News

Palo Alto asserts housing growth mandate is a recipe for 'failure'

City Council members consider housing target of over 10,000 units as an 'impossible' ask

The Arbor Real housing complex on El Camino Real is one of few areas in Palo Alto where a commercial site has been converted for residential use. Photo by Olivia Treynor.

Faced with a mandate to plan for 10,000 new housing units, Palo Alto officials vowed early Tuesday morning to lodge a protest, even as they acknowledged that their resistance will likely prove futile.

The City Council approved by a 6-1 vote, with Mayor Adrian Fine dissenting, a letter to the Association of the Bay Area Governments challenging its recently approved methodology for divvying up 441,176 housing units among the Bay Area's nine counties and 101 cities. The regional planning organization, whose executive board is made up of elected leaders from throughout the Bay Area, agreed last month to adopt what's known as "Option 8A," which focuses more housing on areas with jobs, transportation services and educational opportunities.

While the actual housing allocations won't be formally released until early 2021, the methodology is expected to present Palo Alto with one of the toughest assignments in the Bay Area. Because the city has jobs and transit services and because it's designated as a "high opportunity" zone based on economic, educational and environmental factors, it is being asked to grow by 36% over the eight-year period between 2023 and 2031, more than any other city in Santa Clara County.

More than half of these units would be designated for below-market rate, according to the projected numbers. This includes 2,573 housing units in the "very low" income category, 1,482 in the "low" income category, and 1,673 in the "moderate" category.

For most council members, this is an impossible ask. Over the past two years, the only major affordable-housing project that the city has approved was a 59-apartment complex known as Wilton Court, which required a subsidy of more than $10 million from the city. And while Palo Alto has struggled to barely meet its regional mandate for market-rate housing, it has fallen well off the mark when it comes to affordable housing — a problem that council members frequently acknowledge and vow to address.

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The new allocations also represent an exponential increase from the city's current housing target of 1,988 units in this eight-year Regional Housing Needs Allocation cycle.

But even as council members acknowledged Tuesday morning that they need to do more on affordable housing, the majority argued that the RHNA process is misguided and that the regional targets set Bay Area cities up for failure. Council member Eric Filseth called the projected allocation numbers "impossible" regardless of what type of zone changes the city undertakes, short of opening the Baylands for development.

"Intentionally or not, we're heading toward a sea change in how land use is done across the state of California," Filseth said. "Sacramento is giving out unreachable numbers and the remedies, when cities don't meet them, is to take over local zoning.

"It's a huge reworking on how California land use is done and it's going to apply to lots of cities across the state," he added.

Vice Mayor Tom DuBois said the problem isn't so much with the allocation method but with the total number of units that the Bay Area is required to plan for. The target of 441,176 units was determined by the state Department of Housing and Community Development (HCD), which assigns allocations to every region in California and then leaves it up to regional agencies like the Association of Bay Area Governments (ABAG) to determine the allocation for each city and county in its jurisdiction.

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The "zero sum" nature of the process means that the city's protests are unlikely to succeed. Any unit reductions that Palo Alto could potentially obtain would have to increase allocations in another Bay Area jurisdiction. And as recent meetings of the various ABAG boards and committees have indicated, other cities aren't too eager to absorb Palo Alto's numbers. While the various boards ultimately settled on Option 8A as a compromise, many local officials argued that Silicon Valley cities should get even higher housing allocations, commensurate with the high job growth that they have been promoting and experiencing over the past several decades.

In a letter that they approved early Tuesday morning, Palo Alto leaders are arguing that the total number of housing units in the regional allocation is far too high because allocations are based on projections in Plan Bay Area 2050, a long-range vision document, rather than on existing conditions. For Palo Alto and other cities in Santa Clara and San Mateo counties, the anticipated allocations would "result in the need to plan for a population growth equivalent to building a new small city in eight years within existing built-out jurisdictional boundaries."

If Palo Alto meets the regional targets, it would see its population go up by 23,000 residents over the eight-year period, or nearly 3,000 annually. This, the letter argues, would require "significant increases in municipal services, including more parkland, expanded public safety services, greater access to libraries and public schools and other services." The city is also requesting in its letter a "housing cap" that would limit the percentage of new housing units compared to the city's existing housing stock.

"Development at this scale and pace is not realistic and not feasible for a built-out community," the letter states. "A growth cap is necessary to ensure jurisdictions can reasonably plan for and produce more housing units."

While council members agreed Tuesday that they should challenge the methodology and ultimately appeal the numbers after they are formally released, they have little hope that their opposition will bear fruit. Over the course of ABAG's protracted methodology discussion, the city has submitted five comment letters challenging the agency's assumptions. Planning Director Jonathan Lait acknowledged that the letters have "not been terribly effective in influencing the steady march forward of the RHNA methodology process."

Resident Kelsey Banes, a housing advocate, said that the prospect of ABAG changing its methodology at this point is highly unlikely and urged the city not to challenge the baseline on which the numbers are based.

"The main things we look at is access to opportunity and jobs, and Palo Alto has both of those things," Banes said. "We don't really have a case to make in terms of why we shouldn't get homes here because this is a place that needs a lot more homes."

Others supported a more aggressive stance. Greg Schmid, an economist and former Palo Alto vice mayor, called the RHNA numbers for Palo Alto "overwhelming." They are also, he added, flawed because they concentrate housing in job areas and neglect to consider the impact of job dispersion.

While the council is pushing back on the allocation of housing to Palo Alto, several speakers and council members simultaneously criticized city staff for citing in their comment letter an analysis issued in September by the research group Embarcadero Institute, which is composed of Palo Alto residents who are aligned with slow-growth policies.

Council member Liz Kniss argued that the group's paper should not be included or cited in the city's complaint because the researchers are known to "have a particular philosophy." The group's board includes Greer Stone, a teacher who was elected to council earlier this month, former Planning and Transportation Commission member Asher Waldfogel and downtown resident Gabrielle Layton. Both Waldfogel and Layton have been major donors in recent council elections to candidates affiliated with the council's "residentialist" wing. Stone has also been loosely aligned with the slow-growth camp in both his recent council campaign and in his prior council bid in 2016.

The Embarcadero Institute alleged in its September report that the state Department of Housing and Community Development exaggerated the housing need in Southern California, the Bay Area and the Sacramento area by more than 900,000 units by "double counting." The document specifically challenges the state agency's determination that a 5% vacancy is considered healthy, a determination that helps drive up the housing projections. The Embarcadero Institute analysis argues that while a 5% rate is reasonable for rental properties, a more reasonable figure for owner-occupied housing would be 1.5%.

The paper also alleged that state agencies "double counted" factors pertaining to overcrowding and cost-burdening, further driving up numbers.

"The state's approach to determining the housing need must be defensible and reproducible if cities are to be held accountable," the Embarcadero Institute paper states. "Inaccuracies on this scale mask the fact that cities and counties are surpassing the state's market-rate housing targets but falling far short in meeting affordable housing targets. The inaccuracies obscure the real problem and the associated solution to the housing crisis — the funding of affordable housing."

Since its release, the Embarcadero Institute paper has become a political hot potato. Even as local officials in cities such as Palo Alto and Beverly Hills have cited it as evidence that state projections are flawed, numerous economists and academics have challenged the paper's assumptions and conclusions. Stephen Levy, an economist who has worked with HCD to develop projections, argued in his letter to the city that the 5% vacancy rate is the agency's "normal assumption for the total housing stock" and that the rate reflects "important state housing priorities in light of very large price and rent increases in recent years."

Levy also pushed back on the argument from Embarcadero Institute that the state agency double counted factors relating to overcrowding. The HCD's criteria in fact omits some overcrowding scenarios, such as when a young adult moves back with their parents.

Chris Elmendorf, a law professor at the University of California, Davis, also pushed back against the assertion in the Embarcadero Institute paper that the region's housing need should be equal to projected household growth, with a small vacancy adjustment.

"No 'conventional economist' would equate California's housing need with projected household growth," Elmendorf wrote in a series of tweets challenging the study.

The Embarcadero Institute study also proved contentious at Tuesday's discussion, with the council voting 4-3 along its usual political lines to exclude references to the report from the city's protest letter. DuBois, Filseth and Council member Lydia Kou all supported referencing the study in the city's letter; Fine, Kniss, Greg Tanaka and Alison Cormack voted for exclusion.

Fine characterized the report as "positional" and argued that it is based on the group's known opposition to new housing. He also voted against the letter, which will bear his signature despite his vote of dissent.

"We have all the tools at our disposal to being able to solve this problem, to meeting our own Comprehensive Plan goals, and this council is split on using that tool and extending it to a certain area to promote more housing," Fine said, alluding to the council's 4-3 vote earlier in the meeting to extend the "housing incentive program" — which gives density bonuses to housing developments — to a two-block stretch of San Antonio Road. "That's why other cities are not happy with us. That's why we are dark red on that map and getting one of the highest assignments in the entire Bay Area."

Despite the council majority's critique of the Embarcadero Institute analysis, most council members supported challenging the proposed numbers. DuBois called the projections "a dramatic increase" that is "really setting us up for failure."

"I'm not interested in shifting our allocation to other cities," DuBois said. "I'd rather see us align with other cities to ensure that the total is something that is achievable and makes sense.

He also suggested that the city should be prepared to support or join lawsuits that challenge the HCD housing allocation.

"Government can't be arbitrary and capricious," DuBois said. "We need numbers that are based on realistic assumptions. If we get numbers that are not achievable and those have repercussions on our ability to govern our city, then we have an obligation to defend ourselves and defend our city."

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Palo Alto asserts housing growth mandate is a recipe for 'failure'

City Council members consider housing target of over 10,000 units as an 'impossible' ask

by / Palo Alto Weekly

Uploaded: Wed, Nov 18, 2020, 3:59 pm

Faced with a mandate to plan for 10,000 new housing units, Palo Alto officials vowed early Tuesday morning to lodge a protest, even as they acknowledged that their resistance will likely prove futile.

The City Council approved by a 6-1 vote, with Mayor Adrian Fine dissenting, a letter to the Association of the Bay Area Governments challenging its recently approved methodology for divvying up 441,176 housing units among the Bay Area's nine counties and 101 cities. The regional planning organization, whose executive board is made up of elected leaders from throughout the Bay Area, agreed last month to adopt what's known as "Option 8A," which focuses more housing on areas with jobs, transportation services and educational opportunities.

While the actual housing allocations won't be formally released until early 2021, the methodology is expected to present Palo Alto with one of the toughest assignments in the Bay Area. Because the city has jobs and transit services and because it's designated as a "high opportunity" zone based on economic, educational and environmental factors, it is being asked to grow by 36% over the eight-year period between 2023 and 2031, more than any other city in Santa Clara County.

More than half of these units would be designated for below-market rate, according to the projected numbers. This includes 2,573 housing units in the "very low" income category, 1,482 in the "low" income category, and 1,673 in the "moderate" category.

For most council members, this is an impossible ask. Over the past two years, the only major affordable-housing project that the city has approved was a 59-apartment complex known as Wilton Court, which required a subsidy of more than $10 million from the city. And while Palo Alto has struggled to barely meet its regional mandate for market-rate housing, it has fallen well off the mark when it comes to affordable housing — a problem that council members frequently acknowledge and vow to address.

The new allocations also represent an exponential increase from the city's current housing target of 1,988 units in this eight-year Regional Housing Needs Allocation cycle.

But even as council members acknowledged Tuesday morning that they need to do more on affordable housing, the majority argued that the RHNA process is misguided and that the regional targets set Bay Area cities up for failure. Council member Eric Filseth called the projected allocation numbers "impossible" regardless of what type of zone changes the city undertakes, short of opening the Baylands for development.

"Intentionally or not, we're heading toward a sea change in how land use is done across the state of California," Filseth said. "Sacramento is giving out unreachable numbers and the remedies, when cities don't meet them, is to take over local zoning.

"It's a huge reworking on how California land use is done and it's going to apply to lots of cities across the state," he added.

Vice Mayor Tom DuBois said the problem isn't so much with the allocation method but with the total number of units that the Bay Area is required to plan for. The target of 441,176 units was determined by the state Department of Housing and Community Development (HCD), which assigns allocations to every region in California and then leaves it up to regional agencies like the Association of Bay Area Governments (ABAG) to determine the allocation for each city and county in its jurisdiction.

The "zero sum" nature of the process means that the city's protests are unlikely to succeed. Any unit reductions that Palo Alto could potentially obtain would have to increase allocations in another Bay Area jurisdiction. And as recent meetings of the various ABAG boards and committees have indicated, other cities aren't too eager to absorb Palo Alto's numbers. While the various boards ultimately settled on Option 8A as a compromise, many local officials argued that Silicon Valley cities should get even higher housing allocations, commensurate with the high job growth that they have been promoting and experiencing over the past several decades.

In a letter that they approved early Tuesday morning, Palo Alto leaders are arguing that the total number of housing units in the regional allocation is far too high because allocations are based on projections in Plan Bay Area 2050, a long-range vision document, rather than on existing conditions. For Palo Alto and other cities in Santa Clara and San Mateo counties, the anticipated allocations would "result in the need to plan for a population growth equivalent to building a new small city in eight years within existing built-out jurisdictional boundaries."

If Palo Alto meets the regional targets, it would see its population go up by 23,000 residents over the eight-year period, or nearly 3,000 annually. This, the letter argues, would require "significant increases in municipal services, including more parkland, expanded public safety services, greater access to libraries and public schools and other services." The city is also requesting in its letter a "housing cap" that would limit the percentage of new housing units compared to the city's existing housing stock.

"Development at this scale and pace is not realistic and not feasible for a built-out community," the letter states. "A growth cap is necessary to ensure jurisdictions can reasonably plan for and produce more housing units."

While council members agreed Tuesday that they should challenge the methodology and ultimately appeal the numbers after they are formally released, they have little hope that their opposition will bear fruit. Over the course of ABAG's protracted methodology discussion, the city has submitted five comment letters challenging the agency's assumptions. Planning Director Jonathan Lait acknowledged that the letters have "not been terribly effective in influencing the steady march forward of the RHNA methodology process."

Resident Kelsey Banes, a housing advocate, said that the prospect of ABAG changing its methodology at this point is highly unlikely and urged the city not to challenge the baseline on which the numbers are based.

"The main things we look at is access to opportunity and jobs, and Palo Alto has both of those things," Banes said. "We don't really have a case to make in terms of why we shouldn't get homes here because this is a place that needs a lot more homes."

Others supported a more aggressive stance. Greg Schmid, an economist and former Palo Alto vice mayor, called the RHNA numbers for Palo Alto "overwhelming." They are also, he added, flawed because they concentrate housing in job areas and neglect to consider the impact of job dispersion.

While the council is pushing back on the allocation of housing to Palo Alto, several speakers and council members simultaneously criticized city staff for citing in their comment letter an analysis issued in September by the research group Embarcadero Institute, which is composed of Palo Alto residents who are aligned with slow-growth policies.

Council member Liz Kniss argued that the group's paper should not be included or cited in the city's complaint because the researchers are known to "have a particular philosophy." The group's board includes Greer Stone, a teacher who was elected to council earlier this month, former Planning and Transportation Commission member Asher Waldfogel and downtown resident Gabrielle Layton. Both Waldfogel and Layton have been major donors in recent council elections to candidates affiliated with the council's "residentialist" wing. Stone has also been loosely aligned with the slow-growth camp in both his recent council campaign and in his prior council bid in 2016.

The Embarcadero Institute alleged in its September report that the state Department of Housing and Community Development exaggerated the housing need in Southern California, the Bay Area and the Sacramento area by more than 900,000 units by "double counting." The document specifically challenges the state agency's determination that a 5% vacancy is considered healthy, a determination that helps drive up the housing projections. The Embarcadero Institute analysis argues that while a 5% rate is reasonable for rental properties, a more reasonable figure for owner-occupied housing would be 1.5%.

The paper also alleged that state agencies "double counted" factors pertaining to overcrowding and cost-burdening, further driving up numbers.

"The state's approach to determining the housing need must be defensible and reproducible if cities are to be held accountable," the Embarcadero Institute paper states. "Inaccuracies on this scale mask the fact that cities and counties are surpassing the state's market-rate housing targets but falling far short in meeting affordable housing targets. The inaccuracies obscure the real problem and the associated solution to the housing crisis — the funding of affordable housing."

Since its release, the Embarcadero Institute paper has become a political hot potato. Even as local officials in cities such as Palo Alto and Beverly Hills have cited it as evidence that state projections are flawed, numerous economists and academics have challenged the paper's assumptions and conclusions. Stephen Levy, an economist who has worked with HCD to develop projections, argued in his letter to the city that the 5% vacancy rate is the agency's "normal assumption for the total housing stock" and that the rate reflects "important state housing priorities in light of very large price and rent increases in recent years."

Levy also pushed back on the argument from Embarcadero Institute that the state agency double counted factors relating to overcrowding. The HCD's criteria in fact omits some overcrowding scenarios, such as when a young adult moves back with their parents.

Chris Elmendorf, a law professor at the University of California, Davis, also pushed back against the assertion in the Embarcadero Institute paper that the region's housing need should be equal to projected household growth, with a small vacancy adjustment.

"No 'conventional economist' would equate California's housing need with projected household growth," Elmendorf wrote in a series of tweets challenging the study.

The Embarcadero Institute study also proved contentious at Tuesday's discussion, with the council voting 4-3 along its usual political lines to exclude references to the report from the city's protest letter. DuBois, Filseth and Council member Lydia Kou all supported referencing the study in the city's letter; Fine, Kniss, Greg Tanaka and Alison Cormack voted for exclusion.

Fine characterized the report as "positional" and argued that it is based on the group's known opposition to new housing. He also voted against the letter, which will bear his signature despite his vote of dissent.

"We have all the tools at our disposal to being able to solve this problem, to meeting our own Comprehensive Plan goals, and this council is split on using that tool and extending it to a certain area to promote more housing," Fine said, alluding to the council's 4-3 vote earlier in the meeting to extend the "housing incentive program" — which gives density bonuses to housing developments — to a two-block stretch of San Antonio Road. "That's why other cities are not happy with us. That's why we are dark red on that map and getting one of the highest assignments in the entire Bay Area."

Despite the council majority's critique of the Embarcadero Institute analysis, most council members supported challenging the proposed numbers. DuBois called the projections "a dramatic increase" that is "really setting us up for failure."

"I'm not interested in shifting our allocation to other cities," DuBois said. "I'd rather see us align with other cities to ensure that the total is something that is achievable and makes sense.

He also suggested that the city should be prepared to support or join lawsuits that challenge the HCD housing allocation.

"Government can't be arbitrary and capricious," DuBois said. "We need numbers that are based on realistic assumptions. If we get numbers that are not achievable and those have repercussions on our ability to govern our city, then we have an obligation to defend ourselves and defend our city."

Comments

Pat Markevitch
Registered user
Downtown North
on Nov 18, 2020 at 4:18 pm
Pat Markevitch, Downtown North
Registered user
on Nov 18, 2020 at 4:18 pm
66 people like this

ABAG is not even taking into account the effects of the pandemic and how a large portion of high tech workers are working form home. This means that they can basically live anywhere in the country and still "dial in" to work. ABAG needs to pump the brakes on these allocations until the world settles down and we can see how everything plays out. My opinion is that if any housing is built in Palo Alto it needs to be BMR housing. I would also look into rent control on any ADU units that are built in Palo Alto.


Online Name
Registered user
Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Nov 18, 2020 at 5:07 pm
Online Name, Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
Registered user
on Nov 18, 2020 at 5:07 pm
73 people like this

Pat is absolutely right that the targets shouldn't be adopted during a pandemic where people are working remotely, where moving vans are booked months in advance to get out of here and rents are tanking.

It's amusing to see the shills continue to ignore reality about where the jobs will really be while they continue their push for more offices and car-light fantasies. Will they support making the EMPLOYERS bear the costs of THEIR growth? Of course not. That's not what they incentivized to do.

Palo Alto should just say no to these absurd numbers and join with the all the other communities opposing them.


YP
Registered user
Crescent Park
on Nov 18, 2020 at 6:28 pm
YP, Crescent Park
Registered user
on Nov 18, 2020 at 6:28 pm
27 people like this

Hah Hah, the liberals that run California that decry unaffordable housing, inequality, social injustice..... but wait you mean we have to build housing in our city to help fight those issues...

no!!!!!!
Look up definition of hypocrites in the dictionary, there will be a picture of our local California officials next to it


Ruinous and Irrational
Registered user
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 18, 2020 at 9:33 pm
Ruinous and Irrational , Another Palo Alto neighborhood
Registered user
on Nov 18, 2020 at 9:33 pm
63 people like this

Since Kelsey Banes is cheerleading for this forced unfunded mandate to add 10,000 units of housing to the 27,500 we already have that will bring about 22,000 more people here within 10 years, I have a question for her -

Will she conjure up the land needed and pay for more school’s, parks, libraries, etc., or does she just advocate with no concern for these consequences?

This amount of housing and people will overwhelm Palo Alto’s ability to plan, finance and accommodate. It’s a fact not a political view. It’s also a fact that our town will be worse off if this happens.



Alex
Registered user
Barron Park
on Nov 19, 2020 at 6:13 am
Alex, Barron Park
Registered user
on Nov 19, 2020 at 6:13 am
14 people like this

I have no sympathy. This is what the city gets when they drop the ball on housing year after year after year. This is just those residentialist clowns reaping what they sowed. Actions (or lack thereof) have consequences!


Resident 1-Adobe Meadows
Registered user
Adobe-Meadow
on Nov 19, 2020 at 8:17 am
Resident 1-Adobe Meadows, Adobe-Meadow
Registered user
on Nov 19, 2020 at 8:17 am
28 people like this

Kelsey Banes is noted as an "advocate". Who is she - what are her qualifications to be an "advocate". WE recognize the people in this article who are elected officials of the city - past, present and future. Please give your press attention to those people who are recognizable to most city residents and have the authority to make decisions concerning the outcome.

What we have seen of late is people who assign themselves the "activist" role who come from other locations, pop into the city and make a lot of noise assigning themselves as experts. And worse - the press gives them all types of space with no verification concerning who they are, their credentials, and their history concerning these topics.

Reality is that "advocates" have no funding, no valid projections of impact of any idea. They are just making noise.

We have elections coming up in two years and the programs that are being pushed now will be used to eliminate the current management of this state. Buckle up for the ride. And make no concessions to advocates who have no established authority.


Lee Forrest
Registered user
Crescent Park
on Nov 19, 2020 at 10:01 am
Lee Forrest, Crescent Park
Registered user
on Nov 19, 2020 at 10:01 am
38 people like this

>"the anticipated allocations would "result in the need to plan for a population growth equivalent to building a new small city in eight years within existing built-out jurisdictional boundaries."

>"If Palo Alto meets the regional targets, it would see its population go up by 23,000 residents over the eight-year period, or nearly 3,000 annually."

^ To pacify both Palo Alto NIMBYs & housing advocates, why not just create a new & different town...the area/region roughly south of Page Mill Road (including Barron Park & Ventura) all the way down to the Mountain View border at San Antonio Road?

This area bears no semblance to the more 'traditional' sections of Palo Alto with its ubiquitous commercial zoning, proliferation of apartment complexes & new housing developments.

Even the county-subsidized trailer park is not reflective of Palo Alto.

And besides...given its proximity & ease of access to downtown Palo Alto & California Avenue, property values property values would still remain on the higher side as compared to other less desirable neighborhoods in Santa Clara Valley.

Secession or enforced secession has it benefits.


Resident 1-Adobe Meadows
Registered user
Adobe-Meadow
on Nov 19, 2020 at 11:13 am
Resident 1-Adobe Meadows, Adobe-Meadow
Registered user
on Nov 19, 2020 at 11:13 am
3 people like this

Back in the day the city of Palo Alto did not include California Avenue - then known as Mayfield. Mayfield was annexed to Palo Alto as it was the shopping extension of college terrace. Stanford Research Park is in part south of Page Mill Road. Creating a "city" map that includes the California and SRP properties, and then excluding the remaining property to some other "city" is a problem - back in the day Ford Aerospace / SSL/ Oshman / JCC in the San Antonio/Fabien section were major tax payers to the city. If you cut the city at Oregon you are eliminating the "business" section of the city and tying the city to SU as the single focus point of the city. Of late we know how that has gone - SU has carved out their section and protects their investment in that section.


Lee Forrest
Registered user
Crescent Park
on Nov 19, 2020 at 11:20 am
Lee Forrest, Crescent Park
Registered user
on Nov 19, 2020 at 11:20 am
21 people like this

>"If you cut the city at Oregon you are eliminating the "business" section of the city and tying the city to SU as the single focus point of the city."

^ This is true, in which case there is no choice but to accept the southernmost section of Palo Alto for what is is...overdeveloped, mundane, overly congested & not reflective of the older & more traditional residential areas of Palo Alto.


Gary G.
Registered user
Palo Alto Hills
on Nov 19, 2020 at 11:27 am
Gary G., Palo Alto Hills
Registered user
on Nov 19, 2020 at 11:27 am
5 people like this

I live on Skyline Boulevard. My property can support additional housing for two college students/research assistance who might want to live in the Open Space and work at Stanford. Pagemill can easily support that increase in traffic, utilization of the road is at about 5% of maximal capacity. The key is the relationships. A beautiful community is more than just homes and temporary visitors, and must embody the pride of social contribution and association that occurs with homesteading. That's the American Dream, a dream of belonging.


Here SInce 1979
Registered user
Green Acres
on Nov 19, 2020 at 12:13 pm
Here SInce 1979, Green Acres
Registered user
on Nov 19, 2020 at 12:13 pm
31 people like this

I once again ask: where will the water come from? I have lived through 3 major droughts and it was tough. Water resources are finite. We can't build our way past that given. I understand we need to build the economy, have bmr housing etc., but we can't make water. In the last drought we had contracts with other states to buy water. However, they reneged because they were in a bind too.

There a lot of millionaires in PA, we don't need more from developers joining their ranks. We need sane water protections.


Barron Parker Too
Registered user
Barron Park
on Nov 19, 2020 at 12:26 pm
Barron Parker Too, Barron Park
Registered user
on Nov 19, 2020 at 12:26 pm
13 people like this

I think Lee Forrest's idea is brilliant. As he says, our little, slightly rural, friendly community of walkers, donkeys and bikers, known as Barron Park, is "overdeveloped, mundane, overly congested & not reflective of the older & more traditional residential areas of Palo Alto". Wow, he hit it on the nail!

Unlike areas, such as Crescent Park, where Forrest lives.

So yeah, someone has to step up and say that our slightly rural part of town is already wrecked as a nice place to live, so let's face the carnage and step up to the challenge.

Let's preempt the preemption of local governance by SB 50 (you know this is all about Senate Bill 50, right?), and let's embrace ABAG's 5 story apartments in a one-half mile wide strip along El Camino. If it becomes too ugly and embarrassing for the rest of our fair city, they can kick out Barron Park and Barron Park could henceforth be the great blighted urban landscape to be called South Palo Alto.


Time to sue the Sacramento government
Registered user
Downtown North
on Nov 19, 2020 at 2:10 pm
Time to sue the Sacramento government, Downtown North
Registered user
on Nov 19, 2020 at 2:10 pm
28 people like this

It is past time for local cities throughout California to band together to sue the state of California to settle the matter of which entity can determine zoning and growth in individual cities and counties. Human overpopulation is driving worsening pollution, climate change and mass extinction and is making quality of life issues untenable for people living here.

Residents of individual cities need to be able to establish growth limits and boundaries. It is unreasonable to imagine that human growth can continue uncheck forever. These mandates that come from unelected boards but are broadly supported by the state need to be stopped and most like only a court case that establishes who gets to decide these questions will be needed.

Let's start saving city monies to pay for all the lawyers that will be needed or have some lawyers who live in the city volunteer to start to review what is needed to win back local control of our zoning and development.


Lee Forrest
Registered user
Crescent Park
on Nov 19, 2020 at 2:58 pm
Lee Forrest, Crescent Park
Registered user
on Nov 19, 2020 at 2:58 pm
31 people like this

>"So yeah, someone has to step up and say that our slightly rural part of town is already wrecked as a nice place to live, so let's face the carnage and step up to the challenge...If it becomes too ugly and embarrassing for the rest of our fair city, they can kick out Barron Park and Barron Park could henceforth be the great blighted urban landscape to be called South Palo Alto."

@Barron Parker Too...
^ Having grown up in Palo Alto, I recall the days when Barron Park was still an unincorporated area with specialty restaurants along ECR (i.e. Ming's, Rudolpho's, L'Omellete, Big Al's Pizza, Horky's Mexican Restaurant, Rickey's etc.)...not to mention a number of specialty stores like Peninsula Honda (motorcycles), Yamaha Peninsula (pianos & early Sony products), The Old Barrel (liquors) and a bit later, the original Gryphon Stringed Instruments (vintage & new Martin guitars) both of whom were on ECR Way.

It was a noteworthy Palo Alto dining & shopping region of its own...not the 'mundane' area it has now become.

And yes, residential Barron Park was reminiscent of older Los Altos in many ways.

Blame the PACC & Planning Department for ruining/destroying the original 'down to earth' nature of South Palo Alto but the question remains...what can be done to prevent things from becoming even WORSE?

Demolish all of the new tacky-looking housing developments that are spreading like wildfire?

All things considered, you folks still have a Palo Alto zip code so all is not lost.




A resident of Barron Park
Registered user
Barron Park
on Nov 19, 2020 at 3:54 pm
A resident of Barron Park, Barron Park
Registered user
on Nov 19, 2020 at 3:54 pm
14 people like this

Lee Forest, did I understand correctly that you, while sitting up there in your "exclusive" Crescent Park, are proposing that all that excessive development that ABAG is trying to push down our throat, will be dumped into the south Palo Alto area? It's already crowded and congested, so us lesser beings will not notice the difference?

If the R1, R15 etc in South Palo Alto is converted to PC and more zoning to support this abomination, there is nothing sacred about the more exclusive neighborhoods in Palo Alto. There is no law of nature that should prevent building a large multi story apartment building in your backyard. The burden should be shared equally by all neighborhoods in Palo Alto, yes even your little corner of heaven.


Lee Forrest
Registered user
Crescent Park
on Nov 19, 2020 at 4:49 pm
Lee Forrest, Crescent Park
Registered user
on Nov 19, 2020 at 4:49 pm
15 people like this

>"Lee Forest, did I understand correctly that you, while sitting up there in your "exclusive" Crescent Park, are proposing that all that excessive development that ABAG is trying to push down our throat, will be dumped into the south Palo Alto area?"

^ IMO...there should no further ABAG (or other) sanctioned housing development in the South Palo Alto/Barron Park area as residential quality of life issues & concerns have already been severley compromised due to increased traffic gridlock, growing population & questionable architectural designs to accommodate 'low cost' housing demands.

> "...there is nothing sacred about the more exclusive neighborhoods in Palo Alto."

^ Concurring...just higher property taxes.

>"There is no law of nature that should prevent building a large multi story apartment building in your backyard. The burden should be shared equally by all neighborhoods in Palo Alto, yes even your little corner of heaven."

^ I imagine there would be some resistance among Crescent Park residents regarding backyard apartments but few would sell their properties to developer interests. Besides such an endeavor would probably require multiple properties/tracts adjacent to one another.

I probably won't be around for any potential 'rage in heaven' as we are planning to relocate & already have a buyer-in-waiting.

Life in Palo Alto has gotten too complex.


Annette
Registered user
College Terrace
on Nov 19, 2020 at 11:08 pm
Annette, College Terrace
Registered user
on Nov 19, 2020 at 11:08 pm
20 people like this

Time to disband ABAG, or at least its say about housing. Unrealistic, impossible demands that ignore reality, particularly infrastructure reality, waste everyone's time, create impasses, and fail to move the needle on the housing conundrum. Not to mention the most serious shortfall: affordable housing.

Covid is replete with lessons, and one is that remote work is feasible. In fact, it has Silicon Valley walking its talk and using technology to facilitate remote work. Yet, ABAG appears stuck in a pre-Covid mindset. How helpful is that?


Amie
Registered user
Downtown North
on Nov 19, 2020 at 11:24 pm
Amie, Downtown North
Registered user
on Nov 19, 2020 at 11:24 pm
9 people like this

Mountain View has 5,000 units planned JUST for the East Whisman area alone. It isn't impossible for PA to build 10,000 units, merely a failure of vision and creativity.


Resident 1-Adobe Meadows
Registered user
Adobe-Meadow
on Nov 19, 2020 at 11:39 pm
Resident 1-Adobe Meadows, Adobe-Meadow
Registered user
on Nov 19, 2020 at 11:39 pm
4 people like this

WOW - crazy discussion. I think of moving every day. But most of the places I would like to move to have had great fires. But thank you Lee - you have provided the rationale by which we can exclude additional building in the area south of Oregon. Since the city hall is north of Oregon then circling the city hall with new housing would work - it meets the qualifications imposed by the state.

One thing to do is upgrade el Camino from Oregon down to Charleston. That whole line of one story buildings which are so old they will fall down in an earthquake need to go.

And yes - life in PA is getting weird. All type of people put their focus on coming to this city and changing it. Why do we have such a high ABAG number? All types with no relation to this city just pop in with their agendas.


Resident 1-Adobe Meadows
Registered user
Adobe-Meadow
on Nov 19, 2020 at 11:54 pm
Resident 1-Adobe Meadows, Adobe-Meadow
Registered user
on Nov 19, 2020 at 11:54 pm
4 people like this

One friend who had a great house in Saratoga and lots of parties also got tired of it all, sold it in two weeks and bought a house down the coast near Aptos in a great location on the beach. Santa Clara County has some very weird problems. Change counties. That changes some of the politics.


Citizen PA
Registered user
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 20, 2020 at 1:55 am
Citizen PA, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
Registered user
on Nov 20, 2020 at 1:55 am
22 people like this

Just driving up El Camino today, not during rush hour, even during the pandemic with stay at home orders, the traffic was terrible (albeit so much better than before the pandemic when it was wall to wall all day).

Pushing for this kind of overdevelopment before the pandemic was already unreasonable. The answer to the housing problem always was finding a way to deal with the demand side -- the propensity of tech companies for all crowding together in one place -- and getting them to better distribute their workforces. The pandemic has done that for them. All people seek quality of life, and cramming in more housing where we just don't have the infrastructure is going to make disruptions like that much, much worse. I highly doubt most of those who resettle elsewhere for the quality of life will come back. Companies are likely to naturally redistribute anyway, and if they don't, government should be involved in facilitating THAT, not in trying to force major unfunded mandates and destructive land use changes that will never ever result in the Polyannish goals.

I do think office space should be encouraged to convert to housing. But this is a drought and disaster prone part of the world. Our own disaster czar has said the density we already have will cause loss of life in a disaster. No one from the state is really minding the store on this.

The pandemic started a process we should have pushed for a long time ago, which is to get our government to deal with the bigger issue of investing in more communities so that workforces can be better distributed across the state and nation.


Resident 1-Adobe Meadows
Registered user
Adobe-Meadow
on Nov 20, 2020 at 7:39 am
Resident 1-Adobe Meadows, Adobe-Meadow
Registered user
on Nov 20, 2020 at 7:39 am
8 people like this

Amie - Mountain View has open land and access to Moffat Field. However that location is in a clean-up of toxic waste which has sunk into the underground sewer systems. The Navy and EPA are working those problems but it is slow going. In PA there have also been issues with toxic sites. The fact that you see "open land' does not mean all of that open land is suitable for housing.

If you are living here now and can already see the problems then why are you looking to exacerbate the problems? People come here then try and change it.

The Silicon Valley companies need to start building more facilities in the east CA locations. FB has bought property in the east bay. A company I worked for looked at moving major facilities to the Pleasanton area where a lot of new housing has been built. But due to tax issues decided that it was more advantageous to move out of state. Companies look at how much it costs to be in an area that they can trade for a different lower cost area.

SU is moving more facility space up to RWC - San Mateo County. Check it out - all new buildings in the location between Veteran and El Camino around the shopping center and Caltrain.


Citizen PA
Registered user
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 20, 2020 at 8:44 am
Citizen PA, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
Registered user
on Nov 20, 2020 at 8:44 am
3 people like this

@Time to Sue,
Isn't there a proposition that passed that requires the state to pay for mandates (no unfunded mandates)? Make them pay for the existing mandates.

You have the right idea, but I've found that unless you yourself back it up with action, nothing will happen. The person who gets the ball rolling in the first place is the heaviest lifting. Once going, it's much easier. Then you have a bandwagon.


Resident 1-Adobe Meadows
Registered user
Adobe-Meadow
on Nov 20, 2020 at 9:19 am
Resident 1-Adobe Meadows, Adobe-Meadow
Registered user
on Nov 20, 2020 at 9:19 am
7 people like this

In the SFC today - 11/20 - "Audit says billions in housing bonds lost." State Auditor Elaine Howle is on the job and discovered that $2.7 billion in potential bond funds was not used and is now lost. The systems that demand housing are disconnected from the agencies that have the money with no communication between the two. Billions of dollars get "lost' in the CA government systems.

So the requirement for cities is to have knowledgeable, experienced people who can track bond dollars available against their potential projects. I see the problem in CA in part is hiring people to satisfy a quota vs hiring people who are experienced in the job they are going to do. This state hypes high level topics to make good press then can't hire the right people to do the jobs.


J94306
Registered user
Barron Park
on Nov 20, 2020 at 9:27 am
J94306, Barron Park
Registered user
on Nov 20, 2020 at 9:27 am
8 people like this

What is the penalty of ignoring these growth mandates from other organizations and doing what we feel is best for our city?


Online Name
Registered user
Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Nov 20, 2020 at 9:59 am
Online Name, Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
Registered user
on Nov 20, 2020 at 9:59 am
12 people like this

Why not put all of the required new housing on Stanford property and in the parking lots of the big companies who no longer need those huge lots since noi one needs cars and they tell us all their new employees aren't generating a single new car trip?

Seriously, look at the literally HUNDREDS of millions of dollars spent during the last election to ensure those companies aren't paying their fair share by lobbying against paying gig workers benefits, to oppose paying the HIB visa contractors the same as US workers WHILE pushing to double the number of same.

Why are WE paying to house THEIR employees while sacrificing our quality of life?

Watch what's happening in San Jose and the Shark's fight AGAINST yet more Google and office developments which are pushing them out. When is enough enough? The roads are gridlocked even in a pandemic. There's no water, fire danger etc.


Resident 1-Adobe Meadows
Registered user
Adobe-Meadow
on Nov 20, 2020 at 3:59 pm
Resident 1-Adobe Meadows, Adobe-Meadow
Registered user
on Nov 20, 2020 at 3:59 pm
5 people like this

The Sharks are extremely popular and have well attended events. The fact that sports organizations pay big bucks to locate their teams and then can be pushed out by Google is truly bizarre. The city of San Jose gets good revenue from the Sharks so why do they allow this to happen? Is there no planning in that city? Is it out of control? All the more reason to hold fast here and not allow who ever to come in and take our quality of life away.

Santa Clara is having big trouble with the AT&T park with the team arguing over how much rent is owed, noise and time of events, etc. They even pushed their own candidates for city council and mayor.

Oakland is arguing with the Warriors on payment of bond issues going back in time for the Oakland stadium.

What a JOY. And no one can go to any games anyway. Time to recalibrate why sports organizations can come in, take over large pieces of land, then up and go somewhere else.

I have been to Petco Park in San Diego, that location actually works, all of the restaurants and bars benefit.


StarSpring
Registered user
Adobe-Meadow
on Nov 20, 2020 at 4:12 pm
StarSpring, Adobe-Meadow
Registered user
on Nov 20, 2020 at 4:12 pm
16 people like this

People don't work where they live. All of my professional life I have lived in either Mountain View or Palo Alto and not once have I worked in either city.

Evict Google and Facebook, they don't need the office space, and build housing there if you must. Easy access to the freeway, Less traffic in Palo Alto and Mountain View proper. Make it ALL BMR. Make ABAG pay for a desalination plant in the South Bay.

Problem solved.


Lee Forrest
Registered user
Crescent Park
on Nov 20, 2020 at 4:40 pm
Lee Forrest, Crescent Park
Registered user
on Nov 20, 2020 at 4:40 pm
13 people like this

>"The Sharks are extremely popular and have well attended events. The fact that sports organizations pay big bucks to locate their teams and then can be pushed out by Google is truly bizarre. The city of San Jose gets good revenue from the Sharks so why do they allow this to happen?"

^ It's called 'redevelopment'. San Jose wants to refurbish the surrounding area of the arena & 'gentrify' it.

>"Santa Clara is having big trouble with the AT&T park with the team arguing over how much rent is owed, noise and time of events, etc. They even pushed their own candidates for city council and mayor."

^ Santa Clara wanted the 'prestige' of having a professional sports franchise in their fair city & it came back to bite them in the ass. And all things considered, Levi's Stadium is a lousy place to watch an NFL game.

>"Evict Google and Facebook,"

^ Sounds good to me.


Annette
Registered user
College Terrace
on Nov 21, 2020 at 10:37 am
Annette, College Terrace
Registered user
on Nov 21, 2020 at 10:37 am
17 people like this

Various pro-growth City Councils facilitated the evolution of Palo Alto's jobs rich, housing poor reality. The social impact of this is pretty awful: housing insecurity for many, extremely limited housing opportunities for people with community-serving jobs, loss of retail, loss of diversity, infrastructure deficiencies, and now this "solution" that completely ignores reality, overlooks the enormous impact of Covid, and continues to give short-shrift to affordability.

Some of the same people who helped create the jobs:housing imbalance that put Palo Alto in this bind are part of ABAG or weighing in in support of the mandate. Said differently, the problem makers now want us to believe that they have the smarts to be the problem solvers. That is pretty darn audacious, particularly since we aren't adequately meeting the needs of our current population. For instance, the PAFD is under-staffed. I don't have the answers but there are some good suggestions and comments of concern noted in many of the above posts and posts following other articles about this. I think it would be prudent for Palo Alto and other cities in this region to pause on all but affordable housing for at least a year so that Covid's true impact can be assessed.

Remember the expression: what if they had a war and no one came? Well, what if we followed this mandate, densified Palo Alto, increased infrastructure deficiencies, and the current vacancy rate continued? I don't think it possible for the "experts" at ABAG or in any other group to know what future housing needs will be until after Covid is under control.


Lee Forrest
Registered user
Crescent Park
on Nov 21, 2020 at 10:55 am
Lee Forrest, Crescent Park
Registered user
on Nov 21, 2020 at 10:55 am
32 people like this

What I don't get...

Since when did it become a citizen's RIGHT to live in Palo Alto even though one cannot afford to do so?

Does erecting Legoland highrise dwellings all over the southernmost section of town resolve the issue of economically systemic housing discrimination?

Back in the day, people bought 'starter homes' in OTHER areas & upgraded accordingly based on their income & affordability factors.

Things have changed...now it appears that countless Millennial wannabe PA residents are seeking to 'move on up' to their preferred locales of residency without starting from the bottom first...and they don't seem to mind or care about living like rats.


Online Name
Registered user
Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Nov 21, 2020 at 11:24 am
Online Name, Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
Registered user
on Nov 21, 2020 at 11:24 am
13 people like this

@Annette, absolutely. And just this week, business groups forced the MTC to drop work-from-home plans at a time when they're STILL dramatically increasing hiring BECAUSE "it would decimate transit ridership." (Who knew THAT's one of the reasons we should sit in gridlock!) Web Link

"...the problem makers now want us to believe that they have the smarts to be the problem solvers." Read the details he SJ Mercury article on the Leaders" plans that include everything from taking away personal desks so they can pack in more people.

Your tax dollars at work.


Online Name
Registered user
Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Nov 21, 2020 at 11:37 am
Online Name, Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
Registered user
on Nov 21, 2020 at 11:37 am
21 people like this

"Millennial wannabe PA residents are seeking to 'move on up' to their preferred locales of residency without starting from the bottom first...and they don't seem to mind or care about living like rats."

Until they have kids. Or wake up to the density problems related to pandemics like covid? All the articles on real estate trends claim people are looking for more remote bigger spaces and that sales of small, dense condos and apartments are falling.

Re company housing, what happens when they change jobs? Do they get kicked out of their Google/Facebook "village" housing?


Annette
Registered user
College Terrace
on Nov 21, 2020 at 1:34 pm
Annette, College Terrace
Registered user
on Nov 21, 2020 at 1:34 pm
17 people like this

Online Name's comment, "until they have kids" makes a good point: the stack-and-pack, dorm-like housing appeals to a limited demographic for a limited period of life. Are the planners assuming that there will always be churn and the 10,000 units that will forever alter Palo Alto's built environment will always be in demand? Per the news, people are abandoning dense housing in favor of single family homes, privacy, and space. Are we to ignore that phenomenon? Dismiss it as fake news?

Covid has redefined our lives in myriad ways, including housing. How about paying attention to that, ABAG?


Lee Forrest
Registered user
Crescent Park
on Nov 22, 2020 at 8:30 am
Lee Forrest, Crescent Park
Registered user
on Nov 22, 2020 at 8:30 am
23 people like this

>"...the stack-and-pack, dorm-like housing appeals to a limited demographic for a limited period of life."

>"Are the planners assuming that there will always be churn and the 10,000 units that will forever alter Palo Alto's built environment will always be in demand?"

^ Chances are the 'planners' are oblivious to a future scenario when the younger generation either opts to relocate or move on to larger properties.

And so with thousands of vacant, high-rise units eventually becoming more readily available (with decreasing demand), the county could then intervene via subsidized housing for extremely low income applicants of diversity & presto...there will now be 'projects' in south Palo Alto to pacify ABAG, bleeding-heart liberals, & anti-systemic poverty advocates.

In which case, South Palo Alto could become a distinct district all it's own & potentially non-reflective of Palo Alto in general.

If these changes are on the horizon, it might be a good time to consider selling & getting the hell out of Dodge...before property values decrease & no one wants to reside there except for the aforementioned project dwellers.






Resident 1-Adobe Meadows
Registered user
Adobe-Meadow
on Nov 22, 2020 at 5:16 pm
Resident 1-Adobe Meadows, Adobe-Meadow
Registered user
on Nov 22, 2020 at 5:16 pm
2 people like this

The extensive Eichler properties are in South PA. These are designated as heritage neighborhoods. No one is racking and stacking on these properties. Given that the majority of the house is glass the backyard then becomes an extension of the total house. If done well then it is a pleasure both day and night. Any house anywhere needs maintenance and if not done well just means a person has a bigger house to fix up. And if bigger property then more work to landscape and light up at night. Bigger does not mean better.

If you look at the real estate ads of properties in Woodside, etc you are looking at houses that are surrounded by trees which in today's world means high fire content. And people are selling those homes because they know they are vulnerable.

During the power shut offs this area was okay. That is an advantage. So are you herding everyone out of South PA? A lot of big homes going in now -tearing down the one stories and building new two stories. Lots of turnover. Lot of opportunities.


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