News

Residents challenge membership of new citizen panel

Palo Alto City Council to take fresh look at new committee charged with helping with Comprehensive Plan update

A citizens committee that is helping to revise Palo Alto's land-use vision already has 20 members, including former planning commissioners, avowed "residentialists," housing advocates and neighborhood representatives.

One thing the panel doesn't have is geographical balance, a fact that has exposed it to criticism and that may lead to new members being appointed later this month.

Appointed in July, the Citizens Advisory Committee (CAC) is charged with helping the City Council complete the long-awaited update to the city's Comprehensive Plan, which is often referred to as the city's "land-use bible." The update began in 2006 and the city plans to complete it by the end of 2016, provided the update process doesn't take yet another swerve.

The City Council approved the creation of the committee in May and the city subsequently received 59 applications. City Manager James Keene then appointed the group, which includes 17 voting members and three nonvoting members. Twelve of the 17 voting members live north of Oregon Expressway. The roster also includes three members from the steering committee of Palo Alto Forward, which advocates for more transportation and housing options. Both of these factors have irked members of Palo Altans for Sensible Zoning (PASZ), a group that favors slow-growth policies, and neighborhood leaders from the umbrella group Palo Alto Neighborhoods (PAN).

Last week, a group of citizens that includes PASZ President Cheryl Lilienstein and group members Joseph Hirsch and Tim Gray submitted a letter challenging the composition of the new citizens committee. The letter also included as its signatories long-time PAN leaders Sheri Furman and Annette Glanckopf, land-use watchdog Jeff Levinsky and residents Norm Beamer, Peter Taskovich, Neilson Buchanan, Elaine Meyer, Mark Nadim, Doug Moran, Becky Sanders, David Schrom and Robin Bayer.

The group protested the inclusion on the panel of Dan Garber, a former planning commissioner who last month was elected by the committee to serve as its chair. The letter argues that Garber has a conflict of interest because he had worked for the city on 27 University Ave., a controversial and ultimately unsuccessful development proposed by developer John Arrillaga.

"Having those who work for the city then participate in citizen panels intended to be independent is the much maligned 'revolving door,' which is illegal in many places,'" the letter states.

Garber addressed his involvement in 27 University Ave. in the beginning of the committee's first meeting, on July 14. He called prior allegations by residents that he had worked for Arrillaga a "remarkable untruth" and emphasized that all his work came at the city's request. The project, which included four office towers and a theater, was ultimately scrapped after an upswell of citizen criticism about the secretive nature of the city's negotiations with Arrillaga.

The letter signers also protested the inclusion of Steve Levy, an economist who consults for the Association of Bay Area Governments (ABAG), who is also a founding member of Palo Alto Forward, and blogs on Palo Alto Online. The letter cites his involvement with ABAG and claims that his blogs on planning issues pose "a direct conflict of interest and also is likely to violate the Brown Act."

The letter concludes by calling for more "balance of people from north and south Palo Alto" on the committee, as well as "more representation from community groups other than Palo Alto Forward."

"City Council should have final approval of appointments. We can provide the names of several qualified persons," the letter states.

The council will have a chance to weigh in during the Aug. 17 meeting, its first since a six-week vacation. A report from City Manager James Keene notes the criticism the appointments had received "for not adequately representing a balance of perspectives or geography or other factors."

Keene wrote that while members were not selected to represent specific neighborhood groups, an effort was made to achieve geographic diversity. There is also the expectation, he wrote, "that members will not simply advocate their own particular perspectives, but work together and serve as trustees for the good of all Palo Alto."

"Nonetheless, the planning process will be most effective if the CAC is seen as balanced as possible in its representation of all geographic areas and interests," Keene wrote.

If the City Council decides on Aug. 17 that the balance of the group needs to be adjusted, it should make three to five additional appointments to the group and set "targeted, explicit criteria" for new members, Keene recommends in the report.

On Tuesday evening, in its second meeting since formation, the committee showed no signs of neighborhood discord or ideological schisms. In a two-hour discussion of the Community Services and Facilities chapter, committee members generally found themselves on the same page as they offered their thoughts on five goals and dozens of programs and policies.

Over the course of the discussion, members made arguments for more senior services, increased attention to daycare programs and arrangements with schools and private companies for shared use of recreational facilities.

The five goals, or elements, in the current Comprehensive Plan are: effective and efficient collaboration of community services; a commitment to excellence and high quality customer service among City of Palo Alto officials and employees; improved quality, quantity and affordability of social services, particularly for children, seniors and people with disabilities; attractive, well-maintained community facilities that serve Palo Alto residents; and equal access to educational, recreational and cultural services for all residents

Committee member Ellen Uhbrock pointed to the element on social services and said that "seniors and people with disabilities are given the short shrift." Committee member Bonnie Packer said the element should consider services for parents and for caregivers of local seniors.

Glanckopf, who spoke during the public comment period, called the goals "off balance." She noted that the current elements has only two policies and four programs focused on seniors, while 12 programs and 21 policies are focused on children.

"We all know a key priority to the community is youth, but the element doesn't fully recognize the growing population of seniors, baby boomers or the community in general," Glanckopf said.

Garber, who narrowly beat out former planning commissioner Arthur Keller for the chair's seat last month, set the tone in the beginning of the meeting by proposing to make Keller (who is now vice chair) the committee's co-chair. The move was proposed by Neilson Buchanan, Garber said. The idea of changing the structure from chair and vice chair to two co-chairs was also proposed in the letter from PAN and PASZ members.

The citizens committee will formally vote on this change in its next meeting, in September.

Garber also said that the committee's meetings will be a "safe place to talk."

"There's going to be lots of different opinions here, lots of different thoughts raised," Garber said.

Comments

20 people like this
Posted by Douglas Moran
a resident of Barron Park
on Aug 12, 2015 at 12:01 am

Douglas Moran is a registered user.

> "One thing it doesn't have is geographical balance, a fact that has exposed it to criticism..."

For a visualization:
Web Link

The map has four layers that can be turned on and off in any combination:
1. The CAC members, appointed and non-voting.
2. Unsuccessful applicants for the CAC.
3. Planning and Transportation Commission members: The PTC is the step above the CAC on the way to City Council.
4. City Council members.


41 people like this
Posted by Douglas Moran
a resident of Barron Park
on Aug 12, 2015 at 12:33 am

Douglas Moran is a registered user.

> "The roster includes three members from the steering committee of Palo Alto Forward, (continues) "

1. The Committee also includes 5 other members of Palo Alto Forward, one short of giving that organization a majority of the voting members: The CAC has 17 voting members and 3 non-voting (PAUSD, Planning Commission, Stanford).

> "(resumes) which advocates for more transportation and housing options."

2. Palo Alto Forward also advocates for substantially increasing employment in Palo Alto, especially employees who would be commuting here. For example PA Forward officially opposes the measure to cap the rate of increase in office space (Web Link). In its opposition it states: "In addition, an office cap will also continue to make Palo Alto a less viable location for both retail and other small businesses, by raising rents while depriving these businesses of customers." On of the constants of PA Forward argumentation is "Slower growth is the same as shrinkage."
PA Forward also consistently argues that encouraging substantial growth will reduce rents, contrary to long experience here. Their position is also based on a simplistic understanding of economics that would have gotten them a grade of F if they had taken that course in high school or college (roughly, they believe that prices are determined by supply regardless of demand).

While PA Forward advocates for Traffic Demand Management (TDM) and Associations (TDA), it opposes slowing the rate of office increase until such programs can be implement and their effectiveness assessed. PA Forward would like you to believe that its recommendations are "data-driven" but when you look, they are "faith-based".


17 people like this
Posted by resident 1
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Aug 12, 2015 at 8:58 am

Thank you Doug for an excellent analysis of this business panel. Appreciate your good work here.

This is pointing up that many business decisions regarding the city in total are in play and the city staff is "in charge" of putting a number of actions in play that he PACC appears to acknowledge only after that fact.


39 people like this
Posted by Citizen
a resident of Green Acres
on Aug 12, 2015 at 9:42 am

It's ironic that this Weekly story about fairness in ht e Comp Plan process would continue its unacceptable bias in describing the groups PASZ and PAF.

To say PASZ is for "slow-growth" is an *interpretation* relative to the interests of their pro-development, pro-density opposition (such as PAF). To describe PASZ that way, fairness dictates describing PAF as a group that favors building more high-density housing and a more big-city Palo Alto.

Describing PAF as a group favoring more "options" when the only "options" they prefer involves destroying the predominant existing land use for PAF's preferred "option" is misleading at best.

PASZ was formed by people wanting more intelligent big-picture planning, with more sense and thoughtfulness such as to the environment (and transportation), and concern for all residents, rather than steamrollers and giveaways to moneyed interests like developers. The parallel descriptor of PASZ, of the Weekly wants to describe PAF as for more "options", is to describe PASZ as a group concerned with more intelligent and thoughtful big-picture planning that respects the interests of all Palo Alto residents.

(Even during the Maybell debates, I remember Cheryl Lilienstein using her 3 minutes to talk about the need for better public transit on El Camino. Steven Levy, a founder of PAF, could best be descried as an evangelist for Build-Baby-Build.)

It is beneath the journalistic standards of a paper like the Weekly to continue to describe one group, PAF, in the glossed-over euphemistic terms that group describes itself for public consumption, while describing the other (ostensibly opposing) group, PASZ, by a narrow interpretation relative to the first group's interests.

To avoid bias, it should either:

PAF: a group interested in creating more high-density housing and big-city development, and
PASZ: a group interested in more slow-growth policies

OR:

PAF: a group interested in creating more transportation and housing options, and
PASZ: concerned with more intelligent and sensible big-picture planning that respects the interests of all Palo Alto residents


33 people like this
Posted by Citizen
a resident of Green Acres
on Aug 12, 2015 at 9:49 am

The state has legal requirements around fairness in the development of the Comprehensive Plan. Given the gravitas of the group signing this letter, and the serious imbalances in the makeup of the current citizens group, the City leaves itself open to having the Comp Plan invalidated down the line. I hope the staff, who continue to bend over backwards to favor big development, remember what happened at Maybell and finally take seriously that citizens are still only just waking up to the power they have.


7 people like this
Posted by LianaP
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Aug 12, 2015 at 9:56 am

"that members will not simply advocate their own particular perspectives, but work together and serve as trustees for the good of all Palo Alto."

That's a naive statement. Of course committee members are going to present their own perspectives and agendas.


38 people like this
Posted by Thank you PASZ
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Aug 12, 2015 at 10:23 am

Thank you PASZ for pursuing balance and fairness on this committee. As a resident it troubles me how such an important committee has been constituted, and it reinforces the perception that the city manager's office is a growth-minded, wheel & deal operation, deaf to the voices of the residents. Certainly the chair should not be a former sidekick of theirs who was apparently involved in dealings that are profoundly troubling to this community. City council, please ensure a balance of locations, perspectives, and agendas on this committee.


2 people like this
Posted by resident 1
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Aug 12, 2015 at 10:24 am

This whole discussion calls to mind a meeting I stopped into at the new Mitchell Park library complex. The topic was use of the Mitchell Park facilities. One very young and vocal member took the position that only non-profits in the city could use the park for private events. Very adamant on this and no one offered up any alternatives.

The reality is the park in total should be able to provide it's facilities to anyone that is willing to pay to use them - it needs to generate cash flow. One PACC older, long-time member was in attendance and made no comment on that members statements.

I was so put off by this I got up and left since I am not a member. But that tells me how this all goes down - some hot head proposes some point of view in a strident voice and all fold their tents and shut up.


39 people like this
Posted by resident
a resident of Downtown North
on Aug 12, 2015 at 10:26 am

The City Manager's close association with PA Forward is a great concern. He supports their pro-development views and they support and praise him.

That the committee elected Dan Garber, head of a big architectural firm as Chairman, is all you need to know about the bias on the committee.

A very unhealthy situation.


13 people like this
Posted by senor blogger
a resident of Palo Verde
on Aug 12, 2015 at 10:35 am

The City Manager should check population Numbers North and South of the
Oregon Expressway and nominate members accordingly. It is the American Way.

Also no members of the previous Comprehensive Plan Update should be included in the new panel.


18 people like this
Posted by Ken Horowitz
a resident of University South
on Aug 12, 2015 at 10:47 am

Kudos to Annette Glanckopf who pointed out that only two policies and four programs focused on seniors. Last year the Silicon Valley YMCA closed its Page Mill Branch leaving ~1,000 retired and professional seniors with very limited choices for recreational facilities to meet their needs. It is my hope that the City will work with Robert Wheatley Properties to keep that site recreational as approved in a PC agreement back in 1979 with the City Council. Currently the management company has applied for a permit to convert that space into office suites. The Page Mill YMCA site has meant so much for our community especially the health benefits provided by the recreational programs housed there. Let's make every effort to restore these programs at 755Page Mill Road with a new fitness operator!


56 people like this
Posted by Ridiculous
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Aug 12, 2015 at 11:37 am

Why is James Keene still our city manager? Why hasn't he been fired for trying to impose his bloated, poorly veiled political agenda on our city? We need to elect more council members who will represent us and hold city management accountable.


8 people like this
Posted by Zayda
a resident of Barron Park
on Aug 12, 2015 at 12:02 pm

The entire text of the letter sent to the City Council by PAN and PASZ can be read at Web Link.
If you agree, please sign the petition.


36 people like this
Posted by Duveneck Mom
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Aug 12, 2015 at 12:06 pm

Wow, I find this discourse really disturbing. Why are you demonizing PAF and specifically 2 members of the CAC? This seems like bullying to me. It strikes me that CAC volunteers will make decisions based on thoughtful reflection and interaction with each other. Does this mean that all PASZ/PAN members of the CAC will vote as a block, not listen to others, or change their minds? It's exactly what you're accusing PAF members of doing. I've known both Steve Levy and Dan Garber as really committed and thoughtful folks and neighbors of mine. Dan is writing a history of Palo Alto, so who better to understand how cities change and evolve? That both he and Steve have deep knowledge about economics, planning, zoning and history makes them ideal Committee members. Sounds to me like PASZ/PAN are some folks who want to keep Palo Alto as quaint village -- well that means that my kids can't come back here after they graduate from college because there won't be any housing options for them.
Regarding North/South "divide", I understand that more people live in the north than south so what's the big deal? If 65% of the pop is north then the split of the 17 members isn't that far off. As someone who lives in the "north", I'm just as committed to making ALL of Palo Alto a decent, safe and neighborly place.
Please, be better neighbors and stop the name-calling and bullying. Come up with some solutions for the issues we're facing, not just saying "no" to everything.


13 people like this
Posted by Curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on Aug 12, 2015 at 12:26 pm

"We need to elect more council members who will represent us and hold city management accountable."

Amen. But first the council needs to have the courage to do its prime responsibility and resume evaluating the city manager itself. It has abdicated this task since the prior CM Frank Benest issued the orders a decade ago.


22 people like this
Posted by Jetman
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 12, 2015 at 12:48 pm

When I look at the map of representation, I don't see any representation for the area northeast of 101 around the airport, an area that has been targeted for development.

How about someone from Sky Posse? Sky Posse has the most local expertise in land use issues around airports. Airspace is the new frontier in land use, with airlines and drone companies already competing in a massive airspace land grab just a few hundred feet above our heads, and for a foothold at local airports.


48 people like this
Posted by Needs Repeating
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 12, 2015 at 12:50 pm

As mentioned many times before, and it bears repeating:
Palo Alto should be divided into neighborhood districts and a representative from each should be elected as a member of the city council. Most, if not all, other cities do this.

The mayor should be an elected official, not one appointed by the city council.

The majority of the members of this citizen's panel have conflicts of interest and should either recuse themselves or be dismissed.

Also worth repeating, as often as necessary: James Keene should resign, but barring that, should be fired. He had one big conflict of interest, and that is his own self-interest. He is paid handsomely to put Palo Alto's and its residents' interests ahead of his own, and he has yet to do it. He is shamelessly underworked.


2 people like this
Posted by Kazu
a resident of Downtown North
on Aug 12, 2015 at 12:51 pm

PASZ = Anti-growth
PAF = Growth without sufficient parking

Both are equally untenable. What we need is lots of growth with plenty of parking, and a balance between housing and office space. That would mitigate traffic concerns, provide sufficient parking, and also fill the housing demand. Building height limits are highly counterproductive in reaching these goals.

Why don't PASZ and PAF merge and form PASMF (Palo Altans for Sensibly Moving Forward)? It sure beats having no growth, parking issues and downtown merchants and restaurants dropping like flies.


17 people like this
Posted by mauricio
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Aug 12, 2015 at 1:00 pm

mauricio is a registered user.

__As someone who lives in the "north", I'm just as committed to making ALL of Palo Alto a decent, safe and neighborly place. __

Your unabashed pro growth views will ensure that the opposite happens. With growth, urbanizaation and over development, come noise, impatience, much faster pace, gridlock, crime, anger, urban blight. Notice how unsafe downtown is now compared to the pre development mania. Look at how many more house burglaries and armed robberies we have now. We have more violent crime. If you get your wish, Palo Alto housing will become even more expensive and less tenable for your kids. It's like saying that in order to relieve the suffering of a burn victim he needs to be doused with boiling water, which is really the position of PAF, aka as build-build- build-and-then-build-some-more, and their enablers.


27 people like this
Posted by Douglas Moran
a resident of Barron Park
on Aug 12, 2015 at 1:26 pm

Douglas Moran is a registered user.

RE: Duveneck Mom
> "Why are you demonizing PAF and specifically 2 members of the CAC?"

Disclosure: I am not an author of the letter, but a subsequent signatory (sign/no-sign decision). I am not a member of PASZ, but am a former member of PAN (when I was my neighborhood's rep).

My experience with the two:
1. Dan Garber: My experience when he was on the Planning and Transportation Commission was highly negative. He was highly partisan and could be abusive of residents testifying. For example, in an earlier blog of mine ("Why the City doesn't hear residents' perspectives? It doesn't want to (part 1 of 3)" - Web Link) he is offered as a prime example of this: He grossly misrepresented what I had said to disparage my testimony.

2. Steve Levy: In public discussions, he is often contemptuous of other perspectives. For example, in his blog entry "Why I Became Active in Palo Alto Forward" (Web Link) he states "the willingness to discuss solutions that did not require building a moat around Palo Alto or trying to go back to an earlier era." When I protested this characterization in a comment, he responding in a comment with the standard excuse of the form "Some of the people who disagree with me take this position, therefore I am correct to say that all those who disagree with me have this perspective." This is not a logic or matter of interacting that one wants on the CAC.

Other of Levy's blogs have stated that they are only open to comments agreeing with him, some from the beginning (example: "Why are you supporting Measure A?" - Web Link) and other from how he cuts off commenters that disagree with him.

My experience with Levy is that he is unwilling to consider the impact of policy proposals on ALL of Palo Alto -- he is entirely focused on the University Avenue area. When I and others have pointed out the undesirable impacts on various sections of Palo Alto, his response has been dismissive. Aside: This is a very common attitude among other PA Forward members.

The disproportionate representation of North Palo Alto (7 of the 17 live within 6 blocks of University Avenue) and of Palo Alto Forward doesn't just mean that those perspectives will dominate the discussions, but it also means that a wide range of other representatives were squeezed out of the discussions because they don't have "a seat at the table" (a single position on the Committee).


21 people like this
Posted by Bill
a resident of Barron Park
on Aug 12, 2015 at 1:31 pm

> I understand that more people live in the north than south so what's the big deal? If 65% of the pop is north then the split of the 17 members isn't that far off.

Based on the data here: Web Link the population of Palo Alto is about 66,000 with roughly 33,000 living north and 33,000 living south of Page Mill/Oregon. The area south of Page Mill is roughly 60% of the total area of Palo Alto. So, there's no good reason to bias the make up of the CAC towards north Palo Alto.

I would characterize Mr Levy not as an economic, planning or zoning expert, but a policy analyst. His views may be interesting or helpful, but being paid by ABAG makes him unsuitable for a Citizens Advisory position.

As someone posted earlier, Mr Garber's participation has multiple serious problems involving conflicts of interest both past and present. City Council should ask him to resign. His participation clouds the work on the Comprehensive Plan.


13 people like this
Posted by Kettle meets pot
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 12, 2015 at 1:31 pm

[Post removed.]


13 people like this
Posted by Kettle meets pot
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 12, 2015 at 1:40 pm

An example of Morans misrepresentation of Levys comment
What levy wrote:
There is already a Town Square blog thread for people who oppose Measure A. This blog is for people to share why they support continuing and increasing the parcel tax.


5 people like this
Posted by Robert
a resident of another community
on Aug 12, 2015 at 1:42 pm

@Kettle meets pot

Well he's also complaining about other bloggers deleting comments, I suppose he thinks they should be following his lead and editing them instead.


17 people like this
Posted by Douglas Moran
a resident of Barron Park
on Aug 12, 2015 at 1:53 pm

Douglas Moran is a registered user.

RE: "Kettle meets pot"

I said that Levy rejects disagreeing comments "some from the beginning" of his blog entry, provide a web link to that blog entry. "Kettle..." then quotes from that blog confirming what I said and portraying that as contradicting me.

This is precisely the malicious, contrary-to-fact, ad hominem attacks that I am so famous for deleting from my blog (or editing such portions out when that is more appropriate).


26 people like this
Posted by resident
a resident of Downtown North
on Aug 12, 2015 at 2:07 pm

I remember Steve Levy when he was a passionate advocate for Below Market housing. Passionate.
Now he advocates for housing and development of all kinds. you can make a good living advocating for development.

Duveneck Mom mistakes being "nice" with political positions. That's how Cory Wolbach got elected.


Posted by Longtime Resident
a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive

on Aug 12, 2015 at 3:11 pm


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6 people like this
Posted by Agenda
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 12, 2015 at 4:27 pm

[Post removed.]


13 people like this
Posted by Concerned Retiree
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 12, 2015 at 5:06 pm

First, kudos to Annette Glanckopf, ever the mediator and ever dedicated to making Palo Alto better. She points out the problems in an accurate and constructive way. There is a growing number of residents who are plus 55, with no children and with different needs and preferences for parks and other services. PAUSD has more than enough money and more than enough say.

Secondly, why are the developers and city employees -- like Garber & Keene -- given outsized voices? Why is there such a nod to North Palo Alto and the developers for this committee? The developers do not live in Palo Alto. The last election showed Residentialists had the ballot box and the voice of those of us who live here.

You think in self consciously, politically correct Palo Alto, we would make sure all committees are as diverse as possible, ideologically, geographically and every other way.


21 people like this
Posted by Paly Mom
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Aug 12, 2015 at 5:53 pm

Doug - Thanks for this useful information!

More than several members of this group are married or related to developers, contractors, or architects. (residential and commercial).

No one who would financially benefit from decisions made to our city's comprehensive plan should be allowed to be on the committee.

I guess that is asking too much.


19 people like this
Posted by specialtreatment
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Aug 12, 2015 at 5:59 pm

Amazing the amount of crap that Bill Johnson let's his buddy Doug Moran get away with on this forum-nasty insulting comments are allowed to stand. While any questioning and/or disagreement with Doug is deleted. One had to wonder about the true relationship between Bill and Doug., which leads to the preffered treatment.


15 people like this
Posted by Kazu
a resident of Downtown North
on Aug 12, 2015 at 6:12 pm

@mauricio wrote:

"Your unabashed pro growth views will ensure that the opposite happens."

@Duveneck Mom's views are pro-community, not unbashed pro-growth. A proper pro-community approach help ensure diversity and a place for many, rather then being provincial and excluding people. We get to live here, so why not native sons and daughters returning to the area? After all, this is there home as much (or more) than anyobody else's.

"With growth, urbanizaation and over development, come noise, impatience, much faster pace, gridlock, crime, anger, urban blight."

Urban blight is illegal in Palo Alto ('cause we're special), but we are already urbanized. The Mayberry-like college town went away decades ago, and we have evolved greatly since then. Ditto for the surrounding communities and the rest of Silicon Valley. As for anger and impatience, sometimes it is best to lead by example.

"Notice how unsafe downtown is now compared to the pre development mania. Look at how many more house burglaries and armed robberies we have now. We have more violent crime."

Unsafe? You gotta be kidding. Palo Alto is one of the safest places on the planet. We have a violent crime rate that is the envy of most other communities, and far below the state and national averages. Our property crime rate is also below the state and national averages.

"If you get your wish, Palo Alto housing will become even more expensive and less tenable for your kids."

No, it will become more affordable. Or are you claiming that restricting supply will make housing both more available and more affordable? The "I got mine, but you don't get yours. Go away!" attitude strikes me as inexcusably selfish, elitist, and harmful to our city's long term well-being. It is very anti-community, and community is one of the cornerstones of the old (and current) Palo Alto.

"It's like saying that in order to relieve the suffering of a burn victim he needs to be doused with boiling water, which is really the position of PAF, aka as build-build- build-and-then-build-some-more, and their enablers."

Wrong again. Just standing by and watching the burn victim suffer and get worse is not a realistic or ethical solution. Sticking our heads in the sand and telling the world to go away makes no sense at all. We're not a farming town or a small college town anymore, and won't ever be again. That does not mean that Palo Alto is unable to solve current challenges and continue to be something special in the future.


8 people like this
Posted by Kazu
a resident of Downtown North
on Aug 12, 2015 at 6:25 pm

@Duveneck Mom wrote:

"Wow, I find this discourse really disturbing. Why are you demonizing PAF and specifically 2 members of the CAC?"

Because this is Town Square?

"This seems like bullying to me."

Welcome to Town Square! Doesn't make it right, though.


14 people like this
Posted by Joe
a resident of Barron Park School
on Aug 12, 2015 at 7:36 pm

To be fair, this discussion has been happening since the list of CAC members got released. The saga has gained new momentum now that Council is back after a 6 week haitus.

PAN recently hosted Mayor Holman and talked about it. The Council agenda packet contains a 25 page collection of documents and emails about it. There's an agenda item for the next council meeting. PASZ wrote an open letter signed by a significant number of people that's part of the basis for the Weekly's article about the makeup of the CAC. So, this is pretty big stuff that isn't going away.

The consensus from City Hall seemed to be that adding 3 to 5 new members would make things right. But that is a solution that's not going to be acceptable. They are going to have to find a way to dump Levy and Garber. It's really that simple.


17 people like this
Posted by Curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on Aug 12, 2015 at 8:05 pm

Much ado about nothing. City staff has already written the plan. The committee is only window dressing, to give the illusion of citizen participation.

Have the referendum ready to go.


8 people like this
Posted by resident
a resident of Downtown North
on Aug 12, 2015 at 8:57 pm

Today the web site says 94 people have signed so far. Go to
Web Link
to add your name.

It isn't bullying to point out conflicts of interest.
It isn't bullying to bring out hidden agendas and deception.


4 people like this
Posted by Kazu
a resident of Downtown North
on Aug 12, 2015 at 9:44 pm

"Much ado about nothing. City staff has already written the plan. The committee is only window dressing, to give the illusion of citizen participation."

You're right, of course. The only thing left for us to do is to make sure they include enough parking. Maybe a protest march? You know, parking to the people and all that jazz? At least it would liven up the place a bit. ;-)


13 people like this
Posted by Thought
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 12, 2015 at 9:50 pm

I agree that Steve Levy and Dan Garber have no place on this council - it's a travesty that they were allowed on to begin with given the clear conflicts of interest. Based on the last election, it is inexcusable, and manipulative, of James Keene to stack the CAC with pro-development people.

I also agree that Doug Moran is the pot calling the kettle black. I have firsthand experience with him deleting my comments on his blog for no other reason than they were intelligent rebuttals to his biased view. He didn't just delete my comments, he accused me of being disrespectful because I finally suggested, "Doctor, heal thyself."

The growth issues are not contained to only parking, they include traffic on all of our streets, including residential as drivers cut through neighborhoods to avoid the gridlock, over-crowding of schools and reduced open space as the school district build to accommodate more kids. We don't have enough park space to accommodate kids and adults sports.

Where do the pro-growthers think all of this additional space is going to come from? Do they think we should all move into 20 story buildings of 1200 square foot condos so we can keep packing people into the boundaries of Palo Alto?

Trying to jam more population into Palo Alto is a non-starter for anyone who wants to retain the quality of life they desired when they bought here. If your kids can't afford to buy here, then give them your house - you can retire where your kids can afford to buy - just swap houses.

Adding more and more housing will ruin this town and make it such that none of our kids want to live here in the future, whether or not they can afford it. Palo Alto needs to stop adding more jobs and more housing NOW NOW NOW.


4 people like this
Posted by Citizen
a resident of Green Acres
on Aug 12, 2015 at 9:59 pm

@Kazu,
Protest marches are a waste of time. Talk softly and carry a big stick. Curmudgeon is right. It's probably a good idea to have the referendum ready to go. This takes work and preparation. Hopefully, the signers of the letter will be willing to step up to the plate (like many of them did during Maybell). Another very important step is to put forward an initiative to give Palo Alto a fair ballot in the event of a referendum. It makes no sense that the City staff has the power to write the ballot and make the "impartial" analysis in the event of a referendum or initiative to set aside something the City did.


8 people like this
Posted by conflicts
a resident of Crescent Park
on Aug 12, 2015 at 10:33 pm

I agree that anyone with a conflict of interest shouldn't be on this committee. That's why I propose that we also throw off all the homeowners from the committee, especially anyone who rents out any part of their property. Those people have millions of dollars at stake and can be trusted to vote in a way that would only increase their property values, even if it means foregoing housing for our children as well as our police, firemen, teachers, etc. Why I remember Bob Moss testifying in front of Council that we shouldn't add housing here because his kids live in Seattle and he's just fine with that!

Think about this, any house in PA is worth WAY more money that Steve Levy would ever get from ABAG or that Dan Garber was paid by the city for his architectural work.


8 people like this
Posted by Citizen
a resident of Green Acres
on Aug 12, 2015 at 10:44 pm

@conflicts,

Bob Moss was involved in a citizen group that saved Terman School site from development while also resulting in the creation of the Terman Apartments 93-unit affordable housing next to the school. He has fought many a battle to keep Palo Alto a good place to live for everyone, including the disadvantaged. Your representation of what he said, IF he said it, is surely a MISrepresentation and a libel.

The fact is, homeowners are a major constituent that is supposed to have representation in the comp plan revision, per the LAW. The law requires balanced input from all stakeholders, including people on the south side of town. Nice try, though.


12 people like this
Posted by Thought
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 12, 2015 at 10:52 pm

@Conflict:

A "conflict of interest" actually requires a conflict. Homeowners with no other stake do not have a conflict of interest, they have a stable interest in the city in which they invested a significant sum of money. That is not a conflict of interest.

People who receive funds from outside sources, based on decisions made in the city in which they reside, but get on citizen committees based on their residential status alone, ignoring their financial entanglement, have a conflict of interest.

I hope you understand the issue now.


12 people like this
Posted by conflicts
a resident of Crescent Park
on Aug 12, 2015 at 11:36 pm

Homeowners most certainly have a conflict of interest when it comes to doing thing that benefit renters - i.e the other 45% of the city. Every time homeowners fight additional housing here, supply is constrained meanwhile we keep adding jobs and thus adding demand. Guess what? A stagnant housing supply makes rents here really expensive. It also makes houses here really expensive. We now have the highest rent in the entire country, which shouldn't be surprising since we also have the highest jobs-housing imbalance in the entire country.

Want to talk about representation? Why isn't 45% of the CAC made up of renters? Seems to me this country decided long ago that you didn't need to be landed gentry to vote and have a say in your community. So I ask, where are the renters? Is there even one renter on that whole committee??


4 people like this
Posted by Thought
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 12, 2015 at 11:43 pm

@Conflicts:

>> "Why isn't 45% of the CAC made up of renters?"

Because renters have no stake. Renters are transient. People who invest (in many cases their entire net worth) in PROPERTY OWNERSHIP deservedly have greater rights.

Should we also give a stake to everyone who drives through town on their way to work? Everyone who's current job happens to be in Palo Alto?

Get real.


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Posted by Robert
a resident of another community
on Aug 12, 2015 at 11:45 pm

@conflicts

Well renters don't have the same long term stake in the community... seeing as they're just going to end up moving after being priced out of Palo Alto


16 people like this
Posted by conflicts
a resident of Crescent Park
on Aug 12, 2015 at 11:56 pm

Many renters aren't transient. Many renters have lived here for decades. I see their chatter on NextDoor all the time and in many of the stories that Neighbors Helping Neighbors has shared about the people that they assist. And furthermore, they would be even less transient if their rents weren't constantly going up because homeowners prevent new housing from being built. You can hardly call someone transient when you yourself are the cause of the transiency. Furthermore, having lots of money doesn't actually give you more rights or more say than the people who don't have it. That's why we don't require voters to own land anymore, remember? Having more money doesn't mean you care more about your community than someone who makes less. What you're saying is outrageous and offensive.

And since you're bringing it up, yes, actually, Palo Alto doesn't live in a bubble. Most people in Palo Alto probably couldn't even tell you where its borders actually begin and end. The decisions PAlo Alto makes affect the cities around us and the Bay Area in general. It's quite normal for the city council to consult with neighboring cities about development plans and make sure that there is appropriate alignment. We regularly receive and give input to neighboring cities.

And since you bring up workers - I want to address that too. You're referring to workers who don't live here but it's very convenient that you're saying the very people you've excluded with no-housing policies shouldn't have any say in a place where they spend the majority of their time.

I take issue with that stance and in general I take issue with this me-first mentality, wherein if you're already a resident of a particular city it's somehow morally acceptable to completely not care about how your city's policies affect the people who can't live there.

I can't accept that. We need to be making decisions for the greater good and not just our tiny Palo Alto fiefdom, all the serf service workers be damned.


Posted by Name hidden
a resident of Palo Alto Hills

on Aug 13, 2015 at 12:05 am

Due to repeated violations of our Terms of Use, comments from this poster are automatically removed. Why?


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Posted by Citizen
a resident of Green Acres
on Aug 13, 2015 at 12:11 am

I would take the rental argument more seriously if the rentals near me weren't always available and not nearly as high as the new places around here. People pick and choose, even people with fewer resources. I have been there myself. Palo Alto has historically had BMR units go uninhabited for long periods of time. Given a choice, people will often choose to commute and live in nicer digs than live locally and compromise.

For the record, renters are probably as important to include in the discussion as anyone else. But the owners of those properties are just as much a constituency, lest we forget.


13 people like this
Posted by conflicts
a resident of Crescent Park
on Aug 13, 2015 at 12:32 am

Vacancy rates for rental housing that's available for rent in PA is a mere 1.34%. Web Link Vacancy signs likely mean turn over because lots of people are being priced out, not that places are actually sitting empty (or maybe you just live next to an aberration). The Palo Alto housing element said that vacancies for apartments in 2012 was 3.4%. Since we've been booming ever since, the 1.34% number rings true. For context, statewide rental vacancy is 4.9%. Using any of these numbers, though, there is no indication of lots of units sitting empty.

Nevertheless, 45% of the human beings who inhabit this city rent. They need to have representation on the CAC.


4 people like this
Posted by Douglas Moran
a resident of Barron Park
on Aug 13, 2015 at 3:54 am

Douglas Moran is a registered user.

If you judge the housing advocates by what they do rather than what they say, you would see them as office development advocates. You see them supporting office building that include a small number of housing units, which usually becomes few and fewer as the project moves through the approval process.

You see the people claiming to support affordable housing advocating for redeveloping areas that have some of the last remnants of affordable housing into much more expensive complexes.

You see groups such Palo Alto Forward advocating for expanded office development that they implicitly acknowledge will not be offset by increases in housing -- notice their focus on bringing vastly more commuters to Palo Alto.

Yet what is the "solution" that we hear from the likes of "conflict" -- that existing residents should allow their neighborhoods to be destroyed to provide the profits for developers and companies that want to build more and larger office complexes.


4 people like this
Posted by Douglas Moran
a resident of Barron Park
on Aug 13, 2015 at 4:06 am

Douglas Moran is a registered user.

Data on renter representation on the CAC:
Renter/Owner info was part of the application.
Of those appointed by the City Manager (17):
Owner: 14 (82%)
Owner&Renter: 2 (12%)
Renter: 1 (6%)

Of the unsuccessful applicants (42):
Owner: 29 (69%)
Renter: 10 (24%)
Unknown (No response): 3 (7%)
Of these, one "Owner" and one "Unknown" live outside Palo Alto (both in Menlo Park).


7 people like this
Posted by mauricio
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Aug 13, 2015 at 6:15 am

mauricio is a registered user.

Kazu, your comments about how if w just build more housing(where, by the way) prices will drop, there will be more diversity, and kids of current residents will be able to live in Palo Alto are not just ludicrous, they a;so fly in the face of reality. new housing is immediately a subject of heavy multi bidding which drive prices sharply higher and keep setting higher bench marks for all real estate. Most, if not all of the bidders who have sent Palo Alto housing prices into the stratosphere are foreign buyers. Nearly every family moving in is asian. So much for diversity. We will never have enough land to satisfy the millions who want to live in Palo Alto, and we have the right, and should, protect our way of life and not allow PA to become a dense urban hell. pXPvS

Downtown PA may be safer than downtown Detroit, but it's not safe at all and it is certainly much less safe than it had been before the development mania.


15 people like this
Posted by Homeowner
a resident of University South
on Aug 13, 2015 at 10:11 am

Wait, did I just read @Thought saying that renters should not be represented on the CAC because people who invest in land deserve greater rights? And someone else on this thread voted for that comment?

That you would base representation on property ownership rather than one resident, one vote casts everything else you've said in a new light.

Renters and residents and citizens, too. I don't rent today, but I did once, and I deserved a vote and consideration of my interests then just as much as I do now.


7 people like this
Posted by Thought
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 13, 2015 at 10:20 am

I'd love to live in Woodside or Portola Valley, but I cannot afford those places. Shall I demand that they keep building more housing, squeezing the lots smaller and smaller and adding apartment and condo complexes until the prices drop enough that I can afford to buy something there?

The only way prices in a desirable place drop is by making the place less desirable. The "me-first mentality" is coming from the people who think existing Palo Altans should have their quality of life reduced and their town forever changed to higher density so they can afford to move in.

We all have choices in life. Even 30 years ago most people couldn't afford to buy a home in Palo Alto right out of college (without help). Even though I was born in Palo Alto we bought elsewhere, worked hard, saved money, and then "moved up" to Palo Alto. Yes, we commuted during those years, not to Palo Alto, but through it. And as we age we are slowly being priced out of Palo Alto by dropping income and added taxes and utility rates, but you won't find me out there demanding that others sacrifice in order to offset my situtation. There are other nice places to live, and if necessary, we will move.

If people choose to rent for decades, that's a choice they decided to make. Personally, I don't think it's a wise choice since rent is not an investment. When you stay in a hotel, do you think you should have equal say in how the hotel is run as the owners? If you don't like how the hotel is run, then move to one you like. If you want to have a say in how the hotel is run, buy a stake in it.

And giving workers a say in how our city is planned is ludicrous. Palo Alto has added way too many office buildings and created the job/housing imbalance. To say that workers should now have a say, or that we need to keep building more housing is obnoxious.

By definition, having a stake in something means you have made an investment in it. Sending a rent check every month to someone who has invested considerable funds is not an investment. 30 days notice and you're gone. And what have you lost? Nothing.

Sorry you don't like my perspective, but I see yours as one of entitlement. Expecting others to sacrifice so you can benefit is the definition of a "me-first mentality." Property owners sacrificed a lot to purchase their homes, and they pay a lot every year in property taxes, renters did not and do not. Property owners should be the only ones to be in a position to protect their investment from the others who think they are owed a seat at the table just because they want one.

Sorry for the rant, but I've had it with all of the people who don't seem to be willing to make the same sacrifices the rest of us did to get where we are.


2 people like this
Posted by Thought
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 13, 2015 at 10:36 am

@Homeowner:

Yep, that's what I said. I also think it is completely unfair that renters got to vote on the parcel tax!


11 people like this
Posted by Homeowner
a resident of University South
on Aug 13, 2015 at 10:46 am

Well, I wasn't concerned about the renters vs. homeowners representation on the CAC before, because I thought Palo Altans would be looking out for all the residents of the city, not just their own property values. I guess I was wrong.

City Council, please do something about this!


8 people like this
Posted by Jerry Underdal
a resident of Barron Park
on Aug 13, 2015 at 10:57 am

Jerry Underdal is a registered user.

@Thought
" People who invest (in many cases their entire net worth) in PROPERTY OWNERSHIP deservedly have greater rights."

You may be correct. But it does mean that the all cash purchaser of a PA residence for investment purposes who has never been in Palo Alto and may never live here has greater rights than a long-term resident and contributor to the community who rents. Should the investor also have more of a voice than a resident renter in discussions of civic policy?

This also reminds us that long-term property owners and someone who bought their property last week have the same property rights. In a rapidly changing setting like PA, what role does longevity play? What role should it play?


5 people like this
Posted by Thought
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 13, 2015 at 11:02 am

@Homeowner:

What do you think property owners will do that will harm renters? Vote against high density apartment buildings that will add to the existing congestion and over-crowding?

Property owners are more likely to look out for the livability of this city, which benefits renters who appreciate the quality of life here. Property values simply reflect the desirability of a place to live. High property values = high desirability. Renters benefit from high desirability too. Your position seems to be more about increasing density so people who do not yet live here can afford to move in, at the expense (i.e. livability" of those who already live here.

City Council: Please ensure those who want to keep Palo Alto desirable and livable are on the CAC, not people who want desirability and livability to drop so they (or their kids) can move here.


8 people like this
Posted by Jerry Underdal
a resident of Barron Park
on Aug 13, 2015 at 11:11 am

Jerry Underdal is a registered user.

@citizin

"Palo Alto has historically had BMR units go uninhabited for long periods of time."

Please correct me if I am wrong. I believe you are referring again to BMR units for sale at the Moldaw senior citizens project that languished on the market because the $400,000 price was too high relative to other options. Eventually PAHC was brought in to help market those units (note, these were not part of a PAHC project) and I believe they have been sold.

What on earth does that have to do with availability and affordability of rental units in this city?

We have been told that there are long waiting lists for affordable housing rental units. Do you have data on affordable housing project rentals that contradicts this claim?


2 people like this
Posted by Thought
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 13, 2015 at 11:18 am

@Jerry:

Good addition to the conversation. First, I think the U.S. should not allow foreign investors at all. That is the major problem plaguing Palo Alto right now, and driving up home prices. It also introduces instability - what happens when all of the foreign investors decide to dump their Palo Alto investments because things "at home" changed? I am not aware of too many U.S. residents buying investment property in Palo Alto these days just to rent it out, although there are a lot of longterm owners who rent out their properties.

Longevity is an interesting angle. In some cases longevity means older, more mature perspectives, but not always. For example, younger people buying homes in Palo Alto may have a very different perspective of the town when they are childless than when they are in their 40s and trying to raise kids here amid the traffic and congestion, the over-crowded schools, and the ever-reduction of playing fields. On the other hand, given the cost to buy here, a lot of families move here when they are already older and wiser.

I'm sure some will be offended by my focus on families with children, but that is the culture of Palo Alto. I see a lot of the conflict is with people who move here and want to change Palo Alto into something different, which they see as better, but which many long-term residents see as worse.

I just don't subscribe to the idea of changing the town to suit new residents. If they don't like the existing culture, they should move to a town that already has the culture they want.

I really need to get back to work now. Nice chatting with you all!


6 people like this
Posted by Crescent Park Dad
a resident of Crescent Park
on Aug 13, 2015 at 11:26 am

"And since you bring up workers - I want to address that too. You're referring to workers who don't live here but it's very convenient that you're saying the very people you've excluded with no-housing policies shouldn't have any say in a place where they spend the majority of their time.

I take issue with that stance and in general I take issue with this me-first mentality, wherein if you're already a resident of a particular city it's somehow morally acceptable to completely not care about how your city's policies affect the people who can't live there."

Name another city in this state that has a policy that you're wishing for...out of towner's having a legal influence on city policy decisions. The residents & land owners (i.e., the taxpayers, the registered voters) are the legally recognized voters in this debate. Not someone who lives in SF or Milpitas.


10 people like this
Posted by Curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on Aug 13, 2015 at 12:04 pm

"Name another city in this state that has a policy that you're wishing for...out of towner's having a legal influence on city policy decisions."

Why, Palo Alto, of course. Real estate developers living in Woodside, Portola Valley, and Los Altos Hills have hugely influenced our city policy decisions for decades. With invaluable collaboration on the part of career-minded city staff and starstruck councilmembers.


6 people like this
Posted by A senior
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 13, 2015 at 12:11 pm

I second this comment: "kudos to Annette Glanckopf, ever the mediator and ever dedicated to making Palo Alto better." It takes a lot of work, to keep an eye out on what is happening here, and Annette has the best interests of the community at large, in mind. thank you to her.


11 people like this
Posted by Robert
a resident of another community
on Aug 13, 2015 at 12:14 pm

@Curmudgeon

So developers are building on someone else's land - against that persons will? Or, in reality, developers by definition are also property owners, but just not the *right* kind of property owners, so they shouldn't be allowed to vote either.


3 people like this
Posted by Curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on Aug 13, 2015 at 12:30 pm

@Robert

We are talking about city policy decisions here. That's policy, sir, policy. Take a night civics class if you don't understand.


2 people like this
Posted by Robert
a resident of another community
on Aug 13, 2015 at 12:36 pm

@Curmudgeon

Well you seem to be arguing that people who own land in Palo Alto shouldn't have any influence on city policy.


15 people like this
Posted by Kazu
a resident of Downtown North
on Aug 13, 2015 at 12:48 pm

@mauricio wrote:

"Kazu, your comments about how if w just build more housing(where, by the way) prices will drop, there will be more diversity, and kids of current residents will be able to live in Palo Alto are not just ludicrous,"

So you still believe restricting supply improves housing availability and moderates prices? If so, then your views are utterly devoid of logic or common sense. If not, then why on earth would you want to restrict housing? To keep all those bad outsiders out? That became an epic fail in the 1980s. More like to keep all those native Palo Altans out, along with those outsiders who would make Palo Alto an even better place.

[Portion removed.]

"new housing is immediately a subject of heavy multi bidding which drive prices sharply higher and keep setting higher bench marks for all real estate."

And restricting the supply will make those sharply higher prices ever more stratospheric. Why do you think housing prices in the Bay Area are so high now? Because we build too much housing?

"Most, if not all of the bidders who have sent Palo Alto housing prices into the stratosphere are foreign buyers. Nearly every family moving in is asian. So much for diversity."

That is xenophobic, if not outright racist. Remember the 1980s? That is when the first housing price spike took place, fueled by immigrants from other US states. Why not criticize them, too? If you want to criticize someone based on their behaviors, and have reason for doing so, then fine (that might well boomerang, though). If you criticize people because of their ethnicity or race, that is shameful, anti-American and anti-Palo Alto.

"We will never have enough land to satisfy the millions who want to live in Palo Alto, and we have the right, and should, protect our way of life and not allow PA to become a dense urban hell."

The Palo Alto way of life is not the same as it was thirty, twenty or even ten years ago. Palo Alto and the people in it have changed over time. So has the Bay Area, of which we are an intergral part. If you don't believe me, just look at "The things I remember about Palo Alto while growing up" thread. Web Link The Bay Area is rapidly changing, a process which cannot be stopped (it never could) and which will continue - in Palo Alto and elsewhere. Bear in mind that a big part of the Palo Alto way of life is a sense of community, something to which you sometimes seem stridently opposed. Case in point: Your response to @Duveneck Mom's very inclusive and community-focused post.

"Downtown PA may be safer than downtown Detroit, but it's not safe at all and it is certainly much less safe than it had been before the development mania."

Downtown PA is safer than Iraq and Syria, too. Your point? I have lived in downtown for many years, and if anything it has become safer. It is one of the few urban places I have seen where women are completely unafraid to walk alone at night. The crime rate here has always been very low, one of the things that makes Palo Alto a great place to live. To claim it is unsafe is ridiculous.


15 people like this
Posted by Kazu
a resident of Downtown North
on Aug 13, 2015 at 1:01 pm

@Thought wrote:

"Yep, that's what I said. I also think it is completely unfair that renters got to vote on the parcel tax!"

Why do you say that? Renters pay for increased parcel taxes, too. It is done indirectly via increased rent, but that is irrelevant. Or do you seriously believe that any Palo Alto landlord is going to eat the cost of a tax increase?

Do you also believe that us homeowners should not be allowed to vote on issues affecting renters? Hey, what's good for the goose is good for the gander.


7 people like this
Posted by mauricio
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Aug 13, 2015 at 1:54 pm

mauricio is a registered user.

Women are not completely safe walking alone at night. I know and heard of women who have been harassed and even attacked, even during the day. i myself have practiced several martial arts since I was a young boy and don't feel very safe downtown at night, certainly not walking down side streets. I don't know of even one woman who is unafraid of walking downtown at night. What you're saying is just wishful thinking and sheer fantasy, teenager style, as if it will become true if you only repeat it often enough.

One of the many problems with your perspective is that you pretend that space and land in Palo Alto are infinite, and livability worthless and even laughable and deserving of scorn. In your world, it's enough for people to desire to move to Palo Alto for long term residents to just raise their arms in surrender and give up their preferred life style and quality of life. There's very little land to build on. If you could miraculously add ten thousand building units ( which will be snatched up by foreign buyers and drive the price of housing even further up), they will be only a drop in the bucket vis-a-vis demand. Then the demand for what the pro-growths really want and envision will become even more bold and explicit:let us start replacing R-1 neighborhoods with tall buildings. Then the demand will be for even taller buildings:why 12 stories and not 24, why 24 and not 36, and so on.

No thought and consideration for the fact that land will have to be found for new schools (good luck with that), roads will have to be widened and fortified for the massive added traffic, the utilities infrastructure will have to be significantly expanded, and this is when California seems to be morphing into a chronically arid, drought stricken state. The upgrade in infrastructure for that kind of growth would be massively expensive, and our way of life would forever vanish, replaced by another very dense urban nightmare.

It was greedy developers who live in highly livable places like Woodside, Atherton and Los Altos Hills, and the hubris, perhaps greed, of council members and staff who enabled them that caused much of the problem, and we residents shouldn't sacrificed livability for their crimes.


7 people like this
Posted by Citizen
a resident of Green Acres
on Aug 13, 2015 at 2:51 pm

@Jerry Underdal,

Thank you for another example of units going empty in Palo Alto. But I was referring to one the consultant reports that reviewed the performance of PAHC and the BMR program and offered helpful suggestions to solve problems. They noted that some BMR units going unfilled for long periods of time is a long-standing problem because even people who qualify for BMR housing have choices and some of the BMR units were considered undesirable.

The report I was thinking of happened long before the empty units you brought up, which went empty for other reasons. The problem of BMR units going unfilled is a different and much more long-standing issue. It is relevant to the discussion here, because people keep complaining that there is no housing here. What they mean is that there is no housing that meets their standards for what they are willing to pay.

Even people whose incomes can't sustain residence in Palo Alto (such as my family for most of our lives in the Bay Area) make choices about whether to compromise and live somewhere pricier or get more for the money in a different market. Everyone makes this choice, not just in the Bay Area. People clearly make it here, because we have BMR units that go empty because people don't want to compromise for the money. And there are apartments in the neighborhood that always have vacancies, and they don't charge nearly what is being charged by new apartments. The reality is that BMR can still mean a lot of money, and Palo Alto is part of a large region, it's not like urban Boise surrounded by farmland and open space where there's no where else to go. Here's a link to a report:

Web Link

"According to both PAHC and City staff, PAHC has had difficulty finding interested buyers for several BMR units resold in the Abitare and Redwoods developments due to the units being too small, too dark, in undesirable locations... In a few cases, PAHC has had to market the BMR units to members of the public because no members of the waiting list were interested in purchasing the units."

"Both City staff and PAHC staff have also indicated that the out-dated condition of the BMR units upon resale has also resulted in difficulty finding interested buyers from the City’s waiting list. Staff noted that BMR buyers demand more or different amenities than BMR buyers did twenty or thirty years ago, so that the older BMR units, even if they have been maintained, have finishes and features that are out-of-date and in need of upgrades."

"City and PAHC staff have indicated that it has been difficult in some cases to sell the units, even with low prices under the deed restrictions, due to worn and out-dated finishing’s, fixtures and appliances."

"The City has purchased BMR units through the BMR Program Emergency Fund that were in danger of being lost to the program through foreclosure or to enforce the BMR program’s owner-occupancy requirement." (So there have been other issues of people not honoring the program or living in the places they get but renting them out.)

I believe there have been empty unit(s) in Barron Square as well. And Moldaw, as you say.

I support the program, but glossing over the truth doesn't help anyone. And the facts, that units do go empty and are hard to sell, belie this Build-Baby-Build narrative that there's just nothing to be had. That's not really true.



17 people like this
Posted by Agenda
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 13, 2015 at 4:30 pm

In thread after thread, regardless of the topic we hear from a certain poster that downtown is unsafe. This is not backed up by any facts or evidence, just that this person has a dislike for the fact that downtown is alive and vibrant, crowded with people.
What the issue of downtown safety has to do with this thread, I do not know. But I guess the belief is, if you repay something often enough it becomes true.
Kazu is spot on with his comments about downtown


2 people like this
Posted by Curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on Aug 13, 2015 at 4:45 pm

@Robert

Learn what policy is and get back to me.


6 people like this
Posted by jlanders
a resident of Barron Park
on Aug 13, 2015 at 6:19 pm

jlanders is a registered user.

Renters demanding involvement in the CAC remind me of the fable of the chicken and the pig.

A chicken and pig are talking, and the chicken says: "Hey, we should open a restaurant!" And, the pig says: "What would we serve?" So, the chicken says: "Well, ham and eggs of course!" The pig responds: "Oh no, that won't work. You'd only be involved, but I'd be fully committed!"

The problem isn't that renters aren't involved either in paying taxes or participating in community activities, The problem is that renters don't need to be committed to solving the long term problems that follow uncontrolled growth and development. That's precisely what's required in updating the next Comprehensive Plan for Palo Alto.

Even after Measure D, the establishment in Palo Alto didn't think that loading the CAC towards developer interests, PAF members and representatives from the north of the City would cause controversy and bad feelings. Do they really want to head into the 2016 council elections with fired-up Palo Alto neighborhoods opposed to more growth?

The best move is to have the City Council scrap the current CAC and start fresh.


10 people like this
Posted by mauricio
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Aug 13, 2015 at 8:12 pm

mauricio is a registered user.

The deteriorating safety in downtown, and the sharp rise in bank, home and car burglaries, is a direct result of over development and urbanization. Cause and effect. This can't be denied. It's safer than downtown Bogota, Detroit, Chicago and Philadelphia, but it's measurably less safe then it had been 20 and 30 years ago. Downtown has also become tacky, pretentious, ostentatious and phony. A Highly unpleasant place for people of good taste.


13 people like this
Posted by Agenda
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 13, 2015 at 8:21 pm

[Portion removed.]

I came out of Stanford theatre last Friday at 10pm and the streets were bustling. People walking, talking, eating enjoying themselves. I guess all those people have bad taste. Our downtown is in pretty good shape judging from the number of people around at that time of day. [Portion removed.]


5 people like this
Posted by Kazu
a resident of Downtown North
on Aug 13, 2015 at 8:24 pm

@mauricio wrote:

"Women are not completely safe walking alone at night. I know and heard of women who have been harassed and even attacked, even during the day."

All the women I know who live in or have visited down seem to feel very safe there. More than a few have mentioned it, visitors and neighbors alike. One of my neighbors stated that she moved to downtown Palo Alto because she felt safe running there alone at night.

[Portion removed.]

"I don't know of even one woman who is unafraid of walking downtown at night."

That's OK, I know plenty.

"What you're saying is just wishful thinking and sheer fantasy, teenager style, as if it will become true if you only repeat it often enough."

Now there is the pot calling the kettle black.

[Portion removed.]

"In your world, it's enough for people to desire to move to Palo Alto for long term residents to just raise their arms in surrender and give up their preferred life style and quality of life."

It is ironic that you would claim that, given that your proposals would cause harm to the Palo Alto most long-term residents cherish. Do you really think they are going to let you get away with that? Attempting to create a frozen in amber Palo Alto is silly. PA would end up like an insect in the amber - immobilized and dead.

"There's very little land to build on."

Which is why we should build up rather than trying to build out. That isn't so hard to understand.

"If you could miraculously add ten thousand building units"

It is two thousand residential units, not ten thousand. Web Link But the world will not end if we build more than two thousand.

"( which will be snatched up by foreign buyers and drive the price of housing even further up), they will be only a drop in the bucket vis-a-vis demand."

[Portion removed.] Restricting supply doesn't decrease prices, in increases them. This can be very readily seen in all of Silicon Valley. Palo Alto alone isn't going to build all the new housing. It is a regional problem that requires a regional solution, with *every* city doing its part. That includes -and benefits - us.

"Then the demand for what the pro-growths really want and envision will become even more bold and explicit:let us start replacing R-1 neighborhoods with tall buildings."

As I have stated before, building high-rises in single-storey neighborhoods is generally a bad idea. High-rise office and residential buildings should be built only in a few specific areas, such as downtown, and should be build near one another. [Portion removed.]

"Then the demand will be for even taller buildings:why 12 stories and not 24, why 24 and not 36, and so on."

Oh, so you do realize that high-rises are the solution? The claim that a twelve story building will automatically result in calls for taller buildings is unfounded.

"No thought and consideration for the fact that land will have to be found for new schools (good luck with that)"

With plenty of new floor space comes floor space for schools. Even the old school building downtown is two stories.

"roads will have to be widened and fortified for the massive added traffic, the utilities infrastructure will have to be significantly expanded, and this is when California seems to be morphing into a chronically arid, drought stricken state. The upgrade in infrastructure for that kind of growth would be massively expensive, and our way of life would forever vanish, replaced by another very dense urban nightmare."

[Portion removed.] Building residential high-rises near existing and future office space minimizes traffic and maximizes convenience. It also brings wealth and tax revenue into town, which will fund the infrastructure upgrades. We are hardly a "chronically arid, drought stricken state".

Attempting to play the drought card is grasping at straws. About 40 percent of California's water is allocated to agriculture and only 10 percent to urban uses. This drought is a temporary condition. Given that we have a very strong El Nino developing, it is likely to be very temporary. [Portion removed.]


6 people like this
Posted by Jerry Underdal
a resident of Barron Park
on Aug 13, 2015 at 10:23 pm

Jerry Underdal is a registered user.

@Citizen

Thanks for the web link.This 2007 report, prepared for the city and PAHC to propose ways to improve the Below Market Rate (BMR) purchase program as it was structured at the time doesn't seem to deal with the provision and management of affordable rental housing, PAHC's primary mission . I don't see the connection to the topic of concern in this thread, the rental market in Palo Alto in 2015. Am I missing something?

i assume, without checking, that the problems discussed in the report were successfully addressed since we haven't heard in recent years about problems with the resale of BMR ownership units. Please let me know if i'm mistaken.

I see the same For Rent signs that you mentioned, but there aren't many of them and they aren't on display for long. Of course units are vacated from time to time, that's the nature of a rental market. If the signs were out for very long, it would be a signal that the market was soft and it's time to reduce the rent or improve the property to get the unit filled.


10 people like this
Posted by Citizen
a resident of Green Acres
on Aug 13, 2015 at 10:58 pm

@Jerry Underdal,
I understand your desire to bend over backwards to justify and avoid any negative facts that might reflect badly on something you care about, but it really, truly does not help your case or the program, it only gives people reason to mistrust.

PAHC's programs are subject to review by consultants on a periodic basis. The link I gave was one report. You suggested I was speaking about Moldaw, so I pointed out your error with an example. Again, in the discussion of whether we must ignore all sense and sensible planning on the premise that the shortage is so severe, just does not hold up. This is a region, and people very often make trade-offs without regard to City boundaries, including people eligible and waiting for BMR units. The older ones are usually cheaper too, as the report seems to indicate. Nevertheless, units go unfilled. Often the older BMR units are a better deal than rentals where people have to fork over a third of their income regardless of what that is or if it improves.

More than one apartment bldg on Arastradero has perpeual for lease signs outside. I have had severl friends need temporary housing and rented there, for surprisingly good rates prelative to local. The bldgs are just older and not snazzy and new. When we needed to move temporarily into an apartment in recent years, we went outside of Palo Alto for price and amenities, not in the neighborhood which had vacancies.

This thread is about the composition of the citizen panel. My only point was that the idea that we don't have vacancies is false. We don't have a lot of single family home inventory, which is the thing in most demand as evidenced by supply and prices. Things cycle up and down. Overbuilding is shortsighted and not in the best interests of anyone except developers. We just visited family in LA area, and their once illustrious neighborhood and community is looking overbuilt, dilapidated, and reminiscent more of parts of Detroit than I care to contemplate. (Lots of blight.)

Regardless of anyone's opinion on that, the fact is, if the City does not make more of an effort to balance the committee, the citizenry will have cause to set aside the plan they develop. The state rules require balance.




6 people like this
Posted by Thought
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 13, 2015 at 11:27 pm

@Kazu,

[Portion removed.]

After reading your posts multiple times, I have to say, I don't see any logic in them. Argument? Yes. Logic? No.

Examples:

@Kazu said:

>> Renters pay for increased parcel taxes, too. It is done indirectly via increased rent, but that is irrelevant. Or do you seriously believe that any Palo Alto landlord is going to eat the cost of a tax increase?

Rental prices are completely market-driven. The rental market does not see an automatic uptick when landlords have increased costs. Supply and demand, Kazu, is what drives the rental market, not cost-plus pricing. That said, my original statement was not about renters vs. landlords, it was about renters vs. property owners. Your theory ignores the majority of property owners, who are not landlords, but reside in the homes they own. So my opinion remains, that renters should not have a say in a property tax vote that only affects property owners. And seniors who were able to opt out of paying should also not have been able to vote.

This is the new face of "taxation without representation," - it is becoming "taxation with reduced representation." AKA: You all get a vote, but so do a bunch of other people that aren't subject to the downside of the vote." It's like everyone in Palo Alto voting to increase taxation on only Prius owners. Hey, of course I'll vote to get more tax dollars that I benefit from, and I don't own a Prius so it costs me nothing! We all share the road with Priuses, so we all deserve a vote!

>> Do you also believe that us homeowners should not be allowed to vote on issues affecting renters? Hey, what's good for the goose is good for the gander.

Uh? I'm pretty sure I was clear that on major, long-term issues such as the new comprehensive plan property owners should be the primary deciders. I have no idea what "issues affecting renters" you have in mind that do not impact property homeowners as well (or more so!).

>> Building residential high-rises near existing and future office space minimizes traffic and maximizes convenience.

LOL! Do you actually think people just move their place of residence next door to wherever they work? Or do you think people just get jobs next door to the high-rise they live in? Especially in today's market, people change jobs every 2-3 years, on average. Do you think those people will move every two to three years? Are you assuming all people who are this transient are long-term renters?

Reality: When people "grow up," they choose where they want to live and establish a home there, and then seek employment within a reasonable distance. Alternatively, people find their dream job and then find a place to live nearby, but then commute if needed when they change jobs. It is completely naive to believe that building high-rises that house companies and a bunch of living units will result in no commute traffic. But to your point, if politicians and pro-growthers keep saying it, it must be true, and facts and history be damned.


29 people like this
Posted by Thought
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 13, 2015 at 11:57 pm

@Mauricio said:

>> "Most, if not all of the bidders who have sent Palo Alto housing prices into the stratosphere are foreign buyers. Nearly every family moving in is asian. So much for diversity."

@Kazu responded:

>> That is xenophobic, if not outright racist. Remember the 1980s? That is when the first housing price spike took place, fueled by immigrants from other US states. Why not criticize them, too? ... If you criticize people because of their ethnicity or race, that is shameful, anti-American and anti-Palo Alto.

My response:

Well, the difference is, immigrants from other U.S. states do not:
1) Demand more and more education funds be diverted to things like Mandarin immersion.
2) Typically require ESL education.
3) Come here with a radically different culture and expect everyone here to adapt to suit them.
4) Create vast sub-cultures and associate only with other people from their state.
5) Buy homes here for the sole purpose of hiding money that is not safe from seizure in their "home state."

@Mauricio said:

"We will never have enough land to satisfy the millions who want to live in Palo Alto, and we have the right, and should, protect our way of life and not allow PA to become a dense urban hell."

@Kazu responded:

The Palo Alto way of life is not the same as it was thirty, twenty or even ten years ago. ... The Bay Area is rapidly changing, a process which cannot be stopped (it never could) and which will continue - in Palo Alto and elsewhere. Bear in mind that a big part of the Palo Alto way of life is a sense of community, something to which you sometimes seem stridently opposed.

My response:

Of course things change, but that does not mean we need to roll over and be run over by every invasive proposed change. Do you just let life happen to you? Do you simply accept and adapt to every potential threat to your way of life, or do you seek to exercise some control over your existence and maintain what you feel is a substantial quality of life? Mauricio is absolutely correct that Palo Alto cannot accommodate every person who wants to live here. Why aren't companies responding appropriately to the housing shortage in the Bay Area and creating new jobs in places that need them. Corporate irresponsibility at its best!


2 people like this
Posted by Jerry Underdal
a resident of Barron Park
on Aug 14, 2015 at 9:37 am

Jerry Underdal is a registered user.

@Citizen
"Regardless of anyone's opinion on that, the fact is, if the City does not make more of an effort to balance the committee, the citizenry will have cause to set aside the plan they develop."

For that reason, I anticipate changes to be announced next week to accommodate the demand for more CAC members who live south of Oregon. That should be an easy fix. Other demands, e.g. kicking people off the committee, are less likely to get city council approval, in my opinion.

About the BMR sidebar: I think consistent wording would help clear up what is being referred to when discussion turns to whether there are vacancies in the city--BMR housing for purchase or affordable rental housing. Rental affordable housing is "unfilled," if not occupied. BMR housing is "unpurchased." These programs address very different markets, apartment rental and home purchase. At the moment both are extremely tight, even for households with stable, well-paid, middle-class jobs.


12 people like this
Posted by resident
a resident of Downtown North
on Aug 14, 2015 at 10:53 am

Whether or not the City Council can change the composition of the panel (Greg Scharff, and Berman (both real estate lawyers), Kniss, and Wolbach probably like it the way it is.) the two most conflicted memebers should RESIGN.

They have a no-confidence message from the citizens and their conflicts are widely recognized.

If they have any integrity at all, or any sense of shame, they should voluntarily RESIGN.


18 people like this
Posted by mauricio
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Aug 14, 2015 at 11:05 am

mauricio is a registered user.

A friend who is visiting from Los Angeles and a former Palo Altoan, told me just this morning that in some ways, our traffic now is worse than Los Angeles. They have gridlock at certain times of the day, we have permanent gridlock. In Los Angeles construction is more staggered, in Palo Alto you can have several construction projects going on at the same time on the same block, in addition to utility projects, which make those streets dangerous, intolerably noisy and nearly impossible to go through for long stretches of time.

Our quality of life has been severely diminished because development always takes precedent of livability and quality of life. Since development is perpetual, tranquility and quite have disappeared forever. How and why did we get to this point?

The only vision seems to be a continuation of the process of more cement, noise, traffic and gridlock. Instead of creating more parks, we create more cement jungles.

Corporate irresponsibility, developers greed and political collaboration is at the root of this disaster. I have been pointing out for years that corporations who keep moving into one of the hottest and most expensive real estate markets in the world, which has a chronic scarcity of available land and housing, is practically criminal. Unless their employees have existing housing in the bay area, they will have tremendous difficulties in obtaining housing. Corporations are responsible for squeezing more and more people into this area, when they can locate their operations in areas that desperately need economic development and have available land and much more affordable housing. We should not pay for corporate irresponsibility, developer greed and political hubris, by giving up our lifestyle and quality of life.


10 people like this
Posted by Agenda
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 14, 2015 at 1:21 pm

Mauricio-- I realize you are unhappy in Palo Alto-- therefore your unproven claims about crime downtown. Now you claim we have " permanent gridlock"? If that was the case how come I was able to zip from Stanford to 101 on embarcadero today at 9:30 am. I just returned down middlefield and San Antonio and traffic was flowing. So where is the " permanent gridlock". Perhaps if you want to be taken seriously you should try keeping the over exaggerations under control.


4 people like this
Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Aug 14, 2015 at 1:29 pm

Agenda, you picked one of the few perfect times to drive Embarcadero and/or Middlefield. Trust me, I have to look out the window to see when it's clear enough to risk backing out of my driveway.

Recently Embarcadero near Newell has been backing up because the new light timing only allows 2 cars at a time to make a left onto Newell, leaving Embarcadero with only 1 through lane rather than 2.

Middlefield is often totally backed up and will get worse when parents start picking up/dropping their kids off at school and you can expect the gridlock to start at 11:30AM rather than 3:00PM.


15 people like this
Posted by Agenda
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 14, 2015 at 1:47 pm

Totally backed up. that rarely happens.. Yes, there are traffic issues in Palo Alto sometimes, but claiming that there is "perpetual gridlock" is false. People love to,exaggerate traffic issues in Palo Alto. We are nowhere near Los Angeles. Comparing a small city like Palo Alto to Los,Angeles is laughable.


6 people like this
Posted by Citizen
a resident of Green Acres
on Aug 14, 2015 at 2:49 pm

@Agenda,
I don't know about anyone else, but I was talking about a community much like Palo Alto in the Los Angeles area. Or, it was much like Palo Alto. Now it's just disturbing and depressing. In case you have not visited lately, Los Angeles is a large metro area, with many individual communities in the greater metro area.

I wrote:
"Overbuilding is shortsighted and not in the best interests of anyone except developers. We just visited family in LA area, and their once illustrious neighborhood and community is looking overbuilt, dilapidated, and reminiscent more of parts of Detroit than I care to contemplate. (Lots of blight.) "

Note "LA area", not "LA"


14 people like this
Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Aug 14, 2015 at 2:57 pm

Agenda, you claim "totally backed up rarely happens."

Please take a look at Middlefield and Embarcadero from 3:00 to 6:00 PM. Middlefield is backed up practically from Oregon to Embarcadero to the south and probably to Willow to the north. Embarcadero is backed up from El Camino to Newell, maybe all the way to 101.

Once school starts, come by earlier at 11:30.


14 people like this
Posted by Ventura OG
a resident of Ventura
on Aug 14, 2015 at 3:16 pm

@mauricio - "Permanent gridlock"? Really?!? I'm in agreement with Agenda. I drive in most parts of Palo Alto at various times of the day. Yes, Palo alto has traffic in places, as most cities do. We don't live in Mayberry, NC. But I have never seen this "permanent gridlock" that you speak of anywhere in Palo Alto. Just in the past few days I have crossed town on El Camino, Alma, Middlefield, Arastradero/Charleston, Oregon Expressway and Embarcadero without any problems. I generally avoid University Ave., but that's because it's in the downtown business area and it makes no sense to try to use University Ave. to cross town. That's why I use Embarcadero (sorry "Online Name") when I'm in that area, because traffic flows better.


7 people like this
Posted by Agenda
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 14, 2015 at 3:32 pm

Citizen-- I was not talking about your mention of LA, I,was commenting on Mauricio's post
Online name-- note Ventura OG comment above. We are in the Silicon Valley. I guess you say it is backed up if you cannot zip one point to another at 35 MPH at anytime of the day. Traffic is the price we pay for our success.
Some of the backups ( at town and country) are due to the incompetence of the city in not fixing the lights.
I guess some people think palo,alto is special and should never have traffic problems.


6 people like this
Posted by mauricio
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Aug 14, 2015 at 3:33 pm

mauricio is a registered user.

I went to school in Los Angeles and spent years down there. Like Citizen pointed out, LA is made up of many small communities. Some used to be charming, livable and special just Palo Alto used to be. I saw first hand how depressing and drab they became because of overdevelopment. They had lost their charm, character and livability. The exact same arguments the developers and pro growths are using here to overbuild had been used down there, with the same ugly, depressing and irreversible results.


8 people like this
Posted by Kazu
a resident of Downtown North
on Aug 15, 2015 at 3:12 pm

@Thought wrote:

"My response:

Well, the difference is, immigrants from other U.S. states do not:
1) Demand more and more education funds be diverted to things like Mandarin immersion.
2) Typically require ESL education.
3) Come here with a radically different culture and expect everyone here to adapt to suit them.
4) Create vast sub-cultures and associate only with other people from their state.
5) Buy homes here for the sole purpose of hiding money that is not safe from seizure in their "home state.""

1) From what I can see, the demand for Mandarin immersion is an attempt to avoid paying for language lessons. Many Chinese families want their children to be able to speak in the parents' native language. The children are typically sent to after school classes for Cantonese or Mandarin. If they want to do that, they have every right to do so. If they expect the public to pay for an entirely optional extra-curricular activity, then they are way off base. English is the common language in the US, and so public schools should teach in English.

2) Referencing 1), our schools are obligated to provide ESL classes. English is the common spoken and writtn language. Not every child who comes to the US speaks English.

3) America is a melting pot, not a fruit salad. Being part of the melting pot means exchanging some native customs and behaviors for their US counterparts. It also means retaining some customs, and also contributing them to US society. That is what a melting pot is all about, and the source of America's strength and culture. Now those people want to come here and not be part of the melting pot, then they seriously need to fix their attitude.

3 and 4) People coming here with a radically different attitude and expecting everyone here to adapt to suit them very much applies also to the wave of non-Californians that emmigrated here in the 1980s. They were stereotyped as brash, rude, in-your-face, uptight, didn't want to be part of the community, and very much expected everyone here to change to suit them. Did it ever cause conflict and animosity among the natives! The "Welcome to California, now go home!" and "When you leave California, please take someone with you." bumper stickers were testament to that. Sometimes the sterotype was true, but far more often it was not. The same is true for Chinese coming here now. Do you any of the critics actually know any recent Chinese arrivals? I do, and they are very nice and friendly.

5) Okay, so they buy homes here. So what? I bought a home here and you might have, as well.

Whatever excuses one can conjure up, bashing people based on their ethnicity or race is still bigotry, is still anti-American and still anti-Palo Alto. People with racist views have an attitude that is quite incompatible with our city and its lifestyle.

"Of course things change, but that does not mean we need to roll over and be run over by every invasive proposed change. Do you just let life happen to you? Do you simply accept and adapt to every potential threat to your way of life, or do you seek to exercise some control over your existence and maintain what you feel is a substantial quality of life?"

I am not proposing absolutely unfettered development, but smart development. There are those who are trying to claim "smart development" means no development at all. That is simply not realistic. We are required by ABAG to plan for 2,000 new housing units. Would it be better to do that by building two and three story no-yard townhouses and McMansions in our single-story neighborhoods, or by building 200 foot towers in downtown? Development is not an all or nothing proposition. If the anti-growthers don't stop their nonsense, what we will wind up with is a poorly planned, underparked all option.

"Mauricio is absolutely correct that Palo Alto cannot accommodate every person who wants to live here. Why aren't companies responding appropriately to the housing shortage in the Bay Area and creating new jobs in places that need them. Corporate irresponsibility at its best!"

Mauricio's argument is a straw man. Of course we cannot accomodate every person who wants to live here, but the law of supply and demand still applies. So do the principles of sound urban planning, and NIMBY is not one of them. The housing shortage is a regional problem, and Palo Alto is part of the affected region. Some here don't seem to mind the development that provided them with their homes, but then turn around and don't want any more development. Cities in growing regions don't work like that. Trying to exacerbate the housing shortage won't result in no change, it will result in harmful change.


6 people like this
Posted by resident
a resident of Downtown North
on Aug 15, 2015 at 3:29 pm

>> "Most, if not all of the bidders who have sent Palo Alto housing prices into the stratosphere are foreign buyers. Nearly every family moving in is asian. So much for diversity."

@Kazu responded: >> That is xenophobic, if not outright racist.

Wrong again, Kazu. It's a fact.
You may not like it being noted, but it is a fact. No one likes being taken over by any group. The character of the community is being changed by foreign millionaires, and some of us object.

This is a different kind of immigration than the traditional one, and they make demands on the community when they could afford to set up their own after school language schools, like other immigrant groups do. Many of the newcomers are here to park their riches (made, who knows how) and it works to the detriment of the people who are here.


4 people like this
Posted by Kazu
a resident of Downtown North
on Aug 15, 2015 at 3:44 pm

"They have gridlock at certain times of the day, we have permanent gridlock."

The cars and trucks must be invisible, because I have never seen permanent gridlock. Maybe you are thinking

"In Los Angeles construction is more staggered"

You want us to become like Los Angeles?

"Our quality of life has been severely diminished because development always takes precedent of livability and quality of life. Since development is perpetual, tranquility and quite have disappeared forever.

Yet you want to preserve this greatly diminished quality of life by having a building moratorium?

"How and why did we get to this point?"

I believe that is what is what the Indians said, and later the farmers. It's because people like you and I and all our neighbors live here.

The only vision seems to be a continuation of the process of more cement, noise, traffic and gridlock. Instead of creating more parks, we create more cement jungles."

Well, at least it is a concrete solution. Seriously, we are the City of Palo Alto, not a village out in the boondocks. And we have plenty of parks.

"Corporate irresponsibility, developers greed and political collaboration is at the root of this disaster."

More like bad urban planning that promoted sprawl over building up in certain areas.

"Unless their employees have existing housing in the bay area, they will have tremendous difficulties in obtaining housing."

True, which is why we should build more. Not building housing won't prevent people from coming to the Bay Area or Palo Alto, it will simply push housing prices and rents ever higher.

"We should not pay for corporate irresponsibility, developer greed and political hubris, by giving up our lifestyle and quality of life."

But you said above we have a greatly diminished quality of life. You also claimed earlier that we need mad kung fu skillz to go downtown. That is not much of a lifestyle.

The truth is that we Palo Altans have it much better than than people in most other locales. We did not achieve that by sticking our collective head in the sand (or anywhere else). To let that slip away just to satisfy some misguided anti-growther notions would be folly.


12 people like this
Posted by Kazu
a resident of Downtown North
on Aug 15, 2015 at 3:53 pm

@resident wrote:

"Wrong again, Kazu. It's a fact."

Wrong again, resident. It's racist.

"You may not like it being noted, but it is a fact. No one likes being taken over by any group. The character of the community is being changed by foreign millionaires, and some of us object."

They were labeled the "Yellow Peril" in the 1800s, and is is every bit as poisonous and wicked now as it was then.

"This is a different kind of immigration than the traditional one"

No, it is not.

"they make demands on the community when they could afford to set up their own after school language schools, like other immigrant groups do."

Do your homework. There have been Chinese language schools in the Bay Area for generations.

"Many of the newcomers are here to park their riches (made, who knows how) and it works to the detriment of the people who are here."

Cracker attitudes are an infinitely more harmful influence that any influx of wealth. Wealthy people have been coming to Palo Alto for a long time. Ever hear of Crescent Park or Old Palo Alto? Anybody with a case of wealth envy will find PA quite disappointing.


2 people like this
Posted by resident
a resident of Downtown North
on Aug 15, 2015 at 4:29 pm

Kazu, your responses are both long, and not to the point. You make historical analogies that are simple minded. You don't even acknowledge statistical facts.

What is your connection to the development industry?
What is your connection to the housing advocates?


4 people like this
Posted by Ventura OG
a resident of Ventura
on Aug 15, 2015 at 4:41 pm

@Kazu - I guess we should be glad we are already Palo alto homeowners. Seems like some people want keep any more of us asians from moving to Palo Alto.

In the Palo Alto real estate market the only color that really matters is green. The people who give up more green get to buy the property.


2 people like this
Posted by Kazu
a resident of Downtown North
on Aug 15, 2015 at 4:51 pm

@resident wrote:

"What is your connection to the development industry?"

Absolutely none.

"What is your connection to the housing advocates?"

Again, none at all.


Like this comment
Posted by Kazu
a resident of Downtown North
on Aug 15, 2015 at 5:24 pm

@Ventura OG wrote:

"@Kazu - I guess we should be glad we are already Palo alto homeowners. Seems like some people want keep any more of us asians from moving to Palo Alto."

While I am totally opposed to discrimination against Asians (or any other group), I am Caucasian, not Asian. "Kazu" is a nickname given to me by a coworker many years ago, a reference to a kazoo someone left on my desk. That did not stop one poster from making racist comments to me about my supposed Japanese ancestry in one thread, though.

I might get banned or censored here for speaking out against prejudice, but so be it. To be fair, the great majority of Palo Altans I have met are open-minded and not bigoted at all. The haters here on Palo Alto Town Square represent the miscreant 0.0001 percent.

"In the Palo Alto real estate market the only color that really matters is green. The people who give up more green get to buy the property."

That is certainly true, although I rented before I bought a house. That might make me a second class citizen in the eyes of some of the posters here. I think need to have a sensible regional housing and growth policy, one which welcomes all people. Regardless, there are a lot of long-time residents who will make an absolute fortune if they ever decide to sell their house.


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Posted by Ventura OG
a resident of Ventura
on Aug 15, 2015 at 5:31 pm

@Kazu - My bad, Kazu. I had a cousin that went by Kazu so I totally made an assumption there.


6 people like this
Posted by Thought
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 15, 2015 at 9:17 pm

Kazu's accusations of racism are ridiculous. And no one is discriminating against all Asians. The gross generalizations and false paraphrasing is merely meant to stir up emotions. What better topic than racism?

I couldn't care less what someone looks like on the outside or where they were born. Kazu stated how international immigrants are no different than nationals immigrants, and I cited how they are different. My comments specific to Chinese immigrants are about those that behave in the ways I described. Not all of them behave that way, but enough do that it is noticible and unwelcome. I also know many first generation Chinese that are a joy.

>> "Okay, so they buy homes here. So what? I bought a home here and you might have, as well."

Kazu is again completely missing the point, or intentionally misleading readers. The issue is FOREIGN INVESTMENT in the United States, and the destabilizing nature it has caused and will continue to cause. The response is nonsensical.

Kazu has successfully put everyone on the defensive with his/her claim of racism, which is so far from the topic of this thread, and not reflective of the actual conversation, it should be deleted.

BTW, Kazu, according to sociologists and social psychologists, the U.S. has indeed become a salad bowl, not a melting pot. Please try to keep up.


8 people like this
Posted by Paly Mom
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Aug 16, 2015 at 12:29 am

I don't think that building up is a good solution.
We may soon look like Kowloon.
Web Link


8 people like this
Posted by Kazu
a resident of Downtown North
on Aug 16, 2015 at 1:33 am

"I don't think that building up is a good solution.
We may soon look like Kowloon."

But we have already built up before. Laning Chateau and that beautiful high rise across the street are but two examples. Why not build more high rises like those?


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

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