News

City Council review boosts proposed condo project

Palo Alto officials encourage builder to move ahead with plan for 75-unit complex at 800 San Antonio Road

The five-story development proposed for 800 San Antonio Road would include 75 condominiums. Courtesy Lowney Architecture.

Palo Alto residents don't have to look far to see the potential of San Antonio Road.

The strip, which separates Palo Alto from Mountain View, perfectly embodies the recent growth trends of the two cities. On the Mountain View side, San Antonio has been one of the city's primary growth areas, with the city approving a specific plan that guided the construction of hundreds of housing units, offices, shops, restaurants and a cinema in the area around El Camino Real.

In Palo Alto, it remains an eclectic but generally low-density mix of commercial and residential uses, with recent additions including two new hotels on the east end of San Antonio, near Middlefield Road. The city also is planning to build a transitional-housing complex at a city-owned site at 1237 San Antonio Road, near the Baylands.

On Monday night, the Palo Alto City Council gave its firmest indications yet that it would like to see more residential growth in this area. In reviewing a proposed 75-condominium development at 800 San Antonio Road, council members generally agreed that the project should move ahead. It made little difference that the development would be taller and built at a greater density than the city's code typically allows.

The proposal from Yorke Lee calls for a five-story building with a height of 60 feet, exceeding the city's height limit by 10 feet. Its residential density would be 86 dwelling units per acre, well exceeding the 30 units that would have been allowed under conventional zoning.

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The development is the city's latest "planned home zoning" proposal, a designation that the city introduced two years ago to encourage new housing. It allows builders to exceed zoning regulations and gives city officials wide discretion in reviewing proposals and demanding modifications. In most cases, developers had opted not to pursue their projects after receiving negative or mixed feedback from the council during nonbinding prescreening hearings. Only one project, a proposal from Smith Development for a 70-apartment complex at 660 University Ave., advanced with a formal application.

Numerous council members encouraged Lee on Monday to proceed with the project.

"The height doesn't bother me," council member Eric Filseth said. "The city is not monolithic, and if we're going to have some places in town be taller than others, I think this is one of the strongest candidates for a place where it makes sense to really focus on adding some density here."

Council member Tom DuBois was more cautious, noting that roof equipment could add another 15 feet to the project, raising the overall height to 75 feet. He suggested that the developer consider limiting the overall height to 65 feet.

DuBois also urged Lee to explore inclusion of ground-floor retail in the project. The residential complex would displace two commercial uses: Body Kneads Day Spa and Sequoia Academy, which offers tutoring and test preparatory courses.

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"I know it's probably an impact to the project but doing something to activate the street and provide services for residents would be a strong benefit," DuBois said.

Even with mild reservations, DuBois said the project is "well-located and represents what we're looking for in the PHZ (Planned Home Zoning) kind of project."

For city leaders, San Antonio represents a key strategy for meeting the state mandate that requires them to plan for 6,086 new dwellings between 2023 and 2031. City planners believe that parcels along San Antonio, around East Meadow Circle and in other areas that are currently zoned for manufacturing, research and office uses, could accommodate about 1,500 housing units.

The council is scheduled to discuss the city's new Housing Element, which lays out strategies for meeting the housing mandate, on Aug. 22.

The area has already seen some change. Marriott recently constructed two five-story hotels near Middlefield Road and the council approved in 2020 a 102-apartment development at 788 San Antonio, next to the site where York is proposing to build the condominiums.

Mark Donahue of Lowney Architecture, who presented the project on behalf of Lee, argued on Monday that the proposed condominium project aligns well with the council's vision for San Antonio.

"Given the future Housing Element, we're right on the money in terms of how large the project is," Donahue said.

The council generally agreed, with council member Alison Cormack suggesting that the condominiums will create more options for young families who want to live in Palo Alto but can't afford single-family homes. The proposed height, she said, is appropriate.

"We hear regularly from young families here that that's all they'll be able to afford so the more we have of that, the more those young families have the opportunity to come here and stay here," Cormack said.

By far the biggest concern was transportation. San Antonio is decidedly car-centric, with no public transportation and poor biking conditions. Cormack said that it's important for the council to plan and implement biking improvements on San Antonio as it moves forward with housing developments. And Mayor Pat Burt, who represents the city on the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority, said he would like the transportation agency to introduce a bus route along San Antonio, stretching from the Baylands area to Foothill College.

He suggested having Palo Alto take the lead on advocating for the new line, which would run through Palo Alto, Mountain View, Los Altos and Los Altos Hills.

"It is the one corridor that serves all four of the north county VTA cities and it's one of the areas that is receiving the most densification for all those cities," Burt said.

He also suggested that the San Antonio corridor represents an opportunity for Palo Alto and Mountain View to work together on increasing residential density, improving transportation and adding retail.

"That development of retail straddles our community and we've got to work together to try to figure out a way to really have the services that are necessary to go along with thousands of new housing units between our cities in this area," Burt said.

John Petrilla, who lives across the street from the proposed site, was less sanguine about the San Antonio housing boom. He observed that none of the people who support the project actually live in the neighborhood. Petrilla told the council that he would like to see the city come up with a master plan for bicycle and transit infrastructure before it moves forward with housing plans.

"It sounds like a great project, provided it's not in your neighborhood," Petrilla said. "It's frustrating to hear that it's a place for good development."

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Gennady Sheyner
 
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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City Council review boosts proposed condo project

Palo Alto officials encourage builder to move ahead with plan for 75-unit complex at 800 San Antonio Road

by / Palo Alto Weekly

Uploaded: Tue, Aug 16, 2022, 9:45 am

Palo Alto residents don't have to look far to see the potential of San Antonio Road.

The strip, which separates Palo Alto from Mountain View, perfectly embodies the recent growth trends of the two cities. On the Mountain View side, San Antonio has been one of the city's primary growth areas, with the city approving a specific plan that guided the construction of hundreds of housing units, offices, shops, restaurants and a cinema in the area around El Camino Real.

In Palo Alto, it remains an eclectic but generally low-density mix of commercial and residential uses, with recent additions including two new hotels on the east end of San Antonio, near Middlefield Road. The city also is planning to build a transitional-housing complex at a city-owned site at 1237 San Antonio Road, near the Baylands.

On Monday night, the Palo Alto City Council gave its firmest indications yet that it would like to see more residential growth in this area. In reviewing a proposed 75-condominium development at 800 San Antonio Road, council members generally agreed that the project should move ahead. It made little difference that the development would be taller and built at a greater density than the city's code typically allows.

The proposal from Yorke Lee calls for a five-story building with a height of 60 feet, exceeding the city's height limit by 10 feet. Its residential density would be 86 dwelling units per acre, well exceeding the 30 units that would have been allowed under conventional zoning.

The development is the city's latest "planned home zoning" proposal, a designation that the city introduced two years ago to encourage new housing. It allows builders to exceed zoning regulations and gives city officials wide discretion in reviewing proposals and demanding modifications. In most cases, developers had opted not to pursue their projects after receiving negative or mixed feedback from the council during nonbinding prescreening hearings. Only one project, a proposal from Smith Development for a 70-apartment complex at 660 University Ave., advanced with a formal application.

Numerous council members encouraged Lee on Monday to proceed with the project.

"The height doesn't bother me," council member Eric Filseth said. "The city is not monolithic, and if we're going to have some places in town be taller than others, I think this is one of the strongest candidates for a place where it makes sense to really focus on adding some density here."

Council member Tom DuBois was more cautious, noting that roof equipment could add another 15 feet to the project, raising the overall height to 75 feet. He suggested that the developer consider limiting the overall height to 65 feet.

DuBois also urged Lee to explore inclusion of ground-floor retail in the project. The residential complex would displace two commercial uses: Body Kneads Day Spa and Sequoia Academy, which offers tutoring and test preparatory courses.

"I know it's probably an impact to the project but doing something to activate the street and provide services for residents would be a strong benefit," DuBois said.

Even with mild reservations, DuBois said the project is "well-located and represents what we're looking for in the PHZ (Planned Home Zoning) kind of project."

For city leaders, San Antonio represents a key strategy for meeting the state mandate that requires them to plan for 6,086 new dwellings between 2023 and 2031. City planners believe that parcels along San Antonio, around East Meadow Circle and in other areas that are currently zoned for manufacturing, research and office uses, could accommodate about 1,500 housing units.

The council is scheduled to discuss the city's new Housing Element, which lays out strategies for meeting the housing mandate, on Aug. 22.

The area has already seen some change. Marriott recently constructed two five-story hotels near Middlefield Road and the council approved in 2020 a 102-apartment development at 788 San Antonio, next to the site where York is proposing to build the condominiums.

Mark Donahue of Lowney Architecture, who presented the project on behalf of Lee, argued on Monday that the proposed condominium project aligns well with the council's vision for San Antonio.

"Given the future Housing Element, we're right on the money in terms of how large the project is," Donahue said.

The council generally agreed, with council member Alison Cormack suggesting that the condominiums will create more options for young families who want to live in Palo Alto but can't afford single-family homes. The proposed height, she said, is appropriate.

"We hear regularly from young families here that that's all they'll be able to afford so the more we have of that, the more those young families have the opportunity to come here and stay here," Cormack said.

By far the biggest concern was transportation. San Antonio is decidedly car-centric, with no public transportation and poor biking conditions. Cormack said that it's important for the council to plan and implement biking improvements on San Antonio as it moves forward with housing developments. And Mayor Pat Burt, who represents the city on the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority, said he would like the transportation agency to introduce a bus route along San Antonio, stretching from the Baylands area to Foothill College.

He suggested having Palo Alto take the lead on advocating for the new line, which would run through Palo Alto, Mountain View, Los Altos and Los Altos Hills.

"It is the one corridor that serves all four of the north county VTA cities and it's one of the areas that is receiving the most densification for all those cities," Burt said.

He also suggested that the San Antonio corridor represents an opportunity for Palo Alto and Mountain View to work together on increasing residential density, improving transportation and adding retail.

"That development of retail straddles our community and we've got to work together to try to figure out a way to really have the services that are necessary to go along with thousands of new housing units between our cities in this area," Burt said.

John Petrilla, who lives across the street from the proposed site, was less sanguine about the San Antonio housing boom. He observed that none of the people who support the project actually live in the neighborhood. Petrilla told the council that he would like to see the city come up with a master plan for bicycle and transit infrastructure before it moves forward with housing plans.

"It sounds like a great project, provided it's not in your neighborhood," Petrilla said. "It's frustrating to hear that it's a place for good development."

Comments

resident3
Registered user
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 16, 2022 at 10:24 am
resident3, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
Registered user
on Aug 16, 2022 at 10:24 am

"It sounds like a great project, provided it's not in your neighborhood,“

That sums it up. It seems a trend to build as close to the outside borders as possible. Atherton and Redwood City don’t seem to be able to “work together” for the housing each want to build at their borders.

Nobody will provide decent services or appeal in that area and Palo Alto can’t afford it. The housing quotas seem to be based on the jobs for businesses that don’t want to share the burden, not to attract families.

To attract young families, you actually have to have an attractive area. Any thought to which schools traffic will go to?


Resident11
Registered user
Fairmeadow
on Aug 16, 2022 at 11:21 am
Resident11, Fairmeadow
Registered user
on Aug 16, 2022 at 11:21 am

I hope that we are thinking about how to build and foster a neighborhood/community for these new residents rather than just warehousing them on the far side of a busy street. It is important to have some retail services there and very important to get a handle on traffic on San Antonio. What can we do to improve the quality of life for these future residents? Related, I believe that this development should make residential development at Cubberley less likely. As we add more dense residential development to South Palo Alto on these busy arteries (San Antonio and El Camino) we are adding demand for schools (which are already very large), parks (which are already busy with residents, visitors and some homeless), and community services. Cubberley will be needed for school capacity, recreational space, and community services. We should not add yet more residents there imo.


tmp
Registered user
Downtown North
on Aug 16, 2022 at 1:04 pm
tmp, Downtown North
Registered user
on Aug 16, 2022 at 1:04 pm

This mindless growth is bad for our community, bad for the environment and ultimately bad for the world. This city needs to attack an out of control state government that is in hock to developers and is forcing cities to approve these monstrous buildings to house more people at the expense of the lives of current residents.

We are faced with polluted air and land and not enough water for all, decimation of every species on the planet, plus a climate that is continuing to wreck havoc to all. The driver is overpopulation of carbon spewing and resource consuming humans. Warehousing them in cement encrusted high-rises will only make things worse. Even humans in small boxes stacked on top of one another continue to consume and use resources at an alarming rate.

It is past time for cities to collectively stand up and fight against our state government that is codifying over population and destruction of reasonable living standards and stop caving to them with developments like this.


Nancy Peterson
Registered user
South of Midtown
on Aug 16, 2022 at 1:14 pm
Nancy Peterson, South of Midtown
Registered user
on Aug 16, 2022 at 1:14 pm

Did I miss a mention of how many units will be for low income residents? If not I can’t support the project.


Consider Your Options.
Registered user
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 16, 2022 at 1:26 pm
Consider Your Options. , Another Palo Alto neighborhood
Registered user
on Aug 16, 2022 at 1:26 pm

Many hundreds of units proposed and zoned for San Antonio...and no Area Plan. Mr. Lait, you are the lead planner for the city. This is much like what happened on Charleston/Arastradero over 20 years ago. Almost a thousand units of housing, CJL, Challenger School, and Stanford Research Park expansion were moving forward simultaneously then with no one giving any thought to the aggregate traffic impacts. The Director of Planning then wisely recommended (and that Council approved) a one-year moratorium on development to plan for mitigation of aggregate impacts. This time, we have a problem of existing traffic congestion on San Antonio and Middlefield, limited school capacity and Cubberley is a decaying mess. (Oh, is this going to be built before or after you shut down Charleston and Meadow to construct grade separations?)

What is the big picture plan for this area, Mr. Lait and City Manager Shikada and City Council? Council approved amending the Comp Plan for new housing on this scale without an Area Plan on your recommendations. No more hand waving about Area Planning for this area. That work should have been part of the Comp Plan amendment that allowed these projects.

Wake up south Palo Alto. While most of us support building housing, we also need sufficient school capacity and retail, operational streets, open space and community services. The city is not doing the area planning they should be doing for this end of town, given what they have approved to date and what's coming. Call for them to get moving on this planning.

For the record, there were almost no residents at the meeting last night. I know this is the first week of school, but this really should be something we all pay attention to. City Hall is being careless with south PA again. Every member of Council mentioned lack of transit, poor bike/ped connectivity. This all should have been part of an area plan and part of the Comp Plan amendment that allowed this development expansion.


Native to the BAY
Registered user
Old Palo Alto
on Aug 16, 2022 at 4:18 pm
Native to the BAY, Old Palo Alto
Registered user
on Aug 16, 2022 at 4:18 pm

“Young new families”? How about old Palo Alto families? It’s obvious plans like these are meant to be like battlement towers to protect SFH’s from encroachment on their R1Zones. I love how Filseth pines about while Pooh pooing compact multi family housing directly across from Addison Elementary. Hypocritical to the inth degree!! The hot mix of concrete and Co2 fumes alone along San Antonio are ghastly . Yes. No BMR plan for said new young poor or other in this Planned Neighborhood design. Like where are the kids gonna play. At my 2017 complex on ECR, children play in the parking lot. Cuz there is no other place to kick a ball or roller skate. “Danger Will Robinson!”


Carl Jones
Registered user
Palo Verde
on Aug 16, 2022 at 6:07 pm
Carl Jones, Palo Verde
Registered user
on Aug 16, 2022 at 6:07 pm

Parking! Parking! Parking!
My continued concern is that the requirement for parking spaces per unit continues to be too low in light of current trends in cars-per-family and in individuals-per-unit. Look at the development at Loma Verde and the 101 West Frontage Road. Before the development there were *never* more than a half-dozen cars parked in the last block of Loma Verde. Now that 1-2 block strip is *always full of cars*. Where did they come from? The housing development. Why? Because the required parking space per unit was too low. I am not against the additional housing. But current family transportation requirements and shared living arrangements commonly present today result in more cars-per-unit than current regulations require. The evidence is clear everywhere.


Jarrod Taylor
Registered user
Old Palo Alto
on Aug 17, 2022 at 9:53 am
Jarrod Taylor, Old Palo Alto
Registered user
on Aug 17, 2022 at 9:53 am

The 'southern edge' of Palo Alto is an ideal site for new housing as there is nothing much worth saving along the Monroe Park/Barron Park ECR corridor.

And the same pretty much applies to San Antonio Road from ECR to 101.


Local news junkie
Registered user
Charleston Meadows
on Aug 17, 2022 at 11:04 am
Local news junkie, Charleston Meadows
Registered user
on Aug 17, 2022 at 11:04 am

I think Old Palo Alto would be the ideal site for new housing. (I just get tired of people in other areas “volunteering” South Palo Alto for all new development and dismissing all the small neighborhood-serving businesses along ECR, like Greenmail. Celia’s, 9-minute Lube, American Tires, etc.)


resident3
Registered user
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 17, 2022 at 11:29 am
resident3, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
Registered user
on Aug 17, 2022 at 11:29 am

@Local,

Old Palo Alto would better attract young families and agree with Native to the Bay about the hypocrisy of pooh poohing housing near Addison. Families in the complex across the street from Addison have been displaced due to higher rents. Not to forget, the "Nobu Hotel" displaced the senior living there. I know someone who worked there, lost a job to the Nobu Hotel and then had to also leave a rental in Palo Alto because rents went up so much.

We can barely keep and attract people who have contributed to the community for years, so getting pompous about height where there is no neighborhood, money to invest in building one, or to address traffic and parking issues is sad.

Developers have succeeded in making us think only about what they care about and any term with the word "resident" is pooh poohed even in our local press, with labels about slow growth that reduce us all to real estate and building terms.


Colin Rivers
Registered user
Los Altos
on Aug 18, 2022 at 7:32 am
Colin Rivers, Los Altos
Registered user
on Aug 18, 2022 at 7:32 am

The only reason for preserving the ECR section of Barron Park is if a Sunnyvale ECR appearance is desired by Palo Altans.

Building high-rise condos along with provisions for a pharmacy, grocery store, and dry cleaners is all that's needed as this particular section of Palo Alto leaves something to be desired.

Old timers have told me that Barron Park was once an unincorporated area like Cupertino and as a result, it has no main street or inherent city vibe.

And like Cupertino, further development will only make the Barron Park section of Palo Alto more desirable to outsiders.


Amie
Registered user
Downtown North
on Aug 18, 2022 at 9:51 am
Amie, Downtown North
Registered user
on Aug 18, 2022 at 9:51 am

Yes to more bike and ped infrastructure! It it the understatement of the year to say that this area is "underserved". These residents and workers need options in order to get out of their cars. There are grocery stores, services, hardware stores, and schools within a 10 minute bike or 20 minute walk. Yes for housing and yes for transportation options in this area!


resident3
Registered user
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 18, 2022 at 11:06 am
resident3, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
Registered user
on Aug 18, 2022 at 11:06 am

A few summers ago I was driving North on Louis Road, very hot day and an older gentleman was hitchhiking. I picked him up and turns out he was well into his 80’s, usually walked to his destination near the Rinconada Library area but it was way too hot that day. Like him, I’m a walker and bike lanes would not matter to me.

In addition to fixed schedule and fixed path shuttles would be nice to have surge options during inclement weather “for the older set” that could be attracted to this area..provided there’s ways to get to appointments and activities in other parts of town.



Gale Johnson
Registered user
Adobe-Meadow
on Aug 18, 2022 at 4:38 pm
Gale Johnson, Adobe-Meadow
Registered user
on Aug 18, 2022 at 4:38 pm

I don't have a problem with the height, but I do have questions about the affordability of the units and if they will be all rentals or a mix of owned units? And how will this help solve housing for the very low income, low income, and median income people imposed by the faulty state mandate as drafted and administered by ABAG locally? It sounds like it's being set up at market rate rental prices to satisfy high income singles and maybe couples...and of course big profits to satisfy the developers and their investors' bottom lines. Nothing in the proposal seems to support the day workers who serve us so faithfully with the long distances they have to drive to get here to do that. It doesn't seem like there are any units offered big enough for families, the bulwark of a feeling of community spirit in my town. The strength of a community comes from families living there. The schools with PTA support, sports activities, and many more after school activities, including theater arts and music groups. Let's hear what the anticipated rental rates will be. I think that's critical information that CC should consider before moving this project forward. How will people living in that condo help to make our town better? We've been on a downward slide with the homeless issue and I'd like to see positive moves made to improve that image. How will the developer and residents of the new project help make that happen?


Online Name
Registered user
Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Aug 18, 2022 at 5:21 pm
Online Name, Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
Registered user
on Aug 18, 2022 at 5:21 pm

"I do have questions about the affordability of the units and if they will be all rentals or a mix of owned units? And how will this help solve housing for the very low income, low income, and median income people imposed by the faulty state mandate as drafted and administered by ABAG locally? It sounds like it's being set up at market rate rental prices to satisfy high income singles and maybe couples...and of course big profits to satisfy the developers and their investors' bottom lines."

@Gale Johnson, to answer your question: it won't help -- as anyone paying attention knows -- and which the laws' backers know, too, which is why they keep attacking everyone and everything but those who drafted, lobhyied for and support he misleading bills.


Mondoman
Registered user
Green Acres
on Aug 18, 2022 at 7:29 pm
Mondoman, Green Acres
Registered user
on Aug 18, 2022 at 7:29 pm

@Colin
Perhaps you are unfamiliar with the Barron Park donkeys, being a resident of distant Los Altos :) ?


Frank Morales
Registered user
another community
on Aug 19, 2022 at 8:24 am
Frank Morales, another community
Registered user
on Aug 19, 2022 at 8:24 am

@Mondoman

I have never seen a 'Barron Park donkey' roaming along ECR...just some rundown automotive garages, several nondescript motels, a few forgettable strip malls, and a liquor store.

I will look harder next time.


Dolores Campo
Registered user
Duveneck/St. Francis
on Aug 19, 2022 at 9:30 am
Dolores Campo, Duveneck/St. Francis
Registered user
on Aug 19, 2022 at 9:30 am

@Frank Morales
The Barron Park donkeys are further inland. Even they have the common sense not to frequent the utterly mundane and characterless south PA/ECR corridor.


Gerry Horowitz
Registered user
another community
on Aug 19, 2022 at 11:41 am
Gerry Horowitz, another community
Registered user
on Aug 19, 2022 at 11:41 am

The Barron Park donkeys are pretty much all the area has going for it.


Gale Johnson
Registered user
Adobe-Meadow
on Aug 19, 2022 at 3:18 pm
Gale Johnson, Adobe-Meadow
Registered user
on Aug 19, 2022 at 3:18 pm

Thanks "Consider Your Options". There is such a big drive to add housing to satisfy the state mandate for housing without an Area Plan to go along with it. The PA North Enders in their protected enclaves ($6-$20 million dollar homes) have nothing to worry about. They are a unified force to keep the middle income and below, out of their neighborhoods. Of course the home prices do that on their own, but that's what the current residents/owners want to happen to maintain their home values. The fact is, any effort to bring multifamily housing units even close to their neighborhoods , gets rejected. I hope there is some guilt felt when their gardeners, house cleaners, nannies, and cooks (if they're really rich enough to have them) drive long distances from communities where they can afford to live, to serve them for minimum wage rates.

Sure. I'm worried about the impact on traffic because I live in SPA. I'm not too worried about the impact on schools, however. This project proposal isn't designed as a family friendly and affordable space offering, a place to raise a family. It will fill the bill as a techies dream come true. He/she can live in the community where they work. Then don't complain about your utility bills. The city is doing so much for you, so give a little back in appreciation.


Marianne Mueller
Registered user
Professorville
on Aug 19, 2022 at 4:03 pm
Marianne Mueller, Professorville
Registered user
on Aug 19, 2022 at 4:03 pm

I agree with a comment about standing up to the state regarding building so much new housing, the planet cannot sustain unbridled forever development, and we cannot manufacturer land, nor water although I guess people are going to just start suggesting more desalination plants. I know the logic of capitalism is that we have to keep on growing forever, but it’s just not possible and I believe capitalism is a construct created by mankind so it’s time we adjusted the way we think about growth, and try to live within our means, as a species.


Allen Akin
Registered user
Professorville
on Aug 20, 2022 at 8:09 am
Allen Akin, Professorville
Registered user
on Aug 20, 2022 at 8:09 am

"...any effort to bring multifamily housing units even close to their neighborhoods, gets rejected."

Just for perspective, multifamily buildings are already common in Downtown North and University South. There are even some big ones, like 101 Alma, Mia (on Everett), The Marc (on Cowper) and Channing House. Then there are the medium-density multifamily developments like Oak Court that resulted from the SOFA Coordinated Area Plan back in 2000. Webster Oaks and Webster Woods near Addison Elementary also come to mind. There are many others, but you get the idea. And the "courts" (Addison Court, Kingsley Court, there are a couple of others) are small-house developments that provide space for multiple individuals or small families on a single lot, though the buildings themselves are single-family.


GaleJohnson
Registered user
Adobe-Meadow
on Aug 20, 2022 at 8:42 am
GaleJohnson, Adobe-Meadow
Registered user
on Aug 20, 2022 at 8:42 am

Allen Akin, thanks for pointing out those places in the North Downtown area. You are admittedly better informed than I am but I think the housing proposed on San Antonio is
not designed for families or very low and low income people. The density suggests it will be limited to singles and couples who can afford market rate housing.


Allen Akin
Registered user
Professorville
on Aug 20, 2022 at 1:33 pm
Allen Akin, Professorville
Registered user
on Aug 20, 2022 at 1:33 pm

Hi, Gale! Well, we tend to know more about our own neighborhoods than we do about most of the others.

I took a quick look at the plans for 800 San Antonio. The 1BRs are 600-700 sq ft, the 2BRs are about 1000 sq ft, and the 3BRs are about 1400 sq ft. If I'm reading the plans correctly, there are a lot more 2BRs and 3BRs than 1BRs, so this looks like a better balance than the other proposals we've seen recently.

I suspect you're right about the lack of affordability.


stephen levy
Registered user
University South
on Aug 20, 2022 at 4:55 pm
stephen levy, University South
Registered user
on Aug 20, 2022 at 4:55 pm

It is a PHZ project and that requires 20% of the units be BMR. The split among income groups is negotiable along as the project remains feasible but the council I believe is asking all PHZ applicants for a range of affordable units by income group.
The council discussion seemed mostly happy about the size of the units.


GaleJohnson
Registered user
Adobe-Meadow
on Aug 20, 2022 at 9:40 pm
GaleJohnson, Adobe-Meadow
Registered user
on Aug 20, 2022 at 9:40 pm

Thanks Allen and Stephen. Those sizes are commendable but they come with a cost. And certainly the 3 bedroom units will accommodate families, and the 2 bedroom units as well. It will be interesting to see how that 20% gets distributed among the BMR income groups. How will we ever reach the mandate requirements if the project won’t pencil out to satisfy the developers? The state and ABAG has us in a corner.


Consider Your Options.
Registered user
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 22, 2022 at 11:54 am
Consider Your Options. , Another Palo Alto neighborhood
Registered user
on Aug 22, 2022 at 11:54 am

Again, where is the Area Plan? Is south Palo Alto so undervalued by Director Lait and City Manager Shikada and City Council that they cannot be bothered to do this essential planning work?

The numbers are adding up in this small part of south PA.
75 Condos at 800 San Antonio
76 units for former homeless at the Home Key project (1237 San Antonio)
102 apartments at 788 San Antonio
50 100% affordable apartments at 525 East Charleston

That's 303 units in this small area for starters (not to mention the two recently built 5-story hotels, totaling 249 rooms), and we are not done.
Add the undisclosed number of proposed car dwellers at Cubberley being "discussed"(discussed by whom, with whom? Does this make sense, given that it is currently being used as an elementary school site?)
Car dwellers at several south PA churches and synogogues allowed with no opposition from neighbors, but let's count them because they are people who matter and need services.
Of course, let's not leave out the two recently built Marriott Hotels, totaling 249 rooms.

There is NO plan to manage traffic, park space, parking, school capacity, community services impacts....Please stop talking about doing area planning and do the work. This planning is supposed to come first, not after you build the housing. Our self-described "nuts and bolts guy" city manager evidently is not a big picture planner, and, sadly, it appears neither is our Planning Director.

These are reactive, poorly planned projects dumped in one part of the city. If you are going to put all of this in one small area, then start spending staff time and money on this area to make it work.

Meanwhile, Cubberley Community Center, which could be put to use to provide community services, continues to rot. This haphazard failure of process is appalling. We can do better. We have done better in the past.


Jacob Zhao
Registered user
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 22, 2022 at 12:04 pm
Jacob Zhao, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
Registered user
on Aug 22, 2022 at 12:04 pm

> Meanwhile, Cubberley Community Center, which could be put to use to provide community services, continues to rot.

The Cubberley Community Center could easily be razed for new housing as there is plenty of acreage available and it is close to public transit and San Antonio Road.


Consider Your Options.
Registered user
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 22, 2022 at 12:35 pm
Consider Your Options. , Another Palo Alto neighborhood
Registered user
on Aug 22, 2022 at 12:35 pm

To Jacob Zhao-- With lots of new housing being built all over south PA, we should preserve our publicly owned property for public use. All of these new residents in teeny tiny living spaces are going to need places to go to school, to recreate, to commune because they won't have big personal spaces to do that stuff. They will need community space more than SF homeowners. Have you looked at these projects? There is little space for people to do do art, practice an instrument, meet to sing in a choral group or take a dance class. These are activities people do at Cubberley. Demand for this space is about to increase. We should PLAN for that.


Gale Johnson
Registered user
Adobe-Meadow
on Aug 22, 2022 at 1:42 pm
Gale Johnson, Adobe-Meadow
Registered user
on Aug 22, 2022 at 1:42 pm

@Consider Your Options...thanks for doing the research. That deserves answers from the city manager, his staff, and CC. If you translate numbers of units into numbers of people and cars?? Wow! It's already a problem with traffic and it will get worse. And that parallel roadway, Charleston Road, just a few blocks away, has really got gummed up with the brainstorm design that is nearing completion. Using planter boxes as medians, taking away lanes, and creating squeeze points. If I remember correctly, the goal was to reduce the commute time from Foothill Expressway to Fabian Way by 3 minutes...so how did we do? The blame might not be held by any of the current managers/administrators or CC members, but it should be a lesson to the current and future ones to pay attention to. "Hark, ye candidates for CC". And I hope the staff gives us a 'before and after' report on how it worked out. I hope they also have 'before and after' data on the number of accidents on that roadway...cars, pedestrians, and cyclists. Allen Akin made a good point about multi-unit housing in Downtown North, but many of the people living there are much older than the people that are, and will be, living in the units on San Antonio Road, and certainly, the residents of Channing House got there because they could afford market rate housing. I have a hunch that the units Allen referred to are far away from the Hamilton Avenue and Crescent Park neighborhoods. I shouldn't complain, though. I, too, have a buffer zone between my 4/2 bungalow on Ross Road and the madness that's going on just a few blocks away on San Antonio Rd. I will be measuring every CC candidates' response to this question. If you want to serve you better get it right! I want to hear, loud and clear, what you propose to do for us folks down here in SPA. I know the Northenders will be covered.


Allen Akin
Registered user
Professorville
on Aug 22, 2022 at 2:33 pm
Allen Akin, Professorville
Registered user
on Aug 22, 2022 at 2:33 pm

I wanted to follow up on the question of affordability that Gale raised, but it took me a while to find the time to work through the numbers.*

What percentage of new housing should be "affordable", and what exactly should that mean? Well, suppose we just want to build enough to avoid gentrifying Santa Clara County. That is, we want to provide housing that rents for no more than 30% of income to new or returning residents having roughly the same income distribution as those who live here now.

For the "extremely low income" category (income of $43900/yr for household of 4) that works out to 16% of new units, and they have to rent for $1100/mo or less.

For the "very low income" category ($73150/yr) it's an additional 13% of units for $1800/mo or less.

For the "low income" category ($103900/yr; this is roughly the "80% of area median income" level you sometimes read about) it's an additional 11% of units for $2600/mo or less.

(For completeness, the "median income" category ($131400/yr) is an additional 9% of units for $3300/mo or less.)

So a good rule-of-thumb is that to prevent gentrification of the County overall, about 2 out of 10 new units would need to rent for $1100/mo, 1 out of 10 for $1800/mo, and 1 out of 10 for $2600/mo.


* These are from 2019, the most recent year I could find enough data to be meaningful. They're approximations, because I wasn't able to find all the details. The definitions for the income levels are at Web Link and the income distribution is at Web Link


Allen Akin
Registered user
Professorville
on Aug 22, 2022 at 2:52 pm
Allen Akin, Professorville
Registered user
on Aug 22, 2022 at 2:52 pm

"This planning is supposed to come first, not after you build the housing."

Absolutely right, but that's exactly what the State mandates are designed to discourage. (And prevent, in some cases.) This is going to be a problem everywhere, not just in SPA; the economics are simply making it happen there earlier.


I can't breathe pollution
Registered user
Greenmeadow
on Aug 22, 2022 at 3:16 pm
I can't breathe pollution, Greenmeadow
Registered user
on Aug 22, 2022 at 3:16 pm

I wonder if the "climate change activists" on the council remember that the biggest problem facing the climate is human overpopulation. I know for a fact that at least several of them are aware that building RAISES prices for rent and purchases.
Facts are so inconvenient to righteousness.


mjh
Registered user
College Terrace
on Aug 22, 2022 at 3:16 pm
mjh, College Terrace
Registered user
on Aug 22, 2022 at 3:16 pm

The city manager seems to have a hands off laiss’ez faire attitude toward taking responsibility for planning how the city is going to handle the additional infrastructure required to add up to 6,000 additional housing units in the next ten years or so, as demanded by the state.

Perhaps the council needs to appoint another blue ribbon panel to plan for the additional infrastructure and upgrades that will be required to support the proposed population growth. Similar to the blue ribbon that was appointed some years ago to get a handle on and prioritize the back log of long deferred and critical infrastructure repairs and upgrades.


Consider Your Options.
Registered user
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 22, 2022 at 5:33 pm
Consider Your Options. , Another Palo Alto neighborhood
Registered user
on Aug 22, 2022 at 5:33 pm

To Gale Johnson--On the subject of Charleston Road--It was not a goal of the project to improve travel times. It was a goal to maintain point-to-point auto travel times, which the project has done. I know because I live there and watch the clock when I drive it regularly. The project's purpose was to create Safe Routes to School for thousands of families who live south of Charleston/Arastradero. It has accomplished that. Crashes overall were significantly reduced despite a subsequent increase in overall trips after the project's initial phases were completed. I don't remember the specific numbers offhand any more. Crashes involving bikes and pedestrians were reduced more than 50%. That project was built as a mitigation for much larger scale development than we are seeing now, and it was a good investment. Auto speeds are more moderate, in the range you want on a residential street. It is demonstrably safer for everyone who drives, bikes or walks. I use that road every single day, and I'm glad the city did the project.

That said, Caltrain electrification is going to screw up all at-grade east/west routes in south Palo Alto, and we only have two east/west routes south of Oregon Expressway. North Palo Alto has FIVE existing grade separated crossings. They are in better shape, as they are with most things. South Palo Alto, are you paying attention? This is going to be a BIG problem. Both of our only two roads that cross the tracks are at grade with the tracks. Train crossings are the key cause of delays on this corridor today. When Caltrain increases the number of trains, those delays will increase a LOT. The city needs to escalate planning for grade separations (that is separating the roads and the tracks by raising or lowering one or the other to separate them).


Gale Johnson
Registered user
Adobe-Meadow
on Aug 22, 2022 at 6:02 pm
Gale Johnson, Adobe-Meadow
Registered user
on Aug 22, 2022 at 6:02 pm

Hallelujah, it’s so good to have an analyst like Allen on board. Listen up city manager, your staff, and CC. This is a real serious problem that has no easy solution. It’s time to go to work


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