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PA sued over 'oversized' 195 Page Mill project

Original post made by Anna, South of Midtown, on Jan 20, 2007

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Another example of outrageous, frivolous hubris that would keep our city from growing. What a waste of public resources this group will cost our city. They should be villified in the rress, and elsewhere, for the way that they have consistently manipulated public process to stall opportunity. Of course, it's their right to do what they're doing, but this sort of action should not go unanswered.

It would be simple justice if the developer aggressively counter-sues every one of the primary plaintiffs in this lawsuit, as individuals - thus forcing them and the lawfirm that represents them to cough up some real dollars and personal resources.

Palo Alto has suffered too long by kowtowing to the whims and the fringe principles of groups like this - really, a tiny fraction of our citizenry. It's time for the latter to suffer the karmic price for wasting their fellow-citizens time and dollars to satisfy their every whim about how our city should run.

Comments (24)

Posted by Too Much Greed
a resident of Stanford
on Jan 20, 2007 at 8:18 pm

According to Anna obeying the law is a whim.
Let the developers build huge ugly monstrosities and the people should say amen. The neighbors should bow to the power of greed and call it progress. Greed is the highest value.
More power to those who are finally saying, Stop Violating the zoning laws; enough greed at the expense of those of us who live here.
Who will pay the cost of the overbuilding? Look at the schools, there's the first visible cost. They are bursting at the seams and it will take million$ to open new schools. That's OUR money, not Hobach's.
Even the City Council was split on this thing, the vote was 5-4.

Posted by JL
a resident of Ventura
on Jan 20, 2007 at 10:00 pm

Despite "Too Much Greed's" concern about the sky falling, and despite anti-growth zealots many costly and divisive attempts to have this city "their way", virtually _every one_ of the developed projects that anti-growth citizens have tried to defeat _has been a successful addition to our city_, once built. This puts the lie to the assumptions they make about growth.

"Too Much Greed" is right, it's OUR city, EVERYONE's city, not his/hers - a fact that is going to be brought home in the coming years in a way that continues to push anti-growth zealot groups like this to the fringe, where they rightfully belong.

One of the reasons we don't have revenue for public services is because past policy-making groups made the mistake of listening to anti-growth zealot groups like the one that is suing the 195 Page Mill developer.

Like Anna said, it will be simple justice if the developer sues each and every one of them, making them pay dearly for creating an initiative that will itself waste their Palo Alto fellow citizens hard-earned tax dollars Hubris, indeed!

Posted by Too Much Greed
a resident of Stanford
on Jan 20, 2007 at 11:51 pm

JL, your ability to predict the future is superhuman. We mere mortals just try to understand the present. Mere mortals observe overcrowded schools, overcrowded libraries, and streets jammed with traffic.
Which are the 'successful additions to the city' that you refer to?
And what will the developer sue them for? For wanting him to live within the law? That's all he needs to do and the whole thing will go away.

P.S. JL, there is no initiative. You need to read more carefully.

Posted by JL
a resident of Ventura
on Jan 21, 2007 at 12:50 am

"Mere mortals" have shown the fallability that mere mortals are subject to, with predictable consequences - i.e. one misguided attempt after another to make almost any proposed development a seeming gauntlet of legal and administrative obstacles. As a result, Palo Alto now has no big box retail, is losing auto dealers, and so on. That is beginning to change - thanks to an enlightened City Council.

Successful additions? How about the Emerson and Homer St. project that was forced to a ballot? Let's start there as an example of significant public resources were wasted to satisfy no-growth zealots.

Whether this is an "initiative", in the "officieal" sense, or not, PUBLIC REVENUE will be wasted by this lame legal attempt to stop a project that our City Council _approved_. Your group will lose its misguided effort, and the 195 Page Mill project will continue on schedule, breaking ground this Spring. I and my Ventura neighbors can't wait to see the blight that you and your fellow plaintiffs so eagerly defend. Will you pay back Palo Altans for city staff and attorney time required for legal diligence in this misguided lawsuit?

This is the kind of egregious behavior that has gone on too long, unnoticed by most Palo Altans who are too busy with their lives to keep track of the outrageous harm that a few dozen zealots can bring to a city over a decade of meddling.

We currently suffer from the lack of residual revenues that would have been there if past policy makers hadn't listened to radical (as opposed to measured) no-growthers for the last two decades. Your party's over. Palo Alto is going to grow, and change in ways that keep it among the top cities on the Peninsula. That growth will include needed infill housing, better mass transportation, more responsible environmental policies required of development, more BMR housing, and lots of innovation to create new possiblility. All this will replace the old saw of "no" that has grown old and tired.

Posted by Hulkamania
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jan 21, 2007 at 7:54 am

Until changing Internet providers, I was on the e-mail mailing list for the no-growth zealots. It became quite apparent that the majority of them have a lot of time on their hands and, to fill that time, actively go looking for trouble.

One of their time filling activities is to go on what they call “walking tours” of commercial areas of the city. They look for code violations, determine if a permit was pulled for any remodeling and anything they don’t like. If they find any of the above, they’ll raise hell with the city and demand lightning strike down the evildoers.

It seems to me their time would be better spent volunteering at either Stanford or Children’s hospitals helping their fellow man instead of acting like a bunch of old cranks who roam the city looking for trouble.

Posted by Walter_E_Wallis
a resident of Midtown
on Jan 21, 2007 at 7:56 am

If you want to control a property, buy it.

Posted by Howard
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jan 21, 2007 at 9:05 am

As demonstrated in a previous thread on this subject, the zoning exceptions granted by the city for this project were reasonable. For example, the height exception was to allow one corner of the building to stick up an extra foot and a half to accomodate some decorative feature that had actually been suggested by the Architectural Review Board. This lawsuit is doomed to failure.

Posted by 14K/yr
a resident of Greene Middle School
on Jan 21, 2007 at 10:25 am

While I believe Palo Alto needs to strongly limit the growth of residential housing (because of the bizarre mechanism used for school funding), the Tom Jordan litigation strikes me as ridiculous. The broad powers of the city council over zoning, means that this suit is little more than a guaranteed waste of time and money for the city.

I don’t know the issues surrounding the suit, but I have no respect for Mr. Jordan given his position on the Walter Hayes/Riconcada portable issue a couple of years ago. Mr. Jordan was attempting to get the school district to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars to move some portable units even though the exercise would have been without practical significance. I found that behavior particularly offensive because Mr. Jordan has repeatedly chosen not to pay his optional school parcel taxes (a matter of public record). Given this latest suit, I now know how he chooses to spend his tax savings.

Posted by Draw the Line
a resident of Stanford
on Jan 22, 2007 at 11:50 am

Yes, complete agreement with all of you who see this lawsuit for what it is.

This is one of the reasons I advocate that when people lose a lawsuit they have instigated, they ( or their lawyers) should be required to pay the OTHER person's lawyer bills, AND all costs associated with the law suit. For every day this lawsuit delays building, the developer will lose thousands of dollars.

It would make everyone think twice about frivolous lawsuits.

Posted by Walter_E_Wallis
a resident of Midtown
on Jan 22, 2007 at 6:01 pm

If I had my life to live over, I'd live over the corner saloon.
I believe these units will be of great value to the city. Since the School District protected the identity of the engineer responsible for mislocating that portable to avoid having his E&O insurance pay to correct the situation, and since the District refuses to revisit Tinsley that requires Palo Alto to maintain a complete elementary school to benefiot East Palo Alto, any plea of poverty is misplaced.

Posted by Support the Law
a resident of Meadow Park
on Jan 23, 2007 at 1:10 pm

“Democracy is the only system that persists in asking the powers that be whether they are the powers that ought to be.” Sydney J. Harris

A government that robs Peter to pay Paul can always depend on the support of Paul.”
George Bernard Shaw

Nobody has a more sacred obligation to obey the law than those who make the law.”

Posted by JL
a resident of Ventura
on Jan 23, 2007 at 2:05 pm

Although it sounds nice to wrap one's opinion up in soliloquies and aphoristic blurbs, I wonder how many of those who are commenting here, in favor of this lawsuit, would be willing to pay back the city for the frivolous waste of time and money that it represents.

What's ironic here is that the decision to go forward with this project is supported by our policy makers, and our city attorney.

Again, my hope is that the developer will name each plaintiff, individually, in a lawsuit, and make every one of them pay dearly for obstructing decisions that were legally rendered. A further irony is that those taking this legal action are the ones who forced this into the inteminably long process that ended in their defeat.

What this lawsuit represents has nothing to do with the law, justice, or democracy. It has far more to do with sour grapes at having lost a case in a transparent,open, democratic process; it has more to do with sour grapes; [Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

The solution to the latter? Loving discipline, with some tough love that teaches them a good lesson about wasting their neighbor's time, city resources, and tax dollars. This lawsuit is a disgrace to the democratic process, because it uses that process to create dissension, delay, and divisiveness.

Good luck, Mr. Holback, many of my neighbors and I are supporting your effort to end the squalor on Park Blvd. We look forward to watching children play, and business thrive, at your new development.

Posted by Too Much Greed
a resident of Stanford
on Jan 23, 2007 at 3:11 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online.]

Posted by Hulkamania
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jan 23, 2007 at 5:15 pm

The anti-growth people are not willing to pay to play. When I was still on their mailing list there was a move by city staff to increase the amount charged if someone wanted to dispute the granting of an exception or variance. It was $100 and staff wanted to raise it to something like $400. $400 seemed reasonable as a variance cost the applicant $600. The anti-growthers fought it tooth and nail and, with the support of our now new mayor, got it squashed.

It seems to me that if you want to play you should be able to pay. Pity the poor homeowner that has invested thousands of dollars in planning an addition or new home and be stopped dead by someone who only has to cough up $100. It just ain’t fair.

Posted by Bill
a resident of Palo Verde
on Jan 23, 2007 at 6:07 pm

JL, it sounds as if your'e saying that if the Council decides to skirt Zoning Regs withoufirst changing them, that any citizen who objects to that somewhat strange process should
be insulted rather than admired. And that if the city attorney agrees that the Council acted properly, then since every attorney is always right in his opinion as stated, that should certainly close the matter. Or perhaps our city attorney has always been correct and guarantees he will always be correct in the future. Would that be correct?

But if you are correct that this matter has "nothing to do with the law," then what is the
relevance of the City attorney anyway?

Posted by Walter_E_Wallis
a resident of Midtown
on Jan 23, 2007 at 6:36 pm

If there are provisions for exceptions to zoning regulations, then that is the law. Whether those provisions were wisely applied is a political rather than a legal problem. A developer who has followed the law, at an expense that used to half finish a building but that goes before the first shovel, must not be damaged by frivilous objections.

Posted by 14k/yr
a resident of Greene Middle School
on Jan 23, 2007 at 8:50 pm

OK Bill, city council has the right to grant zoning variances. So what is the big deal?
Zoning regulation has traditionally been a local concern and always been subject to local politics. Do you really want local government to be even slower than it is now? Maybe you haven’t noticed, but Prop 13 made California cities pathetically dependent on sales taxes and increasing the property tax base. Making zoning regulations inflexible is extremely dangerous for the economic well-being of a city.

By the way, given the almost complete lack of legal knowledge by city council members, the city attorney is the probably the most valuable person on the staff. Someone has the save Palo Alto from getting into needless litigation.

Hulkmania, can you provide names of those mailing lists? I’d like some advance warnings of the schemes hatched by these groups.

Posted by Hukamania
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jan 24, 2007 at 9:20 am

"Hulkmania, can you provide names of those mailing lists? I’d like some advance warnings of the schemes hatched by these groups."


I only remember Tom Jordan's name. Most of what I received came from him.

Posted by Walter_E_Wallis
a resident of Midtown
on Jan 24, 2007 at 11:08 am

I noticed long ago that the chief work of planners is correcting the errors and bad judgement of previous planners. When regulators forget the justification of protecting public health and safety that justifies their existence to wade into esthetic and economic determinism, they almost always do injustice to the community.

Posted by Einstein
a resident of another community
on Jan 24, 2007 at 1:39 pm

Definition of a libertarian: "a guy who believes in unfettered propoerty rights for everyone except his next-door neighbors".

Posted by Walter_E_Wallis
a resident of Midtown
on Jan 24, 2007 at 4:36 pm

I would like for those who accuse others of greed to demonstrate their willingness to work for no reward.

Posted by Einstein
a resident of another community
on Jan 25, 2007 at 11:42 am

Definition of a critic: "a guy who thinks that he can always do better than someone else but will never try doing so himself ..."

Posted by Environmentalist
a resident of Mountain View
on Jan 25, 2007 at 7:40 pm

I am opposed to the development as I don't believe that the Palo Alto City Council is above the law.

Building new housing COSTS the city more than it gets back in property taxes, etc.

Let's see an Environmental Impact Report, and think about CEQA.

I am NOT "anti-growth". I am PRO-Environment.

More crowding means more pollution. Period.

Thanks to Tom Jordon and Bob Moss for their efforts to preserve Palo Alto. Once it is paved over, you do NOT get it back.

Posted by Walter_E_Wallis
a resident of Midtown
on Jan 25, 2007 at 8:06 pm

So do we expell everyone from California whose family came her, say, after 1937?
I doubt they will have to increase the size of the street sewer, the water main or the gas and electrical facilities for this project and the property has been paying all along for the street.

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