News

Guest Opinion: SB 50 undermines single-family neighborhoods and diversity

Proposed bill seeks to override local laws for more housing projects

You can't make this stuff up.

Would you believe there is a plan in Sacramento to usurp local democracy and eliminate single-family neighborhoods in Palo Alto and throughout much of the state? Most would say, "Nah, that's nuts. It'll never happen."


Greer Stone.

Pat Burt.
Well, think again. State Senator Scott Wiener's SB 50 is moving through legislation to do just that, and it has strong support from the most powerful forces in Sacramento.

Implications for Palo Alto

Under SB 50, any neighborhood within one-half mile of a Caltrain station (University Avenue, California Avenue, San Antonio) or one-quarter mile from a regular bus route (including El Camino Real and University Avenue) would be required by state law to allow four- or five-story apartment buildings, potentially built curb to curb, and with no on-site parking. The building square footage could be 2.5 or 3.25 times the lot size (FAR) — six to eight times the density currently allowed in single-family (R1) neighborhoods.

Cities would also be prevented from requiring parking for those developments. A 10,000-square-foot lot could have 20 plus units of average-size apartments with zero parking. Worse, it encourages the redevelopment of what little more-affordable housing we have with new, high-end units, displacing current residents and diminishing diversity.

For Palo Alto, there is another provision with greater implications. Communities that are "jobs rich" with higher-than-median income and "high quality schools" must eliminate single-family zoning in all neighborhoods.

Fear of displacement

Our greatest concern is the implications SB 50 will have for low- and modest-income residents. There is a myth that upzoning (changing zoning to allow increased building density) will lower the price of housing. Supporters argue housing is just an issue of supply and demand. However, according to two recent Chicago and New York City studies, upzoning has the inverse effect and actually leads to increased housing costs. They concluded that when land is rezoned for increased density, it becomes more valuable, and the price of housing and rents rise.

Urban Research found that housing prices are not based on the housing market but instead rely on the land market. By mandating increased density, the already expensive land in Palo Alto will increase, and prices of housing and rents will follow.

New market-rate housing does not create affordable housing for low- or moderate-income people, and building dense, luxury apartments in single-family neighborhoods will not have trickle-down benefits for those most in need. Rather than being a panacea for our housing crisis, it is a Trojan horse for big developers' profits.

This can be seen across the Peninsula. Mountain View and Redwood City have built housing at prolific rates over the last couple years. However, the vast majority of that housing is not accessible for low- or moderate-income people. New one-bedroom apartments at the San Antonio Center cost $3,750 to $6,675 a month. If SB 50 logic was sound, we should be seeing prices dropping in these communities, but the opposite is true. Over the past couple of years, Mountain View has built thousands of housing units, but the median home price there increased by 15 percent in 2018, according to Trulia.com.

SB 50 will gentrify the Peninsula faster. According to a recent U.C. Berkeley study, rising housing costs have reintroduced segregation to Silicon Valley. With housing prices disproportionately impacting communities of color, SB 50 threatens to further isolate these communities and re-segregate groups of people who historically have been targeted by inequitable housing laws.

SB 50 allows the state to take over local zoning rather than allow recent actions by cities to take effect. SB 50 refuses to recognize how the negative disruption of concentrated, unrestrained and unsustainable growth in big-tech jobs is the primary cause of our housing problems, especially the harmful gentrification impacts on low- and moderate-income workers who are the backbone of any society — the teachers, nurses, public safety workers, retailers and others who have seen their real incomes decline in recent years.

What we can do

Palo Alto has recently taken ambitious steps to increase housing and improve affordability. Rather than reap the benefits of those locally driven solutions, SB 50 pulls the rug from under them with radical, one-size-fits-all state mandates. The city significantly reduced the rate of office growth through our annual and cumulative caps to bring housing demand in line with growth in supply. We created incentives for accessory dwelling units (ADUs) that exceeded state mandates, then created an affordable-housing and workforce-housing zoning overlay. More recently, the city adopted significant upzoning to encourage denser housing in the areas identified in our state-approved Housing Plan.

There's still more we can do. We can re-establish our downtown office cap (and add California Avenue), so market-rate housing will be competitive with office development. Next, we can adopt higher affordable-housing impact fees on commercial development, which were rejected by the council majority in 2017. We can strengthen renter protections and create a managed location for RV dwellers. Lastly, we can adopt a business tax focused on big business that, at just one-third the rate of San Francisco's tax, can pay for a citywide Transportation Management Association to significantly reduce commuter car trips and parking impacts, pay for affordable housing, and help cover our Caltrain grade-separations funding gap.

SB 50 and the related "CASA" state measure will be the most contentious public policy debate of 2019. It's already polarizing our elected leaders. Mayor Eric Filseth described the bill as "horrible" and "a state takeover of local zoning." Vice Mayor Adrian Fine, an adviser to Senator Wiener on SB 50, supports the bill saying, "We need the state to step in and help solve the housing crisis. Local councils and the idolatry around local control are not going to solve our housing crisis."

This is not an occasion when simply deferring to our elected officials will overcome the momentum in Sacramento. Our elected leaders need our active support. Attend upcoming public meetings — such as the SB 50 community discussion this Sunday, March 17, from 4 to 6 p.m., at the Lucie Stern Community Center — write your elected leaders, speak up and get involved!

Greer Stone is vice-chair of the Santa Clara County Human Rights Commission, chair of the Palo Alto Midtown Residents Association, and secretary of the board of the Embarcadero Institute. Pat Burt is a former mayor of Palo Alto and president at TheraDep Technologies, Inc. They can be reached at gstone22@gmail.com and patburt11@gmail.com, respectively.

Listen to the March 8 episode of "Behind the Headlines," where Palo Alto Mayor Eric Filseth explains his opposition to Senate Bill 50, now available on YouTube and our podcast.

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Comments

11 people like this
Posted by seems reasonable
a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 15, 2019 at 7:43 am

Well, on the west side of University avenue by the Palo Alto train station, there's an awful lot of unused available space.


35 people like this
Posted by Misleading at best
a resident of Crescent Park
on Mar 15, 2019 at 8:19 am

The authors fail to mention that SB50 and CASA both include provisions for 1 renter prtotevtions 2 increased affordable housing per building. SB50 does not allow redevelopment of a building that has had renter tenants in the past 7 years. It also requires these 3 to 4 story apartment buildings to have 25% affordable housing - higher than Palo Alto’s 15%. As for their argument that density and more housing make the crisis worse; those are two cherry picked studies which focused on what happens when you increase density but *do not* building housing (of course land value goes up!). Look to Seattle and Portland; build thousands of units and prices come down. The Bay Area is in such a hole that hundreds of units don’t make a difference.

What a bunch of nimby do nothing rabble rousing.

Build more housing!


76 people like this
Posted by Profiles in Cowardice
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 15, 2019 at 8:43 am

This op-ed is spot on, and accurately depicts the fears that have caused many pro-housing people to come out against SB50. Even the Los Angeles Democratic Party just announced their opposition to SB50, because it fuels displacement and will likely increase housing costs.

Ironic that the post above is titled Misleading at Best...SB50 does not require inclusionary zoning to be 25% in all, or most cases. The bill ONLY requires 25% affordable housing for units of 351 units or more. It does not require any affordable units for housing with less than 20 units, and housing with 21-200 units only require 15%. Also, saying this article cherry picked their studies, when @Misleading at Best @ then goes and cherry picks their own two case studies, is rich.

It is unfortunate our local rhetoric matches that of the national rhetoric. Name calling immediately, no rational or respectful discussions. We should consider whether increased zoning will actually lead to displacement of vulnerable communities before jumping in and forcing it upon our cities.


43 people like this
Posted by Anon
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Mar 15, 2019 at 8:45 am

The renter protections proposed have already been denounced by big real estate groups who have stated they will withdraw support if the bill preceeds with renter protections in place.
The renter protections were cynically inserterted in the bill to confuse and give false hope to many who struggle to stay in the area despite the astronomical costs because of ties to family, community and children in school ect....

It might likely fail without the backing if the real estate and development interests backing it but only if all of the right thinking true progressives in the state expose the deep hypocrisy behind its promoters.

thank you to the authors for exposing this!


30 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 15, 2019 at 8:46 am

"They paved paradise, and put up a parking lot"

At least that's what developers want to do. And those who object are called Nimbies and too old to understand.

I think those of us who are a little older and wiser, understand a lot better than the young think. Hopefully they will get a little more wise as they mature.


20 people like this
Posted by dbaron
a resident of University South
on Mar 15, 2019 at 9:29 am

dbaron is a registered user.

Two direct rebuttals:

First, the claim that upzoning causes increases in prices may be true for tiny pieces of upzoning within a large expensive housing market, but that has little to do with what would happen with upzoning large parts of a metropolitan area, which would have very different effects. Further, there's evidence from other places (e.g., SoMa in San Francisco) that large amounts of high-rise construction does reduce rent increases.

Second, SB 50 does and has never changed height limits or FAR limits along bus lines. That was part of the SB 827 proposal last year, but it's never been in SB 50.

As to the bigger picture:

Fundamentally, this article is a defense of local control. But what does local control represent? It represents some of the biggest failures of American democracy: the idea that the quality of a child's education should be a function of how rich their parents are, the idea that the quality of the air we breathe and the water we drink should be a function of how rich we are, the idea that rich neighborhoods have a right to keep poor people out to prevent them from having access to the good government services that the rich people are keeping for themselves. The degree of local control seems like one of the key things that separates the US from other western democracies on equality and income mobility, and we need the state to reduce local control to fix our society.

We also need the state to step in in big ways because it's clear that local governments are going to obstruct any movement towards fixing the crisis-level housing shortage in the region, and the only thing that has a chance of fixing it is state intervention.


37 people like this
Posted by SB50 & CASA
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 15, 2019 at 9:30 am

“Misleading” doesn’t understand that the 7 year rule is unenforceable. Palo Alto doesn’t and won’t keep records of length of private tenancies and hasn’t the budget to hire the number of added employees needed to monitor and enforce this rule or even the space to put put their desks. This won’t protect renters from mass displacement at all.

What would really make sense to do to increase affordable housing in town without displacing renters is to actively demand City Council: 1. Increase the Impact Fees that all for-profit developers must pay into our Affordable Housing Fund. Look to the proposed Santa Clara Co fee for the Stanford GUP for guidance. Lots more money for housing in town!
2.Pass an ordinance finally applying inclusionary zoning to our rental housing. Also raise the percentage of units required for all housing to at least 20% including for sale housing so more affordable units are required in market-rate housing developments.

Any person or organization such as the Palo Alto Forward or the League of Women Voters and others should work for both of these to get passed by Council so that we get us more affordable housing without massively displacing renters such as caused by SB50 and CASA (a set of 10 bills sold as a wolf in sheep’s clothing).


31 people like this
Posted by Really??
a resident of Downtown North
on Mar 15, 2019 at 9:36 am

"Our greatest concern is the implications SB 50 will have for low- and modest-income residents."

Seriously, Greer and Pat? Everyone who actually tries to build low income housing is strongly in favor of upzoning. I get that residents are concerned that their quiet leafy streets (that happen to be near a train line) might end up saddled with an apartment building (horrors!). Pat Burt has stated many times that he believes that "residents have the right to the Palo Alto that they moved to". However, even though this sentiment is understandable, it is completely incompatible with building housing for a diverse range of citizens.

So... feel free to oppose SB50. But please don't pretend that you are doing to it _protect_ the vulnerable.


36 people like this
Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 15, 2019 at 9:49 am

Funny all the attacks on people who feel "entitled" to green, leafy streets, Yes, that, and the bike paths, and all those other apparently unimportant factors, certainly were big factors in why I've stayed here.

But, sure, I'm more "entitled" to that. More than some developer is, who wants to get rich building high-rises. As I've pointed out before, you can get all the density you need with a 50' height limit. High-rises are destructive to the -urban- environment, and, you don't need them to get rather high density. Once again-- do the arithmetic.

Something else I have to mention-- older Palo Altans know a lot of their neighbors. Neighborliness was also a big factor in my staying here. Seems like younger folks who move here don't get that, at least at first. A little advice from an older person to younger people-- get to know your the people on your street. :-)


34 people like this
Posted by Anon
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Mar 15, 2019 at 9:58 am

It is obvious that dBaron does not know about the great lengths Palo Alto government has gone to in the last couple of years to responsibly enable residential development:

We exceeded the state mandates for ADUs
We saved Buena Vista Mobile home park ( with county help)
We passed the Affordable housing Combining district
we approved Wilton Court BMR project with the affordable housing law
We approved the Public facilities zone residential combining district
we approved the VTA project with the public facilities law
we approved "mikes bikes" which has 50 plus residential units
we approved "compadres" with significant residential units
we all proved "footlocker" with residential units
we approved "the Olive garden" project with residential units
we approved phase 1 of the housing workplace to relax development standards to attract developers

I've probably missed some projects. As another poster mentioned we also need to increase the developer fees that
are contributions to our affordable housing fund to more realistic amounts. we need to up the % of required inclusionary units ( deed restricted Below market rate units) and apply that to rental units since state law now allows it

We can tailor theses changes to our specific needs so as to maintain a diverse palo alto, that nutures and educates our children, maintains parks and open space, maintains habitat , and hopefully improves not worsens the environment....
and have orderly streets where people are not fighting over parking spots and the more vulnerable among us are not struggling just to do normal daily things without cars on a rich mass transit system that simply does not exist, and will likely ge worse ( VTA trends of diminishing service in the north county )

One size fits all doesn't work - representational Democracy is based on the electorate at every level of government
having a say on local issues. Local neighborhood zoning should not be a function of the state.


22 people like this
Posted by @Resident
a resident of another community
on Mar 15, 2019 at 11:09 am

"At least that's what developers want to do. And those who object are called Nimbies and too old to understand.

I think those of us who are a little older and wiser, understand a lot better than the young think. Hopefully they will get a little more wise as they mature."

You're willing to pull the ladder up and shut the generation behind you out because you don't want anything to change and face no repercussions for doing so (and your property values go up all the while). You bring up developer profits and parking lots because those sound like more palatable enemies to be against rather than saying you don't want millennials to have housing because an apartment building will ruin the neighborhood character. [Portion removed.]


23 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 15, 2019 at 11:26 am

To the previous commenter [portion removed], I would like to tell you a few facts of my life.

I worked many years and so did my spouse before we were married. When we married, we lived in another part of the country, but to buy a modest, small home we sold one car and shared an old (20 year old if I remember correctly) small car to help put a deposit on our home. We did have a bed we could move in with and we bought plastic garden chairs to sit on in our living room. We ate out once a week in a chain restaurant and only went to the movies or a nicer restaurant for special occasions. Our vacations were camping trips or staying with family. As the years went by, we saved to buy furniture and a better car. We moved to Palo Alto area for a job with better career prospects with our first child and rented, first in Mountain View and then in Palo Alto because it was close to said job. We had one car until child in kindergarten and new baby made it very difficult to live with only one car and bought a second car. Eventually by continuing to live modestly we were able to buy a house that was still in its original 1950s condition and took several years of continued frugal living to remodel and upgrade. These upgrades were done over a period of years.

[Portion removed] You seem to think that your lifestyle ambition means you deserve to have what it took us over 20 years to attain. I don't complain about it being unfair that we were not able to afford to have fancy cars, lots of nice furniture, or meals out every day. We did what we needed to do to enable us to attain the things in life we wanted.

If working hard and being frugal for 20 years is selfish, then selfish I am.

If you can't understand that saving and doing without is what got most of us our homes then that is something I find sad. If you are not prepared to do something similar so that in 20 years time you will be a little better off financially including some great memories of how you managed to live a happy life without all the luxuries, then giving you what you want without the time and effort it takes to save and experience frugality in your life, I think makes you more selfish and entitled than me.


34 people like this
Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 15, 2019 at 11:27 am

Posted by @Resident, a resident of another community

>> You're willing to pull the ladder up and shut the generation behind you out because you don't want anything to change and face no repercussions for doing so (and your property values go up all the while).

Or, it could be that in this case, your elders actually do know something that you don't know. Consider that it -could- be true. It -might- be. Possibly.

>> You bring up developer profits and parking lots because those sound like more palatable enemies to be against

Since there are a new mid-rise condos in Redwood City very close to the RC Caltrain station, can you afford one now? If you can't, do you think that new high-rises in Palo Alto would be any more affordable?


5 people like this
Posted by @Resident
a resident of another community
on Mar 15, 2019 at 11:38 am

Yes yes, you pulled yourself up by your bootstraps during the most prosperous decades this country has ever seen and earned everything through hard work and frugality.


26 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 15, 2019 at 11:49 am

Well we certainly didn't do it by demanding help and living on credit. We also did it without expecting anything from the previous generations already living in the area we moved into.


8 people like this
Posted by george drysdale
a resident of Professorville
on Mar 15, 2019 at 11:55 am

Displacement? Historically there's always been displacement in cities. Price fixing rents (rent control) chokes off development. Welcome to California where history and economics are a taboo subject. SB50 as I said before would be laughed out of any real estate economics class as would San Francisco leadership. You can't separate economics from politics (Aristotle).

George Drysdale the forthright social studies teacher


10 people like this
Posted by dbaron
a resident of University South
on Mar 15, 2019 at 12:03 pm

dbaron is a registered user.

In response to: "It is obvious that dBaron does not know about the great lengths Palo Alto government has gone to in the last couple of years to responsibly enable residential development:"

I'm aware of most of those; I gave public comment in support at the city council meetings that did two of them.

The problem is that that list isn't a picture of responsibility. It's a picture of falling far short of what is needed. Palo Alto permitted the construction of 54 housing units in 2018. (See page 117 of Web Link , from the agenda of the March 4 city council meeting.) The numbers needed to get us out of the housing crisis, to reach 3.5 million units statewide by 2025, would involve Palo Alto permitting about 2500-3000 housing units per year (which is more than the RHNA targets, which were produced through a poor process that has hopefully been fixed for the next cycle, during an economic downtown when the expectations of job growth were unrealistically low). Doing 2% of what's needed isn't responsibility.


42 people like this
Posted by myths
a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 15, 2019 at 12:28 pm

Re
"You're willing to pull the ladder up and shut the generation behind you out because you don't want anything to change and face no repercussions for doing so (and your property values go up all the while). "

Fact: Palo Alto is changing as we speak. The bad part of that change is that due to the lapsed judgement of prior city councils they focused on adding jobs rather than housing. So now we have a jobs-housing ratio that is out of whack and we are paying for their office development centric perspective. Palo Alto had undergone significant change in the past 5 years and there have been associated repercussions - largely traffic, traffic accidents and commute times.

Fact: No-one realizes the value of their property until they sell their home. If they stay in the area, they don't get to take advantage in any upside. It just becomes the price to stay in the market. So essentially, if they want to benefit from the rise in property values they have to sell up and move far away. How does that actually benefit someone who has lived here for 20 years and created a community of family and friends here? The vast majority of Palo Altans are house-poor. They don't realize any benefit from escalating housing prices. This silly meme is not based in any rational argument.

Instead of vilifying the residents why don't you focus your ire on big tech who have grown without regard for impact, and have not compensated anyone for their impact. They are slowly decimating the startup culture of the valley, using up all the oxygen, and then laying blame on the residents. Very machiavellian of them.

Or why don't you also focus your ire on past city-councils who did the developers' bidding and enabled this job-housing ratio to come about. People like Liz Kniss. You really should spend more time thinking about the real causes of these issues instead of sprouting memes that have no basis in truth or fact.


13 people like this
Posted by AllAreWelcome
a resident of another community
on Mar 15, 2019 at 12:33 pm

Right now I don't think Palo Alto is taking the housing crisis seriously. Yes, some progress has been made, but its not nearly enough.

There is still time, before SB50 goes up for a vote, for local control to show its benefits. If local towns like Palo Alto got their act together right now, I'm sure Sen. Weiner would consider dropping the bill since there would no longer be a need for it.

Does anyone want to place bets on whether that happens? Surely a small town can move faster than state legislation?


14 people like this
Posted by @dbaron
a resident of College Terrace
on Mar 15, 2019 at 12:58 pm

We are a city of 70,000 people out of state of 40 Million people. I'm not sure how they arrive at the number 3.5 million, but since most of our planning for the past decade has been driven off work done by ABAG, let's work with their numbers. They forecasted that between 2010 and 20140 santa clara county would need to add around 200,000 households. Between 2010 and 2017 Santa Clara County added 44,000 housing units. That leaves 156,000 units to be added in the next 23 years, roughly 7000 units a year for the county.
Palo alto represents 4 percent of the population of santa clara county. That suggests we need to build about 280 units of housing a year. Yes, we're behind our taget (largely because we have been busy building office!!) But we're not that crazy behind. The problem with the 3.5 million number is that housing demand is spread across the entire state of california. We can't build housing for jobs in los angeles so we need to focus on our local challenge.
Either we believe the ABAG projections or we get some new ones, but I'm pretty sure that's what we've all been relying on.


17 people like this
Posted by Old Timers Should Move Out Rather Than Complain
a resident of another community
on Mar 15, 2019 at 1:18 pm

Kudos to Scott Wiener & SB 50.

Time to ramp up the housing so more residents can be accommodated. Local area offices & businesses aren't gong anywhere & their employees need a place to live. Extended commute times are unreasonable & add to traffic gridlock.

Palo Alto has already been destroyed to a certain extent with development & there's no going back to the old days. Might as well implement the housing additions & move on with one's life...or move out.

Millennials don't have a problem with compressed housing...only the old timers do & most are essentially concerned about having their 'space'.

Well space is an outdated concept in a semi-metropolitan locale.

My advice...sell your overpriced house to someone who is willing to pay CASH for its over-inflated value & move to the country...Sonoma, Mendocino, Trinity, Humboldt etc. and enjoy the bucolic setting of a red county!


36 people like this
Posted by millenial
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Mar 15, 2019 at 1:50 pm

1. Actually some analytical millenials do have a problem with building housing where transit is non-existent. Like why ask someone to move out because they're complaining, only to move in and have to whine about how much you paid for so few amenities.

2. Wiener is backed by the construction and real estate industry. He deserves no kudos. He's just doing the company bidding like everyone-else.

3. All of this is moot, because when all those IPOs happen this month there won't be any amount of housing built that will make it accessible to millenials unless you happen to be one of the millenials in one of those companies. And try and tell anyone that those guys want dense cramped housing. The real estate market is slathering at the idea they all want a 10million dollar home and a private jet. They want space and lots of it, so everyone can tell they made it!


33 people like this
Posted by Annette
a resident of College Terrace
on Mar 15, 2019 at 2:19 pm

Annette is a registered user.

Two thumbs up to this Guest Opinion.

dbaron of University South countered with this comment: "First, the claim that upzoning causes increases in prices may be true for tiny pieces of upzoning within a large expensive housing market, but that has little to do with what would happen with upzoning large parts of a metropolitan area, which would have very different effects"

Dbaron is, apparently, overlooking the fact that Palo Alto is NOT a "metropolitan area" and it does NOT have the infrastructure to become one.

People who think SB50 is the elixir for our housing woes have been sold a bill of goods by politicians. Pure and simple. Once upon a time such charlatans were called snake oil salesmen.


32 people like this
Posted by Sesh B
a resident of Los Altos
on Mar 15, 2019 at 3:19 pm

Sacramento politicians gone rogue and going in bed with developers to get campaign contributions , they pulled all the youngsters to sing chorus that single family home owners are Nimbys. 650 sq feet stacked cages going for $3000 and above is not affordable housing - lunatics.


53 people like this
Posted by SB50 & CASA
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 15, 2019 at 3:22 pm

The point isn’t older and younger people lecturing lecturing each other and each group feeling entitled. The point is that SB50 is a disaster for not just for the city of Palo Alto but for all who live here - old, young, owners and renters. It’s a rip-off with the main beneficiary being private for-profit developers.

All the time, attention and money now going into planning by Ventura neighborhood residents, consultants and staff is obliterated, as is this most diverse neighborhood. Just look where it is, sandwiched between RR tracks and El Camino - train station and bus routes. Up to 75 foot tall residential buildings can be built I/4 mile from the RR station if density bonuses are used. And 45 foot can be built anywhere in the neighborhood. Little or no parking may be required. Almost all will be market rate housing - ie, not affordable.

When one looks at a map into Old Palo Alto, even as far as Cowper will have 45 foot buildings on as many lots as developers can buy - and they will offer more than any individual buyer can. So fasten your seatbelt - smaller towns are about to be no more unless we start opposing SB50 now. Our town surely willl join most other towns in the area and likely in the state and oppose this takeover of our town.

And please don’t embarrass yourself by thinking trickle down market rate housing will save you. That’s as laughable as the long ago hoax, trickle down economics was exposed.


25 people like this
Posted by Any name
a resident of South of Midtown
on Mar 15, 2019 at 3:30 pm

How about taking the funding for the myriad of complicated housing bills to build a train to Tracy and on to Manteca where there are new homes being built for $500k?

We don’t have a housing shortage, we have a cheap housing close to certain tech jobs shortage. If you want people to afford actual houses, to build equity, we can build quality transit out to where those houses are.


36 people like this
Posted by JR
a resident of Palo Verde
on Mar 15, 2019 at 3:47 pm

SB50 is a disaster for small cities and communities. Who should decide what gets built? If you think residents should decide then you should oppose SB50. If you think billion dollar corporations and developers should decide then you should support SB50.

If you support affordable housing then SB50 is your worst enemy. Cities will lose the ability to mandate affordable housing, so developers will look to make the most money possible with more offices and more luxury apartments with astronomical rents.


15 people like this
Posted by Jeremy Hoffman
a resident of Mountain View
on Mar 15, 2019 at 5:12 pm

Think about all the people you encounter in Palo Alto. The teacher at your school. The wait staff at your favorite restaurant. The police officer patrolling the streets. Chances are, the housing shortage is crippling them financially and making them doubt that they have a future here. If they're going to keep their job here, the best they might hope for is to drive into work for over an hour.

You've probably heard the rule of thumb is that housing should be at most a third of your income. Did you know that one in four renters in our area is paying more than HALF their income in rent? Imagine how hard that would be. That's the reality for hundreds of thousands of our neighbors.

That's why SB 50 -- the More Housing, Opportunity, Mobility, Equity, and Stability (More HOMES) Act -- is racking up endorsements up and down the state. Check out the wide range of this list, which includes non-profits, environmental groups, labor, students, retirees, and local leaders:

AARP
BART Board of Directors
Non-Profit Housing Association of Northern California
Habitat for Humanity
Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC)
California PIRG
Environment California
California League of Conservation Voters
SPUR
Bay Area Housing Advocacy Coalition
AFL-CIO
CalAsian Chamber of Commerce
Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce
City Council Member for Culver City Alex Fisch
Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg
Stockton Mayor Michael Tubbs
San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo
Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf
San Francisco Mayor London Breed
Fifteen sponsors in the state senate: Scott Wiener (D), Autumn Burke (D), Anna Caballero (D), Tyler Diep (R), Vince Fong (R), Ben Hueso (D), Ash Kalra (D), Kevin Kiley (R), Evan Low (D), John Moorlach (R), Robert Rivas (D), Nancy Skinner (D), Jeff Stone (R), Phil Ting (D), Buffy Wicks (D).

All of these groups and individuals understand that cities can't solve every problem on their own. Some problems, like the historic housing shortage and affordability crisis, are best solved by all of us coming together and committing to the same standards and best practices. Best practices like putting more homes on mass transit lines, which gets us the best return on public investment in mass transit, and reduces traffic, car exhaust pollution, and greenhouse gas emissions.

I'm excited about the opportunity to our teachers, our police offers, and our children when they grow up -- to be welcome in our communities. I'm excited about building a more sustainable future for California. I hope I and of all the above supporters of SB 50 can convince you to be excited about it too.


18 people like this
Posted by Anon
a resident of Palo Alto Hills
on Mar 15, 2019 at 5:28 pm

Palo Alto is quick to approve commercial projects with thousand of employees (Hillsdale, Deer Creek, etc.), but shifts the need for housing to others. Perhaps SB50 should be amended to revoke commercial land use for cities that don't have housing multiples to match the need they generate in the Bay Area.


4 people like this
Posted by Easy For You To Say
a resident of another community
on Mar 15, 2019 at 7:42 pm

"How about taking the funding for the myriad of complicated housing bills to build a train to Tracy and on to Manteca where there are new homes being built for $500k?"

Train or no train, who the heck would want to live in Tracy or Manteca?

Funny how so many of these Central Valley housing advocates have never lived or even been there.

While we're at it...why not a high-speed train from King City as well?


10 people like this
Posted by @Resident
a resident of another community
on Mar 15, 2019 at 8:10 pm

"Well we certainly didn't do it by demanding help and living on credit. We also did it without expecting anything from the previous generations already living in the area we moved into."

Of course not, you just benefitted from a post WW2 economy and a prior generation that didn't block housing development. Then once you guys were in power you voted yourselves Prop 13 and more local control over housing, oversaw a massive drop in housing production, and now the later generations get to deal with the fallout while you get a nice retirement asset.


8 people like this
Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 15, 2019 at 9:19 pm

Posted by @Resident, a resident of another community

>> Then once you guys were in power you voted yourselves Prop 13 and more local control over housing,

I would vote against Prop 13 in a heartbeat. The business sector, and, therefore, the super-rich, are the main beneficiaries of Prop 13, and, they have succeeded in avoiding both political and legal challenges to it for 40 years.


Like this comment
Posted by @SB50 & CASA
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 16, 2019 at 9:48 am

"What would really make sense to do to increase affordable housing in town without displacing renters..."

In order to build more housing SOMEONE has to be displaced, no?


12 people like this
Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 16, 2019 at 10:25 am

Posted by @SB50 & CASA, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood

>> >> "What would really make sense to do to increase affordable housing in town without displacing renters..."

>> In order to build more housing SOMEONE has to be displaced, no?

SOMEONE or SOMETHING. We clearly have a large excess of office space in this town. Time to start converting it to housing.


13 people like this
Posted by Pat Markevitch
a resident of Downtown North
on Mar 16, 2019 at 11:00 am

Posted by @Resident, a resident of another community

>> Then once you guys were in power you voted yourselves Prop 13 and more local control over housing,

I believe Palo Alto was one of the few cities in the State to vote against Prop 13.


5 people like this
Posted by dbaron
a resident of University South
on Mar 16, 2019 at 1:00 pm

dbaron is a registered user.

In response to Annette: Palo Alto is part of the San Francisco - Oakland - San Jose metropolitan area. Metropolitan areas are generally defined by commuting patterns, i.e., regions where many people who live in one part of the metropolitan area commute to another part of it. Many of the people who work in Palo Alto live in other places along the Peninsula from San Francisco to San Jose, in the East Bay, or elsewhere, and many who live here work elsewhere in the metropolitan area as well. That makes us a part of the larger metro area.


9 people like this
Posted by NIMBY Revisionist
a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 16, 2019 at 1:53 pm

The area of San Antonio Road between Alma Street & El Camino Real in PA represents the best use of available land. It is like a mini-metropolis & accommodates many residents + commercial businesses.

Palo Alto should consider this building arrangement all along ECR from San Antonio Road to Page Mill Road as this area does not represent the best part of Palo Alto.
If anything, it is a section that could use the most improvement.

Redevelop South PA & leave the nicer parts of the city alone. That is the key to this problem.


21 people like this
Posted by mauricio
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Mar 16, 2019 at 2:09 pm

mauricio is a registered user.

If pro density groups like the majority in the CC and PAF are so concerned about job/housing imbalance and rising housing costs, why do they so enthusiastically approve every single commercial development that increases the imbalance and pushes housing prices up? They wanted Palo Alto to become an office park, and they are to blame for the consequences. As far as the millennials who earn good salaries but demand housing without any sacrifice or even an attempt to save up and build equity, while going on expensive trips and vacations, eating out in expensive restaurants, wearing the newest Apple watches and spending fortunes on other every expensive electronic gadgets-look for sympathy elsewhere.


8 people like this
Posted by Failed policies
a resident of Los Altos
on Mar 16, 2019 at 3:52 pm

NIMBYs have had their shot. These policies have been abject failures. The data is clear. How do you explain yourselves? Why should residents believe that you can fix this problem with the same protectionist mindset you have had for decades? You know what they say about doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result. It’s embarrassing.


34 people like this
Posted by Seriously
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Mar 16, 2019 at 4:05 pm

The developers' shills and those consumed with envy are pathetically trying to hide their agendas under the banner of "diversity." Palo Alto is one of the most diverse communities in the nation, made of people from all over the world. Anyone who doubts this should just try walking down University Avenue at dinner time on any day of the week.

The Bay Area has plenty of much less expensive housing available. But these people don't actually want a house. They want *your* house.


4 people like this
Posted by @Seriously
a resident of another community
on Mar 16, 2019 at 5:30 pm

"Anyone who doubts this should just try walking down University Avenue at dinner time on any day of the week."

You do realize that people drive to University Ave to have dinner, right? It's not some secluded local haunt.

"The Bay Area has plenty of much less expensive housing available. But these people don't actually want a house. They want *your* house"

Oh there it is, the ooga booga. Not only have we come for your backyard views and neighborhood character, now we've come for your house! [Portion removed.]


8 people like this
Posted by @mauricio
a resident of another community
on Mar 16, 2019 at 5:50 pm

"As far as the millennials who earn good salaries but demand housing without any sacrifice or even an attempt to save up and build equity, while going on expensive trips and vacations, eating out in expensive restaurants, wearing the newest Apple watches and spending fortunes on other every expensive electronic gadgets-look for sympathy elsewhere."

Don't forget all of that avocado toast!


15 people like this
Posted by Sally
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 16, 2019 at 11:56 pm

Why is it PAs responsibility to provide housing? How about Hillsborogh and Menli Park? By the way I had to move out of the town I grew up in because I couldn’t afford to buy a home there. Not everyone is able to live everywhere they want.


6 people like this
Posted by @Sally
a resident of another community
on Mar 17, 2019 at 1:46 am

Because Palo Alto added a ton of jobs without the requisite housing to go with it. That's why.


12 people like this
Posted by Pat Burt
a resident of Community Center
on Mar 17, 2019 at 11:03 am

Pat Burt is a registered user.

Just a reminder to all who are interested in the implications of SB50 on our communities, there will be an informative public meeting today from 4-6PM at the Lucie Stern Community Room.


10 people like this
Posted by AnthroMan
a resident of Stanford
on Mar 17, 2019 at 12:33 pm

> As far as the millennials who earn good salaries but demand housing without any sacrifice or even an attempt to save up and build equity, while going on expensive trips and vacations, eating out in expensive restaurants, wearing the newest Apple watches and spending fortunes on other every expensive electronic gadgets-look for sympathy elsewhere.

Millennials are the now generation & they have exceeded their parents (the Baby Boomers) in terms of unrealistic expectations & instant gratification.

Blame the parents for this development as many are now being held accountable as NIMBYs who practice one thing & expound another.

The disgruntled Millennials are simply products of their upbringing & now they are turning on an earlier generation for their discontent.

Hilarious!


6 people like this
Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 17, 2019 at 12:47 pm

Posted by @Sally, a resident of another community

>> Because Palo Alto added a ton of jobs without the requisite housing to go with it. That's why.

Well, "Palo Alto" didn't do it, a bunch of companies did it. But, if "Palo Alto" actually has control over it, then -- sure, convert Stanford Research Park to housing. 700 acres @ 35 units/acre = 24,500 units. (Palo Alto currently has about 26,000.)

-Problem solved.-


Like this comment
Posted by @Anon
a resident of another community
on Mar 17, 2019 at 1:31 pm

It's too late to turn back time and take the path that Atherton took. You're not going to drag your heels for another decade throwing out meaningless and absurd solutions like tearing down every corporate HQ in your city while skirting around housing obligations.


16 people like this
Posted by Garry
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Mar 17, 2019 at 1:49 pm

@aonon:

You said PA was "skirting around housing obligations", problem for you is there is no such thing. Cities and towns have no obligations except to their residents. Funny how the YIMBYs just make things up. Democracy is more important than some white tech bro"s luxury condo.

Save local control; defeat SB50!


5 people like this
Posted by @Garry
a resident of another community
on Mar 17, 2019 at 2:45 pm

You're not a sovereign city-state. You're under Santa Clara County, which is under the State of California. You have obligations, and when you're not working well with the cities around you, the county and the state can come in to ensure that you do.


5 people like this
Posted by Bankrupt bill
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Mar 17, 2019 at 3:20 pm

Just got this email from the weekly begging for money. Is the weekly in such bad financial shape that they are constantly appealing for donations? Or is just another company trying to fatten their wallets with money from the public?

"This week is “Sunshine Week,” a national campaign to highlight why transparency in government is important and how secrecy erodes citizens’ faith in democracy. News organizations like ours are on the front lines of this effort. We seek to hold city governments, school districts and elected officials accountable for following California laws that grant access to public documents and require open public meetings so decisions aren’t made behind closed doors. But the economic challenges local newspapers face are making it harder to stay in business, let alone spend money on attorneys to enforce the law and pry loose information.

That's why we ask for your help. Becoming a member is more than access to unlimited online content, free events and giveaways. Your support is vital to sustaining quality local journalism...and to uncovering these redacted documents in court, if necessary."


20 people like this
Posted by mauricio
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Mar 17, 2019 at 5:24 pm

mauricio is a registered user.

It wasn't Palo Alto that added jobs, it was companies enabled by politicians who deceived their voters by claiming to be for preserving the town's residential and suburban character while they were being backed by real estate developers, most of whom were not Palo Alto residents. Once elected, these politicians ignored their campaign promises and enabled the developers and the companies that kept bring in workers regardless of the housing situation. I fail to see the difference between politicians who intentionally deceive the voters and fraudsters.

Palo Alto didn't have to become a job center and office park, it was dishonest politicians who forced it in that direction. The state should go after them, not force Palo Alto become what hit shouldn't and can't become. Palo Alto can and should be like Los Altos Hills and Portola Valley.


2 people like this
Posted by @mauricio
a resident of another community
on Mar 17, 2019 at 5:33 pm

Oh man, if only you guys had done something 30 years ago! Bit too late now though.


13 people like this
Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 17, 2019 at 5:47 pm

Posted by @mauricio, a resident of another community

>> Oh man, if only you guys had done something 30 years ago! Bit too late now though.

Because somebody wants to make money on the Palo Alto "brand"? How about we rename the city "Fred"?

I have to ask again, sorry, but-- can you afford a new condo in Redwood City? Because, if you can't, then, why do you think you will be able to afford a new one here? And, if you can, why not buy an RC condo? Redwood City is more fun than Palo Alto anyway-- there is a lot going on in downtown these days.

Or, to ask the same question a different way: Do you think that I am "entitled" to a nice condo in Manhattan - you know, somewhere within easy walking distance of 5th Ave and 82nd St.? If not, who is "entitled" to buy a condo in Palo Alto?


26 people like this
Posted by mauricio
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Mar 17, 2019 at 6:03 pm

mauricio is a registered user.

"Oh man, if only you guys had done something 30 years ago! Bit too late now though."

What power do you think ordinary citizens have against well financed dishonest politicians who are so skilled at deceiving the public? We are all victims. How could we stop politicians so skilled in deceiving the voters while in the pockets of the very rich and powerful. It's just about impossible to stop them, especially when most voters are so uninformed about local politics and so easily deceived.


15 people like this
Posted by JR
a resident of Palo Verde
on Mar 17, 2019 at 6:40 pm

The way to solve the "job/housing imbalance" is to say no to every new commercial project that comes along. If companies can't get a permit to change a lightbulb, let alone build a new multi-story underparked office, they will get the picture they they are not wanted and they will move on to other sucker towns they can take advantage of.


4 people like this
Posted by @Anon
a resident of another community
on Mar 17, 2019 at 6:44 pm

That's not how regional housing markets work. When Palo Alto added jobs with no extra housing, it pushed up housing demand (and prices) for housing in Palo Alto AND in surrounding cities. This trend continued, with more jobs that housing being produced, until people started commuting in from Gilroy and Livermore. Building more housing in Palo Alto and Redwood City doesn't mean that housing will be affordable, but it will help reign in prices that have risen in cities further out, making it more affordable to move closer.


35 people like this
Posted by Anonymous
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 17, 2019 at 8:40 pm

The meeting today at Lucie Stern to discuss California Senate Bill 50 was very informative. It’s a good idea to learn more about the details of what would be massive dictates and state control of development in our local cities and municipalities. I don’t believe SB 50 correctly and fairly addresses the state’s need for more housing. Instead, it is astonishingly comprehensive as a power grab over all our lives here in CA. Please read about it and contact your state assembly member and state senator to oppose SB 50. It’s important.


2 people like this
Posted by Tax big biz
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 18, 2019 at 6:46 am

Where’s the housing for this proposed monster of proposed office development?

Web Link


13 people like this
Posted by Annette
a resident of College Terrace
on Mar 18, 2019 at 7:00 am

Annette is a registered user.

I highly recommend that everyone read Lab Rats by Dan Lyons and How to Kill a City by Peter Moskowitz. I predict you will emerge from the reads wondering what the he** we are doing to ourselves. And what the he** we are allowing our elected officials to do to us and the world around us.

SB50 is at least as wrong as SB827 was and if we are smart enough to recognize the perils we will all do what we can to assure that it suffers the same fate. Even the least politically inclined among us needs to sit up and pay attention here. And write letters. And place calls. Apathy and inaction hand opportunity to Weiner and those who support him.

I am not saying we do not need to add housing. I am saying that SB50 is a very wrong approach. And we should not look to our CC Majority for answers as they pretty much ushered us into this mess.



3 people like this
Posted by @Annette
a resident of another community
on Mar 18, 2019 at 9:07 am

Yeah, it's the wrong approach because it forces you to actually build housing instead of endlessly discussing the problem for years and pushing it off as not your concern.


15 people like this
Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 18, 2019 at 9:20 am

Posted by @Annette, a resident of another community

>> Yeah, it's the wrong approach because it forces you to actually build housing instead of endlessly discussing the problem for years and pushing it off as not your concern.

I would love to build more housing. Stanford Research Park is 700 acres and has 10+ million square feet of office space: Web Link By converting SRP to housing, Palo Alto would become a net exporter of commuters instead of a huge importer. OBTW, residents of Palo Alto have been fighting against excess job creation for 60 years. Web Link So, please stop telling us that we long-time homeowners are "guilty" of bringing in too many jobs. Many of us have been voting against this for a long time. Which is why some CC members continue to promise to balance jobs/housing, and then break their promises.

Your true message isn't "housing", it is "resistance is futile". But, we continue to resist.


14 people like this
Posted by AnthroMan
a resident of Stanford
on Mar 18, 2019 at 9:50 am

It's the sign of the times...no escape from development (aka overdevelopment) in certain areas.

People need to live within reasonable proximity of their workplace. To commute from the Central Valley or the outskirts of Sacramento to Palo Alto is absurd.

Palo Alto is not Carmel By the Sea & never will be...never was.

For those old enough to recall, Carmel Valley was once wide open land & now it's pretty much paved over by newer office buildings, residential dwellings & shopping malls.

Best advice (if totally disgruntled by recent overdevelopment) is to simply move away. Why bother fighting City Hall as the old adage goes? Big money always wins.

For those who had the pleasure of enjoying a 'small town' Palo Alto experience, be grateful for it & reminisce at your convenience...somewhere else.

Displacement of human communities & their original environment is an ongoing phenomena.

The Ohlones, Spanish, Mexicans, American westward settlors & founding city fathers would certainly not recognize the areas they were once accustomed to.

Many have moved away or were replaced in kind by other groups of individuals.
It is my understanding that Palo Alto is now 40% Asian & growing, primarily from overseas & these new residents have their own visions of residential dwellings & community.

Perhaps they are the new Palo Altans. Every dog has had its day & to cling to the past is pointless as there is no going back in time.

As far as the proliferation of high-rise/mixed use developments are concerned...yes, they are hideous to a certain extent but they do serve a viable function & if more is needed, so be it. Historically we have now gone from tule huts & adobe dwellings to a plethora of Lego-Land inspired apartment complexes to meet the needs of a growing workforce population.

To the chronic complainers & NIMBYs...your residential properties are now worth a small fortune. Since you cannot go back in time or fight City Hall, why not simply sell & move elswhere? Others have.

When you finally begin to realize that your 'old world' priorities are being replaced in mindset by an entirely new generation as well as state/municipal policy, only then will you be able to accept life for what it is an move onwards.

This is not an endorsement of overdevelopment but simply stating reality as fact.


2 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 18, 2019 at 10:18 am

For many of you who tell us long time residents to move out to let you in and move somewhere else, don't forget, we are like you. Our jobs are here within a few miles radius of where we live. And remember, we are quite possibly your managers and others more senior to you where you work. Or, we are the ones who enable your lifestyle by providing you with medical, financial and other services that you depend on. If we go, you will miss us!


7 people like this
Posted by Local
a resident of Stanford
on Mar 18, 2019 at 10:33 am

There is the assumption that everyone who lives here *wants* a suburban / leafy environment. Obviously many do, perhaps the majority of Palo Alto residents. But many live here - I have been here for twenty years - not because they particularly like the atmosphere of the place but simply because this is where our job is. Many of us would welcome a more urban experience. The issue is not a simple dichotomy between social justice on the one hand, and local preferences on the other hand; different local people have different preferences.

As for the social justice argument, the claim in this article that more building will give rise to higher housing costs is risible and obviously in bad faith.


2 people like this
Posted by @Anon
a resident of another community
on Mar 18, 2019 at 10:47 am

"Your true message isn't "housing", it is "resistance is futile". But, we continue to resist."

Yeah man, keep up the good fight to prevent the Millennial generation from having housing unless you get to put a bullet into the economy.


6 people like this
Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 18, 2019 at 11:09 am

Posted by AnthroMan, a resident of Stanford:

>> It's the sign of the times...no escape from development (aka overdevelopment) in certain areas.

[...]

>> When you finally begin to realize that your 'old world' priorities are being replaced in mindset by an entirely new generation as well as state/municipal policy, only then will you be able to accept life for what it is an move onwards.

>> This is not an endorsement of overdevelopment but simply stating reality as fact.

At least we understand each other. It is all about money and power, and not the kind of proven-false "injustice" arguments we see from developers and their apologists.

Posted by Local, a resident of Stanford

>> There is the assumption that everyone who lives here *wants* a suburban / leafy environment. [...] Many of us would welcome a more urban experience. The issue is not a simple dichotomy between social justice on the one hand, and local preferences on the other hand; different local people have different preferences.

Agreed. And, I'm not asking you to leave, but, with an easy Caltrain ride in, why haven't you been living in a less-leafy less bicycle-y environment? BTW, I like dense cities also, for what they are. Palo Alto has a history and environment worth saving. And, I'm serious about Redwood City. Bustling downtown at night for people who like bustle.

>> As for the social justice argument, the claim in this article that more building will give rise to higher housing costs is risible and obviously in bad faith.

Gotta disagree there. Annette above gave some more recent references, but, Lewis Mumford and Jane Jacobs are past authors that understood much. Jane Jacobs, for example, understood that cities need older, less expensive, buildings, because newer means more expensive. People who can't afford to live in an old Palo Alto unit won't be able to afford a new one, either.

Posted by @Anon, a resident of another community

>> Yeah man, keep up the good fight to prevent the Millennial generation from having housing unless you get to put a bullet into the economy.

Are you a Millennial? Why do you think that "we" are trying to keep you from having housing? Actually, "we" are trying to keep you from believing developers and their minions.


16 people like this
Posted by Annette
a resident of College Terrace
on Mar 18, 2019 at 11:09 am

Annette is a registered user.

The core argument right now is not urban v suburban or growth v no-growth or anything other than who is in the driver's seat. The key argument is more philosophical.

SB50 demolishes local control and that is a dangerous precedent. Should SB50 pass, developers will be behind the wheel and enabling politicians will be riding shotgun. It is clearly difficult to fight the trend b/c big money is hard to fight. But it is not impossible. Those of use who want truly diverse, sustainable communities that include affordable housing and at lease some semblance of planning and balance must support two things: the defeat of SB50 and the development of additional housing, particularly affordable housing. I think that is what is being called Smart Growth. The result of SB50 will be obtuse growth. Because it will not deliver what it promises and it will increase infrastructure deficits.

One would think that a city that prides itself on being smart would at least follow the principles of Smart Growth.


4 people like this
Posted by @Anon
a resident of another community
on Mar 18, 2019 at 11:36 am

"Are you a Millennial? Why do you think that "we" are trying to keep you from having housing? Actually, "we" are trying to keep you from believing developers and their minions."

That's your easy villain to put up and hiss at because it's more palatable than having to acknowledge you're directly responsible for the housing crisis that we're in. It's the fault of corporations adding new jobs, it's the fault of developers over-building, but it couldn't possibly be your fault for refusing to accept that Palo Alto is dead-center in the middle of Silicon Valley and that the year isn't 1970 anymore. It's the same in every other coastal city, "oh we're just a small town and those mundane apartment buildings will just ruin the neighborhood character!", even in San Francisco it's the same song and dance to prevent new housing from being built.


4 people like this
Posted by @Annette
a resident of another community
on Mar 18, 2019 at 11:39 am

"SB50 demolishes local control and that is a dangerous precedent" We're in this mess because cities have refused to wield that local control responsibly. You've had years to build housing on your own terms and it's obstruction left and right, so now it's not on your terms anymore.


21 people like this
Posted by Pat Burt
a resident of Community Center
on Mar 18, 2019 at 11:49 am

Pat Burt is a registered user.

The debate about the causes of the current housing problem seems to be divided between two opposing sides who would each benefit front deeper, fact based analysis.
On one side are those who argue that the problem is simply one of supply and demand, "Econ 101". On the other side are those who cite anecdotes and references who assert that increasing market rate housing will not solve our problems.
I see two basic fallacies to the YIMBY arguments. First, oddly, they either omit the demand side of the equation or treat it not as a variable. They also see zoning as the primary tool to address supply, but resist the ability of zoning to moderate demand to make it more sustainable and better aligned with supply.
Second, they do not recognize that housing economics is more complex than simple Econ 101. Housing economics is highly segmented. This informative article by a leading housing densification advocate is very informative,Web Link. It a bit long, but a must read for anyone who wants to have a serious discussion on the subject. Basically, it explains that there is a wide body of research that explains the segmentation of the housing market and how adding high end housing will moderate prices on the high end (provided that demand does not continue to outstrip increased supply) does not have trickle down impacts to the middle and lower ends of the market. On the other hand, subsidized housing not only benefits those who get those units, but it also drives down prices for that market segment. The public intuitively understands that the problem is not principally one of needing more high end supply. This fascinating article and poll in the LA Times shows the public understanding of the problem,
Web Link.


7 people like this
Posted by Campbell guy
a resident of another community
on Mar 18, 2019 at 12:26 pm

Pat Burt seems to somewhat understand the problem more than other people, many of whom I suspect don't actually believe in their supposed economic arguments against more housing and are just coming up with excuses to keep their neighborhoods racially homogeneous. Or some people are just deluding themselves. I don't know which it is and while nobody likes to argue that other people aren't being up front I really get strong vibes of this sort. I used to live in Cupertino and there in a council meeting the public is talking about anti-development as well. Even at a city council meeting people mentioned how they thought their city is being overrun by less educated folk and how this is bad. It was a kid though so maybe he can't keep his mouth shut like the adults. How many times have you heard about "destroying the feel of the community"? The mayor of Cupertino even denied that there WAS a housing problem and Lydia Kou of Palo Alto is a literal realtor who profits off of high prices. More people will want to live in a city whether you want to or not and planning for it by building housing is the only thing you can do to prevent gentrification. Ironically, saying the problem is with high end development directly contradicts fears of lower land value. People aren't consistent in their arguments because it's all fake. And Yes, while high end development doesn't serve the working class, when you build enough the developers have to lower their prices. Or you can just build affordable housing. But that last one is what made people fear the uneducated. Screw all this, I just want a safe community with decent facilities. Build more housing.


5 people like this
Posted by KB
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 18, 2019 at 12:38 pm

Pat - your argument makes a lot of sense near the equilibrium points - that is, when there's close to enough supply at the various segments of the housing stock. In that case, you high end housing doesn't really affect low end housing, etc.

However, here things are so distorted that it really does. As an examples -- a 3 bedroom house with 6 highly paid Palantir software engineers sharing the space...so the family with 2 earners who would have lived there is now in an outskirts of town having displaced where a single earner household may have lived, who now are living in a blue collar neighborhood, who have displaced lower income folks into what were formerly projects...

So now, you can solve the problem at the bottom end and give immediate relief, or at the top end (move the SW engineers out of the house and into high end condos) and reduce the downward pressure. Actually, you need to do both - immediate (band aid) and long term (surgery/rehab).


9 people like this
Posted by Krauss
a resident of another community
23 hours ago

The oft quoted 3.5 million units needed is a fabrication. That study made the conclusion that, "If more housing had been built, 3.5 million people more might have moved to California."

That does NOT mean the state needs 3.5 million units of more housing. Induced demand... not only applies to traffic and highways!


5 people like this
Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
23 hours ago

Posted by Tax big biz, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis

>> Where’s the housing for this proposed monster of proposed office development?
>> Web Link [this is at the Candlestick site]

Right here in Palo Alto, of course. (And Redwood City, and San Carlos, and ...)

There are other views of the Candlestick developments (there are a bunch, inc related projects) Web Link

But, 7200 housing units with 2.x Million SF of office? A lot of people commuting in. Developer looking at up to 6M SF total including other nearby parcels. Getting closer to SRP. Talk about jobs/housing imbalance.

Let's look at this differently. Stanford is somewhat of a "company town" already, directly or indirectly supplying quite a bit of the housing for faculty and staff, and, most of it directly for students.

Google, Facebook, et al., are starting to participate in the housing market as well. Those of you who are taking what may be a "Millenial" view -- blaming older people for the high cost of housing -- ought to be making access to affordable housing part of your negotiated employment contracts. Instead of considering housing a "perk" like nice subsidized lunches, make it an essential part of your contract. The fact is: these large companies are causing the jobs/housing problem. Let them solve it by supplying their own housing.

Here is another take on one of the drivers for high housing costs. I've actually seen a specific location (not here) where this is taking place. Web Link Overall effect on area prices -- well, estimates are all over the place. I'm not sure how much of this takes place in Palo Alto-- very difficult to measure. But, if the State of California wanted to address this, I like the idea of a property tax surcharge deductible from State Income Tax.

"The elegance of that idea is that it doesn’t require local governments to figure out who is foreign and who is not, or which homes are vacant and which are occupied. And it recognizes that the real problem isn’t foreigners; it’s speculation in the housing market" (NYTimes article above).


13 people like this
Posted by Annette
a resident of College Terrace
22 hours ago

Annette is a registered user.

Jeremy Hoffman wrote: "I'm excited about the opportunity to our teachers, our police offers, and our children when they grow up -- to be welcome in our communities. I'm excited about building a more sustainable future for California. I hope I and of all the above supporters of SB 50 can convince you to be excited about it too."

In reply I wish to say that you don't need to convince me or anyone I know to be excited about the opportunity for our teachers, our police officers, etc. to be fully welcome in this community. Frankly, that perfectly describes how Palo Alto was until we started to feel the impact of unmitigated commercial growth.

What I am not excited about is SB50 b/c I don't believe it will achieve what it purports. Worse, I think Weiner, Fine et al (and, no doubt, a well funded team of consultants and marketing experts) are using sympathy for that argument to garner support for a deeply flawed bill. I can easily imagine the slick flyers that will arrive by mail and the ads that will appear on television. All propaganda. And a lot of people will fall for it.

Should SB50 pass, I doubt it will be long before we fully rue that day. It's kinda like the high speed rail vote - great idea in theory, but the devil is always in the details.


2 people like this
Posted by @Annette
a resident of another community
20 hours ago

That's quite a lot of vague fear-mongering you've got going on there. Was it too simplistic to just say "I fear that SB50 will mean more housing in Palo Alto"?


12 people like this
Posted by Pat Burt
a resident of Community Center
20 hours ago

Pat Burt is a registered user.

@Campbell Guy
Contrary to suppositions, but consistent with many urban communities, Palo Alto residents generally support expansion of lower income housing more than market rate housing. Here are a few examples in the last few years. The community as a whole and adjacent Barron park neighborhood strongly supported preservation of the low income, predominately hispanic Buena Vista mobile home park, Web Link. More recently, the Ventura neighborhood strongly supported a new, high density 100% affordable housing project in their neighborhood. And last month the same neighborhood supported affordable housing more than market rate housing for the soon to be redeveloped Fry's site.
While no value is unanimous in a community, the loss of social and economic diversity is a concern of most residents in Palo Alto and communities throughout the region.


6 people like this
Posted by AllAreWelcome
a resident of another community
19 hours ago

Just want to re-iterate my point from earlier. If folks in Palo Alto are legitimately concerned about housing and don't want to give up local control, there is still plenty of time to take action on those wishes before SB50 goes up for a vote. I'm not talking about shovels in the ground, but at least major policy and zoning changes. "Smart Growth", as someone called it above.

This applies to all towns that are concerned about the state stepping in. Start building lots of housing, for various income levels. Stop approving more office space.

But right now, the opposite is happening. Towns are claiming that they are taking housing seriously, but I don't think that's true at all. I don't think anyone realizes just how bad the situation has gotten from a regional perspective. For example, Menlo Park has approved more office space for more Facebook workers than there are residents of Menlo Park. Where are those folks going to live? And if Menlo Park won't do anything about it, is Palo Alto? Are we expecting a small town one county over to handle the burden of another town? And if the answer is yes, why has nothing happened up until this point?

Even with that situation alone, it seems that state-level intervention is inevitable unless residents immediately push their council members for drastic actions and solutions.

If it was a choice between SB50 and "Proposed Palo Alto drastic ordinance ABC to deal w/ housing crisis" or "Proposed Santa Clara County drastic zoning change XYZ to deal w/ housing crisis", then we'd have a debate. But right now, it's a choice between SB50 and status quo.

Any rational person who believes a housing crisis exists and is severe would have to reject the status quo.


16 people like this
Posted by Annette
a resident of College Terrace
19 hours ago

Annette is a registered user.

@AllAreWelcome - I think you make some very good points. Palo Alto badly needs a moratorium on commercial space so that some progress can be made on the jobs:housing imbalance. The sky will not fall on the incubator state if that is done; indeed, it would be a good faith action showing that CC is serious about housing. This morning I fantasized that the Planning Department put up a sign that said: UNTIL FURTHER NOTICE, WE ARE APPROVING ONLY HOUSING PERMITS. I know that is unlikely given the cost of land here, the ROI on commercial space, and the Council majority's relentless habit of approving commercial development, but it is what we need.

Pat Burt's observation that Palo Alto residents generally support expansion of lower income housing more than market rate housing reflects my understanding of this community. If you heard any of the comments made to CC in support of the residents of the Hotel President and not losing that housing inventory you would know that there is great concern in this community about the displacement of those who cannot afford workforce housing and those with community-serving jobs.


4 people like this
Posted by What Do You Mean By Diversity?
a resident of another community
17 hours ago

Diversity? I work for a landscape contractor doing garden maintenance. My wife is a maid at one of the PA motels. We have five children.

Our family would like to live in Palo Alto. That is why we buy Scratchers.

I think diversity in this housing conversation is for a chosen few. Not hardworking Chicanos. Palo Alto is still very racist about who they want to be a part of the community.

It is good to see so many wealthy Chinese moving into town and they are becoming a significant part of the population percentage. Soon they will have more say about how Palo Alto is run.


7 people like this
Posted by Seriously
a resident of Old Palo Alto
16 hours ago

@What Do You Mean:

You should try having conversations with some of those wealthy Chinese. You might find that subsidizing apartments for new low income residents is not high on their priority list for their new home town.

In any event, Palo Alto is already minority caucasian. The more racially diverse it's become, the more economically exclusive it's become.


2 people like this
Posted by What Do You Mean By Diversity?
a resident of another community
16 hours ago

"You should try having conversations with some of those wealthy Chinese."

My Chinese is very poor as I am not acquainted with the various dialects & very few of them speak Oaxacan Spanish (Mexican) very well.

On the other hand, I suspect that they have no problem with revenue-generating high-rise dwellings that are very compressed because they have many of them in China to house the millions of people.

One of the Chinese companies we service is a real estate developer that maintains ownership of these buildings upon completion. They are developer and landlord.

The principle told my boss (a white guy) that their goal is to provide housing for at least 4 million new residents in the SF Bay Area.


Like this comment
Posted by @Pat Burt
a resident of another community
14 hours ago

When you talk about how much Palo Alto likes low-income housing, why aren’t you talking about Maybell? (Notably this paper endorsed voting *against* allowing that development, as did many of the leading lights who call themselves “residentialists”.)

- an ex-Palo Altan


4 people like this
Posted by Stephen
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
13 hours ago

Various public officials and ex public officials have chimed in on the importance of Stanford picking up the tab for PAUSD students who might live in Stanford residences that don't generate as much property tax per unit of housing as do very expensive houses in Palo Alto. This calculation looks pretty challenging for affordable housing: $20,000/year per student means $40,000/year per student of property taxes. That means a two bedroom apartment with one PAUSD child would need to have a rent of ca. $3300/month just to cover the property tax. So, I wonder what our public officials are thinking on this issue. Pat Burt?


2 people like this
Posted by TheGrouch
a resident of Old Palo Alto
9 hours ago

TheGrouch is a registered user.


7 people like this
Posted by mauricio
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
5 hours ago

mauricio is a registered user.

" The fact is: these large companies are causing the jobs/housing problem. Let them solve it by supplying their own housing."

Yes, but companies should supply the housing in other areas that have more space and need economic development. It would require companies to move entirely, or some operations to other areas, which is a good thing. It is up to local politicians and the public to put pressure on companies to move. They will not move unless pressured and made aware that residents will not solve the housing crisis they have created.


4 people like this
Posted by geroge drysdale
a resident of Professorville
3 hours ago

Racism? The Buena Vista trailor park could have provided housing for those who could afford to live in Palo Alto. Luxury condos with very expensive penthouses, a dozen or so with a clear view of the Hoover tower and wonderful Silicon Valley. Inestead all this value is going into the price of the inappropriate trailers (The Catastrophe in Capitola etc. internet.) I can easily place a billion dollars into Palo Altos housing right now except for the F grade Palo Alto's government receives. Inclusionarly zoning (Palo Alto) also cuts production period. I'm thinking of letting San Jose State with it's good real estate department do the study of the Buena Vista. The factors of production: land, labor and captial. Palo Alto housing policy has nixed captial. Thank Zeus for a new Palo Alto mayor.

Geroge Drysdale social studies teacher and land economist


4 people like this
Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
3 hours ago

Posted by mauricio, a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland

>> " The fact is: these large companies are causing the jobs/housing problem. Let them solve it by supplying their own housing."

>> Yes, but companies should supply the housing in other areas that have more space and need economic development. It would require companies to move entirely, or some operations to other areas, which is a good thing.

When HP was a market leader, it very successfully implemented this policy. But, I have been informed that today's MBA-driven companies want to be in Silicon Valley because it is much easier to hire and fire people on a much shorter time frame. A company located further afield has to have a longer time horizon, something MBAs have been taught to hate.

That is why I think a stopgap solution may be to require big new offices to provision their own housing nearby. Of course, they may take a "monastic" view and assume that their micro-serfs are all single young men willing to live alone in 160 square feet micro-units. Web Link


3 people like this
Posted by Pat Burt
a resident of Community Center
2 hours ago

Pat Burt is a registered user.

@Stephen
The school district's negotiation with Stanford is regarding additional PAUSD students who will live on campus in Stanford rental housing. Stanford does not pay any property tax in that circumstance, unlike longtime faculty owned homes on campus. This past week Stanford announced that they are entering negotiations with PAUSD on their fair share obligation for the cost of educating their K-12 students.
As far as the impact of students from subsidized affordable housing, those properties are exempt from property tax. PAUSD has long accepted that cost as part of its responsibility. When the Buena Vista mobile home park students were in jeopardy of displacement, the PTA Council was a strong and important supporter of protecting BV despite the financial impact of doing so.


Like this comment
Posted by @mauricio
a resident of another community
2 hours ago

"Yes, but companies should supply the housing in other areas that have more space and need economic development. It would require companies to move entirely, or some operations to other areas, which is a good thing. It is up to local politicians and the public to put pressure on companies to move. They will not move unless pressured and made aware that residents will not solve the housing crisis they have created."

Lol I can't believe you actually wrote this. This is some Grade A Palo Alto Fan Fiction.


6 people like this
Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
2 hours ago

Posted by @mauricio, a resident of another community

>> Lol I can't believe you actually wrote this. This is some Grade A Palo Alto Fan Fiction.

A form of "ad hominem fallacy" in which you attack "Palo Alto" (and mauricio), rather than presenting a logical argument. Make some calculations. Show your work. Present some facts. Identify your assumptions. Then make your logical argument.


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