News

Palo Alto nears finish line on new housing vision

City's upgrade of Housing Element wins tentative state support

The last time Palo Alto adopted a new housing vision for the city, the feeling around City Hall was more relief than satisfaction.

Years overdue and highly controversial, the Housing Element that the city adopted in 2013 laid out the city's strategies for encouraging more housing and identified sites that could accommodate 2,860 housing units between 2007 and 2014. The council adopted the document after much debate and heavy criticism from the community about the city's decision (later reversed) to include a proposed housing project on Maybell Avenue on the housing inventory. And as soon as the city adopted the new document, planners commenced work on updating it.

Now, as the city is putting together the next edition of the Housing Element, things couldn't be any more different. In recent months, planners have been working with a stakeholder group of housing developments, advocates and neighborhood leaders on revising the updated version, which would cover the period of 2015 to 2023. And while official adoption is still about three months away, the new document has already received the tentative endorsement of the state Department of Housing and Community Development, the state agency charged with certifying the document.

On Wednesday night, the document also received words of general praise from the city's Planning and Transportation Commission, which reviewed but did not vote on the latest changes. The commission is set to make a formal recommendation on the Housing Element on Oct. 1.

Though the document is officially part of the Comprehensive Plan, its update is proceeding on a separate track than the revision of broader land-use bible. The timing for the Housing Element is more urgent than for the rest of the document, with a due date early next year. Cities that fail to complete the document risk lawsuits and may lose opportunity to receive state grants for housing programs, said Tim Wong, senior planner who is spearheading the new update. They can also be required to undertake the revisions of a four- rather than eight-year cycle.

The document mandates that the city zone for (though not actually build) 1,988 housing units between 2015 and 2023. To do this, the city is relying largely on existing sites that aren't developed to their zoning capacity.

The Housing and Community Development letter, which was issued on Sept. 5, states that the city's "draft element, with revisions, meets the statutory requirements of State housing element law." It notes, however, that the requirement hinges upon a new policy that would create incentives for property owners to consolidate small lots. The policy, which was recently added to the draft element, would create larger lots capable of accommodating the type of density needed to build affordable housing.

Though the document doesn't include any rezoning proposals, it includes a few new policies, including one that would encourage the type of consolidation Housing and Community Development requested. Wong said the policy is being added to address the Housing and Community Development concern that many of the city's parcels are too small to accommodate affordable housing.

The program aims to "provide incentives to provide larger lots for affordable-housing developments," Wong said. Another new program says the city will consider creating a Pedestrian and Transit-Oriented Development overlay for University Avenue and California Avenue, which would promote "higher density multi-family housing development in the area." Another new policy would assess the potential of removing maximum residential density (a limit on the number of dwelling units per acres) in mixed-use zones, which would also encourage smaller units.

In providing sites for new housing, the document targets commercial sites and steers clear of single-family residential neighborhoods (what's known as R-1 zones). For some critics, the new Housing Element's policies don't go nearly far enough in promoting affordable housing. Public Interest Law Firm, which represents residents of the Buena Vista Mobile Home Park, argued in a letter to the Housing and Community Development that Palo Alto's new housing vision doesn't sufficiently address the plight of Buena Vista, which is subject to closure. Palo Alto should include in the document "additional affirmative steps that the city will take to prevent the Park's closure." This could include engaging a nonprofit developer to preserve the park or using city funds for this purpose.

"By failing to take meaningful action to preserve Buena Vista Mobile Home Park, the city has neither performed the programs nor achieved the goals set out in its 2007-14 Housing Element, and the draft Housing Element for the upcoming planning period must acknowledge that failure."

Another law firm, Sacramento-based Public Advocates, Inc., criticized the city for relying too much on commercial sites for new housing. Citing Palo Alto's "extremely high land costs," the firm argued that the city "has absolutely no track record of affordable housing on sites under one-half acre." Its letter points out that most sites in the city's Housing Inventory currently have non-residential uses and that the city hasn't done enough to assess the "realistic development capacity" of these commercial sites.

In listing the sites, the city merely multiplied their acreage by the maximum allowed density allowed in the zoning code. In some cases, however, maximum density may not be achievable, Public Advocates argued.

"There has been no accounting for other zoning or development constraints that are likely to lower the realistic capacity below this theoretical maximum," the firm's staff attorney Sam Tepperman-Gelfant wrote in the letter.

The planning commission also had some mixed feelings about the new document. Though commissioners lauded staff for its significant progress on it, some expressed reservations about particular policies. Vice Chair Arthur Keller said he was skeptical about transit-oriented policies in Palo Alto (which encourage construction of housing near transit centers), noting that more workers who live in Palo Alto bike to work than take all forms of public transit combined. Commissioner Michael Alcheck, meanwhile, suggested that the document isn't aggressive enough in encouraging housing development.

"As proud of the work product as I am, I feel like the climate in Palo Alto is not supportive of making room for affordable housing," Alcheck said.

Chair Mark Michael also suggested that the city be more assertive about encouraging affordable housing, even if it means relaxing the rigid zoning restrictions in R-1 neighborhoods. Saying that these zones are "sacrosanct" is "a knife in the heart of affordable housing," Michael said.

Comments

2 people like this
Posted by Wondering?
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 11, 2014 at 11:22 am

> Another law firm, Sacramento-based Public Advocates, Inc., criticized the
> city for relying too much on commercial sites for new housing.

And exactly what is the standing, interest, or expertise of this Sacramento-based buch of lawyers that seem to have no understanding of our town, or any interest in preserving it as the residents, and property owners do?


3 people like this
Posted by senor blogger
a resident of Palo Verde
on Sep 11, 2014 at 11:57 am

mark michael:
You better get ready for a knife fight.


6 people like this
Posted by Crocodiles
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 11, 2014 at 12:07 pm

What utter rubbish. How did we get manipulated into equating high density with affordable housing, even as that very conflation is costing us our existing affordable housing? We aren't doing anything to save existing affordable housing, i.e., BV, while we are led around by the nose by PAHC's funding rules that make them chase large projects, enabled by the same conditions like higher density building that make pushing out the residents of BV so attractive.

The PAHC focus is on building a certain type of housing because of their funding rules, and therefore, housing advocates slavishly lap it up and carry water for the high density mongers even as they themselves are making it more likely residents of BV will be pushed out. If they were anyone else, we'd be looking where the developer payola might be coming from.

If we want affordable housing for low-income workers, the inconvenient fact is that we have it in our midst already and all the rules encouraging the building of large developments works against it. So-called advocates chase the buildings over the actual low-income people already with us, and are unwilling to face realities.


3 people like this
Posted by resident 1
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Sep 11, 2014 at 12:19 pm

I would like to know what our surrounding cities are doing regarding these requirements. Are we being stuck with requirements in excess of what other cities of our size are stuck with? We keep looking at ourselves with blinders on and isolating our responses from what the norm is on the peninsula. We have built out El Camino - do we get credit for that? We keep building multiple housing units but we do not get credit for it - how about Los Altos? Same requirements? From where I am sitting we have exceeded our requirements. Someone prove we have not.


3 people like this
Posted by Mark Weiss
a resident of Downtown North
on Sep 11, 2014 at 12:42 pm

[Portion removed.]

Didn't catch Commissioner Alcheck's analogy about the rolled oats lobby relative to the billion dollar building industry here putting tremendous pressure on leadership to build build build. I'd trade rolled oats to dollars to doughnuts that my opinion means dick or in this case big bagel to the powers that be.

I get paid but not as much as the $1.7 million people in Berkeley who are magically helping the ouija board we call the comp plan, or Laura Stetson the consultant to last night's shin-dig, probably rakes in $1,000 an hour, from Pasadena.

Or, as Randy Newman says, via joe cocker or jacob jeffries: leave your hat on.


--mark weiss reporting from cogswell plaza nooner, forgetting which hat i am wearing today of my several


2 people like this
Posted by resident 1
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Sep 11, 2014 at 12:52 pm

There is another stream about people receiving solicitations in the mail to buy their homes. I have received a number of those.
Is there a move here for someone to buy single family homes - small lots - so they can be combined with other lots to build condos? That whole operation could be in process now in an under the table fashion - the letter says you don't need to fix up your house - because it will be torn down?
I had a conversation with the city's arborist this morning - the trees on Louis from Embarcadero going south are well maintained with no suckers visible. As you move south towards Charleston the trees are now looking untidy with suckers sticking out all over. The level of maintenance declines. He says people have to call up to get their street trees cleaned up - everyone jump on that - do we have so many new home owners that they don't know they have to call? Do they think that someone will just appear to get the trees tidy for fall and winter?
Yes - that is important - how the city maintains itself is a clue. Follow the bread crumbs - where are they going? I see a pattern here.


3 people like this
Posted by curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on Sep 11, 2014 at 1:07 pm

"Mark Michael also suggested that the city be more assertive about encouraging affordable housing, even if it means relaxing the rigid zoning restrictions in R-1 neighborhoods. Saying that these zones are "sacrosanct" is "a knife in the heart of affordable housing," "

Certain cutting remarks not withstanding, Mark M has it right. My tree-lined, walkable, very pleasant neighborhood has many single-family homes living cheek-by-jowl with many multi-family units. That, not the "affordable-housing" advocates' vision of Cabrini-Green style mass housing projects in designated sacrifice zones, should be Palo Alto's future.

I realize that the prospect of living with the outcome of their rhetoric may dampen the enthusiasm of many of our affordable housing promoters. Tough.



5 people like this
Posted by Alan
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Sep 11, 2014 at 4:22 pm

My housing plan is simple. STOP building more.

We don't need x% more housing because the amount of land here is fixed. Stop with this craziness already.


2 people like this
Posted by resident 1
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Sep 11, 2014 at 4:28 pm

I have to hand it to the people that invest time and energy in these commission endeavors. They obviously have put in the time and effort to understand what is required here. However - I did watch this on TV and there was a lot of talk - to just talk with no specific point being made. Mark M is one person with one set of opinions - but we are not going to go to the bank on any one person's set of opinions. And if any one is going to challenge the zoning requirements then they will have a much larger discussion on their hands.

There needs to be a number cruncher out there who can state how many housing units have been added in the last five years versus the requirement - we have exceeded it. The amount exceeded reduces what ever conclusion someone came up with for the future requirements.

We also need to understand what the requirements are for the surrounding cites which have little large business - like Los Altos and Los Altos Hills. Those people are driving somewhere to go to work. No - they do not get off the requirement using poorly calculated statistics applied to us.

Next is Stanford - they want to operate as their own city for the purpose of making decisions so be it - they got it. Do not absorb the housing requirements for their extensive manpower requirements which include a LOT of minimum wage workers, especially in their food service and hospital services.
Get the blinders off here - people - the state included - pop out with numbers but no in-depth, logical basis for the numbers.


6 people like this
Posted by College Terrace Mom
a resident of College Terrace
on Sep 12, 2014 at 11:51 am

Stop the high density push. Traffic and parking are a mess in PA and our quality of life is suffering!


2 people like this
Posted by resident 1
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Sep 12, 2014 at 12:49 pm

Note that the city of Saratoga has a movement called Restore Saratoga. The purpose is to ensure that resident's issues are given priority over pressures for high density development, regionalization and urbanization. They have three council members running on that platform dedicated to protecting those qualities that make Saratoga a beautiful and unique community.

Many surrounding cities to PA are working to maintain the unique qualities of their cities, Menlo Park being closer to us. Menlo Park is consciously controlling the amount of commercial space so they are not caught up in the ABAG quarrels.

We are not alone in this battle - everyone is of a same mind in this topic. We can learn from each other rather than get divided up.


5 people like this
Posted by Craig Laughton
a resident of College Terrace
on Sep 12, 2014 at 2:26 pm

This entire plan is based on state mandates for subsidized housing (they call it "affordable housing", but it is just the opposite). Worse than that, too many Palo Alto limo libs can hardly wait to support the concept, as long as their neighborhoods are not being targeted.

We PA citizens should just reject the entire concept, then lead the fight against it. Other towns and cities in CA will join us...IF WE LEAD.


3 people like this
Posted by Jerry
a resident of South of Midtown
on Sep 12, 2014 at 5:29 pm

"We PA citizens should just reject the entire concept, then lead the fight against it. Other towns and cities in CA will join us...IF WE LEAD."

Yes! Which city council candidates are advocating this? Name them, and I will vote for them!


5 people like this
Posted by Barron Park resident
a resident of Barron Park
on Sep 12, 2014 at 10:40 pm

Why this piece meal approach to squeezing in high density housing in existing cities?

Think bigger! Just fill in the bay South of the Dumbarton bridge. Build high density, high rise, tenenment style housing for one or two million people. Build schools, office buildings and shopping centers there as well. A self contained, new city. Give it a prestigious name, like New Stanford. It will fill up within 6 months.

Should keep the developers, real estate agents, and city planners happy for awhile.


2 people like this
Posted by resident 1
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Sep 13, 2014 at 9:31 am

Barron Park resident = Cargill has already thought up your idea - it is in Redwood City on the Salt flats - Seaport Blvd. One catch here is it is across the street from the SIMS company which creates hazardous waste, has fires which are toxic, and it being investigated by the EPA. But that should not slow anyone down.


2 people like this
Posted by resident 1
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Sep 13, 2014 at 9:42 am

Here is another thought - people are getting letters from people to by-pass the MLR to buy their homes - another stream on that topic. So how many people on your street are renting or leasing their homes? Suddenly there is a difference in how the house looks and is maintained vs the home owner who has a bigger investment in the house.

If multiple properties are owned by the same group of investors then the door is open for multiple living buildings - condos or apartments. Who is renting or leasing is not obvious but the legal set-up is moving into place.

Push for street tree attention and maintain the properties up to code so that we are not sliding backwards. If people are leasing properties than make sure that the real owner is put on the spot.


1 person likes this
Posted by resident 1
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Sep 14, 2014 at 1:08 pm

Great article in the SJM Real Estate Section today - " How Important is Home Maintenance". I am focusing now on areas of the city in which the personal owned shrubs are overhanging onto the sidewalk; personal trees are drooping lower than 14' so utility trucks are avoiding that part of the street - including the street sweeper; out of control trees which are on personal property and pushing against the joint fences. I think in part that homes that are leased or rented tend to be more lax in this.
Time for the area homeowner's groups to push to get their neighborhoods shaped up based on city code.

The city trees tend to be subjected to deferred maintenance if the individual home owners do not call to get the dead portions removed and the sucker branches removed - the tree is a tree - not a bush. Call them so that you are recognized and on the list for maintenance.

No one wants their neighborhood to be viewed as a potential tear down for condos and apartments. I think those letters everyone is receiving from Jason and Maria and the other person are really about amassing co-joining lots. Check out your neighborhood - how many are rentals? How many are leases? Push to get those properties shaped up if falling behind on maintenance based on city codes. Recognize which properties are vulnerable.


4 people like this
Posted by Kate Vershov Downing
a resident of Ventura
on Sep 16, 2014 at 12:23 pm

I don't understand what's wrong with having apartments and condos built. I live in a house in Ventura and there are quite a few near Cal Ave and dotting Park Ave. I used to live in one on University Ave. They look fine to me. I have no issue with them. I certainly wouldn't mind living next door to one. They're all filled with highly educated, polite people. So what's the issue?

Palo Alto has the housing allotment that it does because it has a large number of jobs. While Palo Alto has 9% of the county's jobs, it has only 3% of the county's housing. So all the claims about how other places are treated different are off the mark. We are in fact being asked to build only a small share of what would otherwise be expected for an area with so many jobs. Atherton doesn't have much in the way of business. Hardly anyone works there. That's why they're not being asked to build as much housing as we are. But, also, fewer people want to live there because it means committing to a longer work commute.

If you really care about traffic and parking in the city, you can't keep supporting no housing because it's the lack of housing here that means that more people drive to work rather than bike or walk and take up more parking spaces near work and when they go out to lunch, shop after work, etc. To get out of the current problem, you need to balance housing and jobs and I don't think the answer is to shut down companies which offer people a living- so that leaves you with housing.


1 person likes this
Posted by palo alto resident
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Sep 16, 2014 at 12:58 pm

@Kate - I'm also totally fine with apartments and condos having lived in both. But I totally disagree that people don't want to live in Atherton because its "a longer commute". People don't live in Atherton because it is too expensive for the great majority of the housing. I also don't agree that the jobs/housing ratio should be done by City, I think it should be regional. If you factor in commute time - it is much faster to get to Standford or most of the many office parks east of El Camino from Portola Valley, Los Altos and Los Altos Hills. It is faster to get to downtown Palo Alto from Atherton than it is from the southern parts of Palo Alto.

The towns surrounding Palo Alto (Atherton, Los Altos Hills, Portola Valley, Los Altos), which both benefit from our jobs and house many of the area top executives should provide more of the housing. And housing allocations shouldn't be by county, again they should be regional.


1 person likes this
Posted by Kate Vershov Downing
a resident of Ventura
on Sep 16, 2014 at 2:02 pm

@palo alto resident

I appreciate your thoughtful response. I think that those allocations are regional - they come from ABAG which looks specifically at our region to allocate housing. That regional-ness is actually the reason why Palo Alto isn't being asked to keep up housing with job growth. We build much fewer houses than we add jobs. Did you know that during the day, Palo Alto's population increases by 93%? So it nearly doubles. That's more than NYC (7%)! We're not being asked to build housing for another 64,000 people (that's our town's population at night), we're talking about housing units in the ~2000 range per this article. It's a drop in the bucket.

I agree that people also don't live in Atherton because it's expensive. Sure, there are many reasons. But, a lot of people who could afford Atherton still choose to live in PA because it means a shorter commute and for many of us being able to bike or walk to work is a blessing we'd pay through the nose for. That's certainly the case for me.

Think about your bird's eye view as someone who is responsible for an entire state or region. You know that your state is going to have growth because people keep having babies. So your job is to figure out where to house these future generations. If you think objectively about how you'd allocate housing if you were planner, I think it's hard to deny that it makes sense to put housing next to jobs. It really does limit people's commute time, increase the number of people who bike and walk, and cuts down on parking demand. No one commuting from Los Altos to PA is walking. We know that 100% but a resident of PA who works in PA might.

Adding more housing to areas that are further away and don't have much public transportation to get to Palo Alto means that you need to deal with more cars driving into Palo Alto, more car pollution, more traffic, less parking. So while I sympathize with Palo Altans that they see change and don't like it, at the same time if we extrapolate that attitude, you end up in a world with more of what people dislike and not less. And that's especially so when EVERY community says the same thing and tries to push housing onto neighboring communities while still creating more jobs. I assure you that all those other communities ALSO put up a fight against housing. So where are people supposed to live if every community acts the way Palo Alto does? On what basis do we say that PA shouldn't have to have more housing but Los Altos should? I'm sure Los Altos thinks the very opposite.

People talk a lot about quality of life here, but few talk about the people who need to commute long distances to their jobs and the countless hours of their lives that are wasted away sitting in traffic. Hours that that person could have spent with their children, exercising, working, or volunteering in the community. This person could have been doing those activities and contributing to other people's quality of life too, but can't. Those people spend more on childcare to cover those commute hours (multiply out $20 an hour for two hours per day for the year, that's almost $10,000 in after-tax income) and they waste more vacation days on things like plumber visits or picking up a sick kid from school than the rest of us. Studies show that a long commute is the number one factor in people's happiness Web Link.

When you're a CA legislature trying to figure out housing in your state, you have to look at everyone's needs and not just those of one community. You can't just favor one community above all the others.


4 people like this
Posted by resident 1
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Sep 16, 2014 at 4:52 pm

PA is not a big city. It may appear big if you assume some entitlement to SU - but SU is a separate city. It has it's own zip code. It is privately owned property. So what you have left is houses that are already built and apartments / condos that are already built. We are built out border to border.

In order to increase housing then you have to tear out a number of single family homes to build an apartment / condo.

OR - you can tear down the older one story apartments - like those on ALMA - and build multi-story buildings - and you would still be in the correct designation for the type housing. However the low income people would be pushed out because new multi-story apartments / condos are not cheap.

Kate could end up with a multi-story building next to her house. OR - she could end up with a low income housing unit next to her house. Hey - that may be okay with Kate - but most people when the buy a house plan on living there a while with kids in school and new friends on the block. They do not plan on having half the block torn out for multi-level apartments with the change in traffic and noise. Most people see their homes as an investment.

We all get it Kate and we know what we paid for and what we want. Okay?
Kate is in a house - is it a rental? lease? Homeowner? BIG Difference between all of the above in what you have bought into. Assume that everyone knows what they bought into and what they will fight for.


7 people like this
Posted by Ahem
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 16, 2014 at 6:03 pm

Kate,

If it is true that during the day, Palo Alto's population increases by 93%, it begs the question, why don't all of these businesses employ more Palo Altans? Or, why don't they move to where there labor force is?

The businesses locating in Palo Alto want to have the prestigious Palo Alto address, but don't want to pay Palo Alto wages, so they import cheap labor from the surrounding areas. Building more housing won't change this calculation, and new development displaces small business that employ Palo Altans out of loyalty despite the cost, and replaces them with faceless HR departments that don't care where their employees live.


2 people like this
Posted by resident 1
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Sep 16, 2014 at 6:26 pm

I just realized that Kate is a resident of Ventura - a beautiful city on the ocean referred to as the Gold Coast. I know Ventura - very wealthy area. So why are you lecturing people in Palo Alto? I think Ventura has some of the same problems to deal with.


1 person likes this
Posted by palo alto resident
a resident of Crescent Park
on Sep 16, 2014 at 6:58 pm

@Kate - I'm actually not arguing against Palo Alto building additional housing and I don't think we need to fight the ABAG on our allocations. What I would like is the "bedroom communities" where many of the executive of Palo Alto companies already reside, to shoulder a larger share of more housing, affordable and otherwise.

I would actually like Palo Alto to allow a lot more accessory/in law housing to be built without huge permit fees and existing, "not quite legal" cottages to be brought up to code and be part of our housing stock. I would also love it if University Ave took a page from Boston's Newbury Street, first floor retail, second floor office and/or housing, third floor housing. I think that makes for a vibrant downtown. Also, there are many places downtown where in fill housing has replaced a single family home with a duplex. Well done, those add housing without negatively impacting a neighborhood.

I would like towns such as Portola Valley and Atherton - who absolutely benefit from jobs in Palo Alto and Mountain View (as examples) to should a larger burden of housing. If the CEO of a company or the Venture Capitalist that funded a company reside in a town, the town has some responsibility to the employees of those companies too.


Like this comment
Posted by Marlen
a resident of Meadow Park
on Sep 16, 2014 at 8:16 pm

To sum up resident 1's reasoning: "I don't want new housing built next to me, so build it next to someone else"


1 person likes this
Posted by resident 1
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Sep 16, 2014 at 8:45 pm

Marlen - looking at where you live then you know that East Meadow Circle has been converted into Apartments and condominiums. I live very near there.
Louis Road now has more traffic than it can handle. How about all of the new apartments on Fabien? That is my neighborhood. From where I am sitting many older homes are being replaced by new homes. That qualifies as new housing. The bigger issue is all of the new apartments on El Camino that we are not getting credit for. The ABAG are blind to the extensive building that has gone on. We do not lack in new housing by any stretch of the imagination.
New housing can occur in areas that are already zoned for multiple dwellings. There are many areas of the city in which the existing apartments are no longer up to current code - they look like they are going to fall down. You do not have to take out houses - you can replace old apartments with new apartments that are up to code.


Like this comment
Posted by Marlen
a resident of Meadow Park
on Sep 16, 2014 at 10:03 pm

>New housing can occur in areas that are already zoned for multiple dwellings.

Isn't that exactly the point I made? You want it next to someone else rather than next to you?


1 person likes this
Posted by stephen levy
a resident of University South
on Sep 16, 2014 at 10:28 pm

stephen levy is a registered user.

@ resident 1

Kate in Palo Alto. I was at her house tonight. Ventura is the neighborhood designation, not the city where she lives.k


4 people like this
Posted by Ahem
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 16, 2014 at 10:48 pm

The problem is, we have billionaire business-qwners who want to live in Woodside, want to locate their company in Palo Alto, and want their workforce to live in Morgan Hill, or Livermore. These guys don't care where their workforce lives. All they care about is how much they have to pay them. A tract-home in Livermore, or a dorm-room in Palo Alto makes no difference to them.

Let's think outside the box... why don't these billionaire business-owners build dorm rooms on their Woodside estates, and then drive their delusional workforce of staziware developers to work every morning on a shuttle bus?


1 person likes this
Posted by resident 1
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Sep 17, 2014 at 5:57 am

I was talking to a younger IT consultant - he mentioned that Google / other tech companies will hire young consultants but can only use them for 1 year - and then must make a decision to hire them and provide all of the health benefits. They typically do not hire them. The offset is that the individual can then use that work experience on their resume. So tech companies are churning through large groups of people which then have to move on to other jobs at the end of a year.

So the theory that you are providing housing for all of the young tech workers as the pivot point is missing the point - they have to have a full time job which provides the health/other benefits to remain in the area.

This IT consultant has to focus on many start-up companies that are moving to the east bay to make this all work for them - that is the housing and a full time job with health benefits and some type 401K job. Many major companies are putting work sites in these areas where the younger people can live. The State of California is moving many of its state offices to the locations in Vacaville, Rancho Cordova, etc where they can have full time jobs with benefits.

The other element here is that companies are moving to outlying areas into newer buildings that are up to code. You cannot put people in buildings that are not up to earthquake code in the current environment - especially if you are a government agency. Moffat Park is being torn down and rebuilt as the buildings there were very old.

Bringing you back to PA you have very old apartment buildings which will not survive the HSR experience on Alma and the surrounding area. Those buildings need to be targeted for replacement with multi-story buildings which are up to current code. The crunch is that those buildings are so old that the tax assessment value must be extremely low - vs tearing down and replacing with a new multi-story building.

This is some type of slum lord activity like you have in East PA - all of those apartments are owned by relatively few companies. Who owns the older buildings is the next qualifier as to the politics in this housing topic.


1 person likes this
Posted by common sense
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 17, 2014 at 6:56 am

Kate - there are a couple of factual errors you are operating on:

1) No one knows how many jobs are in Palo Alto. The City Council passed a business registry law to find that out. For you to say the population swells by 93% is spouting a figure without data. If you have the data, then the City Council passed a useless law.

2)Comparing New York City to Palo Alto doesn't make much sense - totally different population sizes, land mass sizes. And just commuting within New York City (for example from Queens to Manhattan) can take an hour. Palo Alto is getting there (it can take 25-30 minutes to travel from one end of Palo Alto to the other end).

3) There aren't a lot of people in Palo Alto who can afford Atherton. Median home price in Palo Alto for a single family home is around $2 million. The median home price in Atherton is around $4 million. The majority of homes in Atherton are on lots of 1 acre (43,560 square feet). The majority of homes in Palo Alto are on lots of 6,000 square feet (although if the current city council has it's way, they would reduce the lot size for some neighborhoods). That's much of the reason why Atherton is more expensive than Palo Alto - in order to buy a home in Atherton, you have buy around an acre of land + house. In most of Atherton (except by the train tracks), you can't buy anything smaller.

A higher percentage of Atherton's population commutes to work out of their city than Palo Alto. (Atherton does not have commercial buildings). If the goal is to reduce commuting, then it makes sense to locate jobs where the housing is - in this case places like Atherton, Stockton, Modesto, Fresno, etc. not the other way around.

4) You state that the population is growing because of babies. Where are the schools, parks, and other infrastructure to support that growth? Supporting a larger population is more than just building another apartment. It doesn't make sense to keep putting jobs in two congested areas of the state (Silicon Valley & Los Angeles) where the infrastructure is maxed out, while the rest of the is languishing with high unemployment rates.



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Posted by Kate Vershov Downing
a resident of Ventura
on Sep 18, 2014 at 11:05 am

Our infrastructure isn't maxed out when much of Palo Alto is one story and we have schools that are sitting empty and could be put to use. Building housing in the middle of nowhere doesn't make jobs magically appear there. We learned this lesson in the 90s during the boom of the exurbs. Jobs don't get created in Palo Alto because of millionaires in Woodside. Jobs get created here because many company founders were Stanford students, because the VCs are here and like to visit their investments often, and because large silicon chip makers here meant that there was already a large tech workforce here. All of those resources are why companies start here and not in the middle of nowhere. So no, you need to put housing where jobs are and not the reverse. If companies found it profitable/possible to set up shop in Gilroy or Atherton, then they would. But why, as an employer, would you locate somewhere where few people live and where public transportation is lacking? You won't attract the workforce you need that way.

the 93% number comes from the US census and Silicon Valley Business Journal puts that number at even higher today. The argument is moot because if you admit there's traffic then you're admitting that lots of people are driving into Palo Alto anyway.


3 people like this
Posted by resident 1
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Sep 18, 2014 at 12:26 pm

I don't get the first sentence of Kate's dissertation. Have you been driving around PA? Many single family homes are being torn down and replaced with new single family homes - many 2 stories. Many are 2-story to begin with. And which schools are empty?
There is a basic financial principles here:
1.People who buy homes have to qualify for a mortgage. If not PA then wherever that is - people want to but a home - that is their choice.
2. Every time a home is sold the tax assessed value increases to the sale price which benefits the schools, county, and state. We are in a high turnover path now because many people are retired and moving on. So a low tax assessed value home turns into a high tax assessed value home.
3. If people move into a rental or lease that means that a CORPORATION owns the land and if they sit on it then the tax assessed value remains in a stagnant value while the corporation can keep increasing the price of the rental or lease - look at what is happening in East PA in which few companies own all of the apartments. There are a number of threads concerning the problems in East PA. It is the slum lord philosophy at work.
4. The young people are moving into the rentals / leases while they are in the area - then moving on when they want to settle down and raise a family. At that point they will buy a house for which they can qualify for a mortgage - wherever that may be.
5. The people on the buses are shopping the high tech firms so being in SF benefits them - they are not trapped into a commitment in an area where their job dries up.
6. Atherton is not zoned for commercial so why bring it up? Either is Woodside, Los Altos Hills.
7. The biggest growth in both multi-housing units and technology centers in North San Jose, Mountain view and Sunnyvale. Moffat Park is being torn down and rebuilt. Mr. Arrillaga is moving the 101 card club out and building a technology center on First Street next to 101.
It looks to me like everything is in a very good position as to housing now - we have a good balance - and increase in technology centers within short commute.


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Posted by Kate Vershov Downing
a resident of Ventura
on Sep 18, 2014 at 12:26 pm

@palo alto resident- I think we're in agreement on a lot of things, including granny units, duplexes, apartments, mixed use buildings. I think that that's a solid foundation to work from.

However, I still can't agree with the idea of purposefully sticking more housing further away from existing jobs BEFORE we attempt the granny units, duplexes, etc that both us agree on. We are NOT all built out. Hong Kong gets to say it's all built out, we don't. There are tons of lots on El Camino and on Page Mill that sit completely empty - 4 that abut my house. And there are a lot of buildings that are one floor and could be two or three. There are parking lots that could just as easily be parking garages. On my own street, they recently tore down two one story structures and replaced them with two one story structures- they're offices. I would have preferred it have two floors so there might be useful retail on bottom or even three to add housing on top. Even much of University and Cal Ave is only one floor- take a stroll and see for yourself. So that's not "built out" that's "underutilized."

So no, I'm not going to condemn people to commuting from all over the Bay Area when there are still a lot of opportunities for growth in Palo Alto that doesn't change Palo Alto's character. Every person who commutes in is another car causing traffic and taking up a parking lot and polluting all the way here and back. The more distance you put between jobs and housing, the more you degrade the quality of life in Palo Alto.


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Posted by resident
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 18, 2014 at 12:39 pm

Kate,

You state 'Our infrastructure isn't maxed out when much of Palo Alto is one story and we have schools that are sitting empty and could be put to use.' Infrastructure includes roads, water, etc. Most everyone would agree that traffic is bad, and the roads need alot of repairs so that infracture piece is pretty maxed out. And we have water rationing - that is maxed out otherwise we wouldn't be rationing water.

You say 'But why, as an employer, would you locate somewhere where few people live and where public transportation is lacking?' Looking at the list from a previous poster (Stockton, Fresno, Modesto), it's quite parochial to consider Stockton (population 291,000, 13th largest city in California), Modesto (population 200,000), Fresno (population 509,000, 5th largest city in California) the "middle of nowhere". All these cities have public transportation. UC Merced is in driving distance to Modesto,

Last I checked, VCs invest in companies located in Mountain View, Sunnyvale, Cupertino, San Jose, etc. The vast majority of VC funded companies are located outside of Palo Alto.

Are you saying the city council is lying when they stated that they needed to pass the business registry law to find out how many people are working in Palo Alto? Please provide a link to the US Census page where it states the number of people working in Palo Alto, or we can treat this the same as your statement of Fresno being "nowhere", and "where few people live"


4 people like this
Posted by Ahem
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 18, 2014 at 1:08 pm

Kate,

No, actually we DO get to say we are all built out.


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Posted by stephen levy
a resident of University South
on Sep 18, 2014 at 1:22 pm

stephen levy is a registered user.

@ahem

Actually the law is very clear. A city does NOT get to reduce the housing allocation because it' is allegedly built out.

One, existing building is slready taken into account in the planning allocation.

Two, built out is not the same as built up.

You may not like the rules but cities are building up a bit more (higher) as nearly everything being built on the peninsula now is multi story.

That is why the more productive discussion as Kate says is to find great ways for new housing to work in PA.


4 people like this
Posted by Silly
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Sep 18, 2014 at 1:41 pm

You don't see huge density increases in Woodside, Portola Valley or Los Altos Hills because they're pretty strictly residential with few places of employment.

Why should we have to bear the brunt of what's clearly a regional problem.

The City keeps approving under-parked buildings. Traffic here is up more than 25% in the last year. The streets are gridlocked.

I'd like to see some numbers on the increase in traffic accidents in the last few years. We've all seen frustrated drivers forming their own lanes and hear the sirens daily. How about some hard numbers?


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Posted by Kate Vershov Downing
a resident of Ventura
on Sep 18, 2014 at 2:19 pm

The city didn't say it had no numbers. It said it wanted better numbers. Check out the City's own com plan update page: Web Link

says right there: Palo Alto has a ratio of approximately 3.04 jobs for every employed resident, compared to 1.05 jobs for every employed resident in the county as a whole. The city is telling you there's an even bigger imbalance than the number I cited, which makes sense since it's not 4 years old at this point.

Infrastructure like roads, different water management systems (by the way, personal water use is only about 7% of the water use in CA - the vast majority goes to agriculture- and in any case, water's an issue in the whole state not just PA), more schools, can be upgraded and added and new developments can be required to fund that. The fact that that stuff needs to be fixed and improved, doesn't mean that our infrastructure is "maxed out" - it means there's not enough of it. We know for a fact that it's very possible to create infrastructure to support greater density than we currently have. We know that because there are entire cities with millions of people in them that all manage to provide that infrastructure.

Other cities don't have the density of people with higher education and in particular with engineering degrees that we do. If we did, then businesses WOULD start there because it would be a lot cheaper to rent offices there and the wage is lower because the cost of living is lower. You keep making these assumptions like businesses aren't rational actors, trying to make as much profit as they can. If it were more profitable to start companies in Stockton than in PA, they would - in fact, they'd go further and start them in China! I've said it before, but I guess I need to keep saying it - if you're starting a company, you want to put it in a place where a lot of people have the skills you need, where there's public transportation, where there's investors. Many many companies in the valley sprung from projects by Stanford students, including VMware, Theramos, Google and many others. That's WHY they started here- because people started those companies in their garage while going to school at Stanford. Companies start where there is fertile ground to do so. You can no more will a tech company to bloom in Stockton than you can will the desert to grow tomatoes.

Actually, a lot of VC-funded companies started in Palo Alto before they outgrew PA and moved out. A large plurality of VCs are right here on Sand Hill Road. They definitely aren't in Modesto or Stockton, which is one reason it's much harder to start a company in Modesto or Stockton.

We're LUCKY that we have the fertile ground for the creation of jobs and companies here. Most of the country has had to deal with companies not just moving to other cities, but moving to whole other countries, taking all the jobs and GDP with them. If you hack away at the things that make this place a fertile ground for starting companies (like room for their employees to live without having several hour commutes), you too will feel the pain many other parts of the country feel from having lost the businesses they once had.

New companies are not some curse, it's the reason why all of us live here, the reason all of us have made a living here, and the very reason why this area is so desirable in the first place. Lots of California is pretty with nice weather, not all of California has the jobs that brought all of us here in the first place. We're lucky that while the rest of the country's young college grads face an unemployment rate of 50%, we actually have more job openings than people able to fill them! We're lucky that our kids and grandkids don't have to move across the country just to get a job. We're lucky we're not Detroit and there's no funding coming in to our city from anywhere - that's what no job growth looks like. You're actually contemplating shoving those job opportunities elsewhere, which is not only impossible because fertile ground (or, jobs infrastructure) doesn't exist for that elsewhere, but would actually be damaging to us in the long term. Think of all the rust belt cities that don't have jobs anymore- places that used to build cars, that had huge factories for electronics, etc. Now they're barely getting by, just shells of their former selves and all of the people who aren't tied to the homes they own have left to seek jobs elsewhere.

If our population keeps growing, jobs have to grow, too.


4 people like this
Posted by Bill
a resident of Barron Park
on Sep 18, 2014 at 3:00 pm

The "jobs to housing ratio" is a phony number being pushed as an excuse for overdevelopment in Palo Alto. It's similar to the argument that politicians in Washington make about "our national credit card" when they want to cut programs to the poor that they don't like.

But, okay Steve and Kate, tell us: What should the ratio be for Palo Alto? If it's a fixed value, what is a value you would like to see? If it's variable, what parameters would you use so we can evaluate the ratio now and in the future?


3 people like this
Posted by resident
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 18, 2014 at 3:14 pm

Kate,

The city council members who proposed the business registry stated their reason as:

"In a memo, council members Karen Holman, Larry Klein, Marc Berman and Pat Burt, urge that the city create a business registry as soon as possible. The registry, they say, is needed to "answer such basic questions as how many people work in Palo Alto and for what types of businesses."

It didn't say they wanted "better numbers" as you post.

I did notice you did not provide a web link to the U.S Census web page which shows how many people work in Palo Alto; you stated before that the U.S. Census has that data.

Please talk to Planning & Transportation Commissioner Arthur Keller. He did a study, which found that the impact fees paid by new developments do not even come close to paying for the additional classrooms needed by schools.

Enhancing infrastructure to support additional growth requires money. Developers don't pay that, and the city council & city staff has been quite supportive of them not paying that money. That's why there is an issue with parking downtown.

You say alot of people want to walk or bike to work. You also state that many companies have outgrown Palo Alto and moved out. I don't see people from Google, Facebook, et al selling their houses to move to Mountain View or Menlo Park. There are other reasons why people live in Palo Alto, even after their companies move to other cities, even after they change employment to work for companies in other cities.

Your opinion of Stockton, Fresno, Modesto, and other cities is not grounded in facts, and it's not nice to belittle places where other people live.


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Posted by Kate Vershov Downing
a resident of Ventura
on Sep 18, 2014 at 3:46 pm

I mean, if you want to call the City Council and the federal government a liar and argue that they're both in a conspiracy for whatever reason to overdevelop Palo Alto (and apparently only Palo Alto? they have it out for us??) I'll leave you to that.

Here's from the 2010 census, cities of 50k or more on page 14: Web Link

Is the Palo Alto Police Department also a liar in conspiracy to create more development? They say the population increases to 125,000 people during the day - we only have 64,000 or so residents. Web Link

If you don't like statistics, I'm happy to give you anecdotes as well. I work at VMware and we have about 3850 employees in PA. I don't know everybody, but I've been here for 4 years and I'm one of two people I know who actually live in Palo Alto. A huge portion of our employees live in Sunnyvale- that's the #1 neighborhood for VMware.


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Posted by stephen levy
a resident of University South
on Sep 18, 2014 at 3:55 pm

stephen levy is a registered user.

Palo Alto had 89,690 jobs in 2010 and the numbers for jobs in 2010 are on the ABAG website in the documentation for Plan Bay Area. That does not include jobs on Stanford land in the unincorporated county area.

I would assume that the number is higher now as the 2010 estimate was at the bottom of the recession.

The registry is needed to get more detail and have a way to track trends over time. It will be useful information.

The state and ABAG have given all cities a minimum planning target for new housing in the next eight years. Choices about locations, types and additional housing will be made in the Comprehensive Plan update. The council has already pledged to examine shifting more housing growth to selected areas in the city near services and shopping.


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Posted by Kate Vershov Downing
a resident of Ventura
on Sep 18, 2014 at 4:24 pm

My opinion is very much grounded in fact. There is absolutely nothing belittling in stating that Palo Alto has a larger portion of citizens with college degrees than most other places. Look for yourself. Web Link

There's also nothing at all belittling in pointing out that VCs are concentrated here and not elsewhere. And there's nothing belittling about pointing out that we have an exceptionally large pool of engineers compared to anywhere else in California, and in most of the country.

These are indisputable facts.


3 people like this
Posted by Silly
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Sep 18, 2014 at 4:24 pm

I asked for the numbers on TRAFFIC accidents, not jobs. What's the trend? How is driver frustration manifesting itself in terms of accidents?

We see people forming their own traffic lanes after being backed up forever at lights. We've seen residents put out their own SLOW DOWN signs. We've seen bicyclists and drivers with ear buds ignore sirens and ambulances.

With traffic increasing 24% in the past year and slated to get worse, we need to know what the hard numbers on traffic trends are.


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Posted by stephen levy
a resident of University South
on Sep 18, 2014 at 4:57 pm

stephen levy is a registered user.

Kate made a very simple point about location.

Compsnies are free to locate in Fresno or Modesto if they wish.

They prefer to locate around here.

If there is any put downs going on here, it is the implication by posters that companies are acting irrationally in wanting to locate on the peninsula from SF to San Jose.

Perhaps posters calling for all sorts of data could do what Kate did and look for it on their own. Put some skin in the game.


3 people like this
Posted by Ahem
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 18, 2014 at 5:11 pm

Kate,

"Other cities don't have the density of people with higher education and in particular with engineering degrees that we do. If we did, then businesses WOULD start there because it would be a lot cheaper to rent offices there and the wage is lower because the cost of living is lower"

This makes no sense. While it is true that Palo Alto has a high density of people with higher education, very few of these people are actually accessible to new businesses, because they already have very good jobs in places like Cupertino, and are VERY well paid.

The real reason new companies are locating in Palo Alto is because the billionaires that own them want to live in Atherton, Woodside, or PV, but want to have a prestigious Palo Alto business address, and a short drive to "work" until they find an "exit".

They hire hoards of twenty-somethings because they are cheap, work long hours, and are naive enough to believe they are actually "Middle Earth warriors Battling Evil", instead of the assembly-line workers of the information age.

"Palantir Director: We're Middle Earth warriors Battling Evil"
Valleywag ~ June 10, 2013 Web Link


1 person likes this
Posted by common sense
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Sep 18, 2014 at 6:11 pm

I wrote "... A higher percentage of Atherton's population commutes to work out of their city than Palo Alto. (Atherton does not have commercial buildings). If the goal is to reduce commuting, then it makes sense to locate jobs where the housing is - in this case places like Atherton, Stockton, Modesto, Fresno, etc. not the other way around."

Vershov-Downing reponse "... All of those resources are why companies start here and not in the middle of nowhere..."

Resident response "...Looking at the list from a previous poster (Stockton, Fresno, Modesto), it's quite parochial to consider Stockton (population 291,000, 13th largest city in California), Modesto (population 200,000), Fresno (population 509,000, 5th largest city in California) the "middle of nowhere"."

Vershov-Downing & Steve Levy says calling the 5th & 13th largest cities in California "nowhere" as not being a put down.

Okay got it.


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Posted by stephen levy
a resident of University South
on Sep 18, 2014 at 6:17 pm

stephen levy is a registered user.

@ common sense

Don't know what you got except some intriguing reading skills.

Don't believe Kate and I are saying theses place are "nowhere" (can you find that word in my posts).

We are saying as I just did above that companies have the freedom to locate there and choose not to for reasons that Kate explained.

[Portion removed.]


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Posted by resident 1
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Sep 18, 2014 at 11:25 pm

[Portion removed.]
The VMWare employees live in Sunnyvale probably because they have had their homes for a long time and enjoy that city. That is where their children have gone to school and that is where their friends are. So what is the problem with that. Why do they have to live in PA? You can get a great house in Sunnyvale for less than you would pay in PA.
[Portion removed.]


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Posted by resident 1
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Sep 19, 2014 at 7:12 am

Concerns here:
[Portion removed.]

2. All kinds of cities are thrown out here - most are in the farm belt. The major technical job growth is in the east bay moving up to Sacramento - Emeryville, Concord, Rancho Cordova, etc. Great growth in those areas and reasonably priced homes. Many companies have annexes in that area - less earthquake concerns for high end computer equipment and work.
3. State of California HSR issue - on the voting scene an Indian casino in Madera - strange - that is where the state is taking land by eminent domain for HSR - is the casino going to end up as a trade here for additional money to CA to support HSR?
Just pointing out how contrived this all is - it will still come back to who owns the land you live on.


9 people like this
Posted by Bill
a resident of Barron Park
on Sep 19, 2014 at 9:02 am

Both Steve and Kate are part of the leadership of Palto Alto Forward, a group that's politically motivated towards over-development in Palo Alto. Although neither Steve nor Kate have admitted this in their frequent posts, they have been soliciting assistance for several weeks.

While Palo Alto Online is certainly welcome to give "new voices" to same tired old song of over-development in our City, it's disingenuous to pretend that this some kind of spontaneous effort aimed at reducing the fictional "jobs housing imbalance" and improving the quality of life in Palo Alto.

Here's a link to the "About Us" page that shows Steve Levy and Kate Vershov Downing as members of the Steering Committee of Palo Alto Forward: Web Link

Here's the email the group sent to VMware employees on Wednesday:

---

Dear colleagues,

As some of you may have already noticed, growth and housing are huge issues in Palo Alto. The City of Palo Alto is drafting the new Comprehensive Plan, which will determine how much housing is built in Palo Alto for the next 20-30 years. Decisions that are being made right now will have lasting consequences for where we’re able to live and how we get to work.

The current political mood in Palo Alto is against housing growth, and, without a change, the November elections are likely to make the City Council even more anti-growth. If that happens, the new housing element could dramatically restrict the amount of housing even below what is being built now.

As a result, I joined other folks who just started an exciting initiative, Palo Alto Forward. Our goal is to advocate for more housing and better transportation options in Palo Alto. We want to reduce traffic and congestion by letting downtown workers find apartments or condos near where they work, rather than by reducing housing growth and freezing office space.

It's already incredible, we just started in a living room with an handful of friends not even ten days ago, and today we are more than 200 subscribed users!!! We are very committed in becoming a major force for change in Palo Alto, but to do so we need to keep signing up many more new members from the tech community and elsewhere. You don’t have to live in Palo Alto to join – it’s enough that you work here.

Our approach is to have fun while helping to propose solutions and new approaches. We will have bi-monthly happy hours downtown to get to know each other and to keep each other informed about the big issues that are coming before City Council and the Comp Plan process. We will also send out alerts to let you know when you can do something that will make a difference in housing for Palo Alto, whether that’s speaking at a city council meeting or learning which candidates support housing and which don’t.

Our website is at Web Link, join us! Elections are just around the corner now and we need to make sure the City Council represents all of us!

Cheers,

Marcello


P.S. Feel free to reach out to me or Kate Vershov (kvershov@vmware.com) if you want more information about Palo Alto Forward.
P.P.S. No, this has nothing to do with my role. :)



5 people like this
Posted by Crocodiles
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 19, 2014 at 9:18 am

I'm still waiting to hear Kate enlighten us on which schools - didn't you say multiple? Are sitting empty in Palo Alto.

[Portion removed.]

Kate wrote: Our infrastructure isn't maxed out when much of Palo Alto is one story and we have schools that are sitting empty and could be put to use.'

Kate thinks we have schools, plural, just sitting empty. That is not a small gaffe in understanding this town. And that if you live in a single-story neighborhood, you do not have the right to expect zoning codes to protect your neighborhood but all those neighborhoods should be built up. [Portion removed.]


3 people like this
Posted by Crocodiles
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 19, 2014 at 9:43 am

Stephen Levy,
There is lots and lots and lots of housing along Alma and light rail, a fairly easy commute to Palo Alto, all the way down to Milpitas, where, it has been mentioned, there are giant apartment ghost towns with tons of open space between waiting for you to bring some semblance of the good life you espouse to those locations. i know, because I've done it within the last few years.

Had a nice new 3- bedroom apartment with full kitchen, in-unit laundry room, alarm system, 2master suites, fireplace, extra storage, nice pool, high ceilings, walkin closets , nearby park - for $2k/month. About 15 minutes drive from here, probably now 20-25 minutes, but closer than University from the other side of town.

Instead of building out Palo Alto, you do know there is still housing in East Palo Alto, which is also a close distance.


2 people like this
Posted by resident 1
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Sep 19, 2014 at 10:05 am

Bill - thank you - that says it all. My comments were eliminated but Palo Alto Forward can say anything they want. The problem is still that the businesses along El Camino in the single story area are owned by corporations. That is your target for multi-story buildings and apartments on El Camino. The area has been defined - quit gaming it.


1 person likes this
Posted by resident 1
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Sep 19, 2014 at 10:15 am

[Post removed.]


4 people like this
Posted by Bob Moss
a resident of Barron Park
on Sep 19, 2014 at 11:36 am

I objected to the proposal to lift density limits for housing developments, and hope it is never adopted. If it is, we should plan to recall any councilmember that votes for it.
And despite what some planning commissioners said. R-1 zoning IS SACRED AND SHALL NEVER BE INCREASED IN DENSITY!!!
As long as the housing element cites mixed use development that has been allowed for decades in commercial zones but not built as a way to allow adequate housing, but that allowance doesn't actually build any housing, we win. As for affordable housing, Palo Alto is the MOST EXPENSIVE CITY in the U.S. for housing, so if someone wants to promote affordability they had better bring LOTS of money. We require some BMR units in new housing projects, have done so for more than 35 years, and that's how we get them.


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Posted by Craig Laughton
a resident of College Terrace
on Sep 19, 2014 at 12:02 pm

>We require some BMR units in new housing projects, have done so for more than 35 years, and that's how we get them.

It takes increased density to embed subsidized housing. Are you saying that you support subsidized housing, Bob? If so, why would you oppose increased density? Or are you saying that you oppose such housing (and the increased density)? It is either one or the other.


1 person likes this
Posted by resident 1
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Sep 19, 2014 at 12:12 pm

We have many old one and two story apartments in PA that can be torn down and replaced with new, up-to-code, multi-story buildings that meet all of the requirements that people are calling for. I can see the resistance from the people / companies that own those old apartments so it is easier to take on single family homes.

You think so?? Sorry - time to take out the old apartments and replace with new multi-story apartments and you will meet your goals.
I am beginning to think that half the people on the commission own those old buildings and are trying to figure out how to manipulate the system.
Or how about those old large apartments in down town? They would go down in an earthquake. [Portion removed.]


2 people like this
Posted by Ahem
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 19, 2014 at 12:46 pm

Bill,

This thread is version 2.0 [portion removed] to use new-media to AstroTurf a fake a pro-growth movement in Palo Alto. Version 1.0 of this movement was aborted after the publication of some very interesting revelations.

You can find a very interesting discussion of version 1.0 at the link below:

"New voices join Palo Alto's debate over growth"
Palo Alto Weekly ~ August 5, 2014 Web Link


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Posted by Crocodiles
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 19, 2014 at 1:07 pm

[Post removed.]


2 people like this
Posted by resident 1
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Sep 19, 2014 at 1:51 pm

Referring to the original thread noted above Palo Alto is not Silicon Valley. The major growth in companies and dwellings is North San Jose, Sunnyvale, Mountain View, and now Fremont / Warm Springs. Travel south on 101 and east on 237 - there it all is. And the housing to support the commercial businesses is growing very fast because they have the land - an important criteria for new buildings.
Yes - we have Stanford Research Park but those companies have been there a long time and have established personnel and staff.
The whole basis for Move Palo Alto forward is missing the point - it is trying to create "buzz" and beat the drum but the drummers are down the road at Samsung, LinkedIn, Google, etc.
We have a lot of apartments available - if I drive around the Ventura area there are many "for rent" signs. If you are not selling what you already have then quit beating the drum.


3 people like this
Posted by Silly
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Sep 19, 2014 at 2:04 pm

Palo Alto is NOT the most expensive community in the US. Compare our prices with Atherton, Los Altos Hills, Hillsborough, Portola Valley, Woodside, -- just to name a few LOCAL communities -- none of which are being pressured to add low- and middle-income high-density housing or more jobs when they have few or no commercial properties.

What we do have, according to brochures from a few realtors, is the highest cost per square foot for new construction, not for purchase price.


2 people like this
Posted by Kate Vershov Downing
a resident of Ventura
on Sep 19, 2014 at 2:42 pm

1. My co-founding of Palo Alto Forward isn't a secret. If it were, why on earth would I post with my real name here? I'm proud of our organization. We are completely made up of residents and don't take any money from any companies or developers. It just so happens there's a lot of people who think that development for Palo Alto can be a good thing. So I guess we're just as astroturf as PASZ.

2. "For rent" signs don't mean there are a lot of vacant apartments at any given time. If you want to rent an apartment, you need to show up as soon as the listing is available with background applications and deposit checks at the ready. When you do show up, there are usually many other people also vying for that same apartment and generally they will bid with you until someone actually gets that apartment. Finding an adequate space is hard and then most people will pay even more rent than the asking price in order to secure it. If you haven't actually tried to rent or buy anything in PA in the last year, then this may be something you're not aware of.


5 people like this
Posted by Silly
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Sep 19, 2014 at 4:24 pm

How about starting a Forward Atherton? Their housing is even more expensive and they've got LOTS more empty space than we do.


1 person likes this
Posted by resident 1
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Sep 19, 2014 at 4:49 pm

[Post removed.]


3 people like this
Posted by Ahem
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 19, 2014 at 5:38 pm

Crude editing of my comment posted above, butchered its meaning, so I am re-posting a slightly revised version below:

Bill,

This thread is version 2.0 [of an effort] to use new-media to AstroTurf a fake a pro-growth movement in Palo Alto. Version 1.0 of this movement was aborted after the publication of some very interesting revelations.

You can find an intriguing discussion of version 1.0 in the comments section of this article:

"New voices join Palo Alto's debate over growth"
Palo Alto Weekly ~ August 5, 2014 Web Link


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Posted by Marlen
a resident of Meadow Park
on Sep 19, 2014 at 6:53 pm

[Post removed.]


5 people like this
Posted by Silly
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Sep 19, 2014 at 9:33 pm

[Portion removed.]

The fact remains that Palo Alto is over-built and gridlocked and Atherton, Los Altos Hills, Woodside, Portola Valley, Hillsborough etc. are not. It's a regional problem and should be fought on the regional level. For our "leaders" to ignore that and throw themselves wholeheartedly into ABAG is ludicrous.

Still awaiting for an Atherton Forward campaign. You know you wouldn't stand a chance there.


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Posted by Silly
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Sep 19, 2014 at 9:53 pm

[Post removed.]


3 people like this
Posted by Crocodiles
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 20, 2014 at 12:18 am

There are a lot of apartments for rent in Sunnyvale, many an easy commute to Palo Alto or train ride. Most of my friends who came to this area rented first in Sunnyvale. Some went to East Palo Alto to find something affordable, which is a lot safer now than then. Many parts of Menlo Park are still relatively affordable compared. Kate seems awfully silent on the subject of East Palo Alto. Or Sunnyvale -- a lot of young people who move to this area live there, it's not all outer darkness and gnashing of teeth, really.

Palo Alto wasn't affordable when I came here, the only difference is that we didn't have a group of developers promoting the idea for some [portion removed] young people that living in Palo Alto in nice digs for an easy amount of money is a human right. Astonishingly, they've also managed to get affordable housing advocates to carry water for them, even while everything they do accelerates the displacement of existing low-income people in our community, another topic on which Kate is silent.

Kate, you wrote "we have schools that are sitting empty and could be put to use". That shows a stunning lack of knowledge of our area. I am still waiting for you to list the schools, plural, that sit empty and ready to be put to use.


1 person likes this
Posted by Prodevelopment organization
a resident of Downtown North
on Sep 20, 2014 at 2:38 pm

[Post removed.]


1 person likes this
Posted by Crocodiles
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 20, 2014 at 5:10 pm

[Post removed.]


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Posted by Kate Vershov Downing
a resident of Ventura
on Sep 21, 2014 at 11:16 pm

I'm happy to address anything anyone wants me to address - I'm not silent on anything. I'm open to dialog from anyone who wants to have an engaging, civil discourse on something of interest to them both here and in person - I'm always up for a cup of tea. I enjoy engaging with people, I find it interesting and informative, and I learn a lot from my neighbors this way.

I lived in Sunnyvale myself, I'm well familiar with the area and I enjoyed living there. But, I ultimately moved to PA because both my husband and I work in PA and we were tired of the commute, especially when we put in 10 or 12 hour days and didn't want to drive while exhausted and sleepy - that didn't seem safe to us.

When people say - just move to X- whether that's Menlo Park or East Palo Alto or wherever - thing is, that's not really a solution to the regional issue of housing shortage. No one here, at all, has said that living in Palo Alto is a right or any such nonsense. What I, and others have said, is that that when we don't build housing here and claim that it should be some other city's problem, we're just pushing the problem around and not solving it. For every person that works in Palo Alto but can't live in Palo Alto, that's a person who rents in say, San Jose, and makes San Jose just a little bit more expensive and takes one rental unit off the market in San Jose. The cumulative impact of that push-out is that San Jose also becomes more expensive, and also pushes out long-time residents that can't afford to live there any longer. The problem just ripples its way through the area.

And it ripples because Palo Alto isn't alone in all this. The entire Bay Area, on the whole, has a housing shortage. Just because you see cranes and construction in other cities doesn't mean there still isn't an overall housing shortage. It's still there and it's going to take a lot of development across the Bay Area to close that gap that we have today and to keep up with it as our population continues to grow in future years. Look: Web Link. Says that in 2013 Santa Clara added 5,245 new units for over 27,600 newcomers. That's county-wide and the article cites similar numbers for all of our neighboring communities, too.

Eventually, people get pushed out far enough away from their jobs that they can't keep those jobs anymore because the commutes are just not possible to do anymore. Those people often end up leaving the Bay Area entirely. If you've heard about the "exodus" of Californians to Texas, the majority of those people have moved because housing was too expensive: Web Link

Great, you might say, they found a place they can afford. But that's not the whole picture. People often move to places with cheaper housing, but those places often just don't have the same availability of jobs. They may have moved for a specific job, but because there is less job and business growth there generally, it's harder to land that next gig and harder to get a raise in doing so because there are fewer jobs and more applicants - it's more of an employer's market. In the long run, these folks experience less upward mobility than their counterparts in California, which is bad for them, bad for the CA businesses that lost a worker, and bad for the nation's employment rates as a whole (and they pay less federal tax). The CA-TX migration is just one of the migration patterns we see today, it's one of many: Web Link

The notion that development displaces people is an utter fallacy- that's taking cause and effect and reversing their directions. If you have any data from any source that backs that up, I'd be happy to read it. When more people want to live here than there are houses, houses become expensive just like most things in the world - the less of something there is, the more expensive it is. Landlords ask for higher rents because they know there are a lot of people who want to live here. That causes displacement as people who can't pay what the landlord is now asking for leave. My own friends saw the asking price per month increase by as much as $400 or $500 per month within the last year. If there was more housing here, renters could be choosey and not rent from gouging landlords and those landlords would have to go back to asking a reasonable rate. Building more apartments in Palo Alto rather than more single family homes DOES NOT drive people out of Palo Alto. It allows more people to live here and at least slows the skyrocketing of rental rates - that might not sound like much to you, but for a certain portion of the population that slowing is the difference between being able to make it here and succeeding or giving up and moving away. That slowing also takes the pressure off of nearby cities as well. If you have any evidence to the contrary, please share it.

My hope is that Palo Alto adds more housing next to the Caltrain stations and along El Camino. I support development in Palo Alto because it makes sense to add housing next to jobs, rather than far away from them so that people don't spend years of their lives commuting, so that kids can see more of their parents, so that businesses have an easier time of attracting and keeping employees, so that fewer people are driving and polluting, and so that we don't contribute to pushing people out of their homes and jobs - here in PA, and in the Bay Area as a whole. I also support such development in Mountain View and SF - anywhere where there are way more jobs than housing units. But, I live in Palo Alto and vote in Palo Alto, so this is my little part of the world to help make better.


3 people like this
Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on Sep 22, 2014 at 12:01 am

But, I live in Palo Alto and vote in Palo Alto, so this is my little part of the world to help keep from getting worse.


2 people like this
Posted by Craig Laughton
a resident of College Terrace
on Sep 22, 2014 at 11:38 am

>I'm happy to address anything anyone wants me to address - I'm not silent on anything.

Kate, do you support even more subsidized housing in Palo Alto? If so, do you support putting it only in the elite neighborhoods (since the elite neighborhoods have, thus far, avoided it)?


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Posted by curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on Sep 22, 2014 at 12:11 pm

"My hope is that Palo Alto adds more housing next to the Caltrain stations and along El Camino. I support development in Palo Alto because it makes sense to add housing next to jobs..."

But how many jobs are next to Caltrain stations? Huh?

What's with this push to put housing next to Caltrain stations anyway? So their inhabitants can easily leave town? That contradicts your premise that people should live where their jobs are.

And why do you think their inhabitants won't use automobiles? Do you know how many people who now live by Caltrain stations use Caltrain to get to work? You don't. That survey has never been done. If you don't want the answer, don't ask the question. (Spoiler alert: informal surveys by activist residents put the number at 5%.)

Big housing near Caltrain = big gridlock near Caltrain.

Back to my premise: building housing near Caltrain stations is pointless unless their inhabitants' jobs consist of serving each others' housing developments.

Be honest: the real reason for putting all that big new housing near Caltrain stations is to keep it at a safe distance away from the single family neighborhoods where the majority of the proponents of that policy live.


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Posted by Robert
a resident of another community
on Sep 22, 2014 at 1:19 pm

@curmudgeon

Or perhaps, there's an actual demand for that kind of housing? Maybe there are people out there who prefer having an alternative to the "big gridlock"? I know it doesn't have the same conspiratorial ring to it, but the fact that this is already occurring, i.e. Palo Alto has the 2nd busiest Caltrain station/many companies downtown and on California Ave have a majority of workers taking public transit, kind of takes the air out of your tires. I know you would prefer that "outsiders" like Kate would just disappear (this is a PEOPLE issue not a housing issue), but that's not going to happen, so why can't you be satisfied with us minimizing our impact? Or would you rather have us driving, causing congestion and taking up parking?


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Posted by curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on Sep 22, 2014 at 1:41 pm

"Or would you rather have us driving, causing congestion and taking up parking?"

You're doing that already.

Look, I can easily stroll over to the downtown Caltrain, and I do. What I see is overwhelmingly young people who either cannot drive or choose not to drive. They are in the by far minority.

What I do not see is well-dressed diners arriving on Caltrain or Samtrans for lunch dates at MacArthur Park. But they do debark in droves from their automobiles in the parking lot, right across a small road from the train station. Go figure.

The canard about the PA Caltrain station being the second busiest on the line is a willful dissemblance of those who prefer pontificating from the bubbles of their salons to observing the scene. The plain fact is that Alma Street carries far more people to/from Palo Alto in automobiles than Caltrain can ever hope to.

Look, you're free to do what I did -- purchase or rent housing in Palo Alto or wherever you want. And you're free to work wherever you want. But you must not expect handouts in the form of subsidized housing. Not even by Caltrain.


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Posted by Robert
a resident of another community
on Sep 22, 2014 at 1:52 pm

>And you're free to work wherever you want. But you must not expect handouts in the form of subsidized housing.

Good to know, I'll keep you in mind next time a market rate housing or office project is proposed.


2 people like this
Posted by Ahem
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 22, 2014 at 3:01 pm

Low cost housing near Caltrain in Palo Alto will never solve the commute problem outlined by some posters.

Even if it was built in sufficient quantity to make even a dent in the problem, it would be purchased and occupied by people with jobs in Cupertino, or other communities not served by Caltrain, who are willing to drive to work, so their families can live in Palo Alto.

Also, there are plenty of people who have easy access to Caltrain that still prefer to drive to work. Many people have complex transportation patterns, and for them a car is still a better transportation alternative than the train.

We also need to keep in mind, that within the next decade, the current fleet of automobiles will be almost entirely replaced by electric vehicles or other ULEV technologies, and we will start to see the first robotic (driverless) cars on the roads.


2 people like this
Posted by Craig Laughton
a resident of College Terrace
on Sep 25, 2014 at 1:15 pm

@Kate Vershov Downing

Do you plan to answer my question (my previous post), as you promised?

Here it is, again, for your convenience:

>I'm happy to address anything anyone wants me to address - I'm not silent on anything.

Kate, do you support even more subsidized housing in Palo Alto? If so, do you support putting it only in the elite neighborhoods (since the elite neighborhoods have, thus far, avoided it)?


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

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