Editorial: Protesting ABAG's housing goals Palo Alto Issues, posted by Editor, Palo Alto Online, on Feb 22, 2013 at 1:54 pm
Like many cities up and down the Peninsula, Palo Alto is struggling to find the best strategy for standing up to the unreasonable targets for new housing construction imposed by the Association of Bay Area Governments (ABAG).
Read the full story here Web Link posted Friday, February 22, 2013, 10:56 AM
Posted by Mr.Recycle, a resident of the Duveneck/St. Francis neighborhood, on Feb 22, 2013 at 3:10 pm
This is the reality of environmentalism. It isn't driving a Prius and shopping at whole foods. It is some unelected arrogant bureaucrat making arbitrary demands about changes in your neighborhood. And guess what, do you think building more dense housing is going to lead to more or fewer cars driving around? It is going to make your quality of life worse, it is going to make the environment worse, and the bureaucrats, politicians, big business, and unionistas will all walk away with a little extra money in their pocket.
Posted by Adrian, a resident of the College Terrace neighborhood, on Feb 22, 2013 at 4:10 pm
The above commenters would be well-advised to study the relationships, legislation, and policies of local, regional, state, and federal government. ABAG is one of the major regional government agencies (along with the Bay Area Air Quality Management District, Golden Gate Bridge Highway and Transportation District, Metropolitan Transportation Commission, Peninsula Corridor Joint Powers Board (CALTRAIN), San Francisco Bay Area Rapid Transit District (BART), San Francisco Bay Area Water Transit Authority, and the Transbay Joint Powers Authority). These are all state-legislated agencies, which would not exist without local support (eg, mayors and state reps).
So no, we can't "get out from under ABAG," - without changing state legislation that has existed since the 1970s.
Mr Recycle: you're right - this is the reality of environmentalism. Parts of AB32 and SB375 call for residential densification along existing and proposed transit corridors. Eg Caltrain. ABAG is responsible for implementing these laws, which requires local municipalities to PLAN for additional residents. The laws, and ABAG, have no real power to make these plans a reality. That's why they're called plans.
Also, it's important to consider that Palo Alto WILL grow through 2022. 2,000 new housing units represent slightly under 8% of Palo Alto's existing housing stock (26,493 units in 2010). Is that an unreasonable estimate of growth? Given the booming economy, Palo Alto's desirability as a place to live/work, and the availability of green or infill parcels, I don't think so.
ABAG OUT: "billionaires and communist immigrants"? What are you talking about? I grew up in Palo Alto, and I've always thought that it's diversity is an asset. Communist, billionaire, gay, white or otherwise.
Posted by Bag ABAG, a resident of the Downtown North neighborhood, on Feb 22, 2013 at 5:56 pm
Most of the political dialogue about ABAG is the usual tactical triangulation: how can we do a short-term compromise with every special interest with an eye on Palo Alto? With no view to the long term, or to what actually makes sense.
Sure, we can keep giving up a little more every year. A little more traffic, a little more school overcrowding, a little more smog, etc etc. Until ... when?
Obviously the regional special interests don't want to answer that. Alas, neither does the City Council. Have you driven by the "gateway" intersection of Lytton and Alma lately? Thank you, City Council.
Schmid and Klein have it right. Palo Alto is built out. Misdirection by regional special interests, and non-thinking by the City, won't change this.
The City Council and Staff need to figure out how to live within our means and finance our own infrastructure, and tell ABAG to go to hell. Their money has too many strings attached.
Posted by neighbor, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Feb 22, 2013 at 6:47 pm
I remember reading about Portola Valley relatively recently and their challenges.
Part of the mentality is that there should be an equality of high density housing and/or subsidized low-income housing everyhere, even in rural Portola Valley.
While I realize this area, in general, is very high cost for housing, I haven't found it easy to try to understand the formulas for calculating what you might call the costs of these developments; there is some scheme that determines income level for renters; one gets the sense that there is the idea that anyone is entitled to live anywhere they choose, and if they can't afford it, it is up to the rest of us to subsidize them. There must be large overhead costs for these developments.
I saved a lot and owned several homes before being able to live in Palo Alto myself; it is just a fact that some areas are higher cost with larger zoned lots, some are higher density, some are closer to longtime urban areas, closer to major employers, transit/BART...having a regional body "insist" that places like Portola Valley (my prime example) place apartments on their hills just seems silly and a poor practice.
What I am wondering is: is Beverly Hills required to comply with such rules requiring greatly increased density and low-income rental housing???
Posted by Mr.Recycle, a resident of the Duveneck/St. Francis neighborhood, on Feb 22, 2013 at 10:41 pm
@ Adrian - You could just as reasonably say, let's have Palo Alto decrease total housing units from 26,493 to 24,293 between now an 2022. That would definitely reduct traffic, and reduce pollution, and school crowding.
I'm just pointing out the number is completely arbitrary, and may only serve the interest of the people setting the number, not the city, or residents. The target housing number should be set by the city based on what the city wants to be. Not based on federal, state, or regional environmental mandates.
Posted by Chris Zaharias, a resident of the Crescent Park neighborhood, on Feb 23, 2013 at 8:26 am
This PA native is *for* increased housing in Palo Alto, and rather suspects that personal housing values figure strong but silent in the minds of those who are against increased housing in PA.
I can think of dozens of places within the city that could *easily* handle hundreds more dwellings:
a) PA golf course
b) office areas on Embarcadero east of 101
c) Foothill Park - it's massive and would be just fine 15-20% smaller
d) Stanford area across from T&C - I'd love to see PA exert some weight against Stanford on this issue. PA needs more housing, and Stanford has tons of unused space. At some point the imbalance needs to be corrected, and the reality is that it's simply a historical oddity that Stanford is private and has so much land that hems in PA.
What people don't realize is that lack of sufficient new housing stock in PA is *killing* the city. When $2M is the starting point for single-family homes, the only people that can afford to live here are people who
1) hit a tech home run = disproportionally asocial techies
2) come from outside the U.s. = super-low assimilation into our culture
Anyone notice how you can walk around PA residential areas and see next to no one outside? That's a symptom, as is the increasing ratio of nannies to mom's dropping off & picking up kids after school. At these prices, if you *aren't* in group (1) or (2) above, you're both working, and your child grows up with Nanny.
I know, I know, if you don't like it, move somewhere else. But I grew up here and while I probably will leave at some point, it'd be great to see the city move in a more positive direction.
More housing is needed whether you look at it from an environmental or a 'PA quality' perspective, and the community IMHO is being selfish in fighting reasonable growth.
Anyone agree with me? I feel like an outcast when I say stuff like this...
Posted by Not an issue, a resident of the Community Center neighborhood, on Feb 23, 2013 at 8:52 am
Chris advocates taking private property from Stanford to solve its housing issues. Stanford has already given palo alto plenty of land. Palo alto cannot exert any weight against Stanford -- palo alto is too dependent on Stanford for its tax revenue and quality of life. Stanford holds all the cards. But Chris if they do build housing on Stanford land, you should insist that they have rule that homeowners live there for a mandatory number of days each year. That way they can be good neighbors
Posted by Palo alto mom, a resident of the Embarcadero Oaks/Leland neighborhood, on Feb 23, 2013 at 9:01 am
Anyone that thinks palo alto real estate will suddenly becom"affordable" just because we have more unit is mistaken. Even the current high density housing sells for close to 2 million. The only lower priced places are bmr housing (and the income level is set by Santa Clara county.)
Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of Atherton, on Feb 23, 2013 at 9:41 am Peter Carpenter is a member (registered user) of Palo Alto Online
""it's simply a historical oddity that Stanford is private and has so much land that hems in PA."
Or rather, it is simply an historical oddity that Stanford was here first and Palo Alto has already annexed all of Stanford's land that is used for non-academic purposes. From a biological perspecetive it seems that Palo Alto is the cancer and Stanford is the unwilling host.
Why not add a lot of high density housing to the 500 Hamilton project by using El Camino Park and then link all of that to the Shopping Center with an elevated concourse. This puts the housing next to both a transportation hub and a shopping hub.
What, give up a park!!! Well, you can't have everything.
Posted by pares, a resident of the Palo Alto Orchards neighborhood, on Feb 23, 2013 at 9:42 am
No Chris, don't agree. But I do agree with Mr. Rycyle -- ABAG is setting arbitrary numbers. ABAG undermines local control. Looks like a political agenda backed by money making interests on huge construction projects. Huge dense housing units and also blocks of apartments are going up in south Palo Alto, where Rickey's Hyatt used to be, the bowling alley, and nearby San Antonia shopping center (OK, that's Mt View, but once all those units are filled there will be a major impact on El Camino and south Palo Alto).
We are losing the quality of life that suburbia offers.
Posted by stephen levy, a resident of the University South neighborhood, on Feb 23, 2013 at 11:27 am stephen levy is a member (registered user) of Palo Alto Online
I support Palo Alto complying with the ABAG planning target for new housing so Chris you are not alone.
I will write more later but a couple of points to remember.
The city by city goals were not determined by AGAG staff but by criteria set by a committee of city representatives. The overall goals given to ABAG by th state Department of Housing and Community Development (HCD) are required by state law.
The city made a limited and reasonable appeal on a single set of properties that involve whether the county (Stanford land is counted as "county" for ABAG allocation purposes) or Palo Alto shouldget credit for the housing on the site. I told ABAG staff that I thought PA had a reasonable case for appeal.
The remaining issues in the editorial were not a convincing basis for appeal to six members of the Coucil as well as the City's planning and legal staff.
The ongoing discussion might be better informed if the Weekly follows up and explains to readers why the legal and plannitng staff advised council to make only a limited appeal and why that was the majority opinion of the council.
One specific is that "built out" is not a criteria for appeal in part because "built out" is not the same as "built up" and in fact virtually all of the housing planned for existing urban areas is not single family homes and does involve building up, not out.
Posted by Wayne Martin, a resident of the Fairmeadow neighborhood, on Feb 23, 2013 at 12:49 pm
> So no, we can't "get out from under ABAG," - without changing
> state legislation that has existed since the 1970s.
Laws are just words—printed on a piece of paper. There is no reason that they can’t be changed--via Ballot Initiative, if necessary.
> Also, it's important to consider that Palo Alto WILL
> grow through 2022. 2,000 new housing units represent
> slightly under 8% of Palo Alto's
> existing housing stock (26,493 units in 2010).
And it will grow for the next thousand years, too. Just to look at our city’s growth in ten-year windows is unrealistic. Let’s look at Palo Alto’s growth between now and 2075, using several different average/linear growth rates:
Palo Alto Population in 2075--
using various growth rates
(Note: 2013 population of 65,000
used as a starting point.)
> Is that an unreasonable estimate of growth?
> Given the booming economy, Palo Alto's desirability
> as a place to live/work, and the availability of green
> or infill parcels, I don't think so.
Well, the growth rate for the Bay Area has been in decline for a long time now—
So, the question about how much growth to expect in the Bay Area, based on historical growth rates, should be looking at the growth rates moving from 5% a year, to closer to 1% a year, as a distinct possibility.
There is some interesting land use data on this Wiki-page—
Posted by Wayne Martin, a resident of the Fairmeadow neighborhood, on Feb 23, 2013 at 12:51 pm
> More housing is needed whether you look at it
> from an environmental or a 'PA quality' perspective,
> and the community IMHO is being selfish in
> fighting reasonable growth.
Why is more housing needed? Making assertions is not the same as rendering proofs.
Palo Alto has about 65,000 people living here (nighttime population), and maybe 125,000 to 200,000 daytime population (Stanford, visitors, shoppers and commuting workers). Adding thousands more permanent residents will require a certain amount of infrastructure (which must be paid for by all of us), it will put more pressure on the schools (which will require new property taxes and parcel taxes) and it’s not hard to believe that Palo Alto will also see more businesses target the city for brief periods of time—often providing little in terms of identifiable revenue to offset the costs they imposed on the City government to provide necessary services.
The City currently claims that it is spending about $2,500 per permanent resident for “services”. This is not a very good way to model services, but services to residents will always be the largest budget outlay, no matter how the service delivery model is designed. So—will all of these new residents be paying their own way, or will they ultimately end up costing the current residents higher taxes and fees? And just how does paying for other people’s services seem like a reasonable, desirable, or even fair, thing to look forward to?
And then there is the long-term impact on various aspects of our current “quality of life”. Traffic is pretty bad in parts of Palo Alto during much of the day. What will adding 5,000 new residents, and who knows how many new businesses to the mix, do to our commute times, as well as other traffic-related problems, like traffic accidents and the cost of the police, fire department personnel needed to deal with these new day/nighttime residents?
While the current ABAG housing assessment only looks out ten years—what comes after that? Why ten more years, and then ten more. Certainly if we were to look at 20 and 30 story buildings for housing, we could look forward to nighttime residencies that push through 100K within a couple of decades, can we not? And just what would Palo Alto be like with roughly double the population density that we currently enjoy? How much new retail will be needed for these people? And just were will all of that retail go?
And we also have to ask—where are all of these people coming from? Are they native born? Are they illegal immigrants? Or are they immigrants that are being allowed into the country unnecessarily?
Posted by Adrian, a resident of the College Terrace neighborhood, on Feb 23, 2013 at 2:57 pm
Wayne - The figures you cite are year on year growth. Yes, growth has been decelerating, but the Bay Area is still growing. And Palo Alto is one of the hotspots. For good reasons. On another note, I completely agree with you that per capita service costs is no way to evaluate growth and/or budgets. It's way too simplistic of a mechanism for a question as complex as population growth/transit/land use.
Mr. Recycle: Why 2075? Why not March 13th, 2031? The reason planners, demographers, and developers typically use 10-year time horizons is because our ability to predict much beyond that is pretty poor. It's up to the regional entities - specifically MTC and ABAG - to provide longer term forecasts and scenarios (which are different, by the way). That's why MTC's Transportation Plan is set for 2035. Smaller plans and projects (Transportation Improvement Projects, in MTC's case) fit into the larger framework.
Also, the figure of ~2,200 housing units is not arbitrary. It is based on census data, national/state/local projections, replacement rates, and job attraction figures. And if you add them smartly, you can reduce congestion/crowding, sometimes more effectively than by reducing the population. (How would you do that, by the way?)
Here's one report where the authors looked at increased density using "smart growth", and managed to document decreases in congestion. Yes, they controlled for variables such as changes in mode of transit. Feel free to read the abstract:
Or, we could look to Portland, many planner's wet dream.
Does anyone doubt that people will continue to move to Palo Alto, with or without housing? If Palo Alto does not plan intelligently for future growth - that's when you get decreases in quality of life... since people start doubling up on housing, developers knock down singles and historic structures for multi-family buildings, parks and schools get overcrowded because we are not accounting for increased population. Let me be clear: I'm not saying that multi-family buildings or increased population are bad, but development will serve the needs it sees as profitable. I believe that we have an obligation to guide, but not direct, intelligent development. When I write "intelligent", I understand that it is a vague term, and that's why it's up to government agencies to go through the planning process and ascertain what 1) needs a city/region should serve, and 2) balance those needs with local desires. Planning, civic engagement, charrettes, development regulations. They are useful.
I'm in my mid 20's and a Palo Alto lifer. I HOPE that Palo Alto becomes more dense, with additional transit, housing, bigger and better schools. I do not want Palo Alto to be static. First of all, that's unrealistic, and second of all, Palo Alto will begin to lose it's competitive advantage as a place to live and work. Let's not wither on the vine, as it were.
Posted by Don, a resident of the Greenmeadow neighborhood, on Feb 23, 2013 at 3:31 pm
I've asked this when ABAG has come up before but haven't seen a good response. Has anyone quantified the actual dollar amount we would lose if we simply ignored ABAG? All I have seen in the articles are vague references to losing transportation funds. Maybe we can afford it.
Posted by South Palo Altan, a resident of the Greendell/Walnut Grove neighborhood, on Feb 23, 2013 at 3:46 pm
No Chris, I don't agree with you. First of all, keep your hands off Foothill Park. Second, if you don't live in South Palo Alto you have no idea. We are surrounded by new housing, much of it high density and it is having a huge and very negative impact on our quality of life. We are hemmed in by traffic, construction, noise, and smog. Being forced to add so much more on top of this is wrong. Unless you are advocating that all the additional units are to go in your neighborhood, you need to keep your suggestions to yourself.
Posted by Steve Raney, a resident of the Crescent Park neighborhood, on Feb 23, 2013 at 4:06 pm
I was disappointed that the Weakly chose to characterize PA as "built-out." This is inaccurate. There is plenty of demand and financial capability to build many thousands of housing units within PA. I recommend maximizing 5-story apartments/condos near Univ Ave and Cal Ave. See for example the President Hotel Apartments, built in 1929: Web Link. Other large suburban tech job centers build 30-story condos (Denver Tech Center, Tysons Corner, Perimeter Center, etc) to alleviate their jobs-housing mismatch.
By making prudent plans to accommodate population growth, ABAG (Palo Alto is a member of ABAG) is acting in the best interests of Bay Area and the state. Even from the cities that are most vocally opposed to the Regional Housing Needs Allocation (RHNA), there has yet to be a proposal for a better process. These vocal cities find themselves making the strange argument: "We agree with ABAG’s goals of minimizing traffic congestion, pollution, and global warming. We would like RHNA to be applied to 100 out of 101 Bay Area cities, but we would like an exemption for our city."
Posted by Steve Raney, a resident of the College Terrace neighborhood, on Feb 23, 2013 at 6:06 pm
I concur with South Palo Altan's point that the new South PA housing has deleterious impacts.
Something like the following "goals for new housing" might represent a start at a consensus view for both "slow growthers" and "minimize regional impact-ers."
B. Preserve Palo Alto’s existing single family home residential neighborhoods. Stop approving major new auto-centered residential development in South Palo Alto
C. Stretch beyond best practices to minimize traffic/driving created by new residents. New residents should generate less than half of the VMT (vehicle miles traveled, a measure of total driving) that current residents generate. i) Intensify residential development near Caltrain stations. Reduce retail/recreational driving by putting more people within walking distance of CA Ave and University Ave activities. ii) Reduce commute driving by selecting new residents who will commute via green alternatives (Caltrain, bus, carpool, bike, etc.) and who will commute shorter distances. iii) Implement policies to encourage incoming 2-car families to transform into 1-car families. Optimize parking. iv) Taken together, these policies will minimize regional CO2 growth, protecting the climate. These policies will maximize sales tax receipts by capturing more shopping within the city, aiding the city budget. Should Palo Alto win a HSR station, these policies will maximize HSR ridership.
D. Ensure that new housing has a neutral or positive impact on city and PAUSD budgets. In pursuit of this fiscal objective, maximize new market rate senior housing.
E. Acknowledging that Palo Altans are compassionate, stretch beyond best practices to maximize affordable housing production within the allocation
From ALPA/Cities21 recommendations for the 2007-2014 Regional Housing Needs Allocation process. Web Link
Posted by Adrian, a resident of the College Terrace neighborhood, on Feb 23, 2013 at 10:00 pm
Steve - I agree with you about densification along some transit corridors. And some parking tweaks. Even the incentives to reduce car ownership. But how do you propose that that the city start "selecting new residents who will commute via green alternatives"? Also, the existing single-family residential neighborhoods are, in general, much more auto-centric than new styles of dense development.
Posted by Adrian, a resident of the College Terrace neighborhood, on Feb 24, 2013 at 12:10 pm
Thanks for the link. I had no clue that an official body could push a policy like Cities21. I'm no lawyer, but selection criteria like that seem to me like they're skating on thin legal ice. (Legislating status vs behavior). Isn't this a form of discrimination? Also, it's poor that these criteria only apply to market-rate housing.
I understand the impetus behind these measures - reduce commute times, housing/jobs balance, reduce pollution... But I believe the better way to achieve those goals is through design and transit alternatives, not people-selecting legislation. For example: change the code so that developers don't have to build x-many parking spots. Require them to provide x-many bike racks/bike lanes per project.
Posted by Craig Laughton, a resident of the College Terrace neighborhood, on Feb 24, 2013 at 12:31 pm
>The authority for ABAG's quotas comes from Senate Bill 375, a law passed in 2008 that sets a goal of reducing emissions of greenhouse gases throughout the state and aims to build homes close to jobs and public transportation. Cities are expected to develop housing plans and zoning that will create the quotas established by ABAG. If the mandate is ignored the city could lose funding for transportation and other projects.
This is just one more major example of how the slavish support of the greenie agenda affects our city. High Speed Rail is another one. So is that ridiculous anaerobic digestion industrial plant on our park lands. Our city leaders supported all three of these disasters, early on. Now, they are complaining, because they actually have to face the consequences.
In the case of ABAG housing, why not just say "NO!". All we lose are some transportation funds...much cheaper than densifying our city to point of having to build new schools, traffic load, police, etc. The city council has painted itself into a corner by its Pavlovian response approval of the geenie agenda. It reminds of the bad old days, when it supported that crazy historical homes agenda.
Posted by Craig Laughton, a resident of the College Terrace neighborhood, on Feb 24, 2013 at 1:29 pm
The actual amount of lost transportation funds, while a curiosity, is less imporatant than the lost independence. City bureaucrats sniff the grant monies, and it gives them a purpose to drive the greenie agenda, even if it is very vague, like the California Avenue remodel. Money grants attract crazy ideas, which are only partially funded, but with huge added and indirect costs. These grants are sweetners put out there by those who want control...similar to the dope dealer that gives out some free stuff, at first. The greenies know how to play the game. But we don't need to play the game. In the end, it is about political power. It is time to reject greenie power.
We, as a city, are much better off by keeping our independence, and rejecting the grant monies. If it is important enough to do, then we should just fund it directly.
Posted by Toi et moi, a resident of the Southgate neighborhood, on Feb 24, 2013 at 2:27 pm
I generally support ABAG, to a point. We do not need more high-density residences without widening roads to make up for the extra traffic they will bring in. However, there does not seem to be any room to widen any roads, and high-density housing tends to encourage or promote crime, for some reason.
Another concern is, in light of all the spying and national security issues in the Bay Area, why are Chinese communists being so freely allowed to live in this high-security Silicon Valley area? Especially since most of the people arrested for national security issues, as at NASA, have been Chinese communists?
My father was a communist as a result of things that happened in the 50s, and even tho he was born in the USA, the FBI kept a dossier on him because he took part in many union rallies and had been a supporter of Jimmy Hoffa. So why do foreign communists get carte blanche?
Posted by Not an issue, a resident of the Community Center neighborhood, on Feb 24, 2013 at 2:55 pm
Looks like another thread has the recently in vogue complaints about Chinese taking over the area. Who exactly are these Chinese communists you are referring to?. Maybe you would internment for these Chinese people-- that would make us no better than the Chinese government we complain about. Let's stick to the topic and avoid these racist complaints about certain ethnic groups
Posted by emayssat, a resident of the Ventura neighborhood, on Feb 24, 2013 at 3:29 pm
I think the premise is simple.
Palo Alto has been building too many non-residencial buildings. As a results, people work in Palo Alto and live in other places.
What ABAG is suggesting is that Palo Alto should have a balanced stock of housing and commercial/corporate buildings. That is not the case today. So the solution is simple:
(1) tear down commercial buildings (value destruction is out of question!)
(2) build more housing
In 2020-2030-2040, Palo Alto should consider the impact of business center. That is business complex requires more housing which in turns requires more service. That's it.
I work near California Ave in Palo Alto, my 2 kids go to the CCLC downtown Palo Alto, I rent in MV at the limit of Palo Alto. My wife are both engineers... still we cannot afford the $1.5m mortgage for a 3b-2b house. Condos equivalent in the 900k range are clearly oversubscribed. Please build more housing in Palo Alto.
Posted by Steve Raney, a resident of the Crescent Park neighborhood, on Feb 24, 2013 at 4:40 pm
Asian Americans make PA a better place. I would encourage the few Palo Altans who think of Asian Americans as "those people" to reconsider the meaning of citizenship and historical immigration. I recommend Iris Chang’s book, "The Chinese in America," for a history of the repeated discrimination against Asian Americans in California.
Adrian, I'm a fan of applying smart growth best practices to new PA residential: unbundled parking, low parking maximums, car share services, etc. But I find that typical semi-intelligent smart growth still leads to too high per capita energy consumption. Hence I'm a fan of housing discrimination for green commutes. The US Fair House Act legal test for an illegally discriminatory policy revolves around "disparate impact for protected groups," where the key test for PA is probably whether the policy discriminates against Latinos. There was also an interesting policy in Seattle called Proximate Commute whereby Starbucks workers, etc had their work locations optimized to reduce commuting.
Craig, Peter: If a city fails to adopt a legally compliant Housing Element in their General Plan that meets the Regional Housing Needs Allocation (RHNA), then the city is susceptible to a lawsuit whereby the city can lose control of zoning and the ability to stop new real-estate projects from being approved. Menlo Park recently rushed to settle on such lawsuit: See
Web Link, Page 6. Menlo Park’s embarrassment may have motivated PA Council to move forward on the 2007-2014 housing element.
Craig: my critique of PA is opposite from yours. PA Council does NOT slavishly follow a greenie agenda. PA’s Council is infamous for factually-challenged anti-RHNA and anti-ABAG comments. Council's anti-climate attitude is most evident with their "I've got my house in PA, you can't have yours" proclivities. The Weakly reinforces factually-challenged arguments, relaying false statements such as "Palo Alto is built out" as if they were true.
Follow the Money: ABAG stands for the Association of Bay Area Governments. PA is a member of ABAG. At this very late stage in the game, the onus is on detractors to come up with a better regional planning process that RHNA. There is not much to be gained from complaining as the process is well-accepted and is the law of the land. I reiterate that some PA councilmembers have taken a strange stance: "We agree with ABAG’s goals of minimizing traffic congestion, pollution, and global warming. We would like RHNA to be applied to 100 out of 101 Bay Area cities, but we would like an exemption for our city."
Posted by Wayne Martin, a resident of the Fairmeadow neighborhood, on Feb 24, 2013 at 4:46 pm
> Does anyone know approximately how much Palo Alto would lose
> by regaining its independence on this issue?
I made a stab at trying to determine this number a couple of years ago, using various on-line sources. My efforts led me to believe that Palo Alto was getting somewhere between $1.5M-$3M a year in these sorts of funds. Unfortunately, the Palo Alto City budget document did not call out these funds, as best as I could tell.
Since that time, SB925 (if memory serves), proposed by a Southern California legislator, was intended to give "teeth" to the State's ability to fine Cities that did not meet the State's expectation of meeting its view of rezoning for new housing. The bill failed to pass, but there is no reason that it could not be passed at some time in the future. Were that the case, then the fines could become as hefty as the Legislature wanted to make them in order to force the Cities to heel to its demands.
Posted by Palo alto mom, a resident of the Embarcadero Oaks/Leland neighborhood, on Feb 25, 2013 at 8:39 am
Emmassat, housing prices will not go down in. Palo alto just because there is more housing (except for bmr housing) there will just be more of it. Developers build office space because a palo alto address has great value in the tech world. More housing will make palo alto more congested and our schools more crowded, but it will not effect housing prices.
Posted by resident, a resident of the Palo Verde neighborhood, on Feb 25, 2013 at 12:10 pm
RE: ABAG, Senate Bill 375 - 02/22/13
The Palo Alto Weekly has been reporting on the ABAG requirement since 2008 when the Senate Bill 375 was passed. Review of the original senate bill and subsequent translations by government agencies of what it means are available on Google. This bill is specific to all of California by region. The Chronicle 02/25/13 has an excellent article on Climate Change and effects on legislation in 2007 / 2008 provides the mind-set at the time.
This requirement has provided the justification for re-zoning and the building of new housing. It is now four years later.
1. The number of new housing units added since 2008 has surpassed the total requirement for new housing units stipulated.
Action: The Planning Department should provide the statistics on the number of new housing units added from 2008 through 2012, plus those on the planning approval cycle currently on the books.
2. The assumptions in the State of California budgeting process in 2008 has been overcome by events, including Governor Brown re-interpreting the state budget and removing the budget for Redevelopment.
Action: The assumptions included in the approval of the bill in 2008 should be evaluated against the current state budget which is authorizing the transportation funding. I am guessing that the funds do not exist at this time which is why the schedule for building has been moved to 2014.
3. Infrastructure Responsibilities concerning water are undefined.
Example: San Mateo County - Redwood City – the Cargill development currently does not have a water allocation – Redwood City has already maximized its water allocation. The developer has been trying to get additional water approved for delivery up from Bakersfield, CA.
Palo Alto in Santa Clara County has a water allocation. ABAG does not appear to be responsible for working the water issue. Governor Brown is trying to ship more water to Southern California so this key issue is not being addressed. Contra Costa County has well documented water shortages.
Action: ABAG needs to provide their assumptions concerning the delivery of water for a higher density population when the State of California is attempting to move more water south. The cities cannot broker this requirement which is authorized at the county and state level.
4. Budget for Transportation – in 2008 the High Speed Rail was in the talking stage – it still is - however the initial building will be in the Central Valley. The conclusion there is that the high density housing should now be aligned with the high speed rail in the central valley. Another assumption from 2008 which does not comply with the current budget requirements and transportation Planning.
The assumptions from which this bill was approved in 2008 are no longer compliant with the current budget for the state. The assumptions at the time and currently are not within the cities or the Transportation agency to control since the goals are suppose to be regional.
Santa Clara County is still short on BART which is suppose to circle the bay – but no money available for them to uphold their part of this transaction?
The emphasis needs to go back to the California regions which are being currently supported by new transportation funding – extensions of BART in Contract Costa, High speed in the Central Valley.
It is not Palo Alto’s job or the peninsula region’s job to satisfy the requirements applicable to the whole state of California. Put the pressure back on the state to spread out the requirements and put up the money for the transportation required to support the regions.
Posted by support more housing in PA, a resident of the Barron Park neighborhood, on Feb 25, 2013 at 12:43 pm
I have lived here for over 28 years and support more housing. I want our kids to be able to think of living on the peninsula. We are losing all our young people to SF or cheaper areas and losing a vibrant age diverse community. People who can afford are all 2 parent working households stressed to the max. (Mine was one too). Many can't even afford to stay after a few years. I see more people biking and walking and the young prefer that lifestyle anyway. There was a study long ago and commute trips were a pretty small part of overall car trips. Most (including me) probably shop in neighboring cities for cheaper and different alternatives. I love my peace and quiet but still welcome more (environmentally conscious) Palo Altans. I wish we worked on getting a Bart extension in my lifetime. Many more car trips would simply disappear if there were viable alternatives.
Posted by keenplanner, a resident of the Old Palo Alto neighborhood, on Feb 25, 2013 at 2:01 pm
The whole idea is to create denser units near existing services so that the Bay Area can keep up with population projections while reducing the number of vehicle trips generated.
Virtuallt all the cities resisting ABAG's mandates are middle-to-upper middle class towns that have historically resisted building their fare share of "Affordable" housing. And "Affordable" does NOT mean section 8 projects. It reduces the prices of some units (based on a percentage of the mean area income, normally 50-80%)to make them available to the town's working people. Think teachers and firemen.
Since Palo Alto has always resisted building any sort of dense residential housing in the downtown (or any other area, for that matter, unless it's a tear-down/throw-up) ABAG's numbers may seem more dramatic, but they are probably more conservative than they should be to keep up with projected growth, especially in the job-rich penninsula.
Kudos to Mountain View and Redwood City, where planners have the forsight to see that infill revitalizes struggling downtown areas. They are stiving to be follow a European model, with a bright, busy core that supports myriad local business and is adjacent to many transportation choices.
Palo Alto, on the other hand, is well-known in planning circles for opposing anything that will improve the environment, from walkable neighborhoods to High Speed Rail. It seems like their model city is Tustin or Danville, car dependent and clinging to their suburban values, NIMBY to the end. There's a reason everyone calls it "Shallow Alto."
Posted by Resident, a resident of the South of Midtown neighborhood, on Feb 25, 2013 at 2:04 pm
RE: ABAG, Senate Bill 375 - 02/22/13, Review of the Senate Bill 375 – year 2008 defines a regional approach to transportation planning in respect to housing density. Santa Clara County is included in the larger Bay area region including San Francisco, Contract Costa, including Oakland, and other counties surrounding the SF Bay.
1. The overall state budget regarding the regional area is now directed at the San Francisco Transportation Center, Chinatown subway, additional growth in the Treasure Island and Hunter’s Point areas, and completion of the Bay Bridge. These are major efforts which will requires huge investments of money over many years.
2. The city of Palo Alto is not directly in the path of any new transportation upgrades, unless pressure is exerted to extend Bart around the bay. If that occurs it is the best interest of planning to not have additional housing in the areas which could be in the path of the BART project.
3. Palo Alto’s footprint in the region is minimal regarding transportation. The only effort in process is the upgrade to the PG&E gas line. Whatever happens in Palo Alto, or doesn’t happen will have no impact on any larger projects which will occur based on region – not on Palo Alto as a city.
4. The requirements for housing density are already being addressed in the upcoming developments in SF. They are part of the region.
5. Other surrounding counties have incurred budget shortfalls which have had a negative effect on the population as a whole – more population has not helped San Jose, Oakland, etc which do not have the budget to support the cities law enforcement efforts.
6. The state is focusing other new transportation budget to less developed areas as the cost is lower. That is where the higher density housing needs to be allocated – Central Valley, etc.
Posted by But, but, but..., a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Feb 25, 2013 at 4:09 pm
Where on earth are they going to find the open space to build the required number of housing units within the required length of time? How will the purchase of suitable land be paid for, with real estate at an all-time high and competition fierce?
These housing units will have to be uncomfortably small and expensive, it seems. Kinda defeats the purpose.
Posted by Craig Laughton, a resident of the College Terrace neighborhood, on Feb 25, 2013 at 5:28 pm
>Craig: my critique of PA is opposite from yours. PA Council does NOT slavishly follow a greenie agenda. PA’s Council is infamous for factually-challenged anti-RHNA and anti-ABAG comments. Council's anti-climate attitude is most evident with their "I've got my house in PA, you can't have yours" proclivities. The Weakly reinforces factually-challenged arguments, relaying false statements such as "Palo Alto is built out" as if they were true.
Wrong! PA city council is slavisly addicted to the greenie agenda...until it affects them, personally. Then they try to find excuses to object. For example, Larry Klein is a true believer in the global warming construct, yet he ends up opposing high speed rail and high density urban design housing, when it affects him and his.
Stalinist-like urban designs, so popular to those like you, Steve, are destined to end personal property rights. Do you really want to go the retro-way of Stalin?
Posted by Not an issue, a resident of the Community Center neighborhood, on Feb 25, 2013 at 6:06 pm
But Larry initially supported HSR. He signed the colleagues memo that pushed it. Then he changed his mind. Was he misled? That's what he claimed about the financial problems that have come up on his watch. I thought he was a hot shot lawyer. Also note that was enthusiastically endorsed for election by the weekly.
Posted by Steve Raney, a resident of the Crescent Park neighborhood, on Feb 25, 2013 at 6:14 pm
ahem, Craig, I've been called a lot of names on this forum, everything from a utopian commie to a uber capitalist pro-developer meanie.
The "drawbridge" zoning in Palo Alto restricts the housing free market. If restrictive "I've got my home, you can't have yours" zoning were to disappear, then, given land prices, we would have many high-rise condos and apartments to maximize profits on the land. Prop 13 provides incentives for long-duration PA residents to fight new housing, thus restricting housing supply to artificially keep housing prices high (while long-duration residents benefit from low property taxes). Prop 13 really distorts the housing market.
Posted by Robert, a resident of another community, on Feb 25, 2013 at 6:22 pm
I don't think anyone has argued that building more housing will bring the price of housing down, but it certainly will keep it from further ballooning out of control. I have a feeling though, this is exactly what some people's goal is, especially due to them not having to pay property taxes on that increased value (kind of goes along with Steve's "drawbridge" metaphor). Its really sad though that people are complaining about living in such a desirable area, any rust belt city would love to have these kinds of problems.
Posted by Craig Laughton, a resident of the College Terrace neighborhood, on Feb 25, 2013 at 6:51 pm
>Craig, Peter: If a city fails to adopt a legally compliant Housing Element in their General Plan that meets the Regional Housing Needs Allocation (RHNA), then the city is susceptible to a lawsuit whereby the city can lose control of zoning and the ability to stop new real-estate projects from being approved. Menlo Park recently rushed to settle on such lawsuit:
Steve Raney: This quote from you, above, is pure neo-Stalinism. Individual private property rights are being attacked by such notions. It is un-American. As are the BMR mandates in Palo Alto, which force the neighboring units to subsidize those who cannot afford to live there. Yet, Palo Alto leaders buy into this Stalinist drivel...until if affects them directly.
Posted by Robert, a resident of another community, on Feb 25, 2013 at 7:35 pm
Craig, would you object to allowing people to develop their property as they see fit rather than have government involved in what type of housing is being built, and where? That seems like a free market solution.
Posted by Unsurprised, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Feb 25, 2013 at 8:10 pm
My dad always used to say "lie down with dogs, get up with fleas". Palo Alto voters have been "lying down" with Democratic Donkeys for decades and they are surprised at this result. It's a totally predictable offspring of the liberal, big-government, central planning mindset.
I'm encouraged by the many rational posts of protest on this board, but if you want to see some real changes, stop throwing your vote, and your money, away to corrupt Democratic party of CA.
Posted by Just Sad, a resident of another community, on Feb 25, 2013 at 8:43 pm
It's pretty sad reading most of these comments. Seems like most want to preserve Palo Alto only for the crazy wealthy (or those who bought years ago). Any new high-tech workers (or college graduates) to the area who don't have over $1M to buy even a condo or townhome should just go elsewhere to live until they're "good enough" to live in PA. Kudos to Mountain View and Redwood City for recognizing the value of a diverse, inclusive community. Reading all these comments really makes me NOT want to live in Palo Alto.
Posted by Craig Laughton, a resident of the College Terrace neighborhood, on Feb 26, 2013 at 8:15 am
>Craig, would you object to allowing people to develop their property as they see fit rather than have government involved in what type of housing is being built, and where? That seems like a free market solution.
I agree with limited zoning laws. For example daylight plane (thus height limits); single family vs multiple family; limitation on septic systems; setbacks... and so forth. I object to mandates that say we must build X number of homes within Y years; BMR mandates on developers; forced high density corridors.
I don't buy the argument that since I believe in limited zoning laws, I have then surrounded to a defeat of free market principles and property rights, and thus must accept Stalinist concepts and command (e.g. ABAG forced housing).
Posted by resident, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Feb 26, 2013 at 9:35 am
Editorial 02/22/13 - ABAG, Senate Bill 375 – The data provided in the editorial is an opinion piece short of actual data.
Paragraph 1 – the requirement is based on a specifically defined region including all counties surrounding the bay area – Santa Clara, San Mateo, San Francisco, Contra Costa, Napa, Solano, etc. The peninsula is not an isolated element in this calculation. The Peninsula is struggling because of the amount of property available for development versus Contract Costa which is open ended going east and less developed. The peninsula has much property already dedicated to Open Space and other land trust agencies. San Francisco has already initiated major development in Treasure Island, Hunter Point, and the newer AT&T Park area.
Paragraph 2 - is a goal based on timing. The timing does not include the period 2008 through 2012 – that is a manipulation of data by the principals to disqualify any progress to date in the addition of new housing.
Paragraph 3 - Since 2008 when the bill was passed El Camino Real, East Meadow Circle, and West Bayshore area have been built out with housing units – the number of which exceed the stipulated number of units required. The editorial position assumes there has been no progress in this requirement which is a spin either from the city or government agency. PA can say they have reached the goal.
Paragraph 6 references Menlo Park. Facebook has already initiated the action for new housing. El Camino Real in Menlo Park is empty car lots that should be built on – it is a waste of valuable property.
This opinion piece stages all concerns as having no negotiation position. The Transportation Budget which is the basis of this bill as a going in position must deliver results from which the housing is based on. Oakland has a major port, BART, AMTRACK – all of the requirements from which to build on. As to the peninsula BART stops at the Airport which is a major flaw. It should connect around the bay to reduce traffic on Highway 237. The Lite Rail in the area has already been declared insufficient to service the new Santa Clara stadium.
New Housing has to have infrastructure including water. Water allocations are now maxed out. No water - no new houses.
The negotiation position should be considering what is happening to the other regions – BART Extensions in the east bay which are not happening here. Other areas are being built out on available land that is not currently developed and is cheaper to develop.
The Chronicle 02/23/13 notes that now Governor Brown wants to realign the requirements regarding new developments in transit zones – update of CEQA approval rates. That is a wish on his part which is yet to be authorized or funded. That needs to be taken into consideration relative to how housing is projected.
Major companies and government agencies are moving their main centers eastward to obtain cheaper housing for the employees and take technical computer systems out of the earthquake zone – Rancho Cordova a growing area for a stabilized environment.
There are multiple consideration at play here and spin by the government needs to be challenged. The government needs to provide up-front results from which to build on at the state level.
Posted by Steve Raney, a resident of the Crescent Park neighborhood, on Feb 26, 2013 at 9:54 am
Here are some more regional arguments for PA providing its fair share of housing:
A 2006 study by Robert Cervero and Michael Duncan of the University of California, Berkeley, concludes that locating housing next to jobs is the most effective strategy in reducing vehicle mileage (and generation of carbon dioxide). Their conclusions are detailed in an article, "Which Reduces Vehicle Travel More: Jobs-Housing Balance or Retail-Housing Mixing?" in the Autumn 2006 Journal of the American Planning Association.
[These numbers are dated] Palo Alto has arguably the largest mileage-increasing "jobs-housing imbalance" in the Bay Area, needing roughly 90,000 additional residents (added to the current 59,000 population) to "balance" Palo Alto's 87,000 jobs. (Numbers of Palo Alto jobs and residents taken from City of Palo Alto Community Profile, July 2005.)
A "good" jobs/housing balance is about one job to every two residents, as many residents do not work (retired, stay-at-home, too young). A "large" jobs/housing imbalance occurs when you have one or more jobs for every one resident, such as in Palo Alto, Emeryville and other "edge cities." Palo Alto has had a jobs-housing ratio of more than two jobs per household (as high as 2.4 jobs per household) since the 1960s due to its explosion of high-tech jobs and constriction on housing development after the big subdivision surge of the 1950s ended.
Former Weakly Editor Jay Thorwaldson started as a Palo Alto Times reporter in 1966, has covered ABAG, and has encyclopedic knowledge of historical Palo Alto land use decisions. Jay wrote a 1968 article on Palo Alto's jobs/housing imbalance, with 2.4 jobs for every household in those days. Jay’s take on Palo Alto’s current jobs/housing imbalance: "Well-intentioned and environmentally conscious Palo Alto has restricted housing to create a terrible environmental situation with long commutes wasting fuel. It’s an insoluble situation. Long commutes damage the social fabric and create lower quality of life. Workers are forced to commute from Manteca, etc. Palo Alto has a drawbridge mentality. Compounding the insolubility, objections raised by neighborhood associations are legitimate."
Posted by resident, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Feb 26, 2013 at 10:47 am
Ancient statisitcs / opinion do not matchup with the picture today.
Editor should drive around Stanford Avenue in Stanford - all new housing - they have exceeded their allotment. Then drive up and down West Bayshore to see all of the new housing, ElCamino new housing, East Meadow Circle new Housing, Ricky's new housing - all since 2008. The drive up and down West and East Bayshore and look at the commercial buildings that have "for lease" signs. It appears that people who live in PA do not want to have businesses in PA - what is the reason with all of the unoccupied commercial properties? Even hotels edge themselves over the borders so they are not actually in PA. Housing is not the problem - you have new housing - tax base of city is problem. Maybe too many non-profits - read "tax-exempt" when that phrase is used. This problem is not being accurately statused as to where we were in 2008, where we are now. The schedule started in 2008 - if we exceeded our schedule than more power to us for excelent planning.
Posted by palo alto mom, a resident of the Embarcadero Oaks/Leland neighborhood, on Feb 26, 2013 at 11:13 am
Adding additional housing near transit centers makes sense from an environmental point of view and Palo Alto "technically" has a transit center. You can get to Palo Alto on the train, but the transit systems once you are off the train are pretty sad, that is true at any of the train stops including San Francisco.
I've said this a couple times, but for some reason, people seem to think that if we build more housing, Palo Alto will magically become "affordable". Housing will still be expensive, there will just be more of it. And more traffic and crowded schools.
Posted by resident, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Feb 26, 2013 at 2:28 pm
Have to disagree on interpretation of statistics reported that go back in time – Lockheed Martin in Sunnyvale had over 30,000 employees, Ford Aerospace / Loral also a large number of employees, NASA AMES additional employees all living in the PA / Mountain View / Los Altos area. Stanford employees and students all local. These were traditional families with minimal commutes, typically wife at home with kids in local schools. This is the baby-boomer era which is now retiring and moving out. These homes are now being sold to Google /Loral / Yahoo / tech young families which have a minimal commute in the Moffat / Sunnyvale/ Mountain View / Palo Alto area.
The young people arriving on the buses from SF are paid to use the buses and conduct work while on the buses. They want to live in the city – a Disneyland for young tech people. It is a conscious choice on their part. They pay a lot of money for rent to live in the SF city. They do not want to live in this area until they are married and planning for a family – PA is not a single person’s dream location unless a student at Stanford – and they are all living within their social sets.
Any assumptions about population density is dependent on employers remaining in this area which are providing the job opportunities, and the amenities in the local area. PA does not have the same amenities as SF. If the employers keep moving out of state then the employees will also move out of state. Many companies are moving their younger people out to less expensive locations and keeping only the core management local. Tesla has a corporate office in PA but manufacturing in east bay. Lockheed provides tokens for employees to use the lite rail to reduce commute costs – an employment plus.
The dire statements made do not match up with my experience as a community employee, parent, and participant/organizer in many sport functions in PA.
Posted by hap diam, a resident of another community, on Feb 27, 2013 at 1:51 pm
The chickens have come home to roost. PA loves to boast how liberal it is. Its kids (Stanford students, so smart) and libs put Obama and Jerry Brown, and the majority Democrat legislature in office. This is what you get. It's UN Agenda 21.
Putting all those very very low, very low, and low-income folks in your districts (yes, that is what the high-density housing will do)will provide a permanent lib voting base. They will always vote for huge tax increases to fund the free schools, free transportation, free health and dental care, free child care, etc. And they won't be the ones paying.
Whenever I hear somebody whine about "stealing from our kids' futures," I believe those kids need to experience the consequences of their votes. They have sealed their futures.
Somebody asked about Beverly Hills---why do you believe those folks shovel so much money at Dems? To protect their own turf.