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Builder gets a legal boost against city's affordable-housing law

Original post made on Nov 25, 2013

Seven years after Sterling Park received the city's blessing to construct a condominium complex on West Bayshore Road, the project remains in legal limbo, with the developer and the city clashing over affordable housing.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Monday, November 25, 2013, 4:58 PM

Comments (14)

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Posted by Tomas
a resident of Midtown
on Nov 25, 2013 at 5:10 pm

Good ruling. Enough BMR housing here in P.A. Also, I never voted on the City paying so much$$$ into providing low cost housing. How about lowering utility taxes, property taxes, other city taxes so we(the supposed middle class) can still hold onto our houses and live here.


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Posted by enniac
a resident of Green Acres
on Nov 25, 2013 at 6:16 pm

@Tomas,
The case was waged based on the how the BMR units are regarded under the law, not the law providing for BMR set asides.

Something is not right here, though. The article says it's a 96-unit condo complex and only 10 units are BMR. The BMR set aside is 15-20%, or 14-19 BMR units, not 10.

Is the builder taking advantage of bonus density laws that allow builders to exceed zoning if they include an affordable component? If so, the City should dispute the number of units because the builder clearly does not feel it needs to provide these units. The City can later exact the in lieu fee for those units. Oh, wait, the City never met an overdevelopment it didn't want to roll over for. So it will probably let the builder get away with the densification anyway, even though he may never provide the BMR units.

A year ago, I would have disagreed with you, but after witnessing the arbitrary and expensive way affordable housing is developed here (to assuage some rich people's white guilt rather than to best provide for the neediest among us), I am more inclined to see things your way.

Unfortunately, your vote doesn't seem to count much, and our City is using regional rules (where they do have some discretion) to claim they have no choice.


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Posted by Wondering?
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 25, 2013 at 6:32 pm

> and our City is using regional rules

Wondering what regional rules you might be talking about?


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Posted by enniac
a resident of Green Acres
on Nov 25, 2013 at 11:14 pm

State density bonus laws provide discretion when there are safety issues, etc., they do not automatically have to be granted. The City tends to all apply the bonus to a number that is higher than what the general plan would actually call for, i.e., they always apply the highest in a range even if not appropriate. Also, the City tends to blame ABAG and Plan Bay Area housing allotments even to excuse wiping away existing affordable housing to get new market-rate units (with a few affordable housing units) to meet that allotment.


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Posted by Ugliest Building
a resident of Downtown North
on Nov 26, 2013 at 8:17 am

@enniac The developer paid some in-lieu fees to reduce the number of actual units required. Then City Manager Frank Bennest was building his war chest to buy the property at Ole's on Alma so the City could build the ugliest building in Palo Alto.

The costs to taxpayers for the few affordable units are extraordinarily high!


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Posted by Raymond
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Nov 26, 2013 at 11:08 am

[Post removed.]


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Posted by j99
a resident of Barron Park
on Nov 26, 2013 at 12:03 pm

[Post removed.]


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Posted by resident
a resident of College Terrace
on Nov 26, 2013 at 12:40 pm

[Post removed.]


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Posted by Robert
a resident of another community
on Nov 26, 2013 at 12:50 pm

And another slew of self righteous comments from Palo Altans who I'm SURE are themselves paying property taxes on the full values of their homes, in no way being subsidized by someone else.


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Posted by Wondering?
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 26, 2013 at 1:22 pm

> And another slew of self righteous comments from Palo Altans who
> I'm SURE are themselves paying property taxes on the full values
> of their homes, in no way being subsidized by someone else.

People who have lived in Palo Alto for more than twenty-five years are doubtless paying about 8-10 times less than those who have moved into town within the past ten years, or so. So--Prop.13 does create a property tax differential that might be construed as a subsidy, by some.

Mortgage payment deductions on income taxes also represent help to property owners--in terms of lower income taxes. Perhaps this can be considered as a subsidy--or maybe an incentive to purchase a home.

Before we can really begin to talk about subsidies, it might pay for those who are angered by Palo Altans views to at least provide us some insight into how much of the GDP he/she thinks government has a right to take from those who are actually working. Right now, when all taxes are considered, the total statutory taxes for working, property-owning, people is about 65% of their income. Is that enough, or too little?

There really is only so much wealth to redistribute. Once the government has taken what you've earned--then it's gone. All gone!


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Posted by Robert
a resident of another community
on Nov 26, 2013 at 1:33 pm

@Wondering, that is an interesting rhetorical question, though personally whatever the rate is, I feel it should be the same for everyone. I am bothered that as a working, property-owning person I am paying more in property taxes than many homeowners who have home values 10x my own, while receiving the same level of city services as them; most people would view this as a subsidy. For myself, and other people in my generation, we did not have the option to purchase a home in the 60's and 70's, when housing prices were more in line with incomes.


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Posted by Wondering?
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 26, 2013 at 2:02 pm

> whatever the rate is, I feel it should be the same for everyone

The property tax rates in California are the same for everyone. The assessments are not. Since the actual tax is a combination of the rate and the assessment--there are staggering differences between property taxes paid between properties.

And keep in mind that people who don't own property are not contributing the same percentage of their incomes as those who do own properties--while obtaining, more-or-less, the same services.

And these days--about 50% of the peope in the country are no longer paying income taxes. When one takes a long, hard, look at who's paying the bills these days--it's difficult to wax enthusiatically about more publicly-subsidized housing.


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Posted by Robert
a resident of another community
on Nov 26, 2013 at 2:09 pm

I stand corrected, I feel it should be the same rate, and on the same assessed value across the board. Renters would still be contributing to the system as the landlords wouldn't be exempt from property taxes. That being said, I'm quite against any kind of subsidized housing, as well as other interferences with the housing market. Unaffordable housing especially in this area, is due to a severe lack of supply caused by such interferences.


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Posted by enniac
a resident of Green Acres
on Nov 26, 2013 at 5:24 pm

As someone who commuted from cheaper parts of the Bay Area for decades before moving here, and who, after paying mortgage (which was for a long time a usurous interest only), taxes (that are about 20 times my next door neighbors'), insurance, and other home expenses, lives on less discretionary income than families who qualify for even low-income units in Palo Alto, and has no money for luxuries like smart phones and smart phone service, cable TV, car payments, and travel to see family, I am really troubled by the heavy-handed guilt-inducing tactics of those who push "affordable housing" in this area.

I want to see us provide it, I am just tired of being treated like some kind of overprivileged piggybank just because I live here, and I want to be able to ensure affordable housing is done well without being beaten with the NIMBY stick when it isn't.

I am very concerned about the implications of this lawsuit, because it's bad enough that the City uses a little bit of affordable housing to justify ignoring the comprehensive plan, quality of life, safety, congestion, pollution, destroying open space, etc, but it brings up the spectre of developers getting away with all of the negatives and being able to weasel out of paying the mitigations (such as they are) later.


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