News

To get more housing built, Palo Alto looks to loosen rules on San Antonio Road

Developer proposes building 64 condominiums at southern border of the city

Months after Palo Alto revised its zoning rules to encourage new housing in downtown and around California Avenue, the City Council is preparing to extend the development incentives to San Antonio Road.

The move, which the council considered Monday night, was sparked by a revised proposal from a developer that last year proposed a 54-condominium complex at 788-796 San Antonio Road, between Middlefield Road and East Charleston Avenue. Ted O'Hanlon, the project manager representing the developer 788SAPA Land LLC, told the council that the applicant is now proposing a 64-unit project, which would include 10 units for below-market-rate households.

The move was prompted by the council's adoption last year of the Housing Incentive Program, which offers density bonuses for residential projects in downtown, around California Avenue and along El Camino Real, with bonuses varying by locations.

"We paid attention to what Palo Alto was discussing and what Palo Alto would like to see with their developments," O'Hanlon said. "We rethought our idea and came back with a plan that would create more units."

At its last review of the project, in October, the council signaled its willingness to rezone the site from service commercial to multifamily residential (RM-40) -- a move that would have raised the floor-area-ratio (a measure of density) for the project from 0.6 to 1. If the council agrees to extend the types of zoning incentives that it created for El Camino Real to San Antonio Road, the maximum FAR at the site would go up to 1.5, enough to accommodate an additional 10 units.

Most council members indicated on Monday that they're willing to do just that. Several alluded to the council's official goal of generating 300 housing units per year -- a goal that the city failed to meet last year. So far this year, the council had approved one multifamily project: a 57-unit below-market-rate project known as Wilton Court.

Councilwoman Liz Kniss supported the proposed zone change and said the new project from Yuron Hang, the site owner, meets many of the city's requirements.

"I still know it will get lots of pushback. I hope in the end we will end up accepting this and get on a pathway with 300 (units) a year," Kniss said.

Vice Mayor Adrian Fine, the council's most strident housing advocate, concurred and said he completely supports extending the Housing Incentive Program to San Antonio Road and moving ahead with other zone changes that the developer had proposed, including exempting the majority of the site's retail component from parking requirements and from floor-area-ratio calculations.

"There are a thousand ways we can say no to a project like this," Fine said. "I think the challenge to this council and other communities across the Bay Area and California is to learn how to say yes."

Not everyone, however, was as excited about the project, which would displace more than 10,000 square feet of retail or retail-like uses, including Studio Kicks, a martial arts studio. Councilwoman Lydia Kou called the site a "reasonable" place for housing, but argued that the project runs counter to the council's general policy of directing development toward transit-friendly areas. San Antonio Road, she argued, has very few transportation options. Bus service at San Antonio and Middlefield is sporadic and Caltrain only goes to the San Antonio station once per hour during peak commute times.

The project, she said, also raised questions about school impacts and the project's parking plan, which would place 44 of its 91 parking spaces on car lifts.

"While I appreciate the housing project, there's not enough community benefits nor deed-restricted BMR housing or parking spaces," Kou said. "All you're doing is making another area have parking issues that the city is going to have to resolve, not you."

Councilman Tom DuBois shared Kou's concerns about encouraging more housing in the eclectic mixed-use area around San Antonio, which as few transit options. The city, he noted, chose the locations that it did for its Housing Incentive Program precisely because they were close to transit.

Mayor Eric Filseth agreed that most residents in the new building will drive. For him, however, that wasn't a deal breaker. Nor was the fact that the new project would only include 1,750 square feet of retail -- far less than is in place today. Filseth said he doesn't see any reason not to extend the Housing Incentive Program to San Antonio Road, the lack of transit options notwithstanding.

"This is going to be a car-centric project," Filseth said. "I think we should just accept it if we're doing this here."

Several residents weighed in on the project, giving it mixed reviews. Joan Larrabee, who lives across the street from the site, said she's had trouble getting answers from the developer about its transportation plan and the project's school impacts.

"We do support housing, we live in multifamily housing, we welcome multifamily housing," Larrabee said. "We just have some very grave concerns that have not been answered in the last seven months."

Others urged the council to do what it can to add housing. Economist Stephen Levy noted the recent decision in Sacramento not to proceed with Senate Bill 50 -- which would loosen development standards for housing projects near transit -- until early 2020. The decision to delay the state bill has created a new opportunity for Palo Alto, where most council members oppose the bill.

"It has (put) my city on the map of every state and national paper, for better or worse," Levy said. "And it has given us -- you -- an opportunity to show that local control can attract housing."

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Comments

63 people like this
Posted by Stop Developer Giveaways
a resident of Crescent Park
on May 21, 2019 at 10:09 am

This is just pouring money into one more developer's pocket. Expect them to turn up every week at City Council demanding that laws be changed so they can profit even more.

Let's instead address our true housing crisis: where are people who don't collect high-tech paychecks but work here supposed to live? Those people should be our top priority. If we're going to change any laws, it should only be to benefit non-profit providers of below-market rate units.

That will make a world of difference. This site is a good one for an 100% affordable housing project that also preserves the existing karate studio. Let's make it happen.


42 people like this
Posted by Sense
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 21, 2019 at 10:37 am

I think this is probably a good location, but I do NOT want to see less retail!!!!!!

Also, San Antonio is getting overbuilt in a way that has turned a seven-minute trip to the freeway to sometimes over a half hour. I remember Filseth campaigned on looking at the City as a system - where is the analysis of what this (or any large development) does to our overburdened infrastructure, including in the event of an emergency, and to other residents in the event of a drought (which will happen)? How does it affect our schools relative to the Stanford development?

The hotels the City approved on San Antonio are an affront that I wish I could pick up and plop in Liz Kniss’s front yard. I hope these will not be the same developer-exploitative awful soul-sucking sky- and hill-blocking boxes.


21 people like this
Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 21, 2019 at 10:45 am

Is there an easy pedestrian right of way south past the old Mayfield Mall property, in its current configuration, or, would pedestrians from this proposed development have to cross San Antonio to west and walk down that way to the "transportation corridor" -- the San Antonio Caltrain station? Either way, it looks to be over a mile, but, part of this development should be to make sure that pedestrians can easily walk to Caltrain. As much as I walk, I can't say that I have ever walked that one.

I'm also wondering what the life expectancy of the BMR part is? Casa Olga went from being "below market housing for the elderly" to being a hotel for the 1%. And now, I guess, moving to being a hotel for the 0.1%. I'm sure the fine print for this project contains the seeds for getting rid of the BMR units.


18 people like this
Posted by cmarg
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on May 21, 2019 at 11:06 am

cmarg is a registered user.

I think there needs to be much more emphasis on housing in place of continuing to make Palo Alto a combination of residential and business. If Palo Alto is serious about helping with the housing crisis, focus on housing and push out businesses. Explore where a business park can exist so that everyone is not complaining about not being able to live where you work.

I guess there are just not many East Coasters living here. The rare person would be able to live close to where you worked in places like New York City, Philadelphia and the surrounding areas.

If Palo Alto and other surrounding areas want to do what's right, focus on making towns for residents and then develop public transportation so that workers can get to their jobs that ideally are within business parks.

We are trying to have everything in one place and that just is not possible here.

We need to stop putting bandaids on the problem. Are we focusing on low income housing or housing for people who are young high tech workers who want to live close to their job? Stop fooling around with proving 10 out of 64 units for low income. Really? I was not able to move into Palo Alto with my first job and not until I was in my mid 30s; I was only able to move to Palo Alto having done what the woman in the Mercury News did -- really budget, live simply and buy a place where I could rent out part of the house. It means having an old car, buying clothes on sale, shopping to get the best prices, and buying a much less than perfect home.


20 people like this
Posted by Housing? Not if we can stop it
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on May 21, 2019 at 11:12 am

I am shocked, shocked that Lydia is against this. Karen, the former " I am against everything" on the council must be so proud. Remember the daily post last week had an article that MV approved more housing in one night than PA had in 5 years. This is the reason why - councilmembers who's sole aim is to obstruct, hinder and prevent new housing at the behest of a local group to whom they own their allegiance


1 person likes this
Posted by Rose
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on May 21, 2019 at 11:33 am

Rose is a registered user.

How about requiring residents to work in either PA or MtnV? That would help reduce traffic. They could walk to work or ride their bikes. Couldn’t we require that buyers must live in the units, rather than making a real estate investment that pushes up rent at every opportunity? Public trans along both Middlefield and San Antonio could be developed.
There are many people who live near Caltrain and buses but they can’t be bothered to take public transportation. Can we incentivize them to use our public transportation? How about all of us protecting our planet more carefully?


12 people like this
Posted by Resident 1-Adobe Meadows
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on May 21, 2019 at 11:41 am

Resident 1-Adobe Meadows is a registered user.

It is time that we have an elected mayor for this City. If we think we are one of the Big Kids then it is time we act like a Big Kid. There a so-called major efforts to make us all into a regional area where decisions are made at a regional level - so we are told - but time and again other city goals and objectives overrule our best interest. We are a college town and are - and have been built out to the limits of the city. We have problems in our city schools which may include some influence from other cities in which we are expected to overextend our ability to fund and effectively work solutions. We are not an ATM card for other cities relative to space and housing. We need to figure out what we as a city need to do to solve problems and be able to deflect pressure to be something we are not. I am not interested in being pressured by surrounding cities to adopt their "values" when we are then expected to overhaul the way the city does business. It is like a pen of chickens running around and the loudest squawker rules the roost. Best results be damned. We need to rule our own roost.


18 people like this
Posted by Dump Lyin' Lydia
a resident of Downtown North
on May 21, 2019 at 11:52 am

Lydia was predictible during the discussion in her typical resistance. As "Housing? Not if we can stop it" points out, Lydia is just following in the footsteps of the most resistant councilperson in recent history. What is unfortunate is how badly she skews the facts and spouts info like it is truth. When she mentioned the housing discussion which occurred during approval of the hotel project up the street, she suggested that the Council said the site was not good for housing. Nothing could be further from the truth. I recall a number of Councilmembers saying they would prefer housing but it was the developer's perogative and beyond their control. Then she said the Arbor Real project at the Rickey's site was not intended for families but ended up being full of kids needing access to schools. Again, could not be further from the truth as many of those units are the size and layout needed for starter family homes. Fortunately her term will soon be over...


22 people like this
Posted by Pat Burt
a resident of Community Center
on May 21, 2019 at 11:52 am

Pat Burt is a registered user.

There are several important considerations in expanding the city's new housing density bonus zoning to the San Antonio area. One key issue is access to public transportation.
While it's true that Caltrain service to the San Antonio Station is currently just hourly or so, Caltrain's electrification is scheduled for 2021 (looking more likely to be 2022) and the plan is to more than triple the San Antonio service. That's a major change for the greater San Antonio area in MV and PA.
Second, San Antonio lacks bus service along its corridor. VTA cut back that service (as they've had to do countywide) after the city approved the JCC and other dense senior housing development for that area.
The city is beginning consideration of a business tax,Web Link. If the scale of the tax was 1/3 what San Francisco charges and used for local transportation and affordable housing,, there would be enough dollars to help fill the grade separation funding gap, pay for a citywide TMA to significantly reduce car trips, expand shuttles to San Antonio and other areas, and double to triple our rate of new affordable housing projects.


20 people like this
Posted by Housing? Not if we can stop it
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on May 21, 2019 at 12:05 pm

As usual, the daily post was more thorough in covering this story and not committed to protecting the the pasz 3 as the weekly is. Their article points out that du bois wants to protect light industry there. The planning director pointed out that PAs light industry is on Fabian way. Kuo was called out by a pro housing person for her comments. Read all about it in the post.


12 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 21, 2019 at 1:24 pm

I would not be against housing in this area, but we have to acknowledge that this will be prime housing with close freeway access,

Transportation corridor it is not. Even if there was a shuttle to San Antonio Caltrain, as mentioned in the article, only one train per hour stops and it is not a pleasant walk to get there.

As for retail, well groceries, restaurants and even coffee shops are limited in the area at present. I can't see them all walking or biking to Costco for groceries.

At the same time, has anything been decided for the OSH site? Mountain View, as far as I can tell, have been very slow in doing anything with this site and since there appear to be cars parking there, I wonder if it is being used as a carpool lot? Carpool lots are things we are in need of.


29 people like this
Posted by San Antonio Housing
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on May 21, 2019 at 1:56 pm

San Antonio Housing is a registered user.

1. Parking lifts have not been used elsewhere effectively. The automated parking system at the Stanford Mayfield project has little use because residents hate it. It breaks down all the time.

2. This is a driving location, not a transit friendly location. We should not have reduced parking at this site, and should use regular parking spaces.

3. We should retain retail and services in this location, like Studio Kicks, especially if the intent is to build more housing in the area, through the zoning changes the developer requests.

4. Arbor Real was indeed proposed as generating few students. They said so in their school impact fee application. So they underpaid school impact fees. We all knew that was false since the housing had multiple bedrooms per unit, but the developers got away with paying reduced school impact fees. With the price of housing going up, families are moving into smaller units. So whether these units will house students is an open question. They are going to be condos, so a single person buying such a unit may get married and have children some day and not be able to move into a bigger unit.


27 people like this
Posted by Rezoning for New Housing in North Palo Alto
a resident of Palo Verde
on May 21, 2019 at 3:44 pm

Rezoning for New Housing in North Palo Alto is a registered user.

I would like one of these days to read a headline about rezoning for new housing in North Palo Alto.


23 people like this
Posted by mauricio
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on May 21, 2019 at 3:49 pm

mauricio is a registered user.

Didn't we just read here an article about homelessness in S.C. Valley? Nearly all housing units will be occupied by highly paid tech workers, which actually creates more homelessness among hard working people who don't work for tech companies and are completely ignored by the politicians, who represent the developers.


29 people like this
Posted by Cur Mudgeon
a resident of Greenmeadow
on May 21, 2019 at 3:52 pm

Gridlock on San Antonio. What are they thinking? It already takes 15-20 minutes to get from my neighborhood out to 101 and no protected lefts from Charleston to Fabian. Fix the traffic flow before you talk about adding more units.


16 people like this
Posted by Inclusion Starts Here
a resident of University South
on May 21, 2019 at 4:22 pm

This would be 64 new homes that would keep 64 old home tenants from being priced out. Anyone that tells you that restricting supply helps with affordable housing is flat out lying. The housing crisis isn't a joke--we need homes for all income levels. Teachers, fire fighters, waiters, house cleaners are already priced out of the market...If you're worried about tech bros moving in, maybe you should be more worried about them outbidding you on your rent. Or if you own not being able to find a maid, waiter, teacher, place for your children or older parents to live...


21 people like this
Posted by Housing? Not if we can stop it
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on May 21, 2019 at 4:26 pm

It is kind of sad to hear the usual excuses by the people who vehemently oppose any and all housing in Palo Alto:
“I am for housing but this is the wrong location”
“ the housing will be occupied by tech workers”
“ we need to maintain retail at this location”
“ there will be too much traffic”
“ the project is a quarter of a parking space under parked”
“ the building design is not iconic”

Meanwhile the city of Palo Alto has managed for decades to not meet their obligations regarding housing. Council member after council member has played a role in this scam ( Holman, kishsimoto, drekmeier, Burt, Schmid, Dubois, filseth, Dubois, Kuo etc).
And then they whine when the state tries to make them meet these obligations.  


13 people like this
Posted by OMG NO PARKING
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on May 21, 2019 at 4:34 pm

Seriously...any reason not to say YES.

1. Require an onsite car share service so people aren't encouraged to own a car. If Zipcar is onsite, why would you buy one.
2. Require parking permits/spaces to be prices separately from rent/ownership. People think twice when it's not a free subsidy.
3. Add a neighborhood permits around the building that do not include the site so they can't park on the street.
4. Require the builder/owner to pay for a free Eco Pass for the residents.
5. Build a protected bike path from the site to El Camino
6. Require free and secured bike parking on site.
7. Extend the city shuttle or get Margaritte to provide additional buses.
8. Get your own keister out of the car and get on a bike or walk.


5 people like this
Posted by stephen levy
a resident of University South
on May 21, 2019 at 4:37 pm

stephen levy is a registered user.

Actually it was a pretty constructive meeting (I was there).

There was support for the most part from five of the seven council members along with some questions and suggestions for the developers.

And it was a well run and respectful meeting.

Thanks, let's see if we can make this work


10 people like this
Posted by San Antonio Housing
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on May 21, 2019 at 4:57 pm

San Antonio Housing is a registered user.

@ OMG No Parking: Since this isn't a planned community zone, there isn't a way to enforce those rules. And the City does not even enforce its Transportation Demand Management Programs, like this anyway.


3 people like this
Posted by Curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on May 21, 2019 at 5:20 pm

"I would like one of these days to read a headline about rezoning for new housing in North Palo Alto."

Come visit my hood way up north and learn something. See what mixed-density housing looks like (it's not as bad as you think). Then I'd like one of these days soon to read a headline about rezoning for new housing in Palo Verde. Fair nuff?


15 people like this
Posted by San Antonio Housing
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on May 21, 2019 at 5:25 pm

San Antonio Housing is a registered user.

@ Inclusion starts here: See Web Link for evidence to the contrary. Building luxury homes does not help the poor. It causes even more displacement.


Like this comment
Posted by stephen levy
a resident of University South
on May 21, 2019 at 5:25 pm

stephen levy is a registered user.

Curmudgeon is correct. There is lots of mixed density housing where I live including many 100% BMR projects

And the city just did relax zoning for housing near downtown as wll as around Cal Ave.


17 people like this
Posted by perfect
a resident of Mayfield
on May 21, 2019 at 5:32 pm

A 54-condominium complex near the San Antonio CalTrain station sounds ideal for 30-something tech workers. What's not to like?


5 people like this
Posted by Adena
a resident of Mountain View
on May 21, 2019 at 6:08 pm

We need the housing - they just need a plan to fix traffic on San Antonio as part of this initiative. San Antonio during rush hour is a mess largely because of the traffic light patterns from El Camino to 101 and turn lanes. Are they going to fix this before adding more housing? Also, since it's in Palo Alto, it will be higher priced than it would be if it were across the street in Mountain View.


47 people like this
Posted by Anon
a resident of Evergreen Park
on May 21, 2019 at 6:27 pm

Iots of comments here and misinformation.
Council member Kou did not object to housing in this location.
What I heard is that she objected to a developer asking for city wide changes to the zoning code in addition to asking for a zoning designation not currently available at this site to be extended on a one time basis rather than a holistic plan to provide housing in this general area while maintaining and increasing the amenities and services necessary for a walkable residential neighborhood, especially for children.
She correctly identified the lack of transportation in the area and the need for more deed restricted subsidized BMR housing rather than such a huge percentage of new market rate housing on this site that will contribute to the escalation of astronomical housing prices.

So no Council member Kou is not against housing, not against it on this location.
She would like to do it correctly and holistically providing housing first first to those for whom it is otherwise unataianable.


5 people like this
Posted by Inclusion Starts Here
a resident of University South
on May 21, 2019 at 7:12 pm

@San Antonio Housing: That article and data have been debunked by experts. Sadly the tooth fairy can’t magically make scarce resources inexpensive. Read the analysis here regarding that faulty study: Web Link


1 person likes this
Posted by marc
a resident of Midtown
on May 21, 2019 at 7:12 pm

Re: Steven Levy:

Where in the Duveneck/Addison neighborhood is there "...lots of mixed density housing where I live including many 100% BMR projects.."?

/marc


Like this comment
Posted by stephen levy
a resident of University South
on May 21, 2019 at 8:17 pm

stephen levy is a registered user.

@Marc

I count 6 BMR projects near where I live downtown and in the Addison school area including three large ones with combined over 200 units

--Webster Wood
--Alma Place
--Oak Court

BMR units have to go where the zoning is compatible and near services and shopping

Under the city inclusionary ordinance market rate developments wherever they are like the one proposed on San Antonio must include some BMR units.


19 people like this
Posted by Gnar
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on May 21, 2019 at 8:26 pm

I support the City finally putting in housing. Yes, It now takes me 20 minutes just to get to 101 in the morning. Yes, San Antonio has a lot more traffic. But it's about time Palo Alto started shouldering their burden of the Bay Area's population increase.

While we're at it, get real with your 25mph wishful thinking speed limits. There's a reason it's currently unenforceable on Middlefield: by law there are too many people driving faster to issue tickets. Know why? Because a 25mph speed limit for a 4-lane main artery is ludicrous. Look at similar residential streets like California in Mountain View or Mary in Sunnyvale. Miraculously, they don't seem to have a pedestrian or cyclist death and injury epidemic.


12 people like this
Posted by RE Agent
a resident of Portola Valley
on May 21, 2019 at 8:35 pm

This will be an excellent 'starter' investment for aspiring landlords!
Several of my Chinese clients have inquired about this project since its anouncement.


7 people like this
Posted by Pedestrians rule!
a resident of Mountain View
on May 21, 2019 at 8:47 pm

@Adena, sorry, no, I highly doubt they’ll be fixing those traffic lights you refer to. More likely they’ll be installing pedestrian controlled crosswalks where they get to control/determine traffic flow (like Los Altos has on San Antonio).

So hey everyone trying to get to work from San Antonio to 101.....have fun!!


1 person likes this
Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on May 21, 2019 at 9:16 pm

^ Regarding pedestrian controlled crosswalks, is that what those odd-ball new traffic lights are, going in on El Camino at Monroe? Looks like two reds and an amber below. I hope self-driving cars understand them better than I do.


10 people like this
Posted by Marc
a resident of Midtown
on May 21, 2019 at 9:16 pm

Re: Steven Levy.

"...BMR units have to go where the zoning is compatible and near services and shopping..." Like I've said before, the city makes ghettos of BMR.

We are never, ever going to have equitable housing as long as people use zoning as the excuse to isolate BMR in only certain parts of town.

Segregating BMR along Alma, El Camino, San Antonio is just plain NIMBY. It makes people feel good as long as the BMR's are not next door or on their street. Living in the Duveneck neighborhood and claiming units along Alma are in your neighborhood is a bit of a stretch.

As far as claiming that BMR needs to be near services and shopping. I've looked at Webster Woods and Oak Court and I see as many cars as I would expect to see in any housing. Are you claiming that the residents don't have cars? Don't drive? Only walk and take public transportation?

/marc


2 people like this
Posted by Marc
a resident of Midtown
on May 21, 2019 at 9:33 pm

Re: Steven Levy.

Let me be clear about something. I think the dribble of multi-unit housing that is taking place in Palo Alto is a waste of time. It lets people feel good without any significant change. The long time residents can sit and hide in their single family dwelling and feel good that a couple of units of BMR/multi-family dwellings are built on the edge of town, far away from them and won't effect the value/living conditions that they currently have.

Palo Alto is on the cusp of becoming an urban environment and that means the end of single family dwellings as they exist today. Just accept the fact that plots of land with one single family dwelling is a thing of the past. If we are going to make any significant dent in the lack of housing in Palo Alto, we have to start replacing single family dwellings with multi-family dwellings through out the entire town. Not isolated to certain ghettos.

It's a simple process. Any one can buy a piece of land with one, single family dwelling on it. No one will make you change. But if you decide to tear down the existing dwelling, you have to replace it with at least a duplex. If you decide to make any significant changes to the dwelling you will have to make it at least a duplex. No hiding behind zoning.

In the areas north of Oregon, given the size of the plots the dwellings will have to become at least 3 units on each property. Gradually Palo Alto will become denser more urban. We will see the return of retail and commercial business scattered throughout Palo Alto as it was back in the 1940s - 1970's.

What you see happing today in Palo Alto is the last grasp of old folks trying to hang onto something that hasn't existed for 60 years. Just give it up and let the next generation take over.

/marc


7 people like this
Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 21, 2019 at 9:42 pm

IF that -area- is going to be rezoned from service commercial to RM-40, then, so be it. Rezone the area for everybody-- don't make a special for that one project. But, while we are at it, let's increase the BMR fraction from 10 out of 64 - ~16%, to 25%-- in this case, 16 out of 64. Don't just make it a windfall for one property owner. Make it a policy that applies equally to everyone in the area -- the level playing field that government is supposed to provide.


7 people like this
Posted by Jerry Underdal
a resident of Barron Park
on May 21, 2019 at 10:08 pm

Jerry Underdal is a registered user.

@Housing? Not if we can stop it

"Meanwhile the city of Palo Alto has managed for decades to not meet their obligations regarding housing. Council member after council member has played a role in this scam ( Holman, kishsimoto, drekmeier, Burt, Schmid, Dubois, filseth, Dubois, Kuo etc)."

Just for the record, I think it should be noted that Karen Holman, Greg Schmid and Pat Burt, who are generally considered "residentialists," supported the Maybell project for low-income senior housing that was overturned by a PASZ-led referendum in 2013. This sets them apart from Erik Filseth, Tom Dubois and Lydia Kou, also "residentialists," who campaigned successfully against the project while creating a base for subsequent city council campaigns.


18 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 21, 2019 at 10:19 pm

The last two single family homes that have recently been purchased in Palo Alto that I know of have been bought by young couples. Yes, they have money possibly from parents, but these are young people with high tech jobs who are showing the same values that us old folks who Marc seems to think are a dying breed here.

The truth is that all millenials have a dream of being house owners to raise their kids and those who can afford to buy these single family homes will do so. They may have help from parents, or from stock options, but they are still hoping to move into our neighborhoods and value the status quo.

Please stop saying that we have to acknowledge that the old Palo Alto will disappear with us. I feel that our neighborhoods will survive. We will survive.


13 people like this
Posted by Liz
a resident of Santa Rita (Los Altos)
on May 21, 2019 at 10:37 pm

Density is going up on San Antonio road with little visible thought about traffic patterns. Traffic heading to 101 is already awful much of the day, particularly between El Camino and Charleston.
While I am for housing for teachers, firefighters and police servicing the neighborhood, builders need to be on the hook for funding the downstream impact of these housing units. Funding a new pedestrian tunnel/path and more frequent train stops should come out of their pockets, as well as a road maintenance.


9 people like this
Posted by Curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on May 21, 2019 at 11:05 pm

If you want housing, stop pussyfooting. Zone for housing and make it stick.


24 people like this
Posted by Sense
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 21, 2019 at 11:49 pm

Police, firefighters, and teachers want single-family houses, too, in stable neighborhoods where they can send their kids to school. Densifying will only set the commute problem in stone, because people will want to buy single-family homes.

Look at all the building in SF -- so, which City in the area has all the news stories about teachers moving away? Yep, SF. Lots of building, still horrendously expensive. And now, just yucky, and really hard to undo it.

Simple economic lesson:
-Lots of capital in the world at the top
-Real estate considered best investment for those at the top
-Expensive desirable places flooded with that money (just one IPO this year will create enough millionaires to buy up all the housing stock, and there are many IPO's -- and that's not even the real estate developer class).
-Allowing densification and overbuilding only pushes UP the costs because property is worth more to developers.

There is more money in the world at the top than could ever allow a good-real-estate-investment locale's prices to drop to what is considered affordable. I've lived in the Bay Area since the '80s and even during the lowest part of the cycle, it's never been cheap here. And the problem of wealth disparity has only grown since the '80s. Enabled the overgrowth only accelerates cost increases and pushes out ordinary people.

Teachers in this town make on average six figures, higher than the median income. Two teachers together, married, or a teacher married to someone else working, could pull in $250,000 or more. That's enough to buy a $2M house and have way more left over every month than we have to live on.

Developers will say anything to get their way. The project at Arbor Real was indeed touted as a place where only seniors and retired people would move in so it would have no impact on the schools. This was said with a straight face despite the large percentage of seniors with mobility problems and those STAIRS in those units. Of course it filled up immediately with families.

People keep going back to recreating the LIE about Maybell, which was crafted to create a huge advantage for developers, who clearly wanted to change the dominant land use on that side of town and use a sweetener of BMR housing to do it. They kept their advantage by dividing people and co-opting supposed "affordable" housing advocates, who would have sunk saving Buena Vista if the for-profit developer at Maybell had been successful at destroying the single-family zoning.

The saddest part of the Maybell situation is how many neighbors approached councilmembers well before it ever became a referendum, asking for a working group in order to create JUST the affordable housing. They asked in the City meetings. These were some of the same neighbors who saved Terman School from being developed but also ensured the affordable apartments next door got built. They were serious about trying again. I know this, because I know the people involved. And I know that their resolve was strengthened by what was happening at Buena Vista, because if the referendum had gone the other way, there is no way on earth the developer would have pulled out at BV, and the residents would have endured the same fate as those at the President Hotel.

Those who have been pushing to make it easier for developers are directly responsible for displacing the residents of the President Hotel, and for pushing out 10% of San Franciscans (African Americans).

This area has been and will be expensive. The only choice is whether it will be liveable, or overexploited and unsafe.

We must must must start taxing the companies in a progressive manner, per employee, large companies paying more.


31 people like this
Posted by Sense
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 21, 2019 at 11:55 pm

Lydia Kou, by the way, is smart, honorable, and sensible. If there were more on the council like her, we would all be better off, because first of all, we would never have gotten this flood of too-much-office-space-for-the-infrastructure.


25 people like this
Posted by Here SInce 1979
a resident of Fairmeadow
on May 22, 2019 at 6:20 am

Many good points have been made here, but I want to know where we'll get water for all the new residences? We just came out of a severe drought and there has been at least two others since 1979. I understand the points made about profits and BMR housing etc. but the most basic commodity we all need is water. We didn't have enough during the last drought that we just came out of, how can we supply water for a large influx of people?


26 people like this
Posted by Annette
a resident of College Terrace
on May 22, 2019 at 8:39 am

Annette is a registered user.

The CC needs to convene a Traffic Summit tasked with developing workable proposals for getting serious about augmenting transportation options. It is wholly reasonable to raise concerns about traffic, circulation, and parking b/c those three things are central to development in this saturated area.

Please: fix transportation so that housing can follow.

And to @OMG NO PARKING - but for #8, your list is one that should be given consideration and I hope your ideas get some traction. Unfortunately, the last suggestion is simply not an option for a lot of people, including the elderly and mobility challenged. I think this community has proven to be one in which people who can bike do bike. The trick is to keep bicycling safe and from what I have observed, that is becoming a serious challenge. All who share the road (drivers, walkers, bicyclists, scooter riders, etc) need to respect the rules of the road.


28 people like this
Posted by Illogical
a resident of Midtown
on May 22, 2019 at 9:38 am

Traffic on San Antonio Road to 101 will be getting much worse because Liz Kniss papproved the Charleston-Arasterdero Bike Corridor project, which will convert Arasterdero Road through Charleston to San Antonio road to a one lane road with no bike lanes like they did to the hot mess on Ross road. There will be barriers and planters and speed bumps all over the place. Corners of intersections will be balloon out narrowing intersections (see intersection of Louis Road and Amarillo by Ohlone elemntary) designed to force cars to slow down and weave around. As a result, even more traffic will divert to San Antonio via Middlefield to get to 101. It will be a god awful mess. Adding more homes on San Antonio road will make traffic that much worse.


37 people like this
Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on May 22, 2019 at 9:38 am

Re traffic problems, don't forget our former mayor Liz Kniss didn't even think we have a traffic problem at a time when Lydia Kuo listened to neighborhood concerns and then was responsive enough to call meetings about their problems.

Re housing, it's utter insanity to allow companies and institutions like Stanford to add MILLIONS of sq feet of office space and tens of thousands of new jobs and only a thousand housing units with pitifully few of them BMR units. All that does is INCREASE housing vompetition and thus price increases.


9 people like this
Posted by senor blogger
a resident of Palo Verde
on May 22, 2019 at 9:58 am

San Antonio/Charlestone intersection is w
the worst in the State. Let's build more and make it worse...
Time to start building in the Wetlands.


24 people like this
Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on May 22, 2019 at 11:14 am

Illogical above says, "Traffic on San Antonio Road to 101 will be getting much worse because Liz Kniss papproved the Charleston-Arasterdero Bike Corridor project, which will convert Arasterdero Road through Charleston to San Antonio road to a one lane road with no bike lanes like they did to the hot mess on Ross road. There will be barriers and planters and speed bumps all over the place."

Hear, hear! PA's not known for its brilliant traffic planning / management.

Some of those barriers are already there jutting into traffic for no apparent reason mid-block without drives -- , sharp triangular cement barriers that cause drivers to swerve into another lane..

Please, no more! Stop with the traffic diets/barriers/bulb-outs etc. lunacy while adding more traffic to serve more offices....


8 people like this
Posted by Rezoning for New Housing in North Palo Alto
a resident of Palo Verde
on May 22, 2019 at 1:08 pm

Rezoning for New Housing in North Palo Alto is a registered user.

Someone suggested I'm worried about the "look" of "mixed-density housing". No. I am worried about the impact of higher density housing that we have not planned for (so I am specifically interested in recent rezoning). I would like to see a map of rezoning (attempts and successes) in the last ten years, and a map of growth per neighborhood. And a map of lost retail while we're at it.


4 people like this
Posted by Gus L.
a resident of Barron Park
on May 22, 2019 at 7:29 pm

Gotta Build More, We need More, Lots More..Keep Building until its so congested no one who grew up here wants to be here any longer..


33 people like this
Posted by Steve Dabrowski
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on May 23, 2019 at 1:15 pm

Steve Dabrowski is a registered user.

It is getting a bit tiresome reading some poster's pejorative use of the term NIMBY to describe residents who have purchased houses, often at significant sacrifice, raised children here, taken care of their homes and generally contributed positively to the community over the years. For my part I really do not feel responsible to provide housing to those who come here to work-that should fall on the companies who understand the issues confronting their employees when they choose to locate here. They can pay the sort of wages required to live here.

For those that perform a public service such as teachers, fire fighters, police, and others in categories that serve our community needs we should provide for them. They do something for us and are a part of our community, but for what seems to be a group of workers who feel entitled to have housing provided for them by the community because they work for companies that have located here does not justify turning our community into Gotham City to meet so called regional needs.


21 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Midtown
on May 24, 2019 at 7:21 am

The fact that these designs will cause insufferable traffic congestion (as if it isn't already bad enough) doesn't matter one iota to the city planners. Whenever we complain about "traffic" their answer is:

"Cars are on their way out. YOU are the traffic. Single-occupant commuting is a sin. Ride your bicycle instead. Look at this beautiful new bike boulevard we just built for you! We are heroes who fight climate change!"


10 people like this
Posted by Resident 1-Adobe Meadows
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on May 24, 2019 at 4:56 pm

Resident 1-Adobe Meadows is a registered user.

I was just on San Antonio. 3:45 PM. Solid traffic not moving. Took forever to get to Charleston. Yes - construction is in process but if you are adding more than add another lane to the street. We are to the point now that the "traffic management" schemes that someone evil thought up are not working. The job of the street is to move traffic - not slow it down. And cars are not going to go away so stop that delusional theory.


6 people like this
Posted by A better approach
a resident of Barron Park
on May 26, 2019 at 12:22 pm

Check out this SFGate article on Arizmendi's approach to inadequate housing:
Web Link
They approach homeowners about building ADUs on their property, then provide construction and dealing with the tenants, giving the homeowners a portion of the rent every month. Service workers get priority as tenants, and rental costs are kept reasonable. Compare that to building starter condos for tech workers (PAF's priority despite lip service to housing service workers) on San Antonio.


4 people like this
Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 26, 2019 at 5:22 pm

Posted by Marc

>> Let me be clear about something. I think the dribble of multi-unit housing that is taking place in Palo Alto is a waste of time. It lets people feel good without any significant change. [...]

>> Palo Alto is on the cusp of becoming an urban environment and that means the end of single family dwellings as they exist today. Just accept the fact that plots of land with one single family dwelling is a thing of the past. If we are going to make any significant dent in the lack of housing in Palo Alto, we have to start replacing single family dwellings with multi-family dwellings through out the entire town.

Marc, before we get started with your plan, I would like you to identify a few things.

First, a lot of money will change hands. Who do you -want- to be the winners and who do you -want- to be the losers? I will tell you right now that SB50 &etc will make -developers- the winners and, therefore, everyone else the -losers-. Are you OK with that? I will tell you right now that personally, I don't like it, and I am opposed to any strategy that enriches developers.

Second, I want to know what the end-state is as far as density is concerned. NYC as a whole is about 28,000 people per square mile. Is that dense enough for you? If Palo Alto, say, increased its overall density, (-minus Foothill Park- which is a wildland reserve), to 28,000 people per square mile, would you be satisfied? What are the actual goals and objectives here?

Third, there is a valid argument regarding energy usage in urban environments vs suburbs. It isn't clear at all how much of that now classic energy critique applies to Palo Alto with all the hybrids and Teslas and bikes I see around. Palo Alto is a green city with lots of trees and bike paths. As of 2014, Palo Alto's electricity supply was roughly carbon-neutral. People keep arguing in favor of high-rises in these debates. High-rises are more expensive per square foot and use much more energy than < 50' tall multi-unit buildings. (I have posted sources before.) Is the -goal- higher density, or, some other aspect of "urban"? What are you actually trying to achieve?


12 people like this
Posted by Sense
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 26, 2019 at 8:46 pm

Tonight we drove by a large (condo and rental) development that went online quite some time ago. I commented that I couldn't understand why it was still basically empty looking. My spouse explained that developments like that typically release just a few units at a time in order to keep the costs high.

This is what happens during the down cycles, too.

Honestly, renting in this area has NEVER been a good idea, even during down cycles. Over the years, Hong Kong realized that, too, and there were efforts to help people to own their own little teeny tiny spaces. And yet -- Hong Kong remains unaffordable.

Housing advocates have fallen for those simplistic manipulative arguments about supply and demand forever here, and they never seem to catch on that they're being used (to help developers get rich).


15 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 26, 2019 at 9:24 pm

@Sense

Another ploy that is used by developers. An acquaintance who works in another city where they were building a big condo development right across the street from where he worked, kept trying to get an appointment to view or put his name down for one of the condos. He kept getting told by the leasing agent to try again tomorrow as they weren't ready to take names. Then one day he was told all condos had gone and none were available. The next thing he discovered is that the whole development had been leased by one of our big tech companies for subletting to their employees. They now have shuttle buses from this development to the tech company which is approximately 5 miles or so away.

So much for new developments being for local workers.


Like this comment
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 26, 2019 at 9:26 pm

PS to my last post.

I should have said that the condo development was 5 miles away and in another city.


6 people like this
Posted by Jerry99
a resident of Barron Park
on May 28, 2019 at 5:39 pm

Palo Alto already has too much housing, hotels and businesses. The residents want AVAILABLE PARKING DOWNTOWN, DECREASED CRIME, LESS EL CAMINO TRAFFIC CONGESTION- (MUCH CAUSED BY OVERBUILDING ONDOS, APARTMENTS AND HOTELS), NOT MORE below market housing, subsidized apartments and all the other apartments etc. put into Barron Park. South PALO ALTO HAS ALREADY DETERIORATED AND IT NEEDS TO STOP. Let Facebook, Google, etc. move to MISS, ARK, ALA, etc. Their employees only need a desk, chair and computer to do their work.


Like this comment
Posted by Marc
a resident of Meadow Park
on May 29, 2019 at 3:15 pm

Re: Anon.

Re: Winners and Losers. Why do you view this as a win/lose situation? Developers can only develop property that they own or buy from someone. Unless you are telling me that developers own all the land in Palo Alto, then any land they develop has to be purchased from someone. Are the sellers not "winners"?

If you are against developers making money, are you against all property owners from selling their property for more than they paid for it?

Re: Density and power usage. The problem with your thinking is that you want to make ghettos and think that the only way for Palo Alto to add housing is dense high rises. This is so that all the single family home owners can keep yelling NIMBY and keep all new development isolated to narrowly defined locations.

I don't like ghettos. I don't like limiting the location of new developments. I think a much better solution is to gradually replace all the single family dwellings with multi-family dwellings. Start taking out one single family dwelling on a piece of property and replace it with two. On larger lots (north of Oregon) replace it with 3 or 4 dwellings. Then the ENTIRE Palo Alto gets a bit denser but it is evenly spread throughout the city.

/marc

Let me bring up a totally different tangent. I think that part of this ongoing problem of endless debate is that there is no clear consensus of what Palo Alto should be for the next 20/50/100 years.

So why don't we make this a simple decision tree and put it to vote by Palo Alto as a whole. Work step by step through the tree.

Start with a simple vote: Do we (all of Palo Alto) want more people living here. Yes or No . Require a 2/3's majority. If Yes, then all of Palo Alto is going to be denser. If No, then no new developments. If Yes, we will change the zoning of the entire city. If No, then no zoning changes. No whining. No Politically Correct statements but nothing happens.

And the City Council and City Mangement is bound by the decision.

Then work through "Do we want more jobs in Palo Alto, Yes or No" Do we want better traffic flow? and so on. Make it clear and simple.

/marc








2 people like this
Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on May 29, 2019 at 4:07 pm

^ So a 2/3's majority should be able to fill in the Bay? Or overturn the Constitution?
How about 2/3 of the world voting to abolish the United States? 3/4? 7/8?


Like this comment
Posted by Marc
a resident of Midtown
on May 29, 2019 at 6:18 pm

Re: musical . "...^ So a 2/3's majority should be able to fill ..."

I'm not sure what you are getting at. We live in a democracy and yes the majority gets to make monumental decisions.

Sometimes it's a simple majority. Sometimes it is 50.x%. Sometimes it is 2/3 or 3/4 . But it is never 100%.

3/4 of the states are needed to ratify amendments to the United States Constitution which can radically change our lives.

So the answer to your question is Yes.

/marc


3 people like this
Posted by Seriously
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on May 29, 2019 at 7:25 pm

@Marc:

Actually, the states' right to equal representation in the senate in a republican form of government expressly cannot be changed by a constitutional amendment.

The founders also argued that some rights of the individual were inherent, and any decision by a tyrant or a majority otherwise were simply illegitimate. Thus the Bill of Rights.


Like this comment
Posted by Marc
a resident of Midtown
on May 29, 2019 at 9:11 pm

@Seriously

You are correct. But I don't see Palo Alto voting to decide whether to increase the amount of housing as a violation of the constitution or bill of rights. Atherton, Woodside and plenty of other locations have effectively made that decision and kept denser housing and commercial development out of the locations.

I lived in Scotch Plains, NJ that changed the zoning to require 1 acre tracts for all single family dwellings, effectively stopping all new development.

All I am getting at is to stop people from being hypocrites. Don't claim you want more housing then block every attempt to do so. Don't be against all new housing but claim you want the minimum wage earners to live in town, just not anywhere near where they live.

So put it to a vote and let the general population own up to what they want.

/marc


Like this comment
Posted by Caltrain-Let's wait and see.
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 2, 2019 at 11:24 am

Caltrain plans for the San Antonio Station keep changing. Electrification plans are still evolving. Let's wait to see the FINAL, approved plan before we build transit-oriented housing density that counts on it.


1 person likes this
Posted by Messenger
a resident of Midtown
on Jun 3, 2019 at 10:33 pm

1. Flip a number of large parcels from offices to housing in the Stanford industrial park, include PA Square... this area is close to the Cal Ave CalTrain. It’s also far away from existing residents and is unlikely to harm them.

2. Redevelop Embarcadero east of 101 as housing. It’s far away from existing residents and is unlikely to harm them.

1 and 2 will meet PA’s long deferred housing obligations, and can generate big numbers. Plus, with a modicum off feng shui both areas can actually be quite beautiful and something to be proud of for the next century.

Leave San Antonio alone... it has limited upside numerically anyway and is already a total basket case. Ever get stuck in traffic there? Whew... it’s not tenable today, and will only get worse as more high rises between El Camino and Alma currently under construction are completed.


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Posted by Resident 1-Adobe Meadows
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Jun 4, 2019 at 9:37 am

Resident 1-Adobe Meadows is a registered user.

So at the PACC meeting last night 06.03.19 building on this property became a topic as the response to add housing that is going to have an impact of the Cubberely site upgrade.
You keep building - you add people and children. You need to have PAUSD seriously consider how that affects the two high schools we have which are not in the same neighborhood. Cub was built to service the South PA area and did a good job of it.
You all are now creating the next wave of residents who will need that high school and community center.


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