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Foes of Maybell development shift focus from project site

Original post made on Aug 29, 2013

Palo Alto's most controversial housing development of the moment would occupy a nondescript orchard site in the Green Acres neighborhood, but the escalating battle over the proposal has already spilled over to just about every section of the city.


Read the full story here Web Link posted Thursday, August 29, 2013, 9:14 AM

Comments (50)

Posted by A, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Aug 29, 2013 at 10:24 am

I can not help but come to the conclusion that corruption on the part of city officials is involved here.


Posted by good grief, a resident of Midtown
on Aug 29, 2013 at 11:32 am

[Portion removed.]
75% of this land is zoned to allow development to the density of the former Hyatt Rickey's site on El Camino or the former Lucky's site on Alma. Such development would provide the developers much more return on investment, and give the neighborhood the traffic they say they oppose. Yet they continue to argue this matter to the point that all of us are now paying for a special election, which if they win will give all of us a less happy solution.


Posted by Midtown, a resident of Midtown
on Aug 29, 2013 at 11:48 am

Don't forget 27 University is coming down the pike. Time to send a message or Palo Alto is going to be mini LA.


Posted by Wondering?, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 29, 2013 at 11:50 am

The City Attorney works for the City Council, not the people of Palo Alto.

How can anything that the City Attorney does be considered "impartial" when dealing with a citizens ballot initiative to overturn a Council decision?


Posted by curmudgeon, a resident of Downtown North
on Aug 29, 2013 at 12:07 pm

Gang

Stop whining and start hammering the city about its unfair advantage during the campaign. Make the ballot wording a major issue.


Posted by A neighbor and parent, a resident of Green Acres
on Aug 29, 2013 at 12:10 pm

[Post removed.]


Posted by A neighbor and parent, a resident of Green Acres
on Aug 29, 2013 at 12:35 pm

@curmudgeon,

You are absolutely right. The biased ballot language is a real problem.

The City has been a party to this dispute from the start, with significant conflicts of interest. City staff have acted as advocates for the rezoning, including the City Attorney's office.

When citizens qualify a referendum, it is a democratic check and balance on City power. How is it then that the City gets to write the ballot question and "impartial analysis"?

The ballot question asks if the zoning should remain the previous designation, or be Planned Community in order to build senior affordable housing, making it seem like if people don't pass the rezoning, senior affordable housing couldn't be built there, which is completely untrue and misleading.

Senior affordable housing could be built there, and with the neighborhood's blessing, if the City hadn't required the restrictive financing scheme - required by the ordinance - in order to pay less for the units at Maybell than at the new development on Alma. Most of the burdens opposed by the neighborhood flow from the FINANCING SCHEME, which ends up necessitating the dense market-rate housing, the ultra-dense main building, traffic exiting on Maybell, etc. That financing scheme isn't even mentioned in the "impartial analysis", while an electric vehicle charging station is!

Neighbors have accomplished a lot because they care about Palo Alto and they understand more than anyone else the problems in the neighborhood, especially ensuring the safety of schoolchildren on an already overburdened street of seriously substandard width. But it's a very grassroots effort. They really only have whatever funds have come from passing the hat.

Rubber meets the road? We need $15,000 to take the ballot bias issue to court. A win on that issue could provide a roadmap for other neighborhood groups around the Peninsula to pursue their own fights against City Hall. It's completely anti-democratic for City's to be able to completely thwart citizens' right to initiative and referendum as a check and balance to City power, by the City being able to, literally, write their own election results. This is in my opinion why the High Street referendum lost, because the ballot question, written by the City attorney, was written to produce a decision for the City. It did the same thing as the Maybell question: It said, essentially, should we rezone to put this really great sounding thing there, yes? (The alternative was not spelled out.)

The Measure D ballot question makes it seem as if citizens are deciding whether senior housing can be built on that property or not, and that's misleading, since nearly as much senior housing could be built there under existing zoning, and more with the neighborhood's blessing if it was just even a little closer to the existing zoning. Measure D is not about whether senior housing can be built there or not, it's about whether the City can seriously violate existing zoning rules in order to pay a lot less for the senior units than they did elsewhere recently.

[Portion removed.]


Posted by A neighbor and a parent, a resident of Green Acres
on Aug 29, 2013 at 12:37 pm

[Post removed.]


Posted by A neighbor and a parent, a resident of Green Acres
on Aug 29, 2013 at 12:38 pm

[Post removed.]


Posted by A neighbor and parent, a resident of Green Acres
on Aug 29, 2013 at 12:58 pm

[Post removed.]


Posted by A neighbor and parent, a resident of Green Acres
on Aug 29, 2013 at 1:00 pm

[Post removed.]


Posted by A neighbor, a resident of Barron Park
on Aug 29, 2013 at 2:09 pm

I read Molly Stump's, the City Attorney, "impartial analysis of Measure D" and was very surprised that she made no mention of the funds that the city loaned to PAHC. The City has loaned them $7.3 million. The City's financial participation in this deal is of interest to the voter in evaluating this measure.

Secondly, PAHC itself calls the development "Maybell Orchard Senior Apartments." Ms. Stump calls it senior housing which will mislead the reader into thinking that this is some kind of a senior community with food service and medical assistance.

Thirdly, there is no mention of the fact that this development is subsidized heavily by the taxpayer. The large scale of the subsidies by the state and the federal government as mentioned in the PAHC grant application are not mentioned in her "impartial Analysis." The voter, being the taxpayer, has every right to know that this project is very heavily subsidized by him/her.

Forthly, Ms. Stump speaks of PC zoning in such prejudiced positive manner that will be misleading to those who don't know about it. The "substantial" public benefits to the neighborhood are never evaluated in the context of the trade offs, they are just repeated from PAHC's list. A staff report1 dated 6/10/2013 explicitly mentions that PAHC needs this very high density, only achievable through PC zoning, to be competitive in their tax credit application. Ms. Stump never explains to the public that this PC zoning is used by PAHC to extract more tax credits from the state and federal governments without regards to the cost of higher density in the neighborhood.

Finally she makes no mention of how few(42) parking spots this apartment rental complex has relative to the potential 100+ people who will live in it. She makes no mention of the fact that this site is 1.5 miles from the closest grocery store or any Medical facility.


Posted by NO growth proponent, a resident of Downtown North
on Aug 29, 2013 at 2:16 pm

Time to send the city a message. NO more PC developments. STOP overbuilding and destroying quality of life. Establish Palo Alto as a city focused on no growth and sustainability. Moving forward as a city we need to focus on quality of living, making our city sustainable and able to meet the needs of residents (for water, clean air, transportation). We should have limits to population growth and set a positive example for how a no growth policy can lead to a balanced and well functioning city. Growth is not good, eventually you run out of everything.


Posted by Save our town, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Aug 29, 2013 at 4:19 pm

Who decides which citizen comments are deleted from the comments section? The biased newspaper staff, pressure from town officials, people who just complain to the newspaper? Who? I'm suspicious.


Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 29, 2013 at 5:49 pm

[Post removed due to same poster using multiple names]


Posted by Town Square Moderator, online staff of Palo Alto Online
on Aug 29, 2013 at 6:11 pm

Town Square Moderator is a registered user.

Save our town,

Posts are removed by one of the several people on our staff who moderate the forum. Some are removed after a reader has submitted a report notifying us of objectionable content; others are removed as we come across posts violating our terms of use. The fact someone submits an objection does not influence our judgment, it just causes us to look at the comment so we can make a determination. The number of times a comment is objected to also makes no difference to us, so there is no benefit to sending repeated reports of "objectionable content."

With the volume of commenting on Town Square, moderation is time consuming and it is unfortunately impossible to explain the reasons for each deletion. Most comments are removed because the post is disrespectful toward another poster and clearly not adhering to our guidelines asking for civil dialogue. In the case of the posts removed in this particular thread, the same poster made repetitive comments and copied comments he or she had already made on another thread.

Under no circumstances do we remove posts because of their substantive content or point of view. If a comment is directed toward the issue under discussion rather than the people in the discussion, it is very unlikely to pose a problem unless it is repetitive, making a known false assertion, or is from a poster trying to dominate the discussion.

Hope that helps a bit.


Posted by Cedric de La Beaujardiere, a resident of Barron Park
on Aug 30, 2013 at 1:31 am

Cedric de La Beaujardiere is a registered user.

I am a resident of Barron Park and I support Yes on D, to enable affordable senior housing and 12 market rate single-family homes. I hope that as people get past the hype and learn the facts they will support this project. To that end, below are my corrections to the many misleading and innacurate statements I have seen on the forums. I am not an official spokesperson, and people may want to check out the city's FAQ: Web Link

1) Residents are concerned about the size of the development and its traffic impacts on Maybell. But if project opponents defeat measure D, then the development permitted under current zoning is likely to have a much larger traffic impact.

(Relevant to the following simple math are the Zoning rules: Web Link with concise table: Web Link, and a pdf with dimensions of lots 108 & 109: Web Link, lot 109 is 1.84 acres == 80,150.4 sq.ft.)

Here are the facts about the current zoning: The larger 1.84 acre portion of the Maybell/Clemo site is zoned RM-15, meaning 15 "units" per acre of multifamily residential apartments. So on that part of the site alone, 1.84 acres * 15 units/acre = 27 units (up to 37 if a certain percentage are low income). Applying the existing zoning to that site, with a bit of rudimentary geometry & math, shows that it is imminently doable to fit 27 appartments within the allowed area, setbacks, height, and daylight plane. Further, the allowable total floor area is 40,075 sq.ft., divided by 27 units gives 1,484 sq.ft. per apartment (including common areas), which is comparable to my house of 1,500 sq.ft. (including the garage) with 3.5 bedrooms.

So what do you think will generate more traffic: 60 tiny one-bedroom apartments for low-income seniors, or 27-37 three- or four-bedroom apartments for families?

2) [Portion removed] has repeatedly claimed that the higher impact development allowed by current zoning somehow won't manifest itself, so we shouldn't worry about the consequences of a No vote. She has made 3 cases for this. First she argued that it just isn't possible to build 27 units on the larger site, but my simple math and geometry above debunk that claim. Second, her latest claim is that no developer would build out to the maximum allowed by zoning, because they could make more money by building fewer, larger units. If that were the case, wouldn't most developers be doing that? When and where, in the last 50 or so years, has ANY developer NOT built the maximum number of units they could fit on a parcel? Her claim is simply not supported by any evidence. Third, she says that if D fails, Council can buy the property, limit its development potential through deed restrictions, and sell it back to the market. Her argument fails to acknowledge that land value is tied to its development potential, and such a transaction would lose the city money. If what the neighbors want is downzoning from the current zoning, that's what they should have put on the ballot, instead of this ill-concieved referendum.

3) Not all "units" are created equal. Zoning refers to housing "units", not bedrooms, which are a more accurate barrometer of how many people might actually live in a home. So a tiny 600 sq.ft, 1-bedroom apartment is called a "unit", but so is a large, 1,400 sq.ft 4-bedroom apartment. The PAHC proposal permitted by Measure D will have 61 bedrooms in the senior unit, combined with 12 houses at ~3.5 bedrooms each give about 103 bedrooms in the PAHC proposal. Under existing zoning, the two sites can accomodate 34-45 units, so let's conservatively say 34 units at 3.5 bedrooms, that's 119 bedrooms, or 16% more bedrooms under current zoning, than what would be allowed by measure D.

4) Since anonymous posters complain of the density of 60 one-bedroom units on 1.1 acres, and also mischaracterize the market rate houses as "upzoning", it is only fair to point out that, of the 1.84 acres currently zoned as RM-15, Measure D essentially down-zones 40% of the lot from APARTMENTS to HOUSES and a shared road. That's how Measure D gives us houses on Clemo instead of an apartment building.

The portion with four ranch homes along Maybell is currently zoned R-2. R-2 permits two housing units on each lot, so even under current zoning it appears 8 homes would be permitted on those 4 lots. Measure D would have 7 houses on Maybell, with part of the higher RM-15 zone given over to the single-family Maybell lots.

5) Anonymous posters have misleadingly characterized the senior apartment building as being "in the middle of an R-1 neighborhood". It is in fact jammed into the corner of the large lot furthest from the R1, immediately next to an existing 8-story apartment building and a row of 3-story apartment buildings.

6) The so called "50-foot building" is actually a mostly 45-foot building with a tiny part, the top of the elevator shaft, if I recall correctly, at 50'. The wing closest to the R1 areas is actually less than 45', at only 1.5 & 3 stories (see the image attached to this article).

7) People concerned about government spending on social needs may appreciate this project's innovative funding mechanisms to use market forces to pay for affordable housing. The independent non-profit Palo Alto Housing Corporation (PAHC), bought the property, and plans to sell a sizable chunk of that property to a private developer to build market-rate homes. This will pay for a big chunk of the cost of the project, and significantly eliminates the need of direct government funding to address this social need. While the city did loan PAHC money to purchase the property, keep in mind that this is a loan and will be paid back. Further, the project is designed to be financially self-sufficient, paying for the mortgage, maintenance and senior services through the rent paid by resident seniors. The low income units will subsidize the ultra-low income units. So, the only on-going government subsidy, if any, might be a reduced property tax collected from the senior portion of the site, assuming such a reduction is planned (Some say it is, I don't know if it is or not).

8) There is this mistaken or misleading statement that PAHC could just build the affordable senior housing within existing zoning without the market rate homes, and somehow all the finances would just work out. In fact, the affordable senior project can not pay for itself without the 12 market rate houses to defray the cost. Further, if there were only 45 units not 60 (to fit within current zoning), there would not be enough low-income units to subsidize the ultra-low income units, the economies of scale would not exist, and the project would not be viable.

9) While in general it may be a good idea to mix income levels throughout a community, it makes sense to group affordable senior housing together in one building, so that resources like visiting nurse, shuttles to shopping/doctors, community rooms, a community of peers, social and other services can be shared. Here there is the opportunity that seniors could get involved with the school nearby for great inter-generational activities.

I am a private citizen, a resident of this neighborhood, and I am neither paid nor coerced to support this great project. My support for this project stems from an ethic of helping those in need, and my belief that it will have less impact on the neighborhood than what is likely under current zoning. My commitment to truth and accuracy drive me to speak up because of all the misinformation promulgated by anonymous posters. I post under my real name because I am proud to speak truthfully and politely.

I hope Palo Alto will join me in voting Yes on D.


Posted by Neighbor, a resident of Green Acres
on Aug 30, 2013 at 8:49 am

Moderator:why let Cedric dominate the conversation (across the threads), and not let those from the neighbrhood present the neighborhood view? Sheesh!


Posted by Voter, a resident of Professorville
on Aug 30, 2013 at 8:54 am

The city is trying to rig this election to cover the 7.3M they invested in the project already in the form of a super low interest loan to PAHC. 5.8M of this they told the taxpayers about, and 1.5M they sneaked in via some backdoor.

A No vote on Measure D sends the city council a multi-part message:

1. Backroom deals with developers and pre-determined public show-trials will not be tolerated. The citizens of PA deserve better and cannot be counted on to look the other way.

2. Upzoning residential neighborhoods should not be done by steamrolling neighborhood feedback.

3. Endangering a "safe route to school" will not be tolerated (seriously, who does a traffic study on a "safe route to school" and pretends bikes and pedestrians don't exist?)

These are challenging times and we can't afford to have such a low-capability council steering the ship.

Does anyone approve of hiring a PR officer at a cost of over 200K per year to the citizens of the city?

I'm happily voting NO on D, and I thank the residents who gathered the signatures to give me the opportunity.


Posted by A neighbor and parent, a resident of Green Acres
on Aug 30, 2013 at 9:00 am

Proponents [portion removed] keep flogging the idea that somehow the existing LOW DENSITY zoning will have a greater impact than a HIGH DENSITY rezone that gives us two homes for every one there now, and a 50-foot, four-story building with only 47 parking spots for residents, employees, visitors, and aidses/nursing for the seniors.

Where are the cars going to go? This neighborhood cannot absorb them, especially since part of the plan is to forbid parking on Maybell by PAHC's existing property where that property's overflow parking goes since they don't have enough parking, either. (I wonder if they realize the driveway for the new development us going to elimnate some of their on-site parking, too.)


Posted by Voter, a resident of Professorville
on Aug 30, 2013 at 9:07 am

"My commitment to truth and accuracy drive me to speak up because of all the misinformation promulgated by anonymous posters."

Cedric:

Although I disagree with just about all of your [portion removed] points, I'll focus on a single point: your commitment to truth and accuracy seems to have a few selective blind spots.

You didn't mention that PAHC and the city misrepresented the zoning status to the State in their tax credit application. As a responsible taxpayer, I don't want my $7.3M being used to back a developer that makes fraudulent claims to try to secure tax credits, because if and when the State gets wise and the tax credit application is not successful, I'm left with $7.3M invested in a non-viable project.

Worse though, is that this sort of backroom dealing completely undermines the democratic process, and should not be tolerated.


Posted by A neighbor and parent, a resident of Green Acres
on Aug 30, 2013 at 9:12 am

Cedric,
When people talk about concentrating affordable housing through this development, which s against HUD policy, they mean the siting of a new large development next to an EXISTING PAHC low-income development. This is unprecedented in Palo Alto, and no analysis of why this going against decades of research on what works for affordable housing has been done. The public deserves this information, as do the future residents.


Posted by palymom, a resident of Downtown North
on Aug 30, 2013 at 9:26 am

"Nondescript orchard" says it all. Talk about reporter bias!


Posted by Don Anderson, a resident of Barron Park
on Aug 30, 2013 at 9:41 am

I am a resident of Barron Park who enthusiastically supports Measure D. I live on the same block as the proposed project for low income seniors. I believe it will be a boon to our neighborhood, and will cause fewer ill effects than any likely alternative. It is a very poor and misleading strategy to use this project as a symbol of "out of control high density development" in Palo Alto. I cannot make the case any better than has Cedric, so I refer to his remarks. I too am proud to use my real name to support this planned project.


Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 30, 2013 at 9:56 am

I am very disturbed by this, partly because of the lack of traffic on a school commute corridor reasons, but also because it means that wherever a couple of homes next door to each other are up for sale, then a developer can come in and decide to raze the homes, get zoning change, and put in multiple homes with no setbacks, no consideration for sunlight planes, and no consideration to the neighborhood.

If this goes through, we will potentially have repeat performances wherever two lots are up for sale at the same time. This should be worrying to everyone.

I say let the ranch homes be sold as individual homes in the free market and let the orchard be sold as green space.

Keep what we have left of Palo Alto residential neighborhoods the way they are. If we have to build these sorts of developments, do them where they make sense.

All the old dilapidated buildings around San Antonio/Charleston where Western Marine used to be would be a suitable place and we could still put in some decent, affordable retail there too.


Posted by musical, a resident of Palo Verde
on Aug 30, 2013 at 10:36 am

It's easier to use a real name when aligning with government and financial clout than it is when crossing them. The occupy movement had their guy fowkes masks. Perhaps we should do away with secret ballots and identify the person casting each Yes or No vote on Measure D.


Posted by A neighbor, a resident of Barron Park
on Aug 30, 2013 at 11:00 am

Cedric,

Your blanket support of PAHC's method of financing this project is troublesome. You discuss an "innovative" method of financing. If I could also have the City Council vote to change the zoning of my house so I could build let's say a second 5 story apartment building on my lot, I would be able to finance my house purchase in a very "innovative" manner.

Analogous to the law of conservation of matter one understands that you can't make money out of thin air. Some thing has to give. When the 12 market rate houses are packed into such a small amount of land you are asking the neighborhood to pay for it. Is this really "innovation?"

Looking at PAHC's tax credit application you see that they had to design this project this way in order to get points that help them to be competitive. It is a really bad location for low income senior housing so they lose points on that. But they get points by having the 60 high density units. They cheat and say they are within .9 miles of a medical clinic, Planned Parenthood. They get points for having gotten so much money out of the City and so on.

If you add up all the Federal and State subsidies it is a lot more expensive than just handing the seniors some allowance to pay for their rent at an apartment complex. Imagine if the government made grocery stores specifically for low income people, instead of giving out food stamps.

Few people are questioning the sanity of building low income housing. As soon as the words low income and non-profit are uttered well meaning people are sold without any further analysis or questioning. It is sad because political correctness leads to worse solutions for the people who need the help and higher expenses for the tax payers.



Posted by YES on D, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 30, 2013 at 11:07 am

I plan to vote Yes on D, but I will not post my name because the tone of previous postings feels deliberately threatening and disrespectful of anyone who might support this view.

I have independently read the traffic studies, visited the site (because my family uses Maybell) and sorted through the current zoning issues which, I have to say, took some time to understand.

I will vote YES on D.


Posted by Timothy Gray, a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Aug 30, 2013 at 11:10 am

Cedric stated it well. It is all about money.

Raising a little extra money to support affordable senior housing by rezoning some private land to higher density may not sound so terrible on the surface of it.

But at what cost? The unresolved traffic mess on Maybell is the last place we can allow extra congestion. When the truth is exposed, we can clearly see that we are simply putting a price on the safety of school children.

How is affordable housing subsidized? Tax credits from the State and Federal Government AND cash from the City's low income housing fund. In one case downtown, Palo Alto kicked in a piece of City-owned land to make affordable housing feasible. That's how it works.

That background is needed to understand that the upzoning of the private market land is simply about putting zoning up for sale.

But before we put a "for sale sign" on our zoning, which has served to protect our quality of life, and moderate traffic congestion, perhaps the Maybell project should look to other sources. If the City provided this project with proportional funds as the recent downtown projects, much of the private upzoning would not be needed. If PAHC recycled some of its funds from the tremendous increase in the value of its real estate portfolio, or increased funds from the conversion of old projects to market rates, the density and 3 story stack and pack proposal would not be needed.

You see, three parties came to the table and only the neighborhood is being asked to pay.

Since we are clear this about money, using the it's OK to use "Zoning For Sale" logic, we might as well sell a little park land. Sell a little of the bay lands. Sell some of the airport land. Auction off the right to build higher density four story mansions to some tech billionaires in Old Palo Alto. Allowing our community and quality of life to be eroded by the "Salami Effect" -- one slice at a time.

Of course I am presenting nonsensical scenarios, however it does serve to expose the equal absurdity of the Measure D rezoning and how it is auctioning off for money important zoning measures that are a binding covenant with our civic officials.

Only Measure D is worse, as it puts a price on the safety of children traveling an already congested area in a City-designated "safe route to school."

My plea to everyone is to see behind the deception that the rezoning is needed for affordable senior housing.

Respectfully, I am voting AGAINST Measure D.

Tim Gray (Father of three Children that rely on that Safe Route to School.)


Posted by Town Square Moderator, online staff of Palo Alto Online
on Aug 30, 2013 at 11:25 am

Town Square Moderator is a registered user.

The following comment was moved from a duplicate posting:

"Foes of Maybell development shift focus away from project" The text of this article bears no resemblance to the title.
by journalism? Aug 30, 2013 at 8:20 am


Posted by A neighbor and parent, a resident of Green Acres
on Aug 30, 2013 at 11:35 am

[Post removed.]


Posted by Always Pro developers?, a resident of Barron Park
on Aug 30, 2013 at 11:36 am

[Post removed.]


Posted by A neighbor and parent, a resident of Green Acres
on Aug 30, 2013 at 11:46 am

"There is this mistaken or misleading statement that PAHC could just build the affordable senior housing within existing zoning "

So, you're saying that PAHC can only build affordable housing if it so seriously violates residential neighborhoods that even RM-40 won't suffice (as the ordinance outlines)? (I think the history of affordable development in Palo Alto refutes that, but if it's true, other neighborhoods should reject this direction of planning that would necessitate upzoning residential areas in order to build affordable housing at all).

PAHC should not be going after residential neighborhoods for upzoning. Or PAHC should have considered working with the neighborhood because before all this happened, people would have put the same energy into advocating with the city for the money to go to purchase the Terman Apartments to keep them as affordable, which have 92 units, and is after only 25 years as an affordable property being converted to market-rate.

Apparently, back when the Terman was built, an attempt was actually made to take over the school site and replace it with an affordable housing development -- which already wouldn't be affordable anymore, and we would have lost any chance of having a middle school site on this side of town.

Please don't allow bad development decisions to override sound planning. The rigid financing scheme PAHC backed themselves into isn't worth destroying the character of a neighborhood or ignoring the serious safety and infrastructure problems at that location. Don't reward City Hall for pushing through projects that ignore important responsibilities like the safety of schoolchildren.


Posted by A neighbor and parent, a resident of Green Acres
on Aug 30, 2013 at 11:52 am

Cedric,
For the last time, will you please stop using the Tan and Arastradero apartments as an excuse for upzoning a residential area? The only reason that orchard is RM-15 instead of R-1 is because of those apartments, which were brought to us during the last wave of intrusive overdevelopment, the Tan in particular zoned under county rules. The RM-15 is a gradual transition zone, consistent with the comprehensive plan, to the R-1 neighborhood WHICH IS THE DOMINANT LAND USE IN THE ENTIRE AREA.

In fact, when RM-15 is next to R-1 residential, the density (according to the comprehensive plan) is supposed to be on the LOWER END of the scale (for RM-15, that's 8-15 units, meaning, EIGHT units per acre, NOT 15).

And, when that was originally zoned, it was a designation that had FEWER homes per acre than RM-15 does now, the City went through and increased everything all at once.


Posted by A neighbor and parent, a resident of Green Acres
on Aug 30, 2013 at 12:40 pm

@ Moderator,
[Portion removed.] Sorry, but when you eliminate shorter arguments for one side but allow a really long one by the other (Cedric), in which he is simply continuing to repeat arguments made all along as if no one has ever countered them, you are showing a unjournalisticly bias toward one side that has been in evidence for awhile now.


Posted by Jerry Underdal, a resident of Barron Park
on Aug 30, 2013 at 1:39 pm

Jerry Underdal is a registered user.

@Timothy Gray, a resident of the Charleston Meadows neighborhood

I wish there had been more public discussion of the private developer piece of the financing before this project moved forward, in an atmosphere where PAHC and the city could lay out their reasoning and have it challenged by the public. Everyone could have had their say.

As it is, the only ones having their say are the opponents of the project. I haven't read a good explanation yet of why PAHC felt this innovation, used in other jurisdictions across the country, should be used here. Journalists could help inform us here by interviewing more decision makers.

Federal and state sources of funding for affordable housing have declined in recent years and are likely to go down even further. Competition for the scarce funds gets stiffer each year. Voters are reluctant for the city to put up more resources for affordable housing. Those are facts that would suggest why innovative financing measures are required, but don't in themselves make the argument for this particular choice.

I honestly don't see how what's being done to finance this project puts all homeowners across the city at risk of losing their quality of life.

There are very particular circumstances at play here that make this project, as amended by the City Council, a positive development in our neighborhood. I hope we don't lose what's in the bag in pursuit of a dream of an orchard and visitors center or of a scaled down version of the project that can't be financed.

Rejecting Measure D will likely bring maximum development, under existing zoning, of this property, which will mean more, not less, traffic. I hope that we can make progress so that traffic will be better in the end than it is now regardless of what happens at Maybell/Clemo. But traffic will be marginally worse if Measure D fails than if it passes.

That's one of the reasons I am voting FOR Measure D.


Posted by Jerry Underdal, a resident of Barron Park
on Aug 30, 2013 at 2:16 pm

Jerry Underdal is a registered user.

@A neighbor and parent, a resident of the Green Acres neighborhood

"nearly as much senior housing could be built there under existing zoning"
What does this statement say about the vociferous arguments by project opponents that the site is unsuitable for affordable housing for seniors? Is it a good or bad location for an affordable housing project for senior citizens?

'people would have put the same energy into advocating with the city for the money to go to purchase the Terman Apartments to keep them as affordable'
According to PAHC's executive director, PAHC has tried several times to buy the Terman Apartments, but the owner's not interested. It makes lots of money and presumably will make more when rents jump to market-rate at the expiration of the 25-year limit.

"the Tan in particular zoned under county rules"
No. Under the city. Check with Bob Moss.









Posted by Krishnamurti, a resident of Community Center
on Aug 30, 2013 at 5:08 pm

I am so glad not to live in that neighborhood! How did this get approved when less than a year ago it was dissed by the entire City Council due to concerns about traffic, egress and ingress???

Why the 180 degree turnaround? The previous CC saw the error of it, what is wrong with the current one, some of whose members were against it last October?

[Portion removed.]


Posted by A neighbor and parent, a resident of Green Acres
on Aug 30, 2013 at 9:20 pm

"What does this statement say about the vociferous arguments by project opponents that the site is unsuitable for affordable housing for seniors? Is it a good or bad location for an affordable housing project for senior citizens?"

Stating that the senior units could be built there is not the same as discussing the suitability of the location for seniors.

It is a bad location for seniors, with no adjacency to any amenities or services seniors need and no walkability, but if you're going to insist that it's the only location you will ever be able to ever put affordable housing ever again in Palo Alto and there is NO alternative that incorporates concern for the walkability and quality of life for the seniors into account, and that you MUST build senior apartments there, then you could build nearly as many units for seniors under existing zoning, but respecting height, density, daylight plane, parking, and setback restrictions of the low-density zoning.

If you respect the parking restrictions of the existing zoning, for example, it means less of an impact on the neighborhood. Separating the senior housing from the particular financing scheme means the cars could come out on Clemo rather than Maybell, with a light added (probably timed with the one at Coulomb), to help reduce safety problems on Maybell from development traffic.

If you're going to insist on putting a senior apartment complex where the seniors have none of the amenities of other senior centers around town nearby, then at least build it under the existing zoning.


Posted by anonymous, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 30, 2013 at 9:22 pm

[Post removed due to same poster using multiple names]


Posted by A neighbor and parent, a resident of Green Acres
on Aug 30, 2013 at 9:24 pm

[Post removed.]


Posted by A neighbor and parent, a resident of Green Acres
on Aug 30, 2013 at 9:33 pm

"As it is, the only ones having their say are the opponents of the project. I haven't read a good explanation yet of why PAHC felt this innovation, used in other jurisdictions across the country, should be used here."

I don't know either, when an affordable housing complex at 801 Alma just went up at the same time without having to use that financing scheme.

The goal as stated by the staff reports was to reduce the cost to the low-income developer. In City Council meetings, Mayor Scharff and PAHC leaders indicated that this was the first time they were trying this in Palo Alto, and that they would make fewer mistakes next time.

We all realize you think everything about this is just hunky dorey, but most people don't like the idea that zoning, especially in residential areas, is meaningless and can be set aside for the "public benefit" anytime a chunk of land comes up where part of it can be upzoned to finance another upzoned high density affordable portion on the rest of it.

If you want to send a msg to City Council that you DON'T want such a scheme to be done again and again in Palo Alto, then vote AGAINST Measure D. Anyone who votes for Measure D is only going to encourage them to keep doing this, because it does make it possible to reduce the costs to the developers. Unfortunately, it does this by foisting the cost burdens onto individual neighborhoods.


Posted by A neighbor and parent, a resident of Green Acres
on Aug 30, 2013 at 9:50 pm

[Portion removed.] The Tan Apartments and Arastradero Apartments are historic exceptions -- built during the last era of controversial overdevelopment -- surrounded by R-1 residential neighborhood. The RM-15 "low density multiple family residential" of the zoning is to create a transition zone to the R-1 surrounding land use from those exceptions, per the Comprehensive Plan and the City Zoning Code. The comprehensive plan specifically states that adjacent to residential areas, as this is, the RM-15 is supposed to be on the lower end of the allowable range, which here is 8 units per acre. If the Council treated the comprehensive plan as a real document instead of toilet paper, that whole 2-acre property would allow only 20 units even with density bonuses.

Turning that transition zone into a high-density zone that exceeds even RM-40 "High density multiple-family" (as the ordinance says it does) creates a spot zone of very high density with no transition to the R-1 neighborhood, violating several provisions of the comprehensive plan, and making the R-1 neighborhood subject to further upzoning.

[Portion removed.] Palo Alto: this historic level of participation and opposition will continue until that property is put to a land use that is safe for the neighborhood's children, you can count on it. Please vote AGAINST Measure D.


Posted by A neighbor and parent, a resident of Green Acres
on Aug 30, 2013 at 10:04 pm

@Cedric
"when and where, in the last 50 or so years, has ANY developer NOT built the maximum number of units they could fit on a parcel?"

That's not really the question, Cedric. Maximum number of units doesn't necessarily translate to maximum profit. Developers are going to maximize their profit. The question is, why would someone want to have to outlay more to build lots of kitchens and bathrooms, turnover many units to the City's BMR program, get less per square foot in the end, in order to build units that are riskier/not that saleable at less than 1400 sq ft, when they could make a killing at 2,000 sq ft and up in this neighborhood? Some of those homes are going for over $3,000,000, and they always sell because of proximity to Gunn.

The last time someone had a lot of land to build on in this neighborhood is the Glenbrook extension, and there are even two 12,000 sq ft houses back there (yes, I got the comma in the right place, and yes, they could have built more "units" instead). For those who don't remember, that was where the City wanted so badly to put a road right through the neighborhood from El Camino to Arastradero instead of allowing residential development that the City sued neighbors-- who hired land use attorneys and thankfully prevailed -- so that now that is a nice residential area contributing oodles of tax dollars to the City and nearby schools instead of a big street so people can cut a few minutes off their drive from El Camino.

[Portion removed.]


Posted by A neighbor and parent, a resident of Green Acres
on Aug 31, 2013 at 12:11 am

Re: Terman Apts

Jerry or Cedric
Why dismiss saving the affordable units at Terman offhand? Don't you care about affordable housng? Recall, the neighborhood had to fight to keep the school from being razed for affordable housing, but neighbors protested and luckily we still have Terman school. As part of that fight, Terman apts were born. It's only been 20 years, how is it they are already losing those 92 units of affordable housing?

The people at PAHC did not have the benefit of a City willing to loan them $7.3 million of almost free money back then. If the need is so urgent, why not redirect and try to save the 92 units the neighbors already have in their midst? Especiallya sinceneighbors would help. The same people at PAHC are nothing if not willing to latch on and not let go no matter what happens (or what politicians they drag into political suicide). They just need redirection from the right places, Everyone has their price, as you well know.


Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 31, 2013 at 7:26 am

[Post removed.]


Posted by Ellie, a resident of College Terrace
on Sep 2, 2013 at 5:34 pm

[Portion removed.]

Terman apts are not owned by PAHC. It is owned by a private for profit developer. The federal funding program known as section 8 is what is used there, administered from HUD through our county Housing Authority. It is a rent subsidy and not widely used in town cuz the subsidies don't pay enough.

Terman is zoned RM30 not PC. Too bad it is not a PC cuz if it were, keeping the units affordable could have been written into the PC Ordinance. But RM30 isn't subject to that. Thank goodness maybell is a PC (as is almost all other affordable projects in town - it is how affordable housing is possible and protected).

Many affordable housing builders are doing mixed rate developments due to the slashing in funding - state and federal. Money that was depenable no longer is available - Sequester. So PAHC like many others adapted to economic need at a time when more affordable housing is badly needed. 1000 applications were received for 50 units at 801 alma.

[Portion removed.]


Posted by Bill, a resident of Barron Park
on Sep 2, 2013 at 6:06 pm

Ellie, the number of applications doesn't matter. The number that does matter is the number of QUALIFIED applicants. Just because someone applies not make them automatically qualified.

[Portion removed.]


Posted by Ellie, a resident of College Terrace
on Sep 2, 2013 at 8:37 pm

[Post removed.]


Posted by No to Zoning Changes, a resident of Midtown
on Sep 3, 2013 at 4:33 pm

I really think it's time for a slow growth political party in Palo Alto of concerned citizens. We need time to digest all the developments already underway - from many viewpoints - traffic, schools, and basic infrastructure. Let's have a real discussion on what kind of place we want Palo Alto to be.

It doesn't HAVE to urbanize! We don't have to move to higher and higher density, particularly in our residential neighborhoods. What if WE, as citizens, decide we want to keep Palo Alto with a small college town feel? Let's have an honest discussion. Today, monied interests are redesigned our town whether we like it or not.

It's going to take a strong grassroots effort from everyday citizens. Get Involved!


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