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Palo Alto advances plan to add 6,000 dwellings

Original post made on Nov 29, 2022

More than two years in the making, Palo Alto's ambitious plan to add more than 6,000 housing units by 2031 is finally ready for prime time.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Tuesday, November 29, 2022, 12:31 AM

Comments (24)

Posted by Citizen
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 29, 2022 at 3:20 am

Citizen is a registered user.

It’s about time there was more investment in equal amenities on the south side of town. Per square foot average taxation numbers are not that different across town, because of greater turnover and density in the south. But amenities are grossly unequal.

I think we should sue the state and make them pay for an unfunded mandate. Isn’t that the law? I am also very concerned that this is development first, safety last. There should be way more infrastructure and safety holistically worked into these plans.

I think we are overdue for having a summit in which we hash out how to retain economic diversity here. A smattering of low income apartments here and there is not enough. (Why isn’t Atherton being asked to subdivide those gigantic estates? They are part of the region.)

And we need to address the issue of teachers and city workers, too. Look, Stanford has solved this by owning the land and regulating who can live there. Is there any way for municipalities to do this given all the new restrictions? Palo Alto can do something similar. We wouldn’t have schools or city buildings if we had to rent the real estate. We have to start thinking that way when it comes to housing diversity, resident-serving retail and city employee and teacher housing.

I know people hate this, but we need a much deeper soul searching about what the future looks like and how to keep Palo Alto a vibrant community rather than a dense office park that people will leave suddenly like they did Mountain View during the pandemic. There are too many myths about Palo Alto ever having been affordable in over 40 years. It’s not going to get better by this laissez faire attitude about building from the state coupled with a smattering of “lottery” spots for a lucky few.

I appreciate the intelligent comments from our Councilmembers.

Posted by Jerry
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Nov 29, 2022 at 9:03 am

Jerry is a registered user.

Does anyone have know what revisions the State asked Menlo Park and Woodside to make to their housing elements? If the revisions were along the lines of "sorry, you need more units", then that does not bode well for Palo Alto.

Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Nov 29, 2022 at 9:08 am

Online Name is a registered user.

Speaking of Stanford, how outrageous that our "leaders" have yet again exempted Stanford from providing any new housing for the community while it keeps taking away housing FROM the PA community as with its recent takeover of the 795-unit Oak Creek apartments on Sand Hill Rd and countless College Terrace homes.

We're supposed to ignore that Stanford University and Stanford Medical keep growing dramatically with the last reported population of close to 50,000 while PA has a reported population of 66,000. And we're supposed to believe them that Stanford's constant growth hasn't added any "net new car trips" while we contemplate the vast emptiness of Stanford Research Park.

I hope our new 2 city council members will recuse themselves from Stanford-decisions like Ms, Cormack did this time, breaking her consistent pro-development record.

Posted by Bystander
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 29, 2022 at 9:42 am

Bystander is a registered user.

California population is declining. Many high tech companies have left or are leaving the state. People are working from home and on the days when they have to go into the office, they are willing to have a longer commute so that their home can be where they want to live rather than have to live. Many of our office areas are empty with for lease signs.

I think we could end up with housing that nobody will use.

Posted by Consider Your Options.
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 29, 2022 at 11:51 am

Consider Your Options. is a registered user.

When citizens begin to understand how this poorly written housing legislation affects property rights, advantaging corporations over needs of the unhoused and individual (especially middle class) homeowners and stripping "non-compliant" cities of their ability to issue permits for a wide array of things, including simple remodels, the backlash will be enormous.

The city is being forced to plan for thousands of new units. The arbitrary assignment of housing development targets city by city is astonishing. No one knows where the money will come from to build the prescribed units...or to support those new units with schools, public utilities, transportation, community services. These are unfunded mandates. State legislators have opted to treat their constituents and our cities like errant children, wielding heavy sticks at us and offering carrots to their developer funders.

They did this in misguided knee jerk reaction to zealous housing advocates who really do not deeply understand land use policy and comprehensive planning. We need to start paying attention to the details of legislation that is coming out of Sacramento again. READ the legislation. Our electeds are doing very poor work on our behalf. Citizen inattention is about to impact all of us. Vote for people who create and vote for thoughtful legislation. Media, a supplemental article summarizing the housing legislation that is driving this would be useful.

Building more housing is important. There is a need, and I support that goal. However, the legislation that was created to accomplish the goal is so poorly written--a blunt instrument--that it will do more harm than good, creating new sets of problems for people who can afford harm least. Residents of cities like Atherton will be just fine insulated on their grand estates.

Posted by resident3
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 29, 2022 at 11:52 am

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"The way that the allocations are set up are incentivizing anti-family housing,"

My 2 cents - the war to reduce or eliminate parking for residential buildings is even more anti-family than the mandates. Anti -young family.

Posted by Anonymous
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Nov 29, 2022 at 12:15 pm

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I really enjoy the howls from the NIMBYs. The tide is turning.

Posted by Jennifer
a resident of another community
on Nov 29, 2022 at 12:41 pm

Jennifer is a registered user.

"Most have sent in their drafts months ago." Send the draft. If other cities have done it, how hard can it be? As usual, what's the delay?

Posted by Andy
a resident of Stanford
on Nov 29, 2022 at 1:20 pm

Andy is a registered user.

Re: Palo Alto's "ambitious" plan to add more than 6,000 housing units by 2031...

...that is ambitious??? sorry, but ambitious would more accurate if they were adding 60,000 housing units by 2025 (and yes, there's more than enough room by ending height restrictions to build even more).

We need to stop having such low expectations and start demanding actually BOLD solutions.

Posted by Andy
a resident of Stanford
on Nov 29, 2022 at 1:25 pm

Andy is a registered user.

"I think we could end up with housing that nobody will use."

Respectfully, you could add 100,000 housing units tomorrow and it will be 100% occupied.

We might have excess old and low quality OFFICE and RETAIL space that nobody will use in the future, but those are excellent opportunities for redevelopment into MIXED use with housing, underground or enclosed parking and TALL structures.

Palo Alto and EVERY community should aggressively increase housing supply or the only people who will be left living will be stuck with the very large taxes and fees to pay local and state gov.

Posted by Consider Your Options.
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 29, 2022 at 3:00 pm

Consider Your Options. is a registered user.

Andy, those "excess, old, low quality" properties are mostly privately owned. Their owners may not assess their usefulness in the same way you do. Developers would have to be willing to invest in housing redevelopment on these sites (some of which are contaminated and will require environmental mitigation), and they would have to want to manage housing--very different from managing office space and other uses. Different property holders have different expertise in property management. None of this is as simple as you naively make it. Rezoning does not create a housing production miracle, as we have seen in other locations where the previous City Council rezoned in just the way you suggest. The land owners hold most of the cards, not the Council, but the new housing laws naively assume local leaders can somehow pull a land use rabbit out of a hat when they actually have little power to do so. Magical thinking does not make good law. Worse, when cities cannot perform magic, their citizens will be punished as their local government's ability to issue permits is revoked by the state. That is what this very bad law prescribes.

Posted by resident3
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 29, 2022 at 5:54 pm

resident3 is a registered user.


“I really enjoy the howls from the NIMBYs. The tide is turning.”

The tide of cars is not turning in our one-car-per-person world without any mass transportation. It’s cold outside, how many young families do you see walking to/from Caltrain or buses? How many bikers supporting local businesses?

Funny how booh-parking is such a hot topic. Whatever politics or building costs are associated with parking, in normal language it’s as basic as a kitchen. This is not NYC where you can live without parking.

Posted by Allen Akin
a resident of Professorville
on Nov 29, 2022 at 6:04 pm

Allen Akin is a registered user.

"The tide is turning"

Yep; it seems to be going out. From the report on the cost of residential development in San José: "Unlike previous reports that showed projects were feasible in certain areas of the City, the results from the 2022 report show that development is extremely challenged in all areas of the City. No scenarios assessed in the report were shown to be feasible."

Web Link

Posted by Rose
a resident of Mayfield
on Nov 29, 2022 at 6:29 pm

Rose is a registered user.

I was recently in Mexico where I happened to see a bust of Mahatma Gandhi in a small park in a smallish town. It make me think about the cannery building in Ventura Park. We should put housing where that cannery is. It's an ugly building with no architectural value. We'd be much better off to put a bust or a statue of the Chinese gentleman who built that fish cannery in an attractive place (like the statue of Nikola Tesla close to the county courthouse) and use that wonderfully located land for housing.

Posted by tmp
a resident of Downtown North
on Nov 29, 2022 at 6:54 pm

tmp is a registered user.

What needs to happen as soon as possible is for a state wide referendum to be put on the ballot to return zoning and building decisions to local government and not Sacramento. Sacramento has proven with their give-away laws that support developers of market rate housing in high rent areas that they are in the pockets of these developers. They offer no money for the infrastructure to support these massive developments and pretend that the developers will somehow build housing for the unhoused. What a joke! Developers build to make a profit which is why they can't wait to get into Palo Alto and build market rate housing.

We need to overturn the recent give-away laws out of Sacramento, return zoning laws to our community and stop destroying our city. This housing element package was done as a hold-your-nose document to get something into the state to keep the jackals at bay. I hope the state's economy crashes, the tech companies all move to Texas and take the population with them. We would have cleaner air, streets you could drive and park on, better quality of life since people could once again afford to live in the area if all the rich tech moved out. We would have better service at stores and could find plumbers and electricians since middle class people might be able to live in the area again.

Go to Livable California and sign up to support returning zoning to local communities!

Posted by Bystander
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 29, 2022 at 7:27 pm

Bystander is a registered user.

To anyone and everyone who voted Gavin useless Newsom as governor, you hold the blame.

Posted by mjh
a resident of College Terrace
on Nov 29, 2022 at 11:56 pm

mjh is a registered user.

Particularly impressive given that during the previous meeting of the Planning Commission and in response to a direct question as to why a particular property was not on the inventory of sites identified for possible future housing development, Mr. Lait had to admit he had personally removed the property in question from the inventory at the request of the property owner.

On further questioning, Mr. Lait further admitted he had decided to privately approach some of the commercial property owners on the preliminary inventory to ask them if they would like him to remove their properties from consideration.

However, there was no follow up question as to exactly how many sites Mr. Lait quietly removed from the preliminary inventory at the behest of the commercial property owners following these private conversations.

Posted by fred
a resident of University South
on Nov 30, 2022 at 12:45 am

fred is a registered user.


The laws that you are upset with were passed by legislators elected by citizens across the state.
What makes you think that a group of NIMBYs could convince enough people to vote to repeal these laws? The legislators are not dumb. They know what their constituents support.
Palo Alto homeowners do not represent the majority of California's population.

Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Nov 30, 2022 at 1:04 pm

Online Name is a registered user.

Fred, ironically I just got an email from MTC with a survey on how they should spend their "hundreds of milliond of dollars" and I don't recall electing MTC members any more than I remember electing ABAG board members.

Also in my email today was a report on Redwood City's development plans to meet their housing target of 4,558 which is a lot lower than our 6,086 so I looked uo RWC's population: it's 81,040 as if 2921 vs {PA's 66,000.

The sane "leaders: have made it illegal to challenge housing targets based on ANYTHING, including declining jobs numbers, remote workers, risks of fire and drought and simply inaccurate housing targets computation like the fact that RWC has a lower target than PA's.

Posted by Grew Up Here
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 5, 2023 at 2:25 am

Grew Up Here is a registered user.

Ugh, 12,000 more cars to clog our roads. We already have commuters using OrEx and Embarcadero Road as cut-through streets.

Posted by Annette
a resident of College Terrace
on Feb 5, 2023 at 6:37 am

Annette is a registered user.

The post by MJH is concerning. Does Lait have the latitude to add/delete properties from the inventory of sites identified for development, or did he simply assume that authority? This requires an answer from the City Manager and/or City Council. If Lait circumvented the process and did as he pleases in order to favor a property owner (which would not be in the least bit surprising) everything he did should be reviewed again b/c there should be some sort of check and balance on this.

And now that CC is no longer subject to Covid restrictions, shouldn't Lait (and the city attorney who is rumored to live and work from Seattle) be attending meetings in person? In-person attendance by senior staff and Council members makes a difference to the dynamic of a meeting. And a person working out of another state is not likely to really care much about the impact of City decisions on Palo Alto residents and businesses.

Posted by MyFeelz
a resident of another community
on Feb 5, 2023 at 7:03 pm

MyFeelz is a registered user.

@Citizen, I'm sure you're following the MFD proposal that is in the line of sight of Steph Curry's house. The problem is the property owner wants to do it and none of the neighbors want them to. Atherton has no open space waiting to be developed; what an owner might want to do is now being challenged. But, just on the QT, Atherton does have some rentals. They just don't advertise them on Craigslist. The state has no basis upon which to subdivide a property that is wholly owned by someone. What if HCD knocked on your door with a legal notice saying the state is taking half of your property under eminent domain for development of affordable housing? Not in Atherton, and not anywhere else. In order to quiet down HCD's battle cry, "BUILD OR WE WILL FORCE YOU TO" we need to be mindful that their clout comes from the state legislature. A person needs to keep an eye on legislative sessions where these issues are engraved in stone, and object BEFORE the chiseling starts.

Posted by Resident 1-Adobe Meadows
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Feb 6, 2023 at 12:37 pm

Resident 1-Adobe Meadows is a registered user.

The problem of housing is a total US concern. My brother lived in Lake Oswego, Oregon that had a large property behind the back fence. That owner died and the end result was that the new owners built two-story homes directly to the fence line. In the front of the house on a cul-de-sac next to a creek the city built a bridge over the creek so people on bikes could have a good trail to ride on. THat street became a bike heaven. Then they moved to a suburb in Baltimore to a house that had a giant estate lot beind it with two horses. Again - the owners dies and the large estate home was broken up and they now have large two-story homes behind to the fence line. In their time in Pittsburgh, PA large estates there were being broken down creating suburbs for the next generation.

We are at a time when the Boomers are moving on and their large holdings are being broken down by the next generation that does not have the money to support the large holdings. The City of Atherton is going to see more of this type of actvitiy because the large property homeowners who leave will be cashing out. You can see that in the Real Estate notifications in the WSJ section Mansions - all over the US the real estate market is cashing in.

Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Feb 6, 2023 at 2:58 pm

Online Name is a registered user.

@Annette asks some key questions above. Let's hope we get some answers soon.

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