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Bills to encourage housing density near transit advance in Senate

Original post made on Apr 5, 2019

Two state bills that would allow more housing density in transit corridors cleared their first legislative hurdles this week, though each proposal will likely see significant changes before either becomes law.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Friday, April 5, 2019, 4:13 PM

Comments (32)

6 people like this
Posted by HousingIsaRight
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Apr 5, 2019 at 7:51 pm

SB 4 seems like a NIMBY gambit to water down SB 50 to something the NIMBY cities could tolerate. Weiner is very likely to give into this small vs big city bifurcation, yet Palo Alto is preying he gives into nixing the 'jobs rich' areas upzoning and delaying application to 'sensitive poor communities', both of which the poor people want. There is going to be a lot of horse trading until the next hearing on the 24th. Hope Weiner doesn't water down SB 50 to the point of worthlessness like he did 827.

28 people like this
Posted by Buy and Upzone 335 Webster
a resident of another community
on Apr 5, 2019 at 9:36 pm

Fine and other members of the Scott Wiener's fan club have a chance to put money where their mouth is. Next Tuesday, buy the former City manager's share of a single family home. Use it for affordable housing/shelter now. Then use SB50 to upzone it into 4, 8 or more affordable units?

44 people like this
Posted by Resident 1-Adobe Meadows
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Apr 6, 2019 at 10:45 am

Resident 1-Adobe Meadows is a registered user.

Note that the City of San Francisco Board of Supervisors from where Mr. Weiner started his political life is opposed to SB50. They are already overloaded with people and infrastructure issues. So please do not play the NIMBY card here. The specifics of the bill do not make sense. PA and surrounding cities are already dealing with excess traffic, too many children in the classrooms, etc.

42 people like this
Posted by Trojan Horses
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 6, 2019 at 12:18 pm

California Constitution, Article XIII B, Section 6(a)
In 1979, California voters added Article XIII B, Section 6 to the
California Constitution. ... Article XIII B Section 6 was intended to prevent the state from imposing new programs or requirements on local governments unless
the state funds the cost of the program. Specifically, Article XIII B Section 6 requires the state to reimburse local agencies whenever the Legislature or a state agency mandates a new program or higher level of service and the
local government has no fee authority to pay for it."

All of these proposals are trojan horses that enable big developers to transform the peninsula into a NYC/Manhattan wannabee, because SF is already suffering from being a Hong Kong wannabee, and they want the rest of the Peninsula to be the same urban jungle nevermind who they displace.

These proposals will accelerate the displacement of ordinary people. The only answer is to reduce the demand side of the equation by incentivizing the creation of new job centers.

Cities should be tallying the costs of these to their localities and sending the state the bill -- for example, from recouping the cost of creating the magical Harry Potter-like expansion of the infrastructure, to the cost of new schools, to funds to restore ordinary people's gardens after drought restrictions that are applied without any regard for the burdens of new development (I still don't have a garden, by the way, since the last drought restrictions, the new development is a slap in the face). Cities should be able to recoup their portion of future water projects, healthcare because of increased pollution, etc etc.

Maybe we could get the state to pay for the cost of a tunnel and expanding Alma....

The only way to get these lawmakers to stop pushing these horribly damaging trojan horse proposals (that aren't even that well-hidden giveaways to big developers that only create problems for small cities), is to truly tally the costs and send them the bill.

3 people like this
Posted by Keep The Trojan Horse Outside Of The Gate
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Apr 6, 2019 at 12:32 pm

^^^ The Trojans will be all of the new residents living in Palo Alto under SB50.

18 people like this
Posted by Trojan Horses
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 6, 2019 at 3:57 pm

If SB50 passes, I can see Palo Altans passing immediate citizen initiatives for large, progressive head taxes on large companies and restrictions on size.

I also agree with the recent editorial in the Weekly, that this sort of this is going to destroy the Democratic party in California, and squander the opportunity to provide universal healthcare. The left proves it is just as susceptible to being co-opted by the plutocrats as the right (only it will be harder to erase the evidence of overdevelopment than it will be for Republicans to stop being the party of lies and corruption).

32 people like this
Posted by Classics Scholar
a resident of Downtown North
on Apr 6, 2019 at 5:42 pm

> The Trojans will be all of the new residents living in Palo Alto under SB50.

The Trjoan Horse was actually filled with Greek warriors who upon exiting the Trojan Horse ramsacked & destroyed Troy.

SB50 is the Trojan Horse & the newer residents will destroy Palo Alto as we once knew it.

8 people like this
Posted by george drysdale
a resident of Professorville
on Apr 7, 2019 at 10:46 am

What's wrong with Hong Kong, it's the richest city in China. If land valuation permits the construction of high rises then do it. What I object to in SB 50 is the imposition of one size fits all and the inclusion of rent controls including inclusionary zoning. This gets you kicked out of a college prep economics class in high school and a 101 class in college to say nothing of a real estate economics class. Displacement is the history of city building now it's a heartfelt no-no. Wiener is looking for votes in San Francisco the biggest haven for free loader renters in America. Very few of he rent controlled renters are poor, just part of the most liberal city in the U.S.A.

12 people like this
Posted by Xiang
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Apr 7, 2019 at 1:13 pm

I am originally from Hong Kong. What is wrong with compressed housing?

It accommodates more residents by vertical design like modern parking garages.

More people coming to Palo Alto and they need place to live.

San Antonio Road good use of land and space management. Looks like more buildings of this type are coming.

Good for solving housing shortages in Palo Alto.

Older and nicer residential neighborhoods will stay the same so no problem for residents there.

Redevelopment of Ventura and Barron Park will improve appearance of city an make properties worth more. East Meadow area between Alma and El Camino could use major facelift.

12 people like this
Posted by Referendum - only hope
a resident of Midtown
on Apr 7, 2019 at 4:11 pm

Article II, section 9, California Constitution.

39 people like this
Posted by JR
a resident of Palo Verde
on Apr 7, 2019 at 7:40 pm

"Older and nicer residential neighborhoods will stay the same so no problem for residents there." - Wrong. I suggest you read the bill. No matter where you live in Palo Alto, your neighborhood is not safe from developers if this bill passes. All it would take is a single bus stop and then zoning would effectively no longer exist within a .25 mile radius. Also this radius applies across city / county boundaries. If Menlo Park adds a bus stop on the other side of the creek then the radius extends into Palo Alto.

26 people like this
Posted by Resident 1-Adobe Meadows
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Apr 7, 2019 at 9:42 pm

Resident 1-Adobe Meadows is a registered user.

XIANG - you live here now - is that because it is nicer and does not have compressed housing? So why did you pick this city instead of downtown SF? The fact that you are here vs some other compressed city says it all. We are okay with Hong Kong retaining the honor of being a compressed city.

1 person likes this
Posted by @Resident 1-Adobe Meadows
a resident of another community
on Apr 8, 2019 at 12:51 am

Have you not considered that he may have moved to Palo Alto because he's employed there?

Like this comment
Posted by Chris
a resident of University South
on Apr 8, 2019 at 1:37 pm


You are using your free speech right to rail against SB50, but if you are against it you have to propose how Palo Alto is going to meet its housing commitments. In recent years, Palo Alto has failed miserably in getting housing built. If not for SB50, I think you would continue to sit on your hands.

36 people like this
Posted by Sense
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 8, 2019 at 1:45 pm

Why should Palo Alto have to build more housing and all the attendant costs, when the infrastructure is maxed out? Why shouldn't Palo Alto encourage large companies to move where they can grow, as Facebook did? The trying to expand the already maxed out infrastructure is more costly and makes way less sense.

And why should Palo Alto have built more housing anyway? As if people could have seen this kind of crush of large companies. This area has always had boom and busts, and the bust times, when places end up empty, never make housing cheap because investors find it to be such an opportunity to scoop up a (somewhat, for them) bargain.

Encourage your employer to support spending the money to create civic amenities in cities around California that have actually been losing people and want the investment. I will move with you if they do.

20 people like this
Posted by Allen Akin
a resident of Professorville
on Apr 8, 2019 at 3:37 pm

Allen Akin is a registered user.

" have to propose how Palo Alto is going to meet its housing commitments."

Actually, the City of Palo Alto has already met its legal housing commitments. The main thing the City is required to do is establish plans for enough new housing to meet its Regional Housing Needs Allocation (RHNA). It did this as part of the most recent Comprehensive Plan update.

I've read that developers have asked for, and received, entitlements to build the RHNA units. The property owners simply haven't gone ahead with permits and construction.

Right now there's no meaningful limit on commercial construction, and it's more lucrative than housing, so financing is probably flowing to commercial projects instead of housing. It's also possible some developers are waiting to see what happens to SB 50 and the other bills currently in the works. If they can get a financial windfall by waiting, then it makes sense for them to wait instead of building now.

Be aware that it isn't profitable to build affordable housing here. Even if SB 50 passes, you should expect new housing to be expensive. I'm looking for better analysis of this, but haven't found anything compelling yet. In the meantime, Michael Goldman's blog (Web Link) and this report from Berkeley (Web Link) are good places to start.

30 people like this
Posted by Agree with allen
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Apr 8, 2019 at 4:13 pm

If we are behind on our overall number it’s a matter of a few hundred housing units. Meanwhile the region is underwater by almost 500,000 jobs.

Chris, you can’t just regurgitate what someone-else says without understanding the facts. Corrupt politicians like weiner want you to think it’s palo alto’s fault because we are an easy target. We are nothing in the scheme of this imbalance. He just wants to throw ‘wealthy white privilege’ into the mix because it is the phrase of the day. Meanwhile the Duke and Harvard educated white privileged boy that he is, has been bought by every real estate pac in the business and is just doing their bidding.

4 people like this
Posted by Chris
a resident of University South
on Apr 9, 2019 at 7:02 am

Palo Alto generates revenue from over 100,000 jobs. There is no way that Palo Alto will provide housing for for as many workers as it provides jobs, but the posters here are hypocritical in denying Palo Alto has a responsibility to significantly increase its housing commitment. The reason housing is not more affordable is because of density restrictions.

The posters here do not seem to see the irony in the fact that even San Francisco provides net housing for Pal Alto despite the fact that SF itself has a big surplus of jobs.

SB50 will not pas in its current form but the intransigence of Filseth and his cronies will not end well. It needs to show it can manage its resources responsibly if it wants to avoid detailed state regulation.

25 people like this
Posted by JR
a resident of Palo Verde
on Apr 9, 2019 at 7:32 am

Palo Alto has no legal or moral responsibility to build more housing. Building more developer-profit multi-story housing will not result in more affordable housing, it will only result in more developer windfalls. Palo Alto can and should build more affordable housing for existing residents, which is why SB 50 must be defeated.

7 people like this
Posted by george drysdale
a resident of Professorville
on Apr 9, 2019 at 8:57 am

Developers are the agents of demand. As such they are good people. Investment capital is the controlling factor. No profit no can do. Government oversight especially in California turns capital off. Look to Oregon with statewide rent control. Almost for certain this will lead to an investor strike. Money has better things to do than deal with Econ 101 flunkies. Resources are scarce. Government in California and Oregon is the problem. The big factor now in play: global warming.

16 people like this
Posted by Correction
a resident of College Terrace
on Apr 9, 2019 at 11:37 am

Correction is a registered user.


The city does NOT generate revenue from the 100,000 workers. Perhaps there's a small amount of sales tax attributable to them, but most of it is generated by residents. Same with property tax. The state captures the lion's share of revenue from the jobs through income tax.

I have to say that it's a little scary how much you don't understand.

20 people like this
Posted by Sunshine
a resident of Professorville
on Apr 9, 2019 at 12:30 pm

Palo Alto has always had a shortage of lower priced housing. Even when I moved to the area in 1960s, housing was expensive. Many who could afford Palo Alto CHOSE to live in Atherton, Los Altos, Los Altos Hills and Menlo Park. Those who could not afford Palo Alto went to Mt View and Sunnyvale.
Instead of insisting on a city by city housing requirement, it would be better to encourage an area-wide solution. Also cities should require builders to contribute to the needed infrastructure to go with the houses--increased public transportation that goes somewhere useful and on time, more schools, libraries, some good restaurants where the noise level isn't so high. If you want to pack people like sardines, then put it next door to those responsible for all the new housing--developers business developers.

5 people like this
Posted by Steve Dabrowski
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Apr 9, 2019 at 2:11 pm

Steve Dabrowski is a registered user.

I wonder what the effect would be on global warming if all of the Bay Area and possibly Los Angeles area completely disappeared? My guess is that it would have no measurable effect on the present trajectory. I think the Yes In Your Backyard groups advocating dense housing in our area as a countermeasure to global warming are of course correct in saying it would help, but do not have any idea of the scale of the problem. Only major multinational actions have any hope of dealing in any meaningful way and even those are probably too late. SB50 and 4 are too late to save the world.

27 people like this
Posted by Don't do anything extra
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Apr 9, 2019 at 2:24 pm

Do Palo Alto homeowners want a tall, multi-unit apt. or condo building built next door to their single family home --- with little parking? Yes, this will happen if these bills pass. And every part of Palo Alto would be affected by these bills, not just areas near transit, as Palo Alto is considered a "Jobs-Rich" zone. Not even one parking space is required per housing unit for these tall buildings. Meanwhile, neither bill guarantees that those who these bills purport to serve, people commuting to work in places like Palo Alto, will actually purchase and/or reside in these tall, multi-unit buildings, to be built next to single family homes.

Please send email to:
St. Sen Jerry Hill at: Web Link
Assm. Marc Berman at: Web Link
Palo Alto City Council:
Gov. Gavin Newsom: Web Link

7 people like this
Posted by Rick
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Apr 9, 2019 at 2:46 pm

Hong Kong has a well developed transit system. The Bay area does not. Palo Alto especially does not. Don't be trolled by posters saying that developers want what is best for the residents of our city or that Hong Kong is a good example for what this region needs. When those structures on San Antonio are completed and filled it will be clear that the debate over closing Churchill was a laughable distraction from the coming gridlock. What IS clear is that no one ever attempted to anticipate, plan, and build for the future. How is this for a desperate solution? Eliminate Prop 13 and normalize property taxes. Retirees (like me) will move out. Money will be available to build out transit (perhaps even a CalTrain Tunnel!)and Xiang and George can have their Hong Kong II.

24 people like this
Posted by mauricio
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Apr 9, 2019 at 3:42 pm

mauricio is a registered user.

Why is Palo Alto considered to be inflicted with a job/housing imbalance, but not Atherton, Los Altos Hills, Woodside, Portola Valley and Hillsborough? At least 5 days a week thousands of workers descend on those very wealthy towns: nannies, housekeepers, gardeners, maids, butlers, security people, chaufers, handymen, etc. Why isn't there no demand that those workers, who are mostly Hispanic, African American and Pacific Islanders be housed there? Is it because the housing "advocates" target only well paid tech workers to be provided with housing? This was a rhetorical question of course, since we know the answer.

7 people like this
Posted by george drysdale
a resident of Professorville
on Apr 10, 2019 at 11:49 am

Atherton, Woodside, etc. are too intelligent to accept government ignorance and its political agenda. The blue state where economics is the taboo science. If there is a housing shortage why are the school districts overflowing with students (those whose parents can afford the unaffordable). Government has no money except what it can tax. Thirty year bonds for "affordable housing" burdens the rest of real estate. Only one out of four who qualify receive government assistance in housing. Resources are scarce. Palo Alto, the peninsula can't provide subsidized housing to any extent. That's why I'm clearing rent control out of San Jose. First: mobile home parks make perfect land sources for much subsidized housing if this is wise. You don't want people to be married to the government.

Geroge Drysdale land economist and initiator

1 person likes this
Posted by Rick
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Apr 10, 2019 at 1:41 pm

Economically illiterate Blue states are the economic powerhouses in this country.

7 people like this
Posted by george drysdale
a resident of Professorville
on Apr 11, 2019 at 12:29 pm

Even in blue states most people do not comprehend economics. Those largely white men do (Republicans with money). With Japan, South Korea, Taiwan coming aboard in development it is pale skinned men who set the agenda. Social studies is a wonderful subject. Get on the internet. All sorts of info at your finger tips. And yes, men are a lot smarter and a lot dumber than women. I.Q. tests, the pride and joy of the science of psychology. Politically correct Palo Alto. Inclusionary zoning in Palo Alto has to go. It gets you an F in economics (too much risk for the investors.

George Drysdale social studies teacher and initiator

10 people like this
Posted by Allen Akin
a resident of Professorville
on Apr 12, 2019 at 12:01 pm

Allen Akin is a registered user.

From this morning's (4/12) Merc: Web Link

3.65M sq ft office space, 6K residential units, 400K sq ft retail, 300 unit hotel. Assuming the usual (though overly-optimistic) 250 sq ft per employee for office space, and 2.3 people per unit for housing, this project has a jobs/housing imbalance of 1.1. Assuming a more realistic 150 sq ft per employee, the imbalance is 1.8. Including the employees needed for the retail areas and hotel would make the numbers worse in either case.

The lack of housing in Silicon Valley is all about development economics, not zoning restrictions. To fix the problem, we need to fix the economic incentives.

Like this comment
Posted by Me 2
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Apr 13, 2019 at 9:58 am

Why not the obvious choice? Let's just close the Cal Ave and Palo Alto Caltrain stations.


1 person likes this
Posted by george drysdale
a resident of Professorville
on Apr 13, 2019 at 10:34 am

Be real. Palo Alto is for the natural aristocracy. An aristocracy based on brain power. What Palo Alto can do is knock down all the old houses and create fire defensive housing under the 2008 building code. A house did survive in Paradise, a new house complying with the 2008 doctrine. Doze Palo Alto before gasoline bulldozers are banned because of climate change. We're not seeing fires anymore but fire storms.

I'm going to clear the way in the east side of Silicon for tens of thousands of new apartment houses. The problem in California is rent (price) controls. The number one grievance in economics. Look to Mountain View for the brutal demolition of price controlled "affordable housing". The long arm of economic law. Apartment houses a great investment until California's government gets involved. Votes to the Democrats are more important than the actual production of more housing at a cheaper price. "Liberals" are comparatively ignorant of economics and history as verified by Zogby and Pew testng. Very conservative people test at the top.

George Drysdale social studies teacher and initiator

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