News

Survey shows growing angst about retirement in Palo Alto

Concerns about housing costs, transportation options mar citizens' image of their city

With traffic congestion and skyrocketing housing prices high on people's minds, the percentage of Palo Alto residents rating their city a great place to retire has reached a new low, according to an annual survey commissioned by the City Auditor's office.

The National Citizen Survey, a statistically valid study conducted by the National Research Center, found that Palo Altans by and large like living in their home town, with 88 percent ranking the overall quality of life as good or excellent. This good news, however, comes with a buzzkill caveat: 2015 marked the first time in the survey's 13-year history that the number has dipped under 90 percent (it was 94 percent in 2012 and 91 percent in both 2013 and 2014).

The percentage of people rating Palo Alto as a "good" or "excellent" place to retire has slipped markedly, going from 68 percent in 2006 to just 60 percent in 2014 and 52 percent in 2015. Meanwhile, the percentage that gave the city good grades for "variety of housing options" went down from 27 percent in 2014 to 20 percent in 2015.

The outlook looks bleakest to residents in the south Palo Alto neighborhoods of Barron Park, Charleston Meadows, Esther Clark Park, Greater Miranda, Green Acres, Monroe Park, Palo Alto Orchards and Ventura, which are grouped together as Area 4. Only 45 percent of the surveyed residents in this area gave the city the top two ratings as a place to retire.

Things didn't look much better from the perspective of Area 5, which is also in the south and includes Adobe Meadow, Fairmeadow, Greenmeadow, Palo Verde and Walnut Grove. Only 46 percent of the respondents in these neighborhoods gave Palo Alto the top two ratings as a place to retire. By contrast, about 60 percent of the residents in the downtown neighborhoods north of Embarcadero gave the city a "good" or "excellent" rating when asked about retirement. Overall, while 59 percent of north Palo Alto (generally, north of Oregon Expressway) gave the city the top two grades in this category, only 47 percent of south Palo Altans did the same.

To be sure, the survey findings weren't all bleak. The vast majority of the respondents in the 2015 survey continued to give Palo Alto the top two grades as a place to raise children (87 percent, down from 93 percent in 2014), and 90 percent ranked their neighborhood as a good or excellent place to live (down from 2014's level of 92 percent).

And when it comes to the library system, Palo Altans can hardly be happier. Last year, 91 percent of the respondents gave the "good" or "excellent" rating to local library services, a happy jump from the 81 percent who did so in 2014.

But when it comes to traffic, housing and development in general, frustrations continue to grow. Only 49 percent of the respondents citywide (and only 44 percent in the southern half) gave the city high ratings when asked about "overall quality of new development" -- a 13 percent decline from the 2006 level. And when asked about traffic flow on major streets, only 31 percent gave Palo Alto a positive grade (this is down from the 2006 level of 39 percent).

Other questions relating to mobility proved to be equally sobering. Only 36 percent of the respondents gave the city top grades in "ease of parking" and only 26 percent said "excellent" or "good" when asked about ease of travel by public transportation, down from 36 percent in 2014.

But it was Palo Alto's housing supply, rather than transportation system, that once again emerged as the city's most glaring weakness. The percentage of people giving the city good grades for "variety of housing options" dropped from 27 percent in 2014 to 20 percent last year. And when asked about availability of affordable housing, only 5 percent of the respondents from the northern half of the city, and 10 percent from the southern, gave Palo Alto top grades (overall, 8 percent of the respondents gave Palo Alto good grades on affordable housing, down from 11 percent in 2014). And when asked about the cost of living in Palo Alto, 8 percent gave the city the top two grades while 64 percent rated it as "poor."

The problem of insufficient affordable housing is far from new in Palo Alto, though the survey suggests that it is now becoming an increasingly pressing priority for local residents. Last October, in a discussion about the city's Comprehensive Plan, dozens of residents attended a council meeting to lobby for more housing options. They included recent college graduates who grew up in Palo Alto and can no longer stay here; senior "empty nesters" who don't have the options of downsizing to smaller units; and even local attorneys and tech workers.

The topic also loomed over this week's discussion of the Comprehensive Plan between the council and the Citizen Advisory Group that is helping the council update the broad vision document. Again, many members of the citizens group called for the council to consider policies that would promote more housing options and enable a greater diversity among the local population.

Elaine Uang, a downtown resident who serves on the citizens panel, cited the lack of diversity in her comments to the council. There are seniors, she said, who are being "ushered out of the community even though they lived here for a long time because they can't afford it and they don't have options."

Uang said that other members of the group referred to instances in the past when they'd walk down the street and see their kindergarten teachers. With current housing costs, such a scenario is all but impossible today, she said.

Lisa Peschke-Koedt, who also serves on the panel and who works at Cisco, said Palo Alto was much more diverse when she was growing up. Her parents, she said, were "lower middle class" and didn't have much money.

"I miss some of that and I don't want to lose that -- the idea of having seniors, kids and people with less money, and housing for teachers and police," Peschke-Koedt said. "I think that's a good objective to have."

The council largely agreed Tuesday that the updated Comprehensive Plan should include policies for encouraging more housing, though what exactly those policies will look like remains to be seen. In recent months, council members have talked about encouraging more accessory-dwelling units (also known as "granny" or "in-law" units) and creating incentives for the creation of small apartments in transit-rich sections of the city.

Next month, the city will release the draft Environmental Impact Report for the updated Comprehensive Plan, which is expected to evaluate at least two different scenarios that include more housing. One, known as "Housing Reconsidered," would increase housing densities in downtown, near California Avenue and in other areas close to transit and services. Another scenario, proposed Tuesday by Councilman Tom DuBois, would focus on reducing the city's gaping jobs-housing imbalance by promoting more housing and slowing down job growth.

Housing, traffic and the burdensome cost of living aren't the only areas in which Palo Alto scored lower on the National Citizen Survey than most other surveyed jurisdictions. Local residents were also less likely than their counterparts elsewhere to watch a local public meeting or participate in religious activities.

The city scored far higher than most jurisdictions in a host of categories, including education opportunities, employment opportunities, ease of walking and biking, shopping opportunities, K-12 education, economic development, city parks and the city's overall appearance. When asked about Palo Alto as a place to work, 87 percent ranked the city as "excellent" or "good."

Comments

54 people like this
Posted by WhoNeedsASurvey
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 22, 2016 at 9:21 am

Are any of the findings in this survey really a surprise? Anyone who has been remotely paying attention can't help but notice the overall decline in the quality of life in Palo Alto, and other cities along the peninsula as well.

Thank you Plan Bay Area, you've been doing a bang up job.

Web Link


38 people like this
Posted by resident
a resident of Midtown
on Jan 22, 2016 at 9:42 am

Housing is of course a problem in Palo Alto. Many local retirees own their homes, but many do not.

Seems to me that traffic is much less of an issue for retired people since traffic around town is really not bad outside of rush hour.

One issue that is not mentioned in this article is the gentrification of our local retail areas, which is forcing out the lower priced stores and restaurants that cater to retired people that are living off retirement savings.


13 people like this
Posted by Robert
a resident of another community
on Jan 22, 2016 at 9:42 am

Why would anyone be concerned about not being able to afford to retire in Palo Alto? That sounds awfully entitled, especially when they don't have a job to tie them to here and could easily move to a much more affordable place like Stockton... or Detroit.


61 people like this
Posted by WhoNeedsASurvey
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 22, 2016 at 10:17 am

"Why would anyone be concerned about not being able to afford to retire in Palo Alto? That sounds awfully entitled, especially when they don't have a job to tie them to here and could easily move to a much more affordable place like Stockton... or Detroit."
~~~~~~~~~~

Deep ties to the community, quite possibly involving community service volunteer work. Much if not ALL family in the area. Access to, and long term relationships with healthcare providers in the area. In essence, many, many retired people have built wonderful lives here, and even though they may no longer be working a "9-5" job, they are still valued members of the community.

Personally, I no longer desire to retire in the area and have already made alternate plans (land purchase out of the area) not because I cannot afford to remain here but because of the rapidly declining quality of life on the peninsula. I'll be a few years yet, but the gross densification and urbanization of the region - by design - and the resultant reduction in quality of life, is just not something I want to spend the rest of my life dealing with.

As the quality of life in the region continues to decline, I suspect there will be two types of migrations, those who leave the area (basically forced out because of lack of affordability) and those who leave because they find the quality of life (gross densfication & urbanization and all that comes with it) choose to relocate to a less dense & urban environment. And, as those folks leave others will stream in...happy to live in 900SF 1BR $3K+ MO apartment, under a flight path and next to the train tracks. Bless them...they are the future. I will think about them as I am sitting on my back patio reading the morning newspaper, not a plane contrail in sight, listening to the wind whispering in the trees & the birds singing, and then stepping out my front door and being able to hike for miles in the forest...in peace. Nirvana


36 people like this
Posted by Manifesto
a resident of Midtown
on Jan 22, 2016 at 11:18 am

Council will be discussing priorities in an upcoming meeting. This should be a year for back-to-basics:

1. We need to focus on supporting our long term residents with new programs for seniors, who are making up a larger portion of our population.

2. We need to focus on traffic - making our major arteries work better for automobiles and cutting down on cut through traffic in neighborhoods. Route the bikes on the quiet streets and lets get the cars moving again!

3. Finally, there isn't necessarily a disconnect between the concerns about development and the desire for housing, which on the surface seem to be in conflict. Let's make sure our housing is being used as housing. We don't need new construction. What we need are our houses to be used as houses - not left empty, not rented out as hotels, and not homes for startups.

If the city could focus on these basics we'd be in a better place.


40 people like this
Posted by Crescent Park Dad
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jan 22, 2016 at 11:41 am

It would be interesting to know the senior opinion broken out as:
- own their home outright
- own their home but have a mortgage
- rent their home/apt.
- live in a multi-generational owned home
- live in a multi-generational rental


16 people like this
Posted by Observer
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 22, 2016 at 3:19 pm

I wonder what the residents of Channing House think is the best solution to high housing prices for seniors...


8 people like this
Posted by Where is Citizens Survey
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jan 23, 2016 at 8:21 pm

A great deal of 10 year analysis of money and mountains of numbers. Pretty much unreadable and very UNinformative.
Where are the results of the citizens opinion questionnaire? It is called the National Citizens Survey, isn't it? or is that another document?
I'm interested in what people think, not how many people called a particular dept compared to 10 years ago.


20 people like this
Posted by Steve
a resident of Midtown
on Jan 24, 2016 at 11:41 am

Too funny. Survey shows growing angst about retirement in Palo Alto. Seriously?

If you're sitting on real estate worth $2+ million, I'm sure you'll find a way to survive...

If you're not, there's nothing new here folks [portion removed.] It's been the same way in Palo Alto for a very long time, and if you think there's goin' be any significant "low cost" housing in Palo Alto other than a token gesture, that's just not goin' happen.

Have your studies, get those committees to meet, heck, have a few public forums to generate comments and feedback... Palo Alto is not goin' change. If you don't have it, other than getting a middle class handout which "ain't" goin' happen, there are easier places to retire, even if it means uprooting your community connections. You knew it was coming, easier to not talk about it since there's nothing of any real significance than can be done about it. If you're retired or approaching it, you either have the means to stay here, or you don't. Doesn't get simpler than that...


40 people like this
Posted by mauricio
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jan 24, 2016 at 12:14 pm

Many people confuse lavish stock option and astronomical home values with high quality of life. i keep reading rebuttals on Town Square in reply to complaints from long time residents about diminishing livability, bad traffic, pollution, noise, higher crime rates, increased rudeness and alienation, and those rebuttles almost always begin or end with:What are you talking about, look at your home value. The unpleasantness of downtown is rebuked with:But look how many people flock to downtown. It brings to mind the old saying of knowing the price of everything and the value of nothing.


20 people like this
Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jan 24, 2016 at 1:57 pm

The headline may focus on retiring in Palo Alto but how about the rest of the findings.

This is quoted from the article and seems to have been lost in the focus on the headline:

But when it comes to traffic, housing and development in general, frustrations continue to grow. Only 49 percent of the respondents citywide (and only 44 percent in the southern half) gave the city high ratings when asked about "overall quality of new development" — a 13 percent decline from the 2006 level. And when asked about traffic flow on major streets, only 31 percent gave Palo Alto a positive grade (this is down from the 2006 level of 39 percent).

Other questions relating to mobility proved to be equally sobering. Only 36 percent of the respondents gave the city top grades in "ease of parking" and only 26 percent said "excellent" or "good" when asked about ease of travel by public transportation, down from 36 percent in 2014.


44 people like this
Posted by OpenRoad
a resident of another community
on Jan 24, 2016 at 8:31 pm

I grew up here and for decades have watched the evolution of Palo Alto from a great middle class family community into a high roller pretentious town. Those that have lived here for awhile know this and should understand that this is not going to change anytime soon. Money speaks loudly in Palo Alto and has contributed to most the problems noted in the article by virtue of policies developed and implemented by Palo Alto's politicians. Palo Alto tries to be everything to everybody and that doesn't work.

As someone who escaped awhile ago and is now retired out of state, I can tell you there are other places to live that are as good and in many ways much better than Palo Alto. Places that have very little if any traffic, great health care, wonderful climates, low crime rates and affordable housing.

The future for Palo Alto and the Peninsula is for those that can put up with the all of the excesses that currently exist there. The area is being loved to death. Until enough people decide they want to live and work someplace else, this is not going to change.


28 people like this
Posted by Ben
a resident of Downtown North
on Jan 24, 2016 at 8:53 pm

In this new e-commerce economy, jobs, and compensation is drifting toward a few over-paid high tech CEO's and similar positions, a good number of very transient highly skilled well paid tech jobs, and minimum wage workers. Middle income jobs are simply disappearing.

If you own your home in PA, retirement here is a real possibility. If you don't own your home, then you need to either have a very large retirement nest egg, or be independently wealthy.


7 people like this
Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on Jan 25, 2016 at 12:51 am

@Ben, what annual income ranges around here do you ascribe to:

1. Over-paid high tech CEO
2. Highly skilled well paid tech job
3. Middle income job
4. Minimum wage worker

I'm looking at my W-2 (from work in Palo Alto) and wondering which I am. Use line 5, Medicare wages and tips, since line 1 doesn't include what I stuffed into my 401k. And line 3, Social Security wages, tops out at $118,500 if you make that much.

I always thought middle income jobs were wages in the 25th to 75th percentile.

Of course this thread is more about wealth than income, though wealth can often be used to generate income, but I'd question the wisdom of a reverse mortgage.


11 people like this
Posted by Long Gone
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jan 25, 2016 at 8:43 am

When I cashed in my options I sang,,,

Do you wanna go
Straight to Hawaii
(Hawaii) Hawaii (Hawaii)
Straight to Hawaii (Hawaii, Hawaii)
Oh do (Honolulu, Waikiki) you wanna come along with me
(Do you wanna come along with me)

I heard about all the pretty girls
With their grass skirts down to their knees
All my life I wanted to see
The island called Hawaii

Go to Hawaii
(Hawaii) Hawaii (Hawaii)
Straight to Hawaii (Hawaii, Hawaii)
Oh do (Honolulu, Waikiki) you wanna come along with me
(Do you wanna come along with me)

Now I don't know what town you're from
But don't tell me that they got bigger waves
Cause everyone that goes
Comes back with nothing but raves

That's in Hawaii
(Hawaii) Hawaii (Hawaii)
That's in Hawaii (Hawaii, Hawaii)
Oh do (Honolulu, Waikiki) you wanna come along with me
(Do you wanna come along with me)

And pretty soon this Winter
They'll hold the surfing championship of the year
Surfer guys and girls
Will be coming from far and near

Go to Hawaii
(Hawaii) Hawaii (Hawaii)
Go to Hawaii (Hawaii, Hawaii)
Oh do (Honolulu, Waikiki) you wanna come along with me
(Do you wanna come along with me)

And you now (Honolulu, Waikiki)
You wanna live Hanah Lee
(Do you wanna come along with me)
Ooo ooo ooo (Honolulu, Waikiki)
Ooo ooo ooo (Do you wanna come along with me)
Ooo ooo ooo (Honolulu, Waikiki)
Ooo ooo ooo (Do you wanna come along with me)
Ooo ooooo (Honolulu, Waikiki)


5 people like this
Posted by PAO reader
a resident of College Terrace
on Jan 25, 2016 at 11:16 am

This Tues @ 5:30 @ Rinconado there's a meeting of the CC amd CAC on the Comprehensive Plan Update. PAF members are being encouraged to attend. Other members of the community would be wise to make their views known as well


13 people like this
Posted by Crescent Park Dad
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jan 25, 2016 at 6:08 pm

@ Long Gone: You should credit the song writers for those lyrics...

Song: "Hawaii"
Writers: Brian Wilson & Mike Love
Recorded by: The Beach Boys
Recorded: July 1963
Album: Surfer Girl


22 people like this
Posted by Native, near retirement
a resident of Midtown
on Jan 26, 2016 at 3:00 pm

The quality of life here is atrocious due to the 200+ jets a day converging over Palo Alto on the arrivals skyway to SFO. I can't sleep, pick up my newspaper from the driveway, relax in my backyard, enjoy a walk, go to the grocery store, Farmer's Market, Hike the Dish, stroll at Baylands without being assaulted by jets and general aviation planes rumbling over me and my family. I am trying to move, but due to unforeseen circumstances may have to live here a few more years. It sucks, and amazingly the City Council has shown no LEADERSHIP on this issue. Santa Cruz, Phoenix and other cities are fighting for their constituents, but not Palo Alto, they are more concerned with other things. What was the point of saving land from develop[ment (Foothill Park, Baylands, Midpeninsula Open Space) when hiking there one is subjected to jet noise from planes on their way to SFO.


18 people like this
Posted by tt
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 26, 2016 at 4:50 pm

Native,

I totally agree with you. The onslaught of jet noise and fuel pollution has been horrible since early last year. Palo Alto is no longer the town I used to love. People are rude and traffic is bad.

At least you can move to other place but I am stuck here for a foreseeable future.


8 people like this
Posted by A Voice in the Wilderness
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 26, 2016 at 5:52 pm

As I have said before, and will continue to say, AVENIDAS NORTH does not fulfill the needs of a broad segment of senior Palo Altans. [Portion removed.] By building that extension to the downtown (read DOWNTOWN) location, you have demonstrated that you do not listen to the broader segment of senior Palo Altans. We do not all live downtown or even close to downtown. [Portion removed.] Get a satellite Avenidas somewhere else in the city besides in the far north. [Portion removed.]

Another related comment, it IS possible to continue to live in Palo Alto despite the planes, the traffic etc. Go live in NYC. Or, the northeast. I don't need to have a heart attack shoveling 26 inches of snow. Yes, Hawaii is great; I keep trying to get my husband to think about it. No success yet. So, I just spend a couple of weeks there each year. Folks, I urge you to appreciate what Palo Alto DOES offer and thank your lucky stars. And, don't feel so entitled.


2 people like this
Posted by Kazu
a resident of Downtown North
on Jan 27, 2016 at 1:18 pm

"Many people confuse lavish stock option and astronomical home values with high quality of life. i keep reading rebuttals on Town Square in reply to complaints from long time residents about diminishing livability, bad traffic, pollution, noise, higher crime rates, increased rudeness and alienation, and those rebuttles almost always begin or end with:What are you talking about, look at your home value. The unpleasantness of downtown is rebuked with:But look how many people flock to downtown. It brings to mind the old saying of knowing the price of everything and the value of nothing."

Mauricio, you are right that wealth does not necessarily equal happiness. It sure helps, though. People flocking to downtown, less now than in the past, doesn't mean a thing except that we have some good restaurants and a few excellent small shops. So if the ills you describe accurately characterize Palo Alto, why on earth would anyone want to retire in such a place? Retirees frequently move from expensive places plagued by problems to much more affordable places where people still act in a civilized, community-oriented manner. How many people from out of the area say "I think I will move to the Bay Area when I retire"? Not many, I reckon.


1 person likes this
Posted by Kazu
a resident of Downtown North
on Jan 27, 2016 at 1:20 pm

@Long Gone, hang loose bruddah. :-)


17 people like this
Posted by Curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on Jan 27, 2016 at 5:00 pm

"Palo Alto is no longer the town I used to love. People are rude and traffic is bad."

Unfortunately, the tech types from back east brought their bad social habits with them. It was the old easygoing, open Palo Alto that fostered creativity. That's why Silicon Valley happened here, while false starts in Boston and Dallas quickly faded.

Today's crowd is bottom-feeding off the leftovers from the former ethos. Before long that sustenance will be used up, and not be renewed, because one cannot be creative in the proven non-creative environment that has been transplanted here.


5 people like this
Posted by ced1106
a resident of Palo Verde
on Jan 29, 2016 at 6:33 pm

But this problem isn't only for Palo Alto. It's for many locations in the Bay Area. Several friends have moved out, to, as OpenRoad says, better areas at a lower cost. Seems like a perfectly fine option, unless you can somehow get these tech companies (and their revenue) to leave the Bay Area.


Like this comment
Posted by Sea Reddy
a resident of College Terrace
on Mar 14, 2016 at 2:21 am

[Post removed.]


6 people like this
Posted by Palo Alto Native
a resident of Jordan Middle School
on Mar 14, 2016 at 8:55 am

I grew up here since 1975. Downtown and T&C was nothing compared to now (improvement). Traffic was nothing (Embarcadero was virtually untravelled). We could joyously skateboard or ride our bikes around town (even in '83, when I graduated).

Now, we are assaulted by plane noise and cut-through traffic in our neighborhoods and artery roads. The traffic in the last couple of years has increased excessively. Addison, Hoover, Duveneck, Walter Hays, Jordan, Terman, Gunn, Paly students have to arrive at school amongst bumper-to-bumper car lines because of cut-through traffic. It's time bomb ticking - a student is eventually going to be killed by a speeding car. The traffic impacts our students more than retired folks who can avoid rush hour traffic.


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

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