News

Housing agency eyes new affordable housing sites

Palo Alto City Council to hear ideas on Oct. 24

After a bruising 2013 defeat of its proposal to build affordable senior apartments in south Palo Alto, the nonprofit Palo Alto Housing plans to unveil preliminary proposals to add nearly 45 units to a housing complex it owns at the eastern end of California Avenue. The agency will offer its ideas to the City Council on Oct. 24 in a study session.

Palo Alto Housing will also present a concept for building housing along El Camino Real, at an as-yet-undisclosed location, President and CEO Candice Gonzalez confirmed Wednesday.

The proposals mark a shift away from trying to find vacant land, as the agency did in 2013 with the controversial Maybell housing project, and toward creating more infill housing on properties the nonprofit owns. One of the developments, the existing California Park Apartments at 2301 Park Blvd., would double the number of apartments currently on the 1.7-acre property. Gonzalez said California Park Apartments was built in 1989. Because the council later approved new zoning for the site, known as a Pedestrian and Transit Oriented Development Combining District overlay, the nonprofit is allowed to nearly double the number of units (currently 45).

The development would take place on a lot that backs up to the Caltrain fence line, she said. The location, which appears to be a parking lot, is near California Avenue where shopping and other amenities are within walking distance, making it perfect for additional affordable housing, she added.

Palo Alto Housing has not developed drawings or formal plans for either site, Gonzalez said. The agency plans to proceed cautiously, especially considering the past contentious debate around the Maybell project.

In November 2013, voters overturned the City Council’s unanimous approval, given that prior June, to rezone a 2.46-acre site on Maybell and Clemo avenues for 60 apartments for low-income seniors and 12 single-family homes. The defeat coupled with financing considerations caused the agency to sell the property.

Palo Alto Housing has since worked to develop other affordable- and low-income housing in Mountain View and Redwood City, but it has shied away from new developments in Palo Alto, where land hasn't been available, Gonzalez said.

As of 2014, there were 17 residential complexes in Palo Alto providing 1,332 lower-income units, according to the city’s Housing Element. Palo Alto Housing owns and manages nearly 700 of those units, according to the agency's website.

Gonzalez thinks the city and its residents might be willing to address affordable housing again, perhaps with compromises that did not exist during the Maybell fight.

City Councilwoman Liz Kniss agreed that there may be a more receptive council now, which would include any new members after this November's election.

"Of all of the candidates, no one says they are opposed to affordable housing," said Kniss, who herself is running for re-election.

Gonzalez said she could not yet disclose the exact locations of two sites along El Camino Real. But she disclosed that they are contiguous and currently are commercial properties. The sites are south of Page Mill Road but are not in Barron Park, the Maybell project neighborhood, she added.

The housing agency wants to float the idea of a mixed-use development for the combined half-acre site, but it would need a zoning change because the location currently only allows a maximum of 11 units with a density bonus.

"That is not a financially feasible project," Gonzalez said of trying to build with the existing zoning. In other cities, the nonprofit has deemed about 60 units for half-acre lots to be financially feasible. At 1701 El Camino Real, the City of Mountain View approved 67 units. About half will be for veterans, and construction is slated to begin in spring 2017, Gonzalez said. Similarly, a half-acre project in Redwood City proposes 60 units.

Gonzalez thinks that, as the Mountain View project does, the Palo Alto project would fit in with the Grand Boulevard Initiative for El Camino Real, with its proximity to public transit and other amenities.

Gonzalez said her nonprofit hopes it can build in Palo Alto.

"It's critical here," she said of the housing need. "We want to finally put Maybell behind us and find community-wide solutions. It's time."

Palo Alto Housing currently owns or manages 260 units in the downtown area; 60 in Midtown; 122 in the California Avenue district; 131 south of Oregon Expressway to San Antonio Road between the Alma Street/East El Camino Real; and 98 west of El Camino Real between Oregon Expressway and San Antonio Road. In July, Palo Alto Housing took responsibility for converting and managing 20 former hotel rooms at the Hotel California on Ash Street in the California Avenue district that are now affordable housing.

To see an interactive map of the locations and number of affordable-housing units at each Palo Alto Housing property, click here and scroll through map.

Related content:

Palo Alto struggles to provide housing that's affordable

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Comments

2 people like this
Posted by makes sense
a resident of Palo Alto Hills
on Oct 6, 2016 at 10:37 am

[Post removed.]


54 people like this
Posted by not here
a resident of Barron Park
on Oct 6, 2016 at 11:15 am

Downtown and Barron Park has a lot of BMR units, too. Does that mean we should get more to spare the residents more upscale (and conservative) parts of Palo Alto? Doesn't seem very fair IMO.


39 people like this
Posted by yes!
a resident of Ventura
on Oct 6, 2016 at 11:31 am

This is a great location for more housing! Right next to the train and buses and services and thousands of jobs within walking and biking distance. I really hope this gets approved. I know lots of people who work here and would love to move closer, and especially folks who have a hard time doing that today because the high cost of housing in this city. They're hard-working people who would be great members of our community, even though they aren't engineers and don't make 6 figure salaries.


24 people like this
Posted by Yes We Can!
a resident of Downtown North
on Oct 6, 2016 at 11:42 am

In a poll earlier this year, 76% of those polled said that the high cost of housing is an extremely important or important issue. There are many in our community who are unsure of whether than can remain because of current and rising housing costs. We have so many in our community who want to problem solve and help develop better housing solutions. Palo Alto Housing has a good and long track record building good homes for our community members. It is definitely TIME to roll up our sleeves and say YES WE CAN build some more housing to help retain the social character of our city. We definitely need to help the most vulnerable in our community, the disabled, the veterans, seniors and others, but increasingly we need to find better solutions for the middle class residents and families our city used to be comprised of.


48 people like this
Posted by Kevin
a resident of Barron Park
on Oct 6, 2016 at 11:56 am

We don't need any more subsidized housing in PA! None of these units are restricted to only those people who do essential jobs in PA, like police or fire or teachers. They go to those who get on the waiting list, period. Also, these properties are removed from our property tax resources, which means we are forced to supply services, but with no taxes to do so. Also, these developments are always focused in certain areas of town which lack the political and financial resources to resist them. Why are we doing this to ourselves?


17 people like this
Posted by Making Allies Helps
a resident of Green Acres
on Oct 6, 2016 at 11:57 am

Since I can say with certainty that the vast majority of the Maybell opposition was never about the affordable housing but about density and safety issues, I think it's sad that Maybell was turned into an ideological battle about housing, probably because portraying it that way politically was perceived as the greatest lever to pursue a project that should never have been proposed for that site, and am really turned off by how this current discussion seems to continue that perspective, since it was so offensive and backfired so badly at Maybell. It seems also to have created a belief about attitudes toward affordable housing that prevented anyone working toward it, when the opposite would have been the case, in fact, it would have helped while people were energized to direct their energy toward a compromise that created the housing in collaboration with the neighbors who didn't want the densified for-profit side of the project.

I think the current City Council would have embraced good planning for affordable housing that didn't have to rely on selling off densified zoning, if it had been proposed. I am personally in favor of putting a moratorium on new housing and office development in the region until the drought is over - except for affordable housing, focused on helping existing residents, because clearly that wouldn't be a net water issue anyway, and it's needed. I think that should be our focus. In regards to water conservation, people have already stopped conserving as much, and I think it's going to be difficult to ask for more austerity while development continues apace as if there were no drought.

My advice to PAHC would be to search down deep and consider how to really overcome the political biases from the past that resulted directly in conflict, because as you probably know by now, some of the leaders in opposing the Maybell rezoning had worked out a compromise in a previous development clash in the same neighborhood, that ended up both saving Terman school from being developed AND creating a 92-unit low-income housing apartment (that PAHC has tried to buy - and still think the City should help them plan for trying again possibly in the future). There are a lot of hurt feelings among residents, so it won't be as easy to create alliances or to gain the trust that would have been willingly given back then even after neighbors took some bruising, but pursuing the same tack is only wise - just as during the referendum - if you really, truly think you don't need the goodwill of the majority of residents in order to run your program well or serve its clients. I think that's foolish.

Also, consider whether there are ways to get funding for low-density projects consistent with your vision. For example, I have just been through saying goodbye to a dear friend who was first disabled then in longterm care after a stroke. The tight spaces of every one of her living circumstances just made caregivers' lives - and hers - untenable. By contrast, I just visited a friend in the East Bay whose retirement community is laid out with space - the difference in the ability to care for people and the quality of life is striking. Is there any way to make a case for funding properties requiring suppport for universal design for wheelchair users? That would by definition be lower density. The seriously mobility impaired are probably the group with the most need for inclusionary housing attention in our town, followed by the aging population of persons with other disabilities like autism where packing people in like sardines is also likely to create unnecessary stress.

Making enemies of people who would otherwise have been allies didn't work at Maybell, and it's not a great idea to continue. It's a much tougher row to bring back in support now, but on the other hand, if the goals aligned -- if the support would allow you to create the affordable housing consistent with some of the desires of the residents to just focus on the affordable housing and do so in a way that is more consistent with zoning - or even an advantage to do low density to serve underserved groups like seniors who are wheelchair bound, and the pro-D side stopped with the relentless animus, they would find a large segment of the population as surprising allies. I know I would have once made significant sacrifices to help work on creating affordable housing here because I did not like having to oppose it at Maybell, but now feel I cannot even write about it without expecting to be attacked, yet again.


32 people like this
Posted by pacsailor
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 6, 2016 at 12:18 pm

To have 60 units on a 1/2 acre parcel seems too dense to me, where are all these people going to park their cars, or are we assuming that they will not have cars but will be biking or taking CalTrain? As one of the commenters above indicated these units are not just for people living in Palo Alto, they can be given to anyone applying just because they are below a certain income, which means that these people will most likely need cars for transportation.


43 people like this
Posted by Anna
a resident of Midtown
on Oct 6, 2016 at 12:35 pm

If PAHC really wants to move past Maybell, they need to swear off the divisive tactics they employed that time around: back room dealing with the city government, painting opposition as NIMBYism, financial opacity, "astroturfing" city meetings, laughable traffic analysis, etc.

Seeing as how Ms Gonzales was at the helm during that debacle, would not a new director be a good start? Being cagey with the address of the new site doesn't exactly back up her assertion that this is a new start.

I see deja vu all over again...


19 people like this
Posted by Dude
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Oct 6, 2016 at 12:46 pm

Anna: it's all about NIMBYism. Why would I allow a single new unit (affordable or not) to be built, when I can have my old house that is barely livable go from 2 million to 4 million in a next year or two? Or for properties I rent, I can milk out of my tenants $8000/month instead of $4000/month for a one bedroom apartment I haven't put a dime into maintaining/improving in the last 10 years?


34 people like this
Posted by The Real Meaning
a resident of Midtown
on Oct 6, 2016 at 12:46 pm

The Real Meaning is a registered user.

Please remember that BMR does NOT mean LOW or even MID-RANGE in price! It just means Below MARKET Rate for the local area!

This is still unaffordable for many, and a qualifying income is still required!

My son and his wife have yet to qualify for BMR housing, even though they jointly make $130,000! They have ttwo small children-- which the powers that be consider "deficits"! They are also burdened with a student loan and two car payments-- also considered "deficits" that keep them for qualifying for such housing!

Go figure! Who the hell is BMR housing for??


23 people like this
Posted by resident
a resident of College Terrace
on Oct 6, 2016 at 1:44 pm

Enough already trying to whitewash Maybell. It was shameful incident dressed up as ideological issue. I will never ever vote for Lidia K. or anybody who supported Prop.D.


23 people like this
Posted by My cup of Tea
a resident of Palo Verde
on Oct 6, 2016 at 1:51 pm

Dear The RealMeaning....they are for folks like me, whose hard working super fit , non drinking, non smoking husband died at an early age from a rare disease that only 2 other people in the USA had. He struggled , on full dialysis for 10 years trying to save for a deposit on a house. Each time we almost got there he would be in the hospital for 3-4 months and our "down-payment" would have to be used. I worked as a Nursery school teacher /director for 40 years, taking care of my 2 young children, scraping by by doing sewing, bookeeping, babysitting in addition to my job to get by. Now I am retired...... unable to secure any other type of housing, because people owning BMR housing do not make millions of dollars on their houses even if like me you have been living there for 30 years. My "profit" will be about $30,000, when I sell back to the PAHC, as I must in my deed. BUT I will be eternally grateful for the housing corporation, that gave me and my children the ability to stay here, and be able to live a frugal but safe life.


16 people like this
Posted by Bill
a resident of Barron Park
on Oct 6, 2016 at 1:54 pm

"Gonzalez said she could not yet disclose the exact locations of two sites along El Camino Real. But she disclosed that they are contiguous and currently are commercial properties. The sites are south of Page Mill Road but are not in Barron Park"

Not sure why PAHC doesn't want to disclose the location. It's pretty common knowledge in the neighborhood that it's on the Ventura neighborhood side of El Caminio and northwest of Curtner.

The common problem with this location along El Camino is that the lots are very shallow, generally only about 150 feet deep and bordered with one and two story single family homes in the neighborhood. This is a very different kind of area than PAHC's Mountain View site at 1701 W El Camino next to the shopping mall at El Monte.

When Ms Gonzalez says "perhaps with compromises that did not exist during the Maybell fight", I'm pretty sure she's not talking about compromises from PAHC. If the proposal is similar to Mountain View's project, an under-parked five story 60 unit development is pretty much a non-starter.


12 people like this
Posted by Robert
a resident of another community
on Oct 6, 2016 at 1:55 pm

@resident

But... but haven't you heard it was never about affordable housing! If this thread is any indication, there's obviously unanimous support in Palo Alto for affordable housing!


26 people like this
Posted by Making Allies Helps
a resident of Green Acres
on Oct 6, 2016 at 2:47 pm

@resident,
No one is whitewashing Maybell. You clearly know so little about it, you don't even know which side was Pro and which was Against. Just so you know, supporters of Prop D wanted the rezoning to go through, i.e., supported the development there. So you got it exactly wrong and not in a way that could be construed as a simple mistake. Anyone who had anything to do with that election would have known that, particularly if they voted. You clearly just wanted to pile on and continue the vilification.

If you don't want to be bothered to understand what happened, at least stop trying to resurrect the nasty bandwagon that made it impossible for residents to work together. @ Anna above summed it perfectly: ""If PAHC really wants to move past Maybell, they need to swear off the divisive tactics they employed that time around: back room dealing with the city government, painting opposition as NIMBYism, financial opacity, "astroturfing" city meetings, laughable traffic analysis, etc. "

The reason those tactics came about is because they used to work. They don't work so well anymore. The reason PAHC got into trouble is they treated the neighborhood as beside the point at the outset, instead of realizing the opportunities. The neighbors who succeeded with Measure D, were prepared even to put that kind of energy, creativity, and drive into fundraising for affordable housing so it could be done differently.

The truth is, the development interests who coopted the segment of our population even willing to overlook the fact that the public money at Maybell was tied up and unavailable at BV at a critical time (and city councilmembers would have known that), they don't want our residents to come together to create affordable housing, because the only people who want high density luxury housing here are trying to change Palo Alto into their own private SF mini-me. Given your clear and utter lack of familiarity with even the most basic aspects of Measure D - and willingness nevertheless to continue attacking - your agenda is pretty transparent (whether your are coopted or coopter).


12 people like this
Posted by R1.0
a resident of Crescent Park
on Oct 6, 2016 at 4:58 pm

Put it over by transit or whatever, but keep it out of sight from my neighborhood if you dont want another referendum.


12 people like this
Posted by Observer
a resident of University South
on Oct 6, 2016 at 6:27 pm

At least when PASZ takes this one to referendum, we'll be prepared this time. And now there's a counterweight in Palo Alto Forward, which is going to be all over making this happen.


8 people like this
Posted by Observer
a resident of University South
on Oct 6, 2016 at 6:28 pm

Of course, it's also possible that he new majority on Council kills this one instead. That would save PASZ a lot of time and save their backers a lot of money.


23 people like this
Posted by Making Allies Helps
a resident of Green Acres
on Oct 6, 2016 at 7:10 pm

@Observer,
Clearly the deveopment-centric forces ar PAF haven't learned the lessons of Measure D either. PASZ was never against affordable housing. In case you haven't noticed, a very large affordable housing project went in on El Camino after Measure D, with nothing but support from PASZ. PASZ members have been very supportive of saving BV, more so by far than PAF. (The $15 million that went back into city and county affordable housing funds subsequently became funding to try to save BV - money that would not have been available otherwise.)

The fact still stands, the City had the right to purchase the Maybell property non competitively after Measure D, and build just affordable housing, but did not. The neighbors came out to ask them to do that, but the then City Council decided to sell to a for-profit developer. The same neighborhood survey that found before the referendum that peopke were overwhelmingly against that proposal, also found that the favored developed use was affordable housing (the favored overall use was saving the historic orchard as Mountain Vw did in the same situation. Since the overall vote in Measure D came in almost exactly the same as the neighborhood survey, it's very clear that the divisive strategy of the development interests at Maybell succeeded in sinking the chance of putting affordable housing there.)

The head of PAHC should not have such personal ties to those who profit from such divisive tactics. Otherwise, things might have been very different. Unfortunately, it seems nothing has changed. More unfortunately, in the longterm, alienating residents who are paying for the programs and upon whose goodwill they exist, will not serve the residents of the low-income programs well. We know from all research that low-income residents internalize the stigma of sticking out - all this self -serving rancor by for-profit development interests and their co-opted supposed housing advocates can also only be bad for the wellbeing of residents they claim to want to help. (I say supposed not because people aren't sincere, I say it because actions belie intent by those who let themselves be coopted by the development interests.)

Anyone who thinks PAF is for affordable housing should read the negative things Steven Levy wrote in his blog about BV. And remember the old saying about the definition of insanity - doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different outcome.




18 people like this
Posted by Two different issues
a resident of another community
on Oct 6, 2016 at 7:34 pm

So, despite the story saying this is about building without buying new land, that's exactly what the 2nd prong of the story covers. Some site on ECR south of Page Mill but not in Barron Park has 2 lots which together presumably total about 1/2 acre. They want to buy that new land and seek special permission to develop it in a way which would then give the land increased value. 60 units on 1/2 acre is probably too much. It depends on how big the units are. 60 500 sq ft units might be ok. 60 1000 sq ft units not so much. Big difference. Really, it would make more sense for the 60 units to be part of a much larger project on a much bigger piece of land.

But then back on the Cal Ave site, they are talking about adding 40 or so units on the parking lot for the existing 45 units. Where would the existing people park? It would be a good thing to survey the parking lot usage currently, and see how needed those parking spaces are for the current residents, as they would be a good representation of new residents to be added.


56 people like this
Posted by common sense
a resident of Midtown
on Oct 6, 2016 at 7:36 pm

A primary philosophy of affordable housing is to spread out the units, rather than concentrate them in one location. Only then can all benefit from the diversity that it brings.

In that vein, Old Palo Alto and Crescent Park should be the targets for the development of affordable housing. These neighborhoods have larger lot sizes, and they should be rezoned to allow high density affordable housing to make the development affordable. I believe that these neighborhoods have suffered from not having any diversity, and we as a city should help the people in those neighborhoods with a few hundred affordable housing units


46 people like this
Posted by Kevin
a resident of Barron Park
on Oct 6, 2016 at 7:54 pm

How about if those city council advocates of so-called "affordable housing" nominate their own neighborhoods to build it? Some of our neighborhoods have been targeted for subsidized housing, while those doing the targeting remain smug in their zones. Why do we allow such hypocrisy?


41 people like this
Posted by cabrini
a resident of Mayfield
on Oct 6, 2016 at 8:59 pm

Common Sense, I wish I could give you more than one "like." We've learned from failed experiments with high-density, low-income housing in the 60s and 70s (think Cabrini-Green in Chicago) that there are many problems with concentrating low-income families in dense developments (aka housing projects) and that it is far more beneficial for the low-income families–as well as the surrounding communities–to instead have smaller mixed-use developments (see HOPE in SF) throughout the community. Rather than doubling the BMR units at a location that already has a high density of such developments, it would be preferable to introduce BMR units in small, mixed-use developments throughout the city.


25 people like this
Posted by zoning
a resident of Midtown
on Oct 6, 2016 at 9:05 pm

Will PAHC need to up-zone their Park Ave site to convert it from a parking lot to 40 housing units? If so, I certainly hope the CC members have the "balls" to block this.


Like this comment
Posted by Jason
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Oct 6, 2016 at 9:19 pm

[Post removed.{


10 people like this
Posted by True Residentialist
a resident of Barron Park
on Oct 6, 2016 at 10:10 pm

@Mayfield and @zoning

Look at all the posts supporting parking over housing. This, in a nutshell, is the "residentialist" philosophy at work. Parking lots over people.

Are Kou and Keller and the PASZ crowd really going to back more "BMR units in small, mixed-use developments throughout the city." Would that include their own neighborhoods or just all the other neighborhoods? Have they ever demonstrated that they care about this or would put any energy into it?

Doug Moran's columns suggest that his fellow travelers in PASZ will not.

I can tell you who would consider that kind of smart development: Kniss, Fine, Tanaka and McDougall.


24 people like this
Posted by PAF
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Oct 6, 2016 at 11:10 pm

PAF and the candidates sympathetic to their views (Fine, Tanaka, McDougall, and Kniss) give lip service to BMR housing (and, very late in the game, PAF supported preserving BV). However, their main concern seems to be building more high-density, market-rate housing to accommodate the large numbers of tech workers who desire a residence in Palo Alto.


25 people like this
Posted by Mayfield Place
a resident of College Terrace
on Oct 6, 2016 at 11:27 pm

It looks like Mayfield Place, a 70-unit BMR housing development, is opening soon a few blocks away from the Park/California Ave PAHC project:
Web Link
Perhaps it would make more sense to build BMR housing elsewhere in the city.


16 people like this
Posted by Factual
a resident of University South
on Oct 7, 2016 at 8:21 am

Actually, PAF supported saving BV as soon as it was proposed. Both PAF and PASZ wrote a letter of endorsement for that first city council meeting. (I'm proud of PASZ, too.) It's simply false that PAF did not support BV or that it does not emphatically support affordable housing. After some motivated commenters repeated these things on a different thread, there was a long discussion about this. These claims are simply false.

This story is clearly being circulated as a smear on Palo Alto Forward.


22 people like this
Posted by Making Allies Helps
a resident of Green Acres
on Oct 7, 2016 at 10:22 am

@unFactual,
PAF did not exist when "it was first proposed" to save it.

The leader of PAF, Steven Levy, wrote a pretty negative blog post about saving BV.

The fact remains, the policies PAF espouses say one thing, but accelerate forces of gentrification which is exactly why BV is at risk. It survived many previous booms, but when the owner got an offer from a big development partner who thought 4X the zoning was a shoe-in, that's when this all started for the BV residents. Most have invested a lot of money, for them, in their homes, and will never realize that investment or be able to purchase a comparable housing investment for a low income in the greater Bay Area.

PAF says a lot of disingenuous and euphemistic stuff, like that they are for housing "options" but they have called single family hones evil and only really support high density luxury apartments for tech workers, preferably near downtown Palantirville.


24 people like this
Posted by Crescent Park Dad
a resident of Crescent Park
on Oct 7, 2016 at 11:32 am

Again with the Maybell falsehoods. I voted NO on D because it was too dense (needed a waiver), under-parked and too high (needed a waiver). There's nothing wrong with affordable and/or senior housing...just follow the current zoning restrictions instead asking for waivers that infringe upon the surrounding neighborhood.

This is not rocket science.


23 people like this
Posted by Sunshine
a resident of Barron Park
on Oct 11, 2016 at 6:47 pm

Why is all of the BMR ousting and other high density housing proposed for south of Embarcadero? There is far too much neh building being crammed in south of Page Mill. We need to spread out the BMR housing over ALL of the city. New York has found that using single units in otherwise market rate housing is far more successful and encourages personal development of the new residents in the more upscale neighborhoods as the new residents aim to emulate those already there. If does not bring down the neighborhood as some fear.
Therefore future addition of new BMR units should be near downtown or on some of the vacant lots in Professorville, old Palo Alto, Crescent Park, north Downtown. Don't cram it all into Barron Park.
We need to vote out the developers and PAF as they are only interested in developing areas where they don't live. The development needs to be closer to downtown UniversityAve.


18 people like this
Posted by fair distribution
a resident of Barron Park
on Oct 11, 2016 at 9:01 pm

According to the map in this article, the vast majority of BMR units in Palo Alto are located between Alma and ECR; there are virtually none north of Middlefield. Let's put the next 40-unit BMR housing in Crescent Park, Old Palo Alto, or Professorville.


7 people like this
Posted by Making Allies Helps
a resident of Green Acres
on Oct 12, 2016 at 9:55 am

@Sunshine,
It's true what you say, and HUD encourages distributing low-income housing for that reason. The trouble is that the model we have does not then support very low income people, the BMR units go to people who are making a relatively high amount of money. In fact, having been eligible for BMR units when I was younger, I found it was a bad deal for someone like me when I looked into the future, because it was more a choice between extreme sacrifice and the cheaper housing than it was between housing and not. The BMR housing wasn't cheap enough to allow getting ahead by saving, and then it meant there was no way to benefit from an investment over the years to the extent that you could have other options from leaving. Many BMR program beneficiaries expressed bitterness at this choice in a Weekly article. The trouble is they were just excoriated for their regret as ingratitude instead of talking about how that realization needed to improve the program.

We see from recent public figures claiming they can't afford homes in Palo Alto when they clearly can, and clearly haven't tried to make any of the sustained sacrifices others typically make to get into the local market, that many people think they deserve a subsidy from others who could afford it less than they can. I think we should move the focus of BMR housing to distributed housing as you describe, but only for people who meet both a residency test (already sacrificing to live here) or a community service test - which could be even employment locally with a public benefit, but not just because one just works here anymore. There is too little supply and too much need for that, and too much overbuilding of office space.

I think the focus of funds should be to purchase property that then is available to truly low-income residents to invest in themselves. We do this already, but the program constraints almost shut out the very low income. They should be allowed to invest what they can and benefit in proportion.

The other concern is that very low-income people may need services and supports that can be difficult (though not impossible) to provide if housing is not concentrated. However, given research on the negatives of concentrating people in subsidized housing, it's worth considering how.

My problem, given how the Maybell neighbors were treated to such nasty poltical machinations that continue, is that I don't feel like I can vote for affordable housing funding anymore, because of the fear it will mean just more bludgeoning of locals (who are NOT millionaires and CEOs, most of us) in order to further in some cases (as at Maybell) for-profit development interests, UNLESS the funding is specifically for programs that have been worked out, for example like above. After experiencing that nasty political season, where I once voted yes for any reasonable public good by idea, I now apply a test : is this funding for a specific proposal or project? If not, then I will vote no. (Except for veterans housing, I will continue to vote yes for veterans housing.)

It does not bode well for the success of the next project that Gonzalez is being so secretive, again, and employing the same NIMBY broad brush. It's like no one learned anything from Maybell at all.


1 person likes this
Posted by My Town
a resident of Barron Park
on Oct 13, 2016 at 2:39 pm

Why do you keep posting 5 paragraph dissertations on how the outcome of Maybell was the result of how you weren't consulted and how people didn't listen to you ?

Maybell was the result of Measure "D". This was a city-wide vote about one thing and one thing only - whether or not to upzone a property. You had little to do with the outcome of Maybell and have no monopoly on an understanding of the reason individual voters voted on the zoning as they did. Without the Measure D referendum (which would be reversed if voted on today), we'd have 60 units of senior housing. Consulting you and your group was irrelevant.


5 people like this
Posted by Not what We Nerf
a resident of Midtown
on Oct 14, 2016 at 9:05 am

Not what We Nerf is a registered user.

While BMR housing is a nice idea, in theory, it isn't far enough below market rate to be helpful!

A person or family still needs to have a large income to buy one!

What is needed is not necessarily LOW income housing, but MODERATE , middle class income housing!


2 people like this
Posted by Not What We Need
a resident of Midtown
on Oct 14, 2016 at 9:16 am

Not What We Need is a registered user.

That's what the name should be!^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^*^*
My bad !


4 people like this
Posted by mmmmmMom
a resident of Downtown North
on Oct 14, 2016 at 10:35 am

PAHC continues to build/support housing for the very low income population. The BMR situation is such that those of us in the lower middle class (or, compared to wealthy PA incomes, definitely low income) are on waiting lists for over 10 years or MORE. As in my case, 15 years.

The issue is that it is relatively easy to find housing if you are in the obvious poverty level, but fuhgeddaboutit if you are in the "working poor" category. As a working nurse, my income is just around 10K over the poverty line (taking into consideration 2 kids), so we don't qualify. And there are hardly any BMR units for people like me. We're stuck in the middle:can't afford even a rental here, anymore, & yet make just a little too much for subsidized housing. End result? My tax dollars go for people living in housing I can't qualify for, & receive medical care from me while their healthcare is also paid by me.

WE NEED A TRUE BMR PROGRAM FOR THE WORKING, LOWER MIDDLE CLASS!!! I also think giving people credit for more than 1 or 2 children is not fair. People can have as many kids as they want, but that should not be supported by tax dollars.


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Posted by Dan Gold
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Feb 8, 2017 at 4:29 pm

How about Standford students who may not be able to afford to live in Palo Alto. Contrary to popular belief Stanford Housing does not cover the needs of all it's students. A good amount of the universities students have to live in far reaching cities which may also not be safe based on its low cost and then they have the additional burden of traveling long distances to get to school. This can be time consuming and costly.


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