On Nov. 5, Palo Alto voters will be asked to vote yes or no on Measure D. A yes vote will support the unanimous decision made by the City Council on June 17, 2013, to allow the nonprofit Palo Alto Housing Corporation to build 60 affordable senior apartments at Maybell and Clemo avenues in Palo Alto. That decision also approved 12 single-family lots to subsidize the costs of the affordable senior apartments.
The City Council was unanimous in its support of the project, and the council is rarely unanimous on controversial land-use decisions.
I am 100 percent confident that the council made the right decision and that the community should stand behind this project and vote yes on Measure D and approve 60 affordable senior apartments for our local seniors, who need a safe, affordable place to call home in Palo Alto.
Opponents have tried to link Measure D to citywide issues about development, "PC" zoning, increased traffic, pedestrian-safety issues, or just a general frustration with traffic and parking.
Please do not be influenced by the rhetoric and false accusations, or allow unrelated complaints to influence your judgment about Measure D. Measure D is about one thing and one thing only if you agree or disagree that Palo Alto needs more affordable housing for our senior residents.
Right now there are hundreds of senior citizens on waiting lists for affordable homes in Palo Alto people who want to live in the community where they have lived and/or worked for many years. Your yes vote on Measure D will allow us to address this unmet need with 60 more affordable one-bedroom apartments and reduce that waiting list in a meaningful way.
I voted for this project because it is a better alternative for the neighborhood than the existing zoning in terms of traffic, safety, parking and preserving the look and feel of the single-family neighborhood. This project is a far less dense alternative than the existing zoning and will generate less traffic and other impacts.
Seniors do best when they can stay in their community and maintain their support networks. We need to protect and support our seniors as a community and this project does that.
Opponents claim the project is too dense for the location, that the location is not a good place for senior housing, and that increased traffic will put school children at risk.
We listened to the input from citizens through the hearing process and we learned of the concerns about traffic, especially on Maybell. We came to the conclusion that this project would have lower impacts on the neighborhood than any project that could be built under current zoning.
A private developer building under the existing zoning would likely construct 46 residences, all of which could be three- to four-bedroom homes. Common sense tells me that 46 families will generate more traffic and impacts on the surrounding neighborhood and in the neighborhood schools than would 60 affordable one-bedroom senior apartments and only 12 families.
The traffic analysis and experience with existing senior residential facilities in Palo Alto confirm that there will not be any significant increase to traffic or increased risk to bicycle or pedestrian safety by adding seniors to this neighborhood.
The project is located next to two existing apartment complexes the 100-foot, eight-story Tan Plaza apartments and the Arastradero Park Apartments with 66 affordable family units. The Maybell affordable senior apartments will be set back more than 100 feet from the Maybell and Clemo sidewalks. All of the mature healthy trees on Clemo will be preserved to provide additional screening of the project.
The Palo Alto Housing Corporation manages the neighboring Arastradero Park Apartments where they offer many social, health and wellness, and educational programs for residents. These programs will also be available to the residents living in the Maybell affordable senior apartments. A shared van will also be provided to decrease car ownership.
Opponents claim that this project was not properly studied, lacked public review, and neighborhood concerns were not taken into consideration. This is just not true.
Beginning with a City Council study session in September 2012, more than nine months of public discussions took place before final City Council approval on June 28, 2013. The project was reviewed numerous times by the City Council, the Planning and Transportation Commission, the Architectural Review Board, and public comment was taken at every step. Additionally, before the final City Council vote, the Palo Alto Housing Corporation held at least three voluntary community meetings in the neighborhood, allowing residents to ask questions and provide input. They also had numerous one-on-one meetings with neighbors to address concerns.
I personally participated in a 10-hour negotiating session with PAHC and neighborhood leaders that led to the elimination of three market-rate homes, plus numerous site and design changes to further address traffic, safety and aesthetic concerns while still maintaining a financially viable project.
We also are aware that many Barron Park and Green Acres neighbors strongly support Measure D including people who live across the street and in close proximity to the proposed site.
For me a no vote would be a lost opportunity to provide needed affordable housing for Palo Alto seniors and to protect the neighborhood from the impacts that will occur if a project is built under the current zoning.
If you agree we need more affordable senior housing, then I urge you to vote yes on Measure D. I will be voting yes on Measure D. I hope you'll join me.