Around Town | February 24, 2012 | Palo Alto Weekly | Palo Alto Online |

Palo Alto Weekly

News - February 24, 2012

Around Town

CRYSTAL BALL? ... Predicting the future can be a fool's errand, but it's never too early to plan for it, particularly when the future involves dramatic demographical shifts. With that in mind, Palo Alto's Planning and Transportation Commission this week engaged in a wide-ranging discussion with the community to consider the trends and projections that the city will be grappling with in the decades to come. The Wednesday symposium, entitled "Future Palo Alto," included discussions of the city's land-use and transportation policies and its infrastructural needs. But there was one common theme that tied these subjects together: growth. Projections show the city's senior and school-age populations increasing and the average household size growing from 2.43 to 2.53 people over the next decade, said Commissioner Samir Tuma. Even if regional housing projections prove wildly exaggerated, growth is inevitable, he said. The city will need to build new housing and the school district will have to consider building a third high school and a fourth middle school. "The school system is the victim of its own success," Tuma said. "We're at a time when a lot of other school systems aren't doing as well as we are, and it's a magnet." Commissioner Arthur Keller noted that land-use policies are particularly critical in Palo Alto given the city's strong housing market. If the city relies on the market to dictate development, it will likely be saddled with more large multi-family developments. Commissioner Dan Garber pointed to Palo Alto's parking problems and said the city will have to focus on infrastructure that will help people to move around the city. He lauded the recent massive expansion of the Stanford University Medical Center, a project that included a host of traffic-impact mitigations including pedestrian and bicycle improvements and Caltrain passes for all hospital employees. "Mode share is the future of this community," Garber said.

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