News

Housing plan for Maybell site wins neighborhood support

Latest proposal calls for 16 single-family homes at former orchard in Barron Park

Three years after residents rose up to oppose and, ultimately, defeat a proposed housing development on Maybell Avenue, some of the project's fiercest opponents are once again uniting to offer their views about the latest redevelopment plan for the former orchard.

This time, however, their message to the City Council is radically different. The new proposal, they say, is reasonable, responsible and merits approval.

The message is encapsulated in an online petition that as of Thursday morning had 194 signatures, many belonging to some of Palo Alto's fiercest opponents of dense new developments. The list of supporters includes members of the group Palo Altans for Sensible Zoning, land-use watchdogs and leaders of the "Measure D" campaign that overturned a council-approved housing development at 567 Maybell Ave. in November 2013.

These include Bob Moss (known for routinely describing new developments as "garbage,"); Joe Hirsch, a member of the Palo Altans for Sensible Zoning; Art Liberman, former president of the Barron Park Association; and Lydia Kou, a former City Council candidate who is generally aligned with the council's slow-growth "residentialist" wing.

In the petition, the signers state their support for the new proposal from Golden Gate Homes, LLC, which they said "eases traffic and safety concerns for our school-and-family populated neighborhood."

So what is this proposal? According to the latest application, which the developer submitted in December after a series of revisions, the plan now calls for 16 detached single-family homes. As such, it offers a stark contrast from the proposal that was overturned in 2013, which called for 60 units of housing for low-income seniors and 12 single-family homes.

While the earlier proposal by the Palo Alto Housing Corporation was criticized for bringing too much density and potential traffic to a popular school commute, the new one is now being characterized by petition signers as the model of neighborhood collaboration. The petition notes that Golden Gate Homes had initially proposed building 30 homes on the property, a plan that did not win local support.

"However, after working collaboratively with neighborhood residents through community outreach and meetings, GGH has ultimately decided to reduce housing density to 16 single-family homes," the petition states. "This is a significant accommodation, and represents close to an 80 percent density reduction from 72 housing units if Measure D had passed to a REASONABLE and RESPONSIBLE 16 homes for a school-dense area filled with families."

The petition's sentiment was echoed by comments from many of the people who signed it. Kou praised the project for its reduced density and wrote that the proposal will keep traffic onto Maybell Avenue at a minimum.

Warren Kirsch, who opposed the prior development, called the new proposal "a good plan that satisfies all parties involved" and Moss said the new plan is "significantly better in terms of traffic and environmental impacts than past proposals."

"It also will result in lower costs for city and school district services than previous plans," Moss wrote.

According to Ted O'Hanlon, consultant for Golden Gate Homes, the decision to reduce the number of units was driven both by what's feasible under the zoning code and what's acceptable to the neighborhood. After considering two previous concepts, O'Hanlon said in an email, "we presented the 16 units plan to neighbors and were pleased by the support it received."

Prior concepts, he noted, were proposed under a zoning designation called "Village Residential," which allows more units and smaller lots. But the development team, he said, encountered "too many gray areas within the municipal code to execute a timely and successful application."

"From there, rather than increase units count with town homes, we examined and ultimately executed an increase in lot sizes to a more uniform detached single family format predominant in the neighborhood and throughout Palo Alto," O'Hanlon wrote. "Fortunately, this has also found an equilibrium and general acceptance with the community."

Though the proposal has already scored a sizable victory by winning over the neighborhood, another hurdle stands in its way. To make the plan possible, the developer will have to obtain two zoning exemptions to accommodate lots with sizes and dimensions that don't conform to the code. Two of the 16 lots would not meet the minimum size of 6,000 square feet (one would be 5,000 square feet, while another would be 5,682 square feet). In addition, those lots that do meet the 6,000-square-foot requirement in some cases don't conform to a zoning rule that calls for their dimensions to be at least 100 feet by 60 feet.

Yurong Han, manager for Golden Gate Homes, wrote in a letter to the city that even if the lots do not meet the requirement for dimensions, "the community will be benefited as this is a project the community supports with the look and feel of a single-family development." She noted that all other aspects of the zoning code will be adhered to, "most importantly appropriate setbacks."

Han also noted in the letter that sub-6,000-square-foot lots on residential parcels "exist throughout Palo Alto, and contextually in the corridor between Arastradero and Maybell Avenue where the site is located."

The project, she wrote, "has been in the process for a long time and much of that time has been spent working with various stakeholders to create a winning project."

"As it now appears this project has broad support, GGH hopes that the City can favorably expedite review of this project," Han wrote.

Comments

18 people like this
Posted by Maybell Residentialist
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Apr 14, 2016 at 8:48 am

[Post removed.]


47 people like this
Posted by Observer
a resident of University South
on Apr 14, 2016 at 9:18 am

It's pretty clear from the emails PASZ has sent out that they believe this is the least possible housing that can be built on the Maybell site - so they want to get the plan approved in case a pro-housing Council is elected in the fall.

Sixteen super-luxury houses is definitely a good deal if you want to prevent middle class people from moving into your neighborhood. (I think we lost the chance for having people of all incomes at Maybell after Measure D.)

But, you know, we are the voters and we get what we want.


22 people like this
Posted by Guessing and Commenting
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Apr 14, 2016 at 10:36 am

The first comment above feels like a plant, intended to paste so-called "Residentialist" as selfish, rich NIMBYs. As to the second comment - please define "middle class" and suggest a price point at which "middle class" buyers might reasonably be able to afford housing at this site. The forces for development that have driven massive new office projects in this city for the last several years - remember their aspirations for making Palo Alto an "economically significant city" that is oh, so "vibrant?" That's not working so well anymore, so now they have shifted to a new set of talking points centered on "affordable housing" and our (regional - not Palo Alto) housing crisis, while conveniently dropping the term "low income" as that might relate to, say, retail workers, in favor of "affordable," as in highly paid tech workers. Yes, highly paid by any standard, but not paid enough to afford $2-3 million for a home in Palo Alto. Now ask them please to name what the price point that in their judgement is "affordable" - and let's get specific here - and then decide if that number is within reach of any factual notion of "middle class families," or maybe it is in reality, more for the benefit of rich realest interests and wealthy local tech firms.


20 people like this
Posted by commonsense
a resident of Barron Park
on Apr 14, 2016 at 10:52 am

Guessing,
Palo Alto does is having a housing crisis. 3 jobs per one unit is the worst in the bay area.


13 people like this
Posted by Middle class redefined
a resident of Barron Park
on Apr 14, 2016 at 10:56 am

To Guessing and Commenting above -

Obviously middle class in Palo Alto (or more properly, a middle class lifestyle) is different in Palo Alto than it is in Dallas TX.

So, the mere fact that housing here costs lots of money doesn't mean that the middle class of Palo Alto can't afford to live here. That is a fallacy.


22 people like this
Posted by Cur Mudgeon
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Apr 14, 2016 at 11:05 am

Was just talking with a retail worker on Charleston Road recently. She commutes in with her husband from MODESTO. That's life in "the two Californias."


15 people like this
Posted by resident
a resident of College Terrace
on Apr 14, 2016 at 11:05 am

Well, where would you turn when your luck runs out, job folds etc.? Oh, you will sell THE HOUSE. And move where? Your efforts resulted in driving you possible future self to Richmond, if you have any luck left.


38 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Apr 14, 2016 at 11:14 am

Nocommonsense: We don't have a housing crisis, we have a greed crisis.
This greed virus has infected the whole town - developers, and tech companies hoping to make it rich and importing, yes importing, workers. Both small companies and huge multinationals and venture capitalists reaching for the gold ring.
We are supposed to house them and educate their children? And get out of our cars so they can live near the money machines and price us out of the market.
That's the crisis. You are pointing to the symptoms of the illness.


31 people like this
Posted by resident
a resident of Midtown
on Apr 14, 2016 at 11:15 am

If I remember correctly, the "highly dense" city council members, like Marc Berman, and the city staff said that if we all didn't go along with Measure D, a developer would put 45 housing units on the property. How can these so called "experts" be so wrong? They apparently don't know much about how developers and real estate investors make their decisions, who decided the best return is on 16 homes (most of which are regular R-1 style housing). It should give everyone second thoughts about what gets thrown out there by the "highly dense" city council members and city staff.

Additionally, in terms of solving the housing/jobs imbalance, the business registry, which is estimated to have 93% of the businesses now registered, reports that there are 74,351 employees; Palo Alto has 65,000 residents, so instead of a 3 to 1 jobs to residents imbalance, it is 1.15 to 1 jobs to residents. ABAG has been using the 3 to 1 jobs to residents ratio to force down our throats more housing, and dense housing. The city, with this data, needs to push back, and ask for a "rebate" on the number of housing units that should be allocated to Palo Alto


12 people like this
Posted by Michele
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Apr 14, 2016 at 11:20 am

Don't know what I think about this, but let's don't be hypocrites. I don't think any of the huge dense condo and townhome complexes being built up and down El Camino and in Mountain View are for low income families, and once the Palo Alto border is crossed, even middle income families. They are being built for high tech employees who make good salaries.


26 people like this
Posted by kattiekhiba
a resident of College Terrace
on Apr 14, 2016 at 11:24 am

@resident: Two-thirds of Palo Alto residents are children or elderly - ie not working or not eligible to work.


35 people like this
Posted by Great Outcome
a resident of Downtown North
on Apr 14, 2016 at 11:50 am

Looks like the "we're supporting the 76 units because it will have less impact on the neighborhood than a market rate development" camp: Berman, Scharff, etc. we're completely wrong, as just about anyone who has ever tried to drive on Maybell already knew.

Good for the citizens of Palo Alto standing up for themselves and for the preservation of our neighborhoods. I just wish Downtown North wasn't already lost to the sprawling effect of overdevelopment. And good for Golden Gate for not trying to play politics to ram as much density as possible into a neighborhood.


34 people like this
Posted by Greenacres
a resident of Green Acres
on Apr 14, 2016 at 11:57 am

I wish now that the long-past Measure D election is done, that the Weekly would be a little more fair and intelligent about the actual facts and people, and stop the political steamroller that was used to then to push that development from continuing to unfairly bash local residents. The bashing was never fair or accurate, and allowing it to continue has a pernicious impact on community.

First, that site is at a particularly bad spot for development. That was always the problem. It never had anything to do with affordable housing, and it was cynical and politically manipulative for anyone to make it so. Neighbors rebuffed a school from going in there long before Measure D, because of the traffic at that location. Currently, the only controversy in the neighborhood is between residents in Greenacres I who don't even want the traffic from 11 houses onto Arastradero, while residents in Greenacres Ii want as little traffic as possible from that location onto Maybell. Those are the two safe routes to school - the only safe routes to school - that run alongside that property.

The issue is, and always has been, traffic and safety, at that key location which the property holds in the area. If the former City Council hadn't been so angry and vindictive after Measure D, they would have seen the merits of keeping the property for parkland, which the City had the option to do. A park is the very lowest traffic use, especially during peak times. The same aspects that made it desirable financially for that former development plan also made it desirable as (what in hindsight would have been) almost free parkland (once the four existing houses were sold).

The neighborhood poll that showed almost unanimous opposition to a large development there, also showed the favored use was as a community orchard. Amazingly, many of the trees remain, without having been watered, after all these years. There was a time in Palo Alto when that would have been worth saving, particularly to create a community gathering space so near Gunn High School (especially one so easily walked to by students without traveling along AND crossing so many major roadways and the railroad tracks), Terman Middle School, Juana Briones Elementary, and Bowman International. Neighbors did not have the badwidth to fight for an orchard despite great interest.

The concern is clearly not NIMBYism, since many of the very same people who opposed Measure D also helped save Terman School from being turned into a development, as part of a ctizens working group that also resulted in the 92- unit low-income housing development right next to the Terman school, right in the same neighborhood. [Portion removed.] The only thing the neighbors could do was oppose, and they strenuously asked that that not be the way things went. (I know, I was one.) Initially, the very same people responsible for Measure D made significant efforts to encourage a working group in order to ensure that the affordable housing could be realized in an acceptable way, and that the problems the neighbors understood about that location could be prevented. Joe Hirsch very eloquently asked for a working group that had been so successful at Terman in public meetings after neighbors had tried asking in many ways, including individual meetings with councilmembers asking to be given the chance to come up with a win win that satisfied all needs, including the affordable housing.

The people pushing that previous plan did not think they needed to care, they never thought the NIMBY attack plan would fail. [Portion removed.] Sadly, they also missed the energy the collaboration could have brought to saving BV. At least they should realize that the funds tied up at Maybell are the very same funds available for BV now, that could have been more helpful back then. If they'd had a sure-fire plan to save BV, then unnecessarily estranging [portion removed] neighbors who would otherwise have been powerful advocates was a luxury they could afford. Sadly, that wasn't the case. [Portion removed.]

Lastly, I am really tired of all the bashing about affordable housing in regards to that neighborhood. There are several large affordable housing developments nearby, more than most or probably any neighborhood in Palo Alto already. That is not a claim that we can't do more, it is just a fact [portion removed.] This neighborhood is probably the most economically diverse in Palo Alto, and neighbors like it that way. That does not mean they lose all sense when it comes to safety and what's best in a given location. There are also new, large market-rate developments that exceeded zoning and with impacts that grossly exceeded what the previous pro-development City Council claimed. [Portion removed.]
Kudos to Golden Gate homes for working with the neighborhood to come up with something both find acceptable.


24 people like this
Posted by Jane Ploughman
a resident of South of Midtown
on Apr 14, 2016 at 12:24 pm

I still cannot believe that this group vetoed the plan for the Palo Alto housing corporation. Obviously residents are of a mind that they will be financially comfortable and not in need of such housing.....so why should they have it in their neighborhood. I don't imagine that too many of the residents drive(Stevenson house residents do not have a car per unit) They don't make much noise, and generally it would be a safe place for them near transport. [Portion removed.]


6 people like this
Posted by Jerry Underdal
a resident of Barron Park
on Apr 14, 2016 at 12:37 pm

Jerry Underdal is a registered user.

[Portion removed.]

I hope for assurance tonight that this project won't increase dangerous traffic conditions at the intersection of Coulombe and Maybell, in front of the OH entrance to Briones by forcing residents of the 11-unit compound to use Arastradero-Coulombe-Maybell eastbound to get to school or work in the morning.

Hats off to Golden Gate Homes for doing its utmost to accommodate competing residential demands. What would really put this project over the finish line for all concerned would be if there were no zoning exemptions required. One might ask why the city would allow such exempts for a downzoning in the current housing environment. What modifications would remove the need for the exemptions?




41 people like this
Posted by No to pasz
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 14, 2016 at 12:52 pm

This is just PASZ flexing their muscles. They want everyone to understand that nothing will get done in the city without the approval of this very small, but very vocal group. They already have their acolytes entrenched in the city council. The Weekly is their local sounding board—note that stories about building and development are always slanted towards the PASZ dogma. The citizens of palo alto have created a monster, now they have to deal with it.


7 people like this
Posted by Jeff
a resident of College Terrace
on Apr 14, 2016 at 1:40 pm


does the business registry include all the employees of Stanford that commute in and out of Palo Alto every day?


38 people like this
Posted by Crescent Park Dad
a resident of Crescent Park
on Apr 14, 2016 at 2:28 pm

@: Jane Ploughman


While you are certainly welcome to your opinion, you are mis-stating or forgetting some facts.

- your first assertion about "the residents" implies that the Baron Park residents vetoed the Maybell project. Not so. It was a city-wide vote (Measure D).

- you somehow forgot to mention the key issues about the development - not the intended use. It was the size of the project itself...the overall density of the facility, the encroachment on the R-1 neighborhood, the city height limit exceeded, shoe-horning in some townhouses, under-parked (especially if you tally up the need for employee parking), conflicts with residential and school traffic/bikes/pedestrians. For example, how would you like to have an almost 60-ft building looming over your side-yard fence?

- the vote/result of Measure D was greatly influenced (my opinion on this) by the city council consistently throwing residents out in favor developers. At the time, it seemed that the CC was allowing exceptions on top of exceptions for buildings --- whether it was density, height, setbacks, under-parking, ARB design approvals, etc. The general mood of Palo Alto's residents was "enough was enough" in terms of the CC allowing over-building and lack of any consideration for the impact as such.

Further - if the developer (PAHC) had come up with a design that fit into the neighborhood and didn't require any zoning waivers, my opinion is that the project would have been built.


27 people like this
Posted by well, they got what they wanted
a resident of Barron Park
on Apr 14, 2016 at 2:38 pm

PASZ wins again. A very small number of super wealthy homes. I'm not a conspiracy theorist, but PASZ feels an awful lot like an organization that is just devoted to keeping housing prices extra high. It's funny: the "other side" is often subjected to accusations that they are "in developers' pockets" (for advocating for more housing, of all things); PASZ feels like they are in the "rich homeowners' association" pockets.


14 people like this
Posted by Jerry Underdal
a resident of Barron Park
on Apr 14, 2016 at 3:32 pm

Jerry Underdal is a registered user.

@Greenacres

"It never had anything to do with affordable housing"

Not for you, it seems. But it certainly was a large part of the debate.

"If the former City Council hadn't been so angry and vindictive after Measure D, they would have seen the merits of keeping the property for parkland"

To my knowledge, there was no petition calling for that space to be made a park. Still hasn't been.
Most people don't believe me when I tell them that it was a key demand for some of the opponents of the PAHC project.

"The concern is clearly not NIMBYism, since many of the very same people who opposed Measure D also helped save Terman School from being turned into a development, as part of a ctizens working group that also resulted in the 92- unit low-income housing development right next to the Terman school, right in the same neighborhood."

Where does this interpretation come from? There was and is no low-income housing development there. The negotiated agreement at the time was that the owner of the already existing apartments agreed to accept Section 8 housing vouchers for a period of 25 years. That period has long since expired.

"the chance to come up with a win win that satisfied all needs, including the affordable housing."

What win-win would have provided the money to build the project? Working groups have their limitations. When this project fell through, that was it. Turns out they really couldn't finance the project with what would have had to be a vastly scaled back project to meet opposition demands.

"Sadly, they also missed the energy the collaboration could have brought to saving BV."

It's not a lack of energy on the side of the Buena Vista residents that's been the problem, in my opinion. Not when the entire current city council, including four PASZ-backed members, has thrown its support to them. Rather it's been the exceeding amount of anti-affordable housing energy directed against them by people and forces that by and large opposed the Maybell project.


25 people like this
Posted by mauricio
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Apr 14, 2016 at 4:20 pm

mauricio is a registered user.

"I'm not a conspiracy theorist, but PASZ feels an awful lot like an organization that is just devoted to keeping housing prices extra high."

Oh yes you are, yes you are.


14 people like this
Posted by Greenacres
a resident of Green Acres
on Apr 14, 2016 at 4:24 pm

@Jerry Underdal,
[Portion removed.] What I saw was a great majority who care about equity and diversity and would have collaborated to put the energy into a win win, because we TRIED. We organized and TRIED. That was all BEFORE Measure D. A referendum was never anyone's first or second or third choice.

Third, there never was any "key demand" to make the space into a park, because politically, there was no way to push it. It was discussed heavily, and the issue brought up to the council in letters and meetings, but (as I just already wrote) no one had the bandwidth to really *pursue* it. You seem to forget that no one had won a land use referendum here in anyone's memory, the City Hall had the legal ability to write the ballot, the neighbors had no money for a campaign and were up against an organized force with money and experience, and they were being unfairly bashed left and right just as people continue to do. Neighbors first tried to get some kind of collaboration with the City, a working group, but when it became clear that was never going to be possible, they had to focus on preventing the overdevelopment of that location.

You never believed the SURVEY that showed the neighborhood was overwhelmingly against a dense development there. The actual vote showed almost the same exact percentages voting for and against in the neighborhood. The same survey showed the majority preferred saving the orchard. That is a demonstration of what the neighbors wished. It was never a political possibility. But Council could have made it a possibility by exercising their option to retain the property. At the time, their own estimate of just the orchard land was $6 million. Had the City just retained the property a little while, the increased value of the houses would have offset that when they were sold - close to free parkland. When can you get a few acres of land (once the houses were sold) with tons of established trees for parkland for that in this town? It was a rare opportunity, and if you look at the parks and rec priorities even today, they were crazy (or angry and vindictive) not to take it.

You wrote, "To my knowledge, there was no petition calling for that space to be made a park." After Measure D, the City Council had to decide, in December just after the election, in a public meeting, whether to purchase the park, because of the contracts (their involvement in purchasing the property to begin with). Many citizens asked them to exercise their option to purchase the park, and even give citizens the time to raise the money. There was no way to raise money unless the fate of the property was out of dispute. The then City Council didn't give the matter due public discourse - to this day, most people still do not realize the lost opportunity or what happened in that December meeting - and simply voted no. (It sure seemed to the audience that they couldn't pass up the opportunity to rub the residents' noses in what they claimed was going to be an even bigger and less safe market rate development.)


16 people like this
Posted by Greenacres
a resident of Green Acres
on Apr 14, 2016 at 5:01 pm

@Jerry Underdal,

Addressing the other inaccuracies and confusions in your email:
"The concern is clearly not NIMBYism, since many of the very same people who opposed Measure D also helped save Terman School from being turned into a development, as part of a citizens working group that also resulted in the 92-unit low-income housing development right next to the Terman school, right in the same neighborhood.

You wrote:

"Where does this interpretation come from? There was and is no low-income housing development there."

You are so off base about the history and reality of that property, I'm not even going to try to address it here. You can use Google, I assume, and look through city documents. Perhaps start with the 1999-2006 housing element to get your bearings:

Web Link
Palo Alto Comprehensive Plan Chapter 4: Housing Element
"Program H-33: Take all actions necessary to preserve the 92-unit Terman Apartments as part of Palo Alto's affordable housing stock and to continue the renewal of the existing HUD Section 8 rental assistant contract that provides rental subsidies for up to 72 units in the project.
"The Terman Apartment is the last major rental project location in Palo Alto THAT IS AT RISK OF CONVERSION TO MARKET RATE HOUSING. [emphasis added] State Law requires that the project be offered for sale to providers of low-income housing if the owners elect to terminate their HUD Section 8 contract."

I would note that there were almost identical concerns about Maybell, that the affordable housing would similarly sunset and be at risk, but proponents of Measure D poo-poo'd that. When during Measure D, neighbors asked why the priority wasn't first on saving the Terman apartments, which have MORE affordable housing, they were ignored there, too. The City currently seems similarly confused about what is going on there, and expressed no interest in pursuing it (we asked), even though residents of the Terman apartments have been in the news when their housing was at risk. It seems a lousy thing to raze an orchard in a difficult spot for traffic, while ignoring an existing affordable housing site very nearby in the same neighborhood with more affordable housing at risk. But, neighbors were lambasted for bringing that up, too. But there is no confusion about what happened there historically and why those very low-income family apartments existed all those decades, and it was because of the working group that arose when a developer wanted to put a large development where Terman Middle School is.


43 people like this
Posted by Greenacres
a resident of Green Acres
on Apr 14, 2016 at 5:15 pm

[Portion removed.]

You wrote, "It's not a lack of energy on the side of the Buena Vista residents that's been the problem."

I never suggested anything of the sort. And I wasn't talking about BV residents but about those trying to help them, who lost the opportunity to get a wave of (very smart) civic action in their camp at a time when they had $14 million from other sources, and could have had the $16 million the county and city had tied up at Maybell at a time when $30 million was a much bigger enticement. Plus having virtually everyone united and energized to take action to help at BV as part of a win win could have created other options, too. The neighbors who ultimately prevailed with Measure D NEVER WANTED TO HAVE TO WAGE A REFERENDUM, BECAUSE THEY DIDN'T WANT THEIR EFFORTS TO GO TO JUST OPPOSING SOMETHING, BUT RATHER TO CREATING SOMETHING BETTER AND SOLVING PROBLEMS. (I myself warned PAHC about not just the lost opportunities, but the downsides of things getting contentious. There was a decided lack of respect for what the neighbors could accomplish [portion removed.]) Many of the same neighbors were involved in saving the Terman School Site from development and in that negotiation, getting the low-income Terman apartments (which you can go to Bob Moss to talk about if you cannot use Google.) Many have been involved in creating other civic assets, and MOST [portion removed] sincerely care about affordable housing AND the environment AND safety AND livability. Lambasting their motives then was a political ploy that used to be foolproof in areas like ours, it was never true and it cost all possibility of collaborations that could have created better solutions.

You seem to have forgotten the other thing that happened December after the Measure D election, which was that the big developer pulled out at BV. That would NEVER have happened if not for No on Measure D prevailing. The developer expected to get what they wanted there, and they would have had the neighborhood not risen up against the overdevelopment. The existing residents of BV would not have stood even the chance they stand now. Neighbors who worked for the referendum understood that, because they could see the fundamental power imbalance between City Hall and the residents that had gotten out of hand and was unhealthy for residents. (And resulting in the wave of overdevelopment that preceded Measure D, and in some respects, quietly continues.)

Critics of PASZ: PASZ is what happens in a DEMOCRACY. City Hall getting too chummy with developers and not listening to citizens is why citizens become more active. PASZ did not even exist as an organization until after the election. [Portion removed.]


23 people like this
Posted by El Camino Real
a resident of Barron Park
on Apr 14, 2016 at 5:28 pm

This is discouraging news.
We hear that there are no cost effective alternatives in Palo Alto for the renters at Buena Vista (the trailer Park whos closure the city approved last year). Can't this undeveloped site at Maybell be used to creatively develop some cost effective alternative for at least some of the displaced Buena Vista renters ?


17 people like this
Posted by Curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on Apr 14, 2016 at 6:32 pm

"Palo Alto does is having a housing crisis. 3 jobs per one unit is the worst in the bay area."

That reckoning is from the long gone the-man-is-the-breadwinner era. Today, many "units" (like my own) house two people with jobs. Go back and recalibrate.

And be sure to account for the fact that over half of Palo Alto workers commute to jobs outside Palo Alto.

We are not a self-contained little town isolated on a vast open prairie. Jobs-housing balancing by city government units is a quaint statistical exercise that has no objective validity in the Bay Area.


15 people like this
Posted by Greenacres
a resident of Green Acres
on Apr 14, 2016 at 9:32 pm

@El Camino Real,

Why would you think it's better to move the residents of BV to another private development (like they are pawns rather than people) rather than help them save their homes? Homes they invested in, as part of a cohesive community?


26 people like this
Posted by El Camin Real
a resident of Barron Park
on Apr 14, 2016 at 10:13 pm

GreenAcres - Everyone seems to agree that there are no comparable housing alternatives for the Buena Vista residents - at least that's what the City hearings seemed to support. I do hope something is worked out and the renters get to stay.

I'm asking why the city and community aren't using this Maybell opportunity to create AT LEAST SOME of the comparable low income housing needed - whether it be for the residents of Buena Vista who may soon have no where else to go, or for me...living in my little trailer parked on the side of El Camino as I type this. I was hoping the Maybell development would do a better job than just come up with 16 more multi-million dollar R-1 single family homes.

Perhaps we will save Buena Vista... but where would you have the rest of us go? There are more of us than you seem to realize.

...and what happens if you can't save Buena Vista ? Where will they go?

You really need to think about the larger picture here. For this reason, the Maybell development is a true disappointment to anyone who cares about low income residents.


18 people like this
Posted by Greenacres
a resident of Green Acres
on Apr 15, 2016 at 12:19 am

@El Camino Real,
The Maybell site has never been a good site for dense development of any kind. Currently the only remaining dissent comes from people worried that 11 homes onto Arastradero there will still create too much traffic, and those who know it can't come out on Maybell. It was never a lost opportunity to build dense housing, but instead a lost opportunity to rally people who wanted to save the orchard/save it from dense development to put energy into creating the affordable housing in a less problematic location per traffic and safety. Once the development side decided to make it a battle instead of collaborating, the opportunity was gone. The opportunities were better back then too.

When you say why doesn't the community do something - please read my previous posts so I don't just rehash it. There were many lost opportunities. Currently Maybell is owned by a private developer, and that was the choice of the former city council. The City could have kept the property but did not. Take heart, though, because if the Maybell referendum had gone the other way, the affordable housing funds the City and County have now made available to try to purchase BV would not be available. (They were only freed up because of Measure D, and it's too bad the County and City back then tied up those funds at Maybell instead of prioritizing BV). Also, you would probably be gone by now because the developer would have pushed with the owner to evict you, but instead pulled out because citizens were clearly not going to just accept a large (luxury) development there.

The community is pretty fractured right now. You can't really blame people who tried to get a working group for a win win including for affordable housing but were relentlessly screamed at for being heartless NIMBYs and still are being called that to turn around and work with those slinging the abuse. Are you well enough to get involved? It seems like BV has organized pretty well. The court case is coming up and just going to the hearing as moral support might be a place to start.


26 people like this
Posted by Curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on Apr 15, 2016 at 6:17 pm

"The Maybell site has never been a good site for dense development of any kind."

Politically, no. Physically, yes. It can be built to an almost arbitrarily large density if built high enough. And given the right political connections, traffic impacts can be wished away like anywhere else in town.


"You really need to think about the larger picture here. For this reason, the Maybell development is a true disappointment to anyone who cares about low income residents."

Frankly stated, the larger picture is that Palo Alto real estate is too valuable to be used for low income housing. Kind hearted financially endowed souls have to make up the difference. We have a notable shortage of those in this Valley.


10 people like this
Posted by Greenacres
a resident of Green Acres
on Apr 16, 2016 at 11:08 am

@Curmudgeon,
I'm not sure if you are being tongue in cheek there, but as a longtime Palo Altan who has lived in different parts of town including the north, you are wrong about that site. If the developer could do 16 homes in a way that allowed the traffic onto Maybell, there would be a fight right now over just the traffic from the 11 homes currently envisioned to put their traffic onto Arastradero. Some neighbors on the other side of Arastradero had already started a petition before the developer explained the plan. It's a really bad location for development given the infrastructure and all the disjointed overdevelopment in the area that only made things worse. Even just a little ways away in the same area, things wouldn't have as great an impact. (I would have rather seen low-income senior housing at the Sheraton site with that massing than another hotel.) The neighborhood rebuffed a school from going in at the Maybell location because of its impact. Yet they are working with Bowman School in their expansion just on Arastradero south of Terman. If Bowman instead tried to move their expansion to the orchard, they would be shot down. People who live here know this neighborhood. That site really is located at an especially bad place for development. But it also feels like the heart of our side of town, so a community space would be very connecting, is very needed, and would happen to have the least traffic impact.




18 people like this
Posted by My Fair Neighbor
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Apr 16, 2016 at 11:29 am

" But it also feels like the heart of our side of town, so a community space would be very connecting, is very needed"

This is the real reason your group opposes the development and why this town sees NIMBY is written all over it.

"16 homes in a way that allowed the traffic onto Maybell, there would be a fight right now over just the traffic from the 11 homes currently envisioned to put their traffic onto Arastradero"

A specious argument. Totally flawed logic, since anyone can chose to drive down any road they want. Arastradero traffic is dominated not by the residents who live on the street, but by pass through traffic. Same for Maybell. Adding 16 homes will make no difference.

" traffic impacts can be wished away like anywhere else in town."

yup !


28 people like this
Posted by Reasonable Citizen
a resident of Barron Park
on Apr 16, 2016 at 12:11 pm

SAD, SAD, SAD! To build only 16 super luxury homes on this property is a travesty. We see the true motives of all the neighbors that opposed the senior housing project. [Portion removed due to inaccurate facts.]


17 people like this
Posted by Knew it all along
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Apr 16, 2016 at 12:46 pm

Of course the plan all along was to build luxury homes. You just figured that out now? It was clear right from the beginning that PASZ and their supporters had a self serving agenda. Unfortunately the voters of palo alto drank the Koop aid and voted for measure d [portion removed.]


7 people like this
Posted by R. Evans
a resident of Barron Park
on Apr 16, 2016 at 2:21 pm

1. "Affordable Housing" is not "Low Income Housing". This is a mistake in the article.
2. The 15 tall, narrow homes which would have been built under the defeated plan were market rate housing, just like the 16 under the proposed plan. Density matters on the narrow, "safe route to school" Maybell Avenue.


4 people like this
Posted by Curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on Apr 16, 2016 at 3:50 pm

Curmudgeon is a registered user.

@Greenacres

Living as I do in Ground Zero for Palo Alto development, I've seen the tricks and subterfuges up close many times. Believe me, my tongue is firmly not in my cheek.

You are reasoning objectively. Stop it. It is meaningless in this context.

A politically well connected developer can easily persuade the city to go along with pretty much whatever it wants to build on almost any site. Take Measure D itself as an example. What the city eagerly approved was not feasible under your logic, but only a citizens' referendum could prevent it. That one success, however, will not stop the backroom dealing elsewhere.


4 people like this
Posted by Curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on Apr 16, 2016 at 4:03 pm

Curmudgeon is a registered user.

"This is the real reason your group opposes the development and why this town sees NIMBY is written all over it."

I sense well justified panic in this sentence. If something you don't want in your own backyard is not built in somebody else's backyard, it could wind up in your backyard after all.

That's good reasoning. But calling the neighbors who successfully repelled it dirty names is bad politics. You might need their support to chase the thing away if your backyard draws the short straw on the next round.


5 people like this
Posted by Greenacres
a resident of Green Acres
on Apr 16, 2016 at 4:30 pm

" But it also feels like the heart of our side of town, so a community space would be very connecting, is very needed"
"This is the real reason your group opposes the development and why this town sees NIMBY is written all over it."

If by that you mean that a community soace would mean no traffic to that specific space, yes. If you mean the real reason no low-income housing came out of it, go look in the mirror and look for that residual meanness that won't let you consider the facts and your neighbirs' goid faith.

The reason there was even a referendum instead of a working group - that citizens publicly asked for well before they referended in order to achieve both the low-income housing and ensuring that specific spot was not overly impacted - was because of people [portion removed] who could not listen to facts or other people [portion removed.] Many of the same people had achieved virtually the same ends - saving Terman School from being developed while also seeing into being a 92-unit low-income development IN THIS SAME NEIGHBORHOO - through a working group. [Portion removed.]


8 people like this
Posted by Greenacres
a resident of Green Acres
on Apr 16, 2016 at 4:51 pm

@My,
While I do not retract any of the content in my message, I do apologize for my tone. I'm just really sick of being hit by these nasty accusations such as in your post. I also put way, way too much of my own time into figuring out how to create a win-win and was more willing to put the effort into creating positive outcomes (including for affordable housing) than what we ultimately had to do. I am not alone in that by a long shot. [Portion removed.] No one believed the neighbors could prevail, so no one on the development side then thought they had to really listen. The tactics against the neighborhood were boilerplate because those tactics work for developers, not because they were warranted. In this case, think of what neighbors accomplished, and what they could have accomplished had they been allowed to work for a win-win.

You are wrong about the desire for that parcel to be a community space being a hidden agenda. It was very much an open wish but no one had energy to make it an agenda. Politically, the City making the whole thing a fight over affordable housing in the abstract when it was about the unsuitability if that location for dense development, made any effort to create the most positive outcome, including the affordable housing, impossible. It just makes me sick now to read other efforts around planting trees and buying parkland, when that could have been parkland virtually free, at a location where we and the kids really really need the community space and center of gravity.

Again, I apologize for my tone, but I don't apologize for sticking up for good people who really tried for a win win


10 people like this
Posted by Greenacres
a resident of Green Acres
on Apr 16, 2016 at 5:10 pm

@Curmudgeon,
Well, I can't argue with you there. There is one thing residents can do to better even the playing field, which is change the City election code so we have impartial ballots. San Francisco had a similar referendum that lost by an even greater margin, despite millions for affordable housing. Even though generally San Franciscans are even more liberal, they could not be used by developers on the waterfront because the ballot had to be created through a fair and public process. It has been working there for thirty years and could here since we are both charter cities. All we have to do is slightly modify their code and ask CC to adopt or do an initiative. I say "we" but I hope Measure D at least showed that anyone can do something like that to at least improve democracy in this town!


2 people like this
Posted by Jerry Underdal
a resident of Barron Park
on Apr 16, 2016 at 6:33 pm

Jerry Underdal is a registered user.

Thanks to project manager Ted O’Hanlon and principal Yurong Han of Golden Gate Homes for working patiently with the community over a two year period to arrive at the excellent project they presented to the community this week.

This is not my personal favorite outcome for the property, a block from my home. Somewhat higher density affordable housing or park expansion with a community gathering place would’ve come in first and second respectively. From my perspective,they would have added more value to the community than any market-rate housing, but they are both pipe dreams now.

Third place on my good-as-it-can-be list would be the project Golden Gate showed us. Sixteen R-1-like single family homes, all two-story with the option of a third basement floor of living space that won’t involve water wastage because the land surface is well above the aquifer. Minimal impact on traffic. Adequate parking. With an estimated minimum price of $3M (ranging upward to ?)—these should definitely be suitable Palo Alto homes for the second decade of the 21st Century.

The neighborhood dodged a bullet when PAHC put the financial pieces together to be able to purchase the Maybell/Clemo property. Without that, a commercial developer would have bought and developed it in a much different manner, I suspect, than Golden Gate Homes is proposing. Even if you wanted to stymie the PAHC proposal, you should be thankful to PAHC, if you live in the neighborhood, for setting off a series of events that will result, if this project is approved, in a nice addition to this edge of Barron Park.


12 people like this
Posted by Thank You, PASZ!!
a resident of Palo Verde
on Apr 16, 2016 at 6:37 pm

I do not live in the Barron Park area. But I fully supported the residents in their efforts to NOT have an over-built, code-defying, under-parked, large scale development shoe-horned into their neighborhood. I had a No on Measure D sign in my yard

"Residentialist" is not a curse word. It's a reminder of where the city's priorities should be focused.
We need organized, engaged citizens to counteract the organized monetarily-motivated interests that otherwise control politics and development decisions.

Thank you, PASZ, for staying on the job and continuing to watch-dog in our city. Thank you. Thank you!


6 people like this
Posted by Greenacres
a resident of Green Acres
on Apr 16, 2016 at 11:20 pm

@Jerry Underdal,
I would much rather have seen that as parkland, too. While I appreciate PAHCs work in the community, I felt betrayed by what we were subjected to in this, and frankly, that hurt the former high regard I had for them. I have spoken to retired city people who had wanted to work on turning that into parkland. The City had an opportunity to keep the property after the referendum, and if they had done that - even just given the neighbors time to raise the money themselves, as the neighbors basically did with Bol Park - then the orchard would have been saved.

Look, affordable housing advocates have a tough row to hoe, I know that. But they got way too comfortable with being really close with development interests and pulling the Nimby card to get their way instead of doing the work of reaching people. In this community, that was a serious miscalculation that did serious damage to trust and relationships in the community,as posts above continue to demonstrate. You don't get people's gratitude by telling them people should be grateful, especially since you don't see their side in what happened.

I'd really like to get beyond that at some point. I hope someday you will see the good intentions of your neighbirs and what might have been if there had been collaboration. That simply wasn't going to happen under circumstances in which the neighborhood was powerless to enforce their strongest concerns. I do think the proposal by Golden Gate homes was very well done, and if a development has to go there, it's probably the least impact traffic wise. I think the community is very grateful to Golden Gate Homes for that. I was afraid to ask what would happen to the old oaks, though. (Sad that such established trees will go down given how far down the water table is.)


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Posted by Jerry Underdal
a resident of Barron Park
on Apr 21, 2016 at 11:23 pm

Jerry Underdal is a registered user.

@Greenacres

You were right. The Terman Apartments were built subsequent to the Terman Working Group effort and were to be for affordable housing.

I had the PAHC model in mind, as proposed for the Maybell project. Ownership would have resided with PAHC which would have been obligated to keep it affordable for 55 years. After which, the property could only go to to market rate if there was no longer a need for affordable housing––in effect, this would be affordable in perpetuity.

The Terman Apartments are a different matter. They are owned and managed by a Culver City corporation, Goodrich and Kest, which obtained HUD financing for construction by committing to participate in the Section 8 program for twenty years. We passed that point a few years ago. Five year extensions are possible. If the Section 8 contract was extended, when does it expire?

There are 92 units, but only 72 were financed through Section 8. What difference, if any, is there in the way the apartments are managed. Apparently PAHC tried to purchase the complex, but the price was too high. Is Goodrich and Kest looking for a buyer now? Does the city have a right of first refusal on the property? What can the city do to assure that the Terman Apts. remain affordable if it is not willing or able to buy or help PAHC buy them? Lots of interesting questions to be answered.

No one directly challenged my assertion during the online debate about Maybell that the housing would be effectively guaranteed affordable for at least 55 years. Fears were fanned, though, that the PAHC proposal could be a Trojan Horse for dense market rate housing at the site. That was a lost opportunity to provide a better factual base for the debate.


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