New housing proposal looks to aid Palo Alto teachers | April 28, 2023 | Palo Alto Weekly | Palo Alto Online |

Palo Alto Weekly

News - April 28, 2023

New housing proposal looks to aid Palo Alto teachers

Development plan would bring 44 apartments to vacant Ventura site on El Camino Real

by Gennady Sheyner

Palo Alto's newest housing proposal has a very specific aim: to help teachers in the local school district afford a place to live in one of the most expensive places in California.

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Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Apr 21, 2023 at 10:28 am

Online Name is a registered user.

"Nine apartments would be designated for those making between 51% and 80% of area median income, while the remaining 35 would be offered to households that make between 81% and 120% of area median income."

Let's stop calling this "teacher housing" since it's just more market rate housing.

Posted by MyFeelz
a resident of another community
on Apr 21, 2023 at 10:43 am

MyFeelz is a registered user.

"With teacher salaries starting at about $70,000, it's pretty much impossible for most teachers to afford Palo Alto's typical monthly rents of about $4,000, they noted."

What does "pretty much impossible" mean?

And, who are "they"?

No mention of the McD's that will be plowed under to build more lego housing with too little parking to go around. Developers who only plan for "half a car per apartment" have clearly never lived in those circumstances. None of them have imagined the logistics of Teacher+Partner+2 children walking to the grocery store. Oh wait ... where is the grocery store?

As a young child, on many a hot day my mother gathered her brood for an outing to the grocery store, which was a half mile away. Did we WANT to go? Of course not. She never learned to drive. So that's why we had to ALL go to the grocery store whenever mom needed something to put in our bellies. 2 reasons: She couldn't trust any one of us to babysit the others. On account of that ONE time when she came around the corner and saw a fire truck at the curb in front of the house. The other reason is we were her pack mules.

I thought we survived so the next generation could be better off? Why is it that here in Palo Alto, we expect our teachers to not only to provide first rate teaching, but to do it while living in housing projects? Something tells me this isn't going to work. Even BMR is a dead end road for a teacher who will NEVER be able to afford to buy a house here. Most of them know how to calculate, and they're already doing the math on this one.

Posted by Mondoman
a resident of Green Acres
on Apr 21, 2023 at 11:19 am

Mondoman is a registered user.

Should be interesting to see how teacher + partner + 2 kids fit into a studio or even 1-bedroom apartment. Maybe some can camp in their 1/2 parking space.

Posted by ALB
a resident of College Terrace
on Apr 21, 2023 at 11:51 am

ALB is a registered user.

I agree. How many couples with kids are going to live in studio apartments? Is the developer fronting for tech bros in the guise of teacher housing? This is market rate housing and offers little truly affordable housing stock.

Posted by MyFeelz
a resident of another community
on Apr 21, 2023 at 1:11 pm

MyFeelz is a registered user.

They always tell us how many apartments they are building. They never mention square footage. Studio = 380-425 sf. 1br = 500-550 sf. Liberace's closet was ten times the size.

What sf territory is something that costs $4k/mo? Not 550 sf, that's for sure.

Posted by Native to the BAY
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Apr 21, 2023 at 2:34 pm

Native to the BAY is a registered user.

Tanaka wants the smaller the better. He asserts because families are mostly divorced and their children are splitting time between two dwellings. He's fine with a family of five with 650sqft of live work (including the bathroom) space. He desires to attract primarily working single occupants at 350 square feet of living space. No joke. Constructed of Lego bricks and a skeleton made of aluminum (erector set material). @MyFeelz. My mom and us all walked to the store together for groceries. So we could help carry the nine bags of food home. Not because she did not drive. Because my dad usually had the car, working or living out-of-town.

Posted by Amie
a resident of Downtown North
on Apr 21, 2023 at 3:14 pm

Amie is a registered user.

What a great project, at a great location!

Not everyone wants a single-family house, which happens to also be environmentally impossible -- see Bill McKibben's article here: Web Link

I personally know at least 10 younger teachers who live quite happily in studios and have really nice lives - mostly because they don't have to commute two hours per day across multiple cities and bridges. Don't let your own value judgements cloud the issue, we need housing of all kinds!

Posted by Native to the BAY
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Apr 21, 2023 at 3:55 pm

Native to the BAY is a registered user.

@Anie no doubt housing is needed badly. Yet we need all types of housing for Daniel’s and individuals. One reason teachers are commuting is they can pay less rent for more. Like a in unit washer dryer, a parking space, a small yard. Have a pet? No chance. These types of dwellings don’t allow pets, or in unit washer dryers, have no place to grow a few veggies or flowers. This temporary housing to crisis of mega proportion — not a long term solution. How about build half the units make them twice the size and invite famines. The article is lacking in interior amenities or what kind of management lease the developer is going — make it doable to quality of life. Not just cutting the commute down. Make this a thoughtful, forever home for our local professionals, family or no family. Once the single dweller gets a partner, maybe started a family... then what? Booted back to Hollister? Loss of a good teacher here?

Posted by Local news junkie
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Apr 22, 2023 at 7:03 am

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I am a retired teacher. I and the rest of the teachers I know lug lots of materials back and forth from home and classroom. Taking the bus or riding a bike doesn’t work — you need a car for all that stuff. Plus when you’re trying to get to an early class a little early to prepare, who has time to wait around for a bus? So teachers, like everyone else, DO have cars. This underparked proposal assumes most don’t, which is ridiculous!

Posted by stephen levy
a resident of University South
on Apr 22, 2023 at 7:10 am

stephen levy is a registered user.

This is a great opportunity for teachers who do not have a big family to live near where they work at an affordable rent. Families that prefer larger spaces and longer commutes are free to make that choice. I participated in several meetings with teachers that Joe Simitian helped organize and there are many teachers who said they would welcome a project like this and the one near Cal Ave. This project adds a choice to our housing menu and targets the “missing middle” where we have done especially poorly in providing affordable options as well as providing affordable units to teachers in the low (50-80% of AMI) income group.

Posted by Silver Linings
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 22, 2023 at 7:45 am

Silver Linings is a registered user.

You are so right. I knew teachers even years ago who lived very far afield and rented a substandard landing pad here during the week. We have to stop ruining quality of life or it creates vulnerability like SF and other cities experienced because of the pandemic to sudden and maybe irreversible occupancy shifts. We don’t want to create essentially little temporary spots that aren’t real homes. The only people who will stay are new young teachers who will leave for better quality of life too.

1) Units should be available for staff, too.
2) 30% rent for BMR housing is too high for the high cost of living here. It should be less. Or half paid rent should go into an interest-bearing account which teachers can access after so many years as a home down payment if they get tenure and stay—details to be worked out, but the idea is to give teachers an incentive to stay.
3) Units should be restricted to those living there not commuting from elsewhere. Parking there should be adequate—not cool making them haul all their materials without a vehicle. There should be green space and units for families. Do we really want to encourage more teachers who don’t have children of their own or who will leave when they do?

I agree with you, these should be for families, and we must think how the set up helps teachers become part of the community.

My neighborhood has numerous teacher homeowners. On two district teacher salaries, it’s actually very doable. What people need are down payments, creative financing, knowledge about local real estate, etc. Getting into a home to stabilize income is not for the faint of heart and usually involves home improvement (the necessary unpleasant kind). Having a volunteer brigade and funds to help teachers and staff get into homes (or like Habitat, requiring participation) would ultimately do more. Maybe the City could go the same for our firefighters and police.

Posted by Bystander
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 22, 2023 at 8:38 am

Bystander is a registered user.

Silver Linings has made some good points.

Home ownership should be the goal for any professional. Anyone who wants to rent rather than own as a long term goal shows a mindset of being temporary in a community. I know some people end up renting for most of their lives, but is it the way they had originally expected?

There are many schemes for part ownership/part rental that are in place and established around the world, around the country and even locally. A potential homeowner works out how much they have for a downpayment and how much they can budget for monthly payments and then they use their funds to part buy a home shared with the housing authority as joing owners. They pay monthly mortgage plus a small rent and as the years go by they can start increasing their ownership and paying less in rent. After say 20 years they have established home ownership but done it in a different way.

When someone is invested in their community long term is has to be a plus.

Posted by stephen levy
a resident of University South
on Apr 22, 2023 at 8:39 am

stephen levy is a registered user.

I think we need housing affordable to starting and other teachers who also may not have large families. They do not make enough money starting out to afford housing to this area. This project will not be suitable for all teachers and their families but it will help some teachers. The project does not prevent teachers who want to commute from Gilroy or Tracy to do so. It like the county land project near Cal Ave provides another option.
The project is backed by the local teachers union, which indicates local interest.
I am in favor of providing choices not telling other people how they should live.

Posted by MyFeelz
a resident of another community
on Apr 22, 2023 at 2:35 pm

MyFeelz is a registered user.

@Native I hear ya on the car. Even if mom knew how, dad took the car to the city everyday. And on Saturdays he took moms list to the store and brought home a station wagon full of food, which we unloaded assembly line style. 2 refrigerator/freezers, one in the garage and one in the kitchen. This is the lifestyle my parents worked hard to improve for their kids. Every homeless person is somebodys kid. And somebodys student.
Too many people dont consider that. Not you, since you have that experience too. But sometimes, preaching to the choir captures the attention of somebody who finally listens to the song.

Posted by The Palo Alto Kid
a resident of Ventura
on Apr 22, 2023 at 7:22 pm

The Palo Alto Kid is a registered user.

More lip service and lining of pockets. What else is new?

Posted by Native to the BAY
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Apr 22, 2023 at 8:12 pm

Native to the BAY is a registered user.

@SteveLevy We in mixed housing is dire. Not elders there, ADA here & single boundary there. A community is made of many parts 2 create a whole. Not a hole living & quality of life. If so, then it’s an all Alta Locale. Micro units. Professions demand the amenities 2 live/work in balance. When community rooms r locked, dark, empty. Micro units create so many challenges to a paraprofessional or someone just starting out. I am all 4 small, w quality, sound interior efficiencies.— make work life doable, manageable. With all the city’s austere “objective designs” ie curb appeal a banana peel is present. Other cities like Cleveland, Minneapolis (think Mary Tyler Moore Show) where a studio apartment contains the necessary efficiencies 2 sustain / grow a career. If old TV shows r not your thing, look at Portland, Seattle. Where the quality of design is small w/out squeezing big dreams out. Should PA’s dwellings only serve as a stop gap, temporary then our social values quit. So retaining a quality work force demands dignity & loyalty in its builds (by no means luxury) —livable, workable, amenable. Related Mayfield Place is a design disaster— inefficient, poor quality, bad management. Yes. Related. 25 billion Hudson Yards, NYC Related. Their dominant paradigm is 2 foist the worst housing in the highest market so they can sell luxury East Coast Manhattan skyline to the richest. As soon as Palo Alto, Stanford, Related, Baker & Associates & Segue penned the deal, it was all down stream 4 its Mayfield residents. I have never been so trapped as a renter under a megalith Corp of yearly paper work, mean spirited management, lack of unit safety & cheap materials — all gleefully green lighted / approved 4? a check mark. The tiniest amenity — decent family size shared laundry folding table or replacing a hazardous in unit appliance is at the mercy of the tenant & the feet of power. Like the loss of the middle class, there is no center to hold the edges together.

Posted by Native to the BAY
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Apr 22, 2023 at 8:23 pm

Native to the BAY is a registered user.

@ThePaloAltoKid don’t even get me started on out of code parking surface or the unsafe parking lift that is supposed to serve as residential parking. Electrical crashes, unsafe for little kids & moms w groceries. no ADA parking in the lift one one in out only. Better to use the lift as a Carvana used car sale site. At least the thousands of square feet of empty could make the city/Stanford some money. We were not told about the lift until after signing a lease. There is NO residential parking. What an absolute crime to providing livable warkable solutions to a housing deficit. Fiasco. The curb speak is a dump inside. Come take a tour.

Posted by Native to the BAY
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Apr 22, 2023 at 8:51 pm

Native to the BAY is a registered user.

@MyFeelz “But sometimes, preaching to the choir captures the attention of somebody who finally listens to the song.” I lied a little bit. Mostly because as a kid other kids would say, “ I saw you yesterday, walking w groceries down the street.” Or “do you have a car?” Honestly, seriously we nearly never had a car, and if we did it soon ran out of gas or broke down. And boy did we have some classics. 56 Chevy wagon, 58 VW bus, ‘62 Studabaker, a Chevy Nova 2 door wagon and some real doozies too. A ‘72 Ford station wagon w no muffler... too many to list. Our family was known for blue black smoke backfires or whole family rescues by the roadside. My dad “ worked out of town” is a colloquial for when he disappeared and I imagined he was a door to door salesman or a Alaska Pipe Line engineer. Yet. Your story incited a commonality — striking a deep sound of familiarity within. My family and me walked to and fro, and everywhere. And here is the the point. Cars were not king in our home, more of a stress filled hassle; learning to be a pedestrian clued me to the deadly force of the auto industry. And lying about my dad was one way to survive in a school yard playing a four square game face off. I usually won! Lol.

Posted by Silver Linings
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 23, 2023 at 2:32 am

Silver Linings is a registered user.

Teacher salaries here are plenty high enough to get into housing as good as has been available in this broader expensive area for decades. It’s not enough to buy a home the way one might somewhere cheaper and less in demand. But it is enough to get into the market then move up. This is why I suggested we help teachers/city employees be able to get a real foot in the door.

E.g., a friend in Cupertino, decades ago (when it was just as unaffordable for ordinary folk), formed a corporation with friends who co-purchased a home that eventually after years became the equity they all used to move into their own. A real estate broker friend said they used to set up creative financing so numerous out-of-state relatives became the “banks” and benefitted from the investments over time, but no one did things like that anymore. There are so many other ways most people don’t have the know how or time to do, or to be their own remodeler when taking on substandard housing less in demand. Helping in that way makes all the difference.

What I suggested above IS offering people more opportunity and a way up.

(Levy is notorious for demonizing single family homes and pushing hyper-densification everywhere without respect to quality of life, i.e.,telling other people who sacrificed their whole lives how they should live and destroying their options.)

We want affordability, not to trap people or make it so unpleasant they leave to find quality of life.

Housing in in-demand places is expensive. Given the massive income inequality and capital at the top, and the money to be made in real estate—as we saw during the pandemic, rich investors in numerous markets bought up a high % of homes in direct competition with ordinary people, artificially manipulating markets. They can afford to buy up and sit on property, too. The National Assn of Realtors says 16 million homes currently sit empty in the US, more than a million in CA. With that dynamic, creating affordable housing must be purposeful.

Posted by Native to the BAY
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Apr 24, 2023 at 11:22 pm

Native to the BAY is a registered user.

“E.g., a friend in Cupertino, decades ago (when it was just as unaffordable for ordinary folk), formed a corporation with friends who co-purchased a home that eventually after years became the equity they all used to move into their own. A real estate broker friend said they used to set up creative financing so numerous out-of-state relatives became the “banks” and benefitted from the investments over time, but no one did things like that anymore.“
@Silver linings . decades ago... on the cusp of Reaginomics. a friend bought a co-op in Tri-Beca NYC. 1982.?Then her circumstances changed. A starting salary 4 a teacher is zero nothing compared 2 the cost of living in PA. What happened to Landera, Lawerence Tract of 1950? We tout inclusion, equity, safe havens yet factual, real material #’s in brick r mortar are 0. Many properties around town: for lease/sale. Empty dark, locked up. Think corner of Yale & Cambridge. Commercial = 4 residential living spaces. Our collective image has been stolen by commercial, global capital investment property greed. I reside on Stanford Research park property — Mayfield Agreement. high end shopping area, yet feel as disconnected from PA community as if living in rural Oroville or Colusa County. Reality check. I have a 90 year-old mother born, raised & resides here. She broke a bone in her leg. She requires help but is not cash fluid 2 pay 4 care. Her immediate family is her best bet for her final year(s). My point: so many assumptions. The tight knit, nuclear family of yesteryear is gone. Yet, many I am among locally have NO family near. Are singles, elderly, alone or if they do have kids, hubby r isolated still . Instead of band together in times of stress or duress (WWII), it’s do or die alone rather than reach out 4 the support of “community”. Seriously. PA community, where? We’ve been co-opted 2 powerful SFH owner neighborhood associations & HOA’s. Where the social, artistic center? Old PA insists a suburban, tranquil lifestyle, yet where 2 join up?

Posted by Native to the BAY
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Apr 25, 2023 at 2:37 am

Native to the BAY is a registered user.

Bobbie Dylan knew it 60!years on:
the time will come up
When the winds will stop
And the breeze will cease to be breathin'
Like the stillness in the wind
Before the hurricane begins
The hour that the ship comes in
And the seas will split
And the ship will hit
And the sands on the shoreline will be shaking
Then the tide will sound
And the wind will pound
And the morning will be breaking
Oh, the fishes will laugh
As they swim out of the path
And the seagulls they'll be smiling
And the rocks on the sand
Will proudly stand
The hour that the ship comes in
And the words that are used
For to get the ship confused
Will not be understood as they're spoken
For the chains of the sea
Will have busted in the night
And will be buried at the bottom of the ocean
A song will lift
As the mainsail shifts
And the boat drifts on to the shoreline
And the sun will respect
Every face on the deck
The hour that the ship comes in
Then the sands will roll
Out a carpet of gold
For your weary toes to be a-touchin'
And the ship's wise men
Will remind you once again
That the whole wide world is watchin'
Oh, the foes will rise
With the sleep still in their eyes
And they'll jerk from their beds and think they're dreamin'
But they'll pinch themselves and squeal
And know that it's for real
The hour when the ship comes in
Then they'll raise their hands
Sayin' we'll meet all your demands
But we'll shout from the bow your days are numbered
And like Pharaoh's tribe
They'll be drownded in the tide
And like Goliath, they'll be conqueredOk

Posted by Silver Linings
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 25, 2023 at 2:55 am

Silver Linings is a registered user.

A tenured teacher single income here has far more income for housing then we do. Two married teachers just starting out, ditto. Interest rates are still half now what they were when I was younger, and engineer’s salaries higher by comparison. This area hasn’t generally been affordable for decades, we’ve had these conversations for a really long time. Living here is like trying to get a seat on a train that never stops. The first order of business is to just get on, then you try to figure out how to actually sit down. It could take a really long time and be really uncomfortable.

Let’s look at starting teacher couple making $150,000 together–also, they get summers off and can earn more. There are programs for first time homebuyers that help with down payments and rates. Even if not, 50% of income going to properties on lowest end of the market, interest only, they would be paying far less than we are now. (That’s how we got in, 6% interest only—and after 20 years, same size mortgage despite refinancing for better rates. But at least it appreciates, unlike a rental.) Many people I know in Palo Alto started in East Palo Alto which is still relatively affordable.

This thread from Palo Alto Online
Web Link

What info does the district provide with current ways to buy or even rent for less here?

This market is not like suburban Des Moines. There are supportive things the district can do for ALL teachers not just a few lottery winners, and to help even the latter to move up not be stuck. I can’t even afford anything better than paper shades in the windows after 20 years. The teacher couple could.

It’s not that people can’t afford housing here, it’s that it’s harder than most people are willing to put up with for decades. The district can help eliminate many of the hardships with know-how.

Posted by MyFeelz
a resident of another community
on Apr 25, 2023 at 3:11 am

MyFeelz is a registered user.

@Native, 2 nights in a row I tried to comment regarding the fact we may have the same but mine had a Woody -- Dodge Monaco, see the movie The Way Way Back as to how to logistically fit 8 ppl in sweltering heat + my similar schoolyard q's not regarding car but if I really had a dad. I only assume he had to split his time between 2 families.

Your last comment here reminds me of a lot of gas (now it's illegal) about "aging in place". Where the elders had to modify their home to make it accessible and to accommodate 24 hr caretakers. It ain't gonna happen here, and your elder is lucky to have family because 24 hr care, while it was a good idea, it's not affordable.

And oddly, I had a good friend from Cupertino whose grandparents built a modest 2br on what is now a 3 mil corner. It was built by bringing lumber from Ben Lomond, and friends poured the cement for the foundation of the basement and root cellar. The back yard was a peach and apple orchard. It cost almost nothing to build. Everything paid, no mortgage. After the grandparents passed away the son wanted to live there but needed more space. So he took out a loan. After it was paid for, his own son was marrying so he bought them their first house (just down payment hefty gift and furniture for it. Then that tradition kept on giving until all kids had houses. What we have here is elders who didn't start early enough to get that leg up to help their kids. And if parents were to gift a down payment in this economic climate, would be financial suicide.

If PA was all that &a bag of chips they would stop paying city employees with annual salaries that look like annual lottery winnings. Because we have one community of wealthy class, and another much poorer. When I suggest the haves should share with the have nots, I get a lot of "why should I?

Posted by
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 25, 2023 at 1:18 pm is a registered user.

Seems like a political decision. It really doesn't matter what Palo Alto residents want; the city does what it chooses.

Posted by Silver Linings
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 26, 2023 at 9:59 am

Silver Linings is a registered user.

Web Link
2466 sq ft home in Palo Alto, 4Br/3 Ba
$817,000. Let’s assume it’s going over asking, $850,000.

Assuming someone is active, constantly searching all the ways they can make something work (or has help from an office in the city/district) they could get a 20% down payment through this program
Web Link

That leaves $680,000. At 5.35% 30 year, payment is $3755/month plus property tax ~700-1000/month. If the interest rate drops, it’s possible to do a rate adjustment or refinance.

Normally an ordinary person would factor in the deduction in deciding but ever since 2017, the SALT deduction limit made things worse because it wasn’t adjusted by regional cost of living. But the mortgage interest should still be deductible.

For a married pair of teachers each making $125k, this is 45% of income, below what we pay. And they get a bigger newer house they can live in without a year of work before it’s habitable. If interest rates go down it becomes even more affordable.

The calculation is different for 3 unrelated people (there are 3 rooms with en-suite bath), but assuming each can rustle up a 15% down payment, and they form a corporation to buy—then everything is deductible and they get another 20% income deduction but a higher loan rate—still we’re talking around $1550/month with reduced taxes. Something attainable even for the entry-level teacher, with equity and a chance to move up over time.

Those are just back-of-the-envelope suggestions. Having an office, even staffed by volunteers (including concrete help for fixer uppers), that continually keeps options, information, and supports up to date, partnering with neighboring districts, could make all the difference. That is how most people I know got into the market, doing all that alone is HARD. The district or city could make it easier.

Posted by MyFeelz
a resident of another community
on Apr 26, 2023 at 6:00 pm

MyFeelz is a registered user.

@SilverLinings, your envelope notwithstanding, people buying into the PA dream has imminent costs that could/should be factored into the price list. Has the property already been converted to all-electric before putting out the for sale sign? How about building a circuit in the garage to accommodate one or 2 EV cars? Will the city rebate for electric water heaters be extended for incoming newbies? Also, flood mitigation is best done before the water comes. What about central heat and air? Anybody who suffered extreme heat last summer is already looking into it, and it's expensive and time consuming.
Will the new buyers be able to get permits for all of what should be a turn-key purchase before the next climate disaster?

Entry level starts looking like having to scrimp and save for major renovations down the road.

Can I sharpen your pencil for you?

Posted by Barron Park Denizen
a resident of Barron Park
on Apr 28, 2023 at 7:43 pm

Barron Park Denizen is a registered user.

Can this project, even if not using public funding, be restricted to teachers, or somehow give them priority? How is this legal, or equitable? Maybe it's just a nice-sounding way to gain favor.

If the City allows an FAR of 3.52 versus the standard of 0.6, and allows drastically restricting parking spaces, a lot of marginal projects will become viable. To the further harm of our city's declining quality of life.

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