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Hopeful and hopeless: City signs off on plan to add 6,000 residences

City Council advances draft Housing Element, paving the way for December submission to state

An Arbor Real home in Palo Alto on Nov. 13, 2020. Photo by Olivia Treynor.

More than two years in the making, Palo Alto's ambitious plan to add more than 6,000 housing units by 2031 is finally ready for prime time.

The City Council on Monday unanimously voted to submit the city's Housing Element to the Department of Housing and Community Development (HCD), the state agency charged with ensuring that cities meet their fair share of the region's housing demand. The 323-page document lists more than 290 local sites that can accommodate new housing, including dozens of industrial and commercial properties around San Antonio Road and U.S. Highway 101 that would be converted for residential use and accommodate about 2,000 housing units.

The document also includes 26 new housing programs, including ones calling for the development of housing on city-owned parking lots, reducing application costs for affordable-housing projects and expanding the city's "housing incentive program," which relaxes development standards for residential projects. The council's vote, which followed more than a dozen public hearings and community meetings, empowers staff to submit the plan to the HCD after the public comment period concludes on Dec. 7.

The Housing Element that the council approved on Monday night was characterized, by turns, as both a hopeful document and hopeless one. Council members, residents and housing advocates celebrated the document's potential to spur housing growth and the community's ability to identify enough sites to accommodate the city's mandate of 6,086 dwellings, as dictated by the Regional Housing Needs Assessment (RHNA).

"We all want to see Palo Alto succeed in its lofty and difficult goal to build more than 6,000 units in eight years," said local resident Amy Ashton, who is affiliated with the nonprofit Palo Alto Forward but who was representing her own views. "The draft is just a start of making Palo Alto a stronger, more equal, more sustainable community."

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Council member Greer Stone, a longtime critic of the housing allocation process, marveled at the fact that city staff and community volunteers were able to meet what at times seemed like an insurmountable challenge.

"When we started this activity of having to identify over 6,000 housing sites, I thought we'd have as much of a chance in identifying those sites as I did of getting Taylor Swift tickets — which was zero," Stone said. "But we found a way to be able to identify those housing sites. I think that's really incredible."

Stone and others acknowledged, however, that without a heavy infusion of state funding, Palo Alto is highly unlikely to meet its obligations for affordable housing, which include 1,556 dwellings for individuals in the "very low" income category and 896 for those in the "low" income category.

"As policymakers, we deal with the world as it is, not how we wish it were, and we simply do not have the money to construct the amount of affordable housing that the state is requiring," he said.

Palo Alto is one of just a handful of Peninsula cities that have yet to submit a draft Housing Element to the state. Most have sent in their drafts months ago and are now revising them based on HCD guidance. Among cities in Santa Clara County, only Palo Alto and Cupertino have yet to submit their Housing Elements, according to the HCD's online dashboard.

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While the Housing Element process has in the past been treated as largely an academic exercise with no serious consequences, a recent influx of state housing laws has raised the stakes for local jurisdictions. Cities that fail to meet their mandates now risk losing state grants or, in the most extreme scenario, their land-use powers. Some are also increasingly worried about "builder's remedy," a legally murky and heretofore obscure provision that is now spooking mayors and council members in cities across the state. The provision, which has been a part of the state's Housing Accountability Act since 1990, restricts the ability of cities that do not have a compliant Housing Element from denying residential projects that include affordable housing, even if these projects fail to meet local zoning regulations.

Just as the consequences have increased, the assignment of drafting a Housing Element has gotten harder than in the past. Palo Alto's housing mandate has more than tripled in the current cycle, which stretches from 2015 to 2022 and which required the city plan for 1,988 dwellings.

'As policymakers, we deal with the world as it is, not how we wish it were, and we simply do not have the money to construct the amount of affordable housing that the state is requiring.'

-Greer Stone, member, Palo Alto City Council

The HCD, which subjects each Housing Element to a 90-day review period, has also become increasingly strict. Menlo Park and Woodside, for example, submitted their initial Housing Element drafts in July and were told to make revisions. Atherton and Portola Valley followed suit in early August and met the same fate. All are now revising their plans after getting word from the HCD that their initial drafts failed to pass muster.

Other cities, including Redwood City and Mountain View, have already submitted their drafts, received letters from the Department of Housing of Community Development requesting changes and then resubmitted updated versions that are now undergoing review.

Palo Alto meanwhile, has continued to modify its draft element up until the final minute. On Monday, council members agreed to revise its policy for encouraging apartment buildings on city parking lots by specifying that these developments would have to either be affordable to individuals making up to 80% of area median income or able to accommodate city workers and teachers. While the council largely agreed that public land should only be used for affordable housing, council members Tom DuBois and Eric Filseth dissented in the 4-2 vote on a provision to include Palo Alto Unified School District employees in the new restriction (council member Alison Cormack recused because she derived income in the past year from an affiliate of Stanford University, which may see financial impacts from the council's housing plans.).

Council member Greg Tanaka had a broader concern about limiting housing construction on public lots to affordable housing and suggested that the restriction may discourage construction altogether.

"I think the idea of 100% affordable housing is very noble. It's like cherry pie and all the good stuff in life. ... The main challenge I have is you're expecting developers to lose money to build something," he said.

DuBois, who made the motion to advance the Housing Element and to include the affordability requirement for housing on public lots, underscored the challenge that the city is facing from a recent period of job growth among big tech companies, which will likely require higher taxes on these companies to build affordable housing. He also pointed to inflation and high mortgage rates as challenges that the city would have to overcome to meet the state's housing goals.

"It seems like the state is not going to ease up on these goals, even though the construction industry may not be constructing," DuBois said.

A corporate sign at PARC's headquarters in Palo Alto on Oct. 30, 2022. Photo by Emily Maragartten.

Another new policy, which was championed by Mayor Pat Burt and supported by most of his colleagues was evaluating Stanford Research Park as a possible place for new housing. Burt noted that many sites in the sprawling network of corporate campuses already allow residential development with a conditional use permit. He proposed removing the permit requirement so that housing is allowed by right. The suggestion was part of a broader motion that advanced by a 5-1 vote, with Tanaka as the sole dissenter.

Over the course long discussion, council members did not mask their contempt for the state's housing policies. Vice Mayor Lydia Kou maintained that the state's methodology for determining housing allocations is flawed, Stone accused the state of being stingy when it comes to supporting affordable housing and Burt argued that the RHNA process places too much emphasis on the number of units that cities must produce and not enough on the types of housing being developed. The upshot, he said, is that cities are primarily focusing on building studios and one-bedroom homes to meet their housing targets.

"The way that the allocations are set up are incentivizing anti-family housing," Burt said. "What we should instead be doing is some formula that is bedroom-based and have some balance of types of housing units that are being mandated. Right now, we're all being incentivized to build massive numbers of studio apartments. I think that's destructive to the social and economic diversity that we all value."

Members of the Planning and Transportation Commission, which scrutinized the Housing Element over a series of meetings earlier this year, stressed that the goal was to balance the city's needs with the regional mandate. Commission Chair Ed Lauing, who has also served on the Housing Element Working Group and who was elected to the council earlier this month, said that the focus of both groups has been to accommodate "the real needs for Palo Alto," which includes housing for seniors and larger homes for families.

"We feel the comprehensiveness of the review by both of the bodies I've been on really added a lot of integrity to the priorities here and I feel pretty good about that," Lauing said. "I hope also the state feels good that we are compelling in terms of the way we present this."

Other commissioners emphasized that the planning work is just beginning. Several noted that the city's plan to build thousands of housing units around San Antonio Road and Fabian Way will require significant investments in transportation improvements, retail, parks and other amenities.

"We have a wonderful community here. Great parks, great bike paths. We just don't want to warehouse these people," said Keith Reckdahl, a member of the planning commission who had served on the Housing Element Working Group. "We're entering them into the community, we want them to have same type of amenities that we have. That takes planning. Making a park is easier said than done."

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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 >>

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

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Hopeful and hopeless: City signs off on plan to add 6,000 residences

City Council advances draft Housing Element, paving the way for December submission to state

by / Palo Alto Weekly

Uploaded: Tue, Nov 29, 2022, 12:31 am

More than two years in the making, Palo Alto's ambitious plan to add more than 6,000 housing units by 2031 is finally ready for prime time.

The City Council on Monday unanimously voted to submit the city's Housing Element to the Department of Housing and Community Development (HCD), the state agency charged with ensuring that cities meet their fair share of the region's housing demand. The 323-page document lists more than 290 local sites that can accommodate new housing, including dozens of industrial and commercial properties around San Antonio Road and U.S. Highway 101 that would be converted for residential use and accommodate about 2,000 housing units.

The document also includes 26 new housing programs, including ones calling for the development of housing on city-owned parking lots, reducing application costs for affordable-housing projects and expanding the city's "housing incentive program," which relaxes development standards for residential projects. The council's vote, which followed more than a dozen public hearings and community meetings, empowers staff to submit the plan to the HCD after the public comment period concludes on Dec. 7.

The Housing Element that the council approved on Monday night was characterized, by turns, as both a hopeful document and hopeless one. Council members, residents and housing advocates celebrated the document's potential to spur housing growth and the community's ability to identify enough sites to accommodate the city's mandate of 6,086 dwellings, as dictated by the Regional Housing Needs Assessment (RHNA).

"We all want to see Palo Alto succeed in its lofty and difficult goal to build more than 6,000 units in eight years," said local resident Amy Ashton, who is affiliated with the nonprofit Palo Alto Forward but who was representing her own views. "The draft is just a start of making Palo Alto a stronger, more equal, more sustainable community."

Council member Greer Stone, a longtime critic of the housing allocation process, marveled at the fact that city staff and community volunteers were able to meet what at times seemed like an insurmountable challenge.

"When we started this activity of having to identify over 6,000 housing sites, I thought we'd have as much of a chance in identifying those sites as I did of getting Taylor Swift tickets — which was zero," Stone said. "But we found a way to be able to identify those housing sites. I think that's really incredible."

Stone and others acknowledged, however, that without a heavy infusion of state funding, Palo Alto is highly unlikely to meet its obligations for affordable housing, which include 1,556 dwellings for individuals in the "very low" income category and 896 for those in the "low" income category.

"As policymakers, we deal with the world as it is, not how we wish it were, and we simply do not have the money to construct the amount of affordable housing that the state is requiring," he said.

Palo Alto is one of just a handful of Peninsula cities that have yet to submit a draft Housing Element to the state. Most have sent in their drafts months ago and are now revising them based on HCD guidance. Among cities in Santa Clara County, only Palo Alto and Cupertino have yet to submit their Housing Elements, according to the HCD's online dashboard.

While the Housing Element process has in the past been treated as largely an academic exercise with no serious consequences, a recent influx of state housing laws has raised the stakes for local jurisdictions. Cities that fail to meet their mandates now risk losing state grants or, in the most extreme scenario, their land-use powers. Some are also increasingly worried about "builder's remedy," a legally murky and heretofore obscure provision that is now spooking mayors and council members in cities across the state. The provision, which has been a part of the state's Housing Accountability Act since 1990, restricts the ability of cities that do not have a compliant Housing Element from denying residential projects that include affordable housing, even if these projects fail to meet local zoning regulations.

Just as the consequences have increased, the assignment of drafting a Housing Element has gotten harder than in the past. Palo Alto's housing mandate has more than tripled in the current cycle, which stretches from 2015 to 2022 and which required the city plan for 1,988 dwellings.

The HCD, which subjects each Housing Element to a 90-day review period, has also become increasingly strict. Menlo Park and Woodside, for example, submitted their initial Housing Element drafts in July and were told to make revisions. Atherton and Portola Valley followed suit in early August and met the same fate. All are now revising their plans after getting word from the HCD that their initial drafts failed to pass muster.

Other cities, including Redwood City and Mountain View, have already submitted their drafts, received letters from the Department of Housing of Community Development requesting changes and then resubmitted updated versions that are now undergoing review.

Palo Alto meanwhile, has continued to modify its draft element up until the final minute. On Monday, council members agreed to revise its policy for encouraging apartment buildings on city parking lots by specifying that these developments would have to either be affordable to individuals making up to 80% of area median income or able to accommodate city workers and teachers. While the council largely agreed that public land should only be used for affordable housing, council members Tom DuBois and Eric Filseth dissented in the 4-2 vote on a provision to include Palo Alto Unified School District employees in the new restriction (council member Alison Cormack recused because she derived income in the past year from an affiliate of Stanford University, which may see financial impacts from the council's housing plans.).

Council member Greg Tanaka had a broader concern about limiting housing construction on public lots to affordable housing and suggested that the restriction may discourage construction altogether.

"I think the idea of 100% affordable housing is very noble. It's like cherry pie and all the good stuff in life. ... The main challenge I have is you're expecting developers to lose money to build something," he said.

DuBois, who made the motion to advance the Housing Element and to include the affordability requirement for housing on public lots, underscored the challenge that the city is facing from a recent period of job growth among big tech companies, which will likely require higher taxes on these companies to build affordable housing. He also pointed to inflation and high mortgage rates as challenges that the city would have to overcome to meet the state's housing goals.

"It seems like the state is not going to ease up on these goals, even though the construction industry may not be constructing," DuBois said.

Another new policy, which was championed by Mayor Pat Burt and supported by most of his colleagues was evaluating Stanford Research Park as a possible place for new housing. Burt noted that many sites in the sprawling network of corporate campuses already allow residential development with a conditional use permit. He proposed removing the permit requirement so that housing is allowed by right. The suggestion was part of a broader motion that advanced by a 5-1 vote, with Tanaka as the sole dissenter.

Over the course long discussion, council members did not mask their contempt for the state's housing policies. Vice Mayor Lydia Kou maintained that the state's methodology for determining housing allocations is flawed, Stone accused the state of being stingy when it comes to supporting affordable housing and Burt argued that the RHNA process places too much emphasis on the number of units that cities must produce and not enough on the types of housing being developed. The upshot, he said, is that cities are primarily focusing on building studios and one-bedroom homes to meet their housing targets.

"The way that the allocations are set up are incentivizing anti-family housing," Burt said. "What we should instead be doing is some formula that is bedroom-based and have some balance of types of housing units that are being mandated. Right now, we're all being incentivized to build massive numbers of studio apartments. I think that's destructive to the social and economic diversity that we all value."

Members of the Planning and Transportation Commission, which scrutinized the Housing Element over a series of meetings earlier this year, stressed that the goal was to balance the city's needs with the regional mandate. Commission Chair Ed Lauing, who has also served on the Housing Element Working Group and who was elected to the council earlier this month, said that the focus of both groups has been to accommodate "the real needs for Palo Alto," which includes housing for seniors and larger homes for families.

"We feel the comprehensiveness of the review by both of the bodies I've been on really added a lot of integrity to the priorities here and I feel pretty good about that," Lauing said. "I hope also the state feels good that we are compelling in terms of the way we present this."

Other commissioners emphasized that the planning work is just beginning. Several noted that the city's plan to build thousands of housing units around San Antonio Road and Fabian Way will require significant investments in transportation improvements, retail, parks and other amenities.

"We have a wonderful community here. Great parks, great bike paths. We just don't want to warehouse these people," said Keith Reckdahl, a member of the planning commission who had served on the Housing Element Working Group. "We're entering them into the community, we want them to have same type of amenities that we have. That takes planning. Making a park is easier said than done."

Comments

Citizen
Registered user
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 29, 2022 at 3:20 am
Citizen, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
Registered user
on Nov 29, 2022 at 3:20 am

It’s about time there was more investment in equal amenities on the south side of town. Per square foot average taxation numbers are not that different across town, because of greater turnover and density in the south. But amenities are grossly unequal.

I think we should sue the state and make them pay for an unfunded mandate. Isn’t that the law? I am also very concerned that this is development first, safety last. There should be way more infrastructure and safety holistically worked into these plans.

I think we are overdue for having a summit in which we hash out how to retain economic diversity here. A smattering of low income apartments here and there is not enough. (Why isn’t Atherton being asked to subdivide those gigantic estates? They are part of the region.)

And we need to address the issue of teachers and city workers, too. Look, Stanford has solved this by owning the land and regulating who can live there. Is there any way for municipalities to do this given all the new restrictions? Palo Alto can do something similar. We wouldn’t have schools or city buildings if we had to rent the real estate. We have to start thinking that way when it comes to housing diversity, resident-serving retail and city employee and teacher housing.

I know people hate this, but we need a much deeper soul searching about what the future looks like and how to keep Palo Alto a vibrant community rather than a dense office park that people will leave suddenly like they did Mountain View during the pandemic. There are too many myths about Palo Alto ever having been affordable in over 40 years. It’s not going to get better by this laissez faire attitude about building from the state coupled with a smattering of “lottery” spots for a lucky few.

I appreciate the intelligent comments from our Councilmembers.


Jerry
Registered user
Duveneck/St. Francis
on Nov 29, 2022 at 9:03 am
Jerry, Duveneck/St. Francis
Registered user
on Nov 29, 2022 at 9:03 am

Does anyone have know what revisions the State asked Menlo Park and Woodside to make to their housing elements? If the revisions were along the lines of "sorry, you need more units", then that does not bode well for Palo Alto.


Online Name
Registered user
Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Nov 29, 2022 at 9:08 am
Online Name, Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
Registered user
on Nov 29, 2022 at 9:08 am

Speaking of Stanford, how outrageous that our "leaders" have yet again exempted Stanford from providing any new housing for the community while it keeps taking away housing FROM the PA community as with its recent takeover of the 795-unit Oak Creek apartments on Sand Hill Rd and countless College Terrace homes.

We're supposed to ignore that Stanford University and Stanford Medical keep growing dramatically with the last reported population of close to 50,000 while PA has a reported population of 66,000. And we're supposed to believe them that Stanford's constant growth hasn't added any "net new car trips" while we contemplate the vast emptiness of Stanford Research Park.

I hope our new 2 city council members will recuse themselves from Stanford-decisions like Ms, Cormack did this time, breaking her consistent pro-development record.


Bystander
Registered user
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 29, 2022 at 9:42 am
Bystander, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
Registered user
on Nov 29, 2022 at 9:42 am

California population is declining. Many high tech companies have left or are leaving the state. People are working from home and on the days when they have to go into the office, they are willing to have a longer commute so that their home can be where they want to live rather than have to live. Many of our office areas are empty with for lease signs.

I think we could end up with housing that nobody will use.


Consider Your Options.
Registered user
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 29, 2022 at 11:51 am
Consider Your Options. , Another Palo Alto neighborhood
Registered user
on Nov 29, 2022 at 11:51 am

When citizens begin to understand how this poorly written housing legislation affects property rights, advantaging corporations over needs of the unhoused and individual (especially middle class) homeowners and stripping "non-compliant" cities of their ability to issue permits for a wide array of things, including simple remodels, the backlash will be enormous.

The city is being forced to plan for thousands of new units. The arbitrary assignment of housing development targets city by city is astonishing. No one knows where the money will come from to build the prescribed units...or to support those new units with schools, public utilities, transportation, community services. These are unfunded mandates. State legislators have opted to treat their constituents and our cities like errant children, wielding heavy sticks at us and offering carrots to their developer funders.

They did this in misguided knee jerk reaction to zealous housing advocates who really do not deeply understand land use policy and comprehensive planning. We need to start paying attention to the details of legislation that is coming out of Sacramento again. READ the legislation. Our electeds are doing very poor work on our behalf. Citizen inattention is about to impact all of us. Vote for people who create and vote for thoughtful legislation. Media, a supplemental article summarizing the housing legislation that is driving this would be useful.

Building more housing is important. There is a need, and I support that goal. However, the legislation that was created to accomplish the goal is so poorly written--a blunt instrument--that it will do more harm than good, creating new sets of problems for people who can afford harm least. Residents of cities like Atherton will be just fine insulated on their grand estates.


resident3
Registered user
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 29, 2022 at 11:52 am
resident3, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
Registered user
on Nov 29, 2022 at 11:52 am

"The way that the allocations are set up are incentivizing anti-family housing,"

My 2 cents - the war to reduce or eliminate parking for residential buildings is even more anti-family than the mandates. Anti -young family.


Anonymous
Registered user
Fairmeadow
on Nov 29, 2022 at 12:15 pm
Anonymous, Fairmeadow
Registered user
on Nov 29, 2022 at 12:15 pm

I really enjoy the howls from the NIMBYs. The tide is turning.


Jennifer
Registered user
another community
on Nov 29, 2022 at 12:41 pm
Jennifer, another community
Registered user
on Nov 29, 2022 at 12:41 pm

"Most have sent in their drafts months ago." Send the draft. If other cities have done it, how hard can it be? As usual, what's the delay?


Andy
Registered user
Stanford
on Nov 29, 2022 at 1:20 pm
Andy, Stanford
Registered user
on Nov 29, 2022 at 1:20 pm

Re: Palo Alto's "ambitious" plan to add more than 6,000 housing units by 2031...

...that is ambitious??? sorry, but ambitious would more accurate if they were adding 60,000 housing units by 2025 (and yes, there's more than enough room by ending height restrictions to build even more).

We need to stop having such low expectations and start demanding actually BOLD solutions.


Andy
Registered user
Stanford
on Nov 29, 2022 at 1:25 pm
Andy, Stanford
Registered user
on Nov 29, 2022 at 1:25 pm

"I think we could end up with housing that nobody will use."

Respectfully, you could add 100,000 housing units tomorrow and it will be 100% occupied.

We might have excess old and low quality OFFICE and RETAIL space that nobody will use in the future, but those are excellent opportunities for redevelopment into MIXED use with housing, underground or enclosed parking and TALL structures.

Palo Alto and EVERY community should aggressively increase housing supply or the only people who will be left living will be stuck with the very large taxes and fees to pay local and state gov.


Consider Your Options.
Registered user
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 29, 2022 at 3:00 pm
Consider Your Options. , Another Palo Alto neighborhood
Registered user
on Nov 29, 2022 at 3:00 pm

Andy, those "excess, old, low quality" properties are mostly privately owned. Their owners may not assess their usefulness in the same way you do. Developers would have to be willing to invest in housing redevelopment on these sites (some of which are contaminated and will require environmental mitigation), and they would have to want to manage housing--very different from managing office space and other uses. Different property holders have different expertise in property management. None of this is as simple as you naively make it. Rezoning does not create a housing production miracle, as we have seen in other locations where the previous City Council rezoned in just the way you suggest. The land owners hold most of the cards, not the Council, but the new housing laws naively assume local leaders can somehow pull a land use rabbit out of a hat when they actually have little power to do so. Magical thinking does not make good law. Worse, when cities cannot perform magic, their citizens will be punished as their local government's ability to issue permits is revoked by the state. That is what this very bad law prescribes.


resident3
Registered user
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 29, 2022 at 5:54 pm
resident3, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
Registered user
on Nov 29, 2022 at 5:54 pm

@Anonymous,

“I really enjoy the howls from the NIMBYs. The tide is turning.”

The tide of cars is not turning in our one-car-per-person world without any mass transportation. It’s cold outside, how many young families do you see walking to/from Caltrain or buses? How many bikers supporting local businesses?

Funny how booh-parking is such a hot topic. Whatever politics or building costs are associated with parking, in normal language it’s as basic as a kitchen. This is not NYC where you can live without parking.


Allen Akin
Registered user
Professorville
on Nov 29, 2022 at 6:04 pm
Allen Akin, Professorville
Registered user
on Nov 29, 2022 at 6:04 pm

"The tide is turning"

Yep; it seems to be going out. From the report on the cost of residential development in San José: "Unlike previous reports that showed projects were feasible in certain areas of the City, the results from the 2022 report show that development is extremely challenged in all areas of the City. No scenarios assessed in the report were shown to be feasible."

Web Link


Rose
Registered user
Mayfield
on Nov 29, 2022 at 6:29 pm
Rose, Mayfield
Registered user
on Nov 29, 2022 at 6:29 pm

I was recently in Mexico where I happened to see a bust of Mahatma Gandhi in a small park in a smallish town. It make me think about the cannery building in Ventura Park. We should put housing where that cannery is. It's an ugly building with no architectural value. We'd be much better off to put a bust or a statue of the Chinese gentleman who built that fish cannery in an attractive place (like the statue of Nikola Tesla close to the county courthouse) and use that wonderfully located land for housing.


tmp
Registered user
Downtown North
on Nov 29, 2022 at 6:54 pm
tmp, Downtown North
Registered user
on Nov 29, 2022 at 6:54 pm

What needs to happen as soon as possible is for a state wide referendum to be put on the ballot to return zoning and building decisions to local government and not Sacramento. Sacramento has proven with their give-away laws that support developers of market rate housing in high rent areas that they are in the pockets of these developers. They offer no money for the infrastructure to support these massive developments and pretend that the developers will somehow build housing for the unhoused. What a joke! Developers build to make a profit which is why they can't wait to get into Palo Alto and build market rate housing.

We need to overturn the recent give-away laws out of Sacramento, return zoning laws to our community and stop destroying our city. This housing element package was done as a hold-your-nose document to get something into the state to keep the jackals at bay. I hope the state's economy crashes, the tech companies all move to Texas and take the population with them. We would have cleaner air, streets you could drive and park on, better quality of life since people could once again afford to live in the area if all the rich tech moved out. We would have better service at stores and could find plumbers and electricians since middle class people might be able to live in the area again.

Go to Livable California and sign up to support returning zoning to local communities!


Bystander
Registered user
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 29, 2022 at 7:27 pm
Bystander, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
Registered user
on Nov 29, 2022 at 7:27 pm

To anyone and everyone who voted Gavin useless Newsom as governor, you hold the blame.


mjh
Registered user
College Terrace
on Nov 29, 2022 at 11:56 pm
mjh, College Terrace
Registered user
on Nov 29, 2022 at 11:56 pm

Particularly impressive given that during the previous meeting of the Planning Commission and in response to a direct question as to why a particular property was not on the inventory of sites identified for possible future housing development, Mr. Lait had to admit he had personally removed the property in question from the inventory at the request of the property owner.

On further questioning, Mr. Lait further admitted he had decided to privately approach some of the commercial property owners on the preliminary inventory to ask them if they would like him to remove their properties from consideration.

However, there was no follow up question as to exactly how many sites Mr. Lait quietly removed from the preliminary inventory at the behest of the commercial property owners following these private conversations.


fred
Registered user
University South
on Nov 30, 2022 at 12:45 am
fred, University South
Registered user
on Nov 30, 2022 at 12:45 am

tmp,

The laws that you are upset with were passed by legislators elected by citizens across the state.
What makes you think that a group of NIMBYs could convince enough people to vote to repeal these laws? The legislators are not dumb. They know what their constituents support.
Palo Alto homeowners do not represent the majority of California's population.


Online Name
Registered user
Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Nov 30, 2022 at 1:04 pm
Online Name, Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
Registered user
on Nov 30, 2022 at 1:04 pm

Fred, ironically I just got an email from MTC with a survey on how they should spend their "hundreds of milliond of dollars" and I don't recall electing MTC members any more than I remember electing ABAG board members.

Also in my email today was a report on Redwood City's development plans to meet their housing target of 4,558 which is a lot lower than our 6,086 so I looked uo RWC's population: it's 81,040 as if 2921 vs {PA's 66,000.

The sane "leaders: have made it illegal to challenge housing targets based on ANYTHING, including declining jobs numbers, remote workers, risks of fire and drought and simply inaccurate housing targets computation like the fact that RWC has a lower target than PA's.






Grew Up Here
Registered user
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 5, 2023 at 2:25 am
Grew Up Here, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
Registered user
on Feb 5, 2023 at 2:25 am

Ugh, 12,000 more cars to clog our roads. We already have commuters using OrEx and Embarcadero Road as cut-through streets.


Annette
Registered user
College Terrace
on Feb 5, 2023 at 6:37 am
Annette, College Terrace
Registered user
on Feb 5, 2023 at 6:37 am

The post by MJH is concerning. Does Lait have the latitude to add/delete properties from the inventory of sites identified for development, or did he simply assume that authority? This requires an answer from the City Manager and/or City Council. If Lait circumvented the process and did as he pleases in order to favor a property owner (which would not be in the least bit surprising) everything he did should be reviewed again b/c there should be some sort of check and balance on this.

And now that CC is no longer subject to Covid restrictions, shouldn't Lait (and the city attorney who is rumored to live and work from Seattle) be attending meetings in person? In-person attendance by senior staff and Council members makes a difference to the dynamic of a meeting. And a person working out of another state is not likely to really care much about the impact of City decisions on Palo Alto residents and businesses.


MyFeelz
Registered user
another community
on Feb 5, 2023 at 7:03 pm
MyFeelz, another community
Registered user
on Feb 5, 2023 at 7:03 pm

@Citizen, I'm sure you're following the MFD proposal that is in the line of sight of Steph Curry's house. The problem is the property owner wants to do it and none of the neighbors want them to. Atherton has no open space waiting to be developed; what an owner might want to do is now being challenged. But, just on the QT, Atherton does have some rentals. They just don't advertise them on Craigslist. The state has no basis upon which to subdivide a property that is wholly owned by someone. What if HCD knocked on your door with a legal notice saying the state is taking half of your property under eminent domain for development of affordable housing? Not in Atherton, and not anywhere else. In order to quiet down HCD's battle cry, "BUILD OR WE WILL FORCE YOU TO" we need to be mindful that their clout comes from the state legislature. A person needs to keep an eye on legislative sessions where these issues are engraved in stone, and object BEFORE the chiseling starts.


Resident 1-Adobe Meadows
Registered user
Adobe-Meadow
on Feb 6, 2023 at 12:37 pm
Resident 1-Adobe Meadows, Adobe-Meadow
Registered user
on Feb 6, 2023 at 12:37 pm

The problem of housing is a total US concern. My brother lived in Lake Oswego, Oregon that had a large property behind the back fence. That owner died and the end result was that the new owners built two-story homes directly to the fence line. In the front of the house on a cul-de-sac next to a creek the city built a bridge over the creek so people on bikes could have a good trail to ride on. THat street became a bike heaven. Then they moved to a suburb in Baltimore to a house that had a giant estate lot beind it with two horses. Again - the owners dies and the large estate home was broken up and they now have large two-story homes behind to the fence line. In their time in Pittsburgh, PA large estates there were being broken down creating suburbs for the next generation.

We are at a time when the Boomers are moving on and their large holdings are being broken down by the next generation that does not have the money to support the large holdings. The City of Atherton is going to see more of this type of actvitiy because the large property homeowners who leave will be cashing out. You can see that in the Real Estate notifications in the WSJ section Mansions - all over the US the real estate market is cashing in.


Online Name
Registered user
Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Feb 6, 2023 at 2:58 pm
Online Name, Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
Registered user
on Feb 6, 2023 at 2:58 pm

@Annette asks some key questions above. Let's hope we get some answers soon.


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