News


New housing proposal on Maybell scores a victory

Lifted by neighborhood support, developer wins endorsement from Palo Alto's planning commissioners

Three years after a proposed housing development on Maybell Avenue stoked a revolt in Palo Alto's Barron Park neighborhood, a new plan to build housing on the former orchard site is on the verge of winning the city's approval.

In a remarkable turnaround, the same people who led the campaign to kill the 72-unit housing proposal in 2013 are now urging the city to swiftly approve the new development. Buoyed by community's support, the new developer scored a big victory on Wednesday night, when the Planning and Transportation Commission endorsed the project.

The differences between the new project and the one that won the council's approval in 2013, only to be overturned in a citywide referendum, are significant. The original proposal from the Palo Alto Housing Corporation called for a 60-unit apartment building for low-income seniors and 12 single-family homes along the perimeter of the site, near the intersection of Maybell and Clemo avenues.

The new proposal from Golden Gate Homes would bring 16 homes to the 2.46-acre property, with the only access point for vehicles coming on the Clemo side.

Ted O'Hanlon, consulting project manager for Golden Gate Homes, stressed at the Wednesday hearing that the project had been thoroughly vetted and ultimately embraced by the community. Since Golden Gate Homes bought the property in 2014, it has gradually reduced the number of units proposed from the initial 30, to 23, to the current 16, he said.

O'Hanlon told the commission that the firm took a "great leap" to limit the number of homes, given the city's astronomical housing costs. The city's zoning code, he noted, could have allowed up to 40 units.

"Golden Gate Homes is taking on a significant amount of risk to continue to reduce density," O'Hanlon said.

But the less-dense development, as well as Golden Gate's decision not to create a driveway onto Maybell, succeeded in winning neighborhood support, with more than 230 people signing an online petition in favor of the project and several dozen attending Wednesday's hearing. Some wore green stickers with "16 Homes, Maybell Safety" on them.

Residents also rallied to oppose a recommendation from city staff that the development include a pedestrian and bicycle path from its interior to Maybell. Many echoed the developer's argument that the path would get little to no use, a position at odds with that of the city's transportation staff.

Joe Hirsch, one of the founding members of the citizens group Palo Altans for Sensible Zoning, pointed to the level of community support and urged the commission to approve the project.

"It's clear that the vast majority of people in the Maybell neighborhood and elsewhere in Palo Alto support Golden Gate Homes' current plan," Hirsch said.

Terry Holzemer, who opposed the prior Maybell plan, joined Hirsch in praising the developer's efforts to work with the residents to design a project palatable to all.

"We have a lot to learn from what Golden Gate Homes has done here, and I hope other developers can find the same path they found, which is working with the community directly, especially those that are most affected," Holzemer said.

The only speaker on Wednesday who opposed the project was resident David Moss. He noted that the City Council often talks about the city's "severe housing shortage."

"The idea that we went from 30 units to 23 to 16 is absolutely the opposite direction from what the City Council dictated that we need to go," Moss said. "I just don't understand how we can get away with that."

The commission also heaped praise on Golden Gate Homes for winning community support and, in a concession to the developer, agreed to remove the requirement for the pedestrian path.

Joshuah Mello, the city's chief transportation official, spoke out in favor of the path, and told the commission that staff has been consistently encouraging the applicant to provide residents with access to both Clemo and Maybell and that a pedestrian path was the "minimum amount of access" that staff would support.

Without the path, he said, some of the residents in the development would have to walk about 440 feet to get to Maybell, which he said was "not a trivial addition to walking distance."

The path, he said, is consistent with the city's broader effort to shift people from driving to other modes of transportation.

"Every little bit of distance could discourage someone from taking transit, or walking to Walgreens or taking future transit along El Camino," Mello said.

The commission didn't feel as strongly about the path and, after some debate, recommended approving the application without the amenity. Commissioner Michael Alcheck said that while he believes there is value in these types of connections, in this case he would prefer to defer to the developer. Alcheck also said that he hopes, as the city moves forward, that the real takeaway is how the developer demonstrated "new ways to work with the community to create greater housing density in other locations."

Commissioner Asher Waldfogel concurred that while pedestrian connectivity is "a really great idea," the overwhelming sentiments in the community should be respected.

"If you live by the sword, you die by the sword. ... Once you construct a process, you just have to take this process where it goes," Waldfogel said.

The commission's recommendation will be forwarded to the City Council, which will make the final decision on the site map for the proposed development.

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Comments

18 people like this
Posted by I Speak for the Trees
a resident of Green Acres
on May 28, 2016 at 8:07 am

I'm glad for the approval, but really sad for the trees. Given the City's stated desire to preserve urban canopy, the loss of almost 100 trees that have been there for 50 years including several oaks that have been there far longer, is really sad. They have such deep roots, they live despite the historic drought. In the same way that the City failed to do real analysis of safety impacts they should have done to satisfy City safety policy with the previous proposal, they failed to do any environmental analysis to guage the importance of the old orchrd to the patchwork of urban wldland connecting the hills to the bay. They should have done that and gaged the community support for saving the orchard for desperately needed community space on that side of town, when Council was deciding whether to exercise their option to noncompetitively purchase the property after the Maybell referendum vote. What they did was shameful and retaliatory.

Redevelopment can be done of delapidated sites all along El Camino, including empty lots, but the orchard space will never return.


8 people like this
Posted by I Speak for the Trees
a resident of Green Acres
on May 28, 2016 at 8:19 am

Also, one correction. While there has always been a theoretical possibility of greater density than 16 homes there, and I commend the developer for their plan that keeps traffic onto both Maybell and Arastradero at that key location to a minimum, it is not really true that the developer could put up to 40 units there. Tim O'Hanlon admitted in the community meeting in April, with City personnel there, that they looked very carefully at whether they could do that and concluded there are too many grey areas. So, he himself admitted that's not really the case. That said, the current plan represents a lot of listening to the neighborhood. The developer has even offered to put a sidewalk along Maybell there to connect from the park to the APAC sidewalk. And reduced the numbers of driveways of the Maybell himes from 4 to 3, also iin the configuration making it possible for cars to turn in the drives and come out forward on Maybell.

If the site is going to be developed, it's a win for safety, despite the loss of what could have been an important community space and the trees, so close to Gunn, Terman, Bowman, Juana Briones.


32 people like this
Posted by Alice Schaffer Smith
a resident of Green Acres
on May 28, 2016 at 8:24 am

The loss of 60 units of senior housing plus other homes seems a pity to me. What we will have is more expensive housing adding more cars and more students to the school district than the proposal rejected by the reactive forces of the referendum.

And now there will be 50-100 more cars going into Clemo, a road dedicated to Juana Briones Park and the fire station with no doubt all those extra cars owned by the new owners (how many will become boarding houses for the Google/Apple workers) parked there so there will not be adequate parking for the families who use JB Park.

What was wrong with a path out to Maybell? Our staff were right. Where will people escape to if there is an earthquake with only one ingress/egress onto Clemo?




2 people like this
Posted by Kurt
a resident of College Terrace
on May 28, 2016 at 9:06 am

As I understand it, the new project would be fully taxed on the property, while the previous proposal, run by PAHC would be protected from property tax. Am I wrong? We should not be taking valuable Palo Alto properties off the tax rolls.


10 people like this
Posted by Below Market?
a resident of Barron Park
on May 28, 2016 at 9:11 am

Does this mean all of the potential below market housing has been eliminated from the plans for this site?


16 people like this
Posted by I Speak for the Trees
a resident of Green Acres
on May 28, 2016 at 9:27 am

The real shame was advocates of the previous plan misjudging and mischaracterizing the intentions of the neighborhood and choosing to castigate rather than to work with them, as neighbors repeatedly expressed a desire to work out something that met all goals/thru a working group. Those asking included people with a history of resolving such development conflicts in a way that preserved the goals of the community AND created the affordable housing (saving Terman school from development and creating Terman Apts). The first thing neighbors did was meet with all of the Councilmembers and try to sell the Councilmembers on what they were capable of creating, and that they preferred using their energy to create something positive rather than being forced to fight. They were dismissed out if hand.

IMHO, that cost us both the senior housing AND the orchard community space. Neighbors were offering their time to the City to create that, even to raise funds, citing examples of previous work they had done in our community. They were ignored.

There are just 3 houses more here than the previous plan, and less a four story building with up to 120 people - How foes one get from that to 100 more people with this plan? [Portion removed.]

The path out to Maybell was nixed for many reasong, incl in order to keep bikes from shortcutting through the neighborhood from Terman and coming out by the APAC driveway rather than the far safer intersection (nearer the crossing guard). That would have resulted in an extra cross path between bikes and traffic on Maybell, which is a bigger safety concern.


8 people like this
Posted by I Speak for the Trees
a resident of Green Acres
on May 28, 2016 at 9:32 am

@BelowMarket,
Get with the present - the City sold the property to a for-profit developer. After that, this was a for-profit deveopment.


6 people like this
Posted by Alice Schaffer Smith
a resident of Green Acres
on May 28, 2016 at 10:28 am

[Post removed due to deletion of referenced comment.]


14 people like this
Posted by Todd
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 28, 2016 at 11:57 am

Thank god the governor is stepping in, so in the future projects like the Maybell senior one will be allowed by right.


2 people like this
Posted by S Smith
a resident of Barron Park
on May 28, 2016 at 12:06 pm

@Alice Schaffer Smith

See traffic reports from both the GGH and PAHC projects: 72 housing units add significantly more traffic than 16 units. The 11 Clemo homes generate only 6 new vehicles trips during morning peak hour onto Arastradero and 3 vehicle trips during morning peak hour onto Maybell.

Unfortunately, the suggested "path" creates a dangerous condition on Maybell, and that is why it's objectionable by neighbors. There's no continuous sidewalk to reach El Camino Real on the same side of the development, and no crosswalks to help kids safely cross the street to get in the correct direction to go west to all the schools. The path isn't well thought-out and invites risky behavior of foot powered school commuters, the disabled, and other residents. The walking distance of 3 homes to Clemo/Amaranta is worth the added safety; there are cross walks with stop signs to help residents safely cross the street during peak hour to reach a sidewalk or to get in the correct lane to reach all the schools.


29 people like this
Posted by Kazu
a resident of Downtown North
on May 28, 2016 at 12:56 pm

"The loss of 60 units of senior housing plus other homes seems a pity to me. What we will have is more expensive housing adding more cars and more students to the school district than the proposal rejected by the reactive forces of the referendum."

Perhaps the "Residentialists" will look before they leap from now on. Often the situation is portrayed as zero growth vs. development, when in reality is a choice between a reasonably good development and a much less good development.


3 people like this
Posted by Kurt
a resident of College Terrace
on May 28, 2016 at 1:13 pm

Any approved project should not diminish the potential property tax base. Our city needs to avoid taking properties off the tax rolls. Market rate housing contributes to our tax roll, to the maximum extent allowable.


2 people like this
Posted by mauricio
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on May 28, 2016 at 4:02 pm

mauricio is a registered user.

[Portion removed.] Right now all developments are bad, because Palo Alto is already heavily overpopulated, over dense and has become an office park. One look at our streets and roads makes it clear it is a small town that's artificially being inflated into a midsize city ala Berkeley, and the results will be awful and irreversible.


10 people like this
Posted by I Speak for the Trees
a resident of Green Acres
on May 28, 2016 at 6:28 pm

@kazu,
What else would you have had them do? The neighbors did not think that was a good development and were blocked and ignored when they tried to work something out to achieve all the goals in a working group. Again, this was not pie in the sky because some of the same neighbors who were against Maybell had formed a working group with the City in a similar development debate a few decades ago, which resulted in saving Terman school from development and creating the 92-unit affordable Terman Apartments in that same neighborhood. People asked to do so again, in meetings with councilmembers, in public meetings, by letter.

@Todd,
If not for the Maybell referendum, the families at Buena Vista would be gone from their homes, as the big developer would never have pulled out as they did when it became clear they couldn't overbuild at that site. The proceeds from the sale of the orchard are now the same funds the County and City have committed to saving Buena Vista. If only people like you had listened to the Maybell neighbors earlier, the money from those funds would never have been sucked away there and could have been available at BV when it could have made a bigger difference. Balance of power is an essential part of democracy precisely because absolute power corrupts absolutely.

Wake up - the affordable housing community us being used by developers. If the governor gives too much power to any group, they will abuse it and the backlash will only hurt affordable housing causes, deeply, in the future. It's already happening. If the developers, including the nonprofit developer, at Maybell hadn't felt they could ignore the neighbors, the affordable housing AND the last hidtoric orchard in town could have been saved. Look at what having too much power did here, affordable housing advocates out with their chainsaws ready to cut down 200-year-old trees, forgetting any sense of environmental and safety values. You are being used by developers, and mark my words, the ability to abuse power and ignore local conditions will not result in keeping low-income residents from being displaced.


7 people like this
Posted by Jerry Underdal
a resident of Barron Park
on May 29, 2016 at 10:38 am

Jerry Underdal is a registered user.

"Market rate housing contributes to our tax roll"

Good enough argument for some to oppose any affordable housing development, but not for people concerned about the drift towards Bel Air of our city. Without deliberate policies and projects that result in protected affordable housing going forward, Palo Alto would continue on a path to match its popular caricature as an inaccessible enclave of wealth.





14 people like this
Posted by Kazu
a resident of Downtown North
on May 29, 2016 at 1:18 pm

"@kazu,
What else would you have had them do? The neighbors did not think that was a good development and were blocked and ignored when they tried to work something out to achieve all the goals in a working group."

What else would I have them do? In an increasingly expensive city (I.e. astronomically overpriced), I woul have them approve Measure D and create 60 units of affordable housing for senior citizens and 12 additional housing units. Or is it better to force fixed income seniors out if the area? That seems pretty selfish to me,. The nearby residents knew, or should have known, that such valuable land would not be allowed to remain undeveloped. Don't get me wrong, I am all for orchards. If I had my way, Palo Alto south of Oregon Expressway would be razed and turned back into farmland. At the same time I realize, as do virtually all Palo Altans, that such outcomes have zero chance of occurring.

Urbanization is rapidly occurring across the entire Bay Area, and there is absolutely nothing we can do about it. We can get our feet wet like King Canute, surf the wave, or paddle to a distant shore. What we cannot do, however much we might want, is to sweep back the sea with broom. That is not so terribly hard to figure out unless we stick our heads in the sand. Many folks here are proposing exactly that. I hope they have their life preservers ready, because they are going to need them. Let us hope they do minimal damage to Palo Alto in the meantime.


3 people like this
Posted by Kurt
a resident of College Terrace
on May 29, 2016 at 2:25 pm

"Without deliberate policies and projects that result in protected affordable housing going forward, Palo Alto would continue on a path to match its popular caricature as an inaccessible enclave of wealth."

That may be true, or not. I think there are market forces at play that no longer allow the working class to live in Palo Alto. You seem to want to take it out on the current market rate homeowners to satisfy your idealism.

I believe we should no longer buy into that transfer of tax revenues to those who do not pay them. The remaining market rate homeowners in Palo Alto are being swamped by taxes. We need to spread it out, without any more transfers. New market rate housing will help a lot.


19 people like this
Posted by TellIt
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on May 29, 2016 at 6:44 pm

16 multi million dollar luxury homes!
The land developed below existing and allowed zoning density, with no traffic onto Maybell.
What a wasted opportunity to help our fellow Palo Altans.
Sorry seniors, Buena Vista residents and poor folks - no room at the Green Acres Inn.


9 people like this
Posted by I Speak for the Trees
a resident of Green Acres
on May 29, 2016 at 7:03 pm

@Kazu,
You seem not to understand what happened. Measure D only came about in the first place because neighbors tried very hard to get the City and developers (including the non-profit developer) to collaborate. You are the one who is naive in thinking it wasn't possible to save the orchard AND produce the affordable housing. If the residents had been given the chance, not only could that have been a reality, but more citizen effort could have been put into saving BV. The fly in that ointment was that the Maybell development was 60% for-profit, and the for-profit element was in conflict with the other interests. It was not in their interests for the residents to come up with a solution to create the affordable housing AND save the orchard, so they helped attack the residents to try to get their way. The unbending proponents bear as much blame for why the housing wasn't built and why the orchard will be cut down.

You may not think it possible to save the orchard and create the affordable housing at the same time, but the neighbors - long before Measure D - did, because many of them had done equivalent things for our community. There was much the same argument around developing Terman Middle School for housing. At the time, enrollments in PAUSD were at an all-time low. There has ALWAYS as long as I have been here, been a call for affordable housing. The pressure to tear down the school and put housing there was enormous. The conflict was virtually identical. But the difference is that before Measure D, the City Council believed (because of the High Street referendum) that the residents could not win a land use referendum and thus they believed residents' input could be effectively ignored. Back when Terman School was at risk of being turned into housing - with much the same sentiment as you expressed about the orchard - the City Council could not afford that kind of arrogance. The working group did save the school, which was a community center for a long time until it was returned to the school district. Now there is talk of trying to ope a 4th middle school because they are all so crowded, but it's tough. The neighbors were committed to putting significant effort into doing the same in order to avoid what they felt was an unsafe and bad proposal for the neighborhood, in order to achieve all the best civic ends, including the affordable housing. Unfortunately, the for-profit element was the fly in that ointment - the developrs (including the non-profit) were very wedded to just that plan. Hence the conflict, and hence Measure D. Referenda are a lot of work, too, and neighbors did express a desire all along to put the energy into a positive collaboration rather than having just to fight.

Your continuing to look at that in such a self-serving and one-sided way is only going to continue the sour grapes. Look around - Palo Alto has had so much development in the last decade, it's almost unrecognizable from ten years ago. Has that made it an affordable place to live? It's not going to. During the Maybell debates, the irony was that there were 20 units of low-income housing with age-in-place provisions, that had gone empty for years. (The Maybell apartments would have required people to move when they could no longer care for themselves.) The Maybell debates highlighted the problems in actual implementation that had caused those senior spaces to go empty for years - and the Council addressed them and the spots filled.

Building willy nilly is not going to solve any of the problems, it's just a bludgeon being used to promote development regardless of the environment, safety, traffic, etc., and it's a false choice. But, today, developers have realized they can use affordable housing like kryptonite to get their way to do whatever they want in many communities like ours, without having to compromise for things like safety, quality of life, traffic circulation, or any of the other things cities are legally required by the state to consider.

I just find it telling that you prioritize the spots (in exactly one way and one way only) over the people. When the City Council committed the millions to buying Maybell, they knew all about the residents of Buena Vista losing their homes, yet emptied the affordable housing fund anyway. If you really care about affordable housing, care about existing low-income residents, and the pressure on evicting them that all this development creates.

And what is it all for, anyway? We do not HAVE to have so many jobs in Palo Alto. It's easier to move out some of the jobs, maybe even creating incentives and then rezoning for retail or even residential, to balance the alleged jobs/housing imbalance than it is to do anything else. Increasing urbanization means maybe it's time we stepped back and put some thought into creating new, vibrant urban centers where the development is welcome and makes more sense. THEN it would be much easier to address the affordable housing issue in places like Palo Alto.


14 people like this
Posted by Ben Rumson
a resident of College Terrace
on May 30, 2016 at 9:40 am

Really sad.
I wish I could go back in time and change my vote on D.
I was mislead, and should have voted to support the senor housing.
My own fault for not doing my homework and seeing behind the residentialist propaganda at the time.


21 people like this
Posted by Mary
a resident of Midtown
on May 30, 2016 at 10:34 am

Ben, You were misled by the residentialists. The League of Women Voters information was your better source of facts.


10 people like this
Posted by Longtime LWV member
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 30, 2016 at 10:49 am

Whereas I quit the League because of how biased the League was on that issue. Very sad since some leadership from them could have made the referendum unnecessary. (The referendum was to repeal a rezoning, not over whether senior housing could legally go there. That's the real misleading part of it.)

The old Compadres site is still for sale, isn't it? Just asking.


14 people like this
Posted by Jerry Underdal
a resident of Barron Park
on May 30, 2016 at 11:14 am

Jerry Underdal is a registered user.

@Kurt

"I think there are market forces at play that no longer allow the working class to live in Palo Alto. You seem to want to take it out on the current market rate homeowners to satisfy your idealism."

I agree completely with your first statement. Leave it to the usual market forces and not only is the working class toast, but so too are the academic and professional sectors that have been so important to this city from its inception. It takes policies and projects that protect and produce affordable housing to help this city continue to thrive.

My agreement ends, though, when you judge that I "want to take it out on current market rate homeowners to satisfy [my] idealism." A healthy city has a variety of occupations, activities and economic circumstances represented within the ranks of its residents. More $2M+ homes doesn't do that. Making use of tools that are available to maintain or build affordable housing just makes good sense.


8 people like this
Posted by Jerry Underdal
a resident of Barron Park
on May 30, 2016 at 11:39 am

Jerry Underdal is a registered user.

@I Speak for the Trees

"During the Maybell debates, the irony was that there were 20 units of low-income housing with age-in-place provisions, that had gone empty for years."

Please explain how Moldaw's inability to sell/lease relatively expensive units relates to a project to provide inexpensive rental housing to low- and extremely low-income seniors who have lived and/or worked in Palo Alto. Are you presenting this as evidence that no one from Palo Alto would have qualified for the Palo Alto Housing project, that there was no real need for it. Or was the problem that the city wasn't offering to subsidize Moldaw even more than it already had in order to get those units occupied?

That (Moldaw) was not a Palo Alto Housing project.

(note: I'm using PAHC's rebranded name Palo Alto Housing. Check out their website to learn how they help Palo Alto meet its housing needs.)


2 people like this
Posted by Joe Baldwin
a resident of University South
on May 30, 2016 at 12:22 pm

Article: "...the only access point for vehicles coming on the Clemo side."
Drawing: Three (3) access points onto Maybell from ten (10) vehicles sitting beside five (5) luxury houses.
Which is correct?


4 people like this
Posted by I Speak for the Trees
a resident of Green Acres
on May 30, 2016 at 12:53 pm

@Jerry Underdal,
At this point, this discussion is just pointless, because it is continuing to dig in on the past. You misjudged what was happening then, badly - are you looking for a way to discount the lost opportunity of what could have been had you and others been open to seeing your neighbors' good faith? II don't see any point to this discussion.

That the Moldaw low-income units went unfilled is emblematic of what happens when the focus is on buildings rather than serving people, which the Moldaw situation had in spades and so did the Maybell situation. I'm going to say that again, because it is so important: The 20 senior low-income Moldaw units going unfilled is emblematic of what happens when the focus is on BUILDINGS rather than serving PEOPLE. As you point out, Moldaw units were not the same segment, they were BMR units, and they were in a full-service senior center with age-in-place, among other differences. The Maybell units would have had to be vacated when people couldn't care for themselves, which seems kind of a cruel thing to plan for, and brings into question the purpose of calling it senior housing so people could stay here as they aged. The reason the Moldaw units are relevant is that they, like other PAHC BMR units that have gone empty in the past, were created assuming that if they were created (as spaces) they would be filled, becaues there is just so much need. But they weren't filled, because of that assumption, and because low-income people can be choosy, too - not my conclusion, that was concluded in the expert report of PAHC's operations when they examined why BMR units went empty for long periods of time despite the need.

Once the Maybell controversy showed the hypocrisy of the City having 20 plum senior center low-income units going empty, the City then did what it took to change the rules to fit the actual circumstances, so they were filled. That's putting people first (though only after being forced to) and that's what matches the need with the way to fill them. The Maybell propsal had a lot of problems and assumptions, but there was never any market/need survey to back up any of those assumptions. There was never any leverage the neighbors would have had to ensure the spaces matched the need. That was the problem that led to the Moldaw units going empty, failure to understand the specific market/need. When that happens, only the developer benefits, at everyone else's expense - the Maybell proposal was, after all, majority a for-profit single- home opportunity for a for-profit developer.

The concerns of neighbors were not addressed seriously or honestly. There were a lot of restrictions put on who could live there that could have created the same circumstances as at Moldaw, not serving any of the actual need after all, after considerable sacrifice, including children's safety. It only increased mistrust that those concerns were never addressed by doing a market study, for example. Even the state application ostensibly requires a market survey, so it's not unreasonable. The lack of specific tools to assess the impact of the additional traffic on the children, when it's a City policy to assess that, only increased mistrust further. But by the time that was even a factor, any chance for collaboration was long gone, everyone on the developer side had decided it was that plan or bust. So the neighbors had no choice but to fight what they felt was a bad plan.

Putting buildings before people is what led to the ludicrous situation of all that human capital going to arguing over Maybell when the money should, in my opinion, have been prioritized to help existing low-income Palo Altans in imminent risk of losing their homes, i.e., first at BV, and possibly at Terman whose fate was kind of murky then. In total, that's how many hudreds of real people, existing low-income Palo Altans? 600 or more? Perhaps a collaboration through a working group could even have included that, I could see there was a desire for it among those in the No on D camp, long before there was a referendum. But once again, such a collaboration would have left the for-profit developers out in the cold, so neighbors were attacked.

I see what energy and intent there was long before Measure D In hopes of creating the housing AND keeping faith with the neighborhood over the safety concerns, possibly even saving the orchard, because that's was the first thing neighbors put their energy into, long before there was a Measure D. It's only possible for strident skeptics to see in hindsight that neighbors could have accomplished had they been given the chance, the way they (some of the same people) did when someone tried to develop Terman School as housing. There is always a need when it comes to low-income housing, it does not serve the community well to be put in crisis mode to ignore safety and the environment in order to push through specific plans (favoring for-profit development) rather than creating positive connections to create the housing a different and maybe better way, and done more in the future. That, IMO, is the biggest loss from what happened.


Like this comment
Posted by I Speak for the Trees
a resident of Green Acres
on May 30, 2016 at 1:02 pm

@Jerry,
PAHC does not own Moldaw, neither do they own the other BMR properties - they were administering the BMR program for the Moldaw units, same as they do the other BMR units around town. That is a big part of what they do for our city. The fact that PAHC did nothing to lobby the City Council to change the rules or possibly provide funding to house up to 40 seniors in an existing senior center does not speak well for their ability to ensure that the proposal would do what was promised, especially when there were so many legitimate unaddressed concerns. That is a caveat, based on facts, something that needed to be addressed.


3 people like this
Posted by Kazu
a resident of Downtown North
on May 30, 2016 at 1:05 pm

"You seem not to understand what happened. Measure D only came about in the first place because neighbors tried very hard to get the City and developers (including the non-profit developer) to collaborate."

I understand exactly what happened. The Maybell residents were not on board with construction 60 units of affordable senior housing and 12 additional housing units. They blocked the rezoning needed for the construction to move forward. Collaborate? In other words, things did not go the residents way, so they torpedoed the project. They are now living with the consequences of that short-sighted and ill-advised decision. What is ironic is that the Maybell residents are themselves living in homes built on what were once orchards.

"You may not think it possible to save the orchard and create the affordable housing at the same time, but the neighbors - long before Measure D - did, because many of them had done equivalent things for our community. There was much the same argument around developing Terman Middle School for housing."

OK, so they made a good decision once, and most recently a poor decision. They had a good option and rejected it for a less good option.

"Your continuing to look at that in such a self-serving and one-sided way is only going to continue the sour grapes."

I am not the one continuing to whine about development and perpetuate the sour grapes. My position is hardly self-serving, as I am not a low-income senior. I just disagree with the notion that long time residents should be forced out simply because they are not obscenely rich. The elitist nonsense really does not help Palo Alto one bit.

"Look around - Palo Alto has had so much development in the last decade, it's almost unrecognizable from ten years ago. Has that made it an affordable place to live?"

No, because we did not build enough housing, especially affordable housing. The "Residentialists" and the not-in-my-backyard mindset have contributed greatly to the problem. The only way out is to build sufficient infrastructure. Trying to freeze Palo Alto in amber would be the worst possible thing we could do, as it would only exacerbate the existing problems. Hiding from the issues that face us, or simply ignoring them, would make them go away.

"Building willy nilly is not going to solve any of the problems"

Correct. Only well planned building and development will do that. Unfortunately, some well-meaning but misguided individuals confuse well planned development with no development.

"I just find it telling that you prioritize the spots (in exactly one way and one way only) over the people."

You try to justify blocking 60 housing units for low income seniors and you accuse me of prioritizing spots over people? Sorry, but that dog just don't hunt. The spot that counts is Palo Alto as a whole and ALL its people, not just an entitled subset.

"And what is it all for, anyway? We do not HAVE to have so many jobs in Palo Alto."

We don't HAVE to have anything in Palo Alto, but that is missing the point. Since when are jobs and employment a bad thing? Maybe for those who are retired or independently wealthy. For the other 90 percent, jobs are a very good thing. Jobs in Palo Alto are especially good, as they mean a short commute and the possibility of bicycling, takingn the bus or walking to work.

"It's easier to move out some of the jobs, maybe even creating incentives and then rezoning for retail or even residential, to balance the alleged jobs/housing imbalance than it is to do anything else. Increasing urbanization means maybe it's time we stepped back and put some thought into creating new, vibrant urban centers where the development is welcome and makes more sense."

Oh, so it is the old NIMBY, throw-the-problem-over-the-fence approach. It has failed miserably so far, and there is no reason to think that it will magically start working. Increasing urbanization means that stepping back and doing nothing is our worst option. The events in Maybell are ample proof of that. The increased urbanization in the Bay Area, including Palo Alto, will continue. Telling people to stay away won't work. If we aren't willing to stay away from Palo Alto, why should they? Even if all industry and employment was removed from Palo Alto, it would exist in great abundance in the surrounding communities. People would still want to live in Palo Alto, and a failure to develop accordingly would still have a very negative impact on our city.


Like this comment
Posted by Kurt
a resident of College Terrace
on May 30, 2016 at 1:25 pm

@Jerry U.

"A healthy city has a variety of occupations, activities and economic circumstances represented within the ranks of its residents. More $2M+ homes doesn't do that. Making use of tools that are available to maintain or build affordable housing just makes good sense."

My understanding is that "affordable housing" has an income limit, which prohibits the kind of people you are talking about from living in them. For example, how would an academic family qualify? Or a firefighter family? You also seem to be going against individual property rights, if I get your drift.

My view is to just let the natural market forces work their way through the supply and demand issues. Yes, it will change the character of Palo Alto, but that has been going on since its beginning.


8 people like this
Posted by Crescent Park Dad
a resident of Crescent Park
on May 30, 2016 at 1:42 pm

@ Kazu. The entire city blocked the Maybell project via a city-wide vote. Dropping it just on the immediate neighbors is disingenuous.

Somehow you are overlooking the fact that if the developer proposed a senior housing project that met all zoning requirements (I.e., no up-zoning), the project would have been finished by now.


11 people like this
Posted by Sunshine
a resident of Barron Park
on May 30, 2016 at 1:50 pm

Buena vista has approximately 100 units of low income housing. If left as it is with gradual updates that do not displace current low income Latino and other residents it will continue as a welcome member of the neighborhood. Buena Vista is a small community within the larger Barron Park neighborhood community.
Keep Buena Vista as a low income reserve where children can get a good start in life.
This new development on Maybell may not be ideal, but it is far better than the alternatives.


10 people like this
Posted by Kazu
a resident of Downtown North
on May 30, 2016 at 2:16 pm

"@ Kazu. The entire city blocked the Maybell project via a city-wide vote. Dropping it just on the immediate neighbors is disingenuous."

The Maybell residents were the ones who led the movement to block the zoning changes, and are now the ones who are complaining about the fallout. They would have been better off accepting the original development proposal.


5 people like this
Posted by Ben Rumson
a resident of College Terrace
on May 30, 2016 at 2:28 pm

Crescent Park Dad,

You said : "if the developer proposed a senior housing project that met all zoning requirements (I.e., no up-zoning), the project would have been finished by now. "

I doubt that.
The property is 2.46 acres Web Link
of which 2.06 acres is RM-15, and 0.61 acres is RM-2. That could support about 28 homes at current zoning.

The current development (Post the PAHC pullout) has been opposed by the Maybell locals and the developer was forces to downsize several times to the current proposal of 16 units before they reached acceptable reductions in local resident opposition. The real truth is the locals want nothing built there (witness "Speak for Trees") and absent that, as little as possible with no BMR.




6 people like this
Posted by Ben Rumson
a resident of College Terrace
on May 30, 2016 at 2:32 pm

Correction. The first number should read "1.845" as in:
"... of which 1.845 acres is RM-15, and 0.61 acres is RM-2. That could support about 28 homes at current zoning."


11 people like this
Posted by Paul
a resident of University South
on May 30, 2016 at 2:37 pm

Looks like a victory for the one-percenters.


5 people like this
Posted by TellIt
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on May 30, 2016 at 2:46 pm

Hi Sunshine,
The Buena Vista closure was approved about a year ago now. They are just bickering over the money changing hands at this point.

This Maybell tragedy was a chance to possibly create some options for the displaces Buena Vista renters. As you can see from the posts above, the Maybell locals thought that some BMR on the 2.5 acre lot was simply/completely/absolutely impossible. So, they are building 16 milti-million dollar houses instead.
Sorry.


8 people like this
Posted by Ellie
a resident of College Terrace
on May 30, 2016 at 3:46 pm

I am sick of Maybell. It is a shameful episode in Palo Alto that speaks poorly of us. Sixteen houses are forever 16 symbols of failure, not a victory. Sixty modest homes for seniors and a handful of houses are simply not unbearable for anyone but for those living in a bubble of entitlement. I wish the developer had pushed to build more homes as the zoning would allow - 16 is way way under. There was no way this would have gone to a ballot measure and won again. But rationality seems very out of style these days - just look at Mr. Trump.


5 people like this
Posted by I Speak for the Trees
a resident of Green Acres
on May 30, 2016 at 4:16 pm

Kazu,

"The Maybell residents were the ones who led the movement to block the zoning changes, and are now the ones who are complaining about the fallout"

Um, yes the blocked the zoning, no they are not complaining about "fallout". The residents have come out in support of the developer's plan. The only bone of contention was an ongoing concern about even the traffic from 16 homes and where it would go. That location is a difficult one, which has been the problem all along.


"I understand exactly what happened. "

No, again, you don't understand what happened. Residents supported affordable housing, even going there. They just weren't on board with that plan, and the City and the developers would not collaborate with them the way they had in the past when Terman School and the Terman affordable apartments were built in an almost identical conflict.

Neighbors took a poll, and the consensus was that the favored developed use was for affordable housing (just affordable housing, not the for-profit units that made up 60% of the plan). The favored use overall was to save the orchard. The poll also showed that the vast majority were against the plan, because of the density. The election pretty well validated the poll because the vote for/against D was almost identical to the poll. For the better part of a year before the residents even considered putting forward a referendum on the rezoning, residents made efforts to ask Council to work with them, including dividing up and meeting with councilmembers individually, trying to "sell" councilmembers on what they could accomplish if they were allowed to do a working group, and asking for a Working Group directly in public meetings. Some of the people requesting the Working Group were people who had accomplished so much before at Terman, to save Terman School from development while also resulting in the 92-unit affordable Terman apartments, in the same neighborhood, so it was not an idle offer. But residents also gave the City and the developers a lot of feedback that they would block the rezoning if the then current plan was continued, because residents who live here deem a lot of development at that location as being unsafe, for good reasons. They were 100% consistent throughout in their resolve.

Since the City and PAHC chose to ignore the many offers to collaborate to try to create possibly even more affordable housing, and the warnings that the residents would act if forced to, people who continued singlemindedly as you continue to today bear as much responsibility for why the affordable housing itself was not built. That plan was not going to be built. Do you care more about affordable housing, even if involves collaborating with neighbors, or for the profits the for-profit developer was going to make? I think the City should have chosen the former. They, like you now, continue to ignore the other choice, which was to create the affordable housing in collaboration with the neighborhood, in a different way, as had been done before by some of the same people. My personal wish would have been to find a way to save the orchard and/or create disability-friendly homes, given the proximity to the OH school.


""You may not think it possible to save the orchard and create the affordable housing at the same time, but the neighbors - long before Measure D - did, because many of them had done equivalent things for our community. There was much the same argument around developing Terman Middle School for housing."
To which you wrote, 'OK, so they made a good decision once, and most recently a poor decision. They had a good option and rejected it for a less good option.'

Um, no again. The decision not to form a working group was never up to the neighbors. They made the effort to reach out for a working group/collaboration. The City and developers are the ones who made the poor decision to reject it instead of doing what had been done before.


"No, [all the building in the last 10 years did not create affordability] because we did not build enough housing, "

Sorry, that's just a fundamentally flawed argument that encourages development which in turn ends up increasing incentives to displace existing residents. You cannot build your way to affordability in a place with global demand, just ask Hong Kong. Unlike Hong Kong, we have one of the largest nations on earth, with many places that would welcome development. To really solve the problem, there has to be a turndown in what is now global demand, and the only way to achieve that is to create additional, desirable options. The only way to do that is move some of the jobs and create new urban centers, something that hasn't been looked at but is quite doable, in fact would make our nation stronger.


""I just find it telling that you prioritize the spots (in exactly one way and one way only) over the people."
You try to justify blocking 60 housing units for low income seniors and you accuse me of prioritizing spots over people? "

Yes, you are prioritizing spots over people, and you are wrong yet again in the intent of your comment. I spent probably more energy than most of my neighbors trying to get a collaboration in order to make the affordable housing possible. I and many others also warned that neighbors would have to block the REZONING if the other side kept stonewalling. You can continue to argue all you want, but the vote wasn't even the end, there was a lawsuit (that I was not personally involved in, btw) that would have meant that, no, that proposal would not be there now if not for the vote, but it would have meant that the property would have continued to be tied up for a long time.

Again, you continue to argue over that property as if that's the important thing, and not saving the existing low-income housing of hundreds of Palo Altans. The FACT remains, that if the City and County had not tied up the affordable housing funds by purchasing the Maybell property - when they KNEW what was going on at Buena Vista (and they admitted in the newspaper that the affordable housing funds were empty because of it) - that same money would have been available when the BV residents rustled up $15 million of their own, and when $30 mill still seemed like an overpay for that property (to the owner). The fact is that pushing the Maybell rezoning rather than prioritizing the people at BV may have COST a whole lot of low-income residents the real opportunity to save their homes.



""It's easier to move out some of the jobs, maybe even creating incentives and then rezoning for retail or even residential, to balance the alleged jobs/housing imbalance than it is to do anything else. Increasing urbanization means maybe it's time we stepped back and put some thought into creating new, vibrant urban centers where the development is welcome and makes more sense."
Oh, so it is the old NIMBY, throw-the-problem-over-the-fence approach. It has failed miserably so far, and there is no reason to think that it will magically start working. Increasing urbanization means that stepping back and doing nothing is our worst option. The events in Maybell are ample proof of that. The increased urbanization in the Bay Area, including Palo Alto, will continue. Telling people to stay away won't work. If we aren't willing to stay away from Palo Alto, why should they? Even if all industry and employment was removed from Palo Alto, it would exist in great abundance in the surrounding communities. People would still want to live in Palo Alto, and a failure to develop accordingly would still have a very negative impact on our city.

Completely and totally WRONG again. I have suggested exactly the OPPOSITE of stepping back and doing nothing. I have actually suggested you do everything you claim you want, just sans a Palo Alto zip code. The increasing urbanization is an international trend. People are moving from less dense areas into cities, for the amenities, jobs, etc. It's happening everywhere, not just here, and not just in the US. This is a trend that we have been reacting to locally by running around like it's a crisis where we have to ignore all civic values including safety in order to build willy nilly. It's not solving problems like affordable housing, but it is making our city decidedly unfriendly to the disabled, ignore safety, health, and quality of life, and prone to being exploited by developers. Geographers tell us that the urbanization trend will continue into this century, the best thing a vast nation like ours can do for our economic health and national security is to help foster more new, desirable urban centers. Companies move all the time - appropriate planning and incentives could make a win-win for Palo Alto, another place that could become really desirable from some investment, and for our nation that would have more desirable places to live and distributed centers of innovation.

I haven't spoken out against jobs in the least, I've spoke out for creating MORE job CENTERS - that people will move into, if they are desirable. Since you are so singleminded that development can only happen on orchards and places you see as "empty", why can't you see the promise of helping small urban places that are emptying to be turned around? I would consider moving to one - I can't afford to grow old here either. (And I would choose to move elsewhere for a good quality of life over moving into a tiny place I'd have to leave when I became frail anyway. I'd much rather move while I could still build relationships.) Your arguing against doing exactly what you claim you want to do - create well-planned urban spaces - is getting downright silly when you rationalize that it can only happen if it's Palo Alto. Creating more desirable places people can move into means solving the problem holistically, rather than being short-sighted. In my opinion, ignoring that much more holistic option is what is throwing the stone over the fence.

The problem is that development dollars aren't flowing into places that most need them. Stressed cities can get together and "adopt" places - even put out an RFP so that smaller cities compete for the jobs/amenities and dollars, so it's clear they are wanted from the get go. Win-win-win-win.

Spreading out the demand is what will reduce pressure in any given area, including here. It's time we gave some thought to creating additional vibrant urban centers, including just outside the Bay Area. That really is far more doable and healthy in virtually every way. But perhaps once again, you don't see the possibilities and would rather just demonize your neighbors and fight them?


"Telling people to stay away won't work. If we aren't willing to stay away from Palo Alto, why should they? "
Wrong once again. No one would be telling anyone to do anything. That's the beauty of creating more OPTIONS. If urbanization is the trend - a national trend - we can solve the problem locally by creating more, new, urban centers, in places that are being decimated because of lack of responding to the trend. If people think Palo Alto is too expensive, but there are equivalent options, they will find their way there. I would. Here again, just like at Maybell, the only force really strongly against that are the developers who really prefer to make out like bandits by keeping Palo Alto as costly and in demand as possible. Palo Alto probably will continue to be in demand, but having really good options means there will be really good options. Moving some of the jobs means the current developer-centric rationale for building willy nilly without any good planning sense, the jobs/housing imbalance, is gone.


"People would still want to live in Palo Alto, and a failure to develop accordingly would still have a very negative impact on our city."

Lastly, wrong again. If more urban centers are developed in order to more holistically respond to the global trend of urbanization, Palo Alto could go back to being a medium-sized low-key college town, with room for startups again, which is what the majority of residents prefer, and which would make it far more possible to create solutions like mixed income housing. They would not see that as a negative. If you aren't going to die if you don't have a Palo Alto zip code, you could be a part of doing exactly what you desire, helping to build vibrant new well-planned urban landscapes. I would love that, because I would be one of the people looking carefully to move to one of them for the affordability.


4 people like this
Posted by I Speak for the Trees
a resident of Green Acres
on May 30, 2016 at 4:50 pm

TellIt,
For many, many logistical and legal reasons, the Maybell development could never have have been the answer to housing residents of BV. Do not believe people who talk like the property could have housed everyone on the planet. There are empty lots on El Camino nearby, including dilapidated properties that have been for sale some time including the old Campadres site, that would not have seen the same pushback. Why aren't you working to create housing there?

@Ben Rumson,
You are incorrect. You are doing what the City Council did in the debates, which is figuring the only criteria that apply are the maximum number of units that can be built on a space. That's not actually true. The comp plan, for one, basically prohibits spot zoning. RM-15 is supposed to be a transition zone, meaning on the lower end of the range next to R-1 areas, or 8 units per acre. As a charter city, we don't have to treat the Comp Plan like it's law, but any subdivision has to be consistent or residents could sue, because the site has to be subdivided. The representative for the current developer said that they and the City tried to figure out how to put more density on there and they did not have a clear ability to under the rules, so even they admitted the current number is what is clear under the rules.

But you are right about this: "The real truth is the locals want nothing built there (witness "Speak for Trees") and absent that, as little as possible". For us, it comes down to safety, and always had, at that location. There is no other reason - failing to understand that and demonizing the neighborhood is what led to nothing but conflict. If they continue to be harangued like this, it will only motivate neighbors to go for a more drastic permanent solution that sets aside the orchard permanently and pushes back harder on all development in Palo Alto. In my opinion, that would be the best solution, to save the orchard. (But sad that it didn't come about with a commensurate collaborative effort to do the affordable housing, as could have happened.)

@Ellile,
If you are sick of Maybell, please stop dumping all over us when you clearly still don't understand what happened there. If someone were to push a denser development there now, the neighbors would continue with other recourse - there are significant safety issues because of the location which is why the neighbors tried so hard to first get a collaboration and then fight so hard when a collaboration was rejected. They would only fight again and I don't think developers in general want to arouse that kind of community ire again. They got the place developed without anyone protesting about chopping down 100 established trees, which was their real purpose, in my opinion.


10 people like this
Posted by resident
a resident of College Terrace
on May 30, 2016 at 7:28 pm

Residentialist movement is dangerous one. It only purpose is to protect what is theirs. Damn everybody else. Everybody else are the teachers who school their children, nurses who take care of them - should i continue? Shame.


4 people like this
Posted by I Speak for the Trees
a resident of Green Acres
on May 30, 2016 at 7:58 pm

@ resident,
I think the facts disute your dangerous sweeping generalization. People caring about maintaining quality of life in the community, per even state requireements, is not dangerous, it's called being a good citizen. It might be dangerous to bigtime developers, nothing else.

I think it's the people who are trying to smear the "residentialists", i.e., residents of our town, who are dangerous. They want to ignore safety, ignore the environment, ignore the disabled, anything anyone worked really hard to live here, ignore quality of life, everyone else be damned if they stand up against developers doing whatever they want no matter how badly it impacts our town.

In case you hadn't notice the recent articles about how much the teachers here make, they average above the median household here, the median including billionaires. So, residents are paying their teachers more than the average make themselves. Shame on you for distorting facts.

You should be very happy, 100 trees including a few 200-year-old native oaks are going to be cut down, and no one will protest it. Score one hundred for your side.


3 people like this
Posted by Jerry Underdal
a resident of Barron Park
on May 30, 2016 at 10:34 pm

Jerry Underdal is a registered user.

@I Speak for the Trees

I'm trying to follow your logic on Moldaw but just can't get there. Here's what the Weekly had to say in 2011: “Though Moldaw has cut prices where possible, apartments range in price from $270,000 to $1.1 million depending on size. Monthly fees -- which cover utilities, maintenance, classes, transportation, valet parking and more -- run from $2,000 to $5,800. Some units are offered at below market rate, in keeping with Moldaw's nonprofit mission.” PA Weekly, Oct. 11, 2011

And from Moldaw's website today:
Moldaw Residences, Palo Alto’s
most unique senior living community,
is pleased to be a participant in the City
of Palo Alto’s Below Market Rate (BMR) Program, making our community more accessible to all seeking a vibrant and inspired retirement lifestyle. <<Below Market Rate is not a low-income housing or a subsidized program, but is designed for
people with a more moderate asset base and income.>>

Asset and Income Qualifications:
*depending on size of residence
» »
Total assets between $550,000 and $1,200,000. Net value of your home is included.
Annual income between $40,000 and $88,200 ($100,800 for a couple)

These are totally different markets. People who qualified for Moldaw would not have qualified for the Maybell project and vice versa. Moldaw did its own marketing, with indifferent success, for years. Palo Alto Housing finally did, as you say, agree to help, though that was not its responsibility, and the vacancies were reduced. As of today, two BMR apartments were available.

@Kurt
"My understanding is that "affordable housing" has an income limit, which prohibits the kind of people you are talking about from living in them."

There are several different income level categories for affordable housing. The Maybell project would have been planned for low income seniors. Other projects are designed for moderate income families, for example. The kind of people I'm talking about are already living in hundreds of Palo Alto apartments.


4 people like this
Posted by I Speak for the Trees
a resident of Green Acres
on May 31, 2016 at 12:38 am

@ Jerry,
[Portion removed.] The Moldaw units were under PAHC's management for a long time, empty. They were empty when the Maybell referendum began. They were empty while PAHC was planning to rezone Maybell. The community was told all principles of development in the comprehensive plan, all sensible safety evaluations, all knowledge of what the neighborhood was like from the neighborhood, needed to be ignored because the housing crisis was so bad, yet 20 below market-rate senior units went empty for years that could have housed 40 seniors. Since they said the new apartments at Maybell would only have one person per small unit, that's 2/3 of the numer planned for Maybell that could have been housed in a real senior center with age-in-place provisions. Maybell was not a senior center, just small apartments restricted to a certain age group that people would have had to leave (where?) when they got old enough. Even PAHC kept using the same couple over and over again at City Hall and in their ads, and even they had family in the area that they had and could live with. Most of my friends when faced with the decisions in retirement, have chosen to move away for a higher quality of life, from refugee poor to much better of than we. The decision was in part based on the ability to put down roots in the new place before they got too old. It was never clear that the setup at Maybell would have been in reality one that would have helped serve a real need in Palo Alto, because despite the requirement in the funding application, no one ever did a market survey to assess the need/demand here. The incomes of the resident mix at Maybell was not entirely very low. It was not a homeless shelter, the homeless would have been excluded. This is an expensive place to live, how many seniors who stuck it out living her would want to live in tiny apartments with no walkability to anything they need, and from which they would have to move when they became frail? And that for some, weren't really all that cheap? [Portion removed.]

Jerry, "marketing" is not the same as a "market study" or a "market survey". The latter is required in funding applications, to assess whether the thing being proposed is really going best to meet local need, yet PAHC never did one for Maybell. You would think with all the conflict and protestations about the need, that they would take some data to show the actual need for that particular product. They never did. The reason doing a market survey is important for affordable housing funders is because no one wants to fund an expensive building, with restrictions that leave the building unfilled, ala the Moldaw units.

The plan absolutely was that the Moldaw units were for higher income than the Maybell apartments, I have never disagreed about that. It's not relevant even the teensiest tiniest bit to my point. The point is that here was empty housing for seniors, much better housing for seniors, because - as the City report finally found - the market of interested seniors, seniors who wanted to stay in Palo Alto but couldn't pay full price rather than moving away where their money would stretch further, was actually people who had higher assets than the limit planned at Moldaw, not lower or within the limit. What PAHC thought (publicly), what people who rationalized why those units were empty thought (publicly), was WRONG when the City studied how to fill those units during the Maybell debates. The units had remained empty for YEARS because there was no one whose financial sitution fit the requirements who wanted to live there. Because of the Maybell conflict - NOT because of PAHC taking over, this was long after - the City finally took up the issue of changing the requirements in order to fill the Moldaw units. Once the rules were changed, the units began filling immediately. But the rules were NOT changed to make them cheaper, because they found there was still no market for that. So - again - they were not empty because they were too expensive, they were empty because the seniors who lived in Palo Alto who had a lower income and wanted to live in a senior center there had larger assets than the rules allowed. When the rules were changed based on the market, and people with more assets were allowed to move in, and the rules applying to the refund of their asset was made proportional to full-paying residents, the units filled quickly.

If there had been an urgent and specific need - not just a theoretical one assuming that if you build it they will come like at Moldaw - a market study would have helped built trust that the lengthy list of promises could have been kept. By the way, the plan for Maybell was for different income levels, not just one, and annual incomes for a significant percentage of up to $60,000 or $65,000, or $130,000 per couple (if memory serves - though correct me if I'm wrong) and since it was a percentage of average, it's probably more now. Not that much different than Moldaw - would there be residents making that much with no assets who would want to live in small apartments with not enough parking that wasn't really a senior centers? Possibly, but possibly doesn't cut it when someone wants to put a four-story building where it isn't zoned for one. So why wasn't a trustworthy market study done, given that the funder required it and it would have helped establish facts to underscore the claims? Recall again, that the claims were intended to allay the safety concerns, which were the primary driving reasons for the referendum from neighbors. Data would have helped, and failure to provided it under those circumstances hurt trust even more. (Failure to understand all that led to the arrogance that thwarted collaboration.)

Why was everyone so wrong about the demand for the BMR senior units at Moldaw? (Like they could have been at Maybell?) Because they didn't do a market study, they assumed the demand would be there. It wasn't LOWERING the asset amount that filled the units, it was RAISING it. Given the safety concerns at the Maybell location, a lot of promises that didn't add up just didn't cut it. Moldaw was evidence enough.

Besides, the City could have fully subsidized the downpayment of every Moldaw residence for 40 seniors for a tiny fraction of the cost of building the Maybell development, at very low risk to the City (if they were paying for the asset, in the way they pay for the houses of some City employees). If the neighbors had been allowed to form a working group, that could have been on the table, too.

[Portion removed.]


1 person likes this
Posted by Ben Rumson
a resident of College Terrace
on May 31, 2016 at 7:08 am

Thanks Jerry U.
The Moldaw facilities explanation clarifies that part of the story for me now.

[Portion removed.]


3 people like this
Posted by They got what they wanted
a resident of University South
on May 31, 2016 at 8:45 am

For all the talk about how the neighbors of Maybell were willing to work towards a "reasonable solution", it's telling the path that the neighbors/ PASZ ultimately backed - the one they characterized as the minimum possible density that could be on the site. Of course, that means that the homes are as expensive as possible as well.
[Portion removed.]


2 people like this
Posted by Support for all
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 31, 2016 at 9:49 am

While I am not at all opposed to low income housing for seniors or others I believe that there may be a misunderstanding that if built, it would house Palo Alto residents. This is not necessarily the case. I can remember a resident that was one of the speakers for the BMR who was hoping to bring her mother from another state when the project was complete. I was in Half Moon Bay and met some seniors who had moved into their BMR senior housing from another state to be closer to their children who had moved to California.

So, while we may be able to count it in the housing numbers we can not say that it solves the problem for residents of Palo Alto or even the surrounding neighbors.


2 people like this
Posted by I Speak for the Trees
a resident of Green Acres
on May 31, 2016 at 9:54 am

@They got,
Um, actually, no. I think I just pointed out that the internal poll of the neighbors found that they preferred to save the orchard and if it was going to be developed, affordable housing within zoning (only the affordable housing). Neighbors never had any other choice.

But the City did. Because of their using up the affordable housing fund to help buy the property (ignoring the need at BV for the funds), they had in the contract the right to purchase the Maybell property noncompetitively. After the referendum, there was a City Council meeting in which the Council decided whether to do that. Did you not go? A lot of Maybell neighbors implored the City to purchase the property in order to give time to potentially work out one of the desired outcomes, an orchard or just affordable housing. Others requested that they keep the orchard to do the safety studies that were never done so that it could be more certain what could go there. City Council, with almost no actual debate, said No, and the property went on the market to for-profit developers. The Council was almost gleeful in their decision. That had nothing to do with PASZ, in fact, Cheryl Lilienstein was also a proponent of saving the orchard or an affordable housing only solution, but the City Council refused to exercise the public's right to keep the property. [Portion removed.]

Just so you know, there are probably more existing affordable and low-income housing complexes in the immediate area of Maybell than any other part of town. The people who live in them are our neighbors. [Portion removed.]


4 people like this
Posted by They got what they wanted
a resident of University South
on May 31, 2016 at 10:44 am

@Support for all - The idea that the boundaries of our compassion end at the borders of the now-exclusive enclave we call Palo Alto has always been one of the most puzzling aspects of residentialism for me. Although, in this case, surely you'd consider it good for residents to be able to bring their aging parents close enough to help?


6 people like this
Posted by They got what they wanted
a resident of University South
on May 31, 2016 at 11:06 am

@I speak for the trees

First, I hope you recall the most recent affordable housing complex in the 800 block of Alma (near several others) in University South. I certainly don't recall any of us leading a city-wide referendum to stop it. In all honesty, it's not my favorite building, but I think affordable housing is important enough to deal with the trade-offs.

Second, a letter was sent by PASZ leadership to the PASZ mailing list imploring residents to back this project _because_ it was the lowest possible density in the site - and that if this wasn't approved, the neighborhood might end up with more housing on the Maybell site. So I don't think I'm mischaracterizing PASZ, given that I'm quoting their own letter. [Portion removed.]
University South is mostly renters in apartment complexes, with some single-family homeowners. It is very expensive, though, as you say - especially for the renters. Rent has doubled in the last five years as a booming regional economy has met long-standing resistance to more apartments in Palo Alto.You can stop the jobs in Palo Alto, but you can't get rid of the jobs on the whole Peninsula. Thousands of my neighbors are struggling with rising rents, including many I know well. Every home lost means more friends and neighbors who will leave us.

You can imagine, I hope, why some people take the loss of housing at Maybell personally.


2 people like this
Posted by I Speak for the Trees
a resident of Green Acres
on May 31, 2016 at 12:17 pm

@They got what they wanted,

I remember 800 Alma. In contrast to what you say, the first proposal there was over zoning, and neighbors raised a big enough stink that the project was brought within zoning. If you recall, Maybell neighbors asked the City to concider investing the same amount per unit at Maybell as they did at 800 Alma, which would have allowed the project to be just affordable housing and built within zoning. Your neighborhood got the project brought within zoning because of the stink you all raised. But our neighborhood did not. That's quite a lot of hypocrisy in bringing up that case.

As for whether your neighbors would referend, I seem to recall the High Street project included BMR units and the High Street referendum was brought by your neighborhood. If you also recall, another of the most recent projects to go in Palo Alto was Arbor Real, at the site of the former Rickey's Hyatt, in my neck of the woods, a huge overzoning that produced a very great amount of new housing on our side of town, in addition to the large developments along El Camino including the one that took over the bowling alley. Additionally, across from Rickey's Hyatt was another affordable housing complex, also new, no referendum. (Not without protestation about traffic, but it was mainly from Arbor Real residents who were, by the way, supposed to have been seniors.) We are also a stone's through from all the building at San Antonio plaza in Mtn Vw. None of that building has done anything but RAISE prices. Affordability tends to go with age of properties.

Some of the most major low-income housing in our neighborhood is Buena Vista, and the Maybell proposal took all the money from the affordable housing fund when they could have most used it to save their homes. I do not know how people who supposedly care about affordable housing can live with the hypocrisy of that.

Yes, PASZ wants the least density on that parcel as possible, They and everyone else have ALWAYS been consistent about that because of SAFETY at that location. It's why the referendum happened in the first place. Get it? Some of the same people who asked for a Working Group THIS time, were the same people who managed to resolve an almost identical development dispute resulting in saving the local school from being razed and producing a 92-unit affordable housing complex. Some of the same people. Same neighborhood. The difference is that this time, the interests of the for-profit development trumped everything else and collaboration was never possible. [Portion removed.]


2 people like this
Posted by Kurt
a resident of College Terrace
on May 31, 2016 at 1:11 pm

@Jerry U:

"There are several different income level categories for affordable housing. The Maybell project would have been planned for low income seniors. Other projects are designed for moderate income families, for example. The kind of people I'm talking about are already living in hundreds of Palo Alto apartments."

Can you please provide some specific examples of, for example, academic families, currently living in apartments in PA, that are eligible for these affordable housing programs that you favor? I happen to know a few families that have applied, and have been rejected for having incomes that are too high. Thanks.


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Posted by Jerry Underdal
a resident of Barron Park
on May 31, 2016 at 1:54 pm

Jerry Underdal is a registered user.

Kurt,

You can do the same thing I would have to do. Ask at MidPen, Palo Alto Housing, whoever else that has affordable housing projects in the city what their criteria are and whether they have people living in their apartments or benefitting from BMR housing purchase programs that would qualify as academic (I'd include teachers, aides, anyone working in the school district, etc.) or professional (I'd count artists, health technicians, translators, etc.. Find out from the source. I didn't know much about affordable housing in Palo Alto before the Maybell proposal came up. Turns out it's one of the most important and little understood land use and housing issues in the Bay Area. It's well worth the effort to get informed, whatever your position may be on particular proposals. Good luck, and good luck to your friends in this tough market.


2 people like this
Posted by Jerry Underdal
a resident of Barron Park
on May 31, 2016 at 2:26 pm

Jerry Underdal is a registered user.

@ I Speak for the Trees

"Some of the most major low-income housing in our neighborhood is Buena Vista, and the Maybell proposal took all the money from the affordable housing fund when they could have most used it to save their homes."

I've seen no evidence that the commitment of affordable housing funds as a loan to help Palo Alto Housing buy the Maybell site before a commercial developer snapped it up came at the expense of support for Buena Vista. The core problem was, and is, how to put together a deal that the owner will accept.

I'd like to see a survey done in Barron Park to show the extent of neighborhood support for the effort by Caritas, with support from the city and county, to purchase, maintain, manage and improve the Buena Vista Mobile Home Park. I get inconsistent signals.


2 people like this
Posted by They got what they wanted
a resident of University South
on May 31, 2016 at 2:42 pm

@Speaker - well, it's sad to see that people in my own neighborhood got the affordable housing reduced here, too. I missed that controversy entirely, somehow. It's not too surprising, though, that there are people in my own neighborhood with the same exclusionary lens. It's an issue throughout the Bay Area.

If I could have influenced it, I would have built it bigger.


2 people like this
Posted by I Speak for the Trees
a resident of Green Acres
on May 31, 2016 at 4:04 pm

@Jerry Underdal,
In the major ads PAHC put in the papers during the Maybell referendum, one of the statements they made was that the funds for the Maybell development came from the affordable housing funds and couldn't be used for other purposes, and that there was no more money left in the affordable housing fund for anything else. Ipso Facto. The Buena Vista residents were already facing eviction. When they rustled up the $14.5 million to try to buy the property, the owner wanted thirty million. That was during the whole Maybell conflict. The City and County funds made around $15 million.

The amount the City and County put in at Maybell then, are the very same funds that are NOW, today, committed to try to buy the BV property, returned after the sale of that property. They are the very same funds, so you cannot tell me that they couldn't have been used for that same purpose to help at BV back then when it could have done more good.
[Portion removed.]

Go ask Greg Schmid about the early meeting when neighbors tried to sell him (as all the councilmembers) on our ability to do better if allowed to work as citizens (working group), what we said when he asked quietly what we thought of BV: we knew not everyone agrees, but personally we felt the City should help save the park. That was the strong sentiment among neighbors. And having that kind of energy and creativity in a working group with that on the table could have moved mountains. In fact, we were all very aware that if we lost the Maybell (against) referendum, the park was toast because no way would the developer have questioned their ability to force everyone out. Instead, it became clear the neighbors could block any upzoning there, so the developer wasn't as interested.

[Portion removed.] When the City helped buy the Maybell property, they were still smarting from all the outcry over the California Avenue trees being cut down. In the development game of poker, affordable housing beats trees. I know you would have liked an orchard, though you wouldn't have lifted a finger to help, but most of the pro D side speak in all other contexts like they are hugging trees all day, but at Maybell, they are all hatchets and saws and let's cut those damned old trees down! And they still are, despite the drought, despite the proximity of schools and the need for adjacent community places for kids, despite the school and rehab center for very disabled kids across the street, despite what they wanted no longer being on the table, it seems to me they solved the little problem of how to get past the tree huggers to cut down the orchard. Get the tree huggers to do it themselves.


2 people like this
Posted by I Speak fot the Trees
a resident of Green Acres
on May 31, 2016 at 4:29 pm

@They got what,
I think the added space was for office space to help support the housing, but I would have to look it up. The point is, the nonprofit developer was willing to make the compromise in order to get it built. At Maybell, the developer and City were not. The double standard was fequently brought up. The point was frequently made that had the developers been willing to make equivalent investments as at 801 Alma, Maybell too might have been built, though as affordable housing only, not the original plan. IMO, one of the most significant compromises could have been to build model tech enabled homes with the help of local companies, to give disabled veterans a chance to be successful and integrated into Silicon Valley I would have worked really hard for that, too. It would have meant low traffic there, affordable housing to serve a really underserved demographic, and could have meant saving some trees, too. That could only have been on the table in a working group. Because again, any plan without the for-profit developer wasn't going to make it.


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