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About this blog: I grew up in Los Angeles and moved to the area in 1963 when I started graduate school at Stanford. Nancy and I were married in 1977 and we lived for nearly 30 years in the Duveneck school area. Our children went to Paly. We moved ...  (More)

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Do you support more housing choices for older residents

Uploaded: Oct 17, 2015
Thank you all for participating in the last blog. At this point we have 133 comments and over 5,000 views.

My next question is "Do you want to provide more choices for older residents to continue living in Palo Alto as they age?.

I do.

And so do the large number of speakers at the council meeting who were older residents or spoke about their needs.

I am not an expert in this area, just one of Palo Alto's older residents so I hope people more knowledgeable than I can fill in some of the choices.

Nancy and I are one group of older residents—those who want to downsize and stay in Palo Alto. In our case in a more services, shopping and dining accessible area. So we sold our house (we could have rented it) and moved downtown to a condo. I am sure there are others like us and the number will grow as Palo Altans age.

In 2013 about 17% of residents were over 65 and they will all be 80 or older in 2030. Plus more will join the ranks of 65+.

Not all older residents will want to change their existing living arrangements but some will out of choice or necessity.

What are some options?

One is more places like where Nancy and I live close to services, shopping, dining and the like.

Another is more places like Channing House where active older residents can get a good location, some services and a broader community.

Probably there will be growing demand for places with higher levels of assistance.
And some older residents will choose to move.

Council will soon consider supporting more accessory dwelling units that could allow caregivers or elderly parents to live there. And there is discussion of shuttle options that could serve older residents.

My goal and I hope the council's goal is to acknowledge the aging of our population, consult with experts and residents, and develop choices for residents who want to remain in the community near family and friends, but not remain in their existing single family home.

How would you answer my question?

What is it worth to you?


Posted by Techie, a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows,
on Oct 17, 2015 at 7:32 pm

I definitely think there's a need for more places where seniors can live in smaller units around here. I've heard that from other seniors in town, like Steve, and I've heard it from families with kids who would like to have their parents near them. My parents were interested in moving here to be closer to their grandchildren as they grow up, but there were very few places that fit what they were looking for, and they were incredibly expensive. It just doesn't seem like a real option.

Both my wife and are I likely to be the caretakers for our parents if something goes wrong. By 2030, we may need them to live near enough that we will be able to help them if necessary. Right now, that would be an incredibly difficult and expensive proposition.

I would like to see a range of new options for seniors - everything from granny units in residential neighborhoods of single-family homes to new buildings like Channing House in downtown neighborhoods.

I think

Posted by yes!, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis,
on Oct 17, 2015 at 8:01 pm

My husband's parents and my own live in the Midwest and on the East Coast. We both work in technology in jobs that don't exist in the towns where they live. So that means that in the long term if we want to take care of our parents as they age or we want them to be closer to their grandkids, we need them to move here. But building a granny unit is almost impossible around here - did you know you have to have an 8100 sf lot and add two parking spaces?? And there are very few assisted living communities - the ones that are here are very expensive. So I just don't know how we're going to manage it when one of our parents gets to the point of needing that sort of assistance. I definitely support adding much more senior-focused housing. Right now our supply really doesn't take into account the giant demographic shift we're about to have with baby boomers becoming seniors.

Posted by Crescent Park Dad, a resident of Crescent Park,
on Oct 17, 2015 at 9:56 pm

Yes, I support more senior housing - as long as it's built within current zoning rules, height limits, density limits, etc.

Posted by newcomer, a resident of Addison School,
on Oct 17, 2015 at 11:38 pm

I didn't see any mention of cooperative housing that a group of older people set up themselves. Rent a large house (three or four bedrooms) and share the rental, the housekeeping as long as the parties are able. Hire help when needed.
Expensive in this area, yes, but less so than condos for individuals.

Posted by Lessons, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood,
on Oct 18, 2015 at 12:48 pm

I just want to bring in another perspective as someone who was seriously impaired when I was younger. It was that experience, and how hard it was to deal with the impact of others in a close living situattion, that made me want to be in a single family residence. I can see the need for assisted group living, but I think the creation of options will still not make for easy choices for the elderly unless tax laws more sensitive to local circumstances are put in place. I like @newcomer's idea - if senior friends could move in together without having to face harsh tax consequences, then perhaps more would. It wouldnt be for me, though, I've learned that lesson the hard way.

Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood,
on Oct 18, 2015 at 2:51 pm

Do these seniors who want to downsize own their current homes?

Posted by Ellen Uhrbrock, a resident of University South,
on Oct 18, 2015 at 2:53 pm

Transit oriented mixed use high rise developments will attract seniors down-sizing from big houses and young professional singles, couples and families.

An example in Palo Alto is the 12 story condo at 101 Alma. It has evolved into a multi generation residence. Young professionals can practice 30 second start-up pitches on the elevator from home to lobby. When I sold a one-bedroom unit with view in 2013 five children lived on my floor - (and two more were on their way.)

The attraction for everyone is the transit oriented location, and walking distance to downtown Palo Alto and Stanford.

I moved to Channing House. The attraction for everyone is the transit oriented location - (and rooms with a view.)

Posted by taxes are an issue, a resident of Crescent Park,
on Oct 19, 2015 at 1:03 pm

One problem with seniors downsizing and purchasing a new property is real estate taxes. Moving from a home you have lived in for thirty years with property taxes of $3 or 4K to a condo downtown with say $17K of property tax is a tough call. Not to mention capital gains on the house itself.

That said, I would love to see more options for seniors, especially more "affordable" rentals and condos.

Posted by Arthur Keller, a resident of Adobe-Meadow,
on Oct 19, 2015 at 1:17 pm

@taxes are an issue

Propositions 60 and 90 allow homeowners older than 55 to transfer their property tax appraisal to a new cheaper residence. So seniors who downsize and stay within their community do not have their property (real estate) tax increase as a result. See Web Link for details

Posted by stephen levy, a resident of University South,
on Oct 20, 2015 at 5:06 am

stephen levy is a registered user.

Arthur Keller is correct.

We sold our house, moved downtown to downsize and be near services, shopping and dining, and kept our old assessed value.

Posted by Abitarian, a resident of Downtown North,
on Oct 20, 2015 at 2:35 pm

This isn't really a "yes" or "no" question. Generally speaking, I support more housing options for older residents but my support for any given option depends on the details.

Like many other Palo Altans, I did not vote "no" on Maybell because I do not support senior housing. I voted "no" due to the particulars of that project proposal.

Posted by Guy_Fawkes, a resident of Old Palo Alto,
on Oct 20, 2015 at 3:08 pm

Guy_Fawkes is a registered user.

You still have to pay capital gains though - for many seniors, it is better to pass on the windfall from their current home to their heirs by living in place,rather than selling and paying capital gains. This is probably one of the biggest barriers to "right sizing" homes - paying $600K in capital gains taxes on a $2M home sale.

Posted by Steve Levy, a Palo Alto Online blogger,
on Oct 20, 2015 at 3:53 pm

Steve Levy is a registered user.

@guy fawkes

The point of the blog is to expand choices not offer financial advice to people capable of making their own decisions.

Second your math is off quite a bit. A couple gets a $500,000 exclusion, you paid something for the house, may have made improvements and the tax rate on capital gains is not 30%.

We did roughly what you posited and did pay the tax, which was nowhere near what you claim.

Of course, also you can rent your home and use the rental income to downsize. Selling is not mandatory.

Posted by the_punnisher, a resident of Whisman Station,
on Oct 20, 2015 at 5:21 pm

the_punnisher is a registered user.


SL; If you want to answer the question posed in the blog, please do.

If you want to post thoughts on your experiences in past years, you are free to post on the Town Square website so you do have an avenue for those thoughts but what you have posted previously is not appropriate for this blog post question

Posted by Mike-Crescent Park, a resident of Crescent Park,
on Oct 20, 2015 at 6:23 pm

Regarding the older person's choices of selling their home in order to downsize or rent out their home and use the income to pay for living expenses:

The earlier poster's estimate of proceeds from the sale of a home here was a lot closer to correct than not. True the calculations did not account for subtracting the purchase price and improvements (not maintenance) before calculating capital gains. But capital gains is now 23.8 for Federal- that's 20% plus the relatively 3.8% Obamacare surtax. And the state of California capital gain tax rate is 13.3%.

The net is if you sell your house to downsize you are going to pay about 37% in taxes plus other fees associated with a sale. The remainder is what you will have to purchase a new home, invest and live on.

If you rent your home, even if it is a good sized one rent is not likely to exceed $10,000/month. From that you have to pay property tax, insurance and maintenance. What is left is clearly substantially less than $100,000 year. That is not a generous amount to continue living in Palo Alto as a renter.

Posted by jetpal, a resident of Atherton: other,
on Oct 21, 2015 at 8:21 pm

So far I have not seen any reference to the senior citizen that lives on a limited income. I moved here from Southern California to be closer to my daughter and her family. I do have a limited income but have to date been able to live within my means. I do not have a car and manage very well without one. But, since moving here my rent has increased to a level that is dangerously close to the maximum I can afford. I am well and enjoy my independence. Are there any choices for individuals in this kind of situation.

Posted by stephen levy, a resident of University South,
on Oct 22, 2015 at 11:03 am

stephen levy is a registered user.

@ jetpal

Thanks for the reminder.

I hope others with more knowledge than i can speak to the question of options for providing housing for low income seniors, whether subsidized or not.

Posted by 64 years and counting, a resident of Cuesta Park,
on Oct 22, 2015 at 11:06 am

my answer to you question is yes
There is an interesting new "co-housing" (?) large residence on Phyllis Street near Landels School in Mountain View.

Posted by Options, a resident of Charleston Meadows,
on Oct 22, 2015 at 1:57 pm

I support more affordable housing options for seniors that already live here but I am not in favor of increasing the number of seniors thereby increasing competition for the limited supply of senior housing and services.

I'd be happy to sell my home and downsize if there were affordable options as I now live on a fixed income with no COLA this year. I've lived here most of my life and would like to stay near my friends and support network. I'm sure there are many families that would like to see my home come on the market given the limited supply of single family homes available.

Creating more senior housing so that techie elderly parents can come live near their children is a nice thought but a big reason they want to move their parents here is the weather. My children who were born here can't afford to live here and they have Stanford degrees and very good jobs. However they live where it is cold in the winter. So I am not going to move near them when I need help even though they would be more than happy to help take care of me.

There are a lot of great jobs that can be done from all over the country. If being able to take care of your parents is a primary concern, maybe it would be more realistic to think of looking for jobs closer to where your parents live.

I think it is important for Palo Alto to think about the growing aging population and how best to address their needs keeping in mind those who have called this home for most or all their life.

Posted by MPer, a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown,
on Oct 23, 2015 at 12:48 pm

I am in favor of more housing choices FOR EVERYONE.

I am all for senior housing, but ti is unaffordable for most people to live here.

Let's be honest, todays seniors have benefited from low cost housing, educating and plentiful jobs. Just read Steve Levy's Bio. He was able to buy a house in Old Palo Alto (out of reach for most), sell it a great profit and buy a condo downtown (also out of reach for most) and take his low tax base. So he is asking for more senior housing, how about Servers paying their share of taxes rather than having the younger people subsidize them through hight property costs.


Posted by Curmudgeon, a resident of Downtown North,
on Oct 23, 2015 at 12:51 pm


SL: If you want to post on this blog, try answering the question in a respectful manner as other are doing.

Posted by stephen levy, a resident of University South,
on Oct 23, 2015 at 1:30 pm

stephen levy is a registered user.


Almost of the additional housing that is being built on the peninsula is apartments, townhouses and condos.

For market rate housing, the path to increased affordability is smaller units and higher densities to spread the land cost.

For subsidized housing the prime barrier is finding the money for subsidies.

In both cases an additional hurdle is local resistance to any new housing.

Take the Facebook example in Menlo Park.

Facebook would like to see a lot of new housing built near their campus including a commitment for subsidized housing.

Now Menlo Park has to approve the plans.

The same issue is being discussed in Mountain View where the council is leaning toward requiring housing as part of expanding the north Bayshore area.

I would be happy to see property taxes raised somewhat on long-time owners, particularly the more wealthy in exchange for lower rates on new housing but I think this is very unpopular.

And there will also be the need on the peninsula to build more facilities that provide some level of assistance to the aging senior population,

Posted by the_punnisher, a resident of Mountain View,
on Oct 23, 2015 at 7:46 pm

the_punnisher is a registered user.

The reality was and still is that cost is a barrier to living in Palo Alto. Now that the generations of " I got mine " are finding out that it will cost even more to " rightsize " to a smaller living quarters that they can remain in and not end up in a traditional " people warehouse " which my Dad and I have been forced to live in during recovery from a major physical injury or strokes.
One thing I have noticed is that there is a lack of " assisted
living " housing in Palo Alto, Mountain View and Sunnyvale, while there are many " people warehouses " AKA nursing homes on the Peninsula and specifically in Mountain View ( a stones throw from El Camino Hospital ) and in Redwood City ( where my father " did his time " and eventually gained his " parole " ).

Yes, a traditional nursing home is very like being in a prison with no hope of parole. I find no difference between CA and CO. I have been imprisoned in both. My roomate died right next to me.

So, we have to be more creative about the type of housing we are offered as we age. Who has the money and gumption to build more assisted Living housing that allows for levels of support from aged people, wheelchair bound and people with Dementia or Alzheimers Disease?

Some hard facts: An Assisted living Housing complex is about 10 stories high and a city block in space requirements. There is such a structure in Glendale, CO

A similar structure is located 2 blocks away from Swedish Medical Center. A 1/2 block of single family housing was removed to create that Assisted Living Housing.

The best examples of assisted living housing is on the outskirts of Denver proper. One is four stories high on Youngfield Drive. It is part of a chain that builds Senior / Assisted Housing. The other has several acres of grounds and built like a ranch style farmhouse.

So my answer is YES!

But the next question is how can this be done in the present land usage requirements within the city limits? Zoning S-1? Remember, most Assis
tive Living Housing build their own communities. Many nursing homes do not.

Posted by Curmudgeon, a resident of Downtown North,
on Oct 26, 2015 at 3:08 pm


Posted by Commentator, a resident of Professorville,
on Oct 29, 2015 at 12:35 pm

May I assume your deletion of my posting means you do not favor expanded housing options for our more successful older residents?

Posted by stephen levy, a resident of University South,
on Oct 30, 2015 at 10:50 am

stephen levy is a registered user.


Your assumption is incorrect as you would know if you actually read what I wrote.

I favor more developments like the one I live in for areas close to services, shopping, dining and the like.

I favor more developments like Channing House for our growing older population.

I favor more assisted living options for older residents who need some level of care.

All of these options will help older residents who have some resources remain in the community.

Older residents who wish to live in larger single family homes already have one or are free to compete in the bustling market that already exists.

Posted by Crescent Park Dad, a resident of Crescent Park,
on Oct 30, 2015 at 11:15 am

Forgive me if I'm wrong - but I interpret your support ("like Channing House"; "like the one I live in") to mean that you want to get rid of the 50' height limit as well. I know...near transit corridors. But we all know what will's a slippery slope once you start down that path.

IMHO is that you can have these type of developments without making our town into the next SF or SJ. You could do such a development (on a grand scale no less) at the Fry's site --- without exceeding the 50' height limit.

Yes, we do have several existing buildings that exceed the height limit - City Hall for example. I have no scientific poll to point to - but I would bet that most people see those buildings as out of character with the rest of the town.

Thanks or the discussion.

Posted by stephen levy, a resident of University South,
on Oct 30, 2015 at 12:32 pm

stephen levy is a registered user.

@ crescent park dad

There is a tradeoff between density and rent or sale price.

For example, it you allow lots of studios and or micro units in a four story building, that is different than if that building has a smaller number of large units.

I think there are many options on the Fry's site within 50 feet.

On the other hand I think for a place like Channing House the height probably is a factor in the financial viability of the project and the cost to tenants.

I hope we can discuss housing needs without the hot button issue of the height limit, which was passed a long time ago.

Housing is a real need now in the region and city.

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