News

Contentious state housing bill returns — and with it, Palo Alto's polarizing housing debate

Amended bill gives cities two years to craft its own zoning to create housing

Responding to local concerns about the top-down mandates of his contentious bill, Senate Bill 50, state Sen. Scott Wiener this week revised the bill to allow cities to craft their own zoning laws to facilitate home construction and avoid the bill's requirements.

The bill, which last year caused a stir in Palo Alto and other cities, targets areas near transit and "jobs-rich" sites for housing, effectively allowing residential developments of up to four stories in these areas. While SB 50 has generated great support from housing advocates and public officials — including a recent endorsement from the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors — many local officials have characterized it as "one-size-fits-all" solution and an affront to local control.

Under the amendments that Wiener released this week, cities will have up to two years to craft their own zoning laws that would allow as much — or more — housing production as SB 50. The local plans would have to be certified by the state. If the cities don't move ahead with this type of rezoning rules, the provisions of SB 50 would kick in.

In a Monday post on Medium, Wiener wrote that the bill's new provisions "seek to ensure that local governments can implement SB 50 in a way that works best for their communities ..."

"In other words, a city could decide to go taller in some areas and shorter in other areas or to focus density in some areas but not other areas," Wiener wrote. "As long as the city's alternative approach zones for at least the same amount of additional housing at SB 50 would, then the plan qualifies."

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The additional zoning would have to be implemented in a way that does not place new housing far from jobs and transit, thus promoting sprawl development. It also prohibits cities for placing the bulk of its new housing in low-income communities, in violation of fair-housing principles. And much like the prior version SB 50, the bill would give "sensitive communities" — which are made up predominantly of low-income residents and communities of color — five years to come up with housing plans before SB 50 kicks in.

The new version of SB 50 also proposes to give cities credit for zone changes that they had made in the prior 20 years to allow more housing — a provision designed to "reward good behavior," according to Wiener. And much like the prior version, it requires 25% of the new units to be affordable to low-income residents and prohibits cities for getting credit for new housing by replacing existing housing developments.

The bill still retains some of the more contentious provisions of the prior version, including the removal of density limits and relaxing of parking standards within a quarter mile of transit and high-frequency bus lines. It also makes a distinction between counties with more than 600,000 residents (including Santa Clara County) and smaller counties, where cities would have to allow up to 15 feet of additional height for new buildings near transit stops.

With the new amendments, Wiener hopes the bill would overcome the hurdles that stymied it last May, when the chair of the state Senate Appropriation Committee, Sen. Anthony Portantino, decided to turn SB 50 into a "two-year bill," making it eligible for a vote in January 2020. The decision came after both the Housing Committee and the Finance and Government Committee voted to advance the bill, which was widely seen as the most ambitious and contentious of the dozens of housing bills under consideration.

The bill has been particularly divisive in Palo Alto, where last March hundreds of people attended a community meeting to rail against the bill. The topic even came up during Monday's mayoral election, where Councilwoman Lydia Kou refused to vote for new Mayor Adrian Fine — a proponent of SB 50 — on the grounds of his support for the proposed legislation. Reiterating earlier criticisms, Kou called the bill "one-size-fits-all" and said any amendments would be "lipstick on a pig."

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In speaking against SB 50, Kou quoted former U.S. President Thomas Jefferson's dictum that "the government closest to the people serves the people best."

"As an immigrant I can never understand why a government of the people, by the people for the people would abdicate its local control of our government," Kou said.

But for proponents of the bill, the legislation is sorely needed at a time when the state has a housing shortage estimated at 3.5 million homes and when many cities, including Palo Alto, are struggling to meet their housing targets, particularly for below-market-rate homes. While the city has a goal of building 300 housing units per year, it has fallen well short of the target in each of the last two years. On Monday, Fine said he plans to make housing one of his top priorities a mayor.

"We've been averaging about 50 to 60 (new homes) per year," Fine said Monday. "In my opinion, that's not good enough."

In his post, Wiener called SB 50 "an equity bill, an affordability bill and a climate bill" — one that overrides "local restrictive zoning — zoning that bans apartment buildings and affordable housing by only allowing single-family homes."

"SB 50 ensures that as we build these millions of homes, we do so not just in low income areas but in wealthy communities as well," Wiener wrote.

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Contentious state housing bill returns — and with it, Palo Alto's polarizing housing debate

Amended bill gives cities two years to craft its own zoning to create housing

by / Palo Alto Weekly

Uploaded: Wed, Jan 8, 2020, 9:23 am

Responding to local concerns about the top-down mandates of his contentious bill, Senate Bill 50, state Sen. Scott Wiener this week revised the bill to allow cities to craft their own zoning laws to facilitate home construction and avoid the bill's requirements.

The bill, which last year caused a stir in Palo Alto and other cities, targets areas near transit and "jobs-rich" sites for housing, effectively allowing residential developments of up to four stories in these areas. While SB 50 has generated great support from housing advocates and public officials — including a recent endorsement from the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors — many local officials have characterized it as "one-size-fits-all" solution and an affront to local control.

Under the amendments that Wiener released this week, cities will have up to two years to craft their own zoning laws that would allow as much — or more — housing production as SB 50. The local plans would have to be certified by the state. If the cities don't move ahead with this type of rezoning rules, the provisions of SB 50 would kick in.

In a Monday post on Medium, Wiener wrote that the bill's new provisions "seek to ensure that local governments can implement SB 50 in a way that works best for their communities ..."

"In other words, a city could decide to go taller in some areas and shorter in other areas or to focus density in some areas but not other areas," Wiener wrote. "As long as the city's alternative approach zones for at least the same amount of additional housing at SB 50 would, then the plan qualifies."

The additional zoning would have to be implemented in a way that does not place new housing far from jobs and transit, thus promoting sprawl development. It also prohibits cities for placing the bulk of its new housing in low-income communities, in violation of fair-housing principles. And much like the prior version SB 50, the bill would give "sensitive communities" — which are made up predominantly of low-income residents and communities of color — five years to come up with housing plans before SB 50 kicks in.

The new version of SB 50 also proposes to give cities credit for zone changes that they had made in the prior 20 years to allow more housing — a provision designed to "reward good behavior," according to Wiener. And much like the prior version, it requires 25% of the new units to be affordable to low-income residents and prohibits cities for getting credit for new housing by replacing existing housing developments.

The bill still retains some of the more contentious provisions of the prior version, including the removal of density limits and relaxing of parking standards within a quarter mile of transit and high-frequency bus lines. It also makes a distinction between counties with more than 600,000 residents (including Santa Clara County) and smaller counties, where cities would have to allow up to 15 feet of additional height for new buildings near transit stops.

With the new amendments, Wiener hopes the bill would overcome the hurdles that stymied it last May, when the chair of the state Senate Appropriation Committee, Sen. Anthony Portantino, decided to turn SB 50 into a "two-year bill," making it eligible for a vote in January 2020. The decision came after both the Housing Committee and the Finance and Government Committee voted to advance the bill, which was widely seen as the most ambitious and contentious of the dozens of housing bills under consideration.

The bill has been particularly divisive in Palo Alto, where last March hundreds of people attended a community meeting to rail against the bill. The topic even came up during Monday's mayoral election, where Councilwoman Lydia Kou refused to vote for new Mayor Adrian Fine — a proponent of SB 50 — on the grounds of his support for the proposed legislation. Reiterating earlier criticisms, Kou called the bill "one-size-fits-all" and said any amendments would be "lipstick on a pig."

In speaking against SB 50, Kou quoted former U.S. President Thomas Jefferson's dictum that "the government closest to the people serves the people best."

"As an immigrant I can never understand why a government of the people, by the people for the people would abdicate its local control of our government," Kou said.

But for proponents of the bill, the legislation is sorely needed at a time when the state has a housing shortage estimated at 3.5 million homes and when many cities, including Palo Alto, are struggling to meet their housing targets, particularly for below-market-rate homes. While the city has a goal of building 300 housing units per year, it has fallen well short of the target in each of the last two years. On Monday, Fine said he plans to make housing one of his top priorities a mayor.

"We've been averaging about 50 to 60 (new homes) per year," Fine said Monday. "In my opinion, that's not good enough."

In his post, Wiener called SB 50 "an equity bill, an affordability bill and a climate bill" — one that overrides "local restrictive zoning — zoning that bans apartment buildings and affordable housing by only allowing single-family homes."

"SB 50 ensures that as we build these millions of homes, we do so not just in low income areas but in wealthy communities as well," Wiener wrote.

Comments

Joseph E. Davis
Woodside
on Jan 8, 2020 at 9:39 am
Joseph E. Davis, Woodside
on Jan 8, 2020 at 9:39 am

Truly an appalling bill. Let's hope it goes down in flames again. Otherwise this area will wind up looking like Hong Kong.


Independent
Esther Clark Park
on Jan 8, 2020 at 10:32 am
Independent, Esther Clark Park
on Jan 8, 2020 at 10:32 am

SB 50 has only changed by incorporating a two year delay before it destroys local communities and implements central state planning and government diktats. Lipstick on a pig does't change that it's a pig. No to SB 50 - yes to local communities.

Thank you Lydia Kou.


Reality here
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 8, 2020 at 10:37 am
Reality here, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 8, 2020 at 10:37 am

In a state with such issues of fire danger, with danger to humans tightly related to housing density and inadequate infrastructure, giving developers a lever like this is unconscionable. It’s predicated on the idea that more density in high-demand areas will lower costs, which is simply FALSE. This is a sledge hammer based on an overly simplistic and easily demonstrably FALSE idea that the demand side in the face of more development will be static. There is no basis to believe this. Search on some photos of Hong Kong in 1940 versus Hong Kong in 1960 versus 1980. The bladerunner-esque (SF-esque!) transformation happened really fast. That’s what SB50 will enable.

Pushing this kind of crap is going to kill the ascendancy of the democratic party on California.

The difference between SV and HK is that we are not an island, we are surrounded by a vast nation where big soulless companies can create their dense ugly boring utopias and concentrate with each other all they want without crushing the hard-fought lives of hundreds of thousands of existing residents. And without crushing the innovation spirit that came out of the low-key suburban place (which was NEVER cheap, by the way). Scott Weiner talks a big game but by ignoring reality in making such plans he is no better than the lying plutocratic Republicans who talk a big game about the economy while only advantaging the tiny sliver at the top and destroying investment.

Stop pushing more housing without regard to safety! It’s already hard enough in places with too much developer pressure as it is. It’s DISPLACING low income people, and building expensive new spots is not the same thing and does not undo the damage.

The only way to get affordable housing and good jobs is to make investments in places like Stockton to increase the number of desirable job centers, places that might want to be the next IT place for the techies who have less than ZERO civicmindedness (don't be evil indeed) but who want everything there for them to take advantage of FREE, as if the world owes them the sacrifice of other people’s lifelong efforts as if they are nothing.

This has been a hard place for most people for a really long time, which is why people are susceptible to continue believing the eminently FALSE arguments about densifying in a desirable job center bringing down prices despite all the evidence, e.g. in SF that it just causes displacement and homelessness and HIGHER housing costs.

Don’t be evil companies? Stop being evil (or monumental idiot)Scott Weiner!


Independent
Esther Clark Park
on Jan 8, 2020 at 10:37 am
Independent, Esther Clark Park
on Jan 8, 2020 at 10:37 am

SB 50 plans to force tall, multistory, multi unit buildings with no parking next to single family homes in Palo Alto, a jobs rich zone. Where will all the cars be parked? Where will the trash bins get placed for pickup? How will the sewer and water and utility infrastructure have to be modified to accommodate this in what were planned to be single family home neighborhoods --- and of course at our cost.

This is an affordability crisis. The state had $21 billion in surplus last year and has $7 billion in surplus this year --- housing subsidies are cost effective and efficient for low income folks who are only short some hundreds of dollars each month, rather than forcing 10 story towers next to single family homes.

Those who stand to profit from this bill are the ones backing it: Developers, Building trades union members, realtors, other unions backing it, and the politicians whose campaign coffers will be filled by the afore mentioned groups.


Reality here
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 8, 2020 at 10:46 am
Reality here, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 8, 2020 at 10:46 am

Lawmakers use exceptions in BAD laws like SB50 to hold their noses and vote, believing the exceptions make it okay. It turns out that in California, there is no recourse if the state doesnt implement a law’s exceptions. I know someone whose medical costs went up $8,000/year and health suffered because of a law that ended patients using copay coupons for name brand drugs, with exceptions for people in that person’s situation - that were never implemented so that person was just screwed. (The sponsor of the bill and our own M Berman did nothing, it’s not that easy.)

Don’t pass laws based on exceptions which may be impossible to enforce against rapacious developers, especially since the state cant be counted on implementing the exceptions or giving citizens a realistic recourse if they need those exceptions.

Even though I am a Democratic voter, this is a prime example of why we need checks and balances against supermajorities (too bad the last example of that resulted in the corrupt mess that is the Republican party today).


george drysdale
Professorville
on Jan 8, 2020 at 11:03 am
george drysdale, Professorville
on Jan 8, 2020 at 11:03 am

Listen to our mayor. He's right. One thing politicians out of San Francisco don't understand is basic economics. What you do, however, is build to the highest and best use which will generate much larger tax revenues which can thereby be bridged loaned to help those who are truly in need. A state which has universal rent control is already functioning at the level of high school drop out or flunk out. This the lenders and equity investors already know. Good luck finding investment dollars for those who want more rental housing.

George Drysdale land economist and initiator


Dan
Midtown
on Jan 8, 2020 at 11:24 am
Dan, Midtown
on Jan 8, 2020 at 11:24 am

Lipstick on a pig. The bill still stinks.


No to SB50
Crescent Park
on Jan 8, 2020 at 11:26 am
No to SB50, Crescent Park
on Jan 8, 2020 at 11:26 am

@reality here

Totally agree with your analysis. SB 50 version 2 will not reduce housing costs in Palo Alto, but it certainly will further congest and destroy the feel and look of the town.

This is a sledge hammer based on an overly simplistic and easily demonstrably FALSE idea that the demand side in the face of more development will be static. There is no basis to believe this. Search on some photos of Hong Kong in 1940 versus Hong Kong in 1960 versus 1980. The bladerunner-esque (SF-esque!) transformation happened really fast. That’s what SB50 will enable....It’s DISPLACING low income people, and building expensive new spots is not the same thing and does not undo the damage.


HUTCH 7.62
Portola Valley
on Jan 8, 2020 at 11:30 am
HUTCH 7.62, Portola Valley
on Jan 8, 2020 at 11:30 am
Lennie
Barron Park
on Jan 8, 2020 at 12:02 pm
Lennie, Barron Park
on Jan 8, 2020 at 12:02 pm

I agree with those who continue to oppose SB50 even with the proposed changes. some posts mention Hong Kong as an example of too much density. i have never been to Hong Kong but you don't have to go that far to see too much density. Just go to LA.The LA area is a perfect example of what happens when you allow excessive density in a limited area, i.e., parking problems, impossible traffic, etc., etc. Let us kill SB50 and look for solutions that don't destroy our quality of life.


Anonymous
Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jan 8, 2020 at 12:06 pm
Anonymous, Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jan 8, 2020 at 12:06 pm

NO on SB 50.
Please contact neighbors to inform them of this damaging bill. Contact the state senate appropriations committee and your individual state senator. Action from citizens is needed, or powerful large builders and a small number of politicians will rule. The bill is complicated but make no mistake, it’s a power grab of certain state “leader” politicians.
They now hope to lull you into complacency with modifications to the bill, but I find these highly debatable and some specific bullet points are hard to understand, much less to grasp potential impacts.
In particular, cities who successfully provide a great economy: great, high paying jobs and great schools are to be penalized.
It’s a twisted way to pretend to deal with a real issue of housing shortages.
Briefly, local zoning control, most often sensible, is under attack as being privileged, in particular the single family home. While I strongly agree certain regions of the state need more housing of a wide variety if types/price points, the solution is NOT to hand almost all power to the state! Realistic damaging effects are entirely likely with no recourse for single family homeowners.
Your home - your hard earned investment - is under major threat of high-densification in your single family neighborhood; extreme under-parking; shadowing of solar panels without appeal.
It’s a lie this will provide low cost housing for millions.
Some advocates for the poor and unhoused get this.
Meanwhile, powerful big lobbying interests are in the mix.
The individual voter, representing oneself, better get involved, too.
This bill WILL destroy single family zoning in attractive areas: this is the vindictive goal of certain “leading” lawmakers.
There is no need for such convoluted oddball bills, yet this is what our state “leading” politicians propose - get informed.


George
Midtown
on Jan 8, 2020 at 12:08 pm
George, Midtown
on Jan 8, 2020 at 12:08 pm

I agree with people who have posted above. SB50 will just force more housing to be built, and we've already used up all of our space on offices! I've already got my house, I don't want more people moving into Palo Alto!


Annette
Registered user
College Terrace
on Jan 8, 2020 at 12:52 pm
Annette, College Terrace
Registered user
on Jan 8, 2020 at 12:52 pm

George Drysdale: which of our mayors do you mean? The new one is aligned with Weiner. Last year's mayor wisely calls for full mitigation so that those adding jobs/office space must add the housing necessary to support those jobs/office spaces.


Novelera
Registered user
Midtown
on Jan 8, 2020 at 2:17 pm
Novelera, Midtown
Registered user
on Jan 8, 2020 at 2:17 pm

The whole farce of each council member getting to be mayor in turn is ridiculous. If Adrian Fine had to run to be elected Mayor, he'd LOSE! There's no way SB50 won't ruin Palo Alto. And it's a pipe dream that these units jam packed into our formerly lovely town would be affordable.

The untrammeled growth members of our City Council are clearly in the pockets of developers.

Bless you, Lydia Kou, for refusing to vote for Fine!


mauricio
Registered user
Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jan 8, 2020 at 3:20 pm
mauricio, Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
Registered user
on Jan 8, 2020 at 3:20 pm

As one of the above posters put succinctly, SB 50 and those who support it, such as the current mayor and many members of PAF, is about eliminating suburbia and small towns that are close to job centers. In this nightmarish scenario, single family neighborhoods would be phased out and replaced by high rise buildings containing many small housing units with little or no parking.

A supporter of this scenario posted not long ago on Town Square that R-1 neighborhoods, which he described as "travesty", should be eliminated ASAP and replaced by apartment buildings that are at least 12 stories high, and preferably twice as tall, and it looks like that is the future Palo Alto residents are facing.


chris
University South
on Jan 8, 2020 at 4:34 pm
chris, University South
on Jan 8, 2020 at 4:34 pm

The no on 50 people are out in full force today. What they can't seem to grasp (or at least admit publicly) is that there "NO,NO,NO" to building housing is the reason that the bill is being considered.

There would be no need for the bill if Palo Alto and the other NIMBY communities were actually building housing.

[Portion removed.]


Online Name
Registered user
Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jan 8, 2020 at 5:02 pm
Online Name, Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
Registered user
on Jan 8, 2020 at 5:02 pm

Nonsense. We said NO,NO,NO more office buildings that take up space that could be used for housing. Many of us said No,No to building more hotels on land that could be used for housing. We said NO,NO,NO to the shady dealings with the President Hotel that eliminated about 85 affordable housing units for long-term tenants to create luxury hotel rooms.

Shame on you for twisting the facts. As our senaible outgoing mayor noted in his recent essay in the Post, we've already got a 6:1 jobs/housing imbalance that's being made worse by the never-ending tech expansion that WE are subsidizing.

Do your homework. People in Oaland and elsewhere hate this bill because they can see it's a get-rich-quick scheme for developers selling high-priced housing. Low- and middle-income workers will STILL be priced out and STILL be creating more congestion and gridlick.

Why aren't rich communities like Atherton and Portola Valley being forced to do provide THEIR fair share of housing?? Or ANY housing? They've got lots of open space as does Stanford aka The Farm.


Grass is Greenmeadow
Greenmeadow
on Jan 8, 2020 at 5:08 pm
Grass is Greenmeadow , Greenmeadow
on Jan 8, 2020 at 5:08 pm

Gosh. I’m With Chris, (comment above) but if there aren’t enough of like-minded folks in Palo Alto, why, I’m outta here - after 40 years...and still renting! Ah the ties that bind...and still on waiting list for BMR, which likely will be my tomb...


SeizetheDay
Greenmeadow
on Jan 8, 2020 at 8:15 pm
SeizetheDay , Greenmeadow
on Jan 8, 2020 at 8:15 pm

Gee Ms. Kou do you believe that the Government does not have the right to take personal property to shelter our armed forces when defending our democracy, Constitution . Palo Alto is not meeting its housing responsibility to its less resourceful, financially secure residents and workers (who many are second language learners, or a different culture and from other countries) who do the hard labor, travel by bus and aren't skilled on Internet platforms, computers programs or software engineers. NYC built Styverson Town for hundreds of individuals and families who survived and directly witness to and affected by the Jewish Holocaust - and many of the dependents of these families still live and thrive there. California is in a severe housing crisis and emergency - thousands live without the safety of a place to call home. Our State has no other choice but to step in and be the adult. Grow up and get real. YES SB50 we need you badly !


SB50YES
Greenmeadow
on Jan 8, 2020 at 8:31 pm
SB50YES, Greenmeadow
on Jan 8, 2020 at 8:31 pm

Gee Ms. Kou do you believe that the Government does not have the right to take personal property to shelter our armed forces when defending our land, democracy, and Constitution ? Reality check. Palo Alto is not meeting its housing responsibility for its less resourceful, financially insecure residents and low-wage workers (who many are second language learners, or come from a different faith, religion, culture and/or are from other countries). "For the people by people" who do the hard labor, travel by bike, bus, train or car-pool and aren't skilled on Internet platforms, computers programs, software engineers or making land deals. NYC built Styverson Town for hundreds of individuals and families who survived and were direct witness' to and affected by the Jewish Holocaust - and many of the original residents and their families still live and thrive there. California is in a severe housing crisis and emergency - thousands live without the safety of a place to call home. Our State has no other choice but to step in and be the adult. Grow up and get real. YES SB50 we need you badly !


STOP already
Mountain View
on Jan 8, 2020 at 9:55 pm
STOP already, Mountain View
on Jan 8, 2020 at 9:55 pm

Oh FFS, stop it already. The histrionics here are ridiculous. California does NOT have a housing crisis. For gods sake, take a drive outside of your comfort snowflake zone and see that there are tons of amazing places to live that just don’t happen to be in the immediate Bay Area.

I’m sorry. I don’t mean to be a snit but I am SO TIRED of this politically motivated, contrived “crisis”. STOP already. And yep, I can almost guarantee this post will be deleted as it doesn’t fit the narrative or direction that Bill Johnson’s puppeteers Want to present.

Disgusting. Free press? Not here.


RVfiresidechats
Greenmeadow
on Jan 8, 2020 at 10:30 pm
RVfiresidechats, Greenmeadow
on Jan 8, 2020 at 10:30 pm

Excuse me "STOP already". Apparently you have your nice comfortable abode with nice stainless steel appliances, two car garage home with storage, display cases, amenities and space for all the stuff you've spent a lifetime collecting. Move. Us. Outside of the Bay Area, you say,? Even when we have sick grandparents to care for and children to raise right here where we were born? Bringing it all back home. Yet. Housing costs have soared all over the country and have seen the most enormous, gargantuan climb right here. Is the Bay Area too big to fail like 2008? No bailout for Main Street just Wall Street. I'll drag this one out, AGAIN. Wages have to kept pace with housing, medical care and common living expenses i.e. transportation, food, clothing. I hope you don't have a pet dog or cat - it would be criminal to think they are not let free to roam and forage off the vast country side of said other parts of wild California. Absurd ignorance does not justify what we refuse to comprehend, believe, understand. Essentially that if you can't afford it move ? But those that change the bedding we sleep in at night, pull weeds, dig ditches for all those mini mansions along Cowper etc are coming in from further and further away while you sit beside your kitty is purring by your warm, crackling fire place and your feet are up, dry and blowing on your pipe - Maybe even with Bob Dylan strumming a tune in the back ground.


Reality here
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 8, 2020 at 10:31 pm
Reality here, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 8, 2020 at 10:31 pm

@SB50Y

You're making a case for....? SB50 will only make things worse for people on the bottom rungs, just as all the overdevelopment in SF has. How can you be so gullible to believe this will help housing affordability here? Housing was never affordable here even during recessions for many decades. The overbuilding has ratcheted up costs and displacements, and enabling developers will only exacerbate it as tech companies bring in more people.

The better solution is to tax the biggest companies till they decide to duplicate Silicon Valley in a couple of other places, given everyone options to grow. They don't want to do that, because they prefer to pretend that they aren't being evil while they crush the lives and livelihoods of hundreds of thousands of people who put down roots here before they steamrollered in.

These concentrating tech economies are actually worse for people on the bottom rungs than jobs in smaller towns. You're not doing anyone any favors by displacing existing residents for a lot of luxury housing with a few crumbs for the poor down the line.

The way to end the "crisis" is to address the demand side. Either get the state to invest the money in places that want the jobs and investments -- that have lots of affordable housing and want more development -- or ratchet up the taxes on the big companies for what they're doing to the area until they decide to stop squashing the locals and divide. Or both.

Wasn't ruining SF enough for you people? The only way to fix this is to take a holistic view of the demand side, the future, and multiply the number of job centers. Tax the companies to both rectify the horrid ills they've wrought on this area and also invest in at least one or two other desirable places. Then ratchet up the taxes here till some of them move.


Bob Moss
Barron Park
on Jan 8, 2020 at 10:35 pm
Bob Moss, Barron Park
on Jan 8, 2020 at 10:35 pm

Here are some facts on housing issues that the previous posts missed. Every housing unit COSTS Palo Alto more than $2800/year MORE for services than it pays in local property taxes. Several years ago then City Manager Keene reported to the City Council that the net cost to the city was over $2700/unit/year. This isn't new. When we incorporated Rancho Palos Verdes in 1970 the cost of services for homes was about $740/year more than was paid in property taxes, and that was before Prop. 13. Since then the cost has increased because thanks to Prop. 13 assessed valuation of homes can't increase much more than 2%/year and costs for city services rise more than that every year. The exception of course is when a home is sold, then it is reassessed at the sale price.

As for housing construction, Palo Alto zoning now would allow the increased number of residential units assigned under existing State requirements. They aren't being built because developers apparently make more profit by building commercial developments. Also land cost here is high, almost $9,000,000/acre, so developers need lots of financing just to acquire space to build.

Allowing high density housing next to single family homes would destroy the environment, and badly hurt property values, which over time would badly impact both the city and school district finances.

FYI every housing unit generates 8 to 10 vehicle trips/day, so if you love our traffic and parking status now all those added car trips wont matter. However to those who are rational, major increases in traffic would be awful.

Summary, SB50 sucks, those who approve it need to do their homework, and the changes Wiener made in the proposed bill are just for show, not really improvements in a really bad proposal.


Reality here
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 8, 2020 at 10:40 pm
Reality here, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 8, 2020 at 10:40 pm

RVfire,

SB50 will only make things worse for the people you claim to have empathy for. You are using people's hardships to force a law on them that will make things worse. Shame on you.

"Even when we have sick grandparents" I have a sick parent in a different state and can't afford to move the parent here or even visit unless I go on travel for my job. SB50 will only make my life worse, displace longtime businesses, reduce opportunity because of traffic. What do you think it does to the livelihoods of ordinary people in service jobs who can't get around the area anymore because of the horrendous traffic? And no, transit doesn't fix it, it doesn't even fix it in Hong Kong with the best transit in the world.

I speak of Hong Kong because I have relatives there and have watched them use the same arguments to turn it into the urbanscape it is today, and none of the promises panned out. They won't here. If you actually care about the people of whom you speak, which I very much doubt, then you will work to kill SB50 and find ways to get tech companies to branch out into a few other places to reduce demand.


Applesandoranges
Greenmeadow
on Jan 8, 2020 at 10:42 pm
Applesandoranges, Greenmeadow
on Jan 8, 2020 at 10:42 pm

Comparing the passage of SB50 and Palo Alto to San Francisco, Hong Kong is foolhardy. Apples and oranges aside from it being just plain scare mongering. I know someone else living in a White House doing the same thing every twit of everyday! SB50 Housing, transit, jobs. YES!


Reality here
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 8, 2020 at 10:52 pm
Reality here, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 8, 2020 at 10:52 pm

@applesandoranges,

You have just made a totally unsupported claim. Hong Kong is a totally apt cautionary tale for our region, as if what has happened to SF in the last 20 years isn't evidence enough. Hong Kong is a high-demand concentrated job center which allowed building willy nilly with EXACTLY the same bankrupt and false arguments the proponents of SB50 are using.

Have you looked at the Hong Kong skyline over time? It looked more like Palo Alto than San Francisco after the war, and for quite some time after. They made EXACTLY the same arguments in Hong Kong about housing affordability, transportation, etc, and none of it panned out as they made the place more and more bladerunner-esque.

I believe you know someone in the WH, because you're using the same tactics to lie to get something that will do the opposite of what is promised, while the rich get richer.

It's time we JUST built low-income housing. Period. We should tax companies to allow municipalities to buy up all the retail areas to stabilize the costs so that cities can maintain normal civic life in the face of the Borg collective takeover we've been experiencing.


M&m
College Terrace
on Jan 9, 2020 at 7:20 am
M&m, College Terrace
on Jan 9, 2020 at 7:20 am

College terrace has twice the density of the rest of Palo Alto, so we are talking about making Palo Alto look more like college terrace or Berkeley (where they turned some mega homes into 3 -5 flats) than Hong Kong

Is college terrace so bad?


Annette
Registered user
College Terrace
on Jan 9, 2020 at 7:26 am
Annette, College Terrace
Registered user
on Jan 9, 2020 at 7:26 am

The anger is misdirected; it should be focused on the decision makers, including our own CC members, who promote/promoted unmitigated commercial development rather than on those who believe SB50 is bad legislation. Weiner is like the Pied Piper; the tune he is playing does not magically end in housing for all who want and need it. At best, here, it might result in a bit more market-rate housing. Anyone pinning their housing hopes on Weiner's approach is in for even more disappointment. It's sickening, really. And sad.

Boomers who bought homes decades ago are not the enemy; bad policy is. And SB50 is more bad policy.


Abitarian
Downtown North
on Jan 9, 2020 at 9:31 am
Abitarian, Downtown North
on Jan 9, 2020 at 9:31 am

To cut to the chase, in the future I will not vote for any officeholder who supports SB50 or similar proposals. I'm talking to you Marc Berman and Jerry Hill as well as any council members who aspire to re-election or higher office.

I am ever grateful to Lydia Kou and Joe Simitian who have the courage to stand alone and fight for what is best for citizens.


Noel Talbot
Ventura
on Jan 9, 2020 at 9:59 am
Noel Talbot, Ventura
on Jan 9, 2020 at 9:59 am

Scott Weiner for President!Being homeless in Palo Alto since my dad left my Mother,my brother and myself in the Shangrila Motel in 1976,I've lived this crisis since I was 8 years old.I understand people don't want to lose their quality of life, but people are Suffering. Heartless nimbys need to wake up and realize we are all in this together and Our community is being destroyed by the haves denying the have nots basic human dignity.We are all diminished as human beings in value the longer this goes on.We don't need any more office space for people commuting from miles away (Palo Alto doubles in population during the week),We've needed more housing for decades!It's time to stop the madness.There is a saying - Home is Where the Heart is,so because I'm Homeless I'm Heartless, I don't think so.


Reality here
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 9, 2020 at 10:09 am
Reality here, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 9, 2020 at 10:09 am

@Annette,
"Anyone pinning their housing hopes on Weiner's approach is in for even more disappointment. It's sickening, really. And sad. "

That's just it, though. In order for people to believe that this will result in alleviating any housing issues, they have to close their eyes to all the facts, and believe something despite all evidence to the contrary. They're not going to wake up when they see the consequences, anymore than Republicans woke up after their President drove up debt (yet again) and drove the economy off a cliff, which the Democratic President (again) had to fix amid all the anti-American rightwing partisan party-over-country potshots. What did they do? Give us another guy notable for driving businesses bankrupt, who immediately went about driving debt and deficit through the roof.

Ideology makes people impervious to facts and thus the consequences of their actions, on both sides of the aisle.

What sickens me most is how the developers have not only gotten people to act against their own interests, but they have also gotten the majority to set aside their environmental concerns or even believe ideological falsehoods twisted to make it seem like going the bladerunner-esque route is better for the environment, when anyone willing to consider the facts holistically could see that it's not (including that construction is hugely impactful and bulldozing lots of perfectly good communities not at the end of their life cycles is part of the equation. It's not healthy that people who used to care about the environment have stopped.

People on the left are being used by developers same as religious people on the right are being used by the power-hungry to achieve the opposite of their supposed values. SB50 will only continue the pressures that are making things WORSE for low-income and homeless residents, and WORSE for ordinary people. To believe it will help, you'd have to shut your brain off and lap up what people who are using us say like it's a religion.

No No No to SB50.


mauricio
Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jan 9, 2020 at 10:32 am
mauricio, Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jan 9, 2020 at 10:32 am

Everything Weiner, Adrian Fine and their fellow travelers desire to do was done in Hong Kong, which has the best public transit in the world, something Palo Alto and the Bay Area will never achieve, and the outcome was a disaster as far as traffic, affordability, environmental damage and quality of life.

' Noel Talbot' makes a valid point, but is addressing the wrong people. It is politicians like Fine, Kniss, Tanaka and Berman who have never done the right and honorable thing:putting pressure on companies to branch out to far less expensive and more affordable areas in the state and nation. These politicians have supported unfettered commercial development that made housing even less affordable in an area that will always be very expensive.

Those who think Weiner and SB 50 would help their housing aspirations will be bitterly disappointed. it is a giveaway to developers and nothing more.


george drysdale
Professorville
on Jan 9, 2020 at 10:47 am
george drysdale, Professorville
on Jan 9, 2020 at 10:47 am
STOP already
Mountain View
on Jan 9, 2020 at 10:57 am
STOP already, Mountain View
on Jan 9, 2020 at 10:57 am

@RVfireside aaaaand thank you for making my point! You know nothing about me but sure do make a lot of assumptions. And yes, I do feel very strongly that if you can’t afford it here then you need to suck up life, make the tough choice and move. Life’s about choices and you can sit here and complain and play “poor me” all you want. No, I have no empathy for those who continue to make poor choices. I’ve had to move many times, and I will have to move again as I will not be able to retire here but I’m not complaining. Such is life.

Again. THERE IS NO HOUSING CRISIS. This is a politically motivated term that’s being used to stir up the uneducated masses. Wake up.


Online Name
Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jan 9, 2020 at 11:36 am
Online Name, Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jan 9, 2020 at 11:36 am

What other Palo Alto projects has this consultant worked on? We hire lots of consultants who produce questionable results that tell the CC and commissioners what they want to hear so curious about these guys' track records,

Thanks in advance.


Resident 1-Adobe Meadows
Adobe-Meadow
on Jan 9, 2020 at 1:33 pm
Resident 1-Adobe Meadows, Adobe-Meadow
on Jan 9, 2020 at 1:33 pm

The Fry's site can respond to a number of the requirements that we are now looking at. You can put 4 condo towers on that property - each with a different configuration of units. You can also limit one of the condos for teachers and PA city workers. You can have one tower for retired people. The ability to respond to all of these state, county, and city requirements is in front of our faces. If you keep thinking up reasons not to do this then you are not doing your jobs. And Sobrato is on the hook to participate in this overall requirement. There are obvious responses to the problem at hand. We will call up Gavin and ask him to put the screws in on Sobrato and the city management if you all keep dithering.


Not fine
Charleston Gardens
on Jan 9, 2020 at 1:42 pm
Not fine, Charleston Gardens
on Jan 9, 2020 at 1:42 pm

Out of all communities Palo Alto will be most affected. It will literally look like LA in no time with SB 50. SB 50 is like Brexit or Donald Trump election. Nothing good will come out of it but Palo Alto lifestyle will be lost forever. How naive is Adrian Fine to support such a bill. Just drive in LA to realize what dense population does to your roads.


Michael G
another community
on Jan 9, 2020 at 1:52 pm
Michael G, another community
on Jan 9, 2020 at 1:52 pm

I've looked at the McKinsey Report that came up with the 3.5M housing shortage. It is total garbage. It ludicrously abuses data. Newsom got his "3.5M houses by 2025" slogan - the title of the report. I doubt anyone seriously read the report past the intro-summary. Wiener has to know what nonsense this "housing shortage" stuff is. He relies on developer money to get elected and SB50 is his payback for that money. We should do whatever possible to defeat him this year.

I can't post charts or data here but to see how awful the McKinsey report is go to:
Web Link
or
Web Link


Reality here
another community
on Jan 9, 2020 at 2:03 pm
Reality here, another community
on Jan 9, 2020 at 2:03 pm

@Not fine,
"How naive is Adrian Fine to support such a bill. Just drive in LA to realize what dense population does to your roads. "

Adrian Fine is not naive. He deliberately misled the voters (according to the election commission, toothless gnat that they are when it comes to monitoring election misbehavior). He just doesn't care about Palo Alto. He thinks his company's wants are more important and they companies want more housing for their highly paid entry level workers, with the rest of us paying for it, regardless of what it does to these longstanding communities.

It won't take a lot of people to stand up and counter people like Fine and Weiner who are selling lies, but it will take some leaders within the community who realize if they don't do something, no one else will.


Annette
College Terrace
on Jan 9, 2020 at 2:19 pm
Annette, College Terrace
on Jan 9, 2020 at 2:19 pm

Fine naïve? Hardly. He, like Weiner, is smart and articulate. He knows exactly what he is doing, as does Weiner. I believe both know that SB50 is the opposite of a panacea for our self-inflicted housing woes. Pushing it, though, helps them curry favor with developers and gain voter support from the "housing disenfranchised" (for lack of a better term) for votes. Even revised, SB50 is bad legislation.


Family Friendly
Old Palo Alto
on Jan 9, 2020 at 3:02 pm
Family Friendly, Old Palo Alto
on Jan 9, 2020 at 3:02 pm

The problem is that the developers have their PACs and lobbyists, but the people do not. Until someone organizes a state-wide gofundme for a recall campaign against Weiner, he'll continue raking in the state-wide developer donations.


Online Name
Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jan 9, 2020 at 3:17 pm
Online Name, Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jan 9, 2020 at 3:17 pm

And all the big-tech funding of the YIMBY party at the local, regional, state and national levels. Eric Filseth is right that we're subsidizing big tech's growth.


PASZ: The (Wealthy) People PAC
Charleston Gardens
on Jan 9, 2020 at 4:00 pm
PASZ: The (Wealthy) People PAC, Charleston Gardens
on Jan 9, 2020 at 4:00 pm

The "people" of Palo Alto in fact do have a PAC. It's PASZ. PASZ is PAC that represents the "residents" of Palo Alto. The "residents" intentions are pure (not about getting rich), but keeping things the same (because they got theirs already).


mauricio
Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jan 9, 2020 at 4:38 pm
mauricio, Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jan 9, 2020 at 4:38 pm

Not only do big tech and developers have their many PACs in Palo Alto, like PAF and the planning commission, they also have four ambassadors in the city council. How can you beat that?


Reality here
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 9, 2020 at 4:41 pm
Reality here, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 9, 2020 at 4:41 pm

@Wealthy,

Bulls%^^&t. A PAC is an organization whose purpose is to raise money for candidates and issues. PASZ is not a fundraising organization, it's like a potluck neighborhood group, with concern for the civic health of Palo Alto the focus of the group. They in no way could be considered a PAC the way any developer-funded groups could be.

Your claims about them are a nasty false smear. The people I know in PASZ are far more ACTUALLY concerned about housing affordability here than the people pushing SB50. SB50 is NOT going to create affordable housing. Conflating concern about low-income housing and SB50 is wrong and pernicious, turning neighbor against neighbor, when we should all be fighting DIRECTLY for just affordable housing development.

The Weekly did an article awhile back that explicitly showed that developers aren't even paying their way in the development process. WE the citizens are subsidizing the takeover by entities that don't contribute to our town, they just use the address to their advantages and treat our town and citizens with scorn.

FYI - just because you live in Palo Alto or anywhere in the Bay Area does not mean you "got yours already."

Do you have any idea how hard it is to live in the whole Bay Area? How many people live on a knife edge? Giving the developers their way destroys the very thing tens of thousands of ordinary people sacrifice everyday of their lives to hang on by their fingernails for.


PASZ: The (Wealthy) People PAC
Charleston Gardens
on Jan 9, 2020 at 5:35 pm
PASZ: The (Wealthy) People PAC, Charleston Gardens
on Jan 9, 2020 at 5:35 pm

A PAC is a legal designation. PASZ is quite officially a PAC and is exactly the same as other PACs. The primary difference is that you think you're the good guys so your PAC is good. It's still a PAC.

Quite familiar with how hard it is to get by in the Bay Area. I live here and don't own land! The homeowners who are members of PASZ are all sitting on at least $1.5 million in assets. If you don't consider that wealthy, you need to get out of the Palo Alto bubble.


PASZ: The (Wealthy) People PAC
Charleston Gardens
on Jan 9, 2020 at 5:42 pm
PASZ: The (Wealthy) People PAC, Charleston Gardens
on Jan 9, 2020 at 5:42 pm

Also @mauricio, Palo Alto Forward is a 501c3, not a PAC. Appointed planning commissioners are not a PAC. Elected councilmembers are also not a PAC.

This concept shouldn't be this hard...


musical
Palo Verde
on Jan 9, 2020 at 6:29 pm
musical, Palo Verde
on Jan 9, 2020 at 6:29 pm

^ $1.5 million in assets and $1.45 million in liabilities.


Reality here
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 9, 2020 at 9:15 pm
Reality here, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 9, 2020 at 9:15 pm

@Wealthy,

If you are wealthy enough to live here without owning land, then you are doing better income-wise than we are -- renting here is a nightmare. @musical is right, people owning homes does not tell the story, especially if they have no real equity or their home is their only retirement asset. The equity in the home is not a lottery winning, people often have no way to save for retirement, and live like paupers to keep the roof over their head.

So, let me get this straight. If someone has lived like a pauper and managed over three or four decades to sacrifice everything in order to keep a roof over their head (which only works if you find a way to own, that's Bay Area wide and has been for a long time), working their way up from really unhealthy/ substandard living conditions over the years (speaking from personal experience), then they should leave Palo Alto because they think a few hundred thousand in net equity that represents all the retirement savings two people could save because of the cost of living here doesn't make them wealthy?

But someone who wants their grandparents to live here, not in their own house but in one subsidized by others, should support a law that won't really help them anyway (it will actually make things more expensive) but will destroy the ability of the abovementioned couple to continue making a living from the traffic gridlock that destroys their service business? Seriously?

Regardless of how you legally categorize PASZ, they are a neighborhood group that does not exist for fundraising, they typically have small amounts they can give to local races They in no way have total funds that our developer-funded councilmembers took from developers in even one election cycle and lied to the public about. PAF takes in FAR more money than PASZ.

PAF is legally supposed to file 990's -- can't seem to find one, care to share?

None of this has anything at all to do with how hopelessly disconnected the steps in SB50 are to the stated goals. It's all a trojan horse to give freebie new hire housing to big tech companies at the community's expense.


Independent
Esther Clark Park
on Jan 9, 2020 at 9:30 pm
Independent, Esther Clark Park
on Jan 9, 2020 at 9:30 pm
Independent
Esther Clark Park
on Jan 9, 2020 at 10:24 pm
Independent, Esther Clark Park
on Jan 9, 2020 at 10:24 pm

And btw, owning a home is not a crime. It can represent hard work, savings, and good fortune. I'm sick of the purity tests that apparently only people of modest means are ok. Class warfare is for socialists and communists, and we hear more and more of it. People actually do support the free market.


Old Bill
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 10, 2020 at 5:25 am
Old Bill, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 10, 2020 at 5:25 am
Independent
Esther Clark Park
on Jan 10, 2020 at 12:40 pm
Independent, Esther Clark Park
on Jan 10, 2020 at 12:40 pm

@Resident 1-Adobe Meadows
No housing for teachers and city workers --- they are not low income. The lowest paid fire fighter in Palo Alto makes $119k, which is the median HOUSEHOLD income for Santa Clara County. Household income versus a single salary. And $119k is only for the LOWEST paid firefighter in Palo Alto. Others are paid more. Similarly, the average PAUSD teacher makes $115k. Private school teachers make less than public school teachers. Perhaps private school teachers are more needy then than public school teachers, who get paid more and have rich benefits. Affordable housing only for the truly needy - like people who are truly low income, like low income seniors and the disabled.


george drysdale
Professorville
on Jan 11, 2020 at 10:29 am
george drysdale, Professorville
on Jan 11, 2020 at 10:29 am

Independent gets the highest grade in economics. You just have to look at the numbers. Make successful companies cash cows and they move out of town like Amazon in Seattle. Now, why rent control is blowing up in Silicon Valley. Follow Noack's take on AB 330 in Mountain View. Rent control the conspiracy of the entitled incumbents. The tenants get to take their rent control with them! It's like having the rights of inheritance in NYC for rent controllers. In San Francisco you have an aristocracy of the rent controlled elite very few who are poor paying way below market rates. The mayor of Mountain View is going to have to show a profile in courage with the endless battle of control on Super Tuesday. Let me rub it in again: Palo Alto voted for Newsome and his San Francisco Democrats.

George Drysdale with the best lesson plan in economics and initiator



Resident 1-Adobe Meadows
Adobe-Meadow
on Jan 11, 2020 at 12:30 pm
Resident 1-Adobe Meadows, Adobe-Meadow
on Jan 11, 2020 at 12:30 pm

Some clarification here - we are addressing a number of problems - not all of which are related to how much anyone makes.
1. Problem is an ability to find affordable housing in this area for teachers who have to be accessible to their job location to provide the type of support expected from teachers. Someone who drives 2 hours to the job is not going to be effective at their jobs of managing a classroom full of students. If we had 4 towers at the Fry's site each would have a different configuration of units which would assist in the pricing of those units.
2. Reduction in traffic - bike lanes to the schools which are interrelated would assist those who are able to ride to work. Those lanes would go through the SRP to high tech jobs for those who are able to bike to work.
3. City workers also have to drive a number of hours - police and fire people? The further those people have to drive to their jobs the less effective they are. People who have to provide emergency response? Also need to live locally.
4. A desire to provide more local housing for seniors to they can free up their homes and still be local. That tower would have a small medical facility to address emergency issues. Units for seniors would be built with all of the senior needs for showers with seats, and a common area for community activity.
5. A tower for the high tech people coming in who can pay more and expect more amenities - a gym room, a common room for community gathering, etc.

Bottom line is you all know what is required because we all talk about it on a regular basis. Just do it.


Online Name
Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jan 11, 2020 at 2:02 pm
Online Name, Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jan 11, 2020 at 2:02 pm

Until the powers-that-be stop gutting low-income housing and replacing it with high-priced under-parked housing with NO affordable units like they just did in San Jose and Mountain View, stop telling us how this will make housing affordable, help the homeless, end gridlock and all the other fairy tales being spouted. Web Link

Since our "leaders" are creating more homeless by moves like this, I humbly suggest that this type of nonsense stop before the state spends close to $2,000,000,000 (billion) "ending homelessness" or so ABAG claims while they buy up MODERATELY priced homes oust the owners and build more costly buildings to "house" the homeless.

This is a bonanza for developers, less so for taxpayers and those needing affordable and BMR housing.


george drysdale
Professorville
on Jan 12, 2020 at 10:26 am
george drysdale, Professorville
on Jan 12, 2020 at 10:26 am

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