News

Palo Alto approves permanent office cap

Split City Council moves to relax some provisions, make annual limit permanent

In a bid to moderate office development in three prominent commercial areas, the Palo Alto City Council voted on Monday night to both cement and relax the city's annual cap on new projects.

By a 5-4 vote -- with Adrian Fine, Karen Holman, Lydia Kou and Tom DuBois dissenting -- the council agreed to make permanent the 50,000-square-foot limit on office and research-and-development projects in downtown, around California Avenue and along El Camino Real, a restriction that has been in place on an interim basis since fall 2015.

In doing so, however, the council also agreed to make two significant changes to the ordinance. The law will now have a "rollover" provision that will allow the city to carry over unused square footage during slow years to the following year. The council also scrapped the "beauty contest" provision that pitted proposals in the three areas against one another during years when development would exceed the 50,000-square-foot threshold, which has not happened since the cap was put in place. Instead, office projects will now be approved on a first-come, first-served basis.

The outcome of the Monday vote wasn't entirely surprising. Last fall, the council directed staff by a 5-4 vote to make the two modifications to the ordinance, much to the chagrin of those residents and some council members who felt the changes would significantly weaken the law. Some argued Monday that rather than loosen the cap on office development, the city should tighten it by applying it beyond the three designated areas.

Former Vice Mayor Greg Schmid, who is now spearheading a citizen initiative to limit citywide office development to about 58,000 square feet per year, urged the council to make sure commercial growth in Palo Alto remains at or below the city's historical average. Hamilton Hitchings, who served on a citizen committee that helped update the city's guiding land-use document, the Comprehensive Plan, also made a case for applying the cap more broadly.

"If the office cap was expanded to all Palo Alto, that would help further address our housing and traffic challenges," Hitchings said. "Please pass the office cap ordinance without any more amendments that reduce its effectiveness."

Just about everyone on the council and among public speakers agreed that the office cap has some flaws, though members vehemently disagreed about what those are. For some it was too broad, for others too narrow. Most agreed, however, that the mechanism is working as intended. In 2017, the city didn't have any office projects in the three areas where the cap applies. So far this year, there are three pending applications totaling 16,790 square feet -- well below the 50,000-square-foot limit.

DuBois was among those who argued against approving the "rollover" provision, which (given the dearth of projects in 2017) would have allowed up to 100,000 square feet of office development in 2018. A cap of 100,000 square feet is "just not a cap at all," DuBois said.

"Every square foot of office development just makes our housing shortage worse," DuBois said.

Restricting office space helps to address the city's housing shortage because it frees up space for residential development, DuBois said. But the council, by a bare majority, rejected this position, which Councilman Fine called a red herring.

Fine had his own concerns about the cap, which he argued does not address the core problems that the city is trying to solve: too much traffic and not enough housing.

"If we want more housing, we should focus on more housing," Fine said. "Focusing on the office cap does absolutely nothing to address that."

Councilman Greg Scharff and Mayor Liz Kniss concurred and took issue with the idea that new office space is a bad thing. The notion that office development is "somehow evil" is ludicrous, Scharff said.

"I'm surprised people can say it with a straight face," Scharff said.

"This attack on office (space) is really a straw man -- it's not going to build more housing," Scharff said.

Kniss agreed and made a case of welcoming commercial development.

"At some point, a city dies if there is no building," Kniss said. "There are cities throughout the country who would not believe the conversation we're having."

She also proposed evaluating the impact of the ordinance in the next two to four years. Her suggestion was approved by a 5-4 vote, with Kou (who was phoning in from China), joining Scharff, Fine and Councilman Cory Wolbach in supporting her amendment.

"I feel if we revisit it within two to four years, we'll be able to tell whether or not we have totally killed any business development in Palo Alto in the areas that are defined, which I think would frankly be not only sad but detrimental to the vitality, diversity and the opportunities within the community," Kniss said.

The council ultimately agreed to adopt the rollover provision after Vice Mayor Eric Filseth's proposal to eliminate it was rejected by a 5-4 vote (DuBois, Holman and Kou joined Filseth). By the same vote, the council agreed to scrap the "beauty contest" provision, which DuBois and Holman both favored.

Holman noted that the council often gets complaints from the community about the quality of new developments. Giving the council a chance to compare projects based on quantifiable factors would give the city a chance to address these concerns, she said.

"Having something we can put a yardstick to will actually help ameliorate all of those concerns and I think we'll be a better community for it," Holman said.

After their various amendments failed, Holman, DuBois and Kou all voted against the revised cap, with Fine joining the three slower-growth council members in an unusual alliance. Filseth, meanwhile, joined Kniss, Scharff, Councilman Greg Tanaka and Wolbach to give the ordinance the five votes it needed to pass.

"I think we can say it is working," Wolbach said during the discussion. "We do not have a lot of office development in Palo Alto right now."

---

Follow the Palo Alto Weekly/Palo Alto Online on Twitter @PaloAltoWeekly and Facebook for breaking news, local events, photos, videos and more.

Comments

114 people like this
Posted by Of the Developers, By the Developers, For the Developers
a resident of Crescent Park
on May 1, 2018 at 2:47 am

With the council majority having voted to undermine the office cap, commercial developers can keep building and building, worsening our traffic, parking, and housing woes. Enough. It's time we band together to save our town. Let's not vote developer-backed council members back into office.


117 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Barron Park
on May 1, 2018 at 6:09 am

I would have liked to see a moratorium on all new office building. I don’t see why the CC is so blind to the impossible congestion, overcrowding, and destruction of what used to be a nice town. So disappointed in this lack of leadership.


12 people like this
Posted by A place to start
a resident of College Terrace
on May 1, 2018 at 8:11 am

hopefully this, combined with the affordable housing overlay, will steer Palo Alto on the right path. These are tough decisions and nothing’s ever perfect, and I for one am glad to see action on these issues.


7 people like this
Posted by This slows office growth
a resident of University South
on May 1, 2018 at 9:07 am

What’s going on here?

You’ve got alleged “pro-growth” members advocating to effectively halt office growth because that what this cap does and then revisit in another 2-4 years.

And you’ve got the “no-growth” bloc voting no! Along with “pro-growth” Fine!!!

Cory, Liz, Greg, Greg and Eric said yes to curtail office growth. The community wants to pace growth and that’s what this does.

By voting no, Kou, Dubois, Holman and Fine say there’s no need for an ordinance to pace growth. What!?!

This is no way impacts housing - in fact staff is in process revising zoning to be less favorable to commercial while increasing zoning changes to encourage housing production.


47 people like this
Posted by Rick
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on May 1, 2018 at 9:29 am

Kou, Dubois, Holman and Fine were saying that the office cap had been so watered down that voting for it would have been a disservice to the community. We do need to vote the others out ASAP.


17 people like this
Posted by Kevin Nunes
a resident of South of Midtown
on May 1, 2018 at 9:40 am

I moved to Palo Alto 5 years ago to join a startup... which is now leaving town because office rents have skyrocketed (not to mention the traffic for all our employees who don’t live in Palo Alto). Stopping office growth does nothing to fix the traffic problems, and it also means the city will are less tax revenue. Bad movement by all measures!


27 people like this
Posted by Cal Ave
a resident of Mayfield
on May 1, 2018 at 10:20 am

Currently here are several empty office spaces in the Cal Ave area. Clearly there's no strong need to build more offices there. Odd to see Adrian Fine and Lydia Kou vote together on a measure.


60 people like this
Posted by Different "no" votes
a resident of Fairmeadow
on May 1, 2018 at 10:57 am

Different "no" votes is a registered user.

@Rick, the "no" votes were not all the same.

Fine voted "no" because he does not want an office cap. He wants to focus on building housing, and isn't interested in slowing down commercial development while that happens. He wants to build up and densify Palo Alto -- both residential and commercial.

Dubois, Kou, and Holman voted "no" because they want a more effective office cap. In particular, they object to the rollover provision, which allows up to 100,000 square feet of space per year, which is not much of a cap. They want to slow down commercial development to its normal historic rate, and figure out how to do affordable, sustainable housing.

The folks who voted "yes" similarly voted so for different reasons.

Filseth voted "yes" because some cap is better than none. (He would like to eliminate the rollover provision.)

Kniss, Wolbach, Tanaka, and Scharff voted "yes" because this is a very limited cap, allowing up to 100,000 sf per year, and they are hoping it is enough to hold off the more effective cap that some citizens are petitioning for.

The two camps remain very much as they were: fast-dense-development (5) and slow-sustainable-development (4).


52 people like this
Posted by Annette
a resident of College Terrace
on May 1, 2018 at 11:14 am

Annette is a registered user.

The article does not fully capture the context or mood of the discussion or the reasons for the unusual alliances. I am pleased that the cap survived this Council. That said, this is an imperfect ordinance by many measures. Each person who addressed CC spoke in favor of continuing the cap and several urged CC to strengthen it by making it citywide and eliminating the carryover provision. Several speakers pointed out that curbing commercial DOES have a positive impact on housing because by not adding commercial we don't exacerbate the serious jobs:housing imbalance. Scharff scoffed at this, derisively using the words evil, extreme and ludicrous. As public comment had ended, his unfortunate comments were of course unchallenged. I believe that is what is known as a bully pulpit.


72 people like this
Posted by Pants on fire
a resident of Crescent Park
on May 1, 2018 at 11:24 am

No one said office development is evil, Mr. Scharff. It brings in more workers who then want housing.

From Scharff's legal biograpy:
"Mr. Scharff has acted as in house counsel for several
large real estate developers and has served on the
National Board of Directors for the National Association
of Office and Industrial Park developers and owners."


50 people like this
Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on May 1, 2018 at 11:28 am

Online Name is a registered user.

Some observations from having watched the streaming meeting from home,

1) Only Karen Holman noted that the city's approval scores on a survey asking whether PA's moving in the right direction, spending our tax dollars wisely etc, had fallen by 20% since the last survey.

2) Greg Sharff labeled everyone disagreeing with the need for more office construction everywhere around town "extremists" not once but twice. Remember he'll be running ABAG shortly.

3) A representative of the public opinion firm surveying residents on whether we'd support an infrastructure tax increase and which of the 4 alternatives was the most palatable presented the survey results. (Sales tax increase, parcel tax increase, hotel tax increase and property transfer tax increase with minimal support for the first two.)

Several eloquent residents spoke, suggesting the city try to rein in costs rather than raise taxes, esp. with Trump's taxes coming into effect.

The hotel industry reps were politely aghast they'd had to read about the proposed hotel tax hike in the paper and patiently tried to educate the CC that if enacted, PA would have the highest hotel tax in the country and revenues were already flat as they lost business to cheaper communities,

Various realtors spoke, noting that with only 450 properties out of 26,000 changing hands that an increased transfer tax and parcel tax were hardly equivalent in terms of revenue collection.

Clearly the city planners hadn't done their homework re the tax initiative and that their community outreach continues to fail.


79 people like this
Posted by Becky Sanders
a resident of Ventura
on May 1, 2018 at 11:57 am

Becky Sanders is a registered user.

The sensible growth folks are using a ballot initiative to bring an office cap with teeth to the voters this November. This way we can go right to the voters and bypass the strange birds down at City Hall. Please consider signing the petition which is circulating now. Because it's a REAL BALLOT INITIATIVE, we have to get ANALOG signatures. None of this online stuff where folks from all over the world can sign. We need Palo Altans. Registered voters who are residents of Palo Alto are eligible to sign our official ballot sheets. If we get this on the November ballot, then we can let Palo Altans speak for themselves.

Visit sensiblezoning.org to learn more.

Lots of us have these petitions circulating. We're a fun group, enjoying our friends and neighbors. If prices continue to soar because, among other reasons, offices co-opt housing sites as well as bring more jobs-housing imbalance, our friends and neighbors, particularly those of us with traditionally modest means, will inevitably be gentrified out of here.

Thanks everybody!

ps the folks that are behind this ballot measure are some heavy hitting public servants of current note with a tradition of being community-minded and other-people centered: Greg Schmid, Joe Hirsch, Terry Holzemer and Mary Gallagher. This is an all volunteer effort.


34 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of University South
on May 1, 2018 at 12:20 pm

I only caught a part of the meeting last night on TV.
Did Scharff also make similar derogatory characteristics of opposing opinions when he spoke about the tax polling? Is he not capable of simply providing counter arguments without needing to resort to the sorts of weak insults we hear from the White House these days?


11 people like this
Posted by Less caps and more change...
a resident of Crescent Park
on May 1, 2018 at 12:25 pm

Right now the incentives to build housing are not there. We need these council members who really want to discourage office to actually support more housing. One way or another people will build, lets encourage them to build what we want: housing instead of office.

This doesn't do that, this just encourages office builders to get in line. Adriane Fine was right when he supported shifting to policies that support housing as oppose to slow office.

As for the ballot measure - that's an easy NO THANK YOU! These issues are more involved than anyone cares to accept. Ballot measures are blunt tools that often do more harm than good. Clearly here that would be the case. Please stop vilifying our council members every time they vote for nuance. They are working hard to make the right decisions.


31 people like this
Posted by Annette
a resident of College Terrace
on May 1, 2018 at 1:11 pm

Annette is a registered user.

@Resident - to answer your questions: Yes, he did and apparently No, he isn't.

@Less caps and more change: the only person I heard doing any vilifying last night was Scharff. It is accurate to say that this cap does not address housing; Fine is obviously right about that. The point that was being made is that the cap - and the ballot initiative should it succeed - are steps towards not constantly making the need for housing greater and greater and greater. We will never balance the equation; we can, however, stop creating an ever-growing increase in demand. But only if we have the will to do that.


9 people like this
Posted by moi
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 1, 2018 at 1:26 pm

>> “Her suggestion was approved by a 5-4 vote, with Kou (who was phoning in from China). . . .”

Do we really need to know the location from which a member called in a vote? I’m not sure you need to be so specific.


27 people like this
Posted by Sheri Furman
a resident of Midtown
on May 1, 2018 at 2:02 pm

Sheri Furman is a registered user.

Also note that several lauded the expertise of the PTC for recommending that the "beauty contest" be scrapped when only a couple of weeks ago they ignored their recommendations regarding the affordable housing overlay.


38 people like this
Posted by 6Djockey
a resident of Green Acres
on May 1, 2018 at 3:59 pm

6Djockey is a registered user.

Kniss is right--there are cities in the country that can't believe we're having this discussion. Many of those same cities also can't believe the real estate prices we have. Those cities are also trying to recover lost jobs from lost industries. Every city is different. We have to look at our city. And what we have is too many offices already that has resulted in the traffic problems we have and the jobs/housing imbalance because we have too much office space and more densely packed office space that is not taken into account when new developments are proposed. I think Greg Schmid is on the right track with limiting new office development across the city.


30 people like this
Posted by Curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on May 1, 2018 at 6:09 pm

"Also note that several lauded the expertise of the PTC for recommending that the "beauty contest" be scrapped when only a couple of weeks ago they ignored their recommendations regarding the affordable housing overlay."

It's consistent. The developers who funded the Kniss Gang behind the curtains prefer to build offices, not housing. Offices are more profitable than housing especially "affordable" housing. Give the Gang credit for basic integrity: they do what they've been paid to do.


33 people like this
Posted by Chip
a resident of Professorville
on May 1, 2018 at 8:14 pm

We do not have enough road capacity to efficiently accommodate existing vehicular traffic in the mid-peninsula. There should be no increase in either office space or housing, unless someone figures out how to widen Alma, El Camino, University, Middlefield, and many neighborhood streets.

Perhaps banning street parking on University, Middlefield, and El Camino would allow extra traffic or bike lanes? It might lead people to park in their own driveways & garages instead of in the streets. Require temporary parking permits for construction vehicles in residential zones. Build no more anything until gridlock is relieved.


22 people like this
Posted by Pete
a resident of College Terrace
on May 2, 2018 at 10:57 am

It’s weird the cap applies to the transit rich areas but not Stanford Research Park.


22 people like this
Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on May 2, 2018 at 11:10 am

Online Name is a registered user.

@Chip, sure. Let's demolish all those streets to make way for the commuters who are over-running us. If you eliminate on-street parking on all those streets, where would all the hacker hotel and ADU tenants go?

When asked that question at a CC meeting, Cory Wollbach recommended that they park on front lawns. That'll sure add class to our fair city.


16 people like this
Posted by Chip
a resident of Professorville
on May 2, 2018 at 12:28 pm

@ Online Name -
Rethink ADUs. R1 zones are becoming multi-family dwelling areas with AirBnb, ADUs, etc. They increase density & parking issues. Does anyone other than the landlord really like having a couple of extra residents (& maybe cars) at the neighbors' houses?

I chose to buy in a neighborhood zoned R1 for single family residences only. Now neighbors have converted their garage to living quarters for a family of 2 adults & an infant. Instead of 4 people living next door, there are now 7. If I wanted that density level, I'd have bought a duplex. There are AirBnb rentals near me too.

Hacker hotel workers can park off-site & walk/bike in or the employers can provide shuttle service. No more permits for under-parked projects, like Larry Ellison's hotel. Eliminating street parking does not <<demolish . . .streets.>> Lane re-striping needs only paint. No impact for pedestrians but adding a bike lane or additional vehicle lane or dedicated left turn lanes would help a lot.


8 people like this
Posted by ShockedinPA
a resident of Downtown North
on May 2, 2018 at 12:34 pm

As a longtime resident of Palo Alto who also works for a startup, I am disappointed in ANY office cap, but mostly sad to see how many in this community have validated all the criticisms of [those who] oppose change, growth and progress.

The startup I work for is planning to leave Palo Alto due to the extreme cost. This cost is directly related to the foolish policies supported by [those] who oppose progress. When the startup leaves, it will cease doing business with many local shops and restaurants as well.

About 90% of our employees do not live in Palo Alto, so the idea that limiting office space has any connection to housing is ridiculous and not substantiated by any facts.

While it's nice to fantasize about Palo Alto being a cozy little town, the reality is this city is home to Stanford University and at the epicenter of the industry changing the world.

Communities change all the time. For those who want to go back to 1995, there will be those who want to go back to 1975.

Meanwhile, we should be attracting the people who are thinking ahead to 2025, 2045 and beyond.

[Portion removed.]

If there was one positive of the city council meeting, it's that this absurd policy narrowly passed 5-4, which means that ONE vote would have prevented this mistake.

My startup is leaving, but I will continue to live here and I pledge to do everything in my power to support candidates who embrace progress, diversity and solutions instead of [those] who prefer the status-quo.

For those who view startups or tech as some outsiders, many of us have been here just as long as you or even longer, so please do not pretend you are better than us, speak for this community or have the best interests of anyone at heart.

Shame on the NIMBY's for driving out good people. Imagine if someone had done that to you when you moved here.


40 people like this
Posted by Blame the Unicorn too
a resident of Barron Park
on May 2, 2018 at 1:08 pm

@ShockedInPA

I’m not sure where you get NIMBY out of all this. There are areas zoned for business and cities design for balance of community services and industry. I think any open minded person would recognize the need for balance in any system. Your startups departure is likely due to a lack of balance and perspective. Poor choices in location and proximity to your resources and staff. Blaming the fictitious NIMBY will not save a poorly executed startup.


32 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 2, 2018 at 1:11 pm


There is obviously a lot of bitterness from those who wish to start up a business in Palo Alto as well as to live here. Many comments have been removed in other threads, but I still have no idea what the draw is to Palo Alto.

This is a city close to Stanford that was initially a place where faculty, staff, and service workers to the university were able to afford to live. There were as many blue collar workers as there were professional people, as I have heard from those who lived here during that time. It was a place for families with lots of things for families to do, lots of schools, lots of open space and a vibrant downtown with affordable restaurants and other family friendly businesses.

We have lost a lot of this, so don't say that people want to remain in the 50s. Service workers are more than likely not living in Palo Alto. Blue collar workers are more than likely not living in Palo Alto. The number of schools has diminished while the student population has increased. The open space still exists but it is harder to get to due to traffic. The affordable restaurants are going in favor of places where table service is at a minimum and waiters on wheels pick up food to take to late night workers. The sit down restaurants are full, but for many of us who live on a budget they are not affordable for anything other than an occasional meal out. As for businesses designed for recreation and fun in the lives of our families, the bowling alley has gone and the only movie theaters are not showing those movies that the mega theaters out of town show. Our parks are full with sports teams of all types which means that a pick up frisbee game is almost out of the question on a sunny Saturday afternoon.

I don't consider myself a Nimby, but quality of life is something I value. I question the pack and stack housing folk because I honestly don't thing life is just about working and sleeping even if you can walk between the two places.

I think a community needs more space to breathe, to have fun, to hang out, to live our lives. If that makes me a Nimby, then my definition is different to yours. If my kids want to live in a single family home then I know that they will be living a long way away from me. They might want to live in a converted granny flat in my backyard for a year, but when they are parents with kids and a dog themselves, a granny flat will not suit their needs.

I know that my kids will more than likely live somewhere else when they have families of their own. Where they work may or may not be a long commute and hopefully they will be able to do that commute efficiently in a luxury bus or a comfortable train. I want more for them than a pack and stack beside a Caltrain station. Perhaps that also makes me a Nimby, but it was just what my parents wanted for me too.

Name calling isn't nice. Offending people isn't nice. If you want to live in pack and stack for a year or so, then that is fine with me. But, when it is time for you to start your family and have a couple of energetic kids with lots of energy, I can almost guarantee you will want a back yard for them to go out to while you cook dinner. That's me thinking of you and your future. Not me not wanting you as my neighbor.


25 people like this
Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on May 2, 2018 at 2:20 pm

Online Name is a registered user.

@Chip, I think we agree here. I too live in an R1 neighborhood and I resent the poorly conceived ADU regs that were rushed through with no thought given to where everyone was going to park as shown by one of our cc members who was stumped by that question. I used the term "hacker hotels" to mean single-family residents rented out to many many hackers, not under-parked real hotels that the CC allowed with no regard for where their workers or guests would park. I resent the "fake retail" downtown that's pushed out retail when in fact they're just more offices.

I resent that we're becoming an office park. I resent the ridiculous traffic and the commuter over-flow from workers and their employers who want to avoid paying for parking. I resent the decline in our quality of life. I resent the fact that the city didn't try to hit up employers like Google for the bike bridge when $20,000,000 is a pittance for them and the bridge primarily serves their employees.

We're mot NIMBY's; we're becoming PIMBY's -- prisoners in our own back yards.


36 people like this
Posted by Chip
a resident of Professorville
on May 2, 2018 at 3:40 pm

@ Online Name-
Thanks for the clarification. I interpreted "hacker hotels" as offices filled with tech workers.

The insistence of many cc members on promoting multi-story "transit-based housing" is offensive & damaging to the community. Until reliable transit systems exist, the term is misleading. Even folks who take the train or bus from home-to-work still own & use cars. They have medical, dental appointments, shop for groceries, maybe transport young kids to school & athletic events, & even drive to the Dish or have social lives requiring them to use cars.

An Uber is still a car on the street & adds more traffic than a car-owning user would, as they travel from 1 customer to another. They also cruise around neighborhoods in anticipation of another call. Buying food & supplies from Amazon brings large vans which double park & block other cars. The transit-based theory is erroneously promoted & is used to justify height limit variances & under-parking, which developers so love. A developer's best friend is often a sympathetic cc or pc member who likes being treated for dinners out. We've seen that in the past & it was ridiculously prevalent in the '80s, when development groups had financial partners on the cc.

PA needs to stop the headlong rush to increase housing units & office space & consider the long-term well-being & quality of community life for residents.


40 people like this
Posted by mauricio
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on May 2, 2018 at 3:46 pm

mauricio is a registered user.

Why would a start-up that has limited financing with 90 percent of its work force not living in Palo Alto locate to Palo Alto in the first place? Why didn't they start operations in a more affordable area? According to the poster, they are forced to move because real estate insane prices, but surely they had known about the insane prices before they moved in.

This has become a disturbing pattern in which companies create a problem by moving to the most expensive red hot real estate market in the nation, expecting others to solve the problem of insane office rents and lack of housing for their employees. There are much less expensive areas, even in the Bay area, for start ups to locate to. Insisting on unnecessarily locating to Palo Alto as if it would miraculously become affordable and provide available and affordable housing for their work force, who absolutely must live in Palo Alto or the sky would fall, is a self inflicted wound.This is hubris, and Palo Alto owes absolutely nothing to those companies and their employees.


31 people like this
Posted by Tax them
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on May 2, 2018 at 5:06 pm

Regarding the start-up conversation. Many open office in PA because it is cool to be near Stanford and VC. Then they buy office chairs $800/ea. In a year they are out of money and move on. It is premature to put it mildly to consider most of them seriously.

Now, there are three jobs per person in PA. If it is so appealing for businesses to be here, how about the city taxes them? Really taxes ... This is market economy, as we are reminded by landlords. So far, what we are seeing is the "affordable" housing at 140% AMI the city builds for them. Who is the CC working for?


3 people like this
Posted by ShockedinPA
a resident of Downtown North
on May 2, 2018 at 5:59 pm

[Portion removed.]

"Why would a start-up that has limited financing with 90 percent of its work force not living in Palo Alto locate to Palo Alto in the first place? Why didn't they start operations in a more affordable area?"

So, let me understand this. It's the startup or any small business fault the real estate prices have skyrocketed? Not the fault of restricted supply, poor policies, bad planning [portion removed]?

Our startup is funded for normal operations and doing quite well, thank you. We are NOT funded for outrageous real estate prices and prefer to put more money into people, not buildings.

Under the [portion removed] logic, no startups, no new business, nobody NEW should enter Palo Alto and should just find another place that's "more affordable."

The problem with this bizarre logic is that very little is affordable anywhere, but if every community took the same self-centered attitude "just go somewhere else" then what makes Palo Alto more special than another community?

Are the people of Palo Alto elitists and entitled to some special preservation of the old way while the rest of the region should change?

The reason startups are moving out of Palo Alto is because they are fiscally responsible, not because they have limited financing or didn't plan. Nobody plans for a 200% increase in rent.

[Portion removed.]

However, the worst part of this logic is that you are destroying the future of Palo Alto by forcing startups and small biz out or preventing from coming here.

Over time, the economic diversity of the community vanishes. Only the wealthy can have a business here...and that means their customer will only be the wealthy.

Every startup that leaves or doesn't come to Palo Alto is an economic LOSS for every existing business in Palo Alto.

[Portion removed.]

Personally, as a resident of Palo Alto, I would much rather see an influx of startups and smart people than many of the status-quo clingers and people who want to go back to the past.


3 people like this
Posted by ShockedinPA
a resident of Downtown North
on May 2, 2018 at 6:08 pm

Among the many problems with zoning are things like height restrictions.

Under bad policy, buildings have been limited in height, so it requires more land.

If buildings were allowed to be much taller, combined with underground parking and decks inside, you could create more open space, alleviate parking congestion and have more breathing room even if you added ZERO people.

[Portion removed.] If new development over the past decade had been encouraged with mixed-use, more height and proper planning, we would today have a much better situation than the current crisis.

Some areas could have very tall buildings and some could have not as tall, but for those wondering, most downtowns in America tend to be where the tallest buildings are.

We should be encouraging developers to DEMOLISH buildings that have poor land use and replace them with much more efficient use, more height, more parking inside and create more open space.

[Portion removed.]


2 people like this
Posted by ShockedinPA
a resident of Downtown North
on May 2, 2018 at 6:16 pm

[Post removed.]


2 people like this
Posted by ShockedinPA
a resident of Downtown North
on May 2, 2018 at 6:24 pm

@Chip

Did I read correctly you believe an Uber creates more traffic than someone owning a car?

So, you would prefer the Uber driver AND another car owner to be driving at the same time?

2 cars = more traffic
1 car = less traffic

[Portion removed.]


30 people like this
Posted by Abitarian
a resident of Downtown North
on May 2, 2018 at 7:17 pm

ShockedinPA wrote:

"When Facebook was in Palo Alto, it left for a place with more space. Was Facebook an example of poorly executed startup?

Survey Monkey left...are they another startup that didn't know finances?"

----------

This is exactly the point. The reason Palo Alto's tech ecosystem worked so well for so long is that successful startups moved to Stanford Research Park or out-of-town when they needed more space to accommodate their growing number of employees, making room for new startups to move in.

Presently, we have a situation where a few companies, notably Palantir, are eating up the space that previously housed startups. Offices that could house dozens of startups are taken by one larger company that can afford to outbid all the smaller companies.

Many of us would much prefer to see Palantir go and have the startups return. But we are in no way obligated to build offices or homes for everyone who wants a Palo Alto address.


30 people like this
Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on May 2, 2018 at 7:42 pm

Online Name is a registered user.

@Shocked in Palo Alto, re Uber/Lyft car trips, the urban "planners" in San Francisco were shocked to learn that with Uber/Lyft they'd created 200,000 NEW car trips a DAY when they finally started counting cars instead of just preaching fairy tales.

They were also "shocked" that neighborhoods next to "car-lite" developments were totally swamped with all the spill-over cars FROM the buildings/ developments that were supposed to be car-light.


18 people like this
Posted by Curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on May 2, 2018 at 8:08 pm

"... you want Palo Alto to tax biz to make it what? More difficult to do business than it already is?"

Don't fret. Palantir can easily afford it.


37 people like this
Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on May 2, 2018 at 8:20 pm

25x more students want into Stanford than are currently accepted.
Must be "the fault of restricted supply, poor policies, bad planning and NIMBY's."


2 people like this
Posted by GrownUp
a resident of Greenmeadow
on May 2, 2018 at 8:41 pm

[Post removed.]


19 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 2, 2018 at 9:06 pm

A lot of Palo Alto startups form here on the idea of "gee it's cool to be in famous Palo Alto." Then after awhile they realize "man this is a dumb use of money, there's not even parking here, and when was our fume date again?" Especially the ones that don't have $50 million from Kleiner. It's the natural order of things.


2 people like this
Posted by ShockedinPA
a resident of Downtown North
on May 3, 2018 at 1:05 am

[Post removed.]


22 people like this
Posted by Chip
a resident of Professorville
on May 3, 2018 at 3:28 am

@ Shocked in PA

Yes, SIPA, an owner-driver leaves home, goes to his destination, is not moving on streets, then returns home. An Uber drives to o-d's home to pick up the passenger, delivers passenger to destination, and continues to drive around picking up more passengers for other trips, then eventually retrieves first o-d from that destination & delivers him back home.

It's the driving around that Ubers do when they are in between passengers that adds more actual traffic than would be created by people driving themselves. Even though Uber sells pooled rides, no one I know ever shares an Uber.


8 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 3, 2018 at 8:04 am

I recently did an Uber share. It suited me as I was meeting someone who would be giving me a ride back home later in the evening and driving solo on 101 at 6.00 pm would be a horrific experience. According to my Uber app, my driver was on 101 near Ikea when I called. That driver came off 101 to my pick up place and then we returned back to 101 to resume driving south. Because there were 3 people in the car, we were able to use the carpool lane so we moved quickly to the first destination in Sunnyvale. Once again we came off 101 to deliver one of the riders to the drop off place and then returned to 101 to continue south to the original riders destination of SJC.

It could be argued that this ride kept two extra cars off 101, but there were at least 2 extra trips on surface streets.

The ride suited me as it would have taken a lot longer for me to drive as a solo driver, but there had to be extra miles and extra time taken by that driver on surface streets.


43 people like this
Posted by mauricio
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on May 3, 2018 at 10:52 am

mauricio is a registered user.

Start-ups moving to Palo Alto is a really dumb move, unless they have virtually unlimited funding, although even then it wouldn't be a wise move because their funding would go much further staying away from Palo Alto's sky high rents, and I'm not even bringing up the parking issues.

Start-ups that move to Palo Alto and then leave because of the insane rents are like people whose budget justifies a Prius yet end up buying a Lamborghini and are shocked and resentful at the sticker price and maintenance costs.

The real reason start-ups locate to Palo Alto is vanity. It's to have a Palo Alto address. I understand why a start-up in Southern California would want a Bel-Air address and not a West Covina or Burbank address, but it would be just as dumb a move as locating to Palo Alto.


18 people like this
Posted by Of course
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on May 3, 2018 at 11:13 am

@mauricio

Of course. PA is one of the landmarks of innovation. It is cool.
However, common sense budgeting applies when people spend their own money, not $MM they received from VC.

More important is to have businesses pay for their workers' housing, not the city of PA. Now, before they say "What? Even more??" - remember? 3:1
workers to residents. There is room for adjustment. We can afford to lower vibrancy somewhat if in return we are not spending 45 min on the road trying to drive 4 mi across PA.


23 people like this
Posted by Straight face
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 3, 2018 at 11:34 am

"Councilman Greg Scharff and Mayor Liz Kniss concurred and took issue with the idea that new office space is a bad thing. The notion that office development is "somehow evil" is ludicrous, Scharff said.

"I'm surprised people can say it with a straight face," Scharff said. "

How can Scharff make the comment with a straight face?

This is not Detroit, and it's not a big City, this is a town with unequipped resources orleadership to grow grow and grow without causing the residents more costs in SAFETY and quality of life.

If there had ever been such a plan - to grow everything with no limits the town would have been prepared. It is too late now to try to change the engine while the car is running.

Oh wait, it may still happen by shuttling in political organizations to talk at Council that it's a moral imperative to tell us they need us to subsidize an unknown amount of housing and offices when we have limited resources.

See the budget, two garages. Gift to developers.


12 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 4, 2018 at 11:25 am

Somebody told "Shocked" that HBO show about Palo Alto is a satire, right?


22 people like this
Posted by Bill Ross
a resident of College Terrace
on May 5, 2018 at 4:24 pm

The ten people who spoke in favor of retaining an office cap, expanding it Citywide and not allowing a rollover are not evil, NIMBYs, uninformed or selfish. They were merely following the law. Where is the land use nexus analysis or current CEQA analysis to allow continued office development? Short answer: it doesn't exist. The lack of critical analysis on the linkage between authorizing increased development without addressing existing infrastructure problems--traffic congestion, inadequate pension funding, inadequate City infrastructure funding to name a few with adequate mitigation measures is disappointing to say the least. The characterization of people favoring real limits on office development as "evil" warrants an apology. The direct linkage between the previous Council authorization of office space WITHOUT adequate conditions mitigating its nexus for the creation of those problems is fiscally irresponsible. The development majority needs to think in terms of "clawback" conditions--that is address not only a given project's impact on traffic through proportionate mitigation but also incrementally address the failure of previous approvals to adequately mitigate in order to obtain approval. This type of more than fair share mitigation has been used to reduce air quality impacts from stationary air pollution sources for almost fourty years. It is surprising that those on Council claming either governmental or academic experience in the planning area have not insisted on such conditions. On reflection why would they? To do so would be contrary to their developer campaign contributor interests.


8 people like this
Posted by Pants on fire
a resident of Crescent Park
on May 7, 2018 at 1:02 pm

The photo of 636 Waverley doesn't begin to reflect its intrusiveness and overwhelming awfulness. The box-on-box architecture is aggressive and unimaginative, it is the only structure on the block with NO setback.

Who is the incompetent architect of this thing?


15 people like this
Posted by Pants on fire
a resident of Crescent Park
on May 7, 2018 at 1:35 pm

This is what you get with unlimited office growth:
636 Waverley was developed by David Kleiman and designed by Ken Hayes.

Randy Popp on the ARB called it: a "handsome and exciting project."
Lee Lippert on the ARB praised the architect
Stephen Levy said: From my perspective the owners have every right to legally benefit from their investment as the demand for office space and condos surges in this part of downtown.

The 4 who voted to approve this bizarre structure:
Clare Malone Prichard, Lee Lippert, Robert Gooyer, Randy Popp
Web Link


14 people like this
Posted by Vote on it
a resident of Crescent Park
on May 8, 2018 at 7:28 am

For actions which make a signification and lasting change on the City, the Council should seek approval from voters and not *think* they know what we want.

Want do add office space? -- sure, put it on the ballot. We'll tell you what we want.


9 people like this
Posted by Zayda
a resident of Barron Park
on May 13, 2018 at 1:02 am

Zayda is a registered user.

In the Weekly Gennady said that "Palo Alto seeks to cement the office cap." But he didn't realize how much sand the Council would put in the cement. The new 'cap' is full of loopholes and worst of all, the cap could be changed at any time on a whim of the Council.
That is why the initiative proposed by PASZ is necessary. It would keep the cap at the historic growth rate of 50,000 sqft/year, apply the cap to all areas city-wide, including Stanford Research Park, Stanford Mall, East Meadow, West Bayshore and San Antonio Road, and make it permanent, requiring a vote of the residents to change it.
The Weekly said "there is no constituency other than commercial development interests supporting new office development in Palo Alto, and every square foot of new office development approved in the city makes our housing shortage and road congestion worse." Palo Alto's jobs/housing ratio is 3-to-1, the highest in California and 4th highest in the nation. As the old saying goes, "when you're in a hole, stop digging."
If you're tired of traffic congestion, lack of parking, rising housing costs and increasing taxes, you can help get this initiative on the ballot in November so the residents can decide what they want. If you are a registered voter and Palo Alto resident, sign the petition. Volunteers will be at the California Ave Farmer's Market, Downtown Farmer's Market, Mitchell Park and other Libraries, Midtown Safeway and other markets and the Barron Park May Fete in Bol Park (Sunday May 20).


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

Shake Shack Palo Alto to open this weekend
By Elena Kadvany | 4 comments | 4,749 views

Ten Tips for Teens and Young Adults to Survive a Dysfunctional Family
By Chandrama Anderson | 2 comments | 1,663 views

Farm Bill Passes Congress
By Laura Stec | 1 comment | 1,132 views

What is a Life?
By Aldis Petriceks | 1 comment | 1,013 views