Housing plan stirs opposition in Palo Alto's College Terrace

Proposal for three-story apartment building tests the limits of city's new zoning tool

A group of local residents in opposition of the proposed 24-apartment project stand in front of one of the homes at the proposed site of development, in Palo Alto on Feb. 9. Photo by Magali Gauthier.

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Housing plan stirs opposition in Palo Alto's College Terrace

Proposal for three-story apartment building tests the limits of city's new zoning tool

A group of local residents in opposition of the proposed 24-apartment project stand in front of one of the homes at the proposed site of development, in Palo Alto on Feb. 9. Photo by Magali Gauthier.

When Palo Alto's city leaders created a "planned housing" zone last year to encourage developers to build new housing, they did not anticipate projects like the one currently proposed for a quiet Wellesley Street block near the College Terrace Library.

With a height of 32 feet and a total of 24 apartments, the proposal from Cato Investment Company, a San Francisco-based limited liability corporation, is neither the biggest, the tallest nor the most dense project that the city is now evaluating. It does not include any office space and, as such, clearly meets the city's criterion that projects provide more housing than jobs.

So far, however, it's by far the most controversial.

The main difference between Cato's proposal and the other applications that the city has received under this zoning designation is one of location.

While others are sited along prominent commercial corridors, including El Camino Real and Fabian Way, the development eyed for 2239 and 2241 Wellesley eyes a pair of lots that are zoned for — and now occupied by — single-family homes. For residents who live near the site, that's a key factor and the main reason why they are dead set on keeping the project from advancing. Housing advocates, meanwhile, see Cato's foray into the middle of the College Terrace neighborhood as exactly what the city needs: a chance to rethink how the city views single-family neighborhoods and a way to address housing inequities across the community.

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The debate will play out in the coming months, as the project moves toward a pre-screening in which the City Council will get its first look at the proposal and help the developer determine whether to submit a formal application. (The session is tentatively scheduled for March 25.) If the council signals its interest, Cato would then go through the city's review process and return to the council for official approval.

But regardless of whether the Wellesley project advances, the discussion will almost certainly force the council to refine its most promising zoning tool and to either reaffirm — or rethink — its historic opposition to bringing more density to single-family neighborhoods.

James Cook and many of his neighbors hope the project never gets beyond the pre-screening. Earlier this month, Cook was joined by about 50 other College Terrace residents at a Zoom meeting that included a discussion of the new proposal. According to various attendees, about 30 neighbors spoke out against the project, while three spoke in its favor. In a recent interview at the project site, Cook and other critics of the Cato proposal pointed to its three-story height, its general noncompliance with zoning regulations and the dangerous precedent that it would set for other Palo Alto neighborhoods by essentially declaring that single-family neighborhoods are ripe for dense, new developments.

"The proposal is like a punch in the face," Cook said. "The fact that you would take two homes and turn them into 24 apartments that's three stories tall — there's nothing like that in the neighborhood."

Cook, a former president of the College Terrace Residents Association, said he believes most residents share this view. In all his years of attending neighborhood meetings, he has never seen so many people come out in opposition to a project as they did during the recent discussion of the Cato proposal.

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"The people of this community will not stand for it," Cook said. "If it takes us taking pitchforks to the City Council meeting, we will be there in force and in mass, and we will hold the developer accountable and we will also hold our elected officials accountable if they even consider supporting something like this."

In explaining their concerns, neighbors said they believe the new apartment complex would bring more traffic, increase parking problems and harm the neighborhood's character. Andrew Fetter and Anna Lembke, who live on Wellesley in between the project site and Mayfield Park, see the development as a threat to their privacy. It would essentially create "a 30-foot box right up against our property, with 10 bedrooms looking into our living room, backyard and front yard," Fetter said.

Map by Paul Llewellyn.

It doesn't help, they said, that Cato didn't reach out to any of the neighbors before submitting its pre-screening application. Several residents told this news publication that it feels as though the company is treating their neighborhood as an investment opportunity rather than a place to create affordable housing that fits the neighborhood's character. They worry that after convincing the council to upzone the site, the developer will flip the property and cash out with a sizable profit.

"This is not about creating affordable housing," Lembke said. "This is about turning College Terrace into Cato's piggy bank."

But while some see the project as a threat, others see it as a golden opportunity.

Kelsey Banes, a Palo Alto resident and executive director of the advocacy group Peninsula for Everyone, believes the proposal offers the city a chance to not only add much-needed housing but also to distribute such housing more equitably across the city.

'This is not about creating affordable housing. This is about turning College Terrace into Cato's piggy bank.'

-Anna Lembke, resident, College Terrace neighborhood

College Terrace, despite its dominance of R-1 zoning, is made up of an eclectic mix of large and small houses, single homes, cottage clusters and small apartment buildings that were grandfathered in when R-1 zoning was adopted.

Banes believes the three-story building fits reasonably well on a block that already has two-story apartment buildings directly across the street. (One complex has eight apartments; the other has six.) Given the eclectic nature of the neighborhood, it is the R-1 zoning designation — not the Cato project — that doesn't fit the neighborhood context, she said.

"My concern about retaining R-1 zoning means that the only thing that would get built there is a detached single-family house. Maybe there would be a couple of ADUs, but certainly no actual affordable housing," Banes said. "I don't think it's a great idea to keep R-1 zoning. I don't think it's in the character of the street and neighborhood."

The brewing battle over R-1 zoning

Resident Rohin Ghosh holds a sign that reads "Single Family Zone = Exclusion" at the site of a proposed 24-apartment project in Palo Alto on Feb. 9. Photo by Magali Gauthier.

The idea that single-family neighborhoods need to accommodate more housing has become increasingly prevalent in Palo Alto, across California and in other states that are looking for ways to increase residential housing. Some cities have taken dramatic actions to encourage that. Last month, the City Council in Sacramento supported a zoning law that would allow any single-family lot to accommodate up to four housing units.

The move in Sacramento followed similar actions in Minneapolis, where officials voted in 2019 to allow up to three units on a single-family lot, and in Portland, which voted to allow between four and six units.

In Palo Alto, however, council members have shown little appetite for such reforms. The city's Housing Element and Comprehensive Plan exclude single-family zones from consideration when it comes to major new housing initiatives, a conspicuous omission given that such districts comprise 72% of city land.

And the council's recent efforts to create new zoning tools to encourage housing have generally focused on either prime commercial areas such as downtown and California Area or on busy corridors such as El Camino Real, San Antonio Road and Fabian Way.

To date, all of the planned-housing applications that the city has received, with the exception of Wellesley Housing, have targeted commercial areas. Technically, however, the zoning designation could apply to R-1 blocks.

'I don't think it's a great idea to keep R-1 zoning. I don't think it's in the character of the street and neighborhood.'

-Kelsey Banes, executive director, Peninsula for Everyone

As it stands, the planned-housing zone is a concept rather than an official zoning designation. The council in February 2020 adopted rules for planned housing that function more like guidelines to evaluate what are actually "planned community" applications. Historically contentious, "planned community" zoning allows developers to exceed all sorts of zoning regulations in exchange for negotiated community benefits. In the past, the planned-community zone was used to construct Alma Village, Edgewood Plaza and the College Terrace Centre development on El Camino and College Avenue. But after numerous controversies involving the zoning, the council decided in 2013 to no longer use the "planned community" designation — until last year, when the council agreed the zoning would be limited to housing projects. Planning Director Jonathan Lait told the council at the Feb. 3, 2020, meeting that the idea is to clarify that "the production of housing units, including affordable housing units, would in fact be a public benefit."

He also said at that meeting that the city would "limit the applicability to just commercial areas."

"The reason being is that if you make deviation from the development standards, it's further away from single-family zones and other areas," Lait said.

Since then, the council has received several proposals for planned-housing projects, all of which have targeted commercial areas. The first proposal, submitted by Sand Hill Property Company, envisioned 187 housing units and an office complex near Stanford Research Park at 3300 El Camino Real. (The proposal was withdrawn after it received lukewarm reviews from the council.) The second one, proposed by Acclaim Companies, would bring 113 apartments as well as 5,000 square feet of office use and 1,000 square feet of retail to 2951 El Camino Real, in the Ventura neighborhood. Council members broadly supported that plan during a Jan. 19 pre-screening.

A third, from Far Western Land & Investment, seeks to demolish an existing commercial building at 3997 Fabian Way, at the corner of East Charleston Road, and construct a 290-apartment complex. (The council supported the change in use but criticized the project's proposed height and density during its Feb. 8 pre-screening.)

The Cato Investment Company proposal is the first application that is targeting a single-family district. And while company heads are well aware of that fact, they also note that the action is within the bounds of the new zoning tool. Cynthia Gildea, Cato Investment representative, told this news organization that she believes the planned-housing zone is perfectly aligned with Cato's plan to adjust zoning in the R-1 district. She pointed to the site's proximity to jobs and transit, as well as the existence of other multifamily residences on the block.

Some council members, meanwhile, have indicated that they believe that extending the planned-housing zone into single-family residential neighborhoods is a step too far.

Vice Mayor Pat Burt noted that these neighborhoods are already seeing more housing because recent laws eased restrictions on the construction of accessory dwelling units (ADU). As of last October, the city has issued building permits for 146 accessory dwelling units and approved final permits for 84 of them, according to Lait.

Burt told the Weekly that just about any single-family lot can now add an ADU and a junior accessory dwelling unit (an independent living space carved out of an existing home). The laws represent a "drastic change that allows for significant increases in the number of housing units in what was formerly R-1 zoning."

"If you look at the number of R-1 lots in Palo Alto and you say, 'We only had a small fraction of those eligible for one ADU as of three years ago and now virtually all are eligible for two ADUs' — that's more than 20,000 additional housing units in terms of what would be allowed in R-1 neighborhoods. And it's done in a way that doesn't drastically alter the character of R-1 neighborhoods."

A development proposed for 2239 and 2241 Wellesley St. would include 24 apartments, of which five would be offered to low-income individuals. Courtesy Cato Investments.

In Palo Alto's political environment, Cato's proposal remains the longest of long shots. The City Council's two most passionate housing advocates — Adrian Fine and Liz Kniss — concluded their terms at the end of last year, and the majority of the current council has strongly opposed recent state laws that would have allowed greater density in residential neighborhoods.

Burt, a former planning commissioner and two-time mayor who has often been a swing vote on land use issues, said he does not believe planned-housing zoning was ever meant to include single-family neighborhoods.

"It was never the intention of the planned-housing zone (PHZ) to have that apply in R-1 zoning in any way," Burt told the Weekly. "And proposals to use the PHZ in R-1 should be viewed as non-starters."

Mayor Tom DuBois also said that he believes the new zoning tool should be restricted to commercial areas. While he did not discuss the Wellesley project specifically, he told this news organization that he is generally not in favor of converting R-1 zones to create multi-family apartment complexes.

"I do think if there are places where we have cottage clusters or existing buildings, they should be grandfathered in," DuBois said. "But a lot of people in Palo Alto and elsewhere in California are kind of house-rich and cash-poor, and they put a lot of their personal money into their house I think with the expectation of what the zoning is, and I think we should respect that."

Neighbors of the Wellesley project site echoed that sentiment. During the recent meeting, several talked about the years that they had spent on planning, saving up and renovating their College Terrace homes, which involved navigating the city's rigorous building regulations. With its proposal, they argued, Cato is looking to circumvent all the rules that help the neighborhood retain its character.

"We generally appreciate that even though (the city) forced us to follow all those rules, and we couldn't do everything we want — that's fine because it's important to the neighborhood and important to the city," Cook said. "I just want to know that everyone who buys property here has to abide by the same rules. We've all had to live by those rules, had to adjust our dreams and hopes to be in this wonderful, eclectic neighborhood."

Banes, for her part, believes that the time has come to change these rules. In her view, every single-family lot should be allowed to have at least four units, and those that are located closer to jobs, transit and other services should accommodate even more. The location of the Wellesley Street project warrants a greater change, she argued, because it's in a resource-rich neighborhood that is close to transit.

She acknowledged, however, that such an argument might not carry the day when the council reviews the project.

'I just want to know that everyone who buys property here has to abide by the same rules.'

-James Cook, resident, College Terrace neighborhood

"I don't have any illusions that this council will look at R-1 zoning, and I understand that changing it even by allowing duplexes would be a dramatic change from the status quo," Banes said. "But I think the status quo in Palo Alto is extremely toxic and demands action."

Gildea said in a statement that Cato Investments appreciates "both the outpouring of support and constructive feedback we have received since we submitted our project to provide missing middle housing."

She cited the council's recent comments, in reviewing other projects, in support of building housing for teachers, nurses and retailers. The company, she said, is happy to see the council recognize the dire need for such housing.

She also said that the proposed project "fits with the community character."

"We are currently undertaking a robust community outreach effort and will be holding a community meeting — all of which goes above and beyond the city requirements," Gildea said. "We look forward to a constructive dialogue with the community about how best to meet the needs of the missing middle."

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Housing plan stirs opposition in Palo Alto's College Terrace

Proposal for three-story apartment building tests the limits of city's new zoning tool

by / Palo Alto Weekly

Uploaded: Fri, Feb 12, 2021, 6:57 am
Updated: Fri, Feb 12, 2021, 2:04 pm

When Palo Alto's city leaders created a "planned housing" zone last year to encourage developers to build new housing, they did not anticipate projects like the one currently proposed for a quiet Wellesley Street block near the College Terrace Library.

With a height of 32 feet and a total of 24 apartments, the proposal from Cato Investment Company, a San Francisco-based limited liability corporation, is neither the biggest, the tallest nor the most dense project that the city is now evaluating. It does not include any office space and, as such, clearly meets the city's criterion that projects provide more housing than jobs.

So far, however, it's by far the most controversial.

The main difference between Cato's proposal and the other applications that the city has received under this zoning designation is one of location.

While others are sited along prominent commercial corridors, including El Camino Real and Fabian Way, the development eyed for 2239 and 2241 Wellesley eyes a pair of lots that are zoned for — and now occupied by — single-family homes. For residents who live near the site, that's a key factor and the main reason why they are dead set on keeping the project from advancing. Housing advocates, meanwhile, see Cato's foray into the middle of the College Terrace neighborhood as exactly what the city needs: a chance to rethink how the city views single-family neighborhoods and a way to address housing inequities across the community.

The debate will play out in the coming months, as the project moves toward a pre-screening in which the City Council will get its first look at the proposal and help the developer determine whether to submit a formal application. (The session is tentatively scheduled for March 25.) If the council signals its interest, Cato would then go through the city's review process and return to the council for official approval.

But regardless of whether the Wellesley project advances, the discussion will almost certainly force the council to refine its most promising zoning tool and to either reaffirm — or rethink — its historic opposition to bringing more density to single-family neighborhoods.

James Cook and many of his neighbors hope the project never gets beyond the pre-screening. Earlier this month, Cook was joined by about 50 other College Terrace residents at a Zoom meeting that included a discussion of the new proposal. According to various attendees, about 30 neighbors spoke out against the project, while three spoke in its favor. In a recent interview at the project site, Cook and other critics of the Cato proposal pointed to its three-story height, its general noncompliance with zoning regulations and the dangerous precedent that it would set for other Palo Alto neighborhoods by essentially declaring that single-family neighborhoods are ripe for dense, new developments.

"The proposal is like a punch in the face," Cook said. "The fact that you would take two homes and turn them into 24 apartments that's three stories tall — there's nothing like that in the neighborhood."

Cook, a former president of the College Terrace Residents Association, said he believes most residents share this view. In all his years of attending neighborhood meetings, he has never seen so many people come out in opposition to a project as they did during the recent discussion of the Cato proposal.

"The people of this community will not stand for it," Cook said. "If it takes us taking pitchforks to the City Council meeting, we will be there in force and in mass, and we will hold the developer accountable and we will also hold our elected officials accountable if they even consider supporting something like this."

In explaining their concerns, neighbors said they believe the new apartment complex would bring more traffic, increase parking problems and harm the neighborhood's character. Andrew Fetter and Anna Lembke, who live on Wellesley in between the project site and Mayfield Park, see the development as a threat to their privacy. It would essentially create "a 30-foot box right up against our property, with 10 bedrooms looking into our living room, backyard and front yard," Fetter said.

It doesn't help, they said, that Cato didn't reach out to any of the neighbors before submitting its pre-screening application. Several residents told this news publication that it feels as though the company is treating their neighborhood as an investment opportunity rather than a place to create affordable housing that fits the neighborhood's character. They worry that after convincing the council to upzone the site, the developer will flip the property and cash out with a sizable profit.

"This is not about creating affordable housing," Lembke said. "This is about turning College Terrace into Cato's piggy bank."

But while some see the project as a threat, others see it as a golden opportunity.

Kelsey Banes, a Palo Alto resident and executive director of the advocacy group Peninsula for Everyone, believes the proposal offers the city a chance to not only add much-needed housing but also to distribute such housing more equitably across the city.

College Terrace, despite its dominance of R-1 zoning, is made up of an eclectic mix of large and small houses, single homes, cottage clusters and small apartment buildings that were grandfathered in when R-1 zoning was adopted.

Banes believes the three-story building fits reasonably well on a block that already has two-story apartment buildings directly across the street. (One complex has eight apartments; the other has six.) Given the eclectic nature of the neighborhood, it is the R-1 zoning designation — not the Cato project — that doesn't fit the neighborhood context, she said.

"My concern about retaining R-1 zoning means that the only thing that would get built there is a detached single-family house. Maybe there would be a couple of ADUs, but certainly no actual affordable housing," Banes said. "I don't think it's a great idea to keep R-1 zoning. I don't think it's in the character of the street and neighborhood."

The idea that single-family neighborhoods need to accommodate more housing has become increasingly prevalent in Palo Alto, across California and in other states that are looking for ways to increase residential housing. Some cities have taken dramatic actions to encourage that. Last month, the City Council in Sacramento supported a zoning law that would allow any single-family lot to accommodate up to four housing units.

The move in Sacramento followed similar actions in Minneapolis, where officials voted in 2019 to allow up to three units on a single-family lot, and in Portland, which voted to allow between four and six units.

In Palo Alto, however, council members have shown little appetite for such reforms. The city's Housing Element and Comprehensive Plan exclude single-family zones from consideration when it comes to major new housing initiatives, a conspicuous omission given that such districts comprise 72% of city land.

And the council's recent efforts to create new zoning tools to encourage housing have generally focused on either prime commercial areas such as downtown and California Area or on busy corridors such as El Camino Real, San Antonio Road and Fabian Way.

To date, all of the planned-housing applications that the city has received, with the exception of Wellesley Housing, have targeted commercial areas. Technically, however, the zoning designation could apply to R-1 blocks.

As it stands, the planned-housing zone is a concept rather than an official zoning designation. The council in February 2020 adopted rules for planned housing that function more like guidelines to evaluate what are actually "planned community" applications. Historically contentious, "planned community" zoning allows developers to exceed all sorts of zoning regulations in exchange for negotiated community benefits. In the past, the planned-community zone was used to construct Alma Village, Edgewood Plaza and the College Terrace Centre development on El Camino and College Avenue. But after numerous controversies involving the zoning, the council decided in 2013 to no longer use the "planned community" designation — until last year, when the council agreed the zoning would be limited to housing projects. Planning Director Jonathan Lait told the council at the Feb. 3, 2020, meeting that the idea is to clarify that "the production of housing units, including affordable housing units, would in fact be a public benefit."

He also said at that meeting that the city would "limit the applicability to just commercial areas."

"The reason being is that if you make deviation from the development standards, it's further away from single-family zones and other areas," Lait said.

Since then, the council has received several proposals for planned-housing projects, all of which have targeted commercial areas. The first proposal, submitted by Sand Hill Property Company, envisioned 187 housing units and an office complex near Stanford Research Park at 3300 El Camino Real. (The proposal was withdrawn after it received lukewarm reviews from the council.) The second one, proposed by Acclaim Companies, would bring 113 apartments as well as 5,000 square feet of office use and 1,000 square feet of retail to 2951 El Camino Real, in the Ventura neighborhood. Council members broadly supported that plan during a Jan. 19 pre-screening.

A third, from Far Western Land & Investment, seeks to demolish an existing commercial building at 3997 Fabian Way, at the corner of East Charleston Road, and construct a 290-apartment complex. (The council supported the change in use but criticized the project's proposed height and density during its Feb. 8 pre-screening.)

The Cato Investment Company proposal is the first application that is targeting a single-family district. And while company heads are well aware of that fact, they also note that the action is within the bounds of the new zoning tool. Cynthia Gildea, Cato Investment representative, told this news organization that she believes the planned-housing zone is perfectly aligned with Cato's plan to adjust zoning in the R-1 district. She pointed to the site's proximity to jobs and transit, as well as the existence of other multifamily residences on the block.

Some council members, meanwhile, have indicated that they believe that extending the planned-housing zone into single-family residential neighborhoods is a step too far.

Vice Mayor Pat Burt noted that these neighborhoods are already seeing more housing because recent laws eased restrictions on the construction of accessory dwelling units (ADU). As of last October, the city has issued building permits for 146 accessory dwelling units and approved final permits for 84 of them, according to Lait.

Burt told the Weekly that just about any single-family lot can now add an ADU and a junior accessory dwelling unit (an independent living space carved out of an existing home). The laws represent a "drastic change that allows for significant increases in the number of housing units in what was formerly R-1 zoning."

"If you look at the number of R-1 lots in Palo Alto and you say, 'We only had a small fraction of those eligible for one ADU as of three years ago and now virtually all are eligible for two ADUs' — that's more than 20,000 additional housing units in terms of what would be allowed in R-1 neighborhoods. And it's done in a way that doesn't drastically alter the character of R-1 neighborhoods."

In Palo Alto's political environment, Cato's proposal remains the longest of long shots. The City Council's two most passionate housing advocates — Adrian Fine and Liz Kniss — concluded their terms at the end of last year, and the majority of the current council has strongly opposed recent state laws that would have allowed greater density in residential neighborhoods.

Burt, a former planning commissioner and two-time mayor who has often been a swing vote on land use issues, said he does not believe planned-housing zoning was ever meant to include single-family neighborhoods.

"It was never the intention of the planned-housing zone (PHZ) to have that apply in R-1 zoning in any way," Burt told the Weekly. "And proposals to use the PHZ in R-1 should be viewed as non-starters."

Mayor Tom DuBois also said that he believes the new zoning tool should be restricted to commercial areas. While he did not discuss the Wellesley project specifically, he told this news organization that he is generally not in favor of converting R-1 zones to create multi-family apartment complexes.

"I do think if there are places where we have cottage clusters or existing buildings, they should be grandfathered in," DuBois said. "But a lot of people in Palo Alto and elsewhere in California are kind of house-rich and cash-poor, and they put a lot of their personal money into their house I think with the expectation of what the zoning is, and I think we should respect that."

Neighbors of the Wellesley project site echoed that sentiment. During the recent meeting, several talked about the years that they had spent on planning, saving up and renovating their College Terrace homes, which involved navigating the city's rigorous building regulations. With its proposal, they argued, Cato is looking to circumvent all the rules that help the neighborhood retain its character.

"We generally appreciate that even though (the city) forced us to follow all those rules, and we couldn't do everything we want — that's fine because it's important to the neighborhood and important to the city," Cook said. "I just want to know that everyone who buys property here has to abide by the same rules. We've all had to live by those rules, had to adjust our dreams and hopes to be in this wonderful, eclectic neighborhood."

Banes, for her part, believes that the time has come to change these rules. In her view, every single-family lot should be allowed to have at least four units, and those that are located closer to jobs, transit and other services should accommodate even more. The location of the Wellesley Street project warrants a greater change, she argued, because it's in a resource-rich neighborhood that is close to transit.

She acknowledged, however, that such an argument might not carry the day when the council reviews the project.

"I don't have any illusions that this council will look at R-1 zoning, and I understand that changing it even by allowing duplexes would be a dramatic change from the status quo," Banes said. "But I think the status quo in Palo Alto is extremely toxic and demands action."

Gildea said in a statement that Cato Investments appreciates "both the outpouring of support and constructive feedback we have received since we submitted our project to provide missing middle housing."

She cited the council's recent comments, in reviewing other projects, in support of building housing for teachers, nurses and retailers. The company, she said, is happy to see the council recognize the dire need for such housing.

She also said that the proposed project "fits with the community character."

"We are currently undertaking a robust community outreach effort and will be holding a community meeting — all of which goes above and beyond the city requirements," Gildea said. "We look forward to a constructive dialogue with the community about how best to meet the needs of the missing middle."

Comments

felix
Registered user
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 12, 2021 at 6:48 am
felix, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
Registered user
on Feb 12, 2021 at 6:48 am

I have some confidence this proposal is a non-starter. It’s completely inappropriate in this location.

Kelsey Banes, it should be pointed out, wears many hats. She is also Regional Executive Director of Peninsula YIMBY Action (really, more like YIYBY - Yes in Your Back Yard).

She doesn’t mention that those two apartment buildings across the street from the subject development are grandfathered in and could never be built today in that location.

Kelsey doesn’t live in College Terrace, but miles away in a single family home, deep in a neighborhood with no apartments buildings. Why in the world was she even interviewed for this article?




Angie
Registered user
Crescent Park
on Feb 12, 2021 at 7:36 am
Angie, Crescent Park
Registered user
on Feb 12, 2021 at 7:36 am

I'd like to see a bigger conversation around single family zoning and what it really is, a relic of racist and exclusionary zoning standards. Palo Altans want to be more inclusive, diverse, and fair - but can we?


Jeremy T.
Registered user
College Terrace
on Feb 12, 2021 at 7:52 am
Jeremy T., College Terrace
Registered user
on Feb 12, 2021 at 7:52 am

Will this development create more traffic along Stanford Avenue and California Avenue heading towards El Camino Real or will the new residents be primarily riding bicycles and relying on public transportation?

The potential increase in automobiles troubles me.


CT resident
Registered user
College Terrace
on Feb 12, 2021 at 7:54 am
CT resident, College Terrace
Registered user
on Feb 12, 2021 at 7:54 am

I live very close to this proposal. Such mixed feelings!

I recognize that in some sense this is "bad" for me, parking may be harder and the proposed building is absurdly ugly. The third rail of politics, property values, may go down slightly. I'll probably never see the sun again where I live. It reminds me of the awful public safety building and garage across El Camino, a building that will fit into the future but is completely out of touch in the present.

But the neighborhood is already changing. The cottages are slowly turning into huge houses that maximize square footage, Stanford is increasingly buying up the entire neighborhood and making it harder for regular people to buy, and large lots are subdividing into smaller ones. Everyone in Palo Alto wants to support low income people, the canonical example being teachers, but every neighborhood wants them in all the other neighborhoods rather then their own.

Instead of fighting the losing battle against density, it seems like a better idea to focus on how to shape the future into something we can be content with?


Michelledb
Registered user
Community Center
on Feb 12, 2021 at 11:18 am
Michelledb, Community Center
Registered user
on Feb 12, 2021 at 11:18 am

Thank you CT for your comment. Everyone pretends to be upset about homelessness and the lack of housing for children who want to return and live near their parents. Yet, when a reasonable sized building is proposed - it is met with this old fight. The NIMBY nature of Palo Alto is gross and embarrassing. Add more trees and more parking and go for it. We need more housing. There are ugly houses and buildings all over Palo Alto - don’t look when you walk by if it really is that important to you. I would rather see a lot more ugly buildings than people in RV’s and tents.


Patrick Ehrhard
Registered user
Crescent Park
on Feb 12, 2021 at 11:27 am
Patrick Ehrhard, Crescent Park
Registered user
on Feb 12, 2021 at 11:27 am

Some of the older homes and cottages in College Terrace are not worth renovating nor will they ever become historical preservation candidates.

Like how many Palo Alto homes from the 1880s are still around? Most became teardowns to accommodate new houses.

Preserving old College Terrace for the sake of antiquity is ludicrous.


kauaime
Registered user
College Terrace
on Feb 12, 2021 at 12:45 pm
kauaime, College Terrace
Registered user
on Feb 12, 2021 at 12:45 pm

As a kid in the 1960's I played football at the little park down the street. I have many fond memories of bicycling around CT, going to Escondido.
The last time I visited PA I walked around my old neighborhoods, some houses were exactly as before, some houses were out of place and unrecognizable along with the apartment/condos.
I guess that is progress. It is always about the money. Period.


PST
Registered user
South of Midtown
on Feb 12, 2021 at 12:46 pm
PST, South of Midtown
Registered user
on Feb 12, 2021 at 12:46 pm

I have lived in PA almost forty years. I think if we really wanted more low income and extremely low income housing we’d have it by now. What we have instead is lip service with very little result, a new parking garage we could do without, an unnecessary pedestrian/bike bridge over 101 even though you can now make do using nearby San Antonio to cross and a giant new police station in the works while facing budget deficits and an uncertain budget future. We lost the Presidents Hotel, tear up and repave our streets constantly with little smooth surface to behold and install dangerous outside regulation barriers that endanger rather than calm anyone or traffic. I’m disappointed and urge our city council and city employees to do a better job. While I think making it easier to add ADU dwellings is a good thing, I don’t think it will be enough to meet the housing need and it likely will not have full impact for decades when we needed solutions yesterday. Can we build dense housing where the current police station is if we must leave that site? Why can’t the Cubberly campus include lots of housing? Do we need an airport, golf course and so many commercial properties east of 101? How about we repurpose that neighborhood to help meet more pressing needs? How about we sell Foothill Preserve using the funds to develop the old Frys property and surrounding neighborhood? What other properties does the city or Stanford own or could own to address this housing issue? Maybe we need a special time limited inclusive task force to explore options and propose solutions as clearly our existing structures have failed us and likely will continue to do so unless we try something different than business as usual.


cmarg
Registered user
Palo Alto High School
on Feb 12, 2021 at 12:49 pm
cmarg, Palo Alto High School
Registered user
on Feb 12, 2021 at 12:49 pm

Those commenting about that it should be built must honestly reflect on if they would approve an apartment complex next to your single family home. Treat others the way you want to be treated.

Please don't anyone bring in racism into this equation. Nothing whatsoever to do with racism. It has to do with single home zoning. Unless the entire Palo Alto is changed from single home zoning (and all of us exit) then please don't think it is ok in someone else's neighborhood/street.


Michelledb
Registered user
Community Center
on Feb 12, 2021 at 12:58 pm
Michelledb, Community Center
Registered user
on Feb 12, 2021 at 12:58 pm

I absolutely would support a building like that near my house. 100%. There is low income housing near me and I am thrilled and wish there was more. The solution to the housing problem is to be inclusive and not selfish. I also really do not care if some houses or buildings are ugly. How does this affect my life?


Bystander
Registered user
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 12, 2021 at 1:04 pm
Bystander, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
Registered user
on Feb 12, 2021 at 1:04 pm

I think everyone buying a house deserves to have the right to expect that they will not have a large building built nextdoor where dozens of people can look inside their windows or backyard, destroying privacy and causing shadows where there were none before. Whether that purchase was 30 years ago, or last year, the idea that privacy and sunlight as well as noise can change without any regard to those living in the immediate environs has to be very wrong.

If we can't have an expectation of security in our neighborhoods' remaining somewhat constant, then we are going down a very slippery slope towards Orwellian takeover.

This is not about an expectation that a neighborhood will not change after all change is a constant evolutionary process.

This is about massive change being forced on a group of people who would not have expected this type of alteration in such close proximity to their single family home. Allowing this type of mammoth scale development on 2 very normal sized plots is beyond the expectation of neighborhood evolutionary changes and has to be wrong.


citizen
Registered user
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 12, 2021 at 1:12 pm
citizen, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
Registered user
on Feb 12, 2021 at 1:12 pm

Given the pandemic and sudden shift in how and where people work-esp to get away from crowded conditions with poor quality of life-why are people still talking about new dense luxury units as if they do anything for affordable housing? They don't. In fact, building for the influx of tech workers was responsible for the largest outflux of people of color from the Bay Area in decades.

Given the predicted permanent shift in the way/where people work, if there needs to be more housing, we should be talking about the conversion of office space to housing or incorporation of housing into office space, with an eye to maintaining things like outdoor space, safety, awareness of droughts, etc. And quality of life. If there had been any attention to quality of life, the big companies would have done business in a more distributed way already, and the impact of the pandemic would be significantly lower across all economic strata. We saw an emptying out of downtown and the restaurants and businesses that catered to commuting workers, while at the same time, businesses serving residents (and their employees) were pushed out.

The narrative that allowing big developers to create large rental complexes for high earners with a smattering of "BMR" units (that most low-income people still can't afford) would somehow help affordable housing was always a lie belied by the facts in plain sight. Their competition for redevelopment sites was a major reason for rising costs. When SF tech companies suddenly allowed their workers to work remotely, prices dropped suddenly (but they are far from affordable anywhere in the Bay Area, that is NOT going to happen from building, much less by luxury apartment developers, period).

What will help social justice is to hold tech companies to more inclusive hiring, for one, and to care about better pay for all non-tech workers. And paying attention to better distributing their workforces where they can have decent quality of life.


Online Name
Registered user
Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Feb 12, 2021 at 1:17 pm
Online Name, Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
Registered user
on Feb 12, 2021 at 1:17 pm

Absolutely convert empty offices to housing before destroying new neighborhoods. Also continue to conversion of under-used shopping malls and hotels FIRST.

The time's, they are a'changing.

The SF Chronicle's Sunday Business Section had a long article on all the big malls being converted to mixed use that will specifically include affordable housing.


Native to the BAY
Registered user
Old Palo Alto
on Feb 12, 2021 at 1:19 pm
Native to the BAY, Old Palo Alto
Registered user
on Feb 12, 2021 at 1:19 pm

The CT R1 fiefdom of discrimination, excluding the “other” is wrong headed thinking. The Calif ACLU will be part of this soon enough to argue in court these racist, bigoted tendencies. [Portion removed.] Exclusionary attitude to the ninth degree. Shove poor people to the edges of hwys where pollution, safety and traffic are at their worst. 24 units totally reasonable. The 90% white tableau attendees of anti-housing people, digs deep to the heart. Too with a showing of under-age children, laughable if it were not so serious a subject for those barely alive on our city streets, without a true roof. Using children and dogs , really???


eileen
Registered user
College Terrace
on Feb 12, 2021 at 1:32 pm
eileen , College Terrace
Registered user
on Feb 12, 2021 at 1:32 pm

Patrick, I actually live in a class ll, 1893 Victorian home in College Terrace that we have spent 30 years lovingly restoring. The city of Palo Alto claims to love these relics of our wonderful history. However, putting an oversized development consisting mostly of market rate micro housing next door would cancel out the need to keep this old relic of the past on a register and restricting the home owner from tearing it down and building a three story apartment in its place. What we need in our College Terrace neighborhood are developments that fit into the scale and architecture of this historic neighborhood. Changing R1 into PHZ zoning which allows the developer every variance, will destroy the historic charm of this neighborhood.
The Cato development will only add 5 TINY units as affordable, the rest will be market rate. What it does do is take away the ability for anyone to build a home or homes on that property. Investment companies like Cato are the very reason property value is so high in this area.
Please check out, Professor Patrick Condon’s video on YouTube explaining how it is impossible to build your way toward affordability. Investment companies and their investors know this and are waiting in the wings for their cash cow developments to go up. When the property at the corner of College & El Camino was rezoned which allowed the new owner to upsize. The land under that development went up in value and he sold a few years later making a huge profit. This is what Cato wants too!


Native to the BAY
Registered user
Old Palo Alto
on Feb 12, 2021 at 1:42 pm
Native to the BAY, Old Palo Alto
Registered user
on Feb 12, 2021 at 1:42 pm

Much ADU about nothing. Get real for the real need for housing people and not start ups. Totally empty commercial bldg on corner of college and Yale, overgrown w weeds, tons of parking — is this a relic of past? Great spot for housing!


MBH
Registered user
College Terrace
on Feb 12, 2021 at 1:50 pm
MBH, College Terrace
Registered user
on Feb 12, 2021 at 1:50 pm

I hope all of the people who are making themselves heard on this issue have read this book:

“The Color of Law: A Forgotten History of How Our Government Segregated America".
by Richard Rothstein

This effort to stop the much needed plan to provide at least moderately affordable housing in Palo Alto is the latest exhibition of continued entrenched segregation in our fair city.


Carol
Registered user
College Terrace
on Feb 12, 2021 at 2:01 pm
Carol , College Terrace
Registered user
on Feb 12, 2021 at 2:01 pm

"Cato Investment proposed to convert two R1-home to a three-story height, 24 units rental apartment in PA" this is in general non-compliance with zoning regulations and the dangerous precedent that it would set for other Palo Alto neighborhoods by essentially declaring that single-family neighborhoods are ripe for dense, new developments.

Did the owners for Cato Investment company make any investment properties to their own hometown in San Rafael? [Portion removed due to unsubstantiated factual assertion.] Why they come here to invest over 10 investment properties in PA and using the flag that to help building more affordable low income housing in PA's single family home neighborhood. Look at there are many ghost empty units of tri-plex and apartment available for lease in College Terrace and PA! Look at how many properties own by those BIG developers and Stanford in PA. PA is losing housing to those buyers.

As a long time PA resident we OPPOSE to convert R1 to a rental of 24 units of one bed/studio apartment in a single family home neighborhood no matter where in PA!


Rebecca Eisenberg
Registered user
Old Palo Alto
on Feb 12, 2021 at 3:00 pm
Rebecca Eisenberg, Old Palo Alto
Registered user
on Feb 12, 2021 at 3:00 pm

This is a battle over funding, not R1. Cato's micro-unit proposal is the only type of housing we can expect when we rely solely on profit-seeking developers as Palo Alto's source of affordable housing.

College Terrace neighbors told me that they would be fine with more than one home on each of these R-1 lots, such as 4-6 townhouses, if the homes served families and did not require a 24-car garage. They told me that it's not the physical footprint that bothers them as much as the fact that the proposed apartments are designed for google programmers, not parents with kids in the public schools. I agree with them.

It is not reasonable or humane to require working families to crowd into 20 ft by 20 ft boxes. Working families need homes with kitchens, bathrooms, and a room for children to log in to school. The Cato floor plans do not provide that. (Take a look.)

In the past several years, the only housing proposals to move forward have been like this Cato bldg: squeezing maximum number of units into a bldg to maximize profits for developers. These micro-units are the unavoidable consequence of our city's flawed & failed trickle-down approach to housing. Relying on commercial developers for affordable housing is like relying on cats to feed mice: their function and purpose are diametrically opposed.

If we want units large enough for families - and I think we do - we need to fund housing the same way every other city does: by taxing large businesses. Here in Palo Alto, we are home to the biggest & most profitable companies on earth - which made a combined $2 trillion off the pandemic alone. Tesla, Google, Amazon, Facebook, & Palantir pay taxes in every other city where they have offices. If they paid taxes in Palo Alto too, we could work effectively with nonprofit affordable housing developers and subsidize builders to create housing that is truly affordable on a square foot basis.

Our community deserves that.


beanbagxyz
Registered user
Palo Alto Hills
on Feb 12, 2021 at 3:16 pm
beanbagxyz, Palo Alto Hills
Registered user
on Feb 12, 2021 at 3:16 pm

[Portion removed.] God forbid we modernize and create a dense, walkable, bike friendly and public transit rich communities.

My parking, my parking, really? I bet they are all for the environment as long as they are not expected to do their part.

Listen up, Single Family Zoning is a relic of the past. We need modern communities that are diverse, not just white.

[Portion removed.]

And stop making developers as a scapegoat. We know what you are trying to do there. Protect your neighborhood character by allowing only the white and the rich.

We will vote for change and we will organize to bring the hammer down from Sacramento and Washington if need be. Change or we will require you to change.


beanbagxyz
Registered user
Palo Alto Hills
on Feb 12, 2021 at 3:26 pm
beanbagxyz, Palo Alto Hills
Registered user
on Feb 12, 2021 at 3:26 pm

To Bystander,

You bought a house, keep your land. You have no right to dictate how the rest of the neighborhood should evolve. [Portion removed.]

The developer is not trying to build an oil refinery. He is bringing in families that need housing.

This country has really messed up by treating housing as an asset class. We need to change that for our future and we will start from Palo Alto, the richest and the whitest and the most segregationist of all communities in America.

We want to turn Palo Also into the streets of Netherlands. Don't like the future, sell and move.


Online Name
Registered user
Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Feb 12, 2021 at 3:36 pm
Online Name, Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
Registered user
on Feb 12, 2021 at 3:36 pm

How is it being a NIMBY racist to want to house families rather than single techies in stack-and-pack housing so that big tech can continue to hire underpaid contractors and "gig workers" and then plead they need to house more of them?

Those contractors outnumber full-time employees with benefits and stock options at Google, Facebook and elsewhere! Big tech just spent $230,000,000 during the last election to keep workers as GIG workers while enriching themselves at everyone else's expense. Shameful.

It's high time to look at how big tech is funding the local, regional, state, nation and international branches of the YIMBY party while they continue to fight against business taxes, paying workers fairly and giving them benefits and stock options, and fight against higher pay for foreign contractors.

Stop the greed and the divisiveness rhetoric. I MIGHT believe the YIMBY's really care about housing when they start pitching housing for communities that aren't already over-run 4:1 by commuters like Ahterton, Los Altos Hills, etc.

And given that commuters are disappearing, convert the empty offices, hotels, shopping malls, first to show you're not corporate stooges.


beanbagxyz
Registered user
Palo Alto Hills
on Feb 12, 2021 at 3:55 pm
beanbagxyz, Palo Alto Hills
Registered user
on Feb 12, 2021 at 3:55 pm
Michael O.
Registered user
Gunn High School
on Feb 12, 2021 at 4:06 pm
Michael O., Gunn High School
Registered user
on Feb 12, 2021 at 4:06 pm

Ezra Klein has it right about “liberal” California. Liberal in its window signs, not in its actions. College Terrace is consistently embarrassing in its hypocrisy. Web Link


beanbagxyz
Registered user
Palo Alto Hills
on Feb 12, 2021 at 4:27 pm
beanbagxyz, Palo Alto Hills
Registered user
on Feb 12, 2021 at 4:27 pm

[Post removed; excessive posting.]


Local
Registered user
Nixon School
on Feb 12, 2021 at 4:27 pm
Local, Nixon School
Registered user
on Feb 12, 2021 at 4:27 pm

So happy this is not happening next door to me - nightmare to find some vast building going up next door, with the joy of 1 year of massive construction work. I bet all the activists calling for this would be up in arms if some massive apartment block was dumped next to their parents nice middle-class home. Oh to be young and hypocritical again.


beanbagxyz
Registered user
Palo Alto Hills
on Feb 12, 2021 at 4:32 pm
beanbagxyz, Palo Alto Hills
Registered user
on Feb 12, 2021 at 4:32 pm

"Parents nice middle-class home".

In Palo Alto.

Middle-Class.

Is that supposed to be a joke?

We want dense buildings going up everywhere instead of spreading out hundreds of miles.

And leave the rest of the space for nature to flourish.


YP
Registered user
Crescent Park
on Feb 12, 2021 at 4:47 pm
YP, Crescent Park
Registered user
on Feb 12, 2021 at 4:47 pm

as a moderate Republican nothing warms my heart more than seeing woke, virtue signaling Palo Altans protest efforts to bring affordable housing to the city.
thank you Palo Alto online for the article, perhaps next you could investigate how local green deal supporters are keeping their second homes in Tahoe warm this winter.


Marianne Mueller
Registered user
Professorville
on Feb 12, 2021 at 4:52 pm
Marianne Mueller, Professorville
Registered user
on Feb 12, 2021 at 4:52 pm

How about two-story cottage clusters? with associated garage units.


Rebecca Eisenberg
Registered user
Old Palo Alto
on Feb 12, 2021 at 5:48 pm
Rebecca Eisenberg, Old Palo Alto
Registered user
on Feb 12, 2021 at 5:48 pm

I paid my membership dues to YiMBY but I do not like the way that my fellow housing advocates are casting this situation. I witnessed first hand neighbors explaining that they could support 4-6 townhouses in that location. That would be *not* R-1.

And the advocates who continue to insist that Cato's proposed 24 ave. 400 sq. ft-units are "affordable" or "for families" are off the mark.

Cato, like similar developers, plans to lease these 400-ft2 apts at min. $4000/month, or $10/ft2 -three times the average rent in College Terrace, which is $3.58/ft2/month. ($2940/month for 822 ft2 - see Web Link ).

Fellow housing advocates on this thread are correct that the essential task of housing humans should not be in the hands of profit-seeking exploitative private interests. Knowing that to be true, then why do they do the dirty work of the profit-seekers by spreading their lies that micro-units like these are affordable and for families?

Fellow housers: there are *better* ways to fund housing. Go next door to Mountain View and see for yourself!

In Mountain View, the Google Tax funded hundreds of desirable workforce & low-income housing units. MV's large company tax also enabled it to apply for and receive $13 million in CARES Act funding to buy private land, and partner with nonprofits to provide shelter beds for every homeless person, while Palo Alto provides zero shelter beds for twice as many homeless. MV's large company tax also transformed Castro St, helping small businesses survive & thrive the pandemic - unlike Palo Alto small businesses, which are suffering & dying due to lack of support.

It is not hostile to landlords, developers, and large employers to ask them to pay the same taxes in Palo Alto that they do in Mountain View, where the company that pays the majority of the business tax-Google-not only is not shrinking, but expanding. We have several googles here! What are we waiting for?


beanbagxyz
Registered user
Palo Alto Hills
on Feb 12, 2021 at 5:59 pm
beanbagxyz, Palo Alto Hills
Registered user
on Feb 12, 2021 at 5:59 pm

"It is not hostile to landlords, developers, and large employers to ask them to pay the same taxes in Palo Alto that they do in Mountain View, where the company that pays the majority of the business tax-Google-not only is not shrinking, but expanding."

That is the problem. We ask the developers to foot all the bill and guess what they do to make anything viable? They have to tack on that extra cost in the form of more rents.

That is after years and years of delays due to obstructionism by the NIMBYs. All that is a cost and the vested interest like that because there is no cost to the existing landed gentry. In fact it is in their interest to delay as much as possible because they actually benefit a la the prop 13 subsidies.

We are no shills for developers and we could care less about them. The reason they are able to charge whatever they charge is because markets are not allowed to function.

It's not going to take a year or two to normalize but you bring supply over time and prices will normalize.


Not Good Enough
Registered user
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 12, 2021 at 6:09 pm
Not Good Enough, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
Registered user
on Feb 12, 2021 at 6:09 pm

Angie from Crescent Park says above, "I'd like to see a bigger conversation around single family zoning and what it really is, a relic of racist and exclusionary zoning standards." OK, here's my part of that conversation -

Angie lives in the plummy apartment-free Crescent Park, and Kelsey Banes lives in a single family home on a quiet street sans apartment buildings. I invite both to move out of what they feel is their "racist exclusionary" single family zoning into apartments they tout. Plenty of vacant units are now available, rents are down, as would be your hypocrisy level.




Rebecca Eisenberg
Registered user
Old Palo Alto
on Feb 12, 2021 at 6:16 pm
Rebecca Eisenberg, Old Palo Alto
Registered user
on Feb 12, 2021 at 6:16 pm

To "beanbags" and similar: Am I a NiMBY? Using this rhetoric to defend a terribly flawed project is harmful to the cause that you and I share. To "Not Good Enough": personalizing this distracts from the fact that we have a problem. Because we do have a problem. Kelsey- and Angie probably would be fine with an apartment building on their block. I too rent on a R-1 block and I'd love one here.

Re BB -we already are asking commercial developers to foot the bill. And it is not working. Which is why we need to generate funding for housing the same way that every other city does: by taxing the largest and most profitable businesses.

Mountain View taxes Google, and doing so transformed the community, built hundreds of quality housing units, and created funds to protect small businesses, including retail and restaurants, effectively. Palo Alto has several Googles.

Let's look at just one of Palo Alto's profitable companies: Tesla - *based in Palo Alto*. Tesla's market valuation is almost one trillion dollars -- it tripled in value over the past year. Its profits over the past year were almost a billion dollars. It produced $40 billion dollars of revenue on an annualized basis in the past year. It predicts revenues of ***$60 billion dollars in 2021***. Tesla is headquartered in Palo Alto.

Tesla has NEVER paid a dime of taxes to Palo Alto. Yet: Tesla attracted talent using its premium location in Palo Alto as a draw. Its several thousand employees use Palo Alto-maintained streets, parks, and public amenities. Tesla enjoys the benefit of Palo Alto utilities delivery, fire department and police department ... yet has never paid for any of these things. We, the residents, have paid for Tesla as it grew from a small company into the most profitable company in the world.

The reason that every other city taxes its largest and most profitable businesses is out of recognition that these businesses relied on the community for their success. Knowing Tesla's revenues of $40 billion & profits of $1 billion, query why Palo Alto continues to rely on commercial developers for its affordable housing, when every other city knows better?


Online Name
Registered user
Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Feb 12, 2021 at 6:18 pm
Online Name, Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
Registered user
on Feb 12, 2021 at 6:18 pm

@Rebecca Eisenberg wrote, "I paid my membership dues to YiMBY but I do not like the way that my fellow housing advocates are casting this situation."

Please tell us more about the YIMBY dues structure. Many of us sincerely want to understand.

Your point Mountain View's handling of these issues vs Palo Alto's bears repeating. I've never understood why these issues are so acrimonious in Palo Alto and why PA is such a touchstone. Maybe it dates back to former PTC commissioner Kate Downing' -- a very vocal YIMBY whose well-funded claims that PA doesn't welcome tech downtown when what was said was that BIG tech like Palantir is pricing startups and retail our of downtown.


Rebecca Eisenberg
Registered user
Old Palo Alto
on Feb 12, 2021 at 6:36 pm
Rebecca Eisenberg, Old Palo Alto
Registered user
on Feb 12, 2021 at 6:36 pm

Online name - I paid $100 in dues to YiMBY because I passionately support its goal of making sure that every person has a place to live.

To confess, I think that both YiMBY and the local Democratic Party do not understand how different Palo Alto is than other cities due to the fact that Palo Alto is the only city that does not tax businesses at all. I do not think they are aware of the fact that an estimated **80% of Palo Alto land** is owned by these businesses, which do not pay taxes. (We cannot know the exact figures because City Council refuses to research them.) I do not think they understand that Palo Alto is the only city in the state-- and probably in the country!-- that relies exclusively on commercial development to fund affordable housing. Perhaps they do not know these things because they are, frankly, hard to believe.

So, I paid my dues, without regret because I believe that sooner, hopefully not later, housing advocates will take a closer look at what really is happening here. I continue to pound this point--even though I lose political capital for it--because I cannot see how we will solve this problem until those committed to the task are able to see the full picture.

I know that some people believe that some of these organizations are been paid to advocate on behalf of commercial developer interests, but I have not seen that. Rather, I think that the disconnect is more related to the fact that Palo Alto's situation is so absurdly worse than everywhere else-- that a city owned 80% by businesses, including the most profitable businesses in the world, would refuse to ask them to contribute the same way they contribute to every other community where they are located -- that it's impossible to believe.

I urge people to do their own research, to ask around. Publications like this one often deny the facts they could report if they took the time to speak with experts, which they don't. So there is that as well.



JJ
Registered user
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 12, 2021 at 9:29 pm
JJ, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
Registered user
on Feb 12, 2021 at 9:29 pm

thanks to the NIMBYS who created a housing crisis, we need more housing.

The problem with this development is that is should be taller, not smaller.

If NIMBYS don't want to see these type of developments, then solve the damn housing crisis and put up skyscrapers.

You created this problem.


beanbagxyz
Registered user
Palo Alto Hills
on Feb 12, 2021 at 9:40 pm
beanbagxyz, Palo Alto Hills
Registered user
on Feb 12, 2021 at 9:40 pm

Taxing businesses is not the solution. Businesses provide jobs. The NIMBYs should be thankful that what the property values they so want to protect are worth protecting because of these jobs.

[Portion removed.]


Palo Alto Res
Registered user
Downtown North
on Feb 13, 2021 at 6:46 am
Palo Alto Res, Downtown North
Registered user
on Feb 13, 2021 at 6:46 am
Palo Alto Res
Registered user
Downtown North
on Feb 13, 2021 at 6:56 am
Palo Alto Res, Downtown North
Registered user
on Feb 13, 2021 at 6:56 am

[Portion removed.]

The Bike lane is not near College Terrace. A student died on California near El Camino. Students who live in Stanford housing and near Escondido on College Terrace neighborhood are not protected when they bike to Greene Middle School or PALY. The bike lane is in Old Palo Alto down.

So the lovely things of Palo Alto (bike lanes) are pushed into expensive neighborhoods and then College Terrace is constantly under attack for closing of libraries, and high densification for R-1 zoned single family lots.

If it's good for the Goose, then it's good for the gander. If R-1 zone changes in College Terrace, it should change where Angie in Crescent park lives as well as Kelsey Banes Palo Alto neighborhood.


Terrace Antelope
Registered user
College Terrace
on Feb 13, 2021 at 10:13 am
Terrace Antelope, College Terrace
Registered user
on Feb 13, 2021 at 10:13 am

My issues with the project:
- Scale/density; Replacing 3 single family home lots with 24 is an 8x increase.
- Precedent; If this lot can be converted to high density, then what else can? Where to draw the line? Cato owns another 8-10 lots in College Terrace.
- Goal; Cato, which is owned by Baker Street Advisors, is a wealth management and tax optimization firm. Baker is run by Jeff Colin (husband of San Rafael mayor Kate Colin) - they do not have Palo Alto's best interests at heart.
- Approach; Rather than starting with a neighborhood outreach, this whole thing was launched via an article in PA Online. They know full well their ask is out of line and are using all this outrage as a negotiating starting point so they can "come-down" to, say, 16-18 and try to look good (when many would argue that's still way high). They know what they're doing....


eileen
Registered user
College Terrace
on Feb 13, 2021 at 10:42 am
eileen , College Terrace
Registered user
on Feb 13, 2021 at 10:42 am

Rebecca Eisenberg - Thank you for posting such an intelligent and fact-filled response on this thread.
JJ and beanbagxyz, - It really does not help the debate and discussion by just respond with an acronym like NIMBY. How about you join the discussion with comments and facts that can help others understand your position. Thanks!


Rebecca Eisenberg
Registered user
Old Palo Alto
on Feb 13, 2021 at 12:02 pm
Rebecca Eisenberg, Old Palo Alto
Registered user
on Feb 13, 2021 at 12:02 pm

Dear Antelope and Eileen - Thank you for joining this conversation and confirming that the Weekly (and many posters here) miss the market by simplifying this matter as a fight over R-1. As we agree,there are many ways to bring more dense, affordable housing to CT, but this is not one of them.

Also, I think it is extremely important to point out the negative impact that Stanford University has on College Terrace each time it acquires or is "gifted" single family homes. Although the homes that Stanford builds on those lots can be nice, they are NOT available to the public, NOR do they pay property tax any more. Stanford's taking over of CT is shrinking the supply of homes, lowering property tax revenue for PA's General Fund, and raising prices for residents. WE MUST STOP THIS.

Unfortunately, the City Council just gave 2 more homes to Stanford last week!

This R-1/YiMBY/NiMBY name-calling wars & personal attacks are counterproductive distractions from the work we need to co as neighbors and as a community. Let's work together. YiMBYs can realize that 350-sq-ft units are NOT family housing, esp at $4000/month, and that it's not just NiMBY opposed to that. More NiMBYs can recognize allowing that multiple family-sized units on a lot is a great way to keep a neighborhood family-focused and make it more affordable. These goals should overlap.

In my mind Cato's proposal is so terrible - 24 tiny boxes smaller than the typical dorm room, to be priced at $4000/month, next to a *family library* - that it is NOT what housing advocates should be fighting for! Want to see what affordable family housing looks like? I am happy to take you on a tour of Mountain View or Menlo Park. I think you will like how it looks!

In sum, I strongly believe that College Terrace neighbors would welcome affordable family housing if it were affordable and for families. This CATO monster is neither. Thank you for considering.


Resident 1-Adobe Meadows
Registered user
Adobe-Meadow
on Feb 13, 2021 at 12:19 pm
Resident 1-Adobe Meadows, Adobe-Meadow
Registered user
on Feb 13, 2021 at 12:19 pm

Thank you Antelope - it is follow the money. And if you keep following the money then you find a whole different group of people pulling the strings. Activating all of the groups - NIMBY, YIMBY, RACISM, BLM, etc are emotional tools to either sway or offend people's emotions which then create confusion. Each of those groups have a mantra that uses accusatory tools to reach their goals - most of which make no sense.

The real bottom line here is the move to reduce single family ownership of a residential property and convert everyone to corporate owned property. I get continual requests to buy my home from groups that are not your ready identifiable real estate agency. They are consolidators who if they can buy a group of properties can tear all of the houses down to create commercial owned apartments. The city residential game board of monopoly reduces the ownership by private individuals.

If you read the Real Estate section of the papers that is backwards of where the state today is going. People want a home with a yard so they can plant their own food and have the rescue dog. The flu has changed the way we live - probably for a long time. What was a good idea two years ago is no longer a good idea - it is now a very bad idea. And that is not going to change.

Side note - my mother grew up in one of those historic homes. Her step father was the last mayor of Mayfield and his construction company built a lot of SU on-campus and off-campus buildings. I have pictures of how it was back then on the Farm. Some of those building should be designated as CA historic preservation buildings. They were where it all happened.


Rebecca Eisenberg
Registered user
Old Palo Alto
on Feb 13, 2021 at 12:34 pm
Rebecca Eisenberg, Old Palo Alto
Registered user
on Feb 13, 2021 at 12:34 pm

Again I want to urge our community to recognize that we never will have options better than this overcrowded Cato building unless we expand our sources of funding for affordable housing past commercial developers.

Earlier I mentioned how large company taxes are paying for lovely housing developments in Mountain View and Menlo Park. And I mentioned how Mountain View, Santa Clara, Redwood City and other local cities received hundreds of millions of dollars in CARES Act grants through the HomeKey program to fund housing for very low income workers and for the transitional homeless.

In addition to those fantastic, existing ways to pay for housing, I also wanted to remind the community of the continued existence of federal government subsidies provided by Section 8. Although Section 8 housing in the past consisted of ugly slums, now some section 8 housing is even more beautiful than much of the housing inventory here in Palo Alto.

Look for example, what has happened in my hometown of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, once home to among the worst and most segregated housing projects:

Web Link

Here in Palo Alto we have tons more money to spend on public housing than in Milwaukee -- one of the poorest cities in the nation. We easily could make public housing look as beautiful as surrounding housing.

And we could do all this without relying on commercial developers or LLCs created by wealthy individuals to use housing to create a quick profit. This also is a nice article explaining how public housing can be beautiful:

Web Link

If course, if you really want to see the most attractive public housing, you should go to Europe. Which is precisely why YiMBY groups could benefit from looking beyond commercial developers for funding housing. Someone mentioned Finland above -- that is PUBLIC housing!


Online Name
Registered user
Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Feb 13, 2021 at 1:00 pm
Online Name, Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
Registered user
on Feb 13, 2021 at 1:00 pm

"The real bottom line here is the move to reduce single family ownership of a residential property and convert everyone to corporate owned property."

Thank you, Rebecca Eisenberg.


Resident8
Registered user
Duveneck/St. Francis
on Feb 13, 2021 at 1:11 pm
Resident8, Duveneck/St. Francis
Registered user
on Feb 13, 2021 at 1:11 pm

While I support converting land zoned for office to apartments, we should not allow single family housing to be upzoned to multi-family in Palo Alto. The developers just want to provide techies with more housing options to make a quick buck.


just a guy
Registered user
Professorville
on Feb 13, 2021 at 1:44 pm
just a guy, Professorville
Registered user
on Feb 13, 2021 at 1:44 pm

I live in a single family home next door to a 10 unit apartment building and a few doors down from a 30 unit one. These buildings and the residents in them are an overall major benefit to the neighborhood and make it what it is. I'd like to think that my neighborhood wouldn't fight tooth and nail about adding more neighbors with some additional diversity in age, income, ethnicity. Who knows - maybe I'd be surprised. I'd encourage the NIMBYs (who are practically begging authorities to step in w/ one size fits all mandates) to spend some time in PA neighborhoods w/ apartment buildings and ask themselves what they're fighting against.


CT resident
Registered user
College Terrace
on Feb 13, 2021 at 3:44 pm
CT resident, College Terrace
Registered user
on Feb 13, 2021 at 3:44 pm

Thank you Rebecca for the thoughtful discussion! Seeing your comments here makes me glad I voted for you but sad so many others did not


toransu
Registered user
Barron Park
on Feb 13, 2021 at 4:24 pm
toransu, Barron Park
Registered user
on Feb 13, 2021 at 4:24 pm

Good. It’s very close to a train station, bus lines, and amenities like groceries, so it’ll be very convenient to live there without needing a car!

If y’all’s are so worried about ugly buildings, just go look at all the ugly McMansions that rich people with no sense have built. It’s interesting you all are big mad about a place where less affluent people can live, but not mad about those monstrosities that get built by the obscenely wealthy.


Online Name
Registered user
Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Feb 13, 2021 at 4:32 pm
Online Name, Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
Registered user
on Feb 13, 2021 at 4:32 pm

Re taxing business, not only does Mountain View tax Google because it's based there and thus avoided residents subsidizing it but the state of Maryland just voted to tax Google for ad revenues as Europe has done for years.

Re Stanford University -- which has long supported capping foreign contractor wages to benefit high tech at the expense of others -- college towns across the country are facing the depletion of city tax bases /revenues as the colleges and universities keep growing and gobbling up taxable properties.

Will we see Kelsey Barnes do anything to stop Stanford's expansion into College Terrace and/or to support a business tax like Mountain View or will she and her PA bunch continue to make life worse for the residents without looking for sensible and creative alternatives to upzoning?


JJ
Registered user
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 13, 2021 at 5:29 pm
JJ, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
Registered user
on Feb 13, 2021 at 5:29 pm

To everyone who opposes height, housing, growth while also clinging to property tax rates of decades ago, I find it both ironic and hysterical that many adult children of NIMBYS are fleeing the Bay Area because they can't afford to live here.

The solution to the crisis is to build more housing anywhere and everywhere. No part of Palo Alto should be exempt from solving the problem.

That means a 3 story homes, backyard ADU's and demolishing old tiny structures are all among the solutions for existing neighborhoods.

That also means making sure much taller buildings are standard in areas more suitable. Taller doesn't mean 3 little stories. Taller is 10, 15, 25 stories.

And, it means having mixed use wherever possible, adding housing to what was traditionally excluded to commercial or office.

City officials need to stop thinking of zoning as residential vs business.

In the new post-pandemic era, people are working from home far more.

If EVERY part of Palo Alto contributes to the solution, we can start to reverse the crisis.

Yes, every community should do the same, but if you're a resident of Palo Alto, you helped create the problem and now you can help solve it.


JJ
Registered user
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 13, 2021 at 5:48 pm
JJ, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
Registered user
on Feb 13, 2021 at 5:48 pm

[Post removed; back-to-back comments not permitted.]


Online Name
Registered user
Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Feb 13, 2021 at 5:58 pm
Online Name, Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
Registered user
on Feb 13, 2021 at 5:58 pm

"It's not just the evil tech company or little startup NIMBYS are punishing.

It's the dry cleaner, restaurant, gas station, hair salon, cleaning services, painters, construction, car wash, pharmacy and thousands more examples."

Hear, hear! You can't outsource or automate those jobs away. Yet. The workers in those businesses are usually part of a family who need more than studios or one-bedrooms proposed here.

Are the NIMBY's responsible for the fact that 80% of new housing is market rate and only 20% is allotted to very-low income AND BMR?? Where were the PA YIMBY's during the President Hotel debacle where 89? tenants were replaced with a luxury hotel that's now empty? Where are the PA YIMBY's on rent control?


beanbagxyz
Registered user
Palo Alto Hills
on Feb 13, 2021 at 6:17 pm
beanbagxyz, Palo Alto Hills
Registered user
on Feb 13, 2021 at 6:17 pm

Those folks railing against corporate takeover of housing, how about this. I buy a single-family home as an individual in Palo Alto. I can then propose to convert my home into a four-plex, right?

Would the NIMBYs allow that to happen?

NIMBYism is not name calling. NIMBYism is what it is, an obstruction to any form of housing except what suits the already landed gentry. I've got mine. I don't care for the rest.

The crux of all the mess in California with housing is prop 13. I cannot wait for the day when that dope of a tax scam is voted out.


Resident 1-Adobe Meadows
Registered user
Adobe-Meadow
on Feb 13, 2021 at 6:38 pm
Resident 1-Adobe Meadows, Adobe-Meadow
Registered user
on Feb 13, 2021 at 6:38 pm

Read these comments - the area next to Caltrain by definition is suppose to be high density housing. There is no argument there. The area next to ECR is suppose to be high density. The whole state from end to end is committed to that theory. You put density housing next to the key transportation routes. You do not put high density housing in areas that are not next to key transportation routes. College Terrace has many apartment complexes [portion removed due to factual inaccuracy.]


Paly Grad
Registered user
Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Feb 13, 2021 at 8:45 pm
Paly Grad, Leland Manor/Garland Drive
Registered user
on Feb 13, 2021 at 8:45 pm

The lot under discussion is indeed zoned R-1:

Web Link


Resident 1-Adobe Meadows
Registered user
Adobe-Meadow
on Feb 13, 2021 at 9:33 pm
Resident 1-Adobe Meadows, Adobe-Meadow
Registered user
on Feb 13, 2021 at 9:33 pm

Someone who lives in Palo Alto Hills does not have to worry about R-1 Housing, unless of course that person is busy investing in houses on the flat lands. And Nimbyism is not an issue in the hills. The people in the hills have to worry about all of the people who are driving to FHP and parking outside the park on the street. And all of those people who are tramping around scaring the animals down to everyone's property. I think people just argue to argue with a bunch of hypotheticals.

The majority of 4-plexes are built by commercial construction companies. They are buying single residential properties and then converting them to rental units. And if an individual once that happens they get a LLC designation to manage their rental properties. The whole tax situation changes. The person is no longer a R-1 owner. They are a schedule C Rental Property.


beanbagxyz
Registered user
Palo Alto Hills
on Feb 13, 2021 at 11:41 pm
beanbagxyz, Palo Alto Hills
Registered user
on Feb 13, 2021 at 11:41 pm

So what's the problem with providing housing whether by means of a rental or an ownership situation? Housing is housing and the denser it is, the better it is for the planet. We don't care if an LLC owns it or an owner of a single family home who wants to turn his home into a four-plex to accommodate more families.


Amie
Registered user
Downtown North
on Feb 14, 2021 at 3:40 am
Amie, Downtown North
Registered user
on Feb 14, 2021 at 3:40 am

I am embarrassed to be a progressive Democrat. This is nothing but racist classist NIMBYIism. Everyone is pro-environment and pro-equqllity till it impacts them in the slightest. Density is a good thing for the city. Consider it.

Web Link


eileen
Registered user
College Terrace
on Feb 15, 2021 at 1:43 am
eileen , College Terrace
Registered user
on Feb 15, 2021 at 1:43 am

Interesting that, beanbagxyz, who lives in the ultra-expensive R1 community of Palo Alto Hills, is so passionate about putting all the dense, high-rise housing in another R1 neighborhood. BTW, College Terrace is all R1 including the grandfathered-in (small) apartments.

Oh wait, I forgot that all the dense housing has to be right next door to a transit area. Why? Because the State government thinks that all the people renting these new micro-units will be riding trains, buses, bikes, and not own cars.

The post-Covid trend will be working from home. Not much fun working in a 350 sq. ft. apartment unit.

If dense housing is allowed in College Terrace then it should be in every R1 neighborhood including, Woodside, Portola Valley, Los Altos Hills, and Atherton to name a few.


Resident 1-Adobe Meadows
Registered user
Adobe-Meadow
on Feb 15, 2021 at 10:35 am
Resident 1-Adobe Meadows, Adobe-Meadow
Registered user
on Feb 15, 2021 at 10:35 am

Beanbag is the best example of what is wrong with this picture. Someone who lives in a location that by definition is not going to be subject to dense housing is busy putting on the hustle for dense housing elsewhere so he can capitalize on it. And busy using all of the clue words, buzz words to make his point. [Portion removed.]

College Terrace is next to SU. SU should be building what ever housing they need for their employees and students. Enough said on that topic. For the College Terrace that is not owned by SU those are single family homes who by definition as to when they bought those homes should expect that the neighborhood will retain it's identity. The people who think they have a right to gut out a neighborhood for their own financial benefit are not going to accomplish that by intoning sanctimonious, self serving arguments.


Me 2
Registered user
Old Palo Alto
on Feb 15, 2021 at 2:11 pm
Me 2, Old Palo Alto
Registered user
on Feb 15, 2021 at 2:11 pm

"This is nothing but racist classist NIMBYIism"

Pulling out the "r" word cheapens your argument.

If R-1s are inherently racist, then why are there cities across the country that are more diverse than Palo Alto also have R-1 zoning? Or are you saying that African Americans, Latinos, etc. don't deserve to live in housing zoned R-1?

It's too simple to blame R-1 zoning as the main issue. That's a red herring. It's everything else that stymies building new housing (regulation, green mandates, BMR subsidy, impact fees, historical zoning, Palo Alto process) that are the real reasons. There's no way in hell that Eichler could have built his houses in today's Palo Alto.

And all this nonsense around the Fry's location without any action. There's plenty of infill space in Palo Alto. We just make it hard to develop on it.


beanbagxyz
Registered user
Palo Alto Hills
on Feb 15, 2021 at 6:22 pm
beanbagxyz, Palo Alto Hills
Registered user
on Feb 15, 2021 at 6:22 pm

Excuse me to all the folks claiming that since I live in a single-family zoned neighborhood, I want others to take the load but I on the other hand prefer to maintain my neighborhood 'character'. And by 'character', it means exactly what the NIMBYs think it means.

I want my community to allow dense housing too. I am not that stupid to think that we can pick and choose anymore. Everything that is jobs-rich should be dense and public transit rich. That is how this planet is going to survive in the long run.

To Eileen who said this:

"The post-Covid trend will be working from home. Not much fun working in a 350 sq. ft. apartment unit."

[Portion removed.]

A 350 sq ft home is still a home. Tell that to a teacher who has to commute 2 hours to get to your city to teach. How do I know? Because my daughter's 2nd grade teacher does exactly that. You know where she drives from each morning? Patterson.

And why does she have to do that? Because the NIMBYs don't allow anything to get built around them to allow her to just be able to live in that 350 sq ft apt and walk to school.


beanbagxyz
Registered user
Palo Alto Hills
on Feb 15, 2021 at 6:33 pm
beanbagxyz, Palo Alto Hills
Registered user
on Feb 15, 2021 at 6:33 pm

[Post removed; excessive posting.]


eileen
Registered user
College Terrace
on Feb 16, 2021 at 12:18 pm
eileen , College Terrace
Registered user
on Feb 16, 2021 at 12:18 pm

Beanbag,
The thing is you seem to rail on families, maybe like yours, that have worked very hard to save up to buy a home with a yard and then call them NIMBY. Look at that horrible development overshadowing the small homes next door, taking all their privacy and light away, and honestly say that this is best for Palo Alto or the tenants living there? MARKET RATE (ugly) dorm rooms are the best we can do?
We can create affordable family housing that fits into the neighborhoods and adds beauty and privacy without destroying the character of neighborhoods or the family homes next door. It will take serious financing from private housing advocates and perhaps, the local billionaires to make that happen. Investment firms like Cato will not build (ALL) below-market rate rental housing because it costs too much to build, an average of $600,000 for each unit.
It's really the LAND under the new building they are interested in because it is even MORE VALUABLE. When they quietly sell in a few years they make a tidy little profit for their investors! Now the increased value is passed on to the renters in the form of rent increases. So, like other people, they will move on to greener pastures, unlike the people that were lucky enough to buy a condo or house. Everyone loses (except the global investment firms who feed the 1% more profits)! It's a money game. If we are creative we can have a better outcome where everyone gets to live in real affordable housing.
City and state governments do not want you to know of possible solutions because it would take the middle ma ie. Global Investment Firms that look at land to be bought and traded for profit. They are not working in our best interests.
Expecting to have people living in shoeboxes with NO AMENITIES is criminal!!

Read Professor Patrick Condon's book, "Sick City". You might learn a few things.
Web Link


beanbagxyz
Registered user
Palo Alto Hills
on Feb 16, 2021 at 2:51 pm
beanbagxyz, Palo Alto Hills
Registered user
on Feb 16, 2021 at 2:51 pm

[Portion removed.]

We have made housing into an asset class and a retirement plan and everyone is out their protecting their land value. What they don't realize is that in the long run, that land value is going to evaporate if an economy does not thrive.

And economy thrives when all types of people live here. Talk to a local business that is struggling. How hard it is to hire and retain employees. The cost of doing business etc. They'll tell you. Multiply that by the 1000s and you'll see the light.

The reason it cost $600,000 to build is because the NIMBYs have not allowed anything to get built.

Don't blame the home builders and investors. They are of course going to be in it to make money but they are also providing a product.

[Portion removed.]

Living in the middle of a bustling city and expecting privacy and not having shadows fall on your home is the height of lunacy. There are wide open spaces in the rest of the country where you can get plenty of privacy and no shadows.

But when your privacy and the shadows that you feel are inconvenient impacts our economy and the planet, everyone suffers.

Not sure if you know but demographically, we are screwed. And the reason the young don't want to have any kids is because of the cost of living. And the root cause of that cost of living has everything to do with the cost of housing.

Just wait a few more decades and all these homes and the land values you want to protect, how the values will be able to sustain.

Make our cities livable for everyone. Stop being greedy and so short-sighted. Housing is a long-term game and the long-term needs a thriving economy.


Allen Akin
Registered user
Professorville
on Feb 16, 2021 at 6:09 pm
Allen Akin, Professorville
Registered user
on Feb 16, 2021 at 6:09 pm

I see two big questions behind most of the debate here.

The first is "What kind of community do you want?"

There will never be full agreement on that because people have different values. Political processes have to be used to reach a compromise. However, the people who are most directly affected by the consequences should have more influence on that compromise. If you live in College Terrace, your opinion on this project should carry more weight than mine.

The second is "What are the constraints in the real world?"

Most people are not going to live where they work. On average, tech employees change jobs every 3 years. Companies move as they grow. Etc. If any city is a counterexample, it should be Palo Alto; we have 3 times as many jobs as working residents -- but 75% of our residents still work in other towns. You can't ignore transportation.

We are NOT transit-rich. VTA is a disaster. Caltrain is great from here to San Francisco and vice-versa, but can't get people to the majority of jobs, which are (by design) spread all over the Valley. This is fixable over decades and at a cost of 10s to 100s of billions of dollars, if the economy and political will stay strong enough. But for at least another generation, most residents of new developments will need to drive and to park.

Vancouver planner Patrick Condon: "We have incrementally quadrupled the density of Vancouver, but we haven’t seen any decrease in per square foot costs. That evidence is indisputable...No amount of opening zoning or allowing for development will cause prices to go down. We’ve seen no evidence of that at all. It’s not the NIMBYs that are the problem – it’s the global increase in land value in urban areas that is the problem." Increasing supply and increasing density don't improve affordability unless demand is ALSO managed.

I'm out of space, but there's still water, city services, schools, and more...


Online Name
Registered user
Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Feb 16, 2021 at 6:34 pm
Online Name, Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
Registered user
on Feb 16, 2021 at 6:34 pm

@Allen Akin, thanks for adding some facts to this discussion, especially about the reality of what happened when Vancouver quadrupled its density and prices didn't drop.

Those sloganeering about NIMBYism conveniently forget about water shortages and the never-ending rate hikes.


beanbagxyz
Registered user
Palo Alto Hills
on Feb 16, 2021 at 6:39 pm
beanbagxyz, Palo Alto Hills
Registered user
on Feb 16, 2021 at 6:39 pm

If you want to cherry-pick Vancouver, I'll cherry-pick this...

Web Link

Excerpts:

"In the past two decades, home prices in some leading North American and European cities have skyrocketed. In Tokyo, however, they’ve flatlined. So why no affordable-housing crisis in Japan? A big factor, experts say, is the country’s relatively deregulated housing policies, which have allowed housing supply to keep up with demand in the 21st century. With no rent controls and fewer restrictions on height and density, Tokyo appears to be a city where the market is under control—where supply is keeping home prices from rising as drastically as they have in many other major world cities. A reason why housing prices in Japan are not rising as fast as in New York, for example, is the large number of housing starts,”

Public transit is a disaster because public transit does not work when we have one home, one lot.

And we have seen what allowing folks local control with their own vested interests does and we have the results now. It is time to try something new and that is to look at the whole housing situation from a macro view, not a narrow-selfish view of what it does to your or mine home values.

As far as speculators coming in and bidding up house prices, that is easy. Triple the property taxes for units that are left vacant. That will solve all the speculation.


beanbagxyz
Registered user
Palo Alto Hills
on Feb 16, 2021 at 7:00 pm
beanbagxyz, Palo Alto Hills
Registered user
on Feb 16, 2021 at 7:00 pm

[Post removed; excessive posting.]


Online Name
Registered user
Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Feb 16, 2021 at 7:03 pm
Online Name, Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
Registered user
on Feb 16, 2021 at 7:03 pm

Another reason why Tokyo's housing market isn't rising is because of the declining birth rate -- in part because there's no privacy!

Remember that space is at a huge premium in Japan which pioneered the concept of "negative space" where a single twig serves as decoration and where possessions are strictly limited -- again due to lack of space. It was Japan that pioneered having workers sleep in those coffin-like enclosures -- again due to lack of space -- and where they have white-gloved "subway pushers" to politely shove commuters into the trains.

Even at the best Tokyo hotels space is so limited that it's a challenge to get from the bed to the bathroom without stepping INTO your suitcase.

Prices there remain very very high -- as in most densely populated areas. Is that really they way we want to live? Maybe it's ok for young singles who catch the last train home as Japanese "salarymen" do but it's neither practical nor desirable for families or the rest of us.


beanbagxyz
Registered user
Palo Alto Hills
on Feb 16, 2021 at 7:33 pm
beanbagxyz, Palo Alto Hills
Registered user
on Feb 16, 2021 at 7:33 pm

Declining birth rate has nothing to do with smaller living areas. Tell that to the folks in Bangladesh, India and the rest of the world where smaller living quarters is the norm.

Declining birth rates in Japan because economically they have never recovered from the real estate crash of 1989.

If you want to see what high housing prices does to demographics trends, just look at China that is rapidly aging because...., you guessed it.

Web Link

"The high cost of raising children and housing prices are often cited as one of the key deterrents to young parents from having one more child."

Declining birth rates is already happening in this country due to the exorbitant cost of living and if this housing crisis is not tamed, we are looking at Japan here as well.

Maybe that's good, maybe not but that for sure would not protect your home values because there would be not as many to buy your homes so I would be really careful if that is what you are going to stake your entire thesis on to not allow regular folks to live amongst us.


Online Name
Registered user
Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Feb 16, 2021 at 10:03 pm
Online Name, Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
Registered user
on Feb 16, 2021 at 10:03 pm

Read up on China and its one-child per GOVERNMENT family policy before pontificating.


beanbagxyz
Registered user
Palo Alto Hills
on Feb 16, 2021 at 10:11 pm
beanbagxyz, Palo Alto Hills
Registered user
on Feb 16, 2021 at 10:11 pm

[Post removed; excessive posting.]


Evan
Registered user
Crescent Park
on Feb 19, 2021 at 9:07 pm
Evan, Crescent Park
Registered user
on Feb 19, 2021 at 9:07 pm

This proposal is ABSURD. Palo Alto is not some affordable place for young people, or people who earn low/moderate incomes.

Palo Alto is for the wealthy, and for people who require enormous single-family homes. And it should stay that way. I mean for goodness sake, THINK OF THE PARKING. These are cars folks! They deserve a (free) home on city land, for days on end.

Stop this proposal, and stop it immediately.


Resident 1-Adobe Meadows
Registered user
Adobe-Meadow
on Feb 22, 2021 at 9:25 am
Resident 1-Adobe Meadows, Adobe-Meadow
Registered user
on Feb 22, 2021 at 9:25 am

Palo Alto is a small city. It is next to a major university that has a huge amount of open land. SU has to build on that open land. Palo Alto only has a reputation because of it's proximity to SU. Quit beating on Palo Alto for land - it is built out to it's borders. Yes - we have a wide variety of type housing due to it's proximity to SF and major companies. New housing is going up all over the bay area in every city.


Resident 1-Adobe Meadows
Registered user
Adobe-Meadow
on Feb 25, 2021 at 12:16 pm
Resident 1-Adobe Meadows, Adobe-Meadow
Registered user
on Feb 25, 2021 at 12:16 pm

The topic of housing is being thrown around with no discussion as to the monetary factors of property taxes. In a single family home they are receiving the property tax bill which lays out all of the costs associated with the county, including the bond issues it is paying off. Every time a house is sold the property tax amount is upgraded to the current sale value. The city receives a benefit, the county receives a benefit.

In a commercial sale the building is taxed at the amount of the last sale. But the rent amount to tenants continually moves upward to market value. That is the profit to the commercial entity who owns the property. Worse - there is no requirement to keep the property working correctly for any upgrades - water problems, termite problems, run-down conditions. The tenant is the victim in this situation. And if the property is stuck in the middle of a residential area then the surrounding residents are also victims with a property in their midst which is run down and not maintained.

If commercial properties are on ECR then they are usually required to met certain requirements in order to receive their discounts for some low cost housing units. They will be expected to conform to receive those discounts. The tenant does better in this situation - they can complain to the city.


ST
Registered user
Stanford
on Feb 25, 2021 at 9:36 pm
ST, Stanford
Registered user
on Feb 25, 2021 at 9:36 pm

Build build build. This is a reasonable proposal for the location. Given its proximity to the Caltrain, retail, and Stanford, and the size of the units, tenants should have low rates of car ownership.


Resident 1-Adobe Meadows
Registered user
Adobe-Meadow
on Feb 25, 2021 at 9:58 pm
Resident 1-Adobe Meadows, Adobe-Meadow
Registered user
on Feb 25, 2021 at 9:58 pm

SI - if you live on Stanford Property then you do not own the property - only the house. Very convoluted system. Nice place to be with a lot of benefits. But your situation is unique and not what the home owners in PA and bay area are experiencing. My in-laws lived on campus and enjoyed it. But the city has zoning which is part of the issue here. You do not have those issues if you are living on campus.


Here SInce 1979
Registered user
Green Acres
on Feb 26, 2021 at 1:17 pm
Here SInce 1979, Green Acres
Registered user
on Feb 26, 2021 at 1:17 pm

Here we go ... I get the need for housing, BMR, need for jobs, etc ... BUT ... I've not seen any information about Water supply. Water is a finite resource. Currently we are at 26% of normal rainfall and likely to get worse. Last drought we had contracts with other states to help out if needed. They refused to supply California with water. If the development will have more people than currently live there it puts us in peril.
The developers only care about the profit they'll make with which they will be able to buy expensive bottled water.

PS. It's extremely sad to see so many entitled people trashing each other on this site. Find another hobby that isn't so destructive.


Paige
Registered user
another community
on Mar 6, 2021 at 4:06 pm
Paige, another community
Registered user
on Mar 6, 2021 at 4:06 pm

The proposed project has a density of 70du/acre.

It's not your father's 3-story apartment building in an R-1 neighborhood. Most people I know are familiar with R-10/12 apartments in R-1 neighborhoods. They work just fine. This is not that. Honestly, I think if anyone openly advocated a policy to rezone R-1 neighborhoods for R-70 apartment buildings this debate would be over in an instant.

The studios average 376sf and the 1BRs average 658sf. Clearly families will not live here.

If you look at the ground floor plans you'll see that the stairwell and the trash area are combined 392sf. Do "woke" SJW's really support "inclusive" housing that gives "BMR people" about as much space as needed for a dumpster and a stairwell?

Will Cato accept a condition of development that requires MR units to be rented only to so-called "workforce" members (teachers et al) or "essential workers" (grocery store et al) or to those whose incomes are below certain MR thresholds. If not, the MR units will go to high-paid tech workers who live at work. They will outbid everyone else in the market.

In downtown RWC, rich tech giants are buying and renting whole new apt buildings en masse for their workers.

So we are pretending to build "affordable" housing, but clearly not for families, and clearly not for anyone whose income is less than highly paid tech workers, and whose token BMR units are spaces slightly larger than those needed to house a dumpster.

Can we talk honestly?

This is a solution to what problem? It's a solution to how to allow high-tech office development to continue while pretending to house those being displaced by its workers. If woke SJW's really want to help lower income families we could start by not displacing them with much higher paid tech workers.

Part II of this post, which I may never write, describes why offices, not NIMBY's, crowd out housing. You will never "solve" the housing problem until you address the office problem.






Resident 1-Adobe Meadows
Registered user
Adobe-Meadow
on Mar 9, 2021 at 10:21 am
Resident 1-Adobe Meadows, Adobe-Meadow
Registered user
on Mar 9, 2021 at 10:21 am

The discussion on Castilleja school last night at the PACC was very educational. It was continually stressed that it was a R-1 zoned area and there are specific requirements for that zone that the planning commission seemed to ignore. That translates to this situation in which many objectionable aspects of the development are being ignored. That is parking, next to city buildings which exacerbates the parking issue, height, blocking of sun, lack of privacy of the neighbors, etc.

this is not for low income people - it is for techies. There is the "message" and then the truth.


Resident 1-Adobe Meadows
Registered user
Adobe-Meadow
on Mar 10, 2021 at 9:03 am
Resident 1-Adobe Meadows, Adobe-Meadow
Registered user
on Mar 10, 2021 at 9:03 am

SFC front page 03/10/21 - "Central Valley transforms into a hot housing market". Look at what is happening - new PLANNED developments - new homes with community centers, parks, organized with apartments in specific sections and homes in other specific sections. People are fleeing the discombobulation that is occurring in our cities to places that are organized to purpose and cost half what it costs here. Reduction in chaos. Investments in a new home that will not be torn down in five years with a four-plex in the middle of the planned community. In the bay area we appear to have a contingency that is bent on upturning any aspect of a planned community and the investment that people make when they buy a home - the most expensive financial budget item.

And for the ladies of EPA - EPA now has planned neighborhoods with new homes. Do people buy those new homes with the expectation that they could be torn down in the future? Is that what you are hoping for? EPA is changing up with new homes, refurbished homes, city centers. EPA is rising to the challenge of being a good planned city. Could you please celebrate that?
College Terrace - does discombobulation please you? Don't think so. within this state we will be divided by the avaricious and chaotic bay area which is trying to save face and losing it big time.


Bystander
Registered user
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 10, 2021 at 9:33 am
Bystander, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
Registered user
on Mar 10, 2021 at 9:33 am

I like the way you think Resident 1.

Discombobulation is a great way to describe it!


Resident 1-Adobe Meadows
Registered user
Adobe-Meadow
on Mar 10, 2021 at 11:17 am
Resident 1-Adobe Meadows, Adobe-Meadow
Registered user
on Mar 10, 2021 at 11:17 am

I looked at the Wikipedia page for the City of East PA. It gives the history - it is in the county of San Mateo. I was looking for the high school that is part of that city - but the high school - Ravenswood was torn down and now there is the shopping center sitting in that location. The children go to Menlo-Atherton and can chose other high schools in the county. Since that city is growing with new communities they need to create a new high school for their city. That brings up what their children are being taught. We live in a technology center. The children in this location need to be on top of their game relative to technology. That is where the jobs in this location are specific to.

The bay area used to be the enter of the Pacific region along with Hawaii for WW2 military bases and manufacturing relative to large government contracts for war time products. That is where you had the large mixed population. The bases are closed, the large industry relative to defense products is greatly diminished. This area has eliminated most of the job market which contributes to diversity. So what are the children here learning? What are the parents doing to contribute to their children's success? Is it helping them be the best they can be?

Braking down the community presence is back ward to supporting good growth. It is not helping the children when you all keep trying to create chaos. Leave that to the city of SF - look what has happened to that city - once great - now in chaos - a shambles.


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