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About this blog: I grew up in Los Angeles and moved to the area in 1963 when I started graduate school at Stanford. Nancy and I were married in 1977 and we lived for nearly 30 years in the Duveneck school area. Our children went to Paly. We moved ...  (More)

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What is ABAG?

Uploaded: Jan 27, 2012
ABAG (the Association of Bay Area Governments) is the regional planning agency for the nine-county Bay Area. Voting members of ABAG are the elected officials appointed by member city and county governments in the Bay Area—mayors, council members and supervisors. There are no corporate or private individual members.

Three major functions are: 1) the allocation for planning purposes of housing targets by jurisdiction and income category-the RHNA or regional housing needs assessment program; 2) the development of plans to reduce greenhouse gas emissions—the SCS or sustainable communities strategy program; and 3) providing the job, population and housing information that MTC (the Metropolitan Transportation Commission) uses to develop regional transportation plans.

RHNA has an eight year planning horizon and the SCS and MTC planning have target years of 2035 and 2040.

The decisions on the RHNA and the SCS—the subject of criticism among Town Square posters—are made in two parts (one by the state) but the regional allocation decisions are made by members—Palo Alto's peer city and county representatives.

A new round of analysis and planning for the RHNA is underway so this is a good time to clarify the process. The state Department of Housing and Community Development (HCD) develops a regional housing target for the Bay Area in collaboration with ABAG based on their joint determination of population and housing growth. There is a legal requirement for regions to plan for the housing that provides for regional jobs-housing balance. So planning for job and housing growth in supposed to be done consistently at the regional level.

I am a consultant on the regional job projections in this round for ABAG as well as for three other California regional councils of government so I know quite a bit about the RHNA and SCS although they are not my primary consulting responsibility.

ABAG does not determine the final regional housing target—that is done by HCD. What ABAG does is take the HCD regional targets and allocate the housing by income category to jurisdiction within the region.

Many people in Palo Alto are unhappy with the housing planning target developed for Palo Alto in previous RHNA cycles. And the low income housing targets are controversial in many communities because there is so little public funding to support housing for low-income residents.

However, contrary to what posters are saying, the targets for Palo Alto were developed by a committee of its peers, not be developers or land owners. The targets were developed using a process that does assign greater weight for housing planning to communities with many jobs relative to housing, greater expected job growth and proximity to public transportation—all categories in which Palo Alto and similar cities scored high. But the formula was developed by member cities, not developers or private corporations and the application of the formula was approved by member cities and counties.

And the targets for low income housing do attempt to spread the location of low-income housing more broadly in the region than is currently the case.

The RHNA process has been ongoing for many years but the SCS process is new and is a result of SB 375 whose objective is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by better coordinated land use and transportation planning. There are a number of strategies to reduce greenhouse gas emission but one is to reduce travel times through more housing in existing urban areas.

Contrary to what posters often allege, the goal is not to have everyone or even most people live in the city where they work but to reduce travel times by planning to allow people to live closer to where they work and closer to public transportation and freeway access. The goal is not to eliminate commuting but to reduce miles traveled and time of the commute trip.

One requirement of SB 375 and the SCS process is to reduce commuting from outside the region into the Bay Area for work trips so that housing for new jobs is located more or entirely within the region.

The new regional growth projections are in the process of being developed as well as alternative scenarios for where the growth will occur within the region.

For information about ABAG and a list of members and the names of representatives as well as functions and committees see the About ABAG section at abag.ca.gov.

For the public process for the new round of regional projections and planning see onebayarea.org.

I disagree with most posters about their characterization of the regional housing planning targets for Palo Alto and I disagree about how the process should woik but that is a subject for another blog. The purpose here is to clarify what ABAG is, who votes and who is responsible for the housing and other planning targets adopted by the agency.

Comments

 +  Like this comment
Posted by John, a resident of ,
on Jan 27, 2012 at 1:29 pm

Steve Levy has succintly, and credibly described ABAG as a government, command economy structure. He is part of it. It is Stalinist-light.

I think this is all we really to know about ABAG.


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Posted by stephen levy, a resident of ,
on Jan 28, 2012 at 4:48 pm

stephen levy is a registered user.

John describes ABAG as "Stalinist light". This is contrast to most posters who claim ABAG is a tool of greedy private developers.

But ABAG planning decisions are made by currently elected city and county council members and supervisors. You can see the list on the ABAG website.

That would be some awesome pig fight at ABAG meetings bwteeen the Stalinists and the greedy developers.

But in fact this is not what happens becasue the allegations above are just hot air. ABAG members are just folks struggling with the difficult challenge of thinking about the region will plan for coming growth--growth that IS coming and that most current residents would rather not have next to them.


 +  Like this comment
Posted by stephen levy, a resident of ,
on Jan 28, 2012 at 5:25 pm

stephen levy is a registered user.

There are two sets of planning decisions made by ABAG members that posters on Town Square don't like.

They both deal with targets for housing growth among jurisdictions in the region. Both of these allocations (posters think Palo Alto is asked to plan for too much housing) are based on projected population and housing growth that is needed to provide for expected job growth.

One planning process is the Sustainable Communities Stratgy (target 2035 and 2040) and the other is the Regional Housing Needs Assessment (RHNA-target 2022). Both planning processes are underway and no final decisiosn have been made yet.

In each case there are two steps--the regional totals and the allocation to jurisdictions. I help with the regional totals, which have not been finally determined yet. so posters can engage, if they wish, in a discussion of how the regional projections are made.

But most posters are focused on trying to reduce the housing planning targets for Palo Alto. They are not alone either in the Bay Area or other regions in wanting housing to be located not in their backyard.

The push to reduce the numbers leads people to attack the projections, attack the motives of the decision makers, claim that no one would want to live in more dense housing here and claim a variety of potential disasters and inequities in the process, which is applied equally to all jurisdictions.

One worry you can leave aside. These projections are long term in nature and revised every four years. If trends change the growth projections will change. So don't get too worked up about 2035 housing targets if you are sure ABAG and my regional growth projections are too high--they will be revised down next time, well before 2035.

The problem as posters know is that most of their other claims are not unique to Palo Alto. Residents in all cities worry about how we/they will accomodate growth--that is the rationale for ABAG planning--to try and get ahead of problems and work together on regional solutions.

But if posters feel Palo Alto is treated uniqely unfairly to do so they have only to convince fellow ABAG members that Palo Alto has something unique that that members have consistently overlooked in allocating planning targets.

No one wants to live here doesn't fly. It is obviously false and if true would mean that no developer would want to build housing here, also obviously not true.

The most often cited argument is that growth will overwhelm our schools. That is possible if indeed there are more children in school in 2035 and we do not open more capacity.

I suppose Palo Altans could go to their peers on the ABAG board and argue that while our average income is well above the regional average and we are in no way a disadvantaged community relative to others in the region, that a while back we sold all our then excess school sites so please ask other communities (poorer than us) to plan for additional students and reduce our housing target.

I just don't see a lot of sympathy for this argument whether ABAG members are Stalinists, greedy developers or just local officials from our Bay Area partner cities.

I agree that some aspects of planning for growth are challenging, both in terms of increased demsity and financially but tell me a choice that works better for the region as a whole and we can debate that--just say no is not such a choice.


 +  Like this comment
Posted by John, a resident of ,
on Jan 28, 2012 at 6:36 pm

"ABAG members are just folks struggling with the difficult challenge of thinking about the region will plan for coming growth--growth that IS coming"

Hardly...ABAG is a group of central planners that will force their will on the majority, because they claim to know best. Forcing Palo Alto, or any other city to build high density housing, is indeed Stalinist-light ( it would be Stalinist-heavy if you throw in tanks and machine guns and gulags).

The freedom of choice of the free market, supply and demand, is far superior to the central planners.


 +  Like this comment
Posted by common sense, a resident of ,
on Jan 29, 2012 at 8:14 am

In my opinion, ABAG is a creature of the "crony capitalism" that is invasive in our politics. Developers like ABAG because it promotes higher density development by driving re-zoning of property, which creates potentially higher profit for any given property; developers like Jim Baer are consistent contributors to the usual gang of politicians who support these theoretical concepts - and it has worked to his benefit on many projects in Palo Alto with the number "PC" zoned projects he's gotten approved.

Consultants like Steven Levy benefit, because they get consulting contracts by these various entities to give "analysis" which supports them.

So a couple of things that Steven has never addressed:

1) how accurate has previous forecasts been from ABAG?

2) Steven is anti-Prop 13; one of Steven's arguements is that the ratio of property taxes paid by commerical property owners vs residential property owners has dropped which is unfair; but the lack of available land, the source of much of ABAG re-zoning for residential use has been commercial properties; and this is one of the reasons why property taxes from commercial properties has been dropping.

3) Over the many decades that ABAG has been driving their idealogy, how effective has it been? Anyone see their commute times drop with the higher density housing? Let's hold a vote to see if people think their quality of life in their city has improved. Oops, I forgot, ABAG knows best, voters don't count.

4) Steven says "Contrary to what posters often allege, the goal is not to have everyone or even most people live in the city where they work but to reduce travel times by planning to allow people to live closer to where they work and closer to public transportation and freeway access" - yet look at the allocations for Los Altos, Atherton, Portola Valley, etc. which are way out of whack with what Palo Alto has.

5) Steven's one point of view is focused on where to place housing; ABAG hasn't driven the other viewpoint: place jobs closer to where people live. That would mean rezoning for commercial in cities that don't have much commercial properties (like Los Altos, Atherton, Portola Valley, Woodside).

6) Steven doesn't address that ABAG decisions are not ratified by the voters; and if the voters don't like what ABAG is deciding, they have no recourse through replacing the governing body through the ballot box. If our city council makes decisions we don't like, we all get a chance to vote out the council members if those decisions are important enough to us. That doesn't happen with ABAG, which makes it a valid comparison to more dictator type of governments.

The way to defeat this crony capitalism is start by voting in a different set of politicians, not the usual crowd who plays musical chairs between the city, county & state levels.


 +  Like this comment
Posted by pat, a resident of ,
on Jan 29, 2012 at 11:16 am

> "Over the many decades that ABAG has been driving their idealogy, how effective has it been? Anyone see their commute times drop with the higher density housing?"

Excellent questions. City planners are not forthcoming. Either they haven't found the answers or they're not telling us.

Palo Alto has dense housing near the CA Ave. train station, along Alma and along El Camino. How many of those residents work in Palo Alto? How many have changed job locations since they moved in? How many take the train/bus to work? How many bike to work? How many don't own a car? How many have one car? Two cars? How many have kids? How many kids?

The mythology continues that people (1) live in the same city where they work and/or (2) will take public transit if we put them in dense housing near a train/bus depot. But public transit doesn't take us where we want to go, when we want to go. A lot of people work odd hours and big corporate campuses aren't on transit corridors.


 +  Like this comment
Posted by Parent, a resident of ,
on Jan 29, 2012 at 11:36 am

So the city of Palo Alto is a voluntary particpant in ABAG and can withdraw from this body and ignore its targets?


 +  Like this comment
Posted by stephen levy, a resident of ,
on Jan 29, 2012 at 3:41 pm

stephen levy is a registered user.

Some of the comments are interesting.

We have dueling posters alleging alternatly that ABAG's voting members are Stalinist control freaks and arguing that they are crony capitalists. I don't see how both can be right.

I think we have a group of posters who are angry with the ABAG (and often city council) decisions and are trying to find someone to blame.

But both ABAG members and council members across the region are just local elected officials.

Then we have a poster who asks if ABAG is voluntary can't we just ignore its targets. This is similar to the many posts over time that say Palo Alto should ignore any possible loss of grant funds and similalry ignore the targets.

Just as not voting doesn't give you the right to ignore the laws, not participating in ABAG decision making does not allow a jurisdiction to ignore the state and regional planning targets.

I am in wonder that residents who I am sure work hard to raise their children would openly suggest ignoring laws and rules just because you don't like the implications.


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Posted by stephen levy, a resident of ,
on Jan 29, 2012 at 3:57 pm

stephen levy is a registered user.

ABAG's planning goal, adopted by local elected officials around the region, IS to reduce, not eliminate, travel times and distances. This never means having people only work where they live, but having work and living places closer together is a target

Nor does reducing travel times mean that everyone or most people will or have to take public transit. Most transportation funding in local and regional plans is for making road travel more efficient.

These goals, which were originally developed to accomodate populaiton and job growth more efficiently, now have the force of law under SB 375.

In response to the poster who suggested moving the location of jobs, there has been some free market movement, particularly to the 580/680 corridor area in the East Bay. But the fact is for many reasons companies and workers want to work in places like San Franciso and Silicon Valley and live nearby or close to transit.

The free market choices that most posters (and I) generally support tell us that people like to live and work in places like Palo Alto.

As I said before no one is forced to buy a home in Palo Alto and if no one wanted to live here, builders would go elsewhere.

All of this railing against developers is misplaced in my opinion. People if they are mad should be mad at those other residents who want to live and work in Palo Alto. Otherwise there would be no demand for space here.

I don't hear posters saying much that would convince other ABAG members to change our city's allocation or the policies to make our region attractive for high wage industries. it still feels like "not here"--handle regional growth elsewhere.


 +  Like this comment
Posted by stephen levy, a resident of ,
on Jan 29, 2012 at 4:15 pm

stephen levy is a registered user.

The allocatiosn to Atherton, Portola Valley and all cities large and small in San Mateo County were made locally by San Mateo County officials who got permission from ABAG to handle their intra-county allocations locally.

Santa Clara County communities could do this also and I doubt it would change the allocation much but it might be a great idea to make the nexus of decision making more local.

Now we have the "we don't get to vote" folks.

Well, yes you do. As with more decisions in representative democracy you get to vote for the elected officials who vote on decisions.

How far would you carry this principle. I would be happy to have a national vote on future tax policy as long as it follows current polling but as a rule for all cases I do not see a better situation than the present and even here I think we have too many initiative campaigns that depend on special interet money.

I think the "we don't get to vote folks" are in favor of voting only when they think they will win and not from some principle--should we have voted on going into Iraq?

These are tough issues and are not going to go away. It may be true that there are reasons for Palo Alto to have a different allocation of regional growth but so far posters haven't ansewered "if not here, why not and if so where should growth better go.


 +  Like this comment
Posted by John, a resident of ,
on Jan 29, 2012 at 4:48 pm

"not participating in ABAG decision making does not allow a jurisdiction to ignore the state and regional planning targets."

That's not true. Ignoring ABAG mandates simply means that a given city, like Palo Alto, fails to receive state grant funds to build even more high density housing. If Palo Alto simply rejects the housing mandates, outright, we will be much better off.


 +  Like this comment
Posted by pat, a resident of ,
on Jan 29, 2012 at 5:34 pm

> "ABAG's planning goal IS to reduce, not eliminate, travel times and distances."

What's the algorithm that would make this work?

> "This never means having people only work where they live, but having work and living places closer together is a target"

This is meaningless unless people work in places close to them.


 +  Like this comment
Posted by stephen levy, a resident of ,
on Jan 29, 2012 at 6:49 pm

stephen levy is a registered user.

living closer to where you work or living close to public transit is not meaningless at all. Closer is closer to living in Sunnyvale or Redwood City and working in Palo Alto or Mountain View or Menlo Park is closer than if people lived in Tracy or Salinas.

Living in San Francisco or San Jose with public transit options--for some workers--is "closer" than living in areas where there are no convenient public transit opetions.

It does not mean that people who live in Palo Alto must live in Palo Alto or vice versa.

The goal is to provide housing opportunties where people want to live that reduce travel time. Palo Alto is one such place for many people who work nearby. No one is forced to live anywhere they don't choose.

And, yes, Palo Alto or any city or individual can disregard any law or planning guidelines. But disregarding laws or regional planning targets because the penalties (including having our housing element decertified) are not high (to you) is the same as saying it is ok to drive in a carpool lane or rob a store if you are willing to pay the penalty. I ask again, is that what you teach your children?

And, of course, Palo Alto is involved in a number of county and regional efforts so the repurcusions of dissing our neighbors go beyond losing ABAG/MTC grants.

The broader question is whether PA is a "pull up the moat" neighbor or one that sees itself connected to our neighboring regional cities.

I suspect most of the people who think the ABAG planning targets are too high aren't thinking of being an isolated community amking neighbors share more of the regional growth out of malice--they think the formulas were unfairly determined.

Palo Alto has and will have its day in court on that issue wuthg its ABAG local government peers.

I still do not see anyone making a case that will persuade other local partners who will have to plan for the growth that PA says is unfair to us.


 +  Like this comment
Posted by common sense, a resident of ,
on Jan 29, 2012 at 10:54 pm

4 posts by Stephen Levy, and he doesn't address any of the point bought up ... It's just an indication that the topics are difficult, and there are no easy answers; perhaps ABAG should put out for competitive bid their consulting contracts - but they work now, is crony capitalism.


 +  Like this comment
Posted by Parent, a resident of ,
on Jan 29, 2012 at 11:28 pm

Steven Levy, I'm asking specifically, what is the LAW with regard to Palo Alto following ABAG's mandates, and participating in ABAG.

If as you say ABAG decision makers are simply elected officials, If Palo Altans were to VOTE for elected officials who decided to withdraw from participation in ABAG, what specifically would be the legal and financial implications to Palo Alto under SB375? Its a question. Can you explain? for example, what does it mean to have 'our housing element decertified', specifically?

By the way, what year SB375? How do we find the exact wording of SB375?

The lawful requirement that Palo Alto participate and abide by ABAG mandates is not at all clear from your posts

In fact you do very little to explain why Palo Alto is actually voluntarily (or involuntarily) participating in the ABAG mandates.


 +  Like this comment
Posted by Central-Planning-Always-Fails, a resident of ,
on Jan 30, 2012 at 10:52 am

> 4 posts by Stephen Levy, and he doesn't address any of the
> point bought up

Typical Steven Levy--Dreams and delusions, wrapped up in pretty packages called "staff reports".

> living closer to where you work or living close to public
> transit is not meaningless at all

Really? Suppose you want to work for a start-up that moves 3-4 times in the first five years of its existence? Are you not claiming that people should be expected to move each time their company's address changes? Or what about working for a mega-company like Intel, or AMD. Are you suggesting that all of these people actually living in/around Santa Clara?

One need only review the "Nexis" studies that can be located (but generally are not on-line). The number of people living and working in the same town is usually between 14% and 19% in the Bay Area. Unfortunately, these "Nexis" studies don't provide much detail as to whether people moved to these towns to be close to work, or if they just "lucked out" and were able to find jobs with companies that were hiring their particular skills.

Many hi-tech companies often realize that the skills needed for some technologies require a world-wide talent pool. Many companies have arranged to allow people to work at home (meaning wherever in the world they happen to live) and telecommute. This phenomenon is more likely in start-ups, and with projects where local talent can not meet the project's staffing requirements.

At any rate, the idea that ABAG (and Steve Levy) will be able to re-design our cities (and our lives) so that 80% of a company's employees are likely to be living in the same town as their work-sites is delusional.


 +  Like this comment
Posted by Central-Planning-Always-Fails, a resident of ,
on Jan 30, 2012 at 11:09 am

> when was SB375 enacted?

Why would you ask Steve Levy anything, when you can ask "Google" and get the answer?

Bay Area Moves Forward on SB 375 Implementation:
Web Link

In 2008, Senate Bill 375 (Steinberg) was enacted.

SB375 Bill History:
Web Link


 +  Like this comment
Posted by pat, a resident of ,
on Jan 30, 2012 at 9:07 pm

Stephen, you misinterpreted my comment. I said "having work and living places closer together" is meaningless UNLESS people work in places close to them.

I did NOT say it's meaningless to live closer to where you work or live close to public transit.

Big difference.

> "The goal is to provide housing opportunties where people want to live that reduce travel time."

I moved to Palo Alto because I was working for a company on Page Mill Road near El Camino. Six months later, the it moved to Dallas. I chose not to go and my next job was in Campbell. When that company folded, less than a year later, I took a job in San Mateo.

My experience is not unusual, as "Central-Planning-Always-Fails"points out in his examples.

And what about the spouse/partner? Suppose one works in San Jose, the other in Emeryville? This utopean idea of work place and living place close together soon falls apart.

> "The broader question is whether PA is a 'pull up the moat' neighbor or one that sees itself connected to our neighboring regional cities."

Maybe pulling up the moat isn't such a bad idea. Palo Alto is not the only city that wants to protect itself. We chose to live here because it's a nice suburban area with single-family homes and backyards. We did not choose to live in SF in a highrise.

When the New Urbanism invaders are at the gate, telling us that we have to build dense housing that will change the character of our city, neighborhoods and schools, should we welcome them with open arms?


 +  Like this comment
Posted by Me Too, a resident of ,
on Jan 30, 2012 at 9:38 pm

Steven, what DOES happen if Palo Alto ignores the targets? You compare that above to ignoring rules and laws; but "laws" are pretty different from "targets." Can you clarify whether the targets are enforced and what the penalties are for non-compliance?


 +  Like this comment
Posted by Karen White, a resident of ,
on Jan 31, 2012 at 9:56 am

California's population increased ballpark 10% per year from the 2000-2010 decade, according to the US Census, and Palo Alto's population increased a bit less, at 9.9%. A common-sense extrapolation would be for 10% growth per decade, or, 20% over 20 years.

Palo Alto now has around 28,000 housing units; so a 20% increase would be an increase of 5,600 housing units, NOT the 12+ thousand housing units ABAG is asking that we zone for!

Of course, public transit agencies want to ensure they have a healthy funding stream, so the focus of all these housing "mandates" is designed to "encourage" folks to take public transit, even though (as others have posted) it doesn't get you to where you need to go in the time you have to get there.

Separately, as Steven will know, people change jobs far more often than they move houses. It may be that people would rather have a single-family home with a yard farther away than a sardine can here, for the same dollars, even if they work here.


 +  Like this comment
Posted by Karen White, a resident of ,
on Jan 31, 2012 at 10:05 am

@ Central-Planning-Always-Fails - Thank you for posting the links to SB375! Very informative. Here from the link:

"Employment location can have a powerful influence on travel demand, vehicle miles traveled, and vehicle greenhouse-gas emissions."

Well, not really. Each housing unit generates 6-10 car trips daily, with work commute 2-4 trips. So work-related commute is dwarfed by overall driving need by members of a household -- for grocery shopping, medical appointments, non-work-related stuff. This is why communities suffer such overwhelming traffic impacts from new housing -- because it's all the non-work driving that is done in the communities where someone LIVES regardless of where they work.

Again, Stephen will know this. (And sorry to have mis-spelled your name in my earlier post!)


 +  Like this comment
Posted by Central-Planning-Always-Fails, a resident of ,
on Jan 31, 2012 at 10:35 am

> what DOES happen if Palo Alto ignores the targets?

At the moment, nothing much--

California's Housing Element Law: The Issue of Local
Noncompliance:
Web Link

Some years ago, there was an attempt to put some "teeth" into the laws dealing with State-required housing elements that City governments are mandated to develop and adopt--

Web Link

SUMMARY :
Modifies state housing element law based on
negotiations that have occurred through a working group
established by the Assembly Local Government Committee, Assembly
Housing and Community Development Committee and Senate Housing
and Community Development Committee.

..

16) Requires that local governments implement all the programs in
their housing element by the date they have specified in the
housing element. Existing law does not require local
government to take implement actions by a specific date.
---

Section (16) set the stage for various penalties that would befall a City government if it failed to create the necessary zoning (and possibly even funding) for the new housing the State government wants in each town.

SB-910 did not pass. A link to the bill history is provided. The list of those supporting, and those opposing, is interesting to review, with usual suspects--pushing their social engineering agenda.

If memory serves, Joe Simitian failed to cast a vote prior to SB-910's failure to garner the necessary votes to pass. Then, using a little known rule of the Senate, he cast a "No" vote after the bill's fate was clinched. (Always thinking, our boy Joe.)

Supporters of SB-910 threatened to bring this bill back before the two Chambers the following year, but it did not seem to appear. However, it's hard to believe that it is not hovering around the Capitol, waiting for the right moment to spread its wings and come swooping down on us again.

Future candidates for Senate/Legislature should be grilled on housing elements, and whether they support State enforcement of housing elements.


 +  Like this comment
Posted by Karen White, a resident of ,
on Jan 31, 2012 at 10:50 am

Check this out:

"MTC Transportation for Livable Communities (TLC) & Housing Incentives Program (HIP)///
"As part of the TLC program, the Housing Incentive Program (HIP) rewards local governments that build housing near transit stops. The key objectives of this program are to:

Increase the housing supply in areas of the region with existing infrastructure and services in place,
Locate new housing where non-automotive transportation options are viable transportation choices, and

ESTABLISH THE RESIDENTIAL DENSITY AND RIDERSHIP MARKETS NECESSARY TO SUPPORT HIGH-QUALITY TRANSIT SERVICE." (Emphasis added.)

Here's the link to the document: Web Link

So what all this is about is keeping those dollars flowing to public transit agencies by pushing density, regardless of overwhelmingly harmful community impacts. All the high-brow analyses Stephen and other growth advocates provide are just a smoke screen for this simple truth.


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Posted by stephen levy, a resident of ,
on Feb 2, 2012 at 5:07 pm

stephen levy is a registered user.

posters have asked about what is legally required of ABAG and what are penalties.

The regional housing needs assessement is mandated under state housing law.

SB 375 is law as is AB32 and the planning and greenhouse gas emission reduction targets are in the law.

As to whether penalties are enforced, what is the point of the question? Are psoters suggesting that breaking the law is ok if the penalty is low. I continue to ask posters whether this is what they teach their children but get no answer.

but if this is important to posters figure it out yourself. I am not a lawyer.

In addition to any official penalties, there is the matter of dumping the shared challenge on our neighbors who we might want good relations with on other issues.


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Posted by stephen levy, a resident of ,
on Feb 2, 2012 at 5:18 pm

stephen levy is a registered user.

Pat,

It is absolutely correct that people change jobs and spouses have jobs in different locations.

I think that strengthens the argument for assuring a large supply of housing close to multiple job sites and transportation options --be they highway or transit.

Since most people in Silicon Valley work on the peninsula or in the nearby east bay, that suggests housing in those areas.

From a regional perspective it does not matter if a little less of the housing is in Palo Alto and a little more in Mountain View, Sunnyvale and Menlo Park..

It probably does matter to the increasing number of tech workers in the Valley, some of whom want to live in Palo Alto.

Palo Alto was alloacted a share of regional housing under the same rules that applied to our neighbors who live in similar communties next to us. Where do you propose the housing that doesn't get built in Palo Alto go and why should Palo Alto get less than ABAG allocated?


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Posted by stephen levy, a resident of ,
on Feb 2, 2012 at 5:24 pm

stephen levy is a registered user.

Karen White raises an interesting point about no work trips.

It is exactly why new housing built in desirable downtown or similar areas is the focus of ABAG and most city's planning.


Living near shopping and restaurants (and the train, Stanford and the medical center) can reduce non work trips no matter where one works. We live downtown and walk to most shopping and eating out places.

Parts of Palo Alto are an attractive center for such living as is the south of Market area in SF and north first street in San Jose and many downtowns around us such as Mountain View.

Does anyone doubt there is strong demand for condos and apartments in Palo Alto?


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Posted by stephen levy, a resident of ,
on Feb 2, 2012 at 5:30 pm

stephen levy is a registered user.

Yes there will be more density in PA and most communities in the Bay Area in 2035. The region will add roughly 2 million people.

And most populaiton growth at least until 2030 will be in te=he 25-34 and 65+ age groups.

So denser living will meet their needs well. The pendulum is moving from an ere when population growth was centered in family age groups and the type of housing demanded and location will shift natrually over time.,


If no one wanted to live in PA becasue they agreed with posters that PA is crowded and has lost its luster there woudl be no problem. But psoters are engaging is wishful fantasy and know that PA is desirable and people do want to live here.

So there is an aspect of these arguments that is about pulling up the moat around PA and "opting out" of participating in addressing regional challenges.


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Posted by stephen levy, a resident of ,
on Feb 2, 2012 at 5:32 pm

stephen levy is a registered user.

The argument that ABAG and planning are about lining the pockers of special interests does not rise above the level of spiteful drivel in my experience and opinion.


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Posted by John, a resident of ,
on Feb 2, 2012 at 6:00 pm

"SB 375 is law as is AB32 and the planning and greenhouse gas emission reduction targets are in the law."

Aah, yes...we are being driven into a Stalinist light condition, by sounding the alarm of global warming. It doesn't really matter if if the thoery is correct, or not, because it offers a convenient excuse to seize power by Steve Levy and his buddies.

As to where future workers can live, try Salinas and Tracy...these cities are crying out for employed workers to buy thier currently foreclosed homes, and the workers can ride in vans and buses, as they have for years. Toll roads are a good idea, because the vans and buses will have faster transit times.

There is no rational reason to impose higher density housing on the Peninsula. It is a political power play, nothing more.


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Posted by Karen White, a resident of ,
on Feb 2, 2012 at 6:04 pm

Growth will occur, no two ways about it. But we should be responding to our natural growth, i.e., ballpark 10% population growth per decade state- and City-wide, rather than having ABAG "impose" a floor for the number of housing units zoned for.

Under current zoning and the Housing Element now in effect, we can build, as a practical matter, 1,589 housing units on top of the 28,216 we now have. So figuring natural growth, needing around 5,600 housing units by 2035 -- and incorporating the 1,589 currently zoned for but not yet built, we should zone for an ADDITIONAL 4,011 housing units during the next two decades.

This zoning for an additional 4,011 housing units will take us to where our growth patterns show we should be in 2035. This is what I think is a reasoned and reasonable rate of growth.


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Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of ,
on Feb 2, 2012 at 9:52 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

"There is no rational reason to impose higher density housing on the Peninsula."

The market will 'impose' higher density on the Peninsula - ABAG's requirements are interesting but not determinative. Compare the density of the Peninsula in 2012 to what it was in 1952 and see what the market has imposed - the future will be the same.


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Posted by John, a resident of ,
on Feb 3, 2012 at 10:37 am

"Compare the density of the Peninsula in 2012 to what it was in 1952 and see what the market has imposed"

There was still a lot of open land (to development) in 1952. No more.

Steve Levy, and his cronies want to impose a Stalinist-style edict to force high density housing. The market, if left to its own devices, will respond to supply and demand, within existing zoning requirements. Among the other forcings going on, is the trade that is made by the BMR and high desnity housing advocates when they make a deal with developers: Build high density and BMR, then we will agree to change the zoning. If local city councils did not cave to these demands, the developers would need to build their houses in areas with plenty of open land, like Salinas and Tracy.

There is no inevitability to a market-based intensification. For example, your town of Atherton does not allow intense housing, due to its zoning rules. Palo Alto should just say "no" to ABAG, and lead the way out of the Stalinist demands. Other cities will join us. Steve Levy and his crowd will stamp their feet and cry "global warming!". So what?


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Posted by Karen White, a resident of ,
on Feb 3, 2012 at 11:24 am

Stephen and Everyone - They've let the cat out of the bag! Check this out, in an ABAG memo discussing Projections 2009. Here's the link - Web Link

"Local governments often ask about the accuracy of projections.....Conveying to local governments our track record on the accuracy of the regional land-use forecast, in the short-term, may be helpful.

HOWEVER, POLICY-BASED PROJECTIONS ARE NOT MEANT TO BE "ACCURATE" IN THE LONG-TERM, THEY ARE INTENDED TO PUSH THE REGION TOWARD SPECIFIC GROWTH POLICIES. (Emphasis added.)

"FURTHERMORE, THERE IS NO MEASURE TO DETERMINE THE ACCURACY OF PROJECTIONS, IN THE LATTER YEARS, AGAINST LOCAL PLANS."

ABAG's emphases are on rewarding builders / packing in density (of course, land is worth more $$ if it's up-zoned) and to justify funding for public transit. No city needs to yield to ABAG's "authority." We should either challenge ABAG or push for its dissolution -- and de-fund it in the meantime.


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Posted by stephen levy, a resident of ,
on Feb 3, 2012 at 1:34 pm

stephen levy is a registered user.

There are two components to the projections for Palo Alto and other communities in the region.

First there is the projection of regional growth. I am participating in this work now for ABAG and am happy to answer questions about these projections.

Second, there are the intra-regional planning targets for where growth will occur. There IS, as Karen White points out, a policy component to these projections. The current policy is to facilitate closer matching of job and housing locations and have both closer to good highway and transit access. Palo Alto gets an above average target for housing growth becasue it is expected to have continuing job growth and Palo Alto is a central location for jobs up and down the peninula and has above average transit connections.

But as Peter Carpenter noted, most of the growth pattern for jobs and housing follows where businesses and residents want to live and work--and on this criteria Palo Alto ranks high.

Remember no one is forced to live someplace and if housing is not desired by the market in PA, it will not be built.

John has a remarkable twist of words in calling following market trends (i.e. people want to live here) as Stalinist central planning.

And Karen continues the unproven and nonsensical allegation that
ABAG decisions are driven by catering to developers.

There may be good arguments that Stanford or nearby communities should have more housing allocated to them and less to Palo Alto but so far I have not heard any and if you think that calling other members of ABAG Stalinists or developer cronies is going to impress the members on the housing allocation committee, my suggestion is to try another approach.


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Posted by just wacky, a resident of ,
on Feb 3, 2012 at 5:14 pm

I generally don't believe in conspiracy theories, but in this case if not a conspiracy it is a collective Kool-Aid consumption built around the circular logic that "growth is coming so we must grow", and the laws of the market ensure that this is propelled by landowners and developers acting individually in their self-interest. Steven is a smart guy and I would love to hear his explanation on why increasing office density is sustainable here. We have a huge jobs-housing imbalance and every office cube built just exacerbates the equation, requiring more housing. And yet Palo Alto continues to allow PC-upzoning as will likely happen on the "Alma gateway" to build more office than zoned, for questionable public benefits, most of which adds no sales tax revenue or hotel tax revenue. Laws of physics dictate that growth of any level, 1%, 5%, it does not matter, cannot continue in a fixed space into perpetuity. So why not stop adding to existing zoning caps for commercial space which will only add housing needs and transform the suburban peninsula to which we were attracted into a gridlocked mess, while the area is fairly livable. Ask anyone coming or going during rush "hour" to 101 at Oregon Expressway or 280 at Page Mill whether they want more buildings crammed in here.


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Posted by John, a resident of ,
on Feb 3, 2012 at 5:47 pm

"John has a remarkable twist of words in calling following market trends (i.e. people want to live here) as Stalinist central planning."

No, Steve, you are twisting words here. As long as the free market lives within the exisitng zoning rules, there is no problem. People can still live here, as long as they are willing to pay market rates to do so. There is plenty of housing for workers in Silicon Valley, within reasonable commuting distance. You, on the other hand, want to force high density housing on the Penninsula, so that you can gain political influence and power. There is no other rational explanation.


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Posted by common sense, a resident of ,
on Feb 4, 2012 at 8:38 am

Stephen Levy writes "It does not mean that people who live in Palo Alto must live in Palo Alto or vice versa. The goal is to provide housing opportunties where people want to live that reduce travel time. Palo Alto is one such place for many people who work nearby. No one is forced to live anywhere they don't choose."

What Stephen Levy, who's doesn't have experienced or education in real estate realize, is there are already thousands of existing housing units available in the South Bay, and mid Peninsula (Redwood City, San Mateo, San Jose, Santa Clara, etc) - it's called foreclosed properties. Many of these properties sell for less than the cost of a new BMR (public subsidized housing) unit in Palo Alto. And since Stephen Levy states the units don't have to be in the same city as the jobs, these foreclosed units should satisfy the need.

Unfortunately, as previous posters has pointed out ABAG has other goals to promote high density housing development in "crony capitialist" coordination with developers. Developers make alot more profit by going into high land value areas like Palo Alto, and building high density housing, with less risk, then they do by trying to build more housing in an area with foreclosed properties.

Stephen Levy, as a PAID consultant by ABAG, is part of the "crony capitalist" system, so everyone should realize he has a big conflict of interest here.


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Posted by Karen White, a resident of ,
on Feb 4, 2012 at 9:28 am

Oh dear -- I hadn't realized that Stephen is being paid by ABAG. Stephen, is this correct?


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Posted by Central-Planning-Always-Fails, a resident of ,
on Feb 4, 2012 at 10:46 am

> Are psoters suggesting that breaking the law is ok if the
> penalty is low. I continue to ask posters whether this is what
> they teach their children but get no answer.

OMG!!! What kind of logic is this? Of course people have answered you, Mr. Levy—but some people are just too blind to see the trees in the forest.

Laws are, at best, just words on a piece of paper. Laws are not sent to us by a "supreme being"—who threatens us with global destruction if we fail to comply (well, most laws anyway. The human race was destroyed by a vengeful deity in the belief system of at least one religion because of human disobedience).

Laws are, at best, intended to guide behavior. Our system of government recognizes that laws are frail, and often imperfect. We have tried to accommodate that understanding by requiring juries to be unanimous for decisions involving "criminal law". We accept the concept of "jury nullification"—which allows "twelve men good and true" to send a message to the government that some laws are not worthy of enforcement. Sometimes we sunset laws, in order to acknowledge that such laws might not be the best approach, needing rethinking after a bit of time has passed.

We provide for appeals of court decision at several levels. And our legislative branch can repeal laws that are deemed to be "bad law" by any number of means.

How many examples do you need, Mr. Levy? The legitimacy of slavery as determined by the US Supreme Court via the Dred Scott decision, or possibly the ban and then the repeal of the ban on alcohol consumption by Constitutional amendment?

Are you going to teach your children that African Slavery was just because it was woven into the US Constitution--until a huge war between the States, resulting in a casualty count of over a million, changed the way we looked at "human bondage"? Or what about the way the NAZIs treated the Jews during their brief, and quite legal, occupancy of the government of Germany in the 1930s and 1940s?

Laws are intended to be constantly reviewed, tested, challenged, and changed, if necessary.

It's a shame Steve Levy does not understand this particularly American point-of-view.




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Posted by Central-Planning-Never-Works, a resident of ,
on Feb 4, 2012 at 12:29 pm

> most of the growth pattern for jobs and housing follows where
> businesses and residents want to live and work--and on this
> criteria Palo Alto ranks high.

Depending on where you draw the boundaries, there are probably 6.5M-7+M people living in the greater San Francisco Bay Area. Palo Alto currently is home to about 64,000 of these millions--less than 1%. Even if Steve Levy were to be able to help increase the population to 100,000, the percentage would still be about 1%. There is no room for the other 99%, and it's unlikely all 6.5M would want to live here.


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Posted by stephen levy, a resident of ,
on Feb 4, 2012 at 12:59 pm

stephen levy is a registered user.

Karen,I am shocked by your seeming accusation that my behavior is unethical and shaped by my clients desires. You should know how much money I have lost for saying no to clients.

You also inadvertanly admitted you never read my original post (see above) where I clearly stated my work with ABAG.

Nor do you remember the tons of similar threads over the past years when I have made the same points while not a consultant to ABAG.

The only thing I find positive about your last post is that you, as opposed to most posters, post under your name.

I respect that we disagree on some issues and I respect your work in Palo Alto but that is no excuse for your "oh dear" post above.


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Posted by stephen levy, a resident of ,
on Feb 4, 2012 at 1:14 pm

stephen levy is a registered user.

Yesterday KLA announced new hiring in Silicon Valley. The day before Dell announced new hiring in Silicon Valley.

Last week BLS announced that our metro area tied with Houston for the fastest growing large metro area measured by job growth in 2011.

Yes, there are about 7 million residents in the region now and there will be approximately 9 million in 2040.

The ABAG work is about planning for the GROWTH, which means planning for where the GROWTH in housing and jobs might be located.

In this planning they are wise to assume (this is not part of the work I do for them) that the peninsula, SF and Silicon Valley are preferred locations for growth. Downtown office buildings are being built and this is repeated up and down the peninsula.

Palo Alto is a preferred location for some of this growth.

As a region with fixed geography adds 2 million people and 1 million jobs, there WILL be an increase in density. And to accomodfate this growth, soem areas will change zoning as has been done over the years in most place. This planning is about 1) making sure there is enough planning for housing to match the job growth and 2) thinking about locations where people want to live and work.

No one is forced to build anything--these are private market decisions. We don't prevent people from creating more jobs here. What is the rationale for preventing people from building more housing and denser housing in selected areas such as downtown and around California avenue and similar locations?

Similarly, people can still live in Salinas or Tracy if they want. But many new tech workers want to live in communities near where they work or with exciting urban amenities so much of the growth will want to locate from SF to San Jose.


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Posted by stephen levy, a resident of ,
on Feb 4, 2012 at 1:20 pm

stephen levy is a registered user.

I respect protesting and appealing laws that are unjust. I spent a part of my younger days doing that.

I was asked whether the activities that ABAG and other regional planning agencies do had the backing of law and the answer is yes.

In this particular case Palo Alto has appealed ABAG allocation decisions and that is open to PA in the new round. People did try to repeal AB 32 in a recent election and lost.

The people who protested segregation in the 1960s and broke what they considered bad laws went to jail and understood the consequences.

I don't see posters here willing to put much on the line personally in fighting regional planning for growth and do not see regional planning as in the same class for moral outrage as slavery or segregation.


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Posted by pat, a resident of ,
on Feb 4, 2012 at 2:16 pm

Stephen, your comment is (hopefully inadvertently) funny: "Karen, I am shocked by your seeming accusation that my behavior is unethical and shaped by my clients desires."

Claude Rains as Captain Renault in Casablanca: "I'm shocked, shocked to find that gambling is going on in here!"

Do consultants ever behave in ways counter to their clients' desires? Probably not if they hope to earn a living.

> "Downtown office buildings are being built and this is repeated up and down the peninsula."

Why build more office space if there is already a job:housing imbalance? Seems like it's just digging the ABAG hole deeper.

Palo Alto has two major attractions: (1) schools and (2) quiet residential neighborhoods. As the city population increases, schools become more crowded and more people per square foot are housed in apartments/condos/townhouses. Traffic gets a lot worse and there is no reasonable public transit(apart from CalTrain) to induce people to get out of their cars.

This is not a plea for 10,000+ square-foot monster homes. It is simply an awareness that zoning is important and is being tossed overboard. People with backyards on a tree-lined street don't want a 5-story building in their neighborhood.

> "But many new tech workers want to live in communities near where they work or with exciting urban amenities so much of the growth will want to locate from SF to San Jose."

If they want to live near "exciting urban amenities," let them live in SF or San Jose. Maybe they can work there, too.

But let's save SUBurban areas for people who don't want the excitement.

It would be interesting to know how many young people want to get out of the cities once they marry and have kids.

> "What is the rationale for preventing people from building more housing and denser housing in selected areas such as downtown and around California avenue and similar locations?"

Ask the people who live there. Where does "downtown" end? If you're a homeowner near downtown, how close to your backyard do you want a 5-story building?


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Posted by Central-Planning-Always-Fails, a resident of ,
on Feb 4, 2012 at 2:19 pm

> As a region with fixed geography adds 2 million people and 1 million jobs, there WILL
> be an increase in density

This is an estimate that may, or may not, come true. For these numbers to be true, then most of this increased population will come from illegal immigration—and most of the jobs will be low-paying, service sector jobs. It is very unlikely that we will see 1M hi-tech jobs added to this region—EVER!

This issue of illegal immigration is, unfortunately, a Federal issue. We need to recognize that, and send people to Washington who have the courage to call a "spade a spade" and quit cow-towing to those who want to claim that the US has no right to declare, and protect, its borders.

We need to insure that e-Verify is not only the law of the land, but enforced. We need the IRS to identify all of those that it believes are in the country illegally, and coordinate with ICE to get them deported. We need to be a part of the Secure Communities program—and to outlaw the idea of "Sanctuary Cities"—deny all Federal aid to those that persist in this stupidity.

We need to identify all components of "growth" that California government is projecting that can be considered as "illegal" and reduce the growth being projected by that amount. The idea that we should be accommodating people whose contempt for us is so apparent is crazy.


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Posted by Karen White, a resident of ,
on Feb 5, 2012 at 9:08 am

Stephen, I meant no offense by my question. But realistically, if organizations are paying for advice from you or any consultant, it would seem likely that the consultant would defend the positions of the organization that are consistent with the advice. It's just logic, and not meant as an attack.

Stepping back and looking at the larger picture -- and the laws that you allude to -- many laws that take effect have been sponsored by industry lobbyists to benefit their own members. You are certainly aware of the lobbying might of the Building Industry Association and this group's efforts. The irony of all this is that much of our current housing glut was caused by EXCESS development during the last runup, rather than building for naturally moderated population growth.

In a state and a city that have population growth of 10% per decade, a "law" that dictates we provide housing for TWICE this population growth should absolutely be challenged.

Stephen, do you believe we should zone to house TWICE our rate of population growth over the next two decades, particularly knowing (as ABAG admits) that long-term projections can't be made accurately? And knowing that once cities zones particular parcels for housing, they are FORBIDDEN (under these same "laws") from LATER rezoning these parcels FROM housing TO anything else?


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Posted by Karen White, a resident of ,
on Feb 5, 2012 at 9:52 am

Yikes -- I'm just realizing that under its most aggressive-growth scenario, we're being asked to support FULL 44% growth in the number of housing units by 2035! I do think that some kind of coordinated planning is a good idea generally speaking, but NOT authoritarian dictates that will destroy our community just to support public transit.


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Posted by stephen levy, a resident of ,
on Feb 5, 2012 at 11:41 am

stephen levy is a registered user.

Karen, Thanks for the clarification.

I work on the questions that I am asked to address but do not "defend" my clients' positions unless I support them independently although in this age of skepticism and flame throwing on Town Sqaure and "in the air" these days I can see how one might think all consultants comply with clients' wishes much as people seem to think elected officials bend to their contributors.

On the other hand I do not argue that you are defending your position out of self interest--I just think we have a different perspective.

Finally on the issue of consultants and their clients--1) I do not work on the allocation issue--I work for staff on the regional growth projections; 2) the allocation decisions are most certainly not made by staff but by the vote of members who are local elected officials and 3) as I said before, I have expressed these opinions regularly in Town Square for years before I was asked to help ABAG on the regtional growth outlook.


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Posted by stephen levy, a resident of ,
on Feb 5, 2012 at 11:51 am

stephen levy is a registered user.

Karen, you are absolutely correct that Palo Alto in recent years has been allocated a larger share of housing growth than its current regional share.

I have tried to explain why this is so--the allocation formula for all cities adopted by ABAG members gives extra weight for housing in communities with large job bases relative to current housing; to communities with above average expected job growth and to communities with access to public transit.

In answer to your question, I started this post as an explanation of why Palo Alto gets the allocation it has. I am clear that housing 2 million more residents will increase density in many places over the next 30 years and that this change is challenging in built up communities.

I am happy for Palo Alto to argue its case among its ABAG colleagues and, yes, if pushed as to what is possible, I think Palo Alto with good planning is as able as most comparable communities to meet the challenge. Since I live downtown where much of the growth should occur I am willing to accomodate as a regional partner in this great region.

But I respect differing viewpoints and this certainly is a topic that should be thoroughly aired in Palo Alto this year.


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Posted by John, a resident of ,
on Feb 5, 2012 at 11:55 am

" I do not work on the allocation issue--I work for staff on the regional growth projections"

A circular argument by Steve Levy: Project growth, which will demand allocations (from ABAG) to meet them. Alternatively, use allocations to promote growth. Throw in some scare tactics about global warming, then some moralistic warning to parents about what they teach their kids, and the resulting stew is self-confirmed.

Neat package, except that many people are beginning to wake up and smell the coffee; Stalinist light is not something to which we should aspire to teach our kids, nor should we put up with it yesterday, today or tomorrow.


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Posted by stephen levy, a resident of ,
on Feb 5, 2012 at 12:04 pm

stephen levy is a registered user.

The comment that California and Bay Area population growth is driven by unauthorized immigration is false.

The Department of Homeland Security reports that the unauthorized immigration population in California increased by 6,000 per year in the past decade out of an annual population gain of 332,000.

The allegation that Bay Area population growth has or will be dominated by low wage workers is similarly false.

As I have mentioned in previous posts, the peninsula counties are in the top ten nationwide for average wages and for wage gains in 2010 and 2011.

As far as Palo Alto is concerned there will be a growing number of new Bay Area workers and residents with sufficient income to buy new housing in Palo Alto if it were available because as posters point our we are fortunate to live in a great place.

Finally, I think the "suburban" designation mischaracterizes who we are. While technically a suburb under some definitions, we are a major college town with significant regional high tech activity. We are not Atherton or Portola Valley.


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Posted by John, a resident of ,
on Feb 5, 2012 at 12:26 pm

"As far as Palo Alto is concerned there will be a growing number of new Bay Area workers and residents with sufficient income to buy new housing in Palo Alto if it were available"

There you go again, Steve. It's amazing that you think you can get away with it! If there are a growing number of new Bay Area workers with sufficient income to buy in Palo Alto, they will do just that. Availability is always there, if the price is right. What you want is a command from ABAG to build relatively LOW COST housing. Why should Palo Alto ever agree to that? There is plenty of low cost housing in Salinas and Tracy (and many other towns, within reasonable commuting distance to Silicon Valley, AND they are desperate to have those buyers!


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Posted by pat, a resident of ,
on Feb 5, 2012 at 1:48 pm

> "I think the "suburban" designation mischaracterizes who we are. While technically a suburb under some definitions, we are a major college town with significant regional high tech activity. We are not Atherton or Portola Valley."

Palo Alto is not Atherton or Portola Valley because the zoning laws are different. REGIONAL high tech activity has nothing to do with whether an individual city/town is suburban.

> " much as people seem to think elected officials bend to their contributors."

Stephen, do you NOT think that elected officials bend to their contributors? If not, why do you think individuals and organizations donate millions to candidates' campaigns?


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Posted by common sense, a resident of ,
on Feb 6, 2012 at 6:32 am

Stephen Levy, a paid consulant to ABAG, treats the conflict of interest concerns, much like Newt Gingrich, who got paid $1.5 million as a "historian"/"consulant" to Freddie Mac/Fannie Mae...

ABAG projections have been inaccurate, yet, their growth projections have help to drive high density housing projects.

There is a surplus of housing in Silicon Valley - just look at all the foreclosed properties in San Jose, Santa Clara, etc. Some of reason why this is so, are the housing policies driven by ABAG, with their inaccurate growth projections, and how the housing development for low/moderate income households have been gamed by developers.

ABAG allocates housing not just on units, but also that a high percentage of the units need to be priced for low/moderate income levels. Cities don't fund the development of the low/moderate income units; instead, developers are required to provide 15-20% of their units to low/moderate income households. Cities increase the housing density greatly to allow for this. So what happens is there is an oversupply of the high density units, which is where foreclosed properties are found.


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Posted by stephen levy, a resident of ,
on Feb 6, 2012 at 3:10 pm

stephen levy is a registered user.

The Regioanl Housing Needs Assessment (RHNA) does set planning targets for housing units by income class--as required by state law. The regional target is allocated to jurisdictions within the region by a formula developed by ABAG members and applied equally to all jurisdictions.

These are planning targets that ask communities to set aside land for low income housing and foster a climate of facilitating such housing. Some low income housing is built as a result of requiring builders of market rate housing to set aside a small number of units for low income housing as with 800 High.

Large low income housing projects require public subsidies which are in short supply and, as a result, most communities that plan for low income housing do not see it built in the numbers suggested by ABAG.

So the low income housing target is a best efforts planning target and the ABAG members have chosen an allocation formula that attempts to spread the subsidized housing among jurisdictions.

People are free to live in Tracy or Salinas and commute if they wish.

The allegation that the foreclosure crisis is caused by or mainly a function of vacant low income housing units is false and grasping at straws. The highest foreclosure rates are in the outlying areas where people bought homes they could not afford if the economy stopped growing.

94301 has the lowest foreclosure rate in California.


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Posted by stephen levy, a resident of ,
on Feb 6, 2012 at 3:14 pm

stephen levy is a registered user.

Some posters want to make ABAG all about low income housing. I would be happy if Palo Alto approved developments for the high income households who want to live here.

Sure, people can buy existing homes but we are talking about substantial job and population growth in the region that requires MORE housing so simply repeating that people can buy existing housing in PA, while true, is not an answer to the where growth should go--especially growth in high income workers who would like to live in communities like Palo Alto.


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Posted by stephen levy, a resident of ,
on Feb 6, 2012 at 3:30 pm

stephen levy is a registered user.

Posters are making allegations regarding conflict of interest and ethical behavior but are not willing to sign their real name.

I don't have a conflict of interest, which would occur if I owned a large amount of land whose value was related to my work or worked for a developer with a current interest in ABAG decisions.

It also overlooks the fact that jobs drive housing, not the other way around. I don't control the private decisions that are continuing to find the Bay Area a great place to start a tech business.

Actually posters are accusing me of shaping my technical analysis for money. That is not a conflict of interest unless you think everyone who works is unethical to keep or get their job.

I suppose you could argue that Republicans call for tax cuts because they receive campaign money from contributors who want tax cuts. But isn't the more likley scenario Pat and others that people who favor tax cuts contribute to Republicans becasue they favor the Republican position.

In any event for me I have been writing the same ideas for many years so you can disagree with my ideas but claiming I changed my ideas for ABAG is clueless.


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Posted by John, a resident of ,
on Feb 6, 2012 at 4:28 pm

"The Regioanl Housing Needs Assessment (RHNA) does set planning targets for housing units by income class--as required by state law. The regional target is allocated to jurisdictions within the region by a formula developed by ABAG members and applied equally to all jurisdictions."

It keeps getting worse, by the moment, for Steve Levy. This is no longer Stalinsit light...it is Stalinst.

Why should Palo Alto agree to such dictatorial commands from Big Brother(s) like Steve Levy? We can, and should, just say "NO!".

No more Stalinist edicts, as I said in my original post.

Levy and his crowd are behind the curve of history, not in front of it. I don't mind that he is, or is not, on the take with ABAG. That is up to him. I object to the very idea that ABAG has anything to say about forcing Palo Alto to build high density housing and transportation hubs. This entire ideology by Levy, etal, is predicated on the notion that global warming is about to kill us all.

Such scare tactics are not becoming of an intelligent population, like Palo Alto. Remember the "Population Bomb" scare tactis of Paul Ehlich?

Levy and Ehrlich are interested in politcal power, period. When it doesn't go their way, they get all defensive. Who cares?


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Posted by pat, a resident of ,
on Feb 6, 2012 at 5:40 pm

> "Actually posters are accusing me of shaping my technical analysis for money. That is not a conflict of interest unless you think everyone who works is unethical to keep or get their job."

I have no idea whether you shape your analyses for money or any other reason. But the word "shaping" is troubling. An analysis should be scientific and need no shaping. If one shapes, massages, manipulates the outcome of an analysis to please a client, I would say that's unethical.

It's possible to have a conflict of interest with the company one works for. For example, if I worked for Planned Parenthood but didn't believe in birth control, I would have a conflict of interest. If I counseled clients who came to PP against using birth control, I would also be unethical.

> "I suppose you could argue that Republicans call for tax cuts because they receive campaign money from contributors who want tax cuts. But isn't the more likley scenario Pat and others that people who favor tax cuts contribute to Republicans becasue they favor the Republican position."

Stephen: You seem to read a lot into people's posts. (1) I do not favor tax cuts for the rich. (2) I do not donate to Republicans or Democrats. (3) I think both Democrats and Republicans are in the pockets of Big Banks, Big Oil, Big Coal, Big Pharmas and every other major corporate donor to political campaigns and PACs. (4) I have not in any way indicated that you are unethical.

If you don't think the government is owned by big corporations, particularly after Citizens United, you're very nave and probably in a very small minority.


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Posted by common sense, a resident of ,
on Feb 7, 2012 at 8:39 am

ABAG did not put out for competitive bids the consulting contracts they award, and ABAG awards over $8 million/year.

Stephen Levy's would have a much better case if the consulting contract were awarded based on quantitive criteria, like cost & accuracy. In our region, we have Stanford University, UC Berkeley, SJ State, SF State, USF, Saint Mary's College, etc. I'm pretty sure there is quite a bit of expertise among those universities who could do the consulting work for less cost. But as a part of "crony capitalism", these "consulting contracts", like the $1.5 million that Newt Gingrich got from Fannie Mae/Freddie Mac to be a "historian" represent a conflict of interest.

Stephen Levy says "94301 has the lowest foreclosure rate in California" - is really off point.

Point 1: Stephen Levy says ABAG doesn't plan for people living in the same city as they work. Therefore all the foreclosures in San Jose, Santa Clara, etc. should count toward satisfying the housing unit goals - but ABAG won't count them because developers don't make any money if they the foreclosed properties are counted.

Point 2: Below Market rate housing (BMR) is paid for by granting developers higher density allowances than would typically be zoned, so that they can allocate 15-20% of the units they build to BMR housing. So if ABAG says city Z needs 1,000 units of affordable housing, the city needs to zone for 5000 - 6000 units of housing, so that the developer can satisfy ABAG needs. In Palo Alto's case, out of the 12,000 housing units ABAG central planners allocated to the city, a high percentage are suppose to be BMR units; multiply that by 5-6 times to get what the actual density needs to be to satisfy that requirement.


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Posted by Karen White, a resident of ,
on Feb 7, 2012 at 10:09 am

Stephen, you mention "I am a consultant on the regional job projections in this round for ABAG as well as for three other California regional councils of government...."

Stepping away for a moment from the question of whether housing and jobs should be linked geographically, would you please share the methodology you use to forecast job growth and the timelines you use?

Specifically, on your website (Center for the Continuing Study of the California Economy) you talk about us being down something like 1 million jobs from the peak of the bubble. Somewhere else you saying that KLA and other firms are hiring, the thought being that we should therefore accept new housing. But I'm not seeing that "new jobs" necessarily mean a net increase in jobs; this can mean instead replacement jobs to fill those where companies have had layoffs or gone belly-up.

So would you mind sharing your methodology for forecasting? I ask because ABAG has been way off in the past in its "housing need" projections, so your input on jobs projections would help.

Thanks!


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Posted by stephen levy, a resident of ,
on Feb 7, 2012 at 4:39 pm

stephen levy is a registered user.

Karen,

I gave my presentation at ABAG today. I expect they will post it on their website. I intend to offer to do the presentaiton in Palo Alto.

ABAG, HCD and my work recognizes that there is not a need to bulld homes for the jobs regained by unemployed workers or for the eventual reduction in today's high vacany rates.

As a result I expect the next regional RHNA housing target to be lower than the growth previously envisioned.

ABAG is still developing their preferred regional job growth projection after which there will be a long public process before it is adopted in 2013.


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Posted by stephen levy, a resident of ,
on Feb 11, 2012 at 1:48 pm

stephen levy is a registered user.

Here are the presentations from the last ABAG Regional Advisory Working Group Meeting, which was attended by Curtis Williams from PA.

My presentation is on the regional growth forecast.

The last slides show that population and HH growth are concentrated in the 25-34 and 55+ age groups until 2030. There is a decline in the number of residents aged 35-54 for the next two decades.

[Web Link ]


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Posted by stephen levy, a resident of ,
on Feb 25, 2012 at 7:45 pm

stephen levy is a registered user.

On March 9 ABAG will release draft growth scenarios for the region including for Palo Alto. These will REPLACE the numbers that everyone has been talking about although the changes may not be large.

After that there will be an open discussion period of several months after which the ABAG members, not the staff, will select a growth vision. plan and policies for the region.

In developing these new projections and plans, ABAG and othe regional planning agencies are responding to two major parts of SB 375 although the planning would and has been similar before SB 375 was passed. one component is reducing total travel distances to save energy, increase mobility and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The second component of SB 375 is to provide housing within the region for new workers and their families who come in response to job growth. The housing goal would remain even if the emission reduction target were absent.

In the existing distribution of growth within the region (and expected to remain so in the March 9 new numbers) Palo Alto is expected to see job growth at a rate faster than the region as a whole (similar to many peninsula cities) and will be asked to plan for an above average share of regional housing.

The overall projected regional growth is in the range of 1% per year, close to but slightly above the national growth rate. I have not seen the new projections for Palo Alto but I would expect them to show a higher growth rate as Palo Alto is a job and transit access center.

The release on March 9 should provide additional explanation for the regional and local area projections.


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Posted by rhg, a resident of ,
on Jun 15, 2012 at 11:58 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


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Posted by stephen levy, a resident of ,
on Jun 16, 2012 at 3:12 pm

stephen levy is a registered user.

The removed post accused me and ABAG of acting in the self interest of ourselves and developers.

The accusation has been made by other posters and is incorrect and put forth without any evidence but is also silly and posted under the cowardice of anonymity so I am both glad it was removed and happy again to address the issue.

ABAG voting is done by members all of whom are elected officials from the cities and counties of the region--not by me or the staff. If posters want to accuse the majority of city members as being puppets of developers, that is against my experience and without any evidence.

I don't have anything to do with the voting, own no property besides my condo and do similar work for four other completely independent regional planning agencies.

If no one wanted to buy what was offered as new homes and apartments, the people building them would go broke.

The region is growing and will continue to grow and builders will respond to the preferences of buyers or go out of buisness.



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