News

Locals open up about housing struggles

Menlo Park, East Palo Alto residents open dialogue, present possible solutions

A group of children sat at the back of Kepler's Books in Menlo Park, as they fidgeted with their marker and glitter-paint posters. Their posters read: "Stop, this is our home. East Palo Alto is not for sale; community is priceless."

They were there as members of Youth United for Community Action, a youth advocacy organization based in East Palo Alto. One of their leaders, Kyra Brown, a panelist at the Kepler's event, sat facing the audience of about 60 people on the evening of Aug. 18. They were there to talk about housing affordability.

What followed were two and a half hours that revealed a community in crisis, the deep wounds of displacement and a long list of ideas about how to fix it.

The community had beaten the Menlo Park City Council to the topic: a joint study session of the council and the city's Housing Commission to talk about policies to address displacement had been set for April but has not yet been rescheduled, according to City Manager Alex McIntyre.

The basics

There are as many explanations for the lack of affordable housing as there are stakeholders in the issue.

Council members say it's hard to approve affordable housing because many constituents oppose development near their homes. Besides, the city generates more tax revenues from hotels and offices than it does from housing, especially affordable housing.

Homeowners don't want anything -- housing or offices -- built without better infrastructure to ease traffic or other impacts on their quality of life and property values.

Commercial developers say they can't build affordable housing without also building offices to attract their real target: tech dollars.

Nonprofit housing developers say cities can't fund affordable-housing construction without seed money from commercial developers, who pay into a "below market rate" fund. That fund can be generated only when developers build retail, commercial or for-sale housing (not rental housing).

Highly paid young tech workers, if in a position to choose their housing location, are more likely to live in San Francisco, Palo Alto or Mountain View. But nobody likes spending hours each day commuting, and as they start families, common sense says they'll be gunning to move closer to their jobs and the area's high-ranking school districts.

Meanwhile, rent goes up. And up. And up.

Menlo Park housing

The housing shortage has been decades in the making. Not enough housing has been built in Menlo Park to accommodate the number of jobs in the city.

Prior to current construction projects, there had not been any market-rate apartment buildings of 10 units or more built in Menlo Park since 1974, and no deed-restricted, below-market-rate apartment buildings added to the city's stock since 1987, according to Councilwoman Catherine Carlton, who cited Costar, a commercial real estate database. Those were buildings on Willow Road that had been built in the 1960s, but purchased in 1987 by MidPen Housing to maintain for low-income tenants.

Over the 40 years between 1970 and 2010, Menlo Park built 2,699 housing units, according to City-Data.com, a website that collects statistics on cities. The city was sued in 2012 for not updating for 20 years its housing element, part of the city's general plan for development.

The city settled the lawsuit and updated its housing element, which rezoned several areas to allow high-density housing.

In 2015, there were 838 housing units approved to be built in Menlo Park, 135 of which will be designated for low-income or very low-income tenants.

The city is also updating its overall general plan, and is considering zoning for an additional 4,500 housing units in the M-2 light industrial area east of U.S. Highway 101. There are also about 1,000 housing units permitted by current zoning that the city hasn't yet received proposals for.

However, job growth continues to outpace housing growth, and housing costs have skyrocketed. Across San Mateo County, there were 54,600 jobs created and only 2,148 housing units built from 2010 to 2014, according to a county memo from January 2016.

The Bay Area Council Economic Institute estimates that for each new tech job, about 4.3 service-sector jobs are created. According to a 2014 report by the San Mateo County Economic Development Association, the largest number of future job openings in the Peninsula will be at low- and moderate-level wages earning less than $20 per hour.

As startling as the numbers are the stories of those struggling to live in the area.

Schools

Dr. Gloria Hernandez-Goff, superintendent of the Ravenswood City School District, which is based in East Palo Alto but with two schools in Menlo Park, says the housing crisis is putting her students in harsh living situations.

"We have kids who are sleeping in cars with their parents or in tents in backyards," Hernandez-Goff said. "It's common to have entire families in a garage. It's common to have a house with a family in each room."

She's heard of families who have to cook outside because there are people living in the kitchen.

"The housing cost is so high, people can't afford to live independently," she said. "People need a place to live that isn't creating a hardship for people to just work."

Of the 150 teachers in the Ravenswood district, she said, only eight live within the district's boundaries. Finding teachers and staff workers like yard duties or janitors is a major challenge for the district.

Even as superintendent, Hernandez-Goff said, she had trouble finding housing.

"I put in for a house rental in Belle Haven (and) my credit check was not even done," she said. "I didn't make enough money to even compete to rent a home.

"I can't imagine what our families go through. The diversity of this area is being pushed out," she added.

Stephanie and Scott

Julie Moncton, a manager at Kepler's, told the story of Stephanie and Scott, a couple from Oklahoma.

Stephanie was a humanities professor on a fellowship at Stanford University; Scott found a job working at Kepler's. They were renting a tiny cottage in Palo Alto. Things appeared to be going great, until all of a sudden, Scott was diagnosed with sarcoma, a form of cancer. That was in April 2015. Then, the landlord told them they had to leave by the end of July.

By then, Scott had been undergoing chemotherapy and was ill or recovering from treatment most of the time, said Julie, one of Scott's co-workers at Kepler's.

Julie offered her home. By then, the household had expanded to not just Scott and Stephanie -- and Stephanie's "very large dog" -- but Scott's parents too, Julie said.

Two weeks after they moved in, Scott learned the cancer was not responding to treatment. He went into hospice care and died a week later.

"The market has become crazy," Julie said. She described the situation that Stephanie went through trying to find housing in the aftermath of losing Scott.

"She was a great housemate, considerate, kind, neat, lovely to talk to ... at the top of her career (and) a tenured professor," she said. "There are so many of our staff members that can't find a place to live. Even with high-paying jobs, how does anyone afford the down payment on a house anymore?"

"To me, it's a little scary to see members of the community not able to live in the community they serve," Julie added.

Solutions

Many attendees at the Kepler's event had ideas about what should be done. Waging a campaign to turn public opinion in favor of more affordable housing was mentioned by several people as an important starting point.

Kate Downing, who became a self-titled "reluctant celebrity" when she recently resigned from the Palo Alto Planning Commission, told the audience that the root of the problem is local city councils.

"They decide how much commercial, how much housing is allowed in cities and they decide how fast it happens," Downing said.

The decisions are made, she added, "with the full support of wealthy homeowners who don't care about more housing."

"I know it's easy to blame the techies," she said. "The techies don't vote."

Pressure on city councils to limit housing growth, she said, comes from people who want to protect their properties.

"Those are the hearts and minds you have to change," Downing said.

Menlo Park Councilwoman Catherine Carlton told the audience, "We have to get out there and tell the story that the people who live in affordable homes -- policemen, firemen, teachers -- are good honest, wonderful people that you want to live next door to."

Adina Levin, a Menlo Park transportation commissioner, cited a May 2016 report by the Bay Area Council that says that one-third of Bay Area residents are considering leaving the area.

"What kind of a society has 30 percent of people considering leaving? This is really, really not OK," Levin said. "We are losing people who have lived here for a long time, and we're losing the next generation."

Other ideas were mentioned:

• Encourage homeowners to use county-approved templates to build secondary-dwelling units that meet local codes. The owners could get financing help if they rent it out at below-market rates.

• In areas where there is new affordable housing, give priority to people who have been displaced from that area.

• Stop building commercial projects until there's a balance between jobs and housing.

• Restrict rental apartments from being rented out on Airbnb.

• Ask state legislators to repeal the Costa-Hawkins Act, which restricts rent-control measures.

• Allow people to legally convert their garages into secondary-dwelling or "granny" units.

As the adults continued to pass around the mic presenting their ideas, the kids in the back snuck out discreetly. Soon after, the adults began congratulating each other on starting a conversation and opening a dialogue and left too.

Days later, I still can't shake the lyrics of a music video shown during the event. The song is called "My Home" by H20 featuring East Palo Alto hip-hop artist Freddy Flowpez, and depicts a family receiving an eviction notice. A child sings the lyrics of the chorus in a clear voice:

This is my home

Raise me up and watch me grow.

This is my home

Where else can we go?

Related content:

Palo Alto struggles to provide housing that's affordable

Email Kate Bradshaw at kbradshaw@almanacnews.com.

Comments

12 people like this
Posted by Marrol
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Aug 31, 2016 at 9:26 am

It's called progress. Progress and gentrification in these communities, which have deteriorated and long been neglected are precisely what's needed to improve the conditions. These communities face a disproportionate degree of crime, poverty, and social challenges. This reality has an adverse effect on the quality of life on the region as a whole. It's time for these valuable properties to be developed and put to positive use for the greater good.

What community could say no to safer, cleaner, and newly developed neighborhoods and commercial areas. Especially when located on this highly desirable peninsula property. Typically what follows are young families, better schools, and a more successful, viable community as a whole.

Change is inevitable. Progress will occur. Just about anything is a better alternative than to continue the policies that have left communities like East Palo Alto sorely behind. These past policies have not worked. Time to put an end to it and move on.


40 people like this
Posted by Affordable Housing for Palo Alto
a resident of Community Center
on Aug 31, 2016 at 10:30 am

Kate Downing said: The decisions are made, she added, "with the full support of wealthy homeowners who don't care about more housing."

Kate Downing was a co-founder of Palo Alto Forward which opposed the office cap even though office development is more profitable than housing, which is why very little new housing is being built in Palo Alto. In reality the Palo Alto home owners care a lot about affordable housing and Palo Alto had more affordable housing then 5 of our nearby cities combined. The city recently allocated $14 million to try and save Barron Park. The major obstacle has been Palo Alto Forward opposing the office cap, opposing increasing the required percentage of affordable housing for new multi-unit projects to 25% and opposing increasing developer assessment fees to support affordable housing and their insistence on putting developer concerns and profits ahead of local community impacts. City council candidates aligned with this hypocritical and ineffective approach to affordable housing are Liz Kniss and Adrian Fine.


7 people like this
Posted by Nancy
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Aug 31, 2016 at 11:06 am

I saw mayor Burt's interview posted somewhere the other day about housing and jobs. It fits in here.

Web Link



23 people like this
Posted by Gale Johnson
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Aug 31, 2016 at 11:12 am

Gale Johnson is a registered user.

@Affordable Housing for Palo Alto

Well said. How ironic to see "Re-Elect Liz Kniss" at the top of the page.


42 people like this
Posted by Jason
a resident of Palo Alto Hills
on Aug 31, 2016 at 12:23 pm

I'm tired of reading these articles about how we should all feel bad because some people cant afford to live here. If you're worthy of living in Palo Alto then you can afford it. Period. Otherwise, keep moving on down 101.

A truth that won't be printed here: locals like the high cost of housing because it keeps the wrong kind of people out. Who wants to live next to plumbers and nurses anyway when you can live next to Facebook engineers and Stanford professors? I'm sorry if that sounds bad but it is a painful truth.

-Jason


43 people like this
Posted by Be Positive
a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Aug 31, 2016 at 12:37 pm

Be Positive is a registered user.

@Jason - I would be happy to live next door to a plumber or nurse or carpenter or teacher, etc.


24 people like this
Posted by margaret heath
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Aug 31, 2016 at 12:43 pm

margaret heath is a registered user.

@Marrol and Jason

I trust you are being sarcastic.


23 people like this
Posted by Balance
a resident of Los Altos
on Aug 31, 2016 at 12:52 pm

Where it makes sense to do so, change zoning of existing office space to multi-unit residential housing. This would decrease jobs and also increase housing, which over time would ease the jobs-housing imbalance.


40 people like this
Posted by Jim
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 31, 2016 at 1:16 pm

Kate Downing left feeling angry at Palo Alto because she couldn't buy a $2.5 million house to which she felt entitled. Instead she bought a big $1.5million ocean view house in Santa Cruz. I saw the print out after the sale. I don't get it. Most could never afford to buy a 1.5 million dollar house like that. Does this put her in the 1% world-wide? The 5%? 10% I know she is up there, as am I. A sense of perspective and proportion is getting lost in the discussion of demands made for housing in Palo Alto. Kate and many others of us are lucky enough to have had families that could afford to help us get graduate or professional degrees that got us fancy well paying jobs. We are privileged beyond belief - among some of the most fortunate people who have ever lived on this planet. And boy, as a consequence, do we feel entitled to having it all now, on demand. I for one think we should take a breath and stop being so self centered and think about people who are less fortunate here and their needs and not just ours.


34 people like this
Posted by margaret heath
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Aug 31, 2016 at 1:51 pm

margaret heath is a registered user.

Palo Alto Forward was started by a group of Palantir employees, sponsored by Palantir (one of Peter Thiel's investments), to lobby the city council for more housing and commercial development in downtown for its employees.

PAF is extremely organized and actively recruiting people renters who are being displaced by huge rent hikes, or live outside Palo Alto but would like to live here. Ironic that Palantir is a large part of the problem, because unlike the other tech companies founded here which move on to bigger campuses as they grow, Palantir is making downtown Palo Alto it's campus. Apparently, because of Palantir's highly classified Defence contracts (which Peter Thiel is actively lobbying to expand in Washington DC) having Palantir's individual work groups spread out in different building wired separately is a security advantage, hugely important for their highly classified Defence contracts.

Our mayor, Pat Burt, brought up at a council meeting some months ago that he had gone back and checked out what kind of uses downtown office space can be leased for. The downtown zoning does not permit office space to be leased for the production of commercial products. The kind of commercial production zoned for in the Stanford Research Park for instance. Does anyone have any information on this?


16 people like this
Posted by Cid Young
a resident of another community
on Aug 31, 2016 at 1:57 pm

Why don't the Peninsula City Councils vote to re-zone some commercial property for mixed use and build some apartment buildings with a mix of bedroom options from really cheap studios to three bedroom apartments all atop retail (including a grocery store to serve the customer upstairs) or even light industrial manufacturing "office complex style" businesses. Sleep up-stairs - work downstairs, no commute. Some of those apartments could be market rate and some could be "Affordable". Incentives should be given to those without ANY vehicles such as seniors who don't need a car to get to work, or folks that work nearby and can walk, bike or take public transit to their jobs. Traffic will benefit. We need to start thinking outside the box. I especially believe that the County should advocate and actually push for more secondary units within the community. That is a win-win for homeowners who could get a subsidy to build it, and gain some income in the long-run, and for a renter who might not mind a smaller place to call their own that would be within the fabric of an already existing neighborhood.


55 people like this
Posted by Citizen
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 31, 2016 at 1:58 pm

I'd like to point out that "displacement" is the crisis issue, which is very different than developing new housing projects, which usually facilitate displacement. Being concerned about displacement is being concerned about people with roots in a community and not lettng a gold rush development climate destroy people's lives. Building new affordable housing developments almost never serve the people who are displaced, they end up being lottery housing for new people coming in.

Don't get me wrong, I think affordable housing development is appropriate in most cities, but the priority should be stabilizing and preventing displacement of large swaths of low-income existing residents. That seems never to get any discussion, or it gets confused with the development of new buildings, which usually has nothing to do with displaced families except to mean the public thinks they are spending money on "affordable housing" and cares even less about the displaced. This article is a case in point. Finally the issue of displacement comes up then quickly confuses it with new development of projects. These are not the same thing, and the latter doesn't nearly address the former, not even indirectly.

I am for finding ways to stabilize the existing housing of people who live in our community when things go wild every time there is a boom. I have ideas about that, but it's hard to even talk when people make it about how to use affordable housing to overdevelop commercially again. Enough, we are talking about people, not monopoly houses.


17 people like this
Posted by Gale Johnson
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Aug 31, 2016 at 2:53 pm

Gale Johnson is a registered user.

@Citizen

You've stated the problem that we all lost sight of brilliantly. We get so focused and wrapped up on new affordable housing without even knowing what that means to many people. And we forget about affordable housing that existed but is disappearing rapidly. It is those people who have lived here and contributed to our communities for years, and who have had affordable housing here up until recent years...they are the first and hardest hit. I don't have a solution, but at least you've jarred my thinking (a whack in the forehead with a 2x4 is good for you every once in a while) and I hope you have others as well.

Hopefully, churches, community leaders, non-profits, and the majority on our city councils, will take notice. But, the pro-growth supporters, PAFers and others, and the developers will probably just give your post a passing glance and then get back to their business of promoting their community destroying ideas. Thanks again for making the distinction clear to us. I probably know a dozen or more of those people who are threatened by being displaced.


33 people like this
Posted by margaret heath
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Aug 31, 2016 at 2:59 pm

margaret heath is a registered user.

@ Citizen

Unfortunately Palo Alto Forward is the face of the "housing crises" and get as many petition signers and people to turn up at city hall to lobby for them. Two years ago their successful campaign to get one of their "unofficial" members elected to the council to joing three other council members who have historically voted for more development. At the same time PAF were successful in getting the previous pro-growth council majority to appoint two PAF members, Adrien Fine and Kate Downing, to the Planning and Transport Commission, already stacked with developer friendly members appointed by developer friendly councils.

At the last election there were current two council members with campaign literature extolling their "residentialist " credentials, even though one of them had a voting record that was aligned with the pro-growth lobby and the other carefully burying his earlier involvement with PAF. Unfortunately many voters believe what they read on the campaign literature and take everything at face value as they have busy lives and not the time to follow council meetings or Palo Alto issues in any depth.

Look carefully at who you vote for. Don't believe everything you read in the campaign literature, or what the candidate tells you they stand for.


19 people like this
Posted by Tom, Dick and Harry
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 31, 2016 at 3:04 pm

Tom, Dick and Harry is a registered user.

Why do Peter Thiel and Sebastien Thrun, citizens of Germany, not the US, get to mess with our jobs/housing imbalance even further?

Did they just recently become citizens, or dual citizens? What gives them the ride to mess with Palo Alto? Thrun lives on the Stanford Campus, for heaven's sake. I believe Thiel lives in Atherton.


20 people like this
Posted by Citizen
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 31, 2016 at 3:09 pm

I find @Marrol's comment egregiously elitist. It's not even true. East Palo Alto is no longer as dangerous as it once was, there are even parts of Mountain View now with as much crime (not much at that).

Such comments are what insular developers and civic leaders must tell themselves to justify the destruction they wreak in people's lives for greed. Poor people are not criminals nor is it some greater good to sweep them into transience.


25 people like this
Posted by Jim Colton
a resident of Green Acres
on Aug 31, 2016 at 3:12 pm

Jim Colton is a registered user.

Margaret Heath has shed some light on the cause of the jobs/housing imbalance in Palo Alto. Palantir moved to Palo Alto and continued to expand by gobbling up buildings all over town. Then to house all these new employees, they created a political machine in Palo Alto Forward to push for new housing for their young professionals. This has nothing to do with affordable housing to keep diversity or to keep our lower paid workers in Palo Alto, a laudable goal. This is about trying to appease the entitlement generation whose main slogan is "I want".

The city council election this year gives us all a real choice. If you want to help out the "I wants", vote for Liz Kniss and Adrian Fine, both supported by Palo Alto Forward, although PAF has carefully avoided any outward appearance of doing so. If you want to see a broad range of residents' views represented on the council, vote for Lydia Kou and Arthur Keller both of whom have spent years demonstrating their support for Palo Alto residents.


11 people like this
Posted by An Honest Look
a resident of Green Acres
on Aug 31, 2016 at 3:18 pm

Look. The Bay Area's housing crisis is more like a fast moving tsunami. A State of Emergency should be declared. FEMA along with Doctors Without Borders should be called on to set up refugee camps. And protected by the National Guard. This would help circumvent the lifelong PTSD and other psychological and physically induced trauma to lifelong residents/families who are being routed from their homes to the highest bidder.

Low-income children are fearful about their future, I have overheard a neighbor’s child ask his mother, “Are we homeless?” People who work at child-care centers, coffee shops and grocery stores are so beaten down from the financial stress - enduring the hour by hour a nagging anxiety of not knowing if their apartments are going to be outsourced to technology kings.

Currently many thousands of Bay Area residents are living under constant shock and disbelief. Will their homes be there by nightfall? With one email sent from FB/Google/Apple executives to a real estate developer, a swipe of a bulldozer, a human life is forever altered. Let me put it another way. As fast as China is building up their cities, we are tearing ours apart.

And we expect thousands of Bay Area families living below the poverty line to maintain a car then get on the freeway everyday to drive to whatever low-wage 4-6 hour a day part-time job?

If I were a member of one of these unfortunate families, I'd be holding my children as close as possible for fear of losing them to drugs, gangs and violence.

This is SERIOUSLY not a joke. It’s a crisis upon us of untold proportions. If not addressed immediately the lack of housing will have negative consequences for generations to come. At the present scale of things, the Peninsula is becoming a virtual gated community – where only a select few are afforded the privilege of living here. I strongly suggest a solidly built solution of supply meet the demand. Please face forward and get the job done.

If we can't keep up with job v. housing why doesn't Google/FB/Apple take some of their work load a create their living wage utopia in California Central Valley, like Chico, Sacramento, Stockton, Fresno? Land is cheaper, plenty of good labor pool, lots of colleges along the way to seek strong candidates to get the work done.


18 people like this
Posted by Citizen
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 31, 2016 at 3:19 pm

Policeman, firemen, and teachers are all making more than we do and more than the median income here. That is such an old one. Kate Downing hijacking the conversation yet again for her own hypocritical ends is just unhelpful to people who have real needs.

This is a problem that happens every time there is a boom. I think we should be talking about creating a rainy day fund from taxing developers and people who jack up rents precipitously, and using it to offer subsidies to people who have been a part of a community for five years or longer, or who can show contributions to the community, until the boom settles down.


16 people like this
Posted by Richard
a resident of another community
on Aug 31, 2016 at 3:46 pm

@ Jason.

[Portion removed.] Without folks working in the service industry you will be not getting quality help in grocery stores, clothing stores, restaurants and any other place. Folks shouldn't have to worry about living where they want to live, there should always be ROOM to have them as a neighbor. [Portion removed.]

I partially grew up in Palo Alto but have lived in Redwood City for the past few decades and it's just as bad here as it is anywhere these days. "Deadwood City" is now "Google Central" with the landlords catching the "Raise the rent too high" bug and displacing allot of my friends and extended family. This unlawful business of this AirBNB BS is out of control. I mean $4000.00 for a 2 bedroom apt in a stack and pack arrangement? It's very bad. I don't relish leaving the bay area but if my landlords catch "the bug" I'm out of here. Pretty soon all the rich and mighty will be doing allot of self serve because it's going to be a very very foolish person that stays here [Portion removed].

Richard


26 people like this
Posted by Martin
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Aug 31, 2016 at 3:56 pm

So the lesson to remember for your ballot is -
Vote No On Adria Fine.
[Portion removed.] PAF steering committee includes several Palantir employees, some of whom got appoints to our commissions - Eric Rosebloom is on our planning commission. If you want mega towers of housing and no limit on what generates the need for more - vote for Adrian Fine or anyone PAF endorses. Steve Levy on the steering committee is their guru that says build build build.
Also - these candidates will have big money behind them and SF campaign consultants have been hired. Remember when Scharff spent 100K on a consultant [portion removed] last election? Same thing will be tried here.


10 people like this
Posted by Observer
a resident of University South
on Aug 31, 2016 at 6:33 pm

It's sad but predictable that a thread about people getting displaced turns into character assassination about Palo Alto Forward, the only group in Palo Alto that is actively trying to help them.

Palo Alto Forward isn't "sponsored" by anyone - their website says they don't take money. Check it out yourself: Web Link

Palo Alto Forward also hasn't endorsed anymore. According to their website, they sent out a questionnaire to ALL candidates, and they are going to make a scorecard.

Finally, Palantir isn't the cause of high housing prices in Palo Alto - they aren't even one of the top ten employers. If you want to know where the employees are, look at the Research Park - which the vaunted office cap explicitly exempts from any controls.

It's a real shame to see so much venomous misinformation posted on a story about real people who are getting hurt by high housing prices. This thread is not representative of the smart, caring people of Palo Alto who I see in my neighborhood every day.


9 people like this
Posted by Swamps
a resident of Mountain View
on Aug 31, 2016 at 9:29 pm

[Post removed.]


3 people like this
Posted by Shame
a resident of Barron Park
on Aug 31, 2016 at 9:43 pm

@jason
You are out of touch! not everyone has opportunities and I am thrilled you got lucky and live in Palo Alto like I do. However, it is difficult to find nannies, plummers, gardeners, coaches, special Ed student aides, aides to work in nursing homes, cashiers at Nordstroms......these people who do these jobs are intelligent, humble, kind, generous and don't look down at people who live in Palo Alto hills. This thanksgiving and Christmas, can I suggest you go and volunteer some time at a school in east Palo Alto, redwood city, etc or at a soup kitchen, or shadow a Plummer and learn from them. You will be enlightened.


9 people like this
Posted by "Jason" is a troll
a resident of Crescent Park
on Aug 31, 2016 at 10:25 pm

Richard and Shame, please don't engage with "Jason." S/he is a troll writing from the perspective of how s/he imagines Palo Alto residents think. Just ignore him/her.


11 people like this
Posted by Tasha
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Sep 1, 2016 at 6:14 am

As a dual renter, both home and commercial, I am being forced to leave this area. My business has managed to survive a recession, .com crash and 2 bubbles bursting! But this? This is ridiculous! The service industry is dying. Period. Those help wanted signs in the window? Those are ever increasing positions waiting to be filled by exiting employees. The trickle down effect of all this? Not only has my rent been jacked in two locations my clients are having to cut back on their spending due to their housing costs. Please support rent stabilization. If it sounds like a bandaid fix, it is, but without it we're going to bleed to death. Unfortunately the idea of a 'long term solution' is just that: a buzz term which is being thrown around to deter the community from acting NOW!!
Please accept my apologies for a comment which may be less than perfect. It's the best I could do after 4 hours of sleep caught between a very late work day and an early rise to prepare for the next. Thank you for this opportunity to post.


5 people like this
Posted by C. Chen
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Sep 1, 2016 at 7:48 am

@Jason: I do not believe it is fair to describe people who want to live here but can not afford it as "unworthy". I agree that a city is better with more smart and influential people but plumbers and nurses can be good people too even if they do not have what we have.

I think the city should starting thinking of ways that we can do away city services that require working class employees. The police officers and teachers of Palo Alto will have to leave soon anyway unless they already own a house, and even then they have to die off eventually. Let us use our awesome brain power to come up with ways to do this. We could be the first city to have robot police officers and schools with artificial intelligence teachers!


3 people like this
Posted by JustDoIt
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Sep 1, 2016 at 8:48 am

Let's build already. 3 or 4 twenty story housing towers downtown would do it and we can all be happy. I make good money and am willing to pay a lot in rent. I just want to walk to work

I'm supporting Adruan Fine, Greg Tanaka, Don McDougal and Liz Kniss in the election because they are the ones that have spoke out clearly to build lots of new housing. Adrian had said we shouldn't have constraints in Developement. Don has said housing, housing, housing. Greg and Liz have a voting record that shows they've supported these efforts in the past. PAlo Alto Forward, Bay Area Renters Foundation and other pro urbanization groups are supporting them and that's good enough for me.

As someone that has followed PAF and comments from their steering committee, they clearly come out in favor of car free ,dense housing which we badly need. I urge anyone that believes in a big increase in housing to support their candidates. Their founder Kate Downing , has put her finger on the issue. Palo Alto has too many single family homes and needs to convert some of them to high density housing.


4 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 1, 2016 at 9:18 am

Does someone who works for the city of Atherton, say collecting garbage, or working in one of their few businesses, deserve to live in Atherton?

I am not saying that they don't deserve to live reasonably close to where they work, but it seems unreasonable to me that these hard working individuals have a right to live there or that Atherton should be expected to make homes available that they can afford.

If that seems reasonable for Atherton, then why isn't the same reasonable for Palo Alto? Or Mountain View, or East Palo Alto, or Menlo Park, or Redwood City, or... Wait a minute, housing prices vary between each of these places and each of them would be a reasonable commute to Atherton - or Palo Alto.

This is a regional issue and should be discussed on a regional basis, not town by town.


Posted by Me
a resident of Adobe-Meadow

on Sep 1, 2016 at 9:43 am


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1 person likes this
Posted by Chris Zaharias
a resident of Crescent Park
on Sep 1, 2016 at 10:52 am

Chris Zaharias is a registered user.

"If You Own A Home In Palo Alto, CA, Sell It Now" - headline from Web Link article on Zero Hedge today.


20 people like this
Posted by SFtransplant
a resident of College Terrace
on Sep 1, 2016 at 10:59 am

This article is refreshingly different from the many recent ones on housing in Palo Alto and vicinity. It highlights a problem that has concerned progressives in SF for some time: the displacement of long-time residents by more highly paid tech workers. Many long-time residents of EPA (and even PA) do not make salaries commensurate with that of the Millenial tech workers and are having difficulty paying rising rents. (Like SF, EPA has rent-control; PA does not.) I would argue that this is a greater concern for our community than those of the tech workers who would like to relocate here.


11 people like this
Posted by mauricio
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Sep 1, 2016 at 4:40 pm

mauricio is a registered user.

I noticed that there is zero pressure on Atherton, Woodside, Portola Valley and Los Alto Hills to build affordable housing for the nannies, gardeners, maids, house keepers, firefighters and plumbers who commute everyday into those towns for work. It seems like only well paid techies and other well paid, highly educated professionals deserve homes, designed specifically for their income and preferred lifestyle. I never heard any similar indignation and bitterness, actually none at all from those hard working, underpaid workers who don't demand housing in those ultra wealthy communities, anything that can be compared to the indignation of people like Kate Downing and her husband, who make between them 300,000 dollars per year.

If hypocrisy and entitlement could produce a lightening bolt that would strike down those practicing them, so many Palo Alto wannabes would be in mortal danger


9 people like this
Posted by Citizen
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 1, 2016 at 7:05 pm

@Observer,
"about Palo Alto Forward, the only group in Palo Alto that is actively trying to help them."

Oh? Let's start with the residents being displaced from Palo Alto, the Buena Vista Mobile Home residents. PAF would prefer to see it turned into high density luxury housing. Stephen Levy was unusually critical about efforts to help prevent the BV residents from displacement in his blog. What has Kate Downing done, as a lawyer no less, to help residents of BV? PAF members don't even show up at the rallies. They are completely indifferent to the plight of the poor, including diverting a discussion from the important issues of emergency rent stabilization, possibly even subsidies.

No, they hijacked an important discussion about displacement of longtime residents with their Build Baby Build mantra. Burlingame/San Mateo just built a huge development of tall apartments at the old race track, right on the rail lines. Did that make housing costs drop? No, new housing is more expensive and ends up putting pressure on average rents all over. Did Kate Downing move there? No. Could any of the people at that rally move there? No again. Building more housiing that developers make money on makes older stock look more attractive for redevelopment, just as is happening at BV. It hastens displacement (remember that word gentrification? It's a real thing.)

The word for PAF in regards to real low-income people is not "trying" it's hypocrisy. People who DON'T want city business taken up by developer interests all the time - but who care about actual, real, thoughtful so,utions (not slogans) should vote for Kou/Keller.


3 people like this
Posted by Citizen
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 1, 2016 at 7:11 pm

@Chris,
That may be so, for anyone who bought as an investment and wants to cash out. The trouble is that it's never a good bet to get out of the market here if you are in for the long term. If you bought at half, it's very unlikely you'll get something with a similar tax payment, ever again. There were plenty of prognistications like this every few years for the last thirty, short term, they may be right. Often, they are wrong. Long term if you want to stay here, selling to cash out usn't a good strategy.


3 people like this
Posted by Dayle Schweninger
a resident of Ventura
on Sep 2, 2016 at 3:00 pm

If you price people out of having a place to live, police, firefighters, nurses, teachers, and other service people, then, don't be surprised if there is an increase in crime, from desperate and displaced people, if all the entitled folks who "imagine" how much nicer things will be, well get a clue, you are setting yourselves up for a rude awakening. Just sayin, no one wants to commute two hours each way from the valley to teach your kids, tend to your elder, clean your house, wait your table, mow your lawn, just so you can feel "safe" in your perfect life, wise up.


7 people like this
Posted by bg
a resident of South of Midtown
on Sep 3, 2016 at 12:27 am

Degrading the quality of life for all palo altans to subsidize high density housing is irrational. Policmen, teachers, and firefighters can afford to live here, they choose to live in cities offering a higher quality of life, less crowded areas, with larger homes and yards.

Lets drop the rhetoric that they can't afford to live here - it is old, tired and lame.

We can slow the rise in housing prices if we quit developing commercial sites in palo alto. Instead we should be encouraging growth in under-developed areas like modesto and santa cruz. Unfortunately, it is highly profitable for developers to lobby PA's and MP's city halls to rezone property for higher density uses. There have always been Wolbachs and Keiths who encourage this behavior. But fortunately PA and MP have had a history of citizens willing to fight preserve our quality of life.


3 people like this
Posted by Socialism?
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 3, 2016 at 12:55 am

Why do the poor have more rights to live here than the wealthy?

My husband commutes to San Francisco for work. Why does everyone think that Palo Altans work in Palo Alto?


2 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 3, 2016 at 8:24 am

There are definitely some teachers and police living in Palo Alto. Not many, I agree, but some do. There are some that don't want to for family privacy.


3 people like this
Posted by Theodore
a resident of another community
on Sep 3, 2016 at 7:20 pm

Being NIMBY about tech here is actually bad for the tech people. Not the big companies.

Many companies would be pleased if they could move out of the area. The global reach of software and services means it matters little where you put your workers, the money will come. As it is, they pretty much all incorporate in Delaware, but do actual business here. If they could move to the Midwest and pay much less money for the same employees, they would. It’s the people that keep them here. If they tried to move, they would lose half their employees, at least.

For tech people, the greatest thing about the San Francisco Bay Area is that California has robust employee protection laws. The next great thing is that there are so many tech resources in so little an area. Moving for your employer might work if you had lifetime employment. As a country, we are so past that. As nerve-wracking as it is to lose your job, it’s much less stressful if you could get an equivalent job down the road. Or even across the street, in a walkable neighborhood like SoMa. Career advisors are even advocating switching companies as an ordinary part of getting a raise. I feel that if you are established, then sure, you could get a Bay Area salary and live like a king elsewhere. But for up-and-coming techies, the San Francisco Bay Area is the best place to be.

And if you want to grow a tech company and improve the lives of employees, then this area has the most investors, the most advisors, the most peers, the most understanding banks, the most access to employees. Tech is about individual freedom, but you do not succeed if you are just doing your own thing in isolation. You have much greater chance of success if you have access to a robust network of people, and the network happens to be here.


4 people like this
Posted by Observer
a resident of University South
on Sep 4, 2016 at 9:11 pm

Citizen - your comments about PAF and Bena Vista are false. As I recall, both PAF and PASZ sent letters to city council advocating using city funds to purchase the park and preserving it as a trailer park. So PAF has not advocated for turning it into "high-density housing."

Sadly, though, if you believe in affordable housing, you really should not vote for Kuo. Her signature issue so far has been blocking affordable housing at Maybell. Maybe she wanted something different, but you have a choice and you make it. I can see those who voted against it had lots of views and maybe didn't know what they were doing. But it's just a different thing to lead the campaign yourself.

Keller I don't know about. I'm hopeful he's not as bad as Kuo, although they do seem joined at the hip with the same campaign manger. Does anyone know what his stance on affordable housing at Maybell was?


1 person likes this
Posted by Jerry Underdal
a resident of Barron Park
on Sep 4, 2016 at 11:50 pm

Jerry Underdal is a registered user.

@Observer

"Does anyone know what his stance on affordable housing at Maybell was?"

Arthur Keller on the PTC, like Karen Holman and Greg Schmid on the City Council, supported the Maybell Project.


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Posted by Observer
a resident of University South
on Sep 5, 2016 at 7:46 am

@Jerry Underdal - That's good to know. I'll look forward to hearing more from him.


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

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