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Palo Alto nears compromise on new Comprehensive Plan

After a decade of debates, City Council looks to adopt new land-use document Monday

As the Palo Alto City Council prepares to adopt the Comprehensive Plan, capping off one of the most long and complex planning processes in the city's history, one question remains unresolved: How will the city measure success?

The questions will be among those that the council will tackle Monday night, when it is scheduled to approve the new Comprehensive Plan, capping off a process that began more than a decade ago and that has gone through several resets and delays before regaining its momentum last year. Once adopted, the document will guide the city's land-use vision until 2035 and set the stage for new zoning rules and transportation policies.

Perhaps as importantly, the adoption will free up planning staff to work on zoning changes, coordinated area plans and other priorities that council members and residents have long been clamoring for.

For the council, the document and its accompanying environmental analysis tells a story of compromise. Its preferred planning scenario would create between 3,500 and 4,400 new housing units between now and 2035, somewhat higher than the status quo approach and yet far below the 10,000 that the city's housing advocates have been calling for.

It placates some critics of commercial growth by setting a citywide cap of 1.7 million square feet of new office development, not including the 1.3 million square feet that the city had already approved as part of the expansion of the Stanford University Medical Center. At the same time, it notably excludes an annual office cap -- a pacing mechanism that the council adopted two years ago to address anxieties about traffic and parking impacts caused by commercial development.

At the same time, the latest version of the Comprehensive Plan restores some of the policies that the council controversially stripped away in January in a series of 5-4 votes. The council walked back its earlier decision to remove all programs from the Comprehensive Plan -- a recommendation that drew fierce criticism from the Citizens Advisory Committee, a specially appointed group that had spent months developing the programs.

And on Oct. 30, in another sign of compromise, the council reconsidered its polarizing decision from January to strip from the plan a list of "community indicators": measures that track the city's progress in fighting traffic, creating housing and other goals.

The measures that the council plans to include in the new document include: vehicle miles traveled per capita; greenhouse gas emissions; the city's jobs-housing ratio; the number of below-market rate units constructed; and the city's progress toward meeting its regional obligations for all types of housing, as laid out in the Comprehensive Plan's Housing Element.

A new report from the Department of Planning and Community Environment includes a menu of additional metrics that the council may choose to include in the document, including economic diversity, park acreage per capita and the rate of solo-occupant drivers.

During the council's Oct. 30 discussion, Mayor Greg Scharff alluded to the tortuous path that led the council to this point and cited numerous themes in the plan that won overriding consensus: protection for retail, restrictions on office growth and construction of affordable housing.

"Everyone on the council has been supportive of new housing," Scharff said. "I think there's some disagreements on how much -- some people have argued for 10,000 (units), some for less -- and I think we've come to a compromise on this council that we all feel good about."

The updated Land Use Element includes new policies that support the creation of affordable housing units for city and school district employees; preserve ground-floor retail; favor the creation of smaller housing units; prevent the conversion of residential uses to office or short-term rentals; and explore the creation of a "vibrant, innovation-oriented community" at Stanford Research Park, which would include residential uses, a commercial hotel, a conference center, retail, transit services and other amenities.

The new Transportation Element calls for an ordinance that would require new developments above a certain size threshold to prepare and implement transportation-demand management (TDM) plans, which would offer workers incentive to carpool or switch from cars to other modes of transportation. It also calls for "meaningful penalties" for developers whose plans don't meet traffic-reduction goals.

The TDM measures, according to the plan, should at a minimum achieve a 50 percent reduction in single-occupant vehicle trips during peak commute hours in the downtown area; a 35 percent reduction around California Avenue; a 30 percent reduction at Stanford Research Park and along El Camino Real; and a 20 percent reduction throughout the rest of the city.

Despite the recent convergence on the council, many residents aren't sold on the new document. Some have submitted emails calling for a complete moratorium on office development until the city solves its traffic problems. And at the council's Oct. 23 meeting, dozens of proponents of slow-growth policies wore "Save Palo Alto" buttons on their lapels to signify their displeasure with the plan's policies, particularly on commercial development.

Resident Jeff Levinsky argued that the document should have analyzed planning scenarios that would create fewer than the 1.7 million square feet of commercial growth. The Comprehensive Plan, he argued, "refuses to look honestly" at factors such as traffic, parking, school capacity, diversity and neighborhood protection.

"Instead, it shrugs its collective shoulders and suggests we keep doing what hasn't worked, such as rely on TDM," Levinsky said.

But Sandra Slater, a co-founder of the pro-housing group Palo Alto Forward, was more gung-ho about the new document. Though she said her group would have liked to have seen more housing units, she noted that the plan includes many ideas her organization supports, most notably a renewed commitment to below-market housing and to traffic-reduction efforts. It's time, she told the council on Oct. 30, to adopt the document.

"It's 10 years of thinking and meeting and discussing and compromising and massaging, and we now feel it's time to ratify it and to roll up our sleeves and get working on its implementation," Slater said.


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38 people like this
Posted by Pro Restoration of Civic Balance
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 9, 2017 at 11:30 am

Again the bias in describing the groups: those who want a holistic look at solving problems and want to restore a balanced focus on civic life and make City government about serving the public again are labeled "slow growth" and those whose push ignores traffic circulation, pollution, safety, the environment, the gutting of our retail areas, the negative impact on our youth, they are labeled as the benign "pro housing". Well, it's more accurate to label Palo Alto Forward as pro-big-development. That's their focus. Pro-serving-the-wants-of-Palantir-and-other-companies-who-want-to-take-over-Palo-Alto-as-a-company-town.

Wanting to put the forward-looking focus on restoring civic life here is not necessarily "slow [any] growth" and it can mean pro housing, if we are talking about policies to reduce the footprint of companies that really should move to where they can grow, and restore an environment for small startups and provide housing for a diversity of residents rather than enabling company-town apartmentvilles.

Palo Alto Forward is Pro Big Development. It might include a certain kind of housing to serve their wants, but it won't mean, say, examining existing housing stock to improve housing over pushing for big new developments. They are Pro big developer. Pro co-opting and decimating a healthy diverse civic life and actual environmentalism and healthy civic progress for manipulative and deceptive service of big developer and corporate takeover of our once thriving, high-quality-of-life area.

The residents like Jeff Levinsky are Pro Focus on Restoring Healthy Civic Life. Pro restoring a balance that includes the natural environment, liveability, schools and youth, safety, infrastructure, rational planning, healthy commerce and retail, etc.

Without a business tax, the City employees might want to remember who will be paying their pensions when they have decimated ordinary civic life here. TDM is a laugh when residents have to travel all over kingdom come to shop and get services (you can't get everything online even if it were desirable, and the stuff doesn't get there by teleportation anyway). Apartments tend to be the most economically hard on ordinary people in the long run, and hardest on the tax base because they don't turn over much.

Palo Alto Forward is most accurately described as Pro Overdevelopment, Pro Big Developer, Pro Development.

The residents are more accurately described as Pro Restoration of Healthy Civic Life, Pro Balanced Planning, Pro Big-Picture City management. Pro Good Stewardship. Pro Rational and Balanced Civic Decisionmaking. Or, Pro Restoration of Comprehensive Planning...

To say "Slow growth" is a very shortsighted, inaccurate labeling, and serves a rhetorically manipulative push on the other side. "Pro housing" is a whitewash and atrempt again to manipulate rhetorically. Journalism should at least not push those manipulative biases.

I'm pro inclusionary housing, pro restoration of healthy civic life, pro holistic planning, and pro reducing the footprint of large companies in a place where they really should move on to grow like this. I am very much against Palo Alto Forward. I speak for many of my neighbors. Using the above labels is biased and unhelpful.

35 people like this
Posted by Restoration of Sanity
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Nov 9, 2017 at 12:17 pm

@ Pro Restoration of Civic Balance

Agree ... Manipulative language is used effectively. Just like calling anti-abortion movement "pro-life". Who is not pro-life? The question is what rights and for how many are denied in the shades.

PA Forward is pushing the interests of developers denying a large part of PA citizens decent life-style. What could be the reason, if not enrichment, to be for over-development? The housing affordability is a myth. Let us remember two facts: 1:3 ratio of residents to office workers (+ those who do not work but want to live here because schools, etc.)

Another fact is Hong Kong. It did not work there (and they have a great commuter transportation) and will not work here. Traffic is already a nightmare and no viable plan. Adding another lane to 101? You have got to be kidding me.

Wake up.

13 people like this
Posted by commonsense
a resident of Professorville
on Nov 9, 2017 at 12:36 pm

commonsense is a registered user.

I love this place. Quit whining and help...or move. It's quite simple to pick up and leave with all the equity you "earned" in your home from all the "horrible" policies and politicians here. You can afford to move almost anywhere. Why would you stay in this hell hole. Get on with it!

12 people like this
Posted by Homeowner for housing
a resident of University South
on Nov 9, 2017 at 1:22 pm

This Comp Plan is better than the residentialists had campaigned on but still pretty weak from a housing standpoint. It's not a lot more than state law requires. It's crazy that some people still see it as "giveaway to developers" rather than a hope, albeit a slim one, that our kids will also be able to live in Palo Alto someday.

I would agree with the commenters above that "slow growth" is a misnomer, but only because I've watched the residentialists for a long time. Stopping affordable housing at Maybell. Fighting tooth and nail against new housing, until the pressure just got too much and they had to give in. Remember the PASZ e-mail that new housing should only come after traffic was "solved", as if that's ever realistic at this point? Remember how Palo Alto Forward had to gather over a thousand resident signatures before last year's residentialist Council took housing seriously? "For some growth in theory, against all change in practice" seems a more apt description.

We could have done better these last twenty years and more. Maybe we should have. But that's not a reason to turn our back on the future entirely. Let's move forward, painful as it will be. Standing in place won't fix our problems.

16 people like this
Posted by Dog Lover
a resident of University South
on Nov 9, 2017 at 1:24 pm

I think the Weekly got it right -- it's 2 competing forces smart growth vs no-growth. I see the no-growthers as NIMBYs who want to return to the idyllic 1960s when Palo Alto was a sleepy suburban town. I think the residentialists are using a bunch of scare tactics so they can say "NO" to everything. I don't see anyone at Palo Alto Forward arguing for massive buildings and lots more traffic-and don't think they're "in the pocket of developers" (an economist, an architect, a family mediation lawyer, an environmentalist, a real estate agent, a couple of middle-aged tech people). Why and how would they be able to benefit from the "evil, greedy developers"? Where do you get your information, Fox News? I've been to their events and they're very informative, well-balanced and full of positive spirit. Have you ever been to one? What I've heard from them is that we need to think creatively to solve our housing and traffic issues and not just say "NO" to everything. I'm a member of Palo Alto Forward because they're thoughtful, creative willing to learn and engage. They are spending a lot of energy educating people like me about the complexity of the issues. As I've said before -- get with a positive solution with great energy or be quiet. The region is changing -- let's figure out a way to make Palo Alto even better by providing much needed housing and increasing diversity. I'm in my mid-30s and have had enough of your negativity.

9 people like this
Posted by Pro Palo Alto
a resident of Professorville
on Nov 9, 2017 at 1:36 pm

It has taken 10+ years for the city to write this comprehensive plan - that means it's gone through 3 or 4 different councils, a few different planning commissions, and the 2-year citizen's advisory committee! FWIW this is either the "Palo Alto Process" at its best or its worst. The vitriol in some of these comments is truly appalling because they're so dismissive of any compromise, reason, or give-and-take. Nobody is getting everything they want, but everyone is getting something. Satisfied? Let's move on to actually fixing things in this city like traffic, parking, housing, etc and improving the quality of life for ALL residents!

4 people like this
Posted by mj
a resident of College Terrace
on Nov 9, 2017 at 1:39 pm

It has struck me for a while that those advocating "affordable" housing are the ones who want to turn the clock back.

24 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 9, 2017 at 1:53 pm

There's a lot to digest here, but here goes on my initial reading.

If all those residential units get built it will bring in at least one if not more person per unit.

All those extra people will need to get to where they need to go. Even if they walk or ride bikes some of the time, there are not that many bus routes, Caltrain seats, or shuttles to serve them. All the Ubers that they will use will also need to find some space on the roads. Even if all those units only produce one car per unit, they will need parking and if they use zip cars, then they need zip car parking available to use.

All those extra people will need to be fed, have medical services, dentist services, need Amazon delivered, need schools, cinemas, pools, park space, and all the various things that people do in their spare time to make life enjoyable.

Palo Alto cannot turn itself into a dormitory and office park. We all need some space to breathe and somewhere to relax and somewhere to be entertained. At present we have a couple of niche movie theaters, a couple of theaters, and an ice rink.

Do you think these people will just hibernate in their micro units or will they need some space to live as well as to sleep?

And you will notice I didn't even mention traffic and parking from the cars that they will want to own.

27 people like this
Posted by No plan still?
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Nov 9, 2017 at 2:02 pm

So much passion from the pro-growth. However ... no viable (or no at all) suggestions regarding how to live in the brave new PA - how to move around and how to breathe.

TDM? Is that a joke? All the giddy projections and %% reductions are worthless because they rely on the free will. What if that is not 50% but 5% because most will be simply not willing to give up driving. "Meaningful penalties"? And how much is that? Please ...
Even if some of us will be forced by the gridlock in the roadways to get into carpools, or buses, we'll be sitting in the same gridlocked roadways but no longer in the convenience of our cars.
Look at the roads NOW and then think thousands more (remember 3:1 ratio?). There needs to be a major commute transportation development FIRST, or at least a sensible path forward and commitment, not some traffic reduction %% pie in the sky. Later the council will say "Oops .. something in the TDM did not work. Sorry about that" Thousands of new residents will be here, too late.

And to those who recommend PA citizens to sell their homes and move away: that's rich but you know what we can say back to you, right?

24 people like this
Posted by @Resident
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Nov 9, 2017 at 2:07 pm

Thank you!

Let me add to "will they need some space to live as well as to sleep?" The time to sleep will be quite a lot less, too. Where it used to take me 15 min to get to work across PA now takes 45 min.
Don't people get it that congestion reduces not just quality but also QUANTITY of your life?

2 people like this
Posted by Gale Johnson
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Nov 9, 2017 at 2:48 pm

Gale Johnson is a registered user.

Well, well, well! "A nice dilemma...we (wavering voice) have here"(from Gilbert and Sullivan's 'Trial By Jury').

Just get it done, approved! Chances are it won't be held up as the 'bible' some people think it's supposed to be. It probably won't be a living document either, but just another document to stick away on the bookshelf and referred to occasionally when someone on Council feels a need to bring it up. I don't mean to demean the efforts of the people who worked so hard and diligently on this. My thanks goes out to all those who served in any capacity to get it to this point. To make it a real and important document, however, with any hope of all the promises of a better PA becoming reality, it should be required reading for any future CC candidates. And in addition, a course should be developed on the history of Palo Alto and all the changes that have happened up to the current time. It should be a required graded course for prospective CC candidates. OK, let me get my tongue back out of my cheek now!

About the key measures, Housing and Transportation: Is an 1800 sq ft house on a 7,000 sq ft lot equivalent to a 250 sq ft micro unit apartment? Of course not, even though they are both housing units. And what's affordable, and for whom? How many BMR units are expected to be built? Enough for all the service workers in our restaurants, hotels, coffee shops, nail salons, et al? It's an illusion and those who think it can become a reality are delusional.

TDM's: Don't hang your hat on any of the ideas currently floating around for a near term fix to the problem. The rail service is limited in capacity, so it's left up to buses, carpools, and yes, in the end, there will still be many solo drivers. And that get's us back to the traffic congestion and parking problems. New parking lots will help now, but, and I have to go along with the futurists...some day they won't be needed and can be torn down to make way for housing. People will be flying to work and landing on pads. Hyper loops will be transporting people at almost warp speed, well not quite, but you get the picture. People thought Jules Verne was crazy, even tho they loved reading his books many years ago. Well, we, long ago, passed by and beyond, all his ideas and are now launching into a new frontier. Dang! I'm 80 years old and won't be around to see how the new Comprehensive Plan works out. Oh well!

One last thought/question: Who, and how many people will be needed to add to staff to do all the tracking and accounting for the progress of this new Comprehensive Plan? I've asked a very simple question about the quarterly report on ADU's that was promised. No response to date...and I suspect there won't be one forthcoming, unless my good friend, Cory Wolbach, provides one.

Good luck!

6 people like this
Posted by Patrick
a resident of Mountain View
on Nov 9, 2017 at 3:30 pm

Growing up here, I thought there was a true sense that Palo Altans strived to help those in need and go out of their way to improve the world we live in whether it was through community service, technological advances and informed debate.

Now that I am older, I see how this compassion is all sham to cover up a faux-liberalism that champions helping those in need elsewhere while people right around us struggle with housing. It is a tragedy and one that can be stopped.

34 people like this
Posted by Just a Thought...
a resident of Midtown
on Nov 9, 2017 at 3:49 pm

I'd also go so far to say as Palo Alto Forward is Pro-Big Development in a suburban town where big development does not make sense. Palo Alto is not setup geographically, zoning wise and transportation wise to handle much more population growth. Both 101 and 280 are at capacity, Page Mill/Oregon/San Antonio are maxed out and Caltrain is standing room only during rush hour.

There was an Interesting piece on PBS Newshour earlier this month. In particular of interest is the part where they interview the mayor of San Jose, Sam Liccardo, starting 6 minutes in.
Web Link

San Jose wants the office development and is willing to build the 20 story residential towers to support it. It has light rail as well as future plan for BART and high speed rail coming. Younger people can live downtown and the people with families can commute in by rail from suburbs like Milpitas, Fremont, Morgan Hill, Gilroy, etc.
Web Link

The large scale commercial (office, retail and housing) needs to happen where there are existing transit options. Palo Alto Forward is missing the big picture and actually sets Silicon Valley backward.

The future of innovation in Silicon Valley needs San Jose to succeed.

11 people like this
Posted by Just a Thought...
a resident of Midtown
on Nov 9, 2017 at 4:06 pm

Actually the mayor of San Jose's interview happens at about 7 minutes in. Highly recommend watching it. He describes the key differences between the small suburbs that Google, Facebook and Apple grew up in versus an urban, pro development, high density city like San Jose.

Web Link

7 people like this
Posted by PalomAlto Lover & Longtime Resident
a resident of Professorville
on Nov 9, 2017 at 4:22 pm

@ Just a Thought
Sure push there problem onto other municipalities & don’t take any responsibility for helping the regional issues. I’m all for San Jose to thrive and pick up some of the businesses-they need it and hopefully it will become transit rich. That doesn’t mean we should not build more housing here. I bet you like all the services that low-wage workers provide for you not to mention the teachers and firefighters who are our lifeblood. We need to address housing whether San Jose picks up the slack or not.
As for the Comp Plan- you’re being so disrespectful of all the time and energy that hundreds of residents have given. Countless hours of listening, engaging, debating, compromising and darn hard work that went into this over YEARS. All you’re doing is complaining-that’s easy. Understanding the complexity of the issues and coming up with the plan was hard. Shame on all of you who are dismissive of all the work that went into it.

24 people like this
Posted by @Just a Thought
a resident of Mayfield
on Nov 9, 2017 at 4:23 pm

This is a balanced and well thought-through comment.
Don't you think this is becoming a power struggle and a matter of ambition for many (except developers, of course, and those who cater for material or other rewards. They are in it for the money while they can. At some point, PA WILL become a gridlocked hell-hole with no appeal and they will loose interest in an instant)?

It is becoming a boxing match: "We want to cram our office in PA and we will". "No we do not want you here and you won't". How is San Jose different as a location for an office? Why not there? Transportation is better and growth opportunities to the south are vast.

10 people like this
Posted by Abitarian
a resident of Downtown North
on Nov 9, 2017 at 4:58 pm

PalomAlto Lover & Longtime Resident wrote:

"As for the Comp Plan- you’re being so disrespectful of all the time and energy that hundreds of residents have given. Countless hours of listening, engaging, debating, compromising and darn hard work that went into this over YEARS."

Actually, it is the City Council, Planning and Community Environment Department, Planning and Transportation Commission, etc. who are the disrespectful ones.

As a longtime resident, you should know that these decision-makers have a longtime history of emphasizing the portions of the Comp Plan that suit their own political agendas while ignoring the sections that do not.

What people write on Town Square has little, if any, impact on the future of our city. What the decision-makers actually do, well, that's what makes all the difference.

18 people like this
Posted by Just a Thought...
a resident of Midtown
on Nov 9, 2017 at 5:16 pm

@PalomAlto: Regarding the PA comprehensive plan - I have no doubt the 1.7M+1.3M=3M square feet of office will get built regardless of a comment on Palo Alto Online's forum by "Just A Thought". I'd just actually rather build more housing to house the people who already work here and want to live here (including teachers and firefighters) instead of building even more office space to Palo Alto which will add an additional 3M/1000 = 3,000 more working people who will want to live in Palo Alto.

My comment was mostly in response to the comment by @DogLover "I see the no-growthers as NIMBYs who want to return to the idyllic 1960s when Palo Alto was a sleepy suburban town." This is a false dichotomy. You can be pro growth in Silicon Valley where existing public transit options are abundant and it makes logical sense but still be NIMBY for Palo Alto.

@'@Just a Thought": I think its about mindshare among tech CEOs and VCs. There needs to be mindshare about the transformation happening in San Jose among people who can influence where these tech offices get located. They need to know that San Jose is actually the cooler, younger, more vibrant place to have a mailing address. A San Jose mailing address needs to convey "My company needs to be able to grow unbounded by real estate zoning limits".

The housing and retail (and developers to build those projects) will follow this demand. And then maybe then six $150K/year software engineers won't have to cram into a 1950's suburban house anymore. :)

4 people like this
Posted by @arbitrarian
a resident of College Terrace
on Nov 9, 2017 at 5:38 pm

"Actually, it is the City Council, Planning and Community Environment Department, Planning and Transportation Commission, etc. who are the disrespectful ones."

This makes no sense to me. The most recent council election featured candidates like Adrian Fine who made housing the focal point of his campaign. People voted him in. Now, he supports policies to add a lot more housing. I don't see how you think that he is denying the will of the people, or being disrespectful? The will of the people was reflected by their votes

2 people like this
Posted by Former Entrepreneur
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 9, 2017 at 5:53 pm

Just a thought, I think you are going to get your wish. I advise a lot of very small startups, and the twenty something founders I talk to are not interested in locating in Palo Alto. [Portion removed due to factually inaccurate information.] They are more interested in Redwood City or Mountsin View - two towns who seem open to newcomers and innovation, unlike Palo Alto nowadays. I don’t think that’s completely accurate, but that’s the impression the world has of us now.

Maybe the difference between us is that this makes me sad, not happy.

17 people like this
Posted by Just a Thought...
a resident of Midtown
on Nov 9, 2017 at 5:55 pm

@Abitarian - Definitely agree with your comments!

Just wanted to add that the main thought for posting here is that potentially Palo Alto Forward people read these posts and maybe these posts might prompt them to think about the big picture for Silicon Valley and what makes the most sense for the region as a whole instead of frustrating themselves trying to graft urban development onto a transit deficient suburban town. Hopefully it prompts them to ask their employer to investigate/test San Jose as an option for future office locations as well. The affordable, high density urban village with happening night life that you want to transform Palo Alto into already exists in San Jose (which is a good thing):
Web Link
Web Link

It just needs more people to join the party in San Jose!

Local developers also likely read these posts. From a real estate developer standpoint, developing in San Jose is actually way more profitable. Converting an underutilized used car lot near Didiron Station or a 1920's house in San Jose's Japantown where a 10,000 R2 lot is <$1M is way more profitable than an equivalent lot in Palo Alto at $3-5M. And that doesn't even include the property tax carry cost you have to forfeit during the upzoning/permitting process and the risk your project might not pass city council.

And lastly, maybe the small/medium sized startup CEO might read this post and visit the WeWork office tower (or other San Jose downtown) and pay $3-5 per square foot per month instead of $10 in Palo Alto and reduce their burn rate and extend their investor's capital for another year. Not to mention the time your employees could save by being able to walk/bike/light rail to work. :)

8 people like this
Posted by Just a Thought...
a resident of Midtown
on Nov 9, 2017 at 6:20 pm

@Former Entrepreneur: Agree its a bit sad, but on the flip side a renaissance in San Jose really should make you happy for San Jose and the longevity of Silicon Valley as an innovation hub.

As much as I'd love to see single family home prices double (or triple) in Palo Alto again, Palo Alto (and Cupertino) really need to share the benefits of a strong corporate tax base with San Jose instead of taking the corporate tax base and leaving burden of housing (and associated costs of education and other social services) to San Jose.

San Jose is really happening these days. Its growth into a truly global city will make the Bay Area as a region even stronger. It's got all the ground work covered - the SJ Museum of Art, the Discovery kids museum, the Tech science museum, light rail, future BART/HSR plans, the Sharks, the 49ers, San Pedro market square, a Fairmont hotel, SJC international airport.

Saw this on TV yesterday - really want to check it out.
Sonic Runway Exhibition at San Jose City Hall
Web Link

2 people like this
Posted by Former Entrepreneur
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 9, 2017 at 6:32 pm

Just a thought - I am very happy for San Jose. It’s great to see them embracing the kinds of development around the train station that gave us Palo Alto’s original downtown from the 30s and 40s, with its streetcars and it’s eight-story hotels. We ripped out the streetcars and turned Palo Alto into a auto-oriented suburb in the 50s. I’d love to see us reclaim that original vision for our city.

As for home prices, pushing development to San Jose or Redwood City doesn’t change home prices. Atherton has no offices, but their home prices move exactly in tandem with similar homes in Palo Alto. (Believe me, I’ve looked occasionally over the years.) Single-family homes in Palo Alto are now for people who are already successful. People who are still on their way up need not apply. That’s the change I regret from twenty years ago.

11 people like this
Posted by Just a Thought
a resident of Midtown
on Nov 9, 2017 at 6:52 pm

@Former Entrepreneur: Let me reposition it slightly - bear with me :).

What happens if "Palo Alto" were more of a concept than a physical location. More of a frame of mind and the idea of a small town that is open and encourages new ideas/technology/etc., fresh air and a fully lived life. What happens if you could replicate Palo Alto's frame of mind to other locations across the Bay Area so as not to constrain it to a single locale so that more people could experience it and live it first hand.

If you re-locate the tech center to San Jose which has transit (and future high speed transit) options beyond the constraints of the Peninsula geography, you accelerate the pumping of new life into dozens of small downtowns that are very much like downtown Palo Alto circa 1960-1970.

Downtown Morgan Hill
Web Link

Downtown Gilroy
Web Link

Downtown Willow Glen
Web Link

9 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 9, 2017 at 9:43 pm

Actually the “yearn for the idyllic 1960s” people are the YIMBYs who want a single-family house as a starter home. Those days are gone in Palo Alto, and no amount of high density housing near transit will bring them back. Adding ever-growing numbers of affluent young professionals in local apartments will put that even farther away, since it will eventually increase demand for local houses, and the supply of those is fixed (Palo Alto Forward even argues to reduce it).

15 people like this
Posted by Just a Thought...
a resident of Midtown
on Nov 10, 2017 at 1:23 am

[Portion removed.] At some point, Palantir has to decide if it (wants to) [portion removed] continue to pay for overpriced converted retail space in downtown PA, fight Palo Alto office zoning and pay higher cost of living expenses for all their tech employees to live in 1950's duplexes or 6 roommates in single family home on the Peninsula.

Seriously, what 20-30 year old with high disposable tech income wouldn't rather live here?
The 88 - San Jose CA
Web Link

San Jose can handle the capacity much better - it can support about 3000-4000 units per YEAR compared to 3000-4000 in Palo Alto's Comprehensive Plan has set as a target for 2035 cumulatively. Its even good for young families.
Web Link

20 people like this
Posted by mj
a resident of College Terrace
on Nov 10, 2017 at 4:44 pm

@Former Entrepreneur

"I advise a lot of very small startups, and the twenty something founders I talk to are not interested in locating in Palo Alto."

Does this have anything to do with the lack of available office space in the downtown core now deep pocket Palantir is using the downtown core as its corporate campus? Creating a shortage of office space which has effectively squeezing out small start-ups who can no longer afford to compete with Palantir and Amazon for the office space?

Our council majority voted to interpret downtown zoning, a zoning which was intended for small businesses, to allow large corporations doing research and development to expand into the downtown office space. A boon for downtown commercial property owners, but with an outcome that has left few options for small businesses and startups.

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The 34th Annual Palo Alto Weekly Short Story Contest is now accepting entries for Adult, Young Adult and Teen categories. Send us your short story (2,500 words or less) and entry form by March 27, 2020. First, Second and Third Place prizes awarded in each category. Sponsored by Kepler's Books, Linden Tree Books and Bell's Books.

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