http://paloaltoonline.com/square/print/2014/02/07/in-a-baby-step-pcs-are-put-on-hold


Town Square

Editorial: In baby step, PCs are put on hold

Original post made on Feb 7, 2014

After years of hearing citizen complaints about Palo Alto's practice of allowing developers to exceed zoning limits by offering "public benefits" that often don't live up to promises, the City Council has voted not to accept or approve any new proposals until it can figure out how to reform the system.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Friday, February 7, 2014, 12:00 AM

Comments

Posted by Midtown, a resident of Midtown
on Feb 7, 2014 at 9:38 am

Put each PC development to a city wide vote paid for by the developer.


Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of Atherton
on Feb 7, 2014 at 11:34 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Having served as a Planning Commissioner when the PC zone concept was first adopted I can assure you that it was never intended that "staff negotiating privately with developers over development exceptions and public benefits and then supposedly assuming a neutral role in evaluating the project once it is unveiled is unseemly and improper."

When originally adopted PC zones were to be used 1) only in very unique situations where existing zoning could not provide a good public and private outcome and 2) for relatively large projects covering substantial average - hence the modifier "community".
The original PC zoning was never intended to become spot zoning for small sites or individual building projects.


Posted by Save Palo Alto, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Feb 7, 2014 at 11:44 am

The citizens of Palo Alto need to remember these names: GAIL PRICE, NANCY SHEPHERD, and GREG SCHARFF. These three council members, up for re-election in the fall, need to be voted out of office. They have contributed to irreversible damage to Palo Alto.


Posted by Palo Altan, too, a resident of Crescent Park
on Feb 7, 2014 at 11:55 am

Palo Altans will soon wake up from their slumber. The town is now filled with ugly buildings, overcrowding, and [portion removed.]


Posted by Jane, a resident of University South
on Feb 7, 2014 at 11:56 am

HURRAH for this editorial!!!
It's been amazing to watch how deaf and blind City Council members have been.

The last 2 paragraphs in your editorial are very important, highlighting the large increases in density as property owners redevelop smaller buildings to the maximum size allowed under the existing zoning, one project at a time.

The public needs to keep hammering at this problem while Council members are thinking about election time and have their eyes partly open.

The blindness was also true when the City Council (including a couple of present members) was voting for those huge benefits for retirees, which are impossible to keep up.


Posted by Ellie, a resident of College Terrace
on Feb 7, 2014 at 12:18 pm

Good for the Weekly for this editorial, and for its strong advocacy over the years for PC reform. And thanks for calling out Nancy Shepherd, and in particular Greg Scharff for not carrying through with his campaign promise to reform PC's. And his utter lack of leadership when mayor. But given he is a rich man who owns a bunch of pricey property and a Real Estate lawyer, it is not surprising he is friendly to development. Gail Price has never seen a development she didn't like, but her career as a planner probably makes for built in, pro-development bias. Now if only Liz Kniss, the voice of the corporate culture, were up for re-election so she could be voted out.

Woe is us for having Kniss and Shephard as vice mayor and mayor- not the leadership we deserve and need. The Weekly is right to point out that we should re-elect Karen Holman who is a steady advocate for transparency in governance and a development skeptic.




Posted by PC Wary, a resident of Downtown North
on Feb 7, 2014 at 12:31 pm

"the historically bad monitoring and enforcement of past PCs gave rise to great cynicism"

PC "benefits" are impossible to enforce and therefore useless to monitor. Each PC enabling ordinance is carefully written to praise the "public benefits" without providing any penalty if they are not delivered. (I suspect the developers helpfully write these ordinances for the city, which gratefully accepts them.)

Each PC developer should be required to post performance bond (in hard cash) equal to the value of the touted "benefits" before any building permit is issued. And/or the ordinance should stipulate that no occupancy permit can be issued until the "benefits" materialize.

Above all, our city council needs some gimlet-eyed realists to replace the starry-eyed, eagerly gullible yokels who fall for the developer's pitch.


Posted by Joe, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 7, 2014 at 2:36 pm

> Each PC developer should be required to post performance bond (in hard
> cash) equal to the value of the touted "benefits" before any building
> permit is issued.

The problem with this suggestion is that no one has ever been able to determine the value of the benefits that PC projects are supposed to provide.


Posted by Rupert of henzau, a resident of Midtown
on Feb 7, 2014 at 4:05 pm

Typical self- serving editorial by the weakly. They wait until they see which way the wind is blowing and then publish an editorial like the one above. Just remember that all of the council members received enthusiastic endorsements from the weakly when they ran for office. But don't forget to donate to the weakly, so that they continue to provide their brand of " journalism" to the residents of Palo Alto.


Posted by Jerry Underdal, a resident of Barron Park
on Feb 7, 2014 at 4:26 pm

Jerry Underdal is a registered user.

Quiz: Which item does not belong and why?

a) Arrillaga proposal for 27 University

b) Office project at 101 Lytton

c) Huge development at 395 Page Mill Road

d) Maybell project for 60 low and medium income seniors


Posted by Voter, a resident of Downtown North
on Feb 7, 2014 at 5:32 pm

Jerry,

The answer is they all belong in the "PC abomination" category, because you conveniently left out some key information on one item:

d) Maybell project for 60 low and medium income seniors [along with 12 market rate stack and pack, for third-party-developer profit townhomes, with the entire thing located on an overcrowded school bicycle commute route with no analysis of any impact on school commute safety or residential spillover parking effects whatsoever, and with millions of city dollars committed prior to any community feedback or diligence]

Come to think of it, option D does stick out -- it's even worse because its right in a residential neighborhood. Not to take anything away from how awful the other three choices are, though.


Posted by Jeff, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Feb 7, 2014 at 5:32 pm

@Midtown has the best solution "Put each PC development to a city wide vote paid for by the developer."

Eliminate the town drunk that can't say no. Let the developers provide a benefit that is seen as a benefit by everyone.


Posted by Craig Laughton, a resident of College Terrace
on Feb 7, 2014 at 5:54 pm

>The Weekly is right to point out that we should re-elect Karen Holman who is a steady advocate for transparency in governance and a development skeptic.

Please name the projects that Karen Holman disapproved of that contained welfare housing. She is a reflexive supporter of welfare housing. The developers know this, and this is one reason that they offer to go along to get along with her.


Posted by Rupert of henzau, a resident of Midtown
on Feb 7, 2014 at 6:25 pm

Holman voted in favor of the Maybell project, yet the weakly calls her stance " unassailable"!!!!! Holman is disconnected from reality-- a decade ago she supported the historic property rights grab and her knuckles rapped by the voters. She is out of her league on the council. She did buy plenty of advertisement in the weakly last election cycle, however


Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 7, 2014 at 6:53 pm

Holman's track record of supporting residents is overall pretty good. Yes, she supported the Maybell development, but that one stands out.

As for the other development-shmoozers Scharff Price and Shepherd, add one more name to watch out for come election season: Michael Alcheck on the PTC, and also of Alcheck Properties, Loyola Management Company and all-around development insider. Just saying.


Posted by Let's be fair, a resident of Midtown
on Feb 7, 2014 at 7:30 pm

Scharff is actually often tough on developers. In a series of 5-4 votes Scharff voted not to grandfather in pipeline projects when the council closed parking exemptions. That vote cost chop Keenan 2 million dollars. Scharff also led the charge to impose a 1 percent additional fee for public art on all new development. Scharff also has been pushing really hard to stop developers from converting ground floor office to retail


Posted by resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 7, 2014 at 9:09 pm

We need a down-zoning of commercial areas. FAR's are too high. Not only
are existing uses like Shady Lane threatened, the whole character of the
Downtown is changing. What used to define the Downtown, was the interesting eclectic mix of styles. But as the new over-sized modernistic
buildings increasingly dominate the streetscapes the smaller older buildings begin to look like transitional uses waiting for redevelopment as fewer and fewer of them remain. Without even taking into account the growing traffic congestion and parking issues, what is happening is all the unique qualities of Palo Alto are being lost and destroyed. I cannot see
any evidence of there even being a planning,zoning,and design review function operating in Palo Alto as I drive through the Downtown in terms of
color,style,scale. The approval ratings in the citizen surveys which have turned sharply lower will contine down and will approach zero within the next 1-2 years.


Posted by Jerry Underdal, a resident of Barron Park
on Feb 7, 2014 at 11:23 pm

Jerry Underdal is a registered user.

@Voter

I didn't include key information about any of them. But your choice of D as standing out is backed by a reason, that it was in a residential neighborhood while the others weren't.

I would choose D too but for a different reason. The others are good examples of PC giveaways to developers seeking to maximize profit by gaming the system. The Maybell Project, residential in nature, was conceived to realize a public benefit of hard-to-provide housing for low and medium income seniors.

After the vote on Measure D, I talked with several neighbors here in the Barron Park/Green Acres area who expressed confidence that with this plan defeated, scaled-back affordable housing, which would not be objected to, would go onto that property.

Show me the money to justify the sentiment. Until then it's empty talk. PAHC and the City Council carefully tailored their plan to be able to pay for 60 units of affordable housing for seniors without having to drain Palo Alto general funds in the process.

But they didn't bring the public along and were surprised when reasons and arguments were dismissed as excuses and flimflammery. Now the property is back on the market, where it was before PAHC intervened on the public's behalf.

No one should ever again assume that Palo Altans will support affordable housing because they have in the past. If a strong, persuasive argument for the value of economic diversity in our community can't be communicated, the reasons for opposing affordable housing will always prevail.

(Another good choice: b) Office project at 101 Lytton, because it's the only one being built or likely to be built.)






Posted by Busted, a resident of Downtown North
on Feb 8, 2014 at 9:15 am

@Let's be fair
Thanks for your perspective, Greg.


Posted by Craig Laughton, a resident of College Terrace
on Feb 8, 2014 at 10:58 am

>PAHC and the City Council carefully tailored their plan to be able to pay for 60 units of affordable housing for seniors without having to drain Palo Alto general funds in the process.

There is no need for Palo Alto to spend general fund (or any other) monies on welfare housing, for the simple reason that welfare housing does not belong in PA.

PAHC should be shut down.


Posted by Disgusted with Craig, a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Feb 8, 2014 at 12:28 pm

[Post removed.]


Posted by Disgusted with Craig, a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Feb 8, 2014 at 12:55 pm

Craig is apparently allows to use the derogatory term " welfare housing" to describe low income housing in thread after thread, with the apparent blessing of the editors. Commenting on such vile descriptions leads to immediate deletion.


Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of Atherton
on Feb 8, 2014 at 1:07 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

I think the rules of the Forum certainly allow us to express our individual disagreement with Craig's statement that "welfare housing does not belong in PA. " and to do so in a respectful manner. But the rules, quite properly, do not allow us to call each other names and use disrespectful language.

I am only glad that I am not the one who has to monitor this Forum, particularly on a weekend when most other people are at leisure.


Posted by Disgusted with Craig, a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Feb 8, 2014 at 1:19 pm

And when Craig is using the disrespectful term, welfare housing, to sugges that these low income residents ae somehow mooching off of the public-- that is okay?? And do not belong in our city despite the work they do here? I guess it is with the editors and people like you, Peter.


Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of Atherton
on Feb 8, 2014 at 1:23 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

If you don't think what another poster has said is OK then offer your arguments as to why you disagree with that poster's ideas.. But that is very different that making a vile comment about that poster.


Posted by Crescent Park Dad, a resident of Crescent Park
on Feb 8, 2014 at 5:02 pm

Crescent Park Dad is a registered user.

It's an opinion that people may not agree with, but hardly vulgar. And his use of the phrase does communicate his opinion that he believes some people are getting something for free. Not the nicest way to put it, put like it or not, the phrase effectively communicates his opinion.


Posted by Craig Laughton, a resident of College Terrace
on Feb 8, 2014 at 5:45 pm

Craig Laughton is a registered user.

@Disgusted with Craig (that would be me),

>And when Craig is using the disrespectful term, welfare housing, to sugges that these low income residents ae somehow mooching off of the public-- that is okay?? And do not belong in our city despite the work they do here?

What is disrespectful about describing welfare housing as welfare housing? Workers who can pay market rates for their housing in PA are allowed to live here, no problem. If they cannot, then they need to live where they can afford to live, and commute in. It ain't rocket science...but it is economic and personal freedom.


Posted by Jerry Underdal, a resident of Barron Park
on Feb 8, 2014 at 9:59 pm

Jerry Underdal is a registered user.

By my reading, the judicious use of Planned Community zoning flexibility for affordable housing projects isn't the target of this editorial, and for that I'm thankful. It gives me hope that the most extreme critics of Planned Community zoning won't succeed in depriving the city of a crucially important tool to provide affordable housing in our city.

Craig Laughton has been clear and consistent in stating his opposition to government intervention in the housing market to achieve social goals associated with economic diversity. He's issued his call for PAHC to be abolished many times. My question is whether his position represents a growing share of our residents. I hope not.

PAHC, Eden Housing, Mid-Peninsula Housing, the Community Working Group and others have shielded us from the most extreme impacts of economic separation arising from soaring housing costs. The task only gets harder as prosperity increases. Let's not make an already difficult task impossible in our eagerness to block zoning abuses by developers.


Posted by Craig Laughton, a resident of College Terrace
on Feb 9, 2014 at 9:05 am

Craig Laughton is a registered user.

>Craig Laughton has been clear and consistent in stating his opposition to government intervention in the housing market to achieve social goals associated with economic diversity. He's issued his call for PAHC to be abolished many times. My question is whether his position represents a growing share of our residents. I hope not.

That is a reasonably fair statement of my positions. I do not want more welfare housing in PA. However, if there is be any more, it should go into the elite neighborhoods, where many of those elites (limo libs) promote welfare housing, but not in their own neighborhoods.

The only way to tell how PA citizens feel about such issues is to put it to a secret vote in each neighborhood. Polls and public statements mean very little, because many people with views similar to mine do not want to be criticized for having views counter to the standard liberal orthodoxies prevalent in PA.


Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of Atherton
on Feb 9, 2014 at 9:07 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Regardless of how anyone feels about Craig's positions you have to give him a lot of credit for being both honest and clear about his positions.