News

Off Deadline: Looking at Silicon Valley's housing quagmire

Region could face end of golden era as corporations, people relocate elsewhere

Housing — or the lack of it — is once again grabbing headlines and TV time in California, with a special edge of urgency in the Palo Alto/Silicon Valley region.

The six candidates for governor are being grilled on how they would address (few use the term "solve") what is now almost universally called a "housing crisis."

A recent annual conference on the trends and future of Silicon Valley warned that unless the crisis as addressed effectively it could mean the end of the golden era of Silicon Valley — as corporations and people relocate elsewhere where housing is cheaper and living is easier.

Here's the crux of the problem: Statewide about 180,000 new housing units are needed each year just to keep up with population growth, according to the state's Department of Finance.

But the state has been falling short of that number by about 80,000 units annually for the past eight years, the department estimates.

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The Silicon Valley warnings are outlined explicitly in my Jan. 20 and Feb. 23 columns.

While the severe "jobs/housing imbalance" has been discussed in and around Palo Alto for decades, the talking has vastly exceeded the doing — at least, doing anything effective. Today we have highways flooded with long-distance commuters and land-use policies that allow or even encourage job-producing developments with no balance of housing.

A strong incentive to do something is simply the economic suffering caused by stratospheric housing costs. Yet barriers to action are formidable, ranging from an inability of cities and counties to form focused, effective working relationships with regional and state agencies to the neighborhood-level resistance to increased density and urbanization. There also are unspoken concerns about "those people" moving into neighborhoods through affordable-housing projects, whether those be ethnic or racial minorities, existing homeless persons, seniors or others.

A major stimulant for today's intensity about the subject is the McKinsey Report, published in October 2016. It called for construction of 3.5 million new housing units by 2025 to stabilize the state's housing imbalance and meet future needs. In a March 8 forum in Sacramento, all six candidates for California governor focused on the topic of housing, with appropriate pledges to do something.

Republican candidates Travis Allen and John Cox called for tax-cut incentives and decreased regulations. Cox said he can build apartments in Indiana for $80,000 each compared to $700,000 each in San Francisco, or $400,000 in Sacramento and $300,000 in Fresno.

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Democratic candidates Gavin Newsom, Antonio Villaraigosa and Delaine Easton and John Chung favored increasing affordable-housing tax credits, bringing back redevelopment agencies backed by a state trust fund for housing, housing bonds and revenue streams for housing.

Easton cited the need for new housing bonds and a reliable "revenue stream" to incentivize construction.

When pressed by the Los Angeles Times, Newsom was blunt about the goal: "I knew it was unprecedented and audacious. But it's what must be done.

"A crisis of this magnitude requires ... an affordable housing 'moonshot.' We can't stand by and do nothing as skyrocketing housing costs and the habitual undersupply of (housing) slowly erodes the California Dream and forces more families onto the streets and out of their communities."

Villaraigosa matched the urgency: "It's not about when the clock starts — what I am saying is time is up. ... This is a man-made disaster. It is making middle-class families poor, and making poor families homeless. I've also said we need everything and everyone at the table to find comprehensive, multi-faceted solutions" rather than "one-off policy proposals" that "often pit one interest against the other."

So here we are, facing a potential economic earthquake in Silicon Valley with no clear path ahead to avoid the unnatural consequence of actions and inactions occurring since the 1950s.

Longtime Palo Alto resident Gale Johnson recalls his experience, in response to one of my earlier columns on the housing crisis.

"Yes, it is a 'crisis' now (emphasized) if you work here and can't afford to live here. The commutes are more daunting, much farther and slower, with more highway and local traffic congestion, and parking is also a big problem," he wrote.

"The 'away from home' times are extended by three to four hours because of the commute times. Although, as you pointed out, long commuting isn't a new phenomenon. Even going back to the '60s ... we came here in '61 ... (the) cost of housing was a problem and long commutes were the norm.

"I worked for Kaiser Electronics, located on Page Mill Road in the Stanford Industrial Park. HP's original plant, at the top of the hill, was our neighbor. We had about 300 employees at that time and only about a dozen of us lived in Palo Alto. Many drove from Sunnyvale, Cupertino and San Jose, and some lived in Fremont and commuted across Dumbarton Bridge every day. Others lived in Milpitas, and the distance record was held by a mechanical designer, Lloyd Evans, who lived in Bonny Doon."

Johnson recalled when he lived in a Brown & Kaufman tract home in south Palo Alto: "I could only dream about a big home in north Palo Alto, where the really rich and important/influential people lived. But it is also a fact that back in the early '60s, teachers, firemen, policemen, craftsmen (plumbers and carpenters), pastors, small business owners, secretaries/administrators and others who were not high-income professionals could afford to live here, in my part of town.

"But we also had doctors, lawyers and company owners/executives in the early years of their careers living in our neighborhood. Race, ethnic, religious and economic diversity made our neighborhood a vibrant and exciting area to live in."

Former Weekly Editor Jay Thorwaldson can be emailed at jaythor@well.com.

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Off Deadline: Looking at Silicon Valley's housing quagmire

Region could face end of golden era as corporations, people relocate elsewhere

by / Palo Alto Weekly

Uploaded: Sat, Mar 17, 2018, 9:07 am
Updated: Mon, Mar 19, 2018, 8:18 am

Housing — or the lack of it — is once again grabbing headlines and TV time in California, with a special edge of urgency in the Palo Alto/Silicon Valley region.

The six candidates for governor are being grilled on how they would address (few use the term "solve") what is now almost universally called a "housing crisis."

A recent annual conference on the trends and future of Silicon Valley warned that unless the crisis as addressed effectively it could mean the end of the golden era of Silicon Valley — as corporations and people relocate elsewhere where housing is cheaper and living is easier.

Here's the crux of the problem: Statewide about 180,000 new housing units are needed each year just to keep up with population growth, according to the state's Department of Finance.

But the state has been falling short of that number by about 80,000 units annually for the past eight years, the department estimates.

The Silicon Valley warnings are outlined explicitly in my Jan. 20 and Feb. 23 columns.

While the severe "jobs/housing imbalance" has been discussed in and around Palo Alto for decades, the talking has vastly exceeded the doing — at least, doing anything effective. Today we have highways flooded with long-distance commuters and land-use policies that allow or even encourage job-producing developments with no balance of housing.

A strong incentive to do something is simply the economic suffering caused by stratospheric housing costs. Yet barriers to action are formidable, ranging from an inability of cities and counties to form focused, effective working relationships with regional and state agencies to the neighborhood-level resistance to increased density and urbanization. There also are unspoken concerns about "those people" moving into neighborhoods through affordable-housing projects, whether those be ethnic or racial minorities, existing homeless persons, seniors or others.

A major stimulant for today's intensity about the subject is the McKinsey Report, published in October 2016. It called for construction of 3.5 million new housing units by 2025 to stabilize the state's housing imbalance and meet future needs. In a March 8 forum in Sacramento, all six candidates for California governor focused on the topic of housing, with appropriate pledges to do something.

Republican candidates Travis Allen and John Cox called for tax-cut incentives and decreased regulations. Cox said he can build apartments in Indiana for $80,000 each compared to $700,000 each in San Francisco, or $400,000 in Sacramento and $300,000 in Fresno.

Democratic candidates Gavin Newsom, Antonio Villaraigosa and Delaine Easton and John Chung favored increasing affordable-housing tax credits, bringing back redevelopment agencies backed by a state trust fund for housing, housing bonds and revenue streams for housing.

Easton cited the need for new housing bonds and a reliable "revenue stream" to incentivize construction.

When pressed by the Los Angeles Times, Newsom was blunt about the goal: "I knew it was unprecedented and audacious. But it's what must be done.

"A crisis of this magnitude requires ... an affordable housing 'moonshot.' We can't stand by and do nothing as skyrocketing housing costs and the habitual undersupply of (housing) slowly erodes the California Dream and forces more families onto the streets and out of their communities."

Villaraigosa matched the urgency: "It's not about when the clock starts — what I am saying is time is up. ... This is a man-made disaster. It is making middle-class families poor, and making poor families homeless. I've also said we need everything and everyone at the table to find comprehensive, multi-faceted solutions" rather than "one-off policy proposals" that "often pit one interest against the other."

So here we are, facing a potential economic earthquake in Silicon Valley with no clear path ahead to avoid the unnatural consequence of actions and inactions occurring since the 1950s.

Longtime Palo Alto resident Gale Johnson recalls his experience, in response to one of my earlier columns on the housing crisis.

"Yes, it is a 'crisis' now (emphasized) if you work here and can't afford to live here. The commutes are more daunting, much farther and slower, with more highway and local traffic congestion, and parking is also a big problem," he wrote.

"The 'away from home' times are extended by three to four hours because of the commute times. Although, as you pointed out, long commuting isn't a new phenomenon. Even going back to the '60s ... we came here in '61 ... (the) cost of housing was a problem and long commutes were the norm.

"I worked for Kaiser Electronics, located on Page Mill Road in the Stanford Industrial Park. HP's original plant, at the top of the hill, was our neighbor. We had about 300 employees at that time and only about a dozen of us lived in Palo Alto. Many drove from Sunnyvale, Cupertino and San Jose, and some lived in Fremont and commuted across Dumbarton Bridge every day. Others lived in Milpitas, and the distance record was held by a mechanical designer, Lloyd Evans, who lived in Bonny Doon."

Johnson recalled when he lived in a Brown & Kaufman tract home in south Palo Alto: "I could only dream about a big home in north Palo Alto, where the really rich and important/influential people lived. But it is also a fact that back in the early '60s, teachers, firemen, policemen, craftsmen (plumbers and carpenters), pastors, small business owners, secretaries/administrators and others who were not high-income professionals could afford to live here, in my part of town.

"But we also had doctors, lawyers and company owners/executives in the early years of their careers living in our neighborhood. Race, ethnic, religious and economic diversity made our neighborhood a vibrant and exciting area to live in."

Former Weekly Editor Jay Thorwaldson can be emailed at jaythor@well.com.

Comments

Anon
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 16, 2018 at 3:31 pm
Anon, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 16, 2018 at 3:31 pm
86 people like this

"the housing crisis":

>>> "Yes, it is a 'crisis' now (emphasized) if you work here and can't afford to live here. The commutes are more daunting, much farther and slower, with more highway and local traffic congestion, and parking is also a big problem," he wrote.

Why would someone accept a job here if they can't afford to live here? I mean that seriously. That is not a "crisis". A crisis is when the Titanic hits the iceberg and starts to sink. When Pearl Harbor was attacked. Pick your favorite crises.

Someone accepting a job that doesn't pay enough to live in the neighborhood is not a crisis.

Why are companies insisting on locating "here" -- in Palo Alto, or in SF, or on the Peninsula -- if they can't pay enough for employees to live here?

And why are companies that have grown large, like Facebook, still building centralized campuses here? Everything they do is networked -- they can build satellite campuses in other, more affordable locations? HP did it back in the 70's very successfully-- before we had incredibly fast networks linking everything.

Why am I pushing back on the word "crisis"? Because people often make suboptimal decisions in crises. They often have to. But, we have time to make better decisions, and, dare I say it-- it is unlikely that the decisions that are being pushed in an artificial crisis by -developers- are optimal for the rest of us.


Resident
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 16, 2018 at 3:47 pm
Resident, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 16, 2018 at 3:47 pm
59 people like this

Housing is not a crisis. At least not the only crisis. The fact that even if we could house all the new residents that these new jobs will produce, it will not solve the real crisis of over-population and poor transportation, infrastructure and the geographic boundaries of the region.

The transportation crisis means that we should be looking at ways to get around that doesn't involve 7, 8 or 9 agencies that run our buses, trains, ferries, etc. in the SF Bay region. We have to whittle them down so that they are not duplicating service and they need to be affordable, efficient alternatives to solo driving, not transportation for the poor or overnight sleeping places for the homeless.

The infrastructure is more than just roads, water, parking and the availability of food stuffs, but it is parks, theaters, dentists, after school programs, childcare, recreation,entertainment, socialization and other things that make life worth living.

The Bay is bang, splash, in the middle. We have flat valley areas surrounding it with a few bridges. We have a few highways which are packed. We have a few rail corridors which are packed. We have suburban sprawl between 3 urban areas, San Francisco, Oakland and San Jose. We have no more relatively flat space on which to build. We then have steep mountain terrain which although not particularly high is still not accommodating to high density. And in case anyone forgets, this is earthquake country too.

It is alright to say build high density homes. But that forgets the rest.

The crisis really is the rest and where to put those other things that an increase in population warrants.


Robert
another community
on Mar 16, 2018 at 4:14 pm
Robert, another community
on Mar 16, 2018 at 4:14 pm
24 people like this

Stop the presses: there are homeowners in Palo Alto who don't believe we have a housing crisis???


Anon
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 16, 2018 at 7:42 pm
Anon, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 16, 2018 at 7:42 pm
67 people like this

Posted by Robert, a resident of another community

>> Stop the presses: there are homeowners in Palo Alto who don't believe we have a housing crisis???

8 out of 10 years for the last 50 years more people wanted to live in Palo Alto than could afford to. That I know of. (Maybe it has been 100 years for all I know.) If you double the housing in Palo Alto, there will still be true. That doesn't sound like a "crisis" to me. It sounds like supply and demand. People like the nice, quiet, tree-lined streets, bicycle paths, schools, and bearded liberals. Unfortunately, Palo Alto's desirability has put it in the sights of, ahem, Developers, who will eventually kill it.

The only odd thing about all this is that presumably there are hundreds of thousands of people around here in this hotbed of capitalism who apparently don't understand equilibrium prices.


Observer
University South
on Mar 17, 2018 at 10:31 am
Observer, University South
on Mar 17, 2018 at 10:31 am
17 people like this

It’s not a complete solution, but Palo Alto needs to do its part. And we can start by permitting affordable housing to be built. There’s an affordable housing proposal on the table right now. Let’s approve this one and make sure no one takes it to referendum this time. Last time, we had the new residentialist movement, but we didn’t have any counterbalance. Now we have a lot of activated residents out to protect our shot at getting some affordable housing.

I’m crossing my fingers for this one.


Juan
Mountain View
on Mar 17, 2018 at 11:04 am
Juan, Mountain View
on Mar 17, 2018 at 11:04 am
23 people like this

When you advocate against referendum you're advocating against democracy. Let the people decide whether this should be built or not. Put it on the ballot.


You-Need-To-Have-Skin-In-The-Game
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 17, 2018 at 1:22 pm
You-Need-To-Have-Skin-In-The-Game, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 17, 2018 at 1:22 pm
6 people like this

The future of the investments of those who own property in a town like Palo Alto should not be left up to a "vote" of the faceless and nameless, many (if not most) have no direct financial stake in the outcome of such an election.

If you believe that such the "voters" should decide such matters--then maybe it's time to put the question of wealth redistribution on the ballot-giving the voters the power to authorize the government to seize all financial and physical assets from those who currently possess legally these assets, and redistribute them to those who don't.


Solving the Housing "Crisis"
Crescent Park
on Mar 17, 2018 at 1:30 pm
Solving the Housing "Crisis", Crescent Park
on Mar 17, 2018 at 1:30 pm
36 people like this

If local journalists and politicians can't find some crisis to trumpet, no one will listen to them. Housing is just their latest boogeyman.

Eventually, everyone will realize that building lots more housing will actually make it even more expensive. Land prices skyrocket when speculators think they can make a killing on redevelopment. Construction workers are in short supply and so there's massive wage inflation. And high tech firms are emboldened to expand locally whenever politicians promise more housing, so local demand for homes will increasingly outpace supply.

Take the current proposal for the VTA parking lot at El Camino and Page Mill. It claims it will provide affordable housing, but it will actually be the most expensive new housing of its kind anywhere in Palo Alto. That means it will increase average housing prices, not lower them. Oops.

A far better solution is to run an ad campaign in other cities saying "Don't Come to the Bay Area -- You'll Regret It." Let's copy anti-smoking commercials and show sunken-eyed residents suffering from six hours commutes or living in bunk beds. Faced with dwindling recruits, local companies will finally start expanding elsewhere, those communities will benefit from an inflow of income and talent, and everyone will be better off.

Well everyone except the journalists. They'll have to find some new crisis.


oscar acosta
Evergreen Park
on Mar 17, 2018 at 1:43 pm
oscar acosta, Evergreen Park
on Mar 17, 2018 at 1:43 pm
Like this comment

[Post removed.]


Ilikemyhouse
Crescent Park
on Mar 17, 2018 at 2:06 pm
Ilikemyhouse, Crescent Park
on Mar 17, 2018 at 2:06 pm
51 people like this

Yes, there is no housing crisis in Palo Alto. At most, there is an irrational-demand-for-housing crisis. (Exception: yes, the City should help build its fair share of low income housing, BUT WITHIN ZONING LAWS).
The solution to the "crisis" is what the article fears will happen -- some companies will go elsewhere. Given the situation, that's a good thing.


Politicians....
Palo Alto High School
on Mar 17, 2018 at 6:26 pm
Politicians...., Palo Alto High School
on Mar 17, 2018 at 6:26 pm
18 people like this

Politicians are all about tax and spend, not efficiently and effectively solving public problems. The upper middle class is fed up with this. If you’re a SV billionaire, then you’re unaffected.
No way to engineer out of the housing “crisis.” Encoragements and incentives may be tried,, but not comvoluted programs involving offices of bureaucrats who choose the “winners” (special subsidized housing schemes).
Reality is limited space, desirable location. A better approach is a region-wide VERY optimized transit system so other areas are feasible for residences, while access to the “core” of Silicon Valley is not too time consuming orvexpensive.
Raise up and improve other local areas like San Jose.


Thad
East Palo Alto
on Mar 18, 2018 at 7:04 am
Thad, East Palo Alto
on Mar 18, 2018 at 7:04 am
13 people like this

The Palo Alto home owners who vote against adding more dense housing are directly increasing their own wealth and comfort at the expense of other (poorer people's) wealth and comfort.

Is this what you want you and your city to be known for? [Portion removed.]

People aren't living in RVs/homeless/entire families in a single-room because they want to or they are too dumb or stubborn. They cannot afford better. They cannot afford to move. They are stuck here and you decide to make their situation worse year over year.


101
Barron Park
on Mar 18, 2018 at 7:35 am
101, Barron Park
on Mar 18, 2018 at 7:35 am
69 people like this

Such a silly discussion.
Palo Alto is one of the most desirable cities in the Bay Area. With a current Bay Area population of 8.75 million (ref Web Link ) the demand for housing in this more desirable location is relatively infinite, compared to the housing and land space available. You cannot fight economics. It would be like arguing that there is a housing crisis in Beverly Hills, or Laguna Beach, or Newport Beach, and thinking that the solution is to just “build some more houses” and prices will drop.
As for affordable housing, look at Buena Vista. It was the ultimate example of affordable housing advocated by proponents as the cheapest possible cost per unit affordable housing. It is currently (actual cost plus optimistic ooperators cost) at $70M for 100 units (note zoning and required setbacks only allow 64 units). That is “currently” between $700k and $1.1M cost per unit of rental space in a trailer park. That is just the current operators estimate. (Ref recent article in PAOL regarding operators estimate of $30m needed for repairs and upgrades to park). This will be rent controlled and certainly subsidized given the current rents are $700 per month while the current cost of money (at 4%) would be $3,300.00 per month per unit. Add to that, management and operations fees, and you have. $4k plus cost per unit returning just $700 per month and paying no property tax (so no school, or cut or county funding).
There is now way to fight the economics or believe that “affordable housing” is anything other that taxpayer and developer funded housing. that May be OK with you, but we should be honest about the economics and not try to hide the fact that you cannot make Palo Alto housing affordable. You are simply transferring to full cost to somebody else so the occupant can pay a fraction of the true cost.


101
Barron Park
on Mar 18, 2018 at 7:43 am
101, Barron Park
on Mar 18, 2018 at 7:43 am
1 person likes this

Sorry for typos (on phone and autocorrect run amok)


101
Barron Park
on Mar 18, 2018 at 8:03 am
101, Barron Park
on Mar 18, 2018 at 8:03 am
51 people like this

@Thad
“People aren't living in RVs/homeless/entire families in a single-room because they want to or they are too dumb or stubborn. They cannot afford better. They cannot afford to move. They are stuck here and you decide to make their situation worse year over year.”

Buena Vista has been rent controlled since 2001. We just spent $40m to buy Buena Vista (to keep it a trailer park) and are now being asked for $30M more. Rents per recent article would not increase for three years. Neither Buena Vista nor its Residents pay property tax so they don’t pay for city county or schools covers by that tax. What more would you have us do to help ?


resident
Adobe-Meadow
on Mar 18, 2018 at 8:51 am
resident, Adobe-Meadow
on Mar 18, 2018 at 8:51 am
10 people like this

I keep wondering about the "narrative' concerning housing as I watch new apartments going up all over the peninsula. From where I am sitting we are filling out open available land in a very tasteful manner as quickly as possible. What I don't see in the major cities - SF, SJ, Oakland is work on their part to upgrade existing built on locations and remove buildings that are no longer habitable. ABAG would like us to fill in the gaps they cannot control so they can say they did something. The something they need to do is get the major cities to step up to the plate and upgrade their city where needed. Every major paper is pointing to the problems that don't get fixed and Board of Supervisors for these cities that spend their time squabbling over their next political position. They all have been reduced to the best political picture for advancement with no track record of accomplishment.


Downtown Mom
Downtown North
on Mar 18, 2018 at 9:04 am
Downtown Mom, Downtown North
on Mar 18, 2018 at 9:04 am
2 people like this

[Post removed. New thread started.]


Resident
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 18, 2018 at 9:55 am
Resident, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 18, 2018 at 9:55 am
3 people like this

I saw on the news recently an item about dorm housing for adults in San Francisco and other cities. For an affordable rent you get a decent sized bedroom, furnished tastefully, with storage, and the shared use of a bathroom, kitchen and common area. From what I remember, the company doing this is thinking of moving into Silicon Valley areas with similar schemes. It seems that the dorm rooms that have been established, now have wait lists.

This looks to be a coming trend. Not sure of my feelings about this. It might suit a young tech out of college for a year or so, or perhaps one party in a divorce/separation for a while. It definitely isn't the answer, but it is an interesting short term model.


george drysdale
Professorville
on Mar 18, 2018 at 12:07 pm
george drysdale, Professorville
on Mar 18, 2018 at 12:07 pm
14 people like this

If rents are very high in the Bay Area that means you have to have a high income to be able to live here. No problem. Many Californians have departed for places where they can find jobs and hope to buy a house. Labor mobility. Enter government in California: we can have it all, raise taxes. More people leave. Taxes are higher in California than in France. Investors leave the apartment house construction business with rent control an issue. All they have to do is look at the Buena Vista and freak out, or Mt. View rent control.
Would you invest in apartment house construction where the tenants set rental prices and politicians flunk out of econ 101 with their inclusionary set asides. No way. Apartment house construction not in the pipe line is sitting this one out.


Funny How That Is
Palo Alto Orchards
on Mar 18, 2018 at 1:00 pm
Funny How That Is, Palo Alto Orchards
on Mar 18, 2018 at 1:00 pm
34 people like this

Funny how the real demand for housing is created by the tech industry, the 'tech employees who want it all' (driving up the costs because of their advanced salaries and self-importance) and the 'go-along' politicians (supported by developers, mass transit advocates, and the balance of governmental interests - unions, housing advocates, public service unions).

We can build all the housing 'they' want, but in end, what's to stop a company or industry from saying for example, State "X" has a lower income tax rate, offered us tax credits and we're moving". Or we see a recession approaching so we're going to 'shutter' our operations to a lower cost city/state/nation. (See all mobile device companies re: manufacturing jobs). Remember the efforts by Nevada to get Tesla's attention? And who's left holding the bag for unemployment, high speed rail, public transit, homelessness, and over built governmental infrastructure to support that 'housing demand'? It's the long-term residents!

The true answer is to develop move tech businesses into under developed areas in our state. Fairfield, Stockton, Merced are great candidates. Housing is affordable. Tech employees 'follow' their employers and will discover a great lifestyle out in those towns as they grow with their employees and businesses. Diversification of housing throughout the state balances the picture for everyone. Areas of low density will have the ability to expand and grow their infrastructure. As residents, we have no obligation to accommodate all businesses that want to come here. Nor their employees. (And realistically, their economic impact will be minimal because they all shop 'online').

Doesn't it threaten our area? No, not really. We're always under threats if businesses and jobs leave. (See Detroit). Why doesn't our elected leaders and government see this? Because they want the 'tax base' - additional revenue from the workers and 'political' credentials and money for having delivered on their promise to give corporations everything they want.

We've all seen this. It's that 'build it they will come' mentality. The truth is that if we build it, we've given businesses larger leverage to negotiate lower taxes and credits to corporations that couldn't truly care less about the communities.

(See the Walmart Business Model on using local governments to pay their employee health care and bombing out local responsible businesses; and keeping employees from working sufficient hours to acquire benefits).


Juan
Mountain View
on Mar 18, 2018 at 1:16 pm
Juan, Mountain View
on Mar 18, 2018 at 1:16 pm
28 people like this

The majority of residents of MV and PA are in favor of building more housing, but they are not in favor of unsustainable development or handouts to developers. It is unsustainable to build housing with not enough parking spaces for residents and guests. You can build such a development exactly once, then all the parking spaces in the neighborhood are gone 24/7 and you can never build another similar development. Residents need to stand up and insist that zoning laws be enforced, without handouts to developers, and sustainable housing be built that follows existing code.


Jobs and housing cost
Fairmeadow
on Mar 18, 2018 at 1:49 pm
Jobs and housing cost, Fairmeadow
on Mar 18, 2018 at 1:49 pm
29 people like this

I’ve seen a fair number of people accept job offers here because of the compensation, opportunity or excitement.

They are told about the cost of housing but think they can somehow do something to come out ahead: stay with friends, get a smaller place, avoid rush hour, work at home x days per week, get raises or another job that pays even more, hit stock lottery etc.

Then they get here and realize they cannot get comparable housing at any price (including space for e.g. horses and friendly neighborhood expectations for some; mass transit convenience for others, depending on their current situation).

Compensation doesn’t actually compensate. So they justifiably want housing to cost less.

Unfortunately, building more housing raises the cost per sq ft of housing for everyone, and after a short while raises the absolute cost per unit of even lower quality housing.

This is driven by lots of things. Part of it is the effectively unbounded housing demand as explained in several posts above. Part is the increased utility of land as a result of increased capital investment; “maxing out the value of the property.”


Me 2
Old Palo Alto
on Mar 18, 2018 at 2:03 pm
Me 2, Old Palo Alto
on Mar 18, 2018 at 2:03 pm
2 people like this

Wow - now I know where all the housing ostriches are congregating.

"Unfortunately, building more housing raises the cost per sq ft of housing for everyone, and after a short while raises the absolute cost per unit of even lower quality housing."

What?


solution=telecommuting
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 18, 2018 at 2:26 pm
solution=telecommuting, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 18, 2018 at 2:26 pm
19 people like this

One potential solution is for Bay Area employees to telecommute all, or at least most. of the time. This would make it easier for them to enjoy both high salaries and affordable housing (in Hollister, Sonoma County, eastern Contra Costa County, even Lake Tahoe).


Jobs and Housing Cost
Fairmeadow
on Mar 18, 2018 at 5:28 pm
Jobs and Housing Cost, Fairmeadow
on Mar 18, 2018 at 5:28 pm
27 people like this

Head’s not in sand. I’m very aware of the current housing realities.

If the demand for housing in Palo Alto were effectively finite, building more housing would begin to lower housing costs here as soon as the demand was met.

But since millions wants to live here, and hundreds of thousands can afford it, the demand is essentially infinite. As a result, more density means higher housing costs.

This can be seen historically in Palo Alto and in other cities.

Here’s how it works with a concrete example.

A lot with a house generates 7000/month. That lot with 5 floors and eight smaller condos renting for 4000 each generates 32000/month. The nearby houses, similar to the original house, now sit on more valuable property. They are worth more, and with new owners or many times without ownership change (perhaps influenced by cost of refinancing or property taxes) can charge more rent (demand was not diminished by the new condos).

Now, the land under nearby smaller condos of lesser quality also increases in value, and their rent goes up, not down, as a result of the new increased density.

And the price per square foot goes up even more and that goes up immediately, but that’s only relevant If you care about quality of life. Even if you don’t, housing prices go up with increased density.

It is a myth, introduced to gain support from those looking for ways to enable lower cost housing, that increased density in Palo Alto will lower housing costs here.

A government funded or subsidized housing “project” is a different story.


mauricio
Registered user
Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Mar 18, 2018 at 6:06 pm
mauricio, Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
Registered user
on Mar 18, 2018 at 6:06 pm
37 people like this

London, which has gone through an unprecedented housing development and gentrification spree in the last 20 plus years, has seen housing prices go through the roof in that period. London has never been more expensive to live in. The more they build, the more expensive housing becomes. Why? Because no level of development and densification can meet the demand for housing. All development does is raise the cost per square foot. Just substitute the name London with Palo Alto. This is just one example. Look at Hong Kong and any other desirable location and the story is identical. Densification equals higher prices, lower quality of life, more crime, more alianation. The solution is to not concenrate the tech industry in one area. Companies will not pay workers enough to compete with foreign investors and foreign money. Tech companies must move elsewhere, where jobs are needed and housing is less expensive and more available. Even then, Bay area housing will remain expensive, as it has always been.


Anon
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 18, 2018 at 6:25 pm
Anon, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 18, 2018 at 6:25 pm
14 people like this

For those who missed it-- Palo Alto has a very small absolute imbalance, a small relative imbalance, and just missed being on the "best" side of the graph rather than the "worst" side.

Web Link

As it says in the article,

"Turns out that Palo Alto, at a ratio of 0.82 housing units per jobs, is a little more balanced than the Bay Area as a whole."

The two cities which have the largest problem are San Francisco and San Jose.

"By far, the most egregiously imbalanced cities in the Bay Area are San Jose, which has 203,576 more jobs than housing units, and San Francisco, which has 154,595 more jobs than housing units. By comparison, the imbalance for the entire rest of the Bay Area is 692,864 more jobs than housing units. So, those two cities alone account for 34% of the Bay Area’s jobs to housing imbalance."





Vasche LaMou
Green Acres
on Mar 18, 2018 at 6:27 pm
Vasche LaMou, Green Acres
on Mar 18, 2018 at 6:27 pm
24 people like this

"Compensation doesn't actually compensate."

That is the problem. If employers want a workforce, they need to either offer pay that allows their workers to live near their jobs, or relocate their operations to the myriad places where the pressure from massed employers has not driven housing costs out of the reach of their underpaid workforce.

Employers cannot expect the community to underwrite their businesses by providing housing at public expense. Unless, of course, the community implements a business tax which fully pays for the public housing the employers demand.


Me 2
Old Palo Alto
on Mar 18, 2018 at 7:37 pm
Me 2, Old Palo Alto
on Mar 18, 2018 at 7:37 pm
8 people like this

"The more they build, the more expensive housing becomes. Why? Because no level of development and densification can meet the demand for housing"

Our daily reminder that correlation does not mean causation. It creates nonsensical statements such as the above.


Me 2
Old Palo Alto
on Mar 18, 2018 at 7:40 pm
Me 2, Old Palo Alto
on Mar 18, 2018 at 7:40 pm
8 people like this

"A lot with a house generates 7000/month. That lot with 5 floors and eight smaller condos renting for 4000 each generates 32000/month. The nearby houses, similar to the original house, now sit on more valuable property. They are worth more, and with new owners or many times without ownership change (perhaps influenced by cost of refinancing or property taxes) can charge more rent (demand was not diminished by the new condos)."

Ok, so taking your logic to its (illogical) conclusion, halting all building should cause prices to drop or fall?

Oh wait, we've basically restricted building in many of our neighborhoods and prices still go up. Huh, imagine that.

[Portion removed.]


Anon
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 18, 2018 at 8:14 pm
Anon, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 18, 2018 at 8:14 pm
9 people like this

Posted by Me 2, a resident of Old Palo Alto

>> Our daily reminder that correlation does not mean causation. It creates nonsensical statements such as the above.

While we are listing daily reminders, here is our daily reminder that high-rise construction is much more costly per square foot than 2-3 story wood frame construction, so, high-rise apartments are not cheap, as some proponents imply.

Web Link



Online Name
Registered user
Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Mar 18, 2018 at 10:06 pm
Online Name, Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
Registered user
on Mar 18, 2018 at 10:06 pm
18 people like this

Re compensation and lack of "affordable" housing, don't forget all the H1B visa employees and the body-shop contractors here making about #62,000 a year who need housing,

There are various various lobbying and legislative attempts to force the big contractor body shops to raise that to $90,000 and they still won't be able to afford housing here. At the same time the big local companies are lobbying for more visa workers.

Maybe the companies should start paying decent compensation and contribute THEIR fair share to housing their workers. Somewhere.


cur mudgeon
Greenmeadow
on Mar 19, 2018 at 1:31 pm
cur mudgeon, Greenmeadow
on Mar 19, 2018 at 1:31 pm
11 people like this

Some of us who are empty nesters stay in our large SV homes because of not just prop 13 tax, but the enormous capital gains tax that will be due. Issue a one time exemption for seniors over 65 and watch this area empty out. There are schemes to avoid that, but they are iffy. We would rather let our heirs sell the property and keep the proceeds than enrich the government. This is not a problem in other areas of the country.


Vasche LaMou
Green Acres
on Mar 19, 2018 at 2:53 pm
Vasche LaMou, Green Acres
on Mar 19, 2018 at 2:53 pm
5 people like this

"Some of us who are empty nesters stay in our large SV homes because of [snip] the enormous capital gains tax that will be due."

This is a variant of the old tactic of buying everything on credit to get a tax deduction on the interest. You might lower your taxes a bit, but you lose money in the net. That suits some citizens.

There is a very simple out for your current predicament. Forget the equity and sell your house for exactly what you paid for it. No gain, no pain.

Wannabe buyers take note. Start a web service to hook yourselves with properly motivated sellers like cur mudgeon above. Make her/him happy, and save yourselves a trainload of money.


@Anon
Mountain View
on Mar 19, 2018 at 6:15 pm
@Anon, Mountain View
on Mar 19, 2018 at 6:15 pm
Like this comment

A higher initial capital cost that's offset by greater long-term monthly revenue in the form of more renters.


Gale Johnson
Registered user
Adobe-Meadow
on Mar 19, 2018 at 6:32 pm
Gale Johnson, Adobe-Meadow
Registered user
on Mar 19, 2018 at 6:32 pm
17 people like this

@Jobs and housing cost

"I’ve seen a fair number of people accept job offers here because of the compensation, opportunity or excitement."

Well, well, well...guess who moved here for those very same reasons back in 1961...actually, all of those reasons, plus others: the weather, (I never saw palm trees in Montana) beaches, redwoods, Tahoe, and SF with all it's attractions...theaters, fabulous restaurants, cable cars, zoo, pro teams (we could afford to go to their games back then), and dozens of other touristy type attractions/opportunities. But, when we first came here, and for the first few years, we behaved just like tourists...but we were a different type of tourist. We were permanent tourists. I hope your post at least partially answers 'Anon's' comment. Before we moved here we lived in Auburn, WA, and I commuted to Boeing, in Seattle, every day. We rented a 1 bedroom house at 1222 Harvey Road, for $85/mo. I know that sounds strange, a 1 bedroom house, but even stranger is the fact that I remember the address. When we came to PA we rented a very nice 2 bdrm duplex at 3153 Alma, for $125/mo. I got an offer from Philco's Western Developmental Lab that I couldn't refuse. That's what brought us here, and 3 years later I got a much better offer from Kaiser Electronics in Stanford's Industrial Park. That's where Jay's account, that I shared with him, starts.

But, to add a little background information re housing and commuting. We rented for two years and fell in love with PA during that time. We looked at model homes in Sunnyvale, Cupertino, and San Jose, and we really liked many of them, but we had made so many friends here in PA, and grew to know and love our "town", so much, that we tried very hard to stay and buy a home here. It worked out. We saved for two years for a bigger down payment and we moved into our little bungalow on June 6th, 1963. Many of my co-workers could have afforded the same house that we bought in PA, but, at that time developers were building much bigger and more modern homes (bordering on luxurious) in other areas, for the same price. Ours was an 1100 sq ft bungalow. We visited friends in their new 2400 sq ft homes. Spacious living rooms, separate dining rooms, big kitchens, master bedrooms with walk in closets, and bathrooms with Jacuzzis. And they were proud of their popcorn ceilings. I had to fake it a little bit to say how nice they looked. Fads fade! And my co-workers' commutes weren't that bad. I don't remember any of them complaining about traffic and long commutes. It was obviously a trade-off they made. Thirty minute commutes at the most, not hours like it is today.

People go where the jobs are, and often, not fully checking out the cost of housing and living in those areas. Yes, highly educated and skilled tech workers could move to a small town in Kansas, for example, and they could certainly afford a nice home there, if they could make the same income as they could in SV. The catch is...they can't, because that's not where the jobs are. I think 'Anon' finally got that point. It's up to the companies to relocate to attract employees who can afford to live near their places of employment. Otherwise they're putting a big burden on their employees and, in some cases, destroying family life, as we like to think of it. States that are anxious to give tax relief to attract those companies will be well rewarded, and the companies will also, with a much happier workforce, not having to commute for hours every day.

A day never goes by when I don't read numerous articles about the housing problems...OK...crisis...in SV and the entire Bay Area. Previous commenters have stated the reasons very well, so I don't have to repeat them. They have also offered solutions, and many good ones! I am bothered by local politicians who claim to have the answer for 'affordable housing' when there isn't one. And just the term 'affordable' is misused and misunderstood. And for one city, my city, to think we can do it alone because we're so much smarter than everyone else...well, we're not. This isn't Boolean algebra...there is no mathematical formula or equation to solve this problem. CC candidates will still come forward and run for office promising they can make a big change and fix it, if elected. Don't believe them! How are we doing so far on adding 300 units a year?? April is almost here. If we have to give so much relief to developers to entice them to build, only to destroy our quality of life, what will we gain? Nothing...it won't be anything like the town we moved to 57 years ago.

And back off, all you NIMBY haters. You imagine who they are, mythical people, but you have probably never met one in person. We old timers are not NIMBYs...old, yes, but not to be automatically labeled as NIMBYs. We didn't cause this problem and we're not trying to propagate and prolong it. But there is hope for the haters...us mythical NIMBYs will be dying off fairly fast in the next few years. Then who will you blame??


J
Old Palo Alto
on Mar 19, 2018 at 9:53 pm
J , Old Palo Alto
on Mar 19, 2018 at 9:53 pm
12 people like this

This problem is not unique to Palo Alto or Silicon Valley.

Western Washington, Portland, and all of Southern California have severe housing shortages.

It is impossible for conventional tax paying wage earners to outbid foreign investors.

A major change in policy is desperately needed.
The EB-5 program, and student visa programs are being abused and need some kind of reformation.

This will become clearer when we go through our next drought.
The housing balance should consider a water to housing balance.

A modification of the current use of the word "bioburden" could be used, but rather as a marker or limit for the number of homes the environment can sustain.


Anon
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 19, 2018 at 11:12 pm
Anon, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 19, 2018 at 11:12 pm
Like this comment

Posted by J, a resident of Old Palo Alto:

>> It is impossible for conventional tax paying wage earners to outbid foreign investors.

It is an interesting question. Here is a webpage on City Lab:

Web Link



We have a "Greed" crisis not a "housing" crisis
Downtown North
on Mar 19, 2018 at 11:40 pm
We have a "Greed" crisis not a "housing" crisis, Downtown North
on Mar 19, 2018 at 11:40 pm
22 people like this

Others have stated why this is not really a "housing crisis" so I will just say that we need to fight back against the Greed that is driving this false narrative.

Developers, large corporations and their bought and paid for government officials are trying to cram the "more housing" mantra down our throats so they can make more cash while destroying our quality of life.

Residents of Palo Alto, Santa Clara country and the state need to fight the growth laws that are forcing us to build more than our environment can support. These laws are making our quality of life worse by overpopulating the area, overcrowding the roads, schools, open spaces and destroying the environment.

Why aren't we getting any laws that actually help fix the problem. Laws that would require all large businesses to build housing for their workers before adding any more space for employees. Or ones telling them that they needed to leave the area if they couldn't house their employees. Laws that would tell city councils that they could not approve any more businesses in their city until they could house all the workers.

Attack this problem at the root cause. Send the businesses away. We have enough jobs here and adding more is choking the life out of this area. But the Greed is driving the machine - not what is best for this area. And Greed demands more buildings and destroying the lives of those nearby.


@Gale
Crescent Park
on Mar 19, 2018 at 11:44 pm
@Gale, Crescent Park
on Mar 19, 2018 at 11:44 pm
4 people like this

"If we have to give so much relief to developers to entice them to build, only to destroy our quality of life, what will we gain?"

Why are you under the impression that developers need enticement to build here? The only thing holding building back is the flurry of legal challenges and other opposition that homeowner groups throw up whenever any new housing gets proposed.

"But there is hope for the haters...us mythical NIMBYs will be dying off fairly fast in the next few years. Then who will you blame??"

No one, because we'll finally be able to build more housing.


101
Barron Park
on Mar 20, 2018 at 8:24 am
101, Barron Park
on Mar 20, 2018 at 8:24 am
11 people like this

@“@Gale”

"But there is hope for the haters...us mythical NIMBYs will be dying off fairly fast in the next few years. Then who will you blame??"

No one, because we'll finally be able to build more housing.“

And that will end the housing crisis for once and for all.
Good thinking!


Me 2
Old Palo Alto
on Mar 20, 2018 at 9:19 am
Me 2, Old Palo Alto
on Mar 20, 2018 at 9:19 am
2 people like this

For all the anti-business folks, you want to know how it's like when you get what you want?

2010 Detroit.

When people move away, you still don't get your beloved bowling alley back.

I don't think you want businesses building housing. You know what actually is one of the root causes of our broken healthcare system? Insurance tied to your job. And look how well that's worked out for us.

For every "there ought to be a law" thought should also include a "but what is the unintended consequence of that law?"


Anon
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 20, 2018 at 11:04 am
Anon, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 20, 2018 at 11:04 am
6 people like this

Posted by Me 2, a resident of Old Palo Alto:

>> For all the anti-business folks, you want to know how it's like when you get what you want?

Asking for a level playing field is not "anti-business".

>> I don't think you want businesses building housing. You know what actually is one of the root causes of our broken healthcare system? Insurance tied to your job. And look how well that's worked out for us.

Guess what? We agree about two things!

>> For every "there ought to be a law" thought should also include a "but what is the unintended consequence of that law?"

Make that three things! It must be because it is the first day of spring.

Speaking of unintended consequences, if Palo Alto continues to build more office space and falls further behind in the jobs/housing imbalance, what do you think will happen with traffic? I just spent the earlier part of the morning in activities that required me to do a lot of rush-hour driving this morning in various parts of town. I say "driving", because, most of it was sitting in the car, not moving, in various queues behind various traffic lights, from one end of town to the other.

What is your proposal for the traffic gridlock, and, if it includes expenses, who should pay the costs, new businesses, all businesses, homeowners, or, ??? For example, if Caltrain is upgraded to that almost everyone commuting in could ride it, who pays for that, and how? If a new 10-lane freeway is built from Modesto to here, who pays for that? Which marshlands and houses get demolished to make way for it? And, it Palo Alto becomes nothing but a convergence of freeways, parking garages, and skyscrapers, will those businesses mentioned at the beginning even want to be here?

P.S. Looks like everybody decided at once that Reno is a great little city. ;-)

Web Link


Ron Fent
Old Palo Alto
on Mar 20, 2018 at 12:22 pm
Ron Fent, Old Palo Alto
on Mar 20, 2018 at 12:22 pm
2 people like this

We are running into issues because we're a service company and our employees can't afford to live in closer. It's not a matter of raising salaries either because in our business, Web Link , we have to be competitive to get the business. We are tapped out for raising salaries.

What can we do? I truly wonder at what level service businesses will have to raise their prices to get enough margin for paying their people enough to give them a quality of life that does not include 2 hour commutes.


Anon
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 20, 2018 at 12:43 pm
Anon, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 20, 2018 at 12:43 pm
Like this comment

Posted by Ron Fent, a resident of Old Palo Alto

>> What can we do? I truly wonder at what level service businesses will have to raise their prices

I think you will have to raise your prices. But, "free advice" (worth what you pay for it), I've noticed that some service businesses will give a cash discount to long-term individual customers for a while. This can work to keep your existing customer base, if you are the type of business where you personally know your long-time customers.


Vasche LaMou
Green Acres
on Mar 20, 2018 at 12:58 pm
Vasche LaMou, Green Acres
on Mar 20, 2018 at 12:58 pm
6 people like this

"We are running into issues because we're a service company and our employees can't afford to live in closer."

This is the REAL housing problem, and the one worth government (community) investment. Else, quality of life declines as plumbers, roofers, store clerks, restaurant workers, etc., become scarce. People move away to more balanced communities, real estate prices drop, ... .


Me 2
Old Palo Alto
on Mar 20, 2018 at 1:34 pm
Me 2, Old Palo Alto
on Mar 20, 2018 at 1:34 pm
2 people like this

" if Palo Alto continues to build more office space and falls further behind in the jobs/housing imbalance"

This in itself is an unintended consequence of Prop 13, which is the root cause underlying most of our housing problems.

But, according to a study that was recently linked by someone here, our jobs/housing imbalance is not as out of whack as the residentialists would have you believe.


Allen Akin
Registered user
Professorville
on Mar 20, 2018 at 2:58 pm
Allen Akin, Professorville
Registered user
on Mar 20, 2018 at 2:58 pm
9 people like this

If you look around, there's a huge amount of construction going on right now. NIMBYism obviously hasn't choked it off, despite the negative consequences it has for residents. Why isn't more of this construction generating housing, rather than office space?

I took a quick look at Palo Alto apartment rental rates here Web Link and at Palo Alto office lease rates here Web Link .

Apartments are renting for an average of $3.70/sqft/month. Offices are leasing for an average of $5.77/sqft/month (based on the first two pages of listings).

So the back-of-the-envelope calculation suggests that developers are constructing more office space than housing because it generates more revenue. Any other claimed explanation needs to be more convincing than this simple one.

One reason office space is so profitable is that many of the costs it incurs are socialized. If more of those costs were borne internally, by the development projects or their tenants rather than the general public, economic forces would go a long way toward rebalancing the situation. So requiring investment in housing or transportation, though law or dedicated taxes, might make sense.

Yes, this would result in less expansion here (and probably more expansion in places that could use it). Maybe even contraction here. If this means greater economic and social diversity here, like we had in past times of less economic activity, it might not be such a bad thing. And so long as Stanford doesn't shut down, it's pretty unlikely that Silicon Valley will become another Detroit.


Anon
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 20, 2018 at 3:36 pm
Anon, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 20, 2018 at 3:36 pm
6 people like this

Posted by Me 2, a resident of Old Palo Alto

>> This in itself is an unintended consequence of Prop 13, which is the root cause underlying most of our housing problems.

I'm not sure there is exactly one root cause, but, yes, Prop 13 is -a- major cause.

>> But, according to a study that was recently linked by someone here,

;-)

>> our jobs/housing imbalance is not as out of whack

According to the ABAG site, Palo Alto needed to add 2,179 units between 2014 and 2022. Anybody know where Palo Alto sits at this moment?

Web Link

Because, however ABAG gets those numbers, that seems to be the thing that drives policy right now.


>> as the residentialists would have you believe.

Residentialists like me? It isn't a question of what I believe, it is a question of what ABAG believes. If Palo Alto is 100% built out, and, ABAG gets 2100 new units, then, at 30 units/acre, that means 70 acres of existing something have to be redeveloped. IOW, more than 10% of a square mile. Any ideas?


Me 2
Old Palo Alto
on Mar 20, 2018 at 4:22 pm
Me 2, Old Palo Alto
on Mar 20, 2018 at 4:22 pm
Like this comment

"that means 70 acres of existing something have to be redeveloped."

Yep. Let's get started.


Anon
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 20, 2018 at 4:42 pm
Anon, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 20, 2018 at 4:42 pm
2 people like this

Posted by Me 2, a resident of Old Palo Alto
17 minutes ago

>>> "that means 70 acres of existing something have to be redeveloped."

>> Yep. Let's get started

OK. Should be no problem finding 70 acres in Old Palo Alto.

While we are on ABAG, comparing the ABAG targets to the data in the other article, it sure looks like Palo Alto's allocation is disproportionately large compared to San Francisco and San Jose. I'm not sure how ABAG arrived at their number.


Gale Johnson
Registered user
Adobe-Meadow
on Mar 20, 2018 at 4:58 pm
Gale Johnson, Adobe-Meadow
Registered user
on Mar 20, 2018 at 4:58 pm
7 people like this

@@Gale

"Why are you under the impression that developers need enticement to build here? The only thing holding building back is the flurry of legal challenges and other opposition that homeowner groups throw up whenever any new housing gets proposed."

Let's break it down. Yes, you're right, no enticements needed for building office space. Now, how about mixed use or housing only, or better yet, BMR only housing projects? You apparently haven't been following the recent news re proposed projects very closely! Developers won't be rushing in to bid on those unless they get substantial relief from existing ordinances...on density, parking, et al. Those are the incentives I'm talking about. And rental rates advertised as affordable by the developers? They're talking to a specific audience...tech workers, mostly singles, or couples, or rich retirees, or rich foreigners. Nothing for families or for all the service workers who have to drive many miles and for many hours to come to work in PA. And now I see the PC idea (model) is popping up again. Don't we ever learn? After we've seen so many of the ones in the past end up as failures...public benefits my a--. Three food markets failed, and two replacements are just hanging on.

Now, tell me more about those bad homeowner groups you referred to. Give me their names and how I can contact them. I want to set them straight if they're the ones holding back housing projects.

And, I encourage you to read Allen Akin's post above. He did an excellent job of researching the subject. I liked his comment about socialized costs, the ones we taxpayers pay for, that only benefit companies who keep hiring and hiring, and expanding and expanding, in our limited space on the peninsula and in the valley.

Unless there is serious and practical thought given to mass transit in the entire Bay Area, not just BART and CalTrain, there is no hope for a quality of life like we knew it back in the 60's, 70's, and 80's. It will be a huge cost, and yes, I think the ideas proposed for companies who want to stay here, should share the biggest burden of that cost.

Allen was so right...we're not Detroit and never will be. And it's silly to compare us to that area. And I don't expect tumble weeds to be blowing down my street as it becomes a ghost town. I think every piece of property in PA is owned by someone, not necessarily lived in, however. We're west of the really old wild wild west. If you want to see a real ghost town, just drive up to Wyoming and take the side trip over South Pass and down to a real ghost town, tumble weeds and all. My wife and I did it once. Actually, there was one store open and we bought a sarsaparilla, just to relive a favorite beverage of the old wild wild west.


Me 2
Old Palo Alto
on Mar 21, 2018 at 11:04 am
Me 2, Old Palo Alto
on Mar 21, 2018 at 11:04 am
2 people like this

"I liked his comment about socialized costs, the ones we taxpayers pay for, that only benefit companies who keep hiring and hiring, and expanding and expanding, in our limited space on the peninsula and in the valley. "

Not benefitting, eh? How about all that appreciation on your property since 1963? And the fact that you're not having to pay taxes on that appreciation since the passage of Prop 13?

How about that computer you're typing on to post your messages? Or that Internet connection to your home?

You're benefitting greatly. Give me a break.

"Unless there is serious and practical thought given to mass transit in the entire Bay Area, not just BART and CalTrain, there is no hope for a quality of life like we knew it back in the 60's, 70's, and 80's."

Mass transit requires mass. And residentialists don't want it. So you want thought? Housing and mass transit go together. How about that?

"Allen was so right...we're not Detroit and never will be. And it's silly to compare us to that area. And I don't expect tumble weeds to be blowing down my street as it becomes a ghost town."

Detroit was the center of the world in the 1950s and 60s. It's not just cars too. With Motown, it was a cultural capital as well.

if you were to ask someone who lived in 1955 Detroit, they would have said the same thing.

Prosperity doesn't last forever.


Gale Johnson
Registered user
Adobe-Meadow
on Mar 21, 2018 at 2:41 pm
Gale Johnson, Adobe-Meadow
Registered user
on Mar 21, 2018 at 2:41 pm
9 people like this

@Me to

You seem to be a very bitter person. Just guessing, but I'll bet you are relatively young, or at least much younger than I am, and probably haven't lived in PA for many years...10 to 20 at the most. Now that might seem like 'many' to some people, but to me that's just like being a newcomer to our community. Welcome to Palo Alto, the great town you missed out on, back in the day. You are all upset about the Prop 13 thing, but, if you hang around for a while, you too will be a benefactor of that, and then let's hear from you when your new next door neighbors snarl at you and hate you because they're paying much more in property taxes than you are. You might even consider converting to NIMBYism when your property value doubles in a few years.

You can't compare Detroit to Palo Alto, or the period from the 50's through the 80's, with 2018 and our current situation here now.

You want mass? We've got mass! Tell me what you think the population is from San Francisco all the way down to South San Jose. It's just not mass like NYC's mass with all it's boroughs, where subways make sense...and made sense many years ago when they were built. Ours is an elongated mass. Much different and a much harder problem to solve.

I would feel much better if you wouldn't castigate and put blame on all those you describe as anti-business. Believe me, we've got enough business, more than we need and more than we can handle, to provide adequate transit systems, infrastructure, and housing for. What are you missing in all this discussion?

I watch CC meetings on the media website and read our local newspapers, and I am left with an empty feeling in my stomach about the future of 'my town'. It might be time for me "to get out of Dodge City". I'd miss it, but only the past, long ago, and fond memories of it, nothing that's happened in the last 20 years or what's happening to it now. I would miss my village and friends and neighbors here in SPA, however, and if anything will tug at me to stay here, that's it. Ouch, you're tugging too hard on that rope. Okay, okay, I'll stay for a little while longer, but never expecting to see a final solution and implementation to the grade separation issue. And about that Ross Rd project?? CC, don't blow that one again. If the goal was to get both cars and cyclists off the road, then it worked. It might be better labeled "Pedestrian Boulevard". That money could have been better spent. Okay, enough has been said on that issue. Nap time!


Gale Johnson
Registered user
Adobe-Meadow
on Mar 21, 2018 at 3:20 pm
Gale Johnson, Adobe-Meadow
Registered user
on Mar 21, 2018 at 3:20 pm
Like this comment

I meant @ Me 2


mauricio
Registered user
Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Mar 21, 2018 at 3:58 pm
mauricio, Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
Registered user
on Mar 21, 2018 at 3:58 pm
12 people like this

Me2 is not aware of it, but in information technology, physical location is meaningless and irrelevant. He is not aware that many of the innovations that propelled SV had originated in other parts of the world, and financed by VC, some located here, some elsewhere.

The comparison to Detroit is laghuable. The Bay area has the most skilled and educated population in the entire world. We have scholars in every field imaginable, university professors, teachers, doctors, scientists, finance prodigies, economists, artists, authors, musicians, etc. This area was thriving before the silicon and computers, before SV was created.

The Bay area has reached business saturation years ago. The area just can't provide housing for the workers companies keep hiring without putting the regions natural environment and resources, as well as its quality of life at grave risk. Turning this area into a sardine can would mean the end of any acceptable quality of life. He refuses to admit that residents have a right to choose to NOT live in urban density. If they wanted that lifestyle, they have several cities in the Bay area and many around the country and world to choose from. Sometime an area just has too many jobs, and is unable to deal with the consequences. Since so many other areas need those jobs desperately, the Me2's of this world are extremely selfish by refusing to consider any scenario in which jobs and employees are required to move away from the Bay area.

What he really wants, on top of his ignorance of this area's history, is for long time residents to give up on living in non urban relatively low density, and agree to allow him to turn the entire Bay area, especially Palo Alto, into a megalopolis. Moreover, he wants them to subsidise his share in that megalopolis. Speak of feeling entitled.


Allen Akin
Registered user
Professorville
on Mar 21, 2018 at 4:27 pm
Allen Akin, Professorville
Registered user
on Mar 21, 2018 at 4:27 pm
8 people like this

There are different kinds of public transit, and they work best with different population densities. The reading I've done suggests that to be cost-effective, heavy rail needs a density of about 45 people per acre; light rail about 30; bus transit less (but I couldn't find consensus about the number); car pooling still less. Pure R1 blocks near downtown have a density of about 15.

Peak density isn't all you need, though. The distribution also matters. Several authors observed that LA actually has quite high population density, but it's distributed in such a way that rail isn't a good solution. We would be in a similar situation because of historical development patterns. Just increasing density near transit wouldn't be enough; we'd also have to move housing and jobs out of the less-dense areas.

And no matter what system you envision for the long run, you have to have intermediate systems that are implementable, affordable, and effective. Otherwise growth just grinds to a halt partway through as the economic drag becomes too great. We're seeing the early signs of such a phase right now.

I think this observation from an Australian study is right on target: "First, good public transport is not something that just materialises by magic if only the urban density is high enough: it has to be explicitly planned and funded by governments. Second, where public transport is of poor quality and unattractive, building up the urban density does not make it any more attractive – or any more financially self-supporting."


AbItarian
Downtown North
on Mar 21, 2018 at 4:58 pm
AbItarian, Downtown North
on Mar 21, 2018 at 4:58 pm
7 people like this

Me 2 wrote:

"Mass transit requires mass. And residentialists don't want it. So you want thought? Housing and mass transit go together. How about that?"

Mass transit also requires a place to put it and funding to support it, of which we have neither.

Consequently, most of the proposed "solutions" involve adding bus lines and shuttles, where the "mass transit" would continue to compete with the cars already clogging our roads.

Such "mass transit" would continue to be too inefficient for the vast majority of the people.

And please don't suggest Uber -- which keeps cars on the roads -- or self-driving vehicles -- which will not be pervasive for decades -- or the TMA -- which is limited by the lack of true mass transit to which people can be diverted.

Seriously, just look at how incapable our Palo Alto government has shown itself to be in dealing with the four crossings impacted by the Caltrain grade separation. It's hard to imagine them making any real progress on a far more complicated problem.


Me 2
Old Palo Alto
on Mar 21, 2018 at 5:19 pm
Me 2, Old Palo Alto
on Mar 21, 2018 at 5:19 pm
2 people like this

Gale: "You are all upset about the Prop 13 thing, but, if you hang around for a while, you too will be a benefactor of that, and then let's hear from you when your new next door neighbors snarl at you and hate you because they're paying much more in property taxes than you are. You might even consider converting to NIMBYism when your property value doubles in a few years. "

Actually at the rate we're going, we are becoming mini-lot version of Atherton. My neighbors won't complain about property tax because they bought their $25M 6,000 sqft lot in cash. And our sacred PAUSD? Dead and empty. Because they'll all send their kids to private schools.

Maybe that's what all you residentialists want. Count your paper gains!

Me? I don't want that.

Gale: "You can't compare Detroit to Palo Alto, or the period from the 50's through the 80's, with 2018 and our current situation here now."
mauricio: "The comparison to Detroit is laghuable."

Famous last words. Let's file these quotes away and check in a few decades where we are.

mauricio again: "The Bay area has reached business saturation years ago."

It's cute when people on the Internet make opinionated statements sound like facts.

mauricio: "What he really wants, on top of his ignorance of this area's history, is for long time residents to give up on living in non urban relatively low density, and agree to allow him to turn the entire Bay area, especially Palo Alto, into a megalopolis. Moreover, he wants them to subsidise his share in that megalopolis. Speak of feeling entitled."

Ah, the taking a statement to an illogical conclusion. Another Internet classic. No, I'm not looking for a megapolis, but I am acknowledging a change in our region since you've moved here. In fact, when you moved here mauricio, you were part of an earlier change.

Who gets to make a decision on what time period we get to cement in place? Who says the mid-80s is the right time to stop progress? Why not 1965? Or 1945? Maybe the dearly departed early Palo Alto residents shouldn't have allowed the building of your house because of the disappearing ranches or orchards? Maybe they should have been telling you, mauricio, that you are too young to be here and should go live in Idaho where all the jobs should go?

It's selfish to think that just because you've been here for a long time, you get to tell everyone else what this area should look like. That's arrogance.

Allen Akin - thanks for putting data into what I've been saying.


Seriously
Stanford
on Mar 21, 2018 at 10:26 pm
Seriously, Stanford
on Mar 21, 2018 at 10:26 pm
15 people like this

“It's selfish to think that just because you've been here for a long time, you get to tell everyone else what this area should look like. That's arrogance.“

Right. It should be the developers in Atherton who should decide what happens to our city. Or other people who want to invest in property here. Or those who want to work here but cannot afford a nice 4/2 house with a large yard here. Or those who for whatever reason want to live here. Or work for the city government in any city but found a job here.


@Seriously
Crescent Park
on Mar 21, 2018 at 10:50 pm
@Seriously, Crescent Park
on Mar 21, 2018 at 10:50 pm
Like this comment

Don't be disingenuous. The issue isn't that people can't afford a spacious multi-story detached single-family home here. People can barely afford to rent a bedroom, let alone an actual 1 bedroom apartment.

You act like the city government is supposed to be an HOA to a gated community. Well, it's not, but you're welcome to buy up some property and create one if you so desire.


mauricio
Registered user
Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Mar 22, 2018 at 11:29 am
mauricio, Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
Registered user
on Mar 22, 2018 at 11:29 am
17 people like this

Who gave Me2 the right to decide what this area should look like? He wants this to be a dense urban area in which everybody who wants to live here is allowed to, subsidised of long time residents.

When I moved in, I used an anachronistic formula he/she is unfamiliar with:You buy (or rent) if you can afford to, and if there is available housing. If you can't afford to, or if housing its unavailable, you find a place you can afford with available housing.

The notion that long time residents can't decide to keep Palo Alto from becoming a megalopolis is sheer chutzpah and entitlement on steroids. I second what a previous poster wrote-According to the Me2s of this area, developers who live in Atherton, Woodside, Los Altos Hills and Portola Valley can decide what this town can be, so can foreign buyers and investors, as well as wannabe residents, but those who have lived and paid taxes here for decades are not allowed to.


Gale Johnson
Registered user
Adobe-Meadow
on Mar 22, 2018 at 11:34 am
Gale Johnson, Adobe-Meadow
Registered user
on Mar 22, 2018 at 11:34 am
12 people like this

Just a suggestion...don't waste any more time with Me 2.


Seriously
Stanford
on Mar 22, 2018 at 12:13 pm
Seriously, Stanford
on Mar 22, 2018 at 12:13 pm
7 people like this

@@Seriously -

I think you miss my point. I’ll rephrase it and try to remove the gratuitous part you ended up focusing on. I only put that part in to reference recent history surrounding a particular strong high-density supporter.

Who should have more influence over how and how much the city develops?

-People who live here
- People who want to live here but don’t
- People who will make tons of money depending on the development direction
- People who work for city government
- People with an alternative passion, such as “if city density anywhere increases enough, we can plan it so that car traffic will be so onerous that even though there will be more drivers, the ratio of pedestrians to drivers will go up.”

There are good arguments from ideology, from logic, from economics, from ethics, from law etc. to be made around how the city should develop.

But who do you think should have the most influence on future development and who should these arguments be aimed at?


Anon
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 22, 2018 at 12:49 pm
Anon, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 22, 2018 at 12:49 pm
6 people like this

Seriously, good questions. Easier to answer in reverse order. The least influence -should- be:

>> People who will make tons of money depending on the development direction

One of the more polite names for such people: "speculators"

You can't stop them from making money, based on how successful they are at -betting-. But, their legal form of gambling should not be compromised by allowing them to influence the odds.


mauricio
Registered user
Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Mar 22, 2018 at 3:27 pm
mauricio, Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
Registered user
on Mar 22, 2018 at 3:27 pm
10 people like this

The only people who should have influence over how a city/town develops are the people who actually live there. Home owners should have much more of a say than renters. This is just as as universally true as the belief that the only people who should have a say on how a country develops are its own citizens.


Gale Johnson
Registered user
Adobe-Meadow
on Mar 22, 2018 at 4:57 pm
Gale Johnson, Adobe-Meadow
Registered user
on Mar 22, 2018 at 4:57 pm
6 people like this

I think it's working. His/her last three posts have had no hits/likes, so far. That must hurt. Maybe he or she forgot to 'like' their own posts. Oh, oh, have I disturbed the sleeping giant again. I hear rumblings. No, wait, that's just my stomach.

Also, from my cheap seat as an observer, and contributor, of PA Online comments. It's just a part, and a small part, of our much larger and invasive social media, where we can express ourselves, vent our frustrations about things, and everything, and opine, and blame others, and then offer our less than expert advice on how to solve all our city's problems. I do it just like others do it. Does it add value and help shape and change anyone's thinking? And especially those empowered to make changes, our elected city council members? Very doubtful.

Call it a pastime, or a hobby, or whatever. I have been a regular poster on many issues...housing, traffic, parking, ADU's, zoning, grade separation, bike boulevards (grrr!) et al. Has my voice been heard by anyone with any influence who is capable of making changes. Probably not, I'm sad to say.

I have to believe, that if CC members read many, or most, of the online comments, they would be inclined to ignore all of them...even the good ones.

Comments I like...there are many from serious thinkers and folks that have given much thought in analyzing our problems and offering viable solutions. I include some of our hard working CC members who are brave enough to enter the online fray, just to set the record straight on what they said or what their line of thinking was when they voted on a particular issue.

This is an election year in PA, for 3 CC seats. CC size goes down from 9 to 7. This is our opportunity, once again, to let our voices be heard at the ballot box. I wish more voters would try harder to become more familiar with, and knowledgeable about, the issues and what the candidates stand for. Sad to say, but print ads and signs posted on front lawns and corners of busy intersections are probably what gets most candidates elected, and that takes donor's money, and a lot of money. I question whether that's a true, or even the best way of getting true representation of our voting residents/public. Those who have the money seem to be the ones in power and able to control and steer our city's policies and direction the way they want it to go.

So, more cheap advice (actually it's free) to the interested voting residents...and the candidates should be listening as well...go to all those meetings/forums where candidates speak and answer questions. Listen to the candidates and ask hard questions. Those current incumbents running for re-election should be pressed the hardest. They have a record to run on. What is it? What happened on your watch? What were the major accomplishments while you served? What did you learn from your first term experience and how will you think differently on your next term, if elected? What is your platform this time around on the housing, traffic, and parking issues?




@Gale
Crescent Park
on Mar 23, 2018 at 2:34 am
@Gale, Crescent Park
on Mar 23, 2018 at 2:34 am
Like this comment

What do you think is working? I'm not expecting any likes from homeowners who have a vested interest in keeping housing limited while externalizing the increased housing costs onto others.

But you know what is working? The housing bills that have been passed. Palo Alto is going to need to meet it's housing goals, and until then any new developments that adhere to zoning will get streamlined approval without the city or homeowners being able to block it.

And you know what's going to work even better? SB827. Zoning around Caltrain stations will be upzoned and the approval process streamlined.

You're outnumbered here, and you don't have the votes stop this, neither on the city level or the state level, where it really matters. Things are changing.


@Gale
Crescent Park

on Mar 23, 2018 at 2:51 am
Name hidden, Crescent Park

on Mar 23, 2018 at 2:51 am

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Anon
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 23, 2018 at 8:43 am
Anon, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 23, 2018 at 8:43 am
9 people like this

Posted by @Gale, a resident of Crescent Park

>> What do you think is working? I'm not expecting any likes from homeowners who have a vested interest in keeping housing limited while externalizing the increased housing costs onto others.

You have it -exactly backwards-. It is the developers building excess office space, and, property owners repurposing existing commercial space to packed software development areas (and to think people used to get offices, and after that, cubicles!), that are -externalizing- their costs.

We need a new city ordinance: software developers and engineers get at least a minimum of 100 square feet per person. (See Peopleware). Palo Alto is turning into a giant workstation sweatshop.

>> You're outnumbered here, and you don't have the votes stop this, neither on the city level or the state level, where it really matters. Things are changing.

Whoever you are, why are you so adversarial? Assuming that you are a younger person working in front a of screen all day -- what is in it for you to destroy the livability of Palo Alto so that your company can be branded "Palo Alto"?


Me 2
Old Palo Alto
on Mar 23, 2018 at 8:43 am
Me 2, Old Palo Alto
on Mar 23, 2018 at 8:43 am
2 people like this

Haha. My life doesn't revolve around Palo Alto Online - unlike some retired folks here who can live off their luck of buying a house before it was out of hand, I actually have to work for a living to live in Palo Alto.

Mauricio is en fuego.

"Who gave Me2 the right to decide what this area should look like? He wants this to be a dense urban area in which everybody who wants to live here is allowed to, subsidised of long time residents. "

No one gave me the right, who is also a resident of Palo Alto. Just as no one should give you any additional weight just because you lucked into the Prop 13-fueld lottery and bought a house a long time ago.

Who is subsidizing whom? I'm probably paying 10x the property tax you are. It's clear that more recent homeowners in Palo Alto are subsidizing YOU.

'The only people who should have influence over how a city/town develops are the people who actually live there. Home owners should have much more of a say than renters. This is just as as universally true as the belief that the only people who should have a say on how a country develops are its own citizens."

I suppose Mauricio is also in favor of a poll tax and only letting homeowners vote in elections? Really Mauricio, those ideas died with the Civil Rights movement in the 60s.

Actually, I might life this idea, come to think of it. Because I may much more in property tax than Mauricio, I should have more influence!

Thanks for the great idea Mauricio. Let's do it.


mauricio
Registered user
Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Mar 23, 2018 at 11:43 am
mauricio, Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
Registered user
on Mar 23, 2018 at 11:43 am
9 people like this

Luck had nothing to do with it. Only years of saving every penny and a great deal of sacrifice, without any whining.

The homer that I purchased had already existed for many years. I never asked or wanted additional development to afford me housing in Palo Alto. Even Me2 might be able to recognize the difference.

" Because I may much more in property tax than Mauricio, I should have more influence!"
A laughable non sequitur. People who bought after you are paying more property taxes than you. According to their logic they should have much more of a say about the future of this town than you.

Long time residents like me, and those who have lived here much longer, have been paying property taxes for decades, and approving many bond measures. Yes, the taxes that allowed you to come into a town with great schools, parks, roads and libraries. Many of them, like me, voted against Prop 13, which has got zero to do with who made this town great. Those who want to move in and try to force long time residents to live in urban density should have zero say on the future of Palo Alto.


Me 2
Old Palo Alto
on Mar 23, 2018 at 3:18 pm
Me 2, Old Palo Alto
on Mar 23, 2018 at 3:18 pm
Like this comment

"Long time residents like me, and those who have lived here much longer, have been paying property taxes for decades, and approving many bond measures. Yes, the taxes that allowed you to come into a town with great schools, parks, roads and libraries. Many of them, like me, voted against Prop 13, which has got zero to do with who made this town great. Those who want to move in and try to force long time residents to live in urban density should have zero say on the future of Palo Alto."

If you've been here as long as you have inferred, I've probably paid more in property tax in the last decade than you have in total since the 80s. More recent homeowners have probably done it in less than half the time.

I don't think you want to play the numbers game with recent buyers.


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