News

Palo Alto adopts new Comprehensive Plan

Council vote caps a decadelong planning process, culminates in new land-use vision

Palo Alto concluded one of the most complex and contentious planning efforts in its history late Monday night, when the City Council voted to adopt the new Comprehensive Plan, a document that will guide the city's land use and infrastructure decisions until at least 2030.

By a 7-2 vote, with Karen Holman and Lydia Kou dissenting, the council crossed the finish line of a marathon planning process that began in 2006 and that took several long and unexpected swerves along the way. Despite several last-minute disagreements and a deep division over the adequacy of the Environmental Impact Report, the council ended its meeting by clinking Champagne glasses in celebration.

The late-night euphoria followed a long and wide-ranging debate that in many times epitomized the entire journey. In the final hours of the process, council members introduced new ideas; revisited decisions that had already been settled; took narrow votes and broad swipes at one another; and, ultimately, reached a compromise. Though Holman and Kou concluded that the new document does not adequately address the impacts of future growth and voted against adoption, the majority agreed that the decision is long past due.

"It's been a long and winding road," Wolbach said.

Even so, the process almost fell off the tracks again on Monday when four council members declined to sign off on the Environmental Impact Report, which evaluated the impacts of six different growth scenarios and proposed mitigations.

A failure to approve the environmental analysis would have legally prohibited the council from adopting the Comprehensive Plan. It also would have required staff to make significant revisions to the document to comply with new state laws that are set to take effect on Jan. 1.

That outcome was narrowly averted when the council voted 5-4 vote, with Holman, Kou, Councilman Eric Filseth and Councilman Tom DuBois dissenting, to support the environmental analysis. The four council members who voted against it cited numerous reasons for their opposition, with Filseth focusing on its failure to address the impacts of new construction on local schools, DuBois calling its scenario-based structure confusing, Kou raising concerns about traffic and Holman finding various faults with its proposed mitigations on transportation, noise and air quality.

Holman called the proposed mitigations insufficient and proposed that staff return in two or three weeks with additional ones. Kou agreed.

"When it comes to being a trustee of this city and being elected by residents and folks who live here in Palo Alto, the unavoidable, significant impacts have to have some bearing on decisions," Kou said. "Mitigations are just not sufficient."

The council majority, however, said that it's time to act. The prior Comprehensive Plan had a planning horizon that concluded in 2010. Councilman Adrian Fine noted that work on that plan began in 1990, when he was 4 years old, and suggested that it's no longer a relevant vehicle for advancing the goals of the city. He encouraged his colleagues to support the update.

"Not everyone is getting what they want, but everyone is getting something," Fine said. "I think it's time to move the community forward."

The most contentious item of the night was Fine's 11th-hour proposal to revisit the debate over how Palo Alto measures transportation impacts. The traditional measure that is used in environmental analyses -- known as "level of service" (LOS) -- focuses on traffic delays at major intersections and road segments. It gives an A to F grade to roadways, based on congestion, and helps planners evaluate the deterioration of traffic conditions caused by new construction projects.

The new standard -- "vehicle miles traveled" (VMT) -- focuses on the total number of car trips taken, with the goal of reducing them and encouraging transit use, bike use and other alternative modes of transportation. Favored by regional planning boards, urban-planning organizations and, increasingly, the state of California (which is now making VMT the default standard for environmental analysis under the California Environmental Quality Act), the measurement focuses on the broader goal of shifting people away from cars.

In debating this issue in the past, council members and the specially appointed Citizens Advisory Commission favored using both metrics to measure impacts of development projects. On Monday night, Fine attempted to reverse that decision and made a motion to effectively shift to VMT and to use LOS only for informational purposes.

In arguing for the change, Fine argued that using LOS could hinder the city in its pursuit of environmentally sustainable policies, such as infill development.

"It also punishes bike and pedestrian improvements, because they might have an impact on you sitting at an intersection in a car," Fine said. "If we really care about building a city that supports multi-modal services, I think this is a good change."

His proposal fell by a single vote, with his political ally Mayor Greg Scharff joining Holman, DuBois, Kou and Filseth in thwarting it. While Scharff said he opposed making controversial changes at the end of the process, others argued that the change would be bad policy that discounts local concerns.

Filseth said that taking "level of service" out of consideration would be a disservice to constituents, who have demonstrated time and time again that they passionately care about traffic.

"They did not send us here today so we can say, 'We don't want you to know what the congestion is,'" Filseth said.

Kou also fell one vote shy in her quest to ensure that new developments fulfill their parking obligations. The new Comprehensive Plan calls for developers to "manage" the parking demand of the projects; the prior version required them to "meet" the demand by actually providing parking spaces. Fine recommended the change from "meet" to "manage" in January and the council quickly adopted it at that time with no debate. Kou attempted to revisit the issue on Monday night by reverting the language to "meet," but the proposal fell by a 4-5 vote, with Holman, DuBois and Filseth joining her.

In other areas, council members proved willing to compromise. In a nod to recent complaints from residents, the council voted 8-1, with Vice Mayor Liz Kniss dissenting, to reinsert into the plan's introduction chapter language about neighborhood protection that was previously struck. Prompted by Holman, the addition directs the city to "encourage commercial enterprise but not at the expense of the city's residential neighborhoods."

The council also supported by a unanimous vote Councilman Greg Tanaka's suggestion to go beyond the existing pro-bicycle stance and add language promoting other "personal transportation vehicles" -- including skateboards and rollerblades.

The council also agreed to include in the plan a list of "community indicators" -- periodic measurements that would track the city's progress on issues of high community concern. The biggest debate came over which indicators to choose. Ultimately, the majority went with a proposal from Scharff and planning staff to include eight indicators: greenhouse gas emissions, vehicle miles traveled per capita, the jobs-to-housing balance, below-market-rate units constructed, progress toward achieving the goals of the Housing Element, traffic volumes at 10 representative local intersections, availability of parks and school enrollments.

Scharff's proposal went ahead by a 5-3 vote, with Holman, Kou and DuBois dissenting (Tanaka temporarily left the room during the vote). Those who opposed preferred a different set of measures Dubois proposed that included parking impacts from commercial areas on neighborhoods, the "solo occupant vehicle" rate in employment areas, urban tree canopy, parks acreage per resident and the number of unoccupied homes.

The newly approved Comprehensive Plan includes policies to spur creation of affordable housing, preserve retail, limit office space to 1.7 million square feet (in addition to the 1.3 million that has already been approved as part of the construction of the new Stanford University Medical Center); promote smaller housing units; and create a new community with housing and commercial uses at Stanford Research Park.

It also places a premium on traffic reduction, with a requirement that new developments above a certain size threshold to prepare and implement transportation-demand management plans. It also sets specific traffic-reduction targets that developments have to meet, based on their locations within the city.

The Environmental Impact Report for the plan includes a preferred scenario with between 3,500 and 4,400 new housing units between now and 2030, well below the 10,000 that the city's housing advocates have been calling for, yet somewhat above what Palo Alto would receive under present policies.

DuBois and Filseth shared some of Holman's and Kou's reservations about the new document, though they ultimately joined the majority in supporting the new Comprehensive Plan. Wolbach had his own concerns, having argued at prior meetings that the city should plan for far more housing.

"This plan is clearly not perfect, but it's pretty darn good," Wolbach said.

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Comments

80 people like this
Posted by Votes for More Congestion and Less Parking
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 14, 2017 at 2:46 am

For analyzing traffic, we need both VMT (Vehicle Miles Travelled) and LOS (Level of Service). VMT measures overall how far the entire Bay Area drives, while LOS measures local traffic congestion. Councilmember Fine wanted to get rid of the requirement for LOS. He argued that it would require street widening. There are other policies against street widening. The real effect would be to limit developments that generated large traffic increases.

It is important to note that the giant increase of development proposed under the Stanford 2018 General Use Permit (GUP) has many significant impacts under the traffic impact LOS impact standard, but ZERO traffic impacts under the VMT impact standard. That is, Stanford could violate the No New Net Commute trips requirement with impunity if the LOS traffic impact standard were not required.

It is clear that the pro-developer Council majority wants to save developers money by not requiring that developers pay for putting in the parking generated by their project. Putting in a parking space costs over $60,000 each, so that's a great return on investment for a $5,000 campaign contribution. The decision by the same five Councilmemmbers to reduce impact fees on office development used for building low income housing compared with the fee schedule set by the previous Council is also a great return on investment of campaign contributions.


8 people like this
Posted by Sea Reddy
a resident of College Terrace
on Nov 14, 2017 at 3:41 am

Yes. It’s complted.
Congratulations to many that contributed.
Let’s use it to make Palo Alto a great community.
Congratulations are in order to mayor for his leadership.

Respectfully


40 people like this
Posted by NeilsonBuchanan
a resident of Downtown North
on Nov 14, 2017 at 8:26 am

NeilsonBuchanan is a registered user.

Thank You, City Council. THANK YOU!

Restoring one sentence, merely 15 words, into the Introduction of the Comp Plan shows that a strong Council majority understands the balance between Palo Alto as a place to work and a place to live.

These words will serve as one of Palo Alto’s most important values for years to come…..Comp “Plan will encourage commercial enterprise but not at the expense of the city’s residential neighborhoods.”

We Palo Altans have been living in an sustained economic cycle. It has been difficult to keep perspective as the thrill of success dulls our senses about neighborhoods, traffic, schoolrooms, playgrounds and housing equity.

Thank you again, Council, for picking those words off the cutting room floor and restoring them to prominence.


56 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 14, 2017 at 8:48 am

I see this as a plan for a city that has places to work and places to sleep but I don't see it as a plan for allowing the new 3500+ residents to live.

There is no mention of additional park space, additional places to shop for essentials like food and children's clothes at affordable rates, no mention of additional public transportation, no mention of activity centered facilities, no mention of additional school places, no mention of additional entertainment facilities.

Yes, people can sleep in these new residential units, but living involves more than hibernating in a micro apartment all non-working hours.

I think that living means more than just existing in an abode. To live we need to be able to find things to do, places to go and space to breathe, places for essential life and places for R and R.

Where are the new residents and those of us who already live here going to do this? Our movie theaters? Our one ice rink? Our one city pool? Our tiny grocery stores? Our expensive shopping centers? Our non-existent large big box stores? Even Frys seems to be pushed out. We could well do with that site remaining as essential retail. Expensive restaurants in walking distance and all the coffee shops in the world are not going to make quality of life for any of us.

No wonder all the new residents will want cars. They will need them for all the times they will have to leave Palo Alto to find things to do to give them a good quality of life.


45 people like this
Posted by Allen Akin
a resident of Professorville
on Nov 14, 2017 at 9:04 am

Allen Akin is a registered user.

There's a lot here that deserves comment, and I hope I'll find time to do so. But there's one thing I'd like to mention right away.

Council agreed to measure "traffic volumes at 10 representative local intersections". But this fails to address the problem of traffic overload in the neighborhoods themselves. We know from the Environmental Impact Report that traffic is going to get worse during the lifetime of the Comp Plan. As congestion increases on the main roads and in the intersections, spillover and cut-through traffic in the neighborhoods is going to increase.

I've spent a little time thinking about how residents can measure traffic impact on the neighborhoods when the City fails to do so. If any of you are also interested in this, please send me a note at traffic@arden.org with an email address. I'll put together a mailing list so we can get organized and share information.


23 people like this
Posted by Elaine Uang
a resident of Downtown North
on Nov 14, 2017 at 10:04 am

Hooray!!! This has been 10+ years in the making and 7 years overdue! Thank you council! I now look forward to your work to enable more housing in our city so our community can remain welcoming, diverse and interesting.


27 people like this
Posted by Holy cow
a resident of Downtown North
on Nov 14, 2017 at 10:11 am

After all this time, countless hours, immense community involvement and so many opportunities to comment - Holman an Kou vote against this. So sad. This could have been a community event to bring us together but instead they choose to be divisive. Thank goodness Holman is done here. Kou shows her lack of ability to grasp the basic elements that would make her an effective council member. Instead she beats the one drum she was so narrowly elected on.

Filseth and DuBois were so transparent as well - political pandering with outrageous comments and questions. DuBois was the most hypocritical, saying the EIR studied too many scenarios - after he had been a proponent of adding so many himself.

Just glad this is over. Thanks to the others who were the voice of reason and moved this along appropriately. I'll remember this next time I vote.


3 people like this
Posted by george drysdale
a resident of Professorville
on Nov 14, 2017 at 10:13 am

CRASH! The San Jose Property Rights Initiative2 Google Granicus. I'm doing my best to provide more housing. Supply is the only available solution. There really is no compromise with supply and demand. Developers are the agents of demand. My job is to take down rent control, period. Other than to mention the doughnut effect of who gets housing in expensive areas. Dr. Tom Means is the most powerful politician in Silicon Valley as he understands economics and takes a brave stance in Mountain View. The Buena Vista is an albatross around Palo Alto government's neck. There is a great deal of potential for the development of rentals in Silicon Valley (the Bay Area) if we rebuild according to Tokyo standards.
George Drysdale inititor and land economist


20 people like this
Posted by Southgate Home Owning Senior
a resident of Southgate
on Nov 14, 2017 at 10:13 am

CONGRATULATIONS PALO ALTO CITY COUNCIL! ten years in the making, with input from citizens, staff and review by Council...... So glad it was not allowed to stall again. I look forward to Palo Alto allowing for diversity and working with other communities, instead of isolating itself, to improve transportation, air quality, housing and focus on all of its citizens' needs.... all! THANK YOU TO THOSE WHO HELPED WORK ON AND PASS THIS plan and certify the EIR! Thank you!


25 people like this
Posted by She's against everything
a resident of Community Center
on Nov 14, 2017 at 10:24 am

What a surprise, holman voted against the plan. But she is pushing that we remember that there was a tomato cannery at the frys site ( that was 70+ years ago so that makes it historic). What about the bike bridge over 101, karen? [Portion removed.]


28 people like this
Posted by Homeowner
a resident of University South
on Nov 14, 2017 at 10:28 am

Thank you for passing this! I’m a bit older than Councilmember Fine, but I was also young when the last Comp Plan was passed. We’ve changed as a City, and we need to change how we do things. The car isn’t the be all and end all anymore - have you seen the lines to board Caltrain nowadays? It’s good to see us moving and adapting to the future.


25 people like this
Posted by Pete
a resident of College Terrace
on Nov 14, 2017 at 10:52 am

It’s too bad Fine didn’t get his way with the LOS issue. Lydia Kou consistently shows she’s out of touch when it comes to urban planning. She’s stuck in the 20th century. Congrats to everyone on finally getting it all finished.


46 people like this
Posted by Annette
a resident of College Terrace
on Nov 14, 2017 at 11:13 am

Annette is a registered user.

I think Kou was right to try to replace "manage" with "meet". There's nothing ambiguous about "meet" while "manage" is subjective and easily manipulated. No doubt that was the goal. Slick.

I do appreciate the nod to neighborhood protection and sincerely hope that happens.

Lots of rudeness on the dais last night; seems to be the new normal.


25 people like this
Posted by Community consensus
a resident of Midtown
on Nov 14, 2017 at 11:25 am

Watched on TV and while there were certainly some changes I supported, and some I didn’t, in the end I’m glad the city passed this plan! I have been reading about this plan for unpteen years now, and I think this plan is reflective of our community.

Creating a document like this is really hard work, not everyone will be happy with everything. For council members Kou, Holman, Filseth and DuBois to vote against this is divisive, political and is plain old sour grapes. [Portion removed.]


13 people like this
Posted by Gina Dalma
a resident of Midtown
on Nov 14, 2017 at 11:35 am

Great! Hard work paid off. Politicking/non-fact based arguments did not. Let's remember this in the next election.


35 people like this
Posted by United right wing
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Nov 14, 2017 at 12:16 pm

The [portion removed] developer supporters vote as a block and last night was a perfect example.
Kniss, Fine, Scharff, Wolbach and Tanaka vote as a solid block.

Kniss wondered why the Chamber was empty at the end. Here's a hint, Liz:
The development-advocates votes are predictable. There is no uncertainty on how you will vote. [Portion removed.]


18 people like this
Posted by to the holy cow
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 14, 2017 at 12:47 pm

to the holy cow is a registered user.

Dissent is in the eye of the beholder.

If you push your weight as a majority to silence a minority, it's not cool.

Accepting, and respecting dissenting voices is democracy.


63 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 14, 2017 at 12:58 pm

I actually reside in Palo Alto and have done for some time, I have had children in schools, in AYSO, in Little League, in classes and other activities in town.

I can't believe all those cheers for this above are from genuine residents rather than those who just wannabe residents.

Living in a sardine tan with no amenities and no improvements to infrastructure is not life. It is a sad existence when all these people are pleased to see more people coming into the town and absolutely nothing to improve their existence apart from a place to sleep.

Wake up everyone. Life is not about sleeping and working. It is about having things around that make life pleasant. 3500+ additional residents without quality of life infrastructure and amenities is not progress. Crowding more bodies into town is just going to turn Palo Alto into a sardine can.


13 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 14, 2017 at 1:07 pm

PS Stanford growth warrants a new school.

Read the article. PAUSD, are you paying attention?


46 people like this
Posted by Wake up
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Nov 14, 2017 at 1:17 pm

@Resident

Fully agree, thank you. I, too, do not see how those who are cheering are not developers or in some way benefiting from developing.
If none of the above, it must be people who have their very peculiar perception of what life should be like.

PA roads are a gridlock most part of the day. We who live here have to plan when is a good time to get out of work, go to a store across town, etc. not to be stuck and more often than not give up and choose NOT to go. And this is NOW.

Do people who vote for and cheer drive on different roads? Or, indeed, do not live here?

Wake up, regular people. Quit being fooled and then have to deal with the consequences. Too late, the players walk away with their profits and move on to develop other places. We are staying in the "developed" town.


17 people like this
Posted by Hamilton
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Nov 14, 2017 at 2:17 pm

Congratulations on passing the Comprehensive Plan which provides the over arching plan for the city for the next 15 years for the city. This was a huge task and big accomplishment. I want to especially thank all the volunteers including those on the Citizen's Advisory Committee (CAc), the Planning and Transportation Committee and those residents who took time to contribute thoughtful suggestions and their desired vision for the future of Palo Alto. In addition to the staff who spent so much time and were critical to ensuring a quality product. This plan made significant improvements to all plans including Transportation, Safety, Natural Environment, Community Services and Land Use Elements. The CAC voted unanimously to approve the plan and push the controversial areas (which were all in land use) up to the city council (the elected officials) to make the final decision on and laid out a set of recommended choices. These major areas of community discourse were on the rate of growth, type of growth and how to address parking and traffic. In the end, a compromise was reached that reflected the sitting council members votes and I thank the council for their hard work, thoughtfulness, concern and restraint. In general, I always appreciate it when the council does the hard work of reaching consensus and goes beyond narrowly split 5-4 votes and strongly encourage the broader consensus on the council since it reflects a more widely supported decision within the community. As we move forward I believe it is possible to retain our great family neighborhoods and world class innovative businesses.


7 people like this
Posted by Marcello
a resident of Mountain View
on Nov 14, 2017 at 2:25 pm

ATTENTION:

Holman and Kou voted against the entire Comprehensive Plan.
Filseth and DuBois voted against the EIR for the plan.

Please make sure to circulate this and not let it go unnoticed. Feel free to ask for clarifications about their rationale behind it. Get pop-corns and enjoy :-)


41 people like this
Posted by Bill
a resident of Barron Park
on Nov 14, 2017 at 2:52 pm

Thanks to Karen Holman and Lydia Kou for dissenting on the Comprehensive Plan. Nice to know that at least some of the council is listening to the City's residents and care about our neighborhoods.

Thanks to Holman, Kou, Filseth and DuBois for calling out and dissenting on the environmental analysis. It was poorly done and a complete mess.


32 people like this
Posted by to the holy cow
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 14, 2017 at 2:54 pm

to the holy cow is a registered user.

Marcello,

There wasn't an option to vote against parts of the plan or EIR.

The excellent observations from Kou and Holman should be the starting point for the next plan.

Time to make planning for living a priority.


6 people like this
Posted by Confused about priorities?
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Nov 14, 2017 at 3:27 pm

" As we move forward I believe it is possible to retain our great family neighborhoods"

It would be good to hear a little more specifics. Otherwise, it is a fig leaf.

How about this: as we retain (and improve!) our great family neighborhoods, it is possible to move forward.


36 people like this
Posted by Allen Akin
a resident of Professorville
on Nov 14, 2017 at 3:28 pm

Allen Akin is a registered user.

It looks like we're all breaking up into our tribes, but if anyone out there is still uncommitted, I recommend taking a look at the Comp Plan's Environmental Impact Report. You can find it here: Web Link . To save time I suggest reading section 1.4 and skimming section 1.6 in the Executive Summary.

Under the Plan, Palo Alto will gain more new employees than new residents, and as you'd expect this means there will be no significant improvement in the jobs/housing ratio. The number of new housing units is too small to make much improvement in housing affordability; the increase of at most 4420 units is about 15% over the existing level, while UCLA research finds that a 20% increase in housing would be required to yield just a 10% reduction in price (rolling prices back to 2014, but even then things weren't exactly affordable). See Web Link . Of course, if demand continues to increase, then prices will continue to increase.

Look for the items labeled "SU" in the "Signficance After Mitigation" column of table 1-3; those are the things that are going to get worse, unavoidably, under the Plan. They include air quality, traffic conditions on both local streets and freeways, and service on public transit systems. Note that Caltrain is close to saturation and electrification will only increase its capacity by a small amount (10% according to Caltrain: Web Link ), so we can't depend on it to move a substantially larger number of commuters. This affects how well "transit-oriented" housing can succeed.

There are plenty of other difficult issues (like pension funding) that are outside the scope of the Plan, though we will be forced to take those into account when we decide which programs in the Plan we can afford to implement.

Like H. L. Mencken said, for complicated problems there are always solutions that are clear, simple, and wrong. This is a good time to keep that warning in mind.


30 people like this
Posted by to the holy cow
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 14, 2017 at 4:06 pm

to the holy cow is a registered user.

"Vice Mayor Liz Kniss dissenting, to reinsert into the plan's introduction chapter language about neighborhood protection"

for old time's sake, am looking at an election glossy from Kniss

"Re-elect Liz Kniss" "Going to bat for Our Kids, Seniors, and our City" color pictures of children, seniors, and someone at a little league park batting

Kniss bats against neighborhood protection, champagne everyone


5 people like this
Posted by chris
a resident of University South
on Nov 14, 2017 at 5:33 pm

Now that the nay-sayers have lost, it is time for them to contribute constructively to the future. So far, they have been trying to keep their heads in the sand.

If Stanford can do No Net New Trips, Palo Alto should be more ambitious with its traffic goals. The housing goal in the comp plan does not have to be a hard cap.
The entire council should be more aggressive. Stanford has offered to allow housing in the research park. This is an opportunity that should be pursued aggressively.

Menlo Park and Mountain View don't take as long as Palo Alto to make decisions, but there is little evidence so far that Palo Alto is making better decisions.


18 people like this
Posted by Marie
a resident of Midtown
on Nov 14, 2017 at 6:08 pm

Marie is a registered user.

So disappointed that we have ended up with a plan that will worsen the jobs to housing imbalance. We will continue to be subject to unrealistic housing allocations from ABAG. Why not zone west of the Stanford Research Institute for additional multi-family housing, in an area where it could really reduce cross-town traffic byt putting residences adjacent to the largest numbers of jobs in Palo Alto? And this area will not be affected by rising sea levels. It is time to consider rezoning land west of Palo Alto in order to protect against rising sea levels.


34 people like this
Posted by Curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on Nov 14, 2017 at 6:16 pm

"For council members Kou, Holman, Filseth and DuBois to vote against this is divisive, political and is plain old sour grapes."

Au contraire, amigo. Kniss, Fine, Scharff, Wolbach and Tanaka are the divisive ones [portion removed.]


"have you seen the lines to board Caltrain nowadays? It’s good to see us moving and adapting to the future."

Help me out here. How is queuing up to leave town on a nineteenth-century conveyance construable as "adapting to the future"?

Why are they leaving town anyway? Aren't all those jobs right here in Palo Alto? That notorious jobs-housing imbalance thing? Or do we actually have a surplus of housing that necessitates finding employment out of town? Did the Comp Plan designers know about that?


52 people like this
Posted by Rose
a resident of Mayfield
on Nov 14, 2017 at 8:19 pm

Thank you to Kou, Holman, Filseth and DuBois for sticking to their principles and the campaign platforms they ran on. I respect their efforts to protect our quality of life. Thank you for your hard work on behalf of all residents of Palo Alto.


24 people like this
Posted by PAF is cheering
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Nov 14, 2017 at 8:34 pm

according to the email I just got from them. Seems like they got most of what they wanted. Elections matter.


17 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 14, 2017 at 9:06 pm

“Thank you council! I now look forward to your work to enable more housing in our city so our community can remain welcoming, diverse and interesting.”


Diversity, if you're one of us. Article in the Mercury News this week about YIMBY movement (“In California, there is a new lobby for renters — market-rate renters”). Describes essentially a gentrification lobby of professional millennials pushing for density, jobs and housing, with professional lobbyists on retainer in Sacramento. Mentions PAF, photo of Adrian Fine at a fundraiser in San Francisco.

Web Link

One quote: “Perhaps the most common criticism of the movement comes from those who say it does little for the low-income tenants most severely affected by widening income inequality in the Bay Area.”

“They’re definitely not advocates for lower income people, even though the way they speak about it, you could be fooled into thinking that they are,” said Merika Reagan, an activist with Housing Now!, a statewide coalition of affordable housing advocates.”


20 people like this
Posted by to the holy cow
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 14, 2017 at 9:09 pm

to the holy cow is a registered user.

"Seems like (PAF) they got most of what they wanted."

Agree that elections matter

Issue is that it's easy to vote and win (easy to say anything to get elected), like it's easy to build and grow -

not easy to mind the costs




3 people like this
Posted by Curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on Nov 14, 2017 at 9:16 pm

Curmudgeon is a registered user.

[Post removed.]


17 people like this
Posted by Annette
a resident of College Terrace
on Nov 15, 2017 at 6:21 am

Annette is a registered user.

Inconvenient Truth: this is only a plan; as we have learned with the one it replaces, there's no requirement that it be followed. This is one reason why we have the locally infamous Palo Alto Process.


30 people like this
Posted by Jeff Williams
a resident of Crescent Park
on Nov 15, 2017 at 9:49 am

We need LESS housing in Palo Alto, not more. The environmental impact of all this traffic and overpopulation is overwhelming. Palo Alto used to be a nice place to live, but it's turning more and more into just another big city. Let's reduce housing if possible.


19 people like this
Posted by Gale Johnson
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Nov 15, 2017 at 1:56 pm

Gale Johnson is a registered user.

"Aah", I sighed, finally getting relief, relaxing relief, that it was finally approved and over and done with, even tho I too disagreed with many parts of it. My thinking and concerns were more in line with the minority, the losers. And it will still remain a topic of discussion as we move forward in trying to implement it. The slothlike Palo Alto Process now begins. Thanks to 'Resident' and 'Allen Akin' for their usual sane analyses/opinions and comments on things like this. Oh, and of course 'Curmudgeon', who regales us and entertains us with his, also sane, but sometimes weird way of expressing his thoughts.

The CC majority block is having their say and way in Palo Alto. It will be interesting to see how that holds up and plays out in the next election. All recent decisions seem to be totally focused and in support and in favor of millennials, mostly the young professionals and well educated ones, the young single tech workers, maybe couples, who only need a small unit to live and sleep in. Well of course, there are also words about taking care of our seniors, but that is just 'hanging bait', I think. How many seniors would want to live all day, alone, in a micro-unit? There is really nothing in the Plan that addresses and supports families, and housing needs for them. That has been, and hopefully will remain, what Palo Alto is all about. That's our history, legacy, and that should remain as such.

There is not enough time to talk about the transit, traffic, parking, and infrastructure problems that will remain, and be compounded by more housing.

Liz was successful in getting her cadre, well trained and prepped by her, elected onto CC. I think most of us old time residents are still trying to figure out if she was thinking about us, and are we being considered in all the decisions, or are we just being labeled as NIMBY's? and cast aside?


11 people like this
Posted by Good luck
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Nov 15, 2017 at 2:06 pm

"There is not enough time to talk about the transit, traffic, parking, and infrastructure problems that will remain, and be compounded by more housing."

I hope you have to drive. Sitting in your car on the road will give you enough .. no, more than enough time to contemplate the consequences of what you cheered.


28 people like this
Posted by Annette
a resident of College Terrace
on Nov 15, 2017 at 2:10 pm

Annette is a registered user.

@Resident - thank you for that link.

Sincere question to Adrian Fine and other ardent advocates of growth in Palo Alto: what exactly do you envision? No doubt today you are at one of the Housing forums promoting your ideals but since attendance is not an option for all who are concerned about this, please share here. When I envision what I think you are demanding, I see a plethora of multi-story buildings going up wherever possible along the transit corridor, a slow but steady replacement of single family homes and cottage clusters with multi-family structures, even more crowded streets, new shadows, and a stultifying sameness. I also see a community that is, in many ways, hostile to its seniors who cannot ride a bike or a skateboard or other "personal transportation devices" and a crowdedness that I guess is acceptable to you.

Never mind the actual cost of construction and the actual impact on future big projects such as electrification or HSR and the real impacts of all that Stanford plans. What about the non-monetary costs? The emotional pleas (I cannot live here, my children cannot live here, etc) are understandable, but I doubt densification is going to pave a way to that dream for even a small fraction of the people who are clamoring to live here and saying they have a right to do so. On the other hand, it will impact all who DO live here. There's no "maybe" about that. YIMBYs want their slice of Palo Alto, NIMBYs don't want their slice to become a more congested, polluted, crowded and hostile place with big city issues. But maybe what I am envisioning isn't accurate. Enlighten me.

Do you have renderings of potential high-density residency areas that you can share? Surely someone has drawn up something. Do you have a plan for improving infrastructure deficiencies so that things don't collapse under the weight of the growth? Do you have ideas about where all the construction spillover will be staged so that life can go on while big projects are underway? Sometimes it seems there's an assumption that millennials don't age or have children, but of course they do both. What's the plan for post-stack-and-pack living? Will Palo Alto need new schools?

I think that if you want those you accuse of being NIMBYs to see the future more as you do, you might want to start by clarifying your vision and responding to some of the concerns about all that will change should Palo Alto decide to go in the direction you are advocating.


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Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on Nov 15, 2017 at 2:50 pm

@Annette, just do a search for "high density housing" in Google, and click on "Images".
Must be something acceptable there. Just keep scrolling down...


16 people like this
Posted by mauricio
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Nov 15, 2017 at 3:55 pm

mauricio is a registered user.

Annnette, search Kowloon, and you will see what this nightmare will look like, with one huge difference:Hong Kong has the best, most modern public transportation system in the world, which this area will never come remotely close to, and still, Kowloon is a claustrophobic sardine can. This is the future of Palo Alto, based on the vision of PAF and its agents on the CC.

You don't need to ask Mr. Fine. You have seen Palo Alto's future last night, and it's nightmarish.


14 people like this
Posted by Annette
a resident of College Terrace
on Nov 15, 2017 at 3:57 pm

Annette is a registered user.

@Musical - thanks; I did that. Unfortunately, 801 Alma came up. Hopefully we will not turn a wide swath of Palo Alto into concrete walls. Some of the examples show that it is possible to build dense housing that blends in, which is good. I've also seen the imaginative drawings of the development planned in San Jose near the train station. I am hoping to see a rendering of what a transformed actual Palo Alto area might look like. Maybe there aren't going to be massive light-blocking walls along Alma near the two train stations. And maybe there are. I'd just like to know what we are really talking about in this contentious discussion. If the "growther" ideal is to pack in buildings like 801 Alma, let that be known.


7 people like this
Posted by Steve Dabrowski
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Nov 15, 2017 at 5:59 pm

@ Annette, If you want to see the vision just take a trip to San Francisco and visit the China Basin area. Tons of high density apartments with painted exteriors in a variety of shapes instead of real architectural features. Sad and drab, but the renderings will look fine with plenty of happy strollers.


16 people like this
Posted by jane
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Nov 15, 2017 at 6:32 pm

Before Adrian Fine was appointed as a member of the Planning and Transport Commission, we spoke about his vision for Palo Alto's future transformation into a dense urban environment. He took a regional viewpoint, which reflected his credentials in urban planning. Adrian spoke passionately about his opposition to Palo Alto's height and density restrictions. From his perspective, by refusing to allow high rise development, Palo Altans were refusing to accept responsibility for providing their share of the region's housing needs. By not allowing multiple high rise housing buildings, residents were standing in the way of the region's future. As I understood him to say, Palo Altans should be thinking regionally and not locally.

After deciding to run for council Adrian became very circumspect about his views on removing Palo Alto's building height limits, at least for the public's campaign consumption. And since election pointing out more than once during council meetings that he has not advocated for changing Palo Alto's height limits. Which, of course, would likely jeopardize his chances for reelection and a future political career. But does that mean he has really given up on working to change Palo Alto's height and density limits?

In particular, his strongly held advocacy of eliminating the CAC wording in the Comprehensive Plan draft that mandates new development must "meet" parking requirements. Instead substituting "manage" parking requirements, a much vaguer and weaker word, and boon to developers. Perhaps an indication of his still strongly held vision of dense urban development in Palo Alto no matter the parking and traffic impacts on residents. Oh right, of course, in the not so distant future people won't be driving to work because they will have so many practical transportation alternatives. The vision of a true urban planner who knows what is best.


21 people like this
Posted by Votes for More Congestion and Less Parking
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 15, 2017 at 10:26 pm

At Monday night's meeting, Mayor Scharff complained that some issues had already been voted on. It's important to note that the change from "meeting parking needs" to "managing parking needs" was NOT voted on individually. Rather, most motions were made by Mayor Scharff and seconded by a pro-development Councilmember, who together decided what amendments to accept and which to reject (which then had to be voted on separately). In particular, Councilmember Fine changed "meet" to "manage" as part of the motion motion. It was so subtle and not noticed by other Councilmembers that Councilmember Wolbach tried to make the same change and was quickly told it was not necessary.


6 people like this
Posted by Dog Lover
a resident of University South
on Nov 15, 2017 at 10:30 pm

@ Annette

There are plenty examples of what the forward-looking people see as good development/design -- you can look at older buildings and newer ones. Think of Oak Court, the affordable units at SOFA, think of the President Apartments on University (70 units per acre), think of Casa Real (50 units per acre) on Forest think of Staller Court (75 units per acre) think of ADUs, think of clusters of bungalows -- all these are pleasant and well designed high-density developments. If you want to go to the good old Palo Alto, there was LOTS of high density development in the commercial core. All you folks who are talking about Hong Kong are just fear mongering. I've NEVER heard anyone talk about sky scrapers, or high-rises or coffin apartments in Palo Alto. Show me ONE example where those who are interested in getting more housing in Palo Alto are advocating for that.
801 Alma may not look so great from the Alma side, but do any of you know why that building looks that way? It was because the decibel level was deemed unhealthy for children. No, it's not that great from that angle, but there was a reason it was designed that way it but it's great on the inside -- light, cheerful and a lovely place for some who are not as lucky as you to have a place to live.
There are still lots of infill sites in the downtown corridor and at Cal Ave that could have charming, livable and "hi-density" housing and while protecting R-1 which I've never heard anyone say they want to develop with high rises. Please stop with all negative and fear-based rhetoric and take a look around and let's build a better, more inclusive and diverse Palo Alto. Let's deal with the traffic issues by being creative and supporting the TMA and get some really interesting dynamic shuttles operating. Let's design a great Palo Alto....


19 people like this
Posted by Votes for More Congestion and Less Parking
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 15, 2017 at 10:31 pm

In contrast, the decision to keep both LOS while adding VMT was a separate decision made by Council after considerable discussion and its own motion. Councilmember Fine tried to change this decision after there was no opportunity for further public input and at the last meeting on the Comp Plan. Why didn't he make that suggestion at an earlier meeting? Or was he afraid of the groundswell of protest like that which accompanied the motion to remove all programs from the Comp Plan?


20 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 15, 2017 at 10:56 pm

@jane

I believe Councilman Fine said he was running “because I want to make sure that residents continue to have a great quality of life” (www.midtownresidents.org/pan/Election16/Adrian.pdf).

Since then he has opposed the downtown office cap, the citywide office cap, the retail ordinance, “LOS” measurements of traffic congestion (arguing if residents are told what traffic impacts will be, they might resist development), constraints of any kind on market-rate housing, and raising development impact fees for affordable housing. Also what you said about developers providing parking for their buildings.

You are saying that Fine’s position in the election should have been, “regional interests should take precedence over the interests of Palo Alto voters, and if you elect me, I will work to make sure that happens.”

If you’re right, then it’s unfortunate he didn’t run on such a platform. Now we’ll never know if a majority of Palo Alto voters would have agreed.


23 people like this
Posted by Jane
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Nov 16, 2017 at 3:12 am

Fine is much too smart (ambitious?) to run on a platform that wouldn't get him elected. But then again, during his last re-election campaign Scharff represented himself as a staunch "residentialist" knowing most people believe what politicians say without going back to check what their actual voting record has been. As did Liz Kniss during her re election campaign, plus obscuring the origin of large sums of campaign donations, for which she is still being investigated. A long time skilled operative like Liz Kniss does not make this kind of "innocent" mistake.


20 people like this
Posted by Annette
a resident of College Terrace
on Nov 16, 2017 at 9:14 am

Annette is a registered user.

Nomenclature issue: the tone of many posts is YIYBY rather than YIMBY. The apparently irreconcilable tension comes from "outsiders" imposing their vision and desires on residents, in essence demanding Yes in YOUR Back Yard. It's no surprise that there's a division; this country has a long history of resisting unreasonable imposition of the law and opposing takings. It's pretty much part of our national DNA.

We have many things to get straight before proceeding with further development (particularly further commercial development). Top of the list: grade separation. If we do not get that done and train frequency increases, already absurd traffic levels will look like the "good old days" because at many times of the day traffic at the crossings will be at a full stop as will cars AND bikes AND other personal transportation devices (gotta love that term!) AND pedestrians. STOPPED. This will offset any so-called gains from creating PTODs. We should have done this years ago; each year that we don't have it AND the pro-development CC blesses the addition of more development, the problem is compounded and the eventual project gets more complicated. And expensive. It is daunting to think about how expensive Palo Alto's future is going to be: pensions, major infrastructure issues, law suits . . .


23 people like this
Posted by Allen Akin
a resident of Professorville
on Nov 16, 2017 at 10:22 am

Allen Akin is a registered user.

@Dog Lover:

The reason people are bringing up Hong Kong (Manhattan, etc.) is to illustrate that density, by itself, isn't a solution for many of the problems we face.

It's also the case that many people advocating higher density housing aren't willing to talk openly about how much would be required. But we do have some clues. The Legislative Analyst's Office study (Web Link) suggests that to bring our housing cost increases back into line with the increases in the rest of the U.S. would require roughly doubling the amount of housing that already exists. Kate Downing, former Planning Commission member quoted in Web Link said "Every day, the effective population of the city [66,000] doubles from the number of people who come in just for work. That tells us something about how much housing we need." At two people per unit on average, these sources are both arguing for something around 33K new units.

Let's try to get an intuition for what that means for building near the downtown Transit Center. A quick look on Zillow suggests that 2BR condos downtown need an average of about 1500 sq ft of space (living space, hallways, stairways, etc., but not including parking). For 33K units we'd need to build about 49.5M sq ft. City blocks in the neighborhoods within a 1 mile radius of the Transit Center are about 450x550 ft, or 248K sq ft. Let's assume the current height limit of 5 stories is doubled to 10 stories. All that works out to 49.5M/(10*248K), or 20 blocks of curb-to-curb 10-story buildings. (Without any parking.) When we say "we should build transit-oriented housing near downtown to lower housing costs enough to make Palo Alto inclusive and diverse again", what that means is that we would have to replace most of the R1 blocks in University South with 10-story condo buildings.

All this doesn't touch the issues of building schools and parks, providing water, finding ways to move people around efficiently, and so on, that would have to be solved in order to make it actually work.

And all this assumes that commercial growth stops today. If it continues, as the Comp Plan expects, then even the numbers above are too small.

We need to be realistic about the causes of our problems and the effectiveness of the attempts to solve them. What the back-of-the-envelope calculations above, and the UCLA study I mentioned earlier, are telling us is that the housing growth in the Comp Plan isn't going to make much difference in affordability (and therefore in inclusiveness or diversity). What the Comp Plan EIR is telling us is that air pollution, traffic, transit, and other issues are going to get worse anyway. So it's pretty reasonable to be concerned about the direction the City is taking.


9 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 16, 2017 at 10:38 am

To add to this discussion about the unrealistic imposition of building high density units is that generally speaking there is very little space even outside for the residents of these units to "live".

I have a friend with a condo in a different country. The condo is 2 bedroom and far from spacious although it does have its own laundry facilities and a balcony, but no grilling is allowed on the balcony and no laundry/towels, etc. are to be left out. However, the ground floor area is full of shared space. There is a small gym (well fitness room), a couple of tv rooms for larger groups with a large screen tv and a small kitchenette - great for sports parties, etc., a smallish indoor lap pool, a hot tub and a couple of large "party rooms" for birthday parties, etc. There is also a small grassy area outside with a couple of gas grills and picnic tables. The party rooms and I think one of the tv rooms can be reserved for a resident and guests, but the other facilities are the types of place where residents can just join in with other residents who may be there at the time.

The point is, that where these small units work successfully in other countries there is often adequate underground parking as well as space for guest parking and plenty of communal space. I don't hear anything about the proposed units here having anything other than ground floor retail.

Sure, facilities will put rents up. But at least the residents will have options of things to do other than hibernate in their micro units!


26 people like this
Posted by Annette
a resident of College Terrace
on Nov 16, 2017 at 11:05 am

Annette is a registered user.

@Dog Lover - thanks; I hope you are correct about what the growth advocates have in mind. If it is nice this weekend I will hop on my bike and go look at the locations you mention. As for bungalow clusters, I think the majority on CC recently passed on an opportunity to look into ways to protect those. Instead, the proposal was morphed into a rent control issue and soundly defeated. I am not a fan of rent control but in that instance I think the baby was thrown out with the bathwater. I hope the clusters survive as I think they add an element of charm throughout the city; reads to me like you might agree with that.

Regarding the inference that only growth advocates are forward-looking; I think that is misleading in the same way that the pro-Casti expansion signs that read "We Support Women's Education" are misleading. Growth advocates do not have an exclusive on being forward-looking; many who favor sensible or smart growth are also forward-thinking, just more conservative about the pace of growth and very concerned about the impacts of densification. To finish the comparison, just because a resident takes exception to Castilleja's expansion plans and the school's 15 year history of ignoring the terms of its CUP does not equate to not being a supporter of women's education. The two are not mutually exclusive. I am also rather surprised that Castilleja is essentially teaching young women that it is okay to ignore the terms of an agreement if doing so inures to your benefit.


7 people like this
Posted by Dog Lover
a resident of University South
on Nov 16, 2017 at 2:11 pm

@ Annette

Thanks for your thoughtful and open-minded response. I would encourage you to go to some of these sites and see what high(er) density looks like. It doesn't need to wreck the charming character of our beloved Palo Alto. Unfortunately the building style of the 1970s and '80s was not all that great and there are some truly horrific examples of high density buildings here. I don't think anyone's for that.

I live in University South and go (almost) everywhere by foot, bike or train. This is by choice-I can get to SF, San Mateo and SJ faster (and cheaper) on the train (no parking or looking for parking), no traffic, no stress, no idiot drivers. Imagine if we boosted transit to every 10 minutes up and down the Peninsula (I'm thinking some great bus lines on ECR to supplement Caltrain, dynamic shuttles etc. I'd so prefer to work, read or sleep on a bus/train than sit in traffic. When we became a car culture in the 50s it was sold as the American dream of freedom, it's now become a nightmare of traffic, un-walkable neighborhoods and tons of frustration about parking. I'm suggesting that we help some of the folks who want to live in downtown, Cal Ave etc make that a reality without needing a car -- something the Millennials are certainly understanding (even the ones with families).

Housing and transit are inexorably linked so that's why I focus on transportation too. No one likes traffic and if we can be creative it really could be a better way of life for many. Again, I'm not advocating for changing R-1, just giving people a choice about the kind of life they want. Seriously, I don't think the NIMBYs are against people, they're against the traffic mostly and we can deal with that if we're open to finding other ways.

As for our natural resources, we're oversubscribed with our water allocation and per capita have gone DOWN in the last 15 years. We have so much water we're thinking of giving some to neighboring municipalities. We're allocated 17 million gallons per day and only using 10 gpd even though we've increased the number of residents. Regarding schools, it's illegal to zone against housing because of school impacts. We can open some of the closed schools and we know how to build and staff great ones. I see this as another way of instilling fear in current residents.

If we're serious about greenhouse gas reduction we'll need to be creative about where people live and how they move around the Bay Area. Sending workers to Tracy and Watsonville is not sustainable for the planet.

Anyway, I'm glad to see some open-minded people on this forum and would love to hear some positive solutions other than no more residents.


4 people like this
Posted by stephen levy
a resident of University South
on Nov 16, 2017 at 2:50 pm

stephen levy is a registered user.

Agree with dog lover. We live in the same neighborhood and Nancy and I and our condo neighbors minimize car use by living where we do.

We live next to two beautiful buildings taller than ours and all of our buildings housing many renters and owners would all be illegal to build under current rules.

As posters have said there are many multi-family buildings that are very nice to look at and some that are not but the same is true for any type of home.

As far as resource use, our air is cleaner on all indicators though a couple still do not meet federal standards yet. GHG emissions are down statewide. As posters have noted our water use is down--all despite substantial job and population growth. Yesterday the Bay Area adopted new tough emission standards on industrial facilities.

A combination of regulations, technology improvements (low flow water toilets, showers, etc, energy efficient lights and appliances, better gas mileage and cleaner fuels and conservation have outpaced growth and improved the environment.

There has been an increase in traffic and that is the area where we can use our ingenuity to provide alternative options to driving as well as making driving safer.

It is surprising given that we live in an amazing place of innovation, that posters think we must give up and prevent more people and companies from coming as the only way to improve our quality of life, which for me includes being a welcoming place.


2 people like this
Posted by Gale Johnson
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Nov 16, 2017 at 3:21 pm

Gale Johnson is a registered user.

Is my mic (mike) still on? Oh, good, because I have a little more to say.

Not perfect, to everyone's liking, but acceptable, and the main reason I cheered for approval is that there are so many day to day issues to be dealt with by our CC (futuristic ideas and goals are good) and the Comp Plan just took too much time away from dealing with them. How well and attentively it will be followed is anyone's guess. My crystal ball has snowflakes in it. I'm guessing it will be referred to occasionally, when needed, by the pro growth majority, to support the growth they support.

Don't be too harsh with Lydia and Karen. They voted true to their beliefs and representing the beliefs of their constituencies. That's the way true representative governments should work.

Woo, woo, 'personal transportation vehicles'. You're never going to see me on a skateboard, or in-line skates...or even on a bike anymore. I think age has something to do with that. The transportation, TMA, traffic, and parking issues can all be wrapped into one. Absolutely, LOS and VMT, both needed to be included. It's been discussed at length, but we all know we are pretty well maxed out on CalTrain's service.

The good: Measuring the progress by "community indicators". I have a question tho..."Who will do it, who will decide who will do it, and what will be the reporting periods?"

Yes, yes, yes...housing at Stanford Research Park. It makes so much sense and is so helpful for the workers there.

How I will be affected? Fortunately, or at least I think fortunately, not at all, or not very much. I live in rural PA...okay down here in SPA in my 1876 sq ft bungalow, in my little village near Charleston Center. There was a dairy, Peers Dairy, up the street on Louis Rd, just a few blocks away, years ago, and my house is located on pastureland that cows grazed on. I just wanted to set the picture of how far away and removed I am, and thankful for it, from all the hustle and bustle and controversy that takes up so much time at council meetings. I don't feel threatened by any of it, although we have had big tall building encroachment just a short distance away from here.

I loved downtown PA, University Ave, years ago, and we spent a lot of money shopping there. I haven't spent a dime recently...okay, more than a dime, because I had a mocha at Starbucks a few years ago. That's when Avenidas was still located on Bryant. Now they've moved to the Cubberley Community Center in my part of town...back in my village. No traffic and parking problems here.
So, to all you down-towners, living in the 'better' part of town, and who woo and coo votes of developers, and enjoy the excitement of a vibrant urban atmosphere in your north end of town...join us here in SPA if you want to get away from it all.

Woo, woo!





19 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Nov 16, 2017 at 3:54 pm

Although we are advocating the use of bicycles and public transit, the truth is that most newcomers to America come here to be able to drive our roads.
This is rarely mentioned.
Most were unable to drive in their homelands, and when they see movies and ads on television of Americans driving, well...they want that too.

The same goes for owning a single family home with a yard. They have seen our magazines and television shows in their homelands, and dream of owning one of them. The stucco type homes often used in Hollywood sitcoms and in builders tract home catalogs have been available to be seen in these countries for the past two decades, so this is what these people want.
They do not want to live in high rise, high density, communist-style apartments and condos, and ride bicycles and buses like their parents.
In fact, all efforts are made to shield oneself from the sun and elements.

Living over a business is not desired because this is what is readily available back in their homelands. These shop houses are usually infested with insects, rodents, and odors from the businesses underneath.

Why would we want to head in this direction?

The younger families who find work here want a home as well. They don't want to raise their children in a transit oriented high rise, condo, “link-house”, over home above a shop. The goal is to own one’s own home, and not rent for a lifetime. A double whammy insult
is paying rent to a foreign landlord who never intends on selling their investment property.

Ultimately, if no single family homes are available to buy with a mortgage that can be paid off one day, ...people move away.

If nothing changes, businesses will relocate to keep their workforce.

This is what's going to happen.
It’s happening already.

When our next drought cycles hits, things are going to get really tense around here.


3 people like this
Posted by stephen levy
a resident of University South
on Nov 16, 2017 at 4:14 pm

stephen levy is a registered user.

@resident

My experience is that you are wrong. Since we moved in more than half of new residents are from abroad or from even more urban areas.

They seem quite happy to live in an area that is very accessible to services, shopping and amenities. We have children in a third of our units, roughly the same percentage of HH with children as PA generally.

I am happy if you want to live differently. Please don't put down people who are happy with the lifestyle we have here.

My son and daughter in law and our two grandchildren live in a townhouse close to his work, schools, parks and open space but next to many similar townhouse developments. They chose this over a single family home that would be far away and in a place where you have to drive everywhere.

Some of his friends did choose to live far out so they could afford a single family home.

People have different preferences, which is why expanding housing choices is a good idea.


26 people like this
Posted by mauricio
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Nov 16, 2017 at 4:51 pm

mauricio is a registered user.

Our air is not cleaner. Go outside after it hasn't rained for a few days and realize how foul it feels. Water is an existential threat that will become a major crisis during the next drought cycle. Absorbing even more residents into the Bay area, with its unique geography and the real possibility of rising sea levels that might flood certain areas is a catastrophe waiting to happen.

This area will remain one of the most innovative in the world even if its population is reduced, and it must be reduced for bit to survive. Innovation is unrelated to the population density, and it would be great if other areas, in other states, would receive some of this area's tech companies. They need the economic shot in the arm, we, not so much.

California in general, and the Bay area too, can't keep absorbing any more people. If we allow more population density, we are asking for an environmental disaster of biblical proportions, and of an unprecedented reduction in the quality of life. We have listened to the prophets of mega development and urbanization for far too long, and they are false prophets.


36 people like this
Posted by Allen Akin
a resident of Professorville
on Nov 16, 2017 at 4:59 pm

Allen Akin is a registered user.

@Stephen Levy:

"...our air is cleaner on all indicators..." The number of days of ozone violations has gone up every year since 2013 (Web Link). Particulates show no trend over the past ten years that's obvious to me. The Comp Plan EIR predicts significant and unavoidable impacts on air quality from the development projects themselves (page 1-9) as well as impacts from additional factors thereafter. I think your case is weak here, but if you can cite the analysis that shows these variations are insignificant, that would strengthen it.

"It is surprising given that we live in an amazing place of innovation, that posters think we must give up and prevent more people and companies from coming as the only way to improve our quality of life..." I won't give you the benefit of the doubt on this one, because we've discussed it several times before. You're consciously misrepresenting what I've said, which is that before growing you need to have a plan for dealing with the consequences of the growth and for funding any mitigations that are needed. Wishful thinking and platitudes are sweet, but failure to plan is irresponsible.

"...which for me includes being a welcoming place." Does this include welcoming the concerns of many people who already live here, who are affected by your proposals in ways that you aren't?


34 people like this
Posted by Anke
a resident of Mountain View
on Nov 16, 2017 at 5:44 pm

"
"...which for me includes being a welcoming place." Does this include welcoming the concerns of many people who already live here, who are affected by your proposals in ways that you aren't?"

I've been wondering the same thing, @Allen Arkin. With each new post from @Steven Levy, it seems more and more like he has some skin in the game, like he in some way personally benefits from a sardine can Palo Alto, and he's working hard to try to spin it in a way that will trick people into accepting it.


22 people like this
Posted by mauricio
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Nov 16, 2017 at 5:59 pm

mauricio is a registered user.

Ask Steve Levy who compensates him financially for his work, whatever it is. What are his connections to the real estate industry? Since he has been, arguably, the most aggressive and most outspoken pro development, pro density, pro urbanization advocate, what are his connections to various pro development lobbies?s, People deserve to know Cui Bono.


25 people like this
Posted by Annette
a resident of College Terrace
on Nov 16, 2017 at 6:42 pm

Annette is a registered user.

A Google search takes one to the CCSCE website where one can read that Stephen Levy is Director and Senior Economist of the Center for Continuing Study of the California Economy (CCSCE), a research organization he co-founded in 1969. ABAG, SCAG, the East Bay Economic Development Alliance, the Irvine Company, Joint Venture Silicon Valley and the City of San Jose are listed as clients.


21 people like this
Posted by Huh.
a resident of Stanford
on Nov 16, 2017 at 7:31 pm

It appears to me that an increase in density reduces housing choices, rather than increasing them

There’s no longer a choice to have a space-oriented, low-key, family friendly, low crime, clean suburban life with sufficient infrastructure to support the city.

Parking, traffic etc. are the tip of the cat’s swinging tail.

With density, problems we face become smaller relative to the larger problems of high populations.

And city government can handle neither.


48 people like this
Posted by Old Person
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Nov 16, 2017 at 7:39 pm

I went to the Bay Area Forward "lunch talk" on housing event on Wednesday, with a hundred+ others, at Lucie Stern. Each table had a facilitated discussion. Everyone at my table, some young, some old, was excited about adding housing through density, height, co-housing, smaller lot sizes, micro-units - pretty much any means necessary/possible. After about 10 minutes of this, someone asked, "But what about the cars? The roads aren't going to get wider when the buildings get higher." Oh don't worry, said a young woman, we younger people don't want or need cars, we can just bike or walk. So it will be fine. We moved on.

I realized something. While they probably believed what they said, the truth was, they didn't know.
And if the experiment didn't work out - people did want cars, or enough that the streets were choked with them - oh, well, chalk it up to a noble effort and move on (literally), to a new job, new town, new life. They took no risk - it was all upside for them. If the experiment succeeds, good for me; if it fails, permanent resident, well, too bad for you.

This is a root to the divisive nature of this debate - one group doesn't have skin in the game, and wants to put the risk on the others who do. One way to de-risk is to have very tightly enforced rules and to make sure the costs of infrastructure are paid by for, ultimately, by the developers, and reflected in the rents. Unfortunately, that means the only new housing will be both dense AND high priced. I don't think my table mates, who seemed very nice and sincere, realized they are shills for yuppies.


26 people like this
Posted by Curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on Nov 16, 2017 at 7:46 pm

" ABAG, SCAG, the East Bay Economic Development Alliance, the Irvine Company, Joint Venture Silicon Valley and the City of San Jose are listed as clients [for Steve Levy].

That's more than just skin in the game. It's bone, muscle, heart, lungs, and nervous system in the game.

To be honest with naive readers expecting objective analysis, Levy should acknowledge that fact when presenting his polemics for ever more development. A plain statement on the head of each blog would gain him much credibility.


24 people like this
Posted by Annette
a resident of College Terrace
on Nov 16, 2017 at 8:13 pm

Annette is a registered user.

@Old Person - did you ask them how they got to the meeting?


1 person likes this
Posted by stephen levy
a resident of University South
on Nov 16, 2017 at 8:18 pm

stephen levy is a registered user.

Allen, here are the ten year trends for air quality all from BAAQMD

and as I said and you probably read in the Merc or online, the agency just passed new strict regulations on industry.

days over federal and state standards

ozone federal 20 days in 2006, 15 in 2016

ozone 1 hr state 18 in 2006, 6 in 2016

ozone 8 hour state 22 in 2006, 15 in 2016

carbon monoxide, sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxide o in both years

Pm10 15 days 2006, 0 in 2016

Pm25 10 days in 2006, 0 in 2016

Yes there are variations within the period but the long term trend is clear

And I do not consider you are one of the posters I was referring to do did not misrepresent what you said.


3 people like this
Posted by stephen levy
a resident of University South
on Nov 16, 2017 at 8:38 pm

stephen levy is a registered user.

To the other posters you do not have to live as i do but there is no reason in a policy disagreement to call where i live a sardine can.

As far as welcoming views of others I do not see much welcoming of the perspective of people who live as I and my neighbors do. The Comp Plan and housing element are clear as city policy that we want to build more housing in areas like downtown and Cal Ave and El Camino and that tall buildings are not planned for single family neighborhoods.

I do not benefit financially from development and own here only my condo. My recent clients for the past three years are regional planning agencies for which i provide projections that they are required to have--the Sacramento and Southern California Association of Governments, regional resource agencies--the South Coast Air Quality Management District and Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, the City of San Jose, the Silicon Valley Community Foundation and i wrote economic updates for which I am not paid for Joint Venture Silicon Valley and the Bay Area Council Economic Institute.

I have policy disagreements with many posters but do not accuse them of being influenced by personal financial gain.

And yes density in appropriate places does increase housing choices as is obvious by the strong demand and high prices people accept because these places serve their needs.

I have been here for more than 50 years. Stanford for much longer. That does not mean we get more voice than people who have been here for less time.

The voices here are some residents who often pretend they speak for all residents and when they do not like election results call the winners on the take or liars. It feels like a basketball team saying the ref stole the game.

So can we just disagree and debate policy without all the put downs and innuendo.


14 people like this
Posted by Anke
a resident of Mountain View
on Nov 16, 2017 at 8:51 pm

First, my apologies for the misspelled names in my previous post. I meant no disrespect to anyone; it was simply a case of brain freeze.

Next, here's a thought. We're all familiar with the argument that Palo Alto and the Bay Area need the steady surge of newcomers in order to fill tech jobs and remain the innovation leaders that the region is famous for. But what if we instead give more focus to supporting people who are already here, our own Bay Area natives, before even more of them get pushed out? There is no shortage of locals who are bright and hard working, but who by the luck of the draw are born into low-income segments of our society and denied opportunities to move up. What if we work to improve public schools in all districts across the Bay Area, especially in low-income areas, and give _all_ of our young people a leg-up on life? We could fill jobs with locals, avoid unconscionably wasting lives, reduce our record-high prison population, and boost our economy and society. Everyone wins.


2 people like this
Posted by stephen levy
a resident of University South
on Nov 16, 2017 at 8:54 pm

stephen levy is a registered user.

Most of the new housing that is built will be condos, townhouses and apartments, not traditional single family homes. that is true most everywhere in the central Bay area.

People got to the onthetable event through massive months long outreach by the Silicon Valley Community Foundation and partners like the League of Women Voters.

At the evening event I participated in there were three teachers in Palo Alto high schools and a teacher from San Jose. We talked about shared concerns and the teachers shared their stories but no one was asking for favors.

As the lunch event at Lucie Stern, my table had someone having trouble hiring for his school, someone who works for a low-income housing organization and several older residents who i am pretty sure would be offended by being told they are shills for yuppies, especially since most of the talk was about teachers, public safety workers and low income residents.

The council with either unanimous or very strong majorities has just approved two apartment and condo projects on El Camino.

The next project to come before the city will probably be a project for low income and special needs adults.

It will be interesting to see what happens. I hope you will all come out in support.

I advocate for successful implementation of the city's adopted housing goals. If we did more housing I would be happy but am content now to work toward getting city policy adopted. Hardly a polemic position.

Thanks to Allen Akin and Gale Johnson for posting under their full name. And Allen I welcome your input on planning for the future and hope you welcome mine. We have a Comp Plan, a housing element and transportation polices. Time to move to the implementation phase.


11 people like this
Posted by Votes for More Congestion and Less Parking
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 17, 2017 at 12:25 am

Dog Lover said, "Regarding schools, it's illegal to zone against housing because of school impacts."

Actually, that is not correct. A city can have whatever zoning it wants where it wants, provided it zones sufficient for housing to cover its Regional Housing Needs Allocation.

What State law is that an individual project's school impacts are considered fully mitigated by the (inadequate) school impact fees that are paid by the developer of a project.

But that State law does not prevent cities from zoning to limit housing in certain locations. And it does not prevent cities from considering school impacts when considering a rezoning or when updating a general plan (like our Comprehensive Plan).


18 people like this
Posted by Votes for More Congestion and Less Parking
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 17, 2017 at 12:30 am

When considering the amount of housing needed, some economists talk about supply and demand. We should think seriously about limiting demand by reducing the growth of jobs. More jobs is not helping our low income neighbors. Rather it is pricing them out of the market.

In previous tech booms, tech firms expanded in other areas. Now they are all expanding locally in an unsustainable way.

Building high cost housing is no more going to reduce the cost of housing for those of moderate means than the Republican tax cut legislation that just passed the House is going to reduce deficits.


26 people like this
Posted by Old Person
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Nov 17, 2017 at 12:54 am

I'm sure anyone would be unhappy being called a shill for yuppies; that's why it's important for people to think through if they are being used that way.

Public servant housing is not going to happen, except possibly for teacher housing on excess school property. Of course, with the planned growth in housing, the schools will need to hold onto all their land, so building housing there will not happen. Oh well.

So yes, we dream of housing for public workers, low income, and needy populations; we will get expensive condos for the well-off, and packed micro units for tech singles. And traffic, lots of traffic. The developers have done an effective job allying with the well meaning to facilitate their profits.


11 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Nov 17, 2017 at 6:05 am

According to an article in the Orange County register in April, people are moving out of California. Ironically, the article shows a moving van outside a home in Palo Alto. They don't like expensive dense housing or using public transit.


Web Link

I am not posting to argue with Steve Levy.
I am simply writing what I see happening.


21 people like this
Posted by mauricio
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Nov 17, 2017 at 8:11 am

mauricio is a registered user.

So Steve Levy has been associated with, and consulting for groups and organizations that clamor for significant development and urbanizations of the Bay area for about 50 years now, yet he still claims that no personal financial interest is involved.

When he writes that density actually increases housing choices I expect lightening to strike, because it is so much the opposite of reality.


17 people like this
Posted by He is kidding, right?
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Nov 17, 2017 at 10:29 am

"I have policy disagreements with many posters but do not accuse them of being influenced by personal financial gain."

-- That is because they are not. YOU, on the other hand, are.

"when they do not like election results call the winners on the take or liars."

-- What should they call them if they are? Look at campaign finance scandals of some CC members. Look at Fine's election flyers and at what he is doing now.

Also, when certain side wins the elections - no matter how negligible in numbers - it takes an awful lot of time and effort, often not possible, to reverse them and restore sanity and decency. The "granny" units otherwise known as "coffins" will be built in thousands; what do you do?


12 people like this
Posted by Allen Akin
a resident of Professorville
on Nov 17, 2017 at 11:26 am

Allen Akin is a registered user.

@Stephen Levy:

"Yes there are variations within the period but the long term trend is clear"

We've all seen people choose the starting and ending points on a graph in order to argue for a predetermined conclusion. That's the sort of "clear, simple, and wrong" situation I worried about a few messages ago. I was hoping you'd provide a pointer to a more rigorous analysis rather than just pick a different starting date. But for the sake of discussion, let's go with your time period.

Omitting the math so that I don't bore everyone, I found that for ozone (the case I mentioned earlier) the variation is about 18 times the magnitude of the ten-year trend slope. It's not insignificant at all; it completely dominates the "trend". Either the model (a single trend over time) is wrong, or the data is essentially noise. In either case we don't have the evidence to claim that a simple trend exists over this period. (In case you're wondering, I did look at the other pollutants and at year-to-date data for 2017, but that didn't change the conclusion.)

It's likely that air quality doesn't really trend over time, but instead trends with some combination of other variables like vehicle hours travelled and weather. I'm sure there's plenty of research on this subject, but I'll have to leave it to someone else to track it down; I'm out of time this morning.

Bottom line: I'll stick to my original statement that the case for "our air is cleaner on all indicators" is weak. Over the last decade or so, the evidence doesn't provide enough support for it.


11 people like this
Posted by Anke
a resident of Mountain View
on Nov 17, 2017 at 11:52 am

@Allen Akin, you inspired me to look for further data and I found this page from the Spare the Air folks listing their historical records.

Web Link

They say:
"Winter Spare the Air Alerts are issued when violations of national health standards are predicted by the Air District during the Winter Spare the Air season, which generally extends from November through February."

The second chart is particularly relevant because it displays results for every year going back to 1991, which I believe is when they started keeping records. That chart shows an undeniable trend towards increasing number of spare the air days.


14 people like this
Posted by Annette
a resident of College Terrace
on Nov 17, 2017 at 12:44 pm

Annette is a registered user.

@Old Person - thank you for your posts; I hope they are being read by our decision makers b/c I think you make some excellent points. I had a similar discussion with a nice young couple not too long ago. Both work in high tech; one here and one in SF. They live in SF and the guy is an advocate for more housing. More, regardless of anything. Just more. When I asked if they aren't concerned about various infrastructure issues that would impact their children, the woman replied that they have no loyalty to SF and when they have kids they will return to the east coast.

Translation: just make it happen now; we will not be here long enough to be concerned about any negative ramifications.

Dog Lover: this attitude represents a serious concern b/c some changes cannot be undone. It is as unreasonable to demand densification that does not mitigate impact as it is to flat out say no to growth and change. You present as someone with a reasonable approach to the issue. I have no idea who you are or how involved you are w/PAF and other such organizations, but if you have any influence over the extreme, build-at-all-cost approach, please exert it. I think it will be better and healthier for everyone if reason and practicality, rather than theory, define future development.


Like this comment
Posted by stephen levy
a resident of University South
on Nov 17, 2017 at 1:21 pm

stephen levy is a registered user.

@ Anke

Take another look at your graph

Spare the Air days went from 11 in 1991 to 0 in 2015 and 7 in 2016. Yes there were years of up and down but that is hardly an upward trend.

For PM10 for the national standard there were 2 days of exceeding in 1991 and 0 for the past few years. For the stricter CA standard there were 18 exceeding days in 1991 and 0 for recent years.

And as I posted above their website announced strict new facility standards on Wednesday.


1 person likes this
Posted by stephen levy
a resident of University South
on Nov 17, 2017 at 1:35 pm

stephen levy is a registered user.

Annette

As you know the council on a 7-2 vote including all members except Kou and Holman adopted the Comp Plan that we worked on.

You can label it a build at all cost but the housing targets are between 3500 and 4500 units concentrated in areas like downtown, Cal Ave and the Fry's site. I do not consider this a build at all cost approach to housing and heard no one at council make that argument or characterization.

It seems to be now is the time for people of good will to work on implementing adopted city policy rather than re fighting issues that have been decided.

There were complaints about the amount of non res development approved in the plan but none that I heard arguing to reduce the housing target,

People had plenty of chances at CAC, PTC and council to argue against the preferred housing target adopted by council but what I heard was support for housing and concern about whether infrastructure could keep up. So let's commit to funding and building the infrastructure that is in the city infrastructure plan.

Council has recently approved two market rate housing projects I think unanimously and I hope that spirit carries over to the proposal for low income and special needs adult developed by Palo Alto Housing.


16 people like this
Posted by Gale Johnson
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Nov 17, 2017 at 2:57 pm

Gale Johnson is a registered user.

Not that I'm trying to have the last word here, but there have been many comments/postings since my last one. I missed all the Bay Area Forward meetings on housing, but I'm glad some people went and reported on the events...including "Old Person" and Stephen Levy. The reports were pretty much like I would have expected. The young people all 'gung ho' on new high density housing, for themselves of course, hoping, falsely, that rents will be lower, and without giving a thought or caring about the infrastructure issues, traffic, transportation, parking, possibly need for more schools (although with the kind of housing proposed I personally don't think that would be an issue) and how it would all be paid for. Wow! I think I beat my previous record for a run on sentence. They are the "Me too, I want it all now generation!". They want all the good things us older residents have, but don't know or understand the sacrifices we made 50 years ago to get them. It's much easier to just label us as NIMBY's. They're here to stay, for the duration, and since they won't be going away we have to try to get along and work things out with them.

Diana Diamond wrote a good article about the recent actions by our CC...the lack of fact finding that could have and should have been done before making big decisions.

Now that we all know everything about Stephen Levy, I will accept his sincere interest, and best interests, in working for our city, PA. I just think they are misguided and the same goes for the CC majority. The condominium where he lives has big units, family sized units. That is not what the grand plan for more housing is all about. It's for smaller units, including micro-units.

So the beat goes on.

I suspect, that even with all the changes to the Comp Plan, there will not be enough incentives for developers to build anything but market rate units in PA. Okay, except for the obligated BMR units...in under parked projects.


9 people like this
Posted by Old Person
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Nov 17, 2017 at 3:16 pm

"Diana Diamond wrote a good article about the recent actions by our CC...the lack of fact finding that could have and should have been done before making big decisions."

@Gale Johnson, where did that article appear?


6 people like this
Posted by Anke
a resident of Mountain View
on Nov 17, 2017 at 3:47 pm

@Stephen Levy, you advised me to
"Take another look at your graph

Spare the Air days went from 11 in 1991 to 0 in 2015 and 7 in 2016. Yes there were years of up and down but that is hardly an upward trend."

I did take another look and now am wondering if we are looking at the same graph. I'm talking about the second graph on the page, labeled "By Year". It does indeed list 11 spare the air days in 1991. Then 0-3 for 1992-2005. Then oscillations ranging 12-33 for 2006-2016. Definitely increasing.


23 people like this
Posted by mauricio
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Nov 17, 2017 at 3:49 pm

@Gale Johnson, Steve Levy doesn't work for "our city". He works for those who want to Manahttanize/turn P.A. into a sardine can, take your pick . Don't mistake him for one moment for anything else.


7 people like this
Posted by Anke
a resident of Mountain View
on Nov 17, 2017 at 3:54 pm

And at the end of the day, if all the planned construction does take place, it may be a case of closing the door after the horse has left the barn. This headline was in my inbox just now:

"Afternoon Edition: San Jose is hot as Palo Alto loses luster"


6 people like this
Posted by Gale Johnson
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Nov 17, 2017 at 4:00 pm

Gale Johnson is a registered user.

@Old person. It was in the "Daily News", today's edition.


22 people like this
Posted by Abitarian
a resident of Downtown North
on Nov 17, 2017 at 4:48 pm

Stephen Levy --

As you are a public figure with great influence in our community, it is fair to make reasonable challenges to your work and words. As a citizen and taxpayer, there are three areas which give me great concern and are worthy of comment.

----------

1. Bias and conflict of interest

Without evidence, it is not appropriate to accuse you of intentional malfeasance as others have done. Nevertheless, there are legitimate grounds for apprehension related to bias and conflict of interest.

Anyone well-versed in the social sciences is aware of the potential for human bias to distort the results of research and analysis. For example, economic forecasting -- your area of expertise -- relies on making assumptions, or expectations that certain things are true in the absence of definitive proof, as well as drawing conclusions that involve some level of subjective interpretation.

It is undeniable that you have a personal bias favoring growth. In addition to the countless hours you volunteer with groups such as Palo Alto Forward to promote growth, your partiality is well-documented in your blog and other writings.

Clearly, it is possible that the assumptions you make in your research minimize the negative impacts of growth and the forecasts you make justify growth compared with someone who does not share your bias.

In my opinion, anyone with such a clear conflict of interest should not be hired by local governments and non-profits to make forecasts that will drive decisions and policy. We need research to be as objective as possible.

----------

2. Unsuitable application of data

An economist must be able to select data relevant to the question at hand and to consolidate a variety of data points to reach a valid conclusion.

But, for some reason, your postings repeatedly "cherry-pick" a single piece of data to support your perspective or use data that is not germane to the conclusions you draw.

A few quick examples:

- Above, as Allen Akin points out, you use specific start- and end-dates of a graph to make your point instead of applying all of the relevant data that is available.

- In a recent discussion, you use only business- and employee-generated vs. resident sales tax to make your point instead of applying all of the relevant business vs. resident revenues -- including property tax, etc. -- and expenses, see Web Link

- Above, as Gale Johnson points out, you apply anecdotes about your spacious condominium with two parking spaces to proposed micro-unit car-light developments when the comparison is simply not pertinent. In another discussion, you write that not every unit in your development requires two spaces as if this were justification for proposals that would provide an average of less than one parking space per unit, see Web Link

It is not my intention to be snarky, but if the cause is not incompetence and the goal is not to mislead, it is hard to conceive of a legitimate explanation for this misuse of data. And again, in my opinion, anyone who repeatedly fails to apply data in a valid manner should not be hired by local governments and non-profits to make forecasts that will drive decisions and policy.

----------

Disrespect and trolling

You wrote:

"So can we just disagree and debate policy without all the put downs and innuendo."

In my opinion, this is truly ironic, considering that I had to stop reading your blog because I could not tolerate the disrespect you show to posters who disagree with your comments.

For just one example, chosen because it involves me, see Web Link

This discussion concerns a potential appeal of a primarily office development for 429 University Ave.

I wrote:

"Of course, I speak only for myself. When I chose to buy my home, I did not choose to live in the midst of an ugly office park."

In your response, you accused me of speaking for you, tossing zoning and rules aside, and suggesting residents should vote on whether or not gay people should be allowed to live in Palo Alto.

From my perspective, your response was not only unjustified, it was an appalling case of put down and innuendo and internet trolling. Additionally, it is the reason why I do not post under my real name. I would be mortified to think anyone would associate my name with prejudice against gay people or breaking the law, etc.

Once again, in my opinion, anyone who so hastily dismisses contrary viewpoints with contemptible made-up nonsense should not be hired by local governments and non-profits to make forecasts that will drive decisions and policy.


8 people like this
Posted by Abitarian
a resident of Downtown North
on Nov 17, 2017 at 5:10 pm

Old Person --

Alas, the Mercury News does not publish Diana Diamond's excellent column online.

The newsprint edition is distributed only on Friday, available in red Daily News boxes in commercial areas around town. Unfortunately, very few copies are put in the boxes, so it can be difficult to find.


23 people like this
Posted by Success Disaster
a resident of Midtown
on Nov 18, 2017 at 7:18 am

So the charming, beautiful, town of P A is quickly losing its luster. I just returned from a trip to Conn, Rhode Island and Conn. the quality of life for families is so much more comfortable, family homes have land, not much devt., quality of life good, strong community involvement(a lot like PA used to be).That being said my family and another wonderful family I know are picking up our stakes and moving up to the Northwest. The clogged streets and clogged airways are what pushed us over. It is really ludicrous to believe Stephen Levy’s projections. ABAG and other government agencies [non- elected] make rules that we, the citizens acually have no say in.This is called taxation without representation! I would call P A a success-disaster. Good Luck. Kudos to Mauricio!


19 people like this
Posted by mauricio
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Nov 18, 2017 at 11:35 am

As a Palo Alto long time home owner I moved to wonderful rural Monterey County about a year and a half ago, as I discovered that the nightmare I had once thought impossible: Steve Levy's(and his fellow travelers in the mega development lobby) vision of Palo Alto became a reality. I spend every other weekend in my Palo Alto home(to prevent squatters from getting ideas), and each time I arrive in Palo Alto, I feel like throwing up, see the poster above. What we are witnessing is an enormous tragedy in which one of the most unique towns in the world has been ruined and corrupted by greed, hubris, corruption and shortsighted stupidity.


16 people like this
Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Nov 18, 2017 at 12:39 pm

[Portion removed.]

Re what Mauricio calls the "mega development lobby", just Google ABAG and you'll find its record of embezzlement by its top financial guys and failure to use their funds for their designated purposes going back years.

That being the case, it's mind-boggling to me that Palo Alto has so blithely let these non-elected, non-governmental entities determine our future


6 people like this
Posted by Abitarian
a resident of Downtown North
on Nov 18, 2017 at 3:39 pm

According to an article in yesterday's (November 17th) edition of the Daily Post, Palo Alto Mayor Greg Scharff was elected by his fellow Bay Area City Council members to serve as Vice President of the Association of Bay Area Governments (ABAG).

Of course, ABAG is the organization that administers the Regional Housing Needs Allocation which sets the housing quotas for cities throughout the Bay Area.

Given Mr. Scharff's leadership of the Gang of Five hyper-development faction of the Palo Alto City Council, we can certainly imagine the impact he will have across the larger region.


8 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Nov 18, 2017 at 3:43 pm

The fast demographic shifts and economics have quickly changed in our state, as well as other western states like Washington.

I am thinking that these "old school" economists and planners need refresher courses.

What was plausible or applicable 10 years ago, no longer applies.

The flood gates have been open too long, and now we must make room for all the EB-5 investors, immigrants that have entered disguised as students, and so forth.

While you are planning, make sure that you have enough parking, freeway space, fresh water, and sewage treatment capabilities, as well as landfill space.

Our deconstruction waste has been exceeding our residential waste now for years.






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