News

Maybell housing project nears final approval

Palo Alto's Architectural Review Board prepares for third review of project at former orchard site

Update: The Architectural Review Board approved Golden Gate Homes' 16-unit housing proposal by a 4-1 vote on Thursday, July 20. Read more here.

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A long-debated proposal to build 16 homes at a former orchard site on Maybell Avenue could win a key approval Thursday morning, when the project goes in front of the Architectural Review Board for a final decision.

The proposed project is a sharp departure from the development at 567 Maybell Ave. that the city had reviewed and approved in 2013 and that included 60 units of housing for low-income seniors and 12 single-family homes. Despite winning unanimous council approval, that proposal by the Palo Alto Housing Corporation fizzled after a citizen referendum.

The new project, which is being developed by Golden Gate Homes, consists of 16 two-story townhouses with basements. It has won the support of the neighbors, who last year urged the City Council to approve a tentative map that would support the development. In June 2016, the council voted 8-1, with Cory Wolbach dissenting, to do just that.

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But even though the project has won over the neighborhood, the Architectural Review Board has been somewhat skeptical of the proposed plans. The board has already had two meetings on the project and members have offered a long list of concerns, which include major issues such as the adequacy of the proposed parking and window locations and minor ones like the design of decorative chimneys.

The city's municipal code encourages planning officials (whom the board advises) to make a decision on projects after three public hearings. According to a new report from the Planning and Community Environment Department, the applicant had responded to the board's concerns by changing the layout of the parking area, which is not in a tandem arrangement), removing the chimneys and replacing the shed roofs in the prior designs with pitched roofs.

The board meeting will begin Thursday at 8:30 a.m.

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Maybell housing project nears final approval

Palo Alto's Architectural Review Board prepares for third review of project at former orchard site

by / Palo Alto Weekly

Uploaded: Wed, Jul 19, 2017, 9:53 am

Update: The Architectural Review Board approved Golden Gate Homes' 16-unit housing proposal by a 4-1 vote on Thursday, July 20. Read more here.

---

A long-debated proposal to build 16 homes at a former orchard site on Maybell Avenue could win a key approval Thursday morning, when the project goes in front of the Architectural Review Board for a final decision.

The proposed project is a sharp departure from the development at 567 Maybell Ave. that the city had reviewed and approved in 2013 and that included 60 units of housing for low-income seniors and 12 single-family homes. Despite winning unanimous council approval, that proposal by the Palo Alto Housing Corporation fizzled after a citizen referendum.

The new project, which is being developed by Golden Gate Homes, consists of 16 two-story townhouses with basements. It has won the support of the neighbors, who last year urged the City Council to approve a tentative map that would support the development. In June 2016, the council voted 8-1, with Cory Wolbach dissenting, to do just that.

But even though the project has won over the neighborhood, the Architectural Review Board has been somewhat skeptical of the proposed plans. The board has already had two meetings on the project and members have offered a long list of concerns, which include major issues such as the adequacy of the proposed parking and window locations and minor ones like the design of decorative chimneys.

The city's municipal code encourages planning officials (whom the board advises) to make a decision on projects after three public hearings. According to a new report from the Planning and Community Environment Department, the applicant had responded to the board's concerns by changing the layout of the parking area, which is not in a tandem arrangement), removing the chimneys and replacing the shed roofs in the prior designs with pitched roofs.

The board meeting will begin Thursday at 8:30 a.m.

Comments

Downtowner
University South
on Jul 19, 2017 at 10:11 am
Downtowner, University South
on Jul 19, 2017 at 10:11 am

It's worth taking a moment to think about what might have been. We had the opportunity for 60 units of low-income housing. Instead, after the fabled "citizen uprising", we ended up with basically the same number of single-family homes but no affordable housing.

This is personal for me. Last month, after being on the low-income affordable housing list for two years, my family's long-time babysitter moved to Texas. She had lived in Palo Alto for 15 years and had a son at JLS. But eventually, even the rent on the one-bedroom apartment she shared with her husband and her son rose too high. Both were gainfully employed and they simply wanted a better life for their family. They didn't see a better life for their family here in the Bay Area because housing costs were too high. Instead, they chose to accept lower wages and a harder time finding jobs to live someplace they could now afford.

We the residents of Palo Alto did this to them. In the 1970s and 1980s, we downzoned most of Palo Alto, making it impossible to build the kinds of apartment buildings that were built around downtown from the 1920s to the 1960s. People being forced out of Palo Alto is not the natural outcome of "people need to find a place they can afford to live". This was a series of policy decisions that we the residents made deliberately, for different reasons but with entirely predictable consequences.

We probably can't reverse the downzonings of the 1970s and 1980s to allow more housing. But we haven't yet built on the Maybell site. The residentialists lost the last election, and the voters gave three pro-housing candidates the most votes.

Can we have a do-over on Maybell? Maybe this time the reality of the housing crisis has set in and we could develop low-income housing without a revolt from Barron Park residents - or at least maybe this time the rest of the city would overrule them.


BLAH
Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jul 19, 2017 at 11:01 am
BLAH, Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jul 19, 2017 at 11:01 am
vmshadle
Adobe-Meadow
on Jul 19, 2017 at 11:29 am
vmshadle, Adobe-Meadow
on Jul 19, 2017 at 11:29 am

[Post removed due to deletion of referenced comment.]


BLAH
Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jul 19, 2017 at 12:06 pm
BLAH, Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jul 19, 2017 at 12:06 pm

Since my post was removed, let me try again.

@Downtowner says "The residentialists lost the last election, and the voters gave three pro-housing candidates the most votes."

Wrong, the pro-developer candidates, as evidenced by the number of developer contributions that was donated after Election Day to...let me provide the names so it is very obvious and evident...Liz Kniss, Greg Tanaka and Adrian Fine. These 3 changed their positions to be residentialists. The difference is that residentialists advocate for a safe and healthy community with excellent schools, infrastructure and city services that is sustainable.

Residentialists are not entitled people who passes the buck to others to fund their benefits.

Keep Trumping Downtowner.


resident
Midtown
on Jul 19, 2017 at 12:21 pm
resident, Midtown
on Jul 19, 2017 at 12:21 pm

[email protected] South,

I don't see how the proposed senior citizen housing would have solved your babysitter's rent problem, since the baby sitter would have to be a senior citizen without kids.

Redwood City has approved high density apartment buildings with over 2,200 units around their downtown, and they are all luxury apartment units, with a 1 bedroom unit renting out for over $3,800/month (not including utilities). If Palo Alto were to rezone for higher density, the same would happen - all we would get are luxury housing units.

I fail to see why you aren't paying your babysitter a wage sufficient for them to live in the area - instead you are asking the other homeowners to subsidize your baby sitting needs.


Gordon Gecko
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 19, 2017 at 1:27 pm
Gordon Gecko, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 19, 2017 at 1:27 pm

Given our 4:1 commuters to resident ratio and the CC's continued approval of more office and hotel construction, it's pretty clear that the new CC members are pro-development, not pro-housing. If they'd cared at all about "affordability," they would have pushed for rent limits on the ADUs they rushed through and more BMR units in all the under-parked developments they keep approving.


Jemaho
Community Center
on Jul 19, 2017 at 1:54 pm
Jemaho, Community Center
on Jul 19, 2017 at 1:54 pm

Bravo, Downtowner! My sentiments exactly. The issue is directly personal to me.


John
Barron Park
on Jul 19, 2017 at 2:12 pm
John, Barron Park
on Jul 19, 2017 at 2:12 pm

As one who voted for the resistance to the original plan of subsidized housing in Barron Park, I fully support the 16 home final solution. These homes will be fully tax paying members of our community. The original plan would have taken these properties off our tax rolls. We voted, and we WON! Don't touch our victory!


Greenacres
Green Acres
on Jul 19, 2017 at 2:23 pm
Greenacres, Green Acres
on Jul 19, 2017 at 2:23 pm

Here we go again, with the fake news the bash residents at Maybell to serve overdevelopment interests.

First of all, the referendum was not about affordable housing, it was about rezoning and appropriate land use for that location. For residents, it was as much about safety, as Maybell is a significantly substandard street and a heavily used safe route to school.

Quick correction for the story: the referendum was about the zoning at that location, which was an attempt to change it to many times the existing zoning as much for the benefit of an un-named for-profit development as anything else, it was never a referendum on the proposal itself. An analysis of the ballot language by an election firm, reported on by the Weekly at the time, judged the language of the ballot to be so biased as to be illegal. San Francisco, which is even more liberal than Palo Alto, shot down a similar development proposal with affordable housing during the same election cycle by an even wider margin — they have a more impartial election process in which all sides decide the ballot language, and could only say in the ballot what it was actually about, the rezoning. Maybe the special interests can easily manipulate the narrative, but I would think the media in this age of manipulative fake news, would try for more objectivity and stop furthering the tricks of the election in hindsight reporting.

Secondly, if it were not for residents at Maybell rebuffing the many-times upzoning, there is no way the developer at Buena Visa would have pulled out, which they did almost immediately following the results of the referendum when it became clear they would not be able to upzone at Buena Visa, since the neighbors at Maybell came out against the eviction of the BV residents. Prior to Maybell, no one in Palo Alto thought citizens could win a land use referendum. Not to take anything away from the truly hard work of those who saw the saving of BV through, but between the $15 million of money the City contributed to buying BV coming directly because it wasn’t used at Maybell, and the developer pulling out at Maybell only because of the referendum (and other developers likely being unwilling to get involved because they too couldn’t overzone), there was arguably many more times the affordable housing, of existing Palo Altans, saved as a result of the Maybell referendum.

Despite the development-centric reporting and thus continued slamming and dividing of residents, this impact on Buena Visa was on the minds of residents at Maybell. During the debates before the referendum, many of the residents called for a “working group”, both by approaching the Councilmembers before the upzoning went before the Council, and publicly in the meetings. They wanted a chance to work out a way to save the affordable housing, which was not an idle hope, since many of the same people had saved Terman Middle School site from being turned into apartments, in an almost identical battle in which they also ensured a 92-unit low-income housing development was built nearby. Had they been allowed to do this again, affordable housing would have won, although the for-profit developer would not. I actually think it’s good that the referendum happened regardless, because even if there had been a working group, it’s doubtful the developer would have pulled out at BV, and doubtful it could have been saved.

No, what was lost there was the opportunity for everyone to come together as a community, and even to save the orchard.

I was part of surveying the neighborhood before anyone even decided what to do, and the most favored land use was to save the orchard as public space, which could have been done almost for free, had the then Council been less intent on punishing residents. The most favored developed land use was as affordable housing – but ONLY affordable housing, not 60% a for-profit development, and not four or more times the existing maximum zoning density, with the City unwilling to consider traffic mitigation such as a light at Clemo to compromise. Furthering the election biases only makes it impossible for residents to come together for quality of life here, including affordable housing, although perhaps that’s the point of such posters.


How I see it
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 19, 2017 at 2:24 pm
How I see it, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 19, 2017 at 2:24 pm

I'm confused.

If "We had the opportunity for 60 units of low-income housing. Instead, after the fabled "citizen uprising", we ended up with basically the same number of single-family homes but no affordable housing."

Now we have the same number of single-family homes on the same property, how is it possible that they were they going to put 60 units of low-income housing on the same square footage of property with the single-family homes? The property has been maxed out with the single-family homes. Seems there was a choice to build one or the other on this property but someone decided to try and over-develop the lot. Too bad the city did not put pressure and support for the affordable housing over the for profit housing portion.


Curmudgeon
Downtown North
on Jul 19, 2017 at 3:45 pm
Curmudgeon, Downtown North
on Jul 19, 2017 at 3:45 pm

"The residentialists lost the last election, and the voters gave three pro-housing candidates the most votes."

You got a lot to learn about local realities. Those "pro-housing candidates" are incorrigible pro-development candidates. What local developers propose is predominantly commercial development, so commercial is what those "pro-housing candidates" dutifully advocate for.

Econ 001: Commercial returns more money on investment than housing. Money talks.


Lucy
Downtown North
on Jul 19, 2017 at 4:07 pm
Lucy, Downtown North
on Jul 19, 2017 at 4:07 pm

Why the cry for affordable housing for the few instead of rent control for all? Does Downtowner think it's easy for anyone who rents an apartment in Palo Alto or Menlo Park? Why should baby sitters be taken care of but not the rest of us? Most Stanford employees don't qualify for affordable housing but still can't afford to live here. With rent control more will have a chance to live close to where they work.

I live in an apartment where the rent has gone sky high with rent increases every year. Even my engineer neighbors are feeling the squeeze. I'm a lowly Administrative Assistant who will soon not be able to afford one more rent increase. Why should only the super low income people have affordable housing? Why not rent control for all instead of cramming in "affordable" housing for some, or more rentals without rent control that require a six figure income? What about those of us in the middle? I also don't want to see housing crammed onto every inch of available space when traffic and overcrowded schools are issues that haven't been resolved. I would love to see Mayfield remain an orchard, and the old dilapidated apartment buildings - of which there are many, torn down and replaced with taller structures with more units, all with rent control. We need a little open space here and there for quality of life.

Companies like Google and Facebook should not be able to expand to such an extent that their employees drive up the rent and force out those who can't compete with their salaries. Is there a cap on the number of employees they can hire? Where will they all live? Why can't they expand to other areas like Nebraska, LOL!


R. Winslow
Crescent Park
on Jul 19, 2017 at 4:31 pm
R. Winslow, Crescent Park
on Jul 19, 2017 at 4:31 pm

This new housing development only benefits (1) prospective owners who can afford to mortgage or pay CASH for them (2) developers, construction teams and real estate agents (3) the City of PA tax coffers (4) neighbors in the immediate area who might see their property values rise.

The rest of PA doesn't benefit one iota from this project.


Marie
Registered user
Midtown
on Jul 19, 2017 at 10:24 pm
Marie, Midtown
Registered user
on Jul 19, 2017 at 10:24 pm

Downtowner - those who refuse to study history are doomed to repeat it. Please read Greenacres detailed description of what happened at Maybell. To add to his information, the deluded developers who proposed the Maybell with a straight face, suggested that this met requirements of nearby groceries and medical providers by suggesting that Whole Foods and Planned Parenthood qualified - for low income seniors?

Palo Alto is so much better off that the funds were used for the acquisition of Buena Vista Park which will be low-moderate income housing for more families and seniors in perpetuity, with the enthusiastic support of the neighborhood - which is, strangely enough, the same neighborhood that was adamantly against the Maybell project BECAUSE IT WAS A BAD PROJECT!!!!

If the Palo Alto Council truly were concerned with affordable housing, they would insist that no further commercial/office development take place without at least 1.5 housing units being created for each office worker so our worker to resident ratio would improve. For Facebook to propose a development with 10,000 employees and only 1,500 housing units is a joke. Since every worker also generates jobs for service employees it should be 1.5 or even 2 housing unit for every new employees. If you can't build the housing units, then the offices should be build where the new housing units are.


Roman
Barron Park
on Jul 20, 2017 at 12:30 am
Roman, Barron Park
on Jul 20, 2017 at 12:30 am

I just don't get how Bay Area residents get so much power over what should be built and where. They basically treat whole towns and cities as _owned_ gated communities, where no foreigner allowed.

Which is just a crazy phenomenon for a free world as a whole and the States in particular.

There should be a way to take away this untouchable ability of residents to kill development and construction. Cities belong to everybody, not just to a bunch of baby boomers and city hall representatives. I think a good way to start with that process would be to repeal prop 13, so they start paying real taxes on their overvalued properties.


Anke
Mountain View
on Jul 20, 2017 at 7:48 am
Anke, Mountain View
on Jul 20, 2017 at 7:48 am

@Roman, if you follow the news, you notice that actually in the USA people are clamoring to retain local control over issues important to them. On many, many issues they are vehemently opposed to being told by Washington what they can and cannot do.

Also notice development and construction aren't being killed at all, just the opposite. Apple is just finishing up a huge project, Facebook is starting one and Google has one in the pipeline that they hope will outshine Apple's. And that is exactly where the problem starts. Commercial development as far as the eye can see, jobs created left, right and center (excellent!) but not going to un- and underemployed locals who need them (terrible!!) but instead to a never-ending influx of newcomers who are brought here solely for the purpose of taking those jobs, resulting in the crushing imbalances that we are all suffering from (unconscionable).

We need to restore balance., or at least move a little in that direction. Some people want to do it by building towers of stackable microunits, arguing that with increased housing supply, affordability will improve. But as long as tech growth far outpaces even the theoretical maximum possible pace of building those microunit silos, the housing costs will continue to soar.


Lost oportunity
Barron Park
on Jul 20, 2017 at 2:23 pm
Lost oportunity, Barron Park
on Jul 20, 2017 at 2:23 pm

Maybell is a lost opportunity to provide much needed low income and senior housing in our community. The Maybell local residents wanted to preserve and or enhance their home values by opposing development at existing zoning and they achieved their goal. All Palo Altans lost. There is nothing good about the Maybell outcome. Measure D would have won (zoning to allow the development) if the true goals of the Maybell residents were known at the time.

"Shall the Palo Alto Municipal Code be amended to rezone the property located at 567-595 Maybell Avenue from R-2 Low Density Residential and RM-15 Multiple Family Residential to Planned Community Overlay Zone to include 12 single family units and 60 units of affordable senior housing?"

YES! YES! YES!

It is not too late to stop this underutilized Maybell development. Please write City Council. Demand better (or at least up to current zoning limits) land use on that property.


Name hidden
Egan Middle School (Los Altos)

on Sep 26, 2017 at 7:52 am
Name hidden, Egan Middle School (Los Altos)

on Sep 26, 2017 at 7:52 am

Due to repeated violations of our Terms of Use, comments from this poster are automatically removed. Why?


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