To spur housing, city looks to 'go big' on zone changes | February 2, 2018 | Palo Alto Weekly | Palo Alto Online |

Palo Alto Weekly

News - February 2, 2018

To spur housing, city looks to 'go big' on zone changes

Palo Alto's new Housing Work Plan proposes host of new programs

by Gennady Sheyner

Seeking to significantly ramp up housing production, city of Palo Alto planners are preparing to advance a package of zoning changes in the coming months with the goal of adopting them by the end of this year.

This story contains 1133 words.

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Staff Writer Gennady Sheyner can be emailed at gsheyner@paweekly.com.

Comments

165 people like this
Posted by Crescent Park resident
a resident of Crescent Park
on Feb 2, 2018 at 8:52 am

Hey City Council:
More people living here? That’s your solution to the impossible traffic congestion we already have? The overcrowded schools? The overall degradation of our quality of life? Time for a new slate of candidates!


88 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 2, 2018 at 9:02 am

Time was that home ownership was supposed to be a guarantee of stability and independence. Not the case if a small street can suddenly become a construction zone for large granny flats to be built in every lot. When these granny flats are rented out to non-grannies with a couple of cars that need to be parked on the street, everyone's quality of life will be impacted in ways not being considered when the remaining homes were bought.

We know of one family (parents and adult kids) who have been forced out of their rental home. Buying a home should prevent this type of thing. Zoning changes could alter the ambience of a neighborhood to the extent that instead of the pleasant community feeling a neighborhood once held, it becomes a pack and stack sardine can. The phrase of one's home being one's castle may turn into one's home being one's prison as we contend with quality of life issues diminishing the peace and tranquility of what we struggled financially to acquire.

And this is progress!


140 people like this
Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 2, 2018 at 9:03 am

"We had to kill the patient in order to save him."

Sounds like they are planning the death of Palo Alto. Why -must- everyone on the planet live here? Is that a moral imperative?


30 people like this
Posted by So glad this is finally happening
a resident of Downtown North
on Feb 2, 2018 at 9:23 am

Kudos the Council and Staff for introducing these recommendations and moving the conversation forward. Steps like those described in this workplan will move us toward a much improved Palo Alto. We need this housing and I am so glad to see the conversation headed in such a positive and forward-thinking direction.


114 people like this
Posted by Dan
a resident of Midtown
on Feb 2, 2018 at 9:44 am

I don't see any good news in this ... more overcrowding and congestion on the way.


110 people like this
Posted by Convert office to housing
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Feb 2, 2018 at 10:23 am

Convert office to housing is a registered user.

I would be much happier about rezoning for denser housing if we were converting existing office space, so we could at least start to reverse the problem. I am opposed to this "build up" and "infill" approach.


99 people like this
Posted by nmao
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Feb 2, 2018 at 10:29 am

"Reduced landscaping requirements"?! No, no, no. These people are building multimillion dollar developments but somehow asking them to plant a tree and some bushes is just too much? Landscaping is the only thing standing between us and these ugly, over-sized box buildings. If a developer can't handle including landscaping, perhaps they're in the wrong profession.

And reduced parking for BMR housing is a poor idea. In the 21st century suburb, car ownership has little to do with income.


40 people like this
Posted by Homeowner
a resident of University South
on Feb 2, 2018 at 10:32 am

This is excellent news, and long-delayed. Although I am comfortable in my own home, too many of my friends and colleagues are having trouble. All of the people - now our friends - who ever took care of our children have now left the area due to the cost of living.

These ideas are good. Commenters, let's try not to get hysterical. Palo Alto doesn't have a problem with overcrowded schools. In fact, enrollment is down by over 500 kids in the last five years, as young families especially can't afford to move here. We are closer to closing a school than opening a new one. Do you want schools closing in your neighborhood because there aren't any more kids? That doesn't sound like progress to me.

And bringing our rate of housing production back up to what we did between 1970 and 2010 is hardly getting "everyone on the planet" to live here or turning Palo Alto into a "sardine can". Let's face it. Our generation is not moving out to Phoenix when we retire, and that means that there's no room left for the younger generation. That's something we can fix. And we have to fix it if we want to keep the community we have.


106 people like this
Posted by Michael G
a resident of another community
on Feb 2, 2018 at 12:00 pm

The problem isn't under-building housing it is over-building office space. There is very little room for housing or traffic in Palo Alto with SF Bay on one side and the mountains on the other side. Building more housing won't increase affordability. If it did, NYC and Hong Kong would be really cheap instead of really expensive.

There's a charming myth that if only more housing were built everyone would walk or bike to work. I looked at 14 years of census data and found the exact opposite occurring. Only 8% of PA residents work in PA. The more housing built in PA the more people commute out and the farther and farther they commute. They live in Palo Alto for the schools, or the neighborhood charm but go to work where the best job they can find is, which is often far away. Anyway, more here:
Web Link

And by-the-way, quit with the "housing crisis". PA and SF have been expensive for over 30 years. It isn't a "crisis" if I can't afford to live on the Champs Elysee.
Affordability is cyclic. PA becomes less affordable in good economic times and more affordable in bad economies. We're near the height of a boom but even in a bust it won't become cheap. More here:
Web Link


94 people like this
Posted by Annette
a resident of College Terrace
on Feb 2, 2018 at 12:31 pm

Annette is a registered user.

If, per Kniss, it is "beholden on all of us - our integrity" to do more to provide housing, are we not equally obliged to STOP adding to the demand side of the equation? What good does it do to add X% more housing if we keep adding >X% demand in the form of commercial development?

Frankly, I can see the merit to opposing housing initiatives if we don't simultaneously stop making the problem bigger.


21 people like this
Posted by Paulo
a resident of Mayfield
on Feb 2, 2018 at 2:27 pm

Palo Alto is growing and I'm ok with it! I'm glad the city council is making some of these changes - on housing, the best thing Palo Alto can do is get out of it's own way! More dense housing near the trains makes total sense, and the usual suspects opposing these changes and calling for "more study" are not fooling anyone.


66 people like this
Posted by History Buff
a resident of another community
on Feb 2, 2018 at 3:35 pm

Where will the water come from? Millions of square feet of offices + densely packed housing + drought doesn't bode well for the future. Will we be the next Cape Town?
Web Link


15 people like this
Posted by stephen levy
a resident of University South
on Feb 2, 2018 at 3:52 pm

stephen levy is a registered user.

The work plan addresses housing goals that are already in the Comp Plan and Housing Element, which were adopted with broad support at the council. Job growth goals were also adopted in the council's preferred scenario.

The plan addresses how to achieve goals already adopted.

It sets out a year long process for studying how to implement zoning and other policies so that the housing is built, built in locations near services, shopping, jobs and transit and with the maximum amount of units restricted to low and middle income residents.

The council has decided after several years of debate on a housing and job growth plan and I am glad the staff is moving ahead with plans to study implementation in ways that maximize housing options in ways that minimize the traffic impacts.

The proposed work plan is on the council agenda website for those who want to read what is being proposed.

Now is the time to work on implementing the Comp Plan adopted by council.


64 people like this
Posted by I told you so
a resident of Barron Park
on Feb 2, 2018 at 3:59 pm

For those who voted for the pro-growth candidates (although they tried to sound reasonable when asking for votes), this is the end result. You were all warned before.

To provide some checks and balances going forward, i would require that any new high-density housing be first located in the neighborhoods of the council members pushing for it.


83 people like this
Posted by Housing Crisis is Fake News
a resident of Downtown North
on Feb 2, 2018 at 4:48 pm

It needs to be said again - we don't have a housing crisis, we have an overpopulation crisis. The world, the USA, the state and our community can not keep allowing people to come here and add to the consumption of water, pollute the environment and add to the traffic. It is past time for elected officials to understand how more people need more schools, parks, playing fields, places to shop, people to provide them services. Allowing ever more development to come here and then claiming that we have a housing crisis is sheer stupidity. Our elected officials are either in cahoots with the developers or they are idiots.

Time to fight back. Run for office and vote to stop all development. It is the only thing that will save us. Our quality of life is being given away to developers to make them richer by a bunch of elected official who can't seem to understand how an ecosystem works. It really isn't that hard to see the big picture but right now everyone is being bombarded by the housing crisis mantra which is the biggest fake news item around.


18 people like this
Posted by Me 2
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Feb 2, 2018 at 4:58 pm

"we don't have a housing crisis, we have an overpopulation crisis. "

LOL. Try saying that with a straight face when driving along 280.


77 people like this
Posted by Ahem
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 2, 2018 at 5:22 pm

Hmmm... I don't remember hearing about this during the last election, but then again we didn't hear about all of the big developer contributions to certain candidates until after the election either.


21 people like this
Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Feb 2, 2018 at 6:29 pm

Online Name is a registered user.

When I first moved out here decades ago, I too wondered why the land fronting 280 wasn't more developed. Then people helpfully explained about the drought, the 280 traffic noise and the earthquake faults and their relationship the the rolling hills near 280.


91 people like this
Posted by mauricio
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Feb 2, 2018 at 6:47 pm

mauricio is a registered user.

To second 'Hosing Crisis is Fake News'. There was never any housing crisis in Palo Alto anymore than there is a housing crisis in Pebble Beach. California in general and the Bay area in particular have a deadly overpopulation crisis. Steve Levy and his ilk are really condemning Palo Alto,, and California to death. California has no water to support even half of its current population, yet the incessan push for denser and denser population, most of which would arrive from other states and other countries. It's the insane notion , pushed by PAF and their enablers, and the developers and corporations who underwrite them that every person who wishes to live in Palo Alto should be able to do so, subsidised by longe time residents.

Palo Alto is on its way to becoming Hong Kong, which in spite of having the best, most modern public trasportation in the world, is an unmitigated, unsolvable mess.

The only thing that might save Palo Alto is a complete stop to any housing and office development. Palo Alto, and the Bay area cannot absorb even one more person or one more company.


66 people like this
Posted by Madness
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Feb 2, 2018 at 8:16 pm

They sure are not wasting their time.
The ratio of people on this blog who are against this madness to those for it is roughly 50:10. How did it happen that this council got voted in? One of the answers is ... how should I put it ... not telling the truth during the election.


10 people like this
Posted by Me 2
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Feb 2, 2018 at 8:43 pm

"Then people helpfully explained about the drought, the 280 traffic noise and the earthquake faults and their relationship the the rolling hills near 280."

And you believed them?


14 people like this
Posted by Believed it
a resident of Barron Park
on Feb 3, 2018 at 8:24 am

Since everyone’s car is already parked on the street, just clean out your garage and put people in there. See? I just doubled the number of available units in Palo Alto. Me2 gets a carport all to them self.


57 people like this
Posted by Anne
a resident of Midtown
on Feb 3, 2018 at 8:30 am

I wish the Palo Alto CC would go big on quality of life. The developers that supported Kniss, Fine and Tanaka must be happy.


42 people like this
Posted by Sunshine
a resident of Barron Park
on Feb 3, 2018 at 9:16 am

Enough already! Where is Byron Sher when we need him? Let's stop recycling pro-development mayors and get in more Residentialists. Notice: these pro development candidates are all making a lot of money from the development mandates. What happens when those of us who have lived here many years can no longer stand clogged streets with strangers parked all askew and huge construction trucks tearing up our streets. We do not need more and more dense housing. We need to improve the quality of life--more wildlife from various groups, more greenery, more quiet in neighborhoods not served by useful retail, not big box stores or yet another juice bar or high rise office building. We need quality retail that serves households and families--variety stores, clothing for people of all ages, paper goods, books and newspapers, full size grocery store, household goods. We have enough stores that cater to 20-39 year old office workers and chain restaurants.


7 people like this
Posted by george drysdale
a resident of Professorville
on Feb 3, 2018 at 1:38 pm

Rome wasn't built in a day. Go slowly. There is plenty of underutilized land to develop in San Jose: the internet Google's best: The San Jose Property Rights Initiative. Palo Alto if it wants to should follow the way of Atherton: no youthful idealism thank you. Unless ABAG gets rent control out of the Bay Area it's a F student in economics. That won't happen because look at all the votes the politicians would lose. Inclusionary zoning also get the city council a F in economics. Go to the internet: you want to beef up production and the number of investors. The Buena Vista study should get San Jose State (real estate school) and other students' papers going all the way through under grad and doctoral thesis as well as get everybody a good laugh who can count.
George Drysdale economics teacher and initiator


35 people like this
Posted by how did it happen?
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 3, 2018 at 7:33 pm

@Madness. You are correct to ask the question "how did it happen that this Council got voted in?"
It defies all logic. False campaigning as you suggest may be one factor. Another answer is
inaccurate vote counting. Most residents probably do not realize that the Santa Clara County Registrar of Voters was subject to a lengthy rare State audit in 2017 for administrative failures over many years and the IT Manager of the County Registrar of Voters suddenly resigned on the eve of the 2014 election. So you know where my bet is.


27 people like this
Posted by Me 2
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Feb 3, 2018 at 7:48 pm

"It defies all logic."

What defies logic is the assumption that the people who participate on these forums are actually representative of the Palo Alto voting population at large.

This is the Internet.


34 people like this
Posted by Gale Johnson
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Feb 3, 2018 at 8:13 pm

Gale Johnson is a registered user.

I read the draft Housing Work Plan. Interesting reading, with very noble goals, but with very little substance and advice on how to finance and accomplish them, without hitting us taxpayers in our pocketbooks again and again. And some posters are hailing, as a success story, the approval by our PTC of the housing project on the corner of Page Mill Rd and El Camino, as a big step in the right direction in solving our 'housing' crisis. Well, whoopee, with just 6 out of 57 units in an under-parked facility requiring rents to be no higher than 120% of the median income in this area? No attempt to house the 'very low income', 'low income', or even 'median income' folks in our community...those mandated by the state and ABAG. It sounds like all future proposals for housing will come in at the 120% of median income level or above...so let's just be honest, and call it what it is...'market rate' housing.


32 people like this
Posted by Gus L.
a resident of Barron Park
on Feb 4, 2018 at 10:05 am

[Portion removed.]

No More high density in Palo Alto, plenty of room for that in Atherton and Woodside for granny units per their acreage..


5 people like this
Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 4, 2018 at 2:44 pm

Posted by Gus L., a resident of Barron Park

>> Well, When the Chinese start calling Palo Alto a dump, things must be getting real bad..

The Tech Crunch article was engaging:

"As the Journal describes a group of Chinese founders visiting the Valley, “To many in the group, northern California’s low-rise buildings looked shabbier than the glitzy skyscrapers in Beijing and Shenzhen.” Finally, someone noticed."

Some people are impressed by skyscrapers, some are not. "Been there, done that." A lot of people apparently are also impressed by "beach hotels". I recently discovered accidentally that a certain search resulted in "Top 10 beach hotels in Palo Alto". Who knew? In case foreign investors are confused about it, not only are there no real skyscrapers in Palo Alto, there aren't any beach hotels here, either. Although, if the world keeps burning all the coal, that could change.


16 people like this
Posted by Boxer
a resident of Barron Park
on Feb 4, 2018 at 3:20 pm

[Post removed.]


21 people like this
Posted by Out of the bubble
a resident of Crescent Park
on Feb 4, 2018 at 6:13 pm

Palo Alto, please get over yourself. Not everyone wants to live here. You are not the center of the universe. In fact most all reasonable people want to stay away from such a self absorbed toxic alpha culture you have become. You would be suprised how the world around you really feels about your town. Trust me the reviews are not good. Palo Alto peaked in the late 90's,the golden era has come and gone, there is no saving this town at this point. City council sold it's soul decades ago, and Palo Alto got exactly what it asked for and more. When Palo Alto transitioned from an intellectual community centered on the pursuit of higher knowledge to a capitalist venture cesspool focused on rapid unimaginable wealth you were no better than Wall Street, there was no saving you. RIP Palo Alto, it was a great century, many amazing families and at one time innovations that truley changed the world for the better. No more. Stop whining about your 1st world problems


14 people like this
Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 4, 2018 at 10:47 pm

Posted by Out of the bubble, a resident of Crescent Park:

>> Palo Alto, please get over yourself. Not everyone wants to live here.

If only. Your comment reminds me of Yogi Berra:

"Nobody goes there anymore. It's too crowded."

Web Link

Would you mind telling all of the people who flock here every time a dog house goes up for sale that "Not everyone wants to live here."?

>> You are not the center of the universe.

I know that, and, you know that. But apparently, "they" don't know that.

>> You would be suprised how the world around you really feels about your town. Trust me the reviews are not good. Palo Alto peaked in the late 90's,the golden era has come and gone, there is no saving this town at this point.

Does this mean that nobody is going to move in to the new housing the CC is trying to build?


10 people like this
Posted by Out of the bubble
a resident of Crescent Park
on Feb 4, 2018 at 11:19 pm

Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood

"Would you mind telling all of the people who flock here every time a dog house goes up for sale that "Not everyone wants to live here."?

You think Palo Alto is the only town that sells dog houses pre listing with multiple all cash offers? It's not, get out of the "center of the universe" mentality, it's not any different anywhere else in the South Bay, Oakland or the City. "Those people" are everywhere not just Palo Alto.


26 people like this
Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 5, 2018 at 9:39 am

Posted by Out of the bubble, a resident of Crescent Park

>> You think Palo Alto is the only town that sells dog houses pre listing with multiple all cash offers? It's not, get out of the "center of the universe" mentality, it's not any different anywhere else in the South Bay, Oakland or the City. "Those people" are everywhere not just Palo Alto.

Precisely. So, let "those people" build their skyscrapers "everywhere" instead of in Palo Alto.


2 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of College Terrace
on Feb 5, 2018 at 10:49 am

Hey Palo Alto City Council,

How about grandfathered in Multifamilies in College Terrace? They have R1 zoning - why not give the owners the OPTION to change it to R2 zoning??

THAT would make complete sense given it's already grandfathered in multifamiles.
The moment builders buy it.. they can only rebuild 1 single family homes on it.

Why not write a new policy that allows these properties to go R1 OR R2???


31 people like this
Posted by Crescent Park Dad
a resident of Crescent Park
on Feb 5, 2018 at 11:34 am

@ Homeowner: We are closer to closing a school? I don't think so.

- the district is failing classroom size commitments
- both high schools are bigger than 2000 students
- we've had to build out 2-story buildings at the elementary schools
- kids are still redirected to schools further away from their "home" school

As I've argued in the past - you can't just add housing without a full/comprehension plan to support the influx of new residents. Additional infrastructure must be developed before and in concert with more residents. Roads. Electricity. Water. Waste. Gas. Consumer/retail service centers. School sites. Cubberly site.


44 people like this
Posted by New Council
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 5, 2018 at 12:17 pm

STOP ADDING HOUSING. STOP PROMOTING NEW BUSINESS GROWTH. STOP. STOP. STOP. How much more clear can we be!?!?


8 people like this
Posted by Donster
a resident of University South
on Feb 5, 2018 at 3:22 pm

If people don't like more housing and business in Palo Alto, then they can always move someplace else. With increasing global and local population comes increased development and urbanization. It is not only here. Fortunately, there are plenty of rural areas still left for those who prefer less crowded environs. Pitching a fit about it won't change anything, and so is a waste of time.


19 people like this
Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 5, 2018 at 3:26 pm

Posted by Donster, a resident of University South

>> If people don't like more housing and business in Palo Alto, then they can always move someplace else.

If people don't like the slowness of development in Palo Alto, then they can always move someplace else.

>> Fortunately, there are plenty of rural areas still left for those who prefer less crowded environs.

Fortunately, there are plenty of urban areas still left that want more skyscrapers and freeways, for those who prefer environs with more traffic.


8 people like this
Posted by Donster
a resident of University South
on Feb 5, 2018 at 3:30 pm

"The ratio of people on this blog who are against this madness to those for it is roughly 50:10."

Which shows that mist participants here are not representative of the other 99 percent of Palo Altans.


4 people like this
Posted by Donster
a resident of University South
on Feb 5, 2018 at 3:36 pm

"Fortunately, there are plenty of urban areas still left that want more skyscrapers and freeways, for those who prefer environs with more traffic."

Palo Alto being an urban area, with the exception of the foothills. The days of the sleepy college town ended 40 years ago. Have you not seen the several hihg rises in Downtown and Palo Alto Square. Like I said before, there are plenty of uncrowded rural areas to which the disaffected can move.


16 people like this
Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 5, 2018 at 3:51 pm

Posted by Donster, a resident of University South

>> Palo Alto being an urban area, with the exception of the foothills. The days of the sleepy college town ended 40 years ago. Have you not seen the several hihg rises in Downtown and Palo Alto Square. Like I said before, there are plenty of uncrowded rural areas to which the disaffected can move.

You made an interesting point-- accidentally, I assume? Because high residential densities can, indeed, be achieved without skyscrapers. The real enemy of density is the automobile. In fact, in urban planning, Los Angeles used to be the poster child for low density "crowding" due to the vast space that automobiles take up in parking spaces at work, at home, shopping, and, in roadways and freeways. Phoenix and Houston used to be worse, actually.

You can create all the density you want with 3-5 story buildings. Think about transportation.

If you like freeways combined with high rises, there are cities designed around your concept: Los Angeles, Phoenix, and Houston are the best examples. Places "to which the disaffected can move."


24 people like this
Posted by Crescent Park Dad
a resident of Crescent Park
on Feb 5, 2018 at 7:44 pm

@ Donster: And after the high rises went in, the city imposed a 50ft height limit due to the negative impact that the high rises had cast upon the city.

No shadow canyons in Palo Alto please.


28 people like this
Posted by Curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on Feb 5, 2018 at 8:12 pm

This is about development and the money to be made by the 1% from development. It's that simple. Housing is only the stalking horse.


2 people like this
Posted by Donster
a resident of University South
on Feb 5, 2018 at 11:10 pm

"You made an interesting point-- accidentally, I assume? Because high residential densities can, indeed, be achieved without skyscrapers"

Accidentally? One need only to look around downtown to see residential high rises. The high rise at Forest and Cowper, The Marc, is 12 stories tall, Nearby Staller Court is five stories and the fancy placce across the street six. The housing tower at the North end of Alma is 12 stories, Channing House must be close to that. There are the President abd Cardinal Hotels, too. Then there are the office towers on University and at Palo Alto Square. Last, but certainly not least, is our City Hall. All are long part of the Palo Alto, and were even before traffic and parking were a problem. And people here are complaining about tall buildings? Seriously? They're a bit late.

Bear in mind that anything taller than an anthill is labeled a skyscraper by some folks. Since we can't build out, that leaves building up as a solution. We should build more of what we already have, preferably near 101 and Caltrain. The alternative is to have even more traffic on our surface streets and ABAG taking over our permitting process. Increased population and density are going to happen, and have been taking place for many decades.


18 people like this
Posted by Anneke
a resident of Professorville
on Feb 6, 2018 at 10:48 am

Many good and valuable comments above.

1. Go to The Netherlands and study the train system. It works!
2. Implement this system in the Bay area and allow people to live in beautiful areas an hour train ride away from Palo Alto. This will bring a much needed balance in the housing crisis, the home prices, the parking, the quality of life, and more.
3. Better start building desalination plants, as water scarcity will be a real issue.

The Bay area is a wonderful area to live in. Let's expand our minds beyond Palo Alto.

I cannot afford to live in Los Altos Hills or Atherton, and I have absolutely no feeling of entitlement to need to live there.


20 people like this
Posted by mauricio
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Feb 6, 2018 at 11:01 am

mauricio is a registered user.

It is very obvious that Donster is living in the wrong area. may I suggest Manhattan, San Francisco, Huston, Hong Kong?


14 people like this
Posted by Carpetbaggers
a resident of College Terrace
on Feb 6, 2018 at 11:27 am

Funny how people, by their own admittance, who do not live in palo alto, are telling people like donster that they should not be living here. Equally sad that people who do not live here are pushing their vision for what the city should be as of it were some kind of gospel truth!!!!!


7 people like this
Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 6, 2018 at 11:45 am

Posted by Donster, a resident of University South:

>>>> "You made an interesting point-- accidentally, I assume? Because high residential densities can, indeed, be achieved without skyscrapers"

>> Accidentally? One need only to look around downtown to see residential high rises. The high rise at Forest and Cowper, The Marc, is 12 stories tall, Nearby Staller Court is five stories and the fancy placce across the street six.

Sorry, but, you missed the point *again*.

======> high residential densities can be achieved without skyscrapers

Sit down with a pencil and paper and figure out how many people can live in full-sized apartments limited to 50 feet. Figure 40 dwellings per acre.** At 2.54 people per dwelling, that is 65,000 people per square mile. Twice NYC. (Now let's talk about work, parks, transportation.) -You don't need high-rises to achieve high densities-. Do the arithmetic. In point of fact, some "high-rise" developments actually have rather low densities. Why? Parking lots, driveways, and space needed to allow light and views to residents.

Do you want to know what is hard, then? Building a dense auto-centered city where everybody drives between home and work and shopping and school. At one point in the early 70's (I'm relying on memory here), IIRC, urban planners looked at LA and found that in developed areas, > 50% of the land area was devoted to cars (and trucks). Driveways, streets, arterials, expressways, freeways, shopping mall lots, office parking lots, factory parking lots, high-school parking lots, it all added up to > 50%. Reductio ad absurdum time. Figure out what an auto city with infinitely tall apartments and offices would look like.

** BTW, you are correct that there a few highrises (> 8 stories). I knew some of the (sadly, only a few remaining) original Residentialists who worked to arrest that trend. I love their accomplishments. (6-8 is midrise BTW)

** Web Link


19 people like this
Posted by RIP Palo Alto
a resident of Professorville
on Feb 6, 2018 at 5:27 pm

Foreign investors will have snapped up the majority of the housing stock in Palo Alto within 10 years. Palo Altans would be shocked if they knew the high percentage of ghost houses that already exist in their neighborhoods. Families are quietly leaving Palo Alto. Houses are bought sight unseen by the foreign investors.


13 people like this
Posted by Investors
a resident of Professorville
on Feb 6, 2018 at 5:44 pm

I’m not sure of the numbers, or what percentage of investors are foreign, but I heard from an agent that more houses are now bought in Palo Alto as investments than for the purpose of long term owner occupation.

That’s an indication of something.


12 people like this
Posted by Ray
a resident of Professorville
on Feb 6, 2018 at 5:45 pm

It would be interesting if a local paper printed a ballot that asked residents (or anyone who has access to the newspaper) to cut it out, vote, and send the ballot to the City Council. The ballot would say something like "I (support) (do not support) additional housing in Palo Alto.

There would be absolutely no influence from developers beyond what they could generate beyond their network of contacts, hardly the numbers that the general population would generate. Honest opinions from the general population would reflect what we want without the clever repartee of on-line postings. Yes, the returns would be from self-selected participants, not the best population according to professional pollsters, but it would undeniably be a reflection of what we want.


14 people like this
Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Feb 6, 2018 at 6:03 pm

Online Name is a registered user.

Ray, that's an absolutely wonderful idea. I hope Palo Alto Online (or another local paper) will take that idea and run with it.

I'm so tired of getting City Council packets with 80 (or so) of the absolutely identical emails from PA Forward supporters which the council members sometimes write themselves but always cite as clear evidence of support for some position.


20 people like this
Posted by Carpetbaggers
a resident of College Terrace
on Feb 6, 2018 at 6:09 pm

Ray- I am certain that a certain local organization, with the assistance of their council members, will make sure that the ballot box is stuffed with " do not support" ballots.


4 people like this
Posted by @Ray
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Feb 6, 2018 at 6:18 pm

That one question would return "Yes", without any doubt, if you put just that one question on the ballot.

That question should be followed by:
"Do you support additional offices in PA?" and
"Do you support additional public transportation in (around) PA?".

Otherwise, it is trickery and will work just as a garden rake is supposed to work when you step on it.


2 people like this
Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 6, 2018 at 7:34 pm

Posted by Investors, a resident of Professorville:

>> I’m not sure of the numbers, or what percentage of investors are foreign, but I heard from an agent that more houses are now bought in Palo Alto as investments than for the purpose of long term owner occupation.

I assume that most such houses will get rented out. I don't see what would be in it for a rich investor to -not- rent out such a house. So, some houses are rentals and some are owner-occupied. I'm not seeing a big problem...


2 people like this
Posted by Ray
a resident of Professorville
on Feb 7, 2018 at 5:49 am

No doubt, the possibility - even probability - that "certain" groups that have their own interests in the outcome would attempt to "stuff the ballot box." But I still contend, with a population of 65,000 (?) people, it would take more than an effort on their own behalf. By publishing the ballot in a public paper, it would empower every individual with the right to vote, the equivalent of dropping thousands of ballots from an airplane over the city . . . without the clutter. I agree, "online name," it would be wonderful if a local paper picked up the idea. Anyone have a contact??


17 people like this
Posted by mauricio
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Feb 7, 2018 at 8:25 am

mauricio is a registered user.

PAF=Palantit=developers=mega development majority in CC. You can rest assured that any such ballot attempt would be met with a well coordinated and well financed blitzkrieg by the mega development coalition that would redefine stuffing the ballot box.


12 people like this
Posted by RIPPalo Alto
a resident of Professorville
on Feb 7, 2018 at 8:40 am

Foreign investors are buying Palo Alto homes sight unseen. The realtors of foreign investors are videotaping the streets of Palo Alto, so they can show the neighborhoods to their foreign buyers. I have seen several realtors hanging their heads out of their cars as they slowly drive up and down streets videotaping all the houses in a neighborhood.
Foreign investor homes are often not well maintained. Yards are unkempt. Very often they don’t bother maintaining the rear gardens. Adjacent neighbors have to look down upon overgrown, dirty yards.
Vacant houses invite squatters, too. It’s easier than you would think to not realize that unauthorized people are living in a vacant house. If squatters look respectable and keep a low profile the neighbors assume they are renters. Neighbors don’t know how to get in touch with foreign investor homeowners if there is an issue with the home. This is quickly becoming a problem in Palo Alto.


8 people like this
Posted by Donster
a resident of University South
on Feb 7, 2018 at 8:57 am

"Foreign investor homes are often not well maintained. Yards are unkempt. Very often they don’t bother maintaining the rear gardens. Adjacent neighbors have to look down upon overgrown, dirty yards."

Then complain to the city. The people here on aren't going to do anything about it.

"Vacant houses invite squatters, too."

How many vacant houses in PA do you know of that have squatters? Addresses or it doesn't count.


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Posted by Donster
a resident of University South
on Feb 7, 2018 at 9:28 am

"It is very obvious that Donster is living in the wrong area. may I suggest Manhattan, San Francisco, Huston, Hong Kong?"

I have lived briefly in Hong Kong and San Francisco. Where I or anyone else has lived is irrelevant to the issues currently facing Palo Alto. But isn't that obvious?

Palo Alto is part of the Bay Area,band faces the same problems as the rest of the region. That means we are also get to be part of the solution. We're not special snowflakes, and don't get to shirk our responsibilities.

Those opposing change in Palo Alto seem to forget that it has changed greatly and continuously for well over 50 years. Pick a time, any point in time, when Palo Alto has not changed compared to 20 years prior. It would be a difficult task. Those who think they can hold back change by throwing tantrums on this forum are on a fools errand. It is no different than what Palo Altans tried to do when the wave of 1980s arrivals flooded into town. They brought new development, traffic and overcrowding, too. The locals told them to scram, but it didn't work. It won't work any better this time around, and so is a waste of time.


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Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on Feb 7, 2018 at 9:42 am

and those who think they can hold back climate change are on a fools errand.


29 people like this
Posted by mauricio
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Feb 7, 2018 at 11:11 am

mauricio is a registered user.

Of course some change is inevitable. 2018 Palo Alto looks and is very different from 1998 Palo Alto, from 1978 Palo Alto, etc. those claiming that PA must change because it has stayed the same for too long are deliberately ignoring the fact that it has gone through tremendous change, at least since the mid 1970s. I have friends who moved away 15 years ago and can barely reconcile this town when they return for a visit. The accusations that P.A. is frozen in time are hogwash. It has changed dramatically, accept now there are powerful lobbies that have infiltrated every facet of its government trying to turn it into a dense metropolis, after already succeeding in turning it into an office park.

The main problem I have with the mega development crowd is their attitude that a sardine can is able to accommodate an infinite number of sardines being squeezed into it.

California, the Bay area and Palo Alto are unable to support even its current population without triggering future water supply and environmental catastrophes. Additionally, numerous families and individuals over generations sacrificed to buy into PA housing because they didn't want to live an urban life style. They wanted a small town, suburban, low density, low traffic, good air, less noise life style. The fact that short sighted and special interest beholden politicians have betrayed them is not an excuse why this trend should be irreversible. Not everybody who wants to live in Palo Alto can live in Palo Alto, despite what PAF and their enablers want you to think. The mega development lobby tells tlng time residents and residentialists they are irrelevant and are forcing them to live in the kind of environment they never wanted to live in, with an attitude of' If you don't like it move out'. I personally was able to move to a rural area without having to sell my Palo Alto home, but many of them can't for a myriad of reasons. Many of those telling long time residents to move out don't even live in P.A.

There are many options in the Bay area for those who prefer an urban life style. The attempt to force Palo Alto to become a dense metropolis can be stopped and reversed, despite the unlimited financial and political resources of the mega development lobby.


4 people like this
Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 7, 2018 at 11:33 am

Posted by Donster, a resident of University South:


>> Palo Alto is part of the Bay Area,band faces the same problems as the rest of the region. That means we are also get to be part of the solution. We're not special snowflakes, and don't get to shirk our responsibilities.

Good point. And, a lot of people in Palo Alto are working to improve High-Speed Rail (HSR) as a -better way- to move people up and down the peninsula. -change-

>> Those opposing change in Palo Alto

Quite the opposite. I want -change-. I want less traffic, and more efficient means of transportation than the Single-Occupancy-Vehicle. (SOV) Web Link

>> They brought new development, traffic and overcrowding, too. The locals told them to scram, but it didn't work. It won't work any better this time around, and so is a waste of time.

Posted by musical, a resident of Palo Verde:

>> and those who think they can hold back climate change are on a fools errand.

I want -change- on the front, too, although I realize that I won't live to see a reversal, I might live to see a slow-down; you never know. You can always argue any -change- won't happen. That's what they said about slavery in the U.S., many, right up to the 1864 elections. Yet, the 13th Amendment was passed by the House on January 31st, 1865, and ratified on December 18th, 1865. Either coal is dead, or, we will be. I hopeful that -change- will occur soon.


4 people like this
Posted by Personal responsibility
a resident of Barron Park
on Feb 7, 2018 at 4:52 pm

To the "there is no housing crisis" crowd, or rather "we don't have a housing crisis, we have an overpopulation crisis".

Most of our country is empty land, mountains and farms. Very little of the US is populated at all, or has a density of 4 people per acre.

We don't have an over population problem at all. We have a congregation of population into small places where there are actually jobs. Why don't you convince businesses to move their jobs to the heartland, or the mountains? Oh, you don't want that? Nor would it make sense for businesses to do that.

We have a business and population distribution problem.

The city council has the power to stop ghost house purchases if they so wished. As do the voters. Make it happen. Put it on the ballot.

The people have the power to turn office space into housing if they so wished. It would take lots of time and effort.

PA can keep claiming they don't have to solve the so-called housing/overpopulation problem, but no one else is going to solve it for you.


6 people like this
Posted by Scarey
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Feb 8, 2018 at 4:36 am

This is really terrifying coming from the city council. Housing at Stanford shopping center! Now the world has ended. Good bye Palo Alto and Stanford.


6 people like this
Posted by MP Resident
a resident of Menlo Park
on Feb 8, 2018 at 10:42 am

Water is a complete and utter red herring.

Water usage in CA is 90% agriculture, 5% commercial, 5% residential.

High density residential with water-efficient landscaping and modern plumbing uses a truly miniscule amount of water. Single family houses with watered lawns are far less water efficient, and still a literal drop in the bucket relative to agriculture.


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Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 8, 2018 at 11:57 am

Posted by Personal responsibility, a resident of Barron Park

>> To the "there is no housing crisis" crowd, or rather "we don't have a housing crisis, we have an overpopulation crisis".

We have a -car- overpopulation crisis. There "could" be a lot more people enjoying the climate on the Peninsula ("Climate best by government test"), but, we don't have room to park a lot more cars, build freeways and roads for the cars to drive on, and park the cars when the people get to work.

>> Most of our country is empty land, mountains and farms. Very little of the US is populated at all, or has a density of 4 people per acre.

True. Even within California, there is plenty of low-density land. People (with cars) should move there, not here. Why does everybody have to live here?

>> We don't have an over population problem at all. We have a congregation of population into small places where there are actually jobs. Why don't you convince businesses to move their jobs to the heartland, or the mountains? Oh, you don't want that? Nor would it make sense for businesses to do that.

Actually, I think it would make sense. For some reason, people keep crowding closer and closer to the coasts.

>> We have a business and population distribution problem.

The density of Manhattan is about 72,000 per square mile today. In the year 1910, the population peaked at just over 100,000 per square mile, but, trains and subways allowed the gradual displacement of housing in Manhattan with commercial enterprises, with more people commuting from the other boroughs.

At densities that can be achieved with 4-story 50-ft apartments, as I posted earlier, you are in the same ballpark. So, sure, there is room for a lot of more people here. But, not their cars.



6 people like this
Posted by Missed Opportunity
a resident of College Terrace
on Feb 8, 2018 at 7:06 pm


Housing at Stanford Shopping Center? Yes, please. Why wasn't this done a long time ago? In fact you the planners and developers of the latest SSC redevelopment and upgrade could have already included a layer of housing above the shops during the last remodel (ex: Santana Row). If you had done that the footprint would only be taken from existing space. Well, maybe you could still do that. There is still space in the parking lot to incorporate housing and add a green common space.


3 people like this
Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 9, 2018 at 9:38 am

Posted by Missed Opportunity, a resident of College Terrace

>> Housing at Stanford Shopping Center? Yes, please. Why wasn't this done a long time ago?

I'm OK with it, as long as the residents -don't have cars-. But, of course, they will.


6 people like this
Posted by Missed Opportunity
a resident of College Terrace
on Feb 9, 2018 at 11:12 am


@Anon

Maybe some would have cars, however building housing above SSC or in the parking lot would be considered Transit Oriented Development (TOD). Could also incentivize those living there to not have cars. Those working downtown or at the nearby campus could walk to work or take other alternative means thereby subtracting cars and car trips downtown.



13 people like this
Posted by resident
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Feb 9, 2018 at 11:53 am

Redwood City has new apartments next to the Caltrain tracks that are in excess of 4 stories. They are in a giant building craze in the downtown area and it looks really good. Meanwhile I got trapped in SF yesterday on Mission Street and followed it out to the 280 freeway. There are so many buildings up there that are unlivable - boarded up. Why is a major city allowed to have run down buildings that are an eyesore and provide no use allowed to let that happen? Why are we in this building craze when the major cities around us have unlivable space? And why do we have empty buildings some with for lease signs and some with no signs? The cities need to go through and earmark buildings that are empty and compel the owners to either upgrade and put the space to use. We are letting existing space go to waste so start with how existing space is being utilized. It suggests that long time owners who have influence with the city are waiting for some great pay-off that is yet to materialize. Let's start identifying where those buildings are and who owns them. they either come up to specification or sell to someone who will build new up to spec buildings.


2 people like this
Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 11, 2018 at 10:33 am

Posted by resident, a resident of Adobe-Meadow,

>> Meanwhile I got trapped in SF yesterday on Mission Street and followed it out to the 280 freeway. There are so many buildings up there that are unlivable - boarded up. Why is a major city allowed to have run down buildings

Were the buildings that you looked at brick? I can't say regarding any particular buildings, but, I do know that in or near that area, there is a historic district with buildings that are historic/semi-historic but also have major seismic issues, and, in the Mission in general, many individual buildings that are designated historic. But, that area itself has more seismic risk. So, it represents a real redevelopment challenge.

>> The cities need to go through and earmark buildings that are empty and compel the owners to either upgrade and put the space to use.

Property rights? The needs of cities, the rights of property owners, and financial reality are often in conflict.


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Posted by resident
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Feb 12, 2018 at 10:54 am

The buildings I saw in SF were wood - not brick. They had signs all over them. Why is that allowed as it degrades the whole area. As to PA people are holding on to old properties because they have a low tax rate. The question on the table is why everyone is compelled to change the zoning of their properties if existing properties are not being utilized. Property rights only go so far as keeping a building up to neighborhood standards and security / specification levels.


12 people like this
Posted by Curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on Feb 12, 2018 at 4:59 pm

"Those working downtown or at the nearby campus could walk to work or take other alternative means thereby subtracting cars and car trips downtown."

How about those working in Santa Clara or Cupertino or ... ? They got long walks.


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Posted by Donster
a resident of University South
on Feb 13, 2018 at 8:46 am

"Good point. And, a lot of people in Palo Alto are working to improve High-Speed Rail (HSR) as a -better way- to move people up and down the peninsula. -change-"
I agree that running HSR through the Peninsula would be a great idea. I don't think that the anti-progress bunch would agree, though. HSR would make high rise towers along this important transit artery even more beneficial.

"True. Even within California, there is plenty of low-density land. People (with cars) should move there, not here. Why does everybody have to live here?"

For the same reason you live here. Overpopulation would mean that every Palo Alto resident, concluding you and I, are part of the problem. If you are not going to leave and help solve the problem that way, don't expect others to leave or stay away. What's good for the goose is good for the gander.

You see? If people tell others to get lost, the others will simply turn around and tell them the same thing. Now "the others" outnumber and outvote the anti-growth contingent. Who are the outsiders now?


2 people like this
Posted by resident
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Feb 13, 2018 at 11:49 am

Reading the paper today regarding the available funding for transportation you have to wonder why we - CA - are spending outrageous budget for HSR when the more easily solved problems could use that money in specific locations - like BART from Daly City to San Jose is not completed - we allocated tax to that ages ago. It could go on the Foothill side of the peninsula and help support the Apple ridership in Cupertino. There are so many more logical fixes we should be doing. We vote taxes for something and then those taxes get spent somewhere else. That is a California problem it is not a federal problem you can blame on the current administration.


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Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 13, 2018 at 12:45 pm

Posted by resident, a resident of Adobe-Meadow

>> Reading the paper today regarding the available funding for transportation you have to wonder why we - CA - are spending outrageous budget for HSR when the more easily solved problems could use that money in specific locations - like BART from Daly City to San Jose is not completed -

My apologies for any confusion I may have previously caused. I may have used HSR in the context of rail that is big and fast and doesn't stop too often-- which could include Caltrain, and BART, as opposed to light rail, and, at the lowest rung, local buses.

Caltrain and BART are usually referred to as "commuter rail". HSR is now used for intercity rail-- for example, Bay Area to LA Area. Which, BTW, still makes sense in California. California does have the population density to support HSR and it makes economic sense between the Bay Area and the LA Area.

I make no comment at this time on the project management aspects of the California HSR program, however.


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

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