News

Council members propose adding housing in commercial areas

Palo Alto officials react to Monday's dispute over rent control, personal accusations

Mayfield Place, a mixed-use and affordable housing complex, at 2500 El Camino Real has apartments priced between $1,000 to $1,700 per month for families. Photo by Veronica Weber.

After sparring and splintering over rental protections this week, Palo Alto City Council members are preparing to focus on another strategy to ease the city's affordable-housing crisis: revising the zoning code to allow more new residences downtown and in other prominent commercial districts.

That's the proposal laid out in a memo that was drafted by Councilman Adrian Fine and co-signed by Vice Mayor Liz Kniss and Councilman Cory Wolbach. All three have advocated persistently for building more housing, and all three opposed this week a recommendation from colleagues to consider protections for renters.

The new memo, which Fine, Kniss and Wolbach submitted Monday and which will be reviewed by city staff before it's released publicly, will focus on downtown, California Avenue and El Camino Real. Specifically, its aim is to increase the density of housing near to jobs, public transit and services, Fine told the Weekly.

The idea is to update the city's zoning code to foster "a greater variety and quantity of both below-market-rate and moderately sized market-rate housing," he said. While the specifics are yet to be hashed out, this could involve changing the city's density requirements for housing projects, extending the "pedestrian and transit oriented districts" zones (which allow greater development flexibility for projects near transit centers) and enabling mixed-use projects with both retail and residential space.

Fine said that when it comes to affordable housing, council members have generally fallen into one of two camps: those who believe that the city should focus on incumbent residents who are getting priced out and those who think the city should promote new housing to address the shortage and cost of housing regionally. While the council members who submitted the rental-protection memo -- Tom DuBois, Lydia Kou and Karen Holman -- favor the former approach, Fine, Wolbach and Kniss prefer the latter, he said.

"I fundamentally believe that the housing crisis is caused by a lack of supply," said Fine, who on Monday helped strike down the other proposal, which recommended the city explore rent-stabilization measures such as an annual cap on rent increases and restrictions on no-cause evictions.

The Monday night discussion over rent control ended on an acrimonious note, with the council's philosophical splits over the topic ultimately devolving into personal verbal attack. Wolbach suggested that authors of the rent-stabilization memo were "insincere" and argued that Kou's comments -- along with her tweet from April ("There's plenty of housing, you just need a superb Realtor like me," Kou tweeted, along with a link to an article about condominium supply in San Francisco) -- point to her unwillingness to look at other options for boosting the city's housing supply.

Wolbach said he also took umbrage at Kou's suggestion that some of her colleagues who want greater city growth were unduly influenced by developers or are in favor of policies that lead to "stack-and-pack housing," characterizations that he vehemently disavowed.

He told the Weekly that he was hoping the rent-stabilization memo "represented a change of direction for those who have previously been against tackling the deep and complex issue of the housing crisis."

Kou's comments on Monday suggested that this is not the case, he said.

"The reasons I referred to things from the past is because I saw continuity between those past things and comments I heard last night," Wolbach told the Weekly Tuesday.

Kou told the Weekly that as a Realtor, she probably would have also opposed rental protection measures like the ones proposed in the memo. But after spending some time on the council and speaking to community members from all backgrounds, she became convinced that this is a subject worth considering. Even though the proposals were ultimately rejected, Kou said she will fairly evaluate the proposals in the new memo, Wolbach's criticisms notwithstanding.

"What he did was very childish and immature, but if they come up with something good, I'm more than willing to be open to it," Kou said.

His comments questioning his colleagues' intentions drew a sharp rebuke from Holman, who chided Wolbach for implying that "we're intentionally wasting staff's time, wasting the public's time, wasting the council's time."

"It's upsetting to me personally because this is sincere," Holman said of the memo.

DuBois and Kou shared her view. DuBois told the Weekly he found Wolbach's comments "extremely insulting."

"I think the City Council took a big step back in terms of working together," he said.

That premise will be put to the test in the weeks to come, as the council concludes its review of the updated Comprehensive Plan and considers the new memo on encouraging new housing. Fine said the goal of the memo is to take a fresh look at the city's parking requirements, density regulations and review processes to see if they can be improved to facilitate more housing.

He and Wolbach both noted that the memo does not propose any changes to the city's single-family residential (R-1) zones or to the city's 50-foot height limit.

It does, however, recommend exploring new below-market-rate requirements for housing developments and reducing parking requirements in areas well-served by public transit.

Fine told the Weekly that the believes the city's housing shortage poses a "threat to the city's prosperity, diversity, stability, environment and community character" and noted that more than 70 percent of residents cited affordable housing as their top concern in a recent survey.

"Our new Comprehensive Plan does include exploration of policy changes to enable more housing," Fine said. "And it really is about time to take a look at the processes and rules we have in place and figure out what they're doing for housing."

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Comments

57 people like this
Posted by Happy About Housing!
a resident of Downtown North
on Oct 18, 2017 at 10:07 am

Wonderful to hear that a proposal is on the table for more housing. It is about time!


53 people like this
Posted by Pro Housing
a resident of Esther Clark Park
on Oct 18, 2017 at 10:12 am

I'm really glad our council is finally going to take a look at our zoning, the root cause of the housing problem. We can dither around the edges, but ultimately, we need to look at how the city supports more affordable housing across the board. Thank you council members!


21 people like this
Posted by No brainer
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Oct 18, 2017 at 10:19 am

[Post removed due to same poster using multiple names]


55 people like this
Posted by Homeowner for housing
a resident of University South
on Oct 18, 2017 at 10:22 am

This is a good direction.

I think Fine makes a good point about the two approaches to housing. I want my kids to be able to live in Palo Alto in a few years, if they get jobs here. Realistically, that means they are either going to rent or they will have to live with me. I want my kids to be able to stand on their own two feet, and that means that we need to tackle the housing problem. One side is fighting for current residents, often at the expense of future residents. But if we squeeze out future residents, we are also squeezing out our own children.

Permitting more housing in commercial areas is a good step towards making room in Palo Alto for our children, too.


46 people like this
Posted by True Residentialist
a resident of Barron Park
on Oct 18, 2017 at 10:23 am

Great to see some real attention to supply for a change.


42 people like this
Posted by Alexandra Acker-Lyons
a resident of South of Midtown
on Oct 18, 2017 at 10:23 am

I am a renter who strongly endorses building more housing. This is not an either/or; it's a yes/and. We can protect current renters and also build more housing. Mountain View is leading by example here and Palo Alto is falling behind. I also think the attack on Wolbach as "childish and immature" is an age-ist comment. Had someone said a older councilmember was being "tired and old-school" there would be a different outcry.


82 people like this
Posted by John Guislin
a resident of Crescent Park
on Oct 18, 2017 at 10:25 am

This new memo demonstrates a severe lack of understanding of economic principles. To think that building more units will deliver low or moderate priced units is a fool's wish. What more units will surely do is worsen the congestion on our streets and reduce the quality of life for everyone in Palo Alto.

The Council needs to first develop and IMPLEMENT a plan to improve transportation flow before any new development takes place, especially near our commercial centers.


23 people like this
Posted by Homeowner for housing
a resident of University South
on Oct 18, 2017 at 10:29 am

It's also odd to see the Weekly covering the acrimony on Council like it was a new thing. Remember how negative the 2014 elections were, with residentialists portraying their opponents as stooges of developers? Remember in 2016 how Keller and Kou ran ads saying that Adrian Fine was in favor of "high-rise condos"? (He wasn't.) Remember when Lydia Kou's treasurer registered a PAC in the name of a rival organization that was actually a non-profit? I'm sure the non-residentialists probably did something bad, too, although none come to mind.

The acrimony on Council isn't a new story, although calling another Councilmember "childish and immature" sounds like a new low to me. It's been around since the rise of the residentialists in 2014, at least.


25 people like this
Posted by Mark
a resident of Midtown
on Oct 18, 2017 at 10:29 am

Kou's comments during the Council meeting attacking her colleagues were provocative and offensive. She attacked the majority as tools of developers. Why would she do that if she were serious about advancing tenant protections? What was she trying to accomplish in accusing her colleagues of supporting "stack and pack" housing, which is deliberately derogatory? I am generally supportive of renter protections, but Kou is not a real champion.


14 people like this
Posted by Homeowner for housing
a resident of University South
on Oct 18, 2017 at 10:30 am

@Mark - did Kou really say apartments were "stack and pack" housing in a Council meeting? Are you sure? That's pretty disappointing, although since basically everyone who lives in apartments voted against her, it's not altogether surprising.


54 people like this
Posted by Confused
a resident of University South
on Oct 18, 2017 at 10:34 am

"Wolbach said he also took umbrage at Kou's suggestion that some of her colleagues who want greater city growth were unduly influenced by developers or are in favor of policies that lead to "stack-and-pack housing," characterizations that he vehemently disavowed."

Wait, aren't they doing exactly that...building requires developers to develop, so these three (Wolbach, Fine and Kniss) are supporting developers and increasing housing density means packing it and stacking it.


16 people like this
Posted by 3-legged stool
a resident of another community
on Oct 18, 2017 at 10:35 am

This is a great step forward toward addressing the housing shortage which drives lack of affordability. True, Palo Alto can't solve it alone. Palo Alto can join neighbors in adding more housing including market and below market to alleviate the shortage. With that, renter protection can also help protect people sooner.


34 people like this
Posted by YES!
a resident of Professorville
on Oct 18, 2017 at 10:36 am

Finally, some proposals to REALLY make a difference. Everyone is committed to protecting renters with the right instruments -- and rent control is not one of them. We need to address supply and this looks like a reasonable approach. Don't build in the sacrosanct R-1 but expand to build housing near transit and services. I submit you also "relax" the 50' height limit to perhaps 55' or 60'. Are you really impacted by the 7-story President's Apts on University? Do you even notice that there's a 7-story building there when you're walking down the street? More density, relaxing height limits (I'm NOT suggested 8-10 story buildings) and requiring less parking will all make for a more livable, walkable, and sustainable city. Let's get out of the mindset that everyone wants to live in a single family house 2-4 parking spots (if you're using your driveway for parking). Contrary to what any people are saying, Palo Alto was designed as a CITY, not a suburban tract. Look at photos from the 20's and 30's of University Ave -- streetcars, tall buildings, LOTS of people walking down the street -- looks like a bustling small city which it IS! I eagerly await to see the memo put forth by the Council members. Let's do something positive for a change.


28 people like this
Posted by ritavrhel
a resident of Crescent Park
on Oct 18, 2017 at 10:51 am

I support increased housing in these identified areas. Let's be careful if zoning is changed that these changes benefit the residents, to be renters and Palo Alto; not just the Developers.

Zoning changes result in instant increased property valuation to owners. Any increases are best shared with the City either by requiring increase BMR units on the rezoned property and/ or by the City receiving at least 1/2 of the increase in property value resulting from any re-zoning. That seems like a win -win for all.

Not requiring significant concessions and money from any Developer benefiting from re-zoning reinforces the idea that some on the City Council are in the deep pockets of Developers.

This will soon be seen with the VTA property @ El Camino and Oregon Expressway which is not zoned for the proposed dense housing project. It will be coming to the City Council soon; watch carefully.

Palo Alto and the Bay Area are changing; we all know that. Wise growth is different than changing long established rules. Let's build, but please build something which will add to Palo Alto and benefit those who spoke last night about being priced out while serving our City and our children.

Palo Alto's real estate values are partially based on the outstanding quality of our educational system. More than ever, with the current crisis in school leadership, we need our teachers to continue their excellent work while serving as the backbone of our educational system. Providing BMR housing for them and firefighters, etc. is a priority I hope the signers of the Memo remember. We do not need more luxury apts. or condos which benefit few other than the Developer.


86 people like this
Posted by Norman Beamer
a resident of Crescent Park
on Oct 18, 2017 at 10:59 am

To say there is a "housing crisis" in Palo Alto is not appropriate, in my opinion. Rather, there is a "demand crisis." Palo Alto is pretty thoroughly built out, with a healthy mix of single family houses, condos, and apartments. But for various reasons, there is an extraordinary -- even irrational -- demand coming from all directions to live here. No city has an obligation to satisfy this kind of demand. The demand is partly due to the deplorably bloated overexpansion of office space in the city, which naturally leads to a demand on the part of workers who want shorter commutes. Palo Alto has one of the highest office-to-housing ratios in the world, and the council has "baked in" a steady further increase in that ratio. In addition, the school system is perceived as high quality -- and so understandably folks want to move here for the schools. But does that create an unlimited obligation to fundamentally change the quality of life to accommodate such ambitions? After all, there are plenty of other good school districts. And then there is the perceived "prestige" of living here, and the influx of foreign investors who are wanting a safe haven for an investment. Oh, and then we have folks who say "I want my child to be able to live here." What is this, a medieval village where no one ever leaves? So yes, it's fine to take sensible measures to accommodate low and moderate income folks to increase diversity and provide housing for our service workers, but let's not jump on a "housing crisis" bandwagon.


39 people like this
Posted by How much?
a resident of Midtown
on Oct 18, 2017 at 11:04 am

Before revising any zoning, I would like to hear from the council members sponsoring this memo if they have any idea at all how many additional housing units will be needed to make any dent in overall affordability of housing. I suspect thousands of new housing units would have to be built to make any significant impact on overall housing affordability. Even with relaxing some zoning codes downtown, on ECR, and near transit this will just be a drop in the bucket.


6 people like this
Posted by conflicts of interest
a resident of Crescent Park
on Oct 18, 2017 at 11:08 am

[Post removed.]


23 people like this
Posted by Neighbor
a resident of Downtown North
on Oct 18, 2017 at 11:22 am

Until the fifty foot height limit is increased/doubled, this is all just talk. They Bay Area needs 100s of 1000s of units and only thousands are being built. I like the direction of this conversation but we need to be bolder/admit how big the problem is.


73 people like this
Posted by anon
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Oct 18, 2017 at 11:24 am

Building new market rate housing will NOT make it "Affordable"! that is simply not true; many, including some Council members persist in spreading this misinformation.

Just a few weeks ago Liz Kniss at a council meeting declared there was a "glut " of rental housing in Palo Alto, when she wanted to promote office growth!?!

The city is already almost half renters with a healthy mix of SFhs and condos and apartments. replacing existing smaller more affordable housing with newer buildings will displace folks who will not be able to afford the prices of new housing. This is a very cynical and misleading approach that will hurt lower income residents. City council members should remember that they represent all Palo Altans, not just the most privileged.

DuBois Holman and Kou showed courage and leadership by proposing a discussion on a difficult topic; a topic that the other Council members refused to even consider,; some going so far as to question the motives of the Colleagues memo in away that was insulting, inappropriate and frankly embarrassing.
This kind of behavior is politics at its very worse and a clear display of naked greed.



14 people like this
Posted by Anatoli
a resident of The Greenhouse
on Oct 18, 2017 at 11:37 am

This looks like a good start to the housing discussion


2 people like this
Posted by conflicts of interest
a resident of Crescent Park
on Oct 18, 2017 at 11:40 am

[Post removed.]


13 people like this
Posted by commonsense
a resident of Professorville
on Oct 18, 2017 at 11:42 am

commonsense is a registered user.

anon - how is it that econ 101 does not apply in Palo Alto?


42 people like this
Posted by anon
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Oct 18, 2017 at 11:44 am

September 5th City Council meeting, discussion on extending the Annual office R&D growth limit.
Kniss states there is a "glut of apartments on the market"

here is a link to the video:
Web Link

go to time stamp, 2.29.20

which is it Councilman Kniss, a Glut of apartments or a housing crisis??? I guess it depends on which way the proverbial
wind is blowing!


64 people like this
Posted by Smoke and Mirrors
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 18, 2017 at 11:46 am

You know, Adrian, Cory and Liz, you could protect renters now AND facilitate more housing too. It doesn't have to be either-or. But you only want more development - just as you vote for more and more commercial development which feeds the need for more and housing. We do notice, you know.

But I assume the actual reason for generating this Memo is Cory's disappointment at failing to co-author the Renter Protection Memo as he wanted to and as he stated at Monday's council meeting (then voting no on it).

There is certainly no way that increasing the supply of market rate housing will make housing affordable in Palo Alto. That is not credible where we have 1 housing unit for 3.8 jobs. We would have to build tens of thousands of units of housing before affordability was affected, blowing out our schools, parks, libraries and infrastructure along the way. This Memo is simply smoke and mirrors for the sake of political ambition.

And by the way - funny the photo with this article - it picture Stanfords new below market rate housing - Mayfield apartments on El Camino near Cal Ave. Funny because no priority is given to Palo Alto or Stanford residents or workers at all. So residents there are from San Mateo, Redwood City, etc. Irresponsible of Stanford to not even house their own low wage workers and residents, not to mention Palo Altans.


45 people like this
Posted by Barbara
a resident of Downtown North
on Oct 18, 2017 at 11:59 am

NO, NO TO MORE HOUSING, AFFORDABLE OR OTHERWISE - ISN'T PALO ALTO CROWDED ENOUGH??


46 people like this
Posted by Anke
a resident of Mountain View
on Oct 18, 2017 at 12:01 pm

"if they have any idea at all how many additional housing units will be needed to make any dent in overall affordability of housing. I suspect thousands of new housing units "

@How much, this is actually an easy math problem that we face in Mountain View as well. When you're bailing with a teacup when your boat has a basketball size hole, you'll never prevent it from sinking. All that never-ending commercial growth brings a steady stream of new people to the city i.e. a high rate of population increase, so to get the jobs-housing ratio to the point where housing affordability improves, housing has to be added at an even higher rate. No static number of housing units will make a dent as long as the population explosion continues.


27 people like this
Posted by Fantastic!
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Oct 18, 2017 at 12:01 pm

I am so happy to see this effort take shape finally. I support you council members Fine, Wolbach and Kniss. This is the sort of leadership I've been waiting for.

To those of you who wish to make "Palo Alto Great Again" by reverting back to the "good ole days" - think twice about what standing in the way of progress has lead to on the national stage. These leaders are putting forward a strategy to evolve that makes room for more, not less. Build homes not walls.


71 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 18, 2017 at 12:03 pm

This will cause more traffic, more parking woes and will probably not help people who work in downtown service jobs find somewhere to live.

There is no guarantee that people living in downtown will work in downtown as spouses and job changes will make that unlikely. They will still want to own cars even if they can walk or use Caltrain for work. There is so little apart from restaurants downtown that they will need to drive to get groceries, household items and other necessities as well as recreational and social activities.

It will still probably mean that empty apartments bought for investment or teenagers living on their own or families renting to get a Palo Alto address for schools.

I can't pretend to be enthusiastic about this.


22 people like this
Posted by More Stack N Pack Please
a resident of Menlo Park
on Oct 18, 2017 at 12:19 pm

We need more Transit Oriented Development near El Camino and our cal train stations. I wholeheartedly support this proposal and if anything, I wish it would raise height limits in these areas. Palo Alto has an insane jobs - housing imbalance and its time to rectify that!


27 people like this
Posted by Dan
a resident of Midtown
on Oct 18, 2017 at 12:47 pm

They need to tread very carefully, else opening up commercial zoning to housing could result in more office space (inevitable), less usable retail and yes, a little more housing. But with more housing, we need more retail, not less or you get... guess what ... more gridlocked traffic trying to get/out of town to shop.


72 people like this
Posted by Compound Idiocy
a resident of Crescent Park
on Oct 18, 2017 at 12:55 pm

It's hilarious that Liz Kniss, under state investigation for illegal campaign contributions from developers, is so absolutely unashamed of her past behavior that she's willing to hand her developer pals even more millions in benefits.

And what a racket they have going. They build more offices, then say we need more housing to house the people in those offices. And when traffic gets even worse, they then say we need to build more to house all the people driving here. Which makes the traffic even worse -- so let's keep building more and more.

Don't be fooled. Their proposal will raise, not lower, the cost of housing. After all, what developer doesn't want more money?


20 people like this
Posted by YES!
a resident of Professorville
on Oct 18, 2017 at 1:55 pm

All this unfounded talk about the Council being in the pockets of the developers. What nonsense. How is Fine, a City Planner by profession in the pockets of developers -- is he taking kickbacks that we don't know about? Same for Wobach, Tanaka, Filseth and Kniss. Are they making a killing on projects? If so, let us know. Also you spit out the word "developer" like it's evil and greedy. Who do you think built your houses? Unless you built your own home you live in a house that a (gasp!) developer built? Crescent Park was a development, Walter Hays neighborhood was a development. Who do you think Eichler was? He was great developer who had some innovative ideas. SOMEONE has to build the housing and if they can make a small profit why shouldn't they? They're taking huge risks with their capital (especially in Palo Alto where the process is so slow). Cities don't have access to the huge amount of capital needed to build all the housing needed. Yes, of course there are some developers who are unscrupulous, just as there are in any business, but by and large the developments we've seen in PA have been great (look at the Summerhill development on the old PAMF site). So they made some money...it's a great development of both market and below market housing and is an asset to the community. Stop with the "evil developer" mentality -- it's myopic. Help these developers make the project better instead of putting a monkey wrench in the works just because they're building something new. If you can figure out a way to build housing some other way I'd love to hear it and discuss . Be part of the solution not just the party of "no".


23 people like this
Posted by Tired of Housing Crisis Deniers
a resident of Community Center
on Oct 18, 2017 at 2:13 pm

I'm tired of people denying the housing crisis. It is very real and people are affected by it in our city every day. Did someone say there's a demand crisis? Really? What do you want to do, build a wall around our city and pull the drawbridge up to stop people from coming? I believe our community is more compassionate than that. Let's roll up our sleeves and work together, and yes, include developers in this process to find a solution.


36 people like this
Posted by bill
a resident of Greendell/Walnut Grove
on Oct 18, 2017 at 2:27 pm

Yes there us a housing crisis, but the also is a traffic crisis. Have you been on Alma, Am or PM. Before we put
more cars on the crowded roads, please solve the traffic problems.
Do we want to become an LA?


30 people like this
Posted by Annette
a resident of College Terrace
on Oct 18, 2017 at 2:31 pm

Annette is a registered user.

After watching Monday's CC meeting I am fast drawing to two conclusions. First, this self-inflicted housing shortage has become much too complex a problem for theory-based solutions. I think we need to be factual, practical, and realistic. Second, we don't have the right people on the job. If we did, this now several years old housing crisis would be trending in the "getting better" direction rather than continually getting worse.

Frankly, there's too darn much politics at play in this town and as long as that remains true it is doubtful that anything will change for the better.


14 people like this
Posted by YES!
a resident of Professorville
on Oct 18, 2017 at 2:38 pm

@bill,
Yes, there's lots of traffic. Let's get some decent transit -- and for those of you sitting in your cars, perhaps you can get out of the habit on jumping in your car to go somewhere. Not everyone can ride bikes, take Caltrain or walk, but I bet if you really examined your travel needs you could probably do without the car sometime. The new housing will go downtown and near transit. Perhaps those living in the new places don't work in PA, but they'll be able to take Caltrain, busses or walk to work or to the grocery store, drugstore, cleaners and restaurants. I live in Professorville and only put 1000 miles on my car last year. The reason everyone's driving is because we laid out our suburbs so that we're dependent on cars. If you live where the services are or near them then you'd be surprised how little you need your personal vehicle. No one wants to sit in traffic so let's find solutions to get us out of traffic by offering solutions. Elderly can get to the doctors by Lyft or Uber, young workers can use Caltrain, kids should be walking or biking to schools and soccer practice. The root of the problem is not people, it's urban (and suburban) design so let's make it BETTER!


13 people like this
Posted by Armand Domalewski
a resident of another community
on Oct 18, 2017 at 2:49 pm

Palo Alto is deeply unaffordable. We need more housing, and we need it now.


9 people like this
Posted by Novelera
a resident of Midtown
on Oct 18, 2017 at 2:57 pm

Novelera is a registered user.

[Post removed.]


28 people like this
Posted by Compound Idiocy
a resident of Crescent Park
on Oct 18, 2017 at 3:13 pm

@Yes! writes
"All this unfounded talk about the Council being in the pockets of the developers."

Unfounded? Tell that to the state investigators who determined Tanaka violated election laws and fined him.

And how about when he gave back a $5,000 donation from a developer whose project he was voting on -- but other developers stepped into to give him exactly $5,000 in new contributions.


40 people like this
Posted by resident
a resident of Midtown
on Oct 18, 2017 at 3:47 pm

The current city council members have no clue. Private development will build whatever is most profitable. Go ahead and change the zoning, and you'll end up with luxury housing selling for millions, or apartments that rent for ultra high rates. And people who buy properties that cost millions, or who would rent luxury apartments don't have have the patience/extra time, nor the type of work that let's them utilize public transit.

Current policy for developing "below market rate" units is to build 5 "market rate" units for every 1 "below market rate" unit. So if the city wants 1,000 "below market" units, they need to zone for an additional 5,000 "market rate units. That is about 10-12 city blocks downtown. There are around 20 city blocks between Lytton/Hamilton, Alma/Webster. So that means razing 50% of downtown Palo Alto...

And after that is completed, there will be thousands who will still not have housing.

The problem with the city council is they operate from a simplistic idealism, and never do a detailed analysis to forecast the effect of their proposals.


52 people like this
Posted by Tom DuBois
a resident of Midtown
on Oct 18, 2017 at 3:48 pm

Tom DuBois is a registered user.

The discussion on Monday WAS on renter protections, it was not on rent control. The posters who are saying "everyone is committed to renter protections with the right instruments" must not have been paying attention. The proposal Monday was a high level directive to have staff propose increased renter protections. It was purposefully high level so those right approaches could be discussed and adopted. I had hoped that would bring the rest of council along. It did not.

Disappointingly, there was no support from council (other than the authors of the memo) for increased renter protections, even though one Council member said he was for renter protections but because he didn't write the memo he voted against them. Our modest proposal to increase renter protections was painted as the most extreme form of rent control because that was the strongest argument to defeat it. Anyone watching saw what each council member supported.

As discussed Monday night, renter protections are just one piece of the puzzle - following through on Council commitments to increase opportunities for housing downtown is another one. Due to the Brown Act, its highly unusual for a colleagues memo to be discussed publicly by its authors before its published. I have proposed and I think it's part of the new Comp Plan that we redefine mixed use downtown to be retail/residential (not retail/residential and office). These steps along with a continued office cap would ease the demand pressure and allow us to make a dent in housing. As long as we keep adding more jobs at a fast pace, we will not be able to impact housing demand.


18 people like this
Posted by 3-legged stool
a resident of another community
on Oct 18, 2017 at 4:53 pm

Council Member DuBois, thank you for weighing in on this topic. These are issues where emotions run high. I hope that council members can come together in supporting a full range of solutions, including renter protections as was helpfully brought forward, strategies to create below-market rate housing, and strategies to create more supply to address the shortage along with regional partners. The jobs/housing imbalance is another important issue to consider as you have noted.


18 people like this
Posted by Dismissive DuBois
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Oct 18, 2017 at 5:21 pm

Tom - an annual cap on rent increases is RENT CONTROL. No two ways about it. And you saying anyone against it "must not have been paying attention" is extraordinarily dismissive of Palo Alto residents who earn their keep and pay their mortgage or rent.


18 people like this
Posted by Anke
a resident of Mountain View
on Oct 18, 2017 at 6:03 pm

@Tom Dubois posted:
"I have proposed and I think it's part of the new Comp Plan that we redefine mixed use downtown to be retail/residential (not retail/residential and office). These steps along with a continued office cap would ease the demand pressure and allow us to make a dent in housing. As long as we keep adding more jobs at a fast pace, we will not be able to impact housing demand."

Thank you! Finally someone on city council who gets it. I'd like to make only one small adjustment: let's make it "adding more *tech* jobs at a fast pace", where "tech jobs" means those jobs that go to outsiders who are brought into our region solely for the purpose of taking the jobs. By contrast, adding more jobs in retail and services - that primarily go to locals - adds to the vibrancy of the community. And please help convince Mountain View as well. We're in the same boat.


1 person likes this
Posted by the_punnisher
a resident of Mountain View
on Oct 18, 2017 at 6:30 pm

the_punnisher is a registered user.

Sigh. The demographics across the nations are changing. Smart people have been packing up and leaving both the East and West Coasts. Part of this is weather related; when everything you have is gone, what risk is there when you take a settlement check and move on. That may also be the case when the fires finish off the many thousands of residents and businesses of Northern California. This has happened in many Gulf and Eastern Communities; Now it is California's turn to feel what it is like.
For many developers, Northern California wildfires mean instant money in their pockets. Compare that to the talk and fits and starts to get something built in Palo Alto. You have seen the pictures, whole communities burnt to the ground. Who will rebuild those communities?
I have an interesting perspective; My son-in-law just rescued both my daughter and granddaughter from a fire that damaged their home. Our rebuilding process is just starting as many California fire victims will be doing.

I just wanted to put the Palo Alto Housing Crisis in perspective...Remember, it is all about people and community...


18 people like this
Posted by Cory Wolbach
a resident of Palo Verde
on Oct 18, 2017 at 6:44 pm

Cory Wolbach is a registered user.

@Tom DuBois,
I hope you'll accept on my offer by email to meet and clear up some misunderstandings of what happened Monday. While you have accused others of making unfair characterizations, you seem to do the same here. Below are a few things I take issue with in your comment above.

1. "...one Council member said...because he didn't write the memo he voted against..." – This is untrue. I wish I had been a coauthor because perhaps I could have helped improve the memo so that it would have received majority support on council and more support in the community.  Perhaps I should have been more clear about this on Monday, but I never said this was my reason for voting against your motion. I wanted to find a way to move the memo forward, which was clearly not going to happen in the form presented, regardless of how I voted. As I said Monday, I was open to amendments.

2. "The discussion on Monday WAS on renter protections, it was not on rent control". – The memo and the motion you offered Monday clearly included rent stabilization, which is what Californians mean when we say "rent control." Claiming repeatedly that the proposal was “not rent control” might be technically accurate, but doesn't clear up confusion, doesn't respond to the intention of the speakers who say “rent control” when they mean “rent stabilization,” and strikes many as obfuscation.

3. "The proposal Monday was a high level directive to have staff propose increased renter protections." – The specificity and divisiveness of the motion contradicted your comments on Monday and here. The memo and motion jumped to specifics, and the only specifics you tried to move forward are widely recognized as the most divisive forms of renter protections. (Look what happened in San Mateo and Burlingame.) I agreed with your call for a high level discussion, not your motion which called for specifics.

4. "...there was no support from council (other than the authors of the memo) for increased renter protections..." – This is not true. I support greater renter protections, but opposed the specific wording of your motion. I am very interested in relocation assistance, mandatory mediation or arbitration, and maybe other measures. I don't think I am alone.

5. "Our modest proposal to increase renter protections was painted as the most extreme form of rent control because that was the strongest argument to defeat it." – Your proposal was for the most extreme and divisive forms of renter protections available to cities in California. You could have made a case for them, or could have kept the motion high level. But here you are misrepresenting what was in your motion and accusing others of misrepresenting you for pointing out the actual text of your motion.

Your colleague,
Cory


9 people like this
Posted by common sense
a resident of Midtown
on Oct 18, 2017 at 6:53 pm

Tom,

"Renter protection" is a clever way to say "rent control". You just became a political hack by trying to play with words. Limiting what a property owner can charge for rent is "rent control", renter protection", "rent stabilization"...

There are plenty of cities that have "rent control"/"renter protection"/"rent stabilization", and none of them have worked other than the government determining who can gets subsidize, and who doesn't.


12 people like this
Posted by Anonymous
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 18, 2017 at 7:07 pm

The question the whole City Council should ask staff to analyze is “What is the demand elasticity for housing in Palo Alto?” If the elasticity is high, then build more units. If the elasticity is low, then renter protection. More units with low elasticity will benefit big-tech workers. Rent control with high elasticity will inhibit production.

Wouldn’t it be nice if policy came from data rather than from politics? Wouldn’t it be nice if we used graduate level economics and public policy rather than Econ 101 to inform our discussion?


62 people like this
Posted by No to growth
a resident of Downtown North
on Oct 18, 2017 at 7:19 pm

All of the people calling blindly for "more housing" don't seem to be able to see the whole picture. How many people do you want in Palo Alto? 5 million, 1 million, 200,000? With massive approval for non-stop development and growth in the tech sector we could add 30,000 units and still not house the deficit for the bay area. But we could destroy our city, our schools, our infrastructure, pollute ourselves out of existence and destroy what little quality of life is left around here.

We do not have a housing crisis. We have a lack of planning by any government entity in the bay area to rein in development growth so that it doesn't outpace the ability to provide housing, to provide adequate transportation options and to provide an unpolluted, good quality of life for the residents of the area. Isn't that what government is suppose to be for - the people who live here and elect them? Not the people who want to build here and hire thousands of people here and overpopulate the area.

The bay area and Palo Alto will never be able to house all of the workers that they have allowed developments who want to hire them. This is why prices have gone up. We can not build our way out of this crisis without severely destroying the area and the state. It is time for residents to fight back and demand that the city stop developing at all. No more businesses and no more housing. Prices will go up but hopefully businesses will leave due to lack of parking and lack of affordable housing and then perhaps things will begin to equalize again. Probably not likely due to the fact that multiple cities are all crammed together and affect one another, but we can only control our city and we should learn to "just say no" to any more building that will destroy this area.


9 people like this
Posted by @3 Legged
a resident of another community
on Oct 18, 2017 at 7:26 pm

The Urban Displacement Project calls your 3 legs of your stool, the 3 P's for affordable housing: Protect, Preserve, Produce. Seems like politics, strawmen, FUD sawed off the Protection leg....on the back of renters.


40 people like this
Posted by Annette
a resident of College Terrace
on Oct 18, 2017 at 7:48 pm

Annette is a registered user.

About specifics - let's jump right into the issue of affordability. How is that achieved in Palo Alto? I would very much like to learn from CC what they propose on that. Land is scare, construction is expensive, and it is reasonable to factor in profit. So where's the magic? What are your ideas on that and how viable are they? It is quite possible that we will plow forward in a quest to relieve certain pressures only to find that the net gain in housing inventory is minimal, the impact on infrastructure and livability is substantial, and affordability is still a "not". This could well mean that community serving retail is not improved, people with community-serving jobs still cannot live here, our infrastructure is even more burdened, and we have FAILED to achieve affordability, the very thing that will be used as the justification for densification.

Please, get specific on this.


19 people like this
Posted by Abitarian
a resident of Downtown North
on Oct 18, 2017 at 7:54 pm

Before allowing any significant new development, my feeling is that city leaders should consider policies that would incentivize the conversion of existing office space to housing.

This is the only alternative with the potential for easing pain on a variety of dimensions without further eroding quality of life.


22 people like this
Posted by Palo Parent
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Oct 18, 2017 at 8:02 pm

The traffic situation in Palo Alto is not rocket science with only three main ways in or out of Palo Alto: You can't pour 10 gallons of water into a 5 gallon hat, or 15 gallons for that matter.


63 people like this
Posted by Smoke and Mirrors
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 18, 2017 at 9:12 pm

Oh come on Cory - drop the sanctimony.
First, your list of tepid renter "protections" are like an protective umbrella shot with holes. Not much of an indication that you a lot of substance to contribute to this memo. Think on this.
And the "extreme" measures you chastise DuBois for includes nothing that the State Democratic Party doesn't already include in its platform - the same political party with which you so closely identify. Unless you now want to confess to us all that you are a member of an extremist political group - the CA Democratic Party - then I think you, for the 2nd time in 2 days, owe Councilman DuBois an apology. The first for your unseemly behavior Monday night, and here again pointing your accusatory finger (you really gotta stop that) totally inappropriately.


9 people like this
Posted by Mirrors and Smoke
a resident of Crescent Park
on Oct 18, 2017 at 10:58 pm

Interesting that posters attack Wolbach for being discourteous while staying silent when DuBois wrote sn op ed calling Wolbach and his colleagues wolves in sheeps’ clothing and these posters couldseems not find their voice when Kou called Wolbach reckless and disingenuous.

Do we have hypocrisy and politics at work here?

Seems like posters think it is okay to attack people they don’t like politically but absolve council members they voted for who call theirs colleagues names and attack their integrity.

Has Trumpism come to Palo Alto politics. I thought we were better than that.


36 people like this
Posted by Marie
a resident of Midtown
on Oct 18, 2017 at 11:26 pm

Marie is a registered user.

I don't understand the efforts to concentrate housing and office downtown and CA avenue. Caltrain is at capacity. Even with electrification and HSR, the increased capacity is not that great - is it even 20%? The VTA does not operate a system that attracts very many riders and has one of the lowest farebox recoveries ever. In 2016 it was 12%

Web Link

The only mass transit that has seriously worked is private bus systems operated by large corporate employers on large campuses, such as Facebook and Google. Housing should be built near where the office development is taking place. Both the Facebook and Google proposed housing is a small fraction of the additional employees they plan to add.

And in general the only way to reduce the housing/employee imbalance is to build more housing than offices. That seems to have escaped the PA Council and ABAG. Why not require two housing units to be built per office space per employee? Build the housing - then build the offices. This is not rocket science. Every forecast I see calls for far more office space than housing. Just say no. Housing yes. Commercial development no.


7 people like this
Posted by Let's get to work!
a resident of Barron Park
on Oct 19, 2017 at 3:27 am

the more i think about the proposal from Dubois et al, the angrier I get. At best, it is completely cynical: none of them actually believe in "rent control", and certainly their proposal doesn't do much to help real people.

The clincher, though, is the timing. Their next meeting is to discuss the final Comp Plan draft. They know that a citizen's committee spent over a year discussing the policy framework for Palo Alto housing. Rent Control was certainly discussed (and rejected). To decide that they will now insert a massively controversial program (that is generally rejected as effective by both economists and city planners, and by anyone with common sense) is a terrible use of their time and city staff time.

The Comp Plan has a lot of projects that are implied. Several are contained within the colleagues memo submitted by Wolbach, Fine et al.

Council Members should roll up their sleeves, put on their big kid pants, and get to work. Align yourselves with the Comp Plan and fulfil the vision of our fellow citizens that worked so hard on this effort!


3 people like this
Posted by Smoke and Mirrors
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 19, 2017 at 6:53 am

ALERT - I did not post the comment 3 up from here that was posted from crescent park.
[Portion removed.]


5 people like this
Posted by Mirrors and Smoke
a resident of Crescent Park
on Oct 19, 2017 at 7:43 am

[Post removed.]


31 people like this
Posted by Econ 101
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Oct 19, 2017 at 8:09 am

@Adrian Fine, et al-How much housing do you think you need to build to reduce prices? 5,000 units? 10,000? 25,000? Do you have any data? Studies? Had you voted to study rent control, perhaps we might have gotten some data to go forward on. [Portion removed.]


37 people like this
Posted by too late
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 19, 2017 at 8:29 am

The housing crisis, supply and affordability, cannot be solved by cramming more units into Palo Alto.The job growth simply far outpaces any such effort. There is no infrastructure here to support more development at that scale. This has been a City with no semblance of proper zoning or planning, or even good design review to top it off(a Cheesecake Factory on University Ave is the
symbol for that).The City is degrading toward an ugly,dysfunctional urban environment. What we don't have is a comprehensive,integrated public transportation system,rail and bus, which would allow people to commute into a job center like Palo Alto from housing further out. We are not even close to having such a system. Palo Alto has been
in the forefront of reckless land use development
policies in a City which had the most to lose and
that is exactly what has been and is happening.
We need a new Council majority and it's at least
15 years too late.





4 people like this
Posted by [Name removed.]
a resident of Crescent Park
on Oct 19, 2017 at 9:11 am

[Post removed.]


35 people like this
Posted by Anke
a resident of Mountain View
on Oct 19, 2017 at 9:52 am

@Econ 101 asks
"How much housing do you think you need to build to reduce prices? 5,000 units? 10,000? 25,000? Do you have any data? Studies?"

As long as commercial office space is allowed to continue to spread, no static amount of added housing will reduce prices. New housing would have to be added continually, every year, and at a pace that surpasses office growth. However, at some point the city will become so dysfunctional that even the techies begin to look elsewhere and supply and demand will naturally stabilize. This is hardly the outcome that most Palo Alto community members are aiming for.


22 people like this
Posted by Jobs to Housing Imbalance
a resident of Mayfield
on Oct 19, 2017 at 11:01 am

If the goal is to STABALIZE the jobs to housing imbalance in Palo Alto let's only allow as much office as the previous years housing production can support. So for example if 100 units were added to the City's housing stock in the previous year then a maximum of 25,000s.f. of office (100x250s.f. of commercial per employee/job)could be approved the following year.

If the City is looking to IMPROVE or FIX the jobs to housing imbalance in Palo Alto then the City should approve less office than the previous year's housing unit production could support.


25 people like this
Posted by Annette
a resident of College Terrace
on Oct 19, 2017 at 12:48 pm

Annette is a registered user.

I hope CC is reviewing these comments b/c there have been some sensible comments that deserve consideration. Like today's from Jobs to Housing Imbalance/Mayfield and the posts from Anke/Mtn View and Marie/Midtown.

There should be transparency as to what sort of housing the Council majority supports. Is it more housing, period, or is it affordable housing, or is it BMR housing?

"I support Affordable Housing" is a terrific campaign slogan. Defining that and having a viable plan to deliver on that is a different matter. The community deserves to know Council's intentions.


35 people like this
Posted by Convert Office Space to Housing
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Oct 19, 2017 at 2:29 pm

Convert Office Space to Housing is a registered user.

Over the last two decades, we have built ourselves into a poor jobs-housing imbalance, which has led to congestion, pollution, stress, abag problems, and more.

The solution is not to continue to build ourselves out of this. That will just create more problems.

Instead, we need to figure out how to convert existing office space to housing, much of it affordable. That most directly addresses the problems we are facing, and many of the offices are in exactly the right place to do this, near transit and/or downtown areas.

I'd like to see an analysis of this. We should add *no* office space until we have the balance under control. I am so upset with the current City Council.

If anyone has data for the rate of jobs vs housing growth in Palo Alto over the last 30+ years (or whatever is available), I would love to see it. Even better if we have similar for neighboring towns. I will use this to talk with my neighbors to diminish the voice of the PAF [portion removed] and get more residents speaking up.

Thanks.


5 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 19, 2017 at 3:50 pm

There’s a split on this as follows:


If you think no realistic amount of new supply will make Palo Alto housing prices affordable to middle or low income people:
--> Implement rent control or stabilization
--> Raise development fees and use the money to fund more below market rate housing


If you think building market rate housing actually WILL bring prices down significantly:
--> Relax zoning to encourage developers to build more market rate housing


If you just want to build a lot more housing, and aren't worried about who can afford it:
--> Relax zoning to encourage developers to build more market rate housing
--> Reduce development fees to make Palo Alto more attractive vs neighbor cities


36 people like this
Posted by Let's not be naive
a resident of Green Acres
on Oct 19, 2017 at 3:56 pm

Some members in the council have received support and $ from powerful real estate developers. I guess you all know why and what is expected in return.

Pushing for more housing might sound wonderful to many people, but it comes at a heavy cost for those of us in the community. These local politicians will label their projects with so many nice labels that it would be hard to resist, but please take a step back, ask questions about their true intentions, and think about the negative impact of having additional housing to our congested roads and schools.

Additional housing will not make it any more affordable to live in this town. It will just make it more congested with people who can pay high prices and enrich the developers who are pushing many of our city council members to advance their agendas.


34 people like this
Posted by Douglas Moran
a resident of Barron Park
on Oct 19, 2017 at 4:15 pm

Douglas Moran is a registered user.

To the question of how much housing Palo Alto would need to build:
1. Simplifying but false assumption: no increase in jobs in Palo Alto.
2. Simplifying but false assumption: The job increases in neighboring cities will be matched by increases in housing there.
3. Goal: Get the Palo Alto jobs-housing ration to roughly 1:1.

Palo Alto has over 30,000 housing units and a jobs-housing imbalance of almost 3:1. Consequently, we would be talking of adding roughly 60,000 housing units to meet the goal. We would need to triple the schools, have a 4x increase in urban parkland (we already have a deficit), ...


50 people like this
Posted by Abitarian
a resident of Downtown North
on Oct 19, 2017 at 4:43 pm

The Mercury News recently reported an analysis that found a 20% increase in housing growth -- which is a lot for any area to absorb -- would reduce housing costs only 10% and that would take 14-36 years. See Web Link

Even a 20% decrease in housing costs would not make Palo Alto affordable for a true socioeconomic diversity and Palo Alto simply does not have the capacity to build and maintain the infrastructure needed to support the new residents.

Mr. Fine, Ms. Kniss, and Mr. Wolbach are all suffering from a severe case of magical thinking if they truly believe Palo Alto will suddenly be showered with sufficient transit, parking, schools, parks, supermarkets, etc. to accommodate any significant increase in population.

We don't even have the resources to meet existing committments -- think unfunded pensions, Caltrain grade crossings, and so forth.


60 people like this
Posted by Long Time Resident
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Oct 19, 2017 at 5:16 pm

No matter how much housing we build it will never be enough.
We could build new roads and communities all the way to the beach, and it would not help.
Our real estate is being marketed to billions of people in other countries now.
Countries where Westerners are not allowed own property (commercial or otherwise).

We don't have enough water for this kind of development.
The last drought was so severe that we nearly did not get through it.
The next drought cycle is going to be worse.

I have observed that most of the new dense housing which has been built here in past decade has been filled by people who have recently arrived to the US.
These are not people who are working at Palantir, Facebook, Google, or Apple, or in our schools. Open your eyes and look around. Talk to people. The young employees are leaving these companies after 10 years or less - unable to afford to live here, and looking for a better quality of life to raise children.

I think people are in some kind of denial here in the Bay Area.

I guess our council thought they needed to do something/anything to help and they did.

It's the thought that counts.


1 person likes this
Posted by Poor Kid
a resident of University South
on Oct 20, 2017 at 7:35 am

[Post removed.]


8 people like this
Posted by Curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on Oct 20, 2017 at 10:05 pm

Seems to me this is a clever plan to do nothing while appearing to do something. Here's how it works.

There being no vacant land in the designated commercial districts, owners of lucrative commercial properties must decide to convert them to less lucrative housing. No way in the present milieu.

So how about after this commercial boom fades? No workers, no need for more housing, no more housing created.

Mission unaccomplished.


19 people like this
Posted by job loss
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Oct 21, 2017 at 12:04 pm

The push for more Palo Alto housing is based on the assumption that the Bay Area will continue to employ as many or more workers, which is clearly not the case. The reduction in Bay Area jobs continued last month with the loss of 4700 positions according to the Mercury News:
Web Link


Like this comment
Posted by Robert
a resident of another community
on Oct 21, 2017 at 1:18 pm

@job loss

You have it backwards, a huge contributor to the jobs situation is companies being unable to hire due to a lack of housing.


14 people like this
Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Oct 21, 2017 at 1:46 pm

Online Name is a registered user.

This week there were several articles about how tech workers fear getting laid off due to ageism which now reportedly kicks in between 35 and 40 yrs of age.

How many people that age can afford a $1 million-plus home? How many of the 20-somethings who'll replace them after 10 years or so can afford one? And how can they -- or most people -- compete with the all-cash foreign investors so actively being sought by the big realtors?

You can over-build as much as the area can tolerate until the next tech crash but that won't help affordability one iota.


19 people like this
Posted by More Smoke & Mirrors
a resident of Community Center
on Oct 21, 2017 at 2:35 pm

Notice that this memo wants to reduce below market housing. The council members who proposed received significant developer contributions. It's likely this proposal also involves upzoning, which is gives huge financial benefit to the developers so they can build luxury townhouses without benefiting those most in need.


2 people like this
Posted by Robert
a resident of another community
on Oct 21, 2017 at 2:46 pm

@Online Name

You're completely ignoring what's actually happening in the real world, new housing isn't just sitting empty, look at the current vacancy rate. In what world could housing needed and being used by local workers be considered "over-build"ing??


17 people like this
Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Oct 21, 2017 at 2:53 pm

@Robert, I never said or implied housing will sit empty. How could it?

It certainly will remain in high demand so long as we have millions of foreign investors using US real estate as a savings account, with Palo Alto housing showing great appreciation.

It's the local workers who are complaining they can't afford housing -- and they still won't be able to afford it no matter how much we over-build, under-park new buildings and gridlock all the roads, use up all the water and prevent fire fighters and EMTS from reaching victims in a timely manner.


2 people like this
Posted by Robert
a resident of another community
on Oct 21, 2017 at 3:05 pm

@Online Name

Again, YOU continue to talk about "over building" as if the demand for new housing is coming from foreigners who need somewhere to park their money rather than people (like you or myself) who need a place to live (like you or myself).


9 people like this
Posted by is Palo Alto really a city?
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 21, 2017 at 6:32 pm

can someone explain how the figures work for housing in commercial areas?

Presumably these would be rentals, so the developer collects the rent ($) money, but pays the same taxes on the property every year? Renters have representation without taxation?

That sounds like a lot of pressure on schools, traffic issues, etc. Developers do the profit side, make up their costs with the market, and renters also pay market prices, but we have no clue about the rest.

On another thread about pensions, it says a database will be developed to study obligations, various scenarios - novel idea....how about a spreadsheet to understand these housing proposals.

Another issue is if Palo Alto is really a city. We don't have a real Mayor. The Mayor is not elected. A lot of talk and no figures, seems we are way in over our heads, like with the pension issue.


22 people like this
Posted by Donald
a resident of Downtown North
on Oct 21, 2017 at 7:03 pm

How many housing units would free up if Palantir were to leave town?


21 people like this
Posted by Annette
a resident of College Terrace
on Oct 22, 2017 at 12:22 pm

Annette is a registered user.

I was surprised to read in an earlier post that Adrian Fine is a "city planner by profession" so I looked on LinkedIn and found that by profession he is a "City Strategist" at NextDoor. He describes his job thusly: "I help build and market products that serve public agencies and citizens . . ." He has a masters degree in city planning and an undergrad degree in geography. And he served 2 years on this city's PTC. There's no reference to his being a City Planner, although I don't doubt that he is interested in the subject.

I was also surprised to hear Mr. Fine's comment on Monday night in which he inferred that he was formerly a teacher, saying something along the lines of "when I taught my students . . ." Interestingly, his experience also does not show that he was a professor or teacher. Perhaps he was a Teaching Assistant somewhere along the line?

Expertise is important b/c people rely on what experts say. For that reason it makes sense to me to be accurate about such things.


16 people like this
Posted by Anke
a resident of Mountain View
on Oct 22, 2017 at 12:40 pm

The posts about foreigners buying up our land suggest that maybe it's time to consider some policy changes. I read recently that Toronto, faced with the same issue, has already started restricting foreigners' real estate purchases that are not their primary residence. Other countries don't allow non-citizens (including legal permanent residents) to purchase real estate at all.


24 people like this
Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Oct 22, 2017 at 7:16 pm

Online Name is a registered user.

One of PA's other newspapers raises some interesting questions about this meeting and why we're proceeding when the planning memo hasn't been released. Web Link

"Fine and co-signers Vice Mayor Liz Kniss and Councilman Cory Wolbach submitted a draft of the memo to the city on Monday. Fine’s memo hasn’t been released publicly yet, but he said some of the ideas proposed include revisiting zoning regulations for mixed-use districts, allowing for more housing to be built on top of commercial space, and reducing the minimum number of parking spaces required at housing developments."

“Palo Altans are rightfully concerned about parking downtown,” Fine said. But he thinks denser housing in downtown areas, near retail and Caltrain, would reduce residents’ need to own cars. "

Questions:

1) We already have a huge problem with under-parked developments. Why would anyone want to make the parking situation even worse??

2) Given the ever-increasing jobs-to-housing disparity (now 4:1), given all the huge number of new jobs planned at Google, Amazon, Facebook, etc. how will workers downtown get to those jobs without cars, and given the increasing frequency with which people change jobs, what's to prevent them from needing cars in the future?




“Palo Altans are rightfully concerned about parking downtown,” Fine said. But he thinks denser housing in downtown areas, near retail and Caltrain, would reduce residents’ need to own cars. "


11 people like this
Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Oct 22, 2017 at 7:18 pm

Online Name is a registered user.

Annette, good questions. According to Mr. Fine's LinkedIn Profile, he was a graduate teaching assistant. Web Link


6 people like this
Posted by Hopeful
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Oct 22, 2017 at 10:36 pm

This sounds like an excellent start to a longer discussion.


8 people like this
Posted by CC Meeting Monday
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 22, 2017 at 11:34 pm

Web Link


20 people like this
Posted by CT Res
a resident of College Terrace
on Oct 22, 2017 at 11:42 pm

[Post removed.]


9 people like this
Posted by Abitarian
a resident of Downtown North
on Oct 23, 2017 at 9:43 am

Recently, a friend introduced me to the Palo Alto Matters web site -- see Web Link

In my opinion, this site provides a valuable compilation of news and commentary about city matters.

People concerned with housing-related issues may be interested to read the latest newsletter which focuses on the Comp Plan Update to be discussed at tonight's (October 23rd) city council meeting -- see Web Link

Regardless of one's current perspective, my feeling is that readers will find the material to be well-written, matter-of-fact, and informative.


10 people like this
Posted by Steve Dabrowski
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Oct 23, 2017 at 12:56 pm

This quote from another comment "Building 100,000 new housing units in Palo Alto is predicted to lower prices by 10%, so great is the local demand and strong marketing in other countries by some local realtors." should give some perspective to the problem. Dropping the price of a $2.5M house to $2.25M is unlikely to bring a land rush of teachers, fire fighters and police to buy them up or anyone else needing affordable housing. Just more wealthy investors.

How there will be room to park or move from one side of town to the other on our roads is the question. But no doubt the transportation demand management will take care of that. And our town will be such a great place to live then.


Like this comment
Posted by David
a resident of Professorville
on Oct 23, 2017 at 1:44 pm

Sadly, this shouldn't be controversial... economic policies have created a boom town for jobs, while NIMBY policies have created an insanely restricted supply of housing. Right-sizing one or the other is required, and nobody really expects us to chase the jobs away.

Yet, despite nearly 50% of the population of Palo Alto renting and living in constant insecurity, the unfortunate reality is that they're treated as less valuable to many politicians because they tend to be more transient (for a related reason--rapidly accelerating cost of living).

In serving residentialist interests, it's short-sighted to continue to constrain the housing stock further against the job market. As Palo Alto continues to see home prices grow outside of the comparables of the rest of the United States it puts pressures on employers to relocate. As jobs are now increasingly concentrated in major employers, such a shift by a major employer, should it occur, could create a dangerous cratering in house prices. Even if all you care about is your own resale value, you should be pro-housing expansion in line with jobs in the Bay Area.

For the half of the city who is worried about their ability to stay here, expanding housing is just the right thing to do. This doesn't have to be just about Teachers and Nurses--it can be half of your neighborhood who might have to move away because they can't afford to keep their kids in the same school.


2 people like this
Posted by disgusted
a resident of Crescent Park
on Oct 23, 2017 at 2:03 pm

[Post removed.]


14 people like this
Posted by Anke
a resident of Mountain View
on Oct 23, 2017 at 2:14 pm

I dunno, @David. The lack of tech jobs doesn't seem to cause much cratering of house prices in Los Altos, Woodside or Atherton.


16 people like this
Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Oct 23, 2017 at 2:47 pm

Online Name is a registered user.

@David. the current CC has shown that it's totally disinterested in providing any type of renter protection and/or moves to make housing more affordable. I'm talking concrete moves, not just illogical rhetoric about what SHOULD BE.

Are they suddenly going to reject Stanford's massive expansion plan that only adds more people to the housing competition? And don't tell me all Stanford people will bike; they're building in Los Altos and Redwood City and Menlo Park and are providing about 10 BMR units!

Over-building won't solve the problem since they keep approving more office space and jobs than housing units. So all the over-building does is make the congestion worse.

Pushing under-parked developments make neighborhood encroachment and parking problems worse.

So long as there are more people competing for housing due to the ever-increasing creation of more jobs and more office space, there's no reason to assume that housing will get more affordable.

As Anke notes, prices aren't cratering in Los Altos, Woodside, Atherton, Portola Valley, etc.

I'm real tired of unrealistic rhetoric, dismissal of real questions and attacking people who disagree with the CC's agenda.


26 people like this
Posted by Moratorium on office development
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Oct 23, 2017 at 3:12 pm

Moratorium on office development is a registered user.

Quality of life matters. And we have to plan for it. We cannot continue to build out Palo Alto without considering the impact on congestion (roads, schools, parks, ...), pollution, stress levels, and more. There is an article in The Atlantic: Web Link

"In the United States, the happiest places tend to be places where enlightened leaders over the past century decided to shift their focus away from just economic development and growth to quality of life. They made policies and emphasized a better life over a better business environment."

Let's ask our City Council to use the right metrics to evaluate and prioritize plans for our City.


2 people like this
Posted by gf
a resident of College Terrace
on Oct 23, 2017 at 3:28 pm

[Post removed.]


18 people like this
Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Oct 23, 2017 at 4:33 pm

Online Name is a registered user.

[Post removed.]


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