News

Grand jury calls for denser housing

Santa Clara County cities challenged to form 'sub-regions' to solve housing crisis

Henry Groth, primary investigator for the Civil Grand Jury report, sits down with Weekly journalists on an episode of "Behind the Headlines."

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Despite a recent push to build more housing, Palo Alto and other Santa Clara County cities will have to answer to the civil grand jury in September for their collective failure to address the regional housing crisis.

The June 21 report from the Santa Clara County Civil Grand Jury highlights the efforts — or lack thereof — made by 15 county cities to address the shortage of affordable housing. The 45-page report also offers 39 findings and recommendations for cities to close the housing gap, including new fees on employers to pay for affordable housing; development "bonuses" allowing greater density for below-market-rate (BMR) housing near transit hubs; and the creation of "sub-regions," in which cities with high real-estate costs would subsidize housing built in adjacent cities that have lower real-estate costs.

Above all, the report is a clarion call for denser housing. Titled "Affordable Housing Crisis: Density is Our Destiny," it makes a case for stronger state laws that will prod "flailing cities" to build more densely, particularly below-market-rate housing.

"Higher densities are a necessary solution, but cities are not fully embracing this solution in the face of resident resistance, and a lack of funding, land and urgency," the report's summary states.

The report suggests that Palo Alto is in many ways in the eye of the housing storm. Palo Alto has by far the county's highest ratio of jobs per employed residents, estimated at 3.02 (the next closest city is Santa Clara, which has a ratio of 2.08), a discrepancy that fuels the city's traffic and parking problems.

To narrow the gap, the City Council has pursued two broad strategies: hit the brakes on office developments and rev up housing construction. While the former strategy appears to have succeeded (new office developments in downtown, around California Avenue and along El Camino Real have failed to reach the city's 50,000-square-foot threshold in each of the past three years), the latter remains a struggle. The council is well short of its goal of producing 300 housing units this year; the only project to win approval so far is a 57-apartment complex at 2755 El Camino Real.

The report from the civil grand jury — a group of citizens appointed for a one-year term that launches investigations based on citizen complaints and (as in this case) of its own initiative — makes clear that the county's gaping housing shortage has been many years in the making. Palo Alto ranks close to the bottom countywide in numerous categories relating to housing production, both recent and historic.

According to the report, Palo Alto was 14th out of 15 cities when it comes to meeting its state-mandated Regional Housing Needs Allocation (RHNA) in the 2007-2014 cycle (the allocation process requires cities to plan for — though not actually build — housing units, a fact that the report suggested changing).

The city issued permits for 1,080 housing units during this period, which comprised 38 percent of its allocation of 2,860. Only Saratoga, which had a RHNA allocation of 292 units and issued permits for only 38, held a smaller percentage (13 percent).

Palo Alto's production of below-market-rate housing is even worse. Palo Alto issued only 293 permits for below-market-rate housing in the 2007-2014 cycle, just 16 percent of its RHNA allocation of 1,874 (it ranked 12th in this category). The city did somewhat better on "above moderate" housing, which targets those who make more than 120 percent of area median income, which in Santa Clara County amounts to about $99,225 for a one-person household. The city permitted 787 housing units in the "above moderate" price range, fulfilling 80 percent of its allocation of 986 units. Even so, it ranked 13th in this category, with only Saratoga and Campbell claiming a small percentage.

Despite a recent focus on housing, Palo Alto hasn't fared much better in the current RHNA cycle, which stretches from 2015 to 2023. In the first three years of the cycle, the city met only 15 percent of its total RHNA allocation (ranking 13th). And on below-market-rate housing, it issued 115 permits of the 1,401 units in its allocation, or 8 percent (ranking it 7th).-

Recommended: Cities should work together

To make it easier for cities to produce housing, the grand jury recommends that they form RHNA subregions — a structure already in use in San Mateo, Napa and Solano counties. Under the system, cities within a subregion collectively share the burden of building housing.

The Cities Association of Santa Clara County is considering the possibilities of this model, according to the report. Rather than following prescribed rules, cities in a subregion would "strike their own alliances depending on mutual needs." Those that build extra below-market-rate housing to compensate for their neighboring cities would get compensation from those partners, such as funding for transportation infrastructure, parks, schools, safety and social services, the report states.

The grand jury report also highlights several existing policies that it argues discourage housing production. Palo Alto is one of seven county cities, for example, that allows developers to pay "in-lieu fees" instead of actually building below-market-rate units in their residential projects. This, the report says, weakens the city's so-called "inclusionary" law because developers tend to see these fees as a bargain. And while the money is allocated for housing, the report notes that "it can be many years before the fees translate into BMR units."

"The Grand Jury believes that in-lieu fees should be avoided and that cities should incentivize developers to build BMR units within their developments," the report states. "If cities retain in-lieu fees, they should be raised above the comparable inclusionary requirement."

At the same time, the grand jury report wholeheartedly endorses several other policies that Palo Alto has in place. The city is one of five — along with Santa Clara, Cupertino, Mountain View and Sunnyvale — that charge commercial developers "linkage fees" to pay for below-market-rate housing. Palo Alto's fee of up to $35 per square foot of new commercial space built is currently the highest in the county.

The grand jury also favors relaxing rules for residents interested in constructing accessory dwelling units (also known as granny units) on their properties and favors "residential impact fees" on new residential developments to pay for below-market-rate housing — efforts that Palo Alto has already undertaken.

NIMBYs versus YIMBYs

In putting the report together, the grand jury conducted 65 interviews, including ones with government officials, developers and leaders of nonprofits, according to the report. But while the report is chart-filled and data-heavy, it is also — as the name implies — very much an advocacy document for density.

The report strikes a particularly forceful tone when it frames the debate over housing as a tussle between the "NIMBY" mindset (a derisive acronym for "Not In My Backyard"), which calls for limiting job growth and city population to near current levels and which holds sway with many politicians, and the YIMBY ("Yes In My Backyard") movement, which is led largely by millennials and which "has started to exert influence in support of denser developments."

The document acknowledges that there are often sound reasons to limit development, which requires "acceptance of greater traffic congestion and therefore the need for modes of travel other than the automobile." It also notes that a "big piece of the puzzle is the stress that added population puts on overburdened schools."

These issues notwithstanding, the grand jury recommends that Santa Clara County lead "a unified communication campaign that aims to convert NIMBYs into YIMBYs and ease the road ahead for higher densities and more BMR housing." Such a campaign, the report states, should "analyze the need for higher densities in the context of the leadership consensus for preferred pace and limits for housing and employment growth."

The council is scheduled to discuss the report in late August, before staff submits its response. The report is already, however, generating divergent responses. Councilman Adrian Fine, a staunch housing advocate who authored a November 2017 memo advocating for more housing near public transit hubs, told the Weekly that the grand jury's decision to author the report is demonstrative of the scale of the problem.

"They point their recommendations at two obvious targets: the necessity for density and the issues with local control of housing," Fine said.

Councilwoman Karen Holman, who holds a philosophy of slower city growth and who voted against the 2755 El Camino Real development, sees things differently. Holman said the grand jury report is "curious in that it inserts itself into local land use matters in a similar fashion that the state has in imposing its housing mandates."

"While the Grand Jury has not the ability to impose regulations, the report does take a very political and partisan position (NIMBY vs. YIMBY) on how cities should solve its housing issues without also considering the other land-use impacts that such actions would drive," Holman told the Weekly.

These issues, Holman said, include how new office development exacerbates the housing shortage and the effects of an influx of new residents on local schools.

"To contemplate these other issues does not make one anti-housing but rather more rational in understanding that rarely can a single concern be addressed without also considering the practical and very real results of actions being contemplated in isolation," Holman said.

SIDEBAR: A regional approach?

One of the key recommendations of the report "Affordable Housing Crisis: Density is Our Destiny" by the 2017-18 Santa Clara County Civil Grand Jury is that the 15 cities in the county unite as one or more "sub-regions" of the Bay Area to address the housing shortage.

Here's how it might work:

* The cities in each "sub-region" would work collectively to build affordable housing.

* By joining together, cities would gain more control and flexibility to meet their individual housing requirements mandated by the state.

* Subregions would consist of contiguous local governments and require the approval of the Association of Bay Area Governments, which is the regional planning body for the nine Bay Area counties.

* If wealthier and less wealthy cities form a subregion, both could benefit: By building housing in the city where real estate is less expensive, more housing could be constructed for the same amount of money. Wealthier cities would contribute funds not only for housing but to ease the impacts of that housing on public transportation, roads, schools, parks, social services and retail access.

* An estimate of the cost to build the state's allocation of below-market-rate housing in each of Santa Clara County's cities is $32.5 billion; however, if — theoretically — all of the affordable housing were built in the least expensive city (Gilroy), it would cost only $20.4 billion. This, the report states, makes the case for cities to form alliances on the housing issue.

Related content:

Watch Weekly journalists will discuss the Santa Clara County Civil Grand Jury's report on an episode of "Behind the Headlines."

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

Comments

197 people like this
Posted by Office Growth is the Real Problem
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jul 6, 2018 at 5:16 am

Office growth continues merrily in Palo Alto, making our housing, traffic, parking, and school problems worse. The 50,000 sq. ft. annual office cap mentioned in the story covers only some parts of the city and was generously set above historical growth rates in those areas anyway. That cap doesn't cover the Stanford Research Park, which continues to expand. City staff don't even count community-serving businesses that illegally convert to tech offices. And pro-growthers on the Council recently doubled (!!!) the allowed total commercial growth rate citywide over what it had been.

Every new office space built means another worker, his/her family, and the people working at the estimated four or so other jobs they in turn create all need to be housed. And that new office space takes away a spot where housing might actually go.

It's very clear: the real problem is rampant office growth. Don't be distracted by developers claiming otherwise.


12 people like this
Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on Jul 6, 2018 at 5:31 am

Density is Our Destiny?


132 people like this
Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jul 6, 2018 at 6:59 am

Online Name is a registered user.

"The report from the civil grand jury — a group of citizens appointed for a one-year term that launches investigations based on citizen complaints and (as in this case) of its own initiative — makes clear that the county's gaping housing shortage has been many years in the making."

What a novel political maneuver, especially since the pro-development majority on the City Council continue to support Stanford's massive expansion.

"The report suggests that Palo Alto is in many ways in the eye of the housing storm. Palo Alto has by far the county's highest ratio of jobs per employed residents, estimated at 3.02 (the next closest city is Santa Clara, which has a ratio of 2.08), a discrepancy that fuels the city's traffic and parking problems."

Maybe the proponents of curbing office growth (Measure A) should also lodge a citizens complaint to stop office growth until housing catches up. Maybe the pro-development majority on the CC should cancel their Measure B alternative to undercut Measure A that exempts Stanford, Stanford Research Park, Stamford Health etc. from office caps until the jobs/housing imbalance is brought under control.

At the very least they could save us some money and cancel the city-funded "study" supporting Measure B that under-cuts the citizens ballot initiative that legally must be placed on the ballot,


43 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 6, 2018 at 7:18 am

A subregion for Palo Alto should include East Palo Alto and East Menlo Park. Different county, but same region.

Affordable housing units could be built much easier in EPA and East Menlo.

The only places to build more pack and stack housing in Palo Alto would be by eminent domain, forcing people out of their homes. That is not Community. That is something else.


148 people like this
Posted by Anon
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Jul 6, 2018 at 8:37 am

How revolting that the civil grand jury should be used to
make a biased Political statement !
It is shocking and wrong.
We need to stop lying to one another and work with the truth.
Those among us who want Palo Alto to be a denser City with people packed on top of one another cars littered on streets and front yards and over crowded
Schools,parks and streets should simply come out and say that us what they want rather than hiding begins misrepresentations of housing shortages, automated vehicles unbundled parking etc...
The simple reality is we have almost the largest house jobs imbalance in the country, meaning we as the city of Palo Alto.
This has made a very few of us very rich but it has created a unnatural imbalance and a horrible amount if pollution from cars and diminished our quality of life.
Adding more people, more cars more jobs more growth
In the city and Stanford will only continue to make these problems grow.


29 people like this
Posted by Just ignore the facts Palo Alto
a resident of College Terrace
on Jul 6, 2018 at 8:53 am

Wow. The county comes out with a report using tons of data and historic analysis and determines that we need to build more housing.... not surprising if you even have a pulse. As usual, Karen Holman throws up a hedge about “impacts”, and claims to not be “anti-housing”. She has voted against every housing project!

Have fun wallowing in your non reality, Palo Alto.

This isn’t rocket science. Build more housing.


21 people like this
Posted by No More Land
a resident of Palo Verde
on Jul 6, 2018 at 9:13 am

The market is an ugly or beautiful thing depending on where you sit.

There is no more open land to develop in Palo Alto. The law of supply and demand is once again being reaffirmed.

Single story residences are being replaced with maxed out multi-story homes. Single story retail replaced with maxed out mixed-use retail under office buildings. There is just so little land to develop here that dictating that what very limited land we have be used for below market housing is not only economically difficult, its geographically nearly impossible.

Not saying that we need to give up, just noting that this is an extraordinarily difficult challenge. The Grand Jury report provides many potential solutions, but in the end, we will need to accept that the only realistic way to solve this problem is by breaking our current zoning code and permitting greater density with smaller sf units. Current FAR requirements will need to be revisited.




50 people like this
Posted by Gnar
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Jul 6, 2018 at 9:24 am

This reinforces the fact that Palo Alto needs to pick up the slack and do our fair share of shouldering the Bay Area's housing burden.

This nonsense of pretending we're still a small town from 1956 is baloney, with our excessively cautious 25 mph speed limits where adjacent cities do just fine with 35mph. Or removing lanes to throttle traffic, when there's no statistical reason to do so.

The City wants to pump in more hotels and raise the hotel tax to cover their $500m - $1b pension problem. We don't need more hotels, like the proposed Su Hong disaster. Hotels suck the soul out of the city. We need housing.

Soon Palo Alto is going to consist exclusively of overseas money laundered in local real estate, retired baby boomers, and hotels. How sad.


32 people like this
Posted by J
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 6, 2018 at 9:35 am

There's a ton of land on the other side of 280, just no political will to do what needs to be done.


153 people like this
Posted by Shilling for developers
a resident of Mountain View
on Jul 6, 2018 at 9:36 am

The shills for developers, such as Adrian Fine and Cory Wolbach, who pushes for affordable housing which caters to luxury/market rate tech workers. Pay attention people, the "affordable" housing the Council majority are talking about are for people earning up to 120% AMI. Housing developers will not build below 60% AMI, it is not profitable.

The YIMBYs are supported by tech companies, as evidenced here Web Link

and here Web Link

South Palo Alto WAKE UP and be on the alert for these YIMBYs trying to do away with your R1 single family homes! They want to loosen regulations to put more than 1 granny unit, it will make the residential neighborhoods into multi-residential areas of triplexes and fourplexes. Where's the parking? Schools? Our school quality will become like San Francisco's.

Look at us here in Mountain View.


30 people like this
Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jul 6, 2018 at 9:41 am

Online Name is a registered user.

@Gmar, I totally agree that it's nonsensical to remove lanes to throttle traffic at a time when the number of commuters continues to soar. It's also extremely costly when we have a budget shortfall and all the unfunded pension liabilities.

I also agree we need to act to tax oversees money being laundered in local real estate like other cities and countries are doing.

What's your position on the ballot initiative Measure A to curb office growth?


98 people like this
Posted by Affordable Housing Fees
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 6, 2018 at 9:46 am

We would have more money for affordable housing if the Council majority of Cory Wolbach, then Mayor Scharff, then Vice Mayor Kniss, Tanaka and Fine had not lowered the affordable housing impact fee increase that was on a second reading as passed by the previous Council. As one of their first acts in office, they lowered the increase from $60/square foot to $35/square foot, a gift to the developer friends who put them in office.

Santa Clara County may raise the rate for Stanford GUP to $68.50/square foot. Web Link The true cost is $143.10.

The City Council should raise the fee to match the County proposed fee of $68.50/square foot.

And it should stop allowing loss of existing housing like the President Hotel Apartments. That is, if the developer overlords will let its paid-for Council members do that.


132 people like this
Posted by Amazing!
a resident of Downtown North
on Jul 6, 2018 at 10:01 am

According to their website, the purpose of a Civil Grand Jury is to investigate complaints by citizens alleging mistreatment by officials, suspicions of misconduct, or governmental inefficiencies.

Since when does the Civil Grand Jury investigate lack of housing caused by uncontrolled market conditions caused by greedy developers and compliant city councils who are looking for contributions towards their next election?

And why does the Civil Grand Jury waste their time and resources on a topic that is being addressed by housing advocates, Sacramento legislature and City Councils?

The Civil Grand Jury is also tasked with the duty of CIVIL WATCHDOG RESPONSIBILITIES which includes all aspects of county and city government and special districts to ensure that the best interests of Santa Clara county citizens are being served. The Grand Jury reviews and evaluates procedures, methods and systems utilized by county/city government to determine whether more efficient and economical programs may be employed. The Grand Jury is also authorized to:

Inspect and audit books, records and financial expenditures to ensure that public funds are properly accounted for and legally spent.
Inspect financial records of over 25 special districts in Santa Clara County.
Inquire into the conditions of jails and detention centers.
Inquire into charges of willful misconduct in office by public officials or employees.

The jail situation isn't a problem here in Santa Clara? There hasn't been a public official accused of misconduct recently? Did they audit any of the 25 special districts in Santa Clara county?

Honestly, if this is where the Civil Grand Jury is going, why don't they just start getting into that Russian thing and subpeona Julian Assange and the emails/servers that the nation is talking about. I'm saddened that the Civil Grand Jury decided not to get their hands dirty by doing their real job.

I think that the Superior Court Judges should create a SUPER CIVIL GRAND JURY to investigate the CIVIL GRAND JURY to understand how and why it wasted a years worth of time on a topic that is truly political.


94 people like this
Posted by Allen Akin
a resident of Professorville
on Jul 6, 2018 at 10:17 am

Allen Akin is a registered user.

With minor exceptions, cities don't build housing. Private developers do. There are commercial development projects throughout Santa Clara County that are adding *millions* of square feet of office space right now. They could be adding housing instead. They're not, because commercial space is so much more profitable than housing.

The Grand Jury's suggestions will fail because they don't correct that imbalance.

Instead, suppose that approval of every 100 sq ft of commercial space required prior approval of 500 sq ft of housing. (That's about the ratio for one office worker living in a studio apartment.) Developers could build housing themselves, negotiate deals with other developers to do it, or we could even create an exchange system (which would have complete freedom to link developments across county lines).

The effect would be to make commercial space less profitable (reducing the amount of it constructed) and housing space more profitable (increasing the amount of it constructed). In the long run this would correct the imbalance between housing supply and demand.

But be aware that it won't make housing affordable. Land is expensive here, construction is expensive here, and tall construction is more expensive than short construction. All you have to do is look at dense cities elsewhere in the world to see that density alone doesn't give you affordability.

Nor does density alone solve transportation. LA actually has quite high population density, but it's distributed in a way that makes centralized systems less effective. We would have the same problem here. And we would have to find huge amounts of money to fund centralized systems.

Like Ed Abbey said, growth for the sake of growth is the ideology of the cancer cell. Trying to build our way out of unlimited growth in demand simply won't work. But we can be smarter than that.


58 people like this
Posted by MyOpinion
a resident of Community Center
on Jul 6, 2018 at 10:43 am

MyOpinion is a registered user.

"Affordable Housing Crisis: Density is Our Destiny" Density does not = affordability. ALL of the new high density apartment complexes in Mountain View are luxury rentals 3-6K per month, which are excluded from rent control under current Law (Costa Hawkins). Essentially transient housing for affluent tech workers passing through, when they want to settle down they will move to a real community. Mountain View is becoming like Zhengzhou known as “iPhone City” This is Mountain View's future... Web Link


14 people like this
Posted by Me 2
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jul 6, 2018 at 10:56 am

"But be aware that it won't make housing affordable. Land is expensive here, construction is expensive here, and tall construction is more expensive than short construction. All you have to do is look at dense cities elsewhere in the world to see that density alone doesn't give you affordability."

Growth is here regardless of what long term residents want. In fact, growth has been here since the last real housing bust in the early nineties (the 2008 meltdown was a blip). As you can see, minimal new housing won't cause the growth to go away.

The one thing that would cause it to go away is a industry meltdown or a depression. For the first - see Detroit. Pretending that growth will go away without a severe economic downturn for the region is magical thinking.

And don't tell me how dense this area is so soon after the article about Scott McNealy's compound going on sale. Just driving along 280 shows how little land development we really have around here.

So what are you proposing Allen? Affordability is relative. Having more supply makes things relatively affordable compared to less supply. It's always easy to conclude with "being smart" - but what is being smart?


11 people like this
Posted by Me 2
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jul 6, 2018 at 10:58 am

"ALL of the new high density apartment complexes in Mountain View are luxury rentals 3-6K per month, which are excluded from rent control under current Law (Costa Hawkins). Essentially transient housing for affluent tech workers passing through, when they want to settle down they will move to a real community. Mountain View is becoming like Zhengzhou known as “iPhone City” This is Mountain View's future.."

That money has to go somewhere. Otherwise you end up gentrifying East Palo Alto and East Menlo Park. Hell, you could even say that Sunnyvale is being gentrified into Palo Alto prices.

This is such a bogus argument.


52 people like this
Posted by Really?
a resident of Midtown
on Jul 6, 2018 at 11:29 am

Karen Holman's comments make sense:" "curious in that it inserts itself into local land use matters in a similar fashion that the state has in imposing its housing mandates." The Santa Clara Grand Jury should not be weighing in on this issue, because that is not their purpose or mandate. The state also should not be in this business either. These are some of the many reasons to leave the Bay Area, and the state of California to other states which do not regulate. If the state wants to regulate, maybe they should do something about population control!


88 people like this
Posted by Alex
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Jul 6, 2018 at 11:57 am

Based on this news story, it seems that the grand jury completely ignored the root causes of the housing shortage; way more high tech jobs being brought into the area and the development of office space, and that being allowed to happen with those same companies having no responsibility to mitigate the housing problems they have created as a result. Why should companies worth billions be allowed to dump their housing problem on local communities? How could this HUGE elephant fit in the grand jury room and yet no one noticed? The demand to build more housing with no consideration of the problem points to either a severely biased or flawed investigation.


16 people like this
Posted by Me 2
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jul 6, 2018 at 12:26 pm

"Why should companies worth billions be allowed to dump their housing problem on local communities?"

Really? You really want Apple and Google responsible for local housing? I'm sure it would be great to have Apple buy a huge swath of South Palo Alto and then just kick out everyone who doesn't work for Apple.

Yeah, what a great idea. Not.

But given the local planning and development challenges, that's what would happen. That's more money -- more than the purported Chinese and Russian money -- flowing into local real estate that would kick pricing even higher and make things less affordable.

Housing is a planning issue. Just blaming companies for doing what they're designed to do is moving the blame from where it belongs - the municipalities and the voters who voted their representatives in. City Councils do what their voters ask them to do.


32 people like this
Posted by Allen Akin
a resident of Professorville
on Jul 6, 2018 at 12:26 pm

Allen Akin is a registered user.

@Me 2: Yes, there's already been a lot of growth, and we're living with the consequences. The first thing we have to do is stop digging the hole deeper.

I think that means making the right connections between economic incentives. If companies are absolutely convinced that being located in Silicon Valley is an overwhelming advantage, then they will want to help keep that option open. Now that the excess capacity has been absorbed, pushing the costs of expansion onto the public is no longer fair or feasible. Therefore it's time for the companies to invest. That investment can take many forms, but I've already suggested one of the simplest: Build housing before expanding the workforce. That's an example of being smart.

I think when most people talk about affordability, they mean that they want housing to be more affordable than it is today. They don't want there to be more housing that's less affordable. But that's unavoidably what happens when commercial growth is unlimited and commercial space is more profitable than housing.

Density is easy: Just hot-bunk your people in company dormitories. If that's not acceptable, we're going to get into the questions of quality of life, property rights, environmental impacts, and so on. Too big a discussion for this reply. :-)


12 people like this
Posted by @Allen
a resident of another community
on Jul 6, 2018 at 1:02 pm

You continually push this narrative that the housing crisis is caused by housing not being profitable and yet there are multiple stories every day of housing developments being delayed or denied by planning commissions in response to resident pushback, and multiple studies showing that restrictive zoning and height limits are a major contributor to the housing crisis.

As for this story, GOOD. The political hammer is starting to drop down on you guys.


33 people like this
Posted by causes of shortage
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jul 6, 2018 at 1:19 pm

There are several obvious causes of housing shortage.
Over-construction of offices.

Over-population. We were warned years ago that the population explosion was dangerous but we allowed religious institutions to stop us talking about it.

Asian money. About 9 of 10 real estate sales for years are to Asians with loads of cash, some from the profits on labor of the downtrodden. So many people here profit from the deluge, we are prevented from confronting the obvious. Political correctness in the service of the super rich.

Obscene profits of tech and other companies - Apple, Facebook, Palantir, Stanford, Oracle,etc. and their obsession with growth.


53 people like this
Posted by Curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on Jul 6, 2018 at 1:37 pm

The problem is not underhousing; it's overpopulation.

Our roads are beyond capacity now. We ain't got room to make more of them, or to build bigger ones. And we can't/won't pay to create a viable public transit system.

The workable solution is to export excess jobs and workers to areas that need them. Else, buy everybody out, clearcut the existing infrastructure to bare ground, and start over.

Meantime, the grand jury needs to do its job. Stick to catching crooks and quit playing Sim City.


8 people like this
Posted by obvious cause of shortage
a resident of another community
on Jul 6, 2018 at 1:39 pm

And above all, the decades of reduced housing construction. That might have something to do with the housing shortage.


15 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 6, 2018 at 1:45 pm

I have said this time and time again. But here goes for the umpteenth time.

The best way to get the employees here, be they tech workers or service industry workers, is to improve public transport. The 22 on ECR and Caltrain are not going to get people from the areas where there is cheaper housing, Milpitas, Campbell, the East Bay, the Coast, etc. Google and other high tech companies know this and are working to help with luxury buses. Facebook has started a cross Bay ferry service.

All companies cannot operate buses like the big boys, but their experience in serving their workers could be utilized to start similar services up for dedicated buses that get from housing areas 15, 20, 30 plus miles away, to the jobs in Silicon Valley. VTA can't or won't do it, neither will other agencies.

What Palo Alto can do is put in off ramp parking lots (already in place at 280) with dedicated shuttles to business areas.

We need some out the box thinking and not just expecting that building stack and pack housing will solve the problem.


8 people like this
Posted by Roger Overnaut
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Jul 6, 2018 at 1:46 pm

"As for this story, GOOD. The political hammer is starting to drop down on you guys."

Your angst is understandable. If Palo Alto does not overbuild enough, your little enclave could get built up.


24 people like this
Posted by @Roger
a resident of another community
on Jul 6, 2018 at 1:51 pm

It's telling that the only thing you can do is project. Have you considered that the housing crisis is causing real and serious pain to swaths of people living on the margins and pushing a generation out of the middle class due to the insane rise in housing costs? That you might be a bad person to be content with that just so you don't have to drive by a tall building downtown?


12 people like this
Posted by Me 2
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jul 6, 2018 at 2:02 pm

Thanks for the response, Allen. Some questions:

"Build housing before expanding the workforce. That's an example of being smart."

How is that going to happen with this residentialist mindset we have in Palo Alto? (and the Aaron Peskin-led Telegraph Hill Dwellers style NIMBYism in San Francisco?)

"Density is easy: Just hot-bunk your people in company dormitories. If that's not acceptable, we're going to get into the questions of quality of life, property rights, environmental impacts, and so on. Too big a discussion for this reply."

Handwaving off the answer? Actually density is *more* environmental than pushing the middle and working class out to Fresno and Mountain House. And who's to judge what's a better quality of life? To some folks, being able to walk to things is more important than having a backyard. That's a choice to be made by a buyer, not imposed dogma by someone else.

Curmudgeon: "The problem is not underhousing; it's overpopulation."

Right. How much housing could we put on a lot the side of McNealy's compound? Nice rolling hills in Portola Valley and Woodside.

It's hilarious that you can claim overpopulation with a straight face with so much open never-to-be-developed land around 280.


8 people like this
Posted by HM
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jul 6, 2018 at 2:07 pm

So, who is on the Civil Grand Jury? Who appoints them? Do they have any judicial power? Can local businesses just stack the deck on this, too?


Like this comment
Posted by @HM
a resident of another community
on Jul 6, 2018 at 2:22 pm

[Post removed.]


16 people like this
Posted by GoneOnTooLong
a resident of Barron Park
on Jul 6, 2018 at 2:24 pm

[Post removed.]


33 people like this
Posted by Joe
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 6, 2018 at 2:42 pm

The Civil Grand Jury has no clout, not to mention it is a bunch of people who don't have jobs or don't need to work for the better part of a year. Moreover, there is no expertise in anything that can be found in most/all of those serving on the Jury.

Long past time to abolish this ineffectual "institution".


4 people like this
Posted by midtown senior
a resident of Midtown
on Jul 6, 2018 at 2:57 pm

midtown senior is a registered user.

Building housing is subject to the fact that we have only three dimensions to work with. If we've run out of length and width of land for housing,then there's only up or down. (And I think basement living isn't that attractive.)


10 people like this
Posted by MJ
a resident of College Terrace
on Jul 6, 2018 at 3:23 pm

@ “Shilling for developers"

Thank for your links above to the eye-opening article about the origins and founding of the formal YIMBY organization
Web Link

YIMBY's laser focus on housing for a certain segment, the photo op of Adrian Fine, together with the other link with the long list of influential tech companies, was most interesting.

The YIMBY goal appears to be perfectly encapsulated by ME 2’s posting above:

"Actually density is *more* environmental than pushing the middle and working class out to Fresno and Mountain House. And who's to judge what's a better quality of life? "



25 people like this
Posted by pickpocket
a resident of Palo Verde
on Jul 6, 2018 at 3:23 pm

Isn't it amusing how 'housing advocates' believe offices increase traffic, but housing does not.


43 people like this
Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jul 6, 2018 at 3:28 pm

Online Name is a registered user.

If the pro-development 5 (Scharff, Fine, Wolbach, Kmiss and Tanaka) truly cared about housing, why do they so strenuously oppose all proposals for rent moderation -- ie limiting the amount of annual rent increases? They even opposed rent modification for the ADUs they rushed through "to help housing" yet they keep giving developers all sorts of giveways like lower fees, "car-light" fairy tales, etc.

Compare the numbers of "affordable" and BMR units in big developments approved by Stanford and others. Look at the numbers and beyond the political gamesmanship, "Follow the money."

Why do big companies like Google so consistently refuse to comment on how their push for tens of thousands of housing units for their under-paid $60K foreign contractors and well-paid employees will push out everyone else while increasing the financial burden on cities to provide schools, roads and other services? How far will Facebook's token $500,000 "contribution" to worker housing go? It won't even cover a single garage.

They keep opposing head-count taxes while sticking residents with the costs and inconvenience of their development while paying a lousy $30 business license fee. Even their employees want to slow the pace of office development to reduce housing competition.

Logic tells you that dramatically worsening the jobs / housing imbalance won't bring down house costs since it obviously increases the competition for each housing unit.

Thank you "Shilling for Developers" for providing those links showing how the high-tech companies are funding the well-organized if illogical YIMBY movement. I urge you all to follow those links and read up on the issue.

When in doubt, follow the money. Review voting records and campaign contributions.


3 people like this
Posted by @Online Name
a resident of another community
on Jul 6, 2018 at 3:34 pm

[Post removed due to same poster using multiple names]


24 people like this
Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jul 6, 2018 at 3:58 pm

Online Name is a registered user.

Why? Because they're getting away cheap with government giveaways,

Much has been written on the shift in the tax burden from government to residents. One recent article about Mountain View reported that the increased demands for schools cost homeowners $300 each homeowner's tax bill while corporations paid mere pennies. We pay more for parking permits than businesses pay with their $30 business license fee.

You say cities pay for new residents via property taxes. How is that fair when commuters to those business out-number taxpayers by 3:1? Paying for "new residents" out of property taxes made sense in the past before our insane growth created such huge imbalances.

Palo Alto's already #1 in the workers: taxpayers imbalance -- and that's before ABAG and its new head Greg Scharff start pushing their YIMBY growth targets.


11 people like this
Posted by Me 2
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jul 6, 2018 at 4:01 pm

"If the pro-development 5 (Scharff, Fine, Wolbach, Kmiss and Tanaka) truly cared about housing, why do they so strenuously oppose all proposals for rent moderation -- ie limiting the amount of annual rent increases? They even opposed rent modification for the ADUs they rushed through "to help housing" yet they keep giving developers all sorts of giveways like lower fees, "car-light" fairy tales, etc."

Because rent control (oh sorry - "moderation")l is a dumb idea that actually takes rental housing off the market. Been studied to death by economists, starting with the loosening of rent control in Cambridge, MA way back when.

It's a short-term bandaid that has really bad unintended consequences when it comes to housing. Like Prop 13 it only benefits the people who already rent, and screws the others trying to move in. Or maybe that's what you want.


17 people like this
Posted by Allen Akin
a resident of Professorville
on Jul 6, 2018 at 4:07 pm

Allen Akin is a registered user.

"You continually push this narrative that the housing crisis is caused by housing not being profitable ..."

Minor correction: "*as* profitable." You could build different kinds of housing profitably in different places, but the opportunities and competition drastically favor office space and luxury housing, so that's mostly what gets built.

Not only is it the simplest explanation I've seen that fits the facts, the developers seem to be pretty open about it. For example: "...downtown San Jose — seen as a cornerstone of the city’s economy — is one of the sections where development of new housing is unlikely to produce profits for developers..." Web Link

There's also the fact that lease/rental revenue per square foot is higher for commercial space than for housing.

As for the standard scapegoating argument, it might be more persuasive if proposed million-square-foot housing projects outnumbered proposed million-square-foot office projects and were being shot down by NIMBYs constantly. Public review forced the Vallco developers to increase the number of housing units in their mixed-use project from 800 to 2400, not decrease the number, but it's still got 1.8M sq ft of office space and the jobs/housing ratio works out to about 3:1.


4 people like this
Posted by @Online Name
a resident of another community
on Jul 6, 2018 at 4:19 pm

"You say cities pay for new residents via property taxes. How is that fair when commuters to those business out-number taxpayers by 3:1? Paying for "new residents" out of property taxes made sense in the past before our insane growth created such huge imbalances. "

How is it fair for cities to pay for services for new residents using property taxes from those residents when ... commuters out-number taxpayers? What?


7 people like this
Posted by Me 2
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jul 6, 2018 at 4:19 pm

"Public review forced the Vallco developers to increase the number of housing units in their mixed-use project from 800 to 2400, not decrease the number, but it's still got 1.8M sq ft of office space and the jobs/housing ratio works out to about 3:1."

Is that the narrative that they're pushing now? That's all BS.

Sand Hill was pushing to put housing on Vallco for YEARS. The Cupertino residents and city council were pushing to keep housing out off the site. There was even a ballot measure (Measure C) that would have tied Sand Hill's hands and restricted to commercial only.

The 2400 number comes from Sand Hill trying to fast-track the Vallco development under SB35.

Public review? That's fake news. The NIMBYs in Cupertino were trying to keep housing out of Vallco.

Sorry, Cupertino City Council and residents have their hands dirty here.


6 people like this
Posted by midtown senior
a resident of Midtown
on Jul 6, 2018 at 4:58 pm

midtown senior is a registered user.

As regarding Palo Alto Council and not only this issue, but associated "traffic management" here are a couple of a quotes:
T.H.R.O. "Throw the Hypocritical Rascals Out" Jack Gargan, Time Magazine Hero of the Week, 1991
'Throw the bastards out': an American tradition from settlers to Trump" The Guardian, Marcia Pally, Thu 8 Sep 2016 06.00 EDT
... and on and on.


26 people like this
Posted by No Way
a resident of Ventura
on Jul 6, 2018 at 5:04 pm

What I hope we do is ignore the small-minded Grand Jury, ignore the foolish talk of a 'housing shortage', send the city council home for a few years, and stop trying to engineer this city. I've lived in PA since 1979 and MV before that. The planning departments and councils are a gigantic waste of time and money.

I think we need a Grand Jury to investigate the misuse of the Grand Jury.....


7 people like this
Posted by Allen Akin
a resident of Professorville
on Jul 6, 2018 at 5:05 pm

Allen Akin is a registered user.

@Me 2:

"How is that going to happen with this residentialist mindset we have in Palo Alto?"

I think it's going to come down to pitting new office space against new housing. Scraping existing structures and building fresh (in transit-oriented areas or not) is going to be expensive enough that the amount of new moderately-priced housing that's built won't keep up with the amount that's lost plus the demand from new workers in the unlimited number of new offices.

That 5-to-1 square footage ratio is really crucial to keep in mind: Web Link (Thanks to Stewart Carl for first making this clear to me.)

"Handwaving off the answer?"

You're right, I was too flippant. My intent was to make people think about what their personal limits might be. If your only goal is "minimize environmental impact", then hot-bunked dormitories really are the best answer. If that feels too extreme, where do you, personally, draw the line? Does the same sort of argument apply over and over?

"That's a choice to be made by a buyer, not imposed dogma by someone else."

Yes. It is true that people did make choices based on an existing environment, and now other people want to impose new choices that require destroying that environment. This sort of conflict rarely ends well.

I was hoping to do two things: One, argue that by changing some of the fundamental factors that are driving this situation we might minimize the bad effects. Two, show why the simple brute-force approach isn't likely to improve the situation.


9 people like this
Posted by Roger Overnaut
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Jul 6, 2018 at 5:06 pm

@Roger:

I'd like to respond to your post of a couple hours ago. Would you please restate it coherently so I have something to work with?

Until then, please consider these definitions:

A NIMBY-name-caller is someone who is petrified that a proposed development will be built in their own neighborhood if it isn't built in somebody else's neighborhood. They are the hardcore NIMBYs.

A YIMBY is a developer or investor who wants to make money by overbuilding someone else's neighborhood. YIMBY's are fiercely protective of their own 'hoods, and are often NIMBY-name-callers.


4 people like this
Posted by @Roger
a resident of another community
on Jul 6, 2018 at 5:14 pm

Again, you're projecting. You think that everyone else thinks exactly like you, that no one could want development to happen around them, and therefore anyone that is for building housing is clearly only ok with it if it isn't happening next to them.


17 people like this
Posted by From PA
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Jul 6, 2018 at 6:22 pm

From PA is a registered user.

Roger,

Did you expect to have a dialogue with someone who posts under multiple names all starting with "@"? They want to talk @ (at) people, not to them. It is all ad hominem, otherwise known as trolling.

Regarding your argument, why don't we abandon NIMBY and YIMBY, for good? "Not in my back yard" goes both ways, so is meaningless. Like you say, "petrified that a proposed development will be built in their own neighborhood if it isn't built in somebody else's neighborhood". Normal human reaction, sort of.

In our situation here, it seems to be more useful to note which part of the "3:1" ratio the commenter is on. It is rather astonishing how pro-development are hell-bent on the :1 part of it. However, most people are noticing more and more the 3: part. The 5 members of the CC are obviously not among them. They keep pretending that they do not understand what we are talking about. Keep opening the city gates to mega-companies and then play ... um-m ... surprised that we have a housing problem, transportation problem, air quality problem, school problem, quality of life problem. Who could that thought?


9 people like this
Posted by Roger Overnaut
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Jul 6, 2018 at 6:31 pm

"Again, you're projecting. You think that everyone else thinks exactly like you, that no one could want development to happen around them [etc.]"

That's much clearer. Thank you.

But it misses the facts.

Not everyone thinks like me, else I wouldn't need to respond to their thoughts. You are a case in point.

I am observing and objectively commenting on what I see. Any projection is on your part.

Inhabitants of enclaves like yours do not want to host mass housing such as we already have in Palo Alto. They want it built, but built elsewhere. Many even profit financially from building it and renting it out, but they do not want it to be visible from their own homes. NIMBY-calling is a favorite tool in their arsenal, as is fake YIMBYism.


9 people like this
Posted by Roger Overnaut
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Jul 6, 2018 at 6:37 pm

"Did you expect to have a dialogue with someone who posts under multiple names all starting with "@"? They want to talk @ (at) people, not to them. It is all ad hominem, otherwise known as trolling."

They are not my audience. Readers such as yourself are. They are useful foils to make certain points.

I completely agree with all you say. Hypocrisy abounds on this topic.


26 people like this
Posted by mauricio
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jul 6, 2018 at 6:39 pm

mauricio is a registered user.

The problem is threefold. Overpopulation, too much commercial development, and foreign money, mostly Asian, which keeps pushing real estate costs to the stratosphere. Naturally, this bogus grand jury completely ignored the true causes, but since this grand jury scam has always been a ploy by developers and their politician obedient servants, it is not surprising at all.


43 people like this
Posted by Shilling for developers
a resident of Mountain View
on Jul 6, 2018 at 7:01 pm

19,100 jobs added in San Francisco, as the median home price shot up 21 percent

The title to this article tells it all Web Link

As long as there are jobs and these tech companies keep expanding and building huge unsustainable CAMPUSes, housing prices will continue on UP.

The Grand Jury is doing a top down governance with blinders on!


54 people like this
Posted by Neighborhood
a resident of University South
on Jul 6, 2018 at 7:10 pm

I understand the positions of advocates for big housing growth but I have never understood the intellectual consistency of the YIMBY term. For the most part YIMBY’s don’t have backyards because they are not single family homeowners with backyards and they they claim they don’t believe in development with backyards. A more honest title might be “I Want Your Backyard” (but don’t tell anyone).


9 people like this
Posted by 3rd Gen. Californian
a resident of College Terrace
on Jul 6, 2018 at 10:32 pm

The elephant in the room. Prop 13 - Since 1977 this greedy private property tax stagnation has caused a type of uncanny tyranny - holding 3 generations of Californians from living a decent and equitable existence. Too bad even mentioning such a deed is treated as a “un”American revolutionary act. It first stripped our schools and has become an sideways ship of colossal size.


20 people like this
Posted by pushing out
a resident of College Terrace
on Jul 6, 2018 at 10:40 pm

ME 2’s posting above:

"Actually density is *more* environmental than pushing the middle and working class out to Fresno and Mountain House. And who's to judge what's a better quality of life? "

The history of the YIMBY movement and its supporters appears to represent those who are not too concerned with displacing the middle and working class to Fresno because their real agenda is doing just that.


6 people like this
Posted by Me 2
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jul 7, 2018 at 8:06 am

"The history of the YIMBY movement and its supporters appears to represent those who are not too concerned with displacing the middle and working class to Fresno because their real agenda is doing just that."

Really. That's the funniest statement I've seen on this thread to date. How do you profess to know the real agenda or are you just projecting? The Dutch have a saying that you are what you accuse others of being. Seems appropriate here.

Let's have a discussion about this. Tell me how building more housing pushes out the middle class in a way that obstructing housing development doesn't?


7 people like this
Posted by HUTCH 7.62
a resident of Portola Valley
on Jul 7, 2018 at 9:30 am

Glad I got out while the getting was still good.


27 people like this
Posted by mauricio
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jul 7, 2018 at 9:42 am

mauricio is a registered user.

Building more housing, in Palo Alto, as well as in any other desirable community results in sharp increases in housing prices, in large part because foreign money gets in aggressively and outbids all others, which pushes out the middle class. This is irrefutable and born out by data, from NYC to Boston to San Francisco and anywhere in between.

Palo Alto will always bee incredibly expensive, regardless of how much housing is allowed to be developed. The only way to slow down the meteoric inflation of real estate prices is to halt commercial development, and stop tech companies from hiring more workers, forcing them to move and expand in other areas of the country. Additionally, drastic curbs and very high taxation on foreign buyers must be implemenetd.


47 people like this
Posted by Grand Jury Findings
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jul 7, 2018 at 9:48 am

Grand Jury Findings is a registered user.

The report states: "The Grand Jury interviewed over 65 people for this report, many more than once. Those interviewed included elected and appointed government officials, leaders of nonprofits and developers."

Notice no residents or commuter employees were interviewed. The report also states:

"NIMBY arguments often center on transportation and schools. Greater housing density requires acceptance of greater traffic congestion and therefore the need for modes of travel other than the automobile. Improving transportation is often an elusive piece of the housing puzzle, especially in cities with a high jobs-to-employed resident imbalance. Commute times have increased by 17% in Silicon Valley this past decade. Commute times have more than doubled to 66,000 additional vehicle hours daily."

In other words traffic is rapidly worsening and we need to continue to accept it will get worse. Calling people who care about their children's education and safety and not sitting in traffic during their commute away from their families as NIMBY's shows the bias of this report. It peddles the idea that the solution to overpopulation, excessive office development and having grown beyond our transportation infrastructure is to build more housing and place the burden and cost on residents, not on the companies creating the problem.

Palo Alto is only 3% of Santa Clara County's land and as the report states, what San Jose does is really the determining factor since they are so much larger. Besides moving more of the office and housing development to San Jose (which needs the jobs and has the space for housing), the real solution is to diversify tech industry into other regions in the country besides the Bay Area, which is better overall for America.

However, I do agree that making in lieu of fees that are at least 1/3 more expensive than building the actual housing would be a good change, requiring more BMR housing and requiring more inclusionary housing. Not fake BMR housing at 120% AMI like Palo Alto currently has. These are ideas that the pro development council (aka Adrian Fine, Cory Wolbach, Liz Kniss, Greg Tanaka and Greg Scharff have resisted along with their resistance to slowing office development. Along with their resistance to limit office development and cutting millions in affordable housing fees for commercial development in Palo Alto.

The YIMBY movement's primary financial backers are developer interests and companies, including Palantir. Palo Alto Foward (PAF) is an official member.

Web Link
Web Link


26 people like this
Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jul 7, 2018 at 9:54 am

Online Name is a registered user.

They're going to use this biased maneuver to oppose Measure A, the move to curb the growth of offices which anyone being honest would admit contributes to the jobs/housing imbalance. No surprise that Palo Alto leads the state in this imbalance.


2 people like this
Posted by @mauricio
a resident of another community
on Jul 7, 2018 at 10:01 am

[Post removed.]


11 people like this
Posted by Here is how
a resident of Stanford
on Jul 7, 2018 at 10:03 am

“how building more housing pushes out the middle class in a way that obstructing housing development doesn't?”

You own a single family 1500 sq ft home in Palo Alto, just out of reach of a two income earning middle class household.

It could rent for 5000/month.

Down the street, a new 8 unit building of 2100 sq ft condos is built. They rent for 3900/month.

Quick: what happens to the value of your house?

More deeply, why do we need more people here? Because that’s where the higher paying jobs are. What happens to housing cost per sq ft when more people have higher paying jobs?


27 people like this
Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jul 7, 2018 at 10:03 am

Online Name is a registered user.

PS: Thanks to "Grand Jury Findings" for those important links on who's funding the pro-development push that's given Palo Alto the highest jobs/housing imbalance in the state, that funds the CC pro-development council majority who in turn get to appoint the commissioners to Planning and Transportation etc.


4 people like this
Posted by Here is how
a resident of Stanford
on Jul 7, 2018 at 10:05 am

Answer: it goes up because 90% of its value is the property it sits on.


Like this comment
Posted by @Here is how
a resident of another community
on Jul 7, 2018 at 10:11 am

[Post removed due to same poster using multiple names]


38 people like this
Posted by Annette
a resident of College Terrace
on Jul 7, 2018 at 10:40 am

Annette is a registered user.

To the author: I wouldn't be too quick to give this CC credit for curbing office growth. If they were serious about that they would simply accept the change to the Comp Plan that the citizen's Initiative to cap Office/R&D growth proposes. Beats me how the Council majority squares not doing that with their claims to be pro-housing. That's like saying: "We need to solve this big problem, but let's make it bigger first."

And thank you to Allen Akin for your comments. I do not read any particular agenda in what you wrote; just reality-based observations. Among other things, it makes sense to acknowledge the geographic realties that prevail here. The ocean, coastal range, and bay aren't going away just because we need more space. And while areas west of 280 may be underdeveloped, building massive housing in that neck of our woods would be an expense of gargantuan proportion. Not to mention the area's unique fire suppression issues. It would also create new circulation and transportation issues. I doubt our answers are out there. Smart move to live west of 280, though! No doubt home to many a developer.

It's just so darn easy to proclaim that more housing is needed. That is a "duh" statement if ever there was one. Would that doing so could be so simple. Building housing requires also building all that supports it: utility grid, water treatment facility, roadways, bikeways, schools, public transportation, public safety, hospitals, etc - and providing for all the personnel to support all that and the housing for those new people as well. What a nasty conundrum our "leaders and planners" have built for us. And how audacious that they create unsolvable problems and expect people to fold themselves into knots trying to solve them. Are we to destroy what little is left of what is working in order to address a constantly growing housing shortage? At the end of the day, that's a losing scenario even for the lucky few who can afford what housing is built.

It is painfully clear that we need to curb office development. With each office we build we build in more demand that we cannot meet. Fine and Wolbach should be falling all over themselves to support the initiative. Scharff, too. And Kniss. And Tanaka. It is currently the best arrow in the quiver for starting on the road to housing redemption.

I ask why they are not and can only conclude that their hands are tied and they are fine with that. It would be courageous to "Just Say No" to more and more and more office development, but that's the smart first step we need to take.


4 people like this
Posted by County Jurisdiction
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jul 7, 2018 at 10:46 am

County Jurisdiction is a registered user.

[Post removed due to same poster using multiple names]


1 person likes this
Posted by @County Jurisdiction
a resident of another community
on Jul 7, 2018 at 11:00 am

[Post removed.]


5 people like this
Posted by Me 2
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jul 7, 2018 at 11:46 am

@Here is how

That's really funny. Most single family homes in Palo Alto are zoned R1, making upscaling development impossible. Furthermore, you assume a free-flowing real estate market, which we do not have here thanks to various distorting restrictions and tax policy that we have in California.

Let's not even get into the fact that a "8 unit building of 2100 sq ft condos" is a magical unicorn that we have yet to see in Palo Alto.

But what's really ridiculous about your fantasy scenario is that larger housing development nearby actually exhibits downward pressure on single family real estate close to it, which most real estate professionals will tell you. It has a similar impact on prices that having a house on Middlefield, Oregon or any high traffic street. It actually makes the housing around it more affordable.

That's what the residentialists are really afraid of. They want to hold on to their skyrocketing real estate values -- who cares about everyone else.


32 people like this
Posted by Curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on Jul 7, 2018 at 12:42 pm

"You own a single family 1500 sq ft home in Palo Alto... . It could rent for 5000/month. Down the street, a new 8 unit building of 2100 sq ft condos is built. They rent for 3900/month. Quick: what happens to the value of your house?"

Nothing. I live in it. I don't rent it out. I'm a residentialist.

You have the developers' mindset: it's all about how much money you can squeeze out of everything. Nothing has any other kind of value to you.


50 people like this
Posted by Sense
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 7, 2018 at 12:42 pm

Please stop misusing the term NIMBY. The term was coined because of hypocrisy - people were all for something as long as it happened somewhere else. This is especially the case with mixed-race neighbors.

It is a slap in the face of people who suffer genuine prejudice for developers to use the NIMBY card as a way to push damaging overdevelopment. To use it to mean anyone opposed to overly dense development smears them with a social justice history that isn’t relevant.

Companies piling in one place displaces people at the bottom. The overdevelopers are the NIMBYs who do not want a diversity of economic life, they want a company town for their short-term workforce.

There is a principle in advertising, to use comparative language without being specific: your laundry will be whiter, brighter cleaner. Cleaner than what? How much white in an absolute sense is even worth paying for? Calls for things to be denser insinuate that denser than now will solve problems, but how dense are we talking? We already have serious problems from the influx of workers the infrastructure was never designed to support. Examples like Manhattan and Hong Kong show that going denser does not make things affordable, but more density in a desirable place does create its own gravity, accelerating density. That makes sense in Hong Kong, because they are an island, but not here.

There is no specific endpoint where going denser (how dense?) would ever reduce prices. But it does allow companies who want to take over what the public built to get a free ride, with the public holding the bag for the problems.

People who want cheaper housing here and elsewhere should encourage companies to move where they can grow, to make investments in quality of life so their workforce wants to go there, and encourage cities to make policies that forever deal with this public asset grab by companies.

In a nation this empty between here and the Great Divide, there is no earthly reason for density right here and many civic reasons to reject mindless, avaricious dense growth. I’m not for slow growth, I’m for just plain being smart and holistic, which right now, means finding a better place for these companies to grow. Facebook did and it worked out fine. This does not mean NIMBYism since I do not believe mindless stupidity in calling for density is good anywhere. Please use the term correctly, allowing its misuse means supporting displacement of economically and racially diverse populations, cynically in the name of helping them. In other words, this Grand Jury must have been full of developer shills and ideologically driven uber-hypocrites who have given up on the real goals of social justice. They are the real NIMBYS: when others care about health, the environment, quality of life, space and universal design for the disabled, that’s all well and good, they just think those things should happen somewhere else, not here where they want Build Baby Build.

Going denser never made Hong Kong affordable. It never allowed everyone to live close to work. Getting the greatest transit system with the highest usage in the world still means as long or longer a commute than Los Angeles on average. All it did is make Hong Kong a very dense city. If residents don’t want that, it’s time to draw a line and not let development interests use you firvtheir own selfish ends.

I’d like to know who is on this Grand Jury? The same people who turned our local LWV into such a developer-water-carrying joke?


38 people like this
Posted by Jesse Moy
a resident of Barron Park
on Jul 7, 2018 at 12:54 pm

Greater density will NOT solve housing. Did it work in New York City? No. Did it work in Hong Kong? No. Stop all development in Palo Alto. Increased housing is ruining traffic, creating pollution, long lines. Let's REDUCE housing and REDUCE office space to make the city more open again. Less people, less traffic, less pollution.


2 people like this
Posted by Me 2
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jul 7, 2018 at 2:36 pm

Hong Kong? New York?

Exaggerate much?

We are so far away from those two examples, it's laughable.

How you can claim that's where we're going when this house is in a local neighborhood.

Web Link

You guys are hilarious.


35 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 7, 2018 at 3:44 pm

“That's what the residentialists are really afraid of. They want to hold on to their skyrocketing real estate values -- who cares about everyone else.”

@Me2 - I wonder how you would even know that. Do you actually know any “residentialists” who feel that way? Have they told you this?


I ask because I do know a number of so-called “residentialists,” and I don’t believe even one of them has such an attitude. So I wonder how you could know such a thing, unless from the online opinions of other people.

Most of the people I think you’re talking about don’t really connect growth issues to their property value. They worry about things like schools and traffic, things that passionate advocates such as yourself tend to dismiss either as easily solved or as just plain unimportant.


I’m not even certain there are any such things as NIMBYs in reality, at least not in the sense you mean. Do you personally know any? Have you ever talked to one? I think it’s a cartoon, an urban myth propagated by activist individuals either for political reasons, or else as a rallying symbol (“Death to the Great Satan!”), or even just as an easy surrogate for issues which in reality are much more complicated.

As for the impact of density on property values, I believe I agree with @Here above. If you bring more highly paid people into the area, and build no more single family homes, then the price of the existing homes is going to rise. Even some YIMBYs acknowledge this; most of the ones I know would rather own a home than rent an apartment, which suggests the best thing for “skyrocketing real estate values” is to have a lot of new hipster high-rises in town. So I think your assertion at the top is not only ignorant (in the technical sense, not the pejorative) and unfair, but also factually wrong.


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Posted by Power2thePeople
a resident of Barron Park School
on Jul 7, 2018 at 3:46 pm

[Post removed.]


7 people like this
Posted by Curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on Jul 7, 2018 at 4:18 pm

“That's what the residentialists are really afraid of. They want to hold on to their skyrocketing real estate values -- who cares about everyone else.”

Really want to bring housing prices down? Really really? Then use the marketplace intelligently.

Form a buyers'/renters' co-op. Its members covenant to pay no more than, say, 80% of the asking price for purchase or rent. Enroll a majority of buyers and renters and viola, the co-op members control the market. Prices will drop within a month after membership reaches critical mass, while killing prices by overbuilding will take years, if indeed it ever happens.


15 people like this
Posted by Curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on Jul 7, 2018 at 4:26 pm

"Glad I got out while the getting was still good."

Hey, you got a load of oversized underdeveloped estates up there in Portola Valley. Building them out to R-30 hutches would solve the whole purported housing crisis. Every 7.62 acres counts.


9 people like this
Posted by Annette
a resident of College Terrace
on Jul 7, 2018 at 4:47 pm

Annette is a registered user.

An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

That was true when Benjamin Franklin said it, it is true today, it will be true tomorrow. City Council: what are you waiting for?


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Posted by Me 2
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jul 7, 2018 at 5:17 pm

"I’m not even certain there are any such things as NIMBYs in reality, at least not in the sense you mean. Do you personally know any? Have you ever talked to one? I think it’s a cartoon, an urban myth propagated by activist individuals either for political reasons, or else as a rallying symbol (“Death to the Great Satan!”), or even just as an easy surrogate for issues which in reality are much more complicated."

You don't have to look far to find them among us. They're the ones usually harping about "Chinese money," which usually has some, ahem, racist undertones. Did it matter that before the Chinese, it was mostly Canadians and British that were spending money in Palo Alto?

Or the ones who cry "overpopulation" when Palo Alto Hills, Atherton, Hillsborough, Woodside and Portola Valley exist not that far drive from us.

"As for the impact of density on property values, I believe I agree with @Here above. If you bring more highly paid people into the area, and build no more single family homes, then the price of the existing homes is going to rise. Even some YIMBYs acknowledge this; most of the ones I know would rather own a home than rent an apartment, which suggests the best thing for “skyrocketing real estate values” is to have a lot of new hipster high-rises in town. So I think your assertion at the top is not only ignorant (in the technical sense, not the pejorative) and unfair, but also factually wrong."

And you think by NOT building, housing prices will magically stay put? That's what we've been doing for the last two decades, and look at what has happened. What is your baseline? Is this some made up story that's being pushed today as some vital truth or fact?

I think we have just proven that the Russians didn't have to do anything in our 2016 elections. We can pretend and make up facts all we want in our own little bubbles.

By the way, what "hipster" high rises have you seen in Palo Alto? What "hipster" high rises are being proposed in Palo Alto? And when you mean "hipster," is that your pejorative label for "younger people?"

[Portion removed.]


10 people like this
Posted by Curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on Jul 7, 2018 at 6:16 pm

" the ones who cry "overpopulation" when Palo Alto Hills, Atherton, Hillsborough, Woodside and Portola Valley exist not that far drive from us."

Whatever that might mean...


"And you think by NOT building, housing prices will magically stay put? That's what we've been doing for the last two decades, and look at what has happened."

Well, are you willing to test your hypothesis? Let's build masses of mass housing in our egregiously underdeveloped areas like Old Palo Alto. If prices don't fall in two decades, we tear it all down. Deal?


28 people like this
Posted by mauricio
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jul 7, 2018 at 6:23 pm

mauricio is a registered user.

I challenge Me2, who fantasizes so often about imaginary NIMBY, to bring forth just one example in which densification of a desirable area has brought housing prices down and made the area more affordable for the middle class. I can make it easier for him-don't even bother with Home Kong, NYC, San Francisco, Tokyo, London, Paris, Barcelona, etc. I have researched them and many more, and the more they were densified, there expensive they became, and the faster the densification and urbanization pushed out th middle class.

Clue, he won't be able to come up with even one example, so his ideas are a recipe for pushing out the middle class out, and making housing more expensive. The only solution: pressure companies to stop hiring. Pressure them to expand elsewhere. If they insist of not moving and keep hiring, they are responsible for their employees housing. Make foreign buying of local real estate, be it Asian, Canadian, Russian or whatever, incredibly expensive and complicated. Put enormous pressure on local real estate bonkers to stop advertising Palo Alto abroad in a way that encourages academic tourism. All that done might slow down the inflation of housing costs, maybe. Nothing else would work, and adopting the densification agenda would just make it worse, and destroy everything good still remaining in Palo Alto.


38 people like this
Posted by Timothy Gray
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Jul 7, 2018 at 6:32 pm

Can we just simply require solutions first? Before we build more office space and bring in more workers, can we simply require that a certain amount of housing gets built. If the only way for developers to profit on office development was to create a proportional amount of housing, then we would have a balance. If we required money to build new sewage and water facilities, then we would preserve balance. If we required a school infrastructure assessment for newly created housing density then we would have balance in demand for classrooms. If we required the funding of underpasses, tunnels and other traffic mitigations before we allowed offices and the accompanying traffic, we would have balance.

We all know the fact that no condition exists "by accident." The conditions exist because the underlying incentives are in place that bring about the result. We need to make new housing supplies the responsibility of commercial development. As is suggested in the article, we can either build housing, or pay into a fund that would pay for the infrastructure in other towns where new residences are built.

We grant development rights, and give the value of our town's infrastructure to the developer. We grant zoning changes and not require payment for the taking of infrastructure and traffic capacity. This is a silent kind of eminent domain taking that invisibly occurs without any compensation. It is a theft of public assets. We all know that any time there is a density allowance granted, it comes at a cost, however the bulk of the premium is simply passed on to the developer -- I guess as a refund of the donations to the political campaigns that approve these densities under the false notion of "public good." If we can create enough of an outcry about shortages, this will only feed the political sham of granting more density. I pray that we can open our eyes to this scam. Our efforts need to re-focus on the efforts to restore balance, vs. feeding into the downward spiral of manipulations that simply feed developer profits while the quality of life erodes.

As noted before, Palo Alto is a Community, not a commodity.

Respectfully,

Tim Gray


2 people like this
Posted by @mauricio
a resident of another community
on Jul 7, 2018 at 11:20 pm

"I challenge Me2, who fantasizes so often about imaginary NIMBY, to bring forth just one example in which densification of a desirable area has brought housing prices down and made the area more affordable for the middle class."

Not Me2, but

Web Link

"Rents are dropping significantly across the Seattle area for the first time this decade, as a flood of new construction has left apartments sitting empty in Seattle’s hottest neighborhoods."


27 people like this
Posted by Abitarian
a resident of Downtown North
on Jul 8, 2018 at 12:08 am

From the New York Times regarding increased density in Seattle:

"If the intent is to make Seattle more affordable, this approach has failed. The city has built more new units of housing over the last five years than in the prior half-century. And yet Seattle continues to lead the nation in home price increases."

See Web Link


4 people like this
Posted by @Abitarian
a resident of another community
on Jul 8, 2018 at 12:19 am

There's a clear relationship between the increasing supply of housing units relative to the demand and the resulting price increases leveling off. Just because Seattle is still expensive only after just beginning to see finished construction come onto the market doesn't negate this. It's already been demonstrated there and elsewhere what prices do when that new construction isn't happening: skyrocket. To have them level off is incredible. Keep building and push the prices down further.


31 people like this
Posted by Annette
a resident of College Terrace
on Jul 8, 2018 at 7:10 am

Annette is a registered user.

@Me2 wrote: "City Councils do what their voters ask them to do." If only.

Just yesterday it was reported that Los Altos may pay $50,000 to fight a citizens measure. That's the opposite of doing what voters ask them to do. Similarly, Palo Alto CC is preparing a challenge to Palo Alto Measure A.

More than 3,000 Palo Altans signed the petition that resulted in Measure A. The ask? Simply that the City amend the new Comp Plan so that instead of allowing an additional 1.7 million new sf of office and research-and-development construction over the life of the plan it allow 850,000 sf of such new construction city wide. That's the same rate that has been in place since 1989 anyway, so it is hardly a radical demand. I think we shouldn't even need an initiative but we do b/c the council majority tilts heavily towards development. This matters b/c office space is the primary generator of housing demand.

It is delusional to think that an imbalance as great as ours can be lessened if we continue to simultaneously dig and fill the same hole.


25 people like this
Posted by mauricio
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jul 8, 2018 at 7:45 am

mauricio is a registered user.

Seattle's home prices keep increasing without any let up after the home building boom, and now leads the nation in home prices increase. San Jose can't build fast enough, yet more and more moderate income families are forced to leave because they can't afford San Jose anymore. The same is true for any desirable city around the world.

Try again.


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Posted by @mauricio
a resident of another community
on Jul 8, 2018 at 8:44 am

[Post removed.]


37 people like this
Posted by Sense
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 8, 2018 at 9:05 am

@Me2
"Hong Kong? New York?
Exaggerate much?
"

You have completely missed the point. Hong Kong is an endpoint of the exact same push we have here. They have had the exact discussions we have had for decades - if they build more, if they build denser, if they build a good transit system, people can live near their jobs and they can create affordable housing. They have a near 90% usage of public transit, and yet still people don't live near their jobs, they don't have affordable housing, and they keep building smaller denser microunits to the point of building 4X6 "coffin" apartments where families can't even live together.

The point is that there is no point on this continuum from where we are to where they are that going "denser" creates affordability. It just creates density, and all the attendant problems we are already NOT solving.

In Hong Kong, they were full-throttle trying to solve those problems, e.g., their public transit system, and they could not. But they are an island; their only direction was density. This is a very large wealthy nation. We have cities in certain places for historic reasons. It's time we considered why companies want to pack into the existing metro areas -- that's no mystery, it allows the companies to avoid having to pay for the public infrastructure investments (and in the plutocracy vs. democracy environment since Reagan, to never pay back for those investments they take advantage of) and attract workers to those places with public assets they don't have to pay for. If the public is having to solve the problems they create, why shouldn't we require that successful companies pay heavily into a fund so the public can create new towns or rehabilitate emptying ones who want the investments and want to attract companies and workers?

Hong Kong in the '50s was like Shanghai in the '80s - both of those places were lower density that have been essentially obliterated. That's okay if that is desired and the intended destiny of the place. Hong Kong intended to be a dense business center. Shanghai has long been a center of business in China. But the more housing Hong Kong created, the more companies could expand there, and the building never got ahead of the demand. The density creates a kind of gravity.

Shanghai is a more apt example, and NOT an “exaggeration” because it transformed over LESS THAN 25 years from an almost entirely low-rise city, with only a handful of high rises, to a gleaming high-density skyscraperville. It went from looking more like Palo Alto to looking more like Hong Kong in less than 25 years. You can find time-lapses of the skyline transformation on youtube. And lo and behold, the transformation also caused Shanghai living costs to skyrocket. Building more only brings down prices in a place where the demand will not also surge — which is simply not the case in either Shanghai or here.

Hong Kong and Manhattan are the endpoints (and if you look at the rapid transformation of Shanghai, and even what is happening to San Francisco, they are also conceivable endpoints). You can look at the histories of Hong Kong and Manhattan and see the same calls for densifying to solve problems that densifying never solved. The arguments for density are pure and simple arguments for big developer enrichment. Densifying will not create affordability, it will displace people in the middle. In example after example around the world, densifying just creates density.

It didn't take long to completely transform San Francisco's skyline, and it continues. This did not make San Francisco affordable. But it did create huge risks in the next earthquake. Web Link
Yet despite all evidence that building and densifying only makes things more expensive and causes environmental devastation and skyrocketing costs, still governments in this area remain in thrall to the utterly false and unsupported arguments that doing exactly the same thing that caused the problems will eventually solve them. For shame. Shame on the uber-hypocrites carrying water for developers in this sham jury report.


3 people like this
Posted by @resident of another neighborhood
a resident of Barron Park
on Jul 8, 2018 at 9:10 am

You are incorrect. Most of your points are not substantiated and the rest are pure conjecture or are simply untrue.


4 people like this
Posted by @ @resident of another neighborhood
a resident of another community
on Jul 8, 2018 at 9:23 am

I posted data to go with my claim. You can call reality incorrect, but that doesn't change that you're wrong.


6 people like this
Posted by george drysdale
a resident of Professorville
on Jul 8, 2018 at 10:41 am

I don't care. Let development develop if that's what the market wants. Price determines. Raw economics. Since I can't get anybody else to study the "Buena Vista land swindle" I guess I'll have to do it myself. The government has really clammed up about releasing data. Would one of your reporters get that information: with Mountain View rent control and the "Buena Vista Boondoggle" you have the makings of the number one lessor plan in Economics.
George Drysdale social studies teacher and land economist


17 people like this
Posted by mauricio
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jul 8, 2018 at 10:46 am

mauricio is a registered user.

@@mauricio-I could easily refute your claim re Seattle, but there's no need to, just read the post by Sense.

There is not one example in which densifying into affordability resulted in anything but less affordability, and of course, many other devastating side effects, and the potential for environmental disaster. Densifying using the exact same argument of Palo Alto's densification lobby have resulted in less affordability, and many other disastrous consequences everywhere from Hong Kong, London, Sao Paulo, and Rio de Janeiro, to San Jose and San Francisco, and the list is endless. The only beneficiaries, you got it, are big developers and the politicians who serve them, and we know who is behind this civil grand jury sham.


7 people like this
Posted by Allen Akin
a resident of Professorville
on Jul 8, 2018 at 10:57 am

Allen Akin is a registered user.

One interesting question about Seattle is whether Amazon's decision to expand elsewhere (HQ2) is reducing demand. (Or whether it's led speculators to anticipate a reduction in demand that hasn't happened just yet.)


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Posted by @mauricio
a resident of another community
on Jul 8, 2018 at 12:24 pm

[Post removed.]


19 people like this
Posted by mauricio
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jul 8, 2018 at 2:07 pm

mauricio is a registered user.

All it is with Seattle is that a demand is taking a bit of time to catch up, and surpass supply, which friends of mine who live in Seattle have told me is what's happening. Seattle still leads the nation in the acceleration rate of housing prices. Here, I refuted your ridiculous claim.

There are endless examples around the world of how densifying, in cities with much more advanced public transportation than Palo Alto or anything the Bay area has to offer, has pushed housing prices higher, displaced lower income residents, and created many other problems, solving none, while lining up the pockets of big developers and the politicians who enable them. London has been adding housing like crazy for decades, every available warehouse has been converted to housing, and London has never been more expensive and harder to find housing. It is just one among numerous examples of what a terrible, and failed idea densifying is.


20 people like this
Posted by Allen Akin
a resident of Professorville
on Jul 8, 2018 at 4:51 pm

Allen Akin is a registered user.

Here's a suggestion for anyone who's looking for a deeper understanding of housing and other Bay Area issues. I've just finished the housing and development chapters of Richard Walker's new book, "Pictures of a Gone City: Tech and the Dark Side of Prosperity in the San Francisco Bay Area".

Walker is an urban geographer, Professor Emeritus of Geography at Berkeley. He warns the reader that his take on the Bay Area is "decidedly leftist"; for example, he's clear that he'd like to see the end of segregationist wealthy enclaves (his description), and Palo Alto is one of those explicitly named. But if that doesn't bother you, or if you can put it aside temporarily, the book offers an exceptional collection of history, data, and insight.

Interesting observations are sprinkled throughout. Did you know that for renters, both Miami and LA are less affordable than San Francisco? For purchasers, the San Jose metro area is tied with Auckland and Melbourne. Why don't we have more housing west of 280? It's not profitable for high-volume construction (either single-family or multi-family), which requires more-uniform building sites.

Walker lays the blame for the current bubble "...where it belongs: on overcharged demand, or too much money chasing a limited housing stock. The supply of housing matters, of course, but cannot possibly keep up in the short run when demand is so far out of whack". He identifies three primary causes: The tech boom, increased wealth inequality, and antisocial policies in the finance industry. He also cautions against treating the market as if it has a simple supply-and-demand equilibrium, when it actually behaves cyclically, with considerable lag between changes in demand and supply, and complex changes in the type of demand and supply. "None of this has anything to do with local regulations or popular opposition, which get so much of the blame for poor supply response...This is a common error that leads to panicky reactions of the kind observed recently in the Bay Area by advocates of the build-anything-anywhere school of thought represented by the YIMBY movement..."

This is not to say that Walker opposes more supply. He explicitly favors infill development, higher density near transit, and "in-law" apartments. He wants more below-market-rate multi-family units in wealthy enclaves, letting local communities decide "where" to build but not "whether", to reduce racial and income segregation.

Here are a few of the things Walker described that are changing my thinking about the situation. One is that real-estate speculation (both foreign and domestic) has a far greater effect on the market than I believed. Another is that housing construction in the 2010s hit peaks even higher than the favorable period in the 1960s. Finally, the biggest financial win for development is in converting land to new uses, not in improvements to existing uses; builders prioritize accordingly.

This is just a sampling of Walker's much more thorough and nuanced treatment, and I haven't even finished reading it yet. So if you want the full story, get the book.


21 people like this
Posted by Annette
a resident of College Terrace
on Jul 8, 2018 at 5:40 pm

Annette is a registered user.

Allen Akin: thanks for the recommendation. I think it was you who recommended Red Notice a while back. That is an excellent book, albeit disturbing. I will take your suggestion and get Walker's book.

Speaking of books, a few months ago I gave the PA CC a copy of How to Kill a City. Indications are good that the majority hasn't read it.


24 people like this
Posted by margaret heath
a resident of College Terrace
on Jul 8, 2018 at 6:25 pm

As one of the largest, if not the largest, employer in the area, does anyone know if Stanford has been assigned an ABAG goal for the number of housing units they are required to plan for on campus, that is land regulated by the county and not Palo Alto?


4 people like this
Posted by Paly Grad
a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Jul 8, 2018 at 7:01 pm

Margaret,

There is a meeting this Tuesday evening regarding the 2018 Stanford General Use Permit:

7/10/18 Tue, 6-8 pm Palo Alto Arts Center Auditorium, 1313 Newell Road, Palo Alto Santa Clara County Public Meeting to receive comments on the recirculated portions of the Draft EIR


21 people like this
Posted by Ron
a resident of Mountain View
on Jul 8, 2018 at 8:50 pm

Sounds like politics - not the job of the civil grand jury.


3 people like this
Posted by @Moderator
a resident of Barron Park
on Jul 9, 2018 at 7:47 am

[Post removed.]


18 people like this
Posted by give me a break
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 9, 2018 at 8:00 am

What the grand jury should be investigating is the
award of consulting and infrastructure contracts by the City of Palo Alto.


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Posted by Me 2
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jul 9, 2018 at 10:05 am

[Portion removed.]

"I challenge Me2, who fantasizes so often about imaginary NIMBY, to bring forth just one example in which densification of a desirable area has brought housing prices down and made the area more affordable for the middle class. I can make it easier for him-don't even bother with Home Kong, NYC, San Francisco, Tokyo, London, Paris, Barcelona, etc. I have researched them and many more, and the more they were densified, there expensive they became, and the faster the densification and urbanization pushed out th middle class. "

[Portion removed.] Googling around doesn't count as research.

However, let me challenge you since we're handing off imaginary work tasks - tell me where there has been an area with economic growth that has restricted housing development and kept the middle class in place?

Let me help you save time. There aren't any.

And while you're thinking about your cherry picked cities, think of all the cities in other parts of the country that have not restricted housing development in the face of economic growth and how cheap it is to live there.

Like Houston.

I'm not saying that we should become as loose as Houston, but that's the other extreme from where we stand today.

[Portion removed.]


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Posted by Pete
a resident of College Terrace
on Jul 9, 2018 at 10:26 am

We should do away with R-1 zoning. There are many beautiful historic multifamily buildings that would fit in well in our neighborhoods but are currently illegal under R-1.

If we're going to have an office cap we should absolutely include Stanford Research Park.


22 people like this
Posted by mauricio
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jul 9, 2018 at 11:04 am

mauricio is a registered user.

There is not one example anywhere in the world in which a DESIRABLE city managed to densify itself into affordability. Building into affordability is a fantasy, never succeeded, never will.


5 people like this
Posted by george drysdale
a resident of Professorville
on Jul 9, 2018 at 11:22 am

"Affordable housing" is a a code word for subsidized housing. Everybody wants to live in Silicon Valley because of the job opportunities etc. People think because of government pronouncements they can "afford" to live in one of the most expensive real estate markets on earth. Hence rent control in Mountain View and the Buena Vista boondoggle. Government has to sugar coat the reality that those who pay market rents cannot support droves of people who want "affordable housing." Supply and demand. The Democratic Party supports rent control in California and flunks out of a basic economics class. Demand and supply.
George Drysdale social studies teacher and land economist


19 people like this
Posted by mauricio
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jul 9, 2018 at 11:32 am

mauricio is a registered user.

At least 'Pete' is honest. I don't know if he is a PAF member, but that is the ultimate goal of [portion removed] PAF and those behind them-turning Palo Alto into Hong Kong, where all of their ideas have been implemented a long time before PAF existed, and although HK has had the best public transportation in the history of civilization, it has become one of the most expensive human sardine cans ever. Palo Alto seems destined to follow HK, without the public transportation. Good luck.


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Posted by Me 2
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jul 9, 2018 at 11:49 am

"There is not one example anywhere in the world in which a DESIRABLE city managed to densify itself into affordability. Building into affordability is a fantasy, never succeeded, never will."

AH, now you're putting in restrictions. Some folks actually think Des Moines is a pretty desirable place too. And Houston has much better (and affordable) ethnic food than the SF Bay Area, which would make it also pretty desirable.

[Portion removed.]

But you can't avoid that "restricting supply" -> "higher prices." That's basic economics of supply-and-demand. As much as you want to pretend that it doesn't exist, it does. [Portion removed.]


23 people like this
Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jul 9, 2018 at 12:04 pm

Online Name is a registered user.

"But you can't avoid that "restricting supply" -> "higher prices." That's basic economics of supply-and-demand. As much as you want to pretend that it doesn't exist, it does. But pretending it away is not a unique trait here in the Bay Area. "

Creating tens of thousands of more jobs for tens of thousands of new workers and their families isn't going to make housing more affordable. It's just going to increase competition for each housing unit while increasing congestion.


1 person likes this
Posted by Me 2
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jul 9, 2018 at 12:35 pm

"Creating tens of thousands of more jobs for tens of thousands of new workers and their families isn't going to make housing more affordable. It's just going to increase competition for each housing unit while increasing congestion. "

No one said that either.


9 people like this
Posted by eileen
a resident of College Terrace
on Jul 9, 2018 at 12:36 pm

eileen is a registered user.

Pete,
Where are these beautiful, historic, multi-family buildings that are illegal?
Are you talking about converted garages?

Getting rid if R-1 will only encourage big developers to come into neighborhoods and build small, expensive houses and condos. If any apartments or small cottages are built they will be much more expensive than any illegal housing is now.

The big problem for developers and home owners is the expense of building permits in Palo Alto, 2018 upgrade requirements to gas and electricity costing thousands of dollars, and $$$$ for labor and materials.
Remember, developers are interested in PROFIT.

All housing will continue to be super expensive to own and rent!


13 people like this
Posted by Another Giveaway
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 9, 2018 at 1:54 pm

Vicious cycle or virtuous cycle?

If you are part of the developer-democrat industrial complex, the ability to continually stimulate housing construction by building more office while having taxpayers foot the bill for the infrastructure, this all looks like a VERY virtuous cycle.


41 people like this
Posted by Grumpy Old Guy
a resident of Palo Alto Orchards
on Jul 9, 2018 at 2:30 pm

Funny how elections matter so much more than before.

In the last City Council election, we voted the wrong people into office because their hidden mantra was 'build build build--regardless of the costs'. They've called people who believe in the quality of life for this town 'NIMBYs' and 'Greedy'.

That's the political tactic of 'dehumanizing' your opposition. Instead of logically dealing with arguments by the Quality of Life advocates, they just call them names, equate them to monsters and lead a simpleton's parade of people who believe all things can be solved with 'hashtag' slogans.

This November, it's time to vote for candidates who understand the idea that excessive jobs are creating infrastructure nightmares and; are willing to stand up to the corporate developers. Building more housing doesn't make affordability, it only makes developers rich.

It's time to support candidates who understand there has to be a BALANCE of jobs and housing - and that it's not going to be solved by turning Palo Alto into Manhattan or Hong Kong. Think beyond slogans and vote for Palo Alto!


4 people like this
Posted by Me 2
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jul 9, 2018 at 3:00 pm

"That's the political tactic of 'dehumanizing' your opposition. Instead of logically dealing with arguments by the Quality of Life advocates, they just call them names, equate them to monsters and lead a simpleton's parade of people who believe all things can be solved with 'hashtag' slogans."

Really. Like calling anyone who believes that some housing creation are automatically labeled "developer shills."

Pot. Kettle. Black.


13 people like this
Posted by Joanne Jacobs
a resident of Los Altos
on Jul 9, 2018 at 3:04 pm

As a member of the 2016-17 Civil Grand Jury, I can answer some commenters' questions. (I also lived in Palo Alto for 25 years.)

The Civil Grand Jury is made of citizens -- most are retired or semi-retired -- who volunteer for a year of service. The presiding judge of the Superior Court picks 30 finalists of whom 19 are chosen randomly for the panel. The rest become alternates.

All reports must be approved by the presiding judge. Long before that step, the County Counsel's office advises whether a report is outside the CGJ's jurisdiction. Since cities set housing and development policy, the density report did not pose a jurisdictional issue.

The 2017-18 Civil Grand Jury issued six reports, available here: Web Link

In addition to the report on housing, other reports dealt with misfeasance by the Alum Rock School Board majority, police
shootings involving the mentally ill, County jail facilities, turnover of superintendents at the County Office of Education and taxpayer-funded automatic election recounts.


13 people like this
Posted by MJ
a resident of College Terrace
on Jul 9, 2018 at 3:07 pm

@Grumpy Old Guy

Well said, thank you.


18 people like this
Posted by mistaken identiity
a resident of College Terrace
on Jul 9, 2018 at 3:26 pm

[Post removed.]


Like this comment
Posted by Me 2
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jul 9, 2018 at 3:49 pm

[Post removed.]


27 people like this
Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jul 9, 2018 at 4:03 pm

Online Name is a registered user.

""Creating tens of thousands of more jobs for tens of thousands of new workers and their families isn't going to make housing more affordable. It's just going to increase competition for each housing unit while increasing congestion. ""

"No one said that either. "

Of course they have said that. We've been constantly lectured that more building will bring down prices. We've been lectured about supply /demand and been called ignorant NIMBY's when we disagree that more building will cause lower housing prices.


18 people like this
Posted by mauricio
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jul 9, 2018 at 4:54 pm

mauricio is a registered user.

I've alway said that desirable cities and towns cannot build their way into affordability. I've always made a distinction between desirable areas:Manhattan, Palo Alto, London, etc, and areas that desperately need economic development. When business move to such area, it's possible, for a while at least, to densify into more affordability, because those areas desperately need business and economic development.

Densifying into affordability in very expensive and desirable real estate markets is not possible, and creates quality of life nightmares, solving nothing.


2 people like this
Posted by mistaken identity
a resident of College Terrace
on Jul 9, 2018 at 7:49 pm

[Post removed.]


Like this comment
Posted by Me 2
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jul 9, 2018 at 9:37 pm

"Manhattan, Palo Alto, London,"

One of these is not like the other. Only you would put them in the same sentence. Does that mean you would go live in London? Or Manhattan? If not, they are not equivalent in "desirability." [Portion removed.]


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Posted by Rich
a resident of Menlo Park
on Jul 10, 2018 at 12:19 am

[Post removed due to possible copyright infringement]


2 people like this
Posted by Me 2
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jul 10, 2018 at 8:29 am

"Of course they have said that. We've been constantly lectured that more building will bring down prices. We've been lectured about supply /demand and been called ignorant NIMBY's when we disagree that more building will cause lower housing prices."

No they haven't. You specifically talked about bringing in more jobs, which is commercial. What they've been advocating is building more housing.

Two different things. No one has said to build more commercial, unless you're trying to combine them to paint all development with the same broad brush.


4 people like this
Posted by Pete
a resident of College Terrace
on Jul 10, 2018 at 11:14 am

Eileen,
2053 Princeton is one example. It was a multi-family building (converted to SFH) that fits in well with the other buildings on the street. 197 Bryant Street at the corner of Bryant and Hawthorne is another multifamily building that would fit in well in College Terrace or most other primarily single family neighborhoods. Those are two off the top of my head. Or look at something like this:

Web Link

Mauricio,
[Portion removed.] Every call for more density does not mean we want 100 story sky scrapers. Also, just because American cities haven't been producing enough housing to bring down costs, doesn't mean we are incapable of doing so. Getting rid of overly restrictive zoning like R-1 would help. This doesn't mean we necessarily need to get rid of height or building footprint limits btw.

As far as quality of life issues go, I'm much more concerned about the valued members of our community who work in Palo Alto but can't afford to live here. They often have to commute 2+ hours (time away from their families) or live in RVs on El Camino. As long as people need jobs we're going to need adequate housing near those jobs. Palo Alto has been abdicating it's housing responsibility for way too long. We really are the worst in the area and it's shameful.


23 people like this
Posted by mauricio
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jul 10, 2018 at 1:19 pm

mauricio is a registered user.

@Pete, Hong Kong started out much more like Palo Alto than most are aware of. They implemented all the policies you advocate for, along with developing the best, most modern public transportation the world has ever seen. HK, in spite of incredible density, it has seen housing prices rise to astronomic levels with no respite in sight, air quality is a disaster, and HK resembles a human sardine can.

"I'm much more concerned about the valued members of our community who work in Palo Alto but can't afford to live here"

That is on the companies who keep hiring workers knowing they are unlikely to find and afford adequate housing and on the politicians who allowed a small town suburb to become a major job center and office park, while never putting pressure on companies to graduate out of Palo Alto and move operations to more affordable areas that need economic boost. Why should residents pat the price for corruption and bad policies?



21 people like this
Posted by mauricio
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jul 10, 2018 at 1:31 pm

mauricio is a registered user.

Manhattan, London, Hong Kong and many other places are very much like Palo Alto. Not in size of course, but in being incredibly coveted and expensive real estate markets that are also job centers. They are also very similar in the sense that only a tiny minority of people aspiring to live there would ever be able to fulfill their dreams. No matter how much they develop and gentrify, the overwhelming majority of aspiring residents will never be able to live there, regardless.

Those places have implemented all the policies and ideas the Me2 of this world are pushing so hard for. The results: after all the development and densifying, those places are more expensive than ever, and excluding a small minority, it is more difficult and more expensive than ever to afford housing there.


19 people like this
Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jul 10, 2018 at 1:50 pm

Online Name is a registered user.

"I'm much more concerned about the valued members of our community who work in Palo Alto but can't afford to live here"

Tell that to the big tech companies. There's a bill pending to force them to raise their foreign contractors' wages from a ridiculous #60,000 a year to a below-poverty-level $90,000.

The tech companies are lobbying hard against even that raise while funding the YUMBY's to deflect the blame from them to everyone else.


8 people like this
Posted by Pete
a resident of College Terrace
on Jul 10, 2018 at 2:01 pm

London and NYC are like Palo Alto in that none of them have built much housing in the last 40 years. NYC and Palo Alto both severely limited new housing development in the 1970s. So it is incorrect to pretend like those places have even attempted to build towards affordability. If you want examples of cities that have, then look at Houston, Tokyo, Vienna, Chicago, Montreal.

Companies hiring people and wanting to be here is a good thing. People need jobs. Palo Alto has failed to provide adequate housing for its workforce for 60 years (when Stanford Research Park opened). It's time we step up to the plate.


19 people like this
Posted by Abitarian
a resident of Downtown North
on Jul 10, 2018 at 2:26 pm

Rerunning a post from several months back, just substitute "Grand Jury members" for where I previously named city council members...

----------

Posted by Abitarian
a resident of Downtown North
on Oct 19, 2017 at 4:43 pm

The Mercury News recently reported an analysis that found a 20% increase in housing growth -- which is a lot for any area to absorb -- would reduce housing costs only 10% and that would take 14-36 years. See Web Link

Even a 20% decrease in housing costs would not make Palo Alto affordable for a true socioeconomic diversity and Palo Alto simply does not have the capacity to build and maintain the infrastructure needed to support the new residents.

Mr. Fine, Ms. Kniss, and Mr. Wolbach are all suffering from a severe case of magical thinking if they truly believe Palo Alto will suddenly be showered with sufficient transit, parking, schools, parks, supermarkets, etc. to accommodate any significant increase in population.

We don't even have the resources to meet existing commitments -- think unfunded pensions, Caltrain grade crossings, and so forth.


26 people like this
Posted by Sense
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 10, 2018 at 2:44 pm

"Companies hiring people and wanting to be here is a good thing."

No, it's sometimes a good thing and sometimes not a good thing. Having children is a good thing, but not if you are a single mother and decide you want eight at the same time.

We have too many jobs here for the infrastructure. We do not need all these jobs here, there is no benefit Palo Alto or Palo Altans are accruing because of all the traffic and costs. Palo Altans are even footing the bill for all the development applications. People talked like this when Facebook decided to move, as if the sky would fall if Facebook left and Palo Alto would be a wasteland of unemployment. No such thing happened. We have Stanford here, and they are a major employer, and cannot move as easily as the Facebooks can when they have grown too large for a place like this.

What we need are strong policies so that companies don't foist such negatives on everyone for their own selfish interests but instead plan for the next step when they grow beyond what our local town can support. They shouldn't be able to take over and destroy the local walkable retail and retailers, as has happened to both downtowns in the last few years.

Shanghai is a very good analogy, too, because it has long been a center of innovation and business in China, but then the last 20-30 years have been a building free for all. Shanghai of the '80s looked closer to Palo Alto than it did to Hong Kong, and Shanghai of today looks more than Hong Kong, it is a gleaming skyscraper ville. It can happen when someone stands to make money, which is very much the case in this area. The unfettered unspecific calls to densify when we have not solved the problems of the densifications of the last decade are manipulative and destructive. I think this grand jury report is probably the same group from the LWV that lives in a bubble and unwittingly carries water for the developers."Companies hiring people and wanting to be here is a good thing."

No, it's sometimes a good thing and sometimes not a good thing. Having children is a good thing, but not if you are a single mother and decide you want eight at the same time.

We have too many jobs here for the infrastructure. We do not need all these jobs here, there is no benefit Palo Alto or Palo Altans are accruing because of all the traffic and costs. Palo Altans are even footing the bill for all the development applications. People talked like this when Facebook decided to move, as if the sky would fall if Facebook left and Palo Alto would be a wasteland of unemployment. No such thing happened. We have Stanford here, and they are a major employer, and cannot move as easily as the Facebooks can when they have grown too large for a place like this.

What we need are strong policies so that companies don't foist such negatives on everyone for their own selfish interests but instead plan for the next step when they grow beyond what our local town can support. They shouldn't be able to take over and destroy the local walkable retail and retailers, as has happened to both downtowns in the last few years.

Shanghai is a very good analogy, too, because it has long been a center of innovation and business in China, but then the last 20-30 years have been a building free for all. Shanghai of the '80s looked closer to Palo Alto than it did to Hong Kong, and Shanghai of today looks more than Hong Kong, it is a gleaming skyscraper ville. It can happen when someone stands to make money, which is very much the case in this area. The unfettered unspecific calls to densify when we have not solved the problems of the densifications of the last decade are manipulative and destructive.

Now who is being hysterical by claiming that making sensible restrictions on uncontrolled office growth here will mean the end of jobs? We have Stanford, this is a desirable place. We really can ask those companies that want a dense urban place to move to an existing dense urban place, to an urban place that wants the growth like San Jose, or to even create one of their own. Everyone wins, except companies who think the public should pay for all the infrastructure and amenities their employees want then be destroyed so they can have the short-term workforce housing to expand as much as they want while the public pays for the negative consequences.


3 people like this
Posted by Pete
a resident of College Terrace
on Jul 10, 2018 at 3:13 pm

Sense,
I assume you're responding to me. I never said sensible restrictions on office growth will mean the end of jobs. Earlier I even said that if we have an office cap it should include Stanford Research Park. I agree that companies should go to Downtown San Jose and many companies are, Google and Adobe have big expansions planned there.

But even if we never add another job to Palo Alto, we still won't be carrying our share of the regional housing burden. Again, we've had this severe jobs/housing imbalance for a long time. We are by far the worst in the region.

As far as infrastructure goes, new development contributes to infrastructure improvements (although there are legal limits to how much). However, about the same time we stopped building housing, we also stopped investing in infrastructure and stopped paying property tax (prop 13). We made a lot of bad decisions in the 1970s. I'm suggesting we start investing in our city again.


18 people like this
Posted by Convert office space to housing
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Jul 10, 2018 at 3:20 pm

Convert office space to housing is a registered user.

@Pete -- one option to addressing the imbalance without undergoing the costs of yet more development would be to convert office space to housing. That is not a fast solution, but as Palo Alto becomes less hospitable to large corporations (especially in downtown, but also in other places), some will leave, and that will open up this possibility.


8 people like this
Posted by Pete
a resident of College Terrace
on Jul 10, 2018 at 3:29 pm

@ Convert,
Yeah when I fantasize about being in charge of all Palo Alto land use, which I do too often honestly, one of the first things I would do is redesign Stanford Research Park. It's currently pretty sprawly, we could fit many more houses and maintain the jobs there with a different design.


21 people like this
Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 10, 2018 at 3:39 pm

Posted by Just ignore the facts Palo Alto, a resident of College Terrace, on Jul 6, 2018 at 8:53 am:

>> This isn’t rocket science. Build more housing.

This isn't rocket science:

- Stop approving -any- new office space.

- Stop converting existing commercial space to office space.

- Increase the rush hour capacity of Caltrain, which is the -only- viable way to service the already expanding office space without creating even more traffic and parking problems.

**Who benefits** from massive office space building spree?


33 people like this
Posted by mauricio
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jul 10, 2018 at 4:28 pm

mauricio is a registered user.

Palo Alto doesn't need any new jobs, it can't service the existing jobs. It needs to lose jobs, and other areas that need them should be getting them.

The hysterical warnings how PA will suffer economic stagnation unless it keeps adding jobs and commercial development are a red herring. Stanford will always be here. Many companies will always be here, but not every tech company needs to be in SV. This area had been expensive and economically strong even before SC in its present form was formed, because it has one of the most diversly skilled and educated population in the world. Not only computer engineers live here, there are scientists, economists, finance wizards, teachers, lawyers, musicians, authors, artists, linguists and much more. The Bay area will actually thrive if it shoes its wealth with other areas that need economic boost. The Bay area is overpopulated and over polluted. Its eco system is in grave danger because of over population and over development.


20 people like this
Posted by Allen Akin
a resident of Professorville
on Jul 10, 2018 at 4:50 pm

Allen Akin is a registered user.

"Palo Alto" isn't responsible for building. It's more accurate to say that developers preferred to build commercial space rather than housing in Palo Alto, as in most of Silicon Valley. Housing continues to be built, though. Elaine Meyer's spreadsheet Web Link shows about 3700 units in multi-family projects built or approved in Palo Alto since 1997.

I don't know of anyone who tracks conversions, but of course it's worth mentioning that in the recent case of the President Hotel a developer is converting housing to commercial (hotel) space, what most of us would consider a conversion in the wrong direction.


27 people like this
Posted by Sense
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 10, 2018 at 5:37 pm

@Pete,

There is only a regional housing issue because companies are bringing in more highly paid workers than the area can absorb to maintain any kind of economic balance across the spectrum. We really do not have to hog all the jobs in this region. Facebook moved away and everyone was better for it, including Facebook. Google could move away tomorrow, and that would bring down housing pressures and prices, at least for a little while.

This nation will be healthier if there is a better distribution of innovation and job centers across the nation. Shouldn't the last election have been a wake up call? We cannot expect to hoard all the innovators and job centers here in California, which already has like 1/12th of the country's population despite the high costs. Other states may not want to be swamped with companies, but that's just because of how companies do it: they expect the public to bear all the costs of the amenities they want, they never want to pay back when they are successful, and they expect the public to bear all the responsibility for dealing with the consequences of their doing whatever they want with no regard for the communities they impact. And they drive up local real estate prices so the locals have to move, just like they did here. If companies instead found nice communities that wanted them, planned for their employees and their growth, contributed to the civic wellbeing so that they were contributing to the cost of the assets they used to attract employees to their towns (nowadays, millenials don't want to live in Podunk just for a job), and contributed to the building of housing in places that could use the renewal, we would be creating new job centers, expanding the pie.

We don't need more jobs here, but many places do. Companies just don't want to move there because they can get everything they need from here, without putting out for it. Time for them to step up to the plate.

Palo Alto should not be responsible for regional housing demands. Palo Alto should be responsible for enforcing codes and ensuring they don't accelerate job populations in one place in a way that has such negative impacts on the region. We have Stanford, we really do not need to act like job hoarders.





13 people like this
Posted by From PA
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Jul 10, 2018 at 5:38 pm

From PA is a registered user.

Sense, Mauricio,

Agree and thank you for the energy you put into trying to make men/women understand when their salary depends upon them not understanding (Upton Sinclair).

At this point, the conversation has cycled back multiple times:
Kid: "Mom, can I try and step on this garden rake?"
Mother: "No. You will be hit in the head with the pole".
Kid: "But I still want to ... maybe I won't this time".

There are differences, however. First, the kid is not making money, just being silly. Second, only that kid will be hit in the head, not the rest of us, as well.


2 people like this
Posted by Me 2
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jul 10, 2018 at 6:48 pm

""Palo Alto" isn't responsible for building. It's more accurate to say that developers preferred to build commercial space rather than housing in Palo Alto, as in most of Silicon Valley. Housing continues to be built, though. Elaine Meyer's spreadsheet Web Link shows about 3700 units in multi-family projects built or approved in Palo Alto since 1997."

Allen, That's a disingenuous statement. Palo Also is absolutely responsible for land use within its city limits, which determine what gets built. It sets the regulations, zoning, permitting process, etc. Developers can only follow the direction that the city has given to determine what gets built. And, basically because of Prop 13, municipalities prefer commercial than residential because there's more tax revenue from commercial.

To foist responsibility on developers is ridiculous. Developers can't do anything without consent of the city. The city is solely responsible for the mess we're in.

I see the pretend comparisons between Palo Alto and big global cities is still going on. Hilarious.


3 people like this
Posted by No sense
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Jul 10, 2018 at 7:00 pm

Dear @HM, GoneOnTooLong, County Juristiction and @County Jurisdiction,

Your censored comments can be found (before being censored) on the page I dedicated on my blog to the ongoing censoring. I copy and then post comments before and after they are censored (only a tiny sampling) here:
Web Link (or search for: village fool palo alto before and after).

BTW, You are in good company! Here's sampling of censored quotes. I titled this blog post:
What do Mark Twain, George Bernard Shaw, George Orwell, Miguel De Cervantes, and Shakespeare have in common? All were censored by the PA online.
Link: Web Link (or search for: village fool palo alto twain Shaw Orwell have in common)

I hope you will see this comment, it will vanish soon.

VililIAge F0000000l


12 people like this
Posted by Homeowner
a resident of Jordan Middle School
on Jul 10, 2018 at 7:09 pm

I've noticed that the people I have met who have bought homes in Palo Alto, or live in the newer high density developments along El Camino, don't even work in Palo Alto or around here.
Most are investors from overseas looking for a place to park their money and move their families here.
They are not working for tech companies around here or Stanford.
This housing issue will continue until we build enough housing for the whole world to come over and join us.
Our immigration policy needs reform.


16 people like this
Posted by Allen Akin
a resident of Professorville
on Jul 10, 2018 at 8:23 pm

Allen Akin is a registered user.

"Palo Also is absolutely responsible for land use within its city limits, which determine what gets built."

So for decades developers have been actively proposing more and bigger middle-class housing projects, but they were always shot down by zoning rules, so they built commercial space instead? And every mixed-use project that was approved has the maximum amount of housing the zoning rules allow?

"Developers can't do anything without consent of the city."

Developers have a wide range of project options that all would be acceptable to the city. For perfectly rational financial reasons they've chosen to build a lot more commercial space than housing. If we want a different outcome, we have to change the economic incentives.


11 people like this
Posted by Nayeli
a resident of Midtown
on Jul 11, 2018 at 12:13 am

Is anyone else tired of the constant barrage of telephone polls about "issues affecting Palo Alto?" I think that my husband and I have received eight or more of these ridiculous telephone opinion survey calls in the past month. At least one or two of them have been on housing in the area.

Is the city doing this?


5 people like this
Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 11, 2018 at 7:22 am

Posted by Me 2, a resident of Old Palo Alto, 12 hours ago

>> Palo Also is absolutely responsible for land use within its city limits, which determine what gets built. It sets the regulations, zoning, permitting process, etc. Developers can only follow the direction that the city has given to determine what gets built.

So, we are agreed then? No more office space!

>> And, basically because of Prop 13, municipalities prefer commercial than residential because there's more tax revenue from commercial.

I've always been opposed to Prop 13. Note, though, that many of us older folks will be forced to leave if Prop 13 were abolished overnight. It took decades of Prop 13 to get us where we are today, and, any new policies need to phased in over a long period.

>> To foist responsibility on developers is ridiculous. Developers can't do anything without consent of the city. The city is solely responsible for the mess we're in.

So, you are saying that we shouldn't trust developers or anything that they say, or, even expect them to honor signed contracts?


10 people like this
Posted by mauricio
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jul 11, 2018 at 8:20 am

mauricio is a registered user.

People like Me2 keep yammering about Prop 13, which I was opposed to, btw. If Prop 13 is abolished, speaking of Palo Alto, many older residents on fixed income would be forced to sell. I can guarantee to him that they would sell to the highest bidder, they won't sell to him for 10 cents on the dollar. With multiple offers on every for sale home, they'll get to sell their homes for more than the asking price, which will push home prices even higher.

I was told only in n the last several weeks by various real estate agents(no, I'm not selling)that I could put my Palo Alto home up for sale for 6 million dollars, and get multiple offers for$7M or more, so his dream of forcing older residents out and buying their home for pennies on the dollar is a fantasy. And we know of course who would outbid all other potential buyers and end up buying the homes the older residents he wants to get rid of so badly would be forced to vacate.


4 people like this
Posted by Me 2
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jul 11, 2018 at 8:41 am

"So for decades developers have been actively proposing more and bigger middle-class housing projects, but they were always shot down by zoning rules, so they built commercial space instead? And every mixed-use project that was approved has the maximum amount of housing the zoning rules allow?"

Where are the projects located? Under what conditions can these projects be built? And what's the process to appeal certain rules that are in place?

That's all in the purview of the city. I don't see any commercial space sitting in R1 zones. Based on what you're saying, developers can do what they want. They can't.

The city makes the rules and we all play within these rules.

"Developers have a wide range of project options that all would be acceptable to the city. For perfectly rational financial reasons they've chosen to build a lot more commercial space than housing. If we want a different outcome, we have to change the economic incentives."

Right. Change the economic incentives. The city (and old voters, thanks to Prop 13) has put in place economic incentives to develop commercial rather than residential. Those incentives are owned by the city and the state. Developers maximize profits just like Google and Apple. They're rational businesses.

What I'm advocating is the city do its job. They've done a grand job of making developers take the political blame for development when its the city and its residents that are to blame.

"So, we are agreed then? No more office space!"

There doesn't seem to be a consensus here. By the way, it's hilarious to think this will solve the problem. We don't have a MAGA wall that separates Palo Alto from the rest of the Bay Area. If other municipalities (like, ahem, Brisbane and Cupertino) continue to built office space, it doesn't matter what we do. That's what I mean by land use is the problem.

"So, you are saying that we shouldn't trust developers or anything that they say, or, even expect them to honor signed contracts?"

You guys are really hilarious. I'm saying that the city creates the playground in which developers play. Blaming developers is folly. The real responsibility lies within City Hall and the voters. Didn't we vote down Maybell? I don't see a developer going off and developing Maybell as it was originally conceived.

"People like Me2 keep yammering about Prop 13, which I was opposed to, btw. If Prop 13 is abolished, speaking of Palo Alto, many older residents on fixed income would be forced to sell. I can guarantee to him that they would sell to the highest bidder, they won't sell to him for 10 cents on the dollar. With multiple offers on every for sale home, they'll get to sell their homes for more than the asking price, which will push home prices even higher."

I seriously doubt Prop 13 would just be repealed outright. Too many old folks with money banked in their house that would burn down Sacramento if that were to happen. There would be some grandfathering and so forth probably done. It's still the third rail of CA politics, though.

That being said, if Prop 13 were to be eliminated, I bet you prices would come down - not right away, but over time. The larger tax bill would act as a soft ceiling to housing prices. That's what happens in other states without a Prop 13-like setup.


9 people like this
Posted by Quin
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jul 11, 2018 at 9:40 am

I don’t understand why people are fixated on Prop 13.
If you abolish it, lots of people’s taxes go up but nobody’s taxes are going to go down. And like the poster said above, we all know who is going to buy up any homes that come on the market because you have now taxed some current resident out of their home. So what’s the point of fixating on prop 13 ?


4 people like this
Posted by Quinn
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jul 11, 2018 at 9:43 am

“That being said, if Prop 13 were to be eliminated, I bet you prices would come down - not right away, but over time. The larger tax bill would act as a soft ceiling to housing prices. “

Nice theory.
Why isn’t it working right now?
I don’t see prices dropping at all.


Like this comment
Posted by @Quinn
a resident of another community
on Jul 11, 2018 at 10:28 am

"Nice theory.
Why isn’t it working right now?
I don’t see prices dropping at all."

Why isn't what working? Prop 13 hasn't been repealed.


Like this comment
Posted by @Quinn
a resident of another community
on Jul 11, 2018 at 10:39 am

"So what’s the point of fixating on prop 13 ?"

At a minimum, it shields homeowners from any financial pain that comes with a housing crisis like we're in now, allowing them to block housing while avoiding any financial impact to themselves. Renters end up paying higher rents, those looking to buy property see it become further out of reach, but Prop 13 shields the people who caused this in the first place while they continue to push height limits and yell about overbuilding. Without Prop 13, there'd be far more incentive to keep property values stable through more housing construction, and otherwise those who would fight to keep others from having homes of their own might see themselves unable to afford theirs as a result.


3 people like this
Posted by george drysdale
a resident of Professorville
on Jul 11, 2018 at 10:43 am

Back to the basics: supply and demand. Government doesn't itself have any money. With the unfunded mandates for public sector employee pensions the state government is more than broke. Rent control is the single worse actor in the state of California preventing the building for more apartment units. Money is looking now in Washington state (no state income tax) and Oregon (all that water in the Columbia River). Cities need to grow denser for relatively cheaper prices. With the highest land rents in America the coast of California is not going to become a working man's paradise.


2 people like this
Posted by Jeremy Hoffman
a resident of Mountain View
on Jul 11, 2018 at 11:17 am

"Neighborhood" wrote

> I understand the positions of advocates for big housing growth but I have never understood the intellectual consistency of the YIMBY term. For the most part YIMBY’s don’t have backyards because they are not single family homeowners with backyards and they they claim they don’t believe in development with backyards. A more honest title might be “I Want Your Backyard” (but don’t tell anyone).

I will give this commenter the benefit of the doubt that they did not intend this comment to be as narrow-minded and elitist as it sounds.

Surely you understand that "backyard" is metaphorical, in both "NIMBY" and "YIMBY".

And surely you don't think that only those who own houses with backyards (as opposed to renters and condo owners) should have a say in their communities.

But even if you did think that, there are thousands of pro-housing homeowners in the Bay Area. Just to take one example, all three of the pro-housing-growth candidates elected to Mountain View City Council in 2014, Siegel, Showalter, and Rosenberg, are homeowners with backyards.

I myself am a homeowner, and a YIMBY. I want more dense housing development on my street, in my neighborhood, in my city, in my region, and in my state.

I don't "want your backyard." My wife and I are perfectly happy without a "backyard". We were ecstatic to buy a condo that is walking distance to a grocery store and biking distance to work.


5 people like this
Posted by Allen Akin
a resident of Professorville
on Jul 11, 2018 at 12:26 pm

Allen Akin is a registered user.

"Where are the projects located?"

I assume you mean "where could the projects be located?" The most detailed list that I know about is in Chapter 3 of the Comp Plan Web Link .

Not only are there a good number of options that haven't been used, many of the options that previously existed were underused. A lot of people argued for more housing in recent developments downtown, which were built with small numbers of luxury spaces instead. Last I checked, the 550 Hamilton proposal is still half office space. That's about a 5:1 jobs/housing imbalance.

And the elephant in the room is probably Stanford Research Park, in which a few hundred housing units have been built recently but there is ample opportunity for many more (and as a nice bonus, they're close to jobs).

When you look at this critically, I think the evidence for the "it's all due to building restrictions" narrative is a lot weaker than the evidence for "developers and financiers can get better return on investment by building more commercial space than housing" narrative.

"Right. Change the economic incentives. The city (and old voters, thanks to Prop 13) has put in place economic incentives to develop commercial rather than residential. Those incentives are owned by the city and the state. Developers maximize profits just like Google and Apple. They're rational businesses."

I'm not going to get into Prop 13 because I don't know enough to have an informed opinion.

There's a HUGE amount of money from the tech sector and its partners, funded by their industry-leading profits, that's bidding up the price of commercial space. I think that's sufficient to explain why real-estate finance and development companies have concentrated on building commercial space. Yes, they are completely rational.

I've already suggested a couple of ways to change the financial incentives. For example, require prior approval of housing and transportation before approving more commercial space.


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Posted by Anonymous
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jul 11, 2018 at 1:15 pm

I’ve brought this up before, old-timers and knowledgeable officials may be able to answer: I was told when I moved here some years ago (as a kid) that generous, thoughtful people had gifted Stanford with the rolling hills like up Arastradero and Page Mill Rd with the proviso they not be built on.
Yes, I know there’s the cash cow for Stanford, the Stanford “industrial park,” but there also is open space. What are the restrictions, or was it just a hope of the benefactors that may be conveniently overlooked now decades later?
Stanford will make another fortune and we area residents will have gridlock and over-burdened schools if Stanford is allowed to develop the land gifted to them. They will max it out!
Do Open Space advocates have anything to say about this prospect ??
Just wondering.


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Posted by Me 2
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jul 11, 2018 at 1:55 pm

"When you look at this critically, I think the evidence for the "it's all due to building restrictions" narrative is a lot weaker than the evidence for "developers and financiers can get better return on investment by building more commercial space than housing" narrative."

Yes. Because the city, the state and its residents made it that way. Is that too hard to understand?

I think we actually agree that there needs to be the right incentives. My take is that foisting blame only on developers is wrongheaded. The city and residents absolutely need to acknowledge their responsibility in this housing crisis.


12 people like this
Posted by mauricio
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jul 11, 2018 at 2:15 pm

mauricio is a registered user.

No, if Prop 13 is eliminated, which is about as likely as winning the California Lottery, home prices would go up, because there is so much foreign money clamoring to park in Palo Alto real estate, and they care very little about property taxes, they just want to be able to get their money out of their home countries into the Palo Alto real estate haven.

A massive increase in population would necessitate billions in infrastructure improvement, again, extremely unlikely to happen. Public transportation is not nearly sufficient to deal with a significant population increase, and if Hong Kong, with its best in the world public transit system is an example, even a great public transit system, which the Bay area is unlikely to have in the forceable future won't prevent permanent gridlock and a huge deterioration in the quality of life.

The talk about a huge housing development wave its just talk, because it's no more than civic suicide, and eventually a majority of residents will realize hit and put an end to the nonsense. Those clamoring for a Palo Alto address and zip code will just have to face reality.


2 people like this
Posted by @mauricio
a resident of another community
on Jul 11, 2018 at 2:52 pm

Foreign money is already buying homes in the Bay Area. Your fiction for how ending Prop 13 would cause prices to rise makes no sense.

Your quip at the end about people coveting a Palo Alto zip code is incredibly jarring, too. Who thinks that way? I could see living in Atherton as being somewhat prestigious for the sheer exclusivity of it, but I don't know anyone that looks at living in Palo Alto as something prestigious. This is about building homes close to jobs. Your ego over your zipcode is a separate concern.


8 people like this
Posted by Deviloper
a resident of Barron Park
on Jul 11, 2018 at 3:19 pm

[Post removed.]


12 people like this
Posted by Jane
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Jul 11, 2018 at 3:41 pm

"I could see living in Atherton as being somewhat prestigious for the sheer exclusivity of it, but I don't know anyone that looks at living in Palo Alto as something prestigious."

So if you are rich in Atherton your neighborhood should be preserved but those will less money should not be allowed to protect keep their neighborhood from the traffic etc. that comes with dense development?


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Posted by @Jane
a resident of another community
on Jul 11, 2018 at 4:15 pm

I said nothing about whether or not any building should happen in Atherton. I care more about building housing in Palo Alto, Mountain View, San Francisco, and other cities along the Peninsula because that's where jobs are concentrated. I believe Atherton is already having problems with their high housing costs making it difficult for police and firefighters to live nearby and service it, to which I'd say build housing for them. But for the most part, Atherton and a few other very small towns didn't add a ton of jobs to their cities, so they're not the main cause of the housing problem. (Atherton hurts the problem in other ways though by constantly suing Caltrain for every random thing).


3 people like this
Posted by @resident of another community
a resident of College Terrace
on Jul 11, 2018 at 4:28 pm

“. I care more about building housing in Palo Alto, Mountain View, San Francisco, and other cities along the Peninsula because that's where jobs are concentrated.”

So if we get rid of the jobs in Palo Alto you don’t care about building housing anymore. great!


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Posted by @Deviloper
a resident of another community
on Jul 11, 2018 at 4:42 pm

You want to start questioning the consciences of others? You really think you're the one suffering a plight right now? There's a whole generation, with Gen Z right behind it, that's being completely locked out of the property market, having their down payments eaten by extremely high rents, commuting extreme distances, and living packed into houses with every room rented out because people like you think the real issue with housing around here is that more of it might impact your backyard view or not fit your preferred suburban character. You're causing people to actually suffer, and yet while you rip away the ladder to the Middle Class and people complain you question their ethics? Give me a break. You live in one of the hottest job centers in the world, not some small back country town. You can't just wall off good paying jobs from others and then act offended when others take issue. You're no different than the homeowners up in San Francisco that protested and derailed an affordable senior citizen apartment complex because it would have blocked their views and been too tall for the neighborhood. You only see yourself, not the thousands of people you hurt through your actions.


3 people like this
Posted by Allen Akin
a resident of Professorville
on Jul 11, 2018 at 4:47 pm

Allen Akin is a registered user.

"Yes. Because the city, the state and its residents made it that way. Is that too hard to understand?"

Oh, it's easy to understand, it's just wrong. Like H. L. Mencken said. :-)

Look, you seem to be arguing that zoning regulations have made it impossible to build new (or denser) housing. But as I mentioned earlier, it seems there are still many places in Palo Alto where you can build more dense housing while meeting current zoning regulations, and it even seems there are projects under way that aren't building as much housing as they could under current zoning regulations. So exactly which regulations are preventing construction, and how would you change them? How will you deal with the consequences for transportation, city services, schools, and so on?

I don't remember if you've suggested constraining demand in any way, so if you're really just arguing for unlimited, unzoned growth (the Houston model), then you should say so and we can all save time. :-)

"My take is that foisting blame only on developers is wrongheaded."

If that's the way you've interpreted my comments, then that's not right, either.


12 people like this
Posted by mauricio
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jul 11, 2018 at 4:59 pm

mauricio is a registered user.

Iff Prop 13 was eliminated, many homes would eventually go on the market because their older owners who are on fixed income wouldn't be able to afford the rising property taxes which wo'nt capped. Foreign buyers will snap all those homes with multiple offers driving their price higher. Not that Prop 13 is going to be eliminated in our lifetime.

Palo Alto is indeed an extremely desirable zip code. The young well paid tech in the Bay area want to live either in Palo Alto or San Francisco, they don't want to live in Atherton. To them, Palo Alto is cool and desirable, Atherton is stuffy and boring.

As far as the "suffering" of those who can't live near their jobs, while most people who work in Manhattan commute from other parts of NY state, and from at least two additional state, there's plenty of blame to go around, but at the top off the list are corporations that keep bringing in workers into the hottest, most expensive real estate market in the nation, refusing to to create job centers in other areas that need them, and expecting the public to solve that problem for them.


5 people like this
Posted by @resident of another community
a resident of College Terrace
on Jul 11, 2018 at 5:10 pm

You assume too much.
... and are very wrong about economics.




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Posted by Me 2
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jul 11, 2018 at 5:37 pm

"Look, you seem to be arguing that zoning regulations have made it impossible to build new (or denser) housing."

Impossible? The process to go through planning, dealing with a variance (if you need one), having some neighborhood group force you to go to planning commission and then city council, building permits, neighborhood notification, etc.

All that is an expensive process and that's not even starting with labor and materials. Specialized engineers, lawyers, architects that all cost more because they "specialize" in Palo Alto and its unique building and regulatory requirements. Yes, other cities around us have the same kind of leach... uh "ecosystem."

Developers don't eat that cost (I don't know why this is such a hard concept to grasp for some folks). That goes into the project cost, which means that any property rents or sales must be high enough to incorporate these additional costs.

That means commercial or higher-end housing, and little or no workforce housing.Or the project doesn't pencil out and dies.

Have you done any some of major remodel on your house Allen within the last 10 years? I have. Both in San Francisco and in Palo Alto. No I'm not a developer. These were for my own primary residences. That will give you some insight on how the process really is before you pick up a hammer.

So yes, the city and its residents make it impossible for denser housing.

(This is not aimed at you Allen) Why not just acknowledge it rather than come up with fantasy non-facts to support your anti-development stance? Overpopulation? Give me a break.


2 people like this
Posted by Allen Akin
a resident of Professorville
on Jul 11, 2018 at 6:28 pm

Allen Akin is a registered user.

"All that is an expensive process...That goes into the project cost..."

That's certainly a legitimate concern. I'm not sure it accounts for commercial-space projects drastically outnumbering housing projects, though. A fair number of housing projects have cleared that hurdle in recent years.

"Or the project doesn't pencil out and dies."

Yes. This is the profitability problem, which can easily account for the difference between success rates for commercial and housing projects.

"Have you done any some of major remodel on your house Allen within the last 10 years?"

There's a good chance that I went through the worst single-family-home approval process in Palo Alto history. So yes, I'm a big fan of ministerial requirements (like zoning) rather than discretionary reviews.


10 people like this
Posted by mauricio
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jul 11, 2018 at 6:31 pm

mauricio is a registered user.

[Post removed.]


11 people like this
Posted by From PA
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Jul 11, 2018 at 6:46 pm

From PA is a registered user.

"Overpopulation? Give me a break."

-- What??? Pardon me, it is getting progressively harder to read this.
The population density in Palo Alto: 2800/ sq.mi compared to the Bay Area - 1100/ sq. mi. Compare that to 240/sq. mi in CA and 85/ sq. mi in the US.

About 12 times the CA average and 33 times the US average.
No, you give us a break.


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Posted by Moralist
a resident of Stanford
on Jul 11, 2018 at 9:02 pm

All the people who want the higher paying jobs in the cities around Palo Alto deserve to live in Palo Alto.
And those who live in Palo Alto have a moral and ethical obligation to help them live in Palo Alto, even if it does reduce their quality of life. Anyway, it will increase their net worth. And developers, bankers, real estate agents, and city government management and council all benefit, either directly or with help building their careers.

The opportunity to pursue somewhat higher compensation, even though overall costs outweigh it for most people, is a right granted in the constitution and a human right for all.

The current homeowners are immoral for making it harder for these tens or hundreds of thousands of people who just want to live in Palo Alto to be closer to higher paying jobs and schools with better reputations.


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Posted by Me 2
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jul 12, 2018 at 9:39 am

[Post removed.]


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Posted by Me 2
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jul 12, 2018 at 9:41 am

"The population density in Palo Alto: 2800/ sq.mi compared to the Bay Area - 1100/ sq. mi. Compare that to 240/sq. mi in CA and 85/ sq. mi in the US."

Lies, damn lies and statistics. You're going to tell me about population density with this house in our city limits?

Web Link


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Posted by Me 2
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jul 12, 2018 at 9:50 am

By the way, if you really want to look at population density of cities in California, you might want to look here:

Web Link

Oh look, we're the 499th most dense city in California.

San Francisco? 399th.

Berkeley? 137th.

Heck, Mountain View is 2.5x more dense than Palo Alto at 148th.


18 people like this
Posted by Sense
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 12, 2018 at 10:19 am

@Moralist,
If companies that want to grow beyond what the local environment can sustain, the responsible thing to do is for them to move to grow, just as Facebook did, including for safety’s sake. If they would move to someplace that really benefitted from the growth and where they really need the jobs, they could not only serve them but also the population who would follow and have many more opportunities for good housing and lifetime wealth accumulation. Creating a situation in which densifying is like Dante’s image of hell in which sufferers are submerged with tantalizing food always just out of their reach is what is immoral, which is what you are envouraging. Concentrating people creates this competition. In a nation this large, it’s not necessary. Companies are wealthy enough to found company towns that they can create as they want them, without hurting others.

We are homeowners because it’s the only way to stay here. I just learned that we are considered low income in this county. And no, given how we have to keep refinancing to live, compared to putting the same money in retirement investments, our home is not a lottery nor is it comfortable. It is just better than having to move every year and never know where we will live, and never have an investment. People like you say you want to help low income people to have what everyone else has, but the minute any of us figure out how to eke into your sphere, you can’t punish us enough for it. Sheesh. Your developer obsequious agenda doesn’t help, it just makes things worse. If a bunch of companies went and founded a new city in one of many beautiful areas inNorthern California, Oregon, Arizona, I’m moving. (Not Nevada, the pervasive mining, gambling and for-profit prisons are too depressing.) Densifying here offers me nothing, but a good new community does. We have very successful companies that could stand to pay back. In an ever more crowded world, it’s time to create a few new cities from scratch or to develop places that want the jobs. That’s the moral and practical thing to do. It us not moral of you to moralize while being deliberately oblivious to the damage to ordinary people's lives that you wreak.


12 people like this
Posted by Sense
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 12, 2018 at 10:34 am

@Me2,
Or, you could access an actual thoughtful analysis of density instead of something that includes open space and areas that aren’t even buildable, and takes a true look at what density is.
Web Link

San Francisco then comes in second most densely populated in the US, ahead of Los Angeles.

The article points out: “Planners are often quick to recommend increased density to combat congestion and make cities more livable, but LA shows us that simply chasing density, without thought as to where that density is, will not do much to help and might actually make things worse.”


17 people like this
Posted by mauricio
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jul 12, 2018 at 10:42 am

mauricio is a registered user.

[Portion removed.]

Every profitable tech company in SV should put a portion of their annual profit into a fund, and that money should be used to create new company towns and campuses in areas that would benefit from then, away from the Bay area, where more urbanization and densification is not possible anymore and actually puts the entire region in jeopardy. It's the only viable solution. No commercial and housing development should be permitted in Palo Alto anymore.


11 people like this
Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jul 12, 2018 at 10:44 am

Online Name is a registered user.

Re Palo Alto's density figures, perhaps they're counting PA's 1,400-acre Foothills Park which would certainly skew the rankings.


3 people like this
Posted by Pete
a resident of College Terrace
on Jul 12, 2018 at 3:28 pm

San Francisco is dense by American standards but that's just because there's almost no density in the United States. San Francisco is about 1/3 as dense as Paris, and Palo Alto is about 1/3 as dense as San Francisco. So both San Francisco and Palo Alto have plenty of room to grow.


2 people like this
Posted by Me 2
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jul 12, 2018 at 4:42 pm

"Or, you could access an actual thoughtful analysis of density instead of something that includes open space and areas that aren’t even buildable, and takes a true look at what density is."

"Re Palo Alto's density figures, perhaps they're counting PA's 1,400-acre Foothills Park which would certainly skew the rankings."

The decision on what's "buildable" vs. "open space" is up to the municipality (or state/county if unincorporated). You can't choose to have open space and then decry "overpopulation" at the same time. That's a ridiculous contradiction.

By the way, Palo Alto is excluded in those numbers - Santa Clara County isn't part of the San Francisco - Oakland urbanized area definition.

"Planners are often quick to recommend increased density to combat congestion and make cities more livable, but LA shows us that simply chasing density, without thought as to where that density is, will not do much to help and might actually make things worse.”

Who's asking for just increasing density randomly? No one is. That's a straw man argument. I'm combating the perception that Bay Area is "overpopulated," when it isn't. No one is saying generically put up density everywhere.


15 people like this
Posted by mauricio
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jul 12, 2018 at 5:04 pm

mauricio is a registered user.

Iff there is no density in the US, as Pete suggests, why should tech companies not move to less dense areas that need economic development. It makes no sense to keep staying in SV, which will remain incredibly expensive regardless of how much more housing is foolishly be allowed to be developed, instead of tech companies using their incredible wealth to build new towns and new campuses for tech hubs all over the country. Can't have it both ways.


6 people like this
Posted by Allen Akin
a resident of Professorville
on Jul 13, 2018 at 9:49 am

Allen Akin is a registered user.

From this morning's Merc: Web Link

"The latest version of the proposed transit village envisions 590 residential units and nearly 214,000 square feet of offices. The housing would consist of 125 studios, 353 one-bedroom units and 112 two-bedroom units, the planning documents stated."

At 100 sq ft per office employee, 1 person per studio, 1 person per one-bedroom, and 2 people per two-bedroom, that's 2140 employees and 702 residents, or a jobs/housing imbalance of 3:1. Double-up the one- and two-bedroom places, and the imbalance is 1.7:1. Either way, this high-density development would be making San Jose's jobs/housing imbalance worse.

If anyone cares to dig into the San Jose zoning laws to prove that they prevent any more housing from being built in this development, please let us know what you find. Otherwise, this just looks like another case where the economic incentives favor office space over housing, rather than a case where NIMBY laws are blocking any new housing.

I think this project also helps illustrate why high density alone doesn't guarantee you less congestion or better affordability.


2 people like this
Posted by Pete
a resident of College Terrace
on Jul 13, 2018 at 10:20 am

Tech companies want to be in the Bay Area because:
1. Investors are here
2. A lot of talented people already live here
3. It's relatively easy to convince talented people to move here
4. We have universities to churn out more eployees
5. There are benefits to being near other tech companies - collaboration/competition spur more innovation

Mauricio,
let me ask you this. You've stated you're sitting on a $6 million dollar house and you clearly hate density, why don't you cash in and move some place that isn't a major jobs center? It seems like you could easily have everything you want without spending all this time fighting against more housing in Palo Alto.


12 people like this
Posted by Jane
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Jul 13, 2018 at 10:51 am

@Pete

Unfortunately you can't replace the deep roots and connections developed over decades invested in friendships and community involvement.


2 people like this
Posted by From PA
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Jul 13, 2018 at 10:59 am

From PA is a registered user.

Hi Pete,

"It seems like you could easily have everything you want without spending all this time fighting against more housing in Palo Alto."

-- Believe it or not, for some people money is not everything.

To some of your points:
"1. Investors are here"
--- Timing it myself every day going to work. Driving across PA to Sand Hill is 35-40 min now, almost any time of day. The same as from San Jose/Campbell on 280.

"3. It's relatively easy to convince talented people to move here"
--- Talked to an Uber driver who takes talented people back to the airport a few times a week after they realize having lived here 3-6 months that their attractive $120k salary barely lets them get by.
Also addresses your point 2.

"5. There are benefits to being near other tech companies - collaboration/competition spur more innovation".
--- It just does not work that way. What do you think, they get together for coffee to exchange their proprietary information?

Otherwise, good post. Keep it up.


7 people like this
Posted by mauricio
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jul 13, 2018 at 11:01 am

mauricio is a registered user.

Pete, I did. I still own the Palo Alto home, but I bought a country home in rural Monterey County 2 years ago and that's where my permanent residence has been since. I spend every other weekend in Palo Alto in order to deter squatters.


2 people like this
Posted by Pete
a resident of College Terrace
on Jul 13, 2018 at 1:49 pm

Hi From PA,

"Believe it or not, for some people money is not everything."

- The point was he could afford to have what he wants - to be away from all the people who work in Palo Alto. As it turns out he doesn't even live here, he just maintains an empty house.


"Timing it myself every day going to work. Driving across PA to Sand Hill is 35-40 min now, almost any time of day. The same as from San Jose/Campbell on 280."

- Not sure how that's relevant to my point but I encourage you to attempt other modes of travel if you don't like being stuck in traffic. Palo Alto has decent bike infrastructure. Personally, I stopped driving for my commute several years ago and my life is better for it. While I acknowledge that not all people can do that, the more housing we build close to jobs, the more people can walk and bike to work.


"Talked to an Uber driver who takes talented people back to the airport a few times a week after they realize having lived here 3-6 months that their attractive $120k salary barely lets them get by.
Also addresses your point 2."

- Yeah, I imagine cost of living issues are making it more difficult for companies to recruit, of course we always hear about the high salaries of tech workers. Really it's the people who live here that don't make a lot that bear the brunt of our housing shortage. Overall though it's still an attractive place for people who can afford it.

"It just does not work that way. What do you think, they get together for coffee to exchange their proprietary information?"

- You can literally go to any coffee shop in Palo Alto right now and find two dudes with their laptops open discussing their new idea. Here's a quote from an article about why Silicon Valley is where startups happen:

"Success Breeds Success: Benefits of Networking and Specialization

The entrepreneurial environment of Silicon Valley is characterized by innovation, collaboration, and risk-taking. It provides the essential motivational framework required for tech startups.

Many startups are founded by employees and partners of established tech giants. It is easy to find and connect with experienced and supportive mentors belonging to the same field, to seek expert guidance in moving forward with one’s entrepreneurial venture. Starting a tech company around Wall Street may help in getting financial assistance. But specific guidance necessary for tech startups, knowledge of technological innovation, and expertise is abundant in Silicon Valley."
Web Link

Here's another quote from a different article:

"Most of the reasons tech stays put boil down to "path dependency": It's a lot easier for companies to find and recruit new employees if they all work and socialize in one small geographically bounded area. The same goes for sharing (and stealing) new ideas. It seems strange to think about something like the Internet as a localized resource, but to a limited extent innovation does work that way. Plus, San Francisco is very nice. People want to live there."

Web Link



5 people like this
Posted by Pete
a resident of College Terrace
on Jul 13, 2018 at 1:59 pm

Hi Jane,
I get your point about connections to the community. However, for later gen-xers and millenials we essentially have no opportunity to maintain our connections to Palo Alto. From my class at Paly I'm one of 4 people I know of who still live here. That's about 1 percent. I'm sure there are others, but the vast vast majority of people I grew up live elsewhere. The opportunity to live in your home town shouldn't be limited to the super rich.


25 people like this
Posted by Madias
a resident of College Terrace
on Jul 13, 2018 at 3:48 pm

You guys realize there isn't enough water as it is, right ?


3 people like this
Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on Jul 13, 2018 at 3:54 pm

^ House under construction across the street is pouring water down the storm drain.


18 people like this
Posted by mauricio
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jul 13, 2018 at 3:59 pm

mauricio is a registered user.

It's absolutely absurd to claim that tech must stay around Palo Alto. There are many successful tech hubs elsewhere, including in other countries. Israel has its own extremely successful version of SV. Venture capital doesn't care about the location. Not all good engineers come out of Stanford, and there is no reason Stanford graduates can't be hired elsewhere. Information technology is not depended on location. Not everybody who works in tech can live in Palo Alto.

Palo Alto natives don't have an inherent right to live in Palo Alto as adults anymore than natives of the Upper East Side have, nor should they be subsidized. We already know that increased density will not bring prices down, quite the opposite.

The gist of it is that it has always been about having a Palo Alto address, because for millennial, Palo Alto and San Francisco zip codes are cool, and long time residents are expected to give up their quality of life and live in a civic sardine can in order to enable them to achieve one.


11 people like this
Posted by Madias
a resident of College Terrace
on Jul 13, 2018 at 4:06 pm

^ House under construction across the street is pouring water down the storm drain.

Oh.
Never mind.


8 people like this
Posted by From PA
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Jul 13, 2018 at 5:32 pm

From PA is a registered user.

Pete,

It is relevant to your point about being close to venture capital. There is a certain advantage of being at a driving distance to a VC firm. The point is you can be in San Jose and make it to Palo Alto faster than from the other side of Palo Alto. That is a fact and not sure why it is not troubling you.

Giving up driving ... you cannot be serious. You are in a dangerous zone of the debate about "bike mafia" in PA (I am not on either side of that).

There is absolutely no reason for companies to want to be in PA except the false prestige of the zip code, the "coolness". Two dudes with laptops is a cute argument; they can do that in San Jose, Austin, Salt Lake City, ... They sit inside, I am sure, not even taking advantage of the nice weather because they do not care. They could do that in Shanghai or Bratislava.

I could see the start-ups being born right out of Stanford. But a behemot company bringing here 1.75 mln sq. ft of office space while committing to build 1,500 units of housing is not being responsible. How many feet of new roadways will they build?


7 people like this
Posted by Jane J
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Jul 13, 2018 at 5:34 pm

Jane J is a registered user.

@ Pete
Most people I have known don't live where they grew up. As an adult I put my roots down where I could find a job and afford to live. Yes, it is sad that my children will probably end up moving elsewhere, just as I did. But Palo Alto has changed so much and you can't turn the clock back.


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Posted by Living where you grew up
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Jul 13, 2018 at 6:27 pm

Living where you grew up is a registered user.

FWIW, I know more people who grew up here than anywhere else I've lived. The parents give them the house, they pay essentially no property taxes, then raise a bunch of kids who go to the Palo Alto schools. It's a great deal. Which is why it seems so common, at least in my neighborhood.


6 people like this
Posted by Allen Akin
a resident of Professorville
on Jul 13, 2018 at 6:40 pm

Allen Akin is a registered user.

@Pete, and others: Check out Michael Goldman's blog, Meeting the Twain. With regard to Bay Area growth, density, and transportation issues, it's one of the most thorough and insightful around. Here's a post from earlier this year on Palo Alto jobs, commuting, and density: Web Link

I believe I first heard about this from Annette. Thanks!


6 people like this
Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on Jul 14, 2018 at 12:38 am

^ Thanks Allen. Michael Goldman's blog is illuminating, particularly the post you linked.


14 people like this
Posted by Sense
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 14, 2018 at 12:00 pm

@Pete
“the more housing we build close to jobs,”

Why shouldn’t the overgrowing companies instead move where they are close to the housing and there is a desire for more job generators? It’s a lot easier for everyone, and doesn’t foist the costs onto the public but instead benefits a struggling place. Look at how Amazon was welcomed when it decided to create a second headquarters. There is no reason to create safety and further envuronmental problems, as well as social problems, by destroying what is good about here for a few companies who really should be moving where they can grow for their workforces.

The companies that need more workforce housing should have prepared for success. Facebook moved, and everyone wss better for it, including Facebook. It makes far more sense for everyone except greedy developers for companies who need the capacity to move rather than taking over what is healthy and destroying it like some kind of cancer.


16 people like this
Posted by mauricio
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jul 14, 2018 at 12:37 pm

mauricio is a registered user.

The pro development crowd keeps putting forward a total fallacy. i:e that all tech companies must be located in SV, and that it's impossible to create tech hubs elsewhere. They keep repeating this fallacy ad nauseum, read Pete's comment as a sample, and thus the development and housing debate is based on a fallacy.

The reality is that physical location in knowledge technology is extremely unimportant, college graduates don't have live in SV, companies don't need to stay in SV, venture capital cares only about good ideas that can create large profits, regardless of location, and insisting on living in Palo Alto is about wanting to live in a "cool" and desirable zip code.

Michael Goldman's blog indicates that adding jobs to Palo Alto is impossible. At last some good sense and sanity.


4 people like this
Posted by Allen Akin
a resident of Professorville
on Jul 14, 2018 at 7:32 pm

Allen Akin is a registered user.

@mauricio: "...a total fallacy. i:e that all tech companies must be located in SV..."

Coincidentally, this afternoon I was reading the section in Richard Walker's book that deals with this issue. His take is that the claim isn't wrong, but it is misleading. Physical proximity is only one of many factors.

Here's one way to put the question in perspective. How far away from the intersection of University and Bryant do you have to be before your startup is 10% more likely to fail? 1 mile? 10 miles? 25 miles? 50 miles? Recent history suggests San Jose and San Francisco are pretty safe, so the answer is probably at least 25 miles. And then the question becomes "How far away from (San Jose or San Francisco) do you have to be before your startup is 10% more likely to fail?"


6 people like this
Posted by resident
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Jul 14, 2018 at 9:05 pm

Bad experience a couple of days go - crossed over San Antonio going east with intention to turn onto frontage road going to Shoreline Theatre. This was around 5:00 PM. Busses where trying to turn, cars trying to turn, and frontage road totally filled with cars. So that is what more people and more cars equate to - total gridlock. So who are the actual people on the Grand Jury? Name, rank and serial number. Of late our current political majority is using the court system to direct activity vs the elected leaders of the city. We do not have the names of these people and we did not elect them. From that point then they have no authority to direct what each city is doing from the standpoint of elected leaders and employees of the city. If you all have not noticed there is new apartments going up every where. Sl what is the complaint? You will never satisfy this requirement.


12 people like this
Posted by mauricio
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jul 15, 2018 at 6:49 am

mauricio is a registered user.

@Alan Akin-There are many highly successful Israeli tech companies, located outside of Tel Aviv, who were financed by VC money, including SV venture capital. There are many Israeli highly innovative incubators, some financed by SV venture cap, located in the Negev desert and the rural Israeli north, far from Tel Aviv, Jerusalem and Haifa, where Israel's 3 best best universities are located. The distance between Tel Aviv and San Francisco is about 7,400 miles.

This is one of example out of many of how the distance from SV, and how physical location are so insignificant in hight tech. Sucessful High tech can thrive almost anywhere. The notion that it must be within a few miles of Stanford and Palo Alto, preferably in Palo Alto, is nonsensical. This meme has always been mostly about tech workerswantingt a Palo Alto zip code.


5 people like this
Posted by resident
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Jul 15, 2018 at 8:38 am

If you have spent any time in LA you will note that the technology boom is on going in that location near the airports - LAX and Burbank. Most of your major companies have satellite locations near those airports. In fact many companies started in LA. Is everyone so preoccupied with SV that you do not see that the major cities are very active. Try Austin Texas where Apple has a major facility and many employees.
Back to topic here which is the Grand Jury directing traffic on the goings on. Article in paper today about Grand jury involving in procedures in police departments. Is there some reason that the people we elect and hire are incompetent and do not know how to do the jobs they are hired to do? Is there some reason the city mayors cannot follow the requirements for their jobs which they signed up to when they ran for office? Most cities have a set of guidelines for the city which is what everyone(?) has agreed to. So why is the court system used to manage the city goings-on. Very bad sign that the justice system is being used to run cities, states. Not their job. All should be identified by name and occupation to see if they are tilting the politics in their favor.


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

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