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Editorial: Lessons from the Maybell fiasco

Original post made on Jun 21, 2013

If there was one lesson that anyone involved in Palo Alto policy-making should know, it is to never assume that something can be quietly approved by keeping it under the radar of affected neighbors and holding back on full transparency.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Friday, June 21, 2013, 8:56 AM

Comments (59)

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Posted by Baroness
a resident of Barron Park
on Jun 21, 2013 at 10:30 am

I would also add that PAHC's attempt to brandish this community as being NIMBY, anti-affordable housing was particularly galling.

Also, the zoning regs in Palo Alto seem to be little more than a suggestion - property owners seem to assume they'll get any increase they propose to the city. From my perspective it's making the area a much less desirable place to live. Why don't we just build skyscrapers all over south Palo Alto?


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Posted by Timothy Gray
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Jun 21, 2013 at 10:34 am

Great points.

Can anyone list how each Council member voted on this project?

I'm sure I'm not the only one that is interested in accountability.

Thanks,

Tim Gray


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Posted by VM
a resident of Barron Park
on Jun 21, 2013 at 10:43 am

Is there institutional accountability in the City council? If things go wrong (traffic accidents due to increased density, school children access issues, or worse, an emergency where medical personnel cannot get through because the only access roads are blocked) -- does the council care? Will they ever be able to roll back anything? Or will they just shrug and say "Too bad. We were sure it would be ok."

I'm extremely frustrated that safety seemed to be an after thought in this case. It was even more exasperating that this was approved by using FUD tactics -- "if we don't approve this bad situation now, the future situation will be worse".


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Posted by seriously
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 21, 2013 at 10:51 am

It was 100 percent YES. But not before Mr Klein admonished the neighbors (lumping us all in together) for using harsh language.

Check out the agenda for Monday's city council. Preparation of a new traffic model, a new traffic study that will be used for the city after they realized the one used for this project was outdated. The neighbors pointed this out over an over again but they denied the traffic study was was an issue. However, they now (less than a week later) are updating the traffic study.


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Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 21, 2013 at 10:53 am

Tim Gray

Thanks for stepping into the discussion and keeping tabs.


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Posted by baruch boxer
a resident of Barron Park
on Jun 21, 2013 at 11:04 am

Disregard of neighborhood well-being, aesthetic and design values, and fairness, together with administrative opaqueness and heavyhandedness, stains and pollutes Palo Alto's attractiveness.Hopefully the city administration will learn from this fiasco how to better treat its tax paying and other citizens.


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Posted by seriously
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 21, 2013 at 11:18 am

Item 5 on Monday's agenda is an increase in the contract for the consultant that is working on the Comprehensive Plan update. In the list of tasks is 2. Preparation of a new traffic model. Here is some of what that says:
The original completion date of 2010 assumed the use of the City's original traffic model originally created in 1995 and updated in 2008.... As the time line was extended ... the City could not justify the use of the existing model for long-term forecasting and planning studies... The new traffic model was built using the Valley Transportation Authority's Transportation Land use model updated with recent land use activities and known demand from specific plan area changes... The new model also accounts for current and future forecast assumptions from neighboring agencies including Menlo Park, East Palo Alto and Mountain View. The new model includes Base Year 2012, Near-Term 2025 and Future Year 2035 traffic assumptions.

In the Statement of Work V Future Year Scenario Traffic Modeling for Comp Plan Amendment Hexagon (the consultant that supported PAHC) will re validate the 2010 base year using revised 2010 land use data. Year 2010 model input files will be updated to the years 2020, 2025 and 2035.

There are more details on the models to be developed by Hexagon using assumptions about travel mods, peak travel, rtc. Only 25 intersections citywide will be used to study congestion.
So staff is agreeing with the Broband study that the Maybell neighbors funded that the 2008 model is obsolete, VTA models should be used, and the newer 2010 VTA model is the right one to use. Hexagon said at the Council meeting that everything they did was fine and current, and they sent a letter to the Council repeating that what they did was fine and the objections were wrong.

So it appears the neighbors and Brobard are right and PAHC, city council, staff and Hexagon are wrong.

The full staff report should be on the city website under Agendas for June 24. Report number is 3756.


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Posted by Stanford wants it too
a resident of Barron Park
on Jun 21, 2013 at 11:37 am

Stanford's chief developer Jean McCown is on the PAHCorp board and testified for the project. Given her high level connection to Stanford and her many year ties to Kniss and Klein, it was a slam dunk. Wonder why Stanford wanted to be associated with this.
McCown has a long history of winning over resident opposition for huge development in Palo Alto and of course for Stanford.


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Posted by Show trial
a resident of Barron Park
on Jun 21, 2013 at 11:40 am

The whole matter was pre determined when the city council committed 5 million tax dollars to the project without any review.

I hope the neighbors launch a (very winnable) CEQA suit and give the PAHC a little karmic payback for trying to steamroll the neighborhood and playing the "NIMBY" card in a tone deaf and arrogant manner.

Also, if someone will start a general recall and or referendum, where do I sign?


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Posted by Timothy Gray
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Jun 21, 2013 at 12:56 pm

As a former Council candidate, I have stepped back to an observer status, not wanting to appear to have a voice of "sour grapes" -- however, this latest action is absolutely wrong, and is the result of insiders handing off the reigns of government to insiders.

Since I am out of the election business, I will break the silence and say that I am heartbroken to see the future play out in a way that even the worst cynic would not have predicted.

This was a clear fraud on the residents and it works like this: An inflated land price is paid to the land owner based on the valuation of the increased zoning density. (There is not a piece of land in Palo Alto that would not double or triple if increased rental square footage were allowed. We all know that the value is not just in the land, but in the allowed use of the land.)

So the increased price paid for the land, required that the developer build an obese project to make the economics feasible. Then, in a Council created catch 22, the Council claimed that they had to approve the density to allow the charitable project to work, otherwise they would be taking actions agains the poor and the elderly.

Translated: If the developer had paid a market price for the land as zoned, they would not have had to shove the density into a neighborhood that was already facing long and unresolved traffic issues that clearly put the safety of children at risk. Oh yes, and the quality of life for the neighboring residents is a responsibility of the Council. Please don't say that quality of life is a selfish motivation. Our zoning laws exist to protect our quality of life.

I am heartbroken to see this fraud roll out before our eyes and to digest that this is really happening to our town, and I can't just walk out of the theatre and realize it is a bad B-grade movie.

There are also too many levels of conflict of interest to outline in this post, however it is clear that Council members have snubbed their collective noses at the residents.

There will be sequels to this movie: "Purchased political power, Chicago Style II" coming to a neighborhood near you. And that neighborhood, sad to say, will probably be in the South.

I know Larry Klein and others call this concern "divisive", but it is based on empirical observations -- and only those with blinders on would fail to see the obvious future indicated by the extrapolation of data points where South Palo Alto neighborhoods have solely had to absorb the erosion of neighborhoods for the claimed benefit of the community. Fairness in Government 101 requires that their be shared community benefit and shared community pain.

Unless these principles of fairness are followed by the Council, there will be many more sequels to the bad movie we just watched. To those who feel violated by the recent history, I am writing to confirm that you have been.

Respectfully,

Tim Gray


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Posted by Craig Laughton
a resident of College Terrace
on Jun 21, 2013 at 1:27 pm

>So the increased price paid for the land, required that the developer build an obese project to make the economics feasible. Then, in a Council created catch 22, the Council claimed that they had to approve the density to allow the charitable project to work, otherwise they would be taking actions agains the poor and the elderly.

Tim, good post, overall. However there is the presumption that Palo Alto should be obligated to take care of seniors. Why? Most long-term seniors in PA have a lot of equity built into their own homes. If the seniors are relatively recent move-ins, then why should PA be obligated?

The essential issue is that PAHC has built a political nexus that demands a welfare housing approach, which will violate, eventually, every residential neighborhood in PA. Barron Park is only the most recent example. Imagine what Larry Klein would say if a large welfare senior housing development was forced into his neighborhood?

When will Palo Alto residential neighborhoods decide to say "NO" to welfare housing?


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Posted by Dan
a resident of Professorville
on Jun 21, 2013 at 2:40 pm

This is not just a "south Palo Alto issue". This week neighbors of downtown north and south met with. city representatives regarding the 13 year ongoing encroachment of vehicles densely parking in the neighborhood while the City gives away variances so developers continue to build dense downtown buildings without adequate parking, setbacks, etc. Our neighborhoods look like a Costco parking lot. Yet the City in addressing the issue now demands a solution to be cost neutral and also something acceptable to the developers many of whom don't even live in our city!
This is in violation of our City Comprensive plan yet the developers always prevail!
Neighborhoods need to band together and create a City government that serves it's tax paying citizens! We should band together to support each and every transgression in the City and look for creating a council not tied to the hand ful of big developers!
Good Luck, Maybell!


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Posted by Soroor Ebnesajjad
a resident of Barron Park
on Jun 21, 2013 at 3:02 pm

The Council has still not discussed the following questions:

1- We have learned now that making low income senior housing is an extremely high priority for Palo Alto. The Council even lent PAHC millions of dollars to buy the land and accepted every possible rezoning that PAHC requested. My question has been: in light of the significance of this cause why isn't the Council putting up some money for the project so that PAHC doesn't have to build such high density market rate row of houses in order to finance the low income part? Why shouldn't every resident in Palo Alto contribute to this? Why should only the Maybell residents pay for it in the form of a row of houses inconsistent with the neighborhood and more traffic and less safety for bikers, etc.?

2- PAHC by its own admission is an amateur developer when it comes to market rate housing. They told the residents during the weekend meetings that they never investigated selling the parcel for the market rate houses in any format other than in one piece to a developer. Many people have pointed out that they should investigate if they would make more money by subdividing it into a few reasonable size lots and selling them separately. But PAHC says they have no more time because they have a grant deadline in July and so no more investigation.

3- I was at all of the Council meetings and could never understand why the Council members were so deferential to PAHC but seemed annoyed by the residents arguments. Can anyone explain to me why PAHC is held in such high regard and the Council treats it with such care?


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Posted by seriously
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 21, 2013 at 3:05 pm

Thank you, Dan, we do need to work together across town because we are all being impacted. Any of this high density without enough parking is going to encroach neighborhood to neighborhood. We are one city and should work together to help each of our neighbors tackle their issues. I actually avoid downtown PA because of the parking issues and I see how bad the parking has spread out.


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Posted by Michele
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Jun 21, 2013 at 3:21 pm

Lesson I learned: who to vote out in the next election - the entire gang.


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Posted by Palo Alto Resident
a resident of Downtown North
on Jun 21, 2013 at 3:36 pm

The whole process was a terrible shame and a scam on Palo Alto. This is just about to happen again with the 27 University project. When will the residents of Palo Alto wake up before we have no more "Palo Alto"?


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Posted by Cheryl
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jun 21, 2013 at 4:25 pm

Our city is being used by a handful of developers as a giant Monopoly game! After enough rounds with the council they get a "Get out of Zoning regulations card" or a "No parking needed" card until the whole game board is filled in... and no one wants to live here. Do the council members ever notice the negative effects of their decisions? For example, even the 2010 traffic study is outdated - have they noticed the back-up on Oregon and Embarcadero? This is now most of the working day! How about the back-ups on University or the everyday traffic situation on Arastradero? Imagine what an impact the 27 University monster is going to make!! (But of course, everyone working there will use the train right? And if you don't provide parking we'll all ride bikes to do our shopping. Right?) Neither facts or community input seem to slow down the current board game so I'm ready for some new players!


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Posted by Dennis
a resident of Downtown North
on Jun 21, 2013 at 4:26 pm

I'm with Craig Laughton - let's end all this welfare housing: Get rid of mortgage interest and property tax deductions. If you can't afford to pay your way, tough!


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Posted by Anonymous
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 21, 2013 at 5:00 pm

Klein, PAHC and the rest of the city council tried to sneak this sweet heart deal past a previously politically inactive neighborhood. It's just the political insiders and the developers playing their game with South Palo Alto as the unknowing fall guys.

Vote them all out! Remove the current members of the PAHC.


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Posted by Neighbor
a resident of Green Acres
on Jun 21, 2013 at 6:22 pm

The problem wasn't just the process, the problem is the size and scale of the project, in a place where the safety concerns are all too real.

First of all, it's not that neighbors weren't explained well enough what the alternative was, it's that City staff resorted to scare tactics and outright making stuff up about how many houses could go on the property, ignoring the need for internal lanes, etc.

Joe Hirsch, former head of planning, commented in an email to city council, but he and neighbors who protested this point were ignored and staff continued to proffer the scare tactics as advocacy:

"The idea expressed by Council Member Berman that there can be 34 single-family homes on the Maybell-Clemo site is not accurate. That is or may be a theoretical number. 34 homes on 2.46 acres would mean that each home site would be 3,150sf (very small even for Palo Alto) and there would be NO roadways whatsoever. Roadways and appropriate setbacks, appropriately sized home sites, etc, would lower that number (and traffic, etc.) very significantly. 6,000sf lots (not all that large) would drop that number to 18 and roadways (32' wide as said to be required by Bob Moss) would drop that number even lower."


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Posted by Neighbor
a resident of Green Acres
on Jun 21, 2013 at 6:33 pm

Again, the problem wasn't just the process, the problem is the size and scale of the project, in a place where the safety concerns are all too real.

Planners have insisted they had to have 60 units for this project, in a residential neighborhood. They justify this by saying it's near the Tan Apartments, which is, let's face it, a historical sore point. The Tan went up in 1965 under county zoning rules and the Council was almost all recalled in 1967 because of overdevelopment. A similar thing happened with the Arastradero apartments next to them. That's all the City Council sees when they look at our neighborhood now. If the neighbors allow a dense development that is the equivalent of RM-60 now, there will be no preventing further densification of the area, which is otherwise pastoral. The City is using what is essentially a historic developmental assault on the neighborhood character as an excuse to do it again.

The existing RM-15 to R-2 zoning was supposed to be a buffer zone from that historic sore point, to the R-1 neighborhood that surrounds those apartments, a promise to the neighborhood that there will not be an abrupt transition from the density. When the RM-15 and R-2 was first zoned that way, the number of units that could be put there was even lower than today.

PAHC has claimed they must have 60 units to make their finances work out. But if you look at their application for funding, there really is not requirement that they build such density. The reason they have to is a scoring system that favors adjacency factors - none of which that property has, so PAHC loses points they have to make up for with a calculation that leads to that density in order to remain competitive on their application.

It seems the government, too, doesn't think that's such a great location because of the lack of adjacency factors, but neighbors trying to point that out have been viciously attacked as NIMBY's and being against affordable housing, something really ludicrous since the neighborhood already hosts 4 major low-income properties, something no other residential area in Palo Alto with $2million homes has. (Meaning, residential neighborhoods that are NOT downtown, where density is more appropriate.)

It seems, too, that putting the outlet for the cars on substandard Maybell rather than on Arastradero/Clemo with a traffic light is also an artifact of that scoring system.

This whole thing is wrong, PAHC (an organization I used to respect) has shown utter disdain for the neighborhood, and continued to wage a traditional NIMBY smear battle against the neighbors when the affordable housing was never the issue for the neighbors.


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Posted by Douglas Moran
a resident of Barron Park
on Jun 21, 2013 at 7:39 pm

Douglas Moran is a registered user.

Residents should understand that this is not an isolated situation. I sat on the Tech Advisory Panel for the Housing Element and staff was pushing to put many "underutilized" parcels throughout the City on the Housing Inventory for high-density development. Many of these were adjacent to R-1 (single-family) neighborhoods with no transition. Some were _in_ the middle of R-1 neighborhoods (they were R-2 or a group of cottages that were rentals).

The residential representatives fought this, but I don't know there final result -- I was exhausted by the length of the process and the fact that any decision could be reversed at any time. Since City staff was paid to attend these meetings and the residents weren't, it was the typical war of attrition that the residents rarely win.

Beside, it little matters what is in the current Housing Element because the next one is about to start, so the City has yet another opportunity to subvert the residents.


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Posted by Danke Schoen
a resident of Palo Alto Hills
on Jun 21, 2013 at 7:50 pm

Thank you, City Council, for ignoring the overwhelming testimony of the residents of the Maybell/Clemo area. Thank you also for narrowing Arastradero so much that commuters are forced onto Maybell.

Most of all, thank you PAHC, for lying to Council members and accusing residents of being NIMBYs. Everyone needs a blow below the belt now and then.


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Posted by Douglas Moran
a resident of Barron Park
on Jun 21, 2013 at 8:15 pm

Douglas Moran is a registered user.

The Process if the Problem, especially if you take a broader view.
Part of what made the Maybell/Clemo project so objectionable was traffic.
Traffic on Maybell had be exacerbated by cut-through traffic displaced by the Arastradero Reconfiguation, which declared against clear evidence that such cut-through was a figment of the residents' imagination (later backtracked to "We'll figure out some unknown way to deal with it at some point in the indefinite future").
Traffic on Arastradero is exacerbated by current (and pending) growth in the upper Research Park (eg VMware). Residents know to expect even worse cut-through traffic in the coming years. This is par-for-the-course: the City's calculation of traffic often use badly out-dated studies and deliberately exclude not just expected projects but ones being built. Several years ago, the City approved a project using an old large-area traffic study, rejecting a study that was newer, more detailed and targeted the area of the project.

The very basis of The Process is to use bad data in evaluating projects.


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Posted by seriously
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 21, 2013 at 9:28 pm

The city is about to review the Maybell neighborhood for traffic calming (Tuesday 6:30-8:30 at Juana Briones MP room). Please do not allow them to paint green strips down our neighborhood streets. This will do nothing except to make our neighborhood even more commercial looking. Speed bumps and stops signs placed in the middle of the street on Maybell did nothing to calm or help. Green lines mean nothing with the volume of cars that are cutting through the neighborhood and running over the stop signs. Teenagers are not going to stay in the green lanes so please do not "color our streets".


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Posted by Neighbor
a resident of Green Acres
on Jun 21, 2013 at 10:00 pm

I have wondered why they are putting the traffic from the development on Maybell anyway, instead of putting a light at Clemo and having the traffic go on Arastradero. The claim was that Arastradero is so impacted by traffic, it has to go onto Maybell, which is just ludicrous. Maybell already has over 3400 vehicles per day, and it's a substandard road neigborhood street, without room for sidewalks or regular bike paths, at least Arastradero is an arterial. (They are both "safe routes to school")

But then, I looked at the funding application, and in order for PAHC to get points for proximity to transit, they have to be 1/4 mile away, and given the way that's calculated, if the outlet for the project is on Clemo instead of the back at Maybell, they don't get those points.

The safety of our kids takes a back seat to PAHC's funding scoring system. This was a BAD location to put a development like this. Someone paid in lieu fees to avoid putting those units in a much better location for seniors, but not enough so the development could go in at another suitable location.


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Posted by Neighbor
a resident of Green Acres
on Jun 21, 2013 at 10:11 pm

See? No one caught that. Joe Hirsch, former head of planning, said the City was blowing... smoke... when it tried to scare residents by saying the site would be developed with 35? 45? a million? units, which he says is just not accurate. He put it as closer to 18, considering normal sized lots with internal lanes, even fewer. Compare that to just the dense wall of 15 (okay, now 12, whatever) market rate/for-profit homes for this proposal, where 4 now stand. Not exactly more traffic if it's allowed to be developed normally.

We were lied to, steamrolled over, and told in the most patronizing terms that it would be Better and Safer for us. (BS is right...) Council: the neighborhood didn't buy it.


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Posted by nieghbor
a resident of Green Acres
on Jun 21, 2013 at 11:30 pm

"Like many in the immediate neighborhood, we support the Housing Corporation's goal of building a low-income senior apartment complex on the site."

But the difference is, you don't care what they foist on our neighborhood, and I'm guessing you don't really appreciate what the density means to the neighborhood — neighbors support PAHC to build under the existing zoning, and NOT rezone for high density. Candace Gonzalez then said, anyone who is against high density is against affordable housing! If that is so, that they must have the density or the affordable housing can't survive, they should be looking for locations that can support the density -- like, oh, the downtown spaces that someone paid in lieu fees so they DIDN'T have to have the senior housing there!

Neighbors have actually asked PAHC to build JUST the affordable complex, under the existing RM-15 and R-2 zoning, not sell off to the market-rate developer, but PAHC won't do that, they say they can't afford it. So the neighborhood bears the burden.

Maybell neighbors are not NIMBY's, we're AIMBY's -- Already In Our Backyard! We host several major affordable housing complexes. We'd like this one to be no more than 3 stories, or even 2 stories, whatever the existing height limit is, not nearly 50 feet and 4 stories in the middle of a residential neighborhood, plus yes, a lot more traffic than the existing 4 houses and the 90 orchard trees, all which will be torn out.

Ah well, it's too late for that. Most neighbors I know have gotten over thinking they can get PAHC to do some kind of scaled back project that fits the neighborhood, and just want them to stop.


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Posted by BP resident
a resident of Barron Park
on Jun 21, 2013 at 11:34 pm

Michele,

Well said, let's vote'em out next time. Shame on them!


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Posted by The lesson is.....
a resident of Barron Park
on Jun 22, 2013 at 12:09 am

The real lesson here is that the City Council is worse than useless. Despite all of the testimony concerning the poor location of the Maybell development, all the testimony about the extant traffic problems being worsened by far, all the testimony about the likely drop in property values, the safety issues for neighborhood kids just trying to get to school, etc, the City Council did not listen. They did not act in favor of the citizens who voted them in, nor in favor of what is best for the neighborhood. To listen to it, one would think that every last member had been bribed by PAHC!

The City Council listened to lies and slanders by PAHC over the factual testimony of their own citizens. Of course, the fact that no City Council members live south of Oregon Expwy may have a part in this, too.

Every insurance executive, salesman, and broker knows that high density housing equals less value, more crime, more risk. That is why people who live in such developments get stuck with exorbitant insurance rates. When we were looking for our first home twenty years ago, an Allstate executive who is a friend of my father's wisely counseled us to avoid buying a townhouse or condo anywhere for that reason--high density housing is not considered in either the real estate or insurance industry to be a good investment.

It simply isn't fair to foist such a thing on an unwilling neighborhood whose quality of life will obviously suffer from such a development, especially when the Arastradero fiasco has already been a negative impact.

If they cannot serve the folks who voted them in, they should be voted out, if not recalled immediately.


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Posted by observer
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 22, 2013 at 7:17 am

The self-serving attitude pervades the City government and affects
every decision, not just the grand scale projects Downtown and Maybell. The result is a cumulative impact spreading through the
entire city and destroying the qualities and character of Palo Alto,
which our City Hall does not understand and/or care about.


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Posted by Lou in Midtown
a resident of Midtown
on Jun 22, 2013 at 7:39 am

We have experienced the traffic problem resulting from the unfortunate approval of the development at Loma Verde & West Bayshore. It has changed the character of our neighborhood for the worse. We have seen other neighborhoods ruined in the same way. (The mess on Charleston/Arastradero).
Apparently, the regional plan for low cost housing, to which Palo Alto is a member, has never considered the impact of housing on traffic.
Why else would P.A. be forced to build where no more building is warranted?
The real answer to the problem is for Palo Alto to secede from the grossly biased regional plan. If they sue us, so what? We can keep it tied up in the courts on a Constitutional rights basis until we are all dead.


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Posted by Craig Laughton
a resident of College Terrace
on Jun 22, 2013 at 2:46 pm

>I'm with Craig Laughton - let's end all this welfare housing: Get rid of mortgage interest and property tax deductions. If you can't afford to pay your way, tough.

Good. I agree, however the tax issues tend to be national/state, not focused on Palo Alto. I, along with all my ancestors have moved to where we can afford to live, period. We never expected welfare housing to provide for us to live where we preferred to live.

Palo Alto needs to get out of the welfare game. A good starting point would be to get rid of the PAHC.


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Posted by Developer subsidies
a resident of Midtown
on Jun 22, 2013 at 5:11 pm

What about no welfare for developers, Craig?
That's where the big money goes: in their designs and Exceptions and Variances and height violations and inlieu underpayments and reduced setbacks and underparking etc. etc.
Hits too close to home?


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Posted by Douglas Moran
a resident of Barron Park
on Jun 23, 2013 at 6:07 am

Douglas Moran is a registered user.

On "welfare" for the developer, Alma Plaza is the easiest to document.
In 2005, the developer bought the 4.2 acre parcel for $6M and almost immediately made a contingent sale of roughly 80% of the parcel to another developer for $20.5M (with $5.31M upfront), which fell through in the recession. See Web Link . It's not like Council didn't know what they were giving away: I had a PA Weekly Guest Opinion in 2007 on this that used publicly available info that underestimated the giveaway as "only" 200% of purchase price: Web Link

It has taken a lot of effort by a lot of people over a lot of years to get Council to consider possibly developing plan to produce procedures to identify the magnitude of these giveaways so that they might chose to trim them back somewhat.


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Posted by Craig Laughton
a resident of College Terrace
on Jun 23, 2013 at 11:13 am

>What about no welfare for developers, Craig?

The PAHC is one of the biggest supporters of corporate welfare. The developers get their requested rezoning, when they offer a number of welfare (BMR)units built into the mix, and the PAHC gives its approval...at that point, council has its typical Pavlovian response in favor of what PAHC wants.

When the PAHC is put out of business, corporate welfare will be significantly reduced in PA.


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Posted by Garrett
a resident of another community
on Jun 23, 2013 at 1:21 pm

Why would any developer want to build low income, affordable or market rate housing in Palo Alto or surrounding area? You can build top end housing or rentals for all those high earners. Forget the average run of the mill worker who might not be a high earner.

Not all seniors will be able to stay in their homes, not all owe homes. Not all seniors were lucky to get a high paying job or have such good investments. Some might have gotten sick, their partner or worse yet death might have caused a hardship.

With all the Baby Boomers that haves moved in to Palo Alto that are past their prime to earn a paycheck and everything from a gallon of milk, glass of wine to a gallon of gas has risen. You get older, your cost rise and your income becomes less.


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Posted by Developer subsidies
a resident of Midtown
on Jun 23, 2013 at 1:46 pm

No it won't, Craig.
These feeders at the public trough still get a Billion dollar pass, and that's OK with you.
Chop Keenan, Roxy Rapp, Jim Baer, Tony Carrasco, John Barton, Boyd Smith, his brother Lund Smith, & Scott Foster (Lytton Gateway), Arillaga, John McNellis, and others.


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Posted by Craig Laughton
a resident of College Terrace
on Jun 23, 2013 at 3:32 pm

>These feeders at the public trough still get a Billion dollar pass, and that's OK with you.

PAHC, along with some of the various arts sycophants, are the enablers of corporate welfare in Palo Alto. Some of the projects make sense, others not. However, none of the projects should be approved, just because they offer a bone to the PAHC puppies.

Palo Alto needs to get out of the welfare game.

Time to get rid of PAHC.


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Posted by Welfare Fraud
a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Jun 23, 2013 at 4:48 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


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Posted by No Surprise Here
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 23, 2013 at 8:21 pm

To All, don't ever live in a PAHC property. Please notice that none of the long term residents of PAHC properties spoke in favor of the Maybell facility. Most PAHC residents do not like the organization, or the people who run the organization, and they feel trapped in their buildings as residents. If they could all win the lottery, and be set free, most would really feel uplifted. Most of the residents who spoke on behalf of the Maybell development are relatively new residents to PAHC who feel positive now about living in one of the buildings, but in time, that feeling will alter to negative. And in fact, most people who live in affordable housing don't want to live in such places, they feel like they are taking government handouts, and most feel stigmitized by the fact. The Executive Director will not even speak to residents about any of their concerns, she simply passes them off to a property supervisor who considers that person to be simply a complainer. And, the people who work there, in general, don't like working for the organization, but its a job in this economy. So sorry that company continues to build its properties in Palo Alto.


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Posted by Enough
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 23, 2013 at 11:18 pm

@seriously
Our residential streets in Palo Alto are being marked up with paint and signs like nothing I have ever seen anywhere else which has nothing to do with safety and just degrades our neighborhoods.
I just returned tonight from San Diego and saw nothing down there even remotely similar to what is being done to our streets here.
What is going on here?


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Posted by agree
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 24, 2013 at 12:31 pm

@seriously
seriously is right. Putting paint all over a residential collector street or arterial makes the "neighborhood even more commercial looking" which would tend to increase speeds and turn what is designed as a residential collector street into a cut-through arterial. Meanwhile the over-development at the same time creates more volume of traffic so you end up in a downward spiral of uglier and less safe neighborhoods. You change the character of the neighborhood.


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Posted by pavoter
a resident of Green Acres
on Jun 24, 2013 at 2:13 pm

@agree -- good point: the city is allowing, even promoting, "changing the character of the neighborhood." And trying to do so behind the scenes. It is shocking to discover that the city is not protecting R-1 Zoning. What can we neighbors and residents of Palo Alto do to protect R-1 zoning and promote transparency and support from citizens?


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Posted by neighbor
a resident of Green Acres
on Jun 24, 2013 at 6:39 pm

@pavoter,
The worst thing is that this neighborhood keeps getting assaulted by developers, and when they get one thing in, they use it as a lever to further densify the neighborhood. The apartment buildings around here were all built under county rules and grandfathered in, and now they're being used as pretext for upzoning larger spots.

I say we make Larry Klein put a high-rise across from his house before he's allowed to do it to anyone else.


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Posted by observer
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 24, 2013 at 7:09 pm

@neighbor
It's a two-headed monster in a never ending cycle. The over-development with it's visual and traffic impacts and then the City's "street calming" response, and then more development, and
so on and so on.The end result is a neighborhood over-run by
traffic, less safe, and devoid of all aesthetic values.


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Posted by Craig Laughton
a resident of College Terrace
on Jun 24, 2013 at 7:14 pm

>I say we make Larry Klein put a high-rise across from his house before he's allowed to do it to anyone else.

Very good idea. However, Larry has come around, it appears, on the car camper issue. Perhaps time to cut him some slack. He might be understanding that which others have to endure.


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Posted by Garrett
a resident of another community
on Jun 24, 2013 at 7:39 pm

Talk to any bay area resident about ABAG? The answer would be the same, they don't like what they hear. I agree with them, but we also need the housing. In some places a 2 story home can be viewed as a high rise, or homes on less then quarter acre can be high density.

We like our personal growth in wealth, most people like to see their companies grow. But we need the housing, we got people come here from other places and driving up the costs.

We need housing for your kids and not to mention their kids, that will make you a grandparent. We also need housing for your co-workers, your employees, people who provide you and your family services.

I am not saying run out ruin the neighborhood, allow tower blocks, or create unsafe roads. We do need to find a middle ground, not some far off area so far jobs. The people from Fremont, Dublin are late to work or trying to get home. Your neighborhood is a short cut.


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Posted by Garrett
a resident of another community
on Jun 24, 2013 at 7:42 pm

So sorry for the errors.
Far off from the jobs and the people what provide your family those services that you need. I don't like ABAG either.


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Posted by Resident of Barron Park
a resident of Barron Park
on Jun 24, 2013 at 10:04 pm

After finally 'pulling' some information from PAHC, we are of the opinion that the significant increase in housing values in Palo Alto and in zip code 94306 will result in great gains for both PAHC and the private developer [yet to be named]. The profits from this venture will be at GREAT expense to the neighborhood.
If PAHC had communicated their plans months ago, not at the 11th hour, with a supposed application deadline looming, the 10 hours of closed session meetings with the mayor should have taken plans in late 2012. Then there would have been time for real community input to find a 'win/win' plan for affordable senior housing and private homes that would have fit in with the character of the surrounding residential neighborhood.


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Posted by Barron Park home owner
a resident of Barron Park
on Jun 24, 2013 at 10:06 pm

Why would PAHC ignore a perfectly reasonable suggestion, weeks ago, from Planning Commissioner Alex Panelli, the only person on that panel who voted again the high density of the proposed Maybell project, to build less market rate homes because as he pointed out, housing prices in 2013 have significantly increased in the last two years, since the recession when PAHC budgeted for their housing plan? The reduction of 15 to 12 private homes on the small piece of land was the City Council 'throwing a bone' to the neighbors and is disgraceful.
PAHC should have re-calculated the potential prices they could and should get for the land at today's prices, rather than insisting on their conservative estimates from several years ago. They seem more interested in helping a private developer reap a very large profit instead of trying to seek a solution that will satisfy the Barron Park neighborhood and themselves. We do not deserve another OUT OF CHARACTER housing complex, such as Alma Plaza and Arbor Real.


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Posted by Resident along Maybell
a resident of Barron Park
on Jun 24, 2013 at 10:08 pm

Barron Park citizens had many creative ideas to help PAHC achieve its affordable senior housing goals. Two such ideas were: 1- sell or auction the four existing homes on Maybell to private owners who could remodel or tear down and rebuild. 2- divide the small undeveloped Clemo perimeter strip into four lots conforming with other neighborhood lots. Such plans would result in four houses along each perimeter that would have to conform to existing zoning for single family houses in the neighborhood.
However, PAHC and the City Council would not entertain this suggestion, nor did they even consider Councilmember's Schmid's compromise suggestion to have five homes on each leg. Why not? Who are they looking out for? Certainly not the neighborhood. Had PAHC already agreed to an inside deal with a large private developers who could stand to make a very large profit?


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Posted by Frustrated motorist
a resident of Barron Park
on Jun 24, 2013 at 10:17 pm

Learning PAHC's definition of senior is 62 and older and that a family member could be younger, PAHC needs to rethink their plan for adequate parking within the affordable senior housing project. We would suggest a 'worst case' calculation of 1.5 cars per unit which would result in up to 90 potential cars. This is significantly higher than the 40 something parking spaces they plan to build. A senior at 62, is a 'young senior' and even 'poor' people have cars. If some seniors are working poor and are so far away from public transportation, they are even more likely to have and use cars. Also, the 'elderly' poor may very well have caregivers who will drive daily to and from the complex and most likely during peak commute hours. By planning to install an insufficient number of parking spaces, PAHC is demonstrating its lack of regard for the surrounding neighborhood. Surely the excess cars will spill out onto the adjacent residential streets.

When it was suggested that PAHC build underground parking below the four story, 60 unit building, PAHC said they couldn't because it would be too expensive, but did not provide any data to back up this position. Of course the cost to the neighborhood of not building underground parking was never discussed and not taken into account. At current comparable land sale values, we believe, PAHC would realize sufficient funding to include underground parking. This would take the cars off the ground level except for some visitor spaces and make it possible to have a much 'greener' campus around the affordable senior housing building


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Posted by Neighbor
a resident of Green Acres
on Jun 25, 2013 at 4:16 pm

It seems to me there are serious problems with transparency and conflicts of interest.

Can the community convene a grand jury to look into this? How is it that City staff could be so blatantly involved in advocacy for a project to the point of negligence when it came to their responsibilities, such as to safety?


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Posted by Neighbor
a resident of Green Acres
on Jun 25, 2013 at 4:18 pm

I meant a civil grand jury. How does that work? It seems like many Palo Altans are questioning City Council relationships with developers, not just for the Maybell rezoning.


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Posted by observer
a resident of another community
on Jun 25, 2013 at 5:32 pm

Here's the website for the Santa Clara County Grand Jury:

Web Link

Forms and filing FAQs at:
Web Link


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Posted by w
a resident of Meadow Park
on Jun 27, 2013 at 8:22 am

"If there was one lesson that anyone involved in Palo Alto policy-making should know, it is to never assume that something can be quietly approved by keeping it under the radar of affected neighbors and holding back on full transparency."

Bad English Palo Alto Online!!!!"

One doesnt know a lesson you learn it. And an Affected neighbor would be a neighbor who has affectations - Eg. sticks out their pinky when drinking wine!

Try this instead..........

There is a lesson to be learned by any one involved in Palo Alto policy-making: Never assume that by holding back on full transparency something can be kept under the radar of those neighbors who will be EFFECTED.



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Posted by Neighbor
a resident of Green Acres
on Jun 27, 2013 at 5:00 pm

@ observer,
Thanks for the civil grand jury link!

Now, which of the many issues?

For example, when City staff assumed the role of advocate for this project, they glossed over serious traffic problems. The Maybell property sits at a critical bottleneck to the neighborhood, which has no way in or out to the south and west. Traffic for the new development, where currently an orchard and 4 ranch houses sit, can only exit along two already overcrowded "safe routes to school". Neighbors wanted the impact on the thousands of schoolkids included in the traffic study, including over 1,000 kids that walk/bike to school every school day. They also wanted egress and emergency vehicle response times looked at. But because City staff took on the role of advocate for the project, they abrogated their responsibilities to the safety of existing residents, failing to conduct the heightened scrutiny of changes along school commute corridors that City policy calls for, and standing by a flawed traffic study (that more than one independent traffic engineer has looked at and found seriously flawed).

More troubling still, they claimed along with PAHC that the fire department reviewed the traffic and found no safety problems. Sounds like they conducted an independent review, doesn't it? Except that the fire department said they never did that, they only looked at what they were asked to look at, which is the development itself (across the street from the fire station), they didn't look at anything else, because Planning and Transportation, in their myopic advocacy for the project, said there would be "little or no impact" from a 75 unit development where currently there is an orchard and 4 houses. The fire department can only go with the "little or no impact" thing, and assess a problem if PTC says there's a problem to look at. So the City Staff's eagerness to advocate for this project ripples through all City responsibilities and could be affected YOUR safety, too. (That fire station serves the hills,too.)

If there's to be "little or no impact" why did they decide not to put the driveway onto Clemo/Arastradero? They make it sound like no one will every drive out of there anyway -- so why put the outlet onto Maybell (a street so narrow, there is no room for sidewalks or bike paths, and often it is essentially a one-lane street because of parked cars - Marc Berman, despite his embarrassingly slavish advocacy for the development, even admitted it's not a safe route).

The point is, City Council loaned millions for this thing, which PAHC and the for-profit developer would only develop if it was rezoned - how could the Council be impartial? - and staff ended up being the least impartial of all.

I heard this complaint on other projects/rezoning, that City staff ends up taking the role of advocate for a project, ending up essentially working for developers rather than citizens of Palo Alto.

That's just one.


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Posted by Neighbor
a resident of Green Acres
on Jun 28, 2013 at 9:57 am

P.S. I just heard from another neighbor that a colleague of hers says people in several other PA neighborhoods facing similar issues have coined the phrase "we are being Maybelled"...


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