Downtown affordable-housing complex officially opens

Local officials, organizations praise 801 Alma at a grand opening event Friday, stressing its importance in Palo Alto

A decade-long effort to build a downtown Palo Alto affordable housing project officially came to fruition Friday afternoon at the grand opening ceremony for 801 Alma Family Apartments, a four-story, 50-unit building for families earning 30 to 50 percent of the median income in the area.

"Sometimes you think 10 years isn't worth it, but I walked in today and said, 'Oh my god, this is so worth it,'" said Linda Mandolini, president of Eden Housing, a Northern California nonprofit that works to build and support affordable housing. "This is one of the nicest developments that we have ever built. It is in a community that desperately needs affordable housing."

The apartment complex, a product of years-long collaboration between Eden, the nonprofit Community Working Group and the City of Palo Alto, was approved by the city in November 2009, despite criticism that it was too dense, opposition from neighbors, concern about its close proximity to the road and a controversial building design, often described as fortress-like.

The city supported the project with a bankroll of $9,780,000; other funding came from federal low-income housing tax credits, county general-use funds, the Santa Clara County Housing Trust, the Sobrato Family Foundation and many donors.

801 Alma, which replaced Ole's auto repair shop and a city electrical substation, includes a large community room, outdoor courtyard, play structure for children, computer learning center, bike storage, bench-lined sidewalk, laundry room, on-site manager's unit and underground parking. The housing is meant to serve working families earning at or below the county's median income, which in 2012 was approximately $22,050 for one person at 30 percent of the median and up to $52,500 for a family of four at 50 percent.

Jesus Armas, chair of Eden Housing's board of directors, said the waiting list for 801 Alma's 50 one- to three-bedroom units was in excess of 1,000 families.

"When we saw the numbers of people who applied for this development, we were overwhelmed," Mandolini added. "And we continue to be overwhelmed in the Bay Area. We have 15,000 households on our waiting list right now for 6,000 units of housing. So we could turn our properties over three times and still not accommodate everybody that wants to live in them."

One applicant who did get a room at 801 Alma, Karen Purvis, spoke at the event. Born and raised in Palo Alto, the single mother of two was homeless for three and a half years. She said she spent those years hopping from one local motel or hotel to another, trying to stay in the area so her sons could attend Palo Alto schools.

"He didn't tell (his friends) he was homeless," she said of one of her sons. "He told them that he lived in downtown Palo Alto."

Nayeli Vazquez, another 801 Alma resident, opened her three-bedroom apartment for a tour on Friday. With twin 3-year-olds and a 7-year-old, she said it was not only the affordability but also the space in her new 1,192-square-foot home that has made all the difference.

"The space for my kids (is the most important)," she said. "The place we were before was a small space."

The message that affordable housing is still desperately needed in Palo Alto lingered at Friday's event, despite the celebratory atmosphere.

"We work hard to build housing and services for those who need it, for people who are doing the right things – working hard, raising a family – (and) who want nothing more than a good school district for their kids and a place to lay their head at night that's safe and clean and warm and a place that's near where they shop and where they work," said John Barton, president for the Community Working Group board of directors and former Palo Alto City Council member. "It's not too much to ask for, but it's very hard in this part of the world."

Palo Alto Mayor Nancy Shephard voiced her desire to see Palo Alto continue its "quest" to support affordable housing. She referenced the Maybell Avenue housing project, whose plans had included affordable-housing for seniors but whose approval was overturned by voters in last November's referendum.

"We do have funds returning for the affordable housing category, sadly, for another project that the city had agreed to but the community was challenged by," she said. "But on the other hand, those funds are available, so we might have another project coming sooner than later."


Posted by Bill, a resident of Barron Park
on Feb 7, 2014 at 8:20 pm

Too bad preference wasn't given to the Buena Vista residents who are losing their homes.

Does anyone ever understand what Ms Shepard is speaking about? There's likely a spark of an idea in there. Somewhere. [Portion removed.]

Posted by Anonymous, a resident of Midtown
on Feb 7, 2014 at 8:23 pm

Prime location for families, lucky for them. I'm wondering how long some of these families were on a waiting list. I've read past articles that the waits are over five years, give or take.

One family included in this article is a mother with 3-year-old twins, along with a 7-year-old. I do wonder about the mother, (and I see a photo of a man with her though not listed if he is living with her 3 children), how long was she on a waiting list?

My opinion is to not have children if you cannot afford to house them, without assistance from the government.

I do understand unforeseen events can happen, as I would imagine the woman with teenaged sons appear. Her children were already in the PAUSD, yet the other family, the children could not have even been enrolled in the PAUSD, (at 3 and 7 years), with what I've read on the waiting lists for low-income units.

I just don't agree with low-income housing in one of the wealthiest areas of California, maybe in a different location, but downtown Palo Alto?

Posted by Bruce, a resident of Downtown North
on Feb 7, 2014 at 9:18 pm

Encouraging to see this project take shape. We actually know a couple if the resident families, these are some of the people that clean our houses, take care of our gardens and pretty much raise our children. Unfortunately these jobs are not paid well enough to afford housing in Palo Alto. This is a small way for this town to give something back. Saddened to see how wealth can breed such selfishness as expressed in the previous post.

Posted by Marrol, a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Feb 7, 2014 at 10:01 pm

[Post removed.]

Posted by common sense, a resident of Midtown
on Feb 7, 2014 at 11:19 pm

[Post removed.]

Posted by Robert, a resident of another community
on Feb 7, 2014 at 11:48 pm

@common sense

How about letting "these people" choose for themselves where they want to live, without having to deal with others trying to dictate their housing options using zoning laws?

Posted by Marrol, a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Feb 8, 2014 at 8:04 am

I would like to live in Atherton or Hillsborough. I don't because I can't afford it. That is dictated primarily by the life choices I made, education level, and career development. We didn't start out living in Palo Alto, nor did we expect society or the government to provide a fast track on getting there. We lived in lower middle case community, rented a small apartment, and worked our way up to where we are today. Not too much to ask others to do the same.

Again, there should be no entitlement to live exactly where you want to live, especially if you expect society to pick up the majority of the tab. If you are someone working toward a better life, like so many of us have, then you start checking rental listings in areas that you can afford.

Posted by Harriet, a resident of Downtown North
on Feb 8, 2014 at 8:17 am

Marrol: No one thinks the way you think today!

Posted by Esther, a resident of Mayfield
on Feb 8, 2014 at 8:51 am

I am big believer in working your way up in life, and I have done that. But I also understand that some people start from such disadvantaged circumstances that it is not a lot to ask to help out a bit. I am thinking about those homeless kids of the single mom attendind PAUSD... I did start from pretty low and was able to make it, but I am not so sure i would have if I had grown up homless like those kids. The growing gap between the haves and have nots is so appalling and growing, I think we might be getting to the brink of a social revolution.

Posted by Still waiting, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Feb 8, 2014 at 8:56 am

My son and his family have been on the waiting list for low income housing for over two years. Apparently, the waiting list is four or more years long, because my DIL called recently to ask if they were anywhere near the top of the list, and she was told point-blank that they were nowhere near it, not even halfway!

Posted by Garrett , a resident of another community
on Feb 8, 2014 at 9:14 am

50 units of affordable housing that is so badly needed, still don't what is affordable housing is. Prices have risen in the last 10 units, dozens and dozens of higher end projects have been built. The need of people to be employed in the service sector has grown, but took 10 years go build 50 affordable units.

How long will it take to build another 50.

Posted by Kristina, a resident of another community
on Feb 8, 2014 at 9:14 am

While my husband & I both work, we decided to wait until we could save more money until we could afford a baby. We also cannot afford to live anywhere near PA. [Portion removed.] There will ALWAYS be poor, as long as the Earth revolves. Are we who struggle to better ourselves through education and hard work doomed to provide for them while they do nothing? This is not justice, this is communism.

Posted by View, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Feb 8, 2014 at 10:53 am

'Marrol: No one thinks the way you think today!' WHY NOT?
I specifically immigrated from communist country to forget about 'entitlement'. You get, what YOU earned and can AFFORD. What's wrong with that? This is the land of opportunities, IF you choose to work. you may have skills to keep one job and live 2 min away, or keep 3 jobs and 2 hours drive (had both experiences). You choose the number of kids responsibly, counting how much YOU can provide for then, not the society.
How many will open the house to move the family of 5 to share your wonderful schools for equality? Why are you doing the same with my taxes?
And I am a strong believer in helping and supporting responsible people in need!

Posted by Craig Laughton, a resident of College Terrace
on Feb 8, 2014 at 11:03 am

>The city supported the project with a bankroll of $9,780,000

Almost $10M for welfare housing. And yet the city complains that it simply does not have the money for a new police station. How many PA citizens were aware of this?

Posted by Ugly, a resident of Evergreen Park
on Feb 8, 2014 at 11:07 am

This building is an ugly monstrosity. I would think that Palo Alto would have been against a modern version of what looks like the projects from the Bronx. Whenever I would bike by it with my children when it was being built the sight of it disgusted me. You'd think that they'd make it more friendly, cheerful and fitting to the look of Palo Alto. These people are so fortunate to live in Palo Alto. Anyone is. But I'm sad to see my friends who make a little bit more getting kicked out because of rising rents when they've already become established in the community. Palo Alto is for the super rich or poor. Where's the happy medium? Still can't believe the design of this building was approved.

Posted by Deep Throat, a resident of another community
on Feb 8, 2014 at 11:18 am

About 101 Lytton Avenue: "Vice Mayor Scharff felt the project was a public benefit in itself. This was the premier transit-oriented site, and having an office building of this nature was a public benefit."

Page 23 of 34 City Council Meeting Minutes: 5/14/12

Web Link

Posted by Let Them Eat Cake...Somewhere Else, a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Feb 8, 2014 at 11:26 am

Anytime affordable housing is brought up I can't help but cringe at the comments posted. It seems we have many residents that think they know whats best for "those people". I'm sure the "work hard, don't live here if you can't afford a $1M home, don't have kids because you're obviously to stupid to raise them" crowd never received any assistance as they worked their way to the top. I'm sure you never received student loans or grants, and never participated in federal funded research that helped you land the high paying job you have now. I'm also confident that you'll never think of accepting any subsidized elder care assistance when your parents reach the later stage of life, you'll just pay for all that care and services out of pocket. I get the impression that many of you feel like finally getting to live in Palo Alto is like getting accepted to that great university, joining the elite club or being part of the "popular crowd", once you make it here you look around and say to yourself "why are they allowed to be here with us..cuz we're, like awesome". I have respect for people that work hard (regardless of how much they make) and take advantage of every opportunity to make a better life for themselves and their kids.

Posted by Craig Laughton, a resident of College Terrace
on Feb 8, 2014 at 11:39 am

"Let Them Eat Cake...Somewhere Else"

Now there is the real McCoy liberal guilt argument. It's good, occasionally, to see it expressed so directly. Its bottom line is: Welfare for everybody; come to Palo Alto, because you deserve to live here; we are rich, and it is our obligation to be fair and take care of you.

It's nonsense, but that view is definitely out there.

Posted by Joe, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 8, 2014 at 11:40 am

> No one thinks the way you think today!

Really? What about the people who: finish high school, finish some sort of post-secondary education—be that college, or some sort of technical education? What about the people who: don't produce children out-of-wedlock, or divorce because their spouse has fat thumbs? What about people who live within their means, and don't think that the government's main role is to take the hard-earned money of others to subsidize their life-style? What about those people who enter the country legally, by using the appropriate channels, and then wait their turn until there is room for them?

There are a lot of people who still believe that hard work, and an intelligent use of their intellectual assets and resources will pay off in the end.

It would seem that you don't. Sadly, there are a lot of people these days who have come to believe that someone else should pay their way. The country won't last long once there are a majority of people who don't want to pay their own way.

Posted by Sandra, a resident of Barron Park
on Feb 8, 2014 at 11:48 am

This whole thing is being blown out of proportion, this is a 50-unit project, with 1000 families waiting, and it took 10 years to build. The Maybell project for low income seniors was voted down. Nothing to worry about, this is just a drop in the bucket. "These people" will not be overtaking PA anytime soon.

Posted by stephen levy, a resident of University South
on Feb 8, 2014 at 11:48 am

stephen levy is a registered user.

@ Let Them Eat Cake..somewhere else

The opening should be an event we celebrate and it is certainly supported by our laws and the majority of residents. Thanks for reminding readers that we are all connected and each has received some help along the way that others paid for.

To add to list

Probably none of the posters have children in school here where 1/3 of the cost is paid by non resident property owners and another 1/3 or so is paid by residents who do not have children in school.

They also probably don't drive or take public transit where part of the costs are paid by other taxpayers and businesses.

And none ever took advantage of the tax credits for college expenses that are subsidized by taxpayers who do not and will not ever take advantage of this subsidy.

And as you said none of the complainers have benefited from federal R&D dollars paid by previous generations that developed the beginnings of technology that allows companies to build upon and support these high salaries and profits.

Yep, everybody did it ALL BY THEMSELVES except for the help they got from previous generations and subsidies they don't think twice about that provide support for them and their families.

Posted by Hmmm, a resident of East Palo Alto
on Feb 8, 2014 at 12:02 pm

Hmmm is a registered user.

Sandra - you're right - it's just a drop in the bucket. We can all kvetch and moan about how hard we work, how much better we are than those who need help, how they don't deserve it because we assume they're not doing things *our* way and that they don't work as hard as we do. But at the end of the day, this is housing is legal - and indeed, it's just a drop in the bucket. I'm betting that a lot of these "pull yourselves up by your bootstraps" types are Caucasian, or at least not minorities dealing w/every day bias. White privilege automatically carries us to places others are still struggling to reach. Male privilege also often takes men further than it does women - singles moms struggle much more than most other folks. How many of these criticisms are coming from single moms of color?

Posted by Sandra, a resident of Barron Park
on Feb 8, 2014 at 12:45 pm

This documentary was eye-opening for me, this is the America we live in. I agree that one of the moms shouldn't have had another kid, but thinking about these kids, how are they supposed to pull themselves out of their lot in life?

Web Link

Posted by Marian, a resident of Downtown North
on Feb 8, 2014 at 12:50 pm

In theory, I would not vote for this sort of unsustainable benefit for certain poor families. Will they be able to afford the utility bill? the Whole Foods charge or to hang out at the cafes that are part of the downtown Palo Alto microcosm? It's only 50 families at the end of the day, and it seems more PR for Palo Alto's than anything else. Who knows.

What really bothers me that this $10millon could have been better spent on educating these people, from financial decision-making to family planning, to home economics. [Portion removed.] They absolutely need assistance figuring out how to graduate from from life, as much as a a two-year college, let alone high school.

It seem is easy to want to help someone by giving them something for free, but difficult to educate them in ways that will permanently get them out of a rut.

Posted by Joe, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 8, 2014 at 12:57 pm

> The opening should be an event we celebrate

And what exactly should we be celebrating? [Portion removed.] The basics of our American culture are eroded every time the government creates a path to long term dependency. Perhaps if the people who are allowed to live here were given a two-year lease that required that they obtain a GED, or some sort of employment-related training so that they qualify for jobs that compensate at a higher rate than the jobs these people currently hold. If we were to see these people becoming upwardly mobile because of their being offered what might be considered as transition housing--then each time one of these families moved out of these quarters into a home that they could afford--then maybe that would be something to celebrate.

> and it is certainly supported by our laws and the majority of residents.

Really? When was the question put to the electorate on a ballot question?

If there has never been any kind of city-wide vote on this question--then claims that the residents support these kinds of developments (presumably in ever greater numbers) is not a statement that can be proven.

Posted by Craig Laughton, a resident of College Terrace
on Feb 8, 2014 at 12:58 pm

>The Maybell project for low income seniors was voted down. Nothing to worry about, this is just a drop in the bucket. "These people" will not be overtaking PA anytime soon.

I believe that the count is about 1600 and growing. Yet none of liberal guilters talk about a is always open ended. We ARE being taken over, drip by drip. It's just that the elite neighborhoods have been able to shield themselves from it. Any future welfare projects should ONLY be built in those elite neighborhoods...which means that they will never get built.

Posted by Hmmm, a resident of East Palo Alto
on Feb 8, 2014 at 1:02 pm

Hmmm is a registered user.

It's pretty disturbing that there are a lot more comments here criticizing these residents than there are criticizing the [portion removed] shrink who committed tax evasion: Web Link
He also stole disability funds. All told, abused the system to the tune of a half million dollars. HE is a criminal, and deserves criticism. Where are the critical comments?

Posted by Joe, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 8, 2014 at 1:26 pm

> than there are criticizing the scum-sucking shrink who
> committed tax evasion

Ah .. did you miss the point in the article about his being subject to a lengthy prison sentence, and a hefty fine?

His career is probably over. But who knows --this is liberal California .. so it's quite possible his professional credentials will be reinstated and taxpayer-provided back pay provided when he is released from prison.

Posted by Hmmm, a resident of East Palo Alto
on Feb 8, 2014 at 1:34 pm

Hmmm is a registered user.

Of course I didn't miss that point. So he's old, he's in prison - which we all pay for - and how much will he ever pay back? And what does this have to do w/California?

Posted by Craig Laughton, a resident of College Terrace
on Feb 8, 2014 at 1:43 pm

>All told, abused the system to the tune of a half million dollars. HE is a criminal, and deserves criticism. Where are the critical comments?


I agree, he is a scumbag, and should be prosecuted (which he is). If I attempt to dig deeper into your thinking, I believe that the elites in PA circle the wagons to protect their own. PA has a very big network of professional psychologists, and they want to be able to float above the fray. However, what does this actually mean about welfare housing in PA, except that they probably approve of it, with an escape clause that allows them to get out, before it gets too bad?

Posted by Hmmm, a resident of East Palo Alto
on Feb 8, 2014 at 2:09 pm

Hmmm is a registered user.

My point, as I said in a previous post, is the lack of comments about him, vs. the affordable housing. It has nothing to do w/liberal vs. conservative, but it has everything to do w/the continuation of demonizing the poor and the lower income amongst us.

Posted by stephen levy, a resident of University South
on Feb 8, 2014 at 2:38 pm

stephen levy is a registered user.

Some posters seem to have little respect for our system of representative democracy.

We elect representatives and they vote on most issues such as going to war, budgets, and all the other issues that face federal, state and local elected officials.

By a very large margin elected officials at the federal, state and Palo alto level support subsidized housing, And in the case of California and Palo Alto, these elected officials were voted in by very large margins.

So affordable housing is the law AND the policy of Palo Alto.

Most of the residents who voted against Measure D were careful to say they supported affordable housing projects but not at that location. I accepted their word.

Finally, it looks to me from the recent resident survey that most residents feel we are not providing enough affordable housing options.

If the majority of voters against Measure D want to come forward and recant their support of affordable housing in appropriate locations in Palo Alto, then posters like Joe might have a point but I doubt those voters misled uu when they said their opposition was based on that particular location.

Posted by Craig Laughton, a resident of College Terrace
on Feb 8, 2014 at 3:17 pm

Craig Laughton is a registered user.

Ward politics is not a good way to run a democracy, because it does not represent the mostly ends up representing activist/special interest politics. A better way is to have binding secret elections in neighborhoods that are faced with major issues. For example, which neighborhood wants welfare housing projects built in its backyard? The results of such votes will tell us what the people really want...then the laws will follow.

Posted by SWE, a resident of Green Acres
on Feb 9, 2014 at 12:49 am

SWE is a registered user.

I just want to point out that if our City Council wants to even pretend it supports affordable housing, they should do something about saving the Buena Vista Mobile Home park, which is REAL affordable housing that people don't have to enroll in some program to be in.

If they could even just loan the non-profit the residents there have formed the same low-interest loan they made at Maybell, between that and the amount the residents have already come up with, they would have a competitive bid to buy the property.

Saving older housing stock as affordable ultimately makes far more sense and is far less expensive than razing it, displacing the (in the case of Buena Vista, over 400) residents and long-time Palo Altans, in order to put up high-density luxury condos (with much higher impact on our resources, frankly) with a much smaller number of allegedly affordable units interspersed, that will never be affordable to anyone of the people displaced. The density bonus laws give an incentive to displace existing affordable housing, and our City Council (with former mayor also former head of acquisitions for Prometheus) doing nothing but talking a big game.

Posted by SWE, a resident of Green Acres
on Feb 9, 2014 at 1:02 am

SWE is a registered user.

@stephen levy,
The vast majority of people I know who were against Measure D are genuinely supportive of affordable housing.

I think many people are at odds about the best way to accomplish it, though, and frankly all the name-called put off a lot of people who had been supportive of groups like PAHC.

It's a maxim in affordable housing that truly affordable housing comes from older housing stock. Especially because of prop 13, we should be trying to save existing ACTUAL affordable housing as a priority, by incentivizing the renovation and retention of real affordable housing like Buena Vista Mobile Home Park. We have ACTUAL affordable housing in our midst -- that we are about to LOSE -- and realistic ways to save it without costing nearly what these new projects do to taxpayers, yet there is no will to do so because it benefits no one's government fiefdom and no private developers' profits.

Buena Vista is in the same neighborhood as Maybell, and it's my observation that both the anti-D and pro-D sides are against the razing of the park. One of the people who was instrumental in funding legal work for D came to me almost immediately after the election and said, Now what can we do to save the residents at Buena Vista from being evicted? Unfortunately, because of the animosity that developed from all the NIMBY-baiting, those of us on the anti-D side were not successfully able to reach across the aisle then. The City Council should not mistake this for a lack of resolve when it comes to preventing the upzoning of that parcel -- most of us thought it was a done deal, but esp since Measure D, realize it is not -- the effort to prevent upzoning it will only be stronger, even if people are still not talking to each other!

Posted by rick, a resident of Midtown
on Feb 9, 2014 at 12:28 pm

rick is a registered user.

Has the School District planned for additional children from this development?
Yes. We have met with Bob Golton, Business Manager of the Palo Alto Unified School District. He noted that the District has anticipated 35 children of school age living in this location, and this number is reflected in the Environmental Impact Report.

Web Link

Looks like in this article we've met 5 of the 35 in just 2 of the 50 apartments.

Posted by Jerry Underdal, a resident of Barron Park
on Feb 9, 2014 at 3:08 pm

Jerry Underdal is a registered user.

I used to smile when I would hear people not very familiar with Palo Alto speak of it as a place where everyone was rich. No, I thought to myself, you're confusing it with Atherton or Hillsborough, Los Altos Hills or Woodside. Palo Alto is a place that's doing well as a community, providing a high quality of life that benefits anyone who lives here, whether in Crescent Park or Ventura, where I taught ESL to children of Latino handymen, restaurant and motel workers and Southeast Asian refugees decades ago.

Clearly things have changed. We're not at a point where everyone who lives in Palo Alto is wealthy, but we're closer. What would it mean for the quality of life here if we were? It's a cliche, but diversity really does have its advantages. I wouldn't want to live in a city where everyone was rich any more than I'd want to to have my child in a school district where all the kids were top academic performers. I wouldn't consider either condition to be natural or healthy.

If a little interference with the market by providing affordable housing means that at least some housing options within our borders don't require either significant wealth or a big income I think it's worth it––for all of us, not just for those who win what is in some sense an affordable housing lottery.

No one assumes they'll win the lottery, and with the ratio of applicants to available units I doubt that anyone assumes that they'll get affordably housed if they can just get to Palo Alto. But having a small chance is vastly different from no chance at all.

Posted by mom of teenagers, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Feb 9, 2014 at 3:53 pm

mom of teenagers is a registered user.

@Stephen Levy - when people say that Palo Alto needs more affordable housing, what many people mean is that Palo Alto housing should be more affordable. They are not referring to low-income housing.

@rick - As far as adding kids to the school district, preference was given to current residents so many of the kids should already be in the District, but I would expect 16 three bedroom apartments and 26 2 bedroom apartments to house more like 100 kids.

@SWE - Regarding Buena Vista - the City does not have to rezone the property for it to be worth 30 million which is 16 million more than the residents offered the owner. The property is worth 30 million zoned as is - as long as the mobile homes are gone.

Posted by rick, a resident of Midtown
on Feb 9, 2014 at 4:50 pm

rick is a registered user.

Same FAQ web link -- "... applicants will be randomly selected from all eligible applications received."

What part of "randomly" am I missing? Seems that everything I had read said any preference for residents was not only unfair but explicitly prohibited.

Posted by mom of teenagers, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Feb 9, 2014 at 5:28 pm

mom of teenagers is a registered user.

@rick - from the FAQ link, under the School District question "Because of Palo Alto's requirement that current residents be given a preference for Below Market Rate units, we anticipate many of the school age children will already be enrolled in Palo Alto schools." So in order to submit and "eligible application" you would have to be a resident unless there were not enough Palo Alto residents who applied.

Posted by mom of teenagers, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Feb 9, 2014 at 5:30 pm

mom of teenagers is a registered user.

@rick - same FAQ "Each application will be reviewed against the eligibility requirements from our public funders" p

Posted by Retired Teacher, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Feb 9, 2014 at 5:51 pm

Retired Teacher is a registered user.

You know, folks who feel competent to judge Nayeli, who was interviewed for this article, you may not realize that someone named Nayeli posted any number of comments that emphasized personal responsibility for one's actions, so much so that some point I asked her some pointed questions. Maybe that's not the same Nayeli, I don't know. But I've gotta say, even though I disagreed with some of her assertions, if she's the same Nayeli, I'm happy she has a place at 801 Alma. Speaking frankly, I don't much care whether the dude shown in the photo is her husband or her boyfriend, or even if he lives with her in the apartment. She, like all the people who do their best in our society, with all its destructive economics and prejudices, deserves a chance to have a place to live where her kids can have a chance at a good education and a good life.

Now, I like Palo Alto. I liked it better when I first moved here and housing was reasonable and teachers like me and firemen and policemen and postal workers--yes, I even worked for the PO one year while I was waiting to go to grad school--and workers in Palo Alto didn't have to commute from far off places.

But I'm sorry to say that many of the ungenerous comments in this thread leave me appalled at what Palo Alto has become. We used to be a decent city that showed compassion. Now, we can't understand why hard-working people who aren't as fortunate as we are should want to live in this city?

For the record, I voted against Prop D. Sorry, Nancy Shephard. Sorry to say, I don't regard the City Council as the fount of all wisdom. But one of the most well-to-do communities in the world can surely afford to be more generous to the less-fortunate among us.

Posted by SWE, a resident of Green Acres
on Feb 9, 2014 at 8:56 pm

SWE is a registered user.

@mom of teenagers,
I have not suggested that the City consider the property worth anything less than the current offer, the fact that you assumed that means you neither read nor understood what I wrote.

Rough calculation, assuming property worth $30 million (which I did):
City loans the $7.2 million they were going to loan at Maybell to the nonprofit at BV instead, same low interest 30-year terms.
Add to residents' 14.5 million, makes almost $22 million. Owner donates the difference of $8 million to the nonprofit, which is essentially a $3 million writeoff. Now we are at $25million. Owner doesn't have to evict residents, saving ... $3-5 million, as well as the uncertainty of the eviction process. Bird in the hand now, interest starts today, and they live with a clear conscience. And it woud be an equivalent bid with advantages.

i had assumed the property was worth $30 million when I originally wrote. now go back and reread what I wrote before. Saving the Buena Vista Mbike Home Park is the single most significant thing we can do to preserve actual affordable housing in Palo Alto probably ever, and for much less money than virtually any alternative, and those are existing Palo Alto residents, longtime Palo Alto residents. If the Council stepped in to save them per above, even pending their coming up with some in repayment earlier from grants or a crowdfunding campaign or campaigns, that's realistic, too, and many people in ths town, pro and aainst D would help.

For the record, I voted aainst D and think 801 Alma is bewilderingly ugly (which I think doesn't help reduce the inevitable stigma f subsidized housing), but I'm glad it's there and welcome the families. I just think we should first try to save all the existing affordable housing stock first as a priority.

Posted by rick, a resident of Midtown
on Feb 9, 2014 at 9:12 pm

rick is a registered user.

@mom, thanks for the replies. I dug deeper and found "preference for those on the lottery list will be given to applicants with verifiable local residency or employment (which includes those who are working or who have been notified that they are hired to work) in the City of Palo Alto." -- Web Link -- item 8, Live/Work Preference

Some of the other eligibility criteria look pretty strict -- Web Link

"801 Alma is a non-smoking property. There is no smoking allowed in the units, common areas, underground garage or anywhere on the exterior of the property."

The architecture may be lacking but it wouldn't surprise me if the residents set an example the rest of the city could only hope to emulate.

Posted by krissyk, a resident of Crescent Park
on Feb 10, 2014 at 12:33 pm

krissyk is a registered user.

WOW - I'm a 6th generation Californian and, although living out of state now, have always been proud to say I'm from Palo Alto, but after reading some of these comments - I'm embarrassed! How sad that so many of the well-to-do that have invaded Palo Alto from somplace else, are so quick to judge....

Posted by bobgnote, a resident of Mountain View
on Feb 10, 2014 at 3:08 pm

bobgnote is a registered user.

Exactly, krissy. Social inversion often features zombie-like neo-cons, and sorry, but the Bay Area, including Palo Alto has 'em.

These get whipped into shape, for media nonsense, by BANG, Bay Area News Group, and Dave Price, which publish nonsense letters, including recent rants, for fracking and a flat-earth-flavor, about how climate change won't happen, but hey, we're into mass extinction event 6, already.

When BANG gets the neos all nutty, they do stuff, like wait, until PA City Council does all the necessary hearings and planning, for a senior housing project, when we know the resident population will age, but wait!

Along comes a late load, of rants, against density, with a successful Measure D nuisance, to derail.

Problem is the Dave Price/BANG direction will wait, until fracking wrecks water tables, and climate change with mass extinction and failure of habitat makes really sure the SF Bay Area is going to get dense, no matter what.

By the time a quake causes liquefaction, in SACTO levees, and a load of Pineapple Express and sea level rise takes SACTO-Stockton underwater, and the Hilina Slump calves, to swamp the L.A.Basin, etc., the SF Bay Area will have to erect some dorms, finally.

Sorry about our luck, but we will survive even the Yellowstone and Long Valley eruptions, which are ripening, if not due. Not so, everywhere else.

Posted by Craig Laughton, a resident of College Terrace
on Feb 10, 2014 at 3:11 pm

Craig Laughton is a registered user.

>WOW - I'm a 6th generation Californian and ....

I'm a 6th generation CA resident, too. Lived in Palo Alto since 1972. You claim to be out of state, yet you also say that you live in Crescent Park. Hard to know what to believe.

I support private property rights, and protection of our neighborhoods. If you are ashamed of that or embarrassed by it, probably best that you do not return to live in PA, because times are, indeed, changing.

Posted by SWE, a resident of Green Acres
on Feb 10, 2014 at 7:14 pm

SWE is a registered user.

>The Maybell project for low income seniors was voted down.

Sandra, please continue to further this idea, it only gives credence to the idea that Palo Altans don't want low-income residents, which is just cr@p. Measure D was whether to enact a land use ordinance REZONING a residential area for a high density use, it was not about whether to allow low-income seniors to live there or not.

Let me remind you again, the majority of the property (60%) was a market-rate development, upzoned for that for-profit developer's benefits, and the profits from the sale of those high-density homes of which were going to the for-profit developer only, NOT benefitting the rest. (PAHC could have done the project in a way to take those profits in order to make the affordable side more consistent with the neighborhood zoning, but it would have required a lot more work, a different time scale, and frankly, a modicum of regard for the neighborhood character.) There are a number of troubling consequences of ignoring zoning principles that were never dealt with, in order to focus politically on whether it was about seniors, which for the neighbors, it was not. Continuing to further this political point only helps the small number of people who really are against having low-income neighbors. Is that what you want?

Many people objected to the developer giveaway aspect. Many people objected that PAHC would design a project that relied on such utter disregard for zoning in a residential area, and be unwilling to work out alternatives (such as taking the profits from building the for-profit houses, not just the upzoned land profits, to make the affordable side more consistent.) There were many reasons not to like this rezoning that had nothing to do with "voting down" anything having to do with low-income seniors, and those who continue to conflate the two are only feeding those who truly don't want affordable housing, as this forum amply demonstrates.

This is why it was so egregious that the City Council got away with all of that illegal bias in creating the election materials via the City Attorney. In San Francisco, they had an almost identical election, but because they have an impartial ballot committee and had to stick with objectively what the ordinance was actually about, no one concluded that the electorate voted down affordable housing. (The law enabled a zoning change so their ballot asked if the developer could exceed the height limit by 80 feet, rather than asking whether residents wanted $12million for affordable housing which was in there,too. In Palo Alto, the need for the ordinance was to allow for exceeding the zoning, the height, density, parking, etc, there was no law needed to allow a low-income development there, so the ballot question should have mentioned the former, not the latter.)

In Palo Alto, it was the City that conflated the two, deliberately, for political advantage, but unfortunately, it then had the result of creating this false impression of a groundswell of antagonism against low-income residents in Palo Alto. This will only continue to hurt the cause of affordable housing in this town in many ways if people don't stop it. For one, it becomes a self-fulfilling prophesy for people who may have had leanings toward affordable housing but for whom asking that extreme a violation of residential zoning takes it too far. If you ask those people to choose, they'll think, maybe I am against affordable housing, and you lose that support forever.

Me, I very strongly support low-income housing, but I am vehemently against using that support in a manipulative way to come up with wolf-in-sheeps clothing rules that give even more incentives to for-profit developers raze REAL affordable housing in favor of new construction that is horribly expensive, and takes huge resources that could be used to save far more existing affordable housing.

We could have a lot more low-income housing available very quickly if we simply looked at incentivizing the retention and renovation of older housing stock to be retained or offered as affordable.

We have over 400 Palo Alto residents at Buena Vista Mobile Home park, in the last large patch of Palo Alto that is truly affordable, and it could be saved with far less of a public investment than was being planned at Maybell.

Posted by SWE, a resident of Green Acres
on Feb 10, 2014 at 7:43 pm

SWE is a registered user.

Sorry, I meant:

Sandra, please DON'T continue to further this idea, it only gives credence to the idea that Palo Altans don't want low-income residents, which is just cr@p.

I realize my meaning was obvious later, but it read as being sarcastic, and I did not intend that. I meant it as a sincere plea to you to think about how the way we talk about things impacts what happens. City Council intended to win an election by trying to make Measure D a choice about low-income housing, when it was about a lot of other things, especially for those who lived nearby. And it was really cynical to make it about low-income housing when in the very same neighborhood, committing the same City resources would save far more low-income residents than could ever be housed at Maybell, and a much more diverse group of residents, too.

Posted by Retired Teacher, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Feb 11, 2014 at 9:02 am

Retired Teacher is a registered user.

Craig Laughton,

I'm proud to say that I support property rights and protection of our neighborhoods too. But I don't think property rights are unlimited. People who are lucky enough to own property have obligations that go way beyond just paying property taxes and keeping up our homes or businesses. We have obligations to those not as fortunate as we are. Society works best when we shoulder those obligations without having to be forced by laws and statutes. If we don't help by supporting affordable housing and help for homeless people, we are shirking our responsibilities as caring human beings.

Likewise, protection of our neighborhoods should never mean denying people less fortunate than ourselves opportunities for a decent life. Yes, we should be vigilant against crimes or acts that harm anyone in our society. We should be vigilant against efforts to exploit a good cause like affordable housing for the profit of a few developers. But protection should not be the same as repression, exclusion, scapegoating, oppression. Instead, protection should include making our world safer by making it more just and far more supportive and generous.

I'm a native Californian who moved to Palo Alto in 1959. I think it was a better place then than it is now. But being here a longer time than someone else, or being a sixth or twentieth generation Californian has nothing to do with being a decent and responsible resident of Palo Alto, California, the USA, and the world. How about we try to change this town into a better place, maybe even than it ever was?

Posted by Craig Laughton, a resident of College Terrace
on Feb 11, 2014 at 4:29 pm

Craig Laughton is a registered user.

>People who are lucky enough to own property have obligations that go way beyond just paying property taxes and keeping up our homes or businesses. We have obligations to those not as fortunate as we are.

No we don't. If individuals want to give to charity or volunteer their time, that is one thing, but for government to coerce us into your socialist/collectivist model is something different. Please show me where our U.S. Constitution demands that property owners have OBLIGATIONS to the less fortunate. When you were a teacher did you really feed this stuff to your students?

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