News

Palo Alto council members spar over land-use vision

A series of close votes on Comprehensive Plan highlights divisions on council

Faced with growing concerns about too much traffic and not enough housing, Palo Alto officials agreed on Monday to retain their annual limit on office growth and to explore new sites for residential development -- including Stanford Research Park.

Yet in a radical departure from their prior discussions on the Comprehensive Plan, the City Council voted 5-4 to exclude from the land-use document every single program that has been proposed for achieving these goals.

The council's votes came during a long and wide-ranging discussion of the city's Comprehensive Plan, the city's land-use bible that is now undergoing a update and that will guide the city's growth policies until 2030. The update process began in 2008 and went through a series of fits and starts since then. The council hopes to adopt it later this year.

The Monday discussion both laid bare the deep political divisions and highlighted the areas of consensus on the council. It also underscored the impact of the November election, which saw three new members get elected, shifting the majority away from the slow-growth "residentialist" side.

On some issues, there was little disagreement. Council members generally supported retaining the city's office cap, which was adopted in 2015 on an interim basis, and its 50-foot height limit for new buildings. At the same time, council members disagreed on whether the height limit should be explicitly called out in the Comprehensive Plan or mandated through a zoning ordinance crafted outside the land-use document.

Ultimately, they chose the latter, as proposed by Vice Mayor Liz Kniss and Councilman Cory Wolbach.

Though Kniss said she supports keeping the height restriction, she also argued that omitting it from the new Comprehensive Plan will give the council "more flexibility" to revisit the subject in the future. Wolbach also said that while he isn't looking to change the restriction, he doesn't want to "foreclose the conversation."

"What the community is telling us about this issue has changed, I think, very dramatically in the last few months," Wolbach said, alluding to the growing number of housing advocates calling for higher buildings in transit-rich areas. "I don't think now would be an appropriate time to say, 'No. We won't have that conversation.'"

While Kniss and Wolbach talked about their desire to keep the height limit, the motion they spearheaded ensured that it would not be mentioned in the Comprehensive Plan. Councilwoman Karen Holman vehemently disagreed and argued that the height limit, which was adopted in the 1970s, should be included in the document (the current Comprehensive Plan doesn't list the height limit as a specific policy, though it refers to it in the narrative portion).

"If our policy is to retain the 50-foot height limit, then it belongs in the Comprehensive Plan," Holman said.

Her proposal to mention the height limit ultimately fizzled, with fellow "residentialists" Tom DuBois and Lydia Kou joining her.

The council also split sharply over Wolbach's proposal to simply remove all the programs in the Land Use element, a change that he argued would create a "cleaner, simpler and more direct document."

Under the new format, the Comprehensive Plan would consist exclusively of high-level goals and policies for achieving these goals (today's includes goals, policies and programs). The change is a significant break from both the existing Comprehensive Plan, which was adopted in 1998, and from the council's prior direction on the updated version.

The proposal also brought about a sharp rebuke from Holman, who said she was "truly gobsmacked" by the abrupt change in direction so late in the game. She noted that city staff, citizen volunteers and consultants had spent many months crafting the dozens programs and said it's not prudent to simply omit them.

DuBois was more blunt, calling the decision to strip out the programs a "huge failure in oversight."

"It's truly a slap in the face to the Citizens Advisory Committee," DuBois said, referring to the citizens panel that has been working on the new document since 2015. "It's changing the rules two years into a process that all these people spent a lot of time and effort on."

Proponents of the change argued that the work is far from wasted and that the programs will be evaluated as part of an "implementation plan" that would be reviewed apart from the Comprehensive Plan. Wolbach said he would like to see the plan function more like the U.S. Constitution, with high-level policies laying out the city's land-use vision. He and others noted that the current plan has dozens of programs, many of which aren't being implemented.

Mayor Greg Scharff agreed and argued that the list of policies is "not being thrown away."

"It's not being deleted. It's being put aside and we're saying (that) as these implementations become feasible with staff time, we'll move forward on them, assuming the council wants to," Scharff said.

The controversial decision to strip away all the programs followed a similarly divisive debate about whether to include in the new plan a list of "development standards" that new projects would have to meet to win approval and a list of "community indicators" -- measurements that show the impacts of planning decision on community livability.

Both concepts have been discussed in-depth and partly embraced by the Citizen Advisory Committee. But the council voted 5-4 on Monday not to include them in the plan. Councilman Adrian Fine, a former planning commissioner who served on the advisory committee before getting elected to council last November, argued that the topic needs more discussion before the city adopts it.

"I don't think we're ready to bake them into the Comp Plan," Fine said.

The council didn't entirely abandon the idea of pursuing these standards and measurements. Holman recommended broadly mentioning them in the Comprehensive Plan, even if the details haven't yet been worked out. Again, her proposal fell by a 5-4 vote, with DuBois, Eric Filseth and Kou supporting her.

Not every proposal proved as divisive. The council largely approved of a new policy that would explore housing sites at Stanford Research Park. Members were encouraged by Stanford officials, who on Monday indicated that they would be willing to consider this notion. Tiffany Griego, managing director of asset management at Stanford Research Park, said Stanford has been hearing "the cry for housing from our own companies as well."

"They struggle to recruit and retain top talent largely because of lack of housing at entry-level price points in Palo Alto," Griego said. "We can envision a future in Stanford Research Park where we can weave in a vibrant work place as well as living place."

Yet in a nod to those worried about too much growth diminishing their quality of life, the City Council also abandoned the idea of exploring housing at Town and Country Village. In a rare shift in the council's political alliances, Scharff and Kniss joined Holman, Filseth and Kou in scrapping this idea. Scharff and Kniss both argued that the shopping center is hugely successful as is and that adding housing would further exacerbate its parking and traffic problems.

"I do feel that Town and Country is a special place," Scharff said. "It's one of the last places that has this 'History of Palo Alto' feel to it. It's been redeveloped in a really great way and I don't want to see housing there that would take character away from that."

Related content:

VIDEO: Behind the Headlines -- Uproar over city land-use plan

Editorial: A reckless majority

Guest Opinion: When democracy is hijacked

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Comments

94 people like this
Posted by Dan
a resident of Midtown
on Jan 31, 2017 at 12:26 am

Why not just come out and say that the new majority on the council wants to be able to find in favor of development regardless of whatever form it eventually takes without some crusty old document potentially getting in the way? Without specific details and standards the "Comprehensive Plan" becomes as valuable as toilet paper.


27 people like this
Posted by State law
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 31, 2017 at 12:47 am

@Dan,
Citizens have rights in regards to rejecting the comp plan. The City may even have duties in regards to informing citizens of their rights. Unfortunately, I can't remember offhand - will have to call the state again...

There are time limits. Plan ahead, it looks to be a bumpy ride. Better to deal with the probkems now when it's possible to do something.

Is wholesale rejecting what the citizen committee did even legal? The state has requirements.


105 people like this
Posted by anon
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Jan 31, 2017 at 1:11 am

Good article, but it does not come close to describing the shocking display of disrespect and power that Mayor Scharff and his cohorts displayed this evening.

In what seemed like an orchestrated attack on colleagues, residents, staff and the comp plan citizens group, Scharff lead the way to gut the Comp Plan, and throw out two years of work. From the get-go Scharff raced through important crucial issues with out allowing for any discussion. Completely new approaches for the Content of the Comp Plan that had never been discussed before, (and really were not on the agenda) were proposed and pushed through. It was a chaotic and self-serving approach I have never seen before in city hall...a style that can easily be compared with what is going on in Washington!

Wolbach, Fine, Tanaka, Kniss, and Scharff dominated the meeting with an almost giddy attitude; it was clear that all of this had been planned. They have a tin ear when it comes to the concerns of the residents, who the Citizens Survey showed are concerned about overdevelopment, parking and traffic, an imbalance of jobs to housing, a lack of any really Transit and an ever growing feeling that our city is becoming an Office Park!

The result of this evenings action will be more and more commercial development to the diminishment of any other uses; especially the housing they have promised. Wolbach was elected on the promise of more and cheaper Housing.

There were a few times the majority got together behind issues, but it was not enough to make up for the gutting of the work on Land-Use element and the disregard for the concerns of residents.
I


13 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jan 31, 2017 at 2:04 am

[Post removed.]


39 people like this
Posted by GoneOnTooLong
a resident of another community
on Jan 31, 2017 at 7:56 am

I still read PAOL even though we moved away from PA last year. It is interesting to see that the CC has gotten more heavy handed and the poor management continues even after an election.

Most every story I read in PAOL makes me glad we left PA. We have a visit in a month to see friends and I hear the traffic on El Camino at rush hour(s) is to be avoided.

BTW what kind of logic is: "Faced with growing concerns about too much traffic .... Palo Alto officials agreed on Monday ....to explore new sites for residential development"

Only in a Palo Alto CC members mind would it make sense to cure traffic congestion by increasing the population - somehow foolishly thinking that all those new residents are going to magically be current Palo Alto workers.


49 people like this
Posted by Concerned Grandma
a resident of Professorville
on Jan 31, 2017 at 8:33 am

I watched the proceedings on TV last night and think the comments above are really off-base. Seems to me the Council was, in fact, responding to residents concerns. There were 20+ residents who commented on the Comp Plan and what came through loud and clear was that we need flexibility in the document as things evolve. I agree that the Comp Plan should be like the Constitution -- with broad goals and a framework for future development (or non-development). How can you set in stone rules and regs that are appropriate for today without any ability to respond to future conditions. The Comp Plan that's been in effect over the last decades was fine, and personally I didn't see anything wrong with it. Those who sit on the CAC should be lauded for their civic engagement but just because they've been working on this doesn't mean a) it was all futile or b) their conclusions were correct. They don't speak for all of Palo Altans as almost 50% of our residents are renters and there weren't any renters represented on the panel. Kudos to the Council for setting out a broad direction that lets us have flexibility in the coming years. We have no idea what technological and cultural things will develop and I want to keep the spirit of innovation here in PA. It's what sets us apart from all the other communities in the area.


39 people like this
Posted by residents
a resident of Downtown North
on Jan 31, 2017 at 8:59 am

Great to see City Council finally listening to residents who have said overwhelmingly (in surveys and at the ballot box) that our housing shortage and the resultant high price of housing is the biggest challenge we need to solve. Let's hope that this City Council will be bold in allowing much needed housing that we've been waiting decades for.


19 people like this
Posted by finally logic prevails
a resident of Downtown North
on Jan 31, 2017 at 9:06 am

FINALLY the new council seems to take seriously the notion that our number one problem is housing, and that our comprehensive plan needs to reflect this reality. The filseth-dubois PASZ program of trying to make it more difficult to build anything anywhere was defeated in this election. They don't get to lead a comprehensive plan discussion that envisions Palo Alto as a private reserve for extremely wealthy people.

Kudos to our council for listening to all of us, not just the loud voices that dominate online forums (and until this meeting, our City Council)


41 people like this
Posted by Citize
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 31, 2017 at 9:16 am

@resident,
But housing shortages should be handled in a healthy way - the only way is to reduce the office component and turn offices into housing. That I could support. Look at the commute every day. The answer is for established companies to move to San Jose which wants the development, like Facebook moved to Menlo/EPA.



The state requires cities to work on their comp plans. There is a requirement for citizen involvement. There are rules in relationship to traffic circulation, etc., that we are grossly in violation of. The comp plan isn't just a land use vision, there are legal ways it protects our town from wholesale transformation into something to serve special interests pocketbooks. Kniss and company know that bigger picture and how to thwart the rules. The state won't do anything, but the rules allow active citizens to throw out the comp plan within a narrow time after it is approved. If Council throws out what the citizen commission has done, that could be grounds for either that or citizen legal challenges. As well there should be.



@Resident
I don't think the election was rigged at the box, it was won when Kniss could use her connections in the Democratic party to get them to endorse a slate of developer-bought Republicans (two, Fine and Tanaka, who actually had to switch parties just before the election), and further when she deliberately gave the impression of not taking developer cash while pressing for developer cash late in the game so she wouldn't have to disclose.

Don't just complain, act, and realize there is much to be done.


21 people like this
Posted by Affordable housing
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 31, 2017 at 10:20 am

@Citize - don't be silly. The local Democratic leadership backed the four they did not because of Kniss's connections but because they couldn't in good conscience endorse the candidates who had led the fight against affordable housing st Maybell.

Chickens come home to roost eventually. Next time, our political leaders will hesitate before blocking affordable housing in the middle of a housing crisis.


22 people like this
Posted by commonsense
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Jan 31, 2017 at 10:38 am

This seems to be a very logical approach. I don't believe the five "pro-growth" are much different than the residentialists. It's just that they don't think our problems can be solved by ignoring the regional growth we have experienced and will continue to experience. Clearly, if vibrancy and growth of this area, including perfect Palo Alto, and the resulting parking and traffic issues are too much for you, it's time to move. It's a rather simple solution. Or, you can stay here and complain and hopelessly hope that it will go back to being a quiet little town. This is not going to happen so let's learn how to deal with it.


23 people like this
Posted by stephen levy
a resident of University South
on Jan 31, 2017 at 10:57 am

stephen levy is a registered user.

Thank you Mayor Scharff for allowing the 24 speakers to speak at the beginning of the item. I hope this tradition continues as a courtesy to residents.

As has been noted the large majority of speakers spoke in favor of more housing and housing choices and in favor of a flexible approach to planning for the next 13 years.

The most encouraging development from my perspective was the positive engagement between Stanford officials and the council over the possibilities for housing and traffic mitigation through cooperative dialogue.

As a member of the CAC I am pleased that the many programs we thought about will be brought back for discussion and implementation outside of the Comp Plan. As I understood the discussion last night, which I watched in chamber and at home, the intent was not to dismiss the program ideas but rather to pursue them at a later date when each could be given more careful attention.

I am hopeful that as the year progresses the link between the Comp Plan goals and fiscal health of the city, essential for providing services and infrastructure, will be explored in more depth.

Thanks for all your hard work


22 people like this
Posted by Joe
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 31, 2017 at 11:09 am

Time to put the Comprehensive Plan on the ballot. Palo Altans need to read it, and then vote on it, up or down!


51 people like this
Posted by 6Djockey
a resident of Green Acres
on Jan 31, 2017 at 11:44 am

I am disturbed by the decisions made at this meeting and equally disturbed by the politics that resulted in these decisions.

The basic problem of jobs/housing imbalance is that there are too many jobs in Palo Alto. The model that worked for decades was that startups were incubated in Palo Alto then moved out of Palo Alto when they were no longer startups. This model was disrupted by Kniss, Scharf and the likes when they sided with developers and allowed just about any new office building to be approved while ignoring the fact that companies now cram more employees into less space in both existing and new offices. No wonder we have traffic and parking problems.

The fix is not to build more market rate housing. No amount of building is going to reduce the cost of such housing. The only housing policy that makes sense is below market rate housing (BMR) that only allows those employees who serve the city--teachers, police, city employees, lower-paid workers--to live there. Converting existing office space to BMR housing would be best but building new BMR housing is also a solution.

I have to hand it to Kniss at being a clever [portion removed] politician. She got Fine and Tanaka to run for her team and get endorsed by the Dems even though they were not Democrats. Then, while she criticized other candidates for getting too much money through donations, got donations herself from developers that she didn't disclose until after the election. That was clearly against the rules. Now she has orchestrated her five-member team in a wholesale dismissal of key points of the Comp Plan. No more than four Council Members at a time can meet outside Council meetings. Who thinks she complied with the rule before this recent takeover?


62 people like this
Posted by Cheryl Lilienstein
a resident of Barron Park
on Jan 31, 2017 at 12:41 pm

contemptable disregard for two years of work of the comp plan citizen's advisory committee. No wonder you haven't gotten people to apply for committee positions...seems to be a planned waste of time and a sham, unless aligned with developer interests.

If anyone wonders why Trump won, this is a very powerful local example of how, in the land of very educated and liberal people, government disregard for the effort by citizens to participate is undermined by elected officials whose campaign promises misrepresented who they represent. Look in the mirror, Scharff, Wohlbach, Fine, Kniss, Tanaka.

Equally contemptable:
Democratic Party endorsement processes where candidates who WERE NOT DEMS and were entirely unknown used the photos of well-liked principled dems who "endorsed" them (like Anna Eshoo and Joe Simitian). For shame that these excellent public servants allowed their reputations to be used by non-dems. This is what we get when the vetting processes are so sloppy, and elect d officials fail to act with integrity.


14 people like this
Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jan 31, 2017 at 1:03 pm

Concerned Grandma notes how few people responded to the comp plan survey. She's right bu ignores the fact that it was poorly designed probably to discourage responses.

For example, respondents were never told that their votes were limited to X number of choices. So if we rated each priority choice as it came up, we were soon out choices and never got to get to the important questions.

So the survey is totally misleading and unfortunately typical.


18 people like this
Posted by Silly rabbit
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jan 31, 2017 at 1:05 pm

[Post removed.]


15 people like this
Posted by reality
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jan 31, 2017 at 1:13 pm

6Djockey - try econ 101 again. Supply vs. Demand. "No amount of building can bring down the cost of housing."? That is a ridiculous claim. It is the ONLY thing that will bing down the cost of housing.

Cheryl - nobody on council used the same tactics as Trump, nor are any of them bullies. [Portion removed.] Unfortunately, Trump won. But, he won, fair and square (with the help of Putin, so, ok, not exactly.)


42 people like this
Posted by Annette
a resident of College Terrace
on Jan 31, 2017 at 1:26 pm

Annette is a registered user.

It is tiresome to read statements and inferences that Palo Altans who are concerned about the impacts of development are categorically opposed to development, change averse, and blindly pro-PASZ and those who promote development are the only enlightened ones in town. I have lived here nearly 4 decades and thus have some context for this observation: we are CHOKING on the impacts of development. Convening a CAC to make recommendations about the Comp Plan only to decide to exclude their findings is an arrogant act, at best. Why would anyone who thinks differently than the majority on CC bother to volunteer their time in this city? Committees aren't really needed if their work is going to be categorically ignored. Those on this and previous Councils who have brought us to this juncture should, I think, take a longer view of things and consider the benefits of making decisions that do not exacerbate existing problems. A little regional thinking would help, too. What good does it do for Menlo Park to improve the Willow Road on-ramps if 101 remains a mess and Middlefield north of Lytton is reduced to 2 lanes? And how impossible will it be to navigate that area if the two projects are going on simultaneously? Good luck to anyone who needs an ambulance during that time. I'd like to think that CC members and our various City Managers would be motivated by leaving a legacy of an IMPROVED Palo Alto, not simply a CHANGED Palo Alto.


1 person likes this
Posted by Chris
a resident of University South
on Jan 31, 2017 at 1:28 pm

[Post removed.]


47 people like this
Posted by Flip, Flop
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Jan 31, 2017 at 1:31 pm

Wolbach, Fine, Tanaka, Kniss, Scarff: all the council members who most misrepresented themselves during their campaigns for office. Once elected, their true selves came out of hiding....


13 people like this
Posted by Too many jobs
a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Jan 31, 2017 at 1:33 pm

Too many jobs is a registered user.

I agree that NO amount of housing will bring down prices in Palo Alto, there are simply too many people who want to live here. And I would love to know where the "transit-rich area" is in Palo Alto.

I would love to see additional housing built in the Stanford Research Park - lots more land, wider streets, etc.


5 people like this
Posted by Chris
a resident of University South
on Jan 31, 2017 at 1:37 pm

6D Jockey,

I not sure where you stand on housing. With such a confusing approach, no wonder your team took a hit in the last election.

What is all this Dem stuff? Council elections are NON-PARTISAN.
Palo Alto issues are not issues for the parties.


6 people like this
Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jan 31, 2017 at 1:45 pm

[Post removed due to factual inaccuracies.]


39 people like this
Posted by It's too many jobs, not the housing!!!
a resident of Midtown
on Jan 31, 2017 at 1:55 pm

There is indeed a housing shortage, but everyone talking about the housing shortage needs to take a step back: why do we have not enough housing? Because past PA City Councils decided to violate our zoning laws giving developers exceptions to build more OFFICE space (without making sure there would be sufficient parking/infrastructure to handle the influx of workers). That is poor planning. Our zoning requirements existed for a reason. Predictably, more office space brought in more workers, more traffic, and fewer open parking spaces. This was all AT THE EXPENSE OF PRE-EXISTING BUSINESSES AND RESIDENTS, since new office buildings don't generate revenue--in fact they are revenue negative because of the burden they put on our infrastructure. Building more housing is not going to solve the traffic problem. The amount of housing that can be built is a drop in the bucket relative to the number of people who need housing, affordable or not. I'm sick of people blaming "greedy Palo Alto residents." It's greedy corporations and developers who are the problem. Residents just want to be able to go to their own downtown and find a parking space and have their kids bike to school without being crowded off the road by commuters coming into this city. Corporations are free-riding on a public good (roads, parking spaces, etc.) at the expense of each and every resident. The solution to our traffic and parking problems is to get some of these companies generating the traffic to pay for solutions. No doubt, brand name companies make it glamorous for Palo Alto to be Palo Alto and contribute to the vitality of the city. We benefit also no doubt benefit some from the sales tax generated when these office workers buy lunch. However, the small amount of tax revenue does not offset the significant costs generated by these office workers. If we're going to build, we need less office space and more retail/hotel, and we need to find some way to get big Palo Alto corporations to help with the massive traffic and parking problems that we have that have made this city a lot less livable.


12 people like this
Posted by Concerned Grandma
a resident of Professorville
on Jan 31, 2017 at 2:02 pm

@ Online Name,
I was referring to the people who bothered to come to the Council Meeting last night to voice their concerns, not a survey. Don't know what survey you're referring to.
Almost everyone who spoke -- including the League of Women Voters --wants to see Palo Alto to think about how to increase our housing stock in transit areas and provide a more inclusive city.
[Portion removed.]


2 people like this
Posted by Be a man
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Jan 31, 2017 at 2:32 pm

[Post removed.]


3 people like this
Posted by Multiple dishonesty
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jan 31, 2017 at 2:37 pm

[Post removed; repeat of earlier comment.]


11 people like this
Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 31, 2017 at 2:40 pm

@Online Name and others:

The Santa Clara County Democratic Party did formally endorse candidates for the PA City Council. It is posted on the Party's website here: Web Link

I considered changing my party status to "Independent" with that endorsement.


22 people like this
Posted by Bill Ross
a resident of College Terrace
on Jan 31, 2017 at 3:00 pm

Once again the requirements of State Law have been avoided. Council avoided the required correlation between designated law uses in the land use element and the needed transportation and public utility infrastructure in the circulation element. This required consistency was raised before the CAC as early as September 2015 with the response of Staff continually being "it will be addressed later" The "later" has apparently become never. More importantly, some Councilmembers--some with extensive government experience--have chosen to avoid the consistency doctrine which simply stated is "the General Plan is the constitution for land use and literally every land use approval must be consistent with the General Plan." Trying to do something only by zoning will invite litigation. I guess nothing was learned from the PC process. As for thanking Council for graciously hearing 24 members of the public once again State law requires maximizing public participation in land use decisions so if anything there should be more opportunities for testimony. Finally, Council should listen to its residents and businesses and not outside housing advocates and come up with policies and real implementation measures that solve problems. I, and others, are waiting for an honest assessment of traffic from past Council approvals and a solution for the ever increasing and dangerous traffic congestion.


22 people like this
Posted by Curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on Jan 31, 2017 at 3:25 pm

[Post removed.]


37 people like this
Posted by mauricio
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jan 31, 2017 at 4:11 pm

mauricio is a registered user.

Too much traffic and not enough housing?The reason why Palo Alto suffers from too much traffic is because its permanent and temporary populations are too large. Palo Alto is overpopulated. The fastest way to make the traffic even worse, is to build more housing and increase its overpopulation.


40 people like this
Posted by jh
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Jan 31, 2017 at 4:14 pm

jh is a registered user.

Last night's sudden and well orchestrated council vote, with almost no discussion allowed by mayor Scharff, eliminates the "programs" and cuts the "teeth" out of the" Land Use "section of our new Comprehensive Plan.

This vote, as I understand it, removes the land use programs to a separate document that will be referenced in the Comprehensive Plan. But since not in the Comprehensive Plan itself, to all intents and purposes, will no longer have to be taken into consideration when Palo Alto land use issues come up.

Talk about being blindsided. Both the other council members who were out of the" loop" and the public.

A clear end run to undercut the effectiveness of the most important part of the Comprehensive Plan. This is without precedence, a complete departure with no public notice or the opportunity for the public to comment. What a major coup for those who stand to make huge profits from commercial development of land in Palo Alto.

Mayor Scharf and Vice Mayor Kniss have always supported full steam ahead growth, despite their rhetoric during council election campaigns. Rather like Trump, if you proclaim it loudly and long enough that's what people end up believing. Since both mayor Scharff and vice mayor Kniss will be termed out and not running for re-election they are free to represent whatever interests they care to with impunity.

However, if council members Fine, Tanaka, and Wolbach should decide to run again, it will be interesting to see if the majority of the registered voters in Palo Alto will believe their interests have been well served by these council members, or not.


31 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 31, 2017 at 4:22 pm

I have an acquaintance who is a single lady in her 40s, no kids,works for a high tech company not in Palo Alto, who inherited some money and decided to buy one of the condos on Meadow Circle because it was near the highway and Palo Alto prices were worth an investment. She tells me that a great many of her neighbors all commute by car out of Palo Alto each day.

I do not go along with the idea that any housing built in Palo Alto will be bought or rented to people who work here, particularly if we are talking about a couple.

If you look at the numbers of people commuting out of our Caltrain stations, the platforms in the am are always crowded and the lots fill up early, we can see that people are commuting out of town and are living here for lots of reasons other than they work here.

More and more stack and pack housing are not going to solve traffic issues. We have a two way commute around town.


39 people like this
Posted by Grumpy Old Guy
a resident of Palo Alto Orchards
on Jan 31, 2017 at 6:29 pm

You can hear the future argument for changing the Comprehensive Plan. . if the Land Use Component was that critical, then why wasn't it incorporated in? Taking that into account, that means the City Council wanted to allow 'flexibility' in building the New Palo Alto Millenial Towers I, II and III.

Last night's situational ethics and rationalization by the majority council members was appalling. Not only did they insult the CAC, they moving against the quality of life here in Palo Alto.

Hats off to DuBois, Kou, and Holman for speaking truth to power.


18 people like this
Posted by jh
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Jan 31, 2017 at 6:36 pm

jh is a registered user.

@ Grumpy Old Guy

Exactly


14 people like this
Posted by Robert
a resident of another community
on Jan 31, 2017 at 6:52 pm

A very positive move. Obviously the same few will continue to grumble, as they would towards any sort of pragmatic attempts at addressing these issues, but at least the "solution" is no longer to pretend the issues don't even exist, or field pathetic calls to somehow "get rid of jobs".


22 people like this
Posted by Curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on Jan 31, 2017 at 6:55 pm

"A clear end run to undercut the effectiveness of the most important part of the Comprehensive Plan. This is without precedence, a complete departure with no public notice or the opportunity for the public to comment."

No, this is standard operating procedure: the sudden ambush at the critical end point of a showy process ostensibly (and ostentatiously) based on public input. I feel profound sympathy for those honest citizens who wasted hours of their time attending the various public meetings, earnestly believing they were helping guide the future of their community. I know exactly how they feel.

Many of us old veterans of these city hall kabukis raised the alarm in this forum during this latest sham process. But there is no better education than hard experience. I can only hope that enough new eyes have been opened that the next attempt to drain the swamp at 250 Hamilton succeeds.


28 people like this
Posted by More housing will make traffic worse
a resident of Midtown
on Jan 31, 2017 at 7:30 pm

Totally agree with some of the posters - more housing will only exacerbate the problem. It will add more cars, lead to more issues with traffic congestion and parking. The ones asking for cheap housing are just the losers who can't afford Palo Alto on their own merits, and are seeking tax payer (other tax payers, not them!) assistance to get their entitled selves to live in Palo Alto.

The solution is instead to reduce office space. Yes it leads to some less tax revenue. But in the grand scheme of things, it nets out to solving the very problems discussed (congestion, traffic and the like)


20 people like this
Posted by State Law
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 31, 2017 at 10:10 pm

And the only way to reduce the office population is to recall the leadership that is pushing for more, despite claiming they weren't in the election.

@Bill Ross,
If citizens are upset about this, what is their recourse?


25 people like this
Posted by Sanctimonious City
a resident of another community
on Jan 31, 2017 at 10:53 pm

I hate to break it to everybody but there are literally MILLIONS of square feet of new high rise office space going up in Santa Clara and Sunnyvale. The corridor from the baylands at HWY 237 going down Great America Pkwy across Hwy 101 all the way to Central Expressway is quickly becoming skyscraper city.

For all the Milton Friedmans out there spouting Econ 101 theories, please enlighten us as to what happens when we have a geographically limited supply of land and a virtually unlimited demand of people who want to come here?

If we build more housing then the Ghosties from Asia and eastern Europe will drive around in their Deleon real estate shuttle buses and scoop them up. They might rent them to you from afar but they will never sell as long as they need an address to send their kids to PAUSD and a residential parachute for when their local host countries go down the tubes.

Then there are the self financed private equity funds looking to speculate in all the trendy glamour zip codes of the world. Before you can say "Cash Buyer" the new properties will be off the market.

Don't forget the IPO cyber wealthy and other 1%ers happy to pay over 10 times what the average worker can afford in order to secure their little piece of global elite heaven. They are the ultimate virtue signalers but unfortunately the only way they can improve their quality of life is by making yours worse.

Lastly, we have the masses in the satellite communities stretching from Mountain View all the way to Stockton, Modesto and Morgan Hill. If they see an opening, they will gladly take on a mortgage with more interest than a naked Kardashian photo. Just for the privilege of signing their kids up for eight AP courses and getting to know the meaning of Social Emotional Learning.

Cheryl's reference to Trump is exactly right. The Trump movement is raging because wherever there is liberal run local government there is incompetence, corruption and sanctimony. Look at the bright side, once the traffic, pollution, crime and education get as bad as Oakland, Baltimore or Newark then demand and supply will finally equalize.


34 people like this
Posted by Oldster
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jan 31, 2017 at 11:26 pm

Curmudgeon and Sanctimonious City,

You are both so correct.

I've often wondered why Los Altos Hills and Atherton don't allow commericial zoning anywhere in their city limits and require bigger house lots and bigger setbacks with no townhouses, Those towns were founded by people who saw rampant development elsewhere and just said, "No, thanks!"

If a majority of Palo Alto City Council members want to end our 50' height limit just near mass transit hubs today we can kiss goodbye any pretense of keeping our garden housing with quiet suburban streets with places to park our own cars and those of our guests, too, since every neighborhood has a transit hub at its closest busiest street intersection. The overflow from the underparked new high rise offices and housing - underparked since the pols will insist many highrise users will use mass transit and because they think Jetson Google flying cars are coming next year - will make our current traffic and parking messes look quaint.


19 people like this
Posted by Back Room Deals
a resident of Community Center
on Feb 1, 2017 at 1:32 am

Going back to the days of back room deals with this council lot, here's the reminder Web Link

Measure D happened in 2013 during Scharff's watch as mayor.


43 people like this
Posted by Ahem
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 1, 2017 at 1:45 am

@Cheryl,

I think you are under estimating the breadth of the problem. The democratic party's endorsement of PACC candidates was not a mistake, or due to sloth or sloppiness. The endorsements were very carefully considered. The candidates that were endorsed were chosen BECAUSE they have the same ethical flaws as as the politicians that endorsed them.

To join a hard core criminal gang, you have to commit a murder. Once you commit a murder, you can be trusted because you can't rat anyone else out, unless you want to get ratted out for murder yourself. The shared vulnerability is what holds the gang together. Anyone who does not share the vulnerability can never be trusted.

It is called a kakistocracy. Shared criminal or unethical behavior is the glue that holds a kakistocracy together. The Kakistocracy of politicians that have sold their souls to real-estate developers, stretches all the way to Sacramento.

How else do you explain the Democratic Party's endorsement of a lifelong Republican?


9 people like this
Posted by YIMBY
a resident of Mountain View
on Feb 1, 2017 at 11:34 pm

Entitled Boomer Problems: There are too many jobs in my city! I don't want any new housing to cast a shadow on my lawn!

You guys are living in a bubble of your own selfishness. The Bay Area is an economic hot spot that is employing the generation after yours with well paying jobs. All you can do is complain about parking and things not being what they were 30 years ago while preventing new housing from being built, resulting in $2,000 rent for a studio. Either be happy that your property values are going off the charts and stop impeding development, or get rid of Prop 13.


28 people like this
Posted by Ahem
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 2, 2017 at 12:33 am

@YIMBY,

$1,000,000 microunits in the soon to be blighted area next to the railroad tracks is just another scam boomers in the real-estate industry are running on millennials. They want millenials to think buying a $1,000,000 micro-unit is an act of rebellion, instead of just a bad real-estate investment.

The use of rebellion to sell product was pioneered by Edward Bernays (know as the father of advertising) in the 1920s when he was approached by the American Tobacco Company and asked to find a way to increase smoking among women. By paying women to smoke cigarettes in suffragette marches and re-branding cigarettes as "torches of freedom", Bernays was able to convince women that cigarettes were a great way to rebel, instead of just a very expensive unhealthy habit.


8 people like this
Posted by YIMBY
a resident of Mountain View
on Feb 2, 2017 at 1:48 am

Are you honestly telling me that you think millennials paying exorbitant prices for low quality housing is about rebellion? Is that how you sleep at night with what's going on around here? No, despite what you, crazily, seem to believe, this is not about "rebellion". People don't pay a million dollars for a tiny fixer upper because they're trying to stick it to the man. People don't pay $2,000 a month in rent for a tiny studio because they're rebelling. They do it because they, like you, want to live here, and that means paying a ridiculous sum for meager living spaces. In a desireable area to live in, with an incredibly hot tech job economy, where entrenched homeowners are doing everything they can to not build anything, causing everyone to fight over what meager supply is available due to turnover and slight drips of new housing into the market, thus raising prices to ridiculous amounts. It's not "rebellion", it's supply and demand.


19 people like this
Posted by Crescent Park Dad
a resident of Crescent Park
on Feb 2, 2017 at 10:53 am

"They do it because they, like you, want to live here..."

Can you honestly say that "they" want to live here because they can't wait for the city to convert to high-rise apartment and office buildings all over town? Can't wait to have shadow canyons on every street? Can't wait to build 5-story elementary schools because there's no other place to build a school?

I won't argue that many people would enjoy living closer to their jobs. However, as is true with Mountain View or Palo Alto, the current lifestyle of these two cities is a draw. The downtown districts, despite their current issues over parking, etc., are pleasant place to visit. The residential areas feature many older homes, tree lined streets, etc.

It's hard for me to fathom that people wanting buy into Mountain View or Palo Alto are thinking that they want to convert either city into downtown San Jose, SF or NYC.

Yes - a limited housing supply does help keep prices up very high. But the demand goes beyond the housing stock - the schools, the neighborhood ambiance, etc. are part of the picture.


13 people like this
Posted by Annette
a resident of College Terrace
on Feb 2, 2017 at 12:35 pm

Annette is a registered user.

@YIMBY: what you wrote is an enormous generalization, not to mention offensive. I've lived here long enough to be lumped into the category you deride, and I think the criticism is undeserved. There are obviously many people who want to live here and many reasons for that, including that it is nice to live where you grew up/near family and to live near one's work. Key word: nice. Not guaranteed, not an entitlement, not necessarily affordable. Maybe not even possible. Residents cannot change the fact that Palo Alto is the size that it is or that the built environment is something other than what it is: saturated and defined by an infrastructure that is woefully inadequate for serving the existing permanent and workforce populations. Today's problems have been evolving for a long time. I would argue that Council policies have failed to sufficiently account for cumulative impact. Now we have older generations who reasonably don't want problems to get worse and a new generation that understandably wants in but there's little housing inventory. Enter the vexing law of supply and demand. One thing you can do is be patient b/c supply will change some as those of us who are older move out or move on. In the meanwhile, please stop with the the accusations. Despite what you may think, I and most people I know are not opposed to smart growth or change - but we do think there's remedial work to be done before adding to existing problems.


2 people like this
Posted by YIMBY
a resident of Mountain View
on Feb 2, 2017 at 1:16 pm

Again, I'm sure that if we abolished Prop 13, residents would suddenly find a way to stop blocking development and allow new high density housing construction to satiate demand and help keep their property values in check, unless they want to pay the sky high taxes for the real value of their property in an area with artificially low supply. The only people here who are entitled are residents who buy in and pull the ladder up with them while externalizing the costs of that onto the rest of the region.


26 people like this
Posted by Agree with Annette, disagree with YIMBY
a resident of Midtown
on Feb 2, 2017 at 2:11 pm

Agree with Anette - Palo Alto is a desirable place to live, but also expensive. You are completely right - just because people who would like to live here can't afford it, they should not be entitled to live in Palo Alto. They cannot be asking for cheap housing just out of a sense of entitlement, inspite of the fact that more housing would lead to worse traffic, parking and congestion. And it is completely OK for residents to expect the city council to protect their property values, don't feel embarassed about it.
NIMBY - yes residents that have worked hard, saved and paid up the high cost of houses in PA, are entitled to expect their elected city council members to protect their house values. Nothing wrong with that expectation. After all they are the ones paying the high property taxes, not the apartment dwellers.


24 people like this
Posted by Ahem
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 2, 2017 at 2:20 pm

@YIMBY,

Your vitriol betrays your true motivation, but you are going to find religion when the bubble bursts. You are going to drop down on your knees and thank God you have a rent payment you can walk away from, instead of a 30 year mortgage on a $1,000,000 micro-unit that is hopelessly underwater.


2 people like this
Posted by YIMBY
a resident of Mountain View
on Feb 2, 2017 at 3:35 pm

Whatever helps you sleep better at night while you keep pulling up your ladder and externalizing that cost onto everyone else. Prop 13 is going to fall once enough people hit the breaking point from your doing.


10 people like this
Posted by Homeowners pass on tax payments, not costs
a resident of Midtown
on Feb 2, 2017 at 6:23 pm

Nimby - PA homeowners do not externalize costs. In fact it is just the other round. They pay into the PA kitty. They are the only ones that pay the hefty PA real estate taxes, which renters, or residents of Mountain View (people like you) do not. Hence they should get the bigger say in deciding whether to add housing that can only make traffic/parking worse in PA.


3 people like this
Posted by Robert
a resident of another community
on Feb 2, 2017 at 6:37 pm

@Homeowners pass on tax payments, not costs

Many people think this but if you look at the data Palo Alto homeowners are paying the lowest effective property tax rates in the entire state, sorry.


2 people like this
Posted by YIMBY
a resident of Mountain View
on Feb 2, 2017 at 7:41 pm

You have no standing to claim some greater right to a say in development policy via the artificially low property taxes you pay when you benefit from policies which constrain supply, raising your property values at no cost to you, while others deal with the consequences of these inflated housing costs. If you want to impede development and constrain supply, then pay taxes on the entirety of your artificially high property values.


21 people like this
Posted by To Yimby
a resident of Midtown
on Feb 2, 2017 at 8:26 pm

Yimby - in my particular case we bought our house 2 years ago, so we are paying nearly fair market taxes. But even those homeowners that bought a long time ago still have much greater say in this matter than someone like you, who lives in MV and does not pay any property taxes to PA at all. You have zero standing to even comment on this matter really.


10 people like this
Posted by To Robert
a resident of Midtown
on Feb 2, 2017 at 8:30 pm

Anyone who bought a house in PA < 5 years ago is paying taxes on at least $1.5M, which is not trivial. And even old times who have a much lower tax basis are still paying property taxes, which is not something the apartment dwellers are doing. Hence they should have greater say.
Btw Prop 13 is not unique to PA, it applies to homeowners in other areas too.


2 people like this
Posted by YIMBY
a resident of Mountain View
on Feb 2, 2017 at 8:57 pm

Palo Alto doesn't live in a self-contained environment where it's decisions only impact others in Palo Alto. Your decisions to restrict new housing increase prices on a regional level. You offload your share of the housing problem onto other cities to solve. And no, as long as you're divorced from the downsides of your anti-housing choices and privy to only the upsides, you have no standing to claim a greater say than non home owners in development decisions. The entire deck is already stacked in your favor.


16 people like this
Posted by Cheryl Lilienstein
a resident of Barron Park
on Feb 2, 2017 at 8:58 pm

This thread is about what the 5 pro-growth city council members did: they DISCARDED 3 million dollars of taxpayer money used to develop a new Comp Plan. On Monday they SCRAPPED the office space development cap, and they TRASHED two years of hard work by citizen volunteers who worked hard building a comprehensive and interlocking vision for the future of Palo Alto. In voting 5-4 to scrap the work, the pro-development majority on the council showed their willingness to undermine democracy for their own benefit or the benefit of their benefactors. (Please remember that developers funded the "winners" who denied being funded by developers. Yet thanks to the PA Weekly we now know that they DID take contributions from developers and did not disclose these contributions until AFTER the election: this is illegal.)

The sad thing to read in the comments here: citizens tearing at one another while the responsibility for problems AND solutions lies elsewhere, literally. Consider the origins and potential solution: Why have the Silicon Valley Group's members not chosen to put their businesses somewhere housing is affordable, where infrastructure could be built that supports a large influx of employees? They have been bemoaning the high cost of living for over twenty years and continue to do so without changing the premise that Silicon Valley is the ONLY place to be: the result being that they have foisted the problems they've created onto cities whose infrastructure is INCAPABLE of handling the increased population. The resulting increases in property value and housing costs damage all our communities. We need diversity to be healthy ecologically. And yet, continuing on the same high density pathway results in loss of retail, recreation, and general quality of life.

Corporate choices have resulted in infrastructure problems that built out cities cannot solve, and that produce social tensions ( "property owner vs renter" "resident vs immigrant" "high density vs low density," "government vs citizen" "city vs suburb" "high tech vs quality of life" "drivers vs proponents of what can only be called alternative facts options")

Is it an exaggeration to say no American wants to live in a world where we've been pitted against one another? And while I expect most of us are more concerned about the US becoming a fascist state, the city council still needs to hear from you if you do not support their blatant disregard for the work of our city staff, the very expensive consultants we paid for, and our citizen volunteers who dedicated two years trying to shape the future of our city. While it doesn't even come close to Trump's firing the Atty General, or putting Exxon in charge of the EPA, what the city council did to our city on Monday night is truly appalling.


4 people like this
Posted by Curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on Feb 2, 2017 at 8:59 pm

Curmudgeon is a registered user.

@YIMBY:

It is very easy and cheap to don a white hat and smugly affect sainthood, secure in the knowledge that your neighbors will stop any attempt to actually realize your proposed solutions anywhere near your own house.


Like this comment
Posted by YIMBY
a resident of Mountain View
on Feb 2, 2017 at 9:06 pm

@Curmudgeon

You seem to not understand what YIMBY stands for. It's Yes In My Back-Yard. It means that I want high-density construction, mass transit, and other developments built around me. I will shout down my neighbors, including those over in Palo Alto, who continually restrict development and hold onto suburbia at the expense of everyone else.


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Posted by YIMBY
a resident of Mountain View
on Feb 2, 2017 at 9:07 pm

Web Link


20 people like this
Posted by This is getting ridiculous Yimby
a resident of Midtown
on Feb 2, 2017 at 9:20 pm

Yimby - to claim that we are offloading our housing problem to other cities is ridiculous. I was simply commenting on PA housing issues, being a PA resident that pays over $25K/yr in property taxes. I am not commenting either way on your city (MV). I not saying that MV should instead build high density housing. I would prefer to mind my own business and only comment on PA, not MV (leave MV housing discussions to the MV property tax payers).

Your comment about not having a greater claim than non-resident folks who dont pay taxes to PA is so crazy that I wont even try responding to it.


1 person likes this
Posted by YIMBY
a resident of Mountain View
on Feb 2, 2017 at 9:32 pm

It's everyone's business because this problem affects everyone. Mountain Views housing development decisions affect Palo Alto and other cities in the region, just as Palo Alto's housing development decisions affect Mountain View and other cities in the region. You can't pass this off as nosey neighbors butting into issues they have no place commenting on. Residents of Palo Alto who restrict housing development contribute to a regional and state-wide housing shortage to the detriment of everyone else.

"California is producing less than half the new homes it needs to meet demand in the Golden State.

In its first comprehensive analysis since the year 2000, California’s Department of Housing and Community Development paints a bleak picture of the state’s housing landscape. While it points to some hopeful developments, the report suggests lawmakers will need to consider serious policy changes if California is going to build the projected 1.8 million new homes needed by 2025."

"Overall, the report concludes the lack of housing costs the California economy almost $240 billion a year."

Web Link

Break out of your bubble. You're not living in a vacuum, and your decisions have far-reaching consequences.


8 people like this
Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on Feb 2, 2017 at 10:14 pm

Think what the value of California's economy would be if we built enough housing for all 7.5 billion people in the world! How much is it costing us to not do that?


Like this comment
Posted by YIMBY
a resident of Mountain View
on Feb 2, 2017 at 10:48 pm

There isn't demand for all the world's population to live in California, which makes you completely miss what the housing report is communicating. Supply and Demand. If the entire world wanted to live here right now in our current housing climate and was competing and bidding for units, housing prices would increase to the point of an economic collapse. If you built enough housing for the entire world to live here, housing prices would plummet and units would barely cost anything, but you'd have billions of unused units and wasted economic output. It's about balance, which we're nowhere near right now.


6 people like this
Posted by Balance
a resident of Esther Clark Park
on Feb 3, 2017 at 1:32 am

Yimby is right! There only about 3 - 5 million people who want to live in Palo Alto.

If we built only 7 million homes in Palo Alto, housing would become affordable.


9 people like this
Posted by Oh yeah
a resident of Midtown
on Feb 3, 2017 at 4:50 am

Every pricey city has more,demand than supply. Ok then, by NIMBYs logic, let's just build millions of homes in PA, Los Altos, SF, Atherton etc, completely make them congested and unlivable, and screw over the current homeowners there. Just to try to accommodate the less successful folks who want to live in those areas. Oh yeah, that's the solution!

Of course I am being sarcastic. That is clearly not the solution,


8 people like this
Posted by Annette
a resident of College Terrace
on Feb 3, 2017 at 8:15 am

Annette is a registered user.

@YIMBY - maybe I can help you and others feel better about not living in Palo Alto. If news reports are accurate, right now the City budget is in the red, the School District budget is in the red, the school board is debating how to respond to a Federal investigation, developer fees for PAUSD have not been increased to deal with already approved growth, AND (drum roll) Palo Alto has an UNFUNDED pension liability of at least $350 MILLION. This is all on top of the infrastructure inadequacies and the obvious parking and circulation problems that we all deal with every single day. Some of these issues will be corrected and this will still be a desirable place to live, but Palo Alto is hardly perfect.

Also, I think you have given rise to a new term: YIYBY (Yes in YOUR Back Yard).


13 people like this
Posted by KB
a resident of Barron Park
on Feb 3, 2017 at 9:01 am

Looks like the council's true colors have come out. Kniss, Fine, and Tanaka pretended to be at least balanced on development during the election. Now they're showing their real desires. It's even more embarrassing since they won due to a last-minute flood of developer money. But this town has never had the spine to stand up to the developers. That's how we're in this mess today -- 50 years of overbuilding office space, as we listened to the developers' promises of more jobs -- way more jobs than we need.

Unfortunately, there's really no good way out of this mess. We can't really rip out existing office space, without paying a fortune to buy it from the landowners. And we can't build enough housing to matter without severely changing the character of the city and making traffic much worse.

The status quo is semi-bearable, but politicians think they always have to do something rather than nothing. Combined with political donations from developers, that means we will build a lot more housing over time, and the city will change a lot. Unfortunately, probably not for the better. Density even downtown won't be high enough to fulfill some people's dreams of a mini-SF, and the residential neighborhoods will suffer from even worse traffic.

And for those of you who say we must change and grow, why? Atherton has slightly fewer residents now than it did in 1960. Do you think it is a worse place to live because of that? That Atherton residents have a harder time finding a job? That their property values have gone down?


2 people like this
Posted by YIMBY
a resident of Mountain View
on Feb 3, 2017 at 10:15 am

"Just to try to accommodate the less successful folks who want to live in those areas."

Is that how you view the housing crunch? What a sad worldview.


2 people like this
Posted by YIMBY
a resident of Mountain View
on Feb 3, 2017 at 10:25 am

@Annette

This isn't about me wanting to live in Palo Alto. This is about a regional housing shortage that has artificially inflated housing costs and rents across the Bay Area. Palo Alto and all other cities in the Bay Area who stall new housing construction collectively contribute to this problem.

You have to grow because if you don't, other cities have to then pick up your slack, else housing prices go up in surrounding areas. If you still feel that this isn't your responsibility, thank goodness the majority of those in Palo Alto seem to disagree with you and are also asking for more housing. If you still feel like you deserve to hold on to your suburbia in the middle of a thriving tech hub to the detriment of everyone else, thank goodness the state will soon come down on cities who aren't pulling their weight with fixing the housing shortage.


16 people like this
Posted by Stall if infrastructure is not there
a resident of Midtown
on Feb 3, 2017 at 11:07 am

Nimby - a city council that acts on behalf of a city should stall new housing if the infrastructure does not support it. Clearly Palo Alto does not have the infrastructure yet to support additional housing. Each time I do the round trip between Gunn and midtown (just a couple of miles) to drop off my son to school, it takes approx 25 min. Try finding parking in downtown PA between 6 and 8 pm. Almost impossible to do so - you have to circle parking areas till someone leaves. Putting in more houses just makes these problems worse.

If the infra is improved to where these problems go away, then yes we can have more housing. But not otherwise. I understand a lot of lower income folks would like to get into Palo Alto, but currently PA just does not have the infra to support additional housing.

I don't think majority of PA disagrees with Annette. Most homeowners agree with her. Renters won't, but PA has more homeowners than renters. Very few agree with you. Even though this is not scientific, just look at the number of likes for your comments vs for those asking for no new housing.


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Posted by YIMBY
a resident of Mountain View
on Feb 3, 2017 at 8:20 pm

Infrastructure is a chicken and egg problem. I see the same folks who claim that we shouldn't build more housing until the infrastructure is there to support it go and shout down new infrastructure development for whatever reason they can, because in the end it's not really about having the appropriate infrastructure, it's about maintaining their walled suburbia and keeping others out by not building new housing or new infrastructure. We need more housing, and we need better infrastructure, and unfortunately we're in an environment where homeowners wield vast power to derail well-planned urban growth strategies that accomplish both. So now it seems the only way to get that new infrastructure built is to push the housing through and build the infrastructure later.

The Bay Area as a whole still lags behind greatly in infrastructure improvements because cities can't work together to accomplish it. Even now, individual cities like Atherton are throwing wrenches into CalTrain upgrades to the detriment of the Peninsula.

You're right, it's not scientific, and I'd wager that the majority of the folks who visit these forums are homeowners who skew Baby Boomer, insular in thought, who aren't bothered by the housing crunch so long as their home values continue to rise and the "character of the neighborhood" stay unchanged. The outcomes of your local elections say different though: more people want more housing. This is a battle that you can stall, but in the end you won't win. The generation after yours wants high density housing and more affordable housing costs. You can work with them now in good faith so that growth is planned, cohesive, and well-thought out, or you can fight against them and cause that growth to be patchy and sprawled, until their majority voice grows deafening and shouts you out of the process entirely. The Bay Area is not a quiet sprawling suburb anymore, and to wish for it to be so would be the same as wishing for Palo Alto to turn back into sprawling orchards.


2 people like this
Posted by Curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on Feb 3, 2017 at 9:30 pm

"You seem to not understand what YIMBY stands for. It's Yes In My Back-Yard."

I know that, and I know it's easy to affect a high moral attitude when one knows one's neighbors will save one from having to go through with it. We've all watched with amusement as a pugnacious little puppy yips from between the big dog's legs.

On the other hand, if you really can pull it off, we got a bunch of really bodacious projects for your backyard. You'll love 'em. Say the word... .


3 people like this
Posted by YIMBY
a resident of Mountain View
on Feb 3, 2017 at 9:42 pm

You're projecting your personal views towards development onto me. No, Curmudgeon, I want high density development, I want new infrastructure, and I want to live right in the middle of it.


3 people like this
Posted by Civil Discourse this is not
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 3, 2017 at 10:37 pm

The conversation above between NIMBY, YIMBY, ANNETTE is simply a screaming match. Polarizing, provocative and not helpful. Not helpful discourse. Go have a drink together and scream at each other in private is my suggestion. I am relieved that the new Council is now open to new ideas and approaches to housing shortage and transportation and other issues. Enough of a small group of Palo Altans high jacking the discourse.


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Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on Feb 3, 2017 at 10:47 pm

I don't see NIMBY, or was that a catch-all name for everyone disagreeing with YIMBY?

This is like climate change debate. We're all on the losing side.


13 people like this
Posted by Jim
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Feb 4, 2017 at 1:36 pm

Watch out for the Castilleja expansion project. Sharff is tripping over himself to get that one going. 6 years of construction on Embarcadero at Bryant and Emerson. Massive underground garage. Hundreds of additional car trips per day. All for a private school that doesn't pay taxes and has a long history of breaking the law and infuriating neighbors. Good job City Council! And you wonder why faith in government is plummeting?


9 people like this
Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Feb 4, 2017 at 2:07 pm

Jim, thanks for the heads up.

As if Embarcadero needs more traffic, especially around Town & Country. Such fun to get stuck in the middle of El Camino when you go through the green turn light only to find that Embarcadero traffic's stopped dead and El Camino's backing up north of PAMF and drivers are playing demolition derby trying to change lanes.

Even more fun to find the left turn lane onto El Camino South is jammed, putting through traffic on yet another traffic "diet."

Remind me again how long it's taking the fix that mess.

Let's have another phone survey on the best way to convince PA residents that all of the Stanford development won't add one single car to our gridlock.


17 people like this
Posted by Mary
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Feb 4, 2017 at 2:22 pm

Wait a minute! Wait a minute! I'm tired of living in Palo Alto. I want to live in Atherton, but those selfish, greedy Atherton residents are doing the same thing to me that we Palo Altans are doing to YIMBY and his Mountain View compatriots. Can't YIMBY do something about this? Don't I have a right to live in Atherton even though I can't currently afford it because of how Atherton has pulled up the drawbridge to their bucolic town? This is quite unfair!


15 people like this
Posted by Mary
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Feb 4, 2017 at 2:36 pm

YIMBY says, "The generation after yours wants high density housing and more affordable housing costs. You can work with them now in good faith so that growth is planned, cohesive, and well-thought out, or you can fight against them and cause that growth to be patchy and sprawled, until their majority voice grows deafening and shouts you out of the process entirely. "

This kind of errant nonsense is being spread by new urbanist ideologues and others with an ax to grind, but it's absolutely unsupported by the facts. Moreover, it's dangerous if we are conned into making policy based on it. In fact according to almost every survey, Millennials - even more than Boomers - want to live in suburban single family houses - not in high density multifamily housing. See for example here: Web Link , and here: Web Link, and the sources cited therein.)

If we build the kind of housing YIMBY says we should, we'll have made Palo Alto a less desirable place to live both for current residents and people who aspire to live here. This isn't a intelligent way to make policy and should be rejected by all of us who care about Palo Alto.


3 people like this
Posted by Robert
a resident of another community
on Feb 4, 2017 at 2:44 pm

@Mary

You're quite right, nobody wants to live in high density developments, hence the fear of them sitting empty and not contributing to traffic or use of other infrastructure...


21 people like this
Posted by Agree with Mary
a resident of Midtown
on Feb 4, 2017 at 6:28 pm

And of course continue to disagree with YIMBY. The generation after mine absolutely prefers single family homes. My son (who is in Gunn) and his friends just mentioned that. In fact the one complaint my son has is that he wishes we had a larger backyard. No one would prefer apartments or condos over single family homes in his friends circle at least. The only reason for buying an apartment/condo/townhome in PA is that a single family home in that same neighborhood would be too expensive. Yimby do not pass off high density housing as desirable, or something that the next generation wants.


13 people like this
Posted by Concerned
a resident of Ventura
on Feb 4, 2017 at 9:50 pm

I'm in shock not as to the actual decision but as to how quickly and how very well orchestrated this vote came about. Something so controversial usually deserves more discussion but this was a fait accompli. It just makes me suspicious of the council majority as a whole.

And isn't it lovely how "City Council also abandoned the idea of exploring housing at Town and Country Village" because Kniss and Scharff are both from North Palo Alto where Town & Country is located. NIMBY? I think so.


9 people like this
Posted by Citize
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 5, 2017 at 12:19 pm

@"affordable housing"
Thanks for reminding us that the pernicious effects of pro-development factions using "affordable housing" to serve their interests and co-opt people who claim to be for affordable housing to work against their own interests. Overzoning at Maybell was a nonstarter, just as turning Terman Middle school into apartments was to some of the same people, who were then allowed to ensure the affordable housing was built and the school saved, and would have similarly worked for affordable housing now. They asked, and have a history of success, so it was no empty promise. Affordable housing was never the problem at Maybell. But you already know that. You just don't want to acknowledge that the chickens coming to roost are more the responsibility of those, like you, with their inflexibility and false accusations, inability to work with others in good faith, and willingness to be co-opted by developers.

You also seem to ignore that the funds the then Council and county tied up at Maybell, when it knew Buena Vista was on the chopping block, could have done a lot more good at Buena Vista back then. Pusuing Maybell was arguably far worse for tanking affordable housing here. Those millions are now committed to BV. Remember them? The actual low income residents who want to stay in their homes here? One of the first things this new City Council did was appeal the BV-resident-favorable court decision, how does that fit with your alternative facts about this?

Destroying the Comp Plan will do more to incentivize the eviction of low-income residents by developers than anything. Scharff's former employer Prometheus may have pulled out at BV, but they will be back if the Comp Plan no longer protects residents ability to prevent spot zoning at BV.

Who is really for affordable housing? Someone who claims it but whose actions actual work against it? All that energy you put into hating people who have shown their ability to create affordable housing in identical development battles makes me wonder what you really stand for.


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