According to your Aug. 24 article, "New committee seeks to boost Palo Alto's climate-change efforts," progress remains stubbornly slow on the goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 80%. This has a lot to do with the fact that the city has chosen to focus on the electrification of homes. Electrification of homes is very, very important, however, it requires an enormous amount of infrastructure investment. Not only is it not low-hanging fruit, it's the fruit at the tippy top of the tree.
Simplifying the approval process for rooftop solar installation could help a lot. But even more, so could the elimination of parking requirements. According to City of Palo Alto Utilities, 63% of Palo Alto's greenhouse gas emissions come from automobiles. All free parking does is encourage driving. Parking requirements also add 17% to the cost of any new construction.
Worried about too many people parking on the street? Permit parking for all of Palo Alto would address that problem.
If the city wants to do something constructive as well, they could have an electric-assist cargo bike rental program. Use an electric-assist cargo bike for a month, and you will never go back to a car.
Birch Street, Palo Alto
It was heartening to see the idea of case management offered as a useful tool in dealing with unhoused persons and those with other problems of living. As a former member of the Board of the Urban Ministry back in the Jim Burklo days, we found that building interpersonal relationships with people was the key to success.
I do not believe that police or military intelligence models work as well as focused and sustained substantive help. The hubbub over background checks at the church on Arastradero seems particularly ill-advised. Not only does the city have a rap sheet about interfering with the mission of Christian charity -- the Friends on Colorado Avenue and the Baptists on California Avenue -- but there seems to be little acknowledgement of equal protection under the law. How can the city of Palo Alto seek to do background checks on guests of the Unitarian Universalists and not do similar diligence on the guests at Stevenson House? There appears to be much of the short-sightedness that many of us have unfortunately grown accustomed to seeing at City Hall in the formulation of policies in this area; however, I remain hopeful for more clarity and charity in developing future solutions and programs.
La Para Avenue, Palo Alto
Affordable housing targets
Palo Alto is using taxpayer dollars to appeal affordable housing targets. Our Regional Housing Needs Allocation, or RHNA, is a state-mandated goal meant to help cities and counties plan the needed housing for low- and middle-income residents.
I am the president of Palo Alto Forward, which works with residents and city government to make Palo Alto a more affordable, inclusive, and sustainable place for neighbors at all income levels. We're a multigenerational network of families, grandparents, tech workers, teachers, renters and homeowners.
I support Palo Alto's affordable housing goals and hope this wasteful appeal is denied. With our high jobs-to-housing imbalance, quality public schools and proximity to transit, Palo Alto is well-suited and capable of meeting affordable housing goals. The city has already received a 40% reduction; I do not believe a further reduction is appropriate.
I reviewed Palo Alto's grounds for appeal and did not find them credible. The claims of underlying mapping errors and unrealistic projections without a defensible alternative methodology are insufficient; it also suggests that the city believes it doesn't need to engage in a responsible Housing Element process. We are meant to identify feasible sites and policies that enable new, affordable housing. The lack of political will to change policies is not the same as housing infeasibility.
The appeal also cites our office cap and increased telecommuting as challenges to future growth, but RHNA is meant to reduce overcrowding and relieve rent-burdened residents while increasing capacity. We must take action to help the 80% of Palo Alto renters making less than $75k per year who are rent burdened. We have consistently held the second-highest transit commutership rates in the region with 93% of workers commuting. I believe that our RHNA allocation is reasonable and achievable, but only if we plan for it.
Orme Street, Palo Alto
Racism in Palo Alto
Last month, a local Black female clergyperson discovered, for the third time, that the Black Lives Matter sign on her property had been vandalized. On three separate occasions, a poster was left outside her home claiming that BLM is the cause of recent violence directed at AAPI elders. The poster included threats of retribution directed at anyone supporting BLM.
While religious leaders are not all of the same mind on how to approach issues of racial injustice, we are all deeply angered and saddened by these events and stand in solidarity with our Black siblings in Palo Alto.
This attack was not an isolated incident, but one of a series of recent hate crimes, building on a long-standing pattern of racial hate and exclusion directed at people of color in Palo Alto.
We unequivocally condemn all acts of emotional, institutional, or physical violence directed at any member of the African American or Asian American communities in Palo Alto. We reject false narratives about the dangers of BLM and all attempts to pit people of color against one another in our ongoing commitment to antiracism.
We know that Palo Alto has much deep and difficult work to do in order to confront and dismantle its own patterns of cultural and institutional racism. As we move forward, we dedicate ourselves to the work of antiracism within ourselves, the communities that we serve, the City of Palo Alto, and our global family.
We, along with 36 other Palo Alto religious leaders, offer these reflections in the desire to respond to hate with love and to transform histories of division and discrimination into deep connection and solidarity. While words of hate have been spoken, we commit ourselves to bringing light, unity and peace to our city.
Rev. Bruce Reyes-Chow
Cowper Street, Palo Alto
Rabbi Amy Eilberg, Multifaith Voices for Peace and Justice
Lundy Lane, Los Altos