Town Square

Post a New Topic

Guest Opinion: Palo Alto is ready for more housing

Original post made on Nov 18, 2022

You're 80 years old. You've lived in your apartment for decades. Your landlord keeps the rent low. You're walking distance to your neighborhood grocery store and doctor's office. Then one day you receive an eviction notice.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Friday, November 18, 2022, 12:00 AM

Comments (89)

Posted by felix
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 18, 2022 at 8:26 am

felix is a registered user.

Gosh, there are so many misconceptions here.

We have an affordability crisis, not a market-rate housing crisis. We have plenty of vacant market rate apartments, but not nearly enough very low, low, and moderate rate apartments defined as below-market-rate (BMR)by the govt.

Affordable Housing IS being built here. The following ALL BMR projects are just opening or are to be built in Palo Alto: Wilton Court. teacher housing near Cal Ave., Charleston & Middlefield site, Charities’ Mike’s Bikes site, and hopefully the Country Inn site on El Camino. And some approved market-rate projects offering 15% (or 20%?) BMR units.

Developers get projects approved when projects are lawful and show reasonable common sense - hardly a high bar. If an initial proposal doesn’t rise to this level, it is not the fault of the City, and the responsibility of the developer to bring back a better proposal.

Unhoused Palo Altans are cared for. The 88-unit Transitional Housing site for Palo Altans will open soon. It will shelter all unhoused in town according to City studies.

The Housing Element seems designed to fail for most cities. The State requires Palo Alto to ensure 3.465 BMR units get built in a few years (though no city builds housing). Also 2,621 market-rate units must be built, which will get done because they bring huge profits. Market-rate developers must include 525 BMR units in these projects. That still leaves 2,940 BMR units yet to be built.

It is estimated that well over $2 billion is needed to build the remaining 2.940 BMR units in Palo Alto. There is little funding for this, and it seems designed to fail because there is no profit in building this housing. Neither government nor corporations are fully funding it– and this is just our City.

California has Just Cause Eviction laws that apply in Palo Alto, and were added to this year. Our City has it’s own renter protections. I agree, always more is welcome. But it seems this writer is confusing Just Cause Eviction with Rent C


Posted by felix
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 18, 2022 at 8:35 am

felix is a registered user.

Oh, and surely the writer is putting us on when she expresses surprise that Palo Alto Forward is gung-ho for 6,086 added homes in Palo Alto. Does the sunrise in the morning? Do tomatoes ripen in summer?




Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Nov 18, 2022 at 8:36 am

Online Name is a registered user.

But housing in all the empty office space and empty hotels that previous leaders insisted we need and now don't. Lots of office vacancies as layoffs continue with many more on the way.

We happened to have dinner last night with someone who's friends with the manager of a big hotel on El Camino and they had *700* -- seven HUNDRED -- room cancellations for this month and next month. That's a lot.

But sure, let's keep destroying Palo Alto to placate the developers. It's so great watching greedy landlords refusing to cut rents.

Seriously, other cities have enacted vacancy taxes; why can't Palo Alto? The only reason I can think of is that our "leaders'" backers wouldn't like it any more than they were willing to pay their fair share of business taxes.


Posted by resident3
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 18, 2022 at 8:48 am

resident3 is a registered user.

"You've probably heard that California is experiencing a severe housing shortage. As an organizer, I can tell you firsthand, this is what that looks like."

This is kind of insensitive because it assumes that those who are still here have not seen friends and neighbors displaced by the richer people with bigger jobs. The exodus has not been because of a building shortage and a "building element" won't make prices go down or help if the prices of those new buildings are as expensive.

If the City is serious about actually housing Palo Alto residents who are at risk, figure out why there are so many vacancies.

Regarding schools,- everyone who wants to go to school here can't be found a home to live in. But a graduating senior for example, I think should get to come to finish school if their family can't afford to stay in their rental.


Posted by scott
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Nov 18, 2022 at 10:51 am

scott is a registered user.

Vacancies in the Bay Area are far below both the national average and historic norms for the region. The vacancies we have include conditions you can't eliminate with any conceivable policy, like units for sale, units for rent, units sold but not yet occupied, units under construction that are not even habitable, et cetera. And the small fraction that are things like underutilized vacation homes are being underused despite property taxes already giving those owners a strong financial incentive to sell or rent. There's no evidence to suggest we can make meaningful progress against the housing crisis by focusing on our (low) vacancy rate.

The housing market is a market, and housing is scarce while the economy is slowing driving demand. So housing is doing what scarce things do in markets where demand is increasing: getting more expensive. We've been underbuilding since cities -including Palo Alto- downzoned in the 1970s. Which people knew at the time would cause prices to rise. Honestly, the only thing that's shocking is we didn't consider it a crisis 20 years ago when dual-income no-kid tech couples ALREADY could move here and find they couldn't afford to buy.

But I'm heartened right now. I honestly think we're passing a turning point where it will finally become possible to build ourselves out of this godawful mess. So many of my friends have moved away, but I'm finally starting to think my kids will probably be able to live here when they grow up if that's what they want. Because the people who want to make sure no homes are ever built for them to start families in? Those people are losing.


Posted by Seer
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Nov 18, 2022 at 11:10 am

Seer is a registered user.

I love people complaining about “greedy landlords”. Why aren’t those same people giving renters money? That’s what they want the landlords to do.


Posted by resident3
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 18, 2022 at 11:12 am

resident3 is a registered user.

“I'm finally starting to think my kids will probably be able to live here when they grow up if that's what they want. Because the people who want to make sure no homes are ever built for them to start families in? Those people are losing.“

I’m not as optimistic because Palo Alto has become a “buy and hold” investment market where many of the cash purchasers (like Stanford) will not make new or any housing available for your kids.

Lower income people will be beat out of the market and in this respect the situation in Palo Alto is not unique. Be careful about the economists that are saying otherwise. Also, the people you say are “losing” may be the people we need to do more about below market rate housing.


Posted by NeilsonBuchanan
a resident of Downtown North
on Nov 18, 2022 at 11:14 am

NeilsonBuchanan is a registered user.

To focus this conversation, city staff and city council could produce a quarterly, rolling forward report for housing projects working their way thru city approval. Then provide a breakdown of market rate and below market rate prospects.

There is a comparable report for ADUs "in process". but it takes genius to find the quarterly report on the city website.

It would be great if there was data on rental and "ownership" vacancies but that seems beyond reach. Marc Berman and Josh Becker can spend their political capital on basic hurdle for problem solving data for all of California. Similarly Palo Alto Council could track net new office space to understand job/housing ratio trends. Why is there eternal search for this data?

I strongly believe you can manage what you can measure.


Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Nov 18, 2022 at 11:24 am

Online Name is a registered user.

"I strongly believe you can manage what you can measure."

True. Unless you don't want people doing the measurements -- sort of like maintaining a business registry which is seemingly beyond the city's ability here in the middle of Silicon Valley with a HUGE budget.


Posted by scott
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Nov 18, 2022 at 12:46 pm

scott is a registered user.

"I strongly believe you can manage what you can measure."

HCD in Sacramento has some great dashboards on housing stuff!
Web Link

My favorite fact right now is that Palo Alto is 5th worst in the state on entitlement (rezoning request) times, and gets far more rezoning applications than permitting applications. (See construction tab.) Since the city needs to show it can roughly triple its housing production, you'd think it would be keen on reforming this housing graveyard. It does not seem to be. But that's fine, because the city isn't the final arbiter of whether the plans it's offering are adequate. That's HCD.


Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Nov 18, 2022 at 12:49 pm

Online Name is a registered user.

@Scott, you do realize that Palo Alto has more rentals than surrounding communities? I think PA is split pretty evenly with 44% rentals.


Posted by resident3
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 18, 2022 at 12:56 pm

resident3 is a registered user.

@scott,

"Since the city needs to show it can roughly triple its housing production, you'd think it would be keen on reforming this housing graveyard. It does not seem to be. But that's fine, because the city isn't the final arbiter of whether the plans it's offering are adequate. That's HCD."

The numbers are pretty absurd, and everyone knows that. I would also stop calling this a housing crisis after Covid. IMHO, CA has a transportation crisis but developers looking to cash in from all this don't care about that. If you want to blame this issue on anyone, look at the developers. All they know is square footage.

SF Chronicle
"S.F. supes rip into state, Newsom over requirement to build more housing"


Web Link


Posted by Michaela Jordan
a resident of University South
on Nov 18, 2022 at 1:37 pm

Michaela Jordan is a registered user.

The State of California should provide housing for the homeless, the economically depressed, and the displaced by purchasing existing motels, apartments, and duplexes at below-market rates citing humanitarian eminent domain.

Additional income and property taxes on the wealthy could also be implemented to initiate and maintain the program.

This measure would pacify both NIMBYs and housing advocates.


Posted by scott
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Nov 18, 2022 at 2:00 pm

scott is a registered user.

"everybody knows that" = "How could Nixon have won? Nobody I know voted for him."

Producing our RHNA is not hard. Redondo Beach had a RHNA of about 2500 units, fell out of compliance on their Housing Element, and got one project that is going to produce 2300 units. There are other ways to produce RHNA which retain local control --but Redondo Beach shows the most likely path for cities who stay committed to the proposition that "the numbers are pretty absurd."

Web Link


Posted by resident3
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 18, 2022 at 2:09 pm

resident3 is a registered user.

@Scott,

“Producing our RHNA is not hard.”

Building can’t be that hard, having projects that are good for people and communities or that don’t cause unintended consequences is probably not as easy. I still caution that building
may end up in the hands of ghost investors. What’s wrong with also addressing that if everything is possible?


Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Nov 18, 2022 at 2:15 pm

Online Name is a registered user.

Let's not forget that PA's housing targets are based on ridiculously outdated jobs numbers that are pre-pandemic, pre-huge layoffs.


Posted by Local Resident
a resident of Community Center
on Nov 18, 2022 at 2:28 pm

Local Resident is a registered user.

The author states she is paid by Palo Alto Forward (PAF). Just a reminder that Palo Alto Forward officially opposed the office cap. Office was much more profitable and downtown had had a slew of office buildings and very few apartments built prior to their opposition. Their priority was density not affordability.

Also the author implied Palo Alto has a poor track record on affordability yet we have the second highest percentage of affordable housing per capita in Santa Clara County. And this month we just passed the business tax which will significantly increase the citys funds for affordable housing, especially by being able to bring in matching state and federal funds.

While we need to continue to fund and support affordable housing, lets make sure the upzoning reduces costs for renters and buyers rather than just ending up in the pockets of developers, like what happened with the Alta Locale project on the corner of Page Mill and El Camino.


Posted by scott
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Nov 18, 2022 at 2:40 pm

scott is a registered user.

"I still caution that building may end up in the hands of ghost investors."

That's fine. Certainly much better than not-building being in the hands of Pat Burt. I want my grandkids to be able to live here. Builders and their investors can offer me that future. Lydia Kou? Not so much.

If people make a buck solving the housing crisis, that's fine. Someone made a buck making my house. I bet someone made a buck making yours. And I bet you don't fret about that. But you are fretting about someone making a buck building housing for our kids and grandkids --and they aren't less deserving than you and me.


Posted by Bystander
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 18, 2022 at 5:32 pm

Bystander is a registered user.

Do we know how many vacancies there are in the recent developments built in the San Antonio area and ECR.

With the potential of all the Facebook layoffs and possibly more high tech jobs, with people leaving the State, why do we need more housing? Has anyone actually thought this through with recent projections?


Posted by Gale Johnson
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Nov 18, 2022 at 7:46 pm

Gale Johnson is a registered user.

@Scott: Stop the trash talk about people who are working hard to try to help solve the affordable housing problem. From recent reports market rate housing is not a problem. Read posts above that try to explain that. And while you’re at it let’s hear your idea of a viable solution to the affordable housing problem.


Posted by Paly Grad
a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Nov 18, 2022 at 8:03 pm

Paly Grad is a registered user.

This article is about a partnership between Sequoia Living and Mercy Housing California to provide 145 affordable homes in San Francisco.

Web Link

Perhaps a similar partnership could be created in our area.


Posted by Citizen
a resident of College Terrace
on Nov 18, 2022 at 8:21 pm

Citizen is a registered user.

Will PA online publish opinion pieces from those who support property rights and who point out how the cost of government via taxes, impact fees, ceqa, burdensome regulations, prohibitions on sprawl, pushing up wage costs, drive up the cost of housing? Or just those on the far left?


Posted by scott
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Nov 18, 2022 at 8:55 pm

scott is a registered user.

Gail, they are only trying to solve the affordable housing problem in the context of producing as little aggregate housing as possible, so they wind up not producing much of anything. If they wanted 2k AH units, they could legalize enough housing near transit to build 10k at 20% affordable. Go ten stories of mass timber if necessary, but I think six would be plenty. The people you say I'm "trash talking" would never do this -I think you'd agree- so please consider accepting that perhaps I am actually much *more* supportive of affordable housing than those you say are fighting for it --and perhaps more than yourself. But if you're willing to go as far as I am to see it produced, then I'd be happy to be corrected.

By the way, that's all granting for argument the false premise that only subsidized housing produces affordable housing --but let's debunk that. New market rate housing draws wealthier people out of what the city calls "naturally affordable" housing stock, leaving more affordable vacancies behind them throughout the region. I cite this study [1] a lot:

"for each 100 new, centrally located market-rate units, 29 units get created through vacancy in bottom-quintile income zip codes and 60 units in bottom-half income zip codes. "

Most folks understand this for cars. When we stopped building enough cars during the pandemic they got expensive. Imagine if someone told you: "we don't need any new market-rate cars, we should only allow new cars built below a certain price that requires subsidies." Well, we'd get a car crisis. Sure enough: that's how some Palo Alto pols talk about housing. Fortunately, a shrinking number of them.

[1]
Web Link


Posted by resident3
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 18, 2022 at 11:20 pm

resident3 is a registered user.

@scott,

“Most folks understand this for cars. When we stopped building enough cars during the pandemic they got expensive. Imagine if someone told you: "we don't need any new market-rate cars, we should only allow new cars built below a certain price that requires subsidies."

You’ve just explained the state mandate. It’s market interference with the state forcing cities to “produce” buildings which is as strange as it sounds.


Posted by MyFeelz
a resident of JLS Middle School
on Nov 19, 2022 at 3:53 pm

MyFeelz is a registered user.

I found this interesting at Web Link

It says in part, "As a society, the term “third world country” refers to countries with high mortality rates, especially infant mortality rates. They also have an unstable and inconsistent economy. These are countries that contain massive amounts of poverty and in some cases have fewer natural resources than other nations throughout the world. These countries often have to rely on more industrialized countries to aid them and help stabilize their economy."

We have an unstable and inconsistent economy, massive poverty, few natural resources, and we are entirely dependent on other countries to provide the goods we sell -- basically we are brokers for imported products of everything.

All we have to do is catch up with the mortality rate, and we'll be right there with every other impoverished third world country.

@scott the car manufacturing tanked due to everyone staying home, globally. New cars were selling for a song. After they were gone, it's the USED cars that skyrocketed because of the "chip shortage".


Posted by Ryan
a resident of Barron Park
on Nov 19, 2022 at 11:17 pm

Ryan is a registered user.

Palo Alto needs LESS housing, not more housing. Less pollution, less crowding, less crime. More parks and open spaces.


Posted by Resident
a resident of Midtown
on Nov 21, 2022 at 8:33 am

Resident is a registered user.

Have the proponents of build-build-build cited examples of cities where building more and taller housing in SF zones brought down prices? It's the jobs imbalance and lack of affordable options for essential workers that need to be prioritized. Those jobs which cannot be done remotely.

People proclaiming Palo Alto should allow infill of townhouses in single family neighborhoods should visit Seattle. It completely changed several neighborhoods and created traffic, parking and infrastructure problems galore. Result: Housing is even less affordable and the homeless situation has gotten worse.


Posted by Paige
a resident of another community
on Nov 21, 2022 at 9:37 am

Paige is a registered user.

@scott you are going to be the next generation believing a myth that was never true. Unless your children and grandchildren become Senior AI Engineering Directors with future compensation plans equivalent to >$500k/yr they will never live in Palo Alto or even in an apartment in Palo Alto.

I understand you can cherry pick a study in Helsinki(!) where adding a downtown apartment stimulates a regional move vacating units on the perimeter, but even if this were true in "supercities" (it's not) it would worsen geo-spatial segregation by concentrating high wage families in the core and low wage families on the periphery, who would then have to commute to the core, and whose tax base could not replicate Palo Alto services.

This is exactly what Big-state liberalism is trying to undo. The goal of "housing equity" and AFFH is to integrate elite cities by income allowing low-income families access to high amenity city services like schools.

To "integrate" low-income families in expensive cities requires huge subsidies that are inefficient.

Big-State Progressive policy is defeating itself at every turn.

In reality Helsinki doesn't model supercities. Here's how supercities work; Web Link

Since 1980 the US has become two-track with an ever-increasing wage gap between highest earners and lowest earners even in urban areas were lower wages once kept pace with higher wages. No longer.

In supercities there is inelastic global demand to locate high-paying jobs ("agglomeration"), creating high-wage job congestion. New units in high amenity cities are taken, not by regionals in a move-in, move-up action, like Helsinki, but by high-wage global elites who in-migrate and displace.

You're hopeful naivete is being used to house Silicon Valley's highest paid workers in Palo Alto and crowd out lower income families to the periphery or out of state.

Keep digging your way out of that hole.


Posted by Consider Your Options.
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 21, 2022 at 9:55 am

Consider Your Options. is a registered user.

Why is staff burying data on housing projects that have been approved? There should be a simple spreadsheet with the ADUs, and housing projects that have been approved and are in the pipeline so citizens (and reporters) can easily monitor progress or lack of it on the housing front.

There's no mention in the article of projects that have been recently approved. (Maybe because the city doesn't make this information easily available.) For instance, at 525 East Charleston 50 units of 100% affordable apartments were approved this year. This is over 60-units/acre density with ten parking spaces on a parcel that is less than an acre. It was supported by its Palo Alto neighbors.

Here's what's coming in south Palo Alto:
Development Recently Built (B), Approved (A), or in the Pipeline (P) for East Charleston and San Antonio
75 (P) Condos (800 San Antonio Road)
88 (P) housing units (1237 San Antonio-Home Key transitional housing for unhoused people)
• 1-acre lot at 1237 San Antonio Road
• 88 rooms with en suite showers and restrooms
• State-of-the-art shelter and modular village with on-site laundry, kitchen, and outdoor spaces including a dog run, community garden, and picnic space.
• Space for on-site counseling, vocational training, and other supportive services
• Expected to serve over 200 people each year
102 (A) apartments -788 San Antonio
50 (A) apartments (525 E. Charleston – 100% affordable, 10 parking spaces)
249 (B) room hotel (744-750 San Antonio—Marriott hotels)
22 (P) senior units plus 8 nursing beds (figure one room for each two nursing beds, 824 San Antonio Road)
586 total hotel rooms and units

This is just south PA. Other projects I know of are 120 units of low- and very low-income units on the former El Camino Mikes Bikes site, a teacher housing project on Park Boulevard, and the Wilton Court project. There may be more. If housing is a city priority, there should be a spreadsheet that enables citizens and the press to track progress.







Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Nov 21, 2022 at 9:57 am

Online Name is a registered user.

Thank you, Paige. For some it's "hopeful naivete " and for others its calculated opportunism and cynical willingness to spout whatever fairy tales the deep-pocked density proponents want in other communities except their own.

And then when their hypocrisy makes national news like it did when Mark Andreesen and his wife Arrilega's daughter got caught opposing in *their* Atherton neighborhood next to ONE of their mansions, they go silent.


Posted by Andy
a resident of Stanford
on Nov 21, 2022 at 10:22 am

Andy is a registered user.

There is a very simple solution to the housing crisis.

BUILD MORE HOUSING

To do this, Palo Alto and ALL communities must flip the old policies and allow for increased height of buildings, incentivize ADU's and encourage developments that include:

* mixed-use
* underground or enclosed parking
* encourage height (with elevators)

With more new construction, it also improves the QUALITY of housing.

The fact we pay the most $$$ for the least quality housing is quite ridiculous.

We are seeing the elderly and young generations squeezed out so only the wealthy can afford to live here or those who by chance had properties long ago.


Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Nov 21, 2022 at 10:33 am

Online Name is a registered user.

@Andy, please explain how that will reduce the price of the land on which this new housing will sit since the LAND is assess at way more than the buildings sitting on it.

Extra credit re how this will improve housing quality when so many of the older homes have hardwood floors, solid walls that keep the house cool, etc etc.

It gets old hearing people repeat this mantra without any facts, loigic, etc. If they spent 2 seconds thinking about dense cities, they'd realize that if density reduced prices than Manhattan, Tokyo etc. would be so much cheaper than Indiana and Mississippi.


Posted by Annette
a resident of College Terrace
on Nov 21, 2022 at 10:51 am

Annette is a registered user.

Paige's post is sensible and I join Online Name in thanking her for it.

Affordability is the challenge. Excessive building will not correct that, but Scott Weiner and his ilk will continue to write housing legislation as long as their advocacy is rewarded by those it benefits. If what is being done by legislative bodies was effective, by now the problems would be lessening. The problem - and the solution - is all about money.


Posted by Evergreen Park Observer
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Nov 21, 2022 at 11:21 am

Evergreen Park Observer is a registered user.

Why does the Palo Alto Weekly continue to publish guest opinion pieces that have no solid proposals to offer? There is a mantra that 'we need more housing.' But, of what kind and at what price, and how exactly will the economics work out for this? If we build 10 story buildings, what kind of infrastructure needs to be built to support that? If no parking is provided, then how will people get around? What, exactly, is the target market for the new housing? Surely, low income families are not the true market for $3,500 a month studio apartments. There are the hard questions that need to be debated -- with facts and data, not a wish list. Opinion pieces like this one are not very helpful. Surely the Weekly could do better.


Posted by Paige
a resident of another community
on Nov 21, 2022 at 12:27 pm

Paige is a registered user.

The biggest myth of Democratic Capitalism is that its outputs are more the product of democracy than of capitalism.

Does anyone really think that State Legislators guided by academics can "regulate" for-profit capitalists into building housing that minimizes profits on behalf of the lowest paying customers?

Capitalists are not saints. The housing market is not like the TV market.

There's no profitable market for those who cannot afford cost, particularly when construction must be earthquake proof, fire resilient, clean, green, low-flow, Union wage, income-integrated, and all the other things that Progressives want to save Earth, while providing a competitive rate of return for capital markets who could invest in other things, (like office buildings) except, now crypto, thankfully.

If mis-regulation by zoning were really the problem, why think that State legislators are any better at it than local officials? Wasn't Mark Berman a local council member? Did Josh Becker ever make a land-use decision before being seated in the State Senate?

Does either understand how to write zoning rules for all the micro-markets in Palo Alto which are different than all the micro-markets in Menlo Park, and ... ad infinitum.

The State is failing. ADUs failed. SB9 failed. SB10 failed. SB-you-name-it failed. Newsome is nowhere near his stated goals. Rents and prices rise, rise, rise. Now State knows, or should know, how hard it is for democracy to manage capitalism.

Stop blaming cities, neighbors, and houses. Stop blaming Palo Alto for being a club you want to join, but whose membership dues you cannot afford. It does not set its own dues.

Kobayashi Maru. There's not always a win. Its about who we are in the face of that. There are other lovely places on Earth. Maybe its time to develop them.


Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Nov 21, 2022 at 1:01 pm

Online Name is a registered user.

"Wasn't Mark Berman a local council member? Did Josh Becker ever make a land-use decision before being seated in the State Senate?"

Both held "town meetings" via Zoom that were each attended by 200+ people who asked good and specific questions. Berman famously claimed there were too many bills for him to focus on and ignored all specific points, raised. Becker famously claimed "he couldn't wrap his mind around" the issue, prompting one local wit to suggest we buy him a turban to wrap around his head.


And Evergreen Park Observer asks some key questions above.


Posted by Anonymous
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Nov 21, 2022 at 2:10 pm

Anonymous is a registered user.

To the author: there are many great public school districts in this state and country. It’s wise to think about this, of course. If someone’s living in their car, there’s a lot going on that needs Social Services and a move to habitable housing in a place where they can afford it. There are hundreds of affordable cities even in this state.
People driving up in a vehicle and parking on ECR in PA during the pandemic, (“came from San Jose”)receiving free taxpayer supplied laptops from PAUSD for the two kids and unemployed husband sitting there - (per local article circa last year) should be told to move along.
When there are mass layoffs, government at all levels should supply extra support.
Random persons driving up “deserve” zero of our highly taxed taxpayer supplied government funds.
I’d LOVE to live in Pacific Palisades, also La Jolla - but I sadly can’t afford it. So I am not there. I doubt they would allow me to park on a street curb and immediately demand my kids enter their public schools.


Posted by Paige
a resident of another community
on Nov 22, 2022 at 9:30 am

Paige is a registered user.

@Consider "There should be a simple spreadsheet with the ADUs, and housing projects that have been approved and are in the pipeline so citizens (and reporters) can easily monitor progress or lack of it on the housing front."

Every year each city is required to submit a "Annual Housing Element Progress Report" to HCD. Palo Alto's are here: Web Link

But to re-emphasize your point, the author's claim that "Most housing projects in Palo Alto are blocked..." is false.

The second false claim is that Palo Alto has a long history of inaction.

It won't take long to document that nearly every method of generating affordable housing imagined in "Progressive policy circles" from impact fees, to inclusionary zoning, to bonus densities, to public subsidies is being used and has been used in Palo Alto for quite some time.

When Redwood City built out 2500 units in its downtown specific plan it did not have an inclusionary zoning ordinance.

If the author thinks the Peninsula is for "everyone" a good first start might be to audit each city to insure that every city on that peninsula is doing at least as much as Palo Alto is doing. If others are doing more, tell us what they are doing.


Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Nov 22, 2022 at 10:50 am

Online Name is a registered user.

"But to re-emphasize your point, the author's claim that "Most housing projects in Palo Alto are blocked..." is false.

The second false claim is that Palo Alto has a long history of inaction."

These lies date back to when former PTC Commissioner Kate Downing falsely accused Pat Burt of wanting to ban startups from downtown when what he REALLY said was that big rich companies like Palantir were pricing out startups.

Yet these lies went global -- and are still repeated to this day -- thanks to the constant repetition by past and present elected officials, the well-funded lobbyists and activists and the much of the media that now can't write an article without characterizing PA as populated solely by rich white NIMBY "residentialist" elitists who are better funded and louder than the Chamber of Commerce!! -- all evidence to the contrary!

How do regular citizens/taxpayers refute this type of decades-old constant and costly PR campaign? How much of the recent crime spree can be blamed on this constant drumbeat repeated by columnists here, elected officials past and present and YIMBY Action, PAF, Peninsula For Everyone and the shell groups funding saturation ad campaigns?


Posted by Resident 1-Adobe Meadows
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Nov 22, 2022 at 11:03 am

Resident 1-Adobe Meadows is a registered user.

A look at San Antonio Road and the new buildings that are now finished and being occoupied. I think it looks really great. And new buildings are inching up El Camino. Note that the shopping center on San Antonio and El Camino is going to be replaced by new buildings. Then you can see the new buildings in Menlo Park on El Camino. If you just sit in your home then you cannot see all of the new building that is going on.
Palo Alto has areas on El Camino of ancient one-story buildings which need to be eliminated - smoke shops, non-essential businesses. Yes - we have a problem and pushing that problem into R-1 neighborhoods is not the way to go. The property tax on those old buildings must be about 0. Someone powerful owns those old buildings and we need to get those people centered on revatilizing the area.


Posted by Paige
a resident of another community
on Nov 22, 2022 at 11:23 am

Paige is a registered user.

@Online "How do regular citizens/taxpayers refute this type of decades-old constant and costly PR campaign?"

Make peace with losing. When I take the nonsense too seriously I have to remind myself how fortunate I am to have once experienced Northern California pre-YIMBY. Hike in the OSP's during the day. There's no-one there.

Here is a well written article that refutes many YIMBY myths. Same-same in San Francisco. Web Link

There are still thinking people in this world. Ironically, its the business papers like Bloomberg that have more good articles debunking the happy talk.




Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Nov 22, 2022 at 11:28 am

Online Name is a registered user.

"A look at San Antonio Road and the new buildings that are now finished and being occoupied. I think it looks really great. And new buildings are inching up El Camino. Note that the shopping center on San Antonio and El Camino is going to be replaced by new buildings"

And many of those buildings are going empty now that Meta's announced plans to cut back its real estate portfolio and stop expanding. Rents have come down there because they no longer need to accommodate FB staffers. Some retaurants there have closed.

Web Link

Meta ends longterm lease at San Antonio Center in Mountain View
The tech company says they're building “a best-in-class remote work experience”

Meta recently left the office space it occupied in Mountain View at The Village at San Antonio Center, ending its longterm lease for the newly built office buildings.

In a statement responding to the lease termination, the tech giant told the Voice it's aiming to build “a best-in-class remote work experience.”


Posted by Resident 1-Adobe Meadows
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Nov 22, 2022 at 11:51 am

Resident 1-Adobe Meadows is a registered user.

Who occupies buildings is a secondary concern. The first concern is people who feel compelled to write about the lack of housing. The people who write about this have a single track POV that does not take into consideration the impact on the waste-water system, water useage, traffic patterns, and in the case of El Camino the fact that it has great holes in it and it needs to be fixed. Any one who rides a bike down that street is going to get into trouble.

We have a governor who crows and braggs about how much money we have - that is because he does not spend it on infrastructure. If the cities would counter the comments from Sacramento and demand that the roads be fixed, dams fortified, railroad projects completed, new lanes on I-5, etc. then there would be less money to crow about and happier residents. Why are we always in the "asking and begging" position. We are paying the taxes - get into us being in the "asking and demanding" postion.

I recall proest I went to in MV - a Socialist group of young people were blabbing about how much money there was. Gee - where did that money come from? Their parents paying taxes.


Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Nov 22, 2022 at 5:00 pm

Online Name is a registered user.

Re all the money California has, recent articles say that CA's facing a huge deficit with all the layoffs, stock market losses, corporate losses and write-offs/write-downs and market slowdown due to rising interest rates, rising mortgage rates, slowdown in the real estate market, decline in actual rents and home purchase prices, cancelled real estate projects, reductions in corporate real estate projects etc etc. ...

Do a quick search on "California Deficit" and you'll see the average prediction is a $25,000,000,000 (BILLION) deficit.

Any bets on when / if the housing advocates will mention any or all of the above?


Posted by Jerry Underdal
a resident of Barron Park
on Nov 22, 2022 at 5:35 pm

Jerry Underdal is a registered user.


@Paige
“It won't take long to document that nearly every method of generating affordable housing imagined in "Progressive policy circles" from impact fees, to inclusionary zoning, to bonus densities, to public subsidies is being used and has been used in Palo Alto for quite some time.”

What time frame are we to consider? You’re right that Palo Alto has a history of leadership in generating affordable housing. But that history ended with the referendum in 2013 Web Link that killed the Maybell project, an outcome that surprised many, including voters who supported affordable housing but didn’t feel their their vote was necessary to save it at the Barron Park site.

You’re right that there’s been movement in the last few years under pressure from the state to get more housing of all types built or face the consequences. But for several years following the Measure D referendum affordable housing was at a standstill.


Posted by Resident 1-Adobe Meadows
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Nov 22, 2022 at 8:08 pm

Resident 1-Adobe Meadows is a registered user.


The housing requrements imposed on urban cities do not take into consideration the amount of available land for building on. SU is the major land holder here and they have not developed their land to the total available. They are reaching out to Belmont and Redwood City to expand their campus housing and support.

Palo Alto, the city - is developed from border to border. People in in the North section point at the South section. Guess what - houses in the South Section are being upgraded and sold for large amounts of money. You can't point to any area that can SUSTAIN a lot of new growth. The baylands are creeping right up to 101 and are not really a viable location.
Using the measures for housing are along El Camino a major highway with buses. Or the Caltrain depots which alrady now have new buildings.
The big hole here is the giant parking lots associated with the old buildings in the Ventura location - Fry's and other businesses in ancient buildings. Yet nothing seems to move forward here. Tht is where the big hole is, and the one story businsses along El Camino -smoke shops, etc.


Posted by resident3
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 22, 2022 at 10:36 pm

resident3 is a registered user.

@Jerry Underdal,

“But that history ended with the referendum in 2013”

Referendums are last resort but they are useful when/if our unaccountable majority of 7 doesn’t work with neighbors on issues like pedestrian safety, parking, everything that is usually basic anywhere. I mean unless you’re building long term hotels for temporary people which I suppose Stanford needs, do they need 6000 units? Has anyone checked to see how much housing is really needed post Covid to compare with the ABAG fantasy.


Posted by scott
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Nov 23, 2022 at 10:29 am

scott is a registered user.

Oh my, it looks like I've been accused of cherry-picking by a cherry-picker. Some tips on researching this stuff. First, try to stick to peer-reviewed work. If you're reading an Op-Ed, check to see if it's citing something credible that didn't immediately provoke a peer-reviewed rebuttal. That's the sort of thing that would be a sign that citing the Op-Ed would be cherry-picking. Here's such a rebuttal to the Rodríguez-Pose Storper paper cited in that Op-Ed Paige linked at Bloomberg[1].

I'm not going to spend a ton more time debunking Paige. Bandollini's Law is real, and things quickly stop being constructive. I'll provide a short reading list, in case anyone's interested. The UCLA Roundup "The Effect of Market-Rate Development on Neighborhood Rents." "Homelessness is a Housing Problem" is just a book (not a paper), but it was published in an academic press with technical editors. The authors have an interview up at Sightline. I don't know why so many people dismiss the Helsinki study, because no one's ever suggested a problem with it besides blithely pointing out it's from Finland. They have a hybrid market/subsidized system like ours, and Helsinki has uniquely granular data. The clarity that study offers is exceptional and applicable.

But I will concede that "There's no profitable market for those who cannot afford cost" *is* true. (Neglecting subsidies.) That is just as true for cars. Yet, Palo Altans seem to understand that many poor people who can't afford a new car still manage to drive. I often hear calls for extensively-parked low-income housing! And people who cannot afford cost for new stock, do in fact drive! So maybe -as the Helsinki study proves- there are paths to broad housing affordability that rely on new supply at a mix of affordability levels. The mechanism would be new supply putting downward pressure on prices for existing stock.

Crazy, I know.

[1] Web Link


Posted by resident3
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 23, 2022 at 11:08 am

resident3 is a registered user.

@scott,

“Yet, Palo Altans seem to understand that many poor people who can't afford a new car still manage to drive. “

And how is that working for us. So easy to have faith in supply and demand alone. Why not limit population growth and then there’s less housing problems. Actually, unless there are solutions to, too many cars, we could have end up with too many buildings. Unlike NYC, I don’t see Bay Area towns wearing density very well or without things like a subway.


Posted by Resident 1-Adobe Meadows
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Nov 23, 2022 at 11:37 am

Resident 1-Adobe Meadows is a registered user.

When all is said and done we live in "Silicon Valley" and the economic engine for this location in the state is technology. That is not true for SOCAL which is the entertainment business and sports teams, along with major universities. If you live in the beach cities you have a highly diverse set of people who make a lot of money in sports who are on the beach - playing in volleyball tournaments - and they live in the beach cities. Diversity in SOCAL is not as big an issue as here in NORCAL. A lot of money made by a lot of diverse people down there.

Focusing on low cost housing is a good thing - but all of those people need JOBS. And if they do not have a technology background then they ae better off living in a location where there are jobs for their skill sets.

That is where the state's goals fall apart - no recognition that JOBS are essential for the success of any program. SF has a more diverse economy but is failing big time in their housing pursuits. Trying to shove people into locations where they cannot thrive is a recipe for disaster. SF keeps drawing people to the city who cannot thrive there and then become dependnent on subsidies.


Posted by Paige
a resident of another community
on Nov 23, 2022 at 12:54 pm

Paige is a registered user.

@scott Pose and Storper rebut Manville, Lens and Mönkkönen. Here: Web Link

In pretending there is a "rebuttal" to Pose Storper you don't actually say what part of PS was "effectively" rebutted by MLM. It was a really long paper. Read it. Its a good paper.

This doesn't have to be a food fight, Scott. Once this conversation moves from "Palo Alto blocked all the housing" and "all we need to do is build more" it will more sophisticated and nuanced than most.

There are parts of PS about upzoning and reducing rents to levels of "affordability." There's a part about geo-spatial segregation/concentration by income. There's a part about inter-regional mobility to "opportunity."

One main point is that there is no evidence that upzoning-only has simultaneously accomplished all three goals. Anywhere.

My point: Palo Alto can build luxury housing, but being a high amenity market it will not reduce rents, rather it is likely to attract high wage renters further increasing income segregation.

My second point is that part of Progressive housing agenda, AFFH, desires to income-integrate high-amenity neighborhoods.

The one defeats the other.

My more cynical view is that one is using the other.

I can show you the lines in the HCD memos that say, for (AFFH) purposes upzoning to "default levels" in Housing Elements (30du/acre) is "adequate" for "low income" housing, without question. If you zone at 30du/ac we will count that as affordable to low incomes.

So, yes, HCD policy is a simple "upzone-only produces low-income" units. It doesn't.

The Helsinki study is probably valid for ..... Helsinki. It may be valuable to model incremental supply in a static, low-demand areas, showing move up and move in.

The most intelligent thing I've read in an academic study is that authors don't quite prove what they think they prove. Including PS and MLM.


Posted by Paige
a resident of another community
on Nov 23, 2022 at 1:18 pm

Paige is a registered user.

@Jerry I'm not a Palo Altan. I never had a dog in the Maybell fight, but here's my zen story:

Two zen monks set out on a long pilgrimage. On the way, they came to a river crossing where they met a young woman unable to cross. One of the monks volunteered to carry her across.

After crossing and resuming their journey there was a noticeable emotional distance between the two monks. One was quietly fuming at the other.

After several miles, the monk who carried the woman confronted the other, fuming monk.

"What's wrong?"
"You violated our vows. You touched that woman back at the river."
"I put her down miles ago. You are still carrying her."

I think its time for fuming Palo Alto and the world to put down Maybell and stop carrying it as an example of anything that accurately describes Palo Alto in regards to affordable housing or land-use.

It's ten years old. Let it go.


Posted by Jerry Underdal
a resident of Barron Park
on Nov 23, 2022 at 7:50 pm

Jerry Underdal is a registered user.

@Paige

"I'm not a Palo Altan. I never had a dog in the Maybell fight. . . .It's ten years old. Let it go."

Fair enough, and we would probably agree on more points than you might expect if we had a real conversation. But I don't think we should just "let it go" without considering the effects, some good, some bad and some as yet undetermined, of the movement that placed its focus directly on the Maybell project to make its argument that the voice of residents was being disregarded by CPA decision makers and that the locus of power had to change to reflect that voice.

I have appreciated reading, though only partially understanding, your exchanges with Scott on this thread. Thanks.










Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Nov 24, 2022 at 9:42 am

Online Name is a registered user.

"You're 80 years old. You've lived in your apartment for decades. Your landlord keeps the rent low. You're walking distance to your neighborhood grocery store and doctor's office. Then one day you receive an eviction notice. "

And now you're wondering why all the rent-controlled apartments are being destroyed to make room for up-market housing and why you on your modest Social Security "income" are being asked to pay for new "workforce" housing for techies making 10+ times what you are and why our "leaders" fought so hard to ensure that only 5% of new housing was for very low income people like you.


Posted by Allen Akin
a resident of Professorville
on Nov 24, 2022 at 11:42 am

Allen Akin is a registered user.

@Online Name: "...why our 'leaders' fought so hard to ensure that only 5% of new housing was for very low income people like you."

I worry about this, too. Roughly 40% of the current residents of Santa Clara County earn 80% or less of the area median income. If you're only building 20% below-market-rate housing, then you're excluding a lot of lower-income people, so the County will gentrify as it grows.


Posted by Stepheny
a resident of Midtown
on Nov 24, 2022 at 3:50 pm

Stepheny is a registered user.

If you can't afford to live in Palo Alto or the Peninsula -- don't. Move somewhere where there is room to breathe, have a bit of a yard. Stop looking for the world to take care of you.


Posted by marc665
a resident of Midtown
on Nov 24, 2022 at 4:11 pm

marc665 is a registered user.

"You're 80 years old. You've lived in your apartment for decades. Your landlord keeps the rent low. You're walking distance to your neighborhood grocery store and doctor's office."


What are you complaining about? You've paid below market rates for the last 50 years. Are you supposed to be subsidized for the rest of your life?

What did you do with the money that you didn't pay as rent? Did you save it knowing that at some point you'd actually have to pay a fair rent for your apartment?

The reason your rent was low probably was due to the owner never making any upgrades or repairs to the units. There is a good chance that they died and their heirs or new owner realize that major improvements need to be made to the building and once that was done the rents would have to be increased significantly.

[Portion removed.]


Posted by Resident 1-Adobe Meadows
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Nov 25, 2022 at 10:15 am

Resident 1-Adobe Meadows is a registered user.

Comments on OpEds - every newspaper, TV, media market entity is financed by a POV entity pushing an agenda. Every Op-Ed will only cherry pick the points needed to support their agenda. I read 4 papers a day - SFC, SJM, WSJ, and NYT. Each will provide a rationale for what ever they are paid to push. TV cable will only push a set of narratives that the owner's want pushed.

Housing is a political issue that gets legislated at the state level. But housing in Norcal is not the same as housing in Socal - different end goals. The people pushing the legislation cannot even get their own area to cooperate with the legislation. All have big money attached to the end results. Most of which have nothing to to do with what the taxpayers want. Somehow CA has lost it's "bubble" and now is in trouble. The taxpayer's have said enough is enough.


Posted by Tom DuBois
a resident of Midtown
on Nov 26, 2022 at 4:37 pm

Tom DuBois is a registered user.

We need to focus on data and goals.

Palo Alto is one of the top cities in Santa Clara county (Ranked #2) with nearly 9% of it housing inventory composed of affordable housing. We need to grow and maintain our affordable housing up to a reasonable target level. I have proposed 10% which is a target other cities have set. It could be a higher target. But let’s set a target , measure it and try to get there.

Most cities in Santa Clara did not build affordable housing for many years and are far behind Palo Alto. We maintain and renew commitments to keep as much of our affordable housing as possible, rather than destroy housing stock through redevelopment which increases the cost of affordable housing as brand new. Unfortunately, under the state’s unfunded, development-centric mandates, we do not get credit for preserving so much housing.

Proponents of affordable housing ignore these facts because it is easier to motivate people by creating a villain and to paint Palo Alto as a wealthy city not doing its share. It’s true recent development has slowed as costs have shot up. Yet we still have more affordable housing per capita than almost every city around us.




Posted by community member
a resident of University South
on Nov 26, 2022 at 10:17 pm

community member is a registered user.

The author was surprised that Palo Alto Forward was in favor of construction? She may not know that they have always been run by people in the construction/development/design businesses. This is not news.
They make money on construction of all kinds.
Look into their backgrounds.


Posted by community member
a resident of University South
on Nov 26, 2022 at 10:25 pm

community member is a registered user.

Another factor in the housing shortage is the endless real estate purchases by Asian billionaires. A rough estimate of the amount of properties they buy would be over 90% of all sales. These sales are in the local newspapers, plain for all to see.

And then there are the other major buyers, like Stanford, which gobbles up housing all over, especially in College Terrace, but also in nearby towns.


Posted by MyFeelz
a resident of JLS Middle School
on Nov 27, 2022 at 7:11 am

MyFeelz is a registered user.

@Tim Dubois, with the recent announcement of 6k layoffs at HP to add to Cisco's 4k, and Twitter being gutted, the dominoes are falling and we might not need any more new housing. All the tech workers will go ... somewhere ... because they are not needed here. A software engineer makes a lousy WalMart greeter.

@online name, nobody took notice when a Greek sandwich salesman took his truck into the agricultural fields to sell his wares, and invested his profits in real estate, eventually buying the San Diego Chargers. Maybe your point is foreign investors are buying up properties and plan to buy the entire country? If I unravel that thread, I can see them selling the United States to the Chinese government at some point.

Or it could be the coffee hasn't kicked in yet.

I'm a movie buff. If anyone wants to know how these recent layoffs reverberate, see "Up In The Air" and "Larry Crowne" with a side of "Nomadland". If you prefer literature go back 400 years or so and read Shakespeare's "The Tempest". That's where he wrote "What is past is prologue" -- we are soaking in it.

2008 taught us nothing. 2001 also taught us nothing. Just as 1929. Ad infinitum.


Posted by resident3
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 27, 2022 at 10:32 am

resident3 is a registered user.

@Allen Aiken,

“Roughly 40% of the current residents of Santa Clara County earn 80% or less of the area median income.”

I won’t pretend to understand the state mandates but do they or anyone have “data and goals” about housing for the soon majority of the population unable to afford housing because housing will be out if their reach? And office building jobs fleeing or disappearing?

Are the 5 and 10% goals just numbers pulled out of a hat? Ironically, the Real Estate Building focus of the last election elected those who will prioritize a stable supply of buildings and some embrace the irrational state numbers and logic of interfering with the market. C-r-a-z-y.


Posted by Allen Akin
a resident of Professorville
on Nov 27, 2022 at 1:02 pm

Allen Akin is a registered user.

@resident3: My understanding is that the State's Department of Finance is responsible for making regular predictions of population and income. The Department of Housing and Community Development then uses those predictions and some other estimates (like typical numbers of people per household) to generate housing targets. This doesn't happen quickly or often, so unless there are legal challenges that force it, I wouldn't expect the most recent targets to be changed. There have been some relevant legal actions, but I'm not up-to-date on their status.


Posted by Eric Filseth
a resident of Downtown North
on Nov 28, 2022 at 12:16 am

Eric Filseth is a registered user.

The private sector won’t build so much housing in Palo Alto, under any zoning, that market prices fall here, and these academic papers don’t suggest that; instead they argue whether upzoning in expensive places lowers prices in other places, via “trickle down.”

That remains disputed, but even if it did work, it wouldn’t achieve Ms Causey’s goal of lower housing costs in Palo Alto, vs in Morgan Hill or Topeka or Yerevan. And the Helsinki paper itself acknowledges the whole idea doesn’t work if the new market-rate housing is filled by in-migrants, or if there is large inequality -- both of which have characterized the Bay Area for many years.

We think of affordable housing as a Progressive issue, yet if you look at the Policy agenda of certain Advocates – “avoid any economic drag on tech (such as impact fees and business taxes to fund housing); no restrictions on land use (to unleash the private sector); and oppose renter protections (they distort the market)” -- it’s really about Deregulation, the idea that freeing markets from government interference will produce a just society. That’s classically a Libertarian view, not a Progressive one.

So why have so many Progressives adopted what’s essentially a Libertarian agenda?

To help the disadvantaged in the unequal Bay Area takes money, a lot of it. Enter the Deregulators, with a sound-bite narrative: just Deregulate, and social justice comes free. It’s a “free-lunch” premise, and it’s been promoted for years about tax cuts for the rich without working. But money is expensive and deregulation is cheap, so there’s allure.

An alternative to “Regulation is the Problem, Deregulation is the Answer” is that the Valley doesn’t reinvest enough of its tech wealth into its housing and transportation infrastructure to sustain a healthy society. This idea is anathema to Deregulators, including some whose businesses profit from Deregulation itself; but if it’s right, then the D’s are no friend to affordable housing.


Posted by Bystander
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 28, 2022 at 8:01 am

Bystander is a registered user.

Why is this idea of more housing being touted whereas better and more affordable public transit never mentioned?

If public transport could get people to where they wanted to go in a timely manner, more efficiently than solo driving and looking/paying for parking, it would be an incentive for people to live where they could afford in a home where their family has the type of home they want for themselves. When Caltrain is electrified, for example, extending it down to Morgan Hill and Gilroy would be much easier as a daily commute.


Posted by resident3
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 28, 2022 at 9:15 am

resident3 is a registered user.

@Eric Filseth,

“An alternative to “Regulation is the Problem, Deregulation is the Answer” is that the Valley doesn’t reinvest enough of its tech wealth into its housing and transportation infrastructure to sustain a healthy society.”

The recent business tax negotiation at City Hall shows that local businesses or tech don’t have a future in being a long term investor or leaders in “healthy society.” It’s business you know. Or just look at Stanford, a gorilla that plays on the other side of local society on our mundane issues.

CA isn’t deregulating, its regulating. Regulation is simply changing rules and the housing mandates seem to basically attack the actual and only long term investors around, property owners, by interfering with the market to overbuild.
Those expecting a free lunch out of this fight will be disappointed.



Posted by I can't breathe pollution
a resident of Barron Park
on Nov 29, 2022 at 9:38 am

I can't breathe pollution is a registered user.

Do any of you realize that there are too many people on the planet already? Or is your psuedo "environmentalism" allergic to reality?


Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Nov 29, 2022 at 9:49 am

Online Name is a registered user.

Excellent points. I'd love to know why -- yet again -- Stanford was given a free pass in adding housing that counts toward PA's housing targets while it keeps REMOVING housing units available to the PA community. After their move to remove Oak Creek's 700 apartments from the PA invenotry, I checked how Stanford's population vs PA's and it's roughly 50,000 vs PA's 66,000 meaning they're almost as big and STILL growing rapidly while their jobs numbers count toward OUR housing targets.

Maybe Eric Filseth or someone could explain why Stanford gets to keep its Research Park pristinely rural and we get shoved in like sardines, enduring constant construction and traffic gridlock.

I'll wait. Just like I've been waiting to hear how Stanford's decades-long miracle of "no net new car trips" works through all their constant expansion.


Posted by Consider Your Options.
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 29, 2022 at 12:15 pm

Consider Your Options. is a registered user.

To Online Name--Understand who makes land use and transportation decisions for Stanford. It is not the City of Palo Alto. Stanford's major land use decisions are mostly controlled by the County. Ask the county your questions.

Ask Governor Newsom, whose office has excused Stanford from helping to pay for the grade separations that are needed to manage their traffic (both on-street and their expanded train ridership) that our city has to build because of Stanford growth. (See letter attached to last GUP docs.)

The city does have some control over Stanford Research Park land, and we heard Mayor Burt last night advocate for zoning for housing there.


Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Nov 29, 2022 at 12:32 pm

Online Name is a registered user.

"The city does have some control over Stanford Research Park land, and we heard Mayor Burt last night advocate for zoning for housing there."

I'd rather hear him force Mr. Lait to give a straight answer about when he's going to report on that rather than listen to him tap-dance about whether it would a separate report, integrated into another report and when / if ever that report might be issued.

Speaking of answers, last night Greg Schmidt formally reminded the CC they were legally required to produce written answers to questions formally submitted to them. When might we see those written answers? Sooner rather than later would be ducky.

@Consider your options, interesting points yet a few weeks ago Mayor Pat Burt was on here talking about putting housing in "Lower Stanford Research Park near Cal Ave" which left many of us wondering where exactly that was. If the county makes decisions re Stanford, then why did councilwoman Cormack have to recuse herself last night because she earns money from investing in a Stanford affiliate (as reported here)?

Also, since Stanford's jobs were were counted toward Palo Alto's housing targets, why wouldn't Palo Alto have some say in making them do their fair share?


Posted by Eric Filseth
a resident of Downtown North
on Nov 29, 2022 at 3:10 pm

Eric Filseth is a registered user.

@Resident3

That’s actually the point – Sacramento housing mandates don’t mandate housing at all, they mandate deregulation. If city codes say, “your building has to include enough parking for its tenants, so they don’t park in the neighborhood next door,” that’s a regulation. What the state mandates do is override that and say, “no, you can’t have a regulation like that.” They don’t force communities to build housing, they force communities to deregulate residential land use.

State-mandate proponents argue they’re the same thing: they take it on faith that less regulation will unleash private developers to build so much housing that market prices will fall far enough to outweigh whatever community benefit the regulation supported. And of course everybody believes their own weighting is the moral one … hence the need for elections (!).

Obviously businesses like deregulation – they should, their job is to make money. But Deregulation has a tendency to benefit only the deregulate-ees, and nobody else. For example, Trump’s tax cuts were pitched as enabling corporations to bring manufacturing jobs back to America, benefitting society; instead, they bought back their stock, benefitting shareholders.

That may be the pattern here, too. SB-9 says, you can’t regulate less than four housing units per parcel. Did prices fall? No, we got a couple of luxury-home proposals. After literally dozens of state housing/deregulation mandates, do we have lower housing costs, less inequality and fewer homeless? No, we have more of all those. The reality is private developers have thin margins and need market-level rental streams to finance their project debt; so if market rents ever did fall much, they’d have to stop building. That’s why cities build public housing.

So the Progressive-Libertarian alliance on housing is curious. The first wants help for the at-risk. The other is incentivized to serve the affluent. It’s an odd mix.


Posted by Bystander
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 29, 2022 at 6:41 pm

Bystander is a registered user.

I know of several homes that have built ADUs and added a driveway or widened an existing driveway to fit 3 cars rather than 2. With roll down curbs, these extra diveway spaces are reducing street parking. So not only do ADUs increase the likelihood for the need of parking for extra cars or visitors, but they are reducing the street parking too.


Posted by College1
a resident of College Terrace
on Nov 30, 2022 at 8:16 am

College1 is a registered user.

“Lower the standard in order to advance” is the cheapest, laziest, immoral form of greed!
These city officials and decision makers. I will never put the word “leader” in the same sentence with their names.


Posted by resident3
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 30, 2022 at 9:06 am

resident3 is a registered user.

@Eric Filseth,

“So the Progressive-Libertarian alliance on housing is curious. The first wants help for the at-risk. The other is incentivized to serve the affluent. It’s an odd mix.“

The combo of progressive and libertarian or the state housing mandate is populism. Well meaning visions and promises working with protected money sources (or inner circle like tech, developers, real estate or big business). The rich get richer, the populists have stable material to get motivated about and the poor fare the worst. It becomes a vicious circle.


Posted by Bystander
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 30, 2022 at 9:54 am

Bystander is a registered user.

Ready?

Do we have enough infrastructure? Or where will the water, the parking, the public transport, the sewage, the recreational activities, the school space, the park space, the traffic be dealt with?


Posted by scott
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Nov 30, 2022 at 9:27 pm

scott is a registered user.

Filseth> "And the Helsinki paper itself acknowledges the whole idea doesn’t work if the new market-rate housing is filled by in-migrants, or if there is large inequality -- both of which have characterized the Bay Area for many years."

That assertion surprised me, so I tried to look it up. Only reference I see in the Helsinki paper to either inequality or in-migration is this:

"We provide empirical evidence on how the moving chain mechanism unfolds in a European city where income inequality and segregation are more moderate compared to US cities. Our results echo those reported by Mast (2021), but with some notable differences. Compared to US cities, the moving chains in the HMA are more likely to reach middle- and low-income neighborhoods and reach them faster. The difference may be partly driven by differences in the data and methodology used to construct moving chains, but they probably largely reflect differences in underlying income inequality and residential segregation. That is, the socio-economic distance between expensive and affordable neighborhoods is smaller in the HMA compared to US cities. Furthermore, Mast (2021) uses address history data, but has only limited background information on the individuals. Our register data allows us to go beyond characterizing neighborhoods and provide direct evidence that lower-income individuals are part of the moving chains."

"Slower" is a very far cry from "the whole idea doesn't work," and I'm pretty sure they never do the MAGA thing of scapegoating immigrants for our economic problems.* But if I missed something in my favorite paper, I'd love to know more specifically what.

* I think that's a fair shot after attributing what I'm touting to libertarianism.


Posted by resident3
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 1, 2022 at 9:06 am

resident3 is a registered user.

@Bystander,

“Do we have enough infrastructure? Or where will the water, the parking, the public transport, the sewage, the recreational activities, the school space, the park space, the traffic be dealt with?”

Infrastructure isn’t a concern with populism and I think populism works better when there’s a lot of money flowing and when there’s nowhere else to go. As we have seen for awhile now, masses have already and are happily escaping cities with work from home, now the topic of more academic papers and NYT opinions Web Link

I think the state mandate seriously interferes with how cities can fare in areas with poor transportation and other infrastructure (most of CA) and in a work-from-home world. It’s the state fighting itself.

@Scott,

“if I missed something in my favorite paper, I'd love to know more specifically what.”

Your favorite paper is about Finland right? Finland has more infrastructure than Palo Alto. We can always be optimistic that everything will go exactly as planned with a new law but the state mandate doesn’t take reality into account, it even refuses to!


Posted by Allen Akin
a resident of Professorville
on Dec 1, 2022 at 10:00 am

Allen Akin is a registered user.

"I'm pretty sure they never do the MAGA thing of scapegoating immigrants for our economic problems. [I think that's a fair shot...]"

I believe Eric was referring to people who move into the Bay Area from any origin ("in-migrants" in the most general sense), not people who move into the Bay Area from other countries legally or illegally (the usual MAGA sense). So I think your shot went foul; it's misleading to conflate the two cases.

General in-migration is relevant to the argument, since the income distribution of the new residents affects both the type of housing that developers will build and whether existing housing will trickle-down to lower-income groups.


Posted by scott
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Dec 1, 2022 at 11:35 am

scott is a registered user.

I'm not wading back in because I think Filseth is wrong -though bringing up demand in a discussion like this is not the coup anyone seems to think it is. No. Every conversation has to end at some point, and I bowed out when I felt like I'd put enough out here that interested neighbors can make informed conclusions.

I'm wading back in because that doesn't work when the record is being misrepresented. My beef is with Filseth's attribution of those notions to Bratu, Harjunen, and Saarimaa. They aren't market fundamentalists, either:

"Finally, we stress that while market-rate housing supply seems to have wide-ranging beneficial effects, it is not a panacea for all housing market problems. Some people may get discriminated out from the housing market and for some others even the cheapest housing in the city may not be affordable. Housing allowance or voucher programs, as well as social housing are important complements to market-rate supply."

And neither am I, for whatever it's worth. (Not much.) I called into Sacramento last year to support the social housing bill. I don't remember hearing any of my more market-skeptical neighbors lining up to help solve the problem with about the most direct form of government intervention on the current policy menu.


Posted by We Are The People
a resident of Menlo Park
on Dec 1, 2022 at 1:44 pm

We Are The People is a registered user.

So Many personal Opinions and most of them "Suck".
I hate this subject of Housing. Why? Because somebody else is telling me that I should Care? I don't. Why because all you people are arguing over is "Who should be living in that SPOT! I have a SPOT? I read an article the other day that described "The WHY" we are going to be needing more Housing. It SUCKED. Their argument stated that more people are going to be Born. The clear cut solution is this. MOVE. Nevada has developed a Novel idea of building up their Desert? We not only have the Central Valley, but California also has a Desert. Why must it be that everyone should have the Right of living within the Bay Area's Peninsula? Build it and they will come. the Problem is that "Big Corporations" are coming in and controlling the Real Estate Market. I love the way many New Developments have all those nice Shopping Centers. New housing. The jobs came. Is there a moratorium on building Businesses where the new Housing will be?
In the Bay, Pile them on. 3 to 7 -8 Families living in Homes in East Palo Alto. There's a law against piling Humans inside a Single Family dwelling. Stop this madness of mandatory Housing. Build in places for those future Borne Humans to go and live.
Its not my problem, not until you make me live where there is OVERCROWDING and No where to Park!
Housing did not become a YUGE issue not until Ronald Reagan, began kicking Mentally ill people out of the Hospitals. California weather ranges and attracts humans of all diversities. There have always been "Hobo's". We can always go the way of "China"? Then the other Elephant in the room. Folks migrating up from the Latin countries. They have plenty of Home-land? Why allow the hurt/pain to implode on American City Streets? Then there are the Techy people? Maybe Musk is doing the Bay Area a favor? Some of the people that work in that Industry, their Visa's are expiring? There will be inflation of housing freeing up soon. NO worries. Here comes the cycle.


Posted by Paly Grad
a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Dec 1, 2022 at 5:17 pm

Paly Grad is a registered user.

“Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government announced Thursday [April 7, 2022] it will ban foreign investors from buying homes in Canada for two years in a bid to cool off a hot housing market.”

Web Link


Posted by MyFeelz
a resident of JLS Middle School
on Dec 2, 2022 at 7:27 am

MyFeelz is a registered user.

I don't know why the city, or a developer, should shy away from building new housing in Palo Alto. State AB 1482 specifies that new buildings are exempt from rent control for 15 years. Here's a link to show how and why. Web Link

Even if 10% of the new housing is somehow capped at an "affordable rate", the other 90% will be EXPLODING with annual increases for those who can afford them. They will be supporting the cost and upkeep of those buildings even if they don't last 15 years. Most of the new construction around here is unappeaing visually, and of such poor workmanship, with all Chinese-made appliances that are guaranteed to fail in less than five years. They will make Cabrini Green look like paradise.

I've been thinking about Paige's comment that "There are other lovely places on Earth. Maybe its time to develop them." We stole this country right out from under the Natives. Rich with natural resources, plentiful farm land, and wide open spaces. We took it and then squandered it. I don't see us as having the right to steal more land to "develop" it. We already tried it, and failed. The place "we" have to find new land is on Mars. We're doing that. Does anybody think all of our outer space missions are for science's sake? Even Bezos and Musk are trying to be first to plant their flag on an inhabitable planet.


Posted by resident3
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 2, 2022 at 10:24 am

resident3 is a registered user.

@MyFeelz,

“I don't know why the city, or a developer, should shy away from building new housing in Palo Alto”

I think we need to stop using the term “housing” for building. Buildings cannot solve at risk, homelessness, sprawl, cheap construction. These problems are all about the market and money (and you can’t control builders or architects who prioritize cheap materials). Yet, NIMBY and YIMBY arguments about “housing” consume this town, the next town, the state, country while infrastructure to “house” everyone is a mess.

Populism is wonderful to distract. While the single obsession about buildings goes on year after year, and the occasional 2 million and 1 million are celebrated for fixing a pothole or a road, millions more people are expected to each own a car (on top of the existing population). Cars need roads and they need parking. The reason you should be worried about taking more land is because of all the cars, reliance on personal transportation machines, poor or unsafe pedestrian options, and lack of mass transportation.



Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Dec 2, 2022 at 10:48 am

Online Name is a registered user.

Just a little reminder that layoffs and office vacancies are at records highs accordo9ng to today's news.

When will the housing targets be adjusted to reflect the reality that we don't need more housing??

Web Link

The wave of Bay Area tech layoffs and cost cutting is adding to the struggling San Francisco office market’s challenges. It could also exacerbate a slowdown in Silicon Valley, which has outperformed its northern neighbor during the pandemic.

San Francisco’s office vacancy rate — based on the amount of office space listed for lease or sublease — was a record high 25.5% in the third quarter, according to real estate brokerage CBRE.


Posted by resident3
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 2, 2022 at 11:17 am

resident3 is a registered user.

@Online name,

“When will the housing targets be adjusted to reflect the reality that we don't need more housing??”

The state mandate was never rooted in reality so I wouldn’t be surprised that there’s a doubling down. Palo Alto has just elected leadership emboldened by the state mandate and the associated lectures. The distraction of counting one housing unit per “job” and the war on parking will consume everyone for years.


Posted by Butch Logan
a resident of Barron Park
on Dec 3, 2022 at 9:14 am

Butch Logan is a registered user.

I am approaching 80 and own my own home. It took hard work and savings to do so.

I don't feel sorry for people who are paying high rents to reside in Palo Alto or cannot afford to live here.

There is no law specifying that one must rent a dwelling for 30+ years. Think of the equity had an individual committed the same monetary resources towards a 30 year mortgage.

Why pay rent when you can own?


Posted by Erin Walters
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Dec 3, 2022 at 3:26 pm

Erin Walters is a registered user.

When we first moved to Palo Alto in 1986, we rented a small 3br/2bath home in Midtown for $1450.00/month.

Four years later the landlord sold the house for $375K and we bought our first home in College Terrace, a small 1br/1bath cottage for $295K.

Inflation is the prinary culprit for these exorbitant RE prices and rental costs along with the perceived desirability of residing in Palo Alto.

Having worked hard to pay the mortgages, I have absolutely no sympathy for the various complainers who still wish to live in Palo Alto at 1980s prices.


Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Dec 3, 2022 at 5:03 pm

Online Name is a registered user.

When I moved here from Princeton decades ago, I suffered "density shock" because the lots were so much smaller and that the prices had an extra zero vs those Back East. I still remember my reaction when a realtor said, "This is a large third of an acre. "Don't you love it?"

The salaries weren't much higher and you had less job stability here and more Boom and Bush cycles. (Just FYI: we're in a bust wit tech layoffs, declining real estate prices and rents.)

Now when I tell friends Back East about what we're doing here, they remind me that they still have 1=acre, 2-acre and 5-acre zoning within 30 miles of Manhattan.

When told about the salaries for which we're required to provide market rate and subsidized housing that cost a MIINIMUM of $800.000 with NO WAY to track changes in income range from obscenities to asking how they too can qualify for a subsidized $800,000 property and how a subsidized one-bedroom could cost $3,500 is "affordable."

They ask about how drought, water rationing and fires and where we'll get the water for all the new residents. Do I tell them about our "toilet to tap" miracle?


Don't miss out on the discussion!
Sign up to be notified of new comments on this topic.

Email:


Post a comment

In order to encourage respectful and thoughtful discussion, commenting on stories is available to those who are registered users. If you are already a registered user and the commenting form is not below, you need to log in. If you are not registered, you can do so here.

Please make sure your comments are truthful, on-topic and do not disrespect another poster. Don't be snarky or belittling. All postings are subject to our TERMS OF USE, and may be deleted if deemed inappropriate by our staff.

See our announcement about requiring registration for commenting.

Stay informed.

Get the day's top headlines from Palo Alto Online sent to your inbox in the Express newsletter.

I Was At The Stanford Shooting. Let’s Do Better Next Time
By Laura Stec | 2 comments | 3,201 views

Some of the best jobs around
By Sherry Listgarten | 4 comments | 2,608 views

Palo Alto's Pizz'a Chicago 'not ready to quit' and seeks funds to support downsizing
By The Peninsula Foodist | 4 comments | 1,990 views

People and Relationships Never Stop Being a Work in Progress
By Chandrama Anderson | 1 comment | 1,516 views

 

Palo Alto Weekly Holiday Fund

For the last 29 years, the Palo Alto Weekly Holiday Fund has given away more than $9 million to local nonprofits serving children and families. 100% of the funds go directly to local programs. It’s a great way to ensure your charitable donations are working at home.

DONATE HERE