News

Changing the conversation: Who, or what, is Palo Alto Forward?

Few local residents had heard of Palo Alto Forward before Sept. 30, when Cory Wolbach declared at a City Council candidates' forum that he was a member.

At the time, the group's website had been up for about three weeks, and its core membership included a few downtown residents and high-tech workers, mostly from Big Data analysis firm Palantir. Its activities were limited to meet-ups at Scotty's Bar on Emerson Street or a chat at someone's house. Most of its members didn't spend much time at City Hall or pondering the city's vision for the future.

Unlike Palo Altans for Sensible Zoning, a citizens group formed in 2013, Palo Alto Forward was not endorsing candidates or lobbying for (or against) particular projects. Its main goals were broad and vague: better housing and transportation options. In his shoutout, Wolbach praised the group as one that "represents an interesting diversity of views on transportation housing" and that is "very open to new ideas."

By November, the nascent group had the city's full attention, even though many residents remained unsure about what exactly it stood for. Kate Downing, a co-founder of Palo Alto Forward, was appointed by the council to the influential Planning and Transportation Commission, which also includes Forward co-founder Eric Rosenblum. Two other Forward members, Adrian Fine and Kyu Kim, also won appointments to the planning commission and the Architectural Review Board, respectively. By month's end, Wolbach had edged out Lydia Kou, a candidate affiliated with Palo Altans for Sensible Zoning, by 135 votes to win the fifth open seat on the council.

The group's "membership" (admittedly a loose concept) soared past the 1,000-person mark, with hundreds of people opting into the group's email list. Its steering committee has come to include prominent civic activists, including Human Relations Commission member Mehdie Alhassani, regional economist Steve Levy and environmentalist Sandra Slater.

Despite the group's sudden rise, confusion abounds about what exactly the group stands for. One local newspaper that doesn't have a website routinely characterizes Palo Alto Forward as a group that advocates for high-density buildings. Skeptical bloggers on Town Square, the Weekly's online forum, have derided Palo Alto Forward as a radical group that looks to "fill every available space with high-density development" and is bent on turning Palo Alto into gasp! Manhattan.

Two of the group's founders, Elaine Uang and Rosenblum, reject these characterizations and stress that the main goal of Palo Alto Forward is to bring people in to talk about transportation and housing. Rosenblum, an Ohio native who recently joined Palantir, said in a recent interview that the group's tagline is "Better solutions for housing and transportation" and that its members bring a wide range of perspectives about what exactly that means. Though there are plenty of young tech workers in the new group, its roster also includes long-time civic activists and environmentalists. These include Phyllis Cassel, who has served on the city's planning commission between 1993 and 2006; and Victoria Thorpe, a board member at Partners in Education, a local nonprofit that raises money for Palo Alto schools. Group leaders emphasize that the positions members take on the issue of growth vary as widely as their backgrounds and experiences.

"We're not advocating for accelerated growth," Uang said. "What we want to have is a meaningful conversation around how to do things in a proactive fashion."

---

Uang and Rosenblum officially launched the Palo Alto Forward website on Sept. 5, though the stage for the organization's debut had been set a month prior. At an Aug. 4 meeting focused on the Comprehensive Plan, the City Council received an unexpected visit from dozens of residents who, in council's parlance, were "not your usual suspects." These were men and women in their 20s and 30s. Some wore T-shirts, many emblazoned with the Palantir logo. Most had not appeared at prior council meetings, though that didn't stop them from addressing the council with the urbane confidence of experienced council speakers. Their message, like their outfits, was fairly uniform: Palo Alto needs more housing.

One Palantir employee, Bob McGrew, called the city's 50-foot height limit a "relic of a different time" and urged the council not to price people out of the city.

"Let's have one or two more tall buildings downtown, but let's have them be tasteful and have them dedicated to housing, which is what Palo Alto desperately needs," McGrew said.

Nick Fohs, another employee of the tech company, asked the council to consider some of the "more growth-minded" proposals when it goes forward with the Environmental Impact Report for the new Comprehensive Plan.

"We are currently going through a very, very severe drought," Fohs said. "Not only in water but also housing supply."

If Palo Alto doesn't add more housing, McGrew said, people will end up moving to neighboring communities and driving to Palo Alto, adding to the traffic problems. Alhassani, the commissioner for human relations, agreed, saying, "If you plan and build correctly, you can reduce traffic by building more housing in transit areas.

"With prices being so high, it takes a lot of customers to make a profit. I think expanding the customer base downtown would be good for University Avenue," Alhassani said.

Among the most passionate and eloquent speakers at the meeting was Downing, an attorney who at the time was working for tech company VMWare. Striking a stridently anti-NIMBY note, Downing posited that a "community filled with nothing but very rich millionaires isn't the way to go.

"If we don't allow for growth, Silicon Valley as we know it today will cease to exist," Downing said. "We will have priced out all the young workers in all the new companies."

Several of those workers at the meeting said they couldn't afford downtown Palo Alto but instead live on downtown's periphery or in a neighboring community. One young person finished his comments with a plea for more development.

The presence of young speakers advocating for growth was an unusual and largely welcome development for council members who have long been calling for more residents to get engaged in the public discourse. The city's effort to encourage public participation has been a story of high hopes and mild disappointments. In 2008, the council designated "civic engagement" as one of its top priorities, a term that morphed into "civic engagement for the common good" in 2009 before fading from the list in 2010. Though no longer an official priority, the council still routinely talks about the need to get the younger contingent involved in the city's update of its Comprehensive Plan, with Councilman Larry Klein usually leading the charge.

"I really want to see new people participate," Klein reiterated during a May 5 meeting. "People who can reach out to areas of our community who don't come down to City Hall."

Since 2013, the level of public participation has soared, though this has had more to do with the council's land-use decisions than with its outreach efforts. The decision by the council in June 2013 to approve a housing development on Maybell Avenue angered hundreds of residents and led to the establishment of the citizens group Palo Altans for Sensible Zoning. In November 2013, the group marked its influence by overturning the council's June decision through a successful referendum.

Given the recent developments, council members were delighted with the turnout Aug. 5. Here were people who fell into at least one and in many cases two of the three under-represented categories (renters, young people and Asian residents, whose population has gone up by 73 percent between 2000 and 2010). They were there not to complain about new developments or accuse the council of being tone deaf and non-transparent. And they came voluntarily to express their views on the city's future.

Two days after the young speakers made their case, Klein said he "very much welcomed" the participation of people under 40 and stressed the need to reach out to other voices in the community that the council hadn't been hearing from. Councilman Marc Berman cited the comments of the priced-out techies and bemoaned the fact that so many people have to commute from afar because of inadequate housing.

The council's appetite for younger people getting engaged spilled over to last month's commission appointments, a triumphant night for not-your-usual-suspects. Fine, an employee of the social-media site Nextdoor, introduced himself during the interview for the Planning and Transportation Commission as a "young citizen ... just starting out on my career and life here."

Fine, whose involvement in Palo Alto Forward is limited to being on the group's email list, beat out eight-year veteran Arthur Keller, Utilities Advisory Commissioner Asher Waldfogel and former Human Relations Commissioner Claude Ezran for his seat.

Kim emphasized during his interview for the Architectural Review Board that he would bring a "younger point of view." Being more youthful, he told the council, he is into traveling and "observing many different kinds of architecture and buildings across the Internet." He also noted that he has completed school more recently than some of the older applicants, which may help.

"There are many things we learn in school that are very applicable to duties in serving on the Architectural Review Board," Kim said.

Mayor Nancy Shepherd observed that he is of her daughter's generation and called such a point of view "valuable." Karen Holman, who was one of three council members to support Kenneth Huo, an architect who has worked for the city, was more skeptical.

"If good design is ageless and good buildings stand the test of time, what difference does it make what age you are?" Holman asked. "I'm trying to figure out what you're going to bring in a design sense to the city."

Kim responded that different generations have different opinions about what "ageless" means.

"I think, being of the younger generation, any new buildings that are built with younger generation's input, those are the buildings that are going to last," Kim said.

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Many of the speakers who advocated for more development at the Aug. 4 meeting were listed on the Palo Alto Forward website in its early weeks of existence (the membership list has since been taken down from the website, for reasons having to do with "website functionality," Rosenblum said). Given that fact, it's easy to see why many Palo Altans view the organization as pro-development. Its founding members argue this is not exactly accurate.

As Palo Alto Forward has become better known, the tent has widened to welcome a wider array of views, Rosenblum said. He noted that many people simply "like" the group on Facebook or join it to receive email updates. Some, he said, believe Palo Alto already has all the development it can handle and would like to focus on improving transportation options and better managing the parking problems caused by recent growth.

Downing told the council in her interview for the planning commission that she sees no need to mess with the city's 50-foot height limit, a position not shared by other members of the group. Levy, an economist who joined Palo Alto Forward in September (and a blogger for the Weekly), said he is primarily concerned about retaining housing for local seniors.

Slater, an environmentalist who also sits on the organization's steering committee, has as her top priorities promoting carbon reduction. She grew up in Palo Alto and, after a stint of living elsewhere (including Manhattan), returned in 1988.

"I want to live downtown, close to services and where I can do everything without a car," Slater told the Weekly. "So I came to this effort through the angle of environmental impact of parking and cars."

For Rosenblum, a key issue is economic vitality. The term often pops up in conversations with Palo Alto Forward members (in the same way that members of Palo Altans for Sensible Zoning tend to talk about the city's quality of life). Rosenblum grew up in Steubenville, Ohio "a dying steel town," he said and learned the hard way to respect, rather than fear, economic growth.

"When my dad was a kid, it was a 30,000-person town with two steel mills," Rosenblum said. "When I was a kid, it was a 20,000-person town with one steel mill. Now, it's a 13,000-person town with no steel mills."

After college, Rosenblum spent 12 years living in China, where he said he was exposed to unfettered growth and over-exuberant planning. He came back to the Bay Area, and after stints at Google and Drawbridge recently joined Palantir.

Rosenblum said he and his wife decided to settle downtown so that his son, whose vision is impaired, would be able to get around without driving.

Around that time, Rosenblum who said he's immersed himself in Palo Alto's land-use bible, the Comprehensive Plan began to notice that the conversation around growth and development was getting increasingly toxic. Following last year's successful Maybell referendum, Palo Altans for Sensible Zoning put pressure on the council to reform the city's controversial "planned community" zoning (used to allow the Maybell development), which led to a moratorium; rethink its process for updating the Comprehensive Plan; and explore new density restrictions in commercial zones. The group endorsed four council candidates this fall, three of whom were successful. Council members-elect Tom DuBois and Eric Filseth rarely pulled punches when bemoaning the recent growth and criticizing the current council for insufficient transparency and untoward deference to developers. Running under the "residentialist" banner, the candidates vowed to restore the citizens' trust in its leaders and slow down growth.

Rosenblum, who lives downtown, said he was struck by what he considered to be a negative tone of the discussion.

"In my mind, I saw a lot of good in some of the development. I thought, 'Oh great, we'll get a new restaurant here,' or 'There's this dead space, and now I can get from there to Stanford on a bike.'

"And all I saw was a lot of negative discussion about how it's going to cause a lot of traffic and parking issues. I just sent a note into the ether basically asking, 'Am I the only one who sees a different side to this? Because, I feel like I'm really lonely here,'" Rosenblum recalled. "And before you know it, about 14 people wrote back: 'Thank goodness. I thought I was the only one.'"

Rosenblum also received an email from Uang, who also lives downtown and who's been actively engaged in the city's efforts on housing, parking and traffic management. This includes memberships on committees that worked on downtown's just-approved Residential Parking Permit Program; the new Housing Element; and outreach for the Comprehensive Plan update. Rosenblum and Uang met for coffee and began to lay the foundation for a new citizens group.

Uang, who has two daughters, has also been meeting with Slater since summer to discuss urban policies and designs. The two have a shared interest in promoting a pedestrian-friendly downtown and a passion for learning about best practices in urban design.

Slater said she was particularly drawn to the educational component of Palo Alto Forward. She hopes that holding meetings to exchange ideas and hear from leading experts in urban design could help bridge the gap between the two sides in the growth debate.

"I felt the discourse wasn't helpful," Slater said. "I felt it was polarizing. I think most residents in Palo Alto kind of want the same thing. I don't think we're that far apart. We want a delightful safe place to live and work, by and large."

When asked to explain what she means by "delightful," she said, "Something that kind of stops me and gets me out of my head and into something else."

Shortly after the Aug. 4 meeting, Rosenblum reached out to Levy, who lives in a five-story building downtown ("You won't see me quoted as describing a five-story building as 'stack-and-pack,'" Levy said) and who is commonly cited by media sources on topics of housing and job projects. In early September, he attended a Palo Alto Forward event and said he was surprised to find "all these passionate, energetic folks."

"I saw all this energy," Levy said. "I read on the blog that these are just a bunch of techies begging for housing."

Wolbach, like Levy, said he joined Palo Alto Forward after realizing that its stated priorities more housing and transportation options mirror his own. So do its emphases on public engagement and civility, a concept that was the theme of his council campaign.

"A lot of people involved in Palo Alto Forward have never really been involved politically, whether in Palo Alto or anywhere else," Wolbach told the Weekly. "I've always been a fan of getting people involved."

He lauded the fact that more people are now engaged, not just in seeking commission appointments, but on a "more fundamental level of being involved in policy as a citizen paying attention to what's happening in the community and participating in the civic discourse.

"I like the fact that it's a group of open-minded people who are very serious about having in-depth discussion about how we can improve when it comes to transportation and housing issues," he said.

The August meeting in which the Palantir workers made their case to the council was "a big impetus for launching the organization," he said. Coincidentally, it also occurred on the same day that Wolbach declared his intention to run for council.

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In recent interviews, Palo Alto Forward's leaders have emphasized that the public isn't as split over the issues of growth to the degree that's been portrayed in the media. Yet it's hard to deny that even if the views of Palo Alto residents fall all over the map, the two groups seem to occupy two distinct continents.

The economic vitality that Palo Alto Forward founders espouse isn't exactly the top priority of Palo Altans for Sensible Zoning members, who are more focused on protecting their neighborhoods from dense developments. If the former focus on improving their city, the priority for the latter is protecting their town. Though there are many exceptions, the former skew younger and tend to be clustered in the downtown area while the latter tend to be longtime residents, many from the Barron Park, Green Acres and Midtown neighborhoods.

Even if some overlap exists, the differences are stark. The vision statement of PASZ, for instance, notes that the group advocates for a "moratorium on all major projects (larger than 10,000 square feet) in all zoning districts" until an overarching land-use and transportation plan is completed. It also calls for a "reduction of the maximum development volume in certain zoning districts."

Such policy would probably meet at best a mixed reception from members of Palo Alto Forward. Even Wolbach, who believes that the city's philosophical split is a myth, acknowledged that there is a difference between the two groups.

"I'd say the average median position of who is in Palo Alto Forward is different than in Palo Altans for Sensible Zoning," Wolbach said.

Palo Alto Forward's platform contains plenty of concepts that are seemingly designed for mass appeal: park preservation, better data collection and reducing the demand for parking. Others are slightly more controversial, suggesting that those who associate Palo Alto Forward with growth aren't entirely wrong. The platform includes "add more housing clustered near services and transportation options in Downtown, El Camino and California Avenue" and building "mixed-use buildings that combine housing, retail, and commercial uses." For the thousands of residents who defeated Measure D in 2013 and the slow-growth "residentialists" who affiliate themselves with Palo Altans for Sensible Zoning, neither of these is necessarily a good thing.

Clustered housing, for instance, was used to justify the Maybell development (whose proponents, somewhat unconvincingly, cited proximity to services and transportation on El Camino Real as the project's selling point). Mixed-use buildings could be used as an apology for recent developments like 2180 El Camino (College Terrace Centre) or 101 Lytton Ave. (Lytton Gateway) zone-busting developments with outsized commercial components and benefits to the public that critics have decried as insufficient.

The inherent tension between the two groups was in full display during the commission appointments and in the weeks that followed. All three of the council members whose philosophies align with the slow-growth "residentialist" camp Holman, Greg Schmid and Pat Burt voted to reappoint the ultra-skeptical Keller to the planning commission. The rest went for youth and enthusiasm and appointed members affiliated with Palo Alto Forward. This displeased some members of Palo Altans for Sensible Zoning, who accused the council of ignoring the mandate of the voters who had just elected two slow-growth candidates and emphatically re-elected a slow-growth incumbent.

In a post on Town Square the day after the commission appointments were made, PASZ founder Cheryl Lilienstein spoke for many in her group when she wrote, "I am not surprised that the establishment majority on the council did exactly what they have been accused of: overriding the will of the majority."

Levy and Rosenblum both believe that the differences between the groups are overplayed and can be bridged. In a recent interview, each focused on what the two groups have in common, including the desire to uphold the Comprehensive Plan and to see new housing placed in strategic locations and parking congestion alleviated. Levy stressed that even though he sits on the Palo Alto Forward steering committee, he endorsed DuBois and Holman in the November election two candidates who were endorsed by Palo Altans for Sensible Zoning.

Levy also noted that the two PASZ members who won seats on the council in November both stated they are not against growth per se; they just want to focus it at more appropriate locations. Levy said he will take their word for it.

"It's just starting from the positive tone as opposed to the negativity. Because there are lots of problems but why not start with ones that can be solved with agreement?" Levy said.

Comments

4 people like this
Posted by Jonathan Brown
a resident of Ventura
on Dec 12, 2014 at 10:40 am

If Palo Alto Forward wants proper housing for people currently living in vehicles, I'm all for it. And it's not necessarily a bad thing if people within this group have different views. We need more participation from working people in civic discourse and representation of those views on the City Council.


8 people like this
Posted by Jo Ann
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Dec 12, 2014 at 10:55 am

"We want more housing here so people won't have to drive to their jobs...."

Does that mean that you'll evict people when they no longer work in Palo Alto?

Does that assume that techies work at the same company forever or that those same companies last forever?

Does that assume the companies should only hire PA residents?

Do they assume that "more housing" will result in lower prices for home purchases and rentals??


12 people like this
Posted by Tony Carrasco
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Dec 12, 2014 at 11:03 am

Great work PA Forward!
At last we have a moderate, data driven voice in our community that aims to make Palo Alto a better place incorporating moderate diverse views.
I am a member


14 people like this
Posted by Neighborhoods
a resident of Downtown North
on Dec 12, 2014 at 11:07 am

Palo Altans for Sensible Zoning want to "protect their town."

Does this mean that current residents are immortal and will live in their neighborhoods forever, and therefore nothing should ever change?

Does this mean that new or incoming residents should not have a say in how Palo Alto develops and changes over time?

Does this mean that increasing their property values is more important than anything else?

Does this mean that they want to build a moat around Palo Alto and make sure no one else ever moves in???


7 people like this
Posted by trees
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Dec 12, 2014 at 11:28 am

trees is a registered user.

We don't need 100% of people to live near their jobs in order to have the benefit of fewer people driving to work and less congestion. Things don't need to be perfect in order for us to see something better. 40% of this town rents so, yes, 40% of the people in this city can and do move when they change jobs and so do the people who own houses here- people do sell their houses occasionally, most people don't live in just one house for their whole lives. And if we had more rental property in PA then an even greater portion of this city would have the flexibility to move when they changed their jobs. Yes, there are other factors in place like ties to community or kids schools, but again, we don't need this to apply to 100% of people to see improvement. Close to 1/3 households consist of just one person Web Link so there's a substantial proportion of people who both rent and don't have kids in school and these policies definitely apply to them. Getting even 10-20% of the city to walk to work makes a huge difference for our traffic and parking issues.

Following the logic laid out here, then no one should buy electric cars either because 100% of people don't have electric cars and therefor car emissions are still a problem. No one should stop overwatering their lawns because that won't make the drought go away. No one should eat healthy because you might die of a heartattack or get hit by a bus anyway Etc. That doesn't make any sense. Just because doing something doesn't yield 100% results doesn't mean it's not worth doing.


5 people like this
Posted by curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on Dec 12, 2014 at 11:32 am

"If Palo Alto doesn't add more housing, McGrew said, people will end up moving to neighboring communities and driving to Palo Alto, adding to the traffic problems."

If Palo Alto adds more housing people will end up commuting to neighboring communities from Palo Alto, adding to the traffic problems.


Like this comment
Posted by Mario Eichler
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 12, 2014 at 11:44 am

"If Palo Alto doesn't add more housing, McGrew said, people will end up moving to neighboring communities and driving to Palo Alto, adding to the traffic problems."

On the one hand you want to encourage civic engagement by new residents. On the other, it is tough to be enthusiastic when the "fresh eyes" they bring is conveyed in a trope that has been beat to death for at least 50 years. They are ignorant, not idiots. Be patient with them.


8 people like this
Posted by younger resident and father
a resident of Barron Park
on Dec 12, 2014 at 11:44 am

It's laughable that members of Palo Alto Forward complain about not being able to afford downtown and have to "live on downtown's periphery or in a neighboring community", i.e. still in Palo Alto but not near all the restaurants and bars.

[Portion removed.]

I live in Barron Park and ride my bicycle to downtown, Stanford and neighboring towns. I would love a home near downtown for my entire family and hope that I may one day save enough money and have the opportunity to live there, but not in a high density area, crowded by tall buildings and full of congestion.


2 people like this
Posted by residents 1
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Dec 12, 2014 at 11:50 am

Neighborhoods - the answer to all of your questions is NO. Mountain View and Sunnyvale are in a big building boom now, as is San Jose. All of those people will be having the opportunity to live near their jobs. Note that the building boom in those locations is for major companies on the stock exchanges. Palo Alto does not have many major companies - so assume that the people who work at major companies will be commuting to those locations if they live in PA. The major companies have the largest pool of employees and are the companies that are paying high wages for high end technical employees.
I wish people would realize that we are a small city surrounded by very successful cities who have more varied tax bases for their cities.


1 person likes this
Posted by William Leong
a resident of Green Acres
on Dec 12, 2014 at 11:51 am

When will our elected and appointed officials and staff recognize and acknowledge the current traffic problems we have in Palo Alto? Our traffic situation is what leads cars to roll through stop signs and red lights, block intersections when traffic signals change and causes aggressive driving. This issue is fundamental to our quality of life.

I find it odd that traffic studies are conducted as part of the development approval process, using existing traffic conditions as the baseline without regard to whether the current volume is acceptable. Traffic impact is evaluated on a per project basis without analyzing the impact due to adjacent or nearby projects.

I hope any future Comprehensive Plan will incorporate a holistic traffic study of our entire city to determine traffic hotspots. Until there is a plan to mitigate, reduce or manage traffic, our city's livability and growth will continue to suffer.

Palo Alto aspires to be the best. We could and should be doing more to address this core issue.


5 people like this
Posted by jerryl
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Dec 12, 2014 at 12:00 pm

Reading this discussion of the different views I was struck by the
following thought. Think about what has happened. We allow the development
of dozens of underparked office buildings in Palo Alto. Then we bemoan the lack of housing for the workers they brought and the insufficiency of transportation to being more of them from afar. The solution? Build more housing. What is wrong with this picture? Development (of one kind) creates the need for even more development. Palo Alto is dying the death of a thousand cuts and not enough voters see it.


2 people like this
Posted by Wondering
a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Dec 12, 2014 at 12:03 pm

Looking at this historically, what impact has Los Altos Forward had on its community? Is that a group funded by Google founders?

What is the difference between these "Forward Groups" and others, like Los Altos's Master Plan group with a target date, like "Los Altos: 2030", 40 or 50? There are more new groups in Los Altos than Carter has pills.

What are city planners doing over there, with all these new groups? What is city council doing? No wonder their young mayor was not reelected.

Too many cooks may spoil the broth. Drive down First Street in Los Altos. The new buildings are top-heavy. Who deserves the recognition for it? Los Altos Forward?


2 people like this
Posted by Observer
a resident of Downtown North
on Dec 12, 2014 at 12:04 pm

The name Palo Alto Forward is a ripoff of the Santa Clara Valley Chapter of the American Institute of Architects Design Awards program, "Building It Forward."

These architects want more construction, so they must love the efforts of our ARB and its support of big buildings and big developers.


2 people like this
Posted by journalistic integrity
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 12, 2014 at 12:15 pm

"and is bent on turning Palo Alto into gasp! Manhattan."

Really Gennady? Is that the writing of an impartial journalist?

People like Kate Downing have been pushing the idea that more density means lower prices. People who live in the real world keep reminding her that for a desirable place in a global economy, that isn't true. Manhattan is case in point.

But "gasp" is right. Have you lived in Manhattan? No thank you. The fact is, Manhattan wasn't always Manhattan either, and here, there are land use regulations, zoning, that is essentially a promise to people who spend tons of money purchasing property, of what will be around them into the future. If you like Manhattan, you can live in Manhattan. If you want high-density housing, you can find it in San Francisco and San Jose, in fact, San Jose WANTS to create a more vibrant high-density urban downtown. [Portion removed.]

And as far on reporting about this, Kate Downing signed her own name on her posts, so it's not honest or journalistic to use such euphemisms as "better housing options" for a group that advocates high-density housing and believes if they just transform Palo Alto by violating existing land use and zoning, it will be "better" and cheaper. Whether what they advocate, high-density urbanized is "better" is a matter of opinion, so you are taking sides when you simply repeat the spin.


1 person likes this
Posted by Gale Johnson
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Dec 12, 2014 at 12:18 pm

Question! Are all the members of PAF residents of PA? Certainly this young energetic group should have its say and be heard. They are the future. Maybe all us old longtime residents are 'Palo Alto Past'. And it sounds like one of their main focuses is on more downtown housing. Great! Try to bring the developers along with that idea. They are more intent on office space than housing and parking. I suggest a moratorium on 'in lieus'. Certainly housing should catch up with the number of employees working in the offices now. How much is needed? How much rent can the office workers afford to pay? These questions need answers. How? Either by asking the companies who hire these people or by exit polls, i.e., asking the employees directly by a written questionairre survey or by exit interviews at the end of the work days.

A new restaurant? Really? I sure see a lot of them when I go downtown. Don't frequent them...just see them. Oh I know, we've lost some to the developers...more office space...but maybe that will mean more business for the survivors.

The 50 foot height limit? I think that should be brought up and discussed again. I think it's time to raise it, at least to gain another floor, as long as that floor is for housing. Oh yes, and so as to not cast shadows on places that shouldn't have shadows cast upon them and not block the view of the mountains and sunset in the west. Now that will be a real challenge to the developers and planners. Okay, I'll take my tongue out of my cheek now.


3 people like this
Posted by journalistic integrity
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 12, 2014 at 12:22 pm

"If Palo Alto doesn't add more housing, McGrew said, people will end up moving to neighboring communities and driving to Palo Alto, adding to the traffic problems."

Actually, he has it wrong. Palo Alto has more traffic BECAUSE it's adding all this development without any thought to infrastructure and understanding the cumulative impacts of the development. So anyone who can afford it moves to Los Altos, Atherton, Portola Valley, Woodside, and drives to Palo Alto, adding to the traffic problems.

[Portion removed.]


2 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 12, 2014 at 12:28 pm

Just a couple of comments.

Young people don't stay young for very long, then they mature, get married (or similar), have children, yearn for a home with a yard, good schools, and a couple of cars. Within 10 years they no longer fit this demographic.

People in partnerships rarely work in the same town, or if they do, rarely for long.

People change jobs more often than they change their homes. What may be a home right beside work today, may not be the case next year and then they may not choose to move.


9 people like this
Posted by Robert
a resident of another community
on Dec 12, 2014 at 12:31 pm

Highest rental prices in the country, and many here *still* can't admit there's a problem. Keep it classy, PA.


2 people like this
Posted by journalistic integrity
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 12, 2014 at 12:33 pm

"The decision by the council in June 2013 to approve a housing development on Maybell Avenue angered hundreds of residents"

Again, Gennady, your bias comes through. The council did not approve a "housing development" at Maybell. The council approved a REZONING. The Council actions was for a REZONING. The ordinance was for a REZONING. The City Attorney used illegal bias to craft a ballot question that even brought up the senior housing which was NOT opposed by the neighborhood, DID NOT REQUIRE AN ORDINANCE TO ALLOW THERE, and which people in the neighborhood ASKED in PUBLIC meetings to be able to find a way to keep through a WORKING GROUP which had been successful in the past at creating even more affordable housing in the same neighborhood while saving a school site from development.

Perhaps the Weekly should assign someone to this beat who doesn't also think of East Palo Alto and other more affordable NEARBY locales as (being kind in the face of their prejudice and privilege) outer Timbuktu where they cannot deign to start their Silicon Valley housing lives like the rest of us non-millionaires did before moving to Palo Alto.


10 people like this
Posted by Jo Ann
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Dec 12, 2014 at 1:04 pm

So Palo Alto, SF and NYC have high rents. Someone tell me how adding more buildings is going to bring the rents down? Has that happened anywhere? Have penthouse prices come down because more people want them?

People want to live where it's desirable. They bid up the prices and the prices keep rising. Lather, rinse, repeat.

They also want thinner thighs, world peace, to be CEO of a hot start-up with a few billion in net worth, to own an island and all sorts of other wonderful things.

News Flash: Not everyone gets everything they want.

Why not demand an Atherton mansion for every 28-year-old who wants one? You'll get it as fast as lower prices/rents in PA.


8 people like this
Posted by long view
a resident of South of Midtown
on Dec 12, 2014 at 1:14 pm

long view is a registered user.

It is not just that Palo Alto needs more housing, it is that the whole Peninsula from San Francisco to Palo Alto to Mountain View and on south needs more housing. When San Francisco plus most Peninsula cities have more jobs than housing, we are creating more and longer commutes. Some commute to afford a home with a lawn, some commute to afford a bigger apartment, and some commute to be able to afford a home at all. Do you eat in restaurants? Then shouldn't you consider where the busboy who just cleared your plate sleeps at night? The region needs more housing.


4 people like this
Posted by curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on Dec 12, 2014 at 1:14 pm

"Highest rental prices in the country, and many here *still* can't admit there's a problem. Keep it classy, PA."

What problem? Those rents are high because renters pay them. When renters go elsewhere the rents fall. Nobody is forced to live in Palo Alto, or Menlo Park, or ... .

It's the free marketplace that we all revere in principle, but hate when we encounter it in practice.


3 people like this
Posted by Niel
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Dec 12, 2014 at 1:21 pm

[Portion removed.] Apparently we're "entitled" because we think housing descisions should be made between a buyer and a seller [portion removed.] If a 28 year old wants to buy a mansion in Atherton that's really none of your business.


4 people like this
Posted by sustainability
a resident of Downtown North
on Dec 12, 2014 at 1:24 pm

Palo Alto Forward should really be called Palo Alto Upward - because that is what they stand for. This is a pro-growth, pro-density, turn Palo Alto into San Francisco group. The reality is there is no compromise - growth is growth and it adds density and the associated problems. These problems cannot be mitigated for - they are what come with growth. It is time to decide what the quality of life should be in Palo Alto. Are we a moderate density family oriented town or are we a densely packed high tech work environment with stack and pack housing, over crowded schools, roads and facilities. Those with the growth mentality have been getting their way for the last decade or so. Now it is time to stem the crazy growth period and restore some sense. Palo Alto and the world have limited resources and need to be managed in a sustainable manner. That means designing a plan with limits and sticking to the plan. Limits are good for a stable and sustainable existence.


5 people like this
Posted by journalistic integrity
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 12, 2014 at 1:30 pm

"Then shouldn't you consider where the busboy who just cleared your plate sleeps at night?"

Actually, I would put that question back to Palo Alto Forward. Maybe that busboy lives in Buena Vista Mobile Home Park, a place that survived many booms until prices skyrocketed from Council giving away extreme zoning exceptions and it became worth evicting the residents. Or think of all the elderly disabled people living in Casa Olga, one of the downtown exceptions in height that is now a $500/night hotel with a restaurant I'm sure Steven Levy enjoys walking to.

The unpleasant reality is the building, the NEW building, is driving up prices more than anything else. The zoning exceptions are making land more valuable and driving interest by developers to push out existing residents. Somehow, new rich tech workers count in their estimation of "affordable" housing, but the less wealthy who are already here? That's just too bad it can't be helped.

The last orchard in Palo Alto that could be a harbor for children in numerous surrounding schools and add to an existing park in a part of town well behind of providing due open space (per the code)? Saving low-income residents of a mobile home park? Saving a huge community of severely disabled people living downtown? The fact that there is relatively affordable housing nearby like in East Palo Alto? It doesn't fit in their developer-shill worldview, so they just ignore the realities and speak in false generalities.

The above poster is so right on: "So Palo Alto, SF and NYC have high rents. Someone tell me how adding more buildings is going to bring the rents down? Has that happened anywhere? Have penthouse prices come down because more people want them?"

The reality is that adding more new rentals increases average rents and makes even owners of older rentals (that have far lower property taxes and thus the owners have discretion to be less aggressive about rents) jack up rents.


2 people like this
Posted by Jo Ann
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Dec 12, 2014 at 1:32 pm

Niel, you clearly misunderstand my point. I said:

Why not demand an Atherton mansion for every 28-year-old who wants one? You'll get it as fast as lower prices/rents in PA.

If a 28-yr-old wants to BUY an Atherton mansion and pay for it, more power to her or him.

What I find laughable is the claim that because people "want" lower rents or housing prices, they're going to get them handed to them. Only 3-yr-olds believe they should get everything they want.

What makes you think by doubling PA's population that will bring housing prices down?? What happened in NYC when rents/prices rose? People moved into formerly marginalized neighborhoods in search of lower rents and revitalized those neighborhoods. Now Brooklyn's hot and its former slums like Red Hook are desirable.

My point is that not everyone can live on Park Avenue. They live where they can afford.


3 people like this
Posted by Niel
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Dec 12, 2014 at 1:39 pm

[Post removed.]


5 people like this
Posted by Jo Ann
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Dec 12, 2014 at 1:49 pm

Sorry, I AM part of the equation every time I have to deal with traffic gridlock from the approval of under-parked over-developed office buildings. I AM part of the equation every time a retail establishment I patronize is pushed out to accommodate more office workers.

You still haven't told me how doubling/tripling the number of jobs and housing units is going to bring housing prices down. If Google / Facebook create another 30,000 new jobs and those 30,000 people -- 45,000 if half are in relationships -- will the housing demand/prices and traffic increase or decrease??


4 people like this
Posted by Niel
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Dec 12, 2014 at 2:01 pm

Every time someone has a child, or has relatives over for the holidays, they're increasing density and the traffic burden, shall we start putting those activities up for a public vote as well? I haven't made any inference about how any activities will affect housing demand or prices, just that people should make their own descisions, which may of may not impact you, and you can continue to make your own descisions which may or may not impact others. If you can't handle that, its probably not a smart idea to surround yourself with 7 million (and growing) other people.


2 people like this
Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on Dec 12, 2014 at 2:01 pm

@journalistic, I had to check, and was surprised to find Epiphany (Casa Olga) has a deluxe king room available tonight for $177.65 plus tax, online booking rate. Looks like the Sheraton only wants $93. This must be low season.


13 people like this
Posted by Finally!
a resident of Professorville
on Dec 12, 2014 at 2:02 pm

This town has had such an insistent group of negative voices who are convinced that they are the only voice of Palo Alto. I am so happy to see a group finally emerge that seems to think progressively and positively. I think that most people in Palo Alto live in the "real world" and see growth as a reality that can be good, and can also be bad. People who only see bad are delusional and only do harm to their community.

I have just signed up for Paloaltoforward.

Thank you to the people who are making this a reality.


4 people like this
Posted by journalistic integrity
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 12, 2014 at 2:16 pm

@ Finally!

"People who only see bad are delusional and only do harm to their community. "

Hmm. Way to keep things positive! Characterize people who disagree with you as only seeing bad things and then calling them delusional and harmful.

I think things like overtaxing infrastructure while making no provisions to solve those problems, creating safety hazards, and increasing costs by giving away zoning so that low-income people are forced out of Palo Alto to be pretty bad things. I thing people who use euphemisms about "growth" while forcing the violations of code that engender these problems are delusional and harmful.

@ musical,
Try getting a room there on a business day. It still doesn't make me feel better about all the disabled elderly people who were forced out to make way for an expensive high rise hotel.


5 people like this
Posted by journalistic integrity
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 12, 2014 at 2:24 pm

"Every time someone has a child, or has relatives over for the holidays, they're increasing density and the traffic burden, shall we start putting those activities up for a public vote as well?"

Actually, when someone buys a home within a residential zone, and they have people over for the holidays or builds a family, they are acting within legal and expected land use provisions. Planning then usually took sensible stock of land use, so no, those activities don't actually increase density or create a traffic burden above what was already planned for the land use.

What creates a traffic burden is ordinance after ordinance violating zoning laws that were thoughtfully put in place in relationship to the whole community, the infrastructure, the schools, the natural resources and environment, and the land use. Because we have laws governing land use, and laws allowing the people to overturn ordinances Councils enact, those zoning violations are subject to public vote.

Note: City Council does not have to place a qualified referendum on the ballot. That is one option. They can also debate an issue, listen to the public, and take other actions. One of those might have been a working group to achieve the goals of creating the housing, something the very same people asking for the working group had achieved in a past development controversy, while saving a school from being razed. Sadly, this time the City Council thought citizens could never win a land use referendum, so they put it to vote.


8 people like this
Posted by TooMuch
a resident of Downtown North
on Dec 12, 2014 at 2:24 pm

It's not really about living where you work it's just that everybody wants to work and live in Palo Alto. Well not everybody can live and work in Palo Alto. That's just not going to happen. Palo alto is a target for fairness and the pressure is on. These young tech workers live on the periphery and are complaining that they don't have prime real estate in downtown? I think that's just asking too much.


5 people like this
Posted by mauricio
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Dec 12, 2014 at 2:29 pm

mauricio is a registered user.

More density will bring about lower housing prices...This must be the most ridiculous, absurd and completely false argument I have heard since the Iraqi information minister denied the Americans were in Baghdad, minutes before getting arrested by them.

It has been proven again, again and again that the more housing is built in Palo Alto, the higher we drive up housing prices. Not to mention that since most high tech companies are located outside of Palo Alto, the new residents will be using their cars, thereby increasing traffic and pollution. Will PAF demand that downtown residents working in Santa Clara or San Jose move down there so they can walk to work?

PAF has the absolute worse ideas for Palo Alto. Their ideas will over urbanize Palo Alto, densify it, diminish our quality of life, degrade our environment, put even more pressure on our schools and infrastructure, destroy what has made this town special and good and not solve any of the problems they claim to want to solve. The only benefactors from their agenda would be the developers.


5 people like this
Posted by well-organized machine
a resident of College Terrace
on Dec 12, 2014 at 2:31 pm

PAF makes excellent use of social media to keep its many members on top of new developments, as well as to organize evening happy hour get-togethers right before City Council meetings so that PAF members will be likely to attend and speak out in favor of PAF's agenda at the CC meetings. The vibe is one of youthful enthusiasm with current PA homeowners who advocate slow-growth portrayed as dinosaurs.


6 people like this
Posted by Observer
a resident of Downtown North
on Dec 12, 2014 at 2:32 pm

Palo Alto Forward conducted a naive, amateur "poll" that ended with misleading and biased results. For example, they polled only on Facebook.
It would just be laughable but it remains on their web site. They need to apologize publicly for putting out misleading and biased "data".


12 people like this
Posted by amusing
a resident of Community Center
on Dec 12, 2014 at 3:04 pm

Mauricio and Jo Ann appear to not believe that laws of supply and demand apply in Palo Alto. Worse, they seem to believe that they are inverted here (that more housing supply leads to higher housing prices). It's like we have our own form of "climate denialism" here-- that Palo Alto, alone in all the world, has a reversal of normal supply-demand relations.

I'm sure that they will find some "expert" video claiming that in the Bay Area, up is down, and down is up. Gravity and time run backwards here. ;)


5 people like this
Posted by Justin
a resident of Mountain View
on Dec 12, 2014 at 3:15 pm

I don't think that I or most members of Palo Alto Forward believe that adding more housing in Palo Alto will lead to a lot of cheap or even moderately priced housing. Housing markets are expensive in dense areas because of high demand. The only reason there is an impetus for density in the first place is because of high demand. A combination of high land prices, land use restrictions (like minimum parking standards, height limits, density maximums), and affordable housing requirements mean that the only homes that are profitable are luxury homes. The alternative is to sprawl out further south of San Jose (and this will happen anyway, but at a slower rate if more housing is built in the Peninsula).


3 people like this
Posted by Robert
a resident of another community
on Dec 12, 2014 at 3:16 pm

@amusing

Well, they're rebutting a claim (despite the fact that it was never actually made) that building new housing will lower absolute prices and make Palo Alto an inexpensive place to live, which, barring a complete economic collapse, isn't going to happen regardless of what happens.

...Not that the distinction matters, I'm sure they'd still rebut any *actual* claims made, like that more housing will keep the growth in costs in line with wages, or that allowing lower cost options (i.e. smaller) to be built could keep people here who would otherwise be priced out.


12 people like this
Posted by Jeff Rensch
a resident of Barron Park
on Dec 12, 2014 at 3:19 pm

This may help bring some energy and vibrancy to our town and its discussions. Much needed.


4 people like this
Posted by Gale Johnson
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Dec 12, 2014 at 3:19 pm

I don't always agree with Curmudgeon but I do on this one. The idea that anybody who wants to live in PA should be able to do so is ludicrous. Yogi Berra might say "Nobody lives there anymore cuz housing's too expensive". I love Yogi, always did, but if he can get the Afleck duck to walk out of the barbershop shaking its head, well then you might want to rethink what he might say above. Just Yogi being Yogi. I don't see PA becoming a ghost town in my lifetime.

What I do see, tho, are formerly single story ranch style homes (I live in one and love it) being scraped to make way for two story monster homes. Some day those owners will get old and climbing stairs will become very difficult. Enjoy it while you can. And what is affordability? I assume everybody who lives here is able to afford to live here or they wouldn't be living here. Am I starting to sound like Yogi? I hope so. And since there aren't any... well maybe a few...you could count on your fingers... vacant houses (excluding some apartment units depending on location) I don't agree with those who say there is no affordable housing. It's a matter of who can afford it. Apparently there are enough who can. We only hear from the whiners who can't.

And to his point,,,we are currently living in a free market economy society. Those who don't understand that should take a refresher course...Econ 101...or just admit they are in favor of socialism. How about communism? That worked out really well didn't it? Not!

I love my city of 53 years. I've seen so many changes, but sad to say, more bad than good. Hey! I'm only speaking for myself. Talk to others. I would like to be an old timer contributor to the Historical Society's efforts. I can write about my first impressions back in 1961 and following years.


4 people like this
Posted by Douglas Moran
a resident of Barron Park
on Dec 12, 2014 at 3:34 pm

Douglas Moran is a registered user.

The City of Mountain View recently seems to have made moot the question of whether building more housing in Palo Alto would make housing prices less unaffordable. They are approving *massive* building of office space in San Antonio Center and North Bayshore without providing compensating housing (despite a significant coalition of residents fighting to get housing included).


3 people like this
Posted by Avoid the snark
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Dec 12, 2014 at 3:36 pm

“One local newspaper that doesn't have a website routinely characterizes Palo Alto Forward as a group that advocates for high-density buildings.” Gennady, you’re obviously trying to make a snarky remark about the Daily Post. But you got it wrong. They do have a website, Web Link. And while they don’t put their stories online, they do have a paid archive. Get your facts right.


4 people like this
Posted by Jo Ann
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Dec 12, 2014 at 3:40 pm

Amusing wrote:

Mauricio and Jo Ann appear to not believe that laws of supply and demand apply in Palo Alto. Worse, they seem to believe that they are inverted here (that more housing supply leads to higher housing prices).


I hardly said that. I said that over-building won't LOWER prices. It will just create more gridlock. The law of supply and demand will ensure that prices keep rising. You can't have 50,000 new workers competing for the same -- or slightly increased -- housing stock without prices continuing to rise. You'll keep forcing out the lower-paid workers.

What's PAF doing for the lower-paid workers? Were they campaigning to protect Buena Vista? The contract workers at high tech companies? The service workers like dog sitters and beauticians? The waitresses and busboys? To raise the minimum wage? To protect retail that employs the lower-paid? To fight sexism or ageism?


6 people like this
Posted by ready
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Dec 12, 2014 at 3:41 pm

There's nothing "free-market" about zoning laws that artificially limit the amount of housing that gets built in this city. The affordability of this city isn't driven by what people can afford - people making over $100,000 a year - those same tech worker - can't afford to rent a 2500 a month studio in Palo Alto anymore - but this isn't about tech workers- it's to say that if they can't afford it, very very few others can either. You (the city) don't get to pretend like this is all forces of supply and demand when you yourself are trying to actively squeeze the supply. A city actively interfering with supply is actually much closer to communism!

What's driving affordability is policies that prevent people from splitting lots and building two smaller, cheaper homes instead of the mansions you speak of. What's driving affordability is zoning requirements and community outrage preventing even modest 3 and 4 story apartment buildings with studios and one bedrooms. The only thing people can build within our zoning is luxury units because there are caps on how many housing units can go on one acre.

Housing next to jobs is good for the environment and not just affordability. And even if adding more housing can't LOWER prices, it can slow down their incredible upward trajectory. For anyone who says "NY is dense and it's expensive" - it would be EVEN MORE expensive if it weren't dense. You have your cause and effect backward. We'll never be cheap but we can be less astronomically expensive. We definitely won't get any less expensive doing nothing!

I for one have no desire to live in a millionaire's enclave in a de facto senior community. That's not what I moved here for and I'm glad there's a group that reprsents something other than "let's get in our time machine and remember the great 1950s."


3 people like this
Posted by mauricio
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Dec 12, 2014 at 3:54 pm

mauricio is a registered user.

I was wondering when the Libertarian ideology would enter this conversation: zoning laws amount to communism, as are environmental awareness and conservation I suppose. Roads can absorb endless additional traffic, which always follows this kind of hubris, in which every town is just a sardine can into which a never ending quantity of sardines should be crammed and the "Market" will take care of the rest.


5 people like this
Posted by ready
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Dec 12, 2014 at 3:59 pm

@maurico - you should read the commments more carefully. I'm not libertarian nor am I advocating for more housing from that perspective, I'm responding to Gale's statement:

"And to his point,,,we are currently living in a free market economy society. Those who don't understand that should take a refresher course...Econ 101...or just admit they are in favor of socialism. How about communism? That worked out really well didn't it? Not!"

She's trying to say that more housing is the equivalent of communism.... I'd just argue that zoning regulations and artificially restricting supply is actually a lot closer to communism than the other way around.


4 people like this
Posted by amusing
a resident of Community Center
on Dec 12, 2014 at 4:04 pm

[Portion removed.]

Jo Ann says: "I never claimed supply and demand don't work... I just said adding more supply doesn't impact price". Um... that's what "supply and demand economics" means. She then changes the subject, asking if Palo Alto Forward members were advocating for Buena Vista. Well yes, they seem to have been. Cory Wolbach was one of the only candidates to strongly advocate for a Buena Vista reprieve. And, given that the Buena Vista residents want lower cost housing, and that Palo Alto Forward wants lower cost housing, it would seem that the two are aligned.

Mauricio... hmm.. where to start? Who is making a libertarian argument? Who is arguing that something is "communism"? Who is arguing that environmentalism= communism? It's all confusing and contradictory.


5 people like this
Posted by Douglas Moran
a resident of Barron Park
on Dec 12, 2014 at 4:05 pm

Douglas Moran is a registered user.

Eric Rosenblum (member of PA Forward and Planning Commission) as an example of the values expressed:

On "building close to transit": I had the opportunity to talk to him last summer at Cory Wolbach's campaign kick-off. I mentioned housing being advocated for near the Cal Ave Caltrain station would almost certainly have large numbers of elementary school children (past experience) and that it was over a mile (up to 1.3 miles) to the elementary schools serving that area (Barron Park and Escondido) and the route required crossing El Camino and along busy commercial streets. He didn't see El Camino as a problem (6 travel lanes + 2 turn lanes + parking is way different from 2 lanes with pedestrian bulb-outs). Nor did he see any problem with walk or biking on a street with busy driveways to parking lots (for example on Park Blvd) during morning peak hour. He had limited experience with some of these problems -- he lives in Downtown North and has a child that goes to Addison and thus has to cross the University Ave corridor -- but he rejected that Cal Ave (current and proposed) presented any problem.

In my attempted discussions with PA Forward members, I have found them to be highly resistant to experience and perspectives other than their own.


8 people like this
Posted by trees
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Dec 12, 2014 at 4:09 pm

trees is a registered user.

Cal Ave is a great place for more small unit housing, which doesn't impact schools at all.


3 people like this
Posted by mauricio
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Dec 12, 2014 at 4:15 pm

mauricio is a registered user.

Ready, I did read your comments carefully and responded accordingly. There are millions of people around the world who want to live in Palo Alto. If we tore down all single family houses and replaced them with tall apartment buildings we still wouldn't make a dent in the demand for housing in Palo Alto, and it would still be prohibitively expensive to live here-this is when the law of supply and demand actually applies. Not everybody who wants to live in Palo Alto can live here. I personally want to live in Woodside, but can't afford to buy a house there, so I live where I can afford to live. I would never have the chutzpah to demand of the residents of Woodside to change their zoning laws and give up their chosen lifestyle and quality of life to accommodate me, just because I absolutely must live in Woodside.


4 people like this
Posted by trees
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Dec 12, 2014 at 4:23 pm

trees is a registered user.

It's not about you and your desire to live in Woodside. It's about whether this city as a whole is better or worse off from you living in Woodside.

People living near their jobs is good for this city as a whole. It's good for our environment, reduces traffic, reduces parking problems when people can walk or bike to where they need to instead of driving in from out of town.

the jobs are already here. Cat's out of the bag. Companies are all over PA. So people are already driving in from god knows where to get here. So how do limit the problems that causes for ALL OF US?


2 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 12, 2014 at 4:23 pm

Trees

Actually small cheap apartments are rented specifically to get kids into Palo Alto schools. Nobody checks to see who if anyone actually lives in the apartment. All that is needed is a Palo Alto address. Sometimes even the kid lives there on their own during the week and back with Mom and Dad in wherever at weekends. Unless of course Mom and Dad live in China.


6 people like this
Posted by Biking rules
a resident of Ventura
on Dec 12, 2014 at 4:30 pm

@ Douglas Moran

I'm not sure if I understand your point.

Are there kids who live near Cal Ave now? (hint: the answer is "yes").

Where do they go to school now? (Barron Park or Escondido, depending on which side of Oregon they live on)

Do any of them bike? (hint: the answer is "yes")

Is it possible for a creative city to make biking for more kids even safer? (hint.. you get the drill)

Some simple research for you... Mr. Rosenblum may not be familiar with this area, but I am. I live near cal ave.

Both schools feature a comprehensive "Safe Routes to School" for the <1 mile journeys (complete with crossing guards at strategic crossings).

Escondido: Web Link
Barron Park: Web Link

So, Mr. Moran: I'm unsure what problem you think you've discovered.


5 people like this
Posted by trees
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Dec 12, 2014 at 4:33 pm

trees is a registered user.

@ Resident

The numbers don't support you. City finds that just 3% of households are overcrowded. That's it. Web Link And of those, only some are overcrowded because of kids. Many of those reflect a large number of non-family roommates and others reflect multi-generational living - i.e. grandma moves in.

[Portion removed.]


1 person likes this
Posted by Douglas Moran
a resident of Barron Park
on Dec 12, 2014 at 4:36 pm

Douglas Moran is a registered user.

@trees

Developers are unlikely to build apartments that don't accommodate children: There is a well-known "PAUSD premium" for housing (owned and rented) in Palo Alto and no one has shown an analysis where a developer could benefit from sacrificing this premium (without government subsidies). The Arbor Real development (El Camino and Charleston) was touted as providing housing for people without children and immediately flooded the PAUSD with children.

Families squeeze down in housing to get their children into PAUSD immediately and hope to be able to afford to move up in housing later.


6 people like this
Posted by biking rules
a resident of Ventura
on Dec 12, 2014 at 4:41 pm

@ Douglas Moran:

Data please! ("The Arbor Real development (El Camino and Charleston) was touted as providing housing for people without children and immediately flooded the PAUSD with children.")

How many PAUSD kids come from this development? How many kids/ unit is this compared with the rest of Palo Alto?

[Portion removed.]


4 people like this
Posted by Crescent Park Dad
a resident of Crescent Park
on Dec 12, 2014 at 4:43 pm

I find it interesting that so far there hasn't been any comments on what else would be required to support an aggressive expansion of downtown housing...
- where would the new school(s) be built?
- new water, sewer, refuse, power capacities
- expanded safety services
- large full service grocery
- parking
- additional sources of clean drinking water

It's just not that simple...you just can't go and build up without "building out" the infrastructure and services that enable a suitable quality of life.



7 people like this
Posted by biking rules!
a resident of Ventura
on Dec 12, 2014 at 4:45 pm

@ Douglas Moran: your contention that it would be uneconomical for developers to build smaller units is also unsubstantiated by data. If it is "well-known", then please provide a link to such a study. "Well known" truisms are usually well-documented. Developers are blocked from building such units in Palo Alto due to max density limitations. The residents of Palo Alto also tend to get out their pitchforks against such developments.

Data source: look at average price points for 1-2 BR apartments in PA versus other communities. They are both significantly more scarce and significantly more expensive. The "Palo Alto Premium" exists for small units too!


7 people like this
Posted by trees
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Dec 12, 2014 at 4:47 pm

trees is a registered user.

Why don't you actually read some of what Eric has written instead of disparaging him in a vacuum? Web Link

Eric pulled all the numbers of kids that came in through all the recent apartment development. Turns out that multi-family housing near transit attracts far fewer families with children than multi-family housing not near transit. Probably because people without kids are more interested in living in a downtown area and being able to take the train and bike than are people who do have kids. Makes the Cal ave v. Arbor Real comparison not apt.


5 people like this
Posted by trees
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Dec 12, 2014 at 4:50 pm

trees is a registered user.

@ Crescent Dad

PAF has discussed those things. Elaine and Sandra are the one who spearheaded this city's transportation demand management program and Elaine has been an active participant in shaping the RPP...which the PTC, with two PAF leaders, passed unanimously.


10 people like this
Posted by Uh-Oh
a resident of Professorville
on Dec 12, 2014 at 4:59 pm

Sounds like Cory Wolbach's election to the city council may be already proving to be a mistake! I thought he seemed duplicitous, working for Jerry Hill but claiming to be against HSR. Now he seems NOT to be the residential its he tried to convince us he was in order to get elected.


1 person likes this
Posted by Douglas Moran
a resident of Barron Park
on Dec 12, 2014 at 5:01 pm

Douglas Moran is a registered user.

@ Biking rules:

1. On the map you cite for "suggested" routes (not "safe routes"), there is a large gap between CalAve and the beginning of the routes to Barron Park. And the "suggested route" to Escondido from the immediate area of the Caltrain station is one that many adult cyclists regard as "dicey".

2. I based my assessment on years of hearing from parents about the problems and concerns. Especially from Ventura (where you claim to live).

3. "Is it possible for a creative city to make biking for more kids even safer? (hint.. you get the drill)": Possible? Yes. Likely? No. City Hall has long prioritized denser development in this area over bicycle and pedestrian safety. Examples: the 195 Page Mill development, the area plan which would turn Ventura neighborhood streets (which are those supposedly safe routes to schools) into routes between El Camino and the office developments.

3. You identify yourself as living in Ventura so contrary to your claim, you don't live near the CalAve Caltrain station which is the advocated center of that housing (Ventura conventionally stops at Lambert, over 0.5 miles from Caltrain). I live in Barron Park and have cycled through that area frequently, so don't you get arrogant and suggest I do some research.


2 people like this
Posted by Jo Ann
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Dec 12, 2014 at 5:27 pm

Amusing writes "Jo Ann says: "I never claimed supply and demand don't work... I just said adding more supply doesn't impact price". Um... that's what "supply and demand economics" means. She then changes the subject, asking if Palo Alto....."

Please stop twisting my words. I KNOW what supply and demand means.

I cited the example of 30,000 new jobs at Google/Facebook and their impact on the housing supply when you've got 30,000 new people/households competing for the same or slightly larger housing supply. I ALSO said that the prices won't be reduced when the number of new jobs outstrips the supply of new houses so prices won't come down. I believe I also said that adding more housing supply won't REDUCE housing prices.

Then then throw in foreign investment, desirability and other factors and you STILL won't have affordable housing. You'll just have higher density, higher priced housing and lower quality of life.

While we're on "supply and demand," maybe you can tell me how eliminating lanes of traffic WHILE rapidly growing the residential and worker population is going to do anything but create more gridlock and more frustration.

Sure, SOME people will bike or walk SOME of the time but not everyone can or will ride bikes or public transit ALL of the time. The new workers and new commuters and partners of both will drive at least part of the time no matter how stridently you preach that biking/public transit's are the ONLY right ways to travel.

[Portion removed.]


3 people like this
Posted by resident 1
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Dec 12, 2014 at 5:28 pm

I grew up in Los Angeles. Many neighborhoods are very expensive there - Beverly Hills, Brentwood, Hancock Park, Hollywood Hills, sections of Santa Monica and the beach cities where many sports stars now live. I don't think people in LA are walking around saying they have a right to live in any high end section of the county despite their earning power to support said home in that area. I think they work hard and live where they can afford to live.
If you look at San Francisco you see the same thing. Also Sunnyvale, Mountain View, San Jose.

I think you have to demonstrate some perspective here - this is a small town - 26 square miles whose main calling card is Stanford - and that is on private property and does not belong to Palo Alto.

People are getting wrapped around the axle here - everyone who is on the peninsula does not have to live in PA - in fact Cupertino probably has a better school system at this point in time. And mountain View going south has a better transportation system since lite rail starts there.

And forget Manhattan - you seem to forget that there is a massive system of ports, shipping, main financial center - please do not throw around terms that have no similarity. Go down and look at the baylands if you want to get grounded in reality.


1 person likes this
Posted by Douglas Moran
a resident of Barron Park
on Dec 12, 2014 at 5:31 pm

Douglas Moran is a registered user.

@trees: "Why don't you actually read some of what Eric has written instead of disparaging him in a vacuum? Web Link

Eric pulled all the numbers of kids that came in through all the recent apartment development. Turns out that multi-family housing near transit attracts far fewer families with children than multi-family housing not near transit. Probably because people without kids are more interested in living in a downtown area and being able to take the train and bike than are people who do have kids. Makes the Cal ave v. Arbor Real comparison not apt."

Look at the Web Link cited. A large number of the housing "near transit" was senior housing and (subsidized) SRO. Unsurprisingly there were no children, and this dragged down the average mightily. The biggest single chunk of that housing "near transit" was Stanford West which heavily prioritize (almost exclusively) employees of Stanford entities (university, hospital, SLAC,...) which is not representative of the general housing market. And if one regards it as "near transit", then Arbor Real is also "near transit" (Marguerite Shuttle vs multiple VTA bus lines).


3 people like this
Posted by Biking rules!
a resident of Ventura
on Dec 12, 2014 at 5:31 pm

@ Doug Moran
[Portion removed.]

"there is a gap in the Safe Routes to School Program". Yes, they don't map block by block from every conceivable address. They show the main arterials for bikes where they will put crossing guards and other crossings considered safe. The program has been a rousing success. And kids in the area use these routes. [Portion removed.]

"I base my assessment based on years of hearing parents"... ah yes, the old "i've heard lots of people complain" dataset. Fantastic. For someone who on his own blog is constantly taking people to task for lack of data, you sure do like to post unsubstantiated claims!

"Ventura is not near CalAve": you yourself identify the neighborhood as 0.5 miles from CalAve. That makes it a leisurely stroll (or even faster bike). I'm not sure what you're implying.

[Portion removed.]


9 people like this
Posted by Sandra Slater
a resident of Professorville
on Dec 12, 2014 at 5:34 pm

For folks who would like to learn more or join Palo Alto Forward, please visit our website: Web Link
We'd love to have you join in the conversation and attend some of our many events.


3 people like this
Posted by Dan
a resident of Midtown
on Dec 12, 2014 at 5:37 pm

I am not sure that there is a great mystery as to why "Palo Alto Forward" formed at a time when the Maybell development rezoning was overturned, PASZ gained some political clout approaching the election and the tide appeared to be turning against a pro-development city council. The intent, conscious or not, is to provide a counter balance to those residents organizing who don't believe development can continue on a unbroken trajectory upward forever without changing the city into something that they didn't want. "We're not advocating for accelerated growth," Uang said. No ... maybe not accelerated growth, but seems evident that PAF is all in for continued growth along the lines of what has already been going on recently.Why the attempt from PAF members to deny or try to divert attention from the obvious "elephant in the room"?


6 people like this
Posted by trees
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Dec 12, 2014 at 5:39 pm

trees is a registered user.

I'm not sure why we wouldn't want senior housing or housing with preference for local employees in Cal Ave. That's a good form of housing to add there. Not sure what your point is.


11 people like this
Posted by Steve Raney
a resident of Crescent Park
on Dec 12, 2014 at 6:01 pm

One of the things I think is really great about PA Forward is the objective to raise the level of discourse in PA. More data driven. More courteous. More listening. More participation by more people.

There's something that gets a bit nasty about chat on Town Square. There has to be a way to convene folks on problem-solving and mitigating adverse impacts in a more courteous manner. A way to convene that doesn't magnify differences. A way to develop some interesting options and then have more people weigh in on ranking the options.

PAF believes there is much common ground and shared values. No one group is out to destroy Palo Alto. Everyone wants a great place to live and work. Everyone wants to go hang out in great, walkable places in Palo Alto with nice architecture. In PA, we tend to be a majority of innovation-lovers, willing to try stuff. PA is super pro-climate, with a big heart for affordable housing. No one likes traffic.


4 people like this
Posted by journalistic integrity
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 12, 2014 at 6:23 pm

@ Steve Raney,
Thank you. Perhaps you would finally have a serious conversation about the impact of policies that favor developers on the low-income residents of Palo Alto who are being displaced as all this upzoning has increased land values so much for developers. The policies you espouse increase costs, they don't decrease them.

Why are PA Forward members also so silent on simply living in adjacent communities, some that are closer to downtown like East Palo Alto than even the other end of Palo Alto?

I don't see the discourse coming from PA Forward as very civil. I see it as manipulative, ignoring other viewpoints, and as likely to be as ad hominem as Niel's post above. Simply staying silent while someone else states a viewpoint without the intention of ever considering or being changed by that other person's viewpoint even just a little bit is not "listening". Read some of the posts by Eric Rosenblum and Kate Downing. The words "listening" and "civil" do not come to mind so much as "agenda" and "insular".


4 people like this
Posted by conversation about the conversation
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 12, 2014 at 7:19 pm

I notice that the conversation is more about the conversation.

Steve Raney,

I'm interested in the part about data driven.

Would like to know what data is available about transportation and commuter patterns. I get dizzy hearing about the values debates, and would appreciate historical umbers, changes, and projections in transportation and commuter patterns for Palo Alto.


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Posted by Gale Johnson
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Dec 12, 2014 at 7:37 pm

No no, Ready, and I'm a he not a she BTW. You've got my point a little twisted. What I said or meant to say was let the free market economy rule unless we are willing to overthrough our government and capitalism. More housing doesn't equate to communism but more housing for those who can't afford it and can only get it by taxing others to make it happen is. Maybe that's only socialism. I''m excluding all those low income housing projects that we, including myself, support. I'm talking about all the downtown office techie employees who think that somehow PA residents should help them out on affordable housing near their workplace and they have a say in what's affordable.kzgaH


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Posted by Gale Johnson
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Dec 12, 2014 at 7:38 pm

No no, Ready, and I'm a he not a she BTW. You've got my point a little twisted. What I said or meant to say was let the free market economy rule unless we are willing to overthrough our government and capitalism. More housing doesn't equate to communism but more housing for those who can't afford it and can only get it by taxing others to make it happen is. Maybe that's only socialism. I''m excluding all those low income housing projects that we, including myself, support. I'm talking about all the downtown office techie employees who think that somehow PA residents should help them out on affordable housing near their workplace and they have a say in what's affordable.kzgaH


3 people like this
Posted by Niel
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Dec 12, 2014 at 7:50 pm

Gale, he heard exactly what you said, which is let the free market rule when it comes to setting prices, and at the same time you want the government to step in and artifically restrict supply.


4 people like this
Posted by Mr.Recycle
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Dec 12, 2014 at 10:01 pm

@Steve Raney - here is the problem. It is 100% impossible to reduce traffic by increasing density in a suburban town, increased density will always increase traffic because some incremental number, maybe large or maybe small, of the new housing or office space will be occupied by a person who ends up living or working elsewhere. So density guarantees some incremental worsening of the situation Palo Alto. So all PAF ends being is either naive, or developer puppets. Either way, terrible for the city.


4 people like this
Posted by Justin
a resident of Mountain View
on Dec 12, 2014 at 10:34 pm

@Mr.Recycle
I will accept your premise that increased density will probably lead to increased traffic, but I still support it over restricting supply. BTW, so do the free parking and minimum parking requirements that the anti-development folks favor.

I would hope that the home of Silicon Valley can come up with traffic solutions than the status quo. On one hand, bicycling is eminently feasible for most people for trips up to 3-5 miles depending on fitness. It is definitely increasing in popularity and I would venture is far more popular among the techies everyone complains about than established residents. But sure, not everyone will bike-if even 1% of new residents drive, traffic will increase. But congestion is not inevitable. Higher density could bring cost-effective ride-sharing (eg Uberpool and Lyft Line) and carsharing, cars are getting smarter and closer to automated (we may yet see fully automated cars in the next decade), etc. And as far as the pollution concern, new cars are 99% cleaner than vehicles of a generation ago. Perhaps a bigger concern as far as pollution and safety is the increase in freight and delivery vehicles (big, slow, and old/dirty) that will be required to support more people.


3 people like this
Posted by Jerry Underdal
a resident of Barron Park
on Dec 12, 2014 at 10:39 pm

Jerry Underdal is a registered user.

First off, thank you, Gennady Sheyner, for the useful background information on Palo Alto Forward. It was referenced many times in the run-up to the election, but we didn't get the detail that you've put together here.

I believe the city is better positioned now than it was when the Maybell controversy erupted to engage the jobs, housing and transportation issues facing it. When the new city council meets, I believe almost all residents will find someone there who they believe both understands and will represent their point of view as the council sets policies that will affect the city for decades. This has not been the case in the recent past.

Good luck and thank you to all the council members and commissioners who give so much of their time and effort to make Palo Alto a great place to live.


3 people like this
Posted by Observer
a resident of Downtown North
on Dec 13, 2014 at 12:56 am

Raney repeats the rosy-colored description of an organization dominated by architects and designers and business execs who want to build more. No big surprises there.
He uses lofty phrases like "data driven" to describe a group that has reached a conclusion without data. Or does he mean the ludicrous biased poll?
Cut the pixie dust folks, this is a development group, just look at their Steering Committee.


1 person likes this
Posted by mauricio
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Dec 13, 2014 at 6:22 am

mauricio is a registered user.

Palo Alto is a small town. It is 25.79 square miles, some of the land is unbuildable. One of the many things that are wrong with PAF is that they seem to wish to squeeze in every person in the world (probably 5 million people, at least) who wants to live in Palo Alto. It's impossible to do it without turning Palo Alto into another Manhattan or Hong Kong.

They may claim that this is not their vision, but we have already read here comments from PAF members and supporters on how zoning laws and restricting supply equal communism and how we should just let the market decide.

How can we take this group seriously when one of its leaders lives in Palo Alto, yet drives to her job in Santa Clara while demanding that we make it possible for her to get affordable housing downtown because people should be able to walk to work.


4 people like this
Posted by amusing
a resident of Community Center
on Dec 13, 2014 at 9:08 am

@Jo Ann: claiming that adding units to housing supply doesn't impact price IS the definition of not believing supply and demand. The fact that Mountain View is adding more office space would have the effect of increasing our housing prices (because demand is increased). Adding supply decreases prices (because supply is increased). I'm really not sure why you don't believe that one of the most common precepts of modern economics no longer applies to Palo Alto.

@ Mauricio: I can't tell if you're being completely sarcastic. Are you really claiming that there are people who want to turn Palo Alto into a city larger than LA (3.8M residents), Chicago (2.7M), Houston (2.1M)??! This is a serious question-- I really want to know if you read that article, and came away with the conclusion "hmm... Palo Alto Forward thinks 'Palo Alto should be 2x the size of Houston'"?

For both of you, I will give the benefit of the doubt that both of you are skeptical, but that Jo Ann doesn't honestly believe that adding supply doesn't impact prices, and Mauricio doesn't honestly believe... well... anything that he's posted.


2 people like this
Posted by mauricio
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Dec 13, 2014 at 10:42 am

mauricio is a registered user.

@amusing...Can you point out any PAF member/activist/supporter who even mentions limits on how many new residents Palo Alto can absorb, on how many new residents the infrastructure can support before collapsing, on the environmental and quality of life degradation that kind of urbanization and densification would cause?

On the other hand, I read comments such as :
"There's nothing "free-market" about zoning laws that artificially limit the amount of housing that gets built in this city."


1 person likes this
Posted by Mr.Recycle
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Dec 13, 2014 at 10:48 am

@Justin - you are conflating two issues: whether there should be more development, and whether, if there is more development, it should have sufficient parking. I don't any more development, but if there is new building, the traffic is coming no matter what. so better to park it under building than in the neighborhood.


4 people like this
Posted by Jo Ann
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Dec 13, 2014 at 10:54 am

Since there doesn't seem to be a way to link to specific posts in other topics, I'm copying over the following excellent response from the discussion on never-ending surge in office buildings:

Posted by If You Want San Jose, Then Please Move to San Jose
a resident of Community Center
14 hours ago

@trees: There is no age demographic that defines the "let's keep Palo Alto, Palo Alto" versus the "let's turn Palo Alto into another San Jose" camps. Assuming people who don't want to turn Palo Alto into another San Jose are all retired seniors shows a lack of awareness of the entire debate.

Personally, I am not a retiree, and in fact have pre-teens at home. But I grew up here, and know more about Palo Alto's charm and history than just the last 15 years of awful city leadership and over-growth. I also know seniors who want to see the city keep getting bigger and more "vibrant."

Please don't stereotype people into categories that are non-existent. I know it's easy to just say the old folks don't want change and we cool young people are hip and cool and know better, but that is simply not the actual demographic difference.

And, you're not cool. You just have no appreciation for what made Palo Alto an awesome place to live, and would continue to make Palo Alto an awesome place to live, because you are a newbie, probably brought here by the tech boom (that's conjecture, for sure). I don't see Atherton, Woodside, Portola Valley, Menlo Park, Los Altos, or Los Altos Hills changing their character to accomodate all of these people who want to have acool address, when the lifestyle they desire is really Santana Row.

I'd love to see all of these young, pro-growth residents choose a place to make their own. Milpitas? East Palo Alto? Alviso? All places that would truly appreciate your innovation, education, and desire to develop the community.

Why come to an extremely established town and decide the long-time residents, old and young, need to accept the change you desire? Just go where there are like-minded people and we can all be happy. I mean, it's not just about the prestigious address, right?


4 people like this
Posted by stephen levy
a resident of University South
on Dec 13, 2014 at 11:16 am

stephen levy is a registered user.

The Palo Alto Forward website tells the story of why the organization was founded and what we hope to discuss with the community as the Comp Plan is developed in the coming months. The website lays out some of the key ideas we think are promising to explore relative to housing, transportation and quality of life.

[Web Link PAF website]

You can check out our events, read the blog and platform, read the home page and decide whether what we are trying to do meshes with your hopes for Palo Alto. We send out regular newsletters, which you can receive by signing up on the Join page. All that means is that you are interested in following what we are doing.

If after reading what we are about, you disagree, that is okay, too but there is no need as we all struggle to make Palo Alto a better place for all the negativity and false accusations that appear above in some of these comments.


3 people like this
Posted by Steve Raney
a resident of Crescent Park
on Dec 13, 2014 at 11:22 am

@ journalistic integrity
To me, one of the things that could raise the level of discussion on Town Square would be to eliminate anonymous postings. Non-anonymous postings can impact reputation, so tend to be more polite.

My understanding of PA Forward is that there isn’t one single set of specific policies that are favored. It seems like a really diverse group of people. I think you may be over-imagining a very tightly-run political operation with nefarious string-pulling. Maybe the main differentiation of PAF is the uniformly positive, can-do attitude.

Personally, I am a fan of decreasing real-estate costs. One solution is Low Impact Affordable Housing: 300 square foot downtown & Cal Ave micro-apartments for seniors, singles, and tech workers. 66% less driving and 75% less GHG than current residents. Average Palo Altan drives 26 mi/day, change this to 9 mi/day in an EV. Live/shop/work in downtown. Own fewer cars & use transit more. Zipcar, transit pass, unbundled parking, EV charging. Property taxes provide school budget surplus. A poster I presented at the PA Sustainability / Climate Action Plan Ideas Expo: Web Link.

As far as common ground with all Palo Altans, my sense is that everyone wants a higher level of analysis of the impacts of current and new real-estate development, moving to a real-time dashboard of traffic, parking, GHG, etc. I think folks would also like to quantify school and city budget impacts of new development proposals. I think you are also suggesting forecasting real-estate market impacts of different growth scenarios. That is a great idea.

The Low Impact Housing solution is also applicable to adjacent cities like MP and MV. East PA is gentrifying and one challenge is to figure out how to create low-driving transit oriented development in a town without a Caltrain station or a downtown.

@Mr.Recycle
Speaking only for myself, I concur with your point that adding new residents or workers to PA will increase traffic. There are some solutions for reducing driving by existing residents and workers that can produce a net decrease.

For reducing driving by the 92K workers commuting to PA jobs, I favor a variation on Stanford trip reduction: small sticks and large carrots. Charge $2/day per SOV commute, use revenue to provide $3/day incentives. Reduces SOV in-commute mode share from 77% to 54%. 42K fewer car trips/day. 63K fewer tons GHG/year. Creates $24M/year new transit, biking, and carpool funding out of thin air. Provides real-time commute dashboard. Collaborate sub-regionally with other cities to implement. A poster I presented at the PA Sustainability / Climate Action Plan Ideas Expo: Web Link


2 people like this
Posted by resident 1
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Dec 13, 2014 at 11:22 am

I think there is a lot of hyperbole here. People throw out the names of major cities that have huge industrial centers, transportation centers, and high end residential centers. You cannot duplicate that here - go look at the baylands - you do not even have a workable harbor. And we are now crabbing over how to manage waste. We have reached the finite breaking point of sustainability. Our roads cannot handle the traffic at commute time. It is not going to happen here - we are locked in by the bay and mountains.
For all of you people thirsting for the big city then go there - SF, LA, even San Jose is struggling. Guess what - the next "Technology Center" is in LA at the beach - Venice area. Now there you can have it all - and lots of housing. So get going - you can wallow in housing and work. And there ae a lot of old people here - so deal with it. You will be old before you know it.


2 people like this
Posted by Jo Amm
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Dec 13, 2014 at 11:43 am

Amusing, for the last time, I said that increasing the housing supply will NOT REDUCE housing prices when you INCREASE the population of prospective buyers/renters MORE than the available supply.

Obviously there are other factors that push PA prices even higher but not so high as Woodside, Atherton, Los Altos Hills, etc.


3 people like this
Posted by Justin
a resident of Mountain View
on Dec 13, 2014 at 11:47 am

@Mr.Recycle
Adding excess free parking causes more traffic. Web Link

@resident1
"For all of you people thirsting for the big city then go there - SF, LA, even San Jose is struggling."
This is exactly what the problem is. You really think that SF and San Jose residents want any more traffic either? No, they want to block development just as much as you do.


5 people like this
Posted by not so amusing
a resident of College Terrace
on Dec 13, 2014 at 12:14 pm

I have to say, after watching this back and forth, Mauricio and Jo Ann could well be Palo Alto Forward plants designed to make Residentialists appear to be unhinged, Grandpa Simpson types. Don't let Palo Alto Forward people look like the reasonable ones, please! You're playing into their hands!


3 people like this
Posted by Niel
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Dec 13, 2014 at 12:34 pm

Jo Ann, if you feel that is the root of the problem, please go on about how you propose, or how you would like your representatives, to prevent an increase in prospective buyers or renters?


4 people like this
Posted by Jo Ann
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Dec 13, 2014 at 12:45 pm

Just for starters, how about we stop approving under-parked office buildings here in PA and start fighting the ABAG regional requirements that the Bay Area add something like 2 million more people to an already densely populated area when there's no place to put them and when the roads are already gridlocked?


3 people like this
Posted by journalistic integrity
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 13, 2014 at 12:46 pm

@Steve Raney,
I am a fan of decreasing real estate costs and world peace, too. I'm not a fan of using a specious argument about reducing costs to zone-bust a town where the existing residents mostly don't want it, and where the zone-busting will in most cases have the exact opposite effect of the claims to justify it.

What you envision is currently something San Jose is STRIVING to achieve in their downtown area and not making it. I saw a long news segment about just that. If they can't make it happen before the next economic downturn, they lose a huge opportunity because the momentum will be lost.

Why not move the effort to San Jose, which has a larger population, cheaper housing, more jobs, more transit, WANTS exactly what you want, is striving for the same vision you express, and would welcome all this energy? (Read that again, please, it was a serious suggestion. It would be such a win-win.) If the answer is because the transit isn't good enough between here and there, then I know I speak for many people when I say: then put your energy to fixing that, it would be welcome. We have a system, it just doesn't work much as a system.

Kate Downing, one of your lead proponents, works in Santa Clara anyway, wouldn't her refocusing on San Jose be a great answer to the heretofore unanswered point everyone keeps making to the main contention of PAF -- people don't keep the same job their whole lives so using job proximity as an excuse for development is nonsensical. Let her show us how easy it is to move to where her job is when the job changes in order to live by her principles. (Moderator: Downing is now a public figure with very public opinions about this exact issue in the midst of a controversy, and the location of her job is relevant to her own public claims.)

The fact is, you want something that doesn't exist here in Palo Alto, and in order to get it you have to demand of a lot of other people -- many of whom made long sacrifices your members are unwilling to make in order to live in Palo Alto -- to change laws and jjust give away what they sacrificed for, so that someone else who is unwilling to make those sacrifices can get something they could easily get if they were willing to have an East Palo Alto zip code or move to San Jose when their job changes to Santa Clara.

Of course your going to get resistance. Expect more of it. [Portion removed.]

(Note to Doug Moran: get data from the school district to support your point, you are correct. When Arbor Real opened was the last time JB was an overflow school, it's been full and overflowing ever since.)


5 people like this
Posted by mauricio
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Dec 13, 2014 at 12:55 pm

mauricio is a registered user.

A common denominator for the PAF members and supporters seems to be:Palo Alto or Bust. They refuse to consider moving to places, in the Bay area and beyond, which are more in tune with their desired lifestyle-San Jose, San Francisco, LA, etc. Their desire to completely change this town's character into a hip urban metropolis is as strong as their dismissal of the desire of existing residents, of whom they demand affordable downtown housing, residents who want to maintain what's left of Palo Alto's character and way of life. [Portion removed.]


4 people like this
Posted by Niel
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Dec 13, 2014 at 1:13 pm

Jo Ann, you realize those are being built due to the underlying and growing regional demand, that jobs aren't created simply because an office is built?


8 people like this
Posted by Eric Rosenblum
a resident of Downtown North
on Dec 13, 2014 at 1:19 pm

Eric Rosenblum is a registered user.

Hi Doug (Moran)

Since you've specifically referenced a conversation that we've had, permit me to respond.

I remember that we were talking about the future of the Fry's site. I felt like it could be a good opportunity for a mixed use development, and admitted to you that I didn't know the exact routes or difficulties on getting to school from there. However, I told you that a 1.3 mile journey didn't sound overly daunting for most kids in Palo Alto.

Now that I'm in front of a computer, this conversation is somewhat easier. The average distance from Fry's to Barron Park Elementary is 1.0 miles (there is some variance based on what exit one chooses). The map referenced by "biking rules" is the "Safe Routes to Schools" program map, and indicates several logical paths to school from there, including crossings staffed by crossing guards.

For reference, I have a 9 year old who rides the 1.2 miles from our house to Addison Elementary every day, and a 12 year old who rides the 2.3 miles to Jordan Middle School every day. The ride is not particularly taxing, and they seem to value the independence that it brings them. For me and my wife, we also value both the exercise and self-reliance that this way of getting to school fosters in our children. Neither of our children were confident cyclists when they started biking to school; we rode with them for a little while, and the Safe Routes to Schools team at their schools did a fantastic job teaching them basic cycling safety and good routes (additionally, being surrounded by so many other kids all biking together makes it more fun and more safe).

My suggestion: if this is a major concern to you that would influence the appropriateness of development in transit-oriented areas (which is what our Comp Plan calls for), I'd be happy to find the Safe Routes to School coordinator for Barron Park Elementary and arrange a conversation with him/her for us (and whomever else is concerned) about their experience with kids from that area that currently bike to school. My email is ericr@alum.mit.edu... anyone is welcome to contact me directly, and I'll arrange.

Thank you, Eric


1 person likes this
Posted by resident 1
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Dec 13, 2014 at 2:06 pm

Justin - I fully understand that this general area wants to block development - however SF is in a major building boom - if you are in the right business. Google is buying more buildings in the city so people do not have to commute.

However Google is now investing in Los Angeles in the Palms / Venice area. Yes - they want more techies there. I am assuming that you are a techie. There are a lot of write-ups in the paper about the investment in that area - that is because this area is tapped out from the sustainability requirements.

Do you think Google is tired of being hassled about their buses? Now the bus drivers are forming a union for higher pay and benefits. A lot of employers will move out when this concept gets unmanageable. LA has a lot of housing opportunities and great transportation - so what is not to like.

That is more desirable than hassling everyone to change the college town atmosphere we have now.


5 people like this
Posted by Garrett
a resident of another community
on Dec 13, 2014 at 2:25 pm

The Bay Area needs to plan and build more housing and get creative on housing workers. Not everyone choses to work and live in the city or reason beyond their contro just can't.

Changing jobs is easy but not changing your residence. Personal choices like staying single or having kids might result in a change of residence. Financial consideration like living in Santa Clara instead of Palo Alto but your job is in Palo Alto.

Riding a bike from Santa Clara to Palo Alto or the other way around is not realistic. Transit options are far and few leaving the car as the only option.

Changing the way people drive and the streets they drive on by funneling traffic away from residential areas.


4 people like this
Posted by Garrett
a resident of another community
on Dec 13, 2014 at 3:00 pm

Yes Google is opening more offices elsewhere or i should say buying/leasing entire buildings for non Silicon Valley operations. HP, Fairchild, Apple and Sun have done it before driving up prices in those communities.

Chances really good productive employees who work in other offices will not relocate here due to the high costs of living here. LA is building more and more light rail lines and had so in the last 25 years. Here light rail should extend right into San Antonio Center.


2 people like this
Posted by mauricio
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Dec 13, 2014 at 3:31 pm

mauricio is a registered user.

I am a techie with an advanced computer science degree. In the last 30 years I have worked, due to better offers, better opportunities and compensation and new, exciting challenges, in Palo Alto, Mountain View, Sunnyvale, Santa Clara, Pleasanton, San Jose and San Francisco. The notion of working within a walking or biking distance from work is largely a fantasy. Most technology workers, and people in fields like law, finance, etc will change employers due the incredible dynamics of this area and the constant new opportunities. Obviously, it's would be impossible to change housing each time a person changes jobs, certainly for people with families. I truly believe that the discussion of jobs housing near jobs is insincere and is mostly a tool to demand more development which Palo Alto shouldn't have and doesn't need.


8 people like this
Posted by Kate Downing
a resident of Ventura
on Dec 13, 2014 at 3:33 pm

I wanted to comment about my job since everyone keeps bringing it up. While my company is located in Santa Clara, we have a work from home policy such that we can work from home as much as we like. I only go into the office maybe once a week, which is why I agreed to take this job. And when I do go in, I have the option of taking the Caltrain up to our SF office instead of the Santa Clara office. My husband and one of my roommates work in downtown Palo Alto and another roommate takes the train to Redwood City. So as a household, our living decisions are about as sustainable as we can make them at this time. Even if my husband and I decided to live separately from our roommates, since he goes into the office in Palo Alto every day and since I only need to go into my office sporadically, our decision is also still as green as it can be for now.


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Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on Dec 13, 2014 at 3:53 pm

Aha, four-income household is the answer to local affordability.


4 people like this
Posted by Garrett
a resident of another community
on Dec 13, 2014 at 4:05 pm

Some people will chose to live near work others will chose to live in Woodside or.Santa Clara. People in Woodside or Atherton most likely can afford to have offices near them
I don't see a resident of PV sitting in 1 hour of normal day traffic or driving to work in Livermore.


4 people like this
Posted by amusing
a resident of Community Center
on Dec 13, 2014 at 5:45 pm

@ not amused: no... Jo Ann and Mauricio are almost definitely real people. They post on Town Square all of the time. [Portion removed.]

@Jo Ann: it still seems that you are unaware of what supply and demand mean and how they relate to pricing. The increase in our neighbor's jobs has a corresponding increase on our prices. Increasing supply (in Mountain View and Palo Alto) will have the impact of lowering prices. If demand is still higher than supply, prices may still rise, but they will rise LESS than otherwise.

@ Mauricio: by your own accounting, you have worked at places that are biking distance (Palo Alto and Mountain View). It's hard to reconcile this with your statement that "being able to bike to work is a fantasy".


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Posted by Douglas Moran
a resident of Barron Park
on Dec 13, 2014 at 6:34 pm

Douglas Moran is a registered user.

@Eric Rosenblum's comment responding to my earlier comment:

The "up to 1.3 miles" that I referenced was the current attendance boundary between Barron Park and Escondido (Page Mill Road). The Holbach project (195 Page Mill, between Park Blvd and the Caltrain tracks) is on this boundary, it is a distance to consider. Also since BPES is currently under-subscribed, that boundary may be pushed north for housing in the southern Cal Ave area.

As to your offer for me to talk to the Safe-Routes-to-School coordinator about current problems, those discussions have been had repeatedly over the past 17 years. Key portions of the routes are narrow streets. On the BP side, portions don't have sidewalks, much less bike lanes. On the Ventura side, there are sidewalks, but the key streets are so narrow that there is not even room for a second vehicle travel lane, much less bike lanes. However, for adult cyclists, the effectively single-lane streets do leave space for cars to pass bikes with reasonable margins. The current situation is the best we can reasonably do.

However, City Hall has decided target the Park Blvd & Fry's site for substantial growth despite having tried and failed to come up with a traffic plan that would put large amounts of vehicles on the Ventura residential streets currently designated as "safe" for cyclists. City Hall largely ignored the input from parents living in the Ventura neighborhood about how the proposals for Park Blvd would likely affect biking from Ventura to CalAve (which those parents then did with their children). "Largely" because City Hall *did* require some changes to 195 Page Mill to make it less hostile to bike/ped. However, the recent discussions of bikeways in the Ventura neighborhood explicitly rejected consideration of the impacts of the intended developments along Park Blvd, including the redevelopment of Fry's site (note: this pre-dates Rosenblum's tenure on the Planning Commission).

Since experience is that it can take City Hall 17 years, and multiple attempts (still pending), to install simple speed tables on a major bike route (Matadero), a response of "Wait until the situation manifests itself" is likely to be taken as naive or disingenuous. And the recent experience with bike route improvements between Park Blvd and the far side of El Camino was that it was almost entirely concerned with "elite bicyclists".

While I think many Palo Alto parents are over-protective, if I were living in the CalAve area and had a child that went to Barron Park Elementary, I would drive that child to school (remember that I am very familiar with this route as an adult bicyclist and with the section between Fry's and BPES as a pedestrian). It is not the individual danger spots, it is the cumulative effect -- my (distant) experience is that this exceeds what can reasonably be expected of a child that age.


3 people like this
Posted by mauricio
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Dec 13, 2014 at 6:55 pm

mauricio is a registered user.

@Amusing, Heve you ever tried biking to Sunnyvale, Milpitas, San Jose, Santa Clara, San Francisco, or Pleasanton from Palo Alto? Yes, in 30 years, I spent maybe 3-4 years working within biking distance from my house in Palo Alto (depending on weather, imaging biking during the rainy weather we had this week), although even then I had to often use my car for meetings and projectsin areas too far for bike rides.

The reality is that Valley workers will change jobs a few times over during careers, and/or their companies will move locations, and living next to work is just a fantasy.


5 people like this
Posted by Eric Rosenblum
a resident of Downtown North
on Dec 13, 2014 at 6:59 pm

Eric Rosenblum is a registered user.

Hi Doug--

Thanks for the comments. I've reached out to the traffic safety coordinator for Safe Routes to School (I've cc-ed you on the email). I'll let this thread know what we find with regard to various safety statistics.

This is an important issue, and I appreciate your engagement.

Eric


4 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Downtown North
on Dec 13, 2014 at 7:39 pm

Why can't the tech workers live in East Palo Alto and ride their bikes over to Palo Alto for work? It's a pretty easy commute.


2 people like this
Posted by trees
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Dec 13, 2014 at 8:40 pm

trees is a registered user.

Where do you propose the people that are then priced out of East Palo Alto should live?


2 people like this
Posted by Mr.Recycle
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Dec 13, 2014 at 9:31 pm

@trees - EPA is either going to become a nicer place, and prices will go up, or it will become a worse place, and prices will go down. Which do you think the citizens of EPA would choose?


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Posted by trees
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Dec 13, 2014 at 10:20 pm

trees is a registered user.

Which do you think Palo Alto should choose?


4 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Downtown North
on Dec 13, 2014 at 10:24 pm

No one HAS to live where they work. It's just a desire.


5 people like this
Posted by trees
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Dec 13, 2014 at 10:50 pm

trees is a registered user.

As I said above, it's not about anyone's personal desire to live near jobs. It's about what's good for the city as a whole.

People living near their jobs is good for this city as a whole. It's good for our environment, reduces traffic, reduces parking problems when people can walk or bike to where they need to instead of driving in from out of town.

the jobs are already here. Cat's out of the bag. Companies are all over PA - Stanford Research Park has a huge number of employees. So people are already driving in from god knows where to get here. So how do we limit the problems that causes for ALL OF US? How do you propose dealing with the traffic and parking issues we already have? How are you going to reverse them? Because "no development ever again" doesn't actually fix any current problems.

We don't have enough housing in the ENTIRE Bay Area to keep up with jobs. So this isn't even about living near work, it's about living remotely near work which is becoming increasingly difficult for many people as the pace of jobs added is accelerating and the housing supply isn't keeping up. Is having housing remotely near your job also "just a desire"? Our growing homeless population - is their wish for affordable housing SOMEWHERE in the Bay Area also "just a desire"? Please explain why your desire to not have 3 story apartment buildings ISN'T "just a desire" but people needing to have a roof over their head somewhere, anywhere in the Bay Area, near their job "is just a desire."

You understand that if we have job growth here but have nowhere for people to live that in the end that damages our economy and makes our unemployment rates go up, right??


7 people like this
Posted by bcs
a resident of Professorville
on Dec 13, 2014 at 10:57 pm

Many residents appear to believe that Palo Alto can accept stratospheric median housing costs and poor transit infrastructure while simultaneously expecting the city's character and culture to remain in stasis.

Great to see an organization that acknowledges these real challenges to our community, and works toward a positive vision for how our city can respond and lead.

This conversation will have made real progress when its other voices start to acknowledge, at least, the fact that these challenges exist.


5 people like this
Posted by journalistic integrity
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 14, 2014 at 1:16 am

@ trees,

Have you ever driven along Tasman in Milpitas to Sunnyvale? There is TONS of housing. Tons of office space. Nothing else. They would welcome your energy to change them.

Same with San Jose, as I wrote above. They want what you want. Have at it.

But what you are peddling in Palo Alto is just a bunch of gobbledygook to try to continue to overdevelop a place that has suffered a sharp decline in quality of life in the last few years because of same overdevelopment. No one is buying it anymore.

People were already trying to solve transportation, school overcrowding, safety, and other issues before all the overdevelopment. Go read what the Los Altos Planning Commission just said when they turned down an application from Michael Alcheck recently. They totally slammed Palo Alto. The emperor has no clothes, no matter how often you mischaracterize what people living here want or believe, and no matter how often you try to sugarcoat and mistate what PAF stands for.

Kate Downing - your efforts would be welcomed in downtown San Jose, in fact, they are trying to do exactly what want. You ignore that what you want in Palo Alto involves things like bulldozing the last orchard in Palo Alto and failing to honor code-obligations of open space that come with development. Why not go where you are wanted? The only people who want you here are the developers and those who want to force your unwanted changes on the existing residents.


1 person likes this
Posted by Density Law
a resident of Stanford
on Dec 14, 2014 at 4:09 am

A misapplication of the law of supply and demand has been articulated on this and other threads.

The law applies when all other things are equal and if decisions are rational and economic, but these conditions don't always hold. For example, it is well known to marketers that high price sometimes sustains a high quality image which sustains high demand; lowering price in this case lowers demand.

In the case of housing in Palo Alto, increasing density increases the value to business of the location (more people to sell to or service; more people to employ; critical mass necessary for success of various business, cultural, and government endeavors becomes available) which in turn increases the cost of real estate which in turn increases the price of housing.

Whatever the other trade-offs are of more density vs. less density, housing prices increase with more density.

This is born out by empirical evidence; housing and property in (non-blighted) densely populated areas cost more than housing in rural and suburban areas.

The same house/lot in Palo Alto costs more than that house/lot in Atherton.

Steve Levy, do you not have a responsibility to ensure activists in PAF understand this? By claiming that more density will lower the price of housing, these activists are damaging the credibility of the organization.


4 people like this
Posted by mauricio
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Dec 14, 2014 at 10:32 am

mauricio is a registered user.

After reading Kate Downing's explanation of her housing situation, it's still unclear why she doesn't live in Santa Clara, San Jose or San Francisco, which are physically closer to her job, and have the urban density and dynamism she like so much. Additionally, how many workers have the option of deciding when to go into the office, and the pick of which location they feel like going to.

This is a small college town, out of the 25.79 square mile, lots of the land is unbuildable. There's no room to build out, unlike cities in the South Bay. Even if previously undiscovered land is used to squeeze in more dense housing is into downtown and the Cal Ave area, it would not make the slightest dent into housing scarcity or its astronomical price, because there will still be an unquenchable demand for housing in Palo Alto, and absolutely no space and land to accommodate it.

PAF is active in the wrong town. They should move their operation to EPA, the South Bay, the East Bay and San Francisco.


4 people like this
Posted by resident
a resident of Downtown North
on Dec 14, 2014 at 10:48 am

Palo Alto is doing fine with being vibrant. Why are people striving for more? It's those that don't live here that are trying to make changes so that they can. It's time to stop the over development before we have more chaos and degradation in this town. Adding more housing for techies will not make a difference in housing values. The housing values are already great, so let's leave it alone. Adding more density ruins the quality of life that many PA residents are wanting to keep. If the city builds satellite parking and shuttles workers into town, that would be a great approach to dealing with the traffic issues.


7 people like this
Posted by bcs
a resident of Professorville
on Dec 14, 2014 at 10:49 am

It bears repeating: Palo Alto, today, right now, is among the most expensive locations in the entire country. Not simply "costs more than many choose to pay" expensive, which it has been for decades, but rather "accessible to none but the very rich" expensive. We have the housing market of Beverly Hills, except that our homes are smaller and cost more.

Current homeowners are partially insulated from this reality, but it exists nonetheless, and it is inexorably dimming the character of our city without a single new home or business being built.

If residentialists' vision of Palo Alto future is that of Palo Alto past, and if they simultaneously advocate changing nothing about the present, then they must articulate how their vision can be compatible with our present reality.


6 people like this
Posted by Justin
a resident of Mountain View
on Dec 14, 2014 at 10:53 am

@mauricio
Obviously you didn't read what she said. Half of her household works in Palo Alto! And another works in Redwood CIty, which is closer to Palo Alto than SF, Santa Clara, and Redwood City are. Members of Palo Alto Forward do support increased housing in those other places too. The problem is that the prevailing attitude in every single one of those towns is the same. Take your opposition to dense housing and multiply it by every city in the Bay Area and there is your housing shortfall.


3 people like this
Posted by Justin
a resident of Mountain View
on Dec 14, 2014 at 10:55 am

I meant Palo Alto is closer to Redwood City than San Francisco, Santa Clara, and San Jose are.


3 people like this
Posted by resident 1
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Dec 14, 2014 at 11:08 am

It is so interesting that some people who are dissatisfied with their life choices feel the need to ask everyone else to disrupt their life choices.
Palo Alto, and the whole peninsula is what it is - it is all there. If you are dissatisfied with Palo Alto then go out and make another choice. Do not peck at everyone else to disrupt their lives. No one has a requirement to change up to suit someone else.

Where you live - purchasing a home or a condo is a major financial action. It is not taken likely. When people have committed to those major financial actions then do not get in the middle of that with making global decisions about how a city should look.

There are a whole pack of people who would be personally enriched via their jobs - real estate, carpeting, home development, etc. if they could get everyone on the move and then get paid to service some aspect of that move.
So goading everyone on to build tacky one unit apartments is just a bunch of people expressing self interest at other people's expense.

The whole argument has been going on for years - all over the peninsula. So go forth - make new choices - but do not try and tell other people what choices they should be making.

The one choice you can make is to make the place you chose to live in as beautiful as possible so the neighborhood you chose is improved.


2 people like this
Posted by resident
a resident of Downtown North
on Dec 14, 2014 at 11:12 am

I still don't understand what PAF is fighting for. For equality and fairness? The town is already hopping and vibrant. Why is PAF wanting more. Kate lives here already. Eric lives here already. We have had a boom in businesses added to downtown already. Adding a few more residential units for tech workers is not going to dramatically change the housing prices.


4 people like this
Posted by mauricio
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Dec 14, 2014 at 11:32 am

mauricio is a registered user.

@Justin-and you can bet that every single member of her household will change jobs and job location several times during their working life. Her household situation is no interest to me, just like mine is of no interest to her. You live where you can afford to live, you don't force others to change their preferred lifestyle and quality of life for you and you don't demand that they provide affordable housing for you.

I was about her age when I bought a house in Palo Alto. I made huge sacrifices to be able to afford the down payment and mortgage payments. At the time, back in the 198os, salaries and compensation were a fraction of they are now, there weer few houses on the market, so inn real term, houses were as expensive as far as I was concerned as they are now. At no point did I demand that current home owners densify, change their quality of life or make housing more available and affordable to me. I worked very hard, day and night and saved every penny until I could buy a house without asking other for help. There is only one reason I don't live in Woodside-I can't afford to, and I will never ask Woodside residents to densify and urbanaize to make it possible for me to move in. I find PAF's attitude the definition of chutzpah and entitlement. As far as I'm concerned this is a temper tantrum by a few millennials.


3 people like this
Posted by resident 1
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Dec 14, 2014 at 12:12 pm

If you read the full article you will note that some of the names listed are supported by the real estate developer who will take over the Sunset Magazine location in Menlo Park. That is not a coincidence. You can read that thread elsewhere on this platform.

Note to VMware - you are up in the hills - suggest you get on board with bringing BART up the peninsula - this would directly help your company, help Stanford U who has most new development on the west side of the campus, the VA Hospital, and taking the other techies down to the Apple site. If you are looking for transportation actions then take a position on transportation issues that directly benefit you.

VM Ware seems to support a number of people who feel the need to direct how the rest of PA lives. Duly Noted.


3 people like this
Posted by They want to own
a resident of College Terrace
on Dec 14, 2014 at 12:17 pm

Certainly, despite their protests, young tech workers can easily afford the admittedly high rents in Palo Alto. My sense is that what many of them want is the opportunity to own a home in Palo Alto, which traditionally has been an excellent way to increase wealth. Building more high-density condos could make this possible.


10 people like this
Posted by Eric Rosenblum
a resident of Downtown North
on Dec 14, 2014 at 1:01 pm

Eric Rosenblum is a registered user.

@ resident has gotten to the heart of this matter: "I still don't understand what PAF is fighting for. For equality and fairness? The town is already hopping and vibrant. Why is PAF wanting more. Kate lives here already. Eric lives here already."

This is probably an unwise comment, but I ascribe to liberal values. The liberal platform in the US (at least as it relates to planning) is heavily in favor of regional planning, increased opportunity through housing, and investment in public transit infrastructure (both for environmental reasons and to assist with the movement of those seeking opportunity). I believe that housing and transportation lie at the heart of opportunity. I also think that it's important to start at home-- I support causes that are national, state-wide, and in other communities, but I think that one always has to start working in one's own community.

Palo Alto overwhelmingly supports democratic/ liberal candidates. This means that by and large, we are supporting a party that gets behind these same values. However, some people (who seem to be well-represented in Town Square) just don't think that these values should apply in _our_ community. I think that this is a really common phenomenon (that people support policies in theory that they still don't want in their own backyards).

At the same time, I think that increased access to housing and transportation in the right places will make our community more diverse and interesting. It's not just about the "right thing to do"... it also has the side effect of making our community more liveable.

Other members of Palo Alto Forward have different motivations from my own. Some are environmentalists. Some are retirees who want to see increased opportunities for seniors in Palo Alto. Some want to see multiple generations afford to live in the same community. I can only speak for myself.

At any rate, I hope that answers @resident's question about why I'm working for something when I already have my house and job in Palo Alto.


2 people like this
Posted by resident
a resident of Downtown North
on Dec 14, 2014 at 1:19 pm

So this is all politically based. It's like a liberal movement for you. That's what I thought. I have to say that many liberals in this town actually don't want Palo Alto to be built up to what it's becoming because it is degrading the quality of life. Some people think of themselves as liberal minded, may vote liberal, but do have some non-liberal views on things. This may be the case because whether or not you feel this town is mostly liberal the residents have voted some "Residentalists" into the city council. That says a lot about how many residents are feeling today....here and now.


8 people like this
Posted by ready
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Dec 14, 2014 at 1:23 pm

Nobody can "easily afford" the rents around here, not even tech workers. Sit down and do the math before you make statements like that. Tech workers make about 100k in Palo Alto. Little more, little less. About half of that goes to taxes - state, federal, local, SS, etc. You're left with 50k. A studio here is 2k a month (and then add in utilities) - so that's over 24k a year, something like 26k probably. That's about half your take-home pay, leaving you with less than 25k a year for everything else in life. Then factor in that the average student debt in this country is $30k a year and it's more for the people around here who are more likely to have gone to graduate school. Web Link. That's another 341 a month or $4092 a year. And now you're down to 20k a year for everything. You can squeak by on that if you're frugal and single, but then when throw in spouse (and their educational debt) that makes half of that or stays at home or you throw in a kid, that $20k goes down the drain like water. That's not affordable and isn't done "easily."

I know many young people and none of them are even considering buying a home here. Even a million dollar condo is a lot on a 100k salary and it leaves you very vulnerable if you were to lose that job. As for PAF, most of them already own homes here.


7 people like this
Posted by Robert
a resident of another community
on Dec 14, 2014 at 1:27 pm

"At the time, back in the 198os, salaries and compensation were a fraction of they are now, there weer few houses on the market, so inn real term, houses were as expensive as far as I was concerned as they are now."

Well I'm glad a data driven organization is out there, who, for the very least, can show just how off base this comment is.


9 people like this
Posted by ready
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Dec 14, 2014 at 1:59 pm

This article is a great backwards look at what Palo Alto use to be like. This is the Weekly. Web Link

They put the median house price in 1980 at $148,900 (that's $429,050.65 in today's dollars). Median house cost as of today is $2,050,000 (Web Link) =. In 1980 dollars, that's actually $711,442.81 (Web Link).

You can also look at these numbers as compared to median household incomes. I'm going to look at this compared to national median income because looking at Palo Alto median income is a little chicken and egg. But that should give us a good heuristic, too. Income in 1980 was $16,354. In inflation-adjusted terms that was actually $46,995. Web Link The most recent median income number for 2014 that I see puts it at $53, 891 Web Link

So, in real terms, average income has grown by 14.6% since 1980 whereas median house prices in PA have grown by 378%!! So yes, housing is way more expensive today than it was in 1980 in real terms. And it explains why people aged 30 were able to buy houses in PA way back when and can't even begin to dream of doing so today.


5 people like this
Posted by data guy
a resident of another community
on Dec 14, 2014 at 2:25 pm

Thanks, @ready, for doing the basic research showing how dramatically things have changed in Palo Alto in the past few decades.

@Mauricio: since you work in software, I really hope that you use a more data-driven approach to your own work. Your estimate that "things were about as expensive then as they are now" (relative to income) was only off by one order of magnitude ;)


4 people like this
Posted by Observer
a resident of Downtown North
on Dec 14, 2014 at 2:47 pm

We had two recent elections that showed very clearly what the residents of Palo Alto want:
The November election a few weeks ago and the Maybell Referendum. Not a phony amateurish poll touted by PAF (in which even the few people who responded said they are unhappy about traffic and parking.)
PA Forward wants to go Backward, back to support the big developers, but covered with some "green" language.
Voters clearly said they do not want increased development.


4 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 14, 2014 at 2:59 pm

I think that what this thread shows is that different demographics want different things in Palo Alto. The thing about demographics, is that they change very quickly. The young techie types of today are not the same as the young techie types of yesterday nor will be the same as the young techie types of the future. Individuals move from one demographic group to another as they move on in life and the new set that comes in will be looking for something that their predecessors didn't think necessary.

Young people are very different and changing all the time. Cars and learning to drive is no longer the aspiration of a typical teenager, even in Palo Alto. Going away to college no longer requires a car, for the most part. Many hip 20 somethings are part of Zip car rather than car owners and they may only buy a car when they have kids to transport around. Public transportation for young people is becoming more important but they want it to be clean, reliable and direct. They want to be able to work on the bus, be picked up from central location and then basically no stops until they reach the area where they work.

Has anyone thought of running a luxury bus from 280 to downtown? Has anyone thought of running a luxury bus from downtown to Google?

The VTA type service is not the service of the future. Google buses are only for Google employees, but buses that serve multi companies from central residential locations without going all over town may be the right way to look at things. Mountain View is going this route with Google. Palo Alto is still muddling along.


3 people like this
Posted by mauricio
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Dec 14, 2014 at 3:01 pm

mauricio is a registered user.

I am to the left of The Democratic party, and I think that PAF actually supports, while using sleek "green" verbiage, big developers, who are anything but liberal,pro environment or pro sustainability. There is absolutely nothing progressive in more density, more development and more pressure on our small town, way of life, it's all regressive.


9 people like this
Posted by trees
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Dec 14, 2014 at 3:47 pm

trees is a registered user.

Well actually, there's no environmental org in the world that would tell you that its supports sprawl, that it supports building new cities in previously unpopulated lands and paving over existing wildlife. Sprawl is not at all environmentally friendly. We disturb previously untouched habitats that way. And sprawl is what we encourage when we don't add housing near existing job centers. Look at the buildout happening as far away as Tracy and Gilroy - many of those people work in the Bay Area. It's also much better for the environment if you bike or walk to work and other services rather than drive and it's better for the environment if people are closer together. Think of the difference in green house gases from a mailmain that delivers 80 pieces of mail to one apartment building and one who delivers 80 pieces of mail to 80 separate houses. That's also true of everything else necessary to support human life including electricity, water, gas and the delivery of goods like food, clothing, etc.

We also have anything but a "small town way of life." And haven't for a long time. This is the heart of silicon valley. People from all over the world come here for our entrepreneurial culture and the many many jobs that get created here every year. 33% of PA residents weren't even born in the US. This is the home of one of the best universities in the entire world (yeah I know it's not in PA, but it's right here) and a disproportionally large number of the largest companies in the entire world either started here or remain here including Xerox, SAP, HP, Google, Facebook, Tesla, VMware and many many more. We are a city brimming with innovation and the most brilliant minds on the planet. I wouldn't characterize all that as a "small town way of life." I think if you really think this is a Leave It To Beaver Town, then you're really lacking in perspective and are ignoring all of Stanford Research Park.


4 people like this
Posted by Garrett
a resident of another community
on Dec 14, 2014 at 4:02 pm

The housing problem or the lack of supply to keep up with demand. Spreading housing around the entire Bay Area makes more sense instead of every city trying to build a set number what ABAG requires. You could build a couple hundred units along El Camino Real in Palo Alto or less depending on the site. A 3 story building can result in different types of housing.

Building further out means affordable housing but the costs are time stuck in traffic, car costs. Livermore is affordable but transportation to and from needs to be built. 84, BART or light directly to Menlo Park, Stanford, Palo Alto and Mountain View. Not 20 to 30 years but now.

Not every can afford Palo Alto but you do need non tech workers to do 24/7 jobs. Like assist your law offices, medically care for your pet, transport you if car breaks.down without charging a New York prices


4 people like this
Posted by PAmoderate
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Dec 14, 2014 at 4:16 pm

PAmoderate is a registered user.

"I am to the left of The Democratic party"

How can you be "left" of the Democratic Party when your viewpoints are so conservative? As in ossify and anti-change?

That's about as anti-progressive as you can get. This is what the lefties in San Francisco are like too - strange they don't see the irony that they are about as small-town conservative as you can get.


5 people like this
Posted by Garrett
a resident of another community
on Dec 14, 2014 at 4:20 pm

@ trees.

Agree with you fully.

We don't even have the money to build a 6 lane freeway from Stanford Research Park to Livermore then up to Brentwood then to Vacaville.

Either we redesign the suburbs or watch our roads become miles of choked filled parking lots..


1 person likes this
Posted by resident 1
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Dec 14, 2014 at 5:49 pm

Garrett - please go look at El Camino - what do you see? A lot of condos and apartments that are brand new. Most of El Camino is built out with brand new housing. It is like you all some play book about what to complain about that is detached from reality. From where I am sitting I see plenty of brand new housing and an abundance of apartments. Some new, some old.

And PA Moderate - they are living in the whole thing in SF - you aren't. Go stay in a hotel up there and see what is going on - non-stop noise and traffic. No parking.
So far the people who are "progressive" are just complainers. What ever anyone does will not be good enough.


1 person likes this
Posted by resident
a resident of Downtown North
on Dec 14, 2014 at 5:50 pm

Sorry trees, it still doesn't mean that every worker in this town needs to live here. This viewpoint is quite a stretch.


7 people like this
Posted by amusing
a resident of Community Center
on Dec 14, 2014 at 5:55 pm

[Post removed.]


4 people like this
Posted by Justin
a resident of Mountain View
on Dec 14, 2014 at 6:16 pm

I would like to add that the tendency of "progressives" to oppose new housing development is not a new phenomena. Here is an academic paper on the subject: Web Link .


3 people like this
Posted by mauricio
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Dec 14, 2014 at 6:27 pm

mauricio is a registered user.

Buying a half million dollar house 30 years ago with much higher interest rates, much tighter credit markets, smaller salary and no stock options, was just as difficult as buying a 2 million dollar house now. There is nothing progressives about building subsidized houses for the millennials. Progressives like me support helping those who truly need help, not subsidizing the hip urban desires of lawyers, stock brokers and techies who absolutely must have a Palo Alto address, preferably a downtown address. I would support getting rid of the airport and golf course and building on that land subsidized housing for our firefighters, cops and similar city employees. There are absolutely no contradictions in my opinions.


1 person likes this
Posted by Ahem
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 14, 2014 at 6:39 pm

[Post removed.]


3 people like this
Posted by get roommates
a resident of College Terrace
on Dec 14, 2014 at 7:50 pm

If tech workers making $100K/year feel that rents in PA are unaffordable, perhaps they should consider getting roommates. Many Stanford graduate students, making $35K or less are able afford the local rents that way. I agree that a married tech worker with a non-working spouse and child + student debt would find PA rents a stretch. Such a person might want to consider living in a lower-cost area (i.e. RWC).


5 people like this
Posted by trees
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Dec 14, 2014 at 8:35 pm

trees is a registered user.

Maurico, you're read into PAF wanted you wanted. You've pretended they're a bunch of young techies when they're not - many are well over 40. You've pretended they want better housing for themselves when they already own property in the downtown area. The list goes on. PAF supports more housing for everyone. When PAF says - look even super well paid people can't live here, it's trying to underscore for you that those same firefighters and cops don't even have a chance if much better off people can't do it. PAF would totally support more housing for exactly those demographics, I have NO IDEA why you think otherwise. If you support more affordable housing, then you're definitely in the PAF tent. Go sign up!


3 people like this
Posted by trees
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Dec 14, 2014 at 9:20 pm

trees is a registered user.

@ get roommates - affordability is one piece of this and I can assure you that I know of exactly zero single people in PA who live by themselves. Studios only make up 3% of our housing stock anyway. Those grad students are still getting money from mom and dad, which is how they afford to live here. AT 35k, many landlords won't rent to you if the rental is higher than about $875 because they don't want rent to be more than a third of your salary - beyond that you become a bad bet for them. To get to those kinds of numbers, you'd need to be splitting a 2 bedroom apartment (seems to be more or less $3500 these days) between 4 people. That's fine for students, that gets less feasible as you start dating, you get a spouse, etc. Frankly, asking grown adults to live like they're in dorms because you can't stand the sight of a 3 story apartment building here and there sounds pretty entitled to me and especially in your example of grad students who can't just up and switch universities (though I'd argue that there are also lots of people with jobs in the Bay Area that are just downright rare in other parts of the country, too).

The other piece is that there just isn't enough housing either in PAlo Alto or in the entire Bay Area. Last year the Bay Area added 114,000 new jobs and just 7,000 new housing units - and it's been that way here for years. People are already packing it in as much as they can.

Census data show that most suburban job centers in the Bay Area have a housing shortage: Pleasanton (home to Safeway) imports 90 percent of its workers, San Ramon (Chevron) 91 percent, Mountain View (Google) and Cupertino (Apple) 93 percent, and Menlo Park (Facebook) 95 percent. Web Link We have a regional problem and telling people to move to Redwood is like telling people to go play musical chairs, at the end of the song you still don't have enough chairs for everyone to sit down. Yes, other cities are adding housing, but it's not enough. It's not anywhere near the levels it should be.

If you care about this issue, please go read about it. STart here : Web Link Web Link Web Link Web Link


Posted by Iconoclast
a resident of University South

on Dec 14, 2014 at 9:58 pm


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2 people like this
Posted by Journalistic integrity
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 15, 2014 at 12:58 am

@trees,
When we were remodeling, we got an apartment in Sunnyvale not that long ago. It was chock full of amenities like a laundry room in each unit, as large as our house is, and accessible to the Expwy for easy return to Palo Alto. Just over $2k/month for 3 bedrooms/2master suites).

There is actually tons of new housing if you are willing to live along light rail parts south of here. That's what most people, including me, did to afford living in the area when we moved here. You will not wither and die with a Sunnyvale zip code.

Some of us have lived through the busts that inevitably come after the booms. The boom is not a reason to ignore the costs of building your way: evicting low income residents, overextending infrastructure, ignoring the natural environment (are you called trees cuz you like to bulldoze 'em?). Take a road trip. Many parts of the country would love an overflow of smart, skilled workers with an allegedly can-do attitude.


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Posted by Garrett
a resident of another community
on Dec 15, 2014 at 6:57 am

Yes new housing units have been buipr and are being planned along El Camino Real but I am looking at all of Dl Camino Real. I don't expect Palo Alto to house every worker but to plan and build h if oising choices would be a start. Don't see. Anything wrong with people working in one city and having a nice quick commute home by bike, bus or car. They can chose to do all 3 options.

We have hundreds of acres of single story or maybe 2 story building thrown in but maybe we should look at building there. Build housing scattered in North Bayshore, Stanford Park and Moffett Park.


1 person likes this
Posted by resident 1
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Dec 15, 2014 at 7:16 am

El Camino is about more than Palo Alto. If you want to talk housing then forget to say ONLY IN PA. El Camino in Palo Alto is under a constant building boom. You have to have other businesses there to support the people who live their. Restaurants, hotels, a school, car dealers, etc.

If you want to build how about Menlo Park - they put an art gallery on an old auto dealership. That whole area of closed auto dealers need revitalization and is a good candidate for three story buildings. There are new buildings that have gone up on the west side on El Camino.

Redwood City has a lot of new building going on in the downtown area near the Caltrain area. Why don't you talk Atherton? Is it time for Atherton to do their part here and provide some new housing for low income people? There is a whole section near Marsh Road that can be developed in the industrial area.

Mountain View could use more revitalization along El Camino but it appears to be zoned for commercial use.

I realize that this stream is specific to PA but PA cannot take the burden of housing for the whole north county. That does not make sense. There has to be a uniform spread of housing in the whole area.

And to my memory Garrett lives in the east bay so it is hoped that he is also involved in his own community and preaching to his own city council. But I suspect the Garrett is in the building trades so he needs to be working at new building efforts.


1 person likes this
Posted by Adina Levin
a resident of Menlo Park
on Dec 15, 2014 at 7:26 am

Menlo Park did a Specific Plan for the El Camino area, and now has new buildings being planned on the Bay side of El Camino on both sides of the train station. Mountain View just completed a Precise Plan for El Camino and has zoned for mixed use development focused on nodes around the express bus stations.


4 people like this
Posted by mauricio
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Dec 15, 2014 at 8:00 am

mauricio is a registered user.

If there is a housing shortage in the Bay area, it means that we have too many people living here. In this day and age, technology companies can be located just about anywhere. Many areas in the country are desperate for highly educated and skilled technology workers. Tech companies should be encouraged to move out of the Bay area and into those areas. That would be true patriotism and good business too. Palo Alto cannot house every person who wants to live here. It is a small town, not a dense urban city, we have run out of land and space and it should maintain its character.

PAF wants to change this town into a hip dense urban city, and this cannot be allowed. If we should help anyone with housing in Palo Alto, it should be city employees:firefighters, cops, parks department employees, by getting rid of the airport and golf course, which would reduce pollution and build more affordable housing there, along with another park, while expanding the shuttle program to that area.


5 people like this
Posted by Journalistic integrity
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 15, 2014 at 8:22 am

@mauricio,
You make a good point. One of the leading proponents and founder of PAF, Kate Downing, insists we have to dramatically alter Palo Alto, which now is so built out it requires changing the law to do so, so that people can live near their jobs, yet when asked to explain why she doesn't live near her job, she says she telecommutes and her situation is as green as can be. So people do move jobs, couples do have jobs in different places, and they can live far away from their jobs and still be green. Ergo, PAF as usual has no leg to stand on, but as usual, they will shift to some other argument and the outcome remains the same: high-density gentrification with no regard to the loss of low-income residents, loss of open space, need for schools, safety, infrastructure, noise, traffic, quality of life, etc. "Options" my foot.

I still think she should demonstrate how easy it is to move near her job and take that "can-do" attitude to make a hipster urban landscape to San Jose where they not only want what she is peddling, they've been trying to achieve it without success for years.


1 person likes this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 15, 2014 at 8:31 am

PA Airport and Golf Course are in flood plain and not good sites for building.

Many teachers, PAFD and PAPD do not want to live in the same city they work. They don't want to have to have to live with their families in areas where they will come across their neighbors in their daily work and their families are known as being potentially known to make them targets of anything.


3 people like this
Posted by Adina Levin
a resident of Menlo Park
on Dec 15, 2014 at 9:04 am

Several people mention that it is unrealistic for everyone to live near where they work, because jobs change. This is true, but it isn't all or nothing.

If there are many more jobs than housing units, it is only possible for a few people to live near where they work. If there is closer to a balance, more people can have the choice, and more people will take the choice, and commute without driving. Housing near transit helps also. 80% of the Bay Area's jobs are within walking or shuttle distance of Caltrain (or BART), so living near transit helps people choose not to drive.

If these choices were available for more people who want them, that would help reduce car commuting and peak hour congestion. You don't need 100% in order to reduce driving and pollution.


2 people like this
Posted by Garrett
a resident of another community
on Dec 15, 2014 at 9:39 am

I am not in the building trades but if I was would be a developer because architecture and city is something I love. When I lived overseas or traveled I wanted to see neighborhoods away from the high rise city centers and what I found is this. Most people wanted a place with private space close to work. A 20 to 30 minute trip by train, tram, bus will show you all sorts of housing blends. Housing or offices with retail below and a community parking lot nearby.

All over the bay area you will fond older and older strip centers that are long past their prime with more parking surfaces then toal building footage. Dead big box retailers with arces of pavement. You could building office buildings around airports. More use of underground parking lots will free up space in places for housing near job sites or open space.

I would like to see shopkeeper units so small business like Miki's Market can thrive and be real local. Plus a few extra housing units thrown in.



3 people like this
Posted by mauricio
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Dec 15, 2014 at 9:45 am

mauricio is a registered user.

@Journalistic integrity...Fortunately for us opponents of PAF, the more they speak out, the move people realize that PAF is a model of contradiction and that what they really want is to radically change Palo Alto into a densely urban hip metropolis with complete disregard to the wishes of existing residents, whom they dismiss as exclusionary old timers clinging to the past. Fortunately for us as well, their most outspoken member keeps contradicting herself by living not near her job, as she preaches others should do, excusing this obvious Do-as-I-say-not-as-I-do, by claiming she can telecommute or choose which office to go into, and that her roommates work in different locations, again not living near their jobs.


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Posted by Walkable
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Dec 15, 2014 at 9:54 am

I lived in a foreign city for years where housing and retail were very close to each other; mostly only the rich drove because of parking costs, bicycles were ubiquitous, and most households purchased fresh groceries daily from small local markets.

This worked because most households had single earners; the other had time for almost daily shopping.

But my friends in the suburbs of that city drove, and went to supermarkets, and bought about a week's worth of things at a time. Both parents of a family worked somewhat more often. The city dwellers generally struggled more and were not as relaxed as the suburbanites; some were happy to be there but many wished they could afford a house in the suburbs.

Moral: Cars are helpful for families, and many families prefer suburbs to keep their kids away from city problems such as crime, immorality, and various sorts of predators and scam artists and pickpockets.

Now, I don't disagree that some people can not drive, and need options, and will prefer the city because it's likely to provide more options for someone who doesn't drive. In that sense, (over)development brings options.

But in a deeper sense, over development takes options away. You must deal with crime, noise, pollution, business, corruption, and the notion that your problems are often too small to be addressed by local governments.


3 people like this
Posted by PAmoderate
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Dec 15, 2014 at 10:25 am

PAmoderate is a registered user.

"If there is a housing shortage in the Bay area, it means that we have too many people living here. "

Oh, this comments says more about you than anything else, maurico. It tells me that you're all about "I have mine, the rest of you go away." Or, put another way - "get off my lawn."

That's pretty small-town conservative (NIMBY) for you.

I'm not a member for PAF, but based on your semi-logical rants, I think I should sign up.


1 person likes this
Posted by Garrett
a resident of another community
on Dec 15, 2014 at 10:27 am

Crime does exist in the burbs. My car was broken into twice, tools taken from my garage, spray paint on my fence, my nighbors their homes were broken into and stuff stolen. Scam artists do exist as noise and pollution plus corruption at different levels.


2 people like this
Posted by mauricio
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Dec 15, 2014 at 10:54 am

mauricio is a registered user.

PAmoderate, does the concept 'there is no more space' resonate with you at all, or do you think that every sardine can can be stuffed with an unlimited number of sardines? Must every airplane needs to be stuffed with as many passengers as can be squeezed in as long as the plane can manage to get off the ground? What is it about the concept of full capacity that you don't understand?


1 person likes this
Posted by resident 1
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Dec 15, 2014 at 11:03 am

PA Moderate - if there is a reason that the PACC does not follow these streams it is because people make personal attacks on other people. The so-called conversation is suppose to be about an approach to a problem. All you have done is drag out the same old personal attacks of nimbyism, etc.

When push comes to shove the city is going to have to produce results that are acceptable to ALL of the tax-paying residents - most of which have children in the school system and are helping to subsidize that activity through property taxes. That is the majority focus of this city - education.

The major companies are not located here - they are in other surrounding cities. Many are moving their technology business to Los Angeles and other cities.

As to the state functions - many are moving their subsidiaries to other cities which have lower rents so that they can hire more young people. - State Compensation Insurance Fund - other state and federal offices moving out.

The focus of this city is not a bunch of people running around saying we have to dramatically change the city. Kate - if she looked at the city of Santa Clara - has a brand new stadium, brand new housing, and build up of commercial centers. So that is a battle she will not get anywhere with. She and the others think they are looking a low-hanging fruit. Guess what - we have a new stadium too as well as a lot of new housing. So they are barking at the moon. We will be watching how this goes.


1 person likes this
Posted by Garrett
a resident of another community
on Dec 15, 2014 at 11:44 am

I agree we have.way too many people coming for jobs, start up compaines, live the good life, escape the bad weather, esacpe wher ever they might be from or get efucated and stay.

Yes I know people who personally told me they drove out here from someplace and then proceed to slam the door on new growth. Did it stop them? It just mafe hoiding costs more higher, then more people came and repeat.

Older businesses couldn' afford to stay in businesses or in the high costs of costs of the bay area.

We have the Port of Oaklan but the neighbor is slowly being.gentrified and wonder how long.when they. complain about the port with.trucks, noise and pollution. Got news they have a park that isin't used much but some of the new residents would like.to see it increased.

They also wants limts on port traffic.


4 people like this
Posted by PAmoderate
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Dec 15, 2014 at 1:46 pm

PAmoderate is a registered user.

"PAmoderate, does the concept 'there is no more space' resonate with you at all, or do you think that every sardine can can be stuffed with an unlimited number of sardines?"

No more space? Seriously? Didn't know that people "left" of the Democratic Party were such advocates of suburban sprawl and pro-fossil fuels. After all, gas has to power all those people driving from the Central Valley to Silicon Valley because mauricio wants to keep things in the 1980s.

BTW, mauricio, Duran Duran called and wanted their haircut back.

Resident 1 - as for your cries about people being called NIMBYs - sometimes the truth hurts, doesn't it? Isn't that what they're advocating? All I see are anti-change advocation cloaked in anti-growth verbiage. Tell me what policies aren't NIMBY-esque? Just waiting to hear about some long-gone bowling alley.


5 people like this
Posted by Lovemyneighborhood
a resident of Barron Park
on Dec 15, 2014 at 2:27 pm

From PAF's Home page earlier this summer, and still there:

"We have one year to shape Palo Alto's new Comprehensive Plan, which will set housing and transportation policy until 2030. We invite you to join us as we engage with City Council members and city staff ...."

Within about four months PAF have achieved considerable influence already on the future density of Palo Alto with members Cory Woolbach elected to city council, Kate Downing and Adrian Fine appointed to the Planning Commission, and another whose name I don't remember appointed to the Architectural Board. Fast work.


5 people like this
Posted by journalistic integrity
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 15, 2014 at 2:53 pm

I think PAF's are the NIMBYs, can't stand having an East Palo Alto or Santa Clara zip code, remain absolutely mute on how the policies they espouse destroy existing low-income housing opportunities and evict the residents. People in giant glass office buildings shouldn't throw stones.


3 people like this
Posted by mauricio
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Dec 15, 2014 at 3:41 pm

mauricio is a registered user.

PAF is the upside down world. Destroying the character of a small town, cramming it with more and more people and urbanizing it to death, without a single thought to where the new schools needed or the infrastructure and natural resources needed to serve them would come from is considered progress, and opposing the disaster they are planning is NIMBY conservatism. They and their supporters can't stand criticism, as evidence by the personal attacks of "PAmoderate".


3 people like this
Posted by PAmoderate
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Dec 15, 2014 at 8:46 pm

PAmoderate is a registered user.

What, you don't like Duran Duran?

From what I can see, Palo Alto Forward appears to be engaging in dialog. Clearly, with your words, like most people "left" of the Democratic Party, you are more interested in painting with an overly broad brush. I'm just waiting for the accusation that PAF is a bunch of Republicans.

Oh, the horror.


1 person likes this
Posted by Resident 1-Adobe Meadows
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Dec 16, 2014 at 3:33 pm

Resident 1-Adobe Meadows is a registered user.

When I go to the site for the Palo Alto Forward - it appears to be open to everyone who has an interest in being involved in city activities. The site has a lot of good information on it. Then I look at the comments made here and it looks like a food fight - drawing lines in the sand - Democrat vs Republican vs Libertarian.

Many of the issues we have here on land management are based on designations for flood control, federal / state organization over site, and city over site for city owned property, resident owned property, as well as developer owned property.

We have a small city size and most of it is unavailable for any further development.

It is very confusing to see this type behavior for people who are trying to grow their organization. I think they need a time out. They are losing ground.


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Posted by Jerry Underdal
a resident of Barron Park
on Dec 16, 2014 at 4:05 pm

Jerry Underdal is a registered user.

@Resident-1
"The site has a lot of good information on it. Then I look at the comments made here and it looks like a food fight –..."

I'm thankful for the good information you mention because it may indicate where productive dialog can take place as we move forward. With two members from the leadership of PASZ and one member of Palo Alto Forward on the City Council sharing the task with the other members of helping us sort out our city's priorities, we'll see how officials with a responsibility for making things work handle the different perspectives expressed in this thread.


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Posted by Mark Weiss
a resident of Downtown North
on Dec 16, 2014 at 4:32 pm

Mark Weiss is a registered user.

[Post removed.]


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Posted by Mark Weiss
a resident of Downtown North
on Dec 22, 2014 at 12:25 pm

Mark Weiss is a registered user.

[Post removed.]


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