Palo Alto seeks citizen input on growth, traffic

New initiative, 'Our Palo Alto,' aims to start two-year conversation about city's future

Faced with a tense political climate, a dearth of parking and a daunting laundry list of traffic-related initiatives, Palo Alto officials are launching a new planning effort aimed at getting the public involved in a deep conversation about the city's future.

The initiative, dubbed Our Palo Alto, is centered around the city's ongoing update of its land-use bible, the Comprehensive Plan, and related conversations over growth and development, subjects that have dominated City Council agendas throughout the past year.

The public outcry over new developments, particularly those that violate established zoning and height limits, hit its high note last November, when voters overwhelmingly overturned in a referendum an approved housing development on Maybell Avenue. At the same time, downtown residents and land-use watchdogs have been up in arms about downtown's recent spurt in commercial growth and the resulting parking shortage in residential neighborhoods.

City Manager James Keene said Wednesday that Our Palo Alto would stretch for about two years and include meetings, forums, surveys and other to-be-determined outreach tools. It would aim to reach residents who don't normally attend council meetings and encourage dialogue between and among neighbors about the city's future. It would also cover a wide range of topics relating to development, including reforming the city's controversial "planned community" zoning; considering new uses for land in certain neighborhoods; and introducing incentives for downtown workers who will ditch their cars and switch to other modes of transportation.

"Our goal is to support a broad-based discussion about where the city's going and where the city's future is," Keene said at a press conference Wednesday.

The effort also includes as one of its earliest "action" items the city's proposed "residential parking permit program" (RPP), which will be debated at Monday's council meeting. If approved, the program would allow residents to buy up to two permits per household and would set some permits aside for downtown employees. Cars that don't have permits would face time restrictions, much like they do on most blocks in downtown's commercial core.

The program, which has attracted vehement criticism from both residents and businesses, also creates criteria for other neighborhoods that want to adopt the program. This includes support from at least 70 percent of neighborhood residents and a threshold of parked cars of at least 75 percent.

City officials Wednesday that the parking-permit discussion will be just the first of many city efforts to calm downtown's frustrations over insufficient parking. In February, staff plans to propose some first steps toward building a new downtown garage; begin a process for aggressively expanding the city's shuttle program; explore the creation of satellite parking lots east of U.S. Highway 101; and introduce a slew of "transportation-demand-management" (TDM) initiatives aimed at getting drivers to switch from cars to other modes of transportation. This includes establishing a transportation-management authority, an agency that would collect money from members within a geographical area and use the funds for such programs as Caltrain passes and car-sharing services.

The proposed parking program has yet to undergo its first public hearing, but early reviews have already been harsh. Residents have panned it as too complex and argued that the threshold for resident participation is too high.

Downtown employers deride it as a "huge waste of money" and want the city to ditch the program altogether in favor of other strategies for reducing parking congestion. This includes designating certain spots on neighborhood streets as for residents only.

Planning Director Hillary Gitelman said Wednesday that while some details of the program remain uncertain (including the question of how many permits should be designated for businesses), success will depend in large part on the city's other efforts pertaining to downtown traffic.

"We already heard from people on both sides," Gitelman said. "Everyone agrees on basic principles, one of which is that the RPP is only part of the puzzle."

Other pieces will be more fully discussed as part of the city's update of the Comprehensive Plan, which has been in the works for more than five years and which is about to shift gears once again.

Gitelman said the council had initially planned to make only minor changes to the existing Comprehensive Plan, which has a planning horizon of 1998-2010. Recent development trends, however, have prompted considerations of broader changes, she said.

"The world has changed. The economy has come roaring back," Gitelman said. "The community has expressed an interest in looking more broadly at issues."

Keene stressed that the design of Our Palo Alto is still in the works. Claudia Keith, the city's chief communication officer, said it could include walking tours, lectures from experts, and a dedicated website with multimedia components and opportunities for residents to offer their opinions.

"We really have to develop 20 different channels or approaches to get involved," Keene said, noting that some will inevitably fail.

In addition to informing the city's update of the Comprehensive Plan, officials expect the new initiative to also support the council's goal of fostering more civic engagement, even if this engagement includes a heavy dose of criticism.

"The fact that there is conflict is not a bad thing in a democracy," Keene said. "It's not a symbol of failure. It's a symbol that there is passion and different opinions about things."

Gitelman also indicated that the city would be hiring a few more planners in the new fiscal year and also look to consultants to help facilitate Our Palo Alto.


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Posted by Mr.Recycle
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jan 22, 2014 at 7:20 pm

It is time to look for creative solutions to achieve negative growth. Less office space, fewer people, less traffic..

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Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 22, 2014 at 7:40 pm

Scrap the color coded parking.

Add pay per hour machines in all lots and garages.

Add meters to downtown and Cal Ave streets with perhaps tokens for resident exemption.

Add electronic signs with numbers of available spaces in all garages. Also some high tech app to pay for parking and show where parking is available all day by a simple, user friendly system.

Have satellite parking lots (near utilities area in Baylands) with frequent shuttle service to downtown.

Improve traffic flow particularly at gridlocked areas, eg Alma/ECR/SandHill, ECR at T & C, Arastradero/ECR, EastMeadow/San Antonio/Fabian.

Add turn lanes for Loma Verde/Middlefield.

Increase shuttle service to serve all schools and start charging a modest fare.

Consider hovercraft (hovercrafts not airboats) service across the Bay and between Redwood City, Menlo Park, Palo Alto and Mountain View.

Improve timing of traffic lights, particularly on Middlefield and Oregon (I know Oregon is being worked on and is a county road.)

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Posted by encouraged
a resident of Ohlone School
on Jan 22, 2014 at 8:34 pm

This all sounds good. I hope it works out. Thanks to all those who defeated Measure D and made the city sit up and take notice of the people power in the city.

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Posted by Wayne Martin
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Jan 22, 2014 at 8:37 pm

People have been offering their opinions, and their ideas, to the City for decades on these issues. What has happened to all that narrative? And what makes us believe that the City will be listening now?

Will the input to this web-site be cataloged, and generally made public? Will it become a part of the public record, or just something else to be ignored?

Going round and round -- we're really not getting anywhere.

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Posted by Fair
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 22, 2014 at 9:48 pm

No residential district parking for businesses

Raise the minimum wage so all employees can afford to buy permits

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Posted by Justin
a resident of Mountain View
on Jan 22, 2014 at 10:06 pm

I agree with Resident (although I'm not sure hovercrafts are feasible now). Charge for parking and improve transit to/from popular destinations. Not that complicated.

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Posted by anonymous
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 22, 2014 at 10:44 pm

What is the point of asking citizens to get involved, when they don't listen no matter the "historic" involvement if they don't like what we have to say?

Giving the appearance of listening with no intention of being changed by what they hear is a sham and an insult. I speak from all too shocking experience. I don't see what's changed since Maybell.

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Posted by common sense
a resident of Midtown
on Jan 22, 2014 at 11:27 pm

The city wants the residents to pay for parking permits? It was the city staff & the city council who made the parking mess by approving under parked projects, approving high density variances in zoning, and providing exemptions for providing parking. The city should pay the for the parking permits system. They don't want to because it means that they would have less to spend on their pet projects.

The proposal wants to set aside spaces in the residential neighborhoods for the office workers. How about setting aside parking spaces in all those current color coded zones parking lots and spaces on the street?

And here's a way to pay for the program: create an occupancy fee of $10 per square foot per year of office space to pay for the permit program, and to help fund a parking garage.

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Posted by Not worth the dime
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Jan 23, 2014 at 12:43 am

People will not pay to show up to your city when all the non-rich folks already scrap for extra cash as it is. I know myself that nothing is essential in PA, and I'll never spend money to go to a tiny snobby little town like that.

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Posted by Shuttle
a resident of Stanford
on Jan 23, 2014 at 12:53 am

Hmmm...let's shuttle people into PA! Like anyone is going to park miles away just to be shuttled in. And this means PA will have to play nice with EPA...something I'm sure they are too good to do.

Hey EPA residents: PA wants to use your nice land as their parking do like them apples? I'm sure your city will sell their souls since it is so poor and needs the cash... Hope u like looking at cars!

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Posted by Anonymous
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 23, 2014 at 7:25 am

Why not parking meters in high congestion areas like most other cities? How about eliminating the variances to the parking regulations in all new projects? How about no more Planned Community projects?

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Posted by Alan
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Jan 23, 2014 at 7:59 am

It should be rather simple. If a developer asks the city for a zoning change or to exceed a height or density limit, the answer is 'NO'.

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Posted by anneke
a resident of Professorville
on Jan 23, 2014 at 8:54 am

1. The Palo Alto process: "Paralysis from Analysis" (borrowed from another Palo Alto citizen)

2. "Words are silver, actions are gold." Great to talk about getting Palo Alto folks involved in "Our Palo Alto." Don't just talk about it, do it! Palo Alto has lots of smart people who are passionate about their city. Use and respect their thinking.

3. Stop making subjective decisions! Stick with a template of logical agreed-upon rules. If a developer wants to build an office building, stick with the building guidelines and ensure there is appropriate parking space for employees and visitors. Parking is a cost of doing business!

4. The University downtown stores are not the cause of the parking problems in the surrounding neighborhoods. The problem started with developers building office space without enough parking. Take a look at the cars that are overflowing these neighborhoods during the day: BMWs, Audis, Porsches, big and expensive SUVs. These are the cars of well-to-do office employees.

5. There is also a responsibility on the homeowners of the surrounding neighborhoods: Use your garages and driveways. When a house has a driveway, it has a reserved space in front of their house already.

5. For houses without a driveway, reserve one designated parking spot in front of their houses.

6. In our R1 neighborhood (supposed to be single-family homes) we have houses who sublet multiple rooms and spaces. Several houses have at least eight cars each. With all the strict rules in Palo Alto, how come this is possible?

6. Finally, don't make University a pure office street without wonderful and magical stores such as Shady Lane. There still is a romantic spirit in Palo Alto, let's save that spirit.

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Posted by Then LISTEN!
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jan 23, 2014 at 9:21 am

This is frustrating because we go to City Council meetings, they pretend to listen, and then vote the exact opposite of what the residents tell them they want ( or don't want)!

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Posted by curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on Jan 23, 2014 at 10:47 am

"or just something else to be ignored?"

The process goes like this:
1. Defuse (diffuse?) the situation with a grand display of ostensible listening.
2. Cherry-pick the responses to support desired outcomes.
3. Ignore the rest.
4. Cite the results of Step 2 as citizen support for the desired outcomes.
5. Heap fulsome praise on "colleagues" and city staff for exemplary government responsiveness.

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Posted by Just watching
a resident of Southgate
on Jan 23, 2014 at 11:28 am

City Manager's response to a problem:
1.Ask for input, schedule public meetings, and use fancy software to ask for public opinion
2.Do what developers and lawyers on the council want (e.g.,let Chop Keenan build a monster building and a parking garage- which was the plan all along)
3.Hire traffic/parking consultants to "analyze" the results in addition to the experts on city staff. Spend lots of city money, build bureaucracy.
4. Issue a 150 page report to council so very few residents will read it but developers lawyers will.
5. Say: Oh how hard we have worked for 2 years!

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Posted by resident 1
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Jan 23, 2014 at 11:30 am

When I read the paper PA Weekly it says to go to the on-line version. Everyone is offering opinions on a regular basis. Who is reading these lines in the PA city government?
1. Do not reduce major thorough fares in the number of lanes - it is driving people crazy at peak commute times. You are not "calming" traffic you are infuriating traffic. I see people in cars after dark going down the bike lane on Charleston when the line of cars is stretching back because of trains and lights. The concept is not working.
2. How are other local cities handling parking - look for commonality in response so we are not viewed as "difficult" to do business in. People are going to other cities to shop - we are driving people away.
3. People who reply to these dilemmas should offer a concrete and reasonable response to solve the problem. If we are not being helpful then why is CC going to listen?

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Posted by Richard Placone
a resident of Barron Park
on Jan 23, 2014 at 11:58 am

Neighbors, Friends and Fellow Residents:

Some great ideas and comments here. If I've said it once,I've said it a dozen times - Council members seldom read these comments. I've heard some say the comments are mostly "naysayers". If you want to make your points heard, certainly post your ideas here, but also send your remarks to the city council and staff members. Council -
Staff - If council and staff got the volume of comments that appear in these articles,they'd have to listen, wouldn't they??

Since I live in Barron Park and have no parking problems on my street,and avoid downtown when I can, I'll refrain from putting in my two cents here.

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Posted by Annette
a resident of College Terrace
on Jan 23, 2014 at 12:01 pm

Idea for 1 piece of this puzzle: downtown employers pay for parking permits for their employees and get a rent credit from their landlord for the amount spent. We can never get back the concessions that CC gave to developers but this could help ease the burden on downtown businesses and shift it back where it belonged all along. (And yes, I realize the supply piece of this remains the big problem.)

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Posted by Judy Gittelsohn
a resident of Ventura
on Jan 23, 2014 at 12:09 pm

As a community member and business owner on California Ave., I would like to ask the city to "listen" to the merchants of California Ave and keep California Ave two lanes in each direction. I believe these are the people / merchants / business owners that comprise and make up our community and I think the city ran rough shod over the neighborhoods wishes.

This could be a major repair in the direction of our city.

Thank you

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Posted by No thanks to TDMs
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Jan 23, 2014 at 12:40 pm

TDMs work better in theory than in practice. The city already introduced a "transportation-demand-management" (TDM) initiative on Arastradero west of ECR. That TDM turned Arasteradero into a cowpath during commute times and created the gridlock and congestion on Maybell, which ultimately lead to a referendum.

Our city council LOVES their little road diets, but the problem is that TDMs do not work. They just shift traffic to other streets. If City council didn't do a proper traffic study on Arastradero looking into the impact on Maybell, what makes you think they'll do them for future TDMs?

Strangling ECR and California Avenue are also bad ideas.

We need a new city council.

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Posted by ladybird
a resident of Barron Park
on Jan 23, 2014 at 12:46 pm

"explore the creation of satellite parking lots east of U.S. Highway 101"
there go our parkland nature and view-sheds to make room for cars and fumes.How did Palo Alto lose its most fundamental values?
What a terrible terrible idea.

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Posted by lived in other college towns
a resident of another community
on Jan 23, 2014 at 1:16 pm

I like the color-coded free parking system. I think that adding parking meters or paid parking will negatively impact some businesses. I moved to this area from Ann Arbor, MI which has a downtown similar to Palo Alto. In Ann Arbor there are parking meters on the street and hourly paid parking spots in garages. Some of the garages do have an electronic system that indicates how many spaces are left, which is helpful. But I eventually reduced the amount of time I spent downtown because of the difficulty finding parking and then having to pay for it. Here in Palo Alto I go downtown almost every day to take yoga classes, shop, eat meals, etc. I stopped doing that in Ann Arbor because the parking fees started to add up. All other things being equal(which they never really are), I would go more frequently to a store or an exercise studio where I didn't have to pay to park.

Ann Arbor also has a residential parking permit program. I think it costs $50 per year. There are some residential areas that have 2 hour parking on the street and if you have the residential permit you are exempt from the 2 hour limit.

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Posted by Gordon Short
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jan 23, 2014 at 5:12 pm

So, just how is the city going to conduct this conversation?

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Posted by tireoftheseclaims
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Jan 23, 2014 at 6:00 pm

Oh Boy! Another "opportunity" to spend all your time providing "input and ideas" - anyone really trust this? For example - how about a freeze on new office development until this "process" is done - there is sure plenty enough already approved and in the pipeline for now. Fat chance... So go ahead, make their day, be earnist and volunteer!

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Posted by Silly
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jan 23, 2014 at 6:35 pm

Dear City Council,

It would be great if the Palo Alto Online article had spelled out specifically HOW the city will seek citizen input.

Until you do, I'd urge you to read and respond to Town Talk suggestions and comments from California Avenue business owners, citizens and frustrated drivers offering specific suggestions about traffic light timing, how traffic "calming" simply infuriates drivers and how lane closures create more backup, especially when turn lanes are eliminated.

Also please note that many express skepticism that you will actually listen to citizens and business owners, citing how you've ignored advice in the past.

I urge you to look at all the business closures in Los Altos during their very long construction period as a harbinger for California Avenue. Just because a grant is available for California Avenue does not mean that the cty has to go for it, especially against the wishes of the community.

Please read the comments and respond to show this isn't yet another make-work exerciset where you'll again ignore comments and concerns and continue to do what you want, no matter how frustrated we are at being backed everywhere, especially on Embcarcadero and around Town & Country.

Web Link

PS: Kids are NOT in school at midnight so the traffic light near the high school crosswalk is really unnecessary.

Like this comment
Posted by resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 23, 2014 at 6:43 pm

The comments/perspectives/insights/proposals presented in above posts are
focused,incisive and right on target. Curmudgeon's "5 steps" are a perfect
summary of the process as is the "City Manager's response" by Just Watching.
Common Sense has some great ideas. What is happening in Palo Alto
is so ludicrous, so extreme, and also, it seems, so unexpected, even
bizarre, because it all seems so un-Palo Alto. But here we are. It's
like a nightmare. How did we get to this point?

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Posted by 2 bad
a resident of Monroe Park
on Jan 23, 2014 at 7:59 pm

[Post removed.]

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Posted by anonymous
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 23, 2014 at 10:47 pm

[Post removed.]

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Posted by common sense
a resident of Midtown
on Jan 23, 2014 at 11:50 pm

A few days ago, in the Daily Post, there was an article about how some citizens were interested in proposing a moratorium on further building projects over a certain density.

Could this be why City Manager Keene is decided to bring up the "Our Palo Alto" proposal - as a way to pre-empt and push the issue past the election this year?

I'm surprised that the Weekly has no mention of this effort.

I expect that there will be a lot of maneuvering to push issues past the election; if the incumbents get re-elected, then the council & city staff will go back to approving more high density zoning variances. If the incumbents don't get re-elected, then City Manager Keene can point to "our Palo Alto" as progress towards the issue.

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Posted by sunshine
a resident of Barron Park
on Jan 24, 2014 at 8:25 am

First, the City needs to put a moratorium on all PC and other up-zoning changes and new high rise office buildings.
Then, ALL rail crossings should be separated from auto traffic. While doing this, Page Mill/Oregon and Embarcadero under crossings should be widened.
Then, do not decrease the number of lanes on any major street, especially not El Camino. At the same time eliminate most of the driveways that that exit directly onto El Camino. Put in a route behind the buildings so that all traffic from businesses exits onto a side street. Restore the lanes on Arastradero. Widen the downtown section of Alma, especially at the Embarcadero bridge.
Do not add any more neighborhood permit parking areas. This discourages shoppers from patronizing local stores and restaurants. Better for residents who must drive downtown, is parking that one pays for upon leaving. This way you pay only for the time you were parked. I won't pay in the garages because I don't know how long I will be there and don't want to waste money. Downtown residents need to realize that they live in a city. If they expect a viable downtown, they have to expect parking in front of their houses. There are some homes near Alma and University that do not have garages and/or driveways. However, most of the homes in Professorville are on huge lots (over 8000 sq ft) and have 4 or more bedrooms. They also have driveways in which the residents and their visitors can park.
I agree with Curmudgeon on the Palo Alto City process. I have seen it used in many companies. It is the new way to make employees think they had a say in a decision, when in truth the "boss" (City Council, Planners, Developers) go ahead and do precisely what they want. Even after a vote that they lose, they still decide according to the original plan.
The City should tell ABAG to get lost. Many of those for whom we provide housing are employees of Stanford; Stanford should provide housing for their own employees. Any new multi-unit buildings should be required to provide a minimum of 10 feet green space around the building on ALL sides. There is nothing wrong with living in Mt View, Menlo Park, or Los Altos. I have lived in each city while working in Palo Alto. Developers must be held to a specified number of low income housing units in each new large building. They must also be held to a minimum of 1.5 parking spaces for each housing unit plus sufficient parking for visitors and the businesses in the building.
After that, we can discuss where to go next. I think we should wait until after the next Council election before the City allows any new multi-unit building.

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Posted by Traffic Overflow Recipient
a resident of Los Altos Hills
on Jan 24, 2014 at 11:41 am

Palo Alto's excessive expansion of jobs is negatively impacting other cities in ways not visible to Palo Alto. Highway 101 and 280 are parking lots in the morning and at night. The on/off ramps are blocked and cars are taking surface street to get around the blockages impacting Menlo Park, East Palo Alto and Los Altos Hills as much (and maybe more) as Palo Alto. Arastradero Road in Los Altos Hills in the morning and at night is packed.

Caltrans is talking about installing lights at 280/Page Mill Road which will gridlock all of Page Mill Road in the morning and night. Some people actually live there (e.g. Old Page Mill Rd) and emergency vehicles will not be able to get there. Oh and the Stanford Hospital expansion--just think what that will do to 280 and Sand Hill Road, Alpine and Page Mill.

Why does Palo Alto continue to build office space? ABAG has a high quota for housing, which Palo Alto ignores. Why not build apartment buildings everywhere you want to put offices--maybe that would enable people who work here to actually live here. Just a logical thought.... But PLEASE, no more office space to attract more commuters.

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Posted by Silly
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jan 24, 2014 at 12:08 pm

Please keep writing to the city council to remind them to read and respond to the excellent comments here if they're serious. Don't forget to email the new planning director.

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Posted by DC
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jan 24, 2014 at 2:32 pm

Whoever approves new home plans PLEASE STOP signing off on 5 Bedroom homes with ONE CAR GARAGES!!! No matter WHAT neighborhood in Palo Alto. Or assign every homeowner in Palo Alto TWO parking places in front of their home, all other vehicles subject to tow unless arrangements made ahead of time. The plan should Include bussing in home construction crews from parking lots rented elsewhere in the area. Like Google busses its people in. It is the responsible thing to do environmentally AND parking-wise.

As an example, renters across the street - whose driveway is much longer than ours - park 1-2 of their 3 vehicles (for 2 adults) in front of our house daily in spite of having curb/driveway/garage space on their side of the street. I had to ask them not to park there on street-sweeper day in order to get the Fall leaves taken away, o/w their side was clean but ours was a mess that gets blown into the driveway & tracked into the house. If everyone is going to be doing this everywhere.... talk about parking wars!

Palo Alto must be proactive and realistic re city approval of housing permits throughout the city as relates to parking. If a home has more than 2 bedrooms, the plan must have at least a 2car garage and curb space for another vehicle for ALL home plans. If > 3 bedrooms, a 2-3 car garage AND curb space for two full-sized vehicles (not always possible for narrow, deep lots, so home buyers need to be informed of the parking rules). Ridiculously high fines for failure to comply should help cover city costs for parking enforcement, infrastructure needs, schools and parks, pensions etc.

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Posted by Miss the old girl
a resident of Barron Park
on Jan 24, 2014 at 5:46 pm

Sad era lately for Palo Alto. People actually smile and say hi to each other in other towns. Where has our shine gone?

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Posted by Oldster
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jan 24, 2014 at 6:49 pm

When is the deadline to get something on the November ballot about PUCs? Instead of a moratorium and years of delay with the "Our Palo Alto" scheme, how about a ballot ordinance with simple rules a kindergartener could understand? For example, no more closed door poker games for swapping development rights to avoid having to build parking spaces at PUCs, no more four story new buildings for any reason, and if we are truly serious about increasing our low income housing stock mandate a set percentage of any new multi-family development to have studio and/or one bedroom housing units. And, while we are at it allow granny units on any SR-1 parcel if it has enough off street parking.

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Posted by Kate
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jan 24, 2014 at 9:46 pm

This Core Values procedure spawned by the Council is nothing more than a feel-good scheme to make the residents THINK the Council CARES. This is the same old baloney that has gone on for years but especially the last ten or more. Make residents 'feel good' - then Council goes right ahead and does what it had already schemed, planned, or negotiated to do in the first place. Trust 'em? No way. Trust City Hall? You've got to be kidding. Trust the process? Not after the backroom Arrillaga planning. Not after loaning the PAHC millions first before that boil came to a 'head'. Not after all the hiring of new-posiiton managers at huge salaries. Not after the weak Architectural Review Board and the Planning Commission cave in time and time again to building design and glass boxes and exceptions to the rules. How can this be stopped? Palo Alto is being destroyed by selfish bureaucrats. WAKE UP fellow residents. What does it take??

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Posted by Kay
a resident of Palo Verde
on Jan 25, 2014 at 3:55 am

As far as parking is concerned, Palo Alto doesn't just have parking problems downtown and in Professorville. Our neighborhood is completely over-parked. Some single family homes rent to 2-3 people, who then need to park 2 or more cars on the street. Another homeowner owns takes up 4 spaces parking for his company vehicles on the street. New houses, 6 close-by are seriously under-parked. I agree with DC, resident of Old Palo Alto :

"Whoever approves new home plans PLEASE STOP signing off on 5 Bedroom homes with ONE CAR GARAGES!!! No matter WHAT neighborhood in Palo Alto. Or assign every homeowner in Palo Alto TWO parking places in front of their home, all other vehicles subject to tow unless arrangements made ahead of time.
Palo Alto must be proactive and realistic re city approval of housing permits throughout the city as relates to parking. If a home has more than 2 bedrooms, the plan must have at least a 2car garage and curb space for another vehicle for ALL home plans. If > 3 bedrooms, a 2-3 car garage AND curb space for two full-sized vehicles (not always possible for narrow, deep lots, so home buyers need to be informed of the parking rules). Ridiculously high fines for failure to comply should help cover city costs for parking enforcement, infrastructure needs, schools and parks, pensions etc. "

If families are renting out their homes, shouldn't they be required to use available driveways in that home? Instead, dead cars, mobile homes, extra storage takes up the car's driveway, so the overflow cars are just parked on nearby streets. I'm really getting tired of so many people parking in front of us.......we are turning into an overflow parking lot and it is ugly!

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Posted by time for action
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 25, 2014 at 9:52 am

Kate is exactly right. The Measure D vote provided ample feedback about
core values. It's time for action. The only action by the Council has been
to elect Kniss Vice-Mayor, who downplayed the vote on Measure D. Now that
a "drought emergency" has been declared by the Governor, perhaps the
State will step in and clamp down on places like Palo Alto and prohibit projects which may require dewatering of sites with the loss of millions
of gallons of water.

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Posted by pat
a resident of Midtown
on Jan 25, 2014 at 11:08 am

The essential problem is TRUST. Residents don’t trust the city government – for good reason. “Our Palo Alto” is just another “Open City Hall” – a way to pretend something is being done when it’s business as usual.

As others have pointed out, if Jim Keene and the council are still clueless about what residents want, it’s because they don’t want to know. They only hear what they want to hear, regardless of speakers at council meetings, emails, guest opinions and letters in the papers. Anyone who criticizes is a NIMBY or worse.

They’re in denial about Measure D, about the fact that THEY caused all the traffic and parking problems by approving too many big developments and narrowing too many streets. And now – suddenly! – they notice that buildings are too big and too close to the sidewalk, there’s not enough parking, and traffic is bad. Why weren’t they listening when residents were complaining about these issues over the years? And why do we think they will listen now?

This is a regional issue: "Tell me again why we create six times as much jobs as housing and then everybody says, 'I'm shocked, there's a housing shortage and the housing we have is expensive," said Santa Clara County Supervisor Joe Simitian of the development pattern he witnessed county-wide during the 1990s boom. "This is fairly basic stuff." Web Link

“Members of the [Mountain View] City Council have embarked on a critically important and daunting mission to find room for 3.4 million square feet of new office space in the North Bayshore over the next 15 years.” Web Link

Why aren’t the cities working together on these problems? The only regional body we have is the non-elected ABAG, pushing to squeeze as many housing units as possible on every square inch of land.

BTW, pointing out problems gives the city an excuse to hire more high-priced staff: communications "officer," sustainability "officer," a new guy to manage parking and now Keene wants more people in the planning department. If you missed the guest opinion in yesterday's Daily Post, "$139,907 Average Total Compensation Not Enough," see Web Link

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Posted by Julian
a resident of Midtown
on Jan 25, 2014 at 4:12 pm

Waste of time. The city does not listen to citizens. That's been overwhelmingly demonstrated through the years. They say they're chaining their spots, but there's no evidence whatsoever of that happening.

Like this comment
Posted by resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 26, 2014 at 7:07 am

To gain perspective on the issue of core values and where the City is heading, just consider last week's headlines.

-Palo Alto elderly couple experiences an armed home invasion
-Another wave of car break-ins occurs along ECR and Downtown
-Governor declares "drought emergency" and calls for action
-Stock market breaks over growth fears
-locally, City Manager wants to hire more planners

The City is completely out of step with everything that is happening.
We need to hire more police not more planners. The drought is the worst
ever recorded and the City should be talking about a moratorium on new
development,without even considering the traffic and parking issues which
are destroying the City. The economic outlook may be changing which will
affect the demand for office space. Crime is not just a public safety issue but a business issue. The City of Palo Alto is on the wrong side of
just about everything that matters to the residents and the future of this

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Posted by boscoli
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jan 26, 2014 at 10:36 am

California is experiencing the worst drought in memory. We may already already be in an era of protracted, perhaps chronic drought. We could face the very realistic catastrophe of running out of water. In the meantime, the city leaders behave as if nothing is the matter, and cow tow to the developers, without giving any thought to reducing population density. We are now in a phase where no development should be allowed before serious consideration of the water issue, and this even before taking into account the issues of traffic, pollution, crime and noise.

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Posted by anonymous
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jan 26, 2014 at 12:25 pm

I am really impressed by all the comments on this thread. People have key points to make that affect quality of life in Palo Alto.
I ask everyone to please write a letter to PA City Council and send it snail mail. I do this occasionally with other politicians like our two CA senators, and I understand it HAS to be logged in/"counted" - and in the case of the city level, I assume it will be attached to the CC "packet? (?) I know there is email, but I believe letters have the benefit of sending the message of clearly taking the time to CARE about what our officials are doing and that we are watching the and expect our input to be taken into consideration.
I admit I haven't contacted CC members here, although I have contacted PAUSD board members and, as I said, politicians on many other levels of government.
It is important to specify your concise and important experiences and viewpoints and recommendations in writing to these government officials. Thanks, everyone.

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Posted by pat
a resident of Midtown
on Jan 26, 2014 at 1:58 pm

You don’t have to use snail mail to write to the city council. Email is Your email will go in the city packet and you will get a reply saying your message has been received .

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Posted by anonymous
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jan 26, 2014 at 2:23 pm

@pat, then they have your email address. I have heard this can open up problems.

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Posted by anonymous
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 26, 2014 at 11:28 pm

"The City of Palo Alto is on the wrong side of just about everything that matters to the residents and the future of this City. "

I think you meant "this City Council".

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Posted by resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 27, 2014 at 6:16 am

Yes. By "City of Palo Alto" I am referring to the City Council, but it
a little broader than that. It is the culture in City Hall and that is
what I was trying to indicate. Thank you.

Like this comment
Posted by Done Deal
a resident of College Terrace
on Jan 27, 2014 at 9:06 am

"Resident" - the City needs to FIRE current management staff who should know how to do this without the public figuring it out for them and HIRE YOU Resident.

"Wayne Martin" - You're right! The City has NOT been listening to all the public input over the years. That is City politics - round and round and round. They are getting real expert at finger pointing and whining how they cannot do their jobs.

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Posted by resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 27, 2014 at 12:40 pm

@Done Deal
You really put your finger on it when you say they "should know how
to do this without the public figuring it out for them". This drawn out
endless discussion of values to achieve public input, the antithesis of
the last many years of no input,with a time table of two years, will
just wear down the public, while the Council operates in a bubble wrap
as this continues.

Like this comment
Posted by Jo Ann aka Silly
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jan 27, 2014 at 1:31 pm

I recently wrote to the City Council, inviting them over here to hear our suggestions and I comment. I also gave them specific suggestions. I then decided to copy Hilary Gitelman, the new Planning Director, and city manager Mr. Keene who invited me to meet with him.

The new Planning Director Hillary Gitelman sent me the 9/16/2013 "Embarcero Road Corridor Study Informational" for my comments which details short- and long-term changes. She copied Mr. Keene and Transportation Manager? James Rodriquez.

I've reviewed the plan and responded with specifics that might eliminate some of the gridlock around Town & Country.

I urge you all to write to all of them inviting them here to discuss plans and suggestions. I applaud their responsiveness if not the proposed timing for changing the traffic lights (2015) and further study with CALTRANS.

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Posted by pat
a resident of Midtown
on Jan 27, 2014 at 4:49 pm

@anonymous: What kind of problems have you heard about if the city has your email address? Palo Alto isn’t the NSA.

@Silly: I’m glad you got a response and a meeting. But why are they waiting until 2015 to fix a problem that has been known for at least three years?

Like this comment
Posted by maguro_01
a resident of Mountain View
on Jan 28, 2014 at 7:52 am

Blame NIMBY homeowners on the Peninsula in general. For decades they have had a Real Deal. The game is to collect taxes from commercial development especially near freeway access, keep their own low in addition to Prop 13, severely restrict housing development, and watch their house prices soar.

They don't want to live in cities the NIMBY's say. They just want to sell their houses large or small for a few million dollars. Not a bad deal for them, right? Also with increasing absentee house ownership, the house prices are the only desired outcome. No one seems to be writing about the local real estate industry in this sort of context, a real omission.

Palo Alto does have an odd problem where a city government wanted to add development yet severely reduce traffic at the same time in a part of town without easy freeway access.

The Real Deal has come to the end of its time since all the adjacent towns have been playing the game. Metro government?

Soaring Mountain View rents have run out perhaps 30% of its residents in the last three years or so. I read that 60% of Mountain View residents are renters.

On the Jan 24th Mountain View Voice front page is a story "Surprised by local housing costs? You shouldn't be". A county level office holder Joe Simitian has constituent meetings at the Mountain View Farmer's Market. He is quoted as saying "This is my 13th year, and I've never heard as much resentment of other's prosperity". That's his take? It's a odd example of a California moral argument for everything. Whatever, that sentence should be on posters throughout his area next election.

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Posted by Silly
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jan 28, 2014 at 1:11 pm

Pat, excellent question on why they're waiting until 2015 which is exactly what I asked them. And the problems date from 2008 which makes it twice as long as 3 years.

Also, don't forget that their report on the problem dates from October of last year -- which is the first I've heard they're even aware of the problem.

Since the kids use the crosswalk mainly at lunch and 57 of them during the morning commute, I suggested putting that light on the same push-the-button-to-cross system other lights have -- which sure shouldn't take another 2 years.

We shall see. Again, I urge you to write to Gitelman, Keene and the Council.

Like this comment
Posted by Silly
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jan 28, 2014 at 3:02 pm

I had high hopes that something useful might come of my efforts with Ms. Gitelman, Then my comments were forward to our Transportation Director from whom I got a lengthy and largely irrelevant response.

I'd basically said FIX THE TRAFFIC LIGHT TIMING, a point he totally missed, while babbling about more studies and getting community input and concluded by saying "As you can see, a lot is happening," to which I replied that he'd totally missed the point in his lengthy response and that no, unfortunately I couldn't see that anything was happening.

Feh. Feel free to give him your input the next time you need a catharsis.

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