News

Palo Alto senior-housing complex eyes expansion

City Council to consider proposed addition of 44 units to Palo Alto Commons on El Camino Way

Palo Alto Commons, a housing complex for senior citizens on El Camino Way, would get 44 new housing units as well as a new gym, lounge and indoor pool if the City Council approves a zone change to enable the expansion tonight (March 7).

The proposal would add a three-story building to the existing 121-unit complex on El Camino Way, between El Camino Real and West Meadow Drive. The city's Architectural Review Board and Planning and Transportation Commission both gave the project unanimous endorsements.

To make the project possible, the council would have to change the existing "planned community" (PC) zone on the project site. The zoning designation allows developers to exceed the city's density requirements in exchange for negotiated "public benefits."

In this case, the main benefit is the project itself. The project would add rental housing for seniors to a city with a widely acknowledged shortage of such housing. The PC zone for the existing development was approved in 1987 with "an acknowledgment that the use itself, senior housing, was a public benefit," Planner Jennifer Armer wrote in a staff report.

While senior housing continues to be the primary benefit, other benefits include pedestrian improvements along El Camino Way, upgrades to the existing bus stop on El Camino Real, new plantings and a walkways in front of the new addition and a $100,000 donation to Avenidas to fund programs for low-income seniors.

The council will decide tonight whether these proposed benefits warrant expanding the existing 1.7-acre PC zone by 0.8 acres. The meeting will start at 7:30 p.m. or as soon as possible after a closed session on labor negotiations. It will be held in the Council Chambers at City Hall, 250 Hamilton Ave.

Gennady Sheyner

Comments

Like this comment
Posted by Just Wondering
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 7, 2011 at 10:39 am

> whether these proposed benefits warrant expanding the existing
> 1.7-acre PC zone by 0.8 acre

And where is this 0.8 acre supposed to come from? Is it already owned by the Senior Housing Center, or will it come from buying out neighbors?

The problem with this proposal is that these elderly housing complexes do not generate taxes (typically), but they drive up the cost of government services for single family home owners, and businesses.

In many cases, seniors who have never lived in Palo Alto, move into these quarters, expecting to be able to vote, but not contributing very much in terms of increasing the tax base. Over time, we've come to see maybe 3,000 (or more) people living in "affordable housing", that find themselves more than willing to vote for bigger government giveaways, and higher taxes on property owners.

The long term trends of driving business out of Palo Alto, and in-filling with low-tax/no-tax housing, or "non-profits" is having a distinct impact on the long-term financial health of the city's government.


Like this comment
Posted by anonymous
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 7, 2011 at 10:53 am

Seems to be a reasonable, valuable addition to senior living options. I think it is more for locals. SFBayArea is awfully costly to "retire to" - I have never seen it on lists of top places for retirees to move to.


Like this comment
Posted by Bob
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Mar 7, 2011 at 11:23 am

Palo Alto Commons, unlike residential condos, is very school friendly. It provides no students, but it pays full taxes.

The expansion proposed by the Commons, on land they already own, would be a very welcome community benefit. It is high value to our community yet low impact on our schools, traffic, parking, and environment.


Like this comment
Posted by commonsense
a resident of Professorville
on Mar 7, 2011 at 11:23 am

Senior housing is much needed in PA, especially rental. The alternative is to force people to move from a city they have likely spent decades or their entire lives in.

Have you seen what is there now? The tax base of the existing buildings/businesses must be a fraction of just the increased property tax base of the proposed project. Another unanimous YES is in order.


Like this comment
Posted by Just Wondering
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 7, 2011 at 11:46 am

Based on an initial assessementy data of: 03 / 10 / 1989


Land: ............ $ 3,239,104
Improvements: .... $ 6,025,424
Total: ........... $ 9,264,528

Source: SCC Assessor's Office

So .. this is somewhat better than other senior complexes, like Channing House, which has an exemption for base property taxes.

However, the assessment is based on 20-year old land values, so the taxes paid are somewhat lower than current land value might demand.

> The alternative is to force people to move from a city they
> have likely spent decades or their entire lives in.

Hmmm .. and why would people who have lived for decades in PA want to leave their homes? Most older folks in Palo Alto tend to stay in their homes. Unfortunately, getting information on how many people live in senior housing are long-time Palo Alto residents is almost impossible to learn.



Like this comment
Posted by commonsense
a resident of Professorville
on Mar 7, 2011 at 2:05 pm

To clarify, I was referring to the existing buildings on the expansion property and the basis before this property was purchased for development.

Seniors often need to move, not want.


Like this comment
Posted by Terry
a resident of Stanford
on Mar 7, 2011 at 3:12 pm

My mother lived in Palo Alto for 55 years before moving to the Palo Alto Commons 5 years ago. The Commons is a wonderful privately owned assisted living facility. The staff are great and care about the residents. I do take issue with the comment about "affordable housing." My Mother started out in "assisted living" for about $5000+ per month and spent her last few months in "focused care" for $8000+ a month. I don't exactly see those prices as the deal of the century.


Like this comment
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 7, 2011 at 3:27 pm

I have no opinion on whether or not this should be allowed to expand.

What I will say however, is that senior housing does attract more school aged families as they generally encourage seniors already living in Palo Alto to move out of their family sized homes which of course means that it frees these homes for families to move in.

Seniors are not coming here to retire from other areas of the State. They are not coming here to retire from other areas of the Bay Area. They are often retiring and downsizing from family sized homes and want to stay in their own area, often their own neighborhoods.

This will impact schools, but of course planning cannot take that into account.


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