News

Palo Alto takes stand against Wiener's housing bill

City calls for more time to 'address and assess' bills from 2017

A state bill that would increase zoning densities, relax parking requirements and curb cities' abilities to limit building heights in transit-rich areas is proving to be a tough sell in Palo Alto, where city officials on Tuesday took a firm stance against the proposed legislation.

Authored by state Sen. Scott Wiener, D-San Francisco, Senate Bill 827 would provide zoning concessions and exemptions from local regulations for "transit-rich housing projects," which are defined in the bill as residential developments within a half-mile radius of a major transit stop or within a quarter-mile radius of a high-quality transit corridor. Qualifying projects would not be subject to limits on the maximum number of units, minimum parking requirements or maximum height limitations.


State Sen. Scott Wiener. Image courtesy office of Sen. Scott Wiener.
Wiener's new bill comes at a time when the Palo Alto City Council is trying to roughly triple its housing production, in part by revising the local zoning code to give developers incentives for building housing. But despite the Palo Alto's recent push on housing, officials are raising concerns that the Wiener bill would actually hinder the city's efforts.

On Tuesday, the city signaled its official opposition to the bill in a letter to Wiener's office. Signed by Mayor Liz Kniss, the letter alludes to the city's effort to amend its zoning regulations to encourage residential projects with higher densities near transit areas. That effort received a boost Monday night, when the council approved a Housing Work Plan that include a list of zoning revisions staff will be working on in the coming months.

"SB 827 in its current form could diminish local acceptance of residential development and undermine our local efforts," the letter states.

The letter also alludes to the package of 15 housing bills that the Legislature passed last year (including Wiener's Senate Bill 35, which created a streamlined approval process for qualifying housing developments). It remains to be seen, the letter states, whether the voters will approve the most significant of the funding measures passed last year -- a $4-billion bond that will appear on the Nov. 6 ballot.

"We ask that you give us all time to assess and adjust to changes from 2017," the city's letter states. "However, we must join with The League of California Cities and others to oppose SB 827."

City Manager James Keene declared the city's opposition to the bill at the Monday night meeting, shortly before members kicked off their discussion on best ways to encourage housing.

The council's opposition is not, however, unanimous. Councilman Adrian Fine, author of the memo spurred the creation of the Housing Work Plan, said that he disagrees with the dissent. He also said he is disappointed in the process that led to the drafting of the letter, with he said caught him by surprise (the council had not had any extensive discussions about the Wiener bill before the letter was drafted and sent out).

Fine said he supports SB 827 and intends to write letters to Wiener's office and to the League of California Cities, signaling his support. He told the Weekly that he sees housing as an "environmental, equity and economical" issue and that he supports the bill's goal of building housing near transit.

"If we aren't going (to) support housing here, then where?" Fine said.

It's clear, he said, that many cities -- including Palo Alto -- are not effectively using their zoning codes and regulations to achieve housing goals.

"We should be flexible and entertaining new ideas," Fine said.

Related content:

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Comments

100 people like this
Posted by Worse Than Article Claims
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Feb 13, 2018 at 4:50 pm

The article says the proposed bill would "relax parking requirements." Actually, the bill will remove ALL parking requirements for buildings deemed to be "near" transit. So you could put up an eight story building with hundreds of units and not provide a single parking space. Legally!

You can see how developers and wealthy tech moguls have completely taken over our state government!

Heck, if there's a stream nearby, they'll argue next buildings shouldn't have to provide tenants with water.

Our City Council should hold an emergency session on this bill and send a much more powerful letter opposing it. And they should demand Assemblyman Mark Berman come in to explain where he stands on it.


45 people like this
Posted by Haha
a resident of Crescent Park
on Feb 13, 2018 at 4:57 pm

Ooh, a powerful letter! Sorry guys, you're outnumbered here. You've had years and years to support smart growth and actually build some housing, but instead you ignored the housing crisis and let everyone else suffer because "neighborhood character". We've had enough. High density is coming so we can have a place to live, too, and for the next generation and so on. If you want to live in a sleepy suburb go live in the rust belt.


78 people like this
Posted by in good company
a resident of Downtown North
on Feb 13, 2018 at 5:04 pm

The Palo Alto CC is in good company. Even the typically pro-growth, pro-development SF Planning Dept is taking a stand against Weiner's flawed SB 827.
Web Link


24 people like this
Posted by Donster
a resident of University South
on Feb 13, 2018 at 5:23 pm

"Actually, the bill will remove ALL parking requirements for buildings deemed to be "near" transit. So you could put up an eight story building with hundreds of units and not provide a single parking space. Legally!"

That bill is no surprise and overdue. Palo Alto had plenty of time to get it's act together and build additional housing. We could have built a ton of it, near transit AND with plenty of onsite parking. Now it will be done for us, not necessarily with enough parking, and outside the city's control. There is still time to approve dense and plentiful housing, but not much time, and certainly not if we continue to drag our feet and stick our heads in the sand.

Our way or Sacramento's? My vote is for our way.


33 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 13, 2018 at 5:24 pm

Many present day residents who bought their homes say 20 years ago were working for companies like HP and Sun Microsystems. This was probably a short commute, walking or biking distance or at least close by. Where are those companies now? Where do those residents work now?

Who is to say that anyone who wants to live in a Palo Alto stack and pack will still live close to work in 20 years, or even 5 years time.


52 people like this
Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Feb 13, 2018 at 5:25 pm

Online Name is a registered user.

Remember how the PA City Council went well beyond the state ADU law even though PA is already more densely populated than most of the rest of the state at which the ADU law was aimed?

Watch very very carefully that our CC doesn't try to exceed the state law provisions here, too.


29 people like this
Posted by GG
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 13, 2018 at 5:55 pm

The City of Palo Alto talks the talk about wanting more housing, but has been very, very slow to actually revise zoning ordinances in a meaningful way that would allow more housing and/or produce more housing. For example, the Work Force Housing zoning concept only applies to parcels zoned PF (Public Facilities). These PF-zoned parcels are all owned by either the City or CalTrain and virtually all of these PF parcels are spoken for (existing public parking lots, public buildings, etc.). When the City has actually changed zoning laws, the laws are still so restrictive (too few parcels affected, low densities, high fees, affordability restrictions, high parking requirements, etc.) that there is little to no incentive for the market to build housing. Additionally, the City process required to obtain housing entitlements for properties is spirit crushing (i.e. Who in their right mind would want to take a project through the ARB - Planning Commission - City Council process?). And so, the housing shortage continues. Perhaps Weiner's bill goes too far to incentivize housing development, however, the City's actions to date have not moved the housing needle and won't for a long, long time.


26 people like this
Posted by Peninsula resident
a resident of another community
on Feb 13, 2018 at 8:49 pm

Ooooh, soooo many newbies who think they're experts on housing.

Not long ago we had a GLUT of housing. Look:

Web Link

While I'm pro-development, those of you screaming about housing shortages have no grasp on history.


Posted by Haha
a resident of Crescent Park

on Feb 13, 2018 at 9:26 pm


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15 people like this
Posted by Donster
a resident of University South
on Feb 13, 2018 at 9:47 pm

"Not long ago we had a GLUT of housing. Look:"

The article at that link is nearly a decade out of date, and was written during a temporary downtown in the economy. We don't have a glut of of housing in the Bay Area anymore.

Web Link


38 people like this
Posted by Wiener includes various meats
a resident of Mountain View
on Feb 13, 2018 at 10:38 pm

Do not let state legislators sell Palo Alto to their campaign contributors. Raise heck or get decked.


27 people like this
Posted by Just a Thought
a resident of South of Midtown
on Feb 14, 2018 at 9:04 am

The issue is the job to housing imbalance. While not perfect, a better idea than just a generic ‘build housing near transit because it’s good’ approach for CA wide blanket ruling would be a rule that states if a city builds office space and generates the need for an office worker to be housed, that same city should be required to build a corresponding unit of housing for an office worker. While it might not be the exact same office worker living in that unit, over time it would prevent the imbalance from getting worse.

It would also prevent the current ‘tragedy of the commons’ among Bay Area cities where each wants to build office space for tax revenue but not pay for residential services (Palo Alto included along with Mountain View and Cupertino).


46 people like this
Posted by Norman Beamer
a resident of Crescent Park
on Feb 14, 2018 at 9:45 am

Palo Alto is about 50-50 renters versus home owners. The city has provided for plenty of higher density zoning areas in addition to R-1. Other than a few spots, it is completely built out. Notwithstanding this, do people really think it is now appropriate for a developer to be able to buy several properties in the middle of an R-1 district, tear down the houses, and build an 8-story apartment building, without any limitations, including no parking spaces, just because it is within a mile of a bus stop? If so, you have a point of view similar to what's shown here: Web Link


19 people like this
Posted by @Norman Beamer
a resident of Crescent Park
on Feb 14, 2018 at 9:48 am

"Notwithstanding this, do people really think it is now appropriate for a developer to be able to buy several properties in the middle of an R-1 district, tear down the houses, and build an 8-story apartment building, without any limitations, including no parking spaces, just because it is within a mile of a bus stop?"

After years of you guys fighting any attempt to build high density housing, yes.


21 people like this
Posted by This city is changing!
a resident of Community Center
on Feb 14, 2018 at 10:07 am

Palo Alto has always been a place of change, yet previous city councils REFUSED to do anything about the housing crisis! *or traffic for that matter! I'm glad to see at least one council member has the brains to see what's going on and is willing to go against the business as usual crowd. Thank you CouncilMan Fine for supporting changes which will allow more housing in our city!


35 people like this
Posted by Hinrich
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Feb 14, 2018 at 10:10 am

Hinrich is a registered user.

California’s success attracting innovative businesses is threatened by it’s failures to plan for necessary housing and transportation - not to mention crime, high taxes, etc., etc. Everyone knows it isn’t easy to live, work, or do business in California.

Palo Alto rightly rejects control by Sacramento but it’s also short sighted in thinking a few hundred more housing units will solve anything. The best option is a moratorium on new business space and new residential. Silicon Valley must decentralize. Technology provides the means to link and distributed work in far more efficient ways than adding another two thousand to Facebook and two more lanes to 101 so that those workers can live far away in San Francisco or Santa Cruz. Decentralizing worked for many of the larger companies in the past, HP, Intel to name two and of course, Microsoft wisely moved most of its footprint North and prospered. Not pumping up the bubble to bursting while working with local commerce and the community to enhace the quality of life - and the solvency of the city - may be the better path. Meanwhile, the city could meet some of the existing state mandates by smart, long term redevelopment to increase some density but cap totals at existing levels. The constant promise that more building producing more revenue will heal the current budget woes, or ease congestion, or enable traffic fixes, etc. never seems to pan out.

De-centralizing isn’t easy and would require serious planning as well but seems the best option. Not everyone needs to be here - that, might just be a good place to start fixing things. Palo Alto will always remain attractive and shouldn’t worry about putting firm constraints on growth.


54 people like this
Posted by Wanna Be Fine
a resident of Greendell/Walnut Grove
on Feb 14, 2018 at 10:24 am

@Norm Beamer is correct, the consolidation of parcels have far reaching consequences. With each parcel consolidation, it provides context for the next consolidation.

Scott Weiner wants to eliminate R-1 zoning because his developer friends can't use the R-1 parcels to what they consider as their "highest and best" use. Developers' highest and best use is the highest $$$$$ they can make.

For many who owns R-1 parcels, their highest and best use does not have dollar amounts attached to it. It is a home, it is a place for family gatherings, it is a safe place for the children, it is where you see what you planted blossom from a seedling to a plant, it is sanctuary. There is no $$$$ amount that can be put to each of those experiences.

Adrian Fine, as Council Member has made it into Scott Weiner's inner circle and of course will be continuing to try to hand over the keys to Palo Alto to the developers.

so, when Adrian Fine says "We should be flexible and entertaining new ideas," He means you should be open to letting the developers dictate what they want to build, how they want to build and how much they want to build.


24 people like this
Posted by Annette
a resident of College Terrace
on Feb 14, 2018 at 10:38 am

Annette is a registered user.

I am glad that the city is pushing back against SB827 b/c it is too far reaching. But there's irony in the mayor's message to Weiner: WE can reach too far, but YOU must not. How about this: ALL levels of government stop reaching too far?

HAHA makes a good point about housing: we should have been smarter about housing, starting at least a decade ago. Instead, *we* let commercial development gobble up development space, not only creating a greater demand for housing but eliminating opportunities for housing development. Now we are stuck trying to solve the problems created by that over-development. And in addition to creating problems, the growth juggernaut has created a divided community. How those who promoted this can consider themselves leaders is beyond me. They led us straight into a quagmire.


51 people like this
Posted by Jthomas
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Feb 14, 2018 at 11:08 am

As a long-time Palo Alto resident I moved to SF and had the dubious pleasure of having Scott represent my neighborhood on the city council before he moved on to the state senate. However the housing crisis gets solved it should not involve Mr. Weiner. He appeared tone deaf on more issues in the City than I can count. This latest effort would literally allow any developer in SF to build anything they want on any street in SF with no review or appeal.

Now he's a bad legislator proposing very bad legislation at the state level.


4 people like this
Posted by Long-Term Renter
a resident of Midtown
on Feb 14, 2018 at 12:57 pm

Nimby Kniss just lost my vote!

Local control of land use is a privilege, not a right. If cities can't bring themselves to do what's best for the greater good, control should go back to the State.


29 people like this
Posted by Which Adrian Fine
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 14, 2018 at 1:29 pm

Is this the same Adrian Fine when running for Council said.
“4. High-density housing: What are your thoughts on “high-density housing” in Palo Alto? How much should be built and for whom?
“High density is a loaded word. In San Francisco and Manhattan it may mean 30-50 story towers. In Palo Alto high density means 3 and 4 stories. I favor densities of this kind near services, transit, and shopping--areas that provide opportunities for walking, biking, and shopping locally. The prime areas to focus on are along El Camino, University Avenue, and California Avenue.” Web Link

The proposed legislation that Councilmember Fine supports would prevent cities from requiring housing to be shorter than 85 feet in certain areas near transit, and all without any parking.

Here's what the proposed legislation actually says:

"If the transit-rich housing project is within either a one-quarter mile radius of a high-quality transit corridor or within one block of a major transit stop, any maximum height limitation that is less than 85 feet, except in cases where a parcel facing a street that is less than 45 feet wide from curb to curb, in which case the maximum height shall not be less than 55 feet. If the project is exempted from the local maximum height limitation, the governing height limitation for a transit-rich housing project shall be 85 feet or 55 feet, as provided in this subparagraph." Web Link

That means all along El Camino Real, we can have 85 foot tall buildings, even when next to single-family residential buildings in Barron Park.


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

Is this the same Adrian Fine when running for Council said.
“4. High-density housing: What are your thoughts on “high-density housing” in Palo Alto? How much should be built and for whom?
“High density is a loaded word. In San Francisco and Manhattan it may mean 30-50 story towers. In Palo Alto high density means 3 and 4 stories. I favor densities of this kind near services, transit, and shopping--areas that provide opportunities for walking, biking, and shopping locally. The prime areas to focus on are along El Camino, University Avenue, and California Avenue.” Web Link


8 people like this
Posted by Which Adrian Fine
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 14, 2018 at 1:31 pm

The proposed legislation that Councilmember Fine supports would prevent cities from requiring housing to be shorter than 85 feet in certain areas near transit, and all without any parking.

Here's what the proposed legislation actually says:

"If the transit-rich housing project is within either a one-quarter mile radius of a high-quality transit corridor or within one block of a major transit stop, any maximum height limitation that is less than 85 feet, except in cases where a parcel facing a street that is less than 45 feet wide from curb to curb, in which case the maximum height shall not be less than 55 feet. If the project is exempted from the local maximum height limitation, the governing height limitation for a transit-rich housing project shall be 85 feet or 55 feet, as provided in this subparagraph." Web Link

That means all along El Camino Real, we can have 85 foot tall buildings, even when next to single-family residential buildings in Barron Park.


41 people like this
Posted by HMMM
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Feb 14, 2018 at 1:35 pm

In Adrian Fine's campaign statement he pledged "I will support housing policies that respect existing neighborhoods". How is this consistent with his actions on Council and his vocal support for this bill? Are multi-story, under parked buildings respectful of existing neighborhoods? If you are a supporter/member of YIMBY Action, you clearly want existing neighborhoods dismantled.


10 people like this
Posted by @HMMM
a resident of Crescent Park
on Feb 14, 2018 at 1:44 pm

"If you are a supporter/member of YIMBY Action, you clearly want existing neighborhoods dismantled."

I want places for people to live, Millennial and onward. You've had years to support smart growth and help mitigate the housing crisis, and as a city you've collectively dropped the ball and made it impossible to build housing while externalizing the costs onto the rest of us. No more. The housing bills past last year, this bill, and upcoming bills are going to finally move the needle and produce high density housing so we're not paying $1,500 a month to rent a bedroom in a single-family home crammed full of housemates in every nook and cranny.


10 people like this
Posted by Gale Johnson
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Feb 14, 2018 at 2:33 pm

Gale Johnson is a registered user.

The letter is very appropriate. In our US Constitution, 'States Rights' are addressed and provisions included to protect them. Now, similarly, there should be 'Cities Rights' to protect cities from Sacramento dictating and directing how individual cities should operate/(behave..lol!), govern, and deal with their own local issues. So, good for us, and thanks mayor Kniss for sticking up for our city.

Oh, but wait...abuses of power can even happen down at our local/city level. CC often made decisions and passed ordinances that were not in the best interests of our community and residents, and took away the quality of life that many of us enjoyed for years. Too much commercial/business/office space development projects were permitted (actually encouraged and promoted due to cozy relationships with the business community and developers) without due consideration of housing, transit/traffic, parking, and infrastructure. Now 'the chickens have come home to roost' and everyone's in a tizzy and lather about the problems and how to solve them. Some small strides have been made on the parking issue, minuscule on transit and traffic, a little, but not near enough on infrastructure, and close to nil on housing. Those are all my personal opinions, and I could be wrong. If I am, I know I can count on my online experts to correct me.

While we're proposing bagging Weiner's SB, let's toss in opposition to ABAG's housing requirements as well. We'll never meet them, and the new Housing Work Plan, as good as it is, just won't get the job done. But, any sitting CC member, or future candidate, might be committing political suicide by admitting that.

So much has been written (articles and online pro/con comments) on the new draft Housing Work Plan. Now, after the last CC meeting, it will work it's way back through staff updates, and then on for review/approval by committees, before it comes back to CC. I wouldn't expect one housing unit to be built in 2018 under any new ordinance, and rules and regulations that come with it, from an approved Housing Work Plan. So, how are we doing so far on building 300 units this year?

I know, goals can't always be met, but, often it's because the goals were unreasonable in the first place, just vote grabbers...just thinkin.


7 people like this
Posted by Gale Johnson
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Feb 14, 2018 at 2:44 pm

Gale Johnson is a registered user.

The letter is very appropriate. In our US Constitution, 'States Rights' are addressed and provisions included to protect them. Now, similarly, there should be 'Cities Rights' to protect cities from Sacramento dictating and directing how individual cities should operate/(behave..lol!), govern, and deal with their own local issues. So, good for us, and thanks mayor Kniss for sticking up for our city.

Oh, but wait...abuses of power can even happen down at our local/city level. CC often made decisions and passed ordinances that were not in the best interests of our community and residents, and took away the quality of life that many of us enjoyed for years. Too much commercial/business/office space development projects were permitted (actually encouraged and promoted due to cozy relationships with the business community and developers) without due consideration of housing, transit/traffic, parking, and infrastructure. Now 'the chickens have come home to roost' and everyone's in a tizzy and lather about the problems and how to solve them. Some small strides have been made on the parking issue, minuscule on transit and traffic, a little, but not near enough on infrastructure, and close to nil on housing. Those are all my personal opinions, and I could be wrong. If I am, I know I can count on my online experts to correct me.

While we're proposing bagging Wiener's SB, let's toss in opposition to ABAG's housing requirements as well. We'll never meet them, and the new Housing Work Plan, as good as it is, just won't get the job done. But, any sitting CC member, or future candidate, might be committing political suicide by admitting that.

So much has been written (articles and online pro/con comments) on the new draft Housing Work Plan. Now, after the last CC meeting, it will work it's way back through staff updates, and then on for review/approval by committees, before it comes back to CC. I wouldn't expect one housing unit to be built in 2018 under any new ordinance, and rules and regulations that come with it, from an approved Housing Work Plan. So, how are we doing so far on building 300 units this year?

I know, goals can't always be met, but, often it's because the goals were unreasonable in the first place, just vote grabbers...just thinkin.


31 people like this
Posted by margaret heath
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Feb 14, 2018 at 3:15 pm

margaret heath is a registered user.

“Fine said he supports SB 827 and intends to write letters to Wiener's office and to the League of California Cities, signaling his support. He told the Weekly that he sees housing as an "environmental, equity and economical" issue and that he supports the bill's goal of building housing near transit.”


Before Adrian Fine was appointed to the Planning Commission and later elected to the council, we had a conversation concerning his vision for Palo Alto’s future. He spoke about the regional need for densification to counteract urban sprawl.

In particular, he spoke about the need for Palo Alto to remove any height restrictions to allow increased density with high rise buildings. As I recall, he spoke quite strongly about Palo Alto residents, with restrictive zoning and height limits, refusing to take responsibility for providing their share of the region's housing. And by doing so, standing in the way of the region’s future as the center for tech, and of those who work in it.

In a remarkably short time council member Fine, with the help of mayor Kniss, has become an influential voice in shaping Palo Alto’s future direction. Especially with his new appointment as chair of the housing committee. While he was quite circumspect about his views during the election campaign and has been on the council, given the depth of feeling he spoke with earlier and his support for this bill, it seems unlikely he has changed his vision for Palo Alto’s future direction, or how he can best go about it.


36 people like this
Posted by Steve Dabrowski
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Feb 14, 2018 at 4:17 pm

Fine represents Fine no other views allowed.


8 people like this
Posted by Homeowner
a resident of University South
on Feb 14, 2018 at 6:36 pm

I don’t believe in SB827, but I have a genuine question for the most outspoken residentialists here: what is your endgame for twenty years from now?

I know a lot of people in their thirties. They probably wouldn’t back SB827, but they are very upset with the price of housing and they place the blame on “NIMBYs”.

I also know a lot of people in their twenties. They are really, really upset about the rent and they all support high-rise apartments in downtown. I don’t mean 5-story buildings, I mean ten story buildings like the Marc. This isn’t just one or two - every single twenysomething I’ve spoken to shares this belief. In twenty years those twenty and thirty somethings will be middle aged and a majority of Palo Alto. They clearly are not going to forget the pain they are going through now. This is the defining issue for Millenials in the Bay Area.

So what’s the endgame? I say we add some housing now because if we don’t Palo Alto is going to look like Toronto in thirty years once these people get in power. If we do four-story housing now, we can look like Paris instead. That’s my endgame - what’s yours? What are you going to do with all these angry people before they age into a majority?


8 people like this
Posted by Wavy
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 14, 2018 at 7:47 pm

If you don't like the bill but want the housing crisis fixed don't just tell your representatives to vote against this bill. You should be telling them to come up with a better solution if you don't like this bill. If they really cared about fixing the problem, instead of protecting their most likely astronomical property values, we could have better solutions with parking.

If you don't think there is a housing crisis then most likely nothing will change your mind. Just don't force the rest of us to suffer because you don't like buildings over three stories tall.


6 people like this
Posted by Kevin
a resident of Barron Park
on Feb 14, 2018 at 8:20 pm

We need to do our part to stop global warming, period! The bulk of people need to live near good public transit. We also need high speed electric rail between LA and SF, powered by solar panels. Why is Palo Alto so resistant to the social changes that will save our planet? Wiener is showing us the way...let's follow him!


14 people like this
Posted by Gale Johnson
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Feb 14, 2018 at 8:26 pm

Gale Johnson is a registered user.

@Homeowner

I love people in general, and I don't like to be hated by anyone. I am 81 years old with, sorry to say, no endgame plans. But just a little input, maybe advice...I would never claim it as wisdom. How many of those mad 20-30 year olds could afford $3,000-$3,500 a month rent for micro or studio apartments in this city they want to live in? And, assuming they could afford to live here now, when they marry and have kids, where will they be living 20-30 years from now? In those same micro or studio apartments? Of course not. I don't have an answer, nor do any of our local elected officials.

Just blaming and hating us current NIMBYs won't matter either. Today's NIMBY's will be gone. It will be up to whomever our future voting residents will be, to elect CC members who will, hopefully, satisfy all of their needs and demands. How many of the current irate twenty and thirty somethings will be around to vote is a matter of conjecture.


2 people like this
Posted by Kevin
a resident of Barron Park
on Feb 14, 2018 at 10:21 pm

Are we proud progressive liberals or not? We should be able to agree to give according to our ability and only take according to our needs. Do we share this planet or not? Selfishness and liberalism are not compatible. Increased urban density near public transit is the only way to go. We should be walking our talk!


29 people like this
Posted by Mvresident2003
a resident of Mountain View
on Feb 14, 2018 at 10:51 pm

Mvresident2003 is a registered user.

Progressive liberals? Selfishness? Urban density? Quite a few “feel good” phrases there.

If you’re REALLY an environmentalist, someone concerned about sharing this planet, why aren’t you lobbying for HUGE changes in development here? Why aren’t you pushing for businesses to move to locations with greater access to natural resources? Other states for example?

I can absolutely guarantee, 100%, no one will answer this question adequately. Pro-growthers will argue that we MUST keep tech here, it cant possibly succeed anywhere else. And not one pro-growther will answer directly the issue of California being over-developed, over taxed (literally and resource-fully). Why not move? Because, damn it, I want to live here and by god I should be able to!

With the depth of intellect and education in this area I am astounded that y’all can’t see what’s happening. That tax $ and development $ are driving and making all YOUR decisions. Your CC members? They’re not representing you.

Follow the $


25 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 14, 2018 at 11:47 pm

Fine is not a surprise. He is in over his head and doesn’t understand the intricacies of this. He’s also not very interested in Palo Alto or Palo Altans, even though he’s from here. He is tight with PAF and the SF-based YIMBY movement, a clique of mostly well-heeled young people lobbying for the interests of well-heeled young people. Operators like Wiener tell them that all their discontent is not because life holds challenges for everybody, but because they are the special victims of a corrupt previous generation. They actually believe this, so when they’re told the answer to their malaise is to seize local government away from locals, which SB827 does, they rally. The obvious explanation is that Fine buys into this zealotry, in which individual cities are irrelevant, and their local voters, including those in Palo Alto, are simply part of a regional problem to be overcome. Hence SB827.


11 people like this
Posted by Clueless Kevin
a resident of Barron Park
on Feb 15, 2018 at 12:43 am

@Kevin

"The bulk of people need to live near good public transit. We also need high speed electric rail between LA and SF, powered by solar panels."

Where is the good public transit?
You paying for the high speed electric rail and solar panels and the infrastructure?

It's obvious @Kevin doesn't take the good public transit he wants other people to take otherwise he would know there is NO good public transit.


18 people like this
Posted by Annette
a resident of College Terrace
on Feb 15, 2018 at 10:21 am

Annette is a registered user.

I think the hostility some posters show towards residents is misplaced. There's plenty of blame for our housing problems, including success. But I submit that relentless approval of commercial development is the single biggest contributing factor to the problems that vex this city, its residents, commuters in and out, and those who would like to live here. That development has created the need for more housing and voila we all find ourselves at the mercy of the rules of supply and demand. This is not the fault of residents. Owning a home and wanting infrastructure to be aligned with the demands on it does not equate to being against housing. When one looks at the magnitude of the housing problem, I don't think it a stretch to say that it was irresponsible to approve all that was approved.

Those entrusted with leadership roles (both elected and employed)should SOLVE problems, not CREATE problems. Nor should they knowingly create problems in order to later *solve* those very problems by introducing legislation that *coincidentally* promotes their personal philosophies.

Best two rules I can think of when voting: be informed and never, ever vote for a zealot (of any stripe).


6 people like this
Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 15, 2018 at 11:09 am

Posted by Homeowner, a resident of University South

>> I don’t believe in SB827, but I have a genuine question for the most outspoken residentialists here: what is your endgame for twenty years from now?

Good question. Let's keep talking about this issue.

>> I know a lot of people in their thirties. They probably wouldn’t back SB827, but they are very upset with the price of housing and they place the blame on “NIMBYs”.

I know quite a few in their twenties. They don't seem to like talking about these issues very much:

>> I also know a lot of people in their twenties. They are really, really upset about the rent and they all support high-rise apartments in downtown. I don’t mean 5-story buildings, I mean ten story buildings like the Marc. This isn’t just one or two - every single twenysomething I’ve spoken to shares this belief. In twenty years those twenty and thirty somethings will be middle aged and a majority of Palo Alto. They clearly are not going to forget the pain they are going through now. This is the defining issue for Millenials in the Bay Area.

Unfortunately, people of all ages are misinformed about this. We probably need a discussion thread devoted exclusively to density. I will state flatly that high-rises are totally unnecessary to achieve density. For whatever reason, a lot of wealthy people like high-rises, but, high-rise construction is not more "affordable" -- typically > 2.5X 2-4 story wood-frame construction. The most affordable, *dense* housing is 3-story woodframe row houses. Here is a reference link:

Web Link

You can get 50,000 people per square mile-- greater than NYC, and greater than any borough of NYC except Manhattan.

Lots of wealthy people *like* high-rises, but, they cost more and are not necessary to achieve density.

>> So what’s the endgame? I say we add some housing now because if we don’t Palo Alto is going to look like Toronto in thirty years once these people get in power. If we do four-story housing now, we can look like Paris instead. That’s my endgame - what’s yours? What are you going to do with all these angry people before they age into a majority?

We are mostly in agreement. I think there can still be room for detached houses, but, I also like 3-4 story row houses with separate entrances, a configuration that has proven to discourage crime.

I think the Caltrain and El Camino Real transportation corridors have to be carefully planned and changes begun **first** though, before we start squeezing in lots of 3-story row houses, or the wrong configuration will get locked in.


30 people like this
Posted by mauricio
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Feb 15, 2018 at 11:35 am

mauricio is a registered user.

I have yet to meet a local pro growther who will admit that high tech can succeed anywhere else in the country or world beside SV. If it is not located within 20 miles of Stanford, preferably in Palo Alto, high tech is doomed. When you bring this up they all have prepared and perfectly reharsed dissertations(no one is better at it than Steve Levy) on how it's just impossible for high tech to survive anywhere else beside the Bay area. And of course, unless millennial tech workers are provided with housing, preferably in Palo Alto, the tech industry is doomed, and Palo Alto will regress to the dark ages. No one is better at this than PAF. It's density and urbanization or collapse, and damned be the areas all over the country that could be saved economically by some tech relocating there.


31 people like this
Posted by to mauricio
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Feb 15, 2018 at 11:45 am

Peter Thiel is relocating to LA. I hope he takes Palantir and PAF (LAF?) with him.
Web Link


21 people like this
Posted by Not so Fine
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Feb 15, 2018 at 11:52 am

Adrian Fine has lived in cozy College Terrace for many years, and still does.
It would be appropriate for him to move into a tall building, small apartment, with no parking. Let's see a little integrity, Mr. Fine.

But he is too wealthy for that inconvenience. His international employer, Nextdoor, depends on increased population to grow into an even bigger corporation.

Web Link


17 people like this
Posted by Annette
a resident of College Terrace
on Feb 15, 2018 at 11:54 am

Annette is a registered user.

@Anon - I like your comment. I am opposed to SB827 but agree we must make progress on housing. Some in this forum have suggested converting some commercial to residential and I hope that gets some traction as it would have a positive impact on both sides of the equation. And your reference to Toronto is sadly appropriate. I know there are lovely parts of Toronto but the corridors of uninspired high rises create a bleak cityscape and I would never want to see that happen here. What you suggest (3 - 4 story row houses) strikes me as a thoughtful approach.

But people also need to manage their expectations. Wanting something does not equate to an entitlement. There are lots of places I'd like to live but cannot afford. I am not angry about that, it's just the way it is and I don't resent those who do live in those places. Somewhere along the way people came to believe that grown children deserve to live near their parents, that people deserve to live near where they work, that people deserve to live in their original hometown, that people deserve to live where they want. All those things are great, but not always achievable and cities cannot be expected to fully re-create themselves to accommodate all such desires. If Palo Alto changes in all the ways that SB827 would make possible the result will be a perverse shift from highly desirable to highly undesirable.


9 people like this
Posted by Annette
a resident of College Terrace
on Feb 15, 2018 at 3:08 pm

Annette is a registered user.

Acronymology - who should use which one?

YIMBY - for the "yes in MY back yard" group
YIYBY - for the "yes in YOUR back yard" group
NIMBY - for the "not in MY back yard" group
NIABY - for the "not in ANY back yard" group

SB 827 is really more YIYBY than YIMBY and that is the rub.
SB 827 lacerates local control.


7 people like this
Posted by Sea Seelam Reddy
a resident of College Terrace
on Feb 15, 2018 at 3:32 pm

Sea Seelam Reddy is a registered user.

We like the way Palo Alto has been for the last known 120 years. We like small and beautiful low tall buildings like town and country shopping center.

Keep our 55ft height limit.

No tall buildings along the highway corridor.

Plan the tall buildings in new cities.

Respectfully


16 people like this
Posted by Allen Akin
a resident of Professorville
on Feb 15, 2018 at 6:25 pm

Allen Akin is a registered user.

Homeowner wrote: "I have a genuine question for the most outspoken residentialists here: what is your endgame for twenty years from now?"

You might be asking the wrong group. It's rare that residentialists have had significant influence over development in Palo Alto. And they've usually supported housing during the thirty years I've lived here. For example, some medium- to high-density developments that were built in my part of town include Weatherly on Homer, 801 Alma/800 High, the Summerhill (I think) compact houses on the old Times Tribune site, and Oak Court on the old Palo Alto Medical Foundation site.

Developers, construction companies, and trade unions live by building, so it's natural that they support any narrative that lets them build more. My impression is that they're relatively agnostic about what they build; housing is simply the opportunity of the day, so they're strong behind-the-scenes supporters of legislation like SB827. (Zelda Bronstein writes comprehensively on this subject; for example, see Web Link)

The real influence lies with the employers, so they're the ones to whom you should direct your question. In the past, when it became obviously uneconomical to grow here, companies expanded elsewhere. More recently, many companies are doubling-down on expansion here regardless of cost -- for example, Google in Mountain View and San Jose, or Palantir in downtown Palo Alto. This phenomenon created the jobs/housing imbalance and income inequality that forced housing prices up and drove out large numbers of former residents. It also shifted increasing costs of many kinds onto the public.

Not every employer is following this strategy. From this morning's Mercury News: "“We deliberately moved away from the Bay Area,” Schoenholtz said. “We felt that it would be more affordable for our current and future employees to be located in a more diversely affordable location.” Rise of the Rest is completely focused on funding companies outside Silicon Valley.

The answer to your question is largely determined by which employer strategy eventually dominates. If it's unlimited local growth, then we're headed toward unlimited urban densification. If it's expansion in other areas, the changes will be comparatively smaller and more gradual, and there might be more opportunities to assert local control.

Another question you might want to ask is "What problems do you have to solve to get to this desired endgame?"

We live in an area in which population and industry were deliberately dispersed. (For a nice summary of the history, see Margaret O'Mara's book "Cities of Knowledge".) That low-density starting point means that some shared transit systems wouldn't be viable here for decades, if ever (see Web Link for some useful numbers). What happens when the road system is no longer adequate, but transit systems can't take up a large share of the load?

We live in an area that's close to sea level, and a good fraction of our population and infrastructure is close to the shoreline. What happens if sea level rises by a foot? See coast.noaa.gov for a simulation.

People need water, and all the West is short of it. For a fast, accessible introduction to the issues it's hard to beat Marc Reisner's "Cadillac Desert". For real insight into California, I recommend the original California Water Atlas ( you can get a PDF from ca.statewater.org ). And for a sense of how vicious water issues can be, the classic is William Kahrl's "Water and Power". What happens as urban demand increases, and underground aquifers are no longer able to meet the shortfall for agriculture?

There are plenty of other issues, but I hope those are enough to give you a sense of where my thinking is these days.

PS: I tried to include web links to sites with additional information, but Town Square refused to let me. (Too many links.) Sorry about that.


8 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 15, 2018 at 6:38 pm

Sun Microsystems had a large office building. It employed a large number of people and I don't think the parking lot was ever full, I seem to remember seeing street hockey being played at lunch time. It was demolished and is now housing for seniors and a community center.

We were promised that these seniors and the community center would not produce parking problems. We were promised that there would be buses for residents to use. We were told that there would be facilities the residents could walk to. I don't believe there are any buses, and not even a coffee shop for residents in the neighborhood has been built. I see signs on all the local businesses that there is no parking for events at the community center. The community center has huge ugly posters advertising its facilities and strangely enough the people in the posters are not very diverse and do not look like seniors.

Is this a forerunner of what we are to expect?


3 people like this
Posted by Hal Plotkin
a resident of Midtown
on Feb 15, 2018 at 6:39 pm

I have a question for those more familiar with Weiner's SB827 as proposed. How does the legislation define the "housing" component of "transit-rich housing projects"? Here is why I ask: If the legislation removes current height, FARs and parking requirements in neighborhoods within one mile of the California Avenue CalTrain station, for example, that would include many single family homes in old Palo Alto just north of Oregon Expressway and Midtown just south of Oregon expressway. My guess is that many of these homeowners might simply expand their homes by adding second, third or even fourth stories rather than build apartments or sell to developers who build apartments. If that happens, no net new housing units. Just larger, even more expensive single-family homes. Is there anything in the legislation that would actually mandate the addition of net new housing units rather than allowing existing single family homes to become larger?


12 people like this
Posted by Rick
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Feb 16, 2018 at 12:32 pm

How come no one is looking to set up 85 ft. Residential towers in Atherton, the Walled City?

We don’t have the infrastructure to support many more people. Build the roads and schools, then talk about cramming more rats in the cage.


Like this comment
Posted by Kevin
a resident of Barron Park
on Feb 19, 2018 at 12:32 pm

Increased density is a no brainer. We need to do whatever is necessary to save the planet. This means no more carbon dioxide emissions! Not only must we ban fossil fuel and natural gas usage, and go all electric, but we must also achieve an egalitarian society free of white privilege and racism and sexism. Go vegan. End the wealth gap through confiscatory taxation of the rich! Give according to our ability and only take according to our needs. Our future must be socialism, with the elimination of capitalism! What are we, proud liberals, waiting for?


12 people like this
Posted by Steve Dabrowski
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Feb 19, 2018 at 6:15 pm

Noted in a recent interview that Gavin Newsom indicated that cities that are not meeting regional housing mandates should face stiff financial penalties. Guess he and Weiner will be tight, so better consider before voting for GN in the Governor's race, he lost my vote on that.

Cities should help sponsor a recall on Weiner if they want to maintain control over themselves.


4 people like this
Posted by Sense
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 20, 2018 at 9:27 pm

@Kevin,
Increasing density under these circumstances, with emissions increasing, productivity and families hurt by the disregard for their time and ability to get around the area, the cutting down of trees and ignoring urban green needs, and the need to bring in more and more resources from further away, is environmentally damaging.

This is not like Europe where it is normal to pay attention to views for everyone, quality of life, urban sunshine green and garden spaces, walkability including enjoyability not just a path someone might grit their way through. Densifying has huge environmental costs including noise and pollution. Yes, I do hope Peter a Thiel is taking a Palantir to LA. There are more defense firms there and they could use the urban renewal and are already densely built in many places. Near USC?


Like this comment
Posted by @Steve Dabrowski
a resident of Crescent Park
on Feb 21, 2018 at 12:24 pm

Good luck with that. You're outnumbered here. Turns out when you make home ownership an impossible thing for all but a handful of people, eventually those people become the majority. The next generation needs housing too, not just you.


8 people like this
Posted by Guy_Fawkes
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Feb 22, 2018 at 8:06 am

Guy_Fawkes is a registered user.

Very misleading comments by Adrian Fine in another paper earlier this week saying he just wants 3-4 story buildings near transit. That is already supported by zoning. What he is really arguing for it 85 foot buildings (over 100 ft by right w state density bonus) anywhere near transit which includes most of Palo Alto including our family neighborhoods.

People REALLY need to wake up to what this guy is pushing.


Like this comment
Posted by @Guy_Fawkes
a resident of Crescent Park
on Feb 22, 2018 at 8:55 am

"People REALLY need to wake up to what this guy is pushing."

You mean more housing for the rest of us? Good.


2 people like this
Posted by Not so Fine
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Feb 22, 2018 at 10:58 am

A man who can lie with such intensity and fake sincerity is not to be trusted.

The housing he wants suits the local rich newbies, not people of modest means. He is focused on San Francisco, where he works.


Like this comment
Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 22, 2018 at 11:15 am

Posted by to mauricio, a resident of Fairmeadow

>> Peter Thiel is relocating to LA. I hope he takes Palantir and PAF (LAF?) with him.

"to mauricio" and others recommending places for growing businesses, and with a libertarian management team. Enterprises that have grown too big for the Bay Area, and are looking to relocate. LA real estate is very expensive, too. I would suggest a look at Huntsville, AL. It has underutilized industrial parks, an active regional airport, and is close to Auburn, AL, home of the Ludwig von Mises Institute. Housing in Huntsville is extremely affordable compared to any city in California.


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