News

Mixed-use project on El Camino wins approval

Palo Alto vote clears way for four-story building at rapidly changing neighborhood

As Palo Alto prepares to unveil a new and long-awaited vision for the eclectic neighborhood around Fry's Electronics, a group of dense, new developments is winding its way through the city's development pipeline, threatening to significantly alter the facts on the ground.

The latest of these, a mixed-use project around 3159 El Camino Real, earned the green light from the City Council on Monday, raising fresh concerns from residents about building height, traffic congestion and parking impacts. The council voted 7-2, with Councilwoman Karen Holman and Councilman Greg Schmid dissenting, to approve the 74,122-square-foot development.

The project near Portage Avenue comes at a sensitive time for new developments in Palo Alto, just weeks after voters overwhelmingly overturned an approved housing development on Maybell Avenue and just days before the city's Planning and Transportation Commission was due to review an "area concept plan" for the neighborhood around California Avenue and the Fry's site, a broad, community-driven document that took about four years to put together.

Designed by Fergus Garber Young Architects, the proposed four-story, 55-foot-high building would go up around Equinox Gym at a site currently occupied by "We Fix Macs." In its design, it speaks to both the city's dreams and the residents' nightmares about new developments in Palo Alto.

With its 48 small apartments, a restaurant, office space and an underground lot with stacked "puzzle parking" stations, the project is exactly the kind of "true mixed-use" development the city has been trying to encourage in transit corridors and commercial thoroughfares. The development is also consistent with the underlying "service commercial" (CS) zoning, a key consideration at a time when other major developments in this area are requesting zone changes to enable greater density.

These factors helped the proposed development win approval from both the city's Planning and Transportation Commission and its Architectural Review Board. Lee Lippert, a member of the architecture board, stressed during the board's review the importance of getting the project "right" and said the development "has the ability to be the driving force for other mixed-use projects." On Monday night, Councilman Larry Klein likewise lauded the development, saying that its compliance with underlying zone leaves the council with little discretion to reject it. By contrast, the Maybell development that voters rejected when they shot down Measure D on election day requested a change to a "planned community" (PC) zone, a highly controversial process in which zoning rules are tossed out in exchange for public benefits to be negotiated.

"What's ironic is that we heard a lot of statements during the last campaign that citizens wanted us to follow the zoning and not make any changes such as a PC If we're going to be consistent and sincere, we have to recognize when something is within existing zoning," Klein said.

Councilwoman Liz Kniss agreed and stressed the project's compliance with the zoning code in explaining her support.

"The discussion I heard most often from those who spoke about Measure D was that it was spot zoning," Kniss said. "I heard that literally as the main argument. What we're dealing with tonight is real zoning -- zoning that's been in place."

Yet the project has also stirred concern from residents, both in the immediate Ventura neighborhood and in the wider community. Much like in the debate over the Maybell project, residents stressed the need to consider the new development at 3159 El Camino in conjunction with other dense proposals in this area, including the proposed four-story office building at 2755 El Camino Real and Jay Paul's giant commercial development at 395 Page Mill Road, which would bring 311,000 square feet of office space to one of the city's most congested locations.

The project would provide 216 parking spots, including 196 on "puzzle lifts." But because the development includes affordable housing, it is entitled under state law to receive a density bonus of 4,619 square feet. State incentives will also allow the project to provide only 49 parking spaces for the residential component, 31 fewer than would be required under the city's standards. Councilman Marc Berman said he was "as frustrated as anyone" about that but noted that "we can't change that because it's state law."

Several residents, including those involved in the Measure D campaign, pleaded with the council on Monday not to move forward with this proposal until they have a traffic model in place that evaluates the cumulative impacts of all the new developments rather than looks at each on in isolation. Among them was Art Liberman, president of Barron Park Association, which led the opposition to Measure D.

"For developments in Palo Alto, a few hundred extra trips here, a few hundred extra trips there, and you're talking about real congestion," Liberman said. "Palo Alto is doing that in this area and that's wrong."

Marilyn Mayo, who lives close to the project site, also worried about the traffic impacts of the new development and told the council that the "quality of life has diminished in Palo Alto," partly because of the impacts of new developments. She noted that the project's site is at the "epicenter of development" in Palo Alto.

A few council members sympathized with the speakers. Councilman Greg Schmid voiced skepticism about the traffic study conducted by the city's transportation consultant, which showed the project adding fewer than 100 cars to the busy area, both during the morning and the afternoon peak hours. Councilwoman Karen Holman also criticized the project, mainly along architectural grounds. She challenged the architectural board's findings that the project meets with the appropriate design guidelines, particularly ones focusing on transitions between new developments and existing buildings.

"It's pretty stunning," Holman said. "It's a block long. It's going to have an enormous effect and impact on that area."

Even so, the project received the green light, with most members recognizing that their discretion is limited. Council members, Klein said, have to follow state law, even if it means granting unpopular density and parking exemptions. The council did agree to two "design enhancement exemptions," one allowing the height to be 55 feet (5 feet greater than the city's height limit) and another that would allow greater setbacks from the sidewalks than the city's code normally calls for.

"A lot of the speakers from the public seem to think we have a lot more power than we do," Klein said.

Councilwoman Gail Price, who seconded Klein's motion to approve the project, was more enthusiastic than most of her colleagues, calling the proposed building "well-designed" and stressing the importance of building new housing units.

"I think we do need to have a variety of housing products in the community to address the broad range of housing needs," Price said, adding that smaller housing units provide "different opportunities for people."

Vice Mayor Nancy Shepherd acknowledged the political realities of supporting for new developments and noted that there are many reasons why many residents won't vote for her in 2014, when her term is up. At the same time, she said she supports the project because it follows the zoning laws.

"These are the property rights in our Comprehensive Plan," Shepherd said. "We've been asked to follow them. We are following them."

Comments

 +   Like this comment
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 18, 2013 at 10:41 pm

Anyone know what

stacked "puzzle parking" stations

and

"puzzle lifts."

mean? Are these two different descriptions of the same thing or are they different? Whatever they are, they sound awful.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by common sense
a resident of Midtown
on Nov 18, 2013 at 10:47 pm

It does not follow zoning laws if it is 55 feet high. Zoning limit is 50 feet, period. The council could have voted no on that basis. Klein, Kniss, Shepard, Price, are conveniently leaving that fact out. Score another one for developers.

When are we going to get a council that can tell developers to follow the rules?


 +   Like this comment
Posted by punked again
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 18, 2013 at 11:29 pm

A few interesting links:
Web Link

Web Link

"The city or county is required to grant the concession or incentive proposed by the developer unless it finds that the proposed concession or incentive is not required in order to achieve the required affordable housing costs or rents, or would cause a public health or safety problem, cause an environmental problem, harm historical property, or would be contrary to law. Financial incentives, fee waivers and reductions in dedication requirements may be, but are not required to be, provided by the city or county."


 +   Like this comment
Posted by punked again
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 18, 2013 at 11:35 pm

One more segment of the El Camino Tunnel falls into place...


 +   Like this comment
Posted by NIMBY
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Nov 18, 2013 at 11:47 pm

The City Council is really asleep at the wheel here. We need to make it clear to them that NO NEW DEVELOPMENT should be permitted in Palo Alto. Since I already own a home in Palo Alto, I say we stop all new construction so that I can enjoy my appreciating home value. If the middle class is forced to live in Tracy and commute in, so be it. Build Absolutely Nothing Anywhere Near Anything.

I just hope that my kids can afford to move back to Palo Alto some day...


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 18, 2013 at 11:57 pm

The City Council, other than Schmid and Holman, really does not get it.

Larry Klein dissed the Maybell people during his statement with a comment about Measure D of, "people vote for things for all kinds of reasons," basically suggesting the Council shouldn't read too much into the defeat of D.

And then Gail Price went on awhile about what a wonderful project this is.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Alan
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Nov 19, 2013 at 1:32 am

Since the city council didn't get the message, how about someone organize an other election on this development. That or a recall election for Shepherd, Kniss, Klein, Price.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Rainer
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Nov 19, 2013 at 1:54 am

Rainer is a registered user.

I wonder how many Council member actually have studied the California Density Bonus Law?

Because even in this comment to the law, written by development gang-ho real estate lawyers are a lot of if's and can's and maybe's
Web Link
(The text of the law is attached to the file)

The mandate of the Density Bonus law is not as clear cut as staff and certain council members, who like Liz Kniss have never seen a high density project they did not like, want to make you believe.

We are also to believe that 250 cars only make less than 100 trips all day? Too bad that council member Greg Schmid did not say what was clearly visible in his face and body language: "You think I am stupid?"


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Curious
a resident of Southgate
on Nov 19, 2013 at 8:57 am

Who is the developer They never mentioned his name, only the architect stood up.Such a big project, is it an out of towner?

Shepherd said she keeps looking at the results of Measure D and is trying to figure out what it really meant. She is clueless.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Berry
a resident of College Terrace
on Nov 19, 2013 at 9:01 am

If I read about one more "Dense Housing" anything I'm gonna blow my ouse down and build a dens housing there and rent it out!

WHY ARE WE CRAMMING AS MANY PEOPLE INTO PALO ALTO AS POSSIBLE! NOBODY WANTS THIS ACCEPT FOR PEOPLE THAT PROFIT OFF OF IT! NO MORE DENSE HOUSING!


 +   Like this comment
Posted by punked again
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 19, 2013 at 9:40 am

@NIMBY,
Palo Alto is a suburb. It is attractive, and hence has high property values that support the top schools and other social services like affordable housing, because it is a suburb with good schools. We cannot compete to be San Francisco, we will lose. If we continue to urbanize pell mell, we will kill the goose that laid the golden egg.

At some point, we have to realize that the end of the game is not that we built "enough" to make housing affordable - that will not happen if the school and place to live remain desirable, it will only happen if we destroy the quality of life and desirability. In that case, the end of the game is urban decay. Detroit was once flying higher than we are now. They have plenty of affordable housing now, but no one wants to live there. Tech will have its cycles of boom and bust. Again, we should not be trying to kill the goose that laid the golden egg.

We cannot solve the affordability problem by overbuilding, we will only create permanent challenges to quality of life, the environment, crime prevention, etc. The better path is to do everything possible to protect the quality of life and environment, and focus on improving infrastructure and clean transportation.

This council talks a big game...out of both sides of their mouths. Let's see if they'll put their money where their mouths are and save BV, over 400 longtime Palo Alto residents in actual affordable housing.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by anon
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Nov 19, 2013 at 9:48 am

as other posters have stated the density bonus law does not have to be so broadly applied.

The city 's Comprehensive plan ClEARLY protects residential streets from non residential parking intrusion, yet time and time again grossly under parked projects are approved, contributing to direct harm an degradation of the quality of life of residents.

It is time to acknowledge that the senior manager of the city may be directing staff to offer a limited and incomplete interpretation of the state density bonus law;and that a majority of council members are falling for it.
The impetus to follow such a course seems to be to financial benefit of a few, with utter disregard for the majority of
residents.

Just park the buildings correctly and put REAL residential parking programs in the neighborhoods.
To not do so is dumb and IMMORAL..
City council members who appear to be either duped by staff or motivated to help wealthy developers and friends are not doing the job they were elected for and should step down from office.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Palo Alto
a resident of Downtown North
on Nov 19, 2013 at 10:12 am

We voted these people in to represent us. Most of them don't have Palo Altan's best interests in mind. I suggest some of the organizers of NO on Measure D, Castilleja roll back illegal over enrollment to comply with 2000 Conditional Use Permit, Down Town North parking zoning, etc. put their name on the ballot. Here are the votes: No on illegal height development - Holman, Schmid. Yes votes - Berman, Burt, Klein, Kniss, Price, Scharff.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Fed up
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Nov 19, 2013 at 10:38 am

So fed up with the city for these high density projects. Do the city member drive around town during peak hours? Do they know how hectic it is for traffic and parking? Do they live in PA themselves? They are ruining this town days by days, projects by projects......


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Joe in Green Acres
a resident of Green Acres
on Nov 19, 2013 at 10:41 am

Joe in Green Acres is a registered user.

Palo Alto,

You forgot to add Shepard to the Yes vote column last night. She feels that she is being "bullied" when residents tell Council members how we feel about their actions. So much for "freedom of speech" and the right to tell our elected representatives what we like and, more often, don't like.

Thanks to Council members Holman and Schmid for taking a stand against yet another development where the developer I sense could have complied with all of the zoning regulations, but elected not to.

The greatest concerns, however, are inadequate on-site parking (as we see with too many developments nowadays) and traffic, traffic, traffic. Traffic is horrible as I said last night. Everyone I talk with agrees, but Council seems unwilling to stop all new higher-density development until we can figure out how to cope with that never ending problem that embraces all of Palo Alto - and getting worse with new development that is approved and there are dozens more in the pipeline.




 +   Like this comment
Posted by JoAnn
a resident of Ventura
on Nov 19, 2013 at 11:32 am

" allow greater setbacks from the sidewalks than the city's code normally calls for."

Allow or compel? The developers would build up to the sidewalk if permitted. The sidewalk in this area is narrow an broken as it is, with just 30 inches between the trees and the inner edge. They must compel greater setbacks and wider sidewalks.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by CrescentParkAnon.
a resident of Crescent Park
on Nov 19, 2013 at 11:40 am

More over-development BS from the City. Kind of funny but I think the value of people's Palo Alto property long run is going to drop a lot more from this kind of thing than a few annoying homeless people. Are the few at the top are orchestrating all this homeless crap to divert resident's attention from this continued and accelerating office complex sprawl?

This is just another ugly mess moving to the east side of El Camino. Does this ugly huge Borg cube have any parking in it at all?


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Jeff
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Nov 19, 2013 at 11:50 am

The 55' height is NOT meeting zoning that has been in place. 48 apartments with 49 parking spaces will clearly force residents to park their cars in front of other people's homes.

Thank you Holman and Schmid for voting no.

Shephard, Berman, Burt, Klein, Kniss, Price, and Scharff still want to have Palo Alto give the developers more than what zoning allows.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Ventura Neighbor
a resident of Ventura
on Nov 19, 2013 at 12:44 pm

Wow, Palo Alto and Mountain View will never be the same - these huge developments are destroying the cities. So, so sad to see this happen. Why are they letting this happen. What's next?


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Correction
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 19, 2013 at 12:45 pm

Palo Alto Weekly:

You need to get your facts correct...

Art Liberman was never a lead Against Measure D, as a matter of fact, when the Maybell project was first brought before PTC, he was in favor of the project, even speaking at oral communications. Only after the initiative referendum was successful, then Art became more vocal about being against it.

Shifted his position...similar to the Mayor.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by PA resident
a resident of Ventura
on Nov 19, 2013 at 12:49 pm

Why can't we just build another small housing project, just for the homeless, if that is the true concern. I would be all for that!


 +   Like this comment
Posted by WHAT?! WHY?!
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 19, 2013 at 12:49 pm



WHY WHY WHY do they INSIST ON the extra 5 feet???

Every other building builds UNDER 50 feet, WHY does 1 building get an extra 5 feet. No to mention ist's a block long.

They say it's not a PC but they EXCHANGED the 5 feet for affordable housing?

The City needs to stop subsidizing affordable housing in Palo Alto this way. TAX me for affordable housing but stop this nonsense.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by midtown resident
a resident of Midtown
on Nov 19, 2013 at 1:01 pm

It appears that the message from the shooting down of measure D has not sunk in yet. Which means that it probably never will. I wonder what we have to do to make them understand that zoning variances should not be provided given the traffic and parking situation that all of us are facing every commute.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Craig Laughton
a resident of College Terrace
on Nov 19, 2013 at 1:02 pm

>They say it's not a PC but they EXCHANGED the 5 feet for affordable housing?

This is just one more example of why we need to reject welfare housing, period.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Fed Up
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Nov 19, 2013 at 1:18 pm

Below is the owner information based on the application found in city of Palo Alto website:

Silva Properties c/o Tarlton Properties
650.330.3600
1530 O'Brien Drive, Suite C
Menlo Park, CA 94025


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Fed up
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Nov 19, 2013 at 1:25 pm

Btw, why we need another affordable housing project? I would like to enjoy my appreciating home value, it's an investment for ordinary people here.

Or they just use the affordable housing scheme as an excuse for extra 4,619 sq ft!!

Can't we(ordinary people) do something to stop it?


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Good decision, Shepherd!
a resident of South of Midtown
on Nov 19, 2013 at 1:34 pm

I applaud Nancy Shepherd on this decision, and appreciate that she called a spade a spade, not allowing herself to be bullied into voting against her conscience on this. Hers was a good decision.

Furthermore, it preserves an owner's right to develop his/her property, as they see fit, falling within guidelines in place. In the past, I did not support Shepherd, but she has my attention now, with how she handled this. She has a spine.

Going forward, each property must be considered individually, not with a broad brush. While I was happy with the Measure D outcome, I think this development will be good, for that corner.

Council is voted into office, based on their ability to weigh issues, and come up with what is best for the whole community. Residents in Palo Alto cannot be voting on everything. There is a handful of people that complain about everything. Everything. Small or large, they will complain.

Right now, council needs to work with other cities, to put ABAG in its place - that is huge, and doing as Shepherd did, in the meantime, on projects like this: vote ones conscience, based on existing information and data from the experts, inside and outside of city hall. I am looking forward to seeing this completed.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by MadamPresident
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Nov 19, 2013 at 1:36 pm

yes to high density developments; no to car & more parking space. Solution to the problem - sell/rent the new appartments only to poeple who don't own cars; same for offices - condition that employees only use public transportation/bike


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Christine
a resident of Ventura
on Nov 19, 2013 at 1:44 pm

What a disappointment to read about the "green light" for this development that will negatively impact this otherwise used-to-be quiet neighborhood!!! Why? Why? Who'll benefit from this rapacious development???


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Michele
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Nov 19, 2013 at 1:59 pm

I will be voting against City Council members who approve these huge developments.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Phil
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Nov 19, 2013 at 2:11 pm

Most of the comments seem to center on the affordable housing. The reason we need housing (affordable and otherwise) is because of the large number of jobs that are already here. Commuters are a main source of the increased traffic as the economy has improved. The article doesn't say how much office space or how many jobs would be included, but adding any office space will just increase the need for more housing and/or commute traffic.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Seriously?!
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Nov 19, 2013 at 2:15 pm

Why couldn't this meeting wait a few days until the "area concept plan" was revealed? Was it purposely pushed forward, because they knew it wouldn't fit in with the plan?

I also don't understand why this development would not be considered within the context of other development proposals that are on the table, especially in such a crowded corridor/intersection.

I'm very skeptical of a traffic report that estimates an increase in traffic of only 100 cars in that area with parking for only 216 when at least 49 of those will be for residents of the development, there is an existing sports gym with very high traffic and parking requirements during typical commute hours (7-9am and 5-7pm)and the addition of a restaurant, which will also draw people in during the dinner hour. What a nightmare. I'm a member at Equinox and parking availability is extremely tight as is in the evenings and it often overflows onto the streets and into other lots. Parking spaces are very narrow and I never park underground, because the spots seem even smaller and are really difficult to maneuver into.

I wonder how these jigsaw puzzle lifts are going to work in this environment. they have them in Japan, but in Japan, they also have parking attendants to get your car in and out. When you're running to the gym before or after work, you don't want to spend 20-30 mins to park your car.

I think most people live in Palo Alto for the suburban environment, which is rapidly being eroded by these high density developments and the ensuing traffic and overcrowding that come along with them.

Is it so unreasonable to expect our city council to be asking these questions or looking after the quality of life in our city?


 +   Like this comment
Posted by punked again
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 19, 2013 at 2:15 pm

@Correction
"Art Liberman was never a lead Against Measure D, as a matter of fact, when the Maybell project was first brought before PTC, he was in favor of the project, even speaking at oral communications. Only after the initiative referendum was successful, then Art became more vocal about being against it.

Shifted his position...similar to the Mayor."

You are right that Art was never a lead Against Measure D. But you are wrong about when he changed his mind. Like a lot of people including myself, Art was for the project until we learned the details, which was before the referendum -- it's more like high speed rail than like the Mayors flip-flopping. Art also convinced me that BV's conversion wasn't a done deal either by letting me know the property is RM-15 zoning and the deal hadn't been closed.

When you smear someone because you don't like their opinion, instead of addressing the opinion, that's called "ad hominem" and it's ugly. I have found Art's approach to be very rational.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by NIMBY
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Nov 19, 2013 at 2:39 pm

@punked again,

A suburb is a bedroom community whose residents leave during the day to commute to jobs in the city. The City of Palo Alto has 98,000 jobs and only 64,000 residents, so we are definitely not a suburb. We are a city that people commute into every day. It seems that you are in agreement with the rest of the posters regardless. We are both fighting to drive jobs out of Palo Alto so we can re-shape this place into a bedroom community with no traffic where we can live in peace without the distraction (or traffic) of a functioning economy.

I am surprised you brought up Detroit as an example of planning gone wrong. Detroit is what we should aspire to be. Plenty of parking, minimal traffic, and low density outside of downtown. The lack of jobs means developers don't need to change the fabric of the city by building additional office buildings.

I would hope Palo Alto never emulate Arlington, VA and be a dense, transit-oriented satellite city with excellent schools, minimal crime, high-rises for 20somethings and seniors, and houses for families. I am afraid of buildings over two stories because they might fall over in an earthquake.

I am glad to see that most of my fellow Palo Altans support keeping Palo Alto exactly the way it already is. Let the Bay Area keep sprawling into the Central Valley regardless of the environmental and human consequences. I own my home. I've got mine and I don't care about anybody else.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by pat
a resident of Midtown
on Nov 19, 2013 at 2:41 pm

> "Going forward, each property must be considered individually, not with a broad brush."

You are ignoring the cumulative impact of many dense projects in the same area. The cumulative impact on parking and traffic must be considered. There are many huge projects in the works in the area: the Hohbach project on Park Boulevard, redevelopment around Fry's, the Jay Paul project, a new building on the VTA lot at the corner of El Camino & Page Mill, the Mayfield housing on the other side of California Ave., Traffic will be at a standstill.

Note that Daniel Garber of Fergus Garber Young was a former commissioner on the Planning and Transportation Commission. He resigned in March 2012 and in September 2012 went to work on the humongous Arrillaga project at 27 University.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Eric F
a resident of Downtown North
on Nov 19, 2013 at 2:43 pm

The City's / Fergus-Garber-Young traffic analysis says 893 new car trips per day, not 100. You can go to to this site and click on the link "Traffic Analysis." It's a 77 page pdf and takes awhile to load.

Web Link

Assuming those are mostly in the daytime, that's a bit over 1 new car trip every minute.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Debi
a resident of Barron Park
on Nov 19, 2013 at 2:44 pm

What a joke that the Kleins and the Burts whine that we "No on D" folks "can't have it both ways"....LOL There's no confusion on whether zoning needs to change. But the plan IS breaking existing code by exceeding 5 feet. Duh. And it's a joke to short people 30+ parking spots. No impact my a**.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Klein clown
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Nov 19, 2013 at 2:48 pm

You know pretty soon we'll hafta change our name from "Palo Alto" to "Building Alto".... Phew good thing we're not "Mountain View". Meanwhile the city won't let me remove my dying front tree/eyesore which costs the city about $1000 a year to clean its robo-roots out of sewer line.
#commonsense


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Eric F
a resident of Downtown North
on Nov 19, 2013 at 3:03 pm

It's probably not correct to think of this project as "affordable housing" oriented.

By including these 5 below-market-rate units along with the 40+ regular ones and the commercial space, the developer's entire project qualifies for State-mandated "Density Bonus Concessions," which provide exemptions to various zoning provisions

Although these "Density Bonus" exemptions are nominally required by the State of California, the City has considerable latitude as to exactly which concessions will be granted. These were part of the Council discussion last night.

One complexity is that the state "Density Bonus" law was created with dedicated housing projects in mind, not mixed-use office-retail-residential buildings like this one. So opinions vary on exactly what requirements would be mandated by a court in a case like this.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Garrett
a resident of another community
on Nov 19, 2013 at 3:34 pm

49 parking spaces out of 216 parking spaces, are they 197 parking spaces will be open for tenant use for the nights and weekends. These are small apartments that are affordable, does this mean inside of having 2 to 3 jobs, 1 job will suffice to pay the rent.

To me affordable is paying only 30 percent of you monthly paycheck to rent, not 40 or 45 percent.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by recall
a resident of College Terrace
on Nov 19, 2013 at 3:38 pm

I AM ALL FOR :


Since the city council didn't get the message, how about someone organize an other election on this development. That or a recall election for Shepherd, Kniss, Klein, Price


 +   Like this comment
Posted by jeff
a resident of College Terrace
on Nov 19, 2013 at 3:40 pm

I AM ALL FOR :


Since the city council didn't get the message, how about someone organize an other election on this development. That or a recall election for Shepherd, Kniss, Klein, Price


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Mitown Louiwe
a resident of Midtown
on Nov 19, 2013 at 3:40 pm

Senate Bill 375 (please look it up and read it or see Web Link ) and court decisions such as that which denied Pleasanton's housing cap, make it almost impossible for Palo Alto to refuse to build additional housing especially affordable unit housing. Within the constraints available and their emphasis on building in such a manner as to reduce automobile traffic, and given the refusal of commuters to give up their cars, we Palo Altans are stuck with few alternatives.
We don't want to destroy our parks and other city facilities that make our city livable. We can't confiscate the big homes and lots up in the hills. We can't continue to cramp through- streets such as Charleston and simply reroute traffic into neighborhood streets. No ambitious or misguided attempt to encourage bicycle riding will stop the growth of auto traffic and the need for business area parking.
So, short of a citizens' rebellion that forces rescinding of SB 375 or our secession from the State of California, Palo Alto is forced to allow it's population (and housing density) to increase. Unfortunately, we have limited land on which to "build out," so our only choice is to "build up."
If that's our only choice, it is incumbent on our City Council to ensure that such building intrudes minimally on current residential areas (and that's consistent with the intent of SB375).
We're backed into a city-planning corner and no amount of whining will get us out. So if we must build up and make exceptions to our current zoning, let's make sure that such building does several things to avoid destroying our town. Examples of such actions are:
Stop further condo development except along major thoroughfares such as El Camino Real, Page Mill Road, and San Antonio Blvd.
Confine zoning exceptions to multipurpose development except for currently strictly commercial development.
Permit exceptions to height limits on commercial development in areas currently zoned for commercial development.
Confine multipurpose or high-rise housing development to existing commercial and expressway streets or streets directly connecting between Highways 101 and 280.
Require two lanes of traffic in each direction on directly connecting roads between Highways 101 and 280.
Require all building plans to accommodate parking for twice the number of residential apartments and two for each anticipated employee of commercial tenants; such parking to be above or below ground level.
Require setbacks of fifteen feet from the existing curbs of all roads and streets.
Require that multipurpose developments dedicate no more than the first three lower floors above ground level to commercial use.
There are probably other reasonable guidelines that our City Council ought to consider before we vote them out of office (emphasis on reasonable, not on NIMBY). Let's give them one more chance to do the right thing before we vote them all out!
These kinds of rules can protect most of our way of life while allowing compliance with SB375.
What do you think? Should we vote out the City Council (a distinct choice) or find a way around the problem?


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Posted by Gail
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Nov 19, 2013 at 4:05 pm

The citizens of Palo Alto need to unite and organize and recall this city council.
The destruction and uglification of Palo Alto continues. This city council is doing irreversible damage to our town. The city council doesn't represent the wishes of its citizens. Drastic measures need to be taken to remove the council from office.


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Posted by WHAT?! WHY?!
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 19, 2013 at 4:08 pm

Eric F

"By including these 5 below-market-rate units along with the 40+ regular ones and the commercial space, the developer's entire project qualifies for State-mandated "Density Bonus Concessions," which provide exemptions to various zoning provisions"

So, THIS is the going rate for 1 foot of Palo Alto building height,

1 foot in building height is worth 1 BMR unit.

How much does a BMR unit cost? Under one million? Lets' say 1 million which BTW goes to a unit that will get to VOTE (for more affordable housing) but NOT PAY TAXES.

1 foot of height is 1 million? (more like $100,000 in actual building cost)

Now look a the IMPACT

Traffic
Destruction of the CIty FOREVER
School CROWDING (unless NO KIDS allowed in the building?)
Palo Alto and El Camino already do not have the infrastructure to sell ANY more feet.

What is the plan? Is Palo Alto going to sell 100 million feet in building height for 100 million dollars?

And this stuff is not even going to turn over like houses do, or provide retail revenue.

WHY does Council get to trade zoning?



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Posted by WHAT?! WHY?!
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 19, 2013 at 4:29 pm


Let's say an expensive house in Palo Alto is $10 million. Lots of property taxes on these because of turnover.

Let's say Council wants to " "sell" (cough give away) one foot of height zoning for 1 million, and they decide to sell 100 million feet on El CAmino.

That's giving away El Caminofor pure destruction for 10 expensive houses in Palo Alto.

Zuckerberg just paid $30 million to secure his back yard. Maybe we can all chip in and buy EL Camino.

Let's get an EL CAMINO CALMING BOND and turn this land into any type of park except an office park.


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Posted by pat
a resident of Midtown
on Nov 19, 2013 at 4:40 pm

Re multi-use: The 11-16-13 Daily POST ran an article titled "Experts blast ground-floor retail requirements"

Stan Jones, EVP of Palo Alto-based Institutional Property Advisors spoke at a conference for developers, architects and bankers last week. Web Link

He said ground floor retail generally doesn't work. He used Miki's as an example. But cities like it for the tax revenue.

Another speaker, Tony Martinez, a commercial property consultant said "Ground-floor retail works in extremely dense cities like San Francisco" and that people prefer retail hubs (malls) so they don't have to make many stops to do their shopping.

But Plan Bay Area and the Grand Boulevard Initiative push for ground floor retail.

Of course, at the rate we're going, Palo Alto will soon look like SF.


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Posted by anonymous
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Nov 19, 2013 at 4:55 pm

I oppose permitting select folks to go over the 50 foot height limit in the City of Palo Alto.
There are also things about this project that at minimum ought to require serious consideration rather than be blithely approved.
Funny how some people can get exceptions to the rules most of us have to abide by.
I know one thing - I will never support Nancy Shepherd.
But from what I read - if I understand it - IF one includes some sort of "affordable housing" (designated according to an arcane formula, managed by some bureaucracy paid by us taxpayers) THEN one can go to whatever height one desires? It seems like developers are working the system rather than doing the right thing for this City.
I question building without sufficient parking. Transit is not up to handling the trip demands. Meantime, we drivers sit in ridiculous backups on Oregon/ECR, Embarcadero/PALY/ECR and so on.
Dreaming up projects that will block the skyline - unless very, very carefully considered - may be detrimental if the economy cycles downward at some point and we have vacancies. There have indeed been times when buildings sat empty and that isn't a good thing if it is an "overbuild."


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Posted by Curious
a resident of Southgate
on Nov 19, 2013 at 4:56 pm

Please stop nattering on about BMRs. This project has FORTY EIGHT small apartments. The target is single professionals and the rents will NOT be low.

Of course some of the tenants will have someone living with them, lots of couples live in small apartments, or with friends, whoever. They share the rent. They will BOTH have cars. So will the 5 BMR (out of 48) residents. And the huge number offices with people coming and going.
No significant traffic impact? Liars liars.


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Posted by punked again
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 19, 2013 at 5:03 pm

[Post removed.]


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Posted by WHAT?! WHY?!
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 19, 2013 at 5:21 pm



NIMBY

"Let the Bay Area keep sprawling into the Central Valley regardless of the environmental and human consequences"

Could you PLEASE explain this?






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Posted by punked again
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 19, 2013 at 6:04 pm

"State incentives will also allow the project to provide only 49 parking spaces for the residential component, 31 fewer than would be required under the city's standards. Councilman Marc Berman said he was "as frustrated as anyone" about that but noted that "we can't change that because it's state law.""

The City Council did this in the Maybell debates - they even told the City Attorney (publicly) to try to use a state law to tie their hands to make it seem like they just HAD to rezone. (The law doesn't apply to rezoning, but nevermind.)

Check into the law - we should sue under CEQA to get them to do proper environmental evaluation before adding any new underparked high-density developments. It's absolutely not true that the devil made them do it.

On the other hand -- if the CC had required the business side to allow the residential to share their puzzle parking in the evenings and on weekends, and to require them to have permits (which would net a ticket if they park in the neighborhood) - then it might work out. That location is a better place for a building like that than the corner of page mill and el camino.


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Posted by They couldn't care less
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 19, 2013 at 6:22 pm

The council members, all of whom live well north of Oregon, do NOT represent anyone living south of Oregon and that is where almost all of these high density hideous buildings are going up.

Even when Palo Alto citizens show up at council meetings en masse, they ignore what WE want or need, equally ignoring what we do not want or need. Projects that get approval get it due to some hidden agenda of theirs, without consulting or considering the Palo Alto residents whom they are sworn to do right by.

Nancy Shepherd feels bullied,,,,,truth be told, she and the other council members are bullying the residents of Palo Alto, plain and simple. There really should be a movement to recall each and every one of them. They are all self-interested, which is exactly the opposite of what council members should be.


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Posted by punked again
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 19, 2013 at 6:39 pm

It all comes down to what people are willing to do to stop it. Citizens have the power. After Maybell, they're even more connected.

I couldn't help noticing another headline:
"Man avoids murder conviction in killing over parking space"


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Posted by punked again
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 19, 2013 at 7:12 pm

NIMBY above had one valuable nugget in that pile -- do we have the right to enforce a two-story overlay in our neigbhorhoods so we never have to worry about fighting 3- and 4-story buildings in and adjacent to residential areas?

Greenmeadow got a single-story overlay -- does Palo Alto have a two-story? In wake of Maybell, signature gathering will be easy. Anyone?


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Posted by resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 19, 2013 at 7:22 pm

The Kniss and Klein comments belittling the referendum are inappropriate
and badly misinformed. Kniss goes on about the low turnout but ignores the 10+ point margin despite the biased ballot language and "yes" money thrown at the campaign. Klein says he can't interpret the results. A drive around
town some afternoon should help him with that.

With the PC loophole and other exceptions overhanging all major development proposals, the residents, backed into the corner trying to protect
their City, want compliance with existing zoning. But with these strong
market conditions, a buildout under existing zoning will far exceed the
capacity of the infrastructure. To address the crisis we are facing, we
need a moratorium on new projects and a review of existing zoning which is
completely outdated.


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Posted by Domad
a resident of Barron Park
on Nov 19, 2013 at 7:50 pm

@NIMBY

[Portion removed.] Consider PAUSD teachers, who most can't afford to live in PA.

You have kids that you hope can some day can buy a home in PA. Check. Sooooo if you are denying teachers, those teaching your kids, the quality of life that is provided by living and working in PA , how do you expect your kids to receive a quality education that will lead to their high paying career that will allow them to afford PA???

It's quite ironic and clear to see. It would be nice if people cared about others and weren't so selfish. [Portion removed.]


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Posted by NIMBY
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Nov 19, 2013 at 7:59 pm

@WHAT?! WHY?!

"Let the Bay Area keep sprawling into the Central Valley regardless of the environmental and human consequences"

|Could you PLEASE explain this?

Sure. People move to the Bay Area for jobs. They have to live somewhere. If the already-developed parts of the Bay Area (not just SF) don't upzone and allow construction of higher-density buildings, then people who move here for work will be forced to move out to Tracy, Stockton, Manteca, etc and spend 4 hours in their car each day, round trip. Forcing people to drive 160+ miles round trip each day just to get to work has tremendous environmental costs because of all of the fuel required. It also means that workers doing such a commute are robbed of 20 hours/week of time with their loved ones. Also, mixed-use developments like this proposed one would allow residents to reduce their driving because it is close to a Caltrain station, is walking distance from Cal Ave, and will have ground floor retail. High-density mixed-use developments reduce automobile dependence and energy use. Density also makes decent transit possible. Not everybody moving to Palo Alto has a family, and these units make way more singles and seniors for them than a house with a yard.

Palo Alto is special because it is a city and not just another bland suburb where downtown closes after dark. People from neighboring towns come to downtown Palo Alto because it beats their local offerings. If y'all want peace and quiet maybe you should move to Belmont.

I do not understand why people here are so frightened of change. Even a simple cell phone tower can't escape The Palo Alto Process.


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Posted by NIMBY
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Nov 19, 2013 at 8:06 pm

@Domad

I was just summing up the attitude of the typical person who opposes this project. I wasn't being serious. This development is a great idea.


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Posted by Domad
a resident of Barron Park
on Nov 19, 2013 at 8:20 pm

I like your sarcasm NIMBY ;)

Now get your progressive and sustainable ideas outta here!


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Posted by WHAT?! WHY?!
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 19, 2013 at 8:29 pm



NIMBY,


1) Living in Palo Alto does not guarantee you a job in Palo Alto. Most people here commute to jobs all over the Bay area.

2) You cannot force people living in Palo Alto to not commute.

3) Jobs in Palo Alto are pretty well paid. People do not need to go to Tracy if they can't find housing in Palo Alto.

4) The people without techie salaries who would be ideal to reside in Palo Alto - teachers, firemen have never had even one affordable housing to their name, and I hear they prefer to not live in Palo Alto because they can get more in other nearby communities. These are nearby, not Tracy.

5) For more reasonable rents there are many who live in East Palo Alto, 5 minutes away, even a bike ride away; all over San Jose, Redwood City, South San Francisco, not Tracy.

You say "Density also makes decent transit possible."

There is only one train around here, no subways, maybe you can add buses. But why do you need transit if we're all meant to live in the same place we work?

Bottom line is that the "environmental and human consequences" you talk about are BS.

And just because people like to live in Palo Alto because it's such a cute town, does not justify the residents of Palo Alto subsidizing lifestyle.

Meantime Palo Alto can't figure out how to pay for upgrading roads, and a ton of things that are not gettng done because everybody is busy trying to subsidize the lyfestyle of 20 somethings?






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Posted by Gail
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Nov 19, 2013 at 8:45 pm

[Post removed.]


 +   Like this comment
Posted by NIMBY
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Nov 19, 2013 at 8:54 pm

@WHAT?! WHY?!

1) Living in Palo Alto does not guarantee you a job in Palo Alto. Most people here commute to jobs all over the Bay area.
---Of course. But all the people working in Palo Alto need to work somewhere.

2) You cannot force people living in Palo Alto to not commute.
---Of course you can't. Not sure where you're getting this from.

3) Jobs in Palo Alto are pretty well paid. People do not need to go to Tracy if they can't find housing in Palo Alto.
---Perhaps, but it causes a domino effect across the region. Somebody is being displaced. Maybe somebody who would live in Palo Alto pushes out somebody who moves to RWC, pushing out somebody who moves to Hayward, pushing out somebody who moves to Tracy. Nothing happens in a vaccuum.

4) The people without techie salaries who would be ideal to reside in Palo Alto - teachers, firemen have never had even one affordable housing to their name, and I hear they prefer to not live in Palo Alto because they can get more in other nearby communities. These are nearby, not Tracy.
---Again, domino effect. I graduated Paly in 2010, and there were lots of children of firefighters and teachers in my classes. They liked living in Palo Alto so I don't know where you're getting the idea they don't want to live here from.

5) For more reasonable rents there are many who live in East Palo Alto, 5 minutes away, even a bike ride away; all over San Jose, Redwood City, South San Francisco, not Tracy.
---The Bay Area has some of the most expensive property in the country. Part of this is because the Bay Area is a great place to live, but a lot of it is an unwillingness to build new housing.

You say "Density also makes decent transit possible."

There is only one train around here, no subways, maybe you can add buses. But why do you need transit if we're all meant to live in the same place we work?
---The shorter a person's commute, the less congestion they generate. This isn't black-and-white. To use a simple example, if everyone's had a 10 mile commute by car, and they all moved 5 miles closer to work, there would be half the number of vehicle-miles traveled during rush hour. If a handful of people in these developments work in these developments, that's a handful of cars off the road. If 20 people now commute Palo Alto to other points in Palo Alto instead of driving from San Jose, that's 20 less cars on 101 in the morning rush. So while traffic may spike in that immediate area, traffic in the region will decline.

Bottom line is that the "environmental and human consequences" you talk about are BS.
---Opposing urban sprawl is BS? Good to know. "Sprawling suburbs are arguably the most economically, environmentally, and socially costly pattern of residential development humans have ever devised." Web Link

And just because people like to live in Palo Alto because it's such a cute town, does not justify the residents of Palo Alto subsidizing lifestyle.
---Where's the subsidy? This development only has a handful of affordable housing units.

Meantime Palo Alto can't figure out how to pay for upgrading roads, and a ton of things that are not gettng done because everybody is busy trying to subsidize the lyfestyle of 20 somethings?
---A private developer wants to build, abiding by existing zoning requirements. A bunch of busybodies want to prevent this using Big Government. I fail to see the subsidy. 20somethings would pay market rate rents, not send any kids to PA schools, and pay taxes. Sounds like PAUSD would be subsidized by this development, not "20somethings."



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Posted by Banana
a resident of Ventura
on Nov 19, 2013 at 8:54 pm

"Build Absolutely Nothing Anywhere Near Anything." I loved this. OMIGOD. How true. I was astonished at your brilliance until I googled and found out it is a commonly used acronym in the family of "the acronym that shall not be named" here.

[Portion removed.]


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Posted by @frustrated
a resident of Midtown
on Nov 19, 2013 at 9:01 pm

Folks,

We need more affordable housing in Palo Alto. For young working people with good paying job, it is almost impossible to get an even a condo. Just think about it. The cheapest condo runs around $800,000 to $1.2m in Palo Alto. Among young professional, there are not many people who have $400-$500k cash to put a down-payment to qualify for a loan that they can qualify. Residents should not be so self-centered. We need some community spirit of good kind.


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Posted by WHAT?! WHY?!
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 19, 2013 at 9:16 pm

NIMBY,

[Portion removed.]

I encourage you to read another thread of why some people do not take public trasnportation, and I would call that real "displacement"

Web Link

Something else you have no excuse for is

"A private developer wants to build, abiding by existing zoning requirements."

It's 5 feet over, and they are getting an up zone.

[Portion removed.]

I see it differently, unless we put the breaks on density in Palo Alto, we are preventing other town in California from prospering because everybody is pressured to be here.







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Posted by NIMBY
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Nov 19, 2013 at 9:36 pm

@WHAT?! WHY?!

[Portion removed.]

They're not getting an up-zone. State law allows them to build higher because they are including affordable housing. Why do you think Palo Alto shouldn't follow state law?

Why am I "in this?" Sustainable growth is the way of the future. I don't want to live with the consequences of sprawl.

[Portion removed.]


"I see it differently, unless we put the breaks on density in Palo Alto, we are preventing other town in California from prospering because everybody is pressured to be here. "
First of all, I think you mean "brakes" not "breaks."
Second-- Nobody is pressured to be in Palo Alto. Instead, a few vocal NIMBYs create an incredible amount of pressure NOT to live in Palo Alto by throwing a fit every time smart development is proposed. People want to live here. Also, are you saying you don't want Palo Alto to prosper? Why is that?


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Posted by SWE
a resident of Green Acres
on Nov 19, 2013 at 10:47 pm

SWE is a registered user.

A desirable thing is not so desirable when everyone has had their way with it.

Smart development? That was milk coming out of my nose.

I have lived in parts south and east while working in Palo Alto. I'm not sure why I would have been entitled to live in Palo Alto, especially since some of the time I was working in parts south, too. Land use is permanent. Jobs around here are not. Many people live here for the schools who don't work here, or work here and don't live here. We should be looking at improving infrastructure and clean transit, not making our roads impassable and increasing emissions through stupid planning.


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Posted by Philip
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Nov 19, 2013 at 11:12 pm

Philip is a registered user.

What?What? writes, "I see it differently, unless we put the breaks on density in Palo Alto, we are preventing other town in California from prospering because everybody is pressured to be here."

Presumably when you talk of density you are referring to housing. But for decades Palo Alto has been a very dense center of employment, with very little protest from citizens. Only when we build denser housing do people get up in arms (I'm thinking of ancient examples such as the California avenue condos and the Stanford West apartments, and more recent examples like Mayfield). As a result the services for large numbers of Palo Alto employees (e.g. schools, infrastructure, etc.) must be provided by other communities. Preventing more housing here isn't going to help other communities.

On the other hand, I'm not in favor of this approved development if it ncludes a large amount of job producing office space. We need retail to serve the local community and generate sales tax (and reduce shopping trips to other communities), but office space only generates commuter traffic, contributes to the job-housing imbalance (creating pressure for more housing) and often produces little tax revenue to offset the disadvantages.


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Posted by weareallinthistogether
a resident of Menlo Park
on Nov 20, 2013 at 12:24 am

weareallinthistogether is a registered user.

We're all in this together. Just across SandHill road, in Menlo Park, our city council is about to approve the 400,000+ ft Stanford development which is 60feet in height and the largest building on El Camino between SF and San Jose. And then they are also leaning towards approving the GreenHeart project, another monstrosity close to McDonalds on El Camino. These are again, mostly offices, not affordable housing or neighborhood retail.

Menlo Park is separated from Palo Alto by just one block. If you line up cars from end to end, we project an additional *24 miles* of cars daily going to/from these two developments to squeeze onto El Camino. It'll affect Palo Alto.

We're asking for help in our fundraising to stop these developments in Menlo Park.

You can read about it here at www.savemenlo.org and donate at Web Link.

This is the last chance we have to do something to save our beautiful suburbs from becoming urban stack n' pack.

Sincerely
Perla Ni


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Posted by llfried
a resident of Midtown
on Nov 20, 2013 at 5:44 pm

llfried is a registered user.

Doesn't anyone listen?
Read California Senate Bill 375.
Of course our City Council should be voted out. There are so many ways to comply with SB375 without destroying our community.
The Council and our city planners just haven't figured it out. Either that, or they are complicit with the developers.


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