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Original post made
on Aug 2, 2013
Thank you residents for all of your hard work to get this on the ballot.
To the city council: Do not waste more of our tax money on another favor for a developer (in this case holding a special election). Let it go on the 2014 ballot. This will give those of you up for re-election the opportunity to defend your vote during the election season. I think the mood of the public is clear: no more shady backroom politics.
Or, the city council can repeal both decisions next week.
In my view this would be the best way to restore public confidence in city hall. The large number of signatures shows how passionately Palo Altans feel about being excluded from development decisions that affect us all.
The large number of sgnature gatherers, and the fact that they were all ad hoc neighborhood volunteers.
BP residents, no matter how committed they may be to showing City Hall not to take them for granted, will need support from PA residents in other neighborhoods to pass the referendum. They are unlikely to get widespread support.
>They are unlikely to get widespread support.
The same thing was said, when the historic home debacle was put to a vote, via referendum. We got the vote, big time.
I predict a large support for this vote, across the city, because all neighborhoods are at risk, should it fail.
All PA neighborhoods will be at risk if the referendum passes as the affordable housing units will need to go somewhere else.
Actually, PAHC didn't propose this development ths way to answer a specific need. They decided to make it a complex for seniors after they realized it would be the easiest to get through politically.
It's very important to reject this tactic, where they buy up a large property, sell off a portion of it along one end and upzone for the benefit of a market-rate developer who gets to profit from the better neighborhood by putting in denser housing than allowed under residential zoning, then using the profit to put a dense development next to it. You could start putting high-density affordable housing anywhere in town for that, even Old Palo Alto because of the larger lots. Neighbors will find themselves accused of being NIMBYs for rejecting the overdevelopment, even if they don't mind the affordable housing at a more reasonable scale, just as Maybell neighbors have been. Worse, no one will be able to count on zoning rules.
The need is inexhaustible, so PAHC seems to have taken the tack that anything they build will meet the need, which is how they ended up with 20 out of 24 BMR senior units at Moldaw unfilled for three years. (I'm not saying it won't be easy to fill the rental, I think they won't be doing the service we hope and will be privileging a small group. They claim the need is because of seniors living below the poverty line, but when you look at the income range, it won't serve anyone below the poverty line.) They've gotten used to getting their way and it won't matter what the circumstances in the neighborhood are, or how safety or neighborhood character are affected.
On the other and, If the rezone is rejected, it sends City Council the message that we care about zoning and will band together to stop them from turning our City into an urban nightmare. After this referendum comes the initiative to restrict PC zoning.
Palo Alto needs to add 100s of new housing units, including low-income housing, to satisfy ABAG's requirements. BP residents: if you manage to stop the Maybell project, where else do you propose these new housing units be built?
1) If the City sets a precedent by allowing such high-density rezoning in the middle of a residential area, then apparently the ABAG units could essentially go anywhere in Palo Alto.
The City Council told ABAG they couldn't increase density in R-1 neighborhoods, and yet, they are now setting a precedent that they can and will. So if the Maybell rezoning stands, ABAG can insist that they do so elsewhere around town. Especially if they get away with this scheme for financing the project by selling off part of the property to a market-rate developer who pays more for getting the market-rate homes upzoned, then really no part of Palo Alto is off limits.
2) In his June 17 statement, Councilman Schmid pointed out that a bunch of units were supposed to go on a development downtown, but they were taken off (apparently once they realized the low-income seniors would have great views) and the developer paid in lieu fees instead, but the in lieu fees weren't enough to reduce the burden on Maybell, which is where the units are going instead.
Councilman Schmid's proposal was that the City charge enough to those who want out of their BMR requirement so that the actual cost of putting the units elsewhere is covered, rather than single neighborhoods like Maybell essentially bearing the cost through burdensome densification and the above financing scheme. In that case, the units could even go in at Maybell, as neighbors have been suggesting, just within existing zoning.
3) At the May comprehensive plan meeting, this round, the Mayor said Palo Alto actually exceeded their ABAG goal and could remove the Maybell project if they wanted to. He was making the point that "the fix was not in".
Especially if they simply built the project within the existing zoning, the number of units wouldn't be that many less, but the project would have to meet height restrictions, daylight plane, setback, parking, etc. (It would be 30 feet versus the 50 feet proposed.) That would make a big difference to the neighborhood.
The Maybell project was the only one in the comprehensive plan that required rezoning. If they built under the existing zoning, Palo Alto still exceeds it's ABAG numbers (and I think even if they removed Maybell entirely).
4) ABAG numbers are not an excuse to set aside duties to safety and zoning principles. The City has duties to its citizens, and Council does not get a pass on those just because of ABAG.
5) Planners at PAHC have shown a great persistence, and ingenuity, and I have no doubt they will dust them selves off and move on to the next project. The question for everyone else is, do you want this all to mean you have to fight the densification of your residential neighborhood as we have, or that you have helped us draw a line in the sand for the Council, that they need to respect zoning?
Help us send the message that you want zoning respected. Believe me, you do not want to have to drop everything and fight the city as we have had to do, against PAHC which clearly has a professional steamroller to get what they want even against neighborhoods.
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