News

Despite Stanford objections, Palo Alto prepares to cap office growth

City Council members signal support for annual limit on commercial growth; delay decision until March 2

Responding to community criticism about the rapid pace of office growth, Palo Alto officials on Monday offered measured support for a complex and deeply contentious solution: an annual cap on commercial development.

Several members of the City Council signaled that they would favor instituting new limitations on office development, though the debate about what these limitations would be has yet to take place. The council stopped short of voting on a development cap and has yet to figure out whether it should be instituted immediately on an interim basis or rolled out as part of the ongoing update of the Comprehensive Plan.

Though the council didn't delve too deeply into the issue on Monday because of time limitations, the members who had a chance to speak made it clear that they would support an annual office cap. They took this position despite deep reservations and fervent objections from various residents, businesses and property owners, most notably Stanford University. Critics of the proposal argued that capping development would not address the impacts that the council is trying to solve, namely, too much traffic and not enough parking.

Jean McCown, Stanford's assistant vice president for government and community relations, urged the council not to take "precipitous actions" and encouraged members to design solutions that fit the problems of specific parts of the city. She was one of several speakers from Stanford who warned about the unintended consequences that the cap would have on Stanford Research Park, a sprawling high-tech campus with a roster of high-tech titans that includes Varian, Tesla and VMWare.

"There is a community concern about parking in the downtown commercial area, but that's not the issue in the Research Park, where properties do provide their own parking," McCown said.

She also noted that unlike in downtown, developments at Stanford Research Park do not apply for "planned-community" zone in hopes of adding more density than their sites would otherwise allow.

Tiffany Griego, managing director for Stanford Research Park, made a similar point in a letter that she co-signed with McCown. The letter noted that between 2004 and 2013, the Research Park has grown at a "modest average rate" of 16,000 square feet per year and that it many cases it resulted in obsolete facilities being transformed to accommodate modern technologies.

Griego asked the council to "encourage this sort of reinvestment which replaces existing improvements with modern, sustainable facilities that are more appropriate for the conduct of cutting-edge research and development."

In the letter, she wrote that Stanford believes that an annual growth limit "could have significantly detrimental impacts on the vitality of the Stanford Research Park"

"Stanford is concerned that an annual cap will compromise our mutual ability to attract companies that create long-term economic stability in our City," Griego wrote.

Jeff Wright, vice president at Varian, also expressed a deep concern about an office cap. The company had recently renovated 110,000 square feet of office and research-and-development space at its Stanford Research Park campus and had put together a master plan that would accommodate a further build-out. The company's plan to continue its growth could be jeopardized by a new cap, which could take the form of a "beauty contest" between development proposals, with the council as the judge.

"We are concerned the contemplated annual growth limit erodes flexibility and predictability, and could have the unintended consequence of prohibiting Varian from ever building out its remaining FAR (floor-area-ratio), particularly if the annual limit is too low," Wright wrote.

The call for caution and careful deliberation won some support from the council, though members were more swayed by the argument from residents that office development has gotten too intense, particularly around downtown. Residents' anxieties over recent growth helped set the stage for a referendum in 2013, in which voters overturned a council-approved housing development on Maybell Avenue, and for the council election of 2014, in which candidates who advocated for slow-growth policies did particularly well.

Two of these candidates, Tom DuBois and Eric Filseth, both spoke in favor of a commercial cap. DuBois cited the recent election and recalled that "all five winning candidates said there is a need to moderate commercial impacts."

"We had very broad input from the community through the last election," DuBois said. "It's not just about traffic and parking. It's about maintaining the aesthetics of the city."

Filseth aligned himself with Vice Mayor Greg Schmid, who made a motion for staff to move ahead with exploring an annual cap between 10,000 square feet and 45,000 square feet as part of the Comprehensive Plan update.

But the council never got to vote on Schmid's motion, with most members agreeing that the March 2 discussion should launch from a clean slate and not be based on a specific proposal. The council voted 6-2, with Schmid and Filseth dissenting and Councilwoman Liz Kniss absent, to table the discussion until then.

"I think it's pretty clear that for a majority of Palo Alto residents, we're at a point in time where the incremental benefits of more office expansion are outweighed by the incremental costs," Filseth said in explaining his support for a cap. "There is an argument that negative impacts can be mitigated but they can't be mitigated completely. It's the first rule of holes. When you're in one, stop digging."

Though the council didn't adopt a cap on Monday, the discussion suggested that it's only a matter of time. Mayor Karen Holman and Councilman Pat Burt had both advocated limiting commercial growth at past discussions. And even Councilman Cory Wolbach, who is not aligned with the slow-growth "residentialist" camp, reiterated on Monday his pre-election argument that what Palo Alto needs is more housing, not more office space.

Even so, Wolbach urged caution when it comes to capping development. By addressing the supply of office space without addressing the demand, the council's action could lead to rising rents, which could pose a challenge for small businesses. He likened an office cap to a tourniquet and argued that "if you aren't careful you can lose a limb."

"Small businesses in Palo Alto could be among the limbs," he said.

Wolbach proved particularly sympathetic to a commonly stated argument that the city shouldn't cap office development outright but rather limit it by demanding amenities such as housing, impact fees and "transportation demand management" programs that shift employees out of cars and into less impactful modes of commuting.

"Tying commercial development to housing, tying commercial development to TDM (transportation demand management) measures -- those are the kinds of things we need to focus on," Wolbach said.

Comments

23 people like this
Posted by Palo Altan
a resident of JLS Middle School
on Feb 10, 2015 at 8:17 am

I don't get it. Filseth says "I think it's pretty clear that for a majority of Palo Alto residents, we're at a point in time where the incremental benefits of more office expansion are outweighed by the incremental costs," and yet the Weekly is pointing out that the only clear momentum from this was a referendum on a low income senior housing project???

Isn't the real issue we're talking about is the potential loss of retail in our downtown areas and dealing with parking? My understanding is new office construction is actually having less of an impact on parking than the more thorny issue of not being able to find parking for buildings that were built ages ago & behavior change around transportation. How can we focus and deal with parking and supporting our local retail establishments?


25 people like this
Posted by True colors
a resident of Addison School
on Feb 10, 2015 at 8:32 am

It is funny that during the election, Filseth strenuously objected to being called "no-growth". He claimed to be in favor of "thoughtful growth".

Then, with no data in hand, he endorses the bluntest of blunt instruments: a cap. Employees of downtown businesses are the people who are going to the restaurants and other retail establishments that everyone claims to love so much. Caps limit customers and keep rents high. Businesses want lots of customers and they want lower rents. They can't eat sympathetic speeches: they need action.

If candidates run as the "analytical, thoughtful candidates", and then push for the same policies that mirror the most extreme, non-analytical views as seen in TS ("cap development! oppose density!"), how is the public served?


16 people like this
Posted by resident
a resident of Downtown North
on Feb 10, 2015 at 8:34 am

Palo Altan - "My understanding is new office construction is actually having less of an impact on parking than the more thorny issue of not being able to find parking for buildings that were built ages ago & behavior change around transportation."

Office is adding to the problem of too many people here in town with cars parked on our streets all day long. Retail shoppers come and go. The new American Express office that took over Zibbibo restaurant is planning to add 200 more people to downtown.

You can read the article here:

Web Link


8 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 10, 2015 at 8:47 am

True colors,

"Employees of downtown businesses are the people who are going to the restaurants and other retail establishments that everyone claims to love so much."

NOT TRUE
NOT TRUE
NOT TRUE

And the evidence is that downtown is a food court and retail knows that it's not the place to attract the type of customers they would like there. Office people barely buy coffee.


33 people like this
Posted by Stay-at-home Mom
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Feb 10, 2015 at 9:01 am

Thank you for stopping any growth. I am so tired of this family town being cut-through city. Anyone without children in PAUSD probably does not understand the safety issues and congestion, with drivers rolling through stop signs and running red lights. Churchill is a traffic jam several times per day while our students ride their bikes. Louis and Greer are cut-through streets. Red light cameras on OrEx and Embarcadero would be dandy.


36 people like this
Posted by resident
a resident of Downtown North
on Feb 10, 2015 at 9:33 am

100% agree with Stay-at-home-mom!

My neighborhood has become a thoroughfare of fast driving cars, circulating cars trying to find parking spots, an employee smoking zone, littering, etc.....

The safe routes to school program is not safe at all!

Thank you to the new city council!


25 people like this
Posted by headline grabbing
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Feb 10, 2015 at 9:33 am

The office cap is just an easy way for these politicians to grab headlines. They figure we're dumb enough to believe that this is actually effective because, hey "cap" and "moratorium" make it sound like big important things are happening! The truth is that this does absolutely nothing to actually undo our current problems which almost all stem from buildings built before modern parking requirements. It just slows down the growth of our problems, which will still grow, just slowly. Where are the real analytic minds who aren't trying to perform surgery by pounding the patient with a baseball bat? Where are the people actually committed to solving this problem instead of just looking like they're solving this problem?

Invest in public transportation, trench the train and have it come all the time, invest in the TMA and getting more people out of their cars, make the Research Park a mixed-use area so that people aren't flooding the downtowns during lunch, find ways to make building housing more profitable or easier than building office space, and add housing in the Downtown and by Cal Ave with green preference for people who don't have cars!! You need a multi-pronged approach here - you can't fix this with just one policy and then wash your hands of the city.


21 people like this
Posted by Anon
a resident of College Terrace
on Feb 10, 2015 at 9:36 am

Jean McCown said:

"There is a community concern about parking in the downtown commercial area, but that's not the issue in the Research Park, where properties do provide their own parking," McCown said.

This statement is utter nonsense. Stanford only cares about making more money to line their coffers.

It is a FACT that in 2000 the county General use permit (GUP) required stanford to give $100,000 to the city to be used to create a Parking permit program for College Terrace because Stanford parkers were creating such a problem on the residential streets ( BTW -the money was to go to Evergreen park if CT did not use it!).


When Facebook moved into the research park with something like 300 parking spots about 600 employees- and rapidly growing they were severely under parked. We can expect many more companies that are not research and development or labs ( which what the research parking zoning was designed for) to be similarly densely occupied by workers and be under parked under the current requirements in the code.
When Facebook added the additional location further down the hill it became a traffic nightmare! with buses on demand for the one employee or more .

Furthermore the research park may be to a certain extant parked but they do not provide private streets…..there are huge amounts of traffic generated by the existing commuter workers who swell our populations to double or more during the work week, clog and pollute our streets and create the huge jobs housing imbalance that we likely can never close.
The kind of growth we have been experiencing is not sustainable, and a cap is the correct answer unless someone, Stanford included, can figure out how to fix the three problems created by commuter workers: traffic, parking and the jobs housing imbalance.



16 people like this
Posted by mom
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Feb 10, 2015 at 10:10 am

I second everything that stay-at-home Mom said. Out of towners who come in to work every day have no respect for the city and zip around unaware of almost running over children or me walking around with my baby. They also walk around acting as if we can stop on a dime while driving. Never looking up from their conversations when crossing the street.


48 people like this
Posted by Duveneck Resident
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Feb 10, 2015 at 10:42 am

Palo Alto is completely out of balance with 3 times the number of workers as residents compared with 1:1 for Santa Clara. Supposedly Palo Alto's imbalance is the highest in the nation by some measure. The traffic problems are because the majority of workers are coming from out of town.

Office and R&D buildings cost the city more in services than they generate in city tax revenue, unlike the residents. 75% of the city's revenue comes from the residents. Residents also spend 3 times as much as local employees on sales tax.

High tech growth in Santa Clara and San Mateo is not limited by the ability to site office buildings but rather the ability to house employees. This is a major issue for Google, Facebook, LinkedIn, Palantir, etc...

Palo Alto's housing growth in the next 15 years is estimated to be primarily in the areas of families without children and senior citizens according to local economists.

I personally find the large new glass and steel office buildings popping up in Downtown Palo Alto very ugly and fundamentally changing the character of the city in a negative way.

So why are we allowing any more office buildings? Palo Alto as city does not need any more office space and it doesn't benefit the city. A moratorium is probably too exteme but certainly limiting large new office building development and raising the bar on the projects that are approved in terms of parking, traffic and asthetics is sorely needed.


26 people like this
Posted by Dave
a resident of College Terrace
on Feb 10, 2015 at 10:56 am

Hilarious - Stanford Research Park folks have "enough parking" and can add more sq footage. Um, how about the infrastructure to get the additional folks to the actual parking lot/building? Oregon/Page Mill are frequently a parking lot. We clearly *don't* have the infrastructure to support uncapped growth. This is purely the greed of the landowners trying to increase overall property value


24 people like this
Posted by Clean house at city hall
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Feb 10, 2015 at 11:18 am

Planning Dirdctor Gittelman needs to be fired. She wouldn't be truthful at last nights city council meeting. She was asked by council what were the main complaints by residents about over development. She acted like she didn't know and when she answered she only mentioned minor complaints. She didn't want to confront and admit her failings. The woman is over her head and needs to be fired along ineffective city manager, Keene.


11 people like this
Posted by greed?
a resident of Palo Verde
on Feb 10, 2015 at 11:19 am

Is the secretary that gets a job because of new office space also "greedy"?


30 people like this
Posted by Another stay-at-home mom
a resident of Palo Verde
on Feb 10, 2015 at 11:34 am

Thank you for putting a cap on development downtown. I agree with comments from stay at home mom 1 . "I am so tired of this family town being cut-through city. Anyone without children in PAUSD probably does not understand the safety issues and congestion, with drivers rolling through stop signs and running red lights. Churchill is a traffic jam several times per day while our students ride their bikes. Louis and Greer are cut-through streets." Put residents and school children first! I am very nervous about my children bicycling to cross Oregon, an even Middlefield and Charleston. Cars are also speeding on Louis and Greer oblivious to pedestrians, young bicyclists and moms strolling their babies. Of course, when Oregon, Charleston,El Camino, Embarcadero and Alma are all backed up during commute times, more and more car drivers are cutting through to save time. I have my own cut-through route to avoid the terrible Page Mill/El Camino intersection. I am all in favor in stopping the out-of-control development of Palo Alto and Stanford!


16 people like this
Posted by resident 1
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Feb 10, 2015 at 11:35 am

SU has a huge amount of un-built land. They should required to add some low income housing for the people who work at SU - hospitals, etc. If the housing is restricted to employees of SU then they should also get some type tax break. They keep building hospitals - those people need to live near - or on campus. They also have land available to build additional office space for companies who want to locate here. If those companies have a working relationship with SU then that justifies the additional office space.


45 people like this
Posted by Gunn Father
a resident of Palo Alto Hills
on Feb 10, 2015 at 11:40 am

Growth is not a four letter word. Hope you like old bldgs from that high point in architectural history, the 70's, because that is all you will have in the future with this illogical approach. PA is suppose to have smart people? Where are the smart growth moves ? Turning down a $45+M gift for the #1 infrastructure project ( a new police HQ ) was insane --- yes the developer wanted to build office . God forbid, right next to the Caltrain Station off Calif Ave where the retailers were in full support. That is smart growth. The NIMBYs of PA lost me when you turned down housing for 60 plus elderly . Shame on PA, who do you think you are to work and drive in everyone else's community and yet not have others do the same in yours?


10 people like this
Posted by Gethin
a resident of Midtown
on Feb 10, 2015 at 11:52 am

Gethin is a registered user.

Putting Stanford's and Palo Alto's growth issues into a single process makes no sense at all. Although there are some overlaps I believe that for Stanford to carry out its mission it needs to have greater flexibility in its ability to expand its operations. The concern of adding housing, offices or retail to Palo Alto, especially in the downtown area is a completely different issue and needs to be viewed from a completely different perspective.


9 people like this
Posted by Longtime Resident
a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Feb 10, 2015 at 12:05 pm

Council should do what they can to get office space in Mountain View capped too. They bring more traffic, pollution and use services in all surrounding cities during the day, then drive long hours to get home. It's not like they support our businesses to a great degree, or even those in MV.

With all the new residences being built in MV, they even use the Los Altos schools, not building any of their own there. It is not even thoughtful growth.

Workers living in SF and taking the train to PA (and MV) means even more horns all day long for us residents.

Let's get real. Let's think regional. Who said we must have perpetual growth? How can we get rid of ABAG.


17 people like this
Posted by Noel
a resident of Community Center
on Feb 10, 2015 at 12:16 pm

We are incredibly fortunate to live in an area with one of the fastest growing economies on the planet and which, fueled by Stanford and tech, should continue to grow for a very long time to come. We can either pretend this isn't happening and long for the orange groves of yesteryear, or grab it by the horns and actively plan for it so we have adequate office space, parking, support services and route traffic in ways that minimize impact on our neighborhoods. My kids all biked to school and I love to walk and run in Palo Alto - we have a wonderful small town feel which is part of why we moved here rather than Hillsboro, Cupertino or other disconnected feeling residential areas. Surely we can find areas along and west of El Camino and perhaps close to 101 where substantial office space, parking and services can be built? Meanwhile we need to address downtown, CalTrain and Stanford related parking for the long run, assuming significant growth rather than status quo.


6 people like this
Posted by MadamPresident
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Feb 10, 2015 at 12:30 pm

Brava, headline grabbing! I am with you


17 people like this
Posted by rose
a resident of Mayfield
on Feb 10, 2015 at 1:02 pm

Long ago Stanford offered incentives to encourage employees to use alternative transportation. I rode a bike every day for 15+ years while saving money, having fun riding, and staying strong and healthy. Companies should offer meaningful incentives to get their employees out of their cars and onto buses, trains and bikes. That means the City must improve public transportation (work harder with Samtrans and VTA), improve safety on bike routes so novice riders will dare to do it, and address speeding traffic throughout our city. I agree with the anxious mothers above -- drivers are speeding like crazy everywhere! I'm nervous now and I've been riding for 40 years. Let's install some of the cameras that can ticket speeders in neighborhoods. The only way to reduce parking and traffic problems is to get locals and visitors out of their cars. We need to concentrate on that.


21 people like this
Posted by senor blogger
a resident of Palo Verde
on Feb 10, 2015 at 1:24 pm

Tell Jean Mcgown to "develop Wings" so she and her research park friends don't have to use City streets to get to and from work.

It doesn't cut it , Jean


12 people like this
Posted by anniesbiped
a resident of Midtown
on Feb 10, 2015 at 1:45 pm

Unfortunately the unaware drivers ignoring stop signs and running red lights are all too frequently residents. The women who push their baby strollers in the street or the people who walk in the street instead of using the perfectly good sidewalks actually live here. Poor driving, walking and biking isn't caused exclusively by non Palo Altans. Can the Council cap ignorance?


6 people like this
Posted by Marianne Mueller
a resident of Professorville
on Feb 10, 2015 at 1:54 pm

Whenever a proponent of <whatever> starts invoking the death of small business as a dire result of some sort of restriction on business ... RED FLAG! :-)


27 people like this
Posted by long-term resident #2
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Feb 10, 2015 at 2:33 pm

We've lived here for 45 years, raised 2 girls and have several grandchildren. Over the last 20+ years, many building projects have been granted variances/exceptios to the zoning ordinances. If zoning limits really meant something, many of the building problems and objections would never have arisen.


34 people like this
Posted by how quickly we forget
a resident of University South
on Feb 10, 2015 at 2:40 pm

Disrespect towards Stanford and particularly Ms. McCown isn't appreciated by many of us. This city and all the people living in it wouldn't be here if not for Leland Stanford who 1) founded a global powerhouse of a university, 2) personally brought not one, but two two train stations to our city, 3) ceded land to create University Park - now Downtown Palo Alto, 4) helped to create an economy here that made people want to come here in the first place, and 5) who draws Stanford professors whose bright children seed our public schools and are part of the reason those schools are as good as they are. Leland Stanford could have kept the land you live on as his own personal scenic space, but didn't. Think hard about biting the hand that feeds. Stanford predates all of us, and all the roads, and cars, and parking spaces, and traffic and most everything else in this city. YOU moved to IT, not the other way around. And to even contemplate handicapping the research, scientific breakthroughs, and medical cures they create every year because apparently a parking space for your car is more important than literally curing cancer, is incredibly selfish.


4 people like this
Posted by jm
a resident of Barron Park
on Feb 10, 2015 at 3:05 pm

A development cap would buy the city some time to do some smart planning without being overtaken by even more incremental growth where each project is approved by the planning department in a vacuum. Worse, the planning staff advise developers of every loophole they can take advantage of, including making what are supposed to be occasional exceptions to become the norm. Hillary was quoted last year as saying this is the job of the planning department staff.

An optimist posted above that {Palo Alto should allow growth until the demand for office space can be met. Problem solved. Unfortunately the demand to be in Palo Alto and close to Stanford puts such pressure on the demand for office space that it is doubtful this will happen.

And it would be wonderful if Palo Alto could suddenly solve the problem of public transport so vehicles commuting would be dramatically reduced. How many decades will we have to wait for this to become a reality?

Maybe Palo Alto can fill in the bay some more to accommodate the ever increasing demand for office space and also allow dense development up into the foothills until the demand for housing is met.

And a development cap is not fixed in stone. This can be lifted once there is a plan in place to solve the problems that every increasing incremental growth is bringing with it.


22 people like this
Posted by mauricio
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Feb 10, 2015 at 3:20 pm

The net gain to Palo Alto from more office development and more companies moving into SRP is non existent. Rather, it's a net lose. The damage and pressure on our small town infrastructure is higher than the revenues generated. Out of towners, and unfortunately far too may residents as well, zip through residential streets to get to their destination, put everybody in danger and diminish our quality of life.

We shouldn't just cap office development, we should stop it completely. We have had much too much of it already. If Stanford likes office development so much, let them dedicate some of their very vast land holdings to it.


10 people like this
Posted by Wayne Martin
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Feb 10, 2015 at 3:51 pm

> Filseth aligned himself with Vice Mayor Greg Schmid, who made
> a motion for staff to move ahead with exploring an annual cap
> between 10,000 square feet and 45,000 square feet as part
> of the Comprehensive Plan update.

This seems extremely ill-considered on several levels. For instance, just how much office space is 10,000 sf? Let’s consider the following: 1 20x20, 1 30x30 and 1 40x40 individual offices amounts to 2900 sf, or one-third of the 10K sf allowed. That means that this lower limit would allow no more than nine offices, of these sizes, and fewer if the officers were larger.

Using the same logic, the 45K limit would yield around 40 new offices per year.

We also have to look at long term growth. These two limits would allow 100K-450K of new space in a decade. In twenty years, we could see the upper limit allowing almost 1M sf, and 2M sf in the next forty years. So, we need to ask: “Where will this new office space go, and what will the externality costs be?”

Don’t think that the two proposing this particular limit have given much thought to these basic questions. Rather than trying to impose their views on the situation—we should have Council Members who are asking deeper questions, and demanding simulation work be done on the current town’s office stock to see what can be accommodated. We also have to ask what buildings might be removed to allow for more effective use of space.

This is a difficult problem to solve without having using good estimation tools—unless the answer turns out to somehow stop all growth, and only allow remodeling.


23 people like this
Posted by Pants on fire
a resident of Southgate
on Feb 10, 2015 at 4:02 pm

I had to surpress a giggle when architect Dan Garber spoke. He described himself as a "small business owner".
Garber was Arrillaga's architect for the ill fated 27 University project. He flipped out of the Planning Commission into Arrillaga's money-pit. The project was so improperly handled, it resulted in a County Grand Jury Report seriously criticizing the city- “The City of Palo Alto’s Actions Reduced Transparency and Inhibited Public Input and Scrutiny on Important Land Issues.”
And it led to the resignation of Asst.City Manager Steve Emslie.
Now he wants us to listen to his opinion about Palo Alto development?
"Small businessman" indeed. See Fergus Garber Group 81 Encina Avenue
Web Link
Web Link


5 people like this
Posted by wow
a resident of Barron Park
on Feb 10, 2015 at 4:16 pm

Stanford DID dedicate some of its vast holdings to office space precisely because it thinks that research and development of everything from vaccines to rockets is of huge value to society. It's the entire Stanford Research Park, where HP and Xerox were born. It owns the Research Park and by deed can't sell any part of its lands. The Research Park WOULD be subject to an office cap as it's part of Palo Alto. The University is NOT part of Palo Alto.


14 people like this
Posted by Time to heal
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 10, 2015 at 4:21 pm

"referendum on a low income senior housing project"
"The NIMBYs of PA lost me when you turned down housing for 60 plus elderly ."

First of all, the referendum was NOT a referendum on a low-income senior housing project. There was never an ordinance passed to allow one where one could not be built before. The ordinance was a rezoning ordinance. That is it. Unfortunately, because our City does not have an impartial ballot process, the City attorney wrote the ballot the make it seem like it was a referendum on senior housing, when that project was only 40% of the property, and the rest was an upzoning for the benefit of a for-profit developer. If the City had had to describe, impartially, what the referendum really was about, like the residents of San Francisco did in their similar ballot measure at the same time, the No side would have won by an even larger margin.

Having been one of the people who started the referendum, I would like to point out that residents in this neighborhood put a lot of effort into trying to "sell" ourselves to Council as being able to come up with a better way to work out the affordable housing long before the rezoning ordinance or the referendum. The referendum was not our first choice by a long shot. Neighbors are on record asking for a working group, some of the same neighbors who were responsible for saving the Terman School site from development while at the same time ensuring the 92-unit affordable housing units at the Terman apts.

Since everyone is trying to ignore it, there is an actual, existing community of low-income residents in this same neighborhood that the majority of residents you are calling NIMBYs would like to save. I'm guessing it has escaped your notice that the same $8million the county has voted to make available to hopefully purchase the mobile home park if it is possible is the money it put toward the purchase at Maybell. Had all the governmental agencies been willing to work with residents who, in hindsight, could clearly accomplish a great deal, they would have had all that energy directed at achieving the actual goal of saving/creating affordable housing in Palo Alto, rather than tearing the neighborhood apart using a political tactic and untrue slanders against good people for political purposes and mostly the benefit of a for-profit developer.


3 people like this
Posted by Time to heal
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 10, 2015 at 4:22 pm

And I agree with stay-at-home Mom.


6 people like this
Posted by Robert
a resident of another community
on Feb 10, 2015 at 4:25 pm

To those suggesting a cap, what happens when more workers are squeezed into the existing office space, which has been / is / will continue to happen? Should there be a cap on the number of jobs allowed to exist in Palo Alto? If traffic, congestion, and parking are the main issues here, why is no one willing to address this root cause?


6 people like this
Posted by mauricio
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Feb 10, 2015 at 4:32 pm

"This is a difficult problem to solve without having using good estimation tools—unless the answer turns out to somehow stop all growth, and only allow remodeling."

This is the answer, and has been the only answer for about two decades.


24 people like this
Posted by Sue
a resident of Barron Park
on Feb 10, 2015 at 5:21 pm

What is absent from this discussion is the tie between office space and ABAG.

My understanding is that ABAG requires us to build housing, which is calculated based on the amount of office space we have. If we add more office space, our ABAG numbers will also rise.

I believe we are currently beholden to build over 2,000 housing units. We are having a hard enough time figuring out where to find space for that much housing. How can we justify building more office space to get even deeper in the hole with ABAG?


2 people like this
Posted by Brekus
a resident of Gunn High School
on Feb 10, 2015 at 8:20 pm

Robert, if they started directly fighting # of jobs it would give away just how sadly callous and priveledged they are


10 people like this
Posted by dislikes ct
a resident of another community
on Feb 10, 2015 at 8:32 pm

Eleven years ago when Stanford sought the city's permission to add the housing it is now about to add in what I call upper College Terrace and down along El Camino, its Marguerite Hillview-VA line ran all day every weekday, even when those weekdays were holidays, and the VTA 88 bus ran all day every day. These bus lines went up California Avenue, across on Hanover to Page Mill, and then went to PA VA Hospital using two different routes; the 88 continued to Arastradero and beyond.

Today the VTA 89 runs in one direction for about six morning trips and in the other direction for a similar number of evening trips, and Stanford has eliminated its Hillview-VA and its successor V line. There is a Marguerite R line running in the middle of the day but it does not have a stop at California and Hanover and doesn't go as far as the VA.

Now Stanford has at least 1000 employees on Porter Drive where there is free parking; there's also the Marguerite RP but it's not useful for College Terrace residents, and it doesn't run all day.

You hear the word 'green' all the time, but don't count on any improvements in public transportation. Instead, expect cutbacks like these.


3 people like this
Posted by Douglas Moran
a resident of Barron Park
on Feb 11, 2015 at 5:02 am

Douglas Moran is a registered user.

RE: Wayne Martin's arithmetic on office size:

He uses office sizes of 400-1600 square feet when the current trend is 100 sqft or less per employee. So a 10,000 - 45,000 sqft cap translates into 100-450 *additional* employees from new/expanded buildings.

But to this, one needs to add all the additional employees from existing buildings that become more densely occupied, transitioning from the old assumption of 200-300 sqft per employee. My understanding is that City Hall has little knowledge of how much of this has already occurred (reflected in parking and traffic) and how much more is likely to occur in what time frame.


14 people like this
Posted by resident 1
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Feb 11, 2015 at 8:09 am

ABAG is the elephant in the room. IF we create more office space then the state requires us to add more housing. This is spiraling out of control.

ABAG itself is out of control - the head of their finance absconded with $1.3M - that is a number we know today - and those funds need to be replaced by another state agency in SF out of their "reserves". That is reported if the SF Chronicle who is following this story.

So at this point we have a state mandated agency applying legal pressure on us who is in legal trouble. There must be enough "reserves" around for all of those good people to bail each other out of trouble.

That raises the first question - we in theory could resist the mandates of ABAG since they are at risk for any so-called reasons / funding we would receive to participate in their governance of individual city activities and decisions.

Next question is why ABAG has been given control over our decision making - should we solicit assistance from our political contacts to get rid of ABAG?

We are still left with the problem on the table - much job making by the numbers is on SU private property. Between the Stanford Research Park, Stanford Shopping Center employees and traffic, SU hospitals increasing the number of jobs - many lower income for Shopping center employees / hospital workers who have to be there, and other government agencies in the area - like the VA hospital - who have to be there.

Should the government be required to provide low income housing for government workers at the VA hospital = their property which pays no / limited taxes that support city services?

Should SU be required to provide low income housing on their expansive amount of open land to support their various commercial, medical, and educational activities since they derive the profit from those activities but have limited tax liability and support for city services is therefore limited?

There has to be some trade-offs for what the city is providing in the areas of jobs and housing - and how much the city receives back for payment in the form of taxes for the city services. We have examples of many cities on the peninsula who have shrinking police forces, shrinking fire departments, and shrinking parks and recreations services due to lack of city funding. That is in part due to government agencies who are running amuck, and concessions to developers who are creating an imbalance on what the city receives in funding and offset by lack of services and infrastructure.

Possibly we should have a moratorium on building and let the existing projects get completed and activated so we can further evaluate where we stand. We need to reduce the number of moving parts and make sure we have enough infrastructure for education / schools, police, fire, parks, energy and waste for what we have on the table now. We are only 26 square miles of property so we do not have the same resource pool as San Jose, San Francisco, Oakland, etc.


11 people like this
Posted by Eric Rosenblum
a resident of Downtown North
on Feb 11, 2015 at 8:31 am

Eric Rosenblum is a registered user.

@douglas moran

i'm interested in the source for your statistic "...when the current trend is 100 sqft or less per employee. So a 10,000 - 45,000 sqft cap translates into 100-450 *additional* employees from new/expanded buildings."

This obviously has massive planning implications.

Survey Monkey, Palantir, A9 and RelateIQ all submitted statistics on their office density and transportation mode share. You can reference these statistics here: Web Link
(they're buried under "letters to council" at the end)

Some key takeaways:
-- average SQFT/employee is ~215 SQFT/employee
-- mode share of cars is very low ~40% (obviously all of these businesses are downtown and have some form of Transportation Demand Management programs in place)

It would be great to get more information on more companies, as these are not necessarily representative-- they do represent around 1500 employees, though, which is a substantial sample.

If you have a good data source to complement the numbers provided, that would be great!


3 people like this
Posted by FormerPA
a resident of another community
on Feb 11, 2015 at 10:08 am

How much money does Palo Alto receive from Stanford Research Park Property tax payments?


2 people like this
Posted by FormerPA
a resident of another community
on Feb 11, 2015 at 10:08 am

How much money does Palo Alto receive from Stanford Research Park Property tax payments?


3 people like this
Posted by jm
a resident of Barron Park
on Feb 11, 2015 at 10:20 am

Doesn't the fire marshall have a limit on how many people can occupy a building?


15 people like this
Posted by mauricio
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Feb 11, 2015 at 11:40 am

ABAG is a very incompetent, out of touch agency that is now embroiled in a felonious financial scandal. Woodside, Portola Valley, Los Altos Hills and Atherton have ignored ABAG for decades and have obviously suffered tremendously. The mandates of ABAG are laughable and are disastrous for Palo Alto's present and future. We should just ignore ABAG and do what's right for us, which is no more development and no more density..


5 people like this
Posted by Wayne Martin
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Feb 11, 2015 at 11:45 am

Mr. Moran seems to have missed the key point of my posting—the need for better estimation tools using good data, when dealing with important planning decisions that involve other peoples' money, and property.

Mr. Moran seems to object to my one simple example. As I read his words, I realized that there is actually no clear definition of “office” on the table. My calculation was based on: Area = length x width x num offices. This approach leads to the area enclosed by four walls, and does not deal with the number of people that can be contained in that space. I have worked in 1-person, 2-person and n-person “offices”. At some point, I started working in “offices” that were subdivided into cubicles, that actually were about 10x10, as Mr. Moran suggests. In fact, I worked in one start-up once that had cubicles for everyone, except a hand full of real offices for key management. And, everyone referred to the building as “the office”.

However, walking around downtown PA recently, I noticed that some companies had their employees working at long tables—allowing for perhaps up to twenty people per table. How long this sort of practice will go on is anyone’s guess—but it does make accurate estimation of workers somewhat tricky.

I did do a number of calculations in my spreadsheet before posting, but realized that there were so many possible answers to this question of what the 10K-45K limit would allow that posting more than one, or two, was not a polite thing to do.

So, before we adopt common language about what an “office” is, we are not going to be able to agree on much—other than perhaps that “growth is undesirable in downtown PA”. Hence, my continued call for more analysis, good data, and the use of good estimation tools for building design and city planning.


8 people like this
Posted by Bruce
a resident of Barron Park
on Feb 11, 2015 at 12:04 pm

Today's real time traffic maps tell you, with their red 0-5 mph lines, that Page Mill Road and the Oregon Expressway serving Stanford Research Park are the choke points for excess traffic creating 7 to 9:30 am morning and 3:30 to 7 pm evening gridlock.

Stanford Research Park buildings total about 10 million square feet. At 200sf per employee, that's about 50,000 employees. Add to that the Stanford University campus which has about 50,000 employees and students combined. Still more employees work downtown and on California Avenue.

Simple fact: Palo Alto has more employees coming and going than our road infrastructure can handle during commute hours.

End of story.


3 people like this
Posted by Wayne Martin
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Feb 11, 2015 at 12:33 pm

> How much money does Palo Alto receive from
> Stanford Research Park Property tax payments?

While this information is available in the public domain, one would have to know all of the addresses/parcel numbers to retrieve the individual assessments/taxes paid.

The short answer is: about $90/$100M of assessed valuation.


1 person likes this
Posted by Wayne Martin
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Feb 11, 2015 at 12:48 pm

Opps ..

The short answer is: about $90K/$100M of assessed valuation. The companies in the SRP also are PAU cusomers, so they pay the UUT.


11 people like this
Posted by data please
a resident of College Terrace
on Feb 11, 2015 at 1:18 pm

@ Wayne Martin

I think that you're giving Mr. Moran too much credit. He is just making up numbers... they aren't based on anything. Otherwise, he would have given a reputable source for his conclusions. Mr. Rosenblum has already responded with actual survey data that is available to everyone. Mr. Moran has just made assertions that are based on his guesses of "what average offices must be like today in Palo Alto". It is not useful to engage on that level.


5 people like this
Posted by Wayne Martin
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Feb 11, 2015 at 2:04 pm

> It is not useful to engage on that level.

Perhaps.

As I said in the first posting, we need better tools (and obviously data) to deal with this problem. I don't think the City Council is in any position to limit growth to any number (other than possibly zero) based on what they know, and don't know, today.




3 people like this
Posted by Marie
a resident of Midtown
on Feb 11, 2015 at 3:21 pm

Marie is a registered user.

I agree with Wayne Martin! We need more data!! We should have a moratorium on further commercial development until we see the full impact of current building, the success or not of the TDM and the data from the new business registration requirement. Since any environmental impact statement explicitly does not include the impact of proposed development, how can they ever give a true picture of the impact without a moratorium?

Let's fix the existing problems before creating more.

I particularly do not like the suggestion that we should try to optimize new housing for singles. We need more housing for everyone, according to ABAG, especially low income. If the new housing is only for singles (and how would that be enforced???), then where are the votes to support our schools? Frankly, Palo Alto with one of the finest school districts in the state, is in great demand to families who can benefit from that school district. If we have to have more housing, it should benefit everyone, families included. Turning Palo Alto into a dormitory for young tech workers would be a huge mistake.


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Posted by Douglas Moran
a resident of Barron Park
on Feb 11, 2015 at 4:19 pm

Douglas Moran is a registered user.

The information on trends of less space per employee have been a prominent part of the discussions since 2008/9 when Facebook moved to Stanford Research Park, providing an easy computation of space per employee, which worked out to 92 sqft/employee:
"Residents nervous over Facebook move" (PA Weekly, 2009-03-13, Web Link)
People visiting various local companies (interviewing and other meetings) report very similar densities in many of them.

This density increase has also figured prominently in the trade press. I was trivially able to (re)find an article on the *global* increase in office density from 2013: "CoreNet: Office space per worker shrinks to 150 sf" (Building+Construction magazine, 2013-08-06, Web Link). Read past the headline to observations such as "Slightly over half of the respondents project an average of 100 square feet or less per worker as the norm in five years." Repeating: this was 2013 and a *global* survey. I didn't quickly find

One Stanford University planning document (that I can't immediately find) projected less than 90 sqft per employee for a potential building.

In the debate about protecting first-floor retail in the University Ave area, there were numerous *observations* that the converted retail space had programmers at the sub-100sqft density (elbow-to-elbow sitting at tables).

So here was have a situation where the opponents of a cap claim that there needs to be better data, but ignore, or unaware of, the data they should have encountered in the normal course of dealing with the issue and don't seem to be willing/able to do even trivial web search on the topic. Consequently, it would seem that their demands for more data are disingenuous -- a well-know harassing technique (aka "bury them in paper") -- and that no amount of data would change their ideology one iota.


8 people like this
Posted by Guy_Fawkes
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Feb 11, 2015 at 4:40 pm

Guy_Fawkes is a registered user.

If we can't agree to the base data, all is lost. I am particularly surprised that one of our planning commissioners, Eric Rosenblum, (who claims to want data to make decisions) is siting a completely unscientific study as a source of data.

He's a smart guy. Seems completely disingenuous and irresponsible.

@Eric Rosenblum - surely you don't suggest that the average for Palo Alto is 250 sqft/employee and only 40% of people drive? Are you basing planning decisions on those metrics?

First of all, this is a self selecting internet survey - it's not even statistically representative of the companies in the survey! I beleieve about 30% did not respond, who knows if there is a bias (such as people guilty about driving tended not to respond).

Second, as self reported data from 3 companies that are directly across from the train station, this tells us nothing about anything else in Palo Alto! And Eric knows its.

If only 40% of workers in Palo Alto drive today, there is no hope that things like TMA or additional public transportation will have much impact and we should stop those programs now. There is plenty of data out there on what kind of gains to expect from those programs. If we are at 40%, we have already seen all the expected gains and already down to the people that need to drive for various reasons.

This article was extremely interesting - in spite of all the investment, the percentage of people using public transportation has gone down. Trains are full because of population growth, not that we are getting more people on a percentage basis to use public transportation.
Web Link

People have asked for sources. Office planners use services such as Corenet to design the interiors of new buildings. Corenet's scientific survey reported that square footage dropped below 150 sq ft per employee in 2013.
Web Link

Other sources report planning in the Bay area is often well below that (sub 100 sq ft).

Let's at least agree to valid data on the numbers being used by planners for new buildings! Random data on random existing buildings from non-scientific internet surveys is not useful.


8 people like this
Posted by Todd
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 11, 2015 at 4:42 pm

Yikes Doug, I imagine you'd go into some kind of a fit if someone tried starting up a computer company in their garage. R1! R1!


3 people like this
Posted by curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on Feb 11, 2015 at 5:08 pm

Don't build 'em. They ain't coming.

In 1960 Detroit was on top of the world. Its automobile factories were roaring, hordes of workers were moving to the city for the abundant jobs, its future seemed bright and assured.

Uh-huh.

Palo Alto has a parallel boomlet, but with a few twists.

People will always need new cars. Will they always need myriads of novel apps?

Building cars requires large factories and extensive supply chains. Software can be written on any kitchen table.

Detroit thought it had a permanent party, but the good times rolled on not. Palo Alto's boomlet is way more fungible and fragile.

We don't/won't need more coding sweatshops.


6 people like this
Posted by Conflict of interest concern
a resident of Midtown
on Feb 11, 2015 at 5:26 pm

Guy_Fawkes said of Rosenblum, "He's a smart guy. Seems completely disingenuous and irresponsible."

And he doesn't seem conversant with Conflicts of Interest. As he is a Planning Commissioner he should not be touting his employer's statements.


11 people like this
Posted by Eric Rosenblum
a resident of Downtown North
on Feb 11, 2015 at 5:49 pm

Eric Rosenblum is a registered user.

writing quickly, because off to a meeting.

Doug: the link you cite (Web Link) is a GLOBAL office number (accompanied by a picture of call center). We are one of the most expensive real estate markets in the world... I guarantee that the offices here do not resemble Bangalore-based call centers.

More generally, though, I am making a call for data about PALO ALTO office densities and mode shares. We have had 4 companies (including my own employer) provide data. We need many more. However, we should work off of actual data.


9 people like this
Posted by Eric Rosenblum
a resident of Downtown North
on Feb 11, 2015 at 7:45 pm

Eric Rosenblum is a registered user.

Also, I wanted to make several process points
1) I think that Commissioners work for the residents of the city. As such I appreciate using these forums as a chance to engage with folks in an efficient way.. this sort of dialogue is useful for me to get input.
2) I will generally only respond, though, to people who are using their real names... otherwise, the seriousness and usefulness of the discussion is generally diminished. I appreciate people like Douglas and Wayne who are doing a public service in engaging in more serious dialogue.


1 person likes this
Posted by Resident 1
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Feb 11, 2015 at 8:18 pm

IAW Mr. Roadshow - SJM - the use of cars has not decreased - it has increased. He is getting his info from Caltrans, DMV, insurance companies who track driving miles, etc. I think they have fairly sophisticated methods of arriving at this data.

Then there is ABAG who is supposedly tracking the number of homes a city has now - and how many more are needed to reach a goal. It is possible they have limited ways of determining this and are merely high jacking a concept with some under the table agreements. Or they are using the insurance companies who have extensive data on properties. I think it is time to ask ABAG how they derive their information. I think the county has details on how many homes, apartments, commercial properties, industrial properties are in any area since the county is where the tax assessment center is which then funnels up to the state. Insurance companies have extensive data - and check Google for the sites which tell you everything about any address. It appears to be out there in pieces but ask ABAG if there is some valid source from which they derive their statistics. We should be able to get something useful from them when they attempt to high jack some money.

As to properties on SU campus - SU owns the properties - land portion. SU is not public property. People own the homes.

I live on a cul-de-sac off a major street and I can assure you that people keep zooming in when traffic builds up looking for an alternative outlet then go zooming out - despite the sign on the street. And they are very frustrated drivers in a mad rush. I fear for children who are playing outside.

I am beginning to doubt the statistics which compare us to other cities - that sounds like hype to guide the tone of the conversation - put limits on it. Who is deriving those statistics? How many of those cities have major universities which are privately held property vs a state school like UC CAL - and city which the university owns - try UC in La Jolla - that looks like a big imbalance. You also have Scripps next door in La Jolla - that whole set-up looks like a big imbalance - is it different if the state owns the property VS a private university. I doubt all of the statistics since the basis of the equation has so many variables.

I think the city should freeze further development to allow the unfinished actions to get resolved and start producing results. We need to stabilize our statistic base for further actions on schools, infrastructure, etc. If you are using a statistic from which to guide the conversation then provide how that statistic was developed.


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Posted by Douglas Moran
a resident of Barron Park
on Feb 11, 2015 at 8:25 pm

Douglas Moran is a registered user.

RE: Eric Rosenbaum's response of approx 6pm to my comment

His response emphasized "GLOBAL" in caps as if I had cited that study without noting that fact, either from ignorance or by trying to deceived. In fact, I put the caveat "*global*" both before and after that citation to make sure that people didn't miss that point.

Rosenbaum's response that he is interested in local data implies that I only offered that global study, when in fact the bulk of my comment was about local experiences.

And Rosenbaum makes the disingenuous statement that Palo Alto having such expensive real-estate isn't going to look by a "Bangalore-based call center" implying that offices here wouldn't be that small. But the logic, and experience, is that more expensive real-estate translates into less space per employee, not more (although there are lots of other variables at play in the calculation). And more on Rosenbaum's "logic": Because Bangalore is different from Palo Alto, *global* stats indicating _trends_ are apparently irrelevant.

Admonition: "The perfect is the enemy of the good-enough":
When Rosenbaum and others talk about wanting "better data", "better" seems to translate into "cherry-picked" to suit their ideology. I am not arguing against the utility of actually better data, but rather the use of "needing better data" as a cynical ploy to block taking action when there is good enough data to give guidance.

Rosenbaum and others are playing the same game as deniers of climate change.


6 people like this
Posted by Eric Rosenblum
a resident of Downtown North
on Feb 11, 2015 at 8:47 pm

Eric Rosenblum is a registered user.

@Douglas

(btw... it's "Rosenblum")

I use ALL CAPS because there isn't an option for italics.... I merely mean that the global survey isn't necessarily relevant for a more specific issue: office density in Palo Alto.

I am also not cherry picking. We only have companies representing ~15-20% (I'm guessing) of workers in Downtown Palo Alto reporting data. We need far more. The four companies are almost certainly not representative of the community at large.

To be honest, however, I'm not sure which way the numbers will swing. If I had to guess, I would think that the mode share of automobiles in general is far higher than for the four companies surveyed. This would indicate to me that a good TDM program could make progress (since some companies have managed to drive down their automobile share). As for density... I'm not sure. The reason that the four companies are relatively undense probably has to do with their work mode: more conference rooms and amenities like kitchens, lounge areas, etc, and fewer individual offices, smaller reception areas, etc. Even small companies in our area provide some amenities that take up space and influence density.

In the end, what we're both saying is that good, relevant data is important for this discussion. Some companies have started this process. We need more to follow.


5 people like this
Posted by common sense
a resident of Midtown
on Feb 11, 2015 at 9:17 pm

Eric - since you want "better data", will you support a moratorium on any new office development until we have "better data"? if not, why not? Certainly any more development of office space without data could only make the traffic & parking problems worse.

You also say you feel your job as a commissioner is to listen to the residents, but your voting record on the planning & transportation commission does not indicate that.

I agree with Doug on his point that the more expensive the office space, the smaller the workspace a company gives each worker. Also more expensive the office space is mostly occupied by the more highly paid workers, and the more highly paid workers use cars rather than public transit, than the lowest paid workers because of issues such as time, convenience, and availability.

And Eric, although some posters are anonymous, the points they make are still as valid as any post by someone with their name.


2 people like this
Posted by no data
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Feb 11, 2015 at 11:41 pm

Incorrect- the average income of a Caltrain rider is $117,000. Web Link

The report even says that "This is largely attributable to a smaller share of riders in households earning
under $50,000, and an increase in the percentage of riders in households earning $100,000 per year or more"

So it is entirely wrong to say that highly paid workers will always prefer cars. In fact, many of them can very well afford to drive and choose not to. Many people PREFER public transportation even if they can afford to drive.


6 people like this
Posted by Sea Seelam REDDY
a resident of College Terrace
on Feb 12, 2015 at 12:55 am


Limit growth: It is a good thing!

That is what the residents want.

That is want most of the people here desire.



Respectfully


8 people like this
Posted by Citizen 7
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 12, 2015 at 1:45 am

Eric R,

"2) I will generally only respond, though, to people who are using their real names... otherwise, the seriousness and usefulness of the discussion is generally diminished."

It seems very imperious on your part to pick and choose who you respond to based on whether they post under their name, or a pseudonym.

If you are going to participate in a forum that permits pseudonymous posting, then you should have the courage to respond to anyone that makes a cogent argument.

Pseudonymous writing has a long history in America, and played an important role in the formation of the United States. Anonymity is an essential part of any vital democracy, and despised by tyrants, and authoritarians of all stripes.

As someone who sits on a city commission, it is disappointing to hear you denigrating pseudonymous posters, and I hope you understand most Palo Alto city government meetings are open to public comment, and do not require the speaker to give their name.


3 people like this
Posted by common sense
a resident of Midtown
on Feb 12, 2015 at 6:37 am

No Data @ Charleston Gardens - the Palo Alto Caltrain station has 6,000 riders in 2014 (reported by Caltrain). This compares to the estimated 100,000 people who work in Palo Alto.

For many highly paid employees, their schedule can't be timed to when a train schedule, and the "last miles" of getting to/from the train can add an hour or more to a commute (which the person would rather use either working or for pleasure), and for some workers the need to go to other locations for meetings during the day necessitates a automobile.


4 people like this
Posted by resident 1
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Feb 12, 2015 at 7:05 am

Reading this whole set of comments looks like splitting hairs then arguing how you want to split the hairs - or which hairs to split.

Possibly this would be more meaningful if you used a top down evaluation vs a bottoms up evaluation. Top down you measure how many schools you have - what the maximum population of each school could be under fire law to define your outside calculation on expected number of residences with families. PAUSD should have those figures.

The you evaluate the number of fire houses, police force, waste disposal capability - there must be a calculation as to capability vs number people / households / businesses supported.

Then you look at the tax base of those people who have property tax - you should note those agencies that are tax exempt - what portion of the total square miles they occupy. Also those companies who pay taxes, and those that are tax exempt - non-profits. What percentage exists at this time that define your projected inflow of funding.

At the top level you should measure the total capability vs what you are producing at this time - the movable parts. Finish the movable parts - finish those projects currently in process so your baseline is updated to current information.

Working this calculation from the bottoms up is confusing and non-productive. Reality says you have to know your maximum capability for what the city services are required to provide. Once you figure that
out then you can debate how the margin differential will be addressed.

I think most residences expect city services and planning to exist within a defined framework for this city - it is irrelevant what other cities are doing since their funding inflow and outflow is city distinct.

We can see how San Jose is doing on its police force - we can read that every day in the SJM. A lot of that drove the city elections. What we are doing here should be relevant to our distinct capability to support our decisions on planning. Each individual city has defined limits based on the services they are required to provide - that is the starting point. Statistics as a topic could be argued in any way you want - we are built out to the borders and that is a fact.


7 people like this
Posted by sunshine
a resident of Barron Park
on Feb 12, 2015 at 7:43 am

Good idea--we have far too many office buildings now. Each new office building produces more people that ABAG will want Palo Alto to house in ugly cement structures that present nothing more interesting than a solid wall right at the edge of the sidewalk. Each new office building also further increases traffic and parking problems.
Any new building must be held to existing or less dense codes and must provide sufficient parking for 2 spots for each residence and one spot for each person expected to work there. Additionally there must be sufficient parking provided for visitors and customers.


1 person likes this
Posted by Jerry Underdal
a resident of Barron Park
on Feb 12, 2015 at 11:18 am

Jerry Underdal is a registered user.

@citizen 7

I have read and appreciated Doug Moran's posts for years even when I disagreed. He introduced many of us to aspects of policy making and issues to consider, particularly in Barron Park, that we wouldn't have been aware of, much less have an informed opinion on otherwise.

When I started posting and looked for a model to follow, his posts caught my attention. He used his name and was identified as a registered member of Town Square. Anonymity has its uses, but what Doug (and Eric Rosenblum, Tom Dubois, Cory Wolbach, Nielsen Buchanan and others) have done is a good practice that I hope more will follow.


3 people like this
Posted by Garrett
a resident of another community
on Feb 12, 2015 at 11:47 am

I agree with growth restrictions so housing and transportation issues can be planned and solved for the long term.

Looking at Caltrain which should have been fixed 40 years ago but still stuck in the 60's. BART amd Caltrain 2 different systems each with flaws and challenges. Again stuck in the 60's with the mindset of everyone working in a central job center, Palo Alto to San Framcisco, Palo Alto to Cupertino not so much.

Out of town drivers in which the whole bay area suffers from, live in one place, work in another and shop elsewhere, then get entertained someplace different.


3 people like this
Posted by Deep Throat
a resident of another community
on Feb 12, 2015 at 1:05 pm

I suggest Eric Rosenblum seek the advice of City Attorney Molly Stump about his participation in this discussion, taking into account both the conflict of interest laws and rulings on quasi-judicial proceedings, and that her opinion consider the comments made about Rosenblum's comments.


3 people like this
Posted by resident 1
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Feb 12, 2015 at 5:51 pm

Is Eric Rosenblum on a commission for planning? If so then soliciting opinions from the residents seems like an okay action - he is not suppose to operate in a void. The real concern is who he works for and what his position is. If he is setting up his company to gain business from PA then we have a conflict on interest. If that is the way the city rolls then lets put that on the table now.


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Posted by resident 1
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Feb 13, 2015 at 10:09 am

Note in papers today is Cupertino and Apple congratulating themselves on the plan for the Apple "space ship" facility in that city. However - the neighboring cites were never brought in to the conversation regarding the increase in traffic and increase in residential overload. Not very happy about that. It will produce a huge impact on the city and neighboring cities / school systems, etc.

I have to wonder how much of the discussion in this city is about activity in neighboring cites in which we end up being the transit - residential point. Facebook in Menlo Park? Google in Mountain View?

I suggest that Yahoo, Facebook and Google join up to lobby for the BART completion through Santa Clara County. That is a positive step they can take to alleviate traffic issues. BART could work on the west side of the cites and is not intended to replace CALTRAIN - especially since we have already determined that it will not be able to support the increase in traffic.

I suggest the PA finish the existing in-process efforts so the city can assess the results and impact on city services. We have to be able to sustain the city services on what funding are entitled to through taxes. That does have a top dollar limitation.


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