News


Guest Opinion: Silicon Valley 'hot and getting hotter' -- yet with huge inequities

 

Silicon Valley -- that ill-defined region that leads the world in technology in virtually all sectors of its economy -- is doing better than ever economically, with the exception of the infamous "dot-com bubble" of 2000, which became a bursting embarrassment.

But this time it's no bubble, Russell Hancock, president and CEO of the Joint Venture Silicon Valley, emphasized in introductory comments at a Feb. 4 "State of the Valley" conference in Santa Clara.


Instead, the economy rests on four years of steady growth by established companies, according to this year's comprehensive "Silicon Valley Index," a detailed compendium of statistics, trends and analyses. (An interactive version of the Index is online at www.siliconvalleyindicators.org.)

The 85-page Index, jam-packed with statistics and charts, was the star of the conference, attended by nearly 1,500 business, government and community leaders. Hancock introduced it with a string of economic and statistical superlatives. The valley's economic performance has exceeded anything that has occurred since he was recruited to head Joint Venture in 2003, following in the footsteps of former state Senator Becky Morgan, who headed Joint Venture for a decade. (See detailed report by Weekly reporter Gennady Sheyner.)

During his dozen years at the helm, Hancock has vastly expanded the nonprofit organization's outreach and impact, including his founding of the Index and conference in 1995. Along the way he, Joint Venture staff, consultants and board members have launched specific collaborative initiatives, such as:

• Developing a "smart energy development zone";

• An effort to turn El Camino Real into "grand boulevard" of "meaningful destinations";

• A "Public Sector Climate Task Force" to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions;

• An "economic development alliance" to promote the region and address needs of business;

• A "wireless communications initiative" to create a "21st century communications infrastructure" for Silicon Valley.

Hancock credited the extent and quality of this year's Index to its principal author, Rachel Massaro, Joint Venture vice president and senior research associate, and consultant Stephen Levy of the Palo Alto-based Center for the Continuing Study of the California Economy.

Hancock is himself rooted in Palo Alto (sometimes characterized as "the heart of Silicon Valley"), where he lives with his wife, Marguerite, and their three children.

A Harvard graduate in government, he received a Ph.D. in political science from Stanford University. He was vice president of the Bay Area Council in the 1990s, helping push BART to the San Francisco International Airport. Fluent in Japanese, he then spearheaded the Shorenstein Forum for Asian-Pacific Studies at Stanford until he was tapped for the Joint Venture position. He has a busy lecture schedule, including visits to other regions and countries interested in creating a Joint Venture-type organization.

And he has a "second life," as a concert pianist currently with the local Saint Michael Trio, with violinist Daniel Cher and cellist Michel Flexer. A reviewer described the zest of their performance: "Deep, sonorous passages from the cello usher in a joyous, lyrical violin, as the piano shimmers like light bouncing off water."

He ducks that "heart of" comparison by describing Silicon Valley as a loosely defined region that includes all of Santa Clara and San Mateo counties plus parts of Alameda (including Oakland) and Santa Cruz (Scott's Valley) counties, encompassing 39 cities.

Should it include San Francsico, which also has burst with growth in the tech-related fields of innovation, investment and related areas? Yes, Hancock feels, while this year keeping the San Francisco statistics mostly separate. Silicon Valley also is creeping up the East Bay, even to Oakland: "Oakland is happening," Hancock noted, citing statistics.

"Silicon Valley isn't so much a place as a state of mind," Hancock summed up.

The statistics boil with good news, along with some perplexing hard news -- such as a huge disparity in incomes between men and women with college degrees and even moreso with graduate degrees. Hancock said the reasons for the disparity are unknown, but Joint Venture will be sponsoring forums on that topic later this year.

And there is the decades-old dilemma of growth and traffic, an imbalance between new office construction and transit and highways.

Yet the good news side of the ledger is astounding. In an area smaller than Rhode Island there are 3 million people, with 1.5 million in the workforce. If Silicon Valley were a state it would rank 33rd in population yet "the State of Silicon Valley, has generated 64,000 business establishments, and of those 46,000 … are start-ups. That's the kind of place this is.

"There's no other region in the United States that can claim numbers such as that."

The area's gross domestic product (GDP) is also huge: $217 billion a year, Hancock noted. "That is an extraordinary accomplishment. That is a large share of California's GDP and an outsize share of the nation's GDP. Certainly by our population and the size of our land mass if you worked it out per capita we would be sixth in the world, right behind Switzerland."

The region holds 13 percent of all patents of the country and more than 50 percent of all patents in California, and boasts "the most educated workforce in the entire country," with 47 percent of adult residents holding a college degree and 30 percent having multiple degrees, including graduate degrees. Silicon Valley is also the most diverse region in the nation, with 36 percent of the population born in another country and speaking another language than English in the home.

Yet Hancock's international-scale comparisons caught up with him at one point.

"We were the last country -- I'm sorry, the last region -- to succumb to the Great Recession in 2008. But like the rest of the country it caught up with us and 2009 was a very bad year. But in 2010 we were the first region to emerge out of the recession" and after a slow start began an upward surge, bursting not like a bubble but with more than 100,000 new jobs, despite pay discrepancies.

Former Weekly Editor Jay Thorwaldson can be emailed at jaythor@well.com. He also writes periodic blogs at www.PaloAltoOnline.com.

Comments

13 people like this
Posted by Soulles hotel row with out of scale bldgs
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 16, 2015 at 11:39 am

St. Michael Trio is brilliant, so I will lessen the tone of my critique when I say, if Hancock is a founder of the Grand Boulevard Initiative, he clearly lives on the north side of town. (When I look at what's been done to El Camino on my side of town, and think of the bulldozing if the orchard ar Maybell that could have been made into a community center or park for our many schools ringing that location almost for free, I think -- to borrow from Lost in Austin: Curse you, and curse everyone who won't put a light in his window and stay up all night cursing you....) For someone who loves beauty so much, how could you do this to us?? (Er, enabling greedy developers to do this to us???)


5 people like this
Posted by Equal-Pay-For-Equal-Work
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 16, 2015 at 1:56 pm

> The statistics boil with good news, along with some perplexing hard news -- such
> as a huge disparity in incomes between men and women with college degrees and even
> moreso with graduate degrees. Hancock said the reasons for the disparity are unknown,
> but Joint Venture will be sponsoring forums on that topic later this year.

Where does the data come from that supports the claim that there are huge disparities between equally qualified men and women in Silicon Valley?

The issue of salary equality seems iike a holy grail for some, but there doesn't seem to be as much interest in insuring that the work output is equal for equal salaries.

Before this sort of claim can be taken seriously, a lot of work would have to be done that allows the public to see how many employees in each occupation grouping have what kind of degrees and what kinds of salaries go along with them. Then, we have to decide if bonuses matter, and let's not forget the stock options that go along with each job in most SV companies. Given that the stock options have long-term value, shouldn't they be considered as part of the pay package, too?

Descriptions like "huge disparities" don't help much, in this day of well-educated people and PCs everywhere. So, tell us, just how huge are the disparaties?


2 people like this
Posted by friend
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Feb 16, 2015 at 3:34 pm

to Soulles hotel row with out of scale bldgs Hancock actually lives on the south part of town. And to put blame of the deterioration of the beauty of Palo Alto on one person would be naive.


1 person likes this
Posted by Soulless hotel row with out of scale bldgs
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 16, 2015 at 4:13 pm

@ friend,
South part of town isn't one area. I'm guessing nowhere near the Maybell orchardGunn HS and those giant ugly buildings on El Camino including that new hotel that is I think a few hundred thousand feet multistory building where once was 3500 sq ft of retail businesses. I recoil when I see it every time, doesn't seem to get better. It's way out of place. I know my neighbors and have never seen Hancock out walking the neighborhood or on any neighbor lists.

The whole Maybell mess was a Grand Boulevard Initiative. So rather than listening to the active neighbors (who had once saved Terman school from development and ensured a 92-unit affordable housing complex got built nearby) who wanted to find a way to save the orchard and achieve the housing in a better way (or use the money in attempt at saving BV as some of it from the county finally is), people pushed that thing so hard it hurt. (It hurt those of us who live here and is still used to club us with.) Part of the reason it got pushed was bc it was included with the GBI.

I can't see how anything on that strip of El Camino remotely meets the goals of the GBI. I'm not blaming the deterioration of PA on his, I'm blaming what happened on El Camino on him pushing for something that got used by others to the detriment of our town. Intentions mean nothing, road to hell and all that....


Like this comment
Posted by Jerry Underdal
a resident of Barron Park
on Feb 16, 2015 at 8:22 pm

Jerry Underdal is a registered user.

@Soulless hotel row

It might not be so bad at the intersection of El Camino Real and Arastradero when the hotel in question is completed. Construction traffic tied up the two right hand lanes on ECR south with trucks, cranes and a variety of other gear for many months. Now it's usually just the single far right lane that's out, and within a few months we'll have access to the entire road. That may be small comfort if you believe that hotel traffic in the morning will tie things up as badly as the construction has, but I'm hopeful that won't be the case. American Tire Co. has posted plans for remodeling the corner Midas facility so it won't continue to be an eyesore.

About the size of the hotel, I was very disappointed too, but it's not my call.


16 people like this
Posted by Interesting, but...
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Feb 16, 2015 at 11:11 pm

>> The statistics boil with good news, along with some perplexing hard news -- such as a huge disparity in incomes between men and women with college degrees and even moreso with graduate degrees. Hancock said the reasons for the disparity are unknown...

Unknown? Really? The disparity is due to discrimination that is pervasive in the technology sector. Just because a few, attractive women are promoted into senior management does not mean that the playing field is even. Women leaders are still relatively rare, and women continue to be in the vast minority of management positions despite evidence showing women are better managers than men. Further, women who exhibit strong leadership qualities typically face negative consequences and are driven out. Unless, of course, they are beautiful and charming, or else exceptionally well connected.

Publishing something that says the disparity between men and women "are unknown" lacks credibility and furthers the injustice to women.


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Posted by Soulless hotel row with out of scale bldgs
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 17, 2015 at 8:35 am

Now, if Hancock could figure out a way to save the orchard, the neighborhood would figure out how to raise a community space for the kids who desperately need something on this side of town, my curses would turn to singing. I'd still recoil every time I see that monstrous out-of-place building, but the purpose of the GBI would be at least somewhat achieved. In recent tragedies at the high school, both children lived adjacent to the Maybell property - which had nothing to do with the tragedies, but a community space over here by contrast might have helped. We have nothing over here by all these schools. The only place the kids have to go is the Walgreens.

Thank you for your comment, Jerry U.


6 people like this
Posted by Private Parent
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Feb 17, 2015 at 9:25 am

Hancock's kids all went to Gunn (although one transferred out before graduation). His family doesn't live far from there. The idea that he is unfamiliar with the situation or doesn't care about South Palo Alto is laughable, and shows just how little you know about him.

Why someone should expect that he has any chance of solving the massive problem around Maybell is a bit beyond me. Relative to all of Silicon Valley, that is a tiny infight among those who can't be bothered worry about the entire region. Nothing short of millions and millions could do anything about it, and he can't wave a magic want there--No one can, and complaining that not everyone is falling all over themselves to solve your pet problem makes you look very petty.


2 people like this
Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on Feb 17, 2015 at 9:38 am

The new Hilton Garden Inn, 174 rooms. Looks like they are accepting reservations for March. $370-$430 weeknights. $150-$210 weekends. Assuming 80% occupancy, I estimate about $2.4 million annual hotel taxes for Palo Alto from that one site. What are we going to do with all this money?


3 people like this
Posted by barron parker
a resident of Barron Park
on Feb 17, 2015 at 12:03 pm

Can he help us get rid of those hideous Quonset huts near Matadero and El Camino. That would be a real accomplishment.


9 people like this
Posted by old timers
a resident of College Terrace
on Feb 17, 2015 at 2:46 pm

Put it in a simple way, driving on El Camino will never be the same.
New ,tall and ugly buildings are along the strret. Sunlight is blocked for sure. Like driving in a crowded concrete forest.


6 people like this
Posted by curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on Feb 17, 2015 at 3:28 pm

This current boom is fueled by small-application ("app") software, which is the most fungible, portable commodity ever devised. The work can easily move anywhere else in the world, and eventually it will, 85 pages of gushy self-congratulatory prose notwithstanding.

Consider this neck-wrenching self-contradiction: "the economy rests on four years of steady growth by established companies", and "the State of Silicon Valley, [sic] has generated 64,000 business establishments, and of those 46,000 … are start-ups."

You know you're in a bubble when start-ups comprise 70% of your vaunted "established companies."


15 people like this
Posted by Citizen
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Feb 17, 2015 at 3:37 pm

Downtown Palo Alto is turning into an office park. Huge, ugly, flat roofed underparked new commercial offices are popping up everywhere. All the charming Spanish style buildings are being torn down. We're left with overcrowding, no parking, and office workers that don't care about Palo Alto and its future. Only a few shops are left downtown. We mostly have lousy, overpriced restaurants and hoards of grubby looking office workers roaming the streets. The city council, and especially city manager Keene and Planning Director Getelman, don't care about the residents of Palo Alto. Palo Alto may be crowded, but its not crowded with its residents shopping downtown. Foreigners are buying up all the housing, too.


2 people like this
Posted by Todd
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 17, 2015 at 3:58 pm

[Post removed.]


2 people like this
Posted by Citizen
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Feb 17, 2015 at 4:39 pm

[Post removed.]


8 people like this
Posted by PhDWoman
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Feb 17, 2015 at 4:42 pm

Oh yes the bit about unequal pay for women is very clear where I work (a fast growing company newly situated on Arastradero at Foothill Expway ... figure it out). There is a glut of Director-level employees, many of them brought into the company by their buddies, many of them with no direct reports. Of these, roughly 95% are young males (by young, I mean under age 50). The next largest group is 50+ males, then trailing by a large margin are females of any age. In my work group, no fewer than 4 senior women (2 with Ph.D's and 2 with stellar work experience and expertise) have been forced out of the company. They don't get promotions, they don't get bonuses, and they seldom get raises. Two left voluntarily, one was harassed by her manager and finally gave up and left. The fourth was "invited" to leave due to an incorrect perception that she was hard to work with. It really is an embarassment for the group and for the company. And probably actionable legally if someone wanted to take it up.


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Posted by Jerry Underdal
a resident of Barron Park
on Feb 17, 2015 at 6:17 pm

Jerry Underdal is a registered user.

@barron parker

Enjoy the quonset huts while they're still here, and everything else that's old-time along the Barron Park stretch of El Camino, because it will all be changed within the next ten years. And that's not because of Mr. Hancock but because there's more money to be made off those properties by replacing structures and functions that made economic sense in the past with new ones. Owners are in no hurry to sell when the ongoing cost of holding on is low compared to the appreciation of commercial real estate they've already seen and probably expect to continue. I plan to get out my camera soon and record everything on El Camino from San Antonio to Page Mill, both sides, before it all changes. I believe Barron Park will still be a great place to live even with more density along El Camino Real,


1 person likes this
Posted by Equal-Pay-For-Equal-Work
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 17, 2015 at 7:35 pm

> the bit about unequal pay for women is very clear where I work

This poster opens up on topic, but then goes off on several tangents, without providing any evidence of unequal pay in her company. Given that most private companies do not release individual salaries, it's difficult to understand how she, or anyone, can claim that women are paid less for their time and talents.

The lengthy narrative about all of women being forced to leave the company, or harassed, has to be understood to be opinion, and can not easily be proven. Of course, those involved could file wrongful discharge complaints, and then perhaps some of the details might become public from court records.

These sorts of claims about unfair, or unequal, treatment will be with us forever. Sadly, all we can do is listen, and take the stories with a grain of salt.


Like this comment
Posted by Robert
a resident of another community
on Feb 17, 2015 at 8:23 pm

Equal-Pay-For-Equal-Work, surely you understand that when it comes to wealth and wealth disparity, take home pay is only a component?


3 people like this
Posted by Soulless hotel row with out of scale bldgs
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 17, 2015 at 10:52 pm

@Private Parent,
You wrote,
"Why someone should expect that he has any chance of solving the massive problem around Maybell is a bit beyond me. Relative to all of Silicon Valley, that is a tiny infight among those who can't be bothered worry about the entire region. Nothing short of millions and millions could do anything about it, and he can't wave a magic want there--No one can, and complaining that not everyone is falling all over themselves to solve your pet problem makes you look very petty."

That Maybell steamroller was a Grand Boulevard Initiative. All that Soulless giant hotel development ugly ugly ugly and not walkable like GBI promised was Grand Boulevard Initiative. Building right up to El Camino so that when transportation changes in the new century, there's nothing to work with anymore -- GBI.

If what's going to happen to the region resembles in any way the mess that is GBI near my home, on the contrary, I think we have a lot to worry about. Your defensiveness in attacking me as somehow responsible for the region is laughable while you say the person behind the GBI has nothing at all to do with the ugly mess the GBI left us with.

Maybell happens to be the heart of our neighborhood. It's at a key location in a small area with 7 schools, with the only safe routes to school of thousands of school children on either side of it, and with no common community space at all, which we desperately need. The City had the right to purchase the Maybell property in a non-competitive situation. Had they done that and sold the houses a few months later, we would have had a free park, at a key place across from a long-time school for disabled students, in the middle of a neighborhood with all those numerous schools educating thousands of school children who are experiencing stress and mental health problems, but without any community space on our side of town. (Just because someone sent their kids to Gunn does not mean they live in this neighborhood, half the town does. If he lives here, you are not making your point, as he has never contributed to any neighborhood community, emergency, school or other efforts in my neighborhood or the neighborhoods adjacent to mine.)

You may think the recent tragedies are "pet problems" but to people who actually live in the community and care about the children, your dismissive attitude is an assault. You don't live here either, you have Mitchell Park in your back yard, while the kids over here have nothing but giant ugly hotels -- no thanks to Hancock or you. What's your problem?

I happen to think Hancock is a decent guy and a brilliant musician. But the road to hell is paved with good intentions, as they say. GBI did not in any way shape or form improve walkability or any of its goals, iif anything all the changes made the whole area unfriendly and hurt community [portion removed.]


3 people like this
Posted by Analysis
a resident of Community Center
on Feb 17, 2015 at 11:35 pm

While there is no shortage of anecdotal evidence on equal pay for equal work, I'm afraid this report fails to shed any light beyond sensational claims.

They simply reuse census data and wrap it in rhetoric.

It is less than helpful.

For example it fails to adjust for, well, anything. It does look at graduate degree, but that is a second order effect. It does NOT adjust for years of experience, which is one of the largest factors in pay.

So it's basically junk data misapplied to the question.

Which is a shame. We really need to know how big and what is the nature of pay disparity; when and where does it occur? Does it vary by profession? Does it start at college, or accumulate over time? Do risky behaviors contribute(job hopping or taking more startup risk)? Are these more or less male behaviors? Is there an old boys network, how much of an effect is this?

All good questions that this report stumbles past and leaves us none the wiser.

For that, they need to do their own work and pay to gather their own data.


14 people like this
Posted by jaa
a resident of University South
on Feb 18, 2015 at 5:06 am

It is really tragic what has happened to downtown. I always thought since there were smart people here, surely they could see the benefit of promoting policies that would save small retail and family owned businesses. Evidently not. Good cheap foodie places and music stores, gone. Dance and performing arts studios, nurseries for gardening, gone. Office supply, dime store, gift shops, gone. Costume and vintage clothing store, art supplies and galleries, furniture stores, book stores mostly gone, now. Flower shops, vintage buildings with lovely architectural detail and churches, even the local funeral home, gone! Who is taking their place? A nice local home for our good elderly citizens (which we will all be someday, btw)? Affordable housing for the middle class? Sadly no. It is Global Corporatists with multi billion dollar deep pockets, that's who! They could care less about Palo Alto's unique history or building a real community, except where it might benefit share holder value somewhere in Wall Street land. Palo Alto has become nothing more than a strategic space for wealth creation with seemingly very little, if any, real social contract.


18 people like this
Posted by Private Parent
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Feb 18, 2015 at 9:52 am

@Soulless

[Portion removed.]

Perhaps most importantly, you are confusing two statements:

The first is that "Hancock couldn't do much to solve this problem, and bringing it up everywhere makes you look petty."

The second is "This problem isn't worth solving and bringing up in the right places."

I never said the second, and it is rather uncharitable to say that I did.

I do stand by the statement that in the broader scheme of Silicon Valley Economic Development in general, and El Camino Real redevelopment in particular, the Maybell situation is hardly a blip on the radar. There are literally dozens of greater impact projects, both for better and for worse, and to think that this specific one should be at the top of the list for someone who manages the entire region is just wrong.

Your next mistake--and you have made it in every post--is playing the "they must live far away, so they don't care" game. You said it about Hancock--incorrectly jumping to the conclusion that he was from North Palo Alto--and now you said it about me, just from my neighborhood listing here.

Just because I live several blocks farther away from you than this doesn't mean I don't drive it nearly every day, or have children that drive, walk or ride their bikes through the corridor. Or have parents or other relatives who live there.

It may be hard to believe, but some people who are well informed and care passionately about Palo Alto, South Palo Alto, and yes, that very neighborhood, disagree with you.

You wrote:

"That Maybell steamroller was a Grand Boulevard Initiative."

Only too the extent that it is close to El Camino Real, they kept track of it and wanted it. The GBI didn't propose the deal, and really had very little to do with it.

And the fact remains that even if it was, what you want isn't going to happen without a lot of money--a very lot of money. The GBI doesn't have it, and there is nothing Hancock can do about that. And, even assuming the GBI had the money to solve your particular problem with Maybell, there are literally dozens of similarly worthy projects up and down the corridor that could use similar help.

You continue:
"You may think the recent tragedies are "pet problems" but to people who actually live in the community and care about the children, your dismissive attitude is an assault."

Boy, that escalated quickly! I mean, that really got out of hand fast!
--Ron Burgundy

Just how close does someone have to live to give them credibility on the issue? First it was south Palo Alto, now it must be, "somewhere within the immediate neighborhood." [Portion removed.]

"You don't live here either, you have Mitchell Park in your back yard, while the kids over here have nothing but giant ugly hotels -- no thanks to Hancock or you. What's your problem?"

You jump to way too many conclusions about both me and Hancock. How do you know how I voted on Maybell? How do you know how he voted? How do you know I am far away from the recent tragedies? How do you know he is?

You make the uncharitable mistake of assuming that those who disagree with you don't care. That's unfortunate.


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Posted by Equal-Pay-For-Equal-Work
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 18, 2015 at 1:16 pm


> Equal-Pay-For-Equal-Work, surely you understand that when
> it comes to wealth and wealth disparity, take home pay is
> only a component?

And your point is?

In a previous posting, I suggested that stock options should be considered as a part of the compensation package. You saw that. Yes or No?

What I have been pointing out is that nothing in the article, or the on-line sources, to provide any hard evidence of salary inequities in the Silicon Valley. Wealth, on the other hand, is a bit different than salary. You would agree to that, wouldn’t you?

We know where salary comes from—but where does wealth come from? Certainly women who outlive their husbands are some of the wealthiest people in the US. Many of these wealthy widows nave never worked a day in their lives. People who invest wisely will in time acquire wealth. Even women who might be paid less that more senior men during their early working years.

So—let’s try to stay on point, shall we?


Like this comment
Posted by Soulless hotel row with out of scale bldgs
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 18, 2015 at 3:59 pm

Private Parent,

[Portion removed.] First you say "the Maybell situation is hardly a blip" "tiny infight" and otherwise denigrate it, then you go to lengths to claim you care about this neighborhood passionately (hint: driving to/through here and saying the heart and character of our neighborhood are nothing, does not demonstrate a connection or caring).

You have admitted where you live, and no, you do not live in this neighborhood. Your mistake, is assuming that distance, rather than the crossing of El Camino, Alma, the railroad tracks, and barriers like El Camino Way and Arastradero in the dark (as kids would have to during winter), define what is close. Those major barriers by definition destroy what's called "adjacency". Neither you, nor Hancock, lives on this side of town, meaning, has any "adjacency" to this side of town. [Portion removed.]

All politics is local. Maybell was an opportunity for a nearly free park with 100 established trees (that yet live) at a site ringed by many of our schools. That is no minor thing for this neighborhood that has long been discussing (prior to the referendum) the need for community space over here. Influence and public pressure could have made a huge difference. [Portion removed.]

People with good intentions who set up rules and initiatives without doing the hard work to realize the ends are making a mess of our state, really, by unintentional giveaway after unintentional giveaway to developers. That's what GBI turned into. That's what they tried to do at Maybell. That's what PC zoning in Palo Alto turned into. Buena Vista is a poster child for what's wrong with state bonus density rules that ostensibly exist to create affordable housing. It actually creates an incentive for the owner/developer to evict the actual low-income residents in order to put in high-density luxury housing with a small number of "below market rate" units that no one who lives there now could ever afford. LIke I said, the road to hell...

Don't take credit for something like GBI, then disclaim how it came out because it was hijacked by developers and is working out abysmally in the real world, developers inevitably took advantage. I'm not saying Hancock is a bad guy who intended this to happen, I'm saying I blame him for starting something and being too idealistic to ensure the vision became reality. If he lives so near here, where was he to prevent this? If I and my neighbors had really understood what was going in next to Hobee's in the form of that ugly out-of-place hotel, we would have started by preventing THAT thing from going in and the whole fight at Maybell probably would never have happened because the line would have been drawn already. Where was Hancock in either event? The Maybell rezoning was a huge deal in the immediate neighborhoods, and so is what inevitably happens there. If you lived on this side, you would understand.

This is what happened on El Camino instead of the vision of GBI, we got a bunch of out-of-scale buildings that suddenly filled up our schools and now we need to open another (when we were told only retired people would want to live there), ugly giant new hotels that will probably put the smaller ones out of business, and no one is ever walking there. The driveway to the Sheraton is likely to cause car accidents, too.

[Portion removed.]


6 people like this
Posted by Private Parent
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Feb 18, 2015 at 7:28 pm

@Soulless

You said:
"First you say "the Maybell situation is hardly a blip" "tiny infight" and otherwise denigrate it, then you go to lengths to claim you care about this neighborhood passionately"

I have only ever said it was small _in_relation_to_the_entire_Silicon_Valley's_Development issues. Of course it is obviously a big deal to Palo Alto generally and you in particular--and yes, me too.

To make an analogy--I don't expect the United Nations Climate Framework to deal with the California drought. I expect that they might have heard about it in passing, but they have far bigger fish to fry than to come in and deal with it directly. It is merely a blip on their radar, if it even shows at all.

Even if they wanted to address the problem directly, they have neither the funds nor the authority to anything. Anyone who expects the them to deal with it is being unrealistic. Anyone carrying a sign to that effect at a Climate Change summit would be dismissed.

But that doesn't mean it isn't a very big deal to central valley agriculture, nor that the governor, say, shouldn't try to address it.

A Maybell park would not have been "nearly free". The developer paid well into the eight figures for it. Even if Palo Alto could have gotten it at half-price--which is extraordinarily unlikely--that is still a very big number. Free it was not--not even close. Influence and public pressure would not have, say, raised a bond to get the amount of money necessary. Saying that Hancock's influence would have made a difference here really overestimates that influence. I'm sure he would be flattered, but it simply isn't true.

"Don't take credit for something like GBI, then disclaim how it came out because it was hijacked by developers and is working out abysmally in the real world, developers inevitably took advantage."

If you will look over what I have said about GBI, I haven't taken credit for anything, nor have I even said it was doing a good job. I haven't defended the hotels, and I haven't defended the original Maybell plan.

What I have said is that the GBI and Silicon Valley Development board is working on a scale where eight-figure projects several blocks off of El Camino are both relatively small and relatively not important, and so bringing them up there is silly. Please don't confuse that with "Not important at all" and denigrating them.

Finally, you can say all you like that one has to live there to understand. But you are wrong.

One final thing to think about, and this is purely strategic: Are you winning allies to your cause when you say anyone outside of that tiny neighborhood can't possibly understand?


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Posted by HotTempstoo
a resident of another community
on Feb 19, 2015 at 6:28 pm

That title tricked me! Thought this was going to be about climate change, the drought, and the extinction of winter as a season in California.


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Posted by Soulless hotel row of out of scale bldgs
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 19, 2015 at 9:49 pm

@Private Parent,

[Portion removed.]

The City had the first right of refusal on the property and could have purchased it (with a fraction of the Stanford funds) in a noncompetitive situation. The property is an orchard with 4 ranch houses of over 2,000 sq ft. each. Their own estimate of the value of the orchard alone was around $6.8 million when the purchase price of the entire property was $16 million. I'm not sure I agree that was the right split, but that was what the City had on record.

So, had the City purchased the Maybell property just after the referendum when they had the chance, and sold off the houses 6 months later, given the later sale price, the orchard would have been free or close to, essentially. Hindsight is 20/20, but I've lived in this area a long time, and things were heating up, it wasn't a big risk.

Even if the orchard ended up costing $6.8 million in the end, this is not much more than they were willing to spend on (IMO) a facelift at City Hall that could have been put off a few years (as compared to bulldozing 100 trees that can't be replaced), or perhaps being a little more careful in building the 2nd bike bridge over 101. (We do, after all, already have a bike bridge, but we don't have ANY community space on this side of town.)

In fact, had the City simply bought it and given the neighborhood time to raise the money, the neighbors wanted the chance. We did after all pay for Bol Park. There was no way to get nonprofits involved when the property was in controversy, but had it been purchased on the condition of our raising the money to pay for it over 2 years, we would have (or the City could have sold it and recouped it's money, hopefully after putting some restrictions for safety since they themselves said Maybell wasn't safe, publicly, as it was, but it wouldn't have been necessary).

[Portion removed.] The neighborhood and City had a disagreement about what could be built there even as the referendum was won, did yet another misrepresentation or influence peddling alter what the new buyer felt confident they could build there even under zoning? It certainly puts a new perspective on the puzzling failure of the City and PAHC to simply do the safety studies to the thousands of school children biking and walking on Maybell and Arastradero. It explains the puzzling response of the former City Councilmembers after the referendum when neighbors asked them to buy the orchard -- despite the referendum resulting from their failure to hear what we were saying, they then kept negating the neighborhood surveys showing the most favored land use was as a community orchard and insisted we really wanted the property developed to their (not the neighborhood's) estimated density.

All politics are local. The Maybell situation will serve as a textbook for developers long into the future, for how you co-opt treehuggers and get the public to overlook all manner of development misdeeds.


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Posted by Jerry Underdal
a resident of Barron Park
on Feb 19, 2015 at 11:48 pm

Jerry Underdal is a registered user.

@Soulless

"So, had the City purchased the Maybell property just after the referendum when they had the chance, and sold off the houses 6 months later, given the later sale price, the orchard would have been free or close to, essentially."

I wish someone else would weigh in on this scenario. Is this what No on Measure D was pushing for? What then to make of their comments that it would be acceptable to have affordable housing at that location as long as it conformed to existing zoning limitations. That would not be compatible with retaining the orchard.

My understanding is that there was disagreement in the anti-PAHC project campaign over the wisdom of focusing on the orchard as an issue. It wasn't included in the ballot arguments for the referendum, and to my recollection, no candidates in the city council election suggested they supported doing everything possible going forward or wished more had been done in the past to make sure the orchard survived?

I think there would have been great resistance from across the city to having the city use real estate speculation to benefit our neighborhood along the lines your scenario suggests.

"all brings the sale, undue influence, and even the resale price tag into question"

I'm puzzled trying to figure out what the resale price tag should have been after the PAHC project collapsed and they had to repay all the creditors who had made the original purchase possible. By your reckoning should the price have been lower or higher than the $22M Golden Gate paid?


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Posted by Private Parent
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Feb 20, 2015 at 12:18 pm

Those are all interesting schemes for making it happen with very little money at the end of the day, but they all require substantial funds up front and carried risks to the city of the money not coming back. Those are not costless situations, and some of them likely involve litigation from parties who feel slighted.

Further they are all back-of-the-envelope, let's-assume-everything-goes-right schemes that assume everything goes as planned. And I never saw an actual, real proposal on how to make any of those happen. With real numbers and real plans and real discussions of the tradeoffs. Postings on Palo Alto Online do not count. Undocumented discussions at neighborhood meetings don't count either, although they are a necessary preliminary.

I suspect once someone starts running the numbers they realize that it is unrealistic. I would be happy to be disabused of the notion with a real proposal, though.

I absolutely agree with you that another park in Barron Park would be better than a couple of other projects, all of which would be nice to have, but it would be nice to have a pony too.


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Posted by Soulless hotel row of out of scale bldgs
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 20, 2015 at 5:08 pm

Private Parent and Jerry Underdal,

Residents asked for but were never given the choice of preserving the orchard. It was simply not an option. The same surveys showing that saving the orchard was the most preferred use of the property, and showing people were almost unanimously against upzoning, also showed the preferred use, if developed (and people had no other choice), was for the property to be a low-income development under zoning. Residents did not have the option of saving the orchard, if it was going to go, they would rather have had the low-income housing under zoning to a for-profit development under zoning. The City was willing to pony up the money across town at 801 Alma to ensure the proposal was within zoning, but not on our side of town. I don't know how many times we have to say that before it gets through the cloud of untrue, malicious NIMBY accusations conjured during the vote for political purposes.

That said, on this side of town, we have had a working group save a school site from development and ensure an even larger affordable property was built at the same time. We have had a park site, Bol Park, saved from development and paid for by residents. Some of the same people were involved here, asking for a working group to do the same, to save the orchard, find a better way to build the affordable housing (for which they were attacked for being NIMBYs despite being successful at Terman), and come together as a community rather than having to oppose the City. They were ignored and accused of all kinds of horrible things. Now we see those same people doing the accusing, like Candace Gonzales (and go back and watch the videos before just assuming, she equated more than once the opposing of their plan with NIMBYism) are personally benefitting from it.

Private Parent - the original seller of the property insisted they had to sell everything together. PAHC didn't have to do that. They could have just sold the orchard to the City at $6.8 M or whatever the appraisal was, then sold the houses separately. That's pretty cheap for a park. The City happened to have first right of refusal for the whole property, but PAHC wasn't under any restrictions to sell the property in whole, in fact we would have all been better off if they'd set aside some of the property at the back to increase the parking for the Arastradero Apts so Maybell could be made entirely no parking, increasing student bike safety since it is such a substandard street.

The City had already chipped in that amount of money if you recall, in fact the documents to the state showed the City as having agreed to loan $7.3M (they had actually already chipped in $5.8M to that point in the initial purchase of the property, that's why they had first right of refusal, so you see, they had already essentially chipped in the money for the orchard which they themselves appraised at $6.8M).

Again, they could have simply given the public a limited time option to buy the park -- not that they should have been required to, given that we like everyone else pay a per square foot of tax for the amenities everywhere else but have already had to pay for our own ourselves in the form of Bol Park. Given the concentration of schools and adjacency facing huge challenges because of development, given the safety responsibilities of the City, the concerns they expressed during those debates, and the many acres of open space we are all owed because of development, and the irreplaceability of the trees, it's just stupid that the City didn't acquire that orchard.

They had $40M in Stanford funds sitting around, that's where the $5.8M came from, the claim that they didn't have funds for something like this is just not true, especially since the purchase was a piece of property in a rising market.



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Posted by Jerry Underdal
a resident of Barron Park
on Feb 22, 2015 at 7:40 am

Jerry Underdal is a registered user.

Soulless Hotel Row,

"we have had a working group save a school site from development and ensure an even larger affordable property was built at the same time"

If you are talking about Terman, there's an important factual error here. The corporation that owned the Terman Apartments signed a 25-year contract to accept Section 8 housing vouchers which allows low income households to rent apartments they could not otherwise afford. My understanding is that they no longer accept Section 8 applicants. More to the point, no new affordable housing was built as a result of that working group's efforts. PAHC projects are permanent affordable housing, The Terman arrangement was a stop-gap measure that shows the weakness of Section 8 remedies to housing affordability.

You argue that the city could have used the "right of first refusal" (ROFR) to take advantage of the collapse of PAHC's affordable housing project to provide a mini-park for our neighborhood at no cost to the city. My understanding of ROFR is that an individual, corporation, agency, etc. has a contractual right to make an offer before a property can be sold to a different interested buyer. It doesn't mean they get to dictate the price.

PAHC is a non-profit corporation, not a City of Palo Alto department. Its corporate function is to provide affordable housing. It would be irresponsible to make a deal that sacrificed potential gains on a property it holds title to for the benefit of a neighborhood park project. I don't believe the city would have matched the $22M that Golden Gate purchased the property for if it had chosen to exercise its right of first refusal and buy the property.


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Posted by Jerry Underdal
a resident of Barron Park
on Feb 22, 2015 at 8:41 pm

Jerry Underdal is a registered user.

Correction:

The final sentence in my previous post should read: "I don't believe the city would have matched the $22M that Golden Gate purchased the property for if it had chosen to exercise its right of first refusal and *attempt to* buy the property.

Without matching the best offer, the city would not have prevailed in a bidding situation, if I understand correctly.


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Posted by Private Parent
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Feb 23, 2015 at 8:48 am

@Souless

These are not real proposals. At the very best, they are good ideas with many details omitted and some hand-waving over funding.

I suspect that once someone actually sits down and works through the details like:

"Getting the land will take $X, paying off interested party Y will require $Z. We can get $A from here, by putting off or cancelling project $B. We need legal entity M to take responsibility for problem N."

They see that they can't make the numbers work out or issues work out.

Is there anything actually like this with real details and real assignments of responsibility done by anyone who isn't an anonymous poster on Palo Alto online? Vague references to some neighborhood really aren't enough either.



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Posted by PhDWoman
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Feb 23, 2015 at 5:24 pm

@Equal-Pay-for-Equal-Work: You say I failed to provide evidence of pay inequity. Seriously? When certain people are getting fewer promotions, fewer/smaller bonuses, and fewer/smaller raises, how can that not lead to pay inequity? Being driven out of a company is also a career disrupter which leads to lesser outcomes. If you read the original article carefully, you know that the claim was not that women in the same job were being paid less (which is typically very hard to prove due to salary secrecy) it was that women with equal EDUCATION/BACKGROUND were being paid less.

Just yesterday morning on KDOW (a radio channel devoted to finance) the same study was quoted by the host. Women are being driven out of high tech due to a "hostile work environment". Even the host seemed shocked. It is shocking, and not something to make glib uninformed comments about.

@Analysis: Same point. You denigrate the "data" provided for the claim, yet ignore the story I offered. My story may be anecdotal and not statistical, but it is not about a single woman who might've been an oddball. It is a story about behavioral patterns that repeat. I would love to see the large scale study that controls for all the factors you mention. But such a study is going to be open to statistical/numerical quibbling because some of the key factors are hard to quantify and control for. And actually, if you did a google search you'd probably find the study HAS been done but you might choose to quibble if it was conducted in a profession other than high tech, or a year other than 2014. I guarantee I can quantify the situation in my company and I only need 3rd grade math to do it. For every one older woman at a senior level, there are 5 older men there. For every older woman at executive level there are 20 men there. For every older woman who gets a promotion, there are 8 older men who do. And so on throughout the company.


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Posted by Onliine Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Feb 23, 2015 at 5:51 pm

A hotel at El Camino & Arastradero?? You mean like Hyatt Rickey's?

Re women in business, go read the sad series published in The Washington Post starting 2/20. It's getting worse, not better.


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Posted by Jerry Underdal
a resident of Barron Park
on Feb 23, 2015 at 6:51 pm

Jerry Underdal is a registered user.

Online Name,

The hotel being referred to is the new Hilton Garden Inn directly across from the Arbor Real condo complex, which was formerly the site of Ricky's Hyatt Hotel.


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Posted by PhDWoman
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Feb 23, 2015 at 8:00 pm

@Analysis - Here's some research for you:

Web Link


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

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