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ABAG vs. Palo Alto's "infrastructure-housing imbalance"

Original post made on Sep 6, 2007

Palo Alto's libraries today are in an embarrassing state of disrepair. Our public safety personnel are desperately overdue for new quarters. Our school district needs new classrooms to meet the needs of today's students.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Wednesday, September 5, 2007, 12:00 AM

Comments (189)

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Posted by Ken G
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 6, 2007 at 5:36 pm

Dear Karen,
I saw your article(ABAG vs. PA) in the latest (Sep 5th) PA weekly and I can't agree with you more on the scenario brought up by ABAG. Our city is very much bound by its limited size and resource, we as its rightful citizen should stand up and defend our community from these special interests filled mandate, what ABAG calls for injecting 3,505 units of 'affordable' lower-income housing or 9,463 new residents into Palo Alto will not only strain our city's resource but quickly deteriorate its living condition and overall environment in the benefits of many industry backed lobbyists. I urge everyone who lives in Palo Alto should oppose such injust mandate.


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Posted by Rennie
a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Sep 6, 2007 at 7:35 pm

Ken--who qualifies as a "rightful" PA citizen?
Karen--your op-ed is PA NIMBYism at it's finest.


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Posted by Palo alto mom
a resident of Community Center
on Sep 6, 2007 at 8:00 pm

I don't think it NIMBY to be practical. We are already struggling with decrepit libraries, overfilled schools, streets with potholes, old sewers, etc. Adding 3500 housing units without fixing the infrastructure is ridiculous. Think of PA as a family - you'd have two kids, you'd like to have four but your house is too small, your car is too old and you couldn't afford to send them to college - so you make the practical choice.


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Posted by Parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 6, 2007 at 8:12 pm

In a community with lots of space and there was a proposal to build new housing - a lot of new housing - there would also be talk of building new infrastructure e.g. shops, parks, schools, recreational facilities, etc. Yes, this would make sense. Unfortunately, in Palo Alto we don't have room for more shops, parks schools, recreational facilities to be built. Oh, we don't really have space for more houses to be built either.

Maybe we should be building out by the duck pond, the airport and the trash dump. There is space there. We could build a lovely development with all the amenities. Of course, it is the Baylands and sacred ground. Can't do that. No. We had better leave the pipe dreams and just improve what we have already.


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Posted by Parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 6, 2007 at 9:21 pm

Not in my backyard and proud of it. What good reason do we have for destruction of Palo Alto for the real estate developers? Protect Palo Alto.

My only question is - what specific actions do Palo Altans need to take to protect against the encroachment of ABAG outsiders wish list on our community?


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Posted by Unhappy
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Sep 7, 2007 at 5:40 am

Staff is way ahead of both the writer of the GO and those posting comments. Where to put the 3,500 BMR units - around East Meadow Circle - like we discussed at the Charette.


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Posted by Don't get fooled again
a resident of Downtown North
on Sep 7, 2007 at 8:57 am

The developers have gotten pretty good at throwing the N word around, but the sting has begun to subside as everyone is beginning to realize what a scam it is. The quality of life for everyone in the city, current residents and new home buyers, continues to deteriorate. The city can't afford to provide an appropriate level of service, never mind recreational facilities, to residents. And meanwhile, the developers pocket the cash and run home to Atherton and Hillsborough, town that have managed to exempt themselves from the ABAG formulas and are therefore in no danger of being destroyed through over-development.

The next time someone calls you a NIMBY, you can call him a DUMBTWIG -- Developer Undermining My Beautiful Town With Insatiable Greed.


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Posted by Andrea
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Sep 7, 2007 at 2:00 pm

We are not New York City. We have no room to build more schools for those children who would come into Palo Alto. Stanford is not going to give more land for schools. the water table is very high in Palo Alto. The SF Bay use to be up to Middlefield Road which is a good reason not to be building out at the Duck Pond. I live in the flood zone. Whoever said we are NIMBY must not. Saratoga has no low income/low cost housing; neither does Atherton.


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Posted by Jeremy Loski
a resident of Ventura
on Sep 7, 2007 at 6:09 pm

Andrea,

Palo Alto is not Atherton, or Saratoga. Palo Alto is - and will continue to be FAR more diverse than those two cities. That said, one wonders about the real agenda of those who want to limit housing here. Perhaps they envision Palo Alto becoming more like Atherton, or Saratoga?

I'm amazed at how this issue has become so black and white, and at how Ms. White's GO manages to paint the growth issue as all black.

It's disappointing that Ms. White would try to conjur a "conspiracy theory" of sorts, by indicting developer-sponsored lobbying groups for organizing to protect their interests.

We don't have land to build in Palo Alto? Who says? How about building UP? Guess what, that IS going to happen one day - and the sooner the better. There are places where that can be done in small ways without causing negative impact.

There are many other things that can be done to help those who cannot otherwise afford to live in Palo Alto, to have a chance to live here.

Ms. White laments the condition of our Public Safety building. She's correct in that.

How about the condition of our public safety PROCESS during a large-scale municipal emergency? Will our police officers and fire dafety personnell be able to drive into Palo Alto from Tracy and Stockton in the after math of an earthquake, health pandemic, ot terrorist attack? I don't think so.

Wht aren't we looking for INNOVATIVE ways to bring housing to those who work here, provide valuable services, but live on a pay scale that's far less than the median?

What about teachers, restaurant personnel and retail workers, social workers, nurses, etc.

We'd better do something about this, or we're going to lose something that helps to make a city dynamic, and whole. That "something" is true diversity, including socioeconomic diversity. We can do this if we bring in leaders with VISION, who can see past the small arguments on both sides (anti-growth, and irresponsible growth).

I would like to hear - in more detail - what Ms. White considers "sensible growth". My hunch is that she would define it in a way that severly limits the possibility that Palo Alto will ever be able to accomodate those who work hard to serve our city - and residents - but don't make enough money to live here.

It's not additional residents that are to blame for our creaking infrastructure; it's past policy makers who (although well-meaning) failed to husband fiscal resources when we had them, leaving our current infrastructure in the lurch.

Ms. White has - in one stroke - blamed the weight of new residents as having put additional burden on our infrastructure to the tipping point, where infrastructure fails.

[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

I see no new thinking in Ms. White's missives, only a bifurcated non-solution that, if followed, will forever condemn our city to be a place where only the economically privileged live - forgetting that there are other kinds of residents who bring depth to community, and make it whole.


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Posted by Grandma
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 7, 2007 at 7:37 pm

Staff have figured out where to build more housing units - around East Meadow Circle. We also have four former elementary school facilities which could be renovated for increased enrollment; they are the former Garland, Greendell, Ventura and Fremont Hills. We even have a high school which could be made available, "Cubberley". So, the doom and gloom scenario of no available schools is incorrect. Of course, this will all cost the taxpayers of PA money.


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Posted by more, more, more
a resident of Crescent Park
on Sep 7, 2007 at 9:38 pm

So people who chose to live in a city that has single family homes with yards are now being told that their city must be Manhattanized, and that we're spoilsports or racists if we don't agree? There's something very creepy about the marketing effort to get us to buy into the notion of self-sacrifice and to label us if we don't fall in line.

The argument about getting low paid city service workers to move into the city is specious. The underclass isn't biting. And why should they give up their 4,000 square foot homes with swimming pools to buy featureless boxes on busy streets that cost three times as much?

The kind of crowded community that some of you envision will ultimately serve to decrease, not increase diversity because anyone with any means or motivation is going to leave--to try to find a town that's similar to the Palo Alto we used to know, the city that hadn't bought into the fiction that it needed to expand at a dizzying rate or it would perish. A city that maintained its identity through organic evolution rather than a transformation wrought by greed.

Try to get past the platitudes. This isn't about anyone's social wellbeing. It's about a few people who want to get rich at the expense of the rest of us, and whether they destroy our community in the process matters not one whit to them.


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Posted by pat
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 7, 2007 at 10:33 pm

more, more, more: I absolutely agree.

As long as we have a great environment and good jobs available, people will want to live here in the bay area. But if we destroy our cities with dense east-coast style housing, additional traffic and crowded schools, we'll lose the very things that bring people here.

The crowded development that's going up on Rickey's property is very unlike the Palo Alto we know today. If schools are impacted and traffic is a mess, why will people pay high prices to live here? As many have mentioned, our infrastructure is a mess. Will the additional housing/residents pay for themselves?

I don't buy the argument that we can balance jobs and homes. People don't necessarily work where they live, and Silicon Valley technology workers change jobs frequently.

What happens when a Stanford nurse, living on Stanford property, gets a job at another hospital outside Palo Alto? Does he/she get evicted? What kind of "traffic reducing policies" can be implemented without trampling on individual rights?

I have no faith that Palo Alto will ever balance the budget. If it can't take care of the city's needs now, why would I think it could do so with an additional 3500 people?


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Posted by Mary Carlstead
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Sep 7, 2007 at 10:53 pm

Karen White's Guest Opinion on ABAG and state housing mandates, which was in Wednesday's Weekly, was published on-line in the Palo Alto Weekly "Town Square" and already she has been accused of "Nimby-ism"--- 'Not in My Back Yard". Well, the State of California thought of NIMBYs and instructed how to rebut opinions of residents and cities concerned about housing impacts on their communities. Here it is. The State "thinks of everything". Read Karen's article and the annotated websites, and you will understand the intrusive role of the California Department of Housing and Community Development into the affairs of California communities. Big brother is alive and well in Sacramento.

Here's an actual page from the State's website -- entitled "NIMBY
Resources"!!!
Web Link


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Posted by Jeremy Loski
a resident of Ventura
on Sep 8, 2007 at 3:51 pm

Mary,

Thank you for bringing this website to our attention. It's very informative - and balanced. Certainly, it's not even remotely related to the "intrusive" quality that you want to attribute to it. This is information to ponder, and not be afraid of - unless one want s to protect the shabby underpinnings of no-growth elements in Palo Alto.

Here is an opening paragraph from one of the links on that page.
Web Link

In this paragraph we find a good summary of what follows in the article - namely, that most of the fears about bringing affordable housing to communities are unfounded, even mythic in proportions.

I'm interested in hearing from folks who want to refute this information...

"IN THE PAST 30 YEARS, CALIFORNIA'S HOUSING PRICES HAVE STEADILY OUTPACED ITS RESIDENTS' INCOMES.

"Housing production hasn't kept up with job and household growth within the State.

"1 The location and type of new housing does not meet the needs of many new California house- holds. As a result, only one in five households can afford a typical home, overcrowding doubledin the 1990's, and more than three million California households pay more than they can afford for their housing.

"2 Meanwhile, the federal government has dramatically cut back programs that used to help local governments accommodate new growth. Voter-imposed property tax and spending freezes have further constrained local governments from responding effectively to new growth. And affordable housing development, while still funded in part by the federal government, requires a larger local commitment than ever before.

"Against this backdrop, it should surprise no one that many communities no longer accept population growth with open arms. When anyone proposes the development of affordable or multifamily housing, ambivalence
about growth often shifts to hostility.

"Hostility feeds and strengthens certain myths, and deep emotional perceptions of how the world works. Myths— important sources of meaning in all societies—provide shared rationales for community members to behave in
common ways, having a strong moral component, with clear lines between right and wrong. Although myths are sometimes positive, they can also serve as shields for deeper and uglier motivations: racism, fear of outsiders,and/or greed.

"When people argue against new high-density and affordablehousing, often myths are used to convince decision-makers that the new development and its residents don't belong there. Traffic will be too heavy; schools will become overcrowded; buildings will clash with existing neighborhoods; people won't fit in; and maybe even a criminal element.

"Opponents often believe these myths. But it's essential to counter these myths with facts. California desperately needs new affordable housing to reverse recent increases in overcrowding and overpayment. We also need new high-density housing to support economic stability and prosperity. We need housing to accommodate new workers and their families and to economize on infrastructure costs, while preserving open space and reducing the distance between homes and jobs.

"Fortunately, the facts of California's recent experiences with high-density and affordable housing often contradict the myths. We can now begin to rely on this recent experience to reassure concerned residents that the myths don't have to come true. "


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Posted by Jeremy Loski
a resident of Ventura
on Sep 8, 2007 at 4:22 pm

Editor.

I usually don't object to having lines striken from my posts, but the clear implication in Ms. White's GO is that PEOPLE WHO MOVE HERE CREATE A FISCAL BURDEN that the rest of us shouldn't have to bear.

How can you, editor, - or anyone - read her missives in any other way?

When looking for a way to power, one of the most common techniques is to denigrate and marginalize those that one wishes to have power over.

""The arts of power and its minions are the same in all countries and in all ages. It marks its victim; denounces it; and excites the public odium and the public hatred, to conceal its own abuses and encroachments." - - Henry Clay

So, Ms. White's, and other efforts to make our populace "suspicious" of developers has been - as Henry Clay suggested - an effort to marginalize all who are interested in growth.

Here's a question for Ms. White:
What's the limit to growth here, and WHY? Included in that answer I would like to hear why new future residents should be considered more of a burden than an asset, from MORE than primitive double bottom-line accounting perspective - a perspective that does NOTHING to show what the BENEFIT of new citizens might be to our community.

There is something troubling, to the point of a misplaced utopian vision of what Palo Alto should "look like", or "remain looking like", to those who are arguing against growth in this thread.

Normally, one would think that anti-growth movements are spurred from the more liberal parts of our culture, but in this case - and other municipal cases nearby - I see a dangerous shift to exclusionary practices that would bind up certain communities (Palo Alto among them) in a way that - long-term - keeps out certain socioeconomic classes, and turns Palo Alto into a "precious" enclave of the privileged.

We ARE a privileged community, but maintaining that demeanor means that we are going to have to find a way to accomodate residents that contibute greatly to community, but cannot otherwise find a way to be here.







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Posted by more money
a resident of Barron Park
on Sep 8, 2007 at 4:51 pm

And who, Jeremy, is going to decide which residents "contribute greatly to community but cannot otherwise find a way to be here"? You? There are many places where I can't afford to buy a home, and I don't expect those communities to subsidize me, even though I would make some swell contributions if I moved to them.

The developer propaganda is almost laughable in its hyperbole. Three million Californians pay more than they can afford for housing? How do you define "afford?" Are they borrowing money to pay the rent/mortgage? Maybe they need to move to less expensive accommodations?

I especially like the veiled accusation that dense housing opponents are racists. Just because we like to have some green space and enjoy a less urban lifestyle doesn't mean we're evil and certainly doesn't mean we're in favor of the kind of socialism espoused by the go-go housing guys.


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Posted by Jeremy Loski
a resident of Ventura
on Sep 8, 2007 at 6:05 pm

more money, Certainly, the market - aided by innovative municipal and developer incentive will make possible a scenario that decides who lives here. It won't be you, or I.

At least the scenario presented above offers Palo Altans an opportunity to have a more healthy socioeconomic balance than the one yuor side proposes.

[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

Perhaps you are now getting a sense of the loss our community would cause itself if it listens to those who would limit opportunity based only on economics, and condemn this great city to a one-dimensional economic ghetto of the relatively privileged few.

No doubt, we have our differences, and will fail to bring the other over to our respective side. This forum simply provides an opportunity for those who aren't spending a huge portion of their time stunting the growth of Palo Alto to see another side - another possibility.

This is not a "black and white" issue, but opinions and accusations toward developers like the ones in Ms. White's GO provide no new ground from which to negotiate differences. In fact, Ms. White's missive exaggerate differences on this issue, leading to more "black and white" (no pun intended) thinking that keeps housing innovation and novel solutions from being brought to the fore.

So far, all I see is "no growth" - or "sensible growth" and "organic growth". Not one of these is a solution to the problem of helping to guarantee socioeconomic diversity and whole community. Why? Because they all associate with arguments that say growth is bad, and are thus suspect in motive.


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Posted by Enough
a resident of Downtown North
on Sep 8, 2007 at 7:29 pm

The anti-NIMBY handbook says that people who oppose growth are bigots. Maybe you should read your own propaganda.

Mary is right; this well-choreographed pro-density movement feels very Big Brotherish. Growth isn't necessarily bad or good, but forcing growth on a community that is already bursting at the seams is hardly beneficial to anyone other than those who stand to profit.


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Posted by Jeremy Loski
a resident of Ventura
on Sep 8, 2007 at 8:53 pm

Enough,

"Bursting at the seams" is another part of the mythic scenario that no-growthers want to perpetrate on the rest of us. Read my response to Mary Carlstead.


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Posted by Casey
a resident of Palo Verde
on Sep 8, 2007 at 9:30 pm

Jeremy,

Your basic take seems to be that anthroprogenic global warming is a reality. Thus, you think that workers commuting from Tracy will have a more negative effect, compared to those same workers living in Palo Alto.

Some questions:

1. What is the evidence that human-caused global warming is real?

2. If it is, to what degree,compared to, say, the normal warming cylces and cooling cycles that have occured over the past millenium?

3. What would be the damgage to the infrastructure to PA, if we were to follow your advice, and agree to the extra 3000 + new housing units? Wouldn't we be much better off by extending BART to Tracy?

4. If carbon-based greenhouse effect is significant, do you support an emergency effort to build as many nuclear power plants ASAP? Wouldn't this approach be MUCH more effective than trying to force high density transit corridors?


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Posted by Typical behavior
a resident of Menlo Park
on Sep 8, 2007 at 11:26 pm

Here is a small example of how a long time Palo Alto based developer behaves. This recent event is on Willow Road in Menlo Park. [Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]
Actually this is typical of many developers, on project after project. Making changes at the last minute when there is no time to evaluate it, or AFTER they got approval.
(Recent example, the developer of 195 Page Mill changed his rental housing units into condominiums after he got approval for a huge rental project.)
I couldn't find the Roxy story in the Weekly though the Weekly usually covers nearby cities. Web Link


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Posted by Karen White
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Sep 9, 2007 at 9:29 am

Today's Mercury includes an interesting story on this issue and its long-term revenue implications from San Jose's perspective. Here's an excerpt (the full story is accessible at Web Link):

"Since 1990, according to new figures from the city's planning department, San Jose has lost the capacity for as many as 110,000 jobs - and converted nearly 10 percent of its industrial land to housing and other uses.

In the last three years alone, the city has rezoned about 800 acres of industrial land and created more than 34,000 housing units.

City officials, developers and open-space activists are now tangled in a debate over whether to make it harder to convert industrial land to housing. Early next month, the city council will tackle proposed new rules that developers say could make such zoning changes dramatically more expensive for them.

The issue has boxed political leaders into a corner. On the one hand, developer contributions bankroll their campaigns - and developers are telling them the market wants new housing,
not sprawling industrial campuses. On the other hand, officials say they need to preserve the promise of future sales taxes.
"We are supposed to be taking a long-term view," said Mayor Chuck Reed, a land-use attorney. "In the long term, we are supposed to preserve lands for employment."

Laurel Prevetti, the city's deputy director of planning, explained the consequences of industrial-to-housing conversions more bluntly.

"We are just adding to the problem of the structural deficit that we have been creating, of how are we going to pay for the police, fire, parks and recreation," she said."
-------




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Posted by pat
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 9, 2007 at 10:54 am

Not knowing very much about ABAG, I went to their site. I was surprised at the extent of the area: Alameda, COntra Costa, Marin, Napa, San Francisco, San Mateo, Santa Clara, Solano and Sonoma counties. This group has an awful lot of power over individual cities.

I can't imagine that any city is happy with the ABAG recommendations. Why doesn't ABAG focus on mass transportation instead of forcing more housing into cities that are already stretched to provide services?

I moved here from the greater NY area many years ago and was amazed at the openness and green space -- even in San Francisco. If we keep following ABAG's recommendations, we'll end up looking like the east coast.

Draft Regional Housing Needs Allocations (RHNA)for 2007 – 2014 is at:
Web Link,

Income Category.....Percent..........Units
Very-Low.............22.8%...........48,840
Low..................16.4%...........35,102
Moderate.............19.3%...........41,316
Above Moderate.......41.5%...........89,242
Total...............100%.............214,500

What happens in 2014? Will we have to add another 214,000 units? Or another 400,000 units? Or?

Just adding housing doesn't seem to be a reasonable way to plan for the future.


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Posted by Grandma
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 9, 2007 at 12:02 pm

In an article in Sunday's PA Daily it says that Mountain View is only building 17% of very low income housing while Sunnyvale is only building 7%. In contract PA is building 81%.

If Mountain View and Sunnyvale can get away with building so few BMR units why is PA so worried about missing it's target of 3,500. If they don't build them why should we? Can't PA just ignore ABAG?


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Posted by steve levy
a resident of University South
on Sep 9, 2007 at 6:24 pm

The last three posts raise really interesting issues

Karen White posted an article from today's Merc discussing that San Jose is rethinking recent policy of using land zoned industrial for new housing becasue San Jose has fiscal problems resulting from their "housing-jobs" imbalance. This is one issue that the ABAG criteria was trying to address. Palo Alto got a larger share of regional new housing this time in part to address the previous fiscal imbalances that were created for other cities because PA has a large job base and projected job growth. Sounds fair to me.

In this regard wishing the new housing would go to places like Tracy and Manteca might seem conveneint for us but fails a fairness test fair because they have even a smaller job base and fewer fiscal resources than San Jose. Once you realize that the housing must go someplace nearby, the case for saying "not Palo Alto" gets weaker. Almost any problem we might have here would be as bad or worse elsewhere in the region.

Pat posted the ABAG regional housing recommedations and asked "will this never end". Just building more housing doesn't sound like good planning to her. Well, the housing is needed becasue cities have zoned land for jobs and many cities actively compete for jobs. With more jobs in the region, we need more housing. ABAG has developed criteria for allocating the region's housing needs among cities. The criteria emphasize existing and new jobs and access to regional transit, which pushed PA's recommended share higher. Seems fair to me given the alternatives.

The other interesting part of Pat's post is that it shows that most of the new housing is not BMR housing. More than half of the new housing is for moderate and above-moderate income families. Siting hosuing for low-income families IS a real challenge but the ABAG recommendations also cover ALL housing types and neeeds.

And, yes, there will be more jobs and housing after 2014 so our planning for the future isn't done then.

Grandma says essentially "if the other guys aren't doing their share, why should we?" I don't know about the rest of you but I don't think this kind of advice about living is what I will be telling my grandchildren should we ever be so lucky as to have grandchildren. The fact that other people are not doing their best does not give me an excuse to opt out.

In fact since there is no mandate (only a recommendation) Palo Alto CAN do whatever we choose. Being forced is not the issue. We can choose whatever we think is the best and right approach to this regional challenge that PA is a part of.


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Posted by Ken
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Sep 9, 2007 at 7:09 pm

Small agricultural towns have been stuck for decades in poverty. If they are lucky enough to become a bedroom community for Silicon Valley (or some other high power economic center) they begin to grow, and experience some hope.

King City, Greenfield, Soledad, Gonzales, Chualar, Salinas, Prunedale, Gilroy, Morgan Hill, Tracy, Manteca...you name it...they are prospering BECAUSE they are becoming commuter/bedroom communities. If a rational approach is embraced, whereby transit trains can be used to efficienty transport these workers, then SF Peninusla communities will be spared the irrationality of ABAG "suggestions".

The notion that these newly prosperous commuter towns are being exploited is complete nonsense. They are now able to build their economic base, and attract local merchants, and develop services. We should not demand that workers be forced to live in tiny boxes in PA in order to make a living. If they are able to live in 2-4 bedroom homes in Tracy, what is wrong with that?

Do the right thing, and oppose irban high density transit corridors - they are a real loser.


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Posted by steve levy
a resident of University South
on Sep 9, 2007 at 7:43 pm

Ken,

Freedom of choice as to where to live works both ways. If you favor the freedom for families to choose to live in Tracy, why doesn't the principle apply to the freedom to want to live in Palo Alto. On the freedom to live principle we should be approving new housing options in PA, which are clearly in demand.

Also there is a delicious irony here. Reread Karen White's post where she takes off on the California Building Industry Associationn for conspiring with the state to force an unfunded mandate on cities like PA.

But the fact is that CBIA lobbies against most "smart growth" planning proposals and in favor of the right for builders to build in the places you listed. So in this case ABAG is not the stooge of the building industry but their opponent re having a regional smart growth strategy.


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Posted by Ken
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Sep 9, 2007 at 8:27 pm

Steve,

"Smart growth", I believe, is what I described, namely the development of small outlying towns that are finally getting a chance.

I don't follow your reasoning about freedom to choose where to live. If I can afford to live and work and PA, then I will do it. If I cannot afford to live here, but still want to work here, then I will commute. You want to tax the citizens of PA to subsidize those who cannot afford to live here. I say put it to a vote, and allow PA citizens to decide if they buy your scheme.

Fair enough?


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Posted by sensible solutions
a resident of Crescent Park
on Sep 9, 2007 at 9:27 pm

ABAG is the stooge not of the building industry but of their opponent? Let's talk mobius logic here.

If this state is going to grow as much as ABAG wants us to believe, then the only rational solution is to develop new urban centers in outlying towns. Makes sense for business because the cost of building offices and hiring people is cheaper than in overcrowded areas, and makes sense for residents because they can more easily afford to live in these new communities. Thanks to overbuilding resulting from developer fantasies, some of these outlying areas already have a lot of new houses whose prices have dropped substantially in the last few months. Why not encourage people to move into those rather than to exacerbate crowding here?


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Posted by Palo Verde Parent
a resident of Palo Verde
on Sep 9, 2007 at 10:53 pm

I don't agree with the idea that Palo Alto's high housing costs are caused by not building enough affordable housing for all the workers who choose to work here. The way I see it, cost is relative, and the lack of affordability is due to employers paying their workers less than the true cost of living, including housing, in an expensive region like ours'.

The sustainable solution is to mandate an increase in the minimum wage to reflect the true cost of living within a reasonable commute distance from the work place (perhaps 10 miles or 20 minutes). While this would increase business costs, it would close the affordability gap and reduce the need for additional housing.

The alternative solution is to flood the market with entry-level housing until prices drop to an "affordable" level. This would pay for the affordability gap out of existing homeowners' home-equity. Worst hit would be recent buyers, who may see their equity evaporate. As no politician wants this on their resume, we hear much talk but (fortunately) see little action to implement this alternative.

I do not believe we have a "housing shortage". In actuality we have a "living wage shortage". If we fix this. many imbalances, including housing, will fall into place.


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Posted by Chris
a resident of another community
on Sep 9, 2007 at 11:08 pm

What is the definition of "affordable" in Palo Alto? A house under $1 million or a one-bedroom apartment for less than $2,000 per month?


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Posted by Jeremy Loski
a resident of Ventura
on Sep 9, 2007 at 11:20 pm

Steve Levy has some strong points, as well as effectively undermining the NIMBY argument that promotes a commuter-driven culture, dominated by the automobile. This is exactly what Ms. White and her supporters on thsi thread are arguing for.

This is rather stunning, and ironic, because those (like Ms. White) in this thread who are advocating for "sensible growth" to the Central Valley, are citizens one would normally associate with things like reducing Co2 loads, and environmental responsibility.

They want to dump our contribution toward solving a regional problem on someone else.

This is NIMBYISM squared, willing to sacrifice our community's stated core values as regard pollution and the environment (that effects EVERYONE, INCLUDING outlying nonresidents) for a preference that rprimarily regard the immediate local impacts of additional housing, to please a vocal few (some of whom call themselves environmentalists).

This is what our city is sinking to - a place that uses process and vocal insiders to stall needed change. It won't stand.

Karen White might profit from taking to heart "Winds of Change", a talk given a few years ago by Don Weden, a former lead Santa Clara County planner.

Mr. Weden rightly pointed out that MOST of our transport problems today are caused by our patterns of widely distributed housing.

Mr. Weden's thesis is supported by just about every primary municipal planner in America [portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

Ms. White, [Palo Alto and San Jose] have a difference in their housing problems (and revenue problems) not only in degree - something Ms. White conveniently fails to mention - but in KIND. San Jose is a decidedly different kind of city than Palo Alto.

In the end, this IS a regional problem, and it will tale REGIONAL leadership to solve it.

Instead of encouraging Palo Alto to take on that leadership role, we get NIMBYIST opinions, tainted with visions of conspiracy by ABAG and developers (a clear attempt to marginalize). What does that lead to? Will it do ANYTHING to help redude local or regional overuse of the auto? Of course not.

So, as has become the usual case these last 10-or-so years, Palo Alto seems to be generating ideas that - rather than inspire reginoal leadership - inspire shrinking from important challenges, while denying that innovation is possible.

No wonder we continue to shrink as a regional power, and lose our once-deserved patina as a place of ideas and forward-thinking.

[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

The very LAST thing I would want to see happen is to have a newly elected Council that is mostly in support of what Karen White's vision - really a non-vision that doesn't offer anything new, but instead has Palo Altans shrinking from challenge, and an opportunity to keep our community truly diverse, and therefore, whole.


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Posted by Interloper
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Sep 9, 2007 at 11:59 pm

King City? [Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.] That's 120+ miles outside of Palo Alto. Even a "baby bullet" train is going to take over two hours each way. That's a 4+ hour commute every day for the privelege of being a librarian/teacher/police officer/secretary/grocery clerk in a community where you can't afford to live.

Might as well add Paso Robles, San Luis Obispo and Santa Maria to your list. Or move to East Palo Alto.


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Posted by Palo Verde Parent
a resident of Palo Verde
on Sep 10, 2007 at 12:04 am

While I see nothing wrong with being a NIMBY, I don't believe Karen White was focused on NIMBYism in her excellent Guest Editorial. Rather, she was pointing out the high cost of building our infrastructure, which is now overloaded, and asking if it's wise to undergo a new round of growth without first fixing our current infrastructure and determining how to pay for the new infrastructure that this new growth will require. I see nothing in that to warrant the personal attacks against her that have been issued by some other posts to this thread.

And if some developer sees a profitable market for new housing, caused by other businesses seeking bigger profits through hiring more workers who would need to live in that housing, that might be fine as long as it doesn't cost me. But if I need to pay higher taxes to build the infrastructure you need, that's unfair. And un-capitalistic. I'm not asking you to weed my garden. If you create a need for more infrastructure, YOU pay for it!


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Posted by An Observer
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 10, 2007 at 12:18 am

Palo Alto decided long ago that more housing costs the present homeowners money. Don't the proponents of more high density housing get that? or they just don't care! Developers of high density housing (greenbelt alliance) just want: We can make millions of profit on every development we can get thru, to H with present homeowners!

Demand that Stanford build housing on their land and make it affordable for the workers who have jobs on Stanford land! All Stanford land West of Foothill Blvd, etc should have affordable housing built by Stanford without the 60%profit expected by the local developers such as Green Belt Alliance Corp.

Also a solution is to tax the commercial buildings, some way, so they pay for the cost of the services they demand from the city.
A high tax on every parking space in the industrial/commercial sections of town would discourage single occupancy car trips and promote car pooling.

As lonag as we keep electing people directly connected to the developers and corporations regular homeowners in much of the city will suffer with what is happening with super high density development such as Hyett and Alma Plaza where a neighborhood shopping center is being converted to housing at a hugh profit to the developers and to H with neighbors and shopping with out driving miles to shop.
Any intersection with a back up of traffic should result with a ban on any development that increases traffic, within a mile or so.

All development within Stanford Ind. Park should have been stopped until Oregon Expressway/Page Mill is converted into a Freeway. Cars on this street now travel at 20 to 25 mph and trucks are now apparently banned. What a joke!


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Posted by Jeremy Loski
a resident of Ventura
on Sep 10, 2007 at 1:15 am

An observer says: "As lonag as we keep electing people directly connected to the developers and corporation..."

[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.] Palo Alto's City Council has been mostly off-limits to developer and corporate supporters. Are we talking about the same city?


Palo Verde Parent, Karen White is correct about the fact that we need to build, and repair, outmoded and outworn infrastructure. In fact, that's priority number one.

But to insist, as Ms. White has, that new residents (who would move into new housing) are going to keep that from happening, or unduly strain infrastructure to the point of non-functionality - and then disingenuously attack new housing builds, including less-than-subtle attacks on developers (coming up just short of calling developers, "comspiratorial"), and THEN, using an apples and oranges comparison between San Jose and Palo Alto to justify all that - all in service to calling for "sensible growth", strikes me as something that deserves a pointed and terse response.

Ms. White is a valuable asset to our community, and a very well-informed person. This makes her last GO that much more of a disappointment, because it does NOT provide even a hint toward solutions. It's just more of hte "us vs. them" and NIMBY mentality that we have seen in Palo Alto over the last 10-15 years as development pressures have increased in this region.

In fact, Ms. White, and those that support her position, are running up against the very best insights that have been provided as problem (and solution) identifiers.

I mentioned the "winds of change" talk given by Don weden a few years ago. Mr. Weden's voice is one that we shuold be heeding. It's a voice borne of experience, and absent the extreme parochialism that is embedded in Ms. White's GO, and the arguments of determined no-growthers here.

Of course, there is no "right" answer to this problem. There are no perfect perspectives from which to see this problem (of growth).

That said, we MUST get beyond the small arguments (and - with due respect) the small arguments that keep us from looking at innovativesolutions to our housing shortage - a shortage that IS a shortage for those members of our community that would best profit them AND THE REST OF US, ifi they were provided a chance to live in this community.

We owe it to them AND TO OURSELVES to come forward with far more comprehensive solutions than have been provided by the anti-growth crowd, and a good number of developers.

Will we obtain the LEADERSHIP necessary to tackle the housing problem? Will we MAKE something happen that enables true diversity in this community. We'd better, because one key ingredient that makes a community whole - socioeconomic diversity - is fast fading from our town.

Itr's time to rethink the housing problem, and INNOVATE.

New designs; new developments in materials construction; new forms of joint ownership (including win-win trusts that enable police, fire safety, teachers, etc.) to live in our community, etc. etc. MUST be considered.

If we can't find local developers to talk this talk, then we shuold go out and GET some developers who will. If we can't find community leaders who will get out of grooves that take us nowhere, we must find new leaders.

There's no reason that we can't "have our cake and eat it too". It's not an oxymoron, unless we continue to live by the fiscal standards of double bottom-line accounting, and forget that there's a lot more to new residents than the costs that we have to bear because of their presence.

Let's start thinking about how new residents BENEFIT Palo Alto. Wouldn't that be a novel idea?


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Posted by Ken
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Sep 10, 2007 at 3:41 am

"New designs; new developments in materials construction; new forms of joint ownership (including win-win trusts that enable police, fire safety, teachers, etc.) to live in our community, etc. etc. MUST be considered. "

Uh Jeremy, please describe what that new development would look like. How many police, fire saftey and teachers currently live in BMR units in Palo Alto? A number of them would prefer to commute, and be able to live in single-family residences in outlying areas, instead of tiny cublicles in PA. In fact, despite the fact that this "need to keep our safety workers/teachers local" argument is always made to justify BMR units, I don't believe a single BMR unit in PA is currently being utilized by such a family. In fact, I would like to know exactly who IS living in these units? Do they even work in PA?

Jeremy, you project a sense of urgency [portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.] It reminds me of the Paul Ehrlich dommsday scenario. If CO2/global warming is your motivation for adding another 3700 new housing units to PA, then please be very clear about it. If it is, then we can start to have a rational discussion about global warming, and possible responses to it. If it is not your motivation, then why not discuss rational commuter solutions for bringing in workers from outlying areas?


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Posted by Former Londoner
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 10, 2007 at 6:47 am

You only have to look at London and it's outer suburbs to see the future. When Interloper is agast at 4 hour commutes that is exactly what is happening in England as thousands take two hour train rides from the South coast and West of England into central London daily.

Also, by comparison our real estate prices are low. A house in a similar suburb to PA 20 - 45 miles outside London sells in pounds what we pay in dollars i.e. a one million dollar home here sells for one million pounds in a similar suburb of London which of course is two million dollars!!

San Francisco and the Bay area is relatively cheap by world standards.


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Posted by pat
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 10, 2007 at 9:39 am

Speaking of London, in the Daily Telegraph there's an article saying, "References to the Queen could be taken out of British passports in a bid to make them more European." Web Link

A blogger writes: "Is there anyone of voting age in the UK who isn't painfully aware of the cant excesses of the unelected/unelectable mandarins of the EU? . . . . Isn't it time we left this undemocratic, edict-spouting shambles and began to take care of our own interests first? We joined the (then) EEC as a trade agreement: NOT to be governed and dictated to by unelectable autocrats at every hand's turn?!"

Sounds a bit like ABAG dictating to Palo Alto.


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Posted by Jeremy Loski
a resident of Ventura
on Sep 10, 2007 at 10:28 am

The comparisons of London to Palo Alto are preposterous, really. Why not bring New York and Tokyo along as examples, too? :) How about Monaco? Good grief! There certainly is desperation in these apples and oragnges attempts to draw negative conclusions and projections about what a measley 3500 housing units will mean.

Here again we have those who are against growth - almost radically so - wanting to shift the burden of municipal compromise onto the backs of future workers, with 2-4 hour commutes. [Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

I have been to London many times on business, and spoken to many of the people who make the impossible commutes that "Former Londoner" and "pat" seem in favor of. That lifestyle isi full fo stress, and not sustainable. I have yet to meet a single Brit who runs that commute gauntlet every day who is not looking for a way to end their respective travail.


Uh, Ken, how about looking at innovative housing design elsewhere? How about starting up a working regional group, led by Palo Alto, to solve this problem [portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff]?

It's presumptuous to assume that BMR units are undersireable for ANYONE. Why does that have to be the case? Also, is ANYONE saying that ALL fire safety personnel, ,police, teachers, social workers, janitors have to live in Palo Alto? Who's saying that.

We're speaking here about 3500+ units, to insure that some portion of our working community that wants to live here - providing VALUABLE socioeconomic diversity (and skill sets) can do so? Where is our sense of responsibility to OURSELVES, knowing the value that true socioeconomic diversity can bring? I don't see it in any of these anti-growth missives.

here are some resources - maybe some are not relevant, but I would urge new thinking about this problem, instead of the same old "developers are evil", and "new residents will burden us" [portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

Here's some notes form Don Weden's "Winds of Change" talk, a few years ago
Web Link

a few other mild references to new possibility

Web Link

Web Link

[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

The last thing we need is Council members who will let themselves get caught in the "either, or" kind of thinking proposed by Ms. White and those who agree with what she wrote.

We need more new thinking, instead of clever political manipulations of our desperate need for new infrastructure leverages AGAINST the need for our communtiy to maintain sustainable socioeconomic diversity. [Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


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Posted by Another ex Pat
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 10, 2007 at 10:48 am

One other thing to remember, is that a Londoner with a long commute also has 4 weeks annual leave. This may sound a lot, but remember, for the average Londoner, if he needs to take the car to get serviced, a trip to the dentist, a couple of hours to watch a child's sports game or music performance, etc. etc., it involves taking a day's leave. There is no other way to do it. If we have impossible long commutes, either here to PA, or from here to San Francisco or San Jose, then the workers will not be able to do either the mundane appointments at home or the family commitments that we take as a given.


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Posted by steve levy
a resident of University South
on Sep 10, 2007 at 10:52 am

I like Jeremy's continuing call to be proactive and think of solutions rather than wishing the challenge would go away or blaming someone else.

Here are a couple of additional ideas for moving ahead.

Schedule a community wide meeting and invite neighbor cities like Menlo Park, Mountain View and San Jose.

Invite ABAG representatives along with city members of the committee that developed the criteria for recommendation city housing shares. also invite representatives of the cities like Tracy, Manteca and Gilroy. Then we all discuss this common challenge that we share and see how other folks think about the idea that PA cannot absorb additional housing.

The second idea should get a good discussion going.

PA could offer to share some of the "extra" revenue and bonding capacity that we have becasue we have a relatively large share of regional jobs. Then at least we wouldn't be arguing "Let's keep the money from jobs and send the housing eleswhere".


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Posted by Ken
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Sep 10, 2007 at 10:55 am

"It's presumptuous to assume that BMR units are undersireable for ANYONE. Why does that have to be the case? Also, is ANYONE saying that ALL fire safety personnel, ,police, teachers, social workers, janitors have to live in Palo Alto? Who's saying that. "

Jeremy, please just tell me how many BMR units (already built) are being occupied by teachers/fire safety/police. An extension of this question is: Have surveys been taken, among those groups, that indicate that a substantial number of such workers would actually buy into a BMR in PA?

[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


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Posted by pat
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 10, 2007 at 11:11 am

Jeremy, are you suggesting that move ALL the folks who live 2 – 4 hours away into the bay area -- so we won't have to "shift the burden of municipal compromise onto the backs of future workers" (whatever that means)? How will we ever have a situation where commutes aren't necessary unless companies move to where the workers are?

Please note that I'm not concerned only with BMR units. The info I posted above from the ABAG site shows that 83,942 units are in the very-low + low income categories and 130,588 are moderate + above moderate. A "measly" 3500 units now is just the tip of the iceberg.

Continuous accusations of NIMBYism don't help the debate.


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Posted by bikes2work
a resident of Santa Rita (Los Altos)
on Sep 10, 2007 at 11:27 am

Ken,

In a post above you seemed to equate "smart growth" with suburban sprawl. This is not the definition of smart growth. I am not a high-paid tech worker, but I happen to love the "small box" that I was able to buy near Palo Alto in The Crossings. See this website if you want to see "Smart Growth" illustrated: Web Link

Take a drive around it if you ever get a chance. It is very nice. But please drive slowly because there are many kids playing.

Thanks!







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Posted by sensible solutions
a resident of Crescent Park
on Sep 10, 2007 at 11:34 am

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


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Posted by Anna
a resident of St. Claire Gardens
on Sep 10, 2007 at 11:35 am

Like most Utopian social dreamers, Mr. Loski apparently thinks he can design a better society, and has no problem using the force of government to impose his views on the rest of us.

Loski places a high value on social diversity (by which he apparently means a wide mix of income classes). He says we should enrich our lives and society by drawing lower income people from surrounding areas to our relatively more wealthy town.

But if Mr. Loski really believes his own rhetoric, perhaps he should consider the social diversity of surrounding communities as well as Palo Alto's when he's doing his social scheming. For example, East Palo ALto is probably less diverse (on Loski's scale) than Palo Alto by far. Should Loski not support the building of subsidized mansions in East Palo Alto to attract wealthy Silicon Valley types, rich doctors and white professionals to East Palo Alto so that the people there don't continue to be impoverished by their lack of social diversity?! Why should only we rich Palo Altans be able to benefit from Loski-style social engineering? Where is his sense of fairness?

There are cities that are more diverse on Loski's scale than Palo ALto, and cities that have less income variability than Palo Alto. Most likely people who can afford to live in Palo Alto could have chosen to live in a place with either more or less diversity than they experience now. They didn't. They chose what we have in Palo Alto because that's what they get to do in a free society. But maybe freedom is what Loski really objects to.


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Posted by Ken
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Sep 10, 2007 at 12:01 pm

"In a post above you seemed to equate "smart growth" with suburban sprawl. This is not the definition of smart growth"

likes2work, I don't think you are in a position to define "smart growth". Neither am I. I just think that efficient transportation to outlying towns is very smart growth. For instance, BART could be (should be, IMO) extended around the bay, then all the way down to at least Salinas. Same thing for extending out to Tracy. I happen to know a few people who live in King City, get up early in the morning, and drive north, to pick up CalTrain to get to their jobs on the penninsula. I think we should be trying to encourage such smart growth, AND to make it a better trip for the workers who decide to make the trip. High speed express trains? Absolutely!
MagLev? Why not - pollution free, if driven by electricity from nuclear and solar.

I like to think big. Creating high density transportation corridors, is not, by itself thinking small, but if it constrains a bigger solution, then it is small.


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Posted by Chuck
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 10, 2007 at 12:04 pm

There is more than the social engineering Anna describes being advocated in this discussion. Loski, Levy and others propose government action to remedy the "jobs-housing imbalance" by putting a little more housing here, a few less jobs there and similar interventions.

But the reality is that many of these "problems" will solve themselves without the intervention the Loski/Levy plans require. Cities can encourage all the job growth they want by zoning and similar incentives. But if the prospective employees cannot afford to live near these jobs without the prospective employers paying outrageous wages, these jobs will never materialize. If the employers put their new jobs somewhere else - like Austin - we won't need all these new BMR's that Levi and Loski want to subsidize. The people who would live in them can buy a nice place in Texas instead.


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Posted by Michele Beasley, Greenbelt Alliance
a resident of another community
on Sep 10, 2007 at 1:04 pm

In her opinion piece on Sept. 5, Karen White claimed that Palo Alto should not build any more homes, and that the city's imbalance between jobs and housing is not a problem.

Let's take a second to do the math. According to the Association of Bay Area Governments, as of 2005, Palo Alto had 79,250 jobs and 26,240 households. If each household has, say, 1.5 employed people, that makes 39,360 employed people living in the city. Even if we assume that all those people work in Palo Alto, that means there are still about 40,000 people who had to commute in from other cities to work in Palo Alto.

That creates a real problem for people who live or work in Palo Alto, as they are forced to spend hours in traffic instead of with friends and family, because of all the three-hour commutes workers are making.

That creates a problem for young people, too. Many are already being forced to move away--to the Central Valley and beyond--because they can't find places they can afford near where they grew up.

That's a problem for the economy. According to the Silicon Valley Leadership Group, the lack of homes workers can afford remains the number-one concern voiced by CEOs and employees. This is why cities like Austin and Seattle are becoming tough competition for Silicon Valley.

That's a problem for local businesses, when not enough people live nearby to provide the customers they need. Lunardi's, a popular grocery store in San Jose, just announced it will be closing with 15 years still on its lease -- a casualty of too few neighbors.

Palo Alto needs more homes now, and as it continues to add jobs, it will need even more. The city will need to build these homes in existing urban areas to support local businesses, to make it easy for new residents to take public transit and reduce the need to drive -- and to make new homes affordable to local workers and young families.

Ms. White made some good points about Palo Alto's need for infrastructure funds. Yes, Palo Alto, like many cities, could certainly use more money for infrastructure. The good news is that regional and state policies are starting to reward cities that plan for homes, by giving them funds for new infrastructure. But cities can only get them if they commit to providing those homes, and building them for the people who need them, in places that are convenient (downtown and near transit).

It is the shortage of housing in job-rich areas that fuels sprawl development on the suburban fringe. And yes, with 50% of the Bay Area's greenhouse gas emissions coming from driving around, building more compact housing near jobs, services, shops and public transit will help fight global warming. It will do more than driving a Prius or changing a light bulb.

Palo Alto has a lot of problems that are real. Stopping the creation of homes in the city will solve none of them.


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Posted by Terry
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 10, 2007 at 1:13 pm

Michele, thanks for chiming in and I generally support building housing - we all have to live somewhere. But your arguments are so sloppy, I had to respond.

The idea that CEO was more affordable housing doesn't mean you should build it in Palo Alto - even if other people want us to. Other towns can choose (as a strategy) to go higher density; others can choose not to. Visit New York sometime ;-) And sure, retail stores would do better if there were higher density - but you'll have to do better than a grocery store closing in San Jose to make us fear a retail ghost town at our local shopping centers.

And sure, if we don't build them, people will have to commute to work - like just about everybody already does. That doesn't have to mean sprawl - if SJ, Mountain View, and San Mateo go high density, than other towns can stay lower density.

I think PA should continue to allow houses to be built at a measured pace. And I think our City Council should be kicked in the butt till they focus on infrastructure execution and get things fixed up. But your high level alarmism just creates argument without much insight.


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Posted by Ken
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Sep 10, 2007 at 1:14 pm

"Let's take a second to do the math. According to the Association of Bay Area Governments, as of 2005, Palo Alto had 79,250 jobs and 26,240 households"

Michele, just to clarify, are those 79,250 jobs within PA proper, or do they also include Stanford/SRP jobs?


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Posted by Karen White
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Sep 10, 2007 at 1:29 pm

No, I did not say that Palo Alto should not build any more homes. Instead, I said that we should not accept the state's (via ABAG) unfunded mandate to add 9,463 new residents to Palo Alto -- approximately 20% of our current population -- with our infrastructure in the aged and broken state it is today. Before adding substantially to our city, we need a substantial infusion of new funds to repair, rebuild and create the infrastructure needed for our current residents and businesses. We need to balance our "infrastructure-housing imbalance" as our first priority. Unfortunately, a single-minded focus on home-to-work transportation overlooks this.


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Posted by Dave
a resident of The Greenhouse
on Sep 10, 2007 at 1:30 pm

Ken is right. The notion that any particular city in a large urban area has to match the number of jobs and housing units is simplistic sophism. What matters is that the total numbers balance.

Most people I know in Palo Alto commute to other cities to work. And most people I know who work in Palo Alto live elsewhere. That's because people choose their residence locations on something other than commute distance (though that is a factor.) And even when someone chooses to live in Palo Alto to be near a job, he or she often has a spouse who works elsewhere. And nowadays people change jobs often so that if you start a career living and working in Palo ALto, you may soon find yourself working somewhere else. It's easier to change jobs than it is to change houses for most people - so you commute.

As Chuck, above implies, it's impossible for "planners" to forecast and manage this complex interplay. It would be much better to let the natural forces of supply and demand determine the overall balance of jobs and houses. If houses start to cost more than employers can pay employees enough to afford, they'll reduce the number of jobs, lowering the demand for and cost of housing. Not perfect, but better than all this ABAG bureaucracy can do, I think.


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Posted by Karen White
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Sep 10, 2007 at 1:42 pm

I misspoke in my last post. I should have said that the state, via ABAG, has allocated 3,505 housing units to Palo Alto. One uses the commonly-accepted multiplier of 2.7 residents per household to derive the total population growth these units would bring: 9,463.


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Posted by Jeremy Loski
a resident of Ventura
on Sep 10, 2007 at 1:53 pm

Here's what's going to happen:

Palo Alto is going to build those units, and more.

It might be fun for a few insiders to play games with housing allotments, but in the end, Palo Alto will be building more BMR units.

Palo Alto will also create incentives for certain residents to settle here. btw, this is going to happen ALL OVER Silicon Valley.

COMMERCE drives this Valley, notwithstanding the fuax pastoral utopianism of a few who have weighedin on this thread with 'developer conspiracy theories", and other "sky-is-falling" scenarios that they project will occur of Palo Alto grows housing to current (and beyond) ABAG projections.

ABAG really isn't the issue here; that's what makes me smile with whimsy when I hear all the blather about how growth is going to hurt Palo Alto.

Let me repeat: "COMMERCE drives this Valley".

This region is now, for the first time since it evolved to the powerhouse it became during the last 50 years of the last century, in dire trouble.

Investors - you know, the people who make commerce *happen* - are looking hard at regions that compete with the Valley for innovative commercial development.

Right now, this is nothing more than a nascent trend, but it's growing at almost exponential rates.

If Palo Alto and its nbeighbors don't find a way to increase population, and further find ways to move that population around WITHOUT the automobile as the main carrier, thie region is going to LOSE its already-fading hegemony. And you think we have infrastructure problems now? Just wait.

Those who just see mass transport (BART extentions,m etc.) as the solution, just don't get it.

HOUSING patterns are what cause mass transport problems. Fix the housing imbalances, and mass transport falls into place.

Even the prickly genius Bucky Fuller recognized the irony of ever-increasing speeds in our modes of transport - makeing the (accurate claim) that simply increasing speed did nothing but encourage housing growth *outward*, thus causing us to lose proximity advantage, human efficiencies, and the continued bucolic lives that so many on this thread think that putting housing somewhere else will guarantee them.

Transportation ALONE is NOT the solution. Cities that exist within the boundaries of dynamic commercial zones are going to HAVE to find ways to house residents at rates that do not deter commercial development.

Mini-zones, like Palo Alto, that lies within commercial zones like Silicon Valley are going to LOSE OUT if they don't get with the program.

Sure, Palo Alto will be OK - our current demographic guarantees that - but if the current crop of no-growthers (who want to create fear, and blame future civic infrastucture shortages on future residents [pure FUD, if I ever saw it}) are not offering anything that can be considered an alternative. they simply seem to ASSUME that more housing will decrease their quality of living, because they appear not to comprehend that HOUSING and TRANSPORT are part of a unified WHOLE in any problem-solving that we do toward this issue.

Where are these people re: transport? They want to shuttle people to "satellite cities". This, in spite of the FACT that widely distributed housing patterns are what has caused this mess in the first place. [Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

Again, who says that ALL teachers, police personnel, etc. etc are going to want to live here? But SOME will - and why shouldn't we help make that possible? It is NOT a good thing to make that possible? Why? there isn't an answer to this that deosn't destroy the anti-growth people, because residents that have vital skills (and pay the mortgage) are FAR more valuable to a community than those who are serving the community from a distance. Why? They're INVESTED!

In fact, we have had a whole "thing" about "security" here during the last mayor's term. Why wasn't housing for selected fire and police personnel a part of that discussion? What are we going to do in a major catastrophic event if our public safety and fire personnel are trying to get in from Tracy and Manteca? Take BART?

Affordable housing is thus also a public safety issue.

I have yet to see even one anti-growth proponent arguing for a wholistic housing/transport solution to redidential placement. All we hear is fear-stoking; it's tiring.

We need more hopeful and innovative voices coming from our community (I know they're out their - I've met them; they just don't participate in these forums).

It may take a while, and we may take two steps back - depending on who makes it to Council, but long-term, this city will grow to meet (and exceed) those ABAG projections, because that's where the money, status, sustainable environmental gains, and promise of a whole community lie.

Let's get busy.





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Posted by Tom
a resident of Professorville
on Sep 10, 2007 at 2:02 pm

Don't worry. This proposal is already dead. The housing market has crashed and building houses is a money loser for the time being. ABAG hasn't gotten the word from its leash holders or it has very slow reflexes.


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Posted by Jeremy Loski
a resident of Ventura
on Sep 10, 2007 at 2:12 pm

Karen White: "I should have said that the state, via ABAG, has allocated 3,505 housing units to Palo Alto. One uses the commonly-accepted multiplier of 2.7 residents per household to derive the total population growth these units would bring: 9,463."

and

this is "approximately 20% of our current population"

-----------
Over how many years? And, btw, it's not 20% - it's more like 14%.

It's sad to see future otential residents (what housing is for) viewed as a burden. How on earth can that be the case, given our taken-for-granted ability to "make things happen" in this Valley (a quality we're slowly losing, in favor of simplistic double-bottom-line accounting models that dont' take into effect the OTHER multipliers - like what a productive, diverse group of residents mean to community.

Karen, I would love to hear you expound on what is LOST when a skilled new resident who would live in BMR housing choses to live somewhere else, because s/he can't afford to live here. Start with police personnel, and teachers, please. Then move on to social workers and retail managers, or skilled retirees. how do these people "cost" us, vs. the revenue, community investment, and healthy diversit that they bring?

[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

I would also like to hear Karen expound on how we're ever going to get people out of their cars if we just keep building OUT, with only busy, stressed commuters and environmentalists lobbying for mass transit solutions (that will become FAR more costly, because there will be more access points to build to far-flung communities)

Essentially, Karen's argument is anti-environment. Instead of getting busy to build these homes, and combining that with leading other cities to do the same, we're mired in "keeping what we have", without husbanding the future. With respect; it's short-sighted

Dave, Palo Alto real estate will not decrease in value unless there is a very, vey, very severe economic dislocation. Look into real estate economics if you doubt this.


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Posted by Minnie
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Sep 10, 2007 at 2:13 pm

Tom, Since when has the real estate market crashed in places like Palo Alto?


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Posted by Tom
a resident of Professorville
on Sep 10, 2007 at 3:08 pm

It happened before in 1989. It will crash permanently if ABAG's overdevelopment happens.

But don't worry. It's all driven by money, and housing isn't the big moneymaker right now.


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Posted by Ken
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Sep 10, 2007 at 3:18 pm

I am pro growth. I think Stanford, for example, should be able to expand its biomedical and engineering and hospital facilities - it would act as an economic multiplier for the region, and it would be good for humanity.

Jeremy, and a few others, say that such economic growth is impossible, unless we agree to increased local transportation corridor density. Where is the evidence for this assertion?

I think the New York and London and Tokyo model is a solid one. Why should Palo Alto limit its economic power, just because some people demand that all support workers live in town? My son lives in the Salinas Valley. He can't afford to live in Pebble Beach, yet he has a relatively high paying job there. Should PB be forced to build housing for him and his family? I don't think so, but I do believe that efficient transportation is essential.

Now, let me say, straight out, the "E" word. This word is PC anathema, almost like the "N" word, but it is a real, because it delineates the future economic viability in PA. The word? ELITISM. We should celebrate it, rather than try to denigrate it. The elites made PA, starting with the Stanfords, then Hewlitt and Packard and Google founders and high paid corporate lawyers, etc.

Can we, finally, get realistic?


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Posted by Elite D. Snobb
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 10, 2007 at 5:15 pm

True elites mind their spelling -- it's Hewlett, not Hewlitt.


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Posted by Ken
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Sep 10, 2007 at 5:23 pm

"True elites mind their spelling -- it's Hewlett, not Hewlitt."

Thanks, Elite D., I always appreciate it, when someone corrects my mistakes. I learn from my mistakes.

Do you have a substantive argument?


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Posted by Jeremy Loski
a resident of Ventura
on Sep 10, 2007 at 5:31 pm

Ken, Reality lies in the ABAG numbers, and the fact that Palo Alto is not an elite city unless it lives elite values. If you want Beverly Hills, fine - but I and most of the people I know want something else.

btw, who is saying that all of Stanford's support workers live in town. Not one person has asked for that, or even a significant fraction of that.

[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

If you want to hold your head up while you help to spread stress (4 hour commutes), pollution, etc. etc to the rest of the Valley, fine. That's your choice. Not me.

If that's 'elite'thinking, leave me out. Maybe there's a difference between "elite" and "elevated". no?

btw, elites made almost EVERY city in America happen. That you should think that Palo Altans derive from some special "elite-of-elites" reveals more of the anti-growth agenda than you might have thought, when you penned your last missive.

Tom, right, the real estate market crashed in 1989. What happened after that? Here's a book for you to read [portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.] Web Link


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Posted by Carney
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Sep 10, 2007 at 5:44 pm

I see very few people clamoring to bring 3 or 3000 new residents to town. On the contrary, most people want not Beverly Hills, but Palo Alto - pretty much the way it is now.

Loski continues his unsupportable claim that the additional houses he wants built in Palo Alto will be inhabited by people working in Palo Alto. That notion defies the common experience of jobs and housing all over the Bay Area. As the post of Dave above indicates, people almost always end up commuting to other cities than the one they live in in the Bay Area. That's choice. That's freedom.

Absent some coercive mechanism, this will continue to be the case with the BMR units Loski wants. Build them. And the low income workers he covets will end up working in San Jose, Hayward and San Leandro. And people will still buy houses in Saratoga and commute to Palo ALto jobs.

Loski's attempt to regiment the citizens of the Bay Area through detailed planning schemes is destined to be outrun by the realities of the respective jobs and housing markets. [Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


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Posted by Ken
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Sep 10, 2007 at 5:49 pm

"Reality lies in the ABAG numbers"

No, Jeremy, ABAG is just one more opinion.

One more time: Please just tell me how many BMR units (already built) are being occupied by teachers/fire safety/police. An extension of this question is: Have surveys been taken, among those groups, that indicate that a substantial number of such workers would actually buy into a BMR in PA?

Why do you keep dodging this question, Jeremy?


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Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 10, 2007 at 5:52 pm

The only way to get people to live in the city they work, or work in the city they reside, is to give them tax incentives. Funny, but give them a tax incentive, no matter how it makes a difference to their pecuniary state, and people do all sorts of strange things.


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Posted by Larry Avidan
a resident of Palo Verde
on Sep 10, 2007 at 6:02 pm

Obviously, for those who don't live in Palo Alto nor suffer the gradual but rapidly deteriorating environment due to noise, pollution and overly stressed public facilities wouldn't mind the continuous build up by the greedy real estate developers who are mostly interested in massive build up which meant to pack as many units in a single plot, how far can we stretch a small city like Palo Alto?


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Posted by Tom
a resident of Professorville
on Sep 10, 2007 at 6:27 pm

Jeremy

[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.] The real estate crash of 1989 happened just after the really hot market that ended right before it, and prices only slowly recovered for years. The ongoing crash is happening just after the really hot market that ended in its turn. I have no idea how long prices will dip or flatten this time, but the money boys on Wall Street seem definitely scared.

It's cyclic, like any tail chase. Remember how tough it was to get housing built in Palo Alto during the dot-com boom when building super high-priced offices was all the rage? After that nobody could build enough high-priced housing to keep up with the new bubble.

I don't know what the Next Big Thing will be this time around, but housing has had it for a while. Why, I even saw a house stay on the market in Palo Alto for a week. Next thing you know, they'll be selling for below ask.

ABAG is a bit late out the gate with this clunker. If they'd hit the town with this proposition a few years ago nobody could have stopped their locomotive.


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Posted by aw
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Sep 10, 2007 at 6:28 pm

Karen,

You are raising a great set of questions on new infrastructure demands residential growth will create.

But let's stop and look at a few numbers before we debate growth / no growth.

Published infrastructure backlog as of today is: PAUSD $750M, CPA $140M. Call it $900M. Let's assume households will pay 70%, so call it $630M we have to finance. You can think of that as a $21,750 per household lump sum, or you can think of it as a $50 to $70M bond payment depending on term and interest rate.

I believe we currently have 29,000 households in Palo Alto and 2% to 3% annual turnover. Assuming we move forward on what we've already identified, how will we pay for it? With an equal $2K to $3K per year bond? With $5K to $10K yearly surcharges for newcomers and recent buyers? With $50K transfer fees? With new revenue sources? With budget cuts? With asset sales?

Can we baseline how to catch up absent any growth? I think it's moot to argue how newcomers affect our ability to build infrastructure that's unaffordable today!

(I welcome in advance corrections to any of the numbers and assumptions from anyone who has better fiscal and demographic data. CPA published backlog is $50M police, $40M library, $20M utility tank, $30M roads)


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Posted by Jeremy Loski
a resident of Ventura
on Sep 10, 2007 at 7:32 pm

Tom, I suggest you stop by any open house in Palo Alto this weekend, and ask the attending real estate agent to show you a manifest of homes that have sold in Palo Alto for the last 2-3 month (or further backm if you like).

Take a look at the *difference* between asking price and final sale price; you might be surprised to see that most homes are still bid up, and (from the manifests I've seen lately), very few, if any, take a cut from asking price.

[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

There are new variables driving residents to Palo Alto, but you forget about the "next big thing". This region has matured, and will have to struiggle to maintain relative position.

If you think we're going to do that by pushing residents out to satellite cities, while the primo work remains in high priced enclaves like PA, you're dreaming.

Local CEO's are VERY concerned about our housing prices, and seeming inability to do something to make this area more compelling in terms of startup costs.

We'd better start to heed that concern, or this place will lose much of its dynamism (the region, and our city). "Parochial"and "Sleepy" are words that comes to mind.


aw,
you said: "how will we pay for it? With an equal $2K to $3K per year bond? With $5K to $10K yearly surcharges for newcomers and recent buyers? With $50K transfer fees? With new revenue sources? With budget cuts? With asset sales?"

Answer: with all of the above. Or, perhaps yuo'd like to risk a series of $10M lawsuits coming from plaintiffs who have lost cases because our police building hasn't been able to handle physical evidence properly? Or, gving up the multiplier benefits of libraries in our city?

[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


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Posted by Jeremy Loski
a resident of Ventura
on Sep 10, 2007 at 7:33 pm

aw,

you said: "how will we pay for it? With an equal $2K to $3K per year bond? With $5K to $10K yearly surcharges for newcomers and recent buyers? With $50K transfer fees? With new revenue sources? With budget cuts? With asset sales?"

Answer: with all of the above. Or, perhaps yuo'd like to risk a series of $10M lawsuits coming from plaintiffs who have lost cases because our police building hasn't been able to handle physical evidence properly? Or, gving up the multiplier benefits of libraries in our city?

[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.


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Posted by Jeremy Loski
a resident of Ventura
on Sep 10, 2007 at 7:36 pm

Ken, Please let me know how much effort was made )before they were built) to help locals in certain occupations entertain the notion of BMR housing. That sort of thing doesn't "just happen" - it has to be part of a strategic plan, which we're sorely missing.

Showing a low correlation of BMR units to certain employment sectors doesn't mean a thing - not unless an effort to retain certain folk locally has been made, and failed.

Bottom line: we've never done it.


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Posted by common sense
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 10, 2007 at 10:11 pm

Most people who can buy homes in Palo Alto will work in some other city - it's the nature of Silly Valley; it takes alot of equity to make a down payment, and that usually means working for a company that gives out significant stock options, i.e. start-ups. Those companies usually locate (with a few exceptions) outside of Palo Alto where the rent is much, much cheaper.

The CPA backlog of projects is probably more like $300 - $400 million, but could probably be managed with the $130 million annual budget, if the city council and city manager would prioritize infrastructure much higher than it currently is. This would mean cutting back on other areas, re-organizing to flatten the management structure, etc. So far there's not the political will to do this however.

The schools are another issue altogether, and if the enrollment growth continues, there will be major expedenditures needed to open up a new high school, as well as another elementary school. How schools are funded, and how they spend their money is more restrictive, so this is where the real work will be needed.


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Posted by David Bubenik
a resident of University South
on Sep 10, 2007 at 10:31 pm

Has anyone considered what 3505 housing units amount to? Here are some perspectives.

The 2000 Census counted 12,642 single-family owner-occupied homes in Palo Alto. Adding 3,505 equivalent dwellings would require building a new house for every 3.6 existing houses in our single-family neighborhoods. That means converting roughly every third house into a duplex, or demolishing it and building 2 new houses on its lot. Step into your front yard and imagine your neighborhood with 4 houses in place of every 3 on your block, and on the block across the street, your neighboring blocks, their adjacent blocks, and so forth. That's the future of our single-family neighborhoods under this directive.

So what if we concentrate our 3505 units in multifamily warrens? Since the 50-foot tall, block-long condo project at 800 High Street contains 60 dwelling units, with the usual ratio of affordable to market rate housing, adding 3,505 units may be regarded as building 58.4 more 800 High Streets. That's 58 block faces built 50 feet high. For illustration, picture 29 blocks of a residential corridor, say Middlefield Road, lined with 800 High Streets on both sides -- a 50-foot deep suburban canyon stretching from the Menlo Park border past Embarcadero, crossing Oregon, and continuing 3 blocks beyond Colorado Ave into Midtown.

Cluster them? Where? We could quite literally pave 58 block faces in our downtown with 800 High Streets, displacing all that already exists. Or which other 58 blocks shall we convert for the cause?

However this scheme is implemented, our community will be profoundly changed forever.


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Posted by Ken
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Sep 10, 2007 at 10:40 pm

"Bottom line: we've never done it."

Jeremy, now we're getting somewhere!

You stated that subsidized housing would be used by our police/fire safety and teachers. Yet you have no evidence for that. This is hardly a knew question...I remember being at a council meeting several years ago, when one of councilmembers asked it. There were just shrugs, because nobody knew the answer. Nothing has changed.

There is a blind mad rush to force others to pay for others housing. It is a hidden tax. Yet there seems to be no desire to know if it solves any strategic issue. I think we should put an immediate stop to BMRs, until we can get serious answers.


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Posted by Terry
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 10, 2007 at 10:47 pm

Good illustrations, David. That is tough to swallow. But can I query your numbers? From the City web site (much maligned, but it provided some use in this case), the 2000 number of housing units was 25,216. Assuming that is correct, it is about double the number you used, maybe because you took the owner-occupied number, excluding apartments, rentals, not sure what else? So the percent increase would be about half of what you hypothesized.

Another illustration would be the Hyatt Rickey's site - that's pretty dense, about 200 units. So about 17 Hyatt Rickeys.

Seems like a big number no matter how you cut it. I doubt it will come to pass anytime soon, but maybe half that could happen.


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Posted by joanna
a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Sep 11, 2007 at 6:41 am

kenny g and karen,

Decoded: we don't "them" in our neighborhood

Funny to hear in 2007 and in Northern California


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Posted by I don't think so
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 11, 2007 at 7:07 am

Joanna -

Do you think this is about race? I don't think so. Palo Alto has one of the most diverse populations w/r to race and national origin in the country. Wasn't there an article in the Weekly awhile back quoting a public elementary school teacher that she had 17 languages represented in a class of about 22 students? If there is prejudice or racism against a particular race we should aggressively go after that, but how would allowing more low income housing help?

I would guess Palo Alto is also quite diverse economically. The standard deviation of income for Palo Alto surely is a higher number than most cities in the US, with good representation in the distribution of individual income everywhere from 80K/year to 800K/year, trailing into the double digit millions.

Is there any logic that says we should invite more poor people here? The same people asking for this are asking to repeal prop 13 which does allow poorer people to stay here...Is this thinking driven by religious right who simply believe there is a moral value in being poor? Or is it developers doing the best they can for their companies, or government employees who want to build an empire?

I'm obviously missing a moral point of view somewhere. Can someone explain why we should bring more poor people here when we can't support the moderate income people who are here? Are we trying to boil the ocean?


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Posted by Parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 11, 2007 at 8:59 am

As an aside to the above discussion, I know of one family who used to live in a rented house in EPA. They applied for the Tinsley program to get their eldest child into PA schools. When they didn't get in they decided to move here and found the smallest, cheapest apartment they could find to get them into our schools. They are now living in a tiny apartment here and paying more than they paid for their house in EPA, but they are happy that they made the right decision for their kids.

BMR will bring more of these families in. Not saying that this is wrong, just pointing it out.


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Posted by Jeremy Loski
a resident of Ventura
on Sep 11, 2007 at 9:11 am

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


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Posted by Minnie
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Sep 11, 2007 at 9:24 am

Parent, what's the difference between what ou described and a two-physician family paying $500K more for a home here, and stretching themselves thin, living on the financial edge, just to afford Palo Alto schools?

And why do you assume that there couldl or would not be any coordinated efforts by our city to make overtures to mid-line professionals who otherwise can't afford to live here, or to seniors who would be able to recycle out of their homes, thus freeing up their larger units for new residential family units?




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Posted by Parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 11, 2007 at 9:35 am

Minnie

Not saying that there is a difference, except that I know of one family doing what I described and none that you describe.

Since the discussion was about Below Market Rate units, I felt that my point was relevant.

Yes, we do get families wanting to move here for the schools. Usually we think of them as willing to pay anything to get their kids into our schools and imagine that these are people who are wealthy. These families buy tiny homes and often turn them into the McMansions discussed on another thread. These families are often very wealthy but not always the case. If they can afford to buy a home in Palo Alto they can afford to buy a home in Palo Alto and do so.

However, there are families who want to get their kids into the schools here, not because they are so good, but because they want to get their kids out of the schools in EPA. They want their kids to mix with peers who are less likely to bring them into contact with gangs, etc. and with kids whose families promote learning. These families are not particularly interested with how many PAUSD students end up going to Stanford, but more intersted to have their kids mix with those who end up going to Stanford rather than those who end up going to jail.


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Posted by David Bubenik
a resident of University South
on Sep 11, 2007 at 10:01 am

"But can I query your numbers? From the City web site (much maligned, but it provided some use in this case), the 2000 number of housing units was 25,216. Assuming that is correct, it is about double the number you used, maybe because you took the owner-occupied number, excluding apartments, rentals, not sure what else? So the percent increase would be about half of what you hypothesized. - Terry"

First a clarification: I didn't hypothesize percents; the data and the arithmetic are real. And the total household count on the city website is correct per the US Census (www.Census.gov > American Community Survey > American Factfinder).

You correctly understand that I used the count of owner-occupied single-family homes. The intent was to illustrate one end of the range of the possible impacts, namely, what happens if we attempt the buildout in the style of our traditional suburban single-family neighborhoods. The other end was depicted using the condo project at 800 High Street which, being in my neighborhood and somewhat notorious, provides a handy illustration. The Hyatt Rickey's redevelopment could be used to equal effect.

The actual buildup would of course be somewhere between these bookends. There isn't nearly enough space in this forum to consider even a representative subset of the possibilities. It will be done, of course, and it will be a very interesting exercise. It will also be a controversial one since, if the options at both ends of the range are horrifying, the possibilities they bracket will be at least alarming.


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Posted by pat
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 11, 2007 at 10:41 am

Minnie writes: "And why do you assume that there couldl or would not be any coordinated efforts by our city to make overtures to mid-line professionals who otherwise can't afford to live here, or to seniors who would be able to recycle out of their homes, thus freeing up their larger units for new residential family units?"

Talk about social engineering! Let's just give the government carte-blanch to determine who lives where and who gives up their home for someone more deserving. Let's "recycle" those old fogy seniors to make way for young families.

Ken asked several times, "How many BMR units (already built) are being occupied by teachers/fire safety/police?" We're all still waiting for an answer.

Another question: How many BMR units are occupied by minorities? (And just what is a minority in this area these days? As has been pointed out, the Bay Area is a wonderfully diverse area.)

This isn't about race. This is about being forced to change the character of a city, which is now a very desirable place to live. It's about being forced to subsidize people who can't afford to live here, but could afford to live somewhere else.


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Posted by pat
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 11, 2007 at 10:47 am

If people are flocking here for our schools, the solution is to ensure the every kid in every city has a good school to go to.

Take a look at housing prices in East Palo Alto. You can bet that when the poor are forced out of East Palo Alto (as they were when Whiskey Gulch was razed), the schools will improve significantly.

Instead of pushing for BMR housing, push for quality schools across the state.


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Posted by Jeremy Loski
a resident of Ventura
on Sep 11, 2007 at 10:57 am

David Bubenik wants us to believe that Palo Alto is going to look like a a new-century housing strip in 1950's Moscow, with bland, monolithic housing units lined up, all in a row.

"Imagine", says David, " your neighborhood with 4 houses in place of every 3 on your block, and on the block across the street, your neighboring blocks, their adjacent blocks, and so forth. That's the future of our single-family neighborhoods under this directive.".

It's a ridiculous projection that will never happen.

David, what about that last 3500 people that came to town? They haven't made the sky fall yet, have they?

Ken, keeps looking for "proof" that certain sectors of our socioeconomic strata - mostly professionals paid well, but not well enough to live here (like teachers, police and fire safety personnel, etc) will live in BMR units.

Ken knows that we've never made a coordinated effort to include those occupational sectors in a housing trust program, which would be a win-win for those residents, and the city.

But Ken says this would never work, even though we've never tried. He calls that "proof"! [Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

Then there's Karen White, who's correctly supporting our infrastructure needs, but claiming that new residents will keep us from being able to pay for that infrastructure. I thought new residents paid property taxes, and made donations, and generated sales taxes, and contributed in other positive ways to community, because they're INVESTED.

Perhaps Ms. White needs to look at all the other citizens that live here, and project that new citizens might make equal or better contributions than those who already live here.

Now we have "I don't think so" , who says "Can someone explain why we should bring more poor people here when we can't support the moderate income people who are here?"

It's just flat out insulting to those who ARE moderate or poor in income to have someone say 'we can't support you', with the implication that those moderate and poor income individuals are somehow simply a line item to be endured - i.e. a burden.

[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

"We don't want more of "them" is what this is really all about. It doesn't matter that "them" are established professionals who make their living serving human populations; it doesn't matter that "them" might be those who teach our kids, or protect us from crime; it doesn't matter that "them" might be individuals who make positive comtributins to our community, even though they don't have enough money to live here.

What's lost [portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff] is the general sense of responsibility that a community owes to itself to create balance within its borders - and do so in a way that inspires its neighbors.

[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


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Posted by Minnie
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Sep 11, 2007 at 11:03 am

pat, Mr. Loski has made it abundantly clear that no concentrated effort has ever been made to retain public-employee, or other professionals with moderate incomes in BMR housing.

Ken's query is akin to proving zero. How can we know if we haven't tried?

This region is slowly losing its hegemony; those who want to "keep theirs" by forcing a continuance of "build out further" are contributing to the mess.




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Posted by Palo Alto Homeowner
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Sep 11, 2007 at 11:13 am

> Published infrastructure backlog as of today
> is: PAUSD $750M, CPA $140M. Call it $900M.

Actually, this number is not quite accurate. There are many infrastructure and city rehab projects on the table—some being actively pursued, some not. We also need to include all of the spending demands of the City and the PAUSD (called "true cost") in this thinking. The actually tax bill being faced by the Palo Alto and PAUSD property owners is closer to $1.6B. The funding mechanisms of these projects is not known at the moment, but if General Obligation Bonds were to be used then the cost to the tax payers would be closer to $3.6B.

> Let's assume households will pay 70%, so call
> it $630M we have to finance. You can think of that
> as a $21,750 per household lump sum, or you can think
> of it as a $50 to $70M bond payment depending on
> term and interest rate.

Using the higher number of $3.6B and a parcel count of about 19, 500—this comes to a per parcel tax of $189,282. Of course, these sorts of things are expensed over a 30-year time frame (typically) which brings the per parcel yearly cost at/about $6,300. If an "ad velorum" tax were to be utilized, then the per parcel tax would range from 600 to over $50,000 for some properties.

And keep in mind, that there is no evidence that these numbers by any means are comprehensive of all of the spending projects that have been floated around over the years and could come back at any time another special interest group gets the ear of a City Council member. Also remember that the City's Comprehensive Plan has never been "costed out". Hence, there is the possibility of hundreds of billions of dollars of additional spending hiding in the wings.


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Posted by Minnie
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Sep 11, 2007 at 11:14 am

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


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Posted by Ken
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Sep 11, 2007 at 11:25 am

"Ken knows that we've never made a coordinated effort to include those occupational sectors in a housing trust program"

Jeremy, BINGO! I can see that you do understand the facts. Yet you insist that we move ahead on an umproven plan. Here is the simple test: Require non-refundable down payments from the teachers/fire safety/police BEFORE any more BMRs get approved. This would make BMRs contingent on ACTUAL (not theoretical) demand.

BTW, Jeremy, why do yu suppose that no actual study of demand was ever done? Do ya think it just might be becuz those ideologues who are pushing the subsidzed housing movement are afraid of the answer?


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Posted by Albert Perato
a resident of South of Midtown
on Sep 11, 2007 at 11:28 am

Me and many of my friends are in construction/real estate related industries, our boom for the past 5-6 years had contributed significantly to our overall economy and job market, isn't it? To us, Palo Alto is way too important of a gold mine to give it up, do you think we're going to just walk away easily as you wish? No way Jose, we wil do whatever we can to continue lobby and befriend the city office until the bill pass to conform ABAG proposal, wait and see.


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Posted by Parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 11, 2007 at 11:32 am

Minnie

Not trying to be condescending and I made no mention of race. I know families, because I have spoken to them. Sure, they would like their kids to go to Stanford. Who wouldn't? But seriously, their motive for getting their kids into Palo Alto schools is preventative. They are more worried about what they see in EPA, particularly in their teen boys. They do not want this for their kids and they are doing what they can to get away from it. Maybe they could move further away, I don't know, I didn't ask. All they wanted was to move somewhere close to where they lived because of extended family and jobs. They just wanted out of EPA for the sake of their kids. BMRs would have been a solution for them.

I don't know the facts you ask me about. I just know from the experience of getting to know people, not data.


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Posted by Palo Alto Homeowner
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Sep 11, 2007 at 11:39 am

The average salary for teachers at the PAUSD was about $77,000 last year (the median salary and the average salary are very close in this case).

The average salary for police in Palo Alto is over $95,000 with entry salaries starting at/about $75,000. A goodly number of police and fire employees earn well over $100,000 year. (And let's not forget the extremely lucrative pensions which are available to public safety employees—90%).

Teachers also receive very lucrative pensions—which would allow them to use money that an ordinary person might need to save for retirement to be used to housing.

And then there is the fact that most families are two-earners and so it's not unlikely that public safety personnel have household incomes of over $175,000.

The property owners have no obligation to subsidize public "service" employees who are making more than they are.


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Posted by Mike
a resident of College Terrace
on Sep 11, 2007 at 11:40 am

Palo Alto Homeowner, The funding mechanisms that generated this city's tangible and intangible wealth were not know some years ago, either. So?

Should we not have embarked on capital and social infrastructure projects because of that?

Before you and those who continue to harp on "cost" as the final arbiter of what should happen in Palo Alto, you might read this, and get some idea about where real value lies in a society, or community.
Web Link

For some years now, evidence like this has been pouring out from sophisticated and well-researched economic and accounting theoreticians, but it's been mostly ignored because it's so much easier to look at a balance sheet and make "obvious" conclusions about what should be done.

Einstein showed that the obvious is so obvious after all. More than a few well-placed insiders ands pundits in Palo Alto might profit from a similar insight, especially as regard finding, housing, public safety, and educational expenditures - to name just a few.

Included in the above is a true sense of social diversity - not just racial and subcultural diversity, but socioeconomic as well.

There seems a "market rules" bias here among most, who forget that the markets that they participate in have largely been manipulated to create favor for themselves, in more ways than they can count.

Look at Prop 13 as one example.






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Posted by Aw, C'mon
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 11, 2007 at 11:46 am

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


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Posted by MInnie
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Sep 11, 2007 at 11:47 am

Palo Alto Homeowner tried again to make the same exaggerated argument that others are making - i.e. that because some public and other professional employees (like social workers, or retail managers) might make "x", why should we subsidize this whole group?

Tell me, homeowner, about your Prop 13 subsidy. Then, perhaps you might get into some of the neat tax deducations that upper-middle income families receive from certain kinds of investment. What's the opportunity cost of those dollars?

Are you implying that wealthy residents here - even those not so wealthy - make it entirely on their own, without help from special interests?

I would agree to listen to and consider slower growth arguments IF there was some concern shown for socioeconomic balance in this community, and IF there was some sense that "the market" has been stripping the essence of healthy community balance from us for some years now. It's not a good thing- economically, or socially.


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Posted by Aw, C'mon
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 11, 2007 at 11:50 am

Mike, c'mon..are you telling me that Prop 13 doesn't benefit those who buy in the future also, in the way that they, too, can better predict if they can afford the taxes on their homes in 20 years?

I thought Prop 13 had already beaten to death on many threads on this forum, but this was a different take on it, so I am responding.


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Posted by Mike
a resident of College Terrace
on Sep 11, 2007 at 11:54 am

[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

There IS a clear subtext in much of what I have been reading, above, from those who are, as Mr. Loski suggests, want to plant fear as a motivator to reduce housing builds here.

From Ms. White's warning about how housing will threaten infrastructure - a baseless assumption unless one forgets that Palo Alto has been growing for a long time, and seems to have managed well beforehand, and that the current infrastructure problems come mostly from policy makers in the past not reinforcing our infrastructure when they should have. So why blame that on new residents, or new housing?

There's no denying that new residents use resources, but there's also no denying that new residents make contributions to community that largely exceed the capital costs that they incur.

Why isn't that being considered here?


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Posted by Mike
a resident of College Terrace
on Sep 11, 2007 at 12:00 pm

Aw, C'mon, the point was made because many in this thread appear to be against subsidization to afford housing. Yet they oppose BMR housing. Kind of hypocritical, don't you think?

Sure, BMR builds are post-Prop 13, but I wonder what the anti-growthers onthis thread would say if today was pre-Prop 13, and those who were here and able to afford the onslaught of taxes that spurred the invention of Prop 13 were complaining that Prop 13 would enable people who can't afford to stay here, because more people would strain infrastructure.

It's the same argument I'm hearing now, only under a different guise.

So, now we have people who have profited from a subsidy that permits them to be Palo Altans, wanting to deny a subsidy (not even a sibsidy, really) to those who would profit our community by being here, assuming a concerted strategic effort to create BMR housing that was directed toward them.


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Posted by Jeremy Loski
a resident of Ventura
on Sep 11, 2007 at 12:04 pm

Ken, Your assumptions about why there has never been a hard effort to build BMR units for certain employment sectors is self-serving, and circular. They beg a larger question - that being "why hasn't this been done". Think about it.

You don't know, and I don't know. The only thing we know is that is HASN'T been done.

Do you think it would be better to have a larger stock of public safety professionals living in Palo Alto, or not.


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Posted by pat
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 11, 2007 at 12:05 pm

Palo Alto homeowner: Thanks for pointing out the salaries of teachers and police officers. I have a good friend who lives in a very nice apartment in Palo Alto – with no subsidies. She earns just about the median teacher salary, but with fewer benefits and without any pension plan or stock plan.


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Posted by realist
a resident of Downtown North
on Sep 11, 2007 at 12:11 pm

Actually, Mike, housing is the most expensive use of land for a city. And the denser the housing, the more expensive it is.

Sure, new homeowners pay property taxes, but those property taxes (thanks to Prop 13) don't rise very much. Meanwhile, the cost of providing services to those households and educating the kids continues to soar.

Simple city economics: you need to have enough income (from sales taxes, hotel taxes) to pay for the services you provide your residents. When you get out of balance, as is happening in many local communities, the infrastructure, service level, and quality of life begin to suffer.

It's not about denying people the opportunity to live here. It's about recognizing that the positive attributes and natural resources that have drawn people to this place are not infinitely expandable. The pie isn't growing; our pieces are just getting smaller, and soon, those who are left will be subsisting on crumbs.


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Posted by Aw C'mon
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 11, 2007 at 12:11 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


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Posted by home ownership is not a right
a resident of Barron Park
on Sep 11, 2007 at 12:21 pm

Jeremy, have you ever TALKED to public service professionals about your desire to move them into BMR housing in Palo Alto? I have, and I've yet to meet anyone who finds it particularly attractive. I know a number of teachers who have very long commutes but love their homes in Marin or Santa Cruz and have no desire to live elsewhere. Maybe you could entice some young, single people to move in, but that's about it, and no assurances they'd stick around.

I remember reading a study of primitive (hunter/gatherer) societies that indicated that even they tended to prefer to keep a distance between wherever they were living and wherever they happened to be working. About 30 minutes separation, as I recall.

The mandate to build enough housing to accommodate all workers within a city is little more than a transparent effort by the housing industry to push their own agenda. The few ideologues who have bought into the propaganda would benefit from taking a hard cold look at reality.


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Posted by Jeremy Loski
a resident of Ventura
on Sep 11, 2007 at 12:33 pm

Home ownership is not a right,

You're correct, it isn't. But what about legislation that has been created to help certain classes of owners gain admittance to home ownership - like mortgage tax breaks, Prop 13, certain rental dwelling incentives, and so on?

I see this argument mostly as a 'we've got ours; let them worry about getting theirs" argument.

Nobody is isuggesting that we house ALL of a certain sector of employees - where was that said. IN fact, I have spoken to MANY public employees here, as well as individuals from prefessional, but poorly paid positions (relative to our income mean) who would LOVE the opportunity to live and work here.

I have seen many good people leave Palo Alto because of cost - people who have contributed greatly to community.

Again, what started this was Karen White's GO about how new residents threaten infrastructure. This is NOT a proven assumtion. IN fact, it's rather nonsensical because all residents place a burden on infrastructure.

Just where the tipping point is of "too many residents" is a subjective assumption. I happen to disagree with Ms. White,

That said, when I see our infrastructure need couched in a way that is used to prevent diversity in our community, I have to call that couching what it is - disingenuous politicing to drive our upcoming election debate in a certain direction.

Ms. White's GO can impact our Stanford negotiations, and the quality of debate on issues that are more immediate to our future.

[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


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Posted by Mike
a resident of College Terrace
on Sep 11, 2007 at 12:41 pm

realist, I appreciate your coments, but I disagree with yuor assumption.

I don't think we've done bearly enough to innovate around our constraints, and have miserably failed to consider benefits as a part of the infrastructure and new housing package.

There will be no easy or simple solution to this. That said, I see nothing other than a "you're wrong - I'm right" approach to most of this, so far.

What I would LIKE to see is more elaboration of benefits as well as costs of all "assumed" constraints.

What I would liek to see is more "yes, if" approaches to debate on these issues - as in, "yes, I can support what you're saying, oif such-and-such can be made possible.

In other words, I would like to see more of "we can work this out", insteaqd of the hard positions that certain citizens have taken on things like housing and infrastructure, and education.

Last, I think it's wrong to assume that we can;t grow the pie here. the only thing that keeps that from happening is getting stuck in ossified assumptions and habits about what works - or used to work until we've been forced to confront constraints.

Palo Altans are not very good at the latter, but we'd better start getting a clue, before we oddifdy ourselves out of relevance, and become the sleepy little college town we're on the way to becoming, with our proximity to Stanford the one last savingn grace that we can brag about.


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Posted by PipeDream
a resident of Esther Clark Park
on Sep 11, 2007 at 12:47 pm

I would LOVE to live in Pacific Heights in a nice 10,000 sq. ft house with a view of the Golden Gate. Unfortunately, I have a poorly paid position (relative to the income mean of Pacific Heights residents). I know I could make a great contribution to the Pacific Heights community. And it's only cost that prevents me from living there.

I sure hope when Mr Loski has finished remaking the diversity of Palo Alto, that he'll turn his attention to Pacific Heights, and that he'll give me some consideration for a place where I can hear the ocean.

Thanks in advance!


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Posted by Jeremy Loski
a resident of Ventura
on Sep 11, 2007 at 12:57 pm

PipeDream,

You might consider that Pacific Heights is part of a larger city, San Francisco. As far as helping you to gain housing placement in that city, I would be happy to do so, for a fee.

While yuo're at it, you might look at somem of the forward-looking initiatives that San Francisco has instituted for mid-income populations - we might all profit from great city. emulating that great city.

Anything else I can help you with? A new pipe, perhaps?


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Posted by Palo Alto Homeowner
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Sep 11, 2007 at 1:05 pm

Palo Alto Homeowner wrote:
> Palo Alto Homeowner tried again to make the
> same exaggerated argument that others are making - i.e.
> that because some public and other professional
> employees (like social workers, or retail managers)
> might make "x", why should we subsidize this whole group?

A poster then states:
> Tell me, homeowner, about your Prop 13 subsidy.

Prop.13 does not provide cash payments to property owners—which your use of the word "subsidy" suggests. Otherwise, the details of Prop.13 are well documented.

This poster continues:
> Then,
> perhaps you might get into some of the neat tax deducations
> that upper-middle income families receive from certain kinds
> of investment.

What does this have to do with housing issues here in Palo Alto? [Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.] People who invest in companies/endeavors that produce employment for people who then work to better their lot in life certainly should be seen as heroes of our society, not villains.

> What's the opportunity cost of those dollars?

Presumably you have the answer to this question—why not provide it?

> The poster goes on:
> Are you implying that wealthy residents here - even those
> not so wealthy - make it entirely on their own, without help
> from special interests?

Special interests? What "special interests" are you suggesting that the Palo Alto "wealthy" have enjoyed that allowed them to "make it" here in Palo Alto? Please be specific in your answer.

[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

The poster concludes:
> I would agree to listen to and consider slower growth
> arguments IF there was some concern shown for
> socioeconomic balance in this community, and IF
> there was some sense that "the market" has been
> stripping the essence of healthy community balance
> from us for some years now. It's not a good
> thing- economically, or socially.

Not at all certain what "Socioeconomic balance" means outside the domain of ill-considered notions of social engineering. What metrics would you advance to determine the current "Socioeconomic balance" of Palo Alto? The US Census does provide a lot of this information, so perhaps the poster can post that data and then provide the numbers which would make Palo Alto "balanced" (from a socio-econometrics point of view, that is).

Certainly we would want to consider crime rates, SAT/ACT/API scores, college graduation rates, personal and household incomes and accrued assets in such a comparison.
--------


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Posted by Ken
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Sep 11, 2007 at 1:12 pm

Prop 13 is NOT a subsidy to property owners. It is PROTECTION agains ACCELERATING taxes. Never once, since Prop 13 passed have I paid lower taxes; I have always paid MORE taxes each year.

I am PRO-GROWTH! But I am anti-BMR. I don't want to pay for someone else's house. I have never made more than $100K (at my peak), and I don't want to subsidize those who whine about their circumstances. I could care less about the race of my neighbors, but I do care that they pay their own way, and keep the weeds down in their yard, and keep their kids under reasonable control, and don't play loud music, and don't allow their dogs off leash, etc. Under what possible circumstances should I help to pay for those who earn more than I do (or ever did?). I bought my house, which I still live in, in 1976 for $70k, when I made $700/month. I might be able to sell it, today, for about $1M (as a scrape job). Any couple that makes $120K/yr. could afford to buy my house, without any more sacrifice than I made back in the day. Of course, they would need to save for a downpayment, as I did, and avoid vacations for many years, as I did, and do a lot of their own fix-up stuff, and raise their own kids, as I did with my wife (we both worked, but made it work out by juggling our work schedules). In other words, all this whining about "I can't afford to live here" is nonsense.

Palo Alto will be much stronger, economically and socially, if we demand that only those who can afford to live here, actually live here. Black, white, yellow, brown, red (did I miss any?) doesn't really matter. BMRs are an open invitation to attrach those who choose not to make the effort to afford it.


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Posted by Tom
a resident of Professorville
on Sep 11, 2007 at 1:18 pm

Jeremy

Would you please repost your response to my message from yesterday? I'll try to read it real quick before the Weekly censors it again. Thanks in advance.


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Posted by Jeremy Loski
a resident of Ventura
on Sep 11, 2007 at 1:26 pm

Palo Alto Homeowner,

Class warrior? LOL! I'm very comfortable; more than most. I LOVE money, and wealth; probably more than most. I also love the idea of empowerment, and enablement, because those are the best kinds of investment we can make with our dollars.

What technologies tend to be the most profitable? They're the ones that enable communication, creativity, and control. Think about it.

Investment in individuals with a lot of intellectual capital, and/or a drive to better themselves is the best investment a community can make - including the infrastructure to make that happen. Deny that.

Prop 13 IS a subsidy. Voters chose not to permit themselves to be taxed, thereby putting a burden on other parts of state infrastructure. We are subsidizing ourselves at the cost of others. Sound familiar?

Incentives? I mentioned them. Income tax rebates for those who own homes; apartment-owner deductions; multiple dwelling deductions; work at home deductions - there are hundreds of tax-created "breaks for those that hold more wealth than the norm.

What's relevant about those incentives? IN your case? Could it be that some of those incentives enable YOU to remain here? Why should you enjoy those incentives, and not consider that new incentives appropriate to the time (like Prop 13 was) shouldn't at least be considered?

If anyone seems a class warrior here, it might be you.

I would also ask you to read this
Web Link

and include it in any argument you make about cost, from this point forward. Not to do so flies in the face of modern accounting methods.

Also, putting me in the place of deciding who will ro won't live here is not going to work; I can't do that - nobody can. That said, we can help individuals who profit community become more valuable to us if iwe help them to live with us, instead of somewhere else.

Please, tell me whether you would like to see more of Palo Alto's stock of safety professionals living here, or elsewhere.

That's a question that everyone has avoided. Why?


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Posted by Jeremy Loski
a resident of Ventura
on Sep 11, 2007 at 1:29 pm

Tom, here's the meat, with what the Weekly considers fluff, removed. Makes me wish I could edit a few of their articles. :)

Tom, I suggest you stop by any open house in Palo Alto this weekend, and ask the attending real estate agent to show you a manifest of homes that have sold in Palo Alto for the last 2-3 month (or further backm if you like).
Take a look at the *difference* between asking price and final sale price; you might be surprised to see that most homes are still bid up, and (from the manifests I've seen lately), very few, if any, take a cut from asking price.

[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

There are new variables driving residents to Palo Alto, but you forget about the "next big thing". This region has matured, and will have to struiggle to maintain relative position.

If you think we're going to do that by pushing residents out to satellite cities, while the primo work remains in high priced enclaves like PA, you're dreaming.

Local CEO's are VERY concerned about our housing prices, and seeming inability to do something to make this area more compelling in terms of startup costs.

We'd better start to heed that concern, or this place will lose much of its dynamism (the region, and our city). "Parochial"and "Sleepy" are words that comes to mind.


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Posted by Ken
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Sep 11, 2007 at 1:46 pm

"What I would liek to see is more "yes, if" approaches to debate on these issues - as in, "yes, I can support what you're saying, oif such-and-such can be made possible."

Mike, here is a proposition for you, one that could, IMO, radically improve the local economy: Education vouchers.

I am awaiting your "yes, if it can be made possible, if such-and-such..." argument. Let's have the discussion, Mike.


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Posted by Palo Alto Homeowner
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Sep 11, 2007 at 2:03 pm

A poster writes:

> Home ownership is not a right,

> You're correct, it isn't. But what about legislation
> that has been created to help certain classes of
> owners gain admittance to home ownership - like
> mortgage tax breaks, Prop 13, certain rental dwelling
> incentives, and so on?

The poster suggests that legislation has been created to help "certain classes of owners" gain admittance to home ownership. The poster has an obligation to provide the titles of such legislation and to further list the "classes" which this legislation identifies for the "privilege" of home ownership. It would be very surprise to actually find that Federal or State legislation which actually identified "classes" of people to be targeted by government for home ownership.

This poster seems to view "home ownership" in less than a positive note, one could glean from this post. Home ownership is probably the most important achievement of any family, which can expect to see most of their accrued assets invested in this one achievement alone. Certainly legislation that provides incentives for people to focus their family's energies on home ownership are in everyone's best interests. Suggesting (even if only indirectly) that government policies that encourage home ownership are somehow "bad" does not make much sense.

> I see this argument mostly as a 'we've got ours; let them
> worry about getting theirs" argument.

That's one point of view, but probably not one widely held my most people.

> Nobody is suggesting that we house ALL of a certain sector
> of employees - where was that said.

The people promoting the housing (through whatever means) have never stated that housing ALL of the group that they were lobbying for was NOT their goal.

> IN fact, I have spoken to MANY public employees here,
> as well as individuals from prefessional, but poorly paid
> positions (relative to our income mean) who would LOVE
> the opportunity to live and work here.

And I would love a subsidy to live in Aspen during the Winter and in the South of France during the summer. I wonder who would be willing to write me a check?

> I have seen many good people leave Palo Alto because
> of cost - people who have contributed greatly to community.

And your point is?

> Again, what started this was Karen White's GO about how
> new residents threaten infrastructure.
> This is NOT a proven assumtion.

Assumptions need no "proof".

What is true is that the City does not have a simulation in place which would provide a quick answer to the impact of new residents on the infrastructure. Sadly, this is another of the many examples by which one comes to see how poorly managed Palo Alto city government is.

> IN fact, it's rather nonsensical because all residents
> place a burden on infrastructure.

Yes, all residents place a burden on Infrastructure. Mrs. White was talking about the impact of new residents, not existing residents, on the city's infrastructure.

> Just where the tipping point is of "too many residents" is a subjective assumption.

A well managed city would have resorted to computer simulations by now to provide a good estimate of where these "tipping points" might be. Sadly, it has not under this City Manager.

> Housing is an important issue on Palo Alto, but I would llike
> to see more honest debate, instead of the one-sided manipulations
> presented in opinion pieces like Ms. White wrote.

Over the past ten years or so, the "affordable housing" people have found the City very responsive to their claims and demands. The discussions which existed up until this time have been very one-sided--meaning that the residents have not seen much support for their position by the City Government or the City Council. Ms. White's GO represents the thinking of many homeowners who feel that they have not been heard by their local or state government on this matter.

------


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Posted by Frank
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Sep 11, 2007 at 2:11 pm

If one starts with the proposition that everything the government does not confiscate, then I suppose that Proposition 13 is a subsidy. But then so are all income tax rates lower than 100%, and at the limit so is the very existence of private property.

They tried this in the Soviet Union for 70 or so years. Didn't work out too well.

I doubt if Loski-style social engineering would work out too well for Palo Alto either. What makes him think his notion of the proper balance of income diversity is "right" for Palo Alto? In his response to PipeDream, he notes that other neighborhoods than Pacific Heights in San Francisco have lower income people - presumably contributing to the diversity he craves for Palo Alto. While (witness the Opportunity Center) there are some in Palo ALto who would like to see it turn into a mini version of San Francisco, I doubt such a plan would get many votes in an open election.

The desirability of Palo Alto, as is confirmed by the real estate prices Loski cites, is largely attributable to the fact that people like what it is already. If people want to live in another kind of place, they have plenty of options in the Bay Area.

Loski is all over the map about why he wants BMR in Palo Alto. In some posts, it's that "social diversity" trope - which is purely subjective preference. We have a fair amount of this diversity in Palo Alto... and those who want more (or less) of it can easily find it in other cities. Why fix what ain't broke?

In other posts Loski laments the fact that our police and firefighters can't (or don't) live here. But he also (sort of) admits we can't force them to live here. But in any event, is it really necessary to build an extra 3500 housing units in the hope that a few local public safety people and others who "profit the community" might take up residence?

In still other posts, Loski makes the completely unsupported argument that if we don't put more BMR units in town, the economy will collapse into a sleepy backwater. The commercial real estate market's current vitality - which increases almost apace with the residential market - belies this fatuous economic nonsense. But even if what Loski says is so, if the residents of Palo Alto prefer a less frenetic, more bucolic college town atmosphere, then what's wrong with that? Is that any less a legitimate desire than Loski's socially re-engineered "diverse", "dynamic" community?


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Posted by Palo Alto Homeowner
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Sep 11, 2007 at 2:47 pm

A poster wrote:

> Class warrior? LOL!

If it sounds like a duck, and quacks like a duck ..

> What technologies tend to be the most profitable? T
> they're the ones that enable communication, creativity,
> and control. Think about it.

And this has to do with housing issues in Palo Alto in what way?

> Prop 13 IS a subsidy. Voters chose not to permit
> themselves to be taxed, thereby putting a burden
> on other parts of state infrastructure. We are subsidizing
> ourselves at the cost of others.

Prop.13 is a tax control mechanism--no more, no less. Many people have claimed that it has "ruined" the State's finances, but this is simply untrue. The State quickly replaced the Prop.13 revenue with other revenue streams. Certainly Prop.13 has put an end to run-away spending, which is was central theme of California government's actions prior to the passage of this measure. A better approach would have been to cap (a really hard cap) the expenditures of the State. Unfortunately, even when that was tried, government always found a way to endrun these limits.

One question these Prop.13 naysayers should be asked: "how much would my property tax be today if Prop.13 had not passed?" Don't be surprised if they won't answer such a question.

> Sound familiar?

This nonsensical response from "tax and spenders" sounds familiar.

> Incentives? I mentioned them. Income tax rebates for those
> who own homes; apartment-owner deductions; multiple dwelling
> deductions; work at home deductions - there are hundreds
> of tax-created "breaks for those that hold more wealth than
> the norm.

Underneath this question is another one that needs to be answered: How much of our income does the government have a right to take? If one adds up all of the current taxes for Local, County, State and Federal exactions, the percentage comes to about 65% of our income. No, few pay this, because the various governments have decided to engage in "social engineering" to advance various theories about the role of government in our lives. Home ownership is one of those goals which the government has chosen to believe as benefial to all of us--and allowed us to keep some of our money from their graspy mitts.

About some of the other incentives, one has to ask: what would the investors have done with their money if they hadn't built multiple-dwelling housing? Who benefits from such housing--the owner or the renter? Where will housing come from if not from the private sector, financed for the most part by private investors?

-------


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Posted by Jeremy Loski
a resident of Ventura
on Sep 11, 2007 at 2:48 pm

Frank,

We're all living with social engineering. NO way anyone can refute that. So why not engineer in scenarios that - for instance - let more public safety workers live where they work?

Would you like to see more PA police living here? If not, why not? How about teachers? Social workers? If not, why not?

there's no way to stop growth and development...

In 30 years, we're going to look back and wonder what all the fuss was about. By then, we'll have more than 80,000 people living here - almost half of them seniors.

How are we going to house them, Frank? Oh, I know, tell them so sell and get out, right? That isn't going to happen. Do you know why? Because those seniors LIVE here, and many won't want to move - AND THEY VOTE!

Next year is the first year for early Baby-Boomer retirement. Just wait and see.

btw, Frank, we're closer to San Francisco than you think, and share many of its social problems. San francisco is us, whether you like it or not.

That's why we need to lead in the fight for strong planning solutions that include things like infill housing near transport; strategically designed BMR - focused on specific groups - like municipal workers, teachers, retail personnel, etc. etc.

Just think about how we might be able to work with unions to shift the burden of retirement benefits to lower uppfront costs of subsidized housing? SOME public empoyees would probably like that. SOME social workers and teachers would liek that. Our city would profit. Why not?

If we could show a bottom line profit form something like that, why not look into it.

Instead, we get people discounting growth in a knee-jerk fashion. It's very un-Palo Altan, in my experience. Palo Alto has always been known for its kindly largesse; it's part of our DNA.

What's a measly 3500 additional residents?

This all reminds me of a few years back, when the city wanted to approve just six (6!) "in-law" structures of mo more than roughly 900 square feet per approved lot.

The anti-growth crowd came out in force, claiming that those six units per year would "change the character of Palo Alto". The City Council listened to them. It was a pathetic show of parochialism and NIMBYISM, at its most stingy levels.

That's going to happen less and less. We're gonna grow this town, one unit and development at a time. We're gonna grow it in a way that's sustainable, and that preserves neighborhood character. Just watch.

btw, I'vce enjoyed the shock coming from those who suddenly realize that they're getting subsidized inn their housing. Kind of surprises, doesn't it? It's a humbling experience to know that one is helped by the same thing that one is trying to prevent a neighbor from having. Certainly, that's not the high road that most Palo Altans want top hang their hat on.








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Posted by Jeremy Loski
a resident of Ventura
on Sep 11, 2007 at 2:55 pm

Palo Alto Homeowner,

The roads, and our telecommunications systems are socially engineered - designed to maximize profit, and political payback.

All the benefits you receive from government are engineered. Deny that.

It's always fun to argue against Libertarians, who mostly seem to want to keep everything to themselves, evenn as they share in the bounty created by an imperfect, but relatively successful (by world standards) government.


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Posted by dreamer
a resident of Crescent Park
on Sep 11, 2007 at 3:01 pm

Good points, Frank. Jeremy's comments about PA potentially becoming "sleepy and parochial" resonated with me more than anything else he's said.

I find it interesting that a lot of the supergrowth dogma is rooted in the ostensible desire for economic diversity. In terms of ethnic background and income, I'll bet Palo Alto is already one of the most diverse small cities in the country. Jeremy seems to want to move our public service workers into town (kicking and screaming, perhaps) but if we truly care about all kinds of diversity, why just give a boost to the public sector?

For example, Palo Alto could do a lot more to encourage the development and enjoyment of fine and performing arts in this community. I'm not suggesting that we become another Ashland, but Palo Alto feels very sterile compared to other communities that have musicians on street corners, painters on the overpasses, and actors presenting plays every summer night in public parks. Surely Palo Alto could allocate some public funds to cultivate that sector.

What do you think? More little boxes on the train tracks or an artist in every Starbucks? I know where I want my tax dollar to go.


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Posted by no on 13
a resident of Professorville
on Sep 11, 2007 at 3:08 pm

Guess what, Jeremy? I've been lobbying against Prop 13 for years, and I'm against this explosion in housing too. Prop 13 has created distortions in the housing market that your grand schemes may pretend to patch but will not fix.

Want to support a real, positive change for California? Spearhead a campaign to revamp Prop 13. You seem to have the time, and you say you've got plenty of money, so why not?


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Posted by Ken
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Sep 11, 2007 at 3:09 pm

"We're gonna grow this town, one unit and development at a time. We're gonna grow it in a way that's sustainable, and that preserves neighborhood character. Just watch."

Jeremy, I agree with you, as long as those units are fully paid for by the new citizens of PA. What should the price be? Hell if I know, except that supply and demand should deterime that price. I don't know of a more fair way. You claim to know...who (or what) gives you such knowledge?


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Posted by Jeremy Loski
a resident of Ventura
on Sep 11, 2007 at 3:19 pm

Ken,

Experience - and an uncanny ability to predict the future more accurately than most. Wish I could monetize that. Perhaps I should become a developer, working with Palo Alto policy-makers to create large-scale, focused BMR developments that the city can invest in and use as a profit-taking, roll over subsidy for certain classes of workers. Long-term, we c reate more socioeconomic diversity, AND we generate $$$ for the general fund, AND we get a more nurtering set of developers.

What do you think? Are you with me?


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Posted by Palo Alto Homeowner
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Sep 11, 2007 at 3:32 pm

A poster wrote:

> The roads, and our telecommunications systems are
> socially engineered - designed to maximize profit, and
> political payback.

And your point is?

Roads are devices to connect people and places, and as such, are high-cost investments. Of course politics are involved--as a lot of people are required to contribute to the cost of building/maintaining roads. As to profit--what's wrong with profit?

> All the benefits you receive from government are engineered.
> Deny that.

I was drafted once and had to spend more than two years in service to my country. What "engineered benefit" would you suppose I received during that period of my life?

If one looks at the schools in California, only about one-third actually are performing at/above the level of "proficient". Presumably education is a "benefit"--so is this categorical failure of the California schools to educate their charges at a proficient level "engineered"?

Certainly government's actions generally have desired goals which we generally consider as "beneficial". However, one can find many, many actions by government that were in response to special interests which have not proven to be beneficial at all. One example was the Urban Renewal projects of the '50s and '60s on the East Coast that resulted in areas that were torn down but never rebuilt in the time frames predicted at the time.

[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]
----


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Posted by Palo Alto Homeowner
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Sep 11, 2007 at 3:37 pm

A poster wrote:
> Prop 13 has created distortions in the housing market ..

This is not true. The housing market has nothing to do with the applicable tax rate.

However, Prop.13 has distorted the revenue generation for a city (in fact the whole state) because bi-modal distribution of tax rates has resulted. In Palo Alto, about 25% of the parcels seem to be assessed at levels that would imply that these properties are still in the hands of the original owners. These folks tend to pay about 10% of the property taxes that folks who have purchased propertly lately.


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Posted by Ken
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Sep 11, 2007 at 3:51 pm

Jeremy,

I agree that growth in PA is the future. We are not a bucolic farmland anymore. I just disagree with your approach.

I have plenty of experience, as you claim that you do. However, you claim that you have "an uncanny ability to predict the future". I am an arrogant SOB, but I think you might have me beat! If you can really predict the future, you could make Warren Buffett look like a rank amateur in the stock market. That would be direct test, and it would allow you to " monetize that".

Jeremy, you are an intersting cat, and you are thinking about the future. I admire that. I just disagree with your solutions. I think efficient mass transit, from outlying towns, makes much more sense, compared to subsidzed infill density. I want PA to be infilled with fully-paid stake-holders. We should not be weak-kneed and holding sweating palms. Palo Alto SHOULD be an elite town...we won't survive, economically, if we are not.


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Posted by Jeremy Loski
a resident of Ventura
on Sep 11, 2007 at 3:53 pm

Palo Alto homeowner,

You admit that some government engineering has profited you. Ipso facto, you cannot categorically deny that government engineering is bad.

In your last post, you have just pointed to a state subsidy that profits some, and not others. To that degree - using Ms. White's logic (somewhat to the extreme, to make a point), they are a burden on their neighbors, and should consider moving out of town, so that new owners moving into these old-timer's homes can pay their fair share of infrastructure.


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Posted by Palo Alto Homeowner
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Sep 11, 2007 at 4:18 pm

A poster wrote:
> In fact, we have had a whole "thing" about "security"
> here during the last mayor's term.

This was nothing more than a political charade to promote a huge bond measure.

> Why wasn't housing
> for selected fire and police personnel a part of that discussion?
> What are we going to do in a major catastrophic event if our
> public safety and fire personnel are trying to get in from
> Tracy and Manteca?

This thinking has been advanced time-and-again; sadly, the people pushing this never seem to understand how silly their question is.

Let's look at possible "catastrophes" (pre-1950s): city-wide fire, Magnitude 9+ earthquake, medical emergency--like an attack of "the plague". In the post-1950s world we also have to consider: regional nuclear attack (via ICBM @ 100+Mtons), a limited nuclear attack via a stolen tactical nuclear weapon (such as a W88), a dirty nuclear explosion (conventional explosives and stolen radioactive nuclear waste, such as medical iodine), a massive conventional explosion (such as several boxcars of C4 being exploded as a train passes through Palo Alto), an EMP attack (nuclear explosion in the atmosphere), and a Bio-weapons attack.

An ICBM attack will pretty much wipe out the Silicon Valley. It's difficult to believe that having all of Palo Alto's service personnel living in Palo Alto. Dispersal (as far away as Mantica) would probably insure that they were not killed in the initial attack. It's difficult to believe that this scenario has been considered, but certainly its clear that most service personnel would not be alive to perform their duties in this case. It doesn't take much to work through the other examples of these post-1950s catastrophes to see that there is no benefit to having service personnel at the center of the castrophe.

> Take BART?

No .. they will take their own personal transportation if the roads are open. If the catastrophe is bad enough, the US Military will take command. Given how awful some of the possibilities are, it would be difficult to guess what would happen in such circumstances.

One can only wonder if the City Manager has developed a Catastrophic Emergency plan?
----


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Posted by pat
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 11, 2007 at 5:32 pm

Ken, I wish you were running for city council!


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Posted by Palo Alto Homeowner
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Sep 11, 2007 at 5:50 pm

A poster wrote:
Palo Alto Homeowner:
> You admit that some government engineering has
> profited you. Ipso facto, you cannot categorically
> deny that government engineering is bad.

For someone who has lamented the lack of an "honest" discussion on housing issues, this poster has certainly shown little more than a juvenile approach to discussion. None of my postings have used the term "government engineering", other than in response to the term. My postings have used the term "social engineering" (which does imply action my government, though). One can only assume that "government engineering" includes the design and development of: roadways, bridges, the development of communications standards, the raising of a sufficient military to defend the country .. and so on. These legitimate activities of government can not be considered as "social engineering"; moreover, it is presumed that everyone benefits more-or-less equally and can be considered as "good".

Social engineering, on the other hand, generally involves heavy-handed government intrusions into people's lives--with, or without, any evidence that "good" will occur.

> In your last post, you have just pointed to a
> state subsidy that profits some, and not others.

No such thing was posted. The claim that Prop.13 is a subsidy demonstrates a failure of this poster to comprehend the fundamentals of the Proposition, ie--constrained (and predictable) tax rates.

> To that degree - using Ms. White's logic (somewhat
> to the extreme, to make a point), they are a burden on
> their neighbors, and should consider moving out of town,
> so that new owners moving into these
> old-timer's homes can pay their fair share of infrastructure

About 25% of Palo Alto's parcels are under initial Prop.13 assessment.
Over the next twenty years (or so), most of these homes will turn over--as the owners will pass on, or move on, and the properties are reassessed at market rates. At some point, there will be very few of these homes under initial assessment, meaning that almost homeowner will be assessed equally.

> pay their fair share of infrastructure

This opens a Pandora's box for "affordable housing". There are two sets of expenses to be considered here--General Fund and Capital Expenses (which is where "infrastructure" tends to be financed). Usually City governments tend to use general obligation bonds for such projects (but not always). These bonds can be paid off via the General Fund, or through taxpayer approved bonds. In the case of taxpayer approved bonds, renters (for instance) are not taxed at the same rate as single family homeowners. The US Census suggests that the number of renters in Palo Alto is about half the population. While these people pay property tax indirectly, their contributions to tax that pays for infrastructure is very low compared to single family homeowners. Moreover, the City has chosen to not charge "affordable housing" units impact fees--even though there has never been any evidence provided that people living in "affordable housing" have no impact on the costs of running the City, or the cost for infrastructure projects.

So, what should we consider the "fair share" of people living in "affordable housing" for funding "infrastructure" (not to mention the General Fund)?


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Posted by Jeremy Loski
a resident of Ventura
on Sep 11, 2007 at 5:56 pm

pat,

It's reassuring to hear you say that we have nothing to worry about in a drastic municipal emergency.

It's also reassuring to see you write - on the one hand - that the public safety initiative was "....nothing more than a political charade to promote a huge bond measure" on the one hand, and then write on the other hand that you "...wonder if the City Manager has developed a Catastrophic Emergency plan?"

Isn't that a flip-flop, pat?

Too funny....:)




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Posted by Jeremy Loski
a resident of Ventura
on Sep 11, 2007 at 6:10 pm

Palo Alto homeowner,

Granting federally approved housing loans at specific interest rates to a certain class - (high or low income) of residents, in any specific region, is social engineering.

Free and/or subsidized college education for WWII veterans was social engineering.

Prop 13 is citizen-initiated social engineering.

and so on...

" what should we consider the "fair share" of people living in "affordable housing" for funding "infrastructure" (not to mention the General Fund)?'

First, you have to do an analysis that computes the benefits that those residents bring to community. My best is, that on average, benefits will outweigh costs.

Also, I'd like to know how you compute "fair share".

This is really all quite moot, because those BMR homes/units are going to be built. There's a parcel on El Camino, next to Wells Fargo, that Stanford is going to develep for BMR - it should really pretty up the area.


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Posted by Palo Alto Homeowner
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Sep 11, 2007 at 6:10 pm

A poster wrote:
> It's also reassuring to see you write - on the one hand –
> that the public safety initiative was "....nothing more
> than a political charade to promote a huge bond measure"
> on the one hand, and then write on the other hand that you "...
> wonder if the City Manager has developed a
> Catastrophic Emergency plan?"

Actually, the City does have an Emergency Plan that deals with emergencies like creek overbanking, localized flooding and other minor emergencies. I should have written: "an Emergency Plan that involves attacks involving Weapons of Mass Destruction". While the details of such a plan might be considered as "Confidential" to "Secret" by City Officials, none-the-less the overview of how the City would respond to a nuclear attack in general should be made known to the general populace. Certainly the details of when the City would appeal to the County or State or Feds for help should be known. As to a big, new, police station—not clear that it would withstand a 100Mton explosion.

> Funny ..

Maybe to you .. sad to me ..


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Posted by home owner
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 11, 2007 at 6:22 pm

Watch out for the developer's propaganda in dealing with ABAG matters and their infiltration into our city office, they would use every bit of false justification there is to cannibalize our last bit of green land we still wish to preserve. Would they could care less for the rapidly deteriorating environmental conditions such as pollution, noise, overcrowded schools...etc. from the proposed massvie build-up.

We need to keep our eyse wide open to such builder-friendly scamism campaign and movements.


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Posted by Jeremy Loski
a resident of Ventura
on Sep 11, 2007 at 6:22 pm

Ken, About the future, even Warren Buffet can't predict the financial future; also, there are different kinds of "futures" - social futures and trends being one of them. That's where I tend to shine.

btw, there's nothing egotistical about noting a gift that one appears to have been born to. Why, there are all kinds of people on this thread - including the writer of the GO that started it, that claim to have a keen eye for what will happen, "if".

btw, what's so non-elite about subsidizing public safety officials in local housing? What's weak-kneed about enabling valuable community members to live here. That takes COURAGE, my friend.

We disagree, plainly. The "market" is NEVER neutral, or untainted. Either we build BMR housing, or we don't. Either way, there has been a policy intervention in the market. Think about that.

What's so elite about passing up an opportunity to MAKE MONEY for our city by creating rollover real estate trusts that can be tarfeted to certain occupations. Win-win-win.

San Francisco is an elite city, and so is New York. Palo Alto isn't there yet, as most of it's elitism comes by geographic association with Stanford.

And, like I said above - those units will be built - all of them, and more. It may take a while, but it will happen.

That said, it will take many other cities doing the same thing to change commuter and other dastardly habits around here that harm our environment, and thus, ourselves.


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Posted by Minnie
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Sep 11, 2007 at 6:27 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


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Posted by Palo Alto Homeowner
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Sep 11, 2007 at 7:01 pm

A poster wrote:
> Palo Alto homeowner,
> Granting federally approved housing loans at specific interest rates
> to a certain class - (high or low income) of residents, in any
> specific region, is social engineering.

We should remember that the Federal Government became a guarantor of such loans. Perhaps the Federal Government did provide some dollars for such loans directly; for the most part, however, the dollars for these loans came from the private sector.

There is no denying that this sort of program is "social engineering". However, it's not clear that if the taxation rate were lower that these sorts of programs might not be needed.

For most people, home ownership is a good thing. This poster's words suggest that he does not subscribe to this thinking.

> Free and/or subsidized college education for WWII
> veterans was social engineering.

This is outrageous! Over 16,000,000 men and women were inducted during WWII. These brave souls worked for 5-10 cents on the dollar compared to those who were not inducted. 400,000 men/women were killed on active duty and about 1M suffered injuries of one form or another. These men and women put their lives on the line to save civilization. There is no doubt that without American military involvement that the Germans and Japanese would have conquered Europe and China.

These man/women emerged from WWII with little monetary compensation for their efforts. Most of these men were barely high school grads (only about 11% of the WWII inductees were college grads). (Let's also not forget that most of these men went into the Military after living through up to ten years of The Great Depression so their families were not well off either.) These men/women were owed every penny of "payback" (housing, educational and service-related health care) they received by a very grateful nation. The fact that this poster has claimed that their post-war benefits were a "subsidy" clearly demonstrates a mind that has no concept of the details (and history) behind the words he slings up on the nearest wall—hoping that something will stick!

My own father spent five years in a Military Hospital during/after WWII. I suppose this poster would claim that this is another example of a "subsidy"? Dad was so badly injured that he could not walk correctly for the rest of his life, although after fifteen years after the accident he was more or less stable and not in need of frequent access to Military health care. For you to suggest (even indirectly) that servicemen like my like Dad were "subsidized" by these post-WWII "benefits" is beyond insulting!

> Prop 13 is citizen-initiated social engineering.

Nonsense. It was a citizen revolt to out-of-control tax-and-spend politicians.

> " what should we consider the "fair share" of people living
> in "affordable housing" for funding "infrastructure"
> (not to mention the General Fund)?'

> First, you have to do an analysis that computes the
> benefits that those residents bring to community. My best is,
> that on average, benefits will outweigh costs.
> Also, I'd like to know how you compute "fair share".

Well .. let's take the simple approach—every one is taxed equally. So, for a town like Palo Alto, everyone owes 1/60,000 of the costs of whatever is being considered.


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Posted by Ken
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Sep 11, 2007 at 7:16 pm

"The "market" is NEVER neutral, or untainted"

Jeremy, the free market is ALWAYS neutral. It is composed of supply and demand, and nothing else. If you are saying that supply can be diminshed, via government restriction, I completely agree with you. Likewise, demand can be distorted by government restrictions. But you are describing a market that has been diminished by human personality. Command economies, like you want, produce command decisions. They are rarely efficient. Worse, they can eventually lead to a commander that commits mass murder. It is a very slippery slope.

Both San Franciso and New York, which you like a lot, are models that I AGREE with and you DISAGREE with. They are both served by commuters from outlying towns and cities, via relatively efficient mass transit and highways. Cut off the trains and highways, and those cities dry up and die. Palo Alto should (in fact, is and will continue to)be serviced by workers who commute to town. However, PA should be very careful not to fall into the welfare trap like SF and NY. We need to be able to stand on our own selfish desires. If we cannot do this, we will be overtaken by others' selfish desires.

I sure hope we are not taken hostage by your egalitarian designs. It would be bad for Palo Alto and bad for humanity in general. O think we need to focus on effifient transit systems.

Jeremy, despite your self-reported inherent abilities to see the social future, let me suggest that Stalin and Hitler and Pol Pot and Ho Chi Minh and Saddam... also saw the same thing.


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Posted by Jeremy Loski
a resident of Ventura
on Sep 11, 2007 at 8:53 pm

Home Owner,

WWII were deserved by the veterans, but they were social engineering, nevertheless. There was a specific plan in place to create a stalwart, world-leading economy aftrer WWII, because we held all the cards. An educated managerial class was necessary for that. It's in the history books.

Ken,

There's no need to exaggerate, as so many have in this thread, about the moderate effects of social engineering. To suggest that municipalities that engage BMR housing builds are administrated by those who resonate with the likes of Pol Pot, is, to, well,,,shall we say...stretch your credibility. But we all know you really don't mean what you said, right?

If you did mean it, I won't tell, but do keep it a secret. People might start to talk.

I would like to be convinced that markets are always neutral; they're clearly not. It's circular to say that markets are always neutral, on the one hand, and then say that they can be enhanced or diminished, on the other. There is no such thing as a perfectly free, neutral market, in most cases - and especially in the huosing markets.

Going back to Don Weden, and his Winds of Change talk a few years ago - it's abundantly clear that housing patterns, distributed in the way they have been for decades, are THE cause of most of our pollution, communter, and housing shortage problems.

Massive inefficiencies have been brought about by building out.

The housing markets are far from neutral, effected always by zoning and materials supply restrictions. Demand and supply are MANIPULATED, thus rendering the housing markets far from neutral.

Econ 101 - there is a difference between the tensions of demand and supply, and the interbening actions that impact same - this rendering markets not free. In a perfect housing market, we would not even have municipal zoning. Think about it.

Back to ABAG.

Palo Alto has a chance to lead this valley forward. Hopefully, we'll elect leadership that does just that. We need far better regional cooperation on infull development, and at the same time need to be demanding and coordinating much better mass transit to feed that housing.

With infill, BMR will take care of itself, because we'll see lots of design and materials construction innovation, along with municipal policy innovation that incentivizes specific income or employment sectors in ways that enables home buyers, and leads to long-term housing investment profits for municipalities.

Everyone can win in this scenario, and it won't be easy to make happen, but it will eventually come about.

Communications technology, and the cost of fossil fuels has started the ball rolling. It's terribly inefficient to be generating longer and longer commutes. It's hard on the environement; hard on the commuters, and very, very costly for employers.

Right now, we're beginning to see domestic employers chasing low wage American workers (a coming trend that will delay infill in many out of the way places). That trend is going to be one more motivator toward infill and affordable housing in large cities.

This is a young region, and we're going to grow, because COMMERCIAL interests drive this Valley. I know that's not PC to say - especially here, but it's true. Thankfully, commercial entitues are becomong more environmentally responsible (but, they still bear monitoring).


We do have a habit re: distributed housing that will take some time to break, but things will change.

This will all take time, but it's going to happen. Growth in not necessarily a bad thing, if it's engineered appropriately.

Make all the Mao jokes you want, you still pay the tolls, and pay your taxes, and watch as the world moves forward. We're all cogs in the wheel.


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Posted by Jeremy Loski
a resident of Ventura
on Sep 11, 2007 at 9:16 pm

syntax correction: Home Owner,

WWII education benefits were deserved by the veterans, but they were socially engineered, nevertheless. There was a specific plan in place to create a stalwart, world-leading economy aftrer WWII, because we held all the cards. An educated managerial class was necessary for that. It's in the history books.


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Posted by Ken
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Sep 11, 2007 at 9:23 pm

"There is no such thing as a perfectly free, neutral market, in most cases - and especially in the huosing markets."

Jeremy are you saying that eBay is not a free market? If I put my home up on the open market, trying to get as much as I possibly can, and then my price gets overridden by even higher bids, is not that a free market? Conversely, if demand is low, I will need to lower my price...still a free market.

Your notion is that if I have 10 homes for sale in PA that I must charge a higher price for nine of those homes in order to charge less for one of those homes. Why? Because YOU think that is fair and just. If I refuse, you sue me or arrest me. Mao is not a stretch, Jeremy. It is just a matter of degree, not principle.


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Posted by Libertarian Mom
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 11, 2007 at 10:01 pm

I don't believe that any city should be building subsidized BMR units. I find it laughable when people talk about the need for low income housing in Atherton, Hillsborough, or Palo Alto for that matter. When I used to make $45K/year I had no problem paying rent in Palo Alto...I got a roommate and lived in a small townhome. No hand-outs needed. You either pool your resources, you move to a smaller place, or you move to a lower rent district.

But Jeremy does make one correct point. Prop. 13 is a "subsidy"... folks may not like this term but when you live in equivalent properties and your neighbor pays 15X what you pay...one person is subsidizing the other. Ken, just because your taxes go up 2%/yr does not mean you're paying your fair share. Believe me I don't believe in tax and spend...but I do believe in more equitable distribution of the tax burden. And Palo Alto Homeowner doesn't have it quite right either... it's not just the pre-1978 homeowners who are benefiting from Prop. 13...but anyone who has seen their property value skyrocket. My neighbor bought 12 years ago and pays 1/3 what I do. And don't say I should be happy 30 years from now...that I should be happy shifting the burden to the next generation like social security does. That is not fair. Furthermore, I doubt we'll see the same real estate appreciation in the next 30 years like we saw in the last 30 years either. I'd like to see lower tax rates applied against more realistic assessed values for everyone...and I'd phase it in slowly...let rates go up 3-5% per year for example for properties that are at 1/10th of their real assessed value but perhaps let rates only go up 1% for properties that are 90%+ of assesed value...and even allow for means testing so no widows end up on the street. (Of course I don't know if the widow who lived in the house I bought really needed to be subsidized so she could keep living by herself in her 5 bedroom house).

Of course the even more egregious aspects of Prop. 13 are that folks can bequeath their homes to their child or grandchild who keeps that same property tax basis for another 40+ years and that commercial properties which change hands very infrequently and which are often owned by corporations that never die...are getting the biggest subsidy in that many (or even most) properties are paying against less than 1/10th of the assessed value.


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Posted by Libertarian Mom
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 11, 2007 at 10:04 pm

Palo Alto Homeowner,

Why do you think it's fair that one neighbor should pay 15x what his neighbor pays for property tax...but then advocate equal assessments across all property owners for infrastructure assessments...not very consistent...


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Posted by Jeremy Loski
a resident of Ventura
on Sep 12, 2007 at 8:28 am

Ken,

You keep assuming that you can be arrested for not doing what someone else suggests with your home; this is America. You're stretching, just to win a debate that you lost a long time ago, when Jeremy Bentham started writing about economics. Please read up on markets on an open society - and the manipulations thereof, and then get back to us.


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Posted by Ken
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Sep 12, 2007 at 8:46 am

Jeremy,

How interesting that you use Bentham, a collectivist, to bolster your argument.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Jeremy Loski
a resident of Ventura
on Sep 12, 2007 at 11:12 am

Really?

"It is vain to talk of the interest of the community, without understanding what is the interest of the individual."

-Jeremy Bentham


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Posted by Ken
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Sep 12, 2007 at 1:39 pm

Really.

"Bentham's ideas were severely criticised by, among others, free market economist Murray Rothbard in his essay, Jeremy Bentham: The Utilitarian as Big Brother published in his work, Classical Economics. The Canadian author Brebner wrote in 1948 that "British laissez faire was a political and economic myth...Jeremy Bentham and John Stuart Mill, who have been commonly represented as typical, almost fundamental, formulators of laissez faire, were in fact the opposite, that is, the formulator of state intervention for collectivist ends and his devout apostle."[13] The liberal economist and philosopher Friedrich Hayek claimed that Bentham's utilitarianism was superficially individualist but led to collectivism:"

(This above is a quick snippet from Wikipedia).


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Posted by Jeremy Loski
a resident of Ventura
on Sep 12, 2007 at 2:14 pm

Ken,

[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]
Hayek was a classical libertarian, spelled with a capital "L"; Brebner was writing on Hayek's coattails during a time when there was a reaction in the UK against Soviet-style socialism,, and Hayek was a big name.

If Hayek was in charge of Palo Alto government, we would have little more than general rules to function by. One has to wonder, goven his writings, if Hayek would have been in favor of things like development credits, and zoning.

He was, no doubt, a brilliant guy. I've read a lot of his stuff.

Let's put it another way. If Palo Altans had to choose between Hayek and Bentham in a City Council election, Bentham would win, hands down.

Back to the point about ABAG, and housing markets.

You said that housing exists in a perfect supply and demand market. Prop 13 - as the most obvious case - shows that isn't true. Interest rate manipulations by the Fed are another example.

[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

Get used to Palo Alto growing, one sustainable development at a time.


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Posted by Ken
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Sep 12, 2007 at 2:46 pm

"You said that housing exists in a perfect supply and demand market. Prop 13 - as the most obvious case - shows that isn't true. Interest rate manipulations by the Fed are another example."

No, Jeremy, I did not say "perfect", I said "free market". If I describe a stunningly beautiful woman as "stunningly beautiful", and you say, "but she has a freckle on her left cheek", I will still say that she is stunningly beautiful. Allowing perfection to enter an argument is dangerous.

I want a practical, and realistic answer to growth in PA. I think efficient mass transit, from outlying areas, is that practical answer. It will take time, but extending BART is a good first step. BMR infill is not the answer, because it does not solve strategic needs - it more of an environmentalist dream.


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Posted by Jeremy Loski
a resident of Ventura
on Sep 12, 2007 at 3:22 pm

Web Link

Don Wden's notes to his Winds of Change talk

You might profit from reading these, or speaking with Mr. Weden


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Posted by Tom
a resident of Professorville
on Sep 12, 2007 at 3:38 pm

home owner has a good point: "Watch out for the developer's propaganda in dealing with ABAG matters and their infiltration into our city office, they would use every bit of false justification there is to cannibalize our last bit of green land we still wish to preserve. Would they could care less for the rapidly deteriorating environmental conditions such as pollution, noise, overcrowded schools...etc. from the proposed massvie build-up."

Palo Alto's major developers do seem to prefer to live in Portola Valley and Woodside, safely away from their handiwork.


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Posted by Ken
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Sep 12, 2007 at 3:51 pm

Jeremy,

I read Weden's "Winds of Change" notes when you first provided the link. He provided them to TALC (Transportationa and Land Use Coaltion). Here are the stated goals of TALC (from its website):

"The Members and Affiliates of the Transportation and Land Use Coalition believe that current development patterns and projections for the future do not have to be our destiny. The Bay Area can preserve our environment and quality of life and ensure that all residents have access to economic opportunities by:

refocusing public investment to serve and revitalize existing developed areas;

designing livable communities with housing near jobs, recreation, transit and services;

providing real transportation choices;

reforming pricing incentives which promote unsustainable development; and

addressing important equity concerns."

The only argument I can get behind is:

"providing real transportation choices".

The rest of them are utopian and constrictive of my individual rights in a free market. I am especially concerned about "equity" issues. Whose equity?

Bottom line: Palo Alto should reject TALC's prescription for change. It is not a strategic answer for PA. Palo Alto needs to promote a 'high brain power' and selfish life style model for the future. It is called elitism. We should celebrate our elitist past and our elitist future. Another word for it is: Freedom.


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Posted by Carly
a resident of Palo Alto Hills
on Sep 12, 2007 at 4:47 pm

The TALC is a prototypical left wing activist group. That doesn't mean its recommendations should be rejected out of hand. But it does give a good indication of where TALC (and Jeremy Loski) are coming from.

Utopian is not a bad descriptive for most of their ideas.


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Posted by Jeremy Loski
a resident of Ventura
on Sep 12, 2007 at 5:11 pm

Pot, meet kettle.

"Elitism" smacks more than a little of pure Utopianism. You know, Hitler's "Master Race; Plato's "Philosopher Kings"; Franicis Bacon's "Solomon's House", and all that?

Hadn't seen TALC, but it looks pretty good to me, while the pusuit of Ken's and Carly's "elite" utopia - pursued as a stated goal - looks a little scary.




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Posted by Minnie
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Sep 12, 2007 at 5:14 pm

"Freedom", just used as a word, to motivate. Sounds like Dubya...


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Posted by NOWhining
a resident of another community
on Sep 12, 2007 at 6:49 pm

pipe dream. please don't be silly. Much of the housing for sale in pacific heights is cheaper than Palo alto housing stock. as a matter of fact my husband and I were just thinking of moving there (we are not retired) and just commuting. San francisco is not a big city (it is a city though, not a suburb with an attitude, and so you find a polymorphic population development, a vibrant cultural life and great housing. I would still be protected by proposition 13, a big tax break when I sell my house (250k/person owner), and a whoping interest tax deduction (for up to1million dollars) among other social engineered goodies (yam!). of course if I rent such protections are not available. Which leaves me to wonder- Why Palo Alto or any other of these suburbs? Why don't this BMR/future residents go to San francisco? Because if they work in Palo Alto this is the city where they belong in all respects but one- they can't aford to live in PA ( i must say I can ), but they spend a lot of their money in it and you are not paying them enough . Who wants to belong to a club that doesn't want them? Well there are many reasons-one is too break a very unwelcoming mentality that has developed in the last 15/20 years: PLease NIMBYs, I still remember when your houses were parks and people were not so mean. Despite your efforts people will not be commuting to Nevada every day- they will find a place any place around here because that where they work and should be respected instead of being thought of as invaders. As for Pacific height dreams if that's all people want they lack wisdom. It is much better to possess what would be a lower middle class house anywhere but here and when next earthquake strikes pass your little cup around wanting yet more government handouts. And if you don't like palo alto after the BMR units arrive, well MOVE. As some of you say there is no God given right to live in palo alto.


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Posted by Ken
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Sep 12, 2007 at 8:38 pm

""Elitism" smacks more than a little of pure Utopianism"

No, Jeremy, it just means that people of means make free choices to flock together. It is definietly NOT Uptopian, because there is coercion about it. In fact, there is no design to it (woops, didn't mean to be redundant). The free market allows choices to be made, according to the means to achieve them. PA has been an elite town from the beginning - that's what makes it Palo Alto, and explains why the schools are top end, and the home prices are high. In fact, PA is a derivative of Stanford, which, by its very nature, is elite. We should be celebrating that fact.


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Posted by NoWhining
a resident of another community
on Sep 12, 2007 at 9:07 pm

ken, What a self congratulatory note! the schools are top end? Aren't there many palo altans complaining about overcrowding? Are course choices not limited? Is there a transportation service for the schools? I could go on and on. What's the comparison? Arlington, Va, Lower merion, PA, Bloomfiled Hills MI, Boston Latin, Bedford Stuyvesan, NY, Laboratory Schools ILL, Central high and masterman Philadelphia? Great schools have high achieving rates for all its students. Palo Alto doesn't. It's certainly a very good school district but great? That's not what the usual rankings say. Parochialism does wonders for upmanship!


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Posted by Ken
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Sep 12, 2007 at 9:33 pm

NoWhining,

PAUSD in not perfect, and I would never say that it was. However, it is in the top end, in terms of a regional ranking. I think its teachers are very good, across the board. If a kid wants to study hard, he/she can do quite well in PAUSD.

Yes, PAUSD has , recently, become overcrowded. A good portion of this is self-induced (Tinsley VTP and 20 students per classroom limits, lack of boundry enforcemnt, as well as the sale of old school sites), but BMRs also add to the problem. However the overall excellence of PA schools, still, is due to the demographic of highly intelligent professionals who live in PA, and who decide to send their kids to public schools. If these elites decide to pull their kids out of PA public schools, in favor of private schools, PAUSD will collapse. All the more reason to maintain an elite satus in Palo Alto.


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Posted by pat
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 13, 2007 at 12:21 am

Web Link

Overhaul due for lower-cost housing program


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Posted by NoWhining
a resident of another community
on Sep 13, 2007 at 4:32 am

As the mother in law of a very successful african-american professional, graduate of a top ivy league school and an equally top graduate school I naturally do not partake of your low opinion of the intelligence of the VTP students. Having had children in PA schools I also cannnot agree with your assessment of the of high intelligence of many palo altans (incidently, directed skills in any area do not qualify as intelligence in other areas). PA is not at all different than other cities with a high concentrations of academics and industry. I can however attest that the teachers in PA are good. And I can also tell you my husband would qualify as I one of the top highly paid professional and a top academic and he doesn't object living in close proximity of people like you (I gather you are neither a top paid professional or a top academic). As they say were I come from " arrogance and holy water anyone takes as much as they want" , and surely the unique superb residents of PA absorbing from the air the wiffs of greatness from the highly paid professionals are shocked that their supremacy maybe threatened by people who can't afford to live in PA at the moment.

I would be all for discussing the effects of sudden population migration into PA which I think will certainly will change PA, but unhappily this discussion is cloacked in racist displays. It would be good if just for one you hold your sentiments and react in a rational manner, by discussing the numbers and the research and leave your feelings (which you are entitled too) at the doorstep of this forum. That's what highly paid professionals do.
Please make sure you plea for PA to be declared a gated community: it's the one way you can prevent "undesirables" from moving in. Your comments are exactly the reason why I NOW approve of BRM's. Let them come! If it worked during the Ellis Island heyday will work in PA.




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Posted by Ken
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Sep 13, 2007 at 8:26 am

NoWhining,

You are the one hung up on race. If your highly successful black son-in-law can afford to live in PA, I fully welcome him. I also welcome all the successful Asian professionals. In fact, I welcome everyone who can afford to live in PA, without subsidies. If a person can study hard, work hard then translate that effort into a good income, I welcome them. If they cannot or will not do this, then I don't. I don't think PA should become another Ellis Island.

For all you who think BMRs are just peachy, why not insist that it go a vote?


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Posted by Nowhining
a resident of another community
on Sep 13, 2007 at 9:43 am

Ken,
(incidently it is daughter in law, please make an effort to read properly)

Because I am not hang up on race I ended up with a widly sucessful interesting family.
We do not see the physician who earns less because he works for a while in the Bronx as not sucessful. My good friend, an irish harvard educated anesthetist from San Jose was never able to buy in PA. Our family also doesn't see a police officer (J. McNamara when he was just a cop?) as not deserving or a teacher as less successful (Frank Mccourt for example, when he was just a teacher )
Prejudices are not all about race-the conviction that if you are so smart money is by the truckload or else you are not smart , that a your neighborhood makes you what you are, that others are not as good as you bespeaks of foolishness and arrogance. Foolishness and arrogance are what prejudice is about.


I don't know that you would be sucessfull enough to be able to buy in PA now, but unless you are a Native American you came through some version of immigration. Does it seem to you that your (poor) ancestors when thay came into the US could have bought into some version of PA? Would that have been a loss?
How foolish it is not to see the potential of many children who will come through the BRM's among them maybe some that will be big part of you and your childrens' future.

YOU have subsidies (mortgage deduction, big tax break, prop 13). Does it look as if you are "more" deserving than for example an FBI officer on a reasonable salary, but one not palatial enough for PA? Many of us Americans subsidize you, some because they are more successful than you and pay more taxes (that's probably my case) services.etc, some because they have less than you and YOUR tax breaks come from their "unsubsidized" lifes.

You seem to be afraid that people like me (who took her children out of PAUSD and into independent schools, and therefore GLADLY subsidized others' children ) will take their children out of PAUSD leaving yours in a less competitive environment. The logical conclusion of your reasoning (YOUR reasoning not mine) is that if the fire is too hot ( your income is not enough) jump out of the frying pan, that is do not live in PA.
So, If your children can't compete go to a "lesser" school district and do not attend PAUSD schools, right?

I have news for you though: PA IS an Ellis island - more than 20% of its inhabitants were educated abroad and done better than you (statistically and in specific cases).

BMR's are neither peachy nor unpeachy. They should be discussed without the help of irrationality, prejudice, lack of critical thinking and knowledge. Results of votes only work well in gated communities- this is a public town and fortunately the considerations of public interest are to be decided by public policy, not what people PA residents"want" which maybe too selfish for the good of all.

if there are no BRM's it would be all right with me too but some people's motivations for denying BRM's are less than ethical and intelectually honest.


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Posted by Carly
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 13, 2007 at 10:10 am

"...[F]ortunately the considerations of public interest are to be decided by public policy, not what people PA residents"want" which maybe too selfish for the good of all."

Gee...and all the time, I thought we lived under a system (even in Palo Alto), where residents and voters had a say in what goes on. That's why I spend a lot of time on these forums - to inform myself of the issues and sometimes, contribute to the discussion.

What a relief to know that "public policy" decides these issues, not pesky voters and nosy residents. [Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


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Posted by Dave
a resident of Professorville
on Sep 13, 2007 at 10:18 am

Carly is right. The notion that what residents want may be too selfish for the good of all seems to come right out some 60's Marxist navel gazing. I've been pretty critical of the City Council, but I never considered them a neo Dictatorship of the Proletariat.


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Posted by Ken
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Sep 13, 2007 at 11:05 am

NoWhining,

Aside from your dictatorial distrust of the will of PA citizens, you make the same assumptions as some others have about BMRs. The main flaw in your logic is that FBI agents and doctors and educators will CHOOSE to live in BMRs. Even Jeremy admits that he has no evidence for this assertion.

If I could not afford to buy into Palo Alto, I would not be whining about it. I would buy into a town that I could afford to live in. I absolutely would not demand that others subsidize me.

I say put it up to a vote.


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Posted by NoWhining
a resident of another community
on Sep 13, 2007 at 11:59 am

[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

Public policy , that is the legislative power is decided by those elected after public input (that's why we have elections and sunshine laws) . The executive makes sure those resolutions are carried out. Maybe this is difficult to grasp.
Input doesn't dictate public policy when it is shortsighted ( it will encompass only narrow interests), against larger interest ( for example the state's interest) or when it is a violation of the Constitution/s to name a few. If you like a system in which every resident of every little part (pa is a little part) have the right to dictate policy that affects all then you like anarchy and a "castle" on every lawn. Your right of course. The reason why the forefathers forsaw your arguments and instituted a system of checks and balances is because they knew ( they were smarter than most who came after them ) that government is not perfect neither are the people but TOGETHER they can come up with something reasonable. Just the people, without a system of government wouldn't do or the other way around.
You can influence ( and you should ) public policy, it is very healthy. [Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

The subject is "ABAG vs. Palo Alto's "infrastructure-housing imbalance".
Palo Alto doesn't live in a vacuum. It is a part of the Bay area, more specifically of Silicon Valley. All the associated blessings of industry and academics come into play: the needs of employees and employers , the need for infrastructure, for good schools , for open space. Vibrant economy and industry require housing and good schools . BRM's are neither evil or good. They are just necessary whether you want them or not. Growth requires afordable housing ( which would be luxury housing in the great majority of other places). Nobody can commute from Mono lake or live in a houseboat underneath Dumbarton bridge. Given the choice they will go somewhere else-that's why parts of the financial industry moved from expensive NYC to less expensive parts of New Jersey.

There is nothing sacred or exceptional about the Bay area region nice as it is- so are oregon, seattle, princeton, nj or Fairfax county VA.
I think that the way PA goes about BRMs will probably be more important than trying to stop BRMs altogether. If PA wants to kill the goose that lays golden eggs go ahead- kill BRM's.


Let us hope that palo altans are wise instead of being just NYMBYs, that their input is measured instead of "trandrumized" and that they are not foolish enough to provide by their own behaviour and arguments amunition to BRM's proponents.
If you do, don't complain... You probably wouldn't. You can always go to Los altos Hills, Portola valley, Hillsborough Woodside or other such paradise. Nobody forces you to live where you don't like it....


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Posted by NoWhining
a resident of another community
on Sep 13, 2007 at 12:02 pm

ken,

care to answer this?

" YOU have subsidies (mortgage deduction, big tax break, prop 13). Does it look as if you are "more" deserving than for example an FBI officer on a reasonable salary, but one not palatial enough for PA? Many of us Americans subsidize you, some because they are more successful than you and pay more taxes (that's probably my case) services.etc, some because they have less than you and YOUR tax breaks come from their "unsubsidized" lifes.

You seem to be afraid that people like me (who took her children out of PAUSD and into independent schools, and therefore GLADLY subsidized others' children ) will take their children out of PAUSD leaving yours in a less competitive environment. The logical conclusion of your reasoning (YOUR reasoning not mine) is that if the fire is too hot ( your income is not enough) jump out of the frying pan, that is do not live in PA.

So, If your children can't compete go to a "lesser" school district and do not attend PAUSD schools, right?"

or you can't?


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Posted by Ken
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Sep 13, 2007 at 12:12 pm

NoWhining,

From your handle, you would appear to live in another community. Since it is not Palo Alto, care to tell us what comminity that is?

If I can assume that you do not live here, in other words, that you are honest, what gives you the right to dictate to Palo Alto?

Going to a vote on major issues is nothing new in PA. For instance, 800 High St. went to a vote. I think BMRs are a major issue. That issue should go to a vote. What are you afraid of?


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Posted by Ken
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Sep 13, 2007 at 12:31 pm

NoWhing,

While I do not feel compelled to answer trivial questions, I will amuse you with some quick answers to your ho-hum questions:

The FBI agent get the same tax benefits that I do. If he can afford to in PA, then he should. If not, then he should where he can affor to live.

If enough people like you take their kids out of PA schools, a tipping point will be reached, and PAUSD will slide down hill. San Francisco is a good example.

If kids cannot compete in PAUSD, they should get and "F" in their class. Nobody owes them a free ride. My kids got "As" and "Bs_", but there were not superstars, just solid. They are doing OK in life, but they cannot afford to live in PA (at this point). So what? They can make their lives where they can afford to make it.

NoWhining, isn't your real issue that there are winners and losers, and you just can't stand that notion? In other words, the great promise of socialsim didn't materialize, and you are whining about it.


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Posted by Milty
a resident of Professorville
on Sep 13, 2007 at 12:43 pm

I think the "Marxist" description of some of the ideas put forward by NoWhining is pretty accurate.

The notion that tax collections of less than 100% constitute a "subsidy" seems to be based on the collectivist idea that the government owns everything except what it beneficently permits its subjects to keep. It's hard to come up with another rationalization for NoWhining's whine that people who earn more than I do, and so pay more taxes, are "subsidizing" me, while I am subsidizing those who pay less than I.

Even more incoherent is the idea that "big tax breaks" (whatever they are) and proposition 13 are "subsidies". There's a lot wrong with the tax system, and its burden often is unfair. Unless one accepts the proposition that all income (and i suppose property too) belongs to the government, cutting taxes isn't a subsidy to the government, or to taxpayers whose taxes aren't cut, and tax hikes don't constitute subsidies to those paying lower taxes.

NW also apparently thinks she's capable of determining who's more "deserving" better than the distribution determined by the free market. This may be true in some philosophical sense. But it's also the basis for all totalitarian systems, which is why countries with free economies tend to have more free political systems.


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Posted by NoWhining
a resident of another community
on Sep 13, 2007 at 1:02 pm

Ken,

I made no secret of the fact that I don't live in Palo alto (anymore). What gives me the right to discuss matters that are PA/Bay area matters is :

a) this fora are not closed to "outsiders"
b) i am not "dictating" anything, just commenting
c) I have a direct interest in all matters related to academics and industry in PA , because of work
d) neighboring concerns
e) I am at this moment and for the next 3 months deciding were to live in the Bay area . Last child departed for an ivy league school only 2 weeks ago so this writer and husband want to see if they like a smaller space (probably). Palo Alto and San Francisco are considerations, big lawn lost its attraction.
f) PA has some zoning powers over Stanford
Participating in this fora is a good way to get to know the present issues. If I am a PA resident by the time these issues come up to a vote i will vote.


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Posted by Ken
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Sep 13, 2007 at 1:24 pm

"If I am a PA resident by the time these issues come up to a vote i will vote. "

NoWhiner, Great! Your vote will probably cancel mine, but at least there will be a fair forum on such major issues. Fair enough?


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Posted by NoWhining
a resident of another community
on Sep 13, 2007 at 1:44 pm

Two last comments:
[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

Let us go to the substance of the issue:

You receive money in the form of subsidies, whatever you call it-other people would like them too. In order to make a point it is not necessary to denigrate people (those who would be living in the BRMs).

I am sorry that I am not explaining well for you that it is precisely because I think that government should not be in the business of subsidizing ANYBODY that I think that Prop 13, tax breaks for mortgages and all the "accoutrements" of social engineering should not exist but you obviously do. The idea of others sharing them doesn't send me into a spin.
Many people on this forum wouldn't have done so well if it wasn't for the"government " money breaks" they get.
If the market should determine the direction of housing (not ABAG) then let the market do it.
Do not on one hand say " let the market" and on the other blame the developers. Don't you see there is a contradiction? If market can pull it off that's fine with me. ( i probably would guess that a no on the ABAG "resolution" would win). I am for a free market, not one that's "free" just when it's in my interests, a habit of honesty that my late parents inscribed in my system of ethics .My guess is that your interests are middle class otherwise you wouldn't be so incensed about the issue. Mind you the signers of the Constitution also forsaw these arguments ( great people don't you think?) and had great insights.


Ken,

there are in fact winners and loosers all the time. That is why I believe that market forces should determine who wins and who looses . You are not playing a fair game, that is you want to be protected from market forces by the PA government. I do not like the social engineering, I do not like your entitlements or mine. Please don't deny they exist.


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Posted by NoWhining
a resident of another community
on Sep 13, 2007 at 1:55 pm

The very last comment;
ken,

Don't be so sure our votes would cancel each other. After all we hav'nt talked about the issue.

This is how I read it:

A number of BRMs has been proposed designed to incense palo altans so that when a proposal come for input the project will be slashed by 40% people will be so relieved that it's not that big they will feel victorious and allow it (it could have been SO bad they will say).

Meanwhile the developers' intentions had been the 60% all along.

There will be a clash of interests and a cluster of interests too and eventually some project will be built in some form.


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Posted by Ken
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Sep 13, 2007 at 1:59 pm

"there are in fact winners and loosers all the time. That is why I believe that market forces should determine who wins and who looses . You are not playing a fair game, that is you want to be protected from market forces by the PA government. I do not like the social engineering, I do not like your entitlements or mine. Please don't deny they exist. "

Huh?





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Posted by Milty
a resident of Professorville
on Sep 13, 2007 at 2:10 pm

[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

The fact that you characterize yourself as fiscally conservative and socially liberal doesn't do anything to dilute your 60's style Marxist rhetoric and vocabulary.

Most of the people who are arguing with you on this forum don't think that they're doing well because the government lets them keep some of their money. They also probably don't agree with you that some of the money the government allows them to keep is a subsidy to those in lower tax brackets. (FYI, the latest figures show that the top 1% of income earners pay almost 40% of taxes, and the top 5% pay over half of taxes. And you say they're being subsidized?!) That doesnt mean they don't agree with you that the government engages in all sorts of social engineering attempts through the tax code.

Finally, if you are indeed in favor of a tax policy that doesn't try to re engineer society - say, a flat tax with no deductions, then why don't you say so rather than engaging in lengthy defenses of BMR-type social engineering to counteract the social engineering that goes on through the tax code. You might find you have allies rather than opponents on this thread.


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Posted by NoWhining
a resident of another community
on Sep 13, 2007 at 3:34 pm

[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.] I learned, as many of us did the language of entitlement well after the 60's and from the good folks who are now enjoying their entitlement. Are you one of them? Am we paying our share for your Medicare plan, are the children of PA being denied better schools because of your share of Prop 13 outcomes?


"(FYI, the latest figures show that the top 1% of income earners pay almost 40% of taxes, and the top 5% pay over half of taxes. And you say they're being subsidized?!"

I am in fact being subsidized. I get a big break on my house sale profit, on my investmnet profits etc . So are you.

You misread me- I am so sorry not being as clever as you (and far less theoretical):
I have never defended BMR-type social engineering. I am a realist and I know that it is not possible for the Bay area to continue prospering if both housing and good schools are not available. I am not advocating anything: I am just acting as the messenger that brings the bad news.

"You might find you have allies rather than opponents on this thread"
I don't need any allies- I am advocating no particular solution (though if there wasn't some fixation on "them" and "us" I could let you know that I also lived through a similar process in another community -I moved a lot- and how a good outcome was obtained with more all less wins all around).
And I really don't need to live in PA. I can live anywhere in the Bay Area. So, I have no bone to contend with.


Again you misread me (intentionally?) : elitism is a form of racism for me- after all exclusion is in the end all about "different". This has nothing to do with agreeing or disagreeing with somebody. In fact my problem with this forum is that goes all over the place instead of focusing on the subject. Then people start answering one another, cross their answers and confusion ensues. Nothing is ever achieved by mixing up issues.

The subject is" ABAG vs. Palo Alto's "infrastructure-housing imbalance"

this is my assessment :
A number of BRMs has been proposed designed to incense palo altans so that when a proposal come for input the project will be slashed by 40% people will be so relieved that it's not that big they will feel victorious and allow it (it could have been SO bad they will say).

Meanwhile the developers' intentions had been the 60% all along.

There will be a clash of interests and a cluster of interests too and eventually some project will be built in some form. But more housing units will be coming to a neighborhood near you.


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Posted by Minnie
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Sep 13, 2007 at 4:01 pm

[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

Try looking into the FACT that you receive subsidies of all kinds - and so does Ken.

Then admit to that truth, and let others look to occasionally get some help with their lives as well.


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Posted by Ken
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Sep 13, 2007 at 4:13 pm

"Try looking into the FACT that you receive subsidies of all kinds - and so does Ken."

No, Minnie, I do not accept your assertion that I receive any more "subsidies" than anyone else. Renters, for instance, get a benefit from Prop 13, because their landlords' property taxes are controlled...otherwise they would pay higher rents. New buyers have predictability about future taxes, as I did when Prop 13 first passed.

Actually, Minnie, I could care less about your abstract definitions of government "subsidies". I just want every new home buyer in PA to pay market rates. They will then receive whatever government "subsidies" the rest of us receive (however you want to define them).

Put BMRs to a vote in Palo Alto.


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Posted by Nathan
a resident of Crescent Park
on Sep 13, 2007 at 5:08 pm

Ken, recent residents are subsidizing your city services with higher property tax payments - get real!


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Posted by Ken
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Sep 13, 2007 at 5:26 pm

"Ken, recent residents are subsidizing your city services with higher property tax payments - get real!"

Nathan, that's one way of looking at it. The other way is that I would be paying enormously inflated taxes, based on what I paid for my home, if Prop 13 had not saved me. How long have you owned your home, Nathan? If the market drives up the value of your home next year, will you be comfortable with doubling your property taxes?

However you want to cut it, Nathan, people who buy into PA should make their own choice, at the point of purchase, and accept the lay of the land...and be assured that their property taxes will not soar out of sight.

BMRs are a flat out giveaway. They do NOT house police/fire/teachers, etc., as the proponents promise. Their owners cannot even afford to keep them up.


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Posted by bikes2work
a resident of Santa Rita (Los Altos)
on Sep 13, 2007 at 9:57 pm

Ken,

If you are so concerned about the people who occupy BMRs, why don't you request the waiting list. It may be a public record, and it currently has 500 families on it. I recently spoke to a City Park Ranger who lives in a BMR unit. I'm sure there are many in BMR's that perform other important jobs around here. I was on the waiting list for a while. If my spouse or I lost one of our jobs we could still qualify. I'm a registered professional engineer and my spouse is a Ph.D.

Pat posted a really great link above Web Link The BMR program sounds like it does need some improvement. It is still an important program to keep alive. Hearing about the low appreciation makes me glad I never got to the top of the waiting list. I remember being invited to look at a nice single-family house on Wisteria Lane for ~$250,000 in about 6 or 7 years ago. The other market rate units where going for around $900,000 at the time.




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Posted by Ken
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Sep 14, 2007 at 8:16 am

bike2work,

"If approved, BMR units or contributions would be required for all development projects that involve three or more units, down from the current limit of five units.

Recommendations also include developing additional smaller units, using the BMR program to encourage dense developments and promoting donations of land."

This is taken from the website you mentioned.

The city is intensifying a program that already has lots of problems. It is also shaking down property owners for "donations".

I know several people who live in BMRs, and they are either not working or doing part-time work, or they work in other cities. They just want to live here on the cheap. I'm still waiting to hear about all those police/fire safety/teacher families that are living in them. The waiting list doesn't mean much, because people get on the list as a fallback position.


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Posted by Against mansionization
a resident of Meadow Park
on Sep 14, 2007 at 8:22 am

Big Houses Are Not Green: America's McMansion Problem
By Stan Cox, AlterNet. Posted September 8, 2007.

Web Link

"Clearly, the issue of mansionization will have to be yanked out of the tangle of other housing issues and dealt with as a serious problem in its own right. The individual question, "How much house can I afford?" will have to give way to the public policy question, 'How much house can we afford?'"


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Posted by small is beautiful
a resident of College Terrace
on Sep 14, 2007 at 1:59 pm

Against, good point. I have to laaugh when I see Doric colums built on these urban lots.

It suggests that the owners have real inferiority complexes, or that the general rule about neoveau riche being rather crude i their tastes is more true than not


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Posted by Terry
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 14, 2007 at 2:17 pm

Of course, Small, while you are laughing at those Doric-columned noveau neighbors, they are probably snickering at your noblesse oblige old-timer shack. Maybe your looking down on other people's (bigger?) houses suggests some complexes on your part??

They may be crude, but on the other hand, you're a snob - I think I like them a little better.


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Posted by small is beautiful
a resident of College Terrace
on Sep 14, 2007 at 5:08 pm

What color are the columns on your house? Are they nice and white, like the ones that hold up the roof of mediterranean homes 10 times the size of what we see in Palo Alto?

Man,, every time I walk by one of those things i wonder what the owner was thinking. They are so, well, gouche. It's as if someone put a 1' diameter wooden dowel in an little pieve of shrimp on an hors d'ouevere platter... wouldn't that make you wonder what the chef was thginking?

Hey, just like someone once said. I know what good art is; it's right over there, see?

"We have differences but we're not made different. If you don't agree with me, you're wrong."
-Clement Greenberg


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