Buena Vista owner hits another snag
Original post made
on Oct 23, 2013
The owner of Buena Vista Mobile Home Park must go back and further revise his plan for compensating the residents who would be displaced under a plan to convert Buena Vista to a dense apartment complex, Palo Alto's city attorney has ruled.
Read the full story here Web Link
posted Wednesday, October 23, 2013, 9:59 AM
Like this comment
Posted by Vote AGAINST D
a resident of Green Acres
on Oct 24, 2013 at 5:29 pm
You have been badly misinformed. This is why it was such a shame that the City Attorney didn't deal with the consequences of passing and not passing the Measure in her analysis.
The current zoning on the Maybell site is R-2 low-density single-family residential and RM-15 low-density multifamily residential. The property, technically, as of today October 24, 2013, remains that zoning. The property HAS NEVER BEEN REZONED AS OF TODAY.
When the Council voted on it, city CODE provides that the property is not rezoned for 30 days after the 2nd reading of the ordinance, in order that citizens may referend. You can read that in the staff reports, too. Citizens have the right for any decision like this. When citizens did in fact referend, the ordinance to rezone was NOT ENACTED.
The City Council then, according to city code, had to decide to either set aside the ordinance or put it to the vote of the citizens. They decided to set aside one of their decisions that put the rezoning in the Comprehensive Plan for the first referendum, but put the rezoning itself to the vote for the 2nd referendum. In the meantime, the zoning remains as it was. The property at Maybell has never been rezoned.
MEASURE D IS A VOTE TO EITHER ENACT THE ORDINANCE TO REZONE, OR NOT TO ENACT THE ORDINANCE TO REZONE. PERIOD.
Those who are FOR rezoning, vote for passing Measure D. Those who are AGAINST REZONING from the existing low-density zoning to high-density zoning, vote AGAINST Measure D.
It is possible to build senior housing under the existing zoning if Measure D does not pass. It would just have to be a different plan that was more in keeping with the neighborhood.
If Measure D passes and PAHC does not build, then the property ALSO REVERTS TO THE PREVIOUS LOW-DENSITY ZONING. The PC zoning is only given for a specific application and does not transfer to a new one. If Measure D does not pass, i.e., if voters vote AGAINST it, then the zoning remains what it was before all this started. It remains the current low-density zoning.
You have gotten confused by all the rhetoric, the people who want you to believe the existing low-density "compact car" zoning will for sure be a clown car full of more than a bus load of people.
If AGAINST Measure D succeeds, and the zoning remains as is, neighbors have welcomed PAHC to build the senior housing under that zoning. If they and the City simply spend almost an identical amount of money per unit as was spent at 801 Alma without violating existing zoning, they could afford to do that. This is why neighbors have complained that the City is rezoning in order to pay for the project at their expense - because more than 55% of the project is being upzoned for a market-rate developer and not going for affordable housing, and it's not the difference between having affordable housing or not as we see at 801 Alma (imagine they had built that thing twice as big to make some money!), it's just about saving money through violating the neighborhood zoning and making the neighborhood absorb all the impacts.
PAHC could build almost as many units for seniors there under existing zoning -- in fact the neighbors would have gone for them building the 60 senior units in an honest plan that was JUST the senior housing (some said so in City Hall meetings), had a real safety analysis, and didn't take up 55% of the property with the market-rate upzoned development -- but there's no scenario where such density could be built under existing zoning.
So the two scenarios I am going to compare here are
1)what PAHC could build under the existing zoning for seniors, and
2) what could be built if they sold the property to a market-rate developer, who built UNDER THE EXISTING ZONING. Which is the only option. The PC zoning DOES NOT TRANSFER if PAHC decides not to build. Or if Measure D does not pass, also the zoning remains as is.
Wow, I wish that had been more clear that people who hadn't been so involved in City politics didn't realize that!! (Thank you again!!)
So, 1) PAHC builds under existing zoning for seniors
To build the 41 units under existing zoning counts on two exceptions a market-rate development would not have under existing zoning:
**Bonus density rules that allow a much greater number of units for affordable housing, and
**the City improperly applying the zoning rules. Neighbors are actually willing to let that one slide for affordable housing, because contrary to how they are being portrayed by their opponents, they do in fact support this land use for seniors (just not a plan involving huge violation of zoning). But they would NOT let that slide if a market-rate developer built there, and they have the ability to enforce it in court (and will)
RM-15 is defined as and is supposed to act as a transition zone between disparate zoning densities, in this case between the historic exception of the Tan Apartments which were built under county rules and grandfathered in when it became part of Palo Alto, and the R-1 neighborhood that surrounds. That is why the parcel is RM-15 to R-2 to R-1 all around.
RM-15 is supposed to be 8 to 15 units per acre. When the City talks about what could be built there, it starts with 15 units per acre, adds the affordable housing density bonus, and they have the 41 units.
But the Comprehensive Plan says RM-15 is actually supposed to be on the lower end, meaning, 8 units per acre, when next to R-1 areas, as this property is. PLUS, UNDER EXISTING ZONING, THERE ARE HEIGHT LIMITS, SUCH AS 30 FEET HEIGHT LIMIT, SETBACK, DAYLIGHT PLANE, DENSITY, PARKING AND OTHER IMPORTANT RESTRICTIONS THAT LIMIT WHAT CAN ACTUALLY BE BUILT THERE. (The compact car can only be so big, so you can only have so many passengers)
This property would have to be subdivided, and under the Subdivision Map Act (Govt Code Section 66499.37), the subdivision has to be consistent with the Comprehensive Plan, i.e., what could really go there under existing zoning, if a market-rate developer built there, is about 16-18 normal-sized houses, and residents can enforce that in court. As Doug Moran pointed out, in residential neighborhoods - rather than the examples the City gave on El Camino and busy corridors where no one was watching - the City has had the opposite problem where builders have wanted to build LESS densely, larger houses, because they make more money that way.
So under existing zoning, should Measure D not be passed and a market-rate developer want to build, they would in fact not be able to put a clown car there! Do not be fooled.
I know it's complicated -- that's city code for you -- If Measure D does not pass, if AGAINST Measure D succeeds, the property would remain its existing low-density zoning.
I hope this clarifies things. Please vote Against D!
Like this comment
Posted by Vote AGAINST D
a resident of Green Acres
on Oct 25, 2013 at 9:10 pm
I wanted to give you some more reasons that I am against it:
1) Despite active calls from neighbors, and a City policy that calls
for heightened scrutiny of developments on school commute corridors,
the City and the developer failed to do any safety analysis of the
impacts of putting a high-density development right on the two Safe
Routes to School that serve thousands of children traveling to Gunn,
Terman, Bowman and Juana Briones, almost half to the upper schools by
bike and foot. There are no routes in and out of the development
that can avoid those Safe Routes to School. One of them, Maybell, is
a seriously substandard street without room for even one full-width
bike lane or sidewalk. Even though it went through an expensive
safety improvement within the last few years, the medians and stop
signs in front of the school are regularly hit and sometimes knocked
to the ground.
2) The City never prepared an environmental impact report, they
instead prepared a mitigated negative declaration, which included the
following (which you can read in the ordinance under Section 7):
"Sweep surrounding streets daily while contaminated soil is hauled
offsite." The sweeping was deemed necessary to avoid buildup of
contaminated soil on the street and sidewalks. But no provision at
all was made for protecting the small children's playground at Juana
Briones Park right NEXT to those streets and across the street from
the proposed construction. No provision at all was made to protect
the SMALL CHILDREN and their lungs from breathing the contaminated
soil during the construction.
3) The proposed development has only 36 parking spots for residents
of a a 60-unit building (plus 5 for employees, 6 set aside for visitors/disabled -
not 47 parking spots for residents as PAHC seems to claim in their ad)
with apartments twice the size of other similar developments, meaning,
more likely to have 2 residents per unit. The development will only be rental
apartments, not a senior center, and is not walkable to any amenities seniors
need, so residents are more likely to have cars.
Overflow parking will take away the already limited parking in front
of Juana Briones Park and Juana Briones Elementary, on the side of
the school serving the families of disabled children at the county
rehab facility and the OH (where parking is already an issue in the
The impacts to the park and school were not addressed by the MND.
There is currently a CEQA lawsuit by neighbors over the property, to
my understanding, the traffic and impacts to the park are among the
issues, but I'm not a party to it so I don't know for sure.
4) And sometimes I think I'm the only person who cares about this,
but maybe some people on this list will also understand. I am
bothered that the City is allowing a market-rate development with
tall skinny chimney-like houses like at Miki's Market in the middle
of a residential neighborhood, right across from a long-time school
for the disabled. Children with disabilities use the park daily, and
will have a monument to the City's complete disregard for the
disabled in home construction built right in their faces across the
street. Children at the OH use the park daily. People in
wheelchairs or with mobility problems could never live in homes like
that, probably couldn't even visit, and we have a policy in the
housing element about diversity and inclusivity, but the disabled
seem to not count.
These stovepipe houses seem to be the new standard for home
construction in Palo Alto, and they completely exclude the 10% of the
population with mobility problems for developers short-term financial
advantage. The only reason the market-rate portion of the Maybell
development, which takes more than half the property, is being built,
is so the City and developer can pay less than we usually do for
affordable housing in Palo Alto, through the upzoning of the
residential neighborhood and selling off more than half the property
for an upzoned market-rate development. We've never had to do that
before, it's not necessary now. (The council makes a show of caring
about seniors, when the same amount of money used to help save the
Buena Vista mobile home park in the same neighborhood would save
about 8 times more affordable housing. When I've brought up the
impact to the disabled students at the long-time OH program at Juana
Briones not being addressed, it's like they're deaf. Liz Kniss told
me not to bother bringing it up anymore.)
The Mayor has indicated a willingness to let the property become a
community orchard if someone is willing to purchase the property to
convert it into a community orchard. (Though I wonder about his
sincerity as I knew people actually interested in purchasing it for a
playing field and the City actively put them off and misinformed
them.) The site would actually be perfect for a community orchard,
saving the 100 established fruit trees and the old oaks, and the plan
is to make it fully accessible to people of all abilities, but it's
impossible to raise funds while the property is in controversy.
5) Neighbors have also expressed concern that the City Attorney is
the one who got to write the ballot question and "impartial"
analysis, so neighbors feel it is extremely leading and amounts to
advocacy for the pro Measure D side. The yes/no designations are
confusing, so just to let you know:
If you are AGAINST the low-density to high-density rezoning of
Maybell, you vote AGAINST.
If you are FOR the low-density to high-density rezoning of Maybell,
you vote FOR.
(The rezoning has technically never taken place yet, that's why it's
set up that way.)
One thing relevant to our previous discussion is that PAHC now says all the funds in the City's community affordable housing fund are gone now, presumably for this property. Let me ask you: given all the needs we have, is this really the best way for us to spend those dollars to provide for low-income residents? We would be saving far more low-income residents if we instead spent the money at Buena Vista.
Please Vote Against D, if only for this: if AGAINST wins, neighbors have said they are willing to accept a 41 to 60-unit senior complex at that location, if done under or closer to the existing zoning. This has never been for them about rejecting affordable housing. Many of the same neighbors were involved in the Terman working group that managed to save the property at Terman for the school AND give us the 92-unit Terman affordable apartments in the same neighborhood as the Maybell property, and have asked publicly for such a working group again for this property but were ignored. The City and PAHC have proceeded as if the neighborhood is beside the point; even Larry Klein said he'd never seen so much "stonewalling" from an applicant. If yes wins, there will be no negotiating -- the battles will only continue in court.