News

Palo Alto council urged to 'go big' on housing

City officials agree to study planning scenario with more housing units

Go big on housing. That's the message that about a hundred Palo Alto residents delivered to the City Council on Monday -- in person and through letters -- as the council prepared to debate the city's long-term future.

After hearing from the speakers, the council agreed to explore a planning scenario that would indeed boost the city's housing stock -- though by a fewer units that many in the stands and some on the dais had hoped for.

The question of how much housing the city should plan for is among the most critical components of the council's broader discussion about updating the city's land-use bible, the Comprehensive Plan. The updated plan is intended to guide the city's development policies until 2030.

So far, planners have evaluated four different scenarios: a "business-as-usual" approach where all existing policies remain in place; a "slow growth" scenario that would restrain job growth; a "housing tested" scenario that would add housing units; and a "sustainability tested" scenario that allows both more jobs and more housing growth, but requires new developments to comply with regulations aimed at enhancing sustainability and reducing impacts on residents.

In January, council members agreed that these four scenarios aren't enough and directed planners to add a fifth, which should address the city's jobs-housing imbalance (the fact that there are about three jobs in the city for every employed resident). And in February, the council decided that the fifth scenario should also consider growth patterns that improve the city's "quality of life" by limiting jobs, promoting sustainable policies and improving the city's traffic and parking conditions, there was no clear consensus about what this scenario would entail when it comes to city's housing stock.

The council's task on Monday night was to further refine the fifth scenario, which will be evaluated in the Environmental Impact Report for the Comprehensive Plan update. After hearing from nearly 20 speakers and debating the topic for nearly three hours, the council finally reached a compromise. By a 7-2 vote, with Councilwoman Karen Holman and Councilman Greg Schmid dissenting, the council asked staff to consider a planning scenario that would include more new housing and fewer new jobs than any of the alternatives currently on the table.

Specifically, it would reduce the number of new jobs in the "slow growth" scenario (which already has the fewest number of new jobs) by 10 percent, from 9,850 to 8,868. At the same time, it would evaluate the impacts of building 6,000 new housing units -- 699 more than in the growth-friendly "sustainability tested" scenario.

The decision to study an alternative with more housing reflects the council's recent push to address the city's worsening housing-affordability crisis. Rising real estate values and spiking rents are displacing long-time residents and making it nearly impossible for most teachers, firefighters and almost all other city workers to live in Palo Alto. In recent months, the council has requested that staff explore ways to encourage construction of "accessory dwelling units" and "micro-units" aimed at young professionals.

The council isn't alone in thinking about the housing crisis. A recent poll that the city commissioned to evaluate the viability of a November transportation-tax measure showed 76 percent of the polled residents declaring the cost of housing to be either an "extremely serious" or a "very serious" problem ahead of the drought (65 percent) and traffic and congestion (53 percent).

The turnout at Monday's meeting underscored the level of citizen concern. Dozens attended the council's long discussion and nearly 20 spoke publicly, though only a handful remained in attendance by the time the council reached a decision on the fifth scenario shortly before 1 a.m. Tuesday.

Diane Morin, a board member of the citizens group Palo Alto Forward, was one of many speakers to request that the council "go big on housing" in designing the fifth scenario to be studied. Morin said she recently spoke to a woman who works in Palo Alto and who has been forced to sleep in her car for the past month because she can no longer afford the rent. It's important, she said, that the fifth scenario evaluate what it would take to significantly increase the city's housing stock.

"Without studying a greater housing number, we won't know what the impacts are," Morin said.

Judy Kleinberg, CEO of the Palo Alto Chamber of Commerce, urged the city to "be bold" and to think about the "silent minority who are critical to the vitality of this community," including hospitality workers, janitors and city employees. The city, she said, should pursue "a moonshot for housing."

"Go for as much housing as you can possibly do, and then have policies that enable it," Kleinberg said.

Resident John Kelley went a step further and proposed an actual target: 10,000 new housing units, or nearly double of what is currently proposed in the city's most aggressive planning scenario. He asked the council to "figure out how to do it" and suggested that relaxing the city's 50-foot height limit for high-density housing and relaxing parking requirements for these units would be a good start.

The council didn't have a clear consensus on the final number. Some members, including Councilmen Cory Wolbach and Marc Berman, suggested exploring a higher number of housing units. Wolbach proposed 8,868 housing units, to match the number of expected new jobs. Berman proposed 6,500 housing units.

"We don't get these opportunities often," Berman said. "I'd like to push the envelope even more and see what's possible."

Councilman Eric Filseth, meanwhile, supported exploring a concept he called the "21st Century suburb," which would combine slow-growth policies with the types of transportation improvements and sustainability policies proposed in the more pro-growth scenarios.

"A 21st century suburb must deal with transportation and environment like everyone else," Filseth said.

By the end of the discussion that featured numerous failed motions, the council finally coalesced around 6,000 housing units, a number proposed by Vice Mayor Greg Scharff.

Staff was also directed to evaluate a slightly less aggressive variation of this scenario, which would combine the fewer-jobs policies of the "slow growth" scenario with the more-housing policies of the "housing tested" scenario (which includes 3,546 units).

Scharff argued that adding 10,000 housing units would "change the character of the community dramatically," which is not something that he said he believes most residents want. He noted that when he ran for council in 2009, the city was coming off a period in which many residents were wary of more construction.

"If you build too much, you're going to make it look really bad and the community won't go with you," Scharff said.

Even studying a proposal like the one Kelley proposed would be wasteful, he said, because it probably wouldn't give the council any useful information. Even building 6,000 housing units by 2030 would be aggressive, he noted, because it would roughly triple the rate of housing construction that the city had experienced over the past 30 years.

"I think this addresses the concerns the public raised without going so high that we won't get decent information out of it," Scharff said.

Schmid and Holman both opposed this proposal, with Schmid arguing that the city should be exploring scenarios that reduce the number of jobs and Holman suggesting that the entire conversation be continued to another date (the council, she observed, doesn't make its best decisions at half past midnight). Holman also suggested that the city take a close look at policies that would address the loss of existing housing, whether through demolition of conversion to short-term rentals.

The council will continue its discussion of the Comprehensive Plan update on June 6, when it holds a hearing on the draft Environmental Impact Report for the project. The fifth scenario will later be added to the document once staff and consultants further refine and analyze it.

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Comments

54 people like this
Posted by balance?
a resident of Downtown North
on May 18, 2016 at 10:29 am

For all the talk about the jobs/housing imbalance, Council has now picked 5 scenarios for the future, all of which keep adding more jobs than housing. They all dig us further into the housing crisis we're experiencing. Where is the bold leadership? Where is the vision? How pathetic is it to say "well we don't want to deviate from our past rate of housing construction" when that past rate is exactly what got is into this awful mess we're in, in the first place. Staff even openly admitted that for decades we haven't been meeting our housing construction goals- which are designed to make sure we add enough housing for our growing population. And City Council, instead of admitting that that's an embarrassing failure, wants to keep following "tradition"! Past mistakes are not a "tradition' - they're something to be rectified, which this council has no real interest in doing.


48 people like this
Posted by Caroline V.
a resident of Portola Valley
on May 18, 2016 at 10:31 am

Thank you for the detail reporting. Please identify who these young professionals are. Are they American Citizen or are they professionals with H1B visa and 112 labor certifications for green card?


59 people like this
Posted by Reasonable Citizen
a resident of Ohlone School
on May 18, 2016 at 10:32 am

We should do something now about the Maybell Property. To end up with only 16 ultra-luxury homes on 2.4 acres is insane. Now is the time to INSIST upon some senior housing that is affordable for our seniors. The neighborhood that fought against the prior proposal for affordable housing has now been exposed. They said they were fine with the senior housing, they just wanted fewer single family homes. However, what they really wanted was luxury housing at a super low density. All they cared about was boosting their home values. [Portion removed.] This is one of the last large pieces of land in town, and it should have a significant component of affordable housing for our seniors. Can we all agree that 16 ultra-luxury homes on 2.4 acres is a horrible waste of a valuable asset? Let the City Council know that there should be much more housing on that site. Palo Alto Forward is missing an incredible opportunity for housing if this ultra-luxury project goes forward without an affordable senior component.


22 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 18, 2016 at 10:37 am

The whole council basically admitted that even this amount of housing wouldn't bring prices down. Wolbach thought it would take 2% per year just to hold steady, and this is less than that. So this is still for rich people and young professionals.


62 people like this
Posted by Dan
a resident of Midtown
on May 18, 2016 at 10:37 am

Hopefully the council will listen to the message that the electorate sent in the last CC election rather than just the loudest voices of people who have time to lobby at CC meetings. I don't think the last election results informed the council to "go big on housing". In general the message was "go small" on development.


23 people like this
Posted by Marc
a resident of Midtown
on May 18, 2016 at 10:40 am

Who are all the "young professionals" that want to live in micro units in Palo Alto? No singles. They live in places that are more urban and vibrant.

All this talk about "think big" is just a way to build ghettos. The proponents will always come up with reasons why new housing can't be added where they live.

The simple way to add new housing is to ban single family dwellings. No more standalone single family units. You buy property and want to tear down the existing structure, then you have to put up at least a duplex, many lots could have 2 - 5 family units. Just think, all the large lots north of Oregon each could hold 4 - 7 new families.

This way the increase is spread evenly throughout the city. No ghettos, no "micro units". We all get impacted by the housing increase.

/marc


33 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 18, 2016 at 10:48 am

I strongly feel that many if not most of these large buildings would eventually be housed by those who work outside Palo Alto, would still have car owners needing parking, and would do nothing to help the traffic or parking situation.

Most people change jobs more often than they change where they live. Most couples have at least one person who works nowhere near where they live, and even those who commute by bike/train/foot, will still own a car for evenings and weekend use.

If we want to do something more useful then we should encourage zipcar ownership, make public transport more useful, and get shuttles from stations and highways to downtown areas as well as school shuttles. I saw an item about a bike rental program that allows users to leave the bike at any bike rack around town. Why can't we be innovative in Palo Alto rather than sheep or close minded, blinkered pariahs.


20 people like this
Posted by Housing For All
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on May 18, 2016 at 10:49 am

What's in a number? Go for a 20,000 affordable housing number for 2030. Most likely only half of even less will be built. Make lifelong residents a priority - they've helped make the Palo Alto we love.


91 people like this
Posted by Andy
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on May 18, 2016 at 10:49 am

Building more housing in Palo Alto is like stitching up the first inch of a 17-inch gash -- it makes no difference whatsoever to improving the situation. And, any expectation that prices will be lower is silly. Rather, the addition of more people to Palo Alto simply makes for more traffic and less quality of life. Further, there's zero guarantee that any of the additional Palo Alto residents will be working in Palo Alto, and the so-called jobs-housing imbalance will therefore be unaffected, as well. I don't know what life with the ABAG would be like for Palo Alto, but our City Council taking the stand that "Palo Alto is saturated" would sure help a lot. Nobody living here benefits from the addition of more people living here or more jobs being created here that draw more commuters every day. This isn't "pulling up the drawbridge." I've lived here 31 years, and haven't felt this way until now -- because now we really are a saturated city.


28 people like this
Posted by Be Careful
a resident of Community Center
on May 18, 2016 at 10:52 am

Be careful throwing around the word "ghetto" ... talk to someone who's been trapped in one and you might understand.


46 people like this
Posted by No surprises
a resident of Crescent Park
on May 18, 2016 at 11:02 am

The City Manager chose the members of theCompPlan Update committee and he made sure the majority is for big development. So it's no surprise that they recommend what he and his developer friends want.

>Councilmen Cory Wolbach and Marc Berman, suggested exploring a higher number of housing units (8,000 and 6,500, respectively).<
Gee, what a surprise. Wolbach sure fooled the electorate when he ran.

>"Go for as much housing as you can possibly do,< says head of Chamber of Commerce. [Portion removed.]


46 people like this
Posted by Crescent Park Dad
a resident of Crescent Park
on May 18, 2016 at 11:07 am

@ Responsible Citizen:

Well that's one way to spin Maybell.

Or you could fall back on objections that were based upon facts --- too dense (required a density waiver), too high (required a height waiver) and under-parked. Further, increased traffic issues were not satisfactorily addressed. That's why I voted against it and I don't live anywhere near Maybell.

The resulting housing at Maybell fits into the current zoning for the property - which is what should be done. No up-zoning - especially in residential neighborhoods.


251 people like this
Posted by PAF rallies the troups
a resident of Fairmeadow
on May 18, 2016 at 11:09 am

Palo Alto Forward emailed their members last week urging them to come to this City Council meeting in force and strongly advocate for more housing. It seems like they were successful. Hopefully the City Council members realize that PAF members' voices are not representative of the majority of Palo Alto citizens, who "spoke" loud and clear at the last election to put the brakes on new development.


23 people like this
Posted by Observer
a resident of University South
on May 18, 2016 at 11:23 am

The article neglects another data point from the city's poll.

While 76% thought housing costs were extremely or seriously urgent, only 30% thought "too much growth and development" was a big problem.

Town Square is an echo chamber. Get out and talk to actual people, folks, and you'll hear the same mix the survey reported. I know I do.


43 people like this
Posted by 38 year resident
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on May 18, 2016 at 11:24 am

Where ???? Palo Alto is considered by many to be overbuilt already. Where do you put it?


4 people like this
Posted by Marc
a resident of Midtown
on May 18, 2016 at 11:26 am

@Be Careful Would you like to talk with my father? Any of my other relatives that survived WWII?

/marc


62 people like this
Posted by Phil Farrell
a resident of Palo Verde
on May 18, 2016 at 11:43 am

First of all, I don't understand why everyone is afraid to use their real name when posting on this forum.

So far, I don't think any of our leaders have been willing to really address the jobs/housing imbalance. The only real way to do it is to have zero net growth in jobs. Then any housing that gets built reduces the problem. Why don't we have a comprehensive plan alternative with zero net job growth? We are a rich community. We don't need to be greedy about getting more and more tax revenue from stuffing more and more workers into town. Let our big companies start expanding elsewhere - on the periphery of the Bay Area, or the Central Valley, or other states! Spread the wealth! In the process, we keep our city livable.


80 people like this
Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on May 18, 2016 at 11:47 am

Schools are over-crowded, our roads are gridlocked, we've got a water shortage, foreign investors will continue to outbid locals ....

Just say no. This won't reduce housing prices and we'd still have to pay for new schools and higher utility rates and parking/transport bureaucrats.

Tell me again who this helps besides the developers.


4 people like this
Posted by Robert
a resident of another community
on May 18, 2016 at 11:54 am

@Phil Farrell

You're correct in that its the jobs driving demand for housing - but the jobs are also driving the increase in housing prices, so while some politicians may talk about slowing or stopping it, its done so with a wink and a nod, I've yet to see any serious proposals for killing the golden egg laying goose.


24 people like this
Posted by Rent Control
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on May 18, 2016 at 12:02 pm

Don't be fooled. Those advocating more housing will soon demand "rent control." Millennials in San Mateo and other nearby towns are now demanding rent control. They have somewhat succeed in San Mateo.


52 people like this
Posted by Gale Johnson
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on May 18, 2016 at 12:30 pm

I couldn't stand it any longer. I held off, but now I have to speak.

That big project proposed on Hamilton wasn't received well at all and hopefully will die on the vine...DOA. And the big developers who ask for changes to zoning and other reliefs for bigger projects, more profitable for them, are starting to get the message, along with pro growth council members who get big campaign contributions from those developers. Our residents and voting citizens are waking up to what's been going on for years. They are much more astute, vigilant, and engaged than in the past. There's a good 'change in the wind'. And I think any future council member candidates sense that they will have a limited political future in PA if they stick with the big developer growth model.

Now to the 'more housing needed' question: All those posters who say it will only exacerbate our current problems are right. More cars, more parking problems, et al. And there will be no reductions in prices. I say just leave it alone for now. Let's not work ourselves up into a lather about it. If there is any validity in those recent surveys and articles, there will be lots of people fleeing from this area. Let's wait and watch how the economics of it plays a part in it, and it usually does, and then see what evolves. When we see a lot of 'For Rent' signs going up around town, and I am especially aware of all the units on Alma, where we first lived in a duplex in 1961, then I'll know there's a correction happening and rents will go down and home prices along with them. The need for more housing will disappear, except for the homeless and low income folks and they wouldn't be living in those new proposed units anyway.


24 people like this
Posted by Blix
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on May 18, 2016 at 12:49 pm

Blix is a registered user.

When my father first moved here, one of the things he liked best was the fact that if you changed jobs you didn't have to sell your home and move. All the employment was in pretty much one place, compared to the rest of the nation, and the suburbs encircled that.

People in Sillycon Valley change jobs frequently because they CAN.


11 people like this
Posted by Hadleyburg
a resident of another community
on May 18, 2016 at 12:56 pm

The fastest way to lower Palo Alto housing prices would be to cut school funding. Not only would the demand for housing drop, school enrollment would probably drop too, thereby decreasing the need for new school bonds. The only people harmed by this proposal would be children and recent home buyers (who would be harmed by lowering housing prices no matter how it is achieved), but the PA government has never really cared about issues specific to recent home buyers.


51 people like this
Posted by Blix
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on May 18, 2016 at 1:03 pm

Blix is a registered user.

If new housing is built, Palo Alto--and the rest of the US for that matter-- should limit purchase to US citizens ONLY.

Any new housing should be unavailable for landlords or potential landlords to purchase as investments or income property. Owner occupants only.


9 people like this
Posted by Reasonable Citizen
a resident of Ohlone School
on May 18, 2016 at 1:35 pm

@Crescent Park Dad

You are simply wrong. Have you ever been to the Maybell site? It abuts one of the tallest APARTMENT buildings in Palo Alto, Tan Apartments. So, it is not a single family neighborhood. More importantly, you are wrong abut the zoning. Approximately 75% of the land is zoned for RM15, which is for multi-family. Read the Ballot Measure under "Zoning Changes." You can read it in black and white here:
Web Link

It is the prefect place to house our seniors in a 3-4 story apartment building. And yes, these seniors are US Citizens that have lived and worked in Palo Alto most of their life.


42 people like this
Posted by Yawn
a resident of Crescent Park
on May 18, 2016 at 1:38 pm

I agree with the sentiment that Council decisions at 1 am turn out to be big mistakes. There's really no point in doing studies to find out the impact of building more housing. We all already know the answer. Housing prices will not go down one cent. Roads will be more crowded. Shopping and commuting will take longer. More students will be crammed into existing classrooms. Parking will be in shorter supply. Neighbors will lose privacy. Streets will become ugly canyons.

The irony is that even those who asked the council to do these studies wouldn't benefit. They're just being used by developers who want to earn more profit on their Palo Alto real estate holdings. It's like when blue collar workers support wealthy Republican candidates who, upon being elected, then enact policies that (surprise) help the wealthy and hurt their constituents.


9 people like this
Posted by Judith
a resident of Barron Park
on May 18, 2016 at 1:55 pm

@Balance. The council didn't "choose" the first 4 scenarios. That came under the purview of the unelected Planning and Transportation Commission, with a majority of members who favor growth, or as the buzz word calls it density which equals sustainability.

When the council members were presented with the P&TC's four recommendations it was a fait accompli. So the council voted to have the staff consider a fifth option with guidelines that the majority of council could agree on. Palo Alto forward, whose members generally want housing that is affordable for themselves, organized a writing campaign and stacked the chamber with members and speakers.

I have been saddened that past councils, added and abetted by the Planning Department, and more recently the Planning and Transport Commission members, have allowed so many zoning changes and that decisions that are at the planning department's discretion resulted in misusing this power to make waivers the norm. Perhaps a few tweaks here and there for appearance sakes.

I hope the council will find ways to incentivize developers to not build all luxury units. Unfortunately some decades ago council decided that small "nonconforming" lots were undesirable. Anyone who owns such contiguous lots and wants to building permission is required to have the internal lot line(s) eliminated. So the property can never again be subdivided back to the original property lines. So smaller lots are gradually being eliminated.


30 people like this
Posted by Judith
a resident of Barron Park
on May 18, 2016 at 2:12 pm

@ Phil. The city gets no revenue from commuters other than sales tax. Mostly from spending money for food at lunchtime. Any other money commuters spend only offsets the residents who no longer shop downtown.


87 people like this
Posted by mauricio
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on May 18, 2016 at 2:20 pm

mauricio is a registered user.

This was just another coordinated mass appearance by PAF, attempting to strong-arm the CC to carry out their vision of mass housing and development which would turn Palo Alto into the urban nightmare they so desire. Even if this awful vision is carried out, foreign oligarchs will probably end up outbidding all other potential buyers, and housing prices will continue to skyrocket, while what is left of Palo Alto's character and quality of life will go up in the smoke coming out of the additional traffic, construction trucks and heavy equipment. It goes without saying that low and average income families and individuals won't be able to afford the new units.

Unless we reduce the number of jobs and the desirability of this town, and stop advertising our school district abroad as a magic wand that enable students to be accepted to elite colleges, housing prices will continue to rise and people with average income will not be able to live here. We need zero job growth, zero office construction and no more population density. Not everyone who works in Palo Alto should live here, and Palo Alto real estate shouldn't be allowed to be a bank for foreign investors.


20 people like this
Posted by Justine
a resident of Crescent Park
on May 18, 2016 at 2:27 pm

On Monday, a guest on KQED's Forum (the topic was housing) called out Palo Alto for not building more housing. "All cities in the Bay Area need to build more housing, even Palo Alto and Mountain View." When other cities build housing but Palo Alto does not, we're creating traffic problems for other cities. Palo Alto doesn't exist in a vacuum, we are part of the Bay Area. We need to act like a team player and build 4-5 story condo buildings like Paris with retail and shops on the bottom floor within a mile of the train stations. The vast majority of the town can stay zoned for R-1. For those of us who want to get around by Zip Car, bicycle, train and bus, there should be more transit-friendly options. More housing might mean the escalation of housing prices will slow down. It's outrageous that a house down the street that sold for $2.8M in 2012 sold for $8.3M last month. Is a 300% increase in housing prices over 3.5 years OK with anyone?


37 people like this
Posted by No surprises
a resident of Crescent Park
on May 18, 2016 at 2:29 pm

@Blix If new housing is built, Palo Alto--and the rest of the US for that matter-- should limit purchase to US citizens ONLY.

It is considered impolite to mention what is obvious in the SOLD listings every day for years now. Foreign cash buyers have corrupted the real estate market and greedy sellers and agents wont resist.
Together with the developer interests leading Palo Alto Forward, and the techies who get time off from work to lobby, it's not a pretty sight.


39 people like this
Posted by HUTCH 7.62
a resident of Portola Valley
on May 18, 2016 at 2:34 pm

Just ban foreign nationals from buying property in the United States. Housing prices will come down. Get ahold of illegal immigration and stop those who hire them. And the population will stop exploding. Water won't be so scarce, snd we won't have to turn precius farmland and open space into housing.

If you don't like that Idea we could get rod of the many open space preserves in this area and build lots of town houses.


35 people like this
Posted by mauricio
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on May 18, 2016 at 2:39 pm

mauricio is a registered user.

Justin, if we heed your advise, and I won't even address the traffic mess, pollution and noise that will all but destroy the character and quality of life here, we will only enable foreign buyers to take control of more Palo Alto real estate, as they have been doing for years, and that will further increase housing prices. believe me, those investors are just waiting for a city council foolish enough to adopt your ideas. They only beneficiaries will be the developers and the foreign investors.


20 people like this
Posted by MadamPresident
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on May 18, 2016 at 3:15 pm

@RentControl - what's wrong with the rent control?

@Phil Farrell - bcs people either can post xenophobic comments (as Caroline V.) or afraid they will get vilified for their opinions


8 people like this
Posted by chris
a resident of University South
on May 18, 2016 at 4:09 pm

Why are the Stop 550 people good and the PAF people bad?

Is there anybody in Palo Alto who believes in free speech for everybody?


45 people like this
Posted by Y O Y
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 18, 2016 at 4:42 pm

The United States appears to be the only country in the world, other than Italy, that allows foreign buyers to purchase real estate, both residential and commercial. Every other country requires proof of citizenship to buy real estate, including China.

The US needs to get up to speed with the rest of the globe. It is demoralizing and artificially inflates prices out of the reach of citizens.

To make matters worse, Chinese immigrant landlords are abominable--because landlords in China are abominable and renters there have no rights.

Look at what happened to Australia and Canada--that is now happening here. The legislated foreign buyers out of their real estate markets, and so should we!


36 people like this
Posted by Gale Johnson
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on May 18, 2016 at 4:52 pm

Where are those projected job growth numbers coming from? And name the developer/builder who will happily build affordable living units for them. It's all just fantasy. Please council members, don't spend so much time on this non-issue. We have enough real issues to deal with now.


7 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 18, 2016 at 4:53 pm

By banning foreign ownership of residential properties you would only be adding to the problem. Do you have any idea of how many green card holders and visa holding legal immigrants are in Silicon Valley, are in Palo Alto are doing research in Stanford? Can you imagine all these people wanting to rent? These people are living productive lives in the valley, they are creating businesses and therefore jobs, they are leading many of the innovations that the valley is famous for, they are paying taxes and probably sitting beside you at work, the theater or the restaurant. Then of course they are having babies, I mean they are having a new generation of American citizens, who would have to live in rentals rather than parental owned homes and would be denied the right of learning how to upkeep and take pride in something that is owned as opposed to rented.

Of course we know that there are some overseas investors taking advantage of local properties in which they never intend to live, but they are in the vast minority of foreign nationals who are living and owning homes in this area.


30 people like this
Posted by Ahem
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 18, 2016 at 6:25 pm

Unless you are homeless, or a senior trying to figure out how to live in Palo Alto on a fixed income, there is NO housing crisis in Palo Alto.

The so-called "housing crisis" among young well-paid tech-workers is a fabrication constructed by an alliance from hell between naive neo-bolshiviks and Machiavellian real-estate developers willing to ally themselves with anyone willing to support the continued liquidation Palo Alto's quality of life, and its conversion into personal wealth.

Politicians cow-tow to the real-estate industry because real-estate construction is the only indigenous manufacturing industry left in the United States still employing significant numbers of blue-collar workers. Politician from Palo Alto to DC are afraid that if they do not continue to subsidize the real-estate industry with everything from zoning exemptions, to ABAG, to non-citizen buyers, to record-low interest rates, the hollow de-industrialized economy of the American empire will collapse... again.


34 people like this
Posted by Waking the Sleeping Giant II
a resident of Green Acres
on May 18, 2016 at 7:48 pm

We had to endure enough attacks during the Maybell debates because of the developer interests involved. It was part of a political steamroller, and neighbors have had it up to here with the attacks. Long before the thing ever became a referendum, I spent a time of deep reflection and soul searching asking myself whether I could devote my time and energy to figuring out how to ensure the affordable housing would be built while also prioritizing the safety issues there. Because the plan was unsafe for the neighborhood and the specific circumstances. I decided I would dedicate that part of my life to that effort, but was put in a position of just having to fight by people like the above whose relentless, unawarranted attacks on good people made any collaboration impossible and do to this day.

Just a reminder that many of the same people who were leading in the Maybell referendum (AGAINST) were also responsible for saving Terman school from development in a similar battle, while also getting a 92-unit affordable housing family complex built almost right across from the Maybell property (near Terman school, I don't mean the other affordable PAHC apartments on Maybell). Neighbors AGAINST Measure D asked for a similar working group but were relentlessly shouted down by all the NIMBY name calling. The attacks were and are almost ludicrous in their malicious wrongheadedness, especially given what the very same neighbors had done to create affordable housing in the same neighborhood.

To neighbors, the 16-units is not what they wanted. The 16 units is the COMPROMISE. That site has such an impact on such an already impacted area, the main contention remaining among neighbors was arguing about whether the traffic would go out on Maybell or Arastradero. People think 16 units is too much - it has NOTHING to do with whether it's for "affordable" housing or anything else. People are getting fed up, though.

The same survey in the neighborhood that found people were overwhelmingly against the plan, also found that the most favored developed use was all affordable housing (within zoning) and the most favored use (period) was to retain the orchard. If these attacks do not stop, the residents may decide it's no longer worth working with the developer and take legal action to invalidate the sale and force the City to buy the property like they could have, noncompetitively, after Measure D (under the terms of the contract). Or otherwise take over the property through initiative to honor a fraction of the deficit of new open space the residents are OWED BY LAW under the City code for all the development they have endured. If the residents start taking legal action to enforce that, there will be an even bigger fight for the soul of our town. Maybell will be ground zero for fighting development bigtime again. The neighbors' battle really was all about the specific problems of that location. If developers want to really wake the sleeping giant of residents' ire to a pitched degree, going after greater density at Maybell will do it.

Not only would residents fight again against to ensure they don't have to keep fighting that battle, I think this time they would force the City to adopt and begin using specific tools to analyze impacts per promises and policies. "Heightened scrutiny" of development on school commute routes should means something very specific, tangible, and specific, and it's about time the residents of Palo Alto forced the City to adopt tools for actual analysis. It's time the City had tangible analysis tools for ensuring we take into account things like water, the cost of adding new schools (development fees need to account for), safety and emergency services, etc. They didn't during Maybell, because guess what? Analytical tools would mean development here would REALLY come screeching to a halt because we ARE SATURATED.

The neighbors at Maybell fought so hard because they know this immediate neighborhood and know the impact of developing that location. Saying the last open space, with trees that have such deep roots they have survived this long a drought without watering, should be developed is ridiculous, especially since sites like the old Compadres location can be bought and redeveloped. Mountain View is building more than we are, yet faced with the demise of their last historic orchard, chose to save it. The fact that it is such rare open space with nearly 100 trees with deep roots, including heritage oaks, is reason to save it. The fact that it would be a community space (when there are none in this neighborhood) for overstressed Gunn students, Terman Students, Juana Briones students, the disabled students in the OH, Bowman International students, is all the more reason to save it for the community.


Holman and Schmid were the only sensible voices: People who ACTUALLY care about affordable housing should be prioritizing preventing the eviction and dislocation of existing residents and whole thriving communities among us like at BV.
While PAF adherents scream Build Baby Build, they are oddly silent about BV, and not a one of them knows what is happening at the Terman apartments or interested in ensuring that housing remains affordable. Building new makes housing expensive. If people were really truly concerned about affordable housing, they would stop carrying water for developers whose ACTUAL actions will make housing here LESS affordable for existing low income residents.


11 people like this
Posted by @ Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 18, 2016 at 8:52 pm

[Post removed.]


41 people like this
Posted by Jerry
a resident of Downtown North
on May 18, 2016 at 9:03 pm

What about the thousands of residents who want to stop/limit future growth and housing? Why are we not discussing how to curb this unwanted growth? Blows my mind.


25 people like this
Posted by Jeffrey Hook
a resident of Evergreen Park
on May 18, 2016 at 9:07 pm

Folks, we have got to have a global ecological footprint analysis in place before we contemplate any issue as bid as jobs/housing. According to the Global Footprint Network the US is marked in RED, meaning a serious overshoot deficit. Only a fraction of the overshoot comes from transportation, so adding housing to Palo Alto doesn't solve the problem, and in fact puts burdens on our city services like sewer capacity that the system cannot absorb. We're still thinking in a colonial expansionist mentality instead of a sustainable mentality and as long as we fail to engage with each other in evidence based planning for the future of planet Earth we will continue to pit narrow agendas of one group against another. Let's not get lost in the weeds. Let's truly think globally, then act locally as if we cared about the long term future.


14 people like this
Posted by Waking the Sleeping Giant II
a resident of Green Acres
on May 18, 2016 at 9:32 pm

@Jeffrey Hook,
Please consider running for City Council!


28 people like this
Posted by Peter
a resident of College Terrace
on May 19, 2016 at 7:10 am

Refusing to build housing in job centers like Palo Alto won't reduce traffic congestion it will make it worse. All you do with that approach is force people to live further and further away which then requires them to drive to work from places like Tracy and Morgan Hill. You clog the freeways and ruin the environment. This was the 20th century approach and it doesn't work.

Building dense housing around public transit and near jobs is the way to go. California Avenue is the perfect place for this kind of housing. You're close to Caltrain and Stanford Research Park. There are other ways to mitigate traffic and parking concerns, including doing away with parking minimums and appropriately pricing public parking.

I don't know why I expect Palo Alto to be forward thinking about this stuff but the exclusionary attitude of many here is so depressing.


62 people like this
Posted by mauricio
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on May 19, 2016 at 7:33 am

mauricio is a registered user.

I know I'm repeating myself, but I'll say it again:there is no housing crisis in Palo Alto and more than there is a housing crisis in Pebble beach. Many well paid Manhattan workers can't live in manhattan, so they commute not only from other parts of the greater New York area, but from at least two other states, and they don't consider not being able to live in in Manhattan a crisis. The same applies to numerous job centers all over the world.

There is a self created phony crisis among well paid techies who want to live in Palo Alto and nowhere else, and find it hard to accomplish because the town is saturated and incredibly expensive, partially because absentee foreign buyers keep pushing prices up, even for their high salaries.

When a flight is sold out and no more passengers are allowed on, it is not classified as a crisis, it's a fact of life. Not everybody who wants to live in Palo Alto can, just like not everybody who wants to board a specific flight can; you find alternatives. This phony crisis is a coalition of convenience between the forever greedy real estate industry and well paid techies, who use well coordinated collaboration to bully the CC.


13 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 19, 2016 at 7:42 am

I am not against more housing being built. Unfortunately I can't envision the space for it. I don't want skyscrapers, but two or three story townhomes near transit or highways would make some sense if the land is found. But, we also need to make sure that these homes have sufficient parking for two cars per home and the availability of renting more offstreet parking from the developers. There also needs to be space for their visitors to park. (Loma Verde/Bayshore) has become street parking haven since the townhomes were built). We also need to build more schools and other infrastructure. We also need more buses/shuttles to serve these areas to get the residents where they need to go. Remember when the JCC was built and we were told there would be buses to serve the residents? Where are they? The JCC hasn't enough parking. All businesses along Fabian have signs for no JCC parking. It must be a big problem there!


9 people like this
Posted by Peter
a resident of College Terrace
on May 19, 2016 at 7:42 am

Pebble Beach is nothing like Palo Alto. It's not a job center in the middle of one of the largest metro regions in the country.

A city that is mostly single family housing is not full. A city that has single story buildings along its main downtown strip is not even close to full.


39 people like this
Posted by No Room
a resident of Midtown
on May 19, 2016 at 8:22 am

Palo Alto is a small place, and unless the new housing is built in the hills (unconscionable), there is simply NO ROOM for it. We have the hills and mountains on one side, the bay on another, Menlo Park on the third and Mtn View on the fourth.

The onl;y open space is Open Space and Stanford land--no way can those be built on, nor should they!!!


45 people like this
Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on May 19, 2016 at 8:24 am

Palo Alto seems to be the "job center" -- aka office park -- for Los Altos Hills, Atherton, Woodside and Portola Valley.

Are those communities doing anything to either increase density or do they just get to force us to provide company housing?


36 people like this
Posted by Waking the Sleeping Giant II
a resident of Green Acres
on May 19, 2016 at 8:32 am

@Peter,
If all the people are in Walnut Creek, why shouldn't we be moving some of the JOBS there? The US is one of the largest nations on the planet, and heavy urbanization is a trend that will continue into this century, so why be stuck just with existing urban centers while small cities wither? This is a huge opportunity for people in PAF. Get out if your insular little bubble and take a drive around this country. There are so many areas in need of that kind of investment. If you think Palo Altans are so terrible, why not take your drive to mow over what's here and take over what other people scrabbled for somewhere it is welcome? Literally, a few companies moving together like Facebook did (except, to basically create the dense city they want somewhere that needs it) would also make room for other startups that your comany is probably pricing out.

Palo Alto isn't benefiting from being a jobs center. But lots of places would. Creating more centers increases opportunity and makes our nation healthier. San Francisco didn't used to be a tech job center. It's becoming so made two thriving jobs centers. San Francisco is now also facing similar issues. The answer can be creating the town you want out of whole cloth even, and moving there. Getting in early will mean cheap housing, an opportunity to create the town you want, and to understand the responsibilities. [Portion removed.]


7 people like this
Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on May 19, 2016 at 8:52 am

Perhaps Palo Alto could adopt "sister cities" in the Red State hinterlands and convince them to go green, create jobs, etc. etc. since much of the rest of the US rejects climate change, science education, etc.

Spread the wealth. Maybe do it before the election, ;->


5 people like this
Posted by Monte
a resident of Crescent Park
on May 19, 2016 at 10:29 am

I think Online Name is kinda' mixed up about the policies that "create jobs etc. etc." In fact the Red State hinterlands he patronizes have been job factories compared to most Blue State cities. Web Link , Web Link

We get a jaundiced view of the statistics here in the Bay Area because the Tech industry has been on a roll propping up the entire state and because local political coverage is biased toward the local liberal Democratic dominance.

But states that have followed the Blue State model of high taxes, regulation and public union and environmentalist domination of politics have generally fared poorly on the economic front compared to Red States.

Don't get me wrong: I like it here and don't plan on moving to Texas. But I'm mostly retired and have enough money to exist comfortably even in this high cost area. But if I were starting out my career and life now and weren't in the tech field, I'd be tempted to look afar for opportunity.


5 people like this
Posted by Cars V. Bikes
a resident of Barron Park
on May 19, 2016 at 10:57 am

Watch it! It's on Netflix. Understand why cars take up much more room than people or buildings. More housing near transit/shopping = less cars, less traffic.


1 person likes this
Posted by Cars V. Bikes
a resident of Barron Park
on May 19, 2016 at 10:57 am

Watch it! It's on Netflix. Understand why cars take up much more room than people or buildings. More housing near transit/shopping = less cars, less traffic.


4 people like this
Posted by Cars V. Bikes
a resident of Barron Park
on May 19, 2016 at 10:57 am

Watch it! It's on Netflix. Understand why cars take up much more room than people or buildings. More housing near transit/shopping = less cars, less traffic.


29 people like this
Posted by Mama
a resident of Crescent Park
on May 19, 2016 at 11:26 am

Bet most of these asking for housing work for Palantir. Council should require talkers to list employment.


7 people like this
Posted by Me me me
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on May 19, 2016 at 11:49 am

Why does mauricio think that PAF should not have a voice in this?
Why does mama think that palantir employees should not have a day.seems to me the bullying is being done by people who Hate change
.


3 people like this
Posted by Gale Johnson
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on May 19, 2016 at 1:04 pm

I've posted my thoughts on the housing issue several times before, but I'll repeat them briefly again.

I suggested adding more housing near the transit hubs, Downtown and Cal Ave. My proposal was clear, tho, to only add more housing to take care of the current employees who commute by car from many other areas and from varying distances. And secondly, to stop building more office buildings. Just stop! No more. We have too many already! My hope is that the traffic and parking problems we now have could be brought under control and reduced significantly. I ventured far, for an accused NIMBY, by suggesting the 50 ft height limit be relaxed to allow for higher housing units, a couple more stories/floors. Of course the location of these would be critical so as to not have imposing buildings blocking views of the mountains and looming over adjacent structures in a dominant way that could be a threat to privacy. I offered no suggestions on suitable locations. There are experts at City Hall who can do that.

I still have several questions/reservations about the whole idea. How many units are needed and how many of various sizes: micros, studios, 1 bdrm, 2 bdrm, 3 bdrm? Don't build only micro units assuming there will only be young singles wanting to live here. I really detest the idea of PA becoming a haven for young singles who will probably never connect with the rest of our wonderful neighborhoods and communities. And they won't be spending much money in a way to boost our sales tax revenue, for retail anyway, but only for the glitzy restaurants. They'll go elsewhere to spend their retail money because there is basically none left here, and even their fun money for dining out and drinking. Castro Street in Mt. View and Los Altos have great restaurants. I've used them myself in lieu of PA's offerings.

And now to the really big question! Please, any of you on CC who are pro growth and friends of developers (and have accepted any of their campaign contributions), and Committees/Commissions members. How will you ever convince your developer/builder buddies to build housing only projects? No mixed use baits, just pure housing. Just a question! Good luck on that one!




16 people like this
Posted by Sea Reddy
a resident of College Terrace
on May 19, 2016 at 1:49 pm


Go Big on housing?

No way we can keep Palo Alto and 24th assembly district by going big on housing.

I have witnessed, nice communities became ugly communities in southern California; Irvine, Huntington Beach, Manhattan Beach and more.

If we want to keep Palo Alto and our neighborhoods with current quality of life; we need to build elsewhere. There is plenty of land near the bay; be creative and you have a community; do not call it Palo Alto, Los Altos etc. Pick a new name; new way; train stations, etc.,

Until then, we can only allow limited growth. Remember it was a farm. It needs to be a farm.

So, we have big big houses with one or two or three people living in it. Lets look into having some of these large houses open up their houses for multi family living. That might work for about 1000 people in our city. We need to do the study.

Until then, we need to allow only limited growth.

Respectfully


18 people like this
Posted by mauricio
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on May 19, 2016 at 3:49 pm

mauricio is a registered user.

There is no space in Palo Alto for even the additional 6000 units mentioned, which would mean at least 12000 additional residents, unless we start building Manhattan style skyscrappers. This is the sad truth, and what PAF inn collusion with the developers have in mind. Turning Palo Alto into an urban sardine can is the only option if the goal is to satisfy even a small portion of those desiring to live here.

In response to Monte:the Red states receive on average 3 federal dollars for every dollar they contribute to the US treasury. They are welfare cases subsidized by the much more educated and productive Blue states. The red states would have third world standard of living if it weren't for the Blue states saving them from themselves. There is a reason why the economy tanks whenever a republican is in the Oval Office.


14 people like this
Posted by No to pasz
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on May 19, 2016 at 4:08 pm

Manhattan, skyscrapers, sardines, PAF, developers all words bandied about by a certain poster over and over and over again in an attempt to make it sound like a cats trophy of epicroportions is about to befall the city.
Palo alto is hardly a sardine can-- the vast majority of neighborhoods are single family homes.
Not sure why the CAVE ( citizens against virtually everything) need to use scare tactics to bully those that disagree with them.


5 people like this
Posted by Yes there is
a resident of Greenmeadow
on May 19, 2016 at 6:06 pm

@mauricio, you are correct, it's because it's taken that time for the poor policies enacted by the socialist Democrats to start having their effect. Just wait, 8 years of Obama, we're in for one helluva ride. Get Bernie in there and yee haw, housing will be the least of your worries. Fortunately with only 5% employment, people at least have jobs and are making money. Not.

You crazy PA liberals are now reaping the rewards of your polices. Sucks when it hits so close to home doesn't it?


17 people like this
Posted by Me Me Me
a resident of Crescent Park
on May 19, 2016 at 6:33 pm

To Me me me of Charleston Meadows: You have taken my name. Can't you think of a name yourself?

No one says PAF should not have a voice. But it needs to be clear that they have mostly developers and architects and Palantir employees in their leadership.

That is, people who make MONEY off of construction and development. That's what people need to know, not just their fancy name.


10 people like this
Posted by mauricio
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on May 19, 2016 at 6:47 pm

mauricio is a registered user.

"Yes there is", you must live in a parallel universe. We all remember the financial meltdown of Dubya. Obama saved the country's and global economies from the mess the GOP always leaves. I have never done so well financially then I have during the last 7 and a half years. If a republican becomes president, I will transfer all my money off shore. The only reason we can be, barely,classified as a modern country, is thanks to the Democrats. The GOP is our Taliban.


6 people like this
Posted by Robert Neff
a resident of Midtown
on May 19, 2016 at 10:09 pm

Gale, Jeff, and Phil,
Thanks for using your full names!

I think the jobs/housing imbalance, which stretches across this side of the valley, is terrible. With the projected jobs expansion, where every building in the research park can be rebuilt to maximum footprint within current zoning (the development cap does not apply there!), can housing keep up? I want the cost of housing to come down, so I think that in Palo Alto, and throughout this valley we need to build lots of dense housing, and adapt schools, open space, and transportation to that new reality. The cost of housing / salary imbalance for people entering the workforce, like my kids, is awful. We can either increase supply, or reduce demand, but right now our actions are opposite that.


5 people like this
Posted by Me
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on May 20, 2016 at 8:54 am

It's amazing to see the number of people who harbor a fantasy that Palo Alto is this small hamlet.

There's plenty of infill space in Palo Alto to support housing - especially around California Avenue. And we should be building up in Downtown around University.

As for Mauricio's "there is no housing crisis" - it's because he has his, and he doesn't care about anyone else. Of course it's not a crisis if you already live here. It's a crisis for our whole region that we are selfish in this way.

You want less traffic? Build around transit centers where we can expect VTA to serve us well. And don't complain about traffic when what a lot of us people here are advocating - slow or no growth - continues to keep us tied to a car-oriented lifestyle. You guys who think that keeping a lid on development will someone make all this go away are actually exacerbating everything.

We aren't a suburb anymore. We are in the center of jobs - and I'm not talking about downtown Palo Alto - I'm talking about this region. Your intransigence on building housing is waking up Sacramento. It's going to be worse when the state comes down because we can't be responsible enough for managing our own region.

Way to go "residentialists."


14 people like this
Posted by Monte
a resident of Crescent Park
on May 20, 2016 at 9:33 am

Sure, we could build plenty of higher density housing. There's lots of space in Palo Alto to build high rise residential towers. At the extreme, we could support a million or more people by eliminating height limits and converting park land to develop-able real estate.

The question is not what we "could" do, or even what we "should" do: the issue is what we want to do and what kind of city we want to be. As for me, I moved here because I liked the relatively suburban character of the city, and I'd like it to stay that way. I've lived in both Manhattan and San Francisco, and there's plenty to like about those places, but why should we aspire to that kind of size, or even to something like Berkeley (population approximately 112,000).

Obviously, there are some here who'd like to see Palo Alto grow to Berkeley proportions or even more. That's a legitimate point of view, but I don't believe it reflects the majority of our city's voters - most of whom moved here because they like it the way it is for the most part and don't want to see it changed into a more urbanized city.

Casting aspersions on those of us who want to see Palo Alto retain it's current character as "selfish" is off base. Doubling the size of Palo Alto wouldn't be sharing what we have: it would be changing the nature of what we have for new and old residents alike. It still would be a good place to live, but it wouldn't be the place that most of us would prefer. Nobody has a "right" to live in Palo Alto or anywhere else.


16 people like this
Posted by mauricio
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on May 20, 2016 at 10:40 am

mauricio is a registered user.

@"Me": not true. When I bought my house I purchased an existing home. The family living there moved out of Palo Alto, and a much smaller family moved in, a net reduction in population. Moreover, while I was saving to buy in Palo Alto, I never try to force local residents to change their town's character by building dense housing that would be affordable to me. I wanted to live here because of the acceptable density, the suburban feeling, the manageable traffic, the high livability. Pro development and density like you demand we agree to a radical change in the town's character, turning it into a dense urban city, and additionally, you claim that we have no right to demand to retain the town's character, because that would be selfish. I believe that most residents don't want to live in the place you have in mind. Like the poster above wrote, nobody has an inherent right to live in Palo Alto. When I moved here, I had respect for the town's character and way of life and never demanded it change for me, you don't seem to have any respect for Palo Alto. If your vision is adopted, Palo Alto will be no more.


2 people like this
Posted by Me
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on May 20, 2016 at 10:43 am

"Casting aspersions on those of us who want to see Palo Alto retain it's current character as "selfish" is off base."

Definition of selfish: "(of a person, action, or motive) lacking consideration for others; concerned chiefly with one's own personal profit or pleasure."

Hmm. Sometimes you have to call it like you see it. You want to hold onto your own vision of Palo Alto - who cares what happens to anyone else.

What's worse is that people here feel like this stance has no negative repercussions - they seem to want to have their cake and eat it too. Sure, keep a lid on development and enjoy your paper wealth. Have fun driving everywhere. But don't complain about traffic inside Palo Alto on in this region.

Someone has to be able to afford paying this ridiculous prices on our housing - and it comes with economic growth, with all the upsides and downsides of it.

You have yours. Forget anyone else. See the above definition.

It's ok to be selfish. It's the denying of it that's infuriating to me. Stop hiding behind your nonsensical explanations.


4 people like this
Posted by Jerry
a resident of College Terrace
on May 20, 2016 at 10:54 am

"Job Center"... what kind of joke is this? Stop replacing storefront retail space with "Job Centers" sounds like a good start. How about instead of a "cuckoo's nest" bar in Menlo Park we build some housing! Or, neither of those terrible ideas and build a park!


4 people like this
Posted by A Resident
a resident of Greater Miranda
on May 20, 2016 at 12:48 pm

@Me - Seems like everybody is motivated by self-interest. If you don't want to invite the homeless to share your home or the hungry to your table, I guess you could call that "selfish" (with its negative connotation), since it doesn't take into account what the unfortunate person would prefer - but most would just call legitimate self-interest.

You might be able to appeal to the legitimate self-interest of existing residents to persuade them - perhaps by pointing out that if all towns took the same view as Palo Alto, population growth might slow way down which could slow economic growth. It might be true, and it might persuade them. But I doubt implying that they are bad people ("selfish"), or at least not as good and enlightened as you, is going to work.


Like this comment
Posted by Me
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on May 20, 2016 at 1:22 pm

I'm not here to persuade. People in Palo Alto are entrenched in their views, especially the old timers. That's why we continue to have activity on the "I remember when Palo Alto..." thread.

Ironically, I am benefitting - on paper - from the intransigence of the "residentialists." Except for the part that I'm subsidizing government services with my much higher property taxes than my neighbors that have been here much longer than them.

This town is supposed to be filled with "educated" and somewhat (or completely) "liberal" viewpoints, but in their own way, are more conservative in their mindset than areas in the supposed flyover states. The nauseating anti-foreigner (i.e. Chinese) statements are frankly shocking from people who are supposed to be open minded and liberal. You would think that Donald Trump is a frequent contributor here rather than the self-identified majority Democrats.

I would just like people to be honest with themselves and their views. That introspection seems to be in short supply here.


2 people like this
Posted by Gale Johnson
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on May 20, 2016 at 3:12 pm

Gale Johnson is a registered user.

@ Me,

Come on, of course you're trying to persuade us. Why else would you post so often?

And if you've read my posts I hope you've discovered I'm very open and honest...other than a few bones in my closet, and please, don't open that door.

How long have you lived here and where were you born and raised? Did you never have that nostalgic feeling of how great your town was when you were growing up, the way things were then? Maybe not if you had a bad experience.

You really confuse us when you are now attacking our local liberal Democrats. Wow! You can't get much left of them but maybe you've succeeded. I would think they would be your best friends. You must be a Bernie supporter.

Okay, you're pissed off about the real estate tax thing, but only directing it at those of us who have lived here longer and are benefiting the most. How do you feel about that newcomer neighbor who is paying more than you are. You okay with that? Are you willing to help your neighbors out on paying their taxes? Of course not. So, let's all be real and honest. And if you haven't seen and acknowledged the Asian invasion in the real estate market then you maybe should have an eye exam soon.

Me, I would like to meet you in person and have discussions over coffee at a place of your choice.


8 people like this
Posted by Monte
a resident of Crescent Park
on May 20, 2016 at 4:51 pm

When people engage in ad-hominem invective, it's often a sign that they don't have much of a case on the merits of the argument. People who are against high density development could call those on the other side tools of greedy development interests or shills for corporations who want a place to warehouse their employees. Or they might assume those who myopically committed to density and development are ideologically blinded to the effects of what they advocate on others. But this would add as much to the discussion as calling those on the other side from you "selfish". Name calling rarely produces effective dialogue.

I am in favor of keeping Palo Alto's suburban residential character largely intact. I think development of the type some here favor would be unfair to families who've sacrificed greatly to be able to move here only to see the character of the city remade and altered into a more urbanized and citified environment. Changing Palo Alto to a city of 100,000 plus people would make it into something different from what many people move here for - and that would affect not only those here now, but also those who aspire to living in Palo Alto as it is now - not to what the new urbanists here would have it become.

I should also note that some of the arguments made in favor of high density development seem totally risible. The idea that building high density housing - even along transit corridors - will actually reduce traffic goes against all logic and experience. New housing will mean more not less traffic. Sure some new residents will take public transportation, but many more will not. More housing next to transit may mean somewhat less traffic increase than more housing in our neighborhoods, but either case will mean more traffic, more congestion and more cars than we have now. That some seemingly intelligent people would argue otherwise shows just how fanatical some can be when pushing an ideology.

It's legitimate to argue that we should become more the size of Berkeley, Sunnyvale or Fremont. Maybe there are some persuasive points to be made in favor of high density housing that haven't been made here. But I don't think most residents think that's in their interest, or in the interest of those future residents who want to come to a city like Palo Alto - not to a city like these other places. Maybe that's why the arguments on the other side take such a bitter and disputatious tone.


6 people like this
Posted by Gale Johnson
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on May 20, 2016 at 6:23 pm

@Monte

Thanks for your insightful and calming post. I go overboard at times, but I feel, as a long time resident and voter, that I want my voice to be heard. It shouldn't carry any more weight than the newcomers, maybe, but on the other hand, maybe it should because I've been invested in and contributed more to this community.


2 people like this
Posted by Me
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on May 20, 2016 at 7:37 pm

"It shouldn't carry any more weight than the newcomers, maybe, but on the other hand, maybe it should because I've been invested in and contributed more to this community."

By whose measure are you calculating how much you've contributed more to this community? Is it just tenure of residency here? If you've been here long enough, perhaps I have paid more in property tax in total than you have. Does that count? I certainly pay more in one year than some of my neighbors have paid in over 10.

Don't forget that America is a country of immigrants. The fact that people pull out the "i've been here longer" card is ironic.

As for calling my comments ad hominem - check out earlier in this thread. Check other threads. The anti-foreigner contingent is quite visible here.

Online name: "Schools are over-crowded, our roads are gridlocked, we've got a water shortage, foreign investors will continue to outbid locals ."

mauricio: ". Even if this awful vision is carried out, foreign oligarchs will probably end up outbidding all other potential buyers, "

No surprises: "Foreign cash buyers have corrupted the real estate market and greedy sellers and agents wont resist. "

And that's not the only ones in this thread.

This is a mostly Democratic area, so it's not a big jump to see the potential hypocrisy in this liberal but really conservative (little c - anti change) town if people are so willing to share these kinds of views.

So Monte, when you say:

"I should also note that some of the arguments made in favor of high density development seem totally risible. The idea that building high density housing - even along transit corridors - will actually reduce traffic goes against all logic and experience"

Care to give examples of where transit-oriented development has increased traffic?


11 people like this
Posted by Ahem
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 20, 2016 at 7:41 pm

Gale Johnson said:

"I suggested adding more housing near the transit hubs, Downtown and Cal Ave..."

It is not okay to get out a map, and sketch out quality-of-life sacrificial zones around other peoples neighborhoods (downtown and Cal Ave). How would you feel if some got out a map and sketched out a quality-of-life sacrificial zone around Adobe-Meadows?

And... I hope you don't think the young neo-Bolshiviks and the Machiavellian real-estate developers are ever going to be satisfied with just ruining Downtown and Cal Ave.


11 people like this
Posted by Waking the Sleepng Giant II
a resident of Green Acres
on May 20, 2016 at 10:19 pm

Seriously, big jobs housing imbalance - why not move the excess jobs? This is a vast nation - the urbanization trend has actually left some areas underinvested in, not that far away. It really is a far easier aolution for everyone. Companies exist to make money, and this would be far cheaper than the costs associated with the rampant and poorly conceived development. Preference for incentives would go to places where restoring retail would reverse some of the damage, and Council then would rezone as part of that effort so the imbbalance problem does not return.

Give incentives to a few medium sized companies to move to a startup town. Voila, problem solved. No longer do the existing residents have to pay through the nose for having their town wrecked.


2 people like this
Posted by Jerry Underdal
a resident of Barron Park
on May 20, 2016 at 10:21 pm

Jerry Underdal is a registered user.

Regarding the Maybell Property:

This Wednesday, May 25, at 6:00 p.m., the Planning and Transportation Commission will hold a public hearing on the 16-home proposal mentioned in previous posts on this thread.

Mention was made above about the Terman Apartments on Arastradero which resulted from the Working Group process. My understanding is that the Section 8 contract has been extended for an additional ten years to 2024 from the original end date of 2014, without the expenditure of city funds, and the city is committed to making sure that the Terman Apartments continue to be affordable after that.

The original proposal for the closed Terman Jr. High campus, was for the JCC and PAHC to jointly purchase it. PAHC envisioned putting over 200 affordable homes on its share of the land--I don't know how they expected to finance it--while the JCC would use most of the school facilities for a community center. Things turned out quite differently, with many twists and turns. A for-profit corporation based in Southern California got financing from HUD to build 82 units of Section 8 affordable housing and other financing for an additional 10 units at the site. That corporation owns and operates the complex under the constraints of the Section 8 contract, one being that the units must remain affordable for an initial twenty year period (till 2014). Following that, the contract could be renewed for additional 5-year periods if both sides agreed.


PAHC made an offer several years ago to buy it, before the initial contract expired, but the asking price was too high. Other potential buyers may have been put off by the city's legal right of first refusal should the corporation try to sell the property to another profit-seeking entity. Maybe that persuaded the owners to agree to the 10-year extension of the Section 8 contract.

This is just my stab at an explanation of the status of the Terman Apartments. If anyone with more knowledge of the matter is willing to correct and clarify, please do.


8 people like this
Posted by Waking the Sleeping Giant II
a resident of Green Acres
on May 20, 2016 at 10:52 pm

@Jerry Underdal,
Things turned out differently, because some residents were trying to balance other civic needs, like the need for schools. Good thing they did, or the school district would not have Terman school. My understanding is that the situation played out in a similar way, with proponents of a more holistic civic view attacked as NIMBYs just like today. The affordable housing at Terman would not have happened without the hard work of the citizens working group. It is an important lesson not to forget, because this time around, many of the same people again asked for a working group.


Back on topic - the only way to make housing cheaper is to lessen demand. You can't build out of it with global demand what it is. Time to strike out and create New Palo Alto. Give medium sized companies incentives to move and rezone the spaces as soon as they do. We need more retail, it makes no environmental sense to make people have to drive everywhere or get wasteful delivery of everything because there are no more shops. The loss to the community from the loss of community interaction is incalculable.

The easier way to solve the jobs housing imbalance is to move some of the jobs. Maybe then it would be more feasible to take civic action to create more affordable housing for existing residents. Tesla is ramping ip in Nevada. Definitely a place that couod use sprucing up and investment.


8 people like this
Posted by Waking the Sleeping Giant II
a resident of Green Acres
on May 20, 2016 at 11:04 pm

Ooh, Nevada is a case in point. Overbuilding in Las Vegas helped make West Nile virus endemic in the US, because of all the abandoned swimming pools when the economy turned down agan. The area still hasn't fully recovered. Another object lesson. The bust will come, people will move away, and residents will be left holding the bag until the next upturn, when they will be castigated again. Fix the problem by reducing job capacity and giving incentives to move jobs to places they can expand and their workiers can afford to live in the manner they expect.


10 people like this
Posted by let it die
a resident of Fairmeadow
on May 20, 2016 at 11:48 pm

This "news" was a PR stunt by PAF. If people would please stop commenting on this thread, it will disappear from the front page.


13 people like this
Posted by mauricio
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on May 21, 2016 at 6:34 am

mauricio is a registered user.

Pebble Beach, Woodside, Atherton, Portola Va;;ey, Los Altos Hills, Hillsborough, are also job centers. Thousands of workers commute in and out everyday to those towns for work. Town employees, house keepers, nannies, ground keepers, gardeners, stable mates, ranch hands, etc. None of them live in the aforementioned towns. The aforementioned towns have no plan to densify and build "affordable" housing for the people who work in their towns. They want to maintain their character and livability, and shockingly, they don't spend a second worrying that the state will force them to densify. On the other hand, in Palo Alto we are in a mad rush to increase the population by about 25 percent so we can subsidized highly educated techies with the most in demand job skills in the world, because they can't find happiness without a Palo Alto zip code.


1 person likes this
Posted by Monte
a resident of Crescent Park
on May 21, 2016 at 9:26 am

"Care to give examples of where transit-oriented development has increased traffic?"

That's easy: Web Link,

Web Link,

Web Link,


11 people like this
Posted by Waking the Sleeping Giant II
a resident of Green Acres
on May 21, 2016 at 10:15 am

@let it die,
You have a good point, but I think the new suggestion of moving the jobs to solve the jobs housing imbalance deserves discussion. It truly is easier for companies to move, and making this a thoughtful, planned effort could mean a huge win-win for our nation, too.

Seriously, if Palo Alto got together with Stanford, and did a search for a new location for a satellite campus, and advertised nationally that they were looking to create a new tech center - even put out applications - this could be an innovative urban renewal initiative with benefits all around. If the weather us goid, a lot if us might retire THERE.

The efforts PAF adherents put into their current strategy only carries water for big developers. But reducing the jobs housing imbalance by creating another place like here, in response to the recent worldwide urbanization trend, could do great things for this nation, workers, and give them big advantages as the pioneers. Since companies move all the time, that's the easier way to solve the problem, and could be achieved through incentives. Big win all around.


11 people like this
Posted by mauricio
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on May 21, 2016 at 11:05 am

mauricio is a registered user.

We have a very dynamic economy in which companies move to new regions and new countries all the time. Tech companies can move more easily then any other sector, because of the very essence of their technology, yet we keep hearing from those who carry water for the big development that it's absolutely impossible to create new tech centers away from the hottest real estate market in the nation, perhaps the world. According to them it's Palo Alto for bust. This is the main reason why it's hard to generate much sympathy for tech companies who refuse to relocate to areas that desperately need economic regeneration, areas that can also provide more available and much less expensive housing for their employees.


5 people like this
Posted by Gale Johnson
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on May 21, 2016 at 2:25 pm

Gale Johnson is a registered user.

@Me

Wow, you cut a wide swath there. You tried to nail a lot of us in that sweeping post. My contribution: No it isn't just because of my tenure of residency. I was thinking more about my volunteer work in the community. I volunteered to recruit people to set up AYSO soccer fields in parks all over town and I personally set up a couple myself. I was involved with my twin sons in a YMCA program called Y Indian Guides, a father and son program. I've volunteered at the South Palo Alto Food Closet and I've prepared meals for the Hotel de Zink program, for homeless people my church hosts for the entire month of February. About 15 of them come for a dinner meal and then sleep overnight in our church's Byrd Hall. I also went with my wife, Garnet, making house calls on shut-ins, thru the Friendly Visitors program. I'll also speak on behalf of her other volunteer work since she died almost 2 years ago. She was a co-leader of our local Girl Scout Troop, volunteered at Stanford Hospital as a 'Pink Lady', and has a 1000 hour pin to prove it. She was also active in our local branch of the American Association of University Women (AAUW) for many years. And she helped Navida Butler during the infancy days of the Palo Alto Ecumenical Hunger Program.

That's it. My answer to your question. I don't need or expect a response. I just wanted to set the record straight.

I think Monte and I have answered your questions pretty well, so you have a few more to hear from. Hope they will do as well.

The tax thing: Yes, yes, of course, we all know you're getting screwed compared to us long time residents benefiting from Prop 13, but I keep reminding those of you who will stay in your current residences for at least 10 years...the newcomer neighbor then will be paying a lot more than you will be. Just smile at them, give them a friendly neighborly 'hello' wave, and welcome them into your neighborhood. Patience is truly a virtue!


11 people like this
Posted by mauricio
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on May 21, 2016 at 3:54 pm

mauricio is a registered user.

The water carriers for the big developers claim that it's impossible to move tech companies elsewhere and elevate the job/housing imbalance and spread the wealth. It's patently untrue of course and there are many examples world-wide that this is done at great success. Look at Israel and Brazil, just as tow models. Israel has an extremely successful high tech industry. Their main "Silicon Valley" is outside in Tel Aviv, but many high tech companies moved at least some of their operations to impoverished development towns in the south and north of the country. Tel Aviv area housing is very expensive and hard to come by, comparable to Palo Alto, so younger engineers can purchase houses ain the much less expensive areas, and moving there helped the economy impoverished development towns, a win/win situation.

In Brazil, their "Silicon Valley" was moved years ago to the impoverished north east, outside of the very poor and crime ridden city of Recife(Pernambuco), and it stimulated the entire previously economy of the region, as well as making it much easier for tech workers vis-a-vis housing, which is very expensive in the more affluent south. Not everybody can, or must live in Tel Aviv, Rio or Sao Paulo, or Palo Alto for that matter.


8 people like this
Posted by Palo Alto Native
a resident of Duveneck School
on May 22, 2016 at 12:10 am

My son is a computer science major in college. Someone said, "Let's take a road trip to Palo Alto!" And when he said he grew up here, they were speechless. These are spoiled techies who want to live in Palo Alto so they threw a tantrum and it's working. Palo Alto is supposed to be a family city with great schools. The schools have already declined - is the family aspect next? Traffic is insane now - we don't need more traffic. City Council ought to listen to its residents, not outsiders. Are they being paid off by developers?

My husband commutes to SF. Most people don't live where they work.

Palo Alto could be built to the extreme and there still would be whiners who want to live here. We cannot house everyone. We moved back here in 2006 so I'm not living off an easy mortgage. There are plenty of nice nearby cities for people.


2 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 22, 2016 at 8:33 am

One aspect of housing that I think needs to be addressed is the fact that aspirations to home ownership has to be put into perspective. When my spouse and I married we wanted to buy a starter home. We found somewhere in a nice neighborhood but not the exact area in which we wanted to live. To enable ourselves to afford this we gave up one car and made other sacrifices in order to do what we felt was necessary to buy the small home. We never ate out during the week unless it was a special day, birthday or something, we ate out at weekends but at chains and left the more expensive restaurants for special occasions. Lunches were from home and date nights were walks and icecream or something similar. We replaced our car to something more family orientated when we were expecting our first car and didn't become a two car family until that child was in kindergarten and we found it hard to manage with just one car and a fixed school schedule. For the first years we had vacations staying with family or friends and generally lived fairly modestly. We have since moved into a larger home and although we are more financially secure, we still think hard about the money we spend on luxuries.

I seem to hear many young adults expecting to be able to afford to live where they want in an area they want in a style where they want. They expect to be able to spend $20 for lunch plus a couple of expensive coffees and dinner in a nice restaurant, drive an expensive car and really don't put any effort into budgeting. I can't have sympathy for that. If they want to live like that it is their business, but they have to realize that their money will only go so far and they have to make choices.

I know Palo Alto is expensive, but there are many places nearby not quite so expensive. If they work in downtown then they could easily live in a neighboring area along the Caltrain corridor where there is already plenty of high rise housing being built.

Palo Alto is still primarily a residential suburb that is more expensive than its neighbors. It is losing some of its livability because shopping and recreation is not as abundant as it was even a decade ago. Families do enjoy living here and we enjoy the fact that there is a suburban feel to where we live and where our kids go to school. For those young tech workers who are living the single life I want to ask them what they would like for their future family home? Do they want to raise children in a high rise condo near a train and downtown, or do they want to raise their children in a leafy street with a park nearby with enough space to pay ball, and able to walk to their neighborhood elementary school?

I ask them these questions, because I feel that as their life situation changes, their views may change also.


4 people like this
Posted by mauricio
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on May 22, 2016 at 10:38 am

mauricio is a registered user.

What I find interesting is that young techies reject the path to buying a house that many like me took in the 1980s. I lived for years in mostly in share housing situations in very crummy apartments in very unfashionable places, Oakland, Fremont, East Palo Alto, the decrepit part of Redwood City. Some of the apartments were literally rat infested, had terrible plumbing and disgusting kitchens. I drove rusty jalopies till they fell apart, to be replaced by similar wrecks. I would go out to inexpensive restaurants about once a month, and to early movies in order get the discount tickets. No vacations, because on the weekends I did house moving and any menial job that came along. I even supplemented my income with house cleaning. I saved every penny for years, without any whining and tantrums. I never felt entitled and never felt I had the right to demand that towns change their livability and character to make it easier for me to buy or rent a home. Almost forgot, I never worked in the town where I lived, and I never felt I was entitled to live where i work, which would have been moot anyway, because in the very dynamic Valley, employees move jobs and job location several times during their career.

I find the notion that we need to make a home or apartment avaialble to every person who desires to live in Palo Alto utterly absurd.


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

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