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Palo Alto fights state mandate for more housing

Original post made on Feb 12, 2013

In what one council member called a fight "for the soul of our city," Palo Alto officials agreed on Monday, Feb. 11, to formally appeal a state mandate calling for the city to plan for more than 2,000 units of new housing over the next decade.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Tuesday, February 12, 2013, 3:40 PM

Comments (44)

Posted by alex
a resident of Midtown
on Feb 12, 2013 at 4:36 pm

With requirements like this, we need to be prepared to leave ABAG's control. We need to govern our city ourselves. It's obvious that there is no real long-term benefit to our city's association with ABAG.

This will also be beneficial to ABAG, as it will teach them a good lesson.

We joined ABAG, I imagine, because we felt it was the morally correct thing to do. They have proved themselves to be of no use to us. They are, in fact, detrimental to our city. It would be immoral to be swayed by their irrational demands.

Posted by curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on Feb 12, 2013 at 4:53 pm

"Palo Alto, which is often referred to by council members as a "built-out city," has been fighting these mandates for years, arguing that the agency's projections are far too ambitious and the city has no way to accommodate the level of housing it is asked to plan for."

"built-out city"??! Really? Then why does there always seem to be room for another oversized office building to bring in more commuters?

Posted by Topped Off
a resident of Meadow Park
on Feb 12, 2013 at 6:11 pm

So, what exactly must the city do to get out from under ABAG??? Surely, the time has come to break free from their unreasonable requirements!

Posted by traffic
a resident of Downtown North
on Feb 12, 2013 at 7:40 pm

If the city keeps building more office buildings without building more housing, then commute traffic heading in to town is going to keep getting worse and worse. If we don't want more housing in town, then quit creating more jobs in town. Those two go hand in hand.

Posted by Tim
a resident of Community Center
on Feb 12, 2013 at 9:02 pm

Palo Alto is a member of ICLEI Local Governments for Sustainability and accepted funding for transportation and sustainability projects. Now AGENDA 21 owns Palo Alto. It's not a question of "if" another 2,179 new housing units will be built, it's where they will be built.

Posted by "Old" PA
a resident of Gunn High School
on Feb 12, 2013 at 9:47 pm

It is time to close our borders! We can't handle any more housing or new buildings! Palo Alto has changed so much since I grew up here in the late 70's. We keep losing valueable assets and space for our community to higher density housing and more office space...It is such a shame.

Posted by Go East baby
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Feb 13, 2013 at 6:16 am

The one solution to this is for Palo Alto to merge w/ East Palo Alto. There is plenty of land and vacant lots in EPA to build new housing and to satisfy Palo Alto's appetite for new office space. EPA would benefit by becoming part of the PA school district and and its residents would see an instant increase in their home values. Each city has what the other needs, seems like a win/win for both.

Posted by Raymond
a resident of Barron Park
on Feb 13, 2013 at 6:55 am

Having become a global attraction for tech development and venture capital inflow has an impact upon quality of life. Housing density has been an issue for years and will continue to be a major topic.

Posted by Chris Zaharias
a resident of Crescent Park
on Feb 13, 2013 at 7:01 am

The solution is simple: build on some of PA's land in the hills. Another solution would be for PA to demand Stanford give up some of its land, starting with the oak groves across El Camino.

Posted by what happens?
a resident of Barron Park
on Feb 13, 2013 at 8:56 am

What happens if Palo Alto ignores ABAG?

Growth is a city decision.

Posted by Garrett
a resident of another community
on Feb 13, 2013 at 8:57 am

Each city gets these housing mandates from the state, they are fought against, attempts of zoning or building is beaten back by NIMBY. The only people that can afford to live in the Silicon Valley core cities are the ones that make the most money.

We have lots of single story office buildings here and there, we have lots of car center buildings with very large parking lots.

A little redesign, office building here and there, housing here and there all built on greens with nearby stores. Might help.

Office building with row houses around it. Might help keep retail on the ground floor.

Posted by Rich
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 13, 2013 at 10:43 am

"Go East baby", a likely showstopper to the idea of merging PA and EPA is that they're in two different counties. Would San Mateo County be willing to give up EPA? Would Santa Clara County be willing to give up PA (and probably also Stanford)? Without a resolution to this issue, the idea will go nowhere.

Chris Z., what would you propose to do if PA were to "demand" Stanford land and Stanford said no?

Posted by JerryL
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Feb 13, 2013 at 10:50 am

When you consider the ABAG demands along side of what we read yesterday about Mountain View's plans for the San Antonio Road vicinity it is appalling. I would think a better argument for Palo Alto would be to point to the vast increase in housing impacts right on its borders. In a regional sense, the ABAG goals are met.

If this is not done then I recommend withdrawing from ABAG for the reasons cited by an earlier comment. The real problem is State Law that exempts developers from being made to pay for the full impacts of their projects on schools and transportation. Without change from the top, ABAG looks to me like a suicide pact for Palo Alto.

Posted by Neilson Buchanan
a resident of Downtown North
on Feb 13, 2013 at 11:07 am

I understand the concern about mandates. But isnt there a real issue of the balance of jobs (ie office space) being balanced with housing and traffic. There is a massive demand for office space, almost unstoppable. The city's comp plan permits massive development, so the status quo is and will be more office space, more traffic, more wasted commute time, despite "Google" busing, vans, train rider increase and a few more bikers. Is Palo Alto the City of Trees, the City of Jobs or the New Canyon City with 3-5 story mixed use office buildings situated downtown(s) and along El Camino Real?

Posted by Crescent Park Dad
a resident of Crescent Park
on Feb 13, 2013 at 11:38 am

"Demand" land from Stanford. Really? I can't decide if I should laugh or just shake my head in amazement.

ABAG - goodbye and good riddance.

Merge PA and EPA is not going to happen. No way does one city want to take on all of the issues that exist in the other city...gang violence, drug violence, poor performing schools, etc. Not wanting to be a jerk - just saying what everyone would be thinking.

Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton
on Feb 13, 2013 at 11:39 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Palo Alto already has three dimensional zoning that permits different uses at different levels in a building. Why not start requiring EVERY new office building to be at least 25% residences?

Posted by Once upon a time
a resident of Meadow Park
on Feb 13, 2013 at 12:03 pm

Long ago, EPA was part of Palo Alto. EPA voted, to their detriment, to separate.

Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton
on Feb 13, 2013 at 12:05 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

"Long ago, EPA was part of Palo Alto. EPA voted, to their detriment, to separate."

Can you cite a source for your statement?

I do not believe that this is correct. EPA is in a different county and such a annexation would have been very difficult.

Posted by MadamPresident
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Feb 13, 2013 at 12:25 pm

ditto Garrett & Peter Carpenter! more mixed-use housing!

& more dense housing - if you want to keep PA sustainable

Posted by Old School
a resident of Crescent Park
on Feb 13, 2013 at 12:30 pm

I agree with several of you...Bag ABAG! If we took money, give it back! We don't need new development, we need re-development. If that means residents have to foot the bill rather than getting funds from outside sources, fine. Our town is perfect the way it is. We don't need more housing, we don't need more office space and we seriously don't need more traffic. Here is a link to more reading on the subject where other cities think ABAG's projections are crazy:

Web Link

Stand firm Palo Alto City Council!!

Posted by Garrett
a resident of another community
on Feb 13, 2013 at 12:35 pm

Here are some mixed use ideas, note that most buildings can be

For something larger.
Web Link

A good use of different building styles but built as one most likely.

Web Link

Here is one for larger projects like 27 University or El Camino in Menlo Park, remember this is just one of the many ideas of mixed use planning.

Web Link

Posted by neighbor
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Feb 13, 2013 at 12:45 pm

It's long overdue! Palo is fast becoming unrecognizable. When it comes to excessive high-density housing and big, ugly buildings built with no setback, I definitely say NIMBY.

Posted by Wayne Martin
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Feb 13, 2013 at 1:02 pm

> Jobs/Housing Imbalance

This is a bug-a-boo that keeps coming back to pollute this, and other, discussions. The whole idea that a town should provide housing in some sort of ratio to the jobs that a located here is not rational. Most people do no want to live where they work. Various “Nexus” studies that have been done locally reveal that, for the most part, only about 20% (or less) of the people who live in a given town actually work in that town. The plans of “social engineers” to force people to live where the “engineers” want is despicable. Sadly, too many people involved with City Planning have fallen victim to this nonsense—if they are not the propagators of it, themselves.

There may be some reason to suggesting that housing might be needed on a sub-regional basis, using jobs as a significant variable in the “equation”. But we have yet to see anything remotely reasonable coming out of those folks who routinely trot out this canard.

If there are going to be “alternatives”—let’s look at alternative workplace organizations. With fiber optics/digital technologies, there is no reason that people need to go to a centralized work site every day. There is no reason that they should not be able to work at home, reducing the congestion on the highways by perhaps half (as a first order estimate).

Google seems to have been on the cutting edge of creating “the cloud”—yet it seems to have failed to take full advantage of its technical resources to reduce its footprint on our Bay Area ecosystem. It’s nice that Google has been promoting Fiber-to-the-Premises in places like Kansas City. But it really ought to invest locally in order to reduce the cost of the externalities it is imposing on all of the cities in the Bay Area.

These large, successful, technology companies (like Google and Facebook) have both the resources, and the need, to develop the new technology necessary to allow people to work at home, rather than truck them more than a hundred miles a day (back and forth) to a centralized work place.

Time for these technologies to be firmed up, and put to work.

Posted by maditalian_1492
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Feb 13, 2013 at 2:17 pm

Tim, from the Community Center neighborhood, hit it on the head. ABAG is part of the ICLEI, or International Council for Local Environmental Initiatives, which is part of the United Nation’s Agenda 21.

This is no conspiracy folks. Our country signed on to this, and everything we do; where we live, what we can build…industries, food, environment…EVERYTHING, is all part of Agenda 21. It may sounds innocuous enough, but it’s insidious.

I am not going off-topic here. What kids are being taught in school, or the “Common Core State Standards” are also part of Agenda 21. As a result, unbeknownst to many parents and probably a majority of the public, their educational standards are being dumbed-down. Some states are trying to fight it. Good luck with that.

A lot of well-intentioned people have become puppets of the UN and they don’t even know it. We are being dictated to by the UN through organizations like ABAG and ICLEI.

I hope more people in our community start speaking up and try to fight what’s going on. At least learn more about it so you can understand exactly what is happening and don’t just take the government’s (local, state or federal) word for what's being rammed down our collective throat.


Posted by 45 year resident
a resident of Barron Park
on Feb 13, 2013 at 2:55 pm

More people, more traffic, more hassles, more utilities, more maintenance, more schools, more taxes, less open space, less nature, ....
Doesn't matter how we do it.
What, please, are the advantages of further growth?
How about a freeze on all development for ten years to catch our breath and plan ahead?

Posted by Yepper
a resident of Stanford
on Feb 13, 2013 at 3:35 pm

Of course PA and EPA used to be the same. Peter, I am sure you can easily find out the fact. Hint: blockbusting.

I can't imagine EPA residents wanting to merge with PA. Most of them don't trust PA, for good reason (see above, blockbusting).

I hope that PA comes through with the housing. Soul schmoul - they threw that baby out with the bathwater a long time ago, for Silicon Valley's sake (greed).

Posted by David Pepperdine
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 13, 2013 at 3:43 pm

At some point, with the planet teetering at 7B people, Palo Alto will have to pay the piper with greater housing density and traffic.

Wonder what's going on with these issues in Los Altos Hills, where the density is certainly um, different.

As for the statement: "Each city has what the other needs, seems like a win/win for both." Gaaah! Did you mean Palo Alto has money and EPA has drugs? Or were you just smoking crack.

Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton
on Feb 13, 2013 at 3:51 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

"Of course PA and EPA used to be the same."

This is simply not true.

"This led him to drive the formation of Palo Alto as a Temperance Town in 1894 with the help of his friend Timothy Hopkins of the Southern Pacific Railroad who bought 740 acres (3.0 km2) of private land in 1887 for the new townsite. The Hopkins Tract, bounded by El Camino Real, San Francisquito Creek, Boyce, Channing, Melville, and Hopkins Avenues, and Embarcadero Road,[11] was proclaimed a local Heritage District during Palo's Alto Centennial in 1994. Stanford set up his university, Stanford University, and a train stop (on University Avenue) by his new town. With Stanford's support, saloon days faded and Palo Alto grew to the size of Mayfield. On July 2, 1925, Palo Alto voters approved the annexation of Mayfield and the two communities were officially consolidated on July 6, 1925. This saga explains why Palo Alto has two downtown areas: one along University Avenue and one along California Avenue."

"While widely assumed to be part of the city of Palo Alto,[2][3] East Palo Alto has always been a separate entity, being located in a different county since its founding as an unincorporated community (Palo Alto is in Santa Clara County) and until recently having an entirely different demographic makeup. "

Repeating false statements does not make them true.

Posted by Let's Get Real
a resident of Los Altos Hills
on Feb 13, 2013 at 3:55 pm

I read all the time about office building developments--Page Mill and El Camnio, University and El Camino. Palo Alto continues to want to add office space without adding housing. This will add to the ABAG imbalance going forward.

Why not add housing in those 2 areas on the table? Being near public transporatation would help keep the car volume down and satisfy ABAG. Wy is there no master plan for Palo Alto that takes into account for all the housing imbalance and works to reduce that imbalance?

And why is office development on Stanford land--Stanford Research Park, adding housing requirements to Palo Alto?

Posted by Yepper
a resident of Stanford
on Feb 13, 2013 at 3:58 pm

Really - Wikipedia is the best that you can do, Peter? Try again.

Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton
on Feb 13, 2013 at 4:00 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

"And why is office development on Stanford land--Stanford Research Park, adding housing requirements to Palo Alto?"

Because Palo Alto insisted that that land be annexed to Palo Alto BEFORE the Research Park could be built - so that Palo Alto would have the windfall of the resulting property and sales taxes. Palo Alto - there is no free lunch.

Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton
on Feb 13, 2013 at 4:06 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Yepper - We would all welcome any factual references that you can provide for your claim that Palo Alto and East Palo Alto were once the same entity. It simply is not true.

East Palo Alto web site:
"About the City
For most of its history, East Palo Alto was part of unincorporated San Mateo County. As such, it did not have an official boundary until it incorporated in 1983"

Posted by bob silvestri
a resident of another community
on Feb 13, 2013 at 5:22 pm

Learn more about the push back on ABAG that is happening all over the Bay Area. Citizen led Town Halls are taking place in Danville, Orinda (March 13), Marin (March 20), Vacaville and others.

The Best Laid Plans: Our Planning and Affordable Housing Challenges in Marin is now available in paperback, with Foreword by Dick Spotswood.

On Amazon:
Web Link

Posted by Read Bob's book
a resident of Crescent Park
on Feb 13, 2013 at 11:18 pm

I don't know Bob, but I think his book should be required reading for every concerned resident of the bay area. The state's efforts at social engineering are simultaneously fantastical and terrifying.

Many of us seem to be suffering from frog-in-pot syndrome. Plus we want to believe that the government is doing right by us. Wrong. Read the book.

P.S. I work in East Palo Alto. Despite all you hear about gangs and gunfire, it's a great little city with mostly single family homes and pleasant suburban neighborhoods. EPA residents do not want the high density garbage any more than PA residents do.

Posted by hmmm...
a resident of Green Acres
on Feb 14, 2013 at 2:06 am

Even as the city fights ABAG claiming we're too built out, it wants to put a completely inappropriate 4-story high-density settlement smack in the middle of the tiny neighborhood of Greenacres and loan the developer the money to do it! I'd like to see them do that in a similar neighborhood (with only two outlets and already jammed with school traffic at both ends twice a day) in North Palo Alto.

Has anyone noticed how much more difficult it is to navigate El Camino already? And the new units at San Antonio, and all along El Camino where the bowling alley was and elsewhere haven't even gone online.

What a mess.

Posted by palo alto parent
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Feb 14, 2013 at 10:32 am

hmmm - if you can find 2 1/2 acres of land in a residential neighborhood in North Palo Alto that can be purchased for $3.2 million dollars, then let us all know. A 26,000 square foot lot sold for $9 million in Old Palo Alto and a 36,000 square foot lot (with a couple older homes) sold for $4.2 million. I'm not sure there actually are 2 adjacent residential lots in North Palo Alto that could be combined to 2 1/2 acres.

As far as the ABAG - how much money are we actually talking about that we receive in grants because of complying with the requirements?

Posted by adrian
a resident of College Terrace
on Feb 14, 2013 at 11:05 am

Dudes, it's the law:
SB 375 Web Link
AB 32 Web Link

I think I'm going to move back to Palo Alto and start a pro-development, pro-growth, anti-neighborhood coalition. I'm not even joking.

Posted by Whitman
a resident of Community Center
on Feb 14, 2013 at 10:17 pm

I'm thinking that the few million dollars ABAG holds out as a carrot for adding thousands of housings units, and undoubtedly many thousands more in the future, is a pittance compared to the deterioration of communities all over the bay area being over built to satisfy someones bizarre 'vision' of some ideal urban plan.

I vote no, bail on ABAG, and skip their paltry bribe for doing their bidding. It's simply not worth it. I would speculate that as one town bails on ABAG, others will too.

Posted by adrian
a resident of College Terrace
on Feb 14, 2013 at 10:27 pm

You guys: there is no "bribe". Membership in ABAG is not "voluntary" - it's a legislated regional governing agency. Learn about government.

Posted by waterlily
a resident of another community
on Feb 15, 2013 at 1:43 pm

ABAG membership is voluntary. ABAG has no authority to enforce its "mandates." Some Marin communities are resisting, making ABAG very nervous. It backs down when pushed, quietly, not wanting other communities to wise up and resist.

PA is making a big mistake with this "pragmatic" approach. Where will the money to serve those additional occupants (schools/hospitals/welfare offices) come from? From every taxpayer.

What's often often not reported is that the additional housing will be mostly for very- low and low-income. Occupants will not carry their own weight. Your community will be sued if it doesn't provide suitable support for the new very-low and low-income occupants.

This is a wealth redistribution scheme. The goals are "equitable outcomes" and "environmental justice" and "social justice."

Check out ABAG, and dig deeper into its mission. It's buried, but it's there. It is implementing AGENDA 21, no matter how many times it denies it.

Posted by palo alto parent
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Feb 15, 2013 at 2:45 pm

What happens if we don't adhere to the ABAG - I've never seen a $$ consequence for not complying with their mandates. Can they fine Palo Alto or do we merely lose some state grants?

I'm wondering if it like our Historical Review Board - you have to ask for their review and listen to their suggestions but you can ignore them. Can we plan for the housing and be done with it?

Posted by Wow
a resident of another community
on Feb 16, 2013 at 3:34 pm

It's incredible how Palo Alto leaders can be so anti-environment, anti-sustainability, and outright selfish. You reap the benefits of an economy built by the region and institutions around you, yet you refuse to accept the responsibility that comes with this success. I hope you wall off your city and stop burdening the rest of us.

Posted by Hmmm
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Feb 16, 2013 at 7:24 pm

EPA & PA weren't the same town, but PA & Menlo annexed 25% of EPA. Not relevant to this article, but in response to the questions & comments about it. Much earlier, PA & EPA were in 2 different ranchos so I don't think there was overlap then. But for the west side of EPA I think the boundaries were fuzzy at various points between the rancho era & the last century when the peninsula was still being settled.

Posted by Hmmm
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Feb 16, 2013 at 7:37 pm

And IIRC, Runnymede was initially on the west side of the creek, near Newell/Hamilton(?) & then grew to the east side. I don't I ow how this all worked out w/the proximity of the Newell house, but the creek bridge was there before Runnymede was founded, so easy to envision the back & forth.

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