News

Affordable-housing zone sputters

Planning and Transportation Commission fails to reach consensus on new 'affordable housing combining district'

Despite widespread recognition that Palo Alto is experiencing an affordable-housing crisis, the city's deeply divided Planning and Transportation Commission opted on Wednesday night not to approve a new zoning tool aimed at addressing the problem.

For the second time in the past month, members of the polarized commission lauded the objective of creating affordable housing and sparred over best way to do so. After a long discussion and testimony from about 20 residents, most of whom supported the new policy, the commission voted 4-3 not to advance the "affordable housing combining district," which would apply to commercially-zoned sites along El Camino Real and which would provide height, density, parking and other concessions for developments comprised entirely of below-market-rate housing.

But even as the commission balked at approving the proposed new zoning district, it supported moving ahead with the housing development that sparked its consideration: a 61-unit housing complex that the nonprofit Palo Alto Housing is looking to build on El Camino Real, known as Wilton Court. The commission's four-member majority -- Chair Ed Lauing, and Commissioners Przemek Gardias, Doria Summa and Asher Waldfogel -- recommended that the city move forward with the project under the "planned community" process, a controversial zoning tool that Palo Alto hasn't used since 2013.

Much like during their last discussion on Feb. 14, the commission split into two camps: those who felt the proposed ordinance needs much more refinement and those who believed it should be approved. Vice Chair Susan Monk, Michael Alcheck and William Riggs all fell in the latter camp and argued that the proposed district is a necessary tool to address the city's housing shortage.

The City Council has set as its goal the permitting of 300 housing units annually, between now and 2030. According to the city's recently approved Housing Work Plan, the city had only permitted 86 units last year, and just 18 the year before that. In discussing the proposed zone district, Planning Director Hillary Gitelman told the commission that the city is "pretty far behind" when it comes to housing production.

"We're not seeing applications for multifamily housing that we'd like at a time when the region is suffering what we all understand to be a significant crisis," Gitelman said.

Her data was complemented by personal stories: parents whose sons and daughters have developmental disabilities and no viable places to live; teachers who can no longer afford to live in the city where they teach; and housing advocates who have seen their friends and family members driven out of the city by high rents.

Jessica Clark, whose family has lived in Palo Alto for four generations, said her rent has been rising precipitously over the past six years, at one time increasing by more than $1,000. Clark said she got on the waiting list for a below-market-rate unit six years ago, at which time when there were more than 300 people ahead of her. Today, she is in the mid-180's on the list, Clark said. Some of her relatives had already departed because of the high housing costs.

"If my husband and I didn't have such strong family roots and support, we'd be gone as well," Clark said. "It's a stressful and hopeless feeling that we constantly deal with every day."

Eric Rosenblum, former planning commissioner who serves as president of the citizens group Palo Alto Forward, urged the commission to move ahead with the new zoning district. Despite the council's repeated statements in support of affordable housing, the city is just not building the units it needs, he said. Rather, the gap between its regional requirements and actual units constructed keeps growing.

"It's not enough to want or support affordable housing, we need to zone for it," Rosenblum said.

The proposal the commission debated Wednesday was somewhat different from the one it weighed on Feb. 14. Responding to concerns from commissioners and residents about the possible impacts of the new housing developments, staff drafted a revised ordinance with stricter height regulations and parking standards (which would now be 0.5 spaces per bedroom, rather than per unit). And while the February version of the ordinance would have applied to units up to 120 percent of area median income, the more recent one limited it to 60 percent of the area median income and below.

While these changes assuaged some of the concerns, four commissioners felt the new ordinance still needs further refinement. Since the Feb. 14 meeting, commissioners Waldfogel, Gardias and Summa met as an ad hoc committee to discuss possible improvements. They ultimately recommended coming up with different standards for developments that cater to individuals with low and very low incomes and those whose incomes are closer to the moderate level.

Waldfogel said the one thing that developers said they desire the most is certainty. The overlay district, he said, falls short of that. Even if Palo Alto Housing were to use the combining district for its new project, it would still have to go through the city's lengthy review process before winning approval.

"What we'd like to do is construct an ordinance where a developer ... knows what the rights will be so they can move forward without any additional administrative steps," Waldfogel said.

Waldfogel's committee didn't take a stance on the ordinance presented by staff. But to avoid delaying the Palo Alto Housing project any further, the three members and Lauing supported having the developer go through the same "planned community" process that it used in 2013 for its proposal at 567 Maybell Ave. That project, which included 60 units for low-income seniors and 12 single-family homes, ultimately fell through after a citizen referendum overturned the council-approved zone change that would have enabled the project.

The three dissenting commissioners vehemently disagreed with the ad hoc committee's recommendation and lobbied their colleagues to vote on the proposed ordinance and send it to the City Council for final approval. Commissioner Michael Alcheck, a staunch advocate for more housing, criticized those who conflate nonprofits like Palo Alto Housing with market-rate developers and who cite parking as a pretext to oppose any kind of construction in the area.

Citing the critical shortage of housing, Alcheck supported moving ahead with the new district.

"The Wilton Court project probably won't make a dent in the housing crisis. That doesn't mean we shouldn't try," Alcheck said.

Lauing threw his swing vote toward the ad hoc committee. He agreed with the ad hoc committee's assessment that the new ordinance is "not good enough right now." At the same time, the city's effort to fix it need not prevent Palo Alto Housing from moving ahead with its proposal through the "planned community" process, he said.

"In my mind, it's saying we can get the best of both worlds," Lauing said.

The commission's vote means that the City Council will now weigh two competing proposals when it considers the matter in April: staff's recommendation to approve the new affordable-housing combining district and the ad hoc committee's approach, which would delay the establishment of the new district.

The commission's recommendation could prove a tough sell for the council. Even though the "planned community" zone enabled the construction of most of Palo Alto's affordable-housing developments, the process had become politically toxic over the past decade as it increasingly became a tool for commercial developers to build bigger projects than the zoning code would otherwise allow.

Recent mixed-use developments at 2100 El Camino Real and 101 Lytton Ave. and Edgewood Plaza each received density exceptions under the "planned community" zone process, which the council put on hold in 2014 as part of its response to the Maybell vote.

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Comments

98 people like this
Posted by Don't Scrimp on Parking
a resident of Crescent Park
on Mar 15, 2018 at 4:55 am

The staff proposal for parking means studios and one-bedrooms would get just half a parking space each while a two-bedroom unit would get just one space. That's less than half our current parking requirements, which are themselves obviously inadequate, as you see lots of cars on the streets at night surrounding many apartment buildings in town.

Many of us work late hours and don't want to have to park blocks away and then walk in the dark to where we live. It's not safe and it's not fair to neighbors whose homes we park in front of.

Our politicians need to stop ratcheting down parking even more and pretending that's going to work. All new buildings must be fully parked, whether they're housing or offices.


51 people like this
Posted by Oh no
a resident of Green Acres
on Mar 15, 2018 at 6:51 am

I support this Wilton project, but mentioning PC in conjunction with Maybell underlines the problem with using pc zoning - it is controversial, the favorite tool for mega-development of all sorts, and failed public benefits. All that residents don’t want.

Rosenblum from PAF doesn’t talk about BMR but only affordable housing - which is undefinable and includes market rate housing which by definition is unaffordable. Beware of the term “affordable” housing.

Alcheck continues to act inappropriately. I have never seen such rudeness. It seems to be spreading - Sue Monk is constantly interrupting commissioners and has a superior attitude toward them and much of the public though she doesn’t seem to know much. I say to both of them - please conduct yourselves in a more professional and mature way.


108 people like this
Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 15, 2018 at 7:28 am

There will never be enough "affordable" housing in midtown Manhattan overlooking Central Park, either. Referring to the lack of affordable housing in midtown Manhattan overlooking Central Park as a "crisis" is disingenuous.

IF public policy (e.g. "ABAG") insists that every civil jurisdiction ("city") house as many people as work there, then, there should never, ever, be any new office space built in Palo Alto ever again. Ever. Seriously.


27 people like this
Posted by Need More Affordable Housing
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Mar 15, 2018 at 9:21 am

The majority of people in Palo Alto are welcoming and inclusive. Most champion affordable housing and removal of barriers to support new affordable housing. However, the PTC's inaction on sensible housing policy will make Palo Alto less welcoming and more exclusive in years to come. Last night's lack of action clearly shows how out of touch PTC at odds with the majority of the people who live in our city.


25 people like this
Posted by Please don't block housing
a resident of Downtown North
on Mar 15, 2018 at 9:49 am

[Post removed.]


35 people like this
Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Mar 15, 2018 at 9:49 am

Online Name is a registered user.

If the CC and commissioners really cared more "affordable" housing rather than increased development, they would have supported any type of rent limitation -- not even rent control -- on the ADUs. They'd require more "affordable" housing in each and every development rather than letting developers eliminate parking on the basis of their "car-light" fairy tales.

They campaigned on the needs of poor granny and disabled kids etc. to wring people's heart strings but when you got down into the details of the ADU regs, they ruled that every ADU tenant had to be charged the same rents, including people like granny and the disabled kids who had no income.

Look beneath the campaign rhetoric. It's like people saying they've lived in PA for 30 years and never ever heard of sustainability.


34 people like this
Posted by Eric Rosenblum
a resident of Downtown North
on Mar 15, 2018 at 9:52 am

This is a disappointing outcome, but hopefully Council will read the data about the economics of affordable housing development, transit use rates (and corresponding car use rates) by low-income tenants, and couple these facts with our comprehensive plan goals.

There's also a false-choice narrative that underlies a lot of the dissent to these sorts of measures. Somehow, there seems to be a false tension between "quality of life" (which, in Palo Alto, seems to largely be defined as "plentiful parking spaces") vs. the social justice goal of affordable housing. In fact, I don't believe that these two goals are in opposition. Having a diversity of people in our community raises our quality of life in every meaningful way (including traffic/ parking).


21 people like this
Posted by Observer
a resident of University South
on Mar 15, 2018 at 10:09 am

[Portion removed.] Residentialism was repudiated by residents in the last election, with the three top vote-getters instead running on a pro-housing policy. However, it’s sad but I suppose not overly surprising to see the residentialist PTC members stonewalling on affordable housing again.


58 people like this
Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 15, 2018 at 10:20 am

Posted by Eric Rosenblum, a resident of Downtown North

>> There's also a false-choice narrative that underlies a lot of the dissent to these sorts of measures. Somehow, there seems to be a false tension between "quality of life" (which, in Palo Alto, seems to largely be defined as "plentiful parking spaces") vs. the social justice goal of affordable housing.

Please. Nobody cares about "plentiful parking spaces". What people care about is when there is no parking space in front of their own home, or, their neighbors, or, -down the street-, for their visitors to park in. They care about no parking space when they go visit the dentist. They care about random cars from strangers sticking out in their driveway so they can't get out. As long as -we- have to drive, -we- have to have places to park. -We- live here.

As for "social justice"-- unlike Right-Wing Authoritarians, I actually think that people should be "entitled" to a decent place to live. Somewhere. But, logically, not everyone can have a penthouse overlooking Central Park. At the moment, Palo Alto is a very -fashionable- place to live. It will fade (again) one of these days. In the meantime, it is not a "crisis" that not everyone in the world can live here. It is not a matter of "social justice" that every person who wants to live in Palo Alto or Midtown Manhattan or (list of nice San Francisco neighborhoods) or Los Altos Hills or -Atherton- can live there. When people talk that way, they are discrediting their own arguments.

"People" have made the argument that, short of trying to build enough housing in Palo Alto so that all 7 Billion people who want to live here can, what we can do instead is have a rough jobs/housing balance. I don't agree with the argument, but, it has the semi- force-of-law at the moment. Here is a rundown of where we all stand:

Web Link

It looks like Palo Alto is short .18, which, I take it, means that we probably need around 10,000 units to get in balance. I propose that we don't build another square foot of office space until we complete those (10,000?) units. How about it?


13 people like this
Posted by Jake S
a resident of College Terrace
on Mar 15, 2018 at 10:20 am

This is really disappointing.


50 people like this
Posted by Old Timer
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Mar 15, 2018 at 10:22 am

Yes, the Democratic Party (a wholly-owned subsidiary of our local developer clique) successfully sponsored a slate of candidates (in a non-partisan election) to promote their highly profitable agenda. That's democracy in action circa 2016, but the idea that PTC commissioners should "fall in line" because of it is anti-democratic. They are charged with evaluating what comes before them and calling it like they see it - not toeing some imaginary party line. Rosenblum certainly didn't take this approach when the council was residentialist-leaning!

Thanks to the PTC members for taking their job seriously and doing it.


44 people like this
Posted by Midtown
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 15, 2018 at 10:45 am

Planed Commuinity (PC) projects should only be approved by referendum vote of the people. No more flim flams on PC projects.


25 people like this
Posted by puh-lease
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Mar 15, 2018 at 10:52 am

To 4 members of the PTC.... putting forward a PC when it is well known that there is a moratorium on PC's??? That's plain ignorant.

You need only look at the approximate ages of the PTC members to see this is a microcosm of a generational conflict. The draw bridge in Palo Alto is held up by Prop 13. For a City with a reputation as a hub of innovation, too much of this town is stuck in the "good" old days of high mortgage rates, gas shortages and trickle down economics, all the while riding their own private residential equity boom.

Our neighbors in Redwood City and Mountain View have been able to create new housing opportunities along side massive office expansions. Agree, we don't need more office space but Palo Alto can't even create a few dozen units of below market rate housing without rounds of public discourse and desires for perfect policy that prolong the problem and implements absolutely no action.

Let's say we make less expenditures on bicycle boulevards and more on mirrors in public spaces. Maybe that would lead to Palo Altans being more genuine with actions rather than words about supporting affordable housing and taking action to create actual affordable housing.


3 people like this
Posted by Observer
a resident of University South
on Mar 15, 2018 at 10:57 am

[Post removed.]


10 people like this
Posted by Jerry Underdal
a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 15, 2018 at 11:06 am

Jerry Underdal is a registered user.

"The commission's four-member majority -- Chair Ed Lauing, and Commissioners Przemek Gardias, Doria Summa and Asher Waldfogel -- recommended that the city move forward with the project under the "planned community" process, a controversial zoning tool that Palo Alto hasn't used since 2013."

This is pretty ironic. The planned community process that was key to the Maybell project (61 units of low-income senior housing) was attacked because of prior abuse by for-profit developers offering bogus public benefits to get their projects over the bar. No more PC projects was the PASZ mantra at the time of the referendum. The argument that keeping the PC process, with closer scrutiny of the public benefits offered, as a tool for getting affordable housing built was dismissed.

Here we are, five years on, and no affordable housing projects have been built in PA. But the environment has changed, the pressure on Palo Alto to do more than make statements in support of housing is intense. What's the fallback position for those who don't want major zoning changes but are eager to back Palo Alto Housing's ECR project on El Camino so the city can show that affordable housing can be built here? The planned community process.


31 people like this
Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Mar 15, 2018 at 11:18 am

Online Name is a registered user.

Re Prop. 13, I might believe in the sincerity of that argument if those objecting to homeowners having Prop 13 tax rates ALSO objected to commercial property owners benefiting from THEIR Prop 13 rates. Commercial property owners keep their properties much longer than homeowners and I haven't noticed them making their rents more "affordable" yet.

@Observer, are you saying "my party right or wrong" and that the current CC and all their commissioners are above criticism? Several weren't even "Democrats" until they ran for office.


28 people like this
Posted by george drysdale
a resident of Professorville
on Mar 15, 2018 at 11:21 am

Resources are scarce. We can't even afford medical insurance for everybody especially with the retiring baby boomer tsunami. "Affordable housing" is a myth in Silicon Valley. Land prices are simply too high for much "affordable housing" to be built. Provide generous subsidies (from where, the tooth fairy) and a billion people would happily move here. Who wins the subsidy lottery? The Buena Vista trailer park is the monument. Young college grads are moving out but if you campaign: you can price fix. Zoning for "affordable housing" would be a price control costing millions of dollars in development and lost taxes.
George Drysdale land economist and initiator


6 people like this
Posted by Watched it
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 15, 2018 at 11:58 am

[Post removed.]


6 people like this
Posted by Granny Eats Cake
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Mar 15, 2018 at 12:06 pm

Hmmm....I can't wait to see the true colors of Palo Alto, before I hafta open my parachute. Meanwhile, is it wholly impractical for a consideration of say, City for the sake of more affordable housing, purchasing existing apartment complexes from landlords (recently in Mountain View news) who are disgruntling about their profit margins? Sign me, "Not an economist, and with small eco-print"


17 people like this
Posted by David Dennison
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Mar 15, 2018 at 12:08 pm

Palo Also politics are insane


42 people like this
Posted by Annette
a resident of College Terrace
on Mar 15, 2018 at 12:10 pm

Annette is a registered user.

Affordable Housing in Palo Alto is pretty much an oxymoron.

Of course we need to do something, but whatever we do must also be sustainable and that brings us back to infrastructure which brings us back to parking, circulation, transportation, etc. Necessary first step is, I think, a moratorium on commercial development. We've created such a messy problem set that it would be irresponsible to add more jobs when we cannot sustain those that already exist.


37 people like this
Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Mar 15, 2018 at 12:15 pm

Online Name is a registered user.

Since the CC has placed such a high priority on building under-parked big hotels, maybe they should require those hotels to dedicate half of their rooms to affordable housing and to get people our of living in their RVs since the RVs are also taking up parking spaces.


69 people like this
Posted by CeCi Kettendorf
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Mar 15, 2018 at 12:36 pm

I was there last night for the 3 and a half hours of the meeting.
It saddens me that, yet again at city hall, for the countless time, the concerns of the stake holders were drowned by the opposition.
Palo Alto Forward projected on the wall of the chamber the names, not the signatures, of 225 people who supposedly support the project. Thirty five people spoke in support of placing low income, special needs and elderly in the project. Incredibly, a woman from Crescent Park spoke passionately with glowing eyes to the need to place the homeless.

NOT A ONE of the 225 names projected on the wall and NOT A ONE of the 35 presenters defending and promoting the project, actually LIVES the Ventura neighborhood. Many of them don't live in Palo Alto at all, as they were sent by their agencies to speak.

THE TRUE STAKEHOLDERS there last night were the four residents of the Ventura Neighborhood. The true stakeholders in Ventura are the ones with the most to lose, those who have invested their earnings, made a home for their children, in good faith put down roots there, believing the neighborhood will remain safe and livable. It is a neighborhood of smaller houses and narrow streets which will be impacted by a tall building with inadequate parking. Their concerns are real but
of course, their concerns are NOT considered because they are shouted down by PAF. Their concerns aren't addressed in the above article either and only passing deference was paid to them by only two of the commissioners.

Many a speaker last night pleaded, pleaded to reducing the harsh requirement for off street parking, which is .3 to .5 spots per unit. They all claim that the residents likely won't drive. Well, they will still own cars! Even low income and elderly and special needs people buy cars. People who don't drive their cars, still park them! They will have visitors, care givers, agency workers, deliveries, friends and family who visit frequently, very frequently. They will have lovers who stay over night and possibly longer.

All those cars with no where to go will be pushed out into the narrow streets of Ventura, at least 30 cars a day. The quality of life for the Ventura neighborhood is about to diminish. No one listened to the neighborhood.

One commissioner said it would be best for Palo Alto to do what other communities do: buy housing for the low income. Our CC certainly spends money so this would be a wise solution to pacify ABAG.

I think the next BMR project should be placed in Crescent Park! In fact, it would be best placed there since they have the luxury of wide neighborhood streets for the parking overflow from the 35 to 50 foot high, 60 unit, Below Market Rate project, with a woefully inadequate parking requirement. My guess is that the powers that be in Palo Alto will listen carefully to the stakeholders in Crescent Park!!!! I hope to see some flushed cheeks and glowing eyes!



12 people like this
Posted by JCP
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Mar 15, 2018 at 12:46 pm

JCP is a registered user.

[Post removed.]


37 people like this
Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Mar 15, 2018 at 12:51 pm

Online Name is a registered user.

Thanks for going, Ceci, and reporting back. The CC bias is so pathetically obvious. How many of the attendees were even PA residents and taxpayers?

Re projecting the names of the 225 petition signers, has anyone, for example, ever projected the 722 names of the Ross Road petition signers -- or even gotten a response from the city?

Has anyone bothered to look at San Francisco where the "car light" developments are anything but and all the neighbors are screaming about the self-serving fairy tales?

Re ABAG, their ethical record and financial stewardship are less than exemplary with much of their funds being diverted from their intended projects and one of their main financial guys having been found guilty of embezzling millions to buy himself an Oregon beach house years ago. Where's the oversight?


Posted by Linnea
a resident of Monroe Park

on Mar 15, 2018 at 12:57 pm


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10 people like this
Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 15, 2018 at 1:04 pm

Posted by george drysdale, a resident of Professorville

>> Resources are scarce.

>> Zoning for "affordable housing" would be a price control costing millions of dollars in development and lost taxes.

>> George Drysdale land economist and initiator

Hi George. Interesting comment you just made. As a "land economist and initiator", what would the effect on property values be if all land not currently built up as commercial office space was zoned for residential 3-4 story row houses (50 ft limit) -only-? That is, we get serious about the jobs/housing imbalance, and, never build another office project again?

What is an acre that can be developed as 120,000 square feet of office space worth now? What is the same acre but can be developed only as 30 row-houses worth?


24 people like this
Posted by Charlie
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 15, 2018 at 2:32 pm

This is an emotional and very real issue for so many of us working and living in Palo Alto. I am a single Mom preschool teacher and I can no longer afford to live here. After the end of the school year I may be moving to NC, away from the only place my daughter has called home and where our emotional support system is because I am close to homeless. So many of my fellow preschool teachers are in the same situation and soon there will be very few left in this area to nurture and teach children in this very important developmental stage. I see this issue all around Palo Alto, there are not enough people to fill the low wage earning jobs that technology can’t do. I highly doubt a robot preschool teacher would be able to provide the skill, love and nurturing we humans give our children. Silicon Valley has forgotten about children and women and we are leaving in droves.


9 people like this
Posted by stephen levy
a resident of University South
on Mar 15, 2018 at 3:28 pm

stephen levy is a registered user.

@CeCi

You are flat wrong about the signatures and apparently were not listening to the people who spoke.

The petition was circulated by three groups--the League of Women voters, which the last time I checked accounted for more than 50 signatures, all of whom and all of the League speakers live in Palo Alto as well as all the members of the League Housing and Transportation committee that I chair who collaborated on the League letter.

The petition was circulated by Housing Choices TO THEIR MORE THAN 400 PALO ALTO FAMILIES with a developmentally disabled member, some of whom spoke--all Palo Alto residents.

The petition was also circulated by Palo Alto Forward and nearly ALL of the signers live in Palo Alto.

The people who told their personal stories and read letters from others live in Palo Alto.

There were 3 or 4 staff members or former leaders of affordable housing organizations who brought their technical expertise and experience to the commissioners. I think 2 or 3 of the 4 live in Palo Alto.

Those voices of our residents speak to the human and social justice side and challenges of low-income and special needs families struggling with our stubborn refusal to open our hearts to them

ON OUR CITIES ANNOUNCED HIGHEST HOUSING PRIORITY.

Finally, most of the people who spoke have no affiliation with Palo Alto Forward. They are indeed stakeholders voicing three different perspectives in favor of making it easier to achieve our number one housing priority.

I am part of all three voices--serving on the board of the League and Palo Alto Forward for which this is a human and social justice priority and having raised a developmentally disabled daughter.

As far as any particular project, there will be plenty of time for residents to discuss it if a project ever comes before council.


56 people like this
Posted by Ventura Proud
a resident of Ventura
on Mar 15, 2018 at 3:44 pm

@Cici, agree, it is impressive how excited some people are to say "Yes!" to building large projects in other people's neighborhoods. It is very easy to skip over things like parking, setbacks, height, traffic, and design when it is someone else's backyard. "This is a great project - for *you*."

From the PTC web site and online white pages - Alcheck - Duveneck/St. Francis; Monk - University South; Rigg - Fairmeadow (I believe). Hey, come over to Ventura sometime and we can show you around!


18 people like this
Posted by Gale Johnson
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Mar 15, 2018 at 3:55 pm

Gale Johnson is a registered user.

@Oh no

'Rosenblum from PAF doesn’t talk about BMR but only affordable housing - which is undefinable and includes market rate housing which by definition is unaffordable. Beware of the term “affordable” housing.'

Thanks for picking up on that oft misused and abused term. People confuse it with BMR rates that loosely tie into the lower 3 or 4 income levels of ABAG's housing mandate. One of the recently proposed projects does have a few BMR units, just enough for the project to be approved, but then the rest of the unit rentals will start at rates based on 120% of the median incomes of the area, or above. So much for making any serious inroads on BMR housing. I'm guessing it would take 6 big projects to yield 100 BMR units. And how long would it take to get those 6 projects through the approval process in PA? My obituary will be ancient history by the time that happens I'm sure.

But, 'affordable housing'? No problem! If vacancy rates are down around 5-7%, normal considering transitions, then obviously housing is pretty much affordable...by somebody! And I think I know who those somebodies are! And it's not my gardener, or wonderful employees I know by first names in grocery stores, restaurants, and at 'Great Clips'. Nor our teachers, police officers, and firefighters.

Politics plays a big part in this. Every candidate running for office will speak out in favor of 'affordable housing'. That's a given and a winner! And, although I am still opposed to the ADU ordinance and the Ross Rd Bicycle Boulevard project, you know what?...CC members and those running for re-election might brush those off as 'don't care' situations. Sad, but true! We, who love to vent online, could easily be ignored, because there are so few of us. It's our daily pleasure/routine/habit, and it's kinda fun, but it generally doesn't get much attention outside of the online regulars...often just 3 or 4 people going at it and throwing spears at each other.

Our city staff, commission members, and CC, know that! This year's CC candidates will rely on big contributions from developers, and their friends and neighbors, to fund campaigns to get them elected or re-elected. Those print ads with endorsements, and 'stick in the ground' signs on front yards and corners everywhere, are what win elections. Sad, but true! Name recognition is so important, even if it is a name of someone who didn't serve our community well before.



35 people like this
Posted by imo
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Mar 15, 2018 at 4:04 pm

'Parking spaces are too expensive to provide, therefore we shouldn't be required to have them' is not a good argument. The developers' inability to finance parking does not affect the residents' need to drive a car. Lady who needs to go to work every morning doesn't care about the complex dynamics of BMR funding grants, she just needs a place to put her vehicle. Not providing on-site parking does not suddenly make it feasible for everyone to live their lives according to the Route 22 bus schedule. If there is a study by the developer that shows x amount of parking is adequate, then it is long past time to make that study public.

Higher density should go hand in hand with more open space, not less. When you cram people into smaller units they need more common area open space to do things they can no longer do in their homes. Previously they could do activities in their living room, now their refrigerator and their bed are in their living room. City staff have the open space/density relationship backwards.

A 50ft transition zone is ridiculous. Far too small, it is hardly a transition zone at all. The report reads as though a developer could acquire a 100ft deep lot that backs up to a row of single family homes, and then could build a 4 story building on the front half of the property, with a driveway and some parking spaces on the back 50ft. That driveway area is the "transition zone" that's going to prevent the neighbors from noticing the 4-story building peering into their backyard. Transition zones and height limits should not be changed for a BMR housing zone because the neighbors' need for privacy does not diminish if a building is BMR rather than MR. Multifamily housing is just as deserving of proper transition zones, RM 30 includes duplexes on tiny lots and small 4-unit apartment buildings.


31 people like this
Posted by Curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on Mar 15, 2018 at 4:10 pm

"Residentialism was repudiated by residents in the last election, with the three top vote-getters instead running on a pro-housing policy."

Go back and read their propaganda again. It looks a lot like Residentialism. Enough like Residentialism to get them elected.


27 people like this
Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Mar 15, 2018 at 4:24 pm

Online Name is a registered user.

@Stephen Levy,

"The petition was circulated by Housing Choices TO THEIR MORE THAN 400 PALO ALTO FAMILIES with a developmentally disabled member, some of whom spoke--all Palo Alto residents."

Again with the disabled families?? If you're really concerned about the disabled, then why didn't the PA ADU regulations allow people putting up ADUs to charge less or even provide free rents to the disabled and granny since that's how the ADUs were pitched? Why didn't they come out with some type of rent limitations since the ADUs were supposed to help those who couldn't afford regular rents? Why aren't big landlords directed to house all of the disabled at BNR?

Several of us grilled several responsive CC members about the ADU details as approval was being RUSHED through. We mostly got answers like "Good question; we should check" or "We don't know."

The devil's in the details and some people to pay attention.


26 people like this
Posted by Annette
a resident of College Terrace
on Mar 15, 2018 at 4:25 pm

Annette is a registered user.

Eric Rosenblum wrote: "Somehow, there seems to be a false tension between "quality of life" (which, in Palo Alto, seems to largely be defined as "plentiful parking spaces") vs. the social justice goal of affordable housing."

That's an unfair definition of what quality of life means here and he is too smart to have written that accidentally. I think the "S" is PASZ should be changed from Sensible to Sustainable as that more clearly speaks to what is needed. Affordable housing, below market housing, sufficient parking, retention of open space, resolution of transportation and circulation issues, community-serving services and retail, etc are all part of the sustainability conundrum. I am not aligned with PAF or PASZ and most of the people I know are not, either. But we care about our community just as much as those who have joined one group or the other. And we care about quality of life here. And we define it broadly and humanely. It's vexing to hear advocates of aggressive housing speak as though they are the only ones who are enlightened or the only ones who care. No one I know is trying to pull up any drawbridge. And no one I know is unsympathetic about the housing problems and the genuine angst that the housing shortage visits on friends and neighbors and colleagues and families in a variety of ways. But there are some realities that cannot be wished away or overlooked. For one, it is unrealistic to pursue a housing policy that will result in Palo Alto housing for any and all. The land doesn't exist. Even if it did or if we built numerous high rise buildings, there are geographical limitations that are obstacles to resolving the transportation issues. Unfortunately, we need to make headway on some fundamentals BEFORE we can further densify this area. We put ourselves in deficit mode and damaged our diversity in the process. Now we have to craft realistic, sustainable approaches to reverse that damage. This will take time and that demands patience. If we ignore the existing pressure points and build at the rate some are suggesting, we are going to find ourselves in an even bigger mess.


14 people like this
Posted by Curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on Mar 15, 2018 at 4:32 pm

"It looks like Palo Alto is short .18, which, I take it, means that we probably need around 10,000 units to get in balance."

Basically, almost everybody is short pef the referenced website's reckoning Web Link. It leads me to question the data analysis, with an eye to built in confirmation bias.

Palo Alto has an easy solution, though: just de-annex the Stanford Industrial Park. What does it bring to our city other than an endless supply of headaches?


4 people like this
Posted by stephen levy
a resident of University South
on Mar 15, 2018 at 4:57 pm

stephen levy is a registered user.

Gale Johnson,

The ordinance being discussed applies ONLY to projects where 100% of the units are BMR.

Take a look at the ordinance. Eric did not have to say the word BMR because ALL units being discussed were BMR.

For others

ADUs can be rented at the will of the owner and they can charge no rent if they wish. Moreover, many if not most ADUs are for family reasons.

If you want to put limitations on landowners why not require homeowners to sell their property for half of what it is worth. It is easy to demonize others. Why would you want to put rent limitations on ADUs when we are trying to encourage them and if they rent, it may be their only source of additional income.


13 people like this
Posted by Eric Filseth
a resident of Downtown North
on Mar 15, 2018 at 6:01 pm

I am one of the council who voted for Staff to define an Affordable Housing combining district. We ought to have some socioeconomic diversity in town.

There are Palo Altans who feel we’re full, and need no new housing whatsoever; there are others for whom any housing project is good, no matter what. In fact, I believe a majority of us are somewhere on the spectrum between those end points. If the PTC felt the Staff proposal had not yet reached “minimum viable product” status -- which to me is plausible, because I suspect there’s some devil in the details of this -- then it seems to me they would have only three options:

1. Recommend a citywide Ordinance they felt isn’t ready, and proceed with Wilton Court under it

2. Effectively suspend the Wilton Court effort until a citywide Ordinance actually is ready

3. Proceed with Wilton Court now under a PC or Development Agreement (and possibly amend later to comply with a future Ordinance)

None of these is ideal, and different people will choose differently between them. Without endorsing any particular direction here, the PTC recommendation strikes me as a legitimate response to an impossibly constrained problem; and some of the passion directed their way in these postings is unmerited.


14 people like this
Posted by Gale Johnson
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Mar 15, 2018 at 6:19 pm

Gale Johnson is a registered user.

@stephen levy
I predict there will never be a 100% BMR development built in my lifetime, so why are they even spending so much time talking about it? Eric should never use the word 'affordable' again. And he should say 'BMR...BMR' loud and clearly, and then explain what that means to him.

Now, re ADU's, since you seem to be so knowledgable on the subject..how many of those built last year or approved to be built this year were for the purposes you described? Family members...grannies? , et al, for no rent? Numbers, please. And also give their locations! Did any of our CC members have one built to help solve our housing 'crisis'? Or any of their neighbor's in their backyards. Or anyone living within three blocks of them. Or do they even know anyone personally who had one built? I have so many people in my life who offer advice, for me, but never willing to listen to my good advice for them!


13 people like this
Posted by Gale Johnson
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Mar 15, 2018 at 6:27 pm

Gale Johnson is a registered user.

Thanks Eric Filseth. One sound thinker on CC. I took a chance and voted for you. Keep up the good work.


37 people like this
Posted by CeCi Kettendorf
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Mar 15, 2018 at 6:50 pm

@ Steve Levy:

I stand by what I said. I will give it to you that the petition(s) were gathered by more than PAF. However, With that exception, I stand by what I said:

1) I didn't see any signatures at all. I saw names, not signatures, projected on the wall of city chamber. Were there actual dated signatures and addresses of the 225 people whom you say support you there that night? Why didn't you project those on the wall? I would have liked to see a signer's John Hancock, his local address and the written statement to which he put his name, to have confidence in the validity of your efforts. Adding 225 names to a packet means nothing; many a ridiculous petition has been presented at Palo Alto City Hall. I have no doubt that most of those you named support your cause; I just wanted to see the real thing to see if it is the real thing.

2) Mr. Levy, by your own admission, the addresses of those you named will be telling. As you said, "....nearly all the signers live in Palo Alto..." You mean you DID collect signatures from people who do NOT live in Palo Alto?! How many and why? That petition should be above reproach, having been submitted by professionals into the public record. Can my shady brothers in Ohio add their names to help you increase your numbers? Why should I give your petition credence, now that I know you do not vet your signatures? Will you ask City Hall to remove names?
To point: Why should the residents of Ventura care at all what your signatories want, be the latter legitimate or not? The Ventura Neighborhood cares about the quality of life for their families, in their neighborhood. They care not for outsiders'opinions, nor should they.

3) As you yourself wrote, "There were 3 or 4 staff members or former leaders of affordable housing organizations who brought their technical expertise and experience to the commissioners. I think 2 or 3 of the 4 live in Palo Alto."
My goodness! I hope the names of the 2 or 3 who do not live here are not on the petition, as they are no longer stakeholders in Palo Alto. They spoke as outsiders to our city and city government. They should have stated their addresses, in way of full disclosure.

The commission and council should invite stakeholders to speak first in the evening, so what happened Monday, and at many other meetings is never repeated.
The four Ventura residents, inexperienced but sincere, spoke from their heart but WERE NOT HEARD. Their concerns were lost amidst the long and relentless presentation by your group, Mr. Levy. You made sure they were voiceless by overwhelming the night.


20 people like this
Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Mar 15, 2018 at 6:52 pm

Online Name is a registered user.

Eric, you were one of the CC members who took the time to respond to the questions that several of us posed about the ADUs, particularly the ability to charge varying or no rents to different tenants without being left open to discrimination charges.

Please clarify for Stephen Levy the regulations; I could dig out the my old emails but the answers would be more credible coming from you.


9 people like this
Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 15, 2018 at 8:34 pm

Posted by Curmudgeon, a resident of Downtown North

>> "It looks like Palo Alto is short .18, which, I take it, means that we probably need around 10,000 units to get in balance."

>> Basically, almost everybody is short pef the referenced website's reckoning Web Link. It leads me to question the data analysis, with an eye to built in confirmation bias.

I estimated that 10k number based on some other information, but, I see now that the estimate is actually right there in a subsequent chart: 6,381

>> Palo Alto has an easy solution, though: just de-annex the Stanford Industrial Park. What does it bring to our city other than an endless supply of headaches?

I see your point, but, I'm still up for 6,381 new housing units. All we have to do is convert 213 acres of offices to housing and we are done.


13 people like this
Posted by Curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on Mar 15, 2018 at 9:03 pm

"I see your point, but, I'm still up for 6,381 new housing units. All we have to do is convert 213 acres of offices to housing and we are done."

Or convert those monster industrial buildings in Stanford Industrial Park to housing. Bonus: they come with gonzo parking lots preinstalled.

We might both take our suggestions with a ten pound bag of rock salt but, you know, they are every bit as practical as anything I've seen offered seriously.


28 people like this
Posted by CeCi Kettendorf
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Mar 15, 2018 at 11:50 pm

@ Steve Levy:

I just reread your post to me in which you told me I "was flat wrong."
I now see that you did not read my initial post carefully. I had said that none of the 35 speakers Monday night promoting the project and none of the names on the petition promoting the project, lived in VENTURA; I did NOT say they did not live in Palo Alto, which you apparently mistook as my contention.

However, your response to me confirms that some of the signers and speakers indeed do NOT live in Palo Alto. Thank you for and clarifying!


22 people like this
Posted by Sunshine
a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 16, 2018 at 8:40 am

Once again the developers want to overbuild in Palo Alto by cramming too much high density housing with almost no parking into certain residential neighborhoods. When these developers decide to consider some of the large currently empty lots near where they live I will believe that they seriously want to help people find a place to live. However, the two long vacant lots on Waverly north of California ave I might believe them. These lots are large and have been vacant for many years, yet I see no mention of a proposed project for either one. Both lots would be ideal for BMR high density housing as they are large, there is an e panes of street parking nearby and both are currently covered in weeds as they have been for many years.
We need to mix in the BMR and affordable housing with residential housing in areas that have large lots so that Palo Alto does not over-develop some areas into ghettos. Please leave a few safe neighborhoods for middle income long term residents.
The currently favored housing proposals appear to be a form of block-busting--break up the current group of residents who have lived there for many years by pushing in over built projects to ruin the quality of life so that remaining owners will leave.
Where is Byron Sher when we really need him?


26 people like this
Posted by St Francis
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 16, 2018 at 8:59 am

Maybe a few folks could move in to Commissioner Alcheck carport....


34 people like this
Posted by CeCi Kettendorf
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Mar 16, 2018 at 9:37 am

@ Ventura Proud:

You need to organize in your neighborhood. Fight fire with fire.

If PAF can submit a petition against you, (albeit a petition collected independently by three groups and then presented as one, containing bogus "signatures" and out of towners' names,) then you need to present a Ventura Neighborhood petition. Collect the real signatures of neighborhood residents; have each person date it and attach their address. Do not pad it with the names of fourth cousins once removed and their skanky girlfriends. Make it pure and beyond reproach. Have a statement at the top of EACH page as to what they are committing their support. Get everyone to sign. Kids can sign too. After all, many a child of a speaker has been presented at city hall to spark sympathy. You have cute kids! Your kids signatures will be endearing too!

Organize a group to meet with the city. Make yard signs. Write a steady stream of letters to the paper describing the far reaching ramifications of this project on your compact neighborhood. Organize a neighborhood association if you do not have one. Elect a president and vice president and give them broad power to speak for you.
Once this project goes to city council, as conceived right now, it is a slam dunk. It will be too late for Ventura. The council will listen carefully and appear thoughtful, but then will rubber stamp what is put before them, as the majority are eager to build BMR; several council members are gungho to build anything anywhere.

DO IT, VENTURA! Do it for your family, your neighborhood, and every threatened neighborhood in Palo Alto.
THEY DON'T SEE THE LIGHT UNTIL THEY FEEL THE HEAT.


17 people like this
Posted by anon
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Mar 16, 2018 at 9:48 am

Ceci Kettendorf is right!!!! Go venturans!


27 people like this
Posted by Annette
a resident of College Terrace
on Mar 16, 2018 at 11:14 am

Annette is a registered user.

Today someone told me that there is PLENTY of housing available in Cleveland. Yep, Ohio. Is there some irrefutable reason why jobs have to be concentrated in areas that are already job and housing saturated? Why not create new meccas and share the wealth?


4 people like this
Posted by Gale Johnson
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Mar 16, 2018 at 11:14 am

Gale Johnson is a registered user.

A chicken in every pot...an ADU in every backyard! Let's get this housing crisis solved once and for all.


43 people like this
Posted by No to growth
a resident of Downtown North
on Mar 16, 2018 at 11:29 am

Yes, I hope that the Ventura neighborhood and all other neighborhoods in Palo Alto organize to fight more growth. Residents of this city and the Bay Area can see the obvious - this city and area are overcrowded and the growth needs to stop.

Greedy developers and government officials have been unwilling to stop the growth cycle that has caused massive over population of the area, income inequalities, gridlocked traffic, added to our lack of water and increased pollution levels.

How is it that places like Menlo Park can allow Facebook to build at the edge of the bay where they will be underwater in a few decades and then let them plan to bring in 30,000 people to an area with no good transportation to get there? It was obvious before they started building there that this development would drive out poorer residents in East Palo Alto and the North Fairoaks area of Redwood city. If Facebook had firebombed this area they would be considered evil, but somehow it is Ok to drive people out of their homes if it is for "Growth". And this is only one large example but it plays out the same for every small business that we don't have the room to support that is allowed to come here and overtax our failing support system.

All the growth needs to stop. Low income housing should meet all zoning requirements and in fact the zoning should be reduced to acknowledge the over development that has been taking place and the destruction it has caused.

If elected representatives at the local and state level really cared about residents they would not be making our quality of life worse, they would be passing laws to try to redistribute development to areas of the country that can handle it.

California has the worst quality of life, the most pollution, the poorest people and is facing growing water shortages and rising sea levels. We don't need bills passed to force us to build more housing for the fake "housing crisis" but rather need bills to stop companies from building in any area that can not support the new employees either with transportation, housing, schooling or open spaces. That would be a useful bill that would help current residents, not just the ones who want to come here.

Yes, all people in Palo Alto should sign petitions to stop growth and should elect anti-growth candidates or should run for office themselves to try to reverse this growth at any cost mentality that is destroying any quality of life here. It is hard but we need to start to write letter and complain in the paper and scream at city council meetings and call our representatives with our outrage about the over- building, overpopulation problems and destruction of our quality of life that we face.

Get involved now because the city has just stacked the deck of the Fry's site development with a bunch of pro-growthers who will try to put massive housing and development on that site. Tell them we want a large park that we are owed from the comprehensive plan that says that there is suppose to be an acre of park for every 1000 residents and we are already 40 acres short. Or they could build playing fields or gyms or another pool so that those of us who live here can actually have a nice area to go to that isn't overcrowded. This is one of the last large parcels and it should not be covered with more people.


2 people like this
Posted by @No to growth
a resident of another community
on Mar 16, 2018 at 12:27 pm

The generation after you needs housing, too. You can't just pull up the drawbridge and say we're full because you don't want to see tall buildings in your skyline. You're free to move to the rust belt if you want, but you can't just live in the center of one of the hottest economic areas in the world and push housing away.

There are multiple bills coming through at the state level that will remove your ability to obstruct this housing, so this problem is going to get fixed one way or another. We need homes too, and you can work with us to do it right, but we're not going to sit back and cram ourselves into single-family homes turned pseudo-apartments just because you don't want more housing built.


21 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 16, 2018 at 12:35 pm

Also, pay attention to the church that is having to become a community center because of all the activities. We need community center space for activities that provide quality of life recreation and well being. We have so many people packed into our town that the CC forget we need more than just places to work, to shop, to eat and to sleep. Living means quality of life, not just being in a dormitory.


24 people like this
Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Mar 16, 2018 at 12:44 pm

Online Name is a registered user.

"How is it that places like Menlo Park can allow Facebook to build at the edge of the bay where they will be underwater in a few decades and then let them plan to bring in 30,000 people to an area with no good transportation to get there?"
.
Because the same guy who chairs Palo Alto's TMA also chairs Imagine Menlo, a group founded to counter MP's voters' rejection of the aggressive growth policies we see in here PA? Their site used to say "business-funded" but I guess that wasn't cool once they started to gain traction.

Web Link

Bob McGrew first came to the Bay Area to go to Stanford in 1998, where he earned his B.S. and M.S in computer science. Bob left the Stanford PhD program to join Palantir Technologies in 2005 as an early engineer and led various aspects of product development at Palantir for ten years. After living in a number of cities on the Peninsula, he is proud to call Menlo Park home, and enjoys living in Vintage Oaks with his wife and two young children. He is excited about the possibilities for walkable downtown areas in Menlo Park.


12 people like this
Posted by signatures
a resident of College Terrace
on Mar 16, 2018 at 1:07 pm

PAF emailed all members asking them to sign an online petition (link conveniently provided). This is why they were unable to project actual signatures.


31 people like this
Posted by Annette
a resident of College Terrace
on Mar 16, 2018 at 2:12 pm

Annette is a registered user.

@No to growth - you write that "the generation after you" needs housing too and you reference all the bills that are pending in Sacramento.

Please opine on this: new "hot economic areas" can be developed. Creativity, synergy, and innovation are not limited to Silicon Valley and other such places. I am baffled by what looks to be intransigence on this (not by you, but in general).

Also, some of what you wrote lends new meaning to the phrase "hostile takeover". Both those who live here and those who want to live here have been shoved into this untenable, unhealthy dynamic by over-aggressive commercial growth and those who enable that growth by voting yes on proposed developments despite the housing shortage and all the other obvious problems.

If you want to be angry, direct it at the enablers. Our elected officials should have curbed their development enthusiasm long ago. They didn't and here we are. You say the problem is going to be solved one way or the other. Imagine that you are correct and substantially more housing is built here over the next 10 years. But 101 and 280 have not expanded. And HSR is not here. And CalTrain capacity does not match demand. And there's no new hospital. And maybe not enough schools. And community-serving employees are even harder to find. And there are fewer small businesses (including small medical and dental practices). And lower and middle class residents have given up and left (or been forced out). And diversity of all sorts is reduced. Then what?

Does it ever occur to you that the people who are saying WHOA might have good reasons for that? Additional housing is only one piece of this thorny puzzle and if we go about fixing that one problem by significantly growing our population, we prove ourselves to be fools.


18 people like this
Posted by ceci Kettendorf
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Mar 16, 2018 at 2:41 pm

@ signatures:

So they submitted the names of anyone in their internet universe, residents or not, redundant or not, real or not, verifiable or not. What integrity! Good form, Mr. Levy!

(When the eight stakeholders here in south PA were fighting the building of the cell tower, they held city council off for SIX YEARS by submitting bogus paper and electronic petitions signed by anyone and everyone. There were names on those petitions from Hong Kong and Europe; I kid you not. They even pasted a copy of MY signature into a petition, my signature being taken from a Verizon sign-in sheet from four years previous which, apparently,they had grabbed. It takes high moxie and low ethics. They repeatedly submitted hundreds of signatures over the years. A few of the "signers" I knew to be deceased, as I live around the corner. In fact, I am still not sure if we got that cell tower. I still am in a dead zone! Do they continue to hold it up in court?!)

Nancy Shepard, then mayor, told us that CC does indeed consider the number of names submitted in support of an issue, but does not look deeper into the legitimacy of the same. Perhaps Palo Alto should hold a higher standard as to what is presented by a group for submission into the permanent public record.

Hence, the latest "petition" from PAF. My goodness! I'd be fired for falsification of the record in my place of employment.

I'll have to look to see if my shady brothers in Ohio signed the petition, as they receive PAF correspondence for me.








13 people like this
Posted by Jason Moi
a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 16, 2018 at 2:49 pm

I've said it before and I'll say it again: Palo Alto needs LESS housing, not more housing. Quality of life has plummeted in Palo Alto with more traffic, more pollution, endless lines, ugly buildings. Sorry, but we do not need ANY more housing.


Like this comment
Posted by @Anette
a resident of another community
on Mar 16, 2018 at 2:58 pm

Has it occurred to you that we can build more schools and hospitals, and expand mass transit infrastructure? The only barriers to these is and has always been anti-growthers who don't want to see anything change. If we need to push for more bills at the state level to get around infrastructure instruction, then that's what will happen.


13 people like this
Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Mar 16, 2018 at 3:24 pm

Online Name is a registered user.

Hear, hear, Ceci! It's incredible how many ways PA justifies ignoring our concerns -- we don't show up in person at meetings so we don't count being among the most absurd. [Portion removed.] We have a current Mayor whose ethical investigation is STILL awaiting action and another who's off to serve ABAG.

We have transparent spin like "I've lived in PA for 30 years and I never ever heard about sustainability before" when we've had a Chief Sustainability Officer for 4 years and innumerable conservation programs, including providing "sustainable party packs" of plastic glasses!

Re "looking deeper," the shameful national pr circus repeatedly twisting former Mayor Burt's point that BIG companies were pushing out start-ups was echoed endlessly by current CC members and their commissioners. They even wasted time passing a resolution declaring PA "safe for technology companies."

Given all that brouhaha, maybe we should be consistent and declare the Fry's site an historical monument to Silicon Valley techie roots.


16 people like this
Posted by Annette
a resident of College Terrace
on Mar 16, 2018 at 3:31 pm

Annette is a registered user.

@Annette - of course that has occurred to me. And of course what you write is *possible*. Anti-growthers are an easy target for blame placing, some of which is deserved, no doubt. But there are other barriers including money, geography, and environmental restrictions.

That something is *possible* doesn't make it workable. Or smart. I think we should only add that which is sustainable. And that is not a static thing. Obviously, as transportation options improve and progress is made on infrastructure issues there will be gains in sustainability. But we are not there yet. I am, frankly, somewhat surprised that we aren't hearing more voices of concern from environmental groups. This is not just about housing, although I think that may be the problem with the most heart-wrenching facets.


16 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 16, 2018 at 3:34 pm

To the poster called @Annette

Where do you propose building a school and a hospital? Where does the money come from to build a school and a hospital?

Perhaps we should float these on barges in the Bay! Perhaps we should float a bond to pay for them!


2 people like this
Posted by We must overcome the self interested...
a resident of Ventura
on Mar 16, 2018 at 4:31 pm

Its affordable housing and I support it. And I would write this using my real name but honestly, it would do me more harm than good, which is saying a lot. I would be proud to neighbor any such development and I hate that our community associations representative suggested that other neighborhoods should "bear this burden."

Think through that sort of statement... Imagine how difficult it would be for the individual who is actually bearing the burden of the housing crisis to hear someone who owns a home in Palo Alto say that they feel that living next to an affordable housing development is too burdensome for them.

At any rate, I would be proud to welcome an affordable housing development in Ventura. I hope the PTC reconsiders their position.


8 people like this
Posted by Bunchy
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Mar 16, 2018 at 5:43 pm

"Quality of life" = I got lucky and won the housing appreciation lottery, and I don't care about anyone else, including my children, who won't be able to afford to live here.

You guys are a piece of work. Just admit your selfishness and keeping that housing appreciation going. What's galling is this whitewashing of your self-interest cloaked in grandiose terms is really gross.

If you really want to preserve a "way of life," who gets to choose how far back we turn the clock? How about 1775 where we just mow down all the houses and let the Ohlone take their land back?


20 people like this
Posted by munchy
a resident of Mountain View
on Mar 16, 2018 at 5:50 pm

@bunchy, well it's all a matter of perspective now, isn't it? Calling people selfish because they want to keep something the way they bought and paid for it. That's selfish? How isn't your view the selfish one, wanting to change things and make it the way YOU want it?

It's fascinating how this new wave of people coming in point fingers and call everyone selfish. And I can say this as an outsider, someone who was NEVER able to afford to live in Palo Alto, someone who watches....much as I'd love to live there I don't call Palo Altans selfish because they don't help me afford it. It's just not in my cards but I'm not angry about it.

Wow, just wow.


21 people like this
Posted by CeCi Kettendorf
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Mar 16, 2018 at 6:03 pm

@ We must overcome the self interested.......

Who said not to build in your neighborhood? Your neighborhood representatives most certainly did not.
The discussion has been about parking or lack thereof. The discussion has been about height and set back that it tolerable for your neighborhood.
The anger has not come from Ventura at all. Who from Ventura has posted in anger? NOT A SOUL!

The anger has come from the greater community because your neighborhood's concerns have been subjugated to PAF's clamor, which happens again and again at city hall. The frustration within the greater community is that reasonable concerns arising from the only true stakeholders, the Ventura neighborhood, are not even on the table for discussion by the PC.

If you had heard Becky Saunders speak at city chambers, you, as a member of the Ventura neighborhood, would be proud. She was the portrait of tact and composure, an admirable advocate.

She spoke quietly about SUPPORTING THE BUILDING OF THE BMR PROJECT IN VENTURA. She spoke in SUPPORT OF A DIVERSE NEIGHBORHOOD. SHE WELCOMED THE FUTURE TENANTS!
She asked with grace and dignity and trembling voice that traffic safety and parking be adequately addressed. She spoke for the children of your neighborhood. She choked with emotion. The room was at least silent for that brief moment, recognizing the emotion of the moment.
The other three speakers from Ventura also spoke kindly, asking for consideration of parking and traffic concerns.

Unfortunately, they were all four called to speak late in the evening, after PAF had made repeated, long winded, redundant presentations. The commissioners were glassy eyed at that point; although two of the commissioners briefly alluded to the neighborhood concerns, the ensuing discussion among them quickly moved on.
The Ventura Neighborhood WAS NOT HEARD. The city's contempt for Ventura is an insult to all of us who expect the respect of being heard by city hall.

I don't believe you are from Ventura. This is the first time you have posted. I think you are a poser. I think you are a charlatan. I think you are a fake. I think you are PAF.
Be braver. Use your real name. I will apologize publicly if I am mistaken.


16 people like this
Posted by Eric Filseth
a resident of Downtown North
on Mar 16, 2018 at 6:56 pm

@Online Name: thank you! but I think most of the advocacy groups understand the ADU regulations pretty well.

The thing I liked about ADU’s was that because of the resident-landlord provision, I believe a significant share of them really will get rented out to family members, caregivers and others at sub-market rates; as opposed to new developments which typically just go at the market-clearing rate, which is beyond the reach of many people we’d like to have here.

The housing crunch is basically a byproduct of the Bay Area tech industry -- which includes several of the world’s most valuable corporations and $30B/yr in new venture investment, much of which goes straight into local employee wages -- creating high paying jobs so vastly fast that communities simply cannot keep up. Those who blame the problem on local zoning haven’t looked at the real magnitude of the gap. When 500 square feet can provide work space for 4-5 employees but living space for only one, then as long as there’s jobs demand the economics of housing are going to be extremely challenging under any zoning. If the housing crunch is a social cost, then we’re allowing the beneficiaries of the tech boom to socialize much more of its costs than most people understand. It’s unfortunate that skirmishes over local zoning distract from this core problem, because until we systematically better link the boom’s costs to its revenues -- basically, if you’re going to add 10,000 jobs somewhere, you need to be funding much more of the housing and infrastructure to support them -- we will not have a scalable framework for housing and transportation, and our woes there will continue to worsen.

The symptom is what we all see: new high-wage workers continuing to displace moderate and low earners into smaller and smaller spaces, and farther and farther away. It’s beyond the ability of any small city to recalibrate the engine of Silicon Valley, though maybe Google and San Jose can do it. But we can treat our local symptom, with policies that encourage higher proportions of “missing middle” and other BMR housing.


6 people like this
Posted by @munchy
a resident of another community
on Mar 16, 2018 at 7:00 pm

"Calling people selfish because they want to keep something the way they bought and paid for it."

You bought a house, not a city. No one is suggesting that your house be demolished and taken from you, but asking you to stop trying to prevent others from building high density housing on their property that they paid for.


2 people like this
Posted by Bunchy
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Mar 16, 2018 at 7:17 pm

This is so funny. The truth hurts, doesn't it?

@munchy is right: "You bought a house, not a city. "

If you don't want the neighborhood to change, you're free to spend your own money to buy up your entire area if it's that important to you.


22 people like this
Posted by Annette
a resident of College Terrace
on Mar 16, 2018 at 7:29 pm

Annette is a registered user.

@Eric Filseth - I was the first person to *like* your comment b/c you acknowledge the problem and the cause. What you posted is the sort of reasoning and information sharing that we heard from you when you were running for Council. Is it a stretch to conclude that this mean you will run again?

What's critical now is that we do as you state and "treat our local symptom, with policies that encourage higher proportions of “missing middle” and other BMR housing". To that I would add: AND STOP ADDING TO THE JOBS SIDE OF THE EQUATION. We have done that and over-done that, and then over-done the over-done. Council is where the critical votes happened.

I think PA should also have a formula that acknowledges tech occupancy for what it is per square foot so that parking requirements are at least closer to what is likely. Council and Staff can talk all they want about car light and transit districts but until that translates into measurable relief for residents and commuters, such talk should not result in reduced parking requirements. Because it is just talk. And cars cannot park in non-existent spaces. Even a Tesla cannot do that.


28 people like this
Posted by mauricio
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Mar 17, 2018 at 1:07 pm

mauricio is a registered user.

There are at least 10 million people at any given moment who would like nothing mote than to live in Palo Alto. According to the radical urbanists, existing home owners and the town's politicians should just make enough housing available to them, because "they bought a house, not a city".

Radical urbanism has crossed the line of the absurd into full blown insanity.


16 people like this
Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Mar 17, 2018 at 1:13 pm

Online Name is a registered user.

And how does our drought logically square with their latest push to fund yet another "sustainability" bureaucracy? To add a huge number of residents and workers at Stanford?


6 people like this
Posted by Me 2
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Mar 17, 2018 at 2:55 pm

"Radical NIMBYism has crossed the line of the absurd into full blown insanity."

There. Fixed it for you.


16 people like this
Posted by Please Remove Alcheck
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Mar 17, 2018 at 3:32 pm

Please get Alcheck out of there. Good job by Hilary Gitelman the planning director ignoring his pleas for support, which of course he'd take from any quarter he might find it. He is the embodiment of "us vs. them" approach to planning, and we would be much better off without his service on the PTC.


31 people like this
Posted by N
a resident of Ventura
on Mar 17, 2018 at 4:04 pm

Wilton Ave resident here with some important points to make:

1) I and many of my neighbors support more housing. See the project at the Compadres site a block away, that got no grumblings from my neighborhood that I heard. That project followed the zoning code, with only one minor design exception for the underground basement to be 6 feet from the property line instead of 10. In other words, the developer followed the zoning code (law), and is building 17 units of housing along with some retail. This is great! More housing, neighbors, more retail, in proportion to the neighborhood and following the law. Good.

2) @munchy, you say "prevent[ing] others from building high density housing on their property that they paid for". Well, the developers in this case (PHC at Wilton Court) are asking to break the current laws! The same laws that prevent me from building a 50 foot, 60 unit, 30 parking space building on my land, prevents them from doing the same. I'm sure I could make a ton of money building an apartment building in the middle of Wilton Ave if I could ignore the law, but I have zero expectations that I'll be able to do so. It's part of the legal, and social contract to living in a city with other people. When you purchase a property, one of the first lines of data on the property sheet from realtors is the zoning code (e.g. R-1, R-30). The developers here speculatively purchased a plot of land, hoping to lobby city hall to massively over-build for the sake of profit.

3) Parking & Transit. The housing ordinance proposed an overlay within 0.5 miles of "quality transit". Wilton Court is a full mile from Caltrain. The VTA busses are slow, don't go to most employers, and are barely used. I can't imagine a building with 60 residential units plus retail being able to meet its parking needs with 30 parking spaces total, as the PHC proposed. As others have mentioned, even if the residents only have 30 vehicles, they will have guests, service providers, and the retail space will have employees and visitors.

As a resident of this street, I support building housing. I simply ask that it (a) meet the zoning laws our community has established, possibly with reasonable extensions to code and (b) provide enough parking to not spillover a burden on neighbors.

Best to all, N


2 people like this
Posted by Me 2
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Mar 17, 2018 at 7:00 pm

Well, N, you certainly use colorful language. They aren't breaking any "laws" - they are going through what is basically a variance process, and going to this committee is part of the process. The "laws" dictate that.

By the way, it appears from zoning maps that the block is zoned for either CN or R-30.

" The developers here speculatively purchased a plot of land, hoping to lobby city hall to massively over-build for the sake of profit."

You mean, Palo Alto Housing? The *non-profit*?

"As a resident of this street, I support building housing."

Is that like saying some of my best friends are African-American?

Just to be clear - I think this is a bad idea. We need regular housing in general. The more you start messing with BMRs, the more you distort the market even more. BMRs = Bad.


39 people like this
Posted by N
a resident of Ventura
on Mar 17, 2018 at 8:51 pm

Following up with some factual information from the Palo Alto Municipal Code zoning regulations.

1. Here is the link to the zoning map for this area: Web Link , and here is the specific parcel report: Web Link .

2. The parcel in question, 3705 El Camino, is clearly zoned CN. CN is short for "Neighborhood Commercial" and from the zoning code: "is intended to create and maintain neighborhood shopping areas" ... "under regulations that will assure maximum compatibility with surrounding residential areas".

3. The parcel is 12483 square feet according to the parcel report, or .287 acres.

4. Palo Alto Municipal Code , Sec 18.13.010 (b) states: "Permitted densities in the RM-30 residence district range from sixteen to thirty dwelling units per acre". Assuming this parcel were re-zoned to RM-30, applying the maximum permitted density of 30 units/acre and rounding UP, yields 5 dwellings.

5. Palo Alto Municipal Code, Sec 18.52.040 Table 1 states that multi-family residential must have parking spaces of "1.25 per studio unit 1.5 per 1 -bedroom unit 2 per 2-bedroom or larger unit." There are additional requirements for retail as well.

In conclusion:
* The current proposal of 60 units exceeds the maximum allowed by code for RM-30 by 12 times!
* The current proposal of 30 parking spaces for 60 units under-parks this structure by 2.5X for the residential component alone!


2 people like this
Posted by george drysdale
a resident of Professorville
on Mar 18, 2018 at 11:55 am

Supply and demand. That is our lord. If people want to live in high rise beehive conditions that's actually more productive and good for the economy and ecology. Government can't function beyond the next election in California. All the affordable housing types can now take care of are the emergency cases. No money for more. The days of the middle class subsidies are disappearing. Supply and demand: Poorer country workers want your job and will work for less. Medical science has made great gains however.
George Drysdale of econ 101


Like this comment
Posted by Me 2
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Mar 18, 2018 at 1:46 pm

N,

And guess what, the variance process they're undergoing is completely legal. Need to get off your "breaking the law" narrative straw man.

If you don't want the property to be developed ever, then just go buy the property from Palo Alto Housing.


7 people like this
Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 18, 2018 at 8:07 pm

Posted by Me 2, a resident of Old Palo Alto

>> If you don't want the property to be developed ever, then just go buy the property from Palo Alto Housing.

And while you are at it, "Let them eat cake."

I think the parking impact on Wilton is unfair to the neighbors of this project. I think new developments should have adequate parking as part of the development.

Unlike some who post here, I'm not against "density" per se. I think 30 units/acre is a great compromise. You can develop separate-unit, non-stacked, row houses with parking at 30 units/acre, and, it is dense enough to support serious transit (e.g. light rail as opposed to the 22 bus). Once an area is built out, though, it isn't easy to retrofit. There aren't any suitable 200-300 acre sites around any more.


17 people like this
Posted by CeCi Kettendorf
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Mar 19, 2018 at 6:17 pm

Thank you to "N" from Ventura for posting the CODE governing the building of property at the Ventura site. Your research illustrates the extent to which this project varies from the zoning, and therefore the extent to which the variance is needed. It is colossal.

My guess is that Ventura has not heretofore had an active neighborhood association, perhaps never having felt the need before now. The plans were developed and submitted without neighborhood review, true?
This was such a huge project; shouldn't the neighbors have been invited to the table from the initial planning? Would there not be less frustration now ?


5 people like this
Posted by Stephen
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 20, 2018 at 1:22 am

N: Thanks for the information. I would have supposed that variances are intended to reflect smaller deviations from zoning laws, not 5x number of units and 2.5x under-parked.


Like this comment
Posted by Me 2
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Mar 20, 2018 at 9:11 am

"I think the parking impact on Wilton is unfair to the neighbors of this project. I think new developments should have adequate parking as part of the development. "

Um, ownership of a lot in Palo Alto does not extend to the street. Never has and never will.

In fact, you would be surprised to find how much of your perceived frontage on your lot that the city actually owns and not you.

If parking is so important, that's what garages are for.


12 people like this
Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 20, 2018 at 11:13 am

Posted by Me 2, a resident of Old Palo Alto

>> Um, ownership of a lot in Palo Alto does not extend to the street. Never has and never will.

Agreed!

>> In fact, you would be surprised to find how much of your perceived frontage on your lot that the city actually owns and not you.

No I wouldn't. I happen to know exactly where the line is. Not that it is relevant to this discussion.

>> If parking is so important, that's what garages are for.

It is that pesky level playing field again. If I'm supposed to park on my property, and, if the folks on the 300-400 block of Wilton are supposed to park on their property, why is it suddenly OK if the -new- development at the corner doesn't have to supply parking for their residents? As I said, that seems -unfair-.


Like this comment
Posted by Me 2
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Mar 20, 2018 at 1:32 pm

" If I'm supposed to park on my property, and, if the folks on the 300-400 block of Wilton are supposed to park on their property,"

Or maybe this is supposed to be a transit-oriented development with fewer cars. Like they said it was.


9 people like this
Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 20, 2018 at 3:55 pm

Posted by Me 2, a resident of Old Palo Alto

>> Or maybe this is supposed to be a transit-oriented development with fewer cars. Like they said it was.

I'm sorry. But, being on the 22 bus line does not make something "transit-oriented".

Web Link

It would have had some credibility in that regard if the proposal was within 1/2 mile / 10 minute walk to a Caltrain station (e.g. Cal Ave.)


1 person likes this
Posted by Me 2
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Mar 20, 2018 at 4:20 pm

"I'm sorry. But, being on the 22 bus line does not make something 'transit-oriented'"

People ride bikes further to get to Caltrain stations.

You want good Caltrain and VTA service? This is what needs to happen. Without density, VTA will continue to neglect Palo Alto and Caltrain will remain a puny percentage of commuters.

Good mass transit requires mass. Funny how you keep forgetting that.


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

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