News

New zoning district proposed for affordable housing

Palo Alto looks to relax parking requirements, eliminate 'maximum units' for below-market-rate housing projects

In an effort to spur the construction of more affordable housing, Palo Alto is preparing to create a new zoning district that would relax parking requirements and other development standards for residential projects that provide below-market-rate units.

The new "affordable housing combining district," which the Planning and Transportation Commission will review on Feb. 14, is part of the city's broader effort to revise its zoning code so as to meet the City Council's new housing-production goals. At its retreat last Saturday, the council reaffirmed its commitment to helping create new housing and meeting the goals of its Comprehensive Plan, which will require the city to produce about 300 housing units per year between now and 2030.

The city's new Housing Work Plan, which the council began discussing this week and is expected to adopt Monday night, places a particular premium on "affordable housing," which it defines as "affordable to extremely low, very low, low or moderate households," as defined by the area median income.

Santa Clara County's area median income ranges from $74,187 for an individual to $105,937 for a family of four.

For a family of four in the "extremely low" income category -- between 0 and 30 percent of area median income -- affordable rent would be $895. For a family in the "higher moderate" category, with income between 101 and 120 percent of area median income, affordable rent is $3,399.

The Housing Work Plan calls affordability "a huge issue in Palo Alto, where the median rent for a two-bedroom apartment is $3,500, the median sale price for a condo is $1.6 million, and the median sales price for a single-family home is $3.07 million."

"This contributes to both housing insecurity and overcrowding, as residents are forced to spend more and more to pay their rent/mortgage and find themselves living in smaller spaces with more roommate or family members," the plan states. "These issues can affect income-restricted and special-needs populations, such as the elderly and disabled, more than others, and the number of such households in Palo Alto has been increasing over time."

The new affordable-housing combining district would give significant parking concessions to housing developments consisting entirely of below-market-rate units. Normally, the city requires multifamily residential housing to provide 1.25 parking spaces per studio; 1.5 spaces per one-bedroom unit; and 2 spaces per two-bedroom (or larger) units, one of which must be covered.

In the affordable-housing zone, projects would only have to have 0.5 parking spaces per unit. The city's planning director would also have the authority to lower these requirements based on findings that the project would need fewer spaces. For units targeting residents with special needs, the required parking ratio would be 0.3 spaces per unit.

The zoning district could be applied to commercially zoned sites within a half-mile of major transit stops and "high-quality transit corridors," according to a report from the Department of Planning and Community Environment.

The new district would set an important precedent for local zoning: Rather than setting a maximum number of units that could be developed, it is intentionally leaving that variable open. Instead, development will be limited by floor-area-ratio (the actual amount of building that is allowed) and the city's 50-foot height limit, which will continue to apply.

The floor-area ratio in the new district will be 2 to 1, which means that a lot with an area of 25,000 square feet would accommodate up to 50,000 square feet of development.

The new district would also relax development standards relating to how much of a lot is covered by development and usable open space.

The idea of eliminating the "maximum units" requirement was one of more than a dozen proposals that came out of a memo by Councilman Adrian Fine, Mayor Liz Kniss and Councilman Cory Wolbach. The memo, which was unanimously endorsed by the council in November, directed staff to come up with a plan for significantly ramping up housing production near jobs and transit.

On Monday, Planning Director Hillary Gitelman introduced the new Housing Work Plan and emphasized the need for zoning revisions to meet the Comprehensive Plan goal of producing between 3,545 and 4,410 units between now and 2030. Currently, the zoning code is incentivizing property owners to build office spaces instead of housing, she said.

"The rate of housing production in Palo Alto has decreased over time," Gitelman said. "We will have to turn this around if we're to meet our goals."

One project that would directly benefit from the new zone is the proposal by Palo Alto Housing to build 61 units of affordable housing at 3709 El Camino Real, in the Ventura neighborhood. The developer had proposed building 42 parking spaces -- well below what the current code requires but within the standards of the new zoning district.

In reviewing the project last August, members of the City Council generally supported the idea of affordable housing, even as some voiced concerns about this proposal's failure to comply with existing zoning.

Councilwoman Karen Holman was one of several council members who said she would support creating a new "zoning overlay district" -- one that would work in combination with the underlying zoning designation but that would offer additional flexibility to builders of affordable housing.

Such a mechanism, council members agreed, would be preferable to the "planned community" (PC) zoning that the city has used in the past for affordable housing project. A PC district is the product an ad hoc agreement between the city and the developer, who generally proposes a package of "public benefits" in exchange for concessions on height, density and other development standards.

The council agreed to temporarily stop accepting "planned community" applications in 2014, shortly after voters struck down a PC-zoned proposal from Palo Alto Housing that included 60 units for low-income seniors and 12 single-family homes along Maybell Avenue.

"I think this community very much supports affordable housing, but people also have a right to expect projects and proposals that fit in with the context," Holman said during the August review, in arguing in favor of the overlay zone.

Danny Ross, senior development manager at Palo Alto Housing, told the council this week that he is very hopeful that the affordable-housing overlay zone will be approved and implemented soon. Even though Palo Alto is the nonprofit organization's hometown, it has recently expanded into San Mateo County and has been looking for housing sites as far south as San Jose, Ross said.

"The housing crisis is a regional issue and one the city cannot solve alone," Ross said. "In addition to our existing 25 Palo Alto properties and the proposed new development site at Wilton, we'd like to provide even more affordable housing within this city as well."

Ross also requested that the council consider waiving the requirement for ground-floor retail for projects that are 100 percent affordable housing. The retail component, he said, hinders housing projects because it keeps them from being eligible from tax credits, which typically and in large part fund such projects.

The proposed affordable-housing district is the second new zoning district the city has introduced in the past two weeks. On Jan. 31, the Planning and Transportation Commission approved a new "workforce housing combining district" aimed at addressing the "missing middle" -- residents whose income is too high to qualify them for below-market-rate housing but too low to buy at Palo Alto's market rate.

The planning commission also recommended establishing the new district for 2755 El Camino Real to accommodate a 60-unit housing development in which 12 apartments will be deed-restricted to residents making 120 percent of area median income.

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Comments

38 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 7, 2018 at 4:40 pm

I think East Palo Alto has a lot of problems with low income multi family residential units and lack of parking spaces.

I think they have been using Palo Alto streets to park the overflow vehicles.

Don't we ever learn?


46 people like this
Posted by Where do cars go
a resident of Barron Park
on Feb 7, 2018 at 4:52 pm

With insufficient parking included with the building, where will the building residents park?

Don’t most surrounding areas already habve more cars than parking?


51 people like this
Posted by Don't fall for it
a resident of Barron Park
on Feb 7, 2018 at 7:27 pm

Politicians and housing advocates are very skillful at labeling and packaging projects in ways that residents fall for them.

We shouldn't let Palo Alto Housing, the planning commission or the city council dictate how many housing units will be built. We residents, who have worked hard to be able to afford to live in this town, should have more say into how we want the city to grow and preserve the kind of lifestyle we looked for when taking a huge mortgage to live here.

Affordable housing projects sound nice and politically correct, but it's just a scam for developers to make money at the expense of current residents (would you be surprised that many of these developers and housing advocates in Palo Alto Housing and the planning commission don't even live in town, but make suggestions that impact us?).

Someone else had mentioned a great rule to ensure accountability from the decision makers: let's ensure that these proposed high-density projects get placed right in the neighborhoods of the council members pushing for them.


13 people like this
Posted by Eric Rosenblum
a resident of Downtown North
on Feb 7, 2018 at 8:11 pm

This project is several birds in one stone:
-- we need more housing
-- we specifically need more affordable housing
-- we want housing close to transportation to lessen the need for cars

There may be some fine details that need discussion/ adjustment, but I am loving how decisive Council and Staff have been out of the gate in 2018 to make housing and affordability a true priority.

Looking forward to a great PTC discussion


49 people like this
Posted by Curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on Feb 7, 2018 at 9:46 pm

"The new district would also relax development standards relating to how much of a lot is covered by development and usable open space."

Speaking of open space, how about the additional park area necessary to provide recreational space for our new, extra cramped residents? Forbidden cars to take them to the abundant park space in distant suburbs, and denied on site open recreational space, these second-class citizens will be confined to a concrete circuit consisting of their jobs and their housing projects. Where are the required acres of park in the plan?

Also, how do these designated carless denizens do their grocery shopping? Downtown is a food desert.

There's a lot more to urban planning than giddy halfplans, kiddies.


11 people like this
Posted by To much to fast
a resident of Barron Park
on Feb 8, 2018 at 8:20 am

@ Don’t fall for it. I thought we elected Kou and Dubois to protect us from the overreach that is occurring on housing. Where are they on this?


36 people like this
Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 8, 2018 at 9:22 am

What an absolutely terrible idea from every possible angle:

- People -will- own cars, whether you want them to or not. They will be parking them in the exact same neighborhoods where there is already a parking crunch. People are especially inclined to own cars to get to work at locations not near transit. For example, it is obvious to Caltrain riders that lots of people -do- ride Caltrain to Palo Alto, including Stanford, and Mountain View, as well as downtown San Francisco and San Jose (the two largest destinations).*

- The plan sets up a redline within which 100% low-income "projects" will reside. Thankfully, practice in recent years has been the exact opposite, mixing low-income housing throughout, rather than concentrating it in projects within a known boundary. Remember the "Pink Palace" in the Western Addition?** Pruitt-Igoe in St. Louis? Other famous failures of low-income housing? If we've learned anything since the 50's, it is don't do it that way again!

- The entire El Camino corridor is considered "transit", on an equivalent footing with Caltrain, but, city planning and transportation studies all show that people won't walk as far for and don't want to rely on buses to the same extent as fixed rights of way-- rail in particular.*** The whole El Camino "transit" premise of this plan is flawed right there.

This plan is terribly flawed!

* Web Link
** Web Link

*** Web Link
*** Web Link


7 people like this
Posted by Pat Burt
a resident of Community Center
on Feb 8, 2018 at 9:53 am

Pat Burt is a registered user.

Affordable housing projects in Palo Alto have been approved with significantly reduced onsite parking for several decades. Palo Alto Housing Corp recently completed a survey of their projects that confirmed the reduced parking levels more than met the parking requirements of their tenants, even when those projects were not located in transit or pedestrian oriented areas and even though the Housing Corp did not generally provide TDM programs such as transit passes.
Low income tenants generally own fewer cars to begin with. If the new zoning is focused on transit and pedestrian oriented areas and if TDM programs are provided, these affordable housing projects should have lower yet parking needs and trip generation.
City staff and the press need to provide the public with this data so that it can be scrutinized and more widely seen.


8 people like this
Posted by Pete
a resident of College Terrace
on Feb 8, 2018 at 10:22 am

Great. We need so much more housing and parking minimums are dumb anyway. We should look at getting rid of the 50 foot height limit and also reconsider the bus only lanes on El Camino.


36 people like this
Posted by Low Income Folks Need Cars More Than Anyone
a resident of Crescent Park
on Feb 8, 2018 at 11:29 am

What absurdity that, "Low income tenants generally own fewer cars to begin with."

Nope. If you're not a wealthy professional, you often have multiple jobs, some far away, and need to drive to those. And to deal with high rents you share apartments, so the number of cars per unit actually goes up, not down.

And TDMs are a joke. No TDM prevents people from parking on neighboring streets.


39 people like this
Posted by Novelera
a resident of Midtown
on Feb 8, 2018 at 11:32 am

Novelera is a registered user.

We can always count on a cheerleading comment from someone at Palo Alto Forward, in this case Eric Rosenblum. I reject all three of your bullet points. Palo Alto is pretty much built out. Low supply increases demand, thus costs rise. Why do people who've worked so hard to live here have to bear the burden of traffic congestion (get real about building near transit; people will continue to drive)? Why do we have to deal with overcrowding in our highly rated schools? If we jam thousands more kids in, maybe the affordable problem will solve itself. People who want good schools won't move here any more.

Nowhere in the cheerleading comments is there a mention of limiting tech businesses in town.

I do not believe that supposedly "affordable" housing will be occupied by police, firefighters and service workers. They'll be starter houses for tech.


27 people like this
Posted by correction request
a resident of Midtown
on Feb 8, 2018 at 11:47 am

correction request is a registered user.

@PA Online

The project at 2755 El Camino (VTA lot) does NOT deed restrict at 120% AMI. Instead, six units will be deed restricted at 140% AMI and six at 150% AMI. Rents for those deed restricted studio and one-bedroom units are in the $3,100 - $3,500 range, not including parking. According to the city's Housing Work Plan, current median PA rent for a *two-bedroom* is $3,500, typically including parking.

The difference between 120% AMI ($95,000/yr) and 150% AMI ($119,000/yr) is significant. It is not at all clear that the poster child project (2755 El Camino) driving the WH rezoning, will improve affordability for that oft-mentioned missing middle. Even for the 12 deed restricted units.


6 people like this
Posted by Todd
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 8, 2018 at 12:27 pm

@Novelera

If the residents of Palo Alto are so concerned about congestion and crowding they should have considered that before having kids.


35 people like this
Posted by sad
a resident of Midtown
on Feb 8, 2018 at 1:20 pm

Remember the poor-door situation in NYC apartments where BMR residents were cut off from all the building amenities the market-rate residents had access to, and people across the country were outraged? Now we have a similar situation in Palo Alto where developers are not required to provide low-income residents with basic things market-rate residents would get. No parking space for low-income people. No open space for low-income people. No bedrooms for low-income people.

Low-income people are not some lesser class of human whose living accommodations should be held to a lower standard than everyone else's. The El Camino proposal is shameful. They have residents crammed side by side in 350 sqft rooms like they're trying to get tenement housing to make a comeback.


33 people like this
Posted by Curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on Feb 8, 2018 at 5:49 pm

Curmudgeon is a registered user.

"Palo Alto Housing Corp recently completed a survey of their projects that confirmed the reduced parking levels more than met the parking requirements of their tenants..."

You know, if I had spent years on a wait list for an apartment, I'd carefully feed back whatever answer the landlord doing the survey wanted to see.

How about anonymous surveys conducted by disinterested third parties? Any such exist?


30 people like this
Posted by Gale Johnson
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Feb 8, 2018 at 8:03 pm

Gale Johnson is a registered user.

My head is abuzz with so many numbers...income levels, parking space numbers, rent rates, apartment sizes. And they seem to change from one day to the next as they are reported in newspapers and online articles. The term 'affordable' gets a new definition quite often also. Let's face it. Every home in PA is affordable. Someone owns them.

The attempt at rezoning and the goals of it are clear. It's meant for young singles, maybe couples, but certainly not for families. And it will serve mostly high income earners in the tech industry. Oh, and half of the rented units' occupants won't own cars. Really?


12 people like this
Posted by Juan
a resident of Mountain View
on Feb 8, 2018 at 8:49 pm

[Post removed.]


52 people like this
Posted by where?
a resident of Downtown North
on Feb 8, 2018 at 10:15 pm

Downtown Palo Alto and the areas around Cal Ave currently have more than their fair share of BMR housing. I'd suggest the next project be built in Old Palo Alto, Community Center or Crescent Park (areas that also have plenty of on-street parking) so all Palo Alto residents can share the benefits of neighbors of a larger range of socioeconomic backgrounds.


39 people like this
Posted by No to housing
a resident of Downtown North
on Feb 8, 2018 at 11:08 pm

This is the kind of thoughtless "crap" that we get from the majority that make up the "all growth is good" majority on the city council. Fine, Tanaka, Kniss, Wolbach and Scharff are always pushing for bigger buildings, more people and more money to hand out to city employees.

They are clueless when it comes to taking care of residents needs. Residents - you know - the people who elected them. They overcrowd our schools, parks, playing fields, destroy the quality of the environment by encouraging overpopulation, and make the city a poor place to live. They hand out raises to city staff every year but don't do a thing to add parks, playing fields, gyms, pools, resident services for us.

We cannot build our way out of the disastrous overpopulation bubble that the greed driven developers and employers have turned this area into, but if we had elected thinking people to city council they might understand the ramifications of constant growth and would understand that it is not supportable. They might fight to stop development instead of blindly jumping on the "build until you smother everyone" bandwagon.

Next election don't vote for anyone who mentions building more housing or office space, or believes the magical fairy tale that people will not drive cars. If you can find one - elect someone who understands science and the consequences of overpopulation, someone who understands limits of environments, someone who can read a map and see where the flood zone is and not build there, someone who can read a financial balance sheet and someone who knows when to stop making the mess worse.


14 people like this
Posted by too late
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 9, 2018 at 12:01 am

It's already too late. The 5-7 BR homes are being jammed with renters, who likely constitute the majority of voters. Wolbach, Fine, and their PAF friends are going to continue to dominate the CC.


27 people like this
Posted by Slippery slope
a resident of College Terrace
on Feb 9, 2018 at 7:53 am

After we're done segregating zoning by income level are we going to start segregating zoning by race? Because you know, those other people just don't live like we do, they're just not like us. A low income person driving a car? Where would they even be going? I just can't imagine.


14 people like this
Posted by Donster
a resident of University South
on Feb 9, 2018 at 9:34 am

So cordon off the commoners in their own district with insufficient parking? Sounds like the creation of a ghetto Palo Alto style to me. Heaven forbid that ordinary people are welcomed into our oh so perfect, Uber politically correct, sophisticated (!) paradise.

So much for the Palo Alto of days gone by.


6 people like this
Posted by Donster
a resident of University South
on Feb 9, 2018 at 9:37 am

"This is the kind of thoughtless "crap" that we get from the majority that make up the "all growth is good" majority on the city council."

See what I mean?


4 people like this
Posted by stephen levy
a resident of University South
on Feb 9, 2018 at 2:09 pm

stephen levy is a registered user.

Increasing the amount of subsidized housing for low and moderate income residents is a major city priority--in the Housing Element, in the Comp Plan and at the CAC meetings. All of these actions were by large majority or unanimous vote and I dno not remember a single council person who does not support housing for low income residents.

This proposal is a step towards makin git easier to achieve a priority goal.

The first project likely to be covered by this ordinance will be the Palo Alto Housing project on ECR and Wilton.

That project, for those who have not been following the details, is now planned to have a substantial number of special needs residents who have very low car ownership. This community was a large part of our life while Becky was alive and I know a good bit about living arrangements for special needs adults.

In most BMR projects the tax credit part of the financing depends on keeping the cost per unit low so project design and requirements can either support the project or make it not feasible.

I hope the PTC discusses the proposed ordinance, passes along suggestions to council and the council moves this forward quickly so special needs families, waiting for years if not decades can find safe independent housing for their now adult children


18 people like this
Posted by Marie
a resident of Midtown
on Feb 9, 2018 at 2:38 pm

Marie is a registered user.

I oppose any funding with tax credits that has time limits for the low income status. Casa Olga on Hamilton was built with tax credits that meant that after 30 years, it no longer needed to be a low income, assisted living facility. The elderly tenants, presumably in poor health if they qualified for assisted living were evicted so that the building could be turned into a luxury hotel (Hotel Epiphany) and restaurant (Nobu) now owned by Larry Ellison.

We need low and moderate income housing that is permanent, that won't revert to market rate housing.


6 people like this
Posted by Me 2
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Feb 9, 2018 at 2:55 pm

"Downtown Palo Alto and the areas around Cal Ave currently have more than their fair share of BMR housing. I'd suggest the next project be built in Old Palo Alto, Community Center or Crescent Park (areas that also have plenty of on-street parking) so all Palo Alto residents can share the benefits of neighbors of a larger range of socioeconomic backgrounds."

Keep that envy in check. Land acquisition costs would already torpedo any project in those neighborhoods.

If you weren't already hindering housing for so long, the costs of placing something next to Larry Page's house might have been possible. But your residentialist attitude made made housing so expensive that it's no longer possible.

That being said, BMR housing is stupid. We just need market-rate housing.


6 people like this
Posted by @me 2
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Feb 9, 2018 at 3:06 pm

You are arguing that the cost per acre downtown is lower than cost per acre in Old Palo Alto or Crescent Park.

It’s a losing argument.


13 people like this
Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 9, 2018 at 3:16 pm

Posted by stephen levy, a resident of University South

Thank you for the concise statement.

>> Increasing the amount of subsidized housing for low and moderate income residents is a major city priority--in the Housing Element, in the Comp Plan and at the CAC meetings. All of these actions were by large majority or unanimous vote and I dno not remember a single council person who does not support housing for low income residents.

You can call it a "market failure", or whatever, but, the problem is that there is a very limited amount of land available near the real transit hubs of downtown and Cal Ave. Caltrain. The land in this "walkable city" area is all quite valuable. Which is why developments like the one under consideration here are quite a distance down ECR.

>> This proposal is a step towards making it easier to achieve a priority goal.

It goes far, far beyond that, though. Because some areas won't be viable for redevelopment, the area along ECR South of Lambert could become a long mass concentration of low-income housing projects. I think that is a really bad idea.

>> The first project likely to be covered by this ordinance will be the Palo Alto Housing project on ECR and Wilton.

>> That project, for those who have not been following the details, is now planned to have a substantial number of special needs residents who have very low car ownership. This community was a large part of our life while Becky was alive and I know a good bit about living arrangements for special needs adults.

I don't doubt the special needs residents themselves will have low car ownership. I know that either they will have live-in paid aides (often with cars), or, will need drive-up visitor parking. And, non-special-needs residents will inevitably have cars. Has anyone ever done a statistically valid (reliable, reproducible, robust) study of such communities and the traffic and parking requirements?

>> In most BMR projects the tax credit part of the financing depends on keeping the cost per unit low so project design and requirements can either support the project or make it not feasible.

Sure, but, wishful thinking is not appropriate either. The particular area in question already has a major parking problem, so, any project going in needs to make things better, not worse. Your caveats in the above paragraph are making me more nervous rather than less. Someone could interpret the above as saying that working from realistic requirements will raise the cost too much.

>> I hope the PTC discusses the proposed ordinance, passes along suggestions to council and the council moves this forward quickly so special needs families, waiting for years if not decades can find safe independent housing for their now adult children

A laudable goal for sure, but, I also want realistic parking requirements for all projects, including this one. I don't think the actual requirements are determined by the tax credits and financing available, but rather, by the actual residents driving/transportation habits after they move in.


13 people like this
Posted by Bill
a resident of Barron Park
on Feb 9, 2018 at 4:09 pm

> Keep that envy in check. Land acquisition costs would already torpedo any project in those neighborhoods.

Nah, that's easily solved. Rent the parking lots next to the Stern Community Center and Rinconada library to Pat Burt's friends at PAH for $1/year. Build under-parked, dense, high rise affordable housing on these sites.

[Portion removed.]


11 people like this
Posted by Curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on Feb 9, 2018 at 5:06 pm

"Increasing the amount of subsidized housing for low and moderate income residents is a major city priority--in the Housing Element, in the Comp Plan and at the CAC meetings. All of these actions were by large majority or unanimous vote and I dno not remember a single council person who does not support housing for low income residents."

The support for subsidized housing in the abstract--and in someone else's neighborhood--is always strong. But where's the equally enthusiastic commitment to a definite realistic plan for economic realizability?


Like this comment
Posted by to steve levy
a resident of College Terrace
on Feb 10, 2018 at 12:24 am

BMR housing for special needs residents sounds like an important goal. Could you provide more info on the ECR/Wilton proposal? Thank you.


22 people like this
Posted by PAResident
a resident of College Terrace
on Feb 10, 2018 at 9:04 am

The reality is people need cars. Don't cram in more housing without realistic consideration of congestion, parking, schools and impact to city services. We need city council members who value the needs of Palo Alto's future *and* current residents.


6 people like this
Posted by Donster
a resident of University South
on Feb 10, 2018 at 2:45 pm

"Affordable housing projects in Palo Alto have been approved with significantly reduced onsite parking for several decades."

What is the street parking situation like around those projects? Not a rhetorical question, by the way. If parking around existing affordable housing units is OK, then perhaps additional parking in the projects is not necessary.


3 people like this
Posted by Curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on Feb 10, 2018 at 4:56 pm

"You are arguing that the cost per acre downtown is lower than cost per acre in Old Palo Alto or Crescent Park. It’s a losing argument."

Maybe, but it's another argument to stick Downtown the kind of housing that Crescent Parkers (and Old Palo Altans and Community Centerians and ...) don't want stuck in their own neighborhoods.

I would bet, however, that it's much easier to buy an acre in Crescent Park than in Downtown, based on owner willingness to sell.


4 people like this
Posted by Pat Burt
a resident of Community Center
on Feb 10, 2018 at 6:26 pm

My understanding is that the survey performed by PA Housing Corp looked at the parking utilization rate of their many "reduced parking" projects that were built as PC's over several decades in Palo Alto and that even the reduced parking was not fully utilized. That indicates a lack of spillover into neighborhoods since the parking was free to residents. I am trying to get that report.
Lastly, a poster was concerned about how reliable responses from tenants would be in the Housing Corp survey. The survey looked at the physical use of the parking rather than asking tenants to self report their patterns.


16 people like this
Posted by Allen Akin
a resident of Professorville
on Feb 10, 2018 at 6:42 pm

Allen Akin is a registered user.

If the PA Housing Corp survey covered only the parking spaces in the projects themselves, it's not sufficient. Observations downtown have shown that parking in the neighborhoods is still being used even when there is space available in the garages. I know I'm personally guilty of this sort of behavior; I'll often take a street or open-lot space with easy access rather than a garage space that takes a while to get into and out of.


4 people like this
Posted by Donster
a resident of University South
on Feb 11, 2018 at 5:40 pm

"If the PA Housing Corp survey covered only the parking spaces in the projects themselves, it's not sufficient. Observations downtown have shown that parking in the neighborhoods is still being used even when there is space available in the garages."

Observations by whom? If it was part of a formal study, could you please cite the source.

If you are referring to public parking garages, their utilization patterns might well be different than for on-premises parking at apartments or condos.


12 people like this
Posted by Allen Akin
a resident of Professorville
on Feb 11, 2018 at 8:27 pm

Allen Akin is a registered user.

@Donster: Neilson Buchanan takes photographs to document garage occupancy during the parking surveys that a number of us perform from time to time. This has been going on for quite a while.

But my point was this: If someone wants to assert that a project has had no impact on neighborhood parking, they need to show statistically meaningful before-and-after measurements of neighborhood parking. Counting cars in the project's garage is not going to tell us what we need to know, because it measures something else.


20 people like this
Posted by Curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on Feb 11, 2018 at 8:56 pm

"...a poster was concerned about how reliable responses from tenants would be in the Housing Corp survey. The survey looked at the physical use of the parking rather than asking tenants to self report their patterns."

I'm that poster, and now I'm even more concerned.

Glance-around "surveys" like this are worse than no data at all, even though they may yield the answer the surveyor wanted at the outset. Sigh. Scientifically valid data can be such a nuisance to our city planning process.

We need two vital pieces of information to break out of this rut of planning by wishful thinking du jour:

1) Rectify this halfbaked data shoveling exercise by conducting an anonymous car ownership survey of all residents of our current housing projects. That's relatively easy. Publish the result. (Caveat: Don't let this languish in limbo like the city's phantom survey of transit use by residents of existing multifamily developments near the train stations. Be brave and actually do it.)

2) This step is much harder, and its answer may not exist. Find a valid method free of confirmation bias to extrapolate those results from the current population of residents to predict the car ownership wants/necessities of the possibly very different population expected to occupy the new subsidized housing. This is the result we need before proceeding further.


14 people like this
Posted by James
a resident of another community
on Feb 12, 2018 at 7:36 am

...Rents for those deed restricted studio and one-bedroom units are in the $3,100 - $3,500 range, not including parking.

Did anyone catch that "not including parking?" Developers are squeezing a bit more cash from tenants by charging extra for parking. This means that those of us who bristle at paying this fee might just as soon park on the street. Even if there is available space, will the second family car and the work truck be parked outside?

Watch out for a couple of other work-arounds. Puzzle parking: Hydraulic lifts stack cars in the garage to be retrieved by moving vehicles around into the empty space in the multi-level jigsaw array. Larger cars and trucks will not fit but you can jam in more small cars in the same space. Hopefully the machinery and operating system will be flawless. Otherwise, tenants will lose confidence and park on the street.

Valet Parking: I've seen this in a plan to build a massive project in Redwood City along the "transit oriented corridor" of El Camino Real. Plans for one apartment building and four office buildings on six blocks total 8.3 acres. The apartment building is seven stories, over 81 feet in height. The office buildings would be smaller, one at four stories and the others at three. The four office buildings would provide 590,000 square feet of office space and some retail. Sixty of the 272 apartments will be below market rate. There are plans for child care, roof deck and some green space. Parking for the offices will be by valet. I'm not sure if this means that the developer can decrease the space required for parking. But, those who don't want to surrender their cars or tip the valet will be parking on the street.


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