News

New mayor signals heavy push on housing

Liz Kniss proposes new housing committee, senior-housing complex

Moments after Liz Kniss took center stage as Palo Alto's newly elected mayor Monday night, she brought up an issue that is sure to dominate the City Hall agenda throughout 2018: housing.

Kniss, who made housing the signature issue of her 2016 re-election campaign and who in November signed on to a memo calling for more housing construction, told the crowd in the City Council chambers that Palo Alto has fallen "well behind" in building housing. To meet the City Council's own goals — much less the more ambitious targets from regional agencies — the city needs to reverse this trend. Soon.

"It's beholden on us, on our integrity, to do that," Kniss said. "We need to start planning for that this year."

In a rare departure during an annual meeting typically devoted to pomp and plaudits, Kniss proposed on Monday establishing a special council committee to focus exclusively on housing. She also called out housing for seniors as a particularly urgent need and pointed to long waiting lists at all of the city's senior-housing complexes. A new development for this population, she said, is a "serious project we can do this year."

Her speech underscored the growing urgency of this topic at City Hall. In early February, Palo Alto planning staff will submit to the council a work plan for exploring zoning revisions listed in a memo by Councilman Adrian Fine, co-signed by Kniss and Councilman Cory Wolbach and unanimously adopted by the full council. Proposed revisions include giving affordable-housing projects "bonuses" to build more densely; new pedestrian- and transit-oriented districts, which provide more flexible development standards, near mass-transit hubs; and lower requirements for parking for so-called "car-light" developments, which offer residents incentives not to drive.

The effort could significantly change the underpinnings of the city's zoning codes. The existing policy of "housing maximums" — by which a residential zone prescribes the maximum number of units allowed per acre (so that, in an RM-40 zone, for example, up to 40 housing units per acre would be allowed) — could be replaced by a "housing minimum" policy whereby builders would be required to provide at least 80 percent of the units the zoning could accommodate.

The memo also recommends the city shift from using the standard for approving projects of a certain number of housing units to focusing exclusively on the development's density, as measured by floor-area ratio.

Kniss, long an advocate for housing, is hardly alone in seeing housing as the city's most pressing issue. In introducing his memo in November, Fine called housing "our community's No. 1 concern." And City Manager James Keene, who is leading the charge on the staff's side, on Monday singled out housing as a key priority for the coming year.

According to Keene, Palo Alto produced about 160 to 170 new homes per year since 1998. But most recently — between 2014 and 2017 — the city produced only 390 units, or about 98 per year.

"Our annual production has actually slowed over that period of time (between 1998 and the present), precisely at a time when affordability has dramatically decreased," Keene said during his presentation Monday.

To meet the goals of the council's newly adopted Comprehensive Plan, Palo Alto will have to more than double its recent rate of housing production and create between 230 and 290 units per year, Keene said.

"This means we really need to invest some effort in how we might accomplish that," Keene said.

He pointed to neighboring cities as models to follow when it comes to addressing the regional housing crisis. In Mountain View, more than 5,000 new housing units are now either being built or going through the review process, and officials are looking to construct another 10,000 units in the North Bayshore area as part of a recently approved "precise plan."

Redwood City, meanwhile, granted permits for 1,500 housing units in the past three years, Keene said, and has "many more in the pipeline."

According to Palo Alto's most recent state-mandated Housing Element document, which was adopted in 2015, Palo Alto produced or approved 1,063 housing units between 2007 and 2014 — about 133 units per year. That's a mere 37 percent of its 2,860-unit allocation, as determined by the Association of Bay Area Governments (ABAG).

Things were particularly dire for those near the bottom of the economic ladder. While Palo Alto produced 773 housing units in "above moderate" income category (78 percent of the amount allocated by ABAG), it created a mere 156 units for those in the "very low" income category (defined as affordable to residents making between 0 and 50 percent of the area median income) — 23 percent of its allocation of 690.

In the "low" income category (area median income of 51 to 80 percent), things are even more grim. The city built only nine units in this category between 2007 and 2014, a mere 2 percent of its ABAG allocation of 543 units.

But even as they look to reverse this trend, Palo Alto officials recognized the challenges of "going big" on housing in a city that they often describe as "built out," where a 50-foot height limit restricts most buildings to four stories and where developers have to overcome steep political hurdles to win approvals for their projects.

Council members haven't forgotten the lessons of 2013, when they approved a housing development on Maybell Avenue only to see the voters reverse the decision in a referendum. It's perhaps no coincidence that housing production ebbed after that. Palo Alto Housing, the nonprofit developer behind the Maybell project, stopped doing projects in the city, opting for the more housing-friendly municipalities of Mountain View and Redwood City.

At the same time, last year offered some hope to Palo Alto's housing advocates. The council approved in November a Comprehensive Plan that projects the city will accommodate between 3,500 and 4,400 housing units between now and 2035. It also reformed its zoning code to encourage the addition of more small accessory-dwelling units to residential properties — a revision that Keene called the council's "highlight" on the housing front in 2017.

Council members also offered some positive feedback to two different housing proposals last year: a "car-light" development with 60 small apartments on the busy intersection of El Camino Real and Page Mill Road, and an 67-unit affordable-housing development at 3703-3709 El Camino in the Ventura neighborhood.

The latter project is being developed by Palo Alto Housing — its first development in its hometown since the 2013 Election Day defeat.

Though both proposals remain in the planning phase and will have to address various community concerns about design, density and traffic before they win approval, the council's discussion of both cases has indicated that members are willing to potentially green-light the projects. In addition, the council launched last year a long-awaited process to create a coordinated-area plan in North Ventura, an area that includes the commercial complex anchored by Fry's Electronics and which has been identified by the city staff as ripe for new housing.

Palo Alto's effort to add housing may get a lift from Sacramento, where state lawmakers approved last fall more than a dozen bills aimed at addressing the housing crunch.

The package of laws include ones that limit cities' ability to deny accessory-dwelling units; allow cities to adopt inclusionary-zoning requirements for rental properties; and make it harder for cities to fall short of their housing allocations. Those that do, like Palo Alto, may be subject to the new "by right" housing bill, authored by Sen. Scott Weiner, which creates a streamlined approval process for housing projects.

Lawmakers are also preparing to ask the voters later this year to approval a $4-billion housing bond, funds that Palo Alto may be able to tap into for future housing projects.

Despite the new momentum on housing, Palo Alto officials are expecting plenty of challenges ahead. Kniss said Monday she expects to see some pushback from residents who have raised concerns about declining quality of life in the city when the council moves ahead with new housing policies and projects. She asked the residents in attendance Monday to "keep an open mind" when housing projects come before the council in future months.

"When this comes up this year, think through: Would I like my kids to live here? Would I like to stay here as long as possible?" Kniss said.

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Comments

115 people like this
Posted by MikeCrescentPark
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jan 12, 2018 at 8:32 am

Joni Mitchell already saw the need for this strategy years ago-
“They paved paradise
And put up a parking lot “


35 people like this
Posted by DTN Paul
a resident of Downtown North
on Jan 12, 2018 at 9:22 am

DTN Paul is a registered user.

The Palo Alto housing philosophy has been the inverse Field of Dreams philosophy - "Don't build it, and they won't come." Maybe we can stay with that philosophy until all the people who can't afford to live here have found homes in Redwood City, Mountain View, Hollister, Modesto... anywhere but our dear Palo Alto, where the white pickets are the whitest and Ward and June Cleaver still reign, and apparently people like Joni Mitchell.


34 people like this
Posted by Susan Monk
a resident of University South
on Jan 12, 2018 at 9:40 am

Seniors and others are in need of housing. This is a social issue. Not a political issue.


82 people like this
Posted by Dan
a resident of Midtown
on Jan 12, 2018 at 9:44 am

from the article: ...where developers have to overcome steep political hurdles to win approvals for their projects...
i.e. make back door political contributions and connections to earn zoning exceptions or outright by-pass existing zoning laws.


43 people like this
Posted by Gina Dalma
a resident of Midtown
on Jan 12, 2018 at 9:47 am

I can just say "YES!!!!".
We want a community that is vibrant, diverse and alive. That means that we need more housing for our teachers, police officers, students. Restricting housing has only driven this community to lose things we love about it so much. The neighborhood stores, the artists in their homes, a multi-generational community! Yay for Liz!


21 people like this
Posted by Homeowner
a resident of University South
on Jan 12, 2018 at 9:50 am

Good for Liz! This is an important issue that the Council has too long neglected.

I’m glad to see our city redeeming itself with a new affordable project for senior citizens. As nearly half the Council got started in politics by rejecting the last affordable housing complex proposed, it will be good to see if they back affordable housing this time.


112 people like this
Posted by Mama
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jan 12, 2018 at 10:30 am

We knew this was coming from Liz. How predictable is she? First she sells out Palo Alto to the developers and now she wants to give all the new employees and traffic generators housing. Let’s make sure to put a stop to this at the next City Council election. Only good thing is that now all of Palo Alto knows how she lied during the last election. And I bet her supporters were lined up to add their comments to this story ahead of time.


94 people like this
Posted by anon
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Jan 12, 2018 at 10:41 am

But Liz Kniss believes there is a glut of apartment housing!!!!

Just last september when supporting loosening the restrictions on office and R&D she opined that there was already to much Rental & apartment housing!?!

Quote From Page 49 of the September 5, 2017 City Council Meeting.

"Our economy goes up and down. Case in point right now, I hear from some that there's a glut of apartments on the market because so many apartments have been built."

So which is it Mayor Kniss Housing crisis or housing glut????

and....Kniss talks about housing but voted no on even discussing more renter protections for the 44% of Palo Altans that rent here - many of whom are seniors though she said she is concerned about senior housing needs. Renter protections can include beefed up mediation services or other reasonable measures but she was not interested in those 44% that are given ever escalating rents and inevitably displaced. She is only interested in build build build - making her developer donors happy. It’s all of a piece, along with her housing colleagues memo - the developers dream.


47 people like this
Posted by What's the transportation plan?
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jan 12, 2018 at 11:07 am

What's the transportation plan? is a registered user.

We are going to need transportation systems to support this new housing if we are going to reduce dependency on cars and congestion. What's the plan?

VTA is taking our tax dollars and providing little in the way of transit support. VTA takes local tax resources and funnels them toward San Jose and San Jose's powerful coalition of surrounding cities who make up a voting majority on the VTA Board. Caltrain is prevented from creating real capacity improvement by VTA's strangle hold on transit dollars for grade separations which are desperately needed in cities all along the Caltrain corridor, including Palo Alto (which has the second highest transportation activity level next to San Jose in the county). Caltrans has their bureaucratic head in the sand about alternative transportation. They are slower than molasses making change of any kind.

Housing density increase and transportation improvements MUST go hand-in-hand. The state government promised this would happen when they passed all of these density bonus laws but they have not followed through. Regional politics are working against us.

How do we connect density increase with transit that works locally?

Palo Altons ride trains in large numbers. Potential for growth in train ridership is enormous based on the Stanford GUP DEIR (which the county has power to approve at the same time the county keeps a tight fist around transit dollars sent to our community). However, Caltrain doesn't have capacity to accommodate that projected growth in rail ridership. Until a plan and money materializes to create rail capacity, cars will be the transportation option of choice. Palo Altons bike in large numbers, but they don't use buses much because the service (with the exception of the 22 and 522) really sucks. Palo Alto is not alone in this. Other cities in the county suffer while San Jose enjoys our tax dollars. San Jose has pretty good service, but most regional bus lines are designed to connect to San Jose. VTA regional maps look as though SJ is the center of universe. It's quite immediately apparent who has the power...and our money.

I support increasing housing. We need it, but how do we deal with the very problematic transportation piece of this puzzle?


27 people like this
Posted by mauricio
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jan 12, 2018 at 11:20 am

mauricio is a registered user.

[Post removed.]


60 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 12, 2018 at 11:24 am

The previous poster hits the nail on the head.

We can't have more housing without first improving our infrastructure and transit options.

I continually hear about the increased number of daytime residents in town, but I hear nothing about numbers of those leaving Palo Alto for work each day. The Caltrain lots are full long before 9.00 am and just seeing the number of people waiting on the train platforms each morning show that many who live here use trains for their commute. The onramps to the highways are also busy each morning.

Increasing housing is a fine idea, but hibernating inside their homes is probably not what people want to do after work.

To make Palo Alto vibrant we need to provide basic infrastructure improvements and increase the quality of life by increasing recreational, medical, shopping, personal business and other things that people do to live their lives. Building more and more pack and stack housing is not going to make life pleasant for any of us otherwise.


Like this comment
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 12, 2018 at 11:26 am

by poster, I didn't mean Mauricio as I think we posted at the same time. I meant the one above him.


56 people like this
Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jan 12, 2018 at 11:26 am

Online Name is a registered user.

Re the transportation plan, it would be special if the the city didn't keep narrowing the roads /lanes so much the VTA and PA shuttles can't fit in their lanes.

It's already hazardous and getting worse with the turn lane restriping and bump-outs.


67 people like this
Posted by allen
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jan 12, 2018 at 11:42 am

We as a city are being told we need to have more housing. I assume that is because we are seriously out of balance in that we have too many jobs and not enough houses for those people to live. In other words, the ratio of housing to jobs is too low. We also need more roads and more places to shop and, and, and. Or fewer jobs. Fewer jobs would help the ratio just as much as more houses. Why not look at both sides of the ratio? I was not born here but have been here for over 50 years and the changes are dramatic. I will admit not as dramatic as the changes where I grew up over that time. Westwood Village in Los Angeles was maximum two stories tall when I left. It was similar to Palo Alto in many ways. Last time I was there the constant noise from construction was terrible. There are some very tall buildings there. I see that somewhere in LA they are building a 960 foot tall building. If we keep adding jobs the way we are, jobs where people sit with computers as close to each other as they are at a lunch table, we will just be overrun as if we were not already. I don't know how to get fewer jobs but I assume it would have to do with some per employee tax or at a minimum don't add any more jobs. But whatever it is, I encourage our city council to look at both sides of the ratio.


12 people like this
Posted by Jerry Underdal
a resident of Barron Park
on Jan 12, 2018 at 11:55 am

Jerry Underdal is a registered user.

@Homeowner

“As nearly half the Council got started in politics by rejecting the last affordable housing complex proposed . . . “

I agree with the jist of your post but would separate out Karen Holman from the three PASZ-supported residentialists who opposed the Maybell project which would have provided housing for sixty low- and very low-income senior households. They had higher priorities at the time.

Karen and her fellow non-PASZ residentialist on the council Greg Schmid supported Palo Alto Housing’s project to the end.


59 people like this
Posted by Joe
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 12, 2018 at 12:12 pm

It's not too soon to consider a recall of Liz Kniss!


13 people like this
Posted by Integrity
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jan 12, 2018 at 12:13 pm

[Post removed.]


73 people like this
Posted by Palo Altan
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jan 12, 2018 at 12:22 pm

[Portion removed.] The city staff decides what our town will become and how it should work. Yet none of the staff lives anywhere near Palo Alto. They know nothing about this town. They don't care about the livability of Palo Alto. The Transportation Department is a prime example of the ineptness of the city staff.


70 people like this
Posted by Where's the MONEY?
a resident of Ventura
on Jan 12, 2018 at 12:24 pm

So Liz Kniss is going to lead another affordable senior high density apartment project smack in the middle of a back to school routes with hundreds of children on their bikes again? Oh just great!

Where is the funding for all of these affordable housing developments since she voted no to decrease development impact fees to help fund these projects???

WHERE IS THE MONEY????

For the parks?
For the schools?
For police services?
For fire services?
For community centers?
For parking enforcement?
For parking lots?
For code enforcement?
For noise enforcement?
For grade separation?

WHERE IS THE MONEY LIZ???


50 people like this
Posted by Anke
a resident of Mountain View
on Jan 12, 2018 at 12:36 pm

"We want a community that is vibrant, diverse and alive. That means that we need more housing for our teachers, police officers, students. "

This.

"Fewer jobs would help the ratio just as much as more houses. Why not look at both sides of the ratio? "

And this.


We've created an unsustainable imbalance by cramming way too much office space into our small cities, and now they want to "fix" it by cramming in way too much stack-and-pack. (Mountain View is making the same mistake. They're rejoicing (even in the Chronicle!) over the recently approved 10,000 housing units, but Google has 17,000 new jobs in the pipeline and more on the way.)


68 people like this
Posted by Developer $
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 12, 2018 at 12:41 pm

Where's the MONEY? asks where the money is for all the services needed for new housing. The answer is obvious: it's in the developers pockets who don't have to pay the full cost of their impacts. And they shared some of this ill gotten gains with Liz Kniss, Adrian Fine, and Greg Tanaka, with contributions that were hidden from the public by being reported late or by making contributions to pay back loans made by these politicians to their campaigns.

We need a "No Developer Money" pledge for the 2018 Council campaign. Just as union endorsements and cash are no longer accepted by Palo Alto City Candidates, candidates should no longer accept developer money. On the other hand, Liz Kniss pledged to do just that and broke her promise.


87 people like this
Posted by Novelera
a resident of Midtown
on Jan 12, 2018 at 12:42 pm

Novelera is a registered user.

I reject the whole premise of Kniss' stating we "need more housing". What we need is fewer tech companies wanting a Palo Alto address, perhaps thinking venture capitalists will pay them more attention.

Palo Alto is built out. When I moved here in 1982, I chose to pay more for a house than I would have paid in Mountain View or Sunnyvale because of the quiet, tree lined atmosphere that reminded me of Ohio.

I am fed up to my back teeth with the ridiculous comments by city officials and posters on Palo Alto Online babbling on about the poor school teachers, police, and fireman who cannot afford to live here.

If you believe that this new housing Kniss's developer friends plan to build will be affordable, I'd like to sell you a bridge in Brooklyn.

I received in the mail yesterday a card inviting me to a workshop about how to build an ADU in my back yard. The card showed a dwelling that looked as big as the house I now live in. The ADU scheme that was passed by our developer-friendly city council members is going to be a gold mine for speculators who are already driving housing prices through the roof here. Now they can build a huge house, dig a basement that causes its neighbors' houses to shift, sink, and have cracks in the walls and even throw in a separate, little rental unit in the back. No provision was made concerning parking for these extra little houses that will be rented out. Granny units, my foot!


30 people like this
Posted by Developer $
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 12, 2018 at 12:43 pm

Mountain View and Redwood City are praised for building housing, but as Anke observes, they are adding a lot more jobs than housing. We would be better off if Mountain View and Redwood City added neither jobs nor housing.


57 people like this
Posted by anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 12, 2018 at 1:17 pm

Planning Commissioner Sue Monk, you say that housing isn't a political but only a social issue. Whew. You are either very naive or disingenuous. Those are troublesome qualities in a Planning Commissioner.

And Gina Dalma, you attribute the loss of neighborhood retail to lack of housing? That's a reach, given it is mainly attributable to escalating rents by landlords, or sometimes to conversion of unprotected retail space to other use by the owner.

Both of you are politicizing housing, using it as a scapegoat to try to maximize the "need" for development rather than carefully targeting the affordable housing actually needed, and prevent displacement of renters.

As a result, in a panic we may end up with towers and blocks of mostly unaffordable market rate housing that lacks even reasonable parking, but will please the Silicon Valley Manufacturing Group and Chamber of Commerce as employees wedge into micro-units and and lux housing. And the people of our town will suffer, not benefit.

The first step, which Kniss refuses to do, is to protect the 44% of renters already living here so they don't get the $700 per month rent increase some RWC neighbors just got this week. Then build BMR and housing for the middle class - not what Kniss has in mind, which is to build for tech corporations while shoveling money to developers who surreptitiously financed her election win.


23 people like this
Posted by Eric Rosenblum
a resident of Downtown North
on Jan 12, 2018 at 1:38 pm

This is excellent news. Mayor Kniss is living in the courage of her convictions.

This shouldn't surprise anyone-- she signed onto the colleagues' memo that was calling for exactly this (and yet some commenters seem to be accusing her of hiding her intentions. She, *in writing*, stated that she was going to work to ameliorate our housing shortage). When she ran for office this time, the housing shortage was front-and-center in her campaign. She is doing exactly what she has promised to do.

For those asking about transportation improvements-- Kniss has long been a supporter of increased attention to transportation infrastructure and programs. She was the originator of the plan that became our TMA years ago. I expect attention on housing and transportation to go hand-in-hand.

Thank you, Mayor Kniss!


29 people like this
Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jan 12, 2018 at 2:08 pm

Online Name is a registered user.

Support for the TMA doesm't necessarily facilitate traffic flow and/or help residents.


20 people like this
Posted by Gale Johnson
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Jan 12, 2018 at 2:13 pm

Gale Johnson is a registered user.

I'll try to hold my tongue and not be too critical...at least for now. I'll keep my powder dry, but, "I'm not giving away my shot"...ala 'Hamilton'.

And, I am anxiously awaiting the proposals for housing, affordable housing, and, now, senior housing. It's curious that Liz is focusing on senior housing now. Did the CC majority fritter away a year of actually being able to do something about it? They sure had their chance. Now, it is being brought up again...and again...as a priority issue. Housing has been a major issue for years. That was a key point in Cory Wolbach's campaign 3 years ago. Back then it was mainly about housing for our young single techies who work downtown. They wouldn't have to commute and could live in micro-units or studio apartments for only $2,300-$2,900 per month. They wouldn't need cars and would add to our local economy...by shopping/buying at local restaurants, coffee shops, and salons, with sales tax dollars flowing in to support or burgeoned budget. That would solve traffic congestion/gridlock and parking problems, also. So where were the developers of all those grand proposed housing projects? Oh, also, where would all those people buy their groceries, clothes, and hardware store items, without having to drive? I know all about Uber and Lyft, so don't give me that as a serious answer to my question.

The developers, then, were probably just where they are now. They're sitting on the sidelines until they hear some major relief from CC on zoning restrictions, and maybe re-invoking the PC's, with all those benefits they promised. They failed, but they won't give up on them. They know how to manipulate, sharpen their pencils, and calculate risks and rewards scenarios (cost/benefit analyses) of any project they propose. CC has been soft, too long and too many times, on their proposals. Will that change? Who knows? But with Filseth, as vice mayor, and someone who knows his dollars and cents, there is hope for good analysis from CC on all future development proposals.

Let's hear loud and clear from CC, what their interpretation of affordable housing, and caring for the homeless, really means in PA.


42 people like this
Posted by Jane
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Jan 12, 2018 at 2:41 pm

"Mayor Kniss is living in the courage of her convictions."

Is she?

Mayor Kniss voted against allowing the council to discuss what, if any, options the council had to support current renters just a few months ago. Along with Fine, Wolbach, Tenaka, and Scharff. This was not a proposal to discuss renter control, just to explore any tools the council might have to help current renters.

Instead the background to this vote became doing nothing to hinder the people who want to live in Palo Alto from doing so. For which Fine is the biggest proponent. The justification being without renter turnover the city won't be vibrant. Instead it will be stuck.


8 people like this
Posted by W. Reller
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jan 12, 2018 at 2:45 pm

W. Reller is a registered user.

Why not face the obvious: kill the 50' height limit. That zoning restriction has been in place for 50 years and has served Palo Alto well. It is time to move on.


32 people like this
Posted by Jane
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Jan 12, 2018 at 2:48 pm

The excuse for voting no to the council considering the plight of current renters as a separate topic was denied by the council majority (Kniss, Walbach, Scharff, Fine, Tenaka) by saying this shouldn't be a single topic but rolled into the general discussion about housing, which Kniss, Walbach, and Fine, would bring back to the council. But in their new proposal to the council on housing, they have omitted considering what, if any, options council has to help current renters.


32 people like this
Posted by Jane
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Jan 12, 2018 at 3:02 pm

The 50' height limit has served the people who live here and actually pay the majority of the property taxes well.

Not brought up is that Palo Alto is one of the few school district that pays for itself out of its own property taxes. We do not get any extra money for each additional student. So the pie gets cut ever small as enrollment goes up. Unless all property tax for these proposed dense housing projects will cover the additional enrollment, but which so far has not been demonstrated.

Part of the problem is that properties ripe for development are owned long term, most for decades, many for several generations, by the same entities. This means when these properties are developed only the cost of the new "improvements" are subject to being reassessed for property tax. Not the underlying value of the land itself. That keeps it's maximum 2% a year increase.

Commercial real estate lawyers, who have been well represented on council, also have tools at their disposal that allow commercial properties to change hands without triggering reassessment of the property tax.


69 people like this
Posted by mauricio
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jan 12, 2018 at 3:17 pm

Kniss deliberately pushed, very aggressively and for many years, commercial development in Palo Alto, development that seriously warped the housing to job ratio. She has encouraged tech companies that wanted a Palo Alto zip code to move in.
Now, claiming that the job to housing ratio is too high, a problem she has intentionally created to benefit her land developer friends and contributors, she is pulling all the stops in her mega development crusade. [Portion removed.]

Her mega development crusade will not make PA more affordable to city workers and other modest income families. The opposite is true. This is targeted to benefit highly paid tech workers, foreign buyers and most of all, make billions for her developer contributors.


30 people like this
Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 12, 2018 at 3:17 pm

Posted by Gina Dalma: a resident of Midtown, wrote:

>> I can just say "YES!!!!".
We want a community that is vibrant, diverse and alive. That means that we need more housing for our teachers, police officers, students. Restricting housing has only driven this community to lose things we love about it so much. The neighborhood stores, the artists in their homes, a multi-generational community! Yay for Liz!

Just curious. Do teachers, police officers, students, and their families, have cars, drive, park, etc.?

When you say "restricting housing" what are you referring to?

When you say "neighborhood stores", "artists" etc, what will prevent wealthy people from moving in to any new housing that is constructed?

The fact is, a lot of people want to live here because everybody else wants to live here. Palo Alto has become a status address. I liked it better when it was barely known, and known for its street trees, bicycles, and liberals. Blindly building more housing will not bring back the past, it will just bring more traffic. Rush hour is almost continual now; it is getting very difficult to drive across Alma/tracks most of the time during the business day. Build more housing and you will get more traffic.


51 people like this
Posted by Curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on Jan 12, 2018 at 3:17 pm

Push on housing--hah! That's Kniss talking, right? Her this-for-that under-the-table footsie parties with developers go way back Web Link

Expect one or two much-ballyhooed nominal dwelling units in new fifty-office developments, which will quietly morph into executive office suites when nobody's looking.


40 people like this
Posted by Annette
a resident of College Terrace
on Jan 12, 2018 at 3:53 pm

Annette is a registered user.

We obviously have to accept the irony that those who helped create and perpetuate the housing imbalance (by relentlessly approving the commercial development that increases the demand for housing) are now leading the charge for more housing. And presenting it as a moral imperative.

BUT must we also add to our built environment w/o first - or at least simultaneously - improving the infrastructure needed to support more housing? Or are we just going to add the housing and hope everything works out with our roads, schools, hospitals, water supply, utilities, and public transportation options? I think there will be much less resistance to increased development (residential or commercial)if there is a solid plan for mitigating impacts.


6 people like this
Posted by Gale Johnson
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Jan 12, 2018 at 3:56 pm

Gale Johnson is a registered user.

Okay, Liz has put her marker down. That is good. Now at least we know what she stands for...what her priority is...and so we can be vigilant in tracking her actions and ability to make it happen. I hope for the best, but I see so many impediments and the reluctance of developers to build housing in PA...and especially affordable housing. Offices...no problem!


53 people like this
Posted by mauricio
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jan 12, 2018 at 4:17 pm

mauricio is a registered user.

Why should developers build "affordable" housing, when Kniss will let them develop much more profitable commercial offices for the tech companies that now have a green light to move in en masse That has been the plan all along. increase the job to housing imbalance, then build some token housing(which will almost certainly be purchased by mostly foreign investors) and say you tried to solve the housing problem you intentionally made much worse, and let the flood of commercial development come rushing in, making the town an office park in which billions are made, for developers and their enablers. Then when you run for CC again, brag about how much you care for the neighborhood and modest income families you made certain would never be able to afford even those magical micro units.


40 people like this
Posted by Sudden punctuality
a resident of South of Midtown
on Jan 12, 2018 at 4:45 pm

Liz is right on time! So punctual!

It's a pity she didn't report the huge developer contributions on time, before the election. Then she wouldn't be under such a huge cloud for hiding those big donations.
She wouldn't be under investigation by the Fair Political Practices Commission.


10 people like this
Posted by Gale Johnson
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Jan 12, 2018 at 6:07 pm

Gale Johnson is a registered user.

After rereading the article, the numbers for "low" and "very low" income housing units are dismal, but not a surprise in PA. What do mayor Kniss and other housing advocates propose as a way of improving on that? Housing prices have to drop dramatically for that to change, and there is no evidence currently, that adding more housing will cause that to happen, ADU's, micro-units, and studio apartments, notwithstanding.


52 people like this
Posted by MikeCrescentPark
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jan 12, 2018 at 6:16 pm

The now continual cry for growth makes sense if we are planning, as the City of Palo Alto, to go public or position ourselves to be acquired by another entity with deep pockets. Then all of us as stakeholders will make out on our equity big time.

But we are not planning on a public offering or an acquisition. There is no exit strategy. We are already right now big enough and generate enough revenue to, if we choose, to maintain Palo Alto as the wonderful place it is.

We are on the brink of losing our amazing town. All because an insatiable demand for growth demands more jobs and then shortly thereafter, more housing. That's likely the formula for how you attain a density like Hong Kong. And lose Palo Alto.


46 people like this
Posted by Jane
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Jan 12, 2018 at 7:36 pm

"Now at least we know what she stands for."

Not so fast. Just a few months ago Liz Kniss cast her council vote to lower the fees developers pay to the city for below market housing, which is based on square footage. What a relief for developers.

Liz Kniss also supports changing the zoning to allow developers to build denser housing, a boon to developers and those all who profit directly or indirectly from new bricks and mortar.

Meanwhile, just as a few months ago she voted against the council even having a discussion to explore if there are any ways the city can support existing renters.

What Liz doesn't do is talk about how many units will have to be built to make any difference for many of those who so eagerly support her. One study cited (from UCLA I believe) states that the number of housing units in Palo Alto would have to double to bring prices down down 10%.

I would find Liz Kniss to be more credible if, along with her support for a housing commission, she also supports an infrastructure commission to figure out how Palo Alto will build and pay for the infrastructure to accommodate the accelerated population increase she is advocating for.









44 people like this
Posted by Anonymous
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 12, 2018 at 8:23 pm

Kniss can say what she wants but she has a record of pushing office buildings and hotels. Housing has not been her priority no matter what she says.


52 people like this
Posted by quality of life
a resident of Midtown
on Jan 12, 2018 at 10:37 pm

Thank you Mauricio for stating Liz Kniss' record. All of this clamoring for more housing makes me wonder if Liz is going to bring dense units into her Old Palo Alto neighborhood. I suspect not, she will dump it on other neighborhoods, with less political clout.
The bottom line here in Palo Alto should be livability----tree lined streets, quiet,clean air, nice parks, low levels of traffic, libraries,neighbohood shopping, community centers, good schools, friendly neighbors.....when the non-stop push for more and more development and housing continues unabated, the balance swings out of whack. That is what my family is now experiencing, now sadly concluding that Palo Alto is not all it is cracked up to be. It is a fact that P.A. is losing out to other more LIVABLE communities in the Bay Area and out of state.
If we wanted to live in Redwood City or Mountain View we would have chosen to live there. Palo Alto used to have a college town atmosphere with a different, more educated population. Just because Redwood City and Mt. View are building thousands of new housing units does not mean that Palo Alto has to follow suit. If they want to grow their cities, then maybe more companies will find them more attractive. That is fine with us Liz, share the wealth!


9 people like this
Posted by Supply & Demand
a resident of Green Acres
on Jan 13, 2018 at 5:52 am

Wrong Agendas!!!!&@??

Top Priorities:

1. Traffic - focus on blocking off railroad surface crossings at Charleston and allow only ped/bike crossings at Churchill and Meadow (maybe build new graded crossing for the purpose). This is a much cheaper solution than those costly and time consuming ones on the table.

2. Safety - esp. cut down on crime rate have more foot patrols and community policing.

3, Solve financial and budget messes due to retirement and infrastructure issues.


36 people like this
Posted by Annette
a resident of College Terrace
on Jan 13, 2018 at 7:36 am

Given our current, self-inflicted realities, one cannot simultaneously push for housing AND support additional commercial development AND not even consider studying options available for relieving market pressures on renters. To do so is disingenuous. Or political. Or both.

Either way, that is an approach that does not work. We like to consider ourselves a smart community. I'm no longer so sure about that. If we are so smart, why are our problems getting worse?


48 people like this
Posted by mauricio
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jan 13, 2018 at 10:32 am

mauricio is a registered user.

Yes, Palo Allto's problems are self inflicted, and no one person is responsible for this more than Liz Kniss.

She has played the long game, well co-ordinated with the land development industry, relentlessly pushing for more and more coal ways mmercial development that drove out small local retail, drove up housing prices, created a massive traffic problem and sharply diminished the quality of life, as well as air quality, and of course skewed the job to housing ratio, then became the champion of a massive housing drive, while still pushing for more commercial development, never lifting a finger to help renters, who constitute about 45 percent of the town's population.

Having her as mayor for the third time is exactly like having the fox guard the henhouse.


6 people like this
Posted by george drysdale
a resident of Professorville
on Jan 13, 2018 at 12:12 pm

You would think there's some sort of conspiracy going on. There isn't. There is no such thing as "affordable housing" just subsidized housing (charity). There's simply not enough money for subsidized housing for all those who (of course) want it. Who pays for the rent subsidy in the most expensive real estate market in America? Who wins the lottery for charitable housing development? Do the elderly always have to come up on top? We have great examples to study in the Buena Vista trailer park and the recent enactment of rent control (bombardment) in Mountain View. Let's discuss this, not only in economics classes.
George Drysdale land economist, educator and initiator


3 people like this
Posted by Pathetic
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jan 13, 2018 at 12:14 pm

[Post removed.]


34 people like this
Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jan 13, 2018 at 2:15 pm

Online Name is a registered user.

Much has been written about various legislative proposals to force companies raise the pay of all the H12B visa employees from $60,000 to at least $90,000. (Google Issa, Eshoo and Lofgreen) which will supposedly discourage them from under-cutting American workers.

Redwood City is now proposing to tax all their hacker hotels 12%.

What's Palo Alto's response?

Big corporations are largely responsible for the competition pushing up housing prices, for housing shortages and for traffic congestion. What are the big companies doing to solve the growth problems they're creating?

Are we residents now expected to subsidize housing for the big companies that refuse to pay American workers a living wage?

We're already subsidizing the commuting expenses of these workers and the city employees.

Enough already.


45 people like this
Posted by mauricio
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jan 13, 2018 at 2:59 pm

mauricio is a registered user.

Big corporations are not really responsible for all of Palo Alto's ills because they will always jump one any opportunity allowed them by enabling politicians. Politicians like Kniss have allowed them to get away with hiring workers who are unable to find housing in the most expensive real estate market in the nation, expecting the residents to subsidize their housing, without putting any pressure on the corporations to both raise their salaries and move to more affordable areas. Politicians like kiss and her followers have allowed Palantir to take over downtown and turn it into a Palantir office park. Corporations will bullrush into every space politicians create for them. It's politicians like Kniss, who keeps fooling voters into believing she cares and works for their interests, while she is actually advancing the interests of corporations, foreign investors and land developers at their expense.


30 people like this
Posted by Novelera
a resident of Midtown
on Jan 13, 2018 at 3:50 pm

Novelera is a registered user.

Noticed the comment by Eric Rosenblum, who cheers on Kniss, but doesn't mention being on the board of Palo Alto Forward.


37 people like this
Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jan 13, 2018 at 3:59 pm

Online Name is a registered user.

I believe he's also a Palantir employee as is the head of the TMA.

Serious question: how many of our appointed commissioners are or have been Palantir employees and/or consultants? Former commissioner Kate Dowling? Downing? certainly was.


45 people like this
Posted by mauricio
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jan 13, 2018 at 4:08 pm

mauricio is a registered user.

Rosenblum also rarely mentions being a Palantir executive. Palantir is engaged in a major push for commercial and housing development, using local politicians and PAF, which is practically an arm of Palantir, to push their agenda. The incesteous relationships between the mega urbanization majority on the CC, city staff, land developers, PAF and Palantir is sickening, and tragically, seems to be too powerful to overcome and push back.


32 people like this
Posted by Palantir on the city
a resident of Professorville
on Jan 13, 2018 at 11:31 pm

@Online name
This list has been published in the Forum.
Mehdi Alhassani on Human Relations Commission, works for Palantir

Eric Rosenblum on the Planning Commission, Executive at Palantir

Mila Zelkha now on the Public Art Commission, works for Palantir; was on the Comprehensive Plan Advisory Committee

Will Griffin on the RPP Stakeholder Group, works for Palantir (replaced Brett Somers)

Bob McGrew is on Traffic Management Committee, vice-Chair of the Palo Alto
Transportation Management Association. Also on Board of Chamber of Commerce

It is not clear whether Rosenblum has any other reponsibilities to the company besides influencing the city for Palantir's benefit.

Kate Vershov Downing resigned from PTC in 2016,husband Steve Downing works for Palantir


20 people like this
Posted by Oh well
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jan 14, 2018 at 11:19 am

[Portion removed due to inaccurate informational.] Forget infrastructure repair and upgrades, nope, lets compound the problem by adding more stress to a broken system of neglect. Perhaps Kniss is unaware of what Palo Alto's needs are or maybe just wants to please those who financed her campaign. Maybe that's why our forefathers chose to make the office of Mayor a 1 term celebratory appointment. It is so sad that city manager Keene now says housing is a top priority for Palo Alto. I thought he was pushing infrastructure repair for years as a priority? Guess all our infrastructure issues have been solved and we can move on. What a pity! Wish we had a strong city manager running city needs.


9 people like this
Posted by Ahem
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 14, 2018 at 4:26 pm

[Post removed.]


2 people like this
Posted by You got what you deserved
a resident of Community Center
on Jan 14, 2018 at 4:35 pm

[Post removed.]


6 people like this
Posted by Ahem
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 14, 2018 at 4:55 pm

[Post removed.]


23 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Community Center
on Jan 14, 2018 at 5:13 pm

@You got
As Mayor Kniss pointed out last Monday, anyone can file a complaint to the FPPC. That is what was done against Karen Holman after Scharff and Kniss publicly implied there was a problem with Holman. However, the FPPC determined there was not any basis for even an investigation of Holman and they declined to pursue the complaint, sssentially a finding of a groundless accusation. It served a political purpose, enabling continued reference to it by posters like you, despite her exoneration.
In the case of Fine, Tanaka and Kniss, the FPPC found a basis for an investigation. They found Fine and Tanaka to have violated the election laws. Fine's was a minor violation and Tanaka's more significant. The investigation against Kniss remains open.


18 people like this
Posted by BP
a resident of Barron Park
on Jan 14, 2018 at 8:21 pm

Senior Housing? What I understand is that you cannot build housing only for residents or employees of Palo Alto. So of the new Senior Housing, what percent will actually be Palo Alto residents? The building advocates don't bother to tell the truth, rather mislead everyone to think that 100% of new senior housing goes to Palo Alto residents.


Like this comment
Posted by Sophie
a resident of another community
on Jan 14, 2018 at 11:47 pm

How did the new mayor got elected?


2 people like this
Posted by @sophie
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 15, 2018 at 8:30 am


Palo Alto does not elect Mayor or Vice Mayor.

Each year they are picked by the nine member Council. Tradition goes that Vice Mayor becomes Mayor.


15 people like this
Posted by Thomas Paine IV
a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Jan 15, 2018 at 9:01 am

Liz has it right. Build subsidized housing for low income residents in Los Banos. With Jerry Browns High Speed Rail plan, it will take less time for those folks to reach University Ave. than people trying to drive from Cubberly.


2 people like this
Posted by Demographic
a resident of Barron Park
on Jan 15, 2018 at 12:33 pm

Living in Palo Alto is both a right and a privilege. Every person, no matter their background, racial/ethnic/gender make-up, or economic situation should be allowed/provided the means to live here. We can always make room for more and should do everything in our power to make it possible for anyone who wants to live here, to be able to do so comfortably.

People who say we cannot build our way out of this housing crisis are simply misguided, or want to deny others their American right to live where ever they choose.


4 people like this
Posted by Demographic
a resident of Barron Park
on Jan 15, 2018 at 12:38 pm

@BP
a resident of Barron Park
16 hours ago
Senior Housing? What I understand is that you cannot build housing only for residents or employees of Palo Alto. So of the new Senior Housing, what percent will actually be Palo Alto residents?"

100% of the people that occupy any new Palo Alto housing will be Palo Alto residents. When did you become a Palo Alto Resident?


34 people like this
Posted by mauricio
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jan 15, 2018 at 1:28 pm

mauricio is a registered user.

Really? I wasn't provided the means to live in Palo Alto. I had to work hard and save for many years to be able to live in P.A. Now I'm really sorry I wasn't aware at the time that every person who wants to live in P.A. should be allowed/provided the means to live here.I could have saved so much time, money and hard work by showing up before the CC demanding housing.


13 people like this
Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 15, 2018 at 1:58 pm

Posted by Demographic, a resident of Barron Park:

>> Living in Palo Alto is both a right and a privilege. Every person, no matter their background, racial/ethnic/gender make-up, or economic situation should be allowed/provided the means to live here. We can always make room for more and should do everything in our power to make it possible for anyone who wants to live here, to be able to do so comfortably.

>> People who say we cannot build our way out of this housing crisis are simply misguided, or want to deny others their American right to live where ever they choose.

"Demographic", irony doesn't transmit very in forums like this.

If this isn't irony, then, you need to do some arithmetic. For every one of the 7.4 Billion people on earth to live in the < 26 square miles of Palo Alto would require a density above 300,000,000 people per square mile, or, equivalently, 119,000,000 per square km. That is about 5,650 times the density of the world's most populous city-country, Macau. (And more than that compared to Hong Kong and Singapore.)

I assume that your comment was meant ironically, but, you have a point-- it is the logical conclusion to where the politicians are taking us. I wonder if any of them (the politicians) are willing to commit to a limit on what the population density of Palo Alto could be?


13 people like this
Posted by mauricio
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jan 15, 2018 at 2:00 pm

mauricio is a registered user.

[Post removed.]


23 people like this
Posted by Curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on Jan 15, 2018 at 3:49 pm

More housing? Easy.

Convert every square inch of techie business space to housing. Presto! Jobs-housing balanced, and no new concrete poured.


47 people like this
Posted by Roger
a resident of College Terrace
on Jan 15, 2018 at 3:54 pm

What do you call something that grows without limit? Cancer. An all consuming and debillitating cancer is what the promoters of endless growth are pushing on the rest of us. More housing without a stop to more commercial development will not make housing more affordable and will make the City ever more miserable to live and work in.


12 people like this
Posted by Gale Johnson
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Jan 15, 2018 at 6:32 pm

Gale Johnson is a registered user.

I'm anxious to hear what comes out of the retreat. It's time to turn it back on developers who supported so many of our CC members. Build our much needed housing, including BMR housing, w/o asking for any new relief/favors/exemptions . We've given them so many breaks in the past...PC benefits...when we were supposed to be the ones to get some of those benefits...that failed, or were false from the beginning. I hope there will be serious and honest discussion about quality of life as a result of any future growth. So much has been eroded already. My 'town' is gone. If quality of life is measured by the number of restaurants, coffee shops, and salons, well, then I guess we have it. The metric I used that convinced us to buy a home and live here is gone.


1 person likes this
Posted by Rick
a resident of Downtown North
on Jan 15, 2018 at 10:29 pm

[Post removed.]


13 people like this
Posted by Beth
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jan 16, 2018 at 10:40 am

How does more housing impact the schools? Will more schools be built? Somehow this does not seem to be part of the discussion.


42 people like this
Posted by Steve Dabrowski
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jan 16, 2018 at 3:25 pm

A lot has been said regarding Palantir and it's activities in Palo Alto. It would be a good thing if the Weekly would work on a clear effort to shed light on their actual footprint in Palo Alto (a map showing where they have rented space), their influence on City leaders, their connection to Palo Alto Forward and how ingrained they are in various agencies throughout our city government.
2018 is going to be a crucial election year and it is important to have a fact based analysis of those organizations who are trying to influence the course of our growth, particularly a private corporation working to sway our cities future to benefit themselves.


33 people like this
Posted by mauricio
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jan 16, 2018 at 4:10 pm

mauricio is a registered user.

Palantir has infiltrated just about every level of the Palo Alto city government. its agents are working very hard to push the city in a direction that would benefit Palantir enormously. Roger above correctly uses the Cancer metaphor to describe the perpetual growth the current CC majority is pushing for, but how should be describe the manner in which a private corporation has maestesized in every fiber of this city's government?


27 people like this
Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jan 16, 2018 at 4:26 pm

Online Name is a registered user.

Bob McGrew, head of the PA's TMA, Palantir employee and a Menlo Park resident, is also on the steering committee of Imagine Menlo, a group formed in response to the MP vote to oppose more office development and congestion.

Web Link


20 people like this
Posted by Developer $
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 16, 2018 at 6:12 pm

The PA Daily Post reports that Liz Kniss, when President of the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors, cast the deciding vote to allow Stanford University to file a Sustainable Development Study that did not include a maximum planned build out. See the middle of the right column on page 18 of Tuesday, January 18th PA Daily Post.


7 people like this
Posted by Gale Johnson
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Jan 17, 2018 at 1:44 pm

Gale Johnson is a registered user.

I wish staff and CC well, and best of luck, in coming up with viable solutions that don't affect the quality of life in any of our residential neighborhoods. The new ADU ordinance was a bad idea which could easily, and greatly, affect the quality of life in our residential neighborhoods. The ideas proffered in the colleague's memo are, for the most part, good ones. And, if you care to track my posting record, you would find I have supported many of those ideas for several years now. I was even bold enough to suggest raising the height limit in some areas. If it doesn't affect sight-lines/views any more than current tall buildings do, then go for it.

I have some disagreements, however. The idea of under parked housing or mixed use projects is futuristic. But, if the projects are successful in being approved and built in the near term, that will be a problem...I think. I would want to see very strict rules set, with the ability in place to enforce them, including evicting violators, before we open up the floodgates on this idea. Let the one project on the corner of Page Mill Rd and El Camino go through, and then monitor it closely, gather data, before making decisions on any other similar projects.

Bonuses? Nope, nada, nyet! on that idea. When it gets to the point where we taxpayers have to pay developers to build, and possibly degrade/destroy our quality of life, that's going to far, and if our city planners and CC don't understand that yet, they should be given a lesson by us voters on election day.

Palo Alto isn't a bedroom community like LAH, Woodside, Portola Valley, and Atherton, but we shouldn't try to be a town that provides beds for everyone who wants to live here either.


6 people like this
Posted by Build, baby, build!
a resident of Mayfield
on Jan 18, 2018 at 10:25 am

Build, baby, build!


7 people like this
Posted by Will
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Jan 19, 2018 at 10:58 pm

It would much better serve the city if the 5-story hotel proposed for the Su Hong site were housing instead.

Although, as long as we insist on maintaining 25 mph speed limits on 4 lane roads (looking at you Middlefield and Arastradero...) and throttling traffic by arbitrarily blocking off lanes (Charleston, etc.), then increasing housing is only going to make it take even longer than the 20 minutes it currently takes to get to the damn freeway to even start the morning commute. Around 5pm, it takes 30 minutes just to cross this town.

In any other nearby city, these roads are at least 35mph and they use the full capacity.

The 1960s are gone. It's time Palo Alto grew up and joined the rest of the Bay Area in shouldering the burden of population increase. This means building more housing and turning off the traffic throttle.


6 people like this
Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 20, 2018 at 1:33 pm

Posted by Will, a resident of Fairmeadow:

>>Although, as long as we insist on maintaining 25 mph speed limits on 4 lane roads (looking at you Middlefield and Arastradero...) and throttling traffic by arbitrarily blocking off lanes (Charleston, etc.), then increasing housing is only going to make it take even longer than the 20 minutes it currently takes to get to the damn freeway to even start the morning commute. Around 5pm, it takes 30 minutes just to cross this town.

I don't agree with your engineering assessment. The typical bottleneck on these paths at rush hour is the queueing delay at the intersection itself. When traffic is backed up for longer than one signal cycle, it makes zero difference what the (transmission) speed is along the street. That is why many of these intersections have two lanes through the intersection and drop back to one in the middle until the next queue (traffic light).

If you have to wait through the next signal cycle, infinite speed in the middle won't speed up your transit time. (While we are on the subject, 25 mph has been the California default speed in residential neighborhoods for my entire driving career. I think they taught us that on Day 1 of school-sponsored Drivers Ed.)

The real problem is the total amount of traffic trying to get through at rush hour. As I long time resident, I have seen delays go from small to big to small to big to small to big. We now have something like a 100,000 person influx in daytime employees in Palo Alto. (Some commute out also, and, not everyone works, so, there are lots of numbers. And nobody seems to know exactly how many on-site employees certain stealthy companies have). This number has gone up and down during economic cycles and is again at a high point.

>> In any other nearby city, these roads are at least 35mph and they use the full capacity.

Infinite speed between bottlenecks won't make it faster to get across town during rush hour. 25 mph is much safer for children on bicycles.

>> The 1960s are gone. It's time Palo Alto grew up and joined the rest of the Bay Area in shouldering the burden of population increase. This means building more housing

Where? Looks almost totally built out to me.

>> and turning off the traffic throttle.

You mean building a bunch of new freeways through town? No thanks. But, if you did want to do that, the only place where there is room to do it is underground in tunnels. If you build an underground freeway network, you will need to build a lot of new underground parking garages for all the cars. Looks like an opportunity for a lot of new tunneling machines.


6 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Mayfield
on Jan 20, 2018 at 11:08 pm

Today's Daily Post had a front-page article on a plan by Kniss and Smitian to add 60-120 units of subsidized housing for Santa Clara County teachers in the small plot of city-owned land across from the courthouse on Grant Ave.


4 people like this
Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 20, 2018 at 11:38 pm

Posted by Resident, a resident of Mayfield:

>> Today's Daily Post had a front-page article on a plan by Kniss and Smitian to add 60-120 units of subsidized housing for Santa Clara County teachers in the

Sounds odd to me. I haven't heard of any difficulty hiring teachers in Palo Alto. (I have heard that they have trouble in lower paying districts.) If they are going to subsidize public employees, wouldn't it make sense to subsidize employees which they are having difficulty hiring qualified candidates. I have both heard and read that it is difficult hiring qualified policemen:

Web Link

Anybody have up-to-date info?





Like this comment
Posted by teachers
a resident of Green Acres
on Jan 21, 2018 at 11:48 am

The Daily Post article indicated that the teachers who would live in the subsidized PA housing could teach anywhere in Santa Clara county, not just in PA. It's possible that other districts (i.e. SJUSD) have a harder time than PAUSD finding and retaining teachers. Being able to enroll your kids in PAUSD would be a huge bonus for teachers in a variety of Santa Clara county districts, not just PAUSD.


5 people like this
Posted by Curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on Jan 21, 2018 at 12:36 pm

Curmudgeon is a registered user.

"This means building more housing and turning off the traffic throttle."

Those are mutually exclusive actions. More housing = more people = more drivers = more cars = more traffic. E.g., Atherton has very little housing and negligible traffic. Palo Alto has much more housing and much more traffic.


10 people like this
Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 21, 2018 at 3:21 pm

Posted by teachers, a resident of Green Acres:

>> The Daily Post article indicated that the teachers who would live in the subsidized PA housing could teach anywhere in Santa Clara county, not just in PA. (etc)

Let me get this straight: we are going to build subsidized housing in Palo Alto so that teachers in East Bay school districts that are having trouble getting teachers:

Web Link

can live in Palo Alto and commute to East Bay schools, while Palo Alto can't hire enough policemen because of the cost/commute problem? The major problem everyone in the Bay Area is facing is traffic and commute times, and, we are proposing to deliberately add housing in Palo Alto specifically for people to commute to far away school districts?!?! What a truly bizarre idea.

If public agencies have to supply subsidized housing for employees, how about we provide that housing close to where they work, e.g., in Palo Alto for Palo Alto, in the Alum Rock area for the Alum Rock School District, etc.? You know-- to reduce traffic and minimize commutes, and, not the opposite?


2 people like this
Posted by Downtown Mom
a resident of Downtown North
on Mar 18, 2018 at 9:07 am

[Post removed. New thread started.]


4 people like this
Posted by Chagrinned
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Mar 21, 2018 at 7:00 pm

Palo Alto is a wonderful place to live and work. Charming neighborhoods, convenient access to most everywhere in the Bay Area and a wide variety of activities, events and entertainment. Of course the pressures of strong economic and population growth bring specific challenges which require thoughtful and intelligent consideration.
Reading the comments and replies I am saddened to witness such animosity and vitriol. What ideally should be collaborative and constructive feedback in many cases has reduced to cyberbullying. Name calling, impugning individuals and organizations adds zero value to facing the realities of current challenges.
The damage of this ugliness will do more harm to Palo Alto than any automobile or planned development. Is this really who we are? Most assuredly the pressures of relentless growth create uncertainty which can be angst producing. Unchecked emotional responses covered by the anonymity of online statements harms the sender equally as the receiver. Are we comfortable with our children, neighbors and friends reading comments that so clearly elevate negative emotions that promote a dysfunctional social dynamic.
This careless flinging about of derogatory commentary rips at the fabric of our society and our corp d'esprit as Palo Altans! I would strongly encourage all participants to evaluate the message, speak in constructive actionable terms, address the challenge and respect themsleves and all the actors involved while keeping a focus on creating an outcome that elevates our community discourse. Reflection followed by constructive feedback provides far greater results than reactive angst filled responses.
I feel we are all better than this!


5 people like this
Posted by HUTCH 7.62
a resident of Portola Valley
on Mar 22, 2018 at 9:00 am

^ Palo Alto was a great a place to live. Just wait till the school get overcrowded. And the streets packed with cars and bikes like SF. The greed of a city council deaf to its constitutes. Is what got us here


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