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Feeling the squeeze

Original post made on Jun 10, 2008

The acronym ABAG has become a four-letter word in Palo Alto, criticized by officials and excoriated by neighborhood leaders.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Wednesday, June 11, 2008, 12:00 AM

Comments (46)

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Posted by JoeD
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Jun 10, 2008 at 4:23 pm

It's time to act through the ballot box. Barton and Burt are out the next time they come up for election (hopefully through a recall). If Atherton and Redwood City can be non-compliant then so can Palo Alto. I didn't move here from a big city just to see Palo Alto become like one. Keep the high density housing in the urban areas like San Jose and San Francisco and let Palo Alto stay residential.

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Posted by Mike
a resident of College Terrace
on Jun 10, 2008 at 4:55 pm

There is *clear* evidence of the environmental costs of sprawl. Palo Alto has benefited mightily from historical accident, and untrammeled development of sprawl. It's time for those who call themselves environmentalists to stop playing politics, and lead.

It's time for neighborhoods that reap the benefits of sprawl, to come together and figure out innovative ways to grow this city, while keeping its character in tact.

This is a zero sum game *only* if we listen to defeatists, and those who won't meet serious environmental and regional responsibilities.

Sid Espinosa has is right; we might be able to change the regulatory environment, but we might not. In the meantime, we'd better get busy planning for the future, or the future will *happen* to us.

Either we plan for necessary growth in ways that are appealing, or we suffer the long term consequences of ill-planned growth - in addition to being partly responsible for contributing to a major degradation of our regional environment.

We're going to find out very soon, indeed, whether Palo Alto is "Green", or "Greenwashing".

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Posted by I'm ready
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 10, 2008 at 5:10 pm

I'm ready to see College Terrace lead the way. Rip down that old inefficient housing and replace it with dense housing.

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Posted by John
a resident of College Terrace
on Jun 10, 2008 at 5:19 pm

Extend CalTrain to Salinas. Then Palo Alto will have the low cost housing for its workers, as it needs. Salinas wants the jobs, including in Palo Alto. Salinas is, currently, in a huge hosuing slump, becasue its resdients cannot afford their current mortgages.

Let's help out our neighbors, down the road, by rejecting ABAG housing in Palo Alto. Our historical role, in Palo Alto, is to be an elitist, brainy community that provides innovation for the future.

ABAG housing is a ruse. It is not about providing housing for those workers who are critical to our economic existence. How many policemen or firewomen or teachers live in the current 250 BMR units? Answer: Almost none, becasue they don't want to live in sardine cans, and try to raise their families. ABAG is just welfare housing, and it will undermine the economic health of Palo Alto, as welfare housing almost always does.

Reject ABAG! It is a suicide pact for Palo Alto. Just, simply, ask where all the kids will go to school from about 1500 BMR units.

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Posted by Paul
a resident of Downtown North
on Jun 10, 2008 at 6:22 pm

Sacrificing Palo Alto to overdevelopment to save Tracy or Salinas or anyplace else may seem a noble mission to some, but it won't work. It will just overbuild our town to profit our local developers (most of whom live in Woodside, safely out of sight of their handiwork) while the developers in those areas continue their own building sprees for their own gain.

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Posted by John
a resident of College Terrace
on Jun 10, 2008 at 7:12 pm

"... Without a certified housing element, a city stands to lose some state and federal grants and assistance — primarily for housing..."

Oh horribles of horribles! If we reject ABAG housing (welfare housing), we become subject to the dastardly penalty of not being able to accept funds for welfare housing.

Shoot me dead! Throw me into the briar patch! No, Massa, just don't ever you do such a thing!

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Posted by Resident
a resident of Ventura
on Jun 10, 2008 at 8:56 pm

Click the link and read the full article, folks.

John Barton, the activist trying to help push this down out throats,
is married to a (drum roll, please) affordable housing

Somehow, the journalist writing the article, only mentions
this in passing, although it should totally disqualify him as
a someone with an objective point of view on the matter.

I read previously that ABAG wants Palo Alto to allocate 43% of
the units in their huge "mandate" as below-market units.

We're idiots if we agree to do this while neighboring communities
do nothing, no matter how many people try to play the guilt trip so they can profit from the resulting development spree.

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Posted by Mike
a resident of College Terrace
on Jun 10, 2008 at 9:21 pm

Answer to the above naysayers, and those to follow = impact development fees.

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Posted by RS
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jun 10, 2008 at 10:14 pm

So Mike

2 questions.

What authority does this ABAG have over Palo Alto?

What are the real, not hypothetical, consequences of not complying with their request?

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Posted by Pat Markevitch
a resident of Downtown North
on Jun 10, 2008 at 10:34 pm

JoeD: Please clarify your post. You state that you don't want Palo Alto to become a big city and that we should vote out Barton and Burt. You seemed to have lumped these two together when in fact they are saying different things. Please re-read the article. My take on it is that Pat Burt is not in favor of the ABAG numbers or formulas. If that is the case, then why would you want him out of office? It seems to me that you would want him to stay in office in order to keep Palo Alto on track. I agree with Pat Burt on this point. I have seen first hand what overcrowding has done to our schools, parks and infrastructure.

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Posted by Mike
a resident of College Terrace
on Jun 10, 2008 at 10:51 pm

On somewhat an unrelated note that comes by way of looking into Palo Alto's "Green" initiatives, I would point readers to the following website:
Web Link

There you will find information relating to organizations who have done good, by way of limiting pesticide use. Palo Alto has been an award winner for limiting "some insecticides on city property to avoid potential runoff problems".

If you scroll down to the section that provides details about what Palo Alto won the award for, you will find two web links. Try them. They take you to nothing but dead ends.

Thus, after dozens of experiences like this, I am led to conclude that Palo Alto's website - created as an information gateway to a city that prides itself on it's historical role the invention of personal computation - is an outright disgrace and failure.

There is simply no excuse for this poor-excuse-for-a-website to exist any longer. It needs to be taken down, and started over.

I spend a lot of time with technology, and visit quite a few municipal websites. To date, I have yet to see even one municipal website that is as poorly wrought and constructed as Palo Alto's. It's embarrassing, and an embarrassment to anyone who says they live here, and points a friend or associate to the website for information.

From a marketing and promotions perspective, it's a complete disaster, and makes anyone who played a part in constructing it - both contractors and project managers - appear as incompetents. Don't out this one on your resumes, folks.

Last, that we have not sued the contractors that deployed this piece of trash, is puzzling.

Now, back to ABAG...

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Posted by Mike
a resident of College Terrace
on Jun 10, 2008 at 11:27 pm

Here's another outrage that suburban sprawl, fueled by nimbyism and corporate greed, has wrought.

Web Link

We can continue to turn the other way and claim that there are no solutions to bringing more residents closer to work by way of proximate and/or affordable housing, or we can get busy and do something about it.

Palo Alto and its neighbors have set themselves up as a "green" cities by undertaking small surface measures that hardly scratch the surface of untrammeled development.

The *real* challenges; the *inconvenient* challenges - like housing; diverse, ubiquitous, affordable, and easily accessed mass transport; educational curriculum and physical plant innovation, 21st century communications infrastructure, and so on. These, and others, are the challenges for the future.

If we meet these challenges, this region will have a long future as a bellwether. If we fail, this region will, within 2-3 decades, be an also-ran relative to other regions, worldwide.

It's our choice.

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Posted by Walter E. Wallis
a resident of Midtown
on Jun 11, 2008 at 4:24 am

There are alternatives to moving bodies around. Help those alternatives and stop subsidizing businesses that still don't get it. A good place to start is government. My suggestion, that Palo Alto stop sending people to meetings and instead set up a teleconferencing site was ignored, and yet that is the wave of the future. If you cripple inovation by burdening business with anachronistic burdens, you have an oversupply of buggy whips and a dirth of iPhones.

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Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 11, 2008 at 9:14 am

How scare water should prevent building additional housing in the Bay Area per Sacramento/ABAG:

The biggest problem -- even larger than an eight-year drought on the Colorado River, low snow packs in Northern California, and a bad single-year drought in Southern California -- has been a recent court ruling that prompted Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger to convene the special legislative session.

On Aug. 31, 2007 a federal court judge said pumps in the Sacramento-San Joaquin bay delta would have to be cut back in 2008 to save an endangered fish, the delta smelt. The environmentally fragile bay-delta is the heart of the State Water Project that delivers Northern California rain fall and snowmelt to Central and Southern California.

Given the public’s preferences for living in warm, dry places, but that living there requires expensive infrastructure, what is the best outcome? Of course, that will depend on the cost of the infrastructure, the benefits from living in a dry area with water, and the hardship of trying to live in a dry area with no water.
To make the problem interesting, let’s assume that living in a dry area without the infrastructure is costly and inconvenient and that the cost of building the infrastructure to carry the water is very high—sufficiently high that the sacrifice of the consumption of other goods that must be incurred to pay for the infrastructure more than offsets the pleasure of those living in a warm, dry environment. More simply, the collective costs of having people live in the dry area outweigh the collective benefits they receive.
Therefore, the socially desirable outcome, the best outcome, is for people not to build houses in the dry area and for the government not to build the necessary water-carrying infrastructure. Now, let’s ask ourselves "Will this be the outcome?"

No, because more housing means more taxpayers, more money from taxes to build de-salization plants, giant sewage plants and therefore more money for corporations and developers. If politicians decide that water can be owned privately, more money will be made by the few at the expense of the many.

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Posted by Dan
a resident of Midtown
on Jun 11, 2008 at 12:02 pm

Wow ... Mike says something we can agree on:

"It's our choice."

Yes, it is, and it should be "our" choice. "our" means the people who will live day-to-day with the street-level consequences of local over-development. I don't believe we want rapid, high-density housing buildup forced upon us by a non-local, un-elected agency that can make up its own arbitrary housing allocation rules in pursuit of population growth . The state law that enables ABAG central-planning needs to be reformed...

As for the comment about "impact development fees" ... I'm afraid you'll never be able to recover the real costs through development impact fees. If you made the impact fees high enough to really make a dent in the associated costs, there goes all the developers' profits ... but it would be a bonanza for the laywers litigating it through the court system. Maybe there should be a government non-profit housing development agency in charge ... but hasn't that been tried before?

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Posted by Mike
a resident of College Terrace
on Jun 11, 2008 at 12:14 pm

Resident, Good points. In fact, the private ownership of water is already under way. For example, Warren Bufffet has commandeered access to aquifers in Texas, and is simply waiting until certain other sources have run dry to turn on his profit spigot.

How we ever got to a place where large private investors and large private capital is permitted to own the very stuff of our existence is beyond me. (Food, water, basic fuel, our very genomes (for heaven's sake!)

About development in dry areas; this needs to be stopped in its tracks. Developers are going to have to fall in line with everyone else. We're either going to share the *inconvenience* of curing the effects of global warming and environmental degradation, as well as building massively new, efficient infrastructure, or we're going to go down together.

Now, some developers may not see it this way, but that's the way it's going to be. Locally, we are going to have to build more infill housing; there are going to be impacts. Developers are going to have to pay for those impacts. In order to do that, they are going to have to get innovative with their building processes. If they fail to do the latter, we'll find developers who can. It's a new ball game.

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Posted by Paul
a resident of Downtown North
on Jun 11, 2008 at 1:11 pm

"About development in dry areas; this needs to be stopped in its tracks."

Consider this: Our prime whipping boy in this category is Los Angeles, with an average annual rainfall of 15 in. Web Link .

By some coincidence, this happens to be almost exactly Palo Alto's average annual rainfall. Web Link . Both cities are critically dependent on imported water.

So I totally agree - stop development in dry areas, recognizing that Palo Alto is one of them.

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Posted by Ada
a resident of Midtown
on Jun 11, 2008 at 1:48 pm

So what can an average Palo Altan who opposes the allocation do to change it? I feel so helpless, as if my opinion and the opinion of majority of PA residents means nothing.

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Posted by Mike
a resident of College Terrace
on Jun 11, 2008 at 5:53 pm

Paul, that's "dry" as in "relative" dryness. Good try though. The ABAG requirement is going to be fulfilled, region wide. As well, we are going to go through some painful and expensive readjustments as we get our telecommunications and mass transport infrastructures up to speed. Saddle up your horse; there's work to do.

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Posted by xabanero
a resident of Midtown
on Jun 11, 2008 at 7:30 pm

Here's what happens when you're handed out mandates and you turn them over to administrative staff:

>The city has also hired a consultant to draft area plans
>for a region surrounding Fry's Electronics south of Page Mill
>Road along El Camino Real and for the East Meadow Circle area.
>Both areas may accommodate some of the demand for housing, she said.

Think of the insanity here. The East Meadow Circle area has no real mass transit option (borders 101), its one of the few light industrial/business office areas left in the city that gives the city an alternate tax base and it gets nominated to feed the ABAG dogs despite CLEAR opposition from the local citizenry. This in an area already struggling with peak school enrollment, schools bursting at the seams and the already nonsensical housing developments in progress at Colorado/WestBayshore, JCC, Alma Plaza, and East Meadow Circle that stand to add unwanted traffic, overload the libraries and stress the school system further.

Who's next in line for the ABAG dogs? Multi-story housing above the Long's Drug Store at Midtown? Skyscrapers on Cubberly? Subterranean housing underneath Mitchell Park? Multi-tenant housing on the old Garbage Dump? Time to stop the insanity of stupid formula based mandates and move to incentives as Klein said. Let communities decide how to shape themselves instead of layering such mandates on people.

Look at an aerial map of Palo Alto and imagine at this current rate that in your lifetime, every significant parcel of housing-capable land being reclassified under ABAG type misguided guidelines for dense multi-tenant housing. Ripe for those "affordable housing champions/developers in sheep's clothing" to force change that most residents do not support. Coming soon to your neighborhood.

Write to city council and express your opinion. Show up at the hearings. Screen future council members on this issue. Get to your county and state elected officials. Let these people know that they will suffer at the ballot if they can't reverse course on these issues. Force a real consideration at council of rejecting ABAG as other local governments have done - perhaps if there's a groundswell of local governments rejecting ABAG, the insane math will be seen for its destructive potential.

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Posted by Confused
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Jun 11, 2008 at 7:45 pm

Why is the first poster calling for Pat Burt's recall when Burt clearly opposes ABAG from that article? I'm confused and I think that post is incorrect.

Barton, yes, but not Burt.

Regarding what actions we can take, the only thing we can do is engage with the City Council on the matter. They're actually all pretty approachable.

There are some 62,000 of us. If the city council each heard from 620 of us concerned about compliance they might be moved to take action.

I'd say that clearly asking them to publicly weigh what we'd lose if we do not comply is the right approach. As far as I know, no one really knows the answer yet about what the "federal and state grants" that we might lose would amount to, but if the poster who claimed that other nearby cities are out of compliance is correct, why should we fall in line and ruin our town? Traffic's already a nightmare and our schools cannot take such a huge influx.

To preserve our quality of life, I think we should not comply. But I'd know if I was right if I knew the true cost of non-compliance.

I hope the City Council clearly weighs this cost.

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Posted by Mike
a resident of College Terrace
on Jun 11, 2008 at 7:56 pm


The cost will be high, and unacceptable. First, we will suffer the slings and arrows of state constriction of MANY different kinds of disbursements (not just disbursements for affordable housing). Second, we will continue the direct and indirect costs of continued environmental degradation.

It's the second cost that the NIMBYISTS want to pass on to someone else. I wonder how many of the NIMBY crowd call themselves "green". That would be an interesting poll.

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Posted by Sympathetic Reader
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Jun 11, 2008 at 8:14 pm

I am a sympathetic reader who recently moved to the peninsula from SF where I saw (and was involved in) similar development battles. To Ada's question about what can an ordinary Palo Altan can do, I would suggest:

1. The first step is for concerned homeowners to band together and exert pressure on the city council to OPT OUT like Atherton et al did - Contact your neighborhood homeowners association (HOA) and ask if there is anyone tracking the ABAG issue. The article mentioned that neighborhood leaders were opposed (although it didn't mention who). I am sure at least some of the HOAs are already mobilized. You can encourage your HOA to connect to the other HOAs to hold a general meeting and develop a strategy.

2. Use Google to see who has written letters or taken positions against the ABAG plan. Call/email them and find out what organizations are leading the charge.

3. When you have found a group of like-minded individuals, someone should contact Portola Valley, Atherton and other communities who opted out and find out what the process was.

4. Note: Like any other local land use decision, the housing element needs to go through CEQA environmental review which includes detailed assessment of traffic impacts. CEQA = California Environmental Quality Act.

5. Don't give up hope. You will be called a Nimby, etc., but you have a right to defend your neighborhood and property values from bureaucratic burden shifting - which is what this is. There is no reason Palo Alto should be forced to build lots of dense housing when (1) Atherton et al are not and (2) there are nearby cities where more housing can be built more cheaply.

Global warming is real and we need to take fast and aggressive action, but Palo Alto housing density (or lack thereof) is not part of the problem. There is plenty of housing nearby - I am an example as I live in EPA and work in PA, a mere five mile commute. There is a lot of affordable housing within a 10 mile radius (EPA, Mountain View, Redwood City). I believe that the global warming issue is being highjacked to advance the agenda of those who never saw a lovely single family neighborhood that they didn't want to tear down and replace with a nice little highrise.

Good luck!

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Posted by arty
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jun 11, 2008 at 8:30 pm

mike: Second, we will continue the direct and indirect costs of continued environmental degradation.

Mike, you obviously have an axe to grind -- either hopeless ideological environmental idealism, or you are a developer.

The truth is, as one poster mentioned, it's asinine to expect city workers to live in affluent communities like P.A. It just never happens, unless that community becomes less affluent. People will live where reasonable housing is affordable (not tiny apartments in a suburb!), and they will drive to where the jobs are. This ABAG crap is just a ruse to line the pockets of developers, and appease the endless guilt of faux greenies.

The truth is that this is an issue of collective pain. Adjacent communities have rejected the mandate, and we should too. NIMBY as long as NIYBY, neighbor.


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Posted by Mike
a resident of College Terrace
on Jun 11, 2008 at 9:36 pm

arty, People will live where reasonable housing is affordable (not tiny apartments in a suburb!), and they will drive to where the jobs are.

How do you justify the above assumptions? How do you know where people will want to live when gas is $8 per gallon, or more?

How do you know what kind of housing citizens will adapt to? Housing size is a cultural phenomenon; it's not an inherited given. (e.g. Japanese housing; European housing, etc.)

How does your idea fly in the face of good studies that show that economic power is much more efficiently grown when occupied in more dense areas?

Really, the defeatists and NIMBYISTS need to wake up and smell the responsibility, and then get busy working on ways to make all this happen in a way that keeps them from losing their quality of life. We're going to grow; get used to it. Now, contribute something positive instead of whining to defeat the inevitable.

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Posted by Mike
a resident of College Terrace
on Jun 11, 2008 at 9:38 pm

As for our adjacent neighbors, that we don't pick up the opportunity to LEAD those neighbors, instead of following their irresponsibility, is an indication of just how far we've fallen in terms of regional importance, and influence. I wonder why that is?

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Posted by Gita Dev
a resident of another community
on Jun 11, 2008 at 10:36 pm

Just FYI- Redwood City has an approved Downtown Precise plan which includes over 3,500 housing units - more than their allocation from ABAG. It will create a vibrant, affordable and lively heart for the city, bring back our youth who cannot afford to live here any longer, provide safe attractive homes for seniors and be an economic asset to the whole town.

Redwood City has been recognized with Awards for its Downtown Plan.

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Posted by Mike
a resident of College Terrace
on Jun 11, 2008 at 10:57 pm

Thanks Gita! So, who is following whom in Silicon Valley these days? It looks like Redwood City is taking the lead, with downtown development, downtown renewal, the attaraction of a major Stanford facility, and more. Nice work!

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Posted by Bob Wenzlau
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jun 11, 2008 at 11:10 pm

Bob Wenzlau is a registered user.

I believe Palo Alto could and should do more to increase the density in the California, University Avenue and El Camino areas. Perhaps the housing could be constructed without providing for automobile, and force reliance on rapid transit or shared transit.

Our urban areas should become more compact. I don't have the ability to reconcile ABAG's growth numbers, but I believe that the discussion in the forum where the evil villain is the developer is naive. More red herrings are thrown in the discussion mix when high rises across town are posed.

The folks in ABAG are planners working to reconcile growth that is occurring.

Of course we could say no growth, but Palo Alto seems to be driving the growth through the economic development, but not stepping up to balance it with the housing. We have HP, Stanford, Facebook, and numerous other start-ups that are causing more folks to have to work in this town. We could even probably achieve all the housing just by closing the airport and developing the lands as housing -- maintaining the airport seems idiotic as we move into a more environmentally-responsive, energy-efficient era.

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Posted by Karen White
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jun 12, 2008 at 11:25 am

Readers might review the Weekly story, "ABAG Assignments Unlikely to Change" at Web Link and all the Town Square posts that follow. Be sure to sit down before reading this. You can compute the daunting financial subsidy the City would need to provide per housing unit and in totality, for 2,860 units, as only one among numerous overwhelming impacts on our community. In this post I won't even address the contorted logic whereby Palo Alto's "allocation" was driven in part by the "projected growth in the number of households."

Remember: Where BMR housing is created through inclusionary zoning, as is typical in Palo Alto, the BMR yield is only 15-20%. Thus if ABAG dictates that Palo Alto must zone for 2,000 affordable units, the total number of units that would be built is actually 10,000, and this is at the higher 20% yield! On top of this, multiply the total number of housing units by 2.7 residents, and you'll recognize the overwhelming impact on our services and infrastructure of the growth rate being advocated by the state and ABAG.

In a Guest Opinion I wrote last year, "ABAG vs. Palo Alto's Housing-Infrastructure Imbalance," at Web Link, I described how Palo Alto's infrastructure and facilities are inadequate to serve our population even now. Further, the cost of infrastructure maintenance and improvement is spiraling due to global pressures. Examples: The first storm drain project was far more costly than anticipated. The City is scraping for every loose cent to fund a new public safety building -- whose cost is substantially higher than estimated at the time the Blue Ribbon Task Force (I served as a member) made its recommendation. At the same time, our libraries are bursting at the seams and long overdue for improvement. We are told that taxes should be increased to pay for this - testifying to our challenge even now now to pay for our most basic civic facilities.

Also please review "Palo Alto Protests Unachievable Housing Goals" at Web Link). From the story:
"A housing goal assigned to Palo Alto is "unachievable" and would burden the school district and city services, according to a lengthy letter opposing the Association of Bay Area Governments (ABAG) housing allotment for Palo Alto. (Read the letter at Web Link).

What's behind state policies driving unsupportable rates of growth? This excerpt from the Guest Opinion discusses the building industry's influence:

"Stepping back, let's look at some of the influences on policy in Sacramento. The California Building Industry Association (CBIA) -- the "official voice" of 6,500 member companies -- outlines its mission on its Web site:

It lists a "top ten" set of reasons to join, one of which is to improve a firm's bottom line. But the number-one reason to join is: "Advocacy. Our lobbyists work year-round in Washington, D.C., Sacramento, and your community to promote the homebuilding industry and protect your livelihood."

One of CBIA's current efforts is to "streamline" environmental review of development proposals that "conform to regional blueprints". From the CBIA website: "The single-biggest obstacle to more urban-centric, infill housing development is the abuse of the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) and if “smart growth” is ever to happen in California, the law must change. In 2008, California homebuilders will pursue legislation to allow for a "streamlined" (whatever that means) environmental review when projects conform to regional blueprints."

Another influential organization, Home Builders of America, Northern California (HBANC) has a political action committee. The committee's purposes, according to HBANC's Web site ( are to "identify local and state elected officials and candidates for office of the State of California who have supported the political and economic interests of the California building industry, or who are or may be in a position to support those interests, and to make financial contributions to their campaign funds, and to participate, where consistent, with the objectives of HBANC, in local, regional, or statewide ballot measures and issues campaigns."

State policies appear to reflect building-industry objectives while ignoring costly infrastructure backlogs that exist right now. The Division of Housing Policy Development, part of the State Department of Housing and Community Development ( describes its own work as follows:

"HPD also administers state housing element law, including the review of local general plan housing elements; prepares numerous state plans and reports and conducts research to facilitate housing development and improvement, including an annual report on redevelopment agencies housing activities; and provides a wide range of technical assistance to local governments, public and private housing providers, business and industry groups, housing advocates and interested citizens." .)

The top "Strategic Objective" of the state Department of Housing and Community Development is to "Increase housing supply by strengthening the effectiveness of housing law as a tool to reduce local regulatory barriers." Performance measures include introduction, approval and passage of legislation; the number of stakeholder groups who support the legislation; and higher issuance of building permits in compliance with housing element law." (" Bottom line: Through ABAG, the state means to strip local governments of the ability to guide their own futures.

Packaging building industry interests as somehow beneficial for communities is specious. Our city is right to challenge ABAG's current "allocation" and the all the state policies that drive it. Moderately increased densities do make sense in some parts of our city -- to the extent we can afford the impacts. But because "some" is good does not necessarily mean that "more" is better, and we -- not the state -- should be the decision-makers in this.

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Posted by Ethan
a resident of Menlo Park
on Jun 12, 2008 at 12:32 pm

I don't believe you folks are getting the larger picture.

2,860 residences mandated for Palo Alto by 2014.
214,500 more residences needed in the Bay Area by that year.
44,000,000 people living in California by 2020.

And how many more residences will be needed by 2020? By 2030?
How many millions will have to be accommodated in California by 2030? By 2050?
And then, beyond that?

You can talk about NIMBYism. But how about NIMLism (not in my lifetime)?

Here's a thought: Whatever your concern, whatever your cause, it's ultimately a trivial concern, a lost cause, without population stabilization.

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Posted by Mike
a resident of College Terrace
on Jun 12, 2008 at 1:08 pm

Karen White: "Remember: Where BMR housing is created through inclusionary zoning, as is typical in Palo Alto, the BMR yield is only 15-20%. Thus if ABAG dictates that Palo Alto must zone for 2,000 affordable units, the total number of units that would be built is actually 10,000, and this is at the higher 20% yield! On top of this, multiply the total number of housing units by 2.7 residents, and you'll recognize the overwhelming impact on our services and infrastructure of the growth rate being advocated by the state and ABAG."

First, a note to Ms. White from the article: "California's growing: By 2020, the state will have more than 44 million residents, up from about 38 million now."

This is a fact; it's a fact that leads to *inconvenient* consequences, relative to how California has absorbed population increases in the past, by increasing sprawl. The latter is no longer a tenable option.

Ms. White's arguments create a worst case scenario. They also try to set up straw man myths about developer conspiracies. I suspect that a developer built Ms. White's home. Developers are not evil, nor are they conspiratorial, as a group.

We can expect a lot more fear, uncertainty and doubt (FUD) coming from ABAG opponents, as we approach the necessity of fulfilling our responsibilities to the environment, and managing population growth.

IN fact, there's no law that says that Palo Alto has to support the construction of BMR units; that favor can be extracted from developers as an impact tax. The same goes for other infrastructure costs.

What we have here are imagined cost projections, put forward without benefit of any innovative thinking about how to solve our regional housing problems.

I look forward to our City Council putting our community to work to help find ways to meet the ABAG challenge in a way that actually improves - instead of detracting from - our community.

Palo Alto has grown before, it will continue to grow. We'd best face that fact, and do something about it, before it does something to us.

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Posted by Paul
a resident of Downtown North
on Jun 12, 2008 at 1:56 pm

"Paul, that's "dry" as in "relative" dryness."

Dry is dry, Mike. As I pointed out, Palo Alto is objectively as dry as famously dry and thirsty LA. But sorry I gored your pony there. Wait - no I'm not. Good try though.

"Relative dryness"? Relative to what? That neatly begs the question. Shall we, for our immediate expediency, define Palo Alto as wet in order to exempt it from your prohibition of development in dry places? Then we logically must allow LA its 11% growth surge. We all know what that will do to statewide water demand, and the pressures it will put on northern CA water supplies already overstressed by the pre-ABAG population.

So what's off the table? Well, Bagdad CA is certainly dry; it once went 767 days without measurable rain. It is now a total ghost town; nothing left standing.

We're all dry out here. The entire American West is dry. Zebulon Pike, appalled at his first encounter with it, named the whole area west of the 100-th meridian the Great American Desert. I for one would not mind seeing it respected as such. And I would definitely like to see its mindless exploitation stopped. The rain does not follow the plow.

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Posted by Morris
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jun 12, 2008 at 7:42 pm

> Palo Alto has grown before, it will continue to grow.

In 1950, Palo Alto was 3.2 square miles--with a population of about 25,00. If "grew" by annexing about 24 square miles of "space"--which holds another 35,000 people. There is no more "empty" space to annex in the future. "Growth" will be through increasing the density of population and decreasing the quality of life.

The guy who wrote this knows nothing about Palo Alto's past--or is a pathologic liar, who is trying to blow smoke in people's faces.

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Posted by Mike
a resident of College Terrace
on Jun 12, 2008 at 9:39 pm

Paul, You'd better stock up on straws, and while you're at it, understand that Silicon Valley will not decrease, or remain stable in population. Wishful thinking, and failure to understand that innovation will enable adaptation to constrained water supplies, will not change facts,

Morris, Palo Alto has increased in population, both by annexation and normal population growth. It might help you to understand that many innovations in building materials technology, building heights, smaller spaces, etc. etc. etc. etc (THINK!) will permit further growth here, and in many other parts of our region.

Presenting apples and oranges examples from LA; or quoting Mr. Pike (had we listened to Pike, Silicon Valley wouldn't even exist), or extreme, outsized examples about how we're going to have to build 10's of thousands of BMR units (that Palo Alto will have to pay for. Ha! NOT!) will NOT change Morris', or Paul's, or Ms. White's, or my, or *anyone's* responsibility to our environment, and the need to engage that responsibility in service of reducing sprawl, and properly managing growth.

There are no excuses. We face long-term environmental costs if we continue on our present path, which compels *others* to pay for our convenience. Changing all that will be *inconvenient*, but it must be done.

Again: Is Palo Alto "Green", or merely "Greenwashing". We're about to find out.

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Posted by curious
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 12, 2008 at 9:55 pm

Why is it that in threads like this, 1 - 2 contributors start out reasonably, then switch to
insults when questioned? Do they think referring to others as Nimbyists or Naysayers advances either the value of the thread discussion, or their own credibility? Then if they get into longer and longer, page after page, discussions, is that helping their cause in any way ? Why not have a polite discussion? Maybe we could
all learn something......

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Posted by Transit oriented ha ha
a resident of Addison School
on Jun 12, 2008 at 10:16 pm

When the 800 High Street monster was built near the train station the developer said those people would use the train. But they built 2 parking spaces for each unit. Transit oriented housing, ha ha ha the joke's on us.
I think that developer will be ashamed to show his face in town again. Of course he lives out in the country.

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Posted by Tom
a resident of Professorville
on Jun 13, 2008 at 10:06 am

At night there are 3 parking spaces for each unit at 800 High Street, to accommodate homecoming commuters.

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Posted by Paul
a resident of Downtown North
on Jun 13, 2008 at 10:22 am

I know it's not fun to hang on your own petards, Mike, but you could be more gracious about it.

You obviously have a passion for this cause. However, you won't sell it with warmed over Eisenhower-era boosterism, slogans, and ad hominem attacks.

Why not put up a website and show us your plan? Where does the housing go? What's its impact on its neighborhoods and the city and the region? Who pays for it? Where do we get the resources to support the added population including - yes - the water?

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Posted by Mike is bad
a resident of Downtown North
on Jun 13, 2008 at 10:47 am


"'California's growing: By 2020, the state will have more than 44 million residents, up from about 38 million now.'

This is a fact."

That is not a fact. It is a prediction.

Who calls something like this a fact?

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Posted by Pam
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jun 13, 2008 at 11:13 am

"Mike is bad" is correct. There will these new 6 million residents (from 38 to 44 million) predicted only if there is housing to accommodate them. Similarly, in previous threads, Mike of CT has prattled on about 80 thousand residents in Palo Alto - insisting as usual that we have to build housing to accommodate them.

This kind of reasoning has it exactly backwards: we can decide what kind of city Palo Alto will be by the kinds of zoning decisions we make. There is a virtually unlimited demand for housing in PA. If we zoned for housing to accommodate 200,000 people, no doubt there would be people to live here lining up to buy and rent this housing.

But we can also decide that we like Palo Alto about the size it is now - without the crowding, traffic, congestion and other ills that would go along with a city of 80,000 (or 200,000) people.

And if other cities in California decide similarly, there won't be those 6 million new residents Mike talks about because there won't be any place for them to live.

Palo Alto and California have choices about the kind of place we want this to be.

Let's exercise this choice wisely - and tell ABAG and its army of bureaucrats and planners that we don't buy into their fatalism about population growth in Palo Alto.

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Posted by I KNOW who YOU are
a resident of Ventura
on Jun 16, 2008 at 1:18 am

Hey Mike -

Did you used to post under the moniker "Jeremy Loski" of the Ventura neighbnorhood? You both have the same writing style. What's you real name, anyway?

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Posted by Who He Is
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Jun 16, 2008 at 6:09 am

To I KNOW who YOU are:

Check out:

Web Link

(Old Story).

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Posted by No H20
a resident of Professorville
on Jun 16, 2008 at 11:27 pm

Will we have enough drinking water and capacity at our sewage treatment plant for the growing population here?

We still have Stanford's growth to contend with

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Posted by Pan Gloss
a resident of Professorville
on Jun 17, 2008 at 9:22 am

Proper application of Libertarian principles will assure abundant resources for all.

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Posted by Long Time Resident
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jun 18, 2008 at 10:21 pm

No matter how many tightly packed homes, condos, or apartments we build - people will move here.

We must set some limitations since we simply can not sustain support this massive number of people.

Some people may decide to move for a better quality of life.

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

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