Palo Alto in no hurry to recoup Maybell loan
Original post made
on Dec 17, 2013
Palo Alto's plan to bring an affordable-housing complex to a Maybell Avenue orchard may have dissolved on Election Day, but the city is in no rush to recoup the money it loaned to the developer.
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posted Tuesday, December 17, 2013, 9:59 AM
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Posted by SWE
a resident of Green Acres
on Dec 17, 2013 at 11:16 pm
SWE is a registered user.
@Coming home to roost,
Your neighbors fought a plan they deemed bad for the neighborhood. They did not feel the same way as you about a land use decision. The vote went 80% against in the areas nearest to the property where people are most familiar with it. If YOU keep making this about NIMBYism and rolling out your revenge fantasies, you're only going to continue to taint PAHC by association. Twenty years ago, some of these same people leading against D were part of a working group that saved the Terman School site from development and resulted in the 92-unit Terman Apartments. When have you ever done anything like that? Do you care about affordable housing, or is this about your ego? You're sending the message that it's the latter, bigtime. Who is that helping, except your own spleen?
On the neighborhood side, they've been calling for a working group, just like at Terman, in order to problem-solve in the same way. Unfortunately, the City and PAHC were chasing a very specific plan at Maybell and weren't going to easily give up on getting it at fire sale prices. They overshot, didn't understand their opposition because they dismissed their opponents as NIMBYs rather than understanding their real motives, and thus themselves cost any opportunity for a win-win. They tore the community apart by promoting conflict to get what they want. The cold, hard fact is that they never left open the possibility of collaboration, the plan was too rigid and they just assumed they would win because they had the City on their side. Unfortunately, because they framed the whole debate that way, they now exist in a paradigm where they must feel everyone is against them and I have to admit, their spiteful adherents make it very hard not to be they have shut out collaboration altogether. This is just sad for affordable housing, and the advocates don't even see their responsibility in it.
In San Francisco where they have an impartial ballot committee and a nearly identical measure, Measure C, their ballot question reflected the nature of the ordinance as a land use variance, so even though there was $12 million in affordable housing in the ordinance, the overturning of it via referendum (67% against, even larger than Measure D) was seen as the land use issue it was, not a rejection of affordable housing. Their question literally asked whether the developer should be able to violate the zoning by 80 feet or whatever it was.
Here, where the City did everything in its power to win, the City Attorney's biased ballot even left off the official "low-density" part of the existing zoning name and basically asked residents if they were for seniors. I'll bet most people who voted don't have a clear idea of which of the many zoning restrictions were violated in the ordinance, except for maybe the height going from 30 to 50 feet, because our City Attorney tried to rig the game by making it about seniors. Unfortunately, when the election is over, that's how outsiders interpret it, think people in Palo Alto hate the poor, and it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. I heard a Forum program with SF housing advocates in which they interpreted Palo Alto's election as rejecting senior housing, but didn't talk about their own that way because their ballot was about what it was really about.
roost, your revenge fantasy is very unlikely to happen, and you're hurting PAHC to push it. The City's failure to properly address the safety issues at that location has made developers and banks consider the site risky. The only City Councilmember who visited the site enough to know is on record saying it's not a safe route to school, even though it is a city-designated safe route to school, and the rest are on record saying they think a market-rate development under existing zoning would be less safe.
Neighbors have a range of options to fight the development you envision, because City Council, just as they overshot the mark with PC zoning, is doing the same when it comes to what could go there under market conditions. City Council continues to plan for allowing the most slanted interpretation of the Comprehensive Plan possible, but neighbors already planned to fight that, in court if necessary, in the subdivision process, for one. There are other possible actions, though I am not exactly going to say in a public forum. The point is, if you were a developer and just witnessed the populace handing the City Council their own @sses on a platter, despite lots of money on the developer side and the LWV shilling for them, too, even a ballot so slanted the election was practically rigged for one, you'd want them to stop stirring up the populace to make the development environment so hostile and two, if the neighborhood announced they'd go for a 20-house development you could still make a killing from, without fighting you, what would you choose?
If the City or PAHC tries to make a developer overlook what was really driving the neighborhood, safety and neighborhood character, and represent things as just NIMBYism (therefore easier for a market-rate project), they will be mirepresenting the property and potentially facing legal action down the road. And potentially incurring liability for the City.
If PAHC wants to hang onto the property, they should consider a working group with neighbors. It won't be easy, especially if their attitude is anything like their adherents who post on these forums. But if they are willing to accept that neighbors want to find a win-win, they will open themselves up to doing things differently but achieving a win for affordable housing (just like at Terman).
What about extending APAC with some single-story, regular family homes with full accessibility/universal design, with preferance for low-income children in wheelchairs, and/or their disabled veteran parents? After all, the site is across from the OH. Why were we arguing about putting seniors there, when we should be putting seniors where they can walk to what they need, and putting disabled children where they can motor (wheelchair) themselves to school independently from elementary to middle to high schools. If anything, the disabled are the more under-served group, and the fact that our planning essentially ignores them shuts the disabled out of the prosperity of Silicon Valley. This suggestion involves a whole other pot of available money for building, quite probably a bigger pot of money. Such a plan could be magical if it involved saving some of the orchard, integrated with the park across the street. Since universal design favors single-story, the whole thing inherently favors neighborhood acceptance from the start. The beauty of a working group is that the plan is hashed out first with everyone's requirements in mind, so the ultimate plan has buy in from the public. I don't know why PAHC doesn't seem to understand the opportunity they have if all these accomplished people in this community want to figure out how to get something they work on together paid for. I've been floored by these smart, ultra-capable people. (Some extra on-site parking for APAC would also be a boon for everyone.)
I'm not advocating for one action, I'm suggesting PAHC consider what's best for its own future and residents, reorient their thinking, and consider how to rebuild the bridges THEY burned. The alternative is possibly losing money on the sale of the property as developers shy away from such a risky site where they would be guaranteed to walk into conflict, or getting sued for failure to properly disclose, for one.
But just realize, by choosing to continue spinning all these revenge fantasies, you destroy that option for PAHC. The neighborhood will be okay if you do. PAHC may not.
And Buena Vista may not either. The other reason to form a working group is to see if the $5.8million can be made available for saving BV.