News

Plan for 'car-light' housing on El Camino wins support

Palo Alto's Planning and Transportation Commission gives green light to proposed 57-unit development at 2755 El Camino Real

A proposal to build a 57-unit housing development at 2755 El Camino Real received the endorsement of Palo Alto's Planning and Transportation Commission on Jan. 31, 2018. Rendering by BDE Architecture.

A plan to build a "car-light" housing development at one of Palo Alto's most car-heavy intersections received a big boost Wednesday night, when the city's Planning and Transportation Commission signaled its support.

By a 6-1 vote, with Commissioner Doria Summa recusing, the commission threw its support behind a proposal to build a 57-unit apartment building on the central intersection of El Camino Real and Page Mill Road. The new development would feature 40 studios and 17 one-bedroom apartments and would occupy a parking lot that was owned by the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority until 2014.

For the city, the project at 2755 El Camino Real represents a bold experiment. Billed as the city's first car-light project, the development will offer each resident a suite of incentives to promote alternative transportation modes. These include Caltrain GoPasses, VTA EcoPasses, bicycles for residents to use and carpool services. Residents who don't own cars would get monthly $100 stipends for ride-sharing services such as Uber and Lyft.

The project also represents the type of housing that the council has been trying to encourage of late: units that are smaller and thus, presumably, cheaper.

Critics of the proposal from Windy Hill Property Ventures pointed out that even with their small sizes, these apartments will not be "affordable" by most standards. Unlike most of Palo Alto's below-market-rate apartments, which serve individuals with incomes below the area median, this one focuses on renters who are relatively well off – just not affluent enough to afford Palo Alto rents.

Specifically, it aims to serve "the missing middle" -- workers who make too much to qualify for below-market-rate housing but who aren't affluent enough to afford market-rate housing. Six of the 57 units will be deed restricted for renters with income levels at 120 percent of the area median income (for a single renter, this would mean an income of $95,150). And because all units would range from 502 square feet to 645 square feet, they are expected to fetch lower-than-typical rents.

The commission agreed that even if the proposal doesn't exactly constitute "affordable housing," its goals are laudable. Moments before they approved the project, Commissioner Michael Alcheck argued that the apartments in this project will be "affordable by design."

"A 300- or a 400- or 500-square-foot unit is going to rent for less than a 700-, 800- or 900-square-foot-unit," Alcheck said. "Although this is market rate, there is nothing like this in the city."

The project is also breaking new ground when it comes to zoning. Just before approving the project, the commission voted 6-1, with Summa dissenting, to adopt a new "workforce housing combining district" – a zoning designation that would allow multifamily housing but require 20 percent of the units in the new development to be deed restricted for individuals with incomes at 120 to 150 percent of area median income. The site at 2755 El Camino was zoned as a "public facility" before the commission agreed on Wednesday to amend the zoning map and designate it as a new "workforce district" – the first of its kind in the city.

The reaction from the community was decidedly more mixed, with some residents saying they would love to see more housing in the area and others challenging the project's assumptions about parking and traffic. Rob Wilkins, director of real estate at Palo Alto Housing, said his agency fully supports the project and the workforce-housing program. He called it "an innovative and unique way for the city to show its commitment to provide affordable housing."

"More housing in Palo Alto is needed for all affordable levels," Wilkins said. "The workforce-housing overlay will be one more."

Others were less sanguine. Resident Jeff Levinsky predicted that the new building will "provide luxury-priced tiny units that will make everything else in Palo Alto look like a bargain." Terry Holzimer, who lives three blocks from the site, called it the "wrong kind of housing."

"We need housing for low-income, hard-working people who work in our service industry," Holzimer said. "We don't have enough of that housing."

The commission's unanimous vote provides fresh momentum for a project that already has some support from council members. When Pollock Financial Group bought the property from the VTA in 2014, it was planning to develop a commercial building. Over the next two years, as the council signaled its desire to see more housing, Windy Hill began putting together its car-light plan. In September 2016, the council held an informal hearing on the project and indicated tentative support for the idea of car-light microunits. Even so, there was some skepticism among residents and council members about whether the goal of having residents who don't own cars can actually be achieved in Palo Alto.

Tod Spieker of Windy Hill listed for the commission the many ways in which the project has changed since last year. The number of units was reduced from 60 to 57 and the density of the building was slightly lowered. Whereas the prior rendition of the project included 45 parking spaces, the new one had 64, of which 60 would be provided through a "puzzle parking" lift system. Windy Hill has also proposed dedicating an easement to Santa Clara County for future construction of a right-hand turn lane and bike lane on Page Mill Road.

"Obviously, this project will not fix the problem but it can help 57 people working in Palo Alto and looking for a place to live close to where they work. … There may be a debate about how much housing Palo Alto should be responsible for building, but there is consensus that some level of housing is needed, so why not here?" Spieker said.

The commission agreed. Vice Chair Susan Monk noted that the project addresses two of Palo Alto's toughest issues: traffic and housing.

"There are many people who say they support housing but not this ordinance," Monk said, "If not this ordinance, what ordinance? It might not be perfect but it's a start."

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Comments

81 people like this
Posted by It's Just Another Developer Giveaway
a resident of Crescent Park
on Feb 1, 2018 at 3:36 am

At over $35,000 a year to rent the tiniest studio apartment, this is hardly housing for workers who "aren't affluent enough to afford market-rate housing." We need true affordable housing, not this kind of unaffordable housing.

The Planning Commission fell for this scam, even agreeing to let the private developer profit off land that's supposedly reserved for public facilities.

And this is hardly the first "car-light" housing in Palo Alto. We've had those for decades. Just look at all the cars parked at night on streets near apartment buildings, sometimes for blocks and blocks.

The only remaining question about this project is which City Council members will vote to stop this outrage.


39 people like this
Posted by Misnomer
a resident of Barron Park
on Feb 1, 2018 at 7:14 am

Misnomer is a registered user.

We need to stop referring to this entire project, with only 20% if it’s units set aside for some favored categories of workers, as “Workforce Housing” since anyone can rent the other 80% of the units - students, retired persons, single parents with a child, etc.

To limit this other 80% in any way other than to normal evenhanded renter qualifications is potentially illegal discrimination under federal and state fair housing laws.

Labeling this as workforce housing is not only inaccurate but illegal if done in advertising or carried out in rental practices. The 80% is not de facto workforce housing for young tech or other workers, but housing for all.


38 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 1, 2018 at 7:30 am

502-645 square feet is a standard-size studio or 1br in Palo Alto. They rent today at market rate for $2000-2500.

The developer's claim that these units will somehow be "affordable" is ludicrous. They'll cost the same as all the other ones in town like them. This is just a regular expensive Palo Alto apartment complex for high-income professionals.


Web Link


UNIT INFORMATION
Size: 500 sf
Utilities Included: Water Deposit: $1,000
Parking: 1
Availability: Now
This is a no smoking, no pets property

DESCRIPTION

$2,395 /month for a 6 month lease
$2,295 /month for a 12 month lease

Charming junior one bedroom in Downtown!


23 people like this
Posted by Gina Dalma
a resident of Midtown
on Feb 1, 2018 at 7:33 am

Yes! This is the type of innovative solution we need to have the communities we want. Housing for a diverse community will ensure a vibrant future!


18 people like this
Posted by Pragmatic
a resident of Southgate
on Feb 1, 2018 at 7:44 am

I applaud the developer for an innovative option to a seemingly intractable problem. This is not the only type of housing we need in PA, but it is certainly a step in the right direction.


32 people like this
Posted by Homeowner
a resident of University South
on Feb 1, 2018 at 7:48 am

This is great news. I know I’m not the only one who is worried where the next generation is going to live. Many of my friends have grown kids who would want to live near where they grew up but can’t afford it. A family on my block has their (married) child in her late twenties living with them - not as anyone’s first choice, but simply because housing is too expensive for it to make sense otherwise. It wasn’t like this when I was in my twenties.

To the people who say that these small apartments won’t be affordable for the truly poor, that’s right. We need to step up and approve actual affordable housing projects if we want that. Developers have been proposing them and for the last six years we’ve been rejecting them.

But if you think these apartments won’t be a good deal for someone who is getting started in life, you need to check the prices of all the apartments in Palo Alto... or in Menlo Park or Los Altos for that matter.

This is a good thing. Let’s do more of it.


32 people like this
Posted by Eric Rosenblum
a resident of Downtown North
on Feb 1, 2018 at 7:52 am

Good for the PTC! This is precisely the kind of housing we want, in the right location. It lines up extremely well with the work that was done on the Comprehensive Plan (where there is a preference for locating denser housing close to major transit hubs, and a reduced reliance on automobiles).

This is one of the better projects I saw while I was on the PTC. I'm so happy to see this finally move to Council!


26 people like this
Posted by Finally!
a resident of Downtown North
on Feb 1, 2018 at 8:02 am

Hallelujah! This is the right location for car-light housing, and for micro units - close to jobs, close to shops/restaurants, close to transit. I'm glad to see 20% reserved for workforce, but we should have allowed the extra 3 units. On process, it really takes 2-3 years just for the PTC to approve a concept?! No wonder we have a SEVERE HOUSING SHORTAGE - the approvals timeline is waaaay too long. This project could be open now and have residents living in it, if we'd just approved the original application. I also hope City Council approves it ASAP and we can get the project constructed. And I hope we see several more of these in the coming weeks.


90 people like this
Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 1, 2018 at 8:13 am

Someone please explain to me how the residents will be prevented from buying cars and parking them somewhere?


54 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 1, 2018 at 8:13 am

"But if you think these apartments won’t be a good deal for someone who is getting started in life, you need to check the prices of all the apartments in Palo Alto... or in Menlo Park or Los Altos for that matter."


Here's that price: $2,000-$2,500 per month. If that works for your friends' grown kids just starting our in life who want to live nearby, they can have that now. If it doesn't work for them, this building won't either.

The only difference is the huge City zoning giveaway they're asking for.


17 people like this
Posted by Downtown Grandma
a resident of University South
on Feb 1, 2018 at 8:27 am

Cudos to the PTC for voting for this project. What better place to put housing than next to the 22, Caltrain and all the services at Cal Ave. To all the naysayers, let's see how many people will own cars if they have good transit nearby. You can get a lot of Lyft rides for the amount of $ you spend on a car (which sits idle 98% of the time). I think this is the wave of the future so let's see how it pans out.


40 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Midtown
on Feb 1, 2018 at 8:53 am

It's OK to drive a car no matter how much they try to brainwash you. Cars save time. Time is precious. End the fraudulent War on Cars.


50 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 1, 2018 at 8:55 am

There is absolutely no way that they can check if someone is a car owner or not and checking is probably not an ethical enterprise.

Many younger people don't own cars as such, but their parents have bought cars for their sole use. This is due to insurance, lease payments, etc. So of course someone could quite honestly say that they don't own a car when the car they have parked outside legally belongs to their parents.

Can they also be told they "must" own a bike too? That is just as ridiculous a criteria as no car ownership.


9 people like this
Posted by OK
a resident of Green Acres
on Feb 1, 2018 at 8:59 am

Glad to hear we are supporting more housing in Palo Alto. Too bad it’s only 57-units, wish this building had a couple more stories!


19 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 1, 2018 at 8:59 am

As for Uber even car owners use Uber a great deal.

Spouse and I both use cars. We use Uber for rides to airports, for evening activities where we want to be able to drink, where we know parking will be difficult, when we want to meet up and don't want 2 cars, etc. etc. Even those with cars at their disposal parked on the street nearby will still appreciate the incentive of Uber carrots.


10 people like this
Posted by Allison
a resident of Downtown North
on Feb 1, 2018 at 9:08 am

Well done PC!!! Approval of ANY type of dense housing is a step in the right direction to correcting our severe jobs/housing imbalance. More please!

We approve commercial uses all over the city without even a thought, then complain about traffic, air pollution, GHG emissions, and noise. It seems that if we just put housing near offices, services, retail, and transit (like this project is doing), we can make strides toward actually solving problems - instead of just complaining about them.

After all, I live near downtown and buy something just about every night at CVS, a restaurant, Whole Foods, or other area businesses. I can count on on one hand how many times in the last five years I have driven the 0.7 mile to do so. i walk or ride my bike. My husband and I even sold our second car last year because we weren't using it.

Dense housing, strategically placed, with limited parking is the answer!


11 people like this
Posted by Elizabeth
a resident of Downtown North
on Feb 1, 2018 at 9:39 am

I sold my car after moving to Palo Alto, and only own one now to visit friends in San Jose. I pick my kids up from school in a bike trailer, my husband takes the CalTrain to work, Safeway's website can deliver groceries to our apartment. We use our car so rarely that if we didn't have a carport, we could easily leave it in that public garage a few blocks away.

My only objection is the the Uber voucher is too small. A hundred bucks is barely a roundtrip to some car-dependant neighborhoods in the Bay Area. Ditto for ZipCar. If there was a traditional rental car agency with a branch in Palo Alto (so a car-free person isn't caught in the dumb situation of needing a ride to pick up a ride), a hundred bucks would go a lot further.


13 people like this
Posted by Stephanie G
a resident of Barron Park
on Feb 1, 2018 at 9:40 am

As an advocate for housing in our City I am very happy to see this proposal approved. My younger son is renting an apartment that's quite small as compared to what we are used to and loves it. Very happy to see that we are allowing these lower priced sized units to be developed in Palo Alto.

City Council please don't stand in the way of this project.


24 people like this
Posted by Oy!
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Feb 1, 2018 at 9:41 am

The fact that city in officials recommend building any housing on a lot adjacent to multiple sites designated as a superfund site by federal and state government officials seems to elude local politicians (or maybe not). This area alone is one of the most contaminated in Palo Alto, not to mention the area is exponentially exasperated by vehicle emissions, and yet "planners" deem that placing unknowing owners and renters in this contaminated area is somehow a viable solution is somewhat discomforting. What a pity!


68 people like this
Posted by Big scam to benefit developers
a resident of Barron Park
on Feb 1, 2018 at 9:56 am

How idiotic do these people think the local residents are? The developers have all of these commissioners doing the dirty work for them.


9 people like this
Posted by Jwheeler
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Feb 1, 2018 at 10:33 am

Jwheeler is a registered user.

Thank you PTC. This is a small but right step in providing more housing. We need more developments like this near transit and business. And, we need lower cost housing as well as housing for seniors. Housing and transportation are the top of most discussions by concerned citizens. It is 2018, we can no longer be the community of the past century that many of us fondly remember. Moving forward with decisions like this is to be commended.


73 people like this
Posted by Becky Sanders
a resident of Ventura
on Feb 1, 2018 at 10:44 am

Becky Sanders is a registered user.

The elephant in the room is that this PF-zoned property has been up-zoned for Windy Hill, increasing its value, handing them an immense profit. When the property went up for sale, Palo Alto could have bought it from VTA and leased it to Palo Alto Housing Corp to build 100% BMR housing. Barring that, the zoning could have been changed before the sale to allow the County, not Windy Hill, to profit from the change in value.

Once Public Facility zoning property is up-zoned, it is lost for public use forever.

Up-zoning a PF property in this way, without receiving more benefits for the City, puts a target on every Public Facility property in the city. There are currrently some PF zoned properties coming on the block. I MAY be wrong ( and please let me know if I am) but isn't the AT&T property at 345 Hamilton going to be up for sale? Perfect place for housing! And here in Ventura, AT&T is reportedly seeking to subdivide its property near Boulware Park to make the grassy lot available for development. Since it's PF zoned, it makes sense to add it to our Open Space here in Ventura, where population statistics indicate that Ventura is woefully behind other neighborhoods in Palo Alto as regards parkland per capita. Ventura seeks a private-public partnership to develop this property as parkland, should it come up for sale.

The precedent set by giving away millions of dollars to a developer thru PF-upzoning is dangerous. It would be one thing if the housing were all workforce housing, but it's basically gonna house 12 people below market rate. We gave away millions of dollars in value and future value in order to house a handful of middle income people.

To reinterate: Once Public Facility zoning property is up-zoned, it is lost for public use forever. Trump is doing this to our national parks but his land grab doesn't give us the moral authority to do that here in Palo Alto.

Just to be clear - we can have housing here. That would be great. How about 100% BMR? 100% BMR. That's what I'm talking about. A real benefit to Palo Alto and a genuine "innovative, first of its kind" development to serve our "workforce".


7 people like this
Posted by Jeff S
a resident of Barron Park
on Feb 1, 2018 at 11:06 am

Great news. Smaller units that are car light in with easy access to Caltrain and the 22/522 buses is just what we need. Adding to the overall housing supply, regardless of rent, is a step forward.


53 people like this
Posted by Ben Lerner
a resident of Palo Verde
on Feb 1, 2018 at 11:14 am

To be effective as a "car-light" development, its residents must be prohibited from parking cars overnight on public streets. Is such a restriction included in the PTC's approval? Would such a restriction be enforceable?


21 people like this
Posted by Katherine J
a resident of Crescent Park
on Feb 1, 2018 at 11:18 am

If AirBnB could design a complex for Palo Alto, this would be it.


12 people like this
Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 1, 2018 at 11:18 am

-Posted by Downtown Grandma, a resident of University South

>> To all the naysayers, let's see how many people will own cars if they have good transit nearby. You can get a lot of Lyft rides for the amount of $ you spend on a car (which sits idle 98% of the time). I think this is the wave of the future so let's see how it pans out.

If you don't own a car, I sincerely hope that you get a chance to move there. Really; I'm not joking. This development will need a lot of people who don't own cars in order to work.

-Posted by Resident, a resident of Midtown

>> It's OK to drive a car no matter how much they try to brainwash you. Cars save time. Time is precious. End the fraudulent War on Cars.

I'm part of the "fraudulent War on Cars" myself, but, I can't tell if you are in favor of this new project or not? Because even people like me, who are skeptical of cars, are opposed to wishful thinking about people not driving. Most people drive to work around here; housing with inadequate parking is a tax on everyone else.



17 people like this
Posted by Mama
a resident of Crescent Park
on Feb 1, 2018 at 11:25 am

Mama is a registered user.

Parking-light would be a much better name for this place. We could also call it Profit-light where the city is concerned.


10 people like this
Posted by Mama
a resident of Crescent Park
on Feb 1, 2018 at 11:27 am

Mama is a registered user.

[Post removed.]


37 people like this
Posted by Annette
a resident of College Terrace
on Feb 1, 2018 at 11:27 am

Annette is a registered user.

I am not knowledgeable regarding PF up-zoning so cannot know for certain that Becky Sanders has correctly defined a problem, but what she wrote seems credible - and concerning. Unfortunately, I would not be in the least surprised to learn that this City has again done something highly beneficial to a developer.

About this project - if this is approved and built would it be too much to ask that the city closely monitor car usage and lease rates so that we have some real data for assessing whether "car light" was achieved and sustained and whether the projected/marketed lease model was maintained and successful? It would be helpful to move this discussion out of the realm of opinions and into the realm of facts.


33 people like this
Posted by allen
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Feb 1, 2018 at 11:29 am

Show me one time that changing the zoning to allow a developer to build what they wanted worked out as intended. How is that market in Collage terris going? Enjoy Grocery Outlet? Too early to tell on the new market where the Fresh Market sat empty for so long.


19 people like this
Posted by Midtown man
a resident of Midtown
on Feb 1, 2018 at 11:58 am

Has this type of parking garage packing vehicles on racks that shuffle card like so many playing cards been tried before in Palo Alto? The cars would be moved around by machinery when someone called for their car for access to drive? Does the machinery reside underground with the car? What happens in a power failure? A mechanical breakdown (if it’s newer tech, very likely). Leaks in vehicles dropping on others? Noise of moving machinery to the residents in cubicles above?

As usual today, “gee whiz” novelty wins out over practicality. Exciting today, regrets tomorrow.


9 people like this
Posted by Robert
a resident of another community
on Feb 1, 2018 at 12:15 pm

A drop in the bucket in terms of the overall housing shortage, but every little bit helps! Also, I'm not sure why anyone is complaining about the lack of parking, the issue is very simply solved: if you don't like the parking options in this building, don't live in it!


52 people like this
Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Feb 1, 2018 at 12:23 pm

Online Name is a registered user.

"For the city, the project at 2755 El Camino Real represents a bold experiment. Billed as the city's first car-light project, the development will offer each resident a suite of incentives to promote alternative transportation modes. These include Caltrain GoPasses, VTA EcoPasses, bicycles for residents to use and carpool services. Residents who don't own cars would get monthly $100 stipends for ride-sharing services such as Uber and Lyft. "


Who's paying the $1200 per resident stipend and other incentives? The developer or us, the taxpayers??? And for how long?


13 people like this
Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 1, 2018 at 12:33 pm

Posted by Robert, a resident of another community

>> A drop in the bucket in terms of the overall housing shortage, but every little bit helps! Also, I'm not sure why anyone is complaining about the lack of parking, the issue is very simply solved: if you don't like the parking options in this building, don't live in it!

Or, live in it, and park near one of the RVs a few blocks away that never move.


10 people like this
Posted by Pragmatic Leadership
a resident of Downtown North
on Feb 1, 2018 at 12:48 pm

On these issues no one is ever fully satisfied. The conspiracy theorists are convinced city leaders are somehow 'in the pockets' of developers' (seriously, give me a break) if they support any kind of development. And for the low income housing fans, the pace and type of housing projects can never be enough. The truth is that without growth and adaptation a community withers. Real leaders seek to understand all sides and forge a path that tries to satisfy as many constituents as possible. The PTC did the right thing and, based on her comments, Vice-chair Monk's pragmatic approach is the kind of leadership we need.


37 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Midtown
on Feb 1, 2018 at 1:25 pm

@Anon
I'm in favor of bikes, trains, cars, buses, horses, everything.

What disturbs me is the progressive frenzy and government meddling to rapidly densify the city, and provide special passes and discounts and whatnot to "encourage" I mean coerce, people to use one form of transportation over another, with our tax dollars, while they keep giving themselves raises, etc. Big government is a thrifty industry in

As many stated, its probably a favor to the developers but it amazes me how many people fall for the "single-occupant cars are a scourge" myth and the "ONLY way to relieve traffic is to get cars off the road". I am so tired of hearing this myth. The real problem is overpopulation caused by immigration from every corner of the globe to be concentrated in one small place, but God forbid anyone mention that when we can conveniently blame cars.


14 people like this
Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 1, 2018 at 1:30 pm

-Posted by Pragmatic Leadership, a resident of Downtown North:

>> On these issues no one is ever fully satisfied. The conspiracy theorists are convinced city leaders are somehow 'in the pockets' of developers' (seriously, give me a break) if they support any kind of development.

City leaders don't have to be "somehow 'in the pockets' of developers'". Just "gullible". This PC/public benefit thing seems more like Lucy, Charlie Brown, and the football.

Web Link


16 people like this
Posted by Duveneck resident
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Feb 1, 2018 at 1:48 pm

The drawing of the proposed building shows NO solar panels on the flat roof. It is NOT impacted by tall buildings or trees. Why no solar?


10 people like this
Posted by Good work
a resident of Southgate
on Feb 1, 2018 at 3:10 pm

The housing crisis is not a mystery. Supply and demand work. Kudos to the city and planning commission for making this relatively small housing project work. Keep it up.


10 people like this
Posted by Monk-What did she know
a resident of Crescent Park
on Feb 1, 2018 at 3:16 pm

[Post removed.]


46 people like this
Posted by Good Grief Grump Old Guy
a resident of Palo Alto Orchards
on Feb 1, 2018 at 4:11 pm

"Obviously, this project will not fix the problem but it can help 57 people working in Palo Alto and looking for a place to live close to where they work" -

Really? What happens if they don't work closeby? Or if they lose their job in Palo Alto and get one in Milpitas? Fremont? or Redwood City/ San Mateo?

At that point, does anyone honestly think they'd not need a car?

Public transportation works if you have a lot of time to travel each direction (For example - Caltrain takes 45 min to SF by bullet train; but getting to and from Caltrain within Palo Alto is another 15 min; from Caltrain to the SF financial district is 15-20 min; hence 1:20-1:30 min one way; 3 hours per day). And that's assuming public transportation is working.

The planning commission decision is a huge failure. It should not have exempted this project from the parking requirements. It fails to see through common sense and falls lock step into the 'fake' data that increasing housing density with the unicorn-listic ideas that cars won't be parked into the adjacent neighborhoods.


29 people like this
Posted by Steve Dabrowski
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Feb 1, 2018 at 4:46 pm

I'm wondering what happens when one wants to go to the beach or take a trip to Tahoe. Rent a car? My guess is there are going to be lots more cars parked on surrounding streets, but like it says it's an experiment.


8 people like this
Posted by Mark Michael
a resident of Community Center
on Feb 1, 2018 at 4:48 pm

To the extent ameliorating the housing shortfall and mitigating traffic congestion are high priorities for Palo Alto and its long term vision, the PTC recommendation should receive favorable consideration by the Council. Evidently there will be a spirited debate. It is hard to imagine that a lightly used surface parking lot, to be replaced by housing that is fully compatible with the existing character of the neighborhood, would be of greater value to the community. Lots more work is needed on housing challenges throughout the Bay Area. Moving away from historic dependency on private automobile mobility will be a long process. Let the debates continue and hopefully there will be more pragmatic ways to move ahead.


49 people like this
Posted by Curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on Feb 1, 2018 at 4:56 pm

"City leaders don't have to be "somehow 'in the pockets' of developers'". Just "gullible". This PC/public benefit thing seems more like Lucy, Charlie Brown, and the football. "

But do they have to be so EAGERLY gullible, again and again and again?


15 people like this
Posted by James
a resident of another community
on Feb 1, 2018 at 5:23 pm

Before being "developed" there used to be The Craig, Palo Alto Hotel, and the Barker. Of course those places would not appeal to the techies who work in Palo Alto. What it did provide was stable, affordable housing to folks who are now living in RV's and tents.


47 people like this
Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Feb 1, 2018 at 8:27 pm

Online Name is a registered user.

[Portion removed.]

@It's Just Another Developer Giveway posted "And this is hardly the first "car-light" housing in Palo Alto. We've had those for decades. Just look at all the cars parked at night on streets near apartment buildings, sometimes for blocks and blocks."

Absolutely. Update the jargon but the neighborhood encroachment remains the same. The same thing's been happening in San Francisco and their neighbors of these "car-light" buildings are pretty upset about these fairy tales.


5 people like this
Posted by Gale Johnson
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Feb 1, 2018 at 9:54 pm

Gale Johnson is a registered user.

I'm glad it has made it this far and I'll reserve most comments until later, when CC has taken it up. And, I too consider this an experiment, and oh, how I remember having to keep a notebook during those lab experiments we did in college. The same should apply here. There should be detailed reports and transparency on how well the parking plan works out, for example, as well as whom the tenants really are: Palo Alto workers? workers commuting to other communities, or other possibilities?

@Homeowner

"To the people who say that these small apartments won’t be affordable for the truly poor, that’s right. We need to step up and approve actual affordable housing projects if we want that. Developers have been proposing them and for the last six years we’ve been rejecting them."

Maybe I dozed off or was out of town, but I don't recall developers proposing 'actual affordable housing projects for the last six years that we've rejected'. Please share what they were!

"The project also represents the type of housing that the council has been trying to encourage of late: units that are smaller and thus, presumably, cheaper." Nothing should be presumed when it comes to new housing in Palo Alto.

"And because all units would range from 502 square feet to 645 square feet, they are expected to fetch lower-than-typical rents". Hmmm! I think the developer just threw us a bone.

I'm curious about the exact wording of the new 'workforce housing combining district'. I'm sure we'll hear more about it. It can't be so restrictive that only Palo Alto workers can rent there.

Although the developer might say they haven't crunched all the numbers yet to be able to say what the rent rates will be, I think they have a very good idea, and I wish they would share those with us now. I would wager the smallest studio unit's rent will be at least $2500/mo, and the biggest 1 bdrm unit, at least $3500/mo.

Woo! Woo! Six units will be restricted to renters at 120% of the median income level. A little math applied to that reveals a lot. The take home pay for a gross income of $95,150 is roughly $64,000. That small studio at $2,500/mo rent would suck up 47% of the take home pay. Then there's another level at 150% median income, and after that, for 80% of the units...well Katie bar the door. Back to market rate, which is exactly what the developer was looking for.

This project won't move the housing needle on the very low, low, and median income levels mandated by ABAG.



13 people like this
Posted by Anonymous
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Feb 1, 2018 at 10:27 pm

I don’t care for the building and I worry about that garage entry/exit location. Some of us need to turn from Oregon Expy right (north) onto El Camino Real, and right there is this entry/exit. There will be an impact to the driving public around there. I think the project should be re-worked. I wonder about the car elevator system and how well that will work. It just doesn’t seem all that great a project....”We Can Do Better...”


35 people like this
Posted by nomo
a resident of St. Claire Gardens
on Feb 1, 2018 at 11:00 pm

Incredibly foolish:

1) Gives away $MM via zoning change;

2) Eliminates parking requirements - giving away even more $ to the developer - allowing the developer to add more housing per sq ft, and diverting significant external costs to PA citizens who are subsidizing the lack of parking in the form of more cars parked on streets, delivery trucks stopped in the middle of the road, and visitors parked for extended periods on public streets;

3) Incents use of Uber; - Uber is a highly inefficient option compared to individual car ownership - drivers need to drive to get their customer, which means more car trips, more traffic jams, more accidents, and more dangerous streets;

4) Supplying smaller units at a time when apartment rents are flat, but 3Br+ housing prices are growing significantly; enabling local companies to hire single people, but not heads of families who cannot afford to live here; As a result, traffic will only get worse as companies hire young people living in 1BR apts, who then marry, move to Santa Cruz, and commute back to the Palo Alto office because there is no affordable 3BR housing.

The only answer for companies to move to where families can afford 2k sq ft family homes, and realize a decent quality of life - Santa Cruz, Gilroy, Tracy;

Pray we can find new leaders with the brain-power and backbone to do the right thing.


7 people like this
Posted by Joe Rolfe
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Feb 1, 2018 at 11:11 pm

Our housing situation is dire. Any addition to our housing stock is bound to be positive. How can anyone complain about high rents and then opposed housing development?


5 people like this
Posted by chris
a resident of University South
on Feb 2, 2018 at 12:01 am

Doesn't it stand to reason that the people attracted to this apartment will be more likely to be transit users and/or car less. They are paying to get "free" train and bus passes and other benefits if they don't have a car. Why would you pay for these if you weren't interested in them?

To some extent, this is a small scale experiment. If this is not successful, you are going to have to consider buildings higher than the current 50 foot limit.


6 people like this
Posted by CrescentParkAnon.
a resident of Crescent Park
on Feb 2, 2018 at 12:34 am

Interesting idea people with so much money to burn would want to live without
a car, not to mention being at one of the most car dense places in the whole
area ... where is the closest fresh air from here?


7 people like this
Posted by Calling you a Hypocrite
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Feb 2, 2018 at 3:56 am

@joe rolfe

Then, why are you opposed to Castilleja's expansion? What do you have against girls' education? Could it be that it is across from your house?

That is the problem with the Democratic party, impose, impose, impose but on others. It is a two-faced party on par with Trump and the Republican party.


25 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 2, 2018 at 9:16 am

"Our housing situation is dire. Any addition to our housing stock is bound to be positive. How can anyone complain about high rents and then opposed housing development?"


Such as, donating half an acre of public land to a project that won't do anything about high rents? Land that could be used for other community purposes or even, heaven forbid, a better housing project that actually might tackle high rents?

In the real world, people struggle with these issues. Just not in the Political world, where it's enough just to "care."


16 people like this
Posted by bemused
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Feb 2, 2018 at 5:35 pm

If the stated problem is to provide affordable housing for single workers at 120-150 median income, and have the residents not use cars, then it seems like this space could be used much, much more effectively.

1. No car parking. Deed restricted to only residents without cars. Space saved can be used for extra units.
2. 100% of the units deed restricted to the required income range and use of rent control to keep the rent within reason for someone in that income range.
3. Studios are 200-300 square feet, not 500-700. And some effort should go into intelligent design to make them pleasant, usable spaces.

Twenty times as many of the targeted population could be housed this way. I see nothing innovative about the current proposal. It's impossible to take it seriously as an effort to provide housing for the stated target, the median income workforce.


34 people like this
Posted by Richard
a resident of Community Center
on Feb 2, 2018 at 8:46 pm

Our coin operated city council hard at work; ensuring millions in additional profit for developers, consequences dumped on residents, and some crumbs tossed towards their reelection funds.


27 people like this
Posted by What to do
a resident of Stanford
on Feb 2, 2018 at 9:14 pm

How can this cycle be broken?

Developers (laughably?) fund council campaign ->
Council rezones for developers ->
Developers add more (insufficiently parked) commercial and residential building ->
City residents suffer irreplaceable loss of quality of life and developers reap profit ->
Developers (laughably?) fund council campaign ->
<repeat until urban decay>


33 people like this
Posted by Nancy P.
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 3, 2018 at 12:46 am

What to Do said: "How can this cycle be broken?"

Palo Alto voters have gotten lazy. Palo Alto's sanctimonious low-information voters still march to the polls like naive Eloi in November to vote for the long deceased Democratic Party of George McGovern, and then are consumed over the following two years by the Morlocks filling out the ranks of today's profoundly corrupted Democratic Party.

The idea of selling off zoning variances to developers for pennies on the dollar to finance political campaigns wasn't invented in Palo Alto. It is standard operating procedure for every Party apparatchik from San Jose to San Francisco and a prerequisite for endorsement by the entrenched Party establishment.

The corruption itself is the rope that binds these spineless individuals together into something with the strength to prey on weak-minded voters


5 people like this
Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 4, 2018 at 9:33 am

Posted by bemused, a resident of East Palo Alto:

>> If the stated problem is to provide affordable housing for single workers at 120-150 median income, and have the residents not use cars, then it seems like this space could be used much, much more effectively.

>> 1. No car parking. Deed restricted to only residents without cars. Space saved can be used for extra units.

Is that legal? How would it be enforced? How do we know that after a few years go by, the no-car clause won't gradually not be enforced any more, sliding into desuetude?

I know some renters who get along without a car and don't own one. I'm sure that they would love reduced rent, but, something tells me a new construction building will cost more than where they are now.


25 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of College Terrace
on Feb 5, 2018 at 2:16 am

Great. Now the overly congested street parking at College Terrace will be abuse even more. We all see these people. They park their cars for days or weeks on end. They live elsewhere and use Palo Alto street parking nearby to park their cars. The streets becoming their parking spots.

What can POSSIBLY go wrong with solution of "car-light" residents.

Why can't they dig DOWN FURTHER and make more parking spots for their residents? Too cheap to budget for more parking levels???!!!!!


4 people like this
Posted by Donster
a resident of University South
on Feb 5, 2018 at 3:55 pm

Car light housing = Housing with insufficient parking = Typically atrocious Palo Alto planning. We should do a lot more development, including greatly increased housing. That is no excuse for half-baked planning, however. New development should be done big, and done right the first time, the anti-development brigade notwithstanding.


9 people like this
Posted by Lytton Garden residents are abusing the system
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 6, 2018 at 12:24 am

[Post removed.]


Like this comment
Posted by Donster
a resident of University South
on Feb 6, 2018 at 8:18 am

"Posted by Lytton Garden residents are abusing the system
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
7 hours ago
[Post removed.]"

Why was that post removed? There was nothing offensive about it. It looks like this forum is censoring views with which they disagree. I wonder how the Weekly would like it if the same were done to them. I can see that this forum, and it's parent publication by extension, are not reliable sources of information. Bummer.


3 people like this
Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 6, 2018 at 4:42 pm

Because "ABAG" often comes up in these discussions, I thought I would look up what the ABAG RHNA wants Palo Alto to do. I found numbers like 222 units per year and 248 units per year. Let's say 240 units per year for now. Could be done with a modest amount of land area. 4 story stacked row houses, with 2 car garages. A 6 acre parcel with 40 units per acre. Per year. Probably doable. The Fry's site alone, 15 acres, would be 2.5 years worth.

But then, I ran across the distribution of unit types. For 8 years, they propose 1988 units, with the following distribution:

Very low income units: 691
Low income units: 432
Moderate income units: 278
Above moderate units: 587

This distribution of unit types, 691/432/278/587, sounds impossible to me.

Web Link


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

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