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Opinion: Survey of Palo Alto faith leaders points to new affordable housing possibilities

Original post made on Nov 19, 2021

Palo Alto is too expensive. Gone are the days when you could expect your child's teachers to live in the neighborhood or when hardworking families could scrimp to buy a starter home.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Friday, November 19, 2021, 6:50 AM

Comments (15)

Posted by John Sack
a resident of Barron Park
on Nov 20, 2021 at 6:11 am

John Sack is a registered user.

If a church, as a tax-exempt institution, were to convert some of its property to a taxable use, wouldn't it have to go through the challenge of getting is property split into parcels and then pay taxes on the properties that are slated for development?
This wasn't listed in the 'barriers' and I would have thought it was a big one. But maybe there's some way to bypass these challenges?


Posted by community member
a resident of University South
on Nov 20, 2021 at 12:52 pm

community member is a registered user.

Palo Alto Forward is an organization led by, and for, developers. This writer's working for them reduces her credibility, I believe.


Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Nov 20, 2021 at 2:14 pm

Online Name is a registered user.

Besides Palo Alto Forward, Evans is also heavily involved with the YIMBY movement which is also an arm of Peninsula For Everyone, that new group that started the brouhaha in College Terrace when it put up those infamous and incendiary posters equating everyone who opposed the proposed apartment building to the gun-toting couple i St Louis.


Posted by RDR
a resident of another community
on Nov 20, 2021 at 2:16 pm

RDR is a registered user.

The logic in the piece is conflating the issue of what is zoned with the alleged price of land, even though it says the state laws require zoning but not actual construction. The issue of the church land is bogus. There's not enough of it and it's generally the worst place imaginable for increased density. You'd be better off building market rate new homes on the church land FOR A PROFIT and then somehow diverting that profit to construct the affordable housing elsewhere. So maybe that's what the developers are after...

It's pretty obvious that the only places that could be suitable for housing density are in the office parks. Some of these are located near El Camino Real where they offer little benefit for the R&D offices. Still getting a 20% increase in the number of housing units in the city is a ridiculous goal which is unlikely to happen however things are zoned. There are some single family homes and existing older apartments in areas like this, near commercial/service/retail business.


Posted by mjh
a resident of College Terrace
on Nov 20, 2021 at 4:03 pm

mjh is a registered user.

"It's pretty obvious that the only places that could be suitable for housing density are in the office parks."

With Sacramento's new housing bill AB9 just passed I believe that rezoning and city permission are no longer required to build 4 housing units on any single family lot, including no parking required. According to SB9 this permit is "by right " with no permission from the city required. In Palo Alto the cost of land is bid up so high I don't know if a developer could make more money on 4 smaller luxury housing units or one big luxury mansion.


Posted by relentlesscactus
a resident of another community
on Nov 20, 2021 at 4:34 pm

relentlesscactus is a registered user.

"What was surprising to see is that 85% of respondents expected backlash from neighbors if they built affordable housing." -- Why is that surprising, I wondered? Then I saw the author of the article is an affordable housing activist. At some point one needs to realize basic economics. When you make housing affordable to one group of people, and equal number of people the next step up the ladder are now rendered unable to buy. This cycle never ends. That's why subsidized housing is nonsensical.


Posted by mjh
a resident of College Terrace
on Nov 20, 2021 at 6:07 pm

mjh is a registered user.

Last time I looked, YIMBY had pages and pages of tech companies listed as supporters and donors. These companies, developers, and affiliated high profile "non-profits" are successfully lobbying in Sacramento to replace single family neighborhoods with high density so-called affordable "workforce" housing to fuel their ever increasing hiring expansion plans.

We are told that building additional peninsula housing is "simple" economics 101. Increase the supply and the price will go down. Except this assumes demand staying static. Except in Silicon Valley real estate any increase in housing supply is matched by an increase in demand from companies eager to expand their local workforce.


Posted by RDR
a resident of another community
on Nov 20, 2021 at 6:09 pm

RDR is a registered user.

SB9's potential effect is way overblown. It requires splitting the parcel in two in order to get 4 units. Otherwise the big deal is that it allows 2 houses on one lot. But we already have mandatory approval for ADU's being added to ANY lot so 2 units is already always allowed. The ability to split a lot is almost always going to require tearing down the existing house, so that's a major obstacle to this idea of reducing lot sizes.

Anyway, having 1 or 2 extra units per existing home is not going to yield any sort of density. The city can't count every home as potentially adding a new unit to meet the RHNA targets.

Also consider that any housing that is new is inherently going to market for a higher amount than older housing. Adding 2nd houses to existing lots will only happen at all because THOSE WILL BE SOME VERY expensive houses.


Posted by Amie
a resident of Downtown North
on Nov 20, 2021 at 11:46 pm

Amie is a registered user.

We need all the creative solutions we can think of, and this is a good one. There are families sleeping in cars in Palo Alto, those same families include folks who work at the local businesses we all frequent - we aren't talking about just tech workers. This is unacceptable when there is land available for housing and folks who potentially want to build affordable housing. We should build housing wherever we can!


Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Nov 21, 2021 at 12:36 pm

Online Name is a registered user.

This is a national problem, rife with speculators, big companies and scammers. It's not just a Palo Alto problem although Palo Alto's sure attracting the scammers.


"The blistering housing market has investors calling homeowners with uninvited offers

Homeowners are being besieged by unsolicited texts and phone calls by people seeking to buy their homes. Some are from individual house flippers, while others are from large real estate companies."

Web Link


My personal favorite was a radio ad saying something like "Cash, cash, cash in 7 MINUTES. We'll close on your house i just 7 minutes."


Posted by RDR
a resident of another community
on Nov 21, 2021 at 2:16 pm

RDR is a registered user.

It's an example of a nonsense "idea." First, the "faith leader" doesn't own the church or its land. The catholic church in Mountain View did a development on their parking lot. They build an office/retail building complex with underground parking. This made the diocese a lot of money. So it's not unheard of.

But the falsehood is that the churches are going to just give away their land. That's faulty.

But why stop at churches? What's special about their parking lots? They operate schools and day care during the week and use the parking all week long. But every busienss in Palo Alto has a parking lot, as do the schools. Why not build this housing on the elementary school parking lots, and the parking lots at the office buildings in the industrial park? Of course, they'd want money for their land too, and you would need to build them a parking garage as well.


Posted by stephen levy
a resident of University South
on Nov 22, 2021 at 8:54 am

stephen levy is a registered user.

As the op-ed points out, the city is including some church sites already in the site selection process t o identify sites for new housing.
I support the idea of creating an overlay zone (as we have done previously for 100% below-market-rate projects) so that congregations and faith leaders can have housing built on their sites where feasible for low-income congregants, staff and residents.

Palo Alto Forward is pleased that Angie Evans was able to reach out to local faith leaders to listen to their hopes and concerns and I am doubly pleased that they warmed to the idea of providing deed-restricted housing.

I hope council will create an overlay zone as they did for the Wilton Court project and look forward to see what happens next.


Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Nov 22, 2021 at 10:56 am

Online Name is a registered user.

Of course you and your big tech and big developers are. That's what they pay you to do.


Posted by RDR
a resident of another community
on Nov 22, 2021 at 2:17 pm

RDR is a registered user.

Interesting. There seems to be an error in the article about the number. The Palo Alto RHNA quota is 6086 Total, but only about 56% of this is for "affordable" units, including "moderate" income level. 44% are market rate housing. If you include "moderate" the BMR units total about 3300.

So, the imagine 148 or so on church properties is a pretty insignificant portion of the goal. It won't help much. The big location the city is seeking seems to be in the office properties, which makes the most sense.


Posted by RDR
a resident of another community
on Nov 22, 2021 at 2:17 pm

RDR is a registered user.

imagined/hoped for units on church properties.


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