Editorial: Next steps with Maybell | November 8, 2013 | Palo Alto Weekly | Palo Alto Online |

Palo Alto Weekly

Spectrum - November 8, 2013

Editorial: Next steps with Maybell

Searching for meaning in decisive defeat of Measure D

In a stunning rejection of the City Council's judgment and approval of a complex zoning change so a senior housing project could be built in Barron Park, Palo Alto voters decided by a large margin Tuesday it was time to hit the reset button.

The outcome stemmed from the convergence of two motivated sets of voters: one group that believes the specific proposal is flawed and unfair to the neighborhood, and another group that at a broader level is unhappy with the City Council's handling of development proposals, zoning, traffic congestion and parking issues.

The Palo Alto Housing Corporation, a nonprofit that has consistently enjoyed strong support from city councils and the community, chose to run an expensive mail campaign that attempted to deflect the concerns of both of these groups and instead focus on the underlying value of their project: providing affordable senior housing. It followed the lead of Mayor Greg Scharff, who inadvisedly and unsuccessfully tried to cast Measure D simply about the community's support for low-income seniors.

But the issue for most Palo Altans was never whether creating affordable housing for seniors was a good or bad idea, but who should pay what price — financial and otherwise — for building that housing.

For the measure to be successful and the project approved, voters needed to be persuaded that the project was the best that was possible, better than the alternative and that it respected the neighborhood. The "Yes on D" campaign failed at all three, as did the City Council.

It is unprecedented for voters to reject a unanimous action of the City Council in a referendum — by a 12-point margin no less — and the repercussions will surely extend to next fall's council race. The election outcome's message was neither subtle nor trivial; Palo Altans are not happy with how their elected officials and city staff are addressing development of all kinds in the community. Unfortunately for the Housing Corporation, this project and ballot measure became a focal point for that discontent.

How the City Council responds to Measure D's defeat is now a critical test of its leadership, and of its commitment to salvaging a senior housing project out of this train wreck.

We hope the Housing Corporation does not abandon hope that a viable project is still possible, and will give the city a chance to quickly bring forth a plan for working with the neighborhood to address traffic, parking and the number and size of the market-rate homes. In spite of all the other concerns that have been thrown out during the campaign by opponents, these are the key issues around which a way forward can be found.

For its part, the City Council should immediately form an ad hoc committee of Council members to work with its staff, neighbors and the Housing Corporation to explore the possible outlines of a modified project that adds parking and reduces the number of market-rate homes, and require them to conform to R-2 zoning and building limitations, conduct a new traffic study and develop a traffic-mitigation plan that reflects the current and expected future problems.

To give the Housing Corporation some confidence that a successful alternative plan is financially possible, the City Council needs to agree conceptually that the city is open to funding any "gap" due to the Housing Corporation reducing the density of the market-rate portion of the development. The effect of this would be to shift some of the responsibility for making this project work to the city as a whole, rather than impose the entire cost on the neighborhood.

All of this will be futile, however, if the city planning staff cannot produce alternative plot plans that show the various ways the property could be developed by a for-profit developer under the current zoning. Only with that information will neighbors, the broader community and the City Council be able to clearly see the value of reaching agreement on a project similar to what was proposed by the Housing Corporation. It should have been done months ago, but it is essential if there is hope for a compromise.

Finally, the Housing Corporation must be much more transparent about its financial plan. It is not enough to state that the plan approved by the City Council is its bottom line in terms of financial feasibility. Share the projections that led to that conclusion, and the analyses that show what the funding gap might be if the development was scaled back in different ways.

For their part, Measure D opponents must now hit their own reset button, put aside the campaign rhetoric and show their interest in working quickly to forge a compromise. The Housing Corporation cannot remain in limbo for long with this property and needs strong indications that the neighborhood is serious about a compromise to avoid what all can agree is the worst outcome: sale to a private, for-profit real-estate developer.


Posted by Thanks Weekly!, a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Nov 8, 2013 at 10:11 am

Thanks for the spin. Good to know that the Weekly wasn't wrong to be against the project because you can now conjure up literally out of thin air some kind of fantasy theory of how there can still be affordable housing on that site. Regrettably, your editorial is utterly disconnected from reality. Though it is long on lecturing tone, it is short on actual numbers, dates, or understanding of the specifics of financing a project like this. You just wave the magic wand of "the City should do it" and all the exigencies of state and federal subsidies, grants, loans, interest payments and the like vanish into the haze of feel-good "citizen empowerment." This isn't a new thing, by the way. Citizen empowerment over housing has a history and trajectory: Web Link

How much money should the City give? You advocate for literally a blank check ("he City Council needs to agree conceptually that the city is open to funding any "gap" due to the Housing Corporation reducing the density of the market-rate portion of the development."). Yes, that is the word "any" in that sentence. Should the city do a bond issue? And should it take on the servicing on PAHC's debt during the interim period? Should it forgive the loan it made? [Portion removed.]

The Weekly made a mistake. It should not have urged voters to vote against D by assuring them that that was the path to getting affordable housing. You had no basis whatsoever for that belief and it was misleading. Hope is not a strategy. Now that PAHC is selling the land, you urge that the City should promise to pay "any" amount, signt unseen, today, no matter what, to fix the mistake. Why? To ensure that your promise wasn't false? Weekly you care about the community but you blew this big time. The Mercury News got it right and you were wrong.

Posted by Floyd, a resident of Downtown North
on Nov 8, 2013 at 11:17 am

(prior 55 year resident of GreenacresI)
In 1980 the city made a backroom deal with the JCC for the Terman site. GreenacresI, Barron Park and others objected. It resulted in the forming of the Terman Working Group. after a year of weekly meetings a compromise was reached.
When the area between the GreenacresI neighborhood was scheduled (again with little input from residents) a massive apartment condo development was being planned but a developer stepped in and offered to construct single family homes instead. The then city council wisely rejected the Manhattanization in favor of single family homes.
I'm sure an ad hoc group of residents,city and others could come up with a better plan than was envisioned under "D".
The removal of lanes on Arastradero was a contributing factor to its defeat.

Posted by Jeff, a resident of Greater Miranda
on Nov 8, 2013 at 11:33 am


You are absolutely correct that the removal of lanes on Arastradero contributed to Measure D's defeat.

Posted by Barbara, a resident of Downtown North
on Nov 8, 2013 at 11:57 am

I was happily surprised at the results -- Palo Alto does NOT need more massive development/high-rise condos in town. Kudos to all who voted NO on D!!

Posted by JerryL, a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Nov 8, 2013 at 12:04 pm

Good editorial Weekly.

I also agree that lane reduction on Arastradero was one of the "straws"
triggering my vote. I also think the CA Ave lane reduction will be another.

Posted by Thanks Weekly!, a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Nov 8, 2013 at 12:06 pm

The word "hope" appears three times in this editorial. Besides being somewhat sloppy writing, I think it's pretty indicative of what we are dealing with here. The Weekly "hopes" that PAHC won't give up "hope" and the City should write a blank check to keep that "hope" of a compromise alive.

Are you kidding? I don't know whether or not PAHC or another affordable housing entity will be able to do this or not -- I seriously doubt it since the property is apparently according to published reports already being sold -- but you know what? NEITHER DO YOU. And yet you wrote on October 18, this clear declarative sentence: "With real estate values soaring since the land was purchased, we see no reason why the single-family homes cannot be developed more in conformance with the current zoning and yield most, if not all, of the $11 million proceeds the Housing Corporation says it needs. And if it doesn't, city housing funds can fund the shortfall."

"City housing funds can fund the shortfall."

you wrote that as if you knew that it could. You urged people to vote against D and assured them that the way forward to have affordable housing on that site was to vote against D. You wrote with great self-assurance and in declarative statements of "fact."

You didn't write: "we sure do hope that the City will fund the shortfall but even if they don't we think this is a bad project and whatever's coming next won't be worse."

You didn't write: "We have no idea what we are talking about and are just as in the dark as the next guy but we hope that if Measure D loses there can still be affordable housing and if you hope so too, please keep hoping for that. All we have is hope. Heh."

you didn't write: "This project is a bad project in the wrong location and it deserves to lose regardless of what goes there next."

But that's what you actually meant. Now own it.

Posted by Silly, a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Nov 8, 2013 at 12:08 pm

With the traffic backups at Embarcadero and soon Cal Ave, we'll be backed up all the way to Seattle and to San Diego.

How green is our gridlock?

Notice how many frustrated drivers are forming their own lanes during tie-ups? I faced TWO drivers in the wrong lane on Embacadero just this week! How many head-on collisions will it take for the City Council to grasp that gridlock ain't good??

Posted by barron park , a resident of Barron Park
on Nov 8, 2013 at 12:11 pm

the site is still allowed to have 44 homes, legally, using the present zoning. with 22 more kids into local school than the original project that was voted down. What measured D was about? to shot down the senior. Fine, now guid the 44 residences take that moss and company.

Posted by Reality check, a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Nov 8, 2013 at 12:17 pm

Hey Weekly, you forgot the unicorn chariot, while you're at it! How big a blank check are you proposing? Hmm. From 60 subsidized units and 12 market rate to 46 or fewer of both. $10 million? How about some basis for thinking this is even possible. As it stands, this is just silly.

Posted by Cinderella, a resident of Barron Park
on Nov 8, 2013 at 12:32 pm

I agree with Thanks Weekly! The Weekly is living in a fantasy world thinking the city can swoop in to save the day to finance a senior housing project on this this site to replace the state funding that PAHC must now forfeit. The Weekly favored the senior apartment building but objected to the 12 single family homes. Clemo is already zoned for higher density density (three story attached) then what was proposed; so the issue for the Weekly was zoning on Maybell: 7 modest single family homes with no driveways on Maybell versus four large single family homes with possible granny units and and driveways on Maybell.
Loosing this opportunity for low income senior housing over three homes is really a shame.

Posted by Next step should be to save Buena Vista, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 8, 2013 at 12:42 pm

Next step should be to save Buena Vista.

Posted by Craig Laughton, a resident of College Terrace
on Nov 8, 2013 at 1:43 pm

The term 'affordable housing' is an oxymoron in Palo Alto. It doesn't exist, period. What the proponents of this misconception propose is welfare housing. Best to be honest about it. The most egregious example of the welfare housing is the BMR (below market rate) housing, which forces next-door neighbors to subsidize their next-door neighbors...it is un-American, IMO. Karen Holman loves it, and that is why I will vote against her, come the next election.

I think that the anti-D vote won, was due, is a significant way, to those who do not want to be dumped on with welfare housing. Since this vote was a secret ballot, I think the people have spoken, even though they may not want to admit it in public.

Bill Johnson might want to do some serious reflection about what Palo Altans really want. It is a new day. Is he up to the task?

Posted by Garrett , a resident of another community
on Nov 8, 2013 at 3:15 pm

Time to move on, beside didn't I didn't see anything wrong with the Weekly coverage of the issue. I supported the idea of how the project was to be funded, don't expect the government to fund every project.

60,000 dollars a year doesn't get you much in the way of 4 walls, 75,000.for a BART mechanic which by the way is skilled labour. Affordable housing in the bay area is fading. While 50,000 dollars homes sounds like a dream, 12,000 dollars was dream back then in the past.

Today. 50,000 dollars in some cases can't even buy a new car or worse yet, salary income. Before.taxes.

Posted by Seeker of Facts, a resident of Barron Park
on Nov 8, 2013 at 3:50 pm

Thanks Weekly! states “The Mercury News got it right and you (referring to P.A. Weekly) were wrong.”
Four newspapers (P.A. Weekly, P.A. Daily NEWS,P.A. Daily POST and Mercury News) editorialized their stand on measure D. After careful evaluation of the issues involved three of them came out in support of the opponents of D and only the Mercury News was in favor of D. It is noteworthy to mention that the Mercury News was the only newspaper which never contacted anybody who could have presented the views of the opposition to D and came to their conclusion entirely by reiterating the PAHC and City Council’s stands on this issue. I wouldn’t call this a laudable journalistic achievement.

Posted by Jeff Rensch, a resident of Barron Park
on Nov 8, 2013 at 4:20 pm

This editorial is soooooo sad. Especially the attempt to play some sort of elder statesman role. Newspapers used to hold their heads high in America but now the editorial writers seem to peep their heads timidly out the window to see what today's consensus is and then put it into an editorial.

I would cancel but the silly paper shows up on my driveway whatever I do.

Posted by Inside view, a resident of Green Acres
on Nov 8, 2013 at 6:03 pm

You wrote "I supported the idea of how the project was to be funded, don't expect the government to fund every project.'

Just FYI, the project was only half funded by the sale of the land and upzoning (not the sale of the houses, that was to go to the developer), the other half was to come from government grants -- for which they applied based on the City continually verifying that they had the PC zoning in place (among other misrepresentations) already.

The whole "done deal" aspect from start to finish also had a role in citizen anger.

Posted by Weekly reader, a resident of College Terrace
on Nov 8, 2013 at 6:48 pm

A profoundly silly editorial. Don't try to give advice if you're not willing to do even the most basic homework.

Posted by resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 8, 2013 at 7:11 pm

It all comes back to what the Council, ARB and staff have done to this City "on the ground" in recent years by their abuses and reckless policies
and favoritism to developers as well as just plain incompetence. This has become a City without planning, without zoning, without design control, without aesthetics. The City is in a tailspin. This disaster inevitably
has now overtaken the entire community and dialogue. It all goes back
to the Council,ARB and staff. Following Measure D the Weekly is trying
to pick up the pieces of this senior housing project. Mayor Scharff says the Council after creating the bigger mess over many years is now looking at mitigation measures (there are no corrective measures) trying to pick
up the pieces.

Posted by Mike, a resident of Community Center
on Nov 8, 2013 at 10:18 pm

Clearly Palo Alto citizens have spoken. Clearly City Council is completely out of touch with residents. The lot that's up for re-election have proven themselves incapable of representing the will of the people: Greg Scharff, Nancy Shepard, Gail Price, Karen Holman, and Larry Klein. Go drive by the old Palo Alto Bowl site: new high rise with no set backs, stack and pack homes, and inadequate parking. This over-development frenzy in Palo Alto will only end when the lot of them are discharged from their duties. Plain and simple. Vote AGAINST the incumbents in 2014!

Posted by Inside View, a resident of Green Acres
on Nov 8, 2013 at 11:56 pm

I'm just wondering if the affordable housing investment could be made to actually buy BMR units that the City would then rent out for even lower terms if that was needed. For example, the City buying the still-empty units at Moldaw. There's an empty BMR unit at Barron Square - what about the City buying it up and converting it to an intergenerational housing situation?

New housing stock is the most expensive affordable housing there is - we should prioritize keeping the affordable housing we have (save Buena Vista), figuring out where the greatest needs are and figuring out how to meet them with underutilized housing stock in the BMR program that already exists.

Posted by Inside View, a resident of Green Acres
on Nov 8, 2013 at 11:59 pm

The irony, of course, is that the gridlock created by all these different projects that are approved without any thought to the infrastructure, is that it makes it harder to solve problems using flexible transportation solutions like the clean buses the high tech workers take (Google is about to open its buses to the public).

Posted by boscoli, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Nov 9, 2013 at 6:09 am

It's a great relief that D was defeated, but the larger picture is that this town cannot sustain anymore any increase in population density and large commercial developments Arillaga-style. In other words, the manhattanization of Palo Alto must stop permanently before this town's character is lost forever. Palo Alto has already been grossly overdeveloped.

Posted by SteveU, a resident of Barron Park
on Nov 9, 2013 at 6:41 am

SteveU is a registered user.

Deciding to do +any+ project JUST to get the grant money is also absurd.
Time and again, I have seen money wasted on cosmetic projects because there was a GRANT, while leaving deteriorating infrastructure unfunded.

Speaking of infrastructure project waste: This hodge-podge repair plan the city is using costs extra. It cost Time and MONEY to move crews and equipment over a few blocks and start up again. Just think what it would cost to do a major remodel on your house, 1 room at a time :o

Posted by Garrett , a resident of another community
on Nov 9, 2013 at 10:21 am

The city funded a loan to buy land, what I read in this paper. The state and federal government.is a ever shrinking pool of funding, funding is still but less and less. Land costs keep going up so the bay area will need more funding, more money and will have to find ways to self support.

Posted by Inside View, a resident of Green Acres
on Nov 9, 2013 at 11:40 am

I don't want to rehash the campaign, but the facts are not so murky.

To purchase the property, the City provided $5.8million in loans, plus a promise of another $1.5million from the in lieu fee from the densification of the market-rate portion, making $7.3million in loans from the City. The County provided a loan of $8million plus change.

In the June 13 minutes
Web Link
"Ms. Gonzales reported the purchase price was funded through five or six
different sources. PAHC would apply for tax credits [from the state and
federal governments] in July 2013 which would
supply approximately $13 million for construction ..."

The minutes further go on:
"Council Member Berman asked if PAHC's plan was to sell part of the property
for market rate homes.

Ms. Gonzales replied yes. Selling a portion of the property would offset
some of the construction costs for senior housing.

Council Member Berman inquired whether PAHC would sell the property
before or after building homes.

Ms. Gonzales planned to sell the land to a market rate builder.
Council Member Berman inquired about the cost to construct the senior

Jessica DeWitt, Senior Project Manager of Palo Alto Housing Corporation,
indicated the total cost was approximately $24 million.
Council Member Berman asked why PAHC did not build and sell the market
rate homes.

Ms. Gonzales explained that was not PAHC's business"

So, the majority of the profit to be made from the sale of the houses was not going to benefit the affordable side, it was going to the market-rate developer, and the plan was to get the money for the affordable side through government grants instead. As you point out, that pot is shrinking, and since it is a competition, it is shrinking for other communities and projects around the state. If we look at affordable housing as a regional problem, it makes no sense to take so much public money for 60 units, especially when across the same neighborhood, are long-time Palo Altans losing their affordable housing - saving existing affordable housing should be the first priority.

I agree about the inanity of designing to a grant. That would be one of the reasons people were so upset, it seemed like safety and a lot else took a back seat to designing to the grant.

Posted by Garrett , a resident of another community
on Nov 9, 2013 at 12:15 pm

It would be cheaper to buy land, build 60 units in Stockton, even cheaper in Red Bluff.

The.whole process of.getting funds were a bit vague but I don't know the costs of building a 60 unit building. Start to finish, don't count the cost of land.

I wonder what the total bill for BV? From start to finish.

Posted by midtown resident, a resident of Midtown
on Nov 9, 2013 at 12:56 pm

There is no need to over-analyze the defeat. Its simple

o Palo Altans are sick of the high-density housing springing up everywhere esp. given the terrible state of traffic on Alma, Arastradero, Page Mill etc. etc. Commutes are becoming nightmares. One of the motivations of shooting down measure D is to send a message to the city council that we DO NOT want rezoning for higher-density housing. In fact we need to repeal the PC zoning ordinance if possible.

o The city's traffic studies and parking allocation were dubious to say the least.

o In many past projects the "public benefit" promised were shams to get the rezoning as in Alma Plaza, resulting in a serious lack of trust as to the city council's motives and its relation to developers.The fact the Buena Vista park is being dismantled just proves this point.

o It makes no sense for the city to rezone for funding. Instead of making palo alto ugly and crowded, put a parcel tax on the ballot to fund this project and build hosing with the current zoning. For one thing that will force the city to explain the project in detail before people vote for the tax and it will spread the pain over the whole city, not one neighborhood. As it stands, the city has not been upfront with the public. e.g, on the question of who exactly this housing will go to.

Posted by Garrett, a resident of another community
on Nov 9, 2013 at 2:33 pm

We do need housing in what is called the 9 counties, support for a parcel tax would not fly.

I am liberal, support well planned growth, spending tax money on schools, infrastructure support. Yes. Parcel taxes for housnt. No.

Posted by Craig Laughton, a resident of College Terrace
on Nov 9, 2013 at 3:21 pm

Go ahead and put a parcel tax on the ballot to support welfare housing. That will provide a realistic view of how Palo Altans want it to go. I would suggest that any future projects go into the elite neighborhoods.

I would bet the ranch that such a proposal would go down in flames...quietly voted down by the elites, especially.

Without South Palo Alto to dump on, what will our elites do?

Posted by Garrett , a resident of another community
on Nov 9, 2013 at 4:25 pm

I am supportive of housing, increased density in the bay area, smart planning and the likes.

But parcel taxes for housing. No, No, No and NO. And you think Developers are bad, at least developers think of the bottom line.

60 units in a 4 story building wouldn't be bad compared to thousands of units built to house everyone in one place.

Reminds of a housing plan that a Architect friend of mine told me about. Clear all the poor, welfare, undesirables out of San Francisco.

Posted by boscoli, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Nov 9, 2013 at 5:22 pm

The chances of a parcel tax for senior housing being approved by the voters is zero. In reality, Palo Alto doesn't have a senior low income housing problem. It has a seniors-sitting-on-multi-million-dollar-houses-refusing-to-sell-them-because-they-want-to-leave=them-to-their-kids problem. These seniors, who have benefitted from Prop.13 for 35 years at the expense of young people, want now even more breaks even if it means a further Manhattanization of Palo Alto. I don't think they'll get their way this time.

Posted by Thanks Weekly!, a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Nov 9, 2013 at 7:35 pm

This gets crazier every time I look at it. Now it's rich seniors trying to scam their way into the poorhouse. Here's to citizen empowerment, and thanks to this newspaper for empowering all these thoughtful folks.

I absolutely cannot wait to see what gets built on Maybell. Here's to the stackiest, packiest, tackiest thing ever built in PA, with the best Taqueria in town on the ground floor.

Posted by Ben, a resident of Community Center
on Nov 9, 2013 at 8:10 pm

Has any PA city council ever met a PC developer give away they didn't approve? I hope this is a turning point towards the abolishment of the awful Planned Community loophole. These PC developments consistently show that the public gets nothing in exchange for overly generous profits to developers by allowing them to avoid existing zoning rules.

Posted by member, a resident of Greenmeadow
on Nov 9, 2013 at 11:38 pm

@Thanks Weekly!
Enough Penney

Posted by Inside View, a resident of Green Acres
on Nov 10, 2013 at 12:57 am

If the City Councilmembers want to even comtemplate re-election, they are probably going to start thinking about working with neighbors. If they havent learned the neighbors care about safety and the character of the neighbrhood, they will prolong the conflict that shouldnt hve been necessary. They have warned about all the horrible things they think can go there, and indicated their recognition of safety problems. If nothing else, they owe it to reducing lability to do a trustworthy traffic analysis. The neighbors know the City has first right of refusal if PAHC sells, so they can purchase the property. Simply doing so with a bridge loan from Stanford funds and giving neighbors the time the come up with a plan for a low-traffic lands use would go a long way.

If anyone contemplates a stack and pack development, there are numerous ways to ensure that won't happen. Remember, neighbors weren't counting on winning, so they were already preparing.

But you've expressed another thing that bothered the neighbors. While they were soul searching about having to oppose affordable housing, the other side was doing nothing but belittling the safety problems.

Posted by Thanks Weekly!, a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Nov 10, 2013 at 7:26 am

Here's an idea, "neighbor," why don't you guys all donate your own money to buy the land. Everyone mortgage their own house, take all the money out, and pool it. It should't take more than about 50 people willing to put in around 200K each -- easy peasy. Then you will own the land and you can put an orchard with a park and a big statute of Howard Jarvis in the middle of it.

But please stop spending my money as a PA taxpayer for your fantasies of stopping history in its tracks. This isn't the 1950s and growth is inevitable. You had the chance to have growth in the service of senior affordable housing -- housing that would have, if built, provided apartments for many if not most of our vehicle dwellers. Instead, you are getting condos. It's your own fault. You want to sue someone? Go for it. I think you will find that when you are going against a commercial for-profit developer who has existing zoning rights calculated into the cost of the land [portion removed.]

Posted by Don't tread on me, a resident of Barron Park
on Nov 10, 2013 at 7:33 am

Hey, "thanks weekly", stop being a sore loser. I've got an idea for a low traffic Amish settlement there and I'm sure my neighbors have other good ideas.
Also I'm asking the Weekly to donate the next 30 Holiday Funds to this, which works five us the $10 million. They've been with us to this point. I'm sure they will continue to be.

Posted by boscoli, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Nov 10, 2013 at 10:57 am

My neighbors across the street are a case in point of why the supposed distress of low income seniors in Palo Alto is vastly overblown, if not non-existant. They have paid off their mortgage 22 years ago. They have been the beneficiaries of very low property taxes for the last 35 years. They are getting too old to live in their two story house, which they could now sell for over 3 million dollars. They refuse to sell the house because their children expect to inherit it and would raise bloody hell if the parents did sell. The parents keep whining that they are low income seniors and deserve the City's help to stay in Palo Alto. I have known them for decades and at no point do I remember them showing any sympathy for young families wishing to afford a house in Palo Alto. Can you spell chutzpah?

Posted by Thanks Weekly!, a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Nov 10, 2013 at 11:33 am

boscoli, I don't know about your neighbors, but there are around 100 low income seniors living in vehicles in Palo Alto. Many of them lived in Palo Alto, worked and raised children here but now due to the economic downturn, medical bills, and other factors find themselves reduced to living in vehicles. As homeless individuals they would have received some preference for affordable housing, meaning that they would not have to live in their cars anymore. That would have solved another problem for Palo Alto, which is what to do about poor people living in vehicles because they can't afford to live here.

Of course the Weekly had a solution for that problem too: ban them. Move along. Time to go. No room for you here.

I detect a pattern in the Weekly's hostile editorial stance toward the poor. We have to help the homeless, many if not most of whom are seniors, and this building would have helped them. Weekly do you intend to be advocating against the poor? Do you intend to be taking editorial positions that there is no place for the poor in Palo Alto or that their needs must be so subservient to those of homeowners -- first in Cubberley, then in Green Acres -- as to be unimportant or nonexistent. I am sure that is not your intent but your actions are speaking louder than your intent at the moment. Weekly, please educate yourself:

1. There are over 100 homeless persons living in cars and vehicles, almost all of whom are poor seniors. They reside in Palo Alto. They are poor, low-income PA seniors. They badly needed this housing;

2. To protect Cubberley it was unnecessary to ban them city wide. Why did you advocate for banning the homeless citywide?

3. There are details about state subsidies and grants for building low income housing, exigencies for funding, and other issues that make it literally impossible to do what you are suggesting in this editorial. This is a pure fantasy. Why don't you do your homework before recommending that people vote against a badly-needed affordable housing project?

4. People count on the Weekly to be the one decent local paper that does its homework and is a voice of reason. Does it comfort you to be in agreement with Dave Price? It shouldn't.

This was a horrible loss to the community and it will make it incredibly difficult to use PC zoning to help the BV residents or do anything else. As you can see from the comments on this and other Maybell threads, whatever your motives, the voters are against affordable "welfare" housing, against PC zoning, against any growth at all if it happens in their neighborhoods, and trying to "send a message" to the City Council regarding other projects, none of which have anything to do with nonprofit affordable housing.

Do your homework next time and think about whether you really want to be the voice of upper-class anger rather than an advocate for the least among us.


Posted by Disappointed in the Weekly, a resident of Southgate
on Nov 10, 2013 at 12:34 pm

Thanks to "Thanks". You put my misgivings about the Weekly's position on this into words. I don't hold the Weekly accountable for the nasty words of posters like boscoli and Craig Laughton. I do hold the Weekly accountable for it's editorial positions that have encouraged punitive actions against the homeless and losing this chance for low-income housing for seniors. Homeless and poor people are not posting on the Internet. The are not out canvassing for votes. They are trying to get by. The Weekly and all of us should be giving them a voice. It's very sad to see the Weekly putting down that role. I am sure that our local politicians are paying attention, and are not going to be taking arrows in their backs from the local press on this anytime soon.

Posted by Craig Laughton, a resident of College Terrace
on Nov 10, 2013 at 12:50 pm

>I don't hold the Weekly accountable for the nasty words of posters like boscoli and Craig Laughton.

You shouldn't. My words are my words. I don't think my words are nasty...just providing the truth, as I see it. However, it doesn't bother me that you accuse me of nastiness...it's called free speech. Go for it!

I shall continue to fight for neighborhood preservation in Palo Alto, as I see it. I think my side is winning.

Posted by Disappointed in the Weekly, a resident of Southgate
on Nov 10, 2013 at 1:02 pm

I think your side is winning too. I don't care if you want to come out against "welfare housing" and for "neighborhood preservation" (or flat-out NIMBYism). I am disappointed that the Weekly is throwing in with you.

Posted by Inside View, a resident of Green Acres
on Nov 10, 2013 at 1:09 pm

@Thanks and disappointed,
This is a sincere question, not a rhetorical one. Do you really think the housing proposed at Maybell would have served any homeless? Or even anyone living below the poverty limit?

Because staff reports pointed out all along - and you can verify it on the funding application - that the project was going to serve only people at 30-60% of Area Median Income (so many slots at 30, so many at 60, so many at I believe 45). Area Median Income is actually a fairly large number, and those at 60% of AMI have a retirement income of over $50,000/year to qualify. (That's actually a very comfortable income in many parts of the country, which begs the question of whether seniors with that specific income profile would even want to remain in such an expensive place in retirement, especially one without any services. Maybe so, but speculating on it is not a compelling reason to compromise safety and character of a residential neighborhood.)

Anyone homeless or living under the poverty limit would not have been eligible for the spots at Maybell. But the continual wrong-headed attack on neighbors as being ideologically against anyone who would never have been eligible for the property anyway was another thing that convinced them to fight the plan, because PAHC never did make a good case for who was going to benefit. The City and PAHC kept repeating in the reports that the need was because of 20% of PA seniors living below poverty, even though not a single person making poverty=level income would have qualified to live there. The income characteristics of the tenants came from the financial arrangements and grant point system, but there should at least be some demonstration of a need in that income range among Palo Alto seniors, and that case was never made.

I'm not sure what you get out of continuing to wage the campaign now that it's over. From the inside, I can tell you neighbors were pretty stunned to be attacked that way and if you were a fly on the wall as they were starting to figure out how to fight back, it would have been easy to misinterpret what was said if you did not really know the real motivations of people saying it. These neighbors really are genuinely supportive of affordable housing, and many leading Against have been a part of supporting the affordable housing developments we have here in the neighborhood already.

As a results of this conversation, the City Council, I think, owes us an honest look at the senior demographic here, and where the need actually lies. At that point, we have a discussion about how to meet it, especially since there are empty, already-built BMR units for seniors in full-service senior centers (Moldaw, and upcoming in the senior center across El Camino from Maybell). Then we could see if the Council is willing to put its money where its mouth is and match need with available openings -- dozens of seniors who need it could literally be in homes by the holidays.

If you are truly concerned about affordable housing in this town, how about letting go of Maybell and putting some of that righteous indignation into saving the Buena Vista Mobile Home park?

Posted by Craig Laughton, a resident of College Terrace
on Nov 10, 2013 at 1:15 pm

>I am disappointed that the Weekly is throwing in with you.

I don't think they are. The Weekly had its own reasons to oppose 'D'. I could only hope that the Weekly would come out to oppose welfare housing...but Bill Johnson will not do that, IMO.

The only serious poll about welfare housing in Palo Alto is to put it to a city-wide vote, with serious consequences, including a parcel tax, and identification of the neighborhoods that it will dumped into. Feel lucky?

Posted by Thanks Weekly!, a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Nov 10, 2013 at 1:25 pm


The homeless work. They receive social security. And they would have qualified for that housing. You are flatly mistaken and you are basing your error on stereotypes about the homeless, which is not surprising given the 2 dimensional view you have taken of this from the beginning.

This isn't refighting Maybell, and it isn't directed at you. I and a few others are directing our comments to the Weekly. You should go celebrate your victory. Live it up! Go take some photos of the vacant lot you saved, while it is still vacant, which won't be for long. In addition to my hope that whatever is built there is huge and ugly with driveways on Maybell I also hope that there are a lot of construction delays and you are living with jackhammers and heavy equipment for years if possible.

The homeless work. They receive social security. They are well within the income guidelines for this building. Some federal subsidies and state subsidies require priority on waiting lists to be given to the unhoused. This housing would absolutely have allowed some vehicle dwellers to find a permanent home. But now they won't and they won't thanks in part to you.

Posted by Thanks Weekly!, a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Nov 10, 2013 at 3:00 pm

For anyone who is actually interested in facts (let's hope that includes the Weekly), here is the information on what 30-50% of Area Median Income actually is:

Web Link

For a married couple, 30% of AMI is $24,350, and 60% is less than $45,000. Everything under 50% of AMI is considered to be "very low income". Under 30% of AMI is considered "extremely low income." Typically these limits operate as a ceiling not a floor -- that is, to be eligible for a slot for extremely low income housing one must be at 30% of AMI OR BELOW, meaning that persons receiving less than 30% of AMI would qualify.

A married couple receiving social security would typically receive around 30% of AMI.

The 30-60% AMI are ceilings on income. They are intended to ensure that the individuals living in the units are actually low or extremely low income.

Minimum income limits vary from unit to unit, and depend on the specific funding for the apartment in question. For subsidized apartments, there is no minimum. For nonsubsidized apartments, typically residents in PAHC developments must have income equal to 2.5 times the rent as a minimum. Web Link

Because these units won't be built, no poor people will ever get to live in them. But they would have qualified. [Portion removed.]

You can have your own opinion but you can't have your own facts. And the fact is that these would have been low and extremely low income units, and that people on social security would have qualified.

Posted by SWE, a resident of Green Acres
on Nov 10, 2013 at 9:06 pm

SWE is a registered user.

It's getting really tedious that you seem to be trying to take out your upset at losing the election by continuing to wage the campaign with bad information. Just because the FACTS disagree with your desires, do not make them opinions.

30-60% of AMI is not a ceiling, it's a range, PAHC's funding application to the CTCAC lays out just how many people in each income bracket would have allowed in order to make the finances work out. (Note: If 30% was a ceiling, they wouldn't have said 30-60% of AMI, they would have said, up to 60% of AMI or 0-60% of AMI, with how many in each range.) PAHC stated many times that they needed certain incomes to make the financials work out.
Web Link

From the ordinance:
"A four story multifamily affordable rental development for seniors (Senior
Building) earning 30-60% area median income (AMI). The development will contain 59 one
bedroom units of approximately 600 square feet and 1 two bedroom property manager's unit
of approximately 726 square feet. The total square footage of the building is approximately
56,320 square feet. The height to the top of the fourth floor will be 50'."

Here are PAHC's estimations of income limits
Web Link

According to them, AMI for a 2-person household would be $84,400, for single, $73,850. Note that for someone to be making a social security income of 60% of AMI, they would have made more than AMI when they were working.

The staff report and PAHC's application laid out exactly how many units would be available at 30%, how many at 60% etc. At 60% of AMI, for 2 people, it's over $50,000/year. Poverty level is $15,510 for a 2 person household
Web Link , around $11,000 for a single-person household, which as you can see is also well below 30% of AMI. So, no one making poverty income would be served.

PAHC made a lot of the necessity of having that many units and those levels of income to make the property financials work. I know you WANT it to have served really poor people, but the FACTS state otherwise. There was a real problem selling it to the public when they claimed the need (in staff reports) was for people below the poverty limit but the income range of prospective tenants was much higher.

There are many, many parts of the country where 60% of AMI here gives people an above-average income for the area, in some states, significantly above average. Someone making that much money in social security had a good income as a worker -- the question remains, how many of those people are going to want to live in a 600 sq ft apartment in an expensive city where they are considered poor, where they will have to move when they become frail anyway, and when they could retire somewhere and live well? Moving for retirement is something workers in EVERY community consider.

The problem is that there never was any market study - as the funding applications even asks for - looking at data about Palo Alto seniors. How many low-income seniors in Palo Alto are already housed/unhoused, for example? No one knows. How many seniors are there really in that income range who would want to live there? No one knows even to an order of magnitude. This housing is about as expensive as it gets. In communities not that far away - nice communities an easy bus ride away - you could build twice as much housing for the same money. Is this about providing affordable housing, then wouldn't we want to provide as much of it as possible nearby? No one ever had any doubt the units would get filled, but would they be filled with Palo Alto seniors? If that answer was yes, then a market study would have been very helpful.

Lastly, there are empty BMR units in real senior centers in Palo Alto that could house people right away, if the City made an attempt to more accurately assess the need and come up with a plan to best meet it by filling those spots. We could house dozens of low-income seniors within a few short weeks for far less money if the will was there. What is more important to you, continue waging the campaign, with bad information no less, or prioritizing affordable housing? What if the existing empty units could substantially provide for the need at present? It would give everyone time to take a breath and plan strategically.

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.


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