News

Editorial: Stop profiting from density

Palo Alto should not be making money from selling development rights

A Palo Alto commercial property owner will soon buy from the City of Palo Alto the right to build a new building that is 2,500 square feet larger than the zoning allows.

The price tag for this privilege, to be determined in a bidding process, could be as high as $300 per square foot, or $750,000.

Why is the city auctioning off these bonus development credits, making money from property owners anxious to build beyond the legal limits?

In a convoluted and irrational scheme, the city is using the sale to fund its promised $300,000 contribution toward the $4 million renovation of the city-owned "EcoCenter" in the Palo Alto Baylands, completed three years ago by the nonprofit Environmental Volunteers, which occupies the building under a long-term lease.

The city is taking advantage of a program that gives incentives to property owners who seismically retrofit their building or renovate an historic building. In this case, since the city is the property owner, it is using the 2,500 square feet in transferable development credits (TDRs) that a private owner would have received. A similar process was recently used by the city to raise money for the renovation of the dilapidated city-owned former Palo Alto Medical Foundation "Roth" building at 300 Homer Ave.

Three city council members, Tom DuBois, Eric Filseth and Greg Schmid, attempted to de-rail the EcoCenter TDR sale by proposing the city simply pay the $300,000 it owed to Environmental Volunteers out of the city's general fund rather than enable a new commercial building to exceed the zoning limits. Their proposal was defeated on a 5-3 vote, with Mayor Pat Burt, Marc Berman, Karen Holman, Greg Scharff and Cory Wolbach opposed and Liz Kniss absent.

Burt and Holman argued that the original 2007 agreement with Environmental Volunteers called for the TDR sale and that the current City Council should not change a prior council's action. We find that reasoning completely without merit. City councils alter the policies and actions of past councils all the time as circumstances and political attitudes change. This should have been an easy vote to end a practice that was never envisioned when the transfer of development rights program was established. The city has no business making money from selling bonus square footage to property owners. As DuBois, Filseth and Schmid have urged, this practice should be ended.

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Comments

36 people like this
Posted by Density can be good
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 22, 2016 at 9:36 am

Why lead with demonizing density? What if transferable development rights are used to create much needed housing? This could be a good thing. I would way rather have us making exceptions to build housing along our transit corridors, let alone the kind of density that is needed to pencil out affordable housing projects. Perhaps these TDRs are not for housing but couldn't we ask them to be?


69 people like this
Posted by Grumpy Old Guy
a resident of Palo Alto Orchards
on Jan 22, 2016 at 10:06 am

Bobby Kennedy once said, "If we got the votes,then what are we waiting for?"

Elected officials seeking to 'make their mark' often find they do not have the revenue to push through all of their projects for themselves and their constituents. They will never raise enough revenue through the traditional funding sources (property taxes kneecapped by Prop 13).

In response, elected officials seek side revenue through other legitimate sources - city fees, user fees, major stadiums,increasing sales tax revenues or "selling density".

By pushing for more commercial density/usage, cities increase their sales tax revenue (to the chagrin of its residents who bear the costs of congestion and suffer the wrath of ungrateful millennials who want more density so they can ride electric skateboards on the sidewalk). By allowing one time build projects (huge developments), elected officials get a windfall of tax revenue for several years to fund their special pet projects, make a mark for their next elected office. But the costs of those developments won't be truly realized until after several decades down the road with increased traffic, school costs, infrastructure. The mess is left to future generations of politicos and homeowners to deal with.

In conclusion, Palo Alto needs to vote for elected officials who are truly representative of the residential community and the best interests of the homeowners.


19 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of University South
on Jan 22, 2016 at 10:08 am

Glad to see some other residents getting on TS to say this! We need more density for housing. Commenters on TS complain that housing requires more infrastructure. Well, why not sell TDRs that can only be used for housing near transit, and use the money for infrastructure?

We're going to need more housing, and the reality is that denser housing has a shot at being affordable to the middle class. Every resident I talk to in the real world (not Town Square) agrees with this. Why not sell the right to build it instead of giving it away?


29 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of University South
on Jan 22, 2016 at 10:10 am

Grumpy Old Guy - how about looking after the best interests of _residents_, not just homeowners? 45% of Palo Alto residents are renters.


17 people like this
Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jan 22, 2016 at 10:25 am

$300 a square foot is an absolute steal since new construction in PA is routinely reported as $1,000 on up, the highest on the Peninsula.


30 people like this
Posted by TDRsNotEqualHousing
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Jan 22, 2016 at 11:07 am

This was a council discussion about how to honor a commitment made in to 2007 to pay $300K back to EV partners. Council last Monday agreed to pay EV over $500K (amount to be determined by actual sale of transferable development rights). The TDRs will likely be used for office space - they can only be used downtown in the commercial district - this was NOT a discussion of housing, housing posters should start a new thread.

There should have been a rational discussion on how to pay off a commitment to EV - not spurious arguments that council had NO discretion on how to do so. Burt was overbearing and imperious - creating specious arguments that council had no discretion and it was "bad governance" to consider alternatives - Orwellian oratory at best. if this is any indication on how he's going to manage council this year, we're in for a very long year of bad governance.


84 people like this
Posted by Renters Homeowners
a resident of Greater Miranda
on Jan 22, 2016 at 11:29 am

FWIW, I don't think that the interests of renters should be treated the same as the interests of homeowners. Folks who are transient cannot be expected to care as much about the culture of the city as folks who have a significant investment in it. I do know that some renters are committed to an area or a particular home, and care a lot. And some homeowners are absent, or simply don't care much. So of course it's a generalization. But as someone who rented for 30+ years, I never expected to weigh in on things that my homeowners did, who paid all the taxes, owned and maintained the property and relationships with neighbors, etc.

I also agree wholeheartedly with this editorial. And I would even if I were a renter. Because I like Palo Alto the way it is. It cannot handle more traffic, more noise, bigger schools, more density.


56 people like this
Posted by cur mudgeon
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Jan 22, 2016 at 11:46 am

Density, more of it! Yes, let's further screw up our city with traffic and over-subscribed parks, schools, and more.

I am so tired of our planning department and elected officials pandering to developers and ignoring zoning.


21 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 22, 2016 at 11:48 am

@Grumpy

>> By pushing for more commercial density/usage,
>> cities increase their sales tax revenue (to the chagrin
>> of its residents who bear the costs of congestion ...

Most of these office projects don't even produce that, since they're all service businesses or startups and pay little or no city taxes.


46 people like this
Posted by Jeff
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jan 22, 2016 at 12:06 pm

The credit is being used for additional commercial space. Housing will be less affordable. Traffic will increase. Parking will become worse. $300 per sf won't even pay for the otherwise needed parking.


50 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 22, 2016 at 12:30 pm

The infrastructure that will be required is many and varied. From schools, parks, roads, water supply, parking, public transit, as the most obvious, to entertainment, recreation, medical offices (dentists, etc.), supermarkets, and other service industries, we are stretched to the limit already.

It is easy to say build more infrastructure, but it is never that easy. Palo Alto is famous for taking much too long to do anything. Libraries, bridges, bike paths, etc. all take much longer than they should. On top of that PAUSD is a completely different entity and they don't work very well on hand in glove issues.

As it is, moving around town anywhere between 7 - 9 and then 3.30 - 7 is getting more and more difficult. Last Monday, MLK day, I was meeting family at Stanford Shopping Center and trying to park was as bad as any weekend during the holidays.

We are a suburban city but we have urban problems. Additionally, we do get many visitors here from business and Stanford reasons to out of town guests staying with residents. All these visitors do impact our infrastructure also.


37 people like this
Posted by stephen levy
a resident of University South
on Jan 22, 2016 at 1:13 pm

stephen levy is a registered user.

There are two issues lumped together here.

One is taking money from "developers". I, for one, am happy that Palo Alto got $32 million from Stanford for infrastructure as part of approving their medical and other expansions.

I also favor negotiating hard for public benefits where appropriate AND developing a claw back provision if they are not met.

So I have no trouble with exacting payments in association with development approvals.

The second issue is density and it is really separate from whether we ask for public benefits.

I know that many residents don't favor more commercial development but what if development rights were reworked to favor housing, which we need more of?

So, generally I favor policies that make it easier to build housing in the region.

Finally there is the issue of precedent and prior agreements, While it is true that it may in some cases by legal to change the rules after the fact, I do not like such policies and in this case put honoring a prior agreement and rule high on my list of responsible governance even if some residents do not like the results in a particular case.


20 people like this
Posted by senor blogger
a resident of Palo Verde
on Jan 22, 2016 at 1:57 pm

Put this issue on the Ballot.
Let's hear it folks, For or Against.


29 people like this
Posted by homeowner Midtown
a resident of Midtown
on Jan 22, 2016 at 1:59 pm

I'm a long-time homeowner and I'm all for more density in both the residential and the commercial side of development. I don't support trying to keep everything the same in our suburban environment when the job, housing and economic forces are crying out for more density. We need to make more housing for people with less means (e.g., the young and the less affluent) to be able to live here and that comes from denser housing.


23 people like this
Posted by what does this have to do with density?
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jan 22, 2016 at 2:39 pm

This is positioned as a hit piece on density and how density is bad because it makes developers rich. Actually, density is about helping lower income people. If all our town has is McMansions and you can't afford McMansions, then you can never live here. If we offer some housing that is smaller and by definition denser, we allow our teachers, police, firemen and service workers the opportunity to live here. When you're railing against density what you're really saying is that you like income segregation and "those people" don't belong here. Sorry but lots of us in Palo Alto couldn't disagree with you more. UCLA just published a study on exactly this after looking at the zoning of 95 cities in America: Web Link

Here's a snippet:
----------
Density restrictions work to increase segregation, mainly by exacerbating the concentration of affluence. This contradicts the commonly held belief that exclusionary zoning leads to the concentration of the poor. Instead, the authors find that the main effect of density restrictions is to enable the wealthy to wall themselves off from other groups.

This result aligns with my own findings, which suggest that segregation of the wealthy, highly educated, and knowledge class is the driving force of overall economic segregation. These groups colonize the most central, economically functional, and desirable locations—in turn shunting the poor, less educated, and service and working classes.
--------


39 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Jan 22, 2016 at 6:30 pm

Huh??? "When you're railing against density what you're really saying is that you like income segregation and "those people" don't belong here."

That makes no sense to me. By that logic, when you buy at Whole Foods, you are saying you like expensive-grocery segregation, and "those shoppers" don't belong here. Really? That is why people shop at Whole Foods?

It is not the case that everyone should be able to live everywhere. I don't live here because I'm glad "those people" don't. Who are "those people" anyway? What a horrible and erroneous thing to claim. I live here because I like lower density.

I was poor for a long time, as a student and recent grad. I lived where I could afford it. I didn't require the world around me to change for my convenience, and I didn't berate all those who could afford to live where I couldn't. I just don't understand this attitude.


60 people like this
Posted by common sense
a resident of Midtown
on Jan 22, 2016 at 7:22 pm

It is wrong to assume that higher density will mean less expensive housing. Redwood City has approved over 2,000 units of housing around their downtown area, all in high rise 6 - 10 story buildings. Of the 500 units built so far, the 1 BR/1BA units rent for $3,500 or more. High density = higher prices in this case. And this has the effect of raising prices of existing rentals.

Another example is Manhattan in New York City - very high density, very high rents.

San Francisco has higher density than Palo Alto, and very high rents.




47 people like this
Posted by HRM
a resident of Ventura
on Jan 22, 2016 at 9:16 pm

I think higher density implies just as high rent. There is no getting away from the ridiculous high rents in Palo Alto.

Secondly, to the person who went on about renters not having the same investment in the community as homeowners, I will tell you why - high rents. I can't wait for my kids to be done with high school so I can get the hell out of here because I am so broke after paying the rent, more than 50% of my paycheck and I don't have a min. wage job. So yeah, it is hard to invest in a community when you are struggle to keep your head above the water.

And to the people who couldn't care less about those of us you struggle to afford to live and say we should just leave, I am reminding you, I will be leaving very soon.


33 people like this
Posted by Curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on Jan 22, 2016 at 9:31 pm

"So, generally I favor policies that make it easier to build housing in the region."

Those policies would need to dismantle the Silicon Valley mystique that attracts businesses to locate here, in the process making commercial development much more profitable than building housing. It's the money thing. Ask any economist.

Commercial development reigned during the technobubble of the nineties, and it rules again during this one. In between, our development interests had to content themselves with building housing for what they could get. Pressing developers to dump money in housing in today's environment is like peddling broccoli in an ice cream parlor.


30 people like this
Posted by Robert
a resident of another community
on Jan 23, 2016 at 11:14 am

Palo Alto has the most expensive rental market in the country so anyone saying higher density always means higher rents is flat out wrong.


6 people like this
Posted by stephen levy
a resident of University South
on Jan 23, 2016 at 11:51 am

stephen levy is a registered user.

@ curmudgeon

Well, I am an economist.

And if you look you will see that more housing is the number one priority for all major Bay Area business groups.

And that housing will be mostly apartments, condos and townhouses and, as a result, more dense than existing single family neighborhoods though not in these neighborhoods.

Developers build for the market and today the market is saying housing pays well. It is restrictions on new housing not the market that is keeping a housing shortage.

Companies realize that the region's major competitive challenges are housing and transportation and their continuing ability to grow here. which they and most cities want, depends on overcoming these challenges.

Housing prices and congestion are always better in recessions but I think we can come up with better ways to increase housing and mobility choices.


37 people like this
Posted by common sense
a resident of Midtown
on Jan 23, 2016 at 12:38 pm

Developers build to make money, investors finance development to get a return on investment better than they can get elsewhere relative to the risk. Developers don't build to the "market". Redwood City is an example of that - market rental rates were $1000/month for a 1 bedroom apartment, but the developers & investors decided to build 1 bedroom apartments that rent for $3500/month.

Higher density doesn't lower rents. In the case of Redwood City, they raised the rental rate of older rental units (known as gentrification).


56 people like this
Posted by Jetman
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 23, 2016 at 5:20 pm

TDRs are not the only intangible asset that the PACC has put up for sale to finance gentrification in Palo Alto.

In what is probably an even more egregious case of confused concepts of good governance, the PACC is currently in the process of selling off future PACC governance of PAO to the FAA in exchange for redevelopment funds called Airport Improvement Program grants.

In this lopsided deal, the PACC becomes a sort of non-voting junior partner with the FAA in a deal, in which the city relinquishes their right to regulate and collect taxes at the airport in exchange for AIP grant funds, which can only be used to improve the airport's runway related infrastructure.

With each new AIP grant, the PACC cedes governance of the airport to the FAA for another 20+ years. As the non-voting junior partner in this raw deal, the PACC's main role seems to be to disguise the FAA's control of the airport, and continuously apply for small AIP grants, effectively giving the FAA governance of PAO in perpetuity.

And what does Palo Alto get for the PACC's obsequious cooperation with the FAA at PAO? Well... the FAA uses Palo Alto as toxic waste dump for the noise and pollution excreted from 300+ SFO and SJC bound commercial aircraft every day.


45 people like this
Posted by Curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on Jan 23, 2016 at 7:39 pm

"Well, I am an economist."

OK, you had me fooled there.

"And if you look you will see that more housing is the number one priority for all major Bay Area business groups."

But is more housing the number one priority for the businesses that actually build things in Palo Alto? Looking at the extreme bias of recent local projects toward office buildings, I'd emphatically conclude it is not.


21 people like this
Posted by Robert
a resident of another community
on Jan 24, 2016 at 3:46 pm

'Developers don't build to the "market".'

I fail to see how building unaffordable housing that sits empty would make developers any money. If they end up rented however, then by definition they're building to the market... though many people seem to have a strange thought process wherein new people will flock to the area as a result of building $3500 1 bedroom apartments...


24 people like this
Posted by Curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on Jan 24, 2016 at 7:16 pm

"I can't wait for my kids to be done with high school so I can get the hell out of here because I am so broke after paying the rent..."

It seems you are paying premium rent so your kids can attend Palo Alto schools. Why? Have you checked how that extra rent compares to private school tuition in another area? Like, could you send your kids to Phillips Exeter if you moved to New Hampshire, and have money left over?

From Wikipedia: "Tuition to Exeter for the 2015–2016 school year is $46,905 for boarding students and $36,430 for day students."


31 people like this
Posted by mauricio
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jan 25, 2016 at 1:52 pm

In the real world, not everybody can live anywhere. The notion that areas that became very expensive should densify, under the wrong assumption that densifying would bring housing prices down to a point where those who wish to live in very expensive areas could have their pick of housing that magically fit their income is absurd, and divorced from reality. It is of course a notion that developers and their enablers push, for obvious reasons.

There are few concepts that density fans always ignore. Is there ever an enough, as in no more space, or is every suburb like Palo Alto to be treated as a sardine can? Is there any value to the desire of long term residents to live in relative peace and quiet, away from excessive noise, heavy traffic and urban hustle, the reason they moved to a place like Palo Alto in the first place, or should the desire of millennials who want to stroll over to their start up and rollerblade to their favorite designer coffee shop downtown take precedence?


6 people like this
Posted by stephen levy
a resident of University South
on Jan 25, 2016 at 2:57 pm

stephen levy is a registered user.

I do not hear anyone claiming that higher density per se will reduce housing costs. The posts arguing this are talking to themselves and missing some key points.

Allowing smaller units WILL reduce housing costs-studios, micro units, ADUs.

And holding housing costs relatively constant by allowing higher density is also a benefit to newcomers and existing residents.

The sardine can rhetoric is essentially telling other people how to live or putting them down if they don't prefer the kind of housing you like.

There are a lot of people in the region choosing smaller or more dense housing and are quite happy as it gives them a location they prefer. In nearly all cases density and location are combined together as in neighborhoods close to services, shopping and jobs. This also to some extent reduces auto use and associated impacts.


35 people like this
Posted by mauricio
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jan 25, 2016 at 3:53 pm

Higher density would mean the end of Palo Alto as we know it. Most residents have chosen to live here because we are different from San Francisco, San Jose, Oakland, Los Angeles or any other dense urban city. I really resent the density fans assertion that the desire to keep it different and less urban is a bad thing. We don't even know if the upgrade the infrastructure would need is possible or affordable, even if we choose this very bad idea. Higher density would also mean that only those with a very specific type of education(basically computer science and related fields) could afford to live here, because other middle class jobs are either being outsourced or eliminated, and those that remain, don't pay nearly enough to afford housing here. This makes it into a town for only the techies, grossly overpaid high tech executives or foreign buyers with deep pockets, actually making it more exclusive and exclusionary and less diverse. It's already a town for mostly techies, and we are not better off for it, mildly stated.

The solution is not to squeeze in more people and offices. We shouldn't have one large high tech hub, we should have many, spread all over the country.


27 people like this
Posted by Curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on Jan 25, 2016 at 3:56 pm

"I do not hear anyone claiming that higher density per se will reduce housing costs."

A very strange claim. The mantra in this forum has been "high density, near transit." (Near transit keeps it away from the chanter's own neighborhood, of course.)

A more recent variant of advocating density for controlling costs: "And holding housing costs relatively constant by allowing higher density is also a benefit to newcomers and existing residents."

Another: "Allowing smaller units WILL reduce housing costs-studios, micro units, ADUs."

Allowing smaller units? I didn't know city hall mandated a minimum dwelling size. Nevertheless, the actual local trend has for many years been emphatically the opposite: toward ever bigger homes. No sane for profit developer is going to build microunits in this market. And after the impetus driving this market passes, nobody will be building much of anything because there won't be any demand.

Above all, to my knowledge there exists no objective fact-based analysis of housing costs vs housing supply in this market. Thus there is no objective basis for advocating increasing housing supply as a housing cost control.


34 people like this
Posted by Bill
a resident of Stanford
on Jan 25, 2016 at 5:00 pm

The PACC members [portion removed] seem to have discovered a clever form of financial jujitsu, where they sell off the residents intangible assets (quality of life, governance, zoning regulations, etc.) and then use the funds to finance gentrification.

All of these "sales" are actually hidden taxes on Palo Alto residents.


36 people like this
Posted by Your_Fooling_Yourselves
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 25, 2016 at 6:04 pm

New micro apartments (<300 sq ft) in NY are leasing for between $2,500-$3,000 a month. One bedroom apartments at Domus on the Boulevard down the street on El Camino in Los Altos are over $3K per month as well. New condos in East Palo Alto have already shot up over $1M.

Adding more density will not solve the problem. It will only destroy the quality of life. Don't get taken by avarice and greed. Reach out to your elected officials and let them know your viewpoint.


1 person likes this
Posted by Robert
a resident of another community
on Jan 25, 2016 at 7:09 pm

@Your_Fooling_Yourselves

The issue is residential density. Do you know what density is? Its the number of people living in a given area. Can you say, with a straight face, that if <300 sqft apartments renting for over $2500 are built, its going to result in new people coming to the area to take advantage of these "deals"?


27 people like this
Posted by Housing_Crisis_is_a_Myth
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 25, 2016 at 10:44 pm

The housing crisis is a myth. When alarmists scream we need more housing we take it as fact but they never support their claims with data.

The median household income in Santa Clara County is about $93K/year. A budget of $3K per month for housing is not a crisis with that level of income (~39% of gross).

Notice we don't see tents in parks or people sleeping under benches. What we do see is a spectrum of choices:

1. Up to $1,500/mos - rent a room in a home or get roommates in a apartment
2. Up to $2,500/mos - rent a low end apartment
3. Up to $4,000/mos - rent a nice new apartment next to downtown or rent a condo
4. Up to $4K a mos - buy a new condo
5. Greater than $6K - buy a house

If you are willing to commute, drop the price down one category. The point is the market is working and there are a range of housing options and tradeoffs throughout the county.

Special interests like developers, hipsters and urban idealogues just want to create discontinuities in the marketplace so they can profit will everybody else pays.


17 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Jan 26, 2016 at 8:49 pm

Ugh. A software engineer where I work, who is apparently affiliated with Palo Alto Forward, just sent around an impassioned email to a large email list encouraging folks to sign the "more density in Palo Alto" petition (Web Link).

Irony #1: The list he sent it to is Mountain View residents (!). There is a real campaign out there to destroy our city :(

Irony #2: The workplace is actually IN Mountain View.


2 people like this
Posted by Kazu
a resident of Downtown North
on Jan 27, 2016 at 1:04 pm

High-density development in places like Palo Alto is a good thing. Profits are also a good thing. Or perhaps some people believe a lack of profits, insufficient housing and insufficient office space are good things, along with all the problems they have brought our city? The current state of Palo Alto is due to a lack of high-density development, not because of overdevelopment.

"In the real world, not everybody can live anywhere."

So the people opposing high-density development are willing to move elsewhere? Increasing urbanization is an ongoing reality, and that won't change. Or would those sticking their head in the sand claim Palo Alto is the same as it was 25 years ago? The developers are much more our allies than the deniers. It is better to evolve gracefully and move forward rather than be ossified and mired in a much less desirable status quo.


2 people like this
Posted by Kazu
a resident of Downtown North
on Jan 27, 2016 at 1:08 pm

"The PACC members [portion removed] seem to have discovered a clever form of financial jujitsu, where they sell off the residents intangible assets (quality of life, governance, zoning regulations, etc.) and then use the funds to finance gentrification."

How can they gentrify a city that is already gentrified? People in Palo Alto on the whole ooze money out of every pore. If they did not, most could not afford to live here. That applies to both homeowners and renters. Our level of affluence is unusually high.


3 people like this
Posted by Mike
a resident of University South
on Jan 27, 2016 at 1:54 pm

Resident writes, "A software engineer where I work..."

Since you shared the link to the petition, will you also share the address to the "large email list"?


Like this comment
Posted by Resident
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Jan 27, 2016 at 4:08 pm

@Mike, the petition is public, the email list is not, so I can't share it. The author is emphatic about the dire need for Palo Alto to densify, and strongly solicits people to sign the petition.


4 people like this
Posted by Curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on Jan 27, 2016 at 4:40 pm

"The author is emphatic about the dire need for Palo Alto to densify, and strongly solicits people to sign the petition."

This is deep stuff. Lawyers need Rolexes, and techies need Palo Alto addresses.


7 people like this
Posted by Another resident
a resident of Downtown North
on Jan 27, 2016 at 4:42 pm

increased density produces lots of negative effects. For example,
walking on University Avenue last Saturday afternoon I was accosted by three, yes three, sidewalk hawkers.
One lady tried to draw me into the new awful 'beautification' store, a guy outside the Apple store wanted something to save polar bears, and the third one I didn't listen to.
Such a cheapened atmosphere for our main business street. Crowded,noisy,newly unpleasant.


1 person likes this
Posted by J.G.
a resident of The Greenhouse
on Jan 27, 2016 at 9:20 pm

We need more high density housing along the transit corridors, but it must be for low and middle income people ONLY. It is a ridiculous argument that homeowners care more about Palo Alto than renters do. I was born and raised here, have never had enough money to own a home, and I would argue that I care much more about Palo Alto than the vast majority of non natives do.


13 people like this
Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jan 27, 2016 at 9:51 pm

San Francisco got its high density by promising to house middle income people. Now that requirement has expired and you're seeing a huge number of evictions under the Ellis Act. Teachers, waiters/waitresses, clerks, etc. are in very short supply.

Musicians, artists, artisans, writers, etc. who gave SF its cachet are threatened, You're starting to see pushback from older ethnics -- mainly Asians -- who are fighting to stay in their neighborhoods.

Added density didn't reduce rents or housing prices. It raised them.

Be careful what you push for, Read up on San Francisco housing.


6 people like this
Posted by Parker
a resident of Downtown North
on Jan 27, 2016 at 10:27 pm

"We need more high density housing along the transit corridors... "

And where is the open space relief for the inhabitants of these people warrens? It is inhumane to just warehouse people. Where will the new parks be?

Per the Palo Alto Comprehensive Plan, POLICY C-28:

"Use National Recreation and Park Association Standards as guidelines for
locating and developing new parks. These guidelines are as follows:
• Neighborhood parks should be at least two acres in size, although sites
as small as one-half acre may be needed as supplementary facilities. The
maximum service area radius should be one-half mile. Two acres of
neighborhood parkland should be provided for each 1,000 people.
• District parks should be at least five acres in size. The maximum service
area radius should be one mile. Two acres of district park land should
be provided for each 1,000 people."

Are density advocates committed to providing the new residents open space per Palo Alto standards? I think not. Their arguments invariably promote a high quantity of life. One never hears about quality of life.


4 people like this
Posted by Mike
a resident of University South
on Jan 28, 2016 at 7:16 am

J.G. says, "...but it must be for low and middle income people ONLY."

I find this post disturbing for many reasons. Before you post please reread what you type and replace, for example, "European and Asian" for "low and middle income" and ask yourself if you would still post it.

J.G., I agree with you that housing is difficult to deal with in this area. I too, "....have never had enough money to own a home" in Palo Alto. I choose to live here to be close to work and I'm OK with my choice.


2 people like this
Posted by Renter but not transient
a resident of Midtown
on Jan 28, 2016 at 10:33 am

I grew up in midtown but have rented in Palo Alto since moving back 5 years ago. Why? because I love this city but cannot afford to buy here. Prices now are so high that the only new homeowners are tech millionaires and foreign investors, both of who pay cash. Existing homeowners may have been lucky to buy their home decades ago when it was more inline with salaries and did not depend on striking it rich. If you are one of those lucky folks, don't deride us renters just because you were lucky. You may be exceptionally fortunate because not only did you buy at a decent price, but your taxes, capped by Prop13, are affordable too.

Not all renters are transient. Most of us volunteer at the same schools your kids go to, drive them on field trips, volunteer at their school events, and fund raise for Pie and the PTA. In short, we invest time and money in our community, just as you do. You were just luckier, had better timing, than we did.


15 people like this
Posted by Bill
a resident of Stanford
on Jan 28, 2016 at 4:43 pm

"How can they gentrify a city that is already gentrified?"

Gentrification is still on going process in Palo Alto. California Avenue was just gentrified from two-lane small town retail, into a one-lane strip-mall plan, and the whole area south of Cal Ave is undergoing rapid gentrification. Areas along El Camino, and San Antonio are being gentrified, and the area around the airport, east of 101 is a target for gentrification.

Gentrification is a gift to real-estate developers, and commercial property owners, and a hidden tax on residents.

The California Avenue gentrification converted one-lane of public property to largely private use, reduced parking, and increased commercial rents which are passed on to residents in the form of higher retail prices.

Palo Alto residents paid for the Cal Ave gentrification twice. 0nce in the form of higher state taxes (the Cal Ave redevelopment was funded by a grant from the state), and secondly in the form of higher retail prices.

Density is just a thinly veiled euphemism for Gentrification, and gentrification is just a clever real-estate scam. Gentrification doesn't make anything more affordable. The whole purpose of gentrification is to RAISE rents and consumer prices.


13 people like this
Posted by Bill
a resident of Stanford
on Jan 28, 2016 at 4:57 pm

Stephen Levy said:

"I do not hear anyone claiming that higher density per se will reduce housing costs"

There are plenty of people on this thread, and others, implying that density will reduce housing costs. I will take your statement above as a grudging admission, that density will not reduce housing costs.


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

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