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Council holds back funds from plan to revitalize Ventura

Original post made on Dec 3, 2019

Palo Alto's effort to develop a new vision for the Ventura area hit another unexpected obstacle on Monday night, when a routine vote to provide funding for planning exercise failed despite support from the City Council majority.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Tuesday, December 3, 2019, 12:37 PM

Comments (19)

8 people like this
Posted by Sandra Driscoll
a resident of Ventura
on Dec 3, 2019 at 3:21 pm

The people in Ventura are for upgrading, updating, improving and revitalizing Ventura. We hope the Council will adopt the plan offered.
There have been so many businesses closing that we need to bring
new improvements into Ventura.


20 people like this
Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 3, 2019 at 3:56 pm

Posted by Sandra Driscoll, a resident of Ventura

>> The people in Ventura are for upgrading, updating, improving and revitalizing Ventura.

Really? Which people are for what "upgrades" and/or "updates" and/or "improvements" ? I can't imagine that a majority of actual residents of any neighborhood would be supportive of something without details. The devil is always in the details. I don't think anybody but Liz Kniss is looking for more auto traffic in the their neighborhood.

>> There have been so many businesses closing that we need to bring new improvements into Ventura.

Which buildings are vacant, and why? What "improvements" are you looking for?

Regardless, the driving force for all this was supposed to be 300 or so new housing units built on the Fry's site. But, the property owner apparently wants something much more *high-end*. I hate to agree with Tanaka, but:

"If the property owner isn't on board, what are we doing here?" Tanaka asked. "That's a big problem."


17 people like this
Posted by Housing Element Fail
a resident of another community
on Dec 3, 2019 at 5:55 pm

Palo Alto isn't even trying to meet the goals of its Housing Element. The Fry's site should be able to support 500 to 600 units. Just look what Mountain View is doing at the old Safeway site near San Antonio. Web Link

They are putting 632 new apartments on that site alone within walking distance of a minor Caltrain station. The California Avenue station is just a short walk from the Fry's site. The City and the property owner should be working to support that kind of density there too. Palo Alto isn't even trying, so stop crying.


6 people like this
Posted by MovetheCannery
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Dec 3, 2019 at 7:15 pm

I heard an idea that sounded good to me. Take Fry's cannery building and move it to the Cubberly site. Repurpose this large one story structure as a community center. It would preserve its historic integrity and up-cycle it for broad community use. Way less expensive than building a brand new center and would save on carbon emissions. Besides there are gazillion engineers, albeit software, around to see this through. Win, win, win. The Fry's site then could be cleared for affordable housing. Perfect!!!! Let's get with the 21st Century.


8 people like this
Posted by Failforward?
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Dec 3, 2019 at 7:17 pm

Once again Palo Alto City Council fails its people for profits. Our council members switch and bait so much on housing it gives me whip lash.


42 people like this
Posted by Another Giveaway
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 3, 2019 at 7:24 pm

Ventura is "underdeveloped" is code for Ventura is ripe for exploitation by real-estate developers.

With the a little help from their partners on the city council, developers are going to make Ventura into the same very profitable screwed-up mess that they made out of downtown.


30 people like this
Posted by Allen Akin
a resident of Professorville
on Dec 3, 2019 at 9:08 pm

Allen Akin is a registered user.

The City of Palo Alto has neither the resources nor the responsibility for building housing. And the developers are pretty clear about why they're not building. Land and construction are so costly here that only high-end units "pencil out" (are financially viable), and the market for those is limited.

This has been discussed openly a half-dozen times in articles in the Merc over the past year. For example, in Web Link

[quote] Today high-end apartments, renting out at $3,000 or more a month, are the only ones profitable enough for developers to build here without government assistance, according to Michael Lane, deputy director of the housing advocacy nonprofit SV@Home. “Particularly in the Silicon Valley but this is true in the Bay Area and beyond, the only projects that really pencil are high end projects that can really get those higher rents,” Lane said. “But they need rents to increase on an ongoing basis over time. That’s just the business model to be able to pay back the loans and the expenses.” [end quote]

I'd add that developers have no incentive to build enough housing to bring prices down, because that reduces their profits to the point that the projects are no longer viable. John Sobrato alludes to this in the same article:

[quote] “It’s always going to be a very expensive place to live,” Sobrato said. “We’re not going to be able to reduce the price of housing down to where it’s going to be affordable for the majority of middle income people.” [end quote]

One way to break this deadlock is for the big tech companies to finance projects at rates that make them attractive to developers and affordable for residents. Apple alone had $10B in profit last *quarter*; financing a good chunk of housing at zero interest is well within its capability.

Another thing is that the big tech companies building mixed-use projects should guarantee those developments have enough housing to balance the amount of office space, and that the housing is priced at levels that are compatible with the compensation of the employees working in that space (to reduce displacement elsewhere).

There is something the City of Palo Alto might have the ability to do, and that's change the zoning in Stanford Research Park so that housing and mixed-use developments are permitted in more of the Park. (Housing is already permitted in a small area.) The Park has by far the highest concentration of jobs in the City, and it's more than a half-mile from the nearest Caltrain stop. You can see that concentrating new housing in high-rises near Caltrain stops is a poor approach here. It would be far more effective to build housing or mixed-use projects right in the Park. I once discussed this with Adrian Fine, and he told me he had worked on it. It would be good to hear a progress report.


Like this comment
Posted by Mark Weiss
a resident of Downtown North
on Dec 4, 2019 at 12:34 pm

Mark Weiss is a registered user.

Matt Sonsini is now CEO of Sobrato and grew up in Palo alto and went to gunn and in fact lived near Ventura, In Evergreen I guess it’s called. We could reach out to him and have him clarify what the company’s plans are.


Like this comment
Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 4, 2019 at 1:08 pm

Posted by Housing Element Fail, a resident of another community

>> Palo Alto isn't even trying to meet the goals of its Housing Element.

So, exactly what would be required for Palo Alto to catch up to its Housing Element and other obligations, including regional and state requirements? Is there a succinct reference for this?


8 people like this
Posted by Citizen
a resident of Community Center
on Dec 4, 2019 at 7:19 pm

Finally, some common sense. The city does not own Fry's; the sobrato group does. Put up the money if you want a different outcome. And btw, we have a free market still and property rights.


9 people like this
Posted by B
a resident of Ventura
on Dec 4, 2019 at 7:32 pm

The Fry's building? Historical????? That ugly old warehouse? you're joking, right? That's fraud intended to stop development


11 people like this
Posted by Citizen
a resident of Community Center
on Dec 4, 2019 at 7:45 pm

No changes to Stanford research park. Enough congestion already!


12 people like this
Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 4, 2019 at 8:24 pm

Posted by Citizen, a resident of Community Center

>> No changes to Stanford research park. Enough congestion already!

I disagree. I think SRP should reduce office space and associated employment and replace with medium-density housing, particularly in locations that are closest to El Camino/Page Mill intersection. That would be the best way to address the jobs/housing imbalance.


17 people like this
Posted by Anon
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Dec 4, 2019 at 9:48 pm

Palo Alto is meeting it’s market rate housing requirements where we are falling short is in deed restricted subsidized (BMR) housing.

Of course these requirements are arbitrary numbers created by Plan Bay Area / MTC- ABAG an unelected group of folks acting without any true authority of the electorate.....spending our tax money without being elected ....wow ,taxation without representation and no oversight?!!


5 people like this
Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 4, 2019 at 10:03 pm

Posted by Anon, a resident of Evergreen Park

>> Palo Alto is meeting it’s market rate housing requirements where we are falling short is in deed restricted subsidized (BMR) housing.

Is there an online location (URL) where we can see the various targets, numbers, and shortfalls for the categories?


22 people like this
Posted by Another Giveaway
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 5, 2019 at 1:03 am

Yeah, that will work.

Let's build housing in Stanford Research Park and office buildings in residential neighborhoods and then everyone in Palo Alto can live in a giant office park.

When Palo Alto has been turned into a giant office park, then everyone living in Palo Alto can drive to Cupertino to work and everyone living in Cupertino can drive to Palo Alto to work because, surprise, the company in that gleaming tower of glass across the street from your home didn't offer you your dream job just because you live across the street.


19 people like this
Posted by Allen Akin
a resident of Professorville
on Dec 6, 2019 at 3:36 pm

Allen Akin is a registered user.

@Another Giveaway: You have a good point. If there were any city in Silicon Valley that could prove that putting jobs near housing eliminates the need to commute, it should be Palo Alto. We have three times as many jobs here as working residents, so there are more than enough jobs for everyone to work locally. Unfortunately, that's not what happens. 72% of our employed residents work in other cities, and this hasn't changed much for decades. (Those are the most recent figures I have, but they're about a year old.)

These days there are lots of people who are arguing for high-density development where offices and housing are close together. If that becomes the goal, where would we put those projects? Well, SRP has lots of existing offices, large amounts of parking, several points of high-volume transportation access, and no existing residents to disrupt or displace. The areas around the Downtown and Cal Ave train stations are inferior in all those respects. That's why I suggested looking into zoning changes for SRP.


6 people like this
Posted by chris
a resident of University South
on Dec 30, 2019 at 12:25 pm

3000 Hanover is for lease. It is a large site and would be great for housing.


Like this comment
Posted by Bill Bucy
a resident of Barron Park
on Dec 31, 2019 at 10:05 am

Bill Bucy is a registered user.

Would the money be released if the Ventura Neighborhood Association announced an investigation of Joe and Hunter Biden?


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