Town Square

Post a New Topic

Editorial: After 45 years, it's finally time to seize the opportunity to build housing on the soon-to-be former Fry's site

Original post made on Sep 6, 2019

The long, zigzagging history of why housing doesn't already exist on the Fry's Electronics site is a portrait of one of the city's saddest planning failures of the last half-century.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Friday, September 6, 2019, 6:40 AM

Comments (47)

13 people like this
Posted by Resident 1-Adobe Meadows
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Sep 6, 2019 at 8:40 am

Resident 1-Adobe Meadows is a registered user.

In Redwood City a new development is starting in the Broadway / Woodside Road location that will support the growing SU campus personnel. It is a very impressive plan. SU is expanding it's campus and already has a hospital in this 101 vicinity. Suggest that PA check out the overall plan for that location which is including the access to Caltrain. Also a new ferry system is planned for RWC which will cut down on commuter traffic. Since that plan has been approved and is starting now it has cleared the roadblocks typically expected for such a large development.
The PA site is approximately the same size and can borrow much of the floor plan already approved by the state. Also the Fry's site is bordered by Park Avenue / Caltrain tracks which suggests that a transit coordination point can be added to the overall plan. Check out what other cities are already doing to address the requirements from the state for housing near transportation since these plans have already gone through the approval process and have approved building sizes and amenities.
Any assumption by anyone - including Sobrato - that this is a start from scratch endeavor are absurd. Also include Menlo Park which is going to build a tunnel starting at Alma / ECR can be added in as part of the planning process. MP is currently going through the same transitions and has approved plans.

Since every other city in our surrounding vicinity is already "in-process" then any suggestion that we are starting from scratch for this site is absurd. Do not even go there. Do not suggest that huge amounts of money for consultants is required. Tired of the "consultant" route when there are already successful projects that have been approved and are in process. That is what a successful company is suppose to do. Their job.


16 people like this
Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 6, 2019 at 8:47 am

>> The city needs to immediately begin working with Sobrato and neighbors to proactively negotiate and design housing development alternatives and incentives

"Incentives?!?!?!?"

In other words, the city is afraid of Sobrato and its lawyers. What a dumb way to start what looks to be a nasty negotiation. I propose that the city begin condemnation proceedings. The city desperately needs more park land, since the existing parks are teeming and sprawling with visitors. If we turn it into a park, that will reduce traffic compared to the existing offices that are already located in around the Fry's building. What was the land worth when it was simply zoned RM-30 before the city started hedging? That is what the city should pay for it.


15 people like this
Posted by Resident 1-Adobe Meadows
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Sep 6, 2019 at 9:00 am

Resident 1-Adobe Meadows is a registered user.

You are correct - the Sobrato company is already negotiating for incentives - Tax Breaks. The whole point of new development is to change up the property tax value so we can pay for our teachers and city staff personnel. We keep talking about this and keep ending up in the dumpster. Either the city staff understands how to manage property or it doesn't. And if not then get new city staff.

Check out Sobratos' web page. Yes - they build a lot of buildings. But read further a lot of those buildings are sold to other entities. The fact that they are paid to build does not translate to further involvement after the buildings are built. And they make their profits on the sales.

And suggest that our local newspapers do not pander to any mysterious quandary over the development of this land. Get on top of the situation.


15 people like this
Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 6, 2019 at 9:26 am

Posted by Resident 1-Adobe Meadows, a resident of Adobe-Meadow

>> You are correct - the Sobrato company is already negotiating for incentives - Tax Breaks.

"Incentives". Just what we don't need-- tax breaks, and office space.

If the city is going to cave in completely, then, forget about affordable housing and just let Sobrato build 300 "deluxe" units for "relaxing and recharging". Web Link . No tax breaks. Build a wall between it and the rest of Ventura, and call it a day. Let's not drag this out and pretend we care about affordable housing. The city needs taxes. At least maybe the city can get every parking space equipped with 400kW DC fast chargers Web Link


2 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 6, 2019 at 9:45 am

Perhaps, as the City is advocating for so many EV charging stations, the Frys site should become a mecca for EV charging. So that local residents who don't have parking spots at their homes they could come here to charge overnight, or while they work, and have City shuttles to get them to their homes and work places while their EVs charge.

Just a practical suggestion to help the City achieve its goals. :)


13 people like this
Posted by Resident 1-Adobe Meadows
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Sep 6, 2019 at 10:07 am

Resident 1-Adobe Meadows is a registered user.

At some point the city needs to publish it's goals and priorities and report on how it is meeting those priorities. We keep reading about what the County and State are requiring of each city. And further suing them if the cities do not move out and act on what the state is requesting. The State is requiring us to provide new housing as a top priority of the state - and therefore the city. And we are not addressing the homeless here - we are addressing the teachers, utility workers, service - police and fire workers in our community. So city - what are you doing about the priorities?

Publish the priorities and address what you are doing.

Guess what - the Fry's site can address the majority of those priorities and get the county and state off our backs. And do a job to help our local residents who are working to keep our city safe.


8 people like this
Posted by It's historic
a resident of Downtown North
on Sep 6, 2019 at 11:04 am

[Post removed.]


10 people like this
Posted by HKS resident for 40 years!
a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Sep 6, 2019 at 12:16 pm

Have Palo Alto Tax Payers VOTE to change the zoning for the Fries Area to Residential. If Sobrato is only interested in making $8.00 a sq ft as they are now, then PA could make a substantial deal to renovate the property, lease the apartments and provide Sobrato with $8.00 sq ft while PA Leases for the fairest rate, plus realizes other financial gains from other sources. I’m sure if there truly is a will to improve the living standards of the Palo Alto Ventura Community to the 21st Century then there are creative ways to make it happen.

PA could ask Sobrato what theyvwould do if they were the PA City to maje life better for all the PA Ventura Home Owners, Business Owners and Lease Holders


5 people like this
Posted by Fr0hickey
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Sep 6, 2019 at 12:34 pm

Fr0hickey is a registered user.

It has a 35 foot height limit. Until that is changed, there is no reason to make this residential.


7 people like this
Posted by HKS resident for 40 years
a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Sep 6, 2019 at 12:34 pm

Since Fry’s is a historic site, why not create a statue, fountain, sitting area, trees, plants and a include well written biography of the owner and company, why it’s historic, and give the apartment complex the name of the owner to commemorate the site, I’ve lived in PA for 40 years and did not know until this month that it’s a Historic Site!

PA has got to stop being dysfunctional and be a Silicon Valley leader in so many areas to improve the lives of it’s citizens.

El Camino in the Ventura corridor needs a serious face lift. Level the buildings, raise apartment amd condo buildings with restaurants, cafes with books (limited internet), boutique retail, and other amenities on the street level. Include landscaped areas with trees, plants and water fountains with benches. Encourage people to feel welcome, safe and more relaxed. Improve everyone’s lifestyle by providing beautiful safe spaces to live


4 people like this
Posted by Compression Is The Answer
a resident of Crescent Park
on Sep 6, 2019 at 1:06 pm

A Chinese developer with experience building those highly compressed housing units one sees in China could easily maximize the square footage of the Fry's area by cramming as many residents possible into a network/campus of smaller housing complexes.

This might help to alleviate some of Palo Alto's housing shortage & tenant owned cars could also be outlawed in order to use the space for more housing rather than to accommodate parking.

The tenants would then be relegated to walking, using mass transit or bicycles...a Palo Alto dream from the standpoint of decreasing future road gridlock.

While this arrangement might be akin to living like sardines in a can, as long as the older & more affluent PA residents didn't have to deal with it, who cares?

The Chinese residential model is a Millennial's dream.


8 people like this
Posted by George
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 6, 2019 at 1:36 pm

Build, baby, build! Tear that clunker down and let's get some 10 story apartment complexes going!!


6 people like this
Posted by PhilB
a resident of St. Claire Gardens
on Sep 6, 2019 at 2:38 pm

PhilB is a registered user.

The Fry's announcement should not have been a surprise. That store has been going downhill for years now. The City should have anticipated that at some point "not that far off from now," Fry's would shut down.


12 people like this
Posted by chris
a resident of University South
on Sep 6, 2019 at 3:16 pm

PhilB,

The city anticipated this is 1984 before Fry's moved in. It is the current leadership and residentialists who are trying to sabotage the plan.

Sobrato will just leave the building vacant until the NIMBYs are swept out of office
or sued into oblivion by the state.

Filseth and his cronies have run out of excuses for not allowing housing to be built.


17 people like this
Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 6, 2019 at 6:36 pm

Posted by PhilB, a resident of St. Claire Gardens

>> The Fry's announcement should not have been a surprise. That store has been going downhill for years now. The City should have anticipated that at some point "not that far off from now," Fry's would shut down.

The city did anticipate it. The city assumed that the developer wanted to develop housing. The city was wrong-- read what the Sobrato representative said.

Posted by chris, a resident of University South

>> The city anticipated this is 1984 before Fry's moved in. It is the current leadership and residentialists who are trying to sabotage the plan.

>> Sobrato will just leave the building vacant until the NIMBYs are swept out of office
or sued into oblivion by the state.

I'm a NIMBY residentialist and I want affordable housing built. Not office buildings. Affordable housing. As was planned for and assumed for 30+ years. Sobrato doesn't want to build affordable housing. Feel free to talk to Sobrato about it.


2 people like this
Posted by Let The Chinese Develop Fry's Site
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 6, 2019 at 6:48 pm

>> A Chinese developer with experience building those highly compressed housing units one sees in China could easily maximize the square footage of the Fry's area by cramming as many residents possible into a network/campus of smaller housing complexes.

>> Build, baby, build! Tear that clunker down and let's get some 10 story apartment complexes going!!

^^^ Yes. Hong Kong style. One person per square foot will alleviate the PA housing problem.


22 people like this
Posted by Don't give away zoning to help developers
a resident of Downtown North
on Sep 7, 2019 at 12:41 am

The city, per the comprehensive plan, owes the current population of Palo Alto over 100 acres of park land. This is the perfect spot for a large park. Turn the historic building into a community center and use this area for the quality of life needs of the residents of Palo Alto.

We don't need more office space (and the city has done a good job with the office cap), nor do we need to crowd in more residents. All areas of the world have a sustainable carrying capacity and the entire Bay Area has exceeded it. Palo Alto has exceeded ours. That is why we have some of the worst pollution in the US, some of the worst traffic in the US, so many imperiled species and destroyed waterways to name a few environmental problems.

It is time to set an example and establish a population size for Palo Alto and a plan for how to sustain it and provide for it. We have to start by not overpopulating, overbuilding and destroying the natural world. We need to save the Fry's area for open urban space and park space and for the residents who live here. Nothing can continue to grow forever - especially our city's human population.


10 people like this
Posted by Mark Weiss
a resident of Downtown North
on Sep 7, 2019 at 1:53 pm

Mark Weiss is a registered user.

We are stil behind in our acres-per-resident policy regarding park land.
How about a major park in the Ventura?
Property values there, lagging behind the rest of town, might rise.
Or let's cater to the needs of powerful developers and hypothetical future Palo Altans.
The choice is (not) ours.


10 people like this
Posted by some guy from atherton
a resident of Atherton
on Sep 8, 2019 at 1:12 am

@ everyone who wants to turn Fry's into a park

Sobrato apparently bought this property for 70-80 million dollars during the depths of the recession. Its fair market value has probably increased since then.

Web Link

Where's Palo Alto going to get the money to buy this property?

@Don't give away zoning to help developers

> All areas of the world have a sustainable carrying capacity and the entire Bay Area has exceeded it.

Do you have a source for this? I don't believe carrying capacity is relevant here because the Bay Area and Palo Alto import the necessities of life (food, water, etc) from the rest of California and the world. The carrying capacity of the land doesn't matter because we're not living off the land.

> some of the worst traffic in the US

Arguably this could be easily fixed by building more housing in Palo Alto, so people don't need to drive dozens of miles each day from home to work.

@Let The Chinese Develop Fry's Site

Yes. Hong Kong style. One person per square foot will alleviate the PA housing problem.

I agree. Just like Hong Kong, Palo Alto has an artificial housing crisis created by government policies that restrict the creation of new housing and forces people into sub-optimal living arrangements.


14 people like this
Posted by Stephen
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Sep 8, 2019 at 1:22 am

While I am agnostic about using the Fry's site to build dense housing, the irony (chutzpah?) of someone from Atherton (minimum lot size 1 acre) suggesting that Palo Alto needs to do so is striking. Just imagine how much housing could be created, and think of the development profits to be made, if Atherton were to be rezoned to say 10 residences per acre! As to increased housing, the elephant in the room is clearly the issue of whether or not the existing infrastructure is sufficient to support those additional people. This means transportation, schools, parks, and water at a minimum. I think that is what is meant above by "carrying capacity", i.e., the phrase is used in a metaphorical and not literal (ecological) sense. It would be great if folks like Scott Wiener et al. who want to force the creation of additional housing in places like Palo Alto would explain how our schools, roads etc. would be able to handle the additional load. If this can be done, I suspect that many here would be more supportive of dense housing friendly policies.


5 people like this
Posted by Resident 1-Adobe Meadows
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Sep 8, 2019 at 10:07 am

Resident 1-Adobe Meadows is a registered user.

I am sick of people in Crescent Park talking about Chinese development of this site.
Our city and state priorities right now are providing houses for teachers, service people - police and fire - city workers. The people who work in this city to make it work. Add to that the upgrade in the property taxes from which the salaries of these people are derived. Any "deal" with a Chinese Company would side rail all of the requirements we have on the books right now.

As to Sobrato they appeared in a SFC article about a gala event attended by Newsome and Pelosi of all of the great things they are doing in the state. All of the great things includes building livable spaces - so they know how to do this.
As to building height look across the street on Park - new buildings. If you have new buildings on Park then you can have new buildings on the Fry's site. The zoning has to be complimentary.
If anything else can the city please appeal to Sobrato's desire to remain a "noble beast" enhancing the peninsula to the better. If nothing else it enhances their profile if they get applause and attention to add to their portfolio. And they can sell it to a management company who will then take over. It is called doing business. And the management company will have to be a US company that is making sure that the taxes are fed back into the city, county, state, and US gov.


2 people like this
Posted by Zoned multi family
a resident of College Terrace
on Sep 8, 2019 at 1:55 pm

Zoned multi family is a registered user.

Could Sobrato's stance be a negotiating ploy?


4 people like this
Posted by Tirn Frys Site Into A Small PA Chinatown
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Sep 8, 2019 at 2:38 pm

>> A Chinese developer with experience building those highly compressed housing units one sees in China could easily maximize the square footage of the Fry's area by cramming as many residents possible into a network/campus of smaller housing complexes.

>> Yes. Hong Kong style. One person per square foot will alleviate the PA housing problem.

>>>I am sick of people in Crescent Park talking about Chinese development of this site.

^^^ Since the Chinese demographic has increased substantially in Palo Alto (40% and growing), developing the Fry's site as Palo Alto's own 'Chinatown' with Chinese restaurants, Chinese grocery stores, import shops, herbalists, a tai chi center & compressed residential dwellings makes certain sense.

San Jose has Little Saigon, its own barrio (East Julian) & a small Japantown. San Francisco has the Mission District (its own barrio), the venerable Chinatown & a Japantown/Fillmore District as well.

Since many of the newly arrived Palo Alto Chinese are from the mainland/People's Republic, a 'Little Bejing' would be unique.


10 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 8, 2019 at 3:22 pm

I recently heard of a family (the wife works somewhere I frequent so I know her vaguely) with a young child who live in a studio apartment and have lived there for around 10 years.

It is wrong to assume that studios or one bed apartments will be just starter homes. Small apartments will just be cheaper places for families to live and they will still have school age children. They will still have/want/need cars, bikes, places to play, places to have parties, places to cook outside, places to socialize and places to take some R & R.

Don't cram in more housing without providing more space for all the other things people need to do. Our infrastructure is overstressed already.


16 people like this
Posted by Long Time Resident
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Sep 8, 2019 at 4:23 pm

Most of the people who are residing at the new condos and apartments on San Antonio near Safeway are NOT teachers, or city workers for any city. Just saying.
And this applies to the Alma street development as well - all those homes crammed in back of Grocery Outlet. They are not Facebook, Google, or Tech Workers.
Most are self employed doing whatever they claim to do - importing plastic inflatable swimming pools from Taiwan (that is one person I know and am friends with).
A lot of foreigners bought these places and simply rent them out to new people coming here but not working in tech.
I know we can't control this, but to think any new dense housing is going to solve our housing crisis for local workers is simply an illusion.

By the way, Tencent is right across the street from this development.

Those people work for the PRC under the guise of being a gaming company.
They are NOT - that is not what they want you to believe.
Everyone in cybersecurity can elaborate on this for you. I won't.
Why are they here right in our face everyday anyway?

Ask any Google employee what they are up to.

Meanwhile, I still stand by what I say about this project not being able to solve our local housing needs for teachers, city employees, and local small business owners. They will simply have to rent back from the big buyers overseas.

Meanwhile there are many people of all nationalities who are Asian-American (Korean, Taiwanese, Chinese-American), Hispanic, and locally born White and African American folks) who are business owners here with kids, work locally, and they truly need housing.




21 people like this
Posted by Another Giveaway
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 9, 2019 at 11:51 am

The best use for the Fry's site would be a park, but the city council members who have funded their political careers with real-estate industry money need to pay the devil his due.

The money-first faction of Democratic Party in San Francisco and on the Peninsula has been fused with and is now an essential partner in the real-estate industry.


2 people like this
Posted by In Private Circles...
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Sep 9, 2019 at 12:51 pm

There is some talk among the newer & wealthier PA residents from overseas that purchasing the Fry's site has promise...providing they can convince the PACC & Planning Department to go about things as they please.

Given the past history of development in PA, this seems feasible.


2 people like this
Posted by Resident 1-Adobe Meadows
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Sep 9, 2019 at 1:38 pm

Resident 1-Adobe Meadows is a registered user.

WOW - just what we need - a bunch of overseas investors doing what ever they want. And if the PACC and planning commission go along with that then they will encounter trouble.

Right now we are in the business of taking care of the city, county, state requirements for housing with a portion allocated for the BMR. Do they expect to give a pass on that piece of property then go ahead to satisfy the requirements on the single family home owners?

You all will never live that down and you can kiss your future political careers goodbye.


2 people like this
Posted by Not Public Land
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Sep 9, 2019 at 3:39 pm

Just reminding people with demands like turning this into a park, etc. that this property is NOT public land. The city can't just decide to turn this property into a park, as this would constitute illegal taking of private property. While the plan could include a park (with increased density, more open space is feasible), Sobrato isn't going to spend money to redevelop this property unless they can turn a profit (Would you work for no pay?). If it's not financially feasible to build something new, nothing will happen and Sobrato will maintain the status quo of a large parking lot and an ugly building.


8 people like this
Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 9, 2019 at 5:16 pm

Posted by some guy from atherton:

>> Sobrato apparently bought this property for 70-80 million dollars during the depths of the recession. Its fair market value has probably increased since then.

So, per capita, a little over $1K for each of us. Let's buy it. We need a big park in that location. But, I know that ABAG and its successors want housing. OK, let's buy it, dedicate a nice chunk along Matadero Creek to parkland, and make the rest of it low-income, affordable, and BMR housing. How many units per year do we need, and how far behind are we in units?


6 people like this
Posted by May Belle
a resident of Barron Park
on Oct 27, 2019 at 11:33 am

@Don’t give away
"The city, per the comprehensive plan, owes the current population of Palo Alto over 100 acres of park land.”

I agree with you. The problem is that the developers have totally co-opted the affordable housing advocates, so that people like @Anon, who want actual affordable housing built, are regarded as evil anti-least-among-us, so citizens are always fractured and can never band together for a coherent affordable housing push.

Thus the difference between what happened when developers wanted to turn Terman School into housing — local residents managed to save the school and get JUST affordable housing built — and what happened at Maybell, where some of the very same people wanted to ensure that JUST affordable housing got built in a reasonable way but advocates were convinced by profiteering developers (who stood to make a lot from the original plan and bust the zoning of the area) to consider the referendum proponents evil anti-affordable housing, and thus citizens lost the capacity to band together that time to create better affordable housing.

If you press the advocates, they get into a line of really convoluted reasoning about how we “need the developers” (as if there aren’t non-profit affordable housing developers — there are), and thus your residentialist concerns about safety, keeping density to a level where the negatives don’t mount, infrastructure capacity, focusing on JUST affordable housing, preventing developers from ratcheting up costs and the value of land through zone-busting and densification which accelerates unaffordability and displacement — those just must be cover for evil NIMBYism. Developers have really infiltrated affordable housing discussions and gotten advocates to carry water for them, despite never doing anything except accelerating displacements of low income people and increasing costs.

You make a good point about the 100 acres of park land. So sue the City. Make a strong legal case. Make sure that you band together with people like Anon so we get some permanent affordable housing. If you don’t do it, who will?


@Anon,
"I'm a NIMBY residentialist and I want affordable housing built. Not office buildings. Affordable housing. As was planned for and assumed for 30+ years. Sobrato doesn't want to build affordable housing.”

Same here. But until you get advocates to realize that they are working at cross purposes to that when they enable developers to bust zoning and create dense dense places the infrastructure cannot safely or reasonably support, it’s not going to happen.

You’re just going to get treated like you’re evil against affordable housing like we all did at Maybell (which is a great example — if the referendum hadn’t won, there is NO WAY the owner would ever have sold the property, and the low-income residents and the community they form would be gone now just like the residents of the President Hotel. Knowing that residents could enforce the zoning is what caused the big developer to leave at BV right after the referendum that paved the way for the actual affordable housing at BV to be saved. Not being able to enforce the zoning is why the President Hotel community is gone. Yet affordable housing advocates near Maybell to this day barely speak to their neighbors, even though those involved with the referendum largely supported saving BV all along and understood the negative implications to saving it if Maybell were rezoned, and those same neighbors would have worked to put nice (more) affordable housing at Maybell if they hadn’t been lambasted and fought against the way they were. One can see the sincerity of their request for a working group when you understand what many of the same neighbors achieved at Terman.

At Fry’s, Sobrato is trying to do the same thing on a large scale. If they can zone bust that area and make it into an urban-densityscape, the sky’s the limit (literally). And the advocates will get some of what they want, lots of dense building, and a lot of what they don’t want, like compromised safety and total displacement of ordinary people and civil life, skyrocketing costs (which investors will never let drop to actually affordable, who is the idiot who thinks that has ever worked in an expensive job center like this?)

@Mark Weiss and @Stephen and @Another Giveaway,
Very good comments! Please get involved. Isn’t there a state law that requires the state to pay for the local costs of state mandates? Isn’t it time that Palo Alto and the rest of the Bay Area started to force the state to pay for the costs of overdevelopment? There are many citizens who would join you if you did the heavy lifting to get the ball rolling toward a more sane and civically responsible/robust (no overdevelopment monoculture) path for our town.

@atherton
"Do you have a source for this? I don't believe carrying capacity is relevant here because the Bay Area and Palo Alto import the necessities of life (food, water, etc) from the rest of California and the world. The carrying capacity of the land doesn't matter because we're not living off the land.

This is environmentally devastating. At least now someone is admitting it. Also, if water doesn’t matter, why did I have to let my garden die the last time we had a drought, even as the cities allowed the overdevelopment to continue to invite in thousands of new water users?

And you neglect the way safety is compromised by density and lack of circulation.

>> some of the worst traffic in the US
>>Arguably this could be easily fixed by building more housing in Palo Alto, so people don't need to drive dozens of miles each day from home to work.
NO! This is a bankrupt and nonsensical argument. Even in Hong Kong, with housing units so small they’re called coffins because people can’t even stand up or live with their families, housing is not affordable and people do not live near their work. Density has caused the DECLINE of walking, not increase.

Web Link
"Jobs-Housing Balance? Not Much

The high density of jobs and population, its short trip distances, its extraordinary transit system and its high transit market share would seem to make Hong Kong a poster city for the jobs – housing balance ("self containment") that urban planners seem so intent to seek. The data indicates no such thing.

"Hong Kong's 18 districts illustrate a comparatively low rate of self containment. Only 21.4 percent of working residents are employed in their home districts, including those who work at home. This is only slightly higher than in highly decentralized suburban Los Angeles County, where 18.5 percent of resident workers are employed in their home municipalities.”

And

"Given Hong Kong's intensely high densities, it may come as a surprise that there was a huge loss in walking to work. Nearly 70,000 fewer people walked to work in 2011 than in 2001, as the walking market share dropped 21 percent. .... In 2001, more people walked to work than either travelled by car or work at home. By 2011, fewer people walked to work than travel by car or work at home.”

"These data, both in Hong Kong and Los Angeles, show that, within a metropolitan area (labor market), people will tend to seek the employment that best meets their needs, just as employers will hire the people best suited to theirs. Within a labor market, this can be anywhere, subject to the preferences of people and employers, not of planners.“


If you cover everything with housing, what about schools, places of worship, open space, entertainment, amenities for youth to play, finding that one place that will make the special glasses you need, fix your violin, provide the medical care for your child’s rare disease? Where do people garden (the most popular hobby and literally green)? What about the fact that it is a pipe dream that people can find work exactly where they want it and keep the same job their whole lives? It is is a LIE that if you build more housing you will reduce traffic, FALSE, and so unrealistic, it’s hard to believe this particular LIE can keep popping up.

If we convert office space to housing, now THAT will reduce traffic, but only if the housing isn’t more dense than the area can sustain. It’s time for the citizens of Palo Alto and other areas to realize that they are getting rolled. Of those who are speaking up like @Mark Weiss, who will step up to get the ball rolling to in a better, more sustainable direction?



3 people like this
Posted by Resident 1-Adobe Meadows
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Oct 27, 2019 at 9:19 pm

Resident 1-Adobe Meadows is a registered user.

We still have people here devoting space to Hong Kong. We are not doing Hong Kong.
And if Hong Kong appears in any actual transaction then there will be a law suit.

We are doing housing for our US citizens who are teachers, firemen, city workers, etc. As to Sobrato they are not paying property tax of any value right now. They are ripe for an eminent domain take over of that property. Eminent domain pays back on the property value. That is what Jerry Brown did with HSR - he took land owned for ages by families which is now in the hands of the state. And the city has the legal rights behind it now because the state governor wants housing for teachers and BMR allocation. That is a state priority so the city can pull this off. Does the city need some help here - call Zuck up. He has the chops to get this done and would probably enjoy racking up a good win for the city. If there are four towers on that property one could be for FB personnel who are just starting out. They could be the BMR group who would then graduate up as they progress along in their careers. Zuck would enjoy this as he has just donated for housing.


5 people like this
Posted by May Belle
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 28, 2019 at 10:33 am

"We are not doing Hong Kong."

Yes, we are. Your verbalizing your denial doesn’t change that. If you know how Hong Kong developed in just a few short decades, that is EXACTLY what we are doing. To say we are not doing Hong Kong is like saying you think it’s possible to remain a little bit pregnant.

How do you think Hong Kong became Hong Kong? For a long time it was a mostly low-rise place that looked like Shanghai in the '80s (which was just a few decades prior to Shanghai's blade runner transformation). It only took a few decades for Hong Kong to go from something more like the scale of downtown Palo Alto’s skyline to Hong Kong, WITH PRECISELY THE SAME FACTORS, FORCES AND ARGUMENTS WE ARE EXPERIENCING HERE.

They constantly made the arguments that if they just built more densely, they could make Hong Kong affordable for the workers, people could live near work, etc etc. They made the very same arguments. The affordability never, ever materialized, they just got expensive density. The developers made out like bandits, just like here.

We are doing exactly that, continuing to chase density without setting any kind of hard holistic limit tied to infrastructure or safety, or any kind of a sense that density creates its own gravity, where more and more people are attracted to crowd into concentrated job centers. Density is a carrot that keeps getting held out as a perpetual promise to solve all the problems that density is in fact causing.

The cycle continues unabated until practically overnight you go from Hong Kong of the ‘70s (which is less high-rise than San Francisco of today) to Hong Kong now. The developers get rich this way, they did in Hong Kong. They made exactly the same arguments in Hong Kong.

Look at how fast the skyline transformed from something that looked like San Francisco used to to 15 years ago, to the megalopolis of today. Even in the early 1970’s, Hong Kong was not nearly as built up as SF is today.
Web Link

The most rapid transformation occurred over less than 20 years. Again, it happened with EXACTLY the kinds of bankrupt and false promises developers are getting away with here, that density would bring affordability for workers, etc.

So yes, we are in fact “doing Hong Kong” despite knowing that Hong Kong demonstrates that no matter how good a transportation system you create, no matter how dense you get, you never achieve those promises of people getting to live near their work or things becoming affordable again in a desirable job center.

Another thing people never seem to factor into the equation is that our firefighters and teachers make a good living and don't aspire to make that kind of living just to be in crowded high-density housing — not all will make the choice to commute, but many will because they want the single-family homes for their kids, too. (Forgetting for a moment that there are several teachers living on my street and numerous teachers living in my neighborhood. It took a lot of time just like it did for us and almost everyone else.) There has long been a Silicon Valley trade-off of quality of life further out versus substandard living nearer to work here. There is still in Hong Kong, too.

We simply must get off of the track we are on, with the very same bankrupt and wrong arguments that enabled Hong Kong’s density (without realizing any of the very same promises being made here). Whether or not you get out of your denial about whether we are “doing” Hong Kong, Hong Kong’s outcome demonstrates that the arguments people are using here to enable density are just wrong.

And frankly, we know we are doing Hong Kong, because San Francisco, in just 20 years, already has. Look at the transformation of the HK skyline over 20 years and compare it to SF’s. SF definitely looks way more like HK than it does like SF of 30 years ago.
Web Link

Density, better transit, building near transit, higher use of transit — we know for a fact from looking at Hong Kong that endlessly pursuing these, particularly in a desirable job center, never produces affordability, people living near their jobs, or any of the promises we keep hearing to get us to set aside our better judgment about how maxed out the infrastructure here already is.

The big way that we are not like Hong Kong is that we are not an island. We are a part of one of the most vast nations on the planet, with numerous dense cities that have been losing people and public investment for decades. The ONLY solution is to invest in making (a few more cities at a time, because congregating is part of the attraction for tech) desirable places that MULTIPLY the number of job centers. Hong Kong never had that choice. We do, and should, before this place is ruined, too — it doesn’t take long. Just read the articles in other city papers like Seattle's warning that they don't want to end up like, not Hong Kong, but San Francisco.



2 people like this
Posted by Resident 1-Adobe Meadows
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Oct 28, 2019 at 8:00 pm

Resident 1-Adobe Meadows is a registered user.

We are at a point in time in which we have specific goals that we must meet. Those goals are specified by the state. Right now we are required to provide housing for teachers, service people, etc. What does Hong Kong have to do with that? Nothing. There is a big world out there in which Hong Kong can go play and do what ever they want. No one is denying Hong Kong the right to go out and run all over the world. That still has nothing to do with what this city is required to do right now.
Hong Kong does not need Palo Alto to meet any of its goals. And Palo Alto does not need Hong Kong to meet it's goals.
Why is this such a do or die issue with some people?
Hong Kong can go up to SF and do what ever they want. It is big city. We are not a big city and we have specific issues which we need to address that we are required to fulfill.


2 people like this
Posted by Resident 1-Adobe Meadows
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Oct 29, 2019 at 8:51 am

Resident 1-Adobe Meadows is a registered user.

The local section of the papers is filled with articles about lack of housing for our teachers and service people. It is filled with actions that the government is requesting each city to fulfil. Given the amount of news concerning this issue I find it disturbing that a faction of the city just goes along on their own agenda oblivious as to what this state is now going through. That is being tone deaf to what any local area needs and requires.

We all can read about what Hong Kong is currently experiencing but Hong Kong is a foreign nation and any action on our government's part to intervene in that issue would continue the political acrimony we all are currently experiencing in this country. Our plate is full on foreign issues. Likewise it is not appreciated that local people wish to interject an issue here which is contrary to what every newspaper is telling us about what we need to do here. The timing is not right for any action other than what our local city, county, and state is requiring us to do. They are threatening us with the withhold of funds if we do not comply.


Like this comment
Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 29, 2019 at 10:14 am

Posted by May Belle, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood

>> "We are not doing Hong Kong."

>> So yes, we are in fact “doing Hong Kong” despite knowing that Hong Kong demonstrates that no matter how good a transportation system you create, no matter how dense you get, you never achieve those promises of people getting to live near their work or things becoming affordable again in a desirable job center.

Agree 100%. The history you cite shows the folly of pursuing unlimited density. And, you come to exactly the same conclusion if you do the numbers and apply logic.

In this specific case, Sobrato should build affordable RM-30 housing, or, sell the property to someone who will.


Like this comment
Posted by Resident 1-Adobe Meadows
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Oct 29, 2019 at 7:08 pm

Resident 1-Adobe Meadows is a registered user.

In the Wall Street Journal 10/29 - "China Presses Ahead on Silicon Valley Deals" - they actually identify Palo Alto in the article. And name organizations which are specific to their goals. Venture Capital, etc. - the article talks to the number of activities, companies, and legal issues. Yes - there is a lot going on out there and a lot of that is happening in Palo Alto. So we recognize that activity.

Time to recognize that there are other issues in this city that we have a high priority on and that is Housing. Housing and Business are two separate endeavors in the priority list of what needs to be accomplished in this very small town. And right now Housing is at the top of the list - you can look at the other issues we are discussing here - and don't forget the Tax Base that is associated with all of the activity. The Tax Base is key to growth - SU and Housing. And it is key to donations from large organizations - thank you Zuck.


1 person likes this
Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 30, 2019 at 10:27 am

Posted by Resident 1-Adobe Meadows, a resident of Adobe-Meadow

>> In the Wall Street Journal 10/29 - "China Presses Ahead on Silicon Valley Deals" - they actually identify Palo Alto in the article. And name organizations which are specific to their goals. Venture Capital, etc. [...] So we recognize that activity.

Sure. China or UK or Palo Alto or wherever they are from, the developers are licking their chops, hoping that they can leverage the "housing" issue into open season on building high rises.

>> And right now Housing is at the top of the list - you can look at the other issues we are discussing here - and don't forget the Tax Base that is associated with all of the activity. The Tax Base is key to growth -

Growth-- had enough. Don't want it, don't need it. There are so many, many other places on the planet that need economic growth. Developers-- go there!!

>> SU and Housing. And it is key to donations from large organizations - thank you Zuck.

I can't tell if whether or not this is irony.


4 people like this
Posted by Resident 1-Adobe Meadows
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Oct 30, 2019 at 11:36 am

Resident 1-Adobe Meadows is a registered user.

I wanted to thank Zuck because he is in front of congress asking him stupid questions. It is like people who work for the government have no clue as to how business is conducted. Look at the mess they are making in CA - and our school system. As to his worker bees who now want to control what is on the websites - response is that is every one has a job description and gets evaluated on their performance on their job description. No where in their job description is a requirement to evaluate the verbiage of the entries - other than use of offensive language. The last thing any one needs is a bunch of millennials making political decisions. And Zuck is smart enough to recognize that and to help the communities where he has business and provide great amenities that help the cities. Can our PACC please work a little harder to curry some favor here? All of the good stuff is going to San Mateo County.


2 people like this
Posted by Kenny
a resident of University South
on Oct 31, 2019 at 12:27 pm

"I'm a NIMBY residentialist and I want affordable housing built. Not office buildings. Affordable housing. As was planned for and assumed for 30+ years. Sobrato doesn't want to build affordable housing. Feel free to talk to Sobrato about it."

There is no good reason why we can't have both. The solution is to build up. Waive the height restrictions and offer Sobrato enough incentives to make it worth their while to build market rate housing, affordable housing, office space and more than sufficient parking on the site. Trying to coerce them or steal the property through eminent domain is likely to cost more than Palo Alto can afford. Besides, there are many other places in Palo Alto where housing of all sorts can be built.

People's patience for the NIMBY nonsense is beginning to run out. They call themselves "residentialists", but the only residents they stand up for are themselves. Quality of life and traffic are red herrings, everybody knows this is just being done to boost their home values. That is fine, but not if it harms Palo Alto as a whole, and it is now harming Palo Alto as a whole.


1 person likes this
Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 31, 2019 at 12:39 pm

Posted by Kenny, a resident of University South

>> People's patience for the NIMBY nonsense is beginning to run out. They call themselves "residentialists", but the only residents they stand up for are themselves. Quality of life and traffic are red herrings, everybody knows this is just being done to boost their home values. That is fine, but not if it harms Palo Alto as a whole, and it is now harming Palo Alto as a whole.

Sorry, but, you have everything exactly backwards. These developers only want Palo Alto to become less affordable. They want to break zoning. Once free, they want to build high-rise office buildings. This will destroy Palo Alto as we know it. Why do you hate Palo Alto so much?


2 people like this
Posted by Kenny
a resident of University South
on Oct 31, 2019 at 11:13 pm

"Sorry, but, you have everything exactly backwards. These developers only want Palo Alto to become less affordable. They want to break zoning. Once free, they want to build high-rise office buildings. This will destroy Palo Alto as we know it. Why do you hate Palo Alto so much?"

Good, I hope they do break zoning and build high-rises. In case you haven't noticed, Palo Alto has had several for decades. I'm not the one who hates Palo Alto, it is those opposing necessary change who do. They are strangling our city, and it is high time to put a stop to their nonsense. If Palo Altans do not do it of their own accord, the State of California will do it for us.


3 people like this
Posted by Resident 1-Adobe Meadows
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Nov 6, 2019 at 7:03 am

Resident 1-Adobe Meadows is a registered user.

In the SJM 11/06 we have a large opinion piece - " Californians can collectively combat the housing crises" from Carl Guardino - Silicon Valley Leadership Group. He is touting all of the money that various organizations have donated to the housing crises. Given the shopping list of organizations and monetary value then why is Sobrato sitting on the fence and why is PA sitting on the fence - they are not reporting on how they are addressing the housing issues as a city. The FRY's site can address most of PA's requirements for county and state needs and greatly help our teachers and city workers. It's proximity to Stanford Research Park, California Street business, and proximity to PAHS and GUNN via bike paths is the response that is required now by the state governor and legislature. Since he is congratulating Newsome then go work the magic here.

Zuck is our best bet along with the original Google guys. Current Google higher ups are directing themselves to MV and SJ. What we are lacking now in city management is a loss of people who have the negotiating skills and know how to work large issues. It appears that our current city government is swept up in responding to strange issues from non-taxpaying groups and non-citizens.


4 people like this
Posted by Rick
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Nov 7, 2019 at 11:30 am

No. no, no!

PACC and other cities are responsible for the housing crisis, the homeless crisis, traffic and much else my kowtowing to the developers. Reduce the fricking DEMAND for housing by overpaid engineers (I used to be one) and that simple step will reduce housing demand, reduce home prices, reduce homelessness, and reduce traffic congestion. Stop creating million/billionairs by giving away our infrastructure.


4 people like this
Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 7, 2019 at 1:32 pm

Posted by Kenny, a resident of University South

(reordered slightly)

>> n case you haven't noticed, Palo Alto has had several [highrises] for decades.

Yes, mostly ugly brutalist structures built during the 60's. Thank goodness for small favors: one of them was torn down recently.

>> >> This will destroy Palo Alto as we know it. Why do you hate Palo Alto so much?"

>> Good, I hope they do break zoning and build high-rises.

>> II'm not the one who hates Palo Alto,

You hate Palo Alto as it has been, as it is, and as some of us want it to continue to be. As I said, why do you hate Palo Alto so much?

>> it is those opposing necessary change who do. They are strangling our city,

"There you go again." You are assuming that which you are trying to prove. Prove that Palo Alto "must" grow or die.

But, just to be clear about something: even if, hypothetically, a city wanted to become very dense, you can build a city with the density of NYC using RM-30 apartment blocks. You don't need highrises. Do the arithmetic: Web Link The purpose of highrises is massaging egos. The reality is that highrises are a waste of money and energy-if your goal is efficiency.


8 people like this
Posted by Resident 1-Adobe Meadows
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Nov 8, 2019 at 8:49 am

Resident 1-Adobe Meadows is a registered user.

Have to disagree with Rick. The problem we have is the corporate businesses and non-profits who all want to hang out in Silicon Valley. I saw the orchards in San Jose being eclipsed with building being put up in a rapid manner. Cisco was next door and created a behemoth of buildings in a very rapid pace. And large apartment buildings that supposedly housed the worker bee's. It all worked up to a point in time.
Back in the day - the Oh Boomer days - major corporations were located next to military customers, airfields and ports. Major corporations located over the country to service multiple customer bases. Also manufacturing is a massive endeavor and needs a lot of land.

The technology field has eclipsed many of those requirements. But the technology field also should lend itself to spreading the workforce out so that the younger workers can have homes to raise their children. So the challenge now for "technology" is to create more use of the central valley locations as product centers which then can feed the end product into the central location of corporate management. I see that as the goal now. People do not need to be stacked on top of each other at this point in time. The business model that supports that end result is misguided and needs to be changed.


2 people like this
Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 8, 2019 at 3:55 pm

Posted by Resident 1-Adobe Meadows, a resident of Adobe-Meadow

>> The technology field has eclipsed many of those requirements. But the technology field also should lend itself to spreading the workforce out so that the younger workers can have homes to raise their children. So the challenge now for "technology" is to create more use of the central valley locations as product centers which then can feed the end product into the central location of corporate management.

Videoconferencing is so advanced now. Why can't more of these companies take better advantage of it to obviate the need for working on-site right here? Anybody have any experience with the why-nots?


Don't miss out on the discussion!
Sign up to be notified of new comments on this topic.

Email:


Post a comment

Posting an item on Town Square is simple and requires no registration. Just complete this form and hit "submit" and your topic will appear online. Please be respectful and truthful in your postings so Town Square will continue to be a thoughtful gathering place for sharing community information and opinion. All postings are subject to our TERMS OF USE, and may be deleted if deemed inappropriate by our staff.

We prefer that you use your real name, but you may use any "member" name you wish.

Name: *

Select your neighborhood or school community: * Not sure?

Comment: *

Verification code: *
Enter the verification code exactly as shown, using capital and lowercase letters, in the multi-colored box.

*Required Fields


Stay informed

Get daily headlines sent straight to your inbox.

Chick-fil-A quietly starts delivering out of DoorDash kitchen in Redwood City
By Elena Kadvany | 60 comments | 9,452 views

Palo Altans and their Virtue Signaling
By Sherry Listgarten | 24 comments | 2,701 views

Differentiating Grief from Clinical Depression
By Chandrama Anderson | 2 comments | 2,435 views

Halloween with grandma
By Cheryl Bac | 1 comment | 688 views

A Voter Warning from a Wise Friend
By Diana Diamond | 14 comments | 666 views