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Opinion: Non-elected regional bodies are threatening Palo Alto's neighborhoods

Original post made on Jul 5, 2020

July 10 will be the last chance to appeal dramatic changes by two non-elected regional bodies that will threaten the character of Palo Alto as we know it. I urge everyone to ask the City Council now to stop the process.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Sunday, July 5, 2020, 9:41 AM

Comments (95)

61 people like this
Posted by resident
a resident of Downtown North
on Jul 5, 2020 at 9:48 am

If Bay Area cities did a better job of housing their residents, then these non-elected agencies wouldn't have to make an issue out of the jobs-housing imbalance. Too many jobs and too few homes creates all kinds of social imbalances, as well as pollution and traffic caused by long-distance commuters.


118 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 5, 2020 at 9:53 am

This is such a watershed time. The pandemic has caused so many changes and we have no idea what housing demand is going to look like in 5 years' time, in 10 years' time.

With large employers telling their employees to work from home forever, it is obviously a game changer. How this will trickle down to smaller employers and also to the non-tech world is anybody's guess. Restaurants have become of secondary importance to grocery stores, haircuts have become more important than gyms, public transport has taken on a safety question due to hygiene and commute hour traffic moves freely! We have no idea how long this will last. We don't even know what is going to happen to our kids' time at school.

With all these unknowns, mandating new housing should be low on our list of priorities.


99 people like this
Posted by Kathy
a resident of Greater Miranda
on Jul 5, 2020 at 10:16 am

Thank you to the author. I agree.


33 people like this
Posted by Anon
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Jul 5, 2020 at 11:24 am

Greg missed an important point: City Budget, including Pension.

Palo Alto has one of the most bloated city budget in bay area. Very large pension liabilities. To sustain the ever growing budget it must explore revenue sources. This is a tread mill that never stops.

Offices and hotels are most profitable projects for city budget.

Cut budget by half. Then we can talk about sustainable growth plan.



61 people like this
Posted by Barron Park dad
a resident of Barron Park
on Jul 5, 2020 at 11:24 am

So, how does Atherton (another county I know) get away from these onerous impositions on housing stock growth by outside parties not resident in Palo Alto?


30 people like this
Posted by Try Facts?
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jul 5, 2020 at 12:13 pm

Plan Bay Area was NOT used to determine the "astounding number" from HCD, which made a lot of housers mad. Public comment WAS taken on this item at the ABAG executive board meeting (made up of elected officials) and ~40 public commenters said the number should be appealed because it is ASTOUNDINGLY LOW.

We need more housing Greg. Railing against jobs doesn't house people. You got your office cap. At some point, we need to actually do the housing part.


43 people like this
Posted by Michael O
a resident of Stanford
on Jul 5, 2020 at 12:17 pm

It is good that outside agencies dictate what goes on in municipalities. Otherwise Palo Alto will be able to continue its racist policies in housing and development. Yes, racist policies. What you you all think systemic racism is? “Local character” is a racist idea and it’s time for it to stop.


41 people like this
Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 5, 2020 at 12:34 pm

Posted by Michael O, a resident of Stanford

>> It is good that outside agencies dictate what goes on in municipalities.

I guess you didn't read all the history references posted in all these threads. It was the racist policies of *outside agencies* that doomed the pre-Ladera co-op, and redlined the area, not the City.

>> Otherwise Palo Alto will be able to continue its racist policies in housing and development.

The segregationist housing policies were not from the city government of Palo Alto, although many Palo Altans did not challenge the segregationist policies of the FHA, the banks, the Realtors, etc. But, unfortunately, the same can be said of the entire country, so, I'm not sure why "Palo Alto" is being identified. We, the United States, are finally talking about the legacy of segregation, even though it officially legally ended in the 1948-1968 period.

I also have no idea why you think that feeding huge profits to developers will somehow help with the legacy of segregation. None of the profit-oriented commercial developers want to build affordable/low/middle-income housing. They all want to build high-end housing and high-end office buildings. If you want housing to be more affordable, figure out how to encourage big tech and office space developers to build on affordable land on the east side of Altamont/west side of the central valley.


45 people like this
Posted by Rethink Growth
a resident of Palo Verde
on Jul 5, 2020 at 12:49 pm

ABAG/HCD have their heads in the 1950's, as do the developers who back them with their outdated growth and profit models. Human population growth has adversely impacted the environment to where it's beginning to threaten humanity's survival. Covid-19 is the latest example of that, but not the last. We need to "rethink growth". What better place to start than Palo Alto?


30 people like this
Posted by Michael O.
a resident of Stanford
on Jul 5, 2020 at 1:02 pm

To Brave Anon,

You’re just wrong. Limiting housing through local ordinances perpetuates institutionalized racism. Limiting housing increases its cost. There is no economic model in which increasing housing increases its cost. Palo Alto is part of the problem.

Thanks for reading.

Michael O.


9 people like this
Posted by Kevin Burke
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 5, 2020 at 1:07 pm

The argument about housing and jobs doesn't make sense. If office space was more profitable to build than housing, Sand Hill Property Co would not be asking the City Council to rezone office space to housing.

Instead, literally two weeks ago, they were asking the City Council to rezone office space for housing. Perhaps this is because housing is in huge demand in Palo Alto right now, as the high prices indicate. Web Link


39 people like this
Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 5, 2020 at 1:16 pm

Posted by Michael O., a resident of Stanford

>> To Brave Anon, You’re just wrong.

Thanks for the compliment, but, you're just wrong. Seriously. The housing market is far more complicated than Econ 1A supply-and-demand. The following is a popular *intro*:

Web Link

"Trickle-down" building takes centuries. The only thing that will work quickly is to relocate jobs to the locations where housing is already affordable. That has worked before, and, it will work again. In this case, huge numbers of people already live east of Altamont.


14 people like this
Posted by stephen levy
a resident of University South
on Jul 5, 2020 at 1:28 pm

Many of Greg's assertions are inaccurate. Below is my letter to PTC and council

Dear Chair Templeton and Commissioners,

I am a 50 year resident of Palo Alto with an office in PA since 1969 but today I write in my role with the Center for Continuing Study of the California Economy.

In that role I served on the HCD review committee as they were translating state law into the regional housing needs determination process. I have had ongoing conversations and emails with HCD staff in charge of the RHNA. I also was under contract to the Southern California Association of Governments (SCAG) as they developed their RHNA application and in their appeal process.

In June 2020 I presented at SCAG's demographic workshop on the potential impact of COVID on their long-term growth forecast. I was a consultant to ABAG through early November 2019 on their Plan Bay Area 2050 growth forecast and understand the methodology and assumptions underlying their forecasts.

Four Recommendations for PTC, Council and Staff

Invite HCD to come and explain their criteria for reviewing Housing Elements prepared for the new RHNA cycle and their legal authority in reviewing these and project determinations with regard to good faith efforts to meet housing goals.

Invite ABAG (and participate in the upcoming public engagement opportunities) to understand the goals and strategies of the Blueprint/Plan Bay Area 2050 with regard to housing and transportation.

Invite [email protected],the Terner Center and nonprofit and private developers to understand how housing projects can pencil out and the role of inclusionary zoning %s in project feasibility.

Consider tonights and the above discussions as inputs into the development of the City's updated Housing Element that we will be working to develop in compliance with HCD guidelines.

Discussion of the staff memo with regard to the regional and Palo Alto RHNA allocations

RHNA Methodology

State legislation required HCD to include factors to reduce overcrowding and the number of cost burdened household in their RHNA housing needs determination methodology in addition to moving toward a normal level of vacant housing. These legislatively mandated additions to the RHNA methodology attempt to alleviate the hardship to residents caused by the shortage of housing built and the large job growth that has occurred since the cycle 5 RHNA housing needs determination was made 8 years ago.The staff report includes the HCD determination letter to ABAG elaborating on this process.

It is this inclusion of those two state mandated goals that caused the increase in the Bay Area and Southern California RHNA goals. It is NOT because HCD is factoring in higher future growth rates than previously projected. The HCD determination letter sets forth the basis for HCD’s RHNA determination. You can also find memoranda from MTC/ABAG staff on their websites on the determination process.

HCD made two choices in developing the Bay Area RHNA that resulted in a LOWER RHNA allocation. The first choice (probably a fair move) was to reverse what they did for SCAG and compare the Bay Area to comparable regions not the nation in the allocation to reduce overcrowding and the number of cost-burdened households. A comparison to national averages would have resulted in higher RHNA allocations.

The second choice was to use the Department of Finance (DOF) population projections for 2030 instead of those consistent with the ABAG growth forecast, which were 400,000 higher in 2030.

HCD did NOT use the ABAG growth forecast for jobs as part of their determination but there has been regional and local discussion as if that did happen.

For your information I have included data about the current ABAG growth forecast though it was not used in the HCD RHNA determination.

The high job growth forecast adds 1 million jobs between 2019 and 2050 for average growth of just over 30,000 jobs per year or an annual growth rate of 0.7%. Growth for 2015-2019 by comparison was more than double in numbers and more than three times the annual growth rate. In Plan Bay Area 2040 job growth of 700,000 was forecast for 2015-2040. In Plan Bay Area 2050 700,000 added jobs are projected between 2019 and 2040 based on success in reducing the relative gap in housing prices between the Bay Area and competition regions though housing costs grow over time in all regions and Bay Area housing costs remain higher than elsewhere.

For the RHNA end year of 2030 the ABAG population forecast is the same in PBA 2050 as in PBA 2040 despite the higher job forecast.

Palo Alto RHNA Allocation

As the staff reported the final allocation methodology has not been adopted. I encourage commissioners to listen to the RHNA allocation committee hearings.

The staff memo shows a variety of allocation factors considered by the committee some resulting in a 135% increase in the PA allocation over the cycle 5 goal and some resulting in a higher or lower increase.

However, the committee discussions are clear that the two criteria that push Palo Alto's allocation upward -- Access to High Opportunity Areas and Jobs-Housing Balance -- will dominate the allocation methodology as shown in the committee charts shown in the staff report.

With regard to the impact of COVID the near term future is uncertain and depends on our efforts to control the virus spread. But in all the research I did for SCAG the prevailing opinion is that these severe economic and human challenges could remain as long as 2023, but income, job growth and unemployment levels will be close to the long-term trends after that.

Below is the latest (6/24/20) UCLA state forecast.

“While the answer to the alphabet question is simply that we don’t know, given our assumption about the trajectory of the pandemic, we expect the California recovery to look very much like the U.S. It will be slower in the leisure and hospitality and retail sectors due to the disproportionate reliance on international tourism, and slower in transportation and warehousing due to the expected continuation of the trade war with China, but faster in business, scientific and technical services and in the information sector due to the demand for new technologies for the new way we are working and socializing.

The unemployment rate for the 2nd quarter of this year is expected to be 14.6%, and it is expected to decline the balance of 2021. For the entire years 2020, 2021, and 2022 we expect average unemployment rates of 10.5%, 8.2%, and 6.8% respectively. Our forecast for 2020, 2021, and 2022 is for total employment growth rates to be -8.6%, 3.6%, and 3.0%. Non-farm payroll jobs are expected to fall by 9.3% in 2020 and to grow at 0.4% and 6.6% in the following two years. Real personal income growth is forecast to be -0.9%, 1.4%, and 2.2% in 2020, 2021, and 2022. In spite of the recession, the continued demand for a limited housing stock coupled with low-interest rates leads to a forecast of a relatively rapid return of homebuilding.”

This is among the most cautious of the forecasts I reviewed for SCAG and even so sometime in 2023 the economic impacts at the macro level are expected to end.

Finally, check with HCD but my understanding is that they already made an adjustment (downward) for the short-term impacts of COVID on the RHNA.

Stephen Levy


22 people like this
Posted by Eric
a resident of another community
on Jul 5, 2020 at 2:02 pm

Palo Alto’s history of redlining and discrimination isn’t very deeply buried, is it? Why don’t you just come out and say “those people”?


85 people like this
Posted by Citizen PA
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 5, 2020 at 2:04 pm

Steven Levy is like that character in My Big Fat Greek Wedding who thinks windex is the answer to all problems, only in his case, it's dense overdevelopment.

The reality, the actual fact of this push to willy nilly cram in new housing in the Bay Area is that it has displaced longterm residents of color wholesale across the Bay Area, in order to create lots of rabbit hutch housing for highly paid tech workers. It's having seriously negative consequences to towns and cities without any offsetting benefit.

There is no NEED to cram every job into this area like it's some kind of clown car for tech. It's not even safe, visavis pandemics, droughts, fire safety, earthquakes, terrorism, etc. Our own emergency czar has said the existing density will already result in loss of life in foreseeable disasters.

Doing a better job distributing the jobs by multiplying the number of job centers means lots of different kinds of jobs in more places, and more affordable housing everywhere. Look at what happened in SF. Years of building building building to the point that many analysts are warning that the high rises built are not really seismically safe not only didn't bring down costs, it ratcheted up costs and displaced ordinary people, especially people of color. Same like Hong Kong, which SF resembles more now than SF of 30 years ago.

The demand side is far more flexible and cost-effective way to solve the problem. Look what happened with Covid. People decided to move away, prices dropped fast. Part of why they decided to move away is that their presence, and their companies' selfish demands to be there regardless of what the overcrowding of workers was doing to the local economy and environment, made the place not so nice to live anymore. Now a lot of them can turn on a dime and leave, but the damage is basically forever.

Greg, this is a great article, and you are right, but you were part of the council that pushed had on that false narrative that building building building would drop housing prices in Palo Alto, and that was never going to happen, the opposite happened. I'm not the best at writing, can you start a petition that people can sign?

@Kevin Burke,
The false arguments about building building building housing in this area driving down prices just don't fly here anymore. No developer is going to build in a way that drives down what they are going to make on that endeavor. No developer who is renting out new units is going to release them into the market at exactly the same time because it would create a ton of vacancies at the same time and create a very concentrated depression for that landlord. So they dole them out and keep prices high.

Sandhill proposed a development that wouldn't fly under current zoning in order to get upzoning. They're using the housing as the bait to get more favorable zoning. They're still adding office space in that proposal.

Palo Alto needs to stick to their guns on office overdevelopment and focus on conversion of office to housing. And conversion of hotels to condos.


69 people like this
Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jul 5, 2020 at 2:10 pm

Thank you, Greg Schmid for some reality. I'm so tired of the highly paid shills for ABAG and the well-funded YIMBY party that work so tirelessly to spread their fairy tales about car-light living and how not capping office growth will somehow make housing prices fall even though all they're doing is creating MORE demand which in turn raises housing prices. And of course developer profit.


18 people like this
Posted by serge
a resident of Downtown North
on Jul 5, 2020 at 2:13 pm

this "opinion" is just that, and is the very epitome of NIMBY thinking. the author seeks to preserve and further accentuate the increasing wealth disparity in the Bay Area, and preserve Palo Alto as some type of "castle of the elites" who should in no way bear their share of housing the people this area employs.

A simple glance along El Camino Real and other semi-industrial areas of Palo Alto is sufficient for anybody but the most NIMBY to see that a few thousand extra housing units could easily be accommodated at the expense of the half-century old, low-rise structures that exist there now, WITHOUT harming those precious historical neighborhoods.


17 people like this
Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 5, 2020 at 2:18 pm

Posted by Kevin Burke, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood

>> The argument about housing and jobs doesn't make sense. If office space was more profitable to build than housing, Sand Hill Property Co would not be asking the City Council to rezone office space to housing.

Your *reasoning* is flawed. Your conclusions don't follow. But, that is actually beside the point, because, nothing is stopping developers from tearing down office space and building housing-only projects. But, for some reason, they don't do that. In fact, the proposal you are talking about barely covers the increase in office space with proposed housing. That project is about office space, not housing.

-Housing Only-


12 people like this
Posted by Kevin Burke
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 5, 2020 at 2:20 pm

I think housing prices will be lower if we build more housing than if we refuse to build more housing, but even if prices stay high, that's all the more reason to expand the housing supply in extremely wealthy, extremely white, already gentrified, city of Palo Alto.

Refusing to build housing in Palo Alto means all of the Palantir, Google etc office workers instead bid up prices and increase displacement pressure in poorer neighborhoods to the east, including East Palo Alto, the poorer parts of Menlo Park, and across the Dumbarton Bridge.


39 people like this
Posted by Elephant in the room
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jul 5, 2020 at 2:34 pm

What the housing development advocates never mention is the fact that the OVERWHELMING number of home purchasers are made by Asian investors.
Maybe we can't stop that, but ignoring it and just building more bait for multimillionaire investors is not a solution.

Mr.Steven Levy, what about that?


43 people like this
Posted by Rebecca Eisenberg
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jul 5, 2020 at 2:54 pm

Greg, thank you for the article. That said, this statement is factually incorrect:

"The only way to construct new housing is to subsidize housing costs or to provide incentives to builders (such as allowing them more office space)."

What your argument fails to recognize is that right now, we are providing subsidies to developers to create office space. All we need to do is remove the subsidies we are giving for office space?

What are those subsidies? Palo Alto is the ONLY city that does not have a business tax, and that does not tax our largest employers, developers, and businesses. Palo Alto has the least active enforcement and inspections department (non-existing, actually), so that commercial developers know that not only will they not be taxed on office development in Palo Alto, but also they will not be forced to comply with the restrictions they agree to.

For those reasons, office construction in Palo Alto is wildly more profitable than any other kind of construction!

But the solution is not to couple office construction with residential building. That has been attempted, and that failed. Time after time, we have seen large developers negotiate their way out of their housing requirements. They are allowed to pay "in lieu" fees that end up going to parking garages - directly benefiting them at the expense of residents - rather than to housing, where those fees should go.

The solution is obvious:

1. We must put an immediate and full stop to all office development.

2. We must put in place a business tax on the largest landlords, employers and commercial developers, exempting all small and medium businesses, exempting retail and restaurants, and exempting residential building.

Both are necessary. Every addition of office space moves the jobs-to-employed-residents ratio in the same way it has been going over the past several decades: the wrong direction.

Time for Palo Alto to use the same strategies used by every other city who has beaten this problem - forcing commercial developers and landlords to pay their fair share, and investing in the community.


10 people like this
Posted by Midlander
a resident of Midtown
on Jul 5, 2020 at 3:18 pm

We have a major housing shortage that needs to be addressed as a regional issue. Individual cities seem to quickly fall into Not-In-My-Backyard-ism and while they may happily agree that there is an overall problem, they will always dodge any pain that comes in solving it locally.

If the only way we can make progress is to have our elected representatives create an overriding body to set rules for the cities, then I can definitely live with that.

It's a very competitive world out there. This area is a key technology hub for the US as a whole. I think we need to foster it, in many different ways, and one key issue is looking after the many people who work here but who can't yet find homes. There are always some downsides in living in an area that is thriving, but there are worse ones in living in one that has lost it edge!


16 people like this
Posted by stephen levy
a resident of University South
on Jul 5, 2020 at 3:22 pm

Most of you are arguing about what you think should happen.

My post was to explain what the state legislature did, what HCD did and what ABAG is planning re the RHNA allocation to cities.

I had nothing to do with any of this so the personal comments are irrelevant.

State law is set and Palo Alto will get a large increase in our RHNA allocation along with other Bay Area communities.

Telling the state that they are crazy is basically putting up a large sign saying PLEASE SUE US FIRST.

Local control in this environment means Palo Alto gets to choose how we want to meet the RHNA goals.


7 people like this
Posted by Michael O.
a resident of Stanford
on Jul 5, 2020 at 3:28 pm

Hey Anon,

Your article is irrelevant the this question. And Palo Alto's housing and zoning policies are still racist.

You can get all the likes you want from the folks on this thread who are unaware of their racism. Palo Alto has no minority communities here for a reason, and that reason is racism. "Local character" here is just racism, pure and simple. And, no, increasing housing density here will not decrease housing elsewhere.


5 people like this
Posted by Michael O.
a resident of Stanford
on Jul 5, 2020 at 3:30 pm

Hey Anon,

Your article is irrelevant to this question. And Palo Alto's housing and zoning policies are still racist.

You can get all the likes you want from the folks on this thread who are unaware of their racism. Palo Alto has no minority communities here for a reason, and that reason is racism. "Local character" here is just racism, pure and simple. And, no, increasing housing density here will not decrease housing elsewhere. You may win the political argument but you will not win the moral one.


25 people like this
Posted by NeilsonBuchanan
a resident of Downtown North
on Jul 5, 2020 at 3:33 pm

It is very difficult to think through these housing policies in this early Covid period. It may be more constructive to think about 3-5 year capital flow for housing. How will capital flow to large housing projects with long lead time to market. What HVAC contingencies should be considered? What about foot traffic especially elevators? Consider the risk of consumer preference for WFH amenities, social distancing from household children, etc. These are major design elements unknown to architects and investors. Regional higher paying jobs may hold relatively steady but lower income job flux is more certain.

How about the other end of the housing spectrum? Smaller scale, less risky development is more probable. And this depends on pending legislation to burrow into R1 neighborhoods with a range of highly individualized, smaller investments for ADUs, duplexes, four-plexes, etc.

Regional and state government are rolling the dice. We will know where the dice land within a few months. Follow the capital flow in 2021 and watch City Councils dance a jig.

I see a spoiler factor. If starts for new office development grind to a halt for 2-3 years, will the construction industry with idle production capacity jump for housing at lower production cost than today? Basic supply and demand cannot be ignored.


44 people like this
Posted by Rethink Growth
a resident of Palo Verde
on Jul 5, 2020 at 3:36 pm

My take-away from Stephen Levy's posts is that this state's government is controlled by real estate interests who are guiding state law to enable them to sue us if we don't just shut up and let them roll over our communities. And Mr. Levy makes his living working as a lobbyist for those interests. There's a simple solution to this, a Voter Initiative Constitutional Amendment to ensure local control over land use (zoning). Mr. Levy and his real estate clients are the problem who should be stopped, not We the People.


11 people like this
Posted by mark
a resident of Mountain View
on Jul 5, 2020 at 3:55 pm

We must speak up, and we did - more housing for income levels in all peninsula cities please. Especially Palo Alto.

The author is just spreading his own fantasy world FUD - the neighborhoods that he is gushing over are no longer middle class neighborhoods he pretends them to be - it is mostly multi-milliion dollar houses. And actually they are safe. There is plenty of housing that can be be built on empty parking lots, instead of box-store retail stores, and other industrial areas.


12 people like this
Posted by stephen levy
a resident of University South
on Jul 5, 2020 at 4:05 pm

The increase in the RHNA is a result of legislation designed to increase the amount of housing for low and moderate income residents to reduce overcrowding and cost-burdens. The staff report for the upcoming PTC meeting explains this.

Re Palo Alto, the top two criteria for allocating housing to cities are 1) being a high opportunity area (we are) and having a jobs--housing imbalance (we do). The staff report lays this out clearly.

Any discussion of future office growth will either have zero or a tiny impact on Palo Alto's RHNA in cycle 6 2022-2030.

I understand we are in council campaign mode but that does not excuse not informing oneself about the RHNA process by reading the staff report or watching the ABAG methodology committee hearings or looking at the documents on their website.


55 people like this
Posted by Anonymous
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jul 5, 2020 at 4:14 pm

I agree with Greg Schmid.
I also strenuously oppose these unelected regional bureaucratic quasi-governmental bodies dictating their schemes to local entities. Even if they claim an ostensibly pure intent/goal, often their reasoning and plans are flawed and clearly favoring big developer interests.
There are also almost continuously state bills being brought by SF State Senator Scott Wiener to punish CA single family homeowners and replace reasonable, coherent zoning with his own ideas, which I do NOT find to be reasonable or coherent.
Some of these try to add bureaucracy and dictate housing zoning with complicated schemes. As always in CA, the middle to middle upper class taxpayer gets suckered.
Please get involved, learn the reality of these irrevocably damaging schemes, and follow local, regional and state government AND contact your representatives. Action is needed!
See Livable California, an outstanding organization
Livablecalifornia.org


49 people like this
Posted by Greg Schmid
a resident of Palo Verde
on Jul 5, 2020 at 4:17 pm

Response to Steve Levy,
Steve, Thanks for your detailed discussion of the process of how HCD developed the numbers--you cite valuable input from SCAG and UCLA and discussion with the DOF in looking at the numbers for the whole Bay Area. But you do not mention the problem that has emerged since 2010--the huge and growing imbalances in jobs and housing within the region. According to the Census Bureau, the ratio of new jobs to new employed residents in the six cities of Silicon Valley has averaged 3.3:1 during the years 2010-2018 while in the three cities of Menlo Park, Palo Alto and Mountain View it has been 6:1. The ratio in Oakland, San Jose, the rest of Alameda Councty and Contra Costa county has been 0.3:1 over the same time period. You also fail to note that the same California Government Code used by HCD to justify their regional numbers (65584) states clearly the need to improve jobs-housing imbalances within the region. There have been repeated identifications of this issue over the last year at ABAG meetings and of the consequences of congestion, highest housing prices in the country, growing income inequality, rising infrastructure costs and loss of families that have been ignored. It is time that the "planning process" open up to an open public discussion of failure as the California Code requires.


31 people like this
Posted by Evan
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jul 5, 2020 at 4:30 pm

I agree with Greg. As a born-and-raised Palo Altan who has spent nearly their entire life here, the ABAG housing allocation is INCREDIBLY out of whack with our needs.

The number should be far, far higher. Thank you Greg for highlighting that there is still time to do something about this. I'll be lobbying ABAG to increase our ABAG allocation far higher, so that we can accomodate more people in Palo Alto, and finally make a big dent in this housing crisis. With COVID raging and housing prices falling, we have a real opportunity to make Palo Alto affordable once again, like it was when I was born here.


2 people like this
Posted by stephen levy
a resident of University South
on Jul 5, 2020 at 5:07 pm

Greg,

The RHNA rules adopted by the state do exactly what you ask--aim to improve the challenges facing households by the lack of housing. The ABAG methodology committee directly addresses current jobs--housing imbalances by making redressing them one of their two top criteria.

As far as open process, I have included notes on the future meetings and the staff report identifies the next round of public engagement on Plan Bay Area. You yourself and others from Palo Alto have spoken at these meetings already.

My 3 top recommendations to PTC and council are to invite key representatives on housing law, RHNA and PBA to come to Palo Alto.

While we may disagree on the best course of action, I am just reporting on the results and methodology of state and regional bodies.

They have heard all the arguments you and others have made and do not find them persuasive or in line with the law.

I prefer that Palo Alto exercise local control to make the goals work and not get our Housing Element and project approvals end in denials and/or lawsuits that we will certainly lose.


19 people like this
Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 5, 2020 at 5:10 pm

Posted by Michael O., a resident of Stanford

>> Hey Anon,

>> Your article is irrelevant to this question. And Palo Alto's housing and zoning policies are still racist.

You have asserted it. But, didn't prove it.

>> Palo Alto has no minority communities here for a reason, and that reason is racism.

So, if you actually are at Stanford, then, apparently you haven't been off campus. Unless you don't consider "Asian" to be "minority"?!?!


30 people like this
Posted by Rebecca Eisenberg
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jul 5, 2020 at 5:11 pm

Greg, thanks again for the article.

In addition to the suggestions I made above -- (1) putting a full stop on all office development & (2) creating a business tax so that Palo Alto no longer is a tax haven for commercial developers -- there is a third way to support affordable housing in Palo Alto, potentially the most powerful of all:

We all should support and vote for Prop 15 in November. Prop 15, formerly known as Schools & Communities First, will level the playing field by putting an end to the trillions of dollars of tax exemptions and tax subsidies provided via loopholes to our largest businesses, real estate investors and commercial developers. Prop 15 is expected to generate more than $12 billion a year to support local communities.

Learn about Prop 15 here: Web Link

I strongly support and endorse Prop 15, and encourage you all to join me!


46 people like this
Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 5, 2020 at 5:16 pm

Posted by stephen levy, a resident of University South

>> The RHNA rules adopted by the state

>> The ABAG methodology committee directly addresses current jobs--housing imbalances by making redressing them one of their two top criteria.

>> My 3 top recommendations to PTC and council are to invite key representatives on housing law, RHNA and PBA to come to Palo Alto.

>> They have heard all the arguments you and others have made and do not find them persuasive or in line with the law.

I appreciate your educating us regarding the regulations, laws, and findings, and so on. What I don't appreciate is your circular reasoning which rationalizes further building of office space, and, densification of existing office space, creating massive commute traffic into Palo Alto, over the objections of residents. In a previous posting, you stated that XYZ corp had a legal right to develop N square feet of office space, and was doing us a favor by building some housing with it to offset it.

We don't want or need the office space. Please stop justifying it.


18 people like this
Posted by Barron Park
a resident of Barron Park
on Jul 5, 2020 at 5:46 pm

Good. The state should come in since all the municipalities are acting like spoiled babies. If we leave it up to cities, housing will NEVER be built. NIMBYs like the author will always whinge and moan about how it’s destroying the city’s character while trying to put the onus to build on other cities. It’s high time the state comes in and gives cities a spanking.


20 people like this
Posted by Chris
a resident of University South
on Jul 5, 2020 at 5:52 pm

With office construction finally stopped in its tracks, this is THE time to build housing.

Mountain View shows it can be done. Palo Alto no longer has any excuses.

Greg Schmid will not get away with this anti-housing campaign. The sooner the people of Palo Alto realize the inevitable, the better the solution can be.

Usually Palo Altans argue about ridiculous things so long that the result is a sub-optimal solution. This is a time for vision, not sticking your head in the sand.


22 people like this
Posted by Gnar
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Jul 5, 2020 at 7:19 pm

Well, the City Council keeps approving more hotels because they're addicted to that sweet, sweet hotel tax to get their exploding $800m+ pension fix. Maybe a housing quota would finally force them to do the right thing for once, and stop wasting land on hotels.

The Su Hong site is a housing inventory site, for example, but they're going to let it be developed into a nice, COVID-friendly luxury 5-story borg cube.


31 people like this
Posted by Mark Weiss
a resident of Downtown North
on Jul 5, 2020 at 7:38 pm

I agree with Dr. Schmid (father of my schoolmate) line for line.
He is too modest to admit that he has a b.a. from Yale and a PhD in history and economics from Columbia.
Thank you for your service, sir.
Wear a mask!
Take care!


35 people like this
Posted by Another Givewaway
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 5, 2020 at 8:14 pm

This issue is much bigger than Palo Alto.

Most of the elected officials throughout the state of California owe their election victories to the generous campaign contributions they received from the real-estate industry.

The real-estate industry's election year generosity needs to be repaid whether the residents of Palo Alto like it, or not.


23 people like this
Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 5, 2020 at 9:11 pm

Posted by Barron Park, a resident of Barron Park

>> Good. The state should come in since all the municipalities are acting like spoiled babies. If we leave it up to cities, housing will NEVER be built.

I call boll spit. They had thirty years to build housing on the Fry's site and never even tried. There have been so many smaller sites that could have been housing and weren't. "They" don't want to build housing. Developers want to build offices, and city government wants stuff that generates (sales, hotel, etc.) tax revenue. So, they "compromise", and, we residents suffer, and get blamed for caring about quality of life.


14 people like this
Posted by Anonymous
a resident of Barron Park
on Jul 5, 2020 at 9:44 pm

More hypocrisy from the city, or we haven't learned that dense population centers mean more transmission of disease. Apparently Covid doesn't apply when leftist principles are in play, whether protests or housing mandates.


30 people like this
Posted by Rethink Growth
a resident of Palo Verde
on Jul 5, 2020 at 11:03 pm

@Anonymous, The City isn't the culprit here except to the extent they go along with this without a fight. Read Greg's Op-Ed - the culprits are the unelected ABAG and HTC bodies, and the real estate industry who owns them and most of the politicians in Sacramento.


35 people like this
Posted by Gail
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jul 5, 2020 at 11:58 pm

It seems to me that we should slow down and see how this virus plays out.
Companies are asking their employees who would like an office and who would like to work from home. My company has 68 employees and only 13 people want to retain their office. It seems to me there might be a rush to the suburbs and there won't be a housing shortage if people can live away from their offices and work from home. More people are leaving California than coming into California. The times they are a changin.


13 people like this
Posted by Chris
a resident of University South
on Jul 6, 2020 at 6:47 am

There are many very dense cities that have controlled COVID (see Taipei, Hong Kong, Tokyo, Shanghai, Beijing) Density is not the problem. Stupid behavior is.

Palo Alto Online should flag the posts that try to spread the misinformation that more density in Palo Alto would worsen pandemics.


14 people like this
Posted by DTNResident
a resident of Downtown North
on Jul 6, 2020 at 8:05 am

This story reminds me of a jury a friend of mine sat on years ago. The judge explained that it was a capital murder case, two kids had killed their parents, and the trial was expected to last 8 months. The judge asked everyone for whom that would be a burden to raise their hands.

Everyone raised their hands. The judge said "Good, now that we've gotten that out of the way, I don't want to hear you even discuss the burden this will be on you, because it is a burden on everyone. I won't listen to those types of excuses. Don't make them."

Every city in the bay area is fully built up. Do you think we're the only city with these issues? They all have them. Every single city targeted for these programs has every one of your issues and listening to them recited by each city will just get us ignored. The ship has sailed on this issue, and like it or not, a certain number of housing units are coming. Either you plan for them or they'll be imposed on you.

And it's not going to stop here. I suggest we develop a long range plan for continuing this. The Alma street corridor nearest the train stations will need to be built up. I'd suggest 20 stories, because that will leave land for the next building to be built up 18 stories, so that the 100's blocks of these streets step down to the neighborhoods by the time they reach the 200 blocks. Do not think you can get away with building 4 stories in every available parcel to just barely meet the goals this one time. It will take too much land and then the next time, they'll build 4 stories next to your home because you refused to let them build 20 stories next to Alma street.

Stop assuming we're such special snowflakes that we're somehow going to fight this and instead, manage it for the long term and it will have the least impact on you overall. This opinion piece takes the opposite approach and it A) isn't going to work and B) will leave you less well off in the long run. Build UP. If anything, it will block the train noise.


36 people like this
Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 6, 2020 at 9:14 am

Posted by DTNResident, a resident of Downtown North

>> Every city in the bay area is fully built up.

Hardly. The non-Foothills non-Bay part of Palo Alto population density is about 4,000/sq mi. 2,712.65/sq mi including parks. The Bay Area as a whole (all nine counties) averages 1,000 or so, including all open space and parkland. Atherton? 1,422.85/sq mi. Woodside? 476.02/sq mi Portola Valley? 502.97/sq mi LAH? 932.88/sq mi Saratoga? 2,359.39/sq mi Hillsborough? 1,847.04/sq mi

Not that I think it matters particularly. Just pointing out that there is plenty of room in Atherton to build high-rises if the good people of Atherton so desire. In fact, there are a bunch of places that should be a much higher priority than Palo Alto if all you want is higher density residential.

Palo Alto's "problem" is not residential density. Palo Alto's problem is excess office space. We need to stop building new office space and start converting office space to housing.

"No new office space"
"Housing-only projects"


34 people like this
Posted by Citizen PA
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 6, 2020 at 9:48 am

Even with so many people working from home, traffic is picking up at rush hour on El Camino. Prepandemic, it was worse than rush hour all day and into the evening. That is the reason we have to put an end to the black hole effect attraction of jobs to the area.

We do not need to gobble up every tech job in the world. This is a vast nation with many places that have affordable housing and could sustain and want growth.

For lack of policies that encourage a better distribution of jobs nationally, everyone goes to the existing job centers. And then try to force towns to Manhattanize, as has been done to SF, with all the attendant ills.

A poster above wrote: “There is no economic model in which increasing housing increases its cost.” Sure there is. Not just models but actual experience. Anywhere there is a kind of black hole job effect, especially with tech, building more brings in more highly paid workers and that ratchets up costs and creates yet more demand.

Hong Kong is the prime example. I have relatives there and Have watched over the years as they have made the same arguments about housing and transportation and people living near their jobs. And no matter how densely they build, it does not make housing affordable. They have gotten to building human misery hutches where families can’t even live together and you can’t even stand up, and still they aren’t affordable. They have the best transit in the world, used by like 90%, yet people do not live near their jobs and average commute times are as long as Los Angeles. And by the way, when you density, people stop walking because it sucks.

The point is, the Bay Area is a teeny tiny fraction of our vast nation. You can drive from here to Salt Lake and there are stretches of a day where you can barely find a bathroom and place to eat. We are not a small island unto itself like Hong Kong was when it became blade runner city.

SF is another example. Tons of building did not increase affordability. COVID, and sudden moving out by tech workers who realized they could have a higher quality of life elsewhere did lower prices suddenly (though given past experience with recessions in the Bay Area, they are unlikely to become affordable on an absolute scale).

If you have a handful of job centers and 300 million people, you cannot build to affordability because the demand side. Patrols the equation. The ONLY way to improve the affordability of housing is to increase the number of job centers. And for tech whales to start distributing their workforces accordingly.

That is really what we have here, community vitality versus tech whale and developer steamrollers. This is not a Harry Potter book where you can just create infrastructure by magic. The argument that you could create a canyon of building along El Camino is bankrupt because it’s carrying capacity is not infinite and prepandemic it was pretty maxed out. Again, even on Hong Kong island, they found you cannot expect people to start working next door to where they live or build your way to affordability in a highly desirable job center. To suggest you can is wrong and manipulative, for the sake of developer profits.

To those who suggest people are just motivated by zoning to increase their real estate value — my suggesting the tech whales stop treating the area like a clown car for growth would reduce the people willing to pay top dollar for a home. For people on the bottom who pay so much to put a roof over their heads and have to keep refinancing to get by, a home is the only way to be stable but is not nearly the best investment for the input. People want the community to be safe and liveable. Encouraging to tech whales yo be reasonable about steamrolling Silicon Valley actually works against top dollar for residences.

As for racist land use, the proof is in what happens. The reality of these last ten-fifteen years is that people of color and/or low-income long term residents who have weathered previous booms and were living here despite high costs, have been getting wholesale displaced because of the fact of a flood of highly paid workers coming in because of the tech economy.

MIT economist David Autor has been brought up before. He looked at opportunity in cities with these new highly dense tech driven economies and found that unlike cities in the past, they are not good opportunities for low and middle skill workers.

Stanford would like to expand, and frankly, they were here first and are less portable than the tech whales. Our efforts should be to prevent the stream roller and restore some diversity to civic life here. I have nothing against tech companies only against their mindless abuse of the area for their selfish whims that can change pretty rapidly.


24 people like this
Posted by Citizen PA
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 6, 2020 at 9:55 am

(Correcting autocorrect below in my post above, important point):

If you have a handful of job centers and 300 million people, you cannot build to affordability because the demand side CONTROLS the equation. The ONLY way to improve the affordability of housing is to increase the number of job centers. And for tech whales to start distributing their workforces accordingly.


24 people like this
Posted by resident
a resident of Stanford
on Jul 6, 2020 at 10:57 am

The Covid19 pandemic has caused high-tech companies to reevaluate their past assumption that employees need drive into their offices to work. As an example, Facebook announced that in less than 5 years more than 1/2 of their employees will work from home permanently. Other tech companies are discovering that their employees can be just as productive working remotely and may be adjusting their plans as well. If this is true, then the need for both housing and commercial real estate will decrease, as well as traffic and pollution. City planners will need to rethink their development plans and policies.


6 people like this
Posted by long view
a resident of South of Midtown
on Jul 6, 2020 at 11:24 am

Citizen PA gives examples where housing was added yet housing prices grew. How much higher more would housing cost if none had been added.

Re Atherton - I suspect there jobs housing ratio is low!

I agree strongly with the commenter who says drive down El Camino and see all the 1 story sites that could support many housing units, and would be located on the 22 bus line, which also connects with Caltrain.

The author's title implies the non elected agencies have powers they do not. The ABAG recommendations tell cities what to zone for. Nothing must be built. No housing is torn down and replaced before the owner is ready to sell. What the non elected bodies recommend does not translate into any instant change. Elected state legislators also can change requirements - such as requiring all cities to allow meaningful ADU development. And again, the actual building of ADU's lags. I suspect that all the successful residents of Palo Alto, Nimby or Yimby, are environmentalists and concerned about climate change. Our region and our city must build more housing to reduce long distance commutes, and the associated emissions. Palo Alto will still be a lovely place to take a walk.


45 people like this
Posted by Stu Berman
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jul 6, 2020 at 11:24 am

I agree with Greg Schmid. Had I wanted to live in a high rise building I could have moved to New York City. But that is what is in store for us if we cave in to these outside forces. Hi tech jobs are already moving to less congested areas. This process should be facilitated.


23 people like this
Posted by What Will They Do Next
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jul 6, 2020 at 11:48 am

@ Michael O .... with all due respect, you are delusional to think that Palo Alto has racist policies built in to housing accessibility. Clearly, you are trying to are trying to stir up a pot of rhetoric that you alone espouse.


7 people like this
Posted by Michael O.
a resident of Stanford
on Jul 6, 2020 at 2:36 pm

To What Will They Do Next: I'm not trying to stir things up other than to point out that systemic racism is perpetuated mainly by people who think that they are not racist, and that the arguments for keeping "local character" by preventing "non-elected regional bodies" are exactly what is systemic racism. I am certainly not delusional. You may not agree, and that's fine, but it doesn't mean that it's not true. Local zoning policies to keep local character is one of the many of the fundamental aspects of institutionalized racism. The argument espoused by one of the commenters above that the housing is bought by "Asian investors" is baldly racist, but that is not my point. Policies such as the ones this editorial writer is against -- and that there should be local control by local voters -- is, in fact (however unintentionally) racist. And yes, saying what I wrote will stir people up, but I did not write it to to do so, but to enlighten people to the ultimate results of their policies. So, time for some changes.


21 people like this
Posted by Citizen PA
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 6, 2020 at 2:38 pm

"How much higher more would housing cost if none had been added."

Since our housing prices have gone up and down with the local economy, that would have depending on large tech companies taking the pressure off the demand side. It's all controlled by the demand side, which is essentially infinitely expandable and flexible compared to the supply side.

"drive down El Camino and see all the 1 story sites that could support many housing units, and would be located on the 22 bus line, which also connects with Caltrain. "
El Camino is pretty maxed out with traffic already, and since cities have been making builders build right up to the side walk, it's not possible to make more capacity. This is not solvable with more improbable dreaming about transit magically fixing everything, if you look at articles about transit in 2019, there were declines in many major transit operations in the Bay Area before the pandemic, despite a booming economy.

Transit will be problematic for the foreseeable future because of the pandemic, and there's one really big problem in the Bay Area in particular, and that's time/productivity. Transit is time consuming. Remember how like 90% of people in Hong Kong use transit but their commute times rival those of Los Angeles? The other 10% are the richest people with cars. In the Bay Area, you have many highly-paid workers who think their time is too valuable to spend it in transit. That's the nature of the economy. You're not going to solve anything by putting more high-cost units on El Camino, it's just going to make transit even harder for those who HAVE to take it by clogging El Camino.

The problem here is the demand side. Tech whales without any sense of civic responsibility bringing in more workers than the region can reasonably absorb given the constraints of the infrastructure and the fact the the people living here are not widgets, enabled by developers who want to cash in who make great-sounding but utterly false arguments for why cities should let themselves be steamrolled (including at the expense of actually low-income people and people of color).

Building more housing here does not decrease long-distance commutes because it is not going to do anything but jack up costs and displace regular people. Again, the idea that people can live nearer their jobs is just a fantasy, as places like Hong Kong show.

The congestion and overbuilding have plenty of NEGATIVE environmental consequences, too. Over and over again, we get false arguments that sound good, such as, oh, rideshare will solve everything (then no surprise! we find that ride"share" has INCREASED downtown traffic in SF and is contributed to MORE pollution, traffic, congestion, and other urban ills).

There's a story in a book by Josh Waitzkin (The Art of Learning), in which he recounts witnessing a woman waiting for a light to turn. As soon as she steps off the curb, a bike turns the corner and nearly hits her. She could have, at that moment, stepped back on the curb to take stock. But instead, she waved her fist at the bike and yelled at the rider, and a cab rounded the corner and hit her.

The first weeks of this pandemic were the bike hitting our collective direction. We should not just dig in and wave our fists and wishing you could infinitely expand housing on a dime for the whims of tech companies without regard to anything else, like cost, displacement of minorities and low-income people, congestion, pollution and waste caused by unnecessary construction, growth of urban heat sinks, loss of holistic civic life, vulnerability to the next disaster because of the density (there is ZERO guarantee that the next pandemic won't transmit another way -- density is a risk, and it's an unnecessary one here in the USA), problems caused to existing transit, etc etc etc.

We must metaphorically step back and assess the situation. And not step into danger the next time just because a few selfish parties make aggressive but false justifications, if we just opened our eyes to what is coming down the pike.








30 people like this
Posted by Citizen PA
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 6, 2020 at 2:47 pm

Anyone who knows Greg Schmid knows what a thoughtful, kind, uber-intelligent, and caring person he is. Given the lying narratives fomented by development interests to enable steamrolling of our local town (and frankly, get housing advocates to give up forever on being environmentalists in actuality), writing this took a lot of courage.

The pandemic is an opportunity to stop this false narrative and take a different direction. Tech companies are already doing this, led by their workers who want to actually live somewhere decent. They could help by supporting the kind of quality of life assets in places their workers might wish for in places they will probably migrate to.


10 people like this
Posted by What Will They Do Next
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jul 6, 2020 at 3:27 pm

@ Michael O .... systemic racism does not exist in the U.S.A. Does racism exist ? It sure does but isn't exclusive to whites only or the U.S.A. There are black, brown and Asian racists all over the world. Racism is color blind.

Most voters I know want a say so in how their communities are shaped with regard to altering zoning laws to accommodate pro growth progressives at the cost of fundamentally changing the quality of life in neighborhoods that weren't designed for urban lifestyles and overcrowding.

Put it to a vote. Let the tax paying citizens decide their own fate, not a bunch of elite zealots who think they are qualified to decide what's best for all. Wanna bet what the outcome would be? And BTW, it has absolutely nothing to do with race, try as you may to paint it that way.


14 people like this
Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 6, 2020 at 3:34 pm

Posted by Michael O., a resident of Stanford

>> the arguments for keeping "local character" by preventing "non-elected regional bodies" are exactly what is systemic racism.

You keep saying it. But, you haven't proved it. If you have stepped off campus, you might have noticed that the composition by "race" of the local population is largely "white" and "asian". "Asians" are considered by many people to be "people of color". You might have noticed that African Americans are about 2% of SCC, and, about 2% of Palo Alto. You also might have noticed that Latinx are under-represented in Palo Alto compared to the rest of SCC. Now, build 10,000 high-end condos, the only thing that builders say "pencils out". How many Latinx do you think will purchase those high-end condos? The only thing 10,000 high-end condos would do would be to "enable" the tech whales to put off their day of reckoning a year or two. But, it is a *fact* that we are already in the hyper-gentrification spiral all up and down the Peninsula.

>> I am certainly not delusional.

If you think that building lots of high-end condos will improve any social equity metrics, then, you are delusional.

>> So, time for some changes.

Good changes or bad changes? Seriously.

It *is* time for a change. I know people who live east of 680 and even east of Altamont. They already live there, and, like it there. Let them work from there. The big tech companies need to let go of their emotional need to have all their minions visible to them, and, start making their workers more productive by curtailing long-distance commuting.


34 people like this
Posted by Racism? Classism? Fostering inequality?
a resident of Green Acres
on Jul 6, 2020 at 3:48 pm

Isn't it racist, if we are going to throw that term around, or at least exacerbating inequality to put so many jobs in such a wealthy area? It is almost the definition of exclusionary. Why not ban office space here and insist it be moved to places with more affordable housing? Everyone should have the quality of life that comes from living near work. It is much easier to move jobs out of here at scale than to build affordable housing here at scale. And with telecommuting growing, the momentum is certainly in favor of the latter. This seems like common sense to me.


23 people like this
Posted by JR
a resident of Palo Verde
on Jul 6, 2020 at 4:35 pm

IF you accept that “housing to jobs ratio” is a legitimate metric (I do not, it’s a made-up farce designed to enrich developers) then you must admit that it needs to be re-evaluated due to Covid. All those empty offices, and those that do go to office are more spread out. It looks like our “housing to jobs ratio” is just fine now.


42 people like this
Posted by Steve Dabrowski
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jul 6, 2020 at 5:01 pm

Only one comment here made sense to me-get a Constitutional Initiative in place to ensure local control over zoning decisions. Am I a NIMBY? You bet, I paid a lot for my back yard and I want to be able to have a big say as to who and what is in it.


2 people like this
Posted by BruceS
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Jul 6, 2020 at 8:24 pm

Wow, lots of comments! Not sure mine will make any difference, but in any case ...

First off Schmid's idea to distribute jobs and housing thruout the Bay Area is positively scary! We already sort of have that with 'Silicon Valley' now extending from SF to San Jose, and distributed in large chunks all along 101. And the result has been a traffic nightmare, with people commuting from SF to SJ and everywhere in between.

Realistically, in terms of commute, and probably housing also, the realistic best answer would be a stronger Bay Area government that could overrule individual cities, concentrate offices in mostly a few dense areas with proper mass transit in between and housing concentrated along mass transit and spread out from there (like NYC or most other 'workable' large metropolitan areas). Alas, it's probably too late for that now, and it probably won't happen anyway. Given that, ABAG is probably the best we're going to get. It's not much, it's apparently not even terribly fair or good, but at least it's something.


26 people like this
Posted by Goomby
a resident of Barron Park
on Jul 6, 2020 at 11:46 pm

First of all the redistribution of jobs is already happened with one company after another electing to make work from home (WFH) permanent for many, if not all, of their employees. And there are cities in the East Bay that would love to have more jobs and they have plenty of land for more housing. Their jobs/housing ratio is 0.3 compared to Palo Alto which is 6. Zuckerberg talked about rebuilding the train track along the Dunbarton bridge to bring his employees from their homes in Fremont to Menlo Park. It would be a lot cheaper and far less disruptive to run a fiber optic cable and have a high speed connection to branch offices in Fremont. As the old saying goes, "if the mountain won't come to Muhammad, Muhammad has to go to the mountain."
@Steve D We have to stop the UNELECTED organizations like MTC and ABAG from taking over control of our cities. They will set unattainable RHNA numbers and when we can't meet their demands, it will trigger SB35 and give developers whatever they want. Look at what happened to Vallco. We have to remind our city officials that they work for the residents (voters), not for the developers.
You said proudly that you are a NIMBY. I am not a NIMBY. I am a GOOMBY (Get Out Of My Backyard)! Web Link


6 people like this
Posted by Liz
a resident of Mayfield
on Jul 7, 2020 at 1:22 am

To Michael O. Racism was erected when the first affordable housing was whisked away . I totally agree with you about the wolf in sheep’s clothing around these parts. The Lawrence Tract was over there between Ohlone School garden and Friends House. My kids grandmother was a huge reason it got built at all. Was named after a Stanford professor. Lawrence was the first African American teacher at Stanford. The housing was made available to former Japanes WWII camp interned refugees and African American Famlies displaced by Job layoffs after WWll. There is a street there now called Lawrence Ct. Some consolation, eh? with Eichlers look alike housing multi million dollars “homes”. No one on this paper seems to want research this unusual integrated history in this extremely white washed town. And too, what did ever happen to that early low-income housing stock? What are your thoughts on all the BLM front yard signs popping up in this Uber white village.It seems a superficial way to participate and perpetuate the redlining racism. Build housing to meet the need. Lower the overbloated housing costs by 40% and what will occur? Massive land sale. And White Flight.


3 people like this
Posted by DTNResident
a resident of Downtown North
on Jul 7, 2020 at 7:29 am

"You bet, I paid a lot for my back yard and I want to be able to have a big say as to who and what is in it. "

Yes, but what you didn't pay was salaries for city services. You split the compensation for city workers into two components: a salary and a pension so that you only had to pay for the salary part, and now the pensions are coming due and there's no way to pay for them.

It's the same for the state and every local government. The ONLY way to pay is via property taxes. In every other state, you property taxes would be increasing by 10% each year to pay for your intentional putting off of paying for city services while generously paying city workers that made you feel so virtuous, and your property taxes are capped. Here, the only solution is to build up.

The state legislature came up with a novel way to pay for your unpaid largesse: appoint boards to deflect their responsibility for building high rises in your back yard to increase property tax revenues. Do you think these unelected boards appointed themselves? No, the politicians YOU elected have decided to offload the responsibility so that they don't have to take the heat for this.

It's too late, the ship sailed in 1979. Increased density is the only way out and so it is going to be foisted upon you. Either you plan for lots of it to keep coming and coming or you're going to be much worse off than you would be if you don't plan for it.


19 people like this
Posted by Accountability
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jul 7, 2020 at 9:07 am

" a salary and a pension...t you only had to pay for the salary part...and now the pensions are coming due and there's no way to pay for them...The ONLY way to pay is via property taxes...your property taxes are capped. Here, the only solution is to build up."

Let's say your premises and assumptions and conclusions are indeed accurate and correct and indisputable.

Here's what you have done: you have made a case for why City staff and City governments are indeed hand in glove with developers and why they work together against the interests of homeowners and residents. To put it simply, homeowners buy homes and want to live in them and raise their families there owing to neighborhood character, quality of life, etc. However City staff and City governments are motivated not to preserve neighborhood character and quality of living. Their motivations are to fund their pensions which can only be done by changing the property tax base of properties...and ergo, development. This alone explains why City agents and agencies, whether Palo Alto or Los Altos or Menlo or Mountain View, act against the interests of the residents...and why City Councils, purportedly representing the interests of the residents, act in concert with City staff and developers against the residents' interests.

This in short also explains the Hotel President saga, among other things.

The actions of developers can be described simply as GREED.
The actions of City staff and City Council can be described simply as: CONFLICT OF INTEREST, BREACH OF DUTIES. They get away with it because they have qualified immunity protections and nobody is going to call them out on their conflicts of interest and breaches of duties...unless come November and ballot time.


24 people like this
Posted by Ky
a resident of Midtown
on Jul 7, 2020 at 9:40 am

Constitutional initiative is the only reasonable way for the Citizens to decide on zoning for their homes, neighborhoods, towns and cities. We are a democracy of, for , and by the people. I never gave away my rights to unelected quasi governmental bodies. Citizens should make decisions if elected politicians are incapable of doing their jobs——necessary dialog/consensus building , town halls, grass root committees, etc. Where is our City Council and state legislators............ MISSING !


10 people like this
Posted by Resident 1-Adobe Meadows
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Jul 7, 2020 at 10:04 am

I am not a fan of ABAG. Back when it was throwing it's weight around the head of the agency used some of the funding to buy personal properties. When he was found out ABAG hid for a while. No - we don't forget. At that time another article in the paper indicated that members of ABAG were retiring in the northern CA cities in which ABAG did not have any authority. So they were able to retire in a large, pristine piece of land. My opinion is that any agency that receives tax payer money and has leverage within cities has an element of political insolvency regarding how and why decisions are made.


6 people like this
Posted by Gunn Graduate
a resident of another community
on Jul 7, 2020 at 10:27 am

I think Palo Alto should follow the ABAG guidelines.

The Bay Area as a whole needs to be radically reshaped if people expect to achieve some kind of jobs-housing balance, and there's no way individual communities are going to proactively pursue that goal if left to their own devices.


12 people like this
Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 7, 2020 at 10:48 am

>> I am not a fan of ABAG. Back when it was throwing it's weight around the head of the agency used some of the funding to buy personal properties.

I assume you were talking about this: Web Link

They caught up with him. Clarke Howatt, ABAG public finance director, embezzled almost $4M. I gather the luxury house in Pacific City (Tillamook County) Oregon, was "only" $1.5M.


21 people like this
Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jul 7, 2020 at 12:09 pm

Why should Palo Alto follow ABAG guidelines? They've got a shady track record not limited to its finance director's criminal conduct but also including repeated lawsuits for its failure to deliver on its promises to provide promised services and equipment for which the funding was authorized.

Whenever Palo ALto's participation with ABAG was questioned, the only defense for abiding by its "guidelines" was, "Oh, they might sue us. Can't have that."

Well, let them sue. Let us be a test case. We're the residents and taxpayers. We didn't elect them. Write to the PTC and City Council and tell them that, tell them not to make another unnecessary rushed decision without hearing from the community first!


14 people like this
Posted by Be accurate
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Jul 7, 2020 at 12:28 pm

ATTEND the City Council meeting on RHND tomorrow via Zoom!
Received this in an e-mail from PASZ:

RHND (Regional Housing Needs Determination) numbers to be discussed at the meeting of the Palo Alto Planning and Transportation Commission on
Wednesday, July 8th, at 6PM

Attend and participate, via Zoom, in an important City Planning discussion on huge increases in RHND numbers for our City. This will severely impact our neighborhoods and increase traffic and congestion in the City. We need to ask city planning officials to:
1) request that the City Council order the City Attorney to make a formal request to "extend the discussion deadline of the appeal of the final regional housing need determination (RHND) that expires on July 10. The process to date has not followed the California Code that mandates an open discussion on the variety of ways to deal with local jobs-housing imbalances. ABAG and HCD have not done this and their unattainable high regional housing numbers and their methodology for distribution that have resulted from their truncated process are not legally valid."
The deadline for this appeal is July 10th.
2) request that the public/community have a role to play and comment on in regards to these RHND numbers and what they truly mean for our future. Residents need to be properly informed and involved in this decision making process.
You don't need to speak very long at Wednesday's Planning meeting -- just voice your view. Here is the meeting link::
Web Link
Information fro joining the Zoom meeting can be found in the agenda:
Web Link
If you can participate, please email Terry Holzemer ([email protected]),
so we know you will be there to speak

If you cannot participate in the Zoom meeting
write to the Palo Alto Planning & Transportation Commission
[email protected]
and to the Palo Alto City Council supporting this request. ([email protected])


19 people like this
Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 7, 2020 at 12:31 pm

Posted by Online Name, a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland

>> Well, let them sue. Let us be a test case. We're the residents and taxpayers.

I'm not criticizing what you are saying exactly, but, you seem to be assuming that PACC and the City planners don't *want* to continue building office space here. But, the evidence is clear that too many do. We need a clear "no more office space" majority on PACC and a thorough housecleaning at 250 Hamilton or every time we all push back somewhere the jello will pop up somewhere else. The fact is, our quality of life just doesn't matter.


20 people like this
Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jul 7, 2020 at 12:38 pm

Anon, sorry if I was unclear. I think it's only too clear that that the current majority of the PACC and the City planners want more office space. They ignore the congestion and the falling city satisfaction rating due to the congestion and placate with fairy tales about "car light" development that fly in the face of reality and insult our intelligence.

Absolutely we need a clear "no more office space" majority on the PACC and we need clear answers from all candidates. And I totally agree we need to clean house at City Hall.


10 people like this
Posted by Resident 1-Adobe Meadows
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Jul 7, 2020 at 12:42 pm

So someone from Gunn is talking about the jobs / housing imbalance. The majority of the big companies are buying in San Jose and now traveling south from there. And our city is chasing out one company because they don' t like it's politics. We create our own imbalance - and that imbalance is now shifting southward and moving in to the central valley. Many businesses now have satellite facilities in the Rancho Cordova area because they do not want their computer systems in an earthquake zone.
JP Morgan / Chase Bank, AT&T, Allstate and other companies are using a facility in Carol Stream, IL. I am tracking where I send checks for the monthly, required payments. We are not where the jobs are. You all need to figure out where your expertise is and head in that direction. You will find cheaper housing and live in proximity to where your family lives and goes to school. And if our local big boys think we are going to mess up our cities to make mouse size living areas for H1B employees then they are wrong. The city of SF is also losing people - they are heading for the hills - north and east. You no longer have a compelling reason to tear up our cities.


6 people like this
Posted by Chris
a resident of University South
on Jul 7, 2020 at 12:47 pm

The people who are railing against office space are fighting the last war as usual.

There will be no demand to build office space for years. If you want to be forward looking, push for building housing where office is zoned. Push for positive change rather than being ANTI everything. This is the perfect time to go forward with housing.


4 people like this
Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 7, 2020 at 1:40 pm

Posted by Chris, a resident of University South

>> The people who are railing against office space are fighting the last war as usual.

It isn't the last war until we have won it. You've just declared victory after the battles of the Coral Sea and Midway. No, I take it back. Just after MacArthur's "I shall return" speech.


32 people like this
Posted by Becky Sanders
a resident of Ventura
on Jul 8, 2020 at 9:41 am

Hello Everyone: Here is a letter I sent to our Planning & Transportation Commission this morning. They review Plan Bay Area tonight at 7:15. Web Link

Dear Commissioners:

On page 85 of "Plan Bay Area 2050 Blueprint: Housing & Economy," Palo Alto is listed as one of the cities that has capped its commercial growth and is “praised” for that. Other cities are encouraged to do the same:

“Strategy: Expand existing office development cap policies and strategies in San Francisco, Cupertino and Palo Alto to a set of nine additional cities to limit further job growth in cities with the highest jobs-to-housing ratios.”

(Source: Web Link p. 85)

However, the blueprint adds even more jobs to Palo Alto. It’s as if they are ignoring Palo Alto’s existing crippling jobs/housing imbalance. According to Census Bureau Data*, six cities of Silicon Valley have been adding new jobs to new employed residents at a ratio of 3.3 to 1 over the period 2010-2018. But the three cities of Mountain View/Palo Alto/Menlo Park have been adding new jobs to new employed residents at a ratio of 6.1:1 over the same period! At the same time San Jose had a ratio of 0.4:1; Oakland 0.2:1; Contra Costa County 0.4:1; and the rest of Alameda County 0.3:1). Sounds like those areas could really use more employers. Shouldn’t those locations be the focus areas of new employment growth, not Palo Alto and its neighbors?

Despite its own policies to address local imbalances, Plan Bay Area states "it is not recommended to move forward to place office caps in job-rich cities" (Blueprint, p. 27).

Frankly this is very confusing, and I don’t understand this irrational approach to solving our jobs-housing imbalance by adding more offices. Please take a stand against more office growth.

Additionally, I take issue with the large number of housing units we are being asked to add: 5800 minimum. Palo Alto currently has 27,753 units of housing.
(Web Link,)

We’re being told to grow by 20% (5,800 divided by 27,753). Our population is 65,364.
(Web Link)

So, if 27,753 units house 65,364 people, that means we are housing 2.35 people per unit. If we do as Plan Bay Area suggests, we will reach a population of 78,849.55 people [(27,753+5800) x 2.35]. That’s 13,000 more people driving around here and stressing the already strained infrastructure, not to mention lots of new employees going and coming from the jobs we have to add. We can’t legislate that people will work where they live. When we have so many cities cheek by jowl in the 9 counties, it’s just not feasible to expect that adding more jobs and housing will alleviate traffic or commute times.

They update Plan Bay Area every 4 years, right? Have you noticed the allocations go up significantly with each update?

Another item: Plan Bay Area also has a slide about FUNDING AFFORDABLE HOUSING (Blueprint, p. 20). I’ll be very interested to see just how they do that, and just how we do that. We met our RHNA assignments last time for housing for people who can afford market rate and above right? But not for anyone who’s not rich, right? So how are we going to get this housing (that we really need built) built? By FUNDING AFFORDABLE HOUSING ourselves! And not waiting for Big Builders to help us out and agreed to build all housing. Ain’t gonna happen unless we figure out how to get into the affordable housing business ourselves. ABAG offers no help whatsoever except lofty platitudes.

And finally, ABAG/MTC behave as if they are some kind of force of nature by going full King George with this taxation without representation stuff. They sought public input, showed up at some farmer’s markets, but their findings, made behind closed doors, did not admit any meaningful participation by local governments. Now we have this comment period. I hope you will steer Palo Alto toward advocating for reasonable population growth, and no commercial growth, and building affordable housing, which is what we really need.

Thank you.

Becky Sanders
Ventura Neighborhood

*Unfortunately, these numbers have to be pulled from different tables in different years in the Census Bureau's ACS Factfinder Advanced Search. There is no direct link to the numbers. Basically, you have to go to each year and find the number of employed adults living in the city, then go to another table and find the number of jobs in that city. Repeat for every data point you want to obtain. Palo Alto has been one of the cities chosen for yearly monitoring by the Census Bureau, which is why we have data available for these years.



24 people like this
Posted by Be accurate
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Jul 8, 2020 at 11:42 am

Becky:
Thank you for the work you have done.

Developers, their lawyers/lobbyists, and certain city council members are euphoric and in a rush. They got their dream RHNA numbers and authority to impose penalties and are rushing through 9 bills authored by Sen Wiener, Atkins, Bloom, Skinner, Chiu, Ting: Web Link
Those are SB50 (killed earlier this year) on steroids. They are in a rush because the pandemic and the starting exodus of companies/workers from Bay Area and CA.
Those bills blow up the concept of single-family home owning and impose density like no one can imagine. Building eightplexes on a single home lot is just one example. Take a look, they are not even pretending to prioritize affordable housing, whatever that means.
Once passed, pandemic or not, more jobs, or less - it will be too late. Developers will have full control up to overriding the local zoning.
Steve D, Goomby, Ky above - you are correct.


5 people like this
Posted by Be accurate
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Jul 8, 2020 at 1:07 pm

Re-posting the invitation to the Zoom Planning and Transportation Commission meeting TONIGHT.
Please NOTE that the first link is supposed to take you to the meeting but it is not, at least for me. You would still need to click on "Join a meeting" on top and then enter the meeting ID 95503370484.
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Attend the Planning & Transportation Comm.
SB50-impact-01
Have your voices heard before it's too late!
RHND (Regional Housing Needs Determination) numbers to be discussed at the meeting of the Palo Alto Planning and Transportation Commission on
Wednesday, July 8th.at 6PM
Attend and participate, via Zoom, in an important City Planning discussion on huge increases in RHND numbers for our City. This will severely impact our neighborhoods and increase traffic and congestion in the City. We need to ask city planning officials to:
1) request that the City Council order the City Attorney to make a formal request to "extend the discussion deadline of the appeal of the final regional housing need determination (RHND) that expires on July 10. The process to date has not followed the California Code that mandates an open discussion on the variety of ways to deal with local jobs-housing imbalances. ABAG and HCD have not done this and their unattainable high regional housing numbers and their methodology for distribution that have resulted from their truncated process are not legally valid."
The deadline for this appeal is July 10th.
2) request that the public/community have a role to play and comment on in regards to these RHND numbers and what they truly mean for our future. Residents need to be properly informed and involved in this decision making process.
You don't need to speak very long at Wednesday's Planning meeting -- just voice your view. Here is the meeting link::
Web Link
Information fro joining the Zoom meeting can be found in the agenda:
Web Link
If you can participate, please email Terry Holzemer ([email protected]),
so we know you will be there to speak
Please join us in stopping the RHND process.
If you cannot participate in the Zoom meeting
write to the Palo Alto Planning & Transportation Commission
[email protected]
and to the Palo Alto City Council supporting this request. ([email protected])


12 people like this
Posted by NeilsonBuchanan
a resident of Downtown North
on Jul 8, 2020 at 1:52 pm

A lot of heat and not enough light is being spread around town.

All of these details and opinions are informative but polarizing. Our city council and staff are avoiding the heat and light. There is no proactive effort for collaboration and compromise within our local government.

The land use train in Sacramento is leaving the station. Here is some information about the milestones ahead.

#1 I have not been able to get a straight answer when 100+ towns and cities in NorCal will know their RHNA allocations. It is hard to focus on RHNA urgency without this date.

#2 Very important land use legislation is being finalized in Sacramento. If passed and signed by Gov. Newsom, then there will be more hard facts to debate.

Here are a few dates to ponder for at least six powerful land use bills in the state senate and assembly. I hope our two newspapers and council will soon summarize these bills.

State legislature schedule:

Aug 7 last day for policy committee to meet and report bills
Aug 14 last day for fiscal committee to meet and report bills
Aug 17-31 Floor session only. No committee can meet for any purpose except Rules
Committee
Aug 21 last day to amend bills on the floor
Aug 31 last day for each house to pass bills. Final recess begins upon
adjournment.

Sept 30 Last day for Governor to sign or veto bills passed by Legislature before
Sept 1 and in the Governor's possession on or after Sept 1

Oct 1 Bills enacted on or before this date take effect Jan 1, 2021

This is the way democracy works.


22 people like this
Posted by Citizen PA
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 8, 2020 at 4:46 pm

"And our city is chasing out one company because they don' t like it's politics. "

Um, we haven't been so lucky as it chase it out, and the general animosity has to do with their taking over and ruining downtown (while apparently their CEO was living in some nice property in New England the last 15 years, what a hypocrite).

I don't know many people who will even think about them ever again if they do us all a favor and leave like they are saying they will, and if the city council would start enforcing codes downtown so that it's safe for startups again.

The President Hotel would have been less attractive as a takeover if not for the corporate overdevelopment.

I


Like this comment
Posted by Resident 1-Adobe Meadows
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Jul 8, 2020 at 9:06 pm

Palantir is about to go public. You too could own stock in the company. All systems are go. And if moves to a different location then the city will have a lot of empty space to fill. Are there companies waiting in the wings to move into that space?
PA is getting a bad reputation these days for being "difficult'. Resident hostility does not sell space. Bad attitude does not sell space.


23 people like this
Posted by Joe Schmelzer
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Jul 9, 2020 at 7:57 am

Don't trade the character of the city for "growth." It's a false goal. It is 100% a banner created by developers and their lackeys to mask the actual intention of simply making money. There is no OTHER justification. Not making judgement about profits here, but simply being honest.

City planning decisions should be based on the 10-50 year impact. In 10-50 years we are going to see radical innovation in transportation (traffic), and a completely disrupted business real estate market. Learn At Home and Work From Home is a game changer. Combined with amazing and affordable communications tools, it's already happening. Particularly in Tech, where Palo Alto thrives.

Recent college grads are already getting hired from anywhere to work anywhere and live anywhere. Or nowhere. Remember when being "in a van down by the river" was a bad thing? Not anymore.

People like Greg Schmid, an expert on understanding the future over his entire lifetime, understand this implicitly, and have Palo Alto's best interests in mind, solely.


16 people like this
Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 9, 2020 at 8:57 am

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

>> Palantir is about to go public. You too could own stock in the company.

"So what?" Many companies that started here went public. Most of the big ones moved out because there just isn't enough room here.

>> And if moves to a different location then the city will have a lot of empty space to fill.

That hasn't been a problem for the city. It may force landlords to reduce their recently inflated rents to more affordable levels. -That would be a good thing!- It probably won't, though. Landlords tend to be really irrational about lowering rent. Often they would rather see a property sit idle than accept reduced rent.

>> Are there companies waiting in the wings to move into that space?

It usually takes a little while. Now would be a terrific time for Palantir to move since we're disrupted by COVID-19.

>> PA is getting a bad reputation these days for being "difficult'. Resident hostility does not sell space. Bad attitude does not sell space.

I've been hearing that for 40 years. But, for some reason, they still keep -crowding in- here. We need to be louder.

Regardless, it would be a good time for the city to become less subservient towards big business and become more employee health oriented. Let's set standards for square feet per person and ventilation. Overcrowding spreads viruses.

Look at the discussions about police -- the argument pushed by the anti-accountability crowd is that you either have police oppression, OR, anarchy. I disagree. Moderation in all things. We need moderation when it comes to business, too. We don't need to abase ourselves to every big business. We don't need to hate every business. Moderation and rationality is what we need. The city has been obsequious towards developers and their big business customers for too long. We need a return to moderation.


5 people like this
Posted by Resident 1-Adobe Meadows
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Jul 9, 2020 at 10:46 am

Article in paper today about our neighbors - Los Altos. Developer is trying to get permission to build on Main Street a five story mixed use building. Using current legislation to force the issue. Los Altos is fighting back - building does not fit the city guidelines. Will wait to see how that turns out. Article is lengthy but does not say the name of the developer. Anyone we know? Can we get the developer to come over to the FRY's site? Now that is the site which will respond to many legal issues we are currently facing. If we can get that site cooking then we can back off the interlopers from all other angles.


33 people like this
Posted by Another Giveaway
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 9, 2020 at 12:58 pm

Developer Wars - How ABAG Helps Wealthy Metropolitan Real-estate Developers.

Low cost housing development and office development are not opposed to each other but are instead actually two complimentary forms of development that are both essential for continued growth of the real-estate industry in “job rich” metropolitan areas like Palo Alto.

There is no market for the glut of office space that has been developed on the Peninsula over the last decade without stack-n-pack apartment development to warehouse the workers employed in those increasingly dense offices spaces.

Meanwhile California has one of the highest rates of poverty in the country and northwestern California and central California have some of the highest rates of poverty in the state.

The forced relaxation of zoning restrictions by unelected bodies like ABAG that are dominated by the influence of wealthy metropolitan real-estate developers is the only way these wealthy metropolitan real-estate developers can compete with the low land prices and low wage workers available in impoverished areas of the state.

ABAG is just another clever tool wealthy real-estate developers in “job rich” metropolitan areas like Palo Alto use to hoard jobs away from impoverished “job poor” areas of the state.

California Poverty by County: Web Link


3 people like this
Posted by Mark
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Jul 15, 2020 at 12:01 pm

Seems to me that Palo Alto and other towns that refused to allow housing developments to match job growth brought this unelected board on themselves. It's what you get for reaping the benefits of multimillion dollar house valuations while leaving low- and middle-income renters with nowhere to live.

The fact that people have to resort to living in their RVs--or sleeping in underpasses beneath Caltrain--in the middle of Palo Alto's enormous wealth is sickening a moral failure on the part of everyone in the city.

For any homeowners in this thread and in this city arguing for building more affordable housing and whose main objection to ABAG is to the calls for more office space: thank you for your moral backbone. I hope you are taking part in real activism towards that goal of affordable housing and put as much effort into better solutions as you do into these troubled proposals. I appreciate the need to be wary of efforts that claim to help the needy but which might really only benefit developers.

For those homeowners who are against any change to Palo Alto: I'm so sorry that some of you may have to one day put up with an apartment building down the street, or that you might encounter working class people (even Black or Latinx people!) who aren't serving you coffee, cleaning your office, or working in your yard, but who instead are able to live within walking distance.

If you are enjoying a comfortable lifestyle as a Palo Alto homeowner in the current housing situation, you enjoy that comfortable lifestyle at the expense of thousands of suffering low- and middle-wage workers. Workers who right now who have to endure heroic commutes from as far as Stockton or who, like my neighbors, have to squeeze their family of six into a one bedroom apartment. (That has faulty wiring and a long-term termite problem!)


If this situation doesn't outrage you, if you can't see how the current situation is racist and exploitative, and above all if you aren't spending as much effort fighting for genuinely affordable housing as you are complaining about efforts to fix it, then you should stop and ask yourself some tough questions about what kind of town you what to live in, and what kind of life you want to live in it.


16 people like this
Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 15, 2020 at 5:11 pm

Posted by Mark, a resident of East Palo Alto

>> Workers who right now who have to endure heroic commutes from as far as Stockton or who, like my neighbors, have to squeeze their family of six into a one bedroom apartment. (That has faulty wiring and a long-term termite problem!)

>> If this situation doesn't outrage you, if you can't see how the current situation is racist and exploitative,

Your outrage is misdirected. Many people here have been fighting the unsustainable over-expansion of jobs in the area. You should be outraged at the companies that insist on locating jobs here that don't have to be here. Why are these supposedly smart companies continually expanding here when it is unsustainable? Apparently, these companies have very narrow management that is unable to see beyond their algorithms to the human side of good management.

Back in the 1960's, HP started building satellite campuses in other locations. It worked. I guess HP management back then was -smarter- and -more capable- and -less narrow- than the current management at Facebook, Twitter, Google, Apple, and Cisco. If you work for one of these big tech companies, ask them why you can't live somewhere else that has a sustainable community with a manageable cost of living. Why does your job have to be right here?


6 people like this
Posted by Resident 1-Adobe Meadows
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Jul 15, 2020 at 10:52 pm

The companies of old "hired" US workers. Your new companies are utilizing H1b foreign individuals that do not work directly for the company but they work for the agency that has the h1B visas. And those agencies bring over a group and farm them out.
By that method they avoid paying the payroll taxes that you would normally pay for a US citizen employee. Transnational companies typically bring in foreign workers to reduce the regular employee taxes. That is why the Silicon Valley Leadership Group is working to breakdown the residential zoning so their collective companies can bring in more people.

We send our children to top schools and they cannot get jobs in the local area. That is what is so irritating about the statistics on race - there is no question as to how many working on the company grounds are actually h1B from a foreign country. The statistics that have been produced to not state the citizenship status of the workforce.


11 people like this
Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jul 15, 2020 at 11:49 pm

Resident 1-Adobe Meadows makes important points about the changing character of the workforce. 1) Contractors now far outnumber regular full-time employees with benefits at Google, Facebook etc. and many oare H1b foreign contractors. The use of contractors has been steadily growing for years. 2) The companies using those foreign contractors have long fought raising the contracting rates to the equivalent of a normal salary for full-time employees. They've successfully lobbied against attempts to force them more than $100,000. 3) Then there's the "gig economy" companies where only a few benefit.

These same companies and their lobbyists and their surrogates obviously have a vested interest in getting communities to provide it with stack-and-pack housing.


1 person likes this
Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 16, 2020 at 8:14 am

Posted by Online Name, a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland

>> Resident 1-Adobe Meadows makes important points about the changing character of the workforce. 1) Contractors now far outnumber regular full-time employees with benefits at Google, Facebook etc. and many oare H1b foreign contractors.

I don't know how widely this data is available, or, how widely understood it is. Here is one data point:

Google, March 2019, according to this article Web Link there were 121,000 "other" (temps, contractors, and vendor-supplied employees), and, 102,000 full-time direct-hire Google employees. (Anyone have numbers for Facebook, Apple, Cisco?)


2 people like this
Posted by Resident 1-Adobe Meadows
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Jul 17, 2020 at 11:29 am

We seem to have a lot of organizations where the tail is wagging the dog. ABAG - et all - however you got to where you are has nothing to do with where we are at.
Bring it - we will sue you if you try and mess with us.


12 people like this
Posted by Joe in Green Acres
a resident of Green Acres
on Jul 18, 2020 at 1:29 pm

Given the extensive number of comments in response to Greg Schmid’s recent opinion piece, I think we need to thank him for bringing to everyone’s attention one of the most critical issues facing Palo Alto, Silicon Valley and, frankly, all of the Bay Area. What Greg argued for was a full public discussion of the ABAG/HCD RHNA formulating process, which is required by the California Code sections Greg has cited. Whether that can happen now, before the local RHNA numbers are written in concrete for the next 8-year cycle (2022-2030) is uncertain. But if not, all need to know that the current process was fundamentally handled in closed committee sessions, without opportunity for the public to discuss the actual methodology used to determine the Bay Area RHNA number, as opposed to being able to comment upon some unknown methodology in a public meeting without any dialogue actually taking place.

In fact, as best any ordinary member of the public can tell, myself included ABAG/HCD will be using the same methodology as they have used in the past, which has brought us to where we were pre-COVID-19, with high land costs, high housing costs, increasingly worse traffic congestion, and worsening air pollution (we could see the difference in the air quality as automobile traffic went down dramatically when the State was under Gov. Newsom’s Stay at Home Order). The methodology is based upon continued job growth, a projected one million over the next 30 years. Where will those people work, where will they live, and how will they commute to work with inadequate public transportation and clogged freeways? Those jobs need to go elsewhere, and maybe they will if working remotely is one of the beneficial changes post-COVID-19. If so, maybe fewer housing units will be needed. Has that been taken into account in a way that the public knows that it has and to the extent required?

Numerous bills presenting pending in the legislature will go hand in hand with the RHNA numbers, resulting in many luxury units being built, but not an adequate number of below market rate units being built. High land costs will dictate that. Single family neighborhoods will be changed over time as more high-density units are built within them, some with inadequate parking such that our neighborhood streets will become the parking lots for those luxury units. All under the mandate of legislative bills that seemingly care less about what residents want in their communities. It will be a developers dream come true.

The RHNA process will continue yielding as Greg predicts approximately three times the RHNA number Palo Alto has had for the current 8-year cycle. Where will those units go? At what cost? And in what loss of quality of life to the residents?

Bottom line, unless one spent an inordinate number of hours attending ABAG meetings in the
City (or elsewhere throughout the Bay Area as there were none in Palo Alto) and had the resources and energy to combat what the driving forces behind the ABAG/HCD process, the RHNA numbers will magically appear and be foisted upon each of the local communities. Jobs-rich communities will have to provide more housing, which, once again will be of the luxury variety in support of the local tech industries, instead of the process reducing future job growth so that whatever housing is built will improve the jobs-housing imbalance. That public discussion will never take place under the current ABAG/HCD process because certain people simply don’t want it to. The politicians and developers behind them appear to have won, in my opinion, and residents in Palo Alto (and many other west bay cities) will over time be the losers as our neighborhoods change in undesirable ways. Below market rate housing is admittedly needed, but well-meaning residents want to be part of the process determining where they will be built. Instead, welcome to local planning via Sacramento without meaningful public engagement. Thanks to Greg for highlighting that for us.


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