Foes of Maybell development shift focus from project site
Original post made
on Aug 29, 2013
Palo Alto's most controversial housing development of the moment would occupy a nondescript orchard site in the Green Acres neighborhood, but the escalating battle over the proposal has already spilled over to just about every section of the city.
Read the full story here Web Link
posted Thursday, August 29, 2013, 9:14 AM
Posted by Cedric de La Beaujardiere
a resident of Barron Park
on Aug 30, 2013 at 1:31 am
Cedric de La Beaujardiere is a registered user.
I am a resident of Barron Park and I support Yes on D, to enable affordable senior housing and 12 market rate single-family homes. I hope that as people get past the hype and learn the facts they will support this project. To that end, below are my corrections to the many misleading and innacurate statements I have seen on the forums. I am not an official spokesperson, and people may want to check out the city's FAQ: Web Link
1) Residents are concerned about the size of the development and its traffic impacts on Maybell. But if project opponents defeat measure D, then the development permitted under current zoning is likely to have a much larger traffic impact.
(Relevant to the following simple math are the Zoning rules: Web Link with concise table: Web Link, and a pdf with dimensions of lots 108 & 109: Web Link, lot 109 is 1.84 acres == 80,150.4 sq.ft.)
Here are the facts about the current zoning: The larger 1.84 acre portion of the Maybell/Clemo site is zoned RM-15, meaning 15 "units" per acre of multifamily residential apartments. So on that part of the site alone, 1.84 acres * 15 units/acre = 27 units (up to 37 if a certain percentage are low income). Applying the existing zoning to that site, with a bit of rudimentary geometry & math, shows that it is imminently doable to fit 27 appartments within the allowed area, setbacks, height, and daylight plane. Further, the allowable total floor area is 40,075 sq.ft., divided by 27 units gives 1,484 sq.ft. per apartment (including common areas), which is comparable to my house of 1,500 sq.ft. (including the garage) with 3.5 bedrooms.
So what do you think will generate more traffic: 60 tiny one-bedroom apartments for low-income seniors, or 27-37 three- or four-bedroom apartments for families?
2) [Portion removed] has repeatedly claimed that the higher impact development allowed by current zoning somehow won't manifest itself, so we shouldn't worry about the consequences of a No vote. She has made 3 cases for this. First she argued that it just isn't possible to build 27 units on the larger site, but my simple math and geometry above debunk that claim. Second, her latest claim is that no developer would build out to the maximum allowed by zoning, because they could make more money by building fewer, larger units. If that were the case, wouldn't most developers be doing that? When and where, in the last 50 or so years, has ANY developer NOT built the maximum number of units they could fit on a parcel? Her claim is simply not supported by any evidence. Third, she says that if D fails, Council can buy the property, limit its development potential through deed restrictions, and sell it back to the market. Her argument fails to acknowledge that land value is tied to its development potential, and such a transaction would lose the city money. If what the neighbors want is downzoning from the current zoning, that's what they should have put on the ballot, instead of this ill-concieved referendum.
3) Not all "units" are created equal. Zoning refers to housing "units", not bedrooms, which are a more accurate barrometer of how many people might actually live in a home. So a tiny 600 sq.ft, 1-bedroom apartment is called a "unit", but so is a large, 1,400 sq.ft 4-bedroom apartment. The PAHC proposal permitted by Measure D will have 61 bedrooms in the senior unit, combined with 12 houses at ~3.5 bedrooms each give about 103 bedrooms in the PAHC proposal. Under existing zoning, the two sites can accomodate 34-45 units, so let's conservatively say 34 units at 3.5 bedrooms, that's 119 bedrooms, or 16% more bedrooms under current zoning, than what would be allowed by measure D.
4) Since anonymous posters complain of the density of 60 one-bedroom units on 1.1 acres, and also mischaracterize the market rate houses as "upzoning", it is only fair to point out that, of the 1.84 acres currently zoned as RM-15, Measure D essentially down-zones 40% of the lot from APARTMENTS to HOUSES and a shared road. That's how Measure D gives us houses on Clemo instead of an apartment building.
The portion with four ranch homes along Maybell is currently zoned R-2. R-2 permits two housing units on each lot, so even under current zoning it appears 8 homes would be permitted on those 4 lots. Measure D would have 7 houses on Maybell, with part of the higher RM-15 zone given over to the single-family Maybell lots.
5) Anonymous posters have misleadingly characterized the senior apartment building as being "in the middle of an R-1 neighborhood". It is in fact jammed into the corner of the large lot furthest from the R1, immediately next to an existing 8-story apartment building and a row of 3-story apartment buildings.
6) The so called "50-foot building" is actually a mostly 45-foot building with a tiny part, the top of the elevator shaft, if I recall correctly, at 50'. The wing closest to the R1 areas is actually less than 45', at only 1.5 & 3 stories (see the image attached to this article).
7) People concerned about government spending on social needs may appreciate this project's innovative funding mechanisms to use market forces to pay for affordable housing. The independent non-profit Palo Alto Housing Corporation (PAHC), bought the property, and plans to sell a sizable chunk of that property to a private developer to build market-rate homes. This will pay for a big chunk of the cost of the project, and significantly eliminates the need of direct government funding to address this social need. While the city did loan PAHC money to purchase the property, keep in mind that this is a loan and will be paid back. Further, the project is designed to be financially self-sufficient, paying for the mortgage, maintenance and senior services through the rent paid by resident seniors. The low income units will subsidize the ultra-low income units. So, the only on-going government subsidy, if any, might be a reduced property tax collected from the senior portion of the site, assuming such a reduction is planned (Some say it is, I don't know if it is or not).
8) There is this mistaken or misleading statement that PAHC could just build the affordable senior housing within existing zoning without the market rate homes, and somehow all the finances would just work out. In fact, the affordable senior project can not pay for itself without the 12 market rate houses to defray the cost. Further, if there were only 45 units not 60 (to fit within current zoning), there would not be enough low-income units to subsidize the ultra-low income units, the economies of scale would not exist, and the project would not be viable.
9) While in general it may be a good idea to mix income levels throughout a community, it makes sense to group affordable senior housing together in one building, so that resources like visiting nurse, shuttles to shopping/doctors, community rooms, a community of peers, social and other services can be shared. Here there is the opportunity that seniors could get involved with the school nearby for great inter-generational activities.
I am a private citizen, a resident of this neighborhood, and I am neither paid nor coerced to support this great project. My support for this project stems from an ethic of helping those in need, and my belief that it will have less impact on the neighborhood than what is likely under current zoning. My commitment to truth and accuracy drive me to speak up because of all the misinformation promulgated by anonymous posters. I post under my real name because I am proud to speak truthfully and politely.
I hope Palo Alto will join me in voting Yes on D.