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Guest opinion: Why Planned Community zoning makes so much trouble

Original post made on Dec 8, 2012

Nothing brings out Palo Alto citizens with the pitchforks as fast as a Planned Community application. Everybody has a different view of how, or if, a development project provides those notorious public benefits. The reason lies in the ordinance itself. Here are the relevant sections of the municipal code (emphasis added):

This story contains 74 words.

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Comments (4)

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Posted by Wondering
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 8, 2012 at 10:26 pm

Mrs. Wasserman,

"Now we get to the hard parts: how to decide if a project is inherently beneficial to the public. That is particularly difficult because the public has conflicting needs. Somebody says we need more housing, especially low-cost housing. The next guy says that's the last thing we need because it puts a burden on city services. So the interpretation varies from council to council (and sometimes from day to day)."

This gives council too much power.

And there is not mention of NET benefits, taking into account the costs a development can impose on the city.

Is there a general plan for how many to take on, or as part of a general plan for what the City needs?

And wouldn't the city have a general idea of what is beneficial to the CIty now and in the relative future, such as livability issues, so you could put these projects through a more disciplined and rigorous process?

Like this comment
Posted by Fix the ARB
a resident of Crescent Park
on Dec 9, 2012 at 9:42 am

Referring to people who object to the developer giveaways as "citizens with the pitchforks" says a lot about the writer and her usual stance in favor of big developers.
The ARB is usually biased toward those who employ them, developers. That would be one change that would help, no local architects on the ARB.

Like this comment
Posted by Wondering
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 9, 2012 at 12:50 pm

Fix the ARB,

"Referring to people who object to the developer giveaways as "citizens with the pitchforks" says a lot about the writer and her usual stance in favor of big developers."

Pitchforks are actually overdue, given the insane projects the ARB seals ad approves for City Council to get away with. There is near incompetence in evaluating these projects from an economic value perspective, or any perspective, and while that may not be the ARB's job, they find other ways to architect developer deals.

For example, a current member of the ARB (non-local architect), also currently works for the Arrillaga project.

So it really doesn't matter where the architect is from. More difficult to enforce is their relationship with developers working in Palo Alto, in their past or their future personal or professional life. There must be other ways to reform the ARB. Together with the ridiculously loose PC process, no wonder we end up with one ugly project after another.

The ARB needs supervision. Lots of inexpensive ways to do that.

Like this comment
Posted by Gianetta
a resident of Barron Park
on Dec 9, 2012 at 1:19 pm

Amend that to ADULT supervision!

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