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Three council members challenge Sacramento housing mandate

Original post made on Jul 13, 2020

As Palo Alto braces for an ambitious new housing mandate from Sacramento, three City Council members are requesting that the state delay the process and reconsider its Bay Area target of 441,176 new units.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Monday, July 13, 2020, 4:48 PM

Comments (36)

Posted by Yes We Can
a resident of College Terrace
on Jul 13, 2020 at 6:17 pm

Palo Alto has failed to meet our housing needs for decades, damaging our climate and displacing residents. It's shameful that the biggest opponents of housing (who fought to kill affordable housing for SENIORS) are complaining about higher targets when our previous targets were too low to meet our need--and we didn't meet them.

Palo Alto needs new leadership that is ready to rise to the challenge of meeting our housing needs. It's unacceptable to continue to say "NO" to housing as people sleep on our streets and commute hours to serve the residents of Palo Alto. Enough with the NIMBY nonsense. Dubois, Kou, and Filseth are embarrassing us at a regional level.

Posted by Real Solutions
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 13, 2020 at 8:48 pm

ABAG has promoted jobs in our area. We want a reasonable amount of housing, not to grow by 20% or more.

Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jul 13, 2020 at 9:30 pm

Good for the 3 of them and shame on the rest for not wanting any discussion of the targets.

Now why do you think they don't want to hear the community's opinion? Maybe for the same reason they didn't want the office cap ballot initiative brought to a vote after it gained enough signatures to qualify for the ballot. Maybe for the same reason they never want to discuss the city satisfaction surveys that show declining satisfaction every year?

Posted by Another Giveaway
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 13, 2020 at 9:51 pm

Developer Wars - How ABAG Helps Wealthy Bay Area Real-estate Developers dominate California Real-estate Market.

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 built 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. Northwestern California counties and central California counties 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 Bay Area real-estate developers, is the only way Bay Area real-estate developers can compete with the low land prices and low wage workers available to real-estate developers set up to do business in impoverished areas of the state.

ABAG is just another clever tool wealthy real-estate developers in “job rich” bay area cities like Palo Alto use to keep jobs and real-estate investment flowing into already "job rich" areas, instead of migrating to impoverished “job poor” areas of the state.

ABAG is essentially a cleverly disguised chamber of commerce for bay area real-estate developers.

California Poverty by County: Web Link

Posted by George
a resident of Midtown
on Jul 13, 2020 at 10:35 pm

Ugg, council member Kou needs to go. It’s about time that we stop having a real estate agent working to keep the housing market tight.

Don’t forget to vote in November. Her seat is vulnerable.

Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 13, 2020 at 11:26 pm

Posted by George, a resident of Midtown

>> Ugg, council member Kou needs to go. It’s about time that we stop having a real estate agent working to keep the housing market tight.

It is way overdue that we stop building new office space-- overbuilding office space is the reason housing is scarce and expensive on the Peninsula.

>> Don’t forget to vote in November. Her seat is vulnerable.

She is at the top of my list. Yes on Kou.

Posted by anon
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Jul 14, 2020 at 9:16 am

What is actually is embarrassing is the decades of total failure by the regional agencies, mtc-abag and and the state legislature to do anything about the escalating cost of housing in California.
They have failed to create or even nurture diversity in our communities by allowing the cost of housing to rise so they can line the pockets of the developers and big real estate interests who fund their campaigns with cash.
Creating more and more income disparity more and more pollution more and more degradation of natural And historic resources.
In the decades since Plab Bay Area Mtc-ABag has been calling the shots for the bigwigs in Sacramento the Bay Area has become a region fewer and fewer people can afford. People of color, immigrants the old and the young.
It’s all about $$$$$$ and not about democracy

Posted by anon
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Jul 14, 2020 at 9:32 am

Vote yes yes heck yes on Kou. !!!
She is an outstanding council member who has worked tirelessly fir the people who elected her while so many council members just “phone it in”..
The other incumbents Tanaka and fine being examples if the “phone it in style” except when it comes to repaying the developers who financed their campaigns by approving office developments over housing consistently.
Fine and Tanaka have demonstrated that they don’t care about people they care about their own political ambitions.
No on fine and Tanaka in November
Yes on Kou!!!!!

Posted by Tom DuBois
a resident of Midtown
on Jul 14, 2020 at 9:42 am

The main issue is ABAG is not really planning for affordable housing. Like most cities we are on track for above median housing but woefully behind on below market rate housing. The new housing allocations are 57% below market rate - 253,000. How do we make that happen? I believe we need an allocation model that takes into account job distribution. Yes, I am suggesting that we send jobs to other cities. That's not something any council member would do lightly. But for the good of the Bay Area we need an allocation methodology that encourages job growth in San Jose, in Oakland and throughout the East Bay. What we have is unsustainable and basing models on furthering that unsustainable approach is a recipe for failure.

Posted by Eric Filseth
a resident of Downtown North
on Jul 14, 2020 at 10:35 am

+1 to what Tom said. The most obvious disconnect with the RHND plan is the split between market-rate and affordable housing allocations.

The new Plan, like the previous Plan, calls for over half of all new housing to be Below-Median-Income. However, BMI housing simply can’t be built without subsidies under any zoning; and the more expensive the land and construction costs, the bigger the subsidies needed. For example, Palo Alto’s Wilton Court project required City subsidies of $370K per unit, on top of county and other funding. Sacramento has never been willing to invest this kind of money at significant scale.

In fact, as of mid-cycle (1/1/2019), most cities in Santa Clara County were on track to meet or exceed their 2022 AMI allocations (including Palo Alto which actually has a good chance of meeting its AMI target). But essentially all cities lag far behind on their BMI targets. Here are the numbers:

. 2015-2022 Santa Clara County RHNA target: 62% BMI, 38% AMI
. 2015-2018 Santa Clara County actual permits issued: 16% BMI, 84% AMI
. 2022-2030 Bay Area RHND Target: 57% BMI, 43% AMI

Source: Web Link

In other words the County’s actual BMI experience in the absence of subsidies has been the opposite of the HCD/RHNA allocation – heavily weighted towards AMI housing, not BMI. 10-20% inclusion rates will not reverse this; yet HCD’s new plan assumes the original target split, more than doubles total unit counts for both BMI and AMI, and avoids any discussion of funding. But without major funding, the plan simply isn’t realistic.

It's clear where the desire for all this comes from, of course. Companies want to expand jobs where they already are. Societies want to put housing, including adequate BMI housing, close to jobs in order to minimize commutes and emissions. And nobody wants to spend money. But to satisfy all three of these criteria at once, in the congested core of the Bay Area, has become impossible.

Governments shouldn’t knowingly adopt plans which are impossible. HCD should change either its targets or else its scenario of where job growth happens.

(If they want to send us money for BMI housing, that would be welcome too)

Posted by Anonymous
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jul 14, 2020 at 11:26 am

Thank you to Mr. Filseth, Ms. Kou, and Mr. DuBois of Palo Alto.
We appreciate your timely action. Sensible stand on behalf of Palo Altans and the correct viewpoints.
By clear contrast:
The public needs to realize what’s being attempted in this state - there are ongoing attempted damaging, unjustified schemes by bureaucrats at the state level - and also at the unelected “regional” level of our government in California.
Clever virtue-signaling from ABAG, etc. without taking meaningful appropriate actions. The real risk is Damage CAN be done by these state and regional bureaucrats and special interests - be advised.
Please follow the above three intelligent Palo Alto City Council members’ leadership and communications in order to counteract the state and regional power grabs.

Posted by rita vrhel
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jul 14, 2020 at 11:49 am

My goodness, so some STILL think that Lydia Kou is the top selling real estate agent in Palo Alto? And is, ALL BY HERSELF, keeping real estate prices high?

Are you not receiving Ken Deleon's glossy brochures or seeing his frequent all page ads in the PA Weekly in which he lists the top real estate agents in Palo Alto and how much real estate they have sold year to date and cumulative? And their national listings according to the Wall Street Journal.

If you look and take the time to educate yourself, Lydia Kou's name is NOT and NEVER has been listed. You are being ignorant and dishonest. Time to stop spreading lies.

Ms. Kou has been for below market housing not luxury units which the pro - growth City Council majority has consistently supported. She voted against the Hotel President recent conversion.

And do NOT start on Maybell. Maybell was settled by a ballot measure; the residents of Palo Alto soundly defeated the Maybell project, NOT Lydia Kou. Again educate yourself!

And is it OK to have so many real estate attorneys on City Council and the PTC but not a real estate agent? Do you wonder why the City is being overdeveloped with office space and numerous hotels but not below market housing? Follow the money. It does not lead to Ms. Kou.

Posted by Resident 1-Adobe Meadows
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Jul 14, 2020 at 11:53 am

One of our local papers provided a breakdown of the election coming up - that is closing upon us on fast. That is going to be the chance we need to re-scramble the PACC. I sense that we are lacking actual data with which to argue our status. And our status is on shaky ground for commercial business. We have two large employers who may be leaving - that changes the algorithm. We have new apartments going up everywhere - that changes the algorithm. We need to challenge who ever comes up with ABAG number - what is the basis of their projection is - challenge their numbers.
How did they arrive at that number? Ask them.

Posted by Sunshine
a resident of Barron Park
on Jul 14, 2020 at 12:03 pm

I think it unlikely that we will need all the proposed new housing. Local businesses noted that employees working from home during the shutdown are far more productive than those who go to the site. Many employees also prefer this arrangement as it frees the from a commute--even a short distance can take a long time thanks to all the local traffic calming.
Most of this proposed and theoretically needed housing will not be necessary.
What these people are trying to do is destroy our neighborhoods. Forget about it!

Posted by Be accurate
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Jul 14, 2020 at 12:03 pm

Tom DuBois, Eric Filseth,

Agree with what you are saying on BMI housing and subsidies. Thank you.
That is only a part of the problem. Nobody is discussing the infrastructure: traffic congestion, parking, public transportation, water, schools. Nobody is discussing the environmental impact. We are above the capacity now. If you drive in PA, then we are sitting in the same traffic jams with you.

What do we do about the nine land use/ownership/housing bills that are rushed through in Sacramento (one committee vs. several)? If they are approved in a rush mode by the legislature when nobody is paying attention, the single family housing is toast and developers essentially become the city planners. Be very concerned.

Posted by Be accurate
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Jul 14, 2020 at 12:09 pm


George is just trying to smear her.

Posted by chris
a resident of University South
on Jul 14, 2020 at 12:15 pm

Kuo, Filseth, and DuBois are engaged in their annual tilting at windmills. If they would just buckle down to their jobs and build some housing, these regional guidelines and state laws would be non-issues. If Palo Alto built a fraction of what Mountain View is building, it would go a long way toward improving the situation. Instead of saying looking to Mountain View for ideas, these elected officials are throwing a temper tantrum and just saying NO.

There is no better time to build housing than now. If not now, when.

The pse council members are big on symbols like BLM, but when it comes to something tangible that would help minorities, they fold their tent.

Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jul 14, 2020 at 12:19 pm

Tom and Eric, thanks for your substantive posts and for noting the discrepancy between ABAG targets and BMR housing. Where's ABAG been whenever affordable housing gets destroyed in favor of market-rate and luxury housing. Good to see some facts for a change rather than all than the usual empty sloganeering.

Speaking of which, it would be special to hear the other CC members and candidates respond to the points raised with some substance. It would be nice to hear their responses about BMR housing and rent control, both of which they've ignored while misleadingly claiming more housing will reduce prices which it won't so long as new jobs aka new OFFICES merely increases housing competition.

Thanks also to Rita above about puncturing the canard about Kuo. Where's the condemnation of ABAG members and CC members past and present and PTC commissioners who are real estate DEVELOPERS, real estate LAWYERS?

Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 14, 2020 at 12:37 pm

Posted by chris, a resident of University South

>> Kuo, Filseth, and DuBois are engaged in their annual tilting at windmills.

And yet, you continue to make ad hominem remarks instead of addressing a single point among the many that they have raised. Kudos to Kuo, Filseth, and DuBois for starting with facts and applying logic.

Posted by This entire endeavor is a scam to help developers
a resident of Downtown North
on Jul 14, 2020 at 3:38 pm

Why are unelected "boards" like ABAG and HCD even allowed to demand that cities change their zoning. It would be nice if some cities got together and took these boards to court over their "right" to create such policy decisions.

Second it is clear that these boards are in league with developers who just want to overdevelop in expensive areas and want to force these areas to increase zoning. Otherwise they would make the obvious move and ban any more office development/job growth in cities without housing and only allow new office development/jobs in cities that have an overabundance of housing like San Jose and Oakland.

But forcing developers to build jobs in poorer areas is not on their agenda, they are all about helping developers maximize land use in expensive areas so they earn more profit. It is a canard that they care about housing poor people. They use the high below market rate numbers for housing to force cities to build huge amounts of for-profit housing to help their developer friends. The entire endeavor is a giant scam and should be illegal.

Posted by sfvalley
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jul 14, 2020 at 6:37 pm

Thanks to Kou, Filseth, and DuBois for stepping up. The City Council gets handed the "RHNA" numbers in the fall, and freaks out, yet the source of this mandate is very convoluted to track down. Why would the City of Palo Alto sit back and let unelected officials on ABAG target Palo Alto for 3x the number of housing units, including little below-market-rate, and based on flawed methodology? Prior years' jobs growth does not indicate current (yes, covid is important) or even future jobs growth in an ever-changing environment. Yet ABAG wants PA to change zoning and build to suit tech workers for the next decades? Is that the future? Look at how remote working has changed the office culture; many large tech companies are suggesting keeping employees at home at least some days per week into next year and beyond. Why not get creative, ABAG, and look at the other side of the jobs/housing imbalance and look at jobs disbursement in other than the West Bay? This is driven by developers who have managed to convince the powers that be that they MUST build offices in order to afford to build housing, and we buckle under. All 3 of these council members favor building below-market-housing; so why would we continue to build at-and-above market rate and exacerbate the situation? Let's put our priorities in order and get creative - and build nothing but BMR housing for the next few years. These unrealistic numbers feel like "paving the way" for the 9 bills currently in committee at the state level which will allow development to override local zoning, urbanizing and commercializing Palo Alto. Thanks for shining the light.

Posted by Suzanne
a resident of Barron Park
on Jul 14, 2020 at 8:44 pm

Lydia Kou has been representing residents since she has been on the council and will continue to do so for the next 4 years.
Regional mandates, ABAG/MTC do not take into account our individual cities, land availability, too many jobs, job rich already, need for BMR and lower housing, not market rate, of which we already have enough. It's not that apartments aren't available, they are too expensive. The numbers show us that more folks are leaving the Bay Area than moving in. It is obvious that the way we're going, plus these bills coming from Sacramento, that developers are the ones in charge, not citizens.

'There are none so blind, as those that will not see.'

Posted by 20thCenturyThinking
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jul 14, 2020 at 10:55 pm

Palo Alto is a half a century behind in housing production. it will take another 100 hundred years to build it coinciding with two centuries for Earth’s climate to balance — maybe. Already those living among us renting, or closeted in an RV show us this. Our social and civic responsibility is to get the housing done. Teachers, mid salary healthcare workers, essential service workers — with or without families in tow are still held hostage under the draconian Prop 13 loopholes. So. Unless one inherits family fortune or bought before 1978, its a lose, lose for the 98% ers. Palo Alto CC behaves like the entitled Scrooge. And as hobbled as the Bay Area is by the San Andreas fault sized wealth gap “leaders” of this ilk, further divide and delay. Segregating once again the few that have and throw slow moving scraps to all the rest with nothing. It’s a historic broken CD-ROM. PA CC turns about face from the ever growing Tiny Tims who begs from our gutters. CC hides from regular visits from the ghosts of past mistakes, present circumstance and future losses. Is it too much for our City’s leaders to come out “and be counted like all the rest” of the poor and minority populations. BMR housing is what is needed NOW, it’s the right choice and embarrassingly long overdue due - that state will have rap the knuckles of overly entitled behavior. How much linger can our little ‘Ol community shun our marginalized residents, the local low-wage earners who in exchange for astronomical housing costs go without in everything else? These are human lives tossed between the crosshairs of a “bought” council and a massive influx of multi-billion dollar revenue sources. Many of us “others” want to remain here to0 - very many of us who grew up right here in PA. The two most segregationist phrases that PA uses the dire house need “It just doesn’t pencil out” and “preserve our local character” . During this time of COVID we need hope not city speak hype.

Posted by Greenacres
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 15, 2020 at 12:56 am

Shame on everyone who has used social justice language as a lever to let developers displace low-income residents and people of color on a massive scale from the Bay Area in the last 10-15 years.

Maybell was a sad case in point. Someone above is still trying to milk the corrupted ideas: "to kill affordable housing for SENIORS" Maybell COULD have been an all affordable-housing project. That was actually the preferred developed use by neighborhood survey, for the entire lot to be affordable housing so that it could be closer to zoning. The objections were not to the affordable housing, they were to the massiveness resulting from 60% of it being market rate/3 stories stove-pipe "homes".

Many of the people who contested the rezoning wanted a working group, as was requested at public meetings, because many of those same people were involved in a fighting off a developer turning the middle school into a bunch of market rate houses 20 years earlier, with a similar fight about the affordable housing. Neighbors were able to get a working group and both saved the school AND got the affordable housing built. The same could have happened at Maybell, if the false rhetoric hadn't ruled the day. People had to spend all their energy fighting the rezoning rather than building something together, and housing advocates were drummed up into a frenzy of hatred and suspicion towards their fellow man that prevented any chance of collaboration.

Without a doubt, if Maybell had been rezoned, the residents of Buena Vista would have lost their homes, because the big developer in partnership with the owner would never have withdrawn if they thought they could have densified there. The referendum is the only reason the owner was ultimately willing to sell, because no other big developers were willing to get involved when Prometheus withdrew (right after the referendum).

People are talking like there hasn't just been a deadly life-altering pandemic sweep through our nation, with density a serious risk factor for both death, hospitalizations, and economic fallout. For public health reasons alone, we have to deal with the, um, tech whales in the room if we are going to fix this. Their crowding is causing a lot of ills to communities around the Bay Area and it's time they both started paying to fix a lot of the damage and were part of the solution by distributing some of jobs so they're less concentrated in this place.

I will definitely be voting for Kou. She and Dubois have been the ones most consistently SINCERE in how they have supported affordable housing. Fine, Kniss, they talk a big game but they're consistently for luxury housing and rabbit hutch/hotel monocultures (what residents?)

Posted by Chris Zaharias
a resident of another community
on Jul 15, 2020 at 1:03 am

I was born and raised in PA, and don't miss it one bit. One of the main reasons I don't miss it is because of the housing situation. In a normal market-based economy, increased & sustained demand for more housing would result in... more housing. But in PA, self-righteous rich people block development under the guise of environmental stewardship.

PA citizens are for the most part uncaring elitists IMHO. Good riddance.

Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 15, 2020 at 10:47 am

Posted by Chris Zaharias, a resident of another community

>> I was born and raised in PA, and don't miss it one bit. One of the main reasons I don't miss it is because of the housing situation.

>> In a normal market-based economy, increased & sustained demand for more housing would result in... more housing.

This simplistic view of real-estate has been refuted numerous times and references have been provided to you. ("The truth? You can't handle the truth!")

>> But in PA, self-righteous rich people block development under the guise of environmental stewardship.

Because the only way to save Palo Alto is to destroy it? But, you just said that if it PA was more affordable, your main reason for disliking it would go away. Would you still like Palo Alto if it looked like Manhattan? And, if it did, do you think it would be more affordable?

>> PA citizens are for the most part uncaring elitists IMHO. Good riddance.

Instead of blaming yourself or your neighbors, why don't you ask why the local "superstar firms" (see David Autor et al) insist on adding more and more jobs right here instead of having satellite campuses in more affordable locations.

Posted by Resident 1-Adobe Meadows
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Jul 15, 2020 at 10:48 am

Read today's papers - all of the criteria with which ABAG assumes any numbers are based on transportation availability and business base. Caltrain is in deep trouble. If proximity to transportation is a criteria then we all are in trouble. And BART? We paid taxes for a BART but we don't have a BART.

If two major companies leave the city then that eliminates a major number of city jobs. Hiring more city workers is not going to work because we do not have the budget for it.
All of the criteria is disappearing. And people are moving out-of-state.

Force ABAG to defend whatever they are proposing given the current situation. They are a bunch of people who need a job and this is it. they will milk it for all it is worth.

Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jul 15, 2020 at 10:53 am

@20thCentury Thinking, very eloquent. Where were you and ABAG when 75 middle-income residents were evicted from the President Hotel? When rent-controlled apartments up and down the Peninsula were destroyed to allow developers to put in market-rate and luxury housing? And what about the $40,000 a MONTH penthouses that went in across from where single-room-occupancy Casa Olga USED TO BE before it was replaced by Hotel Epiphany /Nobu, that under-parked luxury hotel that's so car-light guests, staff and diners all just magically appear without creating a single parking problem?

Please channel your eloquence into ensuring that Atherton, Los Altos Hills, Portola Valley, Woodside etc. bear their fair share?

Also note that the new contested development proposed for downtown Los Altos only has 2 "affordable" units but about 15 market rate housing units PLUS office space that will bring more commuters.

The hypocrisy is staggering. All of us have watched in horror as our friends and family have been priced out of the area, knowing that creating MORE market rate and luxury housing and more jobs won't help them one bit.

Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jul 15, 2020 at 1:00 pm

PS: Wondering where the other City Council members and candidates are with their responses to the substantive objections raised by Tom and Eric and in the article. Also wondering how the changes in the housing and transportation market will be reflected in the numbers with all the workers working from home.

Posted by TMH
a resident of Mayfield
on Jul 15, 2020 at 3:15 pm

Kudos to the three Council Members -- Filseth, DuBois and especially Kou -- for standing up and supporting residents first. It is not only unfair, but undemocratic, to have "non-elected bodies" (ABAG or HCD) with no real accountability to the public to decide how we manage or govern our city's own land use. The public in Palo Alto should be involved and play a role in these decisions, meaning our elected representatives. Thank you, Ms. Kou, for your tireless support of neighborhoods and your desire to involve the community in such critical decisions. You have my support and vote!

Posted by Steve Dabrowski
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jul 15, 2020 at 3:49 pm

And the arguments continue-on and on and on..... Very little talk of a state constitutional amendment proposition that certainly could be fielded with cooperative efforts from cities interested taking back control of their futures from the above mentioned agencies. Too many minds marinated in regional solutions and insufficient critical thinking to get to a real solution. The talk will continue to go on and on and on...

Posted by Bob Moss
a resident of Barron Park
on Jul 15, 2020 at 10:43 pm

Filseth, DuBois and Kou are right and took the right action. Here are some facts about housing and BMR units in Palo Alto.
More than 40 years ago Palo Alto was the FIRST CITY in California to REQUIRE some of a housing development be BMR units. The original requirement was 40% of developments of 20 or more units. It took developers months to figure out a way around the BMR requirement. The first project proposed after the law requiring BMR units took effect was on Forest kitty-corner from City Hall for 19 nits and NO BMRs. Less than a year later the next new housing development came in, again 19 unit on Forest a bloc or two from the first development. The city then amended the BMR requirement to 10 unit threshold and 10% BMRs which was the law until several years ago when the threshold was lowered to 5 units.
Housing costs the City and school district money. Several years ago then city-manager Keene during his report to the council noted that every housing unit costs the city over $2800/year more for city services than it pays in property taxes. That net cost for city services isn't new. When I helped to incorporate the city of Rancho Palos Verdes in LA county more than 45 years ago we determined that every housing unit would cost over $720/year more for city services than it would pay in property taxes, and that was before Prop. 13 limited property tax increases.

The need for more housing is caused mainly by job growth locally. As we know this is one of the best performing job markets anywhere. One increase in the need for housing due to more jobs is the greater population of workers in offices. The assumption for decades was that each office worker used 250 sq. ft. of space, or 4 workers/1000 sq. ft. More than 10 years ago this figure was shown to be unrealistic, and a more realistic space was 100 to 150 sq. ft. per worker, or 7 to 10 workers/1000 sq. ft. That added more jobs so we have the increasing need for more housing.

When the commercial zoning along El Camino was revised and modernized more than 40 years ago we included allowing residential on the upper floors of commercial developments, but only 5 projects with ground floor retail and upper floor housing were built on El Camino from Adobe Creek to Page Mill since 1980, because commercial development with ground floor retail and upper floor offices was more profitable.

Posted by Chris Zaharias
a resident of another community
on Jul 18, 2020 at 1:40 am

@Anon - you missed my key point = GOOD RIDDANCE

PA is filled to the brim with selfish, uncaring people who brazenly combat their state's clear directive to make CA a place normal people can afford rather than end up homeless. That is sick, and it's why us PA OG's don't miss PA.

It is simply no longer a nice place. It is an ugly place full of ugly people who just don't know it.

Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jul 18, 2020 at 10:22 am

Chris, many of us are well aware that PA is becoming uglier with fewer useful and unique places as big tech and big developers rush to densify with ugly stack-and-pack buildings that can be found everywhere and traffic congestion that's the worst in the US.

Read the reports of approved development projects. Funny how they all have lots of office space even though there's a clear sentiment here that we don't need MORE office space that causes more congestion and ore ugliness.

Check out the declining city satisfaction ratings.

Posted by Rebecca Eisenberg
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jul 20, 2020 at 9:42 pm

Although I agree that it is unpleasant to imagine the State of California entering our community and making decisions that rightfully belong to our community regarding the placement of housing, our current City Council has no one to blame but themselves for decades of consistent failure on housing production.

Regardless of the cause, we all agree that California generally and Palo Alto specifically faces a housing crisis of historic proportions. This crisis impacts housing at every income level -- from a shortage of tony multi-acre estates for the wealthiest few, to entry-level single-family homes for newly married couples and young families, to apartment units and condos for working single people and graduate students, to affordable housing options for individuals and families facing career and medical setbacks that often cause short-term financial challenge. We never would face the possibility of state intervention with our housing production if Palo Alto made progress in providing ANY of these types of housing available.

Instead of creating housing, our city council -- including the three sitting council members who complained to the State of its unreasonable demands (demands, for the record, of which the city council has been aware for years) -- has eliminated housing. Time after time, the city council has allowed corporate developers to avoid their relatively miniscule (compared with other cities) requirement to provide housing to offset office development, by allowing developers to pay into a fund that ultimately goes to parking garages (to serve these same corporate developers) rather than housing to serve our residents.

When given any opportunity to stand up for housing and/or resident interests, the City Council has opted to back commercial developers. Just two weeks prior to complaining to the state that its housing mandates are unachievable, all three of these members voted to allow the Hotel President to take 75 housing units off the the market and convert an apartment building into yet another unnecessary expensive corporate hotel. Their sole justification for this unjust, irrational decision was in order to avoid lawsuits - against themselves, personally, as council members. Web Link

Meanwhile, Palo Alto has ample means to create new housing. Instead of incentivizing office development through our current system of tax exemptions and developer subsidies, we could tax office development and provide tax exemptions and financial subsidies for housing development. We could take advantage of the literal hundreds of acres of empty and abandoned office space and office leases by partnering with affordable housing development companies to convert underutilized land from commercial to residential. We could work with nonprofits and for-profit companies that provide modular and portable housing to enable transitional homes for the majority of homeless who face a temporary setback and for whom a clean bed and shower can expedite a return to the workforce. We even can look into acquiring underutilized land for public needs. In the past several decades, our city council has done NONE of these things, and has not even looked into them.

It is inconceivable that a letter written by elected officials from one of the wealthiest cities in the country - if not world - will inspire an ounce of sympathy in Sacramento. The obligations that Palo Alto faced were equal to those faced by all other cities. The biggest difference is that unlike almost all other cities, Palo Alto actually has the wealth and means to provide housing.

That Palo Alto sits on the bottom of the compliance list is entirely the fault of our elected leadership. The best way to ensure to prevent Sacramental bureaucrats from mandating the development of a high-rise apartment building next door to your single family residence is to replace the city council members up for re-election, to vote against former City Council members seeking for another shot on the council, and to ensure that sitting members of the Planning Commission do not have a chance to upgrade their pro-commercial-developer agenda to the ranks of the city council.

At the end of the day, it does not matter whether a city council member voted against housing due to NiMBYism, like some of the seated council members, or whether they voted against housing due to their irrational devotion to serve the interests of commercial developers, like certain others on the city council. Both approaches are toxic, counterproductive, and ultimately harmful to our residents.

It's time for our city government to get its act together and build housing. It is not just our legal requirement, it's the right thing to do for our community.

Posted by Ray
a resident of Professorville
on Jul 22, 2020 at 12:18 pm

I am sick and tired of these conservatives who misuses their council seats to demagogue on growth and immigrants.

I am sick and tired they put money ahead of public interest, only want to take advantage of "huge outside investment".

None of them are economists and yet they denounce the state-studied reports. Look at the housing cost, you will find the it is a outrageous lie that the jobs estimate is overly boosted.

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