It is now widely agreed that almost all the large-scale developments in the last 10 years (zoned PC = Planned Community) provide few, if any, real benefits for Palo Altans. Developers have used this loophole to extract more dense developments throwing out the existing zoning code by offering a bench, a metal sculpture or a patio that soon gets taken over by a restaurant.
Now the Maybell/Clemo Project, planned by the PAHC, is trying to use the same strategy to quadruple the allowed units (RM-15 allows 15 units per acre) and build a dense, 4-story, 60 unit, 50-foot-high fortress-like building in a residential neighborhood. For comparison, 801 Alma has 50 units. Also check out 725 Alma, 106 studio units.
Keep crammed tenement-style buildings out of residential neighborhoods. Vote No on Measure D!
Clara Drive, Palo Alto
A biker's perspective
I am writing as a strong proponent of bicycling and a member of the Barron Park Green Team, which sponsors Bike Palo Alto (set for Oct. 13). The Palo Alto Housing Corporation made several design changes to the 60-unit affordable senior housing and single-family project on Maybell (Measure D) to make it safer for kids commuting on bikes and on foot. Also, the traffic studies show that, even with fewer units, market-rate housing (larger houses, more cars) allowed under the existing RM-15 and R2 zoning, will generate more traffic than this project. Low-income seniors don't do much driving and don't own many cars.
In a June letter to the City Council, the three PTA Council Traffic Safety representatives noted that the Housing Corporation had re-designed the project to increase the setbacks on Maybell, widen the sidewalk, and move the single-family home driveways off Maybell to reduce potential points of conflict between kids and vehicles.
The PTA representatives also recommended a sidewalk from Coulombe to El Camino Real and prohibiting daytime parking on Maybell, both of which became conditions of project approval. The Housing Corporation will contribute $200,000 to the sidewalk.
For more on why you should vote for Measure D, go to www.yesondpaloalto.com/index.html.
Barron Park, Palo Alto
We're fed up
I see from the local papers, 9/27 and 9/28, that the Palo Alto Housing Corporation, developer of the Maybell project, has raised $104,320 in support of Measure D. That is 13 times more money than by the local residents who oppose the Nov. 5 Measure. What can explain such a vast difference?
I suggest the critical element is a loophole in the City's zoning law that allows developers to avoid zoning restrictions. Hard fought for zoning restrictions designed to make Palo Alto a more livable place for its residents. The loophole is called Planned Community (PC) Zoning. Originally, Planned Community Zoning was supported by liberals and conservatives alike to make an exception to the zoning laws when a project developer had an idea that would benefit the whole community. Now, every project that comes down the pike requests a PC variance. Often it relates to parking spaces, height or density usually to the detriment of the poorly represented residential community. The city council usually votes for the interests of developers, builders, Realtors, and the professional community.
Measure D provides a vehicle for you to tell City Hall that you are fed-up with them for turning this once quiet community into an ugly, traffic-jammed, free-for-all money trough for developers.
Vote AGAINST Measure D on Nov. 5.
Middlefield Road, Palo Alto
Need for senior housing
In Saturday's debate on Measure D, opponents claimed that it is not about senior housing, but rather about using PC zoning to allow dense developments all over the city.
Nothing could be further from the truth. While there is legitimate concern about density in recent commercial projects, affordable housing for seniors is different. There is a serious need (Lytton Gardens recently held a drawing for 5-7 available low-income units, and there were 458 eligible applicants); the Maybell location is a rare if not unique site for it, and PC zoning is essential to financing it.
Also untrue is the claim that the senior housing could be built under the existing zoning. Housing Corporation Board Member and former Mayor Jean McCown explained that financing difficulties preclude affordable housing with that zoning, so a "no" vote would not only kill any possibility for such housing there but also "likely result in a market-rate development with far greater impacts on the neighborhood." For a detailed analysis of all issues, see Frequently Asked Questions about Maybell on the City's website.
In addition, the loan to the project before zoning proceedings began did not make it a "done deal" as alleged. The housing group could not have even started its application without such financing, and the loan documents expressly enabled the City to recover the funds if the project was not approved.
Finally, the unanimous vote, including residentialists Holman and Schmid, indicates the decision will actually enhance the neighborhood over existing zoning.
Parkside Drive, Palo Alto
The Maybeller's news developer has claimed the Maybell site is one of the few sites in Palo Alto available for low-income housing. They have also claimed that if Measure D loses they will sell the land. But these two claims are contradictory. If the land is that perfect for this use, why won't they respond to a NO vote by negotiating a better proposal, one more consistent with the current zoning?
If Measure D fails, it will create a new opportunity to reach a compromise, a win-win that can provide senior housing on Maybell while helping to heal the divisiveness in the city. For example, the 41 apartments the property is zoned for now, could become 60 units of senior housing, without even redrawing the existing plans. This could be accomplished through a density transfer that would keep the rest of the land as open space. The pending lawsuits would become moot. This compromise could be fast tracked and approved in time to break ground before the next City Council election. This can only happen if Measure D is defeated. Please vote no on Measure D.
Ventura neighborhood, Palo Alto
Suggesting the city should not renew the lease and let the school board sell the parcel if they want to, is a reckless recommendation. Your comments about the current functions of Cubberley show that you have no clue about the amazing services to the community Cubberley center provides.
You may start by reading the Advisory Committee report to the city, about Cubberley future, published by the city in February 2013.
Dake Avenue, Palo Alto
October: food month
Looking through my calendar of national observances, it appears that October is turning into "food month," beginning with World Vegetarian Day and World Day for Farm Animals on Oct. 1 and 2, continuing with National School Lunch Week on Oct. 14-18 and World Food Day on Oct. 16, and culminating with Food Day on Oct. 24.
World Day for Farm Animals Day (www.WFAD.org), on Oct. 2, is perhaps the most dramatic of these. It celebrates the lives, exposes the abuses and memorializes the slaughter of billions of sentient animals raised for food. Recent undercover investigations showed male baby chicks suffocated in plastic garbage bags or ground to death, pigs clobbered with metal pipes, and cows skinned and dismembered while still conscious.
Moreover, a recent Harvard study of more than 120,000 people confirmed once again that meat consumption raises mortality from cancer and cardiovascular diseases. Animal agriculture accounts for more water pollution than all other human activities. A 2011 United Nations report recommends eating less meat to reduce greenhouse gases.
The good news is that our meat consumption has been dropping by nearly 4 percent annually! Entering "live vegan" in a search engine brings lots of useful transition tips.
Encina Avenue, Palo Alto
Surveillance systems that will be of unimaginable scale and character. And of course now data can be collected endlessly. In fact Obama supposedly has a data storage system being constructed in Utah somewhere where all kinds of data are being poured in. Who knows what? Probably all your emails, all your telephone conversations, someday what you're saying to people in the streets, where you've been lately, you know, who do you talk to, probably a ton of stuff like that will be there.
Poor Orwell, if he'd walk into the world today and see just what it's really like, he'd probably die of fright! In his day it was all science fiction, a make-believe story to entertain people, but now it's reality — one that's not going to go away. Big Brother wants to keep an eye on you. He believes in being his "brother's keeper," but it's not for any sort of benign purpose — or at least it won't be in the end. It'll end up being for the purpose of control!
Ted Rudow III
Encina Avenue, Palo Alto