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Guest Opinion: What can be done to address Palo Alto's shortage of affording housing?

 

When demand exceeds supply, prices increase. To reduce the price of any commodity, including housing, you increase the supply. We have no control over the demand for housing. People will go where they want to go. Pulling up the drawbridge is not a winning strategy.

Government controls the supply of housing. Restrictive zoning is one of the most effective controls in limiting the supply of housing. Some examples:

• Zoning that limits the number of dwellings per acre.

• Minimum lot sizes that limit the number of homes that can be built in an area zoned for large lots.

• Height limits that reduce the number of units that can be built on a parcel.

• Restrictions on second dwelling units.

• Restrictions on building condominiums within certain zones.

• Green lines.

• Denial of mixed-use projects that include a residential component.

These and other examples enable local government to limit the supply of housing, which results in increasing the cost of housing.

Government also increases the cost of housing that is permitted to be developed. Examples include impact fees, inclusionary zoning fees, and building permit fees.

Policies adopted by local government that attempt to create more affordable housing but fail to do so (and actually have the opposite effect) are partly to blame for the lack of affordable housing. One example is inclusionary zoning. It has been tried for nearly 50 years, and has failed to produce any meaningful supply of affordable housing. Palo Alto pioneered that policy in the 1970s. Today Palo Alto finds itself atop the list of the most expensive, least affordable residential communities in the country.

In an article authored by law professor Larry Ellickson entitled "The Irony of Inclusionary Zoning," he demonstrated that inclusionary zoning works like a lottery. New housing developments are required to include an average of 15 percent of the new homes at prices well below the market level. The few people who qualify to purchase the affordable units are able to obtain affordable housing, while the other 85 percent of the market-rate buyers pay more.

Palo Alto is now proposing an impact fee of $50 a square foot, equivalent to $50,000 for one 1,000-square -foot apartment. The theory is that new housing somehow creates a need for affordable housing and therefore new housing should be charged a fee so that the fee can be used to subsidize affordable housing. Common sense tells us that you cannot make something more affordable by starting out to make it more expensive.

The cost of land is a large part of the cost of housing. The greater the number of homes that can be built on a given parcel of land, the lower is the price of the land component for each house. The original project proposed for Maybell was for a 72-unit project including 60 low-income senior apartments and 12 single-family homes. If the value of that property is $18 million, the land component price of each of the 72 homes would be $250,000. After the ballot measure to defeat the project passed, thus killing that project, subsequent proposals included, first, the 30-home project that would have increased the land component per dwelling to $600,000. The next proposal was for 23 homes, which would have increased the land component per dwelling to $782,000; and the final proposal, which is for 16 homes, increases the land component per dwelling to $1,125,000.

Height restrictions also limit the number of homes or apartments that can be built on a parcel of land, and force builders to maximize every square inch of land available, thus reducing opportunities for creating useable open space. Palo Alto is an example of what that leads to: a city that is on the way to becoming a 40-foot-high beige mesa.

Restrictions on building second units on a parcel limit the supply of affordable housing. If the city were to remove restrictions on second dwelling units, the result would be more affordable homes at no expense to taxpayers; and, they would be equally distributed throughout the community rather than being concentrated in a "housing project."

What is the single greatest barrier to achieving a meaningful supply of affordable housing? As the saying goes: "We have met the enemy and it is us." We decry the lack of affordable housing and bemoan the presence of homeless people in our community. But when it comes to affordable housing in our neighborhood, we sing a different tune.

The term "NIMBY" is not a pejorative term, although it is often used that way. It is a descriptive term ("not in my back yard") that expresses the feeling of a significant percentage of residents in any city. The term "NIMBYism" expresses a commonly held desire to protect one's "castle" by resisting any change in our neighborhood that we perceive as being against our interests or a threat to our peace and quiet to the value of our property. This is a natural instinct that many people find hard to resist.

Many folks, when their neighborhood or property is threatened in some way, will react as NIMBYs. Many communities are governed by city councils controlled by a majority of so-called "residentialists," many of whom react as NIMBYs when voting on new residential projects.

The path to affordable housing requires a change in attitude, changes in zoning ordinances, and the adoption of policies that offer incentives for the creation of new housing.

John Paul Hanna is a real estate attorney and a partner in the Palo Alto-based firm Hanna & Van Atta.

Comments

62 people like this
Posted by Wait a minute
a resident of Crescent Park
on Aug 26, 2016 at 7:27 am

Doesn't Mr. Hanna represent local developers who would benefit from the very changes he advocates? Why didn't he disclose that?


67 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 26, 2016 at 8:06 am

Squeezing more people into an area that is already impacted by over-enrolled schools, lack of space for cars to park (whether at home or at work), water, recreational activities, etc. etc. does not make any sense.

What would really help would be to effectively improve public transportation all over the Peninsula and the Bay Area as a whole. Getting people where they have to go on a regular basis (aka commuting) in an efficient, affordable, attractive manner, would really help.

If anybody wants to improve the lot of those who work here and can't find somewhere to live in town, then improving their commuting options in a realistic and useful way makes more sense than finding non-existent space to build pack and stack housing.


65 people like this
Posted by Mary
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Aug 26, 2016 at 8:24 am

What Mr. Hanna says in his article is largely correct. City policies do have the effect of reducing the number of houses that can be built along with the supply of houses in Palo Alto. He's probably overselling the effect of these policies on housing prices: It appears that prices are pretty inelastic when it comes to Palo Alto real estate.

But, whether or not they would affect real estate prices, the policies Hanna decries are also policies that control the density and size of Palo Alto and are meant to preserve the quality of life we residents cherish.

It's like this Mr. Hanna: most of us moved here and remain here because we like the suburban character of Palo Alto. We don't want to become more urbanized with denser housing development, taller buildings, much greater population, crowded schools and the problems that go along with being a bigger city.

Palo Alto could choose to build a lot more housing. We easily have the capacity to be a city of 500,000 people, or even more if we followed the policies Mr. Hanna advocates. But given this choice, I think most residents will choose to stay a quiet but vibrant suburb. Mr. Hanna's developer clients should look elsewhere.


43 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 26, 2016 at 9:19 am

Wait a minute. John Hanna says if you build a few more Accessory Dwelling Units, they’ll magically be affordable for low-income people? Really? They won’t go to Airbnb, or some young attorney or engineer? Facebook is adding 6,500 high-paying jobs next door in Menlo Park with housing for only a fraction of them, but of course none of the others will want to live in Palo Alto, so Expelliarmus! we’ll be economical once again? It’s just a theory.

Palo Alto is expensive because there are many times more people who can afford it than we could ever build housing for. The barrier to affordable housing isn’t bylaws, it’s who’s going to pay for that housing.

In order to have a low-price housing unit, some landlord has to take a low rent instead of a high one. The question is, who pays the difference? It could be the landlord, but most of them seem to prefer high rents to low ones. So it ends up being the city and county, who get the money either from taxes (residents pay), or from development fees (developers pay), or from selling off PC’s and other zoning upgrades (residents pay again, in terms of growth impacts).

Anybody but a Developer, or someone in their industry, would look at this and say, Developers are the ones making money building out the city, they should pay first. Hanna says, well this just ends up in the rent the other new tenants pay, but that’s disingenuous: the rent the other tenants pay is really set by what the tens of thousands of professionals who work in the area are willing to accept. And housing fees on commercial development should be even higher.

It’s unfortunate you can only help a few people this way, but that’s true of all these mechanisms. Land here is expensive, and ultimately somebody has to pay. So instead of Hanna’s “lottery,” how about we figure out a more sensible way to allocate what we do get? People who already live or work in Palo Alto, for example. Also somebody above made an excellent point about transportation.

Developers ought to pay first. But if residents pay some too, let’s pay it in taxes. At least then we’ll know what we’re paying. This city is lousy at negotiating zoning because it’s opaque, political, and nobody ever really knows the true costs until many years (and City Councils) later, which is one reason Developers and many politicians like this approach. Yet somehow the real winner always seems to be the Developers, and their industry. Wait, isn’t this what Hanna is asking for?

I have an alternative theory: if Palo Alto lets Hanna’s friends build some housing towers here, some of those 6,500 well-paid new Facebookers will move in and pay big rent, and everybody involved will make loads of money.

It’s just a theory.


43 people like this
Posted by Anon
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Aug 26, 2016 at 9:34 am

Mr Hanna seems to be advocating for a type of tall dense multistory housing that I'm sure he would want in his neighborhood.....so why does he advocate for ruining the quality of life in neighborhoods other than his own?

If you don't want your neighborhood to be negatively impacted by increasing height limits increasing density, population and car trips then don't ask other Neighborhoods to bear this burden.

May times I have heard people advocate for density along ECR in The Ventura Neighborhood, Along the Rail Corridor, where people already live in denser housing (in fully built out neighborhoods) than the expensive block of Hamilton, Where Mr. Hanna lives.

You May choose to call the residents of Ventura NIMBYs for not wanting to destroy their community....they are as appreciative of their low density residential zoning as the more wealthy residents of the same zoning in
Crescent Park or old palo alto.

It is not been proven that building housing will lower the cost per square foot, in fact in cities such Portland and New York where Micro units been built they are just expensive and limiting for residents.


28 people like this
Posted by anon
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Aug 26, 2016 at 9:48 am

It is the responsibility of local government to protect the rights of low density residential neighborhood and the folks that live in them, across Palo Alto equally and it is the moral responsibility of all residents of the city to advocate for this as well.

To suggest that among the same zones there are winners and losers based on household income in morally reprehensible.


17 people like this
Posted by Evan
a resident of Crescent Park
on Aug 26, 2016 at 10:08 am

Wow. Actual logic and working economic theory here.

Too bad this is Palo Alto, where residents and leadership prefer to stick their head in the sand and wish the problems away. Housing is too expensive? Let's kill jobs! That'll solve the problem, surely.


47 people like this
Posted by Faulty Analysis
a resident of College Terrace
on Aug 26, 2016 at 10:16 am

There is an effectively unlimited demand for $2 - 3 million housing in Palo Alto, so supply doesn't change the prices.

But increased density increases the return on investment for property (when demand is high), so that drives prices up and reduces affordability of housing. This increase also applies to substandard housing created specifically to be more affordable.

Over time, increasing density insures that housing consumers' dollars buy less: less living space, less land, less safety, lower air quality, less efficient transportation, less and/or lower quality water, less competent bureaucracies in formal and informal government, less opportunity to address small problems before they become big, less flexibility to trade space and light because there's less of it to go around.

Density is not a solution to high housing cost.


39 people like this
Posted by NoMoPa
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 26, 2016 at 10:18 am

@Evan - Have you always been a supply side economist? If you want to reduce the housing price (not sure I do), lower demand. Move jobs elsewhere.Most logically, move them into urban centers of San Jose, San Francisco, and Oakland that have major public transit infrastructure available.

The hidden cost to the supply siders plan is that if it does lower prices it won't be by meeting demand which is impossible in a small town, but by reducing the quality of life. If there is more traffic, more crime, overcrowded schools, more homeless, more pollution, then that might actually have an impact.


34 people like this
Posted by 6Djockey
a resident of Green Acres
on Aug 26, 2016 at 10:32 am

6Djockey is a registered user.

I don't believe we have too many restrictions on new developments in Palo Alto. In fact, many of the problems we have today--too much traffic, too little parking and putting too much stress on our infrastructure--arise because we don't have enough restrictions on new developments or we have made exceptions to the restrictions we already have. For example, we have already allowed too many offices to be built and too many employees to be crammed into both old and new office space. And now we want to cram more residences into every available space and compound our problems further? I don't think so.

One legitimate concern is that some of our workers have to commute unreasonable distances so they can work here. The solution is to build some low-income housing and at the same time improve the transportation system.


70 people like this
Posted by GIVMBYs
a resident of Crescent Park
on Aug 26, 2016 at 10:46 am

The Give Me Your Back Yard (GIVMBYS) contingent plays loose and fast with numbers and details and, as we see here, aligns with the establishment development community. But this jobs / housing issue can't be viewed at the micro-level of a small city, such as Palo Alto. It needs be viewed on a regional level. And on a regional level, we don't have a housing crisis. We really don't. I'll say that again - THERE IS NO HOUSING CRISIS.

Givmbys want to live in San Francisco and Palo Alto and Mountain View. So yes, the cost of housing in those areas has gone up a lot. It is not AFFORDABLE to enter the market in Palo Alto. But Fremont, San Jose, Milpitas and yes even Santa Cruz have housing at more reasonable rates. It's really quite doable, particularly for professional workers.

Our planning commissioner who "resigned" from her volunteer role (from which she missed many meetings) has lied repeatedly and extremely publicly in order to trash our city. She has bought a house much larger than many of us can afford in Santa Cruz on the coast. IS this a crisis? NO. Flooding in Louisiana is a crisis.

Do we want to fundamentally change the nature of Palo Alto?

That's what this manufactured crisis and slick publicity campaign from Palo Alto Forward and its supporters is about. We are at risk of changing from a single family home community with good school to a transient community of rented apartments. We are being told we MUST do this because of the CRISIS. But there is housing available in nearby communities. And that is as it should be. A small city is never balanced with 1 job per employed citizen. That is a regional measure. And our region has many bedroom communities supporting the jobs.

Don't fall for it Palo Alto. Think!


20 people like this
Posted by James Thurber
a resident of Mountain View
on Aug 26, 2016 at 10:48 am

Demand versus Supply? When rents skyrocket from $900 to over $4,000 a month? That's doesn't fit any supply / demand curve I've ever seen (and that's with a degree in economics).

I believe what's causing the shortage is that landlords, both small and large, are doing what would be referred to as "Milking" the populace for as much as they can. We all need housing and, knowing this, they attempt to squeeze out every dime / nickel / penny from tenants.

But wait . . . isn't our economy based on spending? It is. If more and more of a person's income goes to rent then less can be spent on the local economy. The result? A downward spiral ultimately resulting in a mild to moderate depression affecting (primarily) local business.

Of course, if folks just borrow and borrow and borrow (which we are VERY good at doing) things go well for awhile but ultimately the piper comes a knocking at the door and . . voila . . . depression.


41 people like this
Posted by Dan
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 26, 2016 at 10:58 am

Isn't this the basic gist of his argument:

The path to affordable housing requires destroying most of the reasons why current residents moved to Palo Alto. At the same time removing the protections and predictability of zoning throughout the region which allows people some ability to choose what kind of neighborhood they want to live in. Once that is accomplished a number of them will move to Atherton (if they can afford it or possibly to outlying areas such as San Ramon/Dublin where there is more land available anyway). The quality of life will be degraded so fewer people who have the money to pay will want to move to Palo Alto while supply of less desirable housing types will be significantly increased, causing prices to stabilize or fall ... either that or else maybe developers , landlords , and current property owners will just agree to take it on the chin and operate at breakeven or a loss. After all "landlord" is one of those professions that is so enjoyable, people should be willing to be on call 24/7 for free.
I guess I shouldn't really complain ... if you allow more housing units per square foot, the value of my SFH naturally goes up, not down. However, I didn't move here as an "investment" or to develop property . I moved here for the schools, neighborhoods and community.


37 people like this
Posted by Susan
a resident of College Terrace
on Aug 26, 2016 at 11:05 am

Why can't we limit the number of new office buildings and reduce the allowable people in office buiilding? We're jamming more people offices as we've gone from cubicles to large tables with laptops. Getting affordable, mass transit would also help. This fight to get affordable housing isn't working, so try going from the other end.


36 people like this
Posted by Sylvia
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 26, 2016 at 11:06 am

Thank you Resident, Mary, Givmbys and Anon, etc., for sensible comments. I agree that the issue of housing/jobs imbalance is caused by too much office development in a town that was, as other have stated, a bedroom community with trees, parks, good restaurants and excellent schools. I suspect that there has been some cachet about a Palo Alto address for a business.


8 people like this
Posted by Stew Plock
a resident of Triple El
on Aug 26, 2016 at 11:21 am

Cities like Palo Alto need much more affordable housing. That said, everyone who works in Palo Alto does not need to live in Palo Alto. There is lots more affordable housing to the north, south and east. When we lived back east, 40 miles from Philadelphia, I was in the city in 20 minutes by high speed rail.

Our regional transportation planning must move towards fast, timely and inexpensive alternatives to driving so that people living in the Peninsula or East Bay or San Jose can get into our city very quickly and easily by rail or bus. I support the VTA tax initiative on the November ballot because it moves us closer to a more effective regional transportation system.

350 Silicon Valley and the Silicon Valley Climate Action Alliance


20 people like this
Posted by Peter
a resident of College Terrace
on Aug 26, 2016 at 11:24 am

You say you like the suburban character of Palo Alto, but that suburban auto-centric model is simply not sustainable. It destroys the environment and degrades the quality of life for all but the extremely wealthy. The Bay Area has the highest percentage of mega-commuters in the nation and automobiles are the number one cause of GHG emissions in the state.

You say you want to improve public transit, but public transit requires housing density to function efficiently, and we already know you're opposed to greater density.

There are a lot of wonderful places that have higher density than Palo Alto. It's time to move forward and stop being so terrified of change.


32 people like this
Posted by jh
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Aug 26, 2016 at 11:49 am

jh is a registered user.

From Hanna & Van Atta's website:

"Hanna & Van Atta is one of the most experienced law firms in California in real estate matters and the premier law firm in matters pertaining to common interest development in the State of California. Located in Palo Alto, California, the firm represents commercial and residential developers, land users, and the commercial real estate and home building industries throughout California. The firm assists its clients in the legal aspects of real estate development and transactions, including purchases and sales, joint ventures and partnerships, financing, commercial leasing, and land use and development matters. We also possess extensive expertise in the field of condominium projects and other common interest developments. The firm also represents community associations with respect to their legal concerns and operational requirements, and has formed over 2,000 community and home owners associations.

Please explore our website to learn more about the firm's practice areas and representative matters and clients, our experienced partners, and the publications they have authored. The firm's three partners offer over 100 years of combined experience as lawyers who have specialized in all aspects of legal representation in the fields of real estate law. We are committed to providing the highest level of legal expertise and effective legal representation to all of the clients we represent, including real estate developers throughout the Bay Area and California, and purchasers, sellers, lessors, and financers in Northern California."

"Mr. Hanna has been selected in Best Lawyers, Who's Who in America, San Francisco's Best Lawyers, and Silicon Valley's Best Lawyers. Mr. Hanna has represented clients and obtained entitlements such as tentative and final subdivision maps, condominium plans and public reports for over 1,200 projects (residential, commercial and mixed-use) including more than 35,000 condominium units and over 22,000 planned development lots."


12 people like this
Posted by Railroaded
a resident of Crescent Park
on Aug 26, 2016 at 11:54 am

One more big factor that rarely if ever comes up - housing demand and supply are both driven by the rails that run through Palo Alto - a historic legacy and a future factor that shapes our community.

On the demand side, Palo Alto is the second busiest train stop after San Francisco terminus. Many of the jobs that impact that often quoted high jobs to housing imbalance are transit commutes - if there are going to be jobs and commutes anywhere, these are exactly the kinds of jobs and commutes we want to take place as a region. Because of its transit oriented nature, Palo Alto will always have the potential for more jobs and demand than other places and will always be more expensive/less affordable for that reason (amongst many other reasons that make it inelastic discussed by others above).

On the housing supply side, the coming high speed rail will turn what is a 3 to 4 hour long drive to Palo Alto from the Valley/Fresno into a 1 hour long train commute. That is the current time of the San Francisco:Palo Alto commute now that many young tech professionals take. People will continue to prefer to live in less affordable places like Palo Alto and San Francisco (I might prefer but can't afford Atherton for that matter), but supply affordable housing with a reasonable commute will increase dramatically.

Now the opposite might be true as well: prefer to live in Palo Alto and work in Fresno commuting for an hour via high speed rail. But individual preferences, company locating decisions and other market forces will dictate whether that is the case, not young professional who might prefer to live somewhere they can't afford yet.

The public transportation investments are already being made at a state level that will contribute to a solution to the regional problem of housing affordability out distancing unsustainable commute times.


10 people like this
Posted by Chris
a resident of University South
on Aug 26, 2016 at 12:14 pm

James Thurber,

Did you study Marxist economics?

Capitalist economics is "price is what the market will bear". That is what is happening in Palo Alto now.
It is also why some sellers are no longer getting their asking price.

The role of government is to rein in capitalist excess, not to destroy capitalism. The zoning in Palo Alto is out of whack.
How many other cities have the jobs / housing imbalance that Palo Alto has? Certainly, not many cities that are considered "suburban".


17 people like this
Posted by Goody
a resident of Los Altos
on Aug 26, 2016 at 12:26 pm

When you have a near infinite demand at most any price, and a relatively small supply, the "laws" of classic economics get strained. Read Econ 101...Samuelson.
You CANNOT increase supply to meet the near infinite demand and trying to do so will have many untoward consequences.

The joys of our mid peninsula are many....great many great careers, great schooling, great weather, and a generally great living environment. Yes, it cannot be enjoyed by all and to try and force that is futile.

I cannot afford a huge home, fancy cars, world class restaurant meals, first class air travel....I don't begrudge those who can, and I don't want government to GIVE me those things. That would be THEFT from others to give to me.

How about GRAND THEFT----GOVERNMENT.??uX


9 people like this
Posted by Justine
a resident of Crescent Park
on Aug 26, 2016 at 12:28 pm

Several cities in California have passed "small lot subdivision ordinances" to allow more density in their urban core: Sacramento, Costa Mesa, Burbank, Modesto and Merced. Cities have to change zoning from R-1 first, though.


18 people like this
Posted by mutti
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Aug 26, 2016 at 12:40 pm

The money out of China is coming to a halt. House sales in Vancouver, BC have plummeted. Tiffany's jewelry sales are on a steep decline. London and New York are seeing a glut of luxury housing with prices dropping like crazy. (All that's from recent New York Times articles.) The next bust is coming, so it will all even out. When 250,000 people in Santa Clara Valley lose their jobs, like in 2001, then our housing shortage will magically disappear.


13 people like this
Posted by Gale Johnson
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Aug 26, 2016 at 1:18 pm

Gale Johnson is a registered user.

If Mr. Hanna does represent local developers then almost everything he says should be discounted or ignored. And if he is indeed an R-1 zoned home owner on Hamilton, then he should recuse himself from talking about the NIMBYs and advocating ADU 'granny' units, because he probably wouldn't want multi-unit housing or grannies near him. Talk about 'the pot calling the kettle black'. What a horrible thing to do to granny. Exiling her to a shed in the backyard. Let her live in the main house or build a connected addition for her. That's intended to be humorous because we all know it ain't gonna be 'granny' living there. You can read many of my comments/posts on previous articles on the subject. I don't need to repeat them here.

'We have no control over the demand for housing. People will go where they want to go.' People go where there are jobs, not necessarily where they want to go. And for sure, people can't always live where they want to live. I agree with others...we can't build our way to affordable housing. In fact that term should be eliminated from our vocabulary for the time being, until another down side of the business cycle happens. Then we might be able to use it again.

Anyone who has read my posts in previous articles know that I have been supportive of high density housing in the areas where there are many office workers, mostly young, and mostly techies, but only to take care of the current demand by the workers who really want to live in PA to be near their work places without having to commute. As far as I know we don't have any idea how many that would be, but there are ways to find out. And we should also be reminded of how we got into this situation. Lax control on building too many office buildings without the companies taking enough responsibility for dealing with the resulting housing, traffic, and parking problems. This could have been prevented. We've had too many CC's that were enablers.

And now if Mr. Hanna would get his developer friends to step up to the plate. Be honest in answering these questions: Define, and be specific, what relaxations would you ask for in terms of ordinances and zoning changes?, and tell us where those properties are located where you would entertain building housing only projects. I give developers credit. They are very smart business people and I think they probably already know all the answers to my questions. But, will we ever get to hear the answers?? Hmmm!

And back to the subject of housing. I did some checking. There must be hundreds of apartments available for rent right now in PA. I only checked 4 complexes in my end of town (SPA), and they have 48 units available. The cheapest was a 595 sq foot studio at Stanford Villa renting for $2,275/mo. Now, the big question is...how much would a similar unit rent for in a newly constructed apartment complex in the downtown area? The developers could also answer that question, but will they?

And to talk about affordable housing by ABAG's definition and mandate is ridiculous. What would the income have to be to rent that studio apartment at $2,275/mo? Most of our gardeners, house cleaners, and caregivers, have families, so they couldn't afford it and they would even need larger units. The campaign season is upon us. Let's just enjoy the entertainment. The best actors will win.



14 people like this
Posted by Depressed renter of San Jose
a resident of another community
on Aug 26, 2016 at 1:23 pm

Please stop sending the people that work in your city into my city. I can barely afford to rent here let alone buy a studio condo.

Signed: Resident of San Jose


5 people like this
Posted by Deniece Smith
a resident of Mountain View
on Aug 26, 2016 at 2:41 pm

Thank you Mr. Hanna. The same thinking we have been using that is not fixing the problem cannot fix the problem. I appreciate your article.


8 people like this
Posted by quimby
a resident of Barron Park
on Aug 26, 2016 at 3:07 pm

I hear he's a great real estate lawyer. And, he's right - low supply + high demand = higher prices.


28 people like this
Posted by Bicycle commuter
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 26, 2016 at 3:23 pm

We are already in a hole with too much traffic. I'm ready for a good recession, and I would like the Palo Alto City Council to enforce the zoning laws regarding software development etc. that Pat Burt recently admitted the city is not enforcing. Traffic is already a mess and no one has implemented any reasonable solutions to address it . I don't want any more building of any kind; office, retail or housing, until there are solutions to the problems we already have. Why should a largely suburban town/city of 65,000 agree to hyper growth? High density jobs and housing need to go to San Jose where they belong and where the transportation infrastructure is more supportive.

Look at the California Street area - we haven't yet felt the impact of the 300 new VISA jobs or the new residents who will be moving in to the giant new development at Page Mill and Park. Do you think the cloverleaf at Alma is bad now?

Plenty of densification is ALREADY OCCURRING UNDER EXISTING ZONING LAWS. When cottages and bungalows are torn down and monster homes are built to house large extended families, which is happening all over town, densification is occurring. When office workers crowd into a decreasing amount of square footage per worker, densification is occurring. Many high density housing and developments have been or are in the process of being built, and Stanford is not done building yet. Let's come up with solutions for those impacts first before digging the hole any deeper.

I'm glad to see Mr. Hanna's greedy self interest exposed by other bloggers. Thank you.


24 people like this
Posted by Coordinated public transportation and NO new office buildings
a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Aug 26, 2016 at 3:50 pm

Coordinated public transportation and NO new office buildings is a registered user.

More housing in Palo Alto will do nothing to lower the prices, it will simply allow more people to live here. Investing in a coordinated, regional transportation system, would allow people to live where they can afford AND get to work in a reasonable amount of time. No new jobs thru a moratorium on offices would allow our jobs/housing ratio to get better.


17 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 26, 2016 at 3:55 pm

He also has a house in a flood zone, and sued the city when there was a flood.


7 people like this
Posted by Me
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Aug 26, 2016 at 4:05 pm

What's up with these comments. Do people really think that jobs in Palo Alto itself is the cause of the housing crisis?

Job in Palo Alto = Job in Redwood CIty = Job in Mountain View = Job in Menlo Park (= Job in Sunnyvale = Job in Redwood Shores...)

There are no Trump walls keeping us within Palo Alto. Blaming office development on University (and to a lesser extent on California Ave) is a complete red herring.

The whole region has economic growth. Stifling office growth in Palo Alto doesn't do anything.

As for Gale's comment "If Mr. Hanna does represent local developers then almost everything he says should be discounted or ignored. "

If you are clearly a residentialist, does that mean we should discount almost everything you say? That's a nonsensical stance.

The housing imbalance is a regional issue, but it's too bad that the residentialists have made us look like the most selfish of all. Thanks guys.


18 people like this
Posted by Justine
a resident of Crescent Park
on Aug 26, 2016 at 4:07 pm

For those who in previous article comments have expressed concern about foreign buyers of homes in Palo Alto, here's an interesting development. The title of the article is "Feds expand hunt for laundered money to pricey Bay Area homes"

Web Link

"Starting Aug. 28, title insurance companies must identify the people behind shell companies that purchase homes worth $2 million or more without a mortgage in San Francisco, San Mateo, Santa Clara, Los Angeles and Orange counties...Many high-end home buyers hide their identities by purchasing through shells. They might do so for legitimate reasons, such as to maintain privacy or shield their other assets if someone gets hurt on their property and wins a lawsuit. Or they might do it to launder or hide money."

Maybe this new law will slow down the escalation of housing prices here a little.


8 people like this
Posted by Gale Johnson
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Aug 26, 2016 at 4:28 pm

Gale Johnson is a registered user.

And to answer the article's topic question?...actually, there's very little that can be done. Build more and it will be more expensive and not affordable. They tried that in RWC. What did they get?...luxury apartments. We get what developers give us. We have very little control. Classic economics learned in Econ 101 just don't apply in this case and the reason has been explained by other posters.

And 'mutti' has it right, I think. We see those signs already, and, once they start, they will accelerate as mini-panic sets in on the selling side. It could cause the type of correction that will solve the affordable housing situation. Nothing else short of that, will. Homes, now listed at $2.5 million dollars, and selling for hundreds of thousands over that in the bidding frenzy days, might only sell for $2 million, maybe less. That's the kind of correction it will take. Certainly not good for recent buyers at the propped up prices due to foreign buyers, but it will bring us back to some sense of reality and normalcy. And then prices will go back up at a normal rate. Buying in PA is never a bad decision. You just have to hang in thru the ups and downs.

But, the added disturbing thing is the reporting about our PAUSD. If we lose that attraction, then it's an entirely new and different ball game. If we don't get that fixed and soon, that will affect home prices drastically.


2 people like this
Posted by Gale Johnson
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Aug 26, 2016 at 4:51 pm

Gale Johnson is a registered user.

@Me

Sure, feel free to discount anything I say. I'll meet you at the ballot box in November. Obviously, anything I say, that I think is based on rational thought, and not one sided...read my entire post...will be taken as residentialist NIMBYism. I'm just pretty unbending on my positions, just as you are. That's what makes for good political discourse, but as we've seen at the federal level in Congress, nothing gets done. So, come over to my side and all will be well and forgiven and we can get something done on this issue. lol!


2 people like this
Posted by Ouch!
a resident of Crescent Park
on Aug 26, 2016 at 5:01 pm

An accurate analysis of Burt's "kafkaesque" thinking

Web Link


7 people like this
Posted by Me
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Aug 26, 2016 at 5:07 pm

"I'm just pretty unbending on my positions, just as you are. That's what makes for good political discourse"

No it doesn't. That just means that people are speaking right past each other and refusing to listen to the other side.

I find it hilarious that people think that Econ 101 doesn't apply. How do you think prices got so high in first place? Right - lack of supply. To pretend that the fundamental basis for our economy simply doesn't apply here is completely ridiculous.

And that's why I find this nonsensical rationalization for "residentialism" to be embarrassing. For a self-proclaimed intelligent and educated community, I expect more. Then again, this is a regional problem - just look at San Francisco "progressives" twisting themselves in knots trying to justify hindering building (read up on Aaron Peskin and the Telegraph Hill Dwellers to go deep).

At least they are building housing in SF. We just get a bunch of hot air.


5 people like this
Posted by Gale Johnson
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Aug 26, 2016 at 5:17 pm

Gale Johnson is a registered user.

@hj

Wow, all those credentials and honors. Who wouldn't like him and trust what he says?


3 people like this
Posted by Thank you mutti
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 26, 2016 at 5:26 pm

Thank you mutti. At last a ray of hope. We cannot continue to house the over-population of Asia, the Asian billionnaires, their parents, and multitudes of children, which is what we have been doing for years. It is unfair to existing residents to change their world so radically.

>The money out of China is coming to a halt. House sales in Vancouver, BC have plummeted. Tiffany's jewelry sales are on a steep decline. London and New York are seeing a glut of luxury housing with prices dropping like crazy. (All that's from recent New York Times articles.)


21 people like this
Posted by common sense
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 26, 2016 at 5:33 pm

Redwood City has over 2,500 new apartmenets being built in high density, high rise buildings around their downtown. 500 are already built; this increase in supply did NOT lower prices. Instead, it raised prices, because what was built were all luxury apartments, with 1 bedroom/1 bath apartments renting between $3500 - $4000 per month. This has had the effect of "gentrification" of the Redwood City area, where rents have risen much higher than they would have been.

[Portion removed.]

If Mr Hanna doesn't believe in zoning, height restrictions, etc. I would suggest he start with his own home in Crescent Park (with a 19,000+ square foot piece of land), lobby the city council to rezone it for high density condos, and build 30 units at affordable housing prices. [Portion removed.]


8 people like this
Posted by Me
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Aug 26, 2016 at 5:55 pm

"Redwood City has over 2,500 new apartmenets being built in high density, high rise buildings around their downtown. 500 are already built; this increase in supply did NOT lower prices. Instead, it raised prices, because what was built were all luxury apartments, with 1 bedroom/1 bath apartments renting between $3500 - $4000 per month. This has had the effect of "gentrification" of the Redwood City area, where rents have risen much higher than they would have been."

This is "evidence?" we need tens of thousands of units across the peninsula A YEAR to even come close to meeting residential demand. 2,500 is a drop in the bucket.

And I'm not even getting to the part of how expensive it is to build in Northern California that drives building costs up...

[Portion removed.]

Hmm.


9 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 26, 2016 at 5:55 pm

Let me tell you what happens when luxury new apartments are built. This example is not from Palo Alto but another Peninsula town that is building pack and stack.

A couple with older children invited their senior, retired but still fit parents from another country to come and live with them in their home here. The house felt too small for all these adults or almost adults and the seniors wanted more peace and quiet. So this couple rented a small apartment for them to live in. It was walking distance from the family home. This kept everyone happy in the family. The seniors could walk over daily to spend time with the grandchildren, cook food for the family and then return back to their own place for a peaceful evening.

Another family in Palo Alto decided to move out of town, sold their home in Palo Alto, but rented a small apartment for their high school children to attend Gunn, walking distance away. The children slept in the apartment on their own but spent their weekend days with the parents.

Building more pack and stack invites these types of scenarios. It doesn't guarantee affordable homes for those who work in Palo Alto.


14 people like this
Posted by Curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on Aug 26, 2016 at 5:57 pm

[Portion removed.]


6 people like this
Posted by Condo Marx
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 26, 2016 at 6:16 pm

Condo Marx is a registered user.

If we increase the density then we have about $1B in infrastructure costs that need to go with it.

Three underpasses at Churchill, Meadow and Arastadero. New off/on ramps at 101 and 280 with park and ride shuttle sites. Conversion of ECR into an expressway with dedicated bus lanes and of course enhancements to other mass transit.

Since the in-the-pocket politicians won't make the companies adding more jobs or the developers cashing in on the new buildings pay for it, then I have a suggestion.

Let's implement a progressive property tax that rises with the market so that the homeowners can pay to fix the problems as well as subsidize a mandatory socioeconomic mix of citizens. From each according to their ability to each according to their need.

Urbanistas and densifiers unite!


29 people like this
Posted by Reality
a resident of Mountain View
on Aug 26, 2016 at 7:21 pm

@me, why are you embarrassed by residentialism? There is nothing wrong with wanting to keep the character that PA is known for. Nothing. I think it's embarrassing that you feel the need to apologize for someone wanting to keep their home the way it was, and is. I think it's an incredibly sad reflection of the "me, me, me" attitude that seems to be prevalent lately (and getting worse and worse)

And everyone else's point that more development will not lower pricing is point on. Examples have been given, facts have been presented. Not one poster has been able to refute the fact that more development will not lower prices. Not one poster, when presented with the examples of other areas that tried to no effect, has been able to come up with a legitimate argument for more development lowering pricing.

[Portion removed.]


8 people like this
Posted by Village person
a resident of Menlo Park
on Aug 26, 2016 at 7:46 pm

I get why the residentialists want to maintain status quo and simply have the jobs/developers/commuters go elsewhere however that is not a real solution. Neither is people commuting here from Fresno on HSR. Economic growth is happening and that is a good thing. We do have to manage it and higher density along with better transportation is necessary. Let's start with BART connecting San Jose and Millbrae. let's acquire the heavy rail right of way and make it a bicycle thoroughfare so people can bike safely to work and school. Let's provide school buses that eliminate most of the parent pick up/drop off of school children twice each day. Lets provide off street parking so our downtown streets are walkable. We need to invest in the future and give people a better option than driving. Finally let's reduce capital gains tax on sale of residences so the elderly haver the option to sell their home if they choose so that young families can move into the neighborhoods.


34 people like this
Posted by Mary
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Aug 26, 2016 at 7:54 pm

I don't know whether building a lot of stack and pack housing will lower the prices of Palo Alto real estate or not. And neither does John Hanna or anyone else on this board. There is a lot of evidence that house prices are pretty inelastic. But who knows: build a lot of high rise apartments and maybe people won't want to live here anymore. (Has anyone else checked out the monolithic blocks of cubicle apartments at San Antonio and El Camino in Mt View? Is that what we want large swaths of Palo Alto to look like?)

But even if building a lot of housing of the type Hanna wants would lower prices, I don't think that's worth changing Palo Alto into the different kind of city this would entail. The housing prices are immaterial to me. I just don't want to live in a much larger city with higher rise housing, more traffic, crowded schools and urban problems - expensive or not. Otherwise, I would have bought somewhere else.

[Portion removed.]


29 people like this
Posted by Mvresident2003
a resident of Mountain View
on Aug 26, 2016 at 8:20 pm

Mvresident2003 is a registered user.

Well said Mary, about time owner, people who have invested here, people who have lived here, start pushing back. We're facing the same entitlement issue in MV and people really need to stand up to it.

Yes Mary, I drive by those monstrosities on San Antonio daily. Breaks my heart, no longer mountain "view", now just building view.

And no, you do not want to turn PA into the same overbuilt, micro-unit, dense overgrown......well, you get my point.


15 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 26, 2016 at 8:40 pm

"I find it hilarious that people think that Econ 101 doesn't apply"

Yo, "Me" the Econ 101 expert, one word: "elasticity." Google it.

Everybody else, this council election is critical. The pro-development side that got ousted in 2014 is back in the game and has plenty of money; check out the candidate endorsements lists. Everybody needs to read up and vote.


8 people like this
Posted by Curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on Aug 26, 2016 at 10:00 pm

Seriously, folks: If each of us residents chipped in a paltry $million or two, we might be able to make a perceptible dent in this perceived problem.


19 people like this
Posted by Palo Alto Native
a resident of College Terrace
on Aug 26, 2016 at 11:17 pm

After over 55 years in Palo Alto, I have had time to reflect on the scale of changes I have witnessed. To preserve what is left of that charming Palo Alto, here are my recommendations:

First, legislate foreigners can not purchase property in Palo Alto (ideally, in the Nation but let's start here).
We went from 7% Asian in the late 1970s to 52% Asian at Gunn High School by their own website numbers.
I am not against Asians. In fact, they did nothing wrong under current law. I would be of the same opinion if it were only the Irish, Germans, Scandinavians, Dutch, English, Scots, Welsh, or French that were doing all the investment buying.

Second, the challenge with my first point is so many of my fellow Palo Altain homeowners would not likely support my legislative proposal. Such a shift would lower the possible cash out return they can use when they retire (and move to another area or state) or for their children who will not live here either because their work is not here and/or because they want a lifestyle with a higher quality of life in terms of less traffic, more parking, less stressful people, and more of an affordable existence. Still, establishing this precedent would be worth while to build traction for a future national policy.

Third, a ten-year hold on V1B visas for IT employees. Let's get our 20-30 somethings US citizens employed first and foremost. In addition, no fast track visa's for those who invest 500K or more in the US economy. The challenge here is campaign finance reform. We all know the drill: candidates raise money to market themselves in exchange for policies that favor special interests. Even though all our Bay Area representatives (and two senators) are Democrats, they tend to push for maintaining and expanding V1B visas in accordance with their high-tech leader contributors who demand comparative cheap labor supply from India and China.

Fourth, no more business licenses issued in Palo Alto. We employ enough people. Put another 10-year hold on such licenses. Existing firms are good to go. However, each commerical building occupancy should be measured and consistent with a per square footage formula. The business community only respects profit. Thus, violations of the number of employees relative to a per square footage formula should be scaled based on 1, 2, 3% of their gross earnings (for 1, 2, 3 violations) based on their previous tax year earnings. Otherwise, a flat fine serves as no incentive to conform to the law - a law designed to reduce traffic, congestion, overcrowding, and increase parking and air quality. The success of Silicon Valley needs to find it's space in other States and other parts of California - preferably where their is urban blight or economically depressed suburbs. There are plenty to choose from: Stockton, Madera, Richmond, Oakland, Compton, Marin City, parts of San Jose, South San Francisco, Salinas, Moreno Valley, El Centro, and Palmdale to name a few.

The challenge here is the Iron Square: venture capitalist, IT employees, R&D (Stanford, SRI and others), and existing firms (Facebook, Oracle, HP, Tesla, Apple, Yahoo, others). Taken together, leaders of the high tech industry put a tremendous pressure to expand their operations based on the centralization of money, talent, ideas, and existing firms present in a defined area. However, these same individuals do not, by-and-large, live and work in Palo Alto, Mountain View, Sunnyvale, Cupertino, Santa Clara, San Jose, Redwood City or other ever growing dense cities. And some cities (especially Redwood City), have recently adopted an overbuilding urban scale housing as an income source for their city coffers independent of the changing nature this causes to their city and the peninsula, at large.

Fifth, no dense building for apartments, large homes on small lots, or condos. Instead, adopt the Atherton, Woodside, Portola Valley, Los Altos Hills, and Hillsborough town models; namely, be a destination to live at not work and live. We can not of course reduce the number of existing commercial sites - but no sense adding any more overbuilt density that is already present and approved in the pipeline for future development.

Taken together: no dense building, no more firms, no foreign speculation purchases, and a reduction of V1B visas cheap labor supply (and their extended families legal under the law) collectively represent less demand for housing in Palo Alto and a trend to freeze if not reduce the number of employees in Palo Alto overall. We could set a standard other cities could adopt IF their residents appreciate balancing Quality of Life over housing values and an urban like existence of San Francisco, Manhattan, and Chicago.


12 people like this
Posted by NO growth proponent
a resident of Downtown North
on Aug 26, 2016 at 11:58 pm

To sum up the no growth side-
We can build more housing or the no growth solution is to get rid of the jobs!
No more office development. Apply some sort of square footage requirement for each employee that will reduce the number of employees. Establish Palo Alto as the model for no growth cities in the country. Make the city staff always put residents first by only approving resident serving businesses, not allowing any building over two stories since they are oppressive and limit the view of sky and greenery, addressing resident needs before developer needs so that they have to wait many months to years to get anything done. Have the city council review all development requests and elect people to the city council who are anti-growth. We need to develop a sustainable city that will provide for its residents not not for everyone who wants to come here. Fewer jobs means the need for less housing. Also push for limits to growth in the entire Bay Area. Hope for a tech recession. Lobby congress to give large benefits to businesses that move to depressed areas like Detroit and Philadelphia. There are so many other ways besides destroying our quality of life with soul destroying massive ugly pod-home towers.


5 people like this
Posted by PodPeople
a resident of Esther Clark Park
on Aug 27, 2016 at 7:15 am

I think most of us are for modest growth. Cities evolve and change. We don't want to be frozen in time. What the majority of Palo Alto and the region is concerned with is the pace of growth.

Check out the plans of this wealthy R 1 owner
Web Link

And for the poster who refernced the millennial PAF blog that slams Mayor Burt, this interview is more balanced. He gives thoughtful replies.
Web Link

Sensible Cupertino has an initiative in the ballot to restrain the pace of growth. Maybe that's what we need Palo Alto


2 people like this
Posted by Gale Johnson
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Aug 27, 2016 at 7:53 am

Gale Johnson is a registered user.

@PodPeople

Mayor Burt got it right. He's served his community well.


15 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 27, 2016 at 8:01 am

I take a strong dislike to what Palo Alto native writes.

The problem has nothing to do with people on visas, green cards or newly sworn in Americans who live and work in America. Unless you are 100% native American you have ancestors who came here to work and improve their way of life. You are trying to prevent those who come here from owning a home which to me sounds like discrimination. Yes I know there are foreign investors who don't actually live in the homes they buy, but they are in the minority. The vast majority of those on visas, green cards and new citizens are hard working, have US citizen children, pay taxes, employ American citizens in their businesses and altogether do a great deal to integrate themselves into the local community. You see them in our schools, in kids sporting groups, in churches, in volunteer positions, at community meetings, and in fact you probably live and work alongside them without even realizing it. In fact, what is the difference between someone from another country coming here as opposed to someone coming from say New York, or Wyoming, or Chicago? They are likely to be outsiders just as much as anyone on a green card.

They are not the problem so stop trying to blame them.


3 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 27, 2016 at 9:19 am

I hate being the grammar police even though I hate some of the bad English mistakes on town square, but Editor, why did you change the headline from "housing shortage" to "affording housing". Do you mean "affordable housing" (whatever that means in Palo Alto)? Or is there some advice to people on how they can afford housing? Somewhere along the line, clarity has been lost.


7 people like this
Posted by Balance
a resident of Los Altos
on Aug 27, 2016 at 10:20 am

Solution: Change some zoning so that current office space is converted to high density housing. This may mean that some employers would need to move their businesses to other areas, but that would be good for our country (spread the wealth) and for Palo Alto (balance the jobs/housing equation). Graduates from prestigious east coast colleges are flocking to the Bay Area in droves - not because they want to or can afford to live here, but because this is where the "good" jobs are. However, the cost of living is much, much lower (and the quality of life is often better) elsewhere, so high tech companies are finally beginning to set up divisions in other lovely, well-educated college towns around the country. This is a healthy trend that we have seen before when the cost of living has gotten out of hand in the Bay Area.


9 people like this
Posted by PhotoOp
a resident of Palo Verde
on Aug 27, 2016 at 10:27 am

PhotoOp is a registered user.

Where is the push to invest in a long term solution based on light rail? Dont stop job growth, don't stop building new affordable communities, don't ruin well established communities, build transportation infrastructure that bridges all of the above.... Seattle is doing it..... not without fights, but I am not up for changing Palo Alto into an urban blemish.


2 people like this
Posted by marty
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 27, 2016 at 10:56 am

If Palo Alto wants more affordable housing which we need to provide a culturally balanced, income balanced, age range balanced community we need to address those issues and not allow market rate development to continue like crazy. There are plenty of market rate units available relative to affordable, targeted housing (teachers and emergency workers, anyone?) and adding to the cost of those market rate units does not seem to slow down their construction or sale so it seems like a good way to add funding for affordable units. Even with that as a source of funding, it is not enough. Palo Alto should add more targeted units _ seniors, teachers, city workers.


10 people like this
Posted by Gale Johnson
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Aug 27, 2016 at 11:22 am

Gale Johnson is a registered user.

I just checked the number of apartments available to rent in PA. Currently 691. That seems like a big number but maybe that's normal since there's always turnovers happening. Prices vary but generally older apartments and ones in SPA rent for less than those near downtown. If we do all the things necessary to permit high density housing in areas near the high density work places, how long would it take to build 1,000 units? Would they be more affordable than the 691 vacant apartments? Probably not considering the land and construction costs today. The I cheapest one I saw today was a 300 sq ft studio on Madeline Ct for $1995/mo.


11 people like this
Posted by Developer Profits
a resident of Community Center
on Aug 27, 2016 at 1:20 pm

Hana argues against inclusionary Below Market Housing requirements, for upzoning properties [portion removed]. But us residentialists are actually interested in focusing on affordable housing for those who need it [portion removed].

Increasing density increases the value of the land, which drives up the price per square foot and raises housing costs for all properties. Witness Manhattan and San Francisco, where densification did not reduce housing costs because like Palo Alto, there is high demand.


Like this comment
Posted by be positive
a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Aug 27, 2016 at 2:53 pm

be positive is a registered user.

@Gale Johnson, I'm wondering where you got your info on the number of apts for rent in Palo Alto, Zillow shows 5 that are actually in Palo Alto, Craigslist shows 65 but many of those are listed multiple times (posted daily until they are rented. I didn't include single family homes, just apts, condos and townhouses.


10 people like this
Posted by Me
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Aug 27, 2016 at 3:44 pm

Why am I embarrassed?

1. Lack of understanding of how demand and supply work. Funny - housing prices are elastic - just check on every other city to see that. It only appears inelastic because we are at the extremes of the curve. We are down tens of thousands of units on the peninsula. TENS OF THOUSANDS. That's why a mere 500 new units in downtown won't materially impact pricing.

Did you just google the word elasticity without really understanding what that means?

2. Blaming foreigners for the cost of housing. Seriously? This is 2016. I'm not surprised that racism still exists. It just takes something like this to surface it.

3. Overpopulation? Immigration is the only reason why we are not seeing a *DROP* in the population here in the US. Japan and Western Europe is in a population decline. China's population is aging dramatically thanks to the discredited one-child policy.

Come on. Just admit that you want what you want and don't care about anything else. It's just pure selfishness cloaked in all this BS reasons that we're seeing here.

I'm embarrassed that you think what you're saying is *not* transparent. Either that or our city isn't really filled with the "intelligent" population that we think we have.

Maybe we're all just smart enough to be dangerous. And that's disappointing and embarrassing.


5 people like this
Posted by Gale Johnson
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Aug 27, 2016 at 3:50 pm

Gale Johnson is a registered user.

Additional comments that tie in with my post above: With 691 apartments available to rent, it seems to me, because of the much touted and advertised demand for housing by PAF and others, that they would be gobbled up very quickly. Why aren't they? Is it that there aren't enough people who can afford them? If that's the case then any high density new builds (let's say 1000) in the downtown area won't be affordable either. They will be, for sure, more expensive because of the land and construction costs involved. I could be wrong. Although the prices will be even higher in that location, they might be attractive enough to the workers there since they can walk to work. Hard to say, and again I offer my humble "I just don't know". It will just have to go thru the 'build it and they will come' test. I know we had orchards, but did we ever have cornfields in PA? lol!

It's okay 'Resident'. We have many police people. Stray cats and dogs officers, leaf blower cops, water cops, and maybe soon to be, IDU cops. I'm sure many others of us picked up on that error, but the biggest error was even trying to describe it as affording, affordable...whatever. Drop that adjective because it doesn't currently apply here in PA. You can talk about housing all you want but just don't use the 'a' word.

That studio apartment I mentioned...300 sq ft isn't very much space. Get out a tape measure and lay that down on your floor, play with numbers and dimensions and you'll see how small it is. And, as I mentioned earlier about downtown rents being higher, there was a studio on Forest listed for over $4000/mo. Let traditional economics theory work, not interfered by the aberrations due to foreign investors and instant millionaires mucking up the works and defying theory. What do I mean? I mean if there are fewer renters and buyers, then the landlords and sellers will lower their rent rates and home listing prices. It's pretty basic stuff. The reason I like Mayor Burt is that he has business experience and he's pragmatic. He's had to deal with real budgets, and making tough decisions as a CEO. People that have never had that experience, but just have great ideas for us tax payers to pay for...well...


25 people like this
Posted by Condo Marx
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 27, 2016 at 4:39 pm

Condo Marx is a registered user.

First, I am going to shame, complain and trick Palo Alto into adding 20,000 more high density housing units.

Second, I am going to use the shift in demographics to change the politics in the city permanently to favor mass transit at the expense of automobiles, forced landscaping selections over open space, low power teapots and hair dryers over convenience and general politically correct urbanization.

Next, I will solidify the new majority voting block and turn the remaining property owners into my own personal piggy bank to fund the transition to the new utopia. Sadly, it will really put a squeeze on the middle class and high income professionals. Only the rich, politically connected or a few members of the carefully selected grievance groups will get houses.

The beauty of my plan is I am using the gullible and naive as instruments of their own destruction. [Portion removed.]

Forward comrades! Together we will usher in a new progressive era of proletarian interventionism.


3 people like this
Posted by Gale Johnson
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Aug 27, 2016 at 6:33 pm

Gale Johnson is a registered user.

@be positive

I got that information on apartments.com. And seriously, I'm not making this up, I just checked again now and the number is 733.
Look for prices to drop. Landlords will adjust.

@Me

Always enjoy your challenging posts. [Portion removed.] Give us a number...how many new apartments do we need in PA to make housing affordable? Where will they be built? And who will build them? Do you have some charitable developer friends? And remember, I said affordable...let's use ABAG's mandate as a reference. And, no, it's not racism, it just happens to be one race that gets mentioned because they are the ones doing it. Insert Estonians or Swedes in place of Asians or Chinese if they were the perpetrators.

I meant ADU's, not IDU's in last post.


2 people like this
Posted by Gale Johnson
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Aug 27, 2016 at 6:54 pm

Gale Johnson is a registered user.

My Google query was 'how many apartment vacancies in PAO Alto?'


Like this comment
Posted by Gale Johnson
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Aug 27, 2016 at 6:55 pm

Gale Johnson is a registered user.

Palo Alto


21 people like this
Posted by Gus L.
a resident of Barron Park
on Aug 27, 2016 at 8:37 pm

Perhaps Atherton can change its recommendation of a minimum one acre lot to 1/4 acre and build small apartment buildings there to accomodate the housing shortage.
What?, It will never happen in their backyard? But WE have to build high density?


20 people like this
Posted by Reality
a resident of Mountain View
on Aug 27, 2016 at 8:46 pm

@me, see, there you go again, implying that people should feel guilty or bad for wanting to keep the very ambiance and environment that they specifically and very particularly, paid for!

Let me ask this; If you bought a nice sedan (because you like the small, nice interior and the smooth ride) would you be happy if someone came along and told you that you not only HAVE to buy, but also must LIKE, a big noisy 4-wheel drive?

Because that exactly what you're implying. That people who bought here previously must accept the changes newcomers (albeit the MINORITY) want to make.

Not. Right. But as others are finally starting to talk about, there is a very strong underlying social engineering being pushed by those with the REAL money and it isn't in the interest of all but rather in the interest of more $ to them. Developers and government transit agencies. Follow the money. They've got all you gullible, impressionable people falling for it and it'll be too late if you don't start looking at what's really going on. Agenda 21, Grand Boulevard Initiative....these are all very real, theyre not conspiracy theories, theyre happening now.

But to get back to @me.....good job telling others they should be ashamed, embarrassed, guilty, for having what they have. Now, all of you who worked so hard to get there, how's that make YOU feel?


19 people like this
Posted by look to SF and Palo Alto
a resident of College Terrace
on Aug 27, 2016 at 9:45 pm

Stanford and SF have programs to promote home ownership among Stanford faculty/senior staff and SF residents, respectively, that Palo Alto may want to consider. Stanford sells homes (but leases the land on which they sit) to faculty/senior staff, and SF sells small BMR condos to first-time homeowners who are SF residents. The BMR prices of these homes allows those who wouldn't otherwise be able to own homes to do so. The catch is that the homes must also be sold at BMR prices to qualified buyers. I think if the City of Palo Alto established a similar program, provided they prohibited owners from renting these BMR units at market rates, this could help the many Millenials eager to have the stability of owning a home in Palo Alto.


14 people like this
Posted by Curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on Aug 27, 2016 at 10:59 pm

"Perhaps Atherton can change its recommendation of a minimum one acre lot to 1/4 acre and build small apartment buildings there to accomodate the housing shortage.
What?, It will never happen in their backyard? But WE have to build high density?"

You almost get it, Dude. Guess who would build and profit from building high density housing in Palo Alto? Why, developers in Atherton, plus Woodside, Portola Valley, Los Altos Hills. The same crowd that zealously defends their own privileged communities [portion removed].

You got this totally right: The proper place for the next round of intense development is Atherton, then Woodside, Portola Valley, and Los Altos Hills.

It's their turn.


6 people like this
Posted by Theodore
a resident of another community
on Aug 28, 2016 at 1:40 am

@NoMoPa
Bringing jobs to San Francisco won’t help. We have our own NIMBY anti-housing crisis. As it is, in my job in San Francisco, I’m the only person in my team who lives in the City itself. My coworkers commute from as far as Walnut Creek or San Jose.

@Gale Johnson
The immediate benefit of new housing is that it makes old housing less attractive. Right now, new housing is all luxury housing because that’s the market price, and that’s the only type of housing that can make a profit for the developer, after plowing through all the red tape. But McDonald’s doesn’t sell $10 hamburgers when the market shows that Super Duper can do so. Both are equally allowed by the FDA to sell burgers, but they serve different levels of burger. Different developers can make a profit providing different levels of luxury, if only the regulators would let them. With enough stifling of the NIMBY activism, we could even build dense housing that is designed to be cheap. We used to be able to, in San Francisco, in the form of SROs.

Supply that increases enough will cause existing high prices to go down. That would be success. I 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. I disagree when economists refer to housing price increases after a recession as a “recovery.” Nothing good is recovering. It’s a crisis that is recovering.

Housing is a basic need, the bottom of Maslow’s hierarchy. Housing that rises in price faster than wages is eventually 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? In any sensible market, you would not mind losing some of the money you put into your house, because you are paying for the function of shelter. Housing as an investment is a socially destabilizing trap.

@look to SF and Palo Alto
I’m not a big fan of the BMR programs. I recognize, as Governor Brown has recognized, that it is not sustainable to simply plow public funds into subsidized housing units. As long as housing prices rise faster than wages, then the funding that can subsidize 100 units this year, can subsidize 96 units next year, and less next year. So increase funding? If it remains the same proportion of the budget, then it can subsidize 98 units. Or you can go up to 100 units by cutting something else, either now, or in the future via bond payments. It’s a losing battle. This is why affordable housing subsidies need to be tied to by-right building approvals across the state, damn the environmentalists and the unions. I read the proposal; it was narrowly targeted for in-fill development where environmental review would be a waste of resources, anyway.

And then what does subsidized housing give you? A small number of lucky poor lottery winners and an increasing squeezed middle class.

Now, San Francisco is experimenting with mixed income housing in the Public Land for Housing project, as large a number of low-income and middle-income units as possible subsidized by sales of on-site market-rate units, but this project is not in isolation. I suspect that the subsidy requirements and NIMBY interference will prevent the project from building as many housing units as possible, thereby not even putting a dent in the market price. But the outcome of the housing units should be interesting to observe.

Homelessness is a super-expensive problem for San Francisco. It would probably be cheaper to cut the red tape and build housing that is affordable by design, some of it subsidized for the people who are too dysfunctional even for BMR units, than to keep diverting emergency services into handling them.


7 people like this
Posted by Theodore
a resident of another community
on Aug 28, 2016 at 8:00 am

Oh. I just got around to reading Hanna’s opinion. I didn’t know BMR was referring specifically to inclusionary zoning. We have that in San Francisco, too.

My point still stands. Lottery winners. Go to any BMR project, and the waiting list is years long. And when it is funded by market rate housing, then the market rate housing has to be that much more expensive to pay for it. You get a small number of homes for poor people, a larger number of homes for rich people, and no homes for the middle class. San Francisco is experimenting with subsidized middle class, but the rest of the country is not there, yet. And even here, I see ads condemning a project for subsidizing homes for families making $120,000. Yes, that salary is not enough to buy housing for a family anymore.

NIMBYs keep acting like developers are not people, too, and that their buildings are not wanted. The truth is that the greater the risk, the greater the reward that must justify the risk. It’s possible that the developer pays the impact fees, funds the studies, does all the community outreach, gets the building done, and then the market drops out from under them. Not very likely around here, but still possible. More likely, they acquire all the necessary permits, and then a ballot proposition or a zealous city official stops the project by fiat. By giving them a large profit, we make it possible for them to create the new housing; rather, by making it so difficult to build around here, we make it impossible to create housing until the market price is insane. That’s why so many luxury housing units are finally going on the market in San Francisco now.

And about housing being wanted, they wouldn’t build the housing if they didn’t think there was sufficient demand. That is want. By wishing projects away, you don’t remove the demand that the developers were hoping to satisfy. The developers themselves want the housing, including developers in the community. And there are other people in the community who want more housing. I, myself, am not a developer and not affiliated with developers and don’t personally know any developers, and I promote more housing because I recognize that the difficulty to build housing is dumb and making life hard on me and impossible for the local kids. Not all newcomers are foreigners. Kids grow up, and find that either they stay with their parents indefinitely, or they move far away.

Asking kids to move away until they build equity is a horrible solution. Either their jobs go away with them, bye-bye forever hope you visit, or they commute ever-increasing distances. That is promoting a poor and declining quality of life, especially for the working class, the police, firemen, teachers, etc., as people commute from as far as Stockton now, increasing road wear and tear, greenhouse gas emissions, etc., etc. The ability to commute long distances for your job is a recent innovation, and we are now recognizing that it is deeply unsustainable and harmful.


12 people like this
Posted by Supply & Demand
a resident of Green Acres
on Aug 28, 2016 at 9:42 am

Stop the meddling!

Only worry about current teachers, fire, police and hospital workers.

Give priority to them in current affordable housing placements.

There are plenty of other housing opportunities in the area.

It is unfair to give opportunities to those who can live elsewhere and do not contribute to the well-being of the residents!


7 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 28, 2016 at 11:56 am

"Palo Alto Native" is 100 percent correct he is finally speaking the screamingly obvious thoughts in my mind regarding the matter.

Instead we get all these Palo Altans terrified of being called racist and trying to shove a fantasy bike-friendly society with everyone riding shuttles which doesn't even exist and is not in demand down our throats.
Owning a car is an essential part of the American dream and our quality of life... they have already tried to invest in public transit and they are confounded that ridership has not increased... [portion removed].

But step out into our beloved Palo Alto and look around. The problem is NOT cars. Its the constant influx of people from other countries.

Palo Alto Native illuminates the truth. Silicon Valley is too small to absorb tech workers from every corner of the world. We must stop bringing them in recklessly causing this population explosion. Let's first employ the people who are already here. Density by nature lowers quality of life and I am so completely tired of hearing the same old trite
"ohhh we'll just get people to ride trains and buses and it will solve overpopulation"
It is a complete farce. The anti-car movement has a prevalent, ingrained, unquestioned premise that too many people here readily accept, without realizing that it is overpopulation and not cars that's to blame.


21 people like this
Posted by rentals vs codos
a resident of Downtown North
on Aug 28, 2016 at 12:54 pm

Sounds like Millenials like Theodore, Adrian Fina and Kate Downing are arguing that young tech workers need more housing in Palo Alto. Yet what they want for themselves (and likely others like them) is not affordable rental units but the ability to purchase an asset that will increase in value. Hanna's legal specialty is documents for condos. It's fine that Millenials tech workers want to accrue equity, and a home in Palo Alto is likely to be an excellent investment. However, it's deceptive to use the argument that teachers and firefighters need affordable rentals as a ruse to build many entry-level condos without regard for the impact on the schools, roads and other intangibles in the community.


7 people like this
Posted by Me
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Aug 28, 2016 at 12:57 pm

[Post removed.]


4 people like this
Posted by Gale Johnson
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Aug 28, 2016 at 2:00 pm

Gale Johnson is a registered user.

[Portion removed.]

@Theodore

I like your posts. Very thoughtful and without a lot of bitter, hateful, and vindictive ranting and raving dialog. You sound like you've studied the problems in SF carefully and extended them to PA. You make many good points but I disagree with others. My grandson got a job at Yelp and had a choice of living and renting up there in SF, or coming down to live with Gramps for free and commuting on CalTrain. Guess which one he opted for? He's not dumb, in fact he's very smart. He's now off starting law school at UC Berkeley's Boalt Hall and renting and sharing a 2 bdrm apartment within easy biking distance of the campus. I haven't had the nerve to ask him what the rent is.

Back to the article...'To reduce the price of any commodity, including housing, you increase the supply'. Well, I've Googled it, and although there are many different opinions on the subject, I don't think housing fits into the strict definition of a commodity. It ain't pork bellies or wheat or iron ore, things that are grown or mined from the earth. There's a very unpredictable human and psychological element involved.

If there are really 733 vacant apartments in PA, how did that happen and when will they be filled up? I'll keep tracking Park Plaza on their own website. If the current listings of 30 vacant apartments, out of the 82 built, doesn't go down in a few weeks, then I think that will be a sign of the future. I assume they keep the status current since that's their way of advertising.


6 people like this
Posted by resident
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Aug 28, 2016 at 6:17 pm

The area of land available is owned by the transportation companies. We should be pushing to have them start building on their land. Big section in Brisbane and in San Mateo area. Land in southern Santa Clara Valley. No it does not HAVE to be in Palo Alto - we are built out in our 26 miles. Why do people keep getting these bright ideas about what should be happening in Palo Alto when there is open land in the county that is not being utilized.


11 people like this
Posted by mauricio
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Aug 28, 2016 at 6:34 pm

Palo Alto is essentially a residential small college town. It was a horrible mistake to turn it into a major job center. Job centers should not be located in small residential suburban. Allowing it was a major corruptive capitulation of hubristic politicians to Stanford and developer interests. It tarted with the horrible decision in the early 1960's to allow the construction of Oregon Expressway. There is no solution to the housing shortage. Every sardine can has a capacity limit, and just because people want to move in doesn't mean they should. Quality of life is sacred, and not every suburb should become a dense urban city. My main residence is a place that does't allow any more growth due to water shortage, environmental concerns and desire to save the quality of life, and it is amazing. People are friendly, warm, commutative and welcoming, there is no crime, and it feels like a real community. Palo Alto is going down, and it seems like the process is irreversible.


6 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 28, 2016 at 6:58 pm

I will start off by saying that I am not being selfish and I am not saying anything about what I want.

I would love all teachers, police and firefighters who work in Palo Alto to be able to live here, if that is what they want. I happen to have heard from many that they don't particularly want to live in the place they work for family privacy reasons and I can understand that and respect that point of view. I would go as far as saying that if any of them want to come live next door to me, I would love to have them as neighbors. Even if they could afford to live next door to me, is it what they would want? However, if they have a family they probably want a single family home with a yard, a park nearby and walking distance to their elementary school. I know that is what I would want if I was back to choosing a place to live with a young family. Stack and pack housing is not going to attract these people unless they are just out of training, single and not yet ready for the responsibility of home ownership - because responsibility is what it is and some young people are just not ready for it.

I say all this because I am not thinking of me. I am thinking of all Palo Alto workers and residents who want to have a lifestyle that suits them. Yes, some might like pack and stack for a few years, but then what?

But the bigger picture is this. We don't have the infrastructure for hundreds of new homes. The city doesn't run the school system and the schools are already at capacity when it comes to play space, parking for staff and visitors and the roads outside them are at capacity in school commute times. The schools don't have school buses and their attitude is that it is up to each family to work out how to get the kids there. The schools don't care, just give tardies when late. The city doesn't much care how the kids get to school either. The shuttle service suits very few schools and very few neighborhoods. Stack and pack housing is not suitable for families, but from historical anecdotes, we know that families will look on them as suitable housing just to get their children into our schools.

Apart from transportation in town, we don't have water resources, recreational facilities or even affordable retail for everyday needs. There is no point in saying that retail should be beside or underneath stack and pack because what retail is coming to town is either not affordable and meets everyday needs, is likely to end up being dentists and tutoring services, or more nail salons and designer gyms or yoga studios. Palo Alto residents are suffering in that we have to drive out of town for decent amenities and I can't see this changing much.

Is this just something that I want our town to cater for? Immaterial. We don't have infrastructure for hundreds of more residents. I will say it again. Anyone moving to newly built housing in Palo Alto will still need to go elsewhere to do a lot of their living.


4 people like this
Posted by Theodore
a resident of another community
on Aug 28, 2016 at 10:23 pm

@Gale Johnson
Thank you. I find your posts to be interesting, too, and I’m curious to see the results of your survey. Though, in a functioning market, I would expect there to be a certain amount of flux, people vacating apartments and not immediately being replaced, so some level of vacancy is actually healthy. I also would not count on anyone being completely up-to-date on their web site, when there’s no major economic disadvantage to being slightly stale. A well-designed study will have to address these potential objections.

What makes me interested in Palo Alto is that this entire area is connected. Yes, let’s build more in Atherton, and maybe the jerks in elected office there can be replaced by reasonable people. Let’s build more housing in Mountain View, in Cupertino, in San Francisco, in San Jose. Preferably in-fill development; stop spreading cities out, because that is bad for the environment. I never said we should build a huge number of units in Palo Alto, itself. I identified areas that can potentially take a few thousand units without major harm to the city, but I don’t know much about the specifics of Palo Alto, and I don’t want to dictate from afar. I do know that we need massive change, including lots of new housing all over the Bay Area, to set us up for the next century or two.

A huge home for every family with a car in every garage was the American dream. Was. Briefly. It is an unmitigated disaster. We Americans are emitting greenhouse gases, paving over farmlands for irrigated lawns, and spending ever-increasing amounts of time in solitary confinement of traffic. Our economic system based on consumption was never prepared for maintenance of everything. Worse, we are inspiring other countries to copy not our democracy, but our wantonly wasteful lifestyles. It’s well and good to say that China should stop polluting its cities, but we should be laying the groundwork to do the same here.

Personally, I have already started. I bike everywhere, I eat mostly at home, I order portions of food that I can eat. Reduce, reuse, then recycle. Past experiences have shown that public transit in low-density communities is a financial failure, so we need higher density just to get public transit to work. We need to stop assuming that everybody is going to live like we have lived for the past century, and orient our priorities to reflect that.


13 people like this
Posted by SF Transplant
a resident of College Terrace
on Aug 28, 2016 at 11:42 pm

Perhaps a program similar to SF's Limited Equity Home Ownership Program could be adopted in Palo Alto. This would allow teachers and firefighters with modest salaries and savings to own homes in Palo Alto. Millenial Tech workers would probably not qualify, though, due to their high incomes.
Web Link


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Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on Aug 29, 2016 at 12:03 am

Rounding out some data for Theodore and Gale...
Current Hohbach Realty vacancies, from their website:
Park Plaza Apartments, 2865 Park Blvd, 82 units
.. 1BR/1BA, none available
.. 2BR/2BA, 29 available, rent $3600-$4100
.. 3BR/2BA, 1 available, rent $5300
Birch Plaza Apartments, 2650 Birch Street, 8 units
.. 3BR/2.5BA, 2 available, rent $6500
Sheridan Plaza Apartments, 200 Sheridan Ave, 30 units
.. none available
Mayfield Apartments, 345 Sheridan Ave, 83 units
.. none available, BMR waiting list closed

Park Plaza was very recently completed, so I would not expect full occupancy yet. Takes some time to optimize rental rates. No dogs, no pets. I doubt that is enforceable under current law.


1 person likes this
Posted by Gale Johnson
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Aug 29, 2016 at 6:22 am

Gale Johnson is a registered user.

@Theodore and musical

I've acknowledged that there will be a flux factor and that data from Apartments.com may not be current. Data from individual apartments' websites should be, however. So, e.g., the 32 vacancies at the four Hobach Realty properties with a total of 203 units yields a 14% vacancy rate. Extending that vacancy rate to the total number of apartments in PA, and I don't know that number, it probably isn't unreasonable for there to be 600-700 vacant apartments at any one time.

Another case in point about variations in data, Parker PA's own website shows 12 vacancies whereas Apartments..com shows 9.


12 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 29, 2016 at 8:13 am

"Personally, I have already started. I bike everywhere, I eat mostly at home, I order portions of food that I can eat. Reduce, reuse, then recycle. Past experiences have shown that public transit in low-density communities is a financial failure, so we need higher density just to get public transit to work. We need to stop assuming that everybody is going to live like we have lived for the past century, and orient our priorities to reflect that."

Good for you, Theodore. But if someone chooses to not ride his bicycle it is really none of your business. Go ahead and lead by example but stop the hollow moral preening.

For people who are faced with making ends meet, somehow living a "green" lifestyle is not nearly as important as getting to work on time. Industrialism and consumption are vital components of our economy.

[Portion removed.]


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Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 29, 2016 at 8:45 am

I have heard anecdotally of some local churches who have given low interest loans, shared mortgage schemes, etc. to help pastors locating here from other parts of the country so that they can live here with their families. The churches don't own the homes, but they work out some type of shared ownership so that the Pastors are still accruing equity in their home.

I have also heard anecdotally of shared ownership schemes in other countries specifically to help those under the age of 35 to own a home. They do it by a shared mortgage arrangement where with little downpayment a homeowner can pay a small mortgage payment and a small rental payment. Over time the homeowner can choose to take on more mortgage for a higher percentage home ownership. When it comes time to sell they can either sell it back to the other part of the ownership, or sell their part ownership to a new owner doing a similar scheme. This is supposedly once again building equity in their home and when they choose to sell and move up the ladder, they have established equity as well as a good credit rating for the next hopefully full mortgage.

These are the types of ideas that could make a big difference to those who wish to own over rent or lease in our local market. It is up to the powers that be to start being innovating with methods of shared ownership and similar schemes.


9 people like this
Posted by CrescentParkAnon.
a resident of Crescent Park
on Aug 29, 2016 at 10:00 am

Elementary school board game economics are being used to justify what is basically a racket in housing that is essentially regulatory capture and extortion. Tens of thousands of people are having their futures and lives threatened because they have no alternatives in this society/economy. They cannot leave their jobs because they and their families have to eat, and yet many of them can barely do that, and some of them cannot because all of their pay is going to meet rents. The abuse in housing leads to abuses all through the society and economy as people can take advantage of the vulnerable. Also, since most of the the money that is earned lower down in the economy gets sucked right up to the top, the growth stimulus of the middle class does not kick in to create more jobs.

When we get to a destruction downward spiral, and the housing situation is just one of many in America that people are responding to politically in this bizarre election season it is not unreasonable for the majority of people to want and to demand some kind of protection and regulation. Trying to refute that need to ignoring people by pointing to elementary school board game economics is both cruel and ineffective.

I speculate that this environment is caused by the unexpected and unplanned for shrinkage in the job market and movement of what scarce jobs there are to the cities where the infrastructure cannot adequately change to adapt. There is nothing different from what is happening now to price gouging in a disaster.

In an economy like this most, not all but most, of the profit and income is generated from what really should be seen as immoral or illegal means, except the laws and rules of our economy were built to encourage this robber-baronism - but at a time when there were still alternatives and a different kind of economy. Illegal in that this is more or less a disaster caused by mismanagement and malfeasance of our government which has been captured by money and twisted to serve a very few unanswerable elites who are also unable to be removed by any peaceful politcal means.

[Portion removed.]

Except we have good enough surveillance now that the system can detect and quell large disasters and ride them out in the media, because again the media as well serves the same elites and hushes everyone else with the First Grader Version of the World.

It is an odd situation when the ones who say they are waving the flag and supporting capitalism are the very ones who are bringing about such misery and its collapse and demise, endangering the peace and prosperity of all, and the ones who are trying to discuss the subject rationally to solve real problems are deemed dangerous delusional communists and compared to Hugo Chavez or Joseph Stalin.

We have gotten to the end of the line where the trends that have been created by globalism, environmental exploitation, the temporary return to slavery by bringing 3rd world countries into the global economy and undercutting the developed economies and hard won democratic reforms made over the last two hundred years are wreaking real havoc among people and reducing the middle class, not helping it.

Whatever is going on, and I refuse to call it capitalism, it is not delivering the goods to the majority of people, it is holding them down and trying to tell them they are being tough-loved, not raped. Life and the economy is too complicated and volatile for the vast majority of Americans anymore, as they get picked off or permanently injured by random events that raise the cost of remediation which the elites want to continue to eternalize and dismiss, and the cost of simple survival becomes more than working people can bear. The media likes to point to the bottom 1% of homeless, criminals and the defeated and characterize the whole 99% of people as being responsible for their own failures. If people were not forced to work so long and hard and had the real story of most people and families just trying to survive instead of the right-wing AM radio version of reality blasted at them through all channels we might be able to have a peaceful and productive discussion and resolution of these issues, but the 1% seems determined to push for everything. Bernie Sanders' Presidential campaign proved that there are a growing number willing to consider alternatives that are more just and productive and that is only going to increase.


4 people like this
Posted by Me
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Aug 29, 2016 at 10:25 am

"but the pro growth, massive growth proponents, are on the attack of us long time residents and citizens, many who have volunteered many hours in our community."

Hey Gale, at one time, the neighborhood in which you live was the result of pro-growth policies, ironically enough. Otherwise we'd be sitting in a bunch of orchards.

I'm sure the Ohlone probably said the something about your ancestors.

As for your volunteered for many hours, how about some cold hard cash? Prop 13 probably means you are paying 1/10 what your more recently-moved in neighbors are paying.


16 people like this
Posted by Big Picture
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 29, 2016 at 12:48 pm

[Portion removed.]

At one time not so long ago, Palo Alto was a friendly college town with great schools, low noise and pollution, reasonable traffic circulation, lots of open space and concern for the environment including stewardship of the partchwork of urban wildland from the hills to the bay, and fantastic shops and businesses.

Change does not always have to mean dystopian crowding, gridlock, more noise and pollution, destruction of quality of life, disregard for safety, infrastructure, and water limitations, and exploitation by a few already rich developers. Change can actually mean people realize they are on a bad path and course correct to protect what is good and solve problems in a rational and big picture way.

Looking for ways to correct the overbuilding of office space that has led to the push by developers to so negatively exploit our town in permanently damaging ways is a positive way forward, too.

I am with @Developer profits - the focus of affordable housing should be on those who need it. That's a very different discussion than this.


23 people like this
Posted by Phil Farrell
a resident of Palo Verde
on Aug 29, 2016 at 1:04 pm

I was gone on the weekend and just read this article and the many thoughtful comments.

I would like to strenuously challenge this crucial assumption of Hanna's analysis, right there in the third sentence:
> We have no control over the demand for housing.

In fact, the community has enormous control over housing demand in Palo Alto and throughout Silicon Valley, and "we" (meaning our political leaders) have exercised that control for the past six decades to vastly increase the demand for housing. We did that by zoning for and encouraging vast office parks that are employing literally hundreds of thousands. As a community, we were seduced into thinking that since jobs are good, and taxes from commercial uses are good, therefore more and more and more jobs is always good. But that is the ideology of the cancer cell. More is not always good, as we now have found.

We can use that same zoning power in the opposite direction - to reduce demand for housing, by reducing commercial uses that create jobs. We are not helpless in this regard, as Hanna would have us believe. We can start with a "no net jobs growth" policy in our big commercial office areas. If Google, or Facebook, or HP, or Lockheed, or any of the big employees "needs" 5,000 more workers, why can't they put a division in Livermore, or south San Jose, or somewhere else with lower housing demand and prices - where their employees can afford to live? If we let them keep adding more jobs here, we just make our housing and congestion problems worse. If you are stuck in a hole, the first rule is to stop digging!


11 people like this
Posted by Gale Johnson
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Aug 29, 2016 at 1:40 pm

Gale Johnson is a registered user.

After further review (I just checked the video replay) I'm thinking 700 apartment vacancies in PA, at any one time, isn't really all that bad. One article in the Mercury News said 44% of our residents are renters. So that would be roughly 28,000 of us. The City's website says there are 10,376 rental units in PA. I'm not sure if that includes rental homes...maybe just apartments, townhouses, condos, duplexes, triplexes, and quads. That means there is an average of 2.7 rental residents per unit, which sounds about right considering some are singles, some couples, and some with small families, one or two kids. So to extend the analysis, that would mean there is only about a 7% vacancy rate, which is not that bad. And it shoots a hole in my theory that prices will go down because landlords will be forced to lower them. Landlords can handle a 7% vacancy rate handily without lowering prices. If it gets up around 20% then they might have to think about it.

But the thing that boggles my mind is why the vacancy rate is so low. Rental rates are so high and yet there are enough people making enough money, although I'm sure it's a struggle for many of them, that they can still afford to live here.

So, any idea proposed that a lot (I'll go with a couple thousand) of additional newly built high density housing units will drive down the rental rates in PA is pure fantasy. Those units will just join the crowd of the many other currently high priced or overly priced rental units. [Portion removed.]


8 people like this
Posted by Gale Johnson
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Aug 29, 2016 at 2:29 pm

Gale Johnson is a registered user.

I read the adjacent article about Kirke Comstock's death. What a great guy, a very polite and understanding gentleman, councilman, and mayor, during those really tough turbulent days in the late 60's and early 70's. I remember him for devoting his career to promoting open spaces and limited growth in PA. We were privileged to attend the dedication and grand opening of Foothill Park at Vista Point...oh so many years ago. What a glorious day that was, thanks to Dr. Lee and Mayor Comstock.


18 people like this
Posted by BMRs in Atherton
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 29, 2016 at 3:34 pm

Thank you Cumudgeon. The next place for intense, high density housing should go to Atherton, Woodside, Los Altos Hills and Portola Valley. One acre minimum towns, could split 4 - 5 lots and put in hundreds of housing units. Where there's a will there's a way!


19 people like this
Posted by not renting
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Aug 29, 2016 at 4:34 pm

San Francisco built the Millennium Tower in 2009 to satisfy demand for high end luxury condos. The developer is now being sued for $500 million dollars because the tower is sinking and leaning... Developers wanted to ignore the fact that the tower was not built on bedrock (and not to mention below sea level). Hopefully the tower does not fall and crush the Salesforce building in an earthquake.

Be careful what you wish for. Demand for housing will come and go. I survived the economic bubble of 2000 and 2008. What remains after the bubble is greater than what happens in the interim.

Transportation should be improved and more jobs should be developed in areas like San Jose and Santa Clara. San Jose will have thousands of new high density apartments that are scheduled for completion and rental ready this year 2016. It will be interesting to see if the demand for high-density housing actually exists and was it worth the decrease in quality of life consequences.


16 people like this
Posted by Susan
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 29, 2016 at 4:46 pm

"What can be done to address the shortage of affording housing?"

Nothing. Why? Because command decisions by our local politicians distort the reality of the market, which means that some people are forced to subsidize subsidized housing. Subsidized housing does not provide for essential jobs, like police and firemen and teachers, it is about waiting on a sign-up list for people with no or nonessential jobs.


12 people like this
Posted by Mike
a resident of University South
on Aug 29, 2016 at 5:31 pm

"...only real and serious doable solutions will be accepted."

Why doesn't Palo Alto turn office space into high density housing? That way we'll reduce the number of jobs, or at least space for offices, AND increase housing supply.


2 people like this
Posted by Gale Johnson
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Aug 29, 2016 at 6:54 pm

Gale Johnson is a registered user.

@Mike

It's so dark in the room they just haven't seen that switch on the wal yet. lol! Oh, if were only so easy.


12 people like this
Posted by layoffs
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Aug 29, 2016 at 10:20 pm

According to the Mercury News, Cisco and other Silicon Valley tech companies are laying off workers. Others may follow suit. Perhaps this will decrease the demand for housing:
Web Link


2 people like this
Posted by Anonymous
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 30, 2016 at 12:55 am

Rezone the areas on both sides of the tracks near all three Caltrain stations for high density housing. Stop these ridiculous campaigns for single story overlays and historic neighborhoods. The only way to make housing more affordable is to build more of it, not to restrict it to the existing stock.


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Posted by Theodore
a resident of another community
on Aug 30, 2016 at 1:15 am

Well, I think James Thurber’s post has some major deficiencies.

“When rents skyrocket from $900 to over $4,000 a month? That's doesn't fit any supply / demand curve I've ever seen (and that's with a degree in economics).”

Yes, there’s a reason why Economics hasn’t shaken the label of “the dismal science.” Or what did you think was lurking at the top of the supply-demand graph? But perhaps you need a better model to explain the existing phenomenon.

I’ve found a relevant analogy, another dynamic system with exponential performance degradation in the face of shortage, without irrelevant appeals to morality: Internet routing. It has several of the same properties: locally limited supply leading to a bottleneck, external drivers of demand, a feedback system that is temporarily suppressed by throwing more resources at it, and the additional resources sort of working for a short time. As the available capacity dwindles, the performance becomes much worse. I learned about the dynamics of this system from the seminal work of Jim Gettys on Bufferbloat.

The analogy is not perfect. For Internet routing, the bad performance is in time, increased lagginess. In housing, the bad performance includes time, but is mostly cost. The technical solution to Bufferbloat doesn’t fit perfectly to housing. We can’t forbid rich people from paying market prices for available housing (reduce size of buffer), we can’t keep them away by just saying we’re full (ECN), and we don’t have enough political will to create sufficient affordable housing programs (QoS). One basic recommendation is the asme: There is no substitute for more housing.


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Posted by CrescentParkAnon.
a resident of Crescent Park
on Aug 30, 2016 at 8:31 am

++ there’s a reason why Economics hasn’t shaken the label of “the dismal science.”

True, but maybe because it is not much science in economics, especially what we hear. Most of that is base on 19th century political theory when there was not very much real data, and no internet or electronic communications or calculation.

Given that:
++ I’ve found a relevant analogy, another dynamic system with exponential performance degradation in the face of shortage, without irrelevant appeals to morality: Internet routing.

Then:
++ There is no substitute for more housing.

Q.E.D.

But there is even less economics in what we see in the news media to explain and justify the screwing the public receives, perhaps most of what we are told is economics is mostly just plain old dirty politics.


8 people like this
Posted by resident
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Aug 30, 2016 at 10:45 am

When commuting on Alma I always see For Rent signs on the apartments East Meadow to Town. No - they ae not the most desirable but they should be cheaper. Also a number of For Rent signs in the section behind El Camino in the area Charleston to Oregon. There a number of apartments in the East Meadow Circle and I usually see signs there. Check out the apartments that are in the area behind Lozano's car wash to San Antonio. Lots of apartment in that area. South PA has its share of apartments from bad to good.


11 people like this
Posted by Dan
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 30, 2016 at 2:08 pm

The urgency of politicians/developers/builders to get in and strike while the "iron is hot" probably is a pretty good indicator of the top for the current real-estate cycle.


4 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Palo Verde
on Aug 30, 2016 at 2:56 pm

The underlying tone of @Palo Alto Native's comments is "Make Palo Alto Great Again". The fact of the matter is that Palo Alto, and the Bay Area, has changed dramatically in the last 50 years. News flash: no amount of additional housing supply is going to bring back the character, population and affordability of Palo Alto between the 1950s - 1970s. Unless the global citizenry completely stops purchasing smartphones and using the internet, the high cost of living is here to stay.


33 people like this
Posted by NoMoPa
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 30, 2016 at 3:03 pm

I wish people would recognize this for push for what it is: A n organized business lobbying effort for corporate welfare in the form of housing. [Portion removed.] Companies like Palantir need to either raise employee salaries, or move their offices someplace more affordable. It isn't the city's or the resident's problem to fix.


19 people like this
Posted by mauricio
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Aug 30, 2016 at 3:24 pm

mauricio is a registered user.

As long as a small town is functioning a major business center and corporation demand the goverment solve their employees housing crisis, while refusing to pay them enough to compete with others who desire housing Palo Alto, no building boom will make a dent in the affordability issue. As long as Disneyland style buses move around Palo Alto with eager realtors as tour guides telling Asian buyers that Palo Alto is a paradise that will get their kids into Stanford, Harvard and M.I.T, affordability and availability will remain a dream. This is a concerted effort by the land development industry and its various tentacles in the CC to strike fast while they have a majority in the CC.


6 people like this
Posted by k
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Aug 30, 2016 at 4:32 pm

Affordable housing programs are an additional cost that gets thrown back on to market rate buyers and pushes the middle out.
It's too bad Obama made it easier at the end of last year for foreign investors to keep buying up housing in America. [Portion removed.]


10 people like this
Posted by Curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on Aug 31, 2016 at 10:47 pm

Curmudgeon is a registered user.

"We have no control over the demand for housing. People will go where they want to go."

I presume you have tried this compelling argument in Atherton, Woodside, Hillsborough, Portola Valley, and Los Altos Hills. Which one won the race to build you a dwelling to your specifications at your price?

The most cursory survey of the real estate section in this publication shows there is no shortage of available housing. The prices are what they are because willing buyers are affording them.

The question is: why aren't you doing likewise?

Demanding charity is not a winning strategy.


16 people like this
Posted by DTN Paul
a resident of Downtown North
on Sep 1, 2016 at 3:23 pm

DTN Paul is a registered user.

I notice that many long time residents of Palo Alto on these threads pine for the good old days - the "quiet bedroom college town" of yore. And they feel so put upon when people try to change it. [Portion removed.]

But was Palo Alto really ever the 'leave it to Beaver' place you guys remember? I call BS. Even if you moved here in the 60s, you didn't move into a quiet bedroom community. You moved into a town that basically only exists because it houses a truly world class research institution - one which is literally the beating heart of one of maybe 2-3 most important technology revolutions of the past few hundred years.

And if you live in a place like this, and you're hellbent on stopping progress and change,[portion removed] I do not think you are on the side of righteousness. So you think more density or traffic will 'ruin' what made you move here? That's you.

I don't think that's the main reason people move here. I think there are plenty of people who live here because people do important stuff here, and because so many other interesting people live here, or around here. And i'm not comfortable with ideas that suffocate the city in the effort to preserve something that never existed in the first place. But that's just me.


5 people like this
Posted by Resident 7
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 1, 2016 at 7:14 pm

Resident 7 is a registered user.

"DTN Paul" perfectly represents the mentality that afflicts liberals. it can be summarized in this line:

"I do not think you are on the side of righteousness."

The rationale is always based on the other side being "immoral". Not much of a rationale! You ignore the details. You speak in emotional generalities with little regard for accuracy. The emotions of "welcoming, loving, caring, embracing" wash over you but you gloss over vital discrepancies.

It is easy for Palo Altans to say we welcome immigrants. If you lived in a southern border town radically different from Palo Alto, you might feel a little different -- even as an equally upright and moral person.

The United States as well as Palo Alto can't continue to absorb people forever. Its quite illogical, if you think about it.
There is an ebb and flow. The pendulum must swing in the other direction.

In my humble opinion: human beings require space. More space is directly related to a higher quality of life. If our elected leaders want to accelerate density, quality of life will plummet. This is very irresponsible of them -- or maybe they don't care about the people. But why would they? They are only human like you and I.
And therein lies the answer. Its the elitist mentality of liberals in government -- who will create more departments, more committees, more and more high positions paid for by our tax dollars.
I am neutral. I do not accuse them of being immoral -- that is an empty argument.
I accuse them of being wildly inaccurate.


6 people like this
Posted by DTN Paul
a resident of Downtown North
on Sep 2, 2016 at 10:06 am

DTN Paul is a registered user.

To the moderators: I made a snarky comment highlighting the borderline racism on this thread. Is it actually reasonable to censor the comment ABOUT the racism and leave the actual racist comments? Comeon.


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Posted by Inner peace
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Sep 2, 2016 at 11:14 am

Inner peace is a registered user.

I have an idea based on European density standards: it's called a small lot subdivision. Recently adopted in LA, it has been used primarily by developers to build projects with staggering resale values psf but could be easily adopted for low-income models.


4 people like this
Posted by VERG Menlo Park
a resident of Menlo Park
on Sep 2, 2016 at 7:22 pm

VERG Menlo Park is a registered user.

Watch video at Web Link

This is what happens - to our quiet residential streets - when our cities approve office development - without requiring adequate housing and transit.

How can our cities do better?

All new office developments:
One new job: One new home

VERG™
Voters for Equitable and Responsible Growth
For updates, write to:
VERG.MenloPark@gmail.com


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

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