A wasteful referendum | August 16, 2013 | Palo Alto Weekly | Palo Alto Online |


Palo Alto Weekly

Spectrum - August 16, 2013

A wasteful referendum

Maybell neighbors and City Council talk past each other, squandering opportunity for a better outcome

Perhaps it was too much to expect the Palo Alto City Council to demonstrate they understood why many neighbors of a proposed senior housing project on Maybell Avenue across from Briones Park are upset, suspicious and feeling disrespected.

And similarly, the upset neighbors may be too angry to accept that a more dense and objectionable outcome is possible if they are successful in a city-wide vote this November.

Had both groups, along with the Palo Alto Housing Corporation, been willing to take the time to focus on repairing past mistakes, building trust, and compromising a bit more, we could have avoided what will now be a confusing, divisive and expensive election debate this fall.

Thursday night's unanimous decision by the City Council to let voters decide on the housing project is but the sad, final result of a process that should never have gotten to this point. It should not have been so difficult to see the points of view of both sides of this issue, but neither the Council, the Housing Corporation, nor the objecting neighbors seemed truly interested in doing that.

While the City Council responded back in June with some helpful reductions in the size of the development, they did not do what was needed to repair relations with the neighbors. They had an opportunity last week to show they at least understood the neighbors' continuing objections.

Instead, exasperation was the tone of the evening. Several Council members went out of their way to express their frustration with opponents and the passion with which they waged the referendum petition drive, and in doing so came across as defensive and insensitive to how emotional the debate had become.

And for their part, instead of focusing on the substance of the issue, neighbors used the meeting to hurl new charges against both the city staff and Housing Corporation for not accurately communicating with state authorities regarding the status of the zoning change. That was a foolhardy strategy.

It is true that the city and Housing Corporation moved ahead to secure grant funding from the Tax Credit Allocation Committee prior to a July 3 deadline by asserting the PC zoning had been approved. It was premature, given that the council hadn't had its official second reading of the zoning ordinance, and a referendum against it was likely to qualify. (The referendum has now suspended that zoning.)

But to describe these and other actions as "fraud," as if they could have had any effect on the zoning or the rights of opponents to qualify a referendum, is unnecessarily inflammatory and unproductive.

We were disappointed that not a single Council member addressed the option of rescinding the June zoning decision that led to the referendum petition, which would have provided an opportunity for negotiation and compromise.

Instead, perhaps reflecting their frustration with the demeanor of the opponents, there was no real discussion at all. Each Council member made statements in support of affordable senior housing, the Housing Corporation and expressing their hope that both sides of the debate temper their emotions and engage in a respectful campaign. And they each explained that they favored putting the referendum on a special election ballot this November, at a cost of over $600,000, instead of next year because it would be unfair to the Housing Corporation and merely prolong debate.

One problem with this outcome is that it pits a known development proposal against an unknown alternative development, potentially of greater density and impact. If the referendum is successful and the special planned community zoning adopted by the Council is defeated, then it is possible that the Housing Corporation would sell off the land to a developer who would build large, single family homes that would bring far more traffic than the currently proposed development. It is highly unlikely that voters will want to risk this, nor is it really in the neighborhood's best interest.

A far better move, in our opinion, would have been to allow for a cooling-off period by not being pressured to act by Friday's deadline for placing the referendum on a November ballot. Just as it was rushed to take action on the zoning change in June in order for the Housing Corporation to apply for the now-moot grant money, the Council rushed again to meet the deadline for the November election. If emotions were allowed to subside, we think with the help of a mediator both the neighbors and the Housing Corporation could have worked out a rational compromise. With neither side benefiting from delay and there being risks to both sides of an up or down vote on a referendum, there would have been a strong incentive for a resolution.

Opponents have had some good reasons to feel betrayed by the city and a have a good case for further modifications to the development. But ironically, it is impossible to see how any good can come to the neighborhood or the broader community by being successful with a referendum.


Posted by Carlos, a resident of Green Acres
on Aug 16, 2013 at 9:23 am

It was clear from the very beginning of this process that the city council was not interested in addressing the concerns raised by the neighborhood. They never showed any willingness to change their pre-conceived plans for this project, despite mounting criticism and evidence of faulty assumptions and negative impacts.
Some people call it 'fraud' and some others call it a "conflict of interest" because of the ties between many in our city council and the powerful developers that pull the strings in these situations. Whatever you call it, this council does not represent the best interests of the neighborhoods affected by these projects.

Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 16, 2013 at 9:35 am

I tend to agree that this is a waste of money, but I think that the neighbors concerns have been ignored completely.

Funnily enough, the neighbors were not ignored and we ended up with Mikis.

I think that this is a very difficult situation. As far as traffic concerns go, there is not enough notice being taken of what is a potential danger to our schoolchildren. We do not want to increase the number of parked cars or moving vehicles on a safe route to school, particularly when the numbers of schoolchildren will increase as our schools increase in size. This issue has not been addressed.

If the city cannot address the traffic concerns, then residents have to do what they have to do to make the powers that be see some sense in all this.

The City ignoring the traffic concerns of the residents and parents of the schools impacted is what has caused this. Perhaps this costly measure will make the City take note.

Posted by pavoter, a resident of Barron Park
on Aug 16, 2013 at 9:41 am

This editorial is missing the point: most Palo Altans are concerned about the dense, tall, up to the sidewalk buildings that have been and are being constructed all over town. So I disagree and think that the referendum will be successful in November. The supporters of the Maybell project are trying to paint this as NIMBY and of no interest to other neighborhoods. But, on the contrary, if the city gets away with this, then all of Palo Alto is vulnerable to similar high density projects.

If a higher impact development could be built there by sticking with the current zoning, then there would be no opposition. That argument doesn't hold water. It would also mean the city doesn't have to follow procedures and can make decisions behind closed doors without due process.

This is about honoring the current zoning and boundaries set per the Comprehensive Plan.

And senior housing and low income housing in that location is welcome as long as the project adheres to current zoning and the Comprehensive plan.

This Referendum does have impacts on all of Palo Alto.

Posted by Voter, a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Aug 16, 2013 at 9:50 am

This referendum is about sending a giant message to the out-of-touch city council.

NO to high density PC zoning in residential neighborhoods.

NO to investing tax money into any projects, creating a conflict of interest before any vetting and hearing of neighborhood concerns.

NO to the out-of-touch "I know better than you do what's good for your neighborhood" attitude that has infected our current council.

NO to letting developers get away with such egregious acts as ignoring bicycle traffic in a school transit corridor.

NO more favors for developers.

The last favor, the $600K special election is ridiculous, at a time when Marc Berman is floating the idea of trying to issue more bonds (paid for by PA citizens) to pay for basic infrastructure repairs, so that he can spend more money on already bloated pensions and medical benefits for our bloated city bureaucracy.

This referendum needs to succeed, and this council needs to be voted out or recalled ASAP! I've lived here for over 2 decades and it's the worst council I've seen by far. They are completely overmatched by the task of good governance.

Posted by Neighbor, a resident of Barron Park
on Aug 16, 2013 at 10:35 am

We welcome PAHC building on Maybell within the current zoning. They seemed set from the beginning to not compromise a bit on the density. The Mayor forced the minimal reduction at the very end.

Please note that this is a senior apartment rental not a senior home. It has no amenities. Therefore the occupants will be mainly the younger seniors. And they will have no choice but to drive to get to anywhere useful, even the Walgreens store nearby as it will be really dangerous to walk on Maybell. The site is so poorly located in terms of shopping and services that the PAHC had to get very creative in their grant application. They put down The Whole Foods Market as the grocery store and Planned Parenthood as the clinic for the seniors! They even lied about distances in order to make the site look closer to these services.

Now you have to ask how many parking spots this rental building has. The answer: 42. If you assume that on avg. 2 people will occupy every unit there will be 42 parking spots for 120 people. When we brought this up to PAHC their answer was that The Stevenson House has less parking. Stevenson House is a senior home and it DOES have parking issues, in spite of all the services they provide. They have a cafeteria, they have 2 on site libraries, they have weekly nurse visits and a shopping center across the street. They also get more parking spaces from the generous Unitarian church next door. If PAHC builds the senior rental within the current zoning they can put enough parking spots so the parking nightmares of north Palo Alto aren't recreated here.

Over and over we asked the PAHC to slow down and apply for the grants at the next round but they absolutely refused. We didn't want this expensive referendum but the council and the PAHC chose this path.

Posted by Floyd, a resident of Green Acres
on Aug 16, 2013 at 10:36 am

And while they're reviewing the ARB inappropriate designs they might consider UGLY! Stand across the street from the Cheesecake Factory on University Avenue and tell me what you see, as an example.

Posted by commonsense, a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Aug 16, 2013 at 10:58 am

The main argument about traffic and parking is moot. 40 houses, each with a one car garage, would cause much greater traffic and parking problems than 60 senior apartments, many single occupancy, and twelve houses would. No question.

Posted by Recall Election, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Aug 16, 2013 at 11:28 am

This referendum is about more than just the Maybell project. It's about the citizens of Palo Alto sending a "message" to the out of touch, PA city council. Palo Altans are understandably upset with the oversized, up to the sidewalks, ugly buildings going up all over town. This city council doesn't listen to its constituents.
Ten years from now, Palo Altans will look back at this city council as the council that destroyed this once wonderful town.

Posted by anonymous, a resident of Barron Park
on Aug 16, 2013 at 12:00 pm

Parking will be a very serious problem.

These 60 units are 600+ sq ft apartments and will be occupied by more than one tenant. The qualifying age is 62+ years. Most of the tenants will be the younger senior couples who do not need meals and medical care or else they wouldn't want to rent there.

33 units will be offered at rent+utilities of $950 - $1140 per month. For a true low income person that is a huge rent to pay. On top of that they absolutely need a car in this terrible location. Other than the Walgreens that is 1/3 mile away there is only Jiffy Lube and Midas and a Volvo dealership, again within 1/3 mile away.

40 houses, if they ever build that many, will have at least a 2 car garage plus more within the development.

By the way, PAHC said the seniors will do their shopping by walking the 1/3 mile and catching bus #22 to the San Antonio Shopping Center. And that they they will catch bus #22 back and of course walk back with their bags of groceries the 1/3 mile. That is not an easy task even for a younger person.

PAHC and the City Council can not conceivably think that this is a good place for a senior rental. They said that the senior choice was made because a family low income apartment would have sent more kids to the crowded Palo Alto schools. Marc Berman said last Thursday that the Council received a letter from PAUSd saying that the schools are full.

Posted by Craig Laughton, a resident of College Terrace
on Aug 16, 2013 at 12:15 pm

What would the property tax deferential be between the PAHC subsidized project and the market-based project, if PAHC is denied? This issue is often ignored, but it is a continuous subsidy, year after year, to subsidized housing. Once land is committed to subsidized housing, it becomes a tax sink hole, forever. Add to that the increased service costs for subsidized housing (e.g. medical, education, transportation) and it becomes an even worse financial sacrifice by Palo Alto property owners.

Posted by That was then, this is now, a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Aug 16, 2013 at 12:15 pm

In October 2012, when the PAHC first brought this development plan to the city council, all the members dissed it as too high density, causing too much traffic, not having enough exits, etc. this was even before Arastradero was narrowed, causing traffic diversion onto Maybell.

What in the world happened between then and now to change the city council's mind 180 degrees??? Personal investments in the project? Bribes?

Very suspicious!

Posted by Remembering, a resident of Midtown
on Aug 16, 2013 at 12:45 pm

I am an elder and I rember an effort to use land being sold by the church on Colorado in Midtown for Senior apartments. "The neighbors complained "wxwToo many cars." "Will overcrowd the neighborhood",etc.
Now there are large, expensive homes!!

Posted by Dan, a resident of Southgate
on Aug 16, 2013 at 12:48 pm

I have to agree with the theme I've seen in many of the comments on this issue: its about more than just the Maybell complex, it's a venting of citizens' building frustration over a long stream of "Planned Community" rezonings and building restriction exceptions granted to developers. Let's be honest: every one of these "Planned Communities" was planned by a developer so they could maximize profit. The Council has consistently gone along with the developers' wishes, once they extracted monor concessions . All of these "Planned Communities" have been done on an ad hoc, piecemeal basis, rather than an as part of an integrated, cohesive plan as the term "Planned Community" would imply. At the end of the day, the developers wouldn't have move forward with these plans unless they were getting more financial benefit from the rezoning than they had to pay out in "neighborhood benefits". Is it any wonder why some are cynical of the relationships between developers and Council members? Just once I'd like to see the Council so "no, period" to one of these Planned Community applications.

Posted by Crescent Park Dad, a resident of Crescent Park
on Aug 16, 2013 at 12:51 pm

Agree with above posters that this is more than Maybell. It is a message that the CC has gone too far, too often.

Stop re-zoning our neighborhoods!!!

And now the CC has the huevos to propose that they put in a permanent set of zoning exceptions for developers in exchange for BMR types of housing developments.

Stop it!

Posted by Voter, a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Aug 16, 2013 at 1:36 pm

"Wasteful" referendums are what we get when the city runs backwards, rigged diligence in favor of developers. This very newspaper was wise to the issue and captured the problems in an earlier editorial:

Web Link

Said the PA Online Editorial:

Imagine making a substantial family investment in something before determining its value, how other family members felt about it and deciding if it was the best way to meet your family goals?

That's exactly what has happened with the city of Palo Alto's botched handling of a development proposed by the Palo Alto Housing Corporation (PAHC), and neighbors of the Maybell Avenue project site in Barron Park have every reason to feel the fix is in.

Posted by not impressed, a resident of another community
on Aug 16, 2013 at 1:50 pm

It seems to me that the major concern of neighbors is the possibility that the 12 townhouses, and possibly some of the units intended for seniors, will result in more kids attending (and commuting to) the local PAUSD schools. Since Barron Park is anticipating a loss of ~100 PAUSD students from BV, it seems like this won't be the catastrophe some are fearing.

Posted by Joseph, a resident of Green Acres
on Aug 16, 2013 at 2:12 pm

Many numbers have been mentioned in the press (including the recent article) and in many comments online. If single family homes are built in compliance with the Zoning Ordinance on the Maybell parcel, there could be no more than 15 R-1 size (minimum 6,000sf lots) on these 2.4 acres (roughly 107,000sf). Not 40, etc. The higher numbers are completely bogus and designed to confuse the voting public - and make the neighborhood look ridiculous, which we are not. Note that 15 single homes are only 3 more than the 12 that Council has approved (5 of them being 3-story, when there are no 3-story single family homes at all in our neighborhood).

Posted by bill, a resident of Barron Park
on Aug 16, 2013 at 2:49 pm

It is all about ego. The council members did not want to admit they were wrong in their approach to developing the land. So they decide to show the opponents, as a school kid would, that they are in charge and will do what they want in spite of rational arguments against their proposal.

They have no compunction about spending taxpayers' money to salve their pride. Next election remember those running for re-election who voted for this debacle.

Posted by RE: ego, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 16, 2013 at 3:51 pm

Bill, I get the same feeling about the BP/GM residents: they feel that the city council "dissed" them and want to show the council who's in charge. And as a resident of a different PA neighborhood that has more than its share of high-density, subsidized housing, I don't feel a whole lot of sympathy for the Maybell project's future neighbors' complaints about the traffic and safety problems that would result from 60 senior apartments and 12 market-rate townhouses. IMO, this protest is all about ego.

Posted by fait accompli, a resident of Crescent Park
on Aug 16, 2013 at 3:52 pm

"If the referendum is successful and the special planned community zoning adopted by the Council is defeated, then it is possible that the Housing Corporation would sell off the land to a developer who would build large, single family homes."

So the referendum is really about whether we get low income housing at Maybell or if we get dense high-cost single family homes at Maybell.
I wonder which Palo Altans will vote for?

Posted by Go Maybell!!!, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 16, 2013 at 4:13 pm

I support the neighborhoods around Maybell on this issue. If the City had held some meetings earlier on, before they handed the $5.Million over to the Housing Authority they would have had a better feel for where the neighborhood is coming from and acted accordingly.

Now the money has been handed over the Mayor is attempting to nullify the very good argument of the Maybell residents.

However, Greg Scharff does have one good point. If the Senior Housing is not built on Clem and Maybell, the owner will probably sell the land to a developer. He will then build regular condos plus many BMR units which might be worse than the proposed Senior Housing, so far as traffic and parking are concerned.

I fear this issue will end up like Alma Plaza, you will get something worse than was originally planned for.

Posted by Chris Gaither, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 16, 2013 at 4:42 pm

At the end of the day, PAHC is a developer, owner, and property management company for affordable housing. If your end goal is to acquire, build, manage and provide affordable housing, one would think that PAHC would have compromised with the community for the sake of goodwill and peace, by not building any of the proposed market rate homes, and simply build the 60 senior units, leaving the rest of the land to be developed into a community space, or part as an orchard.

Understandably, PAHC wants to build the market rate homes to derive money to pay for the 60 senior apartments. However, PAHC has been in the affordable housing business for over 40 years. They are well aware that there are many different ways to finance, or get money to build affordable housing. Most of these methods result in layers of regulatory agreements with the various federal and state housing agencies, and more leverage than one might desire, but still, even market rate developers tend to find financing through more "traditional" means - i.e. banks, and financial institutions.

While the PAHC's out of the box thinking for financing the senior project via the market rate homes is creative, the net result could be that they don't get to build anything if the referendum passes, which in this case would defeat PAHC's goal for existence - to provide affordable housing.

The art of compromise, and knowing when to fold 'em as the song goes, is very important in all aspects of life. One would think that both the city and PAHC would rather have the 60 senior apartments, and a better relationship with the community (particularly the residents who will be most impacted). Giving up the market rate homes, and building the 60 units would have been a win/win for all sides. And who knows, in a city of millionaires, billionaires, and highly creative tech CEO's, the PAHC might have been viewed in a more positive light, and gained some financial attention for their project, or ideas from community members who are experienced in raising capital. Both the city and PAHC had a real opportunity here to appeal their financial cause to members of the community, by being willing to truly compromise, and let go of the market rate homes.

Even if the city and PAHC win the election and get to build as is, the damage has already been done, and the relationship with the community can never be repaired. Furthermore, PAHC risks losing the positive support it has had with the community for over 40 years, as the city's affordable housing developer.

A costly mistake by the city council, and a true loss for the entire Palo Alto community.

Posted by Crescent Park Dad, a resident of Crescent Park
on Aug 16, 2013 at 4:50 pm

What also amazes me is that the CC doesn't even bat an eye when the idea of allowing a 50-foot building into a neighborhood that has a 30-foot limit.

They just don't get it.

Posted by Resident, a resident of Green Acres
on Aug 16, 2013 at 4:56 pm

The author of this article asserts, "Had both groups, along with the Palo Alto Housing Corporation, been willing to take the time to focus on repairing past mistakes, building trust, and compromising a bit more, we could have avoided what will now be a confusing, divisive and expensive election debate this fall."
The assumption being each side had the opportunity of time to compromise. This was not the case in this situation. With the council deciding at the end of June to re-zone, there was no time available for negotiation with only an 11-day window to qualify for a referendum. The residents would have more than welcomed the opportunity for negotiations assuming PAHC and city council were willing to do so. The climate of the 3-day summit held prior to the re-zone decision demonstrated no such willingness on behalf of PAHC for such negotiation. Residents were left with no decision other than to create the referendum.
We still held out hope that the council would defer the election date, thus affording time to negotiate a deal; however, that was a choice Council decided to not take.

Posted by PA Parent, a resident of Professorville
on Aug 16, 2013 at 5:08 pm

I will support this referendum for all of the reasons mentioned above.

Also, Palo Alto should replace financial support for PAHC with an open bidding process in which PAHC, Eden, and any other affordable housing developer would compete for city funds. This would prevent PAHC or any other developer from acting like a monopoly, as they did in the Maybell development.

The developer who wins the support of the public would have the best chance of winning, incenting developers to solicit and listen to neighborhood feedback. PAHC had no incentive to do so once they already had the city coincil's premature financial backing, and it showed.

I also agree that the performance of this city council has been disappointing. They fumbled the ball on Maybell pretty badly, and I understand the neighbors' outrage. What really angers me is the hiring of a publicist at a cost of over 200 thousand dollars per year to the taxpayers. Throw in half a million for the election, and you start to get a picture of why they want to raise taxes to fund basic repairs.

Posted by it was a done deal, a resident of Green Acres
on Aug 16, 2013 at 5:13 pm

This editorial misses the point.

Neighbors tried for months to get PAHC to bring the project more in scale with the residential neighborhood. PAHC planners would not because they have planned the project to their tax credit application point system (with millions of dollars at stake), as well as a financing scheme that depends on that $1.5 million in lieu fee which is the difference between the amount the City disclosed to the public that they were loaning PAHC, $5.8 million, and the amount the City staff told the government they were loaning PAHC, $7.3 million.

Any developer who builds over 5 units in Palo Alto has to put at least 15% of the units into the BMR program administered by PAHC. For 12-15 units, that means 2 homes. The ordinance in this case requires the developer to instead pay $1.5 million to the City in in lieu fees to avoid having to put one of those homes into the BMR program. (Let's hope it's just for one, and not for both of them, that would be an even more blatant giveaway to the market-rate developer. Remember that more than half of the parcel will be developed as market-rate houses, upzoned for the benefit of the for-profit developer.)

Thus, PAHC never could reduce the number of market rate units to anything comparable to the surrounding residential neighborhood, because they would have lost the extra BMR housing units which they are leveraging to get more money in loans from the City. The ordinance is written to make that building/payment "binding" -- in other words, the neighborhood is essentially being asked to bear this long-term cost burden, and the City has actually inserted a requirement for it in the ordinance.

When Larry Klein said he'd never seen so much "stonewalling" from an applicant (PAHC), he was failing to remember that the ordinance and financing situation that the CITY participated in from the beginning, by virtue of the loan agreement, preordained PAHC's inability to make meaningful compromise.

The other essential point this editorial misses is that the outcome being waived around by the City is a scare tactic that the City has absolute power to prevent. Unlike in other developments where a private owner has control, and the City can do little -- because the City loaned $7.3 million to PAHC, they protected themselves in the loan agreement -- City staff reports point out that the City has first right of refusal and can buy the property in a non-competitive situation. The City could simply turn around and place simple deed restrictions on the property and resell it, probably at a profit (if proponents of the rezoning are to be believed about land values). Problem solved.

So for little or no cost, THE CITY HAS COMPLETE CONTROL TO AVOID THE WORST SCENARIOS IT KEEPS ADVERTISING TO SCARE PEOPLE. The City Council and staff have not been neutral in all of this (understatement), and liability lawyers will see that in the future should such scenarios be allowed to just happen despite the Council's ability to prevent them, and a child is hurt or killed. The fact that the City has studiously avoided responding to neighbors' calls for them to ensure, as is in their power, that burdensome development of that parcel never happens, is another way the neighbors feel their voices are being utterly unheard by the City.

There is another alternative that this editorial misses. The rezoning ordinance is "binding" for the market-rate developer, but weak in regards to ensuring the property is used for the purposes it's being sold on. The ordinance itself says on page 2, that it "PROVIDES THE ABILITY TO DEVELOP SPECIFIC LAND USES FOR THE PROPERTY, BUT DOES NOT ASSURE AVAILABILITY TO SENIORS AND/OR AT AFFORDABLE RATES." The regulatory agreement provides no recourse for neighbors should the property be converted to market-rate rentals.

It's far more of a nightmare for neighbors to contemplate 60-unit market rate rental apartments with 12 dense tall skinny houses (5 of them 3-stories) at that location, than even 35 within-existing-zoning houses that the City claims could go there (which a former planning commissioner for Palo Alto disputes, but it's irrelevant since the City has total power to prevent it if it thinks it's such an unsafe scenario and PAHC wants to sell). It's perfectly cynical for the editorial to bring up Alma Plaza as look-what-you-will-get-if-you-stop-what-the-City-wants, as Alma Plaza houses could not be built under existing zoning, as the existing zoning sets limits on height, setback, parking, daylight plane, etc. But Alma-plaza-like houses WILL be built under the rezone. Alma Plaza was also a PC rezone.

So in the case that the high-density development is built -- so out-of-scale with the surrounding R-1 neighborhood that the PC zoning had to exceed RM-40 restrictions (per the ordinance) -- if the 60-unit-affordable-rental apartments were converted to market-rate rentals, the neighborhood and City would have little ability to stop it. PAHC could do so for any number of legitimate reasons -- they've had to convert BMR properties in the past to market-rate units when things didn't quite go for them as planned. After all, even the ordinance touts the need as because many Palo Alto seniors live below the poverty limit, but the stated income range of 30-60% of area median income doesn't even come close to including one single senior with income below the poverty limit.

Lastly, neighbors charges at the last meeting were neither irrelevant nor unnecessary. Having zoning in place is a fundamental requirement of the Tax Credit application, which is a competitive situation in which PAHC and Palo Alto, if they misrepresented their application requirements, will be taking money away from other deserving projects, and likely communities with fewer resources, who were willing to play by the rules.

If PAHC can't meet their deadline for this round because they falsified their basic requirements, it really matters less if the vote is delayed because they can't start building anyway, so they shouldn't be asking the City to spend yet more hundreds of thousands for their interests (and there's a legitimate CEQA suit and other challenges on the table besides). It spoke to both waking up the City to their extreme bias in this matter, as well as meaninglessness of pushing to have a near-term election.

If Council wanted meaningful discussion, they should have set aside the rezoning. Neighbors really, truly do support affordable housing - their being maligned by proponents of the rezoning haven't helped build trust or take advantage of that fact - and would be interested in working out something that is a true compromise, without the restrictions that made the current impasse a done deal.

After all, it was just such community involvement that resulted in our having Terman Middle School now plus the Terman apartments (one of the large affordable housing developments in the neighborhood), rather than Terman MS being sold off way back when.

The zoning affirmation is made under penalty of perjury and requires it's own separate form in the application. If it wasn't necessary to falsify the information for the application, why did the City and PAHC do it? Why didn't they just state, as would have been accurate, that they zoning would be valid as of July 26 or 28 (I forget the exact date, but their deadline was July 3)? The fact that the City staff was willing to so blatantly misrepresent the information also evidences the extreme bias they've displayed to rezone and push this project as it is through the neighborhood from day one.

City Council has ignored the neighborhood's interests, children's safety, and neighborhood input. It's made us feel like the City Council works for PAHC and developers. The so-called "compromises" were already on the table, not substantive, and PAHC was never in a position to really make any substantive compromises under this plan. The Council continues to ignore the neighborhood in stonewalling on our call to ensure they prevent any of the nightmare development scenarios they wave around to scare us, as is completely within their power. They won't even discuss it.

And the ordinance itself is weak and unenforceable by the neighborhood should PAHC even wish to sell it to a market-rate rental developer in order to use the money better elsewhere. After all, it is a rule of thumb in affordable housing that concentrating affordable housing in on area as this does (there is an affordable development next door to that parcel) is not a good thing. The parcel has no adjacency of services and amenities for seniors, like affordable grocery or medical. (Despite PAHC's application touting a "Planned Parenthood" location within a mile away, that location really isn't near medical seniors need.) The neighborhood really has no recourse under the ordinance if the land use changes after the high-density development is built.

I wish this editorial hadn't assumed so much of the City's position, too, ignoring us as well.

Posted by resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 16, 2013 at 6:06 pm

This referendum is first about deferring to the residents of that
neighborhood who want this rezoning overturned and who have worked
so hard to bring it to a vote, and secondly about rejecting the
City Council and staff itself - its methods, its ignorance, its
arrogance, and its actions over many years which have ruined this City. A "yes" vote on the referendum is a no brainer. Otherwise
what you are doing is endorsing this City Council and staff.
When you vote ask yourself if that is what you want to do.

Posted by pat, a resident of Midtown
on Aug 16, 2013 at 7:44 pm

> “Any developer who builds over 5 units in Palo Alto has to put at least 15% of the units into the BMR program administered by PAHC.”

Could you please provide a reference/link for that?

If it’s true, then we’ve got a lot more to fear than PC Zoning. The Daily Post ran a front-page story 8/14: Law could let builders duck rules.”

It says that on Monday, 8/19, the city will consider a new law that would essentially give developers a menu of rules that can be broken in return for providing BMR units.

I didn’t realize that state law gives developers incentives – e.g., higher density or fewer parking spots – in exchange for BMR units.

Now the city is looking at concessions to local laws, e.g., increased height, reduced setbacks, reduced public space.

If this all comes about, a developer won’t need PC zoning to defy zoning laws. All he has to do is promise BMR units.

Posted by karma's a bitch, a resident of Crescent Park
on Aug 16, 2013 at 8:30 pm

"This referendum is first about deferring to the residents of that neighborhood who want this rezoning overturned and who have worked so hard to bring it to a vote, and secondly about rejecting the City Council"

Yeah, that's what we thought back in 2003. Unfortunately the Barron Park residents cided not to back us: Web Link

"In places like Barron Park or Greenmeadow, I don't know if people will feel strongly about this, unless the proponents make a case that it effects them, too."

Posted by karma's a bitch, a resident of Crescent Park
on Aug 16, 2013 at 8:30 pm

"This referendum is first about deferring to the residents of that neighborhood who want this rezoning overturned and who have worked so hard to bring it to a vote, and secondly about rejecting the City Council"

Yeah, that's what we thought back in 2003. Unfortunately the Barron Park residents cided not to back us: Web Link

"In places like Barron Park or Greenmeadow, I don't know if people will feel strongly about this, unless the proponents make a case that it effects them, too."

Posted by Investigate 'em! , a resident of Midtown
on Aug 16, 2013 at 8:43 pm

Some of the council members, most notably Liz Kniss and her hubby, have conflicts of interest when it comes to most of these developers' projects. In plain English, they are financially invested and should not be allowed to vote in favor of them, or even be on the city council.
Investigate these people in depth, and kick them off the council forever!

Posted by decade of failure, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 16, 2013 at 8:58 pm

[Post removed due to same poster using multiple names]

Posted by Sunshine, a resident of Barron Park
on Aug 16, 2013 at 9:24 pm

The city council appears to not appreciate the reason neighbors of the Maybell project are upset. I wonder how each of them would respond if someone proposed and seemed ready to build a similar project within a few blocks of where each lives? Would they welcome it? Would they shrug and say that the council must have the good of all residents in mind?
Right new there are far too many high density projects either built or in progress or proposed--all for the part of palo alto south of Stanford ave.

Posted by it was a done deal, a resident of Green Acres
on Aug 16, 2013 at 11:01 pm

@pat in Midtown,
The BMR program is outlined in the Housing element of the City's Comprehensive Plan
Web Link

Page 24 or 39.

Program H-36 "Implement the City's "Below Market Rate" (BMR) Program by requiring that at least 15 percent of all housing units in projects of five units or more, be provided at below market rates to very low-, low-, and moderate-income households."

What I am unsure of is how the in lieu fee applies exactly in the case of Maybell, and why the $1.5 million is written into the ordinance.

On the same page, interestingly, Program H-33: Take all actions necessary to preserve the 92-unit Terman Apartments as part of Palo Alto's affordable housing stock and to continue the renewal of the existing HUD Section 8 rental assistance contract that provides rental subsidies for up to 72 units in the project. The Terman Apartments is the last major rental project located in Palo Alto that is at risk of conversion to market rate housing. State law requires that the project be offered for sale to providers of low-income housing if the owners elect to terminate their HUD Section 8 contract."

Why are the Terman Apartments at risk of conversion to market-rate? Couldn't PAHC purchase the Terman Apartments if it is to be sold? There are 92 units. If state law requires that they get first crack at it, wouldn't that solve everyone's problems? They could just restrict all new rental units to seniors, and eventually it would be a senior complex...

Posted by Fact Check, a resident of Barron Park
on Aug 17, 2013 at 5:55 am

@ it was a done deal.

First, you are completely (but I hope not intentionally) misquoting the ordinance again. The accurste quote begins with "THE Underlying Zoning provides ..." The underlying zoning is R2 and RM15 and can't restrict site to affordable senior apartments BUT the new PC ordinance does. Please get your facts straight and stop lying.

Second, for Terman, the private owner can choose not to sell to PAHC but just keep converting the units to market rate as they have already started to do. You can't force them to sell. If they do sell, the buyer would still have to pay a premium even with the right of first refusal.

Finally, how is 60 1-bedroom units plus only 12 single family homes more of a nightmare than 35 single family homes within existing zoning. It could be 3, 4 and 5 bedroom homes. Way more people, cars, traffic and kids in schools. The opposition discusses hi density developments yet does not seem to believe that a market rate developer would maximize development here? Duh. Joe Hirsch is wrong. I doubt all of the current planning commissioners, City Council and city staff are wrong. It would be easy to squeeze in 34-46 houses, condos, apartments with 3+ bedrooms ...does not have to be single family houses. Would you really prefer 46 3-4 bedroom low income apartments within the existing zoning??? This means at least 2 cars each and lots of kids. Fine with me but probably not what you want like the Mayor warned.

Posted by Builder, a resident of South of Midtown
on Aug 17, 2013 at 6:44 am

Seriously - anyone who thinks they can fit 35 - 42 units on that parcel needs to do some math:

1) how big each unit would be.
2) how much to allocate for common areas (like stairways/hallways/elevators
3) how much to allocate for ingress/egress (ie. driveways)
4) set backs
5) parking (2 spots per unit, or 400 sq ft)
6) cost to build (including architect fees, structural engineering, civil engineering, ...)
7) market price for each unit
8) net profit

Posted by It was a done deal, a resident of Green Acres
on Aug 17, 2013 at 6:53 am

@fact check,
I think i have only quoted the ordinance once. It seemed easier than finding the staff report on the ordinance which is where I originally saw that there was no guarantee it would remain affordable in the future. There have been many affordable to market-rate conversions of at least section8 housing. What's the situation with Terman Apartments, as mentioned above?

Later in the ordinance it talks about the very weak enforcement (basically up to city council (fox, henhouse, no trust after this fiasco) and only will come up if pahc tells them to) and allows no recourse to the neighborhood.

Speaking of conversions, what's going on at those Moldaw senior BMR units that went vacant for three years? Perhaps you might know, "fact check" - maybe I will even be able to glean some facts from your incredibly strong spin on them.

You are awfully silent on the issues of the city and PAHC falsifying the zoning under penalty of perjury in a funding application for millions of dollars, or the in lieu fee situation where PAHC is designing the market rate part of the parcel to that in lieu fee rather than the neighborhood.

Posted by It was a done deal, a resident of Green Acres
on Aug 17, 2013 at 7:14 am

@fact check,
Builder is right. You need to do some math and get a reality check. There are limits on height, setbacks, density, parking, etc, under existing zoning. The more parcels you put on there, the fewer bedrooms you get. You could not put 35 or 45 large multibedroom anything on that parcel under existing zoning.

Anyone who questions that is welcome to look at the satellite photo of 565-595 Maybell, the address of the 4 exsting ranch hoises that will be torn down nder this plan. See the orchard to the east? Keeping in mend minimum setbacks, internal lanes, parking restrictions, etc, do you think you could fit in 45 units?

Honoring exsting zoning means restrictions on lot size setback, height, parking - again, the more units, the smaller they are, and in this neighborhood, the less conomically rewarding. You fail to realize the giant premium builders in this area get for building over 2,000 sq ft in sale price. PAHC never talked to high end builders because they wouldn't get their in lieu money that only comes from lots of units being built by one builder. Individual builders stand to maximize their profits from larger houses.

It only destroys trust with the community to keep harping on the 45-house lie, especially when the City has first right of refusal under the contract if PAHC sells and can pass the property through with restrictions to prevent overbuilding. The fact that it remains silent on this to preference the developers once again over the neighborhood (just as their misrepresenting the zoning for PAHC) has not escaped everyone's notice.

Posted by Maybell Orchard, a resident of Midtown
on Aug 17, 2013 at 7:21 am

For a land worth $16 million, and with the City's $7.3 million in funding for the project, holding a referendum should not be considered wasteful.

Posted by It was a done deal, a resident of Green Acres
on Aug 17, 2013 at 7:23 am

So, you are telling me that Terman Apartments can convert their building to market-rate and no one can stop them? Not even the City Council who put preserving the affordable units there in the General Plan?

So remind me with references what teeth the ordinance has to keep that parcel on Maybell for seniors and affordable housing in perpetuity? PAHC has miscalculated before and had to convert BMR units to market rate. Something other than a vague allusion to the toothless and corrupt City Council.

Posted by It was a done deal, a resident of Green Acres
on Aug 17, 2013 at 7:41 am

@ fact,
The City staff was willing to make a false document, under penalty of perjury, to a state agency over millions of dollars. The City staff was willing to tell the government it loaned PAHC $7.3 million, but only told Palo Altans it loaned $5.8 million. If Greg Schmid's question was any indication last Thursday, perhaps they didn't tell the whole Council either.

You "doubt" the staff and Council could be "wrong"? Then you, like the above editor, really do not get the point of the neighborhood's anger. We will stand up to protect our neighborhood from this unsafe overbuilding and corruption, whether the referendum succeeds or not.

We certainly hope our fellow Palo Altans help us put a stop to this overdevelopment of residential areas as a template for how to stop City Hall from continuing this all over town. Even this particular scheme being implemented at Maybell was talked about in City meetings as if it was practice for doing it again, only "better" the next time.

Posted by Fact Check, a resident of Barron Park
on Aug 17, 2013 at 8:47 am

I repeat myself ....easy to get 46 APARTMENTS or Condos on over 2 acres complying within existing zoning codes (all 3 stories or 30', underground parking, not much common open space). Three bedrooms at 1000 sf are doable. Look at the 60+ apartments next door.

Why bring up the state agency when it's foolhardy as the editorial posted. Smells desperate.

As for Moldaw, it is part of the JCC market dev and the BMR units are for moderate income seniors that have to pay hundreds of thousands in entry fee. Not even a PAHC owned property, not for very low income seniors.

Posted by pavoter, a resident of Barron Park
on Aug 17, 2013 at 10:30 am

@Fact Check: I'm no expert on zoning building allowances, but it sure is counter intuitive to believe that by upzoning and allowing higher density the Maybell project will create less of an impact on the neighborhood. If you are right, the city council is actually saving the neighborhood by allowing variances, such as the 50 foot height limit instead of the current 30 foot height limit.

And the City Council is saving the neighborhood by doing this in a rushed, behind closed doors manner, over-looking a number of irregularities in the process. Really? That's hard to believe!

If that were the case, why not upzone more often or why bother with zoning at all, and just let the city do whatever it wants. Oh, that's right, that's what has been going on all over Palo Alto, especially giving variances for public benefits.

That's why this referendum on upzoning will be important to all Palo Altans.

Posted by you have some of the blame too, a resident of Barron Park
on Aug 17, 2013 at 10:47 am

I fault the PA Weekly in part for this debacle and I think that the condescending editorial is really the cherry on the top of the often-unproductive role that the Weekly and paonline has played in this instance. Gennady's reporting is generally good but in this case the Weekly's coverage of the Maybell issue really fanned the flames of NIMBYism and the lack of pragmatism among the opponents of this project. The Weekly helped to create this mountain out of the molehill and also helped people in the community to believe that their loss of perspective made sense. I think that the Weekly editorial board somehow came to believe, against all the evidence, that the objections were procedural rather than substantive. Let's be clear -- no one objects to a decision that they agree with on substance based on procedural problems. Procedure is a way to put a stick in the wheel of a project you disagree with on substance. Barron Parkers are unhappy that they are being treated like the red-headed step-children by the northside. This is a case that Greg Schmid has been making for a long time -- that there was simmering resentment brewing on the south end of town, and now that pot has boiled over.

But it's not the procedures my neighbors object to. That argument captured the Weekly's fancy because the Weekly's editorial board likes "good government" and "process" as ends in themselves. This is just a sagebrush rebellion that has little or nothing to do with process. South siders don't want to have all the affordable housing and the low-income residents. That's just obvious in their rhetoric --"more than our share," etc. The Weekly has deleted every accusation that this amounts to NIMBYism even though there is nothing else it really can be, in favor of the Weekly's own interpretation which is that it is a principled stand on "process."

That's silly, and it's not what happened here. We are having a referendum because of NIMBYism and selfishness. That's the story, and you have totally missed it. You should have been reporting on the many different manifestations of growing conservativism in PA, of which this, and the VHO, are merely the latest examples. Others include the unremedied civil rights violations in our schools against low income and disabled students. You ask why the Maybell opponents didn't become compromising and reasonable, since they support low income housing. The answer has been right in front of you all along -- they don't. You threw in with a NIMBY movement and now you are acting surprised.

Next time don't fan the flames of intolerance quite as hard and maybe you can get a different outcome. Now all we can hope is that the rest of the city is just as racist and classist and wants to stick it to Barron Park so it votes down this referendum. If that happens, then we can move on and have the senior housing. I hope the Weekly learn s a lesson here, but given the condescension in this editorial, I doubt it.

Posted by Maybell Orchard, a resident of Midtown
on Aug 17, 2013 at 11:16 am

To say that up to 46 family housing (market-rate) units could be built on site is a scary tactic. The current zoning allows up to 34 units onsite without density bonus. In order for the developer to build up to 46 units, the developer has to request for density bonus to allow for the development of up to 46 units. Let us say that the developer obtains density bonus to develop up to 46 units, the developer will then be required to set-aside 12 units as below market rate (BMR)units. There is no way that a developer will provide 12 BMR units as cost of land acquisition alone is $16 million. A developer will face challenges building large family homes (3-4K sq. ft.) and making the project/development profitable because of so many zoning and code restrictions such as, setbacks, lot size requirements, private street requirements, open space requirements etc.. A developer could receive waivers for some of the zoning/building code requirements in return for proving more below market rate (BMR) units, but it would still not be financially feasible to develop the project at this time.

Posted by you have some of the blame too, a resident of Barron Park
on Aug 17, 2013 at 11:19 am

Maybe you need a public editor. If so, I think I am doing a reasonable job.

Posted by Craig Laughton, a resident of College Terrace
on Aug 17, 2013 at 11:22 am

>We are having a referendum because of NIMBYism and selfishness

What's wrong with that?

Posted by it was a done deal, a resident of Green Acres
on Aug 17, 2013 at 11:35 am

@you have some of the blame,
First of all, your post and conclusions are breathtakingly offensive and you are completely off the mark about people in the neighborhood.

Let's see what's happened here.

Neighbors don't want a development that needs PC zoning in order to violate even RM-40 zoning right in the middle of an R-1 area. They don't want the market rate houses, which take up more than half the property and don't benefit anyone low income, to be built on half-lot sizes and 3-stories in some cases, when none exist in the neighborhood. They live with horrendous and dangerous traffic for the kids with a substandard road (Maybell) that they just went through a long and expensive attempt to improve, and this dangerous result is the best we could get because of the limits of the infrastructure. But the City somehow won't do a traffic study that looks at the safety.

PAHC and the City call us NIMBY's for trying to take care of the safety of our kids. So what happens when we point out that we support affordable housing and we actually have more affordable housing developments already than any other residential area? We are called NIMBYs for pointing that out.

You're going to keep calling us NIMBYs, and we're going to keep trying to protect the neighborhood character from a giant overdevelopment, and protect our children's safety, even though PAHC and the City have shown breathtaking disregard for it, belittling our concerns at every turn.

Other neighborhoods should pay heed to just how difficult it is to combat a bad plan -- especially in all the other neighborhoods that CAN'T say they already have a lot of affordable housing. Lot of good it does -- you'll be called NIMBYS and there's nothing you can do, it's just a smear they will use to get their way, no matter how bad their plan.

Posted by you have some of the blame too, a resident of Barron Park
on Aug 17, 2013 at 11:45 am

Ah Weekly, the Nimbies “ought to be thy Adam, but I [are] rather the fallen angel...”

Posted by resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 17, 2013 at 12:12 pm

Apart from the legitimate arguments againt the rezoning, in the context of the destruction of the character of the City block by
block, neighborhood by neighborhood to Citywide, over the last at least ten years by a self-serving and incompetent City Council and
staff, the NIMBY argument is absurd.

Posted by It was a done deal, a resident of Green Acres
on Aug 17, 2013 at 12:14 pm

Why is no one talking about the way this development concentrates low-income housing in one location? All this talk about NIMBYism, and none about what's best for low-income residents (or the neighborhood) if the housing becomes "ghettoized" from the City Council concentrating it in one neighborhood like this.

Decades of research points to the need to integrate affordable housing in mixed-income ways in order to fully integrate subsidized units into the surrounding community. This typically liberates low-income units from some of the stigma and results in many benefits to residents and the community.

Placing this development there is an experiment in going completely against decades of research about concentrating affordable housing, as well as HUD policy.

I'm sure I'm going to post this, and I'm sure it and all the other valid issues will continue to be ignored for the drumbeat of high-density development.

Posted by It was a done deal, a resident of Green Acres
on Aug 17, 2013 at 12:18 pm

By the way, PAHC used to espouse the HUD policy and maxim of not concentrating affordable housing in one area, and for years spoke about it on their website. I can't seem to find that anymore, has anyone seen it since they started trying to rezone Maybell?

Posted by you have some of the blame too, a resident of Barron Park
on Aug 17, 2013 at 12:34 pm

"if the housing becomes "ghettoized" from the City Council concentrating it in one neighborhood like this."

Now that "the fallen angel becomes a malignant devil" we can ask whether it was really responsible journalism to indulge these malignant impulses and treat them credulously. When all is said and done, the base fear motivation is laid bare for all to see: Barron Park is becoming a "ghetto" due to the concentration of low income citizens "in one neighborhood like this."

“No man chooses evil because it is evil; he only mistakes it for happiness, the good he seeks.”

Posted by pavoter, a resident of Barron Park
on Aug 17, 2013 at 12:42 pm

What is also a point is that Arastradero was reduced to two lanes because of safety issues, especially for children walking and biking to school. But when it comes to the Maybell project, those same safety issues are over-looked and swept aside by the city. The proper traffic studies were not done before the project was rushed through.

No way is that NIMBY! There are a number of irregularities about how this Maybell project was pushed through. Palo Alto residents have good reasons to call for a referendum. Clearly, the supporters of upzoning will try hard to paint this as NIMBY, but many Palo Altans are concerned about the over-building all over town.

Guess we will keep hearing about how NIMBY we are, but not about the cavalier decisions and disregard for the Comprehensive Plan by our city leaders. If the city can do that here (upzoning behind closed doors), the city can do it anywhere in Palo Alto.

Posted by sickened, a resident of Barron Park
on Aug 17, 2013 at 2:39 pm

I'm so sad to see my neighbors turning away from the poor among us on Maybell and at Cubberley. The Weekly has played a very regrettable role in diverting attention from the human issues at stake. These are not questions where a bureaucrat's sensibilities are useful, yet that is what the weekly seems to be urging on the community.

Posted by It was a done deal, a resident of Green Acres
on Aug 17, 2013 at 2:41 pm

@ pavoter,
You have brought up the most galling part of all this, how the City as completely abrogated their responsibility to the safety of the kids and the residents in all of this.

I've seen many good people struggle with this issue because they do support affordable housing, only to be called NIMBY names and steamrolled by the rezoning advocates, but as for the neighbors' concerns for the safety of the schoolkids, the rezoning advocates have outright attacked parents and either derided or dismissed their concerns about the very serious problems at that location.

PAHC and the City made another bald-faced lie when they told the neighborhoods the fire department had evaluated the traffic and said there was no problem, when in reality, all the fire department had done was look at access TO the development (fire station across the street) and looked to the transportation department to tell them if there were any other problems. Of course, City staff is advocating for this project so hard, they aren't doing their jobs, and transportation people are twisting themselves into pretzels to avoid blame for the Arastradero mess. You did see that they blamed the Arastradero traffic mainly on the move of the Gunn start time, didn't you?

The concerns of neighbors that Arastradero and Maybell are regularly blocked in both directions and what if there is an emergency at Juana Briones Elementary or in the neighborhood have been treated derisively or ignored.

Posted by It was a done deal, a resident of Green Acres
on Aug 17, 2013 at 2:44 pm

@Chris Gaither,
Very astute post. I have felt this way all along.

Posted by It was a done deal, a resident of Green Acres
on Aug 17, 2013 at 3:08 pm


"Look at the 60+ apartments next door."

You are aware, I'm sure, that the apartment complex next door to the proposed development on Maybell IS AN EXISTING PAHC LOW-INCOME PROPERTY. (Neighbors are, by definition, IMBY's, not NIMBY's.)

You have just in a nutshell demonstrated why the neighbors should reject this overdense land use at all costs. They may as well say goodbye to their R-1 zoning now if they get a large dense apartment next door, because the spot zone of density will get used as an excuse again for further densifying the R-1 neighborhood.

Those apartments and the Tan apartments were built back when that area was either still under county rules or transitioning, respectively, and we were still developing the principals of zoning coming out of that period of overdevelopment that gave us all the most urban tall buildings we have now in Palo Alto.

But you bring up a good point. The only reason the property was RM-1 rather than R-1 is because of those historical exceptions of spot zoning in the middle of an R-1 area. The RM-1 was to be the transition zone from those exceptions to the R-1 neighborhood. Over time, RM-1 because RM-15, with a higher than originally conceived limit.

The PC zoning for Maybell violates even RM-40 rules. Given the way you and the City Council are using those historic exceptions to claim we should further violate the R-1 neighborhood and densify it, the neighborhood is only more justified in rejecting any more density in their midst.

If you are right, that so many units could be built under the existing zoning, PAHC should have just built affordable housing under the existing zoning as the neighbors are asking, and not put us all through this.

One has only to look at another nearby large affordable housing complex at Terman as a caveat. It's almost 55 years old, and as a result, is transitioning from section 8 housing to market-rate and there doesn't seem to be anything anyone can do about it. I didn't even realize that until now. So that was built under the same pretense: it's okay to build this high density in the middle of a residential neighborhood because we are making way for the poor. Why doesn't the City help PAHC buy that apartment building and spare it from being converted to market-rate housing instead?

No one living below the poverty line will even close to qualify for PAHC's BMR rental apartments on Maybell. Secondly, what's to stop what is happening at Terman from happening at Maybell? What a nightmare that will be, 60 600sq ft apartments a stones' throw from Gunn HS. It will be packed with people who want to send their kids to Gunn, or worse, people renting the small apartments for their high school students.

And in the meantime, PAHC will be creating the biggest concentration of low-income housing in the entire area, something HUD thinks is a bad idea (somehow the LIHTC rules seem to encourage concentrating low-income housing, despite HUD's strong policies that it's a bad thing to do).

That's what I mean by "ghettoizing" affordable housing. When it's concentrated rather than being spread out in the community and integrated, decades of research shows it creates a stigma -- something that may even only affect the sense of pride and feelings residents of low-income housing have, even in a welcoming community.

PAHC knows this, I wonder if it's why I can't find anything about that on their website anymore, after years of their espousing the HUD policy publicly.

Posted by Gunn parent, a resident of Barron Park
on Aug 17, 2013 at 3:37 pm

Exactly. Why should low income people be able to move to Palo Alto and send their children to our public schools? It is unfair to those of us who have high paying jobs and have bought nice houses near Gunn.

Posted by It was a done deal, a resident of Green Acres
on Aug 17, 2013 at 3:42 pm

@fact check (which I wish you would do, because you keep getting your facts wrong):

The Moldaw BMR units ARE in fact in PAHC's program, not in another low-income housing operator's portfolio.

The fact that 20 out of 24 senior BMR units at Moldaw went unfilled for 3 years is a demonstration of PAHC's poor management, and shines a light on their claim that the need for housing seniors is so urgent, they have to violate even RM-40 zoning rules in an R-1 neighborhood, without proper environmental or safety review.

In March of this year, probably because of the publicity surrounding the Maybell rezoning, the City finally amended the agreement between Moldaw and the City. The agreement described the reasons for the vacancies - the entry fee cost was not among them, in fact, the MAXIMUM asset limit was cited as a reason interested people were disqualified.
Web Link=

If the need was so urgent, and the solution was renegotiating the terms, could they not have done this, oh, two-and-a-half years ago when it became clear the units were going chronically unfilled?

FYI, too, the entry fee amount is far less than the cost of building an affordable housing unit to the City (when they actually pay it, as opposed to foisting the cost burden on the neighborhood as at Maybell), if the need was so great, you would think they might have advocated for such a reallocation for the very low-income .

The Maybell apartments are just rental apartments, it's not going to be a low-income senior center. Half the housing at Moldaw is assisted living, and the half that isn't can transition to be assisted living. (That costs, but often there are other ways to pay for that for the very low income. The BMR buy in is actually a really good deal compared to any assisted living in the area, now that it's been renegotiated.) By contrast, the Maybell senior rental apartments are going to cost a lot per month, without nearby medical or grocery, or really anything seniors needs. It's not a senior center, it's just rental apartments.

The majority of Palo Alto seniors, even those on fixed incomes, own their own homes and don't pay very much for them, having bought them years ago. The problem for many of them who want to downsize is the equity in the homes makes them ineligible to qualify for local housing based on their low incomes. Some don't have so much equity that they could afford to live off of that equity, which would soon be gone. The Moldaw situation would actually be good for some of them, but they have too much equity.

The Maybell rental apartments are better for people who still have a good income, as they will be for people at 30-60% of AMI, well above the poverty limit that PAHC touts as the reason for the rental apartments' need, but that monthly income is exactly what many Palo Alto resident seniors lack. Is the property really going to serve the low-income? Is the community going to be protected from it's being converted to market-rate high-density apartments as is happening at the Terman Apartments?

PAHC's lack of planning and management at Moldaw is disturbing in light of their similar almost complete lack of analysis at Maybell. They have been in the BMR business in this town for decades, yet they had 20 out of 24 BMR units at Moldaw go unfilled for THREE YEARS without pushing for the situation to be analyzed, solved, or renegotiated. In the past, they've had to put BMR units on the market at market-rates because of miscalculations about the need.

There is a huge need for affordable housing in this area, we should be at least spending some time analyzing how to best fill that need, rather than building whatever they can get away with and figuring it will all work out. It doesn't always all work out, and the cost to the neighborhood in this case is just too high.

Posted by Gunn parent, a resident of Barron Park
on Aug 17, 2013 at 3:55 pm

I hope you're right. I think we need housing for poor people too. Just not here. I paid too much for my house and I want to live in a nice neighborhood. And unlike some, I can truly afford it.

Posted by Cabrini Greener, a resident of Green Acres
on Aug 17, 2013 at 4:00 pm

@it was a done deal, I think this is exactly right. I think this is exactly where we are headed. I have some some research on the effects of concentrated poverty in high-density housing and the neglect that can sometimes be shown by tenants. Here's a picture of where I it seems Maybell is headed (artists rendering of Maybell project):

Web Link

Posted by It was a done deal, a resident of Green Acres
on Aug 17, 2013 at 4:10 pm

@"Gunn parent",
When it suits their purposes, the Maybell rezoning advocates dump all over our neighborhood as being so unsightly (our "eclectic mix of houses" as Liz Kniss said) why would we care about giant 50-foot buildings in a residential area, and when they want to portray us as overprivileged nimby's, suddenly we are all on easy street buying these nice houses next to Gunn.

The fact is, we have zoning rules in this town. Heck, there are zoning rules in every town. Zoning rules protect neighborhood character, health and safety, etc., they exist for a purpose. You may not like them, you may wish to Manhattanize Palo Alto like the City Council apparently does, you may be fine with Home Depot across the street or next to the local school, but for most people who sacrifice to live here (and pretty much everywhere in the country where there are zoning rules), the zoning is a promise of what to expect for land use in the area adjacent to your home.

The controversy here is for REZONING Maybell to dramatically exceed all restrictions of density, height, setback, daylight plane, parking, etc. The zoning violations are so great, they couldn't even get what they wanted under RM-40. The underlying reason PAHC is getting the city to set aside all zoning laws even for more than half of the property that will go to the benefit of purely a market-rate developer, the reason they are justifying their already biased "mitigated" impacts, is because it promises low-income seniors will live there. So the fact that we cannot guarantee low-income seniors will live there in perpetuity is a problem.

Their only providing 47 parking spots for 60 units plus employees plus visitors instead of 104 the zoning would otherwise require at minimum, for example, is based on senior occupancy. If suddenly those units were filled with non-seniors, with only 47 parking spots, what do you think the impacts on the park and elementary school (including the OH and rehab center, where disabled families from around the county commute in for rehabilitation for their children) will be if suddenly up to 300 people with only 47 parking spots need a place for their cars? Again, you may not think it's a problem, but that's why zoning laws exist, because most people do.

Maybell, as has been pointed out, is of seriously substandard width with no space even for ONE full-width sidewalk or bike lane on either side. What happens when there are 400 people (including the market-rate homes) with a lot of teenagers -- and their cars -- are coming and going from that traffic bottleneck location?

Neighbors had a right to expect proper environmental review, which was not done. City policy promises heightened scrutiny of developments on school commute corridors, which was not done. This plan is being steamrolled through. Not many people in Palo Alto are like you and would want that done to them or their neighborhoods. They would do well to support the Maybell neighbors as they will be next. (The financing scheme having been talked about between PAHC and the City as essentially practice for the next time they do this in another residential neighborhood.)

Posted by Gunn parent, a resident of Barron Park
on Aug 17, 2013 at 4:11 pm

Very amusing I'm sure but maybe truer than you know.

Posted by Gunn parent, a resident of Barron Park
on Aug 17, 2013 at 4:27 pm

Exactly. No one else in Palo Alto wants this either. How about some concern for not changing the character of the community? I could have bought a cheaper house in Redwood City if that is what I wanted.

Posted by Cabrini Greener, a resident of Green Acres
on Aug 17, 2013 at 4:34 pm

@done deal, you wrote: "what do you think the impacts on the park and elementary school will be if suddenly up to 300 people with only 47 parking spots need a place for their cars?"

I agree. And what about when starts to happen? And you know it will:

Web Link

Posted by Gunn parent, a resident of Barron Park
on Aug 17, 2013 at 5:18 pm

Another case of "be careful what you wish for..."

Posted by Trust has been violated, a resident of Greenmeadow
on Aug 17, 2013 at 5:38 pm

The City Manager publicly acknowledges that his Staff Reports are documents that advocate for the staff recommendation. So why would reasonable members the public believe that the information from Staff about the Maybell site is anything other that totally biased? Once the public's trust in Staff and Council has been violated, it is much harder for all parties.

Posted by Cabrini Greener, a resident of Green Acres
on Aug 17, 2013 at 5:52 pm

done deal is raising an excellent point about the problem of narrow sidewalks, and narrow streets. She asks " What happens when there are 400 people (including the market-rate homes) with a lot of teenagers -- and their cars -- are coming and going from that traffic bottleneck location?"

I'll tell you what happens! This:

Web Link

That's what.

Posted by resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 17, 2013 at 6:11 pm

It's not just zoning rules which are not enforced. The Single-Family Individual Review Guidelines which cover new two-story houses and remodels are not enforced to protect adjacent properties and
streetscapes as intended under the ordinance. It's the culture of
City Hall and the priorities of the Council and staff to serve builders, developers,architects and their own interests and agendas. Any resident, any property, any neighborhood is vulnerable.
There is no concept of the public interest,no protection for individual property owners,no regard for character, ambiance, aethetic values,etc.

Posted by It was a done deal, a resident of Green Acres
on Aug 17, 2013 at 9:53 pm

[Post removed.]

Posted by Ann Rand, a resident of Barron Park
on Aug 17, 2013 at 11:12 pm

I agree that there is nothing more important than making sure we "protect adjacent properties" from being degraded by this new development. I know that, for example, the rights of this particular property owner across the street from the proposed development to keep his yard in a state of weedy disarray with his collection of tumble-down wooden planks is sacrosanct:

Web Link

I would hate for him to peer out over his weeds one day and see a senior citizen development degrading his property values. That would be an eyesore for him. Let's protect private property and the rights of property owners, including the right to keep/build ugly architectural patchwork eyesore pre-fab disasters and allow your house to deteriorate into a pile of termite-ridden scrap lumber. That's more important than anything.

Posted by resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 18, 2013 at 7:42 am

@ann rand
You raise a very important point that the the City Council and staff's priorities do not include code enforcement, removal of trash
and unsightly conditions,weeds from front yards in residential areas
to maintain minimal acceptable standards. This is the other side of the same coin- they don't control new development and they don't
control existing development. Maintaining attractive neighborhoods
is not a concern of the Council or staff. It's off the radar screen.
It's not in their mindset, they don't worry about it, they don't
even understand it.

Posted by pat, a resident of Midtown
on Aug 18, 2013 at 11:19 am

@ it was a done deal

Thanks for the link: Program H-36 "Implement the City's "Below Market Rate" (BMR) Program by requiring that at least 15 percent of all housing units in projects of five units or more, be provided at below market rates to very low-, low-, and moderate-income households."

If just about all housing developments are required to provide BMR units and if the city is now proposing that any developer who provides BMR units get to break rules on height, density, parking, setbacks, whatever, then zoning laws are pretty much meaningless.

Posted by neighbor, a resident of Green Acres
on Aug 18, 2013 at 1:19 pm

Yes, the H-36 provision for subsidized housing does mess up the zoning laws - but within at least some defined limits, On the other hand it is made even worse by changing the zoning to even higher density then applying the H-36 rules to the newer zoning.

I can create a run away condition very quickly.

Posted by It was a done deal - Feeling like the ant by David's shoe , a resident of Green Acres
on Aug 18, 2013 at 1:21 pm

I just love the way the proponents of the rezoning want to have it all ways:

They get away with calling the neighbors privileged mansion-owners on easy street who don't want to share while also saying they live in dumpy little houses that are eyesores and don't deserve zoning protections.

They get away with calling neighbors NIMBYs for calling for a saner development plan, accusing them of being against affordable housing, then when neighbors point out that there is an affordable housing development next door to the property that is part of the neighborhood and several in the immediate neighborhood area, they say we are NIMBYs for pointing it out.

Posted by It was a done deal, a resident of Green Acres
on Aug 18, 2013 at 1:26 pm

Terman Apartments are already being converted to market-rate housing after 20 years.

Since all of the supposed mitigations here are because the residents are supposed to be low-income seniors, where is our guarantee that this property will remain for low-income seniors, and that the City will step up if PAHC's complete lack of market analysis of the need results in a market-rate conversion here as well? This is a really vague and weak ordinance, and the neighborhood has no recourse.

They are trying to scare us with the prospect of 35 market-rate houses (that they ratcheted up to 45 when that didn't scare us enough), built within existing zoning with proper height, setback, daylight plane, and parking restrictions honored, but that pales to the prospect of 72 units with all of those zoning protections grossly violated, like only 47 parking spots for what could be 300 or more people.

Posted by wondering, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 18, 2013 at 3:03 pm

What's keeping PAHC from purchasing Terman Apartments? Given their condition and location I can't imagine there would be much interest among market-rate renters. OTOH, they're perfect for low/moderate-income renters who want to send their kids to Terman and Gunn.

Posted by Ellie, a resident of College Terrace
on Aug 18, 2013 at 4:03 pm

So much emotion!
Let's take a fresh approach and reason this through:
For arguments sake, let's say there would only be 34 units built there if the PC fails. And lets assume a sensible number of bedrooms per dewelling - half have 3 and half have 4 bedrooms = 119 bedrooms.

Compare that to 61 bedrooms (1 apartment has 2 and the rest have 1 bedroom) of senior housing and, using the 50-50 formula above, there are 42 bedrooms in the 12 market rate houses for a grand total of 103 bedrooms in the PAHC project.

Now which will have the fewer people, create less traffic, etc.? Answer - PAHCs project with 43 fewer bedrooms to house people. More people = more cars and more traffic.

Now let's say the PC fails and 46 rather than 34 units are built, for arguments sake. Using the same formula, that is a whooping 161 bedrooms compared to 61 in PAHC project. 100 fewer bedrooms = a lot fewer people.

What in the world are you thinking of! You will never have it do good as the PAHC project. Or is this conclusion totornado able to be acceptable?

Posted by Crescent Park Dad, a resident of Crescent Park
on Aug 18, 2013 at 4:31 pm

@ Ellie: Would you like a 50-foot high building constructed next to your house?

Posted by neighbor, a resident of Barron Park
on Aug 18, 2013 at 4:47 pm


Hardly a fresh approach nor reasoned out. This is just the same old argument that the PAHC has been using as a scare tactic.

Posted by Most Interesting Man, a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Aug 18, 2013 at 5:57 pm

I don't always perseverate on doomsday scenarios. . . But when I do I focus on zoning.

Posted by registered user, SteveU, a resident of Barron Park
on Aug 18, 2013 at 6:22 pm

I am against this project for these reasons:
adding to the already dense traffic on either street
inadequacy of on site parking
Not only will I vote Yes to overturn the decision, I will vote Against any of the incumbents for failure to represent the VOTERS.

Posted by common sense, a resident of Midtown
on Aug 18, 2013 at 9:02 pm

Ellie - your calculations don't work; 34 units of 3 bedroom & 4 bedroom homes will exceed the FAR for a RM-15 zoned property. Try again. Please allow for the front, side & rear set backs, and allow for parking for the units, and RM-15 also requires guest parking.

As for the proposed senior housing, it's well short of parking. Let's say there are 2 seniors per unit. That's 120 people with only 47 parking spots. I doubt any senior will go walk to the grocery store, and carry back 3-7 days of groceries. PAHC says the closest grocery is Whole Foods in Los Altos. It takes 30 minutes to walk there. I wouldn't be able to walk back with 3-4 bags of groceries. Cold items like meats, frozen food, ice cream would be ruined by the time the senior walked back during the summer. Nor would any one who meets the BMR qualifications afford to shop there. And taking a bus may take just as long or longer including wait time.

So where are all the extra cars going to park? any answer Ellie?

Posted by M Uckraker, a resident of Mountain View
on Aug 18, 2013 at 11:05 pm

I see a lot of shouting about parking. Well gosh, why do people need cars to get around in Palo Alto?

They need cars because it's low density and the public transportation is lousy. NIMBYism has made them need cars.

As density increases, the utility of car ownership falls and the utility of public transit increases. Requiring parking lots drives down density and just exacerbates the problem. Take a look at the land usage downtown: Web Link
Eyeballing it, it looks like about 30% of the surface area is dedicate to parking.

Building more parking makes congestion worse, not better -- like how rent control raises rents rather than lowering them. Think through the consequences of policy decisions rather than latching on to the first thing that comes to mind. By carrying the torch against density, you're just diminishing your own quality of life.

Posted by registered user, Jerry Underdal, a resident of Barron Park
on Aug 19, 2013 at 12:17 am

Wrong target, don't shoot!

The enthusiasm for repealing the City Council's rezoning of the Maybell/Clemo property as a remedy to the city's problems with Planned Community (PC) zoning concessions which result in expanded projects and profits for developers and minimal advantages for the community is wrongheaded.

You'll find wide agreement, among supporters as well as detractors of the PAHC's Maybell project, that the city has failed to stand up for citizens' desires by approving projects that are unattractive and out of scale.

But building affordable housing in Palo Alto appears to require PC rezoning. Perhaps there are other ways that PAHC, a non-profit corporation whose sole function is to produce and manage affordable housing, can compete for developable properties, but no one so far has shown us how.

If it is impossible to produce a significant amount of affordable housing without the tool of PC rezoning, the opponents of PAHC's Maybell project are being disingenuous when they insist that they support affordable housing for low-income seniors, but within existing zoning restrictions.

If you believe, as I do, that there is a public benefit in having additional affordable housing in Palo Alto, please use your energy and organization to go after the projects that abuse PC zoning, not this one that doesn't,

As for the Maybell neighborhood, here's the gamble. If rezoning is repealed, either PAHC is truthful in maintaining that it cannot finance a scaled-back project and will be forced to sell the land for development to a new owner that can do pretty much as it wishes, as long as it doesn't violate the underlying zoning.

(No citizen input or city council review would be required. The result could range from benign (e.g. rehabilitating the orchard and building a visitor's center) to repulsive (a cookie cutter filling of space with 34-45 family residences.)

Or, PAHC is just bluffing, trying to scare the neighborhood into acquiescing to a bad deal when, in fact, if rezoning fails they will just reconfigure the project to meet current zoning restrictions and resubmit it to the City Council to get approval for the scaled-back project to be built.

If the rezoning is upheld, we would be assured of an attractive, appropriately placed, senior apartment complex largely hidden at the back corner of the property by R-1 zoned private homes along Maybell and Clemo, and by the 8-story Tan Apartments and largely 3-story Arastradero Apartments on the other boundaries of the property.

I'll vote "Yes on Measure D" because I think the odds are better that our neighborhood will come out well if it passes.
Regardless of how this vote goes, we must work to improve traffic safety for student pedestrians and bicyclists endangered by current conditions on our streets. Please come to the Maybell/Donald/Georgia bicycle corridor meeting at the Juana Briones multipurpose room, 6:30–8:30 p.m., Thursday, August 29, to share your expertise on problems in the neighborhood.

Posted by pat, a resident of Midtown
on Aug 19, 2013 at 12:28 pm

If you are against the project, i.e., against rezoning, you want to vote NO. Here’s the official ballot language:

D Shall the Palo Alto Municipal Code be amended to rezone the property located at 567-595 Maybell Avenue from R-2 Low Density Residential and RM-15 Multiple Family Residential to Planned Community Overlay Zone to include 12 single family units and 60 units of affordable senior housing?
For the Ordinance
Against the Ordinance

Posted by pat, a resident of Midtown
on Aug 19, 2013 at 12:29 pm

“They need cars because it's low density and the public transportation is lousy. NIMBYism has made them need cars.”

Whether we have low or high density housing, we don’t have any reliable, efficient public transit.

Until we have transit systems that gets people where they want to go, when they want to go, cars are the only option.

Posted by Resident, a resident of Green Acres
on Aug 19, 2013 at 3:30 pm

"focus on repairing past mistakes..." Well, how about it City Council?

In 2009, residents told the City Council not to finalize the Arastradero "road diet" experiement without assessing the traffic and safety impacts on side streets like Maybell. City council blew off our concerns. Residents didn't create the traffic problems, so how are residents supposed to fix it?

Since 2010, residents have had to contend with the unsafe situation on Maybell and now in 2013, the city wants to add MORE traffic to a side street like Maybell? That's ridiculous. Undo the choking off of Arastradero in the direction of the Gunn, Terman, Bowman and Briones schools and route the traffic from the housing development onto an arterial road where it belongs, and I personally would not object any longer.

If the City would fix the mistake that is Arastradero, or provide definite proposals for making Maybell safer -- how about "keep clear" language being written on the street at least? City Council is not listening and they are not insisting that developers and planning commission do their homework before approving any development, let alone a high density rezone.

That's why people are so upset. Years of not being listened to, plus a second cram down.

Posted by Parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 19, 2013 at 4:00 pm

>> Several Council members went out of their way to express
>> their frustration with opponents and the passion with which
>> they waged the referendum petition drive

At least the battle lines are clear at last: the war of City Council against Residents.

The City Council wants:
- traffic
- congestion
- rezoning for sale
- density everywhere
- stack and pack
- giant ugly buildings like Miki's and the JCC
- free business parking in neighborhoods
- secret deals with developers to make all this happen
- a bond issue for street maintenance (M Berman, last week)
- no interference from those stupid annoying residents (see above)

The Residents want:
- safe, livable neighborhoods
- good schools with enough space

Whichever camp you're in, cast your vote that way in November 2014. Holman, Price, Shepherd, Scharff up for reelection then.

Posted by Not an issue, a resident of Community Center
on Aug 19, 2013 at 4:50 pm

Resident-- as long as Jaime Rodriguez is n he city payroll there will be no admission that the arastedero road diet is a mistake. Rodriguez is a tool of the bike coalition, who along with their toadies on the city council, think the solution to our traffic problems is to narrow as many main thoroughfares as possible.

Parent-- thanks for mentioning the JCC. It would not be a discussion of the city if the JCC is not dragged into the discussion. After all, we could have had the lovely KFC at that corner--- an industrial- like area with little to no foot traffic.
Anyway, the JCC is built in the Eichler style, based on a design by Julia Morgan and modeled after the Briones home-- how can anyone in PA complain

Posted by It was a done deal, a resident of Green Acres
on Aug 20, 2013 at 12:54 am

"But building affordable housing in Palo Alto appears to require PC rezoning. Perhaps there are other ways that PAHC, a non-profit corporation whose sole function is to produce and manage affordable housing, can compete for developable properties, but no one so far has shown us how."

First of all, the city requires developers to put 15-20% into its BMR program run by PAHC. They don't have to compete, the affordable units get added every year. PAHC isn't a builder, they manage the program. The maxim in affordable housing - and HUD policy - is to spread out low-income housing, not concentrate it in one area as they are doing at Maybell, among other things, it creates a stigma for the residents.

Second of all, if the PC rezoning at Maybell had been more comparable in scale to the existing zoning, there would have been no arguments. Not abusing PC zoning?! This rezoning required violating even RM-40 zoning restrictions, on a seriously substandard street, surrounded by R-1.

PAHC had to pack in so many residents to increase their point total on their funding application for utter lack of adjacency to things seniors need at that property, since the government actually seems to care about those things, too, and assigns points for them in the competition. (Unless PAHC misrepresented those things in their application, too. Didn't they list Planned Parenthood as a medical facility for the seniors within a mile?) If they simply chose a better location actually nearer to services, they could "afford" to build a smaller property. But they don't want to build a smaller property, they want to show the City they have the experience to run a big one. (Still smarting from losing the management of 801 Alma.)

If even close to as much per unit was paid at Maybell as at 801 Alma, PAHC could afford to build nice units at Maybell under the existing zoning. Seniors deserve to live in decent housing, not stack and pack just because they are low income. Greg Schmid said the City paid only a quarter as much per unit at Maybell as at Alma -- by essentially foisting the costs onto the neighborhood through the financing scheme.

Any developer who puts up more than 5 units in Palo Alto has to put 15% of them into the BMR program or pay in lieu fees to the City. If the lots were more in keeping with existing zoning for the market-rate part of the parcel (which makes up more than half the development) and sold to individual builders, no $1.5 million for the City in in lieu fees for the market-rate part of that development. Do you understand that part of the scheme? The City loans the money to buy the property, then shakes cash out of it by rezoning for the benefit of a for-profit developer at the expense of the neighborhood. Then like some kind of sick assailant, says we should like it because otherwise we'll get worse.

If PAHC decides to sell, the City has first right of refusal by virtue of the loan agreement (remember the $7.3 million they have in this? they made sure to tell us they had a lot of rights to protect our public funds). If after all this, the City - which has publicly disclosed its concerns about anyone developing the property to that extent, as well as the opinion that the situation on Maybell is not safe -- does not do its duty by placing deed restrictions on the property before reselling, you can bet this neighborhood will not take it lying down. There IS recourse -- and if the City exposes the taxpayers just to the liability of "negligent design, construction, maintenance, signing, operation [or] control of the roadways," by ignoring its duty, you can bet more than just the Maybell neighbors will hold their feet to the fire.

Maybell already went through a six-figure traffic "improvement" recently. The unsafe conditions you see today are after attempts to fix it ALREADY. We have hit the limits of the infrastructure. The City must deal with that before approving massive rezonings and development at such locations.

If you are serious about seeing affordable housing in Palo Alto, help PAHC to get off this course where it is alienating a big segment of the citizenry, over a BAD PLAN, and move on to putting their energy into their mission again. The Terman Apartments, just a few blocks away, and after only 20 years, are being converted from affordable housing to market-rate rentals. PAHC tried to buy it once and decided it was too expensive. I and most of my neighbors would rather that $7.3 million and other funds went into maintaining the Terman apartments as affordable. It's already in the comprehensive plan as a goal. The apartments already exist in the neighborhood. As long as PAHC is putting energy into fighting rather than working with the community, they will be trying to win for themselves rather than for affordable housing in Palo Alto. If they fail to understand that the neighbors' concerns are legitimate and keep trying to portray us as clueless or worse, they will continue to hurt their own reputation in the community, and the fight will continue.

They chose a bad location for such massive upzoning, and it's a bad plan with weak protections against the property being converted to market-rate just like at Terman.

Posted by It was a done deal, a resident of Green Acres
on Aug 20, 2013 at 1:24 am

"They need cars because it's low density and the public transportation is lousy. NIMBYism has made them need cars."

No, they need cars because of stupid urban planning, of which this rezone and development proposal are case in point.

This part of Palo Alto couldn't be further away from any services or easy transit that seniors need. Downtown is near a transit hub, free or low-cost meals and classes for seniors at Avenidas, all the major medical centers in town, etc. And putting a senior apartment there would mean they really wouldn't need cars, and it really would mean one building not adding to the parking problem. Many parts of Middlefield are near grocery, community center, rehabilitation (Betty Wright), library, and other amenities, and even zoned higher density already. So, too, parts of El Camino (that were for sale and on the market for years).

Oh, but suggesting smarter urban planning makes me a NIMBY doesn't it? Criticizing any plan, no matter how bad, makes people like you scream "NIMBY". And so, we'll end up with a large high-density development with a lot of seniors who need cars or shuttles to get what they need, with inadequate parking planned for the development and no capacity in the neighborhood to absorb it.

Posted by It was a done deal, a resident of Green Acres
on Aug 20, 2013 at 1:26 am

"odds are better that our neighborhood will come out well"

And I will vote NO on Measure D because I do not gamble with the safety of our children.

Posted by resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 20, 2013 at 12:30 pm

good overview of Council/staff program highlights. I would add to "traffic" and "congestion" an "orgy of signs,paint,flashing lights" to calm traffic fears associated with more mega projects.