News

Council moves toward compromise on growth vision

City Council restores programs to Comprehensive Plan, picks a 'preferred scenario' for development

Responding to an uproar of criticism from residents and community volunteers, members of the Palo Alto City Council swiftly rescinded on Monday night their controversial Jan. 30 decision to strip all programs from the city's guiding land-use document, the Comprehensive Plan.

By a unanimous vote, the council voted to restore back to the document the more than 350 programs that were pegged for removal from the Comprehensive Plan, which the city is in the midst of updating and which will ultimately guide the city's policies on growth until 2030. In doing so, council members reversed a decision that aimed to clean up the sprawling document but that ended up creating a political mess.

Councilman Cory Wolbach, who in January led the way in the council's 5-4 vote to strip away the specific programs from the document, once again took the initiative. This time, however, he proposed going in the other direction and both restoring the programs to the body of the document (which also includes higher-level goals and policies) and listing them in an "Implementation Plan," which would be periodically reviewed by the council and staff.

The decision to reconsider the action came at the beginning of the council's long discussion about growth scenarios and, in many ways, it set the tone for the rest of the conversation. Unlike the tense January discussion, which seemed to widen the fissure between the council's political factions, the Monday hearing saw more consensus and collegiality. Wolbach's motion to restore the programs to the Comprehensive Plan was seconded by Councilman Tom DuBois, who in February likened the abrupt removal of programs as "hijacking of democracy."

The January action also faced a sharp rebuke from the Citizens Advisory Committee, a 17-member volunteer group that has been helping the council with the mammoth planning effort. In a joint letter, committee co-chairs Daniel Garber and Arthur Keller wrote that the council's removal of the programs "threatens to disrupt the delicate balance of trust that all the members of the CAC have painfully forged over the last year and a half."

"Changing the rule set that during the final months of the Committee's work is destabilizing and will cause us to revisit many of our assumptions and actions to date," Garber and Keller wrote.

Wolbach said Monday night that it was his "excellent conversations" with members of the citizens group -- rather than the vitriolic reaction from some colleagues -- that prompted him to reconsider the prior action. He also said he wanted to abide by the advice that he would give to children.

"I'll tell them that if they leave a mess, they should clean it up," Wolbach said.

The other four council members who supported the removal in January -- Mayor Greg Scharff, Vice Mayor Liz Kniss and Councilmen Adrian Fine and Greg Tanaka -- similarly changed their positions on Monday night, ensuring a unanimous vote. That spirit of collegiality and compromise largely held up over the next three hours, as council members with starkly different points of view slowly haggled their way toward a compromise on a "preferred scenario" that will be in environmental analysis for the updated Comprehensive Plan. This time, Wolbach was the sole dissenter in an 8-1 vote that required both the slow-growth faction and those who favor more development to make concessions.

The motion outlining the council's "preferred scenario" was crafted by Mayor Greg Scharff, who took a more cautious approach on housing than some of his political allies advocated for. The council has already approved six different scenarios to be studied in the document, each with its own set of growth policies and projections for housing and jobs. The most ambitious in terms of housing, is Scenario 6, which calls for adding 6,000 units between now and 2030. Midtown resident Grant Dasher was one of dozens of residents who called or emailed the council in recent weeks urging members to "go big" on housing and pursue a plan for 6,000 new units.

"If we really are serious about densifying California Avenue and downtown areas to support housing growth, it's a pretty reasonable number," Dasher told the council Monday.

Instead, Scharff proposed a preferred scenario that has between 3,545 and 4,420 new housing units, still at the higher end of the scale (two of the six scenarios featured 2,720 units) but far short of what many had advocated for. Wolbach and Fine both argued that this doesn't go nearly enough and suggested having 6,000 units, if not more.

"Housing is the number one concern in the community," Fine said. "Palo Alto for decades has not pulled its weight. Here is an opportunity for us to show leadership, make a moderate change in the community and support the environmental goals in the S/CAP (Sustainability/Climate Action Plan)."

Kniss agreed and said 6,000 is a good number to aim for.

"For those of us who ran last fall, the only issue was housing and nothing else," Kniss said. "It was housing, housing and more housing."

Other residents argued that the impact of 6,000 units would be too difficult for the city to absorb. Ben Lerner called Scenario 6 "too extreme" and "poorly conceived." And Pat Markevitch, former member of the Parks and Recreation Commission, noted that this would "nearly triple the city's long-term population growth rate.

"The impact to the infrastructure, schools, parks, roads and services would be unbearable," Markevitch wrote.

Wolbach and Fine's proposal to go forth with a 6,000-unit preferred scenario ultimately faltered by a 4-5 vote, with Scharff joining the four slow-growth "residentialist" council members -- DuBois, Karen Holman, Eric Filseth and Lydia Kou -- in defeating it.

The council was similarly cautious on jobs, and staff to evaluate a preferred scenario that adds between 9,850 and 11,500 new jobs. While some council members called for a lower number (the lowest projection on the menu was 8,865), others said smaller numbers would be simply unrealistic given existing zoning and employment trends. Holman, who was in the former camp, argued that allowing more offices would further exacerbate the city's gaping jobs-housing imbalance.

"We're kind of dipping our toe in one place and sticking our thumb in the dike in another place," Holman said.

Her proposal for a lower number faltered by a 3-6 vote, with only Kou and Wolbach joining her.

Filseth, who voted with the majority, said Palo Alto has historically done a good job in finding a balance between a purely residential suburb and an urban setting. The city, he said, boasts residential neighborhoods, trees, a vibrant downtown and a strong tech-innovation economy. The new Comprehensive Plan, he said, should aim to preserve these characteristics.

"I think what most people want is for us to keep this balance," Filseth said. "Most people don't want Atherton and they don't want the Mission District either."

---

Follow the Palo Alto Weekly/Palo Alto Online on Twitter @PaloAltoWeekly and Facebook for breaking news, local events, photos, videos and more.

Comments

57 people like this
Posted by AB
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 21, 2017 at 5:49 am

Well unlike Grant, there are also many who emailed city council against growth of housing. And several who spoke yesterday about first fixing issues such as city infrastructure before adding more housing.

I suppose with a pro-development council growth is inevitable, and so at least the recommendation is better than the 6K alternative. Not surprising to see Kniss and Tanaka support the 6K proposal, in the light of the recent revelations about them receiving developer money. Surprising though that they did not recuse themselves, with an active investigation against them.

I am glad I watched. It was clear where each council member stood. Kou was clearly the most opposed to housing growth. She proposed 2700 units, though with a pro growth council no one else seconded her. But it made it clear to me that she has my vote in the next election. Tanaka, Kniss and Filseth are the other end (most pro-housing), with Tom DuBois too close to
them apparently (as he suggested raising housing at one stage above Scharff's) proposal. I will definitely vote against them in future elections.


9 people like this
Posted by Mark Michael
a resident of Community Center
on Mar 21, 2017 at 6:50 am

The interminable and contentious efforts to update the Comp Plan often seem to be upside down and backward. It is now seven years past the sell-by date of the 1998-2010 Comprehensive Plan and somewhat overdue to settle on a preferred scenario. Better late than never. The most encouraging aspect of this news story is concluding remarks by Council Member Filseth. This might be paraphrased in the form of a proposed overall vision. Something like: Palo Alto should maintain a balance between peaceful residential neighborhoods, thriving commercial districts, bustling innovation economy and wonderful natural environment.

Mr. Filseth ran a business in the private sector and appears to have retained a belief in the essential utility of a clear strategy as a foundation for other choices and operational trade-offs. One might not necessarily agree with his articulation of a vision, but there has long been a reticence on Council to plant a visionary stake in the ground.

The headline of this article references growth. While everyone may believe they know what this means and are accustomed to this metaphor, Palo Alto has grown very little in the 55 years I have lived here -- in terms of population, housing units or other objective metrics. What has happened and may continue is change. While the city has long been built out, older structures will be replaced by new and different structures. This may facilitate or accommodate different land uses. If and when the Comp Plan is finally updated, the most important contribution it can make to long term planning will comprise a clear vision and a roadmap for desired changes.


94 people like this
Posted by When Will Sanity Prevail?
a resident of Crescent Park
on Mar 21, 2017 at 7:03 am

With already clogged streets, infuriating traffic delays, schools at capacity, inadequate parks, and horrible parking problems in many neighborhoods, packing in thousands more housing units will only make things worse. There should be a huge display behind the council showing how many millions of dollars their proposals are giving rapacious developers who care not a whit about the communities they destroy. How about a ban on all new growth UNTIL traffic, parking, parkland, and school capacity problems are solved?


60 people like this
Posted by Concerned
a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 21, 2017 at 7:38 am

Tom DuBois is certainly not for Big Development - the commentor above is confused or unknowing. Wolbach is up for re-election next year and is all about Big Deveopment - so don't vote for Wolbach.

Kniss clearly will rubber stamp any development, the bigger the better - housing, offices, whatever. So why be surprised she is now voting with Big Development's other pals, Wolbach and Fine, wanting 6,000 new housing units built here? But they lost. Developers are Kniss's constituency and she hid their campaign contributions to get re-elected, seemingly breaking the law to do so and her promises to voters not to take their money. .

No one else on council agreed that 6,000 more units of housing and the traffic, pressure on our infrastructure, parks, services, schools, etc, was good for Palo Alto or its residents. They seemingly had at least some concern for Palo Alto surviving the insanity around us that Wolbach thinks we should embrace (we should be building tens of thousand housing units). One council member said something smart - because MV, MP, RWC, etc, are going nuts on office and housing development is reason we should not, as we will have to deal with all their unaddressed traffic problems, pollution, etc. that will slop over on us from all sides.




66 people like this
Posted by anon
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Mar 21, 2017 at 8:28 am

So the Council majority lead by the motion maker Wollbach did their "mea culpas" and reversed their unwise decision from Jan. 30 with regards to the programs in the Comp plan.

The about face was surely the result of the public ( and a large majority of ) the Comp Plan groups outcry, including the co-chairs. So a politically motivated reversal, but still one has to question the motives and the lack of judgement that lead to the reckless behavior in the first place. We deserve more principled and thoughtful leaders!

All four new and returning council members ran on a pro resident campaigns, but only Kou walks the walk!

Kniss and Tanaka and Fine are clearly in the pocket of developers and/or willing to make decisions that really hurt the residents of this community, to put many in the pockets of developers and large companies.

It will be very interesting to see what the final ruling is by the FPPC on the "irregularities" in the Kniss and Tanaka
campaigns.


25 people like this
Posted by Lydia
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Mar 21, 2017 at 9:03 am

I thought Lydia Kou had "a plan for housing"? And her plan is to *reduce* the amount of housing we plan for? Kou just showed her true self: no change, pull up the drawbridge.


40 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 21, 2017 at 9:42 am

There are people around who are single-issue ideologues, who only care about one thing and little else. They usually have a rationalization why every other issue can be disregarded: people won’t own cars, the science is wrong, people who disagree are ignorant or contemptible. But the truth is - they simply don’t care. They know you might care, but one foundation of true ideologues is that their end justifies all means necessary, including saying one thing in order to get elected and then doing something different afterwards.

Most people are looking for common-sense balance in a complicated world. But ideologues mostly don’t get those people, because when you’re extreme, you see everybody else as extreme too. Some of the most vitriolic postings on these boards come from the growth and yes housing ideologues, who assume anybody who disagrees with them on degree must be some kind of extreme stone-ager. In some ways that’s easier, because demonization of disagreement is also part of being an ideologue. An ideologue’s biggest enemy isn’t an opposite ideologue; it’s careful consideration and moderacy.


59 people like this
Posted by mauricio
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Mar 21, 2017 at 10:39 am

Palo Alto cannot absorb 6,000 more housing units, not even half of that. The infrastructure is not there, and residents who thought they were living in a residential suburb would find themselves living in something entirely different, and quite nightmarish. Palo Alto has an affordability problem, created largely by the pro development mind-set, not a housing problem.

This absurd 6000 new housing units is nothing but a subsidy for well educated, well paid tech workers who insist on a Palo Alto zip code, and this is absurd, wrong, and morally reprehensible.


69 people like this
Posted by MikeCrescentPark
a resident of Crescent Park
on Mar 21, 2017 at 11:10 am

If Palo Alto were a publicly held company or aspiring to be the obsession with growth would make sense. But we are not.

My personal stake in Palo Alto is that my family and I decided over 30 years ago to live here, be a part of the community and enjoy the traits that first attracted us here. Our equity is in the form of the many organizations we have worked in, volunteered for and funded. And our part in making sure our home adds to the community and does not become a detriment. We bought an existing home. We did not demand something be built for us that we could afford.

It seems others view Palo Alto as a business from which to make money. Building homes, offices and retail for sale or lease If I were one of those I'm sure I'd see the future of Palo Alto differently than I do now.

As a community we are bullied by other outside forces such as ABAG to constantly build housing to meet their "fair share" quotas that relentless increase year after year. Aided and abetted by PAF. I believe that Palo Alto has more than contributed its fair share by incubating innovative businesses that create jobs for people all over the Bay Area and the world. If they choose to other communities can compromise their local character and build massive housing projects. Some may receive a net benefit by doing so.

As a town we still fulfill our original mission to house Stanford University professors, teachers, students and other employees. And provide retail and other services for those housed on campus.

Ruining the character of Palo Alto for the sake of growth is foolish.


35 people like this
Posted by Annette
a resident of College Terrace
on Mar 21, 2017 at 11:11 am

Annette is a registered user.

I don't lump Filseth in with the avid proponents of dense housing development. I attended last night and was encouraged to hear Filseth and Kou caution that Stanford's growth plans be taken into consideration. I was also encouraged that growth impact on schools was part of the discussion last night. And I appreciate the vote to restore programs to the Comp Plan. As for the growth scenario that CC chose to support, the choice could well have been for scenario #6 so the outcome suggests to me that those in the community who are reaching out to CC one way or another are having an impact.

I did not stay long but I was there when Wolbach took his swipe at Dubois. Absolutely unnecessary comment that, to me, said more about the speaker than the target. Wasn't cordiality (or something like that) part of his campaign rhetoric?


30 people like this
Posted by AB
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 21, 2017 at 11:15 am

@Comcerned - review the tape for the part where Tom suggested increasing the number of housing units above what the council settled on.

I missed Fine - he is the most Pro development. Even worse we than the two currently under investigation for getting and concealing developer money (Kniss and Tanaka). He was suggesting increasing housing to 15K+! Thankfully the other council members did not go with that absurd suggestion. Viewing these sessions really shows you exactly where each member stands.

@Lydia - I actually think Lydia is a breath of fresh air. The only one in the council who cares most about traffic and parking (which is why she suggested reducing the housing number). Not only will I vote for her, but will also donate money for her next campaign.

I don't quite understand why there was so much discussion about jobs-housing imbalance in PA, when most PA residents work outside PA. Companies that pay enough to afford PA, such as Google, FB and LinkedIn are not in PA. Yes Palantir is, but the don't pay as well. Point is, IMO is doesn't make sense to look at balancing housing to job growth as Fine suggested, as people will buy in PA even if the jobs are elsewhere. Instead the focus should be on what we can do to fix the congestion issues.


12 people like this
Posted by Thank you
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Mar 21, 2017 at 11:22 am

Thank you is a registered user.

Thank you to Mayor Scharff and others for the more moderate growth proposal. Palo Alto -- the city and and the community -- will benefit from more affordable housing, and I look forward to our figuring out how to go about encouraging the development of thousands of units of affordable housing and finding the necessary infrastructure and funds to support it. I cannot imagine a more aggressive goal being managed responsibly. I am cautiously hopeful for this more modest goal, particularly if the council can truly come together to work on it.

I also appreciate the council coming together to rectify their egregious action on Jan 30. The damage that action caused will not go away overnight, but the rollback is a good start.


28 people like this
Posted by AB
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 21, 2017 at 11:37 am

@Anette - yes you are right. Filseth is not as much Pro housing. Sorry I was thinking Fine, but typed Filseth instead. My bad. I gotta remind myself to not start commenting at like 6 am, before my coffee! Fine is clearly the most Pro development. He even had the gall to suggest bumping up the job growth number to 15K! I will do whatever I can to avoid having him get re-elected.

Lydia is most in favor of slowing down housing, and my new favorite city council member.


17 people like this
Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Mar 21, 2017 at 11:47 am

I watched the meeting and heard only lip service being paid to the jobs-housing imbalance in the "compromise" plan which doubles the number of job BEFORE the proposed Stanford expansion is even considered. (And before the huge expansion in Mountain View and Menlo gears up nearby)

At one point, they were discussing the impact that almost 300 new housing units would have on a neighborhood and Planning Director Gittelman said there would be no impact because they would be phased in over X number of years. Ms. Hollman asked why the number of years should matter because the impact would still be use and asked Gittelman what she'd propose to minimize the impact. She said again "no mitigation would be needed" and then promised to "study" it when Hollman repeated her question.

That was about the ONLY mention I heard about "quality of life" issues.

After Mr. DuBois proposed capping office space growth, he withdrew it after Mr. Fine jumped in to propose job growth of 15,000 and it was obvious his motion would have been defeated.

It's clear that the jobs-housing disparity will continue to worsen. It's clear the shortage of housing vs jobs will continue to worsen so it's clear that prices and rents can't possibly drop.

About the only good thing is that we should stop hearing that above claim because otherwise there would have been more pressure to rein in jobs growth as Mr. Filseth suggested.


6 people like this
Posted by EIR
a resident of Downtown North
on Mar 21, 2017 at 12:42 pm

This was not a vote to build housing. They were only voting to include a STUDY of the IMPACTS of housing in an EIR. It would have been so beneficial to study the 6,000 unit version as one of the options just to see what the impacts would be. Now we just won't know...

What a shame. In a town that has so plainly indicated the priority is to build more housing, the clear loser last night is the public that believed Scharff would support the goals of his constituents.


24 people like this
Posted by Job housing balance
a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 21, 2017 at 12:44 pm

@Online name - looking at PA jobs vs housing is pointless as PA residents will commute to any town within reasonable driving distance. As long as Facebook and Google continue their current hiring trends, demand for PA housing will continue to rise, even if PA does not add one single new job.

And yes rents or prices won't drop. Micro units will just set a floor for all housing. Unless you do BMRs developers will just try to get max price for any new units. All you will get is more congestion. Yes city will get more tax revenue and developers will get richer. But the price to PA quality of life will be steep. Anyone who cares about quality of life will vote against growth.


18 people like this
Posted by Ron Wolf
a resident of Mountain View
on Mar 21, 2017 at 12:47 pm

Indeed interesting to see the years go by while the leadership and community struggle to create consensus, or at least agreed upon guidance for planning. Somewhat frustrating for sure, mostly because the plan is actually the easy part. The devil is in the implementation. I do want to commend the Council for reconsidering. The PA City Council has a nasty habit of throwing everything topsy-turvy at the last moment. Kudos to Keller and the Advisory Committee for taking a reasoned approach to the argument and making a convincing argument to revisit the program removal decision. And also, as usual, thx to the Weekly for the well-written and knowledgeable reporting.


23 people like this
Posted by Marie
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 21, 2017 at 12:48 pm

Marie is a registered user.

Why is the city council planning a future with far more jobs than housing units, which will only worsen Palo Alto's worker to resident ratio, and enable ABAG to force even higher housing targets?

Why did not the city council also include planning for the infrastructure that will be required for the additional workers and residents? Where is land zoned for schools for the additional students? Where is the planning for the parks needed to meet Palo Alto's longtime goals of amount of parkland per resident? They should at least be honest enough to say their plan will include reducing the amount of parkland per resident and the expectation the school district to build multiple story superschools to house the additional students. Otherwise, they would include requiring developer to donate land for the required infrastructure as they did in the 50's. And don't let's even get started on transit...

And everyone continues to ignore the obvious solution: building office space and housing out near 280, where there is lots of empty land and no risk of flooding, while reserving land for BART to finally ring the bay and bring true mass transit and rational urban planning to the area, rather than patchwork solutions for artificially defined cities and towns.


8 people like this
Posted by Gale Johnson
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Mar 21, 2017 at 1:37 pm

That was an interesting CC meeting. I was a little surprised, but happy, that the January 30th decision was reversed. The 'people' spoke and proponents of that bad decision listened. I'm not so sure that was 'democracy at work' as much as a realization that the next election cycle is coming up and another one after that. 'anon' was correct in questioning the bad judgement and the rush to approve the bad decision in the first place.

"For those of us who ran last fall, the only issue was housing and nothing else," Kniss said. "It was housing, housing and more housing." C'mon Liz that is a very hyperbolic statement and you know it's not true. I wouldn't have voted for any of you on that slate if that was all you had to offer.

And who is demanding more housing? I'm not, because you all know I'm one of those lucky, but much hated, NIMBY's living the good life down here in SPA. It has to be renters who want to own here, outsiders who also want to move here to own or rent, and, yes, a few of us older citizens who would like to downsize and get out of our big houses into smaller units, but still live in our town, the town we've loved for 'oh so many years'.

So, whatever scenario number you favor, the big question is, "How will it happen?" The developers are back in control. They will answer that question and decide if a project is worth proposing if it doesn't meet their profit goal requirements, without regard to the CC's decision and the Comprehensive Plan scenarios. I think CC takes too much credit for being in control when they have to cede control to the property owners and developers. Thus comes the big campaign contributions from developers.

Last night's meeting brought out the big guns, former mayors, Steve Levy, Don McDougall, who I voted for, and many other important and influential people in our community. That was all good.

The scenarios: Pick one, anyone. What actions will have to take place to implement any of them? There was much discussion, with a wide range of views, on housing and job growth. For the most part, even tho, the speakers raised questions about infrastructure, impact on schools, traffic/parking, etc., they were sidelined last night. Let's build first and then worry about those things later. Bad, bad, bad!

Housing, housing, housing: There were some speakers who might be suffering from dementia...10,000-15,000 new housing units? Has the clock started running on the newly approved number range, or doesn't it start until the Comp Plan is finally approved. I'll be long gone before this all plays out, thank goodness.

Thanks to Greg Scharff. He ran a good meeting last night and he had a very important role and vote in the final decision. He reminded me so much of our former mayor, Pat Burt, who spoke from the other side last night, and was the swing vote on many decisions at CC meetings before.


2 people like this
Posted by Allen Akin
a resident of Professorville
on Mar 21, 2017 at 1:43 pm

@EIR: "It would have been so beneficial to study the 6,000 unit version as one of the options just to see what the impacts would be. Now we just won't know..."

That information is in the Draft EIR, which you can find here: Web Link The section you probably want to study first is the "Supplement to Draft EIR Volume 1". For example, population change is discussed in that section on page 4.11-7. Traffic impacts are summarized starting on page 4.13-13.


20 people like this
Posted by Palo Alto resident
a resident of Crescent Park
on Mar 21, 2017 at 2:01 pm

My favorite speaker was Chamber of Commerce CEO Judy Kleinberg, who cheerfully advocated the maximum housing construction, representing the development and real estate interests in the Chamber.

[Portion removed.]


22 people like this
Posted by The importance of priorities
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 21, 2017 at 2:15 pm

Quote from Filseth

"Palo Alto has historically done a good job in finding a balance between a purely residential suburb and an urban setting. The city, he said, boasts residential neighborhoods, trees, a vibrant downtown and a strong tech-innovation economy. The new Comprehensive Plan, he said, should aim to preserve these characteristics."

I suggest that Palo Alto's historical achievements have been thanks to leaders and community members prioritizing our neighborhoods, schools, and quality of life. Be it the air we breathe or the safety of our roads and streets for the children in our schools.

As the City faces extreme challenges, achieving "balance" will mean putting *much more* weight to quality of life, making it a #1 priority.

It's not unique to this City, it's a basic concept.


16 people like this
Posted by Gale Johnson
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Mar 21, 2017 at 3:57 pm

A couple more comments: There was a lot of talk about housing, housing, housing, but unless I missed it, the word 'affordable' didn't crop up in that discussion, or at least not very much. I think it's an acknowledgement that the proposed housing won't be affordable to so many that need it. What will the profitability price point be for developers of those micro units, $2,500/mo? $3,000/mo? $3,500/mo? I guess, if it can ever be made attractive enough thru rezoning, relaxed regulations, etc., we'll find out. Until then the meter will start running on the housing goal and I have a hunch a lot of time will pass before the first units are ever built. That compresses the housing goal into a much shorter time period, from 3 times the current rate of building to 4 or maybe 5 times the rate of current building.

Always good to see our former mayor and former PA resident speak. She is a firm believer in scenario #6 (with no skin in the game except for her CEO position on our Chamber of Commerce) that many people who will rent or own here won't own cars. I think she even used the word 'hope'. I too 'hope' for a lot of things, but I know that the possibility of all of them happening is very slim. I think the idea of no car ownership is one of hers. Fallacy and fantasy. One speaker commented on that. Everybody in this area will own a car at some point in their lives. This isn't Manhattan, yet, and we have no real transit system in place that will replace cars, forever.


29 people like this
Posted by Annette
a resident of College Terrace
on Mar 21, 2017 at 5:25 pm

Annette is a registered user.

A few years ago I made a New Year's resolution to not drive my car unless I would be driving a 1-way distance of at least 5 miles. That eliminated driving to work. I was pretty happy when December 31 rolled around BUT I learned about the shuttles and the best bicycle routes (including the great path that parallels the train tracks) and I got really good at bundling errands. I also learned that it wouldn't work for parents with young children who might need an automobile on a moment's notice or people who need to get to meetings in another city or anyone who has caregiving obligations or anyone who works someplace not near a transit corridor or anyone who must dress in not-casual business attire for work or anyone who has to get to an appointment in a reasonable amount of time or anyone susceptible to colds or anyone who cannot commit to doubling their commute time, ETC.

Basing Palo Alto planning on the assumption that there will be significantly fewer cars on the roads is ludicrous unless we significantly improve get-around options.


9 people like this
Posted by Gale Johnson
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Mar 21, 2017 at 6:15 pm

@ Annette, of course you're right, but there are many idealists/dreamers who think it can and will really happen. Dream on!


43 people like this
Posted by Ahem
a resident of another community
on Mar 21, 2017 at 7:07 pm

Unfortunately the real-estate development industry and their servitors in local government encourage delusional car-less utopian thinking, because they need the public to believe there is a solution, no matter how implausible, to the transportation problems spawned by continued rapacious real-estate development.




9 people like this
Posted by Robert
a resident of another community
on Mar 21, 2017 at 7:15 pm

@Ahem

I assume by "real-estate development industry and their servitors" you mean everyone who benefits from housing creation, i.e. anyone who isn't homeless?


21 people like this
Posted by Rose
a resident of Mayfield
on Mar 21, 2017 at 7:29 pm

No until the comment before this one has anyone mentioned public transportation. ANY growth in Palo Alto without significant improvements in public transportation in Palo Alto and between our neighboring Peninsula communities can only result in more dangerous and time-wasting traffic, air pollution, noise pollution, parking problems and pressures on all schools and public facilities. Unless we restrict new housing to people who work here, our problems can only get much much worse. We must push hard to improve public transportation, including fast and comfortable options to get to airports. Why aren't our officials working on this as hard as they are working on new housing?


37 people like this
Posted by Growth is Bad
a resident of Downtown North
on Mar 21, 2017 at 9:51 pm

Growth is Bad! Name one dense city where housing is cheap - San Francisco, New York, Tokyo, Paris? Getting bigger and denser and more crowded doesn't make the housing cheaper and all of those silly people claiming we need more housing so it will be affordable don't know what they are talking about.

What adding more growth does absolutely do is destroy quality of life. Large cities have traffic congestion, poor sanitation because the people who live there know they are nameless and faceless and don't keep the surroundings clean. The schools are overcrowded and performance is lower than other places. Infrastructure suffers and open space is an after thought but sunless office canyons are everywhere.

We are already to dense for our environment. Our massive growth spree of the last couple of decades has caught up with us and Stanford's even more massive growth spree is making these area even worse. The majority of our city council is bought and paid for by developers and Stanford passes out so many goodies to the local politicians that they can't say no to even the massive millions of square feet that keep going up on Palo Alto's doorstep.

More people use more water, more electricity, eat more food, pollute more and overcrowd the environment. We are full. It is time to take Silicon Valley growth and send it to Detroit or some other underutilized Mid-west city. We won't miss it but will enjoy the quiet.


6 people like this
Posted by Curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on Mar 21, 2017 at 10:13 pm

It's probably just as well the Com Plan is seven years late and counting. That means city hall did not waste a bunch of hustle creating a document that nobody over there on Hamilton Ave intends to pay any attention to.


16 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 21, 2017 at 10:45 pm

“I did not stay long but I was there when Wolbach took his swipe at Dubois.”

He also made some remarks about Todd Collins from the school board, who sent in a letter supporting the Draft EIR analysis that more schools would be needed to support 6000 homes.


10 people like this
Posted by Annette
a resident of College Terrace
on Mar 21, 2017 at 11:16 pm

[Post removed.]


12 people like this
Posted by YIMBY
a resident of Mountain View
on Mar 21, 2017 at 11:23 pm

@GrowthIsBad

The noise isn't going away. The growth certainly isn't going away. The Bay Area is no longer a quiet suburban sprawl. Any hopes that you have for things to return to whatever preferred state you have in mind which includes quiet just isn't going to happen. The best you can hope for is a grudgingly slow densification while any local businesses you frequent are priced out of the area due to labor costs ballooning from high rents.


1 person likes this
Posted by links for #s?
a resident of College Terrace
on Mar 21, 2017 at 11:43 pm

Would someone please provide a link for a site describing options #1-#6? Also, which # option is the one the CC is now favoring?


8 people like this
Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on Mar 22, 2017 at 12:52 am

@links -- Scenarios #1-#6 are summarized on page 6 & 7 of this 144-page staff report (10 Mb pdf) -- Web Link -- and reiterated in more detail starting on page 27 of the file, numbered as page 2 of Attachment C.

And we wonder where all the money goes...

The motion passed Monday night appears to be between scenario 3 and 4 on housing growth (12%-15%), but more towards scenario 2 on job growth (10%-12%).

Did anyone else have poor audio over the internet link from the Media Center?


6 people like this
Posted by Palo Alto resident
a resident of Crescent Park
on Mar 22, 2017 at 1:57 am

>Did anyone else have poor audio over the internet link from the Media Center?

Yes. and not for the first time. The sound system was not upgraded when the City Manager remodelled the Chambers. You can compare the sound to the broadcasts of Menlo Park, East Palo Alto, the County, etc. Ours is the worst.

And the microphone/sound where the public speaks is awful. Can't help wondering if it is intentional, since the staff mikes are good.


4 people like this
Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on Mar 22, 2017 at 2:32 am

The audio has been fine for me until Monday very gravelly and barely understandable. Using an ATT-DSL link viewed in Safari or Firefox. Don't have Comcast or any cable TV service, so wondering if they as well were degraded on Monday.

Many in our public apparently are not practiced at speaking into a microphone. Even when they adjust the position, they will fade when looking down to read their notes. Some just have soft voices. And at least for me some accents are challenging. I am a poor public speaker, so in no position to be critical.


21 people like this
Posted by jm
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Mar 22, 2017 at 2:59 am

It's not just the public that don't know how to speak into the microphone. Greg Tanaka is mostly inaudible since he looks down and mumbles very fast. Even when the planning director asked him to repeat himself, he continued to mumble and talk too fast.

Also, Council member Wolbach's reversal on stripping the programs from the comp plan probably had more to do with his desire to get re-elected in 2018.


15 people like this
Posted by Watcher
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Mar 22, 2017 at 8:29 am

[Post removed.]


10 people like this
Posted by Watcher
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Mar 22, 2017 at 12:43 pm

Deleting a simple political statement about an elected official - what's up with that?


Like this comment
Posted by Gale Johnson
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Mar 22, 2017 at 2:48 pm

@Curmudgeon
I don't always agree with your comments, but they are always amusing to read. I too have wondered about how important the Comp Plan really is if it has taken so long to update, and think that there will probably be many diversions and imminent priorities that CC has to deal with that will put it, and the programs, policies, and guidelines in it, aside, while dealing with the current hot topics/issues. What mayor Scharff proposed, and was finally approved, is an olio, a mix and match of several scenarios. I'm happy with it, but without a plan for implementation, it falls into the category of goals, which often times translates into fantasyland ideas.


20 people like this
Posted by Chip
a resident of Professorville
on Mar 22, 2017 at 2:53 pm

Why does anyone care about ABAG? Participation is voluntary & not all communities "join" or follow its recommendations.
It's not known for impartial & ethical judgments anyway. There's nothing that Palo Alto needs from ABAG, so forget about it.


18 people like this
Posted by margaret heath
a resident of College Terrace
on Mar 22, 2017 at 5:58 pm

@ Gale and Curmudgeon

Why has the comprehensive plan taken so long to update? This is why.

The council first referred the document to the Planning and Transport Department instructing staff to tweak the outdated bits. Instead the Planning Department spent countless hours almost completely rewriting the document, much of which in effect removed many existing constraints on the rate of growth.

As per protocol, staff passed their draft document to the members of the Planning and Transport Commission for their review. However, the P&TC members also decided to change much of the document, taking another year rewriting and wordsmithing in favor of growth and development.

As per protocol, P&TC finally presented council with their rewritten document. Because the P&TC had not followed council's instructions, the council were in a difficult position. There was a dual meeting with the PT&C Commissioners, which makes for interesting watching if you did not do so at the time.

Presented with this fait accompli the council were in a quandary. Council decided to appoint a new community advisory committee whose membership reflected the various constituents who have a stake in Palo Alto's future. The city manager was asked to come back with a list of names but unfortunately, but not surprisingly, returned with names that represented business interests and those in favor of growth. The council instructed him to add names of those who would represent residents for a more balanced input. By this time quite a few years have been wasted.

Finally the new community advisory committee got to work, and has spent the past year hard at work carefully reviewing the draft comprehensive plan and rewriting it to reflect the council's original intent. And which is now coming to the council.


4 people like this
Posted by Curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on Mar 22, 2017 at 8:24 pm

@margaret heath

It's the usual jumbled process, a perhaps inevitable outcome of our city manager government model which isolates city staff from any effective supervision by elected officials. I cannot rule out deliberate or casual sabotage, either. This from decades of watching and occasionally participating in the process, until I realized that too much of the chaos was too consistent to attribute to simple staff incompetence.

" I'm happy with it, but without a plan for implementation, it falls into the category of goals, which often times translates into fantasyland ideas."

A list of goals is exactly what the CP is, which is what makes it so open to cherry-picking, or just plain disregard if it is excessively contrary to a particular development proposal. Occasionally staff will show it some mercy and amend it to conform to the proposal at hand.

So enjoy the dream, but prepare for the waking.


15 people like this
Posted by Annette
a resident of College Terrace
on Mar 22, 2017 at 9:37 pm

Annette is a registered user.

I've heard so much talk about the balance of the Monday meeting that I watched the video. Wolbach didn't call Collins hyperbolic. Rather, he referenced both a letter and an e-mail that Collins wrote and said that what Collins wrote was "hyperbolic and inaccurate". So he thinks Collins exaggerated. Big deal if he did; at least he got CC talking about whether more housing will mean that the city will need more schools. Not much riles a Palo Altan more than a crowded classroom so this is a good discussion to have.


3 people like this
Posted by Allen Akin
a resident of Professorville
on Mar 23, 2017 at 9:17 am

Here's an interesting article, with a good selection of links for more information.

"Americans’ Shift To The Suburbs Sped Up Last Year" Web Link


16 people like this
Posted by julian
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 23, 2017 at 3:07 pm

@mauricio
Your comment from 3/21 is tremendously spot on and succinctly summarizes the situation. Your next trip to Philz or whatever is on me.

Here's a quote for everyone else:
"Growth for the sake of growth is the ideology of the cancer cell." Edward Abbey


7 people like this
Posted by YIMBY
a resident of Mountain View
on Mar 24, 2017 at 12:25 am

Good thing this isn't growth for the sake of growth, but growth to meet demand that is choking on an artificially restricted supply of higher-density housing in the Bay Area. It's growth so we can take pressure off of our constrained supply of housing and see some price relief, so maybe people who grow up here and go into the service industry don't have to be priced out of the area when they can't afford $1500 a month to rent a room. Or we can just continue to barely build anything and stick with the current environment of every spare nook and cranny for rent getting 300 applications with massive bidding wars, driving out everyone who isn't in a rent controlled unit or making a six-figure salary. Personally I'd lean towards a future where people who grow up here could expect to live here, too.


12 people like this
Posted by Sense
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 24, 2017 at 5:25 am

I think it's lunacy to add office space. However, if the housing growth comes from converting office space to housing and a reduction in the people who commute here, that might work. There should also be a commitment to quality of life. I would love to see residents get together and force the City Council to have to prioritize quality of life, including to privide residents with the backlog of open space (over twenty acre) promised in the City code for development.

Residents: you can get together and propose your own initiatives. If you are fed up, propose a business tax on businesses that create the most burdens for the City so they at least pay their way. Make the business tax pay for infrastructure and restoring resident services and auSlity of life.


10 people like this
Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Mar 24, 2017 at 10:13 am

Sorry, Yimby. The PA City Council just approved another office space/homes imbalance whereby more than 10,000 new jobs than housing units will be created thus undercutting its claims to "care" about the housing shortage or reducing home prices or rents.


17 people like this
Posted by T. Ripley
a resident of College Terrace
on Mar 24, 2017 at 11:54 am

I agree that the FPPC warning to Fine was for a trivial violation. He seems to have been cautious in staying within the law including his bewildering claim that he had no idea why anyone would donate $999 late in a campaign (hint: it avoids a mandatory 24 hour reporting requirement). I am surprised that the complaint did not cover his more serious violation which is that he did not report occupations of many of his key late donors including well know real estate developers, i.e. a $999 donation from Chasen Rapp on November 1st reported occupation and employer as unknown. A quick internet search shows Rapp is employed by Rapp Development, a class A commercial real estate developer with numerous projects in Palo Alto. The law requires that candidates must return donations of $100 or more within 60 days if they cannot obtain occupations or other required info.


Campaign violations aside, what matters much more was his deliberate strategy of voter deception relating to his policies and financial support. He took many strident pro-development positions on the Planning Commission. Then, during the campaign, he claimed much more moderate positions and that he was not being supported by the developers. Once on the City Council he has returned to his prior approach. He has loosened the annual office cap and proposed allowing a huge 40% increase in office development over what the draft Comp Plan would allow. Then, on Monday night he proposed adding 13,000 housing units by 2030 in addition to higher office development, an astounding nearly 50% increase in the city population in just 13 years. At the same time he proposed increasing job growth up to 15,000 employees by 2030, arguing that since jobs drive housing, allowing even more jobs would drive the huge housing growth that he seeks. Lastly, he advocated not focusing on mitigating the impacts of this growth since the housing would be the benefit.


6 people like this
Posted by Abitarian
a resident of Downtown North
on Mar 24, 2017 at 1:56 pm

I don't think these numbers are meaningful and I doubt City Hall would do anything to hold growth to these numbers.

For example, City Council eliminated the annual cap on office development. If the city won't control the growth of new office space, how would they control the growth in the number of jobs?

Simple answer is they won't.


Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

He said – she said – who is lying? Justice Brett Kavanaugh or PA resident Christine Ford
By Diana Diamond | 69 comments | 5,300 views

Let's Talk Internships
By John Raftrey and Lori McCormick | 1 comment | 755 views

Zucchini Takeover
By Laura Stec | 0 comments | 489 views

Couples: Sex and Connection (Chicken or Egg?)
By Chandrama Anderson | 1 comment | 455 views