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By Steve Levy

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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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Palo Alto by the Numbers

Uploaded: Jan 18, 2014
Below are some facts about Palo Alto's population. Some come from the 1990, 2000 and 2010 Census and some come from the 2008-2012 American Community Survey.
In 2013 there were 66,363 residents living in 26,718 housing units.

Between 1990 and 2000 Palo Alto added 2,757 residents. Between 2000 and 2010 city population increased by 5,805.

Also between 2000 and 2010 the Asian population increased by 7,371 and accounts for 27% of Palo Alto residents.

In 2010 17.1% of the population was over 65 compared to 11.4% statewide.

62.4% of housing units are single family and 37.6% are in multiple family structures. 57.5% are owner occupied and 42.5% are renter occupied, close to the state average of 44.0%.

In 2010 17,869 or 67.4% of households had no children. The % of residents under 18 (23.4%) was close to the 25.0% state average.

80% of residents over 25 have at least a Bachelor's degree (30% statewide) and 51% have an advanced degree (11% statewide).

Median (half above, half below) HH income is $122,000 and average HH income is around $180,000.

The poverty rate is 4.9% (statewide average is 15.3%) and the unemployment rate for residents is 3.2% (November 2013) compared to 8.5% statewide.

31% of residents are foreign born, slightly below the county average of 37%. 83% of foreign born residents have at least a Bachelor's degree. Slightly more than half of the foreign born residents are already citizens.

Between 2010 and 2013 the State Department of Finance estimates that Palo Alto added nearly 2,000 residents but fewer than 300 households, which implies that most of the population growth went into existing units.

These are the numbers.

We can discuss what this implies for planning and infrastructure, about whose voices are here to be counted in developing policies for Palo Alto's future policies, and what these trends imply the city will look like in the future.

One trend is clear. We have an above average share of residents over 65, they will age over the next 10-20 years and their share will grow substantially if they are able and interested in remaining in the city.

Comments

Posted by Wayne Martin, a resident of Fairmeadow,
on Jan 18, 2014 at 3:57 pm

Key data missing from this census dump turns out to be the price of housing, and the likely trends that housing prices will take in the future. Everyone knows that housing prices have been increasing, sometimes more than 100%, every decade. So, just how high will the prices go in the foreseeable future, and possibly even in the decades to come?

When the PAUSD managed to get their Measure A bond authorization passed, they depended in large part on the analysis of the Royal Bank of Canada (RBC) that the aggregate property assessment of the PAUSD would double every ten years for the next roughly forty years. It was not at all clear how the PAUSD could endorse such claims, but they did.

So—the first question we should be asking is: how much will housing be in 2020, 2030 and 2040, and how much income will it take for new families to purchase a single family home in Palo Alto? It doesn't take a lot of spread-sheeting to show that as the price of homes goes up, the yearly income goes up proportionately. And then there is the yearly property tax that is associated with these homes—which increases at a fixed 2% rate.

People buying a $1M, $2M, $3M and $4M homes start off with $10K, $20K, $30K and $40K yearly base property taxes. But after 30 years, those yearly base property taxes jump to: $18,114, $36,227, $54,341, $72,454, respectively. And then there are all the add-ons, which will doubtless be in the 10% of total come thirty years from now.

So, we have to ask: who will gladly pay from $20K to $80K a year in property taxes, during their senior years? What kinds of people can afford $2M-$4M homes today? And will those people want to be living here in thirty years—either in a very possibly crowded Palo Alto, or in the same homes that they purchased when they first moved to town?

It's difficult for me to believe that we will continue to see the (effective) doubling of prices/salaries that we've seen for the past three decades here in the Silicon Valley, but if we do—there will be consequences in terms of the costs of property ownership, such as taxes to pay for ever-expanding government services.

It's a shame we don't see meaningful modeling of our city by the local, and state, governments.


Posted by Steve Levy, a Palo Alto Online blogger,
on Jan 20, 2014 at 3:18 pm

Steve Levy is a registered user.

Here are some of the numbers and trends that are interesting to me in thinking about the future of Palo Alto.

We have a large number of renters and the number of renters is growing faster than the number of owners.

In 2000 there were 14,420 housing units occupied by owners and 10,796 occupied by renters. In 2010 we added 346 units occupied by owners and 931 occupied by renters who now make up almost 45% of Palo Alto households.

At the same time the number of multiple family housing units is growing faster than the number of single family units.

so the idea that Palo Alto is a town of primarily single family owners has not been true for a long time and recent growth has been primarily in renters and multiple family units.

Moreover 2/3 of Palo Alto households do not have children.

What does this mean for whose voices and lifestyles should be reflected in our planning for the future?


Posted by Steve Levy, a Palo Alto Online blogger,
on Jan 20, 2014 at 3:36 pm

Steve Levy is a registered user.

Palo Alto has a well above average share of residents over the age of 65 and that number and share will grow for the next 15-20 years at least.
Many of these residents lead very active lives now but over time will mover into their 80s or 90s.

To me this trend implies

--there will be a strong market for condo and apartment living in the downtown, Cal Ave and eventually El Camino areas. If no one wants to live there the market will tell us soon enough but I suspect I am right on this and we should plan for it.

--there will also be increasing interest in so-called "granny units" on existing single family properties and we should plan to facilitate this demand.

--For the multiple story buildings, I think the preference will be increasingly for units on one floor rather than for units with two stories and stairs.

--And as the 65+ population ages, I think it will affect services and shopping preferences.

I want to support people being able to stay in PA but who may no longer want to maintain their own single family home. The developer who built where we now live gave me that option.


Posted by Interesting, a resident of College Terrace,
on Jan 20, 2014 at 5:46 pm

I'm interested in this observation: "In 2010 17,869 or 67.4% of households had no children." Do you know whether the households without children are primarily composed of young renters (i.e Stanford students and techies) or older homeowners?


Posted by Resident 1, a resident of Adobe-Meadows,
on Jan 20, 2014 at 5:53 pm

The Comprehensive Plan indicted a number of new housing units that were required for the period 2007 through 2014. What are the number of new housing units that were added in that time period and are expected to be completed by the end of 2014?
That includes all of the new housing along El Camino, East Meadow Circle, Alma, West Bayshore, etc. Let's start with what has been accomplished to date.

The city and MTA has pushed the Comprehensive Plan as the measure - so how are we doing in numbers?

Many of the renters are young people with no families who are not sure if they will end up in this area as their jobs progress. Most young, single people do not buy homes until they have children and have to pick a city by the school system.
The MTA in all of its talk never considered the infrastructure - WATER. If Gov Brown wants to ship our water south then all bets are off. Companies will not locate their personnel in areas that do not have infrastructure to support the business. Companies take their large employee base to states that have a better tax advantage. Many companies are moving out of SF because the cost of upgrading the buildings for earthquake insurance is prohibitive - they are moving the younger people to the outlying smaller cities and leasing new buildings. That is already happening.


Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood,
on Jan 20, 2014 at 6:41 pm

Interesting information.

How does this correlate with the number of school children and the number of schools?

It would be interesting to see how the number of households with school age children compare to the numbers of children in our public schools. I know we have a lot of homeschooled children and also those attending private schools, but households with children appear to most of us to be where the growth is.


Posted by Resident 1, a resident of Adobe-Meadows,
on Jan 21, 2014 at 12:02 am

My son graduated from Gunn High school way back. He lived in the SF but they moved to Oakland hills when they wanted to start a family. I do not follow current school data. However the current push for changing the zoning appears to be directed to young, single people. What the data does not do is look at the valley in total and compare to the surrounding cites. The surrounding cities have the large companies with high number of employees - MV has Google; MP has Facebook; RWC has a number of large companies - Oracle, Electronic Arts. It is also not distinguishing Stanford employment and student population. All of that has an impact on PA. Many Google families are now living in PA.
El Camino is not a trend - the whole street is turning into apartments. We already have a huge inventory of apartment buildings all over PA.
There are many charter schools now - one very busy one on East Bay Shore across from the Post Office. Not sure how charter schools are added to list since some are over the border from PA- like Mid-Peninsula High School.


Posted by Resident 1, a resident of Adobe-Meadows,
on Jan 21, 2014 at 12:08 pm

Mr. Levy - you are writing an opinion piece in future tense. We are already there now. It has already happened. I think urban planning is evaluating where you are now against previously provided goals - The Comprehensive Plan - and then then publish those facts. Put the facts on the table.
We have other city facts on the table - the city has been unable to manage the Community Center - Mitchell Park building construction. Then there is the Main Library which is still under cover as to schedule and cost. Indecision concerning Cubberly Community Center - make it back into a high school?
The city needs to get all of the loose ends cleaned up and see how that is working now. All of those factors affect the quality of life - where people spend their time, and what the educational system has in store for the upcoming children in elementary school. It is what the city is offering as justification for living here. Jobs? The high earners / home owners are driving north and south to the major companies in Silicon Valley.


Posted by marty, a resident of Midtown,
on Jan 21, 2014 at 8:14 pm

Mr. Levy, you are correct about the trends. The question is Are we going to control growth so that it works for our community or are we going to allow it to continue on in this bad way? The citizens and the government of Palo Alto are tone deaf to each other and the planning process needs to be reevaluated in light of what we are experiencing in reality vs. what was envisioned. (portion deleted)


Posted by and now they have children, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood,
on Jan 22, 2014 at 5:13 pm

Steve Levy,

What the data tells me is:

Singles with no children rent.

Singles eventually get married and have children. If they can afford it, they will buy in PA, otherwise buy elsewhere.

People also get old, live longer and longer.

Over time, this balance between young/single, families, and elderly continues unless you are assuming that people do not marry or have children, or ever get old.

The way you write, it sounds like you expect ALL the "old" people to die, the young to stay young and single forever, and for nobody to get pregnant.



Posted by SoWhy, a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown,
on Jan 22, 2014 at 10:02 pm

If two thirds of households have no children (like mine), then why do we have to pay our outrageous property taxes to educate the children of those that do?
Most of our property taxes go to local schools, in which we have no vested interest. Why should we pay for someone else's lifestyle choice? If they can't afford to pay for their own kids, why should I be forced to pay for them (or have my property taken away)?


Posted by To So Why, a resident of Barron Park,
on Jan 22, 2014 at 11:02 pm

You benefit from your neighbors' children. Who do you think will eventually be wiping your a-- and changing your diapers in the nursing home?


Posted by This is Why, So Why, a resident of Barron Park,
on Jan 23, 2014 at 12:59 pm

SoWhy, property values are always higher in neighborhoods with good schools. You are benefiting in the form of higher home values and faster home appreciation.

You aren't forced to pay for "them", you choose to live here. You knew there were schools and property taxes when you moved in. If you don't like it, take your equity and go somewhere where property taxes are lower.


Posted by SoWhy has a point, a resident of Menlo Park: Menlo Oaks,
on Jan 23, 2014 at 4:59 pm

You chose to live in place with expensive schools........
That's like saying there should never be gay marriage because you choose to live in a country where it is illegal.
Slavery should also be legal because it once was.
SoWhy has a very valid question- Should every resident with a 1.5m home be forced to 45,000 each year in property taxes to fund children they don't own?

If a donation was VOLUNTARY, then we'd see how people really think.


Posted by SoWhy has a point, a resident of Menlo Park: Menlo Oaks,
on Jan 23, 2014 at 5:01 pm

deleted


Posted by Urbanophile, a resident of Downtown North,
on Jan 23, 2014 at 9:04 pm

Re the comment: "Singles with no children rent. Singles eventually get married and have children. If they can afford it, they will buy in PA, otherwise buy elsewhere."

I have a young child and I rent, and I know quite a few other families who do the same. Having children does not oblige you to sign a mortgage, especially when the average house in PA is $2M but the average rent (if you don't mind close quarters) is less jaw-dropping. Families will rent in PA during their children's school years if nothing else.


Posted by Kay, a resident of Palo Verde,
on Jan 25, 2014 at 4:22 am

Palo Alto By the Numbers:
Forgets to mention that so many families(it seems over 50%) are basically here(renting or owning) for a few years just to get their kids through school, instead of having to pay for private schools or give up on their children\'s education. A good friend of mine moved here for her 2 sons to go to Paly, once they graduated (she said no to high property taxes) sold the house and moved to a condo in San Jose. Basically the same scenario for 100\'s of rentals in our area and all over Palo Alto.
It takes a lot to build a community, but with the so many families only here for the schools, and then planning to move out, the nature of the relationships and the community suffer. Palo Alto used to be a really great place to live! lots of parks, walk to school, green tree-lined streets, kids were welcome all over, families knew one-another, people smiled and weren\'t always rushing to fight the traffic, everyone pitched in to help , new neighbors were welcomed into their homes, etc. It seems most of the people over 65 (at least in our neighborhood)have picked up and left, even with their low property taxes because the quality of life is so much better and cheaper in other parts of the state and country.
Statistics can be judged in many ways. ABAG, PC\'s,over-densification is turning Palo Alto into SF South. We will never keep up with the demand for housing........and office space. Palo Alto is resting on its laurels, instead of soul-searching and seriously dealing with residents\' concerns and ideas, PA is just encouraging people to move out.


Posted by Alex, a resident of Midtown,
on Jan 25, 2014 at 12:55 pm

Steve, where did you get this data? Does that location have it for all the surrounding towns on the Peninsula? How do the numbers compare and what major implications can you see from that comparison?


Posted by Steve Levy, a Palo Alto Online blogger,
on Jan 25, 2014 at 1:25 pm

Steve Levy is a registered user.

@ Alex and others who asked about the data.

The data come from the 2000 and 2010 Census and the five-year (2008-2012) American Community Survey, which has more data points for cities.

Yes, there are comparable data for neighboring cities and i am working on answering the data questions from readers.


Posted by Steve Levy, a Palo Alto Online blogger,
on Jan 25, 2014 at 2:37 pm

Steve Levy is a registered user.

@interesting. Sorry to take so long to get back to you. It has been a busy week. You wrote

"I'm interested in this observation: "In 2010 17,869 or 67.4% of households had no children." Do you know whether the households without children are primarily composed of young renters (i.e Stanford students and techies) or older homeowners?"

I can report two sets of findings from the 2010 Census.

There were 14766 owner occupied units of which 5279 or 36% included children under 18. There were 11727 renter occupied units of which 3080 or 26% included children under 18. So there is some difference between owners and renters but not an enormous amount in terms of children.

On the other hand renters are much younger on average than renters. 55% of owner occupied units were headed by someone over 55 compared to just 28% of renter occupied units.

Another note--roughly the same ratio of renters to owners was shown for the city's Asian and Caucasian residents.


Posted by Steve Levy, a Palo Alto Online blogger,
on Jan 25, 2014 at 2:42 pm

Steve Levy is a registered user.

@ resident 1. You wrote

"Companies take their large employee base to states that have a better tax advantage. Many companies are moving out of SF because the cost of upgrading the buildings for earthquake insurance is prohibitive - they are moving the younger people to the outlying smaller cities and leasing new buildings. That is already happening."

San Francisco is is the site of continuing growth in new housing and jobs as is Santa Clara County--in stark contrast to your unsupported claims. In any event what does this have to do with Palo Alto by the numbers?


Posted by Steve Levy, a Palo Alto Online blogger,
on Jan 25, 2014 at 2:44 pm

Steve Levy is a registered user.

@ resident

I do not have the data to compare children in PA housing units to the number of children in public schools. Perhaps a reader has that information


Posted by Steve Levy, a Palo Alto Online blogger,
on Jan 25, 2014 at 3:00 pm

Steve Levy is a registered user.

@kay

I see you posted at 4 in the morning. Perhaps that explains the confusing post you wrote.

One of the reasons I wrote this blog is that it is human nature to think that most people want to live the way you do and that the anecdotes you collect are a true face of reality.

If it were true as you claim that most of the people over 65 have picked up and left then PA would not AS IT DOES, have much higher share of population over 65 than the state and national average. Do you not believe the data or just not took the time to read it?

You claim that people come here just for the schools and then leave and end by saying PA forces them out. I don;t think either is true and remember most households do not have kids in school and PA does not have an exceptionally large child population.


Posted by Steve Levy, a Palo Alto Online blogger,
on Jan 25, 2014 at 3:08 pm

Steve Levy is a registered user.

I worry about how two trends in the data will play out in planning for Palo Alto's future.

There has been a very large recent increase in our Asian population. I do not pretend to know their preferences for PA but hope their voices can be heard.

There continue to be a large number of renters in PA, partly from Stanford but this trend is true throughout the state as is the trend in all urban areas like PA that most new housing is not single family homes.

How will these voices be heard and taken into account.

The data show, despite the claims of many readers, that PA is NOT a :village" of single family homes with children. That is either a "pretend" on the part of posters or just A wish but not a reality.

We are a university, tech center with many different voices that need to combined to develop a future for 2020, 2030 and 2040, not 1950.


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