News

Editorial: The 'microunit' allure

Proposed high density apartment development aims for car-less young professionals

Some call it an innovative way to create needed housing that will become the wave of the future. Others call it inappropriate spot up-zoning that would cause severe parking impacts on the surrounding neighborhood, do nothing to create affordable housing and set a terrible precedent.

On Monday night, a divided City Council heard a divided public weigh in on a proposal that would likely have been laughed out of city hall a few years ago. But in the wake of rising agitation to build more housing for the workers of expanding high tech companies and others, the plan for a 60-apartment building where a parking lot now stands at the corner of Page Mill Road and El Camino Real may actually have legs. The public should be wary.

The proposal for 60 units of rental housing (30 very small studio and 30 one-bedroom apartments ranging from 500 to 700 square feet) -- far more than would be allowed on such a small lot anywhere in the city under current zoning -- is destined to become, appropriately, a major issue in the fall City Council campaign.

As presented by developer Windy Hill Property Ventures, only 45 parking spaces would be provided, less than one per apartment and fewer than half of what would typically be required. The concept is that the project will attract residents who have decided against car ownership and will walk, bike or take public transportation to their jobs and social and recreational activities.

This is the modern millennial lifestyle described by some housing advocates, who argue the site is a perfect place to test the theory in a suburban environment, where it has not been tried before.

The developer says instead of the normal number of required parking places it would provide 84 bike parking spots, Caltrain passes and a transportation coordinator who will live on-site and help the residents get around without cars, including by utilizing shared vehicles. It says it would also support a Residential Parking Program for the California Avenue neighborhood surrounding the site that would preclude apartment tenants from getting parking permits for street parking during the day.

The immediate neighborhood, which includes several housing complexes and commercial offices, is already highly impacted by insufficient parking. And major new housing and office projects are underway or will be soon within blocks of the property. It takes a major leap of faith to think that the proposed new micro-apartments will attract residents who opt against owning a car and that such a development will have no parking or traffic impacts.

Notably, the developer has not made any estimates on rental rates. But based on the experience in Redwood City and Mountain View with newly constructed apartments, these units will not be bargains and will not be affordable to those with moderate incomes.

So as the community debates the merits of this micro-apartment concept, we must achieve greater clarity and, hopefully, some degree of consensus, on what problem we're trying to solve with our housing development priorities.

Are we simply trying to add as many units of housing as possible, regardless of the demographic being served, while doing our best to control the associated parking and transportation impacts?

Or are we trying to target the creation of housing that is affordable to lower paid but critically important service workers who help to maintain both economic and ethnic diversity in the community?

As we have stated previously, simply creating more housing that can only be afforded by highly paid tech workers is of much less value than a concerted strategy aimed at those with moderate incomes.

One problem, of course, is that it is virtually impossible for a for-profit developer, without some form of public subsidy, to build and rent new apartments at a price affordable to service workers given the high cost of land and construction. That subsidy can come in the form of allowing increased density, reduced parking or through public ownership of the land. (Building housing above city-owned parking lots at higher density, for example, would eliminate land costs and allow for less expensive rental rates.)

The Page Mill-El Camino site, however, is owned by a private developer and the city must decide what to allow there. Currently zoned "public facility," any development will require new zoning. This gives the city complete control over what it chooses to encourage and ultimately approve, and the developer knew of that uncertainty when it bought the property.

The microunit housing concept's allure is in its aim to provide many more rental units than traditional zoning would permit, without any increased parking and traffic impacts. But allure should not lead to policy decisions. The developer and supporters need to show examples of similar, successful under-parked developments, and the city should perform the independent economic analysis needed to determine how to negotiate for the maximum number of designated affordable units.

In the meantime, the proposal gives the public an unusual opportunity to pin down the 11 City Council candidates on their housing positions and to elect those who most reflect their views.

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Comments

47 people like this
Posted by Don't Be Fooled
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Sep 16, 2016 at 9:01 am

Don't Be Fooled is a registered user.

New micro units are being oversold as "affordable" when in reality that means $3000 per unit and up. Cal Ave is significantly under parked so proposing a building with less parking spots than apartments is a recipe for disaster and while this project could be made to work by reducing the size of the building, number of units and adding significant public benefit, developers have a poor track of following through on public benefit projects (e.g. Edgewood Plaza's vacant Grocery Store) and in general spot zoning is a very bad practice. At City Council candidate forum last night, for those who are not very familiar with the candidates, it might not have been very clear how those candidates will vote if elected so let me shed some light. Residentialist candidates such as Arthur Keller, Lydia Kou, Steward Carl and Greer Stone are truly committed to representing residents concerns. Candidates Liz Kniss, Adrian Fine and Ely will likely represent developer concerns and continue to support fast growth without properly mitigating the impacts.


19 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 16, 2016 at 9:13 am

From my perspective, I can't imagine anyone wanting to live in a micro unit for more than a year or so, two at most. These remind me of vacation rentals or glorified college dorm rooms. I also think that ZipCar would need to be part of the mix.

As soon as one of these microunit dwellers has a long term relationship, a baby, or accumulated some stuff for camping or similar interest, these units will not be desirable.


26 people like this
Posted by Justine
a resident of Crescent Park
on Sep 16, 2016 at 9:15 am

We should try it and see how it works out. Many people would like to bike, train and use shared vehicles to get around.


19 people like this
Posted by Observer
a resident of University South
on Sep 16, 2016 at 9:15 am

This concept is an opportunity to expand the RPP program that has been so successful at preventing traffic impacts in College Terrace and which we are haltingly rolling out in Downtown North and University South. If we want to prevent parking impacts, it's simple- make the new resident ineligible for street parking. This kind of enforcement was rightly focused on by Councilmembers Scharff and Burt.

It's just not realistic to imagine that we could build affordable units for even hundreds of people. Look at how difficult it is just to build sixty affordable units for seniors! We still haven't found a replacement for the Maybell site four years later. Each affordable unit built from city funds costs hundreds of thousands of dollars. Unless the Weekly is proposing a hundred million dollar housing bond, we simply cannot prevent the loss of hundreds, perhaps thousands of residents who could afford to live in their market-rate rentals five years ago but who are priced out now as rents have doubled while incomes have not.

This development offered to give preference to teachers and firefighters who have long struggled to live in Palo Alto. That's not public housing, but it is a real need in Palo Alto.

This is a real problem and we need real solutions. A solution of purely public housing is just not a realistic solution, even for a city as wealthy as Palo Alto has become. We need to think smarter and be willing to try things that have worked in other neighborhoods of Palo Alto.

I heard at the City Council forum that residents want Palo Alto to be a compassionate city. Can we be compassionate to people who need our help?


33 people like this
Posted by This isn't that unusual
a resident of College Terrace
on Sep 16, 2016 at 9:25 am

Many of us started our working lives living in "micro-units". My first apartment was ~400 SQFT (and I shared it with my girlfriend). Because we were just starting out, we were working very long hours, and then we would meet friends for dinner and drinks after work. Our apartment was a great place to crash, but it was not the center of family life. We chose a smaller apartment because it was all we could afford while still being walking distance from our work and places to hang out. We didn't have a car at that time. This lifestyle is what many (most?) young people want.

My dad is now getting older, and is looking for something fairly similar. He lives alone, and doesn't want a big house. He wants a well-appointed apartment, not too big. He doesn't drive any more, so he wants a lot of places he can walk to outside of his front door. He likes having neighbors around in case he needs help.

I'm so happy Palo Alto may be adding these choices for people just starting out, or for older people winding down.


23 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 16, 2016 at 9:33 am

"This development offered to give preference to teachers and firefighters who have long struggled to live in Palo Alto. That's not public housing, but it is a real need in Palo Alto."

Agreed. But "preference" only means that if any teachers and first responders apply for those $3000 apartments, they get them first. But since no teacher can actually afford that, the "preference" is meaningless. They still end up with the high-paid people who can afford them.

Notice when there was discussion of REQUIRING those units to go to teachers and first responders, everybody backed off, with even some of the council saying this was too hard on the developer.


36 people like this
Posted by ichu
a resident of Stanford
on Sep 16, 2016 at 9:59 am

I hardly know where to start with this article. Allowing for increased density and reduced parking is not a subsidy. It is sensible land use allocation. Minimum parking requirements artificially drive down the cost of driving and increase the cost of housing. (For evidence I suggest a google scholar search - virtually the whole of the literature supports this conclusion). Eliminating them is _removing_ a substantial subsidy for driving. Why should a city or developer provide valuable land for free for the storage of personal vehicles?

"Highly paid tech workers" is thrown around a lot, but they are really just normally paid tech workers. I know multiple hardworking, responsible tech workers who got PhDs that make about as much as a first year beat cop. If one calculates in the summer break, the earning rate of many hardware engineers is about what a teacher in Palo Alto or a sonogram tech makes: a living wage. Tech workers (or research workers, or health workers) are just regular people. When did we decide places to live for ordinary middle class residents was an anathema?

For examples of similar successful developments of micro apartments with no parking, I would suggest looking at virtually every housing unit built in every city and town in the world before 1900 (or even 1930). Micro apartments without parking are not revolutionary. They are normal housing.

I love the great American experiment, and there are aspects of modern cities that are wonderful (less cholera, more trees). Deciding that cars are more important than people does not seem like such a good aspect.


36 people like this
Posted by housing
a resident of Downtown North
on Sep 16, 2016 at 10:13 am

Young engineers start around $85k - most engineers are rank and file and make under $150k for at least the first 7 years of their career or so unless they win the lottery and are at a company that IPOs (which hasn't happened around here for quite a while in any significant way). I looked it up and we pay our elementary school teachers around $86k and I've heard we have teachers making over $100k. So if this is affordable to the single tech worker, it's also affordable to the single teacher.

In any case, any kind of housing would be helpful in Palo Alto. If housing is cheap enough to be affordable to lower income people and the like, that's awesome. But even if it's not, it still reduces pressure on other other housing in our city. A tech worker in this development is one less tech worker vying for a cheaper, much older apartment down on Park Blvd, which can then be available to lower income people. I think people are being myopic when they imagine that every piece of housing has to go to a certain demographic. That's not how any other market anywhere works. In every other market, rich people move into nice new buildings and poor people take up the spaces previously inhabited by the rich or that would have been inhabited by the rich had the new housing not been built.

And while I'm at it, there isn't just a lack of housing for low income people. We also have a lack of housing for middle income people, too. I see nothing wrong with also providing more housing for the middle class and making their rent burdens lower, too.


19 people like this
Posted by Katie
a resident of Addison School
on Sep 16, 2016 at 10:43 am

I like Resident's idea of making sure Zipcar is somehow involved in the planning process...


28 people like this
Posted by Michael Levinson
a resident of Menlo Park
on Sep 16, 2016 at 10:54 am

I lived in a 510 sq ft apartment in downtown Boston with my wife for 3 years. For people who work in downtown or midtown PA, or at Stanford, this is a 10-15 minute commute on a bike! This is a great idea and I'm disappointed in the Palo Alto Weekly for fearmongering about it.


35 people like this
Posted by Vice Mayor, Greg Scharff
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Sep 16, 2016 at 10:56 am

As I stated Monday night this project is normally the type of project that I would vote against. It is massively under parked. It has 45 Parking spots for 60 units. Normally, 90-102 parking spaces would be required. However, in this case the developer is agreeing up front to having a deed restriction only allowing a certain number of tenants to own cars. Agreeing to pay a fine if more than the agreed number of tenants own cars and having restrictions in leases concerning the ownership of cars. There would also be a robust program to make life convenient without a car. The developer also agreed to give preferences to teachers, police officers firefighters, and those that work in Palo Alto. Building housing in Palo Alto only reduces congestion, i.e. parking and traffic if it houses people who work here so they don't have to drive in. I know when I rented an apartment, I wanted to be close to my job. We can be cynical and reject this project out of hand or we can explore whether there are legal structures and incentives such as fines on the developer that create housing for people who want to rent in the community in which they work and not own cars. The promise is reducing congestion, traffic and parking while providing much needed housing for people who work in this community. As a community we have risen to the challenge of climate change in an extraordinary way. We have the highest concentration of electric cars, bikers and carbon free electricity. We are Palo Alto the most innovative city in America. Lets bring that innovation to the housing crisis while remaining hard headed and realistic about the parking and traffic impacts. But lets keep an open mind as we drive, oops I mean bike, towards a sustainable Palo Alto.


35 people like this
Posted by President Hotel
a resident of Green Acres
on Sep 16, 2016 at 11:03 am

The Weekly acts like this is some grand experiment but we already have microunits in Palo Alto! And they are so successful that no one even knows they're there! The President Hotel is not a hotel, it's a hotel that's been converted to apartments. It's 5 stories of studios (they're not even one bedrooms!) and it comes out to something like 300 units per acre - way way denser than the proposed project here. And it doesn't hava a drop of parking. This is just a load of fear mongering, without a shred of evidence or desire to look at projects like this that were actually super successful. You can read more about it here: Web Link


14 people like this
Posted by Sylvia
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 16, 2016 at 11:03 am

Thank you, Palo Alto Weekly Editorial Board, for providing this thoughtful analysis of the proposed Windy Hill development. I am one of those who fail to see how packing in more housing benefits residents who chose to live in a tree-lined, quiet community. We've lost so much already. Thank you Don't Be Fooled for mentioning the candidates who would be against this development. I also saw much of the Forum and WILL be voting for these candidates.


3 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 16, 2016 at 11:08 am

"I looked it up and we pay our elementary school teachers around $86k and I've heard we have teachers making over $100k ... so if this is affordable to the single tech worker, it's also affordable to the single teacher."

Web Link



16 people like this
Posted by housing
a resident of Downtown North
on Sep 16, 2016 at 11:29 am

Those numbers are AVERAGE salaries across engineers at all points in their careers, not starting salaries and they pick a handful of very well known and successful companies to look at - all in the consumer and not business to business space. Most tech workers in the Bay Area work at companies you've never even heard of or at very unexciting places like NetApp and Cisco which have long since given up attracting workers with crazy salaries. Most people don't work at unicorns - which are called unicorns precisely because of how few of them there are.

Here's a much more wide-looking breakdown: Web Link

Look at Cisco salaries: Web Link
Look at VMware salaries: Web Link

As for stock, stock generally doesn't vest in the first year at all and then vests only quarterly. Places like Cisco and VMware give very very small amounts of stock. I'm talking in the order of $25k over the course of 4 years.


28 people like this
Posted by Jim Colton
a resident of Green Acres
on Sep 16, 2016 at 11:39 am

Just because the developer claims that the residents will not need as many cars doesn't make it so. Putting in a bike barn doesn't guarantee the residents will ride bikes. There is no way to control the number of cars that will be added through this development. And there is no way to guarantee that lower paid city workers would have priority to these residences let alone be able to afford them. This is a proposal by a developer who says the necessary words that people want to hear but who will have no responsibility for the project once it is completed. As "Don't be Fooled" indicates, this is the kind of proposal that candidates Kniss, Fine and Ely would likely support along with other projects that favor developers.

We have allowed too much office development that brought us too many commuters into Palo Alto causing traffic, parking and other problems. This has increased demand, along with prices, for residential housing. If we want diversity in Palo Alto, we must provide affordable housing for lower paid city workers. This can only done through non-profit government entities that can control who gets into low income housing. Vote for Kou and Keller.


3 people like this
Posted by CrescentParkAnon.
a resident of Crescent Park
on Sep 16, 2016 at 11:40 am

I like this idea and I would have loved it when I was a young student and I did rent studios or rooms in houses.

Of course rents are going to remain high, because the market is both slow as a snail and inefficient. Signals
for what rent should be, or what is appropriate to pay are manipulated by landlords and local papers. It is
a huge lag from when there are enough units to when prices will actually go down, and they go down fast
enough when there are empty units, as we saw around 1993 after the first tech bust.

I also think that any of these complexes need parking - period. This is not San Francisco or Manhattan,
people need and want cars, and even if they do not think they do now, no city should allow any microunit
complex to be build without enough parking. It is having cars are all over the place that made most of
the apartment complexes in East Palo Alto so problematic and crime ridden.

We need some form of private or public high-rise microunits that are near mass transit for people who are
temporary ... students, beginning workers, low income workers, and subsidized housing. When the need
subsides, if it ever does these places could be either taken down or improved. If rents were reasonable
I think a lot of elderly people would want to live near facilities and either sell or rent out their larger houses.

The local and city governments simply cannot keep playing along with developers and landlords, at some
point the government needs to start working for people.


17 people like this
Posted by cate
a resident of College Terrace
on Sep 16, 2016 at 11:43 am

These "micro" units will be so expensive. Any market rate housing will be no matter the size. And the micro isn't so micro. Senior housing is sometimes smaller. And it certainly will have some children there and older people since 2 can live in the units and it can't be age restricted according to people who spoke on Monday. There is so much flim flam about this development. Huge profit buy dangling some vague promise of housing for well paid firefighters and cops. How can teachers afford this unless they are some that make over 100,000 dollars? Only the very well paid tech workers will afford this - the very privileged. I never hear them talking about families with children that badly need housing too and work just as hard. Palo Alto Forward, the pro big development advocacy group, only talks about this sort of housing and senior housing because they say they want more housing options for older people to allow them to move out of homes they own so that then the families can move into them. This is hardly a solution to solve housing for families. Most older people I know are very happy in their homes and don't want to move. Maybe the older homeowners on P.A. Forwards steering committee who own homes should sell their homes and move to set the example- but none are. They should move into these micro units, not that I want to see them built.


8 people like this
Posted by President Hotel
a resident of Green Acres
on Sep 16, 2016 at 12:01 pm

Steve Levy is a PAF steering member and a senior and he sold his home to move into a condo. Says so right here: Web Link


21 people like this
Posted by resident
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 16, 2016 at 12:04 pm

What does it mean to "give preference to teachers, police, firefighters and those who work in Palo Alto" ? Does not mean an apartment will remain empty if no one applies who meets those criteria? and do the teachers, police, firefighters need to be employeed in Palo Alto? Do private school teachers qualify? How about EMT workers? how about nurses, doctors, interns, residents?

And when a renter changes jobs, do they need to move out of their apartment? For example, a renter has a job at Palantir and they change employers to facebook or google?

And who will check these requirements? and how often? similarly with ownership of cars? How often is the requirements verified? weekly, monthly, or annually?

And does this cover people who lease cars - technically they don't own the car. And since we all think these are "young people", what if the renter's parents own the car?

And since this underparked I imagine the landlord will charge for a parking space. how much will parking cost in addition to rent?

What I see are a bunch of half baked promises/expectations, which may never materialize. Remember what happen with the public benefits promised with PC zoning? many of those benefits were degraded, or never provided the value promised after the PC development was built.

If this project goes ahead, it should be conditioned on convenants written into the deed all residents must work in Palo Alto, no resident may own a car, that the landlord pay for an independent audit every month that the conditions are met, and a hefty fine of $1,000 or 5% of the rental income (whichever is greater), per day for each violation.

Let's see if the developer will agree to this; I doubt it very much.


21 people like this
Posted by Gotta wonder
a resident of College Terrace
on Sep 16, 2016 at 12:18 pm

Gotta wonder where homeowners get off demanding that only certain types of people with certain types of jobs can live in new housing, but aren't willing to take on such restrictions for their own housing. Why don't all homeowners agree they won't sell their homes to anyone but a teacher who works in Palo Alto at whatever she can afford? Wanna fix traffic? Demand that everyone who lives here but doesn't work here sells their house immediately! Oh you don't like that? Then why are you asking for other people to do that? And why are you acting like only newcomers are part of the problem when you are too ? Why do only new people have to shoulder the burdens of a problem 99% caused by the people already here? When you sit in traffic and swear at all the cars around you, take note you ARE the traffic.


11 people like this
Posted by Chris
a resident of University South
on Sep 16, 2016 at 12:20 pm

Cate,

You have let your fears overtake logic. The price of the units will only be $3000 if they are popular and suspccessful.
The site will not house 1 family but it can house 60 individuals (possibly a some couples). This does not take away from the need for BMR housing. You are conflating the 2 issues.

Providing housing options for senior citizens does provide more opportunities for single-family housing for families. [Portion removed.]


21 people like this
Posted by Chris
a resident of University South
on Sep 16, 2016 at 12:26 pm

I agree with Hotel President. The Weekly seems more interested in fear-mongering and pandering to a vocal subset of its readers who object to ANYTHING.

The Weekly would provide a better service to readers by reporting on the success of microunits and analyzing areas where specific projects may have fallen short (so that PA does not make similar mistakes).


19 people like this
Posted by resident
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 16, 2016 at 12:28 pm

Gotta Wonder @ College Terrace - current homeowners purchased their properties with certain zoning rules. The developers are asking the city to rezone their property, giving them multiple millions of dollars in profits; in exchange for the rezoning the property, the developers are "promising" things like "preferences" for people who work in Palo Alto.

A current homeowner is not asking for a zoning change to sell their property. That is not even close to a similar situation.


13 people like this
Posted by Gotta wonder
a resident of College Terrace
on Sep 16, 2016 at 12:51 pm

It's well established law that cities are free to change their zoning as they see fit and no compensation is due to anyone for doing so. If you didn't know that, then it's your fault for not doing your due diligence. And even if you didn't know that, surely you've seen dozens of cities all over the country grow and change? Surely you know things change?


19 people like this
Posted by Curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on Sep 16, 2016 at 12:53 pm

Microunits are great options for developers. They sail right through an eagerly gullible approval process, and they are easily converted to offices after construction. City hall has proven itself extremely reluctant to enforce its end of any development requirement, so ... .


15 people like this
Posted by schools
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 16, 2016 at 12:56 pm

Can the deed restriction also specify that all occupants must be at least 25? This would eliminate any impact on PAUSD enrollment by i.e. families that rent a studio during the week to enroll their kids in high-performing PAUSD schools


15 people like this
Posted by Open to diverse housing and new ideas on transportation
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 16, 2016 at 12:58 pm

"Micro units" are valuable for all types of members of our community, not just firefighters and teachers and engineers and young people and ...., but also for example, some seniors. I am a senior who for decades has owned a house in Palo Alto. You heard at the Candidates Forum (if you were there) yesterday that another Channing House is not a likelihood for obvious reasons and won't be built. So seniors such as myself, who want to downsize dramatically and still live in Palo Alto, and preferably not joint a senior center (housing such as Webster or Channing) could really benefit from "micro units". I find that the Palo Alto Weekly is "fearmongering" , in fact, or pandering to the so called "residentialists". I am am also a resident (I am a homeowner) but I would love to see more diverse and "middle housing" in Palo Alto. it is not unusual in lovely communities. I want thoughtful commentary on how to have more housing of all types of living units including micro units. The single family dwellings are good for some folks and not for others. The model of a city built on single family residences is an old US one, built around cars, not around people. We have a significant housing shortage. If you have an oil spill, you don't just say: "don't clean it up that won't get you anywhere". You start cleaning it up and look for new ideas. The same is true for the shortfall in smaller units and more housing in Palo Alto: Start. Don't be afraid. Don't let articles about how it "won't work except for a select few" scare you. Smart and thoughtful approaches are being offered. Just get involved in coming up with the new plans for a new future that includes all sorts of people. Be compassionate. Small "micro units" are definitely needed. I may want one...and then someone else can live in the house I now own.... a larger family or two. I am astounded on how insular many Palo Altans are. Be more open to new ideas that look at transportation and housing options... please. Don't be afraid or allow others to scare you and rather than resist, be open to new ideas.


4 people like this
Posted by Midtowner
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 16, 2016 at 12:59 pm

@Gotta Wonder. Your statement about people who live in Palo Alto and work elsewhere being required to sell his or her home makes no sense. When I get on the freeway in the morning and drive south, I go about 5 blocks to get to the on ramp. How am I impacting traffic within the Palo Alto city limits.


29 people like this
Posted by Claustrophobic
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 16, 2016 at 1:13 pm

Claustrophobic is a registered user.

We lived in Japan in the late 80s, where companies like Sony and Mitsubishi provided micro units for employees. These were smaller than the average Tokyo apartment, and had no room for amenities, such as dishwashers, bathtubs, or laundry area.

The employees hated these micro units from the get-go. After a year, most employees stayed out late to avoid going home-- they just slept in the micro units.

Within two years, almost all employees packed into these micro units ( remember, these were rent-free!) quit their jobs, between job burnout and mcrounit claustrophobia.

Japanese companies that provided this type of housing found that they had a much higher employee turnover rate than companies that did NOT, and thus began the move against employer-provided housing in Japan.


10 people like this
Posted by Plane Speaker
a resident of Crescent Park
on Sep 16, 2016 at 1:53 pm

"Claustrophobic", microunits have come a long way. You can look up some youtube videos on microunits in the SF and NYC areas. I agree with you that they are rough living ... especially for the cost, but the newer ones have a lot of amenities, are well situation, common areas ... but still, it is for people who are not home much and who do not intend to settle in an area or are just hanging on. We have whole classes of people in the Bay Area that have lived here all their lives and do not know anywhere else. They do jobs that are necessary and for which the salaries seem to be going down for all the workers.

I heard a women on the radio yesterday talking about another city, but saying she lived there her whole life and was getting evicted from her apartment because the $1000 rent hike was unaffordable, but everywhere else is just as bad or worse and she could not afford the deposit and first and last rent. What is she supposed to do? Take her problems to some other smaller more rural city that has even less resources to deal with her issues ... or just die?

This is a new type of slavery, and while the elites keep track of our every movement and action, we have no idea where these strategies and organizations come from. Our governments at the state, federal and local level in no way can be said to have the consent of the governed any longer and are illegitimate. People have a right to live. In a country as structured as ours we may think it fair that people have to work, but the bottom line is that at this point the options for most of people is virtual slavery - and all of their labor goes to someone else because of financial leverage.


24 people like this
Posted by Forum
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 16, 2016 at 2:09 pm

This morning on KQED Radio's " Forum", the topic was homelessness in SF. Experts in this field, as well as SF city council members were in the studio.

One woman called in, who, along with her husband, was fully employed, owned two cars, had a total family income of a little over $80,000/yr-- but couldn't find an affordable place to live for a family of four. Absolutely nowhere within a one-hour commute of their jobs ( they were college grads, to boot!).

Their solution was to live in their cars-- 2 each per car.
She was angry as hell and told off the SF city council members, quite eloquently, about the fact that housing is too expensive in any community with a lot of employment opportunities-- yet no one in local governments has made affordable housing for the working middle class a priority.

THINK about it: when two fully-employed college graduates with two young children can't afford housing for a family of four, something is very, very, very wrong!


21 people like this
Posted by mauricio
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Sep 16, 2016 at 2:15 pm

mauricio is a registered user.

The teacher and firefighter would need to be unmarried and childless to want to live in one of those micro units, and also be able to afford to pay $3,000 a month and more on a teacher or firefighter salary. Very few, if any, would be interested. The NYC and San Francisco experience with those micro-units indicate that their price keeps creeping up, which would made them less and less affordable as time goes on. They solve nothing, and present serious new problems, as well as aggrevate old ones.


16 people like this
Posted by Gale Johnson
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Sep 16, 2016 at 2:40 pm

Gale Johnson is a registered user.

@Don't Be Fooled

$3,000/mo rent is the number I mentioned in an earlier article post, and just as a starting point. And what a joke for the developer not to be able to say what the rent rate would be with their proposal. They know, they've run the numbers, they had to in order to figure out the profitability of the project. And now the definition of micro-units (square footage) has doubled. For a while we were hearing about 250 sq/ft units. The article did refer to them as studio and 1 bdrm units, however, so the term micro-units probably shouldn't be used in this case.

Giving preference to certain public workers probably wouldn't work because they couldn't afford it in the first place, and it would have to pass the test of law for not being discriminatory. With an income of $100,000, the actual take home pay for an individual would be $67,760. Housing, at a rent rate of $3,000/mo would take %53 of that. I always think of these units as 'starters'...places to live right after getting out of college dorms and cheap apartments in college towns. I'm sure their stays would be short because of needs for bigger units (marriages/having kids, etc) and so there would be no time or incentive to get involved in, participate in, and get rooted into the community. There have been exceptions, however. Kate Downing and Adrian Fine are examples. But most of their involvement dealt only with the current issue, lack of housing, and trying to look out for their own personal interests and PAF's ideas, heavily loaded and influenced by Palintir. Their thinking was of owning a condo or single family home themselves, not renting one of the small units in the high density projects they support so strongly.

Yes, it will be interesting to follow the campaign and hear from the candidates, for and against, more development. The idea of public subsidies in the form of higher density and reduced parking is wrong. The idea of it, just for more housing, and not considering all the associated problems and quality of life in the neighborhood, is simply wrong. Don't let this coming election opportunity pass by without weighing in on the housing issue. Listen to those who are really thinking about our community and what quality of life we still have left, not those in favor of more development just to satisfy special interests. Yes, we can have controlled housing growth...(first shut down office developments that caused the problem in the first place)...but only if it is carefully selected in the right locations, and without causing more traffic and parking problems. Ask tough questions and listen carefully to their answers. Ask them specifically 'What is the benefit of continued large growth developments, in office space, as well as housing'? Forget about retail, it's going away rapidly, most of it is already gone and never to return, although CC made gestures and gave lip service on ways to preserve it. Read the Keeble and Shucat closure article and you'll get a clear picture of why small retail as I remember it, is gone forever.


14 people like this
Posted by Downtown Worker
a resident of Menlo Park
on Sep 16, 2016 at 3:26 pm

The Weekly editorialized against the affordable housing development at Maybell. Now it editorializes against microunits - the most affordable kind of market-rate housing - for not being affordable enough.

If the Weekly disagrees with 70% of Palo Altans that housing is a serious and urgent issue, it should say so. If it doesn't, I wish the editorial board would lay out their own plan to solve the housing crisis, rather than simply editorialize against everything that tries to make a dent.


4 people like this
Posted by Gale Johnson
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Sep 16, 2016 at 4:26 pm

Gale Johnson is a registered user.

@This isn't that unusual

I hear you. That's how most of us started out. We had to until we saved up enough for a down payment on a house or condo. It worked. And I understand your dad's feelings and wanting a smaller place to live, but is this the right place? Is it affordable if he's on a fixed income, and would he like living in a very small unit surrounded by young people who are into themselves and probably not as helpful and friendly as he'd like. And they wouldn't be around all day and even into the evening hours since they'd be working and then going out to restaurants and bars after work. I've reached that point in my life also and believe me there is nothing attractive about living there. I think us older folks tend to be more comfortable living in a senior retirement place, with support groups, activities, etc.

And the rent rates won't be for people like you and me when we were just starting out. They will be for a very specific group of high income workers. Period!


10 people like this
Posted by Alex Chekholko
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 16, 2016 at 4:35 pm

"Are we simply trying to add as many units of housing as possible?" YES!

I don't care about the details, just build more housing so people have a place to live. Of any kind.

For every proposal, there are 30 NIMBY's with random objections. "Units are too small!" "Units are too big!" "Units are too expensive!" "Why don't they build affordable units instead?" "There is not enough room for cars!" "There are too many cars!" "There must be enough parking for all the cars!" "Housing is not a problem!" "Building more housing will not solve the housing problem!" "We're building too much housing!" Any excuse will do to slow down construction!


21 people like this
Posted by John
a resident of Green Acres
on Sep 16, 2016 at 4:43 pm

A few commenters seem to dismiss that the rent on these units will be very expensive. Just look at new similar size units in MV - $2500-3000 a month. thats a lot. Market rate housing of sny size is for very well off people. This is not what I want more of. More below market rate housing is needed that is actually affordable and not phony affordable like market rate.
There is a new buzz word used by Palo Alto Forward with Development people. Their favorite word was vibrancy which was code for development. Their new word is compassion which is code for development. Gives compassion a whole new meaning.


5 people like this
Posted by Gale Johnson
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Sep 16, 2016 at 4:52 pm

Gale Johnson is a registered user.

@ichu

Hmmm! I won't accuse you of it, but you sound like you could be a PAF plant or at least a sympathizer. Yes, that term is used a lot because those are the ones who can afford the high rents. You mention many people from various occupations and give income comparisons...and describe them as regular folks. That's okay, but those regular folks can't afford to live there. The dividing line is simply the income level, whatever occupation you're in.

Ah, yes, the great American experiment! That's exactly how I've described it in my posts in previous articles. And, in a weak moment I said to just let it move forward, and if it got approved so be it. Let the experiment begin. Kids have to learn not to put fingers on hot stoves or to not put their tongues on pump handles (I was raised on a farm in Montana) when it's 20 degrees below zero. It seems like those results should be intuitive and not need to be tested, but there are some that are always curious and need to find out the hard way. My tongue has healed very well.


7 people like this
Posted by maguro_01
a resident of Mountain View
on Sep 16, 2016 at 5:07 pm

"I am one of those who fail to see how packing in more housing benefits residents who chose to live in a tree-lined, quiet community. We've lost so much already. "

This gives the game away for numbers of the "residentialists". They are saying that when they buy a house they are entitled to freeze square miles around it as long as they choose to live there. But mainly they get to cut supplies and drive up their own house prices - simple economics. It is possible to be quite cynical about it. What percentage of present PA homeowners could not afford to buy now the houses they live in? Their house is their retirement.

There's no question that planning and zoning is necessary. Also in the last Mountain View elections I got my mailbox stuffed with too many glossy political ads that stated that they were not from the candidate but from something with 'real estate' or developer in the name. Of course, that was for only a few candidates. That would seem to be a call to scrutinize them very closely. But ditto for candidates representing a small number of homeowner's real estate business. This city does have slightly more renters than owners. Does PA? Homeowners driving up all living costs deliberately may find themselves at odds with renters who may now be or soon will be a majority.

---------------------------------
OT: In recent years there have been many stories about the apparent trials and stresses on high school students in PA. They never mention one stressor - almost all of those students will have to leave PA and likely the area even if they grew up here. After they go away to college, except for a summer or so, most will never live here again. In future years if they want to visit or see it at all they may have to pay a hotel a few hundred a night to do it like anyone else. Most people adjust to this readily enough. But some people are more "brittle" by temperament in this respect - having to move, make new friends in new surroundings, maybe in another climate, and so on, is something they dread. Added to that is that the ongoing social disintegration in some California demographics which may deprive many of the ordinary social "tools" that most older people take for granted. It's only showing respect for the students to pay attention to this - by high school most people wish to see a conceivable future, even if life, as is likely, takes them on another journey.


16 people like this
Posted by Srsly?
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 16, 2016 at 5:58 pm

Srsly? is a registered user.

Most single people have a hard time with more than $1500/month-- according to my college-educated daughter and her friends. Micro units are not conducive to roommates!


4 people like this
Posted by Gale Johnson
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Sep 16, 2016 at 6:04 pm

Gale Johnson is a registered user.

@Downtown Worker

Where did the 70% number come from? The editorial board isn't in a position to offer solutions, because there are no good ones to offer. Really! The Weekly does a good job of reporting and pointing out the difficulties and problems faced with these kinds of developer friendly projects, and this is one of them. The affordable housing issue? It will be up to us, the taxpayers, non-profits, philanthropists, churches, and city and county officials, to fund it. Developers won't because they are 'for profit entities', not charitable organizations. That's just the way it is. And tackling it by the aforementioned groups is overwhelming and so they don't put their noses to the grindstone to fix the problem. Getting all those groups together in a coordinated attack on the problem is very difficult.


5 people like this
Posted by Chris
a resident of University South
on Sep 16, 2016 at 6:13 pm

I propose that the commenters here stop conflating this project with BMR housing.
This is a market-rate proposal. If there is demand for these units at the asking price, these will fill up at that price. If not, the price will drop until they fill up. Either way, it is no skin off the complainers' backs. This is a private development.

Complainers agree their is a shortage of BMR housing. Please devote your attention and money to that issue and keep you fingers out of market-rate housing.

I wish the Weekly would take a leadership role and stop pandering to fearmongers.


24 people like this
Posted by mauricio
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Sep 16, 2016 at 6:48 pm

mauricio is a registered user.

Trusting developers to solve the housing crunch in Palo Alto. Yep, that will do the job.


7 people like this
Posted by @President Hotel
a resident of University South
on Sep 16, 2016 at 8:43 pm

@President Hotel where do you get those numbers?

President Hotel has 75 units 70 x 400 sqft + 5 at 800 sqft

Source Web Link

Parking is located under the building with an entrance on the Cowper side. I see cars coming in and going out all the time.



11 people like this
Posted by Gale Johnson
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Sep 17, 2016 at 12:33 pm

Gale Johnson is a registered user.

@maguro_01

The last number I remember is that 44% of PA residents are renters.
'Homeowners driving up all living costs deliberately may find themselves at odds with renters who may now be or soon will be a majority'. Yes, that could happen. My hope is, that if they are registered voters, they don't vote in a way to further destroy our quality of life if they only plan to rent here for a short period of time. If they come in, do damage, and leave our community, how does that help? Now, long time renters whose goals are to save up enough for a down payment to buy a condo or house here, wonderful!! A whole different story and they are certainly welcome because they will be making an investment in our/their community. That pretty well describes my history of coming here, renting, and then buying.

'They are saying that when they buy a house they are entitled to freeze square miles around it as long as they choose to live there. But mainly they get to cut supplies and drive up their own house prices - simple economics.'

The games over my fellow NIMBY's, we've been found out. lol! The general thinking is that if you've lived here for 30 or more years you must be a NIMBY. Kinda like 'you must be a redneck if...'. So, now it's time to confess that we are a secret organization, with secret handshakes, that meet regularly, but at undisclosed locations, to discuss how we can drive up home prices in PA. Maybe we should just disband and let the free market decide what the prices of our homes will be. All in favor, say, 'aye', all opposed say 'no'. It's unanimous, the 'ayes' have it so we will disband. Would PAF be willing to take a similar vote??




6 people like this
Posted by Gale Johnson
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Sep 17, 2016 at 1:10 pm

Gale Johnson is a registered user.

@Chris

I don't think commenters are confused (conflated) about it and that's why they're upset. There is a dire need for BMR rental units but nobody offers a good plan for making that happen. We fall for developers' bait...1 or 2 units in a big multi-use project. Where is the will of our city leaders on this issue? They are victims of the developers. Lots of talk about the need for BMR's, but when it gets down to taking action there's just so much palaver, a word John Wayne used a lot in his movies. He had no use for those people. Tackling the big problem takes so much work. Yes it does, and that's what we elected our CC members to do. It's an honor to serve, but it is not an honorary position. They signed up for some tough work. So they need to roll up their sleeves and get it done. I respect them all for their service. Not many of us would want to put in the long hours and late nights at meetings that they do in serving our community.


23 people like this
Posted by Facts don't lie
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 17, 2016 at 2:11 pm

Facts don't lie is a registered user.

Micro units in Manhattan and Redwood City have not lowered rents. In fact, the rent per square foot is HIGHER than normal stdios or apartments. They cost less to build and sell for more.

That is why developers can afford to offer wasteful amenities like transportation coordinators (Who pays for that salary?). When the complex files for bankruptcy, it will discontinue those services, reniege on its promises a la Alma Village and leave the community worse off than before.

Teachers, Fire fighters and Police officers would be stupid to rent one of those 400 sq ft units for $3,000 per month. Instead they should live in a commuter city where they will pay $1,500 per month and can raise a family or pursue a hobby.

They can then invest the difference, pool up their vacation days and retire early on their lifetime pension at 45. If they are ambitious, they will switch to another government job and double dip for a second pension. It's a much better life than sweating it out at sequential startups, bouncing from layoff to layoff or paying down medical school debt until the 50's.

No more building BEFORE expanding the city infrastructure.


1 person likes this
Posted by Robert
a resident of another community
on Sep 17, 2016 at 2:19 pm

@Facts don't lie

Are you claiming that these units themselves will be just as expensive as a comparable larger apartment? Because if that's not the case than by definition the rents will be lower.


15 people like this
Posted by To Robert
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 17, 2016 at 2:49 pm

Newer units typically command higher prices and rent for more than similarly (or larger) sized older units. We can't assume that micro units will have correspondingly lower rents.


11 people like this
Posted by Facts don't lie
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 17, 2016 at 3:46 pm

Facts don't lie is a registered user.

No, I claimed that the cost per square foot to develop micro units is LOWER but the subsequent cost of rent per square foot is HIGHER compared to regular units

Data from the other cities also shows that the total monthly rents will rise to market rates which in those examples are about $3,000.

This effectively will make them the worst deal in town for both the tenants as well as the rest of the citizens.


4 people like this
Posted by Jim
a resident of Mayfield
on Sep 17, 2016 at 3:47 pm

This is terrible! Think of the poor cars that might not have parking spots. Where will they go! Being homeless is easy, you can sleep on the street and it doesn't take much room. But cars need room to be free!


4 people like this
Posted by Gale Johnson
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Sep 17, 2016 at 5:24 pm

Gale Johnson is a registered user.

Rather than just opining and speculating on whether teachers, firemen, and policemen would want or be able to afford to rent those units, let's get volunteers to go out to fire stations, schools, and the police department to get first hand information. Too many decisions, mostly bad ones, are made with so little information that could be obtained with a little effort.

'Facts don't lie' said it very well. As long as the tough commute doesn't wear them down to the point of exhaustion and giving up, then living in those very affordable communities is the way to go. If they survive, they will be set up for the rest of their lives. They will get the benefits due them for the sacrifices they made in serving our community. And they will have done it graciously and gratefully, without descending on City Hall for handouts and demanding that they should be able to afford housing here. They are doing hard and dangerous work, not sitting at long picnic tables coding all day.


11 people like this
Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Sep 17, 2016 at 5:50 pm

Given the fact that most police and fireman make upwards of $150,000 in straight salary -- twice the average Palo Alto income -- I doubt they'll have much of a problem.

Then throw in the cost of their health benefits, early retirement age and the fact that we'll be paying them pensions for decades after they retire at 50, they'll be more comfortable than most of us who think pensions are small hotels in Europe.


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Posted by george drysdale
a resident of Professorville
on Sep 17, 2016 at 7:18 pm

Silicon Valley must build skyward like all cities eventually do. With global warming our water supply must be rationed and protected. Dense pack. If Silicon Valley is too expensive for ordinary people so be it. Most other places are much cheaper. The Buena Vista is a crown of ignorance in Palo Alto. The land is worth now about 50 million and should house about 300 to 400 million dollar units. "Affordable housing" is like winning the lottery, it in effect doesn't really exist. George Drysdale a social science teacher and real estate economist


2 people like this
Posted by Theodore
a resident of another community
on Sep 17, 2016 at 7:34 pm

@Facts don't lie

If the micro-apartments can get people to live without cars and get to work without adding traffic, then that is a benefit to society. So they are more expensive per square foot. Many people don’t need so many square feet. The price reflects the benefit to society, and the primary benefit is to have somewhere to live.

Commuter cities are a recent phenomenon, inherently harmful, and unsustainable. Just by having the cities connected, we will have people who commute long distances for work, but we shouldn’t be building our environment with that as an essential component. We especially shouldn’t expel our lower-paid workers out of town, so they have poor schools, limited economic opportunities, and the need to spend lots of time and money on the commute rather than on their families.

It’s unsustainable because we already have problems paying for our infrastructure. Ever-increasing commutes put ever-increasing load on our highways. Ever-increasing fuel efficiency means lower gas taxes to pay for upkeep, and we likely don’t have the political will to increase the gas tax. The Keynesian economics of our public projects are based on the assumption of limitless growth. In the long run, Keynes said, we are all dead. Keynes is now dead, and we are having to start new bonds to pay for replacement roads before the bonds that created those roads are even finished. We can probably maintain our infrastructure for another generation, but it only is affordable if we can increase the density of our cities.

We should not be expanding on the mistakes of the past. We should be making new mistakes, and finding what works better.


14 people like this
Posted by Think
a resident of Community Center
on Sep 17, 2016 at 8:29 pm

Assume 100% of the the new residents don't own cars, and 100% of them walk to work.

Given our stretched infrastructure, shortage of water, thin code enforcement, rising crime, rising number of spare the air days, exacerbation of our skyrocketing price/square foot for residential property, can you explain how this development is a benefit to society?

Traffic and parking are the tip of the tail of our too-rapid growth. They are not the sum total of the cost of sense new developments.


3 people like this
Posted by Robert
a resident of another community
on Sep 17, 2016 at 9:37 pm

@To Robert

Yes that's why I said "comparable"... "Facts don't lie" seems to be implying that smaller units will somehow not be just as expensive as larger units developed on this site. There are several of these such developments in San Francisco (around SOMA) which, based on sales data, are in fact the cheapest option in that location.


3 people like this
Posted by Theodore
a resident of another community
on Sep 18, 2016 at 12:54 am

@Think

“can you explain how this development is a benefit to society?”
Well, I can’t explain everything. But, as it happens, I do have thoughts on a lot of these:

“stretched infrastructure,”
Infrastructure should come with maintenance plans. Don’t be like Marin County, steadfastly refusing to upgrade their sewers, successfully keeping their cities small, until the sewers break and spew bacteria into the Bay. One important aspect, though, is the collision of debt financing with the ideal of stasis. Web Link Since, for other reasons, stasis is undesirable, and growth is happening anyway, we should aim to derive benefits from it.

Density pays for infrastructure by requiring less of it per capita.

“shortage of water,”
Seemingly all of modern civilization is having or will soon have a shortage of water. We need to be reducing usage per capita. That’s what I find most encouraging about urbanization into dense apartments. My windowsill garden takes less water than an outdoor garden, much less than if I were obligated by HOA rules into using water to grow a crop of bluegrass. So the urban areas will temporarily have a period of increasing water usage. I think it is worth it to reduce water usage overall.

Also, we do not have an especially bad shortage here. The prices do not reflect a shortage. Many other people have it way worse than we do.

“thin code enforcement,”
I see a lot of complaining on this board about “pack and stack.” The truth is, we are getting pack and stack anyway. But instead of getting pack and stack in apartments designed for it, with transportation demand management built into the development, we are getting pack and stack in single-family homes with poor transit. Where I live right now is a single-family house divided into 6 separate rentals, with a shortage of kitchens and bathrooms, and only 2 parking spots in the driveway. The neighboring houses are doing the same. It’s like a Mad Max situation, looking for parking around here after 7pm.

When there is such widespread code violation, I think the fault lies in the code, not necessarily in the people. We should change the code to meet people’s needs better.

“rising crime,”
Complicated, starting with the question, “Is crime really rising?” Then causes, solutions, enforcements, racial equity, etc. I think crime increases when people perceive that they do not have opportunities, and city practices preventing low-cost-to-produce housing is one of the barriers to opportunity.

“rising number of spare the air days,”
I think you were being facetious about “100% of them walk to work,” because it should be obvious that people who walk to work will produce economic output with less greenhouse gas emissions than if they had to drive there.

Even if they Uber everywhere, the Uber drivers have an economic incentive to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, because fuel cuts into their profits, so that’s fewer passenger miles in clunkers that pollute the air. And this proposal is in the middle of a bunch of bus lines and a short distance from Caltrain, so that’s more of a reason to build here.

“exacerbation of our skyrocketing price/square foot for residential property,”
I’m not sure everybody here is on board with that. If you already own, will you not have incentive to keep prices ratcheting upwards?

But 60 units of single-person housing is maybe 100 adults who are not competing with families for single-family housing. So you’re right in one aspect: We need to approve a lot more of these proposals.


10 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 18, 2016 at 8:20 am

I'm concerned about the scapegoating of tech workers that I've been seeing for the last couple of years. The Mayor is saying that software development has always been illegal in downtown, even though we've had large software companies in the downtown since DEC in the 80s. The editorial says that we shouldn't build housing because it would "only" be accessible to tech workers - which is quite strange, given that tech workers seem to be most of the population of Palo Alto under 50 and certainly all of the new homeowners.

If you look around the playing fields, it's a lot of people in their 30s and 40s with tech t-shirts or jackets taking care of their kids. If you look at who is buying at our retail stores, it's a lot of people in their 20s and 30s with tech ties. Since the tech boom in the 1990s, tech has been the economic driver of our community, so it's no surprise that most people with jobs who live in Palo Alto work at tech firms.

Yes, let's find ways to provide for people of lower or moderate incomes. We had that opportunity at Maybell - it's unfortunate we squandered it and built 16 super-luxury houses instead. We have that opportunity at Buena Vista - let's keep trying to find ways to make sure the people who live there, although it seems like we are squandering that opportunity as well.

But there's no reason to set one group against another and say that we can't build housing for people who work in the tech industry. Let's go back to the Palo Alto I saw when I moved here in 2002 - the open and inclusive community where anyone can make it if they are smart and work hard. I feel like we've moved away from that in the last four years since Measure D. We've made a turn against newcomers, against good jobs, against affordable housing.

I want my Palo Alto back.


25 people like this
Posted by Facts don't lie
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 18, 2016 at 11:30 am

Facts don't lie is a registered user.

There are studio apartment or room mate options for less than $2,000 a month even in Palo Alto. If fancy modern micro units go for more than $2,500 then yes they will be more expensive than other alternatives.

So it turns out this issue is really about a lifestyle choice. I propose that the rest of our community should not be required to subsidize unsustainable micro units that don't add their fair share of parking just because a small minority wants to live that way.

No more building BEFORE expanding the city infrastructure.


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Posted by Gale Johnson
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Sep 18, 2016 at 2:50 pm

Gale Johnson is a registered user.

@Open to diverse housing and new ideas on transportation

I was out of town so couldn't attend the forum, but probably wouldn't have attended it anyway.

'another Channing House is not a likelihood for obvious reasons and won't be built.' Were the 'obvious' reasons stated? What are they? If it was height and zoning restrictions related, then those can be changed. If spot zoning works for the subject proposed project, it should be able to work for a Channing House size project downtown, if the right place(s) can be located. While handing out spot reliefs, give it on the height limit also. There are a lot of over 50 ft tall buildings in the downtown area. I rarely drive by them anymore, but I never got upset about their existence when I saw them. I still say 525 University is a well designed building, and I like it. Trust me, us NIMBY's in SPA are probably not going to raise a fuss about any project like that. We won't be impacted. Most of us never drive downtown anymore so traffic and parking is not a big problem for us...I think. Maybe I shouldn't be speaking for many of my neighbors, but I know I'll hear from them online if that's the case.

And here's another one of my brilliant ideas. How about a Park Merced Palo Alto housing complex up in the Stanford Research Park area? The tenants there could walk to work. The VA has expanded in that area and nobody seems to be complaining about it. It's just as big or bigger so a Park Merced would fit in very well.

@Ichu

'For examples of similar successful developments of micro apartments with no parking, I would suggest looking at virtually every housing unit built in every city and town in the world before 1900 (or even 1930). Micro apartments without parking are not revolutionary. They are normal housing'.

Yeah, well, okay...nice try, they might have been normal housing then, but in borough neighborhoods of NYC. But in the early 1900's most people didn't own cars (only the rich), so parking wasn't an issue. They were more concerned about where to stable their horses and carriages. I know, it's hard to believe what's happened in 100 years. In the large cities, the prime example being New York City, public transportation systems were developed on a grand scale: subways, light rail, buses, etc., that allowed people to get around easily without needing cars. But don't think commuting is new. People could live out on Long Island and commute into the city via the LIR. Commuting has always been the norm in the Bay Area. So commuting is not unusual either. Micro-units (the 250 sq ft units) would be a first as far as I know.

And thanks to our data driven CC members. Let's find out how many current downtown workers don't own cars, or want to give up owning a car. Surveys and polls can be very useful tools in planning our future. Sleepy and dreamy ideas with no suggestions on how to accomplish them won't work.

I just checked Park Plaza apartments again. There are now only 26 vacancies, down from 31 just a few weeks ago. I thought they would all be gobbled up by now. I don't mean to read anything into the slow rate of getting the units rented, but it could be a sign of change in our, up until now, hot market.







19 people like this
Posted by roommates
a resident of College Terrace
on Sep 18, 2016 at 9:36 pm

Most of the rooms in Palo Alto homes with one or more roommates seem to run $1200-$1900 each. This would seem to be a much better option for singles than microunits.


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Posted by SEA_SEELAM REDDY
a resident of College Terrace
on Sep 19, 2016 at 2:08 am

SEA_SEELAM REDDY is a registered user.

My recommendation is to offer these units for SALE not for rent. Give preference to city workers, teachers, police and fire etc. Sell these units at a discount like 40% less like Stanford does to their staff.

There enough city workers that would be interested to own rather than rent.

These folks would give up their car to own a home in our town any day.

Respectfully


7 people like this
Posted by Me
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Sep 19, 2016 at 8:50 am

500-700 square foot apartment is "micro"? Only in Palo Alto would think something that big is a "microunit."

In New York, there are tons of apartments of that size, and none of them are considered "micro." Also, the Japanese microunits from understanding are no more than 100+ square feet. These units are considerably spacious compared to that.


3 people like this
Posted by Patrick Burt
a resident of Community Center
on Sep 19, 2016 at 9:11 am

Patrick Burt is a registered user.

@Me
I agree that these unit sizes are small, but do not fall within the range of what are considered "micro units". The Weekly's own reporting of Monday's city council meeting on the project clarified that the units would be roughly twice the size of micro units. The Weekly editorial appears to have not done its homework or miss represented this point for effect.
By example, my wife and I rented a 500 square foot one bedroom duplex in College Terrace for four years while we saved to buy our 2 bedroom first home here. The 500 square foot unit was comfortable enough for us.


10 people like this
Posted by Real estate market
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Sep 19, 2016 at 9:29 am

It's not politically correct to read the Homes Sold columns every day, and notice the ethnicity of almost all buyers. For some years now Palo Alto houses have been overwhelmingly sold to overseas buyers. Whole neighborhoods have been taken over.

Some local real estate companies specialize in selling to Asian billionaires. Often for cash. Local employees can't compete. Those cash buyers will buy the small units as well.
One company has even put up boxes next to newspaper boxes pretending their sales materials are news. That the city allows this indicates the city management thinks real estate sales are the same as newspapers.

To think the city will enforce any rules is a joke. There are TWO enforcement officers in the city. The City Manager has no interest in enforcing the rules. He likes and publicizes Palo Alto Forward and appoints them to city committees.


1 person likes this
Posted by resident
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 19, 2016 at 9:59 am

Real Estate Market @ Old Palo Alto - how can you tell from a person's name that they are an overseas buyer versus a resident or citizen of the USA? Would you consider Barack Obama an "ethnic" name, and therefore an "overseas" buyer?


1 person likes this
Posted by I_Got_mine
a resident of Mountain View
on Sep 19, 2016 at 11:13 am

Sigh. I've dealt with this problem before and pointed to other places in the United States.
Many Japanese actually adopted the use of " sleeping tubes " with common amenities like showers and other services.

An example of PLANNED GROWTH is Englewood, Colorado. That city started planned growth back in the 1990s! They had the biggest mall west of the Mississippi. When that mall showed it's age and businesses with customers left the Cinderella City mall, the city turned that empty mall into the government offices.
When the Cinderella Drive In closed because of the $500,000 cost to refit the projectors to digital ones ( the actual price from Sony ), the City, just leveled the drive-in and built 4 story housing units that had RTD Light Rail and buses just a small walk away. Many jobs in downtown Denver and the DTC also have Light Rail and buses stop where the jobs are. When the contractor fixes their project, you can leave home, use Light Rail to DIA and fly anywhere, just like BART WAS SUPPOSED TO DO FOR PENINSULA AREAS INCLUDING SILICON VALLEY AS IT WAS PAID TO DO FOR THE BART TAXES WE PAID 40 YEARS AGO!

This is an example of planned growth by the City of Englewood. For the people who still insist on owning or driving a car, U.S. 285 and the Santa Fe Trail ( U.S. Highway 85 ) intersect in Englewood. Many people simply bike or even use a scooter to get to work. Uber and Lyft are trying to get drivers out of their cars in Denver during winter months.

Anyone can do the research on the Denver area solutions to housing and transportation to work. The new problem: how to handle housing for the many transplants from other areas. The 4 story limit allows people to see the snow covered Rocky Mountains and lets you know that fun is only a 90 minute drive or short train ride away. Yes, Amtrak has a stop in Denver at the redesigned Union Station which is now really a union station for all transportation needs. There is an Amtrak Station in Winter Park for your recreation needs.

The major drawback: prices are rising as people move in. The areas along I-25, I-70, I-76 and C-470 are getting built up so commutes times and traffic jams during peak times are starting to look like 101 30 years ago. That is why Light Rail runs alongside these highways; people see the mostly full trains and get out of their cars, just like my wife did. We have plenty of separate bike trails to use and many people use those shared trails.

Yes, you can own a home for $3000 to $4500 a month easy. Or pay less if you decide to commute by car, light rail, bike to light rail ( enclose bike storage at stations ) or even take an express bus. No micro housing units here. However, some people are building micro housing units inside school buses or on trailers. So if you WANT to live in microhousing, there are many ways to do so.


12 people like this
Posted by Facts don't lie
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 19, 2016 at 12:41 pm

Facts don't lie is a registered user.

If the micro units are turned into condos they will be immediately be rented out as AirBnB or weekday repositories for commuting techies that don't want to ride the Google bus and live in SF during the weekends.


2 people like this
Posted by Gale Johnson
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Sep 19, 2016 at 2:43 pm

Gale Johnson is a registered user.

"The developer and supporters need to show examples of similar, successful under-parked developments, and the city should perform the independent economic analysis needed to determine how to negotiate for the maximum number of designated affordable units".

Those are critical steps to take and we need good answers before this gets much further in the review and approval process.

There were a couple good related articles today in the Chron and Mercury News. One was about autonomous cars and the possibility that Lyft and Uber will have them as the majority of their fleet in 5-10 years, and it gave pretty sound reasons why owning a car is not so popular or necessary anymore.
I'm starting to get the message, okay? Give me a break...I'm old. It takes me a while. I admit I grew up in a generation of car owners and drivers (worshippers). It was our entry into a life of independence and freedom to go wherever we wanted to. And we kept a lot of manufacturers happy and the people that worked in the factories as well. That was before foreign cars were accepted and became popular. "American made" ruled, no matter what the quality of the product. The earliest exception was VW's bug. Two of my fraternity brothers (in the late 50's) owned them.

So, that was a lead-in to my new thoughts on the reduced parking at the proposed housing project. I think a survey of today's young workers wouldn't show as much optimism as that future prediction in the article does, but again I could be wrong. But if the trend is there, then 'yes' fewer parking places might be okay. For the now, it would just be an experiment, or as councilman Scharff said, a 'pilot' project. How will we ever know unless we try one? That Kitty Hawk experiment paid off very well. I'm still in awe when I fly and know I'm sitting in a multi-ton flying machine. What keeps us up?

The Mercury News article focused on housing and how San Jose has dealt with it and is continuing to do so. Oh, the luxury of having so much open land to build on. They are planning for 120,000 new units by 2040 and I think their job/housing balance is neutral. Our situation can't be compared to theirs. We just let too much office growth/development happen in a short period of time, with the support of CC's friendly with developers, etc. I guess the tax benefit was alluring, but it has come back to haunt us on the housing end. No sense blaming past administrations...it's history. Let's move on, but vote for candidates that can hopefully right the ship. And I don't mean to pick on Liz, because I'll probably vote for her for all her contributions and connections that we need, but how did she vote during that period of time of pro office development/growth that got us where we are today? Just asking...


3 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 19, 2016 at 4:35 pm

I get that Zip Cars can be useful for those who feel they don't need a car and can manage to commute on a daily basis by foot, bike or train. However, Uber and Lyft, whereas they can be equally useful for evening and weekend outings, can they be used on a daily basis instead of a personal car. Even if they have no driver, they are still going to be used in traffic and will be another car on the road.

And additionally, if someone wants to do a trip to Costco, or Ikea, a zip car maybe the answer. But, if you are buying a flat pack from Ikea to assemble at home, or a mountain of beer or soda (or whatever else a young tech might want to buy) from Costco, how does that work with Uber or Lyft?

Don't get me wrong, I can see that some people may choose a lifestyle that doesn't regularly need a car, but how long will that lifestyle be sustained particularly when you get into the baby producing years?


11 people like this
Posted by Public Housing
a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Sep 19, 2016 at 6:13 pm

Public Housing is a registered user.

Since this is zoned as public benefit (not sure that is the right wording) it seems an easy choice to make this low-income/affordable/BMR housing. Except for the current owners profits that is.


4 people like this
Posted by george drysdale
a resident of Professorville
on Sep 20, 2016 at 10:02 am

As land prices increase development goes up or down. Mini-units are a ridiculous solution. It's the land prices that count. Underground parking lots. George Drysdale a social studies teacher.


1 person likes this
Posted by Gale Johnson
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Sep 21, 2016 at 6:10 am

Gale Johnson is a registered user.

@Resident
All very good points! Autonomous Lyft and Uber cars might not reduce the number of cars, but if it made carpooling more attractive, then it could.


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