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Another plan for Maybell housing draws fire

Proposal for 24 homes at controversial site is too dense, some residents say

The developer of 2.46 acres on Maybell Avenue near Arastradero Road may be up against a considerable battle with some Barron Park and Green Acres I neighborhood residents, despite already reducing the number of homes to be constructed on the former orchard.

Developer Golden Gate Homes is proposing to build five single-family homes along Maybell; three single-family houses on Clemo Avenue; and 16 homes on the interior along a new, L-shaped street, including four "duet" homes (two pairs of houses whose garages are connected).

The units range from 1,550 square feet for the duets to 2,650 square feet for the houses along Maybell, Ted O'Hanlon, project manager, said. He added that the plans at this stage are only preliminary and are subject to change.

The entire site, aside from the single-family parcels along Maybell, is zoned RM-15, or multi-family residential. Almost all of the homes would be two stories.

The proposal would be submitted as a Village Residential development, which under city code allows for a mix of housing types, including single family, attached rowhouses and townhouses and cottage clusters that can transition to moderate density districts. Densities range from eight to 12 units per acre.

"By implementing the Village Residential code, it allows the project to be feasible with less units and provides a transition from the adjacent eight-story Tan Plaza and the Arastradero Park Apartment Complex to the rest of the neighborhood," O'Hanlon said.

Heeding earlier concerns by residents and members of the slow-growth group Palo Altans for Sensible Zoning, Golden Gate Homes canceled a review of an earlier 30-home proposal by the Palo Alto Architectural Review Board scheduled for early January. The developer instead plans to submit the scaled-down version of 24 houses, which also features fewer, but still some, driveways onto Maybell.

But some residents living near the site are still opposed to its density and traffic circulation, and several said at a community meeting on Jan. 8 that they would fight the proposal. They don't want any driveways onto Maybell, nor do they want the new L-shaped road connecting with Maybell, which is a dedicated bicycle route serving four schools.

At the same time, Green Acres I residents, who live across Arastradero Road from the project, said they don't want all of the traffic from the development coming down Clemo and onto Arastradero.

Henry Lum, a Green Acres resident since 1965, said he was pleased that the developer has reduced the number of homes, but traffic backups on Arastradero Road at Suzanne Drive and Clemo Avenue already make it nearly impossible to exit his neighborhood during rush hour.

A few residents who oppose the project's density vowed legal action if Golden Gate pushes the 24-home development. They pointed to the 1998 Glenbrook Court development in Green Acres as an example of the kind of density they would support, where there are 14 homes on 3.5 acres.

(Glenbrook Court's developer initially planned to turn the 10-acre Cabana Hotel site, now the Crowne Plaza Cabana, on El Camino Real into 100 single-family homes and townhouses.)

But the project has supporters as well. Barron Park residents Winter Dellenbach and Gerry Masteller pointed out at the January meeting that Golden Gate's plan is within the city's zoning requirements for the site. The project is compatible with the neighborhood, which also has high-rise apartments and multi-family housing as well as single-family homes, Dellenbach said.

Others said after the meeting that the developer has worked diligently to cooperate with the neighborhood, and they did not want the proposal to turn into the same kind of bitter and divisive fight as occurred when the parcel's previous owner, Palo Alto Housing Corporation, proposed 60 units of low-income senior housing and 12 single-family homes. Opposition to that project resulted in a 2013 referendum, Measure D, which voters approved, effectively canceling the project.

O'Hanlon said that Golden Gate hopes "to find a point in the middle for everybody."

"We are very excited about this plan. ... Given that existing zoning allows 34 to 46 units, the plan offers significantly less units and fits very well within the vicinity," O'Hanlon said.

"In this plan the neighborhood would gain the single-family feel it desires. ... The site plan is within existing zoning, which is what the neighborhood stated on numerous occasions would be acceptable during the Measure D campaign," he added.

But some residents insisted they don't want any development at all.

"The best solution is to sell this land to farmers and sell fruit to make your money," a resident said.

Golden Gate purchased the property in April 2014 for $22 million.

Comments

Like this comment
Posted by resident 1
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Jan 30, 2015 at 9:20 am

Palo Alto Housing Corporation is a registered non-profit which I believe would have relieved them from property taxes on that parcel, as well as the TAN Apartments. The city in reviewing new developments needs to provide clarification as to the status of property taxes relative to any new development. If the city is allowing the overloading and stress of people and traffic onto the surrounding neighborhood then that needs to be published as part of the review process. Does the city benefit by the addition of the new houses by any tax revenue.

Assume that the new houses are going to add additional children to the school population then is the parcel tax going to apply to those properties.

Since we just went through an exhaustive discussion of parcel taxes and property taxes then publish that data as part of the review process for the development. We all need to understand what the latest rules are that affect the funding for schools, police, fire, and other support services.

Assume that funding for support services come from local, county, and state taxes then the homeowner is the provider of those funds.


3 people like this
Posted by Crescent Park Dad
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jan 30, 2015 at 11:11 am

Each new home will have a purchase price - that will then be the initial appraised value entered into the county's property tax database. Those same individual properties will also have to pay the parcel tax once ownership has transferred.


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Posted by resident 1
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Jan 30, 2015 at 12:32 pm

CPD - Thank you - the current proposed developer is not a non-profit. For future reference where there is a demand for low-cost housing then we need to understand how the tax base for those properties is being taxed. Does the parcel tax apply to low cost housing? If the development has to have a percentage of low-cost and regular cost how is that dealt with? I can imagine if people are unhappy now what is going to happen in a building when some are paying property taxes and parcel tax and others are not.
Does anyone know what the rules are on that scenario?


1 person likes this
Posted by concerned parent
a resident of Green Acres
on Jan 30, 2015 at 12:53 pm

What does Winter Dellenbach have to do with this except to try to be vindictive and say "I told you so" for being upset about what happened there? (Despite the $8 million from the county now being available from that erstwhile development for BV and the referendum being the reason Prometheus pulled out for seeing the residents would really be able to win a land use referendum?) It's SO disappointing to see someone like Dellenbach all but get in the bulldozer and mow down the trees herself out of spite from the previous fights over that property. In the old days, she would have been the one trying to save the trees, even all by herself.

Which makes one wonder, given the shifty things some of the City employees did, and the open space the City owes us (per the City code), if there isn't a legal basis to challenge the sale of the orchard even, and force the City to turn it into parkland. Before anyone yells and screams about cost, the Maybell property has houses on it that would be parceled off and sold, reclaiming most of the value of the property anyway. Although the City could once have saved the orchard for virtually free, it could still get it for less than that $10M bike path.

It's a truly central place to all of the schools in a part of town that has NO civic space and desperately needs it.


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Posted by Jerry Underdal
a resident of Barron Park
on Jan 30, 2015 at 8:59 pm

Jerry Underdal is a registered user.

@resident1
"Palo Alto Housing Corporation is a registered non-profit which I believe would have relieved them from property taxes on that parcel, as well as the TAN Apartments"

You're way off here. The TAN Apartments is the 8-story apartment tower that is very much a for-profit development. I sure hope they're paying taxes. The Arastradero Park Apartments next to the orchard property is property of PAHC and therefore, I assume free of a property tax burden.

If parcel tax maximization is your priority, Gold Gate Property's initial proposal to have 30 fee simple units would be your choice. That's 30 times whatever the parcel tax is. Fewer units, fewer parcel tax payments. Worst choice would be my favorite for the property at this moment--a single property with a glorious Silicon Valley bragging rights estate on it. Parcel tax times 1.

Property taxes overall, tougher for me to guess. The range of options here is huge, from condominiums designed to install the maximum legally number of units, including density bonus for affordable housing units, through various numbers and combinations of single family and multifamily housing to my single magnificent dwelling option.



1 person likes this
Posted by Jerry Underdal
a resident of Barron Park
on Jan 30, 2015 at 10:10 pm

Jerry Underdal is a registered user.

What a meeting!

It was Maybell/Clemo all over again only this time it was a private developer planning luxury housing for lucky families to get the privilege of living in our neighborhood. Ted O'Hanlon was very patient in dealing with the demands and objections that came his way. If Golden Gate Homes thought the Green Acres opposition to anything on Arastradero that exceeded current density (4 living units units) would skate through just because it was all single family, two-story, up-scale housing with special attention paid to the concerns expressed during the Maybell Revolt, they were mistaken.

Threats of lawsuits, a la Glenbrook Court in Green Acres I, showed the muscle behind just those kinds of legal obstacles that had been promised if Measure D passed.

Some highlights:
One supporter of keeping the orchard, no matter what, made clear that she would fight to the end to protect it.

A rift was obvious between Maybell skeptics who sounded willing to accept parts of the plan if traffic seepage into Maybell from the project were stopped and Green Acres I activists who saw that as selling out their interests since all traffic would then go onto Arastradero.

PASZ leader Joe Hirsch announced that he would oppose this plan unless is was all R-1-like, 6000-square ft. lots. I don't recall if that meant that a maximum of 14 or 16 housing units could go in there.

All-in-all it was a lively exchange which left Golden Gate scratching its head about how to proceed. We were told it would be some time before they would be ready to approach the city with a new proposal.


1 person likes this
Posted by concerned parent
a resident of Green Acres
on Jan 31, 2015 at 1:15 am

The only thing I am scratching my head about is why Dellenbach/Underdal have anything to do with this, especially since there's nothing to be gained by dredging up old wounds and divides so that people who clearly are willing to act go away stinging again over slanderous accusations about their intentions instead of helping at BV when the time comes.

The developers are grown ups who were clear that they read all the documents, which means they would have read the public analysis by people like Hirsch before they bought the property, would have realized the ability of neighbors to oppose an overly rosy Council interpretation of what could go there in subdivision as the neighbors in Greenacres 1 did in the Glenbrook extension, as well as the concerns by neighbors about the safety issues and that property location.

I wonder if this has anything to do with Jaime Rodriguez resigning, though, as the previous proposal was sunk because the traffic came out at Maybell (neighbors suggested a traffic light at Clemo to send the traffic onto Arastradero as the solution but the City deemed the impacts to Arastradero too great, and refused to do the safety analysis to cyclists on Maybell, creating the impasse, if we all recall). The City has boxed in that property with excessive developments all around, making it impossible to develop without seriously impacting other systems.


3 people like this
Posted by resident 1
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Jan 31, 2015 at 11:23 am

I am bringing up the property tax and parcel tax because this is being debated on other streams on this platform. I did not get the feeling that that subject came up in the original Maybell discussions - everyone kept touting the non-profit PHC as though that selling point trumped the amount of increased cost to the services in that area - also total traffic confusion.
The fact that an organization is a non-profit is not a selling point in terms of increasing the funding for basic services in the community. Any urbanization that increases stress on the services and other residences should be paying their fair share of property taxes and parcel taxes to help offset the increase in service costs.


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Posted by Jerry Underdal
a resident of Barron Park
on Jan 31, 2015 at 12:11 pm

Jerry Underdal is a registered user.

Concerned parent,

Do you see any factual inaccuracies in my account?

You don't see what my interest is in the property even though you know I live a block from it?! I want the lowest impact possible on Maybell. That wouldn't be met by having 14 or 16 standard luxury houses there.


4 people like this
Posted by Craig Laughton
a resident of College Terrace
on Jan 31, 2015 at 12:16 pm

>The fact that an organization is a non-profit is not a selling point in terms of increasing the funding for basic services in the community

It's good to see Palo Alto waking up, in terms of subsidized housing. If the limo-libs in the elite neighborhoods want subsidized housing in their own neighborhoods, then they should demand it (they won't). Otherwise, don't dump it on non-elite neighborhoods.


3 people like this
Posted by concerned parent
a resident of Green Acres
on Jan 31, 2015 at 1:17 pm

Weekly,
Factual correction: the site is not a *former* orchard, the site is a current orchard, with 100 trees that yet live despite no watering and a lengthy drought. Don't you, too, pile your pen on the bulldozer against those trees like everyone else. [Portion removed.]

It is a living orchard in a spot where we desperately need community space. It is a living orchard and open space, with a nesting red-tailed hawk. It has been an orchard for 50 years in a place that makes it an important piece in the patchwork of urban wildland between the hills and bay. It sits almost across from a long-time school for the disabled. It's centrally located between 5, actually 6, schools, steps away from most of them. It's location and the development issues swirling around make it the perfect place to have saved the orchard for the community, especially because of the traffic issues unique to that location. Shame on the City Council for being so anxious to bulldoze those trees.

[Portion removed.]


9 people like this
Posted by Crescent Park Dad
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jan 31, 2015 at 3:37 pm

Last I checked, the city doesn't own the land; never did. Suggesting that the city is eager to "bulldoze trees" is an inaccurate statement at best. Maybell has always been a privately owned parcel.

As far as the new developer goes, if the company follows all of the rules/codes, no up-zoning or waivers...I'm OK with that. There may be some individuals who don't want anything built or want to try and force their will upon the developer...but the bottom line is if they follow the rules/codes, they should be able to build.

Just because you can cause delays doesn't mean you should.


2 people like this
Posted by Jerry Underdal
a resident of Barron Park
on Jan 31, 2015 at 4:05 pm

Jerry Underdal is a registered user.

Concerned parent,

Has the orchard been pruned, maintained and harvested the way a proper commercial orchard would be? Think Los Altos town center, where the city has maintained an orchard ambience around its municipal buildings.

I believe my post added significant details to the fine report by Sue Dremman that have not appeared elsewhere. The observation that there's a difference of interests between Green Acres I and Green Acres II/-Maybell over traffic from the Mayber/Clemo site will, I believe, be significant going forward.

As a property owner in the immediate vicinity of the proposed project I feel free to hope for an outcome that will maximize the value of my home. A magnificent, astoundingly expensive estate would fit the bill, not that it's going to happen any more than the orchard project is. Affordable housing for low-income seniors, now there's where I would have been willing to take a little risk on the rate of appreciation of my home because I think it would have made the neighborhood better, now and far into the future.


3 people like this
Posted by Karen
a resident of College Terrace
on Jan 31, 2015 at 4:42 pm

I like to see Jerry Underdal and Craig Laughton contest each other. They use their own names, and they stick to their ideological guns. Jerry supports welfare housing over private property rights, and Craig is a straight-forward supporter of private property rights. We need more of their examples on this site.


3 people like this
Posted by Robert
a resident of another community
on Jan 31, 2015 at 5:38 pm

"Craig is a straight-forward supporter of private property rights"

Thanks for the laugh, I just about spit my milk across the table.


3 people like this
Posted by concerned parent
a resident of Green Acres
on Jan 31, 2015 at 9:17 pm

@Crescent Park Dad,
The City had the choice to own the land virtually for free and said no.

In early December, just after the election in which the rezoning was overturned, the City Council met to decide whether to exercise it's right to purchase the Maybell property, which it had by virtue of the contracts it engaged in when it loaned the money to buy the property. (first right of refusal) Still stinging from the defeat, the vindictive Council voted to do nothing, which Greg Scharff has since called a mistake. Had they purchased the property and simply held onto it for six months, they could have sold the houses on Maybell and gotten the orchard virtually for free, or subdivided further, enough to still retain most of the orchard property at no cost.

If the project proposed there had been only a nice affordable housing proposal and only that, within or close to zoning, it would probably be there now. But no, the City actually encouraged PAHC to pursue the property and proceeded to work out something outlandish, more outside of zoning than PAHC originally asked, in which the majority, almost 2/3 of the property, would benefit a high-density for-profit developer. It sure looks to me as an outsider like they were anxious to co-opt the treehuggers who screamed bloody murder about the trees on Cal Ave getting torn down when they were slated to be torn out anyway. How to overcome such people and get 100 trees in an orchard axed including a few of a dozen centenarian native oaks? Oh, I know, let's put some affordable housing there.

Clearly it worked, Winter Dellenbach and Jerry Underdal still have their bulldozers revving. Jerry Underdal is still inexplicably saying things like he doesn't appreciate that the referendum was lost and that he still doesn't understand or care about the public that would have been behind current efforts elsewhere if he and his hadn't banged the drum of such ugly and false accusations against their neighbors.


3 people like this
Posted by Jerry Underdal
a resident of Barron Park
on Jan 31, 2015 at 10:52 pm

Jerry Underdal is a registered user.

Concerned Parent,

Water over the dam but interesting. Lots of assumptions in your blue-sky scenario about the orchard. Also a big leap to suggest that lots of residents who would have supported "current efforts elsewhere" (Buena Vista?) don't because they faced some neighborhood resistance to killing off the Maybell/Clemo project.

You cite Greg Scharff as having said it was a mistake for the city not to buy the property. What's the source supporting your claim and what was the context for the statement, which I would very much like to be able to confirm? If what he said was equivalent to saying "It was a mistake to dump Apple stock when the company was being run into the ground by the Pepsi guy. Look what's happened since," it's just a comment on the benefit of hindsight. If he seriously questioned the council's decision not to move on the property, he should make a statement explaining his reasoning.

What do you think the chances are of reconciling the divergent interests of Green Acres I and Green Acres II/Maybell regarding where to put traffic from that property, especially if there are more than 4 homes on it, which would represent increasing density from current conditions?


9 people like this
Posted by Patient Resident
a resident of Barron Park
on Feb 1, 2015 at 11:04 am

It is good that the developer is proposing less dense development. The project manager, Ted O'Hanlon, has learned a great lesson from his wife, who happens to be the Executive Director of Palo Alto Housing Corporation.


3 people like this
Posted by About Golden Gate
a resident of South of Midtown
on Feb 1, 2015 at 1:22 pm

Company Information
Golden Gate Partners Inc, formerly Golden Gate Homes, Inc. is engaged in marketing residential properties in the United States markets (in California and Florida) to international buyers (from Asia) through exclusive selling agreements or consignment arrangements. Premier Capital, Ltd. (Premier Capital) acts as the Company's agent in Hong Kong and mainland China to market properties that are approved by Premier Capital and for which the Company has obtained sales options or agreements (Approved Properties).
Golden Gate Partners Inc.
20TH FLOOR, 14 WALL STREET NEW YORK NY 10005
Phone: +1 (212) 385-0955
Fax: +1 (302) 645-1280

Web Link
and
Web Link

Golden Gate Partners, Inc. focuses on marketing distressed residential properties in the United States. It intends to market properties to international buyers, primarily from China and other parts of Asia. The company was formerly known as Golden Gates Homes, Inc. and changed its name to Golden Gate Partners, Inc. in January 2014. Golden Gate Partners, Inc. was founded in 2005 and is based in New York, New York. As of June 18, 2013, Golden Gate Partners, Inc. operates as a subsidiary of Ta Partners, Inc.


1 person likes this
Posted by Wayne Martin
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Feb 1, 2015 at 1:45 pm

During the lead-up to the vote on the Maybell/PAHC development last year, I looked at all of the properties listed on the PAHC, listing the assessed values of each property in a short paper about the public cost of subsidized housing--

Web Link

Ownership by the PAHC does not automatically make a property tax exempt, as the data from the Assessor’s web-site shows. However, properties dedicated to residential purposes seem to mostly be tax exempt.


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Posted by Jerry Underdal
a resident of Barron Park
on Feb 1, 2015 at 2:32 pm

Jerry Underdal is a registered user.

@Wayne
and resident 1,

Thanks for posting the link. There's a lot of useful information there.

@resident 1

You do us a service by reminding us that impacts on tax revenues and services that have to be paid for must be recognized for a clear view of the impacts of land use decisions.

Palo Alto became the envy of city governments across the land when it was able to realize large increases in tax revenue from businesses set up at the Stanford Industrial Park and elsewhere while minimizing the expenses associated with adding housing. San Jose, meanwhile, became known as a bedroom city, stuck with providing schools, utilities, police services and the like for people whose jobs generated tax income elsewhere, like Palo Alto. The differentiated roles of the cities worked reasonably well with the traffic loads of the sixties and early seventies but far less well now.


3 people like this
Posted by concerned parent
a resident of Green Acres
on Feb 1, 2015 at 7:06 pm

"It is good that the developer is proposing less dense development. The project manager, Ted O'Hanlon, has learned a great lesson from his wife, who happens to be the Executive Director of Palo Alto Housing Corporation."

Is this true? Can you provide some evidence? That leads to a whole series of questions about why the City Council chose not to buy the property for parkland when it had the chance, especially when it was such an opportunity to get really cheap or even free parkland.


2 people like this
Posted by resident
a resident of Barron Park
on Feb 1, 2015 at 7:52 pm

Candice Gonzalez O'Hanlon - #193487

link
Web Link


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Posted by Jerry Underdal
a resident of Barron Park
on Feb 1, 2015 at 11:29 pm

Jerry Underdal is a registered user.

Concerned parent,

Please let us know what series of questions this information triggers for you. [Portion removed.]

Please comment on the depth of support for retaining the orchard and how it manifested itself *before* PAHC aced out commercial developers to buy the property. The first I heard about it was in your early postings complaining about the affordable housing proposal, and I live a block away. Comment too on likely public reaction if the city council had committed money from the general fund to pay for a park right next door to another park when it had problems coming up with money for other needs throughout the city.

Comment, too, on why the orchard was a non-issue in the city council election. I didn't hear any candidates, including those backed by PASZ, appealing for support for retaining the orchard. From the PASZ web site: "During the past year, DuBois, Filseth and Kou were all involved in the successful referendum that overturned the Council-approved Planned Community (PC) zoning district for the Maybell Avenue site. The PC rezoning would have created high-density housing in a residential neighborhood along a crowded “safe route to schools." No mention of a missed opportunity to keep the orchard or put a community center on that property that would be made right if PASZ candidates prevailed.

What flaws do you see in my luxury estate plan for the property. I hope it will get a serious look. It would be expensive for sure. Sale of the land alone would have to result in enough profit to compete with developing a significant number of single family and/or multifamily homes on the property. But it could be a real addition to the neighborhood, not just a feather in the cap of the owner. Other neighborhoods have been associated with celebrity home owners, this is Barron Park's chance for similar recognition. A 2.4 acre estate in desirable Palo Alto with award winning schools in walking distance, close to Tesla, VMWare and other high tech firms yet with easy access to Peets and Starbucks might be attractive to someone of means who would rather live close to El Camino Real than deal with traffic getting to a larger estate in the foothills.

I'm not a real estate specialist, so I don't know if what I'm talking about is even close to being possible. But when I read of $30M and $40M luxury homes in LA and see what’s happening in residential real estate locally I wonder why it couldn’t happen.



2 people like this
Posted by Taxpayer
a resident of Community Center
on Feb 2, 2015 at 7:57 am

Very interesting. PAHC is a charity, not a government agency, so I don't think there is any "conflict of interest" rule that would prevent Candace from selling the property to an entity which she has a financial interest in through via her husband.

She has fiduciary duty to the stakeholders in the charity to get the best possible price for the property, and if he left money on the table in the transaction, that would be shady.

Normally this would all be between her and the charity, and not my business at all. However, it becomes my business because Palo Alto grants tax dollars to PAHC every year. Before the next outlay of tax dollars to PAHC, I'd like city to do a little discovery to give us the confidence that this is indeed a clean run charity that is putting our money to good use. Did the housing court have other offers? Was the offer submitted by the directors husband company the highest? Was the property put out to bid, or sold in a closed bidding process?

Not to single out PAHC: We need to be smarter shepherds of our tax dollars across-the-board.


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Posted by Taxpayer
a resident of Community Center
on Feb 2, 2015 at 8:03 am

Apologies: "housing corp" not "court" and "she" not "he" in reference to Ms. Gonzales.

Severe arthritis. Voice readers are a godsend for me, but do you introduce the odd typo when not proofreading carefully!


13 people like this
Posted by Friend of PAHC
a resident of Barron Park
on Feb 2, 2015 at 10:07 am

@ Taxpayer and others - it amazes me how many of you stray from the issue at hand and try to find drama where there isn't. Attacking PAHC and its members is unnecessary (i found this disgusting during Measure D). As evident during the recent community meetings, Ted O'Hanlon was not the buyer or owner here, just a project manager Golden Gate homes hired since he lives in the area and obviously knows a lot about the site. I know many PAHC members and heard that they received over a dozen offers for the site, all from developers (who, no doubt, would try to maximize density). In this case, we are getting a project well within existing zoning like many of you demanded in your referendum. So, let's stop being hypocrites and move forward here. This buyer listened to the opposition during the PAHC project and they should be allowed to move forward with their rights as a property owner. No one stepped up to buy it as an orchard (or a single family home) so let's be realistic here. Again, personal attacks on people and nonprofits are nasty and irrelevant.


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Posted by concerned parent
a resident of JLS Middle School
on Feb 2, 2015 at 11:16 am

@Jerry Underdal,

I can't really reply to your post because you seem to be talking to yourself. I don't understand most of it.

The sentiment to retain the orchard is strong in the neighborhood, just as the sentiment not to upzone was. There was a neighborhood survey and just as the desire not to upzone was high, the top preferred land use by far was for the orchard to be preserved and be turned into parkland. That is still the case. Maybe you should look at how you misjudged how in tune your opinion was with your neighborhood's before the referendum for why you don't get it now.

It was hard enough fighting the neighborhood being upzoned because the Council, like you, turned it into a NIMBY issue when it was not, so people expressed the sentiment but did not pursue it. I don't think anyone expected Council would be so vindictive as to turn down saving the orchard and having such cheap parkland in such a needed location for the schools and kids. The only explanation then was spite. The information about Gonazales husband suggests ethical conflicts that should be looked in to.


2 people like this
Posted by Eva
a resident of Ventura
on Feb 2, 2015 at 11:17 am

What is the rational for NOT having the development feed onto Arastradero instead of Maybell? Maybell is packed in the morning with kids going to Briones, Barron, Terman, and Gunn. My kids will start Terman next year and that is their bike route. It doesn't make sense to add more traffic to that smaller overcrowded street.

It sounds inevitable that a development of some sort will be on that site, but even if it is within current zoning can't the city require that the entrance be on Arastradero?


2 people like this
Posted by concerned parent
a resident of Barron Park School
on Feb 2, 2015 at 11:21 am

Taxpayer,

The City had the right to purchase the property in a noncompetitive situation after the referendum, through first right of refusal. Had they purchased it and just sat on it for six months, then just sold off the houses, the orchard could have been free to the City or close to it.


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Posted by concerned parent
a resident of Green Acres
on Feb 2, 2015 at 11:22 am

Sorry, neighborhood should be greenacres.


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Posted by concerned parent
a resident of Green Acres
on Feb 2, 2015 at 11:27 am

Eva,
The City has a policy of heightened scrutiny of developments on school commute corridors, but unfortunately, they have failed to clarify what that means and as a result there are no teeth.

The City has broad powers when it comes to safety, and if clear policies found that site could not be built even to the limit under zoning, they have the power to do something about it. The trouble is that they had neither the desire nor clear direction or policies to follow before and as such, everyone continues to think there is nothing anyone can do (just like before the referendum).

If you are concerned, you can get involved in many ways, including through the subdivision process. That may be a time that you could have input into where the traffic goes or if they can even put that many units on that site since it is in such a key location.

In the meantime, ask the City to prioritize safety more. Development decisions should fall under safety, not the other way around as currently practiced.


2 people like this
Posted by No more nepotism
a resident of Palo Verde
on Feb 2, 2015 at 11:27 am

Thank you for such interesting and informative comments on the new Maybell Project. I am constantly amazed at how much support the PAHC has. I am now deeply disturbed at the relationship between the Development Corp. and director of PAHC. In a fair bidding process all bids should be open for public scrutiny/analysis. I do think the City Council was not a fair representative to the residents when they opted out of saving part of the open space/orchard and selling the rest to a Developer. I am very curious about how much money from General Fund goes into PAHC. It seems like we have finally hit a wall in terms of developing more housing, more BMV units. During the Measure D campaign I heard many rumors about the waiting list for BMR housing. It seems that many relatives/friends somehow were able to get to housing while others waited for 7 years or more for their names to get to the top of the list. Seems to me the P.A.Weekly and City Council should do an in-depth investigative report of all the goings on inside PAHC and the relationship with City Council.


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Posted by concerned parent
a resident of Green Acres
on Feb 2, 2015 at 11:38 am

Eva,
Also, I think part of the dispute above is because what the zoning specifies is a range, not an exact limit. The last City Council and the current builder are applying the maximum in the range even though it's inconsistent with the Comprehensive Plan and zoning principles. The neighbors are applying the appropriate number based on applying land use principles and Comp Plan. This isn't some new dispute, Joe Hirsch, a former planning commissioner, gave his analysis to the City about what could be built there on more than one occasion both in writing and verbally in public statement, and others did as well.

The neighbors could enforce that in court, through the subdivision process. This is how the Greenacres I group got 14 house regular neighborhood in the Glenbrook extension rather than 100 (that would pour out traffic right at that same part of Arastradero, by the way). The neighbors were willing to go to a referendum before and some filed a CEQA suit, I don't know why the current builder would think anyone in the neighborhood would suddenly believe the City's max numbers and be willing to let someone build over what could really be built there just because it's less than the City's one-sided interpretation.

You're right, no one here thinks the traffic should go onto Maybell. Please let the City Council know, they do have power when it comes to safety. Perhaps they should require the builder to pay for more safety analysis that actually looks at the safety off the kids like they refused to do before. The new Council may listen.


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Posted by concerned parent
a resident of Green Acres
on Feb 2, 2015 at 11:48 am

@Friend,

" No one stepped up to buy it as an orchard"

Actually, the City had the right to buy the orchard when the referendum vote was over. Neighbors even asked the City to buy it temporarily to let them try to raise the money. Neighbors after all did save Bol Park by essentially paying for it themselves. Somehow our money over here goes to pay for the assets on the other side of town but we get to pay for them our selves. As it turns out, it might have been free. A vindictive (or possibly otherwise influenced) Council said no.

PAHC and the City took away the opportunities that existed for neighbors to buy the orchard.


3 people like this
Posted by winter dellenbach
a resident of Barron Park
on Feb 2, 2015 at 11:54 am

I have no position on this latest Maybell proposal (above). I did attend the neighborhood meeting mentioned here and did speak a couple of times along with many others - mainly asking for a orderly presentation and civil discussion to ensue so that I and others could fully understand what was being proposed and get our questions answered.

I also mentioned, when someone said that we were a neighborhood of single family homes, that in fact our neighborhood had multi-famliy condos and apartment complexes, a mobile home park, and even a luxury high rise right next to the Maybell property - not just single family homes. I see ours as a healthy mix of eclectic housing - not just high priced single family homes - but several kinds that suit various household configurations and needs.

So I DID NOT and do not take a position on the development proposal one way or another - the thinking is too much in flux to do that - a work in progress.



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Posted by concerned parent
a resident of Green Acres
on Feb 2, 2015 at 12:02 pm

@winter dellenbach,

The decisions controlling the permitted building on that property relate to what is adjacent. Despite the Tan which was built prior to the property being part of Palo Alto, the dominant land use of that area surrounding the Maybell property and adjacent on that side, is R-1 single family. I believe that is what the person was probably referring to.

Please tread lightly, you do not know what was lost because of taking an inflammatory stance in debates that are long over. Please don't reinflame old divides, it won't help current cause.


2 people like this
Posted by VisitingProf
a resident of College Terrace
on Feb 2, 2015 at 12:15 pm

> But the project has supporters as well. Barron Park residents Winter Dellenbach and Gerry Masteller pointed out

Hey Winter Dellenbach one other question. Isn't the other supporter listed in this article, Gerry Masteller, your son in law?


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Posted by stephen levy
a resident of University South
on Feb 2, 2015 at 12:20 pm

stephen levy is a registered user.

Thanks Winter for your comment above.


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Posted by resinent
a resident of College Terrace
on Feb 2, 2015 at 12:48 pm

People of Barron Park, you are being very unreasonable now. 22 million for orchard?


4 people like this
Posted by Jerry Underdal
a resident of Barron Park
on Feb 2, 2015 at 1:38 pm

Jerry Underdal is a registered user.

Time for a set of facts about land use immediately next to Maybell/Clemo and the question of transition to nearby R-1 zoned housing.

On one side is the Arastradero Park Apts. complex, affordable family housing owned and managed by PAHC. On the Arastradero side, the 8-story Tan Apartments. On the Clemo side Juana Briones Park. Across the street on Maybell R-1 single family housing. So the only transition to R-1 is on the Maybell side. The PAHC plan would have had seven 2-story R-1-like homes with small back yards on Maybell (transition accomplished). The Golden Gate plan described in the article but now withdrawn for further adjustment would have had five 2-story R-1 homes on full sized lots (transition accomplished).

I believe "concerned parent" is in error when she says again the the Tan Apartments were built with county, not city authorization. That's a question of fact that should only have to be answered once.


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Posted by concerned parent
a resident of Barron Park
on Feb 2, 2015 at 3:09 pm

[Post removed.]


3 people like this
Posted by Jerry Underdal
a resident of Barron Park
on Feb 2, 2015 at 3:12 pm

Jerry Underdal is a registered user.

Serious props to Ted O'Hanlon for doing his best to direct Golden Gate towards a development that would meet neighborhood concerns. Some folks appear to be looking for a way to dictate what a private owner does, even if it is within zoning, with its own property. Seems like property rights advocates should weigh in on this side of Barron Park,especially if they are currently engaged with the Buena Vista issue on the other side of the neighborhood. I'm looking for consistency in people's positions.

Like Winter Dellenbach, I'm just an interested local observer of action at Maybell/Clemo. So far, I've been impressed by Golden Gate's efforts, not so impressed by the opposition's response.


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Posted by Jerry Underdal
a resident of Barron Park
on Feb 2, 2015 at 4:09 pm

Jerry Underdal is a registered user.

[Post removed.]


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Posted by JoeL
a resident of Barron Park
on Feb 2, 2015 at 4:09 pm

The question of allowable development density for the Maybell site was left unresolved after the defeat of Measure D. A CEQA lawsuit was also pending. Golden Gate purchased the property from the Palo Alto Housing Corporation, but likely never understood the restrictions and sensitivity of the site. Golden Gate hired the husband of PAHC's executive director to guide the development process. But, at best, the site will not be developed at a density anywhere near what Golden Gate hoped.

Golden Gate will eventually figure out that development won't be as profitable or will take years of legal action. Conversely, the City could address the density, traffic and child safety issues on this important route to neighborhood schools by simply buying the site. Keep the orchard and turn the rest of the site into a park. This wouldn't be a $22 million dollar purchase. Golden Gate overpaid for site based on the pipe dreams of PAHC-style density. The city should work with the neighborhood in explaining this to Golden Gate and begin an eminent domain proceeding. The neighborhood and the South Palo Alto need more open space. It's time that neighborhood residents demand it.


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Posted by GoodNews
a resident of Barron Park
on Feb 2, 2015 at 5:07 pm

>>JoeL, "The question of allowable development density for the Maybell site was left unresolved after the defeat of Measure D."

You misunderstand what the measure D vote was about.
The Site is RM15.
That is the allowable development density.

The measure D opposition misunderstand that many of the voters who voted to defeat measure D, only did so to stop any increase to the current zoning at the Maybell property (or by implication, anywhere else in Palo Alto).

As long as the development at the Maybel site is RM15 or less, I (and many others who voted "No" on measure D) would support the developers rights.

The development proposed in this article is quite reasonable and has my support.


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Posted by Robert
a resident of another community
on Feb 2, 2015 at 7:21 pm

[Post removed due to inaccuracy.]


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Posted by Jerry Underdal
a resident of Barron Park
on Feb 2, 2015 at 8:01 pm

Jerry Underdal is a registered user.

Robert,

The scenario you describe did not happen. A subset of Measure D opponents pushed the city to buy the property with assurances that somehow or other the city would be relieved of the financial burden.


3 people like this
Posted by About the Kids
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 3, 2015 at 10:54 am

Most logical solution that I see is to make sure that no more than four households drive out onto Maybell (status quo). Make the exit of the new housing development go out to Arastradero and open Arastradero back to full two lanes in both directions to accommodate all of the extra traffic from the expanded businesses and the developments along the Charleston/Arastradero corridor.

If you are adding traffic you need to find a way to move the traffic. Maybell is a "safe" route to schools for four major schools. We say that we care about the kids and their safety; if this is true then no additional traffic should be added to the mix on Maybell.


2 people like this
Posted by resident 1
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Feb 3, 2015 at 1:12 pm

One of the biggest topics we have on this platform in total is students, schools, school issues, and most important SAFETY OF CHILDREN.
Somehow development seems to trump the above. This particular location is a major transit center for children going / coming to school(s).
If we designate major transit centers for bicycles, school routes, etc as we seem to be doing throughout the city with painted streets then why does that not trump development actions in the city. This location is a transit center - paint the streets green if you have to control the developer action in this area.


1 person likes this
Posted by comment
a resident of Green Acres
on Feb 3, 2015 at 3:01 pm

GoodNews,

The disagreement is not telling the developer to do something outside of zoning. The disagreement is because zoning under RM-15 is not all 15 units per acres in every location. The number of units is up to interpretation UNDER THE ZONING. City Council too the maximum interpretation, because they wanted to sell the property and probably wanted to rub the neighbors' noses in it, but if you actually apply all the zoning rules, you get a lower density than that. The developer says they read everything, so they had to expect they would face a disagreement.

Property rights don't extend to ignoring the full scope of the rules just because the former Council did.


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Posted by Jerry Underdal
a resident of Barron Park
on Feb 3, 2015 at 5:00 pm

Jerry Underdal is a registered user.

Comment,

Just to be clear, could the city council require that a development be at the lowest density specified in a zoning designation? If R15 sets a range of 8-15 units per acre and the developer submits a plan for 24 units, does the city council have the right to compel a maximum 16 units?


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Posted by Comment
a resident of Green Acres
on Feb 4, 2015 at 1:49 am

The City Council has a lot of rights, particularly when it comes to safety. And the residents have a lot of rights, that they can exercise under the subdivision map act.

It's simply untrue that the sum of the land use rules are limited to the most opportune interpretation one can make of one part of a code applying to density.

If safety demands it, or another civic interest trumps it, the Council does have the ability to apply other rules.

Just because the previous Council that was wrong about everything else claimed a large number of units could go there, that was always in dispute, does this mean the neighbors who don't agree should be compelled suddenly to go along with it.

Why would O'Hanlon be an obvious or ethical choice to be involved here? Inside knowledge when it comes to government work is often a no-no (insider trading, lobbying, etc) It's not like the City insiders or PAHC really ever got it anyway. The conflict is that Gonzales via her husband is now profiting personally from this. That just doesn't pass the smell test.


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Posted by Jerry Underdal
a resident of Barron Park
on Feb 4, 2015 at 7:10 am

Jerry Underdal is a registered user.

Oops. My example to try to get things clear wasn't clearly written and is confusing as written. Revision follows:

Just to be clear, could the city council require that a development be at the lowest density specified in a zoning designation? If RM-15 sets a range of 8-15 units per acre and the developer submits a plan for 24 units on two acres (six less than the nominal max) does the city council have the right to compel a maximum of 16 units?


4 people like this
Posted by comment
a resident of Green Acres
on Feb 4, 2015 at 8:33 am

The other comments I would make:

This is history repeating itself just like at Greenacres I, when the city tried to make their neighborhood a passthrough from El Camino to Arastradero. This plan would do the same thing on the other side. It would quickly get used as a way to avoid arastradero and el camino, an intersection that will soon get much worse when that massive hotel that the former Council allowed to be built on a property zoned for much less goes on line.

I agree with the poster above, the City should take a closer look at some of the favoritism PAHC bestows in its attempts to get its way.


3 people like this
Posted by comment
a resident of Green Acres
on Feb 4, 2015 at 8:45 am

Last comment.
In both recent tragedies, the children lived across from the Maybell property. I am not suggesting the property was a problem, I am pointing out how desperately this area needs a community space and there are so very few opportunities to provide it. Actually, once that orchard is bulldozed, that opportunity is gone forever. Here, the City had the chance to get it for probably free, certainly for far less than its bike bridge if its own appraisal of just the orchard is true. Had there been community space in the heart of our neighborhood, it could change lives.




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Posted by Crescent Park Dad
a resident of Crescent Park
on Feb 4, 2015 at 11:32 am

This may sound harsh and is no means meant to be personal.

But enough whining about the orchard. It's not going to happen....what is done, is done.

Better to concentrate on what will be the future.


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Posted by Jerry Underdal
a resident of Barron Park
on Feb 4, 2015 at 11:46 am

Jerry Underdal is a registered user.

Comment,

An open campaign for the orchard and/or the community center before the PAHC project controversy would certainly have been welcome. All sides would have weighed in, pro and con, alliances would have formed, a proper search for private and public money to buy the property would have given a clear signal as to whether the plan was realistic as well as desirable. That didn't happen. So we still have no public record, beyond a neighborhood survey in which a large majority said they'd like to keep the orchard, of a public debate specifically on the issues of orchard and community center. Anonymous posts on Town Square are not enough. There should be evidence of a shared vision that people are willing to work for, not just demand.

Issues of safety on the streets (local) and permissive zoning and its impacts on neighborhoods (citywide) were in my opinion at the heart of the successful no on Measure D campaign. Saving the orchard was intensely fought for by some, but it wasn't a big driver of the vote--again IMO.

So now the case has to be made, openly and by people who are willing to identify in the real world, not just online, with it. As you say, the bulldozers are not only silent, they're not even present, at Maybell/Clemo. Try to get strong neighborhood association support, lobby sympathetic city council members, go to the press.




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Posted by comment
a resident of Green Acres
on Feb 4, 2015 at 1:16 pm

@Jerry Underdal,

[Portion removed.]

You weren't part of the neighborhood's efforts, you were on the other side; the vote of the residents surrounding the parcel of over 80% against the rezoning accurately reflected the results of neighborhood survey but not your public opinion about support for your side in the neighborhood. Same survey showed the preferred land use was by far to save the orchard for parkland.

Residents had their hands full and felt they could not wage a battle to save the orchard when the City was so all out for the upzoning, the Mayor was shilling for Measure D, the City attorney was writing such an egregiously biased ballot, and employees in the planning department were willing to provide false verifications of the rezoning to the state in order to get grant money. Decisions were overtly made not to push EITHER the orchard or even the safety issues. In fact, those of us for whom safety was the primary driver had to push really hard to keep it in the public discussion. Councilmembers then were dismissive and said if we kept bringing it up, we would lose. Nevertheless, safety continued to be the primary motivation for most of the grassroots action throughout the political season.

The City still doesn't own the land. Were there improprieties in making the overt decision not to make the decision to acquire the property on behalf of the public, especially when it is such a rare opportunity to create community meeting place where none exists in an area so densely by our city's schools? That deserves attention, especially if it could save the trees.

[Portion removed.]


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Posted by sensible?
a resident of another community
on Feb 4, 2015 at 7:44 pm

So was the purpose of the community group to require the city to adhere to existing zoning, or to minimize new buildings? A project was proposed that met the existing zoning, and it's been downsized twice so far.

Palo Alto is pretty great as it is, and has enough people and businesses. Any new buildings, particularly larger or denser buildings, would make matters worse. "Minimizing change" is an understandable goal, perhaps it should be stated directly?


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Posted by Robert
a resident of another community
on Feb 4, 2015 at 8:05 pm

'"Minimizing change" is an understandable goal, perhaps it should be stated directly?'

I think it should be, but keep in mind that also opens you to ridicule for believing that Palo Alto exists in some kind of protected bubble or isolation, rather than an integral part of, and dependent on, Silicon Valley and the greater Bay Area that surrounds it.


1 person likes this
Posted by Counterclockwise
a resident of Community Center
on Feb 4, 2015 at 8:10 pm

Has anybody proposed negotiating with the developer to find out what they'd want to build in return for saving the orchard? It would be dense, but maybe there's a deal somewhere.


1 person likes this
Posted by Caveat Emptor
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 4, 2015 at 8:17 pm

Being a non-profit does NOTE mean not having any profit. Au contraire, it means, in reality, having a VERY large profit due to the fact that a non-profit organization pays NO TAXES!

Refer back to the TIMES Magazine series last year on non-profit hospitals' outrageous profits and administrator salaries.

Buyer beware!


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Posted by Jerry Underdal
a resident of Barron Park
on Feb 5, 2015 at 3:32 pm

Jerry Underdal is a registered user.

Comment,

Remind me please, how much groundwork had been laid during the years that property remained undeveloped and people wondered what finally was going to happen to it when the recession-driven slowdown in construction activity came to an end? Where was the organizing to push the city to buy it for a park, to find financial angels who would put up significant starter money for a fund-raising drive? When nobody seems to want a property and it's lingering on the market is the time to make your move.

My point: the best time to raise awareness and organize a drive to save the orchard and put up a community center was before PAHC even bought the property. Even now, apart from Town Square postings, I haven't picked up much energy behind the community center idea.

During the city council campaign at a neighborhood coffee to meet one of the candidates the candidate fielded a number of questions from residents, and then asked, puzzled, why no one had raised the question about a community gathering place. Good question.


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Posted by About the Kids
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 5, 2015 at 4:34 pm

The idea of the orchard being bought by the city has been floated around for quite some time that neighbors may not be aware of. The idea was brought up when I believe that Pat Burt was mayor and before the property was for sale. The person who brought up the idea was told that the city did not have the funds to try and preserve the orchard.

When it was then known that the housing corp was going to sell the property another person tried to speak with them and find out the process or timing of sale with no outcome.

When the property was sold many attempts were made by phone to have someone call back. No calls were ever returned.

Those who are still interested in preserving a part of the orchard should approach the developer now before plans are finalized and find out if four or more of the houses were not developed what profit they would lose. Then would they sell that piece of the land for the profit price to leave it as open space. This would increase the value of the other houses that they are building as well as satisfy the neighbors. If they agree, then neighbors can get to work on fundraising. Someone who truly cares needs to contact them ASAP.


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

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