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New council, same priorities in Palo Alto in 2023

Original post made on Jan 28, 2023

Housing, climate change, economic recovery and community safety will continue to dominate City Council discussions in Palo Alto in the coming year after members voted Saturday to adopt these areas as their official priorities.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Saturday, January 28, 2023, 3:02 PM

Comments (13)

Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jan 28, 2023 at 3:40 pm

Online Name is a registered user.

"The council discussion followed the release of a citizen survey in which a large proportion of responders indicated that housing and climate change remain major concerns."

What was the real number of respondents? 398!! A large proportion of the 12% -- TWELVE percent -- of the residents who were able to respond to the flawed survey?? How sensible. How representative.

As per 1/25" "Some questioned the survey results, which are based on 398 responses. Polco sent out 3,600 surveys last fall and ended up with a response rate of 12%, well below the 22% response rate in 2020." Web Link

How nice of you to cover this retreat now when we had NO advanced warning or outreach about it since many of us had other plans for today that we couldn't change.

I'm curious: how many people attended in person. Please let us know.

And let's have some more hand-wringing pleas about how we should all get involved! I know: let's hire some more consultants $$$$$.

Posted by mjh
a resident of College Terrace
on Jan 28, 2023 at 4:36 pm

mjh is a registered user.

Given the topic, glad to know as per this article our new Vice Mayor Greer Stone has been retitled Vice Mayor Green.

Posted by Bystander
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 28, 2023 at 9:27 pm

Bystander is a registered user.

Without any idea of how they will measure some of these, I can see it as not being something that can be quantified. I might say, why bother?

I am pleased that there has been some work in the past 25 years to improve creeks from flooding, but we are still not there yet. Something like the 50 year plan for underground powerlines comes to mind.

Yet, there is no mention about crime, traffic, parking, power outages, water supply, you know, the things that residents use everyday.

Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jan 29, 2023 at 9:48 pm

Online Name is a registered user.

"How nice of you to cover this retreat now when we had NO advanced warning or outreach about it since many of us had other plans for today that we couldn't change.

I'm curious: how many people attended in person. Please let us know."

The answer is 12 -- TWELVE -- people with even fewer after lunch.

Posted by Seer
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Jan 30, 2023 at 1:31 pm

Seer is a registered user.

Since it was so few people, I feel justified in overriding the goals:
The first two involve rapid response signals and cameras that can read vehicle license plates in each area of the city -- with the policy that these are not read except by community petitioning for a warrant.
1) Reduce smash-and-grab mob crimes to zero via rapid response signals,
2) Reduce all property crime by 75%. The reason is, this will reduce violent crime/robberies even more since perpetrators are first drawn by simple property crime.

1) OK, if you want to go electric, we need to first upgrade the substations, the wire, the transformers that will support this. People are not going to stay at 1980s 200amps, not with electric cooking, electric heat/cool pumps, electric car charging and new ADUs. You must assume a continuing turn over to 400 amps per lot. This cannot be supported with our existing electrical grid. Get on it, it's a 20 year project if we start seriously now.

2) Make solar standard, easy to adopt/approve. It is nightmarish now.

1) Revamp the housing department -- they still use multiple paper copies, they lose them, they are sloooooow. Coordinate regulations with Menlo Park and Mountain View to make a uniform area for architects and contractors to build in.

2) Raise the height ceiling adjacent to University and CA ave train stops, build bigger buildings there. Extend bike/small electric corridors down Alma, create one in El Camino.

3) Further standardize and facilitate ADUs/rental regulations around them.

1) Make a protected bike/small electric transport linking downtown, all the way down El Camino, Alma/Central, Middle Field, and link in all the shopping centers. This allows for much denser/quicker/cleaner/quieter transport.

Posted by jguislin
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jan 30, 2023 at 1:39 pm

jguislin is a registered user.

The only two sentences in this article that give me any hope are:
"They also agreed each of the four priorities should be furnished with specific objectives that could be accomplished this year.The council will discuss and potentially approve these objectives at its Feb. 6 meeting." I have been sending emails to Council for years with this request, i.e. make your priorities real and measurable. Now let's see what happens on Feb 6.....

Posted by Jerry
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jan 30, 2023 at 2:15 pm

Jerry is a registered user.

The city could have dramatically increased the survey response rate if they just provided some token financial incentive to fill it out. I'm talkin Jacksons. Heck, I'd have been happy with a voucher for Yogurtland. Alas, I was not one of the 3600.

But yes, I'd have to agree that crime and traffic in particular are the two chronic problems that were omitted.

Posted by Consider Your Options.
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 30, 2023 at 2:41 pm

Consider Your Options. is a registered user.

What about transportation and community services for all of the new housing that the city plans to dump in south PA? Cubberley continues to deteriorate (after TWO community outreach processes) and San Antonio Road is already a congested mess. How will people who live south of San Antonio get anywhere? Where will they DRIVE to get to community services (because that area is not comfortably walkable or bikable)? Where is the sustainable Area Plan for all of this housing?

Posted by Skibum
a resident of Community Center
on Jan 31, 2023 at 8:41 am

Skibum is a registered user.

As a place to retire, Palo Alto scored lowest in the residents' survey across all of our neighborhoods. Perhaps this should be on the short list of priorities for improvement. Is the low score primarily driven by cost of living? Health care and public safety may be significant as well. Palo Alto has long been a great place to grow up and begin one's education. Affordable housing for recent graduates and new families is mostly beyond reach. How could or should the community balance prioritizing early and later stages of life amidst the overall abundance for the elites?

Posted by Resident 1-Adobe Meadows
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Jan 31, 2023 at 11:24 am

Resident 1-Adobe Meadows is a registered user.

Comments above think that low cost housing is suppose to be the job of South PA. I can tell you that the low cost housing has already been bought up and the new owners are tearing down and replacing with new two story homes. I walk through a neighborhood where the landscaping is all new, the front house presentation is all new. These are beautiful homes with families who have children in the local schools. This area is family oriented. The Mitchell Park Community Center is beautiful and full of students after school. I view north PA in part as a place where young techies live to be close to the downtown restaurant scene.

Comments on San Antonio - people do not realize that part is in the city of Mountain View and Los Altos. Both of those cities occupy space up to Los Altos Road on ECR. Most of the commercial portions are not in the city of PA.

Low cost housing should be in the central area of PA near city functions. That is where the JOBS are. You have to be in a job rich area to support the residents to make this all work. Putting people in a place where there are no local jobs is not the best approach to get the people working.

Posted by Bystander
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 31, 2023 at 5:40 pm

Bystander is a registered user.

With news of losing the only fast food McDonalds and the Fish Market for new housing, one has to ask exactly what the priority of the council is towards housing. Do we continue to build housing and lose valuable infrastructure? Sure McDs and FM are not infrastructure, but these are the types of places people in those proposed housing might actually use.

With news of the priorities being housing and no mention of infrastructure, we have to ask ourselves exactly what Palo Alto is going to become. We don't even know if there is now a need for all this housing. High Tech companies have moved out, have layoffs, or allow remote working and what will this do to the housing supply? We could soon have stack and pack housing all over town without anybody wanting to live in them. Then what?

The question Then What? needs an answer. I don't have one and I don't think our council has a clue.

Posted by mjh
a resident of College Terrace
on Feb 2, 2023 at 10:14 pm

mjh is a registered user.

Skibum mentions retirees may be concerned about the cost of living, healthcare, and public safety. However, I would add to that the demise of much, if not most, useful traditional retail previously located in Palo Alto.

Partly times have changed, but also past councils have over time, in response to lobbying by owners of commercial retail property, expanded an ever growing list of so called “retail-like” businesses that are not traditional retail but allowed to replace traditional retail. These additions appear to typically be more profitable businesses or offices that can afford to pay higher rents. When traditional retail leases expire property owners naturally raise rents to that which the more profitable so-called “retail-like” businesses are willing to pay. This practice has gradually replaced and eroded much of Palo Alto’s traditional retail. Especially as traditional retail requires critical mass to be successful with adjacent proximity to other shops essential. Breaking up and isolating traditional retail with non-traditional retail thus becomes a downward slide, a double whammy.

In the past Palo Alto residents have tended to be very loyal supporting local retail businesses and, importantly, Palo Alto’s sales tax revenue. With the added benefit of opportunities to encounter friends, acquaintances, or neighbors, which greatly contributes to a sense of community. Alas, useful traditional retail shops have gradually disappeared, with residents either forced to drive much further away to adjacent towns or, in more recent years, increasingly turning to online shopping instead.

Unfortunately, unlike Los Altos for instance whose council has resisted the pressure to replace tradition retail, the erasure of Palo Alto’s retail is almost certainly permanent. Which may be why some, if not many, who have lived here for a while find the character of Palo Alto somewhat diminished.

Posted by Annette
a resident of College Terrace
on Feb 3, 2023 at 8:00 am

Annette is a registered user.

SInce the LIKE button is gone (hopefully not for good) I add this comment with three LIKES:

1. To ONLINE NAME for pointing out the lack of outreach regarding the retreat, the pitiful survey, and the detail regarding attendance.
2. To SEER for a list of goals that make good sense.
3. To MJH for an altogether good post, most especially the 3rd paragraph which, sadly, correctly describes how the erosion of retail has eroded community.

Editor: the LIKE button served as an indicator of the depth of support for what a poster has written. I am certain at least some CC members read PAO and I hope the City Manager has asked his Communications teams to monitor the comments. If the LIKE button were to return, City Hall would be treated to a dynamic survey (of sorts) that gauges the concerns of residents. And, unlike surveys done by pricey consultants, it's free. Please reinstate the LIKE button.

About surveys done by consultants: there should be a money-back guarantee if a survey doesn't result in a return of at least 20%. And if that isn't possible, the company that does a failed survey should be stricken from the City's vendor list. I think a brilliant move by the City would be to get in touch with ONLINE NAME and ask that person to review all surveys before they are distributed. In reading PAO, it is clear that ONLINE NAME has some knowledge about surveys and equally clear that the ones Palo Alto does are in need of improvement.

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