State housing laws could increase development | December 8, 2017 | Palo Alto Weekly | Palo Alto Online |

Palo Alto Weekly

News - December 8, 2017

State housing laws could increase development

Council, city staff say recently passed bills will reduce local control, spur major change

by Gennady Sheyner

For Palo Alto's housing advocates, the broad package of bills that Sacramento lawmakers signed into law this fall are exactly the type of disruption that the city needs after years of sluggish residential construction and a deepening crisis of affordable housing.

This story contains 1392 words.

Stories older than 90 days are available only to subscribing members. Please help sustain quality local journalism by becoming a subscribing member today.

If you are already a subscriber, please log in so you can continue to enjoy unlimited access to stories and archives. Subscriptions start at $5 per month and may be cancelled at any time.

Log in     Subscribe

Staff Writer Gennady Sheyner can be emailed at [email protected]

Comments

Posted by yimby-developer bills
a resident of Professorville
on Dec 5, 2017 at 6:41 pm

See here for a less sanguine take on the "YIMBY-Developer" bills:
Web Link


Posted by Bg
a resident of Midtown
on Dec 5, 2017 at 9:48 pm

These bills are payback to the powerful real estate developers and trade unions who donate millions of dollars to run our government. - Pure BS


Posted by Resident
a resident of Barron Park
on Dec 5, 2017 at 10:03 pm

Thanks for the link above link about who was behind some of these bills and their implications. Does anyone know how our Assemblyman, Marc Berman, voted on them?


Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on Dec 5, 2017 at 11:21 pm

13 percent of the land in Palo Alto? Ostensively that's 2000 acres. At RM-40 it's 80,000 units. Upwards of $80 Billion in sales? 160,000 more residents at double-occupancy.


Posted by Mark Michael
a resident of Community Center
on Dec 6, 2017 at 8:12 am

One narrow aspect of SB 35 is noteworthy, namely: "The projects must be ... consistent with "all objective zoning standards." Conversely, the legislation will "make it harder for municipalities to reject housing proposals on subjective grounds."

Balancing the overall community needs with individual property owner rights and obligations is a serious matter. However, this is best done with reference to objective standards.

Now that the long-delayed revision of the Comp Plan is finally done, Council and staff should prioritize revisions to the zoning code and other regulations affecting building permits. Updated, objective standards will foster an appropriate balance between community impacts and land use practices that will be consistent with the overall vision.


Posted by Resident
a resident of Barron Park
on Dec 6, 2017 at 9:32 am

One of the most noteworthy comments from the council discussion Monday came from Wolbach. He claimed that he had been opposed to recent state legislation mandating that cities adopt a series of changes to ADU's which went beyond the changes Palo Alto was already proceeding with. However, he was actually part of the council majority who supported PA then going way beyond the new state requirements.
Whether one thinks this was good policy or not, our elected officials should not be allowed to engage in such bold dishonesty. We get enough of that from the president these days. Local politicians should not be allowed to get away with the same here.


Posted by dont vote for Wolbach
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Dec 6, 2017 at 12:12 pm

Barron Park poster is correct. Wolbach lead the council Majority that voted to EXCEED state ADU requirements, making
sure that ADUs had the maximum ability to negatively impact neighbors!!!

Now he opines that some state laws have gone to far!

Dishonest Flip-flopping to serve his career not his constituents needs!

Don't vote Wolbach into office ever again!


Posted by Student
a resident of Ventura
on Dec 6, 2017 at 12:13 pm

Y'all are complaining about kickbacks to developers and local corruption? Give me a break. The cheapest home for sale in Palo Alto today (on Zillow) is 1.49 million dollars. Home owners and landlords are getting rich and twisting the approval process to prevent the rest of us from getting anything. Compadres has stood vacant and an eyesore for almost a decade. Its high time the State slapped down local officials who block any development. You want to live in a small, quiet town? Take your million and half and go. The average home value in America is 250k, you can find a nice place just about anywhere else. There are great jobs in Palo Alto, an amazing University, and a bunch of people who want to build a better future. Stop trying to shut us out.


Posted by Resident
a resident of Crescent Park
on Dec 6, 2017 at 12:30 pm

@Student:
"There are great jobs in Palo Alto, an amazing University, and a bunch of people who want to build a better future. Stop trying to shut us out."

Palo Alto was already great. Read what musical writes above:
"13 percent of the land in Palo Alto? Ostensively that's 2000 acres. At RM-40 it's 80,000 units. Upwards of $80 Billion in sales? 160,000 more residents at double-occupancy."
Assume some of those additional residents also have kids to flock to the public schools.
You still think Palo Alto will be the place where you want to build a better future? Even with a quarter of that expected new residents, this will be a less sustainable place to live.


Posted by Jeff Dillon
a resident of Barron Park
on Dec 6, 2017 at 12:34 pm

This is a disaster. We need LESS development in Palo Alto, LESS housing, not more. Traffic and pollution is a disaster with this many people in one city.


Posted by Anke
a resident of Mountain View
on Dec 6, 2017 at 12:36 pm

"You want to live in a small, quiet town? "

Absolutely, and that's why people chose Palo Alto. Then Big Tech came along and took over, and now is telling us we have no right to have our small town and we need to leave? No one's going to simply let themselves be bullied like that.


Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Dec 6, 2017 at 1:09 pm

Online Name is a registered user.

"Y'all are complaining about kickbacks to developers and local corruption? Give me a break. The cheapest home for sale in Palo Alto today (on Zillow) is 1.49 million dollars. Home owners and landlords are getting rich and twisting the approval process to prevent the rest of us from getting anything."

@Student, how are homeowners who plan to stay here getting rich?? We're living here, paying our property taxes, paying our other taxes and paying our mortgages. And pretty soon we'll be paying some of those taxes and expenses TWICE thanks to the national corruption and gerrymandering and fake news giving us the new tax plan.

@Student, give me a break. The landlords and the developers and the real estate speculators and foreign "investors" and their enablers are totally different stories so direct your anger at them, not the people paying taxes for your education!


Posted by Commonsense
a resident of Barron Park
on Dec 6, 2017 at 1:10 pm

@Anke - hahaha! Nobody’s going to get bullied? Yes you will. It happening now, has happened since the terrible technologists Hewlett and Packard took the first step in “destroying” “our” town many years ago and it will continue, maybe for another 100 years or more. Like it or not this place is ever changing. I love/embrace change so will stick around and enjoy myself. Good luck with misery!


Posted by Cecilia Willer
a resident of Professorville
on Dec 6, 2017 at 1:18 pm

I have to agree with the comments indicating that we live here to have a small town feel. Yes the prices are high to live here and the people who live here want to have a small town feel. Yes the prices should go down and NO there should not be more development. That is not the answer. It is already so congested here and parking is crazy. The only development should be more parking for all these companies who choose to locate in downtown Palo Alto and like to park in front of people's homes.


Posted by resident239
a resident of Professorville
on Dec 6, 2017 at 2:04 pm

resident239 is a registered user.

I used live in SF and work in PA. I drove to work and parked downtown and drove home every day. Now I rarely use my car. House more people closer to where they work and it will help the traffic and parking problem. Hoping for a small town feel with less people, forever, because you want it is not helpful and ignores reality.


Posted by Long Time Resident
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Dec 6, 2017 at 2:27 pm

Some of our cities in Northern California like Chico, Redding, Yreka, Eureka, Crescent City, and Mt. Shasta need businesses and people. They have space, water, and existing infrastructure which can be expanded.
People don't need to keep concentrating here.
Big companies should consider relocating their headquarters there.
Some younger tech grads have already relocated out-of-state, and have started their companies there. They initially came back here for some funding help, but did not want to live around here. The places where they chose to live have more space, and less traffic for their employees, and relatives too.
And food and hotels are much better and affordable.
Due to our high cost of living, we have lost many great people.
A glut of ghost homes, and long term home renters don't make a nice community since these people know that they are only here temporarily. They don't really care about getting involved too deeply in anything, since they know this can't be their city.



Posted by Resident
a resident of St. Claire Gardens
on Dec 6, 2017 at 2:29 pm

We will see where this all goes: everyone, sharpen up your lawyers!


Posted by jane
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 6, 2017 at 2:47 pm

Palo Alto's required share" of bay area housing is mandated by ABAG requirements, based on the number of jobs we have and are going to create in Palo Alto based on all the development that has been given the go ahead by the city council majority over the next decade in the new Comprehensive Plan. That includes the jobs in Stanford's Research Park and shopping center, which are within Palo Alto. Not sure if the new hospital expansion is within Stanford's county lands or within the city of Palo Alto.

Presume that any new jobs created on campus that are within the county's boundaries, not Palo Alto's, will count toward the ABAG allocation of housing Stanford must provide. Or because it is Stanford land and they are the "developers" does that mean they are not affected by the ABAG housing requirements and these new laws?


Posted by Commonsense
a resident of Crescent Park
on Dec 6, 2017 at 2:50 pm

Again, more burying your head in the sand and hoping it goes away. Some people will obviously choose to move elsewhere but many more will move here. Let’s densify what we have already sacrificed/paved over before we pave over the rest of the state. Leave beautiful northern CA alone!


Posted by Jane
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 6, 2017 at 2:58 pm

The Palo Alto Unified School District is still, as far as I know, a "Basic Aid" school district. That is, when the State changed the ways schools were funded to centralize and equalize how each district was funded, towns could opt out and keep their own property taxes rather than be allocated a $ amount from this new central fund for each new student enrolled. In other words, for each new child enrolled in the Palo Alto Unified School District the pie gets cut smaller not larger. Will all these new apartments, townhouses, condos, provide enough additional property tax to cover the children who will be educated in the local schools, or will the pie keep being cut smaller and smaller? What will that do to class sizes? Will the school district have to rebuild the schools so they are multi-story, and if so will that be funded by bonds added to our property taxes?


Posted by john_alderman
a resident of Crescent Park
on Dec 6, 2017 at 3:11 pm

john_alderman is a registered user.

@resident239 "I used live in SF and work in PA."

I used to live AND work in SF. Now I live in PA because supposedly the schools are good (that's another story). Build a bunch of housing in Palo Alto, and a bunch more of my co-workers will move down here and commute up to SF. It is the best of both worlds, safe home and schools, and vibrant culture during the day! For person like you, there will be several new commuters. Maybe they will be going to SF, maybe SJ, maybe just driving down to google in MV. But it is going to be more and more cars on already congested roads. So please, stop with the delusion that building more is going to reduce traffic, reduce pollution, reduce commuting, fix parking.

Here is a simple thought experiment for you.

Imagine we reduce the housing and population in Palo Alto by 50%. Do you think traffic & parking would be better or worse?

Imagine we increase the housing and population in Palo Alto by 50%. Do you think traffic & parking would be better or worse?

So I roll my eyes whenever a member of the church of urbanism says we need to build our way our way of the traffic and parking problem.


Posted by Jane
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 6, 2017 at 4:32 pm

Not NIMBY. Not YIMBY. It's YIYBY: Yes in Your Backyard.


Posted by Gale Johnson
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Dec 6, 2017 at 4:52 pm

Gale Johnson is a registered user.

When we first moved here in 1961, Palo Alto had what people are now calling the feeling of a town, but it really had a feeling to us then, of not a town, but as one of the few cities in Montana that we were familiar with. Great Falls (population 50,000) was the closest one to my real town...Power, a small farm town, population 170 at that time. It had a consolidated school system, elementary thru high school (kids were bused in from all directions), 2 bars, 3 churches, grain elevators, a little grocery store, post office, and a few other stores related to farm supplies. No paved streets. Now that's a real Montana town. Okay, enough of my youthful nostalgia of what a town meant to me back then.

We came here for my job opportunity with Philco's Western Developmental Laboratories on Fabian Way, not because Palo Alto was a nice town. But after 2 1/2 years of renting a duplex at 3153 Alma we started to love our 'town', wanted to stay here, and were lucky enough to buy a home in South Palo Alto. We loved our new 'town' as soon as we got here and that's why we waited and saved up enough money for a down payment to be able to buy a home and stay here.

Of course my town has changed. I've written several stories for my Life Stories class at Avenidas about it. And what I liked so much about my town when we moved here is gone forever. I have to accept that fact, but I won't concede that all the CC's actions with ordinances, and approval of the Comprehensive Plan, is making progress for a better quality of life in my town. That too is ebbing away and getting worse. Of course I'll stick around for a while. I said that with hopes of a longer life. I am happy living in my bungalow in my village in SPA, a little enclave far removed from all the downtown madness and hubbub...traffic, parking, et al. Very little retail that I loved is there anymore.

Keep your powder dry on the state legislation re housing. If there's no incentive for builders to build...they won't build. Forget about ABAG. Toss it aside. The local dreamers think we can build all the units required for the individual income levels. I dream a lot too.

ADU's: Back off on Cory. He and I had some very strong disagreements on that issue but he was willing to come to my home and explain his position. I didn't like the outcome, but since I've read the first quarterly report I know it hasn't been an Armageddon experience. A little uptick on the number of units built, but some of those could have been built under the old rules. I will still push for knowing the reasons they were built...for real grannies, or as an income source to get the home buyers above water on their loans? Or as Airbnb units.





Posted by Down zone everything now
a resident of Downtown North
on Dec 6, 2017 at 5:21 pm

The only way to save Palo Alto is to elect anti-growth people next year to city council and then push to have the down zone across the city. No more commercial development to bring in workers (there are too many already) and only a small amount of housing growth due to the already overcrowded mess that is now Palo Alto and the Bay Area. This city council and prior ones have been on a mission to up-zone throughout the city and give bonuses, exceptions and the ability to trade zoning from one area to another. This shows up as buildings that are suppose to have a certain FAR (floor area ratio) actually having a much larger one when built.

We need massive down-zoning so with the bonuses that the state has promised the homes and buildings will still be a reasonable size.


Posted by john_alderman
a resident of Crescent Park
on Dec 6, 2017 at 5:30 pm

john_alderman is a registered user.

@Gale Johnson - "Back off on Cory. He and I had some very strong disagreements on that issue but he was willing to come to my home and explain his position."

Yeah, and this is why we lose. Of course as a trained politician, totally happy to glad-hand you. It's like that that old song by the O'Jays.

What they do?
They smilin' in your face
Smiling faces, smiling faces sometimes tell lies - Back stabbers
They smilin' in your face
I don't need low-down, dirty bastards - Back stabbers
They smilin' in your face
Da-da, da-da-da, da-da-da-da - Back stabbers
Might be your neighbor - They smilin' in your face
Your next door neighbor, yeah - Back stabbers


Posted by Curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on Dec 6, 2017 at 6:49 pm

Anybody know how enclaves of privilege (and the dwelling places of our developer class) like Atherton, Woodside, etc. plan to get around this, and if we can copy their dodges?


Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Dec 6, 2017 at 7:05 pm

Online Name is a registered user.

@Curmudgeon, they refused to abide by ABAG's rules whereas PA refused to even consider rejecting them because of the fear of an ABAG lawsuit. With our current Mayor a newly elected ABAG VP, PA's getting out of ABAG seems even less likely than when I first started asking that question years ago.


Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Dec 6, 2017 at 7:07 pm

Online Name is a registered user.

PS: I originally supported Corey and planted his yard sign but when he refused to even answer my question about getting out of ABAG he lost my support.


Posted by Curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on Dec 6, 2017 at 8:40 pm

"they refused to abide by ABAG's rules whereas PA refused to even consider rejecting them because of the fear of an ABAG lawsuit."

Would ABAG sue Palo Alto for defying its edicts, but not Atherton, etc.?


Posted by Citizem PA
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 7, 2017 at 2:19 am

Web Link

"Under our state Constitution, if the Legislature or a state agency requires a
local government to provide a new program or higher level of service, the local
government is entitled to reimbursement from the state for the associated costs.
(Cal. Const., art. XIII B, § 6, subd. (a).)"

You're welcome.


Posted by Anke
a resident of Mountain View
on Dec 7, 2017 at 8:13 am

"Anybody know how enclaves of privilege (and the dwelling places of our developer class) like Atherton, Woodside, etc. plan to get around this, and if we can copy their dodges?"

@Curmudgeon, is this a trick question? ;-)
My understanding of ABAG housing requirements is that they are based on the number of jobs. Those enclaves of privilege fiercely guard their zoning policies and fend off corporate intrusion.


"Would ABAG sue Palo Alto for defying its edicts, but not Atherton, etc.?"

Even if Atherton etc were to be sued, they'd simply put their collective vast wealth to work - either to hire the best lawyers to fight the lawsuits, and/or to put or keep ABAG officials in their pockets, and/or to finance some "creative" solution.


Is it possible that I am even more cynical than you are? ;-)


Posted by Citizen PA
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 7, 2017 at 10:17 am



"Under our state Constitution, if the Legislature or a state agency requires a
local government to provide a new program or higher level of service, the local
government is entitled to reimbursement from the state for the associated costs.
(Cal. Const., art. XIII B, § 6, subd. (a).)"

By the way, this will only happen if ordinary people -- who are concerned about safety, polluttion, traffic circulation, schools, the environment, commerce, and a whole host of other aspects of civic life damaged by inadvertently enabling companies to turn Palo Alto into company towns -- stand up and sue the state to pay for these consequences. It would allow cities on the Peninsula to bring to light the problems of being utterly laissez-faire in regard to the impact of corporations and making the consequences fall entirely to the public.


Posted by Curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on Dec 7, 2017 at 9:03 pm

"My understanding of ABAG housing requirements is that they are based on the number of jobs."

A very silly criterion, given our highly job-mobile local workforce, unless they're going to force people to live in the same town they work in, which brings up some Orwellian social engineering issues regarding working couples and their families. This observation is directed at ABAG, BTW.


"Is it possible that I am even more cynical than you are? ;-)"

I'm not a cynic. I'm an objective observer. Tough distinction at times, tho.


Posted by Anke
a resident of Mountain View
on Dec 8, 2017 at 7:52 am

"A very silly criterion, given our highly job-mobile local workforce, unless they're going to force people to live in the same town they work in, which brings up some Orwellian social engineering issues regarding working couples and their families. This observation is directed at ABAG, BTW."

Another way to look at that is that if every city provided enough housing to cover the jobs within its own city limits, then region-wide we'd have a jobs-housing balance whether or not any particular person lived and worked in the same city. Before allowing, oh, say, Palantir to add office space for 10,000 workers, city officials would have to consider whether and how they would add housing for those workers and their families. This might help them notice before-the-fact that their city just might struggle a little bit to accommodate that kind of explosive growth.


"I'm not a cynic. I'm an objective observer. Tough distinction at times, tho."

Fair 'nuff, and apologies for misrepresenting you. Speaking for myself, many years of objective observation have made me very cynical :-D


Posted by Curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on Dec 8, 2017 at 12:14 pm

"Another way to look at that is that if every city provided enough housing to cover the jobs within its own city limits, then region-wide we'd have a jobs-housing balance whether or not any particular person lived and worked in the same city."

A bookkeeper's resolution, but still a horrendous commute situation twice daily as people convert from distribution by residence to distribution by occupation and back. An (oxymoron alert) intelligent ABAG would dictate how the jobs get distributed. Fir example, Palantir could as easily infest any community.


Posted by Anke
a resident of Mountain View
on Dec 8, 2017 at 2:16 pm

"A bookkeeper's resolution, but still a horrendous commute situation twice daily as people convert from distribution by residence to distribution by occupation and back."

Two factors prevent the most definitely desirable situation of everyone living close to work. Job mobility - people around here change jobs often, and moving house for each job change is so disruptive (especially for families with children in school), expensive and time consuming as to be de facto infeasible. Two-income households - in most cases, spouses/partners work for different employers in different cities so at least one of them needs to commute.

If the total regional housing is enough for the total regional jobs, then commutes are shorter and people have options.



" An (oxymoron alert) intelligent ABAG would dictate how the jobs get distributed. Fir example, Palantir could as easily infest any community."

Wait, didn't you tell me you're not a cynic?


Posted by Curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on Dec 8, 2017 at 10:01 pm

"Wait, didn't you tell me you're not a cynic?"

I'm not a cynic. I'm an objective observer. Tough distinction at times, tho.


Don't miss out on the discussion!
Sign up to be notified of new comments on this topic.

Email:


Post a comment

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

Stay informed.

Get the day's top headlines from Palo Alto Online sent to your inbox.

 

Meet the Winners

To show appreciation for the local business community, readers voted for their favorite places to eat, shop, work out or spend time with family and friends. The Palo Alto Weekly is proud to unveil this year's Best Of recipients and Hall of Fame honorees.

View Winners