News


Palo Alto commission throws support behind granny units

In revising ordinance, members take aim at parking, lot-size requirements

For several years now, Palo Alto officials have been looking at one possible way to ease the city's affordable housing crisis: allowing homeowners to build small rental units on their properties.

These rentals - variously known as in-law cottages, granny units and, now, accessory dwelling units – could boost Palo Alto's housing stock without the expense to the city of building a large, new affordable-housing development.

The push has been met with both fears and cheers: Some residents decry the spectre of more-crowded neighborhoods, while others clamor for the chance to provide housing for an elderly relative – or supplemental income for themselves.

On Wednesday night, the city's Planning and Transportation Commission took a stab at crafting an ordinance that would encourage homeowners to build such rentals. But even as they pinned hopes on accessory-dwelling units being the David that might slay the city's affordability-crisis Goliath, they acknowledged one sobering fact: If not regulated properly, the accessory-unit idea may end up being no more than a boy with a slingshot and bad aim.

The uncertain potential of accessory dwelling units was acknowledged by Commissioner Eric Rosenblum, who observed that such rentals comprise only 1 percent of Portland, Oregon's housing stock, while in Vancouver, Canada, about one-third of eligible property owners have added accessory units.

Until now, Palo Alto's accessory-dwelling ordinance has resulted in a measly four units per year, according to the city's Housing Element.

The commission, which was generally supportive of accessory units, on Wednesday squarely took aim at the barriers residents have said have prevented them from adding on the rental housing: requirements for added parking and qualifications of a minimum lot size.

Currently, only properties that are 35 percent larger than the standard lot size in a specific residential zone can host an accessory unit. According to a planning department staff report, about 2,500 parcels are large enough under existing city rules to add a unit. So by a 4-2 vote, the commission did away with the additional percentage, opting to recommend to the council that the ordinance permit the rentals be built on properties that are the standard size for their districts. The result, in the city's R-1 zones, would be that 8,200 parcels would be eligible to add accessory units, up from the 2,300 R-1 parcels that are 35 percent larger than standard.

When it came to parking, the commission sought to ease the regulations that homeowners provide parking for their tenants. The staff's draft recommendation, which follows new state law on accessory units, already reduced the requirement from two parking spots to one per unit or one per bedroom, whichever is greater. A new variant of accessory units -- junior accessory dwelling units, which would be created by converting an existing bedroom in a home and adding a kitchenette – would require no parking spaces.

The draft recommendation allowed for parking exemptions for properties within a half-mile of public transit, under the assumption that people living in smaller units might not own cars. Rosenblum asserted that people who live three-quarters of a mile from a Caltrain station -- not a half mile -- could also be inclined to use the rail service, and the commission supported his idea 4-to-2 to expand geographic reach of the parking exemption.

Greg Tanaka, who was recently elected to the City Council, attempted to address fears of more cars parking on streets by suggesting the city explore underground parking in single–family zones. With changing technology, he said, methods such as elevator lifts could be used to house cars underground on residents' properties. That motion was supported 5-1.

Tanaka also proposed that the council direct staff to explore the option that homeowners who can't provide the additional parking spaces could pay an in-lieu fee. Given the cost to the city of building a parking spot, which has been estimated at $65,000, homeowners could pay that or a similar amount instead. Fellow commissioners declined to support that idea, however.

One of the more contentious issues of the evening was Rosenblum's motion that the city consider studying all neighborhoods to assess how many cars are currently parked on their streets. The resulting information, he said, could suggest that homeowners in lightly parked neighborhoods could be exempted from the parking requirement, thus spurring the construction of accessory units. His motion passed 4 to 2, but Vice Chair Asher Waldfogel dissented, calling it "a really bad idea."

The City Council, he said, made it clear that quality of life needs to be considered and that high levels of street parking are acceptable only in places like the city's downtown core. When Rosenblum defended the parking exemption idea as valuing "people over parking spaces," Waldfogel took exception: "(It's) an offensive way to describe the quality of life-versus-housing question," he said.

The commission's decisions Wednesday also acknowledged some residents' concerns, including that the rental units would create a "constant turnover" of tenants in neighborhoods. Rosenblum moved that the minimum lease be increased from the suggested 30 days in the draft recommendation to 60 days. That amendment passed unanimously.

When commissioners dissented, they often said they had not had time to consider the possible consequences of the recommendations.

In the end, the proposed ordinance, which was drafted in part to comply with state regulations that Gov. Jerry Brown signed into law in September, passed 5 to 1, with Przemek Gardias dissenting.

"Removal of the minimum-lot requirement may be right, but not at this time because we didn't have the public input," he said. "We may end up with surprised citizens. We don't have a good feeling about what this proposed change would create. We are setting up our constituents for a surprise."

Accessory housing has been a polarizing subject in the community. Among the 10 residents who spoke to the commission Wednesday, most supported relaxed regulations, with caveats. Old Palo Alto resident David Wills, however, voiced his concerns about crowding and parking congestion.

"In our six house area, there are seven families," Wills said. With accessory units, "it could easily expand to 11 families That's quite a big addition to my neighborhood."

But resident Peter Maresca advocated for the opportunity to add small accessory housing.

"I'm not the only citizen with a relative with a disability or who is aged and needs assistance," he said, lauding the independence that a unit would afford that person, while also keeping the relative close so his or her needs could be met. "I'm not alone in responding YIMBY" -- Yes In My Back Yard, in contrast to those opposing accessory units.

"We don't have to assume it's going to be an Airbnb unit," he said, addressing fears of short-term rentals.

The council is expected to review the draft recommendations, with additional staff input, in early 2017.

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Comments

52 people like this
Posted by Really Bad Idea
a resident of Crescent Park
on Dec 1, 2016 at 10:28 am

The article describes Tanaka as proposing in-lieu fees could exempt residential parking spaces. It makes no sense. In-lieu fees are currently paid by downtown buildings that can't supply adequate parking but the city uses the fees to construct new large city garages that add to the parking supply. But if someone in a neighborhood were to pay an in-lieu fee, no city parking garage will be built in that neighborhood -- so the money won't solve the parking problem at all. Basically, the city would pocket people's money who want to underpark their home, while their neighbors wonder why their street is filling up with cars.

And Tanaka is going to be on the City Council for the next four years? It's looking grim.


Posted by Underground parking in R-1?
a resident of Community Center

on Dec 1, 2016 at 10:41 am


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36 people like this
Posted by Ben Lerner
a resident of Palo Verde
on Dec 1, 2016 at 11:01 am

We need to move carefully with this. If not done correctly, this will have the effect of upzoning all R1 neighborhoods to R2.


20 people like this
Posted by Proud Senior
a resident of Downtown North
on Dec 1, 2016 at 11:02 am

Hey Weekly Editor: Isn't it time to stop calling these supplemental housing units "granny" units? They serve a variety of people of all ages and situations. It mischaracterizes the purpose and value of these units.


28 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 1, 2016 at 11:04 am

The parking scenario is opening a large can of worms.

It is the neighbors who will suffer because even if someone does use public transportation (Caltrain) for work, they cannot be prevented from owning a car and leaving it on public street during the day and night when it will be used evenings and weekends.

Not a solution as far as I can see. Too many unanswered questions about other logistical concerns also.


44 people like this
Posted by anon
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Dec 1, 2016 at 11:13 am

There are so many things wrong with this law and the commissions response to it that it is shocking.

The so called "Half Mile radius from Fixed transit" map showing where second units would beeligible for a parking exemption requiring none onsite is Crazy!

It comprises more than half of Palo alto and includes all of Ventura, all of Mayfield all of all of Evergreen park, all of Southgate, all of Downtown North, Nearly all of Downtown South, nearly all of College Terrace, and nearly all of Barron Park and more!

These are all the neighborhoods( with the exception of Barron Park) That have or are asking for Parking permit programs due to existing PARKING PROBLEMS!

If you can make an argument that people living in future ADUs will not have cars why do those presently living in theses areas have cars; and have problems parking them?

The answer: Because most people living in Palo Alto have and need cars. Even if you are lucky enough to not need your car to commute you still need a car to shop, drive your kids too after school activities, go to doctors etc etc etc....
Will there be a requirement that all people living in ADUs be able bodied enough to bike and walk? Sounds like discrimination to me.

Cal Train is at capacity during peak commute hours. Cities up and down the CalTrain Corridor have under parked buildings with the claim that they are offering train passes so that they won't have employees driving to work, they will take the train. This is absurd, of course call train does not have the capacity to serve all the buildings cities and Institutions that are making these claims! Totally absurd!

And the 22 bus is the only bus presently in our system that runs at frequent intervals and it goes one place up and down the peninsula basically along the same limited corridor as CalTrain. We do not have a comprehensive Transit system like a big city and the VTA is proposing reducing our service.

The state is reckless to propose a one size fits all law and The Planning commission is out of touch wth reality.
Fine and Tanaka are already changing their spots showing that they will not protect residents and Quality of life as they promised, and they have even taken their seats on the council!

Ye gods, what a mess!


35 people like this
Posted by Bad ideas
a resident of Downtown North
on Dec 1, 2016 at 11:48 am

Thanks to Asher Waldfogel for correctly calling out Rosenblum's bad idea. Rosenblum is opposed to the Residential Parking program.

In fact when the commission was discussing RPP for his street, Rosenblum was very reluctant to recuse himself and asked the city attorney more than once to clarify conflict of interest.
Then he ostentatiously stood up, put on his bright yellow raincoat and reluctantly left the dais. He really does need to read up on 'conflicts of interest'.
As a Palantir employee it is relevant to many downtown matters.

Underground parking in R1? Is this is a joke?


41 people like this
Posted by Sheri
a resident of Midtown
on Dec 1, 2016 at 11:49 am

Sheri is a registered user.

Greg Tanaka suggested "the city explore underground parking in single–family zones. With changing technology, he said, methods such as elevator lifts could be used to house cars underground on residents' properties. That motion was supported 5-1."

Seriously? Don't we have enough problems with basements and dewatering? What about the noise generated? How would this even work on small (6000sf) lots?


19 people like this
Posted by anon
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Dec 1, 2016 at 12:04 pm

since many of the planning Commissioners live in the "possible parking exemption" area shown on the map that staff provided should they have recused themselves as having a conflict?


27 people like this
Posted by resident
a resident of Midtown
on Dec 1, 2016 at 12:17 pm

Eric Rosenbaum says "he draft recommendation allowed for parking exemptions for properties within a half-mile of public transit ..."

Does public transit include the Palo Alto Shuttle and the Stanford Marguaritte Shuttle?

If the destination where people want to go to isn't close by the same public transit that they board, then those people will be more likely to have a car.

The planning commission is making simplistic, superficial assumptions to justify their positions, rather than using any sort of data driven approach to their decisions.

This will make property values rise, because the more density that is allowed, the more the land is worth.


20 people like this
Posted by MBieder
a resident of Midtown
on Dec 1, 2016 at 12:18 pm

I realize that people would like housing for relatives and children but this proposal would essentially make areas of already crowded housing on smaller lots (6000) even more crowded. It may be fine if you have an 8000+ square foot lot to have 1 or 2 families living there. But in areas with 6000+ lots, we already have rentals, turnover, privacy and noise issues here in such close quarters. As someone else said it will turn R1 into R2. Two of us live in a 2 bedroom 1 bath house and have been sharing all of our lives. Is it wrong for families to live together in the same house as people did years ago? More rentals and transients in r1 residential communities that are very dense today?? where went the focus on quality of life?


6 people like this
Posted by finally, housing!
a resident of Addison School
on Dec 1, 2016 at 12:51 pm

it's great to see the year close with a major push to make housing more available and affordable. Kudos to the PTC for taking on such an important matter. Hopefully, Council will take their recommendations and move forward with these common-sense measures. I personally do not think that they went far enough (for example, the city could provide incentives to build more ADUs), but the common sense measures proposed last night are a good start.

Well done, PTC!


11 people like this
Posted by Gale Johnson
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Dec 1, 2016 at 1:01 pm

Did I vote for the wrong council members?? Time will tell, but if the Commission's action to move the ADU, in-law, granny, SDU, JADU idea forward (can we just settle on one name?)it might be an indication of what to expect in the future. Very disappointing, although the video interviews with the candidates and responses to the questionnaires should have raised a red flag.

I've commented before about my concerns and objections, but I'll repeat some of them again. Why, if 2,500 parcels have been able to build these units under current regulations, have only an average of 4 per year been built?

What motivated the colleague's memo in the first place? Were there a lot of residents demanding that something be done? Was there any effort made to survey us residents? I thought there were going to be two of them made. Did it happen and I just missed out?

The promise of neighborhood meetings by CC hasn't been carried out very well. I know they've been tried, and a few of them held, but a minimal number of them so far I think, and I'm not sure the ADU issue was ever addressed.

I could go on and on about the problems I foresee, and that many other commenters have spoken about very directly and accurately, but now my biggest gripe is the pompous attitude of our city officials, be it commission members, council members, or staff. It's almost like they don't want our input, they don't need it to proceed with their enlightened ideas, and that they know more about what's good for us residents and community than we do.

Idealistic ideas, and passion for them because of how they affect you and will benefit you personally, mixed in with naivete and a lack of communicating with the residents and the constituents who you are supposed to represent and voted for you, makes for a bad formula, a chemical reaction that could explode.

There are much better ways to provide housing, and I even hesitate to say it, but affordable housing, if that's possible, than the craziness of ADU's providing the answer. Let's build more of those denser units with relaxed height restrictions, in the right areas, near the work centers. I know, the problem will be to get developers to build them, but don't rely on us current homeowners...residents in our R-1 zoned areas...to bail the city out on this one. You should strive to improve our quality of life, not diminish it!

One last note: There has been no action taken to crack down on the past scofflaws of building illegal units, converting garages, etc., so where is the credibility of trying to enforce any new regulations? There is none, and the proponents of the idea and the willing participants know it. So rise up citizens. Grab your torches and pitchforks and let's march on City Hall. That is a joke of course.


26 people like this
Posted by Hmm
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Dec 1, 2016 at 1:03 pm

Parking is a major issue and sure to get worse under this proposal. Parking does affect the quality of life in the neighborhoods. Parking decisions should consider what people are willing to do on a day with torrential rain, not a bright, sunny day, what they will do when they have an appointment after work, or, even if they want to bring heavy groceries home from the store. Many people will chose to have a car for these eventualities.

Palantir employees parking in the neighborhoods is already an issue. As a Palantir executive, Rosenbaum should recuse himself on any discussion of parking.

And can I just say, a lift served parking spot in a basement-the most expensive granny unit ever.


37 people like this
Posted by nat
a resident of Midtown
on Dec 1, 2016 at 1:20 pm

I agree with Sheri: "Greg Tanaka suggested "the city explore underground parking in single–family zones. With changing technology, he said, methods such as elevator lifts could be used to house cars underground on residents' properties. That motion was supported 5-1."

Seriously? Don't we have enough problems with basements and dewatering? What about the noise generated? How would this even work on small (6000sf) lots?"

I'm amazed the Planning Commission supported this 5-1. I don't understand that.
And I'm really sorry that Tanaka will be on the City Council.


2 people like this
Posted by Robert
a resident of another community
on Dec 1, 2016 at 1:35 pm

Most houses have ample parking in the garage and driveway, if someone else is unable to find parking that should be an issue for them to deal with, not something that should bother you.


6 people like this
Posted by Gale Johnson
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Dec 1, 2016 at 1:41 pm

One more thing. When we bought our house, we never considered the possibility of it becoming an income source, and nobody else in that time period did either. This crazy idea that's being promoted...that homeowners could now make a lot of money off rental income is so counter to what us old timers, single family homeowners, thought back then. We shouldn't become a B&B community without the benefit of the breakfast. I'll cook a great breakfast for any guests in my house. They will have a locked bedroom, but I won't provide a separate unit for them, with kitchenette, fridge, etc. They'll just have to struggle and cope with living in my house with free access to the kitchen, family room with the TV, my WiFi access, a separate bathroom, etc. I don't think I'd have a problem finding people that would not be comfortable with that arrangement. And I won't have to build a separate unit in my back yard or add on 500 sq ft of living area to my house. My rent rates would be affordable, or more close to affordable than the cockamamie ideas floated about. Parking...I park my one car in the garage. My driveway will accommodate another car for any renter. I'll do my part without any city participation or intervention.


5 people like this
Posted by Resident2
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 1, 2016 at 2:44 pm

I am thrilled. We have no place to keep relatives to visit short or long times. We used to put people up in hotels but with the new construction of hotels, the prices have gone crazy. Yes, on weekends you can get a reasonable rate. Not midweek, even in the old hotels. I look forward to being able to buikd a granny unit instead of having to add onto my house to take care of my folks.


28 people like this
Posted by Jim Colton
a resident of Green Acres
on Dec 1, 2016 at 4:01 pm

Jim Colton is a registered user.

This proposal is counter to maintaining the quality of life in Palo Alto. It is trying to cram more cars and people into R-1 neighborhoods exacerbating the biggest problems we already have--too much traffic, too little parking and too much stress on the infrastructure.

I don't believe that the City has a responsibility to provide housing for everyone that wants to live here. The City should provide housing for workers who can't afford to live here--teachers, police and others who serve our community. I believe this is best done by building dense housing with government subsisidies (City, State and Federal) AND insuring that the housing gets used by those it was intended for.


28 people like this
Posted by Abitarian
a resident of Downtown North
on Dec 1, 2016 at 4:04 pm

Well, gosh, is there such a thing as December Fool's Day?

Underground parking with elevator lifts? Hysterical. Or it would be, if we didn't have to deal with this consequences of such magical thinking by our city leaders.

And the whole idea of the junior units? If homeowners can already rent portions of their homes "as is", for whatever price the market will bear, for as long or short a time as they like, why would they be motivated to install a separate entrance and a kitchenette (whatever that is) and to obey new restrictions?

The city has shown no interest in enforcing regulations currently on the books. Why should we believe this would change in the future/


4 people like this
Posted by xPA
a resident of another community
on Dec 1, 2016 at 5:51 pm

How does creating overpriced substandard housing help alleviate the shortage of affordable housing?

Filling the parks with tents and porta potties would be more cost-effective and be better aligned with meeting industry needs.


9 people like this
Posted by Curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on Dec 1, 2016 at 7:59 pm

" Basically, the city would pocket people's money who want to underpark their home, while their neighbors wonder why their street is filling up with cars."

The idea is to enhance the city treasury by selling zoning exemptions in residential neighborhoods.


31 people like this
Posted by Stewart
a resident of Downtown North
on Dec 1, 2016 at 8:41 pm

It appears to me that the Planning and Transportation Commission has lost touch with reality. By essentially green lighting the conversion of residential Palo Alto into fodder for Airbnb with basically no consideration of any consequences. The notion that any, as in even one, of these granny units will be rented as low income housing is absurd at best. How gullible are the people on the Planning and Transportation Commission, or maybe the better question is, who is behind this?

Setback rules thrown out, parking requirements tossed, zoning that defines R1 residential housing simply ignored. The city thinks that is a good idea?

I do not believe that Palo Alto, or any city, has any responsibility to house anyone simply because they either work there or want to live there. Wah! where is my cottage in Atherton or San Francisco? Furthermore, having the city force residential Palo Alto to satisfy their vision of housing is utterly irresponsible. If the city wants affordable housing, then follow the rules, acquire the land, build it, and rent it out. Don't drop unregulated housing into my neighborhood.

This is a remarkable display of yet another really poorly thought out plan hatched by the brain trust in city hall.

Underground parking with elevator lifts in R! residential areas!? That is one of the most stupid thing I have ever heard of Tanaka.


23 people like this
Posted by Airbnb
a resident of College Terrace
on Dec 2, 2016 at 1:04 am

Palo Alto will need to strictly regulate short-term rentals (aka Airbnb) for the new ADUs to help alleviate the housing shortage rather than be used as hotels for out-of-towners. I'm very surprised this was apparently not discussed at Wednesday's meeting.


17 people like this
Posted by Palo Alto Native
a resident of College Terrace
on Dec 2, 2016 at 1:31 am

Fifty-seven years in Palo Alto and reflection. Here is what it all comes to:

The problem with our city (and by extension our state and nation), is this obsession with development. That's why we are in this mess: greed to cash in on Silicon Valley concentrated in one area. The even larger challenge is how most of us (well-educated professionals who are multiple home owners) are duped to support development for increased property values as the largest part of one's retirement nest egg. Meanwhile, the forces behind all development (developers and banks) increase the disparity of wealth between fewer and fewer hands - and the rest of us.

Solution: recognize wealth is not development, it is sustainability. Moreover, quality of life is more important than being the talented workforce for a power elite who define what most will do for a living. In a public policy form: do not allow any new businesses space in Palo Alto. Second, do not allow any additional dense housing projects - especially mixed use one's. Granny Units can help struggling homeowners (misnomer - they do not own the home, they are renting toward hopeful ownership - it's just a good marketing term used by lenders) supplement their mortgage payments. Remember - if you had to take a loan for a home (that's most of us), then you will pay the price of the home plus interest almost 75% of the original cost of the home, over a thirty-year repayment plan, too. Now that is a level of greed we should all want to regulate! Who's with me!

Push the "development," not necessarily the success- of Silicon Valley to other areas in the state in need of tax revenue and to other parts of the nation.

Sadly, the recent election of many pro-development city council members represents the pull to always want to gather more chips in a economic system with few safety nets and one that glorifies wealth accumulation over balance, harmony, and character.


11 people like this
Posted by mauricio
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Dec 2, 2016 at 6:28 am

mauricio is a registered user.

Why did voters who enabled the PAF slate to swoop in, and work in tandem with their fellow travelers in the Planning commission think that something like this wouldn't come up sooner rather than later?
The process of turning Palo Alto into another Manhattan and Hong Kong has begun, or rather is about to pick up steam and is probably irreversible. Although I still own a home in Palo Alto and have no plan to sell it in my lifetime,, I am so happy that I don't live in Palo Alto anymore. The timing of my departure from this once wonderful, now awful town couldn't have been more perfect.


6 people like this
Posted by crisis
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 2, 2016 at 8:15 am

Palo Alto is in a crisis of government. The traffic
enforcement cops have been eliminated and this fact now publicized while the Council has a lengthy discussion on a self-serving staff report regarding climate change while the City is destroying the environment through its land use policies. Parking lifts are a gimmick to increase office density Downtown and most likely are
impractical and not used since they require an
attendant, and create noise, etc. In the last two years I have seen a car enter or exit the garage at
one such Downtown office building twice. The City should investigate whether lifts are being used before using them as a basis for land use decisions. The concept of lifts in residential areas to increase densities is insane. The only thing at this point that can save what is left of the livability and character of Palo Alto is to recall several or more members of the City Council early in the new year to create a majority on the Council which will work in the public interest. Meanwhile there should be an immediate recount of the recent Council elections. The results are difficult to believe on the face of it and especially based on geographic results by neighborhood as described by the Weekly.


6 people like this
Posted by Ahha!
a resident of Downtown North
on Dec 2, 2016 at 9:36 am

mauricio - thanks for telling the truth. Perhaps your time would be better spent focused on your current community and not on mine.

To all those who don't even live here. Stop your whining. Those of us who choose to stay here have overwhelmingly indicated our desire (+76% of voters in this election) to improve the city by evaluating new development, infrastructure improvement and better options for housing. The majority voice is clear and indisputable.

Also - the frequent comparison to Manhattan or Hong Kong on these message boards is always good for a smile. I've not heard one Council, PTC or ARB member ever voice this type of density as their goal. Manhattan's population density is 66,940 people per square mile. The 2010 United States Census reported that Palo Alto had a TOTAL population of 64,403. That equates to a population density of 2,497 people per square mile - not even 4% of the Manhattan density. I'm confident we can increase our density if is done in consideration of infrastructure and transit, and almost all of the voter's in Palo Alto have indicated they agree. Time to move forward!


9 people like this
Posted by Curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on Dec 2, 2016 at 11:36 am

"+76% of voters in this election"

Lies, damned lies, and statistics - Mark Twain


11 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 2, 2016 at 11:48 am

Ahha

You appear to be very confident about the improvements in infrastructure and transit.

Please can you detail these improvements in infrastructure and transit as I seem to have no details of any current plans to do this.

From my understanding, we are losing VTA but routes, Caltrain trains are often standing room only and the only shuttles are very limited for some school children and seniors and do not cross into Mountain View or Menlo Park which is where many of us need to travel regularly.

With traffic calming measures around the city our traffic infrastructure is likely to get worse as inefficient intersections and roadways get more clogged.

We have no plan to increase utilities supplies for increased housing.

Our schools are not equipped for huge increases in enrollment.

Our recreational facilities seem to be sold to enable more housing or office space so residents will increasingly have to go out of town for social and recreational activities.

Our affordable shopping and dining options are all outside town.

Remember, commuting is a two way thing here in Palo Alto. Many people commute in but a great number commute out. In many households one person may work for a period of time in walking distance to their job, but a spouse may need to commute a distance. People also tend to change jobs more often than they change homes so what may be true for someone today may not be true for them in a year.

I am eager to hear about the plans for improved transit and infrastructure and please do not mention self driving cars or Uber as they are still traffic on the roads which are heavily trafficked.


6 people like this
Posted by Ahha!
a resident of Downtown North
on Dec 2, 2016 at 12:19 pm

Resident -

YEARS and YEARS of incompetent council action (or lack thereof) has created this mess. Read and listen the the recent council candidates statements to better understand what needs to be done. I'm not going to parrot it all here.

New buildings come with the ability to improve - TDM requirements (and a method to enforce them), more density near transit, housing near work, etc, etc...

As an example, the TOT we get from new hotels can bring millions into our funds, yet there is a vocal minority who resist every suggestion.


12 people like this
Posted by Curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on Dec 2, 2016 at 1:10 pm

"Read and listen the the recent council candidates statements to better understand what needs to be done."

Ho ho hee hee hawww. Candidates statements... mrph

You believed those?! Really? Man, have I got a deal on a bridge for you! Watch for my statement.


7 people like this
Posted by Ro
a resident of Midtown
on Dec 2, 2016 at 1:58 pm

I'm all for the "granny unit" movement and I'm a single home owner. With so many opposing comments being made, it's important for those supporting this attempt to ameliorate the housing shortage to speak up.


1 person likes this
Posted by Gale Johnson
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Dec 2, 2016 at 5:52 pm

@Ro

So, you have spoken up. Now, will you be willing to add on to your house or have a cottage built in your back yard to help out the housing shortage in PA, or are you willing to destroy our quality of life that you share, to do it?

Oh yes, let's all of us other 8200 parcel owners build or add on to our current properties to allow for those unfortunate ones who can't afford to live here, to live here. Let's ask those owners, that could have already done it without any changes to the regulations, to step in and do it first. Lead us on this crazy journey...and that includes many of our city council members. Oops, you have no clothes on!


15 people like this
Posted by Palo Alto Native
a resident of College Terrace
on Dec 2, 2016 at 10:25 pm

Having reviewed all the comments, I have changed my mind. Granny Units should not be allowed. It's not what we moved her for. It is just another way to appeal to individual revenue streams (great way to divide the only power people have over the power elite: block voting. Block voting can preserve our quality of life. As I have said before - pursue the Woodside, Atherton, and LAH models - Palo Alto should be primarily a place to live, not work. Those firms that are already here are capped. We are done. I recommend a recall process for any identified pro development council members.


7 people like this
Posted by Openroad
a resident of another community
on Dec 3, 2016 at 1:15 pm

The evolution of Palo Alto continues."Granny" units are being built in many communities as a way to increase the availability of housing but it does so at a cost. Problems with the concept are already occurring in many communities and Palo Alto will not be exempt unless it curbs or tables the idea.

"Granny" units increase the density of housing to the point that it impacts parking, privacy and many other things. These problems are already occurring in communities like Portland Oregon and Vancouver BC (where the refer to these small homes as Lane Way homes). In Portland Oregon (which is very big on bikes and public transit) the problems continue to grow. In Vancouver BC, these related problems have been document now for years. See the link >>> Web Link

No matter how you cut it "Granny" units increases density and its related problems. No amount of positive thinking or spin can change that.

In the end, Palo Alto needs to decide what kind of community it wants to be. Building "Granny" units will NOT increase the availability of low cost housing in Palo Alto. Demand will continue to keep prices high if not much higher. This will not change until demand drops. Something that is not likely to happen soon.

As I noted, Palo Alto is changing. For a real eye opener do a web search on the "housing market crises in Vancouver BC". Demand is through the roof, prices at astronomical, locals (and the none rich) are being pushed out and speculation is rampant. Palo Alto is no Vancouver in size, but is facing the same type of challenges and problems.




1 person likes this
Posted by Gale Johnson
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Dec 3, 2016 at 2:41 pm

@Openroad

Good observations and understanding of the problems that are sure to arise, even tho you have no skin the game, being from another community.

"The uncertain potential of accessory dwelling units was acknowledged by Commissioner Eric Rosenblum, who observed that such rentals comprise only 1 percent of Portland, Oregon's housing stock, while in Vancouver, Canada, about one-third of eligible property owners have added accessory units."

So, what's the point? I wondered if he was trying to make a point with that data. It wasn't clear if he was trying to sell us on the idea, or just giving us pause to think about and question how well it would work in PA. Why hasn't it worked out very well in Portland with only 1% doing it and what good was the statistic from Vancouver? Our town bears no resemblance to those large cities, at least it hasn't, and hasn't tried to, maybe up until now.

Why would the supporters of this idea want to pit neighbor against neighbor in this friendliest of towns where most neighbors get along with their neighbors very well now? Would our future block parties be open to those folks living in ADU's? All of you proponents and supporters, please do a little soul searching and try to understand the ramifications of this idea. If it goes all the way thru and is approved by CC, I guess we'll just have to wait for another election cycle to come around to get our city back the way we want it to be.

My strongest hope, if it is approved, is that only a handful or homeowners will buy into it. That will be a clear message to the proponents that it was a bad idea that took up way too much time by commissions, staff, and council, and that, in itself, would save us from the disaster that could have been if everyone wanted to build an ADU for that extra income. It's sad that in this time frame people will forgo quality of life for the almighty dollar.

All those in favor of more affordable housing (not sure it can be or ever will happen in PA) I'm with you 110%, but let's do it in the right way. ADU's is the wrong way and they won't be affordable anyway.


8 people like this
Posted by Gale Johnson
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Dec 3, 2016 at 3:11 pm

I have a hunch all those proponents and supporters of ADU's won't listen to any of us commenters on this article. People in government positions get set in their ways, and ways of thinking, and don't deviate from them, hoping they have the right and only solutions to problems, never admitting that they might have been wrong, and never asking and evaluating what the residents of our community really think about it.


1 person likes this
Posted by You're all forgetting something...
a resident of Crescent Park
on Dec 4, 2016 at 7:30 am

State law requires Palo Alto to enact this ordinance. State law requires the city to remove obstacles that stand in the way of their development. Our planning commission's thoughtful discussion has paved the way to compliance with state law and city council had little choice here.

How often people go crazy on these boards. Imagine you are on the commission and your task was to bring our local law into state compliance. Would you have done it differently? And if you're really passionate as some of the posts suggest, why didn't you share your opposition at the meeting?


4 people like this
Posted by Resident2
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 4, 2016 at 8:06 am

@Forgetting,
What state law? Are we talking for example the state laws like how we're supposed to take care of certain things like traffic circulation in ways we don't? Or the state laws the city attorney refers to in ways that aren't even accurate in order to advocate for something the staff want? Are we talking state law that doesn't even apply to charter cities? What? I say this even though I am for reducing the required lot size for granny units.

@Aha!
What are you talking about? Everyone campaigned with residentialist promises. I don't recall anyone campaigning on a development platform. Which candidates are you calling manipulative liars?


3 people like this
Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on Dec 4, 2016 at 8:59 am

We ignore several Federal laws. State laws have even fewer teeth.
So sue me. Tie it up in courts for a century or two.
What grocery store?


3 people like this
Posted by Gale Johnson
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Dec 4, 2016 at 2:16 pm

@You're all forgetting something...

Not really. I have a personal grudge about the state rules and regulations imposed on municipalities, like this one and the ABAG mandate for housing. Let the state deal with state problems and let municipalities deal with their own. We, in PA, are quite capable of dealing with our own without the interference from Sacramento. I think cities like Atherton, Woodside, Los Altos Hills, Portola Valley, and Hillsborough, might have just given the middle finger to the state, or maybe they were already exempt from the rules that apply to us in PA, because they are rich bedroom communities. Grrr!

If the commission caved in because of those state laws, then heaven help us in the future. We are in for big trouble. They are like lap dogs and those following the Pied Piper down the path. We need new commissioners who will think about the best interests of PA residents. Good news...we'll be losing two of them...but maybe bad news...they'll now be on CC. The beat goes on! I hope they really relate and communicate with us citizens, just like they did to get elected. I'll be waiting for my coffee meeting with one of them that was promised.

About the Vancouver situation: Thank you Openroad for that link. I doubt if any of our city officials will read it. And it wasn't clear what the lot size requirements are there. It's a little hard to believe what Rosenblum said, that one third of Vancouver's eligible property owners are doing ADU's. I'll challenge him to clarify that. What are their eligibility requirements?...lot size, etc, and how many, in numbers, are doing it with open support from their neighbors? And what is their population? Don't try to compare apples and oranges. They taste a lot different.


4 people like this
Posted by Airbnb concerns
a resident of College Terrace
on Dec 4, 2016 at 9:14 pm

I'm glad to hear that some time restrictions (no rentals for less than 60 days) are being proposed. However, I believe there should also be some teeth (aka penalties) to make sure this rule is actually enforced.


2 people like this
Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on Dec 4, 2016 at 10:35 pm

... so rent for 60 days and then get a 59 day refund. Rules are meant to be circumvented.


2 people like this
Posted by Patrick Burt
a resident of Community Center
on Dec 4, 2016 at 10:59 pm

Patrick Burt is a registered user.

@Gale
Not all of the Planning Commission recommendations are in response to new state law mandates. However, compliance with state laws is not discretionary, whether we agree with them or not. Cities are required to follow the law and elected officials swear to do so upon their oaths of office. I am surprised that you would suggest otherwise.


6 people like this
Posted by Gale Johnson
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Dec 5, 2016 at 12:45 pm

@Patrick Burt

Okay, and thanks Mayor, for your message and reminder that we have to abide by state law. Grrr! I didn't know about the oath thing. I still don't like it and I think it's wrong for so much of what we do, and can do, at the city level, isn't of our own free will and volition, but that we have to abide by laws imposed at the state level, many of which don't make any sense, and only exacerbate some of the problems we already have. Now I'll get off my soapbox and thank you for your many years of service to our community. You were a modifier, a voice of reason in CC, and a swing vote on decisions which I thought you handled very well. Good luck on your retirement. I'm sure you'll still watch CC meetings on Monday nights, but maybe go to bed before they're over. Good for you.


11 people like this
Posted by Ahem
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 5, 2016 at 4:22 pm

@Patric Burt,

There are good laws and bad laws. We used to have laws that enabled slavery, discrimination, etc., which I think you will agree were bad laws.

The real question here is are the laws in question good or bad for Palo Alto?

If you think the laws are good for Palo Alto, just come out and say it (don't hide behind the law and your oath).

If the laws are bad for Palo Alto... what are you doing about it?


Like this comment
Posted by Robert
a resident of another community
on Dec 5, 2016 at 6:02 pm

@Ahem

Please tell me you're not equating allowing ADUs with "slavery, discrimination, etc."...


2 people like this
Posted by mauricio
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Dec 6, 2016 at 6:23 am

mauricio is a registered user.

Woodside, Los Alto Hills, Atherton, just to name a few in our immediate area, have ignored state housing mandates forever, and hell didn't break loose. The State doesn't know, nor should it dictate, what is right for individual cities. The state shouldn't dictate what lifestyle, population density and quality of life we should have. It is our choice. Individuals who enjoy urban lifestyle and living on top of each other have ample choices to choose from in the Bay area. In reality, compliance with some state laws is discretionary, and rightly so.


2 people like this
Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on Dec 6, 2016 at 8:27 am

"Woodside, Los Alto Hills, Atherton..." -- what's the jobs-housing imbalance there?


5 people like this
Posted by mauricio
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Dec 6, 2016 at 1:31 pm

mauricio is a registered user.

The jobs-housing imbalance in Los Altos Hills, Woodside, Atherton, Portola Valley, Hillsborough, etc is huge. They employ many gardeners, landscape maintenance people, handymen, nannies, maids, housekeepers, security people, horse groomers, servants, fire fighters, personal assistants, etc, yet none of them lives in those communities, and I never heard of even one who demands from the residents of these communities to be provided with housing or densify to make it possible for them to move in.


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Posted by Robert
a resident of another community
on Dec 6, 2016 at 8:16 pm

mauricio, I understand your perspective on Palo Alto is based mostly on emotion, but you should try to avoid making claims that are irrefutably false, i.e. that any of those towns you listed having anything close to the number of jobs or the the jobs-housing imbalance of Palo Alto.


10 people like this
Posted by Ahem
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 6, 2016 at 9:03 pm

I thought providing jobs was a good thing? Why does the state punish towns (like Palo Alto) that provide so many jobs, and reward towns like Atherton, Woodside, and Portola Valley that provide very few jobs and little housing.

Since Palo Alto is doing such a great job of providing jobs, shouldn't the state be encouraging Atherton, Woodside, and Portola Valley to do their part and provide housing?

Atherton has lots of low density residential close to Caltrain that would be a wonderful place to house many of the workers employed by jobs that Palo Alto has been kind enough to provided to its neighboring communities.

Many of the folks commuting into Palo Alto from as far away as Livermore, San Jose, and Berkeley, would love to live a short, low-carbon, bike ride away from work in Woodside or Portola Valley.


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Posted by Gale Johnson
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Dec 8, 2016 at 2:10 pm

Ugh...I took the trouble to read SB 1069 in it's entirety. I almost dozed off before I picked up a good novel I was also reading. That revived me, but it too put me to sleep later... but with much better dreams. I like reading a good novel much better than state legislature bills.

So, I finally understand that municipalities have to abide by the state laws, but it gives a lot of flexibility on how we adopt them into our ordinances. That's good and I hope our CC does the right thing for our town. Our goal shouldn't be to provide housing for everyone who wants to live here at the burden of single family homeowners to provide it. Bad, bad, bad! And it shouldn't be used as a way for homeowners to have someone pay for their mortgage. Step up and take responsibility for the obligation you accepted when you took out that loan. Don't expect local or higher levels of government to bail you out on a bad decision you made.

Okay, I'm done for the day. I'll get down from this soapbox I'm standing on. It's kinda wobbly anyway and I'm also getting kinda wobbly.


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

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