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Could future housing be built in Stanford Research Park?

In a milestone vote, council backs strategies for adding 6,000 homes in transit areas, commercial districts — and also eyes technology park

A car exits HP's parking lot in Palo Alto's Stanford Research Park, where 700 acres dedicated to research is "far and away the most massive amount of underdeveloped land," Mayor Pat Burt said. Embarcadero Media file photo by Magali Gauthier.

One way or another, Palo Alto is about to experience a growth spurt of housing unlike any other in its history.

If things go as according to the city's plans, apartment complexes would be built in neighborhoods currently zoned for commercial and industrial use around San Antonio Road and Fabian Way. Multifamily developments would become both more common and denser near Caltrain stations and along El Camino Real, the city's primary bus corridor.

Single-family neighborhoods, which to date have been largely shielded from any significant additions of housing, would see a proliferation of accessory dwelling units and, in some cases, triplexes and fourplexes. Churches would develop affordable housing in their parking lots. The city would do the same in its own public lots around downtown.

If things don't go as planned, growth will likely arrive in other ways. Thanks to recent state legislation, if Palo Alto fails to identify sufficient housing sites or to follow through with actual construction, it could lose much of its discretion over development projects, allowing housing developers to win approval for their projects either "by right" or through a streamlined process with minimal environmental review.

Such are the stakes for Palo Alto as it enters the final stage of putting together its housing element document, which lays out the city's planning strategies for adding 6,086 housing units between 2023 and 2031, the sixth planning cycle of the Regional Housing Needs Allocation (RHNA). By historic standards, this would represent an unprecedented surge of housing. According to city data, the city had just over 23,000 households in 1980 and the number grew only gradually over the following three decades, increasing to 26,720 by 2013.

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The city's assignment for the current planning cycle of the Regional Housing Needs Allocation, which covers the period between 2014 and 2022, is a comparatively modest 1,988 dwellings — a third of the next cycle's allocation.

Palo Alto is required to submit its new housing element to the state Department of Housing and Community Development in January, and the council took a critical step toward meeting the deadline that on Monday, when it approved by a 5-1 vote, with Vice Mayor Lydia Kou dissenting and council member Tom DuBois absent, a list of housing sites that could potentially accommodate this growth influx.

In addition to the endorsing the housing policies and sites that had had already been vetted by the city's Housing Element Working Group and its Planning and Transportation Commission, council members also pitched ambitious new ideas that could have a potentially transformative effect on the city, including reimagining the city's primary job hub, Stanford Research Park, as a housing destination.

The council also suggested revising the zoning code in commercial areas around California Avenue and along El Camino Real to further limit new office space and spur housing development.

The Monday discussion underscored how much Palo Alto's discourse around housing has changed in just a few months. For decades, Palo Alto council members have defended the city's 50-foot height limit for buildings as a critical measure to preserve neighborhood character. And just months ago, several council members rejected the idea of allowing major residential construction near the University Avenue transit center until after the city conducts a major planning effort for the broader downtown area.

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Now, the downtown site at 27 University Ave. is very much in play as part of the city's housing strategy. The council agreed on Monday to include it in its housing inventory, a sign that it is now open to considering Stanford University's concept for a seven-story building with a height of between 75 and 85 feet, featuring five stories of housing over two stories of parking.

The project, which is one of three that Stanford has pitched on sites that it owns and controls, could accommodate between 180 and 270 dwellings at this height, according to the university. The council decided to set the target at the upper limit of 270.

The Palo Alto City Council has included the downtown transit center as part of the city's housing strategy. The site could accommodate up to 270 dwellings. Embarcadero Media file photo by Magali Gauthier.

Despite the city's prior pushback to the regional allocation process, council members acknowledged Monday that the process, while flawed, needs to be taken seriously.

Mayor Pat Burt and Council member Eric Filseth both observed that because the process prioritizes the number of housing units as opposed to housing types, it creates an incentive for cities like Palo Alto to plan for housing that is smaller and easier to build: namely, studios and small apartments.

"The reality is that RHNA is pushing us to do some things which are probably not optimal things for the community to do," Filseth said. "Since we're measured only on a number of units, the impetus to build lots and lots of small units and opposed to something that's more representative of the community is quite high.

"On the other hand, the state is threatening us with SB 35 if we don't get there and who knows what other things? There are proposals flowing out there that prevent cities from collecting impact fees if we don't collect our RHNA targets. We're in a position where we're going to have very little choice."

Council members generally agreed that commercial sites offer the most promising solution to the dilemma. Filseth observed that the GM- and ROLM-zoned sites in south Palo Alto are close to areas in north Mountain View with plenty of jobs and that the city's new bicycle amenities, most notably the new bike bridge over U.S. Highway 101 at Adobe Creek, offer convenient transportation alternatives to tech workers heading to Google and other area firms.

Where the housing would go

Palo Alto plans to add more than 6,000 residences between 2023 and 2031. The city's housing strategy puts a majority of the homes in districts that allow for commercial, mixed-use and residential projects. Embarcadero Media file photo by Olivia Treynor.

The council's new housing inventory followed months of hearings and envisions the following locations for housing between 2023 and 2031:

• 1,385 residences that could be added by increasing density in zoning districts that currently allow commercial, mixed-use and residential projects. Areas that currently allow a maximum of 20 housing units per acre would now allow 30 units, while those that limit development 30 units per acre would now allow 40.

• 902 residences in "research, office and light manufacturing" zones, which are mostly concentrated in the area around East Meadow Circle and Fabian Way.

• 839 units at three sites on Stanford University-owned properties: 425 apartments at Pasteur Drive near the Stanford University Medical Center; 144 at 3128 El Camino Real; and 270 at the transit center at 27 University Ave.

• 790 housing units that are currently in the planning pipeline.

• 739 residences in areas close to Caltrain stations.

• 598 residences at sites currently zoned for "general manufacturing" use, which are mostly around San Antonio Road near the U.S. Highway 101.

• 512 accessory dwelling units.

• 402 residences in areas that are already zoned for multifamily housing.

• 232 residences along transit corridors, primarily along El Camino Real.

• 168 residences on city-owned parking lots.

• 148 residences at faith-based institutions.

In addition to these locations, another 183 dwellings could be placed at various sites where developers have been trying to build or where housing is suitable, in the view of city staff, Wong told the council. These include 3300 El Camino Real and 2951 El Camino Real, two parcels previously proposed for "planned home" zoned projects (neither advanced with a formal application), as well as 980 Middlefield Road, 955 Alma St., 550 Hamilton Ave. and 300 Lambert Ave.

View the city's interactive map of sites on the housing inventory.

What about Stanford Research Park?

SAP is one of about 150 companies at Stanford Research Park, which could be rezoned to permit housing development. Embarcadero Media file photo by Lloyd Lee.

Council members on Monday weren't content to restrict housing to these locations, however. Burt made a strong push for building housing in an area that has been largely excluded from discussions: Stanford Research Park. Though the area is known as a site for giant companies such as VMware, Lockheed Martin and SAP, Burt suggested that it should be able to accommodate a significant number of residences.

The 700-acre research part, he noted, is "far and away the most massive amount of underdeveloped land."

"What we've had is circumstances that are really changing," Burt said. "Our RHNA numbers are triple of what they were before and this is the largest area of underdeveloped land in the city, where we can really do constructive planning of high-density housing that would probably be better received for taller buildings and higher density than in much of the community because very little of the research park abuts existing neighborhoods and would have those kinds of impacts on neighborhoods."

'The reality is that RHNA is pushing us to do some things which are probably not optimal things for the community to do.'

-Eric Filseth, Palo Alto City Council member

To date, city staff has largely deferred to Stanford to propose potential housing locations. Planning Director Jonathan Lait said the city has not considered the idea of rezoning the research park.

The three sites that Stanford has identified were deemed to be particularly promising by the university because they are not under long-term leases and are not actively being used, said Jean Snider, Stanford's associate vice president for real estate.

Land in the research park is another matter.

"While these conditions don't necessarily preclude adding new housing, they create complexity in complying with the (Housing and Community Development) requirement that sites be suitable and available," Snider told the council in reference to research park sites. "Stanford-controlled sites provide a clear path to realizing actual housing production sooner."

These complexities notwithstanding, Burt pushed for a drastically different and far more assertive approach in dealing with Stanford. This, he said, could include rezoning sites at the research park to limit density of new office space and to permit housing development. Though the issue of rezoning research park land was not on the council's Monday agenda, council members agreed to direct staff to resume the conversation at a future meeting.

The question of affordable housing

The parking lot of Unitarian Universalist Church of Palo Alto. The City Council disagreed on whether church lots be exclusively devoted to affordable housing at its March 21, 2022 meeting. Embarcadero Media file photo by Magali Gauthier.

While the research park remains a wild card, the council was generally in accord as it approved all the other housing sites that had been vetted and recommended by the Planning and Transportation Commission. One area where there was some disagreement was the suggestion that the housing developments on city-owned parking lots and at church lots be exclusively devoted to affordable housing. Council member Greg Tanaka suggested that this would make these projects financially infeasible.

"In general, 100% affordable is a nice idea, but the big problem with 100% affordable units is: Who's going to pay for it? … This almost makes it so they never get built," Tanaka said.

Tanaka also pushed back against a reduction in office space, which he argued is a move toward turning Palo Alto into a "bedroom community."

"I don't think that's the Palo Alto I want," Tanaka said. "The Palo Alto I want is a place where the next great startups start here, that great inventions are made here, that a lot of innovation still happens in our city. I'm worried about limiting our capability in that area."

While Tanaka joined his colleagues in supporting the housing sites recommended by the planning commission, he voted against most of the proposed policies that would revise zoning to restrict commercial development.

He and Kou also opposed the council's proposal to build affordable housing on city-owned parking lots, a proposal that advanced by a 4-2 vote.

The council's various proposals to rezone commercial sites also advanced by a 4-2 vote, with council member Alison Cormack joining Tanaka in opposition.

Kou, meanwhile, voted against the entire housing inventory out of broader concerns about the regional allocation process and the high number of units that Palo Alto has been allotted.

"I am in protest of the allocation and I cannot support a housing element plan that has flawed methodology," Kou said.

While the council's vote represents a major milestone in adopting the long and complex plan, plenty of work remains. This includes developing strategies to support a state goal of "affirmatively furthering fair housing," as required by Assembly Bill 686.

'In general, 100% affordable is a nice idea, but the big problem with 100% affordable units is: Who's going to pay for it?'

-Greg Tanaka, Palo Alto City Council member

The state Housing and Community Development Department defined this goal as taking actions that "address significant disparities in housing needs and in access to opportunity, replacing segregated living patterns with truly integrated and balanced living patterns, transforming racially and ethnically concentrated areas of poverty into areas of opportunity, and fostering and maintaining compliance with civil rights and fair housing laws."

The city also has to figure out ways to meet regional targets for below-market-rate housing, an area in which the city has historically lagged. Palo Alto's new regional allocation includes a requirement for 1,556 housing units to be in the "very-low income" category (for households making 50% or less of area median income) and 896 in the "low income" category (for those making between 50% and 80% of area median income).

The city's failures to make sufficient progress on below-market-rate housing were highlighted in a recent report by the Santa Clara County Civil Grand Jury, which urged Palo Alto to identify more funding sources, explore more "specific plans" (plans developed for certain areas of town) and streamline its approval process for residential developments.

Last month, the council received a petition signed by 370 residents, including former mayors Sid Espinosa, Adrian Fine and Larry Klein, as well local climate activists and former city commissioners, urging the city to follow the Grand Jury's recommendations and to focus housing growth around transit corridors and stations.

"Housing options near transit and jobs can both increase housing affordability and help meet our climate action goals," the petition states. "Palo Alto has the resources, expertise, and authority to be a leader in housing affordability in the Bay Area. We encourage our leaders to take bold and speedy action."

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Gennady Sheyner covers the City Hall beat in Palo Alto as well as regional politics, with a special focus on housing and transportation. Before joining the Palo Alto Weekly/PaloAltoOnline.com in 2008, he covered breaking news and local politics for the Waterbury Republican-American, a daily newspaper in Connecticut. Read more >>

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Could future housing be built in Stanford Research Park?

In a milestone vote, council backs strategies for adding 6,000 homes in transit areas, commercial districts — and also eyes technology park

by / Palo Alto Weekly

Uploaded: Thu, Mar 24, 2022, 9:09 am

One way or another, Palo Alto is about to experience a growth spurt of housing unlike any other in its history.

If things go as according to the city's plans, apartment complexes would be built in neighborhoods currently zoned for commercial and industrial use around San Antonio Road and Fabian Way. Multifamily developments would become both more common and denser near Caltrain stations and along El Camino Real, the city's primary bus corridor.

Single-family neighborhoods, which to date have been largely shielded from any significant additions of housing, would see a proliferation of accessory dwelling units and, in some cases, triplexes and fourplexes. Churches would develop affordable housing in their parking lots. The city would do the same in its own public lots around downtown.

If things don't go as planned, growth will likely arrive in other ways. Thanks to recent state legislation, if Palo Alto fails to identify sufficient housing sites or to follow through with actual construction, it could lose much of its discretion over development projects, allowing housing developers to win approval for their projects either "by right" or through a streamlined process with minimal environmental review.

Such are the stakes for Palo Alto as it enters the final stage of putting together its housing element document, which lays out the city's planning strategies for adding 6,086 housing units between 2023 and 2031, the sixth planning cycle of the Regional Housing Needs Allocation (RHNA). By historic standards, this would represent an unprecedented surge of housing. According to city data, the city had just over 23,000 households in 1980 and the number grew only gradually over the following three decades, increasing to 26,720 by 2013.

The city's assignment for the current planning cycle of the Regional Housing Needs Allocation, which covers the period between 2014 and 2022, is a comparatively modest 1,988 dwellings — a third of the next cycle's allocation.

Palo Alto is required to submit its new housing element to the state Department of Housing and Community Development in January, and the council took a critical step toward meeting the deadline that on Monday, when it approved by a 5-1 vote, with Vice Mayor Lydia Kou dissenting and council member Tom DuBois absent, a list of housing sites that could potentially accommodate this growth influx.

In addition to the endorsing the housing policies and sites that had had already been vetted by the city's Housing Element Working Group and its Planning and Transportation Commission, council members also pitched ambitious new ideas that could have a potentially transformative effect on the city, including reimagining the city's primary job hub, Stanford Research Park, as a housing destination.

The council also suggested revising the zoning code in commercial areas around California Avenue and along El Camino Real to further limit new office space and spur housing development.

The Monday discussion underscored how much Palo Alto's discourse around housing has changed in just a few months. For decades, Palo Alto council members have defended the city's 50-foot height limit for buildings as a critical measure to preserve neighborhood character. And just months ago, several council members rejected the idea of allowing major residential construction near the University Avenue transit center until after the city conducts a major planning effort for the broader downtown area.

Now, the downtown site at 27 University Ave. is very much in play as part of the city's housing strategy. The council agreed on Monday to include it in its housing inventory, a sign that it is now open to considering Stanford University's concept for a seven-story building with a height of between 75 and 85 feet, featuring five stories of housing over two stories of parking.

The project, which is one of three that Stanford has pitched on sites that it owns and controls, could accommodate between 180 and 270 dwellings at this height, according to the university. The council decided to set the target at the upper limit of 270.

Despite the city's prior pushback to the regional allocation process, council members acknowledged Monday that the process, while flawed, needs to be taken seriously.

Mayor Pat Burt and Council member Eric Filseth both observed that because the process prioritizes the number of housing units as opposed to housing types, it creates an incentive for cities like Palo Alto to plan for housing that is smaller and easier to build: namely, studios and small apartments.

"The reality is that RHNA is pushing us to do some things which are probably not optimal things for the community to do," Filseth said. "Since we're measured only on a number of units, the impetus to build lots and lots of small units and opposed to something that's more representative of the community is quite high.

"On the other hand, the state is threatening us with SB 35 if we don't get there and who knows what other things? There are proposals flowing out there that prevent cities from collecting impact fees if we don't collect our RHNA targets. We're in a position where we're going to have very little choice."

Council members generally agreed that commercial sites offer the most promising solution to the dilemma. Filseth observed that the GM- and ROLM-zoned sites in south Palo Alto are close to areas in north Mountain View with plenty of jobs and that the city's new bicycle amenities, most notably the new bike bridge over U.S. Highway 101 at Adobe Creek, offer convenient transportation alternatives to tech workers heading to Google and other area firms.

The council's new housing inventory followed months of hearings and envisions the following locations for housing between 2023 and 2031:

• 1,385 residences that could be added by increasing density in zoning districts that currently allow commercial, mixed-use and residential projects. Areas that currently allow a maximum of 20 housing units per acre would now allow 30 units, while those that limit development 30 units per acre would now allow 40.

• 902 residences in "research, office and light manufacturing" zones, which are mostly concentrated in the area around East Meadow Circle and Fabian Way.

• 839 units at three sites on Stanford University-owned properties: 425 apartments at Pasteur Drive near the Stanford University Medical Center; 144 at 3128 El Camino Real; and 270 at the transit center at 27 University Ave.

• 790 housing units that are currently in the planning pipeline.

• 739 residences in areas close to Caltrain stations.

• 598 residences at sites currently zoned for "general manufacturing" use, which are mostly around San Antonio Road near the U.S. Highway 101.

• 512 accessory dwelling units.

• 402 residences in areas that are already zoned for multifamily housing.

• 232 residences along transit corridors, primarily along El Camino Real.

• 168 residences on city-owned parking lots.

• 148 residences at faith-based institutions.

In addition to these locations, another 183 dwellings could be placed at various sites where developers have been trying to build or where housing is suitable, in the view of city staff, Wong told the council. These include 3300 El Camino Real and 2951 El Camino Real, two parcels previously proposed for "planned home" zoned projects (neither advanced with a formal application), as well as 980 Middlefield Road, 955 Alma St., 550 Hamilton Ave. and 300 Lambert Ave.

View the city's interactive map of sites on the housing inventory.

Council members on Monday weren't content to restrict housing to these locations, however. Burt made a strong push for building housing in an area that has been largely excluded from discussions: Stanford Research Park. Though the area is known as a site for giant companies such as VMware, Lockheed Martin and SAP, Burt suggested that it should be able to accommodate a significant number of residences.

The 700-acre research part, he noted, is "far and away the most massive amount of underdeveloped land."

"What we've had is circumstances that are really changing," Burt said. "Our RHNA numbers are triple of what they were before and this is the largest area of underdeveloped land in the city, where we can really do constructive planning of high-density housing that would probably be better received for taller buildings and higher density than in much of the community because very little of the research park abuts existing neighborhoods and would have those kinds of impacts on neighborhoods."

To date, city staff has largely deferred to Stanford to propose potential housing locations. Planning Director Jonathan Lait said the city has not considered the idea of rezoning the research park.

The three sites that Stanford has identified were deemed to be particularly promising by the university because they are not under long-term leases and are not actively being used, said Jean Snider, Stanford's associate vice president for real estate.

Land in the research park is another matter.

"While these conditions don't necessarily preclude adding new housing, they create complexity in complying with the (Housing and Community Development) requirement that sites be suitable and available," Snider told the council in reference to research park sites. "Stanford-controlled sites provide a clear path to realizing actual housing production sooner."

These complexities notwithstanding, Burt pushed for a drastically different and far more assertive approach in dealing with Stanford. This, he said, could include rezoning sites at the research park to limit density of new office space and to permit housing development. Though the issue of rezoning research park land was not on the council's Monday agenda, council members agreed to direct staff to resume the conversation at a future meeting.

While the research park remains a wild card, the council was generally in accord as it approved all the other housing sites that had been vetted and recommended by the Planning and Transportation Commission. One area where there was some disagreement was the suggestion that the housing developments on city-owned parking lots and at church lots be exclusively devoted to affordable housing. Council member Greg Tanaka suggested that this would make these projects financially infeasible.

"In general, 100% affordable is a nice idea, but the big problem with 100% affordable units is: Who's going to pay for it? … This almost makes it so they never get built," Tanaka said.

Tanaka also pushed back against a reduction in office space, which he argued is a move toward turning Palo Alto into a "bedroom community."

"I don't think that's the Palo Alto I want," Tanaka said. "The Palo Alto I want is a place where the next great startups start here, that great inventions are made here, that a lot of innovation still happens in our city. I'm worried about limiting our capability in that area."

While Tanaka joined his colleagues in supporting the housing sites recommended by the planning commission, he voted against most of the proposed policies that would revise zoning to restrict commercial development.

He and Kou also opposed the council's proposal to build affordable housing on city-owned parking lots, a proposal that advanced by a 4-2 vote.

The council's various proposals to rezone commercial sites also advanced by a 4-2 vote, with council member Alison Cormack joining Tanaka in opposition.

Kou, meanwhile, voted against the entire housing inventory out of broader concerns about the regional allocation process and the high number of units that Palo Alto has been allotted.

"I am in protest of the allocation and I cannot support a housing element plan that has flawed methodology," Kou said.

While the council's vote represents a major milestone in adopting the long and complex plan, plenty of work remains. This includes developing strategies to support a state goal of "affirmatively furthering fair housing," as required by Assembly Bill 686.

The state Housing and Community Development Department defined this goal as taking actions that "address significant disparities in housing needs and in access to opportunity, replacing segregated living patterns with truly integrated and balanced living patterns, transforming racially and ethnically concentrated areas of poverty into areas of opportunity, and fostering and maintaining compliance with civil rights and fair housing laws."

The city also has to figure out ways to meet regional targets for below-market-rate housing, an area in which the city has historically lagged. Palo Alto's new regional allocation includes a requirement for 1,556 housing units to be in the "very-low income" category (for households making 50% or less of area median income) and 896 in the "low income" category (for those making between 50% and 80% of area median income).

The city's failures to make sufficient progress on below-market-rate housing were highlighted in a recent report by the Santa Clara County Civil Grand Jury, which urged Palo Alto to identify more funding sources, explore more "specific plans" (plans developed for certain areas of town) and streamline its approval process for residential developments.

Last month, the council received a petition signed by 370 residents, including former mayors Sid Espinosa, Adrian Fine and Larry Klein, as well local climate activists and former city commissioners, urging the city to follow the Grand Jury's recommendations and to focus housing growth around transit corridors and stations.

"Housing options near transit and jobs can both increase housing affordability and help meet our climate action goals," the petition states. "Palo Alto has the resources, expertise, and authority to be a leader in housing affordability in the Bay Area. We encourage our leaders to take bold and speedy action."

Comments

RPopp
Registered user
Monroe Park
on Mar 24, 2022 at 11:07 am
RPopp, Monroe Park
Registered user
on Mar 24, 2022 at 11:07 am

"I am in protest of the allocation and I cannot support a housing element plan that has flawed methodology," Kou said.

So Kou's strategy is to just stick her head in the sand like an ostrich and hope that it goes away? What kind of leadership approach is that? Is this really our next Mayor? I sure hope not. Like it or not, the RHNA obligation exists. If our Council does not adapt the process to get us the housing we are required to produce, SB35 rules will allow for State-level control - ARB review and local zoning regulations will be pushed aside. At least others were on the right track in this discussion.


Online Name
Registered user
Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Mar 24, 2022 at 11:27 am
Online Name, Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
Registered user
on Mar 24, 2022 at 11:27 am

Thanks heavens Ms Kou is standing up to the deep-pocketed developers and big tech. It's high time that Stanford bears the cost of its huge, never-ending expansion WHILE insulting our intelligence by telling us for decades that its huge growth hasn't added a single car trip to our city streets. Yea, right. Want a nice bridge, too?

The methodology for sticking us with this huge housing target is ridiculously flawed although those profiting from those targets would have us believe that adding 6,000 homes to PA this year and 2,000,000 more people to the Bay Area over the next few years is a wonderful thing -- except for the fact that we're in the middle of an historic drought! Just ignore that.

Also, just once, I'd love to see Mr. Tanaka --who's running to replace Eshoo -- stop advocating for business and "startups" and start advocating for his consistutents and our quality of life. I'd also like thinner thighs and world people -- which are just as likely as Tanaka and Cormack backing residents.


Consider Your Options.
Registered user
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 24, 2022 at 11:31 am
Consider Your Options. , Another Palo Alto neighborhood
Registered user
on Mar 24, 2022 at 11:31 am

Forward thinking, strategic, comprehensive planning would be useful right about now. Where is the vision for how this rolls out with all of the supporting infrastructure it will need? Put the Dept. of Planning and Office of Transportation back together so they will work together.

Our current residential population is approximately 67k who live in roughly 26k households. 6k new households is roughly a 23% increase in the number of households in our community. (Looks like mostly in the south part of town with less infrastructure to support it.) Looks like it will be mostly in the south in the very short term. What is the PLAN for meeting the transportation, school, recreation, utilities , safety needs/demands of these additional residents? How will that plan be funded? When? How?


Consider Your Options.
Registered user
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 24, 2022 at 12:04 pm
Consider Your Options. , Another Palo Alto neighborhood
Registered user
on Mar 24, 2022 at 12:04 pm

RPopp is a local architect.


William Hitchens
Registered user
Mountain View
on Mar 24, 2022 at 1:05 pm
William Hitchens, Mountain View
Registered user
on Mar 24, 2022 at 1:05 pm

What a sad, ignominious fate for Stanford Industrial Park. Affordable housing? Meh!


Bystander
Registered user
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 24, 2022 at 1:26 pm
Bystander, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
Registered user
on Mar 24, 2022 at 1:26 pm

First point. When the JCC built homes on Fabian/Meadow/San Antonio, we were told that there would be transit to accommodate the residents and the visitors to the facility. That did not happen and there are signs all around the facility at entrances to office parking lots that no JCC event parking is allowed. In other words, parking is a real problem at Fabian already and since there is no suitable public transit options for residents already as well as high trafficked streets, more planning about transit/traffic/parking must be done.

Second point. Does anyone else feel concerned about housing at faith based institutions? Which institutions? What happens when these institutions are full on say Sunday mornings and people can't park? What happens when these institutions make noise, from singing and other activities, will the new residents complain? In other words, let us know exactly what putting 148 units in faith based institutions means as so many of these are in residential neighborhoods where parking, noise and traffic are already issues to the existing neighbors without adding more residents into the mix.


Allen Akin
Registered user
Professorville
on Mar 24, 2022 at 1:46 pm
Allen Akin, Professorville
Registered user
on Mar 24, 2022 at 1:46 pm

Stanford Research Park needs to be in play. I'm really encouraged to see Mayor Burt make this point.


Anonymous
Registered user
Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 24, 2022 at 2:06 pm
Anonymous, Duveneck/St. Francis
Registered user
on Mar 24, 2022 at 2:06 pm

When we say Stanford Industrial Park, I assume we are not including the open space. I understand the open rolling hills land was donated to Stanford University for open space. If this IS correct (what I was told when I moved out here as a kid in the ‘70’s) then it must not be commercially developed or filled with mass housing. Look out for fingers of earthquake faults, too, I bet.
I get that Scott Wiener, ABAG, etc. wish to punish Palo Alto (incredibly) for it’s success as a major education, Tech and high quality jobs suburban city. That doesn’t mean the City of Palo Alto and residents, businesses here should agree with this ridiculousness.
Adding higher density housing along El Camino Real
(ALL ALONG it from South SF to Santa Clara) makes immense sense.
Trying to shoehorn in an overly costly to the taxpayer “development” in church property here and there in Palo Alto or out in rolling hills with fire risk makes NO sense.


Gale Johnson
Registered user
Adobe-Meadow
on Mar 24, 2022 at 3:01 pm
Gale Johnson, Adobe-Meadow
Registered user
on Mar 24, 2022 at 3:01 pm

So many comments on this, pros and cons, and yet it's left me with a headache, trying to figure them out...and I watched some of the CC meeting on Monday. I'm going to read the article and comments again, then go offline to write/draft my comment. I've experienced too many failures of hitting the wrong button, or my comments just getting mysteriously dropped from the string of comments after I spent so much time writing them.


Allen Akin
Registered user
Professorville
on Mar 24, 2022 at 3:01 pm
Allen Akin, Professorville
Registered user
on Mar 24, 2022 at 3:01 pm

@Anonymous: SRP is mostly east of Foothills Expressway (there's also a chunk between Foothills and Arastradero). The zoning map is here Web Link and the pages you need are mainly 8, 11, and 14 (with a little bit on 15). This area was annexed by Palo Alto in the '50s.

I like the idea of housing in SRP because land is available, you can build without disrupting existing neighborhoods, you can build housing close to jobs (if you think the arguments for that are convincing), you can leverage existing parking and transportation infrastructure, and you can use the land to improve the jobs/housing imbalance rather than making it worse.


Native to the BAY
Registered user
Old Palo Alto
on Mar 24, 2022 at 3:04 pm
Native to the BAY, Old Palo Alto
Registered user
on Mar 24, 2022 at 3:04 pm

Firstly GS, reporter, I am not entirely sure Burt and Filseth were on the same page. Filseth came back w tail between his legs after opining micro units at ROL / GM HEWG sites. And this after turning down bikeways grant in the very GM sites now a transit desert and toxic carbon fumes, dust as well as industrially worrisome sites as this. Filseth’s elitist R1 protectionism is bordering on BLDM black lives don’t matter or for families or low wage workers or anything else that demonstrates a sound, inclusive community. Tanaka since when was Palo Alto NOT a bedroom community ? Kou when running for her seat did not know what track grade separation was … Why was DuBois absent? A conflict of interest. Then $900 k returned in grant funding for the very ROLM / GM sites proposed ! Please read “A Confederacy of Dunces”. And GS do your research and write with some teeth in the reporting and journalistic way you were schooled in. As of now your write up are editorial in nature . Our housing woes and wars are real. As those on the brink of losing it or unhorsed are one landlord complain from hitting the gutters and factually dying in the cold, frigid Palo Alto nights — yes in R1 zones. Just because we can.t build there does not prevent the loss of human life outside a R1 single family home zone. Do the work you get a paycheck to do , report and not opine.


Gale Johnson
Registered user
Adobe-Meadow
on Mar 24, 2022 at 3:25 pm
Gale Johnson, Adobe-Meadow
Registered user
on Mar 24, 2022 at 3:25 pm

I voted for most of the sitting CC members. I respect and honor those others I didn't vote for and that I don't agree with on some...bump that up to many...issues, but not all of them. Thank you for your dedicated service in supporting your constituencies, even though they may not be mine or agree with mine. I speak from my background as a lucky SPA homeowner from the 60's. Don't mess with my neighborhood


KOhlson
Registered user
Old Palo Alto
on Mar 24, 2022 at 5:01 pm
KOhlson, Old Palo Alto
Registered user
on Mar 24, 2022 at 5:01 pm

Hospitals, schools, roads, utilities, public safety. None of these support existing population. We can only hope these are part of The Plan.


Andy
Registered user
Stanford
on Mar 24, 2022 at 9:51 pm
Andy, Stanford
Registered user
on Mar 24, 2022 at 9:51 pm

these are positive steps but this is an opportunity to think bolder, taller to triple the number of housing units...

* go taller
* include underground parking
* make ALL commercial, industrial areas mixed use
* incentivize and fast track ADU's

Palo Alto could easily add 50,000 housing units in 2 years if it removed all obstacles.

Every community should do the same.


Mondoman
Registered user
Green Acres
on Mar 24, 2022 at 10:14 pm
Mondoman, Green Acres
Registered user
on Mar 24, 2022 at 10:14 pm

I certainly haven't done any research on this, but what's stopping us from building a dozen 8-10 story apartment buildings on some of PA's parking lots in the downtown area, with underground parking garages? At 150+ units each, that would get us 2000+ new units. There are already tall buildings in that area.


chris
Registered user
University South
on Mar 24, 2022 at 11:23 pm
chris, University South
Registered user
on Mar 24, 2022 at 11:23 pm

Mondoman,

In order to build buildings taller than 50 feet, the city has to change its zoning. Note that the taller buildings you see were built more than 50 years ago, when the voters revolted against the building of more taller buildings. The city needs to go back to the future.


RPopp
Registered user
Monroe Park
on Mar 25, 2022 at 11:26 am
RPopp, Monroe Park
Registered user
on Mar 25, 2022 at 11:26 am

@Consider Your Options. - Yup. You are correct. I'm indeed an Architect - and one who is in favor of smart local zoning and capable local review. The lack of momentum in housing construction is frightening and if we do not start to incentivize developers to build the units we are obligated to produce (PA Council fought and lost that argument already) we will see SB 35 invoked. This will mean no design review and the maximum limitations in the local zoning can be achieved without subjective restriction. Ministerial rapid approval of projects until the quantity is achieved.


Online Name
Registered user
Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Mar 25, 2022 at 11:59 am
Online Name, Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
Registered user
on Mar 25, 2022 at 11:59 am

"The city needs to go back to the future."

The city and state need to go back to reality. Where will the Bay Area put another 2,000,000 more people and millions of sq feet of office buildings that are being bought up at record prices to attract more jobs, more people, more congestion??

Good thing none of the 2,000,000+ will consume water and flush toilets; good thing none of the 2,000,000+ will add a single car to the roads and impede fire engines and ambulances from getting through, something that the Menlo Park fire chief said YEARS ago was a serious life-threatening risk since his crews couldn't get through.

But hey, let's ignore reality because the big tech, big developers and lobbyists need to thrive; forget about the rest of us and our quality of life.


Allen Akin
Registered user
Professorville
on Mar 25, 2022 at 4:57 pm
Allen Akin, Professorville
Registered user
on Mar 25, 2022 at 4:57 pm

@Mondoman: Building tall costs more per square foot. If your goal is simply to squeeze as many people as possible into a given area of land, then building tall makes sense. If your goal is to make housing more affordable, then building tall doesn't make sense.

The Terner Center has a series of articles with very detailed explanations. This one is a good place to start: Web Link "Type I projects, which are typically over 5-7 stories and constructed with steel and concrete, cost an average of $65 more per square foot than other types of construction..."


Resident 1-Adobe Meadows
Registered user
Adobe-Meadow
on Mar 25, 2022 at 5:02 pm
Resident 1-Adobe Meadows, Adobe-Meadow
Registered user
on Mar 25, 2022 at 5:02 pm

[Portion removed.]

Look at the large piece of property on El Camino across from the PAMF. That is a huge piece of property filled with trees. A whole section of housing could be put in that space - but it would go to SU employees. But that still puts us ahead of the game. It could go further back from the road and tastefully done.
Becker needs to put some pressure on SU since they have the most open land. There seems to be some assumption that PA is suppose to provide housing for employees of SU and that needs to be put out there as unacceptable - or at least open to negotiation.


Mondoman
Registered user
Green Acres
on Mar 25, 2022 at 5:41 pm
Mondoman, Green Acres
Registered user
on Mar 25, 2022 at 5:41 pm

@Allen Akin Thanks for the info! Yes, I was concerned with number of units only. The "affordable" housing horse left the barn already more than 3 decades ago in Palo Alto and won't be coming back. If we want to tax ourselves to build a pittance of "affordable" units that in reality mostly aren't, that's fine. There's no shame in being a town with mostly "unaffordable" housing, though.


Paly Grad
Registered user
Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Mar 25, 2022 at 6:28 pm
Paly Grad, Leland Manor/Garland Drive
Registered user
on Mar 25, 2022 at 6:28 pm

The population of Santa Clara County decreased by an estimated 2.6% from 2020 to 2021:

Web Link

We may not need as much new housing as ABAG is asking for.


Online Name
Registered user
Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Mar 25, 2022 at 7:10 pm
Online Name, Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
Registered user
on Mar 25, 2022 at 7:10 pm

@Paly Grad, please join the rest of us who keep trying to tell ABAG that but -- like fire and drought -- they refuse to consider the impact of remote work in their equations and will automatically and reflexively reject your logic,

It can't hurt to keep reminding them though -- just so they know we're not as dumb and/or ill-informed as they apparently think.

Some might call their refusal to consider any and all reasons biased, illogical, unrealistic, ... but I've got a few other choice words for what it could be called but since this a family publication...


StephenM
Registered user
Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 26, 2022 at 8:45 pm
StephenM, Duveneck/St. Francis
Registered user
on Mar 26, 2022 at 8:45 pm

@anonymous: Just to clear up a misconception: The foothills lands are part of the original Stanford property that the Stanfords deeded to the University without any constraints other than not selling it.


Gale Johnson
Registered user
Adobe-Meadow
on Mar 27, 2022 at 11:06 am
Gale Johnson, Adobe-Meadow
Registered user
on Mar 27, 2022 at 11:06 am

Basically, PA was under the gun to identify potential housing sites to accommodate RHNA’s mandate, passed down via ABAG, which in my mind, was supported by very bad legislation at the state level in Sacramento. Credit goes to the city's Housing Element Working Group, its Planning and Transportation Commission, city staff, and our CC. They put in a lot of time and effort to come up with the numbers to satisfy the housing element report that’s due in January. They got the job done…on paper. I could poke holes in some of the ideas, but not very many. History has shown that we’ve done a very bad job in providing housing for the two bottom tier income levels. I see no sign that that will improve this time around. I’ve said, and supported for many years, the idea of raising height limits. I cited two examples of existing housing that far exceeded that limit…Channing House and Palo Alto 101 (on Alma). I remember being impressed with Palo Alto 101 on our first drive into Palo Alto in 1961. I still wonder if there was ever a fuss made from neighbors living in its shadows and not being able to see those beautiful Santa Cruz Mountains and sunsets to the west.
More housing can only happen when there are willing partners to allow it to happen. The profit margins have to be there to satisfy the goals of property owners, developers, and construction companies. They are enterprises, private or public funded (through stock ownership)…they are in business to make money. Palo Alto is not in that business. Stack up all their goals together and there will be very little chance of low income housing being built…unless…we, the taxpayers (taxes in all its ugly forms), are willing to pay for it.
If all these mandates ever become a reality in PA, it will have destroyed the desire and excitement of owning a home in Palo Alto, and the fabric of what makes a community. It will add nothing to the neighborhoods or the neighborliness of its residents, the very thing that drew us here initially.


Gale Johnson
Registered user
Adobe-Meadow
on Mar 27, 2022 at 11:18 am
Gale Johnson, Adobe-Meadow
Registered user
on Mar 27, 2022 at 11:18 am

Single family homes were affordable when we bought ours in 1963, in South Palo. My wife didn’t work and I was just starting my career as an engineer with only a BSEE degree. To meet the actual goal of providing (not just planning for) housing It will become a city whose new resident members will be composed primarily of singles, maybe couples…mostly tech workers or professionals, making high (6 digit) incomes, and living in very small units, not in single family homes in neighborhoods like mine. Most of those married couples who have aspirations of raising a family and owning a home on a nice lot with space for a patio and playground equipment, will still be commuting long distances from across the Bay or from communities far south of Palo Alto. Since there won’t be many families with kids it might not be as big a burden on our schools as some have argued, but on the other hand, there won’t be any interest for supporting schools either…and all the issues related to them, including funding.

It’s all bad news for Palo Alto, as a community, if the state’s only goal is to provide shelter and a bed, a bathroom, a minimal kitchen, a closet, and a combo (family room/den/living room/dining area) in 250-350 square feet of space.


Online Name
Registered user
Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Mar 27, 2022 at 12:36 pm
Online Name, Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
Registered user
on Mar 27, 2022 at 12:36 pm

Every day there's a new article about housing speculators / hedge funds buying up affordable housing -- trailer parks, apartment complexes, residence hotels etc -- and then forcing out tenants who've lived there for decades. This is what happened to the President Hotel here in Palo Alto.

Instead of blaming the "Nimby's" like the deep-pocked lobbyists for YIMBY, Peninsula For Everyone, etc etc and all their spinoffs love to do, how about CA doing something to STOP / limit this type of speculation??

You'll recall that when Zillow was forced out of the flipping game and was limited to proving information, their stock dropped like a rock because there's HUGE money in speculation.

Housing speculation is at 20% of the entire market and rising rapidly. Pay attention.


SteveDabrowski
Registered user
Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 28, 2022 at 4:50 pm
SteveDabrowski, Duveneck/St. Francis
Registered user
on Mar 28, 2022 at 4:50 pm

The real and only answer to all this nonsense is to pass a proposition, that is intended for the 2024 election, placing zoning and housing decisions back into local control. This initiative was slated for the 2022 ballot but time is too short for the necessary signatures to get it there.

If our city leaders really had the interests of Palo Alto's citizens at heart they would support this process in a highly visible way and work with other cities to do the same and ensure that people know it exists and where they can sign up.

This would put an end to, and overrule, the state mandated construction and make ABAG an advisory entity with no enforcement power.


Resident 1-Adobe Meadows
Registered user
Adobe-Meadow
on Mar 29, 2022 at 6:03 am
Resident 1-Adobe Meadows, Adobe-Meadow
Registered user
on Mar 29, 2022 at 6:03 am

Time to wrangle our local legislators. They are the people that are approving all of the legislation that supports minimalist housing. They are working their career goals. I am not convinced that they actually believe all of the hype they produce - but are just working the system to stay in the game. If their career goals are counter to common sense then let's point it out and challenge them to answer to the obvious pitfalls of overloading the city's ability to manage increased demands on the utility systems, natural water availability, and the supposed "transportation" that is suppose to move people around. Hwy 101 is a pitfall of very bad road management. Can't point to that to say the state is "doing something".

We still need to manage the discussion of the extent of open land on SU that belongs to them. If they build then that means increased demand on the utility system.

If the total systems are just a memo on some supposed budget item that never actually gets done then let's point that out. Too many of the state systems are managed by incompetent people.


SteveDabrowski
Registered user
Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 29, 2022 at 1:22 pm
SteveDabrowski, Duveneck/St. Francis
Registered user
on Mar 29, 2022 at 1:22 pm

Perhaps we might rethink the purpose of ABAG. It might actually be more useful to reverse their charter to (instead of projecting ever increasing housing needs for a never ending growth of population) looking at the optimal size of each community and then issuing mandates as to the maximum number of jobs that can be offered in each one. I suspect we would see some significant reductions if all was honestly done. Life here would be a lot better.


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