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By Steve Levy

Housing is for People

Uploaded: May 17, 2015

Sometimes in the public policy discussions about housing, we forget that housing is for people. It is important to talk and think about what they want and need.

These are stories about people and families that live in our building—a 17 unit condo complex in downtown Palo Alto.

Our story (Nancy and me) is that we moved downtown in 2005 to prepare for the still very active but after the kids moved out portion of our lives. Our downtown condo fits our needs very well and will continue to do so for quite a while. I do not drive do living downtown gives me much more independence than when we lived on Edgewood. Most of what we use in terms of shopping, dining and services is within easy walking distance and access to Caltrain and the Stanford shuttle is an added bonus. Another added bonus is that my office is a short walk away.

There are other people in our building who do not drive or have mobility issues,

We lost one of our favorite neighbors recently. The husband died and the wife moved to an assisted living on El Camino in Palo Alto. The ability for her to move to a location in Palo Alto allowed her to remain near her family and allows them to provide love and care.

These two stories point to two important trends. One is that Palo Alto already has one of the highest shares of residents over 65 (17% versus the county average of 11%) and more and more of these seniors will want to find new ways to remain in their community and not have to move away. The second is that proximity matters in housing. For most people proximity means closeness to services, shopping, friends and work. For our neighbor proximity means staying close to family.

It turns out that proximity to services, shopping, dining choices and, for some, CalTrain, meets the needs of younger families as well. We have four families with children. Our building is close to schools, day care, parks and libraries as well as shopping, services and dining. We see these families out walking and biking all the time.

Some of our residents work at home or have frequent travel schedules. Our downtown location works for them. A lot is made that everybody can't live near where they work, especially in today's two earner families. This is true BUT the kind of proximity that our homes downtown offer does provide great convenience and reduce non commute travel and parking, which make up a considerable portion of daily travel.

Our city council is embarking on an update of our Comprehensive Plan and has pledged as part of that effort to look at increasing options for housing near services, shopping, dining and transit. They are also aware of the large increase in population over 65 and over 75 and 85 that is coming to Palo Alto.

I invite readers to share their personal housing stories and what they think people new and old, younger, older and in between will want as housing choices in Palo Alto between now and 2030, the Comp Plan horizon.