News

Planning commission slams Palo Alto's proposed office cap

Commissioners say proposal unfair to developers, ineffective in reining in city's pace of growth

If Palo Alto adopts an annual cap on new office development in its main commercial corridors, it will have to do so despite intense opposition from the city's main land-use commission.

In an unusual split with the City Council, which unanimously endorsed the general parameters of the new office cap in March, the Planning and Transportation Commission just as unanimously panned the proposal Wednesday night.

Over the course of the discussion, the four commissioners present at the meeting characterized that the annual office cap as a blunt tool would be unfair to developers, distracting to the council and ineffective in reining in the city's pace of growth.

The commission was charged with reviewing the details of the new office cap, which would set an annual limit of 50,000 square feet for new office and research-and-development projects in the areas around downtown, California Avenue and El Camino Real.

While the council unanimously agreed to pursue the cap in March, council members struggled in June to come to an agreement on several key elements, including whether the cap should apply to portions of the city where the council plans to perform "coordinated-area plans" aimed at crafting a community vision for land use.

The planning commission was charged with reviewing and hashing out the details and returning with a recommendation.

The commission's deliberation was in some ways the polar opposite of the council's. The council, despite having a range of views about development, reached a compromise and took numerous unanimous votes. The commission, by contrast, quickly reached a consensus against the office cap, but concluded the meeting with a series of 2-2 votes and a lack of a resolution.

The commissioners split over whether it's best to simply vote against an ordinance that the City Council supports or to endorse an ordinance and try to make it more adequate.

In the end, Vice Chair Adrian Fine and Commissioner Mark Michael took the former option, while Commissioners Michael Alcheck and Kate Downing took the latter. The commission will discuss the ordinance again later this month, when more members are present.

Fine, who chaired the meeting in the absence of Chair Greg Tanaka, took the unusual move of crafting a motion outlining the commission's proposed changes to the ordinance. He then voted against his own motion. The cap, he said, "seems like a blunt interest to address quality of life issues."

He and his colleagues also agreed that the cap would be unfair to developers who have already invested large amounts of time and hundreds and thousands of dollars in their applications, only to see the rules change.

If the office cap were adopted, Fine said, it should take effect after the adoption date and not be backdated to include all applications that were deemed incomplete as of March 31, as the council proposed.

The commissioners made that determination after hearing from Ray Paul, vice president of Jay Paul Company, which is developing two projects in the California Avenue area. One of these, at 2747 Park Blvd., would bring 28,200 square feet of new office space to the district. Another, at 3045 Park Blvd., would demolish an existing auto shop and replace it with a 29,120-square-foot structure.

Both applications were submitted last October and deemed complete in April, just weeks after the City Council first agreed to pursue an office cap. Paul told the planning commission that his company had already spent more than $500,000 on the two applications and argued that subjecting them to the competitive process involved in the office cap would be unfair.

Paul criticized the council's decision to set the cutoff date at March 31, noting that the approach is unfair because it makes a "distinction without difference." Namely, it dumps Jay Paul's two projects into the same murky area that includes other recent submittals without recognizing the resources and time committed by the company to get this far in the process.

"Frankly, we don't think that this result is either fair or equitable," Paul said.

The council, for its part, agreed in June to give preferential treatment to projects like Jay Paul's, which had applications deemed complete between March 31 and June 30. This preferential treatment, however, does not entirely exempt these projects from the competitive process that would take place if the city gets development applications that collectively total more than 50,000 square feet in a given year.

The argument won sympathy from the commission, with Fine and Alcheck agreeing that the proposed office cap wouldn't be fair for developers. Both argued in favor of a "rollover" approach in which projects that would exceed the annual office cap would simply be delayed a year.

They also advocated for scrapping the competitive process for evaluating development applications in favor of a first-come, first-serve approach. In the end, however, Fine voted against the ordinance, arguing that it would not address the actual negative effects of new developments, like parking congestion and traffic jams.

Michael argued that the ordinance, which would be effective on an interim basis, would distract the City Council and staff from the more important tasks of updating the city's Comprehensive Plan and zoning code. Interim measures like this proposed office cap, Michael said, are "a distraction and should be avoided."

"The council, by focusing on interim ordinances, is taking its eye off the ball of the Comp Plan," said Michael, who joined Fine in recommending that the ordinance be rejected.

Alcheck, who reluctantly voted in favor of the ordinance, nevertheless, made it clear that the proposal brings him no joy and that he agrees with Michael.

"The writing is on the wall and I think the City Council is going to enact the ordinance irrespective of some of the concerns that Commissioner Michael has and that I share," Alcheck said.

Downing was similarly ambivalent as she made a case for why the proposed ordinance would not accomplish much. The office cap, she said, "just kicks the can down the road." It may slow down the effects of growth, Downing said, but it won't do anything to get rid of them or mitigate them.

"This doesn't really get rid of the problems that we have," she said. "It's just a Band-Aid. It looks good on paper and it sounds really great, but it doesn't really do much for us."

Downing and Fine agreed that if the ordinance is enacted, coordinated-area plans should be exempt. Unlike Fine, Downing ultimately joined Alcheck in voting for the ordinance.

Downing also shared the criticism of land-use watchdog and Palo Alto resident Bob Moss, who argued that limiting the cap to three areas -- downtown, California Avenue and El Camino -- would drive developments to other commercial areas, namely San Antonio Road and Fabian Way.

But unlike Moss, who argued that the cap should cover the entire city, Downing suggested that Palo Alto might be better off without an annual limit for office development.

"I can't help but feel like this ordinance is ill-advised," she said.

Comments

58 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 13, 2015 at 8:27 am

"He and his colleagues also agreed that the cap would be unfair to developers"

Pretty much says it all about the PTC.


26 people like this
Posted by six of one
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 13, 2015 at 9:14 am

The entire sentence reads:

"He and his colleagues also agreed that the cap would be unfair to developers who have already invested large amounts of time and hundreds and thousands of dollars in their applications, only to see the rules change. "

Typical attempt by the anti-progress faction to only use partial statements to twist the meaning into something that plays into their vast conspiracy theories.

Pretty much says it all about the anti-progress people


51 people like this
Posted by not all at once
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Aug 13, 2015 at 9:17 am

I think the developments should be staggered. I can't go anywhere without seeing a million orange signs/cones all over town. It's so hard to go about daily life, getting kids to school, park, grabbing groceries when there is increased traffic and congestion in general without construction..it's just a big headache for us residents and stay at home mom's who are trying to run errands and be efficient with our time before we grab the kids from school. I feel trapped on my street because there are already 2 major developments going on.


84 people like this
Posted by Onliine Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Aug 13, 2015 at 9:46 am

How about being fair to the residents and taxpayers for a change??

Cap office development until the city can get a handle on the ridiculous gridlock and congestion.

And get developers off that committee. It's absurd.


20 people like this
Posted by anon
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Aug 13, 2015 at 9:57 am

zoning and municipal code changes from time to time;for residential projects as well. It does not mean that one gets to use the earlier rules that they might prefer.

I have heard city attorney Mollie Stump at public hearings say more than once that there is no vested entitlement to the zoning until there is "steel and concrete in the ground".

So these commercial projects have no entitlement at this point.

The PTC did not demonstrate a thorough understanding of the issue. When it came to making motions it was not clear that they all had a keen grasp of the process or even took it very seriously


97 people like this
Posted by Norman Beamer
a resident of Crescent Park
on Aug 13, 2015 at 10:13 am

It is time for a voter initiative to impose an across-the-board permanent moratorium on new office development, office expansion, and the practice of cramming exploited workers into smaller areas. Palo Alto's office-to-housing ratio is one of the highest anywhere. Palo Alto does not need a single new office.


20 people like this
Posted by NIMBYWORLD
a resident of Gunn High School
on Aug 13, 2015 at 10:34 am

Arbitrary doesnt begin to address the actions of the Council . Artificial limits with development have unintended consequences. IF PA wants it coffers to remain full with ever expanding pension requirements for its bloated staffs, then they should be just a tad more business friendly. Grow or shrink , like Detroit. Smart growth , density on Calif Ave, and El Camino , major public transportation routes , makes all kinds of sense . Public transportation wont work unless you have dense office and housing . Been to Europe lately ? Wake up and dont repeat the mistakes of other ' no growthers ' . Cities evolve , they dont stand still and look at Eichlers as their finest moment of progress.


73 people like this
Posted by concerned
a resident of Mayfield
on Aug 13, 2015 at 10:52 am

STOP the incessant non-sense. There is simply no where to go in Palo Alto anymore. CONGESTION EVERYWEHERE!! it is absolutely ridiculous what is taking place in this city with all the building/ construction/ stopped traffic. if one doesn't want to leave the house--then great. but, if one does want to leave the house--it takes an hour to go from south palo alto to north palo alto. and, water??? anyone considering the drought--where is this added water going to come from--oh, that is right--more taxes solve all issues.


82 people like this
Posted by Elected vs Appointed
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 13, 2015 at 10:54 am

The City Council was elected, the PTC was appointed by the last Council as a vindictive parting shot after several pro-growthers were voted out.

The PTC should be re-appointed by the current council.

With a 3-1 jobs to housing ratio, it is ridiculous to consider any additional office development, AT ALL, ANY WHERE.


20 people like this
Posted by six of one
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 13, 2015 at 11:00 am

Another false post from the anti-progress wing--only one council member was voted off the council in the last election. The last election was in no way, shape or form a mandate against growth.
The PTC was duly appointed according to city rules. Just because certain anti-progress people have become power hungry does not mean that du;y appoined members of a commission should be removed from office due to the fact that they disagree with a vocal minority in the city


27 people like this
Posted by Rainer
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Aug 13, 2015 at 11:22 am

Rainer is a registered user.

It is the City Council’ sensible resident’s wing lack of forthrightness to let the PCT sabotage the badly needed progress in the development process.

Us citizen's time is wasted as well as the Councils. When the prior (lame duck) City Council in November quickly installed pro-excessive growth members on the Planning and Transportation Commission, commentators Dave Price and Diana Diamond renounced the "stacking" of the commission, and called for, and proposed, remedies. But the Council continues to be bullied by the developers.

We do have a California Commissioner of Planning. His rules are published in the Commissioners Book, Web Link . In the first paragraph the good book says:

"Commissioners serve at the pleasure of the council or supervisors, so commission membership changes in response to changes in those bodies."

Do it!

Councilors, get off your soft behinds! Since the ARB and PTC continue to approve 100% of projects, maybe after nibbling around the edges, they are useless as a needed filter with the present membership.

The PTC was better until the willful stocking with members whose relentless pursuit of [Quote] "high density [that] is both their personal preference and also their bread and butter".

Elected representatives, what are you waiting for? Stop wasting yours and the public's time. You were elected to reform the Palo Alto Process and keep the town a livable place.

And while you are at it, hire an outside auditor for an internal audit of the Planning Department, which propagates obviously faulty "Reports", commissioned by Developers, and fights residents who show the conceptual and numerical mistakes. Why? Who pays them? Who watches the planners? Are you waiting for the FBI to do it for you?

Why do residents, and not the planners, have to measure the critical waiting times of cars? Why is a flood of residential observations on intersection waiting times Web Link which makes a County LOS classifications ridiculous, disregarded?

Has the time come for a voter initiative to impose an across-the-board permanent moratorium on new office development, office expansion, and the cramming of workers into ever smaller areas?

Offices do NOT make the town a vibrant place. Budgetary wise each new office cost us residents money and loss of flexibility. What is not build today still can be built in 10 years. What is build today will still be there in 10 years. Palo Alto does not need a single new office.


37 people like this
Posted by Elected vs Appointed
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 13, 2015 at 11:22 am

Everyone elected in the last round was, or claimed to be, residentialist. The fact that two of them were disingenuous and changed to pro-growth after the election does not change the fact that the City cried loud and clear for slow- or anti-growth. Clearly, the current PTC does not reflect the voters desire.


50 people like this
Posted by just don't get it
a resident of Southgate
on Aug 13, 2015 at 11:25 am

Let me understand this...... A cap on building would be unfair to a handful of developers - both current and future but it doesn't matter about the rest of the residents of PA and what they think??? There are lots of other places for these developers to take their ugly buildings!! So, let them go!!!


44 people like this
Posted by breathing time
a resident of Downtown North
on Aug 13, 2015 at 11:34 am

I agree with the idea of a moratorium on office development until the comp plan is finally updated. If we do nothing, development proceeds apace while we wait and wait for the comp plan. Having the moratorium stops the madness until we can figure out why we're trying to build out the whole city before 2020. Obviously the infrastructure isn't in place for the growth we have, or residents wouldn't be up in arms (and I tend to think there's more than a minority of PA residents who don't enjoy the current load of traffic and construction, let alone the future plans to just keep it coming). Let's figure out how to implement traffic and transportation solutions that work--not wishful thinking like having people park in the baylands to come downtown or that new workers will all take public transportation so don't need parking downtown. It's clear from where I live that the latter is untrue--total gridlock, and I'm just waiting to see if the permits solve this or leave it unscathed. Developers make money hand over fist, so I can't buy into their pity party.


37 people like this
Posted by Barbara
a resident of Downtown North
on Aug 13, 2015 at 11:39 am

CAP the development! Aren't we as residents sick and tired of the growth in Palo Alto? The city streets and sidewalks are overrun with cars and people. The developers can take their ideas someplace else - as far away as possible.


27 people like this
Posted by Carlos
a resident of Green Acres
on Aug 13, 2015 at 11:56 am

The Planning Commission (especially considering who is in it) does not represent the views of most residents. The views of the city council might provide some checks and balances, but given how hard many of those in power try to push certain controversial projects (e.g. low-income housing) into the non-elite neighborhoods, there are large unrepresented segments in our population.


20 people like this
Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Aug 13, 2015 at 11:57 am

Isn't there a Stanford University development person on the committee and isn't that a clear conflict? I ask because of today's article about residents wanting to scale down the new Facebook complex in Stanford Research Park on Page Mill.

Web Link

What's the traffic impact of the development? Page Mill/Oregon is already jammed.

Also, does an increased number of jobs on Stanford land cause our ABAG quotes to increase?

(Stanford will be along shortly with a survey asking "If we claim X, will you be convinced there will be no traffic impact?" like they did for all the hospitall construction.)


23 people like this
Posted by senor blogger
a resident of Palo Verde
on Aug 13, 2015 at 12:01 pm

This is stupid and ridiculous.

With only 4 of 7 commissioners present the Commission should not be considering such an important and far reaching piece of legislation.

The item should have been tabled for future mission with a full commission present.

If commissioners can't show up they should be removed.

Come on people.


63 people like this
Posted by A Matter of Ethics
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 13, 2015 at 12:03 pm

It is unethical as well as a conflict of interest for any developer to be on the Planning Commission.

Any developer or contractor on this commission should be dismissed, immediately, and slapped with a punitive fine.


4 people like this
Posted by Curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on Aug 13, 2015 at 12:09 pm

Let them bloviate all they want. Fortunately, the city council has a lot of practice in ignoring the planning commission.


11 people like this
Posted by chris
a resident of University South
on Aug 13, 2015 at 12:45 pm

Concerned and his/her 23 friends should be pushing for better shuttles/transit. Driving your car around town just makes thing worse.

An interim cap on development makes no sense. Do we have zoning laws or not?

Why bother with zoning laws if they don't mean anything?


5 people like this
Posted by chris
a resident of University South
on Aug 13, 2015 at 12:48 pm

Online Name,

Please explain how replacing one building with another is bad for traffic?
It sounds like a typical knee-jerk reaction without studying the details.


24 people like this
Posted by Rainer
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Aug 13, 2015 at 12:57 pm

Rainer is a registered user.

@Chris,

replacing a 5000sqft building with a 30,000sqft pure office building makes a little difference.
Let's see: my forth grader says: it is 600%! And she asks: can I get that type of pocket money increase, please?


15 people like this
Posted by Art
a resident of University South
on Aug 13, 2015 at 1:26 pm

How about taking an approach that will align developers' interests with residents' interests? Measure the traffic in Palo Alto. Make a goal for the traffic reduction. Put a moratorium on building that will be lifted when the goal is reached. I think the developers will start to come up with creative solutions.


42 people like this
Posted by Thrown Under the Bus in Palo ALto
a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Aug 13, 2015 at 1:45 pm

The residents of Palo Alto are, yet again, being thrown under the bus by developers and their sympathizers whose driving goal is to make money, lots of it. They have absolutely no interest in what is left of quality of life in this community. Most of them probably live in Atherton, Portola Valley or Los Altos Hills.

If the Planning Commission is stacked against the interests of those of us who live in Palo Alto, then the City Council must ensure that those interests are protected. If they will not or cannot enforce a cap on development then a voter initiative will.


51 people like this
Posted by Emily Renzel
a resident of Crescent Park
on Aug 13, 2015 at 2:30 pm

Decades ago the City was aware of potential over-development problems and adopted a Citywide Land Use and Transportation Study which looked at the problems of unfettered development and predicted the state of affairs today if nothing was done. An attempt to adopt those recommendations by initiative failed after developers poured $180,000 into the election to defeat it. The zoning that was adopted back then tried to hold development in check with floor area ratios (FARs), parking requirements, and a cap on downtown development. In the two or three Comprehensive Plan and zoning "updates" since then, all of those zoning protections were eroded. Useless compact car spaces replaced standard spaces, parking exceptions were granted, exceptions to the FARs and other zoning requirements slipped in and sometimes zoning was changed outright either from residential to commercial or to flexible Planned Community zones. And, of course, adjoining communities have followed the same insane path. And here we are. All day parking and painted lines have crept from commercial areas into surrounding residential areas. Residents' concerns have been ignored and developers have made a lot of money. Now, as many commenters above have pointed out, our neighborhoods have become perpetual construction zones and it is nearly impossible to run ordinary errands in town because of traffic congestion and construction detours. It's sad but true---The beautiful pleasant Palo Alto of the past is gone.


10 people like this
Posted by Robert
a resident of another community
on Aug 13, 2015 at 2:55 pm

@Emily Renzel

"looked at the problems of unfettered development"

Well since this is far from the case, I don't know why it would even be discussed. "Unfettered development", unless you're being hyperbolic, would mean developers getting to build whatever they want.


24 people like this
Posted by Rainer
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Aug 13, 2015 at 3:17 pm

Rainer is a registered user.

Dear “@six of one”

You love to quote the full statement which shows the enormous sacrifices developers make to bring forward a progressive:
"He and his colleagues also agreed that the cap would be unfair to developers who have already invested large amounts of time and hundreds and thousands of dollars in their applications, only to see the rules change. "

Unfair!
That certifies you as another Naïveling falling for the long game of the developers. We have seen that long game in nearly all projects which eventually have to be decided by the Council, because neither ARB nor PTC do their job. Nor does Russ Reich and cohorts of the Planning Department defend the interest of the residents; no, for them the Reports of the hired guns of the applicant is the word of God. How do non-expert residents dare to find fault with those reports full of errors, how do they dare to trust their lying eyes which experience minutes of waiting time to cross certain unsigned intersections (= LOS F), when the County or City Congestion Management Report has assigned it a LOS B (10-20sec)!

Here is how it goes: The applicant pushes the envelopes beyond anything reasonable, so matters cannot be decided quickly. Eventually the applicant nibbles a little bit around the edges. And it has to go to the City Council, because Palo Alto does not have a real decision process in place. And there are always a few Council members who will support whatever a developer proposes; we know who they are.

After all this time and money has been wasted due to the applicants effort to push the boundaries of the zoning, the applicants' claim is a) we (applicants) have spent so much money already, b) so much time has been invested, and c) we made already 5 (or 8, or 12) modifications.

For year5s this worked. Recent cases were 3864 Corina Way and 2555 Park Boulevard; the Council fell for it. The first time the Council did not fall for it was 429 University – at least so far. I am sure those applicants will come with improved laments a), b) and c).

The other misused cry, which works, according to friends at Wilson-Sonsini, very well with the week-kneed Palo Alto City Attorneys: “unconstitutional taking by re-zoning”. So Palo Alto never took back the (free) up-zoning-of-Buena-Vista-gift the City made to the Jiffers some time ago. Nor did the Council rezone 2555 Park Blvd. to the PTOD zoning, which for the foreseeable future would be the best for Palo Alto.

Well, we all know that property may not be taken for public use without payment of just compensation to its owner (Cal. Const., art. I, § 19; U.S. Const., 5th Amend). But in the case of zoning changes in practice the courts have for 200 years deferred to the police power of Cities and Counties.

Particularly difficult to overcome is the threshold that a "mere diminution" in property value due to a zoning action is not compensable. (Agins v. City of Tiburon (1979) 24 Cal.3d 266, 273-274 [157 Cal.Rptr. 372, 598 P.2d 25], affd. (1980) 447 U.S. 255 [65 L.Ed.2d 106, 100 S.Ct. 2138].) The “mere” in some cases has meant diminution of 80%.

And by the way, the lawsuit the City lost in the 60s about the down-zoning of what is now the Arastradero Preserve, it would now probably win.

So a City Council with backbone could protect the residents with re-zoning. But there seem to be always enough Councilors and Commissioners who need the developer’s election campaign contributions for their quest for higher office, or a revolving door job, more than the sleep of the just.

The decks are stacked against a normal resident, so the only solution is a moratorium, if needed by the ballot box. Then we will see where the loud minority is.


26 people like this
Posted by Guy_Fawkes
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Aug 13, 2015 at 3:56 pm

Guy_Fawkes is a registered user.

The PTC wasn't asked to judge the council and decide on an office cap. That's already been decided. They were asked to rule on a small part that the council asked them to prove advice on - whether specific plans should be part of the cap, a very narrow area. Their unwillingness to take council direction should be enough reason to recall the commissioners and ask for new applicants. They are doing the council and the community a disservice by not doing what council has tasked them to do. The PTC is not a policy setting body and shouldn't act like one.


20 people like this
Posted by mauricio
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Aug 13, 2015 at 4:06 pm

mauricio is a registered user.

[Post removed.]


8 people like this
Posted by Roger Overnaut
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Aug 13, 2015 at 5:01 pm

[Post removed.]


18 people like this
Posted by Former paly mom
a resident of Community Center
on Aug 13, 2015 at 5:18 pm

Stop office development already! Build across 101 instead where there are existing offices that can go up a story or two.


Like this comment
Posted by Robert
a resident of another community
on Aug 13, 2015 at 6:02 pm

[Post removed.]


18 people like this
Posted by Roger Overnaut
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Aug 13, 2015 at 6:50 pm

[Post removed.]


27 people like this
Posted by jui
a resident of University South
on Aug 14, 2015 at 3:43 am

Oh boo hoo hoo, poor little developers, cry me a river. Most have architecturally ruined this entire country from coast to coast; now what's left of pretty Palo Alto, with their eyesores, construction absurdities and civic invalidation in the elusive name of "progress". Did I mention sidewalk hogs? Even if you are mobility challenged and walking with a cane, you are pretty much relegated to the curb these days. Oh redeem yourselves developers of progress and find a real job. Get out of your plush little "strategic planning" offices and get down on your knees and build your own monstrous buildings with your own bare hands in your own backyard. They might even be more interesting to look at.


10 people like this
Posted by pump it up
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 14, 2015 at 9:32 am

The P&TC wants to take the risk out of real estate development here in
Palo Alto by opposing even an office cap. The Chinese government in a controlled economy the last few weeks after artificially pumping up their stock market came in and tried to hold it up and pumped it up again,trying to take the risk out of it. We have artificially pumped up the office market here by granting bonuses, exceptions, over-zoning beyond all infrastructure capability to handle it, at the expense of our neighborhoods,safety of our streets, declining quality of life and character of our city as we experience on a daily basis the ongoing destruction of our city. But we need to keep pumping it up.

"The beautiful pleasant Palo Alto of the past is gone" - Emily Renzel


24 people like this
Posted by Cheryl Lilienstein
a resident of Barron Park
on Aug 14, 2015 at 10:51 am


The council needs to remove PTC commission members.

The last city council election WAS about residents' quality of life being constantly eroded by ongoing overdevelopment and traffic.

Voters clearly said we don't want more, and that we need to solve existing traffic and parking problems, and we need a moratorium on office space development.

Instead of attending to that clear message, the PTC continues to claim that more density will improve our lives.
Was the majority not forceful enough at the ballot box?
Did we not vote to STOP this madness?

We really don't need even ONE more office space.

Perhaps we need a citizen's initiative to codify that.

But in the meantime, the PTC needs to be replaced by people willing to follow our ELECTED OFFICIALS' direction.



7 people like this
Posted by PTC
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Aug 14, 2015 at 11:15 am

The PTC was asked to vote on whether they supported the ordinance as a whole, they weren't asked for a more narrow vote. That's legally required for any ordinance that gets passed. Their role isn't to "support" the Council, they exist as independent body whose role is to serve as another source of community input. I.e. they're volunteers who provide additional input and advice, they're not just mouthpieces and rubber stampers for the Council.


8 people like this
Posted by resident 1
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Aug 14, 2015 at 11:39 am

I agree with Guy Fawkes. We already know that people want to influence how the city is run but there has to be clearly defined roles and a clearly defined chain of command. Who reports to who - who is in charge here. Not commissioners. We did not vote on them and they are not employees of the city.

We do thank them for the time they volunteer as they are very knowledgeable
and can provide good advice. But they do not create policy.






16 people like this
Posted by Sunshine
a resident of Barron Park
on Aug 14, 2015 at 6:51 pm

Where has my beautiful and charming city gone? At one time there were six movie theaters and several used plus several new bookstores in Palo Alto. Most are gone. Only 2 movie theaters and no bookstores of any kind remain. Where are the delis and other small food shops and restaurants? All replaced by chain stores.
What have replaced the interesting local stores? Office a and chain restaurants.
The beautiful older buildings replaced with concrete blocks that have no green space. The concrete starts at the edge of the sidewalk and goes straight up with no relief in the concrete wall. Why are there no windows along main streets? No windows that allow pedestrians to look into the store--this is how to encourage foot traffic. Concrete walls do not.
The Planning and Transportation Commission needs to be replaced with actual residents who do not have a vested interest in more developments.
Pay attention to the residents and honor the resident's choice for new art and fountains. Do not give into someone who has a friend with some schlock art to dump on Palo Alto residents.


5 people like this
Posted by Agenda
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 14, 2015 at 7:13 pm

Sunshine-- times change. People change and cities change.
Just a few fact checks-- thee are 3 theaters in palo,alto-- Stanford, Aquarius and Palo Alto square. Same three that were here 20+ years ago when I moved her. So you must be talking about way way in the past.
Bells books is still I business. But the bookstore thing is not a palo,alto phenomenon in any way. There are plenty restaurants that are not chain stores. IMHO the restaurant scene in Palo Alto is much better now than it was when I moved here.
And what is this fixation with " mom and pop" stores????


8 people like this
Posted by resident 1
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Aug 15, 2015 at 12:00 pm

The city has two new deputy city managers. The one from San Jose who understands big city issues in Silicon Valley. Not sure about the one from Napa which has an agricultural base for business.

I would like to see a description in the Weekly that states who is responsible for what - who report to who - and where commissioners fit into that mix. We now have a lot of horsepower paid to run the city so please transfer the authority to the paid managers - who are willing to take advise from the commissioners for topic specific situations which require specific expertise.


3 people like this
Posted by Kazu
a resident of Downtown North
on Aug 15, 2015 at 4:33 pm

@Sunshine wrote:

"At one time there were six movie theaters and several used plus several new bookstores in Palo Alto. Most are gone. Only 2 movie theaters and no bookstores of any kind remain."

Hey, wait a minute! Bell's Books is still here, one of the gems of downtown Palo Alto. May it stay there for a long time to come. They have tons of used books, but also an extremely well curated selection of new books.


5 people like this
Posted by resident 1
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Aug 16, 2015 at 8:34 am

Interesting to see the word ABAG pop up - a couple of years ago we were being driven crazy by the ABAG people. It is interesting that drought somehow modifies the grow, grow, grow philosophy. Also the increase in crime as density increases. Lack of forward movement on transportation - always a rallying cry but the infrastructure is aging. Density does not make it better - it tends to tear down the infrastructure quicker.

I believe that ABAG is driven by the Transportation people first, developers filling the gaps.

Notice the advertisement for homes in the wooded areas which are now parched and prone to fire. Suddenly those homes do not look so good.

Notice the arguments about land use - land needs infrastructure to be useful - unless it is allocated to a green belt. The state and the city do not have money to pay for infrastructure - they have to just address those obvious issues which will cost more if not fixed - like the bridges over the creek.

Your favorite tech people are spreading out their efforts to Southern California and points in between. Southern California is now getting more rain than Northern California. San Francisco is getting panned for it's filthy streets - not such a great tourist spot anymore. It cannot keep up with the rising tide of homeless people that come because they offered up benefits to being there.

It only takes a couple of major situations beyond the city's control to change up how to proceed.

Density is not going to solve any of these problems - it is going to increase the problems. You cannot throw more money at these situations. You cannot throw more people at these situations.

I recommend that you finish the in-process efforts and let the surrounding issues like transportation and housing settle until this general area of northern California can sort itself out.



14 people like this
Posted by mauricio
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Aug 16, 2015 at 10:38 am

mauricio is a registered user.

As San Francisco increased it density, housing prices shot up and low and middle income residents forced out. Just like resident 1 pointed out, as density increased, so have crime, unsafe and filthy streets. Livability and quality of life have decreased. Increase in density has numerous downfalls. Northern California is now the driest area in the entire non-desert California, and it's very likely we are facing years of drought. Southern California experiences flash flooding while we in the North don't see even a drop of percipitation. Adding more people to the Bay area is astonishingly foolhardy, and further decrease of our quality of life through such hubris is disastrous and beyond dumb.


1 person likes this
Posted by Anneke
a resident of Professorville
on Aug 17, 2015 at 7:32 am

Time Out for every party in order to calm down, review the present situation without rush, and make wise decisions for the future.

If Time Out works for children, it will also work for adults.


Posted by Name hidden
a resident of Palo Alto Hills

on Aug 17, 2015 at 7:47 am

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


2 people like this
Posted by resident 1
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Aug 17, 2015 at 10:13 am

Any time-out needs the Weekly to lay out the city structure that indicates what each department is responsible for, and how the commissions fit into the city structure. Right now we have commission members who appear unclear on their mission in the city. We also have residents who are unclear on what their mission in the city is. Possibly PACC members who are unclear on what their mission is.

First lay out what the current status quo is;

How does the status quo fit into the current management structure of the city - which has expanded it's role;

The city management is changing, the PACC members have changed - then the status and authority of the commissioners needs to be updated to reflect the changes in the city structure.

We are not hostage to a groups of people who donate their time - thank you very much - but somehow translate that as establishing policy for the city.

Any policy costs money to implement and city management needs to be able to have input on the budget impacts of policy implementation.


10 people like this
Posted by Sunshine
a resident of Barron Park
on Aug 17, 2015 at 2:47 pm

We should stop all developments that have not broken ground yet as of yesterday.
Then Palo Alto needs to replace the current "developer friendly" Commission with a new group of people who are representative of all neighborhoods and all walks of life in the City. There should be no developers or architects on the commission. The City needs to hear from and pay attention to those who will be most impacted by each development, not just from those who live elsewhere and just want an opportunity to make money.
Then each project should be individually reviewed and all Palo Alto residents should be allowed to comment, comments should be read and collated favorable versus unfavorable by residents.

All developments should conform to all current zoning. There should be no up-zoning to allow more units or a larger building than in the current zoning. Furthermore, no developer should be allowed to avoid providing full size parking spots sufficient to cover all needs of the project. Each new development should provide at least 8 feet of green-space around the building.


4 people like this
Posted by Sunshine
a resident of Barron Park
on Aug 17, 2015 at 2:52 pm

Kazu wrote that we still have BEll's books.
Yes we do. It is the only bookstore. I have often found Bell's to be high priced. We have lost all the lower cost used bookstores--there were several. One of them also sold used phonographic records. It was in an old house just off University Ave. Know Knew is now in Mt View.


2 people like this
Posted by Sunshine
a resident of Barron Park
on Aug 17, 2015 at 2:55 pm

Agenda missed the Fine Arts on California Ave, the Bijou downtown, the Varsity and a few other small ones. The Stanford theater is now beautiful, but it shows only old movies, some better than others.


6 people like this
Posted by Curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on Aug 17, 2015 at 3:00 pm

Everybody please keep in mind that the PTC has a license to bloviate, but no authority. It is totally superfluous in city governance.


11 people like this
Posted by clueless and broken
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 17, 2015 at 5:40 pm

Even the beautiful exterior tile work at Stacey's Bookstore, a unique architectural feature which initially survived the closure of the bookstore itself, and gave character and continuity to University Ave, was later ripped out for the ugly corporate prototype Verizon store, right next to the historic Stanford Theatre. Approved by a clueless ARB in a broken
government. This is symbolic of all that has happened here in Palo Alto and all that was coming.






2 people like this
Posted by jaa
a resident of University South
on Aug 18, 2015 at 3:09 am

Stacey's Bookstore! Party! Great memories. Never forget. I have some of my favorite authors from Stacey's and beautifully illustrated books with prices of 0.45 and 0.95 cents still stamped on them. I wish a movie theatre on University would open that could play classic movies and sci-fi from the 60's and 70's and the 80's. Just think of all the great movies from those decades, would be nice to see on the big screen, again.


2 people like this
Posted by resident 1
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Aug 18, 2015 at 7:07 am

Shoreline Theatre in Mountain View has series of older movies that have been
cleaned up for modern projection. These are periodic so check in with them.
They have the lounge seats so very cushy movie going.


4 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 19, 2015 at 8:40 am

In @PTC's idea of the PTC:

"Their role isn't to "support" the Council, they exist as independent body ..."

Really? Who elected them? If @PTC's view is shared by the actual PTC, ie that they're a new unaccountable-to-anybody branch of government, then that's the biggest reason yet they need to go.


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

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