News

Palo Alto Chamber slams proposed office cap

Business group calls proposed growth limit a 'serious threat' to city's vitality

The Palo Alto Chamber of Commerce jumped into the the city's growth debate Friday when it submitted a letter co-signed by 15 business owners urging the city not to adopt an annual cap on office development.

The Chamber, which up to this point had not taken an official position on the subject, issued its letter just days before the City Council is set to take up the topic. At its meeting tonight, the council will consider whether to explore an annual cap in the range of 35,000 to 50,000 square feet as part of the city's update of its Comprehensive Plan. The council will also debate whether to adopt an interim ordinance that would temporarily reduce allowable office density.

Both proposals were sparked by years of complaints from residents and some council members about too much traffic, not enough parking and conversion of retail establishments to office space in the city's commercial districts.

Earlier this month, Mayor Karen Holman highlighted the lattermost trend in her "State of the City Speech," noting that since 2008 the city gained 537,144 square feet of office and research-and-development space. Over the same period of time, it has lost 70,514 square feet of retail, with recent departures including Rudy's Pub, Zibbibo, Cho's and Jungle Copy.

While the council and staff see an annual office cap as a possible mitigation to this trend, the idea has attracted intense opposition from the business community. As the Weekly reported last week, several high-tech companies based at Stanford Research Park – including SAP, Hewlett-Packard and VMWare – have come out against the cap. So has Stanford University, which owns the sprawling research park. The citizens group Palo Alto Forward, which advocates for more housing and more transportation options, also submitted a letter opposing an annual cap.

The Chamber's letter brings some of the city's smaller businesses into the opposition coalition. In addition to downtown giants Palantir, SurveyMonkey and RelateIQ (a subsidiary of Salesforce), the list of businesses that support the Chamber's letter includes Pizza My Heart, Watercourse Way, Palo Alto Laser & Skin Care, and Lippert & Lippert Design. Patty McGuigan of Cornish and Carey is on the list, as is Susan Graf of S. Graf Limited and travel consultant Bobbi Fox. The letter also includes signatures from current and former Chamber leaders Rebecca Teutschel, Peter Stone, immediate past Chair John Kiya and current board Chair Jeffery Phillips of Garden Court Hotel.

The letter argues that while the city's concerns about growth are valid, the city's office development "has not been factually shown to be excessive, in fact just the opposite." The city's approach, the letter states, "poses a serious threat to the ongoing vitality of the critical business sector that directly supports the city's prosperity."

The group is calling on the city to "engage in a more strategic examination of facts and surveys before imposing an annual office development cap that could threaten the City's prosperity." It also pointed to a recent employee survey jointly administered by Palantir, SurveyMonkey and Real IQ indicating that only 38 percent of the companies' workers drive alone to work.

The letter also argued that a cap on office development would be "a disincentive to mixed-use development, the possibility of additional living spaces being created near commercial and transit centers, and the reduction of car trips that would result." It urges the city "to identify the real problems first and then seek carefully formatted policies and practices to address them."

"Rushing to institute solutions for undefined problems not based on all available data is not the deliberative approach that is the hallmark of Palo Alto government," the Chamber's letter states. "We believe the Palo Alto process, sometimes derided as too slow, is exactly the correct process to establish facts, evaluate options, include all stakeholders and arrive at a thoughtful, deliberative approach to these concerns."

In a statement, Chamber president and CEO Judy Kleinberg said that the group is "not opposed to productive measures to address the underlying issues of parking and traffic congestion."

"But we urge the city to identify the real problems first and then seek carefully formulated policies and practices to address them," Kleinberg said. "As stakeholders in the city's future, the business sector wants to work with the city to develop workable and well-thought-out measures."

In her statement, Kleinberg said the cap would have a "chilling effect on business productivity, with the possible unintended consequence of forcing businesses that want to grow to move to more business-friendly cities.

"This would mean the loss of the very office workers who now support Palo Alto's vibrant economy and robust retail environment and who are a major source of revenue for the City's General Fund," Kleinberg said.

Comments

27 people like this
Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Mar 2, 2015 at 10:11 am

No surprise they opposed a cap on office development.

They also slammed the idea of a business registry so we'd have an accurate count of workers clogging our streets and our parking.

They're lobbyists, first and foremost.


20 people like this
Posted by Love Retail, Hate Retailers...
a resident of Professorville
on Mar 2, 2015 at 10:24 am

It's interesting that for all the concern expressed about the loss of retail from Palo Alto, no one thinks to ask the question: "what policies would benefit retailers? what policies would hurt retailers?"

Now a group of businesses (including many retailers) have submitted a letter telling Council that they are making a move that is anti-retail. I hope that Council reads it seriously, and I hope that they ask further questions about what policies would create a healthy environment for downtown retail.


16 people like this
Posted by NoWonder
a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 2, 2015 at 10:29 am

This is really no surprise. The Chamber of Commerce and developers have the same business goals. So, the list so far who has written to the city council to oppose the cap is Palo Alto Forward, Stanford, and The Chamber of Commerce. I wonder who's next.


23 people like this
Posted by Neighbor
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Mar 2, 2015 at 10:55 am

It's the Chamber's job to lobby for more development. They are paid to lobby.


18 people like this
Posted by Jim
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 2, 2015 at 10:58 am

Saying the Chamber is for commercial development is like saying the flag is red, white and blue - nothing new there.

The Chamber, pro small retail? Hardly. At least not the retail residents treasure most. There's been a half million SF of added office space and a loss of 50,000 SF of retail. It is the boom on offices that is raising rents, driving out small businesses and adding terribly to our housing deficient - especially affordable housing. To equate office caps with driving out small retail is like saying moving trees make the wind blow. Do you really think the big corporate interests in Silicon Valley that want more offices are worried about Shady Lane or Cho's? Or us residents? No - they are interested in money and office development is where it is at.

PAF, in its letter to the city, has come out in support of Big Office Development, even though doing so only fuels a bigger need for housing though it says its main concerns are traffic and housing. It is PAFs true colors that has been revealed, not the Chambers.


12 people like this
Posted by Eric Rosenblum
a resident of Downtown North
on Mar 2, 2015 at 11:16 am

Eric Rosenblum is a registered user.

This will be an interesting discussion. I've spent several weeks now talking to retailers (I'm up to 5 of them... restaurant, coffee shop, shoe store, bike store, stationary store; unfortunately, I haven't had enough time to devote to this topic, but I think that it's important. If anyone else has time or inclination to work on this, I can send my notes to help standardize information collection).

I would love to hear the commenters give some feedback on what policies they think would HELP retailers (vs. just dismissing the Chamber-- and the retailers and other businesses that signed their letter).

In talking with local retailers, there are a couple of themes that have emerged:
1) The number one concern has been around employee retention and quality: employees can't afford to live any where near Palo Alto. Even paying "above market rate" for service employees is often a tough sell. There is some concern that RPPP will make it harder/ more expensive for their employees, but since it's not yet implemented, everyone's in a wait-and-see mode
2) Rents are obviously extraordinarily high. Anything that could be done to achieve lower rents would be welcomed

I think that a productive discussion could be around (a) how to make it easier to get employees to Palo Alto (through investments in transportation and parking programs, and yes, housing); and (b) what can be done about ground floor rents.

So, instead of dismissing the letters sent by business owners, maybe commenters could productively think about policies that help keep downtown retail healthy.


16 people like this
Posted by downtown worker
a resident of Menlo Park
on Mar 2, 2015 at 11:32 am

I suspect the policy that would be most helpful to retailers would be the protection of ground-floor retail on Lytton, Hamilton, and the side streets downtown. Right now, I think only University has ground-floor retail protection.

If you require the first floor to be retail space throughout downtown, you've decoupled the retail rents from the office rents. That's a big deal.

Then, further office development just brings in customers for the retailers. In conversations with a few retailers, they've said that a majority of their customers are downtown workers - no surprise given that residents who don't work downtown are at their jobs elsewhere during the day.

From what I gather, the folks who are opposed to a restrictive office cap would be in favor of ground-floor retail protection. It would be good to see the City Council propose it.


9 people like this
Posted by Eric Rosenblum
a resident of Downtown North
on Mar 2, 2015 at 11:42 am

Eric Rosenblum is a registered user.

@ downtown worker

Yes, requiring that ground floors be retail would be a very positive step. The "retail floor" would then be essentially subsidized. It does mean, though, that buildings would have to have multiple floors (if the ground floor is below market, then some other floors would have to be at market to make up for the subsidy).


8 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Crescent Park
on Mar 2, 2015 at 11:52 am

Eric, your agenda speaks loudly with every post. Why are you not interviewing residents?


5 people like this
Posted by Counterclockwise
a resident of University South
on Mar 2, 2015 at 11:58 am

The PA CoC has never been renowned for its forward thinking, or thinking of any kind.

Where are the workers going to park? How do we build new roads to get them here?


7 people like this
Posted by Robert
a resident of another community
on Mar 2, 2015 at 12:02 pm

@Counterclockwise

Are you suggesting that no new jobs should be allowed in Palo Alto? Because unless that is the case, those (parking/transportation) details will have to be addressed.


14 people like this
Posted by Disingenuous
a resident of Downtown North
on Mar 2, 2015 at 12:27 pm

Eric Rosenblum's frequently expressed wide-eyed interest in hearing from people, "gee, what do they think?" may be sincere, so apparently he has not been paying attention to what has been going on for years. or... maybe it's a pose.
Can a member of the Planning Commission really be so innocent about the opinions of residents and developers, expressed again and again and again over the years that he has been living here.
The word disingenuous comes to mind.
Definition: "giving the false appearance of being honest or sincere."


16 people like this
Posted by Marie
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 2, 2015 at 12:33 pm

Marie is a registered user.

I disagree with the Palo Alto Forward's position. Below is an email I sent to the City Counci reflecting my POV.

Please consider a moratorium on development proposals in the University Avenue and California Avenue business districts until you have formulated even a short-term limit on development. Once all the existing massive developments are completed, and true data on the impact of those developments is known (from the business registry and other surveys), you will be in a position to assess various proposals.

Please change the charter of the TMA so that joining does not allow developers to further reduce the city's inadequate parking requirements for development in retail districts. I was shocked to see that developers included reduced parking as a benefit from joining the TMA, long before any real impacts of the TMA are known and before any plans have been implemented. It is this kind of wishful thinking that has led to the major parking issues we have today.

Stop the development, get the data - then make decisions.

Marie
Resident, Homeowner and Landlord since 1989
Palo Alto, CA


10 people like this
Posted by Eric Rosenblum
a resident of Downtown North
on Mar 2, 2015 at 12:50 pm

Eric Rosenblum is a registered user.

I normally don't respond to anonymized comments, but "disingenuous" reminded me of an important point.

I hear from residents all of the time (I am a resident myself, as are my neighbors, as are many of my co-workers and friends, as are the folks who come to and write into our PTC meetings).

On the other hand, I hear a lot of concern about the loss of retail in Palo Alto, but I very rarely hear from retailers about the challenges that their business faces, and I very rarely hear actionable suggestions from residents on what policies would make retail healthier in Palo Alto. "Downtown Worker" has suggested one such policy: strictly requiring ground floors in an expanded area to be retail-only. I would love to hear others. It is for this reason that I had to proactively find retailers to interview. Frankly, I view it as part of my job on the PTC to educate myself about the impact of policies that we may be debating and recommending.

So, @disingenuous... time to show your hand. If it is so easy to know the views of retailers, as you are suggesting, please supply your retailer list and what you have learned from them (and a set of recommended policies to help). I am serious about this (ie., the opposite of disingenuous). If you're a retailer yourself, so much the better. Please share your experiences.


11 people like this
Posted by Gale Johnson
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Mar 2, 2015 at 12:53 pm

"cap could threaten the City's prosperity". That almost sounds like a threat. Or maybe just a scare tactic. I have no strong opinion on the subject right now but do offer this cheap advice, actually it's free, to City Council, "keep your powder dry". It sounds like it needs a lot more study so take the time to do that.

The no cap proponents should then be held to answer some tough questions and to be part of the solution to the problems we all know about: traffic, parking, and affordable housing for the downtown workers. And before any more office space development let housing get caught up to the existing office space.

Transportation and traffic. The statement "only 38% of the companies' workers drive alone" might sound like a good number but it's a single data point. How do the other 62% get to work, how far, how long are the commutes, etc. Do they not complain about the commute and the traffic problem they are part of and contributing to? I wonder.


7 people like this
Posted by shopper
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 2, 2015 at 1:19 pm

It's not just "retail" it's the atmosphere.

War on residents from downtown does not make it a friendly place. It's pretty obvious residents are not the people who the Chamber is interested in doing business with.

Just put up a big sign - Office Food Court downtown and let's forget retail there.

As for the businesses engaged in the Office space lobby, I will try to avoid them. I don't need plastic surgery or massages with executives anyway.




13 people like this
Posted by anneke
a resident of Professorville
on Mar 2, 2015 at 1:22 pm

Protection and availability of ground floor retail stores will be a strategic and positive move towards keeping Palo Alto a charming city, and not turning it into a financial district in Manhattan.

We have lived in Professorville for 21 years, and until seven years ago we never complained about intrusive parking, which is a city process. Please note I do not say "Intrusive Parkers," as I cannot fault the workers for (over) parking in our neighborhoods. It has been the City that has allowed them to do so.

When the developers started to convert retail stores into employee-crammed offices and were allowed by the City Staff and Council to do so without securing sufficient parking, that is when we saw the problem start. Again, I cannot put this issue all on the developers, as the City allowed them to do it.

I am not at all against development, but it needs to be balanced, and since employee parking is a cost of doing business, it needs to be automatically included in the basic plans. No exception granted!

I do have a proposal as to how we all can contribute to a better parking situation, and I will explain the details in my next post.


10 people like this
Posted by anneke
a resident of Professorville
on Mar 2, 2015 at 1:41 pm

Possible Parking Solutions for Downtown Palo Alto and its surroundings:

1. Until a proper parking program is in place, stop all assigned parking for city workers. Let the City Staff and Council (I know this City Council understands it) feel the pain. Without pain, no gain!

2. Make sure all the downtown the garages are well lit, safe, economically priced, and filled.

3. For people living in the surrounding areas of downtown, please use your garages and drive ways.

4. Since each drive way automatically has (wasted) space on the street, can the city allow the owner of that drive way to park in that (wasted) space by making the space large enough so a car can be comfortably parked there.

5. Execute a program of parking space tipping (as they do in Menlo Park), where they ensure the streets do not look like parking lots.

6. Paint the corners of streets red, so they remained unparked.

I believe the above suggestions would go a long way towards increased safety, more efficient parking, happier residents, happier parkers, and increased business, all at very little overall cost.




10 people like this
Posted by Wayne Martin
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Mar 2, 2015 at 1:46 pm

----
> "This would mean the loss of the very office workers
> who now support Palo Alto's vibrant economy and robust
> retail environment and who are a major source of revenue
> for the City's General Fund," Kleinberg said.

I believe that this statement would be hard to prove with real data. If one could get a block-by-block report of sales taxes generated by each business, this would go a long way to help us understand just what the pros and cons of seeing downtown Palo Alto turn, most assuredly, into a business park.

While Palo Alto’s “economy” doubtless includes the money changing hands in the downtown area—for the most part very little of this money actually benefits the City as a whole. High Tech startups don’t pay much in the way of taxes to the City, and employees living out of the City don’t do their taxable shopping here. We also have to factor in the impact of the Internet in diverting money out of the local retail economy—and this will only get worse in the future.

So—without hard data, it makes little sense to make decisions based on the smoke and mirrors of statements like this one from the Chamber.


9 people like this
Posted by Suzanne Keehn
a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 2, 2015 at 1:59 pm

I just wrote to the City Council with this and other comments.

"As far as a cap on office development curtailing growth, innovation, etc. in Palo Alto is a bogus argument.
Why would that be so, innovation, and creativity will still be ripe and growing here with the office and research
facilities we already have. And wouldn’t it be more advantageous for another area of our country to have the same
opportunities, jobs that we have. The opportunities should be shared for the good of the whole.

Stanford is held up as a model, but they have many rules and regulations that let them do this, which is entirely
different that our City, which cannot control how many drive in and out, and so far do not even have a business
registry, and have not had an independent traffic study, let alone solving the parking issues.

Most of all with this continual development we lose more of our sidewalk space, poor designs, and most of all
livability.

Please vote to cap office development for these reasons and many more."


4 people like this
Posted by Deep Throat
a resident of another community
on Mar 2, 2015 at 2:52 pm

On December 7, 2009, after the November 2009 City Council election, but before newly elected Council Members Holman, Scharff, and Shepherd took office, the City Council voted unanimously to adopt Ordinance No. 5065 that removed certain Downtown properties from the requirement to have ground floor retail. Council Members Burt and Schmid who voted for that ordinance are still on the City Council. Ordinance No. 5065: Web Link
Ground Floor (GF) Combining District Regulations: Web Link


2 people like this
Posted by Craig Laughton
a resident of College Terrace
on Mar 2, 2015 at 2:57 pm

There is so much limited thinking on this blog regarding growth and traffic. The exponential nature of current and emerging technologies allows for a bright future.

Traffic: Deploy a series of buses/vans based on the Uber model app, responding to time/demand (and pricing accordingly). Employers share the cost with employees. Satellite parking lots, where appropriate (then commuter buses/vans to Downtown, Midtown, SRP, Etc.).

Remote working through online connectivity: Why are we relying on 20th century modes of working? I work at home, on the computer, mostly, and I ain't any great shakes. Many jobs don't need commuters to get the job done on a daily basis.

Manual/service labor: Yes, they need to show up and work hard. They should be paid more, in order to pay for their commute (also using commuter buses/Uber model). Their commute should be air conditioned, have WiFi connection to the Internet. Of course, this is limited by the need to have service vehicles and tools...but many workers already hook up for rides, so they can figure it out.

Longer term: Automatous cars/vans (electric powered, of course)...dropped off very near the worksite. Ultimate source of power: Nuclear, solar.

We need to abandon the model of scarcity and invest in the abundance that is in front of us. Whining won't make it happen.


5 people like this
Posted by Counterclockwise
a resident of University South
on Mar 2, 2015 at 3:12 pm

"Are you suggesting that no new jobs should be allowed in Palo Alto? Because unless that is the case, those (parking/transportation) details will have to be addressed."

But the CoC ain't gonna address them, is it? I mean, it will do nothing beyond mouthing the usual empty buzzwords around creativity, innovation, partnership, ... . Nor, as I read this thread, will anyone else promoting reckless growth.

So, no new jobs until we solve the problems the current jobs have created. Fair 'nuff?


Like this comment
Posted by Craig Laughton
a resident of College Terrace
on Mar 2, 2015 at 3:24 pm

>So, no new jobs until we solve the problems the current jobs have created. Fair 'nuff?

What nonsense. It is the new jobs that will create the solutions to the old jobs. Just think about the Luddites....


2 people like this
Posted by mj
a resident of College Terrace
on Mar 2, 2015 at 3:58 pm

Sounds as if Eric Rosenblum hasn't spoken to Karen Holman who has been the point person on the council for working with the California Avenue merchants.


10 people like this
Posted by Stephanie grossman
a resident of Community Center
on Mar 2, 2015 at 4:08 pm

If retail is replaced with offices, then, first of all, there is a loss of sales tax. Then, if residents want to or need to shop, they will go to Mt View or Menlo Park or other neighboring communities. This will, of course, create not only a financial loss to Palo Alto, but a loss of a neighborhood way-of-life, and more traffic congestion.
Perhaps Stanford Shopping Center would like this, but a community has to be more than mega malls, especially very high-end ones. We need neighborhoods. There are no small stores and supermarkets in mid Manhattan,but there is also no community.
Let us not,I repeat,not, give way to the big developers who want to drain the land of any local residents, but instead help their investors, the Chamber of Commerce, and Stanford. I have nothing against any of them, but they should not control everything and everyone in Palo Alto.
I urge the CC to vote to stop the conversion from retail to office. Please!


2 people like this
Posted by Wayne Martin
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Mar 2, 2015 at 4:16 pm

I would love for those promoting what seems to be unlimited, uncapped, growth in Palo Alto to give us some estimates about how many jobs that they believe this growth will accommodate in the coming years--

Year--Jobs
2015--60,000
2025
2035
2045
2055

And for those helping us out here by offering up these numbers, would be interested in your opinion as to what percentage of these new jobs will be downtown.


3 people like this
Posted by Citizen 7
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 2, 2015 at 4:18 pm

Maybe it is time for residents to start boycotting businesses that support the Chamber, starting with the businesses that are represented by is board, and other directors.

Palo Alto Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors: Web Link


1 person likes this
Posted by Counterclockwise
a resident of University South
on Mar 2, 2015 at 4:22 pm

"It is the new jobs that will create the solutions to the old jobs."

Maybe, if the new jobs are parking valets. But why build a bunch of office buildings for them? They only need their little kiosks by the curb.


Like this comment
Posted by Robert
a resident of another community
on Mar 2, 2015 at 4:24 pm

Well Wayne Martin, if you or a parent who lives in Palo Alto becomes disabled or infirmed, do you feel like you should be able to hire a caretaker? Are you comfortable with a decision like that being decided by the city council?


1 person likes this
Posted by Wayne Martin
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Mar 2, 2015 at 4:34 pm

@Robert--

As a member of another community, not certain how these decisions affect you in your town.


> if you or a parent who lives in Palo Alto becomes disabled or
> infirmed, do you feel like you should be able to hire a caretaker?

Most of the current discussion is about downtown becoming an office park by reducing the height caps on buildings, and not capping any future growth. While this issue will doubtless move to all of Palo Alto, today's Q&A should be focused on downtown.

> Are you comfortable with a decision like that
> being decided by the city council?

Sent a letter to the Council a couple weeks ago suggesting that more data was needed before any decisions were made. Suggested that full 3-D modeling of the downtown be used to project future growth, to see where new offices/buildings/jobs might be located.

The letter is in the packet, if you care to look at it.


Like this comment
Posted by Robert
a resident of another community
on Mar 2, 2015 at 4:41 pm

Well your statement seemed to be a concern about having an "unlimited, uncapped" number of jobs in Palo Alto, and my response was as to whether or not you would be comfortable with the kind of restrictions you wish to place on others applying to you personally. Seeing as you shied away from actually responding, I'll go out on a limb and say you aren't comfortable with it.


Like this comment
Posted by curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on Mar 2, 2015 at 4:49 pm

"Just think about the Luddites...."

One of the Ten Lost Tribes, right? What do they have to do with offices in Palo Alto?


Like this comment
Posted by Wayne Martin
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Mar 2, 2015 at 4:49 pm

@Robert--

I would suggest that questions eliciting personal information are inappropriate.

> Seeing as you shied away from actually responding,
> I'll go out on a limb and say you aren't comfortable with it.

I also make it a point never to put words in other peoples' mouths.

My answer was fairly clear in my letter to the Council.

It's also clear that downtown PA is a fairly small place. The previous posting asking for estimates of new jobs downtown in the coming years should give folks a pause to think about just how many people/buildings this tiny little postage stamp can absorb.



Like this comment
Posted by Counterclockwise
a resident of University South
on Mar 2, 2015 at 5:00 pm

"Suggested that full 3-D modeling of the downtown be used to project future growth, to see where new offices/buildings/jobs might be located."

A non-starter. No sane city planning staffer would permit such a thing to be seen by the public.

I got an idea! Crowdsource it. If enough of us computer savvies worked together, we could do it with Sketchup in a week of evenings and post it all over the Web.


Like this comment
Posted by Craig Laughton
a resident of College Terrace
on Mar 2, 2015 at 5:01 pm

>"It is the new jobs that will create the solutions to the old jobs."

Maybe, if the new jobs are parking valets. But why build a bunch of office buildings for them? They only need their little kiosks by the curb.

How tiring can this get? It sound like those who promote anaerobic digestion in our Baylands, when there is a much better high tech solution. Luddites.

Yes, the new jobs, in those offices, if necessary, will exponentiate the tech solutions going forward. This is so obvious, yet even those who so willingly use high tech to communicate on this blog (personal computer, smart phones, etc.) fail to admit that they are all in.


Like this comment
Posted by Wayne Martin
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Mar 2, 2015 at 5:07 pm

> A non-starter. No sane city planning staffer would permit such a
> thing to be seen by the public.

And you really believe that? I hope not!

I don't have a problem with the crowd sourcing idea, but getting the data that accurately reflects the current buildings/streets would best be done with City help. The biggest problem with crowd sourcing big/difficult projects is that sooner or later people lose interest working for free, and the goals of the project are often unmet.


Like this comment
Posted by Wayne Martin
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Mar 2, 2015 at 5:10 pm

> Yes, the new jobs, in those offices, if necessary, will exponentiate
> the tech solutions going forward.

This is really heard to believe--particularly if financial and legal firms move into the spaces created by new offices downtown.


2 people like this
Posted by Robert
a resident of another community
on Mar 2, 2015 at 5:14 pm

I never asked for personal information, I was asking about a real world situation where the decision to restrict employment (traffic/parking issues do not discriminate by job type) would affect YOU, rather than the nebulous "other guy". You chose to move the goalpost and say this discussion was only about downtown Palo Alto, despite the fact that this office cap is a citywide issue, and traffic doesn't only affect the area where any specific person is employed.

I have yet to understand why all so many people just assume that any discussion of office caps and hiring restrictions will only apply to the other folks who aren't "true Palo Altans", which inevitably leads to 50% of these discussions being about why someone's perspective should be discounted rather than discussing the issue at hand:

"Oh he lives in Palo Alto but doesn't work here so we can discount his opinion"
"Oh she works in Palo Alto but doesn't live here so we can discount her opinion"
"Oh he's one of those techie newcomers, he doesn't have the correct Palo Alto values"
"Oh that family lives in a house that was built by a developer, they might as be on that developer's payroll"
...and so on.


Like this comment
Posted by Craig Laughton
a resident of College Terrace
on Mar 2, 2015 at 5:16 pm

Put up a $50k award for a crowdsourcing contest to provide the best design/solution, going forward. If no solution emerges, it costs us nothing. If we get a winner, then we have a very low cost solution.

It's called the future...in so many ways.


7 people like this
Posted by Abitarian
a resident of Downtown North
on Mar 2, 2015 at 5:16 pm

The relationship between number of employees and use of local services is not quite so direct as some seem to suggest.

For example, consider one of downtown's largest employers. As a perk, Palantir provides a cafeteria serving complimentary breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

Certainly a sizeable percentage of the staff must be taking advantage of the free meals rather than patronizing nearby restaurants and cafes.


2 people like this
Posted by Counterclockwise
a resident of University South
on Mar 2, 2015 at 5:22 pm

"And you really believe that? I hope not!"

Not belief. Experience. City planning staff is allergic to data and data displays that might sabotage their development agenda. Example: they have consistently refused to poll inhabitants of existing mass housing near the transit hubs on their transit usage, claiming they wouldn't get enough data for a statistically bulletproof conclusion. Thus the Brain Town of Silicon Valley chooses to advocate building "transit-oriented" mass housing projects with no data at all on their transit-oriented effectiveness. The illogic of that indicates a deeper agenda: build, build, build.

However, the data on existing structures is public property and cannot be withheld. It is for active citizens to gather it and synthesize it.


Like this comment
Posted by Craig Laughton
a resident of College Terrace
on Mar 2, 2015 at 5:23 pm

>This is really heard to believe--particularly if financial and legal firms move into the spaces created by new offices downtown.

Wayne, if those offices provide for financial and legal offices that promote high tech solutions, that would be fine. The main thing is that we get the high solutions...and Palo Alto will benefit immensely (with less traffic and parking problems). Time to enter the 21st century Wayne.


2 people like this
Posted by Wayne Martin
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Mar 2, 2015 at 5:24 pm

> Put up a $50k award for a crowdsourcing contest to provide the best
> design/solution, going forward.

That award would come to about 3-man months of work. Hard to believe that anyone would be able to do all of the work needed to provide the modeling necessary to provide answers for that small amount of money.

Can you point to any $50K contracts the City has let that involved anything meaningful? The color of Palo Alto was in that range, and it turned out to be a mess to wind down.

Since you are so enthusiastic about this approach, why not do a man-month's effort, and then offer your partially complete project to the City Manager and see if he will spring for the award money?

> The relationship between number of employees and use of
> local services is not quite so direct as some seem to suggest.

Wasn't there an issue in Mountain View recently where some restaurants near Google were complaining to the MV City Council that Google Kitchen was costing them employees, and they wanted the City Council to ban on-site food service in new Google facilities?


2 people like this
Posted by Wayne Martin
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Mar 2, 2015 at 5:29 pm

> if those offices provide for financial and legal offices that promote
> > high tech solutions, that would be fine. The main thing is that we get the high
> solutions...and Palo Alto will benefit immensely
> (with less traffic and parking problems)

There is nothing that anyone can point to in the current/future plans of downtown that suggest that only high tech companies will inhabit these spaces, or that these companies will have the expertise to solve all of the problems that they cause.

You're free to your opinion, but there is no evidence that your opinion is the certified blue print of the future.

At some point, if it's too difficult to do business here--they will move on.


1 person likes this
Posted by Craig Laughton
a resident of College Terrace
on Mar 2, 2015 at 5:51 pm

>There is nothing that anyone can point to in the current/future plans of downtown that suggest that only high tech companies will inhabit these spaces, or that these companies will have the expertise to solve all of the problems that they cause.

I suggest that such offices of finance and law will not be focused on pork bellies and soy beans. Combine them with the high tech start ups, and the nexus is there to change the world. Palo Alto will benefit, big time. If we play it right (high tech), we will have LESS traffic and parking, not more.

And our neighborhoods will be more prosperous and even better to live in.

I am a realist, so I reject the past in favor of a better, and inevitable future...which is coming down the track like a jet-powered train (hydrogen powered, of course).


7 people like this
Posted by Disingenuous
a resident of Downtown North
on Mar 2, 2015 at 6:00 pm

>Palantir provides a cafeteria serving complimentary breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
Certainly a sizeable percentage of the staff must be taking advantage of the free meals rather than patronizing nearby restaurants and cafes.>
And they organize their employees to lobby the City Council for more housing and who knows what else. They hired one of our Planning Commissioners so maybe they have more plans.

The Chamber of Commerce occupies Below Market Rate offices in the very fancy big new Lytton Gateway building.
Yes, Below Market Rate for multi-millionnaires.





Like this comment
Posted by Craig Laughton
a resident of College Terrace
on Mar 2, 2015 at 6:03 pm

>That award would come to about 3-man months of work. Hard to believe that anyone would be able to do all of the work needed to provide the modeling necessary to provide answers for that small amount of money.

Wayne, I suggest that you read Peter Diamandis's new book "Bold". He provides several examples that might make you feel more sanguine about cheap solutions to major problems, using crowdsourcing. There are many eager and talented people out there who want to provide solutions...they will work on the cheap, if they feel they are putting their footprints in the sand.


11 people like this
Posted by hmmmm
a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 2, 2015 at 6:38 pm

@pro growthers: What about California's drought which occurs every so often. Where is the water going to come from?

What about boon and busts? We are experiencing a boon right now, but this area has seen busts on a cyclical basis.

At some point, tech companies may want to move to areas where their workers can better afford housing in areas with more space and less traffic.


5 people like this
Posted by Residents
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Mar 2, 2015 at 7:27 pm

[Post removed due to inaccuracy.]


Like this comment
Posted by Mike
a resident of Professorville
on Mar 2, 2015 at 7:34 pm

@Craig Laughton:

"I am a realist, so I reject the past in favor of a better, and inevitable future...which is coming down the track like a jet-powered train (hydrogen powered, of course)."

Love your comments, and belief in the power of tech/future thinking, but that future is not coming down the (ancient) train tracks, but coming on the hyper loop.


1 person likes this
Posted by resident 1
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Mar 2, 2015 at 7:45 pm

Goggle, Yahoo are already moving some work to Los Angeles near the LAX since they can work with the Hollywood edge from that location. There is a huge commuter train set-up in that area.

Once a company becomes successful that they can go where ever they want - they just may outgrow this area. You will note that Space-X is in that area as well as every major Government contractor - and of course the great beaches. And they are now working on building a new stadium.

We do not need to turn ourselves inside out - there is no gain.


4 people like this
Posted by Rainer
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Mar 2, 2015 at 7:47 pm

Rainer is a registered user.

[Post removed due to referencing a previously deleted comment.]


2 people like this
Posted by mauricio
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Mar 3, 2015 at 6:11 am

mauricio is a registered user.

"investment in housing". Really? So a retail employee would be able to afford housing in Palo Alto, outbidding foreign investors? Really?


Like this comment
Posted by Counterclockwise
a resident of University South
on Mar 3, 2015 at 9:40 am

" Hard to believe that anyone would be able to do all of the work needed to provide the modeling necessary to provide answers for that small amount of money."

Somehow I thought you had more practical experience than you evidence in these forums. OK, so you haven't done this kind of thing yourself. Permit me to instruct you.

The word: volunteers.

Recruit tech-savvy high school students, arrange for them to receive community service credits for their work, recruit some retired techies to guide them, invest the $50k in material support, and you're up and running.

Now go and do thou lkewise.


4 people like this
Posted by Sunshine
a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 3, 2015 at 9:58 pm

All new buildings in Palo Alto should be required to follow all current, or less dense, zoning regulations. Each building developer should also be required to provide parking sufficient for all residents and/or workers in the building. Payments to special funds, parking somewhere else or other special perks should not be allowed.
For downtown large buildings the first floor should be local retail. The second floor can be offices or other business uses. The third floor should be housing with 20% of the units for limited income people. Developers should allow room for planters or green strips at ground level and these planters should bevmaintained with live plants by the owner.
Offices do not make a vibrant downtown because the workers go elsewhere at the end of the day and on weekends. For a vibrant downtown there must be a mix of local stores, small restaurants and entertainment venues. Even in NYC the areas that are only offices die each evening and weekend.


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

He said – she said – who is lying? Justice Brett Kavanaugh or PA resident Christine Ford
By Diana Diamond | 30 comments | 1,251 views

Global Warming Diet
By Laura Stec | 5 comments | 1,187 views

Couples: "Taming Your Gremlin" by Richard Carson
By Chandrama Anderson | 0 comments | 1,036 views

Preparing for kindergarten
By Cheryl Bac | 0 comments | 566 views

 

Pre-registration ends tomorrow!

​On Friday, September 21, join us at the Palo Alto Baylands for a 5K walk, 5K run, 10K run, or—for the first time—half marathon! All proceeds benefit local nonprofits serving children and families.

Learn More