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Growth debate tests city's height limits

Original post made on Jul 10, 2014

With development anxieties running high in Palo Alto, the city's planning commissioners on Wednesday pondered three different visions for long-term growth that carried one common theme: preservation of residential neighborhoods.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Thursday, July 10, 2014, 12:19 AM

Comments (47)

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Posted by Citizen
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 10, 2014 at 2:59 am

"He said he likes to remind them that growth is coming"

Actually, only death and taxes are inevitable. Growth is not, just as the resources like water necessary to sustain that growth is not.


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Posted by Citizen
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 10, 2014 at 3:05 am

Icarus tests City's height limits.

Planning Commission envision Palo Alto's event horizon.


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Posted by Wondering?
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 10, 2014 at 8:46 am

> Shani Kleinhaus, an environmental advocate with the
> Santa Clara Valley Audubon Society

Got to wonder just how much weight we Palo Altans should be assigning to the input of people who don't live here, don't work here, but are hoping to shape Palo Alto public policy to match their own personal politics?


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Posted by resident 1
a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Jul 10, 2014 at 8:55 am

East Meadow Circle and El Camino already have new condo developments.
West Bayshore has new condo developments. The city is saturated with new developments built under the current height limits. You are not going to tear down those new developments. This is not an open-ended situation with blank pages in it. The number of locations that currently do not have new developments is limited. That is also referring to new homes that are being built to replace existing homes. People are being paid to think "out-of-the-box" but there is no definition on what the box is. The box is about 26 square miles of land that is completely built out to the borders.


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Posted by Zia
a resident of Green Acres
on Jul 10, 2014 at 10:57 am

Stop it already. Enough is enough. No more growth. No more water. Where does city council think the extra water will be coming from. Where do they think all the traffic is going to go. The Oregon expressway boondoggle is a nightmare. Is this going to be a freeway? Sure looks like it. Huge light poles for tiny cross streets. Bryant intersection is a complete mess. Bike lanes??-really. What a bunch of garbage. It's not about bike lanes, it is about the new Oregon freeway. Same contractors as the Mitchell library? Months and months of delays. Millions and millions of dollars--wasted. Oregon is now going to be a major split between north and south pa.

Growth??? Enough. Enough. Enough. City council growth mongers have to go. Move to Los Angeles or shanghai or Tokyo, if you want growth. Pali alto used to be a great place to live. City council is recklessly destroying our beautiful city.


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Posted by Crescent Park Dad
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jul 10, 2014 at 11:16 am

Planning Commission - the latest addition to the roster of PA tone deaf politicos who think they know what's better for PA than the people who live here.

Go ahead - try and raise the height limit. Guarantee another special election that will cost the city money that it doesn't need to spend --- with the result the same as Measure D.

Just stop it already.


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Posted by More information, please.
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 10, 2014 at 11:26 am

I think the community might revisit the reasons why the 50-foot height limit was put in place before we tear it down.

PA Weekly, how about doing some investigative homework on this? What was it's purpose?--Preserve views of the foothills(a quality of environment issue)?--Control intensity of land use? Was this specific control chosen for a reason? WHY was 50-feet the decided limit? If we give it up, what will we lose? Specifically, what will this mean for developers in terms of additional square footage, and how does that increase their profits and the cost of impacts the city has to mitigate?

Understanding history sometimes illuminates a better path forward.


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Posted by Chris
a resident of University South
on Jul 10, 2014 at 11:30 am

Zia,

Were you born in Palo Alto? How many years have you lived here? Do you want Palo Alto to be just like it was your first day here? Do you approve of any changes since then? This whole process is about guiding change, not trying to do the impossible - prevent change.


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Posted by Robert
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 10, 2014 at 11:36 am

This sentence is from the article:

"Commissioner Michael Alcheck said he often encounters residents who want to keep the 50-foot height limit and don't want to see greater building density. He said he likes to remind them that growth is coming and to ask them where they would prefer to see it."

That is a profoundly pathetic statement. It's that kind of deterministic, fatalistic thinking that will destroy Palo Alto even more rapidly than it is already being destroyed. If residents of Palo Alto want to preserve what's left of its charm and character, then they can instruct their City Council representatives to do just that and get serious about limiting development, just as Los Altos Hills did when it enacted a one-acre minimum parcel size in order to preserve the character of that community.

Frankly speaking, I am SICK AND TIRED of the kind of defective defeatist thinking Alcheck exhibited. The quicker we in California recognize that sooner or later we are going to have to put a limit on the population in this state, the better the chances of preserving an environment worth living in. These City Council people, largely in the pockets of developers, have already permitted development in Palo Alto that has led to more and more congestion and pollution, to the boutiqization of the economy, and to the infestation of thousands and thousands of rich software personnel who DON'T GIVE A HOOT ABOUT THE QUALITY OR CHARACTER OF THE PALO ALTO ENVIRONMENT as long as they have "cool" spaces in which to work and make deals, deals that result in products sold to consumers who in using them will spend MORE AND MORE amounts of times on their computers and on so-called "smart phones" and pay LESS AND LESS attention to their children, their significant others, and to the people they are with in actual space and time. As Albert Einstein presciently said, "I fear the day that technology will surpass our human interaction. The world will have a generation of idiots."


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Posted by Chris
a resident of University South
on Jul 10, 2014 at 11:42 am

More,

Look around Palo Alto at the buildings above 50 feet that were built before the early 70's.

Then, the residentialists said no more to the proposals that were being put forth in the early 70's and put the 50 foot height limit on the ballot. City Hall, 525 University,
Channing House, Palo Alto Square, Marc Towers and a few others could not have been built in the last 40 years.

Is 50 feet the right limit? It seems pretty arbitrary to apply city-wise?


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Posted by Mr.Recycle
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jul 10, 2014 at 11:48 am

@Robert - The answer to Michael Alcheck's question about where growth should occur should be: Downtown San Jose, Downtown Oakland, and Downtown San Francisco. In major city centers that urbanist love. Not in suburban Palo Alto where it will drive create more and more congestion and pollution.

Then we should be asking, how do we rid the city of people like Michael Alcheck who are /actively working against it/!!


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Posted by Wondering?
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 10, 2014 at 12:21 pm

> I think the community might revisit the reasons why the 50-foot height
> limit was put in place before we tear it down.

The 50ft limit was enacted after the Bank of America building was constructed downtown. At the time, the Developers wanted to build four of them on one block--calling that a "Superblock". Folks were outraged, and the height limit put an end to any more of the highrises in the downtown area.


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Posted by Greater Understanding
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jul 10, 2014 at 12:23 pm

Alcheck sounds a little out of it, but he isn't. He is a real estate lawyer. This is from his web description:
Michael Leor Alcheck's Experience
Goodwin Procter LLP
Job Details
Goodwin Procter LLP is one of the nation's leading law firms, with offices in Boston, Hong Kong, London, Los Angeles, New York, San Diego, San Francisco, Silicon Valley and Washington, D.C.
The firm provides corporate law and litigation services, with a focus on matters involving real estate, REITs and real estate capital markets; private equity; technology companies; financial services; intellectual property; products liability and mass torts; and securities litigation and white collar defense.

Also the family business helps in understanding his views:
Alcheck Properties. Inc.


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Posted by Wondering?
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 10, 2014 at 12:23 pm

It's time for the voters to be able to weigh in on each of the Boards/Commissions--with a standing ballot question as to whether the voters want the current B/C retained, or disolved.


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Posted by Sheri
a resident of Midtown
on Jul 10, 2014 at 1:16 pm

Rosenblum "criticized the main alternatives as being largely no-growth or anti-growth."

That's because that's what staff repeatedly heard at the Our Palo Alto meetings. For the most part, the PTC just blew off what people expressed at those meetings and instead imposed their personal views. Very disappointing. Unbridled growth is neither inevitable nor an entitlement; it's a choice. Too many commissions have for too long imposed their views, regardless of what the public wants.


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Posted by Annette
a resident of College Terrace
on Jul 10, 2014 at 1:34 pm

At some point a saturation point is reached; indications are pretty good that Palo Alto has reached that point. Had development over the past several years been more moderate we might not have gotten here so quickly but we need to acknowledge reality. I'd like to see the city put a temporary moratorium on development until some time after ALL projects currently in the pipeline are completed. Then we can assess impact real time. I don't have much confidence in the modeling that we've been relying on b/c it is out of synch with empiric evidence. A short hiatus would give us the information we need to change and grow in a way that makes sense. I get that there's a jobs/housing balance to consider but there's also a development/infrastructure balance to consider. We aren't doing well in that regard. I also fully understand why people want to live and work here but desire-based planning strikes me as irresponsible.


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Posted by Alice Schaffer Smith
a resident of Green Acres
on Jul 10, 2014 at 3:00 pm

Alice Schaffer Smith is a registered user.

How many of the Palo Alto Planning Commissioners live in Palo Alto?

What will be the impact of the North Mt View huge development which is proposed, wiping out the parking for the Milk Pail on Palo Alto's traffic?

Why are there huge hotels going up on El Camino Real in south Palo Alto: forget the tax moneys it will yield: think super bowl traffic (by the way, the issue is also sex trafficking from the low-life ilk that will be brought in by these major Mafia-driven sports events- who else can afford those obscene ticket prices); the traffic related to Palo Alto Stanford Hospital development, the impact of which has not even been contemplated in most of the discussions, etc etc..

And if Mr. Arriaga has his way, the huge development off University Avenue. Oh and yes, now that the "citizens" of Palo Alto have so "wisely???" opted NOT to have low impact senior housing on Maybell, the huge impact on the schools and traffic of more multi-family housing in South Palo Alto from the new development arising from the redevelopment of Buena Vista trailer court location and the now large-scaled development at Maybell. Yes, and what about the few empty lots still in So. Palo Alto on ECR; what will happen to them?

We know without doubt: more students for PAUSD, more traffic from the developments underway in the Stanford Industrial Park (I assume you all have seen the bulldozers and development between Hillview and the next crossroad up towards Beth Am), hotels, Stanford Hospital, new multi-family housing etc.

Just venting. What other options do we have? I am a lone voice in the wilderness. Some one wrote to me who opposed Measure D to ask what we should do to help Buena Vista residents. good grief... And now people come into Palo Alto who don't believe in government planning and general plans. Libertarians and wealthy people who don't care will change the shape of Palo Alto and what made Palo Alto a great place to live will fail eventually.


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Posted by Rupert of henzau
a resident of Midtown
on Jul 10, 2014 at 4:06 pm

Just to clarify, Alice, the milk pail does not have any parking-- they lease their spots from the shopping center. In fact, for all of the people complaining about the potential,closing of the milk pail, based on your own statements, you would not allow the milk pail to operate n Palo Alto since it would nt comply with demands for businesses to supply adequate parking ( and I do not think the 18 or so spots the milk pail leases now would be enough for Palo Alto.
First time we have had sex trafficking and " mafia-driven" sports events thrown into the mix!!!!!


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Posted by citizen
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 10, 2014 at 5:18 pm

Alice Schaeffer Smith,

You are so anxious to help Buena Vista but ignore the practicality that committing all the money from the City's affordable housing fund at Maybell made the money unavailable to help at Buena Vista at a key time. Since the excuse that Maybell was 60% market-rate overzoned development was for practicality, your hypocrisy strikes a real sour note. If you would rather accomplish something than just vent, perhaps listening to the perspectives of others and finding common ground would be a better strategy. Some of the same people whose work resulted in the affordable housing at Terman and saving the Terman school site from development, asked for a similar working group here.

But you wouldn't be budged from a high-handed perspective that doing things that way and only that exact way was to be condoned. You just complained about that ugly huge hotel, and fail to connect that the main building at Maybell would have been larger. And failed to connect that your high-handed judgmentalism of your neighbors prevented you and them from teaming up to save BV. People disagreed with you on a specific plan - that happened to be way outside of zoning laws - and you felt it was more important to make high-handed meanspirited pronouncements about them than to understand them and work for the outcomes you claim to espouse. Good grief indeed.


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Posted by PAmoderate
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jul 11, 2014 at 10:16 am

PAmoderate is a registered user.

"we are going to have to put a limit on the population in this state"

Yeah right. This isn't Communist China, where papers are required for population mobility. Our country is strong precisely because people have mobility to go to where there's economic growth. In any case, California is doing all it can to sabotage its growth anyway, so you might get what you want.

What's really funny/ironic/sad, is that for all those advocating limits for environmental reasons is actually advocating for harming the environment. Density, ironically enough, is better for the environment - not watering acres of grass and non-native plants that Palo Altans like to do.

As for all that nonsense for how long people have lived here or not - that's completely irrelevant. None of us have any more rights to be here just because of tenure of residency. There's always an undercurrent of not liking "them," which is, again, ironic for such a "progressive" area. I bet more people in the South are more accepting than people in the Bay Area these days.


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Posted by Robert
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 11, 2014 at 10:50 am

@ so-called PAmoderare: if we don't stabllze the population of CA we will eventually have an environment just as ghastly and unhealthy as China's cities. The longer we wait before starting to discourage more and more millions of population in CA, the more Draconian the measures we'll have to adopt downstream. Don't like Chinese Draconian measures or want our cities to be environmental disasters, then we'd better start doing something to avoid such choices in the future.


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Posted by resident
a resident of Palo Verde
on Jul 11, 2014 at 12:01 pm

I agree with ANNETTE that there are so many projects currently in the works that regular residents do not have a full feel for the "growth" that is immenent. We need a big long pause to finish the majorchanges already in progress before we agree to more changes.


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Posted by PAmoderate
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jul 11, 2014 at 12:09 pm

PAmoderate is a registered user.

Seriously Robert?

That's the funniest statement I've seen in a while. Someone's been hitting the Malthusian texts again.

We're not even close to China right now. In fact China is experiencing what the western nations went through in the 17/1800s during the industrial revolution. Look forward, not backwards.

I'm not buying what you're selling Robert. In fact, I sense an undercurrent of entitlement (if I may say so in a nicest way I can think of right now) in your statement - you somehow deserve to live here more than other people. And what's worse is that you're wrapping that sentiment around some vague notion of saving the environment, which is frankly disturbing.

If you aren't, then perhaps why don't you be the first one to leave California if we're worried about overpopulation in CA?


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Posted by chris
a resident of University South
on Jul 11, 2014 at 4:29 pm

Palo Alto had a population of 55,966 in 1970. In 2013, it had a population of 66,642. This is an increase of slightly more than 10,000 in 43 years
(less than 20%). Over the same time period, the population of the US has grown more than 50%.

Alice and Annette, where do you see the runaway growth that you are complaining about? It may be time to shed your sense of entitlement and become part of workable solutions. Nobody, including you, will be happy if Palo Alto is frozen in time in 2014.


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Posted by citizen
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 11, 2014 at 8:55 pm

@chris,
Your post makes no sense.

First of all, traffic, noise, and other negatives impacting Palo Alto have as much to do with development of office space, and people coming and going from our close neighboring communities to either drive through or go to work. City Council has been allowing more and more office development outside of zoning. Mountain View and Los Altos have also been engaged in giant, ugly development like us, with lots more trips to and from those giant ugly developments.

The notion that siting people in high density projects nearer work reduces traffic is just a fallacy. See Doug Moran's blog, no need to repeat that here.

Secondly, the US is a vast place with many cities and a lot of empty space in between. There's no comparison to increasing population in a single city with fixed borders and a given capacity of infrastructure. It's like saying that because it rained another 50% this year, and nothing bad happened, it's okay to add another 20% or whatever you want to the bathwater, that it will never overflow.

Also, if I'm up to my ankles in water and you add another 30% or 50%, so what. If I'm up to my chin, that's a whole other story.

We have zoning laws and a comprehensive plan that are a legal promise to the residents of land use, quality of life, etc. Those laws and that vision have been routinely broken in recent years, with seriously negative impacts. One of my top 5 reasons for paying rent through the nose to live here when I was younger was how much easier it was to get around Palo Alto than parts south, in fact, the more south you went, the rule used to be, the more time you spent in traffic. No so in the last few years.

Many, many people sacrifice to live here for the schools and quality of life. They do have a legal right to expect land use laws to be respected. If this has all been done in the name of ABAG requirements, then we should apply to the state commission on unfunded mandates to provide us the funding for major infrastructure improvements and in-city transportation to solve some of the serious problems it has created. Not that we can ever get back daylight plane, sky, sunlight, and views already lost.


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Posted by K
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jul 11, 2014 at 9:17 pm

Palo Alto was a nicer place just 20 years ago when we moved here. Palo Alto has way too much traffic now. Downtown and T&C are so chaotic with traffic it is just a mess! I agree a moratorium on growth would be a good idea. Lets see how the dust settles before making any more changes we may really regret. We can't handle anymore traffic! No more traffic, no big roads or super bridges to connect to 101. Stop, Stop, Stop!!! Also, if people are not residents of Palo Alto, they shouldn't be allowed to be part of the decision making.


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Posted by Mark Weiss
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 12, 2014 at 4:39 pm

I was part of the June 24 Our Palo Alto meeting that preceded the discussion described above, at PATC. In my estimation, despite being in a 9-member workgroup facilitated by Staff Elena Lee, the "net-zero" approach to growth was some kind of "magic bullet" effect that was vague and iffy, and seemed to be phrased like "how would you feel about throwing out high limits and the cap on downtown office development if it were magically balanced by environmental consequences to offset externalities?"

Contrary to what new PATC member Eric Rosenblum says, I felt that all three proposals were "growth"-oriented and not slow-growth or no-growth. The fourth approach, at least at the June 24 meeting, was hardly discussed at all. Staff said, and the chart even stated, that they were mandated in some way in including it, even in a cursory faction.

Here is a link to Elena Lee's staff report, in prep for this meeting, and also subject to a previous Gennady Sheyner report on the topic, from a few days prior. It is 17 pages followed by about 50 pages of supplements:

Web Link

It is still pretty hazy to me the distinction between Our Palo Alto, the revision of the Comp Plan (the housing element, the downtown cap), the newly appointed Comp Plan Leadership Ad Hoc Group, the duties of PATC. It seems to me that leadership is responding to a significant push from developers to not revise or amend but completely disregard what citizens had wanted 1998-2010. Our Palo Alto is a $325,000 slush fund to push thru a new agenda not get citizen feedback.

In my working group, at the June 24 event, among the nine members at our table Steve Levy and Ray Bachetti seemed to hijack the discussion away from a debate or discussion. It seemed orchestrated, like a dog-and-pony show. I said I wanted to discuss "no growth" but was shouted down. Levy even laughed mockingly when I suggested citizens might want a park rather than housing in the event Fry's vacates it's Ventura-California location.

In theory at least, citizens can still try to input at the next PATC meeting or at counci, but it seems pretty much like a fix to me. (Maybe the Grand Jury is researching this to add a sequel to its June 6, 2014 findings)


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Posted by Crescent Park Dad
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jul 12, 2014 at 11:27 pm

@ Chris. You fail to account for the growth of the number of people who work in PA, attend or work at Stanford, shop or done, etc.


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Posted by Crescent Park Dad
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jul 13, 2014 at 6:27 am

Shop or dine


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Posted by Mark Weiss
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 13, 2014 at 9:05 am

The so-called "net zero" approach is a type of green-wash. Meanwhile staff steers the conversation away from "no-growth".

By the way, I wrote about this on June 30, 12 days ahead of GS:

Web Link

And the person who posted that Doug Moran wrote about elements of this topic would do us all a better service if he or she provided a link or even a paraphrase. There is a big difference between writing about something on the web and having people read it, I know as well as anybody.

Even Elena's staff report has varying accounts of what is or what isn't "Our Palo Alto" or a public hearing...look into that, please -- and how many secret meetings on this topic were there between the major developers and staff???


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Posted by Shani Kleinhaus
a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Jul 13, 2014 at 11:17 am

@Wondering?
> "Got to wonder just how much weight we Palo Altans should be assigning to the input of people who don't live here, don't work here, but are hoping to shape Palo Alto public policy to match their own personal politics?"

Good question, but wrong person to question - I am a resident of Palo Alto. I live and work here, and care deeply about my community.

At the Planning Commission meeting, I provided comments on Bird Friendly City speaking for Audubon, then spoke as a resident on the alternatives for the General Plan. As a resident, I am not looking for Palo Alto to be a model to the nation in basing a City-Wide Comprehensive Plan on an experiment. Zero increase in pollution, water consumption, traffic, green house gas emissions etc. are all very important, and could be tested in specific plans for specific growth areas, but as a primary driver for the City Comprehensive Plan I think it will be confusing, impractical and very very expensive.

Shani Kleinhaus


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Posted by Palo Alto Native
a resident of College Terrace
on Jul 15, 2014 at 10:20 pm

I absolutely agree with Ms Bunnenberg. Hold on the height limits!


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Posted by Robert
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 16, 2014 at 12:31 am

@so-called PA Moderate: maybe you should read more carefully before misrepresenting the views of others. Obviously we're "not even close to China right now." Thank you for pointing that out. This, however, is what I actually posted: "if we don't stabilize the population of CA we will eventually have an environment just as ghastly and unhealthy as China's cities. The longer we wait before starting to discourage more and more millions of population in CA, the more Draconian the measures we'll have to adopt downstream." Do you see the word "eventually"? Do you see the expression "the longer we wait...." As for your rant about you detecting my having a sense of "entitlement," your detector needs maintenance. I was talking about the quality of the long-term environment in CA, when I won't be around. You then outdid yourself by adding a new version of the old Vietnam War era chestnut: "love it or leave it." Is there any cliche you don't regurgitate?


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Posted by Who are Pro Growthers
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jul 16, 2014 at 10:32 am

This comment from Mark Weiss is noteworthy:
In my working group, at the June 24 event, among the nine members at our table Steve Levy and Ray Bachetti seemed to hijack the discussion away from a debate or discussion. It seemed orchestrated, like a dog-and-pony show. I said I wanted to discuss "no growth" but was shouted down.
Levy is a long time supporter of development.
Bacchetti is a retired top Stanford executive who now lives in Palo Alto and appears to represent Stanford's interests such as more housing. Stanford has been successful in getting its people into Palo Alto's governing bodies (and hiring PA officials too) For example, Bacchetti signed the ballot measure in favor of the Maybell development.


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Posted by stephen levy
a resident of University South
on Jul 16, 2014 at 11:42 am

stephen levy is a registered user.

@who are the pro growthers

Most of the people at our table favored very limited growth and that is the option the table chose to pursue and flesh out.

I do not recall Ray or myself talking more than anyone else and do not recall Mark getting shouted down or much else that he says happened that night.

The comments about Ray are your opinion and wrong and the suggestion that his views are anything but his own is as outrageous as suggesting that Mark Weiss talks about music at the Varsity solely because music productions are his business. I think Mark really would like a music component to the Varsity and a park on the Fry's site.

In fact when the table wanted to explore more housing at the research park (including me) Ray pointed out that housing might not be what Stanford wanted.

[Portion removed.]


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Posted by not me
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 16, 2014 at 11:53 am

[Post removed.]


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Posted by Who are Pro Growthers
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jul 16, 2014 at 12:52 pm

Stephen just proved my point.

>In fact when the table wanted to explore more housing at the research park (including me) Ray pointed out that housing might not be what Stanford wanted.<

No one said Ray is not sincere. Please stop setting up imaginary arguments that you can knock down. He sincerely seems to believe that what Stanford wants is a good thing.
He has spent most of his adult life working for Stanford and being very good at it. He rose to a top position.
[Portion removed.]


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Posted by stephen levy
a resident of University South
on Jul 16, 2014 at 2:40 pm

stephen levy is a registered user.

Hi Who,

Actually you just proved that you are confused. I was responding to your post claiming that Ray followed Stanford's views for more housing (where did you get this idea by the way) by pointing out that Ray pointed out that Stanford was might be resistant to more housing in the research park area--not Ray's position necessarily, he was just reporting. Folks at the table and at the other two meetings I attended do think housing in/near the research park is worth considering but we are also mindful of who owns and manages the land.

It is the same as when I pointed out to a couple that did not want more housing that the city council unanimously had just adopted a preliminary housing element with more than 2,000 legally zoned units.

If you don't want residents to have information upon which to make decisions just say so.

Your implication about Ray's motives about which you have no direct knowledge is as bad as if posters suggested that residents who don't want more growth are merely interested in increasing the value of their homes. The people at the meetings I have attended who do not want growth seem sincere and I do not question their motivation.

I think it is better to speak for ourselves and not get into the alleged motives of others.


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Posted by citizen
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 16, 2014 at 3:00 pm

@chris,

"Palo Alto had a population of 55,966 in 1970. In 2013, it had a population of 66,642. This is an increase of slightly more than 10,000 in 43 years (less than 20%). Over the same time period, the population of the US has grown more than 50%."

You know what they say, There's lies, damned lies, and statistics.

According to sources like Wikipedia and the Weekly's own article about the 2010 census, Palo Alto population rose from about 58,600 people in 2000 to 64,400 people in 2010. Assuming your numbers are correct, that's roughly 4% growth in 30 years, or like 1/8th of one percent per year, followed by almost 10% growth in just 10 years. Then, your other numbers are correct, we're getting over 1.7% growth per year since the 2010 census, and who knows what the projections are because of all the massive development especially in South Palo Alto that hasn't even gone online yet. Anecdotally, quality of life and congestion really starting taking hits about 2-3 years ago, so we haven't even accounted for that growth in our discussion.

There are cumulative impacts, as I said, adding more water is different if you are up to your ankles versus up to you neck. We are up to our neck.

And while we are on the topic of water, it doesn't grow on trees. We shouldn't be developing like water is an infinite resource, like the comprehensive plan is meaningless, like there is no such thing as cumulative impacts.

And while we are on the topic of trees... more people on the pretext of sustainability is not sustainable if it means trees are meaningless.

I think we need to look at new development in the context of past overdevelopment and retroactively transfer density. If past trends are an indiication, 2,000 more units means at least 6,000 more residents, or another major growth in our population in a short time. We cannot do that unless we realistically assess the impacts and go to the state commission on unfunded mandates and first ask them to pay for the upgrades to our infrastructure.


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Posted by citizen
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 16, 2014 at 3:02 pm

P.S. I still have been unable to participate on the Comprehensive Plan discussion in person, and the online tool was broken for a long time to view the elements I was interested in, such as Natural Environment, so it was unviewable. Has that been fixed?

What about the vision statement for the Comprehensive Plan, where has that gone?


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Posted by curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on Jul 16, 2014 at 4:09 pm

So much ado about nothing.

What Ray or Steve or anyone else says during a city working group meeting is immaterial. What matters is what staff says they said in support of staff's concept when said concept is presented to the city council as the group's product. In fact, Ray and Steve don't even have to have said what staff said they said for staff to say they said it.

So chill out gang, and enjoy that sense of consequence while you got it.


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Posted by Mark Weiss
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 22, 2014 at 5:41 pm

[Portion removed.]

Also, I wrote staff asking for a breakdown of costs or pro forma about Our Palo Alto. How is it not a slush fund for the status quo, for the incumbents and a subsidy for the landlords and builders? To the extent my request for information is being ignored, I feel more strongly the Grand Jury report of June 16, 2014 that indicates we have both corruption and a lack of response from City Hall.

I agree we need to revisit the Comp Plan, buy why do we need $325,000 in slick brochures and consultants to do so?


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Posted by AMess
a resident of Downtown North
on Jul 23, 2014 at 9:05 am

Reading this article makes me sick! Planning commissioners, with a one track mind, that have no idea of how they are negatively affecting the quality of life for Palo Alto residents. We have had enough change, the city is OVERLY vibrant, and all of the negative impacts of this over development is upon us. This town is a mess!


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Posted by The real test
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 23, 2014 at 9:57 am

"The third concept would be more aggressive when it comes to residential growth, allowing residential buildings near transit hubs to be taller than currently allowed. This concept would also develop the site at 27 University Ave. at the edge of downtown Palo Alto into an expanded transit center with housing."

Can we just call this the 27 University option?

Why all this trouble to break the height limit to accommodate 27 University? Because a simple "no" to one developer is not an option?

The comprehensive plan revision is sounding like a PC for 1 site, except it will be a "CP" for one site. What about other developers who would also want to have preferential zoning? Completely unfair. How can PA decide to favor one developer over another? I'd also like to build a three story apartment building over my own house, and make oodles of money in perpetuity.

It's a very narrow minded idea to focus on a single development anyway (shows total lack of planning) and that area couldn't sustain any more developments. If I would be planning (actually planning), I would maybe allow height far away from the already stressed traffic areas (in the middle of the box) and find a place which is closer to the highways.

27 University is the worst site to have more density. Caltrain only travels North and South, and you can't guarantee that people will travel N/S or by train. Or only bike to go East and West.

And what is the value to be gained from height increase? How does the cost to the city compare to the benefit the developer is gaining? Are there any numbers we can look at?


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Posted by Crescent Park Dad
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jul 23, 2014 at 1:49 pm

Crescent Park Dad is a registered user.

If any exception is allowed - especially for 27 Uni or for any other "smart growth" project, it will be the beginning of the end of the height limit. We cannot let this go.


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Posted by resident 1
a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Jul 26, 2014 at 8:46 am

The surrounding communities of Atherton, Menlo Park, Los Altos, Los Altos Hills, Woodside - those people go somewhere to work. Those towns do not have mega-business, exception Menlo Park with government agencies. The people then go home at night to regular towns and regular houses. Most of those houses are better than the houses they would have here in PA.
We have somehow been hoodwinked into thinking that those people want to live here. OR - we have to undermine our quality of life to provide housing for multitudes of people. The surrounding towns are not operating on the same set of criteria - they are limiting commercial growth to stay under the radar on demand for new housing.
It is time to identify the commissioners of the various groups and present their credentials for heading up a commission. Yes - we want experienced people who understand the rules of the road for the group they are working with - but if someone is paid to represent a specific interest then we should know that. They are paid by someone else to manage a result that serves their purpose. Rules of the road - know who everyone is that is paid for a resulting impact to the city and what that impact is suppose to be.


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Posted by resident 1
a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Jul 26, 2014 at 9:23 am

For those who think that HSR is going to go whizzing down ALMA and stop to pick you up then think about what that impact is to the new developments on Alma and streets close by. I stayed at an older hotel near the Burbank Airport near the LA Metro-Link tracks. When that train is going by in warp speed there is an impact on the buildings in the area. Buildings facing on to the train as envisioned by the current HSR people are not built to current standards to withstand the impact.
If the HSR folks had the meg-lev train it would be less impact.
If you are building over the intended tracks then you need a building that can withstand the impact of the train when in full flight.
Any future planning would require less density in the immediate impact area - not more density - or density built to a higher specification therefore more expensive..


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