News

Residents sound off on new Comprehensive Plan

Some call for more housing; others for fewer offices

Dozens of residents came to City Hall on Monday wearing buttons with the message "Save Palo Alto" written in red letters.

They bemoaned the impacts of office growth on traffic congestion and parking supply, questioned the council's ability to address the housing crisis without making these problems worse and urged their elected leaders to hit the brakes when it comes to development.

"The mantra of 'Jobs! Jobs! Jobs!' has led to parking shortages and traffic congestion," resident Paul Machado said. "Now we have a new mantra: 'Housing! Housing! Housing!' But if we continue to build offices, we will never have enough housing."

Dozens more attended the City Council meeting to express their desire for more housing. By Monday night, more than 185 people had signed a petition calling for Palo Alto to build more housing -- for all income levels.

"It is important to remember that many residents facing severe housing challenges are not eligible for below-market-rate housing even if we could dramatically increase supply," states the petition signed by Sandra Slater, co-founder of the citizens group Palo Alto Forward.

Despite their philosophical disagreements, the two camps in Monday's citizen debate over Palo Alto's new Comprehensive Plan generally agreed on one thing: the proposed document falls short of what they'd like to see. The button wearers worried that the new vision is too office-friendly because its sets a target of 3 million square feet of new office space by 2035 (which includes the 1.3 million square feet already approved for the expanded Stanford University Medical Center).

The petition signers complained that it's not ambitious enough on housing. Resident John Kelley had proposed last year that the city plan for about 10,000 new housing units between now and 2035, the term of the new Comprehensive Plan. The council opted for the far more modest range of 3,545 to 4,420 units.

Despite the discrepancy, Kelley encouraged the council to get over the finish line and approve the new vision.

"We have been waiting almost a decade," said Kelley, one of about 45 residents who addressed the council Monday. "I've been hearing from people whose entire families had been born during the time the council has been looking at the Comprehensive Plan. ... It's time to stop dithering. It's time to move forward. It's time to act."

The council disagreed and, in a rare show of unanimity on the normally divisive topic, voted to punt its own debate on the document to its next meeting, which is scheduled for Oct. 30. The council arrived at this decision after listening to about 90 minutes of public comments, which concluded at about 11 p.m.

The Monday hearing was the beginning of the end for a process that was initiated in 2006 and that has been the subject of 24 meetings of the City Council; 23 meetings from a specially appointed Citizens Advisory Committee; and 28 meetings of the Planning and Transportation Commission, which last month recommended approval of the updated document, according to planning staff.

The planning commission also made a series of recommendations, including a unanimous suggestion that the city make its commitment to affordable housing more explicit. Commission Chair Michael Alcheck said the city should do so by creating a specific policy with quantified goals for housing production.

"Arguably, there is support for development of BMR (below-market-rate) housing in the Comprehensive Plan, but this recommendation stems from the commission's shared view that this support be prioritized at or near the very top," Alcheck said.

Though the crowd was split over growth policies, residents on both sides expressed support for below-market-rate housing. Those with buttons argued that this type of housing should be the city's exclusive focus. Others countered that the city needs all sorts of housing, including market rate, to get out of the housing crisis.

Elaine Meyer was in the former camp.

"We will never be able to house everyone who wants to live here," resident Meyer said. "But as long as we let more businesses and developers bring more workers into town, we will become both more crowded and less diverse."

The debate over housing will likely play out again next week, this time at the council level. Like the citizens in attendance Monday, the council is split between those who believe the city needs to become far more aggressive toward housing (this includes Liz Kniss, Adrian Fine, Cory Wolbach) and those who favor a more measured approach, with a focus on below-market-rate housing (Karen Holman, Lydia Kou and Tom DuBois).

The council will also consider approving the new plan's Environmental Impact Report, a document that analyzes six different scenarios, in addition to the council's "preferred scenario," which includes between 9,850 and 11,500 new jobs.

Among the report's findings is an inconvenient truth: traffic will get worse no matter which scenario the council chooses. The EIR found that traffic impacts at freeway ramps and local streets will see "significant and unavoidable" impacts, the council's new anti-traffic initiatives notwithstanding. There will also be transit delays due to traffic congestion, the EIR states.

A new report from the Planning Department underscores these findings. There's no getting away, it states, "from the fact that we live in a congested region and that any programmatic EIR that fairly examines cumulative growth over a period of time will conclude there are unmitigable impacts."

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Comments

123 people like this
Posted by Illusion
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 24, 2017 at 6:02 am

Fact: we cannot build enough housing in Palo Alto to make market rate housing affordable to middle class people.

That Palo Alto Forward keeps pushing this fallacy is irresponsible.For instance, would have to double the number of housing units we now have (27,000) to reduce the job to housing imbalance by 1/3. That would also nearly double our current population. 1/6th - you do the math.
And this in no was factors in the amount of commercial development at Stanford that is not governed by our office cap and here and on all sides that will generate more pressure for housing here.

Stop this supply side developers fantasy that would break us - schools, infrastructure, etc.


89 people like this
Posted by A Simple Alternative
a resident of Crescent Park
on Oct 24, 2017 at 6:54 am

All the Comprehensive Plan options will make our city worse. We should instead:

1) Support local retail and protect neighborhoods. Stop offices from taking over shopping areas.

2) Prioritize below-market-rate housing, which serves people of modest income. Rezone only for that.

3) Stop commercial growth. Our roads are already jammed with commuters. The city admits that any commercial growth will make traffic even worse.

These measures will better help with traffic, parking, schools, diversity, housing for local service workers, and livability than anything in the proposed Comprehensive Plan.


58 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 24, 2017 at 7:21 am

The other aspect there is not mentioned or even quantified is that there is also a general exodus of workers commuting out of Palo Alto on a daily basis. Look at the Caltrain parking lots or the numbers of people getting on trains taking them to their jobs out of town. The roads taking people out of Palo Alto to the highways are busy.

It is not a one way commute of people coming in each day. People who live in Palo Alto are also working elsewhere.

For this reason, trying to balance jobs to housing makes little or no sense. People who live in Palo Alto like living here and working elsewhere rather than walking or biking to their job in town.


38 people like this
Posted by Palo Alto is not unique: let's move forward
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Oct 24, 2017 at 7:34 am

A lot of people who showed up last night want to keep Palo Alto as it was in the 1980s. They argue that there is no relationship between supply and demand in Palo Alto when it comes to housing, and that the only real solution is to stop building both housing and commercial. They don't realize that it has been precisely these policies over the past few decades that has led to sprawl throughout the Bay Area (including Palo Alto) with unsustainable commutes for most of our workers.

It is not hard to find a peninsula city that is appropriately taking on similar problems: Redwood City. In the past decade, Redwood City has executed beautifully against both Comprehensive and Specific Plans. They have located denser apartment buildings across from Caltrain, next to an anchor employer (Box). They revitalized their downtown, and created a logical parking policy (including paid parking and wayfinding).

And before fellow posters resort to the 3rd grade level of debate ("if you like it so much there, why don't you move there?"): Palo Alto is our home. We believe that we have a responsibility as citizens to try to earnestly grapple with the problems that we have. The solution is not to just pull up the drawbridges.

The meeting last night was instructive. Right before the comp plan discussion came an eminently reasonable mixed use housing proposal for El Camino that passed both the ARB and PTC unanimously. It does everything our city has asked of it (smaller apartments, mixed use, located in a transit-friendly area). And yet, the "anti-growth" people on the council spent an hour musing about their design preferences, with Karen Holman playing architect from the dais (she ended up abstaining from the vote). The fact is, the debate is not between "moderate growth" vs. "high growth". The debate is between "no growth" and "moderate growth". There are people on the Council who oppose ALL projects: housing or otherwise. Their record speaks to this.

We have to move onward to real solutions. Opposing everything always is not helpful.


104 people like this
Posted by Stuck in Traffic
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Oct 24, 2017 at 7:55 am

Considering Palo Alto's shortage of housing, why are we still adding more office space? It makes no sense.


78 people like this
Posted by John Guislin
a resident of Crescent Park
on Oct 24, 2017 at 8:24 am

“Among the report’s (EIR) findings is an inconvenient truth: traffic will get worse no matter which scenario the council chooses.”

The EIR confirms that we currently do not have the tools to mitigate traffic impacts on a scale necessary to make a difference. We already have pervasive traffic backups that residents find unacceptable. A localized version of the “carmageddon” of December 2016 Web Link occurs daily in some neighborhoods.

On my street, Middlefield Road, from 2013 through 2016 the traffic doubled (source: city data). My neighbors and I try to plan our car trips to avoid the worst traffic times, but the worst times are rapidly becoming anytime.

The Council has one tool that can halt further deterioration: implement a moratorium on commercial development. Spend your time and resources on finding solutions that deliver benefits to Palo Alto residents who want a better quality of life for their families now and for their children’s future.


22 people like this
Posted by We need jobs!
a resident of Crescent Park
on Oct 24, 2017 at 8:38 am

All of you folks bemoaning jobs must have not had a job for a while. How are we supposed to support local retail otherwise? Looked at our city taxes lately? Guess what - most of Palo Alto long time residents are not paying enough property taxes and our city and school budgets are in trouble.
It's nice to be a retired baby boomer but some of us work for a living and would like to continue to do so for a long time yet and contribute to the local economy. [Portion removed.]


40 people like this
Posted by Traffic
a resident of Community Center
on Oct 24, 2017 at 8:58 am

Yes, the developer friendly policy direction to overbuilding office, is overbuilding housing (as proposed by Cory, Adrian and Liz) without any subsidized housing and conveniently ignoring negative traffic and parking impacts. Traffic will still get worse because none of the EIR scenarios is the right one. The right one is less jobs growth and focusing on affordable and subsidized housing. There is one project in play that would significantly reduce traffic and that is the Page Mill Road High Occupancy Vehicle expansion for buses and carpoolers which would really help Stanford Research Park and Stanford commuters. Unfortunately, Adina from Palo Alto Forward lobbied aggressively against this during a city council meeting earlier this year creating a huge setback in the ability of Palo Alto to address its traffic challenges. There is a lot of talk of TDMs mitigating traffic but if you attack carpoolers and private buses that blocks one of the very effective tools. This really hurts Stanford Research Park's ability to expand as well as those companies ability to attract the best employees.


24 people like this
Posted by Let’s share...
a resident of Midtown
on Oct 24, 2017 at 9:08 am

We need to stop being selfish and share the office space buildout opportunities with neighboring cities such as San Jose and Redwood City. These neighboring cities are setup with transportation infrastructure such as light rail, BART, Caltrain as well as high density housing zoning.

We are taking away/stealing their access to a stable commercial tax base and unloading the burden of high density housing on them. It leads to a very unbalanced jobs to resident ratio and long commutes.

We just need to facilitate the mindset change with tech companies that a Downtown San Jose mailing address is better. It’s way better for their younger employees who can then have access to a diverse array of housing options.


3 people like this
Posted by Just a Thought
a resident of South of Midtown
on Oct 24, 2017 at 9:30 am

[Post removed due to same poster using multiple names]


14 people like this
Posted by We need jobs!
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Oct 24, 2017 at 9:46 am

Alternatively we could build an urban village right here in Palo Alto where people can live, work, bike, innovate and build companies. And those who want peace and quiet can go some place else. I'm sorry, but all of you folks against jobs and traffic and Stanford and Palantir do not have a monopoly on Palo Alto.
As Bob Dylan once said,
"Your old road is rapidly agin’
Please get out of the new one if you can’t lend your hand
For the times they are a-changin’"


64 people like this
Posted by Share the jobs!
a resident of Community Center
on Oct 24, 2017 at 10:07 am

San Jose and Oakland need the jobs. Why force folks living there and in places like Tracy, Stockton, Hayward, etc... to commute to Palo Alto. Businesses locate in Palo Alto for the brand, not because of lack of cheaper office space elsewhere. With most of the 100,000 workers driving into Palo Alto from other towns everyday, why do we continue to not be more considerate of the workers and locate the jobs closer to their houses. If you really desire a dense urban city, move to SF, San Jose or Oakland.


27 people like this
Posted by Busy Dad
a resident of University South
on Oct 24, 2017 at 10:08 am

I watched some of the comments on TV last night and I really wanted to be there. We're a double-income family of 4 who live near downtown in a rental. I wanted to come to speak but I can't really leave for a 2 hour City Council meeting that doesn't even start the discussion until 9 pm and goes until 11. What I saw were the "Save Palo Alto" folks were almost all older, retired people who could come to sit through the Council meeting. I thought they looked like whiny old time residents who want Palo Alto to look like it did in the 70s or 80s. Guess what, it isn't the same and won't be the same. They don't want businesses here but want other cities to welcome businesses. Palo Alto is a magnet for a reason -- it has a 1st class university, venture capital concentration and is a wonderful place to invent the future. Why do you want to give that to another place? No one likes traffic and me and my family get around mostly by bike and walking. We chose to live downtown so we didn't have to drive all over the place. I say build more housing near downtown and reject the "office cap" -- think of solutions rather than being like Trump who says, "build a wall". Figure out ways to mitigate the negative effects of development and welcome the 21st Century.


68 people like this
Posted by Moratorium on office development
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Oct 24, 2017 at 10:31 am

Moratorium on office development is a registered user.

@Busy Dad -- You are right that we should "Figure out ways to mitigate the negative effects of development". YES!!

The one thing I'd note is that we don't need more development in order to do that. We are already at a place where we have over-developed and have a huge jobs-housing imbalance. We have LOTS of tough problems to solve -- housing for lower-income people and city and school staff, reducing congestion on our streets, maintaining a culture of kindness and collaboration at increasingly huge schools, finding adequate park space for our growing population of families/seniors/pets/athletes, finding space for preschools (and their teachers), finding space for seniors (and their staff), and more.

Let's focus on solving these issues. They are all difficult, and we are hard-pressed to make progress on any one of them, let alone all. It's not glamorous, but it sure is important. Let's buckle down and do the hard work. No more "grow, baby, grow!" and hope it all works out.


84 people like this
Posted by John Guislin
a resident of Crescent Park
on Oct 24, 2017 at 11:09 am

@Busy Dad

Characterizing people who hold views different from yours as “whiny old time residents” in their “70’s and 80’s” speaks volumes about this commenter and others who attack groups of people based on age.

Do you disrespect your own parents or grandparents this way?

Are you looking forward to this treatment when you reach 70?

Would you not be offended if I were to label all millennials or gen-Xers’ or any age group as lazy or uninformed?

Everyone deserves to be treated with respect.

If you disagree with someone on principle, then make your argument on based on rational ideas. Personal attacks do not serve our community.

Other cultures value the insight and experience that older people have to share. If Silicon Valley fails to utilize these experienced resources, it may prove to be one of our biggest failings.


13 people like this
Posted by Let's share...
a resident of Midtown
on Oct 24, 2017 at 11:26 am

Definitely not saying that Palo Alto should not steer toward its own downtown urban village and the creation of jobs "We need Jobs". However, a truly scalable urban village needs multi-modal transit and in particular light rail to serve diverse neighborhoods that can support not only tech employees but also the supporting service/retail employees. Downtown San Jose has all of these (and an international airport!) all ready and waiting.

We should orient ourselves toward an urban village targeted at small to medium startups/companies that need the umbilical cord of Stanford and Sandhill. Once your employee count exceeds 100-200 then we should encourage a graduation to Downtown San Jose where you can send a message to your VCs that you are planning to truly scale up your operations to new heights unbounded by Palo Alto NIMBYs.

Highly recommend reading from SPUR:
Web Link
"San Jose as a city is extremely focused on becoming a job center rather than a bedroom community for other Silicon Valley cities to the north. Downtown is a key part of the city’s strategy to capture more jobs overall. Further, the point of extending BART to San Jose and into downtown is to reduce congestion and give commuters an alternative way to get to jobs. For that investment to be successful, downtown must be a major job center. As market demand for an urban living experience grows, the city faces a choice between holding out for jobs that might or might not come and gradually ceding more land downtown to residential uses.
Despite this generally decentralized job pattern, many employers recognize that proximity to regional transit like Caltrain and BART is an increasingly important factor in selecting a business location. This puts two areas in a unique position: the neighborhood around Diridon Station (downtown San Jose’s current Caltrain stop and a future stop for BART) and the area around the future BART station near Market and Santa Clara streets."


18 people like this
Posted by Busy Dad
a resident of University South
on Oct 24, 2017 at 11:48 am

@ John Guislin
I don't disparage older folks as a group but I did note that all the Save Palo Alto folks who want to discourage business and commercial entities from locating here were old and were looking backwards rather than forward for their vision of Palo Alto. My parents (who live in Palo Alto btw and are in their 60s) understand it's a different time that when we were in school here and that they moved here because is was a vibrant community and wanted to see if flourish. They support continuing to make Palo Alto a magnet for innovation. Yeah, there's lots of traffic but we should deal with that rather than the "pull up the drawbridges" mentality that I saw on display last night. My cohort can't be represented because we're busy so we sign petitions and write letters and hope our voices are heard. We're in this fix because of failed past policies of retro-thinking (arbitrary height and density limits) in places where we should have been encouraging development. The Save Palo Alto folks seem to put a monkey wrench in the works by saying that the City should allow only BMR development without any consideration of who is going to pay for that.
And btw, I am called all kinds of nasty names by "older" folks who think I'm entitled and selfish for wanting my children to live in the community where I grew up.


27 people like this
Posted by margaret heath
a resident of College Terrace
on Oct 24, 2017 at 12:08 pm

There seems to be scant evidence, if any, how many housing uits will have to be built in Palo Alto to bring down the cost of housing. One study came up with 100,000 new housing units will bring down the price 10%.


7 people like this
Posted by Katie
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Oct 24, 2017 at 12:31 pm

The Palo Alto Forward group is who helped create and build the now overly desirable Palo Alto of today. I think they have wisdom to offer and perhaps a more sane and sensible view of what a positive community can look like and how it can function. I think slowing growth is probably a good idea, and a little breathing room is necessary. Liz Kniss has been around for awhile, and can relate to Palo Alto of the 70's and 80's and I think be realistic about preserving some of Palo Alto of yesteryear, while incorporating the population explosion and popularity of what Palo Alto is and has become.


25 people like this
Posted by Annette
a resident of College Terrace
on Oct 24, 2017 at 12:36 pm

Annette is a registered user.

@BusyDad - thank you for explaining your initial comments. I think it worth noting that many older people continue to work into their 70s so it is quite possible some appeared tired for that reason! Older people also have the benefit of more years experiencing what has worked well and what hasn't; that is akin to "institutional memory" and can be extremely valuable, particularly when resources are stretched and there's no bandwidth for "solutions" that prove to be blunders.

I attended last night's mtg for several hours and watched once I got home. My take on the comments is that many of the speakers are saying we need to make housing development a priority over commercial development so that we don't continue to make the housing problem worse. And so that we can maintain what's left of the diversity that made this place interesting for all sorts of different people, including community-serving professionals and artists and musicians. This is what SAVE PALO ALTO means to me.

Like it or not we have undeniable problems and all age groups should expect some discomfort and disappointment as we remedy what we can.


65 people like this
Posted by Moratorium on office development
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Oct 24, 2017 at 12:44 pm

Moratorium on office development is a registered user.

@Busy Dad -- I'd encourage you to distinguish between "looking backward" and having a set of values that may differ from yours. Was it "looking backward" to set aside our national parks? Or looking forward?

It would be wonderful if all of our kids could grow up here. YES! And it would be wonderful if all of the businesses here could grow in place. (Remember that moving a business includes moving hundreds or thousands of families.) YES! Those desires are completely understandable. But they are not the whole picture.

Because growing that much would destroy our town. How do I know that? Well, we *already* have more growth than we can manage. Quality of life is directly impacted, and we see it every day on our streets, in our schools, in the cost of living, and more. The City survey clearly reflects these issues, and even if you bike (like we do), these issues are clear and increasing. Think school crowding/culture, lack of economic diversity, lack of retail, and more.

What we are saying is pretty simple and straight-forward: Let's not make things worse by continuing to grow when we have already proven that we do not know how to handle growth. Instead, let's address the growth challenges we have already created for ourselves with smart City policies and prioritization. Accommodating more offices and high-end housing should be nowhere on that list.


80 people like this
Posted by I am in my 50's
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 24, 2017 at 12:55 pm

I am in my 50's is a registered user.

Busy Dad,

"I don't disparage older folks as a group..."

There is quite a bit of disparaging of older people on this plan for the future. I am in my 50's and I wonder where I would fit in your description of "older folks" - how old are you?

This is what I have learned about "older" people in Palo Alto

Older Palo Altans are a special bunch. Older residents are professors, engineers, innovators civic leaders, several luminaries in their field, and their brains are as sharper as anyone's. If Steve Jobs was alive right now he would be older.

They know a lot. They read, they are so damn informed about this town, they are Palo Alto's biggest asset.

They have literally seen it all, and they are not stupid. They have raised many of us. You are a busy dad, they are busy grandparents. They know what new generations do and think today..

In planning for the future, I say older Palo Altans are and should be very important.

Gray is good.



25 people like this
Posted by Commonsense
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Oct 24, 2017 at 1:01 pm

50’ height limit is killing is. Change that to 100’ and change the zoning to residential andwe’ll Get the housing we need. Downside - shadows? Give me a break. This land was paved over long ago - let’s make better use of it and build higher instead of paving over the rest of our beautiful state


27 people like this
Posted by Illusion
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 24, 2017 at 1:10 pm

Just more illusion - Busy Dad says the people wearing Save Palo Alto buttons were "...old and looking backwards...".
Fact - The few commenters last night (compared to the many Save Palo Alto people) were "old" as would fit the usual definition. I saw that as someone over 70. Slader, a self described founder of Palo Alto Forward is, as is the Pres of their Board - both spoke. As is John Kelly.
Jen Hetterly is hardly old and others with the buttons on were not.
So stop with your broad brush that is inaccurate. Maybe you were too busy last night with you dadness to accurately see what was going on.


35 people like this
Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Oct 24, 2017 at 1:15 pm

Online Name is a registered user.

Re age, Silicon Valley ageism is starting earlier and earlier. A Santa Clara County labor survey stops at age 44. If you're 40 or older and laid off, you have to swear in writing your dismissal wasn't age-related to get your final severance check.

This week there were several articles this week about how tech workers as young as 35 are worried they'll be replaced by younger cheaper 20-something employees and "gig" contractors.

Your time will come sooner than expected and that's not necessarily a good thing.


17 people like this
Posted by be skeptical of pious new support for BMR
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Oct 24, 2017 at 1:30 pm

[Post removed due to factual inaccuracies.]


26 people like this
Posted by In 40s
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Oct 24, 2017 at 2:10 pm

Many PA residents in their 40s and 50s are busy with work and family responsibilities and not able to drop everything to attend a late-night CC meeting. OTOH 20-something single Millenial tech workers and 60-something retirees typically have more flexible schedules and are more likely to be able to voice their points of view. It would be helpful if the CC provided online forms (other than the letter PAF apparently emailed their supporters to sign) to weigh in on important matters in lieu of appearing for meetings.


12 people like this
Posted by Just some facts
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Oct 24, 2017 at 2:13 pm

[Post removed.]


13 people like this
Posted by @just some facts
a resident of Community Center
on Oct 24, 2017 at 2:21 pm

[Portion removed due to deletion of referenced comment.]

The head of Palo Alto Forward is Sandra Slater, who is an environmental activist. She runs a "neighborhood resiliency" initiative.

Other officers include an economist, a family lawyer, a real estate agent, an architect and two tech workers. Their average age is probably around 60. They all live and work in Palo Alto.

[Portion removed due to deletion of referenced comment.]


5 people like this
Posted by Wolf in sheep clothing
a resident of Professorville
on Oct 24, 2017 at 2:30 pm

[Post removed.]


14 people like this
Posted by PAFs AGENDA
a resident of Downtown North
on Oct 24, 2017 at 2:35 pm

The other Palo Alto Forward founder is Elaine Uang, an architect. Guess what?

Palo Alto Forward will be hosting a workshop on ADUs and City of Palo Alto's Planning and Community Environment Director, Hillary Gitelman will be the featured presenter.

[Portion removed.]


36 people like this
Posted by Marie
a resident of Midtown
on Oct 24, 2017 at 3:37 pm

Marie is a registered user.

How can we improve the job/housing imbalance if we plan for far more new jobs than new housing? Commercial development should be delayed until enough housing is built to house the new workers.


35 people like this
Posted by Illusion
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 24, 2017 at 3:55 pm

Commentor "Be" -
Fact: Karen Holman was a huge supporter of the Maybell below market rate project. 60 units for seniors and 8 market rate units to help pay for them. She wrote one of the ballot arguments for it. She was very vocal about it - more so than any other council member.

How many times must this be said? Thousands apparently. Were you not living here then or do you believe every thing you are told, or do you just make wild assumptions about people?





37 people like this
Posted by Beyond comprehension
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Oct 24, 2017 at 4:54 pm

To one who says Palo Alto is not unique .. in a way, it is unique. It is a home town for one of the best universities in the world. There are venture capital firms and high tech. That makes sense; that is tied together.

The problem is we do not have the land - look at the map. Developers push through their 50-some apartment projects here and there - Ventura, Page Mill. That will do absolutely nothing to bring the cost down (want to bet? Most are high end) and only serves one purpose - enriching the said developers. The reasons Council approves? See the campaign finance statements.

We the citizens are left with congestion, lower quality of life, and health issues due to pollution and stress. Why is anyone who is not financially involved pushing for that? Beyond comprehension.


46 people like this
Posted by margaret heath
a resident of College Terrace
on Oct 24, 2017 at 5:06 pm

Downtown and Cal Ave have been designated for high density office development using the "transit rich" justification, referring to the train stations and El Camino buses. And for high density housing including the El Camino corridor south of Page Mill/Oregon Expressway, also served by buses.

Trains? Already at full capacity with 5 trains running in each direction per hour during commute hours. Electrification? The maximum will go up to 6 trains in each direction per hour. Extra carriages? Very limited because limited to how long the platforms can be.

Buses? Realistically a long time before VTA expands the bus system to cover more than a limited number of routes. At least not without a massive infusion of funding and a public willingness to subsidize the service. And still won't be able to solve the problem of covering the "first" and "last" miles to make it a practical alternative for most people.

Do those who are using the "transit-rich" slogan to urge ever higher density downtown, around California Avenue and along El Camino (not forgetting the future impacts of construction already started or approved that have not yet been experienced) know something the public doesn't? Or could this be described as cynical or wishful thinking to justify an agenda for more growth?


10 people like this
Posted by @beyond comprehension
a resident of Barron Park
on Oct 24, 2017 at 7:14 pm

Palo Alto is not unique in that laws of supply and demand also apply here.

With regards to the city being "built out", almost any medium sized city used to be a small city. Large cities used to be medium cities. After they are built out, they begin infill development to build up. A lot of downtown Palo Alto is still one and two story buildings, or surface parking lots. We have a long way to go before we are truly built out.

With regards to new apartment compounds not bringing down prices-- that is true. We need to build a lot more. We cannot expect to build one or two complexes and expect to move the market. Additionally, developers build for the higher end because we encourage it (through density maximums and parking minimums). Given our zoning code, it is the only kind of apartment that makes sense.

Finally, the canard that our local politicians are in "developers' pockets" is ridiculous. I have looked at their campaign finance statements. No candidate got more than 15% of their contributions from developers. Some refused to take any developer dollars at all. We have sufficiently demonized developers in this town that everyone is wary of taking their money, for better or worse.


47 people like this
Posted by No growth in the comp plan
a resident of Downtown North
on Oct 24, 2017 at 7:44 pm

The preferred scenario that the city council is considering would add over 10,000 more people to Pal Alto, over 4,000 new housed, over 3 million sq. feet of office development and over 12,000 new jobs. The staff report on the draft EIR states numerous times that the "actions and development contemplated under the comprehensive plan update will have significant and UNMITIGABLE impacts." We are talking about worse pollution, worse traffic, worse public amenities such as too few parks, fields, pols, community rooms, worse school overcrowding and a worsening quality of life for the residents that the city council is suppose to represent.

The only scenario that would have no worsening impacts is a no-growth scenario, but this was not examined and only dismissed by city staff as "hypothetical" in the EIR report. This is not a hypothetical choice, it is the only reasoned choice that would be made if we want to preserve quality of life in this region. We are at a point in time in the Bay Area where significant choices regarding quality of life have to be made. We can either continue to increase the population to unsupportable levels, continuing to destroy the environment, worsening our quality of life and disregarding limits in a closed system or we can acknowledge that human development needs to be limited to reasonable levels.

When you can't drive on the roads anymore and your kids are in overcrowded schools with thousands of others and you can't see across the bay on a summer day because the Bay Area now ranks among the country's 10 worst regions for particle pollution, you are past the reasonable level.

We need the city council to work on making this a functioning city and right now it is not functioning well. Adding more development, workers, people and housing that is not mitigable will do nothing to help make Palo Alto better. The city council needs to adopt a no-growth policy and clean up the messes that we already have before making them worse. We will never house all the people who want to come here. We should stop trying to please developers who want to profit from the popularity of this region while destroying it. Until we all start to say no and send people elsewhere we will continue to suffer from run away overpopulation. Let your city council people know that you want a no- growth comprehensive plan.


22 people like this
Posted by chris
a resident of University South
on Oct 24, 2017 at 8:15 pm

The Palo Alto employer and employment picture has gone through several major up and down cycles over the last 20 years. Compare the major employers now with then. Many people commenting here are assuming current trends can be extrapolated indefinitely.

The important thing is to improve the things that are clearly out-of-whack -- BMR housing, transportation, and parking. Getting moving on those issues can change the context significantly.


34 people like this
Posted by Juan
a resident of Mountain View
on Oct 24, 2017 at 8:40 pm

If building housing and / or offices has "significant and UNMITIGABLE impacts" to quality of life then they shouldn't be built, end of story. Either find some way to mitigate the impact or don't build.


40 people like this
Posted by @Palo Alto is not unique
a resident of Downtown North
on Oct 24, 2017 at 9:01 pm

Palo Alto is in fact unique! It is a city on a skinny peninsula with only 2 major arterial highways and crappy public transport.
Someone needs to lay out the improbable physics of these 'grow at all cost' scenarios.

And @busy dad: there are plenty of us, busy parents who don't have the time to come to city council meetings. Don't make the mistake of thinking we are all in agreement, wishing for more local commercial growth. Quite the opposite. I want the city to fous on traffic and affordable housing (affordable for teachers not techies). I want the city to correct the job housing imbalance, not add to it.


43 people like this
Posted by Family for restoring civic life
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 25, 2017 at 2:29 am

Hong Kong has a housing crisis that has resulted in people now living in 4X6ft “homes” called coffins.

Web Link

This despite having the most advanced state of urban mobility/transit.
Web Link

And Hong Kong is basically a big high rise building landscape. That has not created affordable housing. Just denser and denser misery.

It can be really instructive to read the debates in Hong Kong because they sound so much like ours and have for years, even though they have the ideal transit system. But they have the same problem of far too many workers in too small a space.

The difference is that we are not Hong Kong, this is a vast nation, and this is not the only nice place. What happened is that a few companies like Palantir decided they wanted to make this their own private company town, and basically take over what the public built. The calls for more housing to create affordability here will not do that anymore than it ever has in Hong Kong. The only way to restore some kind of civic balance is to create rules that make companies move on to where their growth can be accommodated when they grow too large.

It is not in the interests of our national security to concentrate innovation in one increasingly dense area. We also must start considering safety, especially after what just happened in Santa Rosa.

Hong Kong, despite its advanced transit situation, also faces the problem of more workers than housing. You can’t get ahead of that problem by insisting on hoarding the jobs here. Stanford will continue to be a innovation generator - we must find ways to move forward to restore reasonable civic life and safety, rather than continuing on this road from here to Hongkong. We have so many parts of this country and state that could become new hubs of innovation. Note that that is the opposite of sprawl, especially since resource needs can be more localized if there are many hubs of innovation rather than a few denser and denser ones.

We limit the size of grocery stores, we must limit the size of companie and share the wealth. San Jose wants the jobs and can expand both housing and jobs. Other parts of our nation desperately want the jobs. In some parts of San Jose,building up there is the most aesthetic thing to do, too. We have hit the limit of what our infrastructure can safely support. The rhetoric supporting overbuilding is manipulative, insulting, and wrong.





40 people like this
Posted by Family for restoring civic life
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 25, 2017 at 2:47 am

Before I hear a response that we are not Hong Kong so we can continue to densify, I just want to point out that we don’t want to be Hong Kong, and there is no place on the continuum between here and Hong Kong where housing is affordable. Out infrastructure is strained; a single car breaks down and the region is paralyzed. This is not good for commerce, the environment, health or safety.

To move forward, we must start prioritizing rebalancing civic life. We can only do that without the constant pressure of companies that want to turn Palo Alto into their own private company towns. We should be prioritizing growth from Stanford since Stanford is an integral part of here and cannot move.

Palo Alto should also consider purchasing all retail district land over time. It is the only way to retain reasonably vibrant retail areas. Initial purchase of land here is always painful, but just as with school land, in a desirable place, over time this becomes the only wise choice. If we do this, in exchange for renting the land to retail tenants at what will then forever be affordable rates, we could require a high minimum wage and thus address the affordability of housing for traditionally low wage workers in a holistic way that doesn’t keep costing more without solving the problem.


31 people like this
Posted by Long Time Resident
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Oct 25, 2017 at 5:23 am

We must do everything possible to stop our progression towards a Kowloon-like city, where approximately 33,000 people lived on 6-1/2 acres.

The project around the general area of San Antonio and El Camino is massive, and the traffic impacts are already being felt in all of the surrounding cities, and they are not done building yet.

The housing crisis is being felt in many places now in the US.
Southern California is suffering too.
Washington State has a shortage as well. The shortage is not just in Seattle but all of the Eastside. The roads are in gridlock most of the time as well. New employees at companies like Amazon and Microsoft are having a hard time finding affordable housing as well.

People are competing with foreign buyers who are speculating on properties, buying new properties up in pre-sale and renting it back to others coming to the US, or charging high rents. This is not helping any of our cities or local companies.

Additionally, we nearly did not make it through our last drought cycle.
When the next cycle occurs, we are going to see a lot of animosity against one another.

We really need a big policy change in Washington as well as some changes to our local land use laws.



11 people like this
Posted by @Family for restoring civic life
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Oct 25, 2017 at 10:25 am

Thumbs up! Thank you.


15 people like this
Posted by Anke
a resident of Mountain View
on Oct 25, 2017 at 11:04 am

@Long Time Resident notes:

"We really need a big policy change in Washington as well as some changes to our local land use laws."

I'll add that we need a big policy change in Sacramento as well. Jerry Brown recently signed a set of bills which he claims are aimed at easing our state's housing crisis, but none of them really has teeth. What if instead he directly incentivized balanced housing and jobs. For example, give more infrastructure funding to cities that provide enough housing to support their jobs. City planners would feel the cost of allowing corporate takeover _before_ it happens instead of after the damage has been done.


10 people like this
Posted by more housing
a resident of Barron Park
on Oct 25, 2017 at 11:13 am

10,000 housing units by 2035 is a drop in the bucket. We should be jumping at the opportunity to density, to make this city vibrant and interesting, to attract talent and get the benefits of a diverse community. Local retail will not survive without density - as is, Palo Alto downtown is increasingly focused on luxury dining and shopping. Mom and pop shops can only survive if normal people can live here. Moreover, we should stop building parking garages and charge for parking downtown and invest in transit.
And for all those who only want BMR housing - for teachers, not techies - you should look at history of segregation in this country and others. Next you'll start suggesting servants quarters. You cannot build housing just for those who "serve your community". That is just poor ethics.


14 people like this
Posted by Phil Farrell
a resident of Palo Verde
on Oct 25, 2017 at 11:19 am

One of the anonymous posters here (is that adjective redundant?) who does not have time to attend City Council meetings asked:
" It would be helpful if the CC provided online forms ... to weigh in on important matters in lieu of appearing for meetings."
Actually, they do! You can simply email "city.council@cityofpaloalto.org" and your message goes to every member of the city council AND if you send it in advance of the meeting (at least 11 days, I think), it gets printed out and put in the Council packet! I did that earlier with my comments on the comprehensive plan.

Of course, if you email the Council you are expected to give your real name (and even if you don't, your email address can probably be linked to your name with some detective work). And the email becomes public record. So many people seem to prefer anonymity in public, so they post here where it is less effective.


37 people like this
Posted by Phil Farrell
a resident of Palo Verde
on Oct 25, 2017 at 11:25 am

And here is what I emailed to City Council:

Dear City Council Members,

I am a homeowner and resident of Palo Alto since 1983. I have raised my family here. I am writing to you to state strongly my belief that the new Comprehensive Plan to guide the city's development for the next 15-20 years should include a provision allowing ZERO net growth in commercial space (excluding retail).

While I have lived in Palo Alto, I have seen congestion constantly increasing. This is because for decades the city has welcomed continuous increases in commercial office space, which brings more workers, while allowing only small increases in housing. The result is that our jobs to housing imbalance is now greater than 3 to 1. And our neighboring cities also are out of balance, so the new workers have to live further and further away, creating more and more traffic and pollution and driving the prices of housing in Palo Alto to insane levels. None of my children, even though they work in high paying jobs, can afford to live in the city of their upbringing!

We cannot improve this situation by continuing to allow more and more commercial growth. We must STOP all commercial growth and concentrate on increasing the housing stock during this next planning cycle. Then, in 10 to 15 years, we can see if the jobs to housing imbalance has been at least partially ameliorated and only then consider allowing growth in commercial space.

I believe we need a policy of ZERO net growth in commercial office and industrial space. Space can be improved, but should not be increased. Retail has been disappearing, so we should permit growth in retail space.

Companies are not going to flee if they cannot expand. Palo Alto is the hub of innovation. It will always be a coveted location. But Palo Alto is also a city of people who are suffering greatly from the unchecked growth of technology companies. It is time to work for a better balance.

Thank you for considering my thoughts as you develop the next Comprehensive Plan.

Sincerely,
Phil Farrell


9 people like this
Posted by Just some facts
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Oct 25, 2017 at 12:30 pm

[Post removed.]


2 people like this
Posted by stop attacking
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 25, 2017 at 12:54 pm

[Post removed.]


2 people like this
Posted by stop attacking
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 25, 2017 at 1:02 pm

[Post removed.]


3 people like this
Posted by Just some facts
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Oct 25, 2017 at 1:16 pm

[Post removed.]


34 people like this
Posted by Long Time Resident
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Oct 25, 2017 at 8:21 pm

How about a state wide water-to-housing balance?
If no new reservoirs are built, no new housing or companies should be allowed to base themselves here.


8 people like this
Posted by Allen Akin
a resident of Professorville
on Oct 25, 2017 at 10:22 pm

Allen Akin is a registered user.

@Long Time Resident:

I think you're on a good track, but maybe too limited. We can store water in underground aquifers at less cost and with lower evaporation losses than in reservoirs. I've read that Santa Clara County has already done good work along these lines. Can you recommend something more general?


26 people like this
Posted by Annette
a resident of College Terrace
on Oct 26, 2017 at 6:31 am

Annette is a registered user.

When I hear PAF speakers and people like the very convincing John Kelley I find myself agreeing with some of what they say (we DO need housing and NO isn't a realistic approach) and then circling back to three questions: How? Where? And what about infrastructure concerns?

A recent Uber Pool ride took me through the Facebook campus. The already finished campus is enormous and the under-construction addition is HUGE. What was astounding was the number of CARS in the former Sun parking lots. The lots are PACKED with CARS parked in every slot + along the edges + sometimes down the middle. And this from a demographic that believes in and supports alternative transportation such as bicycles, van pools, SCOOP, company buses, etc. I think we have a long, long way to go before cars are not the primary choice of commuters.

To the ardent supporters of the development proposed in the Comp Plan: how do you propose that we achieve what you promote? We can stay in the circular build/don't build discussion forever; I think it is time to move the discussion on to practicalities and realities. I expect to hear "build up, eliminate the height ceiling in the transit corridor". Exploring that, we still have transit, parking, and other infrastructure issues. In fact, doing that could add to the issues we face.

Where's the magic? I ask this seriously of those calling for densification - it seems you see possibilities that others do not; what are your ideas, specifically, and how are they achieved?


17 people like this
Posted by a rubber stamp
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 26, 2017 at 6:46 am

For all its shortcomings on the macro-level in terms of over-all development in which the Comp Plan is essentially a blueprint and rubber stamp for continued over-development of office without regard to infrastructure to support it - the antithesis of land use planning - on the street
level in your face, the Comp Plan seems to have no aesthetic component. For example,Palo Alto is becoming uglier every day with sign clutter and yellow paint, bollards,etc in the name of traffic engineering,while actually making congestion worse and the streets more dangerous in many instances with what was done and continues at Jordan school the best example. And the design review function through the ARB is essentially a broken process with high profile examples beginning with The Cheesecake Factory almost 15 years ago. That process needs reform- the City needs to hire an "outsider" architect to perform this function.
In terms of zoning, setbacks are too narrow in both residential and commercial areas, FAR's excessive, there is little to no enforcement of the criteria in the Individual Review Process by the staff in single-family areas for two-story construction. This Comp Plan is just a rubber stamp for the continued spiral down and destruction of the city which is well under way. This Council majority will gladly endorse it - with a "more housing" and TDM wrapper - as no threat to the status quo and a "free pass" going forward.




11 people like this
Posted by Annette
a resident of College Terrace
on Oct 26, 2017 at 10:27 am

Annette is a registered user.

@More housing from Barron Park - you are precisely the type of poster I am hoping to hear from regarding specifics. You are clear about what you think must happen. HOW do propose Palo Alto should proceed? WHERE are the possibilities?

My assessment of the situation we are in is that we let commercial development gobble up the possibilities and now we are well and truly stuck. You see things differently and I am genuinely curious about how you and others think we can get where you want the city to go.


18 people like this
Posted by Question
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Oct 26, 2017 at 10:33 am

Asking people who are voicing up serious concerns based on facts. There is no time to waste on yelling at each other or trying to make people understand "whose salary depends on not understanding". Is there a group that discusses how to balance the housing situation, what can be done about traffic and public transportation. It would be good to talk to people who want to talk, not just "build baby, build".
Would appreciate the information.


9 people like this
Posted by Anke
a resident of Mountain View
on Oct 26, 2017 at 12:06 pm

I came across this today - a series of discussion events where community members can discuss housing and related issues, organized by "Silicon Valley Community Foundation". Here's the summary description:

"On the Table is a day of community building through conversations designed to strengthen and connect our community. Join the conversation on Wednesday, Nov. 15!

On the Table SV will bring together thousands of local people to eat and talk about our region's housing challenges — and what we can do to solve them. Your voice matters.

Sponsored by Silicon Valley Community Foundation, this one-day event will feature meal-time discussions throughout San Mateo and Santa Clara counties on Nov. 15. It's a chance to get to know neighbors and colleagues, make new connections and inspire action. "

Web Link


Disclaimer: I'm sharing this here in case anyone is interested. I'm not affiliated with this organization, in fact I barely know anything about them, but I'm sure folks will be able to make their own judgments.






6 people like this
Posted by George Drysdale
a resident of Professorville
on Oct 26, 2017 at 12:08 pm

Cities grow organically. Government itself doesn't have money. If there are too many jobs for housing housing will become more profitable and housing will be built. Very interestingly below market housing is prohibitively expensive to build. The price of land. Also the doughnut effect develops. The upper middle class pays land rents, the subsidized can hang on in part and the middle middle class must depart. What's fair?
Palo Alto is just part of Silicon Valley which functions as a unit in terms of housing. There is plenty of housing development opportunity in Silicon Valley. Silicon Valley is blessed because there are billions of dollars eager to invest in rentals. The problem: government. More specifically in San Jose with its rent control (a pure evil). Praise to the Mountain View City council in defying its electorate and trying to divert rent control (the most studied subject in economics). Go north young man. George Drysdale land econonmist and initiator


6 people like this
Posted by Yeah, right
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Oct 26, 2017 at 12:46 pm

"Praise to the Mountain View City council in defying its electorate and trying to divert rent control"
- Hail MV Council, indeed, defying people who elected it! Divert the rent control and replace the electorate who elected it by other - wealthier - electorate. What a way to go!

... if you want to make economic, social, cultural, and all other inequalities and tensions worse, much worse. That is how they build ghettos, not cities.


23 people like this
Posted by Jobs to Housing Imbalance
a resident of Mayfield
on Oct 26, 2017 at 2:48 pm

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.


7 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 26, 2017 at 3:06 pm

If stabilizing the housing/jobs imbalance is a legitimate goal, perhaps the first action should be making sure that all working adults who reside in the City of Palo Alto, should work within the City boundaries.

Yes, sounds silly doesn't it?


8 people like this
Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Oct 27, 2017 at 1:53 pm

Online Name is a registered user.

Given the fact that Trump and the GOP have decided to eliminate income tax deductions for state and local taxes -- which will obviously hurt high-tax, high-income blue states like California and NY -- I hope our City Council will consider the likely impact of this change on the local jobs picture before undertaking a massive building program just in time for the mass exodus of jobs.

Web Link


13 people like this
Posted by Steve Dabrowski
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Oct 27, 2017 at 2:41 pm

Someone here indicated 10,000 units to be a drop in the bucket and that the city should really pull the plug and densify to become a vibrant center or some such..... I wonder about the vibrancy among high density apartment buildings.. We always see what I call happy strollers in the architectural renderings of these edifices, but in reality they become dreary areas largely devoid of pedestrians. Look along Alma near 801 and the High Street developments, no one walks there like they do in the neighborhoods having homes that exude charm along our residential streets. Even further in among the larger developments there is much less activity.

Ironically the action along Alma is at Phils Coffee-a single story building that has been here for decades.


22 people like this
Posted by How to add more housing?
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Oct 27, 2017 at 8:06 pm

How to add more housing? is a registered user.

@Annette -- I've been asking people the same question. How can we add significantly more (affordable) housing while maintaining the quality of life here? I haven't heard any good responses. They will generally say "build up", which is missing the point. When I ask them about the schools and the parks and similar, they just say we all need to live with less space, larger schools, more indoor time, a more urban landscape.

How do you put a price tag on a grassy play yard at an elementary school? On a view of trees and some sky from the cafe where you are sitting? On a school small enough where you know almost all the kids in your grade? Are these soon to be things of the past?

@Steve Drive down First Street in Los Altos. That was a relatively small change, but it is really sad what happened there. It is dark and unfriendly and impersonal and generally city-like. The residents hate it. Density, setbacks, light -- it all has an impact on the people who live there. Is that just the price we all need to pay to maintain economic diversity in the city?

The comp plan city staff said the park space and R1 neighborhoods remain untouched. Not true. Parks and the services they provide will get more crowded (especially given the large majority is in the relatively inaccessible foothills), and R1 has already been densified with the accessible units. We should be more honest with ourselves about how the city is changing.


23 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 28, 2017 at 8:38 am

Thank you to Annette and the previous poster who are both looking at this the way it should be looked at.

I don't think any of us want to turn Palo Alto into a concrete jungle for lots of reasons. But there is more to the discussion than just building more homes.

The infrastructure and quality of life issues are real. As it is we have to drive out of Palo Alto to buy most of what a family needs with the exception of some smaller grocery stores. We can shop Amazon, but why should we be forced to do so just because we can't get school supplies and reasonably priced children's clothes in town, as 2 examples. As it stands now, we have lost many family friendly places such as the bowling alley and movie theaters are not showing the movies that the young people want to see, so once again going out of town is necessary. Even on our doorstep in Mountain View, Laser quest and a dance studio were both forced to close.

We can't look on Palo Alto as a dormitory for people without giving them recreational activities, affordable restaurants, affordable and useful shopping, and expect them to feel that they can get all they need by walking or using public transportation. Our public transportation is dreadful. The shuttles and VTA do nothing to help evening and weekend activities and are poor for daytime use. Even retired seniors who have more time on their hands do not want to wait for an hour for the next bus and then deal with snaking routes that take twice as long at least than if they went by car.

To make Palo Alto vibrant we need more than housing, jobs, upscale restaurants and upscale shopping. We need to have our dentists, tax/financial consultants, etc. in town too. We need to be able to have our teens hang out with friends, out of town family visit us, take our kids out for dinner without spending big bucks, see a movie, plan a kids birthday party, and all the other things that make life worth living. We are not all young techies without kids and even the ones that are will one day turn into family groups who need more space. Are they expected to move once their first child needs space to run around?

I can't understand the build, build, build, the pack and stack, the high rise jungle, crowd, who can't see that quality of life is important not just for us who already live here, but for those who are supposedly going to come into these miniscule high rises without parking.

Living is more than existing in a home. Living requires infrastructure that they have not put enough thought into.


19 people like this
Posted by Allen Akin
a resident of Professorville
on Oct 28, 2017 at 10:50 am

I've skimmed the full 1076 pages of the Final EIR, and read the key sections carefully. Here are the most important points I've taken away.

None of the scenarios investigated for the Comprehensive Plan considered substantial reduction of the growth in office/R&D space.

Under the "preferred" scenario, there will be more new employees than new residents. The change in the overall jobs/housing ratio will be negligible (Section 1.4). The amount of housing to be added will be too small to improve affordability. (See Web Link)

There will be significant and unmitigatable deterioration of air quality, of traffic conditions on both local streets and freeways, and of service on public transit systems (Section 1.6).

In short, the Comp Plan offers very little hope for improvement in the civic matters of greatest concern in Palo Alto. This makes the composition of the City Council crucial.


10 people like this
Posted by How to add more housing?
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Oct 28, 2017 at 7:25 pm

@Resident

The PTC did a nice job of pointing out the need for such services in their response to the Comp Plan. They had 11 recommendations, several of them unanimous. See Item 2 in the Table on Page 10: Web Link

Let's hope our City Council pays attention to that (unanimous) recommendation.

My question is really, where does all this go? (Another great one is how do we afford it, but let's start with where does it go.) The natural answer is to build up. One option is high-rise buildings along major thoroughfares. El Camino is a good option because it's widest, so the height has less impact and hopefully the larger lots allow for larger setbacks. It's not especially walkable, though, so then we get the high-rises downtown and in California Avenue. Housing + services + retail. That is why PAF is so incensed about the five-story limit -- you can't fit all that into smaller buildings. So imagine 8+ stories along those narrow streets. Neighborhood centers will need more space, meaning it builds up. Edgewood Plaza. Midtown. Charleston Plaza. Cubberley (which will have housing too).

We did that with our schools already. But even the lowest projections indicate we will grow out of our schools. Maybe we add a third story? Or we build a school in a floor of a high-rise? With a rooftop playground?

The 2016 survey indicates affordable preschool and childcare are a big issue. Where does all that go? More high-rise floors? Hey, welcome to the "upgraded" Palo Alto.

The bigger picture is: more indoor space, more indoor living and services. I don't see how to get around it.

The $$ picture is going to be bleak. Ex-Mayor Pat Burt always said this -- we need to focus on the infrastructure needed and how we are going to afford it before building out. Yes, we do. Because it is far from obvious how to do all this while building lots of BMR housing, which is a top priority to improving the diversity and balance of our City.

And don't ask me why we are building more office space...


3 people like this
Posted by No simple solution
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Oct 28, 2017 at 8:08 pm

No simple solution is a registered user.

The Bay areas housing crisis has no simple solutions but I suggest the following:

ALL cities must provide more housing especially those who house executives. Communities like Woodside, Los Altos Hiils, Portola Valley and Atherton should be expected and required to house the employees of their CEO and other executive residents. I believe Massachusetts require every city to have 10% of their housing to be for low income, irregardless of the jobs in the city. The jobs housing balance should be regional not by City.


11 people like this
Posted by How to add more housing?
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Oct 28, 2017 at 8:34 pm

How to add more housing? is a registered user.

@No simple solution says: "Communities like Woodside, Los Altos Hiils, Portola Valley and Atherton should be expected and required to house the employees of their CEO and other executive residents."

Is that fair, though? Those cities presumably chose not to add lots of office space, because they wanted to maintain their expansive, rural, feeling. Palo Alto instead took the bait and went for the cash (office development brings in $$ for the cities). But we didn't do the math, and didn't account for all the secondary costs those offices and their employees would incur. So we are stuck holding the bag.

Do we then farm that out to our neighbors?

Watch the City Council meeting from October 23: Web Link

Start at 3:03:30. Listen to how angry the commenter from Cupertino is, where (she says) they have done much better planning than we have, they have a great jobs:housing ratio, and they don't want to suffer the consequences of our poor planning.

Bonus points to anyone who can please explain to me -- given all this, why are we building yet more office space? We need to rezone the existing to housing, not build more!


4 people like this
Posted by How to add more housing?
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Oct 28, 2017 at 9:52 pm

How to add more housing? is a registered user.

Another thing to think about, besides (a) where does housing/services go and (b) how do we pay for it, is (c) how do we ensure that we are meeting our goals with this new housing?

Presumably we aren't building all this housing just to make our city bigger. That is not an explicit goal that we have (afaik). Our goals for adding this housing are (I think) one or both of: (a) make Palo Alto a more economically diverse city (typically via BMR housing); and (b) reduce our traffic and congestion problem (by housing more local workers)

Regarding the first goal -- How much BMR housing do we need to build to make a difference that everyone can notice? Today we are at 7% of our 28,000 housing units, which is about 2,000 units. We need to at least double that. That is a lot of housing.

Regarding the second goal -- How can we encourage local workers specifically to live in this new housing? Otherwise we'll get people working in other cities who move to Palo Alto for the schools and parks (assuming we find a way to keep them in good shape with the increased load). Is it possible to restrict much of the new housing to public service and school workers, since these jobs cannot move when the city is too crowded and expensive?


13 people like this
Posted by No ghosts
a resident of Barron Park
on Oct 29, 2017 at 1:24 am

I couldn't agree with you all more. We need to stop commercial growth. Our roads are already jammed with commuters. The city admits that any commercial growth will make traffic even worse.

But we also need to limit the foreign/Asian purchasing of ghost houses which drive up values and reduce inventory.


7 people like this
Posted by Anke
a resident of Mountain View
on Oct 29, 2017 at 10:36 am

"But we also need to limit the foreign/Asian purchasing of ghost houses which drive up values and reduce inventory. "

Amen, @No ghosts! I don't understand why we are selling out our country's land to foreign nationals in the first place. I read recently that Toronto has the same problem and they have started cracking down on foreigners buying homes that they don't live in. Other countries don't allow non-citizens to buy real estate, period. Maybe it's time we follow their example.


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