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Guest Opinion: Palo Alto: Housing for whom?

City has done little to provide affordable, low-income housing, says longtime resident

I believe that housing is a basic human right in any society. Over the past 45 years or more, the vast majority of Palo Alto housing has been built for the upper middle class and the wealthy. This continues today. Yes, there have been several below-market resident (BMR) projects that serve a tiny percentage of our work force, but if you look at the numbers, it's only a drop in the bucket. Thanks to the Palo Alto Housing Corporation we have a small number of low-income housing units (with waiting lists up to eight years).

Over the years Palo Alto's City Council, planning commission, zoning policies and practices have shaped this city to exclude low-income workers leading to de facto segregation along socio-economic and ethnic lines. Do the majority on the council believe that East Palo Alto and Mountain View, which have low-income housing and rent control, should house our low-income workers? We have done little to provide our service-sector workers with affordable, low-income housing or any renter protections.

Recently, the talk on the council has finally turned to building "affordable" housing. Talk is cheap. Action is what we need.

Walking the talk: Now that the housing dilemma is so critical, and Palo Alto has done so little, compared to Mountain View, Redwood City and surrounding communities, Palo Alto sticks out. But so far, it's still only talk. Meanwhile, I see existing affordable housing being demolished and replaced with housing for the wealthy and more office space.

Look at the downtown area, for example. Notice the new luxury apartments at 430 Forest Ave., which replaced the Palo Alto AAA. Across the street are several large, new, expensive ($1 million and up) condos that replaced below-market housing. A grossly designed glass-and-concrete office building at 636 Waverley St. is situated between a two-story BMR apartment building and another house, soon to be demolished. These new projects undermine the continued existence of moderate-income housing on either side of the office building, let alone low-income housing.

Rents have increased 300 percent in the last three years in several of the apartment complexes on the 400 block of Forest. Look at the building projects in any neighborhood, including the proposal for 565-571 Hamilton-Webster-St., where three buildings of existing, well-built, attractive, low-moderate-income housing for 11 families/individuals will be torn down and replaced with 19 very expensive condos and 7,000 square feet of office space!

This is not housing for our low-income city employees, or service-sector workers, most of whom cannot afford to live here. What about our restaurant workers, teachers, nurses, para-professionals, librarians, baristas, receptionists and clerks, many getting minimum wage, and all who must pay in time, money and ecological devastation as they commute long distances to get to work.

Smoke and mirrors: Some council people say that they are for "affordable" (meaning low-income?) housing and renter protections, but notice how the majority votes. Most members refused to engage in a discussion of concrete ways to slow down the exorbitant rent increases for local renters. They refused to limit office development until more affordable housing is built. They refuse to offer viable shelter for the homeless or safe parking for people living in cars/vans. They have refused to halt the demolition of rental housing until replacement housing is built. Most of the residents of the President Hotel will be forced out of town. So far, it's all smoke and mirrors.

Palo Alto Forward: The group Palo Alto Forward, meanwhile, is pushing for more housing in Palo Alto, primarily housing the "missing middle," those who make $80,000-$150,000 and up. Although they are on record as supporting the Buena Vista Mobile Home Park preservation and the President Hotel Apartments residents, I wish they would focus more of their efforts on residents at the lower end of the income scale. We need them to get involved in renter protections.

Concept of the "Commons": As a child growing up in Montana, I was taught that city government served the people through the concept of the "Commons" — public spaces where elected and appointed public officials serve as responsive servants to the people. City officials protected, supported and responded to community needs and secured spaces for its residents, including safe housing and streets, non-toxic food, safe water, public centers, parks and other city services. Whatever happened to this idea to grow a safer, diverse, more socially just and thus stronger community?

It is unconscionable, the way we treat our local workforce, especially low-income workers. We should provide decent, affordable housing for these people and by doing so increase the city's socio-economic and ethnic diversity, which strengthens us all.

It is time to listen to the many innovative, forward-thinking, and creative people of Palo Alto with good ideas and good intentions: Control rents; place a moratorium on rental demolitions until there is comparable replacement housing; require that large companies and Stanford University, especially, build housing for its workers; charge these new high-tech corporations to support a low-income housing fund.

We should be critical of those who lack the empathy or understanding about how to challenge these gross inequalities in our available housing. Palo Alto could be a model, instead of an obstacle, to solving our major housing/homeless problems.

There are many things that the city could do to promote a more diverse and healthy community. Let's take the next step and focus on the low end of the economic pyramid, rather than on the "missing middle."

Roberta Ahlquist is a professor emerita, author, social-justice activist and 54-year resident of Palo Alto. She can be emailed at roberta.ahlquist@sjsu.edu.

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Comments

52 people like this
Posted by Let's Fix This
a resident of Crescent Park
on Aug 31, 2018 at 4:42 am

Great editorial!

We need to help low income members of our community, not wealthy developers. City staff presented a long list of proposals this past Wednesday that were supposed to improve housing opportunities but instead would harm increase traffic, exacerbate parking shortages, remove retail, and harm neighborhoods. Yet nowhere to be found were any guarantees that low- or moderate-income people would benefit at all from these massive changes. Instead, these developer giveaways made it possible to build more high-end luxury housing, as the editorial documents is happening.

It turned out that city staff had held private meetings with developers, who naturally offered lots of ways they could make more profit while doing not one thing for low and middle income residents we're trying to help. City staff foolishly went along with all this.

Those proposals should be tossed. If we want to help residents, developers should not run our city government.


34 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 31, 2018 at 7:20 am

There is a lot of common sense in this article, but I do not like the city boundaries making us feel that Palo Alto is an island and should house all the people who work here. This is a regional problem and not something that should be looked at city by city. There have always been expensive areas to live and areas which are much more affordable not too far away. I would think that we should be looking at commute time circles around work places rather than within the city boundary. So for this reason, we need to look at making improvements in public transport so that a 5 mile radius of high employment centers regardless of city or county boundaries should be considered.


15 people like this
Posted by Homeowner
a resident of University South
on Aug 31, 2018 at 9:09 am

Wow, this is crazy! An entire article focused on affordable housing that criticizes Palo Alto Forward without criticizing PASZ or the PASZ-aligned council members for Maybell at all. Three of our council members were a core part of the group that stopped an affordable housing development for seniors, and they go uncriticized. For most of them, this was their first major act in Palo Alto politics.

The article then criticizes "the majority" without mentioning that they changed zoning to allow more affordable housing to be built - an action resisted by PASZ-appointed members of the Planning Commission and some PASZ-aligned council members.

[Portion removed.]


25 people like this
Posted by Advocate
a resident of Green Acres
on Aug 31, 2018 at 10:25 am

"Housing for whom?"
In the Maybell neighborhood - only rich luxury homes allowed.
No senior housing
No Low Income Housing.
Maybell was a tragic example territorialism and neighborhood greed.


12 people like this
Posted by Scott
a resident of South of Midtown
on Aug 31, 2018 at 11:02 am

Also, we need more regional co-operation, maybe something similar to NYC or other European cities. It's rather embarrassing that we as adults here in this good economy can't seem to figure this out.


15 people like this
Posted by commonsense
a resident of Professorville
on Aug 31, 2018 at 11:34 am

commonsense is a registered user.

Decent article but some facts incorrect. The house that will be torn down in Waverley has been legally used as office for many decades. Rent control is a terrible idea if you want more affordable housing. It will tell developers of housing that they cannot make a buck in this city and they will run away. We need more housing, not less. To those who say we cannot build our way out of this housing crisis I say it's the only way to get out of this crisis.


33 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Community Center
on Aug 31, 2018 at 11:55 am

The editorial correctly pointed out that Scharff pre-empted a vote on the much stronger staff recommendations while claiming he did so with a cynical claim that he was motivated to focus on the lowest income renters. His motion actually eliminated all support for the majority of renters who are of modest income and eliminated wrongful termination protections for renters citywide.
Importantly, this was clearly done with the advance support of Kniss.
Tanaka opposed all renter protections. People should watch the tape to view firsthand his Orwellian claim that evicting low and moderate income renters would actually increase diversity in our community by bringing in even more new, highly paid tech workers. This is the guy who Kniss and Wolbach convinced the Democratic Party establishment to strongly support in the last election despite Tanaka having been a lifelong Republican.
It is really sad to see the degree of cynicism that now pervades our local political power establishment.


58 people like this
Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 31, 2018 at 1:08 pm

I also believe that housing is a basic human right. But, not housing in a particular neighborhood, or city. I might prefer to live in a midtown Manhattan penthouse, but, I might have to live in Monticello, Middletown, Poughkeepsie, or Hempstead instead. I don't think there is a basic human right to live in Palo Alto or any particular locale.

But, Palo Alto sure was more affordable before it went on an office building binge. I don't think it is that difficult to connect the dots, but, apparently it is.


16 people like this
Posted by Neil
a resident of Palo Alto Orchards
on Aug 31, 2018 at 1:15 pm

Hey City, you know the Su Hong site?

You know what would be better than an under-parked, 5-story hotel that contributes nothing to the community except a hotel bar no one visits?

More housing.

And hey, look at that... it would blend effortlessly with the existing area.


41 people like this
Posted by Allen Akin
a resident of Professorville
on Aug 31, 2018 at 3:54 pm

Allen Akin is a registered user.

Office space generates more rental revenue than housing. That's why developers prefer to build offices rather than housing, and banks prefer to finance offices rather than housing.

The greatest development profits come from changes in land use. That's a major reason for converting rural land into suburban or urban uses (sprawl) and for converting low-density residential zones to high-density or commercial use. It's why the development industries influence politics to encourage such things.

You need between 100 and 200 square feet of office space to employ one person. You need between 500 and 1000 square feet of space to house one person. So as a rule of thumb, you need about 5 times as much housing space as office space just to maintain a balance. Much more if you want to make up a deficit.

Demand is not just about numbers of people; it's also about numbers of dollars. Bringing in a bunch of new employees at high wages will increase demand for high-end housing. Bringing in the same number of new employees at moderate wages will not.

In some circles it's fashionable to scapegoat existing residents and zoning rules, but even if you eliminated those factors entirely, straightforward economics like those mentioned above are still going to work against affordable housing. This is one reason why high density hasn't guaranteed affordability in other places.

Right now we have hugely overblown demand because cash-rich companies are hiring large numbers of people at high wages in a limited area, without having to bear a proportionate cost for the housing, transportation, infrastructure, public services, and so on that those people need. Any truly effective fix for that problem is going to require rebalancing the economic incentives.

(Richard Walker's "Pictures of a Gone City" has a lot of insight and information to offer concerning the Bay Area's current situation. I think chapters 5 through 7 are particularly worth reading.)


12 people like this
Posted by Dave
a resident of College Terrace
on Aug 31, 2018 at 5:18 pm

[Post removed.]


18 people like this
Posted by Eric Rosenblum
a resident of Downtown North
on Aug 31, 2018 at 6:15 pm

Like Ms. Alquist, I strongly believe that housing is a basic human right. I'm glad that she's putting her energies into this fight.

I'd like to correct some misstatements about Palo Alto Forward, though. We have put our efforts behind almost all efforts in Palo Alto that would increase housing affordability, focused on both the low end and the middle end of the income range. We worked for the Affordable Housing Overlay. We rallied around 100% BMR projects proposed by Palo Alto Housing and others. She correctly notes that we supported both the residents of Buena Vista and President Hotel (which are both "affordable market rate" developments).

Palo Alto Forward was not alive when the Maybell Senior Housing proposal was defeated by referendum, but we would have been strongly in favor of it. In fact, in some ways, Palo Alto Forward was formed in reaction to our observation that there are very well organized factions that have formed around housing opposition-- indeed, both current councilmembers Eric Filseth and Tom Dubois were leaders of the group that rallied against the development of 60 lower income senior units (and 12 single family homes). We observed that there is no well organized group of people _for_ housing. If we were going to get affordable housing built in our community, that would have to change. The result of the Maybell referendum was that instead of 60 affordable units AND 12 market rate, single family homes, we ended up with 16 giant single family homes. I believe that was a terrible trade for Palo Alto.

As someone who believes that housing is a basic human right, I expect that Ms. Alquist would recognize this result as a human tragedy.

[Portion removed.]


20 people like this
Posted by Eric Rosenblum
a resident of Downtown North
on Aug 31, 2018 at 6:32 pm

Additional thoughts: I agree with Ms. Alquist that it is important to walk the walk, not just talk the talk.

I think that the President Hotel is a great framework for looking at specific barriers to building affordable housing-- well-- affordably. Specifically, the President Hotel violates Palo Alto zoning ordinances in at least 4 important ways:
1) it is vastly underparked (but, MANY of the President Hotel residents do not own cars, so it works for them)
2) it is far too dense (too many small units) (but, for many of the President Hotel residents, the size fits their needs)
3) it is far too tall
4) it has far too high an FAR

So, I would ask Ms. Alquist (and others who are talking the talk on affordable housing). For affordable housing developments near transit, would you:
1) support lowered parking requirements?
2) support doing away with density maximums?
3) support raising our height limit
4) support increasing FAR

Note that I'm not arguing that we should be permitting 300 ft buildings... I am specifically using the President Hotel as a guideline. In other words, would you support a code that would allow the building of a _second_ President Hotel?


6 people like this
Posted by Jerry
a resident of Barron Park
on Aug 31, 2018 at 6:59 pm

[Post removed.]


10 people like this
Posted by Curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on Aug 31, 2018 at 7:01 pm

"Hey City, you know the Su Hong site? You know what would be better than an under-parked, 5-story hotel that contributes nothing to the community except a hotel bar no one visits? More housing."

Hey Neil, why not get financing, buy the Su Hong site, and build a housing development that will be the example for all others? Property is always for sale at the right price, so get off your bippy and get on with it. Now!


10 people like this
Posted by House for All
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Aug 31, 2018 at 7:46 pm

Housing for Whom? Ms Ahlquist asked. A good question and I have a good answer. Housing for all. Housing crunch effects everyone in all income spectrum. People, do you math, it’s all about supply and demand. The crazy price is a result of the drought in supply. Not the cause. In fact, please embrace the good fortune we have in Palo Alto thanks to the fresh air, clean air, and the amazing weather. What is left is for us to figure out is how to share.

Also, for the record, 80k-150k are teachers, firefighters, police officers, city workers, basically the majority of jobs that are not tech.


15 people like this
Posted by Michael
a resident of Professorville
on Aug 31, 2018 at 8:05 pm

I see a lot of righteous indignation at the cost of living in Palo Alto. But as citizens of this city, we seem to all enjoy the price of our houses going up and eagerly support arbitrary limits in our development.

As citizens, we have blocked apartment buildings in various areas because 4-5 families complained that "their" street will get too much traffic. We have imposed height limits on buildings in Palo Alto which prevent construction of high density housing (apartment buildings) that would lower the rental price per unit. We also have rejected any mass transit changes (Caltrain and Bart) for basically decades. What we see now is simply the result of decades of NIMBYs blocking pretty much any rational development plan.

Rentals are expensive in Palo Alto simply because of cost of the land. It's easy to yell at the city council to "do something" than to admit that deep down, we all like that our properties are now valued far beyond our wildest dreams and that most Palo Altans have bought their houses in the 1980s for $50k-$100k per and are currently selling those same properties for $2M-$3M+. No one seems to be complaining about that though.


7 people like this
Posted by Too dense too tall
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Sep 1, 2018 at 1:57 am

“Hey Neil, why not get financing, buy the Su Hong site, and build a housing development that will be the example for all others?”

Hey Curmudgeon- It’s not your usual self to cast an approval! I hope Neil is not taking up your advise to get financing, buy the Su Hong site, and build a housing development. Because he will soon learn that his fellow residents are up against his project- too dense, too tall, too few parking. Oh wait, it’s on El Camino, demand Neil a ground floor retail, and extra parking for retails. But hey, why do you care, you just successfully defeat a project. A project you never intend to buy or move in but throw your opposition anyway.

So, hey Neil. Don’t


5 people like this
Posted by Not sure about your numbers
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Sep 1, 2018 at 2:22 am

Allen Akin,

“You need between 100 and 200 square feet of office space to employ one person. You need between 500 and 1000 square feet of space to house one person. So as a rule of thumb, you need about 5 times as much housing space as office space just to maintain a balance. Much more if you want to make up a deficit.”

Allen- are you a commercial builder or a home builder? Where do you come up with the numbers? I did a quick math, a family of four would need a home of 2,000 to 4,000 sqft in your example. Federal code allows two people per room, that means you are saying two-bedroom homes of 2,000-4000 sqft. I did a quick check on Zillow to find just the kind of homes selling in Palo Alto. There are none. Please enlighten us on where did you get your numbers from and how do the numbers add up?


15 people like this
Posted by smh
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Sep 1, 2018 at 5:39 am

@Not sure about your numbers -- the smallest ridiculously up-zoned microunit apartments ever proposed by developers for Palo Alto run 500 to 700 square feet stacked into the old VTA lot at Page Mill and ECR. You really expect any employee to live their life in something even smaller than that? These people are not undergraduates in bunk-beds anymore. Allen's 5-to-1 rule of thumb looks pretty bare minimum to me, even for the most junior of new hires, and heaven help them if they have a family of four. Then again, the Federal code for prison cells is just 6 by 8 foot, so technically there might be some slack.


15 people like this
Posted by john_alderman
a resident of Crescent Park
on Sep 1, 2018 at 7:33 am

john_alderman is a registered user.

Even if you believe housing is a human right, it is dumb to look at Palo Alto housing in isolation. If you want low income housing, you should fine the lowest value land you can and build as much housing there as your can. It is an insane waste of money to take the most expensive land within 50 miles and put a handful of below market units on it. If the govt had bought Buena Vista, then developed for maximum value, they'd have enough profit to house 20x the population of BV. But at least we feel good about preserving a trailer park.


7 people like this
Posted by XYZ
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Sep 1, 2018 at 7:49 am

"I believe that housing is a basic human right in any society"

You believe - you build


7 people like this
Posted by Su Hong
a resident of College Terrace
on Sep 1, 2018 at 8:40 am

>>...you know the Su Hong site?

>>You know what would be better than an under-parked, 5-story hotel that contributes nothing to the community except a hotel bar no one visits?


Yes. Keeping it a Chinese restaurant. Or turning it back into a Denny's.


8 people like this
Posted by Allen Akin
a resident of Professorville
on Sep 1, 2018 at 8:59 am

Allen Akin is a registered user.

@Not sure about your numbers: Counting employed adults only. Otherwise the numbers of employees and residents aren't comparable.

There's enough data out there to make estimates without that assumption, but be aware that they have high variance from city to city and they tend to increase the amount of housing required per employee (to accommodate non-working partners, kids, relatives, and so on).

The office-space numbers come from commercial real-estate developers discussing this subject on Quora. They're consistent with numbers presented to City Council during RPP development. Another good source is Web Link

The housing-space numbers come from recent projects proposed here in Palo Alto. Worker dormitories and coffin apartments are common elsewhere, and packing much greater numbers of people into 1BR and 2BR apartments is common in Santa Clara County, so it's definitely possible to use less space per person. And I think you were hinting at it being non-linear, which I agree is correct at some point; 500 sq ft of raw space may be a little tight for one person but 2000 sq ft of raw space with a lot of shared areas is more comfortable for four people even though the raw space per person is the same. You have to decide how much inequality in housing type and size is acceptable without it becoming a social justice issue. Walker's book has a lot to say about this sort of thing.


11 people like this
Posted by stephen levy
a resident of University South
on Sep 1, 2018 at 1:22 pm

stephen levy is a registered user.

The people in the President Hotel seem to be happy living in 250-450 square feet.

Not everyone had children (fewer than half of our households have children), not every one is a couple or has roommates.

I wish we had more places like the President Hotel built under rules that allow for density and more affordable rents.

And i think we could use more units in the 600-800 square foot range that I think would see great demand.


9 people like this
Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 1, 2018 at 2:32 pm

Posted by stephen levy, a resident of University South, 55 minutes ago, stephen levy is a registered user.

>> The people in the President Hotel seem to be happy living in 250-450 square feet.

As is frequently said in "tech", "Does it scale?" What fraction of people live alone and don't want or need a car? Is there a way to prevent people who live in such housing from having cars in Palo Alto. Because, the real "density" problem is not older single people with no non-adult children. It is cars.

>> Not everyone had children (fewer than half of our households have children), not every one is a couple or has roommates.

The biggest issue is cars.

>> I wish we had more places like the President Hotel built under rules that allow for density and more affordable rents.

Sure, no problem, as long as they don't have cars, and all walk/bike/use public transportation to get around.

>> And i think we could use more units in the 600-800 square foot range that I think would see great demand.

I know some young people without cars who would definitely be in the market. But, I don't know of a way to prevent people with cars from moving in and then parking their cars "wherever". As long as people can park in the shared resource of street parking, it will be abused. Many neighborhoods are already at the breaking point.

I would take these housing proposals more seriously if the proponents would fact up to the parking issue directly. There are communities that face up to this and make on-street parking illegal in or near these higher-density areas. People who want cars have to lease a space in a -commercial- garage. These spaces are not cheap.


10 people like this
Posted by Allen Akin
a resident of Professorville
on Sep 1, 2018 at 2:51 pm

Allen Akin is a registered user.

A few more things I'm trying to keep in mind about building housing:

Construction costs for tall (4 stories or more) buildings are much higher than for short buildings. High-rise flats cost 2.5 times as much to build (per unit) as detached houses, and 2.8 times as much as row houses. Web Link

But land cost is less per unit for tall buildings than for short ones.

Those two facts imply that there's some combination of area and height (taller is not always better) that yields maximum profit for a given housing project. However, it's not guaranteed to be a *positive* profit or to be more profitable than alternative projects the developer might choose. That's very sensitive to the exact land and construction costs and to the sale price or lease rate that the market will support.

Case in point: "Construction expenses have pressured developers severely enough that new market-rate apartments are profitable in no more than two districts in San Jose... Even worse, downtown San Jose — seen as a cornerstone of the city’s economy — is one of the sections where development of new housing is unlikely to produce profits for developers..." Web Link


10 people like this
Posted by Marc
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 1, 2018 at 9:06 pm

Re: No cars

Why can't properties have covenants/deed restrictions that prohibit ownership of cars?

The talk of building properties near California Avenue or anywhere else and claiming that they would attract people that don't own cars is pointless unless that are covenants/deed restrictions that actually stop them from owning cars.

/marc


7 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 1, 2018 at 9:53 pm

Marc (and others)

Many millenials don't own cars, but their parents own one that is for the use of the twenty something. It is hard for a young person to get a loan, get a lease or to get insurance sometimes without parental name on the loan, lease, or insurance.

So, they don't own cars. It doesn't mean they don't have one which they will park on the street.


207 people like this
Posted by Jose Seispack
a resident of Ventura
on Sep 1, 2018 at 10:49 pm

Do you know who else believes housing is a basic human right? Nicholas Maduro. Maduro also believes food is a basic human right but his unshakable belief in a dysfunctional ideology has left Venezuela starving.

None of this is about loving the poor. It is all about hating the rich. Beware the suburban Marxist.


4 people like this
Posted by Chris Zaharias
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Sep 1, 2018 at 11:42 pm

Chris Zaharias is a registered user.

All that space up in the hills that environmentalists have artificially removed from the market is biting everyone but the wealthy landowners whose property values are buttressed by said open space.

Our solution was to move to the south of France which has a 50% lower cost of living and 80% lower real estate prices.

Bye bye Palo Alto - I won't miss you.


32 people like this
Posted by Global View
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 1, 2018 at 11:46 pm

If Palo Alto does not find a way to reduce the number and scale of so many companies wanting to expand here, we will always have this problem, just ask Hong Kong.

We will also always face the dishonest argument that we must allow developers to create density willy nilly with no regard to safety, schools, infrastructure, water, traffic circukation, etc.

If we continue to do nothing about the conversion of Palo Alto to an office park for the benefit of such self-centered selfish companies, then the transient workforce they bring in will vote for the short-term interests of their companies and transient entry-level workforce, and there will be no chance for affordable housing here, ever. This push to pack in ever more workers in a place that lacks the infrastructure for it is what is causing the affordability and displacement problem. The hotels being able to charge double what they uaed to is displacing the President hotel workers, just like the possibility of putting in a four-times overzoned luxury development spurred the initial push to evict BV residents. Strong zoning, ironically, is the only thing that would have saved the President Hotel residents, because it would have removed any thought that the developer could make money evicting the residents. PAF has talked a big game but acted to accelerate development that displaces the low income. This area has always been wildly too expensive, this problem did not begin now. What has changed is the aggression of developer-centric arguments, many just outright wrong but enticing to those tired of the straits of the non-wealthy.

Enough with all the lies and nastiness about Maybell. Neighbors there were in the past responsible for seeing affordable housing built in the neighborhood nearby in almost identical development debate. Same people, same neighborhood. They tried to do the same thing again and asked publicly to but were ignored. That whole rezoning was never primarily about creating affordable housing - if it had been, it would be there now, just like the affordable housing created at Terman in an almost identical development debate with many of the same neighbors 20 years prior. Critics always seem to forget that the majority of the proposed development was for developer profit and about zone busting a residential neighborhood. Critics also forget that the large developer pulled out at BV almost immediately after the Maybell referendum, and that the lack of interest by big developers to demolish BV because of that show of resident resolve played a key role in why BV could be saved, and neighbors understood this, even if their nastiest critics did not.

Also, the argument that people drive from afar only for affordability is also dishonest. Many commute to afford single-family homes and a better quality of life. Look at Kate Downing who claimed she couldn’t afford to live here even though she never deigned to live in an older apartment on the South end of town which she could well afford. She is commuting now to live in a large single-family home. Many poor people want that quality of life and personal investment too, and that has long been a reason to commute. Palo Alto BMR units are important for many who live there but there have also been long vacancies as the consultant report found, poor people make trade offs, too. If people want housing costs to settle down, the only way is to reduce the endless demand in this concentrated job center. Stanford cannot move, but companies like Facebook can, and at this point we are better for it. Simply capping new office development is not enough.

The world is suffering from the effects of too much capital concentrated in the hands of too few. The jobs really must find their way to som of the areas in need of the development in this country and abroad. Palo Alto is not the only nice place under this kind of pressure of misleading development arguments, because that capital can leverage ways to make more at the expense of us all. Wake up. I am not suggesting the writer here is ill-motivated, but rather, buying the bankrupt arguments of developers who are pushing them globally.

The infrastructure here is maxed out under normal conditions, which us unsafe, for one. More deveopment, even housing, will increase the demands for more housing, becaus more resudents need more services, etc, which means yet more workers we don’t really need to pack into here and limited infrastructure that cannot be magically expanded. This is a vast nation with many areas that want and need the development. Let’s stop buying into what the developers have already sold us, it is what has made lthis situation so untenable. We don’t need more housing, we need to realize that we can no longer support unlimited job growth and we must find a way to share with communities in this country that need it.


2 people like this
Posted by Marc
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 2, 2018 at 9:42 am

@Resident

Yes, "Beneficial Use" would have to be covered as well. When I said "owning a car" I was not expanding it to what would actually be in any covenant. But a lawyer should be able to put together a binding agreement that covers all the cases. If you really want to make sure that the residents don't "own" a car, offer a bounty for anyone that uncovers a resident violating the letter or spirit of the agreement. And the agreement would include immediate eviction, with clauses prohibiting law suits, whining to the public, claiming it's not fair, etc.

What I was getting at is that if you want to build housing that claims it is for residents that don't "own" cars, it can be done. If you live there you walk, bike, take public transportation but do not get behind the wheel of a motorized vehicle.

/marc


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Posted by Marc
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 2, 2018 at 9:56 am

@Global View

You are correct that there are high concentrations of economic activity in a "few" areas of the country/world.

Companies build here because that is where the employees are. People want to live here because that is where the jobs are.

When are you moving? Set an example and move to a less dense area. Get 50,000 of your closest friends to do the same. Then maybe some companies will set up offices where you live to employe them. There has to be a significant population of adequately skilled workers in a location for it to be economically viable for a company to locate there.

/marc


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Posted by Resident
a resident of Community Center
on Sep 2, 2018 at 10:48 am

Eric Rosenblum (along with Palo Alto Forward) strongly opposed the office cap downtown and even blogged and since office rents for more than apartment buildings have contributed to the lack of housing creation. The PAF council members consistently vote against limiting office development, which is the root cause for high housing prices. While on paper, PAF supported Buena Vista, many members at least privately wanted it redeveloped. PAF's priorities are #1 Developers, #2 Big Business, #3 Density, #4 Housing. So yes, they support new housing as long as it does not conflict with #1 - #3.

Corey Wolbach voted against limiting office development downtown.


29 people like this
Posted by Global View
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 2, 2018 at 10:55 am

@Marc,
My moving is of no consequence to this situation, and suggesting other people move with me isn’t either. Your telling me to go away is simply an act of verbal aggression on your part to distract from the truth because I have hit the nail on the head, and too many people waking up to this might just save this region from being trashed by overdevelopment.

For both companies and residents, having more options of similar places to go would cause movement, but who is going to create those? When Amazon said it wanted to expand elsewhere, it asked cities what they were going to give Amazon, it never even considered trying to invest to just create it in areas in need of such investment.

Your assessment is overly simplistic. This is a high demand region for many reasons: taking a global view, we are/were talking schools, an educated population, a concentration of investors, clean air etc, good medical resources, nice weather, (in the past) better traffic circulation than LA with easy access to recreation and entertainment, solid infrastructure, a casual vibe conducive to innovation, many related businesses nearby, and so on. Those who want to start companies can find workers in other places and can attract them even from here, but only if the places have all the other amenities, hence nice places (even internationally) like San Antonio, Boulder, Nashville, etc, also suffering from similar overdevelopment while other places languish.

The concentration of jobs has its own gravitational pull, again, just ask Hong Kong. HK is the endpoint that demonstrates that densifying never creates affordability, it just creates density. (SF ought to have learned that by now, but developers have found the argument pretty effective nevertheless.) Continually densifying despite continually hurting quality of life may have been a reality of a small island but makes no sense in a vast nation like this with so many areas in need of development and even opportunities to start new optimized cities.

My moving will make zero difference, as would the moving of 50,000 others, as demonstrated by the fact that even during past recessions, this area never became truly affordable, for many reasons. Companies and a laissez faire attitude toward worker overcrowding relative to infrastructure with the public assuming all responsibility for the negative consequences - with cities’ negligent attitude to their civic responsibilities like safety, traffic circukation, and infrastructure as developers push their agendas - has caused this problem.

What would make a difference is for companies to realize they can’t all treat this region like some kind of clown car with infinite capacity to crowd in here without turning it into something more like HK, and residents here - and every nice place globally under assault by moneyed interests who just want to make more money from these expensive places - waking up to ensure what is truly wonderful about here us not paved over for the selfish gain of a few.

Companies are never going to do that in a long political climate in which the richest never pay back for the public investments that were the essential foundation of their wealth, while they develop more and more power to keep it that way. Thus, the public will also never make the kind of investments, such as creating or rehabilitating declining areas to make them attractive to companies and workers and yes, development money.

That would solve the demand problem, though, creating new centers of innovation. The companies here certainly have the capital but no one wants to do that so long as it is so easy to, for example, take over a town like Palo Alto and destroy its civic life through taking over its main retail area and pushing the public to pay for the destruction of quality of life via overdevelopment for the company’s entry level workers. Once Palo Alto is populated with enough people who don’t care that it is a dense soulless urban office park, the end of what is good about here is inevitable, and ultimately blight and decay will set in the vacuum of once vibrant civic life. That is one example, but the demand way outstrips any conceivable capacity to build to it here.

Governments or companies hold the key to creating a win-win solution, but won’t unless residents wake up and stop enabling the destruction.


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Posted by PAF Opposed Office Cap
a resident of Community Center
on Sep 2, 2018 at 10:57 am

PAF opposed the office cap: Web Link

They argued that transportation of workers should be the focus instead. Which while part of the solution, meant that offices instead of apartment buildings would continue to be built making the housing problem worse.

PAF supported council members typically vot to not limit additional office development. Corey only voted for the current measure because he wants to get re-elected but once re-elected will revert back to his previous track record of pro office / developer.


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Posted by Resident
a resident of Community Center
on Sep 2, 2018 at 12:02 pm

In early 2017 PA Forward also opposed higher affordable housing impact fees on new office development and many of their leaders also opposed a business license tax to fund local transportation needs. Cory went along with them in lock step.
Cory didn’t just support the higher office development under the Comp Plan, he made the motion to approve it and threw in completely eliminating the Downtown commercial cap. If that cap had remained, the President Hotel could not have been converted to commercial and almost surely would not have been bought for that purpose by the new owners.


24 people like this
Posted by pickpocket
a resident of Palo Verde
on Sep 2, 2018 at 12:08 pm

Where is it written that having a sub-10 minute commute is a basic human right??

Why is it so unacceptable that lower-income workers might have to commute 15 minutes from EPA, MV, or RWC?

Most of the middle-class tech workers and upper-middle class executives I know in PA commute 15, 25, even 40 minutes to their jobs.

Face it: even if you built lots of 10 story, 400 sq ft studio buildings in PA, they would sell or rent at market rates and still be unaffordable to the barista. And the residents would still all have cars. Please let go of your fantasies.



16 people like this
Posted by Allen Akin
a resident of Professorville
on Sep 2, 2018 at 12:38 pm

Allen Akin is a registered user.

@Marc wrote: "Companies build here because that is where the employees are."

If that were the only reason, the Santa Clara Valley would still be filled with orchards. :-)

O'Mara's "Cities of Knowledge" is a good read for anyone interested in how Silicon Valley developed, and why some attempts to emulate it failed.

I'd boil it down to to things: Money and land. The feds (particularly the military) made a conscious decision to decentralize industrial assets during and after WWII. They poured a lot of money into this area with the explicit goal of pushing military-industrial companies into it. The locals aggressively developed the cheap land for industry and for housing that would attract potential employees.

We could learn from that. We're putting an awful lot of the nation's economic eggs into a basket that's hyper-expensive, water-poor, earthquake-prone, and at risk from sea-level rise. In the process we're driving wealth inequality higher and living conditions lower. Maybe some smart decentralization is what we need to do.

And maybe it's already starting to happen. We're not going to be getting a lot of revenue from the feds this time around, but corporations are incredibly flush with cash right now, and they have the ability to fund major change. Some are doing so. Amazon expanding outside Seattle is a relevant example, and I'm also interested in what happens with the "Rise of the Rest" ventures. A few months ago I was driving by the Genentech campus near I505. Lots of industrial buildings there, and new medium-density housing is going up nearby. Tesla in Lathrop and Nevada?

This is a perfect example of the dynamic that Walker described in his book. It's very profitable for developers to convert rural land to suburban and urban uses. If it were possible to encourage that new development to be more compact, with more transportation options, it could be a win all around. The city of Davis might be a model.

What we might do locally is mandate that any commercial expansion require a proportional housing expansion and a nonzero reduction in traffic. The expanding companies could choose to take the expensive steps to do that locally, or the inexpensive (and possibly profitable) steps to do this remotely.


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Posted by shane246
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Sep 2, 2018 at 5:05 pm

no housing is not a basic human right. Web Link. the rest of article is garbage..


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Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 2, 2018 at 8:18 pm

Posted by shane246, a resident of Adobe-Meadow, 3 hours ago

>> no housing is not a basic human right. Web Link. the rest of article is garbage..

So you say, but, others disagree. The web link you mentioned points to a general discussion, with specific references to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR). The UDHR is an official document of the United Nations. Article 25 is (look for "housing"; it doesn't, however, mention "Palo Alto"):

Web Link

==

Article 25

1. Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control.

2. Motherhood and childhood are entitled to special care and assistance. All children, whether born in or out of wedlock, shall enjoy the same social protection.


22 people like this
Posted by Steven
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Sep 2, 2018 at 8:57 pm

"Right now we have hugely overblown demand because cash-rich companies are hiring large numbers of people at high wages in a limited area, without having to bear a proportionate cost for the housing, transportation, infrastructure, public services, and so on that those people need. Any truly effective fix for that problem is going to require rebalancing the economic incentives."

Allen Akin hit the nail on the head, but let's not let city governments off the hook completely. As Facebook, Google, etc expand year after year, they offload quality of life issues onto the surrounding communities. Cities are addicted to the tax revenues generated from said expansions, but companies ought to be held responsible for mitigating the problems caused by increasing expansion - the astronomical housing prices, environmental harm, escalation in traffic, etc, etc, etc.


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Posted by stanhutchings
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Sep 3, 2018 at 1:24 am

stanhutchings is a registered user.

Here's a major problem, a single person's (head of household) wage just isn't enough to afford anything besides rent, even working 50 hours/week. Food? Clothing? Transportation? Luxuries (cell phone, Starbucks, etc)? Forget it!:
$/hr 40 hr/wk monthly 50 hr/wk monthly
$15 $28,800 $2,400 $36,000 $3,000
$20 $38,400 $3,200 $48,000 $4,000
$25 $48,000 $4,000 $60,000 $5,000
$30 $57,600 $4,800 $72,000 $6,000
$40 $76,800 $6,400 $96,000 $8,000


4 people like this
Posted by Me 2
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Sep 3, 2018 at 8:52 am

"Allen Akin hit the nail on the head"

No he didn't. It's idiotic housing policy to return to feudalism where you have to work at a company to receive housing. That's what he and all others are implying. You think Google and Facebook are just going to give away the housing they would have to build? What kind of fantasyland do you think this is? Of course the housing will only be for company employees. To expect otherwise is being delusional.

"but let's not let city governments off the hook completely. As Facebook, Google, etc expand year after year, they offload quality of life issues onto the surrounding communities. ""

Companies are an easy scapegoat. It's entirely in the hands of local governments and their constituents. It's just easier to blame companies than taking on responsibility for the existing housing situation.

As for the nonsense that they don't contribute locally - those companies and their employees pay A TON of California taxes. Especially the ones who buy into our housing market more recently. They have the joy of subsidizing long-time property owners thanks to Prop 13. Maybe we should start vilifying long-time residents for not "contributing" too.

As for the editorial, it's advocating for policies that have failed in places like San Francisco. All it would do is hollow out the middle class.

Rich can always buy housing. Lower income gets their subsidized housing. Middle class and families gets screwed and move to the Central Valley. They don't get to move into bubbles in Monterey County like some people after banking their housing appreciation and not paying much in property tax.


15 people like this
Posted by Global View
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 3, 2018 at 9:59 am

“Right now we have hugely overblown demand because cash-rich companies are hiring large numbers of people at high wages in a limited area, without having to bear a proportionate cost for the housing, transportation, infrastructure, public services, and so on that those people need. Any truly effective fix for that problem is going to require rebalancing the economic incentives."

Palo Alto has no business tax, so I’m not sure I see this as an incentive. Milking the hotel taxes has come after the fact. This area has been horrendously expensive for decades, in fact when tech salaries were not as disproportionately high and interest rates were 9% and up, it was in some ways even worse. It has been hard to put down roots here for a really long time. Companies have not been taken by surprise. The difference is that today, the technology sector is not the almost new industry it was in the ‘80s. The effects of the growth and its gravity should have been anticipated.

Developers create misleading arguments to develop regardless of future dangers. Even our recent national history is littered with examples of tragedies in which the thoughtlessness and short-term thinking from greed by developers played a huge part. A place with huge demand and potential for developer profit is most inevitably going to suffer such increasing hazards as we are now, unless government starts to prioritize the holistic needs of citizens.

Being a job center with attractive amenities has its own gravitational pull. When more office space and housing is built without regard to the infrastructure or the civic life of the place, it is destructive and foists all kinds of costs on the public that companies are definitely not paying. The only way to change the incentives is to make comanies pay the actual costs, which will in turn make some of them move like Amazon decided to do when asked to pay even a fraction of those costs. This will cause all kinds of Henny Penny handwringing, but just as happened with Facebook moving out of town to expand, it worked out for the best for the company and Palo Alto.

Palo Alto has Stanford, and startup spinoffs. We do not need to act like deranged hoarders who want to pile up all the jobs even when we are suffering for it. We have too much occupied office space. I have been in the Bay Area through the booms and busts, and the cost of living problems are not new, but the aggressiveness and misrepresentations of development interests is. What has happened in the last ten years dramatically hurts my own opportunities in life, my family’s time together, children’s educational opportunities, our stress level, our ability to see extended family, our economic life ON A DAILY BASIS. We have scrabbled for decades to eke out a life here and now are abused on these forums as if getting into a tiny house with a crushing mortgage makes you rich (when it’s just better than how awful it is to rent here).

Companies and employyes are not going to move without a place to go that is equally attractive. The university nearby, the medical, the weather, the hills and natural environment, etc, and the educated workforce, the schools - how do these things get duplicated in a place people would move to? The easy choices are already facing similar development pressures, such as Boulder, Portland, San Antonio.. It’s time to think creatively and more holistically about our nation - where can civic investments that are welcomed in a dilapidated space create a new desirable place? The nation is becoming more populated, yet it looks like the third world between here and Salt Lake City.

This is the time, not during the next recession, for governments and companies wishing to expand to come together and create the conditions of another job center. Certainly, San Jose is still looking to grow into a more coherent urban space, but they are part of the built out Bay Area. Palo Alto must start prioritizing things like safety, traffic circulation, natural environment, conditions for our youth and the disabled, and stop putting developers and their corporate enablers first, before it’s too late. That alone would create the conditions to push all these overgrown by-nature selfish companies out of the nest which is too small to keep all that want to be here. Think about that in the next city election as people representng those companies seek to continue their dominance of city politics.


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Posted by Annette
a resident of College Terrace
on Sep 3, 2018 at 10:13 am

Revisionist history is always interesting, particularly when artfully used to frame a position on a current problem. I think it a stretch to decry opponents of the Mayfield project as being opposed to senior housing or affordable housing. That is akin to grandstanding. Sometimes a project is simply ill conceived. As I recall, there were myriad issues with the Maybell project. A primary concern was that it was not sufficiently close to public transportation. Obviously it is not possible to rely on something that does not exist. This called into question the amount of parking planned for the project as well as potential traffic issues. Neighbors were (legitimately, I think) concerned about that. Another issue was that there wasn't safe access to the local schools.

We have to rely on our Planning Department, PTC and CC to work to make sure that bad plans aren't imposed on any neighborhood, particularly since it can be easy to accept bad plans for a neighborhood that isn't "yours". When this fails, voters sometimes have the final say, as happened with Mayfield.

I agree that it is unfortunate that senior and/or affordable housing wasn't added, but it is an over-statement to suggest that PASZ is solely to blame for that. And borderline ridiculous to suggest that PAF would have saved the day. I think it more accurate to say that the project was ill conceived and that while some voters accepted the shortcomings and supported the project, more voters did not.


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Posted by Scotty
a resident of Green Acres
on Sep 3, 2018 at 10:30 am

[Post removed.]


31 people like this
Posted by mauricio
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Sep 3, 2018 at 10:38 am

mauricio is a registered user.

Housing in an ultra wealthy town is not a basic human right. I never assumed that I have an inherent right to live in Pebble beach, Bel Air, Malibu or the Upper East Side. You know what is a basic human right? Free, paid for by taxation high quality health care, food and protection from persecution. Housing in a posh super expensive town so one can be a few minutes from work is absolutely not a basic right.

[Portion removed.]


7 people like this
Posted by Allen Akin
a resident of Professorville
on Sep 3, 2018 at 11:15 am

Allen Akin is a registered user.

@Me 2 wrote: "It's idiotic housing policy to return to feudalism where you have to work at a company to receive housing."

I agree, which is why I didn't suggest it.

The fundamental problem is that new offices are more profitable than new housing, so the jobs/housing ratio continues to get worse. There are lots of ways you could address that -- head taxes, office space caps, impact fees, and so on.

I may be wrong, but I suspect that the best way to address the problem is simply to require that the ultimate goal (a balance of jobs and housing over a region) is met. Say, by denying building permits for new commercial space until building permits for a balanced amount of nearby housing have been issued. Businesses can then propose or use whatever mechanisms they're willing to accept to reach that goal.

FAANG companies might build and operate housing for their employees, but I really doubt it. It's a huge diversion from their core competencies and a management nightmare. I think it's much more likely they'd contract with existing housing developers and invest a fraction of the cost of new projects. That improves the return-on-investment for housing and reduces the return-on-investment for offices, moving us back toward balance. Building housing in downtown San Jose might become profitable again, or it might become profitable to build larger projects. Or the companies might increase their expansions elsewhere. Either way the jobs/housing imbalance is better than what we would have under the current system.

You can imagine more comprehensive ways to do this. For example, you might create a market in housing credits which could be regional or even national in scope. That's above my pay grade, though.


18 people like this
Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Sep 3, 2018 at 11:39 am

Online Name is a registered user.

Other countries and cities are actively trying to discourage, tax and outright ban foreign real estate ownership and speculation now that sales are approaching 40% in many markets with $50M luxury units often bought sight-unseen as a savings account. (New Zealand, New York, Vancouver... read all about it.

Combine that with ABAG's aggressive office growth targets that continue to exacerbate the jobs/housing imbalance and pro-development CC candidates like Alison Cormack who saying lower office caps "limits our degree of freedoms" (Post,l 8/30, page 1 no link sorry)

What and whose freedoms??


17 people like this
Posted by Sanctimonious City
a resident of Barron Park
on Sep 3, 2018 at 12:38 pm

Sanctimonious City is a registered user.

Housing (and health care for that matter) ARE NOT human rights.

A human or natural right exists without government. It is self-evident or God given. Housing and health care are consumable goods and services. They don't exist naturally.

In order to have them, you must force others to create them and provide them. In the USA, the freely elected government is granted powers by the people to protect those rights not to compel an arbitrary standard of living.

If you don't believe me, imagine yourself as a plumber in that dystopian future. When housing is a right, then that person must work 24 hours a day without compensation until there is no longer anyone without housing.

Further, with the policy of open borders that unfortunate plumber is going to be very busy working for others indefinitely. Don't fool yourself. You may not actually turn the wrench but you will pay the piper in taxes.

Social justice activists like the author advocate using the power of government to enslave one group of people to another. With a human right that translates into anybody that has something to anybody who needs something. Sound familiar. It is called Communism.

Remember, one person's rights are another person's obligations. How many forced hours of work are you willing to do in order to provide the last incremental unit to a never ending list of needs?


20 people like this
Posted by Jose Seispack
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 3, 2018 at 1:51 pm

Curbed had an article on real-estate money laundering last month entitled "Why financial criminals use real estate to launder money" Web Link

From the article:

"One of the primary advantages of laundering money through real estate is that you can move a lot of money in one transaction... But probably the most advantageous aspect of buying real estate is that reporting requirements for suspicious activity are almost nonexistent, particularly compared to banks and financial institutions, which are legally required to blow the whistle on anything that looks fishy"

Commercial real-estate boom or MASSIVE money laundering operation?


8 people like this
Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 3, 2018 at 2:27 pm

Posted by Sanctimonious City, a resident of Barron Park

>> Housing (and health care for that matter) ARE NOT human rights.

Asserting it repetitively doesn't make it true. According the previously referenced UDHR, housing is a human right. You prefer to use a very restrictive view of human rights but a vast number of people use a broader version.

Your subsequent paragraphs do not logically follow from each other, but, basically, you are saying that "taxation is theft". But, since taxation was not only built in to the US Constitution, but, in fact, was a major reason for the Convention and the -creation- of the constitution, it turns out that you are living the wrong country. You need to buy yourself an uninhabited island somewhere and live like Robinson Crusoe.

Everything, including to the computer you are using to access this bulletin board, was created by a vast industrial enterprise involving the inventions of many people, and, many of the technologies were initiated by government research, including the TCP/IP-based Internet you are using right now. That must really suck for you. Your Libertarian paradise does not exist anywhere on earth and never has.


16 people like this
Posted by Global View
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 3, 2018 at 2:54 pm

@Jose,

Around the world, expensive places are facing the same kinds of assault - misleading but effective arguments to allow destructive development in desirable places out of shear greed. If you look at a place like Switzerland, the whole country is being transformed in many negative ways, with so much housing that no one really lives in, and people just naively buy the argument that things are getting more crowded and they have to make space, without ever assessing where the money is coming from that is creating this push.

We have ghost houses here, investment groups, and real estate agents pushing investment from overseas. While not the only driver of costs, it is certainly one of them.

There is a lot of capital seeking a place to reap more capital, it doesn't even require illicit activity, but attempting the solve the problem on the ground from the perspective of locals in all of such places would help solve the crime problem. The world has gotten smaller, and ordinary people everywhere really need to wake up to the tactics used to co-opt them to allow developers and moneyed interest to have their way at the expense of everyone else. This is now a global problem, and dealing with it needs to be an aspect of the solution.

I don't believe that in most places, anyone is trying to figure out how big a problem this is in the overall real estate market. I don't believe we have any figures on just ghost houses in Palo Alto, do we? Foreign investment in local property? Investment groups?

I wonder how much the recent tax law changes further advantage such interests over ordinary people owning? Certainly in expensive markets it has shifted the balance.


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Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 3, 2018 at 3:10 pm

Posted by Global View, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood

>> Around the world, expensive places are facing the same kinds of assault -

>> We have ghost houses here, investment groups, and real estate agents pushing investment from overseas.

They don't have to be "overseas". Ghost real estate investments -may- be by people all up and down the Peninsula all around us. But, seriously, I don't see that many unoccupied -houses- around here. I don't know about condos, though. One particular area "somewhere else" that I happen to know about has a massive number of ghost high-rise condos. There is a lot of expensive real estate that could be someone's dwelling, but isn't. Just the super-rich getting even richer.


10 people like this
Posted by Annette
a resident of College Terrace
on Sep 3, 2018 at 3:15 pm

As I read through these comments I am struck once again by the knowledge of many Palo Altans. I find myself hoping that city and regional decision makers take note of the resources mentioned by posters such as Allen Akins b/c one thing is painfully obvious: those we rely on b/c they presumably have the knowledge and data critical to relevant decisions AND are in elected or appointed office and therefor cast critical votes, clearly do not know best. If they did, our problems would not keep getting worse. Tried solutions are not working. Magical thinking is not working. Continued reliance on additional development is not working.

And the "Just Vote Yes Development Doctrine" that our Council Majority follows is not working b/c it repeatedly ignores the cumulative impact of office development that is destroying existing residential and small business.

I think it is time that we let our leaders know that we do notice and we expect a different, more functional approach. Speaking up as Ms. Ahlquist has is one way to promote change. Addressing City Council in person or in writing is another. Voting for candidates who are not beholden to developers is yet another.


26 people like this
Posted by peninsula resident
a resident of another community
on Sep 3, 2018 at 3:17 pm

Anon, resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, wrote:
> Posted by Sanctimonious City, a resident of Barron Park
>> Housing (and health care for that matter) ARE NOT human rights.
>
> Asserting it repetitively doesn't make it true.

Oh, the irony.

*Shelter* is a human need. I'd even go far as to say that a civilized society has a moral obligation to provide *shelter* for those in need that deserve it. Our society has an obligation to provide safe & clean homeless shelters for those in need while they get back on their feet. Only the most callous of people would disagree with this.

But you communists want to take it several steps further and declare de facto that 'shelter = taxpayer funded apartments & single-family homes, and government de facto confiscation of private property'.

You have no basis for demanding that people have a Right to an apartment wherever they feel like living.

Further (and hilariously) too many of you want to address the continued growth in Bay Area population by *resisting* adding housing, and ignoring the very obvious and very elementary math that results in a population that grows faster than housing units.

And of course the pièce de résistance is that too many of you favor building a 2.3 BILLION mostly empty transbay terminal and 2 BILLION electrified caltrain and a 90+ BILLION train from LA-to-SF, while a fraction of that money spent on Dumbarton Rail and expanding Caltrains ROW footprint would be far more impactful than your mis-guided pet projects.


8 people like this
Posted by mauricio
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Sep 3, 2018 at 3:59 pm

mauricio is a registered user.

Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of happiness is the corner stone of the declaration of Independence and the moral basis for our Constitution. Free health care for all fits this principle more than anything else. Free quality health care is absolutely, positively a basic right our government must provide. A roof over one's head is a basic right the weakest among us deserve. Housing in desirable ultra expensive towns so highly paid workers can have a "cool" zip code is not a basic right.


14 people like this
Posted by Free housing!
a resident of Mountain View
on Sep 3, 2018 at 4:07 pm

My neighbor just told me about the new tenant he has in a rental property he recently bought in EPA. He rented out to a single mom with multiple children, no job (at least that she claims or pays taxes on, she actually works under the table and gets paid $20/hour as a maid). She has housing voucher from the state. $3000 a month. THREE THOUSAND DOLLARS A MONTH.

This is INSANE. Housing may be a right but I will argue that the the location of the housing isn't and has never been a right.

And DAMN, do any of you on this board realize how much you're being taken advantage of by these crazy policies????


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Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 3, 2018 at 4:09 pm

Posted by peninsula resident, a resident of another community

> Anon, resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, wrote:
> > Posted by Sanctimonious City, a resident of Barron Park
> >> Housing (and health care for that matter) ARE NOT human rights.
> >
> Asserting it repetitively doesn't make it true.
>
> Oh, the irony.

> *Shelter* is a human need. I'd even go far as to say that a civilized society has a moral obligation to provide *shelter* for those in need that deserve it.

In Northern California, "shelter" pretty much implies "housing". I will grant you that in Hawaii, you can sleep on the beach a lot of the time, and, go barefoot. Doesn't really work here. In a non-tropical climate, "shelter" and "house" are synonyms. Web Link

>> But you communists

"You communists"? Me? Are you trying to be funny? Or, do you actually not know what a communist is (mostly was)? Either way, not funny.

>> want to take it several steps further and declare de facto that 'shelter = taxpayer funded apartments & single-family homes, and government de facto confiscation of private property'.

National-level taxes are in the US Constitution. Read it. The Articles of Confederation turned out to be unworkable.

>> You have no basis for demanding that people have a Right to an apartment wherever they feel like living.

Who, me? I never demanded, or even thought it wise, to try to accommodate everyone in the world in Palo Alto. You must be confusing me with someone else. But, I have no problem providing all US citizens with decent housing -somewhere-. And, I have no issue with -demanding- that -all of us- pay taxes to the governement(s) to support that, as well as to "promote the general welfare" in other ways, such as public schools and public hospitals.

>> Further (and hilariously) too many of you want to address the continued growth in Bay Area population by *resisting* adding housing, and ignoring the very obvious and very elementary math that results in a population that grows faster than housing units.

I'm in favor of adding housing. I think most of the proposals that I have seen for Palo Alto are misguided, however. Not to mention that Palo Alto land was mostly built out by the time I moved here, many decades ago.

>> expanding Caltrains ROW footprint would be far more impactful

I'm in favor of making changes to Caltrain to increase train frequency. You may not be aware that electrification is one of the components needed to reduce headway and increase frequency during rush hour.


4 people like this
Posted by Curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on Sep 3, 2018 at 4:24 pm

"The people in the President Hotel seem to be happy living in 250-450 square feet. ... I wish we had more places like the President Hotel built under rules that allow for density and more affordable rents."

Complete with the highly livable 1920's era architectural amenities and decor like the President Hotel?

Or 3-D grids of visually sterile boxes connected by equally sterile hallways, adorned only with fancy rents?



14 people like this
Posted by Global View
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 3, 2018 at 5:52 pm

@ Anon,
You can run a search on ghost houses and palo alto online, read the articles, and decide for yourself.

Here's one:
Web Link

The big picture is that this is not a uniquely local problem, there is a huge income disparity worldwide and a lot of capital concentrated in the hands of the few. Globally, other places where they can make the most money, not just here, are also being overdeveloped and ruined similarly (no regard for quality of life, safety, environment, etc) because this makes the most money. They are being fed similar false arguments that pit neighbor against neighbor. As @Jose above shared, there is also a problem with real estate investment being the easiest way to launder money.

The trouble with building more, aside from the fact that it actually raises prices in this area (because the newer developments are always much more desirable), is that building more is not a zero sum game. If more housing is built, more people will come to fill jobs to serve that population. More people will compete for the housing anyway and prices will remain high. Hong Kong chased that pipe dream for decades, and even though they now have apartments the size of coffins (they are called coffins) that are basically little human cages, densifying did not make things affordable. And even though they have the best transit in the world used by over 90% of the population, it solved none of the problems it is supposed to solve. They did everything "right" according to whacko new urban planning theories that serve developers, and solved none of the problems, including that they still have a sizable population that has a long commute. Average commutes there are equivalent to LA. (Pushing people into public transit has a productivity cost, too.)

The only way to solve this is by finally coming to grips with the fact that we can have too much of a good thing (too many jobs in town), and that companies either need to get together and decide how they are going to invest in creating new centers of innovation, or cities need to just stand firm on their duty to the residents and protect things like safety, traffic circulation, livebility, and make rules against size or concentration of companies and let market forces take over. And to understand the global problem of concentrations of wealth destabilizing housing markets (using corrupt but convincing arguments, as here). That will ultimately be the only way to stabilize housing and restore economic diversity.

We managed to have economic diversity through some pretty major booms, the difference here is the magnitude of the outside money and aggressive developer tactics.


13 people like this
Posted by Sanctimonious City
a resident of Barron Park
on Sep 3, 2018 at 5:55 pm

Sanctimonious City is a registered user.

The UN Declaration of Rights is merely a comprehensive shopping list for radical globalists. It is in direct conflict with the US constitution in many ways. Perhaps most importantly is the freedom of speech which many unhinged posters crudely attempt to stumble through on this forum.

Below are few examples of other "Human Rights" taken from the previous web link that were not mentioned. Judge for yourself whether you want to pay for all of these for every citizen and every person who comes here illegally.

1. The right to a job and living wage
2. The right to child care
3. The right to rest and leisure
4. "The right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control."

The United Nations is the organizational equivalent of fake news. It is hopelessly corrupt and should not be a standard for human rights. The current UNHRC is a replacement for the UNCHR which was so bad it had to be disbanded in 2006. Even the new version is so far beyond repair after only 12 years that the US has pulled out of it.

Good news for Syria as they can take over the human rights committee right after their term leading the UN disarmament forum for chemical weapons is over. No thanks, I would rather rely on 3,000 years of western culture inherited from the Greeks to the Romans to Western Europe and ultimately America to define freedom and human rights. It might be helpful to read about it sometime because it is certainly not taught in public school anymore.

The Socialists also need a history lesson when it comes to taxation. With only minor exceptions, personal taxation did not start in the US until the ratification of the 16th amendment to the constitution in 1913. Prior to that, taxes were raised through excise taxes and tariffs. Ever hear of the Boston Tea Party?

The facts and arguments by the activist posters are so flawed they only serve as a demonstration for why no one should be forced to pay for their housing and health care with the blood, sweat and tears of their own labor.


2 people like this
Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 4, 2018 at 9:29 am

Posted by Sanctimonious City, a resident of Barron Park

>> The UN Declaration of Rights is merely a comprehensive shopping list for radical globalists.

"Radical" only if you think that every other person on the planet is just as human as you are.

>> It is in direct conflict with the US constitution in many ways.

"Rights" are always in conflict with each other-- that is why, in the U.S., we still (for now) have the "Rule of Law". "If you can keep it."

Care to enumerate all the "many ways"?

>> Perhaps most importantly is the freedom of speech which many unhinged posters crudely attempt to stumble through on this forum.

(UDHR):
"Article 19:
Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers."

"Article 29:
Everyone has duties to the community in which alone the free and full development of his personality is possible.In the exercise of his rights and freedoms, everyone shall be subject only to such limitations as are determined by law solely for the purpose of securing due recognition and respect for the rights and freedoms of others and of meeting the just requirements of morality, public order and the general welfare in a democratic society.These rights and freedoms may in no case be exercised contrary to the purposes and principles of the United Nations."

>> Below are few examples of other "Human Rights" taken from the previous web link that were not mentioned. Judge for yourself whether you want to pay for all of these for every citizen

Sure.

>> and every person who comes here illegally.

No. I've never been in favor of unrestricted immigration. Unlike some "pure" Libertarians, I should mention.

Web Link

>> The United Nations is the organizational equivalent of fake news.

Non-sequitur.

>> The Socialists also need a history lesson when it comes to taxation.

"Socialist" is a big word that has been used for everything from public health to totalitarianism. What actual policies are you talking about exactly. Or is it just that "socialism is bad" thing that some people have even as they happily increase taxes to pay for freeways? (Most streets, roads, and highways in this US are "socialistic".)

>> With only minor exceptions, personal taxation did not start in the US until the ratification of the 16th amendment to the constitution in 1913. Prior to that, taxes were raised through excise taxes and tariffs. Ever hear of the Boston Tea Party?

The Revenue Act of 1861 (in effect until 1871) created the first income tax in the US.

>> The facts and arguments by the activist posters are so flawed they only serve as a demonstration for why no one should be forced to pay for their housing and health care with the blood, sweat and tears of their own labor.

What is an "activist" by your definition? In any case, likely you were educated in public schools, drive on public roads, use medical facilities paid for with public funds, and participate in our society in various ways despite the fact that it has been partially socialistic (e.g. Post Office) and partially private-enterprise from the very beginning.

==

Back to housing: I think every US citizen should be entitled to housing. "Somewhere". I differ from those who think that the housing should necessarily be in any particular location.


12 people like this
Posted by Former CA Resident
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 4, 2018 at 12:03 pm

"I believe that housing is a basic human right in any society. "

As soon as I read this statement, I wasn't even motivated to read the article.
Housing is not a right. In our country, the rights we have are life, LIBERTY, and the PURSUIT of happiness. Lawmakers especially in CA are constantly violating those rights, but I digress...

The reason I fundamentally disagree with your statement is that if you have a nice, quiet house in Palo Alto with a big patio and pool and all the luxuries in the world, when you advocate to raise taxes and so on and so forth so that the lesser, "low-income" people can at least have housing, even if it means tall buildings and high density and a quality of life that is just OK for surviving, but not nearly as a high quality of life as a homeowning Palo Altan gets to enjoy...

...then the entire premise of your article is based in hollow virtue signaling and moral licensing. It is meaningless.

Moral licensing is huge among limousine liberals. They live off of it. It masquerades as "empathy", "understanding", "forward-thinking", whatever you want to call it, as opposed to all those mean, greedy, selfish people who "lack empathy" unlike us, the pious paragons of virtue.

I think a lot of people really do believe they are exhibiting empathy, and the moral licensing is a very unconscious phenomenon so they won't understand what I'm saying, but I have to call them out on this.

Let a homeless person off the street sleep on the couch in your living room. Only then I'll be convinced.


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Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 4, 2018 at 1:39 pm

Posted by Former CA Resident, a resident of Midtown

>> "I believe that housing is a basic human right in any society. "

>> As soon as I read this statement, I wasn't even motivated to read the article.

So, you haven't read the article, or, apparently read the ensuing debate, but, you offered an opinion anyway. ;-)

>> Housing is not a right.

So you say. But, not everyone agrees. What is your actual argument against the notion that housing is not a right?

>> In our country, the rights we have are life, LIBERTY, and the PURSUIT of happiness.

So, no other rights matter except the generality in Declaration? Like, the political rights defined by the Constitution, and, the additional rights enumerated by the Bill of Rights and the subsequent Amendments?

>> ...then the entire premise of your article is based in hollow virtue signaling and moral licensing. It is meaningless.

Ah, "virtue signaling". Been reading Breitbart? Try this:

"Virtue signaling and other inane platitudes", Web Link



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Posted by the_punnisher
a resident of Mountain View
on Sep 4, 2018 at 7:48 pm

the_punnisher is a registered user.

Sigh. I have been over this same topic time after time: Palo Alto was/is using REDLINING to keep both poor and undesirables meaning only WASPs are allowed to live in Palo Alto. The creation of EAST Palo Alto was a place for these undesirables. " You would be better off living with your own kind " was the excuse Palo Alto Realtors used to force people to East Palo Alto. I should know, I was a victim of those polices. BLACK PEOPLE WERE THE MAJORITY IN EAST PALO ALTO THANKS TO REDLINING! Both my parents were Army veterans of the Korean (un)War; were were white, but POOR, not good enough to live in Paio Alto. That is a stain that Palo Alto can never erase. We got NOTHING like the parks and extras Palo Alto had. If the talk is about housing poor people, just do what Hawaii is doing for the people serving the rich people every day: SHIPPING CONTAINER COMMUNITIES. Cheap to refit to building codes with sewer, water and electricity. Plenty for the wage slaves in
Hawaii. Palo Alto is faced with a similar problem, except the wage slave can move to another place. Put all your belongings in a U-Haul, get on I-80 and just head East. Do it fast, because a trend driving out the locals has s.tarted as rental costs have jumped to higher level and the natives are leaving and selling their houses for insane prices. Poor people housing is a problem at nationwide levels. For Palo Alto, just go back to the redlining answer. In East bPalo Alto, The Auto Salvaage companies are gone. Just get EPA to run sewer and water to these sites and build SHIPPING CONTAINER COMMUNITIES


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Posted by the_punnisher
a resident of Mountain View
on Sep 4, 2018 at 8:14 pm

the_punnisher is a registered user.

ANSWER: REDLINING, LIKE IT WAS IN THE PAST. Hawaii created SIPPING CONTAINER COMMUNITIES to house the wage slaves. Now that auto salvage companies are gone, there is plenty of room for East Palo Alto SHIPPING CONTAINER COMMUNITIES! The housing problem is resolved in a


9 people like this
Posted by Sanctimonious City
a resident of Barron Park
on Sep 5, 2018 at 12:30 am

Sanctimonious City is a registered user.

The sad reality of Liberal Progressives like Anon is they don't understand western history, civics, our constitution or even the difference between a right, an entitlement or a benefit.

Instead they wish to push unpopular ideas that they can't pass through legislation by using un-elected and unaccountable organizations like the UN, the EU, executive agencies and the judicial branch.

If they wish to make free housing, healthcare and a living wage a human right on the same level as free speech, self defense or due process then hold a constitutuinal convention.

They know they can't even pass the laws let alone an amendment. It can only be done by administrative fiat or illegally subverting the system.

That is the real reason they hate Trump and have flown into a tizzy at the supreme court confirmation hearings. One by one their methods of stealing power and their engines of tyrrany are being dismantled.

No longer will they be able to force
their radical ideas on the un-willing.
Now they will actually have to persuade people and earn their vote. And that is their biggest fear of all.




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Posted by mauricio
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Sep 5, 2018 at 6:45 am

mauricio is a registered user.

The Constitution guarantees health care because Life Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness equal the most basic human need, health care, there is no difference, they are one and the same.

Defense of the nation, which the Constitution assigned to the federal government, also equals guaranteed health care to all citizens. They are one and the same, there is zero difference. All civilized societies, and we are not one of them, have reached that conclusions generations ago.


2 people like this
Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 5, 2018 at 9:31 am

Posted by Sanctimonious City, a resident of Barron Park

>> The sad reality of Liberal Progressives like Anon is they don't understand western history, civics, our constitution or even the difference between a right, an entitlement or a benefit.

"Liberal" and "Progressive" mean a lot of different things to a lot of different people. By "Liberal" if you mean "In favor of as much personal freedom as practical" then, sure, I'm a "Liberal". By "Progressive", if you mean "In favor of a practical mix of capitalist incentives" then, sure, I'm a "Progressive".

Regardless, the word "right" is used in many different contexts, so, it is usually modified for clarity, e.g., "Constitutional Right" referencing the U.S. Constitution. There are many other legal rights in the U.S. that exist through law and, legal precedent. These legal rights need further context, such as, "Federal Law", or, "California Law".

>> Instead they wish to push unpopular ideas that they can't pass through legislation by using un-elected and unaccountable organizations like the UN, the EU, executive agencies and the judicial branch.

You are taking the use of the UDHR completely out of the context in which it was being used. The discussion was in the context of "human rights", not, a legal case.

But, since you mentioned it, the idea of housing for people in need is quite "popular" and people vote to fund housing quite frequently. Voters have the -right- to vote for such spending, and, taxes to support such spending. The real issue is that, generally speaking, "public housing" is actually pretty difficult. In that regard, I frequently argue against various schemes that sound good but, for various reasons, don't actually work very well. But, that is a pragmatic issue, not a "rights" issue.

>> If they wish to make free housing, healthcare and a living wage a human right on the same level as free speech, self defense or due process then hold a constitutuinal convention.

This is purely a "straw man" argument. We all vote on housing, healthcare, and living wage type issues directly and indirectly all the time. We have all the legal authority we need to do so. The problem is that these are actually difficult, complicated issues. No constitutional convention is necessary-- just figuring out what actually works well over time.

>> They know they can't even pass the laws let alone an amendment. It can only be done by administrative fiat or illegally subverting the system.

I have no idea what you are referring to.

>> That is the real reason they hate Trump and have flown into a tizzy at the supreme court confirmation hearings. One by one their methods of stealing power and their engines of tyrrany are being dismantled.

I'm unclear what Trump and the Supreme Court nomination have to do with the housing issue. Enlighten me.

>> No longer will they be able to force their radical ideas on the un-willing. Now they will actually have to persuade people and earn their vote. And that is their biggest fear of all.

Are you saying that you think Trump and the Supreme Court will take away our current legal right to vote on, e.g., public healthcare and housing spending and funding?


2 people like this
Posted by Sanctimonious City
a resident of Barron Park
on Sep 5, 2018 at 9:56 am

Sanctimonious City is a registered user.

@Mauricio

You miss the important distinction that the role of government is to protect the rights of individuals from being taken away not to compel others to provide them. That would be tyranny or socialism as Democrats prefer to call it.

By your expansive definition including life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, what wouldn't be included?

With that logic, certainly abortion would be unconstitutional. It would be difficult to argue that housing is a basic human right but birth is not.


Like this comment
Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 5, 2018 at 10:24 am

>> Posted by Sanctimonious City, a resident of Barron Park

>> You miss the important distinction that the role of government is to protect the rights of individuals from being taken away not to compel others to provide them.

Once again, taxes are built in to the U.S. Constitution. And, BTW, that was not an accident. No need to recycle the history lesson again (and again and again).

>> That would be tyranny or socialism as Democrats prefer to call it.

Do you consider it "tyranny" that I am compelled to pay taxes for roads? That we all -are compelled- to pay taxes for streets, roads, highways, and freeways?

Oh by the way (OBTW), one of the first issues that Abraham Lincoln got involved with politically was "internal improvements"-- that is, public spending to support transportation, specifically waterways, for the benefit of the public -- that is, local economies. "Tyranny"?


3 people like this
Posted by What?
a resident of JLS Middle School
on Sep 5, 2018 at 12:10 pm

It’s a real question whether every human should have a right at birth to free housing, or housing they can afford. Who must pay for it? The world at large? The UN? Their country? State? City?

But it’s not a question that addresses the issue at hand. Does anyone claim that everyone has a human right to live wherever they want? Or a human right to live in Palo Alto? If not a right for every human in the world, who does have the right, the human right, to live in Palo Alto?

I just don’t see that being poor, sick, injured, lucky enough to love an appreciated career, or to be born or raised in Palo Alto, or born or raised in another country confers the right to live in Palo Alto.

I agree that Palo Alto can tax in order to help people with these or other characteristics we deem worthy of help (such as just being very young or very old), but these things don’t justify a right to live in Palo Alto.

Or do they?


2 people like this
Posted by Todd
a resident of another community
on Sep 5, 2018 at 12:24 pm

"Sanctimonious City" is the type of dude I could see arguing in favor of debtors' prisons.


8 people like this
Posted by mauricio
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Sep 5, 2018 at 3:03 pm

mauricio is a registered user.

I guess that if the Bay area suffered the Gig One earthquake and the damages were in the trillion dollar range, the mindless conservative would call the federal relief efforts "Communism" and "Tyranny".

Actually, since many of them drive on a daily basis over socialist roads, freeways and bridges, I expect them to discontinue using all these socialist monstrosities.

@Sanctimonius City: No, life begins at birth. The planet has probably four times more humans than it can support. Any unwanted pregnancy should be terminated if that's the mother's will, and no one can have the right to tell a woman what to do with her own body, we don't live in Saudi Arabia. The planet and individual societies are better off when women have full control over their reproduction process. In general, people should have far less children than they have on the average. The plant is suicidally overpopulated. Not having children at all is absolutely fine. Abortions are good for humanity, and they should be easy, and very accessible.


4 people like this
Posted by Allen Akin
a resident of Professorville
on Sep 7, 2018 at 8:44 am

Allen Akin is a registered user.

The Vallco story continues. From this morning's Merc: Web Link

Recap: The developer (Sand Hill) originally proposed 2M sq ft of office space and only 800 housing units. After community pushback, it changed the proposal to 1.8M sq ft of office space and 2400 housing units. This would still make the jobs/housing imbalance in Cupertino worse, not better. However, the developer invoked SB 35 to prevent being required to make more changes.

The Cupertino Planning Commission now has advanced an alternative plan that calls for less office space and more housing. (Though according to Commissioner Jerry Liu it still "creates a bigger demand for housing than it actually solves".)

We'll see what the developer does, but no matter which option it chooses, restrictive zoning is clearly not what's stopping more housing from being built at Vallco. It's development economics.


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Posted by Me 2
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Sep 7, 2018 at 9:54 am

Allen - still pushing the #fakenews about the developer not wanting housing? It's the city and its residents that really don't want the housing. SB35 is forcing Cupertino's hand.

"Planning Commissioner Jerry Liu challenged elements of the community plan, contending that despite the financial windfall proposed for schools, it places an unfair burden on the Cupertino Union School District. "

This quote from a planning commissioner doesn't sound like he wants more housing.

Allen, it doesn't fit your narrative. The residents in Cupertino have been the ones blocking Vallco development because they simply don't want more housing. You might want to dig in a little deeper into the history of this mess.


4 people like this
Posted by Allen Akin
a resident of Professorville
on Sep 7, 2018 at 10:49 am

Allen Akin is a registered user.

Sand Hill could have proposed more housing initially, and didn't. The review process *added* housing until Sand Hill stopped it by invoking SB35. The Planning Commission is still trying to convince Sand Hill to add more housing. It seems pretty clear the developer would rather build more commercial space than housing. This is also consistent with the basic economics. If you believe otherwise, dig up the references and make your case.

Of course there are people in Cupertino who want unlimited commercial development rather than housing; there's more money to be made that way. I don't know if Jerry Liu is one of them, though. From the article it appears that he thinks the school system isn't getting enough funding, and that even the latest proposal doesn't balance jobs and housing. It could be he wants a development that will actually work, rather than one that makes the existing situation worse.


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Posted by Me 2
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Sep 7, 2018 at 12:13 pm

"The review process *added* housing until Sand Hill stopped it by invoking SB35"

That's not true. Residents and the city council have been trying to reduce the housing on the development for years. They even put up Measure C to try to block it. SB35 is forcing the city to back down. Even Scott Wiener, who sponsored SB35, called them out on it.

Your anti-development narrative doesn't fit here. You continue to push Vallco as an example of "developers gone wild," but the history and the facts don't support your narrative.


2 people like this
Posted by Allen Akin
a resident of Professorville
on Sep 7, 2018 at 1:54 pm

Allen Akin is a registered user.

References, please.

We're not insiders, so all our knowledge is provisional. However, the reports I've read aren't consistent with your interpretation.

For example, here is Curbed's summary of the history Web Link , which describes the original 2Msqft/800unit proposal, the relevant citizens' votes, the 1.8Msqft/2400unit proposal that *followed* the votes, and the exchange between Vice Mayor Paul and Senator Wiener. Paul was pro-housing, and Wiener was satisfied with his response.

That article links to a Merc report that's also worth reading. Regarding the votes, a Sand Hill director noted "Through Measure D we also learned, despite many significant benefits and a well-received design, that not everyone has become comfortable with 2 million square feet of office space. The failure of Measure C also taught us that doing nothing at all at Vallco, an irreparable blight and severe drain on city resources, was considered by most of the community to be unacceptable." Neither of these interpretations sounds like knee-jerk obstruction of housing by the public.

So we know zoning restrictions aren't an issue here, and the timeline shows that public engagement has caused an increase in the number of housing units proposed for the project. The latest proposal by the Planning Commission increases housing again.

"Developers gone wild" is your spin, not mine. I think the developers are being completely rational about this. It's up to us as citizens to learn why things are progressing as they are, and so far (provisional knowledge, remember!) simple economic factors offer a much more plausible explanation than all-powerful evil NIMBY cabals.


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