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Three council members urge relaxed parking rules to spur housing

Original post made on Oct 29, 2017

Three Palo Alto council members are proposing significant revisions to the city's parking regulations, including eliminating parking requirements altogether for "car-light" developments.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Sunday, October 29, 2017, 8:15 AM

Comments (132)

Posted by Zero population growth
a resident of Menlo Park
on Oct 29, 2017 at 9:00 am

Terrible idea. Just cap total commercial and office space at current levels rather than adding more housing to add more offices which need more housing, which... Zero population growth please, both locally and globally.

Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 29, 2017 at 9:09 am

There is no such thing as a "car light" development. Just look at all the cars parked on the streets outside some of these, e.g. Loma Verde at Bayshore, East Meadow near Louis, etc. The owners of these homes will have cars and they will park them on the streets. Even homes with "tandem" parking for 2 cars use the streets because they don't want one car hemmed in by another.

Posted by pacsailor
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 29, 2017 at 9:23 am

These three must have been smoking something to come up with such a idea, which is based on unrealistic assumptions that people do not need cars anymore.

Posted by Cities for people
a resident of University South
on Oct 29, 2017 at 10:09 am

Palo Alto - do you want a city that is a great place to park your car, or a great place to live? If we want more housing to support young families, and more affordable housing to support low income workers, then we have to make trade offs. [Portion removed.]

Posted by Adam
a resident of Crescent Park
on Oct 29, 2017 at 10:47 am

This is idiotic. Comical that we think we can have car-lite development but can’t get City Consuel to come to any sort of consensus on Caltrain or other viable public transit options.

Posted by stephen levy
a resident of University South
on Oct 29, 2017 at 11:59 am

stephen levy is a registered user.

The ideas in the colleagues' memo mirror the ideas by a broad group of Bay Area leaders and housing advocates for low-income residents.

They are in line with the best thinking of organizations like SPUR, [email protected], the Greenbelt Alliance, mayors from across the region and advocates for low-income residents, employer and union groups alike.

I have attended all the CASA meetings (the Committee to House the Bay Area) and the ideas expressed in the memo--expanding choice, lowering the cost of building housing so it can be affordable to the middle class and a strong focus on helping low-income residents, having zoning that supports expanded housing choices--are echoed in the memo.

I encourage everyone to actually read the colleagues's memo as I have before deciding what you think of the ideas. Car-lite is only one of the many ideas in the memo.

Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Oct 29, 2017 at 12:08 pm

Online Name is a registered user.

[Post removed.]

Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Oct 29, 2017 at 12:23 pm

Online Name is a registered user.

[Post removed.]

Posted by Horse first?
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Oct 29, 2017 at 12:36 pm

Horse first? is a registered user.

I wonder if we should first focus on getting transit to actually work in this City. If we could enforce the "no cars", then fine, I'd support it. But we can't. So it seems we should provide an effective alternative before optimistically hoping people will ditch their cars. People who bike or walk will still drive/transit if:
- they have kids/elderly/injured to transport
- they have stuff to transport
- it's raining or cold
- it's too far to bike/walk
- they need to "look nice" in a way the bike/helmet/riding doesn't support

Since transit doesn't work, these people drive. Until we can figure this out, it seems premature to "hope" that people won't need cars.

Posted by stephen levy
a resident of University South
on Oct 29, 2017 at 1:41 pm

stephen levy is a registered user.

@ horse first

funny you should mention horses.

I suppose 100+ years ago there were people who said cars will never take off.

More recently people who believed things never change would have missed

--the entrepreneurs who had hope that their online hotel and airline applications would take off,

--the people who understood and planned for what was becoming a dramatic drop in birth rates

--the people and families who worked hard so Latino high school graduation rates and English language skills have surged

--the entrepreneurs and customers who paid a bit more for cars and appliances that saved fuel and energy and helped the environment.

In the building where I live there are people without cars or families that have one fewer car because of the location.

So change is not only possible, but we live in a place and era where change is all around us. The people who say everything will be like it is today are outvoted by history. We do not live in a Peter Pan world where nothing changes even as posters put down ideas for a better future.

So we can try reducing parking requirements and continue the work the city and region have started on car lighter options for travel.

Posted by Abitarian
a resident of Downtown North
on Oct 29, 2017 at 2:11 pm

More magical thinking from Mr. Fine, Ms. Kniss, and Mr. Wolbach.

For this post, let me focus on the their idea of under-parking high-density housing.

My home is directly across from the transit station in the heart of downtown. Without a doubt, no one in Palo Alto has better access to public transit than the people who live in my building.

We have 44 units and 44 parking spaces in a private garage. Parking spaces are assigned by deed, with one spot for each unit. Yes, some residents bike to Stanford, take the train to the city, etc. But, this does not replace the need for cars and parking.

Very rarely, certainly no more than once per year, a resident offers to rent their parking spot. These are immediately scooped up by other residents because most units occupied by more than one person have more than one car. The typical arrangement is to rent space in an adjoining public garage for parking the second car.

Like it or not, we do not have true mass transit in Palo Alto. We have Caltrain, which runs up and down the Peninsula, and works for some of the people some of the time.

The VTA, SamTrans, and shuttles travel on surface roads, meaning they get stuck in traffic, are slow due to multiple stops, and often do not take passengers near enough destinations.

For public transit to really work for large numbers of people, it needs to be fast, frequent, extensive, and inexpensive. It is hard to imagine such a system being developed in our area. Alas, our city does not seem well-equipped to handle even the four grade crossings required for the impending Caltrain modernization.

Posted by Robert
a resident of another community
on Oct 29, 2017 at 2:15 pm

@Horse first?

I'm guessing those people who need cars probably wouldn't want to live with limited parking, nobody is stopping them from driving if they need to...

Posted by Mark
a resident of another community
on Oct 29, 2017 at 2:26 pm

It is not going to get better, every city is mandated by the Association of Bay Area Governments to add more high density housing and offer less parking so people get out of their cars.

It's time to leave this crazy area, just 2 1/2 hours North of SF is the peaceful community of Lakeport, CA.

Come see the Pelicans, Cormorants, Egrets and Swans. We have the cleanest air in the state and have the Bass Capital of California title for sports fishing.

Lakefront home is only $335K. Web Link

Posted by Carlos
a resident of Barron Park
on Oct 29, 2017 at 2:33 pm

Kniss, Fine and Wolbach continue to shamelessly push the develop-at-all-costs agendas of the special interests which funded their campaigns. Are people in this community so naive not to see this and allow our quality of life to suffer just because developers need more projects to fatten their pockets?

Posted by stephen levy
a resident of University South
on Oct 29, 2017 at 2:41 pm

stephen levy is a registered user.


This is the first point in the colleagues' memo

"1. Update and improve the zoning code and other regulations to facilitate a greater variety and
quantity of both below market rate (BMR) and moderately-sized market-rate housing;"

It sounds to me like the authors want to help low and moderate/middle income folks as their first priority.

I guess anyone can trot out the old "they are doing it for developers" slander if they want, but if you read the memo and listen at council, the authors and the many residents who speak are talking about helping people.

Posted by Mary
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Oct 29, 2017 at 3:03 pm

Steve Levy has it exactly backwards. He says that things are changing in such a way that soon (eventually?) people will no longer want or need to own cars - so we should start building housing with no parking right now. But if he's wrong about the timing of this car-free society, we'll end up with more cars parked all over town by people who can't park where they live (which, as has been pointed out by other posters here, is exactly what happened with other under-parked housing built recently in town).

Here's a better way to proceed: let's see if a lot of people who live near transportation start to get rid of their cars: this should be easy to monitor since the state has addresses for vehicle registration throughout the state. If/when it turns out that Levy is right, maybe we should consider the idea of parking free housing. But as, for example, poster Abitarian pointed out, this seems unlikely in the near future. San Francisco has the most comprehensive public transportation in the Bay Area. Ever try to find parking in residential areas there? Think this is a good model for Palo Alto?

Levy and his ABAG friends are doing more to destroy the quality of life in the Bay Area than any other single factor.

Posted by Horse first?
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Oct 29, 2017 at 4:07 pm

@Mary -- Yes, that's the point I was making above. Let's show that we can do transit BEFORE we developing housing with no parking. It's not easy to do transit, so that just makes common sense. And it would create a win-win for the community, which is asking for more effective transit.

I'm not sure why @Steve is conflating our ask that the City respect residential quality of life (top survey issue) with a backward-looking view. Maybe he is tacitly acknowledging there is no way to build BMR without impinging significantly on residential quality of life? I for one think (and hope) there many ideas still to be plumbed. Ramming bad ones down our throats is a puzzling strategy.

Posted by mauricio
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Oct 29, 2017 at 4:14 pm

mauricio is a registered user.

There is no such thing as car-lite development. It's as absurd as saying hot ice. The more you develop, the more cars and traffic you have, anytime, anywhere. The only solution to excessive traffic and too many cars is to freeze commercial development and housing. Palo Alto is overpopulated and overdeveloped, while having the infrastructure of a small town.

Yes, the most aggressive backers of commercial and housing development are backing developers and their greedy agenda, whether they are directly paid by developers or not. It is not demagoguery, it's the sad reality.

Posted by Allen Akin
a resident of Professorville
on Oct 29, 2017 at 4:38 pm

Allen Akin is a registered user.

@stephen levy:

It's good that you're optimistic about change for the distant future, but it's also necessary to be realistic about the decades between now and then.

We live in an area where development was deliberately decentralized. Some of the reasons for that may no longer apply (e.g. threat of Soviet nuclear strikes), but some still do (valid life preferences that may differ from yours), and new ones have arisen (how many of our economic eggs should go into a basket that's hyper-expensive, earthquake-prone, water-poor, and at risk from sea-level rise?). One can make very good arguments for investing in growth elsewhere, either not in Palo Alto or not in the Bay Area, and those arguments deserve serious consideration.

But if you're dead-set that density must be increased here, then as the person making the claim, you are obliged to make concrete proposals for developing and funding transit, water supplies, schools, government services, and dozens of other things that will be essential to support that density.

What I observe in the public discourse is (a) no acceptance of limits on commercial growth (therefore there are no limits on housing demand); (b) constant calls for housing affordability, but no acknowledgment of the huge amount of housing that would be required to achieve that or of the role of demand in setting prices; (c) no concrete plans for developing and funding the services and infrastructure that would be required even in the short term, much less the long term; (d) no serious acknowledgement that these issues exist.

For the specific case of residences without parking, at minimum you need to explain how to permanently prevent residents from owning cars anyway and imposing the resulting traffic and parking demands on the rest of us, disproportionately at our expense. If you don't do that, you should accept that people have valid and rational reasons to object to that kind of project, not a knee-jerk resistance to "change".

Posted by stephen levy
a resident of University South
on Oct 29, 2017 at 5:20 pm

stephen levy is a registered user.


Take a look at the fiscal impact study conducted with the EIR.

For sales tax revenue 48% comes from visitors, 41% from businesses and employees and 11% from local households.

For hotels (where by the way, the added tax rate goes for infrastructure) 48% comes from visitors, 44% from businesses directly and 9% related to local households.

Two-thirds of utility revenue comes from businesses.

You and I put 2% more in the pot each year from the prop 13 property tax limited inflation factor.

The only way school revenue increases (our 2% does not cover cost increases) is from new development and the turnover of homes. New development. and I agree most new housing has been expensive, is in virtually all recent years a larger contribution to schools and the city than our 2% more in property taxes.

I think you have it backwards. The agenda of no new commercial development and no new housing is a fiscal disaster.

And all the posters who argue that new commercial development in Palo Alto leads to more housing here at the same time argue that most residents here do not work here. It is a strange logical inconsistency.

Even with regard to the RHNA formula new jobs are a small part of the allocation formula for Palo Alto. The allocation depends on train ridership and access (we are the second busiest station), existing jobs (we have a lot), our housing shortfall (all cities have a lot) and projected growth. If the city stopped all job growth (would be illegal besides fiscal suicide), the next RHNA allocation will still be higher around the region as it will incorporate catch up.

And most job growth comes from Stanford land in the city--where the medical center complex is expanding and has contributed $32 million if I remember right for infrastructure, the shopping center is renovating and over time may expand (and, hopefully, add housing) and the research park now is seeing a surge in companies looking for the next auto technology breakthrough.

If you are advocating for limiting these developments, please clarify and add how and why you would do this.

Finally please lay out your take on how we should pay for the services residents want and what you personally are willing to put in the pot.

I for one am tired of hearing only that other people should pay for what we want. I am willing to pay my share to do the investing for the future.

As far as changes in car ownership, I am not thinking decades into the future but real soon and I also believe that some people will trade reduced car ownership in return for housing near where they want to live and less expensive as a result of lower parking costs for builder.

Posted by Mary
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Oct 29, 2017 at 5:59 pm

Steve Levy is all over the place on the issue of density in Palo Alto - as he has been for years on this forum. In that he has been perfectly consistent: it's a preference he has. What he has been anything but consistent on are his varying justifications for this density. In this thread alone he has lamented the lack of low cost housing and supported eliminating parking requirements to reduce housing prices in Palo Alto. When the deleterious effects of this are pointed out, he seamlessly switches to the argument that we need to build more housing because that's the only way we can address our budget problems. But why would we encourage low cost housing (when tax revenues are related to housing prices) if what we are trying to do is increase revenues?

We have an infrastructure that supports probably 50,000 residents at the level Palo Altans were once accustomed to. To support the never-ending density increase Levy advocates for, we'd have to spend a lot more on infrastructure. Infrastructure is expensive - much more than the school cost increases Levy says we need (which themselves are driven by the expanding population). Levy has no solution to this most important problem.

Levy makes demands of others here to "clarify how and why" they want to maintain Palo ALto's residential character. I think those of us here opposing "build, build build" have been pretty clear on this: we bought here - often at great financial sacrifice - because we liked the residential character of the city. We could have moved more easily to, say Fremont, or Sunnyvale - or San Francisco - all cities with more of the kind of density that Levy pines for. We didn't. Levy should reacquaint himself with the economic concept of revealed preference.

Levy, on the other hand, hides his preferences for density behind ever changing specious argumentation. (Do a search here, and you'll find this to be so.) Are we to make policy that will forever change the character of the city on this kind of flimsy nonsense and his totally unsupported "belief" that people will trade car ownership for dense housing?!

The fact is that Levy just prefers denser, more urban living than we have here now. Nothing wrong with that. Lots of people like living in dense cities. It's a personal preference - nothing more. I just wish he'd move to one of the many available denser cities in the area - and not try to change Palo Alto into something most residents don't want.

Posted by Allen Akin
a resident of Professorville
on Oct 29, 2017 at 6:15 pm

Allen Akin is a registered user.


I did read your blog entry on the fiscal impact study a few days ago. Quoting: " is notable that even the most aggressive growth forecast will have a relatively modest net effect on the General Fund." So there's apparently no significant upside potential. Since a low-growth scenario was not analyzed for the EIR, where does the fiscal impact study justify your contention that maintaining roughly the status quo results in "a fiscal disaster"?

With respect to schools, if you don't have grandkids in public school here, you might not be aware that for years parents have been making substantial direct payments. I've been contributing to this pot for quite a while now, and expect to continue doing so. Furthermore, in recent years, individual private donors have funded multi-million-dollar construction projects in our public schools. How much housing expansion will be required to eliminate the need for such things? Or will our schools still be dependent on them no matter how much you build?

I don't completely understand your comment about logical inconsistency with respect to commercial development. I assume people are referring to the "new jobs" component of the RHNA, plus the fact that the vast majority of jobs are outside Palo Alto, so over time (as people change jobs and companies relocate) the majority of residents will tend to have jobs outside Palo Alto.

Personally, I'm most concerned about overdevelopment in the downtown area, because the trend of civic deterioration (in affordability, nature of businesses, traffic, parking, etc.) and the effects on residents nearby have been obvious there for quite a while. But you haven't listened carefully to what I've been saying. If you want to grow, you need to prepare. The consequence of failing to do so is exactly what we're seeing: Infrastructure inadequacy, decreased population variety, increased pollution, and so on. If you advocate unlimited growth, as I gather you do, you're obliged to figure out how to make it work. Otherwise it's completely rational for other people to push back.

Got to go feed the kids now...

Posted by finally, some thoughtful councilmembers
a resident of Barron Park
on Oct 29, 2017 at 6:22 pm

This is a good sign. Some people on our Council are paying attention to what causes housing to be unaffordable: zoning is a huge contributor.

Rather than just paying lip service to a couple of lucky BMR winners, they are attacking the root causes of unaffordability.

It is great to have people represent us that are willing to study urban planning and put it to good use.


Posted by Eric Rosenblum
a resident of Downtown North
on Oct 29, 2017 at 6:38 pm

The concept of "car light" development has been studied pretty extensively, and has produced some interesting results, both in terms of lower cost housing, and in terms of reducing reliance on automobiles (because the developer instead invests in alternatives for residents).

Think about it this way: at the moment, people rent an apartment, and it always includes at least 1 parking space. You don't have a choice. What if you could rent an apartment for $2000/month, and if you want a parking space, it's an extra $200/month. If you don't get a parking space, you are eligible for a free Caltrain pass, and $100 in monthly Uber credits. A lot of people would decide that their own car is just not worth it.

The end result of this scenario would be a building that has fewer cars. Those that absolutely need a car (people who commute to a location that not convenient to transit, or parents with kids who need constant shuttling) would pay for a place (or decide that they want a different building, where parking is included). Those who don't want a car would benefit tremendously.

In neighborhoods that have RPPP, this should be a great choice: there is no chance of people cheating by parking in neighborhoods.

Posted by Abitarian
a resident of Downtown North
on Oct 29, 2017 at 6:44 pm

Stephen Levy wrote:

"For sales tax revenue 48% comes from visitors, 41% from businesses and employees and 11% from local households."

It seems worth questioning how well these sales tax figures apply in today's environment.

Since they are are a large and visible downtown employer, let's consider Palantir as an example.

Palantir provides a cafeteria where employees + their families + their guests enjoy free breakfast, lunch, dinner, beverages, and snacks. Judging by the crowds at meal times, it certainly seems like a relatively small portion of employees are buying meals -- and paying sales tax -- at our local eateries.

Palantir employees are easily recognized by their Palantir jackets and rainbow of "periodic table" t-shirts which they get for free. This cuts back on the need to purchase clothes (and pay sales tax) at local retail outlets. Given the casual dress code, it would seem that employees are not likely to do much shopping at our fancy Palo Alto boutiques, anyway.

Certainly, it would be possible to make a long list about how Palantir probably doesn't buy their computer equipment from Fry's, and so forth, but my point is clear.

Again and again, we have seen the city make overly-optimistic forecasts to justify development decisions, like when project after project is declared as having no significant impact on traffic without considering the *cumulative* impact of all the projects combined.

Unfortunately, history has taught me to treat EIRs with a healthy dose of skepticism.

Posted by Car light requires actual, real mass transit
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Oct 29, 2017 at 7:11 pm

Car light requires actual, real mass transit is a registered user.

If you want to build "car light" housing we need real mass transit that goes where people want to be and live. Caltrain serves people within maybe a half a mile to a station. Buses are smelly, slow and only run in your county. Until we have fast, cheap reliable, public transportation that doesn't smell like urine we are fooling ourselves. Solving the housing crisis depends on one, coordinated. transportation system for the Bay Area, not just housing. And cities that house the CEOs of successful companies should share in housing employees.

Posted by stephen levy
a resident of University South
on Oct 29, 2017 at 8:29 pm

stephen levy is a registered user.

Hi Allen,

[Portion removed.] We may disagree on policy and perhaps (can you clarify) that you consider the Comp Plan unlimited growth

So read again what I wrote about commercial growth in point 3.

1) Understand the results of the fiscal impact study.

2) Build as much BMR housing as we can find funds, sites and projects that pencil out. But also build market rate housing. The council has heard many reasons to support policies for housing that meet or exceed the Comp Plan targets. Here are two not often mentioned. One, market rate housing is needed to make the Comp Plan fiscally secure and as a bonus provide customers for retail and two, if we build housing that older residents can move into if they wish and remain in their community, it opens up housing for new families AND creates tax revenue through the property transfer tax and higher new valuation,

3) Continue with well-planned commercial development within the guidelines of the Comp Plan. The fiscal study confirms common sense that commercial development is a major contributor to service and infrastructure funding.

I appreciate that residents contribute to schools above and beyond property taxes. I and many other seniors willing pay the parcel tax each year that we could opt out of. But my data from the assessor is also correct. Property tax revenue rises mainly from new construction and the turnover of property.

You are a smart and caring person so i am mystified that you do not see the substantial fiscal contribution of local businesses and their employees and visitors as well as the substantial contribution to our fiscal health and retail sales of business. I argue that cutting off the commercial growth contemplated in the Comp Plan as well as not building housing as set forth in the Comp Plan housing element (for more affluent residents as well as our best efforts for all income groups) will result in a worse fiscal result and retail outlook.

As a side note do you agree with Neilson that we need to build more places like Channing House. I agree with that and understand that these great opportunities for older residents to remain in Palo Alto will require selective easing of the residential height limit.

On a similar idea building more places like where Nancy and I live would allow more older residents who wish as we and many of our neighbors did to move downtown, turn over our homes to a new family, boost assessed valuation and property taxes and build a stronger base for retail.

I have been at two meetings here and in LA where council members urged this kind of building and opportunity at the request of their older residents who wished to mvoe to a more accessible area but remain in their community.

Posted by Allen Akin
a resident of Professorville
on Oct 29, 2017 at 8:29 pm

Allen Akin is a registered user.


Uber credits means higher traffic, because the car has to travel to the apartment in order to pick up the rider, as well as from the apartment to the rider's destination. An owned car travels only from the apartment to the destination. Pooling is the only way to solve this problem, so you need to factor pooling rates into the analysis.

RPPP (as presently constituted downtown) would still allow free parking weekends, for 2-hour stints during the day, and from 4PM to 10AM weekdays. I think it's safe to say that some fraction of car-light apartment residents would take advantage of this free parking. How many, and what is the load factor for the streets during that time?

I don't accept this argument personally, but I know a number of people who would point out that RPPP is a cost to residents that didn't exist until the commercial parking load exceeded the downtown parking district capacity. Car-light apartments would further lock this cost into place.

Another way to think about this problem is to posit that we're in a transition period from car ownership to mass transit, and any new building should be designed to adapt over its lifetime. Perhaps parking now, cheaply convertible to living space later. It's a bit of a litmus test to see whether developers would accept approaches like that.

Posted by Eric
a resident of Downtown North
on Oct 29, 2017 at 8:35 pm

I think that people get confused about what "car light" means. The commenter above that claims that it only works "with a real mass transit system". That would be true if "car light" means "car free".

This type of building isn't going for *no* parking. It is going for *reduced* parking. Maybe a family gets by with 1 car instead of 2. Maybe a young person decides to depend on Uber when they need a car (and trains/ buses/ bikes otherwise). Maybe an older person no longer drives. This is for a building that has parking ratios below our current 1.25-1.5/unit (and could get down to 1.0/ unit, for example)

A lot of people don't understand that certain segments of the population just don't have cars (young people have lower car ownership rates than in past generations; a lot of older people no longer drive; and a lot of poor people are wholly dependent on public transit). Why should these people have to pay for parking spaces that they would not use? Why is this in the public interest.

Posted by Resident
a resident of College Terrace
on Oct 29, 2017 at 9:13 pm

Palo Alto doesn't have a sophisticated mass transit system like major metropolis like NYC where one can actually live without cars. Palo Alto IS a car driven city. To remove parking requirement is adding chaos to a city situation. It will only add more layers of issues related to parking and congestion on the streets.

As for to Eric's comments on "car light" meaning, implying someone simply uses a car less... means they still have a car, and will need to PARK it somewhere. Obviously the street. There are also a lot of "MAYBES" in the possibilities.. which is a slippery slope argument of trying to state "car light" MAY work.

And in terms of a family getting by on ONE car instead of TWO.... well.. where are they going to park their ONE car? On the street? It still needs parking.

I suggest for housing developments if they are going to not have appropriate parking, that requires that residents in such buildings are NOT allowed or permitted to have a car. Let's put the money where the mouth is.
If one thinks our mass transit system (ha) can support little to no car usage... lets ONLY allow such landowners of such building developments to ONLY LEASE or RENT OR SELL (in perpetuity) their units to people who DO NOT HAVE CARS.

end of story. Prove that you can do such a thing.. .and see how well these units sell. Let's also see how many developers and landowners will be willing to create such buildings then .. when the option of street parking is removed and they can prove their residents will ONLY use the "mass public transit system" and no longer drive and only use uber. etc etc.

Posted by Resident
a resident of College Terrace
on Oct 29, 2017 at 9:25 pm

One more thought. IF these new housing developments will eliminate off-street parking requirements... then lets make every single Palo Alto city street only have 2 hour parking limit.

This will ensure such "car light" housing developments truly not cheat, and claim one that residents not needing cars, and then underhandedly expecting to congest the Palo Alto city streets with permanent parking of their residents' cars on the city street....

And ... city can allow Palo Alto residents to apply to the city for parking permits on the street... only IF they do not live in the new housing developments that claim "car light" housing. PROVE IT.

Posted by Resident
a resident of College Terrace
on Oct 29, 2017 at 9:34 pm

@ Eric Rosenblum

The way Palo Alto city regulations are written, NOT ALL neighborhoods have RPPP. SO your argument that "there is no chance of people cheating by parking in neighborhoods." doesn't hold water. There are MANY Palo Alto city streets that do not have RPPP.

So truly to ensure "no cheating" ALL the Palo Alto city streets should have RPPP.
People can park their car on a street where there is no RPPP and bike to their home. They use the city street parking as their permanent parking space (akin to the RV's parking on El Camino as a form of permanent housing).

In this case, people are using NON RPPP city streets for PERMANENT PARKING of their cars. I've seen it happen in Palo Alto.

You want to ensure "no cheating" then every single Palo Alto city street will need to be made RPPP. Remove the city bylaw of how city streets in Palo Alto become RPPP.. and simply make all streets RPPP.

Posted by Anne
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Oct 29, 2017 at 10:06 pm

Politician don't want to support spending in public transport because current requirements don't allow for urban densification, which is a prerequisite for successful public transportation. This memo is a step in the right direction. I hope the council will support it!

Posted by Sally-Ann Rudd
a resident of Downtown North
on Oct 30, 2017 at 7:59 am

I'd be fine with this if it didn't come from this trio, who I do not trust to look after in any way the interests of current homeowners and residents of this city.
"Car-light" has been tried before elsewhere with mixed results, especially Portland. Its not new. Sometimes it works but often unless the city is very dense and public transit is good, people find it very difficult to live without a car and adopt all sorts of interesting strategies to find a place to park an illicit vehicle.
If the city insisted that "car light" developments provided space for car sharing services like ZipCar, provided parking for motorcycles and scooters to match the abundant options for bicycles, then we might be getting somewhere.

Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 30, 2017 at 8:18 am

The other thing to remember is that even if the person living in a "car light" fashion, they will have people coming to their homes who need to park. They will have dinner guests, overnight guests, family visiting, babysitters, housecleaners, PTA meetings, committee meetings, church meetings, superbowl parties, plumbers, decorators, deliveries, you name it. These places need plenty of parking space for those who do not live there but visit for a myriad of reasons.

Posted by Reader
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 30, 2017 at 8:27 am

The RPPP (Residential Parking Permit Program) in Palo Alto is currently set up to have a very difficult hurdle for getting it instituted on each Palo Alto Street.

It requires the majority (80 or 90%) of the street residents on that particular street to sign and petition for the RPPP.

It is set up such that if you have absentee homeowners, or multi-unit buildings on the street, or rental properties on the street, it becomes near impossible to set up a RPPP program.

It's a completely silly rule of how RPPP is instituted to begin with. It's inconsistent and a street by street conversion to RPPP that requires much input from every single person on the street.

Here is a solution:
To prevent people without parking spaces from littering the streets like it's their own personal driveway, the Palo Alto should simply make the entire city streets RPPP by default (as someone suggested) and require signatures on the street of 90% to make it a nonRPPP. Not a single street will convert to nonRPPP

There is an extremely valid concern these housing developments (by removing or easing off-street parking regulations) will end up on the street parking.

Simplify and remove their abilities to park on the city streets.

Remove the potential for littering the streets as the personal driveway.

The RPPP program was set up when there was ample regulation on off-street parking (with respect to new homes and developments). If we're going to ease these off-street regulations, then we need to change the RPPP program as well.

Posted by Horse first?
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Oct 30, 2017 at 8:37 am

Horse first? is a registered user.

I think @Abitarian's post is really useful -- how does "car lite" work today, in practice, in the best spot for it possible? Not well. Most people over time will need a car -- there are lots of very legitimate reasons for this. The idea is that when they need a car, they will move? Seems unlikely. Spaces will fill up (gaining a car is much more common than losing a car), and people will play games to keep their car. It's much easier to find a parking spot, after all, than it is to find a new place to live.

I wish the "grow first, worry later" folks would be more open and less combative, and take the time to spell out why they want to do it in the reverse. What I'm understanding is that (a) developers fund this, so we need more development; and (b) transit doesn't work until the area is really dense, so densify first.

If those are the actual reasons, I think we need to find other ways to finance transit and BMR housing, and/or just slow down and live with the mess we have for a while longer, without making it worse, saving the money for these fixes just like we do in our home life. Pushing bad solutions on the City is not working.

Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 30, 2017 at 8:41 am

I used to attend a regular meeting in a home in which there is now a Permit required to park. About 6 people other than the homeowner would attend the meeting held about every 2 weeks and lasted about 2 1/2 hours. This meeting had to change venue due to the permit rules. I never had a problem parking for the meeting. I now attend a different meeting regularly at a home in Mountain View attended by about 12 people, not all who drive separately. The venue for this meeting was made with parking being one of the main criteria. The attendees come from Palo Alto, Sunnyvale, San Carlos and Los Altos so it is not easy to carpool although some do.

Another one of the problems of over-crowding in Palo Alto is that people are not able to use their own homes as they would like.

Posted by Resident
a resident of College Terrace
on Oct 30, 2017 at 8:53 am

IF we are to prevent people from "cheating" by parking on the street from these easing of regulations on such new developments, it's only fair for the city to ensure enough regulations are in place for preventing the usage of the city streets for the overflow of lack of personal off-street parking.

1. make ALL the streets RPPP in Palo Alto

2. Anyone with a home address in the new Housing Developments (where land developers got easing of off-street parking regulations on the excuse of "car light" usage) ABSOLUTELY DO NOT QUALIFY for Residential Parking Permit. Since these residents bought/rent a place where "car light" parking was touted, then they should live that life.

("Car light" usage should not be some poor excuse to build more units and get easing of off-street regulations, while simultaneously underhandedly expecting to use street parking as their real permanent parking spot)

Proper checks and balances need to be in place to ensure all residents of Palo Alto are able to live and function well.
Here is another guess. I bet the 3 city councillors who propose easing these "off-street regulations" likely live on streets with RPPP in place.

Let's ensure we build those "car light" developments within walking distances to their homes... and ensure their street where their home is.. does NOT have RPPP and see how much they are like that scenario. They believe in the theory after all.

Posted by Allen Akin
a resident of Professorville
on Oct 30, 2017 at 10:47 am

Allen Akin is a registered user.


Maybe you're "mystified" because you've misinterpreted what I've said. The main message is simple: Plan before you grow. If you can't create a workable plan, don't grow. This should not be read as "shut down all businesses in Palo Alto". :-)

What people are trying to tell you, and what the Comp Plan EIR is trying to tell you, is that the current approach isn't workable. It doesn't progress toward the goals of affordability and diversity, but it degrades the environment and quality of life anyway. We should be looking at other approaches.

We need to be careful not to draw overly-broad conclusions from the fiscal study. Quoting, emphasis mine: "The objective of the analysis is to estimate whether anticipated population growth, economic expansion, and real estate development will generate adequate revenues to cover the costs of providing City General Fund operations and maintenance services...THE FISCAL ANALYSIS DOES NOT REFLECT THE POTENTIAL FOR THE COMPREHENSIVE PLAN TO HAVE QUALITY OF LIFE EFFECTS THAT MAY RESULT FROM GROWTH, NOR DOES IT INCLUDE COSTS ASSOCIATED WITH THE MAJOR CAPITAL INVESTMENTS IN INFRASTRUCTURE CONTEMPLATED BY THE COMPREHENSIVE PLAN UPDATE."

And later: "It also is important to note that there are likely to be a variety of effects from growth that are not reflected in the City fiscal impacts calculated by this analysis. For example, the analysis does not estimate quality of life impacts that result from growth, such as changes in traffic congestion, parking supply, or other positive or negative factors related to increased land use density."

And from the following observation you might reasonably conclude that growing the number of jobs should have lower priority than growing the number of residents: "These fiscal effects reflect annual per-capita fiscal net benefits...with each new resident generating about $340 to $360 and each new employee generating about $190 to $280."

Although I've read the entire study, and I think we'd find plenty of areas of agreement, I'll skip haggling over the details. This is the wrong time and place.

Re Channing House: It might be relevant to note that the employees are suffering from inadequate parking (so Neilson tells me).

Posted by Andy
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Oct 30, 2017 at 11:54 am

Eliminating off-street parking requirements is just an ignorant sop to developers — and one that craps up our city even more. ☹

Posted by Eric Rosenblum
a resident of Downtown North
on Oct 30, 2017 at 11:56 am

@allen arkin I think that you are mis-stating the impact of people who decide not to have their own car, but who would rely on Uber instead.

There are 2 major benefits:
-- Parking capacity: The average car spends 95% of its time parked (ie., it is being driven around ~1 hour out of 24). The rest of the time, it must be parked in a garage or on the street; An Uber car spends around 50% of its time parked. It is a much more efficient use of the space we have (ie., it replaces around 5 cars)
-- Traffic contribution: this one is more subtle. If I rely on Uber for the occasions when I need a car, I will take fewer car trips, because the cost for each car trip is highly transparent. As a car owner, I may think nothing of zipping down to the store in my car to buy some milk and bring it home. That transaction costs me nothing, and is very comfortable. If I'm reliant on Uber, I may either decide to bike down to the store for small errands, or to consolidate my trips into 1 big trip when I buy everything (or, rely on Amazon Fresh or Safeway Direct for my grocery deliveries)

On the parking, there is an obvious capital utilization advantage. On the traffic, there is a behavior change.

Both are in our interest as a city.

@ Sally Rudd: I fully agree with your conditions for support (wrt mandating space for alternative transportation vehicles). As for the 3 council members, I find them pretty thoughtful, especially in this instance.

Posted by Residents contribute more, shouldn't their voice matter?
a resident of Midtown
on Oct 30, 2017 at 12:18 pm

Residents contribute more, shouldn't their voice matter? is a registered user.

Steve Levy touts the revenue benefits of commercial growth, but property tax is the city's #1 revenue source and EXISTING housing produces 2 to 3 times the property tax revenue as commercial properties. The City's February 2017 fiscal analysis is clear that revenue from residential property tax outweighs fiscal benefits of office growth.

“This result is attributable to the greater revenue potential of residents. In particular, property tax revenue from residential uses is two to three times that of employment uses on a per-capita basis (reflective of value, space efficiency, and turnover). THIS RESIDENTIAL PROPERTY-RELATED REVENUE OUTWEIGHS THE HIGHER PER-CAPITA SALES TAX REVENUE AND TRANSIENT OCCUPANCY TAX REVENUE GENERATED BY LOCAL EMPLOYMENT. However, new residents are expected to generate a higher marginal cost burden for the City General Fund, as compared with local workers. Overall, though, residents’ greater revenue potential relative to workers outweighs the cost of services differential between residents and workers, resulting in greater per-capita net benefits attributable to new residents.” (Fiscal Analysis of the City of Palo Alto 2030 Comprehensive Plan Draft Report February 2017, p. 7)

Posted by Resident
a resident of College Terrace
on Oct 30, 2017 at 12:23 pm

@ Eric Rosenblum

Congrats. You've just supported the argument for WHY it's ideal for everyone to consider using Uber instead of having their own car.

You haven't proven that residents of Palo Alto have increasingly stopped owning a car, and are opting the way of "car light" because it makes for sense to use Uber.

Do realize this is Palo Alto we are talking about. What is the lifestyle of the people living here? What are the communities made up of? Are there families with young children? Will they be ok using UBER and getting rid of the family car?
What about young couples without children. Maybe they should not own a car to go to Tahoe or on vacations, or go drive into SF... but simply use Uber.
Why does Stanford have issues with student parking if we are talking of young people who have no children. Clearly THEY can use uber and forgo the need for owning and parking a car?

Your argument for WHY one should use Uber (or car share) DOES NOT PROVE people do not own cars any less and therefore "car light" works. Indeed... car light likely works when there is a great public transit system that is ubiquitous, cheap and fast. CalTrain is not that.

If you're going to make concessions on off-street parking regulations for developers to increase housing, then the city had better be prepared for increasing rates of ON STREET PARKING.

If you think it's to everyone's benefit to use Uber (ha... tell that to a family with young children and busy after school programs)... and apparently according to your argument, the IMPLIED statement is that since it's logical to use uber, people will use uber and have a "car light" scenario.

Then it's no big deal that the city makes every single street in Palo Alto RPPP. And the high density developers who received the concessions on off-street parking ... can simply only sell or lease or rent to people who do not own a car. Likewise one should not get a residential permit parking if they live in such a place.

Posted by New Council
a resident of Midtown
on Oct 30, 2017 at 12:37 pm

It is now clear that the City Council is not heeding the advice and concerns from City citizens which are consistent and clear -- to STOP this effort to add new commercial and housing inventory to an overly constrained Palo Alto. New housing solves one problem and creates ten more. These unabated measures to add more, more, MORE, MORE, MORE... will lead to permanent damaging effects to the City. And to what end?

Stop listening to tech and business leaders who are complaining to you that their rent is too high or that payroll is too expensive on account of housing costs. You owe them nothing. They need to understand that if costs are too high, then they need to look elsewhere.

Do all of us a favor, start walking the neighborhoods and knocking on doors. Ask people what they want -- novel right? You are their representative. PA is home to ~67k people now. Ask these neighbors what they want. What is future palo alto look like to them. Do they want a future Palo Alto with 80k, 120k, 150k people in it, before you continue on your blind march forward.

To the people of Palo Alto: Are you looking for a change? Want to do something new? Something impactful? Consider running against and deseating your local Pro-grown member of the City Council. You have my vote.

Posted by Annette
a resident of College Terrace
on Oct 30, 2017 at 1:42 pm

Annette is a registered user.

What? I invite these three to take a ride over to the Facebook campus so that they can see a perfect example of why this is a crazy-terrible idea. FB, a company that encourages alternatives to cars still has multiple and MASSIVE parking lots that are FILLED to capacity with CARS. The message is painfully clear: planning must at least assume car usage. If we ultimately reduce our dependency on automobiles, acreage devoted to parking can always be repurposed for - say - housing. But for now we need to get real.

Also, to be effective, TDM programs such as GoPasses should be offered to ALL employees of a company, not just "eligible full-time" employees. Many companies hire temps and/or part-time employees for a variety of reasons and those employees commute the same as "eligible full-time" employees. It is bogus to get credit for a TDM that does not apply to all commuters. CC should demand that that loophole be closed.

It is time for the majority on this CC to start thinking holistically and stop making critical decisions and policy on a project x project, issue x issue basis.

Posted by stephen levy
a resident of University South
on Oct 30, 2017 at 1:59 pm

stephen levy is a registered user.

Hi Allen,

I view the Comp Plan that I and many many others worked on as one part our plan for growth. Other parts include the infrastructure plan, the Sustainability and Climate Action Plan, The RPPs, and the funding of the TMA.

So I think the city is doing exactly what you called for--planning for growth.

You are certainly free to disagree but these actions are the results of years of discussion and solid backing from councils.

With regard to job growth the difference between the lowest job growth alternative approved by council for study and the high end of the job range in the preferred scenario is 2,100 jobs out of a total in 2030 of approximately 110,000 jobs. That is because some job growth will occur under any scenario.

I prefer to concentrate on what policies affect the 110,000 workers as opposed to thinking there is much to gain in lengthy discussion of whether we end up with 110,000 or 112,000.

I do think outside of this forum we would probably find lots of agreement. We are making separate points about the fiscal impacts. You are right that these are not determining as to how we should grow and I am correct in pointing out the contribution of businesses and their employees and visitors.

Posted by Eric Rosenblum
a resident of Downtown North
on Oct 30, 2017 at 2:12 pm


i was responding to a specific statement (that if people shift their behavior towards taking Uber, that there would be no difference in traffic/ parking problems).

I think that i've made this point a number of times, but I'll restate: no one is saying that we will go "car free". Stanford has a wonderful set of TDM programs, and they are still at above 50% "single occupancy vehicle rate".

The question is whether we can go from our current assumptions: that 100% of eligible people will drive all of the time (and therefore build "free" parking for all of these people) to a new assumption (eg., "80% of people will drive for 80% of their trips"... i just made up this example, btw). And then, ask ourselves: what would we need to do to make this possible? What if rent were cheaper for those who accepted a car light life style? what if they had free public transportation? what if their grocery deliveries were subsidized, etc

the fact is that building parking lots is expensive. We can put that money to better use while doing something good for our community: being less reliant on cars.

This feels like a positive good, no?

Posted by Allen Akin
a resident of Professorville
on Oct 30, 2017 at 2:34 pm

Allen Akin is a registered user.

@Eric Rosenblum: "i was responding to a specific statement (that if people shift their behavior towards taking Uber, that there would be no difference in traffic/ parking problems)."

Uh, that's absolutely not what I said. I made no claim about parking and no claim about behavioral shifts. I explained that for a given trip, Uber with a single rider generates more traffic than driving one's own car, which is straightforwardly true. I mentioned that Uber with pooling can do better, which is also straightforwardly true.

We all should be more careful not to misrepresent what others have said. It contributes to the general level of distrust.

Posted by Resident
a resident of College Terrace
on Oct 30, 2017 at 2:34 pm

@ Eric
And my point is to say just because Uber is beneficial doesn’t mean that lifestyle will fit the families living in Palo Alto

Stanford students living on campus park around and in the surrounding neighborhoods- using the city streets as their parking lot

Assume rent is cheaper but job is elsewhere - Silicon Valley: San Jose, Sunnyvale, East Palo Alto. Assume people pick Palo Alto beyond just jobs. They may very well drive to work

Building parking lots are expensive for whom? The land developers? Of course it is.
If you’re so confident people will give up their cars - then make every single street in Palo Alto RPPP and refuse parking permits for the residents who live in the housing developments that do not have parking lots

What needs to be done? Massive changes in infrastructure to transportation beyond just Uber. Uber is not mass transit.. it’s still a. At on the road

The reality is unless public transportation is functional and we are highly connected - people in Palo Alto will drive to their destinations because of how the city is set up

Posted by Eric Rosenblum
a resident of Downtown North
on Oct 30, 2017 at 2:52 pm


sorry... I was giving you the benefit of the doubt (because what value is there in debating the traffic caused by ONE Uber trip vs. ONE non-Uber trip).

We are talking about traffic mitigation and urban planning/ zoning, so I naturally thought that you were thinking about the impact of a certain percentage of personal car trips being replaced by Uber trips.

Have I missed something here?

More usefully, does my analysis of the impact of replacing a certain % of car usership with Uber make sense to you?

Posted by Allen Akin
a resident of Professorville
on Oct 30, 2017 at 3:09 pm

Allen Akin is a registered user.

@Eric Rosenblum:

The result for one trip generalizes to any number of trips. Is this obvious, or should I explain?

Yes, Uber trades traffic for parking, so as Uber-induced traffic increases, parking requirements decrease. Pooling can be a net win in both respects (if properly scheduled), but at the cost of increased average travel time. There's no free lunch.

The question of behavioral engineering is more complicated, and I didn't intend to say anything about it, but since you ask: The behavioral shift has to occur before choosing to move into the apartment, so the issue isn't straightforward. Other people have already spoken about how needs change over time. I haven't thought about it in detail.

Posted by Gale Johnson
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Oct 30, 2017 at 3:38 pm

Gale Johnson is a registered user.

I have commented so many times before on this issue. It tires me out. Some of you might recall me advocating for a lot of the same things that the memo calls for. But I had caveats and special conditions for the development of commercial and housing in certain areas. Yes, of course more housing, including high density housing near the downtown tech work centers. And that's where the height limit could be raised. I suggested raising the 50ft height limit in that area. I said that a couple Channing House size buildings would be fine in the right places. A little 'mini Manhattan' in a 4-5 block area in the current highly developed tech company area would be fine with me if it didn't cause a problem with any residential neighborhoods, and the NYC transplants would love it.

I think I always prefaced my comments by saying "stop the commercial growth until the housing that is needed, or wanted, by the workers, is met...and catches up with the jobs".

But for sure, I always said more data is needed before making decisions and that's what's missing in the memo. Just ideas, by well meaning people, but nothing to support the ideas and the impacts and consequences of pursuing the path they suggest. They might be considered 'sleepy and dreamy' ideas.

And what else is really disturbing to me is that I think so much data is available that could be gleaned and made use of in moving forward. So why isn't it? Talk to the current employees...find out how they get to work, how much they would pay for rent in PA if they would give up their car for a lower priced rental unit, or why they would never want to live here in the first place. This is not rocket science. It's just asking the right questions.

And another mistake that might be made...acknowledging that PA has changed so much, but thinking that the current ideas/solutions for our current problems will be right and lasting for the future. I've lived here 56 years and it has changed so much that I can't say I really like living here anymore, but I will anyway. What will it be in 56 years from now?

And as far as the posts and commentaries are concerned: At this point I would give the edge to Allen Akin and Arbitarian over Steve Levy, but it's too close to call and there are some outlying precincts yet to report in. lol!

Posted by margaret heath
a resident of College Terrace
on Oct 30, 2017 at 3:42 pm

Steve Levy,
"For sales tax revenue 48% comes from visitors, 41% from businesses and employees and 11% from local households."

How is this data collected and who verifies it?

Presumably the 48% from visitors is largely those people who drive from a wide area to shop at the city’s main driver of retail sales tax, Stanford Shopping Center.

41% from businesses and employees? I’m curious to know how that number breaks down. Businesses only generate revenue if they produce a product in Palo Alto that is sold to which sales tax applied. What proportion is that? Is this non-resident employees eating at the proliferation of lunch places that have replaced the resident serving retail? What little shopping remains along University Avenue and Cal Ave. Services such as hair and nail salons, spa establishments, personal training gyms and other personal services only patronized by non-residents?

Residents down to 11% of sales tax? What a sad commentary on the decades of policies produced by developer friendly council member majorities and city staff favoring commercial property owners by supporting development that has damaged and hollowed out retail. At the same time providing only a token amount of protection for resident serving retail businesses.

Posted by eric
a resident of Downtown North
on Oct 30, 2017 at 4:06 pm

@ allen

I'll try this one more time.

No, Uber doesn't trade parking for traffic. A mode shift to Uber reliance definitely reduces parking requirements. It almost certainly also reduces traffic. It is not that case that looking at ONE uber trip vs. ONE non-uber trip is an analysis that scales. Why? Because if you have shifted your car ownership pattern to just use Uber as a stop-gap (which was the scenario that I described and you reacted to), you will take FEWER TRIPS.

Let's say I am a current car owner. I have already absorbed the fixed cost of a car, and likely other costs that are relatively fixed as well (insurance, parking, etc). My marginal cost to use it is extremely low. I may not think about jumping in the car for multiple small errands. Let's say that I make 50 trips/month. (sometimes driving to work, sometimes taking my bike + Caltrain).

Now, let's say that I decide to get rid of my car, and try to get by with Uber for when I _really_ need a car. Every time I take Uber, the variable cost is transparent to me. I will try to take fewer trips. Not only will I decide to take other means (ie., my bike; the train), but I will find alternatives (i.e., Amazon Fresh or Safeway Direct) for groceries. My original 50 trips by car will definitely drop. I'll try to maintain my "uber budget" within the free credits I'm given.

There is no way that people who are forced to absorb a high variable cost of each ride generate nearly as many trips as those who are paying an (untransparent) minimal variable cost per ride when they own their own car.

Posted by midtown senior
a resident of Midtown
on Oct 30, 2017 at 4:10 pm

midtown senior is a registered user.

Jeeeze, I REALLY like the ads for Uber in all these messages. How about a few recommending taxis or Lyft?

Posted by Anke
a resident of Mountain View
on Oct 30, 2017 at 4:17 pm


Notice that alternatives such as Amazon Fresh or Safeway Direct for groceries replace a direct car trip with a circuitous delivery truck trip, with all the extra noise and nuisance that adds to residential neighborhoods.

Posted by David Lieberman
a resident of Professorville
on Oct 30, 2017 at 4:21 pm

When I moved here in 1964 overnight parking on the street was illegal. For that reason garages were used for what they were built for (parking) and not storage space or extra bedrooms. Also as a result the average family of four had one car (known as "the family car") and not three. Then the restriction was lifted in the late seventies and suddenly we had parking and traffic problems.

I would love to see us go back to an overnight parking ban, to see garages returned to their original function and hundreds of completely unnecessary vehicles disappear forever as familes realized that with a little bit of planning and very minor inconvenience they could make do with one fewer car. Of course, it would take enormous political courage to do such a thing.

As far as housing goes, this is an existential crisis. In the kitchen in that favorite restaurant of yours there are dishwashers working for a pittance who are sleeping in their car or driving here from Stockton or worse. Our nice sweet life is dependent on those people. Wake up.

Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 30, 2017 at 4:28 pm

OK, I will jump in on the Uber (or Lyft, or Taxis). I have used Uber to get to the airport. It was easiest as I didn't have anyone to give me a ride, I didn't want to leave a car in long term parking, and I didn't want to spend 2 hours on public transport to get to the airport for an 11 hour flight. The beauty of Uber was that for at least part of the ride we could use carpool lanes (it would be better to be able to use diamond lanes all the way but we don't have them beyond Redwood City). My Uber driver would not be returning empty to this area, but would instead look for another passenger to take somewhere else.

I would also use Uber to meet a family member at their office so that we could ride together to another event which was the easiest way to plan our evening.

However, in San Francisco, the argument has been made several times by the media that Uber and Lyft are adding to city traffic because the cars just circle around while waiting for their next passenger rather than parking and waiting. In other words, these cars are adding to city congestion rather than alleviating it. With the parking problems in Palo Alto, I would imagine that the same scenario would be prevalent here.

Posted by midtown senior
a resident of Midtown
on Oct 30, 2017 at 5:14 pm

midtown senior is a registered user.

While I think about it, we have five main transit corridors:
101, 280, El Camino, Alma (Central Expwy), and the train. Four out of five use CARS!!!
As many contributors have pointed out, cars are not going away in suburban areas. Cars are not going away where jobs have outgrown living space. Cars are not going away for seniors, for school transport, for out-of-town commuters, for etc.,etc., etc. Our California cities and towns were BUILT for car ownership.
Traffic "calming," bike lanes, parking restrictions and other measures don't seem to fix the basic problem ... they just shift the problem.
We need a little realism on the Council. If these situations don't go away, we need to find a way to live with them.
Workers who can't afford to live here still need to commute and park.
New York style of transport was designed for New York. Subways, elevated trains, buses, taxis, no cars. Now here we are in a place designed to be a suburb. And with our commercial base we need the city tax revenue from industry and commerce. We need more and cheaper housing because workers need to be closer to their jobs and have affordable accommodations.
We can't choke off the tax revenue.
We can't increase the residential taxes.
We need parking space.
Our population capacity MUST grow.
The number of individual means of transport will not be reduced, but with an aging population, they can't bike.
We (Palo Altans) want to maintain our suburban life style.
We have limited land area for expanding housing.
I've looked at our sister city Mountain View and they seem to be managing far better then Palo Alto. They've provided more housing, they have greater parks, they don't seem to have a parking problem, they're attracting more industry, Castro Street attracts more reasonably-priced restaurants and I could go on. What's wrong?
Well, one of the big differences is land use.
Shoreline Park and it's land use is what Baylands ought to be.
Google's land use are what we should have allowed in Palo Alto. Housing along El Camino provides "reasonably priced" accommodations.
We in Palo Alto still need to add housing but we don't have land area.
We Palo Altans have dreaded the loss of suburbia, but we've got to deal with these issues. There are only three dimensions left to us earthlings. So, if you must grow and you can't grow horizontally, you've go to grow vertically!
There may be one reasonable solution, as unthinkable as it may seem.
Perhaps we need to think in different terms.
One possible solution is to build UP where we can't build OUT.
For example, along our major traffic corridors, let's lift the height restrictions. A seven-story apartment house with the first two floors dedicated to parking, located near one of the major traffic corridors could be profitable to builders and reduce traffic and parking problems inside Palo Alto.
That seems to be a possible alternative to the kind of traffic calming on Arastrodero and the nightmare of parking restrictions.
Practicality can live with idealism if we compromise. Anyway, who can see far beyond the neighbor's home, so the view is not really an issue.

Posted by Allen Akin
a resident of Professorville
on Oct 30, 2017 at 5:16 pm

Allen Akin is a registered user.

@Eric Rosenblum:

Ah, I see now. You've conflated two unrelated points.

Your point boils down to "People who don't own a car tend to make fewer car trips."

My point boils down to "A single-passenger rideshare trip generates more traffic than a private car trip."

Both of these things are true, for any number of trips.

I believe you're also arguing that there's a high correlation between people who will choose not to own a car and people who will choose to live in apartments without parking. I don't dismiss that out-of-hand (it's clearly the smart bet for certain groups), but I hope you're hearing what has been written here about why people use cars and how neighborhood parking can be gamed. The incentives to live here, or continue living here, can be greater than the incentives to go without a car. Particularly as life's circumstances change.

Posted by Back to basics
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 30, 2017 at 5:27 pm

Let's return to basics - Wolback, Fine and Kniss are the Developers Friends and have the voting records to prove it. They love to build offices and voted to weaken controls on yearly caps. Office development drives the need for more housing.
Surely we now won't trust them when they tell us we should get rid of off-site parking, even though they have that cute name for it - car lite?
There is no such thing as "enough housing" when you are marching to the beat of Silicon Valley corporations and their desire for tech housing. It's like offering an alcoholic a couple of martinis - it will never be enough.

Posted by Abitarian
a resident of Downtown North
on Oct 30, 2017 at 5:56 pm

Thanks to Allen Akin and several other posters for their comments on this thread. It is imperative that we question Stephen Levy, Eric Rosenblum, and others in positions of influence when they present information of dubious authenticity.

Sorry, Stephen, but again, I need to call out your claim that businesses and their employees contribute 41% of the sales tax while local households contribute only 11% of the sales tax.

a. Because this assertion lacks face value, posters have questioned how these figures were derived. Our city has lost credibility for their calculations, witness under-estimating number of employees by using out-of-date figures for how much office square footage businesses allocate per employee, under-estimating traffic generation by failing to consider the cumulative impact of a series of development projects, etc.

b. Because this assertion cherry-picks only sales tax, posters have noted that this figure does not consider the comprehensive economic picture; in particular, the city's analysis that property tax from residential uses is 2-3x greater than that of employment uses.

It seems that when posters point out these concerns, you do not bolster your contentions by responding with links to respected fact-based sources.

Stephen, in your capacity as a professional economist, local governments and and non-profits rely on you to provide extensive and accurate information and analysis regarding growth trends and projections. In some cases, our tax dollars pay for your services.

In your spare time, you volunteer for city advisory panels, write a blog for Palo Alto Online, and guide the PAF group. A sizable number of people put their trust in you. Your role has expanded far beyond that of Joe or Jane Citizen.

Truly, I admire your energy surrounding the development issues we face here in Palo Alto, but it seems your facility for being objective has been lost in your passion to advocate for growth.

Posted by Asher Waldfogel
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Oct 30, 2017 at 6:55 pm

Asher Waldfogel is a registered user.

These kind of discussions should always highlight “Whose benefits? Whose risks?”
While we’ve been discussing “car light” living, guess what’s been happening? The auto industry has been racking up record sales. Web Link
We’ve never seen any DMV data showing a reduction in auto ownership in Palo Alto. While it’s possible that high-paid single 25 year olds own fewer cars than 35 year old families, it’s more likely that high-paid 25 year olds still own cars for their weekends, but may choose weekday commutes on Caltrain and use Uber for some local rides. Which means “car light” suburban housing still needs parking.
And what’s the effect of Ubers? According to a recent UC Davis study, ride share reduces transit use, has no effect on car ownership, and increases vehicle miles traveled (which is how you say “more traffic” at a transportation conference). Web Link
So how do we crack the code? Densifying the downtown district won’t reduce traffic and cars because we’re still in a world with short job tenures. It’s Silicon Valley where we change jobs every 18 months and the next job could be anywhere from San Jose to SOMA. The better local opportunity is to think about neighborhood-scale developments in the Research Park and East Meadow Circles, both of which are better served by roads. We should expect transit connections to Caltrain from the developers, along with schools, parks and other amenities.
For those of you who say “that’s not smart planning” I challenge you to show us good planning studies for how 1920s to 1960s era built-out suburban districts like Palo Alto can densify without breaking existing communities. It’s not enough to say “I’ll leave your residential block alone” if you undermine the assumptions the block is built on. Those assumptions, built into decades of Comp Plans, are access to nearby services, congestion-free roads leading to places you want to go, and minimal neighborhood intrusion from business district impacts like worker parking and Waze-induced pass-through traffic.
The proven, sustainable regional model is to radiate transit from offices in the urban cores (SF, Oakland and San Jose). Palo Alto is not an urban core; we’re a suburban node. Levy’s argument about non-residential revenue does not take into account costs induced by office development. How many times has city hall argued they’re not staffed to our 65,000 overnight population, they’re staffed to our +/- 150,000 daytime population? How much of the unfunded pension expense that Eric Filseth has been highlighting is related to office vs residential use? How well is this revenue model working out to maintain and expand resident amenities like schools, parks and community programs? How many library, school and storm drain bonds are we paying? Has the business community stepped up to pay for the public safety building or kicked in their fair share for Caltrain grade crossings?
Point is that Fine, Wolbach and Kniss are proposing an experiment that benefits commercial developers, a few high-paid (mostly 20-something, male tech workers) and their employers and that pushes all the risks onto the community. I don’t think that’s a good tradeoff.

Posted by Eric Rosenblum
a resident of Downtown North
on Oct 30, 2017 at 7:24 pm


re: "who benefits"... many benefits are obvious:
-- hopefully our city benefits by having people who are less reliant on cars
-- hopefully some people who can't afford (or who don't want) a car can get a break on rent, while getting things they DO value

to the extent that a developer benefits, that's up to "us" (the ARB, PTC, City Council). The money that _would_have gone into building extra parking can instead be used for services for people who are forgoing a parking space. Things that we've discussed include credits for [the ride share company of your choice], Caltrain go-passes, zipcars, subsidized Amazon delivery fees, free bike maintenance, etc.

If we want to drive down developer margins, we can (and should) insist that they provide these services. For people that are interested in that lifestyle (and I know that there are MANY in Palo Alto for all sorts of reasons), this would be a wonderful living arrangement, and we would ALL benefit because we would have helped solve one of our biggest issues with housing: what to do with the cars and traffic.

Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Oct 30, 2017 at 7:51 pm

Online Name is a registered user.

Who benefits? Maybe for a change it should be residents who benefit, not commuters, not developers, not bureaucrats, not consultants.

Maybe we'd prefer to "subsidize" our local retailers, not Amazon which sure doesn't need to be subsidized. Maybe we'd prefer NOT to have to stop visiting friends on the other side of town because we don't have hours to waste getting there? Maybe we'd like to drive our dogs to the dog parks but we can't because they're not allowed on public transit?

Posted by Resident
a resident of College Terrace
on Oct 30, 2017 at 8:13 pm

@ Eric

Just because you create housing with no parking spaces DOES NOT mean you'll force people to be less reliant on cars when the next best alternative is a NONEXISTENT mass transit system.

You write, "hopefully our city benefits by having people who are less reliant on cars"

My question is... what happens when a lack of parking spaces in these new housing developments DOES NOT have people less reliant on cars, when the next best alternative is parking on the city street. What is to stop THAT behavior?

You write, "hopefully some people who can't afford (or who don't want) a car can get a break on rent"

My question is, what if the reduced rental costs allow the resident living in the new housing development (that has no parking) to have a higher budget/ allowance for leasing a car? Hmmm? And they justify it with "I need a car to commute to SF, or Sunnyvale, or South San Jose"??

So when that person then GETS a car... then what?

You assume because one has a lower pay scale they can not afford a car? When it comes to needing a piece of technology, doesn't matter one's income level. If one needs a cell phone, they will have a cell phone. If someone needs a car, the mere fact of living in a housing development with no parking doesn't force someone to NOT buy a car, or NOT own a car. They will own a car, and park it down the street, or several streets over.

You make so many assumptions... and the assumptions have severe consequences for the residents of the city of Palo Alto.

I still suggest we ensure these housing developments occur blocks away from Mr. Fine, Ms. Kniss, and Mr. Wolbach, and until every single city street in Palo Alto has RPPP... Mr. Fine, Ms. Kniss, and Mr. Wolbach's streets where their personal residence is one SHOULD NOT GET RPPP. Let's see how quickly they like that scenario given they assume "lite car" theory.

For that matter, Eric, you should live on a street with no RPPP and perhaps those developments can be built near your residence as well. Every single supporter of easing off-street parking regulations should have NO RPPP on their residential street until every single street in Palo Alto gets RPPP... and these new housing developments should be blocks away from their homes.

Posted by Anonymous
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Oct 30, 2017 at 8:19 pm

Chicago has numerous transit-friendly, or TODs (transit-oriented developments) and you can easily Google articles about them and their issues.
I am familiar with one built several years ago, with some media coverage, located at a prominent intersection with constant multiple modes of transit. Walking is also typical in the area (broad city sidewalks, mostly). The apartment building - 11 floors plus rooftop terrace, a rather thin building, not broad, is mostly aimed at young professionals w/o cars. It works pretty well, except when someone comes to visit with a car. Tough to find on-street parking anywhere in vicinity, and a good likelihood of a parking ticket. I don’t know any garages nearby. A little tricky as only one spot for delivery truck, some minor commercial on first floor, no ideal spots for Uber/Lyft pickups /dropoffs — though these services are used (though taxiis lineup at close nearby small traffic circle).
It’s not beyond belief that something like this could be tried here, but it needs to be in a busy, prominent location. Helps if people can easily walk to restaurants, bars, banks, pharmacies.

Posted by Resident
a resident of College Terrace
on Oct 30, 2017 at 8:31 pm

Chicago has a rapid transit system that is above grade. Vancouver also has the skytrain. Their mass transit systems are more frequent, more ubiquitous and goes to various parts of the city.

Chicago and Palo Alto... comparing the 2 is like trying to compare potatoes and apples. It's not even apples and oranges here.

Here is my question. Eric asserts we can reduce the profit margins of the builders by asking them to reinvest in the community (ha).

WHY can't the city require off-street parking to be made by DIGGING LOWER and creating underground parking spaces underneath these high density housing developments?

The city of Vancouver builds new condominiums all the time. They simply require the developers to dig down and build underground parking garages for their housing units. Yes it eats into the profit margins for the developers.... but they can now also build more living spaces and units (hence not eating into the living spaces with parking spaces).. hence increasing the space market.

What is with all this "reduce off-street regulations and ease those regulations" hocus pocus talk? If it's not about profiting the developer's profit margins and it TRULY is about benefiting the surrounding Palo Alto residents and community... then the city councillors should be advocating SUFFICIENT underground parking garage levels should be built UNDERNEATH as parking structures that are adequate in number for the new residents to park.

Something smells fishy here. It sticks and reeks like these 3 councillors and pro "car lite" posters are more "PRO DEVELOPMENT" while being "do whatever to the surrounding community" perspective.

The residents of Palo Alto and the surrounding neighbors and residents are also stakeholders in this issue and their voices should be heeded.

Looks like it's time to vote out: Mr. Fine, Ms. Kniss, and Mr. Wolbach

Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 30, 2017 at 9:24 pm

When we look at the Bay Area as a region, what we see is not what other major cities see which is a bicycle wheel with spokes all entering the city, or a spiders web with commuters going two points in one direction and able to then do an almost 90 degree turn to go two points around the circle.

No, what we have is an ugly mess of commuters all trying to do different things to get to the many areas of employment all over the Bay Area region. We have reverse commutes, trans Bay commutes, coast to Bay commutes, Central Valley to almost all points in the region commutes, far south Bay commutes to Peninsula and Peninsula/East Bay commutes to San Jose, and that's not looking at the north Bay.

For this reason, Caltrain will never work to suit all commuters. Bus routes do not cross county borders. The only decent cross Bay transit is Bart at only one tube. We have two freeways west of the Bay and basically two freeways east of the Bay. Personal vehicles are basically going to be the major form of commuting for most commuters unless they are fortunate enough to work for the major companies which have their own bus routes.

What we really have to do is to get some major bus routes using carpool lanes on our freeways. Getting Gilroy and Morgan Hill commuters to Google and Facebook areas even for non-Google and Facebook workers. Getting East Bay workers across the bridges by buses using carpool lanes. Getting carpool parking lots on freeway offramps and getting dedicated bus shuttles for last mile rides to employment centers.

Come on Bay Area. Let's get rid of all these county only bus transport agencies and merge and amalgamate, and get commuters to where they need to go in a timely, efficient and affordable manner. Stop looking at bus transportation as only for poor workers who can sit on a bus snaking around neighborhoods. Start looking at how and where commuters live and work and do something to actually help transportation needs rather than cutting services. We need to seriously invest in comfortable, efficient bus transportation to suit those who want an alternative means to driving their own cars, and giving them a service. Yes, a service to serve commuters that is affordable, reliable, efficient and enables people to work, check email, sleep or be entertained while commuting.

Please, understand that, otherwise traffic and parking is just going to implode.

Posted by Annette
a resident of College Terrace
on Oct 30, 2017 at 9:50 pm

Annette is a registered user.

As I often do, today I used the Embarcadero Shuttle to go to and from work. From my seat on the bus I have this observation: given the enormity of our traffic and circulation issues, public transportation here is pretty much a joke. I use it because I can, I live and work in Palo Alto, I no longer have school-age children dependent on me for their daily transportation needs, and I happen to believe in using public transportation. BUT there are a lot of negatives. Specifically, it doubles my commute time, the schedule is limited, it restricts flexibility, and it is of limited use.

If we cannot even provide effective across and around town public transportation w/a reasonably robust schedule, how can we realistically expect people to go "car-light"? At some point Palo Alto needs to accept that it is not organized around effective public transportation systems; it is ludicrous and irresponsible to plan as though it is. Ignoring reality is not forward thinking or enlightened. It isn't even smart. Call me old school, but I think our elected and hired officials are obliged to be realistic.

Posted by lawn owner
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Oct 30, 2017 at 10:11 pm

[Post removed.]

Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Oct 30, 2017 at 10:47 pm

Online Name is a registered user.

It's 10:29PM and the CC meeting is still going strong. Like Annette, I too believe the cc should be realistic and I live in hope.

But my "reality future index" tanked when the council authorized a study to make University Ave a pedestrian mall.

Hello. University Ave is one of the city's 3 feeders for 101 (along with Embarcadero/Oregon and San Antonio and a primary route to Stanford which is about to undergo a huge expansion,

Where would all that commute traffic go? How would people get to 101?

We're not in the brave new carless future yet.

Posted by Abitarian
a resident of Downtown North
on Oct 30, 2017 at 10:58 pm

Eric Rosenblum --

Considering that you are a member of Palo Alto's Planning and Transportation Commission, your most recent post is appalling, particularly in your use of the word "hopefully".

You wrote:

-- hopefully our city benefits by having people who are less reliant on cars
-- hopefully some people who can't afford (or who don't want) a car can get a break on rent, while getting things they DO value

Hopefully? Your PTC votes are based on the concept of "hopefully"? You are serious?

I do not find this reassuring; "hopefully" is not a basis for making sound policy decisions. Far too many of the problems in our city exit because municipal leaders put so much faith in the power of hope.

Parking, the topic of this discussion, is a perfect example. City councilors, city advisors, and city staff approved office developments knowing they failed to provide adequate parking for their employees because "hopefully" employees would use mass transit, carpools, etc.

And when "hopefully" didn't work out, it created a parking problem that didn't exist prior to the under-parked over-development in office space.

To address this issue, the city gave us:

A. a neighborhood parking program that requires residents and their guests to pay for parking by the home. Some contractors and home service professionals refuse to work in the downtown area because parking is so difficult.

B. a traffic management program that relies in part on taxpayer dollars to pay downtown employees to commute to work; another benefit for commercial developers funded in part by the citizens.

So, you can keep your "hopefully"; it is a disgraceful justification for unproven planning decisions. We deserve better.

Posted by Annette
a resident of College Terrace
on Oct 30, 2017 at 11:19 pm

Annette is a registered user.

So CC doesn't support a study to look into renter protection but it will support a study to shut down a primary artery?

Translation: kill diversity, kill retail. Hopefully they voted in favor of marijuana; we're gonna need it so we can all slow down and go nowhere.

Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Oct 31, 2017 at 1:20 am

Online Name is a registered user.

Nope, they didn't vote in favor of marijuana. They wamt to figure out how to make PA's marijuana provisions even tougher than the state law! So expect to be less than mellow while going nowhere -- just more frustrated.

But they did agree to study how PA feels about marijuana since they seem to have forgotten that 66% of us voted for legalization.

Posted by stephen levy
a resident of University South
on Oct 31, 2017 at 10:53 am

stephen levy is a registered user.

Reduced parking minimums in selected locations are now a mainstream idea in the Bay Area. The broad based committee organized by MTC and ABAG that includes a large number of advocates for low-income housing, mayors, council members, union and businesses all support measures to reduce the cost of producing new housing.

In addition the memo prepared by the Terner Center for Housing at Berkeley presented a compelling data based case that cost reductions with specific mention of reducing parking requirements are essential to increasing affordability for middle income residents.

As to how it would play out in Palo Alto I agree with Eric.

The ideal location would be in areas already targeted for housing growth in the Comp Plan and that already have RPPPs--areas near services, shopping, jobs and transit. That's where reduced parking units should be tested.

Two, there will be cost reductions as there were with the Marriott hotel on San Antonio when council member Holman suggested trading reduced parking costs for a contribution from the developer for shuttles and other TDM programs.

As Eric suggested, these cost savings could be the subject of negotiation but my vote would be for reducing the rents to make the units more affordable.

So this is an idea worth exploring as the colleaugues' memo suggests and, for me, trying once in the downtown area.

Cars and car upkeep is expensive. While many residents will not choose or be able to reduce car use, some will if given the chance to live in a neighborhood like downtown. You can afford a lot of Lyft rides when needed if you can avoid car ownership costs.

finally, while most of the discussion has been on the one suggestion for reduced parking requirements, the memo (link is in the article) has many other suggestions to help on housing.

Posted by Resident
a resident of College Terrace
on Oct 31, 2017 at 11:03 am

@ Stephen Levy & Eric

Stephen you state: "The ideal location would be in areas already targeted for housing growth in the Comp Plan and that already have RPPPs--areas near services, shopping, jobs and transit. That's where reduced parking units should be tested."

Wrong wrong and wrong.
Not all areas have RPPPs. RPPP is ONLY put in place after a significant majority of people SIGN and PETITION to have RPPP with the city. This policy is outrageous to begin with. The default is not a NEIGHBORHOOD BLOCK with RPPP but neighborhoods with 8 streets with RPPP and 3 streets without RPPP because it couldn't get enough signatures. It could be people traveling, or young people who work so they don't answer their doors.. but signatures can't be obtained.

What I've noticed with this INCREDIBLY FLAWED RPPP qualification of streets in Palo Alto is that the remaining 3 streets without RPPP are LINED WITH PERMANENT CARS PARKED for days to weeks on end. People who couldn't park 2 streets over.. park on the street without RPPP.

THE RPPP policy of how RPPP is instituted is flawed.

So here is my suggestion. Where Eric B lives.. or Stephen Levy lives.. That particular street should NOT have RPPP and the surrounding streets SHOULD have RPPP, and then build these reduced parking units next to them. Lets see how you like it then.

Furthermore.... why does there even need to be reduced parking unless you're in the pocket of the developers? Developers should simply build down and build parking garages with ENOUGH OFF STRET PARKING for their residents to begin with.

But lets not say falsehoods and state "areas have RPPPs".... as if RPPP is done on a block by block basis with whole neighborhoods with RPPP status. IT's not. It's so random and variable... a neighborhood can easily have RPPP streets, interspersed with non RPPP streets.

It's evident Stephen that for some reason you are bent on cow towing to the developers' profit margins.. ensuring they don't build adequate parking at the expense of the Palo Alto residents.

Posted by Resident
a resident of College Terrace
on Oct 31, 2017 at 11:08 am

@ Stephen

You also state: "Reduced parking minimums in selected locations are now a mainstream idea in the Bay Area"

Again FALSE.

RPPP is extremely hard to get for a single street in Palo Alto. One needs to knock on doors and get 80% or 90% of their neighbors to sign and petition the city for RPPP.

LEt's make all the streets RPPP in Palo Alto ... EXCEPT your street where you live Stephen... and see how you like it. Then your statement of "Reduced parking minimums in selected locations are now a mainstream idea in the Bay Area" would be more accurate then.

Posted by stephen levy
a resident of University South
on Oct 31, 2017 at 11:15 am

stephen levy is a registered user.


but of course downtown does have an RPPP so I am not understanding your rant. And of course I who live downtown am interested in having both more housing for low income residents and a trial reduced parking for market rate housing project in my neighborhood, which is where the council has voted to focus on adding housing.

In terms of the put downs, why is it not possible that we just disagree about policy? Why does anyone need to be accused of being in someone's pocket.

I can see Trump doing this but why you? Is it your position that anyone who disagrees with you is on the take. That can work both ways you know.

Posted by Peter
a resident of College Terrace
on Oct 31, 2017 at 11:16 am

Good. We should have parking maximums and no minimums. Time to move into the 21st century Palo Alto. I know that’s frightening for many baby boomers but the car-centric drive yourself and park for free model is not sustainable.

Posted by stephen levy
a resident of University South
on Oct 31, 2017 at 11:24 am

stephen levy is a registered user.

@abitarian and others

The source for the fiscal data was cited in my first post, is cited in more detail in my blog listed at the top of this page, acknowledged by Allen Akin who said he read it.

These are not my numbers but those of the city's consultant in a study that was vetted and approved by the city council.

We can all debate the interpretation but the numbers stand unless you can provide some data that shows where the city consultant made a mistake.

To other posters.

It is true that residential owners pay the majority of property taxes but that is entirely from newer owners and not long time owners like myself. the data are that 80% of the value of residential property comes from property newly assessed in the past twenty years with more of that in recent years as values soared.

It is also true that businesses and their employees pay a larger share than residents of sales taxes, hotel taxes and utility taxes.

Posted by @steve levy
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Oct 31, 2017 at 11:24 am

Just to clarify your historical analogy:

The guys riding horses only gave up the horses when they had a viable alternative......the car.
We tend to be rational creatures. We're not lemmings jumping off cliffs. Just beause someone says we're moving to 'car light' doesn't mean people are going to get rid of their cars if they don't have a viable alternative.

Viable alternative - there in lies the key!

Posted by stephen levy
a resident of University South
on Oct 31, 2017 at 11:31 am

stephen levy is a registered user.

@@steve levy

We agree, there need to be viable alternatives. I think a test of reduced parking in exchange for lower rent will be a viable alternative for enough residents to easily fill the building.

In keeping with the analogy lots of people thought no one would give up their TV until entrepreneurs gave them an alternative.

How can you decide reduced parking is not a viable option for some residents here until we try it once?

Posted by Mary
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Oct 31, 2017 at 12:05 pm

Stephen Levy says, "I think a test of reduced parking in exchange for lower rent will be a viable alternative for enough residents to easily fill the building."

But this is not a test of anything relevant to the current discussion. Of course there will be enough tenants to fill almost any residential building in Palo Alto - parking or no parking. The real test is whether any significant number of these tenants will give up their cars or whether they will find other places to park them - like residential streets (from which stems most of the opposition to this speciously supported "car-light" ideology.)

There's been no credible evidence whatsoever from Levy and Rosenblum that building reduced parking residential units will reduce car ownership. Only "hopefully" and "tests". The problem is that once these hopefully test units are built, they are forever. If the whimsical theories behind them turn out to have been incorrect, we're stuck with the results forever.

I don't agree that Levy is in the pockets of developers, though the policies he supports clearly serve their interests. He just prefers denser development than we currently have in Palo Alto - apparently for lifestyle and aesthetic reasons. He doesn't like suburbia. In this I believe he's in the minority of residents: most of us moved here because we like Palo Alto's suburban character.

From 1960 to 2000, Palo Alto's population was relatively stable at around 55,000 people. Now it's over 67,000 people. Anyone who's lived her long enough recognizes that the character and quality of life have deteriorated over that time - at least for those who value what Palo Alto used to offer to residents. If you think that infrastructure overuse, traffic, parking, civility and community cohesion are bad now, just wait until instead of 67,000 people, we have 80,000 or 100,000. That's where we are headed if we listen to Levy, Rosenblum and the developers.

Posted by Allen Akin
a resident of Professorville
on Oct 31, 2017 at 12:07 pm

Allen Akin is a registered user.

Regarding the fiscal study that Steve Levy referenced: The version that I read can be found here: Web Link (Note that the file name indicates it's a final version, despite the title indicating that it's a draft; I was unable to find a more recent version.)

Be aware that Steve is, as usual, emphasizing the interpretations that are most favorable to his position. The study itself offers important cautions, particularly about its limitations, and seems reasonably even-handed to me.

Posted by question
a resident of Downtown North
on Oct 31, 2017 at 12:24 pm

Question to Stephen Levy and Eric Rosenblum:

You both live downtown and walk to work or work at home.
And Eric, you get free lunches/dinners courtesy of your employer so no need to travel.

So do either of you not own cars?

Posted by Resident
a resident of College Terrace
on Oct 31, 2017 at 1:08 pm

@ Stephen Levy

you wrote: but of course downtown does have an RPPP so I am not understanding your rant.

Firstly - not ranting.

Secondly - are you telling me EVERY SINGLE STREET (CAPS FOR EMPHASIS NOT YELLING) has RPPP downtown? Are you stating not a single downtown street is missing RPPP status?

Posted by Annette
a resident of College Terrace
on Oct 31, 2017 at 1:46 pm

Annette is a registered user.

I go "car light" as much as I can and here's what I can tell you: it is inconvenient, it is time-consuming, and it is arguably ineffective. Ridership on the shuttles is low and I expect it to drop when the weather turns foul b/c most shuttle stops do not have any sort of protection and the on foot part of the journey can be miserable when it is cold, rainy, and windy. There are a few plusses: less wear, tear, and mileage on my car, a (very) vague sense of contributing more to a solution than a problem, a little exercise, sorta fresh air, and sometimes an unexpected and pleasant conversation.

I fail to see how car light can be used as a credible assumption for densification. Even the most willing car light candidate is challenged to stay car light until public transportation is a viable option.

Also, let's not refer to Uber and Lyft as though they are not what they are: CARS. On the road, often parked, often with only 1 passenger.

Posted by sunshine
a resident of Barron Park
on Oct 31, 2017 at 2:37 pm

I think anyone who recommends alternative transportation and recommends that residents give up their cars and use public transit should be told, You do it first!
Trains are too infrequent, busses are unreliable if you need to be somewhere at a specific time, the stops for both are often too far from where people need to go. So, if you want to take public transit, do so. However, do not expect your elderly neighbors, persons who must card one or more infants to a place or anyone who needs to get there on time to rely only on public transit.
Right now Palo Alto is built our both for housing and business. All of a sudden the useful businesses, those that once sold useful products to individuals are mostly gone. We are now left with too many bicycle shops, exercise/fitness, storefronts, offices, fast food places to have anything remotely like a viable downtown either on University or California Ave.
If you want more housing crammed in, then give up your own big lot for a 10 family development and start to use public transit.

Posted by Abitarian
a resident of Downtown North
on Oct 31, 2017 at 2:40 pm

Resident --

The area designated for the downtown parking program was mandated by the city. Residents could not petition to keep their street in or out of the district.

The zone is bounded by Palo Alto Avenue, Guinda Avenue, Lincoln Avenue, Alma Street., and Embarcadero Avenue. See map Web Link

Everyone who lives within this region must abide by the rules of the program.

Posted by Robert
a resident of another community
on Oct 31, 2017 at 3:11 pm



Posted by stephen levy
a resident of University South
on Oct 31, 2017 at 4:20 pm

stephen levy is a registered user.


some people are unable or choose not to drive for safety reasons as my mother did and other older residents will decide (often at the request of their children).

some residents are preferring not to have the costs of car ownership if they can live in places where fewer cars are needed.

I am in the first category (poor eyesight) our daughter could not drive (epilepsy) and many residents in our building have a family member who does not drive while some have cars for all adults.

If parking spaces cost $60,000 I have paid $60,000 to have a second vacant space in our garage because two spaces were required.

My wife and I live downtown and do not travel to eat or shop or do the myriad of things we walk to downtown and in T&C. It has nothing to do with our employer. It is a function of location and preference. Why would anyone who works and lives downtown have to travel to get a meal no matter who their employer is?

Posted by Annette
a resident of College Terrace
on Oct 31, 2017 at 4:23 pm

Annette is a registered user.

Quoting Steve Levy: "These are not my numbers but those of the city's consultant in a study that was vetted and approved by the city council."

Given: this City has used consultants for years.
Given: this City is in a world of hurt on housing and infrastructure.

About the consultant-provided and CC approved numbers: I don't have data to prove that the #s are wrong. But empirical evidence suggests that something is very wrong. No study needed: just look around.

Posted by stephen levy
a resident of University South
on Oct 31, 2017 at 5:33 pm

stephen levy is a registered user.


If you could be specific about what data looks wrong, I can try and help.

I think you are on dangerous territory here.

The study was conducted by professionals working iwth our staff for data.

The study was reviewed by the finance committee (I did also as a volunteer(.

The study was approved by our council.

That is a lot of people and public opportunities for input that you seem to be questioning.

Allen and I have different interpretations of what the data imply but that is different from saying the data is wrong.

Similarly people have different names for what kind of place Palo Alto (suburbia, university town, high-tech center) is although I think everyone agrees that we have great single-family neighborhoods bur also have a world=class university that has a research park, medical center complex and shopping center.

Posted by chris
a resident of University South
on Oct 31, 2017 at 5:56 pm


You are stuck in the past. If the people who lived here 60 years ago had your aversion to change, we would be living in a place very few of us could or would want
to live in. In the early 1900's, Palo Alto had street cars. In the 1950s and 1960s, Palo Alto had parking meters. Before VTA, Palo Alto had a private bus company and Greyhound service. Caltrain used to be the Southern Pacific.
Until the 1970's, the area within several miles of Stanford was dry. There were no good restaurants in Palo Alto. Stanford Shopping Center was developed in the 1950's and pulled much of the retail activity out of downtown.

Things change. People with positive attitudes can effect positive change. People who are only negative about every change will end up living in a place far less desirable than it could be.

Think about the pro's and con's of living in Palo Alto 60 years ago vs now. Tell me you would pick the old version.

Posted by Mary
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Oct 31, 2017 at 6:01 pm

Three reasons to suspect the data and conclusions coming from the study being discussed:

"1.The study was conducted by professionals working iwth our staff for data.

2. The study was reviewed by the finance committee (I did also as a volunteer(.

3. The study was approved by our council."

Posted by Abitarian
a resident of Downtown North
on Oct 31, 2017 at 6:20 pm

Here are a few more thoughts based on my experience living downtown in what is almost certainly the closest existing approximation of the high-density car-light lifestyle the authors of this memo are proposing.


Parking garages are used for more than storing cars.

Our building needs an essential renovation. The prospective vendor needs space for staging and storing their stuff. There isn't adequate street parking and for safety and physical reasons, it is not an option to park in a public garage and haul heavy parts and equipment back and forth. So, the vendor requires four adjacent parking spots to be available for 1-3 months. The HOA is at a complete loss as to how to get residents to give up their parking spots, which are deeded to the individual units.

Our building was constructed in 1984, before trucks came to pick-up recycling and composting. Accordingly, the garage design allocated no space for the bins to hold these items. We have crammed in couple of bins but don't have enough room for as many as we need. There may be future needs for space that we can't anticipate today, and some of the need may be spurred by the home-delivery trend


Everybody has to eat.

For those who think we are living the Manhattan lifestyle, take if from this former New Yorker and current downtown resident, we are not. Urban living requires more than office and apartment buildings.

The paucity of public transit, the dearth of everyday retail, the absence of entertainment are key issues, but let's focus on something to which everyone can relate: food. Not the lack of affordable eateries, though that is a problem, but groceries.

Even people who get their groceries and takeout delivered -- which is a small percentage -- have to go to the market. The milk went sour, the blueberries got moldy, someone ate all the cookies, whatever.

Now, I am happy to stroll to the Whole Foods or even the Trader Joe's a few times a week pick up groceries. I have the time, my schedule is flexible, and I don't need to buy more than I can easily carry.

Most of us can probably agree that Whole Foods is the downtown market. Certainly, many people are capable to walk or bike to the T&C Trader Joe's or Menlo Safeway, but I do not believe this is a common practice.

Whole Foods is a modestly-sized enterprise. Our existing population keeps the store very busy. The selection is limited and it is not unusual for them to run out of items. At times, the store is so crowded that it is almost impossible to walk down the aisles. I can't imagine how they could handle a large influx of new residents. It seems highly unlikely another grocery would open downtown.

Of course, Whole Foods is not for everyone. While select items and sales may be priced reasonably, they are quite a bit more expensive than other markets. Many people simply cannot afford to shop at Whole Foods. Also, Whole Foods caters to a particular lifestyle. While their offerings have become more mainstream, they simply do not stock many of the items that a sizable percentage of people consider essential.

In my own building, three blocks away from Whole Foods, daily I see neighbors unloading from their cars multiple bags from Costco, Mollie Stones, Safeway, Trader Joe, etc. Also, I see neighbors who make a special three-block drive because they don't want to walk in the rain.

People are going to eat what they want and get it where they want and get there how they want.


Values and lifestyle choices are a personal thing.

One simple example. We have 44 units in my building. Since composting was implemented, only 15 units have taken the plastic pails for carrying their compost from their units to the compost bin. I am a fervent about composting. so I visit the bin a few times a week. The bin, which is the same size as the ones supplied to a single family home, is emptied only once a week. I have never seen it more than a quarter full, if that.

To be clear, the compost bin is located right next to the dumpster. It could not possibly be more easy for my neighbors to compost. And you can put lots of stuff in the bin, not just food scraps. Plant clippings, pizza boxes, the list goes on and on.

We have put up signs, we have put notices in the newsletter, but for some reason, only a few of us are willing to do this tiny task, which imposes no cost or inconvenience whatsoever.

People don't behave at we do, or as we think they should. Me, I am something of an environmental zealot. My car is 24 years old because I drive so little that I can't justify buying a new one. But it is my experience of living in a theoretically low-impact building here in downtown Palo Alto that makes me extremely skeptical of proposals that are not supported by the facts on the ground.

Posted by Annette
a resident of College Terrace
on Oct 31, 2017 at 8:42 pm

Annette is a registered user.

Steve Levy: I read what you write and I follow civic affairs fairly closely. As I said, I do not have data to refute the data you referenced. What I do have is a few decades of daily experience and it is my observation that some key aspects of our city are worsening rather than improving. This is not new but the problems have reached an acute stage. Traffic and circulation are such that people strategize the driving they must do; I avoid driving as much as I possibly can and do have data to prove that. I used to drive close to 18k miles per year; over the last 3 years I have reduced that to about 12k, including frequent round trips to the Sierra. Downtown retail is essentially on the endangered species list. And housing is not only in short supply, the affordability issue is such that people with community serving jobs cannot live here.

If all the assumptions and data were correct and a good foundation for sound decisions, wouldn't things be trending towards getting better rather than getting worse?

Chris: you have accused me of being averse to change. I can absorb that swipe. What I am averse to is making obvious problems worse. I am suggesting that our go-forward plan be reality-based and not theory-based. We should sequence and prioritize next steps so that we are not making existing problems worse and change/improvement harder. The BART decision comes to mind. It would have been much easier to add BART years ago; making that change/improvement now will be much harder than it had to be. And more expensive. Problem fixing is always more difficult and expensive than problem avoiding.
Plus, pension obligations alone will impact our ability to fund major projects. Do we really want to hand the next generation of Palo Altans (many of whom may well be our own children) a dysfunctional city with a mountain of debt?

What I see our city poised to do is ADD the additional housing and of course more commercial development and deal with the problems after-the-fact. Maybe. I think we can and should do better than that.

Rather than a kick-the-can approach, why not tackle the ugly obstacles first?

Posted by Annette
a resident of College Terrace
on Oct 31, 2017 at 10:24 pm

Annette is a registered user.

Steve Levy: I meant to ask you what you mean by "I think you are on dangerous territory here."? Huh? Surely it is not dangerous to question City Hall.

Posted by Sophie
a resident of another community
on Nov 1, 2017 at 6:51 am

For those who supports ‘car-light’ development, have you abandoned your car already? Please share with us how’ your transition like? How long does your routine commute time?

Posted by Peter
a resident of College Terrace
on Nov 1, 2017 at 10:55 am

Hi Sophie,
I've eliminated about 90% of my driving by biking, walking and taking the train/bus. I do my grocery shopping on Cal Ave and at the new College Terrace Market. I usually pick up groceries after I get off the train. I probably shop more often but with lighter loads. My commute is about 50 minutes. I find the train pretty relaxing. I read, watch the Warriors, or listen to podcasts/books while sitting on the train. Overall the train is pretty reliable. I think my biggest complaint is that only one train an hour comes to Cal Ave so I am often riding to University Ave which is about 8 minutes longer for me.

I have a young daughter so most of my driving involves taking her to various appointments. However, I do have a bike seat for her, so now that she is a little older we're going to start riding more.

Posted by Midtown
a resident of Midtown
on Nov 1, 2017 at 2:42 pm

If Mr. Fine, Ms. Kniss, and Mr. Wolbach think car-lite is such a good idea they need to walk the walk and turn in all their cars somewhere for a month and keep a journal of how they worked around not having a car. No cheating, cannot just borrow a car for a month. Then publish the journals here on this site. Then tell us how car-lite worked for them.

Posted by Abitarian
a resident of Downtown North
on Nov 1, 2017 at 4:30 pm

Midtown wrote:

"If Mr. Fine, Ms. Kniss, and Mr. Wolbach think car-lite is such a good idea they need to walk the walk and turn in all their cars somewhere for a month and keep a journal of how they worked around not having a car."

This is exactly the problem. Far too many of the Palo Alto decision-makers expect others to make sacrifices they are simply not willing to make themselves.

On a similar note, it drives me crazy when these same decision-makers decide to dump all the undesirable development downtown while they remain safe in their R-1 neighborhoods.

When I decided to purchase a home downtown, it was because I liked the mix of retail, restaurants, services, and startups. It was an interesting environment in which many of my daily needs could be satisfied within a few blocks.

I would not have chosen to live in the midst of an office park, which is what downtown has become.

Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 1, 2017 at 5:20 pm

Thank you to Peter above for replying to Sophie's question.

I am impressed that you can manage so well and seem to enjoy not driving so much.

May I be so bold as to ask you a few questions? It seems that you still have a car so I assume your car is parked off street for the remainder of the time, or do you share the same car as your wife? Is she able to commute without a car? What will you do when it rains or your daughter is sick and needs to ride in the car rather than ride on your bike to see the doctor or be picked up from childcare when she has been unwell?

I am not trying to be difficult, but I ask how much thought you have put into these types of scenarios.

It is very different to see this as being OK to not own a car as opposed to rarely using a car. Many people may say they are OK with not using their car most of the time, but for the times when having a car at the ready for those times when you need one sitting outside for immediate use, it is obviously a lot more difficult to actually not own a car.

Posted by Horse first?
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Nov 1, 2017 at 10:20 pm

Horse first? is a registered user.

I firmly believe that there are a lot of people who, for some period of their lives, do not need or want a car. In fact, I would guess that would apply to nearly everyone around here born in the last 40 years. Think students especially, and also recent grads. At school or grad school, most of their needs are taken care of in one place. They can mooch a car or ride with friends to go on trips. They take a bus to the airport to fly somewhere to visit family. They have no dependents, and not a lot of stuff to haul around. And the recent grads -- ye olde young urban professionals -- are used to their low-overhead student life style, want to live near an urban-ish area (downtown), are accomplished enough to get a job near where they want to live and still do cool tech work. Being carless, they do have some difficulties getting to the climbing gym or their weekend Tahoe getaway, but they like to use Uber to get to the city on weekends, etc.

I'm sure our aggressive growth CC and PTC members know many people like this. They are everywhere around here.

If we build some nice high-end 1BR apartments near downtown, without parking, they will move in, adding that elusive "vibrancy" people keep talking about. True, the vibrancy has got a tech or finance edge to it, and is more male than female, but presumably vibrant all the same.

This raises some questions for me.

First, are these the people we want to be building more housing for? Are we building BMR housing or "affordable market rate" housing? Low-rent family units or higher-end compact 1BR units?

I am 100% sure that the aggressive-growth folks have in mind BOTH, with the rationale that the latter is needed to support all the development we have done, in order to reduce congestion, and also to help finance the BMR. They will say we should double-down on the community/culture we have built out, and use the new market-rate development to help fund some BMR.

Question 1: What is the ratio of small luxury units to BMR units (of any size) that the aggressive growth folks contemplate building near downtown? How much are we investing in more high-tech vs in more diversity?

Question 2: How do we make car ownership so unpleasant near these under-parked buildings that residents will move rather than play games parking their car, as happens today near Abitarian's building and at Stanford? I think it's possible to make folks move, but it would look very different from what we are doing today.

Posted by Resident
a resident of College Terrace
on Nov 1, 2017 at 10:39 pm

Car lite users posting on this thread don't tell us where they are parking their car when they are not using it and riding their bikes. The reality is... they haven't done away with their cars. It is being parked somewhere.

The issue with reducing off-street parking regulations by suggesting "car light" developments is a non sequitur. Car light advocates on this forum implicitly suggest that car light automatically means not owning a car. They surreptitiously fail to answer where those "car light" people will park their cars when they don't use it.

The reality is, simply because the frequency of using one's car goes down (car light users), doesn't mean it directly correlates to car ownership. It doesn't.
The moment one OWNS a car, one needs to PARK their car.

It's like suggesting that because not many people drive boats in the harbor, it means not many people park their boats in the dock. Hence we should do away with docks where boats can be moored to, and build high density housing there, assuming that by getting rid of the docks, it will naturally follow people won't buy boats, and have a need to anchor their boats somewhere.

As well, unlike boats and docks, PARKING spaces can easily be dug underground to CREATE APPROPRIATE OFF-STREET PARKING. Why is that not an option for our lovely Mr. Fine, Ms. Kniss, and Mr. Wolbach? Why can't the developers build appropriate off-street parking?

In the interim... my vote is that the car light development people all park in front of the homes of Mr. Fine, Ms. Kniss, and Mr. Wolbach.

Posted by CeCi Kettendorf
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Nov 1, 2017 at 11:02 pm

The cities and towns surrounding Palo Alto have not made the mess of expansion that Palo Alto has made. Surrounding cities are growing, as required, and they have problems, but those cities plan more reasonably and thoughtfully for schools, commercial space, traffic mitigation, access, livable neighborhoods and parking, both off street and on. Real homage is paid to the welfare of their residents. In contrast, Palo Alto is doing a hatchet job of city planning in many areas.
I talk to my neighbors and coworkers. I believe that 99% of the residents of Palo Alto don't pay attention to goings-on at City Hall. They believe in good faith that, because we live in the Mecca that is Palo Alto, their city government acts honorably in their best interest. When they wake up one day and realize that it is not so, it will be too late to save Palo Alto.
Speaking of parking, at Monday's council meeting they spoke of building housing on public parking lots. Will additional public land then be dedicated for parking for the residents of those buildings?! I guess they will park under the building, with an insufficient number of parking stalls of course. Better still, they will have no available parking at all, because they, of course, won't own a car!

Build housing on public parking lots?! I hope good people run against these council members.

Posted by CeCi Kettendorf
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Nov 2, 2017 at 9:39 am

Could someone help me understand what Palo Alto means by BMR housing and affordable housing? I have never seen or heard any numbers put to the latter. The question was asked of the city council this past Monday, and still no answer was forthcoming.

Posted by Horse first?
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Nov 2, 2017 at 10:16 am

Horse first? is a registered user.

Hi Ceci. BMR is well defined, and you can read about it on the internet. You need to qualify by having a low enough level of income. Here is a link to an article with some good links: Web Link including one link to the income requirements: Web Link

"Affordable" and "affordable market rate", both of which are used in the comp plan, are not at all well defined, and that is contributing to the problem over the debate of what Palo Alto is looking to build. It is important to understand "market rate" when you hear "affordable". They are "affordable" at market rate presumably because they are small or low quality or in a poor location.

Posted by Horse first?
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Nov 2, 2017 at 10:36 am

Horse first? is a registered user.

@CeCi, re building on parking lots, it's pretty common when a city has no free space. They demo the parking lot, build a large building where it used to be, and incorporate a parking structure into the new building, some portion of which is reserved for the public. That is what they are doing with the development of the new public service building near Antonio's Nut House on Cal Ave.

Parking lots are going the way of the dodo bird. Undeveloped space is disappearing throughout the city. That is what "infill development" refers to. If it's flat and not a park, it's game for development. That includes all single story stuff as well, unless it's historic or in a single story overlay. Palo Alto is becoming a city much more than a town.

One of the things that disturbed me the most in the City Council meeting was the implication (albeit by developer-friendly folks) that there is nothing we can do about the congestion, because it's coming from Stanford and neighboring towns. If that is true, then that makes me question even more why we have to build yet more housing. I would much prefer to see us get rid of some of the office space, convert it to BMR housing and diverse retail and functional space, and just say no to building. But the Comp Plan process never evaluated those options.

Posted by Resident
a resident of Midtown
on Nov 3, 2017 at 9:34 am


Is the delusional War on Cars a nationwide phenomenon, or are there places in the USA without delusional progressives accruing money and power and shoving their agendas down everyone's throat?

Is there a different town or state I can move to that have unspoiled & pragmatic City Council members that serve the people, instead of trying to impose a fantastic vision that has nothing to do with reality?

Somewhere where there isn't a rapid drift towards Socialism?

Right now, Palo Alto is still wonderful. But I have a feeling that in a few years it won't be worth it living here anymore. I'm scared about what this town will soon become. My trust in the leadership of this city has ruptured.

Please list some places, thank you!

Posted by CrescentParkAnon.
a resident of Crescent Park
on Nov 3, 2017 at 1:31 pm

Car light? .... what a joke. This is going to lead to more fees and fines which is what our city is all about now. Then the council can give themselves another raise.

Posted by CrescentParkAnon.
a resident of Crescent Park
on Nov 3, 2017 at 1:35 pm

Hey Resident from Midtown ... yeah, move to Houston, TX ... avoid that nasty socialism. Bring your raft and life vest, we'll miss ya!

Posted by Anke
a resident of Mountain View
on Nov 3, 2017 at 1:54 pm

@Resident, in response to your question:

"Is there a different town or state I can move to that have unspoiled & pragmatic City Council members that serve the people, instead of trying to impose a fantastic vision that has nothing to do with reality?"

Well, our seriously expensive cities are still pretty nice (Los Altos, Los Altos Hills, Atherton, Woodside, Portola Valley). Looking beyond the Bay Area, here are a couple of links you may find helpful as a starting point. There are many similar compilations which are easily googleable with search terms such as "nicest cities to live in". Enjoy!

Best and Worst Cities for First-Time Home Buyers in 2017
Web Link

Best Small Cities in America to Move to Before They Get Too Popular
Web Link

My own persona tip: if you really are able to relocate, consider just about anywhere in New England. Picture book lovely cities exuding charm and populated by delightful people, 4 real seasons with those famous gorgeous falls, history going back to the discovery of our country. Lots to like!

(BTW, I'm on the lookout myself, but I'm also tied to the Bay Area because of family and work.)

Posted by Yvel Evets
a resident of University South
on Nov 3, 2017 at 1:55 pm

We really need an accurate way to measure plusses, and a way to register a minus might be nice too ... that is if you reallyl believe in the democratic way and a real town hall forum. We know most of the "likes", or "plusses" or whatever can be faked or spoofed ... so why have them unless you want to cheat the public? Fix them or get rid of them.

Posted by Robert
a resident of another community
on Nov 3, 2017 at 2:22 pm


There are plenty of major cities that are building new and expanding existing freeways. Houston listed above was a good example, Phoenix, Atlanta, most large cities in Florida, all 100% in for cars, and as a result, no traffic problems in any of them :^)

Posted by question
a resident of Downtown North
on Nov 8, 2017 at 6:31 pm

Neither Levy nor Rosenblum answered this question. So I'll pose it again.

You both live downtown and walk to work or work at home.
And Eric, you get free lunches/dinners courtesy of your employer so no need to travel.

So do either of you not own cars?

Alternatively, how many cars does your household own?

Posted by stephen levy
a resident of University South
on Nov 8, 2017 at 7:22 pm

stephen levy is a registered user.

I actually answered your question so i am surprised you asked it again.
And exactly how does where someone get lunch have to do with how many cars they own.

Moreover, since the memo asked staff to analyze various policy possibilities and you do not know what they will find, how is everyone so sure they know it all?

Since the reduced parking alternative was one of many and actually one suggested in the discussion of the Committee to House the Bay Area, what do readers think of the other suggestions for staff to review?

Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 9, 2017 at 8:49 am

I'm all in favor of staff analyzing all the possibilities. I just think that even if all the new housing is within the standard 400m walking distance to Caltrain, most people in the new housing will still drive, because most employers on the other end are far from a Caltrain station. Look at Santa Clara County via Google Earth -- unfortunately, work sites and suburban neighborhoods are sprawled all over "Broadacre City". You can't tell people where they can and can't work, and, you can't tell them not to buy cars. They buy cars so that they can get to work.

I'm all in favor of transit-oriented development, but, you have to base the rules for development on what people actually do, not what you intend them to do.

Posted by Allen Akin
a resident of Professorville
on Nov 9, 2017 at 9:13 am

Allen Akin is a registered user.

Our two fundamental problems are (1) overbuilding offices and (2) underbuilding transportation systems. Many of our other problems, including housing, flow from those two.

If a development doesn't address those two root problems, its positive effects are likely to be small, temporary, and local. If the action worsens one of the two root problems, its negative effects are likely to be larger and longer-lived.

From a tactical point of view, if you want new development to help address the root problems, you need to negotiate that up-front. Once the building is done, your leverage is gone. The proposals seem to be doing exactly the opposite: giving away concessions up front, without making any progress on the fundamentals.

Posted by question
a resident of Downtown North
on Nov 9, 2017 at 11:13 am

To Stephen Levy:
No you did not answer my question, nor did Rosenblum.

So do either of you not own cars?
or try this:
Alternatively, how many cars does your household own?

You responded with irrelevant stuff about your family.
Not interested in confusing verbiage. The questions ask for a simple number.

Enough of throwing more irrelevance into the discussion. Just a NUMBER, please.

Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on Nov 9, 2017 at 12:32 pm

"They buy cars so that they can get to work." Oversimplification.

Posted by stephen levy
a resident of University South
on Nov 9, 2017 at 1:12 pm

stephen levy is a registered user.

@ question

To repeat the answer to your question for me is in this thread. If you do not want to take the time to find it, that is okay.

And you did not answer my questions including why does where you have lunch relate to how many cars you own?

The irrelevant slam at Eric does undercut any idea that you are just asking for information.

Interestingly you and other posters seem to think everyone is like you. Our daughter could not drive. My mother gave up her car when it was unsafe. We have single people in our building where two parking spaces were required and added to costs. We have people who do not drive for a variety of reasons.

Yes still most people of driving age own a car but not all and as we age I suspect more residents will enjoy living downtown and reduce car usage and ownership if we give them the chance.

Posted by Abitarian
a resident of Downtown North
on Nov 9, 2017 at 2:04 pm

Stephen Levy --

You indicate that your building provides two parking spaces for each unit, and that not every home needs two spaces.

As previously mentioned, my building provides only one parking space for each unit, requiring some neighbors to rent a second space in an adjacent garage.

So, for the purpose of discussion, let's assume a unit requires an average of somewhere between one and two parking spots.

Now, my understanding is that the council wants to consider allowing new developments to provide even *less* than one parking space per unit.

If this is the case, it would seem certain the new developments would have a parking deficit.

City leaders should base such decisions on *quality* research rather than wishful thinking.

Posted by resident
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Nov 10, 2017 at 11:54 am

My street is filled with commuters every day now (M-F)due to expansion of services at the Oshman/JCC site. Obviously they do not want to commute to this location by any but a car. From where I am sitting discussion of reduction of cars by anyone is just so much talk to support some agenda. If it is not your car out there then it is someone else's car. So if the "staff" is making up rules for the residents that restricts the number of cars then they are only servicing the purpose of the commuters who are using our streets for some companies garage. But maybe that is the purpose of this discussion? Developer's want to build and need more apartments vs garage space. So it this all about building more businesses? Can't wait for the Marriott. Just imagine all of the employees who will flood that location.

Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 10, 2017 at 3:17 pm

Posted by stephen levy, a resident of University South, on Nov 9, 2017 at 1:12 pm, stephen levy is a registered user.:

"Interestingly you and other posters seem to think everyone is like you. Our daughter could not drive. My mother gave up her car when it was unsafe. We have single people in our building where two parking spaces were required and added to costs. We have people who do not drive for a variety of reasons.

Yes still most people of driving age own a car but not all and as we age I suspect more residents will enjoy living downtown and reduce car usage and ownership if we give them the chance."

Believe it or not, we are mostly on the same side with respect to cars. But, I think you are extrapolating incorrectly: sure, there are plenty of people who would be happy to live in less expensive, more dense downtown housing that lacks parking spaces. Such as your daughter, your mother, your neighbors. But, the reality is that once the housing is built, it will likely be occupied by relatively high-income workers who, once their downtown startup is sold or consolidated, will have to commute elsewhere. If they don't have parking, they will park on the street 3-4 blocks away. Unless you can put a lien or a property that restricts car ownership (I don't believe that you can do that legally-- please correct me if I am wrong), then, eventually, most of the units will be occupied by people with cars.

People, in general, have a very difficult time calculating and accepting the costs, including the externalities, of car ownership. As a society, we have a very difficult time making car owners pay for what they cost all of us. I am certain that this will eventually be solved, but, in the meantime, the reality is that statistically, people will own cars at a certain rate, those cars will be parked-- somewhere. They will be driven-- somewhere. At this point in time, that is the predictable outcome of any development.

Posted by question
a resident of Downtown North
on Nov 10, 2017 at 6:23 pm

Stephen, this is becoming amusing.
I asked a simple question and then simplified it thus:

>how many cars does your household own?

You responded with stories about your daughter, your mother, the neighbors, the parking spaces in your building and other irrelevancies. You can refuse to answer the question, just say so. Obfuscating and pretending that is an answer doesn't fool anyone.

Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on Nov 10, 2017 at 6:56 pm

Sounds like an anonymous person pushing to make everyone's tax return public.

Posted by resident
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Nov 13, 2017 at 5:07 pm

I think a lot of the arguments regarding cars - or lack thereof get based on high density locations like San Francisco where a lot of the younger people are riding company buses to Google, Yahoo, etc. If their company is providing the transportation then they probably don't want a car as all of the other services they like are within walking distance of their high density neighborhood in the city. Regardless of how they all get to work if you check out the parking lots at Google during the day you will see a ton of cars.

Let's just agree right now that PA is not a high density location and has no intention of being a high density location. People on the CC and city government can twist in the wind trying to make that happen but we are a suburban city surrounding a university. If you go up to RWC right now you will see many new apartment buildings that are in excess of 4 stories so they have made different choices regarding how they will grow but those are different choices than we are making. So all of the high density people have an open road to surrounding cities which are going full steam ahead. But do not feel like we need to compete with all of the other choices out there. The developers are not lacking for opportunities so no need to stuff apartments in our city which do not provide a garage for the apartment dwellers. If they chose to rent that space that is up to them - not the developer.

Posted by Broadway by the Bay Visitor
a resident of Palo Verde
on Nov 13, 2017 at 6:06 pm

On Sunday afternoon, a group of friends went to downtown Redwood City to watch Broadway by the Bay theatre production of Singing in the Rain.

Sunday afternoon, for a few hours, parking in the garage cost $10.

If the group of friends had gone by Caltrain or by Uber, it would have cost more.

Sunday afternoon parking at that type of cost is doing absolutely nothing to encourage people to visit Redwood City.

People visit other cities for entertainment which makes life more interesting. Affordable and abundant parking enables people to enjoy life rather than hibernate in their homes on a Sunday afternoon. People need to enjoy their down time, they need more than upscale dining and an abundance of hiking trails up in the hills or down by the Bay. We need to be able to enjoy living and to do so without encumbrance.

Posted by question
a resident of Downtown North
on Nov 16, 2017 at 10:54 am

Advocates for "car light" housing need to answer a question,

How many cars does your household own?

Steven Levy said one.
Rosenblum does not answer.

Question for Wolbach: How do you travel to City Hall when it rains?

Two questions to Fine: 1) How do you travel to City Hall when it rains?
2) How do you travel to your San Francisco job?

Same questions to the other "car light" advocates.
I'm guessing Liz Kniss doesn't bicycle to City Hall. Neither does Scharff or Tanaka.
Please correct this assumption if it is wrong.

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