News


Summit spurs ideas, debates about Palo Alto's future

City leaders ask residents for help in updating Comprehensive Plan

The festival that took over Mitchell Park Community Center in Palo Alto on Saturday featured no music but plenty of musings, maps and moments of healthy tension.

Billed as "The Summit" and likened to a local Constitutional Convention, Palo Alto's all-day Planapalooza featured three acts, five stages (aka community rooms), a scattering of outdoor booths and about 300 residents, divided into dozens of groups, debating what the city should look like in 2030. Over the course of seven hours, participants grappled with some of the most contentious questions of the day: Which impacts of growth concern you the most? Where should new housing be built? How should the city's main transportation corridors function 15 years from now?

It took the city nearly a decade to get to Saturday's summit, a milestone in Palo Alto's update of its land-use bible, the Comprehensive Plan. The City Council decided in 2006 that it was time to update the voluminous plan, on which theoretically most council decisions are based, and the effort has sputtered in fits and starts ever since. Now, the new council is committed to completing the revision by mid-2016, and the summit was officials' way to gain the citizenry's thoughts about office growth, transportation and housing.

It was also the city's attempt to find some consensus about growth after two deeply divisive election seasons: the 2013 referendum in which Palo Alto voters overturned a council-approved development that included market-rate homes and apartments for low-income seniors and a 2014 election that gave rise to the slow-growth "residentialist" majority on the council.

Both sides in the growth debate turned out in great numbers for the summit, where they were joined by members of the City Council, the Planning and Transportation Commission and various other boards and commissions. Members of Palo Altans for Sensible Zoning, a citizens group with slow-growth leanings, commingled with their counterparts from Palo Alto Forward, which advocates for more housing and transportation options. All participants watched videos highlighting recent demographic, job, growth and transportation trends and then, in small groups, debated the questions posed by staff.

Mayor Karen Holman, who addressed the crowd at the beginning of the summit, declared that the day was "a day when we listen to you."

"Today we hope we will build confidence in our ability to work together as a community, to work together for the future of our town," Holman said.

One topic on which there was no consensus was how to manage the growth of office space. Participants considered three different options: a hard cap on how much new office development should be allowed; a metering mechanism for commercial development to ensure too much doesn't get built at once; and a requirement that developers offset the negative impacts of their buildings.

Each group of four to six people debated the questions posed by staff and texted its two best solutions to a phone number provided. The dozens of texts, which were displayed on projectors in all the rooms, will be displayed on the city's website early next week. The plan is to use this feedback to update the Comprehensive Plan.

When it came to office growth, just about everyone agreed that the city's three-to-one jobs housing imbalance (there are three jobs in the city for every employed resident) is problematic and should be addressed. Yet as their texts indicated, most people weren't too keen on freezing commercial development altogether, or even capping it. While one group texted, "Stop building offices," most other groups said they favored the "offset" strategy, in which office growth is allowed as long as it provides amenities and mitigates potential problems. One group texted, "Growth should be MANAGED not STOPPED." Another wrote, "Better define and enforce mitigations." A third wrote, "Allow new development only if impacts are mitigated" and it includes amenities such as housing, parks and proximity to transit. "Meter and offset growth focused on traffic congestion," contributed a fourth group.

The question of growth management will be one of the most critical and complex topics evaluated in the new Comprehensive Plan. Charlie Knox, a consultant with the firm Placeworks, which is assisting with the Comprehensive Plan update, said the level of rapid growth that the city is now experiencing was preordained in the 1980s. It's only now that market forces are driving developers to build up to the allowed zoning.

"We're really catching up with the capacity that's been in the Comprehensive Plan the whole time, and the market is so strong that we're now filling it," Knox said.

Participants seemed more amenable to growth when it came to housing. The city's 50-foot height limit has long been considered a "sacred cow" of restrictions by those with a residentialist bent, but many participants at Saturday's summit said the limit should be relaxed for housing (though not for offices). "Raise height limits when the results are better for the city and residents," stated one group's text. Another group favored allowing higher density for housing built in mixed-use neighborhoods and near transit. One group called for an "80-foot (height) limit for dense housing," while another supported building two new developments akin to Channing House, a 10-story housing development for seniors.

Not everyone felt that way. One group called for the city to simply "ignore" state mandates that the city plan for more housing.

While some groups thought big when it comes to housing, others thought small. The idea of encouraging more studios and "microhousing" units proved popular, as did the easing of restrictions for single-family residences whose owners want to add a "granny" unit.

As for the locations for new housing, many favored sites in dense areas near transit, most notably downtown and California Avenue. One group, which included Palo Alto Forward member Mila Zelkha and Palo Alto Neighborhoods co-chair Sheri Furman, favored buildings with housing on upper floors and retail on the ground level, much like on Piedmont Avenue in Oakland or in Noe Valley in San Francisco. Their group also favored strengthening the retail sector and increasing ground-floor retail.

Not everyone was thrilled about these exercises. University South resident Elaine Meyer objected to the question about where the new housing should be built, deeming it to be presumptuous. In another group, a resident brought up the idea of building to greater heights and bemoaned the fact that in the current political climate people are saying "no" to all growth. His table-mate responded, "I favor no growth, but not enough people feel this way." The conversation quickly drifted to another topic.

There was more agreement when it came to transportation, with many favoring more shuttles, a doubling of Caltrain capacity and separating the train tracks vertically from the roadways (some people were more specific and advocated for a train tunnel). One group suggested giving subsidized Eco Passes to car-free households, which would be funded by a fee paid by car owners. Another suggested that the city's shuttle service cover a greater geographic area so that there would be a stop within 10 minutes of all households.

One group suggested providing public transportation on "feeder streets" like Alma Street and Park Boulevard, while another suggested pursuing the "Grand Boulevard Initiative" plan for El Camino Real, including a Bus Rapid Transit system and a dedicated bike lane.

City Manager James Keene said it's fitting that the Saturday exercise took place in the new Mitchell Park Community Center, which opened late last year after more than two years of delays and a protracted dispute with the contractor. It was a "tortuous journey" to construct the new center, but now that it's open, it is widely used and widely recognized as a "beautiful place," Keene said.

"We're hoping this is where we end up on our Comprehensive Plan update," Keene said.

Once updated, the new document will have a horizon date of 2030. If things go as planned, the document would be adopted by the council in the middle of next year.

Comments

46 people like this
Posted by Palo Altan
a resident of Fairmeadow
on May 30, 2015 at 10:41 pm

Today's Summit was a positive experience. There were a lot of people with many perspectives and yet I was encouraged to see my city come together to make time to hear all ideas and explore them in a civil, respectful way. A good day in our City's history working to create a healthy future.


36 people like this
Posted by lovely day
a resident of Crescent Park
on May 30, 2015 at 10:41 pm

What a terrific day for Palo Alto! So wonderful to see so much polite and thoughtful discourse. This city has so many diverse views and yet table after table of people found things that they could all get behind and it was incredibly heartening to see so many compassionate and creative people in one room. For the first time in a long time I felt optimistic about the direction of this city and felt like people were really planning for the future. Kudos to the staff for all their hard work.


6 people like this
Posted by Safety First
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 30, 2015 at 10:42 pm

Couldn't go. Does that mean my voice still doesn't count?

I would like to see us separate out the Safety Element and develop it as a priority (someone told me the Safety Element had been separated out from the Natural Environment element where it used to be just an afterthought basically, but I haven't had the chance to get up to date, is that true?)


36 people like this
Posted by wow... interesting mix
a resident of College Terrace
on May 31, 2015 at 7:57 am

I went to the summit.

The usual suspects who go to all council meetings were there (PASZ people, who were passing out fliers, PAN leaders and a few Palo Alto Forward leaders).

What struck me the most, though, is that massive numbers of Palo Altans are actually pro-growth. They were advocating relaxing the 50 foot height limit, dramatically increasing density in transit corridors, and investing more in transit. There's no way that PAF has that many members. Either something has changed in Palo Alto, or the types of people who are available to come to a meeting on a Saturday is fundamentally different from people who can come to a work-night council meeting.


29 people like this
Posted by Agenda
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 31, 2015 at 8:05 am

Wow--- not surprising at all. PASZ and their acolytes are very vocal. They make it sound like they are speaking for the majority. Plus the biased coverage form the weekly makes it sound like the pro growth people are the minority.
My advice ignore comments from PASZ, especially their council members ( Holman, filseth and Dubois) and definitely take what you read in the weekly with a grain of salt.


17 people like this
Posted by Howard
a resident of Crescent Park
on May 31, 2015 at 8:51 am

I think there are four groups: 1. 1% of population: Highly motivated residentialists who show up for everything and are for slow or no growth; 2. 2-3%: Highly motivated Palo Alto forward types who show up for everything and who are at least pro-growth for housing; 3. Maybe 25%: generally pro-growth young people and professionals who don't like NIMBYS, but don't usually get involved; 4. everyone else: folks who get mad when development affects them in some way (traffic, ugly building, no parking, etc.) and who are basically apathetic otherwise (many of these sided with Group 1 in recent elections).


4 people like this
Posted by Safety First
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 31, 2015 at 9:33 am

I wonder how the composition of the supposedly interested PAF's and pro-development young people would change if they had to declared any perks or payments for time...


11 people like this
Posted by Sea Reddy
a resident of College Terrace
on May 31, 2015 at 9:38 am

Great event.

Let's do it every year and make it a viable
people's pulse.


Thanks for feeding me lunch.
Respectfully


2 people like this
Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on May 31, 2015 at 9:39 am

I guess I'm one of the "usual suspects" who showed up. Will be interesting to see what all soon appears on the city website. Not sure whether that will be the link given in Gennady's article (cityofpaloalto.org) or more likely Web Link (paloaltocompplan.org)

Should note that Ada's Cafe kept us well fed and plied with coffee.

I think there's still time to volunteer for the Citizens Advisory Committee.


24 people like this
Posted by Any new ideas?
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 31, 2015 at 10:46 am

Wow,

How can "massive" amounts of Palo Alto be pro-growth from a sample of 300 which supposedly had a mix of views?


15 people like this
Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on May 31, 2015 at 12:30 pm

I wish we could have gone but other plans came up, esp. since I knew it was going to be packed with pro-growth attendees.

I got several emails from a City Council member strongly urging us to come because the pro-growth side had already packed the attendee list. Also, the City Manager's office posted several times on Facebook and Next Door inviting "anyone who lives AND WORKS in Palo Alto" to attend.

When I responded saying that I thought the event was just for residents, they responded no way. It's for all "stakeholders, not just residents."

I'm sure the attendee breakdown won't stop them from spinning this event into a pro-growth consensus.


16 people like this
Posted by Agenda
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 31, 2015 at 12:41 pm

Online name-- where do you get the information that the attendee list was " packed" with pro growth people? Did someone screen the attendee list ( I.e. This council member that e mailed you)? Which council member e mailed you? I did not get such an e mail. Was it only sent to those that toe the line regarding growth ( I.e. Growth is bad). Bet you it
Was one of the PASZ 3. They are probably afraid people will realize that they are on the wrong side of development. Also one has to wonder if it was ethical for certain council members to have access to the attendee list?
I believe just the opposite, this will be spun by PASZ/their 3 council members/ weekly into a anti growth consensus


7 people like this
Posted by Observer
a resident of Southgate
on May 31, 2015 at 12:43 pm

>while another supported building two new developments akin
>to Channing House, a 10-story housing development for seniors.

Sounds like Palo Alto Forward kind of idea. Then they'll settle for a compromise like developers who propose a ridiculous size then 'compromise' to what they really want.
No way that a group composed of a mix of people supported this. No way.


10 people like this
Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on May 31, 2015 at 12:50 pm

Agenda,

You asked where did I get the information the attendee list was packed and did they screen the attendee list?

As I wrote, "I got several emails from a City Council member strongly urging us to come because the pro-growth side had already packed the attendee list." I should clarify they were emails to supporters initially and then personal emails after I registered thanking me for registering and then stressing how important independent voices were.

So yes, he did monitor the attendee list very carefully and was very concerned about specific companies packing the event with their employees.


18 people like this
Posted by PASZ coordination
a resident of Barron Park
on May 31, 2015 at 12:59 pm

It's not surprising that a City Council member was trying to get out the "PASZ Group". PASZ got 3 council members elected, and they seem to be in lockstep about keeping Palo Alto for really old, rich people.

PASZ and their council were really trying to rally support for this event, but there ended up not being very many of them in attendance. Those who were there were passing out fliers and generally making themselves visible, but they were vastly outnumbered.

I was really happy to see a lot of people come to the event that see a future for Palo Alto for a diverse population-- a place that can support young people, non-rich people, and people who weren't lucky enough to be 3rd generation locals. The PASZ + Burt + Schmid + Holman + Filseth + Dubois "keep Palo Alto for rich people" coalition was outnumbered for once.


6 people like this
Posted by PASZ coordination
a resident of Barron Park
on May 31, 2015 at 1:04 pm

@online name

You seem to feel like this behavior from a council member was completely above board. As such, you should feel comfortable naming who he is (at least you've identified the gender, so we know it's not Kniss or Holman).

I suspect that even you feel like this behavior is a little sketchy, which is why you don't name him. If you felt like he was acting honorably, you would say so.


8 people like this
Posted by Agenda
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 31, 2015 at 1:22 pm

Online name-- please identify this council member. I say his behavior is questionable at best. Were all citizens allowed access to,the attendee list?if not, the how did the council member access the list. I though registration was through a third party site. If so, how come access to the attendee list was given to the PASZ council members. Which companies were packing the list with their employees? What percentage of attendees were non- residents.
This whole thing sounds sketchy-- your description, on,one name and the actions of the council member.
BTW, this is not the first time that charges of companies/ pro growth people "packing" meetings dealing with development. And always these charges are the nsubstantiated and probably bogus.
But please tell us which council member e mailed you. We could always e mail each one and ask them, though I doubt an honest answer would be forthcoming.


6 people like this
Posted by Observer
a resident of Southgate
on May 31, 2015 at 2:11 pm

The city published the names of those who registered. Just the first names, which is odd, to say the least. They prepared expensive name tags for everyone who registered (actually most of what was there was expensive, the consultants with their cameras, etc.) Expect to see lots and lots of pictures soon.

PA Forward did a lot of promotion of the event and many of their people were there. They posted themselves at different tables so that their views would be prominent.

About the question of corporate support, more than a few PA Forward leaders work at Palantir. I believe they get time off for their political efforts.


17 people like this
Posted by Abitarian
a resident of Downtown North
on May 31, 2015 at 2:21 pm

It seems to me that the best indication of resident opinion remains the 2014 City Council election. It provides the largest sample size and all voters have equal influence to each other.

Of the five seats in contention, three "less growth" candidates and two "more growth" candidates were elected.

This suggests a rather divided constituency, with some preference for less growth.

City Council members who choose to ignore these results do so at their own peril.


21 people like this
Posted by someone is spreading lies
a resident of College Terrace
on May 31, 2015 at 2:26 pm

@observer

I'm pretty sure that you are now spreading lies.

Who said that Palantir employees get "time off for political activities"? What does that even mean? Palantir doesn't even track vacation time: Web Link. Actually, sounds like a nice place to work!

You also say that "they" posted themselves at various tables. I am pretty sure tables were randomly assigned. Someone from the city could probably comment. Maybe they spread out council members and commissioners. Otherwise, there didn't seem to be an intelligent design to table assignments.


7 people like this
Posted by Resident 1-Adobe Meadows
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on May 31, 2015 at 2:47 pm

Resident 1-Adobe Meadows is a registered user.

I was unable to attend the event. I find the manner in which people are described as slightly hostile. Maybe it would help to realize that most people are fairly sophisticated regarding political ploys to manage events.

PAF can call everyone else who does not agree as old and rich, PASZ can sound like it is the head of this game, and all else who attended are enjoying the event.

The bottom line is that everyone can play political games but the people who are elected are calling the shots. Everyone recognizes political ploys so consumed efforts to that end are interesting but probably will not win anyone who already has a point of view.

Great idea this took place - gives everyone a chance to strut their stuff.


25 people like this
Posted by Eric Rosenblum
a resident of Downtown North
on May 31, 2015 at 2:53 pm

Eric Rosenblum is a registered user.

I think that Arbitrarian is correct. The 2014 elections are the best poll that we have. It definitely suggested a divided electorate with some slow growth preference.

The only two caveats that I have are
(a) the groups backing "slow growth" candidates had been very well organized coming off the successful Measure D campaign. It's possible that other groups will be better organized in the future
(b) presidential year elections tend to be different from off-year elections. In our case, we will probably have more young people and renters vote (both tend to be under-represented in local elections).

So, 2016 may be a bit different. But, his/her general point is correct: the election results certainly make for the best polling of public opinion that we have.


14 people like this
Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on May 31, 2015 at 2:58 pm

It is up to the council member to identify him/herself.

Given the lynch mob mentality, I'm glad I didn't.

Since when is it wrong for govt. representatives to urge their supporters to participate and to make their opinions known? I haven't seen Palo Alto Forward or the Bike Coalitions being silent on anything. My emailbox overfloweth with appeals every day and I suspect your does, too.

What I question is why non-residents -- i.e. workers -- were so actively invited to a city sponsored-event that we the taxpayers are funding.

I will read the news coverage and message board posts carefully for spin.


3 people like this
Posted by Agenda
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 31, 2015 at 3:05 pm

"It is up to the council member to identify him/herself."
Then please contact the council member and tell him people are questioning his action ( he may not read this forum). Or else no such e mail ever existed.

Since when is it wrong for govt. representatives to urge their supporters to participate and to make their opinions known? "
So,why is it wrong for pro,growth people to encourage their supporters to participate? Why was this council member so worried that certain people were participating?

"
What I question is why non-residents -- i.e. workers -- were so actively invited to a city sponsored-event that we the taxpayers are funding. "
Do we know that this is really fact. We saw above misinformation about Palantir. Please tell us which companies actively invited non residents to a city sponsored event? Did , for example, PASZ spread the word to like thinking non resident about this event.

Please provide some real facts to back up your claims


9 people like this
Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on May 31, 2015 at 3:14 pm

Dear Agenda,

Go to the City Manager's Page on Facebook and posts on Next Door for event invitations posted by the Office of The City Manager. You'll see the postings inviting those who "Live or Work in Palo Alto."


9 people like this
Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on May 31, 2015 at 3:23 pm

Here you go, Agenda. I'll make it easy for you. Here's one of several city invitations specifically aimed at NON-residents. You're welcome. Feel free to search out the others.

And you're upset at an ELECTED official appealing to residential constituents?

Web Link

City of Palo Alto - Public Agency
April 17 ·
Did you know you don't have to live in Palo Alto to join the upcoming Our Palo Alto 2030: The Summit?
All voices welcome to help design the City's future.

Design your City's figure at Our Palo Alto 2030: the Summit. All are welcome!
PALOALTOCOMPPLAN.ORG


2 people like this
Posted by Agenda
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 31, 2015 at 3:23 pm

Online name-- so please provide the evidence that the non residents that attended are all pro growth. And the invitation is not what I would call " actively invited". The city manager issued a general invitation. Seems that you, the e mailing council member and the PASZ will be exposed like the emperor without any clothes.


2 people like this
Posted by Agenda
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 31, 2015 at 3:29 pm

Online name-- very nice, a Facebook with a general invitation to the summit. And shouldn't those that spend a good part of their day here be able to give suggestions or do you suggest building a moat or Berlin Wall around palo,alto.
You still have yet to,provide ANY proof that pro growth people were invited. Tom Dubois also,posted on Facebook, inviting people to the summit.
As for the elected official appealin to,constituents, according to you ,he was appealing to only those that march in lockstep with his no growth policies. Seems like this council member is worried that his policies will be exposed as not what the community wants.


19 people like this
Posted by Crescent Park Dad
a resident of Crescent Park
on May 31, 2015 at 4:00 pm

Was not able to attend.

I am curious if there was any discussion in the pro-housing-growth groups about the costs of increasing infrastructure capacity, increased traffic & parking, purchasing vacant (where?) and building new school properties, building new real-life shopping centers (real grocery stores - like the MP Safeway size, not the PA mini-stores that we have today), etc. And who was going to pay for all of this...

I'm not inclined to change current zoning or height limits. We haven't even built out against the current zoning! Why would we want to increase limits when we haven't hit them yet?

I'm willing to listen to logical and rationale debate. But if the people who want all these new and tall buildings can't come up with ways to pay for (and not out of my pocket) all of the necessary supporting items listed above - then it is a disaster in the making.

Failing to plan (and fund) is planning to fail.


8 people like this
Posted by Safety First
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 31, 2015 at 4:38 pm

@Abitarian,
You mentioned three slow-growth candidates won and two more-in-favor-of-growth candidates won. The one thing I would add to your analysis is that the two candidates you name as for growth didn't win on that platform -- one actively disclaimed development-favored behavior and promised to turn over a new leaf, even calling himself a residentialist and using Bob Moss's picture heavily in his campaign, and the other also used a lot of euphisms. I pointed out to a neighbor active in PASZ that the latter was a PAF member, and she was horrified and changed her vote. But you are right, the election is still the only good gage we have. Of course, the council could put some effort into better online representative citizen engagement of residents, it might give us better real-time feedback.

As one of the neighbors who started the ball rolling Measure D, I'd like to point out that the motivation for the people who put in the most time and effort really came from very specific safety concerns resulting from overdevelopment pressures already affecting the area. The only recourse was to referend. The thing that brought in the sympathy vote from around town seems to have been that everyone else had development concerns. Usually, nobody cares what's happening in some other neighborhood in favor of voting for the baby seal general issue. (I am still dumbfounded that in this supposedly environmental area, that whole business managed to get people to forget the trees. All of my trees less than 10 years old died from lack of water over the winter, but those unwatered trees at the Maybell orchard greened and live still.)

PASZ is still a loose network of neighbors across town around a core group of civic volunteers willing to put in harder work, which is the definition of grassroots neighborhood groups. It never has been the formal organization it's being portrayed as. I appreciate the hard work of those willing to continue to maintain it. As far as reading anything into sentiments around town from the meeting, though, that's just posturing by development intererests. Glad to hear the actual meeting was more collaborative.


6 people like this
Posted by Observer
a resident of Southgate
on May 31, 2015 at 4:56 pm

Arbitarian is right.The last election is the best measure of citizen opinion.
Also,
the Nov.2013 Maybell referendum was a substantial poll.
And
the 2014 National Citizen Survey is a substantial poll. It is usually at Web Link
although I couldn't find it there today.
You have to plow through huge sections of detailed meaningless analysis to get to the actual survey. But the poll results without the flimflam are interesting.


5 people like this
Posted by Gale Johson
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on May 31, 2015 at 6:32 pm

I didn't attend. I think I was influenced by Douglas Moran. I hope it went better than he described how he anticipated it would go.
I have offered my comments numerous times about all the issues. I won't repeat them here. But what disturbs me is that most of the comments here are pitting the two dominant groups against eact other. Stop it! Or I will start another group, RCPACWNA.


8 people like this
Posted by Mila Z
a resident of Fairmeadow
on May 31, 2015 at 7:30 pm

@Gale Johnson: I believe the City will be making it possible for residents to continue to add their ideas in the coming weeks and I encourage you to do that. I'm sorry you missed what was a pretty cool experience - what I liked was that at least in our group, we all wrote down all ideas and then decided through a tally which ones we felt we ALL felt comfortable representing our group. Each idea was captured on paper so every voice counted - it was discovering how much we had in common that was so refreshing. Hope you aren't disuaded again - keep your ideas coming!


5 people like this
Posted by Gale Johnson
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on May 31, 2015 at 7:31 pm

Sorry, forgot to mention my new group...

Rational Caring Palo Alto Citizens With No Agenda


22 people like this
Posted by Eric Rosenblum
a resident of Downtown North
on May 31, 2015 at 7:59 pm

Eric Rosenblum is a registered user.

I agree with Mila, Gale.

My table was definitely made up of people who were all strangers to me (with the exception of one person for the morning session) with different views. There were a couple of long-timers, one woman who had just moved to PA from Chicago in the past couple of months, one person who has worked in Palo Alto for several decades, but who lives in Menlo Park. Probably ranged in age from 40-80. If I remember correctly, there was one teacher, one community organizer, one banker, one tech worker, one consultant, one family business owner and one film maker (between 2 tables that I was part of). The discussion was very respectful, albeit with some significant disagreements. In general, there was no bullying or confrontational behavior that I saw.

I think that city staff did a really nice job organizing the session, and that the people who came were prepared to roll up their sleeves and think about how to solve PA's problems. I was glad to go.


15 people like this
Posted by Resident 1-Adobe Meadows
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on May 31, 2015 at 8:01 pm

Resident 1-Adobe Meadows is a registered user.

People should take a trip up to Redwood City - many new buildings in construction which exceed four stories. And their Sequoia Square train depot has a big Safeway, CVS, other stores. All in all I think it looks great. Mountain View is also going to have new construction - downtown.
Taller buildings if good design are a plus. So why don't we have better architects?


14 people like this
Posted by @ resident 1
a resident of Downtown North
on May 31, 2015 at 8:30 pm

I have also noted good use of height in RWC. I think that we could have a really lovely train station area with some taller mixed use buildings-- primarily housing.


6 people like this
Posted by common sense
a resident of Midtown
on May 31, 2015 at 9:18 pm

If you are using the Redwood City downtown area as an example, it's a work in progress as construction is still on going. Several things to note:

* Around 2,000 apartments are being built in several different projects. All of the projects are marketing the apartments as luxury apartments, with rents of a 1 BR/1 BA unit around $3,600/month. This has the effect of raising the rentals prices of older rental stock in the neighborhood.

* The project are severely underparked. The rental price does not include parking, which costs extra. Several of the Redwood City Planning department are from Palo Alto, and they bought their "theories of everyone uses the train" to this urban plan.

The mantra of build more, raise the height limits, increase density, only caused rent prices to rise in this Redwood City Neighborhood. Don't blame real estate developers - they are only doing what they are suppose to be doing, which is to maximize the return on investment.

If Palo Alto were to follow the same as what is happening in Redwood City, they would put in an affordable housing requirement, which would make the market rate rents even higher in order to subsidize those affordable housing requirements (either the in-lieu payments, or the actual units)


2 people like this
Posted by Robert
a resident of another community
on May 31, 2015 at 9:55 pm

@common sense

Your points are silly, how does building luxury housing raise the rents in non luxury housing? People are suddenly going to pay more money for less ammenities? And how is charging people to park their car some kind of theory "of everyone uses the train", isn't this a common practice, last time I checked there were metered spots and paid garages in downtown Palo Alto?


7 people like this
Posted by common sense
a resident of Midtown
on May 31, 2015 at 10:24 pm

Robert @ Another Community,

The downtown Redwood City neighborhood has quite a few older apartment units. The effect of developing 2000 luxury apartment units in the neighborhood changes the neighborhood - it's called gentrification.

The theory that housing near the train station can be under parked has been shown not to work as housing becomes more expensive in Palo Alto (e.g. the condominium projects at the California Ave train station).


7 people like this
Posted by Justin
a resident of Mountain View
on Jun 1, 2015 at 12:20 am

I think "common sense" is alluding to why we will never see affordable housing around here:

The only way to have market-rate housing be affordable is to make the location less desirable. I'm sure prices in Redwood City aren't rising due to new housing, but due to increased job opportunities, amenities, and possibly increased opportunities for social interaction.

It's funny though how the anti-growth folks on one hand complain about how miserable ______ (insert entrenched resident's city) is due to new housing, then turn around and say that the new housing actually made the neighborhood so much better, that increased supply will raise prices!

Also, how does "parking costs extra" translate to a building being underparked? I don't see how you can be against decoupling parking spaces from rent (assuming a RPP program to prevent surrounding neighborhoods from serving as parking lots). Let me know if you have proof that there are more cars parked than spaces available!

I am pro-growth, but I think "Crescent Park Dad" makes some good points as well-it is important to pay for the necessary upgrades in infrastructure to accommodate higher density and few cities have good plans to pay for it. I think the lack of grocery stores is a symptom of anti-chain NIMBYs though.


3 people like this
Posted by common sense
a resident of Midtown
on Jun 1, 2015 at 6:21 am

The new apartment buildings in Redwood City do not have enough parking spots so that each unit could have a space for the expected number of occupants(ie. each unit should have at least 1 parking spot, if not 2 depending on the number of occupants). That's what I mean by being under parked.


3 people like this
Posted by Gale Johnson
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Jun 1, 2015 at 7:13 am

@Justin

You make mostly good points and thanks for acknowledging Crescent Park Dad's comments re all the added costs of infrastructure.

Although there may seem to be major polarization between the oft mentioned camps, pro-growth and no/anti-growth, I see signs of common ground and common sense and if you want to tag me I'd prefer 'smart growth'.

I'm never sure if there are ever studies made in advance of big underparked apartment complexes being built. Is it just the hope that residents will use trains if they live close to a station?

Also, any time someone makes the argument that higher density and increased housing will cause rents to be lower, I always challenge them on how many units it would take to make a significant impact. Funny, I never get responses to that question!


2 people like this
Posted by Justin
a resident of Mountain View
on Jun 1, 2015 at 8:58 am

@common sense
You aren't making any sense, just throwing out arbitrary numbers. If there is no significant negative impact on surrounding neighborhoods, then why does the number of parking spaces matter? Believe it or not, there are some people who don't need a car or will share a car with housemates or neighbors (I'm one of them). And if parking is unbundled from rent, residents are going to be less likely to buy a car (or as many cars).

@Gale Johnson
"I'm never sure if there are ever studies made in advance of big underparked apartment complexes being built."
And how many studies are made in advance of big overparked garages and parking lots that don't actually get utilized?

"Also, any time someone makes the argument that higher density and increased housing will cause rents to be lower, I always challenge them on how many units it would take to make a significant impact."
If more housing doesn't cause rents to be lower, then that just means there is so much pent-up demand that it will only slow the rate of increase. And the impact is spread out everywhere across the region from EPA to San Jose to Richmond, so it is almost impossible to discern the impact of a specific project. Heck, people are leaving the state in search of cheaper housing! Web Link



18 people like this
Posted by Downtown Worker
a resident of Menlo Park
on Jun 1, 2015 at 9:49 am

I know many single people who don't own a car, and a lot of couples that are happy sharing one. Note that all these people live within a pleasant walk or a short bike ride of work.

According to our current core, building a 400 sq ft studio requires building 300 sq ft of parking! There are no doubt people who would like a car in the abstract, but who would be happy to give it up to get an apartment that is 40% cheaper.

Given that we have RPP programs in town, we could make a compromise for car-light housing - any building can declare it's for "car-light" tenants, and those tenants are not eligible for RPP permits. So the building has to work with the spaces it has, and the owner has to work harder to find tenants who don't want a car or just offer the apartment for less.

I know people who would be very happy with that arrangement. Why not do an experiment and see what happens? Worst-comes-to-worst, the developer loses money.


5 people like this
Posted by Downtown Worker
a resident of Menlo Park
on Jun 1, 2015 at 9:56 am

Justin, I think the question is "affordable to whom?"

If you want affordable to retail workers, we need set-asides and subsidies, along with smaller units. That's going to be hard, but there are non-profits that do this. You could find this by putting a fee on office development.

On the other hand, a lot of people are worried about affordability even for professionals and long-time residents who want to downsize out of their homes. (The alternative is a Palo Alto where all the new residents are foreign investors or billionaires.). These people don't want or need subsidized housing, they just want a nice condo. And the only thing standing in their way is the thicket of rules that discourages apartments and condos. We don't need to put them in the single-family neighborhoods - just add more and higher in our existing commercial districts like Cal Ave and downtown where they already are, and make it legal in commercial districts where it isn't permitted now, like the Mall and the Research Park. No subsidies, just middle-class people paying their own way (and a lot of new taxes!)

This isn't something we do in a flash tomorrow - it's something we do slowly over the next 15 years so we can accommodate infrastructure growth at the same time.


17 people like this
Posted by Judith
a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Jun 1, 2015 at 11:04 am

Here are some radical ideas:
If you want to limit office space, TAX IT.
Allow a limited number of small units, studio apartments, micro housing etc, near transit to NOT HAVE PARKING. Then people w/o cars won't have to pay for the real estate to house the cars they don't have. It's a choice that no one has now.
NO FREE PARKING.


7 people like this
Posted by resident
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jun 1, 2015 at 11:30 am

Why not allow a 500 ft residential tower downtown or near CA Ave? It would assist in solving our main "problems" - too much office with not enough housing which is the main factor contributing to our traffic woes. With some good architecture it could also be neat to look at. That would get my vote.


13 people like this
Posted by go judith!
a resident of Downtown North
on Jun 1, 2015 at 11:33 am

@ Judith

I like where you're going with those ideas. For many, many years we have been subsidizing cars by forcing buildings to build parking spaces for residents. Residents get the "benefit" of a parking space, whether they want or need one. Since convenient parking is always free, why not use it?

Transit, on the other hand, is rarely free or convenient.

We need to do the opposite.

I also agree that office uses should be taxed. We should tax the things that we don't want (more cars, more offices) and fund the things that we do want (more affordable housing, more retail, better transit).


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Posted by Jean
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Jun 1, 2015 at 12:24 pm

I notice that all new construction is divided into two groups, one housing the other office space.

It has just been revealed that Marriot wants to build two hotels in Palo Alto on San Antonio Road. Are hotels considered "housing" or "office space"?

Like the JCC on the corner of Charleston and San Antonio Road, Marriot wants an exception to build 5 floors, a ground floor for vehicle parking and 4 floors above. This will require another exception to the 50 ft. height limite like the JCC. Meanwhile their parking spaces are quite inadequate for the number of rooms they propose to build.


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Posted by Gale Johnson
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Jun 1, 2015 at 1:59 pm

I'm getting dizzy, maybe another stress attack coming on.

Let me attack...pardon me, slip of the tongue there...address the previous commentors. There's no order to these.

@Downtown Worker,the RPP program in PA is moving at sloth/slug speed, we don't have it yet. I wasn't aware of the thicket of rules that discourage apartments and condos, but would sure like to know more about that. I'm just too old to think about not owning a car. Maybe I was brainwashed by Detroit when I was a teenager. I fully understand the cost of ownership and savings involved if you don't own...purchase price, insurance, license fees, maintenance and repair, and gasoline. But what I don't understand is how do those folks get to the beach or to Giants/49er games, theaters in the city, etc.?

@Resident 1, it isn't that we don't have good architects, it's ordinances, and of course how the PTC and ARB interpret them, tightly or loosely, as they deem fit. I think they're mostly a loose bunch.

@Justin, I can't answer your question, but I'm sure city staff and consultants can. Parking is different for everyone...us casual infrequent downtown visitors and the workers who need all day parking. I guess you've driven thru the garages and lots and found a lot of empty spaces in order to make your comment. I go to a class at Avenidas on Tuesdays and many of the class members say they got one of the last spots in the garage across the street. Would like to know more about your findings.

Oh, yeah, I don't want to leave Jean out on this. The Marriots are neither 'housing', meaning rentals...short or long term, nor office space. But PA sure gets the benefits of the TOT from all those rooms. Let them build. We will need that money for the lawsuits forthcoming from the Jissers.


2 people like this
Posted by curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on Jun 1, 2015 at 2:18 pm

" We don't need to put them [high-rise condos] in the single-family neighborhoods - just add more and higher in our existing commercial districts like Cal Ave and downtown where they already are..."

Single-family neighborhoods are obsolete. They are the least efficient use of our scarce land, and therefore are the logical place for our next generation housing stock.

Don't overlook traffic and carbon footprint issues. Concentrating dense housing concentrates traffic, which exponentially increases pollution and carbon emissions. Mantras involving the word "transit" solve nothing. We must spread our population growth into the formerly sacrosanct single-family areas.


4 people like this
Posted by Justin
a resident of Mountain View
on Jun 1, 2015 at 2:45 pm

@Gale Johnson
"I go to a class at Avenidas on Tuesdays and many of the class members say they got one of the last spots in the garage across the street."

They found free parking right across the street? That sounds pretty good. This is a quote from Palo Alto's staff: "We have garages that are underutilized, residential areas that are overparked and no regulations that say you have to behave a certain way." Read this report as well: Web Link

Also, about owning cars. It's not that no one has cars, but only one person in a group needs to have a car to go somewhere. Make people pay for parking and they may think twice about getting a car they don't need 90% of the time (or maybe get carshare instead). Driving to ATT Park sucks and getting to places near BART in SF is not so bad. There is also a healthy market for informal ridesharing, and more companies are starting to offer late-night bus service between SF and the Peninsula.


2 people like this
Posted by Observer
a resident of Southgate
on Jun 1, 2015 at 3:15 pm

Judith suggests building dense small units for people without cars, so "people w/o cars won't have to pay for the real estate to house the cars they don't have."
Nice idea, but how to enforce it?
How would you know when someone bought a car and parked it on the street? And what would you do about it? evict them? I doubt it.
In a city with only 2, yes 2, coding enforcement officers, seeing to it that the rules are obeyed is a very low priority in our city.


11 people like this
Posted by Cheryl Lilienstein
a resident of Barron Park
on Jun 1, 2015 at 4:32 pm

Thank you Ada's Cafe for offering such great hospitality.


At my table we used the

www.SimPaloAlto.com

spreadsheet that allows you to QUANTIFY the future effects of different choices we face.

Please try it.

For instance, if you think that Palo Alto needs zero, some, or a lot more housing, or a lot more jobs, plug in the rate of housing growth or jobs growth you'd want and see, press return, and get projections: see how many dwellings that would be. What would the traffic be? How many more schools would be needed? How much more land for schools? How much more park space would be needed? What about WATER? You can choose various time frames and growth rates, plug in assumptions, say 40% mass transit use. And then how does traffic look?

Even what seems like a reasonably small growth rate leads to such questions as:
Would it be okay for kids of the future not have play space, not to have access to nature on the playground? Do we want school populations exceeding recommended classroom size or schools larger than experts have established? Would we want multistory elementary schools like NYC?

What is really good for our community?

Please: TRY IT!
download the spreadsheet

www.SimPaloAlto.com

and TAKE A LOOK AT OUTCOMES.

This is really the only way we can create a city based on a more realistic vision than ideology produces.

For instance: My table had a lively discussion about whether we support office space development or not. While most began with the viewpoint that "limiting economic development" would be wrong, yet when faced with the consequences of what seemed like a SMALL growth rate, they were less solidly in (what I would call) the "economic growth is required for a healthy city" camp.

When aware of the downstream consequences, the "economic growth" supporters were more open to considering that perhaps we DO need to control the rate of office space development. SimPaloAlto let's you put a number on it. To get real.

Regarding micro apartments: this idea comes up a lot. The popular idea is to provide housing for singles. Yet, already whole families squeeze into very small spaces in order to send their kids to Palo Alto schools. So let's not be foolish with this notion that micro apartments could be affordable and will house youth. Housing occupancy restrictions cannot be enforced, we have no rent control, no price controls, and people will pay WHATEVER IT TAKES to have this educational experience. We cannot build enough to satisfy worldwide demand without ruining the very environment that makes this a great place to raise a family. If you think we can, plug in the numbers.

Perhaps a better notion (already in our codes) is to --on a case by case basis, not as entitlement-- allow SOME homeowners with larger parcels to build small units on their property. This would distribute the population, allow homeowners to choose who and how many people will inhabit the property, how much to charge (if people feel the market is inflated they can lower the rent), and this would give the community more personal responsibility for controlling the effects of growth, rather than building micro units that will become tenements. However, this personalized and dispersed community responsibility idea does not match the new urbanist ideology to obliterate car use along with suburban neighborhoods.

However, if we do think that suburbia has a place in our world, and we unite around diminished car use as a value we hold, then a fully functional on-demand city-wide crosstown shuttle service subsidized by businesses who will profit by our patronage might create community cohesion and be a great advance for us all.







18 people like this
Posted by Duveneck Resident
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jun 1, 2015 at 5:00 pm

I thought the City did a good job of putting on the Summit so my hat off to them. Lots of good thought provoking discussions and ideas were discussed Saturday.

I think attempts to negatively characterize or demean either PASZ or PAF and their members are not helpful. Both groups are contributing positively to the discussion and the community. I think with some effort significant common ground could be found between them. For example, most folks seem pretty happy with the ground floor retail protections and I think more multi unit housing for seniors and young folks in the downtown areas at the expense of not quite so many new big office buildings could be a net win for Palo Alto.


7 people like this
Posted by stanhutchings
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jun 1, 2015 at 5:19 pm

stanhutchings is a registered user.

Unless Palo Alto decides to ignore the ABAG requirements to add new housing, IMHO the least bad solution is several VERY tall apartment/condo buildings with hundreds of units near or in employee-intensive areas (several downtown, Stanford Shopping Center/hospital/university, California Avenue) with well-planned pedestrian/bike/shuttle access to job locations. I recently drove through Kobe, Japan and was amazed by their housing developments (google photo kobe skyline). They have similar earthquake issues, and in addition typhoons. Ensure adequate parking in the high-rises, at high additional cost, to encourage walking/biking/shuttle/carpool so traffic is minimized. Kobe has an excellent train/subway/bus system that the Bay Area lacks.


1 person likes this
Posted by Gale Johnson
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Jun 1, 2015 at 6:07 pm

I'm learning so much from these afternoon offerings. I'm glad to hear so many people say how much they enjoyed that Saturday session. Now, how will all those ideas get boiled down, translated, and be acted upon by CC?

Cars, cars, cars. That's the way I grew up, maybe I need to grow up again. But what if someone wanted to go to Tahoe or Yosemite? What transit is available for those kinds of trips?

And the idea of studio and 1 bdrm apartments being affordable? Only to a few. At $3,600 a month rent for a 1 bdrm apartment? Obviously the target audience is singles and ones who are making big bucks in the tech business...and can afford to pay 30-40% of their paycheck for rents.

@ Duvenick Resident, you hit he nail on the head. Thanks!






20 people like this
Posted by Tahoe
a resident of Midtown
on Jun 1, 2015 at 8:17 pm

Trips to Tahoe are still easy. We have a Hertz rental car in the area, and even easier, there are Zipcars in city hall. Take them out for as long as you want. Drop them off at any Zipcar station. No need to maintain a car, find a place to park it, etc. No muss no fuss. The more Zipcars we have around, as well as services like Uber, the less we each need to own a car. After all, why own something you use 5% of the day? If we built more apartment buildings with Zipcars in the garage, then for a lot of people not owning a car wouldn't be a big deal at all. Take the train to work, take the Zipcar on trips and to the store.

Studios are not affordable because we have 3 jobs for every employed resident. We just have a huge pent up demand and not a lot of apartments. Build more apartments, and not just in PA but across the Bay Area, and housing prices will come down. They've gone down in other cities like Austin and DC and they're much more reasonable in other places that have seen high growth but have been building - like Seattle and Boston. Please don't buy into this "building more can never make anything affordable" thing- that's as scientific as climate change denialism and the stuff anti-vaxxers claim. Even NYC is now more affordable than Palo Alto because it has a better jobs/housing ratio than we do. Ponder that. EVEN NYC IS NOW CHEAPER. So long as the pace of job growth is greater than the pace of housing growth, housing prices will keep going up even if you're adding housing. The question is how MUCH housing. Add enough and it does, in fact, get cheaper.


12 people like this
Posted by other ideas about mobility
a resident of College Terrace
on Jun 1, 2015 at 8:51 pm

@ Gale

there are a lot of services these days that are really convenient, but they take a little nudge to get started (ie., many people don't think of them at first). I think that RelayRides is a great service. It's like AirBnB for renting cars. You will rent a car from another individual. The beauty of it is that you can pick your car. Want a 4 wheel drive? no problem. Want a pick-up truck? Convertible? All-electric? And, it's way cheaper than Hertz.

I think that the going to Tahoe is an especially good case for this. I have a ton of friends who have a SUV because "we sometimes go to Tahoe". It's definitely not justified to have an SUV for a couple of weekends a year...far better to just borrow the car when you need it.


13 people like this
Posted by older but progressive
a resident of Midtown
on Jun 3, 2015 at 11:45 am

In an early posting Howard divided Palo Altoans into 4 groups. I must be cast in that 4th 'everyone else' group except I don't particularly like the NIMBY stance. But I am definitely in favor of allowng greater density housing around transit areas like the train stations or urban corridors. I am lucky enough to own a house in Palo Alto but our young people, even with good jobs, can hardly afford rentals in Palo Alto let alone buying a house. I don't see why we need to preserve so much low density housing when we have such a housing crisis for young and/or lower income people.


4 people like this
Posted by Concerned
a resident of another community
on Jun 4, 2015 at 9:31 am

Beware Palo Alto, this is the type of meetings being rolled out throughout the country's urban centers to push for Agenda 21. Don't be fooled, these meetings/workshops use the Delphi technique to manufacture consensus around predefined goal. Educate yourselves, Web Link is a good start.


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Posted by surveyor
a resident of Community Center
on Jun 4, 2015 at 10:46 am

to howard--

maybe the vast majority are apathetic because their voices never get heard by big pro-growth, government. look around the country --same thing there-- who wants the hand-outs--those who don't want to work and to be given everything. who doesn't want the hand-outs--those who make the sacrifices to get out of bed and go to work every day. why don't they show up for meetings--they are working or have worked a full day and deserve an hour or two to relax--while those who do show up-have been relaxing all day waiting for more hand-outs. this country needs to wise up before it is too late.


3 people like this
Posted by Downtown Worker
a resident of Menlo Park
on Jun 4, 2015 at 12:07 pm

Surveyor - people who are advocating for the city to permit more housing supply aren't looking for hand-outs! They are looking for a chance to work hard and achieve their American dream. Previous generations have never had to cope with the extreme unaffordability of housing near jobs that this upcoming generation has. (I'm lucky to own my own home now - and it's up 40% in the last four years.)

No one here is asking for a hand-out for themselves - just for the city to get out of the way and permit housing that they can buy. Some people have asked that the city provide subsidized housing - but for the retail workers and firefighters and teachers, not for themselves.


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Posted by Craig Laughton
a resident of College Terrace
on Jun 4, 2015 at 12:53 pm

>Some people have asked that the city provide subsidized housing - but for the retail workers and firefighters and teachers, not for themselves.

That was the original bait-and-switch argument in Palo Alto. The reality is something else: 1. These essential workers make too much money to qualify for subsidized housing and 2. Many of them prefer not to live where they work. The simple fact is that vary few subsidized units in Palo Alto house essential workers. Instead they house poor people, who are not essential workers, many of whom were drawn here to get on the list....

A more productive discussion would have asked whether each person participating would support building subsidized housing in their own neighborhood, instead of just suggesting that it get dumped in someone else's neighborhood.


2 people like this
Posted by Amused
a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Jun 4, 2015 at 3:53 pm

this is not new. there was a meeting exactly like this one about 25 years ago. people went and dreamed. they put it into the comprehensive plan, and then the whole thing was disregarded, until now, when they repeated the process. yawn.


2 people like this
Posted by Craig Laughton
a resident of College Terrace
on Jun 4, 2015 at 4:09 pm

>this is not new. there was a meeting exactly like this one about 25 years ago. people went and dreamed. they put it into the comprehensive plan, and then the whole thing was disregarded, until now, when they repeated the process. yawn.

Yes, I agree, Amused. Political theatre as a political cover. However, since it is out there, we might as well provide our views... they won't matter to our CC, but at least we will be on the record.


2 people like this
Posted by Curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on Jun 4, 2015 at 5:20 pm

"No one here is asking for a hand-out for themselves - just for the city to get out of the way and permit housing that they can buy."

City hall would be in a happy delirium if somebody seriously offered to do that, and provided the financing. Absent the latter, forget the former.

"A more productive discussion would have asked whether each person participating would support building subsidized housing in their own neighborhood, instead of just suggesting that it get dumped in someone else's neighborhood."

This is thy why of the mantra "greater density housing around transit areas like the train stations or urban corridors." Translated: "Pack 'em in over by the tracks, keep 'em away from my home."


2 people like this
Posted by Robert
a resident of another community
on Jun 4, 2015 at 7:17 pm

@Curmudgeon

It sounds like you are suggesting that unless it was financed by the city, no developer would be interested in building housing in Palo Alto. You may want to clarify that statement, lest the world beleive that every post you make has been proceeded by a massive bong rip.


11 people like this
Posted by Native
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 5, 2015 at 1:56 am

This is a long thread. My reactions:

-- IF WE'RE GOING TO KEEP REQUIRING THAT JOBS AND HOUSING IN PALO ALTO MAINTAIN AN EQUAL BALANCE, THEN START REQUIRING THAT PALO ALTO EMPLOYERS HIRE PALO ALTO RESIDENTS!

Continuing to add office space and then saying we need to add housing to keep pace is backward! We have a lot of residents, let's start requiring that companies hire a certain number of Palo Alto residents (at all levels of the organization).

-- Why anyone would actively seek to lower their own property values is crazy, which makes me think most of the people arguing for more housing in order to meet the demand are not PA property owners. Are PVs high here? Absolutely. But many have now saved and scrimped to buy here, so advocating the cannibalization of their hard-earned investment is unreasonable. Many families are scraping by after the Great Recession, and some are nearing the end of their income-earning potential even though they still have kids in school, so concocting ways to lower their property values is unconscionable. For all those who want to live here but can't afford it - too bad! Rent or buy where you can and work your way up just like the rest of us did!

-- Why anyone who only works in Palo Alto was given a seat at the table shocks and angers me. Employees are employees - instruments of employers. Could be here today and gone tomorrow. I sincerely hope the people who planned this meeting were just being polite, but knowing our City Staff was involved, I suspect they had their own interests in mind. Employees have no place in the discussion.

-- Gale Johnson: In a city that has been "built out" for 40 years: "smart growth" could be equated with "smart suicide." Both are a contradiction in terms, and both result in the end of a great thing.

ALL:

There is little correlation between where people live and where they work (within a reasonable commute distance, and "reasonable" is different for different people). People mostly live where they want to live (and can afford), and they find jobs that they feel are within an acceptable commute (again, that's a personal metric).

Why do so many sheep keep carping about employment and housing imbalance when the two have little in common? I have lived in Palo Alto for most of my 52 years and have *never* had a job in Palo Alto, and I'm in high-tech! I wish I could find a job in Palo Alto!

Has anyone done a study of how many people who live in Palo Alto, actually work in Palo Alto? And a survey of how many people who work in Palo Alto actually WANT to live in Palo Alto (follow-on question is if they can afford to live in Palo Alto, and if not, what rent would have to be for them to be able to afford it).

-- Curmudgeon: "Single-family neighborhoods are obsolete. They are the least efficient use of our scarce land, and therefore are the logical place for our next generation housing stock. "

Please move to Hong Kong and let the rest of us sort out how to retain our quality of life. Just because people want to move here does not mean the rest of us have to accept that as an inevitable outcome and sacrifice to make it so. There is a ton of land in south San Jose, Morgan Hill, Gilroy, and many other nearby towns - these newcomers (or children of existing residents), can buy there. Our first home was not in Palo Alto, and we had to sacrifice and save to eventually buy a home here. Guess what? If a significant number of people concentrate elsewhere, the jobs will follow! Do you think Mountain View and San Jose were always high-tech cities? NO! They grew because Palo Alto grew and DIDN'T give in to the high-density BS. Stop trying to find a place for everyone to live here and give neighboring cities and towns a chance to grow!

>> EVEN NYC IS NOW CHEAPER.

And that's surprising? You couldn't pay me enough to live in NYC. I wouldn't live in NYC even if you gave me a free, luxury "compartment" to live in.

I have more, but I'm tired and too worked up over this idiotic thread.


9 people like this
Posted by Native 2
a resident of Midtown
on Jun 5, 2015 at 6:54 am

I attended the Summit . My group had a good mix of growth/no growth positions. We all live in Palo Alto. I did notice and spoke to quite a few other people, many who wanted a lot more growth, however they didn't live in Palo Alto. Why were they invited?Also, why are all the City employees not living here? How can they really understand what has happened here in the last 5 years? Looking at Palo Alto in the next 20 years,....should have been for those of us who have made the financial commitment to have a home here. I have lived here and worked hard to get involved in community stuff and try to make Palo Alto a place my children would want to live. Of course, if they can't afford to, they will move on to somewhere else. What is so hard to understand about that?I lived in San Francisco for 20 years, but would not have felt that it was my place to weigh in on the future of s.f. There is a sense of entitlement or political correctness the way this Summit invited its participants.


4 people like this
Posted by Not Invited
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Jun 5, 2015 at 8:08 am

I would have attended, but didn't know when it was to occur because the postcard arrived in the late afternoon the day before (at 5:30, it was too late to respond!). Anyway, I've lived here for almost 50 years, so maybe that is why I didn't get invited.


2 people like this
Posted by Native
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 5, 2015 at 11:42 am

We received a postcard a week earlier, but it didn't have a date on it. The city sent another postcard with the date, but as Not Invited said, it came the day before the event. At the time I thought it was a mistake, but maybe it was meant to keep the party exclusive.


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Posted by Observer
a resident of Southgate
on Jun 5, 2015 at 2:44 pm

@someone is spreading lies
Before you call someone a liar you need to check your facts.
As you point out,"Palantir doesn't even track vacation time." In the real world this translates into time off for personal activities, like political activism. And yes, they turned up en mass at a City Council meeting.

You say "I am pretty sure tables were randomly assigned." Wrong. Participants went to any table that had an unused chair. No one assigned me a table. So yes, PAF supporters did make sure they were distributed for maximum impact.

Apparently you weren't even there, which doesn't stop you from pontificating. It is noteworthy how many leaders of PAF are Palantir employees.


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Save $5 when you register by Monday, July 31

Registration is now open for the 33rd annual Palo Alto Weekly Moonlight Run and Walk. This family-friendly event which benefits local nonprofits serving kids and families will take place on Friday, Oct. 6 at the Palo Alto Baylands.

Register Here