News

Editorial: Fairness for whom?

Council votes to cap development but undermines its 'beauty contest' strategy

On the narrowest of votes, a divided Palo Alto City Council Monday night upended a plan to have new development proposals compete with each other for a portion of the available 50,000 square feet under a growth limit for new commercial buildings, opting on a 5-4 vote to instead put four already-submitted projects above all others.

The last-minute amendment to the temporary cap on development, proposed by Councilman Greg Scharff and supported by colleagues Marc Berman, Eric Filseth, Liz Kniss and Cory Wolbach, torpedoed the original concept that current projects would given preference in an approval process that would also include new projects submitted between now and March.

The difference may seem subtle, but it is fundamental to the entire concept of projects competing for approval based on their design and other factors. Filseth found himself as the deciding swing vote, disappointing those who assumed he would align with his colleagues who voted against the weakening of the plan.

The action means that four projects already in the pipeline totaling 67,000 square feet will now more than wipe out the first year's allotment of 50,000 new square feet of development, rendering the concept of a competition moot until the second year.

Scharff and the majority said it would be unfair to force developers who have already spent large amounts of money on development plans to possibly get beaten out by new submittals that are found by a majority of the council to be more appealing or beneficial to the community.

Filseth, a slow-growth proponent whose victory last November helped swing the council majority, called it a reasonable compromise that rewards those developers who are further along and have invested the most in their projects.

How to treat so-called pipeline projects that were deemed "submitted" before the council's first approved the outlines of the development cap in June was expected to be a delicate and controversial decision, but Filseth's vote left his natural allies on the council and some of his own supporters baffled.

It is but another sign of the challenges a divided council faces in reading community sentiment and determining how aggressive to be in seizing some control over new commercial development. At least for this first year, no consideration will be given to a project's use, traffic impacts or design. If it is one of the four projects whose application has been deemed complete, after Monday's vote it's almost guaranteed to be approved.

The four projects include two by Jay Paul Company on Park Boulevard just south of California Avenue, both of which were discussed as possible sites for a public safety building. One, at 3045 Park, was the site where the developer offered to build a public safety building for free if the council allowed it to build a large office building across the street that had already been completely built out to the limits of the zoning. The other, at 2747 Park, was the land to which the city held an option until it gave it up during the Great Recession. Each of the pending projects will be approximately 30,000 square foot office buildings. The other projects that also now go to the front of the line are a building replacing the Foot Locker on El Camino and one at the corner of Lytton and Kipling in downtown. All are offices, though some include small numbers of residential units.

Imposing a 50,000 square foot aggregate annual growth cap in downtown, along El Camino and in the California Ave. district was a blunt instrument from the start and drew predictable opposition from development interests, the Chamber of Commerce and some local companies warning it could harm their growth plans.

It was adopted as an alternative to either a moratorium or a tightening of specific zoning regulations that would constrict development. After much debate, the council opted instead for an untested beauty-contest approach to evaluating proposals as a way to dole out the available 50,000 square feet of development rights.

The council has been wrestling with the issue for months, culminating in Monday's vote.

Lest anyone think there will be a noticeable change in building activity in the three affected districts, there are many projects under construction or already approved that will add substantial new commercial square footage and that aren't affected by the newly approved cap.

While four projects yet to receive permits came out winners this week, the losers are projects at an earlier phase in the process that now have no chance of being approved, no matter their quality or benefits, until the second year of the program.

The council majority's abandonment of the competitive process for the first year is a mistake and fundamentally changes the decision-making scheme in the name of fairness to a few developers. That's not our idea of a fair system for the community.

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Comments

37 people like this
Posted by Cough cough
a resident of Barron Park
on Sep 25, 2015 at 10:03 am

Just a thought. Facebook pulled out of Palo Alto and we survived just fine. Zuckerberg, Meyer, Jobs, lots of folk choose to live here for the quality of life, though they get the benefit of the amenities in their side of town that people on the other often pay just as much per square foot, mostly, to pay for. Why do we need more building! We really don't. I don't go to Unicpcersity anymore unless I have to. Wish they had let us in peace on the South side of town.


97 people like this
Posted by Thanks Weekly!
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Sep 25, 2015 at 10:31 am

Told you so about Filseth. The determination to endorse a full slate even when there aren't a full slate of deserving candidates once again serves the community poorly. Get ready for Mayor Eric. Obvy a deal was struck.


18 people like this
Posted by And the result is?
a resident of University South
on Sep 25, 2015 at 10:44 am

So at this point, all the effort spent over the last year to make a cap will result in what? Would that effort have been better spent addressing today's traffic or parking problems directly, instead of a cap that may help problems that might have been caused by new office buildings five years from now?

The new buildings are a tiny fraction of all the office space in Palo Alto, and an even smaller fraction of all the commercial space (including uses like restaurants and retail) that generates commuters. There are a lot of options to tackle today's problem, which is traffic and parking issues from existing buildings. Is there any chance the City Council will now focus on those, or will it declare victory and move on without addressing the problems residents have today?


13 people like this
Posted by Crescent Park Dad
a resident of Crescent Park
on Sep 25, 2015 at 12:00 pm

Actually, I agree with the decision and I want a slow down.

This falls under "changing the rules of the game, after the game has started" or to use another football analogy, "moving the goal line after play has started".

If the plans were in the works and approved, they should be grandfathered.


16 people like this
Posted by Sad mama
a resident of Crescent Park
on Sep 25, 2015 at 12:36 pm

I am for no growth but agree with Filseth. I think council should realize that we are open to lawsuits from the four developers if process for them is changed now. I do think these projects should NOT total over 50,000 square feet. Pro rate the overage and deduct from what is allowed to each development.


104 people like this
Posted by Please Leave
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 25, 2015 at 1:03 pm

For a short time, things were great after Facebook left: traffic was better, especially on Alma, Oregon, and Cal Ave. But not for long, as other big developments swooped down on Palo Alto, followed by smaller developments expanding.

Now the traffic situation is unbearable and the daytime population is outrageous. The infrastructure can't support all these people, there is no room for expansion due to natural boundaries, and the quality of life for the residents is going downhill fast.

Personally, we would love to leave, but two big things keep us here: we all work nearby, and have for years; and the tax changes of 1996 make it impossible to buy the larger house we need elsewhere ( basically, we will lose a lot of money to capital gains). At our age, we want to either buy a house cash or have a very small mortgage.

So, we are trapped in this once-clean and lovely city that is now a smoggy, noisy, crowded miserable place. We have no desire to be landlords, either, though it may come to that.

Thanks for nothing, city leaders.


14 people like this
Posted by Boot Out the Politicians
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Sep 25, 2015 at 2:15 pm

[Post removed.]


12 people like this
Posted by Crooks
a resident of Community Center
on Sep 25, 2015 at 2:24 pm

[Post removed.]


75 people like this
Posted by Boot out the politicians
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Sep 25, 2015 at 4:02 pm

I will remember not to vote to re-elect Filseth. I ran into Filseth one day when he was running for office. I asked him if he was going to be a typical politician and change his position after he got elected. Yup, he did. I have watched him slowly become a non residentialist as time has passed. A typical politician.
I am in same position as "Please Leave", above. I have so many friends that are so unhappy with what Palo Alto has become. We all toy with cashing out and selling our houses to foreign investors.


10 people like this
Posted by Jane
a resident of College Terrace
on Sep 25, 2015 at 4:55 pm

At the first council meeting discussing the problem of what to do about the development applications that had already been submitted and were at various stages of the application process. Greg Scharff very strongly advocated for one of the proposed buildings on Park Avenue that he said he was familiar with. Listening to his strong stance urging the council to allow that project to go forward left me wondering in what capacity he was familiar with it? Professionally? As a friend? Greg Scharff is a real estate attorney and his professional website I read last year stated he particularly welcomes commercial real estate transactions.

When the cap was first discussed by council some members were sympathetic to developers whose applications were quite far down the road toward obtaining Planning Department approval and had already incurred considerable expense. These four applications made the cut off and were allowed to continue.

This year there will be tens of thousands of commercial development breaking ground in addition to the 67,000 sq ft discussed in the editorial.


7 people like this
Posted by Jane
a resident of College Terrace
on Sep 25, 2015 at 5:00 pm

continued...

This is because all the development applications that had ALREADY been approved by the Planning Department and had already received permits to break ground were exempted from the new cap. There will be tens of thousands of sq ft of commercial building going up this year in addition to the 67,000 sq ft discussed in the editorial.


24 people like this
Posted by Abitarian
a resident of Downtown North
on Sep 25, 2015 at 5:13 pm

The Weekly is misleading readers by referring to the competitive process as a "beauty" contest.

While aesthetics are part of the judgment criteria, so are public benefits, environmental impact, traffic and parking considerations, etc.

The rating system is intended to assure high quality throughout the project, not just a pleasing exterior. It is a "quality" contest, not a "beauty" contest.


7 people like this
Posted by Renter
a resident of University South
on Sep 25, 2015 at 6:39 pm

Please Leave and Boot Out the Politicians - there are many renters who want the opportunity to buy in Palo Alto as our rents have gone up so much. If you want to leave, please sell it to someone who is trying hard to raise their families here and loves the liveliness that Palo Alto now has!


111 people like this
Posted by Rainer
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Sep 25, 2015 at 7:34 pm

Re: Unfair to Developers. Really?
Here is what blows my mind, besides the question of fair to whom:
Considering the terrible traffic situation on Park-Blvd-East, to encourage developers to go ahead with more office buildings on traffic logged Park Blvd.
The City has planned itself into a corner (sic!) with reckless approval of buildings along Park Blvd. and surroundings. But the Planning Department hides the true state of traffic affairs; everything is “less than significant”. We will see on one a little example later on how the hiding is being done.
First deal with “fair to developers”: It is very disappointing that Councilor Filseth fell for the old trick again: Poor Jay Paul Co. has spent already $600,000 on plans.
I thought Councilor Filseth had learned from the disaster with 3864 Corina Way, an approval which was really unfair, but to the neighbors. Since the Courts Web Link have for some years now taken the side of the residents’ observations over the Planning Bureaucracy fiats, that is probably what one as to do: the Courts! Residents, unite! Follow the example of the Edgewood residents!
My take on it: The applicants have wasted so much time, and spent so much money, because they are trying to circumvent the City Zoning ordinances as much as they can get away with. If they had stayed within zoning, they already could be building. I do not think they should get special consideration.
What about “unfair to residents” who live along or near Park Blvd as Terry Holzemer pointed out? Much of the cross traffic and turns for cars, bicycles and pedestrians in the AM and PM Peak-hours have waits of minutes already. Following the National Academy of Science 5th Edition Highway Capacity Manual Web Link their separate LOS CLOS, BLOS, and PLOS all have to be classified as F.
For approval of 2555 Park Blvd. once again the Palo Alto Planning Department convinced the City Council to disregard the residents’ numerous (more than 20) written observations and to believe the applicant’s consultants and their report, shown to be full of half-truths and lies. Actually when the Historic Resource Consultants were honest and did not deliver the goods, the City Council’s Historic Resource Board was bullied into submission.
We know through the work of Nielson Buchanan that there are no reliable parking data except those collected by residents. Same is true for number of trips data from a building. Same is true for the true LOS of an intersection, at least on Park Blvd.
We already have mortgaged the future traffic balance sheet on Park by adding to the present 600 PM Peak-hour cars with additional 200 PM Peak-hour car trips from 2555 and 2865 Park B. Plus 270 bicycle trips nowhere accounted for. And the future inhabitants of 265 Birch and 385 Sherman with their 180 trips, where do they get in and out of the 4 block street-fortress east of California Avenue?
So until the City Council gets the Planning Department to be honest, I am for a moratorium.
This is what needs to be reformed: In applications for building permits, in particular if an EIR is required, the applicant hires a Traffic Consultant (who regards the applicant as his client) who will produce a report (the Traffic Impact Analysis – TIA) which will show that there is really no impact. There was never any impact to be worth considering, 44 times, see e.g. Ken Alsman in [ Web Link p31 ]:
In the Traffic Impact Analysis for 2555 Park Blvd, there was one number (in Table 1, if you want to look) which immediately caught the interest of many residents: 28 parked cars (in the existing 8500sqft building) in the 1-hour PM peak time produced 88 trips. Wow! That’s good! I wonder if we can use this to make green energy! How did they do that?
The good citizen residents of Palo Alto Central dutifully pointed out several times in writing and verbally to various City bodies that this was not quite possible; even so it admittedly reduced “new” trips. But actual real waiting times do not count for the experts in the Planning Department. Low “New” trips, on paper, by additional cars count! Ask VW (and virtually any other car manufacturer it turns out) how to reduce what is measured from the exhaust pipe: Software, about 20 Million lines of it in that case!
The Applicant’s traffic consultant only used one line of software. The Planning Department was pointed into the direction of this one line numerous times.
In a genial switcheroo, dancing between cars and sq.ft, with an equation out of “Garbage in, Garbage out” land which related sq.ft. to trips, disregarding the physically existing cars, the Senior Planner, the Planning Director, and in the end the City Manager steadfastly gave the same answer:
In the PM Peak-hour, the project is expected to generate a total of 106 trips [24,5000sqft], with “88 of those trips being attributed to the existing building [8,500sqft]”. Web Link, p26
Hurrah, there are only 18 new trips, a 20% increase. Duck soup! Approve!
But isn’t this really a miracle? The number of cars using little 120ftx27ft Grant Ave (the stub) increase from 10 to 92, an increase of 920%, and the number of trips only increases by 20%.
Now, the software line used was [ see Web Link pp16-19 ]
Trip=1.12 (sqft/1000) + 78.45
To wit, what does your High School arithmetic see?
78 of those 88 trips which are being attributed to the existing building are attributed to a building with zero square footage?
That means this equation is utter nonsense, at least for a building smaller than a few 1 Million square feet. Ethically, what do you call this?
We have to assume that the Senior Planner and the Planning Director do not lie. But if that is true, they do not master the simplest form of arithmetic. Or they lack planning common sense. That means they are technically illiterate, which is bad for their job and the City.


34 people like this
Posted by Boot out the politicians
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Sep 25, 2015 at 8:18 pm

Renter, If you can't afford the rents in Palo Alto than you certainly can't afford to buy a home in PA. The cheapest house in PA is approaching $2M. Astounding.


Like this comment
Posted by Eh?
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 25, 2015 at 9:50 pm

[Post removed.]


25 people like this
Posted by downzone first
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 25, 2015 at 10:51 pm

@Rainer
For the Planning Dept everything is "less than significant impact". No,sometimes it's "no impact". In this exercise divorced from all reality there are no cumulative impacts from multiple projects. So on and on it goes as the City is destroyed. The City's timid response, an anuual development cap of 50,000 sq ft at this juncture is to regulate the pace of destruction without a prior down-zoning to reduce FAR's. So all projects
which do not have a building permit should be subject to a moratorium
pending completion of the down-zoning. The pipeline is only those projects with building permits.


Like this comment
Posted by Eh?
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 25, 2015 at 11:57 pm

[Post removed.]


9 people like this
Posted by mauricio
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Sep 26, 2015 at 11:52 am

mauricio is a registered user.

Fliseth is now slightly less pro development than Wallach, but only marginally. It seems quite certain that he will join the hard core pro development block of Greg Scharff, Marc Berman, Liz Kniss and Cory Wolbach soon. What a betrayal .


59 people like this
Posted by Please Leave
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 26, 2015 at 4:04 pm

@Renter: If I sell, the chances of anyone being able to buy it, who isn't from China, are not good. We actually had it for sale two years ago, before we realized that no one with US citizenship who wanted it could qualify for the mortgage loan. We had many, many offers, and we did not want to sell to non-citizens. What citizens could afford to pay, we could not afford to sell it for, and after paying capital gains, could not afford to buy ANYTHING else--and we need a bigger house on a larger lot ( ours is a somewhat small house on a very small lot).

What we may do, if we can't stand the smog and asthma attacks resulting from it any longer, is rent it out and let that make the new payments on a house in a cleaner community. But, having been landlords before, we don't relish it again.

BTW, "Please Leave" refers to our wish for Google, SAP, Palantir, etc.


34 people like this
Posted by mauricio
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Sep 27, 2015 at 9:18 am

mauricio is a registered user.

I'm in a fairly similar situation as Please Leave. I've been so disgusted with how crowded, noisy, rude, polluted and urbanized Palo Alto has become that I have wanted to sell my house for years now and move to Mill Valley. I have been offered millions of dollars by local agents for families in mainland China. I have steadily refused to sell to buyers from China. I have nothing against Chinese people, but it is very wrong that only one ethnic group from one country can afford to buy and live in Palo Alto and price everybody else out. I would have the same position if only Swedes, Brits, French or Israelis could buy houses here. I would happily sell to a young non Chinese family, hopefully Hispanic, African-American or of any other ethnicity or racial make up, but none seem to be able to pay anything close to my discounted, in Palo Alto standards, sell price.

Yes, we would all be better off if planter, Google, SAP and their likes left this area. The pro development crowd keeps promising a Detroit like future for Palo Alto if we don't urbanized further and build many high rise housing to satisfy those desiring to live in Palo Alto. Nonsense. Palo Alto was an upper middle class, affluent town before Silicon Valley was even created. it was affluent because the residents were highly educated and earned highly livable salaries as attorneys, doctors, college professors, economists, scientists, financial advisors, etc. That was coupled with natural beauty, tranquility and enviable quality of life. We can get back to it once we admit that a small town can't become the industrial and office center of the Peninsula and that our greatest asset is our chosen quality of life. Palo Alto should not be a haven for money fleeing out of China and Russia and it shouldn't be a town where crowds come to rub shoulders with billionaires.


1 person likes this
Posted by Obet
a resident of College Terrace
on Sep 27, 2015 at 10:28 am

Do people understand what will happen to the city if all the companies mentioned above leave without any replacement


33 people like this
Posted by mauricio
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Sep 27, 2015 at 12:08 pm

mauricio is a registered user.

"Do people understand what will happen to the city if all the companies mentioned above leave without any replacement"

Only good things. They only diminish Palo Alto's livability and act in typical corporate irresponsibility by muscling in new employees who have no housing into the hottest and most expensive real estate market in the nation which has no available housing for them. The pressure on our infrastructure, environment schools would ease. We would be able to become again the leafy, tranquil college town we used to be. Small local retail may be able to return and survive. Housing prices will come down and young families from various ethnicities and backgrounds may have a chance to buy houses here. Just it used to be before the Valley poisoned this town. I can't wait.


2 people like this
Posted by Kazu
a resident of Downtown North
on Sep 27, 2015 at 12:36 pm

It looks like the ill-considered "residentialist" movement has run its course. In reality, it was both stillborn and poorly planned.

"I've been so disgusted with how crowded, noisy, rude, polluted and urbanized Palo Alto has become"

It is scarcely more urbanized than it was in the 1960s, and far less polluted. The Clean Air Act of 1970 markedly reduced air pollution throughout the Bay Area. As for noisy and rude.... ;-) Another reason the Palo Alto of 45 years ago is never coming back.

"I would happily sell to a young non Chinese family, hopefully Hispanic, African-American or of any other ethnicity or racial make up, but none seem to be able to pay anything close to my discounted, in Palo Alto standards, sell price."

Isn't that kind of racial discrimination illegal? At the very least, it is anti-Palo Alto and no different than homophobia or religious discrimination. Willingness to also discriminate against Swedes, Brits, French or Israelis under the right conditions makes it worse, not better. You might as well propose that all non-California native residents be given the boot. Although a few pockets of revanchism still exist locally, they are being swept away in a tide of openness, acceptance and rational thought.


Like this comment
Posted by Kazu
a resident of Downtown North
on Sep 27, 2015 at 12:44 pm

"Do people understand what will happen to the city if all the companies mentioned above leave without any replacement"

@Obet, given the response, I would say apparently not.


6 people like this
Posted by Renter
a resident of University South
on Sep 27, 2015 at 12:52 pm

Please Leave and Mauricio - A lot of us work at tech companies! I don't want to lose my job or move. It's great that the economy is good. I just want to see more homes built around here.

And Palo Alto wasn't a quiet college town when I went to Stanford 20 years ago. It's been a hub of innovation for a generation - you can't turn back the clock.


31 people like this
Posted by mauricio
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Sep 27, 2015 at 2:22 pm

mauricio is a registered user.

@Kazu, really? So there is no racism and discrimination in the reality that only Chinese buyers from China are able to buy and move into Palo Alto to the exclusion of others, pricing everybody out in the process, but it's racist and discriminating to want to give other ethnicities an opportunity buy and livehere? This is an upside-down world attitude in my opinion.

@Renter, the last thing we need is more homes here. Palo Alto is already far too dense. More homes will not solve the housing deficit, they will be snatched up by foreign wealthy buyers, drive housing prices further up, make it even harder for to buy here, except for the same buyers who keep sending housing costs to dizzying heights, and will just bring in more traffic, which the infrastructure can't support, more noise, more pollution, more urban blight. Oakland, San Jose and San Francisco are perfect for those who like density and city life, and they are nearby. BTW, Palo Alto was innovative many decades ago, because the innovation came out of Stanford. Innovation is unrelated to high density, air pollution, heavy traffic and astronomical housing prices.


2 people like this
Posted by Renter
a resident of University South
on Sep 27, 2015 at 2:44 pm

Well, it's not all wealthy Chinese buyers. This week's sales in Palo Alto reported by the Weekly went to people with last names of Veluvall, Henzel, Yen, Tindall, Gaspari, etc, as well as some with Chinese names.

In any event, if you want to move and sell your home, you have options other than overseas buyers!


21 people like this
Posted by mauricio
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Sep 27, 2015 at 6:28 pm

mauricio is a registered user.

There's nothing I'd like more than to sell my house and move to either Mill Valley or the Sonoma coast, but I will sell my house, at about 3-3.5 million dollars less than what I could get today from a Chinese buyer, only to an African-American or Hispanic family. So far, sadly, not even one could afford my discounted offer. I may end up renting out my house at far below the going rate to an African-American or Hispanic family, this is something I am seriously considering right now, depending on current house prices in Mill Valley and the Sonoma coast.


Like this comment
Posted by cash offers
a resident of Barron Park
on Sep 28, 2015 at 12:03 am

I'm confused. My understanding was that all-cash offers were typically lower than those that required financing but were preferred by some sellers as they were considered less risky.


31 people like this
Posted by Eh?
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 28, 2015 at 12:17 am

@cash offers:

A seller typically sells to the "best offer," which is highly subjective. The "best offer" is a combination of price and terms. Lower, all-cash offers are not automatically accepted rather than financed, higher offers because it depends on all factors of the offers, and definitely the preferences of the seller. A seller with a sought-after property may prioritize price even at the risk of the deal falling through because of financing because he/she knows there are multiple other buyers in the pipeline and he/she has time to sell. On the other hand, a seller may be extremely pressed for time and want the quickest sale, even if not the highest bidder, and so select the all-cash deal. And some sellers simply want to sell to a certain demographic, like a young family, and may take a lower offer of a young family over a higher priced offer from someone who plans to rent out the home to multiple students.

Every situation is different.


53 people like this
Posted by @Obet
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 28, 2015 at 9:45 am

If the tech companies leave, it would be wonderful. It was so much better before FB moved in, and when they left, everything Im proved in terms of traffic. It was like night and day. Then others came in to fill FB's place and more, and things are worse than ever.

The smog, traffic, non-stop trains, crowds, crime, etc have made PA unlivable five days a week. The residents were here first. Before all the tech development, this was a much better place to live. If the tech companies leave, the schools will still be good, and people will move here for that.

There has always been plenty of money in Palo Alto, even before these businesses moved in. Nothing went to pieces when FB left, nothing was in bad shape before the others moved in. So far they have caused more harm than good. They have caused too much noise, pollution, crowding, overuse of resources, traffic, frustration, etc.

Let tech and businesses go where there is room for development, and the costs are less--and where the employees don't have to commute, but can afford to live where they work.


1 person likes this
Posted by Kazu
a resident of Downtown North
on Sep 28, 2015 at 1:03 pm

"@Kazu, really? So there is no racism and discrimination in the reality that only Chinese buyers from China are able to buy and move into Palo Alto to the exclusion of others, pricing everybody out in the process, but it's racist and discriminating to want to give other ethnicities an opportunity buy and livehere? This is an upside-down world attitude in my opinion."

@mauricio, that is being more than a little melodramatic. Anybody with the funds and willingness to spend can buy in Palo Alto. Claiming that only Chinese can move to our city is a very biased straw man. Trying to use that fallacy to justify discrimination only makes it that much worse. Hatred turns the world upside down, not ethnic groups targeted by wannabe crusaders. Attitudes straight out of the trailer park are a poor fit for a city of educated and supposedly enlightened folk.

"@Renter, the last thing we need is more homes here. Palo Alto is already far too dense."

That is probably what some people said when your home was built (and mine). No, it is not dense enough in certain areas. Haven't you ever heard of urban planning? Density is the solution, not the problem. Unless, of course, you think the one and two story neighborhoods should be invaded by a bunch of 50 foot buildings.

"More homes will not solve the housing deficit"

Because, as we all know, the fix for shortages is to restrict supply... More houses and apartments are the only way to to moderate the acute housing shortage and stratospheric prices. Fantasy solutions and waving a magic want are not. That telling people to leave and pretending that will set things right is ample proof. Hasn't fixed anything, has it? The world's population, including the Bay Area's, increased dramatically over the last 40 years. It will continue to do so, which is why Palo Alto will change and evolve like it or not.

"Innovation is unrelated to high density, air pollution, heavy traffic and astronomical housing prices."

Telling people not to move to our town is hardly innovation. If you are looking for innovation, try reading Arcology - City in the Image of Man by Paolo Soleri.


7 people like this
Posted by Kazu
a resident of Downtown North
on Sep 28, 2015 at 1:06 pm

"If the tech companies leave, it would be wonderful."

Only for those who are retired or independently wealthy. For the rest of us working stiffs, the great majority, it would be very bad indeed.

[Portion removed.]


21 people like this
Posted by downzone first
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 28, 2015 at 1:16 pm

The tragedy unfolding here is the destruction of the balance,the character and qualities which distinguished and set apart this unique, historic City,
which deteriorated into congested,unsafe streets, declining neighborhoods, ugliness and lax code enforcement,failed design review and zoning,loss of local business,lower quality of life,etc. In terms of what was at stake here and what is being lost, and this compared to the expectations in an educated, informed, and leading community,what we have seen here is local government failure at a level seldom seen which affects our whole sense of reality.


34 people like this
Posted by mauricio
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Sep 28, 2015 at 4:04 pm

mauricio is a registered user.

Palo Alto used to be a wonderful place with its own unique character and soul. Without Palo Alto's uniqueness, it is not Palo Alto anymore. Those who think more density and urbanization is the answer to the tragedy caused by corporate irresponsibility and aggression, like some posters above wrongly believe, are in essence calling for the destruction of Palo Alto, to be replaced by ugliness, tackiness, loss of livability and quality of life and the loss of a very unique town. Palo Alto shouldn't pay the price for corporate irresponsibility, insisting on moving into an incredibly expensive real estate market that can't offer housing to the employees who don't already have existing housing. nor should Palo Alto pay the price for population growth. There are areas in the country with lots of space and affordable housing. Some of those areas desperately need economic revitalization, having the local economies decimated by corporations who shipped the local jobs to third world countries. Those areas are where some of the local companies need to relocate to. More density, especially for a place with small town infrastructure that can't be sufficiently enlarged is a recipe for an irreversible disaster.

When I bought my house in Palo Alto 30 years ago. I didn't ask for more density and didn't ask the residents to suffer quality of life reduction in order to make it easier for me to buy in. If one can't afford to buy in, or the inventory is too small, one should look to buy elsewhere, not force the residents to change their chosen life style and quality of life.


8 people like this
Posted by Me
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Sep 29, 2015 at 7:04 am

[Post removed.]


27 people like this
Posted by @Me
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 29, 2015 at 8:27 am

[Post removed.]


36 people like this
Posted by Eh?
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 29, 2015 at 9:14 am

I agree Wolbach and Scharff never should have been elected and they ran campaigns that were not aligned with their true colors, but I disagree about Filseth. Filseth is intelligent and fair, and votes with a reasoned, unemotional agenda. The cap is in place, so which developers get preference is irrelevant to the residents, it's still a 50k cap. Giving preference to the projects that are farthest down the path seems reasonable, and just might save the city a lawsuit from angry developers with deep pockets who (perhaps rightfully) believe the city changed the rules way to late in their process.

I don't know any of the council members personally, nor do I have any ties to any developers. I am a strong proponent of no-growth, but I do recognize a need to be smart about how we turn the tide of over-development in this city. Bashing good council members because they didn't vote the way you think they should have on one issue isn't going to bring us the Palo Alto we want.

Be patient. Support Filseth and work on replacing Wolbach, Scharff, and Berman ASAP.


21 people like this
Posted by Me
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Sep 29, 2015 at 9:21 am

So the question becomes how do we successfully vett these people at our CC?

The fact of the matter is intelligent people with real successful jobs can't seem to find the time to sit in this CC. So this leaves the unemployed to represent us. How do we encourage people from the first group to join?

I am guilty as well....


35 people like this
Posted by Eh?
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 29, 2015 at 9:34 am

Good question. I think overall we did a pretty good job last time, but I think the Weekly's endorsement of candidates swayed a lot of people who simply did not have any other information with which to vote.

The weekly endorsed Scharff and Wolbach, as well as Holman, Dubois, and Filseth, all of whom won. It would be nice if the local paper simply reported on the election instead of influencing it.

I was shocked that Scharff was re-elected given his track record on the council - that one was completely preventable.


4 people like this
Posted by Crescent Park Dad
a resident of Crescent Park
on Sep 29, 2015 at 10:29 am

So to draw a "closer to home" comparison: Let's say you own a single story home/property in Palo Alto. You hired an architect and an engineer to design a new 2-story home. Your plans follow all of the current rules for R1 construction. You submit your plans and pay your fees...it has taken 12-months to get to this point. 3-months later (now 15-months into the project), your project is approved by the CPA.

With everything approved, fees paid, professionals paid, you've hired a contractor and you're ready to go. Let's say you've invested $20K of your savings and tons of personal time into the project to-date. But before you start the construction phase of your project, the neighborhood votes for a 1-story overlay.

Should you be grandfathered or not?

If you agree that you should be grandfathered, why shouldn't the same principle be applied to the DTPA situation?


5 people like this
Posted by Follow the money
a resident of Crescent Park
on Sep 29, 2015 at 10:43 am

Poor analogy, CP dad. My nice house impacts my family and maybe my neighbors, though I will do the best to mitigate the affect on them. It does not increase traffic/gridlock, pollution, or the housing-jobs imbalance.

The local newspapers receive most of their advertising dollars from developers and real estate agencies. It's in their best interest to endorse the CC candidates who will ensure that newspaper advertisers continue to thrive.


6 people like this
Posted by Me
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Sep 29, 2015 at 11:12 am

[Portion removed.]

Ok.....maybe a bit too much for even calling it a newspaper.


7 people like this
Posted by mauricio
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Sep 29, 2015 at 11:30 am

mauricio is a registered user.

[Post removed.]


5 people like this
Posted by Me
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Sep 29, 2015 at 11:52 am

[Post removed.]


7 people like this
Posted by Abitarian
a resident of Downtown North
on Sep 29, 2015 at 4:28 pm

While I, too, am disappointed in Mr. Filseth's vote, I think it's way too soon to give up on him. He is only nine months into a four year term.

Let's not forget that a few weeks ago, only Mr. Filseth, along with Mr. DuBois and Mr. Scharff -- how's that for a shocker?! -- voted to completely eliminate PC Zoning while Mayor Holman, Mr. Schmid, and Mr. Burt voted to keep it, albeit on hold for the time being.

No politician is 100% pure.


25 people like this
Posted by mauricio
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Sep 29, 2015 at 4:44 pm

mauricio is a registered user.

Walbach has certainly lived a charmed life. The Weekly decided to enforce him when he ran, as a protege of developers ally Liz Kniss, for reasons I still can't figure out. We are told by the pro growth crowd that Palo Alto is such an important industrial and innovation center, that it absolutely must be urbanized and densified to death or the sky would fall, yet a local paper was pushing a twenty something kid [portion removed] who summed up his entire platform with "Let's be civil to each other", for a seat on the city council of this supposedly extremely important city.

Posts in Town Square calling Wallach out as in the 'Emperor has no cloths', were deleted. He won by a tiny margin, and he would have almost undoubtedly not been elected council member had the Weekly not backed him. I would really love to get an explanation from this paper as to why it endorsed this kid, because their endorsement didn't make any sense then, and makes absolutely no sense whatsoever now.


1 person likes this
Posted by Thanks Weekly!
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Sep 29, 2015 at 4:45 pm

[Post removed.]


2 people like this
Posted by Me
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Sep 29, 2015 at 5:27 pm

[Post removed.]


15 people like this
Posted by objective
a resident of College Terrace
on Sep 29, 2015 at 9:02 pm

I think it is an objective statement that Wolbach has been far more sympathetic to the interests of developers than voters were led to believe before the election. PAF (or which Wolbach is a member) advocates building more multi-unit housing in Palo Alto to address the jobs/housing imbalance. Wolbach's age and living situation are not relevant.


12 people like this
Posted by The Shadow Suspects
a resident of Mayfield
on Sep 30, 2015 at 4:56 pm

There might be more to Wolbach than meets the eye Web Link


Posted by Me
a resident of Adobe-Meadow

on Sep 30, 2015 at 5:34 pm


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