News

Editorial: The shriveling office cap

Council's split over office cap will surely return as an election issue next year

Is the fact that there has been little new proposed commercial office development in Palo Alto over the last two years a sign that the city's 50,000-square-feet-per-year cap on new office construction is succeeding — because it has slowed the number of proposals — or failing because there haven't been enough proposals made by developers to test the competitive approval process?

That, in essence, was the speculative discussion Tuesday night at a City Council meeting in which all nine members can claim they voted to make the cap "permanent," but five of them did so only after voting to significantly weaken it.

Those votes, particularly the ones cast by Cory Wolbach, Tom DuBois and Eric Filseth, whose current terms end in 2018 and therefore may run for re-election, are destined to be issues in the next year's already unusual campaign — when the size of the council will shrink from the current nine to seven and only three seats will be open.

Wolbach voted with the 5-4 majority (made up of Mayor Greg Scharff, Vice Mayor Liz Kniss and Councilmen Adrian Fine and Greg Tanaka) in support of two changes to make the cap less restrictive, while DuBois and Filseth voted with Councilwomen Karen Holman and Lydia Kou to keep the cap as is.

The two changes don't gut the cap, but they undercut its effectiveness in two important ways: by allowing the rollover of any unused portion of the 50,000-square-feet annual allowance to the following year and by doing away with the competitive review process of all proposals submitted and instead shift to a first-come, first-served system.

Both changes were important to developers (although they would prefer that the cap be eliminated altogether), and it is disappointing, but hardly a surprise, that — with the exception of Wolbach — those candidates who supported these changes have received political and financial support from development interests.

These five council members tried to argue that the cap, which was adopted two years ago in response to community concerns about the negative traffic and housing impacts of unbridled commercial development, was discouraging developers from making proposals in Palo Alto and that the cap imposed arbitrary limits without regard to development and economic cycles. If the intent was to meter growth, they argued, then the cap should have more flexibility over longer periods of time by allowing unused square footage to accumulate for use in future years.

And without any evidence, they surmised that developers might be shying away from making proposals because the competitive process puts them under pressure to enhance their projects in hopes of getting placed at the top of the list. In arguing to kill off this unique feature of the office cap ordinance, Wolbach said he lacked confidence that the council could be fair in assessing the best proposals in front of it, a startling admission given the council is routinely required to make such judgments.

These arguments attempt to paint the current cap as flawed, while we think the community should be delighted with the results so far.

Where are the voices wishing for more office-building construction? We don't hear them and we challenge the five council members to point them out.

The original intent of the annual 50,000-square-feet office cap, unanimously adopted by the council, was to slow new commercial development in downtown Palo Alto, in the California Avenue district and along El Camino while the city's Comprehensive Plan was completed or after two years, whichever came first. The assumption was that some form of office-growth limitation would continue at that time after gaining some data and experience with the temporary cap.

The concept was responsive to strong community concerns about the increasing negative effects of big new office projects, and voting for the cap at the time was a political necessity for all council members. But as often happens, development interests have ever since been looking for ways to undo this restriction, and with the shift in political majority on the council with the 2016 election, the votes are now there to roll it back.

The irony and hypocrisy of this is that the same majority that voted Tuesday to make more commercial development easier has been advocating repeatedly for more housing. If there is one documentable result of the current office-cap restrictions, it is that it has led to more housing projects where office development would have otherwise been likely.

It is not hard to imagine voters becoming cynical about candidates who say their focus is on increasing the supply of housing while voting to make new commercial development, the major driver in demand for housing, easier.

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Comments

35 people like this
Posted by Give me a break
a resident of Downtown North
on Sep 8, 2017 at 10:53 am

The council majority made the right decision. They kept the office cap in place so no more than 50,000 square feel if new office can be built on average. Our neighbors Mountain View and Menlo Park are building millions of square feet of new office Space. The council majority is limiting office development to an average of 50.000 square feet a year. The Weekly's attack on the council decision shows a fundamentalist attitude that anything that doesn't throw up road blocks to development is bad for the community. The reality is that every town needs its buildings to be upgraded over time and obsolete buildings to be replaced. Most of the new office buildings in the downtown are positive additions to the looksnd feel of our downtown which is considered the envy of the region. The cap moderated the pace of change its purpose is not to kill off all new development.


55 people like this
Posted by Allen
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Sep 8, 2017 at 10:59 am

This city is being ruined by its success. Don't try and go on the roads from 3PM to 6PM. The cry for more housing is based on the out of line ratio of housing to jobs. But the solution is not more housing, it is fewer jobs. More housing is more jobs and more people and will just overload the city. Fewer jobs means less need for housing and a better city. Don't let people say I am anti growth. I am pro shrinking.


22 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 8, 2017 at 11:11 am

The people are already in the region and will continue to change jobs. What we don't need is more people moving into the region. San Francisco, Oakland and San Jose are all hoping to win Amazon's new facility. I hope that none of them get it. The jobs Amazon brings may be in those cities, but it will put a squeeze on housing all over the Bay Area.

Palo Alto can't do this on its own. The region has to look at the big picture of what is going on for all the residents in the whole Bay Area. The number of people who live in Palo Alto who work elsewhere can't be ignored as well as those who commute in. When a couple both work, it is unlikely that they will both live and work in the same city in which they reside for the next X number of years.

To make this region liveable, we have to get a handle on public transportation and get serious about helping people commute in an efficient, affordable way, at least for a few days a week if not every day.

I know one employer who only insists employees have to be on site 2 or 3 days each week and department meetings, etc. are all scheduled on the days they insist employees have to be there. The other days, they can work at home, work evenings, work weekends, etc. to make up their hours. We need these types of innovations as well as transportation fixes.

Getting this looked at as a region with an overall transportation body that includes roads, buses, trains, ferries, bridges, etc. is crucial to the future sanity of every one of us in the Bay Area.


34 people like this
Posted by Focus on transportation and housing!
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Sep 8, 2017 at 11:26 am

This editorial misses the point. The office cap has not been used, and it doesn't even try to solve the big problem: transportation! Our previous "no growth" councils were so focused on attacking developers and office growth, that they forgot to actually do anything about transportation or housing.


24 people like this
Posted by Downtowns Are Best to Reduce SOV
a resident of Addison School
on Sep 8, 2017 at 11:26 am

Let's not forget the city of Palo Alto started as two transit oriented developments: Hopkins Park (University Avenue) and Mayfield (Cal Ave). 125 years later, the best place for future commercial mixed-use (including housing) transit oriented development is STILL around the University Ave and California Ave train stations. It's good to see the development cap lifted for those two areas. Specifically, the downtown PA area is ideal to reduce Single Occupancy Vehicle travel: it is home to the 2nd busiest train station on the Caltrain corridor AND it is the terminus for THREE transit agencies: VTA, Sam Trans and AC Transit. The net effect of the commercial cap is to push commercial development into less transit accesible areas. Let's stop filling our Baylands with commercial development (ie East Meadow & San Antonio) and think more carefully about the large expansions happening around the Arastradero/Foothill area. Let's bring commercial mixed use (including housing) back to our downtowns.


29 people like this
Posted by On local news
a resident of Crescent Park
on Sep 8, 2017 at 11:29 am

With all the national talk about the media, information, "alternative facts", etc - I took some comfort that in Palo Alto we have multiple, high-quality, local newspapers... But the Weekly is really beginning to tarnish: over the last election, and continuing with editorials like this, it's less of a community paper, and more of a soapbox for a rich, entitled, no-change attitude.


21 people like this
Posted by Grant
a resident of University South
on Sep 8, 2017 at 11:30 am

The alternations to the cap were relatively minor and reasonable: extended thing measurement window over 2 years instead of 1 (effectively what the rollover does) just provides a bit more flexibility to handle changing circumstances without changing the main policy goal of metering commercial development in mixed use areas. Simplifying the competition process is also probably a net win because complicated processes have a tendency to just gum up the works needlessly. At the end of the day, these are modest changes on the commercial side and are not sell outs to developers.


9 people like this
Posted by Small Businesses are Victims of the Office Cap
a resident of Downtown North
on Sep 8, 2017 at 11:33 am

[Post removed due to same poster using multiple names]


12 people like this
Posted by Downtown North
a resident of Downtown North
on Sep 8, 2017 at 11:33 am

Oh come on - First point here is that within a 2 year period the limit is consistent. With how slow the Palo Alto process is, the decision to allow this is really just logical. It does not allow for any extra area to be built in the grand scheme. Second, the beauty contest was never tested but would be a trigger for an instant lawsuit that would cost the taxpayers dearly. First-come first-served is the only fair way to manage. Let's enact regulations to cause or incentivize the 'beauty' features like green, transit, etc. if we really want those. Adding it as part of the cap was never going to be manageable. Don't understand why the editorial characterizes these points or Wolbach as problems. None of this changes the fact that the proposals received since the cap was put into place have not come close to the limit. This article seems to just be making an issue out of something that really has not been a nearly the magnitude that the gang of 4 suggests it is. Maybe the author just doesn't want to see Wolbach re-elected. Here's my opinion - He's doing just what I want him to be doing.


6 people like this
Posted by Housing is being impacted
a resident of Professorville
on Sep 8, 2017 at 11:38 am

[Post removed due to same poster using multiple names]


19 people like this
Posted by jenny
a resident of Downtown North
on Sep 8, 2017 at 11:44 am

What many folks don't realize is that policy changes have long-range impacts that will be seen and felt in 10, 20, 30 years' time. This is how Bay Area generally and Palo Alto specifically ended up in a massive housing crisis. We didn't build enough housing for 30 years and now we are in trouble. The current urgent political issue is not wether or not to stop jobs (i.e. office cap) but how to build more housing and where. This in fact will be the focus on the upcoming election.

While many are inconvenienced by the economic boom Bay Area is experiencing, it is worthwhile noting that:

1. It is a Bay Area-wide reality and we are not an island. Unless you put up checkpoints in and out of Palo Alto, we are going to have traffic here because there is traffic all over the Bay Area. That's the reality. In fact we have more pass through traffic (just look at Page Mill and Middlefield) because people cannot afford to live near their work.

2. Despite many house-rich individuals this city has, Palo Alto is neither prosperous nor vibrant. By creating artificial policies such as the office cap, we are hurting this city now and in the future. And by not building housing near jobs and increasing the density we are hurting ourselves even more, economically and socially.

Thank you to those among our elected officials who have made a reasonable and sane decision this time.


24 people like this
Posted by Midtown Resident
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 8, 2017 at 11:48 am

This hit piece, sorry "editorial", is embarrassing in a lot of ways for Palo Alto. As a life long resident I am not used to seeing a newspaper editorial use the space as a campaign ad so far in advance of elections. I understand an extremely vocal group of people want to build a wall around our town and force out and destroy socioeconomic diversity, get rid of jobs, build no housing, and keep Palo Alto exactly as it was 50 years ago, much like many people want to do with America, but it's really too bad. This piece could easily have been title MPAGA, doesn't have the same ring but has the same message.


30 people like this
Posted by john_alderman
a resident of Crescent Park
on Sep 8, 2017 at 11:58 am

john_alderman is a registered user.

@ jenny - Page Mill traffic is not "pass through" traffic, because there are no offices along Page Mill except in Palo Alto. It is a product of overbuilding office space, and is almost entirely commuters arriving in Palo Alto to work, or residents leaving Palo Alto.

Palo Alto's daytime population nearly doubles from 75,000 to 125,000. In comparison, Los Alto's daytime population drops from 31.5k o 31.3k. Palo Alto has a huge imbalance in office space, and every additional square foot makes it worse and brings in more traffic.


23 people like this
Posted by council finally making sense!
a resident of Barron Park
on Sep 8, 2017 at 12:28 pm

I'm really happy to see some of our council members start acting rationally.

Our community has a problem with traffic and parking, partially caused by commercial development. We should therefore work on solutions to these problems directly. The debate and implementation of the "office cap" just serves as a distraction: we don't work on solutions to our real problems.

Thank you, Cory, in particular, for showing leadership


24 people like this
Posted by Lucas
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 8, 2017 at 12:29 pm

This editorial is ridiculous and sensational. The council made the right call in preserving and making permanent the office cap. The modifications are reasonable and moderate, and they do not at all diminish the intent and effectiveness of the policy. Wolbach supported the office cap, and I'll be supporting him in the next election.


21 people like this
Posted by Maria Garcia
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 8, 2017 at 12:40 pm

Cory has been a GREAT addition to the council! He's very attuned to the needs of this community, and his votes show it. We need to remain economically prosperous, and this vote respects that. Thank you Cory!


47 people like this
Posted by The Editorial is Exactly Right
a resident of Crescent Park
on Sep 8, 2017 at 12:50 pm

Big businesses and developers in Palo Alto will never be satisfied. Their comments above prove it. Having already turned huge parts of our community into a giant office park, they are now attacking the Weekly for wanting something different. They say not a word opposing the build-build-build pro-growth council members who repeatedly break their promises about protecting our city.

Every square foot of office built is a square foot that could have been housing. It's madness to build more offices without a housing solution first.


20 people like this
Posted by resident
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Sep 8, 2017 at 12:54 pm

I think we need to be looking at the tax base of companies that operate in our city. The major employers - Sutter Health and SU are non-profits. And we are also a center for "Foundations' that are non-profit. Some major cities on the east coast are going bankrupt because the ratio of non-profits vs tax paying organizations has passed a point of no return. We have a history here of small companies that start out - and if when they become a going concern move on to bigger facilities in a different city - FB, Google as example. We can keep building more buildings but we need to have companies that generate a tax base.


31 people like this
Posted by NeilsonBuchanan
a resident of Downtown North
on Sep 8, 2017 at 1:02 pm

NeilsonBuchanan is a registered user.

Dear "Downtowns Are Best to Reduce SOV"

I understand your logic but why is the city spending up to $30 million (est) of city funds to build parking for property owners who have failed to provide parking from their tenants. I can support the new garage for California Avenue. Surface parking is being eliminated for the new police station.

But city-funded parking for University Avenue developers and property owners is misallocation of scarce public resources. More parking at the corner of Hamilton/Waverley wont reduce SOV. Continued open space at current city parking lot is an option. Using $30 million more creatively is an option. Replacing current parking and adding housing is an option. The $30? million garage is the worst possible 1970s option.


39 people like this
Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Sep 8, 2017 at 1:13 pm

@NeilsonBuchanan -- Hear, hear! So tired of getting stuck paying for parking and parking garages for the 4:1 commuter to resident population over-running our city.

What have the big employers done for us except to dominate our city commissions where they get to demand that we the residents also pay their employees' commuting expenses?

At least Google provides the city of Mountain View with free shuttles around town as well as the big buses on which their employees commute from SF, the East Bay, etc. etc.

The arrogance with which Stanford dismissed Menlo Park residents' complaints last week was absolutely ludicrous if not unexpected. At least Redwood City forced them to discontinue their noisy 24-hour construction work that ruined everyone's sleep.


45 people like this
Posted by Annette
a resident of College Terrace
on Sep 8, 2017 at 1:54 pm

Annette is a registered user.

How about a period of parity in which the amount of proposed office space is approved ONLY if an equal amount of affordable housing is built? At least that would keep us from getting further and further into the hole.

I think there's some short-sightedness about what all this densification really means. It's not just about traffic congestion and parking woes and livability. I anticipate some re-thinking when the impact hits the schools and problems are visited on our children.

Also: why not do some of the office building in areas in the valley that might welcome the seeds of prosperity? Seems to me we ought to be able to create new industry hubs and housing centers instead of extra over-saturating those that are already over-built.


51 people like this
Posted by Cory Wolbach votes for Developers and Against Housing
a resident of Community Center
on Sep 8, 2017 at 1:59 pm

Cory Wolbach voted to increase office space and reduce future housing built by casting the deciding votes to water down the office cap. His and the pro-development council majority's priority is to support developers first and increase density as much as possible. They are not serious about mitigating the impacts of growth including traffic and parking. That is why we have not made much progress on affordable housing, traffic and parking than we could have if we had a majority that put the residents interests ahead of developers and their own high density ideology.


13 people like this
Posted by Higher density
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Sep 8, 2017 at 2:05 pm

Is the ONLY way to solve the regional housing crisis. It's also the smart and environmentally-most-sound thing to do. Yes offices cause impacts, but not having homes is a huge impact! This council majority at least gets that there's a balance and you cannot just pull up the gate, like the 4 no-growthers desire


33 people like this
Posted by john_alderman
a resident of Crescent Park
on Sep 8, 2017 at 2:17 pm

john_alderman is a registered user.

@Higher density - except more offices creates more imbalance with housing which caused more commuting and more traffic and is worse for the environment. So you are lauding a policy which does literally the opposite of what you want.


20 people like this
Posted by Ank
a resident of Mountain View
on Sep 8, 2017 at 2:22 pm

@Annette, hear hear! We need to do all of those things, and do them across the state, not just any one city on its own. For far too long, this state and its cities have incentivized commercial growth at the expense of everything else, creating the myriad imbalances we suffer under each day. We need policies that incentivize balance - jobs, housing, shops, services, schools, parks, infrastructure, transportation, recreation opportunities etc etc. A few voices are advocating for something at the state level that is very close to your suggestion - incentivize balance by rewarding cities that build enough housing to support their jobs by allotting them more funding for roads, transit and other infrastructure (I'd like to see schools added to that list). If we stay on the current path of population explosion, we'll get crushed under our own weight. It's already happened in other cities.


32 people like this
Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Sep 8, 2017 at 3:05 pm

I'll believe the pro-density folks are sincere about "affordable" housing when they also propose limiting or capping rents. Notice that when they rushed through the ADUs there were no occupancy limits or rent limits despite all the hand-wringing about poor granny and affordability etc. BEFORE they finalized it.

Notice that when a big project gets approved there are very very few BMR units. The recent Stanford project has 10 out 215 units that are considered "BMR" and those are slated for teachers who are usually making more than $100K.

Even Mountain View is considering some type of rent cap / control.


40 people like this
Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Sep 8, 2017 at 3:09 pm

@Higher Density, the 4 you describe as "no growth" aren't NO growth; that's totally unfair when they support logical growth that doesn't totally gridlock us. To think about the consequences of unfettered unrestrained growth that the infrastructure can't support is sensible.


11 people like this
Posted by 70s growth strategy
a resident of another community
on Sep 8, 2017 at 3:10 pm

Keep in mind that the office cap pertains to Downtown and Cal Ave, but not to Stanford Research Park, which is by the freeway and has a much higher driving rate. Unlike the University, SRP's trip reduction program is purely voluntary, and they offer fully subsidized parking, further encouraging driving. With full-force SRP growth, the downtown cap helps people who live near downtown to avoid looking at new buildings, but it doesn't solve traffic congestion and makes the city's climate footprint worse, for all the proud talk about climate action.


13 people like this
Posted by GoCoryW
a resident of Downtown North
on Sep 8, 2017 at 4:22 pm

FACT: LYDIA KOU IS A REAL ESTATE AGENT.
She not only received money from "developer interests," she is the definition of developer interests.
FACT: CORY WOLBACH AND OTHERS THAT COMPRISE THE MAJORITY OF COUNCIL REPRESENT THE VIEWPOINT OF A MAJORITY OF PALO ALTANS.
A loud and vocal MINORITY viewpoint is espoused by a highly organized, closed group who wants Palo Alto to stay as it was when they moved here. It was okay for them to move here, but they want to prevent others. The WEEKLY is among the MINORITY viewpoint, but since it's our ONLY online source of local news, it deceivingly suggests a majority viewpoint in it's editorials, and also by allowing anonymous negative comments.
Don't be fooled.
This article is pure politics.
FACT: Office development allowed every two-year period remains unchanged as the majority of council members kept the cap.
I highly doubt that the $100s that may have been received by candidates from folks that the Weekly considers "developers" is influencing their decision making. The current majority are simply more amenable to creating diverse housing options - from a humanitarian standpoint. To say they are in developers pockets is bs. Has it occurred to anyone that we all live in homes made by developers and shop and eat in places made by developers? I'm not a developer and not familiar with that industry, but I do know who gave what to candidates for campaign contributions and there were $10,000s given by 5 private families to Kou and to a PAC to support Not In My Back Yard candidates. PALO ALTANS FOR SENSIBLE ZONING IS A POLITICAL ACTION COMMITTEE with founding members of TOM DUBOIS AND ERIC FILSETH. Look it up. All true. The good guys are the majority for a reason and I wish Cory W much success if he runs again. We need highly principaled people like him on Council.


47 people like this
Posted by Cory Voted Against Affordable Housing
a resident of Community Center
on Sep 8, 2017 at 4:32 pm

Cory voted against affordable housing by allowing more office buildings to be built downtown instead of housing going forward. The Citizens Survey said on 7% of Palo Altan's feel housing here is affordable and all council members ran on the need for more housing with the residentialists focusing on affordability and pro development folks focusing on volume and density.


49 people like this
Posted by 6djockey
a resident of Green Acres
on Sep 8, 2017 at 4:43 pm

As part of the Gang of Five, Cory has consistently voted in favor of developers and this time is no exception. And recall that he led the charge to dismantle the Comprehensive Plan. After the outcry, he retreated with his tail between his legs. Let's remember this in the next council election.


11 people like this
Posted by Alexandra Acker-Lyons
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 8, 2017 at 6:12 pm

I applaud this move by the council. Frankly, Palo Alto is losing out on lucrative development and affordable housing to Mountain View, Menlo Park, and other cities. This is the right decision to help Palo Alto transition to a smart growth development plan.


8 people like this
Posted by Sideshow
a resident of University South
on Sep 8, 2017 at 8:08 pm

The office cap has always been a sideshow. 90% of Palo Alto's jobs and 95% of its commuters are in the Stanford Research Park. The Council capped office development in the downtown in a totally symbolic gesture that's probably counterproductive to reducing traffic if it just pushes development to SRP. Pat Burt took reducing development in the Research Park off the table, and we will be stuck with more traffic as a result. I'll take editorials about the office cap seriously when they start talking about reducing development in the Research Park.

All told, 2015 was a complete waste of a year from Palo Alto's point of view. A pointless office cap, no action on traffic and no action on housing.


10 people like this
Posted by Jonathan
a resident of South of Midtown
on Sep 8, 2017 at 8:12 pm

The majority did the right thing on this vote. And it may not be popular with the Editorial Board, but there are definitely voices in support of more commercial construction. If we had more 2nd floor + commercial office space, then we could free up more 1st floor real estate for restaurants, hair salons, pharmacies, and other stores that we need to keep our quality of life. Stopping growth puts enormous rent pressure on our retail stores.


31 people like this
Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Sep 8, 2017 at 9:53 pm

"Stopping growth puts enormous rent pressure on our retail stores. "

@Jonathan, I beg to differ. The office growth downtown and on Cal Ave has killed retail. Fact: landlords can charge higher rents to offices so offices push out retail. We had / have toothless "retail protection" measures that spawned "fake" retail that are really offices. I'm tempted to go into Institute for the Future. for example, and ask for a pound of multi-client studies or anything they can sell a retail customer.

Workers are there to work, not to go shopping. At most they might go out for lunch and coffee but they're not going to add an hour of shopping.

Parking's atrocious. Someone posted here recently that after circling endlessly amd failing to find parking to pick up her purchase at Bell's Books and unable to find parking, she finally called them and they brought her purchase out to her car. Her inability to go INTO Bell's and other stores discouraged impulse buying.

How much is the city losing in sales tax revenue when we're forced to go to neighboring towns or to order online from PA stores rather than brave the parking mess?

The city keeps adding more hotels so it can tax them -- which does nothing for the residents or the housing problem. Maybe each hotel should be forced to rent out a floor or a certain percentage of units AS housing. Thoughts?


34 people like this
Posted by mj
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Sep 9, 2017 at 12:22 am

"Palo Alto is losing out on lucrative development"

Lucrative for who? Most commercial real estate is held for decades, and there are quite a number of large commercial property owners where the land has been in the family for two or even three generations. And when it is sold there are ways commercial real estate lawyers can structure the transfer of ownership without triggering a reassessment of the property tax. When commercial buildings are redeveloped, that cost is reassessed and part of the new valuation, but not the value of the underlying land itself. If companies that lease office space in Palo Alto do not produce a product that has sales tax, then there is no profit to the city.

Seems to me the only people who benefit from "lucrative development" are the commercial land owners, and how many of them even live in Palo Alto?


37 people like this
Posted by Cory
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Sep 9, 2017 at 8:56 am

Cory's trying to make a name for himself, and his council gig is carrying all of his aspirations. [Portion removed.] He is representing himself to future special interest donors rather than representing his constituents.


5 people like this
Posted by Jane Huang
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 9, 2017 at 10:47 am

I'd like to clear up some misconceptions about how the change to the office cap works! Any capacity that rolls over to the next year expires the year after, meaning that within each two-year period, the total amount of office space built will remain within the 50k square foot cap. There is no weakening of the cap at all.


33 people like this
Posted by Onlinr Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Sep 9, 2017 at 10:56 am

@On Local News, I'm glad The Weekly is finally beginning to delve into some the worse abuses happening here in its editorials and in reporting on some of the city's spending abuses

Let's remember the quote attributed to H. L. Menken, "It is the duty of a newspaper to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable.’

The city, its various commission appointees and the developer-rubber stamp Gang of 5 city council memers have gotten way too comfortable and impervious to scrutiny.


26 people like this
Posted by Abitarian
a resident of Downtown North
on Sep 9, 2017 at 2:16 pm

Some posters above seem to think that the new "rollover" plan will not increase office development. They are mistaken.

Let's say in one year, no offices are built.

If there is *no* rollover, the next year, developers could build no more than 50K, so the grand total for the two year period could be 50K.

If there *is* a rollover, the next year, developers could build 50K + 50K, so the grand total for the two year period could be 100K.

With the exception of space for resident-serving professionals such as therapists, etc., this city does not need *any* more offices.

Additional office space will only exacerbate chronic issues such as housing, traffic, parking, etc.

We should be looking for ways to covert existing office space into housing, recreation, and so forth, not building more office space.


Like this comment
Posted by Gale Johnson
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Sep 9, 2017 at 4:43 pm

There was a lot to distill and comment on from the editorial and resulting posts. So many people made so many points, on both sides of the issue.
I think the majority had it right. If the original plan was to allow 50,000 sq ft per year, then project/extend that over just 5 years. That results in 250,000 sq ft. That's what CC signed up to originally so why isn't that still okay? And the 'beauty contest' issue? Unless there are well written detailed guidelines on what constitutes the best project in the 'Miss Palo Alto Office Developers' Beauty Contest' then Cory has it right. How many CC members are qualified to make that decision? 'Beauty is in the eye of the beholder', the saying goes, and if we have 9 pairs of eyes trying to pick a winner, there could be 9 different viewpoints/opinions on how 'beautiful' a project is. Who will be crowned with the tiara?

It saddened me to see so much political commentary in the posts. Yeah, some leaked into the editorial as well, but that was to be expected. And remember, the Weekly supported Cory when he ran for office.

@GoCoryW...Lydia Kou didn't vote like you thought a real estate person would? Cory did. But they think a lot alike on so many issues, so don't break it down to 'all good or all bad'. All our duly elected CC members work very hard for us. We haven't been hurt badly by the shift on council, nor were we hurt badly by the previous shift.

I know Cory very well and I know his true heart is in support of the less privileged, the homeless, the poor needing financial support for housing, etc.
I have disagreed with him on a few issues, and he has been open to discussing our differences. Specifically, ADU's and under parked proposed mixed use projects, housing/retail/office. I have offered my support for higher height limits in certain locations and even for more higher density in housing projects...micro-units...altho I can't imagine anyone living in one of them for very long. Maybe I'm claustrophobic.

He has grown in his three years on council. Yes, he's a Democrat...who isn't in PA?, (Well, I'm a registered Republican. Come on now, stop throwing those rotten eggs and tomatoes. Calm down, I don't want to cause a riot here in PA. I'm not a threat, and 'no' I didn't vote for Trump...I hope that will appease you enough to save my life) and a very liberal one at that. The only question mark I would have for him is...'Do you fully understand the details of our budget, how revenue is raised, and the limits we have to live within it...program cuts, possible staff reductions, dealing with union demands, pensions, etc, or fulfilling the long awaited needs for infrastructure projects to happen?' A little more schooling on that might be helpful. Other than that I think he is in a good position to make another run locally before he moves on to Sacramento to join Marc.


39 people like this
Posted by mauricio
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Sep 9, 2017 at 7:12 pm

mauricio is a registered user.

Allowing more office building means less affordable housing. It increases the job/housing imbalance. It makes the less privileged much less likely t afford any kind of housing in Palo Alto. Cory Wolbach may have fooled some people into believing he is "for the under privileged", but his votes demonstrate that he is solidly the service of his benefactor, the commercial real estate developers.

Wolbach may claim he is a Democrat, but his positions are very republican:build, build, build, the hell with the environment and quality of life.


35 people like this
Posted by @GoCoryW = Kelly Ann Conway
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Sep 10, 2017 at 9:56 am

@GoCoryW You must be a wanna be Kelly Ann Conway "Conman".

"FACT: LYDIA KOU IS A REAL ESTATE AGENT."
Yes! She is a real estate agent selling RESIDENTIAL real estate in the Peninsula.

"She not only received money from "developer interests," she is the definition of developer interests."
@GoCoryW It was proven Liz Kniss, Greg Tanaka and Adrian Fine who claimed they did not receive developer monies during the campaign, DID RECEIVE developer monies and are the definition of developer interests.

Kou did not. Your fake facts are just that...FAKE FACTS.


31 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of College Terrace
on Sep 10, 2017 at 11:57 am

The latest financial disclosure forms from last fall's council election recently came out. They show that Tanaka did return a $5000 contribution from the Wong family as he claimed when he voted to approve their University Ave project shortly after he was sworn into office. However, it also shows that he received three new contributions from developers in the same time frame that he declined to mention and these new contributions totaled exactly $5,000. Quite a coincidence.


13 people like this
Posted by Abitarian
a resident of Downtown North
on Sep 10, 2017 at 4:24 pm

@Gale Johnson

While it it surely not your intention, you are spreading false information.

Once again, "beauty contest" is a misnomer that opponents and the Weekly use to demean its purpose. This design competition was established to evaluate development proposals based on factors which include aesthetics, but also environment, traffic and parking, benefit to community, etc.

And yes, while it is dubious anyone at City Hall has the expertise to do so, it is entirely possible to make the rating process primarily objective and based on a clear set of criteria.

Here is an *oversimplified* example to make my point.

Let's take two categories, Environment and Aesthetics.

For Environment, let's say there are a maximum of 9 points total with 3 awarded for achieving LEED-certified Silver, 6 awarded for achieving LEED-certified Gold, and 9 awarded for achieving LEED-certified Platinum. Purely objective, no room for misinterpretation.

For Aesthetics, let's say there are a maximum of 3 points total, with each rater awarding 0-3 points based on their own preferences. Purely subjective, though ratings are comparative across two or more projects.

Note that in the example, the categories are weighted; Environment is worth 3 times as many points as Aesthetics.

Again, this example should only serve as a means of explanation and does not necessarily represent my own, or Palo Alto values.

It is totally feasible to construct a valid, repeatable system that fairly assesses projects and advances those that are most beneficial for our city.

Also, you suggest a great similarity between Ms. Kou and Mr. Wolbach. I disagree, and believe a tally of their votes would support my view.

While they may vote alike on "apple pie" issues which are often unanimous, there are vast differences between the two council members, particularly when it comes to "growth" issues.

Regardless of their non-political professions, and their campaign supporters, clearly Ms. Kou is for less growth and Mr. Wolbach is for more growth.

As others have written, my feeling is that Mr. Wolbach talks a good game, but his votes show his true allegiances.

Finally, thank for sharing that you are a Republican. Of course, you are entitled to your beliefs, but it does help me understand some of your posts.

I am a Democrat, but I do not agree with many of the DINOs (Democrats In Name Only) who occupy so many local and state elected offices.


19 people like this
Posted by Nobach
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Sep 11, 2017 at 11:54 am

I sincerely hope people pay attention to how people voted on this and other critical development issues. Cory was for housing before he was against it. This vote, enabling much more office development crowds out needed housing. The intent was an occasional peak of 50,000 sq ft in an year (it seldom occurs). By allowing a rollover, much more development can occur.

The ordinance as it was has been highly successful - the City is seeing more and more housing projects and not office buildings. Eliminating scoring based on desirable attributes was a huge mistake as well. Let the developers compete! Of course they don't want to, and the Gang of Five delivered exactly what the developers requested.

In casting the deciding vote against Housing, Cory is showing his true colors.

Nobach in 2018


21 people like this
Posted by Onlinr Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Sep 11, 2017 at 12:04 pm

At the CC meeting about ADUs, I'll never forget that when people asked about occupancy limits and where all the new ADU tenants were going to park, Cory suggested parking on our front lawns!

That's not the type of reasoned approach or "solution" I'd expect to see from any elected official when our neighborhoods are suffering from severe parking shortages.


17 people like this
Posted by Joe Hirsch
a resident of Green Acres
on Sep 12, 2017 at 4:34 pm

From my perspective, the Editorial was balanced and quite accurate. There are many people in Palo Alto who, like myself, are deeply concerned about continued office development, which brings many employees who do not live in Palo Alto, thus more cars and more congestion, given that the roadway infrastructure is what it is and cannot be significantly improved, if at all. And, generally, what "improvements " the City does make, makes matters much worse.

The Council 5-4 vote tells us, or at least those of us who care AND are watching, which Council members are pro-development (the majority of 5) and which are "residentialists" (the minority of 4), no matter what Council candidates say at election time to win a seat on the Council. As the Editorial correctly notes, this split will surely be an election issue in November 2018, if DuBois (a "residentialist"), Filseth (a "residentialist") and Wolbach (clearly pro-development) run again. We need Council members who will listen to the concerns of the residents of Palo Alto, who now realize that too much office development as has been approved in the past has brought our packed roadways to where they are - and, in addition, has filled certain of our residential neighborhoods with cars that take up virtually every available parking space due to under-parked office development being approved.

As to the "beauty contest" portion of the cap that was eliminated by the majority, wouldn't it be nice if new development - office space within the cap or commercial residential - be set back from the street? Cookie cutter developments that all look the same or similar and maximize square footage at the expense of some "beauty" make, in my opinion, for a less attractive environment. Every new development that I can think of is built out virtually to the sidewalk line. And those that are not, claim "public benefit" space that, in reality, is neither "public" nor "public benefit" space at all. We should be able to do better - much better - and the "beauty contest" aspect of the cap was an attempt to do just that. I'm sorry that it is gone, particularly if "first come, first served" is the new order of the day.

The Editorial is well-stated in that it focuses our attention on what our City has become and what it will be like in the future, particularly if the well financed pro-development forces continue to control our future. Palo Altans take note. You will be asked again in November 2018 to tell us all what you want this City to be in the future - a highly commercially developed city as Mountain View and Redwood City have become - or still a suburban city that balances sensible growth with the needs of the residents who live here.


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

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