News

Palo Alto backs creation of housing 'subregion'

Group would allow Santa Clara County cities to negotiate with each other and the county on housing obligations

Palo Alto signaled its support this week for joining other cities in Santa Clara County in forming a new "subregion" to collectively tackle the regional housing challenge.

Once formed, the subregion would allow local governments to redistribute the housing allocations that each receives annually under the Regional Housing Needs Allocation (RHNA) process. Palo Alto, like many other cities in the county, has consistently fallen short of its RHNA target, a trend that was highlighted in a Santa Clara County Grand Jury report in June.

The creation of "subregions" is one of the grand jury's recommendations for boosting the county's housing stock. Under the system it proposals, cities where land is particularly expensive — including Palo Alto — would be able to transfer some of their obligations to lower-cost communities. The grand jury also recommended that the shift in allocations would be accompanied by financial contributions from high- to low-cost cities, money that would go toward "improving streets, schools, safety, public transportation and other services," according to the report.

"Sub-regions offer promise of encouraging more BMR (below-market-rate) housing," the report states. "A sub-region gives cities more control and flexibility to meet their RHNA housing goals by sharing the burden with adjacent cities."

The concept isn't new. Subregions already exist in three Northern California counties: San Mateo, Napa and Solano. In each case, every city in the county participated in the subregion, according to a report from the Department of Planning and Community Environment. And in recent years, with the housing shortage intensifying, local officials throughout Santa Clara County have been considering following suit. Since the grand jury report has come out, the Cities Association of Santa Clara County has been surveying cities to see whether they would like to join such a group.

The resolution that the City Council approved on Monday by a unanimous vote does not specify which cities would be in the subregion and does not lay out the rules for how the shift in allocations would be negotiated. Rather, by expressing the city's support, the council endorsed a process in which the Cities Association would create the allocation process for each participating city for the next RHNA cycle in 2020.

The resolution also authorizes incoming City Manager Ed Shikada to work with the Cities Association to form the subregion, which includes developing a work plan, a budget and a schedule of actions "leading to the countywide, self-administration of the housing needs allocation process."

The council approved the resolution on Monday night on its consent calendar, without any dissent or debate. At a prior hearing in September, the council pushed back against some of the grand jury's recommendations but generally agreed that a subregion is an idea worth exploring further.

Councilman Tom DuBois and Councilman Greg Scharff both voiced their support for creating a subregion, which Scharff said would give cities a forum to both talk about allocations and to share best practices for creating housing.

"I think it's really important for the region to be able to speak with one voice when they wish to," Scharff said. "I think it also provides a great opportunity for discussions between cities."

Watch the July 13 episode of the "Behind the Headlines" webcast for our discussion on the grand jury report with Henry Groth, a member of the 2017-18 Santa Clara County Civil Grand Jury.

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Comments

8 people like this
Posted by K
a resident of another community
on Dec 5, 2018 at 2:32 pm

This sounds like it could be another excuse for Palo Alto to push community housing obligations onto other cities, i.e. 'land is too expensive here so we refuse to allow higher-density housing'...Instead, Palo Alto should allow density AND use some property tax money to buy land for affordable housing.


15 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 5, 2018 at 2:43 pm

A possible good start, but in Palo Alto we have more in common with San Mateo County than parts of southern Santa Clara county.

Regional planning is very necessary in my opinion, but our region would have to be more Peninsula region than anything else.


10 people like this
Posted by Dan
a resident of Midtown
on Dec 5, 2018 at 3:05 pm

Sounds like another great idea if you believe in the efficiency of central planning and "5 year" plans. Some new unaccountable bureaucracy will undoubtedly be created to manage this.


23 people like this
Posted by county division artificial
a resident of College Terrace
on Dec 5, 2018 at 10:13 pm

IMO it would make sense for Palo Alto, Mountain View and Los Altos (in Santa Clara county) and EPA and and Menlo Park (in San Mateo county) to be considered part of the same housing sub-region. Why separate these cities based on county?


44 people like this
Posted by Rick
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Dec 5, 2018 at 10:16 pm

Why is there never a mention that the housing shortage is a direct result of developers overbuilding with the enthusiastic (bought?) support of certain council members? Force the developers to tear down an old office complex and replace it with affordable housing innexchange for each new office complex. Problem solved.


Like this comment
Posted by CrescentParkAnon.
a resident of Crescent Park
on Dec 6, 2018 at 6:24 am

This seems to make sense. Drive through Palo Alto around El Camino and Alma where most of the denser housing is in most of the other cities around here. There is less room in Palo Alto than there is in other cities, so Palo Alto should find ways of contributing or assisting in other ways.

I am continually surprised as I drive north or south through Mountain View, Sunnyvale, Redwood City, San Carlos and Belmont at the staggering number of apartments, condominiums and townhouse that are going up. While it is far past time for that, it's sad to see all of this happening hear the train tracks and in places there is a lot of traffic and exhaust.

Still over time electric cars and trains will overcome that situation and it seems like a reasonable move.

There just needs to be enough basic housing for people who are not hot wired and hooked-up into the tech or financial economies to be able to live and survive.


71 people like this
Posted by RV Dweller
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 6, 2018 at 8:46 am

Having moved around Palo Alto to avoid public scrutiny, it would also be nice to establish a KOA-style campground for transient RV inhabitants with electrical and sewage hook-ups. Mailboxes would be a nice addition as well.

Since the majority of us have absolutely no intention of leaving Palo Alto (unless legally forced to), an RV community would be a worthwhile addition to the city and special funding should be allocated to assist those who cannot afford the established rental rates for such an undertaking.

The grounds for such an endeavor would need to be conveniently located for ease of shopping as many of these RVs are not operational or currently registered.
A satelite Santa Clara County Social Services office located nearby would also be a constructive addition for the procurement of food stamps, rental assistance vouchers and any related application processes.

RV parking spaces should be made available to all RV dwellers on a first come-first served basis with adequate room remaining for future expansion.

Though not a feasible location at this time, the site of Town & Country Village would be ideal for a transient RV community. Over time, we have seen the Sunnyvale Town & Country Village replaced by high-rise complexes and the one in San Jose replaced by Santana Row. In the meantime, we will park wherever space is available and currently permitted in Palo Alto.

When residents of the wealthier Palo Alto neighborhoods join together with us and assist in the development of a stable RV village, we will have established a true sense of local community.






16 people like this
Posted by to RV dweller
a resident of Downtown North
on Dec 6, 2018 at 8:09 pm

RV dweller, I'm curious why you prefer to illegally park your RV in Palo Alto rather than legally in one of the RV parks in surrounding communities. Also, where do you dispose of the waste from your RV? Perhaps we could discuss this on a separate thread.


32 people like this
Posted by RVer From Clear Lake
a resident of another community
on Dec 7, 2018 at 3:15 pm

> where do you dispose of the waste from your RV? Perhaps we could discuss this on a separate thread.

Since we don't have a sewage hook-up (Palo Alto doesn't provide them for RVs), we use the rest rooms at service stations, public libraries and businesses within close proximity that are open 24 hours. We dump our trash in the various dumpsters located in the surrounding parking lots.

We have a small water supply in our RV so limited bathing is possible albeit limited in duration. It's easy to drain the wastewater as it flows down the curb and into the storm drains...no different than pouring it going down a sink.

Propane gas + small AC generator provides our energy needs.

While some Palo Alto residents might prefer that we vacate our parking spot, it is difficult at times to source a new one so it is often better just to stay put.

Considering factors such as disparity in wealth and its reputation for having a progressive mindset, we see no reason why some Palo Altans have such an issue with us being here. Let's all work and live together...well at least live together as we are subsiding on my disability SSI payments, food stamps and occasional panhandling. It's all good.


30 people like this
Posted by En Route From Butte County
a resident of another community
on Dec 7, 2018 at 5:52 pm

We lost our home in the fire. Layover in Cloverdale tonight and heading for Palo Alto to visit with relatives. Our RV will be parked on a residential street in PA and if asked to move, we will relocate to where the others are currently situated. ECR/Barron Park or TC Village OK with us.

Others driving down to PA as well. Some have lived in Palo Alto previously having gone to school here. Hopefully we will be welcomed as returnees.





1 person likes this
Posted by flush twice
a resident of Barron Park
on Dec 8, 2018 at 2:05 am

> RV wastewater "into the storm drains...no different than pouring it going down a sink."

Wow I am so unclear on that concept...


16 people like this
Posted by RVer From Clear Lake
a resident of another community
on Dec 8, 2018 at 8:03 am

> Wow I am so unclear on that concept...

Soapy and/or rinse water is no different than what goes down a home drain or into a storm drain when you wash your car...as long as it's non-toxic and bio-degradable.


12 people like this
Posted by R.Davis
a resident of Crescent Park
on Dec 8, 2018 at 9:37 am

R.Davis is a registered user.

QUOTE: Our RV will be parked on a residential street in PA...Some have lived in Palo Alto previously having gone to school here. Hopefully we will be welcomed as returnees.

While some of my neighbors might get bent out of shape over a bunch of RVs parked in the neighborhood, we've been spending considerable time away from Palo Alto these days so it really doesn't bother me...providing the RVers pick-up after themselves & don't leave a mess.




12 people like this
Posted by RV Landlord
a resident of Barron Park
on Dec 8, 2018 at 2:04 pm

I just bought an old run-down looking RV for $3500. I'm going to park it in the driveway at my rental property near East Meadow and advertise it as an ADU.

I'm going to advertise it for around $1K per month and after 3 months, it's fully amortized and all profit! Since I reside in Grass Valley, I could care less about what the neighbors think. Besides, some have pretty crappy-looking front yards themselves and the RV will be parked on private property and not in the streets.


10 people like this
Posted by Easy Money
a resident of Professorville
22 hours ago

> ...the RV will be parked on private property and not in the streets.

Maybe the key here is to rent one's driveway out to RV dwellers. Cheaper than applying for and building an ADU + it's an easy way to pick up some extra cash.

Who cares what the neighbors think as long as the RVs aren't cluttering up their neighborhood streets.

And being parked on private property makes it totally legal.


3 people like this
Posted by Non wealthy PAltan
a resident of Ventura
5 hours ago

Am a tad confused about the attitude of RV dwellers with regards to Palo Alto being progressive, wealthy and welcoming RVs on their streets. I always thought the current RV dwellers mostly worked in PA or very close surrounding area and/or had kids who went to PA schools and couldn’t afford the rent. Perhaps I am naive.

Am a bit surprised by the suggestion to replace Town and Country with a RV Park because the person likes that location. It is a fairly busy center with a grocery store and a CVS. I always thought the parking lot by Frys might be good, a chunk of it is always empty even on a busy day.

Don’t get me wrong , I am not saying that PA should not accommodate RVs and and some sort of RV place with amenities would be beneficial. The main concern is how many RVs from neighboring areas would this attract and could the PA infrastructure sustain it? However it sounded like there were already a caravan of RVs on its way here so I guess we shall see.


8 people like this
Posted by Support Your Local RV
a resident of Old Palo Alto
4 hours ago

> Am a tad confused about the attitude of RV dwellers with regards to Palo Alto being progressive...

A sizable number of Palo Altans are self-proclaimed progressives yet NIMBY.

>> I always thought the parking lot by Frys might be good, a chunk of it is always empty even on a busy day.

A rational call on your part. Fry's would be feasible as an 'after business hours' parking lot for transient RVs.

>>> I am not saying that PA should not accommodate RVs and and some sort of RV place with amenities would be beneficial. The main concern is how many RVs from neighboring areas would this attract and could the PA infrastructure sustain it?

Issuing permits might alleviate this potential problem.


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