Off Deadline: Palo Alto's highest-anywhere jobs/housing imbalance causing real problems | March 14, 2014 | Palo Alto Weekly | Palo Alto Online |

Palo Alto Weekly

Spectrum - March 14, 2014

Off Deadline: Palo Alto's highest-anywhere jobs/housing imbalance causing real problems

by Jay Thorwaldson

A recent series in the San Jose Business Journal cites a 3.13-to-1 jobs-to-housing ratio for Palo Alto, which it calls "the least balanced city in the region by a significant margin."

This story contains 957 words.

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Former Weekly Editor Jay Thorwaldson can be emailed at with a copy to He also writes blogs at (below Town Square).


Posted by Margaret Fruth
a resident of Ventura
on Mar 14, 2014 at 5:28 pm

Margaret Fruth is a registered user.

The Buena Vista Mobile Home Park is the largest low income housing project in Palo Alto. Evicting the residents and tearing it down will exacerbate the existing jobs/housing imbalance.

Posted by Duh
a resident of Monroe Park
on Mar 14, 2014 at 6:56 pm

Tell us something we don't know!

Posted by Eric F
a resident of Downtown North
on Mar 14, 2014 at 6:59 pm

Most of the current community discussion around jobs/housing imbalance focuses on housing. But there are two components here, and the one which actually drives the imbalance is the jobs side.

Like the City's parking and traffic woes, the jobs/housing imbalance is to a great extent a result of the massive construction build-up of mixed-use (ie office) space in Palo Alto. The City really needs to have a sweeping discussion about, "how much more office space / jobs do we really want here?"

Certainly some people will feel the answer is, "as much as there is demand for." But that demand is essentially infinite. And it will come with serious impacts on quality-of-life and city character.

Right now the City pays no attention to the office/jobs side of the equation; we simply let it happen as it may, or even facilitate it via zoning exemptions.

But something this important needs to be actively managed. The City needs a broad and serious discussion about BOTH sides of the jobs/impacts equation. Not just, "where should we put the new housing and parking lots and stoplights and schools," but "where do we actually want our City to go?" We need to get out in front of this, not just keep perpetually trying to catch up with "infinite."

Posted by Joe
a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 14, 2014 at 7:52 pm

Like a guy who spent the holidays having a good time and then, suddenly, stepping on the scale in January wondering how I got so fat, I thought it might be helpful to look at the numbers behind this story. Every year, the City produces a CAFR (Comprehensive Annual Financial Report) and includes the top ten employers. Palo Alto's 2012-2013 report is available here:
Web Link

[Sorry, the non-proportional font makes this look a little messy.]
Employer FY 2013 FY 2008
Employees Rank % of Tot Employees Rank % of Tot
Stanford University 10,979 1 8.9% 9,821 1 7.0%
Stanford Medical Center 5,545 2 4.5% 5,025 2 3.6%
Lucile Packard Hospital 4,750 3 3.9% 3,326 4 2.4%
Veteran's Affairs PAHCS 3,850 4 3.1% 3,500 3 2.5%
VMware 3,509 5 2.5%
HP 2,500 6 2.0% 2,001 5 1.4%
PAMF 2,200 7 1.8% 2,000 6 1.4%
SAP 2,200 8 1.6%
Space Systems/Loral 3,020 9 2.5% 1,700 7 1.2%
Wilson Sonsini 1,650 10 1.3% 1,500 8 1.1%
PAUSD 1,304 9 0.9%
City of Palo Alto 1,074 10 0.8%
[I can't explain the rationale behind the number and ranking of Space Systems/Loral.]

It turns out that the 4 largest employers are Stanford, the hospitals and the VA (and all are still growing). The largest commercial employer is VMware at number 5. They are located in the Standford Research Park at the edge of town near 280 and the Foothill expressway as are HP and SAP.

So, the BJ article seems mostly BS. But if Jay and the City of Palo Alto want to tell Stanford and the VA they can't hire any more people, I'm sure most residents of Palo Alto would support them.

Posted by Mark Michael
a resident of Community Center
on Mar 15, 2014 at 9:26 am

The editorial focusing on the ratio of Jobs to housing in Palo Alto is timely as work begins on the latest update to the City's Housing Element and a conversation in the community is starting about revisions to the Comprehensive Plan.

From a planning perspective, is there an ideal or optimal ratio? If so, what is it, why is this desirable, and how might we get from here to there?

Steve Levy has been circulating data about long term trends in regional employment and housing demand. As I recall the average rate of growth in the area is about one percent, notwithstanding fluctuations. Based on the economic data and forecasts, our favorite regional organization -- ABAG -- has assigned new targets to communities for their share of the Regional Housing Needs Allocation (RHNA). The City is working on its analysis of the 2014-2022 RHNA requirement and tentatively concludes that the "unmet" housing need in Palo Alto for the next 8-year cycle is less than 400 housing units in addition to the ~1400 sites that are carried over from the 2005-2013 cycle. A site inventory tool is being developed to identify any zoning changes that might be needed to comply with this requirement, some of which is intended to address demand for low and moderate-income housing.

Both Eric and Joe make a contribution to this discussion in highlighting the "jobs" side of the ratio. If demand for new housing averages 1% per year and if Palo Alto's Housing Element complies with the RHNA targets and ABAG forecasts, it would appear that significant changes in the total number of Palo Alto housing units are unlikely. To change the ratio, turning the dials on jobs would be only recourse. Is this really desirable? Does the City actually want to reduce opportunities for employment in the community?

Perhaps the future planning should emphasis residential over commercial, particularly in mixed use developments. And if some level of imbalance in jobs and house is inevitable, or even desirable, this should promote more use of transit and Pedestrian Transit Oriented Development. All of these ideas are fair game for discussion in the upcoming Our Palo Alto conversations.

Posted by Resident 1
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Mar 15, 2014 at 9:51 am

There is an implication that there is a lack of low-cost housing in PA. I think we need to have an inventory of apartments and condominiums in Palo Alto with associated costs so that people coming in can adjust to their available budgets.

There are substantial number of older apartments, duplexes in the El Camino / Park Boulevard quadrant, as well as the downtown and California Street areas. I think these are being overlooked in the total count. I see "For Rent" and "For Lease" signs on many of these buildings.

We need to start with an assessment of what is on the ground today - total inventory including houses to assess the percentage in categories of total housing in the city.

The Comprehensive Plan is focusing on tearing down existing buildings to build new ones - the "Developer Angle". I think we need to start with actual facts before people invest time and money in future planning.

We also need to status the number of commercial buildings in the city and if actively being used or in a perpetual "For Lease" status. There are many buildings for lease over long periods of time which point to a lack of interest in locating business in PA. Get the facts on the table first so that we are not wasting time and money. The number of For Lease signs says that the city is not prohibiting the increase of business - but the opposite - lack of interest.

Every special interest group will have a narrative to support their point of view - but most narratives are not factually correct.

Posted by resident 1
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Mar 15, 2014 at 10:04 am

Comment on statistics above - it is showing a mix of government, commercial, and non-profit organizations. Stanford is its own organization and needs to provide housing for those working on it's property. Since it is a non-profit, educational organization the tax treatment is not the same as for a commercial organization. It owns all of the property within its zip code. PAUSD, VA, City of Palo Alto have preferential tax treatment.

I think you need to start with the classification by business type for tax reporting. If many organizations locate in PA because of location but do not pay taxes then PA has no control over the employment - it is dictated by organizations out of PA's control. PA is not planning anything in those situations. Base the housing on what the city has jurisdiction over.

Posted by resident 1
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Mar 15, 2014 at 11:06 am

You will note that many of the listed businesses above are in the Foothill Blvd corridor and derive no benefit from Caltrain. If Stanford needs to expand on its housing it will be at the west end of the campus. If the VA wants to add a 10 story building they are not in the path of Caltrain.
SAP, etc. are above foothill Expressway.

You will note that BART is in process of coming to San Jose - 101 - and then going on to Santa Clara. Stanford could use a BART station for the campus at the west end, as well as all of the organizations, businesses along that corridor.

It is time for us to campaign for the extension of BART along the west end of the peninsula. If we allow ourselves to be put in the position of depending on Caltrain as the measure of growth we are in trouble. The addition of BART will balance the transportation choices which drive all of the statistics that are being developed on the Comprehensive Plan.

Stanford should welcome a BART station as it expands as it will reduce the number of parking garages required. VA can expand its facilities if it has a station.

Posted by Organiclaws
a resident of Crescent Park
on Mar 15, 2014 at 11:44 am

Organiclaws is a registered user.

Do all the students living on campus count? That should offset a lot of the Stanford employees.

Posted by Another resident
a resident of Community Center
on Mar 15, 2014 at 12:50 pm

Mark Michael says >work begins on the latest update to the City's Housing Element and a conversation in the community<

Sorry, the "conversation"is among developers and housing advocates. 90% of the participants in the housing discussion are developers and well-known housing advocates. It is a makebelieve conversation with a foregone conclusion.

Mark Michael is a business lawyer and member of the Planning Commission. He has bought into the "Pedestrian Transit Oriented Development" excuse so he invariably votes FOR big developments, surrounding the vote with sugarcoated verbiage.

Posted by kenagain
a resident of Professorville
on Mar 15, 2014 at 1:06 pm


Mr. Thorwaldson’s article “Palo Alto’s highest-anyhwere jobs/housing imbalance causing real problems” was excellent – Palo Alto has over 3 jobs for each housing unit. Where is Palo Alto’s self control? Honesty? Review Process? Example: CEQA, the State Environmental Quality Process, requires an Initial Study, (basically a checklist) for each project for the “responsible agency” (city) to complete. Questions include: Will the project conflict with Comprehensive Plan policies? Is it likely to cause cumulative impacts? Does it negatively impact the Jobs/Housing imbalance? While I cannot speak to all of the 40-plus reports prepared for recent commercial projects, those that I have reviewed all say “No” to each of those questions – NO potential cumulative or jobs/housing impacts, no conflicts with the Comprehensive Plan.

CEQA is intended to inform the public and the decision makers about possible problems, not gloss over potential issues. But, this Council can say: “Well no, I never knew there would be a problem, staff never told me.” But honestly, they know. Members of the residential public have told them time and again. Commercial forces – not so much.

Posted by resident 1
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Mar 15, 2014 at 1:28 pm

If Stanford creates more jobs because a new hospital wing is completed - or new building - that is not the responsibility of PA to cover that equation.
When people throw out statistics it is not clear what is included in the statistic. The bulk of the employee amounts on the paper above are specific to Stanford Campus. PA has no control over what Stanford does as to building, hiring, etc. They own the land. They are a non-profit organization. Please quite trying to include Stanford's growth cycles in the PA growth cycle. SU has to cover their own expansion on their terms - their property for housing employees and students.

We have defined borders - we are built out to our defined borders. Stanford has defined borders - they have a lot of unused land within their borders.
The only people who will benefit from Stanford housing are students and employees of Stanford. You can't beak out some percentage here for the PA wish list.

Posted by common sense
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 15, 2014 at 2:15 pm

How can the job-housing ratio of 3.13 to 1 be measured so accurately (2 decimal places)? According to the city council & city staff, they want to have a business registry/license tax so that they know how many employees are in Palo Alto. Here's the article in the Palo Alto Weekly Web Link

Jay, can you explain how these organizations know there is an imbalance (3.13, and not 3.10 or 3.20 or 2.0 or 1.0), since the city council & city staff have said that without a business registry/license tax, they don't know how many people work in Palo Alto?

Posted by stephen levy
a resident of University South
on Mar 15, 2014 at 3:51 pm

stephen levy is a registered user.

To clarify a few points

The ABAG analysis produces a job count for Palo alto that does and does not include jobs on Stanford land that is not within city limits. The total used for the RHNA housing analysis does not include campus jobs but does include jobs at commercial sites within the city such as the shopping center and research park that do pay a substantial amount of taxes to the city and school district. Employment data by zip code is available on a custom order basis but will not include the type of information that a business registry would.

Eric F will not get his wish to lower the housing allocation even if new commercial mixed use development were seriously curtailed.

Job growth comes from three main sources: 1) more intensive use of existing space, which has been going on for a long while in most communities, 2) job growth in Stanford and other non mixed use commercial developments and 3) new developments.

A rigorous study would be helpful but it is unlikely that new developments have increased PA's housing allocation much if at all.

The housing allocation is based on 1) existing jobs and housing, 2) expected job and population growth and 3) access to transportation corridors. Given recent job trends in the peninsula area, our existing large imbalance of jobs versus housing, our access to transportation and the fact that the current regional housing target was reduced by the large number of vacant units, future regional housing allocations are likely to be higher and also in PA.

But this is another opportunity for Eric F to describe where he recommends the housing go that he does not want in Palo Alto and why that is a better regional strategy.

Posted by resident 1
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Mar 15, 2014 at 5:14 pm

The above is still open ended. If the VA decides to close the Menlo location and build a 10 story building on the PA side it is still government property. We don't suddenly become responsible for the increased use of government facilities within our borders.

If Stanford builds a 10 story building we don't suddenly become responsible for the additional employees.

So what numbers are included in the PA city projection? Can you lay out the measureable assumptions of what is included in that number?

Can you break down the inventory of living spaces by category within the city?

We are not the paid consultants - so assume the paid consultants and talking heads should be able to provide that data.

Posted by palo altan
a resident of Green Acres
on Apr 10, 2014 at 6:19 pm

I think we go off the rails here with the assumption that everyone lives where they work unless they can't afford it. This issue needs to be looked at as a regional issue, not as if it's one town versus the next, as if we were urban Boise with nothing but fields and farms on the outskirts of town. We are a major urban region. Many of the San Franciscans commuting from SF to PA live in SF because that's what they like at their age. Trying to make PA a poor copy of San Jose is not going to make them live here. Many of them are going to go in search of something more suburban when they have kids and it's going to support the retirement of those in Orinda better than Palo Alto then because we'll have long destroyed the college town environment in Palo Alto at the rate we're going.

My spouse commuted a long ways from the East Bay for years because of my educational pursuits and other personal issues that had nothing to do with the cost of living in PA. Had there been anything like a decent rail or boat trip from there to here, we would probably still be living there - by preference - and it would have taken one car off the road all those years. We have no transit SYSTEM to speak of to get around the Bay Area, it's totally dysfunctional. If we had a real SYSTEM, it wouldn't be that difficult for my spouse to commute, and wouldn't take that much more time than getting through the exhaust-filled crawl we endure now despite the proximity. We have some friends who just moved from PA to the East Bay and are commuting to PA -- again, because they prefer living there for other reasons, their house in PA is paid for.

We shouldn't be so quick to make major land use and urban planning changes with such long-term consequences, when transit and energy are where the really disruptive technologies are going to take place in the near future, where the biggest needs are in this area, frankl -- we are really going to shoot ourselves in the foot if we make Palo Alto an unpleasant place to live.

Posted by palo altan
a resident of Green Acres
on Apr 10, 2014 at 6:50 pm

From your full-text article:
"Palo Alto neighborhoods are in revolt against overflow parking and overdevelopment of commercial/office buildings. Even a low-income senior-housing project was rejected by voters last year because too many market-priced houses (12) were also included in a small court in Palo Alto's Barron Park area."

Jay, the election is over. Speaking as one of the people who started the ball rolling, you do not know what you are talking about and you are just picking what sounds good from an argument made in an election. The fact that you described the parcel as a "small court" means you just really do not understand. It sounds like you have never been here and understand the area no better than the City Councilmembers who felt it was okay to do their NIMBY-overdevelopment of South Palo Alto right into the heart of our low-key pastoral neighborhood.

First of all, no one who started this ever wanted an election or a referendum. No one wanted to have to interrupt their lives to show up in historic numbers at City Hall or write all those letters that got ignored. In fact, those of us who began this didn't even want PAHC to go away, and we even tried to get them to scale things back to fit with the neighborhood even somewhat. We just didn't want the encroachment of that kind of overdevelopment into our neighborhood. It wasn't just the 12 houses (that the disabled could never live in right across the street from public school for the disabled), it was the lack of setback, the 60-unit 4-story underparked building (adjacent to our only public asset/neighborhood park) on 1 acre where the zoning was RM-15 next to R-1 (per the general plan, a density that should have been looked at as 8-10 units per acre max). Adding significant density on a seriously substandard street situation with no way around thousands of school kids walking and biking to school and already impacted by all the changes, and no attempt to study the safety issues even when people demanded it over months.

Just around the corner from us, we are now hemmed in by the giant Arbor Real development, across the street from that, forming the other side of the tunnel, is now a massive 4-story 22,000 square foot hotel where there used to be a 3,500 sq ft single-story set of neighborhood businesses. On the other end of Arastradero and nearly doubling business traffic, the new VMWare campus.

Sun, Sky, Hills, Open Space, Quiet/lack of the constant drone of traffic -- these have all been seriously, seriously impacted in the last 2 years. That development was taking it right into the heart of our neighborhood. We asked for a 3-story building and 6 homes on normal-sized lots as a compromise -- and they could have made even more money with the sale of the 6 homes if they had built them themselves with the main development, but they didn't want to do that, because it didn't fit the whole scenario they had worked out to their own best advantage. And they didn't think they would have to compromise. As someone in the state told us (from PAHC) "there's nothing the neighbors can do." They got greedy. The City Council thought the sky (literally) was the limit on development.

This is a democracy, and we who live here really do get to decide what the future of this place should be.

Geez, Jay. This didn't start with an election, and it frankly isn't over yet for those of us who live here. The City is going to be in for a rude awakening if they think this was all just closet NIMBYism and our concerns about the safety and overdevelopment issues for anyone developing that parcel are going to go away. We spent a lot of time researching our options and will pursue them vigorously if the City convinces any developer that they can go ahead with any of Councilmembers' apparent revenge fantasy scenarios for our uppityness. Their vision of what can go there is vastly different than what we believe can go there (and the Comprehensive Plan says, at least unless they manage to sabotage it, but then they'll REALLY have a revolt on their hands). If this were north Palo Alto, they would have already made plans to buy the parcel and save the 100 established trees at the orchard (like they're planning on buying the Birge Clark post office building). Another asset for north Palo Alto, while here in the South, we have to fight not to have our neighborhoods turned into High-riseville.

Posted by resident 1
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Apr 10, 2014 at 10:43 pm

There has been some water under the bridge since this article first appeared. The Weekly published an article about the north vs south - level of happiness. That opened a Pandora's box. A lot of opinions came out. People are now very focused on how the future of the city will be handled.

We have 5 CC seats open for the November 2014 election and you can bet that the people will not rubber stamp an uneven representation on the CC - we want equal representation. And for the new CC the fact that someone was on a school board is not a plus. We need people who come from the business world and understand business relative to scheduling of projects, finance, ethics, and general ability to conduct business for the city.

If you watch the CC meeting on the budget you can appreciate that we need people who can work in that environment.

As to housing the city is 25 square miles - some of which is parkland and not buildable. We are built out to our borders. Consider the commercial buildings that are for lease all of the time if you want to complain about lack of business. Tally the number of older apartments that are low rental fee that are for lease or rent next time you want to complain about lack of housing. What people are selling does not fit the actual facts - what is on the ground today.

Posted by resident 1
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Apr 11, 2014 at 11:51 am

The topic of housing needs to be co-joined with the article on flood control and the high rate of flood insurance that is required for flood prone areas. The SJM 04/11/14 is projecting that we will have an El Nino winter which may be extreme leading to flooding. There is also a separate article on flood insurance that will have a 18% rise in cost.
This is a direct impact on the financing of housing, construction for new buildings and rental / leasing of all buildings that are in a designated flood prone area.
The theory that we are going to build low income housing comes with a very big price tag because low income people cannot afford flood insurance by themselves - the cost has to be absorbed by the entity that is managing the property.

Where you live and work has other costs that in this case can be very dramatic.

Posted by palo altan
a resident of Green Acres
on Apr 12, 2014 at 4:57 pm

Because of Prop 13, we shouldn't be "building" low-income housing at all, we should be looking at how to best save existing low-income housing stock, which is mostly older housing stock.

The fact that we even having density bonus "incentives" means developers have the perverse incentive to raze existing low-income housing such as at Buena Vista, in order to build high-density market rate housing with a smattering of not-very-affordable "affordable" subsidized units.

Or build horribly expensive new segregated low-income housing.

This works for developers. Why are we all working for developers? It's ruining our town.

Posted by Jerry Underdal
a resident of Barron Park
on Apr 13, 2014 at 5:25 pm

Jerry Underdal is a registered user.

"Because of Prop 13, we shouldn't be "building" low-income housing at all, we should be looking at how to best save existing low-income housing stock, which is mostly older housing stock."

Correct me if I'm wrong, but wasn't the argument showing the advantage of saving existing low-income housing stock over new construction of low-income projects developed with an eye to declining core cities where serviceable houses were deteriorating, sometimes beyond repair, and the cost of the land they sat on was relatively cheap. In those areas, buying the properties, renovating the houses and placing them back into the housing market as affordable housing has many advantages over new construction.

But there is no cheap land in Palo Alto. What older housing stock do you have in mind that could be saved as low-income housing aside from the Buena Vista mobile home park?

Existing low-income housing would largely be homes owned by residents who bought decades ago and have been protected from property tax increases by Prop 13 and in many cases have long since paid off their mortgage. They may have low- to moderate-incomes, but they can still live in Palo Alto because of their low housing costs

Once those homes are sold, at today's elevated prices the value of the land itself, regardless of the condition of the home on it, means that the property will not be available even to moderate income occupants. I may be missing something, but I don't see how Palo Alto will continue to have significant economic diversity among its residents in the future without construction of new low- to moderate-income housing.

Posted by palo altan
a resident of Green Acres
on Apr 13, 2014 at 6:23 pm

">I may be missing something,..."

[Portion removed.]

To begin understanding the way affordable housing stock is mainly in older housing stock, try the first in KQED's series Priced Out:
Web Link

Posted by palo altan
a resident of Green Acres
on Apr 13, 2014 at 6:31 pm

You lost all credibility with me in regards to affordable housing, Jerry, when you pushed and pushed to bulldoze the trees at Maybell instead of joining the other side of the aisle on that political battle to instead use the $7million from the affordable housing fund the City committed there to save Buena Vista.

Whether Maybell had won or lost, your support or it meant that money was diverted away from any possibility of being used at Buena Vista.

Instead of dismissing Buena Vista offhand like that, how about remembering that it's 4 acres of actual low-income housing for over 400 people? Over $30 million was ultimately going to be spent at Maybell creating 60 subsidized apartments. Less money, invested in buying a public asset that would eventually make its money back for the public, would save 7-8 times as much affordable housing for longtime Palo Altans.

That's a lot of affordable housing in Palo Alto. Let's start there.

Posted by palo altan
a resident of Green Acres
on Apr 13, 2014 at 6:54 pm

Dear Weekly censors:
Jerry Underdal is proud of using his name on his vociferous posts and has done so publicly for a long time. It is not outside the bounds for me to express an opinion about the politics expressed by those posts. I think you should have allowed me to make that point. People on the left can be as rigid, ideological, and lost to pragmatism and reason as people on the far right, only it's not popular to point it out, and there's no identifiable group like teapartiers (yet). I pointed it out in a situation where there is a long history from which people can judge whether my opinion is correct or not. You should not have deleted that point.

Posted by Jerry Underdal
a resident of Barron Park
on Apr 13, 2014 at 7:20 pm

Jerry Underdal is a registered user.

Good heavens! What a misunderstanding! I'm completely behind the effort to help the residents of Buena Vista. But beyond Buena Vista, where do you see other possibilities for low to moderate income housing? I hope I'm overly pessimistic. I was hoping you would clarify what I've got wrong in my admittedly unscientific consideration of the situation. Give me some hope, please.

Posted by Robert
a resident of another community
on Apr 13, 2014 at 7:49 pm

Why not just force people in Palo Alto to sell their houses for the same price you bought them? That would make sure affordable housing is available, and its not any more absurd or overbearing than most of the ideas thrown out here?

Posted by palo altan
a resident of Green Acres
on Apr 13, 2014 at 7:59 pm

I did not misunderstand that you support BV. I realize you support BV in principle. My previous post was deleted or you would understand what I meant, about your politics being so ideological, you have no sense of pragmatism, and how your pushing the Maybell project where the City had committed the entire affordable housing fund, then completely drained, meant that money was not available to help save BV. I think the City Council was more than happy with that state of affairs since I don't think their support of saving BV is sincere. They were intimately involved in the purchase of Maybell. Why the hands off approach at BV?

So, first of all, there are any number of places where existing affordable housing is at risk. For example, the affordable housing at the Terman Apartments is even identified in the general plan as being at risk of being lost. Maybe it is, maybe it isn't. I don't know. But BV isn't the only place where we could be directing our efforts much more pragmatically to save LOTS more affordable housing for the money than building new stock. (Especially where what is lost is priceless, such as open space and an established orchard with 100 trees.)

So here's a hypothetical example of the difference. One piece of property with an older apartment building on it. Owner wants to sell. Two scenarios for the same property:

1) City Council gives away zoning like candy. Density bonus rules make the property more valuable to developers which inflates the cost of the land. Developers get density bonuses to put in a tiny percentage of Below Market Rate units, which aren't really that cheap because the new housing stock is incredibly expensive. The BMR housing stock is subsidized and expensive to maintain, so much so that (as is actually the case in Palo Alto) despite the need, some of it remains empty. No one who used to live in the older housing can afford to live in the newer "BMR" housing.

2) City identifies older housing stock/apartments that is naturally more affordable because it is older housing stock. City or state could provide for, for example, tax-free sale to City or resident non-profit co-op in exchange for regulatory agreement to keep property appreciating at a lower rate than exorbitant market. In other words, if I have a $15 million apartment building and can sell it to the City and not have to pay taxes, then I can afford to take a lower offer. City enters into regulatory agreement with residents - People living in affordable housing are able to accumulate some wealth even as the property remains low-income. The property essentially creates no new burdens for city services and infrastructure, and the City can sell it gradually to residents or retain it as an asset to retain affordable housing or provide other benefits should conditions change - for example, putting a school there in the future should it be called for, but the land wouldn't have to be repurchased.

Posted by palo altan
a resident of Green Acres
on Apr 13, 2014 at 8:01 pm

You seem to be on the other end of the spectrum ideologically from Jerry. Why don't you two duke it out since you seem to have an opinion that doesn't involve actually reading and considering what other people are saying?

Posted by Jerry Underdal
a resident of Barron Park
on Apr 13, 2014 at 8:36 pm

Jerry Underdal is a registered user.

Thank you, Palo Altan, for laying out the two scenarios, of which I would prefer the latter.

I don't understand your eagerness to sic Robert and me on each other. Please reconsider.

Bulldozing of the trees was my prediction of what would happen whether the affordable housing project was built or another purchaser bought the property and developed it within existing zoning. I expect lots of things to happen that I don't favor.

I stand by my offer made months ago to give $100/year for support of the programs and maintenance of the heritage orchard project should it get off the ground.

You give too much significance to my small role in an election that happened months ago. The question is where is Palo Alto heading now.

Posted by Palo Altan
a resident of Green Acres
on Apr 14, 2014 at 4:05 am

Your $100 off is meaningless. Why don't you put some effort into both? Saving BV and the orchard, I mean.

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