News

Palo Alto initiative seeks to curb office growth

Residents' group looks to reduce citywide cap on office development by half

In a bid to rein in commercial growth in Palo Alto, a group of residents is preparing to place a measure on the November ballot that would more tightly limit new office space in the city.

The effort, which is being spearheaded by former Vice Mayor Greg Schmid and the citizens group Palo Altans for Sensible Zoning, seeks to modify Palo Alto's existing citywide cap of 1.7 million square feet for office and research-and-development (this total exempts the ongoing expansion of the Stanford University Medical Center). If the measure were to succeed, the cap would be reduced to 850,000 square feet and would apply to the whole city.

Schmid, who served on the council between 2007 and 2016, said the initiative does not seek to slow down commercial growth so much as keep it on par with the city's historic levels. According to an analysis that the city conducted before adopting its updated Comprehensive Plan last year, Palo Alto's average annual rate of growth for non-residential areas was 58,013 square feet per year between 1989 and 2014.

The new Comprehensive Plan includes a policy to "maintain a citywide cap of 1.7 million new square feet of office/R&D development." The limit was derived from the prior Comprehensive Plan, which had a cap of 3.25 million square feet, also based on the growth that the city had experienced since the earlier Comprehensive Plan was adopted.

The new Comprehensive Plan also requires the city to conduct "annual monitoring to assess the effectiveness of development requirements and determine whether the cap and the development should be adjusted."

Schmid and Joe Hirsch, who are both members of the Palo Altans for Sensible Zoning steering committee, are now finalizing the ballot initiative, which Schmid characterized as "very simple and straightforward": basically, changing one number. Schmid noted that keeping the cap at 1.7 million square feet between now and 2030, as the Comprehensive Plan dictates, would theoretically allow about 140,000 square feet of new office development a year -- a figure he believes is much too high.

"What we're proposing is very simple: Why don't we keep our historic growth rate?" Schmid said.

But if approved, the simple change could have dramatic consequences, roughly halving the commercial development expected per year to about 70,000 square feet citywide. It would also prohibit rapid fluctuations in commercial growth, as happened between 2008 and 2014, when the average growth rate was 112,467 square feet annually.

Commercial growth has exacerbated the city's already gaping jobs-to-housing imbalance, which is estimated at about 3-to-1. It also prompted the City Council to adopt in 2015 an annual office cap of 50,000 square feet for three prominent commercial areas: downtown, California Avenue and El Camino Real.

Since the cap made its debut, commercial development has dwindled significantly in the areas covered by the limit. In 2015, the total office development in the three areas was 40,862 square feet, according to a recent report from the Department of Planning and Community Environment. In March 2017, when the cap was up for renewal, there were no qualifying office projects. As of this March, the city has received applications from three projects in the restricted areas, totaling 16,790 square feet.

Despite the cap's success in limiting commercial growth, Schmid noted that the tool only applies to the three specific portions of the city, leaving some areas -- such as Stanford Research Park and the Stanford Medical Center -- with no growth limits.

Furthermore, it's a temporary cap and is not mentioned in the Comprehensive Plan. The current annual limit is set to expire at the end of June. The council was scheduled to adopt a permanent office cap, with some adjustments, at its April 16 meeting but opted to defer the decision to a future date.

By contrast, the initiative pushed by Palo Altans for Sensible Zoning would pertain to the entire city, including Stanford Research Park. It would amend the Comprehensive Plan to modify the citywide limit. It would also amend the city's Municipal Code to reflect this change, said Hirsch, one of the founders of the citizens group.

The group is scheduled to have a meeting this Thursday to discuss the proposed initiative and to enlist volunteers for pursuing it, Hirsch told the Weekly.

"We're very optimistic that this will make sense to the residents of Palo Alto," Hirsch said. "We've always felt that if we can get this on the ballot, it will be well-received."

Schmid said he was inspired to pursue the initiative to limit office growth by recent surveys showing citizen discontent about traffic, parking and public transportation. The most recent National Citizens Survey, which was released in January, showed scores in all three areas plummeting, with only 33 percent of the respondents giving the city positive reviews on "traffic flow on major streets" and 32 percent doing so when asked about "ease of public parking."

The numbers, Schmid said, reaffirm that the city is doing a poor job in managing commercial growth and that residents are taking notice.

"Not only are we not doing a good job with the current growth rate, but people are become more and more aware," Schmid said. "That's why it seems to be an appropriate time."

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Comments

24 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of University South
on Apr 18, 2018 at 7:25 pm

This is a non-solution to a non-problem. As we’ve seen from the downtown surveys, it’s not the office workers who are causing the traffic problems. We haven’t even seen development this decade outpace the historical average, once you factor in the slowdown after 2014.

The problem with this is ballot-box zoning. We elect Council members to represent us and make tough decisions with all the data available. If you want to reduce office growth, the right way to do it is to elect people on a platform of reducing office growth, not tying the city’s hands for all time.


17 people like this
Posted by DTN Paul
a resident of Downtown North
on Apr 18, 2018 at 7:44 pm

DTN Paul is a registered user.

I will enjoy voting against this.


128 people like this
Posted by Seriously
a resident of Stanford
on Apr 18, 2018 at 8:02 pm

I don’t understand the above comments.

Not a problem to have more people coming for business than we can house, or supply transportation, water, public safety, park space or retail for?

This would seem to be the city’s biggest, most impactful problem.

Could you explain why this is not really the problem it seems to be?


150 people like this
Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Apr 18, 2018 at 8:06 pm

Online Name is a registered user.

Excellent and long overdue. You can't keep adding tens of thousands of NEW jobs to an area while adding a few hundred new housing units and expect prices to drop.

Let's see whether those claiming to support "affordable" housing support this common sense move.


7 people like this
Posted by Observer
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 18, 2018 at 8:11 pm

[Post removed due to same poster using multiple names]


120 people like this
Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Apr 18, 2018 at 8:21 pm

Online Name is a registered user.

"I don't think this is a good way to do zoning. Good planning involves input from all sides and usually some compromise."

Please tell that to PAF and ABAG and Palantir since they continue to dominate the City Council and all the relevant commissions. Please tell that to the huge companies like Google and institutions like Stanford since they consistently decline to comment on the community impacts of their "feverish" growth.

I'd like to see prices and rents come down. I hate seeing friends forced to leave the jobs / housing ratio is so out of whack they're priced out of the market and can do nothing about 43% rent hikes because the current CC opposes any and all attempts at rent modification (NOT rent control). We don't seem to be doing anything about all-cash foreign buyers who are pushing prices into the stratosphere the way other cities have but this certainly seems more than reasonable.


9 people like this
Posted by Actual Affordable Housing Supporter
a resident of Meadow Park
on Apr 18, 2018 at 8:30 pm

[Post removed due to same poster using multiple names]


55 people like this
Posted by To Jeremy
a resident of Stanford
on Apr 18, 2018 at 8:44 pm

No one brought affordable housing to a referendum.

But there was a referendum about inappropriate zoning changes that would provide profits to developers at the cost of safety and nearby density to the neighborhood.

[Portion removed.]


8 people like this
Posted by Actual Affordable Housing Supporter
a resident of Meadow Park
on Apr 18, 2018 at 8:49 pm

[Post removed due to same poster using multiple names]


124 people like this
Posted by Excellent news
a resident of Barron Park
on Apr 18, 2018 at 8:55 pm

This is great news. Thank you Greg Schmid, Joe Hirsch, and PASZ.

It is definitely amusing to see the pro-developer apologists put into such a weird bind: they are used to quietly encouraging office development, then using the jobs/housing imbalance to loudly advocate for increased residential density. This will strike right at the problem by removing the backdoor that the developer/Palantir owned council members use to justify continued gifts to their benefactors.


7 people like this
Posted by Actual Affordable Housing Supporter
a resident of Meadow Park
on Apr 18, 2018 at 9:16 pm

[Post removed due to same poster using multiple names]


22 people like this
Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Apr 18, 2018 at 9:24 pm

Online Name is a registered user.

And PAF is in favor of affordable housing?


91 people like this
Posted by Curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on Apr 18, 2018 at 9:51 pm

"Good planning involves input from all sides and usually some compromise."

No successful developer wants this.

"In fact, we just spent about five years doing this for the Comprehensive Plan, which is a compromise - the pro-growth people got about half the housing they wanted and no extra office space, and the slow growth people got more housing than they wanted and no slowdown in office space."

The fact that the new CP was many years late shows the high regard city hall has for it. It's a nice showpiece, but it has had precious little influence when a politically savvy developer proposes a project to the city government.

Citizen-based actions with real teeth, like this initiative, are the most effective means to define and defend our city.


118 people like this
Posted by ANON
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Apr 18, 2018 at 10:08 pm

of course it is the office growth and jobs housing imbalance that has caused the skyrocketing housing prices for folks.
To say otherwise is to mislead and deny the simple truth!

Thank you to Council Member Schmid, Joe Hirsch and PASZ to have the courage to stand up for regular palo alto citizens and try to help them!

It takes a lot of effort and commitment to speak the truth to power and demand better governance, in the face of all the misinformation out there. Be strong Palo Altans and take the first step for securing a better future for all of us by supporting this initiative and the truth behind it! Please vote for less office buildings and more housing!


6 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 18, 2018 at 10:55 pm

@Online

"PASZ has historically opposed housing, especially affordable housing. We haven't forgotten what they said in the 2014 election. PASZ has had a lot of chances to prove that they care about affordability. They have taken the wrong side on every one."

So, you're saying you think we need a lot more office growth?


71 people like this
Posted by Hawaiian Bob
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 18, 2018 at 11:33 pm

@resident - unless you are making the inaccurate and absurd claim that 100% of office workers take caltrain, the bus, or bike to work, then they do indeed contribute to the traffic problem.


48 people like this
Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Apr 19, 2018 at 2:14 am

Online Name is a registered user.

"So, you're saying you think we need a lot more office growth?"

No, I've been saying the exact opposite. The last thing we need is more office growth and the related fairy tale that people will live near where they work, will never change jobs, won't need cars or parking and that we need to slow everyone down with road furniture.


58 people like this
Posted by Anon
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Apr 19, 2018 at 7:24 am

To all those that said PASZ has not supported affordable housing; please check out The Friends of Buena Vista
web page:

Web Link

Click on supporters select community supporters and scroll down to see PASZ in the list in the6th position:

Web Link

so please do not spread misinformation for political reasons to confuse the electorate!


66 people like this
Posted by hp
a resident of Gunn High School
on Apr 19, 2018 at 7:37 am

Office allotment needs to happen proportionally to the amount of housing available. To do otherwise is irresponsible and neglectful to the community. Some like to say that office growth 'creates jobs', but what about our poorer, non techie neighbors? What good do new tech jobs do when their rent skyrockets—and they are forced to leave? Palo Alto needs to take action to protect residents from getting priced out, because our current city gov't too often forgets them in favor of 'growth'.


21 people like this
Posted by Resident2
a resident of Barron Park
on Apr 19, 2018 at 8:52 am

@actual,
“The zoning changes were required to make the affordable housing project work”

You mean to make THAT exact project work, which was a majority goveaway if zoning to a for-profit developer. The neighbors asked for a working group to ensure the affordable housing was built in a better way, as so e of thise same people had done before with the Terman Working group which created affordable housing our of a similar development debate.

The City had first right if refusal on the property at Maybell when PAHC sold it. Since the City had basically paid for the property anyway along with the County, they coukd gave just kept it if they truly wanted to build affordable housing there, and worked with residents. They didn’t want to do that because the affordable housing wasn’t their hoal there, it was busting the neighborhood zoning.

You forget that the developer at BV pulked out right adter that referendum result, because they knew they couldn’t get 4X zoning. And the money at Maybell then went to help purchase BV. Your [portion removed] interpretation is what sunk any collaboration during that time instead of what hapoened at Terman. [Portion removed.]


2 people like this
Posted by george drysdale
a resident of Professorville
on Apr 19, 2018 at 9:28 am

The tyranny of controls. Land valuation speaks louder than politics. The scarce resources for the homeless and the production of market housing must be organized better. If Palo Alto wants more offices great! There is plenty of land for housing in San Jose and thereabouts. The towns must form a general fund for what it can afford to provide. Let the rich live in Palo Alto if they can afford it. Land rents in Silicon Valley are basically the highest in the nation. Now we have the Mt. View rent control and the hilarious Buena Vista boondoggle to study (no passing grade in economics no high school diploma).
George Drysdale social studies teacher and land economist


84 people like this
Posted by JLS parent
a resident of Midtown
on Apr 19, 2018 at 10:58 am

Thank you to Greg Scmid and Joe Hirsh. I recently learned at a JLS PTA meeting about transportation changes meant to keep our kids safe as they bike to school during rush hour that Palo Alto is one of only a few cities IN THE NATION that deals with a daytime population that is almost 2x that of the evening population. Our population almost doubles every day because of the jobs here. Our main arteries, Middlefield, Alma, Charleston, Oregon, etc were not designed to accommodate this traffic. They were designed to accommodate our residential population. The only way to reduce housing crunch, commute problems, and preserve quality of life in Palo Alto is to slow down office growth. That will at least give us a chance to make a dent in the housing and transportation issues!!


52 people like this
Posted by Greg Schmid
a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Apr 19, 2018 at 11:04 am

Greg Schmid is a registered user.

Just a clarification: The article mentions that the proposed cap would allow an annual average of 70k sq ft of development. That measures the impact over 12 years, from now to 2030. But the lifetime of the Comp Plan is 15 years from 2015-2030. Thus a cap of 850k over the life time of the Plan would average 57k/yr, in line with the long-term average growth of 58k/yr between 1989-2014.


2 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 19, 2018 at 11:06 am

Everyone talks about all the people who come into Palo Alto each day to work and how the daytime population increases.

Can anyone tell me how many commute out of Palo Alto each day for work. From what I see, the Caltrain stations and the freeway onramps are very busy every morning with commuters LEAVING Palo Alto for work.

Among those I know who live in Palo Alto very few work in Palo Alto. Most leave town to get to their place of employment.

Unless it can be proved otherwise, I would suggest that the daytime population is approximately the same as at least one person per household leaves Palo Alto for employment.


34 people like this
Posted by Resident2
a resident of Barron Park
on Apr 19, 2018 at 11:42 am

@Actual,
“The City had first right of refusal on the property at Maybell when PAHC sold it. Since the City had basically paid for the property anyway along with the County, they could have just kept it if they truly wanted to build affordable housing there, and worked with residents. They didn’t want to do that because the affordable housing wasn’t their goal there, it was busting the neighborhood zoning.”

That deserves further clarification. The City had the right and ability to purchase the Maybell property from PAHC noncomoetitively. There was in fact a City meeting right after the referendum in which the City Council decided what to do about that. Residents asked the City to hang on to the property, but the City refused. Where were these supposed “affordable housing” advocates then? The only ones I saw were the maligned residents, asking the City to hang on to the property so they could have time to work things out. Once again, the City denied the residents that possibility. Clearly, the politicians preferred the mileage they are still getting from this false nimby narrative over actually accomplishing the supposed goal of affordable housing.


28 people like this
Posted by Resident2
a resident of Barron Park
on Apr 19, 2018 at 11:53 am

One more point. The neighborhood rebuffed a school from going in at the Maybell property, long before the referendum, for the same reasons. Many of the same neighbors were involved in the Terman Working Group that did result in affordable housing being built from a similar development debate. And, it should be pointed out, many of the same people have worked with Bowman School in their proposal just blocks away, which is going through with no controversy because the school was willing to work with neighbors, as well as the fact that the site is better situated in ways the neighbors understand but outsiders who want to retain their arrogant insularity (CC) would not. The reason residents were willing to draw a hard line at Maybell had to do with the conditions on the ground, and the deafness of the proposal to those concerns, not with anything else. Other projects in the same neighborhood involving those same residents speak to that.


13 people like this
Posted by Palo Alto is not a village
a resident of Crescent Park
on Apr 19, 2018 at 12:01 pm

PASZ is against growth. We've seen this time and time again. They are not against affordable housing per se. They are not even against housing per se. They just don't want more people in Palo Alto.

I understand why this is appealing to some people. Some people just want to have a quiet retirement (and somehow imagine that a city can function without a mix of people, businesses, retail, etc).

However, for me, Ithink that this "pull up the drawbridges around Palo Alto" strategy is unfortunate. I for one am glad that a wonderful hospital like Stanford Medical Center can exist in Palo Alto, both for the quality of care that it affords us, and for the good jobs that it hosts. I am glad that there are worldclass employers in our town, because they offer wonderful jobs and because their employees are the ones keeping our downtown retail afloat.

If PASZ is successful in doing this (and I have no doubt that they will be... after all, they prevailed opposing a senior low-income housing development of all things... this measure will probably be way more palatable)... I do worry about the long term future of Palo Alto. We could become a sleepy village of retired rich people. Not a great place to live


4 people like this
Posted by commonsense
a resident of Professorville
on Apr 19, 2018 at 12:19 pm

commonsense is a registered user.

Neighboring cities will continue to build and commuters will always find the fastest way to work. If getting from 101 or 280 to your job is faster through Palo Alto, that's the route you will take. This proposal, while not make the problem worse, will not stop the problem from getting to work. There are tens of millions of square feet of office space either under construction or in the planning process in Silicon Valley. This change would not improve traffic at all. We need more housing and LOTS of it. And a subway


86 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Barron Park
on Apr 19, 2018 at 12:35 pm

@not a village
“ They just don't want more people in Palo Alto.
I understand why this is appealing to some people. Some people just want to have a quiet retirement (and somehow imagine that a city can function without a mix of people, businesses, retail, etc). ”

Two corrections now that I’m done wiping the milk that came out of my nose after reading your ridiculously twisted points.

- Palo Alto was a vribrant place and at the heart of Silicon Valley innovation BEFORE the overdevelopment of office space and too many workers crowding in here during the day because some companies refuse to move where they can grow. The overdevelopment and traffic congestion are what hurt productivity and commerce, not the town you seem to think had no occupants before Palantir started their unconscionable takeover. The office overdevelopment has clearly been what has bee destroying what USED TO BE a mix of people, retail, businesses - in short, a vibrant town.

You are right that saying PASZ is about slow growth is just wrong. PASZ is for a balanced and full view of civic life, and they aren’t falling for the Build-Baby-Build mongering. They are for “holistic civic planning”. Saying they are for “slow growth” is just pandering to PAF, whose push for perpetual growth with no regard for the health of the civic body is the civic equivalent of other incurable scourges I can think of involving unchecked growth with no regard to the life of the body.

Once again, PASZ did not oppose affordable senior housing, they encouraged a working group to work it out, AS MANY OF THOSE SAME NEIGHBORS HAD DONE BEFORE in a similar development conflict 20 years earlier. What exactly are you gaining by lying about that situation to defame good people?


21 people like this
Posted by Curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on Apr 19, 2018 at 1:07 pm

"Thus a cap of 850k over the life time of the Plan would average 57k/yr, in line with the long-term average growth of 58k/yr between 1989-2014."

True, if anybody paid any attention to the Plan. It is blarney with no force of law.


41 people like this
Posted by What?
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Apr 19, 2018 at 1:12 pm

@Commonsense:
"If getting from 101 or 280 to your job is faster through Palo Alto, that's the route you will take."

This makes me ask: do you drive? I go to work essentially across the city which used to take 15 min before. Now it takes up to 45 min. So, no it is not faster through PA, it is much ... much slower.

"We need more housing and LOTS of it."
-- How in the world does that improve traffic? That has got to be some special kind of logic. Is it the dream that people will not drive if they live close to their work? That only happens where they put workers in dormitories the size of a stadium next to the factory. Is that what we are envisioning here?


60 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 19, 2018 at 1:14 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.


73 people like this
Posted by Long-time resident
a resident of College Terrace
on Apr 19, 2018 at 3:17 pm

Anyone who has tried to get to Highway 101 between 5pm and 7pm knows that there is something seriously amiss in Palo Alto.


89 people like this
Posted by mauricio
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Apr 19, 2018 at 4:01 pm

mauricio is a registered user.

Can we get someone from PAF to admit that growth, be it commercial or housing, cannot be infinite and open ended? That a suburban college town with a small town infrastructure cannot accommodate all those who want to live in it? That not all 10 or 20 million people who at any given moment desire to live in Palo Alto can move in?

I didn't think so.


93 people like this
Posted by Novelera
a resident of Midtown
on Apr 19, 2018 at 4:12 pm

Novelera is a registered user.

I can hardly wait to sign. It's about time somebody did something about the unconscionable greed spoiling our lovely city.


45 people like this
Posted by Anne
a resident of Midtown
on Apr 20, 2018 at 11:42 am

Where do I sign up???


62 people like this
Posted by Annette
a resident of College Terrace
on Apr 20, 2018 at 12:21 pm

Annette is a registered user.

@Palo Alto is not a village - I attended the meeting about this and came away encouraged that Schmid etal are offering an action that will move us in the right direction. If we do not curb commercial development we doom ourselves to not only an exacerbation of existing problems but the eventual emergence of new ones including too-full schools. The initiative is a sensible, needed step forward.

PAF recently came out in favor of the affordable housing overlay. If PAF is serious about housing, they should endorse this initiative and assist with the signature-gathering process. Why? Because we cannot hope to favorably impact the jobs:housing imbalance if we continue to overgrow the jobs side of that equation.

And to those who accuse PASZ of being anti-growth, I think that inaccurate. Based on what I read and hear, PASZ is not anti-growth. Rather, PASZ supports SMART growth.

[Portion removed.]


38 people like this
Posted by senor blogger
a resident of Palo Verde
on Apr 20, 2018 at 12:40 pm

Lots of good arguments. So, let's put it on the ballot


34 people like this
Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Apr 21, 2018 at 12:40 pm

Online Name is a registered user.

Annette, how great you're volunteering and helping with this initiative. Let the rest of us know how we can help.


20 people like this
Posted by Ceci Kettendorf
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Apr 21, 2018 at 4:55 pm

Ceci Kettendorf is a registered user.

[Post removed.]


18 people like this
Posted by Suzanne Keehn
a resident of Barron Park
on Apr 21, 2018 at 5:23 pm

[Post removed.]


24 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 21, 2018 at 7:12 pm

Good to see these efforts gaining strength.

May I suggest starting to use social media to get the word out. Nextdoor is good to use but will have to be done on the various neighborhoods and Facebook has a group called Palo Alto Kaleidoscope.




19 people like this
Posted by Ceci Kettendorf
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Apr 22, 2018 at 8:11 am

Ceci Kettendorf is a registered user.

[Post removed.]


34 people like this
Posted by Bill Bucy
a resident of Barron Park
on Apr 23, 2018 at 9:19 am

Bill Bucy is a registered user.

And we need more offices because....?


8 people like this
Posted by george drysdale
a resident of Professorville
on Apr 23, 2018 at 10:25 am

Look outside of your box. Palo Alto is just another small part of Silicon Valley with land cost at least ten times the national average. California is now in the midst of a civil war with those understanding economics vs. those who don't. In one of the great events in history those who build housing are now withdrawing their support for investing in California housing. A real estate investors rebellion. Right now housing money is convening in Seattle and Portland (the great sleeper). One of the top stories in that convention is the Buena Vista boondoggle. The number one lesson plan in economics is now in the making.
George Drysdale land economist and reluctant initiator (too much work).


29 people like this
Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Apr 23, 2018 at 10:55 am

Online Name is a registered user.

Re money going to Seattle and Portland, a recent DeLeon real estate market update said most of the new real estate money coming into Palo Alto was from Canada because of Vancouver, Canada's new limits on foreign real estate investment. That being said, just scan the real estate transactions for the names of the new buyers and you can easily identify one source of the pricing pressure -- all-cash foreign buyers.

That being said, another source of pricing pressure is the obvious jobs/housing imbalance where all the new hirees compete with each other for housing. A friend who recruits for HP International says the ONLY market he has trouble hiring people for is right here in PA.

[Portion removed.]


4 people like this
Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Apr 23, 2018 at 12:31 pm

Online Name is a registered user.

[Post removed.]


33 people like this
Posted by Ceci Kettendorf
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Apr 23, 2018 at 1:14 pm

Ceci Kettendorf is a registered user.

To Mr. Drysdale,
Help me understand why surrounding communities are not going through the growing pains which Palo Alto is now experiencing.
Many communities which are equidistant from Stanford, Google, etc., remain bedroom communities and incur no wrath from the state.
How does Los Altos push back against several million square feet of office space?
Why is Atherton not building small, multi-unit, underparked, highrise BMR housing? Is the state fining them?
When I read the reports from those city council meetings, I hear city fathers who are protecting the residential character of the town, the other extreme to what I hear from our council.
I realize those cities have different charters, but still...........
My sons have degrees in economics yet they cannot explain this to me. Can you?


42 people like this
Posted by Ceci Kettendorf
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Apr 23, 2018 at 3:06 pm

Ceci Kettendorf is a registered user.

To Palo Alto is not a village--

You live in Crescent Park!?

Are you campaigning THERE for 3.1 million square feet of office space next to YOUR neighborhood?! Are you in the vangaurd of begging for a 50 foot high, 60 unit, underparked, BMR housing on YOUR street ?! Are you welcoming the junkers parked in front of YOUR house from the overflow parking?! Will you accept even some of the 25,000 housing units to be built?
No, you are safe from the chaos and all that will ensue when Palo Alto becomes, not the San Francisco of the south bay, but the Hong Kong of the south bay. No one is going to expand in your neighborhood. YOu will have your "sleepy retirement." You are safe. [Portion removed.]


39 people like this
Posted by Sheri Furman
a resident of Midtown
on Apr 23, 2018 at 3:46 pm

Sheri Furman is a registered user.

To Palo Alto is not a village--
"I am glad that there are worldclass employers in our town, because they offer wonderful jobs and because their employees are the ones keeping our downtown retail afloat."
What downtown retail? You mean all the restaurants we can't find parking for?


31 people like this
Posted by Where do I sign?
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Apr 23, 2018 at 6:00 pm

Can you who have the sign sheets please provide your contacts, again? Your posts got helpfully deleted.

Thanks.


41 people like this
Posted by Abitarian
a resident of Downtown North
on Apr 23, 2018 at 6:16 pm

Thanks to Greg Schmid for leading this effort, which I will gladly support, though my feeling is that it does not go nearly far enough.

I would like to see a moratorium on all office expansion. At this point, it seems the only plan that makes any sense is to convert existing office space into housing that complies with current zoning.

Will there be any opportunities for signing the initiative in the downtown area?

BTW, while I no longer read his blog, Steve Levy has launched a new topic titled "Retail's Real Estate Glut is Growing". Of course, a "glut" is defined as an excessively abundant supply, so presumably, Mr. Levy believes there is way too much retail in Palo Alto.


21 people like this
Posted by Suzanne Keehn
a resident of Barron Park
on Apr 23, 2018 at 6:34 pm

[Post removed; please do not post personal contact information.]


23 people like this
Posted by CeCi Kettendorf
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Apr 23, 2018 at 6:45 pm

[Post removed.]


36 people like this
Posted by CeCi Kettendorf
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Apr 23, 2018 at 7:01 pm

The developers have always used PAF as their henchmen for promoting ruinous growth, funding all PAF's cries for housing. Now, however those same developers must have their panty hose tied in knots because they can't call out their usual PAF army to scream this initiative down. I am sure it will happen anyway; David fights Goliath. [Portion removed.]


28 people like this
Posted by What PAF will say
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Apr 23, 2018 at 9:03 pm

What PAF will say is a registered user.

@CeCi, well, PAF could say that we need the taxes and fees from commercial development to pay for the infrastructure we need to build to house all these people. Or something like that...

I think the reason why Kniss and others over-developed our City in the first place is because it brings money into City coffers. I am all for being poorer and happier. (Though we really do have to solve our pension problem!)


38 people like this
Posted by CeCi Kettendorf
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Apr 23, 2018 at 11:15 pm

Build schools, not offices.
If PAF were sincere about wanting a diverse community, they would advocate for the building of schools. School sites were sold off in 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 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 housing, before we build offices, we should build schools. If PAF were honorable in advocating for a diverse community, they would point out the need. However, they will never, ever advocate for schools because that is not profitable for the Sugar Daddy Developers who fund PAF. IF PAF were truly interested in a balanced, all-embracing community, they would speak for the children of Palo Alto when they present their bogus online petition at city hall containing the names (not signatures) of persons wanting housing to be built.
City planners plan for schools. I know, I know the PAUSD is separate from the city. Stil, I say city planners plan for schools. We need to plan for the future needs of Palo Alto families and that includes the planning for our children's educations.
This initiative to limit office space will give us a breather to examine what our real needs are. What we really need is far more school sites. Build schools, not offices. Set land aside for schools, not office buildings. Support our schools, not their businesses.


38 people like this
Posted by mauricio
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Apr 24, 2018 at 6:00 am

mauricio is a registered user.

PAF is [portion removed] representing big developers and the Palantirs of SV. Advocating for schools and real diversity defies the purpose of their existence, so don't hold your breath. Expect a barrage of sleek expensive flyers in your mail box claiming that curbing office growth is feudal NYMBYSM that would destroy Palo Alto and put an end to innovation.


8 people like this
Posted by george drysdale
a resident of Professorville
on Apr 24, 2018 at 12:14 pm

"We're between a rock and a hard place" squealed the Capitola councilman after George Drysdale delivered his presentation about rent control on mobile home parks in Capitola. But the rock came down hard and Capitola threw out rent controls. Now (the Buena Vista boondoggle): a sixty year old trailer had just sold for 748K with a beautiful view of course. After rent control was booted in Capitola out its price had fallen to zero.
As Gale Johnson has stated if you examine the details of the Buena Vista boondoggle you want to throw up. The Buena Vista has made Palo Alto into a chump. I've tried through the county several times to get info, nothing. The city attorney of Palo Alto: stonewalled. Do I have to get a court order to get the info? It's the story. Hoover tower the number one think tank almost in view of the Buena Vista financial disaster. Boot rent control out of California lock stock and barrel. The San Jose Property Rights Initiative with George Drysdale trying to win back Palo Alto's honor.


30 people like this
Posted by resident
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Apr 24, 2018 at 3:28 pm

The more office space we add the more ABAG assigns a housing requirement based on that office space. Since we have maxed out at the growth on available land then we need to stop the increase in office space which drives the ABAG calculation. Google is Mountain View's problem - not ours. And FB is Menlo Parks problem - not ours. We do not have a requirement to add housing to meet their needs. We only have a requirement to support the housing for the companies in our city. And if ABAG tries to assign PA added requirements to support Google and FB then push back. We have teachers, police, fire people that work in this city that need housing. Start making a priority list of what needs to be done here for the people that work here. These are not temporary workers - they are people that commit a career goal to be here. Tech workers are known to change jobs frequently so we have less of a priority to house the floating tech boom.


8 people like this
Posted by george drysdale
a resident of Professorville
on Apr 25, 2018 at 11:38 am

ABAG is a F student in social studies. They have no teeth to enforce their utopian ideals (good). ABAG is a collection of politicians seeking to gain votes in a price controlled environment. The number one cause of a lack of real estate investment in apartment houses in the Bay Area and California is rent control. Good grief, the first chapters of a basic economics textbook: dead weight loss and a generalized loss of respect in California's governance. Now Ceci: curtailing where the market wants to go is a form of price control. Let Gale Johnson explain things to you, she is learning how to think like an economist. The price on land in Palo Alto makes subsidized housing virtually impossible. Build office buildings to match the very high price of land. Any housing to be build can only be rented by the rich. Does that horrify you? If you own land in Palo Alto and Silcion Valley you've hit the jackpot. Be happy.


33 people like this
Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Apr 25, 2018 at 11:43 am

Online Name is a registered user.

@George, ABAG may be an F student but it's been used as an excuse by PA officials who wring their hands and worry that ABAG MIGHT sue us for non-compliance, something lots of other communities aren't worried about at all.

The cost of a possible lawsuit is probably significantly cheaper than the cost of accommodating all the commuters who over-run us with the growing jobs /housing imbalance.


24 people like this
Posted by Annette
a resident of College Terrace
on Apr 25, 2018 at 12:04 pm

Annette is a registered user.

Yesterday's headline about what Stanford should pay to mitigate against the impact of the development in its GUP got me thinking. First, we don't get to count new Stanford housing in our housing production numbers. That hurts. Second, Stanford can pay and pay and pay, but we will likely never realize the intended benefit of that money.

From the perspective of effectiveness, what's the point in extracting mitigation $ "to offset the impact of development" if we are simultaneously (and constantly) adding our own development to an already over-built, over-stressed environment? We are on a sort of hamster wheel.


4 people like this
Posted by Suzanne Keehn
a resident of Barron Park
on Apr 25, 2018 at 1:16 pm

[Post removed; please do not post personal contact information.]


29 people like this
Posted by mauricio
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Apr 25, 2018 at 2:01 pm

mauricio is a registered user.

There is no reason for Palo Alto to be a member of ABAG. It is a proven corrupt organization that is not interested in the quality of life of local residents. It has no teeth anyway, and fearing that ABAG would sue the city for non compliance is comical. Los Altos has withdrawn from ABAG years ago and got to maintain their high quality of life as a result. Los Altos is now a much better place to live in than Palo Alto, because they realized how bad for their residents an ABAG membership is. The time to leave ABAG is yesterday.


31 people like this
Posted by Pro Urbanization
a resident of Community Center
on Apr 25, 2018 at 2:28 pm

Palo Alto Forward's true objective is urbanization and densification. Their supporters are developers and Palantir of which most board members have direct ties. That is why they claim housing crisis but want to include single tech workers as ones qualifying for assistance (aka Palantir subsidy) and maximizing the upzoning (developer benefit). They strongly opposed the office cap because it would hurt Palantir and goes against their pro densification / urbanization agenda. A lot of us moved here for the great schools and nice community and we will have to fight to keep it as there is a lot of money by developers, etc...


15 people like this
Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Apr 25, 2018 at 2:40 pm

Online Name is a registered user.

Remember that even though we can't publicly share our personal contact info here that publisher Bill Johnson has helpfully said that if we email the town moderator requesting to be privately with another poster, the moderator connect us if there's mutual consent to contact sharing.

There's an "Email Town Square Moderator" at the bottom of each post box.

Presumably those of us posting our personal contact info are giving our consent but I explicitly give my consent share my contact info with others and urge those who've had their contact info deleted to do the same.


36 people like this
Posted by mauricio
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Apr 25, 2018 at 3:21 pm

mauricio is a registered user.

If PAF has an ideology beyond being and arm of real estate developers and Palantir, it is the decimation of suburbia and small towns in favor of incessant urbanization that in their eyes must include massive commercial development. Their model is Hong Kong, but they know that to get Palo Alto to resemble Hong Kong they need many smaller victories, which begin with inserting as many of their members and supporters on the CC and influential commissions.


29 people like this
Posted by Palantir in PA government
a resident of Downtown North
on Apr 25, 2018 at 10:08 pm

To be specific about Palantir, these names have been posted before, they are Palantir employees and executives who are in our city government. Are there more?

Eric Rosenblum was on Planning Commission, is a Palantir Executive
Mehdi Alhassani on Human Relations Commission works for Palantir
Mila Zelkha now on the Public Art Commission, works for Palantir-- was on the Comprehensive Plan Advisory Committee
Will Griffin is on the RPP (parking) Stakeholder Group works for Palantir
Bob McGrew is on the Traffic Management Committee, and vice-Chair of the Palo Alto Transportation Management Association. He is also on the Board of the Chamber of Commerce
Former Plannning Commissioner Kate Downing's husband Steve Downing is a long-time Palantir employees.


18 people like this
Posted by Annette
a resident of College Terrace
on Apr 26, 2018 at 8:23 am

Politics makes strange bedfellows, sure, but of all the companies that our city could get chummy with, Palantir is arguably the most inexplicable. Liberal-leaning Palo Alto going steady with a company like Palantir is crazy. Our City leaders chafe at comparisons to Trump and his authoritarian tactics and we object to Cambridge Analytica's role in the Facebook data security breach, yet we slow dance with Palantir?

Why? I'd very much appreciate an explanation of this peculiar relationship. I am expecting to learn that campaign contributions and money to fund organizations such as PAF are part of the explanation.


18 people like this
Posted by resident
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Apr 26, 2018 at 8:56 am

Loa Altos is a great city. Low on number of businesses so low ABAG assignment - whether they are in or out. Big difference is that we have CALTRAIN going through our city which changes up the number of funding issues that we will require outside of our distinct city boundaries. Notice how BART stops in San Mateo Country and does not come down the suggested west side of the peninsula - 280 side. If BART came through the west side then it would directly impact SU - an obvious station, Los Altos - an obvious station, and go on to Cupertino to the Apple location - an obvious station. At which point it would circle the bay as originally intended. A lot of work has put into avoiding that obvious transportation planning - we voted taxes to pay for that. Someone needs to point to that as the obvious list of priorities and get ABAG off our backs.


Like this comment
Posted by george drysdale
a resident of Professorville
on Apr 26, 2018 at 9:28 am

[Post removed.]


21 people like this
Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Apr 26, 2018 at 10:13 am

Online Name is a registered user.

Fascinating article from today's NYT on the effect Amazon's new HQ2 in Nashville is having on local rents and pushing out existing residents even though Amazon's donating a lot of money to "affordable" housing there.

Web Link

Adding more office space certainly has its costs.


30 people like this
Posted by mauricio
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Apr 26, 2018 at 11:40 am

mauricio is a registered user.

[Portion removed.] PAF members have infiltrated every branch of the town's government. When PAF show en masse to CC meetings, CC members friendly to, and aligned with PAF seem to know every PAF member by their first name and are very deferential to them. This should explain why Palantir, which should have been an anathema to the progressive/liberal tradition of Palo Alto is slow dancing with Palo Alto politicians.


20 people like this
Posted by @Palantir in PA government
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Apr 26, 2018 at 1:08 pm

Thank you for posting that information. I did not know that and it is absolutely disturbing.


12 people like this
Posted by mauricio
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Apr 26, 2018 at 2:30 pm

mauricio is a registered user.

[Post removed.]


11 people like this
Posted by Signatures!
a resident of Fairmeadow
on May 21, 2018 at 6:04 pm

Signatures! is a registered user.

I've seen lots of people signing this petition over the weekend. I hope it has enough signatures to get the initiative on the ballot. It seems like a slam dunk.


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

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