News

Kniss makes a case for housing in 'State of the City'

Mayor says lack of housing threatens Palo Alto's diversity

Palo Alto's housing crisis is threatening the city's diversity and making it nearly impossible for the next generation of residents to stay here, Mayor Liz Kniss told the crowd assembled Wednesday for her "State of the City" speech.

Kniss, a three-time mayor and one of the council's most strident housing advocates, made housing the focus of the annual speech in front nearly 100 people and suggested that the city should act like a "social entrepreneur" and come up with creative ways for build more housing.

An example of such creative thinking wasn't hard to find. Kniss chose as her venue for the speech the Oshman Family Jewish Community Center, whose campus in south Palo Alto includes the Moldaw Residences, a 193-apartment complex for seniors. In his remarks introducing Kniss, Zack Bodner, CEO of the Palo Alto JCC, said the development wouldn't have existed without Kniss, who as a Santa Clara County supervisor helped connect the JCC to the affordable-housing developer BRIDGE Housing.

In a speech that was heavy on anecdotes, audience shout-outs and personal reflections and light on policy details or new proposals, Kniss made a case for expanding the city's housing stock by recalling the days when she arrived in Palo Alto, in search for connections with neighbors, good schools for her children and a "sense of belonging." Many people came here during the 1950s and 1960s in pursuit of a "special quality of life" and some still live on the same block, she said.

Today's housing crisis is making it impossible for most people today to have that experience, she said. The reason to build more housing isn't necessarily to "make room for more" by bringing in people from other parts of the nation. It's about supporting the needs of the residents who would make up Palo Alto in the future.

"We're talking about the next generation who want to move into a home, have a family with kids who attend our local schools and graduate from those schools and contribute to sustaining the quality of life in Palo Alto."

Even many longtime residents are worried that they may not be able to retire in the community because of the extremely limited availability of affordable housing for seniors, she said.

Kniss' speech stood apart from most prior "State of the City" addresses thanks to its conversational tone -- with frequent off-script diversions and recognitions of audience members -- as well as its singular ocus on a particular topic and the date of its delivery. Mayors normally present it early in the year. Kniss said she wanted to wait until the council had actually accomplished something.

Earlier this month, the council voted to create the "Affordable Housing Overlay District," a zoning designation that loosens requirements for developments of 100 percent below-market-rate housing. For housing advocates, the council's vote was a rare bit of good news after years of anemic housing production. Kniss noted that the city hasn't approved an affordable housing development in Palo Alto in almost a decade (the council's last approval came in 2009, when it supported a below-market-rate development at 801 Alma St.).

The city, Kniss said, needs to do much better.

"Absent that, we cannot expect our community to maintain its diversity, which I think we all agree is of great importance," Kniss said.

The new combining district is expected to accommodate at least one housing development: a roughly 60-apartment affordable-housing complex that the nonprofit Palo Alto Housing is looking to build on El Camino Real, near Wilton Avenue. Kniss said she hopes the new district will "clear the path, and we'll have at least another (development) to vote on this year." Absent that, the community will not be able to retain its diversity, she said.

"We need and should build more homes, but not necessarily in the official category of 'income restricted' or 'affordable,'" Kniss said. "We need various sizes and types of units so that more people in a range of incomes can be part of a vibrant Palo Alto."

Kniss also cited the city's reputation for startups and tech entrepreneurs and argued that the council should function like a "social entrepreneur" in tackling the housing crisis.

This means looking "beyond the stereotypes of who we think lives in affordable housing and realize it serves those people we already know." It also means engaging and involving residents who are committed to identifying solutions, Kniss said.

"And we need to have the kind of vigilance and enthusiasm that tech entrepreneurs do," Kniss said.

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Comments

108 people like this
Posted by Honestly, the Problem is Dishonesty
a resident of Crescent Park
on Apr 19, 2018 at 3:50 am

Kniss claims that adding housing isn't to "make room for more." So is it just to give bigger or second homes to people already here?

Come on. Bay Area high tech firms are in a hiring frenzy and new recruits keep piling in, showing up even at council meetings to demand we build special housing just for them.

Meanwhile, their companies back ultra-pro-growth measures like SB 827, which would have destroyed whole neighborhoods and communities.

If these politicians truly want new ideas, how about this. Admit the housing problem stems from allowing unfettered commercial growth so developers could gain more profits than by building housing.

Stop looking the other way when companies pack more and more workers in without supplying housing and parking.

And stop pretending our Council passed an "affordable" housing measure, when it instead allows developers to charge above market-rate rents like $3,000 for a small two-bedroom.

The lack of honesty is the true problem and things will keep getting worse until we solve that.


20 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of University South
on Apr 19, 2018 at 7:56 am

Mayor Kniss - thank you for speaking up for those who need help! Palo Alto should be proud to have a woman like you as its mayor.


40 people like this
Posted by Resident2
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 19, 2018 at 8:08 am

If Kniss is so concerned, will she make an enforceable pledge that balancing the jobs-housing equation will mean any new housing displaces office park space instead of being aimed at destroying all neighborhoods that aren’t hers?

If the City wants creative solutions, they should consider purchasing all the retail areas, so that they costs of those areas remain fixed forever, the way they do for the school district, or the way Stanford housing does for Stanford. This is how Stanford can attract faculty and how the school district can afford to have schools - the property is owned by the organization,

In the Stanford case, the housing remains cheaper because the employees can buy the homes but Stanford owns the property and basically leases it to people for nothing. The City of Palo Alto should do this, because they can then require anyone who gets a business location to pay better, competitive wages to traditionally low-wage workers. Then the benefits will definitely go to people who work in Palo Alto, and those people can compete for housing rather than being forever kept in a lower class, and the over time, this situation will derive greater and greater benefit to the City without costing more.

There are only so many retail areas in Palo Alto. The Midtown center was recently purchase for like $15 million. This is eminintly doable with impact fees. Owning the retail areas (except the mall which Stanford owns) will allow Palo Alto to restore resident-serving retail again, especially on the southern side of town where residents now have to drive to get anything. It woukd also allow the City to more easily enforce its own zoning rules so that the Palantirs have to go find a place they can grow rather than unfettered taking over of downtown.


70 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 19, 2018 at 8:08 am

Quite ironic that she chose the JCC for her speech about housing.

Before that was opened it was promised that there would be bus routes, and other things developed for the residents. In the area, there is no additional facilities, no public transport or shuttles, no retail in walking distance (well in walking distance for seniors - the nearest Starbucks is quite a walk and Costco is not a place to buy groceries without a car), and when you pass the nearby offices there are signs saying no parking for JCC. This tells me that there is not enough parking on site.

If the JCC is supposed to be her idea of a walkable pack and stack housing with useful retail and public transport so the residents don't need to own a car, I would say it scores an F grade.

"They" can't build, build, build, without making additional infrastructure to serve the residents. People don't work and then hibernate in their tiny pack and stack homes. They need to be able to live also and losing amenities to create housing is only going to create more need to drive to shopping, leisure, recreation, personal services, in town. I don't see more amenities being planned whenever I hear about suggested housing developments.


83 people like this
Posted by mauricio
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Apr 19, 2018 at 8:31 am

mauricio is a registered user.

Kniss is the face of endless, unfettered commercial development tover decades that has created the job/housing imbalance and raised housing costs to astronomical levels. She was the politician who decades ago, more than any other local politician, pushed for massive commercial development, using the word "vibrancy" ad museum to justify it.

It is ironic that the leader and perpetrator of the job/housing imbalance is now whining about it. It is beyond irony.


79 people like this
Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on Apr 19, 2018 at 10:20 am

The mayor highlighted our extraordinary housing growth in the 50s as open fields and orchards were mowed down. Not much remains to mow down now other than our single-story tract homes. No credit is given as one-by-one these houses are replaced by two-story-plus-basement dwellings, with one-car garages to guarantee fully-parked curbsides every night of the year. When this transition is completed, I guess we'll need to start filling in all the sideyards and turn everything into one big apartment building. "Special quality of life."


48 people like this
Posted by Lapoissonne
a resident of Barron Park
on Apr 19, 2018 at 10:50 am

How about some form of rent control from greedy landlords or overseas buying gobbling up all the homes for cash under the disguise of investors and leaving them in ruin or empty?


34 people like this
Posted by midtown senior
a resident of Midtown
on Apr 19, 2018 at 11:17 am

midtown senior is a registered user.

And she did not mention the abomination being done to Ross Road?


43 people like this
Posted by Annette
a resident of College Terrace
on Apr 19, 2018 at 11:20 am

Annette is a registered user.

It's too bad for those of us who do live here as well as those who do not live here but want to that the mayor and others on the housing bandwagon didn't catch this fever BEFORE approving the numerous commercial developments that put this and other cities on tilt vis-à-vis the jobs:housing imbalance.

And it is telling that this story runs on the same day as the breaking news about the initiative effort brought forward by former Vice Mayor Schmid. I think residents will support smart growth and resist business as usual that can lead only to a worsening of existing problems.


48 people like this
Posted by JCP
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Apr 19, 2018 at 11:25 am

JCP is a registered user.

Mayor Kniss is an accomplished politician. She does all her moving and shaking outside of Council Chambers, where she can play the impartial, empathetic civil servant.

But her biases are blatantly obvious. No mention of Castilleja? She is such a big proponent of bicycling safety, one might think she would have said something by now about the proposed underground garage entrance on Bryant Bike Boulevard and emptying into the neighborhood.

Scharff at least pretended to make an effort to mediate the situation when he was mayor. Councilmember Holman made an attempt. But Castilleja is playing a zero sum game, and they have Kniss, Fine, and Tanaka in their pockets.

[Portion removed.]


67 people like this
Posted by Fairmeadow Dad
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Apr 19, 2018 at 11:31 am

so where is the end of the string on these conversations about housing people who want to live in Palo Alto because we have a great quality of life and great schools?

I suspect that many of us who made personal sacrifices (econ 101 theory of opportunity cost) to buy homes in Palo Alto don't understand why everyone in the entire Bay Area who wants to live in PA should simply be allowed to live in PA.

The infrastructure in PA is bursting at the seems (Alma Street, Middlefield, Oregon Expwy, Embarcadero...how about Lytton Ave too - they're all packed silly as it is...haven't even begun to mention Foothill Expwy either...oh, how about the traffic issues due to the at-grade train crossings...I could go on all day), so how do you keep adding more people to the mix when the infrastructure isn't capable of supporting them?

Why aren't the tech companies being asked to open new offices in Gilroy or Pinole or other cities where their staff can have the home they want? Is it simply because everyone wants to live in PA? Again, where is the end of the string?


63 people like this
Posted by Developers rejoice, no BMRs
a resident of Crescent Park
on Apr 19, 2018 at 11:40 am

"We need and should build more homes, but not necessarily in the official category of 'income restricted' or 'affordable,'" Kniss said

Enough of pretending she is in favor of Below Market Rate housing.
She advocates what she always has, build baby, build.


62 people like this
Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Apr 19, 2018 at 11:58 am

Online Name is a registered user.

Where's the mayor's concern about PA's livability for CURRENT residents?

[Portion removed.]


32 people like this
Posted by Priorities
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 19, 2018 at 11:59 am

Grade separating the trains is constantly referred to as the largest infrastructure project in Palo Alto history. I would think the largest project in our City's history should be our mayor's top priority. Apparently it isn't.

Or how about a hundred million dollar list of other infrastructure projects for Palo Alto... the police building, parking garages, bridges. Our mayor's top priority? No. And why should it be, doing infrastructure is so easy. You just wait for prices to balloon, then use the 'eeny meeny miny moe' method to remove half the stuff on the project list, and tax people to pay for the rest. Liz Kniss has given that issue the attention she feels it deserves.

Now we can focus on the really important things like rezoning public facility land for market rate microunits. [Portion removed.]


55 people like this
Posted by mauricio
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Apr 19, 2018 at 12:24 pm

mauricio is a registered user.

" Many people came here during the 1950s and 1960s in pursuit of a "special quality of life" and some still live on the same block, she said."

Yes, the vast majority of residents sacrificed a great deal to move to Palo Alto in order to enjoy, and contribute, to that special quality of life, away from urban density, office parks and the urban jungle.

No single local politician has worked harder and more effectively to ruin and destroy that special quality of life than Liz Kniss.

When you hear Kniss making this speech, you realize that irony and hypocricy have no limits, none whatsoever.


10 people like this
Posted by Trolls everywhere...
a resident of Community Center
on Apr 19, 2018 at 1:09 pm

[Portion removed.]

The standard of living in Palo Alto is amazing. Stop acting like it's been ruined by the region's growth. You can complain, and several did, about driving from North Palo Alto to South Palo Alto, and how there was traffic getting to the venue for the event (as Filseth did), but doing so highlights the insane lack of perspective on what it means to actually have to commute to get places.

There's absolutely no sensitivity in the voices that attack our leaders for pushing housing development for the difficulties actually associated with the housing crisis. I am so tired, exhausted really, [portion removed] about the notion that our neighborhoods are going to be overrun by housing developments.

[Portion removed.]

I am thrilled that our mayor has identified the problem. I also think she's identified some solutions (changing height limits for example) [portion removed.] Anyone who tries to fix this problem becomes a target of those members in our community who wish to obstruct solutions to address the crisis.

[Portion removed.]


7 people like this
Posted by Old Timer
a resident of Professorville
on Apr 19, 2018 at 1:14 pm

[Post removed.]


27 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 19, 2018 at 1:19 pm

I happen to think we already have a vibrant, diverse community here in Palo Alto. We have families, seniors, people from all over the world as well as the country and the state. We have Stanford professors and medical staff, technical workers, teachers, service workers, and everything inbetween.

If our population remained the same, I doubt if that would make us less diverse. With some of the rental apartments, rental homes, condos, privately owned single family homes in situ we have a great variety of homes.


19 people like this
Posted by Anonymous
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Apr 19, 2018 at 2:14 pm

“...Talking about the next generation who want to move into a home, have a family...”
Yes?
And very small units are supposed to offer that to the influx of young techies? -I think you’ll find many are more discerning.

No, I don’t live in a monster home, but I do have one suitable for a family (wish it had more space....)

I’m also concerned about taxpayer money subsidizing special, selected categories of persons for benefits. Who gets to select? Creates a new bureaucracy (or adds to it) to manage this. We have too much government already and are among the most highly taxed in the nation.

We need better ideas for expanding housing. A great idea is expanding the accepted boundaries of “Silicon Valley” and acting to improve and speed up all forms of commuting within the region. This includes cars.


45 people like this
Posted by Developers rejoice, no BMRs
a resident of Crescent Park
on Apr 19, 2018 at 4:14 pm

Agree with Mauricio: "When you hear Kniss making this speech, you realize that irony and hypocrisy have no limits, none whatsoever."

Not only did she say she is NOT asking for BMRs, she made her speech in a place with a built-in audience. Didn't want to take a chance that ordinary people might not show up.

And her standard maipulative style, calling out her supporters from the audience, calling them by their first names.
Very practiced hypocrisy, slippery style.
When is the Fair Practices report going to finally come out?
Maybe they are being extra careful with this behind the scenes contribution-hider.


Like this comment
Posted by commonsense
a resident of Professorville
on Apr 19, 2018 at 5:02 pm

[Post removed.]


45 people like this
Posted by mauricio
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Apr 19, 2018 at 5:06 pm

mauricio is a registered user.

And since she can't seem to stop using the word 'diversity' lately, the irony runs even deeper. The new development tidal wave will actually decrease diversity, not increase it, and by the way, Palo Alto is one of the most diverse towns of its type.

The new micro units will not be affordable by the nannies, housekeepers, gardeners, school custodians and the various tradesmen and women who serve Palo Alto residents. They will be almost exclusively be occupied by well paid tech workers. Everything she is doing and suggesting will make Palo Alto more of an office park that serves the interests of developers and tech companies.


30 people like this
Posted by 6Djockey
a resident of Green Acres
on Apr 19, 2018 at 5:43 pm

6Djockey is a registered user.

I agree with most of these commentsm the vast majority of which are unfavorable towards Kniss . My question is, if so many are against Kniss, where were they at the last election when she got re-elected? The only way to stop Kniss and her cronies on the council from supporting with developers is to vote them out of office. This is the year to make a big dent in her majority.


47 people like this
Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Apr 19, 2018 at 5:54 pm

Online Name is a registered user.

Many newcomers may be unaware that Ms. Kniss is / was under investigation for campaign finance irregularities. She campaigned as a fair candidate untainted by developer money but failed to report the big contributions from developers until AFTER the election.

As a side note, I wonder what Palo Alto's population turnover is annually since we have so many newcomers voting who don't know the town's history.


34 people like this
Posted by Juan
a resident of Mountain View
on Apr 19, 2018 at 6:14 pm

The developer handouts need to stop. If developers want to build a 2000-cube office then they need to build 2000 parking spaces, and add extra road capacity for 2000 cars.


45 people like this
Posted by Curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on Apr 19, 2018 at 6:22 pm

"...if so many are against Kniss, where were they at the last election when she got re-elected?"

Outnumbered by the innocents deceived by her Residentialist campaign masquerade. Likewise for Wohbach, Fine, Tanaka, and Scharff in their turns.


38 people like this
Posted by mauricio
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Apr 19, 2018 at 6:30 pm

mauricio is a registered user.

Palo Alto voters tend to vote by name recognition. They also trust the campaign materials by candidates. They can't imagine a candidate could lead them down the garden path. If a candidate claims to be a residentialists, they can't imagine he/she is actually the complete opposite. The most pro development, pro growth candidates presented themselves as residentialists, including Scharff and Kniss. "But he said we should be civil" is the most common response I get for residentialists who voted for Cory Wolbach.


19 people like this
Posted by Gale Johnson
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Apr 19, 2018 at 6:44 pm

Gale Johnson is a registered user.

@maurichio
I can't believe I'm actually agreeing with you, but I am on your last post. We already have ethnic/racial diversity. We've had it in my end of town for at least 60 years. We have it now. Just look at those people buying homes here. Economic diversity? She and her friends on CC will always turn us back and remind us of the BV bailout. We don't know the real and final outcome of that effort. New housing efforts? Primarily focused on getting our over supply of tech workers housed with 120% AMI projects. If she has a gardener, handyman, or house cleaner, I'll bet they don't live in PA, or ever will.


20 people like this
Posted by Gale Johnson
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Apr 19, 2018 at 6:57 pm

Gale Johnson is a registered user.

@6Djockey

maurichio has the answer. Most of our voters only look at fliers, newspaper ads/endorsements, and signs stuck on corners or front lawns. I'll bet I could convince you to vote for me if you believed all the things I promised. Bait and switch is common in an election year.


31 people like this
Posted by Sanctimonious City
a resident of Barron Park
on Apr 19, 2018 at 10:10 pm

Sanctimonious City is a registered user.

All just part of the time proven Democratic strategy of importing constituents. No need to support the needs of the existing residents. Just double the density and double the votes.

In a few years, families and homeowners will be such a small proportion of Palo Alto voters you will feel like Republicans in California.


26 people like this
Posted by @diverse
a resident of Palo Verde
on Apr 19, 2018 at 10:34 pm

It looks like every time a politician runs out of talking points, the ‘diversity’ comes up! I really wish we decouple diversity from every issue that faces the city, or state or country.

Our neighborhood is already diverse. I am a transplant myself, and my neighbors and colleagues are all from different countries, ethnic groups, and professions. Perhaps they are a little above average, but that should not be somethings that needs to be fixed. Are the politicians dreaming of a modern-day Noah’s Ark, or they just run out of topics when they can’t think of real solutions!


12 people like this
Posted by Rey T
a resident of Mountain View
on Apr 20, 2018 at 8:00 am

"they can’t think of real solutions!"

@@diverse, I have the impression that they know exactly what the real solutions are, they simply don't like them.


26 people like this
Posted by resident
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Apr 20, 2018 at 9:30 am

In the SFC today - Business Report - the YELP CEO is pushing for more housing near transit and will push to make that happen. So you have local companies that have chosen to set up their business in an area that is already known to be short of housing and expecting the city to step up to accommodate the companies that have placed themselves in this situation. It is not our job to twist in the wind to accommodate these companies. They have a choice to start their business in a more accommodating area that needs more employment and has housing at a reasonable price - like over in the valley - Los Banos for one. Or the San Ramon area or Livermore. Not our job to twist in the wind for every company that thinks they need to locate in this city - San Jose should be their destination.


5 people like this
Posted by Trolls everywhere...
a resident of Crescent Park
on Apr 20, 2018 at 9:38 am

The diversity desired is socio-economic. You all must be smart enough to know that. It is not ethnic and racial diversity that we are seeking with more housing.

Ask yourself this? Do any teachers live on your street? How about nurses? Or maybe landscape architects? What about mechanics? What about store clerks? Retail shop workers? Or maybe professional chefs? Do any cobblers live on your street? What about firemen? Or police officers? What about city staff? Do you have any planners or code enforcement officers or city attorneys who live on your street? Do you know if anyone on your street (who is not retired) is making less than $90k a year? If so how many income earners are in that home and how would that family make their way into that home on your street today?

Now, if I've made my point, then you may appreciate the equally critical issue that faces our community which is that many of these professionals, our teachers, our city staff, our firemen and police officers, our retail service workers etc etc have been unable to afford housing anywhere near Palo Alto. This has a dramatic effect on the traffic that is required to provide all these services to you very comfortable residents of Palo Alto.

And let's be honest, we are quite comfortable aren't we? We have amazing schools, services, retail, parks streets, etc etc. And yet all of this amazingness needs a wide range of individuals to maintain and operate. Which means that finding that great 2nd grade teacher for your child who makes you so proud of your decision to move to Palo Alto in the first place is quite difficult to hire because he or she has to commute nearly an hour or more each day and he or she has to suffer a significantly lower standard of living to provide our very fortunate children the wonderful education we want for them.

I acknowledge that these final points are self-serving but I think that's possibly the only thing that will succeed at convincing those who appear to care more about themselves than the moral imperative that is overcoming this housing crisis.


23 people like this
Posted by Kya
a resident of Midtown
on Apr 20, 2018 at 10:11 am

Well yes we have a nurse, a teacher, a veterinarian, a landscape architect all living on our street or 1 block over. My next door neighbor retired from his job at Safeway, then they sold the house and moved away for a cheaper place and better quality of life. I just dont get the moral imperative that some commenters and the mayor are laying on the residents of Palo Alto. For at least 20 or more years we have been a highly desirable address that people have wanted to move to and live here. That doesn't mean we need to house all these people. Palo Alto has been at the forefront of providing BMR housing through developers fees added onto each for profit housing they build. 45% of the housing in Palo Alto are rentals. I dont need a guilt trip from so many others about "our privilege". We worked hard to afford the mortgage and made sacrifices to live in Palo Alto.
I am much more disturbed by the constant argument made that we need more housing for all the wage earners, while the CITY just adds more and more prof. buildings. Palo Alto has 3 jobs for every employed resident. This is one of the highest ratios in the country. Building more = more people need housing. It just doesn't make sense! Attack the problem at its source!


18 people like this
Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Apr 20, 2018 at 10:18 am

Online Name is a registered user.

" Not our job to twist in the wind for every company that thinks they need to locate in this city "

But that's just what we did to accommodate Yelp's move to make College Terrace its company headquarters 3 years ago until they cancelled their plans AFTER a pr debacle when one of their workers objected publicly to their very low wages.

The ceo got a few days of bad press for firing her. First he claimed her firibg had nothing to do with her speaking out. Then he blamed high housing prices in the entire Bay Area for his decision not to move here.
But he never ever took responsibility for Yelp's failure to pay many of its workers a decent wage.

Either way, Palo Alto spent a lot of time and money trying to accommodate Yelp and tailoring the College Terrace complex to its needs.

Here's a few articles on it.
Web Link
Web Link


24 people like this
Posted by mauricio
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Apr 20, 2018 at 10:23 am

mauricio is a registered user.

Economic diversity cannot be created by residents, only by employers. If they paid their employees well enough, there would be economic diversity. No nanny, housekeeper, gardener or any other professional of that kind is paid nearly enough to pay the rent on a BMR in wealthy communities like Palo Alto. The onus is on employers to pay them living wages. When companies insist on moving or staying in very expensive areas while they continue to hire employees who can't afford to live there, they create a problem they must solve, not residents.

Google, Facebook and Palantir can afford to pay their custodians, cooks and maintenance workers salaries that would enable them to at least rent in Palo Alto or Menlo Park, but they don't. Whatever diversity Kniss is talking about is not economic diversity. It's meant to subsidize the housing of well paid tech workers.


27 people like this
Posted by Annette
a resident of College Terrace
on Apr 20, 2018 at 11:37 am

Annette is a registered user.

Be wary of buzz words - they often sting.

DIVERSITY and AFFORDABLE are two badly overused and misused buzz words. Skilled politicians know to slap either one on a proposed policy or ordinance or campaign claim as a means of gaining support. Using them together is a double whammy.

Thank you to the above posters who point out that the diversity that's being eroded by the jobs:housing imbalance is more socio-economic than ethnic. Palo Alto is trending towards being uni-dimensional.


20 people like this
Posted by Novelera
a resident of Midtown
on Apr 20, 2018 at 12:41 pm

Novelera is a registered user.

Excellent points have been made about Palo Alto being an fine place to live, but not everyone who wants to can do so. There just isn't enough room; we're mostly built out.

Another point is that I believe Palo Alto also has cachet for businesses. It sounds like Stanford graduates and smart people live here. It reminds companies of how Hewlett-Packard was founded in Dave Packard's garage. Start-ups believe they'll be touched by that magic.

Regular people like me, who moved here in 1982, are supposed to endure massive traffic and too much housing for the existing infrastructure in order to accommodate this business success dream.


3 people like this
Posted by Gale Johnson
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Apr 20, 2018 at 1:31 pm

Gale Johnson is a registered user.

What can I say? Nothing, and I should probably just shut up and remain silent.

I still can't believe I'm agreeing with 'maurichio' again. I've agreed with Annette for a long time, on many issues.


23 people like this
Posted by mauricio
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Apr 20, 2018 at 4:40 pm

mauricio is a registered user.

Actually Gale Johnson and I agree on several things, although he is a conservative, and I am to the left of the Democratic party. However, one of us votes voted for Cory Wolbach, and it wasn't me.


6 people like this
Posted by Norman Beamer
a resident of Crescent Park
on Apr 20, 2018 at 7:28 pm

Here are some figures from the census that pertain to Palo Alto's diversity:

Year White Black Hispanic Aisan Own Rent Median Income Low income
1950 96% 2% * 2% 67% 33% $4,657.00 *
1960 95% 2% * 3% 67% 33% $9,132.00 *
1970 93% 3% 3% 4% * * $10,400.00 7%
1980 90% 2% 4% 6% * * $31,796.00 6%
1990 85% 3% 5% 11% * * $68,790.00 5%
2000 76% 2% 5% 17% 54% 43% $117,574.00 5%
2010 64% 2% 6% 27% 56% 44% $161,670.00 6%

* no data for that year
(Hispanic figures overlap with other race categories)


43 people like this
Posted by Ahem
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 20, 2018 at 8:42 pm

A better headline for the article would be:

"Kniss makes a case for paying back developers for their campaign contributions"


11 people like this
Posted by resident
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Apr 22, 2018 at 10:39 am

The fact that housing and transit infrastructure in this specific city is lacking is a well published fact. Given the choices that companies make to locate to support their growing staff they have to make the choice to locate where their employees can live a sustainable life to grow the company. Many companies have made that choice with good results - FB in MP with growth in EPA housing. Google is expanding to SJ and many other cities with annex operations which are good choices. Additional housing in those areas is taking place on land that was available or areas/businesses which were in decline. There is nothing written that says we have to be the center point for new business - that is something that the City has made up because it justifies many changes. But there is a tipping point in which it makes more sense to develop open land which is close to transit - ACE, BART, Caltrans, etc. Please stop making the claim that this city needs to be the focal point for business. The focal point is the university and that should suffice. We have enough going on with that alone. And if the current batch of CC's see this as a stepping stone for further political growth so be it but we are not going to suck up to the developers to make that happen.


20 people like this
Posted by Curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on Apr 23, 2018 at 2:37 pm

Does Kniss know dozens of existing houses are on the block to make Caltrain happy?

Does Kniss care?


17 people like this
Posted by CeCi Kettendorf
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Apr 24, 2018 at 12:21 am

Build schools first.
If the Mayor were sincere about wanting a vibrant, diverse community, she would advocate for the building of schools.
School sites were sold off in the 70s and yet school enrollment is now greater than that at the height of the baby boom and will continue to expand as more families move in. School sites are crowded. If you examine the 1952 map of Palo Alto school sites, you will see that the playgrounds have shrunken as buildings and portables were added. (Fairmeadow Elementary, as an example, has Bessie Bolton Center, Jackson Hearing Center and Redwood Enrichment Center on land designed as playground.) Where do the children play?
So before we build more housing, we should build schools. If Mayor Kniss is truly advocating for a diverse community well populated with families and children, she would examine the growing need for ample and uncrowded school sites. If she were truly interested in a balanced community, she would speak first for the children of Palo Alto, before speaking for the outsiders. Charity begins at home.
I am fully aware that the PAUSD is separate from the city. Still, city planners are expected to plan for schools. The mayor should plan for the future needs of Palo Alto families by engaging with the PAUSD to project now and future needs of the schools.
We need to pause all growth and take a breather to examine what our real needs are. We need schools far more than housing for those who want to come here.
Mayor Kniss, build schools for Palo Alto children, not housing, not offices. Set aside any land still left, for schools, not housing, not offices. Take steps to preserve the East Meadow Circle land for a school; help the PAUSD buy it, if you must. Then build a school, not housing, not offices.
Mayor Kniss, advocate for the families and children of Palo Alto, present and future. We are your real legacy.


7 people like this
Posted by 50's life is expensive
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 25, 2018 at 6:32 am

"Many people came here during the 1950s and 1960s in pursuit of a "special quality of life" and some still live on the same block, she said."

Who can afford to be a social entrepreneur for the move of people that happened "during the 1950s and 1960s in pursuit of a "special quality of life." That special quality of life changes over time but Palo Alto has real problems keeping up with planning for the existing residents.

"We're talking about the next generation who want to move into a home, have a family with kids who attend our local schools and graduate from those schools and contribute to sustaining the quality of life in Palo Alto.

Sustaining the quality of life is obviously not a priority, only good for "State of the City" speeches or when needed to getting a vote.

"We need and should build more homes, but not necessarily in the official category of 'income restricted' or 'affordable,'" Kniss said. "We need various sizes and types of units so that more people in a range of incomes can be part of a vibrant Palo Alto."

Many words, no numbers. How much, what "incentives" does Kniss have in mind for the COPA Social Entrepeneur for Defelopers Fund? Subsidizing housing for "future" residents seeking the 1950's life is expensive. Palo Alto has limited resources.

"The reason to build more housing isn't necessarily to "make room for more" by bringing in people from other parts of the nation. It's about supporting the needs of the residents who would make up Palo Alto in the future.

Hmm, guess subsidizing "future" residents sounds good in contrast to subsidizing people from other parts of the nation, god forbid... and subsidies for "future residents" makes COPA social entrepreneur fund for developers. sound better than..

If the message was intended to make a case for more housing, it did not have anything except reasons to be concerned about the real motives. The term "vibrant" is also not helpful, quality of life in the year 2018 is less vibrancy not more. Vibrancy is not what people looked for in Palo Alto in the 50's either.


@Trolls everywhere,

"I am thrilled that our mayor has identified the problem. I also think she's identified some solutions (changing height limits for example) [portion removed.] Anyone who tries to fix this problem becomes a target of those members in our community who wish to obstruct solutions to address the crisis."

To not be able to afford Palo Alto is not a crisis.

If it was a real crisis, the vigilant and enthusiastic tech businesses who generate the high demand for housing would have been called on.. only solution so far is to put all the pressure on the City to be the social entrepreneur. Not very creative.


12 people like this
Posted by resident
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Apr 26, 2018 at 9:03 am

The 50's and 60's building was of homes owned by the residents. What is being suggested now is the building of giant condos and apartment that are owned by a corporation. Note that ownership of property is what is being attacked here. If residents own property then carving up a city becomes very problematical. If the city is working with one developer then no problem, tear down an existing building an put up another bigger building. We have the obvious builders who are busy throughout the city slicing and dicing. From where I am sitting the ownership of property is the ultimate goal here and the home owner is the target.


4 people like this
Posted by resident
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Apr 26, 2018 at 11:23 am

The economy in the early PA residential area was based on the university, and businesses which required the long term building of a product (example: satellite) which requires a highly trained group of engineers and other well trained employees who work within a government executed industry which has very well defined requirements for award of contracts and conduction of business. That requires dedicated employees who have a long term requirement to be in the area. Thus you have houses and schools. Today's tech workers tend to be transitional on short term product development in a commercial environment. Many tech workers have no use for the purchase of a home and the associated financial requirements of home ownership. I see many new apartments going up through out the peninsula cites, PA included. We have checked the boxes for the tech workers. We need to check the boxes for the teachers and police / fire department.


17 people like this
Posted by Ahem
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 26, 2018 at 11:57 am

Resident said:

"Note that ownership of property is what is being attacked here"

Very astute. What we are seeing is weaponized real-estate development.

Real-estate development as a social-engineering tool. The goal of the social engineering is the consolidation of property ownership into the more manageable and cooperative hands of real-estate development corporations and the transformation of the electorate into lifelong renters.


12 people like this
Posted by 50's life is expensive
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 26, 2018 at 12:50 pm

Ahem,

The "consolidation of property ownership into the more manageable and cooperative hands of real-estate development corporations and the transformation of the electorate into lifelong renters."

"transformation of the electorate" sounds more like the real motive for Mayor's social engineering proposal.

paid for by the current voters for "future" voters


Like this comment
Posted by resident
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on May 1, 2018 at 6:53 am

In todays papers they are discussing the increase in building costs which will drive up the cost of rentals. How much per square foot is discussed and the net effect on the tech worker is prohibitive. You can point to the fact that the city is responding to the need for new apartments but the cost to the renter is prohibitive and will still drive people out of the state. Tech workers can get jobs in other states who have taken up the challenge to provide cheaper housing and good jobs. Building in itself is easy but the cost of building in this area does not pencil out. Why does the government of this state eat it's young? You have elections coming up with many strategies to reduce the layers of government and taxes in this state.


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