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Housing for whom? Council adopts new 2020 priority, debates what it means

Original post made on Feb 1, 2020

After repeatedly failing to meet its housing goals, the Palo Alto City Council agreed on Saturday to place the issue atop its legislative agenda for 2020.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Saturday, February 1, 2020, 12:32 PM

Comments (38)

Posted by Norman Beamer
a resident of Crescent Park
on Feb 1, 2020 at 1:51 pm

Re "You can't have a functional community composed only of data scientists and patent attorneys," Filseth said. "We need other kinds of people here."

I agree about the data scientists. Not sure about the patent attorneys.

Norm Beamer, USPTO Reg. 32,721

Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 1, 2020 at 2:23 pm

Very disappointed there is no mention of public transportation. Transportation meaning biking and walking improvements is not helping transportation of people from outside Palo Alto to get to work, or those that live in Palo Alto to travel outside of town to get to where they work.

The council is not going to be in the landlord, renting, or real estate business. They have put themselves in the shuttles business and they can work alongside our neighbors getting better options for public transportation. They can see how VTA has ignored this part of the county, and there should be pressures to make regional transportation improvements a goal.

Posted by AffordaBS
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Feb 1, 2020 at 2:31 pm

How far we’ve come that the Maybell opponents now want only affordable development. How convenient that this demand also functions to get the fewest number of homes possible. Very clever.

Strange that objections to market-rate housing do not apply to single family homes.

Does Filseth realize there is a vast gulf between top earners who can afford multimillion dollar homes and those who are low enough income to qualify for deed restricted affordable housing? Setting up a future where only the richest and a select few of the poorest are welcome in Palo Alto. What a visionary.

Posted by Annette
a resident of College Terrace
on Feb 1, 2020 at 3:50 pm

Housing must be a goal, so this is a good move on council's part. Now the real work begins. I will make another pitch for CC to reach outside of City Hall and CC and ask smart stakeholders like Allen Akin and Asher Waldfogel for workable suggestions.

Also, I question Fine's assertion that encouraging market rate housing is a good way to attain BMR housing. Given the scarcity of land and the cost of construction, if we encourage market rate housing I think that is what we will get. Period.

As for the oft-stated concern that the housing shortage keeps people who grew up here from affording a place here, I know this will garner some criticism but I sometimes find myself asking "So"? when I read or hear that. Maybe I am lucky in that my kids have absolutely no interest in living here (and often question why I stay) but if they did I certainly don't think they'd "deserve" it more than someone who grew up in, say, Kansas. Lots of things in life would be nice; some are attained, some are not. No one is owed a life in a certain place.

Posted by Stepheny McGraw
a resident of Midtown
on Feb 1, 2020 at 4:13 pm

IF the City were concerned about mobility and sustainability, it would restrict the number of cars parked in the streets overnight, as Menlo Park did. Garages are used for extra storage or extra rooms and each house /condo/apartment seems to have at least one car per adult, sometimes more. The overflow clogs the neighborhood streets. Now, we have RV's and any number of their accessories clogging sidewalks and streets all over town.

And, again, I must ask, why are we trying to cram all these people into Palo Alto? We need sensible limits on how many people we can cram into a limited space.

Posted by You’re another Useful Idiot
a resident of Stanford
on Feb 1, 2020 at 4:39 pm

The director of Palo Alto Housing, Sheryl Klein, wants money from City of Palo Alto to fund their projects, and in the next breathe she says... I want you to bring all income level housing. Everytime a luxury development is built or a parcel is upzoned, the price goes UP. Sheryl Klein just made it more difficult to build deed restricted below market rate housing.

Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Feb 1, 2020 at 5:38 pm

Afforda bs, people are talking about affordability to refute the claims that SB50 would solve the affordability crisis when of course it would only create more under-parked market rate housing and more congestion.

Posted by Susan
a resident of Ventura
on Feb 1, 2020 at 6:55 pm

I didn't get it. Who will be living in the new apartments?

Who is paying to build these new buildings and what is the purpose?

Posted by Meggie
a resident of Midtown
on Feb 1, 2020 at 7:36 pm

Nelson, New Zealand (population 65,000)

I could not imagine the city council to vote for the new multi-storey building development and remain in the office even one day after that.

Palo Alto is the city of single family house, multi family house, town house and existing condos. I am not sure what do you call the "housing crisis".

Posted by keep it simple
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 1, 2020 at 8:20 pm

"Councilman Greg Tanaka suggested that the council focus on smaller units, which he argued are inherently more affordable but would not require government subsidies. He also pressed his colleagues to make the goals more specific and measurable."

building costs are so high, why not try something new like assembled buildings

Web Link $60,000 per small unit?

Web Link

Posted by Brett
a resident of Downtown North
on Feb 1, 2020 at 8:37 pm

It is amazing to me that there are so many so called "educated" people living in Palo Alto: City & County Planners; City Council members, PhDs, engineers, scientists, patent attorneys and various other experts with multiple years of education and white collar expertise who are not able to solve the housing crisis.

They; Gail Price, Greg Scharff, Eric Filseth, Liz Kniss, Joe Simitian, Dave Cortese and many other elected officials have failed at solving the housing crisis for over 30 years. That's right, the housing crisis actually started in 1990. If they could not solve 10 or 20 years ago they certainly cannot solve it today.

Do you all know why all of these local leaders cannot solve the housing crisis?

I know why, but do you know why?

If you you want to truly know why let me know and I will inform as to why and will educate as to how to eliminate the housing crisis in 2 short years state wide.

The problem is most of you will not like the solution, especially the RABID, environmentalists.

Imagine for a moment if Mountain View, Sunnyvale, Santa Clara and Cupertino have not been developed into housing and businesses. Do you think for a moment that the irrational environmentalists would allow you, "Joe Public" to build homes in businesses in silicon valley where it has not been developed? No they would not.

You cannot build enough affordable housing on land that is not affordable to meet the demand of society which requires that the majority of housing be affordable.

In 1975 a school custodian at Palo High School could afford a 2 bedroom bungalow in Palo Alto and pay it off in 10 years. Until the leaders of the community create that kind of housing market again there will always be a housing crisis. But they refuse to create that kind of housing market.

This is how you create that kind of housing market without destroying existing communities:

Oh I'm not going to tell you because one you already know the solution and two, you don't want to implement the solution that actually works because of your self serving interests which creates you delusional perception of reality to justify the perpetuation of the housing crisis that hurts everyone but yourselves.

Posted by Resident
a resident of another community
on Feb 1, 2020 at 11:36 pm

Affordable single family homes = $450K or less.
This is where the 30-40 year old college grads are moving, and starting their families.
We can't match this.
We are stuck with either section 8 BMR housing, or over priced empty rentals.
Teachers, police, and most working people do not qualify for low income housing, but new immigrants can always claim to be dirt poor and run their businesses (consulting, whatever) under the table, and travel back and forth to their homelands, whereas local American born workers just have to redesign themselves and their values, and move.

Posted by See through the words
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Feb 2, 2020 at 7:01 am

@ Resident

The Mayor used the word Mobility to divert even though he said he is open to comments. He said mobility should slso addresss traffic congestion.

Observation: Adrian Fine’s words are usually aligned but one needs to align with the action.

Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 2, 2020 at 8:00 am

The word "mobility" means to move about. It is a strange word to use in this context as it could mean anything from walking to the next block, to driving across the Bay or to the Coast and everything inbetween. It could mean a pedestrian bridge across 101, or another stupid bike blvd. It could mean autonomous vehicles or skateboards. It does nothing to suggest public transportation improvement. It suggests nothing to do with cooperating with our neighboring cities or putting pressure on VTA.

Mobility is so vague a term as to convey nothing.

Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on Feb 2, 2020 at 9:28 am

@ Resident, to get really confused, look up "mobility" on Wikipedia.

Posted by Jennifer Landesmann
a resident of Crescent Park
on Feb 2, 2020 at 2:28 pm

Provided that the sub-headers that emerge for each of the 2020 priorities reflect community input, I think this is an interesting way to organize priorities compared to past methods.

Per the City Agenda Web Link
one of the community input gathering tools used ahead of yesterday's event gathered the following citizen comments:

"The comments received through the online survey range in focus and topics, however, several general themes emerged: (not in priority order)

•Create more housing overall and support housing for all income levels
•Reduce traffic, make streets safer, synchronize traffic light timing
•Make biking easier and safer
•Address rail grade separation/train crossings
•Support climate change, sustainability and resiliency
•Focus on fiscal sustainability
•Implement a plan for Cubberley
•Reduce airplane noise
•Move forward with undergrounding of utilities"

Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 2, 2020 at 2:46 pm

>> By a unanimous vote, the council agreed during its annual retreat to include housing on its list of official priorities,

The one thing that will make things better is the one thing that they don't want to discuss:

-No new office space-

Posted by chavey
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Feb 2, 2020 at 6:27 pm

Maybe you could start rewarding people that choose to buy high density dwelling rather than sprawling single homes. When you see the cost of a condo in terms of property tax, one has to wonder why one would want to buy one.
Time to get real with climat change and high density structures, stop the lip services and start acting.

Give owners of high density units tax break for helping reduce our CO2 foot print, help generate more revenues per sqft. Time to add CO2 foot print to the tax assessment computation.

Posted by Resident
a resident of another community
on Feb 2, 2020 at 7:08 pm

I have not seen any mention of water.
Why haven't planners taken into account some kind of sustainability ratio which factors in the number of people and businesses that our area can handle? Like a holding capacity, or bioburden limit?
Hospitals and hotels are especially water intensive (and create a lot of trash)
We barely made it through the last drought cycle.
California has over built homes all over the state, yet it seems that the people approving these projects have quickly forgotten that we barely made it out of our last drought.

Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Feb 2, 2020 at 7:28 pm

Re water, because our "planners" decided that rather than cut growth we should drink recycled sewage.

Posted by Dan
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Feb 2, 2020 at 8:59 pm

Is this to support the Airbnb business in Palo Alto by the taxpayer dollar?

Posted by Ed
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Feb 2, 2020 at 10:23 pm

We shouldn't forget the lost opportunity of Buena Vista mobile home park. This site could have been fully developed that would have added many units, and in the meantime, taken care of the housing need of the current residences in the park, improved neighborhood curb appeal, and reduced the crime rate. I'm really surprised that both the County and the City supported the idea of keep this as mobile home park forever. If anyone at the city or county is serious about the housing development, why could this ever happen?

Posted by george drysdale
a resident of Professorville
on Feb 3, 2020 at 9:22 am

Universal rent control in California has destroyed investor interest in the production of apartment housing in California. Would you invest in a state where the Democratic leadership can't even get a passing grade in high school economics, or for that matter in senior government classes? California's government is burning up with stupidity. Get ready for the shoot out on the Super Tuesday election in Mountain View.

George Drysdale social studies teacher and land economist

Posted by BMR for Old PA
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 3, 2020 at 10:31 am

Ed - instead of picking on Buena Vista in south Palo Alto, how about opening your home in Old Palo Alto to a low-income family to come live with you? That would be you actually doing something real.

Posted by Resident
a resident of Community Center
on Feb 3, 2020 at 12:20 pm

My understanding is that the Buena Vista deed restrictions allow for the possibility of redevelopment of some or all of the current site for permanent affordable housing in the long term, including for current residents there.

Posted by Pied Piper
a resident of Gunn High School
on Feb 3, 2020 at 1:43 pm

Problem: We have a housing crisis. (It's too expensive for our kids to live here.)
Solution: Make it affordable enough so lots more people can live here.
Unintended consequence: Overcrowding, traffic, urban blight. The end of Palo Alto as we know it.

This type of social engineering just reeks of well-intentioned, poorly thought through decisions; for which we'll all be paying, one way or another.

Posted by No to wrong solutions
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Feb 3, 2020 at 4:48 pm

Previous poster,
As far as your "Solution: ..." (that is not even a solution, at all, that is the goal; the solution is how to get there without loosing what's left of the quality of life well before you get there).

"there is always a well-known solution to every human problem — neat, plausible, and wrong." H.L.Mencken

The housing crisis is caused and being exacerbated by the office over-development which in turn is caused by the greed of certain individuals. One cannot with straight face not see that traffic is the crisis NOW. Wait till they "make the housing affordable". We'll be gridlocked entirely way before that. Caltrain is overloaded NOW. Stop fooling yourselves, you will not be able to afford a helicopter ride to Safeway. Eliminate the root cause first, improve the infrastructure second.

Posted by Anonymous
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Feb 3, 2020 at 6:47 pm

Another element is the state (meaning CA state level legislators), who repeatedly wish to take ever more from Palo Alto.
I daresay we already contribute plenty to state coffers, not to mention providing numerous high quality jobs and high quality schools - public transit here is NOT “rich” or high quality/substantial, no matter how they try to spin it....
But....we get punished.
And then they wish us to densify without local review or controls.
WE would pay for the massive influx of kids in stack and pack housing within single family zoned neighborhoods (since our public school funding is based off land + structure values paid to our high property taxes); WE would endure much greater auto traffic since the state legislators are determined to underpark single family neighborhoods; we would get our solar panels shaded without recourse or appeal; and we will find our quality of life dropped severely through the state’s misguided dictates.
New persons would pay less since they won’t have land.
Tall buildings may yet be permitted to be built adjacent to single family homes. State Senator Scott Weiner is determined.

Posted by You Need to Fight
a resident of Barron Park
on Feb 3, 2020 at 8:27 pm

It is increasingly clear that the question is, "Who decides what our communities will be like?" which is to ask, "Who are they for?" On the one hand are residents, that's clear. On the other, though, isn't poor people, the homeless, etc. - it is large employers and the developers who make money from them.

If the employers get to choose, then what's best for them is the denser the better, so they can grow cheaply. Companies don't care about quality of life, traffic, backyards, park space, open space, Little League; they don't even care about schools much. They care about making money, for themselves and their shareholders. That's a simple fact.

The problem is that employers and developers are much much better at funding political campaigns (looking right at you, Liz Kniss! When's that FPPC report coming out?) and lobbying efforts. They have concentrated wealth, full-time employees, and no moral restraint - getting their candidates elected and bills passed is just a means to an end for them. So they are better at pursuing their narrow interests than communities are at pursuing their general interest.

Some people think that's ok; some think it's inevitable. Some are "useful idiots" who think they are helping "the needy" as they serve employers and developers. But if you don't think communities should be designed by and for employers, YOU NEED TO FIGHT LIKE HELL. Because the game is set up for them to win, and they are winning.

Posted by Annette
a resident of College Terrace
on Feb 4, 2020 at 8:40 am

There's good reason to be concerned about all sorts of things, some of which can appear to conflict with one another. Example: the housing shortage and personal property rights. It's easy to look at R1 zoning and say "that's gotta go, there's room there for high rises" but if one thinks about the underlying principles, it's easy to see the danger in letting any level of government swoop down and unilaterally change fundamental principles. Especially if they do it via an unfunded mandate such as SB50. That's a double whammy: first w/legislation like SB50 the State says "we are going to fundamentally change where you live" and then it adds the fine print which is "and oh, by the way, YOU are going to pay for it". And this is done whilst overlooking the fact that commercial overgrowth has simultaneously developed us past what our infrastructure can support and then poured more people needing housing into that commercial development. And we think we are smart?

I think we should be able to provide more housing w/o destroying that which already exists and which, paradoxically, is one of the very things that makes Palo Alto desirable: our neighborhoods.

A good place to start: go beyond the cap and put a moratorium on commercial building. This city cannot accommodate the current workforce population in at least two obvious ways: housing and transportation. So let's stop growing the failure, fix what we can, augment infrastructure where we can, and add housing where we can. At some point we may have to officially acknowledge that we are, simply, full up and maxed-out. Thankfully, this doesn't mean that Palo Alto would become stagnant because everything is cyclical but it might mean we have to wait a bit before growing again.

Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 4, 2020 at 2:32 pm

Posted by Stepheny McGraw, a resident of Midtown

>> IF the City were concerned about mobility and sustainability, it would restrict the number of cars parked in the streets overnight,

Agreed. Make people park their cars off the street somewhere.

>> And, again, I must ask, why are we trying to cram all these people into Palo Alto? We need sensible limits on how many people we can cram into a limited space.

I don't mind cramming a few more *people* in, as long as we can keep them from acquiring cars. We're full up on cars. Legally, I don't think there is a a way to prevent people who live in "car light" housing from owning cars and parking them on public streets, unless we ban overnight parking for -everyone-.

In reality, half the people who move in will work south/east of Mtn View, in Sunnyvale/Santa Clara/San Jose/Cupertino. Most of those -will- drive to work, because otherwise it will take them 2 hrs each way to get to work.

Posted by mauricio
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Feb 4, 2020 at 4:12 pm

It's impossible to provide housing in Palo Alto for the truly needy. It's like saying that if we just pull together we'll be able to make lambudrghinis available to those who can barely afford a Honda Civic right now. Yes, Palo Alto is a lamburghini as far as housing is concerned, and the people who helped most to make it that way, the people who refused to confront foreign relations estate investmet , cap commercial development and never met one they didn't like, are wasting everybody's time playing with a fantasy that would never materialize.

No, building dense high rises for highly paid tech workers who don't even work in Palo Alto is a very bad idea that will create many new problems and solve not even one existing one.

Posted by Annette
a resident of College Terrace
on Feb 5, 2020 at 10:41 am

Today's Daily Post contains a 12 page insert from Compass Realty that showcases 88 homes as part of their "Winter Campaign". Nearly half (43) of the homes for sale are in Palo Alto. Prices are across a broad range including three at $1.4k and less.

Mr. Fine's assertion that adding market rate housing will lead to BMR housing is highly questionable. I think he may be taking a page out of his pal Scott Weiner's book, trying to fool people into thinking that's how things work. I don't think so and I doubt we'd have as many realtors in the area if that was true.

Posted by Curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on Feb 5, 2020 at 6:57 pm

Housing will cost as much as its inhabitants will pay no matter how much gets built, so long as there is an endless supply of potential inhabitants. More rentals means more income for more landlords, not lower rents. Full stop.

To address the problem at its source we must first realize Silicon Valley is not our friend. The days when the Valley created socially valuable innovations are long gone. It does not earn its keep; in fact, it is a huge burden on its host. We are not obliged to accommodate its excesses.

Posted by Rick
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Feb 5, 2020 at 9:42 pm

Housing is not a goal. A goal for our elected City Council Members is to constantly strive to improve the lives of the people who elected them. Not Developers. Not the YIMBY people who are shills for people who simply want to move here. Not PAF. Not Palantier nor Google.

If council members are not voting to improve our lives, and most are not. Vote them OUT!

Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 6, 2020 at 10:01 am

Posted by Rick, a resident of Adobe-Meadow

>> Housing is not a goal. A goal for our elected City Council Members is to constantly strive to improve the lives of the people who elected them. Not Developers. Not the YIMBY people who are shills

I don't disagree with you, but, "housing" is now like mom and apple pie. You can't be *against* housing. But, what people need to realize is that either way, we don't need *any*, and I mean *any* more office space. Office workers have 1/3 the space allocated that they formerly did, which means that "they" have been growing employment to 3X density without building new space. Yet, they continue to build more office space. Just say no to more office space. Land for housing will become more available once developers are forced to accept that they won't be able to break zoning and build office space. Right now, they believe that they will be able to upzone through dirty tricks like phony PC and public benefit and etc. etc. etc.

Posted by Sunshine
a resident of Barron Park
on Feb 6, 2020 at 5:07 pm

I have lived in this area since 1965. During ALL of that time housing in Palo Alto has been limited and very expensive, not affordable for many people. As a result I have lived in Mountain View, Los Altos, Menlo Park. Friends of mine lived in the small cottages on the fringe of these areas. Now I can afford to live in Palo Alto because I made things myself, ate at home, shared space, did not go on fancy vacations, took a walk in a park for a Saturday or Sunday outing.
Being able to afford living in Palo Alto means cooking all meals at home, even if you must use a hot plate to do so. It means making your own coffee, no Starbucks or some of the other even more expensive places. Dinner out? Try a fast food joint on a special occasion. Drive an old car and do the maintenance yourself. Fixing up you home? Get a can of paint and a brush and do it yourself. A day out? Try bread, cheese and fresh apples at Foothill Park. It's great for family togetherness.
You want to be able to buy a home here? Learn to save. No more dinner out because you don't feel like cooking; no more fancy coffee from a coffeeshop. Learn to make it yourself at home. Learn to share space with others.
As you save, eventually you will be able to afford your own place. Remember: you are not entitled to live in Palo Alto because you grew up here; you must earn it.
It is called voluntary simplicity. I know it works.

Posted by george drysdale
a resident of Professorville
on Feb 7, 2020 at 12:24 pm

Yes Sunshine all it is is common sense. Things have changed with one of the greatest gentrifications(fast)in history. Google lands in Mountain View. Many are priced out because tech workers are well educated and well paid. A bidding war then: price controls. If you're disabled you can hope for "affordable housing". All income level housing a mathematical impossibility.

George Drysdale land economist

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