are cut down willy nilly, for no, or conflicting reasons. Hideous, expensive public art works are installed. Someone above has it perfectly: Palo Alto never gets it right.


Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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