Maybell project wins approval -- for now | News | Palo Alto Online |


Maybell project wins approval -- for now

Residents may oppose controversial development through referendum

Palo Alto on Friday afternoon put the finishing touches on approving a highly controversial development on Maybell Avenue, though the battle over the project appears to be far from over.

In a highly unusual move, the City Council last week scheduled a special meeting for 5 p.m. Friday to give a "second reading" to its earlier approval of the development at 567 Maybell Ave., which includes 60 units of seniors housing as 12 single-family homes. Friday's vote was largely a procedural formality given that the council had already approved the project on June 17.

The council voted 7-0, with Mayor Greg Scharff and Councilwoman Karen Holman absent, to approve the project. The item was on the council's "consent calendar," which bars discussion unless three members agree to pull it off the calendar. Councilman Greg Schmid was the only council members who supported doing so.

The project at Maybell and Clemo Avenues has galvanized the Greenacres and Barron Park neighborhoods, with hundreds of critics attending public hearings, submitting letters and signing petitions in opposition of the project. Most maintained that while they support senior housing, they oppose the zone change that would enable the project. The "planned community" zone allows developers to build at a greater density than is normally allowed in exchange of "public benefits." In this case, the primary benefit is housing for low-income seniors.

The council's approval paves the way for a possible citizen's referendum, which has been threatened by opponents in the weeks leading up to the approval. Bob Moss, a Barron Park resident and long-time critic of large developments, warned the council Friday that its approval will lead to negative consequences for the city – namely, a referendum.

"And I'm confident the referendum will pass and the approval will be rescinded," Moss warned. "It's going to create some really nasty environment in the city in the meantime."

A referendum would require 2,298 signatures, or 6 percent of the residents who voted in the last municipal election, according to City Clerk Donna Grider. She said she usually recommends that additional signatures be gathered because of the likelihood that at least some will be invalidated.

The Maybell project was proposed by the Palo Alto Housing Corporation, which has been building and managing affordable-housing developments for the past four decades. Months before the approval, the city had loaned the housing corporation $5.8 million to purchase the land, leading many area residents to complain that the process is rigged. Several opponents have threatened to sue the city, prompting the council to schedule a weekend retreat two weeks ago involving staff, Scharff, Housing Corporation officials a group of residents opposing the project.

Though the retreat didn't bring about any compromises, the council agreed to reduce the project from 15 homes to 12. Council members agreed that the project's traffic impacts will likely be lower than those of other projects that could potentially be built at the orchard site under existing zoning. Even with the increased density, staff expects the impacts to be lower because seniors are less likely to drive than other residents, particularly during peak commute hours.

On Friday, Candice Gonzalez, executive director of the Housing Corporation, thanked the council for its decision.

"We know we will generate less impacts than any other realistic development (at the site)," Gonzalez told the council Friday. "And we do have a lot of supporters behind us."

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Posted by Tired of the Nimby's
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 1, 2013 at 10:48 am

[Portion removed.] Under the guise of being watchdogs and causing improvement - what we end up with is delays and worse situations. Remember Rickey's? We should have had some nice retail, good setbacks and no residential front stoops on El Camino. The neighborhood uproar directly caused what we ended up with. Here we go again... This time, simple senior housing and now only 12 houses will likely be replaced by a project that will have 34 homes and terrible traffic impacts. Wake up people!! This is a good project, serving an important need for low-income residents. Let it go people... or expect the consequence of your resistance.

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Posted by Kim S.
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jul 1, 2013 at 10:57 am

Is the referendum available online. If so I'd like to sign it.

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Posted by Be careful what you wish for
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 1, 2013 at 11:12 am

Before you sign the referendum petition folks, better check what the EXISTING zoning on this parcel would allow to be built on the property by right. It would be much worse in terms of all the traffic, peak congestion and school impacts that you claim to be concerned about. This was spelled out in the staff report that apparently the hyperventilating criics either didn't read or didn't understand.

Why does the Weekly not investigate the non-factual statements continuing to emanate from the spokespeople against the project?

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Posted by 35 year resident
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jul 1, 2013 at 11:34 am

Put it to a vote. Most Palo Altans are opposed to over development and don't want government telling us where, how and why things need to be built. City council and planning seem hell bent on on rolling over to accommodate everything with a grant attached to it.

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Posted by Kim S.
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jul 1, 2013 at 11:35 am

This all started when Jamie Rodriguez conducted "traffic calming" to Arastradero which only succeeded in diverting traffic from Arastradero to Maybell. There was no traffic problem before that.
The city counsel is simply trying to fulfill its ABAG quota and they gave money to the developer to help it move along. Talk about vested interest.
And now we should allow this Senior Housing project to go through because it's probably better than what our illustrious city council will impose in its place? The answer isn't to go with the lesser evil, it's time to get people in our council who care about this city.

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Posted by 35 year resident
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jul 1, 2013 at 11:36 am

Palo Alto Online. Please check your software. One click and my comment got posted 3 times. Sorry readers.

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Posted by a neighbor
a resident of Green Acres
on Jul 1, 2013 at 11:47 am

"We know we will generate less impacts than any other realistic development (at the site),"

They keep repeating this, but it's just NOT TRUE. Joe Hirsch, former head of planning for Palo Alto, has even sent a detailed letter to Council pointing out that a market-rate development would have at most 18 houses, and probably fewer because of setback rules and internal lanes. The fact that City staff has been so unabashedly advocating for this project even to the point of making up and repeating false scenarios is shameful and unethical.

1) REALISTIC ALTERATIVE #1 MARKET-RATE DEVELOPMENT WITH AT MOST 18 HOUSES. You could check the zoning rules in the comprehensive plan (but hey, the City Council doesn't bother, why should anyone else), or go to Google maps and search on 567 Maybell, Palo Alto. That's one of the 4 perfectly good ranch houses there right now. The big open space to the right of those 4 houses is the historic orchard with the 90 fruit trees (slated to be torn out with this development) and 100-year-old oaks along Clemo. Now look at the outlines of the ranch houses on Maybell and compare. Does it look to you like anyone could put 45 houses there? 35 houses? With internal lanes (that have to be by law...22?feet wide? Maybell is only 15 feet right there) That's about one house for every 2 or 3 trees, speaking of not realistic.

This claim that this dense development of 12 narrow out-of-character houses with a large 4-story 60-unit development would have less impact than other options is FALSE, and the City's attempts to say this using false scenarios only inflames the mistrust between the City and the neighbors. But then, the City didn't even do a traffic study using current data and including the impact on the school commute corridors and children pedestrian/bicyclists. Instead of using actual data, they make up false scenarios.

2) REALISTIC ALTERNATIVE #2 CITY CHOOSES NOT TO SELL TO A PREDATORY DEVELOPER. Because the City got in bed with PAHC and the market-developers who want to put up the 12 dense ticky-tacky tall houses along Maybell and Clemo in place of the 4 ranch houses, loaning almost $6 million up front with the whole thing only working out if the City rezoned it for PAHC's and the market-developers' respective benefits, the City actually had the sense to protect itself in its agreements, and could, if it wanted, take over the property for the benefit of the public.

In other words, the scenario where a market rate developer buys the property and builds a nightmarish, unsafe scenario is completely within the City's power now to prevent. All the City would have to do is buy the property from PAHC -- now that they are aware of the significant safety issues at that location (Marc Berman even admitted Maybell is not safe for the kids going to school, even without building a large development there) -- properly assess the safety issues that any development at that critical juncture between two major school commute corridors would pose (as neighbors have been asking all along), and sell the property with the proviso that nothing more than is judged safe by such due scrutiny could be built there.

That would not only be within the City's duties to put safety first, but is completely within the City's power to do. In fact, given the significant disclosure in that property's records now regarding safety issue, it would be negligent of the City to sell to a predatory developer who would even consider putting in the kind of (false anyway) scenario they pose, or to fail to do the review of the impact of traffic at that critical juncture on the school commute corridors that border the property on each side.

See June 10 Staff Report: <Web Link

On page 9, it states:

"Upon termination the loan permitted the City to request immediate repayment of the loan, foreclose on the property, ***or exercise its right to purchase the property from PAHC***." {***'s for emphasis]

(The public is entitled to see the original purchase agreement if they make a public records request.)


PAHC significantly undervalued those ranch house properties, and only ever approached bottom-end developers to build the tall ticky-tacky houses (that's all they do), they never discussed selling the Maybell/Clemo market-rate properties to developers who would put in homes consistent with the residential neighborhood.


Among other things, PAHC needed the density in their funding applications in order to make up points for a lack of points from adjacency factors. As Councilman Schmid said, a developer downtown paid to avoid having to put those affordable units at what is indisputably a better, more transit-friendly location. The City should be setting those fees high enough so PAHC could afford to build in another location without essentially making the neighborhood shoulder the burden.

Or, if they could instead afford to purchase property in an area closer to transit and already zoned for higher density, or where density is more appropriate, they would have more choices in how they developed their property and still get the points on their funding application. (I would note that City's williingness to rezone at the drop of a hat for high density is pushing up the price of vacant properties, making it hard for PAHC to compete.)

This whole business is pushing the City to ignore safety in favor of PAHC designing to their funding application point system. A better location would allow them to do what they do best, rather than spending their money and efforts fighting the neighbors, who are fighting this over the safety of their children which has been negligently glossed over by the City (their efforts will not stop at just the referendum).

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Posted by a neighbor
a resident of Green Acres
on Jul 1, 2013 at 11:53 am

Lest anyone miss this very important point among all the many realistic alternatives that would have less of an impact that I listed above:


The City should have accorded neighbors equal consideration in how it spent public funds. I seem to recall they are working for the Citizens of this City (hard to remember, considering how the Council seems to be working mainly for developers and PAHC).

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Posted by Wayne Martin
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Jul 1, 2013 at 12:09 pm

Could someone post a contact email for the folks collecting signatures for this petition?

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Posted by a neighbor
a resident of Green Acres
on Jul 1, 2013 at 12:13 pm

The project is not controversial. The rezoning is. Neighbors are not against PAHC putting in a development within the existing zoning. (The City Council hadn't allowed a developer to avoid putting that housing in a more transit-friendly location downtown, or had simply required the in lieu fees be enough to pay the actual costs of putting the housing in our neighborhood, this controversy wouldn't be happening now.)

This rezoning involved rezoning for the benefit of a market-rate developer, too. PAHC was trying a new scheme whereby they purchase a property in a residential area that they otherwise couldn't afford, peel off a percentage of it, rezone for the benefit of a developer along with the rezoning for their own project, and sell the rezoned market-rate properties for the benefit of a for-profit developer's short-term profits (to build homes so out of keeping with the neighborhood that none of the residents could build them, and benefitting in sale price by the surrounding residential area).

In other words, making the neighborhood bear the cost burden rather than the City paying for the public benefit the City reaps (and which the neighborhood does not).

If this precedent is set, market-rate developers will be eyeing neighborhoods all over Palo Alto to be able to put in housing they couldn't otherwise get away with.

Do you want all of Palo Alto to look like the new development behind Miki's Market at Alma Plaza? Because allowing this scheme to go forward gives every incentive to those developers to flock to Palo Alto.

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Posted by A neighbor
a resident of Green Acres
on Jul 1, 2013 at 12:20 pm

Hi Wayne,
Neighbors are mounting a true old-fashioned grass roots effort, so everything happens when someone decides they can, so bear with them. You can email

(The website is in process of being updated.)

People will be collecting signatures at the farmers' markets in Palo Alto, and in front of libraries and grocery stores. There will be people at the Chili Cookoff collecting signatures (in whatever free speech area they may be allowed).

You must be a Palo Alto voter to sign, and you can't do so by email, the petition packet must be present with the petition.

Collecting enough signatures does not overturn the rezoning, it simply puts the question of the rezoning to our fellow citizens.

Thanks so much for your support.

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Posted by a neighbor
a resident of Green Acres
on Jul 1, 2013 at 12:21 pm

Correction from above, I meant to say:

IF the City Council hadn't allowed a developer to avoid putting that housing in a more transit-friendly location downtown, or had simply required the in lieu fees be enough to pay the actual costs of putting the housing in our neighborhood, this controversy wouldn't be happening now.

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Posted by A neighbor
a resident of Green Acres
on Jul 1, 2013 at 12:33 pm

@Tired of the NIMBY's,
Would you stop being so divisive and calling good people NIMBY's when they have been anything but? I'm tired of divisive people like you, frankly, steamrolling the neighborhood with boilerplate NIMBY charges that are offensive and not true.

Greenacres and that part of Barron Park already host more large affordable housing developments than any other neighborhood in Palo Alto. (Please don't bring up downtown as your only counter, its DOWNTOWN, where density is more appropriate. This is not downtown, this is a pastoral residential area.)

Rather than calling other people NIMBY's who already host more large affordable housing projects within in a smaller area than any other residential area in town, perhaps you could help find another neighborhood area in Palo Alto where residents would like to have a large, dense, 4-story development and a strip of 12 tightly packed row houses in their residential neighborhood, and they can move to bring the project there?

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Posted by curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on Jul 1, 2013 at 12:36 pm


I recall that the 800 High Street referendum had to start its signature gathering all over, and lost 2 weeks, because it started out with faulty information it received from the city clerk. Hire a lawyer who knows municipal law.

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Posted by norezone
a resident of Barron Park
on Jul 1, 2013 at 2:47 pm

I too find the accusations of NIMBY offensive because south Palo Alto already hosts many, many dense housing apartments and low income housing. This is about rezoning without residents input. This is counter to transparency and open government. Is it right for the city to break the rules that it holds the rest of us to?

I have a question about the 4 existing ranch homes on Maybell that are slated to be changed into high density development -- how did the developer acquire all 4 ranch houses at once?

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Posted by Barron Park owner
a resident of Green Acres
on Jul 1, 2013 at 2:51 pm

I agree that 34 houses cannot go in this space. I have walked it 5 times and measured with the zoning requirements. That is just a threat.
No one is opposed to Senior Housing. I am one myself, but this area already has low income housing, more than any other neighborhood.
Try to put this in the Addison, Duveneck or Hayes areas and they would have a fit!!!!!!!!!!!
It was so unethical to give money to the group upfront. Of course they are going to approve it.
This is just wrong.
When one young child is run over because of the traffic problems, it will be too late. There are not even any sidewalks on half of Maybell where the traffic is impacted around Juana Briones.
Shame on you. Out of your site and neighborhoods so you don't care.

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Posted by a neighbor
a resident of Green Acres
on Jul 1, 2013 at 2:58 pm

@no rezone,
The market-rate developer will acquire the 4 houses on Maybell and some property along the street on Clemo when PAHC sells it to them (after they rezone it for their benefit, of course).

Some of the neighbors pointed out that PAHC never approached any developers who did anything BUT build the cheap row-type housing, and that they could auction off those lots individually to high-end builders.

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Posted by norezone
a resident of Barron Park
on Jul 1, 2013 at 3:49 pm

@ neighbor -- thank you for your info. I still wonder how did PAHC acquire the four houses? I don't know how big each of those lots are, but tear down lots are highly sought after in Palo Alto and do fetch a very good price. How long has PAHC owned those four houses?

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Posted by a neighbor
a resident of Green Acres
on Jul 1, 2013 at 4:31 pm

@ norezone,
The owner of the orchard and houses sold it all as a package, they would not just sell the orchard separately. So PAHC bought it all together. So they've owned the houses since they purchased the property, with help from Palo Alto public funds. When they purchased the property, they did so with the plan of rezoning the houses for the benefit of the high-density market-rate developer.

Since the City can take over the property, they could also sell off those houses - auction would bring a great price, and if there was going to be an orchard behind them, they would go for even higher.

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Posted by neighbor
a resident of Barron Park
on Jul 1, 2013 at 4:48 pm

I too find the charge of NIMBYism offensive. BP has more than its fair share of dense multi family housing. The traffic situation on Maybell is truly atrocious already. Are people supposed to just wait for horrific accidents to happen? That is democracy and responsible citizenship?

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Posted by common sense
a resident of Midtown
on Jul 1, 2013 at 6:19 pm

Got polled on this topic. Who is paying to conduct this poll?

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Posted by norezone
a resident of Barron Park
on Jul 1, 2013 at 7:02 pm

@neighbor -- clearly the city should have worked with the Maybell neighborhood about what to do with that parcel,especially the homes on Maybell. I can understand denser housing being put where the orchard is located, but not where there are 4 ranch style homes on Maybell. That is not democracy. The city has an agenda and it's high density no matter what. This should bother all residents.

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Posted by Tina Peak
a resident of Downtown North
on Jul 1, 2013 at 7:24 pm

Please stop pitting neighborhoods against one another. The problem is that residents need to fight city hall on all over-sized developments everywhere in the city. Make the city council follow the zoning code and only permit what is allowed to be built. Make the so called "planned community" zoning illegal so that we don't have to fight this battle in every neighborhood over and over again. Residents throughout the city, from Barron Park to Downtown deserve to have their quality of life preserved and not be condemned to the massive over urbanization push that is being shoved down our throats by the city council and ABAG.

It is OK to say NO to urbanization and fight against increasing the population of Palo Alto.

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Posted by a neighbor
a resident of Green Acres
on Jul 1, 2013 at 7:58 pm

I agree with you Tina. The one place I differ is that PC zoning should be restricted rather than barred. There are times when it could really provide a public benefit. But the citizens need to be the ones who decide if the benefit is truly a benefit and worth it, not the City council (apparently) or the developer. PC zoning should be restricted so that it requires voter approval, for example. Neighbors should not have to play defense like this to avoid having their neighborhoods rezoned willy nilly.

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Posted by Jon
a resident of Barron Park
on Jul 1, 2013 at 8:15 pm

I am against this housing project for many of the reasons stated here. But there's another reason that's even more important in my opinion: the safety of our kids. Maybell is a designated safe route to school. I have personally made a right turn from Amaranta onto Maybell at 8am about two dozen times in the past school year. This is a very dangerous intersection - lots of cars, lots of kids walking to school, and even more kids biking to school. Introducing a large development right at this corner doesn't work for me.

I have less experience in the afternoon but venture to guess it's bad also.

I've reviewed the current plans for the new development. There does not appear to be adequate parking. People will then have to park on Clemo and Maybell. For a current example of the amount of on-street parking from apartment buildings, take a look at Los Robles Avenue between La Donna and El Camino.

With all these new cars parked on the street, some number of new cars on the road from the new development, Maybell can only become more congested.

Did I mention there is no crossing guard at this intersection (Maybell & Amaranta)?

Did I mention that Maybell is a designated safe route to school (Briones, Terman, Bowman, Gunn)?

This is not just a Barron Park and Green Acres issue. Kids from all over South Palo Alto take Meadow across the train tracks and proceed onto Maybell.

I have signed the petition in support of holding a referendum and urge others to do so.

Thank you.

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Posted by common sense
a resident of Midtown
on Jul 1, 2013 at 8:53 pm

Facts about Palo Alto Housing Corp:

They own 652 rental units, and have 237 BMR ownership units. The BMR ownership units are priced control when they come up for sale. All but 4 of the BMR units are all in "high density" housing, and all but 1 of the rental units are in high density housing.

Of the rental units:

* 267 are located Downtown
* 102 are located around California Ave
* 99 are located in Barron Park
* 98 are located in Midtown
* 34 are located in Charleston Meadow
* 21 are located in Ventura
* 16 are located in Greenmeadow
* 14 are located in South Midtown
* 1 in Community Center

All of these properties qualify for a property tax exemption. That means no taxes on properties worth several hundreds of millions of dollars. These properties have hundreds of the school age kids, but PAHC doesn't contribute to the PAUSD budget because of their property tax exemption.

PAHC has over 100 more rental units in the pipeline, is a Goliath in real estate.

How is this real estate empire funded: through granting for-profit developers density bonuses, in exchange they kick in the equivalent of 15-20% of their units to the PAHC. Some provide the actual units, other pay the cash equivalent.

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Posted by palymom
a resident of College Terrace
on Jul 1, 2013 at 9:44 pm

Stop all the building in Palo Alto already. The place is losing its character. This low income senior housing is a ploy. Big developers in sheep's clothing.

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Posted by Elizabeth
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jul 1, 2013 at 10:06 pm

I agree with Palymom. Palo Alto used to be a charming, upscale, suburban town, full of lovely Spanish style buildings, with generous setbacks, beautiful wrought iron balconies with elegance and class. Now we are building freaky, hideous, cheaply constructed monster sized buildings set too close to the street. Who in city hall is responsible for changing the characer of this town? Greed has taken over and will ultimately be the downfall of Palo Alto.

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Posted by Ellie
a resident of College Terrace
on Jul 1, 2013 at 11:28 pm

The breakdown of where BMR rental units are is in direct contradiction of what some keep insisting. To say a wrong thing over and over doesn't magically make it right. The majority of BMR rental housing is north of Oregon. 99 units are now in Barron park with 60 more for seniors to be built. Even with the new units there are still more north of Oregon. And green acres that is so upset has none according to this chart. And I bet that 801 alma isn't counted yet downtown - that is 60 more. So let's put to rest the tired untrue notion that our neighborhood is suffering from some sort of unfair burden out of proportion to elsewhere in town. 2B

And by the way - why anyone thinks palo alto is all about iron balconies and Spanish revival homes has not ventured south of Oregon in a long time.

I fully support affordable and BMR housing wherever there can be found a rare plot of land.

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Posted by common sense
a resident of Midtown
on Jul 1, 2013 at 11:55 pm

Ellie, the BMR rental units in North Palo Alto are all concentrated in 2 neighborhoods: Downtown & California Ave. A major rational behind having BMRs is to promote diversity in the community, and by concentrating many of the BMRs in a few neighborhoods, the city council & city staff are doing the opposite.

What's going on is that city is trying to follow to the law, and the city council members are gaming the system, making a few neighborhoods pay the price for following law by giving these high density variances, while the neighborhoods that the city council members live continue to enjoy the low traffic & other quality of life factors that originally attracted many to Palo Alto.

For example, Old Palo is next to the California Ave train station, so in many aspects, it's just as well suited for high density development as the area around California Ave. Yet in the past 30 years, not one BMR project has been built in Old Palo Alto. But guess which neighborhood many of our city council members have come from?

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Posted by Anonymous
a resident of Barron Park
on Jul 2, 2013 at 12:04 am

The senior housing is fine if it is built within the current zoning. But PAHC needs a lot of money to finance it. Their idea is to create unsightly hyper dense market rate houses and from the sale profits build the senior housing. In essence the Maybell homeowners and the children on bikes and the pedestrians etc. will pay for this project.

But is that fair? Why should one neighborhood pay the price of this needed/required project? Why doesn't the council pay for a good portion of the low income project with city funds so that every resident of Palo Alto pays a little to enable this project and to protect the Maybell neighborhood from this awful hyper-dense line of houses?

Also, as another person commented, PAHC never investigated more lucrative alternatives of selling the land for market rate houses in any other format. So in essence they are rushing and leaving money on the table.

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Posted by Please no rezoning
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 2, 2013 at 2:21 am

@ Ellie,"The majority of BMR rental housing is north of Oregon. 99 units are now in Barron park with 60 more for seniors to be built. Even with the new units there are still more north of Oregon."

The numbers quoted were only PAHC BMR numbers. On top of the 99 PAHC apartments there are other BMR units that are unaccounted for in those numbers such as the Terman Apartments and the trailer park that are in the Barron Park/Green Acres area. These all impact the school corridor.

It is pretty simple build the 40 units, not the 60 and allow for parking for the facility so that the streets are not impacted any more.

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Posted by a neighbor
a resident of Green Acres
on Jul 2, 2013 at 2:53 am

@ Ellie,
FYI, 1) Greenacres and Barron Park overlap where the proposed development AND the major affordable housing project is in Barron Park, and 2) PAHC isn't the only affordable housing operator in Palo Alto. One of the largest developments is the Terman Apartments -- in Greenacres -- run by another operator, not PAHC. Everyone is correct in their assertions that the Greenacres neighborhood has more large affordable housing developments, by far, than any residential part of Palo Alto.

Another major development in the neighborhood besides Terman Apts is the Arastradero Park Apartments, run by PAHC. Is it in Barron Park or Greenacres? If you go by the City map, it's Greenacres. But historically, that part of the neighborhood was considered Barron Park. It's just down Maybell from Juana Briones Park, which is in Greenacres. In terms of it "being in the neighborhood", you could say it's in either or both. (They account for the vast majority of the units mentioned by the poster above as in Barron Park.)

In terms of what those who live here consider "the neighborhood", there are 4 major affordable housing developments here, again, more than any other RESIDENTIAL part of Palo Alto. The above poster is right, the rest are mainly downtown and California Avenue (sometimes called Palo Alto's "2nd downtown", though I personally don't feel it's appropriate to intensify the density there, either).

I fully support affordable housing too, but more than that, I support the safety of our children and upholding the character of neighborhoods (so does City policy in the general plan, if it were applied). A really nice, still fairly large (larger than anything in your neighborhood) development could go in under the existing zoning, if the City decided to pay as much per unit as they did, say, at the new development on Alma downtown.

Rare plot of land... Do you not understand what happened here? This scheme means they can buy up properties anywhere -- including the nicer parts of Palo Alto with the huge lots -- get PC zoning, sell off the end of the property for a bunch of tall skinny row houses, and afford to build a high rise with the proceeds.

And FYI, plots of land even on El Camino aren't that rare. What about the old Compadres site that sat empty for how long? That's on El Camino, and one of several.

Councilmember Schmid pointed out that those affordable units are being built in lieu of units that were supposed to go on a development downtown, a far better location for seniors, near transit, Avenidas, steps from PAMF, Trader Joes, etc etc. So, they never needed the "rare plot of land", they already had a better place, just no one with the political will to make the developers put the affordable housing on their own developments (as required), or in lieu of that, make them pay enough to buy land (without making the neighborhood pay).

In case you hadn't noticed, you can tear down old buildings, it's not necessary to wait to find a place to tear out the last remnants of our part of Palo Alto's history as an orchard, 90 fruits trees and 2 100-year-old oaks in order to put up affordable housing. (The opportunity to make that into open space/a community orchard across from an existing park, while also solving the problem of not adding to the traffic there -- now THAT's rare!)

If the project doesn't proceed there as planned, the planners at PAHC will go on to the next project without missing a beat. If the City were to fix the in lieu fee situation, they will do it better. And a far better use of their time than trying to fight the neighbors to shoehorn something in at Maybell, which has all kinds of problems because of its location:

-No outlets to the development except along major school transit corridors, which the City failed to properly study for safety impacts, even though the City policy is to accord school transit corridors "heightened scrutiny"

-It sits at a traffic bottleneck to the neighborhood, which has no other outlets on the other side, in other words, traffic for the neighborhood comes out at Maybell and Arastradero, that's it. Putting any major development there where the traffic is already so problematic deserves a serious review of safety and the infrastructure. None was done.

-The location has no adjacency, and is just not very walkable for seniors.

And by the way, PAHC had 20 BMR senior units at Moldaw that just went unfilled for the last 3 years. Because of that point being made public over and over, it appears almost half of those unfilled units have now been filled and the City is finally working on renegotiating the terms to fill the others. It brings into focus the folly of just building wherever possible, it's not necessarily the best way to meet the need.

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Posted by Erik
a resident of another community
on Jul 2, 2013 at 7:52 am

"The family of a 12-year-old boy, who was seriously injured and spent two months in the hospital after being hit by a driver with meth in his system, have filed a $17 million claim against the city of Palo Alto, saying the city was negligent for not maintaining a safe street for bikers..."

- Daily Post (July 2, 2013)

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Posted by observer III
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 2, 2013 at 8:49 am

neighbor talks about the idea of actually improving the neighborhood
by preserving an orchard,open space as an alternative. While this of course is not going to happen, neighbor presents a contrasting
perspective. We are fighting all over town the destruction of our community and our neighborhoods by our city government. The culture and mindset in City Hall is to promote more growth, more development with incentives and accommodate the increased traffic, the public
"disbenefit" with "traffic calming" measures- you know, more lane reductions, more diversion of traffic, more speed bumps,etc. The Downtown parking problem is a little more difficult to "manage", but we'll continue to study that and maybe we can figure out where we can fit in a massive Downtown garage to put a dent in the overflow problem inundating the neighborhoods as more projects in the office space pipeline come on.

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Posted by Listen to the Neighbors!
a resident of Green Acres
on Jul 2, 2013 at 2:01 pm

Considering all the neighborhood opposition to this development, why didn't the City Counsel pay attention? Are they all ADHD? Or are they motivated by some other "reward" to ignore their own voter base?

Guaranteed, there will be nobody re-elected next time around!

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Posted by a neighbor
a resident of Green Acres
on Jul 2, 2013 at 3:52 pm

@observer III

Why wouldn't a community orchard happen? If the rezoning is overturned, the City has the right to take over the property. It could recover enough to pay everyone else off, so that it's left with the $6milliion it originally loaned. The neighborhood has asked the City to put up half of it from the Stanford funds -- which is a small fraction of those funds -- and giving the neighborhood the chance to raise the rest, for what is really a visionary project that would be a clear public benefit for Palo Alto into the future, something that couldn't just be created at other locations. Neighbors who have been responsible for things like the wonderful library we have at Juana Briones have offered to help make it a reality, so considerable citizen volunteer energy has already been offered.

Why wouldn't that option, wildly popular among people in the neighborhoods, be given no consideration at all, when this problematic rezoning was afforded millions in public funds before any public input?

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Posted by observer III
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 2, 2013 at 4:37 pm

@neighbor re community orchard
I mistakenly dismissed the possibility of a community orchard, as
you explain. That would be such a positive outcome to this debacle.
This possibility should provide further motivation to vote to overturn the rezoning as a clear choice. And as I was trying to point out, doing something which actually improves the neighborhood would be in stark contrast to what we have come to expect in Palo Alto where we are constantly trying to just protect what we have or minimize the damage.

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Posted by Jerry Underdal
a resident of Barron Park
on Jul 2, 2013 at 6:18 pm

Jerry Underdal is a registered user.

@Neighbor, a resident of the Green Acres neighborhood

Your evident engagement with this issue shows in the depth of your plans and opinions. It would be helpful for us all if you would identify yourself with your name or an email handle to make it easier to track in the thread where you are speaking. A generic handle is often mistakenly duplicated by people who are new to posting. Thanks.

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Posted by a neighbor
a resident of Green Acres
on Jul 2, 2013 at 11:28 pm

I'm just another neighbor. I know probably 3 or 4 dozen people who could say what I have just said. In fact, some of what I posted above was expressed to me (with links) from another neighbor. I'm definitely not alone in my opinions. There was a survey in Greenacres that I think around 150 responded - around 98% against rezoning and the majority preferred a community orchard.

But then, what the majority of residents want is clearly beside the point for the City, isn't it?

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