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President Hotel residents told to leave by end of January

Original post made on Jan 4, 2019

After months of negotiations that temporarily extended their stays, the remaining residents of President Hotel Apartments in Palo Alto will have to move out of the historic building by the end of January, according to a letter they received from the new building owner.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Friday, January 4, 2019, 12:48 PM

Comments (33)

38 people like this
Posted by Boycott?
a resident of Downtown North
on Jan 4, 2019 at 11:12 pm

Would it make sense to encourage visitors to boycott of the President Hotel due to their egregious eviction of 75 longtime Palo Alto families?

25 people like this
Posted by R.Davis
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jan 5, 2019 at 8:19 am

R.Davis is a registered user.

QUOTE: Would it make sense to encourage visitors to boycott of the President Hotel due to their egregious eviction of 75 longtime Palo Alto families?

No...because chances are that future guests to the newly revamped President Hotel will be more concerned about reservation confirmations/pricings, room service & the interior amenities rather than whatever transpired earlier.

57 people like this
Posted by Don't be EVIL companies
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 5, 2019 at 11:08 am

What you can do is get people to realize that the push for denser development is what has attracted developers to displace people like at BV, Casa Olga, and the President, all of which survived other economic booms. This time companies have really overgrown and taken over downtown, and they want the hotel rooms. Downtown has been hollowed out of ordinary civic life, as Palo Alto becomes these companies’ office park and day gym. Those entry level workers and transient visitors don’t have any interest in the diversity of businesses and economic and civic life they have displaced, and they don’t care about how they have devastated the quality of life for local residents in the last decade.

The rules allowing densification ostensibly for affordable housing have enabled this, the zone busting has enabled this, making the land more attractive to developers, to displace existing residents whose homes survived other booms. It’s no accident that the big developer at Buena Vista pulled out right after Measure D made it so improbable that they would be able to upzone at BV, and without any other big developer having the prospect of upzoning, preventing displacement was at least possible. The highly maligned (also no accident) neighbors were aware of the impact of what they were doing to the effort to save the homes of those living there.

Unless supposed affordable housing advocates realize that the game has changed, how they are being used by developers and those who just want to keep densifying for their own purposes (against all the needs of ordinary and diverse civic life, including affordable housing), displacements like at the President Hotel will only continue and accelerate. In San Francisco, they are losing one home of affordable housing for every two that is produced, and I suspect the actual number may even be even or negative given how the existing affordable homes and displacements are counted. This despite the frenzy of building that has been enabled by the zone busting in the name of “affordability” and the manufactured “crisis” resulting from companies that want to keep their growth completely laissez faire, while making the public mostly pay for all the many negative consequences of their unchecked growth.

At BV, many supposed affordable housing advocates made the argument that they could put in far more housing on that spot, forgetting that it would be luxury housing (with far less actually affordable housing there afterward), and that affordable spots is not the same as people — the people there, the longtime community there, just as at the President, would have been completely displaced. They forget, too, that giving a greater toehold to the companies trying to grow when they really should be moving would only accelerate displacement in other ways. San Francisco has gone from 15% African American to 5% in the last decade. Low-income spaces are not interchangeable with low-income people and economic diversity, and what is called “affordable” is its own game.

Affordable housing advocates really need to find a way to partner with the homeowners they have previously maligned, and extract concessions for new affordable housing that way. Even the worst NIMBYs would welcome affordable developments over wholesale destruction of the town by manhattanization that has been happening. And many in the community are not NIMBYS, and have welcomed affordable developments before. The saddest thing about what happened at Maybell was how that opportunity was lost because no one realized how the game has changed. Preventing displacement of existing low-income residents will only come from protecting zoning, protecting places from being transformed into more densely more urban office parks.

The other leg of solving the problem is to figure out how to create another center of innovation or two to reduce infinite demand for here. This is becoming increasingly urgent in light of global warming and California’s water problems, arid nature, and wildfires. We cannot forever ignore the conflict between being laissez faire about everyone who wants to crowd into this place and the limits of infrastructure and resources.

Bill Gates has announced that Microsoft is building a town outside of Phoenix, but there needs to be more. Silicon Valley is not the only center of innovation and tech that has boomed beyond what is healthy, other places like San Antonio are bursting at the seams. Our nation really needs the better distribution of resources, and the multiplying of job centers and centers of innovation that would come from companies moving, but that would take someone making the investments.

Ever since Reagan, companies and the most successful have developed this idea that those at the top never have to pay back for the many public investments that enabled their success: the roads, the highway system, the airports, the ports, the traffic system, the military that enabled the stability, the justice system that they avail themselves of disproportionately, the patent and intellectual property protection structure, the public works, the second-to-none educational system that brings them already-educated workers, the public health system that gives them healthy customers and workers and care for their own families, the national laboratories that allow scientific advancements that can only happen from major pooled investments, the public works that make potable water magically appear out of taps everywhere, etc etc etc. There is a reason that companies are not flocking to the Sudan to start up.

Those at the top have come to expect those things that were paid for largely by ordinary people, but they aren’t expected to pay back when they achieve their success, and they expect it is their right NOT to pay to make the investments that ordinary people need to succeed, like education, healthcare, etc. Thus our nation has been making fewer and fewer investments like those in the ‘50s, and job centers have become more and more concentrated even as so many parts of our nation are becoming hollowed out.

Better distribution of economic life, meaning, multiplying the centers of innovation across our nation, is better for our nation, it’s better for national security from an economic standpoint, it’s better environmentally (note that this works AGAINST sprawl in existing too-dense areas), it’s better from a food security standpoint, better for economic diversity and housing affordability. But it will require more than Bill Gates making a designer town. Companies like being near a university, they like taking over all the things the public built — they really have to come to terms with getting together and giving back to the public for their success and also making those investments themselves.

Since that is unlikely to happen, the public needs to wake up (and grab a few pitchforks) to push for it to happen before it’s too late to save the places that are being impacted now. Every example around the world like Hong Kong shows that density does not produce affordability, you can’t solve the problems of density through building by transit, etc, but density does have its own gravity and accelerate densification. And thus accelerate displacements like at the President. You may not be able to prevent this displacement, but it is possible still to prevent the next ones.

48 people like this
Posted by Move On & Get Your Life Together
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Jan 5, 2019 at 12:34 pm

[Portion removed.] Everyone has to relocate at certain points in their lives (even multiple times) and for these President residents to think (or even believe) that they have a right to permanent low-cot rental housing in Palo Alto is ludicrous.

[Portion removed.]

35 people like this
Posted by Move On & Get Your Life Together
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Jan 5, 2019 at 12:37 pm

[Post removed.]

22 people like this
Posted by workers
a resident of Downtown North
on Jan 5, 2019 at 3:14 pm

I agree that visitors to the future President Hotel may not care about its unsavory history. However, locals can refuse to work there in protest. It's already difficult for hotels in Palo Alto to recruit low-wage workers.

18 people like this
Posted by Move On & Get Your Life Together
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Jan 5, 2019 at 3:34 pm

> However, locals can refuse to work there in protest. It's already difficult for hotels in Palo Alto to recruit low-wage workers.

Then chances are the hotel workers will come from elsewhere.

What many Palo Altans consider 'low-wage' is a semi-living wage to those from poorer socio-economic backgrounds. Ideally, the New President Hotel will pay their workers better by charging more to the eventual lodgers.

26 people like this
Posted by rsmithjr
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jan 5, 2019 at 4:20 pm

rsmithjr is a registered user.

From the article:
Iqbal Sarang, an architect who has lived at the President Hotel for 25 years, said the residents were hoping that AJ Capital would extend their stay until June.

"It was a surprise, especially with the holiday season, that this deadline was shortened to January 31," Sarang told the council. "Many of us hoped and were under the impression that we'd get a little bit of a reprieve at least, at the behest of the City Council."

The residents all had 1-month leases. AJ informed them last June that they would have to leave, and gave them 5 months to do so. This has now been extended by another 2 months to 7 months.

It would appear that the residents had very generous notice that they had to move.

I am surprised that an architect, who presumably has had some experience with construction, landlords, and cities, would think that the landlord is going to allow this to continue further.

37 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Community Center
on Jan 5, 2019 at 4:57 pm

Under the longtime city renter protection ordinance, the property owners are required by law to offer the tenants one year leases. That requirement has not been met by AJ Capital. Unfortunately, that provision requires individual residents to pursue its very expensive enforcement in court. AJ is counting on the tenants not having the resources to enforce their legal rights.
Worse yet, AJ has tried to coerce the the city into making significant zoning rule changes that would have broad implications for the downtown area. Because the city has not abided by their demands, they have reneged on their commitments to the remaining tenants, even though they have are many months at best before they would need the tenants out to begin their renovations.
This goes beyond property owner rights. Their actions are bullying, mean and dependent on tenants not have the dollars to defend their legal rights. How is that defensible?

26 people like this
Posted by R.Davis
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jan 5, 2019 at 5:31 pm

R.Davis is a registered user.

QUOTE: It would appear that the residents had very generous notice that they had to move.

California AB 1169 = 60 days notice if a tenant has rented for over 12 months & 30 days notice if less than one year (12 months).

The residents of the President Hotel got their pending evictions extended well past the legal deadlines + relocation assistance. Of the original 75 President Hotel tenants, 45 relocated & 30 are still complaining. What is their excuse?

15 people like this
Posted by jh
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Jan 6, 2019 at 7:37 pm

jh is a registered user.

My daughter and son-in-law were given a 30 day eviction notice when living in one of several cottages on a property on Lincoln that was sold. However, having been there for about eight years they waited until the 29th day to tell the landlord that he had to give them 60 days notice. The owner and the architect turned up and, among other things, angrily told him he should be glad that that they were going to build a nice new house. He responded, "Oh, you mean I'm going to live in it?"

18 people like this
Posted by michelle kraus
a resident of Downtown North
on Jan 7, 2019 at 10:44 am

Let's set the record straight. One-third of the residents remain at the President. Most assumed that the June timeframe would hold and made appropriate plans. We acknowledge that AJ Caoital together with the City Ordinance passed last summer have been generous financially.

We now ask the City, the new City Manager and Council to make this a priority so that the residents can have their original time frame reinstated. We need your help.

Thank you.

7 people like this
Posted by Judith Wasserman
a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Jan 7, 2019 at 10:52 am

Judith Wasserman is a registered user.

And here I always thought taking hostages was illegal.

6 people like this
Posted by commonsense
a resident of Professorville
on Jan 7, 2019 at 11:00 am

commonsense is a registered user.

Don't be EVIL Companies,
I'm so sorry to hear that your life has been "devastated" by the success of Palo Alto. You should consider leaving to a less devastating place, maybe Stockton.

9 people like this
Posted by rsmithjr
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jan 7, 2019 at 11:39 am

rsmithjr is a registered user.

The "original timeframe" for departure was this last November, and the residents were given that timeframe last June. The possibility of extending to this coming June was contingent upon events that did not occur. AJ has now given them until the end of January, for a total of 7 months.

I can imagine myself, if I were the landlord (thankfully I am not!) offering the tenants a further extension provided they actually left at that new time. The problem is that it is clear that some of the tenants don't ever plan to leave, and simply use extensions as an opportunity to find a new plan for the next extension. And so so.

This is probably very stressful for the remaining tenants, not knowing exactly what is going to happen, and spending their time romanticizing about their current housing i.e., "home", and how they are being cheated by an evil landlord. What a waste of time.

They would likely be better off to get on with their lives and find new housing here or elsewhere.

18 people like this
Posted by eileen
a resident of College Terrace
on Jan 7, 2019 at 11:50 am

eileen is a registered user.

Why is the landlord in such a hurry to kick out the tenants?
Does he have a building permit to start renovations? If not, why not just let these people rent
until AJ is ready to build. Otherwise, we will have an empty building for years....

10 people like this
Posted by rsmithjr
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jan 7, 2019 at 12:24 pm

rsmithjr is a registered user.


Letting people stay for a while sounds like a reasonable thing to do.

In practice, this doesn't work. The tenants consider the delay a victory and simply regroup and keep try to stave off eviction. Having a discussion about the future of the property in such a context becomes impossible since it is framed as the tenants' "home". AJ already tried something like this and the city didn't provide the desired outcome.

From the owner's perspective, the best thing to do is to clear out the tenants.

I would contend that, from the tenants' best interests, moving on with their lives rather than becoming a cause celebre is the best thing.

There are a number of famous historical examples including the history of the San Francisco International Hotel.

22 people like this
Posted by Concerned about the community
a resident of Professorville
on Jan 7, 2019 at 12:40 pm

I am sick about this, and completely puzzled about how the city council could go against zoning to let this happen. With all of the hand-wringing about affordability of local housing, how could it be possible that we would allow the destruction of 75 units, and the attendant community, right in the heart of PA? We are ripping out the threads in a community fabric that cannot be replaced. Who can't live here? Teachers, waiters, plumbers, home health providers, shopkeepers, you name it - the people who are the glue that make a community a community and not just a resort town where everyone is a consumer of services provided by folks coming in from the outside (who increasingly are finding it too far and expensive to travel). This is literally sickening, and I don't understand how the council could allow it without a clear alternative for these folks, of which there appears to be none.

3 people like this
Posted by Evelyn Preston
a resident of Greendell/Walnut Grove
on Jan 7, 2019 at 12:47 pm

Re Do No Evil....Whether one agrees with writer or not, I appreciate the many thoughtful comments and general over-view of so many significant changes to Palo Alto --the city and lifestyle. I believe long time residents have mixed emotions as to the successes and drawbacks of living in Silicon Valley. There was much food for thought in the writer's long look at "our town"--neither a full rant nor rave--which has helped inform my own views. San Francisco offers a comparable view of the plus/minus effects of growth and progress. My concern is the effects on the "middle class" that tempers the extremes and bridges the old and new.

13 people like this
Posted by No Claim to Lifetime Residency Rights
a resident of Barron Park
on Jan 7, 2019 at 12:55 pm

>The problem is that it is clear that some of the tenants don't ever plan to leave, and simply use extensions as an opportunity to find a new plan for the next extension. And so so.
>They would likely be better off to get on with their lives and find new housing here or elsewhere.
>I would contend that, from the tenants' best interests, moving on with their lives rather than becoming a cause celebre is the best thing.

The remaining President Hotel residents are now promoting squatter's rights.

No sympathy for squatters who received an extended deadline + a moving-out bonus.

Did they even have the gall to keep the money from AJ?

The remaining hotel residents are pushing the patience and compassion of their most ardent supporters...the tide will soon turn against them as no one appreciates or respects a privileged whiner.

2 people like this
Posted by rsmithjr
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jan 7, 2019 at 1:12 pm

rsmithjr is a registered user.

@Cnocerned about the Community,

The Weekly had an article two weeks ago in which they noted that we are losing 1 housing complex and are gaining 1 in the last year. The 1 we are losing is of course the President Hotel.

From the perspective of providing affordable housing, we should not be concerned about the loss of the President Hotel. [This is not to say that it is not hard on the tenants.] I am concerned about the fact that we only have one new housing project moving forward.

So the question is: how do we get additional housing built and open? The best answer would seem that we need to get builders and landlords into the community. Who else will do it?

The whole experience of the President Hotel would seem to be a cautionary tale for investors who might otherwise build new housing here. We are giving plenty of warning signals to landlords about how they will be treated by the community. They will be called "greedy" and laws will be passed restricting their uses of the property and even forcing them to lose money.

We are focusing on punishing landlords rather than on getting more housing and more competition.

As to the current displaced residents, most of them seem to have found solutions.

5 people like this
Posted by Carl Jones
a resident of Palo Verde
on Jan 7, 2019 at 1:12 pm

I think that there are two issues here.
1. Can the new owner cancel existing leases?
2. Can the new owner convert the property back to a hotel?

I believe that the answer to (1) is Yes. If as it was said, all the tenants were on month-to-month arrangements, then they were given proper notice. Indeed, effectively 7 months notice. One may not like a landlord doing such a thing, but if the landlord acts within the current legal constraints (length of notice, compensation for moving, etc.) then it is permissible.

As to (2), I believe that the key point here is "the council's Dec. 10 decision not to pass an urgency ordinance that would have aided the proposed conversion of the apartment building into a hotel. The ordinance would have removed a "grandfather facilities" provision that planning staff was adopted by accident and that requires historic buildings undergoing renovations to retain the same use." Without such a change I do not see that the property can be converted into a hotel (unless the owner brings and wins legal action against the City which contends that the 'grandfather clause' is illegal to enforce).

14 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Community Center
on Jan 7, 2019 at 1:35 pm

I will try to be more clear. AJ Capital is violating city law by not having offered the tenants a one year lease when they took over the property six months ago. The obligation to offer one year written leases rolled over to AJ upon their acquisition. There is no exemption. The tenants are legally entitled to stay until this June, but not longer. However, under current city law the tenants would have to sue AJ to enforce the law in civil court and they do not have the financial resources to take on AJ.
As far as messages to developers, the message should be that if developers propose projects according to existing codes and rules, those projects will go forward. If developers think they can get what they want by coercing or threatening tenants or the city into changing codes to suit their financial gains, then they should know that won’t work.
As far as the net gain of housing, I think most homeowners and residents would greatly prefer retaining existing market rate affordable housing over building new luxury units to replace lost units, but your sympathies seem to align more with the developers than the tenants. We differ on that one.

4 people like this
Posted by Chris Gaither
a resident of Mayfield
on Jan 7, 2019 at 4:00 pm

To Resident, my understanding of the PA municipal code regarding tenancy is that a landlord or property management company must offer each tenant a new lease at renewal, after they have rented through a lease term. And, that is if the owner or property management company wants the tenant to continue to have the tenant lease at the site. If the landlord/owner does not want to continue the lease, then they must give proper notice based on how long the tenant has resided in the unit, either 30 day or 60 day notice. This is state statute. If the owner/property management company wants to extend the lease term,, they must offer to the tenant a new lease term that is equivalent to the former lease term. If the tenant desires to have a month to month tenancy, or a shorter lease term for whatever reason, then the owner/property management can honor the tenant's request. In the case of a new owner purchasing a property, in general, they must simply honor the existing leases that are in effect for each tenant. It sounds like the former ownership of The President Hotel probably failed to offer the proper leases to the tenants at each renewal, because it is doubtful that all tenants would accept a month to month agreement. In Palo Alto and surrounding cities, it is very common for landlords to automatically roll over to month to month after lease expiry, instead of following their respective municipal code.

Please feel free to provide any additional information.

9 people like this
Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 8, 2019 at 10:44 am

Loss of 75 units of housing, plus, an increase in the number of jobs of ___ ? Somebody who knows the figures please let us know how many square feet of office space need to be decommissioned to make this jobs/housing neutral.

12 people like this
Posted by the_punnisher
a resident of Mountain View
on Jan 8, 2019 at 8:49 pm

the_punnisher is a registered user.

Now the new name " President Obama Hotel " is an obvious and needed change. Haughty and stuck-up nosed Liberal Elite residents ignore my comments. I'm just a poor victim to Palo Alto's RED-LINING days...The history Palo Alto tries to hide.

It looks like History, which is why I made my comment; different players, same result.You just might make it obvious: FREE BUS RIDE TO PALO ALTO WE WELCOME ILLEGALS HERE ( AND IN TEX-MEX MEXICAN TOO )

On a bigger issue: you cannot the laws of Supply and Demand. Keep workers at a un-livable wage,they will go to a place that has a livable wage.

I just saw an ad for room rates at a hotel group: $99 A DAY. That is cheaper than most rentals in Palo Alto and you get room service, WiFi and cable too. Here is another thought that relates to supply and demand: More drawing power.Our prisons are better places to live in than the hovels these people left in their own country. Killing an Americano means a place to stay, three hots and a cot FOR THE REST OF THEIR LIFE.

That makes anyone living in California a target. No help from La Enforcment, Governor Moonbeam signed it into law.

This is another example of Supply and Demand, just a perverse one.

To make it worse: I grew up in California and had to stand up and recite The Pledge EVERY MORNING BEFORE CLASS STARTED. WHAT WAS OUR COUNTRY CALLED IN THAT PLEDGE???

i ALSO HAD TO TAKE CIVICS AND PASS TO GRADUATE FROM MVHS Class of 1973. How many of you " rocket scientists " actually were forced to read ALL of Our Constitution, and not just the Bill of Rights?? You have a list of RESPONSIBILITIES that go with those rights, some that apply to the to the President Obama Hotel and it's residents.

How about NOT repeating the same evils that you city as done in the past, that were one to me and our family in the past. look up the word RED-LINING and then justify what you are doing today. How about the treatment of disabled t the PAUSD? I TOLD YOU HOW I TOLD ON THESE PAGES EVERYTHING TO GET WORKING WITH THE OCR FROM THE ASSISTANT SUPERINTENDENT OF THE SJUSD WHO STARTED OUT AS A SPECIAL-EDUCATION TEACHER?

Here, you have an example to do your duty as a United States citizen. Instead, you start playing legal games Does anybody know WHY there was a TEA PARTY? How about taking a weekend trip to walk the " Freedom Trail " to fully understand the people that actually GAVE their lives so you can complain about someone else's lives.

Once you walk that trail, you may finally that Freedom is never free. Someone had to shed their blood to let you bitch about President Trump. I KNOW how much a traitor Hillary Clinton is. IT WAS MY JOB AT CRAY RESEARCH AS NETWORK SECURITY ENGINEER to keep secure lines on what is now called the World Wide Web. Eve " The Foreigners " running her server ( illegal itself ) mentioned several known break-in attempts. SMART HACKERS NEVER LEAVE TRACES OF THEIR BREAK-INS. I refuse to ell anyone how I know this my hobby was building S-100 Computers as I worked at Cromemco and then AMD when I bought an IMSAI at the auction.Yeah,I went to a Homebrew Computer Club meeting at Stanford.

That pitchfork meeting mentioned here should have happened 40 years ago. After a Republic falls, everybody grabs for anything of value, and when that runs out, anarchy starts. You se that in San Francisco now and within Anaheim Stadium's view in the South. My favorite city Igrew up with isnow trashed.

An you bellyache about tenant's rights!

This may be my last post. I'm rather busy right now.

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Posted by the_punnisher
a resident of Mountain View
on Jan 8, 2019 at 9:18 pm

the_punnisher is a registered user.

The RED stripes are for the many who made the ultimate sacrifice for our country. 13 stripes for the original 13 Colonies that defied King George III. The blue field to display the jewels that represent the many States that support our Constitution. It appears that it is already a formality to remove that star from the flag and a border checkpoint like the ones California has already created. On the choice of Moonbeam: Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on ME!

13 people like this
Posted by @the_dummisher
a resident of Mountain View
on Jan 8, 2019 at 10:19 pm

So tell me, sport -- how much meth do you consume on a daily basis?

6 people like this
Posted by The Evolution of Downtown PA
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jan 9, 2019 at 9:01 am

I would like to believe that everyone is welcome in America, even the ones that some conservatives consider freeloaders and illegals.

Undocumented immigrants and RV transients are OK in my book providing they are not breaking the law.

The Native Americans were once appaled at the increasingly larger number of newcomers crossing and settling on their native lands. They could not prevent this migration and eventual land grab. And they did not attempt to build a wall.

So we too must accept the consequences of change as America in the 21st century is different that that of the 20th, 19th, 18th and so on.

The President Hotel renters will simply have to move on to make way for the future hotel guests who will be visiting Palo Alto. Life and history is change.

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Posted by Keeping It Simple
a resident of University South
on Jan 9, 2019 at 1:18 pm

One floor of the newly revamped President Hotel should be reserved for the workers employed there. How's that for PA residential and economic equality?

No additional encumbrances for any hotel employee commute or their cars for that matter.

12 people like this
Posted by Don't be EVIL companies
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 9, 2019 at 1:34 pm

“I'm so sorry to hear that your life has been "devastated" by the success of Palo Alto. You should consider leaving to a less devastating place, maybe Stockton.”

Unfortunately, what a few very rich developers and companies feel is “the success of Palo Alto” is not success by anyone else’s measure, and certainly not success from the standpoint of the tens of thousands of ordinary people who have sacrificed over many decades to put down roots here.

What is this so-called “success”? Palo Alto has long had successful tech companies. If anything, recent stresses on the City because of overdevelopment and overcrowding by companies that really should move to grow (as Facebook did) have made it much harder for startups coming out of Stanford. It has long had a reputation as a nice place to live. It has, unfortunately, also long been very expensive, but so has the rest of the area.

But in the last decade, companies have crowded into Palo Alto in a way that has created overdevelopment and overcrowding of office space, traffic problems that have cut off normal use of the town (and even the region during some hours, many people won’t even go near Palo Alto anymore or venture out for educational, recreation, family, or other business opportunities that used to be normal when the population wasn’t overstraining the infrastructure), devastated or even eliminated the business districts that long had good resident-serving retail businesses. There is more traffic, more pollution, less livability, less sunlight and daylight plane in development, less safety for students going to school, more time spent in cars/buses/trains, less civility, fewer resources for families, way fewer resident-serving businesses, more resources that only cater to the very richest, far more displacements than ever in the history of our town. All because of rich companies who are making those they are harming pay, since they don’t really contribute to the wellbeing of the town and civic life. The Weekly did a story about how the big developers aren’t even paying for the cost of the City services they are using, residents are footing the bill.

There have been significantly more accidents and casualties in recent years in the Bay Area because of the overdevelopment and traffic, one an old, dear friend, related to the worsening traffic - just that alone has been worse than devastating. Trying to displace ordinary residents in favor of businesses that really should move to grow is wrong; companies should be considering the whole of their negative impact. There will be a downturn in the business cycle, too, and what companies have done to Palo Alto in the last decade will significantly exacerbate the invariable hardships when it does.

To @Boycott,
A couple more things you can do.

One, you can get together with other fed up residents — you will need to form coalitions — and start enforcing codes so that the downtown and Cal Ave areas can no longer be used as research parks or office parks (!!). Los Altos wouldn’t even let a store front, during the recession, be used for theater classes by students, they strictly enforced their rules for retail, and now their downtown is still nice and usable, and Palo Alto hardly even has one for residents anymore. If residents had done this sooner, perhaps the President would remain — who do people think wants those hotel rooms? Certain companies think the City is their own private playground now. It’s getting late, but motivated residents can still do something about it.

You can also put forward referenda to better protect retail and existing residential areas for residents. And put forward something to force the City to restore retail areas that have been lost, such as Alma Plaza. The residents there were promised a park, and indeed the City code promises a certain amount of urban open space for development — force the City to honor that, too, and strengthen those rules. When Eric Filseth was running, he had a tally of what open space the City owed residents, but he’s been awfully quiet about it since. Remind him now that he is mayor, because you know he’s being leaned on by the overdevelopment faction.

Put forward some ethics referenda — something that would have automatically ousted Fein from office, for example, just for what was deemed by the FPPC as “misleading” the public during the election. You could try to recall him, if you don’t want such a smug arrogant ideologue as mayor next year, but better to put in place rules to make it harder for people serving the interests of their companies or developers to get into power by deceiving the public in elections. Make the consequence of such clear deception instant removal from office.

Get the City to finally create a business tax that is highest for any companies occupying parts of the City they shouldn’t, by code, be occupying, such as downtown. Get the City to create a fund to start buying the land in the business areas, in order to stabilize prices the way Stanford has done, allowing its employees still to buy their houses but affordably, and allowing the City to offer the longterm lease of the land at lower prices in exchange for higher wages of workers. Everyone wins, as businesses will then be able to pay better wages and retain their workforces, the City wins because people who would otherwise be low-income can earn a living wage (and this benefit only increases over time at no cost to the City). If such a thing had been done, the President hotel would not now be under threat.

This will not be cheap — for the City to buy the retail areas -- it never is in the beginning. But Midtown plaza was purchased recently for only $15 million, a drop in the bucket for a town that is paying for three-quarters of a billion in school facilities bonds. This is how ordinary people have always put down roots here, they make huge, huge sacrifices for extended periods of time, in order to stabilize their housing situations. Stanford has that ability because they own all that land, and if the City does the same, the City can stabilize Civic Life the way it can the parks or the schools — because the district owns the land on which the schools sit — by owning the major retail areas in the City. This allows many of the same benefits Stanford has on their land.

There is a LOT you can do. Probably not for the residents of the President, but all of the above, had residents begun working on them, would have prevented this, and will help prevent further displacement and hopefully start protecting civic life before this becomes an office park monoculture.

Oh, lastly, you can start pressuring the Democratic Party to resist the specious arguments of the overdevelopment crowd — those who use false arguments about affordability or a fake “crisis” that is really only hurting the environment, accelerating displacement of residents and making housing less affordable through densification — because they will ruin the party’s reputation forever if it is seen to be just as dishonest and prone to being used by rich interests against ordinary people, as Republicans are. Kounalakis and Newsom are both promising to overlook common sense to keep pushing the overdevelopment.

Like this comment
Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 9, 2019 at 1:45 pm

Posted by Keeping It Simple, a resident of University South, 25 minutes ago

>> One floor of the newly revamped President Hotel should be reserved for the workers employed there. How's that for PA residential and economic equality?

>> No additional encumbrances for any hotel employee commute or their cars for that matter.

Does anyone know how many employees the revamped President Hotel will employ? Or, how to estimate fairly accurately based on similar high-service hotels?

8 people like this
Posted by DTNResident
a resident of Downtown North
on Jan 9, 2019 at 2:38 pm

SO do I have this right? There are TWO laws preventing the conversion and the new owner developers "generously" decided to allow the residents a couple of extra months if the city gave in on both laws?

The city did exactly what they should have done, which is to tell the developer to pound sand, and now by evicting the tenants, the developers have lost all leverage.

This project will be stuck in litigation for a decade.

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