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Op-ed: Vote no on Measure D

Original post made on Oct 4, 2013

We are against high-density rezoning in residential neighborhoods, particularly by the Planned Community process, which creates problems for all Palo Altans.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Friday, October 4, 2013, 9:55 AM

Comments (116)

Posted by Ventura PA Neighbor, who grew up in PA
a resident of Ventura
on Oct 4, 2013 at 10:13 am

I completely agree - what are they thinking with all of these horrible housing projects!!! It is destroying Palo Alto, and Mountain View. They are absolutely horrible looking - and I always thought our City Council made good choices until now. This type of building needs to stop!

Posted by Cur Mudgeon
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Oct 4, 2013 at 10:28 am

As ridiculous as housing costs have become, I am opposed to Measure D, which only opens the door to more of the same. I agree with Ventura PA neighbor.

Posted by Benjamin Parket
a resident of Green Acres
on Oct 4, 2013 at 10:33 am

I definitely concur with this clear and objective description of the Maybell controversy.

Ben, retired architect

Posted by Robert
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 4, 2013 at 10:48 am

I strongly oppose Measure D. These Planned Community Rezoning scams have already led to many carbuncles on the face of this community, one of which is the one the writers mention: that monstrosity that used to be Miki's protruding grossly almost onto Alma. What's important about defeating D is to not allow a formal precedent to be set of allowing the City Council to continue with its trend of brushing aside existing zoning rules to shoehorn more and more people into little spaces. We don't need any more carbuncles in Palo Alto. 41 units is sufficient for that site.

Posted by Jim Colton
a resident of Green Acres
on Oct 4, 2013 at 10:56 am

I am for senior housing but against Measure D. It is just another example of how the city is ignoring the purpose of the current zoning that results in lowering the quality of our neighborhood. If Measure D is approved, your neighborhood could be next. We need to put a stop to the city making these arbitrary zoning changes.

Posted by E. Nuffsaid
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Oct 4, 2013 at 11:14 am

The city council needs to climb out of the back pockets of the developers and listen to the people and look at the traffic and congestion in our once wonderful town. No on D.

Posted by 46vs60 12
a resident of Palo Verde
on Oct 4, 2013 at 11:44 am

The Measure D opponents argue this: "41 senior apartments can be built on the Maybell site within the current zoning. Rezoning is not required."

My questions are:
1. who currently owns the land?
2. who has the financial incentive to build 41 senior apartments? (i.e. is there a developer ready and willing?)
3. within the current zoning, can 46 full-sized (3-4 bedroom) houses also be built? (as proponents claim)
4. which is more profitable to the developer? (I presume #3)
5. can the City (or anyone) insure/dictate that #2 will happen (and not #3)?

Posted by boscoli
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Oct 4, 2013 at 12:07 pm

This is not just about irresponsible changing of zoning or about the fact that the Palo Alto city council seems to be maneuvered and manipulated by developers like puppets in the hands of puppeteers. It's about the elected officials, past and present, changing forever the character of this town to the detriment of present and future generations. It's about a once wonderful place that's being turned into high density, polluted, traffic chocked industrial park. If D is approved, it will open the floodgate to similar schemes. It's that simple.

Posted by Resident
a resident of Palo Verde
on Oct 4, 2013 at 1:01 pm

I am voting NO on D. This headlong race into high density must stop. If I wished to live in downtown San Francisco or Manhattan, then that is where I would be living.

Posted by Claustro
a resident of Midtown
on Oct 4, 2013 at 1:13 pm

Why don't developers and the city council use some common sense and pick a neighborhood with: more room, much less traffic, and surrounding streets not narrowed so badly that nearby streets are used as alternate routes to and from a major freeway!

Why can't the residents of a neighborhood have some say and control (and choice) in the matter of how their neighborhood is developed? After all, they have a personal and financial interest in the matter!

Posted by pavoter
a resident of Barron Park
on Oct 4, 2013 at 1:13 pm

City leaders are treating R-1 zoning as an inconvenience. R-1 Zoning is at stake. The four houses on Maybell do conform to R-1 although they are designated as R-2 which is also low density. This sets a terrible precedent of selling off R-1 houses and building higher density narrow townhouses in their place. If Measure D passes, R-1 zoning protections are gone. I will vote No on D.

Posted by votingNO
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Oct 4, 2013 at 1:15 pm

I agree with boscoli "about the fact that the Palo Alto city council seems to be maneuvered and manipulated by developers like puppets in the hands of puppeteers"

Lets stop overdeveloping Palo Alto

Posted by RogueTrader
a resident of Gunn High School
on Oct 4, 2013 at 1:44 pm

I abhor all the high density construction, but I am concerned that if Measure D fails, it could be jumping out of the frying pan into the fire.

Greg Sharff wrote: "A private developer building under the existing zoning would likely construct 46 residences, all of which could be three- to four-bedroom homes (or townhouses)"

Is this true? What is the worse case scenario if Measure D fails?

Posted by Ken
a resident of Barron Park
on Oct 4, 2013 at 2:05 pm

I live not far from the area and have heard both side of this for many months. I like the idea of lessening commuter traffic Maybell and more can be done to make that possible.

Right now, there are four houses and a vacant lot right next to a 10 story apartment building. It's not all that residential an area. It's surrounded by a park, the high rise, and some existing condos. Maybell Ave. is the only residential interface.

The PAHC proposal is to put 72 units there (60 for seniors and 12 small houses) there and eliminate 4 existing driveways on Maybell. The residents would use existing Tan Plaza access and a new outlet to Clemo Ave, which is blocked from Maybell.

If measure D fails, a developer could put up to 46 market rate houses with many driveway cuts to both Maybell and Clemo.

It's pretty clear that Measure D is the better solution for the neighborhood. I only wish PAHC had pointed that out better.

Posted by Evan
a resident of Crescent Park
on Oct 4, 2013 at 2:24 pm

Good Old Palo Alto! We want our town as it is today, forever! What's that you say? Palo Alto used to be apple orchards until they were razed to build my home? Earlier generations protested my house's development? Oh, well…umm…I don't care. NO HOUSING FOR YOU! I have mine already.

What a selfish place PA has become.

Posted by Claustro
a resident of Midtown
on Oct 4, 2013 at 3:46 pm

Ask any insurance agent about insuring high-density housing such as condos and townhomes. It seems there is some formula that insurers of homes use to calculate risk, that is based on "actuarial table figures", which show that high-density housing not only increases traffic and parking problems, but also burglaries, vandalism, and even violent crimes such as robberies and assaults.

This is why insuring a condo is more expensive than insuring a single family detached house. I know it certainly turned us off to buying a condo all those years ago!

Given those facts, why would anyone want high-density developments in their R1 neighborhood? Why ask for headaches, crime, and lowered property values?

Posted by No to Developers
a resident of Professorville
on Oct 4, 2013 at 4:04 pm

I'm sure Chop Keenan, Roxy Rapp, Boyd Smith and all the other developers who are knowingly destroying Palo Alto for their own financial gain, will give big money towards the "Yes" campaign for Measure D. They will hire professionals to run the "Yes" campaign and spend big bucks to insure it passes. The developers will donate money to the re-election coffers of the incompetent city council members, too. They want to make sure that they keep this pro-development city council in place, so they can continue getting their massive development projects approved. Corruption abounds at city hall.

Posted by Voting AGAINST D
a resident of Green Acres
on Oct 4, 2013 at 5:12 pm

@ Evan
Zoning exists for a reason. When people buy a home, the zoning is a legal promise of what they can expect around their homes into the future. People who want to violate that zoning for their own financial gain are being selfish.

You do know that the financing scheme allows PAHC to apply for more funding from the state than otherwise? They are in competition for funds with other projects in Santa Clara and San Mateo County. Palo Alto is a wealthy city -- do we really need to be taking money away from communities with truly poor people, like Gilroy, San Jose, and East Palo Alto, in order to save a few bucks so that one of the housing corporations in town can establish its dominance where it feels it's slipping against another? The City Council is spending over $2 million on a cosmetic redo of Council Chambers. They want to spend $8million to build a gym out at the Baylands. But they want to upzone a residential neighborhood on the other side of town, a side of town with NONE of the amenities of other parts of town, to save them some money. Speaking of selfish.

PAHC justified the need by saying 20% of Palo Alto seniors live below the poverty limit, yet the targeted income range of 30%-60% of AMI doesn't cover homeless people or anyone living below the poverty limit. In the meantime, they've had 20 senior BMR units at a FULL ASSISTED LIVING facility (where Maybell will just be apartments) go empty for THREE YEARS because they didn't bother to get the contract renegotiated. They did get the City to do that as a result of the Maybell controversy and filled a bunch of those spots. They like to say those spots were intended for a different income range, but that same income range had a waiting list of like 600 people at High Street because of aggressive advertising by PAHC -- were none of those hundreds of people eligible? PAHC has traditionally used advertising to pad waiting lists in the past -- why the lack of urgency that they couldn't be bothered to advertise to fill those spots? Committing the same investment to the Moldaw units as at Maybell would have made them available to lower incomes, FULLY ASSISTED -- do not any lower-income residents deserve those that our City couldn't have made that investment? THAT is selfish.

I am voting AGAINST Measure D because I live in the neighborhood, and I frankly think the money would be better spent helping to save the EXISTING over 400 low-income residents we have at Buena Vista, just steps away in the same neighborhood. Letting the City get away with upzoning Buena Vista for the sake of a high-density market-rate development there, and evicting over 400 residents, while steamrolling Maybell into a high-density development at a really unsafe and inappropriate place for it to get only 60 back... Worse than selfish.

Posted by Vote AGAINST D
a resident of Green Acres
on Oct 4, 2013 at 5:27 pm

1. Who has the financial incentive to build 41 senior apartments (is there a developer ready and willing)?

That's a very good question, because PAHC and the City purchased the property together and set a very complicated financing scheme in place in order to reduce the cost of construction to them, long before taking any public input, and essentially shifting the cost onto the neighborhood through densification of both the market-rate 55% of the property, and the low-income portion which has to then be shoehorned on the rest (with inadequate parking, etc).

The financing scheme isn't the difference between our ability to afford to put in the units or not, because clearly, we have never had to finance affordable housing this way in Palo Alto before, including at 801 Alma, where the per unit expenditure was about 4 times per unit what it is at Maybell.

The question then, are they going to build there if they can't get away with getting it at a discount at the neighborhood's expense, essentially? It's hard to say. There's more than money at stake, as PAHC was apparently not happy that the City gave the 801 Alma contract to Eden Housing, but Eden is a real low-income developer who could afford to pay the actual cost. PAHC is basically in an arms race with Eden now, and saw the Maybell situation as an opportunity to become top dog in the housing game in Palo Alto again.

PAHC may or may not have the resources to build if they don't use this scheme, which should be of real concern to all of Palo Alto if they approve this development and this becomes their model for building in the future. They and the City then don't have to care about even massive, overwhelming citizen opposition to any amount of upzoning, because they'll know they can get away with it. PAHC clearly has some new professional ambitions.

In other words, the City and PAHC are putting all of us through this so they can get a discount, at the cost of the residential character of the neighborhoods all over Palo Alto. The Mayor and PAHC representatives spoke about this being the first time they are bringing this financing mechanism to Palo Alto, which is done elsewhere, and that they would be more efficient with fewer missteps when doing so next time. And there will be a next time if voters greenlight this. (Especially since neighbors are prepared to fight this in court on several fronts where they have good standing to do so, should they fail to win Against measure D in the ballot box, and given the biased ballot written by the City Attorney, it's a real possibility this could go on for years.)

Anytime there is a large parcel that opens anywhere, in any residential neigbhorhood, they can buy it using public money and without any public approval as at Maybell, sell off the majority of it to a market-rate developer, upzoned for that developer's benefit, and put a high-density affordable complex on less than half that lets them get away with it all. They also get in lieu fees because the market-rate density allows the City to extract those in lieu fees from the market-rate developer -- meaning, even if they could get the same amount of money from market-rate houses comparable to the neighborhood, they don't get the in lieu fees -- they only get the inlieu fees if they violate the neighborhood zoning.

Which is what happened at Maybell. The City wrote the in lieu fee in to the ordinance, so PAHC never really had the discretion to make the market rate portion fit with the neighborhood. (They wrote as much to neighbors trying to get them to reduce the number of market-rate houses to 6 to be comparable with the neighborhood.) Between them, the City and PAHC planned to violate the neighborhood zoning to save money before taking any public input, and they have fought neighbors using the affordable housing as cover.

This point needs to be repeated:
The City staff's own reports didn't even say the density made the difference between building affordable housing or not, it just says it's to reduce the cost.

Web Link

Under the staff report "Goals of the Proposed Project" [emphasis added]

"IN ORDER TO REDUCE THE DEVELOPMENT COSTS of the senior housing project, the PAHC is proposing to develop market-rate single-family homes adjacent to the residential building for seniors.  PAHC plans to sell the land identified for the single family homes and the entitlements (if approved) to a housing developer ...  this is a creative way to help finance affordable housing. It will require less City financial assistance and since PAHC is providing a greater amount of equity, the development will be more competitive in securing other sources of public financing."

So, is it worth it to PAHC to building the housing there if they have to pay the actual cost? Maybe not. But if they don't get away with upzoning Maybell, they will know as they proceed onto the next project that if they need high density to operate the property financially, they will have to look for properties that are suitable for high density, not in residential neighborhoods -- of which there have been many suitable ones on El Camino in recent years.

Posted by Tired of City Council
a resident of JLS Middle School
on Oct 4, 2013 at 8:25 pm

I am voting NO on Measure D. The City Council has repeatedly allowed developers to have exceptions to current zoning in return for "community benefits". The Miki's building is ugly--looks like a fortress abutting Alma---but it was convenient to shop there for the sixth months it was open. That "benefit" is now gone, but the extremely high density housing around it remains. As far as I know, there are no repercussions for the developer even though Miki's failed after 6 months. Regarding the Maybell-Clemo project, the fact that the Council approved money for the project AND reported the below-market rate units as a "done deal" before the project had been approved seems deceptive. I wish I could trust that the City Council had our best interests at heart, but I don't.

Posted by Against Measure D for a reason
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 4, 2013 at 9:14 pm

From Palo Alto Planning meeting, February 13, 2013 (they know what can be built on Maybell and they knew in Feb. that this project is wrong):

"Commissioners Wednesday night marveled at the lack of opposition to the project, given the proposed senior complex's height and proximity to single-family homes. Alcheck told the applicants that the lack of opposition "speaks a lot about your reaching-out process." Tanaka was more skeptical and surmised that people didn't show up to criticize the project because they didn't know about it.

"I think if the people in the (neighborhood's single-family houses) really knew what was being built across the street, there would be more of an outcry there," Tanaka said."

Posted by Resident
a resident of Barron Park
on Oct 4, 2013 at 9:56 pm

This vote had nothing to do with senior housing -- pro or con. It's about rezoning and the residents near the site have been honest and vocal and received nothing but name calling and pushback. It's maddening, bc we've done everything we were advised to do to democratically exercise our point and affect the process. The city pretended to listen and care but it was a done deal long before. So enlightening to how things are REALLY done in this city.

Posted by that's all it is about
a resident of Barron Park
on Oct 4, 2013 at 10:13 pm

Measure D is a measure on the November ballot that would allow the creation of 60 affordable senior apartments.
It is all and only about affordable senior housing.

Posted by enough nonsense from opponents
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 4, 2013 at 11:02 pm

Gotta love all the Measure D opponents who tell us that they are seniors, they drive and ipso facto there are not enough parking spaces in the sixty 600 sq foot affordable housing units in the Maybell project.

Guess what, seniors whose income and assets are low enough to qualify for these units actually DON'T drive like the anti-Measure D seniors do. Many of them do not even have cars -- they don't have the money that the anti-Measure D people have, that's why they are on the waiting list for this type of housing!

More facts that don't seem to matter to these ranters: the PAHC provided actual data on numbers of parking spaces needed in similar Palo Alto senior affordable housing projects. The senior housing proposed is not underparked based on actual local experience, it's actually overparked.

Then there's the bogus claims that this project would negatively affect traffic and safety on Maybell. Actually, the continuous sidewalk that would be built, and the thoughtful design that uses the existing driveway on the family affordable units next door, would be a significant improvement to safe pedestrian travel in the area. And the market rate housing that would be built under existing zoning with no need for variance would result in significantly MORE vehicles at peak periods especially.

And when vehicles going in and out of driveways at these projects, the ADT was actually lower than predicted by the City's analysis. And PAHC does provide vans for transport to medical appointments and other errands, and the VTA 88 does provide useful transit, etc.

Comments about "find another neighborhood" are most telling on the NIMBY-o-meter. There isn't a comparable parcel available in this town, nor would it pencil out as this one has. Asserting otherwise is just an opinion uninformed by the real world.

And so it goes through all their arguments: wild claims about "developers" that allude to the awfulness of Alma Plaza and other private, for-profit projects, without recognizing that these are examples of what happens when neighbors do not understand the down side of intransigence. There is no requirement for property owners to take neighborhood opinion into account in zoning matters.

This is a referendum on a senior housing project in our hyper-property value town, and that's the public benefit. Vote no and you are voting against senior housing. Plus voting against Measure D will do nothing to eliminate the abuse of the PC zoning that is of concern to many. Don't be swayed by ad hominem personal attacks, ridiculous statements about crime and property values, and all the other Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt above.

Posted by Vote AGAINST D
a resident of Green Acres
on Oct 4, 2013 at 11:54 pm

@ enough,

Your arrogant and dismissive attitude towards people who live in the neighborhood is disgusting. There is no way on earth you could get this kind of broad and sustained grassroots activism if such inconsequential things were at stake as you are accusing neighbors of. And make no mistake, if Measure D is passes, there will be a stepped up level of opposition, because this really is about the things neighbors are talking about.

The saddest thing of all is how people like you are really sabotaging affordable housing in the neighborhood, as the City is at the same time participating in evicting the over 400 low-income residents at Buena Vista by doing nothing to stop what's going on there and essentially promising the luxury apartment developer buying the property that they'll get their upzoning. The same neighbors you are accusing of being NIMBYs like Bob Moss would be able to help fight the upzoning of Buena Vista just steps away in the same neighborhood if you weren't so busy steamrolling them at the Maybell parcel.

Seniors do drive "less", but as one of my neighbors says, they just don't drive less than trees. The number of parking spots is limited by the financing scheme and have nothing to do with what's needed.

The Maybell apartments will be JUST APARTMENTS, not a senior center. When the people at PAHC were trying to justify the serious lack of parking spaces, they held up places like Stevenson House - which has 2 meals a day served on site, is across the street from a grocery store, and steps from the library, the community center at Cubberly, Mitchell Park, Betty Wright swim center, and very near the JCC and Costco (and smaller units than the Maybell site, so less likely to have multiple occupancy as Maybell will). Despite that, residents have so much overflow parking, they have an arrangement with the church next door to park their overflow cars there during the week and at Hoover on the weekend. I have tried to visit friends at Stephenson House to drop off flowers, and have been practically jumped on for taking the lone available parking spot. It's impossible to park there.

For the record, Juana Briones has no such capacity, and there is a rehabilitation program for disabled children from all over the county that will be negatively impacted by thoughtless overflow parking. If the property were built under existing zoning, they would be required to have three times more parking spots.

The existing PAHC development in the neighborhood has a lot of overflow parking in the neighborhood already. Staff refuses to acknowledge that they don't have enough spaces for the residents, which was a problem before this rezoning. I wonder if residents at the Arastradero Park Apartments realize that if this development at Maybell goes through, they will lose their parking on Maybell and also at least three spots on site? Where will those cars go? This is not a neighborhood that can absorb overflow parking at all, the park and the school, especially the schools for the disabled on Maybell will be negatively impacted.

Look how Castilleja is being held accountable for their excess parking -- do you think the City will do the same with PAHC? When neighbors asked PAHC for tangible assurances of their assertion that 36 parking spots for 60 units/up to 120 people is enough, they obfuscated and didn't even answer. The van? It's a shared van that residents can drive the last we were told, no driver. It's not at all certain this won't just ADD a larger heavy vehicle that people are unaccustomed to handling to a substandard street with lots of kids, worsening safety.

Well, you lose ALL credibility when you say that the ills of Alma Plaza are because residents tried to fight back! You're like an assailant who blames the victim for their injuries because they fought the assault but didn't get away without injury. Sit back and let this happen or you'll get worse, is that what you're telling Palo Altans to get them to shut up and do what you want?

But your feelings about zoning laws are clear, you wrote; "There is no requirement for property owners to take neighborhood opinion into account in zoning matters."

That's only true in a City where people like you encourage the City Council to make zoning laws meaningless and to override them. If I want to build an addition to my house, are you saying I can put a small apartment here and there's no requirement for me to comply with zoning or notify the neighbors affected? Are you saying if I put in a development that the City of Palo Alto can ignore the provisions of the Subdivision Map Act that require subdivisions to be consistent with the general plan?

This is about money, plain and simple. If the City was working with another low-income developer like Eden who can pay the actual cost of the units rather than foisting the costs on the neighborhood through this scheme where more than half the property is sold off for market-rate housing that also seriously violates the existing zoning, then it could either build the senior units under the existing zoning, or it could have purchased one of the MANY properties that have traded hands in recent years on El Camino, which is a more appropriate place for density and an easier place for people who depend on transit.

I would like to challenge all the seniors who think that's such a great place for senior apartments to do this for the next 4 weeks until the election: Stop using your car. Get yourself over to Clemo (without your car) and go to ALL your medical appointments, get your groceries, and take care of all your other needs from that location on foot.

There will NOT be a continuous sidewalk on Maybell as a result of this because the City does not have the right of way all the way down and the existing single-family homes will be very seriously impacted as they do not have large front yards on that stretch.

I have seen how neighbors have organized over these months, and these are good people who seriously care about affordable housing AND about the safety of children, but safety comes first. That is a bad location for any kind of high-density development. Neighbors have shown a whole lot more concern for affordable housing than any of the proponents of Measure D have ever shown for the safety of the schoolkids, or the quality of life for the disabled kids in the three programs for the disabled at the OH side of Juana Briones. All they've done is belittle neighbors and call names.

Well, the Mayor and PAHC have promised that they will use this financing scheme again if they are able to roll it out at Maybell successfully. I hope every Palo Altan will consider how they will feel when the senseless NIMBY-namecalling steamroller comes to their neighborhood. How will you defend against a bad plan, high-density rezoning in the middle of your residential neighborhood? Are you prepared to set your life aside for months or even years to fight for the character of your neighborhood? Do you want to be told if you fight, it will be all the worse for you, and that the worst developments around town are the result of neighbors not laying down and just taking what City Council dishes out?

Posted by Vote AGAINST D
a resident of Green Acres
on Oct 5, 2013 at 12:12 am

And by the way, as far as NIMBYism and seniors and the availability of property -- there is a large senior center being built on El Camino Way and El Camino right now as we speak. If we're such NIMBY's, where's the opposition to that? Apparently the market-rate developer didn't think El Camino was such a bad place for a high-density senior development.

And lastly, this is NOT about affordable senior housing, if it was, the City would have found a way to fill the 20 BMR units at Moldaw that went empty for 3 years in a full-service assisted living senior center. Once this Maybell situation hit the fan, they renegotiated finally and filled spots, showing that they could have all along. Proponents of D like to say it's a different income level so it doesn't apply -- but they have had a waiting list 600 deep at High Street in that same income level, largely because of aggressive advertising. They couldn't find 20 people in that low-income level that needed senior assisted living in 3 years? More to the point, they couldn't have come up with some other creative way to help even lower income people fill those spots? After all, the cost would have been less than the cost of building apartments. If this was truly about finding affordable housing, and not about, oh, one of our Councilmembers' lawfirm representing the sellers of the Maybell parcel, then those senior BMR units wouldn't have been empty for years.

The sad thing is that PAHC didn't originally decide to make Maybell a senior apartment, they only did it when they realized seniors gave them a better steamroller. They didn't do any market analysis to establish need, they simply said there are seniors living below the poverty level, none of whom will be served by the income level planned for those apartments. I have no doubt they will fill those apartments, but it's very unlikely it would best serve the need, and guaranteed none of the seniors in the neighborhood could live there if they could no longer live in their homes.

Lastly, the Maybell financing scheme allows PAHC to be more competitive in the competition for money from the state and feds. But they are competing against other less-wealthy communities in Santa Clara and San Mateo county where very nearly everywhere MORE affordable housing could be built for Less money, for people who are truly poor and wouldn't otherwise be housed. Palo Alto is a wealthy community that has and can afford to put in affordable housing without having to take it away from others.

Posted by Jerry Underdal
a resident of Barron Park
on Oct 5, 2013 at 6:25 am

Jerry Underdal is a registered user.

To understand "Vote AGAINST D, a resident of the Green Acres neighborhood"'s wild swings from argument to argument over the months under various names but always with the same writing style you have to take her/him seriously any time the subject turns to saving the orchard.

The bottom line is keeping anything from being built on the property until the dream of a revitalized orchard and visitors center can become fact. We had a chance to see a draft of the vision when a large sketch of the center and orchard was posted on the City Council chambers wall during one of the meetings.

It didn't draw much attention. Just as the idea has not drawn much attention or support--even in the opposition campaign that AGAINST was a pioneer in organizing.

After months of attacks against the very notion of affordable senior housing at Maybell, often personalized and consistently defamatory of PAHC, No on D states "We support building affordable senior housing on the Maybell parcel within current zoning."

AGAINST doesn't agree, but appearing to favor affordable housing at Maybell offers a way to keep the orchard dream alive, so he/she has been inventive and tenacious in advancing arguments against Measure D.

Defeat of Measure D would slay one foe, the PAHC affordable senior housing project,. The next target would be whatever else was proposed, by PAHC or a commercial developer, for that property. And if Measure D passes, AGAINST has assured us that lawsuits, an initiative and changing city politics will guarantee that nothing happens there if it doesn't retain the orchard.

Most of the No on D leaders seem embarrassed by the orchard plan, which they know has little resonance in a city-wide election, and want to put it out of sight. They shouldn't get away with it.

Posted by Vote AGAINST D
a resident of Green Acres
on Oct 5, 2013 at 10:50 am

You still can't seem to wrap your brain around the fact that those who live near this property and see the conditions here are almost unanimously AGAINST rezoning, i.e., AGAINST Measure D, and that there is a huge grassroots move against it. You have in the past lumped me and other posters together.

The sketch of the orchard you just brought up? This is the first I have even heard of it. That's great! But now you've let me know there are other people in the neighborhood who need to join together, thanks. Can you please provide a link to the sketch? Or date for the meeting?

But you have one thing right. I do think that location is better off as a low-traffic use, and not contributing to the mess City Council has heaped on us here through development after development, the consequences of which they refused to study. I do think we should make an effort to preserve that last parcel of our agricultural heritage as all of the communities surrounding us have done. I do think the City Council owed the residents of the area equal consideration in what to do with that parcel at the getgo since so many millions of public money from both the City and County went into purchasing the property.

I do think the disabled kids in the long-time school programs across from there deserve more than just being ignored, and safety should take precedence in development, as our general plan promises.

We are even in this mess because City Council seems to have even more scorn for the will of the good people you live among than you apoarently do.

Despite all the scorn you and your small clatch have heaped on your neighbors, the internal polls show the majority think the best land use for that location is low traffic, and the preferred is a community orchard. At least in this post your disingenuousness previously claiming you would support saving the trees comes out. Neighbors do not want to put forward anything else while there is still a chance we may be able to get a development for seniors WITHIN existing zoning, because despite your caustic namecalling, they and I really do support that land use, if the neighborhood, safety, and the limitations of the infrastructure are respected.

I hope people will vote AGAINST D, just to make it clear to the City Council that the residents are not beside the point.

Posted by Jerry Underdal
a resident of Barron Park
on Oct 5, 2013 at 3:37 pm

Jerry Underdal is a registered user.


It was at the debate. I didn't take a picture of it and only vaguely remember what it looked like. I think it was a pencil sketch on paper, about 30"X18". I looked around on the wall for a description or attribution but didn't spot anything.

Checking the beginning of the YouTube video of the debate, I see that as the event began the space on the wall (left side of the room) had a large poster with lettering on it, so the sketch was either replaced or covered up.

I stand by my offer to contribute to support of the orchard if you get the orchard project going. The scorn I've heard comes from No on D supporters who feel that it's a distraction from the serious work of getting Palo Alto voters to reject Measure D. If it looks like the $600,000 being spent on this election is in pursuit of a community orchard that has no visible means of support, voters won't be supportive.

Better to make it sound as if the $600,000 is an investment in getting to a better way of providing affordable housing, while also sending a message to the City Council about not allowing Jay Paul Corp. and others to get the zoning concessions they want for their large projects.

There's where the votes are if you want people to feel OK about voting against affordable senior housing.

Posted by Vote AGAINST D
a resident of Green Acres
on Oct 5, 2013 at 6:57 pm

Was it the debate, or a City meeting?

You know, the biggest reason you personally should be against this plan is that (according to City staff) the funding mechanism allows PAHC to apply for more funding through CTCAC. Sounds great until you realize that's finite money for affordable housing that PAHC is competing for against other projects in Santa Clara and San Mateo County, in places like Gilroy, San Jose, South San Francisco, and East Palo Alto. Places where the need is greater, and they can frankly provide far more housing for the same money.

Even if they chose a category where they don't have much competition in one round, if they don't take all the money (and they will, they're asking for a lot relative to others), it gets held over for the next round.

We have never funded affordable housing development this way in Palo Alto, and we've never needed to. We are a wealthy community that doesn't need to have City employees providing false information to the state and feds in order to get more money so we can spend $2 million beautifying the already plenty nice City Council chambers.

Jerry, tell them to come back with a plan to put in just the senior housing. Maybe it means PAHC can't be the developer. Maybe it means Eden needs to be the developer isntead. If it's not worth it to the City if PAHC can't do it, or they can't have this financing scheme that involves a blind eye to safety of our children and such violation of zoning rules, then they shouldn't have put us all in this position. And they don't have to do this by taking money from poorer communities.

Posted by PP
a resident of Barron Park
on Oct 5, 2013 at 8:17 pm

This carefully designed plan has minimal impact on the surrounding neighborhood,
traffic, and schools. The senior housing is well set back from the street, adjacent to an existing 8-story apartment building and 66-unit family apartment complex and opposite a park.

Posted by elmo
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Oct 5, 2013 at 8:28 pm

I'm voting NO. No, I don't want <more> over dense housing of any sort in my neighborhood, or anyone else's for that matter. Nope, I don't live in Barron Park either.

Posted by Vote AGAINST D
a resident of Green Acres
on Oct 5, 2013 at 8:59 pm

The EXISTING zoning is only RM-15 to R-2 because of the Tan apartments, which are a historic exception built during the last round of overdevelopment. At least it's on Arastradero. Otherwise, that parcel would be R-1. The RM-15 is the appropriate zoning given the adjacency to both the surrounding R-1 single-family neighborhood, which is the dominant land use, and the apartment. The City attorney inappropriately made it seem like the apartments were the dominant land use back in the residential neighborhood, and they are not.

But the main building is zoned up to EIGHT TIMES what would be appropriate under existing zoning. And it's a 50-foot building where the existing zoning limits height to 30 feet.

There are only 36 parking spots for residents of a 60 unit building. We have limited parking in this neighborhood. It's also catty corner to the part of the school used by 3 programs for disabled families, and parking is already a challenge at many times during the day. This is not a neighborhood that can absorb excess parking.

The design of this property was controlled more by the financing setup and then was served up to the neighbors as a done deal, with a few deck chairs rearranged later for show.

If you want the senior housing, please ask the City Council to build just the senior housing. If they partnered with a different affordable housing operator with the financial ability to pay more in line with what we traditionally pay for units of affordable housing, this overdensification of the neighborhood would not be necessary.

But if you greenlight this scheme, you better bet the City will use it anytime they want more units in the future. It costs them less, and they can clearly get away with it anywhere if they can here.

Posted by PP
a resident of Barron Park
on Oct 5, 2013 at 9:09 pm

Following NINE MONTHS of public hearings, discussions and negotiations, the Palo Alto City Council voted unanimously to approve the 60 units of affordable senior housing and 12 single family homes at Maybell and Clemo.

Posted by Against Measure D for a reason
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 5, 2013 at 9:21 pm

To PP:

Could this be because the loaned PAHC millions of dollars NINE MONTHS before they voted to rezone?

Posted by resident
a resident of Barron Park
on Oct 5, 2013 at 9:35 pm

Thanks to this "no on D" group who continues to fight city hall. "No on D" protects palo alto from random high density rezoning.

Wish I had more time to write long comments, but I will donate to your cause.

Hope you can afford mailers to compete with the misleading comments being mailed by the other side.

Posted by PP
a resident of Barron Park
on Oct 5, 2013 at 10:05 pm

Our local seniors need Measure D to ensure they are able to remain in the community they call home and keep local families together. According to the Council on Aging Silicon Valley, nearly 20% of Palo Alto seniors are living near or below the poverty line.

Posted by Steven - against Measure D
a resident of Barron Park
on Oct 5, 2013 at 11:42 pm


I don't know whether you are aware of it or not, but you are parroting untruths from the PAHC. This housing development for seniors is targeted at those making 30% to 60% above the poverty level, as I recall - the rents are slated to start at about $1000 a month. It will do NOTHING! for the Palo Alto seniors are living near or below the poverty line! Also, by law, PAHC cannot give any preference to Palo Alto residents. Many or most of the people on the waiting lists are not Palo Alto residents. It is a very inefficient and costly way to help aging Palo Alto residents and does nothing to help the truly poor among them.

Posted by PP
a resident of Barron Park
on Oct 6, 2013 at 9:21 am

I urge you to vote YES on Measure D to provide high quality, safe, affordable housing
for Palo Alto's seniors.

Posted by Concerned Resident
a resident of another community
on Oct 6, 2013 at 11:28 am

Mayor Scharff used to be PAHC Board Member.

Posted by Steve Bennet
a resident of Barron Park
on Oct 6, 2013 at 12:05 pm

(Side comment: I've made this comment before but it would be great if postings on these forums were not anonymous. Under name, Palo Alto residents should feel free to fill out that field with, umm, their name as I've done here)

I received the Yes on D mailer yesterday and was amused to find that the prominent supporters listed were the City Council members and the Palo Alto Housing Corporation board of directors. These are the same two groups in cahoots over this kangaroo court process. As mentioned exhaustively, this election is not about senior housing as much as city council and PAHC would like everyone to believe. It is entirely about the city arbitrarily changing zoning in favor of developers without listening to or working with residents.

Posted by PP
a resident of Barron Park
on Oct 6, 2013 at 12:30 pm

Please don't be misled by the opposition's claims. Measure D has nothing to do with
other approved or proposed "planned community zonings" across Palo Alto.
Measure D is about one thing - 60 units of desperately needed affordable senior
housing and 12 single family residences at the corner of Maybell and Clemo.

Posted by Joe
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 6, 2013 at 1:45 pm

> Please don't be misled by the opposition's claims.

This is true, up to a point. All of the agruments raised by the opposition about the planning process, the lack of openess by the City, the mis-guided use of public money to fund this white elephant, and the very abused PC zoning, as well as the City's not-so-cleverly-hidden agenda of ending R1 neighborhoods so that it can add 20,000 to 30,000 new people in the coming years--to please ABAG, and the State of California.

The process that the opposition had to go through is also something that needs to be well documented, so that when the Arrilla project to pushed through the Council--that the signatures need to referrend this behemouth will be quickly collected, and hopefully that project voted do to.

Yes, when you cast your vote NO on Measure D--you will be voting against this project, to be sure, but your vote will be used to help the next oppositon group organize, and fight successfully for a much smaller, and less dense, Palo Alto---than the Council, and their Developer friends envision.

Posted by PP
a resident of Barron Park
on Oct 6, 2013 at 2:16 pm

If Measure D fails, the desperately needed affordable senior housing that was unanimously approved by the City Council will not be built. It's likely that the land would be sold to a private developer who could build 46 residences. These 46 multi-bedroom residences would have a much more significant impact on local traffic and schools than the current proposal which includes mostly one-bedroom senior units.

Posted by Joe
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 6, 2013 at 2:53 pm

> the desperately needed affordable senior housing

Who says that there is a desperate need for senior housing in Palo Alto? Is there a similar need in Menlo Park, East Palo Alto, Los Altos, Mountain View and Sunnyvale? Why just Palo Alto?

Why can't senior housing be built in places where there are better sites than the few postage stamp sites to be found here in Palo Alto? Suppose the Palo Alto Housing Corporation built in Mountain View--would that be the end of the world?

Does anyone have a list of people who are currently homeowners here in Palo Alto, who want to move into these small units, rather than staying in their homes, or perhaps finding somewhere else to live?

Oh, and another point about Voting NO. Every NO vote is not only a vote against this project, but also a vote against Mayor Scharff, and his anti-residential Developer friends. Each NO Vote should be seen as another reason for Greg Scharff not to think about running for re-election!

Posted by PP
a resident of Barron Park
on Oct 6, 2013 at 3:11 pm

There are hundreds of seniors in Palo Alto on waiting lists for existing low-income senior housing properties and hundreds more who are looking for affordable, independent living. Measure D will ensure 60 affordable senior apartments are created for local seniors who earn between 30-60% of the area median income.

Please don't be mislead by opposition's claims, Measure D has nothing to do with other approved or proposed "planned community zonings" across Palo Alto.

Posted by Joe
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 6, 2013 at 3:36 pm

> There are hundreds of seniors in Palo Alto on waiting
> lists for existing low-income senior housing properties

Then publish these lists, and let's ask these seniors if they would be willing to live somewhere other than Palo Alto? Let's ask them why they want to give up their homes, and if they are willing to give up their homes, won't they be instant millionaires?

Kind of hard to understand the continued misinformation, misdirection, and possibly downright prevarication of people on the Yes side of this debate.

Posted by Steven - against Measure D
a resident of Barron Park
on Oct 6, 2013 at 3:43 pm

PP, I appreciate that you corrected some inaccuracies in your earlier statements. Regarding the waiting lists, I am not sure that PAHC has a waiting list for unassisted senior housing of the cost of the proposed housing, as they don't offer such housing currently. When you say there is a big waiting list for this, do you know this for a fact? Also, my recollection is that of PAHC's current housing, a majority were previously Palo Alto residents but not a particularly large majority. Perhaps someone has accurate data on this?

Posted by Vote Against D
a resident of Green Acres
on Oct 6, 2013 at 11:27 pm

If the City felt such an urgency to help seniors, there were 20 new, unfilled senior BMR units at Moldaw that sat empty for three years -- a fully assisted living situation in a real senior center (whereas Maybell will just be apartments with not even any amenities nearby in walking distance in the neighborhood, so once people have mobility problems and need assisted living, they will face the disruption of having to move).

They have claimed it was because of the income range, but they have had a waiting list in that income range 600 deep at High Street -- which they heavily marketed in order to get -- if things were so urgent, you would think they could have filled 20 spots. Because of the Maybell controversy, the City finally got around to renegotiating the terms this spring and filled some of the spots. If they felt such an urgency to seniors, you would think they could have done that anytime in the three years prior. (Contrary to what PAHC had been saying before that, the units hadn't been empty because of the up front costs, they were empty because the asset limit was too low -not too high, as they had been claiming- and the terms too punitive for the BMR units. The fact that they filled units as soon as they tried shows its was in their power yet they did nothing.)

Secondly, the Moldaw situation highlights the need to understand the senior low-income market in Palo Alto. PAHC has repeatedly said the need is because 20% of seniors in Palo Alto have incomes below the poverty limit. While that statistic is exaggerated, what isn't is that the apartments will be limited to 30-60% of AMI, which means it won't be serving the segment living below the poverty limit. PAHC touts its waiting list, but their waiting lists aren't restricted to people living in Palo Alto, or vetted for income qualifications, in fact the vast majority of residents in its properties come from outside of Palo Alto. This makes sense for younger workers, but most residents are weighing the costs of this project based on providing for Palo Alto seniors, when there is no guarantee of the need in that income range because no proper marketing study was done, or that those living there will even come from Palo Alto.

PAHC didn't even plan this property for seniors when they bought it, they only changed when they realized it was politically easier to get it through. Assuming if they have it they will come has never been a great assumption. A 2007 consultant report on PAHC said, "In a few cases, PAHC has has to market the BMR units to members of the public because no members of the waiting list were interested in purchasing the units. ... Staff noted that BMR buyers demand more or different amenities than BMR buyers did twenty or thirty years ago..."

I have no doubt they would fill the units, but they can't restrict the residents to residents of Palo Alto, and the income ranges and design come out of their financing scheme, not out of a market study determining how to best meet the need.

There is a legitimate question as to whether housing needs should be met by violating residential zoning and infilling neighborhoods with high-density projects, as the proposal will, especially where the main purpose of the density isn't the difference between having affordable housing or not, it's so the low-income developer and the City can get a discount off the usual cost of building the housing.

If the housing was so important to them, they could have simply chosen a low-income developer like Eden, who had the resources to pay more upfront, and they'd probably be building now, as the neighborhood has stated an acceptance of a development if it were just the senior housing closer to existing zoning (provided the proper safety analysis is finished, too). Although, frankly, if this wasn't about the opportunity to make it cost less, they would have chosen a more appropriate property on El Camino or another transit corridor.

Note that the financing scheme is intended to make PAHC more competitive in competition for state and federal grants, where PAHC's greater competitiveness comes at the cost of some other housing project in less-wealthy communities around San Mateo and Santa Clara counties. Does Palo Alto really need to take money away from less wealthy communities that could frankly build more housing for needier people?

Posted by PP
a resident of Barron Park
on Oct 7, 2013 at 6:54 am

Over the past 10 years, housing costs in Palo Alto have doubled, making it increasingly difficult for many lower-income seniors to remain in our community after they retire, and to live near their families. PAHC and the City of Palo Alto are committed to providing opportunities for all of our citizens to live and thrive in Palo Alto, and projects like this are a large part of those efforts.

Posted by Midtown resident
a resident of Midtown
on Oct 7, 2013 at 7:23 am

@PP Just repeating what you said before without addressing any of the concerns raisec above just erodes your credibility.

Its clear the developers are using seniors as an excuse to push higher density. I'd like to see proof that this housing will be guaranteed to go to low income seniors who have lived in palo alto for a vast majority of their lives. I'm sceptical.

Posted by PP
a resident of Barron Park
on Oct 7, 2013 at 8:05 am

Our local seniors need Measure D to ensure they are able to remain in the community they call home and keep local families together. According to the Council on Aging Silicon Valley, nearly 20% of Palo Alto seniors are living near or below the poverty line.

Posted by Midtown Resident
a resident of Midtown
on Oct 7, 2013 at 8:24 am

@PP- You're not reading my post and repeating yourself unnecessarily. I'd like to see how the city guarantees these houses will go to low-income seniors who currently live in palo alto.

Posted by PP
a resident of Barron Park
on Oct 7, 2013 at 8:34 am

Preference for residence in the senior apartments would go to seniors who either live or work in Palo Alto and earn between roughly $21,000 to $43,000 per year, or 30-60% of the area median income.

Posted by Midtown Resident
a resident of Midtown
on Oct 7, 2013 at 8:43 am

Right, That sounds good but my question was - how will the city ensure, that this is implemented as you mentioned. My experience has been that once a project is approved, the city generally does nothing to hold developers to their promises as we all saw on Alma Plaza

Posted by PP
a resident of Barron Park
on Oct 7, 2013 at 9:16 am

Potential residents who live or work in the City of Palo Alto or have been notified that they have been hired to work at a work site in the City of Palo Alto have a preference for available units. To qualify, one must live at a specific address (a post office box is not considered), or one adult household member must work a minimum of twenty hours per week. Academic and residential areas of Stanford University are not in the City of Palo Alto.

Posted by anon
a resident of College Terrace
on Oct 7, 2013 at 10:30 am

Just briefly: the PAHC cannot legally give preference to Palo Alto seniors. It is also the case that a Palo Senior who just sold a house in PA and wants to downsize would not qualify for the low income senior housing at Maybell

Posted by PP
a resident of Barron Park
on Oct 7, 2013 at 10:47 am

Maximum income limits are determined by the Regulatory Agreement. In general maximum gross household income, upon initial occupancy, may not exceed 60% of the area median income (“Low”), as published annually by HUD.
In order to establish an applicant’s ability to pay rent, while some exceptions may apply, minimum income limits are determined by PAHC and set at 2.5 times the rent of the unit for which the prospective resident is being considered.

Posted by Midtown Resident
a resident of Midtown
on Oct 7, 2013 at 11:39 am

"PAHC cannot legally give preference to Palo Alto seniors. "

So Greg Scharff's contention in his editorial for Measure D

"Seniors do best when they can stay in their community and maintain their support networks. We need to protect and support our seniors as a community and this project does that."

is untrue and misleading.

Posted by Vote AGAINST D
a resident of Green Acres
on Oct 7, 2013 at 12:28 pm

PAHC has told us the majority of the residents of the intended development do not work.

PAHC does not place restrictions on their waiting lists, which can be anyone of any income.

They have long waiting lists, yet 20 out of 24 units senior BMR units at Moldaw in a fully assisted living situation where they can age in place went empty for three years (Maybell is only apartments that seniors will have to move away from when they have mobility problems). When they finally got around to getting the terms renegotiated, they filled quite a few spots, but didn't immediately fill all of them. They justify it by claiming it's a different income range than Maybell, but it's the same income range as the High Street development where they boasted a waiting list of 600 deep after heavily advertising.

Posted by PP
a resident of Barron Park
on Oct 7, 2013 at 12:33 pm

Asked and Answered above.

WAITING LIST - LOCAL PREFERENCE means "Potential residents who live or work in the City of Palo Alto or have been notified that they have been hired to work at a work site in the City of Palo Alto have a preference for available units. To qualify, one must live at a specific address (a post office box is not considered), or one adult household member must work a minimum of twenty hours per week. Academic and residential areas of Stanford University are not in the City of Palo Alto."

Posted by Vote AGAINST D
a resident of Green Acres
on Oct 7, 2013 at 12:36 pm

"According to the Council on Aging Silicon Valley, nearly 20% of Palo Alto seniors are living near or below the poverty line."

Which kind of begs the question of why they are living in Palo Alto and not in Sunnyvale, which is near enough, as I know because it's where I lived when I worked here but couldn't afford Palo Alto....

Regardless, the development income range will not include those living below the poverty limit. it's targeted for a higher income bracket, and will not serve the homeless or those living below the poverty line.

But the fact that PAHC keeps bringing up an income bracket that this development WON'T serve only further underscores the doubts about the development, that they never did a proper marketing study to assess the need (and even began the acquisition and planning process without intending for the property to be for seniors at all), particularly in light of the very real safety issues at that location of bringing in a high-density development of any sort.

Posted by PP
a resident of Barron Park
on Oct 7, 2013 at 12:52 pm

The City's traffic study carefully analyzed the potential impacts of this project and found most trips by these low-income, retired seniors will not be during peak traffic hours. Studies show that many of the seniors will not even own a car. Do the opponents of Measure D really expect us to believe that the City Council would unanimously approve a project that puts local school children at risk?

Posted by Steven - against Measure D
a resident of Barron Park
on Oct 7, 2013 at 1:49 pm


" Do the opponents of Measure D really expect us to believe that the City Council would unanimously approve a project that puts local school children at risk? "

The answer is a strong yes! The city council approved a traffic study that was told not to take pedestrians, (i.e. school children), bicyclists(i.e. school children), and projected increases in children going to school using Maybell based on already approved developments, into account. They then repudated the outdated guidelines for the very next traffic survey they commissioned. You tell me how you can rationalize that. I don't expect an answer. You apparently just cut soundbites from the PAHC material and keep reposting them.

Posted by PP
a resident of Barron Park
on Oct 7, 2013 at 2:00 pm

"You apparently just cut soundbites from the PAHC material and keep reposting them."
We have a winner!
Yes, it is extraordinary that all of my posts are simply directly cut from the voter information sent to EVERY voter in Palo Alto:
- Direct Arguments: Web Link
- Rebuttals: Web Link
- Yes on D FAQ: Web Link
How could the opposition not recognize this for so long? Because those against it haven't read and understood the discussion around Measure D! Everything they have brought up was previously dealt with and the information sent to everyone in the city.
All their "concerns" have been asked and answered during NINE months of negotiation. Heck, the traffic studies were posted by the Barron Park Neighborhood Association - Web Link

Posted by Midtown Resident
a resident of Midtown
on Oct 7, 2013 at 2:40 pm

I don't want to go thru the arguments again. It has been done. No more to be said. The links above just restate the same things and do not address the concerns. The "nine months of negotiations" is just BS because Alma Plaza took 10 years of negotiation (if you include the original safeway plan) and they still ignored the residents' pleas and passed the project anyway and you can go take a look at what "public benefits" were actually provided in the end and what a monstrosity the development is.

For me, besides the previously mentioned arguments, the bottom line is after Alma Plaza, I realized how the city and developers actually work. They have a bag of tricks that ordinary citizens cannot match since we have a day job.

The city council has lost my trust and faith.
For the developers, I never had any.

Sorry but no on Measure D.
Anything you want to do, do it under the current zoning.

Posted by pavoter
a resident of Barron Park
on Oct 7, 2013 at 3:04 pm

@Midtown Resident, thank you, well put. From the Yes on D brochure we are told "Measure D is NOT about citywide zoning issues" And I say, how can the council be so much in denial?

Now I know why the Wizard of Oz is their theme. The city leaders are ignoring what Palo Altans are saying in droves: too many ugly, high density structures have been built and are being built.

And, as for the safety of our children, how can that be the main consideration for Arastradero but not for Maybell? Especially when the Arastradero lane reductions have resulted in much heavier cut through traffic on Maybell.

The main problem with the Maybell project is that the city loaned millions before examining the unintended consequences of this project. The nine months may give the appearance of allowing community input but the city already had made a huge commitment to this project. The city did not want to hear about any problems.

Upzoning behind closed doors is another bad precedent being set here.

Posted by Jerry Underdal
a resident of Barron Park
on Oct 7, 2013 at 7:33 pm

Jerry Underdal is a registered user.


Thanks for injecting some new information into this discussion. And to others willing to wade into the turbulent waters of online discussion of PAHC's affordable housing for low income seniors at Maybell/Clemo.

We need your voices to break the myth of unified neighborhood opposition and challenge misinformation poured across the screen [portion removed] to block construction of 60 badly needed single bedroom apartments for low income seniors.

Posted by Parent
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Oct 7, 2013 at 7:47 pm

Sick and tired of the city council ignoring the citizens in favor of big money developers and builders, and especially sick and tired of WAY overdevelopment in Palo Alto. Done. Voting no on measure D. And Jerry, 'myth of unified neighborhood opposition? I'm not in the neighborhood, I have no idea if they are unified or not, but south palo alto is pretty much behind this neighborhood grass roots effort. What you're posting is generously - wishful thinking that there is one person opposed the development.

'badly needed single bedroom apartments can be built anywhere - maybe they should go elsewhere. My elderly nlaws moved from lifelong palo alto residents, to Sacramento and are getting much more for their money and for their convenience and safety; a very nice neighborhood association, a clubhouse with senior activities, buses that run through their neighborhood hourly to local nearby shopping centers, which are plentiful, and practically new home. For much much MUCH less than what's being proposed here. Why exactly is it that single bedroom senior housing is needed in this location.

Finally, the city council just rezoned for the benefit of this development. There is absolutely no reason that the existing zoning will dictate, should dictate or has any reason to dictate what will eventually occur on that lot should this project voted down. When this one goes away, the city council can just as easily correct the zoning for that lot to ensure the zoning is appropriate for the neighborhood density and traffic concerns. So these people who use this scare tactic that this is somehow better than some scary huge dense development that could go in there otherwise - L-I-A-R-S.

Posted by Jerry Underdal
a resident of Barron Park
on Oct 7, 2013 at 9:02 pm

Jerry Underdal is a registered user.

Here's my prioritized list of outcomes for that property.

1. Keep the orchard and revitalize it and keep the 4 homes. Implement programs that will awaken us all to the importance of agriculture, environmental awareness, and the mosaic of cultures that have made this area what it is.

2. PAHC's already approved project for housing for low income seniors, which meets a social need of the city overall, and 12 tastefully done private homes around the periphery which will give an R-1 feel despite having small back yards. These will not be homes for home gardeners. But they'll have ready access to Briones park.

3. Some lower density version of affordable housing that meets the current zoning requirements. Likely to create more traffic and school issues than #2, and also likely to be much less attractive. No R-1 look, likely to be a mix of single family, duplex, and condominium or apartment units.

4. Development by a commercial developer who could build to the maximum allowed by current zoning without the encumbrance of community in-put on on items like appearance and traffic flow. Just needs to meet code and get past the Architectural Review Board.

What are the probabilities of each?

1. Low to impossibly small. If you can't raise $3500 to pay for a legal challenge to the city attorney's impartial analysis of the ballot measure, how can you get $16M to buy the property and the additional millions needed to revitalize the orchard, repair the buildings and fund the programs.

2. Moderately good. City Council's 9-0 vote couldn't be clearer, nor could its decision to put up $600,000 to defend the project at the ballot box at the earliest date possible. Abundant good will in the community for affordable housing despite changing values and economic conditions.

But, as AGAINST has pointed out, "No on D" will do everything possible to stave off implementation of the project even if it prevails at the polls. I believe it.

3. Not likely. PAHC and the city have shown that it's not possible to finance the low income project even with the maximum number of units allowed under current zoning. Besides, who would push for such a project if not PAHC, who would be responsible for carrying it out?

4. Quite likely. If D fails, PAHC sells the land to a developer. If D passes, PAHC has the land but can't build on it until every legal, financial and political hurdle has been overcome. It may just not be worth it to chase an uncertain outcome, in which case PAHC sells the land to a developer.

So in my judgement, the choice is likely to come down to either #2, PAHC's project, or #4, a commercial developer's vision of what will maximize profit. I think #2 would be the better outcome.

That's why I'll vote "Yes on D" even though I'd like to keep the orchard.

Posted by Fed Up
a resident of Downtown North
on Oct 7, 2013 at 10:10 pm

Palo Alto Measure D: Not Worth its Costs

Web Link

Posted by Midtown Resident
a resident of Midtown
on Oct 7, 2013 at 10:58 pm

Executive Summary -

Palo Alto residents are sick of seeing ugly, tall high-density housing sprouting all around us, blocking our light and putting a strain on infrastructure - roads and schools. We believe this is happening despite strong opposition from the residents because the city council is in the pockets of the developers and we are pretty outraged at the circumvention of democracy in this process.


No more rezoning for high-density housing.

No more high-density housing period.

No more misleading "public benefits" to justify the giveaways to developers. These benefits are overpromised and underdelivered.

No on measure D.

Posted by Vote AGAINST D
a resident of Green Acres
on Oct 8, 2013 at 1:06 am

I still don't believe you are genuine about the orchard. Please provide more info of where I can see that plan and who put it forward!

But to answer you:

1. Neighbors did raise $3500 to have an elections firm analyze and challenge the City Attorney's bias. They raised the money with just two email calls. The City Attorney wouldn't budge. Going to court on that issue would have cost $13,000 in retainer and possibly over $20,000. In the end, what do we have for that? We still have an election, which the City is trying to stack in all kinds of ways, and we may or may not win. There are far better ways to spend our efforts and that kind of money. Neighbors didn't want to let on up front, but they had already made that decision when they began that process.

The City's own estimate of the orchard land value in PAHC's documents is $6.7million, less than they committed in loans to PAHC. Much of that was the Stanford money, which they could legitimately use for a project that would so mitigate the impact of other developments by ensuring that parcel stays low-traffic, provides open space for the many more residents who will be living around there, etc. It's about time they remembered the disabled in this town as well.

That said, raising money for a park like that is a completely different animal and can't proceed unless the land use controversy is settled. Some neighbors did find investors interested in buying it for a playing field until Curtis Williams put them off (with not entirely accurate info, either).

2. In order to proceed, the property will have to be subdivided, and there, the neighbors have all kinds of recourse because the project violates the comprehensive plan in so many keys ways. The neighbors are prepared to go to court over that. There they are wiling to do what is necessary because the outcome will be a land use consistent with the comprehensive plan. There are other key ways neighbors can stop the development, but I'm not at liberty to speak for others or to say where I know.

If Yes on D prevails, the battles will continue. The battles will continue into City Council election time, too. CC loves to sell out to developers, but at some point, they aren't going to want to keep throwing themselves onto PAHC's political sword.

If you want PAHC to be able to do something constructive and you think sooner is better than later, vote AGAINST D and help them move on to being more constructive again. They and the City have talked about Maybell as if it is the only opportunity they have ever had to build this, but they didn't even purchase it with a plan to put seniors there in the first place. It's a Frankenstein contraption put together because they started with wanting the property, and wanting to give PAHC a chance to compete with Eden Housing. You ask the City for any record of attempts to find other properties together for these senior apartments prior to this, with the same loan provisions -- they almost certainly didn't ever try at all.

Vote AGAINST D and encourage them to provide for seniors in a more thoughtful way, in a way that will be more likely to provide for the actual need we have in Palo Alto, to enter into such a search together, only this time, after a marketing study, and keeping in mind that residential neighborhoods are off limits for high density.

3. Read the essay linked by Fed Up above. If PAHC is really serious that this is about getting affordable housing, not just if they can get it at fire sale prices by making the neighborhood pay for it through the density, in lieu fees from the density, and loss of zoning, then they will start over and give a plan the neighbors have signaled they will accept: just put in the senior housing. If the City found another developer with the resources to pay per unit more along the lines of what was paid at 801 Alma, they could afford to do this. If they only want to do this to serve PAHC's professional ambitions and if they can get away with making the neighbors essentially foist the costs, that's another reason to Vote Against D.

4. If voters vote Against Measure D, and the property isn't rezoned, the neighbors will put forward an initiative to turn it into a heritage orchard/parkland.

Will you in good faith really support that, Jerry? The City has the legal right to keep the property through its involvement in purchasing it originally, and they probably should, because even John Arrillaga has stated his opinion that they paid too much for it, and they should IMO protect PAHC from losses related to that. They can immediately auction off the 4 ranch houses. If they added a little to each of those properties in order to make them > $3million properties (zoned as R-2 currently, they can have in-law cottages, but there's not enough space on the lots now, but there could be). If they did that, then the remaining orchard would only be $3-4million.

Regardless of what goes there, even if it is sold to a private developer, the property must be subdivided. Even the ordinance says that. When it is subdivided, it is subject to the subdivision map act, meaning, among other things, it has to be consistent with the general plan. When neighbors are involved, they can ensure the City doesn't get away with manipulating that, and can enforce it in court --even charter cities have to comply. Why do you think the last major parcel in the neighborhood to be developed, the Glenbrook extension in Greenacres I, has larger lot sizes, and even a few 12,000 sq ft homes (yes, I meant homes, the lots are larger)?

Jerry, the orchard is doable. It will only happen if people make it happen, though. A far more positive outcome than ongoing legal challenges and a ramping up of the bitterness, is for that orchard to be preserved, and the City and PAHC to move on to finding a more suitable place for developing what they say must be a high-density property.

Look, if the goal is to provide a place nearby for Palo Alto seniors, why aren't we thinking creatively here? We should be first assessing the need, and then considering whether we can take the funds and create a retirement home in a location that could meet that need, someplace accessible to Palo Alto so it's not so far away, but where the land values allow us to build something much nicer and to meet all the need. I'm not talking about shutting people away somewhere, I''m talking about a real retirement community, like in the mountains, where seniors of all income levels would find it desirable and the higher rents of market-rate renters would help pay for the low income, where there were more amenities if it were planned right, and people could age in place with some assisted living (which won't be possible at Maybell).

If they build Maybell (big IF, since the neighbors will keep fighting in every way they can), the City will have no incentive to consider such a plan. And the City will also know they can get away with upzoning residential neighborhoods despite historic opposition levels, and will take advantage while they can.

Posted by Vote AGAINST D
a resident of Green Acres
on Oct 8, 2013 at 1:09 am

"much of it by a single anonymous poster using multiple identities from thread to thread,"

You have lumped me together with other posters in the past. There appear to be many people opposed on just this thread. I try to label my posts consistently on a given thread.

Posters cannot post under multiple names on the same thread or Palo Alto Weekly deletes them.

Posted by Jerry Underdal
a resident of Barron Park
on Oct 8, 2013 at 6:43 am

Jerry Underdal is a registered user.


I've learned a fair amount about how an intelligent poster can get around attempts to guard against posters using multiple identities to have a bigger microphone. Publisher Bill Johnson addressed this in a long post (Sept. 11) on the following thread: "Why is Town Square So Out of Sync With Dominant Free Speech Norms of the Internet; ..."

Within each thread, a singer poster using the same ip address to speak with more than one identity can have posts deleted if someone complains. If no one complains nothing is done. Not hard for an engineer to figure out a way to get around that--use different ip addresses in case you need to speak with more than one voice on a thread.

Once I flagged a multiple names posting. The online editor confirmed it and said that since it didn't appear to be malicious he'd let it pass. Another time, a poster on this issue said she/he had accidentally posted with an identity not meant for that thread and asked that the post not to be deleted. Granted.

On more than one occasion, after comments have been closed to non-members, one anonymous identify that has been carrying the conversation disappears and a registered identity (still anonymous, but registered with the Weekly) takes over with the same voice.

Posted by Jerry Underdal
a resident of Barron Park
on Oct 8, 2013 at 7:18 am

Jerry Underdal is a registered user.


But there is no way to guard against a poster using multiple identities from one thread to another. So nothing keeps an individual from dominating discussion on an issue like the Maybell/Clemo project that stretches over many threads, while disguising the fact that the same voice is being heard, not multiple voices with the same position. What I took as remarkable message control early on by opponents of the project seemed less remarkable when I realized that it could be the same person,

Why does this matter? Because with anonymity there is no accountability. The public has a right to know who stands behind claims and proposals that affect the community. Who is asking for money to pay for lawyers? Who is guaranteeing that the orchard can be restored if affordable housing for low income seniors is thwarted?

How can we judge credibility when we can't be sure who this person is who insists that ordinary citizens shouldn't have to leave their zone of privacy to protect their rights and relies on Bob Moss and Tim Gray to carry the flag in the League of Women Voters debate even though they got brought into the movement after it was underway.

By whom?

Posted by Credibility
a resident of Barron Park
on Oct 8, 2013 at 8:06 am

Never did see the explicit relationship between one of the named posters and PAHC.

This impacts the credibility of that poster, because of loyalty to the organization, despite protests that it doesn't matter in this case.

It's a kind of selected anonymity, selected to have the appearance of straightforward lack of bias.

Is that better than anonymous postings?

Posted by Charles
a resident of Green Acres
on Oct 8, 2013 at 8:49 am

@jerry How do you know that multiple posts are from one person? Ever consider that there are just a lot of folks angry about this? We do talk to each other in real life, so there may be a shared lexicon.

It's a waste of breath to argue that the messages opposing Measure D are coming from one person because the exact same could be said about the messages in support of Measure D. Maybe all the messages in support of D are from one geek logging in with multiple IP addresses.

Give it a rest and go find another sandbox.

Posted by Town Square Moderator
online staff of Palo Alto Online
on Oct 8, 2013 at 9:05 am

Town Square Moderator is a registered user.


We don't wait for a complaint to remove postings made from the same IP address using different user names. The point Bill Johnson made was that using IP addresses is an imperfect solution. Also, because sometimes a public or corporate IP address is used, we use our best judgment as to whether the poster is in fact the same person. This is generally pretty obvious.

Posted by Please read
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 8, 2013 at 9:28 am

For information on Against Measure D or to donate to the cause please go to or the link:

Posted by voter
a resident of Downtown North
on Oct 8, 2013 at 8:19 pm

I just sent my ballot back, NO!

Posted by Vote AGAINST D
a resident of Green Acres
on Oct 8, 2013 at 9:33 pm

@Parent in Charleston Gardens,

Thanks for your support for your fellow residents in Greenares! A poll of all Barron Park Association members found a clear majority against the rezoning, and a long-running poll in Greenacres found 94% against. It's nearly unanimous in the Greenacres II neighborhood, because people here drive by that plot of land, the park, and the OH daily to get in and out of the neighborhood, and we are the most familiar with the problems. Around 70 people collected signatures for the 2 referenda, over the summer when most people were gone, even though there never was any formal organization.

I wanted to clarify a misunderstanding in your post about the rezoning, since a lot of people seem to have drawn the same conclusion. The property has not been rezoned (yet). If those Against Measure D succeed, i.e., Measure D does not pass, then the property remains RM-15 and R-2 zoning.

The scare scenario the City and PAHC keep bringing up if Measure D isn't passed ISN'T a market-rate development under the high-density rezoning, they are actually claiming a development under the existing low-density zoning would be worse than a high-density rezoning that allows a market-rate development on over half the property at 3 times the highest density, and a main building on the rest at up to 8 times the density of the existing zoning. This is predicated on the assumption that seniors in the main building won't drive at all, even though the location isn't walkable to any amenities, that somehow 36 parking spots for a minimum of 60 and up to 120 residents will be sufficient.

Even though the City Council voted to rezone, the rezoning still to this day has not taken effect, and will never take effect if people vote against Measure D. When City Council votes on something like this, their own staff report points out that the ordinance doesn't take effect for another 30 days after the 2nd reading, and because of the referendum, it didn't take effect even then.

It's confusing, probably because - as neighbors pointed out and were roundly criticized for making it public - the City staff submitted a false verification of the rezoning to the Tax Credit Allocation Committee for the competitive funding round, 2 days before the City Council vote, and then again in August. The California Tax Credit Allocation Committee to this day believes PAHC got their rezoning and that they met their funding deadline of July 3, because of the City staff's false verification.

So PAHC remained in the competition against less wealthy communities around San Mateo and Santa Clara County. Even if they aren't competing with anyone else this round (doubtful - they said one in five chance), if they don't take all the money, it rolls over for the next round. The financing scheme they rolled out at Maybell made them more competitive, as did the many misrepresentations the City staff made in the application in addition to the false zoning verification. (The CTCAC applications are subject to public records act requests, you can verify everything I am saying.)

We have never had to fund affordable housing this way in Palo Alto, and we have never had to take money away from less-wealthy communities to do it, either.

This is a City Council that just voted for a $2.1 million cosmetic facelift of Council Chambers that frankly doesn't need it.

Thank you for your support. But the neighbors have a tough row to hoe - the City Attorney wrote the ballot materials ("impartial analysis" and the ballot question itself) as a sales job for the rezoning. The League of Women Voters has been highly biased on this from the start - they have officers/long-time members also on the board of PAHC, and while they were willing to get an outside League to moderate the debate, they refused to do that with their evaluation and recommendations for Measure D. And there is, too, the fact that PAHC has all the money they need to wage a political campaign and hired a firm known to squash citizen referenda.

We need all the help possible for those who understand to help spread the word. Thanks. Vote Against Measure D, please!

Posted by Jerry Underdal
a resident of Barron Park
on Oct 8, 2013 at 10:21 pm

Jerry Underdal is a registered user.

Town Square Moderator,

Thank you for your correction. I should have said "until it comes to or is brought to the attention of a moderator." So if no one complains, but a moderator notes that the same person seems to be using multiple identities, based either on IP address or, as you suggested, on the moderator's best judgement, that person's posts will (may?) be erased.

What I had hoped was that your software would monitor IP addresses and their associated identities on a thread to detect and address automatically violations of the rule against using multiple identities. To my understanding, this isn't the case.

As I mentioned in my previous post, there is no protection against someone posting under multiple identities across threads on the same topic thus amplifying a single voice many times in an attempt to influence public opinion, and in this case, public policy.

If I'm wrong about this, please let me know. But If the Weekly agrees that there is a problem, I hope you will will look for a solution and prevent it from happening in the future. Thanks.

Posted by Concerned Parent
a resident of Green Acres
on Oct 9, 2013 at 2:15 pm

Please vote AGAINST measure D.

The measure is important because it impacts thousands of students who use Maybell/Arastedero to walk or bike to school.

Residents of Palo Alto do not want high density zoning spreading into residential neighborhoods. This ordinance sets a bad precedent for us all.

· We are opposed to the City ordinance to rezone the 567-595 Maybell Avenue properties for a Planned Community (PC) zoning which allows the Palo Alto Housing Corporation (PAHC) to construct a high-density and high-rise development in a residential neighborhood. PC rezoning has been used for virtually every recent development along major traffic corridors throughout Palo Alto, but the Maybell property is clearly in a residential neighborhood.

Safe transit to schools is the responsibility of our city government. Why was safety for bikes not considered?
· Maybell is one of two “bicycle boulevards” in Palo Alto. It is a substandard street without continuous sidewalk on one side and the bicyclists and pedestrians have to share the road with cars.
· The proposed development will generate significant extra traffic on this already overcrowded dedicated Safe Route to Schools for the daily commute of several hundred students to/from 4 schools in the neighborhood.
· The City Council in their effort to rush through the rezoning to accommodate the PAHC’s deadline for submitting their government tax credit application, failed to provide a valid traffic analysis that included bicycle and pedestrian traffic on Maybell and a projection of future traffic growth.

The referendum on rezoning a piece of land on Maybell Avenue & Clemo, across from Juana Briones Park, is about more than just building affordable rental housing for seniors. It is about rezoning and building a “stack and pack” project in a single-family neighborhood. It is about the city lending over $7 million dollars to a housing developer who now cannot afford to build this housing unless part of the land is sold off to another developer as zero-lot-line 3-story houses. It is about respecting existing zoning policies & community feedback. It is about a dense project with too little parking, even according to the city's own regulations. It is about the traffic analysis for this project that did not consider the thousands of students walking and biking to the neighborhood schools. It is about the traffic reports produced by the city that all conclude “no significant impact”, no matter what is built.

Please VOTE AGAINST Measure D.
To get more information and tell us how you would like to help defeat Measure D, please go to our web site

Thank you for your support.

Posted by Vote AGAINST D
a resident of Green Acres
on Oct 9, 2013 at 6:18 pm

[Portion removed.]

You also seem to really, really want to make this about a few people when there are so many people involved in opposing the rezoning. You still seem not to understand that people in your own neighborhood are overwhelmingly against this rezoning.

Look at this thread. Lots of voices against. I have used the same moniker, as I try to on all threads. The Weekly deletes you automatically if you use multiple monikers on a thread. My spouse has all but given up trying to post because of that.

Emotions run high on something like this, and this matter is only going to get less civil if Measure D passes and it moves into court challenges on different fronts. It's too bad, because we could otherwise all be fighting together to prevent the City from upzoning the Buena Vista park.

Jerry, [portion removed] put yourself in someone else's shoes: These are just neighbors, most of them seniors themselves or parents. They understand their neighborhood better than anyone. You may think you do, too, but their experience and opinions are as valid as yours.

Most of these people are unhappy about having to be a part of any political action. You have attacked Bob Moss and Tim Gray for being instigators, then when you learned they came on board later because neighbors asked them for their help -- as people willing to be more public -- you criticized them for coming on board later. (Actually, Bob was earlier than Tim, since he lives closer, probably.) I have myself spoken out for other neighbors who were too shy to even post anonymously on Town Square or post to neighborhood groups, if you must know.

Neighbors only showed up in such historic numbers at City Hall, and wrote all those letters, and qualified 2 referenda with 70 volunteers getting signatures over the summer when many people were gone, the first referenda qualified in Palo Alto in over 10 years, because they know this neighborhood and they feel putting a high-density development at that spot is a bad thing for all the reasons they have stated. Some of these same neighbors are also the reason there is a larger affordable development at Terman today, just a few blocks away, they are welcoming of good affordable housing plans in appropriate locations, in this neighborhood. They are also the reason we have Juana Briones Park (before my time) - apparently the City wanted to put the electrical substation there, and neighbors ensured it was put closer to El Camino. City Hall either ignores us or looks down their noses at us, even though we host 4 major schools, and the schools are one of the biggest reasons Palo Alto has such good property values, if not THE reason.

But these are just ordinary neighbors. PTA moms. Seniors caring for sick spouses. I know several who have had either serious illness themselves, deaths, and devastating personal setbacks while all this was going on, and still they have worked to try to protect the character of the neighborhood and the safety of the kids, because that's what it's about for them.

Jerry, for them, the plan is the problem. The specifics of the development are the problem. The giveaways to for-profit developers at the expense of the neighborhood, which are NOT NECESSARY for building affordable housing in Palo Alto as they have never been before, even at 801 Alma, are the problem. The using the financing scheme to take money away from less-wealthy communities who could build more affordable housing for needier people is the problem. (Okay, it took time for us to realize that was happening.)

But given those issues, how do you think they feel about the motivations of those trying to push this rezoning for neighbors who genuinely care about affordable housing, when they are called names, belittled for their concerns about the traffic, even though the only City Councilperson to come out a take a long look admitted it isn't safe here (and still they would not analyze the safety impacts to the bicyclists and pedestrians despite their own policy to do so)? It feels like those who benefit from the rezoning will do anything to get it passed, up to and including the City staff providing false documentation to the state to confirm the rezoning, to qualify PAHC for a funding competition against less-wealthy community project, even though PAHC has never have had that rezoning in the 4 months since that verification was made.

Whereas the same neighbors would be all over trying to figure out how to use the same money to save the residents at the Buena Visa (far more affordable housing frankly) -- the City is completely mute about any such proposals, because for them, it's not really about the affordable housing. They're asked to make considerable sacrifices, and when their opponents fail at that, they're belittled for their fundamental safety and quality of life concerns. It's not okay for PAHC to densify the neighborhood for the sake of its own professional ambitions, when other low-income developers could provide the same affordable housing -- at that site, no less -- without the densification of the neighborhood and ignoring the safety analysis.

Did you even realize there were 3 long-running programs for severely disabled children at Juana Briones on the park side of the school and that the park is an important part of their daily lives and quality of life? Having cars constantly parked there, and frankly competing with the already limited street parking they have for the school -- which is where the overflow parking from a development with only 36 parking spots for residents of 60-units (up to 120 residents), will go -- and a bunch of stovepipe for-profit houses (a term, by the way, that I heard from another poster and have co-opted because it fits) that they could never live in built in their faces across the street from them is worse than offensive. To me. To those of us who understand what it's like to have a mobility problem and wonder why the City is completely ignoring the disabled in its new norm for residential building, the stovepipe house. I may never be able to convince you of that concern -- Liz Kniss told neighbors not to even bother bringing up the problems this poses to the disabled children at the school, that basically, no one cares and bringing it up will only hurt our case -- but if I'm going to bring it up, I at least want to have that discussion in the public forum where I can talk about the issue and not be attacked personally for it.

[Portion removed.]

Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 9, 2013 at 6:45 pm

Driving around residential areas of town today I saw many more yes on D yellow lawn signs than the red and white against D signs.

I also think that there are still a lot of people around who have no idea what D is all about, particularly young voters and renters.

Posted by Parent
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Oct 9, 2013 at 7:05 pm

Resident - Yes on measure D is funded by Big Developer/Union interests. We shouldn't be surprised they are pouring money into their fight to force density and weaken zoning restrictions in Palo Alto. Don't be surprised by tons of mailers, tons of signs, probably even some TV, radio, and newspaper. Unbelievably lucrative for them to battle and have their way with Palo Alto. They could sink millions in to this campaign and still laugh all the way to bank.

I've already received 2 different large glossy mailers this week. "there's no place like home" and "family", covered with babies, grandmas and grandpas, I'm surprised it didn't come with an America the Beautiful soundtrack. [Portion removed.]

I hope people are talking to their neighbors about what this is really about.

Posted by invisible
a resident of Barron Park
on Oct 9, 2013 at 7:17 pm

There are "no on D" yard signs?

Posted by Please read
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 9, 2013 at 10:50 pm

There are No on D yard signs but the nonprofit Is spending over $100,000 on their campaign to help out the developers win so they probably have more signs. A for-profit developer will be able to build three story homes in a neighborhood area that is zoned for two story homes. Supersizing is what the developers are looking forward to winning. A developer said that if this passes then it will set a precedent for developers. Once PA approves this up-zoning developers can use it as an example all up and down the peninsula.

For information on Against Measure D, for yard signs or to donate to the cause please go to or the link:

Posted by Alice Schaffer Smith
a resident of Green Acres
on Oct 9, 2013 at 11:33 pm

I have voted for D because (a) 20% of the Seniors in Palo Alto are living at or below the poverty level; (b) Seniors are a vital part of our community (c) the development of this parcel will yield many more "trips per day" than the planned zoning passed unanimously by the city council and the planning commission after changes were made to the plans to address the concerns of the Barron Park residents. I have attended most of the meetings over the past 2 years on this project. The PA Housing Corp listened to the residents and made significant design changes to address those concerns. Should the land go back to the private sector, the result will have a huge impact on PAUSD, with many more children, on the Maybell area because the garages will be on Maybell, and on the trips per day since there will be 3 or more cars per household which will have a real impact.

People who hate the Alma development and the close to the street ugly developments at Rickey's and along Alma are using this planned community to vent their anger. This development should not be the place to vent this dissatisfaction, in my opinion.


Posted by You can't have it both ways
a resident of Midtown
on Oct 10, 2013 at 2:31 am

@Alice You proudly carry the non-partisan banner of the League of Women Voters. But, non-partisan means you don't support one political party over another. It doesn't mean that you are unbiased or present accurate information.

If this private sector project (that might happen instead of senior housing)will have such a huge impact on traffic and parking, then why did all the recently built private sector projects not have the same impacts? Those projects had real traffic studies which all found no significant impacts.

Where were these horrible impacts that you are now warning us about, when you supported College Terrace Centre, Monroe Place, Arbor Real, Alma Plaza, Vantage, Eschelon, Trumark and Classic Communities? The traffic reports for those projects did not find that there would be one car per bedroom in three and four bedroom homes. They required parking for two cars and residents concerns about spillover parking were soundly dismissed.

Members of the League have repeatedly told the public to accept the work of professional traffic engineers when they find that there will be no significant traffic impacts and no need for more than two parking spaces. It is the utmost hypocrisy that now, without any applicant, without any traffic analysis, without a project, you state that there will be significant impacts. You can't have it both ways.

Posted by Lee Thé
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Oct 10, 2013 at 9:52 am

Lee Thé is a registered user.

What the people advocating on behalf of senior housing and/or the interests of powerful developers have in common is their tunnel vision.

That is, they want us to consider the Maybell Project in isolation, without regard to all the other projects built or pending in Palo Alto.

In fact, what the Palo City Council should have done was put Palo Alto's rapid densification overall to a vote.

Regardless of whatever merits the Maybell project might have, they must be considered in the context of ALL the Big Blank Buildings Built out to the Street projects in our city.

The Measure D ballot item is the closest this 100% pro-development city council is going to get to letting Palo Alto's residents vote on whether they want our city of 56,000 to be converted into a mini-Manhattan of, say, 100,000--of whether they're fine with how every thoroughfare in and out of Palo Alto is becoming a mile-long traffic jam twice a day--of whether you like driving/walking/biking down concrete canyons as you go around Palo Alto.

Star Trek was right. Space is the final frontier.

And we're losing it.

One other point: it's a human trait that we have great difficulty thinking about two related things at once. Hence the tunnel vision of the Affordable Senior Housing Advocates. That's a valid issue but it's not the only issue that's relevant to Measure D. You can be for senior housing but against Measure D because of those other factors.

Such as the fact that if Measure D is approved it opens the floodgates. Even if the Maybell Project by itself were a good thing, you should ask yourself whether a hundred Maybell Projects--maybe in your neighborhood next time--are a good thing. Voting Yes on Measure D is a vote not just for this high-density project but for all of them--and it's a vote to toss out our zoning system and our city plan.

Well, if you want to do that, put a measure on the ballot that does it honestly, instead of this "death by a thousand cuts" method of presenting each densification project one-by-one, as if each is the only one that'll ever be built.

Posted by Yes on D
a resident of Crescent Park
on Oct 10, 2013 at 11:22 am

Actually, Lee, the problem with the opponents is that they are trying to link Maybell to completely unrelated issues.
The real issue for opponents is that they've lost the argument against Maybell on merit and are tying to attack it through misdirection.
Maybell is about one thing and one thing only - affordable senior housing. Maybell can be approved and any issue such as "opening the floodgates" dealt with separately. Voting Maybell down only means Palo Alto doesn't get affordable senior housing. A no vote changes nothing else.
Your post just re-enforces this sentiment.

Posted by Please read
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 10, 2013 at 11:41 am

Maybell is not about affordable senior housing since affordable senior housing can be built on the existing zoning. The issue is whether to rezone to supersize the lots to build 50' building instead of 30' building and whether to allow a for profit developer to build three story homes rather than two story homes.

Senior housing can be built in either zoning. Why let the developers take advantage of the property for their profit at the expense of the seniors and the neighbors?

Posted by boscoli
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Oct 10, 2013 at 12:07 pm

Actually, D is not about "affordable" senior housing at all, it's about greed. A Yes vote would mean that the pressure by developers on the city council to rezone in the future would become enormous and incessant, even more intense that it already is. Palo Alto real estate is among the most expensive in the entire world, and the temptation this fact is creating among the developers is just too great. A Yes vote would indeed open the flood gates and will forever change the character of Palo Alto to a highly dense, highly urbane, highly polluted and traffic congested city. We are literally in the process of creating the new Hong Kong and Abu Dabhi with our insane overdevelopment. Palo Alto already has far more population density than it should-just imagine what would happen when the flood gates open, and they will, if D is approved.

Posted by Yes on D
a resident of Crescent Park
on Oct 10, 2013 at 3:01 pm

Measure D allows for 60 affordable senior housing units in this location.
Measure D is the only way to get 60 affordable senior housing units on the location.
The posts from Boscoli & Please Read, re-enforce that message. Upzoning is the ONLY way to get 60 affordable senior housing units on this property.
That is exactly the text of Measure D - shall Palo Alto rezone the property to fit 60 senior affordable housing units. You might not like that but it is what the argument is about.
The question is simple: If you want 60 affordable senior housing units at this site vote YES.

Posted by Please read
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 10, 2013 at 3:38 pm

Measure D means you want to supersize the building height and the for profit houses.

There can be senior housing at the current zoning that is the historic zoning for the neighborhood if you vote NO on D.

At You can see for yourself how this supersizing will impact the neighborhood.

Posted by Vote AGAINST D
a resident of Green Acres
on Oct 10, 2013 at 4:21 pm

@ Alice,
You say you voted for D because "(a) 20% of the Seniors in Palo Alto are living at or below the poverty level." The ordinance says that too. The City staff have used that blurb as sole justification for why the development is needed, too, and why it should justify so heavily violating the existing residential zoning. PAHC used that as their justification, too. Actually, last April, their justification was that we have a lot of homeless seniors in Palo Alto, but they quickly dropped that argument.

The fact is, the poverty level for 2013 is
$11,490 for 1 person household
$15,510 for 2 person household

But the ordinance states that the Maybell senior apartments will serve only those at 30-60% of Area Median Income, which according to PAHC's website for 2013 is:

1 person household AMI = $73,850
2 person household AMI = $84,400

Therefore, depending on whether the units have one or two residents, the income range of the residents will be anywhere from TWICE to THREE-and-a-QUARTER TIMES the poverty level.


Another fact is that PAHC and the City bought this property without having done any serious assessment of the need (any assessment at all), and without intending for the property to be for seniors at all. They only changed it when the realized it would be politically easier if they made it for seniors.

They don't exactly have a great track record when they just assume that if they build it, it will meet the need. That's why they had 20 our of 24 senior BMR units in a FULLY ASSISTED AGE-IN-PLACE SENIOR CENTER at Moldaw that went unfilled for THREE YEARS, and they did nothing at all about it.

They have made claims to try to excuse themselves that sound good, be don't hold up, such as that it's for a different targeted income range than Maybell Oh? So the income range matters as to whether there is a need? So where's the market study showing the Maybell income range will meet the needs of Palo Alto seniors? The income range at Moldaw is the same range as at High Street where they had a waiting list 600 deep that they got from heavy marketing - they couldn't find 20 seniors who needed assisted living in three years? Once this oversight became public because of the Maybell situation, the City reworked the terms, and filled some of the units, showing they could have done so all along, if they thought the situation was so urgent for Palo Alto seniors.

Seniors are a vital part of our community. In case you hadn't noticed, most of the people leading the charge against the rezoning of Maybell, Against D, are seniors themselves from the neighborhood, most of them not wealthy either.

Posted by pavoter
a resident of Barron Park
on Oct 10, 2013 at 4:28 pm

@Yes -- Upzoning is the problem. If D passes, the city can do this when and where ever it wants. Upzoning affects all Palo Altans. This is about the vision we have for our city. Do we want the city to ignore the Comprehensive Plan when they feel like it? Loan money (millions) to a project before examining the feasibility of that project? Give the developer a sweet deal by rezoning so the developer can make more profit with a denser project at the expense of the neighborhood?

Why didn't the city fight this hard to save the BMR units that convert to regular apartment units at Terman? How can the city help the Buenva Vista site to keep low income housing there?

The city reduced lanes on Arastradero because safety for the children was put as the priority. But on Maybell, which now gets much more cut through traffic due to that lane reduction, the city says not really concerned. If it matters on Arastradero, it should matter on Maybell.

Palo Altans have woken up after so many Public Benefit projects that skirt the zoning regulations and the Comprehensive Plan that this Maybell project has become the flash point. To deny that is to stick your head in the sand.

Posted by Yes on D
a resident of Crescent Park
on Oct 10, 2013 at 4:39 pm

"If D passes, the city can do this when and where ever it wants."
The city can upzone properties whether or not measure D passes. You can put forward a petition to require voter approval for all upzoning and then we can have a different conversation. However that is not what measure D is about. Measure D is about one thing, 60 senior affordable housing units. Read it.

If you want 60 senior affordable housing units on this site, VOTE YEST ON D!

Posted by Vote AGAINST D
a resident of Green Acres
on Oct 10, 2013 at 4:55 pm

@Yes in Crescent Park,
You wrote: "Measure D allows for 60 affordable senior housing units in this location.
Measure D is the only way to get 60 affordable senior housing units on the location. "

Actually, this is completely untrue.

At least 41 affordable senior housing units could be built under the existing zoning now, without upzoning the residential neighborhood. In fact, if the City has offered a rezone that was JUST the 60 senior units, they'd probably be building now, too.

Many neighbors over the course of the months have implored the City Council to give up the scheme they are rolling out at Maybell where they sell more than half of the property for market-rate housing, upzoned for the benefit of the for-profit developer, then shoehorning the affordable component onto less than half the property in a tall dense building with seriously inadequate parking that also seriously violates existing zoning. Many neighbors have implored them to simply build the affordable units over the whole property, in some cases, asking the City to put the 60 units there instead of the 41 even, that the neighbors would accept that. If they didn't dedicate 55% of the property to market-rate development, they could provide a few more units in the senior development, provide adequate parking, etc. If they were manning up and just paying the cost of the units, they could make the exit onto Arastradero at Clemo with a light, rather than onto Maybell, and not design so much to their funding application.

In other words, if this really WERE about senior housing for the City Council, they would be building that housing there now.

But the City and PAHC were never willing to budge in any substantial way on the market-rate portion taking more than half the property, because they get such a big discount on the cost of the affordable housing. Greg Schmid has said the financing scheme allows them to put the affordable housing in at about a third or even a quarter of the per unit cost at 801 Alma. But their discount is at the expense of the whole neighborhood's character, cohesion, and safety of the thousands of school children taking the school commute corridors (including substandard Maybell) running on either side of the property.

The City's own website admits the scheme is about reducing costs, NOT about the enabling of the building of the affordable housing, which we've never had to build using such a scheme, such a giveaway to market-rate developers, or such densification of residential neighborhoods before.

"IN ORDER TO REDUCE THE DEVELOPMENT COSTS of the senior housing project, the PAHC is proposing to develop market-rate single-family homes adjacent to the residential building for seniors. PAHC plans to sell the land identified for the single family homes and the entitlements (if approved) to a housing developer ... this is a creative way to help finance affordable housing. It will require less City financial assistance and since PAHC is providing a greater amount of equity, the development will be more competitive in securing other sources of public financing."
Web Link

Did you get that? This financing scheme reduces the financial assistance from the City, who can now beautify the Council Chambers even more than it already is for $2.1 million. It makes PAHC more competitive against far less-wealthy communities in San Mateo and Santa Clara counties who can build more affordable housing for far needier people with the same money, so the City can save money. And actually, I'm wondering if it's even about that -- because it's more the low-income developer's money. Eden Housing was able to build 801 Alma without having to sell off more than half the property for a 3X the density high rise, and put the affordable component on the rest of the property at up to 8X the existing zoning, because they paid the actual cost of the units.

If the City were partnering with Eden at Maybell instead of PAHC, we wouldn't be having this zoning argument, either. The fact is, this is about the City and PAHC, market developers and profit: MONEY. It's about all of the above selling out the zoning protections of a residential neighborhood, which makes the neighborhood pay what they are themselves unwilling to pay for the affordable housing.

We have never had to build affordable housing in Palo Alto by taking money away from less wealthy community projects, or by upzoning residential neighborhoods or using this financing scheme. But in the City meetings, the Mayor and PAHC representatives spoke about pioneering this financing scheme in Palo Alto, and about how next time they would make fewer missteps.

So Y in Crescent Park - this is not an "unrelated issue" -- it is the issue. The financing mechanism is the reason for most of the ills of this project, most of the reasons the City chose to steamroll the neighborhood, to avoid doing any safety analysis that might indicate any changes or compromises might need to be made for safety.

And if residents greenlight it at Maybell, they will be telling the City they can get away with anything they want even if residential neighborhoods, as long as there is some component, no matter how densely built, tall, or underparked, for affordable housing, and even when there are serious safety and quality of life issues affecting thousands of schoolchildren. Suddenly, they can fulfill ABAG requirements in any residential neighborhood in Palo Alto, and get affordable housing at fire sale prices, without regard to existing zoning. They have promised to do so, but no one but the neighbors at Maybell were there to hear it. Zoning will be meaningless.

Posted by boscoli
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Oct 10, 2013 at 5:00 pm

D is not about "one thing." It's a test trial. If approved, it will create the precedent that the city council and developers will use each time they wish to upzone. One thing is certain-the developers will incessantly push to upzone, and the city council will use this precedent to accommodate them. A Yes on D will open the flood gates and once they are open, they will never be shut down again.

Posted by Vote AGAINST D
a resident of Green Acres
on Oct 10, 2013 at 5:02 pm

"The city can upzone properties whether or not measure D passes"

But if neighbors are successful in shooting down D, even though the City has steamrolled the neighbors, been so involved in this from the start, and has written such a biased and leading ballot analysis and ballot question, they are going to know they can't get away with it.

Posted by Vote AGAINST D
a resident of Green Acres
on Oct 10, 2013 at 5:26 pm

People for D keep working off the supposition that this serious upzoning had to be done at Maybell, in a residential neighborhood, with seriously inadequate parking on site, for a net of at most 19 senior apartments, because somehow there aren't better places to build such a development even in the same neighborhood, but closer to El Camino, for example, since they say they need density.

I am waiting for any evidence that PAHC even tried to purchase other property on El Camino or places more appropriate for such a dense development, especially with $7.3million in City loans and $8 million in County loans to help them, in order to build this development or any development before. I am waiting for the market analysis that shows the distribution of need in Palo Alto for all age groups, especially seniors.

I am especially waiting for the analysis that shows the need in Palo Alto (for apartments without any nearby amenities, without on-site meals, without assisted living so the residents will have to move when they need help anyway) is so urgent that we need to take money from poorer communities in order to build that housing cheaper here in Palo Alto residential neighborhoods -- less housing, for people whose incomes would actually give them a higher standard of living just a little ways out, but still accessible to Palo Alto.

Vote No. Because if it passes, neighbors will continue fighting in court for the safety of their kids, the character of their neighborhood, etc., and the conflict will only get worse. But if it falls, PAHC can begin the next day, with important lessons learned, and we can all take a breath and work to solve our collective problems. In the same neighborhood as Maybell, over 400 low-income residents at Buena Vista face eviction and if the City committed the resources it had committed to Maybell to BV instead, far more low-income residents could be saved. (But without needing PAHC -- this never was about the affordable housing residents, though, really. Their professional ambitions take precedence over the actual helping of low-income residents, the Moldaw experience was evidence enough of that.)

Posted by Please read
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 10, 2013 at 9:53 pm

If you don't believe that this can happen in other parts of Palo Alto check out this excerpt from an article seen today in regard to a proposed development in downtown PA.

This would turn a four-story house into a four-story office and apartment complex.

"Janice Berman who lives across the street from 636 Waverley st., said she's concerned about the building because it is out of character with the neighborhood. "It is too big," Berman said, "Our street is predominately residential. It is not a place where we have high-rise office buildings."

Posted by Michelle Edwards
a resident of Menlo Park
on Oct 11, 2013 at 7:12 am

[Post removed.]

Posted by Jerry Underdal
a resident of Barron Park
on Oct 11, 2013 at 7:14 am

Jerry Underdal is a registered user.

Vote Against D

Your campaign arguments and general opinions are clearly important to this debate. Yet I don't see a lot of this in the public campaign, outside the Town Square. This is frustrating because I believe if people outside Town Square saw more of the reasoning behind the Maybell Action Group--Palo Altans for Responsible Zoning--No on D position you would lose rather than gain support.

Is there any way you could submit a Letter to the Editor, or even better an Op-Ed piece to any or all of the local print options: the Weekly, the Daily Post, and the Daily Review? Maybe this would be a good opportunity to step from behind the screen and openly engage in a truly public discussion.

Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 11, 2013 at 7:43 am

Is there an "against D" page on Facebook? This may be a good way to get the word out.

Posted by Tom DuBois
a resident of Midtown
on Oct 11, 2013 at 9:48 am

Yes there is a Facebook page!

Web Link

and the main web site is Web Link

We are being far outspent by one corporation - please consider donating time or money to the cause!

Posted by Please read
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 11, 2013 at 11:19 am

From an article by the Weekly

"it's a tall order to claim that the area is rich in accessible amenities for seniors. The site may be a short walk from El Camino, but it's well south of both downtown and Town and Country Village.

Planning and Transportation Commissioner Alex Panelli, who lives in south Palo Alto, was the sole member of the commission to vote against the project largely on the basis of inadequate services.

He said he doesn't consider the amenities near the Maybell site to be "significant enough" to satisfy seniors' needs."

Posted by Please read
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 11, 2013 at 11:21 am

From a Weekly article:

"But to imply that every affordable-housing project requires a PC zone is inaccurate. The city's most prominent and recent affordable-housing development, 801 Alma St., is a case in point.

Spearheaded by Eden Housing and the Community Working Group, the project was initially proposed as a PC zone and included 50 housing units for low-income families and 46 units of senior housing.

Much like in the Maybell debate, opponents of 801 Alma, including those living in the adjacent 800 High St., asserted the development would be too dense and that its traffic impacts would prove too much for the South of Forest Avenue (SOFA) neighborhood.

Eden Housing listened to the criticism and backed away from the zone change. It then came back with a revised proposal that eliminated the senior housing and the handful of businesses that would have been in the ground floor of that building. What was left, under existing RT-50 (residential transition) zoning, was 50 units of family housing."

Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 11, 2013 at 7:48 pm

I looked at your Facebook page.

You have to use it wisely and it can be very useful advertising.

You must send out one line status updates daily and ask people to share with their friends and get their friends to like the page.

You must also use the phrase "Like voteagainstd on Facebook" on each post on Town Square by your supporters.

You must be prepared to answer posts that others have posted on your Facebook wall.

You have to use Facebook proactively.

Posted by Please no rezoning
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 12, 2013 at 2:15 pm

The Maybell senior project offers no amenities. The Maybell project is ONLY small apartments for seniors. There is NO food service. People living in apartments need to get purchase food, go to the doctor, etc. Most seniors drive until they really have to give up their license. The idea that a 65 year old is not going to drive makes no sense.

If you look at what Lytton Gardens offers you can see why they may not need cars: "Our residents enjoy a variety of activities, amenities, communal dining options, and the camaraderie of over 300 neighbors. A range of Resident Committees encourage Seniors to continue taking roles of responsibility and giving to their community. Committees supervise gardening, welcoming new residents, running an on-site gift ship, volunteering for projects with area children, and more."

Our seniors, low income or not, deserve more than what the Maybell project has to offer. for more information

Posted by Vote AGAINST D
a resident of Green Acres
on Oct 12, 2013 at 6:34 pm

[Post removed.]

Posted by Vote AGAINST D
a resident of Green Acres
on Oct 12, 2013 at 6:47 pm

@Jerry Underdal

[Portion removed.] There are lots of us out here. I am just one of many, and not even that important. I am not in a leadership role, I just post on Town Square. But apparently a lot less than you give me credit for. And I very much doubt the election is going to hinge on my Town Square posts. For one, I think the City Attorney's grossly biased ballot question will have a lot more to do with that.

[Portion removed.]

For example, why do you never answer my points? Can you reassure me that in the funding competition PAHC will not be taking money away from less wealthy communities who can build more affordable housing for needier people with that money? Can you prove the City somehow did NOT submit a false verification of their rezoning in order to be considered in that competition for funding? Because I have seen the verification -- and guess what? Lots of residents spoke about it at City Hall.

Why do you care so much about putting an extra 19 units of housing at Maybell and making the neighborhood pay for it? You say no one will be able to see a 50-foot building and 3-story houses, but you don't want to have to stare at what can be built under existing zoning at almost half that height?

Posted by Vote AGAINST D
a resident of Green Acres
on Oct 12, 2013 at 7:03 pm

[Post removed.]

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