Guest Opinion: A different view of the Comp Plan process | February 24, 2017 | Palo Alto Weekly | Palo Alto Online |

Palo Alto Weekly

Spectrum - February 24, 2017

Guest Opinion: A different view of the Comp Plan process

by Larry Klein

The Weekly's Feb. 2 editorial ("A reckless majority") and the sibling guest opinion by Councilman Tom DuBois ("When democracy is highjacked") take serious issue with the Comprehensive Plan decisions of the City Council majority in response to the recommendations of the Citizens Advisory Committee (CAC).

Steve Levy, a member of the CAC, in his superb blog in Palo Alto Online thoroughly demolishes the factual basis of the Weekly editorial and the DuBois op-ed. Other members of the CAC have been publicly critical of the council majority's decisions. My intent here is not to enter that fray but to discuss some other issues raised by the Comp Plan process.

Nearly all of our citizen boards, commissions and committees do excellent work, and their recommendations are readily accepted by the council but we have to keep in mind that they are advisory to the council. DuBois bemoans the fact (contradicted by Levy) that the council majority ignored some of the CAC's recommendations. That goes with the territory. Repeat: Citizens committees are advisory. The ultimate responsibility rests with the elected officials. Whenever you hear an elected official complain about a citizens' committee being ignored you know that he/she was on the losing side and is merely grousing about it.

Slates: In 1975 we had a bitter City Council election that involved two slates. After that election, various community and slate leaders got together and, speaking only for themselves, agreed that they would not participate in or encourage slates in future elections. As a result for nearly 40 years we did not have slates in our council elections, and I believe we were well-served by having council members who worked through the issues independently and were not dependent, in whole or in part, on the group think of a slate.

In 2014 we had a slate, backed by Palo Altans for Sensible Zoning (PASZ), that, with like-minded incumbents, won a majority on the council. Slates beget opposition slates, so we had Palo Alto Forward (PAF) join the fray in 2016. Another facet of slates seem to be that they produce ever more expensive and rancorous election campaigns. That certainly was true for our 2014 and 2016 campaigns. I hope that starting in 2018 we can return to non-slate elections.

The result of the 2016 election was that the PAF slate won by a significant margin. Their four candidates received 58 percent of the vote to 42 percent for the PASZ four (votes for non-slate candidates not taken into account). With this type of mandate one would expect the new majority to move things in a different direction — as the PASZ members did when they were in the majority. It's disingenuous for the Weekly and DuBois to use the term "rammed through" (both use it!). When you have slates, the majority is able to enact its views. That's not "ramming through"; it's democracy, slate-style.

The Comprehensive Plan Process. Nearly 10 years ago the City Council (I was then a member) voted to update the Comp Plan but stated that, since Palo Alto was 98 or 99 percent built out and that the 1998 Comp Plan was seemingly well-received by the community, only minor tweaks and appropriate updates were needed. Through a variety of stops and starts, additional assignments by council, extensive non-substantive rewording by the Planning and Transportation Commission, reports from consultants and finally (I hope) the creation two years ago of the CAC, the process has stretched out interminably and at a cost far in excess of what anybody could have imagined in 2008. And little has been accomplished.

The consensus appears to be that the final result will not be appreciably different from the existing Comp Plan. We need to take a careful look at how and why the Comp Plan process spiraled out of control so that we don't repeat the errors when we start work in the not-too-distant future on the post 2030 plan.

Larry Klein served as mayor of Palo Alto in 1984-85, 1989 and 2008. He can be reached at lklein@thoits.com.

Comments

23 people like this
Posted by Beverly
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Feb 24, 2017 at 10:05 am

I am shocked that the weekly actually published this, given thatbthe writer basically states that the weekly an Dubois lied and/or misled the public in their comments ( was it intentional-- did the weekly and Dubois collude on their writing)


18 people like this
Posted by Annette
a resident of College Terrace
on Feb 24, 2017 at 10:24 am

Annette is a registered user.

"Nearly 10 years ago the City Council (I was then a member) voted to update the Comp Plan but stated that, since Palo Alto was 98 or 99 percent built out . . . " That pretty much sums up the problem, Larry.


15 people like this
Posted by Elaine
a resident of Downtown North
on Feb 24, 2017 at 11:30 am

Larry, Thank you for writing on this issue, I respect your perspective given your longtime service in this community. As a Comp Plan CAC member, it has been difficult to see so much City Council time go into a discussion of whether or not programs should be included, instead of spending that time on actual policy discussions that would make a significant difference in enhancing the lives of our current and future residents

As a co-founder of Palo Alto Forward, I want to offer one point of clarification: our community group offers educational events for better housing and transportation alternatives. We just held a great session on Feb 2 with author Alex Garvin on What Makes Cities Great, and we encourage you to attend our next set of events.

While we encourage civic engagement, we DO NOT run "slates". I hope you can modify and clarify your statement. All four candidates who won in November, Liz, Greg, Adrian, Lydia, prevailed very much on the strength of their individual campaigns and community support.


45 people like this
Posted by resident
a resident of Midtown
on Feb 24, 2017 at 11:42 am

The author writes "The result of the 2016 election was that the PAF slate won by a significant margin." - what he fails to mention is that these same candidates were not willing to run on the the PAF ideas, instead obfuscate their positions, hid campaign contributions from developers by delaying their reporting of campaign contributions until after the election, etc.

So to imply that they have a mandate to go in a different direction is obfuscation.
What is really in play is that the author and those of his ilk want certain neighborhoods targeted for all the high density development while leaving his neighborhood and those of his associates unfettered with any higher densification.


50 people like this
Posted by anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 24, 2017 at 12:36 pm

Larry - come on. You are being disingenuous in ignoring the point, reframing it as simply an election result. It's not about who won an election (though you do rightfully link the majority with Palo Alto Forward, the pro big developers, big office, big traffic, big unaffordable housing lobbying group).
The point is that an irresponsible, arrogant pro-development bare council majority blew up a 2-year old citizen/staff process that was functioning well by all measures to produce a high quality Comp Plan. The 5 member majority will never be able to match the Commissions work, having gutted it.
This is bad governance, bad judgement, disrespectful of the volunteer Commissioners, staff and tax-paying residents given its an irresponsible waste of a huge amount of our money.
How dare you just brush this off as a little matter of a single seat gained in one election resulting in a bare majority. Had the process not been sabotaged by Wolbach, Kniss, Fein, Tenaka and Scharff, this Comp Plan could have been a fine result. But, due to the action of these 5 council members, it will be as you predict - no better than it was 10 years ago when you were on the council, if that.


33 people like this
Posted by HMM
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Feb 24, 2017 at 1:09 pm

@Elaine. Oh, come on. You ran a slate. Larry just slipped and had an honest moment.


42 people like this
Posted by Don't believe the hype
a resident of Community Center
on Feb 24, 2017 at 3:06 pm

Seriously Larry, come on. @anon is right. This is not about a new Council majority just moving things in a different direction policy-wise. Of course the CAC is merely "advisory" and Council has the prerogative to take or leave CAC recommendations, or pick and choose among them. By doing so through OPEN deliberation, Council members communicate their values to the public and like them or not, we can at least see where we're headed as a city.

The problem here, as you well know, is that's not what they did. Mayor Scharff did, in fact, "ram through" the wholesale elimination of Comp Plan Programs. Not by prevailing in a public debate with a majority of votes, as a slate can surely do, but by imposing a highly unusual fast-track process that allowed them to **sidestep debate altogether**.

While falling all over themselves to complement and praise the work of the CAC, they threw out all the recommended implementation programs without any substantive review, leaving the public with no idea what Council Members care about, where we might be headed, or how we'll get there. And no confidence that our interests are represented in that important document.

Steve Levy then tried to build a wall of credibility around that reckless move by pretending that retaining CAC recommended Policies (as opposed to Policies and Programs together) was "accepting consensus where it existed." At the CAC meeting this week it was abundantly clear that the CAC overwhelmingly (with the exception of Steve Levy and one other CAC member) believed that the Policies, taken without the Programs, did NOT represent the balance or consensus the CAC worked so hard to build.

So yes, a slim Council majority can do whatever they want, including rejecting extensive, balanced public input. But to do so while hiding behind a false veil of community inclusion preys upon the inattention of busy voters. It is misleading and wrong. Your strength as a former Council Member, Larry, was your willingness to call a spade a spade. Sad to see you jump on board the Steve Levy train of obfuscation.

Palo Altan's deserve to know what their elected officials stand for. The new majority's unwillingness to bear the public scrutiny of open deliberation should not be tolerated.


14 people like this
Posted by Mark
a resident of another community
on Feb 24, 2017 at 6:13 pm

Let's just be clear-- the controversy over the Comp Plan is ultimately extremely pointless, as the range between the "pro-development" councilmembers and the "residentialists" is extremely narrow. They're all residentialists.

Palo Alto's Comp Plan is extremely broken in that it fails to serve the community with enough housing to be affordable, and only serves the relatively few residents who were lucky enough to buy into Palo Alto before all the land ran out.

Zoning is ultimately a state power, and not a municipal one. Palo Alto has an obligation to serve the greater community with its comprehensive plan, and not a narrow subset (existing residents). If PACC fails to seriously address this, Sacramento will address this for them.


11 people like this
Posted by Mark
a resident of another community
on Feb 24, 2017 at 6:16 pm

"since Palo Alto was 98 or 99 percent built out"

And this is the ultimate fallacy here. A city is never built out as long as there's room for sensible densification. The wide majority of Palo Alto is zoned for low-density single-family-housing. This has to change, and it's only the artificial subsidies of Prop 13 that prevent it from becoming inevitable.


21 people like this
Posted by Midtown resident too
a resident of Midtown
on Feb 24, 2017 at 7:22 pm

"Palo Alto has an obligation to serve the greater community with its comprehensive plan, and not a narrow subset (existing residents)" - absolutely not. The first priority is to make city life pleasant for existing homeowners that pay the taxes. Trying to jam in housing just to get others in (and make developers rich in the process) is not serving the needs of Palo Alto residents. After you fix the existing congestion and traffic issues, by all means look at more housing, but not before that.


8 people like this
Posted by Mark
a resident of another community
on Feb 24, 2017 at 7:34 pm

"absolutely not. The first priority is to make city life pleasant for existing homeowners that pay the taxes."

The root of all modern zoning, the Standard State Zoning Enabling Act, entrusted municipalities to zone, in order that they'd serve "promote the general welfare" of the greater community at large, not just the residents within their municipality. Other states have pulled back local control under the "fair share" doctrine of cities that through exclusionary zoning are not serving the greater community.

California is likely to be next, due to the poor conduct and generally selfish behavior of residents like those in Palo Alto.

Also, thanks to Prop 13, local property taxes increasingly fail to fund local spending (Palo Alto pays the LEAST effective property tax rate of any city in California[0]), and this increasingly comes out of the general Sacramento budget. My income taxes pay for Palo Alto spending, even though its zoning works to keep me out.

[0] Web Link


19 people like this
Posted by incredulous
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 24, 2017 at 9:38 pm

Mr. Klein states that "we were well-served by having Council members who worked through the issues". This statement is incredulous. Mr. Klein is oblivious to or in complete denial of disastrous
City land use, zoning,development policies over the last let's say 15 years which have put us in the
mess we are in today which is growing worse by the day. His defense of the gutting of the Comp Plan
process by the Mayor and new majority should be the catalyst to spur an immediate effort to recall those five members of the Council before even more
damage, piling on is done.


23 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 24, 2017 at 10:02 pm

What is Mr. Klein talking about here? The Comp Plan process? The influence of special interests and advocacy groups? Or just the visibility of those things?

Palo Alto’s major special interest has long been Developers and commercial property owners. This group benefitted greatly over the years, and notably in the 2002-2012 decade, from putting up oversized, underparked buildings -- assisted by flexible zoning codes and friendly city councils, some of which included Mr. Klein. Those relationships led to two major legacies. First, to a series of controversial projects and a scathing Grand Jury report on murky city dealings with Developers, a voter revolt, and eventually some reforms such as a halt to PC zoning and stricter “revolving door” rules for city officials. And second, to a legacy of long-term traffic and parking problems that the city today struggles with, including in the proposed programs in the draft Comp Plan.

Mr. Klein casts the Comp Plan flap as an issue of jurisdiction, not substance. But the point of a Comp Plan is to guide land use, which inherently implies constraints; without a Comp Plan, it would be easier for city councils to approve any project at all. As a Developer you’d love that, especially with a friendly council. If your objective is to restore the era of big-ticket “let’s make a deal” projects with unknown (or unvalued) long-term impacts, then a diluted Comp Plan is what you want. That’s not a jurisdictional detail, but a power shift back towards the special interests of that era. If the "slates" cast light on this, so be it.

Finally, Mr. Klein was one of the authors of the 2016 “8 Mayors” letter, which excoriated council candidates who had taken substantial contributions from several resident families who had no particular financial interest in city land use policy, other than being homeowners. Mr. Klein decried those donations and supported the other slate, all of whose members were later discovered to have taken substantial contributions from Developers and commercial property interests -- who absolutely do have financial interests in city land use policy -- and which donations were structured, incredibly, so as to avoid public disclosure until after the election.

Mr. Klein suggests residents calm down and don’t worry. But if you interpret the current climate as a return to practices that were standard in Mr. Klein’s era, then calm down and don’t worry is not what you want.


8 people like this
Posted by Don't be ridiculous Mark
a resident of Midtown
on Feb 24, 2017 at 10:52 pm

Mark - blaming Prop 13 for lower taxes paid by Palo Alto residents is flat out wrong as Prop 13 is CA wide. You as a CA resident are also paying less taxes than without Prop 13. It is more likely that Palo Alto homeowners are paying for other communities, as they probably make more and have more expensive homes (inspite of Prop 13) than other areas. Which means they pay more taxes.

Mark - if you are so concerned about general welfare of their areas, go fund projects in Sudan or some place worse for than where you are first. Or closer to home - Compton or maybe even areas of East Palo Alto. Maybe I took it to the extreme, but it is an extension of the argument you are making, if you really believe in it. I am sure you will first want your own pressing local problems to be fixed first.


6 people like this
Posted by Mark (ridiculous?)
a resident of another community
on Feb 24, 2017 at 11:26 pm

> You as a CA resident are also paying less taxes than without Prop 13.

Nope, I'm a renter. I take the burden of whatever my landlord wants me to pay, and I pay some of the highest income taxes to make up for Palo Alto homeowners, et al, getting subsidies on their land ownership. Oh yes, and some of the highest sales taxes.

Prop 13 is a shift in tax burden from landowners to everyone else.

> Mark - if you are so concerned about general welfare of their areas, go fund projects in Sudan or some place worse for than where you are first. Or closer to home - Compton or maybe even areas of East Palo Alto.

Why do people live in failing communities, with poor economic outcomes, poor public infrastructure, and general misery?

In a more just society, they'd have the *option* of moving to where there is opportunity. This is what brought every person to where they are-- chasing opportunity.

When a place like the Bay Area, an economic dynamo, effectively puts up a "WE'RE CLOSED" sign, through a failure of planning and a failure of allocating resources, we're dooming these people. And why? Because privileged landowners can enjoy some of the most generous tax subsidies around and complain about traffic and tall buildings.

We need to learn to share our land. Prop 13 does exactly the opposite, and it must go.


16 people like this
Posted by Sanctimonious City
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 25, 2017 at 12:37 am

Looks like Mark got taken by more fake news. His link goes to an article written by a "Multimedia Producer" who uses a commercial blog from Trulia.com as the source.

Maybe he should have gone to the Santa Clara County Tax Assessors web site instead where he would have learned that the property tax rate this year is 1.1636% before special assessments. If the average new home price in Palo Alto is $2.3M then those lucky homeowners pay about $26,763 a year in property tax or $2,230 per month.

It is basically the price of a studio apartment or leasing 3 Teslas. However, the property tax is relentless and perpetual like waves on a beach. It cannot be paid down and it will never stop. Unfortunately, for redistributionists like him that is not enough.

Residents who have been here longer still pay the same tax rate. However, the rate the property assessment value can go up is just limited. The reason is to prevent gentrification and keep residents on fixed incomes from literally being taxed out of their houses. Something most Palo Altans on this comment board usually support.

The other mistake he failed to catch is property taxes go to and are distributed by the county. The majority of the budget is used to fund our school systems. In addition, Palo Alto homeowners also pay a special assessment of $733 (Measure A) just for PAUSD. And that is before PIE and endless other worthy school causes pass the tin cup around. Hardly what could be characterized as a grand NIMBY conspiracy but maybe a reason outsiders would like to live here without paying the amount of property taxes that the single family homeowners do.

Ultimately, none of this really matters to people like Mark. They think the world owes them something and no amount of taxes is ever enough. It's because they have grand dreams for urbanizing, densifying and subsidizing their own progressive lifestyles at our expense.

To paraphrase, the problem with socialism is that you eventually run out of other people's property taxes to spend.


5 people like this
Posted by Mark
a resident of another community
on Feb 25, 2017 at 12:52 am

"Ultimately, none of this really matters to people like Mark. They think the world owes them something and no amount of taxes is ever enough. It's because they have grand dreams for urbanizing, densifying and subsidizing their own progressive lifestyles at our expense."

Let's be clear, the Palo Alto residents who complain about change are disproportionally likely to have benefitted from Prop 13 for decades, and own houses work many millions, but pay taxes on an assessed value of less than $100k. (The only people paying 1% on $2.3M are suckers/speculators currently buying into the system. But hell, they have enough money.)

Paying a tax on the land you use is just as sane as paying for the water you drink-- in Palo Alto, as so many places, we're running into a drought of land, but some feel they deserve a subsidy on their exorbitant use, while preserving their ability to profit on it. Reducing the privilege of Prop 13, and having all generations pay their fair share, would solve the housing crisis and would simply be the right thing to do.

"To paraphrase, the problem with socialism is that you eventually run out of other people's property taxes to spend."

I recommend reading Joseph Stiglitz's seminal paper, which shows that taxes on lands precisely equal optimal government spending.[0] You won't run out of revenue; it'll line up perfectly.

[0] Web Link


5 people like this
Posted by AB
a resident of Midtown
on Feb 25, 2017 at 4:37 am

Mark- if you want to debate Prop,13 well that's a different discussion. Prop 13 is not PA specific. Any community where house prices have gone up will have an impact due to Prop 13. But Prop 13 is not something PA drove, nor is something that applies only to PA.

Honestly removing Prop 13 is something I'd be ok with. It will not degrade the quality of life in communities by increasing congestion. But we do not have the power to remove it. So let's not debate that in an article focused on PA issues.

Regarding chasing opportunity - work hard, make money and then buy a house in PA (or MV, Los Altos etc). Don't rely on city council putting up BMRs to accommodate you. This is the US, not a communist state. As long as there is no discrimination based on gender, national origin, color etc (which there isn't), why change pa for the worse? If you rally need to add more housing, do it where there is space.


17 people like this
Posted by mauricio
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Feb 25, 2017 at 6:33 am

The only obligations Palo Alto has is to preserve and protect high quality of life for its residents. It has no obligation, nor should it, provide affordable housing to all those who wish to live in Palo Alto. Where did the notion that Palo Alto must turn itself into a sardine can and accept gridlock, increased crime, density and air pollution in order to accommodate those wishing to move in at a price convenient to them even come from?


8 people like this
Posted by common sense
a resident of Midtown
on Feb 25, 2017 at 6:47 am

Mark @ another community,

It's not just property owners who bought decades ago that benefit from Prop 13. Homeowners who bought in 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013 and 2014 are benefiting from Prop 13.

In 2010, one could buy a 3 bedroom 2 bath home for $1 million. In 2016 that home would be worth $2 million. So that homeowner is realizing a benefit. Many homeowners stretched their budget to buy a home in Palo Alto, and would not be able to afford to have their property taxes double in 6 years. The benefit of Prop 13 is that when a homeowner commits to buy a property, they have their costs known up front - property taxes and what they need to pay for a 30 year mortgage. And Prop 13 helps to reduce the urge of government entities to constantly raise taxes for prolific spending.

Look at the local PAUSD school board. They did a poor job of budgeting in 2016, and have a multi million dollar deficit for many years to come. Prior to Prop 13, they would just raise the property tax. Now the PAUSD is forced to look at how they are spending our tax dollars and they are finding positions that are not needed (for example they decided to get rid of an "assistant superintendent" position, among others.


12 people like this
Posted by AB
a resident of Midtown
on Feb 25, 2017 at 7:10 am

@mauricio: "Where did the notion that Palo Alto must turn itself into a sardine can and accept gridlock, increased crime, density and air pollution in order to accommodate those wishing to move in at a price convenient to them even come from?"

It comes from the many entitled folks who do not make enough (maybe they didn't work hard enough or were not disciplined enough?) to buy a house here, but still feel that they have the right to live here. Or unfortunately from some city council members that appear to have gotten developer money to back them. These people do not care about improving the quality of life in PA.


6 people like this
Posted by Mark
a resident of another community
on Feb 25, 2017 at 9:40 am

To Common Sense:

The argument that there should be a stable rate of property tax is sensible-- it's the locked-in rate of assessments that is problematic and leads to an inefficient use of land.

And truly, at a certain point after 1978, people didn't *save money* on new purchases through Prop 13, but rather the savings became capitalized into the cost of the properties themselves. The high prices reflect that you're paying for Prop 13 up-front.

To Mauricio:

"The only obligations Palo Alto has is to preserve and protect high quality of life for its residents"

Nope, the very rationale for zoning is that it serves the greater community. Zoning is not a natural right of cities, but a responsibility entrusted to them by the state. Palo Alto is not acting in a way that warrants this trust.

We have a limited amount of land which is in extremely high demand, as evidenced by the extremely high land values of Palo Alto. To zone it largely as low-density single family households is an extremely luxurious use of land, one that could only be justified by paying back to the greater community the appropriate cost. This simply isn't happening. Palo Alto is benefiting from the community at large (and benefiting from the ability to profit on land sales), but doesn't pay the community at large back for what they're getting.

Also, residents are extremely quick to impugn developers for making money from development, but don't condemn homeowners for their ability to make a profit selling their home for millions. Should this ability to profit be taken away? I'd be curious to see what mechanism could be used.


13 people like this
Posted by mauricio
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Feb 25, 2017 at 10:34 am

It's zoned for mostly ow density single density use precisely because this is why so many residents bought in Palo Alto, in my case, and many others, saving and scarifying for many years, not wanting to live in a large, dense city, or in a dense overpopulated suburb blighted by high rises. We have no obligation whatsoever to those who want to change this particular life style and quality of life, and have us subsidize it, partially by giving up our lifestyle and having the town's livability greatly diminished. There are plenty of choices for those who want to live in urban density, and they have no right to impose it on others who deliberately choose not to live that way. Nobody has an inherited right to live in Palo Alto.


4 people like this
Posted by Mark
a resident of another community
on Feb 25, 2017 at 10:42 am

Mauricio:

Then why is land in Palo Alto worth so much more than any of the low-density suburbs one can find all across the country?

Location, location, location.

It's not that impressive to have low traffic and abundant parking, but it is special to be near world-class cities with access to transit, and to be in the center of a a burgeoning economy.

Palo Alto residents enjoy the luxuries of this location, which they did very little to create, and by no means are entitled to misuse their land with inefficient allocation.

Want low-density suburbs? Sure, there are thousands of such places like this. Just don't squander the land of the Bay Area to make yet another.


16 people like this
Posted by Annette
a resident of College Terrace
on Feb 25, 2017 at 11:45 am

Annette is a registered user.

@Mark from another community - what, precisely, are you suggesting for Palo Alto? I'm guessing your answer will include high density housing. If that is a good guess, where, precisely, would you put these buildings? And what is your answer to infrastructure-related realities (cars, parking, circulation, transportation, water issues, school and hospital capacity, fire and police services) that accompany such housing? And should the City continue to simultaneously use its limited (some would argue non-existent) land to add more and more commercial space so that a city that has been 98 - 99% built out since 2010 (Mr.Klein's own words) further warps itself into an even more congested mess? And exacerbates problems that are already impossible to solve? What is the point, really, in digging ourselves into a bigger hole - particularly when we cannot limit Stanford expansion and the impact that has on Palo Alto infrastructure? Theory-based planning is pointless, arguably irresponsible, when a city's limitations are what ours are now - and have been for several years. I submit that we have to STOP denying reality and start engaging in reality-based planning and problem solving.


2 people like this
Posted by Joe
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 25, 2017 at 12:11 pm

I agree that this topic is not appropriate to flog Prop 13 one more time. But just to set the record straight about Palo Alto and property taxes -- about 46% of every dollar collected in property taxes in Palo Alto goes to the PAUSD (Palo Alto Unified School District). About 9% goes to the City of Palo Alto. This partition is a result of AB8, which was passed into law after Prop 13 was approved by the voters.


4 people like this
Posted by Mark
a resident of another community
on Feb 25, 2017 at 12:18 pm

"I'm guessing your answer will include high density housing. If that is a good guess, where, precisely, would you put these buildings?"

Every place could use more density, but nearer transit is best.

"And what is your answer to infrastructure-related realities (cars, parking, circulation, transportation, water issues, school and hospital capacity, fire and police services) that accompany such housing?"

Repeal Prop 13, and infrastructure will fund itself.

Anyway, a big step forward is to reduce parking requirements for new housing. Allow units to be underparked.

"And should the City continue to simultaneously use its limited (some would argue non-existent) land to add more and more commercial space so that a city that has been 98 - 99% built out since 2010 (Mr.Klein's own words) further warps itself into an even more congested mess?"

The entire Bay Area needs more residential capacity, but Prop 13 makes it inevitable to allocate land towards commercial spaces. The incentives are all wrong, which is why Prop 13 has to go. (Look at Brisbane, who chose to zone newly available land all for commercial, because it was in their financial best interest to do so.)

"And exacerbates problems that are already impossible to solve? What is the point, really, in digging ourselves into a bigger hole"

Palo Alto's job is to make a functioning city. And it simply doesn't function for anyone except a small privileged set of landowners who bought a the right time.

The greater system makes it very hard to do what they need to do, which is why it's an obligation for Palo Alto to interact with the greater system and push for reforms that will make affordable housing something that aligns with everyone's incentives, instead of a bogeyman that the privileged class fears.


4 people like this
Posted by Mark
a resident of another community
on Feb 25, 2017 at 12:24 pm

Joe:

"I agree that this topic is not appropriate to flog Prop 13 one more time."

When is it appropriate? It's the single biggest issue in determining the shape of the Comprehensive Plan, and determines so much about what allows our communities to function.

It's very convenient for those who are routinely subsidized through Prop 13 to say "it's not the appropriate time." The status quo serves them quite well, and it's important that any necessary reforms are withheld from discussion.

More and more people who are harmed by Prop 13 are waking up to it every day.


2 people like this
Posted by Joe
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 25, 2017 at 12:28 pm

> It's the single biggest issue in determining the shape of the
> Comprehensive Plan, and determines so much about what allows our
> communities to function.

Nonsense! Communities would do just fine without comprehensive plans. Have you ever read Palo Alto's Plan? Have you even read the Plan for your community?

Prop 13 has nothing to do with this matter.


4 people like this
Posted by Mark
a resident of another community
on Feb 25, 2017 at 12:34 pm

"Nonsense! Communities would do just fine without comprehensive plans. Have you ever read Palo Alto's Plan? Have you even read the Plan for your community?

Prop 13 has nothing to do with this matter."

When residents enact exclusionary zoning through a Comprehensive Plan, they drive up the cost of a unit through the scarcity of land available. Without Prop 13, Palo Alto's choice to preserve low-density housing would hit the pocketbooks of its residents-- they'd choose to allow for more dense development throughout town or pay for the luxury of low density through their taxes.

Prop 13 disrupts the connection to inefficient use of land to tax incidence, and thereby incentivizes all landowners to enact zoning that is as exclusionary as possible. They have nothing to lose, and everything to gain.

That's why Prop 13 matters here-- it's the only reason the Comp Plan can be as exclusionary as it is.


15 people like this
Posted by Whatever
a resident of College Terrace
on Feb 25, 2017 at 12:39 pm

Yes, the PAF slate was mostly elected this time around and, naturally, will want to enact as much of their pro-development agenda as possible before the next CC election. Depressing but true.


7 people like this
Posted by Joe
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 25, 2017 at 12:57 pm

> Without Prop 13, Palo Alto's choice to preserve low-density housing
> would hit the pocketbooks of its residents-- they'd choose to allow
> for more dense development throughout town or pay for the luxury of
> low density through their taxes.

You have no evidence that this is true, or could be true. Palo Alto is a small town (25 square miles). It has, since the early 1970s, been built out. People started building single-family homes here starting in 1894 -- creating a town that was family-oriented, effectively a service-town for Stanford University.

Single-family homes built by Eichler in the 1950s and 1960s were very affordable--selling new in the $11K to $25K range. With the annexation of Barron Park in the mid-1970s added several thousand homes that were also affordable at the time. All of this went on before Prop 13 was approved by the voters.

There was no comprehensive planning done at the time, nor was there any Prop 13 at the time. Palo Alto grew rather organically, at least until the Eichler era. It's hard to believe that most towns in California (and the US), did not follow the same path.

This discussion is about the current process regarding the Palo Alto Comprehensive Plan -- and nothing more. If you want to start a Prop 13 discussion, feel free to do so!


4 people like this
Posted by Mark
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 25, 2017 at 1:07 pm

"There was no comprehensive planning done at the time, nor was there any Prop 13 at the time. Palo Alto grew rather organically, at least until the Eichler era."

It's easy to grow until you start running out of resources. Then you either share like adults or fight like children.

"This discussion is about the current process regarding the Palo Alto Comprehensive Plan"

And my overall point is that it's a minor issue in the bigger question of "how should Palo Alto zoning change"? The so-called "pro-development" wing are really on the side of residents, when compared to the massively beneficial paradigm shift that repealing Prop 13 will create.


3 people like this
Posted by When to grow
a resident of Stanford
on Feb 25, 2017 at 1:31 pm

@yimby

Has Palo Alto run out of resources?

That's the time when growth has an increasing cost to the city.

There's a trade-off to be made. Do the financial benefits to the developers, builders, lenders, and real estate agents outweigh the costs to the city?

Does our moral or ethical obligation to provide housing to X people outweigh the cost to the city?

Prop 13 has nothing to do with it; For example, Palo Alto is now more affordable relative to average household incomes of recent big name grads than it was in the '80s.


11 people like this
Posted by Sanctimonious City
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 25, 2017 at 2:43 pm

Many people like to highlight Prop 13 as the cause of tax shortfalls to fund infrastructure and those additional services. It is a fair point to make that property value assessments have not risen at the rate of inflation. However, there are perhaps even more significant reasons for the budget challenges.

Tax systems designed to rely on property taxes are vulnerable to a rapid influx of residents who have not paid into the system for many years before consuming services. For example, if the Duggar family from Arkansas moved to Palo Alto with their 17 kids and immediately enrolled them in school then it would be an undue burden on PAUSD resources. They are structured in a way that depends on people moving in as singles or maybe newlyweds and paying into the system for 5-8 years before using the schools.

Note: not adequately funding liabilities for government pensions/healthcare while making credit card-like minimum payments via operational budgets is another big problem but I will let someone else tackle that one.

Well, if property taxes are too low and cannot be increased then how about other sources then? In fact, we have those too in the form of consumption taxes (Sales and use), bond measures and parcel taxes. With one of the largest baskets of taxes in the nation is anybody really arguing Palo Alto homeowners are not paying their fair share? Some would argue that allowing free markets to dramatically increase housing sales prices is a sign they are functioning properly. It puts the increased tax burden on new residents who can and choose to afford it, it encourages the efficient allocation of housing to other less populated and lower cost areas and it discourages rent seeking behavior by free loaders, crony capitalists and progressive ideologues who wish for others to pay for their lifestyle.

Therefore, it is pretty obvious to anybody with intellectual honesty that the primary reason we have such a tax revenue shortfall is not because existing residents don't pay their fair share but because new residents do not pay the actual cost of incremental infrastructure and services when coming here. It is true for legal immigrants, illegal immigrants and anybody using the black market to avoid contributing. To densify Palo Alto, the bill would easily be over $1B for additional schools, healthcare, transportation, power, water and other social services.

Pandering politicians and newcomers like Mark don't like the size of the bill so they want to pass it on to longtime residents like someone consuming lots of drinks at a bar and then stiffing the other patrons with the tab.


16 people like this
Posted by Annette
a resident of College Terrace
on Feb 25, 2017 at 2:48 pm

Annette is a registered user.

More to Mark: the funding for infrastructure is not the driving factor. The City must, finally, get smart about planning and a good Comp Plan is critical to that. What happened on 1/30 is bad for all sorts of reasons, including that what was done was achieved wrongly. Among other things, it was sneaky. It is far easier to accept an unwelcome outcome if that outcome was arrived at fairly and squarely. This one was not. I agree with those who think Scharff et al have damaged the community. I doubt a recall is a reality, but I would support such an effort. We deserve and need honest and ethical government.


10 people like this
Posted by Curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on Feb 25, 2017 at 4:03 pm

"Steve Levy, a member of the CAC, in his superb guest opinion in Palo Alto Online thoroughly demolishes the factual basis of the Weekly editorial and the DuBois op-ed."

Opinions, no matter how agreeable to one's point of view, do not demolish facts. Unfortunately, this has had to be emphasized many times by many nationally respected people recently.


6 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 25, 2017 at 4:53 pm

Just a reminder that Palo Alto said no to more sales tax dollars when it wouldn't allow big box stores. Every time a Palo Alto resident drives out of town to Target, Walmart, Costco, Bed Bath & Beyond, Ikea, etc., they are spending their tax dollars in other cities. I would prefer to spend my sales tax dollars in my own town, but other cities get the windfall. I'm not sure how much money I spend out of town per annum, but if it was all added up, resident by resident, then I feel sure it would be quite a princely sum.


20 people like this
Posted by mauricio
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Feb 25, 2017 at 6:58 pm

No, the "pro development" wing is firmly on the side of developers and those who mistakenly feel they are entitled to live in Palo Alto no matter what. Claiming that the pro development wing is on the side of of residents smacks of the kind of demagoguery coming out of the Oval office these days.


5 people like this
Posted by Mark
a resident of another community
on Feb 25, 2017 at 7:35 pm

Just want to point out how staggeringly bad a point this is:

"Some would argue that allowing free markets to dramatically increase housing sales prices is a sign they are functioning properly. It puts the increased tax burden on new residents who can and choose to afford it, it encourages the efficient allocation of housing to other less populated and lower cost areas and it discourages rent seeking behavior by free loaders, crony capitalists and progressive ideologues who wish for others to pay for their lifestyle."

"It puts the increased tax burden on new residents who can and choose to afford it"-- and if you can't afford it, you can drop dead. Saying that people of modest means should struggle to make rent or move out of town (and certainly *never* dream of becoming a landowner) is stunningly selfish.

"it encourages the efficient allocation of housing to other less populated and lower cost areas" -- How is this efficient? You are describing sprawl to places like Manteca and Tracy. This creates long commutes and consumes more and more land. Simply put, it's an ecological disaster.

An efficient allocation of housing would be putting housing near where jobs and existing resources are (infill), not spreading them out to where the jobs aren't and where there is sparse infrastructure (sprawl).

"and it discourages rent seeking behavior by free loaders, crony capitalists and progressive ideologues who wish for others to pay for their lifestyle." -- it encourages speculation in real estate, which is why so many houses are bought simply to sit vacant (land banking). It's inefficient, rent-seeking behavior.

"Therefore, it is pretty obvious to anybody with intellectual honesty that the primary reason we have such a tax revenue shortfall is not because existing residents don't pay their fair share but because new residents do not pay the actual cost of incremental infrastructure and services when coming here. It is true for legal immigrants, illegal immigrants and anybody using the black market to avoid contributing. To densify Palo Alto, the bill would easily be over $1B for additional schools, healthcare, transportation, power, water and other social services." -- Investing in infrastructure results in higher land values, which can be collected by taxes, and invested back in infrastructure. It's a virtuous cycle which creates affordable housing and plenty of services for citizens. New and old residents pay alike, which is why it's fair.

"Pandering politicians and newcomers like Mark don't like the size of the bill so they want to pass it on to longtime residents like someone consuming lots of drinks at a bar and then stiffing the other patrons with the tab."

Nobody is pandering to me. Just find one politician with the courage to admit that Prop 13 is broken. Anyway, I'm paying most of my salary in rent and the rest in income taxes so that privileged Palo Alto landowners can resist any increase in property tax. I hardly feel it makes sense to say I'm the freeloader here.


7 people like this
Posted by Mark
a resident of another community
on Feb 25, 2017 at 7:43 pm

"Prop 13 has nothing to do with it; For example, Palo Alto is now more affordable relative to average household incomes of recent big name grads than it was in the '80s."

I don't think this is true. At $2.7M, this is 30 years of salary for a person making $100k (a generous income). I don't have the numbers from the '80s, but there is simply no way that it matches the absurdity of these numbers.

"There's a trade-off to be made. Do the financial benefits to the developers, builders, lenders, and real estate agents outweigh the costs to the city?"

Yes.

The developers and builders earn their money by *doing things*. The only dead weight are the landowners, who make money by holding onto a land title. Say we should look to confiscate these profits, and I'll listen.

"Does our moral or ethical obligation to provide housing to X people outweigh the cost to the city?"

Absolutely.

Saying that Palo Alto is an exclusive club; "either be a multi-millionaire or lucky enough to have moved here decades ago, or you're not wanted" is simply not a defensible stance. It indicates that Palo Alto is not worthy of the zoning power it has been entrusted by the state of California.


5 people like this
Posted by Mark
a resident of another community
on Feb 25, 2017 at 8:02 pm

AB:

"Regarding chasing opportunity - work hard, make money and then buy a house in PA (or MV, Los Altos etc). Don't rely on city council putting up BMRs to accommodate you. This is the US, not a communist state."

There are two fallacies here:

1) "You can work hard and buy a house, just like I did." This assumes that the market functions the same as it did decades ago. It doesn't-- there are now a great many people who could work hard their entire life and never begin to get onto the homeownership ladder. Not only ...outsiders..., but even the children of Palo Alto families.

2) The centralized planning of Palo Alto in zoning resembles the inefficient centralized planning of Soviet States-- I am not asking for the city council to give me anything, merely to either operate zoning safely, or stop telling people what they *can't* build.


17 people like this
Posted by Don't believe the hype
a resident of Community Center
on Feb 25, 2017 at 10:26 pm

@ Mark

Why does your prescription for serving the greater good exclude jobs from the equation? You passionately argue that it's Palo Alto's duty to add housing for all comers - put housing where the jobs are. But why is there no duty to locate jobs where the housing is? Given the cost and square footage required per person of housing versus job space, it's FAR more efficient to put the jobs where the housing is than the other way around.

And no acknowledgment that local jobs/housing is not a one-to-one relationship? - No way to control that local workers are locally housed: 60% of working Palo Altans commute to jobs outside Palo Alto.

If Palo Alto were to stop generating new jobs, or even zone for a reduction in commercial space over time, would their housing obligations diminish in your view?

What is the appropriate role of government (state or local) in regulating (through carrots (tax breaks) or sticks (zoning restrictions)) corporate location?

What is your justification for the huge "subsidies" local residents pay (through city services, infrastructure and lost quality of life) to indulge corporate america's taste for a sexy silicon valley address? Most tech companies produce little sales tax revenue and as you surely know, thanks to a perversion of prop 13, commercial property taxes contribute a rapidly shrinking share of local revenue.


6 people like this
Posted by Curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on Feb 25, 2017 at 10:28 pm

"An efficient allocation of housing would be putting housing near where jobs and existing resources are (infill), not spreading them out to where the jobs aren't and where there is sparse infrastructure (sprawl)."

Efficient by what objective measure(s)? Fiat is not an objective measure.

Why do you consider jobs immovable?


23 people like this
Posted by Ahem
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 25, 2017 at 11:24 pm

The real-estate development industry is fabulously lucrative because the industry privatizes profits and socializes loses.

The industry builds glorified human warehouses called office buildings, luxury apartments, and $1,000,000 micro-units, and sells or leases them to make fabulous profits, and leaves it to the state (the taxpayers) to build the incredibly expensive infrastructure like transit systems ($2B/mile), roads, parking structures, schools, parks, rec facilities, BMR units, etc, needed to support all of the profitable real-estate development.

If an area is not quite ready for exploitation, the government even gives the real-estate development industry handouts called redevelopment grants that the industry can use to build anything they need to prepare the area for profitable real-estate development.

It is all real-estate development but the industry calls the unprofitable side of it "infrastructure" and lets the government do it. The real-estate development industry is the most highly subsidized industry on the planet.


21 people like this
Posted by Sanctimonious City
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 26, 2017 at 1:48 am

@Mark neglects to consider how he personally benefits from Prop 13. I wonder what his rent would be if apartment buildings were reassessed for current land values? So it is false to claim that it disproportionally benefits homeowners more than multi-family or commercial properties. They all fall under the same 1% cap.

He also makes incorrect assertions that it is economically more efficient to put houses where the jobs are. That is a value judgement. Not everybody wants to live where they work and jobs could more easily be moved to other areas with lower costs of living and infrastructure. Thus the migration of over 2 million jobs overseas. It is more costly to reconfigure already developed high demand areas and that is why we still don't have subways, new highways or even grade crossings.

It is globalist propaganda that urban areas are better for the environment. Particularly with todays renewable energy technology, dispersing the population away from concrete jungles is a better strategy because it does not concentrate pollution, waste and disease. If you don't believe me simply go to Golden Gate Park after an outdoor concert and think about which approach would really be an ecological disaster. It also enables sourcing of local produce which eliminates the need for destructive industrial mega farms with national logistics systems and provides residents with a higher quality of life.

But let's move on and get to the heart of the frustration. Despite its success, Mark apparently perceives our free market system as inherently selfish, unequal and unfair. He has reversed the roll of government by making it dominant over the people with a responsibility to steam roll individual rights for the good of his definition of the community.

Rather than letting the free market in a voluntary exchange between buyers and sellers determine the allocation of resources (and how we want to live) he would prefer to short circuit the process with government intervention. In his mind omnipotent technocrats know better than the people do and real estate is a cow to be milked in a virtuous taxation cycle to provide cream to the collective.

If there is not enough housing, re-zone the land. If the price is too high, tax and subsidize it. If someone has something he wants but cannot afford then the government should take it from them. Education, work, investment and individual responsibility are not the paths to prosperity but rather redistribution and confiscation are the answer. You tell me which is more selfish, unfair and undemocratic.

Unfortunately, we don't need conspiracy theories about big government or to list the numerous failures of socialism throughout history. All we need to do is look to our own city council recently to get a feel for what it would be like to have a small unaccountable group ignore the will of the people.


18 people like this
Posted by mauricio
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Feb 26, 2017 at 6:35 am

People like Mark put all the onus on government, and demand nothing of corporations. Although corporations insist on moving into, and staying in the most expensive real estate market in the country, he doesn't demand they pay their employees enough to be able to compete for housing with the mostly foreign buyers who usually end up with it. He doesn't demand that corporations move to other areas that have affordable and existing housing for the mostly young employees they keep hiring. He certainly doesn't demand that corporations provide the billions in infrastructure upgrade that would be required if his demand for zoning changes to facilitate the massive development spree he has in mind is approved. It would be actually the long time home owners he so despises who will have to bankroll the infrastructure upgrade needed, while giving up their quality and way of life.

There is a word for people who want others to pay for what they can't get.


17 people like this
Posted by CeCi Kettendorf
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Feb 27, 2017 at 10:02 am

I have posted this elsewhere online; it seems to also apply in this discussion. The story of what is wrong in Palo Alto is told by a simple car ride through neighboring cities.
The city leadership of Menlo Park, Atherton and Los Altos fiercely protect the residential charm of their cities and the quality of life for their residents. There is not a nightmare of traffic, parking, density, office space, crowded schools, abhorrent architecture and neighborhood destruction in those cities, as is the case in Palo Alto. Their town fathers are protective and benevolent towards the residents, residents who moved in long ago OR moved in yesterday.

If those communities see anything akin to what Palo Alto is suffering in the push to build, their campaign slogan will be "We will never become a Palo Alto!"
The slogan "We won't become a Danbury!" is the campaign mantra in the Connecticut towns near Danbury, my husband's home town, because the Danbury town fathers caved to developers over the past 30 years, turning a once charming New England town into a dump.
Our city leadership defies the voters.
A grand jury should look at the City Council's violation of of the Brown Act. The Gang of Five should be unseated. I am making yard signs; send ideas. 493-0804 cecihome@gmail.com


15 people like this
Posted by Annette
a resident of College Terrace
on Feb 27, 2017 at 10:43 am

Annette is a registered user.

CeCi K: I admire your willingness to take a stand for what you believe is in the best interests of Palo Alto. Things tumbled out of control on January 30 and it is clear that residents need to both pay attention and get involved. Lawn signs should help raise awareness. Thank you.


2 people like this
Posted by Mark
a resident of another community
on Feb 27, 2017 at 4:55 pm

Curmudgeon:

"Efficient by what objective measure(s)? Fiat is not an objective measure.

Allocative efficiency, sorry for not being explicit. The idea that sales prices should converge upon the marginal cost of production of the good.

If infill is allowed, we should see real estate sell for the marginal cost of construction and infrastructure.

When instead houses sell for millions that have been sold previously for around $100k, this is highly inefficient.

"Why do you consider jobs immovable?"

Prop 13, mainly. The fact that assessments drop in real terms as time progresses is an incredible disincentive against mobility. In general, too, it's harder to uproot an officeful of workers than one individual worker.


2 people like this
Posted by Mark
a resident of another community
on Feb 27, 2017 at 5:06 pm

Don't Believe the Hype:

"Why does your prescription for serving the greater good exclude jobs from the equation? You passionately argue that it's Palo Alto's duty to add housing for all comers - put housing where the jobs are. But why is there no duty to locate jobs where the housing is? Given the cost and square footage required per person of housing versus job space, it's FAR more efficient to put the jobs where the housing is than the other way around."

Palo Alto is targeting a jobs:housing ratio of something around 3:1. The other cities in the Bay Area are incentivized by Prop 13 to do the same.

Getting more jobs isn't the problem, and it's absurd to insinuate that it is.

"And no acknowledgment that local jobs/housing is not a one-to-one relationship? - No way to control that local workers are locally housed: 60% of working Palo Altans commute to jobs outside Palo Alto."

Part of the reason for this is because Prop 13 doesn't let people move across town even if you want to. Your employer moves from Palo Alto to Fremont? Welcome to a hell of commuting.

"If Palo Alto were to stop generating new jobs, or even zone for a reduction in commercial space over time, would their housing obligations diminish in your view?"

If they maintain a 1:1 jobs:housing ratio, I would have no objection for these guys.

"What is the appropriate role of government (state or local) in regulating (through carrots (tax breaks) or sticks (zoning restrictions)) corporate location?"

Mainly to get out of the way (at least, more than they currently do). The hands-on approach to allocating how much of each we get clearly is not working.

"What is your justification for the huge "subsidies" local residents pay (through city services, infrastructure and lost quality of life) to indulge corporate america's taste for a sexy silicon valley address?"

They make up for it by the ability to sell their house for millions and millions of dollars.

If you take away this profit potential for landowners, I'd be more sympathetic to your standpoint.


2 people like this
Posted by Mark
a resident of another community
on Feb 27, 2017 at 5:17 pm

"@Mark neglects to consider how he personally benefits from Prop 13. I wonder what his rent would be if apartment buildings were reassessed for current land values? So it is false to claim that it disproportionally benefits homeowners more than multi-family or commercial properties. They all fall under the same 1% cap."

Landlords have no reason to consider their costs when determining a price. They are apt to say "the rents in this area are going up, and I have to keep pace." But why? Prop 13 protects their cost, making these increases pure profit.

The only thing that would force a landlord to lower their price is honest market competition, something that isn't possible through the artificial limitations of zoning.

"But let's move on and get to the heart of the frustration. Despite its success, Mark apparently perceives our free market system as inherently selfish, unequal and unfair."

What free market system? Palo Alto landowners use the government to prohibit what other landowners can bulid where. If you really believe in laissez faire, it's impossible for you to defend the institution of zoning.


7 people like this
Posted by margaret heath
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Feb 27, 2017 at 6:20 pm

margaret heath is a registered user.

The brevity of comments allowed by mayor Scharff prior to moving swiftly to a quick late night vote to eliminate all the programs from the land use part of the comp plan was, for all intents and purposes, a fait accompli.

To anyone watching, the speed and precision with which council member Wolbach read motion, and the speed with which mayor Scharff, with the cooperation of Kniss, Tanaka and Fine, cut off comments and forced a quick vote, the only reasonable conclusion is that this was mayor Scharff's intention from the outset.


Like this comment
Posted by midtown
a resident of Palo Verde
on Feb 27, 2017 at 6:36 pm

Let's put a bit of logic into this discussion.
The universe as we know it has four dimensions. Even Palo Alto must consider these.
Time excluded, we have three to deal with.
Almost everyone agrees that length and width have reached their proscribed city limits and we are only left with height.
Our choice is simple. If you artificially limit height, that's it ... there's nowhere else to go. Simple economics tells us that a scarce commodity will increase competition for the resource and resulting cost.
If you have bought a home in Palo Alto at a time when you have benefited from Prop 13, you have benefited from a lucky choice.
If you bought Apple stock in 1990, you benefited from a lucky choice.
Who has right to take that away from you in a capitalist syatem?
Let's get this discussion back on track.
You build upward and require adequate parking and other public resources or you stop building.
You eliminate downtown customer parking and destroy business or you sacrifice business and taxes.
Wow! The choices are not that complicated.
A "Comp" plan is without value until we make these choices.
Let's just vote on the real decisions and not let the Council play politics.









7 people like this
Posted by AB
a resident of Midtown
on Feb 27, 2017 at 8:26 pm

@Mark - you appear to imply that we bought our houses cheap decades ago. Unfortunately, we did not. We bought ~4 years ago, when prices were quite high. But, it doesn't matter when we bought or at what price - the key issue is that when the city is so congested, we can't add more housing. Yep I too wish that I moved 20+ year ago and then could have really benefited from Prop 13. But no point looking back. There are good reasons for Prop 13, and this post is anyway not about repealing Prop 13. This is about PA, not about something like Prop 13 that is state wide.

A city council that tries to keep the city's quality of life in mind and hold back developers is not communist. A city council that looks to skirt free market pricing and get in BMRs is acting more with a Soviet communist mindset.


3 people like this
Posted by Sanctimonious City
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 27, 2017 at 11:55 pm

A dollar invested in the S&P 500 index on Jan 1st, 1979 was worth $23.30 on Dec 31st, 2016 not adjusted for inflation. A $100,000 house bought in Pal Alto in 1979 is now worth about $2,300,000 not adjusted for inflation. The Trump bump probably has the stock market leading temporarily. Housing prices will catch up as investors take profits and rotate into other assets.

It is not a coincidence. Basically, real estate prices in Silicon Valley track the stock market which makes sense given our equity based economy. The whole premise that it is somehow exceptionally inefficient is false and the argument is just a stalking horse for the real objective which is confiscation and redistribution.

Investment is the key. The US economy has delivered excellent returns over the last 40 years for those who stayed the course. The hard truth is the people that saved, sacrificed and accepted the risk in buying stocks or real estate are able to afford houses even in high demand areas.


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