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Palo Alto divided over proposed office cap

Original post made on Mar 3, 2015

Palo Alto's polarizing debate over office growth hit a stalemate Monday night when a deeply divided City Council agonized over the topic for more than four hours before deciding not to move ahead with any dramatic development restrictions just yet.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Tuesday, March 3, 2015, 2:04 AM

Comments (103)

Posted by Mila Z
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Mar 3, 2015 at 6:18 am

It was a long discussion but thank you to the Council for highlighting concerns re protecting ground floor retail and giving the rest of the discussion some time to come up with a quality solution which considers potential impacts and explore what tools could actually solve for what many are concerned about (parking & traffic). In light of the earlier discussion on innovative transportation initiatives, we have much to be encouraged by in our city.

Posted by pro-cap
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 3, 2015 at 7:34 am

Greg Scharff does it again, arguing in favor of developers.

Posted by Saw it on TV
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 3, 2015 at 8:44 am

>Greg Scharff does it again, arguing in favor of developers.

And Pat Burt as well, saying its so-o-o complicated.

Amazing to hear [portion removed] architect Daniel Garber standing up for developers, expecting us to forget that he is/was Arrillaga's architect for the monster 27 University project. That project earned the city a Grand Jury report [portion removed.]
"SCC Grand Jury Report on Reduced Transparency and Inhibited Public Input and Scrutiny on Important Land Issues."
Mr.Garber recently led a tour for Palo Alto Forward.

Posted by Okay... what's next?
a resident of College Terrace
on Mar 3, 2015 at 8:55 am

Protecting ground floor retail is a good thing. It is effectively forcing a subsidy for the ground floor, recognizing its value to the community.

Council will now need to figure out what policies actually help retailers run profitable businesses. Other regional downtowns now have thriving retail corridors that are the products of good policy decisions. Our Council and City Staff have some homework to do on this. For all of the discussion about "helping retail", getting them a rental subsidy is just the first step.

It was great to see Scharff and Burt provide leadership and basic command of facts and figures. I can see them forming a solid intellectual core for this Council. All in all, a heck of a lot of time on a red herring issue (development cap) but at least a good result emerged (retail protections).

Posted by jim
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 3, 2015 at 9:37 am

Last night revealed the true split on the Council. The pro-development side = Wolbach, Kniss, Scharff and Burman. Those defending residents and our last elections mandate were Holman, Schmidt, DuBois and Filseth. Burt stands alone and will be the deciding vote eventually. Those "residentialists" who fronted for Scharff in the last election should feel nothing but shame given he acts just as always and as predicted.

Traffic is the only issue that the pro-development tech giants, the Chamber lobbyists, and their astroturf Palo Alto Forward, citing Survey Monkey quality polling to indicate how few workers drive a car. We all know how unscientific the Monkey is. Thank you Greg Schmidt for pointing this out.

Though PA Forward supposedly champions housing, that obviously is only a charade, given it champions Big Office. It cannot have its cake and eat it too. More office/R&D completely undermines any shrinking of the jobs housing imbalance. We don't need more employees, we need more affordable housing for those who live here and are being dispossessed by you all.

PA Forwards breathless positivity is window dressing to distract from the self interest of its young professionals and techies in maximizing development - the architects, Palintir and Survey Monkey workers, Burman and Wolbach who want political offices beyond the Council and will need big bucks to do so, etc.

The Council better get real on this and not be suckered by moneied self-interest. The residents elected you, not the corporations, lobbyists and tech giants. Put a interim cap on R&D and Office to save what we are about to lose more of, then all the other issues can get understood, sorted out and well decided. And Pat Burt must not play coy with his vote. The barbarians are at the gate.

Posted by neighbor
a resident of Downtown North
on Mar 3, 2015 at 10:05 am

To all the bloggers that insist it's ALL the residents against the evil developers and crooked council members. I am a resident and am proud to be pro-development. Palo Alto is much different that it was 50 years ago and will be much different than it is today in another 50 years. Hoping for something different is not realistic. Greater density for housing is a must and will eventually bring down the cost of housing, be it "affordable" or not. Let's stop fearing the future and start planning for it.

Posted by Tom DuBois
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 3, 2015 at 10:33 am

Tom DuBois is a registered user.

I think the headline should be "Council moves to protect retail". While we didn't move forward on other ideas last night, this IS a big deal, and will hopefully begin to restore balance in the city.

While I was not able to get the council to agree to look at our building density assumptions (generally 4 per 1000 sq ft) or evaluate exemptions in our zoning ordinance that have outlived there usefulness, the proposal to have staff come back with specific protections for first floor retail throughout the city as well as making it harder to convert retail to office space, passed unanimously nearly word for word of the original proposal. Hopefully this will separate retail rents from office rents, by protecting our retail zones from other uses.

Posted by bewildered
a resident of Downtown North
on Mar 3, 2015 at 10:40 am

We've had a moratorium on new development before and the sky didn't fall. It just gives us time to figure out what we want before the bulldozers level everything in the name of progress. Vociferous opposition to slowing growth is obviously funded by developers. There's real progress, and then there's simply flooding the area with underparked, shade-casting, wind-tunnel-creating, poorly designed (read ugly) buildings and then pretending to be surprised when the residents are peeved about no longer being able to shop, park, drive, or do anything downtown but eat in the increasingly pricey revolving door of restaurants that push out retail and then can't sell enough to make their sky-high rent.

Posted by parent
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 3, 2015 at 10:46 am

We are in favor of a compromise to protect ground floor retail space, while allowing more offices in the upper floors of new buildings.

Traffic is a concern and I think the city can do much more to alleviate it, including stronger advocacy for electrified Caltrain, better pedestrian and bicycle routes to retail and business areas (eg a direct bicycle route from Midtown to the California Ave shopping district), and more better designed neighborhood shopping districts.

Posted by Interested
a resident of University South
on Mar 3, 2015 at 11:06 am

What is so interesting to me is that the "residentialists" (are we ALL residentialists?) have this view of Palo Alto as a bucolic tree-lined village with decent schools and lovely single family homes. Well, LOTS of cities all over the country have the same thing. What makes Palo Alto unique is our spirit of innovation -- where great ideas, talent and financial resources have come together to create new industries and technologies. No place on earth has these qualities (which is why the rest of the world comes here to study and try to emulate our creative mix). Why then, do these residentialists want to stifle the very thing that makes living here unique? Yes, we have issues around traffic and parking, but these are issues we can address by changing the way we relate to our cars and streets (and gulp, technology!!!). How many people who complain about parking downtown go as single occupancy cars?
We made a deal in Palo Alto many years ago to have wonderful open space surrounding our town in return for higher density in the "flatlands". Let's help promote places for these young startups to incubate the future and allow (not unbridled) growth, but growth nonetheless.

Posted by daniel garber
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Mar 3, 2015 at 11:18 am

Hi Gennady-
I never used the phrase "meat cleaver". That was one of the very last speakers. best,

Posted by a few votes made the difference
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Mar 3, 2015 at 11:25 am

How sad: if Wolbach hadn't beat Kou by the slightest of margins the cap would have surely gone through.

Posted by mauricio
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Mar 3, 2015 at 11:32 am

mauricio is a registered user.

Densifying and paving over every available square inch of real estate does not make Palo Alto innovative, unique and "cutting edge". Allowing developers, most of whom don't live in Palo Alto, because they find it too urbanized, traffic chocked and dense, and would rather live In Woodside, Atherton, Portola valley and Los Altos Hills, to have their way is not progress, it's regression. The equivalency between development and innovation is false, especially in the digital age. In this age of lines of code and digitization, the physical location of high tech is fairly unimportant.

We never made a deal to have open space in return for turning Palo Alto into another Manhattan, this is just not true.

Posted by I voted for Cory
a resident of Downtown North
on Mar 3, 2015 at 11:33 am

To "a few votes made the difference"

Thank goodness and glad I was able to vote for Cory. So glad he is in place. As a resident, I couldn't be happier about increased vitality and hope to have the Council address the real issues of traffic and parking, not office use in the old, underparked, jam-packed buildings that make up 90% of the downtown commercial space. Build better buildings, remove the exceptions for parking and follow through with the infrastructure improvements needed. This is what the Council and staff should be focused on.

Posted by gsheyner
a resident of another community
on Mar 3, 2015 at 11:35 am

gsheyner is a registered user.

Hi Dan,

The "meat cleaver" metaphor should have been attributed to John Kelley.

Thanks for the correction. Sorry for the error,


Posted by Paul
a resident of Downtown North
on Mar 3, 2015 at 12:16 pm


Well, if you are not a residentialist, then you are likely a corrupt, greedy developer or landowner. Or perhaps you're a bought-and-paid-for shill for them, like those evil schemers at Palo Alto Forward! It's certainly not possible for you to be a resident of Palo Alto. Not a real one anyway.

I personally thought I was a Palo Alto resident, but then I realized from reading the comments on Palo Alto Online that because I don't agree with the residentialist position, don't agree that all development is bad, and think that more density is not just inevitable, but also possibly a good thing if done right, that I am obviously corrupt.

Posted by Interested
a resident of University South
on Mar 3, 2015 at 12:32 pm

@ mauricio,
"In this age of lines of code and digitization, the physical location of high tech is fairly unimportant.

We never made a deal to have open space in return for turning Palo Alto into another Manhattan, this is just not true."

If the physical location isn't important anymore then why does everyone want to be in Palo Alto?

And no one EVER said we want "paving over every available square inch of real estate" or to make Palo Alto like Manhattan. Where are you getting these comments? You're just trying to provoke people by making outlandish statements about what people want. I suspect many folks want to keep the 50' height limit but there are (maybe even a majority?) who might want to see SELECTIVE 60' buildings depending on the design.

Please, stop making outrageous statements about what "we" want. BTW, I'm not a developer, just a 30 year resident who'd grandparents came here in the 1930s because of Stanford and the beautiful weather.

Posted by resident 1
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Mar 3, 2015 at 12:59 pm

I see two sets of extreme views - neither of which has much reality.
People are not screaming to move into PA and have a PA address - except all of the Chinese that Ken Deleon and others are working for. And they are doing that for the resale value of the homes and having their children go to PA schools.

The major businesses are from the Stanford Research Park, Mountain View and cities to the south - Moffatt Park, Sunnyvale and San Jose. In the city of PA we have SSL as a major company - the others are small potatoes.
The small potatoes appear at PACC meetings to express their views - which are valid - but huge numbers of people are not moving here to work for the small potatoes.

People are moving here to work at and attend SU - but that is private property - they need to deal with their growth and expansion with their own housing. Stanford Research Park is private property.

We need to keep checking who on the PACC and staff are champing at the bit for contentious issues. Do they want to get a leg up on their political careers based on antagonizing half the population? Bring it on.

Posted by Saw it on TV
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 3, 2015 at 1:33 pm

Another comical moment: CEO of the Chamber, Judy Kleinberg, spoke forcefully about the LAW of Supply and Demand and the LAW of Unanticipated Consequences.
Isn't she a lawyer? Maybe at her law school they believed you can make up laws that benefit your client.

Anyone surprised at Cory Wolbach's votes may not know that he is mentored by Liz Kniss. He said she encouraged him to run. She often mentions his name in her remarks and even has been seen going over to whisper to him on the dais. Watching on TV is very educational.

Posted by Voter
a resident of Greater Miranda
on Mar 3, 2015 at 2:01 pm

This is why you don't elect people who fancy themselves great politicians in higher office someday. Scharff, Wolbach, Berman, Kniss: our four worst councilmembers all with open or thinly veiled political ambition. They need developer cash to fund their dreams of conquering Sacramento and Washington.

Interestingly enough, as lousy as Scharff has been for Palo Alto, he could make a good state representative since he's shown willingness to stand up to public sector unions, which is what Sacramento needs. I just want him not here anymore.

[Portion removed.]

Wolbach will need to move beyond "let's all be nice to eachother while I shill for a group that shills for developers."

Thank you Tom and Eric for running! [Portion removed.]

Posted by mj
a resident of College Terrace
on Mar 3, 2015 at 2:18 pm

It's not just downtown that is congested. This is a citywide problem. Not only impacting our major roads but also neighborhoods experiencing increasing cut through traffic. Council needs to plan for citywide traffic and not do this piecemeal.

So far as I know the city has no data on the number of vehicles that enter and leave during commute hours. Only guesses. I would like the city implement an immediate count of vehicles entering and leaving during commute hours. Include vehicles that enter from every entry point, including Middlefield, Alma, El Camino, Charleston, as well as from 101 on University, Embarcadero, and Oregon, and Page Mill from 280.

Without this base data there is no way to measure in a year or two how well the alternative modes of transport and incentives now being rolled out are working citywide. Have these programs reduced the number of commute vehicles? Or if not, how fast and how much is commute traffic increasing? Is our infrastructure able to absorb this rate of growth? How is this impacting the residential aspect of our city?

Posted by pacsailor
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 3, 2015 at 2:44 pm

Although I am very concerned and alarmed by traffic and parking, I do no think limiting construction is the way to go. We should have the right city code in place to ensure parking is accounted for, in order to do that the exceptions available now to developers, like in-lieu parking or seismic retrofit bonus, should be eliminated. Dubois idea of reducing the number per square foot for employees from 250 sqft/parking to 150 sqft should be implemented. In addition no office should be allowed on ground floor and no exceptions like what is happening now. Such measures along with traffic mitigation and increase of the city public buses and permit parking will start resolving the parking and traffic issues. It is not the developers fault to build and to provide less parking than required, they are working within the rules and the building code of the city, we should be blaming the outdated city building code that is allowing them and that is the root cause of the problem.

Posted by mauricio
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Mar 3, 2015 at 2:52 pm

mauricio is a registered user.

Innovation is not advanced by taller taller buildings, more density and more traffic. Stop making outlandish and false statements. Innovative ideas come from a myriad of places:Bangladesh, israel, France, Brazil, etc. Most Palo Alto residents work outside of Palo Alto. Some of the most innovative Palo Altans do their innovation in the South Bay, San francisco, Pleasanton, etc. Replacing the small town with a bustling metropolis will not increase innovation. it will increase crime, pollution, traffic. it will decrease our quality of life, deplete the water resources in what is turning out to be chronic and catastrophic droughts.

Only developers benefit from the kind of growth the developers and their water carriers in the city council propose.

Posted by stephen levy
a resident of University South
on Mar 3, 2015 at 2:56 pm

stephen levy is a registered user.

Time to move beyond division and name calling to something we should all be able to agree on--

reducing the driving and parking demand from existing buildings, whether they be offices, restaurants or service providers.

Let's go for where the real numbers are, not spend a lot of time on a tiny piece represented by new office growth while downtown existing buildings, restaurants and stores see more customers. Let's try and really solve the problems of traffic and parking, not nibble around the edges.

Before the cap discussion there was a great discussion that started on shuttle options but broadened to think of mobility as a service, apps that help people find parking, services like Lyft and Uber (that could even be shared).

Posted by Dubious Midtowner
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 3, 2015 at 4:08 pm

I am astounded at Palo Alto Forward and some of the commenters here who keep throwing out the old fantasy that people will come to these newly built office buildings in anything but their own cars! And even if they implement Google busses we'd have to choke on the diesel fumes!

What in blazes is wrong with being a small, tree-lined city that's a pleasure to live in and a great place to bring up children?

The pro-development commenters here seem to want to paint the rest of us as Luddites. We're not stopping ALL offices; there's plenty of them already here. There just needs to be a limit!

Posted by Resident
a resident of Downtown North
on Mar 3, 2015 at 4:50 pm

People are not going to stop driving. That is the reality, so to think that this mess can all be cleared up with new modes of transportation is wishful thinking. The growth needs to stop until there is a solution for the over development gridlock and there is a real executable plan to solve it.

Posted by Gale Johnson
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Mar 3, 2015 at 5:40 pm

Thank you Council. If you hadn't read my comment to the CoC article before, please do so now. I asked Council to "keep your powder dry", and they did that last night on the cap issue. I also offered other opinions, ideas, and questions which, it sounds like, the Business Registry will address and can really help out with in getting meaningful answers. Still too much vitriol in the comments.

I don't understand why there is so much opposition to some limit on 'office space' development. We have a lot of problems already created by office space development. Can't we just work on, and solve those problems first before we encourage more office space development? There have been many good solutions offered, and some tried, all in the embryonic experimental stage. It will take time to see the affects, but there has to be a good valid way of gathering information that the Planning Commission and Council can use in their deliberations.

I too voted for Cory. I'm glad I did. He's a friend. I supported his campaign. I told him before the election I probably wouldn't agree with him all the time on issues. So he was prepared and ready for that. This might be one of those times. The true colors of PAF might be coming out, but I wait and watch, before passing judgment. If there is a pattern of Council votes in their favor all the time, and if it's all in favor of more office development then I will be concerned.

Yes, of course, the goal of any career politician is to get elected again and again and eventually get elected to a higher office. That's about the only thing they know how to do and enjoy doing. It's their livelihood. They have a tough job trying to keep everyone happy. So I applaud them in their efforts and their career pursuits.

Posted by Old Palo Alto Resident
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Mar 3, 2015 at 7:45 pm

I can't wait for the residents of Palo Alto to give city councilman Berman the boot in the next election. Guaranteed he will be gone. He is usually ill prepared, hasn't read the material to be discussed at council meetings, and just parrots the remarks of other council members. Most Palo Altans are on to him by now.
As for councilman Schaarf, he tricked the residents of Palo Alto into re electing him. He is in the pocket of developers. I call him "the minute man." He was a residentalist for one minute...long enough to get re-elected for a second term on the city council.

Posted by thinking is hard sometimes
a resident of Community Center
on Mar 3, 2015 at 8:15 pm

I watched the proceedings from home. Did everyone see the episode where Councilman Filseth and Councilman DuBois randomly inserted a "one parking space for 125 SQFT" motion??

With no data about how many people drive, how many people park, and how many spaces are currently used, they wanted to vote on an ordinance to DOUBLE the amount of parking built in new buildings. In other words, they were seriously going to dramatically alter the economics of development and go against almost all current theory about sustainable development (read Donald Shoup: overparked buildings are among the worst planning sins that we could commit) on a whim.

I'm not sure I've ever witnessed anything so unprepared. Thank goodness Councilman Burt could be there to help educate them on basic preparedness.

Posted by Resident 2
a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 3, 2015 at 9:21 pm

Did any of the Council members read Action Item #9? This was the action item before this issue (#10). City Manager was ready with staff to answer questions,non were asked. Summary Title: Amend Waste,Gas,Water Connection Fees, Some of these fees increased by 300%.

The worst is the new proposal;

" Staff plans to evaluate the option of
transferring ownership of the lower sewer lateral to the customers and go through the policy change process, after the laterals have been examined and/or repaired as a result of the cross-bore inspection program."

Here is a web link.

Web Link

People if you have problem with your sewer lateral,and have to replace it, costs will be upwards of $10,000! Write city council.

Posted by Bob Gardiner
a resident of St. Claire Gardens
on Mar 3, 2015 at 9:29 pm

Does adding more office space make PA a better place to live?
Not only does it create more traffic it also fuels abag's requirements for more housing, and brings more people all trying to grab a piece of the pie.

This is purely an economic decision - all about money. Pitting developers and their representatives on the council (Scharff, Wolbach, Berman, Kniss) standing to make big money by re-zoning and over-developing the city, against residentialists who will not make a dime for their efforts. Developers make fat profits by re-zoning their properties, and creating the 'highest-and-best' use regardless of the external costs. We end up subsidizing their profits by wasting time and money sitting in traffic jams, and creating more dangerous streets for our kids riding their bikes to school.

Thank you to Holman, Schmidt, DuBois and Filseth for looking out for our interests.

Posted by time running out
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 3, 2015 at 9:36 pm

Filseth and Dubois are on sound footing in their efforts to bring some
sanity and responsibility to land use regulation in Palo Alto. It's too
bad that they were not starters in a game which is now in the 4th quarter
with time running out and the score is 49-0. They understand the play
calling has been horrendous, the execution even worse, there was no game plan, the officiating was terrible, and up to this point it has been
a complete blow-out.

Posted by a neutral and objective observer
a resident of College Terrace
on Mar 3, 2015 at 9:57 pm

As a neutral and objective observer, I agree with what

@a-few-votes-made-the-difference wrote:

“How sad: if Wolbach hadn't beat Kou by the slightest of margins the cap would have surely gone through.”

A poster named Mauricio expressed this sentiment on November 17th:
-----I still have no idea what Wolbach views are on anything. His core mantra was "civility", in a city that already had too much civility on its city council, at the expense of diversity of opinions and meaningful debate. I still have no idea what qualifies him to serve on the city council, lacking any meaningful real life experience.

Neither have I any idea about oral core on March 3rd. Except that he carefully genuflects to the powers to be who will finance a run for higher office, the developers.

So, sad indeed, but Wolbach is probably too young to realize that the internet does not forget much,….because, to wit, there is more to it:
After holding forth about civility for months, Wolbach never repudiated the most reprehensible, uncivil, dirty, and untrue ad in the election campaign before the election. Lies about “angry” residentialists, tea party members, even so they all are obviously quite mellow Democrats.
The consummate politician, Wolbach quickly established deniability by repudiation of the reprehensible ad “after” the election, and inviting posters to coffee. Go look at the ad for yourself Web Link , page 19. An in depth analysis is here Web Link

He also shared this dirty endorsement with one of the most uncivil city councilors, the one of “the voters are not going to bully me" fame.

And one of his incumbent endorsers is famous for lamenting, after stacking committees with young pliable Palo Alto Backward (even so they call it Forward) members directly after the election, that the “voters” had stacked the City Council with residentialists Web Link Phou!

Lydia Kou, on the other hand, refused endorsement by outsiders, to be beholden only to Palo Alto citizens. She also had the most stellar community service record, and the most small contribution, the most real supporters who put their name on the web, and the largest amount of money from the small contributions, and not from $50,000 own loans, or dark money from non-transparent developer financed committees.

So, @a-few-votes-made-the-difference, honest Wolbach is only paying back his debts.

Posted by Guy_Fawkes
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Mar 3, 2015 at 10:40 pm

Guy_Fawkes is a registered user.

Some stats on office space per employee

Web Link

The 250 sq ft number is quite old. Most planners are close to 100 sq ft. An adjustment to 175 or even 125 seems reasonable and justified

Posted by resident 1
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Mar 4, 2015 at 12:09 am

Say what you will about Greg but his mayoral event at Tesla was the best. That was a great showcase for Tesla. Also there were representatives from city businesses that showcased who is in the city, including Groupon - I still have a notebook from them. There were reps from all of the major businesses so that was a really fun event - also a lot of the city service people were there to answer questions.

Hopefully there will be more events that are similar to trade shows so we see all of the city businesses.

Thank you Gregg for that great event - I have told people in other cities about that particular event.

Maybe we need a Palo Alto trade show / festivity so people can meet reps from the travel / hotel / restaurants / businesses / etc. Anyone who wants to put their names / businesses out there.

Posted by Downtown worker
a resident of Menlo Park
on Mar 4, 2015 at 8:59 am

There seems to be a lot of people who are incredulous that people come to work without using cars. I encourage those people to stop by the Caltrain station or visit the offices of one of the companies downtown and chat with a few randomly selected folks.

In the reports to city council, several companies did surveys looking at how many of their employees drive. Palantir, SurveyMonkey, and RelateIQ did a survey showing onky 38% drive alone. A9 did a separate survey showing only 40% drive alone. And they all had density above 200 sq ft per employee.

Moreover, the consultants hired by the city for the Downtown Cap Study did a survey and found only 40% of people they stopped on the street drive alone. So these companies are not crazy outliers.

Berman's proposal was to set a limit on how many people in new office buildings can drive themselves. If it was set to 40 or 50%, that would reduce traffic more than the proposed office cap - which might have cut office growth by 25% but left car use the same.

No one believes every company downtown has only a minority of drivers like these companies do. But that's why it would make sense for the city to require it of new construction! (Then developers will only be able to rent to responsible companies, not just whomever pays top dollar.) It's something that PAF members and residentialists should be able to put aside their differences and get behind.

Posted by Downtown worker
a resident of Menlo Park
on Mar 4, 2015 at 9:10 am

@GuyFawkes - a couple quick points on parking minimums.

First, the parking minimum is based not just on density but on how many drive. If density is one per 125 sq ft but only half drive, you only need one parking spot per 250. (See my previous comment for our best stats on downtown.)

Second, a few downtown companies have reported densities, and they are all over 200 sq ft per employee. Combine that with how many employees drive, and you get a demand of less than one spot per 500 sq ft. General stats like the ones you have are indicative, but we should really use PA-specific stats like the ones we are about to get from the business registry. We have tech companies, not call centers - they have different needs for their workers.

Third, free parking encourages people to drive. If you want to reduce traffic, set a parking _maximum_ of one per 500 sq ft, and change the city rules so these companies arent allowed permits for more, whether in the garages or the neighborhoods. Then make them offer free Caltrain passes, pay for bikes, subsidize Uber, whatever allows their employees to get to work. This isn't a crazy position - lots of cities do it, and it's been publicly advocated by some prominent residentialist citizens. It's tough on developers and companies and pro-resident.

Posted by a modest proposal
a resident of Downtown North
on Mar 4, 2015 at 9:29 am

Palo Alto Forward cares more about housing than about commercial space. They came out in force against a commercial cap because it (a) doesn't help solve anything; (b) probably hurts retail; and (c) adds one more thing to an already packed lists of things that City Staff is supposed to "prioritize".

If the "no growth" council members paid more than lip service to the need for more housing, and started actively proposing how we could begin to add significantly more housing supply to the right areas (and how to improve infrastructure/ parking to those areas), then they would probably have willing allies among Palo Alto Forward's membership (who would then probably be willing to accept trade-offs with Commercial growth, to the extent that the two are related issues).

As it stands, the "no growth" council members have thus far shown themselves to be just that: against ALL growth.

Posted by hmmmm
a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 4, 2015 at 10:14 am

@Bewildered says: "We've had a moratorium on new development before and the sky didn't fall. It just gives us time to figure out what we want before the bulldozers level everything in the name of progress."

I think Bewildered is right. Let's give us time to look at what development would be desirable in Palo Alto. Clearly the voters have signaled that our city staff and past council members have let us down.

Why does PA Forward so adamantly oppose taking a time out to see what is best for Palo Alto?

Posted by jm
a resident of College Terrace
on Mar 4, 2015 at 2:15 pm

If new commercial development requires that a certain percentage take alternative transport to work, thereby limiting how many people drive, how on earth does the city enforce this?

Posted by enforcement
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Mar 4, 2015 at 2:57 pm

@jm We just instituted the RPPP program. So if you don't get a permit and you're parked on a residential street, you get a ticket. If a company is supposed to have 50% SOV rate, then you limit the number of parking spots that they build AND you limit the number of RPPP permits they get. If they're parked in the street without a permit, they get a ticket. That's how you enforce it.

Posted by Downtown worker
a resident of Menlo Park
on Mar 4, 2015 at 2:59 pm

@jm - the city can control the rate of driving by controlling the number of parking permits issued, once RPP is in place in a few months. The city will know how many spots each building has internally, and can simply refuse to grant garage or neighborhood parking permits to tenants of those new buildings. Also, permits are now only issued to downtown workers (and residents, for RPP), so the city requires workers to state where they work as part of the process.

Yes, in theory office workers could park 15 minutes out and walk, but in practice, it's a giant hassle and your well-paid office workers will hate it enough to threaten to quit. Employers will be forced to fund alternatives to keep their workers happy (or the city could require them to do so anyway). And if it's still a problem, the city could adjust the boundaries of the RPP zone to fix it.

Posted by South Palo Alto Resident
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Mar 4, 2015 at 3:23 pm

As a PA resident who does not work downtown but likes to shop there sometimes, where do I park? If every car has to display a permit to not get towed, will all PA residents get a permit for each of their cars?

Posted by mauricio
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Mar 4, 2015 at 3:52 pm

mauricio is a registered user.

"Palo Alto Forward cares more about housing than about commercial space."

Palo Alto Forward, a complete misnomer, as the word forward should be replaced with backward, "cares" about housing because their members must absolutely, positively have a Palo Alto address, and not just a Palo Alto address, but preferably a downtown address, nothing else would suffice. To achieve their heart's desire, they want to completely change this small town's character from a relatively quite tree lined community with high quality of life into a dense megalopolis.

Posted by European born
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 4, 2015 at 3:59 pm

I find this discussion really strange. The young people commenting here seem really misinformed.

Take any place with higher density, be it housing or offices or both, and there always is increased congestion and traffic problems among other issues.

Look even at the European cities with the best public transit systems. You still ALWAYS have a lot of car traffic and congestion!

Palo Alto was innovative before and will remain innovative. There was also quality of life here before, as a small town. Unfortunately, it is fast going away. Palo Alto does not have the attributes to make it a great "city". It will never been a major destination metropolis anyway! This title belongs to San Francisco in this area. We will not share it any time soon.

Do yourself a favor, move to San Francisco if you want that lifestyle and take Caltrain down to work. Problem solved for you. Why don't you want to do that? Schools? Don't want to communte even with Caltrain? Haaa.... Well then, do like the rest of us did and compromise on where you live and how you live until you can afford your house here. But don't come and tell us to do things that will destroy this town completely, being that it already is in a sorry state.

It does make complete sense to have a moratorium on new development until we have things figured out here.

Please, young people, stop being the (unconscious?) pawns of developers.

Posted by jm
a resident of College Terrace
on Mar 4, 2015 at 4:31 pm

@Downtown Worker
How many people do you think live close to public transport? I think it will take most people a lot longer to get to public transport from their homes than it is to drive and park a 30 minute walk to the office. So yes, the area the RPPP will covers will almost certainly have to be expanded.

Posted by Gale Johnson
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Mar 4, 2015 at 6:14 pm

@ european born.
What an astute observation. Yes, we do some weird things in this country and maybe especially locally in our town. And Council makes some bad decisions that don't serve our community well, just the developers and growth advocates. This will all play out eventually. And we should all remember who we voted for. If they are not serious about serving our citizens and trying to solve the real problems, then the next voting cycle will be our chance to take care of that. Unfortunately, that might be a long wait.

Posted by What the Flock?
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 4, 2015 at 6:21 pm

Where will we shop, when there are no retail stores left, only offices and businesses employing more people than we have room for, and whose traffic make life miserable for residents, employees, and visitors alike?

We will shop in Mtn View and Redwood City, dropping our tax dollars elsewhere.

Posted by What the Flock
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 4, 2015 at 6:26 pm

I really regret voting for Wolbach.

Posted by Paco
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Mar 4, 2015 at 8:56 pm

@ interested
Thanks for selling out..... Sometimes money can't buy happiness. Trying to convince otherwise proves to be obtuse.

Posted by no worries, you can still
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Mar 4, 2015 at 9:11 pm

South Palo Alto Resident asked: "As a PA resident who does not work downtown but likes to shop there sometimes, where do I park? If every car has to display a permit to not get towed, will all PA residents get a permit for each of their cars?"

Answer: Same as what you would do today! There will continue to be FREE parking on streets in the business area and in portions of each parking garage, for 2 or 3 hours. If you want to stay longer, you can buy an all day permit -- or move to another parking garage. Also, I'm pretty sure that the restricted parking on residential streets will still allow 2 hours free parking before you can be ticketed.
Bonus: without all the Stanford employees parking in the residential areas and taking the Marguerite shuttle to work, there should be quite a few spaces that are now filled up by 9 AM. l still be available FREE

Posted by Sad
a resident of Downtown North
on Mar 5, 2015 at 8:26 am

"I really regret voting for Wolbach"

I had a feeling that some people who voted for Cory were going to regret it later. It's too bad that without Lydia we are going to have to fight even harder to keep this town from sinking further into a booming office park where developers can do what ever they want just to capitalize on our town.

Posted by Sad
a resident of Downtown North
on Mar 5, 2015 at 8:36 am

"And we should all remember who we voted for. If they are not serious about serving our citizens and trying to solve the real problems, then the next voting cycle will be our chance to take care of that. Unfortunately, that might be a long wait."

Gale - Why did you vote for Cory if you don't agree with his views regarding too much office growth? It sounds like you may be regretting that you did.I personally think that he represented himself as something that he is not and many voters fell for that.

Posted by Mark Shull
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Mar 5, 2015 at 8:51 am

It now sounds like HP is trying the steam roller city council by threatening to leave if they cannot have unlimited development. HP is a mature company that today competes on cost, not innovation. If they are planning to stay, its because management wants to live here, not because its the lowest cost location.

The city council should not be bullied by HP. To give in to their obscene threats is a race to the bottom.

Palo Alto is the center of the technology world because of Stanford and because the best technologists in the world want to live here. That is the environment the city council needs to protect, not threats from a tired a tired technology company that probably will move to Texas or North Carolina in a few years anyway.

And when they do, there will be hundreds of companies to take over their office space because this is where the best technologists want to live. Don't let HP or the developers ruin this environment.

We elected city council to deal with the out of proportion building sizes, developers gaming building regulations, parking and road congestion and the lack of viable public transportation. They need to stand up to threats and do their job.

Posted by Sad
a resident of Downtown North
on Mar 5, 2015 at 9:02 am

PAF and developers see that we are in the middle of an office boom and that we have a new city council and they are trying to use that to their advantage and keep the momentum going. You need to strike when the anvil is hot, and it's hot. Developers are on a roll to gobble up as much land as they can before the brakes are put on, because believe me they know the brakes are coming. That is why they are in a rush and panic mode to make this council see that we should not cap the office development for fear of losing their total sweep on Palo Alto.

The old city council is to blame for setting the stage and allowing this to happen. When the slogan of a "Vibrant" Palo Alto came out I knew we were headed in a bad direction. Developers were given a green light and went with it, fast and furious. And now we sit back and say WOW! what happened to our small quaint and town.

Posted by mauricio
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Mar 5, 2015 at 11:20 am

mauricio is a registered user.

it seems like quite a few of Cory voters, voters who are alarmed by the development orgy of the last 30 years, have voted for him despite not knowing his views, which he brilliantly concealed during the run up to the last elections. Those particular voters seem to have voted for him because he seemed like a "nice guy". I supposed that few of those voters knew he was a member of PAF, and even fewer voters had heard of that group at the time and knew its agenda.

Cory kept mentioning "civility" during the campaign, but members and supporters of PAF, the group whose goals( massive development and urbanization of Palo Alto) he is now championing from city hall, speak dismissively and with scorn of residents who want to maintain the small town feel and small town quality of life of Palo Alto. We have been accused by PAF members and supporters as exclusionary, of living and being frozen in the past, of being against innovation, of being against young people, of hating progress, etc, etc, etc.

As far as the slogan "vibrant Palo Alto", Liz Kniss is fond of using it and has used it numerous times when defensing the massive development she has championed for years and is so proud of. It makes perfect sense that Kniss is Cory's mentor. Too bad those voters didn't that either before voting for him.

Posted by time running out
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 5, 2015 at 12:07 pm

The closeness of the vote between Lydia Kuo and Cory Wolbach and the circumstances surrounding the vote count, as discussed by Doug Moran in his blog "Election recount an illusion?" Dec 2,2014 should have led to a recount. The City Council should request a recount now to remove this
cloud over the Council and our democratic system which just will not go away. For that reason everybody should support a recount.

Posted by Abitarian
a resident of Downtown North
on Mar 5, 2015 at 1:37 pm

It surprises me that anyone is truly surprised by the stances taken by our City Council members in the new term. Mr. Scharff's current pro-business positions are fully aligned with his previous voting record. Mr. Wolbach clearly expressed support for growth, particularly near mass transit.

Posted by anneke
a resident of Professorville
on Mar 5, 2015 at 2:09 pm

Here is a post I recently as a response to a similar Online article:

Posted by anneke
a resident of Professorville
on Mar 2, 2015 at 1:22 pm

Protection and availability of ground floor retail stores will be a strategic and positive move towards keeping Palo Alto a charming city, and not turning it into a financial district in Manhattan.

We have lived in Professorville for 21 years, and until seven years ago we never complained about intrusive parking, which is a city process. Please note I do not say "Intrusive Parkers," as I cannot fault the workers for (over) parking in our neighborhoods. It has been the City that has allowed them to do so.

When the developers started to convert retail stores into employee-crammed offices and were allowed by the City Staff and Council to do so without securing sufficient parking, that is when we saw the problem start. Again, I cannot put this issue all on the developers, as the City allowed them to do it.

I am not at all against development, but it needs to be balanced, and since employee parking is a cost of doing business, it needs to be automatically included in the basic plans. No exception granted!

Posted by Lana
a resident of Crescent Park
on Mar 5, 2015 at 2:13 pm

Cory's "lets give everyone a teddy bear" act is lacking substance and frankly a little vapid. I'm all for civility too but it's a positive peripheral attribute and not a basis for substantive, wise decision making. I feel Cory is in the pocket of his special interests (PAF, developers who will donate to his future campaigns), and reverts to his teddy bear act as a defense mechanism when the real debating starts.

I'm just surprised the voters fell for it. Too many inattentive voters who just looked at his check-the-box endorsement list and didn't explore his experience, capabilities, or record.

Posted by mauricio
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Mar 5, 2015 at 4:28 pm

mauricio is a registered user.

-Cory's "lets give everyone a teddy bear" act is lacking substance and frankly a little vapid.-

-I'm just surprised the voters fell for it. Too many inattentive voters who just looked at his check-the-box endorsement list and didn't explore his experience, capabilities, or record.-

Next to extremely low voter turn out, low information voters are a real tragedy in the US.

Posted by Gale Johnson
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Mar 5, 2015 at 4:38 pm

I agree with several commenters. I too am doubtful that workers will try very hard to find other modes of transportation. We all love our cars. This morning at 8:45 I decided to drive from my house in South Palo to Joanie's on Califonia for breakfast. I've seen and been in long backups on Alma trying to work onto Oregon Expressway so I decided to go all the way to El Camino.
That didn't work out either. Long backups at every light. It took me 25 minutes.

HP! The "HP way" went away a long time ago. Yes, their threat should be taken seriously but the reality, I believe, is that it wouldn't leave a void and vacant buildings. All these new innovators would fill that space quickly.

PAF: I don't know, but need to find out, exactly what they stand for, why they were formed in the first place and if they have a charter statement. I welcome input from anyone who knows. I think I was clear on understanding Cory's position on many issues, ones that he hoped to give high priority to: More housing in the downtown hub area so that workers could live close to their place of work; several ideas that many others have offered also regarding ways to alleviate the traffic congestion and parking problems, and the need to do more for the homeless in or community. All good stuff that I trust he will follow thru on. Please, let's give him a chance. I hope all you accusers that say he was in the pockets of developers for more office space all along are wrong. But now that he's on City Council he can't avoid having to deal with it, talk about it, and eventually have to vote on it. Then we can judge.

Posted by resident 1
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Mar 5, 2015 at 5:43 pm

Msybe we could all do ourselves a favor and stop talking about Palo Alto Forward. There are only 9 people on the PACC that we voted for. We did not vote for all of the other people who somehow get thrown in to the mix.

We each get to discuss the pros and cons of these topics but only 9 get to vote. Quit giving credit to the other masses - they have the same votes you do.

The more we throw out the name PWF the more power we give them. Take back your power neighborhoods.

Posted by mauricio
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Mar 5, 2015 at 6:01 pm

mauricio is a registered user.

PAF already has great power, whether we say it out loud or not. They have two members on the Planning and Transportation Committee, both quite aggressive. One of them is not shy about expressing her opinion that Palo Alto should undergo massive urbanization and development. There are four council members, one of them is a PAF member, who seem to be in perfect sync with them. Burying our heads in the sand pretending they don't exist is not going to make them disappear or reduce their power and influence.

Posted by Resident
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 5, 2015 at 6:27 pm

While parking and traffic are the symptoms, the real issue is density. Programs like TDM are great but are likely to have limited impact.

During this boom, the most profitable buildings by far are office buildings. That is what developers will build unless we have zoning and regulations to limit office development. There is a 180,000 square feet of office space in the pipeline. Meaningful housing in downtown areas will not be built unless there is a cap on office space or the maximum FAR (Floor Area) is lowered from 3.0 for office buildings. The Comprehensive Plan has downtown zoned for a FAR (Floor Area Ratio) of 1.0 but new projects are being built with a FAR of 2.5 to 3.0 because of loopholes and exemptions. Our current zoning rules are not effectively implementing the comprehensive plan. The residents have made their dissatisfaction with the City's land use planning and quality of new developments during the last National Citizens Survey and in the last election. Whether the majority of the city council will take meaningful steps to address the majority of residents concerns remains to be seen.

Posted by so much
a resident of Crescent Park
on Mar 5, 2015 at 6:35 pm

So much for Palo Alto being an open-minded and inclusive community. Look at yourselves. Any time someone says something that doesn't fall in line with the residentialist dogma, you're falling all over yourselves to create conspiracy theories about them that are unsubstantiated and downright slanderous. Dark money? Shills for developers? Give me a break. All you're doing is trying to tar people and imagine associations that don't exist so that you don't actually have to respond with any real data or facts. If any of you had any real facts to substantiate your claims you'd bring them. But you don't. You're just engaging in name calling your own fellow residents- people who live next door to you right now. People sitting next to you in the park. People whose kids come to sell you girl scout cookies. That's who you're tarring here. You all are an epic demonstration of the need for civility in this town. When I see one conversation in this newspaper that actually argues about approaches instead of trying to say nasty things about people who disagree with you, then I'll take that statement back. I've seen kids in the school yard who are nicer to each other than this. I don't support the office cap and I have absolutely nothing to do with development whatsoever and never have.

Palo Alto Forward seems to be saying that traffic and parking are real issues. They're just telling you that an office cap isn't going to solve it. And they're right! New development will add something like 1% of the city's square footage per year (and that's in boom times, not in bad times, which we also have). So you're addressing 1% of our problem. What about the other 99%?? How are you going to get those people who are ALREADY creating parking and traffic issues out of their cars? Do your council member have ANY answer to that question? Have you asked them? They don't because they think you're going to be pacified by this nonsense.

You think your politicians are doing what you want? No, they're paying lip service to what you want and trying to take the easy way out and hope you're too dumb to notice. An office cap is't going to do a single thing about the problems you're already experience. NOTHING. It'll slow additional traffic and parking, but you're still getting additional traffic and parking slowly AND you're getting it from more intensified use of existing space. You've spent all your time and money hacking away at the 1% and ignored the other 99%. If all the buildings in downtown Palo Alto crammed in just two more people that would add way more to parking and congestion than this measure would save based on current square footage additions per year.

What Palo Alto Forward is saying is let's go after 100% of the problem and let's make sure we have the resources to do that. The TMA is voluntarily funded by existing businesses and those funds can be used towards paying for employee public transit, getting employee shuttles, giving employees Lyft and Uber credits, making better walking and biking infrastructure, etc. The TMA can fund some of that but development fees can be used towards that too and some of the money we were going to spend on shuttles can instead by spent on giving residents and employees Lyft and Uber credits. If we create SOV targets for everyone, businesses can use the TMA to try to meet them and they have incentive to do so because it's a condition for growth. If there is extremely limited potential for growth, then why invest money in limiting SOV?

Getting 1% fewer employees in PAlo Alto to drive would have a MUCH more dramatic impact on your daily life than limiting 1% of city growth. You'd actually see an improvement on the streets. You won't see or feel anything at all with an office cap initially and over time things will get worse.

When someone tells you that they have a singular cure to what ails you, you should be suspicious. This is a hard problem that requires multiple approaches to solve.

You have yourselves said that we have had a cap before and the sky didn't fall. But it didn't fix anything either, now did it? (The downtown area is STILL under that cap by the way). Insanity is repeating the same action again and again, thinking that you're going to get a different outcome. If you want a different outcome, then you need to try another approach that you haven't tried before.

Posted by actually...
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Mar 5, 2015 at 6:40 pm

Housing would become more profitable to build than office if it could be built more densely than currently allowed. If you get more units and more rent, that can also make building housing more appealing. Your only lever isn't cutting the legs off of office space - you can also make housing more attractive to build. If this were really about getting more housing rather than office, then people would be saying that. But they're not. They'll get their office cap and then turn around and say that they didn't really mean it when they said that "housing should be allowed to catch up." They'll gut office and then they'll move onto gutting housing.

Posted by Eric Rosenblum
a resident of Downtown North
on Mar 5, 2015 at 7:31 pm

Eric Rosenblum is a registered user.

@Gale Johnson

Thanks for your willingness to learn more about Palo Alto Forward.

In response to your questions about our platform and events:
-- you can read more about our platform here (Web Link we also have a really active blog (Web Link that includes local data and proposed solutions to many of the current discussions
-- we have a couple events that we are encouraging members to attend (some organized by us, some organized by worthy organization which are well aligned with our goals). I encourage everyone to attend and learn more! (you can learn more or register here: Web Link A couple of the upcoming events include the following:

Silicon Valley Transportation Choices & Healthy Communities Summit - Saturday, March 07
Join Palo Alto Forward and other Santa Clara and San Mateo County residents in discussing how we plan, grown, and invest over the coming decades.

Buena Vista Rally - Monday, March 09
There will be a rally at Palo Alto City Hall and Palo Alto Forward would like to show support for keeping Buena Vista residents in Palo Alto and preserving the affordable housing there.

Change and Innovation in Palo Alto Transportation - Thursday, March 12
Come meet with Yoriko Kishimoto, former Mayor of Palo Alto, as she recounts stories of recent land use/transportation structural challenges and her vision for the peninsula’s future.

Posted by resident 1
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Mar 5, 2015 at 7:40 pm

Drive down El Camino - Charleston to San Antonio - almost all new residential buildings. Some commercial thrown in. New Hotels. Look at the area going east - all new housing. East Meadow Circle - all new housing.

People in North PA sound like nothing is happening except businesses leaving town - yes they are. You raised the rent too high and pushed them out.

From where I am driving around and see this continual new development a lot of the comments do not make sense. How can you say we need more housing when it is going up in front of your face?

As to company's threatening to leave they already have. If you go down to LA you will see divisions of those businesses everywhere - typically next to major airports - Burbank, LAX and Orange County. They don't need to be here - they can do just fine in LA where they already are.

The area of El Segundo going south next to LAX has the biggest collection of major government contractors and all the second tier contractors. Everyone is there - and you can now add Google, Yahoo, et all.
What we do need to be decided with more perspective - not this henny penny the sky is falling.

Posted by Resident
a resident of Downtown North
on Mar 5, 2015 at 7:43 pm

Nice PR move......

Posted by resident 1
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Mar 5, 2015 at 9:08 pm

Mark Shull - et all - I don't get the rant against HP. Read your Wall Street Journal 03/04 -" Beijing Revives Silk Road to Skirt Sea Perils." They are a key developer of the Silk Road - that is a train that takes products (Technology - computers) from China over the land westward to Spain. It is key to developing Kazakhstan, Russia, Belarus, Poland, Germany, France to Spain.

Many major American Companies are involved in this venture which is going to open up that whole area for development. LMC developed a whole new air control system for Kazakhstan, GE new train engines, etc.
You see commercial products but there is a whole lot going on. I do not work for HP but I am excited for the new Silk Road.

They are moving out in a big way that assists in the technology world commerce.

Posted by data
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Mar 5, 2015 at 9:24 pm

Ah resident 1, and this is why we rely on data and not anecdotal evidence. Data says Bay Area added about 114k jobs last year and 8k housing units. Data also says Palo has 9% of the county's jobs and is being asked to zone for 3% of the county's housing - so THREE times less than what's fair and square.

Your comment about "looking at the housing in front of your face" is about as useful as pointing to a pizza and proclaiming that because you see one pizza, then clearly world hunger doesn't exist. I should also add that your comment is quite similar to a congressman that recently held a snowball in chambers and proclaimed that therefore global warming didn't exist.

Data, resident 1, please. Not anecdotes.

Posted by um what
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 5, 2015 at 10:15 pm

From a post above: "Greater density for housing is a must and will eventually bring down the cost of housing"

Palo Alto housing is much denser and much cheaper than it used to be, say, 20 years ago.

Oh, wait...

Posted by resident 1
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Mar 5, 2015 at 10:18 pm

The city government has the numbers of residential properties that have been developed over the last 10 years. I do not have that data - the city does. However the city does have a problem with data - doesn't it. It talks about pizza as a distraction and vague percentages.

Given the 26 square miles that we are working with - not the total bay area or world - the city should be able to provide the number of single residential units, number of multi-residential units that comprise the city inventory - by year. A graph would depict the percentage gains for each year in those categories.

Given your vast grasp of "data" do you think the city is capable of producing that data? It is time to put the numbers down so everyone is working with the same facts. If everyone is working with the same facts then we don't have to waste time with pizza and snowballs - your preference.

Posted by data
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Mar 5, 2015 at 10:30 pm

The data you want is in the Housing Element. Web Link

Posted by Mr.Recycle
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 6, 2015 at 1:50 am

@so much - You are talking in circles, it seems to be the standard Palo Alto Forward talking points. If you believe we can improve traffic by getting 1% of employees not to drive, GREAT, do it. But we can also freeze new development to make sure that improvement isn't offset by new commuters. Capping development can't make traffic worse. New development will make it worse. So let's cap it, and then that gives you some room to try to get 1% of of employees to stop driving. When traffic actually is better, we can have a little more development, and see how it goes.

Posted by mauricio
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Mar 6, 2015 at 6:11 am

mauricio is a registered user.

The data shows that the more we built and developed, the higher we drove the cost of housing. The main PAF argument is DOA. As far as reducing the number of drivers, look at the housing development along High St. only a short walking distance from the train depot, yet every morning, car after car can be seen coming out of the underground garage , heading for work. Even those living next to the train station use their cars, good luck with those who live further away from major public transportation. Another PAF argument that doesn't jibe with real life.

Increased density will increase an already skyrocketing real estate market and intensify and worsen the existing problems.

Posted by so much
a resident of Crescent Park
on Mar 6, 2015 at 9:04 am

We have finite resources when it comes to staff (three of the key leaders just quit by the way), staff time, and city council time. You're asking them to add another priority to their list of around 50 that targets 1% of the city, rather than focusing on other priorities which target 100% of the city. They can't do everything and this is a waste of our resources and tax money as compared to other efforts which will actually work to make existing parking and traffic issues better. An office cap doesn't make existing parking and traffic any better. It doesn't take a single car off the road. It just adds cars, but more slowly. You're effectively just kicking the can down the road while things get worse instead of investing in the other priorities we already have, over a dozen of which are aimed at traffic and parking.

Further, you're doing damage to some of those existing priorities. No business has an incentive to get people out of their cars and spend money doing it if you've already told them they get nothing for their efforts. Businesses are rational and they'll form programs to get people out of cars if it means that doing so is cheaper than moving elsewhere to grow and the costs of relocation and losing some employees because of that relocation. They're not going to do any of that if you've already told them that they can't grow.

As for Maurico, looks like you're back with your notions that supply and demand somehow don't apply to Palo Alto like we live in the Bermuda Triangle or something. More housing doesn't make housing more expensive any more than more bread or more diamonds doesn't make bread or diamonds more expensive. You're spreading flat out misinformation.

Also, your point about people coming out of housing developments and driving really only underscores what I'm saying. How is capping office going to have ANY impact on the RESIDENTS that drive? We know that office workers near the train - more than 60% of them don't drive. What do we know about our own residents and how much they drive? I'm looking at the comments in here and at least one lady is getting in her car to drive to a cafe that probably would have taken her the same amount of time to walk to- and she's doing it during rush hour. SHE IS THE TRAFFIC.

As for future development, just like you can make building office conditional on a certain drive rate, you can make housing conditional in the same way. There are plenty of communities with green preference- i.e. you only get to live there if you promise not to have a car (and those buildings usually provide a few zip cars for the occasional time you do need one- but they're few and they're shared across the neighborhood). We should do more of that in Palo Alto. But if you spend more staff time on the office cap, that means less staff time on something like this.

Posted by resident 1
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Mar 6, 2015 at 10:21 am

We have a situation in which commercial properties were converted to housing - Ricky's on El Camino - huge amount of added housing - both single family and residential units; Bowling Alley to residential on El Camino; Meanwhile we added hotels. Do hotels qualify as added business concerning their staff?

I will take a look at the area from Charleston to San Antonio and document the changes of commercial vs residential. Also the Cabana has some type of change hinted at. What about Ming's? You are going from a restaurant to a hotel - that is added staff.
This conversation seems to center on the Caltrain corridor but the major development is on the El Camino Corridor. If you center the conversation only on downtown than you are not taking the whole city in consideration - and we are being judged on the whole city for the purposes of ABAG. I no longer think ABAG is an appropriate legal issue due to their legal problems but the city keeps using it as a wedge.

Posted by Pat Markevitch
a resident of Downtown North
on Mar 6, 2015 at 10:23 am

I would like to look at this problem another way. Clearly there are people who have to work outside the home, service industry, teachers,etc... But there is a large proportion of people who leave home, to go to an office to work when they could just as well do their work at home. I am talking about software engineers, etc... I think we should encourage larger companies to allow their workers to work from home 2-3 days a week. A lot of meetings can be done via Skype or go to meeting to name a few. Of the people I know who telecommute, they actually put in more work hours a day and they are happier because they aren't stuck in traffic. Let's look at these options.

Posted by resident 1
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Mar 6, 2015 at 10:53 am

Pat they have already been there and done that. The end result is that people are now directed to come into the office and work in the office with their counterparts. Yahoo is a good example. People working from home open the door to hackers - that has been established all over the place. People at home have different grades of computers and systems - open door to trouble.
Ms. Clinton - working from home doing official government business - whew.
That is in the press.

Any company that is working on sensitive company business wants their people in the building on the in-house computers so any transgressions can be traced. Assume that all companies in a technically sensitive arena are very protective of their data. And we do not get snow days here.

Posted by Mr.Recycle
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 6, 2015 at 11:05 am

@So Much - you've simplified supply and demand beyond usefulness. Let's say there are 1,000 housing units available for sale in PA, and 100,000 potential buyers, globally, Adding another 1000 units doesn't come close to meeting demand, so the price won't come down. What adding 1000 units does do is add ~2000 cars to the roads, and 2000 kids to the schools.

Posted by mauricio
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Mar 6, 2015 at 11:20 am

mauricio is a registered user.

@so much-there are millions of people around the world who want to live in Palo Alto, so even we allow a massive housing development, we would only address a tiny fraction of the demand. The fact that foreign investors/buyers can afford to outbid anybody and keep driving housing costs up to the stratosphere, makes the supply-and-demand theory, which works only in the abstract under perfect and ideal conditions, but rarely in real life, irrelevant.

There has been a massive development in the last 20 years. Care to compare the housing prices? They have gone sharply and dramaticallyup the more development we allowed.

Posted by resident 1
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Mar 6, 2015 at 1:07 pm

Back to the rant on HP. HP is in Stanford Research Park so the business relationship is between HP and SU. If HP wants to expand their territory within that framework then that is a good thing - we want our local companies to be successful. Their success increases our success as a supporting city.
You will note that all of our "favorite" companies are expanding - Facebook, Google, Yahoo, Apple - all in really big expansions. So that is GOOD. Enjoy the success of our local companies.

Posted by Robert
a resident of another community
on Mar 6, 2015 at 1:42 pm


You realize that simply making a statement, such as "There has been a massive development in the last 20 years", doesn't actually make it true? That a statement like that is somewhat contradicted by the fact that housing production has been slower in the last 20 years than any other time period in Palo Alto history?

Posted by resident 1
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Mar 6, 2015 at 1:50 pm

Robert - another off the wall statement with no perspective as to where and how you arrived at your conclusion - where is your back-up on that statement. All of the peninsula - in total - has gone through a huge amount of growth.

Posted by Robert
a resident of another community
on Mar 6, 2015 at 2:11 pm


"All of the peninsula - in total - has gone through a huge amount of growth." true, the majority of which occurred in the 50's and 60's through the 80's. Would you like links to the census figures regarding year over year housing production and population growth? I'm just pointing out how mauricio's statement that we're building more than ever right now yet prices still are going up has no basis in fact.

Posted by it's all about perspective
a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 6, 2015 at 3:27 pm


The other obvious flaw in Mauricio's "analysis" is that while new housing has been built, it's been built at a rate far lower than the growth in population, jobs and GDP in the region. His statement: "we have built houses, and yet prices have still risen, so I have proven that supply and demand are backwards in our city" is flawed (I am shocked that in a community with this level of education, it is even necessary to point out these basic math and logical fallacies)

Posted by resident 1
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Mar 6, 2015 at 7:14 pm

You all are talking about regional issues- we only control 26 square miles.
If you go to regional then you are not accounting for the huge amount of growth in San Jose, North San Jose, Santa Clara, Sunnyvale. That all is happening right now. In the last five years.
And if you look at our 26 square miles then go look at the amount of housing on the Ricky site - Charleston and El Camino. There is more new housing just being built as you go down to San Antonio.
There is new housing everywhere - I do not know where you get your information from - it is flawed.

Posted by data
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Mar 7, 2015 at 2:18 am

resident 1- we started this whole conversation by me giving you regional numbers on jobs and housing. You said that that wasn't good enough and you wanted PA-specific numbers. I gave you a link to those straight from the city. Now you're back to demanding regional data...

You've been presented with a lot of data. And I'll give you more:
Web Link

"across the Bay Area last year was about 114,000 new jobs and fewer than 8,000 new housing units"

Web Link

"San Francisco took on 10,617 new residents in 2013, but added only 2,277 new housing units. Santa Clara added 5,245 new units for over 27,600 newcomers. And Alameda added 2,474 new units for 23,135 new arrivals." That's just one year. But we've had those same deficits year after year for over a decade. In reality, we have massively under built housing in most of the Bay Area.

You SEE housing but you DON'T see all the people crammed in with more roommates than healthy and you DON'T see all the people commuting to work from more than an hour away. You also don't see San Jose's homeless encampments- largest in the country - and you don't go looking in on San Francisco's homeless shelters either - which have been filled to the brim in the last few years. New housing everywhere doesn't mean it's enough housing. There's no way for you to "see" if there's enough housing. You need actual data for that, not just casual observations from inside your car.

In Palo Alto, Ricky's notwithstanding, we still have 3 jobs for every resident. That's a fact every council member has agreed with including Eric Filseth and Tom Dubois.

Now where's your data resident 1??

Posted by resident 1
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Mar 7, 2015 at 9:55 am

I think I will start with the "State of the Region 2015: Economy, Population, Housing produced by the A meeting of the Association of Bay Area Government took place in Oakland where these topics were discussed. Santa Clara county had 4,029 permits issued from 2010 to 2014 for multi-family homes.

These topics are continuously reported in the San Jose Mercury and San Francisco Chronicle, as well as the cleaning of Coyote Creek of the Homeless and other efforts to support the Homeless. I depend on the formal newsprint to provide the most current information as it reduces the SPIN - or I at least recognize the organizations that produce the SPIN.

Some people are making an assertion that only select people can be the spokesperson for all of these entities - but the entities now are putting their positions out there on a continual basis as the available data keeps changing and updating. Growth is rising on a continual basis.

The Joint Venture Silicon Valley inputs on this topic - other groups are supporting the updating of the transportation system to accommodate the growth - BART.

I did look at the Palo Alto presentation and was impressed with the amount of data - I do not think most residents are aware it exists. The drum beat in that presentation was that Palo Alto is built out.

Discussion of the region in total is available but we are still only in command of 26 square miles. Other cities in the bay area are having the same discussions and putting these issues on their ballots. All of the other city approaches are based on their specific tax base, population, proximity to transportation, size, and in the case of San Jose the government POC for the county. We are surrounded by the impacts of growth and urbanization but we need to focus on the portion that we have some financial control over.

Goggle is changing Mountain View and has a huge impact on the tax base for that city, as does Facebook in Menlo Park, and Yahoo in Sunnyvale. Microsoft has a facility in Mountain View - all of the major companies add to the tax base of those cities so they have a different set of parameters for their city outlook.

Note - I am a fourth generation Californian with relatives in all key areas, both historically and current who have their pulse on the changes in their locales. That could be interpreted as not only regional but state-wide.

Your comments are filled with assumptions - and you know what they say about assumptions.

Posted by Mauricio
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Mar 7, 2015 at 11:41 am

We could build ten thousand housing units this year and Foreign investors would snatch them up, outbidding everybody and driving housing cost further up , which has been the case for years. The supply and demand theory doesn't work under such circumstances. It might work when all factors are equal. Since we don't have the land for that, housing prices we'll keep spiraling up the more we build, while destroying our quality of life, in the process, and I haven't even touched on the water issue, that has become an existential one.

Posted by thinking is hard sometimes
a resident of Community Center
on Mar 7, 2015 at 4:37 pm

Ah, Mauricio... I still can't tell if you're just trolling this board.

If your contention is that "foreign buyers" will essentially pay any amount of money for any number of housing units, then any of us can sell our house for infinite amounts of money to that apparently insatiable and inelastic demand.

Want to sell your home for $10M? No problem. Prefer $100M?? Up to you! The foreigners will buy it. They don't follow laws of supply and demand :)

Posted by pro-cap
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 7, 2015 at 6:59 pm

thinking is hard sometimes,

The market in NY and London have defied the usual laws of pricing for "value" for housing.

Today saw that Addison Antiques is closing, the last local owned retail business. Also, this week heard Fresh Market is closing.

This means that the current level of combined housing and office population cannot sustain what we currently have as retail. Somebody needs to do the numbers and consider that if the current retail businesses are at risk, after an economic boom of sorts - would we need to double, triple, quadruple the population to keep these two businesses alive, or to attract anyone willing to take a nose bleed?.

Office people do not demand or support attractive retail, attractive to the people who live here. They are not interested in cutes toy stores, antique shops, gift shops, or book shops. We just lost an Art store, which office people probably never even stepped a foot in. Unlike residents who went there for years.

Offices will pay for the vanity address and you can bet that the offers for housing real estate will not be just from the Bay Area.

The sell out should not be so fast.

Not so fast,

Posted by resident 1
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Mar 7, 2015 at 7:05 pm

I just received in the US mail my The Deleon Insight for March 2015. Ken is a smart guy - article in magazine is "The Impact of Foreign Investment on Silicon Valley Real Estate Market". So assume that all property owners in PA are receiving this monthly report, plus all of the real estate mailers that advertise the listed price VS the sold price - always HIGHER.
Any property owner knows what is going on monthly and yearly - it arrives in the mail on a continual basis, non-stop basis. Inventory is low so they are out looking all of the time for new listings. We can all see what is going on - no mystery.

Posted by isn't the conspiracy reversed?
a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 7, 2015 at 8:04 pm

It occurs to me that the conspiracy theorists have everything backwards. Severely restricting supply, which has been our policy for several decades now, helps people with expensive homes keep their prices high. And it helps landlords keep their rents high. It probably hurts developers to a certain extent (because they don't get to work on very many new projects); but those projects that they get to do are worth a lot of money because of limited supply.

Is the "residentialist movement" really all about keeping housing prices high? Is it about keeping rents high? Who benefits from these policies?

I sure know who loses:
-- renters
-- businesses (retail and others)
-- anyone who wants to move here

I know who wins:
-- home owners
-- land lords
-- maybe developers

Posted by Downtown Worker
a resident of Menlo Park
on Mar 7, 2015 at 8:09 pm

Resident 1 - we're seeing the same thing up and down the peninsula, although Palo Alto is #1for price increases _in the entire United States_. (See Web Link Menlo Park and Redwood City are also in the top 10.

This price appreciation comes because this is the one area in the US that is experiencing a genuine boom and generating the kind of jobs that create real upward mobility. Stopping development here is not going to move them to Bakersfield. VCs and the tech ecosystem don't work that way. You can create these jobs or destroy them. You can't move them. And, if you destroy them, you destroy the best options for young people to better themselves. It's not just about tech workers - every job in tech generates five other jobs regionally in services.

Housing is expensive because this is the place where (primarily) young people can come to achieve that American dream. Yes, they can live in Tracy and take that long commute - and I've known many who do - but that just adds to the traffic problems we have here.

I've seen comments on this thread by old-time residents who want the young ones to work their way up. Believe me - I've seen these people. They are working hard. But because every city in the Peninsula refuses to permit enough housing, everyone from the affluent young tech workers in Palo Alto to the lower-income young service workers who commute from Redwood City or EPA are afraid of what the next rent increase will mean for them.

Not permitting more four-story condos and apartments is great for those who worked hard twenty and thirty years ago to buy when houses and condos were expensive but comparatively cheap. I myself am lucky to be a homeowner. But nowadays those places need hundreds of thousands just in the down payment. This is qualitatively different from 30 years ago.

To Mauricio and Resident 1 and the similar commenters on this thread: the people who want more condos in downtown and Cal Ave are the younger version of you - but without the opportunities you were able to have. Those opportunities could exist again - if all of us in the Peninsula were willing to give it to them.

Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on Mar 7, 2015 at 10:23 pm

@Downtown Worker -- just wish to point out that high-tech jobs can indeed move. Silicon Valley got this name for printing silicon. Those jobs weren't destroyed; they moved and flourished elsewhere.

Posted by Water
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 8, 2015 at 12:42 am

Mauricio, you are so right. When do things like water capacity and the drought enter the picture? I resent all the long-term emergency measures while giant ugly hotels and apartments spring up like mushrooms. Filseth campaigned on taking a systems review of the City, I'd like to see that us consider resources/costs of the development, because it's not incremental.
Web Link

Posted by resident 1
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Mar 8, 2015 at 10:02 am

I am not taking pro / con position on growth - I am pointing out the hyperbole in some of the positions which are arguing their interpretation of data. Most hyperbole is age related. And most data is available to everyone if they chose to focus on that topic.

Everyone has the same data to work with - everyone can read the local newspapers which are reporting on the issues surrounding the peninsula. Everyone can look at the ads in the newspapers which are reporting on the Real Estate - there are whole sections of the newspapers devoted to that.
Everyone can access the latest spins being produced.

Young people in IT / tech are trapped in their work space working away - that is why companies provide free food - they are worried if people go out to eat they won't come back for a couple of hours. Companies like Yahoo have a child care center so the children are at the work location - now also their dogs at less formal businesses. Google has its own sports complex for soccer, etc. Once you are in that door you are not coming out, especially if it is to buy antiques, etc.

The more likely people to shop around are the visitors to SU sports events who go down University to eat out before / after the game, then stroll around the next day before leaving. Or to visit their student children.
And if you spend time on the SU campus there are a lot of places to eat and shop - you never have to leave that location if you do not want to. And if you are visiting at the SU hospital complex you can eat there - you never have to leave to just eat - unless you need a break.

One blogger always reports about the millions of people who are coming - Yeah - but they are also coming to Southern California which has a HUGE, young foreign population and big tech industry. And the east coast - huge populations of young people in ethnic related areas where they all gather to work and live. And they are High tech. Most major universities are on the east coast and have huge residential populations that live and work next to those universities. Guess what - a lot of people who come to the east coast think that is the American Dream.

And the East Bay is home to many high tech related businesses because the workers from Berkley can transition from school to work in a favorite environment.

I have no problem with 4 story condos - there are already a number of higher number story condos downtown. As to East PA - it appears that most of the apartment complexes are owned by one company that has got into trouble for rent increases. PA cannot take the blame for that one company that owns most of the apartment complexes. The county of San Mateo and City of East PA need to deal with that set of problems.

Every city has an elected city council and business manager and his staff that are paid to work that city location. You all cannot sit around and complain about the peninsula in general because you only have 26 Square miles to work with, and the city already has stated that it is "built out".

And the people who moved here before you did and bought their homes - that is one of the biggest financial commitments they make - have to make sure that investment maintains its value. That is common sense - not "a conspiracy" I worry about people who think common sense is a conspiracy.

Posted by resident 1
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Mar 8, 2015 at 1:49 pm

Downtown worker - The people that control where a 4-story apartment goes are the city paid planning department and the developers that are willing to step up to the tear down and rebuild for a 4-story apartment. Somehow the city council has got locked into the retail on the bottom floor - business on second floor - apartments on remaining floors position. And then the parking issue - enough parking? Then they get locked into a percentage for low-income housing.

Don't blame the homeowners for that debacle - other than the parking. People do not need to add density then have all of those people parking on their streets when the developer could have put in sufficient parking in an underground garage - just didn't want to spend the money to do it.

In the old days people put up an apartment that had underground parking and that was it. You can see all of those apartments downtown - many over 4 stories. It was not a big deal.

So you are pointing the sharp stick in the wrong direction - the homeowners don't care - somehow the city planning department does care. They argue and debate this. The developers care - they argue and debate over this.

There is a whole rant going on about the homeowner somehow taking something away from the "young" tech person - maybe not so young - reality says that complications concerning transportation and low income housing have more to do with this equation than the typical homeowner.

Posted by pro-cap
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 8, 2015 at 2:01 pm

It's also ridiculous that the resident "conspiracy" is to inflate real estate prices.

For some people, the exit price is literally at death's door and those people have better things to think about than to stick it to the young people.

And these "young people" are actually better off financially than some of the residents.

There should be some big ass speed buses on 280 and 80 to transport loads of workers from the South, North, and West, with little transfer shuttles. Has anyone done a calculation for that?

Posted by resident 1
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Mar 8, 2015 at 2:34 pm

I would like to add for the hi-tech worker if he/she actually has a real job:
1. The company is feeding you for free - you probably never have to go food shopping - and they have great food prepared by certified chefs.
2, Your car - they bring in a service that changes your oil for a very low price or for free.
3. Child care - most now have a child care service on the grounds.
4. Clothes Maintenance / cleaning - they usually have a clothes cleaning service so all of your cleaning can be done from work.
5. Gym - most now have some type of gym facility so you never have to pay for an outside gym service - you can do it on the premises
6. Travel Service - most have a travel service that gets "specials" that they pass on to the employees - reduced rate travel.
7. Car leasing - some provide a low rate leasing service for cars.

So for the city planners that are trying to bring the tech worker downtown to support retail - you can't get there from here. The major companies are providing all of the amenities that that a person would typically want - just to make sure they don't go home and not come back.
I am not sorry for the "poor" tech worker. I cannot figure out why the city planners get into knots about this.

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