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195 Page Mill project stopped by lawsuit

Original post made on Sep 12, 2007

In a ruling that thrilled Bob Moss, Tom Jordan and other opponents of the controversial 157,000-square-foot building planned for 195 Page Mill Road, Santa Clara County Superior Court Judge Leslie Nichols said this week that the City of Palo Alto skipped a crucial step in the project's environmental review process.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Wednesday, September 12, 2007, 4:10 PM

Comments (92)

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Posted by Jeremy Loski
a resident of Ventura
on Sep 12, 2007 at 6:25 pm

Great. Bob Moss, Tom Jordan and the Citizens for Upholding Zoning Regulations group have just cost our city taxpayers and future residents the following:

1) Attorney's fees - probably quite substantial

2) Since Mr. Holback has razed (thank god!) the ugly and dangerous corrugated metal buildings on that site, the neighborhood will now have to wait until a minor environmental review takes place. The site will continue to be an eyesore.

3) The cost of the development will increase, due to construction inflation (about 15% per year, and climbing). This cost will no doubt be passed on to those who aither rent apartments or reside in Mr. Holbach's future building, when it gets built.

4) We will lose the projected use of many small R&D offices in the California Avenue district, negatively impacting restaurants and other service related businesses in the area. Thus, a loss to the city of early projected sales tax and other use tax revenue.

5) The now-empty lot is dorectly accross the street from the new Google facility. This means that Google employees, as they occupy their building (the old Agilent building), will have to endure the full weight of a longer-than-anticipated construction project, with all its attendant noise, dust, etc.

6) This will put a negative drag on efforts to have CalTrain reinstall more stops at the California Ave. station. This has been a sensitive lobbying effort that has been working to convince CalTrain that the California Avenue PTOD is REAL. This delay will take some wind out of that argument's sails.


Please note that the Citizens for Upholding Zoning Regulations group is one of the groups that was influential in causing the Google facility to be delayed in re-zoning, thus costing our city the revenue brought by 300-400 Google employees for ONE YEAR (the amount of time it took to change the old zoning, from light manufacturing, to office - even though that space was clearly designed as an office space)

195 Page Mill is going to be built, and it will probably look much like the design that had
already passed the Council.

The developer, Mr. Holbach, is no saint. He has not been easy for the city to work with, but went through an extensive period of review, with Mssrs. Moss, Jordan, and a few other determined Palo Altans hassling him all the way.

This has been typical for Palo Alto, with small groups of anti-development zealots costing us our tax base (the same groups then go on to criticize the City Council and city staff because we are short of funds for infrastructure).

They also cost our city a reputation for being a good place to do business in, with commercial groups and developers inflating the size of their projects because they know they're going to get harrassed practically to fiscal death by meddling citicens groups who want every last thing done their way (as opposed to citizens groups that engage in responsible diligence, and are reasonable in negotiation)

This has happened time and again in Palo Alto. the most recent example being Alma Plaza, where the developer will ber compelled to put retail shops into non-front-facing, rear-of-structure locations - a sure loser for othose who take on retail leases there, and a huge cost burden for the developer. Why? because they could.

We have to rid our city of the influence of *unreasonable* groups like this Citizens for Upholding Zoning Regulations.

Bob Moss, Tom Jordan, the Citizen's for Upholding Zoning Regulations are costing our city money, reputation, tax base, citizen convenience, and badly needed small office R&D space.

And we wonder why Palo Alto has fiscal problems?




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Posted by Three Cheers
a resident of Monroe Park
on Sep 12, 2007 at 6:58 pm

Hooray for people who uphold the law. I hope the City Council will uphold its own zoning laws from now on. It shouldn't take a lawsuit to get them to stop giving away the town to their favorite developers.
Or if the developer had obeyed the law without being sued, gee, that would be nice.
And isn't he the developer who, AFTER the project was approved for rentals. changed them to condominiums?


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Posted by Citizen's for Upholding Common Snse
a resident of Barron Park
on Sep 12, 2007 at 7:06 pm

The law was upheld; that's why it passed Council. This project will be built, but Moss and company have cost our city, and its taxpayers, plenty,

Citizens in the know need to keep pointing that out.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Howard
a resident of Crescent Park
on Sep 12, 2007 at 7:28 pm

Another example of how CEQA, a well intentioned law, is misused to create unnecessary delay and additional expense for a perfectly sensible development.


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Posted by Ken
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Sep 12, 2007 at 9:12 pm

"The council was won over, in part, because Hohbach included 16 below-market-rate apartments instead of the required 13."

Ah...the BMR raises its ugly head again. If the developer was allowed to develop what he really wanted, without the hidden tax of BMRs, he might have been able to stay within the general zoning regs. But no, the pro-subsidized housing group insisted on something that the market would not bear, under existing zoning - thus the height variance.

Thus the suit by Moss.

I am all for growth, especially when it gets rid of old crappy buildings from the WWII era. However, our modernization in Palo Alto has been held up by [portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff], because they try to manipulate the market to get their BMRs. Looks like it will get sidetracked for a while on this one.

Who, in their right mind, would want to develop a project in Palo Alto? Are they masochists?


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Posted by Jeremy Loski
a resident of Ventura
on Sep 12, 2007 at 9:53 pm

Ken,

Get over it; I'm in favor of Holbach's development. This was not about BMR constraints, it was about Moss and company having their way with the building design, and a rather absurd insistance on manipulating zoning laws to have their way with other variables in the structure.

They were stunned when Holback beat them to the punch, every step of the way. So, in a fit of spite and anger, Mr. Moss threatened to sue the city of Council approved the build. Moss was hopping mad about not having his way. So, he put together a few allies, and sued.

So now Palo Alto taxpayers will pay - right from their own pockets - for Mr. Moss' actions.

Ken, you and I may disagree about BMR units (which Mr. Holback could afford to build in this development - he planned for them), but we agree on the absurdity of small, [portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff] groups like Citizen's for Upholding Zoning Regulations, and the harm they cause to our city.


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Posted by take back the city
a resident of another community
on Sep 12, 2007 at 10:27 pm

"Three times the size allowed under current zoning regulations..." -- why can't developers learn to play by the rules? Kudos to the folks who stood up to the developer and a too-easily-lulled council. Litigation is no fun, but my observation is that it is the ONLY way to get the council's attention and teach them that they have to set limits.


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Posted by litebug
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Sep 13, 2007 at 1:25 am

I have to wonder just why we have zoning regulations at all when a project THREE TIMES THE ALLOWED SIZE can be approved. Surely this makes zoning regulations nothing more than a joke. City officials should be upholding and enforcing existing laws and regulations rather than making these outrageous exceptions to kiss up to greedy developers who are ruining this community with their over-sized projects.


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Posted by Howard
a resident of Crescent Park
on Sep 13, 2007 at 8:22 am

Forget about the "three times the size" nonsense. Not even the judge, although he reached out and found some other CEQA technicality to use to delay the project, could find any fault with the well recognized exception that allowed the larger size.


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Posted by JW
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Sep 13, 2007 at 8:34 am

Zoning regulations have become a joke in PA because City Council can vote to overrule them which is just what happened in this case. Thank you Bob Moss and Tom Jordan for fighting back. This building will be 3 times the size allowed by our zoning codes, and yet Council approved it.

Approval of 195 Page Mill came immediately after Council approved the Campus for Jewish Life where our 50 ft height limit was totally ignored. PA residents are going to be surprised when these buildings top up at 77 feet. The whole development is massive.


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Posted by Jeremy Loski
a resident of Ventura
on Sep 13, 2007 at 11:28 am

Howard is *exactly* on target. There was a well recognized exception that permitted the larger size. I watched Council proceedings during a few of the Holbach presentations.

They were definitely problematic, with not all Council members agreeing, but the level of pure vitriol, combined with angry threats to sue issued by Mr. Moss, were something to behold.

The hubris that some citizens hold in this city is beyond belief; they will do almost anything to have their way - no matter the cost to their fellow citizens, no matter the hassles cost to cityt management, no matter the dissension caused among policy makers.

There is a very small group of people in Palo Alto that are very politically active - Mr. Moss among them - who hhave made Council proceedings and city operations their personal hobby horse.

These citizens spend much of their waking lives learning every minute detail of civic code, and how to legally manipulate that code. Some of them are attorneys, who know their way around civil litigation procedure, and use that to cause mayhem.

Look at the 800 High St. development. These few citizens, and the measly few hundred supporters they were able to rustle up pforced a VOTE on that development, which has turned out to be a very nice addition to the neighborhood.

These residents claim that they are trying to preserve some pastoral quality of a city that is essentially urban in nature, and requires a substantial tax base to sustain itself.

Mr. Moss his group aggressively go every almost every single development in our city. Since they're the only ones in front of Council - literally, every week - our Council hears mostly their side of the story.

This has to stop, especially if our city is going to be expected to bring in more tax dollars necessary for infrastructure.

Note that this is all happening prior to election time. Karen White's GO, combined with Bob Moss' temporary vistory (and, it IS temporary - even though Mr. Moss is no doubt working hard this very moment on costing our taxpayers even MORE money by making our city attorney busy with further delays, in an effort to frustrate the developer).

The core group of anti-growth zealots come out in force around election time; they do have power in our city, and use it in away that is now beginning to show the real harm that YEARS of this sort of thing has caused our city.

A pathetic retail base, with Mt. View and EPA raking in retail tax dollars; a housing crunch, a poor jobs/housing balance; crowded roads. All this can be thrown at the feet of the NIMBYS and anti-development zealots that still have too high a profile in our community.

[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

Last, just what is wrong with the Campus for Jewish Life? It's going to be a GREAT opportunity, and beacon of progressive education, etc. etc.



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Posted by Ken
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Sep 13, 2007 at 11:29 am

"Ken, you and I may disagree about BMR units (which Mr. Holback could afford to build in this development - he planned for them), but we agree on the absurdity of small, rogue groups like Citizen's for Upholding Zoning Regulations, and the harm they cause to our city."

Yes, Jeremy, we do agree on this point. In fact, in the back-and-forth that we have had over development issues, we are among the minority that actually welcomes growth. We have profound difference over who should control that growth (government edict (with BMRs) vs. the marketplace (without BMRs)), but we do not argue about the necessity for growth in order to maintain a viable economy.

If BMRs were removed from the equation, I would also favor rezoning, in order to bring forth valuable and creative new buildings. We need them.



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Posted by bikes2work
a resident of another community
on Sep 13, 2007 at 12:21 pm

So what about the Fry's Electronics site? That is (or was) zoned for residential development. Shall we uphold that zoning there too and force out that great sales tax revenue generator?

Just some food for thought for all the posters quoting the "Three times the size" issue. Sometimes zoning regulations don't fit the site.




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Posted by Ken
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Sep 13, 2007 at 12:47 pm

"So what about the Fry's Electronics site? "

bikes2work, that is a good question, one that illustrates why the BMR/density corridor crowd is out of control. There is NO WAY that Fry's should be forced out for corridor housing.

Each new large development proposal should be taken on a case-by-case basis, with the emphasis on economic growth. The pro-housing groups were able to get a default position years ago, namely that ALL zoning is available for housing. This should be revisted.


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Posted by Chad Levenski
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Sep 13, 2007 at 1:57 pm

The greedy developers just keep on profiting from the very stretched land resource Palo Alto currently is in the state of. The overruling shows every bit of greedy developer try to undermind the environmental impact to the city for sake of their own benefits. Watch out for all the ridicuouls reasonings they would give to pass the project.


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Posted by Accuracy Maven
a resident of Downtown North
on Sep 13, 2007 at 2:14 pm

Memories are short.

The City Staff recommended that the City Council disapprove this project because it did not comply with the zoning ordinance. Notwithstanding that recommendation, the Council narrowly (5/4) approved the project because the City Attorney incorrectly advised the Council that, under applicable state law, it was required to do so and would be sued if it didn't.

Several Council members who voted in favor did so because they were persuaded by the need for rental housing in the City. Yet, shortly after the Council's unlawful approval, Hohbach made an application to the City to convert the project from rental to for-sale housing!

The plaintiffs in the suit are to be commended for their courage in forcing the Council to uphold and enforce its own zoning ordinances. They did so on their own nickel, without expectation of reimbursement for their fees. In other words, they put their own funds at risk for the benefit of all citizens who need to be able to rely on the Council to enforce the law.

Previous letters complain that the City (and therefore its citizens) have to pay the plaintiff's attorneys fees. It would be astonishing if the the developer did not indemnify the City in the event the Court required the City to pay attorneys fees of the prevailing plaintiffs. The cost of flaunting the law and ignoring the neighbors rightfully belongs with Mr. Hohbach.

His hand now slapped by the Superior Court, Mr. Hohbach may now be motivated to propose a development consistent with the new PTOD zone, as he could have and should have done all along.


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Posted by Bill
a resident of Palo Verde
on Sep 13, 2007 at 2:31 pm

Accuracy Maven, it's a breath of fresh air to read your contribution. Towers over some of the nonsence on this blog. I remember it the same way. Good on Bob Moss and his friends. Thanks.


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Posted by Tom
a resident of Professorville
on Sep 13, 2007 at 3:19 pm

Yes, fixing this illegal city council act will cost Palo Alto big money. Too bad it can't be recovered from the 5 councilmembers who decided that zoning laws which regulate what ordinary citizens can do with their property don't have to apply to wealthy developers like Hohbach. This mess would not have happened if they had followed the oath they took to uphold our laws, and the city could have been negotiating a proper development agreement with Hohbach (or some other developer) that was beneficial to everyone.

Our city planning staff called this one right. Then five of our elected reps hastily overruled them and flat blew it. Unfortunately, none of the perpetrators is up for unelection this November.


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Posted by Jeremy Loski
a resident of Ventura
on Sep 13, 2007 at 3:37 pm

Acccuracy Maven,

"Memories are short"

you said it!

Let's get it right, just for accuracy's sake.

In fact, the city attorney advised the city as such because the change that was made in zoning was PERFECTLY LEGAL! That's why the city attorney argued for passing the Holbach plan.

Mr. Holbach outsmarted Mr. Moss, and a few neighbors on the other side of the tracks, who were upset about the the size of Mr. Holbach's project. Prior to his success in using the law in his favor (just as Mr. Moss has now done), the 195 project was nitpicked to death for all kinds of details on its facade, window placement, and blah, blah, blah. Itwas an embarrassing display for anyone who likes to think of Palo Alto as a city that one can do business in.

It remiinded me of the endless criticism of the Channing House expansion, with one resident after another weighing on how to design the interior space of what is essentiallya staging area that is one level short of a hospital. It was an amazing exercise in watching hubris at play.

Mind you, the residents who compalined live ON THE OTHER SIDE OF THE CALTRAIN TRACKS - about 500 yard away in most cases!

About Fry's: the FACT here is that the city - with people like Bob Moss, Doug Moran, and others arguing in favor, forbade a FUTURE rezoning of Fry's.

So, now Fry's has 18 years to make up its mind what it wants to do (assuming Fry's is still in business, in the volatile consumer electronics business). [Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.] Now Fry's - as hard-bargaining as they come - has almost a decade to wheel and deal with other bearby municipalities, and then come back to PA with its best deal. That will COST our taxpayers opportunity cost dollars! [Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

btw, if yuo walk down Park Blve, that development would balance the area quite nicely. The Agilent structure is an imposing building, as it abuts Park. the building nthat Mr. Holback proposes would lend a nice counterweight to the Agilent structure, creating a sense of small urban warmth as one saunters down Park Blve, with those two buildings on either side.

[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

I will continue to point this out, so that those who have balanced neighborhood and commercial interests at heart can get a grip on what this kind of delay and obfuscation is costing our city.

[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]



 +   Like this comment
Posted by Jeremy Loski
a resident of Ventura
on Sep 13, 2007 at 3:51 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


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Posted by Tom
a resident of Professorville
on Sep 13, 2007 at 4:17 pm

[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

It is perfectly legal for anybody to ask our city for anything. That does not mean that the wish is always granted legally, and Judge Nichols held that Mr Hohbach's was not. That is the central fact. If you disagree, tell it to the judge.


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Posted by Jeremy Loski
a resident of Ventura
on Sep 13, 2007 at 4:49 pm

Tom, the judgement was passed NOT because the city's decision violtaed a zoning nordinance - as Mr. Moss and his group were wont to claim. In fact, it was LEGAL.

Rather, Mr. Moss found something that Mr Holbach and the city has not adhered to, and has compelled the latter to correct that. Thus, the forced delay.

The city attorney, who is probably not happy with Mr. Moss obfuscation, and taxpayers lost dollars, will no doubt ask for a responsible environmental review that is not too long in duration.

the bottom line here is that the complex will probably be built, and be built looking pretty much like it did in the past. [Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

What worries me now is who will make it to Council. We should all be concerned if any one of the viable candidates has shown a penchant for caving in to delay of development projects to a degree that exceeds reason.

this bears looking into.

[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


 +   Like this comment
Posted by janet
a resident of College Terrace
on Sep 13, 2007 at 4:59 pm

Good for Moss. People who want to live in a mess like NYCity should move there, and leave human-scaled cities alone.


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Posted by Debbie
a resident of Barron Park
on Sep 13, 2007 at 5:06 pm

heh, heh...you want a mess, go look at Park Blvd - the corrugated, rusting housetraps that were there, and now the wide-open empty rat's nest. Please.

We can thank these delay freaks for that


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Stop More Uglyness
a resident of Professorville
on Sep 13, 2007 at 5:15 pm

I'm glad this happened. I'm sorry the PA city counsel hasn't stopped more of those awful, useless, expensive housing projects.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Beauty is in the eye
a resident of Green Acres
on Sep 13, 2007 at 5:29 pm

now that you have yours, the new ones are ugly? I see where you're coming from.


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Posted by More accuracy
a resident of Ventura
on Sep 13, 2007 at 5:29 pm

The developers are "going to get harrassed practically to fiscal death by meddling citicens"
What a laugh! This developer is a Billionaire. Yes that's a B. He owns large amounts of property in the California Ave. area and several large office buildings there. Give me a break! He'll cry all the way to the Atherton mansion.
Does this town need 85 more condominiums that break the zoning? I don't think so.


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Posted by Terry
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 13, 2007 at 5:34 pm

Well Stop More, I'm sure the earlier residents of Pro-ville also protested the "awful, useless" housing projects now known as Midtown, Green Acres, Fairmeadow, Monroe Park, you name it. If they'd had their way, where would I be living now??

Not sure if you saw what was on Park Ave before, or what's there now - but in my view the proposed plan would pretty much fit right in and actually be a big improvement over what was there.


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Posted by What improvement?
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Sep 13, 2007 at 5:46 pm

"the corrugated, rusting housetraps that were there, and now the wide-open empty rat's nest."
Why hasn't the city fined the owner and made him remove the rusting housetraps and rat's nest? It doesn't say much to say his new project will be an improvement.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Jeremy Loski
a resident of Ventura
on Sep 13, 2007 at 6:00 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


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Posted by Tom
a resident of Professorville
on Sep 13, 2007 at 6:00 pm

Jeremy: Get it right. Judge Nichols determined that the city's hasty gift of special development privileges to Mr Hohbach failed to comply with a well-known applicable state law.

That's a fact. Your dislike for Mr Moss, no matter how intense, cannot change it. He simply blew the whistle like a responsible believer in the law and he deserves our high commendation. Your venom is misdirected and you're letting the real perps get off much too easy.

It was the gang of five on the council who blithely blew off planning staff's considered recommendation and made a poorly-considered decision to set aside the regulations for this project. They were careless, in their giddy rush to accommodate Mr Hohbach they neglected the legal P's and Q's, and now they got busted for violating a state law that they knew very well. But we get to pay for it.


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Posted by Jeremy Loski
a resident of Ventura
on Sep 13, 2007 at 7:34 pm

Tom,

Right, but it had nothing ro do with violating zoning law. That's a fact, too. So please don't come along and tell us that Mr. Moss - as he and his group would have us believe - that Mr, Holbach was given special favors by city council. You can only go to that well so many times.

btw, I happen to like Mr. Moss; he's a nice guy - just misguided in his hobby interests. :)

[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

btw, It's Mr
The residents of Venture Park were excited by that project - so were California Avenue merchants - so was Google (just moving into the Agilent building [any guess why Mr. Holbach has a sudden change of mind about converting to condos? - there ya go!)

Guess what breeds in vacant lots with puddles, Tom. Rats and mosquitos. That's what Mr. Moss and his so-called citizens group has left us - by THEIR choice.

They have cost me, and you, and hard-wirking merchants a LOT of money - not to mention the duture residents of that complex, who will pay more as Mr. Holbach passes on the additonal cost and delay CAUSED BY Mr. MOSS onto them when they buy in.

It will also cost R&D groups more to rent space there. A nice welcome from a city that is supposed to be invitin in intellectual capital.

I'm really not at all mad about this, as I expected something to come up in the way of interference; that's par for the course around here. [Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


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Posted by bikes2work
a resident of another community
on Sep 13, 2007 at 9:20 pm

Since the proposed police building is right across the street from 195 Page Mill, I sure hope the City addressed the soil contamination CEQA issue correctly in that EIR. Anyone know for sure? If not, looks like another delay or lawsuit. Nice.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Just remembered
a resident of Crescent Park
on Sep 13, 2007 at 10:11 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Tom
a resident of Professorville
on Sep 13, 2007 at 10:13 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


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Posted by bikes2work
a resident of Santa Rita (Los Altos)
on Sep 13, 2007 at 10:28 pm

'Just remembered' that a merchant on California Avenue contributes tax revenue to the City that funds a lot of services. Oh well, I hope Jeremy doesn't go out of business for another five years or so. Then maybe he'll be around to serve whatever residents may come to live at 195 Page Mill. In the meantime, let the rats rejoice in the mud. At least there are fewer dark doorways for muggers to hide there now. It used to be kind of scary walking or biking there at night. That is the only bright side that I can see to this issue.


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Posted by Peter
a resident of Palo Alto Hills
on Sep 14, 2007 at 6:03 am

no more development in palo alto.


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Posted by Paul
a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Sep 14, 2007 at 9:27 am

in your dreams


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Posted by Jeremy Loski
a resident of Ventura
on Sep 14, 2007 at 9:42 am

I ran into a higherup at Google this morning; someone who will reside in the Agilent building; he was dumbstruck by what has transpired at 195 Page Mill, and then went on to say how much easier it was to do business in Mountain View.

He said he had been following the development over there, and understood the need for proper environmental review, but couldn't believe that our policy makers and city staff were willing to let small groups step on process the way they do, here. [interesting note: he lives in Palo Alto].

He also said that his company had almost balked on the Agilent lease when certain city powers - including ccertain citizens who shall go nameless - were slow to upzone the Agilent building from light manufacturing to office.

It was a pretty revealing conversation, with lots of insights into the shennanigans that some larger companies have to go throughg to get in here.

In a related note, a few people I've run into over the last day or so - involved with retail and office space on Park Blvd. - are hopping mad about this delay, and not at all pleased that the city took as long as it did to get it done. They're especially upset that this wasn't negotiated out in settlement, to get the environmental review done, without taking it to a lawsuit. They're fed up with the stalling tactics of residents who meddle in every commercial development, as if they owned it.

Some interesting things may come out of this - stay tuned...


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Posted by Ken
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Sep 14, 2007 at 10:24 am

Jeremy,

You keep claiming that it is just niggling technecalities that are being challenged by Moss etal. However, the folowing quote from the original article in this thread suggest something much more substantive:

"They challenged the city's procedural and substantive adherence to CEQA and said the city had inappropriately applied a state law that rewards developers with additional space for providing affordable housing.

On all other points, Judge Nichols ruled with the city, Tronquet said.

The City Council approved the project in November 2006 on a narrow 5-4 vote.

Three times the size allowed under current zoning regulations, the project included a three-story building with research-and-development space topped by 84 apartments. "

This seems to imply that the project is three times larger than permited, BECAUSE of BMRs. It also implies, at least to me, that there is an alliance between major developers and housing advocates and city officials to ignore local zoning in favor of BMRs, because it profits these groups in various ways. The losers, of course, are citizens of PA, who expect local zoning to be enforced.

My question is: If BMRs were not part ot this deal, could the project have been built within the local zoning rules? I don't know the answer to that, but I can only speculate that it would have been quite a different project.




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Posted by Bill
a resident of Palo Verde
on Sep 14, 2007 at 11:21 am

J.L., you argue that Mr. Moss, far from being a notable PA citizen spending his own money
and time to improve the future of PA, for which 90 % of us are thankful, has "CAUSED"
delay and increased city costs. Boy, does that ever sound like an argument that if
the police department apprehends regulation-breakers, as confirmrd by a judge, then
the police department has CAUSED wasted time and money. Do you really believe the
things you write so expansively about?


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Posted by Jeremy Loski
a resident of Ventura
on Sep 14, 2007 at 1:41 pm

Bill, There's a difference in KIND between Mr. Moss clever delays that cost merchants and taxpayers MONEY, and the police apprehending a criminal. [Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

If you don't believe me, go talk with almost any California or Park Blve merchant, or to some of the residents whose property is a few hundred feet away - see what they say.
I've done that, and let me tell you that there are some very angry people out there right now [portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

Ken, the proposed size of the development has NOTHING to do with BMR's; in fact, regular units already planned were given up to please city demand for negatiable tradeoffs, to allow the project to go forward.

What's amusing in this thread is that Mr. Moss supporters don't want to admit that what mr. Holbach accomplished was perfectly legal - as far as ZONING goes. But, they want you and everyone else to believe that Mr. Holbach violated zoning regulations.

To prove what I say, just watch what happens after the project finishes environmental review. There will be Bob Moss and his group looking for additional ways to stall the project, by ytrying to force a resizing, redesign of facade - you name it.

In so doing, he has managed to really tick off a number of Park Blvd. merchants, and many residents who were hoping that that derelict property ywould lbe built upu within the next year.

[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

It's all about the size of the project, which is really ironic, because it would create a very nice balance to the Agilent building across the street, and the new police building, which, if built, will probably be built next door. It's a very good design, and well thought through.

Can you imagine an up and down, open design that backs up to the CalTrain tracks? Kinda dumb, right?

This means 1) more expense in construction (passed on to rental businesses on the bottom floor, and residents on the top floor); 2) an architectual imbalance between the Agilent structure (and the Danger structure, down the street); and a real chance that intra-local echoing from the tran would permeate the living quarters there.

Remember, this project lies adjacent to RAILROAD tracks. But mr. Moss and his group want a more delicate design and size than that proposed by the developer.

IN the meantime, we all wait, and PAY for Mr. Moss delay.


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Posted by Jeremy Loski
a resident of Ventura
on Sep 14, 2007 at 1:54 pm

By the way, it's Mr. Moss who's been very vocal about our city applying a business license tax, as have many of his few dozen supporters.

As plainly seen above, he's costing local merchants real opportunity, as the 195 project just sits there.

Yet Mr. Moss is also very vocal about our retail tax base, and how we're supposed to nurture retail.

[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

Hopefully, we will elect leaders that see through this kind of politicing, and move our city forward, where we belong - instead of stalling us in the caboose, as our neighbors and other regions pass us by.

We no longer have the luxury of delay; we can no linger afford unending debate; we need leadership, and action toward acceleration.

Vote carefully.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Ken
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Sep 14, 2007 at 2:18 pm

"Senate Bill 1818 grants design incentives or concessions -- in Hohbach's case, that meant allowing housing and more square footage -- in return for providing a certain percentage of below-market-rate housing units. Hohbach agreed to build 20 percent, or about 16, of the 84 apartments as below-market-rate."

Web Link

Jeremy, you say "Ken, the proposed size of the development has NOTHING to do with BMR's". How does that square with the above reference?

You ask: "Can you imagine an up and down, open design that backs up to the CalTrain tracks? Kinda dumb, right? That's what Mr. Moss wants."

On this one, I am probably with you, Jeremy. I don't know the local business real estate market. I could imagine that businesses similar to other Park Ave. modern businesses would open up on that site, but I cannot provide the numbers. Can you?

Jeremy, if you could get off the BMR mantra, I could probably get with you. You say, " This entire situation - one that is costing our city, our taxpayers, and our merchants MONEY", yet you refuse to talk about the MONEY that BMRs are costing us. Besides the hidden taxation of BMRs upfront, because they are subsidized by their neighbors, do BMRs pay their fair share of property taxes? I suppose we all have our own blind spots.


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Posted by Bill
a resident of Palo Verde
on Sep 14, 2007 at 3:20 pm

J.L., 1. You didn't answer the one question I asked you. 2. You are massively incorrect
when you opine that you have uncovered "a truth that nags your conscience." 3. You may
have finally spoken your real motive in this (and other threads): when you mention merchants on California Avenue, are you or your friends among them. For sure, such folks
might welcome more customers, no matter the cost to PA infrastructure, and no matter the
degredation in aesthetics to the PA that many of us have long loved.


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Posted by Jeremy Loski
a resident of Ventura
on Sep 14, 2007 at 3:58 pm

Bill,

I'll wait for yuor next missive on how we have a declining tax base, and further promises to support our hard-working merchants [portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

The quality of life in our community has somewhat degraded precisely because we have not been able to let this city grow organically, which has been caused mostly by NIMBYIST n--growthers who want it both ways - "we want out neighborhoods" and "we want better services", but "we don't want to support retail-generated tax base".

It's a Catch 22, Bill. but Palo Alto is going to work its way out of this mess, one sustainable development at a time.

Ken, Guess what, a LOT of forward development money is tied to those BMR units. Think PTOD, and well-designed infill housing that is designed to maximize mass transit.

[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


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Posted by Bill
a resident of Palo Verde
on Sep 14, 2007 at 4:28 pm

J.L., thx for making your latest comment briefer. Again, you don't answer my ? to you.



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Posted by Ken
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Sep 14, 2007 at 4:32 pm

"Ken, Guess what, a LOT of forward development money is tied to those BMR units. Think PTOD, and well-designed infill housing that is designed to maximize mass transit."

Jeremy,

There is always a lot of forward development money on the sidelines in Palo Alto. The problem is that it is constrained by PA regulations. I think you and I both agree with that premise. However, we fundamentally disagree with how to unleash this development money. You want PTOD/BMR/governemnt-directed infill; I want the market unleashed to figure out how to match supply with demand. You do not want outlying towns to develop; I do. We both want efficient mass transit, but I want it to extend to the outlying towns (I don't think you do).

I am very opposed to BMRs, because they are not a strategic solution to PA needs - they are, mostly, just subsidized housing...something I strongly oppose. You like them, because...well, you like them.

Actually, you and I are pretty close on some major issues...but not close enough to close the gap.


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Posted by Jeremy Loski
a resident of Ventura
on Sep 14, 2007 at 4:59 pm

Ken, let's face reality. BMR housing is not on the table. That's a political, going out as far forward as the eye can see.

With that as a given, how do we find ways to ameliorate BMR inpact that permits the city to profit.

There are employment-sector-focused programs that set up trusts for just the thing I'm talking about. We probably disagree even on that.

Here's the problem. This valley is driven by COMMERCIAL interests; it's not a small town any more. If we're going to get serious about keeping this valley competitive, we HAVE to address the housing issue - here, and within the region - in ways that keep our commercial base providers happy.

If current trends continue, we are going to LOSE some serious business in this Valley, near-long-term.

I am not at liberty to say who, but you shuold know that a HUGE player in Palo Alto's commercial sector is thinking about bailing, for just the reasons I state.

If we don't solve this problem, believe me, we are going to see our service base and employment base (in terms of *relative* quality, degrade, relative to competing regions in America, and elsewhere.

INfill and BMR are partial answers to this problem. Getting comercial sector employers on board is another ingredient. Getting developers and a cooperative GROUP of investors together is a third. Making sure that we're smart about increasing population in a way that scales, doesn't impact adversley (because we plan for all impacts, and ADAPT in ways that we can live with - that's a fourth thing.

The last thing we're going to need is leadership to take us there.

Can consensus-driven policy bodies that change out half their membership every two years get us there. I think they can, IF they are largely populated by persons who understand the interconnected whoole that this region is, and the part that their municipality plays in it, AND are enthusiastic about cooperating among themselves that will keep this region, and our city, a fierce competitor.

Can we do that? We'll see. We have taken baby steps with our last Council election. This one will be vitally important to elect persons who understand these challenges, and won't waffle to some of the backwards-looking groups like Mr. Moss Citizens for Zoning..whatever (more like Citizens for Causing Delay, as that's what a lot of these groups do, most often failing to stop a project, but costing everyone they delay (including downstream buyers, renters, and merchants) a LOT of money.

We need to keep pointing that out.

Palo Alto can grow and still be a great, quiet, pastoral place to live, IF we work on regional and local INTEGRATED solutions to development.

btw, I'm not against BART to Stockton, etc. That'a a vital PART of going forward, but not the primary parrt.

We have to find ways to build affordable housing closer in, or we can say bye bye to a prosperous future, and probably mush of our service base.


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Posted by Three Cheers
a resident of Monroe Park
on Sep 14, 2007 at 5:09 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.


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Posted by Ken
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Sep 14, 2007 at 6:05 pm

Jeremy,

Even though we fundamentally disagree with respect to some answers, we are on the sme page with respect to some fundamental problems in PA.

I will try to lay out the problems/answers, as I see them. I will challenge your answers, as I deem appropriate.

1. Stanford is the economic engine of Palo Alto. If it is constrained by absurd policies, like 'no new net trips per day', then we are killing the goose that lays the golden egg. Stanford development is GREAT for Palo Alto. BTW, I am not connected in any way with Stanford.

2. Palo Alto MUST accept that economic/commerical growth is necessary. I don't think that PA has accepted this. There is a certain laid back view that we can just continue to have what we have had. I think this is a wrong-headed view, because PA now faces global competition with what was, at one time, our private domain. PA also faces local economic competition, from neighboring cities. Palo Altans hate to hear the word "competition", but it is real, nonetheless. In fact, that competition is going to become much tougher, going forward. Anyone ever heard of Darwin?

3. There are four primary shopping areas in town: Stanford Shopping Center, University/Downtown, California Ave., Midtown. SSC is controlled by Stanford, and is doing pretty well, although there are ups and downs. Univeristy/Downtown is constrained by an overwhelming homeless problem. The Opportunity Center is a real drag, becasue it is a magnet for even more homeless. Until this problem is solved (by shutting down the OC, and getting some tough policing), U/DT will not prosper. California Ave. is interesting. It has come up as U/DT has gone sideways/down. It has real promise. Various development regulations have prevented Cal Ave from prospering to the degree that it should. The area surrounding Cal Ave has a LOT of BMR units. If these units had been left up to the market, there would be more people with more money to support Cal Ave.

4. Let me pause at this point to assert that Palo Alto has been extremely constricted, in terms of economic growth, becasue so many special interest groups demand some form or the other of a socialist solution. By this I mean economic growth via design by personality, instead of the impersonal marketplace. I am also guilty of this, becasue I accept general zoning rules...but I think they should be as liberal as possible, not as consevative as possible.

5. Palo Alto should take the cork off the marketplace bottle for, say, 10 years, and allow supply and demand to even out. I predict that there would be intense economic and social growth in PA, were this to occur. I am not afraid of such freedom...but many are.

6. In accordance with all of the above, efficient mass transit should be the PRIMARY means of supplying the work force for a dynamic new Palo Alto. MagLev trains from from Salinas and Stockton and Tracy are a GREAT idea!. In fact, BART should transition to MagLev - AND extend around the bay. These trains would be carbon free and smooth as silk, while the commuter reads a good novel, or text messages...or falls in love with the person next to him/her.

7. (to finish, for now). Intensive infill with BMRs in Palo Alto is NOT a strategic answer. For the Nth time, I will ask: WHO lives in these BMRs. Are they Police/Fire Saftey/Teachers, as has always been promised. Answer: NO! It is a LIE! They are filled with people who want a free ride.


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Posted by Three Cheers
a resident of Monroe Park
on Sep 14, 2007 at 6:56 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


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Posted by rob
a resident of another community
on Sep 14, 2007 at 7:48 pm

Trees are bigger than your own yard, they're part of the fabric of a neighborhood. If you don't want big trees, then buy a property without them. The thing that threatens trees most are selfish peoples' resistance to adapting to their environment. Palo Alto is the kind of place where "environmentalists" drive SUV's.
BTW: Greenbelt Alliance doesn't build anything, but they endorse good urban infill projects that are sustainable, offer transportation choices, have inclusionary housing, and are near walkable services.
If we don't offer more housing in our cities, we will continue to have sprawl and all the problems that go with it.


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Posted by Jeremy Loski
a resident of Ventura
on Sep 14, 2007 at 8:58 pm

rob, "If we don't offer more housing in our cities, we will continue to have sprawl and all the problems that go with it."

Bingo!


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Three Cheers
a resident of Monroe Park
on Sep 14, 2007 at 9:44 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


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Posted by NoWhining wants to walk
a resident of another community
on Sep 15, 2007 at 6:17 am

Janet,,

Don't mess with NYC (by which I suppose you mean Manhattan). Should you be so lucky!

The financial, commercial, and cultural center of the country, Manhattan is the borough of many famous landmarks, exceptional architecture, notable libraries and museums, tourist attractions, and (many world class) universities. Its citiziens can have the pleasure of walking miles through city streets enjoying the many sidewalk attractions and parks or hoping onto public transportation as they wish instead of being coped up in their cars (maybe being coped up in their cars indifferent to the variety of aspects of a city social life encompassing people who are not"like us", is what Janet call "human scale")

Palo alto, apart from its expensive little shacks lower middle class style (reminds of a levitown?), and no institutional landmarks ( garages?), pittiful cultural activities, and a very flat lanscape looks to me as if it would benefit from an extensive upgrade and UPgrade.

I don't know the particulars of this case but I know don't want to grow older without public transportation sorrounded by bitter culturally unresponsive old people straphanging (sorry for the subway reference) onto their little schacks courtesy of prop 13 , claiming that BMRs will destroy their peaceful existence.
The only way to continue prosperous is more housing and different housing (btw, instead of the "ugly" building being discussed a world class architect like Frank Ghery should be hired). Whether this project is lovely or disgusting or whether the city knows it doesn't/does have a case or Moss is just showing off for the upcoming election, I don't know.
But trying to stop more housing from being built is like trying to stop the tides from coming in. Get use to it. Or better, sell your little shack. Go live in a small town if that's what you like. This one is no more. It should be of some consolation to you that yur house is worth a lot through NO effort of your own. Just being there was enough. Does that suffice or you want even more? Everybody has to get out of your way?

Yes, Atheron will not have BMRs: that's because Atherton is a rich town. Palo alto is a wannabe town whose middle class residents think of themselves as having clout by virtue of the price of their glorified sheds and the close proximity of entreprising well off people.
But their arguments against BMRs are the same made against integrated housing and no less invalid. So, either you close doors and became a gated place ( well, trailer parks ARE gated communities and many of PA structures would fit right in) or get used to current times.


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Posted by Former New Yorker
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 15, 2007 at 10:14 am

NoWhining--Bravo on your response to janet. As a former new Yorker, you are so on the mark with your comments about the what makes NYC great and what makes PA so pathetic


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Posted by Jeremy Loski
a resident of Ventura
on Sep 15, 2007 at 10:47 am

NOWhining,

Thanks! You have very nicely put into perspective the differences between wannabe, and the real thing.

Palo Alto will never be New York (nor will San Francisco, for that matter - although our great neighbor to the north is a small wonder to behold, and savor, for its uniqueness and special culture - it's one of the world's great cities, San Francisco.)

That said, your post hits the nail on the head, calling out those who somehow think that the bounty that has become theirs by mostly dumb luck has anything to do with things like "elitism", or some special kind of inherited cleverness.

Cultural elites (as described by Ken) are far more rdiscerning and reflective than those I've seen in this thread, hammering out their poor (and exclusionary) rationales for no BMR's, no more housing (or, the opposite, the pathetic, Doric-columned McMansions (built next to small bungalows) that reveal the insufficiency of some local architects, the bad judgment of architectual commissions, and the rush-to-aesthetic-judgment-and-puffery of *some* of the nouveau riche).

One day, Palo Alto and its neighbors willbe doing just what you suggest - building up, although in a measured way. A 20% increase in height would help to solve a lot of our problems here.

There is simply no other way to manage growth here, in addition to a SERIOUS overhall of the pathetic part of our indrastructure that we label as "mass trasportation", which is really an oxymoron here in Silicon Valley, and the rest of the West Coast.

IN short, Palo Alto has some growing up to do. It will take time, and it will take vision - including the vision to effectively (EFFECTIVELY!) engage our neighbors - instead of just talking about it.

NOWhining, you should know that the building in question is far from an architectual masterpiece, but it's not a bad design, given the location.

What's happened here is that political gadflys like Mr. Moss and a few others have been able to garner enough support in this sleepy town, for their retrograde ideas about growth. That's because everyone is doing well, and can't be bothered with municipal details. That will change, as the pressures of urbanism continue to approach, unabated by wishful thinking.

My largest concern is the continuing degradation of this entire region, relative to others like it, worldwide.

We'd better get on the ball here, regionally - led by *anyone* with a vision that goes past parochial interests - or the entire region will suffer, needlessly.


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Posted by Three Cheers
a resident of Monroe Park
on Sep 15, 2007 at 11:03 am

Jeremy, please give us a little more information about the angry merchants on California Ave. [portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


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Posted by Ken
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Sep 15, 2007 at 12:17 pm

Jeremy and NoWhiner,

The elites on the Upper East Side don't allow there maids and servants and construction workers and police and fire, etc. to actually live with them. They arrive by subway and bus (with more being built). Yes, there are a smattering of BMRs, but they are under pressure, as new high-end condo projects go in.

NYC hyprocracy is the same as hyprcracy anywhere else. I see where the Mayor of NYC just got caught ignoring his own advice to take the subway to work...he drives his Suburban for about a mile, in order to avoid a couple of busy stations, before he gets on the train.

I don't think we ,in PA, deserve to be lectured on the glories of NYC. It has been losing population for a reason....


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Posted by Bill
a resident of Palo Verde
on Sep 15, 2007 at 12:49 pm

So, in summary, the world is filled with doers and talkers. Mr. Moss is a doer. He has done it.
The bloggers here, one who could have filled a book by now, are mere talkers. We
have accomplished nothing.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by NoWhining wants to walk
a resident of another community
on Sep 15, 2007 at 1:38 pm

Bill,

So, we have a new definition of doers: those who neither do anything but complaining and who are obstacles to a horizon that's broader than one's backyard. Entitled to their view they are but it's one I can't share.

And Ken, its "staff" not maids or servants -mind your language please...Be a mensch.

(incidently you are not accurate about NYC shennenigans , but that's another matter provided you too don't mess with it).


 +   Like this comment
Posted by steve levy
a resident of University South
on Sep 16, 2007 at 12:04 pm

I did not want to start another thread but thought this might be fun for readers who have been participating here and who have migrated over here from the ABAG/Infrastructure thread. It is Scott Herhold's annual NIMBY awards column in today's Mercury News.

Web Link.

The column, which I hope can bring a few Sunday chuckles, does seem relevant to the BMR debate. Whatever reasons the anti-BMR bloggers are using only underscores the fact that the argument is "no BMRs in my backyard".

Still, after the laughing is over, I agree that there are reasonable arguments on both sides of most land use choices. I certainly have my own strongly-held views. I continue to hope that we can do the debating without resort to name-calling and impugning the motives of people that we hardly know except through the Town Square.

I think that the venom that often spills over here does make it harder for residents to participate and reduces our bloggers to people who are comfortable throwing and catching hand grenades.






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Posted by Jeremy Loski
a resident of Ventura
on Sep 16, 2007 at 12:30 pm

Steve, you mske dome grest points, especislly your lsdt point sbout hsn grensdes.

That said, one of the grest things sbout onlin forums is that anonymity - altough leading to less constraint than one would encounter in face-to-face debate - does help opposing sides to get at the depth of their dissgreement, in a way that face-to-face often does not.

There are advantages to both modalities.

more later...


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Posted by Three Cheers
a resident of Monroe Park
on Sep 16, 2007 at 12:37 pm

Jeremy, please give us a little more information about the angry merchants on California Ave. [portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]
I do not understand why my polite, not-personal question of Jeremy was removed by the censors. It concerned a public event, nothing personal.
Jeremy, you know the question that was censored, so I won't repeat it. Can you please respond?


 +   Like this comment
Posted by just-watching
a resident of another community
on Sep 16, 2007 at 6:02 pm

Unless Palo Alto is approving projects differently for most other cities, the taxpayers will not be stuck with the results of this judges decision. All the cities I know about, make developers indemnify them in case a judgement against a project is rendered. CEQA judgements, normally are rendered with an award of attorney's fees and court costs, but as I said, those would in most cases be born by the developer, and not the city.

I applaud Moss, for having the courage to fight this project, which really is obnoxious. If it has to go back for full approval, he should really take the case to the people with a referendum.

just-watching.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Jeremy Loski
a resident of Ventura
on Sep 16, 2007 at 10:20 pm

just watching,

The taxpayers are losing the sales tax revenue that would have been generated by the residents and commercial lessees of the Holbach buiulding, for the time that it is delayed. Taxpayers are losing MONEY!

California Ave. merchants - some of them residents - will pay in lost revenue. It will cost them MONEY!

Some months of lobbying Clatrain to increase Cal Ave. train station stops has been put in jeapordy. Lobbyists have lost TIME!

Future residents and commercail lessees will pay more for rent, as Mr. Holbach will not absorb these costs - he will pass them on. Remember, construction inflation is about 15% per year, so these homes and offices, delayed as they have been by the "courageous" (NOT) Mr. Moss. So, future residents will have to spend more MONEY! Thanks to your "courageous" Mr. Moss

Obnoxious? What about the vacant lot that sits there? I suppose you're looking for an open-spaced multi-dwelling scenario, even though the property backs up to the TRAIN TRACKS? Get real.

This whole thing has been opposed by a small group of peope in Professorville, whose homes are on Alma, or owithin site of the new project. Period. NIMBYISM is written all over this one. that small group has used every trick in the book to delay this project.

[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Zoned Out
a resident of South of Midtown
on Sep 17, 2007 at 12:01 am

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Jeremy Loski
a resident of Ventura
on Sep 17, 2007 at 12:26 am

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Zoned Out
a resident of South of Midtown
on Sep 17, 2007 at 1:02 am

Indeed, the idea of disregarding zoning in exchange for BMR units does lead to a laughable conclusion. In the case of an empty lot, a project can go from 0 to 3 times the zoning allocation. However, in the case of an existing building at the zoning limit, a project can go from 1 to 3 times the zoning allocation. True, this might not be AS profitable to demolish and rebuild, but I agree the economic incentives are there just the same. This situation encourages all parties interested in testing the waters to see what they can get (projects with existing structures or empty lots) -- since the current zoning is not relevent.

I am aware that Mr. Holbach's zoning request was LEGAL, and Council was empowered to ignore the zoning to grant it (although they do need to follow the proper process in doing so). Council's ability to ignore zoning and the precedent this case sets is the issue at hand. If Council allows Mr. Holbach to have 3 times the current zoning AND it is legal for them to do so, why will every other developer not ask for the same? City staff may object to these requests, but I am sure this will not consume too much of their time to prepare their reports or use too much of the taxpayers MONEY to support this.

Perhaps developers will get to knock down EVERY building and replace it with 3X of its current size. (This might be a good way to get the BMR units to meet our new ABAG requirements.) Seems like good economics to me and will make the taxpayers MONEY. There are lots of cities where skyscrapers are torn down to be replaced by larger skyscrapers. Why not Palo Alto -- if it will make MONEY for developers and raise the tax base?


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Posted by Jeremy Loski
a resident of Ventura
on Sep 17, 2007 at 8:27 am

[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]
The problem here remains that a rerlative few "no growth" residents continue to maintain a stranglehold on new housing and commercial development here.

Didn't you say that 195 Page Mill should go to referendum? That's what I'm talking about.YOu mentioned that so blithly, as if it would cost nothing (not to mention community ferment, on a wide scale)

What Mr. Moss and his SMALL group has tried to force on our community is a place where there is no middle ground. It's their way or a bunch of lawsuits, which cost EVERYONE BUT MR. MOSS, MONEY.

[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

I showed the plan to a city planner friend of mine from Oregon the other day, and too her for a walk in the area of proposed development. She couldn't see what the big problem was, especially given the EXTREME limitations of the 195 Page Mill site (it backs up to the railroad tracks).

Sure, Mr. Holbach has not been easy to work with, but his designs passed muster every step of the way.

This is really all about the size of a project that some people on the other side of the tracks are very upset about. "Not in my vack yard" is what they're saying. [Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

I just walked throuhg the new development on El Camino and Arastradero yesterday. It's really beginning to take shape. It will be a very nice addition to our city, and do well to bring a bevy of great new residents to our city. It's too bad that the new residents there have had to plunk down 25& more than they would have, had development delay tactics not been used by some of the same folks that are holding up 195 Page Mill.

Our City Council, adapting to all this, isi beginning to see through the delay tactics brought by certain groups, and taking actions necessary to bypass them. [Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]




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Posted by Bill
a resident of Palo Verde
on Sep 17, 2007 at 8:40 am

J,L., what mechanism do you use to compress all the opponents of this project into a
"small group"? Or do you just count the posters here, and assume? If a proponent of the
project, which was just turned down by a judge, posts many times and at great length,
such as yourself, does that poster count as many souls all by himself?

Zoned Out has many good ideas.

Lots of posters have asked you questions about your statements, [portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff] and you don't answer. And yet you continue
with the energy for massive opinions.


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Posted by Jeremy Loski
a resident of Ventura
on Sep 17, 2007 at 9:07 am

I have been around for a long time, Bill, and know what I see when things like this come up. It's been the same group of about two dozen, who coalesce around this issue, and then use their knowledge of code to create mayhem.

They often collaborate with a few people froma various neighborhoods who dodn't want stuff in their back yard; thus, MONEY-WASTING and PEOPLE WASTING (i.e. time used by those who just want to live in a community that looks like it's going somewhere) efforts are born.

[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.] Watching Mr. Holbacj work through this (and, admittedly, he's not a saint) is something every Palo Altan should witness. The absolute level of civic harrassment brought down on developments in this city is nothing short of astounding.

[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

When trends start to turn against long-entrenched interests, one always see this sort of thing play out. It even gets a little worse, just before the world turns in a new direction.

[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


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Posted by Bill
a resident of Palo Verde
on Sep 17, 2007 at 9:49 am

In this case, the developer has cost himself, the city, and all of us money

Mr. Moss has stopped him. A judge has ratified Mr. Moss's suit. It makes you unhappy,
apparently mainly because there won't be as many customers for nearby merchants.

[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

I note you don't say the judge in the case is the one costing time and money. Again
I assert it was the developer and the city government that faltered, that Mr. Moss took
the time to ask for a judge's opinion, and he was upheld. A nation of laws.


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Posted by Jeremy Loski
a resident of Ventura
on Sep 17, 2007 at 10:31 am

Right, Bill, a nation of laws that can be manipulated to the detriment of others, depending on one's penchant to have one's way. The law is a tool that most often has little to do with justice. The latter isi too subjective to argue here.

Witness: GW Bush, as one extreme example. For a local example, we have those who use an in-depth knowledge of process to have their way, and COST us MONEY!

Most Palo Altans have been too busy earning a living to pay attention to municipal matters. That, in fact, is what most development groups, and anti-growthers, count on.

There's always a tension between those who want change, and those who don't. Within that universal scernario, there is a need for balance. Palo Alto has gotten out of balance in favor of a small group of residentialists who have been listened to, for years.

Palo Alto has only recenly found itself challenged - having had the luxury to be able to look past commercial development, and forward-looking housing development that would help guarantee a sustainable future - or working hard and heavy with regional neighbors to secure long term gains.

What helped Mr. Moss and his group gain itraction was the fact that Palo Alto was coasting on a prior success. Those days are over, as well as the days (even if we see an anti-growth voctory or two) when a few people can turn process on its head to have their way - and cause our citizens to lose hard-earned dollars.

[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.] Palo Alto and its neighbors will continue to grow; the main question is whether they will grow in sync with one another, and in ways that derive from the efficient scaling-in of smart growth urbanism. It's gonna happen, and anyone who thinks it isn't is whistling Dixie, or deluding themselves.

A few feel-good lawssuits won't stop growth, but it WILL enable developers to adapt in more robust ways.

[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


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Posted by Bob Moss
a resident of Barron Park
on Sep 17, 2007 at 11:40 am

The lawsuit which defeated the illegal approval of the ghastly project at 195 Page Mill upheld both the normal requirements for approving developments and rational development and planning. [Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

Here are some facts.

Judge Nichols correctly ruled that there were major violations of CEQA. The site is contaminated both by polluted groundwater and soil, a fact that has been know for more than 15 years. Approving a residential development over such a site is a clear danger to the health of occupants and requires corrective action. RWQCB identified the problems in a letter sent to the Council Nov. 20 and REQUIRED that Hohbach tell them how he would investigate the contamination and what he would propose to mitigate it. That letter REQUIRED the city to reopen the hearing on the Mitigated Negative Declaration and fully consider all environmental issues. They did not. Result was Judge Nichols ruling plus the finding that whatever is done at the site must be submitted to him for full review and his approval before it can proceed.

The project itself was 3 times the allowed size per the zoning, a massive building 59' high and 460' long. Planning staff hated it and strongly opposed the application. Hohbach avoided the normal process of going first to the Planning Commission and went to the ARB instead who have no role in discussing zoning and the lack of compliance of the project with the Comprehensive Plan and Zoning Ordinance. After several reviews of just the design they approved it at which time the Planning Director took the almost unprecedented step of rejecting it. Hohbach appealed to the City Council. His lawyer threatened to sue if the city rejected his appeal. The City Attorney was his usual ineffective self and cited SB1818, which was not the applicable law, instead of Government Code 65915 is what he should have referenced to justify granting concession for the development. Those concessions are not required by 65915 to violate zoning, but they do.

Hohbach insisted that he was entitled to a concession to allow housing in the GM zone which expressly forbids housing because he was including over 10% BMR units. He was offered housing under either the previous GM(B) zone or PTOD overlay both of which do allow housing but at lower densities. He refused. Note that City law REQUIRES 15% BMR units in the project, so Hohbach wanted to be allowed to violate the Comprehensive Plan and Zoning Ordinance for doing 50% less than city law REQUIRES regarding BMRs. He then played a charade with Bern Beecham who said if you increase the number of BMRs to 20% we have to give you 2 concessions, so Hohbach pretended to be reluctant and agreed to add 3 BMRs. Beecham then added the concession exceeding the allowable FAR. That was not required by 65915, it was purely an invention by Hohbach agreed to by 5 councilmembers. To see how much this violated the law and common sense read the Nov. 20 council minutes starting with John Barton's tirade. Judge Nichols decision on this issue said basically the Council can ignore it's own laws and regulations and approve projects that violate the Comprehensive Plan and Zoning Ordinance any time they want. Does that make everyone feel secure and wonderful?

The vacant lot that Jeremy Loski complains about is entirely Hohbach's choice. In July the day after the ARB approved his last submission of plans for the project he got a demolition permit and took down all of the buildings. While RWQBC agreed that some minor demolition might be needed to do the required soil and groundwater investigations, they did not want the entire site demolished, and were upset when Hohbach said in a letter June 4, 2007 there are no monitoring wells on the site. In fact there are 2 monitoring wells, and RWQB was so concerned that the demolition had been done without first notifying them or taking any efforts to protect the wells that they had an inspector go to the site at once and verify that fortunately the wells still are intact. Anyone who hates the vacant fields (I love the claim that because the buildings were demolished the area now will be overrun with vermin – more garbage from ___) can blame Hohbach.

As for the whining that the lawsuit will cost the city and we taxpayers money, more garbage. Hohbach is the Real Party at Interest and almost certainly will be the one required to pay legal costs. If it does cost the city anything, that is because the city attorney gave bad advice, the council caved to Hohbach's threats that he would sue if he didn't get all he asked for, and they did a lousy job by not complying with fundamental legal requirements, the Comprehensive Plan and Zoning Ordinance.

If it takes a long time to ever get anything built there, that is absolutely wonderful. Far better to have a vacant lot than the awful, ugly, oversized building that was proposed. The delays were not caused by Moss, or Jordan or the lawsuits, they are entirely the fault of Hohbach. After he got Council approval for the project he had to comply with the requirements from RWQCB and say what he planned to investigate on the site and how. As of Sept. 10, 2007, a full 10 months after council approval of his project, Hohbach had not submitted even a plan for doing any investigations to RWQCB. Despite this, and the explicit requirement by council that all RWQCB conditions had to be met before any building permit was issued Hohbach applied for a building permit in April when he first submitted the revised plans to the ARB. He also applied for a building permit again on August 23, ignoring again the explicit requirements by council.

Since May 2005 the project was always represented as rental housing but in June Hohbach asked the Planning Commission to merge lots and allow subdividing the site for 11 R&D condos and 84 housing condos. He submitted a letter dated May 12, 2005 that said he intended the project to be condos but would try to make them rentals, claiming proof that he always intended condos. Of course neither the ARB, any ARB member, or any staff person saw that May 12, 2005 letter until June 2007. Amazing isn't it. BTW, changing from rentals to condos would mean that the income of those in the BMR units would go from 40 – 60% of county average to 90-110% of count average, greatly changing the occupants. This last minute change in the BMR units was accurately described by Dreckmeir as "bait and switch". As a result Hohbach had to retract the request for condos and resubmit the lot combination request.

BTW, I notice that Jeremy Loski loves the new development at the old Hyatt Rickey's. He is only the 2nd person in town that I have heard say anything nice about it. Without exception everyone living near the site or even driving past ABSOLUTELY HATES IT!!! I must have had at least 40 people tell me how much they hate it – and they volunteer the opinions, I never ask for them. It is awful, big, ugly, too close to the street, exactly the wrong thing to put in Palo Alto and an fine example of why the movement to Urbanize El Camino is absolutely wrong and must be stopped.

There was a claim that if the development had gone ahead the city would reel in big tax $$. False. Every housing unit eats up between $1100 and $1200 more for city services than it pays in city property taxes, so that 84 unit development would cost the city budget almost $900,000/year more than it paid in property taxes. That doesn't count net cost to PAUSD which also would be significant.

[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


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Posted by Jeremy Loski
a resident of Ventura
on Sep 17, 2007 at 1:08 pm

OK, Let's look at Mr. Moss comments, one at a time.

He first gives himself away when he calls the project at 195 Page Mill Rd. "ghastly". This was the initial motivation that had a few residents in Professorville, not wanting to look at a building that is no taller than the "Danger, Inc." building, adjacent to 195.

In fact the judge has said NOTHING about any part of the process being illegal. He DID say that there was an oversight that renders the decision to approve the project, moot.

[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

Mr. Moss talks about "anonymous garbage" (even though it's accurate); "misinformation from the city attorney"; and, misguided votes of 5 councilmembers". Does anyone notice a pattern here? THis isn't the first time that Mr. Moss has done whatever he can to stall process. It's always "someone else" who is wrong, with no gray area for maneuver.

Yes, there was an environmental review oversight, and it SHOULD be cleared up. That's a good call, but that call is now going to be used as an attempt to further harass the developer, even after the conditions of the judge's order are met. Just wait, and see.

Mr Moss keeps harkening back to the size of the project (and alludes further on about the size of the Hyatt Rickey's site). I was in there yesterday; it's quite nice, with almost no noise form El Camino. The units are almost all presold, and one can imagine a nice community niche evolving from there. (I don't know who Mr. Moss is talking to, but most people that I speak with love the site, and once they walk inside, see the potential. [Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]
Notice Mr. Moss attacks on the city attorney, calling the latter his "usual ineffective self". How unfortunate.

Mr. Moss describes a tactic used by Mr. Holbach, to circumvent the planning commission. This is a good commission, but it's a gauntlet for developers who have to deal with the likes of Mr. Moss for EVERY project that gets approved here.

In all, the developer's maneuvers were LEGAL, albeit tricky. [Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

Notice how Moss ascribes intentions to Council member Bern Beecham's and Mr. Holbach's actions. [Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

I want Mr. Moss to tell me what legislative body doesn't bend rules, given certain situations. That property backs up to the RAILROAD TRACKS, Mr. Moss - would you open up that site to a less monolithic demeanor, thereby causing more noise and dirt pollution to circulate among residents as the train passes? [Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]
Mr. Moss says the vcant lot is Mr. Holbach's "fault". This is really strange, because as bad as the vacant lot is, the corrugated buildings there were a homeless and transient haven, with dirty needles strewn about, and unsavory characters about at all hours of the night. Of course, Mr. Moss doesn't live near that mess, nor fo those across the tracks in Professorville - why should they care?

That loy is vacant because Mr. Moss, rather than just being concerned about the environmental report (which, I agree, shuold be done) want to use the oversight that led to the environmental report not being done, to stop the project altogether.

Mr. Moss goes on to rationalize about how much money he is costing his fellow citizens by claiming that the developer will have to carry losses caused by the delay. This flies in the face of commercial reality, as additional costs will be borne by new residents that occupy whatever gets built on that site, inflated by 15% annual construction inflation.

[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

He goes on "Far better to have a vacant lot than the awful, ugly, oversized building that was proposed." - and AGAIN gives away the REAL reason why he went with the lawsuit that is COSTING our city, taxpayers, future residents, and merchants MONEY. He stopped this project because he doesn't like the way it looks!

Also, Mr. Holbach's decision to convert to condos most likely had to do with hearing that Google was moving in across the street. Gee, might it not have been a good idea to have people who were working at Google buying some of those condos, thus ameliorating the need to commute by car, and invest in their community? This is the sort of beyond-the-obvious thinking that never gets engaged by those who want to hold up growth in this city.

There is no gray area for them; either you do things their way, or they will use their knowledge of city process to stop you cold, until things are eventually worked out.

Mr. Moss, like Karen White's recent Weekly GO, goes on to rail about the cost of new housing in terms of the burden nthat it takes on infrastructure. What a sad argument in 21st century America - and in Silicon Valley, no less, where new residents are the life blood of our community, with all their intellectual and social diversity. This is the PERFECT NIMBY argument. "We can't have new residents, because they cost too much. Good studies are now showing how human capital far outweighs paper capital in municipal and private commercial value, by far. [Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


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Posted by Bill
a resident of Palo Verde
on Sep 17, 2007 at 1:43 pm

I think Mr. Moss scores on both winning the suit and recapitulating the events.


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Posted by Jeremy Loski
a resident of Ventura
on Sep 17, 2007 at 2:44 pm

Bill, about winning.

There is something called "winning at all costs" that is not winning at all; it rather bleeds into the territory of vengeful action that hursts all in its wake.

Mr. Moss says:""If it takes a long time to ever get anything built there, that is absolutely wonderful" Think about that, and what it will cost our merchants, future residents, and taxpayers.

I would have recapitulated the events the same way as Mr. Moss, without the conspiratorial projections and claims of incompetence that Mr. Moss attributes to those that disgree with him.

In fact, Mr. Moss has won a temporary battle, but he's going to lose the war.

Mr. Holbach's property backs up to RAILROAD tracks. He wants to maximize his property;s use by putting badly needed, small R&D space in at ground level, with apartments or condos on top, along with some BMR units.

The project is well landscaped, and provides a nice counterweight to the Agilent building across the street, as well as its neighbor, the Danger building on one side, and what may very well be our new public safety building on the other.

Imagine an open, rambling, development on that space, of the size that Mr. Moss prefers. It woudl be dwarfed by its neighbors, and be the only small project on that part of Park Blvd. - completely out of place, and weirdly off-balance. Of course, people would still buy in, because Palo Alto is a desirable place.

However, smaller means FAR more costly for future residents, as there would not be anough business or residential units to leverage the investor's investment.

None of this is considered by Mr. Moss.

It's interesting that this project passed the Architectual Commission, with one member, and architect praising the plan.

But Mr. Moss and his group know better, so they sued - and after the environmental report is in, and the judge is satisfied, Mr. Moss will no doubt enter another stage of delay enabled by his encyclopedic knowledge of howo our city operates.

In the meantime, Palo Alto tacxpayers, California Ave, merchants, and future merchants will foot the bill.

[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

I spoke to merchant who was in her office on Park Blvd, yesterday; she was doing paperwork. She has followed this closely, and is appalled not so much at the judge's decision, but that our city would let small groups control the destiny of entire neighborhoods this way.

She pointed me to some buildings on El Camino that were developed about 3-4 years ago, adjacent to Fuki Suchi. There's a Starbucks in the most front-facing building, but the rear spaces have gone unoccupied for YEARS! they're brand new.

This is the legacy that people like Mr. Mmoss bring when they argue for personal preferences that have nothing to do with the context of building site considerations, or hard-nosed business considerations.

Instead, we see small Palo Alto groups arguing for some unobtainable utopian aesthetic, no matter the building site, and no matter what it costs OTHERS for the former to have their way. It's a shame, a waste of public process, and partly the fault of former leaders in Palo Alto who didn't have the sense to say "we've heard enough", and then get on with building our city to sustainable levels, one housing and commercial development - with embedded mass transport - at a time.

Those developments will be inhabited by smart, successful residents who will make our community more diverse, and richer.

[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

Palo Altans certainly don't want to go the way of some communities that have urbanized, willy-nilly. But they DO want an active, diverse community that is large enough to sustain itself. That the very sustaining growth that keeps cities alive should be denigrated by the no-growthers here, is unfortunate.



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Posted by Ken
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Sep 17, 2007 at 3:00 pm

Jeremy,

Are you, as some have asserted, a California Ave. business owner?

Bob Moss seems to know who you are. Is he correct?

I am a proud NIMBY, with respect to BMRs, but I am pro-development on many other issues...it is not an all-or-none position.

As an aside, Jeremy, do you even begin to comprehend how much the ground water environmental regs cost us? In case nobody understands, we do NOT drink ground water, nor do we water our yards with it. An underground groundwater "toxic" plume, in PA, is about as dangerous to us as hummmingbird. The purpose of bringing forth the groundwater contamination issue is to BLOCK DEVELOPMENT. Jeremy, you seem to buy into it BIG TIME!

Who is the REAL Jeremy? I don't care about your actual name, but I am just trying to understand the reasons for your expressed stance.


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Posted by Bill
a resident of Palo Verde
on Sep 17, 2007 at 3:26 pm

Jeremy, Mr. Moss lives in PA, as you note (Barron Park), not near the subject site. He is by
definition not a Nimby, unless you really expand the definition. He sees the project as
bad for PA in the long run. He is one of a huge group that doesn't like its size, its cost to
the city, its potentially contaminated ground, its failure to be properly vetted by city
management, the developer tactics. By contrast, you are concerned about it as a source of
revenue for nearby merchants. It now appears you may be one member of that small group.


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Posted by Jeremy Loski
a resident of Ventura
on Sep 17, 2007 at 3:35 pm

Bill. Like I said before. the future is on the side of Palo Alto growing - not Mr. Moss and your delay tactics.

I look forward to construction on that site getting a thumbs up within the next several months. In the meantime, you might speak to Mr. Moss, and tell him to worry about his own back yard, we can do without his "help" in the California Ave, district.

In the meantime, Neighbors across the tracks from that vacant lot will suffer through the winter with a real mess on their hands, including more derelicts to watch out for.

[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


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Posted by Bill
a resident of Palo Verde
on Sep 17, 2007 at 4:40 pm

Jeremy, I didn't create the "mess" at the site. Nor did you, or Mr Moss. The developer did.
Time-honored tactic; Make it ugly, so some people say they can't bear looking at it any longer. As at Alma Plaza. ...... As for Mr Moss's "back yard" and "we can do without his help in the California Ave. district," it seems some of us who love PA and want
its future to be good, are being excluded in this case if we're not Cal. Av. residents/merchants/ other business person. Is that part of your philosophy???


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Posted by Jeremy Loski
a resident of Ventura
on Sep 17, 2007 at 5:09 pm

[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

My philosphy? if you're a NIMBY, stay out of MY back yard.

That said, I understand that everyone in all of this is well-meaning, but I draw the line at the disingenuous tactics that some are using to hold our city hostage, or to insinuate that new residents are a burden that the rest of us have to pay for (and use lawsuits to keep the latter from coming here, by limiting housing).

How about have ing a chat with Mr. Moss and convincing him to go to work on inter-regional transport, or cooperative, inter-regional service sharing? How about cooperative efforts to plan infill housing, among municipalities in ithe region. Whoo's going to lead those efforts? THOSE are the efforts that matter, not these parochial squabbles to stop the inevitable.

FUD about how new residents are a burden, without the slightest effort to invent ways - with the jelp of those new residents - to decrease impact, are NIMBYIST to the core.

All I've seen lately - and unfortunately - from too many local leaders, is a penchant for blaming our troubles on people who don't even live here, yet.

These critics need to look in the mirror, and then turn away to look at the horizon - - the latter is much more expansive.


Ken, I would rather err on the side of health, instead of contributing to a carcinoma in some 5-year-old kid. YUO may think about it differently. If you want to label yuor position as what represents the true "elite' around here, so be it. Holbach needs to do that environmental review, and then get on with building his structrure, as planned.

Anyone who gets in the way of the development fromm that point on shuold be counter0sued by Mr. Holbach and any developer association that want to join. Perhaps a little LOSS of money in these suit-happy plaintiffs will put the fear of Ra into them.


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Posted by Ken
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Sep 17, 2007 at 5:42 pm

"Ken, I would rather err on the side of health, instead of contributing to a carcinoma in some 5-year-old kid."

Jeremy, you amuse me. You want development, as I do, yet you buy into the scare tactics of the anti-development crowd. Have you even thought about the number of potential carcinogens that are part of modern building materials? Of course, they do not outgas at a level that is statistically important, in terms of carcinogenicity...and neither do ground water toxins (in fact, much less).

Jeremy, you keep saying you are looking over the horizon, but I don't see it. It sounds to me like you are financially connected to California Ave. Am I wrong? Do you actually LIVE in Palo Alto? Do you have kids? If so, where did/do they go to school. What neighborhood do you live in? [Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


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Posted by Jeremy Loski
a resident of Ventura
on Sep 17, 2007 at 9:39 pm

Ken,let's just say that environmental considerations are more important than you appear to think. Parts-per-million or billion are high exposures at certain early ages of development.

The bottom line is that the CEQA is law, and must be adhered to - like it or not. You may not like this law; if you don't work to change it.

There are many kinds of pro-development stances; some are more interested in environmental sutainability than others. Color me an environmentally concerned, pro-development, and pro infill - with a need to better integrate more housing and mass transit.


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Posted by Annie O.
a resident of Professorville
on Sep 19, 2007 at 12:25 am

thank you, Bob Moss, for all you did to keep this monstrosity out of our neighborhood.
Sometimes I get very tired of the California Ave merchants whose only motivation seems to be greed. They don't care about the neighborhood and the neighbors who support their businesses - they go home at 6 o'clock.


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Posted by Bob Moss
a resident of Barron Park
on Sep 21, 2007 at 5:01 pm

I am amused by "Jeremy Loski, a resident of the Ventura neighborhood" [portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff] who complains when a member of the public takes the time, effort and expense to remind the Council and developers that there are rules to follow, everyone is supposed to play the game the same way, and there can be penalties for failing to play fair. That is exactly what our lawsuit showed.

The project proposed was indeed GHASTLY. That isn't just my opinion, it the opinion of dozens of neighbors, including severl who live within a few blocks of the project between park and El Camino and who spoke out against it, plus dozens of Emersonians who spoke against it repeatedly. Staff opposed it because among other things it would have been both longer and taller than 800 High.

As for the ARB approval, that was forced because the Council, when it approved the project Nov. 20, 2006 allowed Hohbach to ignore 9 ot 11 standard requirements for development including setbacks, daylight plane, encrochments, and of course FAR and height. Since the Council allowed all of these evasions of normal design and develkopment the ARB couldn't prohibit them. BTW, the ARB did in fact hate the project and the members said so repeatedly. [Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

As for the eventual outcome of the project, the current proposal has almost non chance of beiong approved. Hohbach burned all his bridges to the Council with his [portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff] attempt to replace rentals with condos. While Judge Nichols agreed Coucnil can ignore the Comprehensive Plan and Zoning Ordinance if it wishes, this project has left such a bad taste in their mouths there is no incentive for them to look bad and do so again.

Finally, when something does return for review and approval, it will certainly require a FULL EIR. The public safety site across Page Mill is undergoing just such an EIR, and that is a non-residential use. RWQCB indicated that they should have asked for an EIR in their letter of Nov. 20, so when it returns they also will ask for one. The final Writ allows Palo Alto until August 31, 2008 to respond to Judge Nichols request for a submittal of verification that they are following CEQA (at the city's request). That means no project will be ready for actual review and approval for at least 18, probably 24 months. If "Jeremy Loski" thinks in the end the project will be very similar to what was stopped, he had better think again. Despite his claims, I win far more than I lose, and the eventual development on the site will look far more like a PTOD project than anything Hohbach has ever proposed.


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Posted by Envronmentalist in Mountain View
a resident of Mountain View
on Sep 21, 2007 at 10:48 pm

"SMART GROWTH" is a MYTH.

People who spread this lie have no jurisdiction over privately held, rural land. They can NOT stop rural land from being developed by its owners - look at Gilroy and Hollister - their populations will be exploding very soon.

What parcel of land will be saved if 195 Page Mill is overdeveloped? I'd love to see the direct link and proof.

Other towns and cities in Calfornia are starting to have growth control measures - such as Tracy. I hope a citizen's group will form here - to do a growth control initiative.

It costs a city more to build new housing than it recoups in taxes - sewer, roads, schools, police, fire, etc.

Thank you so much to Bob Moss and Tom Jordon for taking on the 5 councilmembers who have no respect for the law - may none of them ever be re-elected for anything.




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Posted by which 5
a resident of Barron Park
on Sep 22, 2007 at 12:38 am

Can someone name the 5 councilmembers who voted for this?


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Posted by Trying to grasp the basics
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 22, 2007 at 8:03 am

Do I understand this argument to be, " the future is on the side of Palo Alto growing" so we should accelerate our growth?

More people, more money, bigger buildings, more traffic, more noise, more crime, more problems with corner cases on laws, customs - not everyone thinks these are good things. In fact, many don't like them.

Add in the burden (that our city seems unable to bear) of increased education, fire, police, and other requirements. Even if overcrowding is inevitable, why would anyone want to accelerate it?

If "the future is on the side of Palo Alto growing" why wouldn't we work all the harder to ensure the city is ready for that growth before it happens?

I suppose the developer or others who gain, but have no particular interest in the well being of the city, would want it.


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Posted by Three cheers
a resident of Monroe Park
on Sep 23, 2007 at 6:52 pm

The 5 council members who voted to let this project go through are
Klein, Beecham, Drekmeier, Cordell and Morton.

Interestingly there is a Youtube on the web with Kleinberg
stating her reasons for voting against it even though as she says,
she thinks we need more housing. Web Link


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