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New voices join Palo Alto's growth debate

Original post made on Aug 5, 2014

Palo Alto's aggressive push to get the public more involved in upgrading the city's official land-use vision appeared to finally pay off Monday night, with dozens of residents and downtown employees packing into City Hall and serving up an unusually wide spectrum of opinions about growth and development.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Tuesday, August 5, 2014, 12:44 AM

Comments (252)

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Posted by Howard
a resident of Crescent Park
on Aug 5, 2014 at 8:34 am

The public comments were unique to Palo Alto in my experience. I have never seen so many eloquent younger folks come out to a city council meeting to give their views. I speculate that this was an organized, pre-programmed turn-out -- prompted by social media? Palantir internal memo? I must say that they made the so-called "residentialist" commenters look rather foolish. It made them look like the iconic old man who stands on his front stoop and shakes his cane, yelling "You kids get out of my yard!"


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Posted by Mark Michael
a resident of Community Center
on Aug 5, 2014 at 8:43 am

Thoughtful observers of Palo Alto's planning process have long been urging better collection and analysis of data as a preliminary step in evaluating alternative solutions to challenges we face regarding parking, traffic, housing and other elements of the Comprehensive Plan. In creating or updating a plan, the first step should be to gather the relevant information, then match the situation analysis with community values and priorities, position local goals and resources with regional realities, crunch the numbers, and ultimately propose a Vision for the city's future.

The "horizon year" of the 1998 Comp Plan followed shortly after the Great Recession. A decision was made, regrettably, not to incur the cost of engaging in a public process to initiate the updating of a plan from the 90s in which the city had great pride. Thus, only now, with the economic recovery and intense development pressures looming, and after a voter referendum on affordable housing for low-income seniors, the city has begun to do what it might have done even prior to the 2010 horizon year of the Comp Plan, essentially six years late.

Ironically, the Council decision not to lead by going to the public has precluded Council members from rolling up their sleeves and providing detailed input to or leadership of the Comp Plan update process. Speaker after speaker last night made excellent comments -- expanding the debate, illustrating possibilities, exposing valid concerns -- and one could sense the Council members' eagerness to have their own few minutes at the microphone. It makes one curious about Wednesday's special meeting.

The "ready, fire, aim" sequencing of the Comp Plan update has put the city staff in a very difficult position, particularly as it faces the legal requirement for preparing an Environmental Impact Report on a Comp Plan update which hasn't even entered the starting blocks with a consensus regarding how to manage change or control growth. This caused more than one person to urge simply hanging on by our fingernails to the venerable plan from the last century. Other public speakers, together with Council members who were restricted to "clarifying questions" hinted that as yet unidentified scenarios might be far more appropriate to the actual challenges and opportunities for Palo Alto's future.

The City Council assigns one of its members to act as liaison to each of the boards and commissions, except the Planning & Transportation Commission, which provides a PTC liaison to attend Council meetings. Last night I served this role and listened to important commentary from the many public speakers. Gennady Sheyner's latest article alludes to the five years of work by the PTC with the staff to review and propose updates for each of the Comp Plan elements. As noted in the article, when this work and each these drafts were reviewed in public hearings, aside from a handful of tireless residents who provided consistent support, the PTC hearing chambers were virtually empty.

It is gratifying that the public is now engaged, although disappointing that such engagement was not the first step in the process. There is a not inconsiderable risk that belated public arousal, and even tardy intervention by the Council, will precipitate a decision simply to start over, or give up and put a new expiration date on a 20-year old document, due to what Council Member Burt recognized as the "consequential nature of the Comp Plan." In my comments, I am attempting to focus solely on the update process and not on the vision, policies, programs, or content of the Comp Plan. Of course, these are what really matter to the residents and the future of the city.

The 1998 Comp Plan begins with acknowledging that "each of us" may have a different vision for the city's future, but that we share common values and aspirations. A few of the speakers last night made courageous attempts to articulate a Vision for the city. No single Vision will please all of us; however, a clear focus and a strong Vision would be instrumental in keeping Palo Alto special through the 2030 horizon year of the updated Comp Plan.


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Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 5, 2014 at 9:02 am

I really hope the school board is watching this and will not be taken by surprise (as is usually the case).

It amazes me that these sort of decisions can be made without asking questions about where the kids will go to school.


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Posted by What of the duties of civic life?
a resident of Greater Miranda
on Aug 5, 2014 at 9:55 am

"after a voter referendum on affordable housing for low-income seniors"
There was no referendum on affordable housing for low-income seniors, that was illegal bias inserted into the ballot by the City Attorney. The act of law that was at issue was zoning, and had we an impartial ballot process, the referendum would have correctly asked whether to allow the many ways the law had been changed. Low-income seniors were not being voted on and using them was a cynical ploy by Council and developers. (I wonder if there's a term, like Brangelina there - City Developcils ...? Sounds like developer shills?)

Hey Palantir - there's lots of space in Nevada, and it's looking a lot like a third world country these days, I'm sure you'd be most welcome. New building will not make it easier or cheaper to live in a desirable place, move to
Manhattan if you don't believe it - it only raises average rents and pushes out more lower-income residents who can't afford to live there anymore. If you like big cities, there's lots of room in San Jose.

Most residents have learned to avoid the circus. We won't put up with a hijacked output, though. The Developcils appeared not to have learned anything.


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Posted by What of the duties of civic life?
a resident of Greater Miranda
on Aug 5, 2014 at 10:17 am

Actually, to be clear for all those who apparently need it spelled out:

More building in a desirable place doesn't make it cheaper unless you ruin it.

If you want densely packed and desirable, there are big cities from which to choose. Palo Alto's going that route is neither inevitable nor in the interests of the majority of existing residents.

Hint to the Developcils: we can reject the plan if you don't stop this nonsense now. No one really buys the circus. (Interesting turn of phrase, no?)


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Posted by Mike Greenfield
a resident of Downtown North
on Aug 5, 2014 at 10:23 am

[Post removed.]


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Posted by pissed off for a while
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Aug 5, 2014 at 10:35 am

ANY plan for a new development should be attached to another couple of plans - how to route the increased traffic and where to park. All in PA know that there is NOTHING done about improving the roads. 101 - yes, added a few lanes but the city is impenetrable for most part of the day.
Doing it otherwise is insanity and we all know that there has to be a money path to it.

The classic example is the pedestrian/bike path at the Wilkie Way cul-de-sac cutting through to El Camino. The residents know that it is being pushed by the nearby townhouse development so it would be easier for them to walk to/from their cars parked on Wilkie Way.

The city did the traffic analysis. Conclusion: no issue because the street is already 100% filled with cars at the evening. How about that?
That is our Planning and Transportation committee, people. These individuals' logic is: "New developments will not change the traffic situation much. It is already jammed up to here. What does it matter?"

Out with the irresponsible crooks.


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Posted by pissed of for a while
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Aug 5, 2014 at 10:37 am

At "What of the duties of civic life?"

Thank you. My words, exactly. They are ruining at because they are here for the short term and want to walk away not empty-handed. Otherwise, what is the motivation behind the insanity?


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Posted by Ellie
a resident of College Terrace
on Aug 5, 2014 at 10:41 am

I found myself being irritated by the parade of young .com workers who spoke to this item last night. I sympathize with how hard it is on people (not just the young tech workers) who move here or to want to given our ridiculously expensive housing, I felt they were manipulative, with a hidden agenda. The company Palantir is mentioned in the article - which was my thought when hearing them speak - they were put up to this by some company or other. Were they offered inducements to front for the company? Most were at the very front of the line of commenters to speak. That can only happen thru orchestration - all getting together to agree to arrive extra early to put in speaker cards to be first called on. And the subject actually being addressed was our new Comp Plan - a wonky issue that will not attract most people, and usually not renters, and certainly not a line-up of young people. These folks have never been seen before and I doubt would have now but for an eager employer who wanted something from us and felt its worker's pleas was the way to do it.

Finally - not a word or concern expressed by them about long time residents being slated to lose their housing to redevelopment for the benefit of young tech workers. Do they even know about this?

So again, I sympathize - we need more affordable housing but we need laws passed that prevents displacement of residents. And not just for your young set, for all, and not just to help the tech companies out that are exacerbating the need for this housing. They need to step up and take responsibility openly. If Palantir wants to say something to us, then send a senior staff person - don't send your naive young workers in an attempt to gain sympathy. I don't like being manipulated.


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Posted by Jimmy Hoffa
a resident of another community
on Aug 5, 2014 at 10:43 am

Palo Alto is not an isolated housing and jobs market. The market includes the entire Bay Area. Building more market rate housing in Palo Alto will not lower the price so that the Palantir employees who have been priced out of the market can suddenly afford to live in Palo Alto. The Palantir employees should collectively bargain for hire wages from their employer if they want to be able to continue to live in an expensive community like Palo Alto.


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Posted by anon
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Aug 5, 2014 at 10:48 am

Ellie From College Terrace. I couldn't have said it better!!!!!!

Depending on where you live in CT, you could be very negatively impacted by the growth scenarios! Especially if you are near El Camino Real

Thanks for such a great and thoughtful post.




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Posted by Kate Downing
a resident of Ventura
on Aug 5, 2014 at 10:49 am

The comments along the lines of "why don't you all just move somewhere else if you want density" all seem to miss the essence of what Palo Alto is. Palo Alto, given its proximity to Stanford (and its supply of young workers and nascent research), Sand Hill Road (and its VCs), and Research Park (and its legions of experienced tech workers) is a natural mecca for start-up companies and has been so for decades. Sun, Facebook, Tesla, HP, XEROX, Pinterest, Paypal, VMware, Apple, Google.... they all spent at least the early parts of their existence right here. If you kill off that mecca, it's entirely uncertain where or even if another place could have such an abundant confluence of factors that lead to such an incredible amount of entrepreneurship.

By strangling this place, you are not only harming Palo Alto, but you are threatening the success of Silicon Valley as a whole. Silicon Valley - which is most of what allows California, if it were to be a country, to have the 5th highest GDP in the world.

Consider that other states and other countries have poured billions of dollars into creating their own "Silicon Valleys" and have largely failed because getting all the necessary elements in place is a very difficult chicken and egg problem.

If the only value you see in Palo Alto is that it's a low-rise pretty suburb- THAT can easily be replicated elsewhere. The heart of Silicon Valley can't.


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Posted by Anon
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Aug 5, 2014 at 10:53 am

If one checks on line it seems that workers at Palantir are very well compensated, especially for young workers new to the work force.

Perhaps they should not expect to live in one of the most expensive real-estate markets in perfect conditions at this point in their young lives; seems to be a very entitled position.

Don't these folks realize just how privileged they are compared to most?!


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Posted by Joe
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 5, 2014 at 10:58 am

> By strangling this place, you are not only harming Palo Alto,
> but you are threatening the success of Silicon Valley
> as a whole. Silicon Valley

What gobbledygook! Most of the companies in Silicon Valley did not start in Palo Alto. Obviously some of them did—but there is very little magic about this place that causes companies to start here—other than the nearness to the Stanford Campus. Most companies quickly realize that the town is too small for them, in every conceivable way. HP started here. But it's now a worldwide company, and there is every reason to believe that at some point it will move out of Palo Alto also. It's hard to believe that any company that starts here will not move on--having contributed nothing much in the way of public benefit to the town.

Given that most tech startups fizzle out before the get to be very large—there is little value destroying the fabric of this town to allow the VCs and developers access to land that they will use to create wealth for themselves—at the expense of the rest of us.


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Posted by Kate Downing
a resident of Ventura
on Aug 5, 2014 at 11:10 am

I don't think this is really about high rents. It's not that people can't pay the rent- they can, even if it takes up most of their paycheck. It's the fact that the housing supply is so low that even outrageous amounts of money won't be enough to live here soon- there simply isn't anything to rent.

For young people, it's less about money and more about the lifestyle we want. We want to be able to live and work in the same place. We want to not have to drive a car. Most of us don't even want to own a car. We want to be able to walk from work to a restaurant where we can eat with our families. We generally don't even want houses- we're happy in apartments and condos where we can form the sort of neighborly communities where it's normal to knock on a neighbor's door for a cup of sugar.I suppose what we're looking for is something similar to a lot of European cities and towns- where reliance on the car is much lower than in the US and where mixed use - housing next to restaurants next to offices - is the norm and not the aberration.

Coincidentally, the lifestyle we desire is one that would limit pollution, limit emissions, limit commutes, and limit parking issues - all things that others said were important to them.

When we throw around words like "entitlement" it's really easy to forget that the workers you're disparaging are the very reason that this area is prospering, that local retailers and restaurateurs are profitable, that the property values are going up, and that city tax revenues are up. I don't think it's entitled for the people who work here and bring all the money here to also want to live here.

For the record, I live and work in Palo Alto for VMware. I am married to a Palantirian, but I do not in any way represent the views of Palantir.


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Posted by resident
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 5, 2014 at 11:10 am

Mark Michaels trys to spin Measure D as "after a voter referendum on affordable housing for low-income seniors". WRONG! It was a voter referendum on increasing zoning density along a safe schools route as many posters on other threads have stated. And that has always been the problem with many of the Planning & Transportation Commissioners - they spin, and they don't review the effects of past decisions.

I don't see why Planitar employees must all live in Palo Alto. Do all Google employees need to live in Mountain View? all LinkedIn employees in Sunnyvale? all Cisco employees in San Jose/Milpitas? all Oracle employees in Redwood Shores? of course not. And given the average length of employement at a start up, in 4 years many of these Planitar employees will be working for a different start up, probably at a different city. By this logic are they expected to move when they change to a different company?


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Posted by Kate Downing
a resident of Ventura
on Aug 5, 2014 at 11:28 am

@Joe - tech companies move on precisely because the city council won't allow them to add more buildings and floors. So I don't see how you can blame them for leaving. We WANT to stay. But you seem to be saying that we shouldn't be allowed to stay because we won't stay....

It's also not clear to me how you can say that companies leave without contributing any benefit to the community. They and their workers pay taxes just like everyone else in Palo Alto. Their workers visit shops and restaurants like everyone else in Palo Alto. The workers who live here join clubs, and spend time in parks, and everything else that comes with being a member of a community. What exactly are they not doing that other people in this community are?

Wealth isn't created here at the expense of the current residents of Palo Alto - the residents of Palo Alto and the shop owners in Palo Alto have benefited in terms of property value growth, safety, and revenues from workers spending money here. And certainly all the landlords here are magnificently rich given that office and housing is as expensive as it is in Manhattan. If tomorrow all the tech workers in Palo Alto ceased coming to Palo Alto, what do you think would happen? Your house prices would drop and many merchants would close their doors. You'd also see an increase in crime as happens as any area becomes less affluent.


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Posted by boscoli
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Aug 5, 2014 at 11:32 am

Plantir insisted on moving into a very dense and congested small city and now is contriving to push for even more development. The act of sending their employees to the council event was so contrived and predictable, and I was not surprised to read someone on this thread claiming that the "residentialists" sounded ridiculous and resembled an old cantankerous neighbor wanting the neighborhood children to keep quiet.

There are many depressed areas in the country that would greatly benefit from a company like Plantir relocating in their midst. I would strongly encourage Plantir and other Valley companies to relocate to such areas and help those who need help. Palo Alto has already too much wealth as it is and is grossly overdeveloped and overpopulated. What's goof for Plantir and its employees is definitely not what's good for Palo Alto.


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Posted by Confused
a resident of College Terrace
on Aug 5, 2014 at 11:41 am

Stanford grad students and post docs, who are paid considerably less than tech workers, have long been able to find rental housing in Palo Alto. They typically do this by getting roommates to reduce rental costs. Isn't this an approach the tech workers could use? I find it hard to believe that tech workers with $100K salaries can't afford Palo Alto rents when grad students, who have stipends of $25-35K, can do so.


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Posted by Orchestrated, not new
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 5, 2014 at 11:49 am

These voices and many of the faces are not new. They all kept referring to "Mr. Levy's email."

They sat together, knew each other, and in the case of one group they seemed to be the 20 somethings children of a developer who recently had something appealed, then approved by council - not coincidentally by those young voices from the family who spoke at council.

More importantly, some of the council members looked at them with a mix of recognition and deep longing for their words.

The gist of what they all said was.

1. I may have to move from Palo Alto because I can't afford the rent increases. One lamented that he was forced to move to the border with Menlo Park.
2. I would like to see more housing and tall buildings "on University and Cal Avenue."
3. I'm upset and dismayed that Palo Alto is not doing something for me to be able to "live where I work." One also asked for more jobs where she lived.
4. We need a more aggressive growth option, which Pat Burt seemed to tee up for discussion before the public comment. Burt seemed almost giddy about this whole topic, and went weird on Sheperd for some unknown reason. I'm not a fan of Sheperd necessarily but Burt and his thundering voice needed some attention apparently.
5. It is the Council's "civic" duty to plan for more aggressive growth.
6. The benefit of having more housing is that the businesses can do better at night.

Keene who looked back at the young speakers with the same mix of pleasure and excitement that Klein usually reserves for the voices for growth. Stephen Levy had held a "leadership" event for young voices in Palo Alto, I would not be surprised if these are the graduates of that program.

Adina Levin who has been outspoken about the missing young biking walking voice in the city's growth plans was also there.

Given that "Our" Palo Alto is a mystery to the average resident in Palo Alto, it is not a coincidence that these "new voices" came out in full force.

If the Weekly is actually reporting, they could at least draw the connections more objectively.


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Posted by Naive and Inexperienced
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Aug 5, 2014 at 11:50 am

The younger speakers at the meeting looked nave. They encouraged the council to allow more high rise, densely packed residential units to be built in Palo Alto.
They want more, inexpensive housing. What makes these youthful renters think that the rents would be reasonable on these newly built units? Do they actually think that developers wouldn't continue their gouging, sky high rents? Also, the speakers neglected to talk about the negative impact on the environment. I guess their environmental causes go out the window when it comes to their finding cheap rentals in Palo Alto. Also, what makes these people think that they have a "right" to live in Palo Alto? I'd like to live in Atherton, but I don't go around throwing a childish fit because I can't afford a house in Atherton!


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Posted by resident
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 5, 2014 at 11:53 am

Kate Downing@ Ventura -

when you use the words "we want" six times in one paragraph, in my opinion, that's entitlement.

My impression is you want, without having to earn it, and are expecting for everyone else to pay for it through taxes, and giving up their quality of life.



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Posted by boscoli
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Aug 5, 2014 at 11:55 am

The sense of entitlement of some of the Plantir employees on this thread is astonishing. They are also ridiculously ignorant about the history of Palo Alto and the Valley. The comment that Palo Alto will suffer an increase in crime if high tech companies leave is particularly hilarious. Palo Alto used to have such low crime rate that it was considered one of the safest small cities in the entire nation. The more high tech companies moved in, the more it was developed and the higher its population density became, the higher the increase in crime rate, including violent crime.

Do any of them know that nearly all young people who work in Manhattan don't live in Manhattan, and many don't even live in the state of New York? Since when do people in their early and mid 20s must, absolutely must, live in one of the most expensive real estate markets in the country and the world?


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Posted by Joe
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 5, 2014 at 11:57 am

> It's also not clear to me how you can say that companies
> leave without contributing any benefit to the community.
> They and their workers pay taxes just like everyone else in Palo Alto.

Actually ..they don't. Let's look at a few facts, OK?

Companies that own their own land, and offices pay property tax. Companies that lease do not pay property tax directly. Some portion of their rental goes to paying the costs of owning/maintaining the property—but it's unlikely that anyone associated with startups that lease/rent have a clue how much of their rental ends up going to the City to fund necessary services.

Moreover, State and Federal income taxes go to those respective agencies. There is some trickledown to City governments, but these dollars are very small.

Local companies do pay: sales tax, and UUT (Utility Users Tax) and possibly a few other mostly hidden taxes—but for the most part, no matter how much money the company makes—virtually none of it goes to Palo Alto via direct taxes.

Employees who live in other towns don't pay rental fees in Palo Alto, or property taxes—so the flow of dollars is limited to those who actually live here. Renters don't pay property taxes directly, so the number of dollars they contribute is also thought to be rather small. So, when bonds are floated to pay for infrastructure—most companies, nor renters, contribute in a meaningful way. The burden for these expenses falls directly on property owners.


It pays to fully understand the how Cities in California are funded. It's pretty clear that most people in this town don't really have much of an idea as to how this mechanism works.


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Posted by Orchestrated, not new
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 5, 2014 at 11:59 am

Mark Weiss posted this on another thread - rent control.

The only way to ensure housing for young people who cannot afford Palo Alto rents would be if there was rent controlled housing.

They would be more credible if they were fighting for that instead of high rises.


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Posted by Robert
a resident of another community
on Aug 5, 2014 at 12:02 pm

Wow, quite the negative reaction to people finally standing up to those who want to micromanage their own personal housing choices... I get it though, if they can afford to move here and end up displacing someone, its the evil tech money, if they can't afford to live here, its "entitlement". I'm not a Palantir employee, but if there are any in this thread I suggest not spinning your gears trying to reason with the "residentialist" types.


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Posted by resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 5, 2014 at 12:09 pm

Palantir has big-time backers and investors- it raised $196.5 million in
another round of funding late last year and is worth an estimated
$9 billion as a private company. If it went public in an IPO it would be
the hottest IPO of the year. They are complaining that we need to build high-rise housing for them, to bring prices down. New condo's would probably be bought on the internet by outside and foreign investors and then rented out at higher rates. The Downtown real estate market will not price according to new supply, but by macro-financial conditions and trends which Palantir is right in the middle of.


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Posted by Orchestrated, not new
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 5, 2014 at 12:12 pm

This report must have been written in haste, or it was a canned piece to say there are "new voices."

Missing is the fact that Stanford had a spokesperson, who brought up the "regional" growth plans. Translation - Stanford's growth plans.

Connecting the dots - the youth political voice plus Stanford + Stephen Levy + Council pressured to do their civic duty = property rights out the door.

It's good to get this out in the open. But at least be honest.


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Posted by resident
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 5, 2014 at 12:16 pm

Robert,

In my opinion Palantir employees should be looking to their employer to give them a decent enough salary so that they can live in Palo Alto. The last ime I checked, they have a valuation of $9 billion, and 1200 employees.

Why should Palantir employees be demanding from me, a complete stranger for subsidies to live in Palo Alto? To me, Palantir bears the primary responsibility for ensuring their employees are paid a salary that they can afford to live in. And if Palantir won't provide their employees with the appropriate salary, the employees, who must have valuable skills, will find other companies who will pay them what they deserve.


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Posted by Joe
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 5, 2014 at 12:17 pm

> Wealth isn't created here at the expense
> of the current residents of Palo Alto - the residents
> of Palo Alto and the shop owners in Palo Alto have benefited in
> terms of property value growth,

Hmm .. according to the PAUSD, and its supporters, it's the PAUSD that has been responsible for creating the high housing prices.

And in terms of shop keepers—have you noticed that downtown Palo Alto is slowing becoming devoid of small, mom-and-pop retail? Hasn't been much of that for a while. Some of the changes are due to technological change. For instance, digital cameras have driven analog cameras out of town, and off the stage. Amazon has driven many small book shops onto the pages of history. Property owners are always looking for the best return on their money—so renting to startups waiting in line for space is what's been happening.

It's very hard to actually guestimate how startups have impacted shop owners. However, when you see that a hamburger costs more than ten dollars at noon—it's pretty clear that the startups have driven up the cost of everything. And it's only a matter of time before that burger will cost fifteen dollars, too!


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Posted by Robert
a resident of another community
on Aug 5, 2014 at 12:19 pm

@Orchestrated

In one post you endorce rent control, and in the next a fear of losing property rights? Is this a "spaghetti against the wall" type of strategy you're employing?


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Posted by Robert
a resident of another community
on Aug 5, 2014 at 12:22 pm

>Why should Palantir employees be demanding from me, a complete stranger for subsidies to live in Palo Alto?

That should be quite telling to most outside observers, now residents construe allowing market rate housing to be built the same thing a "subsidy".


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Posted by Orchestrated, not new
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 5, 2014 at 12:33 pm

Robert,

It's not fear, it's an observation. When you have pressure to up-zone and change the nature of a community, it is a loss of your property rights. The "new voices" calling for high rise buildings are basing their appeals on rising rents, in a market which pays the high rents.

Increasing housing supply will only have more people paying high rents.

To retain diversity, somebody has to pay for it. There will have to be new developments which are rent controlled and fall under the affordable housing which Palo Alto alone can't afford. Stanford, Palantir, and anyone else who want to develop affordable housing can be leaders. Work on retaining diversity as Buena Vista has.

Wondering - why is the focus on height, and only on University and Cal Ave - can't people bike to the train?


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Posted by Orchestrated, not new
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 5, 2014 at 12:36 pm

Oh, I forgot, University and Cal Avenue are closer to Stanford, and would be prime real estate for the developers.

Food Courts are nicer there too.


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Posted by Kate Downing
a resident of Ventura
on Aug 5, 2014 at 12:40 pm

@Joe

How can the burden fall on property owners when Prop 13 capped property tax?

It's somewhat difficult to talk about the "burdens" of property tax, when in California, unlike nearly every other state in the country, people's property taxes do not actually keep up with the current value of their home. Thanks to Prop 13, property taxes are limited to 1% of the value of the home AND if the property value increases, the tax itself can't increase more than 2%. So everyone who has seen the value of their house go up by 40% in the last few years is still paying taxes on a much much lower home value. Fees and assessments added to that locally are about 0.1% of the value of the home. So you are looking at 1.1% property tax in Palo Alto.

In reality, California property owners have the sweetest deal of anyone- they got their own version of rent control! They reap all the benefits of property appreciation and can avoid paying taxes on it throughout the years. In comparison to most states, it's the property owners who aren't paying their fair share. Perhaps if this were different, there wouldn't be such staunch opposition to anything that could remotely prevent housing prices from growing. And if it were different, there would probably be more liquidity in the housing market because there would be a less strong incentive to hold onto high-tax properties.

As for all of this language that renters and companies who lease don't pay property taxes - we all know that those costs are passed on to them by their landlords anyway, even if the landlord is the one that writes the check. Again, if the landlords didn't have renters, where is the money going to come from for them to pay all those property taxes?

Companies lease because a huge amount of land in Palo Alto belongs to Stanford and while Stanford won't sell its land, it'll offer 99 year leases. So it's not clear to me how companies get blamed for not buying when it's largely not an option.


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Posted by Bill
a resident of Barron Park
on Aug 5, 2014 at 12:59 pm

Hey Kate. You really have no idea about property taxes, do you?

By the way, you say you work at VMware, but your name doesn't appear in the corporate employee database. What's the deal with that?


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Posted by Mark Weiss
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 5, 2014 at 1:00 pm

At the Housing Element meeting last week, a fellow guest -- like me, there were three of us as observers and about 12 ad hoc members -- asked about rent control in the context of upzoning to allow more dense housing.

When I heard all the young people (some said "Gen Y" to my Gen X I guess or tail end of Baby Boom) saying they work here and want to live here, or they rented here and are being priced out, I did think "rent control".

I hope Palentir hosts a candidates forum, regarding 2014 Council race. I saw John Vanderslice sign there - -their lunchroom on High Street, the former Jungle Copy as guest of the artist. By the way, and I apologize from straying from the topic: I hope Palentir hosts a forum on Tolkien; the Palentir was used by Saruman for evil purposes.

On another level, their gripe is with Google and Facebook and of course PayPal for getting there first.

I've written copiously and hope to speak Wednesday (concisely, 3 minutes) that Our Palo Alto and this Comp Plan process are more of a dog-and-pony show than good faith effort at listening to citizens. And we are paying more than $1.7 MILLION to achieve this, to re-write the plan. What, if anything, did we pay to write the plan or revise it in 1998? Or 1964 for that matter? Isn't PATC commission supposed to write this as part of their duties, the way library commission wrote a big plan a few years back?

I'm also for a park in Ventura, as an amenity to the residents in the undervalued homes there, on a 10-acre parcel. let's discuss. Our Comp Plan specifies that we are in deficit in the parks to people ratio, already. Greer Park is a precedent, for when another business model-- Drive in movies -- failed. I'm talking Fry's large brick and mortar, lease is up.

We can push back against ABAG.

But I am interested in tempering my views in the light of what this cohort is asking about.


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Posted by Kate Downing
a resident of Ventura
on Aug 5, 2014 at 1:04 pm

I got married. Maiden name is Vershov.


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Posted by resident
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 5, 2014 at 1:04 pm

Robert,

Since many are asking for higher densities than are currently allowed, that is a subsidy; there is a monetary value that accompanies that change, and that value is created and subsidized by all the existing residents.


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Posted by resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 5, 2014 at 1:05 pm

High-tech workers Downtown populate the restaurants but not the retail shops. They are not the natural customers of these shops. The over-crowding, traffic congestion associated with the office over-development probably dissuades the real retail customers from coming Downtown. The massive office over-development, out-of-scale, out of character architecturally,under-parked, and the associated traffic, parking
overflow into the neighborhoods, the cut-through traffic, the construction zones, the hidious painted intersections and sign clutter- the City of Palo Alto is transformed and ruined. Then the final blow to the outlying neighborhoods- no compliance to Single-Family Review Guidelines for two-story houses with narrow setbacks, huge FAR's, one car garages with 6+ bedroom houses and dewatering for basements with the water flowing to the Bay while residents are warned about new water conservation measures in effect for them due to "exceptional drought" conditions.


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Posted by Mark Weiss
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 5, 2014 at 1:11 pm

By the way, I tried to post on Mike Greenfield's blog but found that it is limited to people who are on a particular social media forum (albeit a popular one).

Any way to open the debate to people not on that forum?

What I tried to say, there:
This is a welcome voice in the debate on Palo Alto policy. Will keep checking back. I don't agree with all of the above but like the forum.

I hung Phily-style in Center City, in 2005 and 2006 and loved it, and see what development and investment can do. Also, Los Angeles downtown, now, Broadway between First and Ninth or so. I am not against development but think it fits in Cities more than whatever we are, University Town.

Can you set your blog so that it can be re-posted in the format I use?


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Posted by Mark Weiss
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 5, 2014 at 1:30 pm

I am with Mark Michael, or this version of him, above, in that I am concerned with process, perhaps more than what the outcome is. In that context I would say that 75 to 100 people at the Elks Club scoping meeting or whatever is hardly a mandate. Even 30 speakers last night, and about 20 of them were this so-called "new voice" should not be over-emphasized in that these changes -- fairly radical, and part of a pattern, a commercial real estate rout and push for dense housing -- will impact thousands of Palo Altans, who already live here.

There seems to be a sense that our General Plan is obsolete -- Michael says it is from a previous century. It is not. We use it all the time, it guides all our policy, like our Constitution (as my venerable college in dissent, 2009-2013, Tim Gray said last night).

Palo Alto has a 120-year continuity; Democracy has a 240 year continuity; they are not obsolete. But we have to push back and resist the significant recent pressure to change by special interests, the builders. Ninety-six percent of those pulled by PAN now agree with this.

Horizon year? The sun also rises, my friend.


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Posted by Joe
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 5, 2014 at 1:37 pm

> How can the burden fall on property owners when
> Prop 13 capped property tax?

Wow! This statement is totally false. Let's look at the facts:

1) Property tax rates are capped—not property taxes.
2) Assessments increase automatically yearly—so even with no property turnovers, the total taxes collected go up every year.
3) Property turnovers increase the assessment to market value.
4) Property improvements (like 2nd story additions) can lead to significant reassessments.
5) Ad velorem property taxes were not banned by Prop.13—so property taxes go up as the number of bonds are sold.
6) Parcel taxes were not banned by Prop.13. There are now many parcel taxes on our tax bills.

We have to look at State/County/City finances under Prop.13. In Palo Alto, the City only receives about 9% of the property taxes collected. The PAUSD gets a whopping 46%. The rest goes to the State and County.

The City does have other revenue sources, so perhaps it's not totally fair to claim that the bulk of the costs of operating the City falls on the property owners. But all of the parcel taxes and bond retirement payments sit directly on the back of property owners.


> if the property value increases, the tax itself can't increase more than 2%.

Not true. Every property increases in assessed value by 2% automatically. If, as has been the case, the property loses value so that its market value is less than its assessed value—then the assessment rate can be downward adjusted to less than 2%. However, in some cases, the County Assessors have assessed the properties by more than 2% once those properties had regained value. The Courts have upheld this move on the part of the Assessors.

> Fees and assessments added to that locally are about 0.1% of the
> value of the home.

This may, or may not, be true--often on a case-by-case basis. If one were to take a $1M home, and compute the property taxes paid over a 40-year period, one would be very surprised at the cost of the property tax. (The 2% automatic assessment creeps up on you, over time.) Over 40 years, the total cost of property taxes comes close to the initial cost of the property.

> we all know that those costs are passed on to them by their landlords anyway

Yes—but generally these costs are very small, compared to the impacts that the companies create on the towns where they are located. It's hard to believe that one person in a thousand could say what the dollar amount his company is paying in terms of property taxes.

> Stanford owns a lot of land in Palo Alto.

It's doubtful that Stanford actually owns a lot of land in Palo Alto. The bulk of the Stanford lands are not within the municipal jurisdiction of Palo Alto. To the point that they won't sell—that's their right. People could begin to lean on the Stanford Land Management Company, and the Board of Directors of the University—but it's hard to believe that they would bow to such pressure. But hey, give it a try and let us know what they say.

> So it's not clear to me how companies get blamed
> for not buying when it's largely not an option.

Most startups go out of business before the ink dries on their business cards. It's really hard to believe that any CEO of a VC-backed company would keep his job if he spent their money buying land in Palo Alto. The point that there isn't any land is a good one. Even companies that do survive are not likely to be able to grow here—unless another large company moves, or bites the bullet.


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Posted by Cheryl Lilienstein
a resident of Barron Park
on Aug 5, 2014 at 1:41 pm

I'd like to see ubiquitous on demand cars, to satisfy the regional transportation needs. Disappointingly, bikes only work as long as you are healthy. But when you get sick, have to care for someone-like kids or the elderly, or carry a lot of stuff, you'll be needing that car.

Regarding development: I've raised a family here, and I would love for my son and his friends to be able to live here. But I've overcome the fantasy of ever making Palo Alto into a more affordable town. I sadly now believe that is impossible. Here's the reason: those of you who have been successful at changing the world have also inspired the city to market itself as "the place to be", and thus the world's wealthy migrate here and make it ever more unaffordable. Just last year a property on El Camino listed at 6.5 million sold a month later for 9. I have been told by sources who are in real estate that this community--in fact the whole Bay Area-- is used to launder money because the investment in real estate is so lucrative and safe. In essence what was a community in a beautiful region has become an investment bank, and those of us who care about the community mourn that change: the Palo Alto we care about has become an international phenomenon. We are not dealing with a textbook supply and demand condition. And my heart is hurting, not for "old ways" (which is a convenient marginalization tactic) but for the lack of capacity to offer more ease to people I care about.

Building more will increase migration, thus increase the cost of living so it STILL won't be affordable: New York is a good example of more building resulting in higher cost of living. In Kansas City it might be different. Or Las Vegas. But this is Palo Alto and the vision of more affordable living and working spaces is not realistic as long as this is seen as an international destination for "the good life."

Would that it were not so.

As a resident, I'd like to be held as someone who cares about our community, about family life. So I'm asking for understanding that this lovely place is worthwhile as a community. Not as a worksite with "workforce housing" (which is a term I find particularly offensive and dehumanizing).

What choices can be made? Limit the number of jobs here. Don't build more commercial space. Spread the wealth to other communities, hopefully those that have abundant and reliable water supplies.


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Posted by John Murphy
a resident of another community
on Aug 5, 2014 at 1:48 pm

I try to be empathetic with all points of view, but the comments posted here have my inner schadenfreude trying to burst out. You are trying to stop a tsunami by holding your surfboard up. Better to hop on the surfboard and navigate the best path.


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Posted by Steven Baker
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 5, 2014 at 1:49 pm

I think the article may be in error when it says the next discussion of this will be at the council meeting at 7pm Wednesday. This agenda says the meeting starts at 6pm:
Web Link


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Posted by Joe
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 5, 2014 at 1:59 pm

> tech companies move on precisely because the city
> council won't allow them to add more buildings and floors.

Hmm .. how true is this?

Let's do a little thought experiment, OK? Take a building downtown, any building. Let's assume that the City Council would allow more floors (and offices) to be built. How many floors would this building get to be, over time? 20 floor? 30 floors? More? Presumably at some point the building will not be physically capable to be extended, for safety reasons. What is the company supposed to do then? Since every startup is going to grow to tens of thousands of employees—what are they going to do when the building can not be enlarged and they want to grow forever?

But let's look a little deeper into this situation. When people move into a community (be it village, town or city) there are impacts associated with their arrival. These impacts are often not readily visible, but they exist—whether you see them, or not. These externalities include: police, fire suppression and emergency response, utilities, transportation paths, amenities—parks, open space, community centers, tennis courts, swimming pools, bike/hiking paths, and so on.

The cost of all of these externalities is hard to demonstrate in a simple fashion—but it's not hard to estimate, if certain expenses are linked to the growth of the base population. In the past, Palo Alto has been forced to increase the police/fire department head count on the basis of population. This approach may have changed, but certainly everyone agrees that there needs to be "appropriate" public safety available to the residents, and businesses of the city. So—will whatever taxes startups pay even come close to paying for the costs of the infrastructure needed to support safety these daytime visitors? It's very hard to see that, at the moment. Of course, we could pass a business tax that requires businesses to pay, say, $500 a head, to the City to pay for these services, and new infrastructure—but it's hard to believe that everyone in the startups wouldn't be screaming bloody murder. So—who pays for the infrastructure? The property owners—whether you believe it or not!

And let's not forget the impact on the schools. It's hard to believe that another thousand students could be accommodated with another reasonably massive building program. This might give the PAUSD the option to use its eminent domain power to seize the homes of a few dozen homeowners—to make room for more schools. Certainly a possibility of allowing businesses to added more floors to the buildings where they are now located.

Given all these costs associated with startups that are likely to fizzle before their third birthday—wouldn't it be a lot easier to encourage these people to startup somewhere else?


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Posted by Joe
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 5, 2014 at 2:02 pm

Noticed a couple of typos-- most important correction:

It's hard to believe that another thousand students could be accommodated without another reasonably massive building program.


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Posted by John Murphy
a resident of another community
on Aug 5, 2014 at 2:16 pm

Given all these costs associated with startups that are likely to fizzle before their third birthday—wouldn't it be a lot easier to encourage these people to startup somewhere else?

I see - you want somewhere else to have all these externalities. At least you're honest.


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Posted by Ahem
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 5, 2014 at 2:52 pm

Since when did newly employed tech workers begin to think they had a right to live in Palo Alto?

Since when did tech companies begin to think it is was a good idea, to locate in a place where their employees can't afford to live?


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Posted by Kate Downing
a resident of Ventura
on Aug 5, 2014 at 2:56 pm

I agree that if there is population growth in Palo Alto, then we need to deal with the externalities that Joe outlined. I don't wish to pass the buck to anyone on those things personally and I also believe that lots of companies WOULD pay $500 a head per year to offset those externalities if that's what was necessary. Lots of companies - famously Twitter - already pay housing subsidies to their employees to keep them near work. The cost of moving a company of thousands out of Palo Alto is way higher than that, even over the course of many years because you not only have moving and leasing/buying expenses, but you also suffer from the inevitable turnover when you move further away from some of your employees and when you move employees to a less desirable location. Likewise companies that move to isolated campuses need to make up for that by offering amenities that employees previously enjoyed in the community - like dry cleaning, a gym, cafes, etc. At least partially, Google has so many "perks" because it's in a sea of nothing but parking lots.

However, if that's the real concern here then I don't believe that the problem is growth. More people means more taxes, more purchasing, more use of services, and more property taxes (even condo owners pay property taxes - so a building with one floor that becomes 4 floors should mean more in the way of property taxes), etc. Along with the additional people comes the additional money. If those externalities don't get addressed even given the additional flow of money (and I personally don't know to what extent that is or isn't true), then it sounds to me like the real problem is mismanagement. The money is there, but it is being improperly diverted.I have no idea if that's a problem of the state not allocating enough funds to our area or if it's about local funds not being used wisely, but it's clear that if that's your main problem then your problem is with government mismanagement and not growth.


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Posted by Getting Smart
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Aug 5, 2014 at 3:07 pm

Dear Ms. Downing, I simply have to respond to your posts. I wonder if you realize how spoiled and childish the justification of your "wants" sound. I don't blame you for having wants. We all have wants, but wants aren't rights. At various points in my career I would have loved to live closer to were I worked too, but I never thought of it as a right. When I worked in San Francisco, I would have loved to live in Pacific Heights so I could walk to work and good restaurants, but I couldn't afford it. When I worked on Sand Hill Road, I would have loved to live in Portola Valley so I could get to work in 10 minutes, but I couldn't afford it. Somehow life went on. I found good places to live that I could afford, found ways to commute and advocated for better public transit, and was happy living within my means. Now I live in Palo Alto, but I'm thinking I'd like to live in Atherton where they don't have as much traffic and seem to have kept growth in check, but, guess what, I can't afford it. I suppose I could check out their next town hall meeting and complain about that. Would you seriously expect the local residents to rally to satisfy my wants? Wants aren't rights.


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Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 5, 2014 at 3:15 pm

Actually the City estimates that each additional household in Palo Alto costs the City $2,500 per year more in services than it pays in taxes.


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Posted by Ahem
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 5, 2014 at 3:18 pm

Kate,

The problem is the revenue grows linearly with every new resident, but the "externalities" accelerate out of control. Trying to win the growth game, is like trying to beat the house in Vegas. You can go on a winning steak for a while, but in the long run the house always wins. In the end, the only winners in the growth game, are the real-estate developers.


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Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 5, 2014 at 3:34 pm

You could never build enough housing to accommodate everybody who would like to move here. An interesting question would be: if you built a moderate amount of new housing, who should get it?

Palantirians and other young tech types?
Seniors?
BMR housing for low-income service workers?
Teachers and city employees?


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Posted by Kate Downing
a resident of Ventura
on Aug 5, 2014 at 3:34 pm

What I'm advocating for isn't just mere "wants." What I'm advocating for is sustainable development.

Reducing our land use footprint in total (minimizing runoff- the greatest threat to water purity, and leaving more land to act as a preserve and a natural filter- marshes, trees, etc.), minimizing the use of cars, minimizing the paving of forests and parks for roads, minimizing watering and fertilizing lawns, benefiting from the energy savings that come from living in condos instead of houses- all of these are basic principles that cities around the country have embraced as part of a path toward a sustainable, environmentally friendly living.

So, yes, we can keep doing things the way we've been doing them because apparently the people who bought into this neighborhood at lower prices and locked in particular policies decades ago think that the opinions of newer residents matter less than theirs (and I am a resident, so this isn't just about my "wants" - it's about my own vision for a community I'm already a part of).... or we can recognize that policies like the ones we currently have are directly contributing to global warming, pollution, run-off, deforestation, and all the human illnesses associated with them. So the question for everyone who wants to freeze everything in time is- how do you propose to make this city sustainable over the long term?

I don't see that happening so long as this city 1) retains an imbalance of housing and office space and 2) so long as it's not possible for people to be able to walk from home to work and to the services they need. So long as those two problems persist, your policies are going to keep encouraging a car-centric culture and all the environmental problems that that brings.


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Posted by Palo Alto Resident
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Aug 5, 2014 at 3:38 pm

Mark Michael and Mike Greenfield make some excellent points, plus insightful and hopeful.

Also, How can Palo Alto's 'family oriented lifestyle' and 'healthy standard and cultural lifestyle) be preserved? How do we stop the Realtors and Developers from Selling OUT? How do we help guide investors to take stock of our school's growth and encourage more creative learning instead of STEM learning, work with East Palo Alto communities and neighboring cities, transportation issues (high speed train is coming), resources (water, gas, electricity, cable, streets, sidewalks), senior housing/low income, service provider housing (teachers, fire people, police people, etc.), home less and mentally unstable people, and look at ALL of Palo Alto for all of the above from the border of Menlo Park to the border of Los Altos and Moutain View?


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Posted by boscoli
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Aug 5, 2014 at 3:46 pm

The more a city is developed, the less affordable it becomes. Look at Manhattan, Tokyo, Sao Paulo, Hong Kong, Los Angeles-and hundreds of similar examples. Every additional person moving to Palo Alto cost the city about 2500 dollars more than he pays in taxes. A nearby house on my street that a few years ago wouldn't fetch a million dollars was sold for over 5 million dollars with multiple bidders and has been standing empty for months because the buyers lives abroad. International investors and possibly parties wanting to launder money are jumping on nearly every Palo Alto property for sale and are outbidding everybody else, which would happen even if we allow more housing density, so even those who believe they have a right to imaginary affordable housing in one of the hottest real estate markets in the world, would not get their wish to live in Palo Alto, but those who do will be the real losers because whatever is left of this city will disappear in a tsunami of traffic, overcrowding, noise and pollution.


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Posted by Orchestrated, not new,
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 5, 2014 at 3:55 pm

John Murphy,

"Given all these costs associated with startups that are likely to fizzle before their third birthday—wouldn't it be a lot easier to encourage these people to startup somewhere else?

I see - you want somewhere else to have all these externalities. At least you're honest."

For a place looking for growth, externalities are welcome, some cities pay to attract business. I'm not sure any city would want to be put in a position to pay or to transform itself to make it affordable though. Even San Francisco is having a hard time. The residents of the Mission are being displaced, their way of life changed. They don't even have a surfboard.


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Posted by Janet Lafleur
a resident of Mountain View
on Aug 5, 2014 at 3:56 pm

To everyone saying that Kate's desires are unrealistic, selfish and even childish: take a hard look at yourself and check your privilege.

If you have a home that you bought years ago, how much is your mortgage? Probably less that Kate and her husband pay in rent in the Ventura neighborhood.

How much do you pay in property tax on it? Probably much less than what she and her husband might if they buy a one bedroom condo on a busy street.

I say this as someone who owns a home in Mountain View that would probably rent for 3x what we pay in monthly mortgage + property taxes. My husband and I probably make less than Kate and her husband. We were just lucky enough to get here first. It probably helps that we're over 50, not under 30.

It's not at all unrealistic to increase the housing in Palo Alto, especially if it's done along transit corridors and done along with a comprehensive improvements in transit, biking and walking.

And from my own selfish point of view, I know that when that time comes where I'm too old to drive or bike comfortably, but too healthy to need a care facility, I will be first in line for a condo on El Camino. Living there, I be able to take the bus to the grocery store, the drug store, to my doctor and to dining and shopping downtown. When it comes to housing, what's good for the young is often good for the old as well.


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Posted by Orchestrated, not new
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 5, 2014 at 4:14 pm

Kate Downing,

"2) so long as it's not possible for people to be able to walk from home to work and to the services they need. "

This is actually new to me. The big push for people to walk to work, and to services.

Either this is supposed to be like New York City or a nightmare. New York City has tunnels, bridges, subways, ways to get in and OUT. NYC is also diverse, you have lots of people in theater, finance, advertising, publishing, on and on.

San Francisco is feeling the pain of the tsunami of one type of worker and it's a real city. This idea of having everyone that works here also living here feels very odd.


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Posted by Kate Downing
a resident of Ventura
on Aug 5, 2014 at 4:19 pm

@boscoli

If pricing is all about how developed a city is, then please explain how Palo Alto has prices higher than Manhattan ALREADY.

Seems to me pricing is driven by supply and demand. If housing stocks are short and demand is high, prices are high. And that's true of places limited in space by geography (Manhattan, Hong Kong), as well as places limited by housing policy.

As for concern about international investors- frankly I share them as well. I don't want to live in a community of empty houses either. But again, if you want to put restrictions on international buyers, then that's something worth talking about. But I see that as a separate conversation from growth in general.

I feel like everyone has made good points about things to consider. I think the point about making sure we have enough money to cover externalities is a good one and worth working on. I agree that international investors who don't actually live in the neighborhood also merit consideration. These are all really good points and it makes sense to work on them as we work on our plan for the future. But if we can fix or plan to fix these sorts of concerns, then they are actually vital steps in our plan forward and not a blockade.

I think it would be really useful if we could concretely brainstorm what the steps need to be. Growth is coming. The state projections are clear and that population growth will affect us even if we don't add any development- more people will cram into offices and homes together and more people will drive through our neighborhoods going to wherever they need to go. We already see the rise of roommates and multi-generational housing. If we spend a lot of time trying to deny the future or argue against it instead of coming up with concrete steps for fixing the issues that vex us about the future, we will all have missed an opportunity for proactively shaping this community in a positive direction. And once missed, I'm afraid we're not going to be able to undo what will befall us.


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Posted by Orchestrated, not new,
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 5, 2014 at 4:32 pm

Kate Downing,

"Growth is coming."

And with that, the price of our homes just went up another notch.

Jane Lafleur,

"To everyone saying that Kate's desires are unrealistic, selfish and even childish: take a hard look at yourself and check your privilege."

I think Kate makes some good points, the issue is cost. What Kate wants needs a buyer who can also afford it, and it's unclear whether London could afford the vision.

Just a reminder. You have no idea what sacrifices people have made to stay in Palo Alto. Or paid the higher rents to stay in our children's school communities, just as long as they graduate, and how many of us are leaving, and not just to the Menlo Park border.

That waiting list to be in a condo on El Camino will be going to whoever can pay more.


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Posted by Crescent Park Dad
a resident of Crescent Park
on Aug 5, 2014 at 4:38 pm

@ Janet: Your point may be somewhat correct, but you fail to recognize that the current homeowners were new homeowners at one point and went through the same circumstances. It all evens out in the end. This is the same process that every town in California goes through - this is not unique to Palo Alto at all.

I am thankful that the *residents* of Palo Alto have the final say in all of this. Non-resident employees or commercial land owners can talk/whine all they want - but they can't vote for the CC. And they can't vote on the next "Measure D" --- which will definitely come up if the current CC makes a decision counter to the residents' concern for too much growth, height limits, etc.


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Posted by Orchestrated, not new
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 5, 2014 at 4:45 pm

It will be interesting to see the growth in residents since the last election and demographic.


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Posted by Janet Lafleur
a resident of Mountain View
on Aug 5, 2014 at 5:00 pm

@Crescent Park Dad, It's always a struggle to buy a home, but it's definitely harder now than when we bought 20 years ago. The numbers: market rate for our home is 4.5x what we paid for it in 1993. I'm estimating that Kate and her husband's tech salaries are 1.5-2x what our similar high tech salaries were 20 years ago.

So I'd say it's much tougher for them to buy now, and a lot of it is simple supply and demand. Low supply inflates prices in a high demand market.

@Orchestrated, Considering that I'll be selling a 3 BDR home, I think I have a good shot at buying a 1 BDR condo in the same market, assuming that they get built in the transit-rich location I'm looking for.


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Posted by Orchestrated, not new
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 5, 2014 at 5:37 pm

Janet Lafleur,

"Low supply inflates prices in a high demand market."

Your point being that increasing supply will deflate prices. Not always. It depends on the market, the type of property in supply. And it depends on the amount of the supply, among other things.

Just saying we need high rise buildings, only 2 more or three more along University and Cal Ave is not worth the exercise. Which is why Pat Burt must have brought up the hyper growth option.

A hyper growth option will set the standard much higher in terms of everything, and this council may not have the credibility to lead on this. If Stanford and Palantir's strategy is to make this a political take over, it will likely get more unpleasant, just because it would be. The best that can be done is for the largest employers to negotiate something with the City, and for that to be a very open process.


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Posted by boscoli
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Aug 5, 2014 at 5:39 pm

The issue of international investors is very much relevant. They will just outbid, as they have been doing for a while now, almost everybody else (unless Larry Elison decides he want to buy a house in Palo Alto), so even if Kate gets her wish and there is a tsunami of new housing units, they will outbid her and buy up the new housing units and Kate will still not own a house or condo in Palo Alto. Like I mentioned in an earlier post, most young people who work in Manhattan don't live there, and many don't even live in the state of New York. They just can't afford Manhattan, because no matter how much development takes place there, it just keeps pushing real estate prices up. Kate needs to realize that there are only so many sardines one can keep cramming into a sardine can. Palo Alto needs LESS residents, not more, we have passed the full capacity level quite some time ago.


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Posted by Bring on the clones
a resident of Community Center
on Aug 5, 2014 at 7:16 pm

[Post removed.]


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Posted by Freebies
a resident of Crescent Park
on Aug 5, 2014 at 8:23 pm

[Post removed due to same poster using multiple names]


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Posted by Freebies
a resident of Crescent Park
on Aug 5, 2014 at 8:38 pm

[Post removed due to same poster using multiple names]


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Posted by pat
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 5, 2014 at 8:51 pm

@Kate Downing: You wrote, "We want to be able to live and work in the same place. We want to not have to drive a car. Most of us don't even want to own a car. We want to be able to walk from work to a restaurant where we can eat with our families. We generally don't even want houses- we're happy in apartments and condos where we can form the sort of neighborly communities where it's normal to knock on a neighbor's door for a cup of sugar."

YOU want. Not everyone wants what you want. And tomorrow you might change your ideas of what you want today. Believe it or not, there are plenty of neighborly communities throughout Palo Alto where it's normal to knock on a neighbor's door for a variety of things. Should we give up what WE want for what YOU want?

Seems like you're the one who feels a sense of entitlement.

@Mike Greenfield: You wrote in your blog, " the city needs to increase its supply of both housing and office space, so that costs will decrease and more not-insanely-wealthy people can be accommodated."

This supply/demand argument is routinely made for more housing. But what developer is going to pay $4M - $5M per acre to build low- to middle-income housing? It's only through government intervention like the CA Density Bonus Law that developers are willing to trade a few BMR units for extra height or fewer parking places.

How many housing units do you calculate would have to be built before prices would come down?

BTW, Mountain View is going through exactly the same growth stress as Palo Alto. Just read the Mountain View Voice.

> " the residents of Palo Alto and the shop owners in Palo Alto have benefited in terms of property value growth, safety, and revenues from workers spending money here."

Long-time businesses are being forced out as landlords tear down buildings or remodel with the goal of attracting startups and chain stores. Just off the top of my head, in the past year we've lost:
Downtown:
- CA Yoga Center, Cowper Street (40 years),
- University Art, Hamilton Avenue (65 years)
CA Ave:
- Cho's Mandarin Dim Sum (35 years)
- Farmers Insurance (45 years)
- Palo Alto Violin (23 years)
- Bargain Box (48 years)
- Avenue Florist (25 years)
- Know Knew Books (25 years)

Other people have posted some essential truths that need to be emphasized:

> "Palo Alto is not an isolated housing and jobs market. The market includes the entire Bay Area. Building more market rate housing in Palo Alto will not lower the price "

> "Building more will increase migration, thus increase the cost of living so it STILL won't be affordable: New York is a good example of more building resulting in higher cost of living"

Ditto San Francisco, in spades. Many long-time residents are being evicted from their homes after 30 – 40 years because landlords want new high-paying tenants. Read the SF Chronicle. Low rent districts which once housed low-income families, non-profits, artists' lofts are being transformed by tech companies. Is this a good thing or a bad thing? I guess it depends on which side of the fence you sit.


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton
on Aug 5, 2014 at 9:00 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Kate wisely asks -"If tomorrow all the tech workers in Palo Alto ceased coming to Palo Alto, what do you think would happen?"

And I would add - And if there was no Stanford University?

Then Palo Alto would be Gilroy without the garlic.


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Posted by Naive and Experienced
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Aug 5, 2014 at 9:02 pm

To all the cry babies at Palentir:

Why don't you contact one of the founders of Palentir, Joe Lonsdale, and ask him for a raise? After all, Joe Lonsdale bought a $8,250,000 home in Woodside in 2012.
He seems to be paying himself enough money to live quite comfortably in this area.


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Posted by Freebies
a resident of Crescent Park
on Aug 5, 2014 at 9:17 pm

I have not used multiple names so don't delete my comments. I have sent in 2 comments, both times using the name "Freebies." I haven't used this email address with multiple names. Are you hushing free speech?


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Posted by Mike Greenfield
a resident of Downtown North
on Aug 5, 2014 at 9:37 pm

Mark Weiss: Apologies for not supporting non-Facebook comments. I use Facebook for commenting because people tend to be more civil when using their real names; case in point this site :) Glad you are using your real name here!

Pat: unless Palo Alto were to increase its population many times (i.e., to several hundred thousand), I doubt it will become affordable to low-income people. But I could see the following scenario with less restrictive zoning:

-- small developer buys a teardown on a 7000 square foot lot for ~$2M
-- spends ~$2M to build four 1500 square foot condos/townhouses, 2-3 stories high (certainly not skyscrapers)
-- sells each of the houses for $1.25M, a 25% profit
-- with $250K down, mortgage payment for this new property is ~$6K/month -- significantly less than the ~$10K/month for a $2M house
-- rental costs could be around $3800/month for the house, as opposed to $6000/month otherwise
-- I doubt neighborhood property values for existing houses would be affected significantly. If anything, home values for houses on large lots might go up slightly, because of the option to build additional units.


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Posted by Ben Lerner
a resident of Palo Verde
on Aug 5, 2014 at 9:38 pm

In the article above, Mr. Andrew Ash said "he wishes he could live in downtown Palo Alto but that the lack of available housing makes it impossible, which forces him to drive to work". Downtown PA is well-served by CalTrain, but for some unstated reason Mr. Ash chooses to drive instead. That makes me wonder if the idea of high-density next to transit corridors is effective at reducing car travel, as its proponents like to claim it is.

Another idea I question is that the solution to expensive housing is to build more of it. Simple economics would suggest that it is, but in many metro areas, housing in the city center is much more expensive than in the outlying suburbs, and despite how much is built, the prices just keep rising. The reason for this inverted behavior is due to the impact of up-zoning (allowing higher density) on land prices, and hence on rents. If one guy's land is up-zoned, it becomes more valuable, and hence everyone's land in that area goes up in price due to the expectation they they, too, can get up-zoned. Higher land prices push up rents and purchase prices of existing units.

If we want to stabilize housing prices, while maintaining livability for existing residents, we need a different approach:
1. Stop up-zoning for higher density.
2. Manage demand for housing by not adding office space for new jobs, and enforce occupancy limits on existing office space so more workers don't get crammed-in there. The city has the authority to do this.
3. Require employers to "fully park" their workforce, meaning that none of their employees should park in surrounding residential neighborhoods. This is another form of demand management, aimed at the office market.

Most of Palo Alto's problems are because the city is out of balance. This is a way to help restore that balance. And balance is the key to sustainability.


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Posted by pat
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 5, 2014 at 9:41 pm

@Robert: You wrote, ' now residents construe allowing market rate housing to be built the same thing a "subsidy".'
What do you consider "market rate"? Currently, it seems to be what mid- to low-income (and even Palantir employees) can't afford.
So let's talk "affordable housing." Who do you think pays for that? Taxpayers. It's subsidized. Check out Web Link "Mayor Ed Lee is proposing funneling $94 million in public money over the next two years into constructing affordable housing in San Francisco as the city grapples with stratospheric rents and increased evictions driven by a booming economy that is also causing a surge in tax revenue."
@Getting Smart: Thank you for your post to Kate.

@Kate: I don't know if you get a property tax bill, but there are many additional "taxes" on it: School bonds, sewer bonds, various other fees to pay for infrastructure and other costs that come with growth. Nothing is free.

You wrote, "What I'm advocating for is sustainable development." Please check out this document: Dimensions of Sustainability
Web Link


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Posted by resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 5, 2014 at 9:54 pm

The Palantir Building at 100 Hamilton sold for a record price three years
ago. That sale was the catalyst for the latest wave of mega-office buildings
Downtown as a handful of local developers doubled down with PC's
and bonuses and exemptions provided by the City in a wave of development
which has been so transformative to the character of the City,with so many
downside impacts.


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Posted by Long Time Resident
a resident of University South
on Aug 5, 2014 at 10:06 pm

Ben Lerner,

Forgive me, but I'm not sure I follow. How would your 3-part solution stabilize housing prices at all? You claim it will, but then provide no explanation or evidence. I would think that freezing supply in the face of ever-increasing demand would cause the price of existing supply to increase further, wouldn't it?

As for your comment about taking Caltrain, due to our region's inadequate regional transportation (buses, shuttles, etc.) a Caltrain rider must both live and work near Caltrain to make it a truly viable and daily alternative. If Mr. Ash lives a few miles away from a Caltrain stop in a neighboring city, rather than drive to Caltrain, pay for parking at the Caltrain stop (or park in the surrounding neighborhood), and then take a 10 minute ride into Palo Alto, Mr. Ash is likely to just drive to work. If there's available housing near where he works, he can simply walk.


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Posted by Orchestrated, not new
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 5, 2014 at 10:20 pm

Long Time resident,

"due to our region's inadequate regional transportation (buses, shuttles, etc.) a Caltrain rider must both live and work near Caltrain to make it a truly viable and daily alternative."

All jobs and all housing must be near Caltrain? And if everyone should be walking to work, why would they need to be near Caltrain?

Out of curiosity, what is considered walking distance to work?


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Posted by Long Time Resident
a resident of University South
on Aug 5, 2014 at 10:35 pm

Orchestrated, not new:

Please read Mr. Lerner's post to understand the context of the comments I made, rather than pulling one statement out of context to distract from the point being made. Mr. Lerner took issue with Mr. Ash's comments about driving to work, and speculated that since Mr. Ash works near Caltrain, Caltrain should therefore be a viable mode of transportation for him. My point was that we don't know the specific address where Mr. Ash currently lives now that he no longer lives in downtown Palo Alto. He may live miles away from Caltrain in another city, in which case Caltrain is not likely a viable transportation option.

As for your question, I imagine "walking distance to work" depends on each individual circumstance. I'm open to other opinions if you want to offer one up.

Thank you.


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Posted by Sunshine
a resident of Barron Park
on Aug 5, 2014 at 10:45 pm

To Kate downing: if you want to be able to take public transit any time, not own a car, and walk to work you should move to NYC. Public transit in Palo Alto is near to useless.
Palo Alto has always been an expensive place to live. Even in the 60s many who worked in PA either teamed up with roommates or lived in Mt View or Sunnyvale. Only after working for some time and saving carefully could people afford to buy a house in PA.
Re the referendum: that had to do with the council trying to slide through increased density in an R1 area that is along a main school commute route. They still would like to do that on some other parcels. It was about changing the zoning in an area by stealth.
Note, the referendum was written so as to confuse voters.
If you want lower cost housing go to Bakersfield or susanville. Try Nevada.
Just because you were one of the "chosen" who were hired to work at one of the local firms does not mean that those of us who have worked long and hard, saved carefully, finally managed to purchase a home should suddenly upon retirement leave Palo Alto and give our home to you. You might not like some of our older, smaller, not too modern places anyway.


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Posted by Janet Lafleur
a resident of Mountain View
on Aug 5, 2014 at 11:02 pm

@Sunshine You may be surprised to hear that people can actually live without owning a car in places other than New York City. If you're willing to ride a bike a handful of miles for short trips and to connect the gaps in longer-distance transit like Caltrain, it's quite easy here on the Peninsula.

As short-term car sharing like ZipCar and Car2Go expand it will become even easier. And then there are families that share one car between two or more family members, saving what AAA estimates as over an average of $8,000 a year.

How do I know? Because in the last 2.5 years I've only put 3500 miles on my car. I ride my bike for short trips and take my bike on Caltrain for longer trips, including my daily work commute to San Jose. It's not that hard for a significant percentage of the population, even in Palo Alto.


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Posted by le plus ca change
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 5, 2014 at 11:12 pm

It seems to me that if people want the big City experience, there are big cities locally where they can get it. Palantir is right next to transit, I don't see what they are whining about.

Kate has a completely distorted view of what is going on. This area has always been expensive. We got into the housing market because my spouse bought a home in a less-desirable neighborhood (not Palo Alto) and had to ask the drug dealer who was living there to leave (he moved next door). He lived among the old-beer (and who knows what else) stained carpets and nicotine blackened walls and took out dumpsters full of trash, pulled out rotted walls and cleaned up infestations of vermin, and learned how to repair everything with whatever change was leftover each pay period after paying the exorbitant cost of living here. That was what we could afford. That was 30 years ago, and we did not move from there to Palo Alto. We went through a lot of stuff in between.

During the '80s, the area had a wave of yuppies who wanted condos, and for awhile, Los Altos was actually cheaper than Palo Alto because of it. But then the yuppies grew up and wanted families, schools and yards. We've been there, done that, Kate. What you want, already exists, elsewhere, often accessible to here from transit.

But what Palo Alto has that developers have been busy killing - sky, views, trees, open spaces, a patchwork of urban wildland connecting the hills to the bay, a low-key small-town feel, family businesses, ease of getting around while still in a high-tech hub - which you don't seem to get has thrived for decades and decades in the Palo Alto you too seem ready to destroy without any evidence. You can't get those everywhere. The rest of us are here because we want that. You don't. Fine. Luckily for you, if that's not what you want, you have choices. You do not have to kill what we have sacrificed for to get what you want and seem to feel entitled to.


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Posted by Ben Lerner
a resident of Palo Verde
on Aug 5, 2014 at 11:16 pm

Long Time Resident,

My 3-part solution is based on managing demand for housing and offices, in contrast to current mainstream policies of encouraging job growth to where its out of balance with housing. I don't view Palo Alto as having a "housing shortage", what it has is a jobs-housing imbalance. And to maintain livability, I want to solve this imbalance on the housing-demand side.

Regarding CalTrain, you don't need to live and/or work near it to use it -- you can bike to/from the train and use the bike cars. I've been doing that for years. My home and office are 4 miles from the nearest express CalTrain stations, and biking is a great solution to the otherwise lacking public transit.

On the "walking to work" topic, it's often said that if only we would place lots of jobs and lots of housing near each other, everybody would walk to work and the world would be sustainable forever after. Realistically, what would happen is that most of those jobs will be filled by workers commuting from elsewhere, mainly by car, and most of the residents of that housing would commute to jobs elsewhere, mainly by car. Young singles may opt to find housing close to their jobs, but that model breaks as life progresses. People get married, have kids, buy homes, and become tied to their community, while jobs change and move around. People change employers and work locations much more frequently than they move where they live.

I hope that helps.


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Posted by le plus ca change
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 5, 2014 at 11:19 pm

Oops, sorry, before you delete that, that's me above, posted as "what of the duties of civic life?", not as anonymous as I thought. I will post as "le plus ca change" now.


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Posted by Orchestrated, not new
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 5, 2014 at 11:26 pm

Long Time Resident,

The statement that I pulled out of your comment happens to be very important - the viability of public transportation as usable for transportation, and then extending this concept to growth policies for Palo Alto.

It seems to me that there is no need to have housing on University and Cal Ave except for the people who -as you suggest (to be viable) - must work near Caltrain.

Which tech employers are near Caltrain? Are there some numbers on commuting patterns?


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Posted by le plus ca change
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 5, 2014 at 11:54 pm

@ Ben Lerner,

Thanks for that very good encapsulation. The Kate's of this world are also only thinking of themselves, rather than the long-time Palo Altans like the residents of Buena Vista Mobile Home Park who chose to live in substandard housing in order to be somewhere affordable while sending their kids to better schools (where they do quite well and can make a better life). Allowing developers to overdevelop and violate zoning so much is a huge factor in the acceleration of housing costs here. So much so that these long-time residents who managed to remain through other booms and busts will be tossed out (let's remember that the erstwhile developer expected four times the existing zoning it his application). The high-density building as others have noted, in a desirable place, only pushes the limits of costs ever higher, pushing out ordinary people and low-income residents.

@ Kate, Go spend some time with the Friends of BV, Kate. What you want is incompatible with those families being able to remain a part of this community. We don't need more growth. What we need is a breather from growth. A time to holistically assess what's happening and how to restore balance and services. We need protection of the natural environment now. Stewardship of resources like water especially in this drought, open space, schools. We need to figure out how to protect and restore retail and family businesses, especially on the south side of town that has taken the brunt of overdevelopment. You bring up the trees, yet the push to overdevelopment will result in the 100 established trees at Maybell being bulldozed when they could have been saved for little more than the City Council is spending to make cosmetic facelift to City Hall.

If our future is as a beautiful destination college town, which is what most RESIDENTS want -- it's going to take some work to get that back, for one -- and our Comprehensive Plan should not be enabling more destructive overdevelopment, especially using glib, irrational excuses about how yet more luxury apartments will bring down costs. The residents of BV were here first, Kate, and it does mean something because they sacrificed a lot more than you have for the good things about this place that you dismiss and want to destroy. What you want will cost them everything, even though you could get want you want elsewhere, even nearby instead.

It really is not possible to empty the entire contents of the nation into this space. Not physically possible. Where do we draw the line? We should have done it a few dozen PC zonings ago.

We took a wrong turn when the High Street referendum lost. And it lost because of the exact same bias the Council inserted in the ballot as they tried at Maybell, only the residents didn't get it then. But when the City won through that deception, they felt they no longer had to worry about the checks and balances of the citizenry, and that's when the overdevelopment abuses began. Not just in terms of the results, but in City employee time and focus.

T


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Posted by le plus ca change
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 6, 2014 at 12:04 am

@Orchestrated,
You are so right. Gennady Shayner is a great writer but he seems to have a blind spot when it comes to shiny young things.

Since Maybell, nobody really buys the astroturf. (There's that turn of phrase again...)


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Posted by Ahem
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 6, 2014 at 12:54 am

"Sustainable growth", is just a clever phrases that PR savvy developers have adopted to repackage and re-brand the same old unsustainable growth practices they have been pushing, and profiting from for years.

We live in an Orwellian world Kate. "Clean coal" is not clean, "Smart bombs" are not smart, and "sustainable growth" is not sustainable.


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Posted by Ahem, you are correct
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Aug 6, 2014 at 1:14 am

"Political language is designed to make lies sound truthful..." - George Orwell


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Posted by common sense
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 6, 2014 at 6:41 am

I took a look at homes for sale within a 5 mile radius of Palantir, which would be in biking distance, and the least expensive place is for sale in Redwood City for $289,000; next is East Palo Alto at $325,000, Mountain View $539,000, and Palo Alto at $570,000...

A household making $60,000 could afford the Redwood City home, while the Palo Alto home would require a household making $130,000 (like a couple).

5 miles can be biked within 30-45 minutes, or is reasonable public transportation distance.

I would think that a company like Palantir, valued at $9 billion, or VMware (valued at $42 billion) could pay their employees enough so that their workers could afford homes.


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Posted by Sea-Seelam Reddy
a resident of College Terrace
on Aug 6, 2014 at 7:01 am

Improving Schools in Palo Alto

We have three high schools. What is Stanford agrees to take top 7 from each school and give them full scholarship regardless of income. They can afford it.

Then our youngsters will aim high and study harder to get into Stanford; our School Board has to help get the best teachers; our parents have to let their sons/daughters perform; our schools will get the recognition; home values will go up; parents will be happy; What do you think?

Who can influence Stanford to admit 7 top students from each high schools?
City Council? Mark Z?

This is how we keep Palo Alto highly ranked for good schools and value for being in a 'heaven on earth - Palo Alto'.

respectfully


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Posted by Sea-Seelam Reddy
a resident of College Terrace
on Aug 6, 2014 at 7:04 am


corrected..

What if Stanford agrees to take top 7 from each high school and give them full scholarship regardless of income.


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Posted by bscolii
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Aug 6, 2014 at 8:12 am

In Silicon Valley's computer cluster, skilled employees move rapidly between competing firms, aka job hopping. Even if Kate gets her wish for a condo near CalTrain, she and her husband will very likely change jobs several times, so the wish for a life without cars is not realistic. Young people like Kate who crave development, density and an urban life style belong in San Francisco, assuming they stay in the Bay Area. They can use the train to commute to work, but enjoy the city life they crave so much. Palo Alto is not a big city and if we can help it, will never become one. Palo Alto has always been expensive. I purchased my house here years ago because I could afford to after years of saving and managing my money carefully and making many sacrifices to be able to be a Palo Alto home owner, I never expected or wanted the residents of Palo Alto to destroy their city character and diminish their quality of life in order to make buying a house here more affordable for me.

The mantra "development is coming and is unavoidable" is a clever little gimmick by the developers and those who have no problem destroying this formerly great small city. Development is not unavoidable. Palo Alto has been developed to the max over the last few decades, and now we are maxed out. Look somewhere else.


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Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 6, 2014 at 8:53 am

Redwood City is building a plethora of new condos/apartments right beside the Caltrain station. Unfortunately, although only 3 stops away on Caltrain, it is in another zone which makes the fare between downtown PA and downtown RWC more expensive than it should be.

Caltrain pricing does not help getting workers from where they want to live to where they want to work. The RWC building craze is helping San Francisco workers, but not PA workers.


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Posted by Mark Weiss
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 6, 2014 at 9:07 am

The meeting tomorrow Wednesday, Aug. 7 starts at 6 but there is a closed session such that the matter here may not start until 7. Might wanna be safe and come at 6 anyhow.

Also, people most probably have the right to speak at this meeting. I plan to for instance. Mayor Shepherd has some discretion on how to do this, and may limit the pubic speakers to those who did not speak Monday.

By the way, I wish Cheryl L had run for Council. I find her the most compelling figure coming out of the referendum / new pseudo-slate movement. We need more hands-on, yet smart Moms in the discussion. Right livelihood, integrating hands and mind and heart. Try it.


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Posted by Mark Weiss
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 6, 2014 at 9:13 am

Excuse me, the meeting is tonight, Wed., Aug. 6 at 6 pm.

I'm sorry that took me 3 minutes to correct. I am posting while sitting thru at speaking at HRB meeting, and two other projects I am tracking. But Karen is sitting next to me and said people will probably be able to speak. Busy week on campaign trail!!!!


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Posted by anonymous
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Aug 6, 2014 at 9:24 am

"the four alternatives on the table" I am already noticing the excessive blather of the Palo Alto process. It doesn't have to be so complicated so as to exclude the time, interest, voices of regular voters here. But that's how it always ends up, with excessive detail, scheming, and so it is difficult unless one makes a career out of it to understand all the ulterior motivations. The City of PA is an entity; it is also part of a region. Benchmarking with what other cities do about growth, etc., makes sense and can be and should be discussed in a straightforward way. Then consider what THIS city should do, in light of it's "special"ness. Beyond that, there is too much political intrigue and tendency for certain voices like Stanford to dominate things here. The recent vote about ZONING not senior affordable housing and how this was all described by the city of PA is telling.


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Posted by Joe
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 6, 2014 at 9:26 am

> And I would add - And if there was no Stanford University?

It's unlikely that after 130-odd years Stanford would shut its doors, and remove itself to parts elsewhere. However, Stanford may very well open other campuses—outside of Palo Alto. This would have no impact on Palo Alto, although it's clear that if they continue to grow here—there will be a lot of impact of Palo Alto.

This is not a meaningful comment to add to this discussion at this time.


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Posted by Joe
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 6, 2014 at 9:29 am

> Caltrain pricing does not help getting workers from where
> they want to live to where they want to work.

Perhaps. But Caltrain runs at a loss that is subsidized by the taxpayers of its service area, and US taxpayers in general. The taxpayers should not be seen a a big piggy bank for Caltrain, and the small number of riders of this antiquated, and massively ineffective system.


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Posted by Joe
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 6, 2014 at 9:34 am

> Improving Schools in Palo Alto

Not exactly the topic of this discussion.

> We have three high schools.

Hmm .. We have Gunn, and Palo Alto High .. what's your candidate for the 3rd high school?

> What is Stanford agrees
> to take top 7 from each school and give them full
> scholarship regardless of income.

What does this have to do with increased densification of Palo Alto?

Maybe you should move these comments to a discussion about education?


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Posted by anonymous
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Aug 6, 2014 at 9:38 am

@Sea-Seelam Reddy:
You are mentioning our PA public schools:
I believe you wrote in public that your are new to Palo Alto.
Schools are a hot topic here and often discussed on individual threads on this forum for many years. You may like to browse through the history (not sure how many years retained online at this point, but check it out).
Many assert it is the PAUSD that leads to the high residential property values here; PA has not been thought of as a "starter" living community - whether for Palantir employees or any other young worker. Recently there has been a wave of international investment, unsentimental, and when that departs, property values will drop like a shot. They will recover to a good extent, then, because of our school system.
Plenty of kids here study very well, have very high parental support for education, and then attend major universities and other academic institutions all over. Stanford is not the center of the earth. News flash.
The public and private schools here are already very good...compared to most of the public schools in the state of California. This state is ranked low nationally, though.
Stanford is a private university with many local legacy and faculty kid applicants as well as "regular" applicants. They don't need to be told to offer certain scholarships to "increase" the status of our kids' educations here or to tempt our kids to study more.
I don't see how this has anything to do with the "need" (?) to improve PA schools. That is a topic for another thread, no district is perfect, PA has it's high points and low points. The context here would be excessive building/residential growth in already crowded PA WILL indeed result in more kids in PA schools. There has been a history of people renting 2nd residences (apartments) merely for the PA address in order to send their kid(s) to PA schools; these are people of means who live in San Francisco or the south bay yet covet our schools without paying our high property taxes (which here, as you may have found, pay for our schools unlike the funding in most other CA school districts).


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Posted by anonymous
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Aug 6, 2014 at 9:46 am

On the subject of Caltrain pricing, at least for parking there may be a concern for us here in Palo Alto. Mt View and another city (Burlingame, Millbrae?) announced trials of higher paid parking at their stations - I have confusingly read either $10 or $25 for "game days" (how those of us who couldn't care less about the San Francisco 49ers's football must be forced now to follow these schedules...) and regular locals who wish to park in Mr View city lots and/or Caltrain lots may now find no parking or high-priced parking. My concern: savvy 49ers fans, who are flush with cash as I constantly read, will park in PALO ALTO's Caltrain station and ride up to Mt View where they can get on the light rail for the ride south to the Levi Stadium in Santa Clara. I resent out of area parking being forced on either Mt View OR Palo Alto for a football stadium in Santa Clara. All this in the guise of their "riding public transit" to the stadium, oh, how holy! They merely neglect to mention other cities will be impacted. The trail run of the stadium resulted in reports of heavy traffic in several areas, great delays on the return of the light rail (north to Mt View) and lots of other things, so I expect regional effects without particular benefit, at least for residents of the city of Palo Alto. Perhaps the Palo Alto Caltrain station will have to raise it's parking rates very high, too....? Or else, we will have no parking for even us occasional Caltrain users from Palo Alto. No I cannot walk to Caltrain.


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Posted by anonymous
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Aug 6, 2014 at 9:49 am

sorry, that should be "trial run." of the 49ers football stadium.
I can't think of ANYTHING I am less interested in, but I AM interested in Caltrain, Caltrain parking lots for local residents, city parking lots and these should not be overwhelmed by "football fans" carousing as they transit to attend football games down near Great America.IMHO, to use an old phrase.


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Posted by NanP
a resident of Downtown North
on Aug 6, 2014 at 9:59 am

Are you kidding me? I can't even believe that a set of employees from Plantir would have any say or rights to demand such change to Palo Alto over long time residents who are just trying to protect their quality of life.


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Posted by Bring on the clones
a resident of Community Center
on Aug 6, 2014 at 10:06 am

The speakers were clearly organized by their corporate leaders. Their message was: I want, I want, I want.
A uniform group like that doesn't appear out of nowhere.


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Posted by Orchestrated, not new
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 6, 2014 at 10:08 am

@Sea -PAUSD has two high schools, in the range of 2000 students each.

I agree with anonymous that plenty of Palo Alto kids study very well, and Stanford is not the center of the earth for them or for their parents. There are many Stanford affiliated families of course, but it does not make the schools or community Stanford-centric.

Stanford has changed over the years, and like all university systems is not just running a college community, it's a business, and the largest employer in town. While it probably has been the largest employer in town, it used to be that small startups could spruce up around town and then move on.

Now you have Stanford itself with space needs, and a few employers like Palantir who appear to want to have control over land use. Long term, if Stanford keeps growing into Palo Alto, and with one or two more other companies want to grow perpetually only here, (only here) and only on University and Cal Ave., these areas will just become two or three giants' back office.


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Posted by Native Palo Altan
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Aug 6, 2014 at 10:37 am

Sure, everyone wants to live in Palo Alto: homeless, seniors, young people, but we simply cannot house everyone.

Crescent Park Dad has it right: "I am thankful that the *residents* of Palo Alto have the final say in all of this. Non-resident employees or commercial land owners can talk/whine all they want - but they can't vote for the CC."

I'm voting for Filseth, Kou and DuBois to stop overdeveloping Palo Alto and keep it as a family city. No, it won't drop off the Earth if we stop.

Sea-Seelam Reddy is too new and nave to be elected to City Council. Every posting of his on these threads displays the fact that he's only lived in Palo Alto for two years so he doesn't know what's already been done and how to solve issues. The rest of the City Council members would be educating him the entire time if he is elected - what a waste of time.

Example: Seelam's suggestion about Stanford blindly accepting PAUSD top students. Gaining admission into Stanford has nothing to do with money, and has everything to do with connections. Stanford will only take a limited number of PAUSD students, and those students aren't always the top students - they always have some connection, either a professor parent (being an alum isn't good enough), a star athlete that the coaches want, having relative that is/was a powerful Stanford employee. It's been that way for at least the last four decades. It's easier for a non-PAUSD student to gain admission to Stanford.


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Posted by Orchestrated, not new
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 6, 2014 at 10:37 am

"Palo Alto's aggressive push to get the public more involved in updating the city's official land-use vision appeared to finally pay off Monday night, with dozens of residents and downtown employees packing into City Hall and serving up an unusually wide spectrum of opinions about growth and development."

This introduction is very misleading. The City has not had an "aggressive" push to get the public more involved in updating the city's official land-use vision. If only because most people have no idea that there is a plan to change the vision. The "pay off" for the push was to get speakers organized to repeat the very well known vision which the Council has been pushing and shoving all along.

The "unusually wide spectrum of opinions" was not wide amongst the orchestrated downtown employees, Palantir and Stanford interests - they all had the same statements and the same vision.

The other speakers mostly addressed process. This meeting itself was supposed to be about process, but Council couldn't help wanting to revise vision alternatives.


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Posted by Orchestrated, not new
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 6, 2014 at 10:42 am

And wouldn't paying for and Environmental Review already imply that the current vision of Palo Alto will change?


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Posted by boscoli
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Aug 6, 2014 at 11:02 am

I have to admit that the arrogant tone of the Plantir in the council meeting and in comments on this thread, reeking of a sense of entitlement and lacking any sensitivity or understanding of Palo Alto's history and character, made pessimistic about today's yuppies. Perhaps the most irritating comment was that development has created the unprecedented appreciation in home values in Palo Alto, therefore the home owners should be grateful for the massive development wave of the last three decades and welcome more. As a Palo Alto home owner I have indeed watched my house appreciate over the years at an astonishing rate. I never wanted, expected or asked for this. I didn't purchase the house as an investment. I find this phenomenon unhealthy on every level imaginable. Many home owners feel exactly like me. I wonder if this generation of young professionals who feel so entitled can understand that our quality of life, which seems to deteriorate rapidly is much more important to us than the sticker price of our homes should be decide to sell. I would be happy to see the value of my home drop by 90 percent in return for even a fraction of the quality of life we enjoyed in Palo Alto 30 years ago.


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Posted by Sea-Seelam Reddy
a resident of College Terrace
on Aug 6, 2014 at 11:13 am

Thanks for your comments

I agree I should not have posted my comments about schools on this blog.

Responding to 'Native Palo Altian':

I respectfully disagree with your comments.

I was a single parent and raised two daughter with different aptitude (a UC Berkeley and a CONCORDIA graduate).

DO not be 'negative' and sense that and be positive.

There is room to improve.We can lift up our schools even higher by aspiring higher. It does not have to be STANFORD; it can be CALTECH or MIT or for that matter.

As we see, Palo Alto high school students do well because the parents and the community take interest in their children's education.

The last I talked to STANFORD and UCB admissions in 2000; there are several schools that rank high; WHITNEY, University HIGH and Elliot; so the list goes on; We can aspire higher/demand better teaching so Palo Alto graduates get into top schools and become starts in their life; invent things and change the world for the better.

I agree it is not the subject of this blog. We can always do better in every thing we do. That is what Peter Drucker and Boeing taught me and I am sharing my thoughts. Please allow to share ideas and thoughts whether one agrees or not.

Respectfully


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Posted by Orchestrated, not new
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 6, 2014 at 11:24 am

Among the groups which appear to be orchestrating is Adina Levin, one of the resident speakers (is she a resident?) - Green Planning Action Group which has a lot to say about Palo Alto and for Palo Alto.

Some excerpts from their website www.greenplanningaction.org/comprehensive-plan.html

"Prioritize denser residential development in the right places

"Palo Alto has one of the highest jobs-to-housing ratios in the region (which has among the worst jobs-to-housing ratios in the country)
Focus on placing denser housing near services, shops and Third Places, provides guaranteed customer base for retailers and merchants, significantly decreases cross-town car trips, and helps support local businesses
With little land to build on, new housing projects need to be infill and multifamily, and should support a variety of groups: younger professionals, families starting out, couples looking to downsize, older populations.
Housing near job and transit centers can also a provide moderate reduction in commute traffic "

Template letter to Council
Dear City Council,

My name is name here and I have lived at address here with family/housemates since <year. I chose to live in Palo Alto because <state one or two reasons>. Thank you for reviewing the 4 Alternatives to the Comprehensive Plan.

I support Alternative x because list 2-3 aspects. This alternative, however, could be strengthened in a few ways explain
-OR-
I feel none of the alternatives is idea <describe your vision and principles for the Palo Alto Comprehensive Plan>

I hope the Comprehensive Plan will enable Palo Alto to continue being a vibrant and inclusive community for individuals and families alike, and a great place to live and work.

Sincerely,
Your Name
Your Address


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Posted by Joe
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 6, 2014 at 11:25 am

> There is room to improve.

It's difficult to believe that you really know what you are talking about. Sure--at some point, everyone can study more, stop watching TV and sleep less, so that they can read more. But none of this is going to happen, and is just the idle chatter of someone who seems to think he needs to chine in, even though he doesn't really have much to say.

Have you actually taken the time to review the published performance data of the PAUSD? The schools are in the top 1% of the scoring range. If you are going to make suggestions about improving the schools, you are going have to push their performance even higher.

Best to stick to City of Palo Alto topics. Or maybe you should run for the School Board.


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Posted by Kate Downing
a resident of Ventura
on Aug 6, 2014 at 11:26 am

Last time I checked everyone in a democratic government got an equal vote. To think that because you happen to have lived here longer (because you are older- a fact that's not in my control), your voice should somehow count for more than mine- THAT's entitlement. I AM a resident here and so were many of the other people who spoke. Many of us aren't trying to elbow into this community, we're already here. We're already a part of it. And we're not even necessarily asking for these changes for ourselves- we're clearly already here - we're asking because we have a vision for the future that concerns not just us, but all the people who will come after us. I want to make things better for them, rather than telling them "it was awful for me, it should be awful for you, too!"

The Council opened this topic up and ASKED the community to speak. I spoke. Apparently, participating in civic life is an audacious and entitled act? Usually the older generation is yelling at as about NOT participating in the community. You may have lived here for 30 years already, but this is a plan for 15 years into the future and that future is as much mine as it is yours. I may well have 30 years here in front of me.

A lot of what I'm hearing is along the lines of "I walked uphill both ways in the snow and therefore you should, too!" So, how exactly does anything improve in this world if the older generation feels that the younger generation should always have it as bad as they did? Do we not put in more public transit because you didn't get to enjoy it when you were younger?? Personally, my parents and all the parents I've ever known have tried to make this world a better place for their kids, not the other way around.

Frankly, the notion that this is a cycle and things have always been expensive here and tough for everyone just isn't entirely accurate. It's gotten worse. Empirically, this is the first time that Palo Alto has been the most expensive place in the country. That's a fact. And empirically, unlike the older generation, those of us entering the workforce today are doing so with large student debt that will take us 10-25 years to pay off. That just wasn't the case for my parent's generation- they graduated with zero debt or debt that they were able to pay off within a year or two of graduating. And on top of that, Silicon Valley is one of the few places that has jobs for young people in the entire country- that's = why they're all coming here! Unemployment for young people is at 50%! Very few industries are experiencing any job growth, and many of those need more experienced workers rather than young workers.

Prices don't go up because of development. Prices go up when development is mismanaged. Between Research Park and the rest of Palo Alto, there are way more jobs/workers than there is housing for them or even a portion of them. THAT's what leads to high rents- you have high demand and low supply. Palo Alto has basically externalized housing - you've made San Francisco into your bedroom community. You've exacerbated THEIR housing prices by doing so. The way to ease high rent is to correct the imbalance between workers and houses or at least try to go in that direction. I admit that this is a problem that really needs to be tackled by all parts of the Peninsula and not just Palo Alto, but we have to start somewhere. 101 and 280 are already complete nightmares during rush hour and if you keep creating distance between work and home every time a new job is added, eventually 101 and 280 will become a complete slog. That's not sustainable.

The local businesses that went out of business didn't do so because of "development" - they did so because there is a LACK of development. Many people wanted to have businesses in Palo Alto when there just wasn't enough space for everyone who wanted to come. So rents got higher and businesses that were less profitable closed down. On this, you have the cause and effect entirely backwards.

I also don't understand the straw man here - Palo Alto is either Palo Alto or it's NYC. As if there's nothing in between. If you want to look at a model city, look at Boulder. Boulder is entirely walkable/bikeable, a generally low rise city, with tons of green space, lots of public squares, lots of sidewalk cafes, etc. It's beautiful city that sits in front of a set of mountains just like we do. Take a look for yourself: Web Link. They have succeeded because they put retail on the ground floor, offices above that, and apartments above that. They haven't created the imbalance that we have. If you want another such example, please look at Paris: Web Link. I don't think anyone can deny that it's a gorgeous city and it manages to be that way because they do the exact same thing- retail on bottom, offices and apartments on top.

The reason so many Americans go to Europe and enjoy its cities and find them so different from ours is because they never adopted the crazy zoning that American did, that split everything up, required people to drive everywhere, and allowed sprawl.


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Posted by Orchestrated, not new
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 6, 2014 at 11:37 am

Kate,

You are bringing up Paris, and other cities which actually have public transportation. Palo Alto does not, and it has no money to do it alone.

I don't necessarily disagree with many things you say, but it has too many IFs

If the comp plan would say if this, if that, if the other, only then......

But, that's not how it will work. The vision will be interpreted and ordinances will be written paying no heed to the "if."

Do you have numbers for commuter patterns for Caltrain to justify housing near Caltrain? I see people using Caltrain to come to work here. This station is the job station.


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Posted by Orchestrated, not new
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 6, 2014 at 11:39 am

Otherwise, I would think you could bike to Caltrain from housing anywhere in Palo Alto in minutes.


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Posted by Robert
a resident of another community
on Aug 6, 2014 at 11:42 am

@Orchestrated

Sorry, if there isn't adequate public transportation, you can't blame the young people, you've had decades upon decades to invest, and have chosen not to do so. Even more recently, the outcry over Caltrain grade separations, or bus only lanes on El Camino, shows that the "wait until public transportation investments are made" plan is just a red herring to delay things further.


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Posted by Kate Downing
a resident of Ventura
on Aug 6, 2014 at 11:44 am

I agree with you and I fully understand the difficulty in creating public transportation given the fragmented transportation authority of counties and states in the Bay Area. I don't discount that.

But I think that means that this needs to get on our list of steps for this plan. It means that we need to get the City Council working on building alliances throughout the Bay Area to make that happen. Again, we should be focusing on how we handle growth, rather than spending years going round and round trying to deny that it's happening and will continue to happen. At bottom, if you believe nothing else, the birth rate is still positive and there WILL be more people in this state.


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Posted by Orchestrated, not new
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 6, 2014 at 11:46 am

Robert,

What is old by the way.

Kate has already brought up the issue of government mismanagement.

Now, to delay what further? Development without adequate transportation or infrastructure?


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Posted by Sea-Seelam Reddy
a resident of College Terrace
on Aug 6, 2014 at 11:47 am

Just to close on the subject of how many high schools we have;

There are indeed 3 high schools in Palo Alto; 2 public and the third one is a private girls school Castilleja.

Palo Alto is a 'heaven on earth'.

We are expected to aspire for higher calling to make it even better.

Respectfully


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Posted by Orchestrated, not new
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 6, 2014 at 11:59 am

Kate,

"It means that we need to get the City Council working on building alliances throughout the Bay Area to make that happen"

I disagree. The state, county and all the other levels of government should be taking the lead. Or break up the state as someone has suggested.

For now, you have surrounding cities with more land, space to build housing less expensively, at distances New York and Paris workers could only dream of having.


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Posted by Silly
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Aug 6, 2014 at 12:04 pm

Palo Alto is "heaven on earth"?? Palo Alto is gridlocked and getting worse each day. It takes them 9 years to study changing traffic light timing. The city says they want citizen input but their web sites don't work which is maybe their intent.

They've put in "new traffic patterns" on Middlefield @ Oregon and people are creating their own traffic lanes to avoid the gridlock which will cause head-on-collisions.

It is totally delusional to think that no one living in or commuting to the high-density buildings will have cars or ever use cars.

Maybe the PA schools should start offering school bus service to reduce gridliock?


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Posted by Robert
a resident of another community
on Aug 6, 2014 at 12:05 pm

@Orchestrated

I'm pointing out just how disingenuous it is for folks of a certain age to say "we don't have the infrastructure to handle new development", as if they haven't been the ones either not making, or actually fighting against making those investments in infrastructure in the first place.


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Posted by Joe
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 6, 2014 at 12:07 pm

> Last time I checked everyone in a democratic government got an equal vote.

Perhaps you mean a "democratic system". Reality is—there is no handbook for "democracy", and as such, the rules change from place-to-place, and time-to-time.

> To think that because you happen to have lived here longer
> (because you are older- a fact that's not in my control),
> your voice should somehow count for more than mine- THAT's entitlement.

If the people who lived here longer than you, Kate, were given more votes than you—that would be entitlement. When their voices count more than yours in the marketplace of ideas—that's lifelong education, persuasive skills, and common sense—characteristics/attributes not generally found in the young.

> I AM a resident here and so were many of the other
> people who spoke.

And how many who spoke were NOT residents here? Should their voices count as much, or more, than longtime, property owners?

> we're asking because we have a vision for the future that
> concerns not just us, but all the people who will come after us.

And what is this vision? Have you ever really articulated it? Have you put together a model that includes all of the externalities, and the impacts of your vision? You should be reminded that Hitler, Lenin and Mao had a vision. Got any idea how things turned out for the people who were forced to live their visions?

> if the older generation feels that the younger generation
> should always have it as bad as they did?

The older generation fought two great wars during the 20th Century so that you would not have to. It sounds like you are unaware of their sacrifices for you and your generation. But hey! As long as you didn't have to go through a war, why should you even take note that there was one?


> The local businesses that went out of business didn't do so
> because of "development" - they did so because there is a
> LACK of development.

And you know this how? Businesses routinely go out of business because of mismanagement. Occasionally, developers buy a lease and redo a building driving small business out. But that is not the main driver of business failure. [Portion removed.]

> The reason so many Americans go to Europe and enjoy
> its cities and find them so different from ours is because
> they never adopted the crazy zoning that American did, that
> split everything up, required people to drive everywhere,
> and allowed sprawl.

What? Virtually every city in Europe is one to three thousand years old. Most were designed millennia before the car was invented. In some cities, like London, the suburbs began to develop in the 1830s, as the railway network crisscrossed the land.

[Portion removed.]


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Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 6, 2014 at 12:09 pm

This thread shows exactly what is wrong with growth in the Bay Area.

It is exactly that we have city by city demigods thinking of what is going on in one city and hoping that the problem will be solved by neighboring cities. Bad situation will only gets worse with this thinking.

What we need is regional Bay Area agencies, transportation, housing, business, roads management, etc. etc. This city by city, even county by county situation, is not helping the situation.

We need to look at the Bay Area as a whole region and make design plans to see where exactly in the Bay Area solutions can be realized to help the whole region. Where in the region is the area for housing improvements, business improvements, etc. eg, do we really need upscale shopping in San Antonio when we already have it in Stanford? Do we really need to have Caltrain and BART competing with each other rather than complementing each other in the upper part of the Peninsula? Do we really need to upset parking at Caltrain all over the Peninsula when we have 49er games?

Each of these situations are looked at as a city issue when in fact they are a regional issue. How can we look at say commuting to San Francisco by Caltrain/changing to BART with simply one fare rather than two fares for a simple mile or so trip? Are San Antonio Centre and Stanford SC competing for similar stores and similar demographic shoppers? Does someone wanting to spend a day in San Francisco have to compete at any Caltrain station with $25 parking because of 49er games?

These are real issues and yet piecemeal actions are not solutions.

We have to look at getting rid of city and county boundaries by decision makers, because sure as anything, those of us who live here are not defined by artificial City/County boundaries. If I make a decision to accept a job offer, I don't look at the City issues of where it is situated. I look at how I am going to get there from where I live. If I decide to buy/rent a home near a Caltrain station, I don't look at whether I am loyal to that City, but how many stations I have to pass to get to my job and how much that journey will cost me and how often the trains stop at the two stations I will be using.

The sooner we get some Bay Area regional authorities to look at the quality of living within the Bay Area rather than treating each little agency/city as sole entities, the better our chances of improving things.


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Posted by Robert
a resident of another community
on Aug 6, 2014 at 12:24 pm

I really hope Joe's comments don't get censored, this is exactly what the young people in town need to see so they know what they're up against:

Think there needs to be some kind of planning so that you have the same opportunities to live and raise a family that previous generations had? Well, Hitler had a plan too...


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Posted by resident
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 6, 2014 at 12:33 pm

Kate

You say "we have a vision for the future that concerns not just us, but all the people who will come after us. I want to make things better for them" - by the way many of us measure "better", we think your vision will make things worse by my criteria: more traffic, less access to services, higher taxes.

You say "participating in civic life is an audacious and entitled act?" - we are exercising our 1st Admendment rights to critique ideas presented.

You say "A lot of what I'm hearing is along the lines of "I walked uphill both ways in the snow and therefore you should, too!" - that's not what I hear; I hear that if you want a piece of property go out and earn it, and don't ask the rest of the city to subsidize your 'wants'.

You say "Palo Alto has basically externalized housing - you've made San Francisco into your bedroom community." By far, the greatest number of workers in San Francisco who are commuting to Silicon Valley are with Google (Moutain View), Facebook (Menlo Park), Yahoo (Sunnyvale), etc. And many of those who live in San Francisco do so because they prefer the life style that seems to match what you want.

As a previous poster pointed out, there are places within 5 miles of work which are affordable. And why your company isn't paying it's employees a salary so that they can live within a reasonable commute distance is something that the employees should pressure their company's management about, and ask the everyone in Palo Alto to change their quality of life. And if the company isn't willing to step up, there are other companies willing to compete for good employees.


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Posted by Tom DuBois
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 6, 2014 at 1:09 pm

Tom DuBois is a registered user.

I spoke at the meeting about how our comp plan process is wrong. We need an engaged group of residents crafting the update. We just spent a lot of money on a series of meetings over the last several months to get community input. The scenarios developed came out of that input (Palantir and friends did not participate in that process; would be good to have more involvement). Now the question is do we listen to what the community said or not? I think we should. But we need to continue to get more input as we flesh out the details in our comprehensive plan and hopefully more people will participate in the process.

That said I do believe Palo Alto should broaden the types of housing it offers - we have very little 1 bedroom or studio apartments. I would like to see some more of these types of units downtown and on Cal Ave near services. Currently, over 50% of proposed planned housing in our draft housing element is in south Palo Alto, where the people that spoke will have an even longer commute than they will do now from the Menlo Park / Palo Alto border to downtown. I believe we should shift our housing plans to 1/3 downtown, 1/3 Cal ave, and 1/3 elsewhere in the city.

However, as people pointed out the economics are such that I am not confident it will make a dent in what highly compensated workers are looking for. We can create some below market housing, but I'm not sure if they people who spoke would qualify or if they earn too much. Or we can have market rate housing, which will be at the market rate and expensive. Palo Alto has the worst jobs-housing balance on the peninsula - we do not have space to build enough housing to actually lower the market rate.

I am running for city council. I am for sensible city planning and favor some housing over additional office development (idealy with ground floor retail). I also want to see Palo Alto roll out fiber to the premises. Check out votedubois.com


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Posted by Orchestrated, not new
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 6, 2014 at 2:25 pm

Tom Du Bois,

Using the argument about "the people that spoke will have an even longer commute than they will do now from the Menlo Park / Palo Alto border to downtown" to prop up a South Palo Alto agenda is concerning - as is the 1/3, 1/3, 1/3. Palo Alto is bigger than 3 parts for housing. Especially if you want to avert traffic issues.

I guess if the focus of land use is adjusting the commutes of the Palantir employees from rolling out of bed to 10 minutes max, then the negotiating must have already begun. What happened to process?



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Posted by anonymous
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Aug 6, 2014 at 2:45 pm

@Orchestrated, not new:
"Otherwise, I would think you could bike to Caltrain from housing anywhere in Palo Alto in minutes"
Can you clarify
I am confused; both for time and safety reasons, I drive my car and park at Palo Alto's Caltrain station when I want to take Caltrain. I reside near 101/Embarcadero Rd. I cannot imagine using a bike for this back and forth.
If I resided near downtown I would walk over to the station, no problem, of course.


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Posted by pat
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 6, 2014 at 3:06 pm

Ben & Janet: Like many bike enthusiasts, you assume that everyone can do what you do: bike to the train, do without a car. How about those who are older, have health issues, are disabled or just can't ride a bike? Or have to pick up their kids on the way home from work?

> The local businesses that went out of business didn't do so because of "development" - they did so because there is a LACK of development.

Why don't you talk to the owners of the businesses who were forced out? All those I listed had to go because the landlords wanted to (a)remodel to attract tech offices or higher-paying chains or (b) tear down the building to build something bigger.

Kate, you're obviously a thoughtful person. No one wants you to walk through the snow. But, as others have pointed out, you lack perspective. I agree that many young people have it tougher in terms of college loans and expensive housing. But do you think it was easy for people who lived through the depression or WWII? Or the 1983 downturn? Or, more recently, the dot-com bust?

And how about age discrimination? How do you think people over 40 (or maybe even over 30) feel when they can't get their foot in the door for an interview? Or when they lose their home after losing their job and have no hope of getting another because they're "too old."

Today Palatir is a hot company. Not long ago HP was a hot company, as was Silicon Graphics, Sun, 3Com, Juniper, Cisco.

Roughly 75 percent of startups fail to return investors' capital. Some collapse. Others linger and die a slow death.

> "Sustainable growth", is just a clever phrases that PR savvy developers have adopted to repackage and re-brand the same old unsustainable growth practices they have been pushing, and profiting from for years.

True. "Smart growth" and "new urbanism" are also deceptive phrases. For a more honest perspective, please take some time to read Doug Moran's blog posts at Web Link


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Posted by Orchestrated, not new
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 6, 2014 at 3:22 pm

anonymous,

"I reside near 101/Embarcadero Rd. I cannot imagine using a bike for this back and forth."

Many kids are doing that commute on their bikes to Jordan, and Paly. The City has a safe routes to school program. Paly is practically on the tracks near Caltrain.

I have a longer answer to your question. Could you first elaborate about why you cannot imagine using a bike for this back and forth?


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Posted by Kate Downing
a resident of Ventura
on Aug 6, 2014 at 3:24 pm

Sorry, but those landlords wanted to remodel or tear down the building PRECISELY because there's no more office space here for them to buy and you won't let them build more. In fact, most of the Peninsula won't let them build more and where/when you can do it, the added cost of dealing with City Councils and Planning Boards and repeated appeals and permits takes years and costs a lot of money.

They would have made way more money by buying a second property and getting two rental incomes than by destroying one and rebuilding it if it were possible to do so and if they didn't have to also pay the "deal with the planning board for years" premium.


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Posted by boscoli
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Aug 6, 2014 at 3:28 pm

Why is it that I, and my friends, bought houses in Palo Alto back in the early 1980s, and they were incredibly expensive for the time as salaries, compensation and stock options in the Valley were a fraction of what they are now, and the Valley was much smaller vis-vis-opportunities, we never demanded or expected the residents to change their life style and quality of life, or help us in any way. Those of us who were able to buy here did, and those who couldn't afford to own a house in Palo Alto bought houses in Redwood City, Sunnyvale, Millbrae, Fremont , Foster City and even further away At no point did anyone think that Palo Alto should increase its population density, allow higher buildings, put more pressure on the city's infrastructure and environment and subsidize us just so we could live in Palo Alto. We wanted to live in Palo Alto precisely because it had no tall office and apartment building, because there were so may trees and parks and an ability to see the hills, because traffic was so mellow, because it never felt too crowded, because the crime rate was so low, because, despite the remarkably educated and successful population, the pace of life was surprisingly slow and graceful. Those of us who wanted density and public transportation and vibrant night life ended up living in or near San Francisco and San Jose, and that was fine. Those of us who were fortunate enough to be able to buy homes in Palo Alto didn't attempt to change it, we wanted it to remain the wonderful suburb, not become a cement jungle.


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Posted by Palo Alto Grandmother
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 6, 2014 at 3:29 pm

I've trolled through the comments. One thing that leaps out at me is that everyone is commenting in a vacuum - there is no data on most of the issues being discussed, or if there is, it is not being divulged or it is suspect (the traffic data). How can any decisions be made without knowing or having:
- the actual number of people employed at the business - Palantir, for example- which are located in Palo Alto
- how many people might be employed by business which want to move to Palo Alto or are currently in the process of developing offices
- how many of those employees live in Palo Alto
- how many commute, from where and how they commute
- how much housing is coming online from the developing units south of Oregon/Page Mill, and how much it costs
- how much parking is actually available downtown, and in other areas under development - Calif Ave? (PA staff probably knows this)
- how many people park in the neighborhoods (PA staff may know this)
- results of a comprehensive city-wide traffic pattern study which takes increased development and housing into consideration
- an estimation of the increase in the number of school-age children
- a discussion with PAUSD on how increased demand will be supported
- an estimation of the increased demand on the city's support infrastructure - water, electricity, sewage disposal, parks etc.

I could go on . . . but my suggestion is that until we have a lot more, hopefully accurate, data, we need to put development on a hold.

Other comments:
We moved here in the early 1970s. Palo Alto was plagued by escalating housing prices then, and has continued to be since, although the frenzy now is over the top. I thought then, and haven't changed my mind, that it is unconscionable to speculate on housing. If it could be prevented, it should be. But it will continue and unless the city establishes rent control, and perhaps other measures which control purchases by speculators, even 30 story apartments/condos will be subject to the same predation.

I agree with the comments that point out that at a certain point, Palo Alto is ruined and there will be no reason for people to want to live here. I'm already at the point that I shop in Menlo Park, Redwood City or Mountain View and avoid downtown Palo Alto and Town and Country at all costs. And eventually the businesses will be unable to hire employees at any price, and will have to seriously consider relocating. Stanford is seriously challenged now in hiring and retaining faculty and other staff.

ABAG - there needs to be more clarity about what ABAG mandates, and what is the downside if Palo Alto decides not to comply. As far as I can tell, it is an advisory group and cannot force cities to do anything. It's website focuses on a mission of "affordable housing". It's not clear what, if any, carrots it provides or what sticks it can wave to get the cities to do their bidding. If they give the city money to provide affordable housing, how much? Does it cover the costs of actually developing and supporting affordable housing? Or does it cost the city money to comply? If so, then why should the city pay any attention? And what is the effect on/cost to the school district?

Finally, I don't understand why, in this era of universal connectivity for content and for face-to-face personal communications, Palantir and other organizations, most of whose business is code related and electronically transmissible, cannot establish centers in cities that could use the jobs. Even out of California, perhaps in places that have sustainable water supplies. Our state is environmentally challenged, especially our water supply. It's not clear that our continued business and population growth is sustainable on any front - in particular energy and food supplies, in addition to water. It would be interesting to have our Sustainabliity Officer weigh in on this.


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Posted by Native Palo Altan
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Aug 6, 2014 at 3:35 pm

Sea-Seelam Reddy: Not only did you choose the wrong thread to bring up PAUSD, but since you've only lived here for two years, your postings on every thread I've read shows how nave you are. Since your children did not experience PAUSD, you are blowing hot air about PAUSD. I cannot believe you want PAUSD to be more rigorous than it is, and don't know that there ARE PAUSD students each year who attend MIT and Caltech. Do you realize that PAUSD is a public school so they have to teach to all levels of students? How can a public school ensure that all students graduate and enter first and second tier colleges? Your idea is simply impossible.
[Portion removed.]


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Posted by Orchestrated, not new
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 6, 2014 at 3:37 pm

Kate,

The externalities of a two man company in a garage are different than those of company like Palantir which has funding and beyond. Hundreds of employees for every company that wants to be here is impossible to sustain. The Bay area is big enough though- to the south you have the 10th largest city in the US and to the North the 14th largest city in the US. Both with substantial room to still grow and to have both housing and jobs. Oakland to the East can hardly be overlooked.

It's not the end of the world for larger companies to re-locate. It is better for Palo Alto to retain conditions where the smallest companies can be given a chance.

This conversation is either about the employers or the City, and until there is a real regional plan, Palo Alto needs to be within its means. This doesn't mean it cannot lead with good planning. The opportunities are there, but the interests are so far extremely narrow.


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Posted by Orchestrated, not new
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 6, 2014 at 3:41 pm

I'm still waiting to hear numbers for commuter patterns.

Anyone?


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Posted by le plus ca change
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 6, 2014 at 3:51 pm

@Kate,

Are you even listening to yourself? In order to defend your selfish "I want, I want's" you are now claiming you want to allow developers to exploit Palo Alto and change it to what you want - oh no, not for you - for OTHER PEOPLE who MIGHT want the same things as you want later? (And what of all the people who want what we have now? e.g. schools and yards and a natural environment? Remember the schools? They've driven prices here historically and protected them from tanking like everywhere else during bust cycles.) And then you mention other cities that you like so much better than Palo Alto, but inexplicably want to destroy what exists here rather than go there. (Personally, I would never want to live in Paris, and if I wanted to live in SF or SJ, I would be living there now.)

Palo Alto has a population of residents who don't want your vision of Palo Alto, most of whom worked very hard and often sacrificed to be here for what was here and what they built here over decades. And yes, we are saying it's not okay for you to march in here and demand that be destroyed or be given away for the short-term profits of a few developers and your selfish wants, especially since you can find your selfish wants so close by if Palo Alto is so awful for you. And especially since this is such an old story - the only thing new is the entitlement of the new people and their willingness to carry water for development interest.

You are even selfish in your revisionist history of this area. I knew a centenarian Palo Altan who came out to Mayfield in a covered wagon and used to tell anyone who would listen, "And people told me I was CRAZY to spend FIVE THOUSAND dollars on a house!!" of his beautiful home off of University. Real estate here has ALWAYS been crazy expensive except when there was a brief post-war expansion, veterans housing funds (and all those things you legitimately bring up like GI bill money for college, etc). Those conditions are long gone. Most of the 50-somethings in this area were also of the era that took on huge student loan debt , and it was at much higher interest rates and fees than yours, and we faced identical boom cycles here. Except without the benefit of it being easy for both wage earners to have good high-tech jobs, it was still very difficult for women even in the '80s. (I'll bet you've never had an older male engineer ask you to type a letter for him.)

You say, "Empirically, this is the first time that Palo Alto has been the most expensive place in the country." Again, this place has always been expensive and difficult to afford; If your claim is correct that it's a little more expensive than that now, you're not making your point since it happens to coincide with the giant boom in overdevelopment and giving away zoning protections. That drew in developers who saw the properties as yet more exploitable. Again, making Manhattan and Hong Kong more dense did not make them affordable.

And now that we have a global economy, there is no way to create affordability through a supply and demand equation in any reasonable way, because this is an extremely small, desirable space. Others have pointed out places like Hong Kong, Singapore, Manhattan -- you can't build your way to affordability in a small space, and that's not the future the existing residents want for this space. And yes, we have a number of state-granted rights to enforce what WE want, even if it's not what YOU want.

Again, luckily for you, rather than continuing to harangue others that life doesn't give you what YOU want on a platter (including Palo Alto), you have many options an easy commute from here to get what you want. If you destroy what existing residents worked so hard for through your selfish justifications, then you have destroyed something unique that will be gone forever.

You point to the jobs imbalance as a reason to destroy our city's character. Why would you have any more right to do that than we would to tell the companies they can't have employees? Most of us didn't want the overbuilding of office space anyway. (I do think it's time the City did have a business tax.)

If it's jobs you want, look up the 10 best cities for job seekers on Forbes Magazine, Palo Alto is not one of them. All of them will give you that thrilled urban experience if that is what you so desperately desire.

You say we should have all these lovely things, like open space, and you ignore that your vision that is essentially carrying water for the developers would fast make that aspect of your "vision" impossible, if isn't already. You ignore that your vision would push out any remaining economic diversity we have, and cost people in existing low-income housing their place in this community that they worked so hard for. This is a small space. Take a road trip Kate. This is a vast and once thriving nation, falling into disrepair. I can remember going to Europe as a child and seeing a place in decay where the US was beautiful and shiny and new, from sea to shining sea. Back then, there was a sense that we were thriving because we had the best social mobility, and stale old Europe was suffering from the economic and social stagnation of concentrations of wealth and power. Now (since Reagan), that equation has flipped.

Instead of holing up here and demanding of everyone else that they need to destroy what they sacrificed for in order for you to get what you want on this small space, why don't you work to revive some of the rest of this great nation? Your generation doesn't have jobs? This is the first generation with the kind of tools and easy opportunities that come from access to computer-based knowledge environments. Create them. When you're young and have nothing to lose, that's the best time to take the risks. And create the liveable space you want through urban renewal of places where all of that would be so welcome, in 50 years they'll be arguing over whether to allow upzoning of New Kateville. (For the record, I'm not arguing that we don't need better transportation and transportation systems here, I agree with you there, I'm arguing that this exponentially intense land use in the stupid -- I think we can agree on that -- way it's been proceeding here is NOT the way to achieve it.)


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Posted by Eric Rosenblum
a resident of Downtown North
on Aug 6, 2014 at 3:56 pm

Hooray for Kate (and others) who are speaking rationally and eloquently for a vision for Palo Alto development that supports a healthy mix of residents that make a great city.

There have been a lot of statements to the tune of: "Palo Alto has always been expensive... entitled young people don't have the RIGHT to live here." This is only partially correct: no one has divine right to live here. However, young people USED to live here. Since 1990, our 18-44 year old population has fallen by 20%, while our population of 45-64 year-olds has risen 41%. Our median home price in 1980 was $143k; in 1990 it was $458k; now it has passed $2M. Palo Alto is now different from all of our neighbors in that we are substantially older and wealthier. We have a higher percent of single families homes and owners vs. renters. This is a change from the past.

There are also a lot of statements to the tune of: why should we "subsidize" those who cannot afford to live in Palo Alto? I believe that a diverse mix of residents improves the city-- it is NOT charity.

Having a diverse mix of residents is not only good for those people who want to live closer to their jobs and to the wonderful quality of life that we enjoy, it raises the quality of life for all residents. Young people support the economy by being heavier users of downtown retail and services (restaurants, cafes, bars, bookstores, cinemas and cleaners in particular depend on pre-family regular customers). They drive less, do not (yet) overburden PAUSD with kids, and provide the spark of innovation that has kept Palo Alto a dynamic birthplace for great companies

A diversity of housing is not just to benefit young tech workers: it is sad that the people who help serve our community-- our police, fire fighters, teachers, nurses-- can no longer afford to live here. It also allows seniors who want to downsize but stay in the community the ability to do so.

In short, there are plenty of altruistic reasons (ie, "we need to do our part") to want to increase the variety and amount of available housing, but there are probably even more selfish reasons (ie., "it makes our city better").



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Posted by le plus ca change
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 6, 2014 at 4:06 pm

You left out the disabled, who have been almost entirely shut out of the prosperity of Silicon Valley from a built environment that is virtually inaccessible. You argue for diversity but fail to mention that the upzoning your vision enables means high-density luxury condos and apartments that IS as we speak pushing out low-income residents.

Sorry, you can't sugarcoat what is essentially shilling for developer exploitation of Palo Alto.


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Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 6, 2014 at 4:12 pm

There are about 26,000 housing units in Palo Alto. Perhaps Planning Commissioner Rosenblum could suggest how many more units would be needed to achieve these goals of (1) adequate diversity, and (2) reducing housing prices.

Also, of the units added, how should we allocate them to attain this diversity.

It is good that young people will not (yet) overburden PAUSD with kids.


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Posted by anonymous
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Aug 6, 2014 at 4:19 pm

@Orchestrated, not new
In answer to your question,
Because it's way to dangerous on a bike and takes way too long. Nobody is against biking in general. As a practical matter, you are not going to replace cars with many things we have to do. Time is money. There is weather. We have to carry things, like fragile laptops. Drivers here are crazy (look at other threads on this forum). I think we have to allow for people to have a wide variety of ways to go about their business and leisure. I would like to see more frequent and effective public transit in this region, but all our tax money seems to go to the south of Santa Clara County.


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Posted by Sea-Seelam Reddy
a resident of College Terrace
on Aug 6, 2014 at 4:20 pm

Some personal experience:

As a young engineering graduate, a number of us enter work pool and make decisions to begin our work life; it was when I started working in June 1975 and now in 2014

- It never occurred that I have to 'live' in the same city, where my job is. So, to dream big and come to work in Palo Alto is an admirable goal. Only top notch graduates; highly talented people; or people with connections such as family already here can make it happen.

- There is nothing that says current Palo Alto home owners; investors of rental properties should feel sorry and build tons of apartments, condos, etc at so called affordable housing. It is just truth. This Palo Alto city, as beautiful as it is 'running over capacity'.

Having said that, here are some options in my view

- Now that Palo Alto is a 'progressive' city; 'innovative' city; and considerate; the following is suggested and I am not an expert; please add or delete items to this list;

a. Palo Alto city could change occupancy guidelines/rules to allow more generous hosting of new residents in their homes that have space; could be single/couples/foreign students so the new entrants have a 'home' at modest rent.

This enables Palo Alto home owners to be 'kind' 'inviting' and have a life like I would like to at retirement age as many are empty nesters'

b. Rich companies; such as Facebook and other could look at the Japan model and acquire housing for their employees; blocks and blocks of houses like in college campuses where frat houses are.

c. Remodel and build on the same lot but a bit more space, new plumbing etc., so we can avoid 100 year old plumbing that burst the Pauley Pavilion at UCLA this week.

d. We are Palo Alto; best place on earth. No more Building tall buildings; high density housing is the WRONG option.

e. The young workers (men and women); demand higher salaries so you can afford living in Palo Alto. Also, demand owners of the buildings to upgrade their buildings with modern amenities.

I call it greed; when I saw shady buildings; not upgraded plumbing; washer and dryer in the middle of the kitchen. These owners have gains of 40% increase in their property values. They are not doing the right thing by sitting on it; renting it 25% higher than last year and have a "take it or leave it" attitude.

The entrants to Palo Alto indeed have the power to demand better rentals. Just refuse to rent. Do not agree to pay high rent when it does not have the upgrades.

In Los Angeles by UCLA - Westwood, Brentwood, Santa Monica; you find properties that are old; but have been upgraded.

I wonder what happened to bay area property owners in Palo Alto, Mountain View and Sunnyvale?

Why couldn't they do the same? Greed?

BTW:

- My first engineering job was in Sweetwater, Texas; population 12,000; first rental $50/month; one block from work. moved to a new apartment $245/month; two bedroom; a mile away.

- When I worked for Hughes in LA, by the LAX; I lived in Manhattan Beach, Redondo Beach, Torrance, El Segundo. Rented/owned and enjoyed living there.
Rents were high; but not excessive

- I moved to Irvine by my own choice to get my children 9,6 to a beautiful residential area with a community of Woodbridge; that had about ten thousand homes, town houses, condos, multiple high schools, with a manmade lake; etc. But I drove 44 miles each way and it took an hour and twenty minutes; I did that for 16 years; had to replace my cars every 4 years.

I thought I needed to do that to get away from children being exposed to 'drugs; smoking' by the beach.

Parents need to do what they have to; it is true then and it is true now.

I have a friend at VMware with Cupertino roots; chose to move 54 miles away to have their dream houlife with their two children.

I do not think he has complained to Cupertino city about unaffordability.

If you want not to drive; pay high rent and live here. May be the owners that have tons of equity; may give a break and charge low rent.

I do not believe in rent control.
I do not believe it is the responsibility of government.

In summary; best bet is to be highly skilled at your work; demand increase in salary at work; be nice to your landlord; hopefully that will result in a nice relationship with the land lord, city, our trees and our community.

May be your dreams come true one day; your start-up has flourished; you can own a two million dollar house in Palo Alto or near by.

Dream on! You will get there! We have, so you will.

Respectfully


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Posted by Kate Downing
a resident of Ventura
on Aug 6, 2014 at 4:29 pm


If you really believe that a community should just be frozen in time based on when you personally moved in- then don't you feel bad for the people here before you who loathed your newly built house, too? Most of this land was farms and orchards at some point and before that this land belonged to the Native Americans. Do you send letters of apology to people who tended this land 50, 100, 300 years ago? Have you ever even thought about them? I don't think you do. The question is why? You have done to them all the harms you are claiming the newer generation is now doing to you. You, too, changed the way this city looks and feels when you moved in and you seem to forget that, acting as if you had somehow discovered untouched land. You and your home also killed someone's view, also created more traffic, also took up parking, also turned open space into concrete, also created more noise, etc. Just because you didn't have to ask anyone for permission to build your house- because someone else did that FOR YOU at some point in the past - doesn't mean that your additional presence here didn't also alter this city and that you didn't benefit from someone pushing for more development. Maybe most of the town didn't mind the change, but I guarantee that just as you complain today, someone back then complained, too. Maybe they liked it being rural! They bought the property when it was rural and quiet and peaceful and now they're "subsidizing" you and the growth necessary to meet your needs!

I'm going to go even further and say that if this place should be frozen in time as is, then lets get all the residents here to agree that if it's ok to ignore changing demographics and changing populations sizes, and if it's ok to ignore that there simply isn't enough housing here (not just for young tech workers, but for anyone) then we will also completely ignore that our population is aging overall and that a larger portion of our population will be made up of seniors as we go forward, shall we? If we're going to dump on the needs of the young, let's be egalitarian about it! So let's agree not to add any of the following either:

- more doctors offices, urgent care facilities, hospitals, etc.
- more sidewalks that are wheelchair and walker accessible
- more pharmacies, herbalists, accupuncturists, or anything of the sort
- more physical therapy sites
- more senior centers (I, for one, was very sympathetic to the folks talking about the YMCA and I'd support giving them a new facility if theirs was closed, but according to you, that shouldn't be an option, right? We should just let them live out the rest of their lives in isolation because "parking"? We don't want to "subsidize" them either, right?)
- adding ramps for existing private homes and other establishments in the area - we wouldn't want to change the "aesthetics" here
- adding elevators to existing private homes or other establishments if they need to be added on to the dwelling externally- we wouldn't want to violate any setback provisions!

Deal?

All this talk of making Palo Alto a "concrete jungle" and NYC - this is all a straw man argument. There's really nothing you can imagine that might be in between? You've never visited another place on the planet that you thought was nice and livable? It's all Palo Alto exactly as it is today, or bust?

No one is advocating for that and to say that is to purposefully misconstrue everything that's been said. If some buildings were 4 floors and not 2 and if more shops were required to have an apartment on the second floor - that doesn't turn Palo Alto into NYC. Not even by a long shot. But those are exactly the sorts of fights I've seen play out in front of this Council time and time again. I don't see anyone trying to build a skyscraper here. I see people ready to explode about a family home that dares to have two floors instead of one.

We all like greenery and open spaces. No one is arguing against making more of that happen along with development. All we're saying is that "no change" at all doesn't make sense and doesn't meet the needs of the community as it is today or as it will be in the future. More people will come here and more people will be born here. That's inevitable. Even if you think you can prevent people from moving here (and you can't- not as long as there is office space and jobs here), I don't think you can reasonably believe that people will stop having children or that people won't want to live near their adult children.

If the entire Peninsula says no to growth, like it's been doing, you're going to start seeing the homelessness problems of SF in the rest of the valley as well. You already see this given the rise of people living in RVs right here and you especially see that in San Jose. Not everyone can just move somewhere else- you need money to move and you need a job elsewhere. I'm not saying I'm going to be homeless or people like me, but I'm saying that you're still going to see that because if you're pushing out the tech workers from Palo Alto and they're pushing out the middle class in South San Francisco and they're pushing out poor people in Oakland, at some point the poorest people have nowhere else to go. Maybe you won't see an influx of homeless people in Palo Alto, but that doesn't mean you won't bear responsibility for their existence elsewhere.


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Posted by pat
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 6, 2014 at 4:36 pm

> "There are also a lot of statements to the tune of: why should we "subsidize" those who cannot afford to live in Palo Alto? I believe that a diverse mix of residents improves the city-- it is NOT charity."

I agree that diversity is highly desirable, but what do you call spending public money on affordable housing if it's not "charity."


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Posted by Orchestrated, not new
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 6, 2014 at 4:46 pm

Anonymous,

"As a practical matter, you are not going to replace cars with many things we have to do. Time is money. There is weather. We have to carry things, like fragile laptops. Drivers here are crazy (look at other threads on this forum). "

The safety of the kids who actually do bike the a path you consider treacherous have indeed lost a quality of life measure- safety to bike in Palo Alto. The city is actually ideal for biking but the population pressure and the inevitability of using cars is destroying the little there was to count on, in terms of bike commuting.

If people advocating for a major population increase in Palo Alto cannot even contemplate carrying a laptop on a bike, in a commute to work, the green voices are empty.


Eric Rosenblum,

If you are a Planning Commissioner, would you have ballpark figures for the commuter pattern on Caltrain?

Also, how does a college town, with a graduate school, and one with one of the largest school districts in the state of California end up with "substantially" older people?

We are older and wealthier than Atherton, and Woodside?

It would be helpful if you provided actual numbers for all ages. The population metrics should also be driving the priorities for the vision. So far, it's bang, bang, bang, bang about only one segment or another. Why does Planning need to work on the extensive data missing to make any sense of the issues? Shouldn't this data be dripping out of the reports that are worked on year after year?

What I'm seeing is a very organized and orchestrated agenda which is missing actual planning.


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Posted by Eric Rosenblum
a resident of Downtown North
on Aug 6, 2014 at 4:48 pm

@pat: good question... I should clarify that I am not talking about public assisted housing (nor are the many young tech workers who spoke up on Monday). I am in favor of expanded public housing, but that is a different matter. I am talking about encouragement of denser apartments located near services (ie., one of our downtown areas) and transit. When one of these projects is proposed, there is a vocal group opposing what is pejoratively called "pack and stack". I am for asthetically pleasing structures (and would agree that some of the dense structures that have been constructive have not been attractive), but believe that asthetics and density in certain areas are not in opposition.

@resident: I don't have an answer to this question ("how many more units are you proposing") yet. There are a talented group of residents and city staff working on the Housing Element, so I expect to have some scenarios from them that include some denser apartment developments close to services and transit. It's the right question to ask, though. The devil's in the details.


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Posted by Orchestrated, not new
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 6, 2014 at 4:54 pm

Eric Rosenblum,

" I am in favor of expanded public housing, but that is a different matter."

What is public housing?


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Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 6, 2014 at 4:55 pm

San Antonio Centre is now full of housing, with services nearby and right beside a train station.

Redwood City has a downtown train station and is busy building lots of housing right beside those services.

Both of these are bustling communities where Palo Alto workers can easily come by train to work and yet live near services.

Palo Alto does not have to build big buildings to house Palo Alto workers, they can find big building housing nearby.

Why do we always have to look within our own borders to solve our problems.
We have to look outside the box. The box doesn't end at Palo Alto borders.

We live in a region. We should act like it.


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Posted by Sea-Seelam Reddy
a resident of College Terrace
on Aug 6, 2014 at 5:05 pm

Responding to Kate

You have many good points and observations.

We are not alone in discussing these issues/challenges.

I have lived in many California cities that come close to being as nice as Palo Alto and by the beach;

El Segundo: population 12K; day time employment 90k; should they need to pack up and build high rises because they are employer friendly? their answer was NO.

Newport Beach: population 65k; day time employment in 100k range. Limited growth as they have saved some space; Not many can afford Newport Beach either, specially the entrants into job market.

So, no major discovery; all 'highly desired' cities are coping with the similar issues; managed growth; do not screw it up any more; be kind and live a happy life.

Palo Alto residents are treating the same issues; let us have a healthy debate; do not go extreme and ask for El Camino Real road to be a mall; be reasonable; and let us live happily; hug our trees; no more tall buildings without everybody agreeing to it.

Respectfully


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Posted by le plus ca change
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 6, 2014 at 5:08 pm

"If you really believe that a community should just be frozen in time based on when you personally moved in"

Now you're just making up a bunch of crazy stuff that no one said. No one is saying any of that. We are saying you don't have a right to expect to change state-granted zoning laws in order to allow the developer exploitation of Palo Alto so that you have an urbanized environment you can get in this region anyway.

I do not have a newly-built house - I have a broken-down little old home that we bought using equity from previous even more broken down homes elsewhere. There are ways to work up to getting what you want here if you are not rich, YOU just want everyone else to give away their zoning so you don't have to.

The rest of your first paragraph has nothing to do with anything, except that now you seem to be trying to blame me personally for homelessness and the fate of Native Americans 500 years ago. No, actually, my old ranch home didn't destroy anyone's view and didn't create anymore traffic than what was here when we bought it. City Council giving away massive zoning to VMware, the company you work for, did, though.

It was hard to make sense of your post it was just so strange, but how about we talk about what is actually happening here: The new norm for housing is zoning-busing tall, skinny ugly townhouses that are not affordable, that push out needed retail and existing affordable housing, and that no disabled person (or elderly person with a mobility problem) could ever even visit much less live in. The new norm of requiring developers to build right up to a completely inadequate sidewalk that an able-bodied person walking single-file has trouble navigating.

Honoring good principles of open space and design and respecting the existing zoning LAWS in a limited space that is now fully built out will actually help make the area more friendly for the disabled. Your vision shuts them out, which is actually legally questionable.

If you did not like the zoning laws here and considered it such a horrible thing that you want to dump all over residents who life Palo Alto as a livable place, you had every opportunity to look those laws up before you moved here. You seem to not get that people who live here CHOSE a place that is low-key, even rural-feeling in places, and that they have every right to be angry that it is being transformed into something they did not choose through a violation of zoning laws. If you live in a single-story area, a bunch of 50-feet buildings built right up to the sidewalk destroy the character of the place and the residents have the right to prevent it.

You wrote: "All this talk of making Palo Alto a "concrete jungle" and NYC - this is all a straw man argument. There's really nothing you can imagine that might be in between? You've never visited another place on the planet that you thought was nice and livable? It's all Palo Alto exactly as it is today, or bust? No one is advocating for that "

Actually, you ARE arguing for that. We already GOT in between and PASSED it. The Apartmentzillas on El Camino between Arastradero and San Antonio, and that 22,000 sq ft hotel for a property that was zoned for a 3500 sq ft retail business (that served the neighborhood within walking distance), it looms over the large built-to-sidewalk development across the street that was once a single-story hotel. Those 5-story buildings obliterated what were once lovely views of the hills and now there is no open space in that area. It's not walkable, it's just giant blocks of housing that will be full of people driving their cars to work and using up more in services and water than they contribute to the tax base.

Nobody's pushing you out Kate. You have many choices, and you can choose what you want by simply moving to it, it exists in this area. You're desire to allow this place to be exploited by developers IS pushing out low-income, existing Palo Altans as we speak, though. Did you go spend some time at the Buena Vista Mobile Home Park like I asked? You're wants are pushing them out. That's what's happening, not the rest of the almost indecipherable gobbleygook you are spouting.

By the way, we just saved a large old orchard with 100 trees by combatting the kind of developer-centric claptrap you are peddling. Unfortunately, it's going to be bulldozed anyway, because City Hall is still controlled by people like you. Want to save an old orchard? It's right across the street from a school for very disabled children and an existing park. There's a red-tailed hawk nesting there. Have at it.


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Posted by Orchestrated, not new
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 6, 2014 at 5:11 pm

Sea-Seelam Reddy.

"El Segundo: population 12K; day time employment 90k; should they need to pack up and build high rises because they are employer friendly? their answer was NO. "

This was brought up in another thread, the daytime population vs night.

It's incorrect that the town empties at night or weekends. It's much busier than daytime.

Any data on that?


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Posted by Eric Rosenblum
a resident of Downtown North
on Aug 6, 2014 at 5:22 pm

@Orchestrated

re: caltrain ridership stats-- Caltrain published pretty detailed ridership reports (which you can find here: Web Link)

Friends of Caltrain, in partnership with Stanford, has also produced this great resource: mode share over time for each Caltrain station area: Web Link

re: how does a college town with a large school district end up with an older population? That's pretty simple... lack of affordable housing for young people once they move out of their parents home. Palo Alto (2,697 people/sq mile) is far less dense than SLO, Davis, Santa Cruz, Santa Barbara and Berkeley. It is also far less dense than nice college towns outside of CA: Boulder, Burlington, Ann Arbor, Evanston, Cambridge, Charlottesville, and Ithaca. If there are other places I should be comparing, I'm happy to look up more. The point is, compared to a "basket of other really nice college towns", we're WAY at the low end of the density spectrum. No one else is even close.


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Posted by Orchestrated, not new
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 6, 2014 at 5:28 pm

Eric Rosenblum,

"SLO, Davis, Santa Cruz, Santa Barbara and Berkeley"

These are not job centers at the scale of Palo Alto or within proximity of Silicon Valley. Not comparable. Other than that we all have kids who move out and need a place to live.

I guess no reports from the City on commuter patterns or any ballpark numbers from you. I'll take a look.


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Posted by le plus ca change
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 6, 2014 at 5:44 pm

@Eric Rosenblum,

What has your post got to do with anything?

I just checked one of your comparison cities, the closest to Palo Alto, Santa Barbara. Wikipedia lists it at almost 20% lower in density than Palo Alto. This despite the fact that Santa Barbara's unincorporated areas are actually more densely populated than the urban, according to county documents. Palo Alto, by contrast, has retained open space and includes sparsely populated Palo Alto Hills. That is factored into the average per square mile, but it does not make overdevelopment in the center of town any less odious.

Your other comparisons are irrelevant. Cambridge is very urban. I lived there once and wouldn't want to live there now. What's the point of bringing them up? You're just telling us that you feel you have options. By all means, go there, it's a free country. Why are you arguing that residents here should have to accept a reduction in protection of land use laws and degradation in quality of life in order to give you something you clearly think you can get - better - elsewhere? And if there are that many options, that kind of blows your group's little argument that there is not other place in the whole big entire world that must be sardined into but Palo Alto so we must give you what you want NOW.

And Palo Alto is way more densely populated than Atherton, Woodside, La Honda, and Half Moon Bay, and soon to be more so. Your point?

By the way, here's a young person arguing for a less dense Santa Barbara
Web Link


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Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 6, 2014 at 5:49 pm

Eric Rosenblum,

That wasn't my question. My question was, "how many more new units would it take to reduce the price of housing here in Palo Alto?"

You mean a meaningful reduction too, don't you? Obviously 2% lower wouldn't make much difference to those young people.


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Posted by boscoli
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Aug 6, 2014 at 6:23 pm

Eric Rosenblum is actually engaging in selective social engineering. It's not for him to decide what mixture of old vs young people should reside in Palo Alto. The high tech yuppies with their stock options don't need the help others never received when buying homes in Palo Alto. If he was serious about creating a more diverse population here, he would campaign for truly inexpensive, significantly below market value housing units that would allow people who aren't White or Asian to own homes in Palo Alto- African Americans and Hispanics, for example.


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Posted by Sunshine
a resident of Barron Park
on Aug 6, 2014 at 6:28 pm

Yes, we would all love to live near where we work. There are few places where's this happens unless you own a farm.
I first arrived here for work in the tech sector in 1964. My tech area was pharmaceuticals. I was paid well, but certainly not as well as those who now work for places such as Facebook or google. I did live in palo alto, by teaming up with two other women in an apartment.
When two took off for other areas I moved to Mt View. It was the only I could. Afford to live in the area. It was an old apartment but not bad. You may have lived a life of privilege up till now. Well it's now over, you are in the real world. It's time for you to make it on your own. This may mean finding some roommates or finding a place a bit away from palo alto.
There are many transit options for your commute. If you live north or south of here there is Caltrain. If you live in the east bay there is the bay express bus. There are local busses from rail stations to many work places.
When did I move to PaloAlto? When I married my current roommate. We used our combined incomes to afford palo alto.
We do not need ugly high rises in. Palo alto, nor do we want them. Downtown is already overbuilt. So are many of the palo alto neighborhoods, especially barron park/evergreen.
Learn to live with what is available rather than your dream best. Make do.


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Posted by le plus ca change
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 6, 2014 at 6:57 pm

@Sunshine,

I think it's okay for them to dream big if it means restoring some of the dilapidated parts of our country, bringing back manufacturing to our shores - let's face it, the act of DOING spawns all kinds of innovation and gives us industrial capacity we can retool in a crisis (having mfring capability used to be viewed as a national security issue) - it's not okay if it means they act like a bunch of spoiled kids who demand something someone else worked hard for and is legally entitled to just because they want it now.

We have so many towns and cities in this nation that would LOVE to have spillover tech from this area, and where the dreams of more European-like walkable centers could be realized with some hard work and care. If they are serious and not just hired astroturf, hopefully this conversation will get the gears going. Making a much more livable place out of some of the too-many places with terrible urban blight in this nation would be a great aspiration.


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Posted by Steve Raney
a resident of Crescent Park
on Aug 6, 2014 at 7:09 pm

I prefer pursuing a net-zero aggressive growth scenario that:
* maximally-mitigates
* balances jobs-housing to reduce regional GHG/VMT. As a father, climate is a really big deal to me.

Maximal mitigation requires innovation:
* Maximize new low-child housing: market rate senior housing and microunits to subsidize PAUSD budget. 89% of recent PAUSD enrollment increase stems from single family home turnover.
* Maximize affordable-by-design housing (See SPUR's report).
* Maximize 3 to 5-story walkable mixed use development near train stations. In Portland, miles driven per person is less than half of average Palo Alto driving. The Portland areas have the "convenience to walk to get a quart of milk."
* For new housing of 10 or more units, require new residents to sign a Cool Cities Challenge behavior change pledge. Such green preference is legal under the Fair Housing act and creates a differentiated, green residential lifestyle with deeper human bonds.
* For new housing of 10 or more units, follow the example of Stanford West, where preference is given to new residents who will drive less. Green preference is legal under the Fair Housing Act.
* Taller buildings.
* Unbundled parking (e.g. pay $60 per month for parking space) for new multifamily residential
* Implement workplace parking charges for single occupancy commuters to cut commute VMT/GHG by 23%. Finally, there is support for collaborative government action from Mtn View, Sunnyvale, San Jose, VTA, MTC, SVLG, Sierra Club, Transform, SamTrans, and the Governor. Stanford's main trip reduction policy dwarfs all the others combined: charge $3.60 per day for parking.
* Create microgrid areas maximizing commercial/government PV in Stanford Research Park and in the East/West Bayshore area (The city could partner with Clean Coalition in Menlo Park). Upgrade substations accordingly.
* Explore futuristic visions. Self-driving transit is coming sooner than expected.
* Increase public participation still further by leading design sprints, broadcasting interim results, and soliciting overnight vote-back. Consider bringing in the Stanford Urban Studies department in to lead an inexpensive, innovation-focused sketch plan effort.


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Posted by le plus ca change
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 6, 2014 at 7:15 pm

@Steve Raney,

Some interesting ideas. I do not agree with the taller buildings. They have other environmental costs.

I'd love to see us just get some volunteers to put together some reliable scheduled "biking buses" so younger kids can bike safety to school and load their gear onto perhaps an electric cart at the lead. That's something we can do now without great expense and social engineering.


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Posted by Crescent Park Dad
a resident of Crescent Park
on Aug 6, 2014 at 8:39 pm

PA vs. NYC - NYC is still more expensive (10%+)...

NYC: $1396/sqft Web Link

PA: $1263/sqft Web Link

Strike One:
And you have to factor in that most of Manhattan is high-rise living and has public transit options galore --- exactly what the "smart growthers" are advocating. Yet the NYC housing cost/sqft is higher than PA.

Strike Two:
Water shortage. We can't expand if we don't have the water. We should be responsible and do our part to live within our natural resource means.

Strike Three:
Infrastructure - road capacity, electrical capacity, waste water capacity, public transit capacity, trash capacity, school capacity. It's just not there. For example, you want to expand Embarcadero Road? You'll have to remove housing (isn't that a funny coincidence), take land from the park, take land from the schools, take land from the shopping center. Politically and financially impossible.


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Posted by Niel
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 6, 2014 at 8:40 pm

To all those people worried about traffic, density, resouces, etc, you realize you contribute to those problems just as much as anyone else, and if its truly that much of a concern, you could help alleviate it by simply leaving town. Its understandable if you're not willing to, but you don't have the right to tell others to do so. You have no more inherent right to be here than anyone else willing to pay market rates, despite the fact that nobody stepped in the way of you doing so. Apparently though its a spoiled sense of entitlement to want to be given the mere opportunity to buy a 400 sq ft condo in Palo Alto, where we would be contributing to traffic and using water just as much as if we were renting a room, but contributing more every year in property taxes than many longtime homeowners have over their entire lives. Just try and cool it with the self righteous attitudes.


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Posted by Orchestrated, not new
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 6, 2014 at 9:04 pm

Niel,

Everything rests on the price of the 400 sq foot condos, and if in fact they are built. The mistrust of the current residents is misplaced. They are the best bet in getting to what you want. Look at the massive developments which have taken place recently, to which the City has been responding to hilly nilly - awful and useless for your demographic. If you put the control in the hands of developers or employers, their "bottom line" will keep you out anyway.


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Posted by le plus ca change
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 6, 2014 at 9:04 pm

@Niel,
"you could help alleviate it by simply leaving town. Its understandable if you're not willing to, but you don't have the right to tell others to do so."

That's quite a manipulation of the discussion. Here we have some people saying Palo Alto is no good as it is, that anyone who wants to maintain the quality of life here is frozen in time, etc, they point to other places that they like better and saying Palo Alto must densify and become like them. No one is telling them they must leave, but it is a legitimate question in the face of their development-mongering, why they don't go to those places themselves instead of trying to ruin Palo Alto.

What no one has the right to do is tell existing residents that they must change the character of their City. Land use laws do in fact give them the right not to let you do that. Again, lucky for disgruntled you who hates Palo Alto so much unless it's densified into San Jose, you can actually move to San Jose and reach here by transit if you want to work here. No one has told you to leave, but we are telling you to back off of destroying Palo Alto, which we have a right to do. Capiche?

PS. Just to be clear, if you have a 400 sq ft condo, even bought this year, I am paying more than you are in property taxes. Not that there's any point to a property tax pissing match. The high-density development, though, does in fact cost the city more than it puts back because you require more in city services, infrastructure, schools, etc

We have emergency drought conditions. No more new development until its over and we have adequately assessed whether it's even reasonable to have more development.


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Posted by Niel
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 6, 2014 at 9:17 pm

Sorry, all the issues you bring up aren't caused by "development" as an empty apartment bulding isn't going cause traffic, increase density, use city services and so on... its caused by people, so excuse me if young people take offence to your being put off by our existance.


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Posted by Orchestrated, not new
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 6, 2014 at 10:02 pm

Niel,

That's pretty unfair, you're making it about your demographic which is relatively wealthy. What about the young people who work here in service, fro landscaping to construction and commute. Why are they ok to commute but not you.


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Posted by Janet Lafleur
a resident of Mountain View
on Aug 6, 2014 at 10:05 pm

@Pat My comments were direct responses to people claiming it was impossible to live car-free here. I was citing how I do it by riding a bike, which is something the majority of people are physically capable of doing. There's even an elderly man in my neighborhood that rides a faster-model mobility scooter in the street just like I do my bike. The efforts to make streets bike-friendly help him too.

Besides, having more people riding bicycles actually makes it better for people who are not able to ride a bike (or mobility scooter). It means fewer cars adding to traffic and taking up parking. We don't need everyone to ride bikes, we just need a significant chunk of people doing it.


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Posted by Eric Rosenblum
a resident of Downtown North
on Aug 6, 2014 at 10:10 pm

@ plus ca change

re: density statistics: I find the US census more reliable than Wikipedia (apples-to-apples comparisons, consistent time periods, etc). You can find this data in quick reference form here: Web Link; for more detailed time series data, you have to go to the main census site (and have to have some experience manipulating data tables), but there's a wealth of information there.


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Posted by Neghbor
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Aug 6, 2014 at 10:22 pm

[Post removed.]


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Posted by Ahem
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 6, 2014 at 10:35 pm

Niel,

It is not your existence that is putting everyone off, it is the sense of entitlement that you deserve to live in Palo Alto, and the city needs to provide you a cheap hovel to live for a few years while you are single, or until your startup goes bust.

And why does Palo Alto need to do this? Because you don't want to drive, or take the train to work.


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Posted by Development and Money
a resident of Downtown North
on Aug 6, 2014 at 10:53 pm

There seems to be a widespread misunderstanding that increased density via development can lower the cost of housing.

Yes, a "housing unit" in a dense development, if smaller than a nearby single family home, will likely cost marginally less to buy. Perhaps even if you include home owner association fees. But this lens, appropriate for much of the previous century, is no longer appropriate.

Family coherence, core family and extended family, has been reduced in favor of more flexible living. There simply aren't as many stable core families anymore. There are many different types of living arrangements around who lives with who.

The better lens for measuring housing value in this new environment is something like, "how much does $2000/month buy us here?" And that is in terms of square footage, quality of construction, crime, schools, city and community services, open space, convenience and safety of transportation, ability and confidence that serious issues will be addressed, etc.

Through this lens, increased density through development brings *higher* costs for housing.

Yes, a single "unit" of housing will cost marginally less in a new higher density development, but the value per dollar goes down. For singles especially, this means that increased building density in Palo Alto will increase the cost of living here relative to other nearby places.

More dense development increases property value. It does not decrease it (unless there is a catastrophic failure such as blight). As a result, it requires more money to buy the same thing with dense development than it does without it.


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Posted by Neighbor
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Aug 6, 2014 at 10:54 pm

The study sessions need to address the issues of growth, particularly in the area of service industry workers. Remember starting January 2015 we are estimated to have 1.4 million new drivers on the road.


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Posted by Ahem
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 6, 2014 at 11:05 pm

Here is an interesting article:

"CIA-Funded Startup Palantir Denies Link to NSA"
Yahoo News - June 7, 2013 Web Link


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Posted by PA Weakly
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Aug 6, 2014 at 11:22 pm

PA Weakly is a registered user.

Hi. Just a quick post to say I now log on multiple times per day so I can make note of who is paying the PA Weekly for advertising so I can be sure to not frequent those businesses. Let's see how many minutes it takes for this post to be deleted...


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Posted by Parent
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Aug 6, 2014 at 11:50 pm

So, since when is it up to 'I want to live THERE (choose one)' and the world bends over backwards to make that feasible, affordable, accessible? I want to know, because I'd like to live on the shores of Lake Tahoe, in Manhattan, in the Hamptons... I'd like a lot of things. I don't get them unless I pay for them, and if I can't afford them then I don't get them, but if its REAL important, I make a LONG term plan, and sacrifice, a lot.

My 18 year old daughter, home on summer break after her first year in college, working the several part time jobs she's patched together, and having racked up already $25K in debt for her first year in college, announced to me that her and her friends are going on a vacation -3 day pass to Disneyland. That's well over a $600 trip. That's almost her entire summer earnings, the spending money she needs for this coming year. And big crocodile tears.. - I work so hard, I deserve a vacation, its not fair that other people (her friends) have means, have parents that indulge them, have better job, have access, and its so hard for her...

Its called life dear. Its called Life. Ain't. Fair. Get a better job. Then get a better paying job. Repeat relentlessly. Pay your dues. Save your money. Set goals, work on a 10 year plan. The world doesn't owe you a living.

And its absolutely ludicrous that we're actually trashing a great place to live, a historically great place to live, a place that has been methodically protected for 150 years, for this;
"For young people, it's less about money and more about the lifestyle we want."

I grew up in Palo Alto - entitled right? Well when I grew up, got a job, went to Foothill at night, finished at SJ State at night, worked my way through an MBA at night, got a better job, saved my money, got a better job, and finally bought a CHEAP house IN SAN JOSE. Turned the appreciation 10 years later into a down payment on the cheapest property in Palo Alto - literally. A tiny little run down dump. And lived in a hole, paying more than I did in San Jose, for way less house, for 14 years before I could afford a remodel. It was 20 years after I graduated from Gunn before I was able to move back to Palo Alto, and continually sacrifice STILL to pay house payments and real estate taxes WAY more than I would elsewhere, sacrificing to get my kids in to Palo Alto schools.

Its a long term plan, and its not looking around for life to remodel itself to accommodate your preferences.

And these companies in and around Palo Alto - they KNEW what they were getting in to when they located here, In my opinion, they either buy real estate at market prices and hand their employees housing freebies, or give them housing allowances as a benefit, relocate a town or two over, or get over it.

The only thing more ludicrous than the entitled new crop of silicon valley workforce, are the scamming real estate developers (their union buddies, and their politician buddies) who are creating this real estate TOD/Affordable Housing/ABAG scam designed to rip off and cash in on prime real estate markets by forcing access to prime real estate locations, through forced changes building ordinances and market rates, which were locking them out of their get-rich-quick development scams.


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Posted by Ahem
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 7, 2014 at 12:21 am

This is kind of amusing in a weird sort of way:

"Palantir Director: We're "Middle Earth warriors Battling Evil""
Valleywag - June 10, 2013 Web Link


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Posted by Kate Downing
a resident of Ventura
on Aug 7, 2014 at 12:23 am

There is no part of Silicon Valley that hasn't experienced a housing shortfall in comparison to job growth. So, yes, I can move to San Jose, but what about the people I price out of San Jose? You're just passing the buck to another city and not actually doing anything to solve the underlying problem- which isn't that rent is too high- but that there's nowhere to live. You just don't see all the people who move out of Silicon Valley entirely because they can't find affordable housing anywhere, but I assure that they exist and that I've known them.

If no one ever added more housing stock, while people keep having babies, in your ideal vision I'd price people out of San Jose, those people might move to Gilroy, but at some point you've pushed people so far away from their jobs that commuting to them and still having time for family and everything else in life becomes impossible. Unless you're planning on shutting down all of Research Park, I don't see those jobs moving to a different place and new companies may form elsewhere, but not at the rate at which they do here because of the confluence of tech workers, Stanford research, and VCs here. The further you get away from here, the more difficult it is to get access to those resources. Not impossible, but difficult, and that's enough to create friction in the market that ends up affecting our state and our country's GDP in the long term. Maybe you don't care about anyone outside of Palo Alto, but many of us do.


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Posted by Ahem
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 7, 2014 at 12:30 am

Interesting profile of Palantir's CEO Alex Karp:

"Palantir's CEO sounds Complete..."
Valleywag - August 14, 2013 Web Link


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Posted by Parent
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Aug 7, 2014 at 1:10 am

Kate, I'm definitely all in favor of company's moving out of the area, to other areas of the Bay Area or other areas of the state, if they can't afford to pay their employees enough to live near enough to work for them.

Its pretty much that simple.

(What about the people you price out of San Jose?! Well a couple possibilities, San Jose has an appropriate urban setting down town, perhaps they would like to build more high rises in that appropriate urban setting? San Jose is also vast, and is partitioned into many Palo Alto size neighborhoods each with their own character, some of which are appropriate and designated specifically for this type of dense housing. And San Jose has the capacity and desire to build up their urban settings without ruining their suburban, historical neighborhoods. So if demand is so great, then housing will come to San Jose's urban core. Now secondarily, those that can't afford to live in San Jose... they don't. Or they have the same coming to terms with the same math equations that the rest of us live with. Frankly, the answer is that jobs will move to places like Houston or Atlanta, and eventually the Bay Area will come back in to balance.

You're definitely not understanding - its not the city of Palo Alto's problem to solve the housing supply. Period. It can't even if it wanted to. Palo Alto is not required to be a high rise, dense housing, bustling urban meca for entitled tech workers. It has boundaries and limited space. Its a desirable place to live - schools, weather and tree lined historical beauty, location. Palo Alto has a right and duty to preserve itself. Be clear, the more housing that is built, the more people will come, the more companies will come, the demand is insatiable. Stop the housing growth, workers will leave, companies will leave, more companies will fill those spots. Those companys that want to stay, will pay to play.


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Posted by Le plus ca change
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 7, 2014 at 2:18 am

@Parent,
You make a very good point for Kate. San Jose really aspires right now to be more like San Francisco. Seems the perfect place for Kate to shill for developers to her hearts content.

San Jose is way larger in area and population, Kate, and is really looking for more bustling downtown. It's still got a kind of centerless feel to it. But San Jose really was the heart of Silicon Valley - again, have at it, Kate. The housing is cheaper than here in the meantime.

The term "Yuppies 2.0" keeps coming to mind...

Le plus c'est la meme chose...


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Posted by Orchestrated, not new
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 7, 2014 at 7:49 am

It's no wonder that generations don't fix anything more creatively with the logic of let's stack and pack here and now immediately because we're pricing people out of Palo Alto and Mountain View and then San Jose, and then Gilroy, and then, and then, and then. Newsflash, California is priced out for many reasons.

The requested housing dorms are a direct benefit to the businesses who are not paying employees market rates, and who cannot fathom not wasting so much money by going elsewhere. Even Gilroy whih has the same weather.

For every 400 sq foot condo is a car nightmare. Not to mention, kids will just stack and pack themselves in the 400 sq foot condos. And nobody (nobody) can be trusted to not use cars, or to have the "ideal" bed to employer commute - especially the likes of the person who thinks that 101 to Caltrain is a treacherous bike ride, and can't carry a laptop on a bike.

Commuting and public transportation options have not been fully exhausted at all. Including, ask your employers to let you work form home in Gilroy. And until these are pushed to the limit, there will never be appropriate developments in transportation.

For starters, get the facts about the pressure local conglomerates are putting on local cities. Not to mention, they are killing innovation by squeezing the smallest players away from here. And will people stop saying that this could become Detroit?

But if you are going to mention Detroit again, like Council member Berman did last night, could you have some data to back up exactly how that could happen? These Detroit and Gilroy speeches are really unnecessary.


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Posted by Orchestrated, not new
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 7, 2014 at 7:53 am

And why are you not caring about Detroit by the way?

Why is Silicon Valley able to conquer the world, and not help Detroit?


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Posted by anonymous
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Aug 7, 2014 at 9:20 am

We get caught so many ways. I am worried about drastic new plans or schemes and would like a go slow approach.
There is insufficient housing here (of all types), and I KNOW that and wish there were small steps we could take that wouldn't change the ENTIRE look of this city, the traffic is already bad, the schools are already filled, we don't have emptily space.
Yes, current residents of Palo Alto don't desire to block the sun with ugly tall buildings. A natural reaction. It took a LOT to afford a home here, certainly not our first home, and we pay astronomical property taxes! Home purchased in 2001, would be considered mid-range by most people/most areas of the country (not an estate). We are packed closely with our neighbors, even in a Palo Alto neighborhood, and I can't see where high or mid density housing could be placed - even with downtown where would you put a housing tower (say, smaller less expensive condo units)?
But then there is tremendous new money locally, from international "investors" who are absentee homeowners to young Googlers etc. making bundles without the experience of traditional real estate moves (first home somewhere young people reside, then a second home, THEN third home in Palo Alto, a high-value costly suburb with top public schools). All these forces mix together, along with those of us who have been in the region long enough to have seen some real estate busts and the 5 or so years it takes to recover values. Those may be your buying opportunities...
Then there are the apartments put up at San Antonio Rd and El Camino Real - I am told they are 4k/month! I assume these are two income married couples with kids residing there. So there isn't any good solution for very young single people around here unless they are Googler types.
There is an idea stated by some that elderly, inflexible people are "blocking" reasonable development here. I'm not elderly, rather I am middle-aged and I am all for reasonable development. We do need to be careful, as we have been burned by developers and prospective proposals such as the awful Arrillaga one that came to light and was seemingly under way without citizen approval. We need to think very carefully before granting select developers variances (whether flaunting the height limit, such as at the JCC, which I personally find an ugly tower) as these things set PRECEDENT. I merely suggest proceeding cautiously.
It is also correct there is space and opportunity in San Jose, seems downtown there has never quite "jelled," and someone could perhaps make a there there for younger, single people.


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Posted by boscoli
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Aug 7, 2014 at 10:37 am

I just find the attitude of 'I want to live in Palo Alto, so Palo Alto must reshape, remold and change itself to accommodate me make that wish possible' by this new young high tech generation the quintessential chutzpah.

30 years ago I really, really, really wanted to live in Woodside with its sophisticated rural feel, redwood forest, wonderful clean air, horses, hiking trails. Having travelled over the world I found it to be one of the most enchanting places I had ever seen. Reality interrupted my dream-I just couldn't afford to buy a home in Woodside. So I settled for Palo Alto. It wasn't country living, but there was a feeling of a semi rural suburb. Manageable traffic, tree lined streets, almost no crime, relative peace and quiet, friendly and considerate people, ability to see the foothills from almost anywhere, many parks, 5 library branches. At no point, during my futile search for an affordable house in Woodside did I expect the Woodside residents to accept more density and build tall buildings or change their preferable life style to possibly make Woodside affordable to me. The same applied to Palo Alto. I managed to buy a home here because i worked hard and saved and made sacrifices and a home I could afford became available at the right time. The notion that Palo Alto should change and adjust its quality of life and life style to accommodate my wants never crossed my mind and I listen and read comments by Palntir employees and their peers I am astounded by the sheer chutzpah and sense of entitlement.


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Posted by Le plus ca change
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 7, 2014 at 10:48 am

I just want to point out that in the 80s,many parts of China were a bike commuters - if not paradise, at least as good as it gets, with bikes ruling the road. What happened when more people could afford cars? Guess what! And they have all those giant socially engineered buildings near work.

Cars are reality, if we stay a first world country. The paradigm will change when something even better becomes available, not because a place makes it harder for cars. That's just causing more emissions.

Beautifully said, boscoli and anonymous.


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Posted by PA Ideal Population
a resident of Community Center
on Aug 7, 2014 at 11:57 am

There are about four million people who want to live in Palo Alto now, and billions who would find it higher quality living than their current environment.

How many of these people should we accommodate by rezoning? How do we get to that number? Some get the number by evaluating the ability of developers to respond to the challenge, and reporting that through NGOs and government task forces and organizations. It's putting the cart before the horse.

Are there places where housing some of these people would be more effective than Palo Alto?

We don't have enough water, schools, emergency response, law enforcement, traffic flow, quality government, retail, parking, or free space for dogs to run for the current population.

Perhaps we should grow slowly for awhile to adjust.


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Posted by boscoli
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Aug 7, 2014 at 12:54 pm

I reject the Palantir employee who claimed that Palo Alto is "frozen in time". It just demonstrates her ignorance of Palo Alto's history. If you look at photos of Palo Alto from the 1930s through the 1990s and beyond, you realize how much development has been allowed and how much this small city has changed, densified and urbanized. Even the 1980s, when I bought my house, seem to have happened a hundred years ago, so much development has occurred since.

The Universe may be infinite, but space in Palo Alto is very much finite. We just ran out of space to accommodate more people, unless we want to allow single family houses to be torn down and replaced with high rise apartment buildings all over town, Manhattan style. Even this would be only a drop in the bucket because there are millions of people who would love nothing more than to live in Palo Alto.


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Posted by Ahem
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 7, 2014 at 12:54 pm

In China, companies provide free dorm rooms for their workers. In Palo Alto, the companies want their workers to BUY their dorm rooms for $750k. How much you want to bet, the investors that own the companies that are pushing this, will also be investors in these dorm room, and all the other services these dorm dwellers will need to survive without a car?

They are recycling a business concept from the 1800's folks... it called a "company town". The new and improved "company town" is going to look a lot like Disneyland. Think about it, the next time you walk down University Ave.


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Posted by Confused
a resident of Duveneck School
on Aug 7, 2014 at 1:10 pm

I thought Tom DuBois stood for no new development but read his posting here which states he is okay with new housing. Isn't that new development?

I'm looking for someone who wants Palo Alto growth to stop NOW. It should stay a family city, which is why families choose to live here. We have 1000 students biking to Paly each day. The traffic issues are non-resident commuters cutting through our city. We don't need more non-residents clogging our streets.


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Posted by Parent
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Aug 7, 2014 at 2:25 pm

So what we have here is not a housing problem. Its a wage problem. The companies that are locating here in droves are not willing to pay a reasonable cost of living wage for the area they are located in - asking instead for city of Palo Alto residents to subsidize the cost of living for their employees.

I suggest that Kate and her fellow employees go back to her company and get the pay and benefits they need to live as close to work as is her preference and as close to work as the company will support.

And if the answer is no, appropriate response for Kate would be to exercise her free will in a booming tech job market, to go find a new job in a location that suits her strong preference to walk to work.

The larger economic effect of this will be employee's refusing to work in company's located in Palo Alto, and companys then moving out of Palo Alto, and in turn market rates on housing in Palo Alto going down (yes - a reduction of rents and property values in Palo Alto - a correction). This will also relieve the obscene pressure on Palo Alto to grow housing supply. It returns to equalibrium, and palo alto holds on to its quality of live and its dignity.


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Posted by Resident
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Aug 7, 2014 at 2:38 pm

One more point, and I believe someone referenced turning Palo Alto into a 'disneyland' company town.

As it already is - University Avenue is nothing more than a glorified Food Court for ages 17 to about 25. There another target group for some of the more expensive spots - approx 30 somethings. A Food Court, none the less.

Its scungy, grimy and crowded. Next time you're down there, take a look down at the sidewalks. There's an occasional high end clothing store, shoe store, a hair place, or a home furnishings - all closed while the hoards wander through the Food Court. I wonder if these business aren't just there for window dressing much as Disney's Main Street has a facade of little pretend ye old companies and fake upstairs residences.

Its a fad waiting to burn out. When the high tech industry cycles down (and it always does), these company's get over the 'status' location, and check their bottom lines - move, as many others have before them, to Texas, Atlanta, or outsource their back offices to 3rd world countries. (Try iconic HP's history for example)

And that whole little food court scene crumbles, leaving city of Palo Alto with a bunch of burned out fad restaurants going out of business, a dirty little down town, and a big housing glut.


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Posted by Silly
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Aug 7, 2014 at 2:47 pm

Since most of the top execs of companies that are scrimping on wages live in Atherton, Los Altos Hills, Woodside, Portola Valley and Hillsborough, how about getting THEM to do their fair share?

If you want free housing like you claim Chinese companies provide their slave laborers, there's a real simple solution to that. You get free pollution and free forced abortions, too.

And a $750K price would have people lining up around the block. Go for it.

Again, not everyone can live here. Or work here. It's a regional problem, not one that Palo Alto should be bearing alone.

When I moved here from Princeton in 1985, I experienced what I called "density shock" and it's WAY worse now.


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Posted by Resident
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Aug 7, 2014 at 3:14 pm

Eric Rosenblum - you compare Palo Alto's density to some other towns...

First question, what do you include in the density calculations for Palo Alto? All of the hills? The baylands? Which are within Palo Alto borders but are not buildable. How does the density in the buildable areas of Palo Alto compare to other areas - bordering from 101 to Foothill Expwy, between University and San Antonio. Lets have those numbers before further discussion of Palo Alto's "density."





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Posted by Orchestrated, not new
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 7, 2014 at 4:28 pm

Resident,

"And that whole little food court scene crumbles, leaving city of Palo Alto with a bunch of burned out fad restaurants going out of business, a dirty little down town, and a big housing glut."

Hey, and we can all be in our pijamas since work is where we live and we live where we work. Why bother dressing.


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Posted by Le plus ca change
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 7, 2014 at 6:16 pm

To the Yuppies 2.0 above,

If Wikipedia is correct, East Palo Alto has seen a significant drop in population and population density between 2000 and 2010. It's walking distance from Facebook. How many of your friends have taken up residence there, it looks like there is affordable housing, walking distance to work, often in apartments and high-density situations. I don't mean on the little triangle on the Palo Alto side of 101, I mean the rest of East Palo Alto, much of which is still quite accessible to the downtown areas of Palo Alto and the companies off 101.

I'm guessing you could afford to buy a house. I've had friends who bought starter homes in East Palo Alto because it was where they could afford, and friends who have lived there long-term and still live there with far more property than you could own on this side of 101. The murder rate is now really no worse than any other urban area.

You could probably get a nicer place in a nicer area than the drug-dealer occupied home/ neighborhood we bought our first Silicon Valley home in (not East Palo Alto). See, you don't have to walk 10 miles in the snow, you can live pretty close across 101 and bike to work. Much of East Palo Alto is quite close to Palantir.


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Posted by Neighbor
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Aug 7, 2014 at 6:35 pm

Some parts of E.P.A. are still really dangerous.


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Posted by Christopher Chiang
a resident of Mountain View
on Aug 7, 2014 at 6:43 pm

Thoughtful and planned growth is not placing outsiders before residents.

Many in Palo Alto are renters. It's being attentive to the reality that many current residents who rent are being pushed out of the city (and not by market force alone). Local public policies that limit growth influence prices along with market demand.

When you fear what the rent will be next year, common concerns like traffic aren't as pressing (though it's not a given that growth must equal traffic).

When people ask the city to take care of its current residents first, worrying about current residents who might not be citizens who can vote, who might be too busy working to vote are part of the equation of: "putting residents first." They too should be included as "residents" in "residentialism." The nation has long ago moved beyond placing landowners above others.

As an analogy: we make sacrifices on environmental fronts locally, even when we know it won't alone change the world, and we do so even if no other city follows. Sacrificing to make a better community is part of our local DNA.

So is innovation part of our local DNA. Sacrifices we make in our homes to make them more environmental have been lessened by the ingenuity of design and technology. The same approach should be applied to housing.

Urbanism isn't a bad word any more than environmentalism. Both equal change and a degree of sacrifice, but neither should concede that life is a zero sum game, destined for unbearable hardships. Around the world, housing models are being tried that create homes without more traffic or larger carbon footprints.


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Posted by Le plus ca change
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 7, 2014 at 6:53 pm

@ Neighbor,
The murder rate in EPA is no longer any worse than most urban areas. The Yuppies 2.0 have said they prefer the urban experience, and they claim they prefer to live in small apartments to houses anyway. They say they want to bike and walk to work -- really, what's the problem now?

Our friends who lived there when it was much worse just handled it by getting big dogs or living in places where people look out for each other - another thing Kate says she wants. Friends who have lived there a long time have never complained about crime problems. Tens of thousands of people live there; there are plenty of parts of EPA that are just fine. The schools are not just fine, but then, none of them care about that.

Crickets are chirping in the astroturf. Perhaps the Yuppies 2.0 are rushing to buy now that it's been pointed out that they can get everything they claim they want nearby already and they can stop whining that Palo Alto won't transform the most expensive real estate in the country (their claim) to suit their whims.


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Posted by resident 1
a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Aug 7, 2014 at 6:56 pm

PA is approximately 25 square miles built border to border. There is some unbuildable open space, and many new apartment complexes on El Camino, West Bayshore, East Meadow Circle, downtown. You cannot tear down all of the new buildings, and you cannot tear down the single family homes that have new homes being built on the property to replace the older home.
The only place you can upgrade the city is by completing the in-process activities - the community center, library, and other buildings in process. We need to go underground for a while - finish the existing projects - then see what we ended up with. We do not have to be straining at the bit all of the time to be doing something - at this point unproductive It is like watching dogs straining on their leashes to get somewhere - usually to pee.


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Posted by Jimmy Hoffa
a resident of another community
on Aug 7, 2014 at 7:03 pm

The Palantir employees have told the City Council what they want. I want a pony.


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Posted by Le plus ca change
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 7, 2014 at 7:11 pm

@Christopher Chiang,
Actually, if you are sacrificing to live in a place BECAUSE you don't want to live in the urban areas like SF and SJ, then urbanism is a bad word.

Giving my house to a bunch of kids from out of town to trash and environmentalism also both equal change and a degree of sacrifice. I want to do the latter, and neither want nor have to do the former. What is this art of non sequitur justification that runs so strongly in this urbanist group on this thread? You're twisting yourself into a pretzel and it's not making a compelling argument.

When we say "residents", we aren't just saying landowners. Many of the apartment dwellers are here to send their kids to local schools and they aren't particularly interested in having the schools so adversely impacted by the overdevelopment either. It is hard to put down roots in this place because it is desirable. In a global economy especially, you cannot build your way to affordability here. All the new apartments and new urbanism does is push up average rents which actually accelerates gentrification and pushing out of people living in low income housing here.

If you want things to get easier, you have to find a way to buy. That's the advice I've given all my closest friends whether boom or bust cycle. It has NEVER been easy here. You don't buy your dream house in Professorville, but a little fixer in EPA or Milpitas. You borrow from your family or credit cards for the down payment. You live through a bust cycle that drops the value of your house below what you paid. Then the next boom comes. Then you move up. But you choose when, because once you buy, you don't have to fear the rent increases anymore. You can start planning. You can put down roots.

Again, if this place isn't to your liking, you have options. You can rent in EPA. You can live along transit in SJ or SF. There are many communities in between on rail and bus lines. It's a boom time, so you will be competing with other people for anything desirable. I think there are vacancies in EPA, though.

I think this is one of those Give and inch they'll take a mile phenomena. Unlike Woodside or Portola Valley, Palo Alto has always had a more diverse population, and developers have realized they can take advantage. We just said 'enough'.


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Posted by Orchestrated, not new
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 7, 2014 at 7:31 pm

Christopher Chiang,

"Local public policies that limit growth influence prices along with market demand."

Could you please share what local public policies limit growth?





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Posted by Christopher Chiang
a resident of Mountain View
on Aug 7, 2014 at 8:53 pm

Responding to how:
"Local public policies that limit growth influence prices along with market demand."

The short answer is zoning and permits. Local governments throughout the region limit, ban, or steer new developments away from density to preserve quality of life (or are tired of being the only ones creating housing as other cities reap the benefits without the sacrifices).

At the square footage values in the Silicon Valley, unrestrained by local governments, you'd see a very different stock of housing (think NYC), if left to a free market that is. So anyone who argues renters should learn to be responsible and face the realities of the free market, should recognize we don't have a fully free market. We have local government interventions that create shortages that that benefit homeowners over renters.

But the long answer is that good policy is messy.

The free market should never be unregulated. Unregulated markets lead to negative externalities that could hurt the wider community (like high density on a small street, away from public transit, suffered by the residents, but not the developers, or high density in a neighborhood with an over crowded school).

The messy part is recognizing that the local government plays a role in determining the winners and losers (homeowners, renters), and finding ways to protect all residents (homeowners & renters).

Zoning is crucial to prevent developers (whose incentives are all short term), but to conclude all growth must be stopped paints an overly simplistic zero sum game.

The city could attentively zone to protect areas where growth would destroy those areas' livability, all the while keep an open mind to incentivizing housing innovations in areas that could flourish with the right type housing (dragging developers into a long term view and denying them the type of reckless growth that has given all growth a bad name).

What such a development (if any) would look like really depends on that specific neighborhood, so discussion of growth should not rely on blanket statements for an entire city.

As a non-Palo Altan, an example of smart growth from my town of Mountain View would have been MV's approval of Google's request for housing in the corporate corridor of North Bayshore, adjacent to their offices. MV's city council rejected it 4-3, all while approving more office growth. Those policies further fueled the housing shortage.

SF is another well documented example, fyi:
Economist Web Web Link
Techcrunch Web Web Link


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Posted by Getting Smart
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Aug 7, 2014 at 9:39 pm

Resident: Thank you for pointing out what I've been noticing for years – University Avenue has become nothing more than a food court / cafeteria for Stanford and the hitech businesses that have muscled their way into town. But a fad? Not if these saavy folks get their way. If you're not one of the big guys like Google or Facebook able to entice and keep employees with Disneyland-type campuses and lavish perks, just maybe you work very hard behind the scenes to turn an already attractive town like Palo Alto into your own publicly funded "campus" with publicly funded perks. I don't for a minute think these young tech employees are looking to live/work in a challenging and sometimes scary urban environment. The likes of Microsoft and Google have created expectstions in their minds of a Peter Pan world where work is just college with a salary. You are always wonderful, until you are not, and if you're lucky you may never have to grow up and the company, just like mom and dad, will take care of all your wants and needs in one way or another until they don't.


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Posted by Orchestrated, not new
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 7, 2014 at 10:00 pm

Christopher,

Zoning and permits - which everyone has, including NYC are not "local" policies. Everyone has them, including for the interpretation you focus on, of using them to call winners and losers.

You made it sound like Palo Alto had local policies to limit growth, and designed to "influence prices" and market demand.

Zoning and permits have many goals, individual and collective rights associated with the citizens. They are generally used to balance growth according to needs, and resources (opportunities and constraints). Market demand is a whole different animal which is not only determined by supply of a particular property.

Legal protections from zoning and permits (ie. if you didn't have them you would not be entitled to own your house or certain rights associated with ownership), do extend to the public areas of the city you belong to, pay taxes into. Some are free, some have a fee. Palo Alto is notorious for the open community space and things like Children's Zoo, Children's Theater, Gamble gardens, and parks. Today I saw a lovely scene of a corporate dinner in a park downtown, on Homer. 20 somethings laid out a long table, tablecloths and all, and were having dinner open air.

Residents pay to offer and preserve this; there are volunteer organizations which help tend the gardens, take people on tree tours. The feel of Palo Alto is not coincidental. Any credit for how welcoming and enjoyable this town has been to now millions over the years? Take that Atherton or even San Francisco.

As I've suggested before, your enemy is not the residents. The constraints are not meany local laws which don't want you personally. In my view your demographic is putting the pressure on the wrong people, and worst of it is that you're led with traditional developer and corporate interests with dumb visions of New York City, and fear mongering about Detroit and Gilroy.

Enough has been said about housing options and opportunities. In my view transportation solutions are more important than locating housing near transit. I mean how big is this town, to concentrate everything near two train stations? We have traffic lights that don't work here. For these and other problems, real innovation is not going to come from buildings.


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Posted by Le plus ca change
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 7, 2014 at 10:53 pm

"real innovation is not going to come from buildings."
Exactly. And land use is forever.

Christopher, you miss the history of this town, which is that in the last few years, the Council has been making dozens of zoning exceptions, and has created significantly more housing. We met our ABAG mandated goals, by the way, we exceeded them. Quality of life has taken serious hits. Has it made this place affordable? Again, in a desirable place, in a global economy, in a limited space, you cannot build your way to affordability. And you ruin what's here, which, as has been pointed out, has neither unlimited space nor resources. You also don't seem to have any thought for the low-income residents who have built lives here who are also being forced out.

One thing all the exceptions to density HAS done is create the expectation by developers that they would be granted zoning exceptions, and this in turn fueled speculative purchases. The Buena Vista Mobile Home Park, the last affordable place to live here and home to over 400 long-time residents, was purchased by a developer who promptly asked for four times the zoning. Eventually, because of the residentialists making it clear that wasn't going to happen probably, the developer dropped the application, but the owner is still in process of evicting the residents. He'll convert the mobile home park and make extra money selling to a developer who will only have the incentive because of state bonus density laws ostensibly to create affordable housing, to build high-density luxury apartments with a smattering of really expensive below-market rate units that no one who lived there before could afford.

The residents of the mobile home park are property owners, too, who chose to sacrifice comfort in order to afford to live here and send their kids to the local schools, where they show a dramatically higher success rate than one would expect demographically. The high-density luxury apartment dwellers who take their place will overwhelm our local schools which are now at capacity. This is not an incremental cost, we will have to open a new school. Do you know how expensive it will be -- for existing residents -- to have to locate, buy, and build on a new middle school site? We are already paying for the most expensive kind of multistory construction for the sites we have. And where will the new middle school go?

As has already been pointed out, this is a region, and right next to Palo Alto is East Palo Alto which still has vacancy. Unlike the residents of the mobile home park who have long-term ties in the local community and who are sending their children to school here, you and other Yuppies could find urban relatively affordable places to live in EPA within an easy commute (walking and biking) distance. You can find places along transit all the way from SJ to San Mateo. It's really hard to understand why you are making these stilted arguments shilling for developers when what you ostensibly want is available in this area. Last time I looked, Atherton, Portola Valley, Los Altos Hills, Woodside -- all had much more capacity for high-density growth. How much time have you spent demanding that they provide you with a high-density urban experience at the expense of existing residents?


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Posted by Ahem
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 7, 2014 at 10:56 pm

I think part of the problem may be that some of these young tech workers, recently separated from their parents, and well known for their arrested development, seem to have somehow imprinted on the Palo Alto City Council as their surrogate parents.

This phenomenon is well known in ducks and geese. If a young goose is separated from its parents at an early developmental stage, it will imprint on anything that resembles an adult goose (like a stuffed animal, or a hang-glider) and act like the hang-glider is its parent.

You may think this only works on ducks... not true. Military training also takes advantage of this phenomenon. In boot-camp young recruits are separated from all contact with their parents, and provided with all the necessities of life, then a stern drill instructor gets in their face and yells "You don't have a mother, and you don't have a father... the Corp is your MOTHER, and I am your FATHER!" Don't laugh, it works.

I suspect this transference of parental imprint may have been facilitated by Palentir, in an effort to avoid the burden of having these young workers imprint on the Palentir executive staff.

It will be interesting to see if any of these young tech workers stay imprinted on certain council members, after they get the boot, or if the imprint is somehow associated with the city council chambers.


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Posted by Le plus ca change
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 7, 2014 at 11:10 pm

@ Ahem,
You know, Orchestrated, not new reminds me that there have been other City meetings where I was prompted to look up who Palantir is because of some weird astroturf-y young speakers, always in favor of developers, same ones. This is not new, Gennady is a good reporter but he's usually writing already during these meetings and I don't think he has a clue about this. There are people who write reviews for a fee... Look at what Wikipedia says about Palantir at the end (while it's still there now that I pointed it out).


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Posted by Ahem
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 7, 2014 at 11:41 pm

Le plus,

Are you referring to this?

"In 2010 Hunton & Williams LLP allegedly asked Berico Technologies, Palantir, and HBGary Federal to draft a response plan to "the WikiLeaks Threat." In early 2011 Anonymous publicly released HBGary-internal documents, including the plan. The plan proposed Palantir software would "serve as the foundation for all the data collection, integration, analysis, and production efforts." The plan also included slides, allegedly authored by HBGary CEO Aaron Barr, which suggested "[spreading] disinformation" and "disrupting" Glenn Greenwald's support for WikiLeaks."

Link: Web Link


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Posted by Orchestrate, not new
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 7, 2014 at 11:53 pm

and also from wikipedia

"Palantir Gotham (formerly known as Palantir Government)"

Gotham?


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Posted by Orchestrated, not new
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 7, 2014 at 11:59 pm

Getting Smart,

"If you're not one of the big guys like Google or Facebook able to entice and keep employees with Disneyland-type campuses and lavish perks, just maybe you work very hard behind the scenes to turn an already attractive town like Palo Alto into your own publicly funded "campus" with publicly funded perks."

or your own Gotham


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Posted by Orchestrated, not new
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 8, 2014 at 12:39 am

Ok, not fun. I just did a Palantir search on PA online.

Apparently this must be news only to me. They are all over the place. From being one of Marc Berman's contributors, to Greg Scharff suggesting they serve on the regional housing committee, to the co-founder serving on the CIty's interview panel for a city CIO.

Web Link
Web Link
Web Link

if nothing else, it's just weird


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Posted by Ahem
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 8, 2014 at 1:14 am

For a company like Palantir, I think it is really important to keep these young worker within the Disneyland bubble. Contact with the outside could shatter their adolescent fantasy world. If they had to take the train to Mt View or Redwood City they might meet a Mexican, or a women who is more interested in sex than software. They might have to sit in a grubby little rented apartment, look out from a dirty window, and think about whether they are really "Middle Earth warriors Battling Evil" or just pathetic little peeping-toms slaving away at a soulless computer to provide the intimate details of somebody's private life to some unknown agency.

"Palantir Director: We're "Middle Earth warriors Battling Evil""
Valleywag - June 10, 2013 Web Link


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Posted by Eric Schmist
a resident of Palo Alto Hills
on Aug 8, 2014 at 2:18 am

Eric Schmist is a registered user.

[Portion removed.] Nobody likes paying the over priced housing costs or rents. Over the past 35 years Palo Alto has had 3, maybe even 4, significant booms and as significant busts. Palo Alto, the mighty Tech-Phoenix arose from the ashes to live another day. Those days survived because people could sell their houses and move where they could find another job, they didn't have to put 30%++ cash down to secure a loan for a house that was grossly over priced to start with. Where might the next housing melt down occur? Where the houses are unsaleable being grossly over priced, that's Palo Alto defined. Banks fixed that by requiring major down payments. Building mega city blocks of "green" pack'em and stack'em housing units won't bring lower rents. Probably won't even put a ding in the housing prices due to supply/demand. Building mega masses of "green" housing will definitely kill the sustainability of the Palo Alto Phoenix rising again in the event of a bust. We are in a boom, a bust will follow in good time. Many of the workers in Palo Alto are also H1B Visa holders, and will lose work visa status and simply go back to their country of origin if they are jobless. Excessive housing could definitely impact the ability of a turnaround if it happens like it has in the past, fast and furious.Excessive housing without the overly inflated companies will slum the housing market for a long time. For example we forget 2008-2012 was dead. It wasn't until mid to last half of 2012 companies began hiring in force after the banking melt down. 1999-2003 dead.

If I recall correctly, Palo Alto's 2012 census stated that 40% of the residents of Palo Alto paid 40% of their joint income on housing, either mort or rent. Since 2012 housing and rents have gone up at least 30% conservatively, over 50% generally, and some rents have even doubled. Homes likewise, this is a new high in home prices. Landlords and realtors all know this is cyclical.

If 40% of the population in PA are paying 40% of their combined income for housing, and this is the "hottest" tech employment arena, at what point will these people be unable to buy the very merchandise they develop and at that point, will the recession begin at ground zero where it grew like wild fire?

There are other affordable cities sponsoring the tech industry, Austin for one. Companies will eventually have to look at their profitability, paying through the nose to operate in a very expensive land-space is not profitable. Paying employees more so they can also operate in that very expensive space is also not profitable. At some point the stock prices will begin to correct because even the powers that be, cannot afford to manipulate indefinitely.

We all live in a tech bubble universe, but when the rest of the world cannot afford to buy the trinkets, gidgets and gizmo's we are developing, and we cannot afford the latest version either, companies need to look at real factors affecting their profitability. CA is also a high tax state. I'm not saying it will be a wasteland, but even the Google God and Facebook children aren't a whole lot without the advertising animal. Many original SV companies have moved away or are dwarfed in the valley (HP, pharmaceuticals).

Something to consider, before building more stack'n pack cheap cardboard housing.
Why not let some of the other regions build a bunch of cheap stackable housing; More housing means less space for companies to headquarter also.

Just because we are used to accommodating our entitled children's every whine, doesn't mean they are deserving or correct in their expectations. Many people who worked at HP, Lockheed, Fairchild, Syntex, Apple, virtually all the tech industries never could afford to live in Palo Alto and did the bridge crossing every day as early as humanly possible. Or, lived in Mountain View or elsewhere and commuted.

Additionally, these company buses for commuters to park in all the park'n rides. Are they really car pool commuting, or each individually driving up to pick up the company bus for a mile into campus? Maybe we need to build some 10 floor structures for the park and ride facilities first before cardboard housing. They are eternally packed - that's not going to change with the lack of space to build parking lots on campus's.


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Posted by stephen levy
a resident of University South
on Aug 8, 2014 at 4:30 am

stephen levy is a registered user.

@ Kate downing

I would like to hear your perspective on what you were asking for.

We are traveling but please email me at slevy@ccsce.com.

Thanks

Steve





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Posted by Sea-Seelam Reddy
a resident of College Terrace
on Aug 8, 2014 at 6:26 am

Please, let us keep Palo Alto what it has been; a wonderful town for families and a wonderful town for 'smart' people that make a difference in the world; like David Packard/Bill Hewlett; Steve Jobs; now Mark Z and others.


Big ideas that transform and solve world's problems by being innovative.

When I go to downtown it seems like we are hosting all the people that come to the Bay area; not just Palo Alto/Stanford.

We have become a showcase of how a downtown with bustling start-ups etc., I honestly think we should STOP, RETHINK.

We do not need any more new restaurants; we have plenty of choices (may be recycle some); we do not need any more new traffic.


We could devote more towards youth learning/arts be like Menlo Park downtown area privately run after school class rooms (nothing to do with government).

We could remove all the rules about how many people live in a house.

We could redefine what it means to host foreign/out-of state visitors in grand 'Palo Alto' houses that are large. You live longer if you have some one to talk to!

We could provide incentives for people to remodel to come up with energy efficiency and more.

Let us stick to what we see today in Palo Alto. NO change needed

Only INNOVATIVE solutions that beautify our already beautiful town.

Let our young people impress their employers to 'pay' them more as these companies are stacking up with huge profits. Local companies should/need to offer 25% increase in salaries as the rents go up.

Respectfully


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Posted by Orchestrated, not new
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 8, 2014 at 8:29 am

Eric Schmist,

"Companies will eventually have to look at their profitability, paying through the nose to operate in a very expensive land-space is not profitable."

This would be logical, but some things aren't.

I'd never heard of Palantir until now, but I've come across articles that tout it as the equivalent of Google and FB, one of largest in Palo Alto. It has over 200,000 square feet in office space, but the number of employees is 1,200.

Am I missing something?


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Posted by Getting Smart
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Aug 8, 2014 at 9:10 am

From Forbes "How a 'Deviant' Philosopher Built Palantir, A CIA-Funded Data-Mining Juggernaut" (8/14/2013):

"A unique Palantir culture began to form in Karp's iconoclast image. Its Palo Alto headquarters, which it calls "the Shire" in reference to the homeland of Tolkien's hobbits, features a conference room turned giant plastic ball pit and has floors littered with Nerf darts and dog hair. (Canines are welcome.) Staffers, most of whom choose to wear Palantir-branded apparel daily, spend so much time at the office that some leave their toothbrushes by the bathroom sinks."

There's your answer to affordable housing: a giant plastic ball bit.


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Posted by Mark Weiss
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 8, 2014 at 9:10 am

I spoke at Wednesday's meeting about putting a large park in Ventura, the most undervalued neighborhood in Palo Alto. Our Comp Plan -- the topic of the public hearing -- does stipulate that we want more parks.

I noted, however that when I ran my idea by "Ari" and his daughter, roller-skating at Peers Park on Park Boulevard, his reaction was "Good idea, but what I'm worrying about is my landlord just raised my rent $500 and I don't know if I can continue living here."

In my travels recently, collecting 65 signatures to qualify for the ballot, several other people told me the same thing: they may have to leave Palo Alto because their landlords are gouging them.

So why not study Rent Control? I love the speaker who said "I demand government build new housing but I don't want rent control". Doesn't he realize the huge subsidies our government puts into high tech? Isn't the war a subsidy of big business? (I am indebted to George Packer for some of this).

It's still one-person one-vote here and there are roughly 40 percent of Palo Altans who rent, so I would think we should be talking about a measure that would help people who live here stay here, and not 2030 how much too much more to build.

This was also brought up by Edie Keating at the Housing Element meeting (she, like me, there as a guest). Ken Allen meanwhile started talking about it in opposition -- fair enough. We should discuss these things more fully.

[Portion removed.]


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Posted by Ahem
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 8, 2014 at 9:19 am

Reddy,

I think you would be a perfect city council member in a Disneyland Palo Alto.


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Posted by Orchestrated, not new
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 8, 2014 at 9:19 am

Mark Weiss,

Do people ever leave a rent controlled apartment though?

If properties can't be sold, there would be no taxes.

I would think this is for the affordable housing category, and that has to be driven by employers. The reason people can't afford Palo Alto is because of their pressure. Hilarious that we should also pay for the unaffordable housing.


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Posted by Mark Weiss
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 8, 2014 at 9:21 am

[Post removed.]


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Posted by Mark Weiss
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 8, 2014 at 9:25 am

No, hilarious is that we the people are spending $1.7 million to a consultant in Berkeley to sugar-coat and twist the current General Plan or Comp Plan to rationalize and mesmerize the fact that some powerful entity wants to build more dense housing and more office complexes damn the torpedos.

How much rent relief would that same $1.7 M provide?

I'm a Keynsian but I think this should be discussed. If not now, when?

I'm a Marxist, but only because I think that rhubards cooked like prunes taste more like applesauce [portion removed.]


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Posted by Mark Weiss
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 8, 2014 at 9:39 am

[Portion removed.]
The Comp Plan is fine. Or we should punt its revision until after the election.


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Posted by Orchestrated, not new
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 8, 2014 at 9:44 am

Mark Weiss,

City Council members like Scharff and Berman make the corporate interests powerful.

Palantir is more famous for Palo Alto office space than for what they actually do. So much for citizen input.

How does a "data mining" tech company -co-founder get to be on the interview panel and screen the City's chief information officer (ironic name)?

See my three links above for connections between the "powerful" players


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Posted by boscoli
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Aug 8, 2014 at 11:10 am

The Palantir employees performance at the council hearing was a contrived [portion removed] by young techies with a very slim to none grasp of real life works.

Those misguided enough to indulge them should understand two facts of life:
1. Even if we toss out all zoning restrictions and replace many single family homes with high rise apartments, there would still be are far more people craving to live in Palo Alto than available housing. The effect on the infrastructure, environment, water and energy supply, quality of life I will leave to you imagination.

2. The more development is allowed, the more expensive the real estate will become. Foreign investors jump at every available home, willing to and succeeding at outbidding regular potential buyers. A house in my block that was purchased for less than a million dollars around 2000 just received a six million dollar sight unseen offer from the agent of a foreign investor, and I suspect the owners will end up getting even more..


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Posted by Ahem
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 8, 2014 at 11:42 am

Orchestrated,

[Portion removed.]

2. How do you determine the interests of a shadowy company like Palantir? (Perhaps Palantir's technology could help them make a full disclosure of there associations and interests)

3. Given Palantir's association with the HB Gary affair, the public needs to know if Palantir, or any of it founders, have provided Berman (or any other council members) with any non-monetary assistance?

4. Does the city of Palo Alto use any of Palantir's products? If so, could a "back door" give Palantir access to City operations, workings of the city staff, or the movements and/or deliberations of the members of the City Council?

5. Palantir products have been used to trace and chart the progress of the Libyan revolution (see below). Is Palantir software being used in real-time to manage a political campaign based on a disruptive technology not available to all participants in the political process?

[Portion removed.]

7. What is the relationship between the City's CIO and Palantir, and did Palantir's participation in the selection of the City's CIO in any way allow Palantir to gain access to City data, or to monitor city business?

8. Is Palantir using any of its spy technologies to monitor the political process in Palo Alto, or using its relationships with intelligence agencies, and/or police departments to gain access to information not available to all participants in the political process?

9. Does Palantir provide any technology, or services, or maintain any relationship with PAPD?


"The Libyan Revolution - An ISW & Palantir Project"
You Tube - October 19, 2011 Web Link


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Posted by Orchestrated, not new
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 8, 2014 at 12:32 pm

Ahem,

Not gonna lie, these type questions made my stomach queezy when the company's name, City of Palo Alto, and some of the council members names yielded the results I posted.

It's funny that while citizens have been trying to do some "data mining," and city data is hard to find, the employees requesting housing (specifically "on University and Cal Ave") are data miner experts themselves. I even got the creeps that our government leaders are under a spell ha ha. The Gilroy line was brought up by Berman at the recent meeting, just like one of the young speakers.

Price had a long speech about global competition. I'd be interested to know what we're competing for, and with whom.
This center of the universe global, regional population explosion, and bcycle overlay is odd, and I would hope that there will be answers to your questions. I'm glad to know I'm not the only one that's wondering.


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Posted by Orchestrated, not new
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 8, 2014 at 12:39 pm

and not to be paranoid or anything

"Spy Chief Called Silicon Valley Stooge in Army Software Civil War"

Web Link


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Posted by Orchestrated, not new
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 8, 2014 at 1:29 pm

Ahem,

the age of google

this is from a city document about appointments to the Human Relations Committee

Web Link

from one of the applicants

"I work for Palantir Technologies, a software company based in Palo Alto. While
the city is not one of our customers, we do try to partner with the Palo Alto on
various projects including donating software to the police department, hosting
events in our space, and consulting on water conservation. "


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Posted by Orchestrated, not new
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 8, 2014 at 1:45 pm

Ahem,

"4. Does the city of Palo Alto use any of Palantir's products? If so, could a "back door" give Palantir access to City operations, workings of the city staff, or the movements and/or deliberations of the members of the City Council?"

Maybe also the front door. If Le plus had not brought up wikipedia, I would not have done searches which gives my handle a completely different meaning than when I started. This must be the material for a book or movie. Creeeeeeepy!


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Posted by Ahem
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 8, 2014 at 1:53 pm

Orchestrated,

Looks like I've been censored (preface and questions 1 & 6 have been removed). I am kind of surprised considering how long TS let Rupert go on about Karen Holman.

If any readers want to piece the censored portions together for themselves, start here:

"Berman rakes in contributions for City Council race"
Palo Alto Online - July 17, 2012 Web Link


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Posted by Getting Smart
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Aug 8, 2014 at 2:09 pm

I would like to personally thank the "new voices" that so recently surfaced to joined our growth debate for turning us all on to the real powers behind this issue. I'm not of an age to remember WWII, but I do remember the phrase "loose lips sink ships." Keep talking young ones, we're all ears.


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Posted by Niel
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 8, 2014 at 2:36 pm

[Post removed.]


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Posted by Orchestrated, not new
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 8, 2014 at 2:52 pm

just in case,

PAPD,

I'd appreciate it if you would not use donated software.

Weekly,

Please be more investigative about the political connections between public speakers and corporate interests. People should disclose these type of connections. A full report on City connections with companies is also of interest. Especially if they are serving on boards, or are behind local initiatives.

Niel,

It's not exactly hard to imagine all sorts of odd stuff when you stumble on words like spy, disruption, stooge, civil war, and revolution associated with software your local police may be using. Smirk all you want about people who aren't as informed as you are. Whatever that means.


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Posted by Orchestrated, not new
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 8, 2014 at 2:56 pm

People should disclose these type of connections

By this I don't just mean, I'm an employee of....

but add all the other connections of their company to the City and city leaders.

Aren't there laws about this?


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Posted by Sea-Seelam Reddy
a resident of College Terrace
on Aug 8, 2014 at 3:01 pm

responding to Ahem:

"Reddy,I th7ink you would be a perfect city council member in a Disneyland Palo Alto."

Funny you said that: let me tell you my experience with Disneyland.

We lived in Irvine and I took my two daughters Vanessa-9; Leila-7 and my nephew Neeraj-6 on my daughters birthday in 1989.

We go there, enjoying our visit; visit the bathroom; and found a set of eye wear (3D) on the counter. I begin to walk away with it in my hand; a group of 4-5 security guards surround me in front of my family. They wanted me to return it to them. I said I found it the rest room. We argued, me saying it was found on the floor; they calling additional security.

So, I have bad experience with Disneyland. I would rarely go back again.

I hate Disneyland for their 'macho ness' and 'prove it to me that you belong here attitude.

I will never wish Palo Alto to be that type.

You got this one misjudged.

I like happy/tree hugging people in Palo Alto.. Nothing else.

I hate corporations like Disneyland security that bullied.
I am for freedom and IMAGINE song sung by John Lennon.

Web Link

Respectfully




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Posted by Ahem
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 8, 2014 at 7:57 pm

Reddy,

Ha-ha okay, maybe you wouldn't be such a great council member in Disneyland Palo Alto. Sounds like you have a thick skin, and a good sense of humor... you are going to need it. Good luck with your campaign.


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Posted by Resident
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Aug 8, 2014 at 11:21 pm

Im interested in City Council candidates with a black and white No Growth position for Palo Alto. How can one find out each candidates specific position on growth. Litmus test. Yep.


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Posted by Le plus ca change
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 9, 2014 at 12:52 am

Remind the neo-yuppies that East Palo Alto checks all their boxes and the crickets are really chirping in the astroturf.

Let's hear from some who found affordable housing there. It's definitely nicer than it once was and not deserving the bad press, esp if you don't need schools.

So?


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Posted by Ben Lerner
a resident of Palo Verde
on Aug 9, 2014 at 1:05 am

@Resident - I recommend you look closely at, and consider supporting, Eric Filseth, Tom DuBois, Lydia Khou, and Karen Holman (the only residentialist incumbent running). And consider making a donation, too.


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Posted by Orchestrated, not new
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 9, 2014 at 10:41 am

Though I disagree with most of the growth arguments from the new but not so new voices, I would not have had any problem with any of this (including seeing an organized group speaking out) if it were not that some of the council members and city staff appear to have several other ties to these voices, and that nobody bothered to say so. My original post was annoyance at the perennial growth lobby Stephen Levy who is not new.

These are the voices who end up as planning commissioners and interested "engaged citizens." As Greg Scharff wanted to invite Palantir to be part of the city council regional housing mandate committee.

If the city or council is giving access to certain groups, shouldn't they be vetted by the public first?

from a thread on PA online Web Link

"At the February 13, 2014, City Council Regional Housig Mandate Committee, their was a discussion about the the Community Panel. Staff soliticed advice about the membership of the panel. Greg Scharff suggested the panel include a representative of a large busines like Palantir"

I had not yet made up my mind about who to vote for. I'm still wondering who to trust to be transparent, honest, and capable of engaging with the average resident, not all the obvious institutional interests, and lobbies. Or with what appears so innovative - Gotham and comic realities played in the wild imagination of kids who spend too much time inside their heads and their computers looking for ways to use and manipulate data - ironically to help. Your'e missing the best part of being here, get out and actually engage with a Bob Moss, he's almost as interesting as Superman.


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Posted by Orcehstrated, not new
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 9, 2014 at 12:08 pm

It would be nice to know how Greg Scharff decided to suggest to include a representative of "a large business like Palantir" representing Palo Alto on a regional housing board. Including how it distinguishes itself as large, compared to other large businesses.


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Posted by Le plus ca change
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 9, 2014 at 6:22 pm

All this talk of Disneyland, reminds me of a better analogy: the lines at Disneyland.

Disneyland is the happiest place on earth. They often have long, long lines for the most popular rides and sometimes have to restrict the number of people who get in the door because it's so popular.

Will demanding that Disneyland build more rides over every inch of it so that they can let more people in make it more affordable? If they let more people in, will it make the lines shorter?

Kate and the new yuppies not only want to get into Disneyland for cheap, they want to let Developers have their way with it out of a misguided idea that it will drop ticket prices and lines. They have a legitimate complaint that 4 hours is too long to wait for Finding Nemo, but their answer is that they deserve to get in the park for free and cut in line ahead of everyone else who has been waiting and paid a lot to be there. (And then to heap abuse on the ones playing by the rules when they tell the overprivileged yuppies to get in line if they want to ride, too.)


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Posted by Ahem
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 13, 2014 at 2:28 pm

[Post removed.]


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Posted by living near work
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Aug 13, 2014 at 10:31 pm

More housing near jobs in Palo Alto means ...
more people living in Palo Alto. Period. People work where they can and change jobs as it benefits them.

More housing near jobs in Palo Alto means more traffic, more competition for parking, greater water requirements, greater infrastructure and management requirements, larger schools, more competition for park space including soccer fields and dog runs and picnic opportunities, greater library requirements (as traditional library as well as the current function as day care after school), greater mass transit requirements, etc.

All this costs money if it can be handled at all, but some simply cannot be handled. For example, a requirement for more mass transit cannot be handled; we've needed better and more mass transit for 30 years, and have not been able to make a dent in the traffic.

It is simply false that more housing near jobs means people live closer to jobs. The theory doesn't hold and the evidence doesn't indicate that more housing near jobs means people live closer to jobs.


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Posted by Ahem
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 14, 2014 at 12:31 am

In a city document (see link below) about appointments to the Human Relations Committee, one of the applicants said:

"I work for Palantir Technologies, a software company based in Palo Alto. While the city is not one of our customers, we do try to partner with the Palo Alto on various projects including donating software to the police department, hosting events in our space, and consulting on water conservation."

I wonder how this donated software is being used? Could it be used by PAPD to track and measure the performance of police officers?

City document: Web Link


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