News

In parting shot, planning commissioner slams Palo Alto council over housing policies

Kate Downing blames city leaders for failure to act, ignoring public pleas for more housing

For the past two years, Kate Downing has been one of Palo Alto's most passionate advocates for building more affordable housing.

As one of the founding members of the citizens group Palo Alto Forward and a member of the city's Planning and Transportation Commission, she also has been a vehement critic of the city's recent tilt toward slow-growth policies, and its failure to address a housing shortage that many in the community and some on the City Council believe has reached a crisis level.


Kate Downing
For Downing, the problem hits literally close to home. Two weeks ago, she announced that her family is leaving Palo Alto -- driven out by the high housing prices. And on Tuesday night, she penned a public letter of resignation, which she posted on Medium, that further explains her decision to leave and takes the council to task for its failure to act on this problem, despite strong community support for building more housing.

"Time and again, I've seen dozens of people come to both Commission meetings and Council meetings asking Council to make housing its top priority," Downing wrote. "The City Council received over 1,000 signatures from Palo Alto residents asking for the same. In the annual Our Palo Alto survey, it is the top issue cited by residents.

"This council has ignored the majority of residents and has chartered a course for the next 15 years of this city's development, which substantially continues the same job-housing imbalance this community has been suffering from for some time now: more offices, a nominal amount of housing, which the Council is already laying the groundwork to tax out of existence, lip service to preserving retail that simply has no reason to keep serving the average Joe when the city is only available to Joe Millionaires."

In her resignation letter, Downing pointed to the city's difficulties in filling job openings in the Palo Alto Police Department and renewing contracts with the local teachers because of the "astronomical" cost of housing, not just in Palo Alto but "many miles in each direction."

It is clear, she wrote, that "if professionals like me cannot raise a family here, then all of our teachers, first responders, and service workers are in dire straits."

Downing herself is facing similar challenges, despite the fact that she is a corporate attorney and her husband is a software engineer at Palantir. For several years, they have been renting a home in the Ventura neighborhood. Now, they are preparing to move to Santa Cruz.

In her resignation letter, Downing wrote that "After many years of trying to make it work in Palo Alto, my husband and I cannot see a way to stay in Palo Alto and raise a family here."

"We rent our current home with another couple for $6,200 a month; if we wanted to buy the same home and share it with children and not roommates, it would cost $2.7M and our monthly payment would be $12,177 a month in mortgage, taxes and insurance," Downing wrote. "That's $146,127 per year -- an entire professional's income before taxes. This is unaffordable even for an attorney and a software engineer."

Downing also noted that over the last five years, she'd seen dozens of her friends leave Palo Alto and, in some cases, the Bay Area. She also said that she has seen friends from other states get job offers in Palo Alto and then turn them down whey they started to look at the price of housing.

"I struggle to think what Palo Alto will become and what it will represent when young families have no hope of ever putting down roots here, and meanwhile the community is engulfed with middle-aged jet-setting executives and investors who are hardly the sort to be personally volunteering for neighborhood block parties, earthquake preparedness responsibilities, or neighborhood watch," Downing wrote. "If things keep going as they are, yes, Palo Alto's streets will look just as they did decades ago, but its inhabitants, spirit, and sense of community will be unrecognizable.

"A once thriving city will turn into a hollowed out museum. We should take care to remember that Palo Alto is famous the world over for its residents’ accomplishments, but none of those people would be able to live in Palo Alto were they starting out today," she wrote.

Downing is hardly alone in urging the council to act with more urgency on promoting affordable housing. In March, more than 1,000 residents, including numerous former mayors and planning commissioners, signed a petition spearheaded by Palo Alto Forward that urged the council to do more to address this topic.

"The cost of living in Palo Alto has skyrocketed. As a result, we are seeing long-time neighbors move because they can no longer afford the rent," the petition stated. "It is not unusual for Palo Alto workers to commute in from areas as far as Stockton, Gilroy and Tracy, putting severe strain on our roads and our climate. We are on the path to being a city composed only of long-time landowners and wealthy newcomers. This situation is the result of city policies that have discouraged new housing while encouraging more office space."

Recent surveys also suggest that residents are growing increasingly anxious about getting priced out of Palo Alto. In the city's annual survey, the number of people who gave Palo Alto good grades for "variety of housing options” dropped from 27 percent in 2014 to 20 percent in 2015, while the percentage of people who ranked the city as a good or excellent place to retire dropped from 60 percent to 52 percent between 2014 and 2015 (in 2006, it was 68 percent).

Local concerns about housing were also highlighted in a poll that the city commissioned last spring, when it was considering whether to proceed with a business tax to address traffic congestion. The poll showed 76 percent of the respondents listing "cost of housing" as an "extremely serious" or "very serious" problem, a higher percentage than any other issue (the drought and traffic congestion scored second and third, with 65 percent and 53 percent, respectively).

Downing's letter comes at a particularly sensitive time for local politics. The city is about to hold its first City Council election since the slow-growth "residentialist" camp won the council majority in 2014 and four of the council's nine seats will be up for grabs.

Several candidates jumping into the race, including current planning commission Chair Adrian Fine, Human Relations Commission Chair Greer Stone and technology executive Michelle Kraus (all of whom are renters) have vowed to make creation of more housing options a priority if elected.

---

Follow the Palo Alto Weekly/Palo Alto Online on Twitter @PaloAltoWeekly and Facebook for breaking news, local events, photos, videos and more.

Comments

156 people like this
Posted by A little realism please ...
a resident of Crescent Park
on Aug 10, 2016 at 3:01 pm

Does any serious person believe we could ever build enough housing in Palo Alto to satisfy demand and thus lower prices? Our schools alone justify our higher property valuations. And for every person complaining about the prices, there's another willing to work hard so that he or she can live here.

Downing's resignation letter doesn't even make sense. For example, she claims mixed-use projects can't have residences on two floors -- but they can. For example, the Olive Garden project will have residences on the second and third floors.


89 people like this
Posted by resident
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Aug 10, 2016 at 3:16 pm

What with everything going on I have come to realize there is a vast difference between Baby-Boomers, X-Generation, and Millennials. Not sure where Kate falls into that, suspect she is a Millennial, but her overall lack of experience regarding city planning shouts out. "Disruption" is code for the Millennials, not so for Baby-Boomers. We are not going to turn ourselves on our heads because the younger group demands change.

The housing crises is a California Problem and we are not going to solve it here in our already built out 26 miles. The state will solve it by building the HSR and electrifying Caltrain, despite that they have no money to do so.
They will dictate changes for El Camino so change will happen in any case at the state's timetable. We do not have that much control over those events.


140 people like this
Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Aug 10, 2016 at 3:38 pm

Interesting how she totally ignores the huge percentage of foreign investors who are buying up Palo Alto housing and pricing so many out of the market. Also interesting that she says nothing about turning Palo Alto into a massive office park. I wonder what we should call an office park museum.

Palo Alto can hardly be considered a museum when just about every street has at least one hole in ground from "museum-quality" homes that have been scraped to be replaced by huge McMansions.


38 people like this
Posted by Me
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 10, 2016 at 3:46 pm

Looks like Palo Alto just got schooled !


65 people like this
Posted by CrescentParkAnon.
a resident of Crescent Park
on Aug 10, 2016 at 4:19 pm

I think the point is that for example before the 80's and well into the early 90's there were low cost areas to live that were safe, private and affordable for a "middle class" worker or student. In my early 20's I could afford my own studio apartment and car in Mountain View, and knew of apartments even in Palo Alto and East Palo Alto that friends lived in. I could also afford to go to Foothill College ... and as a mediocre student even.

There is nothing close to that now, and to paraphrase Uncle Bernie - anyone working 40 hours a week should be able to have a life ... complete with future and all. The 1% of people who make 90% of the money coming in because they happened to own or buy land with capital are draining everyone else's lives from rents and monopolies are the ones who talk about over-regulation and how no one deserves to live in Palo Alto, but those are really just dodges and FU's to the majority of people who are just trying to have a life. Yes, to a certain extent, this is the game of life, but when it squeezes people to death it is reasonable to demand something be done about it ... "when in the course of human events" and all that.

Rather than try to legislate how, or regulate people who are expert at avoiding it, we ought to have simple guidelines for human and citizen's rights, along the lines of FDR's New Bill of Rights, and then let people's ideas for improvement be heard, voted on and possibly implemented.


53 people like this
Posted by CrescentParkAnon.
a resident of Crescent Park
on Aug 10, 2016 at 4:30 pm

> Interesting how she totally ignores the huge percentage of foreign investors

I have long wondered about this.

My gut just says it is unreasonable to allow people from countries that do not allow Americans to buy land there to buy land here? My gut though is not as reliable as I'd like. Is there some kind of reasoning or rational as to why we allow this. Having visited some very nice places in Mexico I'd love to have the option to buy land there, and American investment would be sure to make the two countries closer, and do a lot to incentivize changes in the corruption of Mexico's government. Or does big business here profit a few Americans by exploiting millions of Mexicans and really not want that to happen, and in fact work towards the reverse happening here.

A simple limit mind experiment for example would tell me that if we have say China with a huge surplus of cash come in and start buying our most productive real estate to the point where they snowball their profits and our losses ... our laissez-faire system would allow that right up until the end of our existence. Thus the quote by someone that capitalist countries will sell others the rope they use to hang themselves with. I don't care much for Donald Trump, but he has a point in cases where he draws attention to some of the things we do that hurt our country. We should start to focus on these self-inflicted insults to ourselves instead of just assuming unregulated deals cannot harm us.

I am sure there has to have been work done on these ideas, and surely a lot of it at Stanford. For example what is the effect of drug cartels having so many dollars that they can threaten and corrupt our system and buy up land ... does that even show up on anyone's radar in the US?


123 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 10, 2016 at 4:32 pm

The problem as I see it is that yes people do find it expensive to live here, I won't argue that one. But the real problem is that we don't have the space to build more and more housing with more and more residents and more and more school kids and more and more cars and more and more requirements for parking and more and more stuff.

We don't have the infrastructure to sustain more residents, more school kids, more parking lots and garages in residential areas, more space on our streets, more parking at our schools, more play space at our schools, more parking at our shopping areas, more waiting for kids waiting to cross streets near schools on their bikes, more water for them to drink and shower, and more sewer and storm drain run off, more bike lanes for their bikes, more dog parks for their dogs, more playgrounds for their kids and more anything for their anything.

We can't squeeze a size XL population into a PS size city. True more businesses mean more jobs and more people needed to do them, but thinking that housing has to keep up with the number of jobs means that the quality of life goes downhill for everyone.

It takes just one fender bender on one arterial street, or one mechanical problem on a train, or in morning commute times to make hundreds, nay thousands of people late for work. Our infrastructure is just about working. Please let's not put my stress on it.

From my observations, people do not work near where they live, or live near where they work for all their working lives and couples even less. People do not move 20 miles just because they change jobs. From what I see amongst my local neighbors and friends, people are just as likely to commute out of Palo Alto as those who work here and live elsewhere. When we moved here originally for a job in Mountain View which was biking distance, we have had commutes to various Mountain View locations, Sunnyvale and Redwood City. It would never have occurred to us to move home each time.




49 people like this
Posted by Head Trip
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 10, 2016 at 4:52 pm

[Post removed.]


110 people like this
Posted by Fed up with traffic
a resident of Community Center
on Aug 10, 2016 at 5:20 pm

Kate --

Please enlighten us about all of your proposals that address the additional transportation needed for the additional housing to which you think you are entitled. Have you somehow convinced San Mateo to extend BART to Santa Clara County? Have you found the funds to both electrify CalTrain *and* put the train underground so the already insane traffic doesn't come to a complete halt every 3 mins when a train goes by?

Please, show us any proposal you put forth that both address transportation and housing.

[Portion removed.]


31 people like this
Posted by Me
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 10, 2016 at 5:37 pm

@CrescentParkAnon : "if we have say China with a huge surplus of cash come in and start buying our most productive real estate to the point where they snowball their profits and our losses ... our laissez-faire system would allow that right up until the end of our existence. "

Replace "China" with "Europeans" and this would be an appropriate position for the Native Americans to have taken in the 1400's.


46 people like this
Posted by Patrick
a resident of another community
on Aug 10, 2016 at 5:39 pm

This is what happens Palo Alto sees 13.7 jobs being produced for every single new unit of housing.

The numbers don't lie.


26 people like this
Posted by Conflicted
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 10, 2016 at 5:41 pm

Conflicted is a registered user.

[Post removed.]


62 people like this
Posted by Patrick
a resident of another community
on Aug 10, 2016 at 5:50 pm

@Conflicted - Kate was trying to do her job by trying to fix the problem at hand which is the housing crisis in Palo Alto. She has the right to be frustrated by those who do nothing to help and only exacerbate the problem.


133 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 10, 2016 at 6:22 pm

Downing’s letter eloquently captures two central elements of this debate.

First, she precisely articulates the problem in its proper terms: the days when two professional incomes could finance a Single Family House in Palo Alto are gone, and Downing demonstrates it convincingly with numbers. If two engineers or attorneys cannot afford this, how can two teachers possibly aspire to it without subsidies? Her explanation is a masterpiece of clarity and brevity. Bravo!

Second, she perfectly captures the hypocrisy of her colleagues at Palo Alto Forward and the PTC, whose current vogue is ADU’s (“granny units”) and “small units” as the solution to Palo Alto’s housing woes, with the benefit that they won’t generate kids to crowd the schools: (Web Link).

Yet Downing wants … wait for it … a Single Family House. She does not want an ADU. She does not want a micro unit. She does not want a 1-Br or a studio. For Downing and her family to raise their kids she wants space, a horribly limited commodity in Palo Alto. She wants those schools too.
The fact is that building small units and ADUs will not solve the problem that Downing so crisply defines. If such a unit were available next door, she wouldn’t take it. Nor will building stacks of those units reduce the price of Single Family Houses; the buyers she’s bidding against won’t take those units either. Short of building large numbers of new Single Family Houses (which, as it happens, none of her colleagues advocate), the problem Downing defines can only be solved two ways: buy a 2Br condo, which costs a bit more than half as much as a Single Family House, or else move outwards. Either choice is a rational response to a surreal situation, and she made one.

So then, who will occupy these ADU’s and micro-units, if it’s not Downing and her family? Mostly single tech workers without kids. The irony is this helps Palantir’s problem – competing with Google for talented new engineers – while doing nothing for Downing, or for teachers, or first responders or service workers. Downing’s pro-development colleagues have abandoned her in favor of a different constituency, and it’s to those colleagues she should look, not to city zoning.


108 people like this
Posted by Observer
a resident of University South
on Aug 10, 2016 at 6:37 pm

Wow. A Planning Commissioner resigns because she can't afford to raise a family in her city - and Palo Alto Online is filled with homeowners who are claiming she is the entitled one.

I think many of the commenters on this thread should take a long, hard look in the mirror. When I moved to Palo Alto twenty years ago, it was an open, inclusive city. This thread does not reflect the Palo Alto I am proud of. Neither did Measure D.

The city has changed in the last twenty years. But it's not the young tech workers like Kate who are at fault. It's us.


55 people like this
Posted by Just a person
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Aug 10, 2016 at 6:43 pm

@Observer - couldn't disagree more - what is your solution to the massive transportation woes of Palo Alto? How will adding many more houses improve this situation?


87 people like this
Posted by Just a person
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Aug 10, 2016 at 6:45 pm

@Resident - you do realize that Palantir is part of the problem here right? They have over 50% of the office space in Palo Alto. Imagine if they moved their company to the East Bay where there is plenty of available office space, BART actually runs and housing is more affordable. Ironic.


12 people like this
Posted by Hahahahaha
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 10, 2016 at 6:57 pm

Hahahahaha is a registered user.

[Post removed.]


89 people like this
Posted by Norman Beamer
a resident of Crescent Park
on Aug 10, 2016 at 7:00 pm

Sorry to see her leave Palo Alto, and best of luck for her in future. Not so sorry to see her off the Planning Commission, because her positions were unsound, in my very humble opinion.


108 people like this
Posted by Douglas Moran
a resident of Barron Park
on Aug 10, 2016 at 7:03 pm

Douglas Moran is a registered user.

Downing, and Palo Alto Forward, opposed attempts to slow the disproportionate growth in jobs. She rails against the demand/supply ratio while advocating to increase it.

> "preserving retail that simply has no reason to keep serving the average Joe when the city is only affordable to Joe Millionaires"

The reason for the efforts to preserve that retail was that there are many people living here that value it. There are many in Palo Alto who have lived here for decades, but to Downing and her ilk, those residents are invisible, irrelevant, ... Downing, and many like her in PA Forward, are dismissive and contemptuous of lifestyles other than their own. They characterize others as "afraid of the future", "wanting to return to a sleepy college town", "Mayberry" ...
From Downing: current residents "very much want to hold onto the Silicon Valley of the past - a pretty suburb and nothing more."

> "Over the last 5 years I’ve seen dozens of my friends leave Palo Alto..."

This was happening in the 1990s. Part of the failings of PA Forward is a strong tendency of "it's all about me". Time and time again I encountered absolute hostility to prior and ongoing efforts.

> "buy the same home ... it would cost $2.7M"

I infer that she is talking about a single-family home. It is ironic that Downing is complaining about the cost of SFHs while advocating for the increase of other types of housing at the expense of SFHs (zoning changes to allow SFHs to be replaced by density). She is very selective in where she considers the Law of Supply and Demand.

> "I’ve seen dozens of people come to both Commission meetings and Council meetings asking Council to make housing its top priority."

Such entitlement "What do we want? Cheaper housing! When do we want it? Right now!"
The jobs-housing problem is long-standing and complex, and Downing and her ilk have hindered attempts to deal with it. They have no patience for the complexities, the tradeoffs, the other stakeholders, non-trivial economics, ...

Downing's most infamous example of siding with the investor class against residents came when she opposed Council's intent to *remove* subsidies - via additional development rights - to building owners who replaced (tore down) seismically unsafe buildings: "Is the council really saying that extra square footage and extra parking are more important than the lives of the people who live and die in these buildings?" (2015-09-30) Recognize that the building owners had had many, many years of income from these old buildings. Upgrades and replacement are a normal part of building ownership. Public subsidies can be warranted if there is a need to get it done quickly and it would be a financial hardship for the owner. Neither applied here: This was a long-standing problem with no deadline and no claim of financial hardship. The venom of this statement demonstrates the biases of Downing on the PTC.


13 people like this
Posted by Todd
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 10, 2016 at 7:10 pm

[Post removed.]


77 people like this
Posted by Give me a break
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Aug 10, 2016 at 7:20 pm

This person saying Palo Alto will be a hollowed out version of its former self. How ridiculous. If you were here in 1960, perhaps you'd have some context, but you don't. Why not buy a house in EPA, RWC etc? Clearly you have some parameters for yourself, and apparently Santa Cruz meets them. [Portion removed.] You can't dictate where you can afford to live. God bless and good luck.


30 people like this
Posted by Shallow Alto
a resident of Mountain View
on Aug 10, 2016 at 7:29 pm

"If you were here in 1960, perhaps you'd have some context, but you don't. Why not buy a house in EPA, RWC etc? Clearly you have some parameters for yourself, and apparently Santa Cruz meets them. [Portion removed.] You can't dictate where you can afford to live."

And with that, Kate Downing's point is proven.

Maybe it's time to bulldoze Palo Alto and start over again.


68 people like this
Posted by Abigail Logan
a resident of Escondido School
on Aug 10, 2016 at 7:48 pm

Once again: entitled Boomers who arrived here when supply/demand happened to be better aligned, whose energy-hog homes didn't have to go through any EIR and "community dialogue", who created a whole lot of new traffic when they moved in, who have seen their homes skyrocket by hundreds of percent over the last couple decades, NOW all of sudden dedicate their privileged retirement years toward actually helping young people, building more sustainably, doing anything for affordability than the most token gestures, and carping that someone even dares to have a contrary opinion.

Thanks, Palo Alto, for showing our true VALUE$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$


31 people like this
Posted by Johnson
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Aug 10, 2016 at 8:04 pm

Lots of talk about housing and city politics, not much mention from
any of you regarding response times of our first responders. It's a proven reality that we've created a monster, and it only stands to get worse with time. Just look how it's affecting our neighbors: Web Link
Try calling 911 in about five years. Just wait. No pun intended.


31 people like this
Posted by m2grs
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 10, 2016 at 8:30 pm

According to Wikipedia, in 1866 Atherton, then known as Fair Oaks, was only a flag stop, i.e. a stop only by request, on the railroad between San Francisco and San Jose. I'm sure a one-income working class family could easily afford a house in Atherton at that time.

Alas, things change. Mrs. Downing's complaint is no different from numerous others preceded her in the past one hundred years when neighborhoods changed for, arguably, the better and much more expensive.




130 people like this
Posted by Thankful
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 10, 2016 at 8:51 pm

I'm so glad we have one less inexperienced, new resident on the Planning and Transportation Commission that is demanding that long-time residents sacrifice their hard-earned quality of life for young, new residents that want the benefits without the sacrifice and hard work. We don't have a housing shortage in Palo Alto, we have too many office jobs. Most of us do not live and work in the same city, unfortunately, including those of us who have lived in Palo Alto for 20-30 years (or since birth). It's ridiculous to keep adding jobs in Palo Alto and then demand that housing keep pace. The land, roads, schools, parks and everything are FULL!

Young people need to do the same thing most of the rest of us did - live somewhere else while you scrimp and save and ultimately have enough savings to put down a decent size down payment for a house.

Santa Cruz is an odd choice if the only reason is cheaper housing. I suspect there is more to Ms. Downing's choice of a new location than housing cost.


142 people like this
Posted by Resident Too
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 10, 2016 at 9:19 pm

@Resident,
You are spot on - Downing rented a house and moved no doubt to get a house and more space, yet advocated for more rental housing that she hasn't been willing to live in. While she has been paying $6000 for a house, and griping about affordability, she could have rented an apartment in a building a friend found in my neighborhood for less than $2,000/month for their family of 3. The same buildng has had other vacancies. But it no doubt would have cramped their lifestyle.

We did not buy our house decades ago, and we make less than half of what they do, and we are living here with many teachers/professors/ordinary olk. We made the trade-off to be close over comfort (we are what are known as "house poor"). We were able to buy our home the way every other ordinary person who lives here does: you buy whatever you can get, no matter how humble, probably not in Palo Alto, and you move up over time. The situation three decades ago was no easier, since interest rates were triple what they are today and buying a home a third as expensive resulted in the same cash flow. The way to get in the market is to buy elsewhere and build equity. It's not a mystery, it's just more work and sacrifice than Downing is clearly willing to make. That is the reality of living in a desirable part of the country. One way to help fix things is to take all that energy and indignation and help improve the desirability of the many mid-sized places around the country that have lost workers and want the jobs and development. In the meantime, we should put a moratorium on all development until we a) no longer have to restrict water use by existing residents, and b) can handle the growth per water usage without having to ignore the potential for more drought. The history of humans is littered with object lessons in having some humility when it comes to the limits of water as a resource. (I really do not understand what the problem is that Downing has known friends who didn't take jobs here. They took them somewhere else - good for our nation.)

It has LONG been the case here that people who buy cannot afford their own homes after a few years. That's why ordinary people buy despite the years of sacrifice, for the stability in expenses. It has also LONG been the case that people who rent never get ahead, because there is no way to have long-term stability in a highly desirable market.

$2.7M is not the base price on the smallest housing in Palo Alto, it's the price of a pretty comfortable rancher. She could deinitely afford a condo or townhouse here and be far more comfortable financially than we are. She could and probably will build equity in Santa Cruz and could move up to almost anything in a 10-15 year time range, if she pays attention to what's going on and decides to be more realistic in her understanding of local economics.


126 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 10, 2016 at 9:45 pm

"@Resident - you do realize that Palantir is part of the problem here right? They have over 50% of the office space in Palo Alto."

Yes. Furthermore, those young single engineers at Palantir and elsewhere, that PA Forward and the PTC want to bring in more of by expanding micro units and ADU's - one day they'll be 35, and many will be married and have kids on the way. Then they'll want the same Single Family Houses that Downing does, and they'll help bid those prices up even farther.

You'd be forgiven for concluding this is an agenda designed for the Palantirs and developers of Palo Alto, at the expense of families including Downing's. Meanwhile they cry about affordability for teachers and first responders. Breathtaking.


142 people like this
Posted by anon
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Aug 10, 2016 at 10:07 pm

Quotes below are from Ms Downing's resignation letter:
Quotes:
"Small steps like allowing 2 floors of housing instead of 1 in mixed use developments"

it is currently legal to have two floors of housing in mixed use projects. The "olive garden " project at 2515 El Camino real is one recent example of a project that has two floors of housing in a mixed use project.

" legalizing duplexes"

it is currently legal to build duplexes in all residential and mixed use zones with the exception of R-1

"After many years of trying to make it work in Palo Alto, my husband and I cannot see a way to stay in Palo Alto and raise a family here. We rent our current home with another couple for $6200 a month; if we wanted to buy the same home and share it with children and not roommates, it would cost $2.7M and our monthly payment would be $12,177 a month in mortgage, taxes, and insurance. That’s $146,127 per year — an entire professional’s income before taxes. This is unaffordable even for an attorney and a software engineer."

It is a very expensive city to buy a home in but many live in Palo Alto for years and decades and contribute to the community while renting. Renting does not preclude a family from having children.


"meanwhile the community is engulfed with middle-aged jet-setting executives and investors who are hardly the sort to be personally volunteering for neighborhood block parties, earthquake preparedness responsibilities, or neighborhood watch."

Ms. downing seems to be very biased against people different from her. She criticizes middle aged Palo Altan's for being for being the "sort" that would not volunteer to help their community with regards to "earthquake preparedness" etc; yet... Earthquake preparedness ( Emergency Prep ) in Palo Alto was an idea that came from community volunteers, middle aged and older, that worked with neighborhoods and city staff for years to design and implement a program to protect and serve their community.

These are but a few of the very misguided and false accusations made by Ms.Downing in her resignation letter.
She appears not only to be uniformed about the very issues it was her duty to consider as a Planning Commissioner,
but is also very biased against certain groups.

The values that we look for in a community member or public servant are wisdom knowledge and tolerance.


77 people like this
Posted by out of touch
a resident of Green Acres
on Aug 10, 2016 at 10:09 pm

Folks here seem out of touch with the housing market. Have you looked at Zillow or Trulia lately? There's exactly one townhouse on there and everything else is single family homes. And that makes sense - only 3% of the land in Palo Alto is zone for multifamily housing. It's not wrong at all to say there isn't enough of that housing here or that having more of that sort of housing wouldn't bring down prices overall. It would. Today, people are bidding for single family homes even if they'd be fine with a condo or townhome because there just aren't that many of them around. It's slim pickings. But if we did have more, fewer people would be bidding on the single family homes and their prices would not be increasing at quite the clip that they have been.

A lot of you are also really kind of myopic - focusing on one person and ignoring all the other people who are far less fortunate. The point was that people who are not professionals can't afford to be here either. And for those people, adding townhomes and condos has to be a part of the solution. And those folks who serve our community should be our top priority, not necessarily professionals who will get along just fine.You can lose the lawyers and engineers, but you can't lose the people who take care of you and make your city run!


40 people like this
Posted by scotty
a resident of Green Acres
on Aug 10, 2016 at 10:13 pm

Kate-- we are having a block party next week. You are more than welcome. If you can please bring a dessert that would be great.


68 people like this
Posted by Ironic
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Aug 10, 2016 at 10:24 pm

Oh the irony!

Palo Alto Forward, Adrian Fine and crew kept saying more micro units, more ADUs , more tall, dense apartments, no parking. Turns out as millennials age they want single family homes.

Santa Cruz is a perfectly fine place to find one , particularly if your job situation allows. Let's stop talking about a so-called Palo Alto crisis. We have a commuting crisis and are just too darn desirable.


60 people like this
Posted by bizarre
a resident of Downtown North
on Aug 10, 2016 at 10:26 pm

Seems bizarre to say it's ok to lock out an entire generation out of home ownership and that they should just be ok with renting forever when the baby boomers have very much enjoyed the wealth-building advantages it has offered them. We paved over whole orchards here to make room for the baby boomers. Home ownership was a fine goal for boomers - so much so that the federal government subsidized it and CA passed prop 13 - but if anyone else now wants to see policies that make home ownership affordable then they're "entitled"?


95 people like this
Posted by Resident 2
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Aug 10, 2016 at 10:27 pm

So, her and her husband are going to buy a house in Santa Cruz? Honestly I feel sorry for the surfer guy who they will displace. His right to "Life,Liberty and the Pursuit if Happiness" will be gone when they displace him. This is the third round of Yuppies that we have had to deal with ,and by far, this is the worst batch of them all.


46 people like this
Posted by Palo Alto Worker
a resident of University South
on Aug 10, 2016 at 11:11 pm

[Portion removed.] I am a public servant in Palo Alto and you make me ashamed to work for you. The number of tech jobs in the city has absolutely nothing to do with your [portion removed] continued efforts to prevent the construction of any types of new housing units.


56 people like this
Posted by Being overwhelmed
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 10, 2016 at 11:19 pm

If you have looked at the Homes Sold lists in the newspapers you see that it isn't local people buying the vast majority of homes. The multi-million dollar offers are coming from people outside the U.S. and it's been going on for quite a few years. Some real estate firms specialize in recruiting buyers in Asia. Sometimes you can see their tour buses around town with potential buyers.

Not only are they using our real estate for investment, but many many tech companies are importing engineers, sometimes not quite legally. They are changing the culture and not everyone likes being overwhelmed by newcomers.


102 people like this
Posted by not just Palo Alto
a resident of Community Center
on Aug 10, 2016 at 11:19 pm

Millenials are having a hard time buying homes in desirable cities throughout the country, not just Palo Alto. Today's WSJ had an article on this. Much of it is not having sufficient savings for a downpayment (due to student loans and spending on rent and ammenities). Also, it is difficult to qualify for low-interest loans. The choice is typically between renting and enjoying life (but not building up equity) or making significant sacrifices for a number of years (including not living in the most desirable home/location) to build up equity.


51 people like this
Posted by resident
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Aug 11, 2016 at 12:19 am

Ms. Logan refers to "boomers" as entitled. Excuse me - we were young families who were starting out and the land and homes were there. We both still had to work to pay off the mortgage and student loan. It is called hard work and the normal process of aging. Hopefully we learn something along the way. And those homes require a continual amount of upgrade and repair. Isn't that what Ms. Downing was looking for? Millennials will age, as will the X-generation so you better start planning now as to where you will be when you are a Boomer.


39 people like this
Posted by Greed kills
a resident of another community
on Aug 11, 2016 at 1:26 am

I always find it interesting when people from older generations comment about younger generations being entitled or not working hard enough. Many of them would not be able to live in these communities if they were to buy their house now. They are also ignoring the fact that they have billed their life to the following generations to pay and the bill is coming due. But if we need a little help then we are entitled. The world isn't static, older generations should remember that. We try to move toward the future because fact is you all aren't going to be around forever. You should want to leave the next generation in a better place. That's not how we do things here though. She is pretty much my hero for today.


44 people like this
Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Aug 11, 2016 at 2:05 am

Of course "the older generation" couldn't buy in now. Many of us moved here from less expensive areas where we could afford to buy a house and did. We built up equity in our old homes and used it as a downpayment.

We didn't start in Palo Alto or on Park Avenue. We started in Redwood City or Brooklyn or Cleveland. Your counterparts in NYC are moving to Brooklyn because it's cheaper and hipper.

And speaking of hip, have you been in downtown Redwood City lately? It's absolutely hopping. Live music at The Fox, live music festivals to dance to in front of their courthouse.

But it would be nice if there were more desirable jobs in the very affordable Red States ;->


99 people like this
Posted by mauricio
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Aug 11, 2016 at 6:13 am

mauricio is a registered user.

I could go on forever on how wrong Kate Downing is in all her assertions and claims. I have noticed in particular that she never addressed the main trigger for the sky high home prices in Palo Alto:foreign buyers anxious to get their money out of their country, who outbid all other potential buyers, keep setting new benchmarks for home prices, and park their fortune in Palo Alto real estate. Even i we accepted her radical vision of massive development and urbanization, and she never bothered to enlighten us how our infrastructure could contain and service it, it's impossible to develop into affordability. Kate Downing was an entitled, unqualified commissioner, who was appointed by the outgoing development council, and Palo Alto its better off with her not on the PTC.


49 people like this
Posted by Ben
a resident of Ventura
on Aug 11, 2016 at 6:29 am

As a former resident (but lifelong fan) of Ventura who was priced out of my rental apartment -- because wages aren't increasing in all sectors to keep pace with the cost of housing -- I'm much less sad about being forced out of Palo Alto now that I see the attitudes of the people who are happy to close the door behind them. You got yours, so the rest of the town doesn't matter. Shameful.


103 people like this
Posted by common sense
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 11, 2016 at 6:34 am

During the time period that Ms. Downing was a Planning & Transportation commissioner, the least expensive 3 bedroom condominium sold was for $950,000 (the type of housing she was advocating for), and the least expensive 3 bedroom house sold for $1,350,00. Monthly payments for the condominium would be around $3,000/month, and for the house $6,000/month. Even this year, there have been hundreds of 3 bedroom homes listed/sold for less than the $2,700,000 that she uses as an example in her letter. The least expensive 3 bedroom home sold so far in 2016, sold for $950,000.

Ms Downing was a commissioner on the Planning & Transportation commission; yet she never approached the issues with a holistic view, looking at transportation, infrastructure and quality of life as part of the total solution that needed to be addressed. She failed to propose or address the solutions needed for the traffic, parks, schools, etc. that would be needed to add thousands of housing units.

The attitude and disdain for the current homeowners that Ms. Downing displays mirrors the attitude of the previous city council who appointed her when they were defeated on Measure D, the attempt to build high density housing in an R-1 neighborhood. Some of the members are still on the council (Liz Kniss who voted to appoint Ms Downing is running for re-election, Marc Berman is running for state Legislature). I really wonder about the other candidates running for city council who were part of the same cohort appointed by those council members - do they have the same disdain, for the current homeowners that Ms Downing has?


28 people like this
Posted by OccasionalOptimist
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Aug 11, 2016 at 6:42 am

On my optimistic days, I think that we'll see residents who rent, and those who are under 50, those who enjoy doing things in their city other than watching television, etc., all work to provide some counterbalance to the political pressure of the NIMBY class in Palo Alto.

On my less optimistic days, I'm pretty sure we have seen our future, and it is Atherton.


12 people like this
Posted by Mvresident2003
a resident of Mountain View
on Aug 11, 2016 at 7:27 am

Mvresident2003 is a registered user.

@ Resident 2: ha ha, you nailed it


53 people like this
Posted by Tatooed
a resident of Esther Clark Park
on Aug 11, 2016 at 8:35 am

Enjoy Santa Cruz!!!
It's a great place, you will love it.
Quit complaining.


22 people like this
Posted by Me
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Aug 11, 2016 at 8:37 am

"Does any serious person believe we could ever build enough housing in Palo Alto to satisfy demand and thus lower prices? "

Yes.

And all this talk about foreign buyers is a red herring. [Portion removed.] There is simply not enough inventory in the market. That's from not just lack of building, but also the fact that old folks are locked into their Prop 13 assessment and can't afford to move without taking a huge penalty from paying the more in property tax for a smaller place than they would with their two $750 a year checks to Santa Clara County.


76 people like this
Posted by PA Grandma
a resident of Greendell/Walnut Grove
on Aug 11, 2016 at 8:38 am

I didn't see a single comment - no, there was one - that suggested that the Bay Area has maxed out on our ability to support unbridled development and growth of tech and other companies of all descriptions. Not just inability to support housing, transportation and schools, but water supply, air quality and overall quality of life.

But the cities up and down the Peninsula refuse to get together to discuss just how much additional Google, FB, Apple, Palantir etc. growth we can actually manage. It's more than time to stop approving buildings to add thousands of new employees - FB's recent demand of Menlo Park - and insist that new offices be built outside the Bay Area. In this era of universal connectivity, that should not be an unreasonable demand.






68 people like this
Posted by North Res
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Aug 11, 2016 at 8:40 am

Well, she definitely cannot save up for a down payment while she is renting here. The big question is why do young people feel that "entitlement" to live in a desirable area "right out" of college? Why not settle down for a bit in a suitable SFH in RWC/Fremont, save up, and move to Palo Alto when you can finally afford it and can time the market better? That's how most of us did it. Obviously, there are always going to be locations and commodities that are going to be out of our reach, but isn't that why we have goals? If I wanted to purchase a Tesla, do I save up or try to facilitate other car makers to bring more competition to bring prices down? --Of course neither if I was trying to save up for a home.


47 people like this
Posted by Fiona
a resident of Gunn High School
on Aug 11, 2016 at 9:00 am

As someone whose mother and father have been raised here, and I was born and raised in Palo Alto as well, my love for the city is deeply rooted. However, I am struck by the fact that no matter how hard I work, or how good of a job I can land, I will not be able to own my own home in Palo Alto. In fact, I don't even see any possibility of finding an affordable rental outside of living in my parents garage. This is deeply saddening, considering that I have so many meaningful connections in this town. However, now when I look around Palo Alto, I see a war on the working class people who made Palo Alto what it is. I am sad to say that I will never be able to return to living in Palo Alto.


9 people like this
Posted by Hmmmmm......
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 11, 2016 at 9:01 am

Hmmmmm...... is a registered user.

[Post removed.]


Posted by Spoiled
a resident of Midtown

on Aug 11, 2016 at 10:14 am

Spoiled is a registered user.


Remember me?
Forgot Password?
Due to violations of our Terms of Use, comments from this poster are only visible to registered users who are logged in. Use the links at the top of the page to Register or Login.


Posted by Spoiled
a resident of Midtown

on Aug 11, 2016 at 10:17 am

Spoiled is a registered user.


Remember me?
Forgot Password?
Due to violations of our Terms of Use, comments from this poster are only visible to registered users who are logged in. Use the links at the top of the page to Register or Login.


28 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 11, 2016 at 10:21 am

My heart goes out to people like Fiona.

Fiona still appears to be in high school. Of course she has not started her career and her earning potential is completely unknown or tested.

But what I say to all young people today is that their potential is their best asset. Their potential has something to do with their education, their lifestyle, their genes and their history. But their potential has a lot more to do with their attitude and their ability to make life work for them.

I would strongly suggest to Fiona and her peers that an attitude which she describes here is a destiny of not achieving her full potential. If she has moving back to Palo Alto one day in the future, then she should be starting now. She should manage to find herself an after school job/summer job and start saving some money. This is not because it will make a dent into what she can put as a downpayment in the future, but the attitude of saving some of her earnings will be instilled and that attitude is what will be the means of eventual houseownership. The second suggestion is that an attitude of living economically will make a big difference in the future. Why always look to buying new when a handmedown or second hand item will do even if you could afford to buy new? A reliable second hand car for a few years will enable you to put more money into your savings. Finding second hand furniture, for the first rental apartment, will enable more money to put into savings. Likewise, eating and cooking dinner at home most of the week as well as cutting out on the number of Starbucks runs will make a difference.

And then of course, the first home actually bought is unlikely to be in Palo Alto either. A starter home is just that, a starter. But if there is a goal to move to something bigger in a nicer area, that will also be achieved with financial prudency in lifestyle attitudes.

If any young person has a mentality of spend, spend, spend, I want new stuff and a lifestyle of not saving money, they will never be able to achieve their goals. However, an attitude of financial responsibility will make a difference in middle age.

This is something my parents instilled in me and my spouse's parents did the same. We have hopefully instilled something of this in our kids too. The future is brighter than imagined if a realistic attitude of financial frugality and thrift in the early years takes place.


2 people like this
Posted by Jimaraqoi
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Aug 11, 2016 at 10:49 am

[Post removed.]


37 people like this
Posted by Just passing by
a resident of another community
on Aug 11, 2016 at 10:56 am

I was directed here by Ms. Downing's post and took a gander at the comments here. I also live in an area that's considered high cost, though nowhere near the insanity of the valley.

Residents of Palo Alto should be ashamed. Even if I could afford it, I'd never live there. The "I got mine" attitude on full display in these comments is absolutely appalling. Good on Ms. Downing for moving her family - I'd not want to raise my kids in such a toxic environment either.


38 people like this
Posted by Me
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Aug 11, 2016 at 10:59 am

PA Grandma: "I didn't see a single comment - no, there was one - that suggested that the Bay Area has maxed out on our ability to support unbridled development and growth of tech and other companies of all descriptions."

Unbridled growth? That's hilarious. All someone needs to do is drive 280 between 380 and 85 to put that myth to rest. Heck, the people who live in Palo Alto Hills can't even see their neighbors!

We are in this mess because we have done our best to restrain growth for the last 40 years. Give me a break.

As for those trying to tell younger people how to be able to live in Palo Alto - that's a riot. Tell me what you guys did in 1975, 1985 or 1992 to move in. What job did you have? The fact that PA is starting to price out white collar professionals, not just teachers, says a lot.

[Portion removed.]

If you want to be Atherton South, then just admit it. But don't cloak your selfishness behind "quality of life" or, more ridiculously, "overpopulation" or "overdevelopment."

Embrace the inner Gordon Gecko that you have and be done with it. You'll be much happier.


29 people like this
Posted by Former local
a resident of another community
on Aug 11, 2016 at 11:00 am

"Our schools alone justify our higher property valuations," --according to "A little realism please..." Yet your teachers can't afford to own a home in Palo Alto. Irony or hypocrisy, you choose, but the fact that teachers cannot afford to live in the communities in which they teach is problematic, to say the least.


75 people like this
Posted by Clueless
a resident of Community Center
on Aug 11, 2016 at 11:04 am

Kate opposed efforts to reign in office development as an active member of Palo Alto Forward, which was successful in significantly weakening the office cap and thus slowing development of new housing. Her husband and another founder of PAF are Palantir employees. PAF has since refocused on affordable housing as long as it does not cut into developer margins. For example, they are not advocating for an increase back to 25% of new housing units for below market housing. How about a position that any profits from upzoning go to increased affordable housing instead of into developers pockets?

However, Kate's biggest weakness was her lack of ability to listen, understand and empathize with neighbors concerns and to mitigate the impacts of new projects on surrounding properties and neighbors. This resulted in PTC recommending projects that were subsequently rejected by city council and slowed down the approval process for these projects.

I hope the next Planning and Transportation Committee member listens to and takes into consideration residents concerns and neighborhood impacts of new projects without such a strong bias towards developers since these are not a strengths of Kate or Adrian.


19 people like this
Posted by Real American
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Aug 11, 2016 at 11:17 am

if there were more housing in palo alto, fewer people would need to commute in each day, thus lessening the traffic problem. Instead, the City restricts new housing, making it less affordable, at the same time increasing commercial space and new jobs (yay!). However, without the ability to house the new workers, the parking and traffic problems only get worse. The big business tax also incentivizes the city government to create more commercial spaces to generate more revenue. Downing is right that there's an imbalance to the housing-jobs ratio but the rich folks of palo alto who have already climbed the ladder of success seem more intent on pulling up the ladder behind them rather than making sure others can come up, too.


63 people like this
Posted by sunshine
a resident of Barron Park
on Aug 11, 2016 at 11:20 am

I think Doug Moran has one of the best responses to MS Downing.
MS Downing seems to think that all present residents of Palo Alto, especially those who are retired and own houses should move elsewhere so that she and her ilk can afford to buy these homes. She probably would not like my home as it is a bit small and probably not worth $2.7mil as the lot is also small. It's an older home with 50s plumbing and electricity throughout. At only 3 BR with no separate family room or special party sized bath she surely would consider it inferior.
That's just fine with me. When I moved to Palo Alto in the early 60s, I too could not afford to live in PA without several roommates. I chose to live in Mt View, later a cottage in Los Altos. I might have lived in E PA or Redwood City, but I found what I liked in Mt View. MS Downing should look at the homes in these surrounding cities. There are many fine areas where she could live and probably afford to buy a home f she did not want a mansion.

Finally, is she really part of the majority in Palo Alto? I have not seen a demographic breakdown of current owners and residents of Palo Alto homes or apartments.
Comments about non-US people who do not choose to live here or rent out the homes they buy are spot on. There is one home in particular on the street where I live. It has stood empty for many months.

Last comment: When my husband, daughter and I moved into Barron Park area, the real estate agent did not want to show our home to us because at that time Barron Park was not part of the city of Palo Alto and "They let anyone (emphasized with her nose in the air) live there!" We insisted and found the best home we had seen in many months of searching. Note also that we had both worked and lived on only one salary, saving the other.

Try it, you might like it. Now stop hounding retired homeowners to move along so you can buy their home.


60 people like this
Posted by Mama
a resident of Crescent Park
on Aug 11, 2016 at 11:20 am

Great that she is leaving Planning Commission. Their choices for overdevelopment got us into this situation in the first place. Every new development now will just make it worse. Industry can go elsewhere. We are Out of room for a decent lifestyle. Time for further development to go elsewhere.


137 people like this
Posted by mauricio
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Aug 11, 2016 at 11:26 am

mauricio is a registered user.

Before purchasing my Palo Alto house 30 years ago, I spent years living in godawful apartments, with housemates, in very unfashionable areas, often quite dangerous neighborhoods. I can't even recall how many times my various, very used and very decrepit cars were broken into, I was mugged several times, my girlfriend nearly raped back in 1983. Those were sacrifices as means of saving money to buy a house in a more desirable area without asking existing residents for subsidies and reduction in quality of life. EPA? check. Fremont? check. Redwood City? check. Oakland? check. When Kate Downing and her fellow PAF members are advised to perhaps take a similar path to home ownership in a more desirable area, they reject it immediately. They want to live in very desirable and expensive areas right now, without serious sacrifices, with total disregard for existing residents who refuse to live in the kind of place massive urbanization would create. Living in unfashionable cities seems to be beneath them and an unacceptable option while they build up for a home. Speak of feeling entitled.


10 people like this
Posted by Me
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Aug 11, 2016 at 11:27 am

[Post removed.]


70 people like this
Posted by Kaz
a resident of Portola Valley
on Aug 11, 2016 at 11:29 am

Maybe if Palantir hadn't taken over downtown Palo Alto as their corporate campus, there wouldn't be such an incentive to build more office space, increasing the pressure to also build more housing for those employees and others.

One realtor in particular is enriching himself by marketing PA directly to rich Chinese investors. His organized tours, where luxury vans with beautiful young Chinese ladies as tour guides pick up Chinese investors at the airport to drive them around all the elite neighborhoods, are a huge engine in selling away our limited housing stock. KdL could be recorded in history as a Palo Alto villain for having sold PA's soul.

London has also had a huge amount of foreign investment in housing stock, and was considering a penalty tax on unoccupied houses owned by internationals. A way to fund building lots of tiny units for us "locals" to live in?


37 people like this
Posted by cm
a resident of Downtown North
on Aug 11, 2016 at 11:31 am

The root of the problem is overpopulation. There are too many people here, and not enough space for them all to have a good quality of life. If we had fewer people we could all have the single family home that this planning commissioner now wants for her family. People need to rise up against development that allows more massive companies to expand in this area. Just because rich techies with billion dollar companies want a quick commute doesn't mean we have to let them build their megaplexes on the edge of the bay. We have enough jobs for the area. Send them somewhere else instead of cramming more in here and let the jobs follow them elsewhere. Once there is less development and less population then we will see the benefits in the form of lower housing prices, less traffic, less pollution and a better quality of life for everyone. So vote for limits to development and population control.


56 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 11, 2016 at 11:32 am

Reply to "Me".

I was the one who tried explaining how to afford to live in Palo Alto to younger people.

I lived with my parents well into my 20s, earning money and putting a sensible portion away. When I first left home I shared with someone who had just bought their first home.

When we first married, we decided to sell a car to enable us to buy our first home together. It was not the biggest of homes but we were homeowners. We ate at home during the week and our weekend meals out were coffee shop type places. The expensive restaurants were for birthdays or anniversaries alone. Our date nights were walks or bike rides with perhaps ice cream and when we went to a movie we didn't buy food also, the movie was our night out. We bought a nice new bed almost straight away, but we had lawn chairs to sit on for the longest time. We budgeted all our major expenses and vacations were usually spent with family. Laundry was done at the local laundromat for a long time until we felt we could afford to buy a washer/dryer. We replaced our only car while expecting our first child and we remained a one car family until our first child was in kindergarten and the schedule of kindergarten, preschool and work made it a necessity.

We moved to Palo Alto because of the proximity to a job in Mountain View which was biking distance at the time. Our home here was in its original 1950s condition and we did practically nothing to it until we felt we could afford to remodel. It still remains much of its original character although we have added on and remodeled the kitchen which is nothing like the original.

Do we regret any of the frugality? No. Do we have a lavish lifestyle now? No. Is this the way to improve our young people's ability for future home ownership in a desirable location? I would say yes, yes, yes.

Looking back on the way we achieved what we have, one of the best things I can say about it is that we have some great memories. I remember wonderful times that cost us very little. I remember wonderful times with family and friends where we were making do and having a great deal of fun doing so. I remember sleeping in tents in the back yard, lots of pot lucks with family and friends, and bags of kids' clothes being passed around from one family to another. Do I remember expensive vacations in resorts? No. Do I remember expensive meals out, expensive cars, or have all the latest mod cons and fads? No. Am I worried that I missed out? No, I think I made the right choices.

I


86 people like this
Posted by Millennial Homeowner
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 11, 2016 at 11:38 am

I'm a millennial who recently bought a SFH in Midtown PA.

I graduated from a mid-level UC and was making $45k / year out of college. My dream was always to live in Palo Alto, so I did whatever I could to improve my situation.

I started saving more money, working harder, and found mentors for advice. Sure, I had less time to play video games, but, my friends who were playing games are still living at home with their parents today.

Nowadays I'm working two jobs and we're fortunate that we can live on my incomes alone while my wife stays home and takes care of our child. Many of my friends wish they could be in similar positions, however, they were never willing to make the same sacrifices I made.

As a millennial, I still believe in the American dream. I believe you can achieve your dreams if you're willing to put in the work. But most people my age want their dreams without putting in the work unfortunately.


52 people like this
Posted by Cecilia
a resident of Professorville
on Aug 11, 2016 at 11:39 am

Well, my first home was not in Palo Alto. I started with a condo on the East Coast, following by a condo in Santa Clara and worked myself up to buying a fixer upper in Palo Alto. I bought these as a single woman! After getting married and having a son, we did three renovations and put lots of sweat into fixing our home. We now have what we consider a lovely home. It is 1800 square feet including the garage and there are 3 of us in the home but could easily accommodate 4 if we had another child. I suppose if you want a large home and it already perfect and don't want to eat salads and inexpensive food, then Palo Alto may be more challenging. Yes, it does involve making sacrifices and living in a fixer upper for a while before anything can be done but it is doable. Having equity from prior non-Palo Alto condo/home sales helps.

Bottom line, Palo Alto is not a location for first time home owners. It takes more grit to get into Palo Alto but once you get in, you want to stay forever. Budgets, smaller home, eating simple, inexpensive cars,.. all make a difference.

Buy in Santa Cruz then work your way to Palo Alto. Sounds like you are single now so invest in Santa Cruz, sell when you have children and then get into Palo Alto. It is possible with work and some sweat.


41 people like this
Posted by Lol
a resident of another community
on Aug 11, 2016 at 11:43 am

[Post removed.]


21 people like this
Posted by I work in PA
a resident of Menlo Park
on Aug 11, 2016 at 11:46 am

Not an easy issue. Folks might be interested in Doug Moran's recent blog on "Community . . ." and Steve Levy's blog from 2015 "Do we want a palo alto where only the rich can move here to live?" Obviously people come and go, but it also is disappointing when those who have been part of the community for years (like Fiona) feel forced out by housing expenses. Not everyone, nor every family, needs or wants a house as opposed to a condo for example. IMO community encompasses people from all stages and walks of life.

What do folks want the town to look like in 10 years? 20?


64 people like this
Posted by Recent Midtown Guy
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 11, 2016 at 11:54 am

I don't think Ms. Downing is entitled, just a bit unrealistic. I'm sure her and her husband work extremely hard, but at a fairly young age and for a first home, PA is probably not happening unless one of them hits the IPO sweepstakes. I grew up in San Jose and spent the majority of my life (44 years) there and always wanted to live in PA. I had to work hard, save and build equity and it took me 20+ years to finally make it here. Unfortunately, I had to buy an older (1950's) and smaller home (2/1-1.2k sq/ft)than I had in SJ about five years ago. I wished I could have moved earlier so my son could have started at a younger age in the wonderful school system, but could not afford to do so. My prop taxes are outrageous, as is my mortgage, but I love living here and make it work financially, even though I have an average income. For the average person, it will take work, time and luck to get into PA. I think Ms. Downing's expectations are too high, but she will eventually find a great place to call home... it just might not be PA.


50 people like this
Posted by fatherof3
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 11, 2016 at 11:58 am

Agree with many of the commenters, partially with some. Won't bother you with the details. But there is one detail that seems to be skewing things like nothing else has in the past: unfettered influx of foreign cash causing an "unnatural" rate of appreciation in houses values. BTW, there are local real estate companies that specialize in encouraging this kind of impactful buying without concern with the true cost of what this does to Palo Alto in the long and short run. Vancouver BC has imposed a 15% tax on foreign buyers of real estate in their city. And as someone pointed out (I cannot verify) some countries charge as much as 30% on American buyers of homes in their countries. That is understandable because they are trying to avert an imbalance of influence and impact. We should consider doing the same.


37 people like this
Posted by jh
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Aug 11, 2016 at 12:03 pm

jh is a registered user.

Each week I started to check out the sold housing column in the Palo Alto Weekly since the name of the buyer is included, and very informative. I haven't kept track, but realize that there are a few Chinese investors whose names come up regularly and are gradually building up quite an inventory. [Portion removed.] We have a hugely successful multi-millionaire real estate agent who has at least one office in China, and representatives in India, who are marketing Palo Alto on the television, radio,, promoting Palo Alto as the place to invest in. Interestingly, very few appear to be buying those huge mansions in Los Alto Hills, Atherton, Woodside. Palo Alto is clearly ground zero for them. Then you have developers who scrape the small two bedroom, one bathroom, like the one which we bought when we moved here.

The comment above about bulldozing the orchards to build housing for the boomers has a very good point. There was space to build lots of rather modest family homes at that time. I'm wondering what orchard we could bulldoze now on which to build the new family housing for all the Ms. Downeys who want to live in Palo Alto. Oh right, there is no large unbuilt area in Palo Alto. That comment implies we need to bulldoze a similar sized area somewhere in Palo Alto for new housing. How about starting with some of those large office buildings, In an instance we could solve the jobs housing imbalance.


56 people like this
Posted by Curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on Aug 11, 2016 at 12:23 pm

Downing follows the classic pattern: overdevelop Palo Alto, then move elsewhere to escape the mess.


46 people like this
Posted by Old Homeowner
a resident of Greendell/Walnut Grove
on Aug 11, 2016 at 12:24 pm

Bought our home in Palo Alto 34 years ago. Almost immediately, got divorced. Kept the house for the children's schools and took in 2 roomers to be able to afford to keep it. Economized in ways some milennials cannot even fantasize with the goal of Keeping The House. But now, the millenials want me to move out so the price of real estate in Palo Alto will be more affordable. Only over my cold dead body. And PS, it's not the Prop 13 taxes, it's the CAPITAL GAINS taxes, both federal and state. Grant a one time tax amnesty and you will see old people leave for housing more suited to our needs.


37 people like this
Posted by anonymous
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Aug 11, 2016 at 12:25 pm

Dear Kate Downing: [Portion removed.]
I have news for you: what goes up also goes down. I am middle-aged (not old) and have been around here long enough to have been through several housing "cycles" wherein there have been periods of stable prices as well as high inventory as well as what could almost be called a buyer's market. I owned two houses before purchasing one in Palo Alto. These were in relatively nearby communities. We were able to buy up each time, although the PA house is not much larger than the one just previous - that's the way it is for many of us. I would have a hard time buying my own current home at current prices. I pay outrageous property taxes, a true burden.
Palo Alto, as a desirable place to live, tends to hold values better than some neighboring communities, that is a fact. I would also love to live in Manhattan, Pacific Palisades, London and those also pose a challenge to most potential buyers. We know a lot of people who reside "just outside" London. They don't complain to us about it although they would prefer to be in West Ken.


25 people like this
Posted by DG
a resident of another community
on Aug 11, 2016 at 12:28 pm

> Does any serious person believe we could ever build enough housing in Palo Alto to satisfy demand and thus lower prices?

That's ridiculous. According to Wikipedia, the current population density of Palo Alto is about 1/30 the density of Manhattan. Manhattan manages to fit almost 2 million inhabitants in an area about 1.5x the size of Palo Alto, compared to Palo Alto's 65,000 or so.

I'm not suggesting that Palo Alto should become Manhattan, but there's a lot of possible places to be on the density scale between Palo Alto and Manhattan, many of which still provide orders of magnitude more housing than today.

Seriously, why doesn't the bay area just densify a little? Not a lot, just a little. Leave most of Palo Alto, Mountain View, Sunnyvale, etc green and empty like now, but just add a little bit more in some parts, and you can easily double or triple the housing available.

You're not doing it because you choose not to, not because any physical law prevents it. It's been done in many places.


42 people like this
Posted by resident
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Aug 11, 2016 at 12:28 pm

I don't get the fixation of living in Palo Alto. We ended up here because of employment at Ford Aerospace and Communications, now SSL on Fabian Way. There is a huge number of people who worked there as well as Lockheed in Sunnyvale - at one time the biggest employers in the valley. Looking at the whole peninsula now the surrounding cities are just as nice and have good school systems. The homes and support facilities in Mountain View, Sunnyvale, Redwood City, and going up the peninsula are just as nice. I go up to Redwood City a lot because of the great functions they put on and now SU is going to build a campus up there next to their new hospital / Medical Center. The whole peninsula is a nice place to live and I don't see that PA is any better than the others unless your employment is centered at SU.


44 people like this
Posted by Homeowner
a resident of Ventura
on Aug 11, 2016 at 1:11 pm

Bought our first house in PA. It was the lowest priced house sold in PA that year. 600 sq ft on a 4000 foot lot. About 30% of the houses on the street were run down; crime was high on the street and neighborhood.

It cost about 8x our annual income, and we'd saved about 2x over seven years as a down payment, banks would not lend (rates were high) and the owner carried the loan until we refinanced a few years later. But the owner required 25% down.

Is 8x annual income enough to buy a tiny starter home now?

If not, I feel for you. If so, not much has changed.

This was a house already there; buying it did not increase the density of the city, or the load on its infrastructure, or the water usage.

Yes I got mine and hope you get yours, but I don't see a need to fundamentally change the city to enable it.

I'm in the camp that thinks that even if we build a million residences in Palo Alto, prices will go up and we still won't satisfy the demand.

Are nice houses affordable in Manhatten, now that they've built housing for two million people?


27 people like this
Posted by Eileen
a resident of College Terrace
on Aug 11, 2016 at 1:29 pm

Over 40% of the housing stock are rentals. Most are owned by invividual and corporate investment buyers. That is why there are so few houses on the market. Stop just blaming home owners who live in their homes. Look at all the landlords that are driving up the rental prices.


26 people like this
Posted by AlexDeLarge
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 11, 2016 at 1:41 pm

Hey Kate, after a week living in Santa Cruz you'll be saying "Palo Where?"


65 people like this
Posted by Yes, Entitled
a resident of Downtown North
on Aug 11, 2016 at 1:49 pm

It doesn't bother me at all that Ms. Downing can't afford to buy a house here. I wasn't able to buy a house here until I was 45. I graduated from Stanford and kept living around here, so I could bike to work. I rented rooms in shared houses for years, and had a lot of fun with my roommates. I rode a moped so I could save on car payments. I rarely ate out, and I camped for vacations. It was awesome, and probably more fun than owning/maintaining a home, that's for sure. Make a wonderful life for yourself, one that you can afford, and stop comparing with the Joneses. The grass isn't always greener. We are fortunate to live in an amazing country with many wonderful places to live and thrive. Palo Alto is certainly not top of that list imo.


31 people like this
Posted by JLB
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 11, 2016 at 1:52 pm

How do you instantly turn a Bay Area liberal into a conservative? Mention building affordable housing in their neighborhood!


12 people like this
Posted by out of towner
a resident of another community
on Aug 11, 2016 at 1:54 pm

"The fact is that building small units and ADUs will not solve the problem that Downing so crisply defines."

ADUs and small units oriented towards singles will help solve the family housing problem because they will take singles and young couples out of the competition for single-family homes and larger units. Downing is the perfect example. She and her husband doubled up with another couple in a single-family home likely in part because there were not suitable apartments available for them to have their own place. Thus as it stands, families ARE in competition with single renters for housing.


87 people like this
Posted by Ageism
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 11, 2016 at 2:38 pm

@Kate Downing's resignation letter: "meanwhile the community is engulfed with middle-aged jet-setting executives and investors who are hardly the sort to be personally volunteering for neighborhood block parties, earthquake preparedness responsibilities, or neighborhood watch"

This is a very narrow minded, ageist, ignorant comment from someone on a City Planning and Transportation Commission. I, and plenty of middle-aged Palo Alto residents I know, both those of modest means and jet setters, work our behinds off for this community doing volunteer work in many capacities (schools, parks, sports teams, city, block parties, etc etc). Instead of insulting those who prop up this community by giving inordinate amounts of time and money, perhaps consider a lesson in humility and gratitude. I hope future members of the Planning and Transportation Commission are not outspokenly ageist against middle-aged members of this community. Good Riddance.


48 people like this
Posted by mauricio
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Aug 11, 2016 at 2:42 pm

mauricio is a registered user.

Local realtors advertise Palo Alto in China as the best place in the world to invest in real estate and as the school district that will enable Chinese kids to enroll in the most elite American colleges. Local realtors have Disneyland style tours of Palo Alto by Chinese investors. How can any local potential buyer compete with those buyers? They can't of course. Even if we allowed the doubling of Palo Alto's population, we know who will buy up nearly all the new housing. Home prices will just shoot up at an accelerated pace, influencing rent prices, and make owning a home here even more out of reach for all but very wealthy people. Even tripling PA's population will not bring any relief, only higher density and prices, not that the infrastructure could support even a modest population increase. Palo Alto will never be affordable to most people anymore than Pebble Beach, Woodside or Los Altos Hills are. A modest relief might be possible if local realtors stop advertising in China, India and other foreign countries, if we levy a heavy tax on all foreign buyers, and even more importantly, if we don't allow existing companies to expand her, and don't allow new ones to move to this area, we just don't have the space, infrastructure and eco-system/natural resources that can support all of that. The millennials who demand that their first home should be in Palo Alto are delusional. Unless they strike it very big with an IPO, their only chance is to sacrifice and live in mush less expensive and desirable places, renting and sharing, building up to live here. It might take many years, but this is the reality they face, and it's quite possible they'll never be able to afford living here. There are many other places just as good and better than Palo Alto.


24 people like this
Posted by anonymous
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Aug 11, 2016 at 3:13 pm

Web Link

She placed an article in the Guardian. My, my. Seems a lot about raising her personal brand.
An "official." Really, is this an accurate description of a local volunteer?


11 people like this
Posted by Douglas Moran
a resident of Barron Park
on Aug 11, 2016 at 3:24 pm

Douglas Moran is a registered user.

> "She placed an article in the Guardian."

No she didn't: See paragraph 5 of that article. The Guardian's article is based upon a post she made to the wedsite Medium.

Aside: I find it hypocritical for newspapers/news sites to complain about the news aggregators/re-publishers (such as Huffington Post) when so much of their content is lightly rewritten articles from elsewhere. In this case, the "reporter" got a mundane quotes from former mayor Pat Burt and a few others to transform this republished letter into a "news article". But nowhere is the critical thought applied to the letter that you see in the comments above.


39 people like this
Posted by Sad to go
a resident of Crescent Park
on Aug 11, 2016 at 3:25 pm

My family has existed in Palo alto since 1911. Four generations of us have enjoyed the great schools, safe and beautiful neighborhoods, and also the spirit of progressiveness that has helped make this small town what it is. Unfortunately My wife and I will be the last to have this privilege. We are moving in the coming weeks to a house in the old Rose Garden area of San Jose we recently purchased. We are very happy about the move, and will both continue to work in Palo Alto as well as visit my parents and my grandparents. My point is, I am tired of hearing about how Palo Alto is unaffordable. This is an old story! Move on, it won't change, and Palo Alto is not the center of the universe. Come to my new neighborhood, great location and beatuful historic homes. Good for commuting and access to mass transit. There are other options. We would have loved to stay in our home of over 100 years, we will miss Palo Alto dearly, but times change and you move on. Everyone who owns there homes in Palo Alto deserves them, no doubt worked very hard to afford them and shouldn't take any flack from complainers who are bitter that they cannot afford the lifestyle they desire in the exact location they desire.


23 people like this
Posted by Midtown
a resident of Palo Verde
on Aug 11, 2016 at 3:59 pm

Old Homeowner and some others are right! After 40 years of living here and working here for more than 20 years before I retired I could not afford to live in Palo Alto if I had to buy my house now. Furthermore, I can't afford to give up such a large part of the amount of my home's value in capital gains tax. That value is a part of what I consider my long-term care and medical insurance, just in case.


26 people like this
Posted by Jim
a resident of Community Center
on Aug 11, 2016 at 4:35 pm

@Kaz is right about the effect of International investors buying property here.

This is very similar to the AirBnB rental problem in Los Angeles County. The local housing market for rentals has disappeared greatly driving up prices for local renters.

Why? Because an unlimited amount of tourists from all over the country and the world want to visit LA and live in these units. An owner can get 5 times the rental rate from AirBnB versus a local yearly tenant.
They've found a pretty good solution for disrupting AirBnB landlords (one guy has taken 73 units off the market and on to AirbnB). You can only rent your house or apt on AirBnB for a max of 90 days/year and must be the principal resident.

Home buying by an unlimited potential international community is more difficult to deal with. But I think the time has come to realize how badly this will continue to drive up prices beyond the normal supply demand of local people.

Of course, even if the competition for housing were all local, newcomers face the same problem. There is no more land to build here and this is a desirable place to live.


26 people like this
Posted by Jim
a resident of Community Center
on Aug 11, 2016 at 4:40 pm

By the way, housing here has always been expensive at least since the 70s.
When I arrived in Palo Alto in the 70s, as a professional at that time I had to pay 10 times my yearly salary for a home in South Palo Alto and the interest rate was 11%.
So a professional today making $145K per year, paying 10 times would have to pay $1.45 million. Given that interest rates are now more like 3%, buyers can afford to pay more than the 10 times ratio to salary.
I think you can probably still find a small home in South Palo Alto today in a similar affordability range.


17 people like this
Posted by A Foreigner
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Aug 11, 2016 at 4:44 pm

Regarding all the negative foreigners references with respect to pushing up housing prices, you guys should travel more. Money knows no border today, even if there are capital control in some countries, especially when it comes to the truly wealthy. They seek investments globally and have an army of people advising them (some of them right here) how to do it in the most cost effective and tax effective manner. Being a foreigner myself, I do not particularly like ghost houses either because indeed it takes away some characteristics from the area. But if you think that some knee-jerk government or city policy to limit such investment activities are going to be beneficial to the area, you better get a reality check. Yes Vancouver imposed a 15% tax on foreign purchases of local real estate, but it is already having a negative knock-on effect on the locals. And it is hurting the middle income families who are trying to buy their first home, but not the wealthy folks buying houses in Vancouver West side (because what is another half a million in taxes to them?). So all this nonsense about stopping foreign private investments for the sake of preserving local housing affordability is childish and will be futile, not to mention illegal (yes, there is a law against discrimination on ethnicity when it comes to real estate purchases that dates back to the days of Japanese internment camps). Now on the more constructive side, I do think that Palo Alto can build some more multi-unit housing especially along the routes supported by public transportation, because of many of folks whom such housing would appeal to might not even want a car.


10 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 11, 2016 at 4:46 pm

If you’re really serious about housing and not just regretting that it’s expensive here (which everybody already knows) or that previous generations had it better (they mostly didn’t), then you have to decide whether or not you agree with Kate Downing’s assertion that zoning changes will actually bring market prices down in Palo Alto, for housing that people want, and by enough to matter. (Ms Downing's shared-house description kind of loosely suggests 50% reduction as a possible ballpark).

If you truly do believe that, things become easier though not trivial.

But the more complicated discussion is if you don’t believe that. You still have Ms Downing’s most important problem – “all of our teachers, first responders, and service workers are in dire straits” (that is, people who are needed here but don’t make $300,000 like Ms Downing says she and her spouse do). If you can’t fix this problem with zoning, then what do you do? This is a much more challenging discussion, but also probably more important. Maybe some of the next 90 posts can explore this.


47 people like this
Posted by Jonathan Brown
a resident of Ventura
on Aug 11, 2016 at 5:10 pm

Clueless's comment, "“Kate's biggest weakness was her lack of ability to listen," rings true. The Palo Alto Forward communications always seemed too aggressive and overstated, pretending to represent more support and unification than seemed to be the case in reality. The result was loss of credibility. Kind of like her mortgage calculation. Even you accept that $2.7 million is the type of home a first-time buyer should expect to buy (it's not), her proposed monthly payment at today's jumbo rates assumes $0 down. That's unwise and unrealistic, and it begs the question why she and her husband were not saving more. As many here note, the usual path to home ownership is hard work and frugality over many years to build up enough in savings to be able to make a decent down payment. The monthly mortgage payment seems daunting to most first-time buyers, but with sacrifice and the realization that you are making a conscious choice to pursue that life, you can do it on the salaries they're making. To suggest otherwise is, at best, misleading. Perhaps it is as Resident Too put it, "it's just more work and sacrifice than Downing is clearly willing to make."


30 people like this
Posted by jeff
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Aug 11, 2016 at 5:25 pm

In 1970 the population of Palo Alto was 55,966. In 2010 the population of Palo Alto was 64,403. Have the number of job grown by more than 15.1%? I suspect so ...

40 years of job growth exceeding housing growth is why housing is expensive. Vote against job growth if you want housing prices to quit climbing.

Unlimited housing density won't solve any problems if job growth always exceeds housing growth. (Manhattan doesn't have a low housing cost nor bearable commute times.)


19 people like this
Posted by A Foreigner
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Aug 11, 2016 at 5:36 pm

@Resident, I do not believe in Kate's assertion that zoning changes will bring down Palo Alto's housing prices. Who in their right mind with a place here would want their property value to go down?

As for helping out with the dire situation that fire fighters, teachers, first responders, etc. who work in Palo Alto and cannot afford it, I have one suggestion that I think somebody else already said in these posts ---

Improve the horrible public transportation around here

and maybe all those investors out there please put more money to work on improving remote working technology as opposed to funding another Snapchat.


12 people like this
Posted by george Drysdale
a resident of Professorville
on Aug 11, 2016 at 5:47 pm

Did you know that the population density of ancient Rome was twice that of Manhattan. Silicon Valley like virtually every city in history must build to the sky especially with the water problem. Portland is the model city. San Diego is trying. Build more and prices will hopefully moderate. Don't look to government: the Buena Vista trailer park and rent control in San Jose the most destructive force in the production of housing imaginable. Study history and economics. George Drysdale a social studies teacher


24 people like this
Posted by jim
a resident of Community Center
on Aug 11, 2016 at 5:48 pm

@foreigner

I said nothing about nationality. Don't try to make this about Asians please. This Is just one more problem of globalization that hurts some people.

People have to have homes in the area where they work. There are 9 billion people in the world of which Hundreds of millions can outbid locals.

As you know, there are many countries where a "foreigner" cannot even buy property. And in some states, non resident property owners pay higher yearly property taxes.

It may be necessary to require a buyer to either live in a house he/she buys here or put it on the local renters market as well as pay a higher property tax. Even lenders charge higher interest rates for owners of rental property.

I don't think it's "childish" to consider possible remedies to problems that cause local people to suffer.


28 people like this
Posted by wondering
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 11, 2016 at 5:54 pm

Who in the City approved the placement of DeLeon vending machines on public sidewalks? In the past,
the various publications competed for the space
and it was subject to a selection process with a
limit on the number of vending machines allowed.


23 people like this
Posted by Sam
a resident of another community
on Aug 11, 2016 at 5:55 pm

This is not a Palo Alto issue, it's pretty much a Bay Area issue. But to those readers who are using this precise argument as an excuse to do nothing. Let me remind people that doing nothing at the local level is precisely the reason why the entire Bay Area mired in housing crisis today. You begin to change and hack away at the problem a little bit at a time. Are any of the proposal she suggested in the letter resolve the full housing crisis? Of course not, but doing nothing is worse.


29 people like this
Posted by Douglas Moran
a resident of Barron Park
on Aug 11, 2016 at 6:02 pm

Douglas Moran is a registered user.

On the jobs-housing imbalance: People new to this topic should understand that policy has been driven by four urban planning dogmas:

1. It is desirable for Palo Alto to have a large jobs-housing imbalance because that enables public transit to the employment centers, such as Stanford and the Research Park, with shuttles providing "last-mile" connectivity.
Recognize that while the planners were pushing this, they didn't provide for the public transit (Caltrain is full, bus routes have decreased and are likely to become even fewer). The "Google buses" are a testament to the inadequacies of the public transit. Nonetheless, the powers that be continued to expand jobs here.

2. Dogma: Long commutes are bad, whether they be by public transit or private vehicles. Palo Alto should provide housing within walking distance of jobs. The consequence of this is to disperse jobs and housing enough to make shuttles impractical. Job mobility made this theory impractical, but didn't stop it from being cited as desirable.

3. Palo Alto should provide lots of housing around the two Caltrain stations targeted to people who would not work in Palo Alto but instead will be commuting to San Francisco, San Jose, ... Planners are so mired in their dogma that they don't see this as "inappropriate".

4. Palo Alto should build higher density along bus lines. We did, and VTA canceled the bus routes (to fund BART to San Jose). A subcase is that we should build high density housing along what *could* become bus lines in anticipation of VTA would add bus service.

In policy deliberations, there is rarely even a feint at attempting to reconcile the incompatibilities.


22 people like this
Posted by Get out while you can
a resident of another community
on Aug 11, 2016 at 6:04 pm

Two possible solutions here:
1. Reduce job growth rate.
2. Increase housing growth rate.
Which is better for the world? #2!
I say this as someone who lived in Palo Alto and Menlo Park for 10 years out of college. Decided to leave the Bay Area and move back east when it was clear all of you would never increase the housing growth rate enough to make a difference. I miss the weather and friends and the "energy" of living in Silicon Valley. But I don't miss the housing costs. I now live in a 4-bedroom. 3-bath, 2500 sq ft house in one of the best school districts in NJ. Big downtown, Walk Score of 85. House was just $850k. Feels like a bargain compared to the Bay Area!
Good luck everyone, get out while you can. [Portion removed.]


56 people like this
Posted by Not the whole story
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Aug 11, 2016 at 6:11 pm

I don't believe housing prices are the whole story of her leaving. She acknowledges $300,000 income? That's a partial truth.
That's not counting their stock ownership, and LOTS of Palantir stock and options for many years working for them. Worth millions.
They are paying $3,000 a month rent for half a house. jeeze, poor baby. Gotta live in high style if you are connected to Palantir, I guess. There are probably mansions in Santa Cruz to suit their taste.

We aren't getting the whole story, not that I care. I just recognize a half-truth.


31 people like this
Posted by CSW
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 11, 2016 at 6:44 pm

Frankly, the state should take away zoning authority from Palo Alto and other cities that have steadfastly refused to build enough housing to keep ace with job growth. Laws already require cities to have a housing element in their general plans and meet those goals, but the laws have no teeth. This is selfish rent-seeking behavior at its worst, and it must stop for the public interest.


23 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 11, 2016 at 6:46 pm

If we build lower income, more dense housing, we have no idea who may buy them. Police in particular as well as some teachers and even firefighters, choose not to live in the city they work because they don't want themselves or their family to possibly have to talk to someone they know through work every time they go to the grocery store, library, child's soccer game, etc. For some, like teachers, they feel they would be inundated with their students or their parents each time they tried to run a few errands which may for some be inconvenient. For others, like police, they may actually bump into someone they have just given a speeding ticket to, or the family of someone they have just arrested. Who can blame these people for wanting to live away from their work area.

Likewise, if we build say studios and one bedroom apartments, the idea may be to help single professionals, but I suspect that they will have a great number of second homes to enable an east Bay family (or elsewhere) to get a Palo Alto address to enable their kids, particularly high school age kids, into Palo Alto schools, perhaps an investor who chooses to let Airbnb style, etc. or even a tech startup who want a Palo Alto address and are willing to live 10 or more to the address, sleeping in shifts. We have many ghost houses, crazy overfilled tech/student housing, and multi-family style homes with 10 or 12 people living in a small house, that I can't see how building more "affordable" housing will prevent more of these types of housing.

I am busy watching KTVU news at 6.00. Kate Downing is interviewed and the reporter is obviously on her side.

Perhaps it is about time someone told KTVU the other side of the story.


142 people like this
Posted by oh, the irony
a resident of another community
on Aug 11, 2016 at 7:28 pm

"It’s clear that if professionals like me cannot raise a family here, then all of our teachers, first responders, and service workers are in dire straits."

Ironically, it IS professionals like her (and her husband) that are actually a part of the housing problem.

1) One of the issues is...she's not alone. Other professionals like her want to live in Palo Alto, too, both for the reasons she cites (schools, etc) and the interest in only buying a single-family home. Which I understand completely, but it exacerbates the problem.

2) Also ironically, by leaving Palo Alto, she inadvertently slightly helped reduce the demand. Well done! :)

3) I do generally agree, though, that more housing density is part of the solution here. But it's only part.

4) the other part is...as others have mentioned...better public transportation. By making public transportation from outlier communities a viable option for competing for silicon valley jobs, you reduce the demand for local housing, which lowers prices. This is how it works in other cities that have excellent public transportation; people commute in using public transit (I have experience in NYC and London, and I assure you that the bulk of workers are not living in the communities that they work; that's just not realistic there...or here).


Palo Alto cannot solve this problem alone. Best of luck to her and her family. Santa Cruz is quite nice. I don't think she's exactly downgrading.


29 people like this
Posted by Bat Purt
a resident of South of Midtown
on Aug 11, 2016 at 7:34 pm

So all the old-timers just worked hard and salted some dough away to buy a house, and "Kids These Days!" should do the same and they'll do fine? Let's look at some numbers, in the public record- Palo Alto's mayor who bought a house for $490,000 in 1994, and it's now worth $4,000,000. That's a >700% increase! Does anyone think typical incomes have gone up by anywhere near that same rate in that time?

All of you should try putting yourself in the shoes of the less fortunate, instead of wallowing in Trumpian "Others' Gains Are My Loss" philosophies.


28 people like this
Posted by Quite simply
a resident of Mountain View
on Aug 11, 2016 at 7:38 pm

Obvious from all the comments that It boils down to very simply this; there are those who understand that you sacrifice, work hard, save and hope to work your way towards a goal - or - you expect what you want to be given to you now, when you want it because damn it, you deserve it. And you're damned jealous if someone else gets it and you don't.


30 people like this
Posted by ComeToMtnView
a resident of Mountain View
on Aug 11, 2016 at 8:04 pm

I don't think we can "build our way out of" this housing "crisis".

Just look at Mountain View, which has approved over 10 times more new housing than Palo Alto. Are house prices there dropping? At best, maybe they'll stay level for a few years, but this still won't help folks like Kate. We're "victims" of a booming economy.

Web Link


15 people like this
Posted by northres
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Aug 11, 2016 at 8:06 pm

northres is a registered user.

@Bat Purt
All homes in the bay area have gone up since the 90s... And there are many homes here way below $4,000,000.

550k in 1990 for a large home in Fremont became $1.4m in 2010, and with savings bought a 3b/1ba SFH in Palo Alto.


Posted by Me
a resident of Old Palo Alto

on Aug 11, 2016 at 8:26 pm


Remember me?
Forgot Password?
Due to violations of our Terms of Use, comments from this poster are only visible to registered users who are logged in. Use the links at the top of the page to Register or Login.


32 people like this
Posted by Fatherof3
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 11, 2016 at 8:31 pm

"One realtor in particular is enriching himself by marketing PA directly to rich Chinese investors. His organized tours, where luxury vans with beautiful young Chinese ladies as tour guides pick up Chinese investors at the airport to drive them around all the elite neighborhoods, are a huge engine in selling away our limited housing stock. KdL could be recorded in history as a Palo Alto villain for having sold PA's soul."
Is this Realtor's name one that is not permissible to be spoken out loud or spelled in full? I've seen writers allude to him, and even use his initials, but heaven forbid he be named. Ken Deleon. There it is, I said it. [Portion removed.]


22 people like this
Posted by Great article!
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Aug 11, 2016 at 9:31 pm

Kate - thank you so much for this well written article. I am truly blown away by the comments here making you out to be someone who doesn't work hard enough and that's why you can't afford to live here. I am in the same boat as you, I am a 32 year old hardworking professional that positively contributes to the growth and future of our community. But my husband and I will not be able to buy a house anywhere around here. It's sad because this community is losing some great people, yet they always have a defense about it.

This entire area (Palo alto and the peninsula) needs to remember communities embrace people of all incomes and job types, because that is what a true community is. It is a reflection of a diverse group of people that can live and work together, and make people (especially newcomers) feel welcome. The housing crisis is not new, and actually decades old, but it doesn't mean we cannot make changes to improve it slowly, for the future, which could be our children....so that if they ever move here, maybe they can afford to actually put down roots and stay forever.

I have lived in the bay are for 9 years and have always known I cannot stay forever. Palo Alto in particular seems to acknowledge the need for more housing and has shown its true colors to its community by voting against it time and time again. We get it, you don't want us here...but really, it's your loss!


63 people like this
Posted by m2grs
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 11, 2016 at 9:58 pm

Why Mrs. Downing never blames her boss, the board of Palantir, for intentionally setting up and rapidly expanding in Palo Alto, obviously ignoring the excruciating plight of its employees? Why Palantir cannot move to somewhere more affordable, like Fremont or Pleasanton? Somewhere where its employee can suffer less, and have better quality of life?

Why Palantir employees don't revolt against their boss, against this torturous situation? Why don't they, including Mrs. Downing, just leave Palantir and work somewhere else?


18 people like this
Posted by resident
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Aug 11, 2016 at 10:18 pm

Most companies as they grow establish subsidiaries in other locations. By the Burbank Airport you can see many companies that have their corporate office in SF/PA but their locations near airports where the growing staff can live. In LA there are many subsidiaries of the companies in the Santa Monica area.
No company is limited to one location and should be establishing many locations to serve the customer bases in other cities. No one should assume that we have to "stuff" all of the employees for any one company in one location. And no company should use one location as a bargaining tool against a city.

Apple is developing a huge employees base in Texas because of cheaper housing.


11 people like this
Posted by PAResident
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Aug 11, 2016 at 10:24 pm

1. Why do we keep complaining about job growth in Palo Alto. We are the heart of Silicon Valley and the birthplace of so much technology. It's our good fortune and we should continue to aspire to be the heart of the valley.
2. Locatio , location, location: Again, PA is in the heart of Silicon Valley. it iis desirable. Its just supply and demand that more people will want to live here. Palo Alto needs more housing, but demand will always outpace supply here. There are plenty of affluent suburbs in the US. There is nothing wrong with PA being one.
3. People commute all the time, even those that live in PA.
4. If you still want to live in PA, do what some other commenters have done - be willing to live in a smaller space or an older buikding, build equity elsewhere and try to buy here, etc. Stop being so entitled.
5. PA should build dedicated housing for essential public service employees. Again these probably won't be the nice large single family homes we all think we are entitled to, but they can be very nice 3 BR condos.
6. Housing and development are Bay Area problems, not just PA problems. We need to make school districts more uniformly good so demand doesn't pile up in a few good school district areas. We have to also make peace at some point with the fact that we are going to have more dense housing around here. We are going to become more urban. It can be a good thing. We just have to give up our sense of entitlement.


24 people like this
Posted by Resident 3
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Aug 11, 2016 at 10:38 pm

We tried to buy a house in East Menlo Park and East Palo Alto back in 2010. Even though we had a 825 FICO we could not compete against all cash buyers, mostly from other countries. The houses were $275,000 +/-. Our dreams have been squashed. I wish we had a country where we could go back to, unfortunately we don't. And You still want to call us entitled?!

We need Change!!


8 people like this
Posted by Crescent Park
a resident of Crescent Park
on Aug 11, 2016 at 11:00 pm

Many people complain about foreign buyers driving up the price of real estate in Palo Alto. Does anyone have any actual data of how many/what % of buyers are living in other countries and not living in the houses they buy?


42 people like this
Posted by PressTart
a resident of Community Center
on Aug 11, 2016 at 11:35 pm

Ms Downing has a good publicist. She's been actively posting online and her network has been spreading the story on Twittet among the Barf (Bay Area Renters federation) crowd. Do a giggle search and post some comments elsewhere.

Nothing like burning bridges.., the city should have straightened out this dysfunction planning commission long ago. Downing, Adrian Fine, Micahel Alcheck - they've done a real disservice to city being obstructionist and not following council direction.

Thanks to Mayor Burt for standing up to her.


24 people like this
Posted by Dean
a resident of another community
on Aug 12, 2016 at 12:27 am

This is not a matter of the number of businesses, or the number of housing units regardless of the. IT IS A MATTER OF WATER!!!

It is also not just a Palo Alto problem, it is not just a Bay Area problem, IT IS A CALIFORNIA PROBLEM!!!!

We have a water shortage called DROUGHT, and apparently ALL of the politicians in California, not just Palo Alto or the Bay Area, do not seem to know that this is a problem. If they did know, something would be done or in process to alleviate the problem. At the present time I have heard that our sewage water is being processed to use for some city and/or County purposes, like parks lawns, etc. I did hear that there are some people looking into using it for our drinking water too!

I know, I do not know everything, and may have missed something that shows we are going to use desalination, or stop allowing more people to come to California, with the exception of using the sewage water, nobody seem to be addressing the water problem, please correct me if I am wrong.


18 people like this
Posted by Area Man
a resident of Mountain View
on Aug 12, 2016 at 12:37 am

[Post removed.]


61 people like this
Posted by PA Mom
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 12, 2016 at 1:05 am

Why don't you count your blessings Ms.Downing? You live in the Bay Area, in Silicon Valley, California, in the United States of America. You're highly educated, married, and will most likely have children, I.e. have a family. Your husband is also highly educated and has a great job at a prestigious Silicon Valley company that's doing well and no doubt provides you with many financial benefits. [Portion removed.] You're young and have potential and opportunity lying before you and all around you. You have access to clean water, food, medicine, health care and basic human rights. Many people would be grateful to have only one of those blessings, to have an education, a job, a husband, a child, access to water, to food, medicine, healthcare, live in Califonia, or the United States.

[Portion removed.]

Be grateful, stop whining about not being able to afford to live in Palo Alto. Maybe one day you will be able to, but if not, too bad. We don't always get what we want just because we want it. Work hard, do the most with what you've been given and be grateful for all that you have. Life is short and can change in the blink of an eye for better or worse.

Oh, and by the way, I'm a mom, I work, and I volunteer countless hours on various local activities. You owe the community an apology for your insulting and ageist comments.


11 people like this
Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on Aug 12, 2016 at 1:42 am

Curious about the net worth of Stanford parents (or other elite schools) that produce many of these young high-tech employees. I've always assumed a sizeable fraction have family wealth going back a generation or three. Not billions, but perhaps a liquid million which could be invested into launching an offspring's first home ownership. A young married couple may have 4 sets of grandparents to tap into. Such resources would be kept quiet, because somehow it doesn't seem fair to be rich, particularly when competing for a scarce commodity. A bit of family collusion goes a long way towards upward mobility. Wouldn't surprise me if most of the homeowners around here had such help. No data on whether the subject couple above had that option to any extent, or are exercising it in Santa Cruz after running the numbers and consulting a tax advisor.


24 people like this
Posted by DanielHM
a resident of another community
on Aug 12, 2016 at 7:52 am

Out of towner here, but I would just like to point out that there is a fundamental flaw with the commenters here saying that millennials should work harder and save more in order to buy their house: since sufficient housing can't be added, these monies will just bid up the prices for the existing stock, leaving millennials worse off than they are now, since they will get the same amount of housing and less non-housing consumption.


29 people like this
Posted by Jen
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 12, 2016 at 8:24 am

I'm so glad I moved from the Bay Area to Manhattan - rents are cheaper, public transit is great, traffic is better (seriously, I'd much rather drive through midtown here than drive along High or Alma), and there's much more going on culturally.
I think Kate's criticisms are not only spot-on, but extremely detailed and fact-based - I notice opponents are merely claiming things like 'It's inevitable that prices are this high, we can't possibly do anything about it! Also you're an entitled brat for not wanting to spend 150k/yr on housing.' Unfortunately, I think moving away is really the only option - when a huge chunk of the population has an 'I got mine' attitude, and refuses to listen to reason or reality, there's not much to be done. Give it a few more years of increasing ambulance response times, fewer police, and difficulty attracting high-quality teachers, and then maybe Palo Alto will be ready for change.


28 people like this
Posted by Jay
a resident of another community
on Aug 12, 2016 at 8:28 am

Although the dialogue is entertaining, it is ultimately fruitless. There is no one person, group, or organization to blame for situations like this, which are now common across the country and the world. Technology (particularly computing), which is what creates all the power and wealth in Silicon Valley, is a winner take all game - the poster child for globalization. The sad reality is that unless you are part of the stream of capital supporting it, or figuring out how you fit into its dystopian future, you'd most likely be better of finding a different place to live.


59 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 12, 2016 at 8:38 am

I just want to ask Kate, what type of home would you want in Palo Alto and how do you propose that we build more?

It seems you personally want a single family home with 3 or maybe 4 bedrooms, a garage for a couple of cars, a backyard for children to play and a quiet street with a short walk or bikeride to the local school, park and grocery shop. You want to start a family and feel that this type of housing suits your needs.

However, you are advocating apartments, micro apartments, studio apartments, built over retail and near transit. It seems to me that you would not want to live in one of these housing units that you are advocating. It seems that you are willing to commute by car from Santa Cruz to Silicon Valley for your jobs.

Why should our teachers, police, first responders etc. live in pack and stack housing with none of the things you so obviously value for yourself?

We don't have space for single family houses with backyards on quiet streets. If we did have the vacant space I am sure most of us would be thrilled to have this spare, unused space, to build lovely neighborhoods as you advocate. What we do have is lack of space without removing valued amenities and very poor transit with the exception of Caltrain. We are being told that VTA is going to make transit even worse. We have overcrowded schools and very poor school commutes with no school buses, dedicated or otherwise.

Kate's views do not make sense. She is advocating adding the types of homes that she herself does not appear to want to raise a family. I don't quite understand her gripe.


7 people like this
Posted by Me
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 12, 2016 at 8:48 am

[Post removed.]


17 people like this
Posted by Byron Street
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Aug 12, 2016 at 9:06 am

[Portion removed.]


4 people like this
Posted by changes
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Aug 12, 2016 at 9:21 am

[Post removed.]


16 people like this
Posted by Gen X Resident
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 12, 2016 at 9:52 am

Kate makes solid points, it is very expensive to move to Palo Alto. While I'm fortunate to have purchased my home over a decade ago, in which time it has more than doubled in value, many of my friends were not as fortunate, and therefore have already moved or are planning to move out of the area. These are people making 125K or more (some plus bonuses), and some are married with two people working at similar salaries, and they can't afford to buy property anywhere close to Palo Alto. Then some of our friends are trying to live on 75K a year, with their rent increasing every year by $200, with no salary increase. Their 500 sf ft, studio apartment with it's popcorn asbestos ceiling is bring raised to $2200 month once their lease is up in a few months, so they too are making plans to move out of the area! There was an article in the Mercury yesterday stating that San Jose now has an average housing price of 1M Web Link

So where are our firefighters, police and other first responders, teachers, retail employees, builders and other service providers suppose to live? Of those I know in these jobs, they are either commuting from 30+ miles away, which can take over 2 hours one way, renting rooms in houses, or sharing a house with multiple families, as Kate Downing mentioned in her article. It's embarrassing to tell our service providers to make more money, how exactly are they suppose to do that and remain in their service professions? And then, if a major catastrophe were to hit, such as an earthquake, our first responders would be a 2 hour + drive away.

So while it's nice to own a home in Palo Alto, the quality of life is slowly degrading because our communities are fading. This is not sustainable long term.


28 people like this
Posted by Gale Johnson
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Aug 12, 2016 at 10:24 am

I wish them well in Santa Cruz. I think there could have been a way to stay in PA, however, if they would make some sacrifices for a few years to save for a healthy down payment.

A hypothetical case:

The annual differential between the house payments ($146,127)and the current rent ($37,200) is $108,927. With combined incomes of $300,000 a year, it would seem to me they could continue to rent for 4 years, e.g., and save up $435,708 for a down payment. And other posters had suggestions regarding lower priced homes and condos. Apparently they had their minds set on a $2.7M home.

But the fact is they would still be competing with foreign buyers with cash and the instant millionaires created by startups going public. It's easier to blame us long time resident home owners, us NIMBY's, for driving up the prices, as if we are organized and conspiring to cause that to happen.

I do wonder if they will maintain their current jobs after they make the move to Santa Cruz.

'For the past two years, Kate Downing has been one of Palo Alto's most passionate advocates for building more affordable housing.'I am always amused that whenever 'housing' is brought up that it's usually preceded by the adjective 'affordable'. What kind of housing specifically were the signers of the petition thinking of? Certainly not single family housing like Kate had in mind. We can't grow out anymore. Our orchards and cow pastures of years ago are gone. I have posted numerous times on favoring high density housing in certain areas, primarily in the downtown area where most of the office workers, most in the tech industry, are located. But that type of housing is tailored to a small segment of our population, namely, young single adults who should be quite comfortable with micro, studio, and 1 bdrm apartments. It does nothing to serve young families with children.

I don't purport to know or speak for PAF but sometimes it seems they support things that are incongruent...advocating for more housing on the one hand, but taking a position for more growth and development that causes and exacerbates the housing situation in the first place.


52 people like this
Posted by Elections coming up
a resident of Green Acres
on Aug 12, 2016 at 10:53 am

For those of us who have been following the evolution of our city council, it comes as no surprise that the previous council had appointed Downing to the planning commission despite her inexperience and, as confirmed by her own statements, her disdain for some demographic segments in this community. Probably the same demographic segments made this town into such a desirable place to live.

Glad that she, her sense of entitlement, and her sour grapes are gone; but the special interest forces that placed her into the planning commission are still around. As residents of this community, it's up to us to make the right choices in the upcoming election to ensure our city council represents the interests of our neighborhoods (not those of the rich and powerful developers), and make the right appointments/decisions.

It does pay off to question who is behind each candidate and what drives them. Are they just opportunists using a seat in the council to advance their political careers, or are they long-time residents who want to keep Palo Alto as a nice place to live? I assume most people in town are intelligent enough to figure this out and make the right choices.


21 people like this
Posted by Gnar
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Aug 12, 2016 at 11:17 am

@Thankful: "I'm so glad we have one less inexperienced, new resident on the Planning and Transportation Commission that is demanding that long-time residents sacrifice their hard-earned quality of life for young, new residents that want the benefits without the sacrifice and hard work."

[Portion removed.] You can dismiss millennials as 'entitled,' 'lazy,' or whatever. Not only is this completely untrue, but it distracts from the actual problem in Palo Alto: your NIMBYism has made the city unliveable for anyone who 1.) didn't get in back in the 80s, or 2.) isn't a foreign investor using Palo Alto real estate to launder money.

The cost of a home in Palo Alto is now 20x the post-tax take home of a Software Engineer (for example). Back in the 80s, it was closer to 4x. That's the problem. Stop characterizing an entire generation as 'lazy.'

The character of the town I love has been steadily going down the tubes as the only people who can afford to buy here are people who have no investment in the community other than having a status symbol ZIP code.


29 people like this
Posted by Curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on Aug 12, 2016 at 11:35 am

"In policy deliberations, there is rarely even a feint at attempting to reconcile the incompatibilities."

You overlooked the overarching common thread, Mr. Moran: "build, build, build." It drives everything.

I propose we rename our Department of Planning and Community Environment to the more descriptive Department of Developer Accommodation. Similarly for the Planning Commission.


64 people like this
Posted by political office?
a resident of another community
on Aug 12, 2016 at 11:54 am

Sounds to me like Ms. Downing is setting herself up for a run for political office. Thankfully it's not going to be the Palo Alto City Council. Sadly, it will probably be one (Congressional seat?) that includes Palo Alto as well as Santa Cruz.


47 people like this
Posted by anon Evergreen park
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Aug 12, 2016 at 12:05 pm


The report below shows that in fact Santa Cruz was the most unaffordable city in the country recently, based on housing prices to income!

So Ms. Downing and her Husband will be contributing to driving up houses prices for "average Joe" Santa Cruz residents with their two-income silicon valley privileged economic advantage?!

Exactly what she and other posters on this thread have accused "Baby Boomers" and "middle aged Jet setters" of doing
to them inPalo Alto.

wow! very hypocritical.


Web Link


13 people like this
Posted by scotty
a resident of Green Acres
on Aug 12, 2016 at 12:06 pm

How I was able to afford a house in Palo Alto:

I bought an apple for 10 cents. I took it home, polished it, and sold it to someone the next day for 20 cents. With the 20 cents, I bought two apple, took them home, polished them, and sold them the next day for 40 cents. I continued to do this until I had amassed a grand total of $1.80. It was then that my father in law died and left us his home in Palo Alto.

Point being Kate, life is like a box of chocolates.........


27 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 12, 2016 at 12:09 pm

According to Stephen Levy, Palo Alto Forward co-founder, Feb 6 2016:

"I do not claim nor do i see claims that more housing of types similar
to what is built today will reduce prices ... On the other hand
since all new housing will not be detached single family housing,
it is certainly likely that building more apartments especially if
they are smaller than 1,000 square feet can offer rents below those
of larger units and will be attractive to a wide range of people."


That range doesn't include Kate Downing, apparently.


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

mauricio is a registered user.

The Downings are victims? Both are highly educated and employed professionals, and their household income is 6 times larger than the average household income in the USA. At least the husband, and probably the wife hold Palantir stock, and when Palantir goes public, they will be very rich and would probably be able to afford any house, just about anywhere. When have we lost all shame and proportions that we allows a young, highly educated couple, making between them $300,00 a year, to whine that they are victims, because the very expensive and desirable town they live in won't go on a massive building spree to subsidize a home for them and their friends, a home that fits their budget, without laughing them out of town? At no time have the Downings demonstrated any willingness to be frugal and sacrifice in order to build up equity that would eventually allow them, perhaps, to purchase a home here. Their attitude was always that they deserve to buy a home in Palo Alto, and how dare longtime residents prevent them from buying one by resisting massive urbanization

Additionally, moving to Santa Cruz is not a step down. A beautiful beach community with laid-back, friendly residents, much friendlier and less condescending, competitive and judgmental than the current average Palo Alto resident. Some sacrifice. When you read and listen to Kate Downing's interviews, one gets the impression that the cruel and awful longtime Palo Alto residents have condemned she and her husband to move to rural Afghanistan.


45 people like this
Posted by Mary
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Aug 12, 2016 at 12:28 pm

One of Ms. Downing's laments is that the new buyers in Palo Alto don't have the a "sense of community" evinced by commitments to the community like block parties, volunteering and organizing. But what of Ms. Downing's sense of community? Given a soapbox and a position from which she can advocate for the type of community she wants by the City Council, she high-tails it out of town when things don't go her way. What kind of commitment to Palo Alto does that show? We all know plenty of residents who labor for years to make the city a better place. Some of our parks and bike boulevards are named after them. Right now there is a very active group working against airplane noise. Do these people move somewhere else when they don't get what they want? Or do they show a genuine commitment to the city?

Ms Downing made some good points in her letter, but her actions show that when push comes to shove, she's the kind of person she laments: one whose commitment is to herself rather than to the community. If the city fills up with people like her, we'll be exactly the kind of sterile place she says she's trying to escape from by moving to Santa Cruz (where, as one poster pointed out, she'll be driving out the locals there who won't be able to afford a house because of an influx of high-income Bay Area refugees.)


19 people like this
Posted by Myopic NIMBYs
a resident of Palo Alto Orchards
on Aug 12, 2016 at 12:45 pm

Hope all the older residents appreciate their Palo Alto community, because families with growing children are enjoying it less. Nowadays to go out in Palo Alto you need to be older and very well to do and enjoy high end restaurants with fancy small portions, or a single, youthful up and comer that would enjoy the University Avenue area. In case no one noticed, most of the family oriented restaurants and business are slowly exiting the city, forcing families like ours (parents+3 kids)to visit neighboring cities to have a nice affordable meal. Its not just housing, rents and mortgages, the entire Palo Alto infrastructure is now a high priced, non-family friendly mess. My wife and I have great high-paying jobs and we put the effort in to spend time with our children, and have been homeowners for decades. We see how most younger families treat Palo Alto like an untouchable utopia and look elsewhere to find a home. We also see first hand how difficult it is to get parents in Palo Alto to volunteer time for sports clubs, school functions (PTA, etc.), which generally have the same overworked but very resourceful group of volunteers carrying the load.

I'd like to say when our kids make it out of Gunn High(after craling out from under the homework mountain) that we'll stick around and enjoy our wonderful community, but the prevailing economics and attitudes(like in this forum) just make many other places much more attractive. Take a look around next time you're out......We're evolving into a community of older empty nesters, Google-Facebook millionaires, and self righteous condescending NIMBYs. Please show me I'm wrong.....


30 people like this
Posted by Mary
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Aug 12, 2016 at 1:28 pm

...most younger families treat Palo Alto like an untouchable utopia and look elsewhere to find a home. ..."

This is largely true. Most younger families can't afford the cost of a single family house in Palo Alto (and you correctly imply that is what they lust after.) If Palo Alto were to have on the market enough single family houses priced at what these families CAN afford - in the Bay Area as a whole say $500,000 - $800,000, how many houses do you think we'd need to fill the demand? Large proportions of the East Bay - or Santa Cruz - would move to Palo Alto if single family houses were priced "affordably" for the "Average Joe". As is readily apparent, we don't have the capacity to build this many houses, and if we did and built this many houses, Palo Alto wouldn't be the same desirable place it is now.

So what's your alternative? Put price controls on house resales and distribute them by lottery? Myopic is right: Palo Alto is changing and it's not as affordable as it once was for families without very high incomes. But neither he - nor Kate Downing - has offered any workable solution to this.

Sometimes just leaving things alone is the best of many sub-optimal choices.


42 people like this
Posted by PA homeowner
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Aug 12, 2016 at 1:56 pm

How we got to own a home in Palo Alto:

2 highly educated professionals in the high-tech industry, my husband and I came to the Bay Area 15 years ago. We chose to live in Redwood City, in crappy old rentals with popcorn ceilings, original bathrooms, kitchen with mold under the sink. We did not take expensive vacations, drive fancy cars, lived frugally all with the intention of saving enough for downpayment on a house in a nice town.

After 10 years of such living and saving, we started our house hunting process right around when the market was starting to turn up. That is about when the "foreign investors" were starting to come in, paying all cash and out-bidding us and others like us.

But, more often than not, we were outbid by locals (people living and working in this area) who were luckier than us to be working at google, linkedin, facebook and the like, where they were getting good stock options and such, able to either outbid us, or pay all cash and beat our higher offers.

After 13 months of bidding, we are grateful that we finally got lucky on a crummy old house in a nice neighborhood. We're still working hard to improve this house while we live in it.

All this time, we never felt entitled to a better or bigger house; we never despised anyone who had more money than us, foreign or local. This is how life works; you try to make the best of what you have.

We have several friends who chose different paths. Some bought "starter homes", condo's, or townhouses in surrounding cities and built equity, to later upgrade to Palo Alto, Los Altos, West Menlo Park... Some, early on made the decision that they would not be house-poor and chose to live across the bay or in less "fancy" towns (Foster City, Redwood Shores, San Carlos, Mountain View).

I suggest Kate Downing listen to other folks' experience to see how they got to won a home here....


8 people like this
Posted by Don't worry, just wait
a resident of another community
on Aug 12, 2016 at 2:08 pm

Don't worry too much. Palo Alto prices won't remain high forever. The peak has passed, probably earlier this year. Houses are on the market longer. There are fewer multi-offers. There are more price reductions. There are more contingent offers. The price and price per square foot are decreasing compared to last year. This is probably due to decreasing competition from foreign buyers and general exhaustion from native buyers who are frustrated with this whole process and no longer think Palo Alto is worth it. Not to mention that the the draw of the schools is decreasing, for reasons too numerous to mention.


9 people like this
Posted by mauricio
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Aug 12, 2016 at 2:08 pm

mauricio is a registered user.

[Post removed.]


23 people like this
Posted by Gale Johnson
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Aug 12, 2016 at 2:13 pm

Thanks to the many posters who are clear thinkers, make more sense than others, and don't claim to have a perfect solution to our housing problems (many that could have been avoided with proper planning and many that are artificial), as opposed to those whose mantra is 'we have a housing problem and it needs to be fixed and we know how to fix it'. Duh, without offering any good suggestions on how to fix it. My challenge to those who 'wanna fix it and know how to fix it' people. Please share your knowledge on how to fix it. What drastic measures do you propose to drive down home prices in PA to the 1990's level, to make them affordable for more people? Whatever it is, you know you'll piss off a lot of people who bought in that time frame up until the present. You'll put them 'underwater'. Nice going, you brilliant problem solvers.

And even though I support housing for this transitory group in downtown PA, Doug Moran's blog had it right. Those young folks will only have community within their own techie age group, never extending out to what we think of as community. And they will not be around long enough to establish roots in our community.

I don't have solutions, but it bothers me when others think they do, only because of how they feel personally about an issue, and not taking into account the community at large for the better good. I think they are the 'want it now', 'take care of me' generation. I know they tire of us old timers relating stories of sacrifices we made and how long it took to finally have a residence in PA. I, too, tire of those stories and I could even add one of my own, but I'll spare you that.

And yes, we, who thought we were empty nesters, are finding out that our nests are filling up again with 20-30 year old kids living back at home in the same bedrooms they occupied as little kids/teenagers. Let's accept them with open arms without feeling a need to build them their own little house in our backyard. 'Welcome home, son/daughter! What are you cooking for dinner tonight?' lol!


23 people like this
Posted by Don't worry, just wait
a resident of another community
on Aug 12, 2016 at 2:34 pm

I think the posts here just point to a general frustration that home buyers are feeling in the bay area. Many of us grew up in nice wholesome communities with friendly neighbors, big yards, quiet street...everything one dreams about when they think about their future house.

In Palo Alto, you can be a successful person with a great career, making 10 times what someone in Michigan makes, and yet that person in Michigan looks more successful than you, planting flowers in their backyard gardens while you're still renting. The prices in Palo Alto can really just make people feel sad. Even if they eventually get the money to buy a home in Palo Alto, then there is this daily stress of having extended yourself so much to buy the house, and locked yourself into your job with very few extras you can afford.

I think if home buyers think Palo Alto prices are too high, there are two things they can do.

1. Wait for prices to stabilize or decrease (which may or may not happen). In the meantime, save up for a down payment.

2. If the prices are too high, then refuse to participate in the madness, and buy a house elsewhere. The reason prices are so high is because people, for some reason, REALLY REALLY want to live here. The people who complain about the high prices are the same people who helped cause the high prices. If people refuse to participate in this, then prices will become more reasonable.


6 people like this
Posted by Me
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Aug 12, 2016 at 2:37 pm

[Post removed.]


46 people like this
Posted by Mvresident2003
a resident of Mountain View
on Aug 12, 2016 at 2:45 pm

Mvresident2003 is a registered user.

I just simply don't understand what the problem is and why posters make this out as something new that is just applying to their generation. There is nothing new here. This is age-old. You either can afford it or you can't. If frightens me, the number of posters who think because they want to live in PA some big change should happen so they can.

I'd love to live in PA. I have kids and would love for them to have access to some of the best schools around. We bought in one of the cheapest areas of MV (the only one we could afford) with the intention of moving up over the years. 15 years later and we're still in the same house. We realize that if we want any kind of decent retirement we will never live in PA, it's simply beyond our budget, out of our ability.

But NEVER would I suggest that prices drop, that more housing be developed (we are over developed as it is). I simply understand that it's not in the cards for us, much as we want it. Such is life. And wow, I truly feel for those of you who think it's your RIGHT to live there, what an awful slap in the face real life must be for you.


47 people like this
Posted by mauricio
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Aug 12, 2016 at 3:14 pm

mauricio is a registered user.

Well, Pebble Beach has a housing problem too. The problem there is that I would dearly love to own a house in Pebble Beach, but I just can't afford to. Unlike Kate Downing and her friends, I accepted that I can live only where I can afford to live, and no one in Pebble beach will make buying a house possible for me, not through a massive development spree, and not by subsidizing it to fit my budget. So I don't whine, because unlike Downing and her friends, I don't feel like it is my right to live in Pebble Beach despite not being able to afford it. I do what Downing and her friends find so objectionable-I live where I can afford to live, a revolutionary concept.


7 people like this
Posted by History Buff
a resident of another community
on Aug 12, 2016 at 4:24 pm

Re foreign investors:
Web Link

Web Link


23 people like this
Posted by neighbor
a resident of another community
on Aug 12, 2016 at 4:26 pm

I think it is incredibly sad to see how the PA community turned on Downing for telling the truth. The tone of the conversation reveal how Palo Alto has become a very sad and vindictive community. If present trends continue you won't find any government workers, teachers, cashiers, mechanics, and all the other workers who make your "community" run. Will the PA Online editors edit" or erase this message? Part of the new community spirit I guess.


11 people like this
Posted by Uncalled for
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Aug 12, 2016 at 4:37 pm

Mauricio- I thought you were happy in bolinas

Neighbor- the attacks on downing will not be edited by the online editors. It reflects the mindset of PASZ and their acolytes on the council-- and currently the weekly is marching to their drum.


48 people like this
Posted by Resident, too
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 12, 2016 at 4:37 pm

Just a correction to the use of the word NIMBY. It is a term for people who have an ideology that suggests one action but only if it happens somewhere else, such as retaining affordable housing or having mixed-race neighbors. It is not a term that applies to people who object to stupid, myopic, unbridled growth without any thought for the degradation of the environment, quality of life, water, traffic circulation, schools, infrastructure, available retail, displacement of low-income residents, etc., because people object to that everywhere. I don't think myopic poorly conceived overbuilding belongs anywhere, here, there, anywhere. Thus, the term NIMBY is misapplied.

On the other hand, the steaming pile of hypocrisy Downing laid out in her letter - she wants Palo Alto to build lots of small apartments but won't live in one herself it's for those other people, or, she gripes about affordability but steadfastly ignores the needs of existing low-income residents whose housing gets drastically more expensive and who are getting pushed out because of precisely the policies she advocates, the luxury apartments making overbuilding so attractive to developers (we should save affordable old housing stock for poor people, only not in her backyard), old retired people should have a decent place to live just not here - now THAT is NIMBYism.


26 people like this
Posted by Resident too
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 12, 2016 at 4:51 pm

@Uncalled,
It is your attacks on PASZ that are uncalled for. They have made public statements in favor of the City doing what is necessary to save Buena Vista, even though they make very few public statements. Even the success of Measure D resulted in the major developer pulling out almost immediately after (inability to overzone made pushing out existing residents less attractive), and what's more, members knew this was at stake - had discussions voicing this concern - and was one reason they worked so hard despite how they were slandered. The success of Measure D also resulted in $15 million in City and County affordable housing funds being returned which now make up a lot of the money available now to purchase BV.

What has Downing done but ignore the needs of existing low-income residents and misleed about the terrible consequences to them of the policies she advocates?

We had to get into the market more than once, and there are many factors making things harder or easier. I do not think this is nearly the most difficult time to get into the market here, with zero point 3.5% jumbo loans the norm. Downing's income and situation are better than anyone I knew when we came out to SV. The Yuppie attitude is okd, too, but her heightened sense of entitlement is new.


Posted by Me
a resident of Old Palo Alto

on Aug 12, 2016 at 6:12 pm


Remember me?
Forgot Password?
Due to violations of our Terms of Use, comments from this poster are only visible to registered users who are logged in. Use the links at the top of the page to Register or Login.


4 people like this
Posted by Uncalled for
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Aug 12, 2016 at 6:22 pm

Resident too- my comment was my opinion regarding PASZ. They're was nothing in it that could be considered an attack. However given the venomous reception downings comments have received. I am not surprised. Sorry, Resident too, your attempts to struggle differing opinions won't work


2 people like this
Posted by what_what
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 12, 2016 at 6:58 pm

[Post removed.]


17 people like this
Posted by Resident too
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 12, 2016 at 7:07 pm

@Uncalled for,
You portrayed the opinions you call attacks on Downing as reflective of PASZ, and knowing many PASZ members personally, your saying they would "attack " anyone is just wrong. Ascribing every opinion you don't like as somehow PASZ's is also wrong. They have in particular been far more supportive of affordable housing than Downing has. Actual affordable housing, not some twisted claim that displacing existing low-income residents with more luxury development will create affordability. (I would like to remind people that many members of PASZ have been involved in bringing actual affordable housing to Palo Alto, including in the vicinity of Maybell. What did Downing do but complain and spout unrealistic ideology and developer-focused framing?) Belmont just built tons of new apartments on the rail just a few easy stops from Palo Alto, I didn't see Downing move there (and it won't be cheap, either).
[Portion removed.]


35 people like this
Posted by Resident too
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 12, 2016 at 7:12 pm

I suggest we call this wave of Neo-Yuppies GMYBYs: Give Me Your Back Yard

(Also has the word "MY" in it, makes it perfect.)


48 people like this
Posted by forever home
a resident of another community
on Aug 12, 2016 at 10:28 pm

"I think there could have been a way to stay in PA, however, if they would make some sacrifices for a few years"

Exactly. And that's part of the problem, the expectation that they can make the jumps straight from college to good career to a 4br/2ba SFH in Palo Alto, with few sacrifices and little patience. Even in the times that Mrs. Downing thinks her, her husband and children could have bought a SFH in Palo Alto more easily than now...she's wrong; it's rarely been that easy in Palo Alto or the other very desirable locations on the Peninsula.

And even outside of Palo Alto, people rarely buy their "forever" home as their first home purchase, which is pretty clearly what Mrs. Downing expected.

Where they went the most wrong: Not putting skin in the game. They NEVER bought. With their careers and income they could have EASILY afforded Palo Alto, but they needed to buy smaller/less than their forever home. With their income they would have been able to put away money for their forever home while building equity through their existing home. They wouldn't have gotten priced out of Palo Alto because they'd already OWN in Palo Alto.

I actually agree with many of her points about adding housing. But she's using herself and her husband as examples of the impact of Palo Alto's housing pricing, and she and her husband are terrible, terrible examples.


29 people like this
Posted by Not the whole story
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Aug 12, 2016 at 10:34 pm

The Rest of the Story is dribbling out. Someone in this thread speculated she may be laying the groundwork to run for public office.

She was totally inexperienced when appointed to the Planning Commission. The then Council wanted a sure vote for developers and she complied.
She may make a similar move again. Given her big media splash (it isn't over) she is taking lessons from Trump: bombast without background, and lots of money behind her. The media loves a good looking woman and she fits the bill. It ain't over.


66 people like this
Posted by Entitled
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Aug 12, 2016 at 10:56 pm

She graduated 6 yrs ago?

I didn't expect to buy a house in the priciest town in US after 6 yrs work. That's hardly PA fault

But I could afford a condo in SJ.

Just as she could afford a condo in Fremont.

A 20 minute commute is hardly unusual in Bay Area.

The problem wasn't Palo Alto. It is a problem of entitlement.


30 people like this
Posted by Thankful
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 12, 2016 at 11:04 pm

@Gnar:

I am not a baby boomer, I did not buy in Palo Alto in the 80s, and I’m not going to address your decision to live with your parents rather than build equity in a home in a more affordable city. We bought our first home in Milpitas and worked hard, saving money and building equity. We commuted long distances every day. Friends of ours bought condos in nearby cities to build equity and save money. We were finally able to buy a small (1400 sq ft) 1950 era, completely original (metal cabinets, pink tile, no dishwasher etc, ) home in Palo Alto in the mid- 1990s when we were in our mid-30s and had both been building careers in high tech for 10-15 years. As many other posters have already commented, we ate at home, drove modest cars, and went camping for vacations.

You can do it too, but you need to be smart about how to make your income work for you. In terms of getting a job, start networking. You don’t need a master’s to get a job. Get a job and prove yourself. Work hard and you will move up. You may need to lower your standards of what job you think is owed to you because you got a college degree, and recognize that what you really need is experience. Think volunteer and low-paying, entry-level jobs where you can show your value.

Good luck!

Despite what the young people who are complaining about high costs in Palo ALto think, it was just as hard when the rest of us wanted to "make it!"


41 people like this
Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Aug 13, 2016 at 12:50 am

You've got to give Ms. Downing credit for having cranked up her pr machine to get her such wide-ranging coverage.

Instead of calling her an appointee -- which she was by the disgruntled OUTGOING city council -- the articles are now calling her "an official" and implying that she was an elected official and/or a poor impoverished full-time city employee just struggling to get by.


36 people like this
Posted by Also
a resident of Mountain View
on Aug 13, 2016 at 5:04 am

Love how the article calls it a housing "crisis". Totally setting the bias and tone to promote the agenda.

What CRISIS? How is it a crisis when people who can't afford something don't get to have it? Isn't the word for that SPOILED?


83 people like this
Posted by mauricio
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Aug 13, 2016 at 6:22 am

mauricio is a registered user.

Downing is one of those people who just comes off as truth challenged and highly insincere, strictly based on her actions and words. With a household income of $300,000, no children to feed, cloth and educate and Palantir stock options(both she and her husband were among Planter's first employees), stock options that would make them instant multi milliner upon the Palantir IPO, they have had, still do, so many options. They could have bought a small starter house or condo in Palo Alto, and something even larger than a small starter house/condo in RWC, Mountain View, Santa Clara, Sunnyvale, San Jose, Fremont, Newark, etc. Except, it was the 'Palo Alto or Bust' entitled approach of PAF. This is entitled attitude on steroids, and in her case it seems to be also a PR campaign to launch a political career.


10 people like this
Posted by papadoc
a resident of Barron Park
on Aug 13, 2016 at 7:46 am

How ironic to see a broker's ad for a home on Kellogg of only 976 sq ft selling for $1.84 million next to this article!


4 people like this
Posted by NARESH
a resident of Mayfield
on Aug 13, 2016 at 8:50 am

THANK YOU FOR YOUR HONESTY THE GREAT URBAN DREAM IN AMERICA IS OVER


16 people like this
Posted by Cory
a resident of another community
on Aug 13, 2016 at 9:20 am

To all the poor and middle class people of Palo Alto: why are you still trying to live there?! Leave!! Why would you waste your children's college fund on a 2 bedroom apartment?

To all the wealthy landowners of Palo Alto: have fun making your own lattes in the morning, bussing your own tables at restaurants and mowing your own lawns. People making minimum wage aren't going to take the train from Tracy to serve you.


16 people like this
Posted by History Buff
a resident of another community
on Aug 13, 2016 at 9:42 am

Maybe Millennials Don’t Want to Live in Cities After All
Two-thirds want to own a home in the suburbs, study says
Web Link


23 people like this
Posted by @lol
a resident of University South
on Aug 13, 2016 at 10:17 am

lol says, "Loving the people who bought their house for $400k in the 90s lecturing people how they can save up to buy a $1.2m+ SFH."

When houses in PA were $400K engineer's salaries were ~$29K.


Like this comment
Posted by george drysdale
a resident of Professorville
on Aug 13, 2016 at 10:40 am

I'm finally doing my part. The notice of intent of the San Jose Property Rights Initiative. The city council now has it. With rent controls on mobile home parks a massive amount of land is being swindled by the tenants and complaisant politicians. This land can be used to build (supply) many many apartment units and dramatically increase property taxes by an astounding 50 times. Sound like the Buena Vista trailer park which could increase taxes by perhaps 100 times. The best rent control study yet. By the way, if things get too much, they stop. Geroge Drysdale a social studies teacher and now initiator.


11 people like this
Posted by @Foreigner
a resident of University South
on Aug 13, 2016 at 10:44 am

Foreigner says, "you guys should travel more."

We don't have the money as we're house poor.


50 people like this
Posted by Me
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 13, 2016 at 11:06 am

Since Millennials want to compare how difficult it is for them and easy for those of us who bought in the 60's and 70's, maybe they should look at the whole context.

- My salary when I started as an engineer was $6,269.00 a year in 1965. My wife was a teacher. She made $2,812.00 a year. YES WE WERE DUAL INCOME FAMILY.
- The interest rate for a mortgage was 6%
- Our house cost $45k (before I put 10% down which was 70% of my annual salary)
- Our annual Mortgage (30yr P+i), Tax and Insurance was $3,530.00 a year (38% of our DUAL annual income)

- My wife and I didn't carry a $500 smart phone around with us with a $100 a month data plan. we just carried a dime in case we needed to make an emergency call.
- Our cars were low end sedans and station wagons kept 10 to 15 years before replaced because they were falling apart.
- We didn't have a $90 a month dish contract, or cable TV. Instead we had a $29 antennae on the roof and watched broadcest TV (you can still do that today if you wanted by the way).
- We went out to eat maybe twice a year. We made meals at home that could last for leftovers and sandwiches for lunch.
- We went to the movies maybe twice a year.
- Every other night or the year we stayed home and did homework (what we called the work we brought home in those days). I remember Dad in the 50's working in his study on work he brought home. YES WE WORKED 60-80 HOOURS A WEEK back then too!..
- We didn't have $500 X-boxes and Play stations. Even though that junk started coming out in the 70's (Atari) we would never have wasted our money on that stuff.
- We saved for college.
- We did our own yard work, cleaned our own house, and took care of our own kids. No $100/week gardeners, no $400/week day care, no $100/week house cleaner.

I'm curious what kind of car you Millenial readers drive?, what type of smart phone you carry around with data plan?, how much TV you watch on cable or dish?, how big your X-box or PlayStation collection is?, how often you eat out and go to movies or buy DVD's?, what your salaries with stock options are ? How much free food and services google gives you ?

When I drive through downtown Mountain View at lunch time or evening, the upscale street-side cafes and restaurants are full of millennials. I shake my head because I cant afford to eat there except for a very special occasion.

I am baffled by this spoiled generation of millennials with all their money and stuff, but that somehow can not buy a starter home at these historic record low interest rates. Are they unable to do simple math. You kids are living, playing games with, eating, and wearing your down payments. Do the math!

As for Ms. Downing. She lives(lived) in a $2.7M home. The average home is Palo Alto is $2.5. why does she think that an above average home should be her starter home ?



11 people like this
Posted by jim
a resident of Community Center
on Aug 13, 2016 at 11:34 am

Maybe Kate should hire a Palantir data consultant to analyze and find solutions to the high price of housing in Palo Alto.

Maybe it's the Wealthy investors, higher demand than supply, no more land to build, situated in one of the most desirable areas of the world with perfect climate between Wine country and Carmel, one of the most high tech areas of the world with great job growth, home of Stanford University.


3 people like this
Posted by Theodore
a resident of another community
on Aug 13, 2016 at 12:10 pm

@History buff,

That is an amazingly broad definition of “Millennial.” I was born in the 1980s, and I barely consider myself a Millennial, because I grew up in a world without PowerPoint presentations and broadband Internet and smartphones. PC, CD-ROM, digital devices with FM-quality audio, these things were so new and cool. Real Millennials grow up in a world where all of those are passé.

Kids turning 18 now were 10 years old when iPhone was announced. They were 3 years old during 9/11/01. My, how time does fly.

That Time editorial, reporting on a study sponsored by suburb developers, counted people all the way back to 1977 as Millennials. Nuh-uh.


5 people like this
Posted by Theodore
a resident of another community
on Aug 13, 2016 at 12:15 pm

So many comments about how Downing should build equity elsewhere, and come back when she’s rich. What about all the teachers, firemen, etc., who will never be rich? Must they commute ever longer distances to their jobs? Will we have a police force entirely made up of untrusted outsiders?

Personally, I am concerned about human resource consumption. The great success story of the 20th Century, how we escaped the Malthusian trap, was that we used technology to enable farmers to grow more food with less land and fewer workers. That is the food problem effectively solved, maybe forever if Hans Rosling’s numbers are to be believed.

Now, we are aware that we have a carbon problem and a water problem. I worked hard to get a job and a room in San Francisco, because I wanted to stay in biking distance of my community. I use far less water, with my windowsill garden, than a typical Palo Alto lawn.

But I see offices in Palo Alto without housing, and now Palantir employees are competing in San Francisco for housing. Arguing that workers should move to Milpitas when their job is in Palo Alto is a very mid-20th Century tactic, and a non-solution to the carbon problem. Not to mention the traffic, which only improves if we build transit, which actually works fiscally if people live more densely. Especially the super-expensive underground transit that doesn’t take away above-ground space.

This is a major problem for the region. I had to sign this post as “another community,” but really we are connected. The Association of Bay Area Governments (ABAG) recognizes that we need housing and creates beautiful maps of where housing could be built with the least negative impact on living conditions. You get to the neighborhood level, where building plans are approved, and you get protests and propositions and lawsuits, and a small fraction of the needed housing actually gets built.

We shouldn’t be wasting time arguing about whether Millennials will use small housing units as they try to start families. We should be building more houses of every size for everyone. If it works, then this will suck for the people who bought recently as their real estate investments go underwater, but inflated real estate values are unhealthy for your community. We need more diversity, and we need to use the market to provide it.


50 people like this
Posted by mauricio
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Aug 13, 2016 at 12:17 pm

mauricio is a registered user.

The Downings, whose household income is $300,000 year, have Palantir stock options that would make them instant millionaires when Palantir goes public, don't have children to raise, yet can afford to pay $3,100 per month and own 2 dogs, are hopping mad that their first home can't be a $2.7 million house. If this is not an extreme sense of entitlement, nothing is.


22 people like this
Posted by Kevin Wallace
a resident of another community
on Aug 13, 2016 at 1:09 pm

Please forgive the intrusion, here. I'm a foreigner.

If I am not mistaken, City Council representatives are elected by the people who live in the communities that have elected them. As such, they represent the views of the majority of the residents of Palo Alto, and Ms. Downing has taken a minority position.

I took a casual look around the area (Google Maps, Zillow, and such) and there are single family homes within one mile of the center of Palo Alto that are valued considerably less than $2.7 mil. What was she doing in a property that expensive?

Admittedly, I find $1.5 mil a pretty shocking price, given that my house (four bedrooms, on five acres, with a utility building and a separate office, on a quiet dead end street) cost me just a tad over $100k in 1999. But other people of other means have chosen to live there in PA, and are they willing to pay those prices. And they are perfectly entitled to do so.

And where does Ms. Downing propose to put all this new housing? The area looks pretty much built out. I do see a vacant lot on the corner of Waverly and Santa Rita, however. Maybe she can build them all there.

And, in closing, might I suggest that if what you care about is a decent, living wage that affords you a decent livable house, with good schools and friendly people, in a much less dense environment (although, not nearly as pretty), then might I suggest Owasso, Oklahoma?


45 people like this
Posted by mauricio
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Aug 13, 2016 at 1:21 pm

mauricio is a registered user.

@Kevin Wallace, good question. According to Ms Downing and the urban ideologues is she apparently following, suburbs and small towns are immoral anachronistic mausoleums that should be eliminated. The real vision of she and PAF fellow travelers is to replace R-1 neighborhoods with very tall buildings Manhattan style, in which she and her husband never had any intention of residing, since they wanted a single family house in the $2.7 million range as their starter home, having older Palo Alto resident slower the price for her so she and her husband could afford it on their meager $300,000 annual income. This is what we are dealing with here.


11 people like this
Posted by Okie from Muskogee
a resident of another community
on Aug 13, 2016 at 1:57 pm

[Post removed.]


10 people like this
Posted by Gale Johnson
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Aug 13, 2016 at 2:01 pm

@Me

Nice try, but I think your message is probably falling on deaf ears. I relate to your situation because mine was very similar. We moved to Palo Alto in 1961 when I accepted an engineering job at Philco WDL. I'll describe our situation briefly just for you...but not for the millennials who are 3 or 4 generations (I've lost track) removed from my 'Depression Baby/WWII' generation, and wouldn't understand it or derive any advice from it. They're dealing with their own current problems just like we all do and did. Can't blame them for that.

I hope our readers 30 years from now can look back at the archived posts. They will probably think...'What the hell were those folks thinking and talking about?' People actually driving their own cars?? People without their own personal drone along with robots to do all theirshopping and delivering them at your front door?

I think my salary was around $7500 per year. My wife didn't work because we had already started our family. We rented in PA (on Alma) for 2 1/2 years while saving up for a down payment on a house. We bought our house in 1963 for $23,500, with a $4500 down payment and a 30 yr conventional loan at 6% interest.

And we did all those jobs you mentioned without hiring anybody, and in addition I did all the maintenance and easy repair/replacement jobs on my car...you noticed that was singular...one car, and it was a Detroit made car, a 1956 Ford Fairlane.

Maybe we treated ourselves to more luxuries than you did. It was a Sunday night ritual to get a Round Table pizza, and we went to a lot of movies. Other than that we lived very similar frugal lives, but made sure we had fun on our family camping trips, when fees were $6 per night at state parks. Our favorite was Plumas-Eureka outside of Blairsden/Graeagle.

But you know what...we all think differently, but generally we think about our own immediate situation...not caring to hear about what the past generations experienced, and not wanting to think about what future generations will face.

And I'm as guilty as anyone else. Who do I think about first and most...when I get up in the morning? Me! Of course!

That's our survival instinct. We do what we have to do to get thru the day!

I wasted my years as an engineer, when I could have gotten a Phd in 'philosophy' and made maybe $80,000 as a professor in a reputable college. lol!


14 people like this
Posted by vta rider
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 13, 2016 at 3:03 pm

I'm senior citizen age, and people in my generation who bought in cheaper cities early in their careers never got to the point of being able to buy in Palo Alto. Rarely happens. I chose to make sacrifices to live in PA. I am spending about the amount of money that Downing and partner are, with far, far less money than they have, and I don't mind that because it saves me time to live in PA, and I chose time over living in a cheaper place that would be farther away from the places I want to go to. But if VTA takes away the 35 and 88 I probably won't be staying in this area.
And I hope readers won't yell at me and tell me to get out because I am a poor person who uses public transport. I hope readers don't want this place even more ghettoized by the loss of VTA service in PA...


21 people like this
Posted by mauricio
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Aug 13, 2016 at 3:19 pm

mauricio is a registered user.

@Okie from Muskogee, you live in the reddest of states, and think that Kate Downing is a flaming liberal, but as a left wing progressive Democrat who voted for Bernie, I can assure you that although I have no idea what her politics are, assuming she takes any time away from feeling so entitled to worry about politics, that I don't consider her to be someone who represents progressives or liberals. We the somewhat older progressives from the 1980's, are all hard working people, we weren't given anything, and didn't ask or demand anything from others. We lived frugally, worked extremely hard, sacrificed for years and built up equity slowly in order to afford a small starter house needing major and extensive remodeling and repairs in Palo Alto, or elsewhere. We didn't aspire to have a multi million dollar house, fascilitated by existing home owners giving up their town's character and quality of life, as our starter home.


24 people like this
Posted by Not Surprised
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Aug 13, 2016 at 3:37 pm

Kate: You've just had a reality check that comes with age and experience. You live where you can afford to live. You can't always get what you want, but if you try sometimes, you just might find, you get what you need. Good luck in Santa Cruz.


16 people like this
Posted by louis
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Aug 13, 2016 at 4:23 pm

I have been a real estate developer and investor for 25 years, and have developed residential and commercial projects in many cities between San Francisco and Santa Clara. During that time I have worked with planning commission and community groups extensively.

I have never met Ms Downing, but she clearly is knowledgeable about urban planning, how planning works and its limitations, as well as issues that it needs to address, as well as the trends happening in Palo alto over the long-term. She identifies a series of measures that would make an incremental improvement individually, in the aggregate might “move the meter”. In short her letter is intelligent articulate and make sense.

I live in San Francisco and recently considered moving to Palo Alto, primarily to escape the commoditization, and the gentrification taking place in San Francisco, and the decline in what I perceive as quality if life. What I found is that moving to Palo Alto would be going from the frying pan into the fire.

I can live any place in terms of affordability, but I don't wish to live in a community where everybody is like me, ethnically, economically and politically. I don’t personally see that as part of the ideal of American democracy. But that's a matter of my choice and opinion.

The greater point, which is not a matter of opinion but is fact, is that no city can function without a variety of residents working in a variety of vocations across a great range of economic strata.

This is the bigger issue that not the matter of choice, not the issue of “rights” and “entitlements” , that Palo Alto exclusionists so tragically miss understand.

PA is indeed well on its way to becoming a somewhat hollowed out “shell”, with a pretty exterior, and a comfortable private lifestyle for those who can make it and like it. But essential service providers -- whether they be cooks, fireman, or civil servants, lawyers or professors – anyone who works outside of capital and technology -- will continue to find it increasingly hard to remain here, or live within any or with any reasonable commuting distance, much less relocate here from any place else.

Palo Alto is really not a progressive community, despite its delusional self infatuation with this image of itself, very similar to San Francisco in that way. On issues of land use, inclusion, development -- it is more regressive, protectionist and exclusionary.

Im my own experience planning commissions are generally well meaning and like other governmental bodies (i.e. Congress…..) , they respond to what they hear in their determinations of what their community wants. Voices that are focused, repetitive, organized, and sometimes loud, do get heard and taken into account in a disproportionate manner. Ms Downing says in essence, if you want change then organize and speak out, over and over. She is correct again.


68 people like this
Posted by a D in history?
a resident of another community
on Aug 13, 2016 at 4:37 pm

"@lol" wrote:
> lol says, "Loving the people who bought their house for
> $400k in the 90s lecturing people how they can save up
> to buy a $1.2m+ SFH."
>
> When houses in PA were $400K engineer's salaries were ~$29K.

This is correct. Also...

~$400k * 5.65% over 20 years = ~$1.2m

From my real estate classes, the historical average appreciation for bay area real estate is around 6% (nationally it's lower). So growth from $400k to $1.2m is EXPECTED, and not an outlier.

I work with a LOT of millenials and the ones I work with are smart, educated and have their act together. But it seems like a few of them may have skipped history class...


31 people like this
Posted by a D in history?
a resident of another community
on Aug 13, 2016 at 4:48 pm

"The real vision of she and PAF fellow travelers is to replace R-1 neighborhoods with very tall buildings...[but] they wanted a single family house in the $2.7 million range as their starter home...so she and her husband could afford it on their meager $300,000 annual income"

This was perfect. Well said.


5 people like this
Posted by Gale Johnson
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Aug 13, 2016 at 4:59 pm

@Theodore

I was with you for a while but then you said 'We shouldn’t be wasting time arguing about whether Millennials will use small housing units as they try to start families. We should be building more houses of every size for everyone.'

Tell us unenlightened ones where single family houses could be built in Palo Alto. Housing and houses are two different things. You can take pictures of houses on their 6000-7000 sq ft lots, or some on much bigger lots. Those are reserved for the really really rich folks in the other end of town with showplace homes designed by Birch Clarke and other great architects back in the day...20's thru 50's in the last century. I'm down here in SPA in a tract home and loving it. Poor me...boo hoo! boo hoo! lol!

'We need more diversity, and we need to use the market to provide it.' The market does provide what it's capable of and what people can afford. It works...it just can't provide housing for those who can't afford it. That's how the market works.


45 people like this
Posted by Gale Johnson
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Aug 13, 2016 at 5:16 pm

@a D in history.

Great article...and you were generous. I'd give them an F. lol!


34 people like this
Posted by it's coming home to roost
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 13, 2016 at 6:12 pm

Kate Downing just confirmed the dead end of her
policies favoring more office/employment growth
without infrastructure to support it. We have no
viable public transportation rail/bus system. We
run diesel trains on a single corridor like the
early 1900's. Govt failure here at all levels of
govt goes back decades and is profound. In recent
years Palo Alto doubled down on the dysfunction and rewarded developers with bonuses and exceptions for dense office development, oblivious and unconcerned with any social or environmental
impacts, when it should have been down-zoning
and rezoning instead. Now it's all coming home to roost.


23 people like this
Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Aug 13, 2016 at 6:35 pm

Theodore, please do some more research on ABAG. Its housing targets are based on the number of jobs created in each community. That exempts communities that are even wealthier than PA like Los Altos Hills, Atherton, Portola Valley, etc. since they have little or no commercial development Atherton doesn't even allow retail, forget about office parks.

So while Palo Alto continues to approve massive under-parked offices that skew our worker-to-resident ratio and give Downing et al their platform, the other communities get no pressure at all which is the height of hypocrisy.

When Downing's fellow appointed commissioner Michael Alcheck, the real estate developer, tried to push his "vision" of increased office parks/density on Los Altos, they told him to stick with screwing up Palo Alto and to leave them alone.

Here's one of the 2014 articles on the brouhaha entitled Los Altos official Blasts Palo Alto Planning Commissioner.

Web Link


42 people like this
Posted by mauricio
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Aug 13, 2016 at 6:48 pm

mauricio is a registered user.

I bought my house in 1985 for $550,000 when the combined income of my girlfriend and I was about 25 percent of the household income of Kate Downing and her husband. No Palantir like, or any other stock options, no help from my dead parents who were poor to begin with and left me with nothing, and no help whatsoever from her parents who cut her off right after college. Interest rates in 1985 were much higher than they are now. Please tell me again how it was so easy for us boomers back in the roaring 1980's. Unlike the Downings, I was willing to live in rat infested shared housing apartments, in very unglamorous and unfashionable towns for 10 years. Unlike the Downings, despite having a college degree from a great university, I was wiling to work every weekend and holiday, on top of my regular job, moving furniture, detailing cars, painting house, even cleaning houses. We would go once a month to a movie theatre that charged $1.50 for a matinee every Thursday, and have a slice of pizza afterward, that was our monthly entertainment. An income of $300,000 a year plus stock options was beyond wild fantasy for us, it was something that happened only in movies and fairy tales. Targeting a 2.7 million dollar house as a starter home wasn't even a fantasy, it was a joke we wouldn't have taken seriously. We would have jumped at an offer to live in a Palo Alto garbage bin to be able to move to Palo Alto and having a Palo Alto address while slaving and saving all those years to be able to buy a house in a town that was not too dense, not overly urban, and had that great quality of life that certain suburbs and college towns have. Please tell us again how easy we had it back then.


15 people like this
Posted by Gale Johnson
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Aug 13, 2016 at 7:35 pm

@Louis

You've got my head spinning. Your post says you are a resident of old Palo Alto but you say you live in SF. Which is it? And your occupation tells which side of the issue you would come down on.

'whether they be cooks, fireman, or civil servants, lawyers or professors – anyone who works outside of capital and technology -- will continue to find it increasingly hard to remain here, or live within any or with any reasonable commuting distance, much less relocate here from any place else.' Again, is the 'here' you refer to SF or PA? And please share your solution to the problem without just casting out blame on others. We are dying to hear from those that have real solutions.

How about shutting down all office development, increase housing units to catch up with the need for the downtown tech and other office workers, and then take a break. We need a rest. I know that would put you out of business.
Gotta keep building and developing, right? I think you've got PAF on your side.


14 people like this
Posted by Thankful
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 13, 2016 at 7:51 pm

@louis,

You are a real estate developer and investor for the past 25 years, and you considered moving to Palo Alto to escape gentrification? Seriously?

I pretty much had to stop reading your post after that comment as it no longer had credibility.


11 people like this
Posted by Gale Johnson
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Aug 13, 2016 at 8:40 pm

Gale Johnson is a registered user.

[Post removed.]


10 people like this
Posted by Theodore
a resident of another community
on Aug 14, 2016 at 12:59 am

So many excuses to dismiss Downing’s arguments.

First, the stock options. They are not an asset. They are a liability, in non-GAAP terms. If the Downings exercise the options, then they are subject to capital gains taxes, but they are unable to sell the stocks to pay for the taxes. Palantir is offering to buy back $0.5 million of it per employee, on the condition that they stop talking to the press, which is a questionable decision for a planning commissioner. And if they leave Palantir, then the options expire and all their sacrifices for equity become nothing. Once the company goes public, then you can say something, but for now the stock options are an albatross.

Next, the $2.7 million house. They are not saying that they want that particular house. They are arguing that having room for a family should not be so expensive. 6% annual rate of appreciation, higher than salary increases, over many decades? Of course, eventually, no middle-class person can afford it, then no upper-middle-class person can afford it, then no lower-upper-class person (the Downings) can afford it, and then Palo Alto becomes a bedroom for the global elite with an office park on the side. That’s the unassailable math of compound interest. The process sped up a bit in the recent tech boom, but it was getting there soon anyway.

Finally, saying Millennials have it easy with their expensive cafés and dissatisfaction with $300,000 salaries and unwillingness to work 3 jobs to afford what they want. Generalization across people is lazy thinking and you should be ashamed of yourselves. (Kate should also be ashamed of herself for accusing middle-aged people of not participating in emergency preparations and block parties.) Also, the federal standard for affordable housing is 30% of income, leaving 70% for the rest of life. 70% of $50,000 is one lifestyle, and 70% of $180,000 ($300,000 after estimated 40% in taxes) is a completely different lifestyle. A second job on the side is basically a rounding error, if they have the time for it, and it is hard to justify working another job to earn 60 cents on the dollar. And if the Downings changed their lifestyle, on a $2.7 million house, only about a third of the interest payment is tax-deductible. To own that house, they would be paying like 80% of their post-tax earnings, not saving for retirement, and locking themselves into an unconscionable NIMBY economic position. Not to mention the Millennial teachers, hospital workers, etc., who will never build enough equity elsewhere to afford a house anywhere near their Palo Alto jobs.

Remember the service workers who keep your town functional? They can’t afford to do that. We shouldn’t be so focused on destroying one activist when we can’t keep basic services running.


13 people like this
Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on Aug 14, 2016 at 1:34 am

When we can’t keep basic services running, then desirability to live here will decrease and prices will come down. I think olde-tyme economists called that the invisible hand.


2 people like this
Posted by Theodore
a resident of another community
on Aug 14, 2016 at 2:46 am

@Gale Johnson

Well, I don’t know exactly where housing can be built in Palo Alto. My time is already taken trying to get housing built in giant lightly used parking lots in San Francisco. Those still exist in a few places.

First thing I would do is rezone for higher buildings, increased minimum densities, and eliminated parking ratios, so market-incentivized developers can propose solutions. I don’t know everything. I can’t know everything. I would want somebody to bring me solutions.

For immediate relief, there are the micro-units and ADUs. Those are not long-term housing. Those are a way to get pre-family workers to stop competing with families for SFH, like what the Downings and their roommates were recently doing.

Looking at a satellite view of downtown Palo Alto, I can imagine luxury towers there. Plenty of huge surface parking lots that can be replaced with a parking garage if we really want the traffic. Near jobs and transit. Multiple bedrooms in each condo, so rich families also compete less with ordinary families.

In the long term, I think Palo Alto should be rebuilt. Redevelopment is not inherently evil, and a lot of Palo Alto is poorly designed. Narrow, meandering streets with widely spaced houses makes transit inefficient, and emergency response times suffer. It seems that there are some pretty poorly laid out streets in Duveneck and Crescent Park, for example. And many of the streets that are not poorly laid out are poorly utilized. Professorville is pretty, but a lot of it is just a very poor use of space, near Stanford and the train station and the Palantir offices. The spirit of a neighborhood is in the people, not in the buildings that rot away if nobody is maintaining them. The buildings should follow the needs of the people.

The market currently does not produce affordable housing because the market is forbidden from producing affordable housing. All those committees and CEQA reports and random lawsuits cost time and money. We don’t have much wilderness here left to despoil, and we are now aware of climate change. I would streamline redevelopment so we could increase housing where they would be most useful before all of us die of old age.


16 people like this
Posted by Mvresident2003
a resident of Mountain View
on Aug 14, 2016 at 6:09 am

Mvresident2003 is a registered user.

And that folks, gets to the bottom line. Do you want a Lovely "old school" PA with wide tree-lined streets and houses with character? Or do you want a super modern, high-rise high density area dense with easily accessible shops, markets, etc ?

There really is no right or wrong, rather a matter of personal preference. But the deciding factor should be in majority rule, not because a small group is pushing for it (and that applies to wither side)


41 people like this
Posted by mauricio
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Aug 14, 2016 at 6:36 am

mauricio is a registered user.

If you read comments by Kate Downing over the last couple of years, you will find out that they echo the views of a radical urban ideologue, a female whose name escapes me at the moment. That ideologue pontificates that suburbia and small towns are immoral and a "stupid" anachronism and should be replaced with dense cities.

Ironically, even the most agrressive local pro urbanization and density advocate, and a co founder of PAF, Steve Levy, now admits that even adding thousands of small housing units, i:e studios, one and two room, would not lower housing prices in Palo Alto. So no matter how massive a potential building wave we would allow, the Downings wouldn't have been able to afford what they clearly wanted, a 3-4 bed room, 2 bathroom R-1 house in which to start a family, and have their two dogs frolic, I presume. So the Downings are actually doing the right thing, what they should have done a long time ago, move to a place they can afford to buy a house and start a family. Not even one of the ideas they tried to force us to accept would have made it possible for them to get what they couldn't afford to get in Palo Alto. How incredibly ironic!


21 people like this
Posted by common sense
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 14, 2016 at 6:40 am

Posters who suggest higher density & high rise buildings, reduced parking requirements would reduce the price of housing - Redwood city tried that around their downtown area; over 2,500 units of housing approved, and over 500 units already built. Almost all the units built were luxury, high priced units. 1 Bedroom units renting out for $3,800 which is much higher than older rental units, and higher than what 1 bedroom units rent for in Palo Alto.

Investors, who fund the development, determine what gets built, and they want to maximize their profit, which means Class A buildings (the incremental cost over Class B buildings is small compared to the profit generated), luxury high rent units. This has the effect of raising the prices of existing housing stock - it's called gentrification.

Those advocating higher density cannot show one example of a private developer building housing that lowered prices in the surrounding neighborhood. I can cite examples not only in Redwood City, but in Menlo Park, Mountain View, Sunnyvale, East Palo Alto.

Only BMR units are priced lower - and it requires massive funding from the government, or high taxes on new development (which raises the price of housing for everyone else like Ms Downing). And the government is in poor financial shape by the way (Palo Alto had problems balancing it's budget this year, not to mention that it's unfunded liabilities are growing). And do we really want the government determining who gets housing and who doesn't? That's been tried in Communist countries like Russia with poor results.


24 people like this
Posted by AmImissingsomething
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Aug 14, 2016 at 7:43 am

References to Manhattan in this sting make me shake my head. Palo Alto is a suburb. It is not designed to be a place people commute to. It's a college town with good schools and great weather. It makes no sense to me that big, established tech companies want to cram their young, urban employees into offices in a residential community. The sooner those employees revolt, the sooner we'll start seeing office space converted back into the bars, laundromats and toy stores they were when I was a kid. I might even be able to find a parking space at Town and Country. The dream is real people.


27 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 14, 2016 at 8:00 am

I read Theodore's comments and it made me laugh. Basically he wants to bulldoze great areas of Palo Alto because of the quaintness of the streets and turn many areas into skyscrapers, put in some garages instead of flat parking lots and get away without providing parking for some of our housing units.

Really?????


And how will that provide space in our schools for the children living in these multi bedroom units? How will that provide parking for those that live in these residential areas where transportation is poor since VTA doesn't want to serve Palo Alto and the shuttle doesn't take people to school or where they want to go? How will that provide affordable housing for service workers when airbnb, foreign investors, or parents of high school age kids from elsewhere will rent the apartments for a PAUSD address, or people will rent them for their parents from overseas who will be free babysitters for their children during the day?

Does Theodore like Palo Alto? It sounds as if he wants to take away anything that gives it character and turn it into a dormitory town where people are stacked and packed as high as you like with nothing to do but sleep and work!


33 people like this
Posted by mauricio
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Aug 14, 2016 at 10:05 am

mauricio is a registered user.

"Those advocating higher density cannot show one example of a private developer building housing that lowered prices in the surrounding neighborhood. I can cite examples not only in Redwood City, but in Menlo Park, Mountain View, Sunnyvale, East Palo Alto."

There is no example internationally, either. Even Steve Levy, the most overtly aggressive advocate for densification is now admitting that increased density will not lower home prices.

I was recently visiting Tel Aviv, a very dense city building taller and taller to accommodate its ever increasing urbanity, and the more they densify, the more expensive home prices become, squeezing out the poor, lower and middle middle class, just like everything where else world wide. Home prices will stabilizes, and perhaps even come a bit down if tech companies stop cramming themselves into a residential college town that cannot, and should not accommodate them, if local realtors stop advertising Palo Alto in Asia as the best place in the world for real estate investment, and when we stop allowing foreigners to buy or rent Palo Alto addresses to qualify their children for Palo Alto schools.


8 people like this
Posted by Resident 2
a resident of another community
on Aug 14, 2016 at 11:35 am

@ me

So in 1965 you bought your house for $45,000. Eichlers at the time were $20,000. You had a combined income of $9000 +/- a year. $9000 x 5 years =$45,000.

So an Eichler was not good enough for you back then? Please do not compare your "struggles" back then, to what we have to deal with today.

How is Prop.13 treating you? How much is your house worth today? Really?
From the looks of it, you are the one that is entitled.


1 person likes this
Posted by resident
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Aug 14, 2016 at 12:08 pm

[Post removed.]


18 people like this
Posted by History Buff
a resident of another community
on Aug 14, 2016 at 12:33 pm

"How is Prop.13 treating you?"

Prop 13 treats everyone equally well. How many people would buy a house today, not knowing how much their property tax might increase year after year?

Stop envying those who bought their homes years ago. As many have pointed out, they made sacrifices to do so.


20 people like this
Posted by History Buff
a resident of another community
on Aug 14, 2016 at 12:44 pm

Mauricio, the woman you're probably referring to is Sonja Trauss, founder of BARF(Bay Area Renters' Federation. It's funded by the CEO of Yelp.

SFBARF is suing Lafayette, demanding that it build high-density housing on a 22-acre knoll of Deer Hill Road. It’s the first of SFBARFS “Sue the Suburbs” campaign to push suburbs to build more housing.

According to the NY Times, Trauss is a self-described anarchist and supports all kinds of buildings as long as they're tall. Most of the SFBARF members are young professionals who work in tech.
Web Link


24 people like this
Posted by mauricio
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Aug 14, 2016 at 12:47 pm

mauricio is a registered user.

As far as I know, Kate Downing has left Palantir and is working now in Santa Clara, while her husband is still a Palantir employee. It seems like they decided to move once they realized that even if all the massive growth they were pushing for Palo Alto, even if approved, was not going to bring down home prices, but rather increase them, therefore making their real target, a suburban home with several bedrooms, bathrooms and a backyard, even less affordable. [Portion removed.]


1 person likes this
Posted by Resident
a resident of another community
on Aug 14, 2016 at 12:59 pm

@ History Buff

Envious? We are disgusted, not envious!


10 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of another community
on Aug 14, 2016 at 1:33 pm

I will give a better description of disgusted.

When the bubble burst back in 1999, the banks came out with their new scheme: Subprime Mortgage. So basically you could be an undocumented worker have a job at Mcdonolds not have a verified income, and buy a house in East Palo Alto, redwood city,San Jose ect....Around 2006 when we went to look for a loan the only loan available was a five year variable rate. even though we had 20 % down and a 811 FICO.(BTW in order to have a score like that we scrimped and saved also, $1000 car paid in full,pack a lunch to work, two jobs ect). We did not want the variable rate loan, we wanted a 30 year fix. we were told it was not available. So we waited until 2010 in the middle of the meltdown.Most of the houses in the "poorer" areas sold for all cash. Almost every buyer was from another country NOT U.S. Citizens, From what we have witnessed these where purchased for rental income, only to rent the house back to the undocumented immigrant that was once an owner.

So when we hear all your stories that you had a tough time back in 1965. We don't want to hear it. We are thoroughly disgusted with the 1% that created this mess. The 1% that we are talking about are not the guys in Wall Street, they are right here in Silicon Valley.

---Disgusted


11 people like this
Posted by Elaine Peters
a resident of Downtown North
on Aug 14, 2016 at 2:48 pm

Kate Downing is a saint! Stop hiding your snooty heads in the sand. Guess what? I live in a townhome downtown now worth over a million my parents paid 100K for in 1979 so I'm prop 13'd in and supporting a husband and a kid on an income of 100K per year as a measly secretary. My poor son has no ability to understand what this town has become. I grew up in the schools and did not have to pay for our musical instruments for god's sake for music class. Nor get harangued by Pie. How "rich" that this rich City is money grubbing elite and I can't wait to cash out when I'm ready and I'm glad the city is getting pittance of property tax from me. Wish I could go back in time to when Palo Alto was fun in the 60's and 70's when children did not EVER do what is happening now - see Atlantic article . . shame on this town. Shame on it.


14 people like this
Posted by Mvresident2003
a resident of Mountain View
on Aug 14, 2016 at 2:56 pm

Mvresident2003 is a registered user.

@resident, i.e. "Disgusted", I guess I still just don't understand why you're so "disgusted". You're disgusted that you can't live in Palo Alto? You're disgusted that you can't afford it? You're disgusted that other people were able to pay cash and you weren't? Can you perhaps get into MV? Or Sunnyvale, Redwood City?

Why are you so disgusted? I'm not trying to be snarky or mean, I truly, quite simply, don't get it. I cant afford PA, never will be able to. I'm sad, true, I'm a little dis-heartened, yes. But disgusted? No. I moved where I could afford and make the best of it.


14 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of another community
on Aug 14, 2016 at 3:09 pm

@Mv resident2003

Palo Alto has always been out of the question. We could not get into E.P.A, Redwood City East Menlo,San Jose ect...Because of all cash buyers of homes.I want equal footing. So in China you are allowed a 70 lease,Mexico a 50 year FIDCOMISO (lease)
Make the playing field even. Verify the foreign income, instead our government takes 15% to look the other way. Yes I am disgusted that someone came from another country with all cash. U.S. needs to do what Australia has done.


12 people like this
Posted by Resident 3
a resident of another community
on Aug 14, 2016 at 3:20 pm

It would be great if owned a textile and or manufacturing factory in another country, I could pay a $1 day for workers and not have to pay benefits, bribe officials to look the other way when my company pollutes the nearby watershed.Furthermore, it is great when my government manipulates the currency.Oh yea, here is the clincher;I get to dump my substandard products on the American public. Then with all those American dollars I get to buy a beat up house (or several) in Palo Alto, smash it to the ground,maybe dig a basement, rebuild it, all the while using undocumented workers! After all I don't need a contractors licence if I am owner/ builder. Then when I am finished I can sell to my buddies back home for all the dollars I used to bribe them with!! Best of all, I get to displace all the stupid Americans !! Yipee!!!

Wake up America.


30 people like this
Posted by mauricio
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Aug 14, 2016 at 3:47 pm

mauricio is a registered user.

Foreign buyers did not make Palo Alto desirable and expensive, it has been for generations. What they do is accelerate the pace at which home prices accelerate. When a foreign buyer can offer $6.2 million in cash for a home that was offered for $4.9 million, no regular buyer can compete, and the $6.2 million becomes the new standard in that block. This by the way is a real example from last year on my block, one of many around town. This was an issue Steve levy, Kate Downing and other PAF were very careful not to address when claiming that long time residents have caused Palo Alto to be too expensive for young people and that it's all their fault. Now even Levy, although not Downing, admit that even a massive densification will not lower prices, in other words, the steep cost of housing has nothing to do with existing Palo Alto home owners, and everything to do with PA being a very desirable town that has run out of space to develop much more housing, and even if it did, things will not get better.


34 people like this
Posted by pares
a resident of Barron Park
on Aug 14, 2016 at 3:59 pm

I'm one of these retired people that Downing is unhappy with and blaming me that it's my fault. The point really is if you turn Palo Alto into Manhatten you will not lower the rental prices anymore than you do in Manhatten. And, it is our government leadership and CEO's that allow and attract more companies to build and expand here that is causing the jobs/housing imbalance. Many of the tech companies could expand in Oregon, Washington, Colorado, Texas, you name your state.

Recently the governor of Texas ran a large ad trying to lure development to come to Texas. Jerry Brown's reply (through a representative) was a big no, don't do that, because California is so much better.

The CEO's who like to expand here can easily buy a home here, so they are not thinking about all the people they will bring to this area and where will they live.



37 people like this
Posted by Resident Too
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 14, 2016 at 4:14 pm

@Elaine Peters,
We manage to live here on half the income of Kate Downing and her husband. After taxes, major medical, and housing, we live on $30,000 a year for everything, food, clothing, car, insurance, utilities, donations, relatives who need help in poorer parts of the country, etc etc. We're only ok if nothing goes wrong. The schools are so antagonistic to people with special needs kids, it wasn't worth fighting anymore, so that income for a family with kids also pays for the education we should be getting from the local schools for our $20,000+ in annual property taxes. You seriously feel self righteous about not paying your fair share for yourself and your children? Shame on *you*.

Downing is a self-absorbed hypocrite, a GMYBY (Give Me Your Backyard) who seems unwilling to live in the kind of housng she wants built and didn't even bother to try finding a lesser priced apartment in the area - we know people who did, including a friend who lived in the trailer park to be close and many friends who live in Milpitas and East Palo Alto. I am not complaining because we choose the stability over comfort and disposable income. But we didn't start in the Bay Area by living in a rancher in Palo Alto like Downing. Nor could we afford the even nicer home they are moving to Santa Cruz for. I cannot understand what she is complaining about, I'd be happy to swap incomes with her today. I'm really tired of being pounded by hypocrites like her for my scrabbling to live in this area all these years. If only she was taking PAF with her.


1 person likes this
Posted by Theodore
a resident of another community
on Aug 14, 2016 at 4:19 pm

@mauricio

Of course “thousands” of new housing units would not bring the prices back down. We’re past that. We need “hundreds of thousands” of new housing units in Santa Clara County, probably low millions all around the Bay Area. Impossible? That word didn’t use to exist in the American vocabulary. People in swampy earthquake zones across the Pacific Rim are able to do it. It’s the best option for working to solve climate change and excessive water use and traffic and infrastructure financing and social integration and a bunch of other issues.


4 people like this
Posted by Theodore
a resident of another community
on Aug 14, 2016 at 4:56 pm

@Resident

There are benefits for increasingly dense urbanization, and the benefits extend beyond the community. I mention some of them in my other posts. Another one, with proper reform of zoning, is to make it possible to get necessities without driving. Kate mentions the retail that closes for lack of middle-class customers. If we can position more housing near shopping, ideally mixed-use housing and retail, then we can increase the housing stock and decrease traffic in a single step.

School funding, well, we have Prop 13 to thank for that. And all sorts of messed up Department of Education programs that require schools to hire administrators instead of teachers. Considering the alternatives, I’m not convinced that Palo Alto schools are all that special. I’m all for tearing down the school system and starting over.

Poor transit and good parking actually go hand in hand. Public buses make sense if they carry a lot of passengers a lot of the time. But if the neighborhood is spread out so much, then the bus carries only a few passengers per mile, and it must lose money. And if you have to cross a giant parking lot to get to the bus stop, then that effort is a disincentive to take the bus.

The bigger issue is that “life” means “growth” and “change.” Even bristlecone pines, the oldest known individual plants, masters of slow growth, are known to be alive because they show growth and change. Yesterday’s tacky development becomes tomorrow’s beloved neighborhood: It’s the contribution of the residents that make it a good place.

Character that is alive is character that changes. Character that is stagnant is the character of a museum. Nobody lives in a museum.


17 people like this
Posted by Not the whole story
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Aug 14, 2016 at 5:12 pm

Theodore,
If you really want to address climate change, instead of bandaids to stop the bleeding why not address the real causes.
Over-population plus over-consumption.
Of course you would have to deal with right wing religious opposition but without controlling the population explosion there is no hope of success. Why the glut of people crowding into Palo Alto? Over population. Why the Asian influx? Overpopulation.

Why the energy crisis? Over population and over consumption. Gotta have all those electronic toys, play games like children and drive an SUV. Gotta have a 60" TV to keep up with the neighbors. Poor people buy them, it boggles the mind.


10 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 14, 2016 at 5:17 pm

Theodore,

Palo Alto hates useful retail. We can't have any affordable retail for real families in Palo Alto. We aren't allowed large grocery stores, big box stores, or chain stores, or family style restaurants. People in Palo Alto drive out of town to go to the large Safeways, Costco, Target, Walmart, OSH, etc.

Movie theaters, bowling alleys, and other recreation are getting harder to find. Even our parks are choc a bloc full on summer weekends for parties and picnics, and that's not when kids sport leagues are playing.

I'm not sure what middle class retail is supposed to mean. We have expensive Stanford Shopping Centre and that is an attraction for out of towners who come in their cars. Town & Country is becoming that way and so is University Avenue. Midtown is getting harder to find parking, particularly at lunch times.

VTA is proposing getting rid of bus routes. Caltrain is hoping to ramp up service, but Caltrain parking lots get full very early which means that many people get rides to stations from anywhere more than 1/2 mile away. Bike thefts are fairly prolific too, particularly at the schools. The schools are bursting at the seams and putting in more and more portable classrooms doesn't do anything for a feeling of connectedness, let enough give enough play/field space or even shade to eat lunch which is mainly done outside in Palo Alto. Even Castilleja is increasing its student body.

Your Utopia dream of stack and pack with walkable retail just won't stand up to real life.


32 people like this
Posted by Resident Too
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 14, 2016 at 5:28 pm

Retail is not closing for lack of middle class customers. Retail doing quite well thank you is leaving Palo Alto because their rents go up to force them out in favor of high paying services for day workers, like Village Stationers leaving for another gym for day workers. Retail is leaving because developers want to raze their spaces for offices like the market by college terrace.

People like Theodore talk like they think there is no vast United States of America with many needs, that has many areas in need of the development and jobs. The overcrowding and overdevelopment in Asia has been an ecological disaster. It's hardly something to aspire to, and it's hardly necessary, since we are the City if Palo Alto, not a nation state unto ourselves., and the US is a vast place.

The answer is to increase desirability factors so that enough companies relocate to places that need it. People who want those factors and want lower costs will naturally follow. Having many more desirable places to work and live in this nation makes us stronger and takes pressure off of prices in the few desirable places we have now, It makes no sense to overbuild, esoecially not in a place with water restrictions in place and no longterm end in sight. The only interests that serves are greedy developers.


36 people like this
Posted by mauricio
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Aug 14, 2016 at 6:14 pm

mauricio is a registered user.

Theodore, what you offer would destroy the Bay area environmentally. We have no water for even a fraction of the growth you propose. Did you know that dense urban centers produce tremendous heat that never cools down because of the around the clock activity, need for cooling and heating, the constant traffic, etc, which is a major contributor to atmospheric heating and climate change? What you offer is pure, and frankly, insane fantasy. We need exactly the opposite of what you suggest. Less growth, actually no growth at all in a region that is already significantly over developed and over populated. We need to thin out the Bay area's population, and Palo Alto's population, by moving jobs to more thinly populated regions that need economic development. If anything will slow down the absurd acceleration of home prices in the Bay area, and our certain environmental destruction, would be moving jobs to other states. And again, for our own survival, we absolutely cannot continue to allow foreign buyers to keep buying up Bay area, particularly Palo Alto real estate.


27 people like this
Posted by pares
a resident of Barron Park
on Aug 14, 2016 at 6:41 pm

@Theodore -- I agree with Mauricio. There are many smaller size silicon valleys around the USA already who would love to develop and can offer more reasonable housing prices. Why do you want to stack and pack here, when it would make more sense to grow in other areas around the country?


11 people like this
Posted by Resident Too
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 14, 2016 at 6:58 pm

@pares,
Very succinctly said. I think the essential point is, what are the most essential desirability factors, how to assess what each community needs, and how do we work on this problem nationally?

I agree with Mauricio, foreign speculation is bad for the community, too.


17 people like this
Posted by A Foreigner
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Aug 14, 2016 at 7:07 pm

@jim

Not sure where you got the idea that I am trying to "make this about Asians" because I did not mention Asian anywhere in my posts. The real estate ownership law I referenced was then called Alien Land Law (repealed in 1950's) that happened to have originated a long time ago in large part due to anti-Japanese sentiment at the time, but subsequently applied equally to other ethnicity. Those are historical facts and I am not overlaying anything more beyond that for the record. Just thought people should know given the many references to foreigners in these posts.

As for your comments about "People have to have homes in the area where they work". In my first job I commuted an hour to downtown Manhattan. Not sure what you mean by "in the area where they work", but I am sure people can find more affordable housing within an hour of Palo Alto if they work here. Yes it would be ideal if we all live and work in the same zip code. But is that realistic? And why such feeling of entitlement? For your info, I live in Palo Alto but actually work in SF. Should the San Francisco city council guarantee a condo for me too in SF?

I brought up as others have in these posts the very relevant and constructive suggestion of improving our public transportation system in the Bay Area. That should go a long way to alleviate the issues of where we live versus where we work.

Instead of being impulsive on additional taxation that will inevitably end up hurting those who are in need of help, the government should do something that will benefit everyone who lives and work in the area -- like infrastructure.

Put yourself in a retiree's shoe. She owns a house here and existing tax laws are already preventing her from selling. What do you think levying higher tax on property transaction will do to her property value and hence her means for retirement?


17 people like this
Posted by Paco
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Aug 14, 2016 at 7:30 pm

"Me" complains about Prop 13 old timers. Obviously you are not a property owner and not aware that Prop 13 benefits all property owners by limiting property taxes increases to an annual 2% increase per year. Maybe you are someone who just needs to complain or are suffering from buyers remorse after paying too much for your luxurious single bedroom bungalow. To those that complain about foreign buyers, well, nobody is forcing sellers to sell to the highest bidder. You have a choice, if you don't want to sell, don't!


5 people like this
Posted by Me
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Aug 14, 2016 at 8:32 pm

Mauricio - here's something to think about. If you want to compare 1985 to today:

$500K in 1985 is equivalent to $1,109,581.78 today

$300K today is equivalent to $135,186 in 1985

I bet Mauricio your house is worth more than $1.1M. And I can probably assume someone who was making $135K in 1985 could have easily afforded your house.

Now $300K couldn't buy your house.

Things have changed in Palo Alto. A lot.


23 people like this
Posted by Resident Too
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 14, 2016 at 9:10 pm

@Me,
You are missing the fact that interest rates today for jumbo loans are 3.5% with no points. The interest rate in the eighties was more than twice or 2.5 times that, resulting in a much higher cash flow. You are also forgetting the downpayment from the starter home in Sunnyvale or Milpitas, because nobody back then was a GMYBY (Give Me Your Backyard) who thought an easy house in Palo Alto was a human right. Tech was depressed and propped up by defense spending, so engineers were not making comparable salaries.

In mid '80s, I was making less than $30,000 as a new engineering hire. I was living in an old efficiency in Sunnyvale that cost around $750/month rent, I could not afford a 1Br. My future spouse had bought a house in a seedy part of the South Bay on not much more income than that and lived in deplorable conditions while rebuilding it from the inside out. And renting rooms to afford it. For a long time. You don't just have to take the time to work up, you have to learn how to judge the market for the right time to sell and buy. It takes a lot if work, but most of us did it because renting leaves you in no control of your life and finances. That is not new.

This place has been through waves of boom and bust. Ever heard the song: all the gold in California is in a bank in the middle if Beverly Hills in somebody else's name... - how old was that? The one thing that has been different now, that has made things worse is developers figuring out how to make people think there is a crisis that can only be solved by overbuilding (and somehow it only makes things worse so they keep flogging that horse), and which has displaced existing residents in places that had survived previous booms and seriously jacked up average rents.


9 people like this
Posted by Me
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Aug 14, 2016 at 9:31 pm

As for Paco: "Obviously you are not a property owner and not aware that Prop 13 benefits all property owners by limiting property taxes increases to an annual 2% increase per year. "

Prop 13 does not benefit all homeowners equally. Prop 13 disproportionally benefits long-time homeowners financially, leading to newer property owners subsidizing their government services.

How can you morally and ethically justify a set of owners paying 20-30x more for the exact same services than their next door neighbors? Same police, fire and roads. Everything's the same, yet by virtue of staying in one place, you pay that much less?

The subsidy comes from Prop 13 reducing inventory because old folks can't justify (or afford) paying more property tax per year, leading to the same amount of money chasing fewer available homes, jacking up prices for whatever hits the market. If Prop 13 didn't exist, property prices would not be as high as they are now.

[Portion removed.]


7 people like this
Posted by Me
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Aug 14, 2016 at 9:43 pm

"You are missing the fact that interest rates today for jumbo loans are 3.5% with no points. The interest rate in the eighties was more than twice or 2.5 times that, resulting in a much higher cash flow."

It doesn't matter. It's purely an affordability calculation. Palo Alto was much more affordable in 1985 than it is in 2016 for the same real (not nominal) dollars. Period.

[Portion removed.]


19 people like this
Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Aug 14, 2016 at 9:51 pm

Theodore describes the Downing's situation re options and capital gains as if it's unique and we should feel sorry for them.

Remember the dot.bomb crash 16 years ago while the Downings were starting high school? People not only got hit for capital gains taxes, they also got hit for them on UNREALIZED gains when their stock and the entire market and economy tanked while they were waiting to "prudently" hold long enough to qualify for the lower long-term gains rate.

People went broke paying Federal and state taxes where cap gains are taxed at the higher ordinary income rate on gains they never saw.

Some options make you rich, some make amusing wallpaper in your powder room and some cost you real money when you're unemployed when your company tanks but you're still stuck with the tax bill.

Welcome to Silicon Valley.


46 people like this
Posted by not green
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Aug 14, 2016 at 10:16 pm

Santa Cruz is not a very green housing option for the Downings as it means that Mr. Downing must now drive into Palo Alto. RWC or another city with a Caltrain station would have been a greener alternative.


34 people like this
Posted by RE: Palantir stock options
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Aug 14, 2016 at 10:21 pm

Theodore writes: "Palantir is offering to buy back $0.5 million of [Palantir stock options] per employee, on the condition that they stop talking to the press." This is very interesting and IMO worthy of a new thread. What's going on there??


10 people like this
Posted by @me
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Aug 14, 2016 at 10:41 pm

me asks above:
"How can you morally and ethically justify a set of owners paying 20-30x more for the exact same services than their next door neighbors? Same police, fire and roads. Everything's the same, yet by virtue of staying in one place, you pay that much less?"

If you research PA city funds budget and expenditures, you will see that a great majority of funds from property taxes funds the local schools. Surely you will accept that long term homeowners paying lower prop taxes are not benefiting much from local schools. The newer homeowners and SFH renters are the bigger consumers of the local schools.

Following is from PA City Budget "Budget in Brief" document:

"For every $1,000 in property taxes paid by residents and businesses, the City
receives $94. The majority of property taxes support the local schools."

Property taxes are not a big source of funding for fire, police and roads.
Try another argument...


6 people like this
Posted by Theodore
a resident of another community
on Aug 14, 2016 at 11:55 pm

@Online Name

I’m not saying their situation re: options is unique. I was here during the dot-com crash; I remember the underwater stocks and the capital gains taxes. We have learned from that situation: Diversifying assets is key. Including not becoming house-poor if you can avoid it.

I’m saying that the options are not unbounded riches, and are actually harmful while the company is private. Eventually, they will probably be worth a lot. But, while middle-aged men can wait it out, young ladies’ biological clocks are ticking. So, you can’t point to their stock options as if they were already rich.

@resident of Fairmeadow

I don’t know the details. I’ve always felt Palantir to be an unpleasantly spooky outfit. It’s named after a crystal ball in a fantasy story; in the story, the Palantir is used for secret mind control, and then it gets stuck on replay showing a man’s gruesome self-immolation. Anyway, the source of the story about cash in exchange for silence is this BuzzFeed article from June:
Web Link

Maybe Palantir is preparing to go public. All these rules and regulations surrounding the IPO process have gotten lawyers paranoid about any information escaping without their vetting. The wrong information coming out could set back their IPO by months and make them lose control of exactly when they enter the market. They want to time their IPO to maximize the gains for both their investors and the underwriting banks. From what I can glean, I’d be surprised if the IPO happens this year, and it may not happen next year, either, and the lockout period is another six months before employees can sell their stock.


28 people like this
Posted by Resident Too
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 15, 2016 at 1:14 am

@Me,
Interest rate absolutely has everything to do with affordability, because it all comes down to your monthly cash flow. (At least for us ordinary folk who can't afford Old PA. You sound like someone who never had to make such sacrifices.) If the interest rate is 9%, you can afford only a much smaller loan than if it is 3.5% as it has been now. I know people who risked it and went with adjustable to get 2% and change so they could get in.

Using my bank's affordability calculator, compare:
1) Engr w/adv degree
$4k/month
Other monthly debt $750
30 yr fixed
9.625%
10% down
Can afford a maximum of $64,506

The cheapest home sold in that town that year was around $90k

2) Downing's income
25k/month
other monthly 750
30 yr
3.5%
10% down
Max they can afford
$1,176,009

The homes in the neighborhood from case #1 are today less than $1 million so they are actually more affordable to a comparable professional couple today. They wouldn't even have to evict any drug dealers. A lot of property could be had in East Palo Alto for that much, which is much closer to downtown Palo Alto.

Interest rate affects cash flow which us the biggest factor for ordinary people.

If you want to dismiss the advice, it's not going to hurt Old PA you, but it will hurt young people who think they will have any kind if a longterm future here if they rent. I learned the hard way myself, but helped encourage friends to get in the market through that kind of sacrifice over the years and they have to a one been grateful. People who kept renting are the ones who regret it.

Getting into a house in the Bay Area is not rocket science, but it takes determination and sacrifice. It absolutely takes more than just saving up. You have to really get to know the market. That means looking at housing on the market for every weekend, maybe for years. You have to keep a preapprival for a loan open. You may have to beg relatives (plural) or even friends for quiet loans to use as down payments. You have to be willing to take properties in areas most people wouldn't, even if it means getting a German shephard or living next to a drug dealer (both real examples). You have to become your own contractor because you can't afford the luxury of help. You have to stay up on the market after you buy so you can move up at the right time, because it cycles.

We had some very unlucky things happen that cost us our equity and pushed us out of the market, so we've had to get in more recently, too. On less than half the Downing's income. They made their choice to live a certain lifestyle, which is none of my business, but their wanting to destroy all liveability here because it's not easy for them is beyond the pale. They could probably telecommute from Detroit and live like Kings, and push development to their heart's content.

It's all better than renting, because with renting, a landlord can upend your life with no control after the lease expires. If you want to be stable here, it's necessary to buy, and if you aren't rich, it takes a lot of effort. If that's luck, then it's just like genius - 99% perspiration (hard work and sacrifice).


52 people like this
Posted by mauricio
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Aug 15, 2016 at 6:04 am

mauricio is a registered user.

Kate Downing and her fellow PAF members and supporters wanted to create a massive stack and pack of smaller housing units in Palo Alto, suppodsedly more affordable than R-1 single gamily houses, obliterating this town as we know it and replacing it with something much closer to Manhattan, yet was unwilling to raise a family in a 1 or 2 bedroom apartment, the kind she claims will makes things right here housing-wise. This hypocrisy should tell us all we need to know about PAF and those hiding behind it and using PAF travail themselves of great financial profits through massive development.


3 people like this
Posted by Me
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Aug 15, 2016 at 7:46 am

@@Me from Duvie:

"If you research PA city funds budget and expenditures, you will see that a great majority of funds from property taxes funds the local schools. Surely you will accept that long term homeowners paying lower prop taxes are not benefiting much from local schools. The newer homeowners and SFH renters are the bigger consumers of the local schools."

The argument still holds. While someone contributes $94 (because they only have $1000 in property tax) vs. $940 (because $10000) property tax is still ridiculous. As for defunding local schools - schools indeed have a main direct impact on the students and their families, but we as a society have determined that public schools also have a public benefit from having an educated society. There is a large indirect benefit to old Palo Alto residents even though they no longer have kids in schools.

[Portion removed.]

@Resident Too: "Interest rate absolutely has everything to do with affordability, because it all comes down to your monthly cash flow. (At least for us ordinary folk who can't afford Old PA. You sound like someone who never had to make such sacrifices.) If the interest rate is 9%, you can afford only a much smaller loan than if it is 3.5% as it has been now. I know people who risked it and went with adjustable to get 2% and change so they could get in."

[Portion removed.] Interest rates and housing prices to a certain extent mitigate each other and that inflation rate and mortgage interest are somewhat related. The fact is that low interest rates are only part of the contribution to the higher housing prices. Prop 13, lack of building and economic growth are larger drivers than interest rates in appreciation around here and many parts of California.

[Portion removed.]


36 people like this
Posted by A long-time taxpayer
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 15, 2016 at 8:48 am

Palo Alto is a great place to live. Those of that live here and can afford to live here are smarter and wealthier than most. We deserve our slice of paradise. If you can afford a life here, great! Welcome! But if you can't, well, you're just not cut from the same stuff. Sorry. Enjoy Santa Cruz, Kate.


22 people like this
Posted by Resident Too
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 15, 2016 at 8:51 am

@Me Me Me

[Portion removed.]

At least you have finally admitted that mortgages and interest rates are related. You first brought up just absolute housing prices to claim that things are less affordable now than before, which is not true because the interest rates are at historic lows now both in rates and costs. You ignored the fact that for most people, the issue is cash flow, so affordability is BOTH related to interest rates and mortgage costs. (And income - in the late '80s and early '90s, most of the engineering hiring locally was defense industry which did not pay as well as the private high tech during the mid '80s.)

While costs and interest rates still do interrelate whether rates are high or low, in a desirable area, you still have to compete with a huge number of people, so the impact for ordinary people when interest rates are high is actually worse. My examples above comparing the affordability then and now are real (the 2nd being the Downings who present themselves as typical and claim they can't afford anything but that's really not true). I have been acutely aware of the market in the Bay Area for decades, and think in many ways things are (a little) easier now than the late '80s. They are harder than the early '90s because we had a recession and post-earthquake the market even in Palo Alto tanked for awhile. To the point that I considered dropping everythin and buying in Palo Alto anything I could possibly get. That was a pretty unique circumstance (the earthquake and recession together) that people should not hold their breath to repeat, and it is disingenuous to use that small stretch of time to claim things are harder now. They aren't, this has been the reality every time there is a boom.

Saying that your framing carries water for developers is merely an observation, not an attack. There's another inconsistency: your every point is to push Build Baby Build, yet you go after me for pointing that out as if saying that your relentlessly promoting (on purpose or inadvertently) developer interests is a slander. If it's a slander, then why do you keep doing it?

We live in a Palo Alto neighborhood with more economic diversity than yours. Still. But in addition to the previously stated advice about how you get into the market in the Bay Area, one of the most important is to search for housing over a wide swath and don't set your sights on just one city. We actually live in Palo Alto because that's the house we got in that round of "bidding", but had put offers on three other homes in three different cities at the same time. The fact that we got it came from knowledge of the "rules" and market conditions that newbies just don't have. That knowledge came only from years and years of experience and even being in the market before. The persistence and willingness to sacrifice came from the realization that the only way to get stability here is to own.



17 people like this
Posted by Resident Too
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 15, 2016 at 9:05 am

@Long-time,

But that's just it. Palo Alto is a combination of really big expensive properties and really small ones, with not much in between. Several long-standing affordable housing developments and a mobile home park, as well as SFH's that ordinary people (with sacrifice) live in today is still most of what you find in the Maybell vicinity. (There are also many large lots on El Camino that people are sitting on hoping they can hyperdensify i they just wait long enough.) The mobile home park survived many booms but only became at risk when a major developer (Prometheus) thought it could put four times the zoning of luxury homes there. The overbuilding both raised expectations and prices and increased incentives for developers more than any time in the past. That's the main difference this time: both the impact of the overbuilding on raising prices and the way development interests have co-opted the conversation and gotten low-income and ordinary people to believe a framing that works against their interests.

If Palo Alto had not allowed so much over office building, the residents of BV mobile home park would probably still be renting basically undisturbed. However, it still wouldn't be easy for anyone to buy in the Bay Area, it never has been during any boom. It's just a self-serving lie to claim anything else.


2 people like this
Posted by Mark Rothschild
a resident of Downtown North
on Aug 15, 2016 at 11:06 am

[Post removed.]


18 people like this
Posted by Not the whole story
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Aug 15, 2016 at 12:46 pm

[Post removed.]


18 people like this
Posted by Resident since 1954
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Aug 15, 2016 at 1:21 pm

Let's face it, this area isn't as great a place as it once was due to the high cost of housing.
Kids will never be able to move back and live anywhere near their parents.
It is a dilemma for Stanford too.
The children of Stanford faculty and employees can't ever own their parents home once they pass away (if they live in subsidized housing on campus).
Some of the churches in this area subsidize their ministers homes, and one church flies in their ministers from out-of-state, where they are raising their own families.

The housing costs, rapidly changing demographics, and deterioration of quality of life are creating an exodus out of this area.

It is has been going on for sometime, but quietly.


44 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 15, 2016 at 1:27 pm

What is bothering me most about this is the way that this has become a national story and she now has her 15 minutes of fame. Whether this had been her intention or not I can't tell, but Palo Alto is being unfairly portrayed in this. The nice house she lives in is not the type of housing that she has been advocating, but the media doesn't show that. The fact that housing in Palo Alto is higher than its neighbors to the north and south which is just a short distance away, isn't being mentioned.

Whenever she googles her name, this story will appear. Her 15 minutes of fame will remain unless she starts making waves elsewhere.


34 people like this
Posted by Tired of All of It
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 15, 2016 at 1:47 pm

I am plain sick and tired of being told I pay too little in property taxes. When we moved here in 1994 with nearly 50% down on our house, we still had $3,000/month payments for a small house on a postage stamp lot. Our property taxes then were an additional $5,000/ yr.

Despite Prop 13, which people under 40 at the time voted AGAINST, we no pay $12,000/ yr in property taxes.

Why? Because we bought a fixer upper and fixed it up: two kitchen remodels, four bathroom remodels, covered patio, insulation, dual pane Windows, new doors, new wiring, new plumbing, new floors, new heating system, electric car chargers, drought- proof landscaping, new roofing, reinforced foundation, seismic retrofit, room addition, bedroom soundproofing, carport added to garage, rep in the driveway twice, etc.

Every time you make improvements, your property value goes up and so do taxes.

We would love, love, love to move-- we need a bigger house because we took in two orphaned grandchildren.
But if we DO, we pay capital gains tax to the IRS and the state-- leaving us without enough to buy down a mortgage to a payment rate we can afford.

So we're stuck in a town we have come to hate, in a house we have to live in like sardines ( not even room for play equipment in the yard!). This capital gains BS is causing an artificial housing shortage in itself--NOT Prop 13!


61 people like this
Posted by mauricio
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Aug 15, 2016 at 1:52 pm

mauricio is a registered user.

I believe that Downing's "parting shot" has been a calculated move to gain exposure and notoriety for herself and advance her own future ambitions and those of the radical pro development axis of PAF/Palantir and those who will benefit from it. Everything I ever heard from her, since she came to my attention a couple of years ago, just didn't seem sincere, didn't make sense in real life, as opposed to wishful thinking, and was often contradictory and inundated with a strong sense of entitlement. She had said that she and her generation didn't even want to own cars, they just wanted to live in small units near downtown, so they could walk everywhere. Now we find out that she and her husband want to start a family, she needs and does have a ca,r since she doesn't work in Palo Alto anymore, just like no one else who demands housing in Palo Alto can ensure a lifetime employment in Palo Alto. We now find out that the Downings never had any intention of living in the small units they advocate so aggressively, they always wanted a regular suburban house with multiple bedrooms and bathrooms, like any family with young kids does, and once they realized Palo Alto wasn't going to provide them one that fits their income, they decided to move to a town where their income would enable them to purchase such a house, this time a very reasonable move, and one which those desiring a Palo Alto home but can't afford it, should emulate.


38 people like this
Posted by Irony
a resident of Los Altos
on Aug 15, 2016 at 1:55 pm

It's ironic that the person making this lament has options other than moving for investing in a home and living in Palo Alto. The modern economy has provided these, even as it has provided the speculators who drive up the prices of homes in Palo Alto.

This complaint doesn't illustrate the shortage of Affordable Housing for below median
income people, and few solutions cited would make much of a dent or help these below median income families find housing in Palo Alto. So long as Palo Alto attracts real estate speculators, there won't be any improvement in the availability of housing for lower income people. That's why we ned a tax and increased requirements for actually including low income units, even while driving up prices for others.

Here's how the the successful young couple could buy a home even in Palo Alto at today's prices, if they really want to. #1 They should expect to sacrifice other luxuries. #2 They should get an equity-sharing co-investor to provide perhaps 15% of the price as increased down payment. #2 They should put in a 15% down payment of their own. #3 They should plan to rent or share the house with others for at least a good while, to help them build equity and address the housing shortage. No laws need to be modified to do this. They could put rooms on AIRBNB, or they could get some long term tenants as housemates. Both are done all the time.

This really is a lack of financial expertise that they have wasted money on renting for a few years rather than making a purchase.


55 people like this
Posted by Ben Rumson
a resident of Green Acres
on Aug 15, 2016 at 1:58 pm

This article is about two unhappy Plantir employees. Why is it our city's problem to provide them with affordable housing ?
Plantir will IPO for Billions. This city operates in the red and if it funded its unfunded pension liability, it would be bankrupt.

Plantir should either:
1. Stop being so cheap and pay their employees enough to afford housing in Palo Alto, or
2. Leave Palo Alto and reduce the strain they are putting on our limited housing supply.

Lastly, why are people comfortable with this company being home based in Palo Alto ? You know what it is that they do right ? And your OK with that ?


27 people like this
Posted by Mortgage Facts
a resident of Los Altos
on Aug 15, 2016 at 3:22 pm

For a $2.7M house with a 20% down payment, that would be a $2.2 M mortgage. Sounds like a lot. Payment would be $9800. Sounds like a lot more than $6000 rent. But of the $9800 in the first year, the monthly payment would be about $6300 interest which is deductible. $3500 goes to principal which is paying yourself, because you build equity in the home. A high income couple would get about half of the interest payment back in the form of reduced state and Federal income tax. So the true payment when purchasing would be $6800 per month of which $3500 increases your own equity. So even at these high prices, it's much more cost effective to buy than to rent.

I wonder if Kate Downing realizes these things? This is why housing purchase prices rise--because it's cheaper than renting.


12 people like this
Posted by Christina Kenrick
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Aug 15, 2016 at 3:55 pm

Christina Kenrick is a registered user.

Thank you to Kate Downing for her service to Palo Alto and her efforts to address one of the toughest issues facing our community. I've never met her, but will miss her intelligent, articulate voice on these topics.


5 people like this
Posted by Me
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Aug 15, 2016 at 4:11 pm

@Resident Too

I think you've completely missed my point to Mauricio. He continues to throw shade at Ms. Downing by using his own example of buying his own home for $500K in 1985. So, using her salary, I did a basic affordability calculation on his specific example by converting between 1985 and 2016 dollars.

You want to know why I went after you? Let me quote you:

"You sound like someone who never had to make such sacrifices. "

Oh, I wonder how I'm supposed to interpret this statement?

As for this statement: "If Palo Alto had not allowed so much over office building, the residents of BV mobile home park would probably still be renting basically undisturbed."

You think hindering building in Palo Alto would do that? Jobs are jobs, whether they're in an office in Menlo Park, Mountain View or Palo Alto. Hindering building in Palo Alto wouldn't have kept the BV mobile home park undisturbed. There's no Trump Wall that keeps everything within Palo Alto. In fact, without building, maybe 100% of downtown Palo Alto would be Palantir instead of just 50% (or whatever it is).

Pretending away growth doesn't work.


25 people like this
Posted by mauricio
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Aug 15, 2016 at 4:37 pm

mauricio is a registered user.

Sacrifices? [Portion removed.] If you are not very rich and you want to own a house in Palo Alto, you need to sacrifice for quite awhile. [Portion removed.]


2 people like this
Posted by Me
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Aug 15, 2016 at 4:49 pm

[Post removed.]


16 people like this
Posted by Mortgage Facts
a resident of Los Altos
on Aug 15, 2016 at 7:00 pm

The housing bubble happened once before and it can still repeat. It's good to buy in University towns because they tend to have an economy that resists depression and recession. That's one of the many reasons Palo Alto has seen rising housing costs, and why it's still a good investment to buy here.

Using dollar inflation value to compare home purchases in 1985 and 2016 is not completely valid. You'd need to look at the typical salaries. These days software engineers with a bit of experience get $200K. Then there are the inordinate benefits. Check out Google. Free lunch. Free dinner. Free transportation to work. Back in 1985, a good salary for a software developer would be $75K, or maybe even $60K. Benefits at the time pale in significance. Stock options were not nearly as lucrative. Interest rates were higher. The interest rate difference alone cuts the
effective price of a new home by more than half.

Apples and oranges? I don't think so.


8 people like this
Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on Aug 15, 2016 at 7:28 pm

Back in 1985, a good salary for a software developer was $40K.


28 people like this
Posted by M7
a resident of Palo Verde
on Aug 15, 2016 at 7:39 pm

The planning commission's or Council's actions can have some impact, but they are more limited than most might think. What's driving prices here are the confluence of two major forces, both many decades in the making:

1) A desire for good schools near a large university -- this part could be foreseen, but is not unique to Palo Alto

2) The accidental founding of the of the tech industry right here, particularly Hewlett-Packard and the decision of William Shockley in 1956 to locate nearby to care for his mother in Palo Alto -- this part could not be foreseen, but it happened, so we have to deal with it

Both of these forces have succeeded beyond anyone's wildest imagination. Whether the results were all fully intended or not has little to do with the reality: demand far outstripping supply.

Perhaps new residents don't see the decades of evolution of these forces, and assume that things today can be quickly changed to satisfy current desires. They can't. They can be tinkered with on the edges, but aside from unleashing massive economic and social ruin, they cannot be reversed.

Nor should they be. As many have pointed out, Kate's goals seem to be entirely at odds with reality. So of course she's frustrated. But that can be changed, as she has.

Our children are establishing their lives in Washington where they can find a much better set of tradeoffs for themselves. They'd love to live here, but they can't. So they don't, and they don't complain about it. And we can't buy a penthouse in Manhattan or buy our own 757 jet for vacations. We, and they, assess our respective priorities, abilities, and means, and make reasonable decisions. None of us have a right to insist that we live in Palo Alto.

When my wife and I were starting out, with two graduate degrees, we started with an 800 square foot house in a lower-middle class part of the East Bay. We commuted, saved, got promoted, and lucked out to buy pretty close to the lowest price house in Palo Alto 7 years later, in 1988. We were probably about Kate's age. It was a serious stretch back then.

How much more of a stretch is it really today? Adjust for inflation at 3%, and compare to a similar house today: it's roughly 3x. But mortgage rates are lower than ever which compensates. Call it 2x overall. So, in real dollar terms, Palo Alto SFH are twice as expensive as they were 30 years ago. From the tone of many of these articles and posts, you'd think it's 100x.


2 people like this
Posted by Theodore
a resident of another community
on Aug 16, 2016 at 12:43 am

@mauricio

No, you are missing how everything is connected.

Kate Downing advocates for micro-units because every 2 to 6 micro-units is 1 SFH available to a family. 100 luxury condos are roughly 100 SFH for somebody else. But that only works if there are enough micro-units to saturate the market. It’s ridiculous to ask anybody to spend $2.7 million for an ordinary house in Palo Alto, when it’s not even that great of a house. $2.7 million is much more expensive than a condo at the Infinity Towers in San Francisco (for example), and that includes a state-of-the-art fitness center, on-site concierge, lap pool, 16 seat theater, walking distance to a bunch of parks, jobs, shops, and restaurants. We need to restore balance to the market so that $2.7 million home goes back to a more reasonable price.

Likewise, I am aware of the urban heat effect and resource consumption. Cities are actually a solution. Instead of paving over some wilderness and installing an HOA that requires green lawns with excessive water usage, in a region where humans need heating and air conditioning to survive, with zoning that requires multi-mile drives to buy milk, we can put people in existing paved areas. Preferably some place where air conditioning is optional. We don’t need so many luxury towers if we can build moderately dense buildings over a large area, with plenty of retail and groceries integrated so the inhabitants don’t have to drive for essentials.

As for being full, did anybody call Palo Alto full 100 years ago? No, we cut down the orchards and replaced them with tract housing so that you have somewhere to live. Now, you are saying Palo Alto is full? No. We should cut down the downtown, including the Palantir offices, and replace them with mixed jobs and housing. Moving away is the worst outcome, because the job is still in Palo Alto, so it forces them to drive a car 90 miles per day, take a parking spot, emit emissions, wear down the road, and displace some surfer or student in Santa Cruz. NIMBY at its finest.

Of course, urban growth can’t go on forever. The good news is that it won’t go on forever. The trends highlighted by Hans Rosling show that, regardless of religious attitudes toward children and state policies, increased prosperity and increased health lead to decreased fertility and, eventually, decreased populations. Already, Japan is becoming known for urban regions with very high density and very functional transit, while rural areas are reverting to wilderness. This shows that the kindest path to limiting human impact lies with increased prosperity, not by turning engines of growth into museum set pieces and forcing economic growth to sprawl somewhere else.
Web Link


4 people like this
Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on Aug 16, 2016 at 3:54 am

@M7, don't forget 3) Great weather. I suspect that's what your children in Washington will miss most.


11 people like this
Posted by Jason
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Aug 16, 2016 at 7:14 am

Here's a hard truth: the more expensive the housing in Palo Alto, the less we have to put up people who shouldn't be allowed to live here to begin with.

We moved here because I was tired of my kids going to school with the children of nobody's. Otherwise we could live in Sacramento or some flyover hellhole. And I know many of my neighbors feel the same way. It's great to be part of a forward-thinking, progressive community made up exclusively of smart, influential, and wealthy people who are changing the world. I think I speak for a lot of PA citizens when I say that expensive housing has its benefits and is absolutely worth fighting to keep.

Kate probably isn't wealthy enough to understand our mindset, which isn't our fault. But maybe we should be more careful in the future by keeping city policy positions staffed with only people who can.

-Jason


12 people like this
Posted by Resident1
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Aug 16, 2016 at 8:19 am

Resident1 is a registered user.

@Jason -- I hold out hope that you are joking ("Sarcasm!" as Trump would say). But if I thought that my neighbors or my kids' classmates or their parents had attitudes like the one you describe, or even a large minority, I would leave here as fast as possible. It makes me sick to even contemplate, actually.


17 people like this
Posted by Me
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 16, 2016 at 8:40 am

@Theodore, you said : "... $2.7 million is much more expensive than a condo at the Infinity Towers in San Francisco (for example), and that includes a state-of-the-art fitness center, on-site concierge, lap pool, 16 seat theater.."

clearly these are the things you value, but they are not the values of Palo Alto. That's one of the many reasons that are out of sync with the majority of the posters on this thread.

you also said : "Japan is becoming known for urban regions with very high density and very functional transit..."

Have you ever been there ?
Anyone who has been there would never advocate turning Palo Alto into a copy if what Japanese cities have become.

Once again, I suggest that your values and ideas belong in a place like "a condo at the Infinity Towers in San Francisco". Please stop imposing your values on our town to benefit Plantir.



4 people like this
Posted by Me
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 16, 2016 at 8:49 am

[Post removed.]


4 people like this
Posted by Me
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 16, 2016 at 9:03 am

@Theodore,

One more thing regarding your comment "$2.7 million is much more expensive than a condo at the Infinity Towers in San Francisco (for example), and that includes a state-of-the-art fitness center, on-site concierge, lap pool, 16 seat theater, ..."

You need to tip a Concierge, so that might make the annual cost comparable once you add in the tips.


12 people like this
Posted by Resident Too
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 16, 2016 at 9:59 am

This has become such a long thread, I can no longer find the poster whose link I followed to this story in Time:
Web Link

It turns out by an overwhelming majority, millenials want to live in low-key less dense areas like suburbs and even rural areas, only 10% want to live in city centers. Please everyone cooy that article to our City Council. Ruining our town to cater to the whims of the latest wave of yuppies will hurt our town in so many ways in the future. Allowing overbuilding only brings in more people who are fine with destroying everyone else's quality of life for more overbuilding.

Someone above made a really disingenuous calculation about Palo Alto's population density, forgetting that we aren't about to turn the hills and open space into urban centers. Palo Alto proper is a lot more densely populated than that. Anyone who has driven across town over the years can see the results of poor planning.

Ossifying our infrastructure - like making it difficult for cars, making El Camino a sunless tunnel with no walkable sidewalk - will only make it difficult to impossible to take advantage of new technology - cars with embedded solar panels (already happening), self-driving cars making a smaller vehicle purchase literally a safer bet, etc. - new technology that could make large public transit vehicles obsolete, expensive dinosaurs. The development we allow should be subject to heavy scrutiny based on water restrictions, safety, and universal design meaning good for everyone including the disabled (development over the last several years in Palo Alto couldn't have done a better job cleansing the area of the disabled/mobility impaired if they had tried).

I will be looking carefully at PASZ's endorsements for the coming election.


8 people like this
Posted by sarcasm
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 16, 2016 at 10:08 am

"Jason" (Palo Alto HS) is being sarcastic. He's well aware that this thread has a national readership.


5 people like this
Posted by bud wiser
a resident of Downtown North
on Aug 16, 2016 at 10:25 am

Jason - you sound like one who likes a bar that charges $20 for a cocktail to keep the riff raff out


28 people like this
Posted by Resident Too
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 16, 2016 at 10:29 am

Jason also clearly didn't understand that Downings make far above the median income here and described their pain at not being able to buy into the most expensive segment of housing here right out of college. The Downing's are the kind of people his sarcasm attempts to skewer.

I got news for you Jason: What the Downings are doing is directly attacking the ordinary people who live here, who, like many described above, worked really hard over decades to live here, and still not in any style the Downings clearly feel entitled to. I don't recognize her description of who lives here because my neighbirhood is nothing like that. My neighborhood is mainly teachers and other educators, professors, a rabbi, a few doctors, a few contractors, a few engineers... But I think my neighborhood probably didn't meet Downing's expectations of the high life.


16 people like this
Posted by Palo Alto Paly Alum
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Aug 16, 2016 at 10:30 am

Downing is a whining. This isn't a socialist country. My husband commutes 40m to work. We moved here in 2005 and could not afford our house today. But if looking to purchase now, we would move elsewhere instead of demanding low cost housing. I love the people and convenience of the Palo Alto location but there are other nice communities on the Peninsula too.

Foreign investment should be halted. However, they can work around it and it will appear as if it's American money. I guess there could be an ordinance that houses cannot be bought and left empty or bought and rented. The best thing would be for the owners to view the summaries of the potential buyers, which is what we do in our neighborhood so the neighbors don't get screwed.


11 people like this
Posted by Gale Johnson
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Aug 16, 2016 at 11:28 am

Gale Johnson is a registered user.

Be patient! I've read several articles that indicate the end might be near to the rapid, and not normal, escalation/appreciation of home prices in PA. And reports from realtors themselves...longer DOM's, more homes selling below asking price...are examples. In my own case, if Zillow is a good source and basis, my house Zillowed at $2.6+ million a year ago, and it's down to $2.45 million now. I don't know or understand all the factors but if foreign cash buyers slow down or stop, that will be a clear sign. Still no comfort for those who still won't be able to afford to buy here.

But to all those who complain and play the blame game, what is your solution? Do you think a $2.5 million home should only cost $1 million? Are you willing to put up with the economic upheaval, and disaster, that it would take to make that happen. There's no way you could avoid being a part of that upheaval. You would be swept up into it.


15 people like this
Posted by Always a Cycle
a resident of Los Altos
on Aug 16, 2016 at 12:44 pm

Home sales are always a cycle. It will be interesting to see how the foreign owners react. They have stashed cash in the U.S. by buying all-cash real estate. They are "Banking" on Palo Alto. Will its prices fall in the next bust? It survived the last one pretty well, not even dipping to speak of. But that cycles too.

One thing Palo Alto has done differently is to not have the high office expansion in the city. Nearby cities have grown explosively with regard to workplaces. Palo Alto has seen only the same kind of stuffing more people in the same space in offices as in homes. Hopefully the job losses in Palo Alto will be less as a result. People overlook when kvetching about the imbalance that Palo Alto has done such a good job of resisting corporate job expansion. Palantir has been PA's secretive Google, snapping up lots of space in many locations downtown. Otherwise, expanding companies have had the sense to relocate elsewhere when they got well past the startup stage.

The person above who said luxury condos free up single family homes is wrong. Luxury condos are still not favored by retirees. They want to stay in their own home as long as possible. Luxury condos are just a way to maximize profits for real estate developers. The land is expensive so they make expensive units to match, whereas what would be more logical would be vanilla rental units for middle income or median income renters.


13 people like this
Posted by pares
a resident of Barron Park
on Aug 16, 2016 at 1:32 pm

Another point to be made to all those in favor of stack and pack: You are facilitating further emptying the pockets of the very bright and hard working young techies who will fill those one and two bedroom apartments. A good chunk of their salary will have to go to rent, benefiting the developers and investors. They make way more profit than if they were building in other areas, such as Oregon or Colorado or Texas. So developers and investors push for crowding in more housing here to the detriment of those renters. And all of us will have to deal with the consequences of the strains that puts on schools and services as well as traffic.

If CEO's care about their employees, they will expand where those employees can get decent housing at a decent price.


17 people like this
Posted by Sigh!
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 16, 2016 at 3:15 pm

Unfortunately, the truth is that most employers/ CEOs do NOT care about their employees. They aren't even answerable to their clients/customers-- only to the shareholders.


6 people like this
Posted by Generation Y
a resident of Los Altos
on Aug 16, 2016 at 3:42 pm

Overlooked in the discussion so far has been the youth culture currently in the workforce. The CEO's are having to think differently about such young employees. Never before has there been such a high proportion of the workforce in their 20's At the same time, their compensation has been growing.

So compare to 1985. Interest rate differences mean the same salary can afford twice or more in the way of a home purchase. Salary growth means employees can afford four or more times as much in price. Increased all-cash purchases to the point of being the norm rather than the exception in Palo Alto.

Wow! Even without a shortage, you can see where prices might be 8 to 10 times higher!

People used to have to wait until well into their 30's to do a home purchase. The concept then was a "starter home" in a less desirable area (most likely a different city). Then the equity would grow from that 20% down payment home. A new purchase would eventually made with a 20% down payment on a higher priced more desirable house. Maybe at age 40 that would happen.

Wow, things really have changed, and it's mostly not related to any sort of housing shortage in like comparisons. Maybe more younger people are making an expensive home purchase, and that's an increase in demand for the same population totals.


8 people like this
Posted by resident
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Aug 16, 2016 at 4:18 pm

In the SJM today 08/16/16 Scott Herhold - their resident columnist wrote about this issue "Palo Alto out because of housing costs". The article is about the Kate Downing issue as well as his own personal takes on the situation. The article closely reflects the overall situation until there is a jarring reference to the Measure D issue which lost because "Presumably it would have included shabby pensioners".
So where is that coming from? That is not why Measure D lost - it was because of poor overall planning for the specific site.
That is not typical of this columnist so it will be interesting to see where this all goes - but clearly a lot of people have a lot at stake here.


9 people like this
Posted by M7
a resident of Palo Verde
on Aug 16, 2016 at 4:34 pm

@Generation Y: at least from my point of view, the younger generations are not overlooked. Every 20-30 years such a generational shift occurs. In the 80s and 90s computer hardware was in a similar position as today's software. There has been a constant ebb and flow over the decades. How the top companies treat their employees today looks almost exactly like 20-25 years ago. Details differ, but not substance.

It is my view that such cyclic economic and social waves are very positive in the long run. But such waves, by definition, cause change, and some will be dislocated, unhappy, frustrated, and so on. And in the short run things may be pretty out of balance. But far worse is statis: everything stays the same. Stasis is a guaranteed recipe for decline.

We should consider ourselves very fortunate. There are many regions in the US where there has been just ebbing without new growth and replacement. Even LA with a strong aerospace industry after WW II fell into fairly deep upheaval in the 1970s as defense budgets were cut back after Russian detente and the end of the Vietnam war, and again in the 1990s after the fall of the USSR. What we have seen in Bay Area real estate over the last 10 years indicates that even with major economic problems, our local economies, including real estate, are reasonably strong and resilient. What more could we ask for? Homes get priced based on what people are willing to pay, and the benefits of this region have attracted buyers with substantially high means *and* the willingness to trade off many other things to participate. It's probably not too well balanced today, but look again in 10 years.

And remember, 30 years from now you will be watching such a cycle from the other side.


Posted by Sigh!
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood

on Aug 16, 2016 at 4:44 pm


Remember me?
Forgot Password?
Due to violations of our Terms of Use, comments from this poster are only visible to registered users who are logged in. Use the links at the top of the page to Register or Login.


Like this comment
Posted by Jerry Underdal
a resident of Barron Park
on Aug 16, 2016 at 4:49 pm

Jerry Underdal is a registered user.

The San Jose Mercury recommended a Yes vote on Measure D, unlike it's local affiliate the Daily News.


6 people like this
Posted by A Foreigner
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Aug 16, 2016 at 9:51 pm

I noticed some misunderstanding of propositions related to property tax here, so just wanted to clarify for some of you in case you do not know the following details.

In California if you are over 55 years of age, you can sell your property and buy one for the same dollar amount or less and KEEP YOUR OLD PROPERTY TAX BASIS. This means your property tax bill does not have to go up when you down-size or maintain-size your main residence and sell. So actually retirees or to-be-retirees CAN sell and move if they wanted to. The main thing holding them back I believe is having to pay the huge capital gain tax. That is probably another topic for another day, but I always thought California tax is the most ridiculous in the country and due for a major reform. But I think that is too much wishful thinking given that the US government is short on revenue, high on debt, and the way things are looking they are likely to take away more of our hard-earned money in the days to come. Anyone ever heard of this book called "When Money Runs Out" by Stephen King? It is a decent read.


10 people like this
Posted by Not exactly
a resident of Professorville
on Aug 16, 2016 at 11:04 pm

There are sets of counties in California with reciprocal agreements allowing the continuation or protection of basis valuation for property tax appraisal purposes, but it's not universal or state-wide.


Posted by Kazu
a resident of Downtown North

on Aug 16, 2016 at 11:38 pm


Remember me?
Forgot Password?
Due to violations of our Terms of Use, comments from this poster are only visible to registered users who are logged in. Use the links at the top of the page to Register or Login.


2 people like this
Posted by Duveneck resident
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Aug 17, 2016 at 1:29 am

Downey has some further thoughts & opinions in another interview. Link below. Apols if this was posted already.

Former planning commissioner says Palo Alto has worst housing ...
Curbed SF - 13 h ago

Web Link


7 people like this
Posted by Another timely article
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Aug 17, 2016 at 2:26 am

Web Link

Despite the article's title, its content applies not just to SF but to the whole bay area


3 people like this
Posted by resident
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Aug 17, 2016 at 8:35 am

I would like to note that companies that do business with the government have to regulate pay scale to a cost-of-living index for any geographic area. So all of the boomers that bought houses way back when were making salaries that were based on the cost of living index at what ever time they bought houses. They were bringing in salaries that have no comparison to what people make now in the bay area. So there were no "deals" - everyone was lucky to work and settle here in what was then the country. All those buildings in North San Jose were fields of orchards. We were not big business then - just fields with small towns and growing number of housing developments to fill the land. That is just the history of the area. Growth is evolutionary.


18 people like this
Posted by Mom
a resident of another community
on Aug 17, 2016 at 9:14 am

There is no room to build much of anything in Palo Alto. Lots of room in Atherton. Just because few jobs in Atherton, doesn't mean they shouldn't be required to build more housing. Build huge apartment buildings there, and they can easily take a bus down El Camino to jobs at Stanford or downtown.

We really need to figure out how to move business centers around the state (such as SLO, Gilroy, Sacramento).


6 people like this
Posted by Midtownie
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 17, 2016 at 9:25 am

I'm not understanding the people who are saying that transportation and other infrastructure woes are reasons to not increase housing. If you keep waiting for all the stars to align, nothing will improve. More housing may put more stain on infrastructure for some time, but it'd also mean more taxes and more residents to demand expanded services. More dense housing in the area would possibly mean less traffic if people are close enough to their jobs to walk/bike/train.


5 people like this
Posted by burble
a resident of South of Midtown
on Aug 17, 2016 at 9:42 am

@Mom -- absolutely not, there should never be a requirement to "... build huge apartment buildings there". That is "I know better than you" otherwise known as socialism. This is a fundamental issue. Your idea is to require someone else to do something you think is right. Put the shoe on the other foot. How would you like it if someone else outside of your community found a way to require you to add sidewalks, or remove sidewalks, or increase housing density, or decrease housing density? Pick something you do not want, and imagine someone else finding a way to force you to do it?


3 people like this
Posted by burble
a resident of South of Midtown
on Aug 17, 2016 at 9:54 am

@Mom -- and moving business centers happens on its own. Did you notice that software development moved out of Silicon Valley and into San Francisco? And that many new startups are starting to locate south of San Jose, i.e. Morgan Hill? And SLO is its own technology center that is growing? And very big movements into (unfortunately out of state) Seattle area?

Previous posters mentioned cycles over decades, and that things are not always in balance which creates change, and that we can't wait for everything to be perfectly aligned. That happens all the time. So housing density vs. job density gets out of balance -- it will correct, either by cities realizing they need to provide housing, or employers realizing they have to move out. Both are happening. It will fix itself, just not in perfect lockstep. Look where we are today vs. 50 years ago. Overall, we have many more jobs, and many more houses. Santa Clara County alone has increased population from 1.1 million to 1.9 million since 1970, and is projected to grow to 2.6 million by 2050. It's happening. Contra Costa County has an even higher projected growth rate, from 0.6 million to 1.6 million over the same time frame. If you haven't noticed, large and small employers are establishing major office space in Pleasanton, Livermore, and nearby.

Give people time and they will adapt to imbalances. Government, not so much. It's ridiculously slow, inefficient, and gets in its way all of the time.


26 people like this
Posted by Resident Too
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 17, 2016 at 10:23 am

@Midtownie,
Actually, not. You can strangle a region with overbuilding in ways that can't be fixed. The kind of housing being proposed does not bring in taxes to nearly pay for the services used, and in a system filled to capacity, such as full schools, the increased costs are not incremental. In contrast to Downing's myopic view of locals, there is a large "house poor" population here and in every Bay Area City. They can't easily move to reduce increasing burdens foisted on them (among other things like children in schools, there is the problem of prop 13 making moving untenable when it comes to cost).

Overbulding in an arid space (whether through densification or sprawl which is worse) isn't something to leave to chance, dealing with that kind of planning is an important function of government. It is far easier and beneficial for us to move office capacity out than to build more housng here. If you look around the nation, there are many places losing workers that want them. The difference between the places becoming more crowded and places losing workers is that companies are gravitating to places with a constellation of desirability factors to attract better workers. Those places are being loved to death even while other cities are dying. Increasing the number of desirable places by making grants to cities that want those improvements is a small investment in our nation that could solve many problems nationally (and locally when there are more, desirable choices of places to live.) It would solve many problems locally and make our nation stronger. First we have to identify that special sauce and how to help the cities who want the growth to make it. (Not rocket science.)


4 people like this
Posted by Midtownie
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 17, 2016 at 11:19 am

@Resident Too

I appreciate the thoughtful reply and understand where you're coming from. It's reasonable to want to boost other cities with incentives for businesses to move there, but I'm not sure that would substantially change the desirability of being as close as possible of where all the action is.

And if housing increases wouldn't bring in enough needed taxes alone, perhaps there'd be a case for grants *here* to build more schools and transportation to continue to invest in the future of educating and building for our future as an even stronger hub of innovation for the world.

I'm not directing this at you, but it seems like a a lot of the negative sentiment hinges on whether Palo Alto is/remains a suburb vs. a city. There are a lot of experiential and aesthetic reasons I'd love to see Palo Alto remain the way it is, but it means more to me that we continue to foster the greatest things yet to come in technology in pursuit of improving the lives of billions around the world. My backyard just isn't as important as that. As someone who commutes from PA to Oakland I have empathy for all the lost productivity and happiness from bay area commuters. Building more homes closer to jobs and more jobs closer to homes seems like they're both the right answer.


26 people like this
Posted by Magic
a resident of Community Center
on Aug 17, 2016 at 11:40 am

I see many people reacting to the arrogance expressed in the original letter and subsequent interviews. Most of us homeowners spent way more on our homes than our neighbors had spent on their very similar homes. No complaints about the "inequity," just glad to move into a home far more modest than the Palo Alto houses selling for $3mm today. In many cases, we had rented for years -- yes, even starting a family in a small apartment with no garden -- before we could afford to move into a SFR.

The thing is, when you buy your first residence, your financial situation may seem unreasonably dire but it is only going to get better. You may have to cut back on the international travel and dinners at Gary Danko for a while, but your shelter costs will remain mostly fixed while your income rises. The mortgage that consumes every cent you've got will, after not that many years, become less of a burden.

Downing and her ilk seem to think that once our kids are out of the school system, we should sell our homes -- well under market value, of course -- to someone like her. But I'd guess that most of us like living in a neighborhood with people of mixed ages and backgrounds, and even though I'm not a Prop 13 fan, I think it's great that it helps people stay in their long-time homes after they retire.

Nevertheless, if she wants to start a revolution, she can begin with the current legal/tax system. Capital gains taxes are onerous, and no one wants to write a check for $1mm+++. It makes much more economic sense to stay in a home than to sell it. The inheritance tax laws are much more favorable, wiping out the capital gains tax obligation when a parent dies and the child gets the house. The incentives all favor parents passing along their homes to children rather than putting those houses on the market. And adding a lot of pack & stack will most likely serve to drive of SFR prices even faster.


16 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 17, 2016 at 11:53 am

Midtownie

I see where you are coming from and I appreciate your insight, but as someone who is commuting from Palo Alto to Oakland, you must at least appreciate that building more homes in Palo Alto (if we could find enough space to build a variety of homes rather than pack and stack) is not going to mean that people will live near where they work. I have no idea about your personal choices, but presumably your choice to live in Palo Alto was made for reasons other than it being nearby to where you work. Perhaps you used to work in Palo Alto and changed jobs, or your spouse works in Palo Alto, or you heard the schools were good in Palo Alto, or a hundred other reasons why you live here and commute to Oakland.

We have an OK sized backyard, but it isn't fair to my neighbors to even think of using it to house more office workers. We don't have the parking space and we don't even have the curb space for extra cars. Don't get me wrong, I would happily take in a grandparent of ours who needs somewhere to live their twilight years, but afterwards, what would become of the space?

Whether we are classed as a suburb or a self contained city is, to me at least, irrelevant. Any of us living here in Palo Alto cannot live self contained in Palo Alto. Some of us may work close by to bike or walk. Some of us may be close enough to public transportation to use it without the need of using a car also. But, all of us need cars to get to affordable shopping, to recreation, social and leisure activities. I don't know what definitions you may choose to use to define a suburb or a city, but in my estimation we are living in a region where the borders between towns and even counties are irrelevant to how we live our lives.

Many of those who work in Palo Alto are living elsewhere. They are probably just like you, they live somewhere else for reasons that they want to continue living there. Police, teachers, and other public workers, often want to live outside the city in which they work for family privacy concerns.

I am not against building more homes in town, but it has to be done right. I am very much against the idea that we need to balance the number of homes with the number of jobs. Bad idea. Will not work. The more homes built here, the more people will choose to live here for reasons other than they work here.


27 people like this
Posted by Resident Too
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 17, 2016 at 12:19 pm

@Midtownie,
Palo Alto has been a place where innovation happened long before the last ten years when overbuilding of office space chased out low-income residents and community-serving retail. In fact, letting a few companies take over and keep out the small startups runs counter to what you say you want. There is no inherent conflict between Palo Alto being a low-key nice place for residents and innovation here, because that's what Palo Alto has mostly been. It's the densifying and uglifying we have no track record of and doesn't bode well for the future.

If we are fighting over slices of the pie, let's make a bigger pie. Thoughtfully creating the conditions that lead to more centers of innovation so that people naturally take some of the strain off the existing desirable places is so much better for our nation and even our national security. What would have happened to our economic strength if we had never built the interstate highway system? I have driven across the nation enough to see the decline over the decades. People are packing into nice places and fleeing less nice places. The solution is to make more nice places - look at what's happening to Boulder and Austin as companies realize what great places they are and they both attract more and more people and jobs. The culture, the natural beauty - and yes, the ability to live comfortably - are big draws. They're getting overcrowded, too. This nation is full of potential, we just need to get over our laissez-faire hangover and invest in us again. I'd rather see us gain more great places than overuse, oave over, and ruin the ones we have. It's also better for health, economic reasons, national security, the environment.


45 people like this
Posted by Why oh Why
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 17, 2016 at 1:52 pm

Why do we even care about angry parting shots from an arrogant, self-entitled wannabe?

Le it go and end this thread!


2 people like this
Posted by Diego Aguilar
a resident of Stanford
on Aug 17, 2016 at 2:38 pm

[Post removed.]


1 person likes this
Posted by SEA_SEELAM REDDY
a resident of College Terrace
on Aug 17, 2016 at 3:11 pm

SEA_SEELAM REDDY is a registered user.

Let's agree one thing.

Having home values go up 40% for home and investment owners is a good thing; for them and their families and investors.It is reasonable to demand high rents just as in NY Manhattan. We get it.

Now, we need to trickle down the wealth. Wages should be in the $150,000 year tech graduates; $100000 for teachers etc.

How do we pay; charge $29.50 for hamburger. We need to recycle money as a closed loop system; everybody gets it. Not just owners and real estate agents with 4-6% commission.

By the way, Switzerland already does it. Burger King in Basel has a hamburger special for 15.95 Swiss francs. Here we go; trickle down economics.

Learned from educated guess being at 2000 El Camino Real Starbucks taking visual surveys of spending habits of our beloved community of 18th congressional district.

Respectfully

Respectfully


3 people like this
Posted by A Foreigner
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Aug 17, 2016 at 3:24 pm

@Not exactly is right, not state wide. But I am pretty sure you can carry your old property tax basis as a 55+ year old within all of Santa Clara and San Mateo counties, if you downsize or maintain size that is. That is a pretty big chunk of "local" area to consider.


7 people like this
Posted by A Foreigner
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Aug 17, 2016 at 3:31 pm

@SEA_SEELAM REDDY, with respect, your Burger King or burger tax just won't do what you said. If you look at the demographics of spending, those who are considered wealthy rarely goes to such fast food chains. You will be hurting the same people you want to help. I think the problem with this country is lack of accountability in spending, period. California already has one of the most outrageous taxation in the country, and yet it has not prevented this state from being mired in boom and bust cycles (ie, poor fiscal management). You can continue to push the tax button, but soon the money runs out, then what?
I think some fiscal discipline and accountability is what we need.


15 people like this
Posted by M7
a resident of Palo Verde
on Aug 17, 2016 at 3:43 pm

Many very thoughtful points all around. There are many wonderful places across the country with similar qualities to what we have here, but at much lower prices, and all with different tradeoffs from here. Every one of us, or our parents or grandparents, had reasons to pull up roots and come here. If the current location does not suit our needs, nothing is keeping any of us from repeating the same move our elders did.

Santa Cruz, Seattle, Boulder, SLO, Austin, San Diego, Phoenix, Salt Lake City, Portland, Boise, maybe even Las Vegas and the Inland Empire: these are all places in the Western US with attractive and improving social, economic, and technology developments. Palo Alto is not the end-all, be-all. It has a particular set of attributes that make it attractive to a particular set of companies and a particular set of residents. Not all of us are permanently part of those sets, given that both the sets, and we, change over time.

That is not to say that we shouldn't be active in improving where we are. But we need to be realistic about what can be changed, and not spend our valuable energy tilting at windmills. And we need to understand that there are much bigger forces pushing in certain ways that we will each need to decide if we want to go with the flow, or get out of the water. For example, take a look at the many, many volunteer groups who really get things done, like staff libraries, provide teacher help, manage traffic at school, support children's health or suicide prevention. These aren't people with crazy startup jobs or stretched thin to make ends meet. These are largely retirees. A big part of the quality of life here comes from these folks. A community is defined by the whole community, not just the latest arrivals or those who would like to join but haven't been able to. This seems like the fundamental oversight in Downing's opinion. And I think we hear that in many of the more thoughtful comments here.

For those of us who have been here a while, I think we recognize that in 5 or 10 years it will all be different again. Remember 10 years ago Google had just bought YouTube, Facebook had just opened up membership beyond schools, and Apple was still a year from introducing the iPhone so the entire "app economy" did not even exist. There were no GBuses running up and down the Peninsula, or extreme shortage of apartments in SF. Uber did not exist. I would not trust anybody saying how things are "sure to be" 10 years from now. The only thing we know: they will be different. Stick around for the fun.


15 people like this
Posted by Magic
a resident of Community Center
on Aug 17, 2016 at 4:04 pm

Those of you hating on the "longtime homeowners protected by Prop 13" -- try to keep in mind that all homeowners benefit from Prop 13. Given current rates of appreciation, you will feel the benefits a year after you buy your house. I get it that millennials don't care for anyone over the age of 40, but there are plenty of local millennials, including some of my neighbors, who bought houses and are getting the Prop 13 protection.

Prop 90, which a few people have mentioned, is kind of a joke. Yes, you can keep your property tax if you move within a small number of counties -- 11, as I recall. So instead of paying $15,000 a year you'll only pay $10,000. Meanwhile, you had to hand $1.5mm to the IRS when you sold your house. What incentive does anyone have to move? In other parts of the country, empty nesters might downsize, but most of us are raising families in homes that would be considered barely big enough for two people elsewhere.

To those of you who accuse homeowners of being greedy and not wanting to share: be careful what you ask for. Cram enough development into this town and it will soon become a place where you would never want to live. At least some of us have the bigger, longer-term interests of this community in mind.


14 people like this
Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Aug 17, 2016 at 4:51 pm

Maybe Downing and PAF can put their energies into reducing the cost of relocation. Right now the state taxes cap gains as ordinary income as if we were making $X millions a year.

Them there's the federal tax.

Then our fine city gets its share of the profits via its "document transfer tax" which is very odd since it assumes that it costs so much more to transfer the gains from sellers for an expensive house as for a cheaper one. Then it collects the new stepped up tax basis for the higher purchase price. Nice for them, not so much for us.

On top of that, the city wants to raise the price of housing by adding on $150,000 "developer fee" to single family homes and have the residents PAY commuters to come into and leave Palo Alto by subsidizing their transit costs while our quality of life suffers.

Let Downing and PAF start opposing the tax burdens instead of preaching to the rest of us.


42 people like this
Posted by Ben Rumson
a resident of Green Acres
on Aug 17, 2016 at 6:44 pm

Why is it the city's job to provide housing for Plantir employees ?

Plantir is worth Billions. They chose to locate here. Why did they locate here and then not pay their employees sufficient salaries to find housing ? Let Plantir step up and support their employees if they want to do business here in Palo Alto.


Like this comment
Posted by Theocore
a resident of another community
on Aug 18, 2016 at 1:18 am

Something missing so far in this discussion, why I started caring about housing policy, is individual freedom. The whole reason we allow capitalism is because individuals, working for their own self-interest, could improve conditions for everyone else. The whole invisible hand thing. And for the most part it has worked pretty well. So, I see people proposing to put a dent in our ridiculous housing shortage, and there are protests, and accusations of communism or fascism or both, and this all seems so wrong.

Indeed, your lifestyle, a house separated from its neighbors, enabled by mechanical movement from a factory-produced vehicle, supplied by unskilled workers whom you will never meet, that is the Fascist vision of the ideal society. Remember how much mutual respect there was between Henry Ford and Adolph Hitler. Including that whole anti-Semitism thing. Just because it has been coopted by the winners of WWII and is the only lifestyle you personally know doesn’t change its basic nature. (And now that the Godwinning is out of the way; though, to give credit where it’s due, I thought to connect housing policy to Fascism when a local NIMBY told me that getting rid of cars was Fascist, when actually the opposite is the case.)

Well, capitalism hasn’t been entirely flawless. It gave us the local economy that has made your houses so expensive, but it also gave us lots of Superfund sites. So, clearly, there have to be regulations. The regulations should be crafted to prevent very concrete harms. Including the harm of unrestricted hazards in the construction approval process. So what if a developer makes a profit, even a very big one? They would make a profit using their individual freedom to provide something useful to the community.


2 people like this
Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on Aug 18, 2016 at 1:39 am

@Ben, why do I keep seeing that argument about insufficient pay? If two of your employees are bidding on the same house, or 100 of your employees are bidding on the same 50 houses, it really doesn't matter how big a salary you give them. Half will be left out and move to Santa Cruz. But it sure does drive up the cost of living for the rest of us.

Eventually companies do open campuses in cheaper areas where they don't need to pay such high salaries to attract or keep employees. To remain on the cutting edge, a smaller R&D presence may be retained here with key personnel, but the majority of staff and labor really don't need to be here. HP has 315,000 employees. They aren't all where the company was founded.


4 people like this
Posted by Gale Johnson
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Aug 18, 2016 at 10:57 am

Gale Johnson is a registered user.

@Magic
I've made the same argument before. New owner buys next door to a neighbor who bought 10 years ago. He's upset about the tax differential. Ten years go by. A new owner moves next to him. Now he's happy and his new neighbor is the one that's upset.
This works as long as prices keep going up, but if the market goes flat or drops then any new buyer will be the one smiling. Funny how that works. From "Godspell", 'someone's got to be upset'!


2 people like this
Posted by Gale Johnson
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Aug 18, 2016 at 2:06 pm

@M7
You nailed it. I know so many people, young people and mostly family related, who live in other cities and states. They have good jobs without Phd's and can afford nice homes where they've located. I see them on Facebook. They smile a lot, seem relaxed, and are happy to share pics of their homes and stories about how much they love living where they do. There is no way I could convince them that living in PA would be better than what they have now. They'd probably question my sanity and wonder if I needed psychiatric help.

Also, a little reflecting back. We moved here in 1961 when I accepted an engineering job at Philco WDL, then started working for Kaiser Electronics on Page Mill Road in 1964. We bought our house here (a very small and modest tract home) in SPA in 1963, rented on Alma before that. Things were not a lot different back then except for the magnitude of scale. I was employee number 298 at KE and I think I was only one of a dozen or so who lived, owned or rented, in PA. The others with young families commuted from EPA (easy commute), San Jose, Sunnyvale, Cupertino, Fremont, Union City, Milpitas, et al. My boss, a BSEE graduate from Stanford, was the program manager of a big contract with Grumman Aircraft, and probably made twice or three times my salary. He lived in Fremont. They made choices to buy newer and bigger homes outside of PA. We were invited into many of their homes on special/party occasions. I was always envious because they had bigger and newer homes, but I always fell back on the feeling that PA is the right place for us to be, to live in our bungalow. I'll never regret it.

During the first couple years living here we did our research. We learned quickly about the schools' reputation, and we liked the small town, college town, atmosphere. That's what kept us here until we could save up a little more money for a down payment to buy our house. That town, my town, is unfortunately, gone forever. We have to adjust to the 'new', but not always better 'new'.


7 people like this
Posted by Chris
a resident of another community
on Aug 18, 2016 at 5:05 pm

I grew up in Palo Alto, and I lived in the bay area for a few years after college. The Bay Area used to be a place where outcasts and misfits went to find acceptance and freedom. Now it seems to have turned into a place people go to hate other people. Boomers, who bought cheap houses in freshly minted environmentally-destructive car-dependent suburbs call millennials "lazy" for their inability to afford $2.7m homes. Activists in San Francisco shame young professionals, whose primary fault seems to have been to study hard and get good jobs. Young professionals complain about the influx of other young professionals into their neighborhoods, fearing the end of their neighborhood's faux-bohemian coolness. Trust-fund hipsters derogatorily call other trust-fund hipsters "hipsters." People call developers greedy robber barons. People spit on the windshields of corporate busses that take traffic off the roads. People call housing advocates "shills" and their organizations "astroTurf."

I moved to Houston on a whim several years ago. At first, I was distraught to leave one of the most beautiful cities in the world for one of the country's ugliest. But I soon came to realize how refreshing it is to live in a city that embraces its next generation, and a city where people don't obsess over what color their neighbor paints the front door, or if they build a secondary apartment in their back yard. If you want a single-family home, great! But don't complain when someone tears down the one next to you and builds a fourplex. The amount of city pride here is incredible. There's generally a feeling that Houston, while not beautiful today, is a city of the future, and can become anything its residents want it to be. The architecture has gotten markedly better over the past few years, and the population in the urban core has exploded. Increasing housing density has increased the tax base, allowing Houston to build 3 new light rail lines, with more lines and extensions in the works. We revamped our bus network and invested millions in public parks and trails. And you can still find a decent 3br place near downtown for under $250k.

I'm not saying all Bay Area millennials should give up hope and leave the vitriolic, frustrated city Palo Alto has become. But rather, we should embrace change and stop caring so dam much what other people choose to do with their own property. Palo Alto needs to again become a city of the future, instead of one trying desperately to cling to the past.


4 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 18, 2016 at 5:31 pm

I am so sad that stack and pack housing is considered to be more important than some of the amenities that give people R & R or affordable restaurants.

When we lose Palo Alto Bowl for housing and when we lose the Olive Garden for housing, we are losing out.

This is nothing about long time residents v newbie tech type millennials, it is about all of us having a quality of life that centers around a lifestyle that suits those of us with average income, those of us with families, those of us who want to live in a neighborhood where we can go out to have fun, or go out to have a meal, and yes, bump into people we know.

I feel that the average Palo Altan cannot afford to eat out where the average entrée and beverage has little change from $50 per person. I feel that the average Palo Altan wants to be able to have some family fun that is affordable. I feel that the average Palo Altan wants to buy childrens shoes for under $20 and a pair of jeans for under $50.

We are becoming a dormitory town where everything that is affordable is leaving because housing or offices are being built instead with "retail" that costs an arm and a leg.

If people want to live in pack and stack housing without parking and near where they work or transit, then where will they go for affordable amenities. The way things are going in town, they will have to go out of town to find it.

We can turn areas of town into a pack and stack concrete jungle and people will live in them, but don't be surprised when they get into their cars to drive out of town for evening and weekend entertainment and errands because we don't have space for them any longer. They may not even work here either.

BTW, don't call me a NIMBY, I think I am much more of a realist. I pay high property taxes, the family walks and bikes and most groceries are bought in Safeway and Piazzas, but we miss some of the liveability that used to be here.


7 people like this
Posted by Gale Johnson
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Aug 18, 2016 at 5:59 pm

Gale Johnson is a registered user.

@Chris

Wrong. Please don't tell us what we need to be. We will be what we want to be. The voters of PA will decide. Going back to the 50's, 60's, and 70's of the last century, PA grew because there was cheap land to build on, and at least in SPA where I live, we had socio-economic and ethnic diversity. It made for a great community feeling. For many reasons that changed and it will never be the same again. With developers holding sway, too many offices have been built in the wrong areas, causing the jobs to housing imbalance and real estate prices have escalated at abnormal rates, again due to many reasons. And there's always talk about affordable housing. And that's all it is, just talk. RWC gets held up as being forward/future looking on housing, and there have been thousands of units built there, but for the most part they are luxury units. That's how owners and developers maximize their profit. One bedroom apartments renting for $3800 per month. Certainly not affordable for very low income, low income, or median income people. But without lecturing us, people should and will do just what you did. You did what was right for you and are happy. Others will follow.


23 people like this
Posted by Data
a resident of Barron Park
on Aug 18, 2016 at 6:09 pm

Under Prop 13, my property tax bill has increased by 21% in the last 7 years. You can confirm this on Zillow for most any property in Palo Alto.
Unfortunately, my salary hasn't increased at that rate.
I'm not sure if I can keep paying the increases.
Being priced out of my home by property taxes is my misfortune I guess.

Why would anyone advocate a an increasing annual tax on the assessed value of an unrealized asset.

Perhaps we should annually tax the value of each of the Plantir owners share of their company's assessed value, and the employees stock options whether exercised or not, as well as the assessed value of any stock holdings whether liquidated or not).


1 person likes this
Posted by M7
a resident of Palo Verde
on Aug 18, 2016 at 6:50 pm

@Chris, I hope you realize that 40-50 years ago similar actions, and some much more violent, were taken across the country, including the Bay Area, as it adjusted to new ideas of openness, racial integration, the flexing of a younger generation's muscles, and opposition to government actions. Vietnam War and the draft, Civil Rights, Watergate, riots. For some the changes were too fast, or shouldn't be happening at all. For others, the changes were not enough. For many, government overreach called for revolution. No, I mean *real* revolution. There was far, far more chaos 40-50 years ago than today, and far more "haters". Who were in the middle of all this? Boomers. You may have more in common with them than you think. You might even learn something from them, as they would from you.

Here's one thing experience teaches: many of the things we do today, and decisions we make, may look pretty close to idiotic 40 years from now. Some may look heroic. But we won't know which until much, much later.

I may be living under a rock, but in my circle I have not heard a single one of the expressions you mentioned from any people I interact with on a daily basis, and a number of those people are heavily involved in the city and county, politically and volunteer. I have no idea what kind of people moved to Palo Alto for its "faux-bohemiam coolness" but they clearly didn't do their homework. And so, of course they are frustrated. I think you can clearly see why those of us who have been here a little longer might not want to succomb to the latest attractions de jour. If that turns off those looking for coolness, oh well.

In any case, your unhappiness caused you to pull up and move elsewhere where you are much happier. This is exactly how it should be. I may find myself in the same position some day, for reasons I cannot yet identify. I hope not, but I'm aware it may happen. Life is too short to spend it unhappy.


8 people like this
Posted by Commuting fiend
a resident of another community
on Aug 23, 2016 at 5:50 pm

Commuting fiend is a registered user.

I tried to move to Palo Alto in 1996 from Minnesota for a job out of graduate school with my fiancé. There was 99.5% occupancy in PA then, thanks to the dotcom bubble. We were forced (!) to find an apartment in San Francisco which was also crazy then, but we had to face the crazy commute down to PA. We got used to it and loved being in SF, so some pain was worth it.

Even back then, two professional incomes (with no kids) was a stretch. We liked to have some semblance of a life, so we would go out and enjoy restaurants, travel and such, as any young person wants to do. We didn't live high on the hog and we really couldn't save after rent, even then. The ONLY reason I'm a homeowner in San Francisco is that I inherited money to get us in the door.

This is the reality folks. If you don't make $500K+ or have some familial funding of some sort (having your father die is not really worth it), you can't buy a home in PA, SF or really anywhere on this side of the Bay--period. This was the case 20 years ago and, now, in this current bubble, even more so. You can't expect young professionals, many of whom have advanced degrees, to be happy living on Ramen Noodle to scrimp and save for a house just for the privilege of living in the Bay Area. Go elsewhere, you say, and pay your dues! Come on, really? Is this what you wish for your kids and their kids? This is okay because the mighty $ dictates so? Listen, I've only recently gotten rid of the futon couch I had in college so I'm not someone who expects "champagne wishes and caviar dreams."

While I admire Kate Downing's courage in raising a stink about this problem, I also respect the long-term resident's perspective that this is nothing new. Regardless, this is not about pointing fingers at Boomers, Millenials and Gen X'ers (and other ridiculous media definitions of people) and also demonizing those scary Chinese investors. Those "labels" are our parents, our children, our neighbors and friends. If Palo Alto cannot be empathetic, creative and innovative about the problem, I'm not sure what community can.

Stop being NIMBYs, stop blaming others, and put those great minds to work to come up with a solution. It won't be quick and it won't be painless. However, if we become a community that can only sustain the 1% in perpetuity, we're in for a lonely future. I task Facebook, Apple, Google and the like to HELP!


8 people like this
Posted by resident
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Aug 23, 2016 at 6:28 pm

So you want the help of Apple and Google? Great article in the SJM today that the major companies are adding work areas in Arizona that has a lower cost of living and affordable houses. Apple has a huge campus in Texas. Google has subsidiaries all over the US. If you like a company and want to work with them you can look on their web page and see the locations where they have facilities. Most major companies have locations all over the US.
The bad news there is that pay scales are adjusted to the cost of living for the area. If you work in Florida do not expect your salary to be the same as someone who is working in the bay area for the same company.
So that focus is working for a specific company that can help you grow vs just working for anyone because they happen to be in a specific town.


16 people like this
Posted by Resident Too
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 23, 2016 at 7:16 pm

@fiend,
We do not make anything like that and neither do my neighbors and friends. We did not inherit our home. We had to get into the housing market twice because of hardship in between. You describe a willingness to lead a lifestyle many if us could not to get into the housing market. Not just in terms of costs and comfort, but focus of your time. The fact is, you can't get into the market if you stay a renter and lead that kind of lifestyle. If you want to get into the market without that kind of salary, there is another thread right now from which people can get pointers.

People make their choices, and luckily, there are choices. Maybe not easy ones or the ones people most want - my life would be very different if I didn't have to spend 15-30% of household income on medical every year. I would dearly like to visit my family, too. We made a choice to live and work here, and it's not a terribly flexible one. Speaking if compassion, you could have a little comoassion about so callously taking away what others sacrificespd so much for. I really don't see that it's any harder now to get in a house than 20 years ago, especially with 3.5% zero point jumbo loans that were unheard of back then with 9-12% interest and always points on jumbos. What's different is the sense of entitlement, and the significant drop in quality of life over the last ten years from all the thoughtless overdevelopment. What is the end game here? When people are greedy for "more", it's never enough. Have comoassion on the rest of the country where there are so many places that want more workers and young tech ones especially. If you are anxious to push development, there are places that want it. Problem solved. This isn't exactly an island.

As to your calling people who don't want overdevelopment NIMBYS, apparently you missed this:
"Just a correction to the use of the word NIMBY. It is a term for people who have an ideology that suggests one action but only if it happens somewhere else, such as retaining affordable housing or having mixed-race neighbors. It is not a term that applies to people who object to stupid, myopic, unbridled growth without any thought for the degradation of the environment, quality of life, water, traffic circulation, schools, infrastructure, available retail, displacement of low-income residents, etc., because people object to that everywhere. I don't think myopic poorly conceived overbuilding belongs anywhere, here, there, anywhere. Thus, the term NIMBY is misapplied.

On the other hand, the steaming pile of hypocrisy Downing laid out in her letter - she wants Palo Alto to build lots of small apartments but won't live in one herself it's for those other people, or, she gripes about affordability but steadfastly ignores the needs of existing low-income residents whose housing gets drastically more expensive and who are getting pushed out because of precisely the policies she advocates, the luxury apartments making overbuilding so attractive to developers (we should save affordable old housing stock, only not in her backyard) - now THAT is NIMBYism. "


4 people like this
Posted by Robert
a resident of another community
on Aug 23, 2016 at 7:18 pm

@Data

It sounds like your friends and neighbors would tell you to move to Redwood City or San Jose, or consider moving out of the Bay Area altogether, you have no inherent "right" to live in expensive zip code. They'd probably also add that they're completely sympathetic to your plight.


27 people like this
Posted by Mary
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Aug 23, 2016 at 7:48 pm

Resident too is right. No one has a right to live in Palo Alto, or anywhere else.

Fiend admires Kate Downing for addressing our "problem." Excuse me, but Kate Downing's inability to afford the kind of house she wants in Palo Alto while maintaining her lifestyle isn't "our" problem. It's Kate Downing's problem, and she needs to to solve it in a way that makes sense for her. (She and Palo Alto each are probably better off that she chose to solve it by moving to Santa Cruz.)

Lots of posters in this thread and in others have detailed the sacrifices they made and ingenuity they had to muster to solve their own "problem" of buying a house in Palo Alto. Individuals know much more about how to solve individual problems than do city governments. What is it about the current generation that wants to turn everything into a collective "problem" for others to fix?


7 people like this
Posted by Resident Too
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 23, 2016 at 8:35 pm

The buy in and move up thing is not a one-way street. I have friends who sacrificed even more than anything I've seen described here in order to get a house in Palo Alto. When the market moved up, they moved to places like Oakland or Milpitas or SoCal and live quite nicely. The ones who moved out of state did the best of all. the downpayments really set people up for nice lives. I know someone who freelances and the years in EPA then SoPA gave them a great standard of living when the kids arrived and they moved out. They can't afford to move back but don't care, they can afford to travel here whenever they want.

That energy to remake places in the way PAF wants is really welcome in places losing workers. Think of what this country could be if that energy were sincere. Bring that up and the crickets or nonsensical attacks (why in the world would such a win-win merit an attack?) highlight the hypocrisy of PAF,


1 person likes this
Posted by Theodore
a resident of another community
on Aug 28, 2016 at 12:25 am

What’s with all the jumping to conclusions here? I didn’t say I wanted a condo with an on-site concierge. I want a simple life, but at a simple price. It’s ridiculous that it costs more to buy what was originally a middle-class hovel than to buy a spot in a luxury tower.

@Gale Johnson,
I do think the $2.5 million house should go back down to $1 million, and even lower. I acknowledge that this will hurt a lot of people a lot, disproportionately the young and poor, but the alternative, keeping it high or higher, is actively harming all of California. Housing is a basic need, the bottom of Maslow’s hierarchy. Housing that rises in price faster than wages is housing that nobody can afford. Well, nobody except for all those who bought when it was not affordable; it was terrible back then, too; but at least cheaper. Then you all die, and then what?

A term I see a lot here is “pack and stack.” The reality is that, zoned or not, we are getting packing and stacking. The HBO sitcom Silicon Valley dramatizes this a bit: Erlich Bachman’s “incubator” is a single-family house divided into a number of SROs and illegal work spaces. The Downings packed a house with roommates, before they moved to Santa Cruz. In my neighborhood in San Francisco, single-family houses are being renovated, divided, and rented to 5, 6, 7 different working adults. Parking at night is… frustrating.

Whether we like it or not, we are getting increasing density. What we get to influence is how it happens. Personally, I would prefer intentionality. Build more housing units near transit corridors with less parking, which makes high speed transit financially viable and reduces per capita resource consumption. Mix housing with other basics, so they don’t need a car to get affordable food. (I use the word “they” because I, for one, recognize that helping others also helps me.) Speed up the building process, so that “market price” goes down from breath-taking luxury prices to normal-person prices. Or else we get illegal inlaws, headline-inducingly ridiculous sublets, and normal-person retail being driven out by rising rents and labor costs.


4 people like this
Posted by Not the whole story
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Aug 28, 2016 at 11:48 am

So many cliches.
Supply and demand. But what if the demand is unlimited, and the supply is limited. I don't recall this phrase in the 10 Commandments. There is a leak in the demand flow, it is being imported.

Jobs/housing imbalance. Phrase made up by a developer. Who says there needs to be a balance? Developers and their supporters.

Innovation. Many of the companies littering the downtown are making GAMES, not useful software. Time wasting, often violent games. Creativity? yeah, right.

Take a look at what Palantir specializes in, software for the "Organized OIL industry." I think of Palantir when I buy gas.


2 people like this
Posted by Robert
a resident of another community
on Aug 28, 2016 at 12:15 pm

"Jobs/housing imbalance. Phrase made up by a developer. Who says there needs to be a balance?"

It means there are more people than houses, perhaps you've noticed the exploding homeless population, the RVs lined up on El Camino? Or have you fallen for this "entitled young techie" meme and think this was a complaint about making 300k and not being able to afford to live in the Bay Area?


12 people like this
Posted by Mary
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Aug 28, 2016 at 12:35 pm

Jobs/Housing imbalance? In what world is every political jurisdiction required to have the same number of jobs and housing. Palo Alto has more jobs than housing units. Atherton, Portola Valley, Woodside and Saratoga, among other cities, have many more housing units than jobs. Do they have a housing/jobs imbalance? Should they be required to provide more commercial buildings so they will have an equal number of housing units and jobs?

And of course, this ignores all the nonsensical Utopian dreaming about having people close to jobs and transit lines to reduce commuting. That's not the way Silicon Valley works. Lots of people - probably the majority - who live in Palo Alto commute to other cities for work. And given the rapidity with which people change jobs and careers nowadays, even if you start working at one place, you'll soon be working somewhere else. Are you supposed to move every time you change jobs?

Enough with the jobs/housing canard. It's just an arguing point for developers and PAF types who would remake our city for the sake of profit on the one hand and ideology on the other.


9 people like this
Posted by Not the whole story
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Aug 29, 2016 at 11:55 am

Just read an article Kate Downing wrote promoting PAForward. She describes it as a "non-profit."
As a lawyer she knows that calling it a non-profit implies IRS501(c)(3) registration.

PAF is NOT a 501(c)(3). Ms.Downing is carefully dishonest in this instance. PAF isn't trying to make profit for the organization, but the intentionally misleading language by a lawyer is noteworthy.


29 people like this
Posted by BooHoo Hate
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 29, 2016 at 12:17 pm

BooHoo Hate is a registered user.

You all need to realize that you are giving Ms Downing exactly what she hoped to achieve: quarreling and massive internecine fighting, pitting neighbor against neighbor and renters against owners.

Ms Downing is an overpaid, underworked spoiled sourpuss. Palo Alto residents should not let her world such power over everyone.

She's gone, let her go.


Like this comment
Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on Aug 29, 2016 at 2:58 pm

I googled "non-profit" and see nothing about 501(c)(3).

501(c)(3) appears to be synonymous with "tax-exempt."


2 people like this
Posted by Marie
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 22, 2016 at 4:21 pm

Marie is a registered user.

Best response to Kate Downing's resignation letter yet:

Web Link


Like this comment
Posted by Brian
a resident of another community
on Jan 2, 2017 at 6:48 pm

The discursive narratives here are mostly off-topic personal attacks that should discourage anyone from living in the community.

The vast body of housing studies clearly demonstrate the housing market is consistent with standard economic theory.
1) Prices increase when demand outstrips supply. Everyone seems to agree this demand also includes wealthy foreign investors, so it's not likely there is ANY level of increased development that could possibly be achieved will result in a housing bust from over-supply.
2) Increasing density is the most environmentally sustainable form of urban development. Moreover, density lowers the per/unit cost of infrastructure, increases land value and tax revenue. Density is also an absolute necessity to support public transit.

The conclusion I draw from the majority of arguments presented here is Palo Alto has made a conscious choice to exclude the "working class" and maintain outdated auto-dependent, single-family development patterns. The net result is likely to be increased gentrification driven by the flow of foreign capital seeking safe haven in form of vacant McMansions.

I don't have a dog in this fight, so here's my unbiased opinion. The people who are claiming an entitlement are the current residents who just happened to be born in an earlier generation, who believe they are entitled to exclude others (a.k.a. "immigrants" from another community, state, or region) from economic opportunity on the basis of discursive arguments presented above.



4 people like this
Posted by solvetheproblem
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 2, 2017 at 7:06 pm

@Brian
You are blaming the current residents for the problem, which is easy to do, but I don't think that's the problem. Instead, you should be asking why do CEO's keep building and adding jobs here when the price of housing has been too high for at least two decades. Why not expand tech development in other states or other areas of California where the housing is more reasonable?

Those CEO's who can afford to live here might find it convenient but aren't thinking about their employees. And, with the internet it has to be possible to be elsewhere and still be well connected.

What's awful is that the very rich profit again by building dense housing units/condos here and renting them out. So those high salaries here aren't so high after paying rent.


10 people like this
Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jan 2, 2017 at 8:16 pm

We have so much to be thankful for to Palantir, Downing and the US Chamber of Commerce for their lobbying efforts-- our new president, our new Congress and our new city council, our new Cabinet officers and all of their priorities.

Of course increased density and under-parked office buildings will ultimately bring down prices just as autonomous cars and road diets will reduce gridlock.

Please ignore the new Oxford University study saying that 47% of all jobs will disappear in 25 year and that governments are totally unprepared to deal with the societal impact. Please ignore the studies noting that millions of truck drivers and delivery people will become unemployed.


Like this comment
Posted by Curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on Jan 3, 2017 at 11:08 am

"...you should be asking why do CEO's keep building and adding jobs here when the price of housing has been too high for at least two decades."

Ego. Plain unvarnished ego. It's the mystique of a Palo Alto, Silicon Valley, Universe, corporate address.


Like this comment
Posted by 20s Renter
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jun 4, 2017 at 1:00 pm

It's generational warfare and selfishness, simple as that. Prop 13 and no new housing helps the boomers at the expense of their children. The people I know with grown-up children are watching their children struggle to live in the SF Bay Area, and often move to less expensive places like Colorado and Texas. How sad!

I myself considered moving away, but am here for the industry concentration. Still, I'm renting because it's soooo expensive to buy anything. And I'm making a lot of money by any reasonable definition, and still find it really hard.

If you bought your house years ago, do yourself a favor and calculate how much it would take to buy nowadays. Also look at how much rent costs. It's hard to save up when the rent is so high, and hard to buy when the price is so high.

Do you really think this is fair, that those in their wealthier years should benefit at the expense of those just starting out?

[Portion removed.]


14 people like this
Posted by Mary
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jun 4, 2017 at 1:31 pm

20's -

One hears a lot about millennials and their overweening sense of entitlement, but I've never seen it put on such vivid display.

No one is forcing anyone to stay in Palo Alto and pay high rents while lamenting the high price of real estate. It's a choice, and as the poster points out, many others have chosen to move to other places where the real estate market isn't so daunting.

Anyone who's in their 20's and feels oppressed because they can't afford a house on the Peninsula really needs to get a grip on reality - and start making choices that improve their lives rather than just complaining.

It's always been a tough market. My husband both had good incomes but had to rent until we were in our mid-30's to be able to buy a small run down 2BR house in town. And we didn't rent in Old Palo Alto either. We rented in towns where we didn't want to live long term but had lower rents so we could slowly save enough to gather a down payment. We were disappointed that we couldn't afford to buy a house when many of our friends who lived in, say, Texas could. The difference is that we didn't presume that we were somehow entitled to buy in Palo Alto right away, or that there was some grand conspiracy against young people that was keeping us out of the real estate market. We didn't blame others. We thought our lives - including what kind of house we lived in - was what we made of it. We didn't blame others.

And we were no different from others in our time.

20's Renter has a lot of choices that others don't. He/She would likely be much happier focusing on that and trying to make the best of circumstances than blaming others for his/her unhappiness.


8 people like this
Posted by resident
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Jun 4, 2017 at 1:54 pm

If any one checks out the Wall Street Journal they have a section called Mansions. This includes real estate in general areas that have a high turnover - like Austin Texas. You can get a really nice home there for a relatively low price. I often wonder where these writers grew up? Where do the parents live. Is 20 Renter ragging on the parents to move out of their home? What did the neighborhoods look like back home? We were renting an apartment in our 20's to collect enough for a down payment. There is nothing unusual to be renting when in the 20's. And companies are locating all over - Apple has a huge facility in Texas. There is a huge amount of building that will go on in San Jose - most local companies are building in that area to add working space. So what if 20 ended up working in San Jose? Plenty of apartments there.


2 people like this
Posted by resident
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Jun 5, 2017 at 7:05 am

When I see comments about generational warfare I have to wonder about the upbringing of the writer. Does this person go home to see the parents and beat them up and rage at them? People work hard and plan out their lives based on what the situation is where you area, and if not to your taste then you can go somewhere else. The world is full of choices but raging on your parents is not one of them.


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

He said – she said – who is lying? Justice Brett Kavanaugh or PA resident Christine Ford
By Diana Diamond | 71 comments | 3,743 views

Global Warming Diet
By Laura Stec | 6 comments | 1,367 views

Couples: "Taming Your Gremlin" by Richard Carson
By Chandrama Anderson | 0 comments | 1,266 views

Preparing for kindergarten
By Cheryl Bac | 0 comments | 716 views

Let's Talk Internships
By John Raftrey and Lori McCormick | 0 comments | 287 views

 

Race is tomorrow!

​On Friday, September 21, join us at the Palo Alto Baylands for a 5K walk, 5K run, 10K run, or—for the first time—half marathon! All proceeds benefit local nonprofits serving children and families.

Learn More