ABAG goals would 'wreak havoc' on PA schools Palo Alto Issues, posted by Editor, Palo Alto Online, on Oct 25, 2007 at 10:55 pm
The 2,860 housing units a regional agency wants Palo Alto to build would "wreak havoc" on the Palo Alto Unified School District, board member Mandy Lowell warned city officials Wednesday: "We would need to open two to three more schools."
Read the full story here Web Link posted Thursday, October 25, 2007, 10:23 PM
Posted by Jeremy Loski, a resident of the Ventura neighborhood, on Oct 25, 2007 at 10:55 pm
Cubberly is going to return as a schooll site, anyway. What about Palo Alto's *normal* growth rates, minus the ABAG projection? Cubberly has been discussed as a potential location for a new high school for a few years now, and rather openly, at that. So what new fear is Mr. Moss trying to spread about new residents joining our numbers?
In addition to that, what about seniors cycling out of homes, with new families moving in?
Are we going to place a moratorium on new residents, altogether?
Look, we'd better plan for growth, because Palo Alto has made itself a *desirable* place to live, and work. We are now enjoying the success that comes from being in the right place, at the right time. Try limiting the number of homes, and see what happens to real estate values here - they will skyrocket. Imagine what that will do to our demographic, and the further displacements that will ensue. If you think we have a housing/jobs imbalance now, just wait.
THis problem is bigger than Palo Alto, but I don't see *any* leadership on the policy side that is looking to solve this problem in the aggregate (regionally), as a *supplement* or *replacement* to the ABAG projections. Everyone just whines about ABAG, as if ABAG is the root cause of our problem, and if we resist the ABAG numbers, our growth problems will magically disappear. Naive.
Blaming ABAG isn't going to fly, long-term. Nor is pandering to no-growth nostalgists with the Pollyanish idea that Palo Alto is just a little city on the Peninsula. We live in an *urban region**, and we'd better start planning and acting like the reality that has been staring us in the face for the last decade.
It's time to ditch the parochialism, grow up, and work hard to solve housing and transportation issues with neighboring municipalities as partners - working *with ABAG*, because those problems are not going to go away. It's time to realize that growth is not going to stop.
The fact that we have such poor mass transit (as one example) is a sad, sad legacy for a region that prides itself on innovative thinking. So far, we are looking like chumps, unable to deal with opportunity.
The easy money (and times) are over folks - it's time to roll up our sleeves and look for solutions that welcome growth, manage growth, and *enhance* our community, instead of putting our fingers in the dike, whilst we suck the thumb on our other hand, wishing that someone would bring back our municipal youth with a magic morsel of zwiebak.
Posted by Dan, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Oct 26, 2007 at 11:42 am
Jeremy Loski writes "So far, we are looking like chumps, unable to deal with opportunity"
This contrasts two opposing sides of the argument:
business interests... people who generally see additional growth as opportunity because it means more income, more development projects or more real estate sales for their businesses.
residential interests: people who's primary local investment is in their house, the PAUSD schools, and their neighborhoods. For this group its difficult to see "opportunity" in a big surge of local housing growth. It will lead to infrastructure expenses that more than offset additional tax base. Crowded schools, parks, roads and libraries will all require expensive expansion... new taxes of one form or another soak existing homeowners, existing businesses or both to pay for it), more traffic on local streets and an even bigger imbalance between housing and retail to support local shopping. How many people in PA drive more miles each week because they have to go outside city boundaries for grocery shopping, costco, gas, etc? For residents, the retail/housing imbalance is a lot more serious than any jobs/housing imbalance.
(In the interest of disclosure, if you can't already tell, I belong to the residential group).
There are a number of arguments being made in favor of accepting the ABAG housing numbers:
- its our responsibility to fight global warming.
This one is not very defensible ... more housing will mean more local and regional traffic. The argument is made that if housing isn't built here, it will be built in outlying areas like Tracy, leading to longer commutes ... but anyone who can afford the housing in Palo Alto, would probably not be living in Tracy. Proponents seemingly argue that for the good of the environment we should encourage local growth ... but you never hear them proposing the only realistic solution that will help the environment long term... moderating growth in population. It seems economic opportunity is definitely higher on the agenda than environmental protection.
- We have to do something about the Palo Alto "jobs/housing" imbalance. We're in an "urban area", etc. Generally speaking, since the Bay Area is quite compact, people don't decide where to live based upon where their job is today... if we did this, we'd all probably have to move every 2-3 years. That would be great for prop 13 tax base, but not so good for workers' lives.
I saw a recent article in SJ Merc talking about San Jose city government struggling to push back the rate of conversion from business/industrial land to housing, which is currently more lucrative for developers. The rationale is that the city budget is suffering from a "relative" loss in tax base since demand for services is increasing faster. Zoning laws and general city plans get thrown aside repeatedly as piecemeal projects get approved that benefit small, politically active constituencies.
- Palo Alto will somehow suffer and die if we can't compete with other cities in providing housing for workers. Then there is the other related argument that this is a "regional problem", bigger than Palo Alto. This is clearly true ... and shows that Palo Alto likely won't suffer competitively compared to other local cities which are facing the same land use issues. As for the Bay Area as a whole, innovation in Silicon Valley has traditionally targeted new markets and relied less on the growth in mature markets. So I suspect that the future here is less dependent on constant rapid population growth vs other areas which have a more services/manufacturing focus. We need to keep creating new markets, products and efficiencies because in a global economy we won't be able to compete on a cost basis in very mature markets where unit sales (population growth) and cost-cutting are all that matter.
Usually it is the residential interests who end up "looking like chumps" because the political process favors those whose direct economic success can be influenced by lobbying City Hall. For someone working at a career,paying their mortgage, and trying to insure a solid education for their children, there usually isn't a lot of incentive to spend time trying to influence city government development decisions. So, in the end, I think the ABAG numbers come at a good time for Palo Alto ... perhaps it will convince more local residents to lobby for a reasonable balance between the competing business and residential interests. I don't believe that "no growth" is necessarily desirable and it certainly isn't achievable currently. Retail/business growth/renewal in the city should be welcomed where appropriate and Stanford should not be aggressively retarded from growing. The ABAG housing numbers are far too skewed towards business interests over local resident concerns. As the housing market cools, it only makes building housing in a few remaining areas where housing prices are still firm that much more desirable, so expect housing development pressure in PA to only ratchet up.
Posted by Parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Oct 26, 2007 at 12:11 pm
There's absolutely no good reason to heap massive growth on Palo Alto. Not one. There's a big difference between rabid growth and moderate growth. And there's no good reason for rabid growth either.
The only chumps in town are the ones that are out to dessimate our neighborhoods for no other good reason than to line their pockets. I doubt they have kids in PAUSD neighborhood schools - and I wonder if they even understand the foundation of Palo Alto property values (the reputation of the schools.)
Fine, plan for transportation and infrastructure. Plan for moderate growth! And how does that translate into meaning we have to go out of the way to usher in MASSIVE growth in the THOUSANDS that wouldn't be happening if we weren't building attrocities like the one that replaced Ricky's.
Its not necessary, and I've never heard a single good reason why we should PLAN to increase our population this way. What IS the reason anyway? Because "change happens"? That's a bunch of trite bull.
And I'm sorry, you are suggesting that limiting the supply of housing, so property values increase - is a bad thing. Interesting tact.
Grow business and retail in Palo Alto if we need revenue growth.
Posted by dont count your chickens before they hatch, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Oct 26, 2007 at 1:07 pm
"Cubberly is going to return as a schooll site, anyway."
It is??? Jeremy, is this wishful thinking on your part or has this been approved?
Fact is, our school district is in the lease business. PAUSD generates a lot of money by leasing out its properties, and they don't readily cancel those leases. Cubberley may have been casually discussed in the past, but our current school superintendent seems to have removed the possibility of opening a third high school from the discussion, at least for now.
Jeremy, how closely are you following the school crowding discussion? Do you realize there's a serious problem for 3 distinct school populations?
Posted by there's nothing wrong with being a millionaire, a resident of the Downtown North neighborhood, on Oct 26, 2007 at 2:09 pm
We are truly an isolated island in the world. While we're getting pressure from the self-righteous green folks (ie developers) to cram, cram, cram more housing into already built-out communities, the housing market in the rest of the country continues in freefall.
Palo Alto is a nice place to live, but it sure isn't the end-all, be-all. There are plenty of other cities with decent weather, good schools, a high standard of living--and much more affordable housing. Throughout the state, in cities with that good California vibe, housing values have plummeted.
Two questions: don't you think those gazillion new residents that are ostensibly lining up for a teeny house on the tracks are going to be looking first at those more affordable communities when it comes time to buy a house? And second, will the main result of today's building frenzy be that the housing market in Palo Alto (and the rest of the ABAG-controlled mid-Peninsula)takes a dive due to poor planning and over-development?
Posted by Grandma, a member of the Gunn High School community, on Oct 26, 2007 at 4:33 pm
All those PAUSD parents who want to return Cubberley as a school site, I presume they won't mind transferring their High Schoolers out of Paly and Gunn to attend Cubberley. Will it be the high school choice of the future?
Posted by free market, a resident of the South of Midtown neighborhood, on Oct 27, 2007 at 9:35 am
The only way to build our infrastructure is to draw back businesses who pay taxes.
Look to Mountain View and see what wonders it has wrought.
Build Tax Base first. Be friendlier to business.
Throughout all of history, people have moved to where they could afford. If someone can't afford to live here, they will live elsewhere. If we can't hire enough people, we will increase our pay. Simply math. I have no desire to increase "affordable" housing under the pretext that the people who live there will work here. What percent work HERE in PA now who live in our current affordable housing? If you tell me more than 50%, then maybe I will listen.
Let the market decide who is employed and who lives here..and build the tax base up.
Posted by Jeremy Loski, a resident of the Ventura neighborhood, on Oct 27, 2007 at 11:41 am
Every one of these recent are basically a cover for avoiding Palo Alto's repsonsibility in dealing with nearly intractable environmental problems. It's amazing how many rationalizations can be created to keep Palo Alto bonsaid, and pruned in a way that keeps people asking for more nostalgia.
One poster even claims that housing values will dive in PA - when will THAT happen? LOL!
Another poster says that BMR housing won't work, even if its focused toward specific groups - even though other cities are managing to keep workers local with housing incentives.
Parent suggests that a fast increase in housing values that would ocme from limiting housing growth here would be a *good* thing for Palo Alto. Tell me, Parent, how will that be good for already overwhelming residential pressures, as it's already more profitable here to build homes, instead of commercial property. And how would small retail survive in such a scenario. Do some homework.
Grandma suggests that Cubberly woudn't be a desireable place to send out kids, although it was in the past. Remember, Grandma?
Don't count your chickens hasn't been folloing the trends here, with more housing going up in the southern part of town. Cubberly will eventually be converted to a school site; that chicken has *already* hatched. Expect Cubberly to convert within 5-7 years.
Dan is suggesting that there are two competing interest groups - residentialists vs. developers. This is the way arguments around ABAG are often framed, to gain maximum impact for the self-identified "residentialist" group.
The ABAG numbers are up for negotiation, but we won't successfully negotiate them down if we let the *current* group of residentialists have their way. There is simply too much intransigence and "old thinking" when it comes to what a "livable" environment is.
Where Dan gets it right is that this *is* a regional problem, but then (amazingly) goes on to say that Palo Alto won't suffer any more than its neighbors (or vice versa) as growth problems in housing AND transportation are mis-managed, or not dealt with altogether (the current choice of the residentialists, who want to protect home and hearth, as they conveniently forget that home and hearth have now extended their boundaries (to things like the air we breath, and the hours we commute, and so on).
So far, all I see is residential groups demonizing development, and developers getting ever more intelligent about adapting to delay and other tactics that hold up development.
So far, I see *no* policy leadership on this issue - to bring the municipal components of our region together, along with residential interests AND developers, to iron this thing out in a way that manages to take advantage of the opportunities that our city and region have so far managed to squelch.
So far, all I see is references to "sky is falling" scenarios that *never* seem to develop *after* opposed development projects are built.
I think the 800 High St. project has been a boon to our community; we are enjoying the new influx of residents. We will continue to see more groeth here. Sure, that growth must be measured, and balanced with retail and other commercial concerns. But grow we will.
Maybe residentialists will stop growth for a while, or make it so expensive for developers and new residents that there will be a dip in the curve, but that dip will only be temporary.
We have to come up with innovative ways to house more people closer to the core municipalities in this region, instead of shuffling them off to the suburbs, and exurbia.
Anyone who thinks the answer to this, as one poster suggested above, is to stop population growth, is naive.
Posted by Lois, a member of the JLS Middle School community, on Oct 27, 2007 at 1:04 pm
I think the PAUSD response to ABAG puts them in panic mode. The fact is that Palo Alto has 4 elementary school site facilities and one high school site facility available to them if they need to grow and reopen schools.
ABAG is smart enough to know this; saying their goal will "wreak havoc" on PA Schools is simply an erroneous scare tactic. The City should find a better excuse than schools to refute ABAG's demand for @,860 new housing units.
Posted by Jeremy Loski, a resident of the Ventura neighborhood, on Oct 27, 2007 at 1:34 pm
"Given a choice between high density housing and suburbia, most folks pick the suburbs every time."
What generation are you speaking from? You might want to get out and look around at what kinds of environments many young professionals are migrating to. YOU might also take a look at places like San Francisco, where families are *out migrating* because they can't efford housing. If you think that's a good thiing, fine. I don't.
800 High St is ugly? Apparently, that's not what the folks from St. Michael's Alley think (they're moving to the first floor at that location). Other residents i've spoken to in that area (at least a dozen, think it has been a boon to the neighborhood, as it has increased the warm urbanity of downtown. I think you're out of step with variety in urban facades; they all can't - or shouldn't - be looking like small town psuedo-New England, especially when they're placed near railroad tracks (e.g. 195 Page Mill)
Charlston and ECR? Why is it already sold out? Have you even been inside that complex? the setbacks are nonexistant, which *is* somewhat out of character for Palo Alto, but the complex, overall, is quite nice. Once the landscaping takes hold, this will take on a rather nice appearance, adding some architectual *diversity* to our city.
Lois, you're exactly right on! "ABAG" has become a convenient diversion for policy makers who don't have the stomach to look forward, innovate, and *lead*. We currently have only a few Council members who appear to see forward sufficiently, in a way that will lead our city into it's next phase of evolution, and in a way that *does* preserve neighborhood integrity, in spite of all the anti-growth FUD.
Posted by Another-Residentialist, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Oct 27, 2007 at 2:55 pm
> What generation are you speaking from?
From the generation who owns property, and realizes that the American dream revolves around being able to own property, where you want to, and to be able to live on that property as you want to.
> You might want to get out and look around
> at what kinds of environments many young
> professionals are migrating to.
Young Professionals do not a whole society make. Generally, once Young Professionals get a little older (becomeing Middle Aged Professionals), they marry, have kids and look for a place to bring up their kids that is a better place to live than in a "singles building".
> YOU might also take a look at places like San Francisco,
> where families are *out migrating* because they can't
> efford housing. If you think that's a good thiing, fine. I don't.
People should live where they want to, and can afford to live. By the way, people are migrating out of California to lower cost locations currently. It's a shame when someone moves on that you happen to like, or enjoy, but that's life. Moving on is what built America.
Posted by steve levy, a resident of the University South neighborhood, on Oct 27, 2007 at 4:34 pm
There is a humorous and ironic side to these posts.
The "freedom to live where you want and can afford" folks have turned that argument upside down.
The real "freedom to live where you want and can afford" people are some segments (not all) of the building industry and people who don't think government should do planning or zoning. Places like Texas were famous for no zoning and lots of development "freedom".
To use the argument to OPPOSE housing in Palo Alto is completely backwards. I do believe in public review of developmenmt but also like the freedom to live where you want and can afford argument to promote higher density housing in urban centers in Palo Alto.
I feel fairly certain that over time we can find plenty of buyers for $1 million condos in downtown PA much like 800 High. To deny them that choice is to deny them the "freedom to live where they want and can afford". It is not responsive to say that they can buy existing housing in PA becasue 1) many don't want those big houses and 2) it doesn't provide the outlet for the growth in demand that already exists and is also consistent with the projected growth in the region.
The debate over schools ("ABAG goals wreak havoc") is also being debated backwards.
The issue is real but it is about money and not about crowding. PA had 16,000 kids in school 40 years ago with less assessed value. Everyone acknowledges that we have facilities but that it would cost additional money to open and operate them. Recent school pressure comes almost completely from the refilling of the existing housing stock with children as older homeowners sell to young families--a great transition for our community's vibrancy.
It would be more effective to forbid selling homes to anyone with more than one child than to fight about building condos.
These posts have had great fun calling people they don't know "greedy developers" and a few who have no clue as to what I do have called me "seems like a corporate shill". So would it be ok in return to call people who oppose housing becasue it might raise their school costs "selfish residents"?
And just for a final piece of fun while I watch my favorite football teams getting their butt kicked, why would anyone rush to start a business in PA after reading these posts that show so clearly that people value only their money and not their vibrancy and "activity" becasue you want retail activity while complaining endlessly about traffic? This is a funny way to show that you want more sales tax producing activities in PA.
Posted by James, a resident of the Barron Park neighborhood, on Oct 27, 2007 at 5:51 pm
Hard to know where to start, but I will, randomly, start with the schools issue. You say, "The issue is real but it is about money and not about crowding. PA had 16,000 kids in school 40 years ago...". Steve, we had 22 elemetary campuses back then, and just 12 now. Your argument, frankly, makes no sense.
OK, let's see, how about "the freedom to live where you want and can afford argument". Palo Alto has zoning rules, right? As long as a developer, or individual, lives within those rules, why should they be forced to violate free market pressures and opportunities? For instance, why should there be requirements for BMRs?...they are just a hidden tax on the rest of us, who pay our market share. Why should we allow ABAG to command that we come up with a certain amount of housing, including BMRs? People are free to make their own choices, Steve. If they cannot afford to live in a free market in Palo Alto, they will choose to live somewhere else, even if they work in PA. There are no shortage of workers in PA, and there won't be. I currently work in San Francisco, but I live in Palo Alto. That is my choice. Last week I got my transmission fixed in PA by workers who live in SF. Is that so hard to understand?
Palo Alto does have a probelm with the business community, but it has nothing to do with the ABAG forced housing mandate.
Steve, I think you mean well, but your logic is off base.
Posted by Jeremy Loski, a resident of the Ventura neighborhood, on Oct 27, 2007 at 10:00 pm
Steve's comments are right on! Well said!
James, why *shouldn't* ABAG "command that we come up with a certain amount of housing, including BMRs?" YOU want a vibrant community, don't you? Developers want the opportunity to build and make a profit, as well as be proud of their projects, don't they?
I personally know some developers who are *proud* of the fact that they build BMR's into their developments. There are MNAY developers who are *very*concerned with the impacts that their projects have on community. It's really getting old to hear developers demonized in the way that certain residents and posters; it's also naive.
You talk about free markets. What's a "free market"? "Free markets" don't exist. A recent Nobel prize (The Sveriges Riksbank Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel) was just given to three guys who make the latter point in their work. I suggest you read up on the 2007 summaries of their work, and then get back to us...
You argument is all FUD, has little to do with the way communities develop, diversify and adapt - and more importantly, evolve. A good read of Lewis Mumford is in order, and shuold help you get up to speed on these issues...
Posted by James, a resident of the Barron Park neighborhood, on Oct 28, 2007 at 10:06 am
Palo Alto already is a pretty vibrant town, IMO. It will continue to grow, as the market allows, within the constaints of zoning laws. ABAG commands do not reflect the true market. BMRs are a tax paid by the other purchasers of 'market rate' units within a given project. In fact they are not paying market rate, because they would pay less, if BMRs were not part of the project.
Throwing another 2600 housing units on top of the natural growth that will occur in Palo Alto over the next decade or so, will severely impact our schools.
Posted by Jeremy Loski, a resident of the Ventura neighborhood, on Oct 28, 2007 at 10:28 am
James:"ABAG commands do not reflect the true market. BMRs are a tax paid by the other purchasers of 'market rate' units within a given project. In fact they are not paying market rate, because they would pay less, if BMRs were not part of the project."
Like I said, read up a little on "true markets", or "free markets" - you are out of step with what housing "markets" are alll about.
Also, check out Lois comments, above, about the availability of schools in Palo Alto - to accomodate growth.
Anti-growth FUD zealots have caused more "bad" for Palo Alto than any single one, or group of, homes - to date.
Posted by James, a resident of the Barron Park neighborhood, on Oct 28, 2007 at 10:58 am
You must be kidding about the school overcrowding issue. Those other sites Lois is talking about are currently occupied by other schools (privates), and will be used by the publics to help alleviate current overcrowding.
BTW, there is a vigorous free market in housing in PA. If I have the maoney, and the desire, I can purchase any one of a number of houses this afternoon. I just watch for the open house signs.
Posted by Another-Residentialist, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Oct 28, 2007 at 11:26 am
> "Free markets" don't exist. A recent Nobel prize
> (The Sveriges Riksbank Prize in Economic Sciences
> in Memory of Alfred Nobel) was just given to three guys
> who make the latter point in their work. Is uggest you
> read up on the 2007 summaries of their work,
Nobel invented dynamite. He considered its application to warfare so horrific that it would never be used in military applications. Nobel was so very, very wrong, wasn't he? As to Nobel prizes, didn't Nobel committee give a "peace" prize to Yassir Arafat? If we were to read up on all of Arafat's writings about "peace" and do as he did, what kind of a world would this be?
The Nobel prize has become political, and does not reflect the thinking of anyone by the Nobel committee. Maybe the recipiants' works are meaningful, and then again, maybe they aren't. Looking for "truth" from the Nobel committee is not the best place to spend one's time.
> There are MNAY developers who are *very*concerned with the impacts
> that their projects have on community.
Such sentiments would be better appriciated if these developers would run impact studies as a part of their development plans, and provide meaning mitigations without city mandates
Another way to put it: I'll take the work of this year's Nobel Prize winners re: their work on markets WAY before yours, or anyone else's opinion on this thread, *any day*. Have you even taken the time to read the summaries? I doubt it.
Also, in *this* (Palo Alto) environment, why would *any* developer in her right mind volunteer impact studies? You must be kidding me. Over years, I have seen developers who try to do good things pilloried again and again, until they are finally made to say "uncle". The word is out about Palo Alto: if you want to build something here, prepare for a fight. Why should they give any quarter to a few anti-growther residents who know city code backwards and forwards, and who *use* that knowledge to frustrate *anything* (no matter the level of petty detail) to hold up *business* and *progress* in our city.
James, you are mistaken about school capacity here in Palo Alto.
Posted by Palo alto mom, a resident of the Professorville neighborhood, on Oct 28, 2007 at 11:52 am
Jeremy - if you don't believe James about the school issues, read some of the posts under School and Kids - we are already have overcrowded school because we are a victim of our own success - a great school district that people move to Palo Alto to be part of.
Posted by Jeremy Loski, a resident of the Ventura neighborhood, on Oct 28, 2007 at 12:20 pm
Another-Residentialist The four schools that Lois mentioned, and the *additional* schools that will be built (if necessary) to maintain parity with a growing population.
The absurd idea that this community should bonsai itself to cater to a few people who want to return to a Mayfield-like bucolic past is going to receieve resistance, from now on.
Guess what? New residents will be MORE than happy to pony up for whatever the new requirements are.
The tension here is between 1) a few people who had their pocketbooks saved by Prop 13, and have been only too happy paying less than thier fair share, as state and municipal infrastructure decay - right in front of their eyes, and 2) those who accept reasonable growth as a matter of fact (not including new residents, moving in), and have been looking (with disappointment) at the failure of leadership re: Palo Alto's ability to face a future that will make it a larger community than in past years.
Instead, we see the continued selfishness wrought of the "me" generation, looking to keep their taxes low, on the backs of people who are forced to commute hours, and with the result that the air we ALL breath becomes less hospitable to life. Shame!
You are trying to stop the inevitable, with the latest wrinkle coming from some BOE members who don't have the vision necessary to figure out that school capacity os oa function of growth, and are looking to have to keep from *leading* our community, as it grows and evolves.
Seriously, there is a strange amount of trepidation and fear coming from people who, ont the one hand, are always blabbing about their ability to be creative and inventive/innovative, and yet continually finding ways to shrink from the future.
Posted by R Wray, a resident of the Palo Verde neighborhood, on Oct 28, 2007 at 12:32 pm
You say there are developers that are proud of BMR's.
Having BMR's means that they are forced to sell some of their (essentially identical) units for less to a special buyer (government agency) than to the other buyers, i.e., the other buyers subsidize the special buyer.
Posted by steve levy, a resident of the University South neighborhood, on Oct 28, 2007 at 12:44 pm
Rising enrollments are placing pressure on the current school capacity. That is a fact but not a guide to policy.
We used to house 16,000 students and before that housed many fewer. But when Palo Alto homes filled with young families with lots of children we built and paid for a great school system to accomdoate the growth.
Then enrollment dropped and we sold and leased some sites since we did not need the capacity then and chose to trade excess capacity for money.
Now the school enrollment is rising again as a new wave of young families fill homes left by older residents whose children have moved on.
Why don't we do what we did in the past and accomodate this growth, which is still well below the 16,000 level. There will be some short term inconvenience and some loss of income but as I said previously, this is mostly about money. We will have to end some leases on school sites and reverse the process of downsizing in response to rising enrollment.
Why does this generation cry "wreak havoc" when our previous generations just got down to work and honored the people who came to PA with effort, money, some inconvenience and in the end a great school system and community?
People on this post seem to want no more people, no more traffic, no more personal share in what comes with living in a vibrant leading edge economy and yet expect people to want to come to PA with revenue producing activites. We start with great advantages as a city in attracting talented people and businesses and then make it very hard for anyone new to think we value and respect them.
Posted by Jeremy Loski, a resident of the Ventura neighborhood, on Oct 28, 2007 at 12:46 pm
Wray, I know that it hurts your Ayn Rand-induced pride to admit it, but there is no such thing as a perfect market, or free market, as regards housing.
don't have the time to debate that with you in detail on this issue, but a good read of any basic microeconomics book, where one learns about imperfect markets, the role of government in markets, the role of human behavior in markets, etc. etc. Then, get back to me with what yuo've learned.
I can assure you that none of this will be found in Rand's work...to any level that satisfies a demanding, discriminating, inteligence - one that does not truck half-answers, and simplistic solutions.
About BMR units, your assumption about the sense of *personal satisfaction* that some developers fell at providing affordable housing is mistaken. Again, you're blinded by your mistaken assumptionn that perfect and free markets exist, absent other variables - they don't.
The next tiem you pump gas, buy corn, or buy a textbook (hopefully, a good Micro Econ text), consider that.
Posted by Another-Residentialist, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Oct 28, 2007 at 1:10 pm
> The four schools that Lois mentioned,
> and the *additional* schools that will be built (if necessary) to
> maintain parity with a growing population.
The fact that schools can be built does not mean that they will. Schools are built with bond measures--meaning that they can be vetoed by the voters. Even refurbing schools means that a significant amount of money will be needed to do that work, as well as to replace the money lost in rental revenue from these properties. For instance, Cubberley is generating around $6M a year. It would probably cost between $50M and $100M to refurb the facility as a high school. Unless some State "suggar-daddy" apprears, all of these dollars will most likely have to go to the voters for approval. This, on top of the $800M (about $2B when the bonds are retired) will add thousands of dollars to some people's property taxes--making Palo Alto harder and harder to live in for people of limited means.
> The absurd idea that this community should bonsai itself to
> cater to a few people who want to return to a Mayfield-like
> bucolic past is going to receieve resistance, from now on.
A few people? You speak for yourself, certainly. Do you speak for the 17-20,000 single family home owners? Doubtful.
> Guess what? New residents will be MORE than happy to
> pony up for whatever the new requirements are.
Really? About fifty percent of all Palo Alto residents are renters (who typically complain that the rents are too high). They do not share in the property tax burdens of single family home owners. Moreover, if Prop.13 were to fall, it's likely that property taxes would jump to $20-$30K for every homeowner in Palo Alto. Shelling out more on top of that seems very unlikely.
> The tension here is between 1) a few people who had their
> pocketbooks saved by Prop 13,
Everyone is protected by Prop.13 -- some more than others, however.
> and have been only too happy
> paying less than thier fair share, as state and municipal
> infrastructure decay - right in front of their eyes,
The State's revenue has grown every year since Prop.13, save one year. New revenue streams replaced old ones very quickly. The problem is how the money has been spent. The other problem is that the State Legislature has never taken the time to think out maintenance and rehab costs for the State's infrastructure and started funds for their replacement (old name="sinking funds").
Further, bonds issues for infrastructure have gone to the voters when needed, even with Prop.13 on the books. This last round was about $50B. Of course, if it happens that you don't believe that the money will be effectively spent, time to speak up and let us know.
> those who accept reasonable growth as a matter of fact
> (not including new residents, moving in), and have been
> looking (with disappointment) at the failure of leadership
> re: Palo Alto's ability to face a future that will make it
> a larger community than in past years.
Well, moving on is the right thing to do when you are dissappointed with a town's "leadership".
Instead, we see the continued selfishness wrought of the "me"
generation, looking to keep their taxes low, on the backs of
people who are forced to commute hours, and with the result
that the air we ALL breath becomes less hospitable to life. Shame!
Posted by James, a resident of the Barron Park neighborhood, on Oct 28, 2007 at 1:39 pm
Surely, you must know that the big growth phase of PA schools was during a period when relatively large tracts of land were available, and for a relatively small price. Where, exactly, Steve, are we going to find the land to build the new schools? Yes, we can take back a couple of leased sites, but they are already providing (private) education to some PA kids. I don't sense that PA parents want their kids in intensely crowded schools, such as could be achieved by going to multi-story structures. Maybe you know better than me, Steve, but I don't think so.
Steve, you (and JL) seem to have some kind of ideological impulse in favor of social engineering solutions. I suspect that you believe that you see the big picture. That's OK, but it doesn't mean that the rest of us are going to sacrifice our way of life to satisfy your dreams.
This may shock you, but Palo Alto, in 20 years, will still be prosperous and vital without ABAG housing.
Posted by Another-Residentialist, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Oct 28, 2007 at 1:48 pm
> Why don't we do what we did in the past and accomodate this growth,
> which is still well below the 16,000 level.
Actually, the PAUSD cites about 17,700 students in their records for the high-water mark of enrollment.
Around 1950, Palo Alto was only 3.2 square miles, with about 12,500 people. As the Eichlers (and other growth) developed unincorporated land between Palo Alto and Mountain View, this land was annexed strip by stip until all of South Palo Alto was absorbed. The County, and developers, paid for much of the infrastructure which was in place when these small strips were added to Palo Alto. The records do not exist anymore to provide insight as to whether Palo Alto paid Santa Clara County for any of the infrastructure, or even how this infrastructure was put in place. Palo Alto did vote bonds for the schools, but costs were very inexpensive in those days. There are records in the historical society files on the PAUSD about individual bond issues, but no comprehensive asset statement about the growth of the school system. The last residential area added to Palo Alto was in 1976 when Barron Park was added.
The point of this is that the costs of "growth" in the past have been very small compared to the "total package" that we are looking at these days. It is easy to speak glibly about "growth in the past" when one isn't considering the cost then vs the cost today.
There is already a huge infrastructure backlog at the city level. Adding in the outlandish PAUSD facilities bond ($800M), the taxes on single family home owners are going to be very difficult to sustain.
Posted by R Wray, a resident of the Palo Verde neighborhood, on Oct 28, 2007 at 2:03 pm
By your references, you trout "perfect competition". That certainly is a false concept, does not exist and can never exist, and is a false model.
A free market (one of free trade that excludes physical force) can exist--if the government stays out of it. We came close to free markets in this country before the government got heavily involved. That's why the country developed so fast in the 1800's and early 1900's.
Are you saying that the developers just eat the costs of their BMR's rather that set their prices based on the overall project? That would be very poor business practice.
Developers that feel good about soaking their paying customers are immoral.
Posted by Jeremy Loski, a resident of the Ventura neighborhood, on Oct 28, 2007 at 4:55 pm
This discussion is heating up, and I haven't even had dessert yet... :))
Wray, as usual, the big flaw in your argument is the word "if" ("if the government stays out of it). Please get back to me when our society evolves to that model. Until then, brush up on valid microeconomic models of market behavior. Also, it makes me chuckle when I hear an Ayn Rand follower speak about "immorality" in the marketplace - what a marvelous irony!
Of course, we can shout back-and-forth at each other, but that won't convince either of us.
Here are a few tips to help keep you from panicing:
1) Prop 13 will not be repealed. It's here to stay; so relax about the $20-30K property tax increases.
2) If we have to turn private school property into public school property, so be it. Sending your kid to a private school is a private option, and has nothing whatsoever to do with maintaining the public good. If private school parents don't like that, they will either leave or send their kids to another private school. That's life (which isn't so bad for those that can afford private education in this, or almost any, community).
3) New residents will *happily* pay foro the increases that pay for their share of pubic school infrastructure. Most of these new residents are smart people, and will know that coming in.
4) Seniors are going to be cycling out of their homes in ever larger numbers, so fixed incomes here are going to be less the case. that said, we will have almost 40% seniors by 2030, but those seniors will be from a different (and probably more enlightened, demographic). They will be seniors who have had the cash to buy in. Other seniors will be able to exempt themselves from paying additional parcel taxes, etc.
5) If you compute all the variables, it is actually *cheaper* to grow Palo Alto, than not. What are the costs to continues sprawl? Global warming? Stress from long commutes? Ineffieciencies wrought of long commutes? These are variables that have been growing as well, but you and yours never bring them into the equation, because you're thinking only of your pocketbook. (Tip: not everyone thinks this way, especially once they've had an opportunity to see the whole picture about growth, instead of the myopic view I see on these boards).
6) In 20 years, the houusing increases in Palo Alto will (exceed* the ABAG numbers. I'm taking bets on this, as we speak, and will probably finance a mice new car from the proceeds of my winnings, which I will donate to charity, because by then we very well might have enlightened mass transit, feeding large infill corridors that are convenient to mass transport.
7) Oh, yeah, we will also be serving up education *outside* nthe classroom (in addition to classroom learning, which will still be with us) - this will take some of the pressure off of the schools re: capacity.
Now, go have a hot chocolate, or a "high tall one" - and relax - growth will not be as stressful as you think. You're going to practically sleep right through it, just as you have the last 20 years.
Posted by R Wray, a resident of the Palo Verde neighborhood, on Oct 28, 2007 at 6:32 pm
You should brush up on your philosophy. Politics (including economics) is a branch of philosophy coming after ethics which is the branch dealing with morality. You shouldn't be surprised that moral concepts apply to economics.
Your writing about sleeping through reminds me of a Nazi quote; "The only person who is still a private individual in Germany," boasted Robert Ley, a member of the Nazi hierarchy, after several years of Nazi rule, "is somebody who is asleep."
Posted by Another-Residentialist, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Oct 28, 2007 at 8:06 pm
Here are a few tips to help keep you from panicing:
> 1) Prop 13 will not be repealed. It's here to stay; so relax
> about the $20-30K property tax increases.
Maybe it will and maybe it won't.
2) If we have to turn private school property into public school property, so be it. Sending your kid to a private school is a private option, and has nothing whatsoever to do with maintaining the public good. If private school parents don't like that, they will either leave or send their kids to another private school. That's life (which isn't so bad for those that can afford private education in this, or almost any, community).
> 3) New residents will *happily* pay foro the
> increases that pay for their share of pubic
> school infrastructure. Most of these new residents
> are smart people, and will know that coming in.
Other than having to terminate the lease agreements with a couple of private schools and re-opening the schools as public schools are great expense--your answer makes no sense at all.
> Seniors are going to be cycling out of their
> homes in ever larger numbers,
> so fixed incomes here are going to be less the case.
And people who are in their fifties and sixties today aren't going to retire? And you are certain that none of those people who are about to retire will find themselves on fixed incomes? Doubtful, very doubtful.
> that said, we will have almost 40% seniors by 2030,
Palo Alto is quickly becoming a retirement community. Check the 2000 census by yearly breakdown.
> but those seniors will be from a different (and probably more
> enlightened, demographic). They will be seniors who have had
> the cash to buy in. Other seniors will be able to exempt
> themselves from paying additional parcel taxes, etc.
And what crystal ball are you getting this from? The only parcel tax that seniors can exempt themselves from are those imposed by the education system. If every one is going to be as "flush" as you claim, then the school district will likely discontinue the exemption--particularly since every one will be voting new taxes on themselves like taxes at every election.
> If you compute all the variables, it is actually
> *cheaper* to grow Palo Alto, than not.
Why don't you "compute the variables" and post them on a web-site? It would be interesting to see your case in print.
> What are the costs to continues sprawl?
> Global warming?
Worrying about "global sprawl" is really far beyond the scope of the Palo Alto City government's charter. Global warming and cooling will come and go without a lot of help from mankind, or how many people are living in Palo Alto.
> Stress from long commutes? Ineffieciencies wrought
> of long commutes?
Again .. not the domain of city government's concern. With ever more broadband available, maybe fewer people will be commuting--no matter where they live.
> These are variables that have been growing as well, but
> you and yours never bring them into the equation,
> because you're thinking only of your pocketbook.
While you are showing us how "growing palo alto" is cheaper than not, you can add these variables into the equation too--show us how it is done!
Time for you to do some computing .. the ball is in your court.
Posted by Jeremy Loski, a resident of the Ventura neighborhood, on Oct 28, 2007 at 8:41 pm
"Worrying about "global sprawl" is really far beyond the scope of the Palo Alto City government's charter. Global warming and cooling will come and go without a lot of help from mankind, or how many people are living in Palo Alto."
There is a kind of residentialist that thinks and acts parochially. Those are members of a dying paradigm. It's painful to be on the wrong side of adaptation, and frustrating. Adaptation is going to favor those who are able to adapt, rather than fight against well-established principles.
Posted by Parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Oct 29, 2007 at 10:39 am
There actually aren't many jobs in Palo Alto, high paid, low paid or otherwise, so I'm wondering how packing Palo alto with low income housing even accomplishes the purported goals of abag.
There's hardly any retail! There is a small corridor of corporate business on Page Mill. And that's about it. Have you ever driven down El Camino between Page Mill and Charleston or San Antonio? Exactly where do you think all these thousands of people are going to be working (in Palo Alto)? Are the corporations going to be employing all these 'low income' Palo Alto residents? Nope.
Please tell us exactly where the Palo Alto jobs are that need to be filled, what the jobs are, and how much they pay.
Excuse me, I think you need to be building housing in Mt. View if your goal is to put houses and jobs together.
I agree with an earlier poster who pointed out that there is a huge housing glut underway in all parts of California (besides Palo Alto). Lets REALLY be green, and encourage people to move to where development has ALREADY pillaged the landscape, instead of pillaging more.
Lowski - its called zoning. Retail/commercial survives high property values if retail/commercial zones remain retail/commercial. It might be more profitable for the property owners to sell Ricky's zoned as residential - but the city could have just as easily kept it zoned it for retail development - and then LET the RETAIL/COMMERCIAL businesses develop it - instead of shutting them down left and right with ridiculous parameters that drive them out of town. And who said anything about 'small' retail.
A perfect way to crash the Palo Alto property values is to greedily overbuild dense housing, dessimate the schools, the traffic, the city services, and the infrastructure, and the open space (none of which have a plan to keep up). Its short sited greed.
Lowski wants to argue that we're all stupid idiots for wanting to protect Palo Alto - a name calling shouting match tactic which is an attempt to divert from the big developers plan to get in and get theirs, while the getting is good. Its time to just put a stop to it.
Can anybody summarize which city council candidates are against more big development? (For fighting the ABAG plan)?
Posted by James, a resident of the Barron Park neighborhood, on Oct 29, 2007 at 2:10 pm
Palo Alto will continue to grow, slowly perhaps, but steadily. Our individual home values, thus our tax base, will grow faster without ABAG housing. There are no shortage of workers for PA jobs...and there won't be in the future.
Posted by Different Parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Oct 29, 2007 at 2:17 pm
There may or may not be a shortage of jobs or workers to fill them, but there are shortages of space in our schools. The city needs to realise that PAUSD as an entity is not able to solve the problem of over-crowding on its own. It needs the city's help.
If the city isn't going to do anything to help the school district, then we really are heading for a calamity. Either the city must help the school district grow in bricks and mortar terms, or else it must stop growing in residential terms.
Posted by Another-Residentialist, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Oct 29, 2007 at 2:26 pm
> The city needs to realise that PAUSD as an entity
> is not able to solve the problem of over-crowding
> on its own. It needs the city's help.
Just to keep the story straight -- the PAUSD can plan for all of the "growth" imposed on it by the city, as well as any that comes "naturally"; the PAUSD would pay for this "growth" by putting new bonds and parcel taxes on the ballot to approve or reject.
Posted by Francine Storey, a resident of the South of Midtown neighborhood, on Oct 29, 2007 at 2:29 pm
Approximately half of the homes in the ABAG mandate are Below Market units. These units will contribute children, infrastructure loads, and traffic congestion - but very little in terms of property taxes.
This is a significant - not a minor - consideration. Even with all market rate housing, Palo Alto - especially the schools - would have difficulty responding. If half are BMR units, the financial hit is compounded.
Posted by steve levy, a resident of the University South neighborhood, on Oct 29, 2007 at 4:10 pm
The original post claimed that the ABAG housing recommendations would "wreak havoc" on PA schools. This came on a day when Southern Californians were losing their homes to fire, two years after not much has been done to rebuild the "havoc" caused by Katrina and during a time when untold "havoc" is occuring in places like Darfur and Iraq.
Even for PA I think "wreak havoc" is a little strong for the challenge of reacting to rising enrollments.
At the Council meeting on the ABAG RHNA I talked to the District's demographer and have sinced taken a look at the enrollment documents on the PAUSD website. I am by no means an expert on this and do not still have children in school in PA but here is what I found.
The current rising enrollments are indeed beginning to put pressure on current capacity. They come almost entirely from the turnover of homes in PA as younger families and their children move in much as happened in previous generations.
The school district and folks working on the enrollment increase seem to be acting as sensible adults studying alternatives from increasing class size to increasing attendence at certain schools to reopening schools that we presently lease to others. All of this will involve additional money and some inconvenience.
And while the recent increase in enrollment is mainly about the turnover of existing homes, it is true that building 350 units per year of new housing over the next 8 years (does this really merit "wreak havoc"?) would increase enrollments although much of the housing will be for older affluent families wishing to sell their homes but remain in PA.
I wrote earlier that this seems to be to be mainly about money and the posts since then confirm that extra money is on the mind of most people who oppose building more housing.
There seem to be two strands of oppostion to more housing--one focusing on any housing and another focusing on allowing poorer families to live in Palo Alto through subsidized housing or building smaller market rate units.
I will be the first to acknowledge that lower income families do not pay as much in taxes as they receive in public services. So what?
While I think the District is going to do its usual great job of planning for growing enrollment, there are some obvious additional "solutions" for those who are still worried.
Get rid of 1 in every four children in PA. Or only focus on eliminating children from poor families. Go after families still living in pre Proposition 13 homes. Get them to sell to childless families. Make it illegal to buy a home in PA for under $3 million. I will leave to your imagination how you will accomplish this but I guarantee that school enrollment will be lower afterwards while property tax revenue will be higher.
Now for those of you who think it is unfair that future homeowners are subsidizing the entry of poor families through the process where developers of market rate housing are asked to throw in some BMR units, I pose you the following challenge.
Business owners in PA and elsewhere pay property taxes that support our schools. In fact the large business property tax contribution in PA allows us to spend quite a bit more than in other districts because we are a Basic Aid district and get to spend all our property tax revenue.
So here's my question. These business owners have very few if any kids in school here and they can't vote unless they are also residents. Do you think in the name of fairness we should offer to return the money they are paying to subsidize our schools?
We have so much here and so many people who want to work toward positive solutions to city challenges.
I think a communitythat forgets that we ARE a community (residents and businesses, families with children and without, long-term residents and people moving through) can wreak more "havoc" on PA in the long term than building 350 homes a year for the next 8 years could ever harm us.
Posted by John, a resident of the College Terrace neighborhood, on Oct 29, 2007 at 5:24 pm
Then your kids went to school when attendance levels were low, correct? My kids went to school at about the same time, and the class size was higher than today, but the actual attendance was much lower.
You are saying, basically, 'throw money at it'. Won't work Steve. Our current campuses are already overcrowded. There is no more 'there' there, in terms of open land.
Your ideological identity with high density, regional planning stuff has got the best of you, Steve. You simply ignore the impacts that others will have, especially in our schools, since it won't affect your kids. Won't affect my kids either, but I have heart for our current kids. What are you thinking, Steve?
Posted by Anna, a resident of the Southgate neighborhood, on Oct 29, 2007 at 5:31 pm
Levy's last post is tendentiously hysterical and seems argued out of desperation rather than conviction. Levy and Loski, along with the corporate interests, developers and social engineers whose water they're (intentionally or not)carrying are skating on increasingly thin rhetorical ice.
It is really irrelevant that we're a wealthy small town that could manage to adjust to the increases mandated by the ABAG proposal. Some of us don't really care. The kind of growth mandated by ABAG isn't inevitable. It's something we have a choice about. We don't have to allow 3500 units in the next decade or so. We don't even have to allow half of that.
If we choose to keep our town to manageable size with lower density, more open space and less traffic - albeit with perhaps a less "vibrant" economy - that's a valid choice. Moreover I bet it's a choice favored by more residents than the gung-ho high density growth favored by Levy and Loski.
That's why you see Levy and Loski attempting to bend the discussion toward irrelevancies, attempting to play the "poor family" card, spinning faulty analogies about business taxes and schools and proposition 13, and making up nonsense like "FUD" (Fuzzy Utopian Dreamers?).
Levy is right we are a community, and we in this community - NOT ABAG - have a right to decide what kind of town we want to live in. If that doesn't include blocks of high rise apartments like Levy and Loski want, it's still our right to decide.
So let's quit fuzzing up the debate. Do you want to put Palo Alto on a glide path that will lead us to have 100,000 residents in a couple of decades, or do you want to keep things pretty much like they are?
It's really not so complicated as Levy and Loski would have us believe.
Posted by steve levy, a resident of the University South neighborhood, on Oct 29, 2007 at 5:38 pm
You seem to be good at making personal comments and putting people down.
Are you any good at answering questions? I asked a few in the original post.
And the more I think of it Jeremy's suggestion of getting a hot chocolate of coffee and lightening up a bit sounds better and better.
I got a good deal when our kids went to school. I read the District's planning report on dealing with the enrollment rise caused by having young families buy houses from older families and am happy to help out as generations before me have always done.
Never thought of it as "throwing money at it" but rather as what people of good will do when they are part of a community.
Think of building condos in downtown or California Avenue or along El Camino as our "building the property tax base" ploy. We have more childless families waiting to sell their single family home than we have places for them to downsize in PA. Help them and the tax base out by giving them places to move to within the city they love so that new families can come in and quadruple the assessed value of our homes.
Can you at least acknowledge that "wreak havoc" was a little over the top given what else people and the planet are dealing with?
Did you know that almost the entire net increase in household formation in the region over the next 20 years is in households headed by someone 55 or older? Show them your "heart".
Posted by Anna, a resident of the Southgate neighborhood, on Oct 29, 2007 at 5:48 pm
Why does steve levy insist on attacking the language used by the original poster. I think we all pretty much understand what "wreak havoc" means in the context of the original post. That people dealing with natural disasters have it worse than we do doesn't really add to the discussion.
One would think an economist could focus more on the question at hand instead of flying off into the ether of the various nuances in meaning of the phrase "wreak havoc".
But then people with weak arguments themselves often resort to criticizing the form of an opponents argument when they can't deal with the substance.
Posted by Anna, a resident of the Southgate neighborhood, on Oct 29, 2007 at 5:59 pm
Why should (John or) I answer silly irrelevant questions about what business taxes pay for, proposition 13 and poor families? Steven Levy isn't running a grad seminar here.
The fact is that I don't care who would be paying for the new growth Levy and Loski want. I don't want 3000 more housing units in Palo Alto over the next 8 years even if Google is paying for all of them and contributing half its net in taxes as a sweetener.
Like I said, Steven Levy: You want a bigger town: more houses, more people, more traffic, more crowds. I don't.
Posted by John, a resident of the College Terrace neighborhood, on Oct 29, 2007 at 6:12 pm
I never feel compelled to answer each and every question that breaks over the gunwale.
Your notion that business owners, who pay property taxes, should feel cheated becasue they do not have kids in our schools...why should I respond to that? They are making money in PA...if not they would leave, kids/no kids. A completely nonsenical analogy, Steve. That is why I feel no compunction to answer all of your questions. I will answer those that make some sense to me.
Your extremist views..."Get rid of 1 in every four children in PA. ", even if offered ad absurdum, are beyond worthy of serious discussion.
Palo Alto will do BETTER without ABAG housing. I think well over 50% of PA residents agree with that statement.
Posted by Another-Residentialist, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Oct 29, 2007 at 10:08 pm
> Business owners in PA and elsewhere pay
> property taxes that support our schools. In
> fact the large business property tax contribution
> in PA allows us to spend quite a bit more than
> in other districts because we are a Basic Aid
> district and get to spend all our property tax revenue.
This is pure silliness.
With about 25,500 dwelling units in Palo Alto (most of which generate property tax), and perhaps 4000-5000 businesses, the bulk of the tax from the secured property rolls comes from non-commercial properties. The tax from the non-secured property tax rolls (derived from business property) is small, compared to that from the secured property, but it does increase the business-generated property taxes.
The School District only gets 46% of the property tax dollars--not "all of our property tax revenue" as suggested above. And there are limits to how much the District can keep. Being a Basic Aid school district only means that there is enough property tax generated in the district's jurisdiction to pay the per-student cost of an ADA student.
For most of the California, local property tax does not support schools. Since Serrano-Priest (ca 1971), the State has the obligation to fund the schools. The State collects revenue from many sources for funding schools, but property tax routinely is left with local governments to fund local services.
> So here's my question. These business owners have very
> few if any kids in school here and they can't vote unless
> they are also residents. Do you think in the name of fairness
> we should offer to return the money they are paying to
> subsidize our schools?
Business owners can have their kids go to school in Palo Alto via "The Allen Act". However, few do. Business owners can vote in Prop.218 elections, even though they are not residents. Business owners can influence the direction of the government via their ability to contribute to local elections. The heavily-backed-by-business candidates for city council are a clear example of how the direction of government can be purchased without having a vote.
The use of the word "subsidize" shows that this poster either does not understand the nature of our public services model in California (and the US), or believes that we do not. It is interesting that this poster does not discuss the property taxes of property owners who are childless as subsidizing the schools. Reality is that the US has a commitment to free education. This is funded by taxes on: personal/commercial property, income and assets. Business expect that their taxes fund the schools to produce educated workers whose knowledge, motivation and energy will be focused on the successful operations of the business and prosperity for the workers. In this model, the word "subsidize" has no place.
If, on the other hand, businesses were taxed for education but not allowed to hire the kids who were educated by those funds--that would be a subsidy. This does not happen here in the US.
So, the question about returning the money to the school posed by the Poster deserves no answer--for doing so would be little more than trying to run a "fool's errand".
Posted by common sense, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Oct 29, 2007 at 10:32 pm
The percentage of property taxes paid by businesses has been decreasing since prop 13 passed. The properties that many businesses own, do not change ownership. Other businesses rent their space, and the landlord has owned those properties for ages. Residential properties change ownership much more frequently.
If one uses Larry Klein's estimate of 40 units/acre for ABAG housing (i.e about 1000 sq ft/ABAG housing unit) that means 70 acres of development. You could take the three largest parks in the city (Rinconada, Mitchell & Greer) and that would give you only about 60 acres of land. Johnson Park, which occupies a city block in near downtown, is 2 acres. Take 35 blocks and gives you the size of the development. Take the Palo Alto Central condo complex near the California Caltrain Station, and it would take about 20 of those complexes to equal the ABAG units.
As Bern Beecham pointed out at the council meeting, that's just the start, because BMR units are funded by the development of market rate units. Since 15% of a large development goes to BMR units, that means of the 1500 of the 2800 or so units that ABAG wants to be BMR units, there would need to be 6 times the number of units sold at market rate, or another 9000 units.
Now if the part of the goal is to place all this housing close to the transportation hubs (of which there are three: Downtown, California Ave, and San Antonio), that means taking out all the retail in Downtown, California Ave as well as good parts of the residential neighborhoods of Downtown North, Professorville, Old Palo Alto, Evergreen, Ventura, Midtown, Green Meadow, Charleston Meadows.
For me, I would vote against this - this ABAG vision isn't the Palo Alto that I would call home.
Posted by Jeremy Loski, a resident of the Ventura neighborhood, on Oct 29, 2007 at 11:16 pm
Here's what Palo Alto is dealing with, in terms of its relationship with a *relatively small* group of determined anti-growth residents that make a lot of noise at city hall - and know enough about city code to hold up projects that COSTS TAXPAYERS MONEY. That's right - cost taxpayers M-O-N-E-Y - - by using delay tactics that suck up city attorney and staff time, forced by endless requirements for review; by forcing *expensive votes* ( that they always lose) on whether or not this or that development should be built; or this or that retailer shuold be permitted to operate with this or that size store, and and so on, and on...
Hey, I could be a lot more diplomatic with this group, but I've seen them in action. (most of them are nice people , btw, and smart, too) :))
But, they're a determined lot. They will fight as if there's no tomorrow, using every trick in the book to keep this city bonsaid. (see below)
Deconstructing their message of keeping Palo Alto constrained is the only way forward. That, and slowly informing Palo Altans what the long term cost to "retro nostalgia" is, in terms of opportunity lost. In fact, the most recent City Council showed a lot of restraint, and didn't give in to the most determined members of this group; they are reacting with their fav candidate, Greg Schmid. (Steve, for heaven's sake, why?? :))
What we're dealing with is a group that ( about 3-4 years ago) practically had a collective seizure when it was suggested - heaven forbid! - that Palo Alto residents who had sufficient square footage on their property could qualify to build up to (depending on current lot size) a "granny unit" of up to 900 sq. ft. And there they were, about 75 strong, in front of City Council, crying out as if Palo Alto would go to hell in a handbasket if this exception was made to our zoning laws. We were talking about a HUGE opportunity for many senior s to build a small rental property yadjacent to their own property, and settle in the smaller unit (or use the smaller unit to supplement their fixed incomes) until they passed.
That idea was debated to the nth degree; it went back to staff and back to Council - seemingly forever - with the latter suggesting (with staff approval) that only **6** granny units per year be authorized. Yes, that's SIX per YEAR. Hardly a massive influx of building.
Guess what happened? There they were again, the same 75 people (mostly the same faces) saying that "this is going to change the character of Palo Alto" and blah, blah, blah. Council voted this very progressive property leveraging plan down. I couldn't believe it. We were talking SIX measley units per year, and THAT was a THREAT?!!? Pure fiasco...
[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]
INcidentally, this is the same group that compelled a very clueless change at Alma Plaza, one that will force retail space into **rear, off-street** locations. Unreal! That will cost one naive retailer after another (those naive enough to rent such spaces) their business.
[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]
No matter where you look in Palo Alto, this group has COST US PLENTY, and they will keep costing us plenty - in terms ofo opportunity and regional leadership - until we get some solid voices on the Council that can separate the wheat from the chaff. I was impressed (mostly) with the last Coucil - here's hoping this one is even better, in terms of focus, and growing our city in a way that *leads* this region (not necessarily in numbers, but in style and vision), without pandering to fear and sad little arguments that make us sound poor, and stingy.
Posted by Jeremy Loski, a resident of the Ventura neighborhood, on Oct 29, 2007 at 11:30 pm
common sense says:
"If one uses Larry Klein's estimate of 40 units/acre for ABAG housing (i.e about 1000 sq ft/ABAG housing unit) that means 70 acres of development. You could take the three largest parks in the city (Rinconada, Mitchell & Greer) and that would give you only about 60 acres of land. Johnson Park, which occupies a city block in near downtown, is 2 acres. Take 35 blocks and gives you the size of the development. Take the Palo Alto Central condo complex near the California Caltrain Station, and it would take about 20 of those complexes to equal the ABAG units."
Huh? What about building housing over retail? What about building UP, a little higher in certain parts of the city?
btw, LOTS of retail (you said it yourself) IS aging, and ready for renewal. i know *several* significant properties that will be completely refurbished within the next 5 years. That's an OPPORTUNITY. Larry Klein's analysis? On this issue he's thinking like a 1980's City Council member who has never visited Santana Row.
There are *many* ways to accomodate the ABAG numbers, without "wreaking havoc" on our city. That is *panic* mode, and fear-based rhetoric. It's SO parochial, and lacking innoavtive thinking about HOW we might solve the ABAG problem set without having nto make big sacrifices, OR, turning the ABAG requirement into an OPPORTUNITY.
Folks, put your thinking caps on, and chisel your boots out of the cement. Let's move this city forward, because your all our faces are getting smaller in Einstein's mirror, as time, and opportunity, pass us by.
Posted by common sense, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Oct 30, 2007 at 12:01 am
Palo Alto Central is a mixed use, residential over retail development. It would take 20 of those complexes to meet the ABAG numbers.
You say there are many solutions - so propose the details - Where would the development take place - name specific neighborhoods & streets? Where are all the unused land parcels near the transit centers? How high would these developments be?
How would you finance these BMR units? Have you figured out the effect on the tax base?
Posted by Jeremy Loski, a resident of the Ventura neighborhood, on Oct 30, 2007 at 12:14 am
Really, read his post again - in addition to A-R's past posts about the decreasing contribution (relatively) of business taxes, here are A-R's salient quotes
"Business expect that their taxes fund the schools to produce educated workers whose knowledge, motivation and energy will be focused on the successful operations of the business and prosperity for the workers."
"The heavily-backed-by-business candidates for city council are a clear example of how the direction of government can be purchased without having a vote."
These are contradictory statements. How is that business friendly? Read into the implication. It's anti-business.
Posted by Jeremy Loski, a resident of the Ventura neighborhood, on Oct 30, 2007 at 12:22 am
common sense, how many business use buildings are slated for renewal in the next 10 years?
We don't have those numbers, but I would wager that it's quite a few. Why not build residential over some of those? Why not increase height limits in certain high density parts of the city? Why not intersperse occasional height exemptions (we're talking one additional floor, maximum) in other selected parts of the city? Why not permit the building out of granny units, where appropriate? There are more ideas - some good, some not so good - - but we do need to get more ideas on the table, vett them,, and find the ones that will best enable us to grow with as little compromise to lifestyle as possible.
If we fail to do this, we're looking at a kind of west coast BO-WASH in 25 years...do you want that?
BMR units? Why not consider the cost *savings* to ALL of us as we breathye cleaner air. There is a *benefit* to having more people closer to work.
There are no perfect answers to this conundrum; I'm the first to admit that. What bothers me is the dogmatic and automatic thinking on this issue by certain residents who have been known to hold progress up in our city. We *cannot* afford to let this happen any more.
Here's a question for you. Why hasn't the no-growth group gone out to start regional solutions groups. THAT's what we need. our municipalities are NOT talking to *one another* on this issue. We *lack leadership* in this regard.
Posted by Another-Residentialist, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Oct 30, 2007 at 12:25 am
> Read into the implication. It's anti-business.
This statement is not anti-business. It is intended to point out that business is contributing heavily to this year's council race. Money usually buys access .. even though business can not "vote" (as suggested by one poster).
Posted by Another-Residentialist, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Oct 30, 2007 at 12:30 am
> BMR units? Why not consider the cost *savings*
> to ALL of us as we breathye cleaner air.
Palo Alto has clean air. For all of the hoopla about "clean air', very few city governments actually measure pollutants in their jurisdictions, posting this information on their web-sites in real-time. It's doubtful that that are any "studies" that relate air quality to the number of BMRs in their jurisdictions.
LA has a problem with air quality. Nature has not dealt LA a kind hand. But it's unlikely that building millions of BMRs will fix this problem.
Posted by John, a resident of the College Terrace neighborhood, on Oct 30, 2007 at 2:03 am
I can't believe that this ABAG housing stuff is being driven by air pollution arguments. Cars have become much cleaner over the years. Air quality in Palo Alto is much better, compared to the 60s and 70s. Air quality will continue to improve, as electric vehicles and hybrids displace all-gas cars. We may live to see the near elimination of the interneal combustion engine via fuel cells and batteries.
BMRs and high density are a huge price to pay in order to save the air, especially when the air is already being saved by technology.
Efficient public transportation? Yes, esecpially trains and commuter vans. Our future workers, including police and teachers, want the choice to live in Tracy and Salinas in 3 bedroom homes, not stuck in a BMR in Palo Alto.
Posted by Student of ABAG, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Oct 30, 2007 at 4:42 am
The adjusted 2,860 housing units are supposed to consist of 690 very low income, 544 low income, 641 moderate income, and 985 market rate housing units. Since moderate income housing units are typically built as part of larger projects by developers, through the BMR requirement, even if the BMR units was 20% of the total units developed (and usually it is 15%), a total of at least 2,564 market rate housing units would need to be built. At 15% BMR requirement, 3,632 market rate housing units would be built.
The very low and low income units are typically built as separate developments and not through the BMR program. These 1,234 housing units would need to be paid for through in-lieu BMR fees (from yet more market rate housing), or federal, state, local, or private funding. In the case of BRIDGE housing, the units were funded by yet more for sale market rate housing on the same site.
The typical cost of building a housing unit for very low or low income tenants (yes, they are nearly always rental at this level) is $500,000 per unit. That would require the expenditure of about $617 million over the next 7 or so years. Compare that with the fact that Palo Alto's general fund is about $140 million annually. (Note: Eden housing is for 53 very low income units at a cost of over $25 million.)
The 1,875 BMR housing units plus at least 3,632 market rate housing units are expected to house over 2,200 new students under the PAUSD new housing enrollment growth projection formulas (medium forecast is .7 for subsidized units and between .15 and .9 for market rate; I've used .25 for small SFUs and townhouses, as per PAUSD Facility Master Plan of April 2007). Even if the additional 1,875 BMRs were 1000 sqft and the 3632 new market rate units were 2000 sqft each, the $2.63/sqft school impact fee would bring in about $24 million, which would not be enough to refurbish reopened schools to house those additional 2,200 students.
I haven't figured out how much property tax revenue would be brought in from those additional housing units (plus just over $2 million in parcel taxes). Of course, that increased revenue would need to be balanced against the loss in rental revenue from reopening schools and the increased cost for educating those students. I don't have that data handy.
Posted by Student of ABAG, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Oct 30, 2007 at 4:52 am
As enrollment increases, PAUSD must choose between increasing the density of schools and reopening schools (or both). Increasing the density of schools, that is, cramming more students into existing schools, means using up some of the playing field space for more portables, and then dividing the remaining space among more students.
Fewer students would be able to play sports, and the demand for being on teams would grow without the capacity growing for being on teams.
At great expense, you can build double decker schools. But you can't build double decker playing fields.
Posted by Palo Alto Voter, a resident of the College Terrace neighborhood, on Oct 30, 2007 at 5:02 am
Which City Council candidates are worried about more housing?
Greg Schmid said that more housing is a problem for our schools.
Pat Burt complained about the ABAG numbers.
Sid Espinosa is concerned about infrastructure.
Yiaway Yeh knows about the fiscal impact.
Dan Dykwel (who says he has "no agenda," or at least no agenda he is willing to admit) said that teardowns are just fine with him and that there's no problem in replacing a house with the maximum size house that can possibly be built. Sure, Dan Dykwel is a realtor and not a developer, but whose agenda will he follow if he manages to get elected?
I haven't mentioned the others, because none of the others has gotten any newspaper endorsements.
Posted by common sense, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Oct 30, 2007 at 5:59 am
Since you didn't answer the questions, it must mean that you were mistaken about there being "Many solutions". It's very simple - how many acres do you think it would take to develop, and which streets/locations would you develop to come up with the 2800+ ABAG units? There are a limited number of locations that are near the transit hubs. Another thing, the higher up one builds, the greater the construction costs, so much more money is needed to fund the BMR units.
Posted by Parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Oct 30, 2007 at 8:34 am
Bigger schools don't just mean fewer spaces on sports teams, but fewer everything. Fewer leads in the school play, fewer editors of the year book, fewer solos in the school choir, fewer homecoming queens. Actually, there are just the same number of spots, but much harder for anyone to attain them. The chances of any one person attaining their ambitious goal of becoming top dog in whatever, is so much smaller.
And then there is the graduation procedures, already a farce when few parents can be seated where they can actually hear or see what is going on. Bigger schools mean bigger everything.
Posted by Dave, a resident of the Professorville neighborhood, on Oct 30, 2007 at 9:15 am
Student of ABAG, thank you for providing clarity (and facts!) to the discussion.
The numbers presented by Student are sobering. Where is the money for the BMR housing coming from? Where is the money to ameloriate the costs of schooling the ABAG-generated enrollment increases?
And even if that were solved - even if as Anna posits above -all the housing were paid for by Google millionaires who financed completely the costs of the extra housing to our city and school, DO WE REALLY WANT TO LIVE IN A MORE CROWDED CITY? I, for one, do not. Let's vote before the City Council caves into the ABAG bullies.
Posted by Jeremy Loski, a resident of the Ventura neighborhood, on Oct 30, 2007 at 11:52 am
'Student of ABAG' is not a student of innovative solution - that's for sure. Neither is 'common sense'. Tom Paine would be shocked at having the latter use his moniker.
Let's look at their fear-based, full-of-FUD arguments - arguments that NEVER talk about, or consider, innovation - - *fear and constraint* is what their futures are all about.
This is all about their *pocketbook* - think about that. Do we want the *pocketbook concerns* of a small minority of Palo Altans to limit our city's adaptive capacity and regional leadership capabilities? Remember, most of these residents *profited* from Prop 13.
They have theirs, and now they want to keep anyone else form sharing in an environment that most of them dumb-lucked into. Seriously, how many of these people even had a clue that PA or this region would take off the way it has, when they moved in?
First, and foremost, notice the focus on *constraint* and *paucity of resources* - WITHOUT suggesting - or even ATTEMPTING to suggest innovative solutions to the housing and transport problems we have in this region, caused in no small way by our own jobs/housing imbalance.
Of course. we NEVER see numbers from this group that will corroborate the simple fact that we are ruining our delicate, water-shy environment, by building more sprawl. Instead, they want to *encourage* more suburban sprawl, instead of looking to create regional housing and mass transport solutions to growth that work.
Instead, what we see are Excel spreadsheet projections that isolate a small particular from the whole. The *very nature* of the numbers presented by Student of ABAG is constrained; there is no room for anything but the closed loop pfear-based scenario set up in his iscenario. Think about this. This is a mindset that hides behind numbers to PROTECT itself from dealing with change. There is not ONE benefit shown to growth, only fear. If our forebears operated with this mentality, based on the doubts that were present about the potential for computation, we'd be in a very different place right now. We need more HP thinking - of the old kind.
Student of ABAG has (as many Excel-and-number-jockeys do, created a closed-loop world that nicely) set up a scenario where the numbers almost ALWAYS refer back only to *current* resources. There is *no* room for innovation in an Excel spreadsheet. They almost NEVER refer back to the FACT that there are real and latent possibilities that can leverage currrent resources to enable *adaptation* to growth, in ways that leave us *better off than prior*.
California is GROWING, folks. And try as you may, there is NO WAY that you are going to be able to build a moat around Palo Alto's air quality, or Palo Alto's impact (or any of our neighboring municipality's respective impacts) on the quality of life of ALL of us.
Above, I pointed out (to common sense) that there is a LARGE supply of commercial property (structures) that is up for renewal and rebuild in the next 5-15 years.
Also suggested was an increase height limits in certain high density parts of the city. Why not intersperse occasional height exemptions (we're talking one additional floor, maximum) in other selected parts of the city? Why not permit the building out of granny units, where appropriate? There are more ideas - some good, some not so good - - but we do need to get more ideas on the table, vett them,, and find the ones that will best enable us to grow with as little compromise to lifestyle as possible.
If we fail to do this, we're looking at a kind of west coast BO-WASH in 25 years...do you want that?
Posted by Jeremy Loski, a resident of the Ventura neighborhood, on Oct 30, 2007 at 12:38 pm
[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]
John, it's not going to go to the ballot, because the problem is bigger than Palo Alto. bringing housing concerns to the ballot days are over. We're moving on. Besides, once the "new residentialist" base here got fired up over the retro acctivities of the anti-growthers here, you'd lose, hands down. That's what's happening, right under the nose of most of the old guard; it's practically too late.
Posted by Dave, a resident of the Professorville neighborhood, on Oct 30, 2007 at 12:46 pm
"the problem is bigger than Palo Alto. [B]ringing housing concerns to the ballot days are over. ..." Translation: You parochial rubes are too dumb to understand the big picture and so can't be permitted to vote on something your betters have already decided.
"Once the "new residentialist" base here gets fired up...you'd lose hands down." Translation: We don't have to have an election anyway because I've already decreed what the results will be.
I think we need to have a vote. They should hire Jeremy Loski to do publicity for the anti-ABAG side. He's a terrific advocate for us in the "old guard".
Posted by Dan, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Oct 30, 2007 at 2:37 pm
Jeremy Loski keeps repeating its a "VERY SMALL" group who are against rapid growth in Palo Alto. I bet there is a much larger pool of sympathetic people who just don't have the time to lobby. It appears Loski has never seen a development project that he didn't love...
He decrys the "lack of leadership" ... but the subtext is a lack of leaders and residents willing to follow in the direction and particularly at the pace that he believes in. Of course we could find a way to physically house 100,000, 200,000, or even more additional residents within Palo Alto boundaries. Just consider Mumbai India:
In its ‘peak density’ area, Mumbai has as many as 1,01,066 people packed in a single square kilometre...
The question is why would we want to grow so fast? Loski's suggested solutions for accomodating additional housing , as far as I can tell, mostly involve converting existing commercial/retail space into small-box, high-density housing. Adding mixed-use buildings over time where retail dominates street-level and some housing is above, can be a good proposal for a vital downtown area if properly planned. The reality is that it takes time to integrate/plan/develop these projects and developers don't favor them vs more profitable pure housing construction (it seems this is why most mixed-use projects ultimately fail in this town ... to provide any retail/business space, developers want a LOT more housing units). The rate of housing growth has to be constrained to a pace where supporting infrastructure can somehow be paid for and developed in tandem. You certainly couldn't get ~3000 new housing units this way in ~7 years, even if you allow developers to crowd out the already limited retail/business component of the mixed-use. This is the alarming trend we see in recent projects around town. Unfortunately retail in mixed-use construction is typically limited to small boutique shops that might be great for window shopping but don't usually address basic necessities (I used to live near Santana Row ... it was good for stolling and eating at a restaurant ocasionally, but you can't get anything you really need there...)
The idea of re-zoning residential neighborhoods so that small income-generating apartments can pop up in a neighbors' backyard doesn't sound like a sane idea unless you are a lawyer hoping for business from the additional lawsuits.
Finally, if high density housing is the solution for polution, then New York, Hong Kong, Calcutta, Shanghai, and Mumbai must have some of the cleanest air on earth...
Posted by Anna, a resident of the Southgate neighborhood, on Oct 30, 2007 at 2:45 pm
Dan makes very good points. There are myriad problems associated with increasing Palo Alto's housing stock, and population at the rate ABAG and Loski want.
But I think the practicality problems are superseded by the fact that the majority of people in town don't want the kind of density and population that ABAG wants us to put here - even if the increased housing could be added sensibly and at no monetary cost to existing residents.
Here is the most salient issue: We have the right to decide what kind of city we want Palo Alto to be. Loski wants it to be filled with mid-rise apartment blocks. I don't think the majority of residents do. ABAG's plans only will become reality if we let them happen. And we don't have to bow down to these uber-bureaucrats filled with corporate shills and utopian regional "planners".
Let's vote before the council listens too much to the development interests, corporate big-wigs and misguided social planners.
Posted by Jeremy Loski, a resident of the Ventura neighborhood, on Oct 30, 2007 at 3:32 pm
Dan says: "Of course we could find a way to physically house 100,000, 200,000, or even more additional residents within Palo Alto boundaries. Just consider Mumbai India:"
This goes *exactly* as I said it would, with one outsized and absurd fear0based projection after another. It's like another poster's rediculous example of replacing every dwelling in LA with BMR units.
[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]
Notice, not one word about the Greenbelt alliance essay, posted earlier
Anna says: "Let's vote before the council listens too much to the development interests, corporate big-wigs and misguided social planners."
She sees the handwriting on the wall. It's almost too late for the anti-development crowd to continue to influence policy here in a way that has been so disproportionate to their numbers in the past.
Where are their solutions, compared to ABAG? They ***don't have any***, other than complaining, and threatening how Palo Alto will turn into LA, or Munbai. Is that even worth consideration? The level of their looming desperation is beginning to drown out even the rational moderates in their midst.
It's always about keeping something from happening here (in this case, residential growth that could be seen as a *boon* to the area, if that growth is patterned and distributed in certain ways, and hard work toward leading this region to effective mass transit deployment is accomplished over the next few decades, as growth occurs.
This group shares responsibility for both failings - and now they're asking for housing limitations (which can be easily accomodated, if we *really* innovate, instead of just talking about innovation) ***because we need more retail!!***. It's called "blowback" folks. That's what happens when one sees development only in terms of intensely local and parochial self-interest, as nearby neigghbors snatch up our opportunities lost.
This group has a preference for development of a certain kind; it's a preference that has their small interest group on top of, and essentially in control of (by hook or crook), every significant development that is proposed in PA. That's what they've been able to do in the past, but have been less able to accomplish recently. They're running scared. Just look at the M-O-N-E-Y that they have cost taxpayers and new residents in extra development costs, ***in addition to*** the very effective job that they have accomplished over years to keep viable retail out of Palo Alto.
In sum, we are talking about well-meaning ipeople who were able to hobby horse their way around Palo Alto politics - when things were easy, and it was impossible to make a mistake - who think that everything is still the same as it was during Palo Alto's, and this region's, more salad days.
They couldn't be more wrong.
They want to characterize ABAG as some evil agency that would turn Palo Alto into Mumbai, or a haven for lower-income housing. They want to use - and will use - this kind of fear tactic to motivate their arguments. Remember 800 High hSt, and how this group demonized the entire project. They said that ACE Hardware woudl go out of business; instead, ACE is THRIVING (and so are surrounding businesses). Housing development (jncluding BMR units, downtown) has been a BOON for our city, bringing sales tax revenues, and residential diversity, including citizens who will contribute in innumerable new ways to the growth and positive development of our city.
The anti-growth crowd want to stop all this, to preserve some long-lost nostalgic version of what Palo Alto *used* to be. It's hard to let go of the past, and face up to challenge.
Notice how the anti-growth crowd says it's all about "how much this is going to *cost* us, without even a nod to the fact that California - and this region - will continue to grow. They're living in a mythic nostalgic dream, and losing their power of influence every day, as smarter, more engaged, and visionary leaders begin to appear on the horizon.
Posted by John, a resident of the College Terrace neighborhood, on Oct 30, 2007 at 4:02 pm
I think you will find that not all of us who oppose ABAG housing are in agreement on every issue about growth. For instance, I support growth, but not not BMR (welfare) housing, or other forced housing. I think the market should be allowed to play out supply and demand (it always does, one way or the other - please, no more theoretical economic stuff, JL...too boring!). I would hope that PA does not fall for the regional (forced) prescription of infill housing. Why should we?
The great assets that Palo Alto have, (reductio absurdum, I admit) are:
1. Stanford is our neighbor
2. Housing prices (thus tax revenues)
Palo Alto is no longer a manufacturing base, even for electronics. It is a brain-based economic sphere. Just as a theoretic, and if I were to agree with your command economcy appraoch (I don't), I would command that businesses be placed in transit corridors, not housing. Why? Becasue it would eliminate the 'final mile' in the public transportation equation. The workers would get off the subway/train and walk to their jobs. Has this thought ever crossed your mind, JL?
Back to reality. Palo Alto is NOT going to approve this ABAG thing. Even without a vote, the new Council will see that we cannot afford it, in so many ways.
Posted by Dan, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Oct 30, 2007 at 5:33 pm
It seems nothing anyone could say would moderate your pro-growth position... but I want to clarify that I didn't mention Mumbai, India in order to imply we're in danger of heading to this extreme in Palo Alto or the Bay Area. I was trying to indicate that the discussion shouldn't be derailed talking about the impossibility of housing additional people in Palo Alto ... the real issue is whether its desired to do so and at the growth rates inherent in the ABAG numbers. Some previous post could be read literally by you as saying it is impossible to supply housing for such a population increase due to land constraints... obviously not, since much higher densities already exist elsewhere (Mumbai just being what came up when I Googled city population density statistics).The fact which you evade is that a lot (not a small special interest group) of people don't want rapid increase in the local population density with the issues and lifestyle changes that come associated with it. Certainly there are positives in population growth, but as growth saturates local resources its harder and less desireable to scale past growth into the future indefinitely. Big, high density cities are not utopian paradises and have much more intractable environmental/pollution problems than what we face. Population growth is not only about opportunity no matter what you prefer to believe... and so you shouldn't just dismiss as backwards anybody who doesn't share the rosy view. Things are not so bad the way they are today as you seem to think. If you had a more moderate position acknowledging that not all growth is inherently good, I bet you would have a better chance at making your points with people inclined to listen.
Posted by Anna, a resident of the Southgate neighborhood, on Oct 30, 2007 at 6:11 pm
Well said Dan. The issue is not whether we can afford the ABAG housing quotas, whether that housing will fit within Palo Alto's borders, or even whether the housing is BMR or suitable for Google millionaires.
The issue whether the amount of housing ABAG mandates at the rate they say we should build it is something that's desirable for Palo Alto. And we have a choice in the matter: we can say "yes" or "no." We can decide on a denser city than we have now, or on a more suburban town like we have now. It's very legitimate to tell ABAG to go peddle their social planning somewhere else.
It is true that California will grow. But different areas will grow at different rates. In 1950, San Francisco had 775,000 people. By 2000 (last census) the population of San Francisco had hardly budged to 776,000 people. If Palo Alto adds another thousand or so residents in the next 50 years, while California's population grows much faster...so what? If it's what we - not ABAG bureaucrats choose - then what's to complain about?
Housing growth here isn't inevitable. It's a choice.
Posted by Jeremy, a resident of the Community Center neighborhood, on Oct 30, 2007 at 7:48 pm
How does a single BMR help air quality? Keep in mind that BMR residents have fewer options than market rate buyers for where they work. They're therefore more likely to need a car to get there.
What is the problem that ABAG is a solution for? That there are billions of people in the world who don't live in Palo Alto? That there are more than a million who want to? That we need to find a way to get as many of them here as we can as soon as possible? That it is our moral obligation to bring more people to Palo Alto?
If you are trying to be eco-responsible, it would be far more effective to promote work from home via lower high-bandwidth capabilities etc. throughout Palo Alto, the Bay Area and the state.
That will have a quicker, more certain, more benficial impact than hoping that some of the people we grow Palo Alto to include will drive less by living in Palo Alto.
BTW, I am not happy you chose my name as a moniker. I don't agree with your goals, assumptions, or arguments.
Posted by Jeremy Loski, a resident of the Ventura neighborhood, on Oct 30, 2007 at 11:31 pm
Jeremy, what's in a name? It's my name, and, it's your name; it's lots of people's names.
Now that that's settled, please try to understand that ALL communities have to pitch in and help. We owe that to our children and future citizens.
Dan, you said "Big, high density cities are not utopian paradises and have much more intractable environmental/pollution problems than what we face" Who said they were? Guess what, we're projected to just over 80,000 residents in 2030 (by our own planningi department).
80k residents does not a big density city. However, the *region is getting more dense*, and will continue to do so. We *have* to find ways to ameliorate that growth in ways that make forwth cuase fewer negative impacts. That means we have to *innovate* housing distribution, and mass transport solutions.
By the way, I'm not "pro-growth"; I'm "anti-no-growth", within the context of what "no growth" means in Palo Alto. There's a difference.
Posted by Palo Alto Resident, a resident of the Old Palo Alto neighborhood, on Oct 31, 2007 at 1:19 am
Are you a developer?
Are you from out of state?
Are you planning on cashing in by selling your home, and moving out of state when your children leave?
My children are third generation residents, and they intend to keep our home after we are gone.
We know hundreds of residents in this community (parents and retirees), and no one agrees with any of your reasoning.
My neighbor knows a lot about Palo Alto politics, and he told me that we do not have to accept ABAG.
The parents at our school do not want more students, high density housing, and people who are unable to contribute back to our community. Families from San Mateo county can claim to be low income (at the Palo Alto level) when they make over $135,000 and have 4 children, with a stay at home mom.
It will cost our school district ~$40,000 a year to educate them.
Think of educating all 4 of them for 12 years.
This family would not contribute to PIE or PTA in time or money. I know of other families in San Mateo county who are on this same waiting list. They are not homeless, and they are not poor ( if they stay where they are), they just want the status of being Palo Altans, and to use all our amenities here, without paying the price. Their children would be able to attend all the Recreation classes offered in Palo Alto at a discount, when our children cannot afford to participate in any.
We pay high taxes, contribute generously to PIE, PTA, and volunteer. We live in a typical modest dump.
We know of other families who want to live in Palo Alto who have more than 4 children, and are on waiting lists to get in here from San Mateo county.
I just cannot see that building more housing here would equate to us having a better city.
It will be more polluted, overcrowded, crime will likely increase, and people may decide to move out.
We do not even have enough food stores in our city to feed the existing population in Palo Alto.
There are tech companies in other states besides California.
Oregon, Washington, and North Carolina are three cities that have beautiful homes, top level schools, parks. and libraries that rival ours. The only thing they do not have is Stanford. But there is no certainty that Stanford will continue to be so great in the future. Many recent changes have been made regarding admissions policies. I won't elaborate on this, but if you are a Stanford Professor, you will know what I mean.
Property values may actually drop here. (Either way, the realtors benefit). Are you a realtor?
For us, it does not matter, because we are here to stay.
We would hate too lose our friends that are contemplating moving out of state soon.
Were you on a house hunting trip when you hit that deer a while back?
Posted by Jeremy Loski, a resident of the Ventura neighborhood, on Oct 31, 2007 at 9:27 am
oh, oh - I knew it wouldn't be long before Elaine trotted out her trusty list of approved construction projects. That's always good for a headline, or added emphasis for the anti-growth crowd.
btw, I'm not a developer, or a real estate agent. But so what if I was? I know several real estate agents, and at least two developers who actually somewhat agree with the anti-growth crowd here. The latter have been turned off by the most strident of the anti-growth movement, because their past - and thankfully, waning - influence has made it difficult to getinto seious negotiation on delicate developments with thin margins. It's pretty strange to see people classifying others by their occupations, without even talking to them. I thought this was a discriminating, intelligent community.
Elaine is a well-meaning person, but her constant harping on how awful growth is here, and what a problem it causes, is beginning to glide beyond earshot. This is because we've been hearing about the "impending crisis from mtoo much housing" for so long, with no really adverse effects (our community seems to adapt very nidely to new residents), that those who were originally surprised by Elaine's numbers, no longer give them very much import in policy making.
First, note that of the properties on her list, all but 1200 have already been built. So why tout the larger number? Impact, I guess - even though it's pretty deceptive. Also, of the remaining 1200, some builds may never happen (Fry's, for instance).
The JCC is one of the projects on Elaine's list; the JCC is going to be a *wonderful* edition to our community, a gateway project on the south side.
Note that Elaine doesn't stress the scaled nature of these builds. For instance, the Stanford builds on El Camino and in upper California Ave. will most likely be developed between 2013-2020. Why doesn't she stress that? How about the Fry's property? Why does she count housing there, when Elaine and others in the no-growth crowd have done everything they can to limit the landlord's options to build housing on Fry's property?
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The no-growthers play hardball. They have a few favorites running for Council this year - one of them is Greg Schmid, and absolutely nice guy with retro political ideas. There's one more that I haven't fully vetted, yet. I'm having a hard time figuring out whether this latter candidate would be good for Palo Alto in the long run, but I may vote for him in the short runm because his short term focus is where it needs to be, on the infrastructure rebuilds.
In any case, this is still pretty weak stuff, coming from residents who want "theirs", and want to build a seming moat around this place.
Palo Alto Resident's arguments are pretty sad - castigating people for wanting to live here because they want to better their kid's lives. The whole emphasis seems all about "how much this is going to cost me", *without* considering the potential benefits that new residents might bring, especially if we can move our policy makers to positions where they finally get that we have a *regional* problem - onen that needs strategic housing placement (e.g infill near transport corridors, *good* mass transport, etc. etc.) - instead of listening to short-sighted "I've got mine" arguments that lead to the same behavior in other municipalities, thus dooming this region to sprawl, less diversity, and general long-term decline.
I wonder how Palo Alto Resident imagines all the services that his future generation relatives want will be paid for, if we end up with the long-term lack of diversity (economic and otherwise) that his short-term desires would lead to.
Yup, we're gonna grow - it's time to face this challenge, and do what we need to do to make sure that growth is scaled, that it meets our responsibility protecting the larger environment, that we make access to new residential property much easier without an automobile, that we strategically densify certain parts of our city (ideally, near transport corridors) with the sensitivity and vision that Palo Altans used to have, until we started to experience the fear and senseless worry of the no growth crowd, whose constant fears have not been realized.
You'd think that they would have learned something, as one new development after another has turned outu to be a boon to the city - bringing new money, new diversity, and new passion for growing our city into a sustainable future.
Posted by Anna, a resident of the Southgate neighborhood, on Oct 31, 2007 at 9:43 am
Jeremy says, we need to strategically densify certain parts of our city" to meet ABAG's requirements for the city, and that those of us who disagree are fear mongers.
To the contrary, most of us who don't want our city to grow into a "densified" urban area aren't motivated by "fear", we simply disagree with the vision Jeremy has sketched out. We moved here because we like the suburban feel of Palo Alto, are attracted by its scale, and because we think the current population and residential character contributes to the ability of the school district to maintain its excellence. We think maintaining what we moved here for is a choice we have, and that we don't have to let ABAG cow us into something else.
We don't expect Portola Valley, Los Altos Hills or Woodside to change their semi-rural characters by adding apartments or small suburban-style tracts because the people who moved there like it the way is is. We don't see San Francisco or Oakland residents pushing to bulldoze their high rise residential neighborhoods to add open space. People who live there like urban living.
It's time to tell Jeremy and the social engineers and developers who sent him to butt out.
Posted by Jeremy Loski, a resident of the Ventura neighborhood, on Oct 31, 2007 at 10:11 am
"Portola Valley, Los Altos Hills or Woodside???"
Since when does Palo Alto resemble any of those places? They're primarily rural, exurban connunities. Palo Alto is not that. Are you living in the same city than the rest of us are? Looks like more FUD, fear, and distortion. I would suggest doing a reality check on how you perceive Palo Alto, relative to how most Palo Altan's perceive their city.
Palo Alto is a small city that is part of an urban *region*. We have a lot of very nice, small neighborhoods, and a small *city* feel (we're not really a "town" any more.
This has nothing to do with social engineering, in nthe way you apparently mean that term. In fact, your intransigence - and the no-growthers intransigence - to let our city meet its responsibilties to the region and the environment (in a way that won't change the character ofo this community for the worse) is another kind of social engineering.
IN fact, your preferances have effects on the region and the environment that will COST Palo Alto more than it would to buuild more housing.
btw, nobody is saying that we're going to fo building ABAG housing in the middle of Old Palo Alto, or Professorville, or Evergreen Park, or College terrace, or in the downtown neighborhoods. There are places in this city that can easily be adapted to *higher density than normal* (for Palo Alto housing, with additional opportunities to place housing above retail, etc. etc - as explained in prior posts.
Posted by Anna, a resident of the Southgate neighborhood, on Oct 31, 2007 at 10:24 am
Once more, intentionally or not, Loski mischaracterizes the posts of others to support his increasingly tiresome and tendentious arguments.
No one said Portola Valley and other semi-rural cities are like Palo Alto. The point made was (and is) that these places have a character that their residents want to maintain - just as Palo Alto has a (different)distinct suburban character that most residents want to maintain. Just as Portola Valley has a right to decline to develop in a way that changes its character, so do we. We should exercise that right.
Whether there are places that can be "adapted to 'higher density than normal" (whatever that means) without changing Palo Alto's character is of course, what we're discussing here. Most seem not to agree with Loski.
And I would suggest that the formulation, "higher density than normal" reveals the flaw in Loski's reasoning. After all the "normal", existing density is one of the characteristics of this town most of us want to maintain here.
Maybe Loski would be happier in San Francisco or some other urban area in whose direction he apparently would have us go.
Posted by election question, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Oct 31, 2007 at 10:25 am
I've been silently following this conversation and would like to thank Anna, Elaine, Dan, John and others for doing such a good job articulating what bugs me about the type of growth Jeremy Loski keeps single-handedly pushing. Jeremy, there are plenty more like me who choose to follow the conversation rather than participate, and your arguments don't represent us.
It'd be helpful to know which candidates are most likely to stand up for Palo Alto against the current ABAG numbers?
FYI to Elaine: Sheridan is North of Oregon, and Meadow is South. Your chart is a real eye-opener.
Aside to Jeremy: try re-reading Anna's comment about the surrounding cities. You're so busy formulating your response that you've missed her point. We don't expect those cities to change their character, so why should it be acceptable for us to change ours?
Posted by Jeremy Loski, a resident of the Ventura neighborhood, on Oct 31, 2007 at 11:47 am
Anna, it's OK to try to change the context of your argument, to meet the challenge that makes your argument look like what it was intended to be - i.e. an inaccurate rendering of Palo Alto as an exurban community that would have its bucolic nature swamped by a few more houses.
Portola Valley and Los Altos Hills, indeed. How many Palo Altans would identify with thos cities - not many.
So far, you have't been able to put the brakes on growth here, and you're not going to do so in the future. Palo Alto is projected to 80,000+ in 2030. How are you going to stop that? by keeping housing permits to a minimum and driving up our real estate to a place where only a certain demographic can afford it?
election question, It doesn't matter "how many of you" there are - there is not enough in your numbers to stop this city from growing to at least 905 of projected population increases (if not more) by 2030.
There is not enough weight on the side of the pure anti-growth movement represented in current Council candidates, or sitting members. Certainly, we will se some measured response to ABAG's numbers, but the days when anti-growth groups (small as they are, with past political weight way beyond the impact of their real numbers) dominate the scene in Palo Alto are over.
How about you re-reading Anna's reference to Portola Valley, etc. There are ways to use words to present facts, without fear - or to raise fear and GUD, in general, as Anna, Elain, Dan, and John have done - to make it seem that Palo Altans don't care about the long term effects of the housing choices they make today (on the environment), or othe effects of the negligence they show to mass transport (in their efforts to keep Palo Alto pure of new opportunity, or their surprisingly stingy attitude toward sharing some of our bounty with citizens who could live closer to work, but can't afford to live here. It's all so short sighted.
There will continue to be conflicts and tension over growth - as there should be, but we won't see the conversation dominated by the most radical anti-growth lements in our city any longer. That's gratifying.
Posted by Elaine Meyer, a resident of the University South neighborhood, on Oct 31, 2007 at 2:22 pm
Jeremy's condescending characterization of the housing data as "well meaning" is an attempt to diminish its importance and the fact that it is also quite accurate and informative. Web Link
I very rarely "trot out" this list until the misinformation trotted out by others becomes overwhelming. An explanation of how the list came about and the reasons for choosing the time period (The Comprehensive Plan) is here Web Link
For people who have no idea how much housing is being built in Palo Alto, this data is an eye-opener.
You are partially correct about Fry's being a commercial property but its underlying zoning is residential and it was recently considered for housing, so I leave it in. The land owner is said to prefer housing. The police building site will be determined by a bond issue. It remains a potential housing site until then.
ps Thanks, 'election question,' I'll fix the categories.
Posted by Jeremy Loski, a resident of the Ventura neighborhood, on Oct 31, 2007 at 3:22 pm
Please note that only 1200 units - of which almost 400 are doubtful, remain as "to be built" on Elaine's list - many of those on Stanford property.
Of the homes on her list that have been built, there has ben no outcry. Those new residents are helpingin the schools (and helping to pay for the schools), starting up local businesses, contributing to the polis, and so on.
If Elaine and all those who agree with her on housing issues are so sure that more housing is bad, why is it that there has been no general outcry about the more than 70% of the homes on her list that have already been built. Seems kind of strange, doesn't it? On ewonders what all the fuss is about, relative to "overbuilding".
We need to step back from anti-development FUD, and look for ways to scale environmentally sensible growth into this community, with a social conscience.
Posted by Jeremy Loski, a resident of the Ventura neighborhood, on Oct 31, 2007 at 3:28 pm
oh, and btw, watch the no growth crowd go to work when it comes time to renew the Comprehensive Plan - - THAT's going to be a sideshow circus. It's funny to hear these no growthers talk about "free markets", because they will do everything they can to impinge and constrain the market through policy that chokes opportunity.
Posted by John, a resident of the College Terrace neighborhood, on Oct 31, 2007 at 4:26 pm
Zoning, by its very nature, is a constraint on supply. However, within the zoning overlays, demand will be conditioned by price. If there are fewer homes available, for a given demand, the home prices will rise. Even you would agree with that, right?
The fundamental issue in Palo Alto, with respect to ABAG housing demands, is one of vision. You would also agree with that, right?
Palo Alto can decide to follow ABAG commands. Or Palo can decide to allow the market to play out, within the exisitng zoning regs.
Your view is that an increased economic vitality will occur if PA beomces more dense in a designed way. For instance, increased density next to transit corridors, shopping districts. You also feel that the increased economic/social vitality outwieighs the increased burden (schools, playing fields, overcrowding, increased taxation, etc.). You also feel that the increased economic activity will pay for the increased infrastructure demand. Leaving aside global warming speculation, that is, basically, your view, correct?
Here is my vision. Palo Alto will continue to become a beacon for 21st century high power intellectual jobs. For example, Google, nanotech, Stanford Medical School/hospital. The professional staff will live in PA, but the service sector will commute to the jobs (via efficient public, non-polluting, transit). Our housing prices will continue to increase (due to demand for single family homes). Our property tax base will increase (good for schools) and our demands for service will stabilize. Our schools would not have the additional pressure that your model requires. Our kids might have a chance to actually play in sports leagues that need playing fields.
Of course, a very important thing, to me, is that my property value not decrease, due to a decreased demand. I believe that would happen, if PA schools, playing fields, infrastructure decline. Very bad thing. I want the suburban vision of neighborhood schools (not overcrowded), open space (parks and playing fields), a solid tax base (one that does not hesitate to pass bond measures for schools and infrastructure).
It will be up to the PA citizens to determine their own visions. I have expressed mine.
Posted by Dave, a resident of the Professorville neighborhood, on Oct 31, 2007 at 4:34 pm
If this is a contest of John's vision and Jeremy's vision....I cast my lot with John any day. If I wanted to live in a denser city - like Jeremy wants Palo Alto to become - I could have bought a house there. There are plenty in the Bay Area.
I expect most Palo Alto residents came here because they liked what we have. The rare resident is one who came here to change the place.
Lotsa denser cities around, Jeremy. Check them out sometime. You may like what you find better than here. The result will be increased satisfaction you, and for those you leave behind.
Posted by Jeremy Loski, a resident of the Ventura neighborhood, on Oct 31, 2007 at 5:14 pm
John's choice is a false choice, for a number of reasons - they follow:
1) IN cas eyou haven't noticed, Palo Alto is no longer the "beacon community" that it was 10-15 years ago. There is some tarnish on the patina. Besides hp (and recently, VMware), who do we have? Facebook, with it's overvalued cap? Please.
Take a look at what the no-growthers have wrought, relative to the spinoff opportunities we would normally see from Stanford.
Stanford is going to build a very large biotech facility on a multiacre property purchased in Redwood City. That was a strategic move influenced in no small way by the kind of resistance that Stanford has received in the past, every time it wants to do something monumental here. Expect more of the same from Stanford. This WILL have an impact on Palo Alto's clain to being the natural intellectual superpower in this Valley.
Many, very very smart Indian, Chinese, Russian and other immigrants are settling in communities outside of PA, and starting up companies. It's the trend.
2) IN spite of number 1 (above) Silicon Valley has slowly been losing the tech supremacy that it once had. VC activity is very slow, with 100's of billions sitting idle.
CEO's are VERY worried about the cost of doing business in this Valley, Palo Alto included. If current trends continue, and municipalities - including Palo Alto - cannot (as a region) figure out how to more affordably house and transport a growing population, other centers of technology enterprise will gain ground, causing a further loss of hegemony here.
3) Housing prices will continue to increase, even as we approach the projected 2030 population of roughly 80,000+ residents. That's where we're headed folks, so we'd better plan for it, instead of weighing ourslevs down with peicemeal attempts to stop the inevitable.
How many of those talented residents will we miss if John's vision is made real? Thousands? Probably. That's opportunity lost. 80,000 residents is NOT a dense urban environment. We can handle that of we plan appropriately, and further lead efforts for mass transport.
Newer residents have been, and will continue to be, willing to accept less for their money to achieve the advantages of living here. Real estate prices will continue to rise. Find me a competent real estate economist that disagrees with that and I'll buy you lunch.
4) New residents will be heavily invested in their city; they will have made a sacrifice (many of them) for a purpose. They will - as they have in the past - continue to support the levels of funding necessary to educate their children to the high levels expected of Palo Alto schools. This goes without saying, putting the lie to John's projection that somehow, new residents who pay premium prices for housing, will not support the service infrastructure that makes the rest of their lives here sustainable, safe, and culturally rich.
5) Last, it's amusing to see the spin doctors try to equate Palo Alto's projected future with "dense urban environments". We will be "denser", but not dense, in the sense that, say, Oakland, or San Francisco, are dense with residents.
If we look past the no growthers unproven assumptions - assumptions that blithly create a stable population nirvana (this almost NEVER happens in regions and cities maintain dynamism, inventiveness and sustainability), we see that their arguments are really all about keepig things the same.
We all know what happens to cultures - no matter how small, or large, that let that happen. They fade.
So, the real choice is scaled growth, with housing and mass transportation coordinated locally, and regionally - with more opportunities to house some portion of residents in homes that are under market (because the overall benefit to our economy increases, due to increased worker access).
We can grow, or we can die. We can make it easy for those starting companies to move in here, and house workers, or we won't. This is a choice that will play out over the next 5-15 years, after which our future path - and the path of our region - will be optimized for projected growth, with innovations in housing and transport making everything sustainable - or we'll have a future constrained by a small number of people who will be long gone, but will have left a legacy of lost opportunity behind them.
Again, there will be tension over development, but the most radical element of the anti-growth movement is losing ground. I see this in policy sessions, and other places.
Those who manage to trot out fear and misleading numbers here are on the wane. I expect a few more death throes from thos group, as we enter the remaking of oour comprehensive plan, but it's readily clear that new voices are beginning to be heard re: development and growth. That's gratifying.
Posted by John, a resident of the College Terrace neighborhood, on Oct 31, 2007 at 5:33 pm
"We can grow, or we can die. "
We will grow economically, without overimposing density. No need for command housing.
I have a couple of corporate lawyer friends, involved in the high tech world, and they both tell me that Palo Alto is white hot with new intellectual ventures. According to them, this is the place to be, if one wants to cross fertilize with a unique blend of intellectual, legal, business minds. Not even close, anywhere else in the world.
Don't worry, JL, Palo Alto will be just fine without command housing.
Posted by Jeremy Loski, a resident of the Ventura neighborhood, on Oct 31, 2007 at 7:03 pm
John says: "I have a couple of corporate lawyer friends, involved in the high tech world, and they both tell me that Palo Alto is white hot with new intellectual ventures. According to them, this is the place to be, if one wants to cross fertilize with a unique blend of intellectual, legal, business minds. Not even close, anywhere else in the world"
Your corporate lawyer friends are describing the Intellectual Property feeding frenzy that IP law firms (and their corporate lawyer counterparts) have been enjoying for the last few years in Silicon Valley. IP firms are popping up like mushrooms here, with senior partners who have won a case or two, opening an office, taking on clients, and enabling the IP plaintiff/defendant game that has resulted in many law firms making more money than some their tech clients.
Interestingly, this sorry situation has *hindered* innovation, with parasitical IP attorneys costing our region, and our nation's consumers BILLIONS of dollars, as they ramp up massive fees charges to corporations that "need their help".
Another thing that amuses me about this is how these corporate lawyers and their IP brethren appear to rest on the laurels of the residual effects of the REAL WORK that was accomplished in this Valley, until the USPTO - with it's undertaffed agent corps - began to approve technology patents that they didn't understand, by the **10's of thousands**.
The result is a slimy feeding frenzy that has screwed the American public, and *hindered* innovation.
As far as this place being the best place in the world for interaction between intellectual, business and legal minds, you have to be kidding me. Who are your friends? One or three of the last hotshot posse of IP parasites that are making money at your and my expense? Go talk to Larry Lessig at Stanford, or some people at Creative Commons about IP attorneys (and laws) screwing up the tech industry. This might give you a clue about why your attorney friends think this is such a wonderful place for "interface" among legal, technical, and business types.
San Francisco, New York, London, Cambridge (MA(, and MANY other places are on an equal footing with Silicon Valley, with MANY more place biting at the heels oif Silicon Valley - places that don't have the legacy problems that we do - where housing is cheaper, and access to talent is increasing at near exponential rates.
Stop resting on the laurels of work done here, up until about 2001. We have been *declining* in VC activity. How many nano startups in Palo Alto, besides Nanosys?
The point is that this region is still a great place to invest in, and grow a company - but its prominance and ability to compete have been compromised in the last decade, because we are not dealing with structural changes that need to be made to keep us competitive. Housing and mass transportation are key parts of that change.
Like it or not, this is not "little Palo Alto" any more. Any policy maker who gets sucked into limiting growth based on the hysterics that I've seen displayed on this thread, ought to have his head examined (better yet, s/he shouldn't make it to a level where s/he can make policy).
Elaine, I know where you stand, but you are blowing up the numbers to make growth here appear more severe than it is. I've been hearing these same numbers trotted out for some years now, and nothing horrible has happened to Palo Alto as most of these homes have been built. THis is a great place to live!
Palo Alto is doing fine. Palo Alto is an exceptional community that has been able to adapt to growth, and still maintain a residential feel. That will continue to be the case, as we approach the populaition numbers projected for 2030. I have faith in our fantasticly creative citizens, policy makers, and hard-working city staff.
Posted by Dave, a resident of the Professorville neighborhood, on Nov 1, 2007 at 12:13 pm
This is very simple. Either we're going to pay obesiance to the ABAG bureaucrats, or we are not.
We have a choice. Based on his posts earlier on in this thread, Jeremy is fearful of letting residents express their opinion on the matter directly - through a vote, preferring instead to give the decision to "policy makers".
As long as the desires of the majority of residents are heeded, we will not build the 3000 ABAG units Jeremy wants in the next 8 years.
I think Jeremy knows that, which is why he wants to opine about the inadequacies of local $750/hr lawyers, propound on the supposed lack of energy of his opponents, and spin fanciful theories about how the failure to adhere to the ABAG mandates will cause the decline of Silicon Valley's VC industry, rather than talk about the issue at hand.
Those of us included in what Jeremy inaccurately calls the "no growth movement" have no expectations that things will automatically go our way. However I think we are pretty secure in the knowledge that our comments here represent the vast majority of Palo Alto residents...and that if we're forced to have a referendum on ABAG, the will of the majority will be reflected in the results.
Posted by John, a resident of the College Terrace neighborhood, on Nov 1, 2007 at 12:24 pm
You probably run in different circles than I do. The two guys I am talking about put people together (where there is a fit), arrange for VC introductions, iron out a variety of issues (from personality conflicts to strategist vison, business models, IP, etc.). They are not mere technicians. I have been to a number of social gatherings that they have thrown, and I can tell you that they attract business to this area, as well as put together deals all over the world. A number of their clients aspire to live in Palo Alto, although their business may be elsewhere. None of them aspire to live in small homes...they, too, like the suburban tree-lined streets and single family homes. They still think PA schools have a good reputation (they are not aware of the current overcrowding). I welcome them here...perhaps they will buy my property for lots of $$, scrape it, and max it out. They are part of the collective goose that lays the golden egg.
JL, your bottoms up, small box approach will actually hurt the vitality of PA. The overcrowding of schools, alone, could chase away those elites who are our true economic base. You and I both want economic growth in PA...but we come at it from two different directions. Unfortunately, they are pretty much mutually exclusive directions.
Posted by Alyssa, a resident of the South of Midtown neighborhood, on Nov 1, 2007 at 12:26 pm
Jeremy says "We will be "denser", but not dense, in the sense that, say, Oakland, or San Francisco, are dense with residents."
"Denser but not dense" - to the extent it has meaning at all - is of course in the eye of the beholder. Jeremy keeps talking about 80 thousand residents. In the last census, we had less than 60 thousand residents. As I do the math, Jeremy is looking at a growth rate of 35% or so. That means we'll be 35% denser. That sounds like a lot to me, even if it isn't as dense as San Francisco. 35% more crowded. 35% more traffic. 35% more kids in our schools...that all sounds like 35% more than I want.
Posted by Jeremy Loski, a resident of the Ventura neighborhood, on Nov 1, 2007 at 12:51 pm
Dave says: "Those of us included in what Jeremy inaccurately calls the "no growth movement" have no expectations that things will automatically go our way. However I think we are pretty secure in the knowledge that our comments here represent the vast majority of Palo Alto residents...and that if we're forced to have a referendum on ABAG, the will of the majority will be reflected in the results."
Bring on the vote!
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Other constituencies that might be concerned are the SIlicon Valley Manufacturers group, and other executive groups that have been lobbying (pleading0 for more reasonable access to housing and transportation in this region.
Still other constituencies are those new residents who are decrying the pathetic level of our services, compared to where they came from, bec ause this *same* political group has broughgt about constraints in revenue by limiting significant retail growth in our city (and now, disingenuously, and ironically, are coming back to blame government, for what? **listening to them**???
When it becomes *apparently clear* how many benefits have been lost though past policy making groups listening to a vocal minority;; when it becomes *apparently clear* how the dynamism of our city and our region is suffering because of past misguided discions that came from listening to those who would limit opportunity, we will see a result very different than the one you anticipate.
I and many others are prepared to send *the OTHER point of view*, en masse, straight to the living rooms of every single Palo Altan, and bury once and for all this notion that new residents are harmful to the future of Palo Alto. Or, that we shouldn't be attacking these problems from a broad-based, regional perspective.
In sum, Palo Alto is no longer the no-growther's private political playground.
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Alyssa, we were once 35% smaller than we are now. We managed to grow,, and thrive, didn't we? btw, the projected growth rates to 2030 approach 80,000+, so the actual increase from the 200 census is about 25%, in 30 years.
Posted by Dave, a resident of the Professorville neighborhood, on Nov 1, 2007 at 1:55 pm
John, if you do a deal with Jeremy, be sure to check his math. No one computes growth rates by any other method than using the prior period as a base for comparing the current period.
For Jeremy and any other math illiterates: PA population in 2000: 58598. 80,000-58,598=21,402. 21,402/58,598=36.52%....NOT 25%
By comparison, consider the population growth in the previous 30 years, since 1970. PA population in 1970=55,996. 58,598-55,996=3,002 (total growth in last 30 years!) 3,002/55,55996 = 5.36%.
In other words, Jeremy wants us to grow about 7 times as much in the next 30 years as we did in the last 30 years. For those of us who think the city has grown too much lately, this is a very sobering figure.
Even those in favor of moderate growth can see what an extremist position the ABAG, and Jeremy are taking.
Posted by Jeremy Loski, a resident of the Ventura neighborhood, on Nov 1, 2007 at 2:30 pm
Dave, I was looking at *housing unit numbers*- my mistake - which I'm happy to admit.
We've seen a growth in housing units since 1970 from 20, 974 to 26,155 - just over 25%.
New housing starts and increases in certain demographics are going to increase our population. Try stopping that; I want to see how you, or anyone else manages to stop population growth migrating to this community. We are already starting a demographic diversity decline, so much so that places like CNN Money suggest Palo Alto as one of the top 25 places to *retire*! THIS is what the no growth group has wrought on our town.
Yes, Dave, bring on the vote! There are *very* significant, deep pocket groups that our City Council candidates and sitting members haven't even touched; they're itching to blow apart the myths of municipal parochialism in this region, and help citizens understand that there's more at stake than the never-to-retrun mythic-nostalgic past that the no growth movement has been pawning off as sustainable municipal culture for the last 15 years.
They're also looing for opportunities to show the public how much the current housing patterns are COSTING them, and how many BENEFITS infill housing and mass transport will bring to this region, instead of encouraging more sprawl.
We need *leaders* who will point that out; some of them are coming to Council in November. Stay tuned...
alyssa, I don't have to work anymore, unlike a lot of "deal makers" I know, and have run circles around. However, I am looking for something interesting to do - any ideas :)
Posted by Geoff, a resident of the Downtown North neighborhood, on Nov 1, 2007 at 2:31 pm
Dave's math looks right but he understates the impact of the increased population by the way I think of it.
In the last 30 years, we've added 3,002 people. In the next 30, Loski's prediction is for 30,000 ADDITIONAL people. This isn't 7 times as many as the percentage figures done by Dave assert: IT'S TEN TIMES AS MANY.
Anyone who thinks we can add 10 times as many people in the next 30 years as we added in the last 30 years without significantly affecting the character of the city and quality of life really isn't in touch with reality.
Posted by Jeremy Loski, a resident of the Ventura neighborhood, on Nov 1, 2007 at 2:46 pm
Geoff, Perhaps you and some of your friends on this thread can come through with something other than selective statistics for a change?
First, we have Elaine's trotting out housing numbers that are already well more than half past her projections, but she's still claiming the whole number. What's with that?
Now, we have more FUD re: population projections over the **next 25 or so years**, with you and yours making things sound like we're going to increase population by 33%, overnight. That isn't the case.
Let's look at the whole population history here, up throgh 1970 (compliments of ABAG, where the truth isn't distorted)
a 25%+ increase from 1910-1920
a 200%+ increase form 1920-1940
a 50%+ increase form 1940-1950
a 225%+ increase from 1950-1970
you'll note further that these increases alloccured over a period of no more than 20 years, which is 10 years less than the current projections of our own planning department (not ABAG).
Palo Alto THRIVED on those population increases - they were a BOON to local and regional economies.
Posted by Dave, a resident of the Professorville neighborhood, on Nov 1, 2007 at 3:03 pm
[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]
Jeremy is simply wrong when he tries to convey the impression that ABAG-style growth is somehow inevitable.
Most of us consider Palo Alto substantially built out in the respect that we don't want either to increase our housing densities or build upon our valuable open space areas. Thus we would think that a number like the 3000 people we grew by in the last 30 years should be an upper bound on the growth for the next three decades. Jeremy wants us to grow 7 or more times as fast. These aren't selective statistics. They're the numbers that matter to most of us.
We only will have ABAG style explosive growth if we let it. It's a choice we have. It's not (Jeremy, his developers and corporate masters notwithstanding) inevitable. We don't have to cave to ABAG. If that's parochial, then so be it. Jeremy just has a different vision - one perhaps more cosmopolitan than ours - but one not appealing to most of us judging by the commentary here. And certainly not something that's unstoppable.
Posted by Geoff, a resident of the Downtown North neighborhood, on Nov 1, 2007 at 3:18 pm
"Let's look at the whole population history here, up through 1970 (compliments of ABAG, where the truth isn't distorted)"
George Orwell wrote about a place with a Ministry of Truth as well.
Actually the figures used by ABAG and Jeremy do distort the truth a little more than Jeremy says.
The large growth spurt in PA from 1950-1970 took place because most of what is now South Palo Alto (south of Oregon Expressway) was farmland in 1950. After that land was used up for development by 1970, there was a strong consensus against further large scale development. The city even paid a substantial sum in 1976 to keep what is now Foothill Park away from the housing developers.
The continued strength of what Jeremy calls the "no growth" sentiment is reflected in the very low rate of growth in population since 1970 - as Dave's figures accurately reflect.
Call it what you will, there's no evidence that these sentiments have changed substantially. There is simply no way anyone openly advocating anything like the ABAG growth rates will gain political traction in Palo Alto.
We'll have ABAG growth only by stealth...which is why Jeremy (in a previous post) pooh-poohed the idea of a citizen vote on the matter.
Posted by Jeremy Loski, a resident of the Ventura neighborhood, on Nov 1, 2007 at 3:30 pm
[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]
Dave says:"keeping Palo Alto largely the way it is in terms of population is a legitimate position to have - and a worthwhile goal for most Palo Altans"
I love your assumption, Dave. Let's have that vote! I - and many constituencies that are being hurt by retro prachialism in this Valley - are waiting for some municipality to trigger a vote on ABAG. That vote will seal the anti-growth movement's fate. ONce that vote happens, if it ever does, we will move towards more moderate and modulated process re: housing and mass transport.
Minus an election, we need some policy makers with *vision*, who understand that strategic housing placement and mass tramsport are the kep ingredients to Silicon Valley's, and Palo Alto's future growth,
Of course, it's legitimate for you to "hold" a position, but the big question is..."is it a "legitimate" position - in the face of all that has been brought up prior - relative to Palo Alto's current demographic stalemate (we're aging, very rapidly); Palo Alto's slowly decaying dynamic (we're in the top 25 of "desireable retirement communities); Palo Alto's housing/jobs imbalance (no matter how you spin it, we're contributing to sprawl and air pollution more than most); Palo Alto's inability to house key municipal and commercial workers; and so on...??
Posted by Jeremy Loski, a resident of the Ventura neighborhood, on Nov 1, 2007 at 3:38 pm
[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]
We have not grown a lot in the last 30 years because there was no will to grow. INstead, we have - as a city and region - been willing to sacrifice the environment and quality of life - and passively let suburban sprawl and the automobile rule our future,, and our health.
We are a *very* populated city. We see an influx of thousand and thosands of workers into Palo Alto every day. I don't see residents complaining about that.
Imagine that the same number of workers who drive in here were added as residents here (that's about equal to the near-term numbers of population increase that our own city planners project). There would be no difference, especially as we improve mass transport, and provide real incentives to get people out of their cars.
Anything else is selfish, and orresponsible, relative to the future sustainability and dynamic commercial future of our city.
Posted by election question, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Nov 1, 2007 at 3:41 pm
"We only will have ABAG style explosive growth if we let it. It's a choice we have."
Dave, it's nice to think we have a choice. How do we exercise that choice? For starters, we could hire a city council that represents our "choice". Which candidates are the most likely to make a stand against the ABAG numbers? I asked this question earlier and I'm surprised at the lack of response. Someone started a thread about hte topic and got no response. Doesn't anyone have an opinion or a list of most/least favored city council candidates based on growth?
Dave, Alyssa, Elaine, John, Dan, Anna: may I ask which candidates you are voting for and why?
Posted by John, a resident of the College Terrace neighborhood, on Nov 1, 2007 at 4:20 pm
At this point, Mark Nadim and Greg Schmid are the most upfront about resisting ABAG plans for us. Some of the others are being coy (probably meaning that they will push back, demand comprehensive plans and coordination, etc. - IOW, kill it via the PA process). However, they are listening. This thing is dead as a Dodo bird.
Posted by Geoff, a resident of the Downtown North neighborhood, on Nov 1, 2007 at 7:03 pm
Let's use Jeremy's own numbers since he keeps quibbling about the math. From 1950 to 1970, according to the ABAG Ministry of Truth, Palo Alto's population went from 25,475 to 56,040, or a gain of about 30,600 people. The price of that was that we put houses, cars and people on all of what is now South Palo Alto. That is, everything from Oregon Expressway to San Antonio Road, which was farmland and open space became housing for the 30,000 new residents.
Jeremy wants to take us from the current 58,598 to his "80,000+" figure in the next 30 years. So this is about 22,000 people or about three quarters of the increase that paved over South Palo Alto with housing.
On the map, Charleston is about 3/4 of the way from Oregon to San Antonio. If we add the people Jeremy wants, the impact on our city cannot help but be in the same range as the housing between Oregon and Charleston. This is true whether we build up and "densify" as Jeremy wants, or we build tract houses:? we'll still have all those people on our roads, in our schools and in our community and neighborhoods. A city of 80,000+ is different than a city of 58,000+ people. We have a right to prefer the latter.
It's not selfish for Portola Valley to preserve its rural atmosphere by refusing to put tract housing there. And it's not selfish for Palo Alto to preserve what it has by refusing to "densify".
This isnt' a moral issue: it's a choice issue. The only questionable moral issues are presented by greedy developers, corporate interests looking for cheap worker housing, and social engineers who would attempt to line their pockets and push their ideology on us by subterfuge and mau-mauing.
Jeremy is right that there has been no will among the majority of residents to grow further since we filled South Palo Alto. If anything the resistance to filling open space and densifying has increased in the last 30 years.
Jeremy likely is wrong with his argument that we need massive population increases to preserve our commercial vitality. We have had virtually no population growth in the past 30 years, and yet this period has been the most prosperous in Valley history. Indeed it's been the time where Silicon Valley became more than a small backwater. BUT even if it meant a less vigorous economy to stop ABAG's imposition, most residents don't want to change the character of our city.
Posted by R Wray, a resident of the Palo Verde neighborhood, on Nov 1, 2007 at 7:04 pm
The real push for ABAG is the BMR idea. (The viro part is a smokescreen.) BMR's are mini government housing developments and in a hidden way, rent control. There are many examples of the deleterious effects of these on cities. BMR's are the new wrinkle that we didn't have in Palo Alto during our previous growth.
Take away the BMR's and ABAG would probably die a natural death.
Posted by Burlington, a resident of the Palo Alto Hills neighborhood, on Nov 1, 2007 at 7:07 pm
R Wray is right. Almost half of the ABAG requirement is for BMR housing. Anyone who thinks adding 1500 or so units of low income housing to Palo Alto will not change the character of the community is fooling themselves.
Posted by Jeremy Loski, a resident of the Ventura neighborhood, on Nov 2, 2007 at 11:29 am
[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]
Geoff says (correctly, quoting numbers that his side conveniently left out, until I introduced them) that from 1950-1970... "Palo Alto's population went from 25,475 to 56,040, or a gain of about 30,600 people. The price of that was that we put houses, cars and people on all of what is now South Palo Alto."....
So, Geoff, should we tell those residents to leave? Palo Alto *thrived* as a result of that increase.
Geoff then goes on to say:
"That is, everything from Oregon Expressway to San Antonio Road, which was farmland and open space became housing for the 30,000 new resident (sic)"
Here Geoff is using a physical description of the size of a parcel of populated land to draw comparisons with the projected population increase **over the next 25 years** (incidentally, the 80,000+ population projection is not ABAG's projection, btw, it's **our own** planning department
[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]
Here's something from Steve Raney, the lead researcher for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's Bay Area suburban sustainability study entitled, "Transforming Office Parks into Transit Villages"
Raney correctly points out in this piece that real conflict that we face re: our development patterns, and how we want our city, state, and nation to move forward.
Yes, we face an "inconvenient truth" as regards housing. Palo Alto no growthers and some of its policy makers can talk all they want about how they honor the "green" side of political action, but where's the ACTION? I find it very unsettling that the primary proponents of "green" have been waffling on this issue of *leading* our residents (not the *radical* no-growthers, a core group of about 100-200 people - their minds are made up)to an understanding of how our population, as it grows, can be scaled in ways that does not negatively impact our quality of life.
Where is the *LEADERSHIP* on this issue?
from the above link:
"It is only a slight oversimplification to envision that each of the 3,716 housing units that is NOT built in Palo Alto will be built in Tracy (or an equivalent community in terms of distance). Just check the Sunday real-estate section of the Mercury or Chronicle -- the bulk of new housing is being built beyond the first ring of Bay Area foothills, where you can buy a new 3,500-square-foot house on the cheap, relatively speaking.
"Hence, each "avoided" Palo Alto home for two workers results in two Tracy-to-Palo Alto commutes, adding 30 tons of carbon dioxide per year (60,000 commute miles)."
Think about 30 tons of Co2 per every two commuters. That's disturbing! What are WE going to do to contribute to stopping that? [P[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]
Big picture: What the no-growthers don't understand (as do too few of our policy makers) - and what I have to keep repeating - is the *fact* that the prominence of nation-states is declining, as an indicator of relative wealth. We are beginning to enter an era of transparent capital flow that will favor the **regions** that most successfully create the conditions for sustainable success.
Over a 25 year period, there are
1) many possibilities to consider infill development near transit corridors - why has this been kept off the table - or avoided?;
2) many transit innovations (not to mention just plain good *coordination* of current transit capacity [this region's current mass transit capacity is VERY poorly coordinated, and underfunded] - where are our local policy-makers - those who sit on transportation boards - in the fight to create better coordinated mass transit, *before* we have one or another crisis about lost bus lines?)
[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]
We *cannot* stop population growth, but we *can* innovate (instead of just talking about innovation) and execute solutions that permit us to grow in ways that adapt to our coming increase in popoulation.
[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]
Be aware - as stated prior - that if this is pushed to a vote, there will be magnum forces brought to bear on this issue. Everyone from the Sierra Clun, to development organizations, to manufacturing associations, to local university economists and ecologists, to big Silicon Valley money (corporate leadership money) is going to be pushing for innovative growth.
Categorically, if this gets to a vote, I will bet hard cash that the "growth" side will win, because every single distortion served up to create fear will be smashed to smithereens by the interests I point out above.
[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]
Now, to finish on an *up* note - we must realize that ALL our residents have a voice. There are strong disagreements in this forum about growth. No person is a bad person because of the political views s/he holds.
We WILL have a discussion about growth here, and I welcome a vote on that issue, if necessary.
That said, from now on I - and more than a few others - are going to seek complete, transparent honesty when it comes to the presentation of arguments against growth.
We can no longer treat the future as if "everything will be OK, no matter what action we take". We have to think deeper than local interest. We MUST begin to frame our decisions in this way, realize that there are *real* constraints to growth, and *real* constraints to fighting against growth in the ways that some in this forum suggest.
There will, no doubt, be some kind of negotiated settlement around growth here, but we MUST do our VERY BEST to look DEEPLY into innovative housing and transport solutions, and *execute* those solutions on the ground.
If we fail to do this, we are simply handing off the current (and exponentially accelerating) "inconvenient truth" to future generations, just to satisfy our "current convenience" and misplaced, nostalgic wishes for a past that will not return.
Posted by Dan, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Nov 2, 2007 at 11:42 am
you ask a good question...
"it's nice to think we have a choice. How do we exercise that choice? "
What do the current crop of council candidates really plan to do regarding housing/population growth pressures? What do they believe in and say vs what will they do in practice if they get on the council? I'd love to be able to answer your question directly... any candidate who ran on an obviously pro-ABAG platform probably wouldn't stand much chance of being elected... so you need to read between the lines. Also, the housing/population growth issue is pretty significant, but its not a black-and-white issue and certainly not the only issue of importance.
My own personal reading... "quotes" are just sound-bites I dug up to support my general impression, so don't read too much into them
-> Gregg Schmid
Jeremy Loski's previous endorsement almost says it all ...
"The no-growthers play hardball. They have a few favorites running for Council this year - one of them is Greg Schmid, and absolutely nice guy with retro political ideas."
This by itself is almost good enough to get my vote for Schmid ... but seriously, he seems to understand the gravity of a looming school overcrowding and the direct relation between PA residential property values and maintaining a regionally desirable school system. I get a sense that many strong advocates for high-density housing are far removed from having any school-age children.
"The Palo Verde resident said he decided to join the race after he grew increasingly disturbed by the "piecemeal" planning process that resulted in projects such as housing at the site of the former Rickey's Hyatt. There's a disconnect between the city's Comprehensive Plan and the parcel-level developments popping up around town."
This speaks directly to my biggest complaint about the current state of "growth" ... there is little or no comprehensive planning for the consequences and yet projects are almost always pushed through with lots of exceptions to general plan guidelines. If every project is going to be an exception to the plan (and thus take a huge amount of time to work its way through approval), then the plan should be modified ... else the council shouldn't repeatedly cave in to developer's pressure/influence to issue height exceptions, size exceptions, etc... or just as bad, allow themselves to get stuck in the middle between extremes of developers and real "no-growthers" (In most cases, the worst place for an armadillo to be is in the middle of the road). Zoning laws were designed to give the city control over development patterns within its boundaries. In fact, many cities were incorporated primarily to provide residents the ability to control development within their neighborhoods ( as well as local revenue sources) rather than being at the mercy of non-local interests when in unincorporated county areas.
On the other hand, I also have related-concerns about Gregg Schmid:
"Regarding the proposed Stanford Medical Center and shopping center expansions, Schmid said the city needs to work with neighboring communities to address the impacts."
I just have a general concern that the very things I like about his stated focus on development planning could interfere with developments that ARE in the best interest of the city. I don't have any strong opinions on these 2 specific projects, but they are some of the few developments that I've seen proposed that are not just about stuffing more houses in. We need Stanford as a engine for spinning off new enterprises in an IP-driven economy.
-> Dan Dykwel
My sense is that he'll be a advocate for development interests more than for what most people really want in Palo Alto neighborhoods. Not to say he wouldn't mean well, but when you live and breathe property sales it has to affect your outlook:
" Dan Dykwel doesn't want Palo Altans to be put off by his occupation as a real-estate agent. "It's not a threat to the community; I'm not a developer," Dykwel said."
He says some good sounding things (taken from his web-site):
"Like all vibrant cities, Palo Alto is going to experience growth. Managing that in a measured way requires creating a sustainable level of development that can be supported without straining our infrastructure, facilities, and our schools."
Sounds reasonable... but its all in the definition of what you consider "measured way" and "sustainable level".
In the next sentence:
"I believe in smart growth principles and will be an advocate for in-fill housing since it protects open space and concentrates housing along corridors to encourage people to walk, bicycle, and use public transportation, leaving their cars at home."
This sounds like the standard PC/unrealistic argument for developing high-density housing where ever it can be stufffed in. We don't need an "advocate" for this. Some amount of high-density housing is already inevitable...there is no shortage of pressure/advocates to place high-density, high-profit housing in PA. We need a balanced voice that will look out for the best interests of the city and the desires of its residents, rather than "advocating" for high density housing.
Even worse, in his statement in the League of Women Voters guide he says
"With respect to accomodating the growing population, every citizen has an obligation to do their part to reduce global warming. We must wisely decide the most pragmatic approach to additional housing on a regional basis to reduce our carbon footprint and impact on the environment".
Anyone having read a particular posters' thread here can recognize this as one of the pro-ABAG arguments.
-> Sid Espinosa
Lots of seemingly unrelated directions...
He doesn't say much directly about housing... From his web-site under "other issues" i.e. not his top priorities
"Palo Alto has a wonderful legacy of pursuing affordable housing. We need to continue this work to ensure that all members of our community including teachers, police officers, city staff, and young families are able to live where they work, in Palo Alto. We must continue to build affordable housing in a way that blends with neighborhoods and is near transit and other services."
I think perhaps he's being smart to side-step talking directly about his views in this area...or maybe he really doesn't see it as a critical issue. The above statement seems to indicate the belief that people who win the BMR lottery will necessarily work in Palo Alto. Other than this, I don't see indications he is particularly focused on the housing growth issue
-> Pat Burt
I'm a little puzzled by his answers to some questions on the subject ... and I'm not very familiar with his record on the planning commission. He seems to have the right emphasis on considering infrastructure impacts and shortfalls. On land-use, his web-site says:
"Proposals should be carefully evaluated for their long and short term effects on our overall quality of life, public cost and revenues"
The fuzzy area is what evaluation criteria he would apply...
His League of Women voters statement does say something like this with respect to growth:
"I believe that the rate of growth in Palo Alto must occur at a pace and in ways that do not serve the present generation at the expense of future generations"
-> Smokey Wallace
regarding housing and regional issues like ABAG, he has said:
"We have been ignoring the real costs of development for some time and our decaying infrastructure is evidence of this fact. Local impacts on infrastructure and services must take precident over regional needs"
By this and other statements I assume he understands that growth = opportunity is not always a fundamental truth. Although its not really the costs of development primarily that have led to the deteriorating infrastructure... its lack of planning, funding, and local government inaction/inefficiency.
I wonder how effective he would be within the constraints of the council ... seems like a bit of a maverick and some of his statements seem a little overly optimistic i.e. perform complete audit of the city management and spending practices to recover funds from inefficiencies. I have no doubt an audit could uncover lots of areas where cuts could be made, but how to prioritize and get anything done when each of these areas will have entrenched beneficiaries. His stated focus seems right to me though:
"first priorites must be revitalizing our business districts and upgrading and or fixing our decaying infrastructure"
-> Mark Nadim
League of Women voters statement:
"There is limited room to add new housing units, determine their impact on infrastructure. We have zoning regulations in the city, and is the city's responsibility to enforce it. Support for retail is essential"
"We have an obligation to the region, and a deeper obligation to residents"
He seems pretty clearly stating a very cautious approach to new housing developments.
-> Yehway Yeh
Haven't found much written from him addressing housing/growth issues. Like Tim Gray, he seems pretty short on policy specifics , but he might bring some needed youth and enthusiasm to the council.
-> Bill Ross
I see nothing particularly pro or con in his stated positions on housing/population growth. his "30 years of professional experience in representing local government and development interests to comply with land use and environmental laws" is a knife which could cut either way. Best to evaluate him based upon other policy stands.
-> Stella Marinos
She doesn't have any relevant experience, hasn't stated any specific policy positions that I know of, but most importantly no one will believe that she can be elected so I guess a vote here would be wasted (unfortunate truth...)
-> Tim Gray
For me, most of his statements are too short on specifics. He talks about encouraging citizen participation, etc ... but its hard for me to see how he would translate this into concrete policy decisions.
If your pimary issue of concern is stopping a possible rapid rise of high-density housing, I'd guess Schmid, Nadim and Burt ... then either Yeh or perhaps Wallace (if you believe he could be effective). Dan Dykwel seems like the only candidate who clearly wouldn't well represent your interests on this particular issue ... BUT ... you need to do your own reading between the lines and decide what other issues you care about and how the candidates stack up on those. Although I care about the housing growth issue, I wouldn't favor a one-issue, one-sided council even if its leaning towards the side I generally support.
Posted by Geoff, a resident of the Downtown North neighborhood, on Nov 2, 2007 at 12:11 pm
Jeremy may be right that people who want to keep Palo Alto's current livable scale may need a lot of moxie to fight the corporate moneybags and developers who will be trying to fool us into "densifying" our town for their own pecuniary gain.
Using the same kind of sophistic argumentation we've seen so much of on this thread, they'll try to convince us that the environment will be better if we cram more housing into town, or that the economy will collapse if we don't build AGAG's houses, or that "fairness" requires we destroy the character of our town to accommodate the wishes of local industry titans while these captains of industry live in bucolic splendor in Portola Valley or Atherton [portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]
We'll see all sorts of misdirection and irrelevancies trotted out to make it seem like average people can't understand the real issue. (Did you catch the riff about declining prominence of nation states and its relationship to Palo Alto building 3000 ABAG houses?
We'll see all sorts of progressive sounding dogma about innovative growth and transit oriented development in attempt to imply that we really can accommodate a 35% growth in population "without negatively affecting the quality of life" here. Conveniently left out is that we don't have any reliable mass transit in town usable by commuters. It takes decades to plan and build mass transit as anyone watching the BART or SC Light Rail projects knows. We don't even have anything in the planning stage, and yet the ABAG mandated portion of Jeremy's 80,000 people is supposed to occur within the next 8 years. Build ABAG's houses and maybe the grandchildren of the residents who move into them will have some sort of mass transit to use. Meanwhile, their cars will be clogging our streets, their children will be filling up our schools, and we'll be living in a bigger city than most of us wanted to live in when we bought here.
Fortunately, even if Jeremy's corporate bosses hand him the money he wants to make his case for paving over or "densifying" more of our city, it looks like he's a very lonely voice judging by the commentary here.
It's really not so complicated as Jeremy makes it. Simple question: Do you want to obey the ABAG bureaucrats' orders that we build 3000 housing units in town during the next 8 years. Or do you want to keep Palo Alto livable?
Posted by Jeremy Loski, a resident of the Ventura neighborhood, on Nov 2, 2007 at 12:56 pm
"Jeremy may be right that people who want to keep Palo Alto's current livable scale may need a lot of moxie..."
You said it!
What most residents will hear is that housing can be scaled and placed in ways that don't impact neighborhoods any more than they're impacted when we have 10's of thousands of commuters coming in here every day - or haven't you noticed, Geoff? Those commuters - would be residents - would be here in the evening, contributing to community affairs, spending in our (their) shops, supporting our schools, etc. - just as past new residents have.
We will also hear more about how the "character" of our town preferred by the no-growthers can easily be respresented by the boondoggling fiascos that this same group caused over the Hyatt site, Alma Plaza, 800 bHigh St, Edgewood Plaza, - - the list goes on an on. They will also hear about the "no-growth" efforts to limit viable retail here, and how the furtherance of the no growth ideal will *further* limit retail growth, because retail rents will skyrocket, with a forced reduction in housing.
Residents will also hear that the no-growth crowd is speaking from both sides of their respective,, proverbial mouths - as on the one hand they talk about favoring the environment, while on the other they want to send their false-choice "neighborhood preservation" pollution elsewhere.
Where are your solutions, Geoff? I see *nothing* proposed by you and those who agree with you on this thread except the words "no" and "stop" There's a lesson in that for all those who know a little about the innovative history of this place.
The radical no-growth days are *gone*. We will have modulated growth that meets our responsibility to oursleves, and out neighbors. Try to stop that, at your ideal's peril.
You call prior statements about the viability of regions a "riff", even as those who buiuld companies here make the same claim. And what companies have you buuilt? And, how many employees have you tried to recruit, and failed to, because they didn't want to pay for Bay Area housing?
They will hear about prior decades when we grew 5 or 6 TIMES the 30% (notice how you're creeping up the number to 35%), and thrived because of it.
They will understand that new residents will mostly be living in infill corridors, and not in their neighborhoods.
They will hear the truth about how "preservationists" and "no growthers" have done NOTHING to alleviate the serious problem of crowded roads and massive pollution, as they push their preference for a mythic bucolic environment into the far suburbs, helping to hypocritically cause the problems that their bumperstickers decry. What a sad legacy for people who call themselves environmentalists.
[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]
Here's the no-growther's argument, in a nutshell: " we'll be living in a bigger city than most of us wanted to live in when we bought here". This is the paean, and callig cry, of those who fear change, and cause a drag on housing and transport innovation.
Posted by Jeremy Loski, a resident of the Ventura neighborhood, on Nov 2, 2007 at 2:36 pm
In the larger context, "no" and "stop" from Geoff and his no-growth compatriots, means the foillowing.
Geoff says "stop amd no" to the following:
1) saving our environment - he would rather dump millions of tons of Co2 into our environment, so our children can enjoy their "bucolic neighborhood character" even as they breathe the poisons that his choice would send spewing into our atmosphere
2) welcoming new residents, the lifeblood of our community
3) innovating positive solutions to solve housing shortages in the Bay area
4) innovating positive solutions to solve affordable housing shortages in the Bay are
5) keeping Silcon Valley's economy sustainable - and instead, turning it into a place that becomes less and less desirable to start up a company
6) simple progress on projects in Palo Alto - with a continuation of the delays that his no-growth constituency have wrought. Look at 800 Hight St., Alma Plaza, the Hyatt property, and Edgewood Plaza as current and near past example. Want more of that - vote for Jeff's choices.
7) compeling iour city leaders to show real leadership on regional transportation and housing issues
8) returning Palo Alto to a leadership position in Silicon Valley, instead of the city that says "no" to everything that every successful city in history has been able to adapt to - population growth.
The choice is sustainability for Palo Altans, who are an adaptable people - or submitting to a connstrained and shrunken future, where every new variable introduced to our city is framed as a threat, and our policy makers kow-tow to a vision of our future that would shock their forebears.
The outcome of this issue, shuold it go to the polls, will surprise Geoff, because there is a substantial majority of Palo Altans that have not been availed of the truth on all the variables. They have not been privy to how much the no-growth position has cost us, in real dollars. Bt the time this is over, those residents will hear the other side of the growth story, in a way that the radical no-growth movement here, with its desperately shrinking but still vocal minority, has never has the courage to tell.
Posted by steve levy, a resident of the University South neighborhood, on Nov 2, 2007 at 3:39 pm
This post is about the non-BMR units. I will write a post on the BMR units separately.
The expansion of nice (and expensive) condos and townhouses directly serves a segment of Palo Alto's population that has not been mentioned much here. The focus in these mosts has concentrated on children and school crowding.
However, most families in PA do not have children in school and their desires should be considered as well. In 2000 approximately 25% of PA's population was above 55 and another 15% was between 45 and 55. Over time some of these families will want to sell their homes and move into smaller homes but stay in PA.
This has been happening and is the major reason why school enrollment has increased as younger families buy homes that no longer have children. The expensive condo and townhome developments in Palo Alto have a strong market and clearly respond to buyer preferences as 800 High has done.
There are no negative fiscal impacts of providing these options to remain in PA for the increasing number of families that no longer want the large home they had when raising children. Providing this option, which will involve continuing to approve new market rate condo and townhome developments, directly serves a segment of our population AND facilitates the infusion of new younger families into our community.
The aging of baby boomers is a regional trend as well and there will be many affluent boomer households looking for similar types of housing. Is your answer the same for these households "try Salinas"??
How does this retain the character of Palo Alto? is it "we love you when you are young and have children" but if you want to downsize and remain here "tough luck".
Posted by steve levy, a resident of the University South neighborhood, on Nov 2, 2007 at 3:52 pm
The school facilities challenges are real but pointing the finger at new homes does not avoid most of the tough challenges.
These homes (actually fewer homes) had 5,000 or 6,000 more students in an earlier day. They are filling up again. I teased everyone in an earlier post with the clearly illegal but enticing options of prohibiting families with more than one child from buying homes and forcing seniors with low assessed values to sell to childless couples so we can raise our assessed value.
But the fact remains that recent and future enrollment growth will be extensive from the turnover of existing homes.
So we need to (as the District is doing) get going on reopening schools and face the fiscal consequences. The rising enrollment is already here and we should be helping the kids.
So if anyone thinks that we can avoid opening more schools by not building more condos, townhomes or apartments, it is a fantasy. While more homes will bring additional students, these new homes (especially if they are for affluent seniors) are not the primary cause of rising enrollments.
And unless you want a vote of prohibiting young families from buying homes in PA, enrollment from existing homes will likley move upwards over the next decade.
We need all the positive energy the community can muster to expand facilities to existing rising enrollments and this debate creates the illusion that the challenge can be painlessly avoided.
Posted by steve levy, a resident of the University South neighborhood, on Nov 2, 2007 at 4:16 pm
Palo Alto raises high amounts of local revenue per student partly as a result of having a strong buisness property tax base and partly as a result of a fluke in the school funding legislation after Prop 13 passed. We are what is called a Basic Aid district, which means that we have enough local property tax revenue to exceed what we would get from the state funding formulas that 95% of districts operate within.
Palo Alto and roughly 60-80 other districts are allowed to keep and spend the extra revenue raised locally. As a result we can spend more per student that most other districts, including many high average incomes but little other property tax base.
We are allowed to keep the extra money despite the constitutional obligation in California to provide roughly equal funding for all students regardless of the wealth of local residents.
There have been past attempts to repeal this advantage to the few Basic Aid districts including recommendations to do so by the state's independent Legislative Analyst's Office.
Palo Altans have historically been gracious about this advantage through programs like taking Tinsley students.
The people on this post have been less gracious, seemingly wishing the right to vote against low/modrate income families getting a chance to live in PA in BMR units. Moreover, I think many posters and voters are not even aware of the constitutional and historical issues that allow PA to keep the extra property tax raised locally, much (35% or so) of which comes from nonresidential uses.
I am actually not writing to criticize anyone's motives but, rather, to propose a much more interesting vote than the one called for by many posters.
Though the movement to repeal our ability to use all local property taxes for schools has been defeated in the legislature it has never been tested by voters.
So let's take an "advisory vote" among the bloggers.
How do you think a general election ballot proposition that says "Would you like to repeal the law that allow Palo Alto and a few other districts to spend more per student than in your district and add that money to state school spending" would fare.
In jest I would suggest that simply supplying the posts on this blog to the repeal campaign would be enough to get an 80% yes vote for repeal.
Posted by Parent, a resident of the Palo Verde neighborhood, on Nov 2, 2007 at 4:18 pm
There are many small homes in my neighborhood (3/1) being bought or rented by families with children. There are seniors moving out of homes where they have lived for 40+ years into senior housing (in PA) and younger families are moving into their homes. Yes, by building condos and senior housing, people are able to stay in PA and their homes are taken over by families.
Posted by steve levy, a resident of the University South neighborhood, on Nov 2, 2007 at 4:28 pm
The BMR "threat" is way overblown on this thread. I wish we could be more helpful to low and moderate income families with housing but any efforts are likely to be very minimal.
The ABAG allocations are a statement of recognition of the challenge and a statement that all should share in solutions.
But they are not a mandate of any kind and not a call to do the impossible. Everyone recognizes that there is an enormous shortage of subsidy money for housing. Whether you think housing subsidies are a good idea or not and whether you think PA should accpet BMR units, our efforts will fall short of the ABAG and state guidelines.
What IS being asked is a positive best efforts approach. That includes looking favorably on market-rate projects that include more rather than fewer BMR units, looking favorably on BMR projects brought ot the city by others and identifying sites where BMR untis and projects can be considered.
ABAG is the Association of Bay Area Governments (the region's cities) and none of the cities have money for large amounts of subsidized housing. The idea that cities would adopt a plan tha expected large subsidies from city budgets is absurd.
But the regional allocations here and across the state absolutely expect that all cities conduct a positive best efforts approach.
So if you are worried that PA will be required to finance 150o BMR units, relax and enjoy the weekend.
If you think PA should fight BMR housing and do the least that we can, that might prove to be an interesting, though advisory vote.
Posted by John, a resident of the College Terrace neighborhood, on Nov 2, 2007 at 4:45 pm
Save the crocodile tears. Most mature PA citizens see through that stuff.
Basic aid is here for a long time. If put it to a vote, your proposed ballot measure would probably fail anyway (the teachers unions would be split on it, because it would cost too many of their members their higher salaries).
You like the welfare state, apparently. I don't.
BMRs will not house police, teachers, firemen, etc. That lie is always put forward to sell gullible PA citizens on BMRs. You cannot defend that lie, Steve, no matter how you try. BMRs are a form of welfare housing, nothing more.
If older citizens want to sell their large homes in PA and move into a smaller home, there are plently of small homes for sale in PA. They can either buy one or move to any one of many retirement communities in this country. We should not feel compelled to build a bunch of townhouses. If there is a market for that, and our zoning laws are enforced, there will still be some of that in a slow and natural way.
We should reject ABAG. Let them keep whatever future state grants that they are threatening us with.
Posted by steve levy, a resident of the University South neighborhood, on Nov 2, 2007 at 5:03 pm
We could have two vote--more is better right?
We could have PA residents vote on whether they favor social spending. Given the overwhelming Democratic registration and the people we have elected in the past, that would probably pass by 70%.
Then we could have the follow up vote that you want on "Do you favor a policy of promoting BMR housing in PA?"
I have no idea how that vote would turn out but if the vote were against more BMR units it sure would not be because PA rejects the "welfare state".
We could all then muse on why a liberal community turned on its own values. However, as I said before the idea that we will be overrun with subsidized housing ia a fantasy and using that to scare people is not productive.
If you want to have an up and down advisory vote on whether Palo Altans favor social spending that helps low and moderate income families, bring it on!!
Posted by bikes2work, a member of the Santa Rita (Los Altos) community, on Nov 2, 2007 at 5:17 pm
Steve is right. Most of the school "over-crowding" is just because of existing home turnover (rentals and sales). Just be glad you have many surplus school sites left. Los Altos Elementary School District (LASD) has none, and they are feeling the squeeze now. They are going to send some neighborhoods to their second or third closest school next year.
PAUSD still has Ventura, Garland, Greendell, Fremont and Cubberley available for the future use if needed. Available land is the key resource lacking in LASD. PAUSD still has options even though a lot of old school sites are now truly lost to Ashby Avenue, Ortega Court, etc.
Posted by Dan, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Nov 2, 2007 at 5:25 pm
To your hypothetical vote, in jest, I would add the clause that if you vote for repealing basic aid provisions in prop 13, your house would be re-assesed into the ~ 1 million range and you would pay 10 - 15K in property tax. Then school funding could be increased, even under general disbursement of funds. What odds do you give this for passing?
No argument from me that prop 13 has created an inefficient funding situation in CA but I haven't seen any realistic alternative proposals come forward.
Your comment about PA seniors downsizing into new condo construction is interesting... if its a real trend then it means school population projections should count on slightly higher average students per additional housing unit (at least in the short term). Families with kids do generally prefer single family homes ... but the effect on schools is pretty much the same if you build a new housing unit and a family with kids moves in or you build a new unit, a senior downsizes into it and a family with kids moves into their home.
Posted by steve levy, a resident of the University South neighborhood, on Nov 2, 2007 at 6:51 pm
John has a wonderful (just kidding) attitude toward losing our Basic Aid status in a vote.
It is reminiscent of Dick Cheney proclaiming that Americans would be welcome in Iraq as heroes and the feeling that America is so great that we can ignore China and India and blow off anyone who disagrees with us.
I do not have this seemingly foolhardy bravado knowing that a repeal of Basic Aid was tried once and that the major recommendation of the Governor's education task force will be to shift resources to distructs with poorer children.
Dan raises a great tease back at me. If the vote were only in PA and we added your stipulation, you are probably a sage at predicting the outcome.
My vote was going to be statewide where almost all voters don't own million dollar homes and will get a tiny bit extra of funding by the move.
Thanks to bikes2work and parent also. I can go back to my evening feeling better about participating in this sometimes less than gracious Town Square.
Posted by Dave, a resident of the Professorville neighborhood, on Nov 2, 2007 at 6:55 pm
Up above, Geoff wrote about the sophistry that will be used by ABAG proponents to fool voters in any potential election about the consequences of adding the ABAG mandated 3000 housing units including about 1500 BMR units.
Right on time comes Steve Levy telling us that we can add a couple of thousand upscale condos for the old folks to move into so that families with kids can move into their houses with no negative fiscal impact, and apparently without changing the character of our town. Apparently he thinks that there's a surplus of oldsters owning $2 million homes who can't find anyone to sell them a $1 million condo in the current market. So the real reason for adhering to the ABAG mandate is to serve the poor unfortunates in these $2 million dollar houses who are dying to move but can't find anything smaller they can afford. Give Steve credit for novelty at least.
Next we are told that since we're facing rising school enrollment and consequent crowding anyway, we might as well open the floodgates by building more housing leading to more children. That makes as much sense as the couple who find themselves overdrawn on their credit card who say, "What the heck, let's buy the Lexus and spend ourselves all the way into bankruptcy since we're already behind anyway.
Finally, in a confusing melange of posts about proposition 13, basic aid and how liberal Palo Alto voters are, just as Geoff predicts, Levy attempts to misdirect the discussion by playing some sort of Liberal Guilt card, implying that those of us who like our city the way it is are motivated by uncharitable or mean spirited motives - or at least that we're betraying our Liberal Democratic values. That won't wash: We can feel compassionate about the poor, vote in favor of social spending, and still want to retain the character of the city we live in.
Messrs Levy and Loski can spin all the fanciful and largely irrelevant argumentation they want. The very simple question still is:
Do you want Palo Alto to reject ABAG's mandated 3000 housing in the next 8 years or not? Yes or No.
Posted by Anna, a resident of the Southgate neighborhood, on Nov 2, 2007 at 7:36 pm
Steve Levy's comments do strain the boundaries of seriousness as Dave says. I checked Coldwell Banker's site. Right now, there are 35 single family houses for sale in town. And there are 18 condos. This means that even if half of the people selling houses want to buy local condos in trade, they should be able to find something.
Steve complains about ungraciousness here. Maybe if he'd treat the rest of us like we have some basic common sense, let alone intelligence, he'd find the site more welcoming.
Posted by Jeremy Loski, a resident of the Ventura neighborhood, on Nov 2, 2007 at 7:53 pm
Steve Levy: "In jest I would suggest that simply supplying the posts on this blog to the repeal campaign would be enough to get an 80% yes vote for repeal."
Steve, you're exactly right on. And, if Palo Alto and the other basic aid districts are shown to be keeping - through some fluke in the law (which is what it is) - revenue that other communities cannot have, **in addition to not pulling its weight in helping to solve housing and transport problems that it contributes to in a negative disproportionate way...bye, bye Basic Aid.
It's funny you should bring this up, because someone else brought it up to me the other day. If the attitudes we put forward about "keeping peeople out" start to rile the wrong folks - watch out!
Dan says: " I would add the clause that if you vote for repealing basic aid provisions in prop 13, your house would be re-assesed into the ~ 1 million range and you would pay 10 - 15K in property tax. Then school funding could be increased, even under general disbursement of funds. What odds do you give this for passing?"
High odds, because it would be a statewide vote. Steve (and I, and you, and everyone I know) would vote against it...and we'd be lumped in with the 20% minority (losing) side.
Dave writes: "Apparently he thinks that there's a surplus of oldsters owning $2 million homes who can't find anyone to sell them a $1 million condo in the current market. So the real reason for adhering to the ABAG mandate is to serve the poor unfortunates in these $2 million dollar houses who are dying to move but can't find anything smaller they can afford."
Dave, you really don't have a grip on the senior demographic here - not at all. D o you know that 15% of Palo Altans live on less than $40K per year, and that most of those people are seniors?
Selling out a $2M home (which is high for most seniors, as most of the 'scrapers' that they own are in the $1-1.5M rangee) for a $ doesn't make sense. Seniors need BMR units that will afford them the opportunity to live a sustainable retirement.
San continues to spin his argument, in spite of Steve's very clear rendering (much better than mine) of the *intentions* of the ABAG numbers. Either we dod our best, and show that we're doing so, or we will pay a price higher than Dave and his no-growth brothers and sisters ever imagined.
Already, we are paying a price for our policy makers having listened to this splinter groups of no growth radicals (compared to the more moderate, measured growth people I run into).
Ther future is growth, measured growth, minus the FUD spun by most writers in this thread.
Posted by John, a resident of the College Terrace neighborhood, on Nov 2, 2007 at 7:58 pm
Your liberal guilt complex doesn't play in PA, when the cost to the liberals in PA is as high as the ABAG deal. I suppose I can be descibed as a neocon, becasue I was a liberal that got mugged by reality. Expect a lot more neocons in PA, if ABAG gets approved. Already, it is dawning on PA liberals that the Opportunity Center is a magnet for many more homeless, even though it was promised that it would alleviate the problem. Put simply, Steve, you and yours have a BIG credibility problem.
BTW, I would welcome a social consience vote, tied together with a social/economic reality vote in PA.
Posted by steve levy, a resident of the University South neighborhood, on Nov 2, 2007 at 8:09 pm
Most of your posts stick to our disagreement. Here's one that could just maybe be considered a little teensy bit ungracious.
"Levy's last post is tendentiously hysterical and seems argued out of desperation rather than conviction."
Did you say something about treating people as if they had common sense and intelligence??
Take a look back at how ABAG, Loski and developers are characterized in many of the posts. Seems to me if the opponents of growth had such a strong case, they wouldn't need to be throwing around insults.
Posted by Jeremy Loski, a resident of the Ventura neighborhood, on Nov 2, 2007 at 8:15 pm
Anna: "Steve Levy's comments do strain the boundaries of seriousness as Dave says. I checked Coldwell Banker's site. Right now, there are 35 single family houses for sale in town. And there are 18 condos. This means that even if half of the people selling houses want to buy local condos in trade, they should be able to find something.
Anna, see my last post about senior populations, and what they can and cannot afford.
How would you answer thids question. Would you agree to let seniors who own homes, and have the ability, build granny units on their property - either attached or separate, at a square footage allotment not to exceed 900 sq ft?
Posted by John, a resident of the College Terrace neighborhood, on Nov 2, 2007 at 8:35 pm
The Opportunity Center, like the BMRs have been sold with a lie. We were told that the homeless problem would decrease in PA, if the OC was built (that was a lie that was told on purpose). We are now being told that BMRs will provide homes for essential workers in PA, like police, teachers, firemen. That is another purposeful lie.
More and more, JL and Steve, PA citizens are getting it. That homeless guy that is now living at the corner of Bryant and Churchill has caused a real stir in the esrtwhile liberal neighbors of that region. I am hearing some real gut level hatred being spewed about him ("...how DARE he be HERE!). These people are typical PA liberals and and Democrats and big givers ($$ to social causes). Bottom line: PA is much more selfish that you think. That is a good thing...if for no other reason than it is an honest psychological thing.
If ABAG was put to a vote, here is what would happen: The good PA liberals would, in order to gain social approbation, put up lawn signs approving of it. Then they would vote against it. The typical refrain would be, "I voted for it, didn't you? I have NO idea what happened".
Posted by Long Time Resident, a resident of the Old Palo Alto neighborhood, on Nov 3, 2007 at 1:29 am
If ABAG housing does get built, it would not surprise me if the first people to buy will be foreign investors who will gladly rent them back to others at a nice profit.
Someone told me that is what happened to most of the units at Santana Row.
Either way, it is an increase in population, which people do not want.
In regards to the aging residents, most of the elderly people in Palo Alto would like to stay in their homes until they pass away. I don't blame them. All of their memories are there. Many have paid property taxes here for 50 years which were way over the national average - they told me how they really struggled to keep up with their mortgage payments and property taxes.
They have worked hard to build up Palo Alto by supporting the schools, libraries, and building the roads and parks, and planting the beautiful trees. They should not feel pushed out into a smaller home.
The seniors in our neighborhoods are wonderful people. I would never want them to move.
Meanwhile, look what's happening 20 miles from San Francisco.
Posted by steve levy, a resident of the University South neighborhood, on Nov 3, 2007 at 8:37 am
I get that most posters want PA's population to stay level and are opposed to much new housing.
We disagree about that issue.
But I think you are also reading the evidence wrong about other people's preferences. Clearly there is strong demand for living in PA as it is now with all the traffic and school capacity challenges.
New homes sell when they are built at rather high prices. The resale market is strong relative to the plunge in other housing markets. People with children are moving into existing homes knowing that some schools are at capacity or beyond.
Many older households are NOT staying in their homes until they die. If they were, enrollment would be dropping, not rising.
In the nation, state, region and county nearly ALL of the net growth in households over the next 10 to 20 years is in older households. The only way PA achieves the twin goals of welcoming young families and allowing older residents to downsize and stay here is to build condos and townhomes that appeal to the large 55+ market.
The ABAG allocations are a way to share the housing growth among communities that have the same issues as PA. If we build less housing here, we will simply push our share of the new housing elsewhere into communities that have as many or more challenges as PA. We are not the only city asked to plan for a part of the region's housing growth. All cities are being asked.
And most cities are arguing that their share should be lower. I don't know whether the fair share for PA is 2800 units but it seems to me that whatever that share is, it is way more than 0.
Posted by Dan, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Nov 3, 2007 at 9:50 am
"My vote was going to be statewide where almost all voters don't own million dollar homes and will get a tiny bit extra of funding by the move"
You misread ... in jest, statewide we make the same stipulation ... doesn't matter what the real value of your house is. If you want comparable funding for your local schools as what can be found in a basic aid district (under stupid prop 13 funding guidelines) you should pay something like the obscene residential property tax burden in those districts.
Otherwise, your hypothetical vote is just a robinhood argument and yes, the results are predictable...a more divergent 2 class school system as more and more people who can afford it take their kids out of public and into private schools.
I agree that infrastructure and school facilities issues we face exist regardless of whether or not a single new house is built here in the next 7 years. However, thats not a very strong argument saying building more housing won't make these issues more difficult to deal with.
Posted by John, a resident of the College Terrace neighborhood, on Nov 3, 2007 at 11:12 am
Most of the older folks I know want to stay in their homes as long as possible, even if they are oversized for their current needs. They like the memories. Then they move to assisted living (or they pass away while still in their family home). There is a steady turnover of such homes in PA each year.
There is also a turnovoer of homes because people move away for a variety of reasons.
I wonder if Steve and JL would support ABAG housing, if it was reserved, exclusively, for older bona fide PA residents (sclaing down), and BMRs only for police, teachers and firemen? That, of course, was a rhetorical question...no way would they support such a measure, becasue they know that ABAG housing is solely about more housing density, primarily aimed at infill density (with a very heavy welfare component). Such housing will be very bad for current PA residents.
Outlying towns are eager to get more growth. We need more public transit, especially electrified trains, like BART. I take CalTrain to San Francisco several days per week. Works great (just wish it was electrified and elevated to provide grade separation).
Posted by Jeremy Loski, a resident of the Ventura neighborhood, on Nov 3, 2007 at 11:20 am
A few things:
1) Note that Anna hasn't answered my query about granny units.
2) The web link posted by "Long Time Resident" (above) that shows homes being auctioned off at bargain rates in Pinole means nothing to Palo Alto housing prices. There are several communities - Palo Alto, Los Altos, San Francisco, Saratoga, Atherton, and a few others thatwould experience strong demand, even if a small minority of owners were stretched on their $4M McMansions. Talk to anyone who knows and understand the dynamics of Bay Area real estate, and they'll tell you the same. (I have) So, forget about trying to scare residents with the "impending housing collapse" in Palo Alto - it isn't going to happen.
3)For those of you who think that seniors want to stay in their homes and die, perhaps a chat with the Avenidas principals, or a chat with the hundreds of seniors in places like Channing House might open your eyes to what th epreferences and realities of most seniors are.
Sure, some seniors want to stay in their homes until the end, but most **cannot afford to do so**. What does a senior, living on fixed income, or even a fixed income plus a fairly generous pension, going to do in the end stages of life, when independence - no matter how personally dear to that person - becomes impossible? Most people who think they can stick it out in their homes until the end are kidding themselves, or are in the small senior demographic that will be able to afford inordinately expensive home care that most other seniors cannot even dream of affording.
The latter was one fo the strong rationales for allowing a zoning change that would have let granny units be built. Many seniors were arguing for it. That it was defeated with the outcry coming from many of the same posters on this thread is telling.
In fact, it's time to revisit the granny unit issue. The arguments from all the "free market" anti-growthers on this thread are so full of contradiction as to beg the question "what do they really want?", and "where is their politico-moral center?".
On the one hand they want seniors to stick around, but they forbid them the means to do that (all the while miscalculating the actual worth of the homes that most seniors live in, here).
It's the same thing with the environment. On the one hand, most of the anti-growthers claim to be ardent environmentalists, but conveniently avoid the issue of the environmental fallout of the "choices" they so ardently defend in this thread.
So what do they *really* want?
I think they want things to continue to stay the way they are. The don't want anything to change. Can you imagine that - here, in Silicon Valley, the place that has for the last two decades been responsible for more change in our world than any other region?
4) It's amusing to see Dan try to dance away from Steve Levy's challenge. The fact is that is Palo Alto and other Basic Aid districts don't show that they're willing to pull weight, equal to the fluke privileges that they received from the Prop 13 passage, we very well might have Basic Aid taken away, or highly modified with conditional qualifiers (that would compel our city and school district to cooperate more efficiently - maybe that's what we need).
Dan, this would be a *statewide* vote. So, keep pushing for the narrowly focused parochial interests that comtradict the stated "green" values of this liberal city - and, let other cities who enjoy our Basic Aid status do the same, and watch what happens. You, and I, and Steve, and our schools, will lose. Spin this any way you want; the fact remains that we will either "put up" or we will suffer consequences.
If the latter happens, we'll have the same small group of no-growthers, the ones who can be found at every City Council meeting, questioning every little detaiil of every development and personal property improvement (I've seen this sideshow on TV, at minimum, a few hundred times, and would urge all citizens to take a gander - just to get some idea of the hubris exhibited by so-called "residential purists" and "free market advocates", as they call into question one home improvement after another, and one development after another, ad infinitum...it's really something to see, and hear).
I spoke with two regional city planners the other day; it was interesting to hear their ideas for infill and densification around transport corridors. They were in agreement about the looming tensions that will come out of our region's "need" (that's the word they used) to accomodate more housing - including housing that can be accessed by those who are contributing to our society, but do not make the wages that top-tier executives make (social workers, teachers, police personnel, small business owners [many who struggle, month to month, as they provide key inter-urban services], fire safety personnel, and so on.
Both these persons were in agreement about the failure of local governments to *focus* and incent BMR buildings in a specific direction, aimed at the demographics (and a few others) that I just mentioned.
5) What I find interesting in all the disinformation and fear that comes from the usual suspects, is that nobody seems to complain about teh *benefits* that incoming commuters (in the tens-of-thousands) to our communities bring every day.
Another curious thing is that I don't hear residents complaining about the neighborhood impact of those commuters.
We're happy to have them bring their respective skill sets into Palo Alto, and benefit our local economy, but we're not willing to help ameliorate the serious problems (environmental and otherwise) generated by their commuting.
The most astoundingi thing about all this is that the anti-housing and growth people seem to be livingi in pure idolation from reality. California's population *is* going to grow - substantially. There is simply no way that the forces of market demand are going to let Palo Alto remain free of further development. There's really no way to stop growth in a dynamic region, unless one purposely creates policy that inhibits growth, and makes migration to a region a more costly enterprise than it woudl otherwise be.
Somehow, I don't see our policy makers knuckling under to the no-growth crowd.
We're going to see "in-between" negotiation with ABAG, and - as Steve Levy correctly points out, those policy makers will be very aware that they will not be able to fudge on providing a *very best* effort to show good faith in the *execution* of the ABAG goals. We might fall somewhat short of this *regionally-agreed-on* number, but we will do our best, or pay a price.
Palo Alto's neighborhoods are going to remain intact. We will not see infill condoos happening within the confines of Downtown North, or Professorville, or Old Palo Alto,, or Southgate, or College Terrace.
I'm confident that our citizens and policy makers will comne to some agreement on where -assuming we're doing our best - to most efficiently build infill, primarily near mass transport routes.
One of the interesting things about infill housing near transit corridors is that that kind of housing has suddenly begun to get snatched up in small and mid-sized urban areas like ours.
The handwriting is on the wall re: the cost of fossil-fuel-based power, as it impacts our mode of transportation. In case anyone hasn't been watching, oil is poised to pass $100 per barrel, very soon.
I took some heat in this forum for quoting a few analysts earlier this year about oil prices; they both predicted $100-per-barrel oil sometime in 2008. I spoke to one of those analysts on Wednesday; he says that his upper theoretical limit - in terms of a spike - is around $130-140 per barrel.
Of course, this price will not maintain, but the days of cheap fuel are over - period. When commuters begin to do the math, it's going to become apparently clear that long commutes will become more dysfunctional than ever. Soon, we will see serious, unavoidable demand for housing that is closer to commerce.
Bolstering that demand will be the increasing demand for decreased stress and inefficiency borne of long-distance commuting.
Posted by John, a resident of the College Terrace neighborhood, on Nov 3, 2007 at 12:23 pm
You make your ever-present penchant for regional (forced) planning quite clear (again!). I think we all know your views (and Steve Levy's views). You go ga-ga about a couple of "regional city planners". You sound like an urban design/futurist guru...always figuring a plan to control peoples lives. Do you work for a local design firm that pretends to know the future? I am reminded of Bucky Fuller and his predictions that geodesic domes would be the answer...where are they? Or Paul Ehrlich (say no more). Or Lenin...etc.
There is no need, whatsoever, for rapid population growth in PA. We are already built out in the kinds of neighborhoods that we like (mostly single family). There is a steady turnover of houses in PA. The free market IS working...it just stubbornly refuses to bend to your design!
You and Steve keep dodging my challenge to identify how many police/fire/teachers are currently living in our existing BMR stock. Yet you keep coming back to that persistent lie that BMRs are mainly for those workers. Nonsense, and you know it.
Posted by Anna, a resident of the Southgate neighborhood, on Nov 3, 2007 at 12:54 pm
Steven Levy is upset that I characterized his posts - not Levy himself - as tendentious, desperate, and hysterical.
But what is one to think of the series unserious and contradictory justifications for put forward by Mr. Levy for acceding to ABAG's mandates?
Mr. Levy tells us we should approve ABAG's housing as a matter of "freedom of choice" since people who want to buy $1 million condos would be denied their freedom to choose without ABAG mandating such condos be built.
He tells us variously that the new condos will not further burden our crowded schools since they'll be bought by seniors, and then that we need condos so that older residents can move into them opening up their too large houses for families with children.
He speaks simultaneously about the vitality that will be a benefit to our city if we follow ABAG, and then about the "shared burden" of the ABAG mandates.
He questions the liberal bona fides of people who disagree with him on ABAG, as if there is only one standard acceptable position on the ABAG housing. At the same time, he's not bothered to respond to those who've asked why other communities like Portola Valley shouldn't be asked to share in the burden he wants for Palo Alto = even though they have much more infill opportunities with their 2 and 3 acre lots and have lots of open space to boot. Wouldn't it seem that his rich corporate friends who live there should share in the burden too?
Levy spends all this time arguing for ABAG housing, and then when it appears this upsets most people posting on here, he says not to worry because he's not really serious: the ABAG mandate is only an expression of support, or goal....not anything that will really happen.
Levy spends ridiculous amounts of time coming up with hypotheticals involving limiting the size of families who are permitted to buy Palo Alto houses, altering the basic aid features of California law, and other such nonsensical fantasies that have nothing to do whatever with whether Palo Alto should accede to the ABAG mandates, which is the topic under discussion.
Readers of these posts can judge whether I've rendered Levy's ideas accurately, and if I have, whether my adjectives for them fit. But there is a fundamental unseriousness about Levy's posts in this thread. Previously, Levy - a serious person with an economics background - has argued the case for ABAG on the merit of its contribution to the Silicon Valley economy in the form of worker housing. I have disagreed with him that its our responsibility to ensure local companies have a supply of workers or housing. But I recognize that argument of his as something about which reasonable people can disagree. The worker housing argument also, I might add, has the ring of honesty unlike some of this other pablum - not surprising I suppose since it is in accord with the corporate interests Levy seems to represent.
Posted by Anna, a resident of the Southgate neighborhood, on Nov 3, 2007 at 1:03 pm
Loski says, "Note that Anna hasn't answered my query about granny units."
Note also that Anna isn't going to answer his query about granny units since it is only the latest attempt by him to avoid the issue of whether Palo Alto should accede to the ABAG mandate for new housing. by attempting to inject subjects of irrelevance into the discussion.
You will note that I also didn't respond to his screed attempting to draw the supposed decline of nation states into the discussion.
You will also note that I won't respond if Loski somehow ties this subject to Hillary Clinton's hairstyles, or George Bush's war in Iraq.
Posted by Jeremy Loski, a resident of the Ventura neighborhood, on Nov 3, 2007 at 1:11 pm
It's been interesting to hear those who 1) present false ideas about the market, minus the very real pressures that are in play, combined with a 2) staunch refusal to defend their contradictory positions on the environment and housing/mass transport.
It's also been interesting to see the outsized rhetoric that John and a few others have put out there to describe the positions that their regional neighbors have taken.
[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]
Incidentally, we keep hearing about how police officers, teachers, etc. don't live in BMR units; there's a reason for that. The reason is that no municipality has been focusing on that aspect of BMR housing. San Francisco has recently done something like this, with an offer to help teachers live in San Francisco with a $20K starter loan. That's a beginning; we're going to see more of this, because we can no longer tolerate - especially as we look at housing cost projections here down the road - having key employees driving for hours every day to serve our community's most vital roles.
Posted by Jeremy Loski, a resident of the Ventura neighborhood, on Nov 3, 2007 at 1:19 pm
Anna, refuses to answer a simple query about granny units; this is her/his latest attempt to avoid the issue of whether Palo Alto should create policy that suuports her seeming "concern" for senior citizens in our community. S/he speaks about both issues in a way that contradicts her own position on either scenario (granny units, and concern for the futre sustainablility of seniors in our community).
Instead, she creates another straw maan to attack.
It won't work, Anna. It *certainly* won't work in front of City Council, who is certain to discriminate between the more clear-headed, and disingenuopous arguments in this matter.
So, what's it going to be? Do you or do you not support the creation of granny units in Palo Alto?
If you say no, it contradicts your stated concern for senior.
If you say yes, it contradicts your stated position re: housing.
If you choose not to answer, your opinion becomes moot, because there is no way to clarify what you want.
I would like an answer to my query. The first two answers require a mindset of compromise. Let's see if that's possible.
Posted by Ben W, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Nov 3, 2007 at 1:25 pm
Jeremy Loski keeps talking about building infill housing on transport corridors in Palo Alto.
What is he talking about? There are no "transport corridors" in Palo Alto where people can reasonbly rely on public transportation to get them to a variety of job locations. We have Caltrain which does a sometimes passable job of getting people to San Francisco. But try going to one of the office parks on the peninsula or in Silicon Valley proper via public transportation.
It's impossible - or at least so difficult that almost nobody does it.
Build this ABAG housing anywhere in palo alto - in these imaginary transport corridors or elsewhere - and the new residents will end up idling their car engines in the increased traffic their presence will create.
The idea that the ABAG proposal represents some sort of green iniative is the biggest con job since the idea that we should invade Iraq to rid it of WMD.
Posted by John, a resident of the College Terrace neighborhood, on Nov 3, 2007 at 1:31 pm
"Incidentally, we keep hearing about how police officers, teachers, etc. don't live in BMR units; there's a reason for that. The reason is that no municipality has been focusing on that aspect of BMR housing."
No, JL, that is wrong. Palo Alto has been selling this BMR turkey for years as a way to provide housing for our police/fire/teachers. These targeted workers are smart enough to refuse to become interested in sardine cans. These workers want single family homes, becasue they tend to want to raise families.
Come on, JL, fess up...you work for a futurist firm of some type, right (e.g. IFTF)?
Posted by Long Time Resident, a resident of the Old Palo Alto neighborhood, on Nov 3, 2007 at 4:12 pm
Has anyone ever thought that Jeremy Loski may be posting this information right before the election in an effort to make us aware of the effects of ABAG and BMR housing on our community?
His extensive (exhaustive) postings have caused many people to debate this issue both online and in their neighborhood communities.
I actually want to thank Mr. Loski for doing this, because it is such an important issue that will have serious ramifications on the future of Palo Alto.
I apologize for the link which is in Pinole, but I stand by everything else.
We know many seniors here, and many intend to stay in their homes until they pass away at home. They rely on help from their families, long time friends, neighbors, services from Avenidas, and their churches and synagogues to help them.
Posted by steve levy, a resident of the University South neighborhood, on Nov 3, 2007 at 4:44 pm
Sheesh back at you!! Although it appears we agree about WMD and Iraq.
Last time I checked single family homes in the San Joaquin Valley or Salinas used a lot more water and energy per resident than condos in PA. So the ABAG goals are conservationist clearly in these areas.
And everyone continues to mischaracterize the ABAG goal re commuting. The goal, which is clearly correct on traffic reduction, is that if all communities here made room for more housing there would be less overall traffic--both for commuting and for local trips if the new housing is located near amenities.
It is not really that everyone who works in PA has to live here but that it would be helpful if more of the region's workers could live closer to where they work.
And the constant chant about workers wanting to live in Salinas and the many cities that want growth is first irrelevant and then false.
Anyone is free to live in Salinas or the Valley--no one is forcing them to live in PA so that part is irrelevant to whether more people want to live in PA, which is clearly true or you all wouldn't be arguing so hard.
The idea that cities want more people is contradicted by 1) the complete lack of evidence supporting the position and 2) more importantly by the many efforts now springing up in the San Joaquin Valley and Monterey to fight housing and growth.
Most communities want the jobs and revenue but few want the housing. That is why a "regional compact" approach like ABAG's is needed.
This debate is a variant of the usual conflict over taxes and spending. People support more spending as long as someone else pays. Look at the struggle we are in to finance health care coverage of uninsured Californians and the struggle to get agreement on the fair details of "shared responsiblity".
And Anna, it is no contradiction at all to acknowledge that growth presents challenges and at the same time say that the benefits outweigh the challenges. If there were no negative impacts from growth you all wouldn't be arguing for the status quo so hard.
We just end up with different interpretations about how to handle the challenges of continuing job and population growth.
Posted by John, a resident of the College Terrace neighborhood, on Nov 3, 2007 at 5:43 pm
"Last time I checked single family homes in the San Joaquin Valley or Salinas used a lot more water and energy per resident than condos in PA. So the ABAG goals are conservationist clearly in these areas."
So, Steve, you have that data, right? Now to reality: Single family homes in the valley towns tend to have more residents per home. In other words, people in the valleys have more kids than people in PA. The valley people also tend to mow their own lawns and clean their own homes and raise their own kids. In Palo Alto, the 'service sector' tends to do all those things. The bottom line is that PA single family homes (and probably townhouses) are MORE energy intensive than valley homes.
Many valley towns want more economic development, which comes via housing (becomming a bedroom community). As much as you hate this concept, Steve, it is reality. What else do they have to offer? Simply put, housing IS the vehicle for growth in these towns. Then they develop their infrastructure (with the increased tax base), then their service sector, then they begin to attract industry. Similar to San Jose, for example.
Yes, Steve, people ARE free to live where they can afford to live. Palo Alto, Salinas, Tracy, Soledad...what is your point? Freedom is a good thing. Are you seriously saying that all McDonalds' workers should be guaranteed a house in Palo Alto? That doesn't even occur in Salinas (or Tracy or King City).
Posted by Ben W, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Nov 3, 2007 at 5:58 pm
Mr. Levy, my comments were directed to Jeremy Loski's constant assertions that if we put the ABAG housing in transit corridors, we would reduce auto travel. There are no real transit corridors in Palo Alto, as my posting delineated.
Whether the overall balance of the ABAG housing is positive in terms of environmental considerations is a complex calculation, and I suspect, it also depends on what assumptions you use, and how you value various environmental variables. But I do know that the local environment will be worse with the new housing, new residents, and new cars than without it on almost any set of reasonable assumptions. (And I don't include the assumption that most of the people in the new housing will be police and fire personnel, or that they will work locally in that. That is not reasonable or supportable by any evidence I'm aware of.)And that's what I care about. Fortunately, our local response to the ABAG demands also is what I as a resident have some say over.
Finally, I disagree with your entire paradigm of "shared responsibility" and your attempt to collectivize the housing planning in the Bay Area. I don't assume the growth you do will take place, or that it will take place in the way you predict. If we turn down ABAG's demands on our own, and other cities do likewise, we'll have less population growth. And maybe - though it is not obvious - less economic growth. So be it. That's a legitimate choice we can make along with the one not to crowd our city with condos and subsidized BMR's at the behest of Utopian planners at ABAG or anywhere else..
Posted by Jeremy Loski, a resident of the Ventura neighborhood, on Nov 3, 2007 at 10:58 pm
Here's just one of many data points on water constraints in the San Joaquin Valley. Anyone who has been following growth patterns in N. California would be aware of those constraints. This is to help you get up to speed
There are more data points showing that outlying areas beyond this region are stringly resisting sprawl. This is another thing you need to get up to speed on. The last paper will point you in some of the correct directions, so you won't have only your imagination as a resource.
What's beinning to be very clear is that you are not debating in good faith, as there are no numbers or research to back your many positions. Your positions are based on imagined constraints, and primarily emotional. That won't fly when it comes time to make policy.
Ben W - there are natural tranbsit corridors adjacent to CalTrain, and on El Camino. There are a few others. Check out the PTOD, near California Ave., running clear down into Ventura.
There is clear data on how much carbon emmissions cost us in environmental and health damage. This data clearly contradicts your assumption that there is no benefit to infill housing along transport corridors, and other means of scaling population growth, which will happen *anyway*.
What most anti-growth residents don't understand is that going willy-nilly into the future will create more of the same, in terms of inefficient placement of housing. Our regions success calls for better planning. We will either plan, or become victims of random development. The latter will cost us big, long-term.
Your claim that a cooperative rejection of ABAG will result in less population growth is dead wrong. Where is your data - data that refutes the projections of every planner I know, at the state and municipal/county levels. Data, please.
There *is* a choice, but the choice you present is outside the boundaries of the choice opetions that will be considered. ABAG's numbers WILL be considered here, and elsewhere. We WILL do our best to meet these conditions, in a way that protects neighborhood integrity, and *improves* the environment - this will save you and your children, and your children's children a lot of money in the long run, and result in better health for all.
Remember, the total increase in population is coming over the next 25 years. I suggest that everyone relax, and start contributing to solutions, instead of saying "we can't", or "we won't", as an option - serious policy makers with any vision will look past that.
Posted by Always-Tell-The-Truth, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Nov 3, 2007 at 11:25 pm
Previously posted --
** Many older households are NOT staying in
** their homes until they die
Says who? What public data exists to make this point? The
Census certainly tends to suggest otherwise.
** The ABAG allocations are a way to share
** the housing growth among communities that
** have the same issues as PA.
Really? How many towns are as small as Palo Alto, with
no more space left for anything except hi-rises?
** For those of you who think that seniors want to stay
** in their homes and die, perhaps a chat with the
** Avenidas principals, or a chat with the hundreds of
** seniors in places like Channing House might open
** your eyes to what th epreferences and realities of
** most seniors are.
There are thousands of seniors in their own Palo Alto homes, and a few hundreds in Palo Alto senior housing sites. Most want to stay in their own homes if they can. What makes the view of the minority more important than the view of the majority?
** Sure, some seniors want to stay in their homes
** until the end, but most **cannot afford to do so**.
** Most people who think they can stick it out in their homes
** until the end are kidding themselves, or are in the small
** senior demographic that will be able to afford inordinately
** expensive home care that most other seniors cannot
** even dream of affording.
The poster who wrote the previous paragraph also previously wrote the following paragraph:
** but those seniors will be from a different (and probably more
** enlightened, demographic). They will be seniors who have had
** the cash to buy in. Other seniors will be able to exempt
** themselves from paying additional parcel taxes, etc.
One moment Palo Alto's seniors are all going to be "rich" and the next this guy claims that they are going to be "poor'. Yeah, that's clarity of vision alright!
** nobody seems to complain about teh *benefits*
** that incoming commuters (in the tens-of-thousands)
** to our communities bring every day.
Other than keeping the restaurants going at noon, there really isn't a lot of benefit from having commuters unless they spend a lot of their disposable income here. There is some evidence that non-residents do frequent Palo Alto's supermarkets, but most of those sales are tax free.
Posted by Jeremy Loski, a resident of the Ventura neighborhood, on Nov 4, 2007 at 12:29 am
"Always tell the truth", Please ATTT, **always do your research**!!! :)
Here are some real answers, to correct your mistaken assumptions
"** Many older households are NOT staying in their homes until they die""
Channing House, etc. etc. etc. Also, ask around at the Avenidas lunches; yuo'll learn a thing, or two.
"** The ABAG allocations are a way to share the housing growth among communities that have the same issues as PA.**
Check out Burllingame, Belmont, Mountain View, etc - a trip up and doen the Peninsula, with eyes open, will be revealing.
"For those of you who think that seniors want to stay in their homes and die, perhaps a chat with the Avenidas principals, or a chat with the hundreds of seniors in places like Channing House might open your eyes to what th epreferences and realities of most seniors are."
There are many, many more than the paltry 200 senior residents that you claim in Palo Alto senior housing. Look into Channing, Sunrise, Hyatt Classic, Terman Apts. Webster Wood Apts., Runnymede Gardens Apts., in addition to MANY more within a five mile radius of PA, that many of our seniors migrate to.
Also, o talk to Avenidas principals, about their experience with local seniors, and what a bad dilemma most are in, as they face increasing isolation, and shrinking incomes - with **no wat to escape this dilemma** without leaving their homes. Do you support building granny units on properties that would permit seniors to pass on near their homes? If not, why not?
"** Sure, some seniors want to stay in their homes until the end, but most **cannot afford to do so. Most people who think they can stick it out in their homes until the end are kidding themselves, or are in the small senior demographic that will be able to afford inordinately expensive home care that most other seniors cannot even dream of affording.
"** but those seniors will be from a different (and probably more enlightened, demographic). They will be seniors who have had the cash to buy in. Other seniors will be able to exempt themselves from paying additional parcel taxes, etc."
For yuor information, I'm describing two different sets of seniors. Local seniors who have been here for a while are, in general, far more challenges than seniors who are cash rich, and *migrating in* to Palo Alto. That's the difference. There is no contradiction. If you has really read through my posts, and done some research, you would discover that Palo Alto has been touted for the last 5 years as one of the top 25 places to retire to. This means that Palo Alto will continue to attract cash rich seniors who move into places like Channing and Hyatt (and other developments that are on the way, for the cash rich seniors - we will also see some small condo development for these incoming seniors - again, a trip to Avenidas will "tell you the truth")
"** nobody seems to complain about teh *benefits* that incoming commuters (in the tens-of-thousands) to our communities bring every day"
You claim that the only benefit incoming commuters bring is filling our restaurants.
That's REALLY far from the truth, because incoming commuters
*work* in our restaurants;
*teach* our kids;
*landscape and clean* our lawns;
*pick up*our trash;
*clean* our streets;
*clean* our homes;
*open and operate* our retail shops;
*care* for our elderly and preschoolers;
*cook* in our restaurants;
*police* our streets;
*administrate* our city;
*protect* us from fire;
*check out* and *shelve* our groceries;
*deliver* multiple goods to our retail stores and homes, including our mail;
*sweep* our streets;
*repair and build* our homes;
*invent* new technologies that benefit us, and mankind;
*fix* our automobiles;
*prosecute* criminals and miscreants;
*counsel* those in physical and psychological trouble;
*nurse and care for the sick;
*operate* our institutions of entertainment (theatres, movies, etc.);
*and HUNDREDS of other things.
That's a tad more than filling up our restaurants, wouldn't you say?
Please, ATTT, please DO Always Do Your Research (ADYR); it'll save you time, and the inconvenience of making the wrong choices.
Posted by steve levy, a resident of the University South neighborhood, on Nov 4, 2007 at 8:08 am
Thanks ATTT for helping make my point.
We were mandated by the court to accept students as part of achieving public policy goals. My son was in the first class to accept the Tinsley students.
And we WERE gracious as a community despite the financial hit. There is nothing contradictory about being told to do something and then being gracious in the follow through.
In fact it is the direct analogy to the ABAG housing goals. We are being asked to do something to achieve public policy objectives and have the choice about being welcoming, gracious and hard-working in meeting the ABAG goals as PA was in following through on the Tinsley court order.
And on your point about housing turnover the District's demographer confirmed to me that the rising enrollment to date hasbeen almost completely the result of families with children moving into homes vacated by families with few or no children.
Posted by Pat Gillette, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Nov 4, 2007 at 10:44 am
I've been reading through these posts, and it seems to me that the people wanting ABAG housing are all over the map. First it's for economic vitality. Then it's something we should do as a sacrifice for the "shared burden" of public policy objectives. Then it's for rich old people who want to move out of their houses but can't find anywhere to do it. Then it's for poor old people who want to move but can't afford it. Then it's for the environment because the new housing will be in transit corridors. But then it's for the environment because people will be in their cars anyway, but if they live here it will be for shorter distances.
Moving on, we have the BMR units which will, 1 House the poor, 2. house our police, 3. House our gardeners and restaurant wait staff, 4 provide retirement housing for our poor (or is it rich?) seniors. 5. Add needed diversity to our city 6. Provide housing for silicon valley workers. 7. Give us an opportunity to show our liberal consciences are intact.
We are told that we can accomodate the new burden to our schools because they're already crowded - somehow under the theory that we have to open one school, so we might as well open two or more.
In steve levy's last post he adds a chance for us to demonstrate "graciousness" to this list by taking a financial hit like we did in the Tinsley era. Of course, in another thread, levy was telling us that we needed to do this because it is essential to our economy.
At least opponents of ABAG seem to know what they want: No more crowding of our roads, our schools and our community by having "public policy goals" forced down our throats by overbearing pan-regional bureaucrats who weren't elected to anything by us. Add me to the list.
Posted by Always-Tell-The-Truth, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Nov 4, 2007 at 11:05 am
The Tinsley suit was over by 1985. Becoming a Basic Aid School District didn't happen until 1989. There is no direct link between the two.
** We were mandated by the court to accept students as part of
** achieving public policy goals.
If we were truly "gracious". then we would not have forced the suit. Given how hit-and-miss trial court can be, the school district should have appealed. The court has no place making "public policy", which this one most certainly attempted.
** And we WERE gracious as a community despite the financial hit.
** There is nothing contradictory about being told to do something
** and then being gracious in the follow through.
Talking to people who lived here at the time, there was a lot of hostility shown initially. That was a long time ago, so people probably have forgotten. It certainly would not have been good for this town to have reacted like South Boston did to court-ordered integration.
** And on your point about housing turnover the District's demographer
** confirmed to me that the rising enrollment to date hasbeen almost
** completely the result of families with children moving into homes
** vacated by families with few or no children
If the demographer is talking to each of those people moving into the district, then perhaps this point is true. Remember, there are only about 500 homes that turnover each year, so there are not a lot of people moving into Palo Alto homes annually.
Posted by Jeremy Loski, a resident of the Ventura neighborhood, on Nov 4, 2007 at 11:15 am
[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]
First, I wasn't commenting on the cost of water; I was commenting on the untoward effects of development load, of which water is one variable. I brought that up as an example of the price that *others* are paying for our choices.
[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]
From the paper:
"Current Tracy population is close to the limit of current municipal water supplies. As
Tracy area developers haggle and file suit over the remaining available water,**it does
seem a limit to urban growth is being negotiated** (my emphasis). Urban growth limits have previously been identified and confronted in Tracy and the northern San Joaquin Valley."
"A presumption throughout California's development has been that water would be found
for urban growth (Walker and Williams, 1982). Despite the recent lack of new water
development this presumption continues in expected water transfers from agriculture
(DWR, 1998). Further support is found in the California Water Code (section 106) which
defines domestic water use as the highest beneficial purpose of the resource. As
ecosystem people the reasonableness of urban supremacy is highly questionable, but as
biosphere people, maybe not. Urbanization continues to reconfigure the California
landscape with each new wave of immigrants and emancipated offspring. Each newly
urbanized portion of land demands water, water probably used elsewhere;*** the availability of water determines the life possible in both places.*** " (my emphasis)
thus, the *partial* he reference you quoted is a reference to a selected citation that belies the current realties of development in Tracy. Here's the rest of the citation,
"Increased degradation of Old River due to the
discharge of more treated wastewater is considered avoidable through tertiary treatment
of new wastewater treatment plant capacity, and the use of reclaimed water on city parks,
golf courses, and landscaping. Until urban runoff standards are applicable to Tracy,
degradation of Old River due to drainage discharge is listed as only potentially
significant. While water supply is identified as the limiting factor for growth in the City
of Tracy (City of Tracy et al., 1993), urban water usage is defined in the California water
code (section 106) as the primary beneficial use of the resource (CA Legislative website).
The annual availability of an additional 23,000 acre-feet of water or more is not quite
addressed in the environmental analysis. Mitigation is a practical list of measures:
conservation, water system improvements, and care to approve only those building
permits where water supply exists (City of Tracy et al.,, 1993). The procurement of an
adequate water supply is assumed."
Thus, the real limits that Tracy is beginning to run up against, as clearly shown by the **very existance of this paper**. So, read the rest of the citation, and realize that continuing sprawl is placing a real strain on water resources that will soon come to a head - remember, this paper researched about 8 years ago, and written six years ago - we're just waking up to what sprawl has wrought.
Posted by Jeremy Loski, a resident of the Ventura neighborhood, on Nov 4, 2007 at 11:36 am
"At least opponents of ABAG seem to know what they want"
Really? Pot, meet kettle.
[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]
How many of those ABAG opponents call themselves strong environmentalists? A LOT of them; and their opposition to ABAG is in DIRECT contradiction to their strongly held environmentalist position. So, what DO they want - a clean environment, an adaptation that will help *everyone* - - or some mythic, nostalgic version fo Palo Alto? I wonder....
How many of those ABAG opponents opposed building just SIX granny units per year, to relieve the burden of certain seniors? And they say they support seniors? Do they, or don't they.
These same resident complain about retail base, but THEY were the ones who for years (and still - keep viable retail frem being built here. What's with that? Look at the HYatt project, as one example. Look at Alma Plaza...the list goes on...
The growth problem will be *negotiated*, and will definitely include ABAG numbers. What I'm most gratified about is that the most radical of the Palo Alto no-growth set have been marginalized, and are losing their influence. They will not sit at the head of the table any more - cooler and more measured heads will prevail.
This will give Palo Alto and our region a chance to *adapt*, rather than continuing to say "no" to every suggestion for adaptation.
Notice that on thisi thread not ONE of these no-growthers is supporting mass transport. Why not?
Parochialism reigns suprememin their arguments; we HAVE to move past that if Palo Alto and this Valley is going to adapt.
Posted by John, a resident of the College Terrace neighborhood, on Nov 4, 2007 at 11:43 am
Oh yes, I read the whole thing. You, apparently, missed this part:
"San Joaquin Irrigation District (SSJID) plans to keep pace with current and future San
Joaquin County urbanization through the South County Surface Water Supply Project
(the Project). The Project proposes to provide the cities of Tracy, Manteca, Escalon, and
Lathrop with a supplemental supply of treated, high quality water from the Stanislaus
River. Included in the Project is a water treatment plant near Woodward Reservoir and
36.5 miles of pressurized pipeline to eventually deliver about 44,000 acre-feet of drinking
water each year to the contracting cities. Not intended to completely supply the
contracting cities, the Project is designed to progress in two phases according to projected
urban growth. Unlike the others, the City of Tracy would receive its entire contract
amount, 10,000 acre-feet annually, in the first phase."
I don't know if this project went through, but it is typical of other irrigation districts that are selling their water to urban areas. It is a cash cow for the districts, which have water rights given them in a previous era.
Water resources in Tracy is NOT a major issue, JL. It is only a matter of convincing farmers to make themselves rich by selling something they probably don't deserve anymore. The main point is that the water is there...water politics is always a blood sport in California, so it won't always be easy. But it will happen, unless you and yours succeed in engineering a political prohibition.
Posted by Always-Tell-The-Truth, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Nov 4, 2007 at 1:05 pm
** Please ATTT, **always do your research**!!! :)
For all of your words, there is very little evidence that you have done enough research to justify any of your positions.
** Channing House, etc. etc. etc. Also, ask around at the
** Avenidas lunches; yuo'll learn a thing, or two.
** There are many, many more than the paltry 200 senior
** residents that you claim in Palo Alto senior housing. Look
** into Channing, Sunrise, Hyatt Classic, Terman Apts.
** Webster Wood Apts., Runnymede Gardens Apts.,
There are people who have moved into these places, yes. But so what? The city government claims that there are about 2000 affordable housing slots in Palo Alto--but makes no claim as to how many of these slots are being held by seniors who lived in Palo Alto before moving into one of these slots. The PAUSD claims that about 3000 senior homes (presumably over 5000 people living in these homes) have asked for exemptions from the PAUSD parcel tax (and not all seniors ask for the exemption). It's clear that the number of seniors living in their own homes far exceeds those living on senior sites.
But you could provide us with the numbers from your "research".
** in addition to MANY more within a five mile radius of PA,
** that many of our seniors migrate to.
And some move out-of-state. But do they all sell their homes? How many seniors move, but put their property up for rent to pay for their new living quarters? What does your "research" say?
** Also, o talk to Avenidas principals, about their experience
** with local seniors, and what a bad dilemma most are in,
** as they face increasing isolation, and shrinking incomes - with
** no wat to escape this dilemma** without leaving their homes.
Do the Principals talk about Reverse Mortgages to the seniors who speak to them? Certainly most homes in Palo Alto are worth over $750K. And if these folks do "leave their homes", who gets the proceeds of the sale? The "poor, poor senior" now is a millionaire. Did your research reveal the assets of the people living in the senior housing sites?
Again, what part of Reverse Mortgage don't you understand?
> for the last 5 years as one of the top 25 places to retire to.
Googling "top retirement spots" does not produce a list of towns with Palo Alto on it.
** This means that Palo Alto will continue to attract cash
** rich seniors who move into places like Channing and Hyatt
** (and other developments that are on the way, for the cash
** rich seniors - we will also see some small condo development
** for these incoming seniors - again, a trip to Avenidas will
** "tell you the truth")
Once a facility like these two fills up, then the turnover will be reduced to the mortality rates of the occupants.
By the way, Channing house does not pay property tax--as it is exempted by State Law. Really nice to know that "cash rich" seniors for outside PA will be moving in to tax-exempt residences, while demanding services from the city which much tax others to provide these services. The Hyatt does pay property tax, based on its unique business model, however.
Posted by Jeremy Loski, a resident of the Ventura neighborhood, on Nov 4, 2007 at 2:07 pm
John says: "Water resources in Tracy is NOT a major issue... It is only a matter of convincing farmers to make themselves rich by selling something they probably don't deserve anymore."
So now you want to pass the price for your housing location preferences to agriculture, which impacts the whole nation? Just because you insist on sprawl? That's the kind of attitude that won't cut it with policy makers.
You say water is not an issue? uh, that's why we're talking about diverting water from other sources, and the BIGGEST looming quesion in California - over development, is water. There is NO dispute about this, among reasonable people.
[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]
Here are a few more links about development, and water shortages, in California.
btw, consider that Steve Levy's arguments about the relative cost of water are indeed correct. If one factorsa in thecost of the massive diversion of water necessary to meet outsized suburban sprawl, and factors in the passed on costs of agriculture (water prices will be driven out of sight by devcelopment, there is no ocontest between the cost of water in already-built water infrastructure environments, and outlying areas where infrastructure has to be built.
Posted by John, a resident of the College Terrace neighborhood, on Nov 4, 2007 at 2:24 pm
Please read your own stuff! You were talking about water issues in Northern California. S. California is another issue, where N. Cal water is shipped south. It is a simple thing, really: If there is water for ag, then there is water for homes, because homes use about the same amount as ag. Tracy has plenty of water resources. It will need to develop infrastructure, but so what? That infrastructure will be paid for by the larger tax base, as it should be.
It is not Palo Alto that is pressuring the farmers. The farmers decide that selling water is more profitable than raising an oversupply of crops. Oversupply, btw, is the major bane of farmers. If half the ag land in Calif. is urbanized, and per acre productivty goes up by a factor of two (a very conservative estimate), the water supply issue will not be substantially different than it is today, and the farmers will still have the problem of oversupply.
Posted by Jeremy Loski, a resident of the Ventura neighborhood, on Nov 4, 2007 at 2:26 pm
ATTT says: "There are people who have moved into these places, yes. But so what? The city government claims that there are about 2000 affordable housing slots in Palo Alto--but makes no claim as to how many of these slots are being held by seniors who lived in Palo Alto before moving into one of these slots."
You want numbers? Just extrapolate form the residential slots in the places I mentioned - that's just the tip of the iceberg.
Your first estimate was 200 - now you say 2000. Looks like you're still off. btw, the places I mentioned are *senior* housing facilities. ATTT, I've provided the resources, I'm not going to do the research over.
Sure, seniors in their homes DO outnumber those living in senior residences, but does that mean that many wouldn't move out to local residences if they could? What I hear from Senior service agencies around here, these seniors want options that our current housing mode doesn't provide.
btw, here's more info that you "couldn't find" - it shows Palo Alto on one of the most respected lists for places to retire
Also, it appears that you don't appear to care if seniors have to reverse mortgage their homes, right? Why not? I don't think yuo even like seniors here, many of whom lucked out with high house value inflation. Why shold you begrudge them an opportunity to die in the community that they spent their formative years in. Are you against that, too?
And, by the looks of your comments about Channing House, it appears that you - a "no growth" proponent, are adverse to the tax breaks that seniors get.
ATTT, I will use your quotes about seniors (and farmers) should we ever get to a vote in Palo Alto about ABAG - the 30% of our population that is compromised by the senior demographic here will be interested to know that this is how the ardent opponents of ABAG feel about senior issues. So, thanks for your help in moving ABAG's goals along.
Posted by Jeremy Loski, a resident of the Ventura neighborhood, on Nov 4, 2007 at 2:37 pm
This IS about N. California. [Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]
First, I have always said that *water* is an *issue* in suburban sprawl development. Deny that, and please show support for your position. Then, show me that forbidding infill housing, and forcing sprawl, *doesn't* increase the price of, demand for, and cost of water.
Please show me how this increase in water prices would not impact crop prices, impacting yet another sector of our economy - just so yuo can keep Palo Alto from building the housing necessary to do its part in moving ahead with a reasonable plan for growth in California.
[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]
The bottom line is that there is a cascading negative effect on the price of water, the cost of pollution, and so on - in the no-growther's weak arguments to stop housing growth here, or so cripple planning for that growth that the same problems we have today will be cit off from solutions that our childrenn will have to devise, and pay for with higher costs, and poor health.
Posted by John, a resident of the College Terrace neighborhood, on Nov 4, 2007 at 3:00 pm
"Your argument that "If there is water for ag, then there is water for homes, because homes use about the same amount as ag" is absurd, because there is a finite supply for water - with competing demand for that water. "
On a per acre basis, ag and urban use about the same amount of water (actually ag uses a little more - read your link). Therefore, if an acre of ag is converted to houses there is no increase in water usage. The cost of water to ag will always go up, becasue of the inflation involved in maintaing the infrastructure to deliver the water. Agriculture has an archaic legal hold on water water rights in this state. Even if this lock is broken, ag has many ways of decreasing water usage (drip systems vs. sprinklers vs. flood irrigation vs. etc.).
I was raised on a farm. My father was a farmer. I think I understand ag waters issues, much better than you do, apparently. Farmers will complain to high heavan about any demand on THEIR water, until their land is next to an urban edge...then they suddenly support development (including water rights), becasue they can make more money by selling out and investing in CDs at the local bank.
The main enemy of farmers is oversupply (thus low prices). Increase prices by three-fold, increase water prices two-fold...then find my a farmer who is complaining. [Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]
Build single family homes in Tracy, Salinas, Soledad, etc. Then provide decent trains to bring the workers here, if this is where they want to work. Sprawl is a good thing for people.
Posted by Always-Tell-The-Truth, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Nov 4, 2007 at 6:31 pm
** Sure, seniors in their homes DO outnumber those
** living in senior residences, but does that mean that
** many wouldn't move out to local residences if they could?
Seniors do what they want to do. Most want to stay in their homes until they can't. On the east coast a lot of seniors move to Florida because of the weather. Californians have such beautiful weather that there isn't a lot of motivation. One of my relatives moved into assisted senior housing in their late '70s, and moved out in their late '80s because so many of their friends were dying. They decided it was better for them to do the extra work of operating their own apartment than put up with the fact that they didn't know anyone in the building where they were living.
People do what they want to do. Luckily this is the US and seniors are not subject to every social engineer or "Housing Hitler's" whims.
** What I hear from Senior service agencies around here, these
** seniors want options that our current housing mode doesn't provide.
The city doesn't have an obligation to provide for housing for everyone who has become a senior. Personal responsibility is still the basis for life in the US.
It's a little difficult to believe that with 500 homes turning over yearly, that people from all over the US will be trying to trade up their $225K home for a $1M home in Palo Alto in order to retire here.
The profile does not provide any sense of what kind of institutional senior housing exists. In short, there is virtually nothing in this profile to encourage anyone to move here for retirement purposes other than perhaps the number of hospitals and golf courses in the area.
Oh, and all of this "destination Palo Alto" for seniors seems to argue against the idea of "young families" moving here in great numbers.
** it appears that you don't appear to care
** if seniors have to reverse mortgage their homes
The home has a huge asset value which belongs to the senior. A Reverse Mortgage allows them to tap into that asset and remain in their homes until they pass away or chose to move out. What part of that don't you understand?
Posted by Jeremy Loski, a resident of the Ventura neighborhood, on Nov 4, 2007 at 7:53 pm
ATTT says: "It's a little difficult to believe that with 500 homes turning over yearly, that people from all over the US will be trying to trade up their $225K home for a $1M home in Palo Alto in order to retire here."
They're not coming from places where a home costs $225K. Do you think that most Hyatt Classic residents come from Palo Alto?
You're right, municipalities don't have an obligation to help seniors as they migrate from full independence to smaller quarters, etc. But some communities *want* to do that, because seniors are a *part* of the social fabric in those communities. You, apparently don't think that way. This is your perrogative, but it's clearly out of step with the many, many seniors I have encountered at Channing, Avenidas, annd in the neighborhoods.
Most seniors are appalled when they learn the details of what went down a few years ago re: the granny units. "Why shuoldn't I be able to build a small granny unit on *my* property?", they say, "especially if it will enable me to scale through my end years here".
[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]
Ask most seniors what they think about reverse mortgages. Ask them if they want to spend down their only asset because there are no other options. You really *are* out of touch.
ABAG units will be a boon to those seniors who want to sell their $1.5M scrapers, and move into a below-market rental, or buy a $250K BMR condo. It will leave them enough to live on through their golden years, with something left over for those they leave behind.
Posted by Jeremy Loski, a resident of the Ventura neighborhood, on Nov 4, 2007 at 8:44 pm
John says: "The cost of water to ag will always go up, becasue of the inflation involved in maintaing the infrastructure to deliver the water."
Development projections don't call for a one-to-one trade out (house for ag land) for water. We are putting MORE pressure on available water supplies; this will INCREASE the price for water. There is a *direct* connection and correlation with sprawl and our increasing water constraints. There is a price to be paid that is far more dear than the naive "even trade" argument that you're making.
Putting the kobosh on ABAG will make this situation worse. You simply cannot walk away from ABAG's *intentions*, and think that no other sector will suffer the consequences, including Palo Alto's special status in the education revenue code. (Basic Aid) We ha better tread very lightly here, and let moderates talk this through.[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]
About relative water cost:
"Farmers who get federal water are generally charged a fraction of the free-market rate.
Westlands, for example, pays as little as $31 an acre foot for its federal water, while the Marin Municipal Water District pays about $500 an acre foot for water from the Russian River, and Southern California cities pay $200 an acre foot and up for state project water."
Posted by Don Helterbran, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Nov 5, 2007 at 6:43 am
"ABAG units will be a boon to those seniors who want to sell their $1.5M scrapers, and move into a below-market rental, or buy a $250K BMR condo. It will leave them enough to live on through their golden years, with something left over for those they leave behind."
Wait a minute! I was kind of neutral on the ABAG thing until I read this. Do you mean that a senior with $1.5 million in assets gets subsidized housing, while new families are struggling to live here?!
I'm 59 year old. My house is worth about $2 million and it's paid off. I'm going to be getting social security payments (paid for by young folks) in fewer years than I like to think.
I'm as greedy as the next guy, and can rationalize taking advantage of the system with the rest of us old folks.
But if I'm going to qualify for subsidized housing under this ABAG thing - or even come close to it, the whole thing is a crock.
We seniors know when we're being patronized to buy our reliable visits to the voting booth. My vote doesn't come this cheaply.;
Posted by John, a resident of the College Terrace neighborhood, on Nov 5, 2007 at 7:54 am
A senior with assets over twice the cost of the BMR unit does not qualify. This means that many, if not most seniors in PA who own their homes would not qualify.
This whole notion that BMRs would help out our current long-time PA seniors is no more valid than that they would help out our teachers/fire/police. It is just a disinformation tool to get increased density in PA.
Posted by Jeremy Loski, a resident of the Ventura neighborhood, on Nov 5, 2007 at 10:15 am
Anna, Again, for your information, 15% of Palo Altans subsist on less than $40K per year. Most of those persons are seniors.
Some seniors would qualify for BMR housing, as well as others whose presence would bring greater benefit to the community by being here, than the costs associated with creating their BMR units.
It's important to keeping pounding home the point that those who oppose ABAG numbers here are the *same* people who have been aggressively fighting *every* significant housing development and retail development in Palo Alto, for that last 15 years.
This is the group that has cost us our retail base, and now they want to freeze growth in Palo Alto, in a way that would ultimately create a high priced backwater city, with low service levels.
If that's what our residents want, then they shuold join with the no-growth crowd.
If Palo Altans want a scaled-growth, sustainable future, without tons of pollutants being spewed by commuters, and grossly insufficient retail, they'll elect policy makers who are willing to move forward in the spirit of the ABAG intentions - re: our city, and the region.
Posted by Anna, a resident of the Southgate neighborhood, on Nov 5, 2007 at 10:56 am
First Loski says seniors selling 1.5 million houses would qualify for subsidized BMR housing. When that is conclusively demonstrated to be false, he plows right ahead saying "some" seniors would qualify for subsidized housing. When the tendentious quality of this statement also is demonstrated, no doubt we'll be on to something else as anyone reading through this thread can see.
We are faced with a very simple question: Do the residents of Palo Alto wish follow the dictates of the regional bureaucrats at ABAG who are telling us that we should build 3000 housing units in the next 8 years, with about half being subsidized below market units?
If you believe this housing will have all the "benefits" Loski and Levy say: if you believe it will reduce traffic and pollution, save our city services from deteriorating, keep our seniors in town, demonstrate our liberal political nature, ensure that we don't become an economic backwater, not harm our school crowding problems, save California's water, encourage mass transit use, not impact our existing neighborhoods, prove we are "gracious", provide housing for our gardeners and waiters, ....etc., then you should answer that question "yes." You should also be very cautious if someone offers to sell you the Brooklyn Bridge.
It's important to remember we have a choice in this, and that we should make our preferences clear to the "policy makers" Loski and Levy hope will force this down our throats.
Posted by Jeremy Loski, a resident of the Ventura neighborhood, on Nov 5, 2007 at 11:27 am
[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]
It's always difficult to move from an economy that can do no wrong, to an economy that has to be carefully husbanded aqnd planned, in order to stay competitive.
We see this in the private sector all the time, where a young company that is in the right place and time, with the right products or services, ends up rocketing to prominence.
That's fun for a while; it's a time when no matter what mistakes one makes, the absolute demand for one's product or service seems to override an inefficiencies in the boardroom, or by individual owners.
Unfortunately, all good things either change, or come to an end.
This is, of course, not the best of analogies, but it will suffice for my pupose.
The fact is that Palo Alto's salad days are on the wane; we have an opportunity to turn the corner (with the rest of the region as partners, or in tow [the former is preferable]) toward a different kind of economy - an economy that looks to the future and *plans* for the most likely scenarios, with built-in tolerance for error.
This is what ABAG and other planning measures are meant for. Rather this, than heading willy-nilly along the policy path that was forged by our city in its "teen years", from the late 70's through the late 90's.
We have to get a frip on where we stand in the region, and work hard with otther municipalities to make sure that we all pull our weight - relative to things like jobs/housing imbalance, mass transport creation and integration, retail policy, municipal services policy, and so on.
Posted by Dave, a resident of the Professorville neighborhood, on Nov 5, 2007 at 11:38 am
Let's see...our salad days are on the wane and our economy has to be carefully husbanded to ensure that we don't get lost as we prepare for a different kind of economy.
So what do these perilous changing times call for? One thousand five hundred subsidized Below Market units that by definition don't contribute the same taxes to the city that market housing does, that place an administrative burden on city workers, and whose residents require more social services than residents of market housing.
Posted by Jeremy Loski, a resident of the Ventura neighborhood, on Nov 5, 2007 at 11:48 am
Dave, please read my prior posts for answers to your questions. Here, I'll try to summarize some answers to your concerns.
Tne one thousand, five hundred subsidized Below Market units will save our roads and air quality from wear, tear, and pollution. There is a clear cost for the latter.
In additiont, residents spend money in our city, and that in itself generates a contribution to the general fund.
Further, many other intangible benefits are contributed by residents who have a stake in in where they live.
I have seen no proof about BMR occupiers in *general* requiring more social services than others.
There is no disconnect, only a lack of insight and knowledge of the benefits of appropriate planning for the future, and how that planning will keep us from becoming a comfortable upper-middle-class community that could have been far more than that. I won't accept that as Palo Alto's fate.
Posted by John, a resident of the College Terrace neighborhood, on Nov 5, 2007 at 1:18 pm
"There is no disconnect, only a lack of insight and knowledge on your - and some others part - of the benefits of appropriate planning for the future, and how that planning will keep us from becoming a comfortable upper-middle-class community that could have been far more than that. I won't accept that as Palo Alto's fate."
I, for one, am all FOR Palo Alto remaining a comfortable upper-middle-class community. I like it that way!
JL, your "planned" economy has been tried several times in the past (Lenin, Pol Pot for example). It leads to commanders that command. It always will. [Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]
On the traffic issue, local residents use our city streets much more than commuters do. Commuters cause the commuter rush, but they tend to stay at work, then go home. Give them efficient commuter trains, then they will no longer cause a morning and afternoon rush. Locals drive all over the place. BMR locals won't shop at Whole Foods (can't afford it); they will get in their cars and shop at Costco in MV (no tax revenue for PA there!).
Posted by Jeremy Loski, a resident of the Ventura neighborhood, on Nov 5, 2007 at 1:29 pm
Currently, our local growth is poorly planned. We are no tmaking allowances for the future, nor are we considering the effects of our jobs/housing imbalance on our municipal neighbors.
If anything, our economy is "commanded" by crisis and fear. The only hope for the future ofo this region lies in forward planning that will remove barriers to development, and at the same time preserve neighborhood integrity.
Growth is not a zero sum endeavor. [Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]
Posted by John, a resident of the College Terrace neighborhood, on Nov 5, 2007 at 2:37 pm
That's actually a pretty subdued response on your part. I will try to assume the same tone.
Yes, some planning is required. I prefer to allow people to make their own choices, within their own means. However, I also think that efficient public transit makes more sense, in some cases, than the individual automobile. I also believe that we (the market) should be offering up cars that are largely electic, in order to reduce pollution, and support national security. I think our commuter trains should be electric. I also believe that general zoning laws can be helpful (residential vs industrial, etc.)...however, within those zones, I don't want to see command economic decisions...let people be free to make their own choices.
I cannot see into a crystal ball and make solid predictions about the health (or illness) of the Bay Area economy. I don't think I would be any better at it than predicting the stock market. If you are better at that it than free market is, well, good for you (if so, you must be incredibly rich from your stock picks :-) ).
I believe in muddling through problems, messy as it is. I think you believe that there are sharp answers. Just a philosophical difference, I suppose.