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Do we really need more housing in Palo Alto?

Original post made by diana diamond, Palo Alto Online blogger, on Jul 29, 2006

It's fascinating how what was once such a politically correct idea in Palo Alto – providing more housing, particularly affordable housing – has within the last year experienced a turnaround. Some people are now asking, "Do we really want and need all this housing?"

The answer: probably not.

We've built a lot lately – 800 High, Classic Hyatt, a senior housing project at Page Mill Road and El Camino. And there's a lot more on the drawing boards – a new 52-unit low income housing project planned for Alma Street, the redevelopment of the Hyatt Rickey's property that will mean 185 new homes, at least 59 apartments and houses at Alma Plaza site, a proposed 352 units at 901 San Antonio Road, the site of the Taube-Koret Campus for Jewish Life, and just this past week, the council approved a "Pedestrian and Transit-Oriented Development" district that would allow a greater number of apartments, retail and limited office space near the California Avenue train station..

Providing more housing in Palo Alto has been our mantra. We have heard about our jobs/housing imbalance for years, and somehow felt guilty that we couldn't house all the people who worked here.

But recently I think people realize we may be crowding out other things we need – like more room for retail, and places for automobile dealerships. The old Sun property that will be used for the Taube-Koret Campus could have been one such auto spot – but we weren't even thinking in those terms two or three years ago. And a couple of years back residents near Alma Plaza were fighting the expansion of Albertson's grocery store. Now, somewhat ironically, those same residents are saying they want fewer houses on that site, and more space for a big grocery store.

I have problems with the housing densification plan around California Avenue. Some of the council members, notably Mayor Judy Kleinberg and Vice Mayor Yoriko Kishimoto, were eager to approve of it, because they really like the idea that people living there could take a train or bus to work. "I'm a big fan of walkable, bikeable Palo Alto," Kishimoto said.

Fine, and yes, transit-oriented housing also sounds so politically correct. But there have been no studies that I have been able to find that shows that people who live in these units near train and bus depots actually use public transportation to get to work. Just because one's house is near the tracks doesn't mean one's job is also near the tracks, or that they will use public transportation. Most of us don't.

I recently mapped out how long it would take a Palo Altan living in Midtown to get to work in downtown San Jose, via public transportation. The minimum amount of time, presuming every bus, train or light rail car was sitting there, waiting for a person to step onto it, was 1 hour and 20 minutes – one-way. It takes about 28 minutes to drive to downtown San Jose.

So maybe it's time we take a deep breath, forget about a 10-year-old comprehensive plan, look at our housing inventory, and decide what our new housing needs are in this community.

Comments (24)

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Posted by ResidentOfPaloAlto
a resident of Palo Verde
on Jul 29, 2006 at 4:01 pm

Enough of housing ... Palo Alto needs to concentrate more on bringing in new businesses to supplement the tax dollars. More and more businesses are closing shops; look 10 yrs down the line - where is the money going to come from other than property taxes ?

We all know that one of the desirable features of PA is its excellent schools ... which ofcourse need money to keep up the standard. More housing means more students, so more schools are essential - and at this point, I cannot help wondering what is going to happen 10 yrs down the line?

Why do common people - not city office holders - see these as problems? Why do the city officials not think these are problems? Where is the disconnect ?


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Posted by Douglas Moran
a resident of Barron Park
on Jul 29, 2006 at 4:44 pm

Douglas Moran is a registered user.

There are statistics for expected use of mass transit. For Caltrain in San Mateo, ridership is about 3% of the households. Commuters are upper-income. Presumption is that they live predominantly in single family homes because if they wanted to live in high-density housing, they would have chosen to live in SF rather than on the Peninsula. This information is from a Caltrain manager at a seminar sponsored by PA's Planning Dept.

High-density housing in Mountain View that is close to both a Caltrain station and a light rail station is reported to have generated 9% ridership (9% of dwelling units generate a Caltrain/LR commuter, not 9% of workers).

Although there have been repeated suggestions to take a ridership survey of the high-density buildings near Palo Alto's Caltrain stations, none has been performed.

In presentations, PA Planning Dept staff tend to use the 3% figure while mentioning the 9% figure.


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Posted by John
a resident of College Terrace
on Jul 29, 2006 at 5:12 pm

Diana,

Good points. You left out the part that increased housing causes increaded demand for services from the City. Double whammy. We get less in tax revenue, and more in service obligations. We are becoming a bedroom community.

Maybe we should give up on the retail tax as a primary source of City income.


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Posted by Sheri Furman
a resident of Midtown
on Jul 29, 2006 at 6:22 pm

A slight correction to what Diana says we want at Alma Plaza. We don't want a big grocery store; we want one bigger than proposed. It's like Goldilocks -- 35,000 sq ft was too big, 7000 is too small, and 12-15,000 is just right. What is needed at Alma is enough retail to make the center viable and useful to the surrounding neighborhoods.


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Posted by Fred Balin
a resident of College Terrace
on Jul 29, 2006 at 7:25 pm

From this chronology, the public pendulum began its swing back immediately after the May, 2005 approval of the Mayfield Development Agreement (250 to 345 housing units), when on two occasions before the City Council Elaine Meyer of University South, used her entire three minutes of public comment to simply read a partial list of housing developments in the pipeline.

Jocelyn Dong then fleshed out the trade-offs in the housing boom in her two "Palo Alto Weekly" articles on June 8, 2005: "Here Comes Housing" and "The Cost of Housing."
Web Link
Web Link
This was the first examination of this trend in the press.

Then at the end of September, the community umbrella organization Palo Alto Neighborhoods (PAN), produced an excellent event on the issue, "What Will The Housing Boom Cost Us?". A panel of 5 directors from the city and school district answered tough cost vs. benefit questions from 5 neighborhood leaders in a forum moderated by Council Member Ladoris Cordell.
Unfortunately the transcript or notes of this event have not been posted.
Web Link

This was the backdrop for Council Member Jack Morton's surprising and successful charge in October to eliminate housing as an option from one of the industrial zones (i.e., the General Manufacturing, "GM" zone). Up until that moment, housing had been an allowable option in almost every zone: industrial, commercial or residential.

In January, a well-attended and influential talk in Palo Alto, "Winds of Change," by former Santa Clara County planner Don Weden, laid the intellectual groundwork for the concept of "smart growth," exemplified here in last week's council vote on the Pedestrian and Transit Oriented District (PTOD). An interesting alignment of environmentalists, developers, and affordable housing advocates, the goal of smart growth is to build dense housing, with incentives for affordable units, in walkable, mixed-use neighborhoods, close to mass transit. In Palo Alto that means the areas around the California Avenue and University Avenue train stations and along El Camino Real.
Web Link
Web Link

Monday's votes on PTOD demonstrated that this approach has strong support on the council. Council Member Morton once again raised a spirited charge about housing "densification" and its impacts. The final PTOD vote was a close 5-4, but Council Members John Barton and Dena Mossar were voting in protest to the removal of Fry's and surrounding sites in an earlier amendment. Their comments before the vote indicated they strongly support the PTOD smart growth concept.

Council Member Larry Klein's successful push to remove Fry's from PTOD and direct staff to come back with the best zoning to retain Fry's is a positive step in reversing retail disincentives in areas that should remain commercial. Monday night's Council study session with Staff on revenue creation and expense reduction (7 p.m. in Chambers or on Ch. 26) will tell us if there is more.

But as for housing development overall, ... despite the recent pendulum shift, in a city in which every zone but one still allows housing, and "Planned Community" zones remain an option, for better or worse, almost anything remains possible.

Fred Balin
7/29/06


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Posted by Douglas Moran
a resident of Barron Park
on Jul 29, 2006 at 8:44 pm

Douglas Moran is a registered user.

That Diana Diamond - an opinion leader and insider during this change in perspective (on the need for housing) - is unsure about how it came about suggests that it was just one of those things that acquired critical mass (reached a tipping point, ...).
I had been pushing for this perspective for many years and was also very surprised when it gained traction and became a major issue in the 2005 Council election.
For those interested in history (or tipping points), I have a web page (Web Link) that the more relevant events (from my perspective and experience as a neighborhood leader).


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Posted by Bill Chapman
a resident of Palo Verde
on Jul 30, 2006 at 9:20 am

Well, I don't know about all this. After all, they say we have a Jobs - Housing Imbalance, and that's a bad thing. You see, you take ABAG's 99,000 jobs in 2005 for Palo Alto and it's "sphere of influence" (i.e., all of Stanford University to Junipero Serra, including two major medical centers), and then you compare that to Palo Alto's houses. Then we're pretty "imbalanced." If we could only donate the Univ & their 2 Med Ctr's to another town, then THAT town would be imbalanced, and we would become a veritable bedroom community,
in need of more jobs in Palo Alto, not more houses.

But then there's that citizens' evaluation that their City Council took to get a read of public opinion so they could represent them most effectively. Would someone please remind me of the date of that opinion poll.....I've forgotten.

Then, supposedly with too much work to do in Palo Alto, we want to build dense housing at the Caltrans Station, so workers can go work somewhere else without driving.

As for schools for the un-acknowledged kids that come with new housing, well that's just a potential worry for another day. Kind of an unfunded committment.

Alice in Wonderland, in Palo Alto.




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Posted by Elaine Meyer
a resident of University South
on Jul 30, 2006 at 10:24 am

Fred Balin is correct. I read the list of housing in the pipeline to the Council without comment, thinking the facts were so compelling, there was no need for me to comment.
They ignored it.
So I read the list again a few weeks later. Apparently Councilmember Freeman was listening and asked the Planning Dept. for a report.
The Weekly's Jocelyn Dong picked it up and did a great job sorting through the morass. (June 8/05)

I have been a housing advocate, but in recent years I've become very disillusioned as housing advocacy seemed to turn into something like zealotry. The housing advocates have formed an unholy alliance with big developers and the Chamber of Commerce, helping them push through incompatible, oversized projects. They are not interested in any negative effects.

Last week I heard several councilmembers sing the old refrain about the need for more housing.
By my count in the past 9 years close to 4,000 units were approved or are in the pipeline.

-Elaine Meyer


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Posted by marty klein
a resident of Palo Verde
on Jul 30, 2006 at 9:18 pm

There is NO housing shortage in palo alto. There is a shortage of cheap housing for low- and lower-middle income people. This will ALWAYS be true as long as capitalism is running Palo Alto's housing market.
If some philanthropist wants to buy 1000 housing units and rent, sell, or give them to lower-income people at WAY below their market value, things here will change.
But building additional expensive houses and apartments here will not solve our alleged housing shortage--it will only bring new people into town, people who will drive on the same increasingly-crowded streets and use the same increasingly-crowded recreational facilities.
The only winners are the developers.


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Posted by Diana Diamond
Palo Alto Online blogger
on Jul 31, 2006 at 10:07 am

Diana Diamond is a registered user.

To John, a resident of College Terrace (see blog above):

You suggested housing was a double whammy because "increased housing causes increased demand for services from the City."

I read an interesting op-ed piece in the Silicon Valley Business Journal the other day that suggested new housing isn't necessarily economically bad for a city because the assessed valuation of the new home (or newly purchased home) is considerably more than the old home or an empty lot, and taxes each year are also considerably more, so the city does benefit financially. Also, Palo Alto now charges an array of impact fees on new homes -- a traffic impact fee, library impact fee, etc. and the city gets a fair amount of money from new housing.

I need to check further with the city as to how much revenue a new home brings in the first and subsequent years, but it is an interesting thought and contrary to the commonly held belief that new housing is a further drain on city services.

I do agree that new housing can mean more traffic.

Diana


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Posted by Michael
a resident of Midtown
on Jul 31, 2006 at 1:09 pm

I'm not sure why someone with low income would want to live on Alma near downtown. So they can buy their groceries at Whole Foods and their clothes at the Stanford Shopping Center? They will have affordable housing and unaffordable everything else.



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Posted by Bill Chapman
a resident of Palo Verde
on Jul 31, 2006 at 3:15 pm

Hi, Diana D.

Pleases let us all know what you find out about cost / benefit of new housing. Please
include ALL support costs.

Since a pro-development City always said costs exceeded revenues, and it was
obviously painful for them to do so, we citizens assumed that part was true without
independent analysis.

Hope to hear more from you on this.


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Posted by bill Chapman
a resident of Palo Verde
on Jul 31, 2006 at 4:11 pm

P.S. to Diana:

Obvious costs include: Charleston Road mods ( 8 Mil ? ), due to > traffic, but also similar
road repairs / mods all around town: increased schools and land acquisition costs, paid forhow ? ; increased police costs and ? indirect crime costs, if applicable ; library-expansion costs ; park acquisition costs (and where is the land to be acquired?) ; more city staff to service increased population ; etc.

Subtle costs include: aesthestic degredation of the city; lessened air quality ( as RWC
residents move here from RWC where their jobs are so their kids can get into local schools, for example) ; lessened desireability of Palo Alto as a tourist mecca (consider what 800 High Street looks like to a visitor) .

Etc.


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Posted by Douglas Moran
a resident of Barron Park
on Jul 31, 2006 at 4:12 pm

Douglas Moran is a registered user.

On cost/benefit of housing:

The economic models I have seen for the costs of housing assume an expanding city, not a built-out city such as Palo Alto. In a built-out city, you need to factor in *opportunity costs*, not just the cost of land. For example, the soccer fields at El Camino and Page Mill were part of a deal to add housing. That site had long been considered for a hotel whose room tax would have flowed to City coffers and whose customers would have increased business for nearby restaurants, increasing sales tax revenue. That Palo Alto sacrificed the opportunity to collect such revenues is not factored into the calculations (admittedly, opportunities are hypothetical, prone to abuse, and hard to assign values to).

The second problem with the existing models is that they assume that new residents do most of their shopping in the city in which they live and thus the City benefits from increased sales tax revenue. However, a significant complaint by Palo Altans is that they already have to drive to other cities to do their shopping. Consequently, replacing sales tax generating commercial sites with housing has the opposite effect on revenue from what the models predict.

Aside: Standard development practice for cities is to surround themselves with a belt of retail, especially with big box stores on major arteries. This captures residents' sales tax dollars before it leaves town and sucks in dollars from residents in surrounding cities (and keeping any traffic problems at the edge of the city). Palo Alto could have turned the old Sun site (San Antonio and 101) into a sales tax revenue source, but decided to convert it to housing. Despite the potential of El Camino for harvesting sales tax revenue from commuters, Palo Alto has forced some conversions to housing and refuses to support retail, thereby encouraging property owners to convert to housing.

On development fees for new housing, Palo Alto says that it assesses one-third of computed cost of impact - explanation to complicated - and controversial - for here.

Finally, remember that there are lies, damn lies, and statistics.


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Posted by Steve
a resident of another community
on Aug 1, 2006 at 5:47 pm

If you look at ABAG's projections for job/housing growth in Santa Clara County, other communities are providing far more housing units for each job than Palo Alto.

From the report:

"Based on the ideal jobs/housing balance of 1.5, Palo Alto should have a total of 78,693 housing units by 2025 to house its workers. It is projected that Palo Alto will fall short of this by over 50,550 units."

In 2000, cities like San Jose provided far more housing for each job with a ratio of 1.55 (jobs/housing) compared to Palo Alto's 4.12 (jobs/housing). Palo Alto needs to do much more to house its fair share of the valley's workers.

See www.abag.ca.gov/planning/interregional/pdf/projections/IRP_Projections-Santa_Clara_County.pdf


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Posted by Bill Chapman
a resident of Palo Verde
on Aug 1, 2006 at 7:29 pm

This is for Steve, who describes ABAG's Jobs - Housing ratio. Remember that ABAG lumps Stanford plus two major regional medical centers into "Palo Alto" when calculating "Palo Alto" jobs. Our "sphere of influence." Call them if you don't believe me. I have. That's why I said above that P.A. would look totally different if we could attribute S. and the 2 Hospitals to "Stanford" or another town.
In reading stat's for different towns in ABAG reports, you will
see RWC, Menlo Pk, Palo Alto, Mtn View, Cupertino, Los Altos. But no Stanford ! That's because those jobs are added to Palo Alto's and become all ours to worry about. 2005
ABAG shows 99,000 jobs for P.A. plus Stanford with its two medical centers. Analyzing
job types, you will note that in the field of Education and Medicine (lumped together), there is a massive excess for P.A. plus Stanford. 35,000 more than Menlo Park or other nearby towns. That's our burden for having Stanford under our wing in ABAG's eyes.
Palo Alto has about 64,000 jobs. Stanford University plus the 2 medical centers
have about 35,000 jobs. So unless one wants fuzzy math to support housing here,
then let's all use approx. 64,000 as the measure of jobs here in 2005. Not 99,000.
But 64,000. Then, we can approach the other problem of how many new houses in P.A.
house P.A. WORKERS. That's a long discussion by itself.



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Posted by Priscilla Williams
a resident of Meadow Park
on Aug 2, 2006 at 12:44 pm

The proposed 352 units at 901 San Antonio Road, the site of the Taube-Koret Campus for Jewish Life, has added a 300 student high school and a 400 capacity event center to the housing. Also, they are eligble to go above the 50' height limit to "variable heights", no heights specified except the 100 foot tower with art work. I'm wondering if one reason to push housing in Palo Alto is the extras you get for building housing.

I questioned Joe Simitian about the inappropriate size of the Taube-Koret Campus for Jewish Life/Bridge Housing. It is located at the end of the school commute corridor. The corridor is under construction to improve the safety of the corridor due to development before the Taube Center, before HP housing, before the Elks Club/Rickey development, before Alma Plaze, E. Meadow and possible development of the day care center near the corner of Middlefield and San Antonio roads. He said the size of the project is up to the Palo Alto city council. Does anyone know if the state audits school commute corridors? The Taube-Koret Campus was the perfect idea until the high school, the event center, the lack of height limits, lack of size constraints made it too big for the location. It will overwhelm the local neighborhoods as well as the school commute corridor.

Do the residents of Palo Alto approve of 100 foot towers built by private groups within the city? This is inappropriate advertising, inappropriate size and height.

This private group bought land that is contaminated, on a congested school commute corridor with additional large developments planned for this area. Local neighborhoods and the people who use the school communt corridor are paying the price, not the Taube-Koret Campus for Jewish Life/Bridge Housing.


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Posted by Walter E. Wallis
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 2, 2006 at 2:57 pm

Are people buying in transite friendly areas willing to limit their job search to transit accessible companies? D.D. did homework that few do. By the timetable it was an hour and 20 minutes in the real world it was 2-1/2 hours. She drove, as would anyone with an option.


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Posted by Annie
a resident of South of Midtown
on Aug 4, 2006 at 6:47 pm

This is all too little, too late.

Most of the "neighborhood leaders" writing on this thread were bred in a policy environment of "let's please everyone" over the last two decades. Theirandwringing is mostly for naught, as we have already given up the possibility of big box retail.

What's ironic is that Fred Balin and Doug Moran, two "neighborhood leaders" who support retail development, lobbied to have developer rights limited in an effort to "guarantee" that Fry's remain in Palo Alto.

So now we are going to be negotiating with Fry's in a way that has already shown them our cards. Not very savvy. At the same time, we've taken away the right of the developer who owns the Fry's proprty to do innovative housing and/or retail housing mix on the Fry's site.

I see a lot of naivete and posturing for positions that are just BEHIND the development curve here, mostly by people who want to be City Council members, or who think of themselves as "influencers".

They're exactly the wrong people for the job, as the demeanor and tone of their arguments is old school.

Here's the future of Palo Alto. Are you ready?

1) High senior residential turnover leading to buy-in at continuing inflated values bolstered by the perception that there is more "value" to be had in Palo Alto.

2) A slow diminution of services from a decreasng tax base. Attrition will impact City Staff - it will shrink considerably over time.

3) The insinuation of chic high end retail and eateries. Palo Alto will become the destination for THAT kind of retail. It will be enough to keep a select number of city services running at high levels, in addition to revenue from new housing taxes.

4) An increase in the need for rprivate organizations to fund services,which will be OK, because the coming demographic will readily support this kind of civic involvement.

5) A steady fading away of "pleasing everyone", and listening endlessly to the Monday Evening Quarterback a la carte. Already, with this City Council, we're seeing the beginning of that trend. Thank goodness!! Why? Doing so will let the city run smoother, without endless delay on little decisions...it will also speed up big decisions.

6) Housing will continue to be built, because housing profits trump retail, especially when retail developers continue to have to run the gauntlet to develop their own property. That siad, we need to get out from under the Keenan, Rapp, Baer troika, who think that Palo Alto is their sole domain, and who pretty much control a lot of the development agenda here. We need toattract new development blood, or risk givnig away the farm to developers who have had their day, and should now fade into the sunset with their profits

All this will require aggressive action taken by policy makers - is that possible? Maybe. As far as transit oriented developoment, policy makers can look for ways to incentivize citizens who use transportation systems that they - the policy makers - help create...affordable, convenient transportation that gets a traveler where she wants to go.

We had better learn a thing or two from Europe and other dense places on earth, instead of fooling around with housing development as currently contrived.

Here's hoping for MORE housing in PALo Alto, the more people we have here in the coming demograhpic, the better will be local services, the better will be business innthe coming chic retail environment, and the better will be private contributions slated toward public services, including schools. that's not so bad. When they need a new set of towels, or a TV, a trip to a municipal neighbor will do just fine. When a municipal neighbor wants a special meal or gift, Palo Alto will be the destination.


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Posted by junya
a resident of Ventura
on Aug 5, 2006 at 5:56 pm

As a regular rider of public transit, I'm well aware of how poorly this area is served. Still I was surprised by Diana Diamond's claim that the trip from Midtown PA to Downtown SJ takes a minimum of 1 hour 20 minutes. I beg Ms. Diamond to publish the calcualation used to arrive at that figure!

Using the Midtown map at Web Link, I chose Middlefield and Colorado as a point near Midtown center, and calculated these times:

Board southbound VTA bus 35 at 6:44, arrive Mt. View Caltrain at 7:06
Board Caltrain at 7:07, arrive San Jose Diridon at 7:24
Total time: 40 minutes (exactly half the time Ms. Diamond calculated!)

From there, connect to Light Rail at 7:32 to other downtown locations:
Convention Center, arrive 7:38. Total time: 54 minutes
First and Santa Clara, arrive 7:42. Total time: 58 minutes
Civic Center, arrive 7:49. Total time: 65 minutes

For those who start work later:
Board northbound VTA bus 35 at 7:37, arrive at PA Caltrain at 7:51
Board Caltrain at 7:58, arrive San Jose Diridon at 8:25.
Total time: 48 minutes
Connect to 8:32 Light Rail:
Convention Center, arrive at 8:38. Total time: 61 minutes.
First and Santa Clara at 8:42. Total time: 65 minutes.
Civic Center at 8:49. Total time: 72 minutes

So the worse time I can come up with is still 10% less than Ms. Diamond's "minimum" time!

Even more disturbing is Ms. Diamond's presumption that deciding whether to drive or not is a simple calculation to determine which saves us a few minutes. Although the Gore film has led to a backlash claiming global warming is a myth (and so we can all keep driving), all political persuasions agree that the US must reduce its dependence on oil. It's revealing to note that during previous wars the role of US civilians was to conserve resources, yet during this Iraq oil "war" (actually invasion and occupation), after the death of thousands of US soldiers, a columnist can glibly thumb her nose at conservation efforts - because they add a few minutes to her commute!

Quite sad.


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Posted by Fred Balin
a resident of College Terrace
on Aug 6, 2006 at 2:41 pm

With regard to Diana's investigation on the cost recovery of impact fees for new housing, my notes from last year's PAN-sponsored forum on housing cited earlier in this blog include a question from Ellen Wyman to Planing Director Steve Emslie as to whether impact fees and taxes fully pay the costs of housing development.

The response was: "[It is] not 100% cost recovery... fees are set at less than 100% ."

It would very helpful to an educated debate to get the full details behind this statement so everyone can tally the score.

The recent council adoption of the Quimby Act enables parkland dedication fees for new sub-divsions so this may narrow the gap.

Other related items of interest from my notes, include:

- The possible future need to reclaim Cubberly as a school facility if student overflow cannot be handled by portable units.

- While Palo Alto has the highest per capita ratio in the Bay Area for open space, we are under our recommended Comprehensive Plan standard of 2 acres per thousand residents for neighborhood parks (1.2 per 1,000) and district parks (1.7 per 1,000).


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Posted by Diana Diamond
Palo Alto Online blogger
on Aug 6, 2006 at 6:25 pm

Diana Diamond is a registered user.

S
JunSo the worse time I can come up with is still 10% less than Ms. JunyaDiamond's "minimum" time!
Jun
Even more disturbing is Ms. Diamond's presumption that deciding
Junya wrote:
whether to drive or not is a simple calculation to determine which saves us a few minutes. Junya o the worse time I can come up with is still 10% less than Ms. Diamond's "minimum" time!

Junya -

Thanks for all your calculations. I did the same, and still come up with 1 hour 15 minutes.

The person I was looking at had to be at work at 10 a.m. So if she took a bus from Midtown, according to the schedules I read, it would take some 30 minutes or so to get to the Caltrain Station. Plus it is a five-minute walk to the bus stop, and one has to allow a good 3 minutes extra to get there a bit earlier, in case the bus comes early. Plus there is a four-minute walk from the light rail to work.

I think if you factor those in, you will come to a 2 or 3 percent difference -- and we are both presuming every public transportation vehicle is always on time.

I would love to have people save gas and use public transportation. But if you are talking about a one-hour round trip commute versus and 2-1/2 hour commute, that is a huge difference in a person's life.

The solution may be to get a more user-friendly public transit system.

Diana


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Posted by junya
a resident of Ventura
on Aug 7, 2006 at 1:01 am

Diana -

Thank you for clarifying your comments about using public transportation. I do appreciate your openness. Now that you've revealed the basis for your calculations, wouldn't you agree that your comments were somewhat misleading?

You began with: "Just because one's house is near the tracks doesn't mean one's job is also near the tracks, or that they will use public transportation. Most of us don't". And then, to prove your point, you choose a commute where neither the house nor job is near the tracks, travel during off-peak hours (10AM!), pad the time with early arrival (which contradicts your presumption that the bus will be "sitting there, waiting"), and then declare that this is the "minimum amount of time" under conditions that are implied to be ideal! As I said, I am well aware how poorly this area is served by public transportation. You could have easily chosen valid examples, so I don't understand why you have instead chosen to play fast and loose with your facts.

Unfortunately, you still seem to believe that there is no more to this question than a schedule calculation. If you want to talk about "a huge difference in a person's life", let's talk about the difference between arriving to work stressed out from a solitary commute and complaining about stiffness and back pains, traffic, pollution, and high gas prices - and compare that with arriving to work rested and relaxed, ahead of the curve because you downloaded email and leisurely read it during your sociable commute, and have prepared your agenda and strategy for the day. Diana, you're calculating an utterly false economy.

Of course, you are not alone in this delusion. But I am happy to see the tide is shifting, as I see more of my co-workers choosing to leave their cars home. This is an inevitable consequence of the reality of our times. This is not 1955: Dinah Shore is Dead. Forget about seeing the USA in your Chevrolet. You could face this reality, and use your media outlets to agitate for public transportation that serves our needs better - or you can continue to comfort your readers as they wallow in the past, make excuses to keep driving, and are left behind as an irrelevant artifact of Old America: isolated, self-centered, extravagantly wasteful, sick, and dying.


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Posted by junya
a resident of Ventura
on Aug 7, 2006 at 1:02 am

Diana -

Thank you for clarifying your comments about using public transportation. I do appreciate your openness. Now that you've revealed the basis for your calculations, wouldn't you agree that your comments were somewhat misleading?

You began with: "Just because one's house is near the tracks doesn't mean one's job is also near the tracks, or that they will use public transportation. Most of us don't". And then, to prove your point, you choose a commute where neither the house nor job is near the tracks, travel during off-peak hours (10AM!), pad the time with early arrival (which contradicts your presumption that the bus will be "sitting there, waiting"), and then declare that this is the "minimum amount of time" under conditions that are implied to be ideal! As I said, I am well aware how poorly this area is served by public transportation. You could have easily chosen valid examples, so I don't understand why you have instead chosen to play fast and loose with your facts.

Unfortunately, you still seem to believe that there is no more to this question than a schedule calculation. If you want to talk about "a huge difference in a person's life", let's talk about the difference between arriving to work stressed out from a solitary commute and complaining about stiffness and back pains, traffic, pollution, and high gas prices - and compare that with arriving to work rested and relaxed, ahead of the curve because you downloaded email and leisurely read it during your sociable commute, and have prepared your agenda and strategy for the day. Diana, you're calculating an utterly false economy.

Of course, you are not alone in this delusion. But I am happy to see the tide is shifting, as I see more of my co-workers choosing to leave their cars home. This is an inevitable consequence of the reality of our times. This is not 1955: Dinah Shore is Dead. Forget about seeing the USA in your Chevrolet. You could face this reality, and use your media outlets to agitate for public transportation that serves our needs better - or you can continue to comfort your readers as they wallow in the past, make excuses to keep driving, and are left behind as an irrelevant artifact of Old America: isolated, self-centered, extravagantly wasteful, sick, and dying.


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