Referendum petition submitted in Palo Alto | July 19, 2013 | Palo Alto Weekly | Palo Alto Online |

Palo Alto Weekly

News - July 19, 2013

Referendum petition submitted in Palo Alto

Citizens seek to overturn City Council's approval of housing development on Maybell Avenue

The signatures are in, and Palo Alto may be heading for a November election.

If the Santa Clara County Registrar of Voters confirms the petition signatures collected by Palo Alto citizens, voters will have a chance this fall to overturn a June 17 decision by the City Council to revise the city's Comprehensive Plan to accommodate a housing development on Maybell and Clemo avenues.

The controversial development, proposed by the Palo Alto Housing Corporation, includes a 60-unit housing complex for seniors and 12 single-family homes (see story, at left).

To reverse the council's approval, residents have been working to qualify two referendums for the November ballot: one that would specifically overturn the council's approval of the project and another one that would reverse the change to the Comprehensive Plan.

Citizens had to get 2,298 signatures for each petition to qualify it for the ballot. The one for the Comprehensive Plan was due Wednesday, and petitioners submitted the signatures to the Office of the City Clerk at about 5 p.m., according to Assistant City Clerk Beth Minor.

Though the signatures are yet to be verified by the county registrar, the number well exceeds the required amount. City Clerk Donna Grider accepted the sheets of signatures and returned a receipt showing 3,431 signatures had been collected. Bob Moss, a Barron Park resident who is part of the campaign, said the effort has received support from all parts of Palo Alto, with people "concerned about the scale of developments going in and the traffic impacts on city services."

"We were delighted and impressed with how many people are angry about overdevelopment in Palo Alto," Moss said.

The registrar's office has 15 days to verify the signatures.

Because the council formally approved the specific Maybell project plan on June 28 (after what's known as a "second reading") and residents have 30 days to gather signatures for a referendum, the petition for that decision isn't due until later this month.

The city's last referendum took place in 2003, when voters unsuccessfully challenged a development at 800 High St.

— Gennady Sheyner


Posted by Grace, a resident of Greenmeadow
on Jul 17, 2013 at 8:13 pm

Great work neighborhood residents. I was away and did not have a chance to sign the petition that was due today, which I understand you had only 12 or 13 days to circulate. I was worried that wouldn't be enough time but I'm glad you were able to get so many signatures so quickly.

Looking forward to sending a message to the city council that they cannot ignore residents' voices and upzone our neighborhoods with no regard to safety, character, and livability. The Miki's disaster on Alma and the "gateway building" with no parking spaces are a testament to our current council's way of doing things. Now the emboldened developers have 27 university, El Camino by Fry's, and several other locations in their sites. Most of this future planned upzoning is awful, with Maybell being the worst because it's on an overcrowded schoolchildrens' bicycle route. This is our chance that I've been waiting for and I thank you for your hard work in getting this on the ballot.

Posted by GreenAcres, a resident of Green Acres
on Jul 17, 2013 at 9:14 pm

City Clerk' office acknowledge receipt of 152 Referendum Petition Packets with approx 3,431 signatures for Resolution #9348 this afternoon.

Posted by Resident, a resident of Green Acres
on Jul 17, 2013 at 9:35 pm

Thank you to all the wonderful leaders in our community. You were at libraries, dog park, and homes getting the signatures. Many thanks for your endless hours of work. Many of you have families etc and you still put so many hours of hard work.

Thank you for your leadership.

Posted by great news, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 17, 2013 at 9:44 pm

These residents deserve our gratitude for their hard work in
following through so we can break the status quo - change the
way things are done here before our City is completely ruined.

Posted by Resident, a resident of Downtown North
on Jul 17, 2013 at 10:20 pm

Way to go Maybell!

I believe that spot has 4 residences on it now. The Staff, Council and PAHC think it's a good idea to put 72 on it instead. Such a good idea they blew $5M of City money on it, without bothering with the annoyance of asking if it made sense for residents (ie voters).

This is a problem much bigger than Maybell and Barron Park. Palo Alto residents live here, and this Council and staff live on some other planet. Time for City Hall to come back to Earth.

Posted by great news, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 17, 2013 at 10:31 pm

You are so right - let Maybell be the straw, or actually the brick, that broke the camel's back. Enough is enough.

Posted by Ben, a resident of Crescent Park
on Jul 17, 2013 at 11:32 pm

PAHD and City Council have no one to blame but themselves for this costly referendum. The phony hearings and speed with which this project was approved reeked of a predetermined outcome from the start.

I have no idea what will ultimately be built on the spot, but one thing is for sure, the city would be well advised to learn from their blunder here and treat neighborhoods with some respect.

No, I do not live in Barron Park.

Posted by Grace, a resident of Greenmeadow
on Jul 17, 2013 at 11:47 pm


Those are excellent numbers. It says something about how valid your cause is when you get 1000 more signatures than needed in less than 1/2 the 30 days you are supposed to have to get signatures.

Thanks again, Maybell community.

Posted by resident who can read, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 17, 2013 at 11:53 pm

Triumph of the uninformed! Petition circulators claim that this petition was to halt "upzoning". Wrong! In fact, the amendment to the Comp Plan that they want to overturn in a referendum changed the existing multi-family zoning to R-1 zoning on part of the 2+ acre site. This was needed because the housing to be built on the Maybell frontage was R-1, and that's not consistent with the existing zoning.

So instead of a blow against "upzoning", we have the frantic collection of signatures on the Council's action to create R-1 zoning where it did not previously exist.

And the rest of the site has always been zoned R-15.
And the drawings on their website misrepresent the project as approved -- none of the homes along Maybell would be 3 stories high.
The errors and misrepresentations of these folks pretending that they are not opposed to affordable senior housing go on and on. Of course, instead of checking the facts, they will keep on with their unwarranted personal attacks on anyone who disagrees with them. What a civic embarrassment.

Posted by Grace, a resident of Greenmeadow
on Jul 18, 2013 at 12:07 am

To the poster above: Your self-righteous indignation is misplaced: the city played dirty pool sneaking this change into the general plan, knowing that it could be used to challenge a referendum. The neighbors found a good lawyer and the city got caught in time. You are trying to forgive on an imagined technicality a dirty political maneuver by the city government.

"And the drawings on their website misrepresent the project as approved -- none of the homes along Maybell would be 3 stories high."

What is so funny here is that the drawings on the website that you're so upset about were provided by PAHC. Notice that the three story houses are magically about 15-20 feet high in rendered scale, and spaced much further than the actual spacing in the project plans. The city never bothered calling PAHC out on their misrepresentation, despite ample damning evidence, and so you're complaining about PAHC's own distorted drawings. You should leave it alone: correctly scaled drawings would make the true scale and uncompatibility of the project even more apparent.

I'm glad I'm back in town to help: I will sign the remaining referendum ASAP!

Posted by Power Politics, a resident of Greater Miranda
on Jul 18, 2013 at 12:49 am

My heartfelt thanks to those putting in the time and hard work to help keep Palo Alto livable!

Residents of Palo Alto have no one to blame but themselves! We keep electing Council Members who are pro-growth. The majority of Council represents the developers best interest.

This referendum may change the outcome of this one project, but real change won't happen until the majority of Council represents more than just a few powerful interests.

Posted by A neighbor, a resident of Green Acres
on Jul 18, 2013 at 1:58 am

I wonder how much more evidence it will take for city council to wake up up to how Pi$$ed off they've made people about overdevelopment, esp this rezoning. Do you think any of them get that they are committing political suicide and that we talk to each other? I don't think I will ever forgive Greg Scharff for this.

You know what's even more tragic, if true. I heard that PAHC pushed for rezoning vote before their July 3 grant application deadline, but the funding application requires them to have any zoning in place by the application deadline. I heard that technically, the rezoning itself doesn't go into effect by statute until 30 days after the 2nd reading, because citizens have a right to referend. It doesn't matter whether they do or not, the rezoning isn't official until 30 days later, or in this case, end of July. At least that's what I was told by someone far more knowledgeable.

So if the City provided the requisite evidence that the zoning was in place when PAHC applied, they lied (and knew better) - it means the City put PAHC at risk of negative points now and in the future for misrepresenting something important on their application. In addition to the fact that they really shouldn't have applied in ths funding round because they don't have the rezone in place as of the date of the application deadline, the vote wasn't enough. The City has really been using PAHC, too, in this, somehow. I heard the City told them to go after ths property, and even to try to rezone for denser than they originally wanted. Then they provided millions, really pushed the loan situation, and even amended the general plan (since the new zoning otherwise violates virtually every applicable land use provision). What gives? Other than that they deperately want to pawn off the affordable housing that was supposed fo be built downtown onto the Maybell neighbors, beore citizens figure it out and make them put the housing back (in a much better location for seniors).

Posted by Mr.Recycle, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jul 18, 2013 at 2:17 am

Nice work, but how about a referendum to affect long term permanent changes to how the planning commission works?

Posted by nullify many names, a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Jul 18, 2013 at 5:09 am

I hope the Department of Elections to check very well and eliminate all that people who sign but do not live in Palo Alto; also people not eligible to vote will have their names erased from the list, and all the minors, and the final check with the DMV.
I hope they fell. we need house for the elderly.

Posted by action needed, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 18, 2013 at 7:22 am

@Mr. Recycle
Yes. What we need in Palo Alto is a design review function outsourced
to a recognized design professional who would have no ties to the developers/staff to exercise an independent review based on scale, compatibity, aesthetics.This would cover all projects, building, public works and street scapescapes- everything which has an impact on the visual environment.Nothing gets done without being signed off
by this design review person in an overview function. A citizen committee would hire this person. This would be established as a ballot initiative. A Cheesecake Factory on University Ave for example would not happen. You can plug in your own examples- there is a long list. Essentially, boundaries would be established to
protect the character and aesthetic values of the City.

Posted by Joe, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 18, 2013 at 8:44 am

> Triumph of the uninformed!

Maybe. But as someone who claims he (or she) can "read"--then you'll already know that getting these petitions sighed is just the first step in overturning the City Council's vision of turning (mostly) residential Palo Alto into something that resembles Manhattan.

This "movement" is just the tip of the iceberg. There is the ABAG/One Bay Area Plan, the Arrillaga Project, the unwillingness to force developers to provide adequate parking for downtown business-oriented development. That's just this year's list of problems. Next year, the list will be longer.

This Council clearly does not represent the bulk of the residential home/property owners. So, these folks are using the political system, in a legal way, to slow down the process, by offering the voters the opportunity to nullify these two actions by the Council.

There will be two-three months to discuss this project in public. If the Anti-Maybell people make claims that are false, then you will have ample time to demonstrate their errors.

There will be more sunlight on this project than most. Sunlight is a good thing, wouldn't you agree?

Posted by Frank, a resident of College Terrace
on Jul 18, 2013 at 8:46 am

This referendum effort will effect little but to endanger pahc's well planned senior project. This is not the act of revolutionaries but of counter revolutionaries with little vision as to how to create real change. You may or may not stop this one project but nothing beyond it. If you had wanted to do that you would have lived with this project but challenged PC zoning. That would have been huge in its impact on big development in palo alto. But that would have taken knowledge and foresight, sadly lacking here in this effort targeting one affordable housing project by a non-profit. It is private for profit commercial and office developers that are the real problem in town producing the traffic etc you abhor. So whatever the outcome of your referendums, it will change little in Palo Alto. A wasted opportunity that will only hurt poor people.

Posted by Kate, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jul 18, 2013 at 9:05 am

Every inch of Palo Alto is at risk for overbuilding by our zealous city officials, i.e. the council, Planning Commission, and PAHC - and the developers to name a few. If they can get away with these zoning changes, "they" in cahoots with the developers and builders, will continue to ruin this city. This is the first step in the battle. The next step may be to "re-arrange" the city council. A recall over ambitious building happened before. It's time for people who really love this city to start planning to get involved. Otherwise there will be more candidates fueled by the big money backers with ties to the developers and entrenched politicians-- and nothing will change. New school board candidates should also start planning, and the time to do that is now - not six months before an election. This is reportedly an exceptional city with very smart people. Now is the time!!

Posted by Craig Laughton, a resident of College Terrace
on Jul 18, 2013 at 10:28 am

>You may or may not stop this one project but nothing beyond it. If you had wanted to do that you would have lived with this project but challenged PC zoning.

I disagree. The first step is to stop this fiasco in Barron Park. The next step is to challenge city council members to explain why they rubber stamp PAHC projects, without any serious concern for the neighborhoods that PAHC impacts. At that point, we can discuss the PC zoning model.

This set of events reminds me of the historical homes raid by the city took a referendum to shoot that one down. I haven't heard too much about that issue, since then.

I would like to congratulate those dedicated people who pulled this ain't easy!

Posted by apples to oranges, a resident of Barron Park
on Jul 18, 2013 at 10:36 am

This site is currently zoned R2 and RM15 which would allow up to 46 family units to be built including 10 single family homes on Maybell. In the proposed project the council reduced the number of homes on Maybell to 7 and required a minimum 18 foot setback. In addition no individual driveways will be allowed on Maybell. The traffic study comparing the proposed senior housing against the 34 to 46 family units that the parcel was already zoned for show much fewer car trips, particularly during the peak school commute hours.
I think one has to assume that this parcel will be developed. It's not a choice between the current four single homes and this project.

Posted by goodjob, a resident of Barron Park
on Jul 18, 2013 at 10:57 am

Is "apples to oranges" comment above correct -- the current R-2 zoning allows up to 10 single family homes on Maybell where there are now 4 houses? Anyone in the know on this?

Big kudos to all the petition gatherers who worked so hard to get signatures! It does show the concerns of many, many citizens, and it's refreshing to see grassroots democracy at work.

Posted by big and ugly, a resident of University South
on Jul 18, 2013 at 11:07 am

I am in favor of affordable housing and senior housing, both of which I think Palo Alto desperately needs more of. I am vehemently opposed to the big PC zoned developments with pathetically small public benefit. I think the new library, the JCC, the new affordable housing on High St, the Miki's building, all are ugly and/or too big, close to sidewalks, etc. I am so concerned that the council is approving too much big ugly development, affecting traffic, overtaxing our resources, transforming our city away from the livable, human-scale, tree-filled place for which it is known and loved. I believe there is a mind-set that each piece of property is there for the maximum profit of the owner, and that this "right" seems to trump or at least overwhelm all other considerations. However, I need more info about the fight against the Maybell development. I want to join in the fight to stop big ugly overdevelopment, and have been in the trenches before. But I don't want to fight against Senior affordable housing. SO-- could people on this forum please help me and the rest of us out by trying to separate out these issues? Is this a NIMBY thing going on? Is this really just a fight against "too big and too much traffic"? Are there people in this fight who feel conflicted about wanting senior housing in our community but just don't like this design and density? Could someone please try to sort out these issues? I guarantee that in the campaign for the referendum people will accuse the anti-development folks as NIMBY-ists, and if that is not what this is, I think it's in their best interest to be very clear about what they are for and exactly what they are against. I want to fight against big development, not against affordable housing for seniors. This is an honest request for clarification and more information. Thanks to whomever tries to help sort this out.

Posted by Mr.Recycle, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jul 18, 2013 at 11:09 am

@action needed - I worry something like that would eventually be corrupted by developer money and a limp city council. How about something more radical like crowdsourcing, or allowing affected residents to vote online?

Posted by Annette, a resident of College Terrace
on Jul 18, 2013 at 11:14 am

I'm sure there were others besides Bob Moss who worked on this, but I want to thank Mr. Moss for his consistency and thoroughness. When he speaks on an issue, I listen closely. Whether I agree with him or not I always appreciate that he does his homework and his comments are invariably supported by verifiable facts rather than just opinions and sentiment. Mr. Moss: please don't ever run for City Council - we need your uncompromised voice!

Posted by T Gravelle, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jul 18, 2013 at 11:27 am

Nice work neighbors! I fully support your efforts and would love to help in any way I can!! Please put me on your mailing list and I'll be happy to show up, sign up, speak up at any time! This sort of crazy development in Palo Alto needs to be addressed pronto! I'm saddened by all the out of character in your face, on our sidewalk concrete developments!! We can certainly do better! T Gravelle -

Posted by DAVID, a resident of Midtown
on Jul 18, 2013 at 11:35 am

I will be voting against this referendum.

Posted by Craig Laughton, a resident of College Terrace
on Jul 18, 2013 at 11:43 am

>I am in favor of affordable housing and senior housing, both of which I think Palo Alto desperately needs more of.

Please identify the addresses in University South where you want it to go.

Posted by big and ugly, a resident of University South
on Jul 18, 2013 at 11:51 am

I have supported all the affordable housing in areas near me so far. I've opposed PC-zoned other big development. I'd appreciate a thoughtful answer to my question.

Posted by Stew, a resident of Triple El
on Jul 18, 2013 at 11:57 am

As a senior, I support Palo Alto's initiatives to develop affordable senior housing. Seniors who have lived in our city most of their adult lives would in general wish to stay here. They often need to downsize and the Maybell project is meeting that need. Seniors will use their cars much less than if single family homes were built on that site. There are plenty of condo developments under construction in Palo Alto and nearby that meet the needs of young single families. So I'm curious why those who have now pushed for a referendum on this project are against affordable housing for seniors? Is it that old Mr. NIMBY again?

Posted by Craig Laughton, a resident of College Terrace
on Jul 18, 2013 at 12:02 pm

>I have supported all the affordable housing in areas near me so far.

Please provide the specific addresses, in the University South neighborhood, that have welfare housing. I am less interested in "areas near me"...I want to know the welfare footprint ON your neighborhood. In that context, how close do you live to that welfare housing? If the next PAHC welfare project comes to your University South neighborhood, will it be welcomed by you and your neighbors?

Are you willing to walk your talk?

Posted by big and ugly, a resident of University South
on Jul 18, 2013 at 12:08 pm

Yes I am! Webster St is close to me and I supported that affordable housing. Same with all the affordable housing in the SOFA area - within two blocks of me. Is this new one just too big and ugly, but people would support a smaller, more reasonable version? I'm actually asking these questions because I would like to join in the anti-development fight here, but I'd like more info! I don't think I'm your enemy. It will help to be able to answer such questions in the upcoming election fight!

Posted by nasty little man, a resident of College Terrace
on Jul 18, 2013 at 12:10 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

Posted by check the FAQs, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 18, 2013 at 12:11 pm

big and ugly: Here are two links that provide a start on a thoughtful answer re the Maybell project for anyone just tuning in.
Web Link
Web Link

This project is an example of affordable senior housing done right on a transitional site, with the PAHC bending over backwards to fit in with the neighborhood.

Craig: Did you miss the big affordable housing project went in University South on land vacated by the Palo Alto Medical Clinic a few years ago? In that case, some opponents made dire predictions on traffic impacts etc. But in fact, traffic is LOWER than was predicted by the nay-sayers, and all the NIMBY concerns turned out to be unfounded. Many neighbors started out with opposition, then studied the proposed project and came out in support. Be sure to get informed before you throw out unsupported assertions about other parts of town.

Posted by Timothy Gray, a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Jul 18, 2013 at 12:19 pm

This is really about respecting our zoning.

The council's willingness to break the zoning rules caused the price for the land to rise which then required extra density to make the economics viable.

At the net net effect was the zoning change simply and unjustly provided a gift to the land owner at the cost of safety to the school children and crowding of the neighborhood.

Let's come together as a community to build senior housing and affordable housing within the well-supported and long established rules we have in place.

We all support the goals of providing the affordable housing, and many, including myself would be willing to donate to that cause -- however trying to bring in a Trojan Horse project is outright deception.

We are a great community of people acting out of goodwill -- we can achieve these same goals without the deception and manipulation behind this project.

The referendum will offer a fresh start so we can create good within the rules.

Tim Gray

Posted by Craig Laughton, a resident of College Terrace
on Jul 18, 2013 at 1:00 pm

I suggest that we allow each neighborhood to vote for [portion removed] housing in their own neighborhood. The PAHC and city council can defend their proposed projects, but they will only get built, if the neighborhood approves. Perhaps they will start by proposing such projects in their own neighborhoods...that way they can attempt to convince their own neighbors, perhaps even agreeing to give up their own properties.

Posted by nasty little man, a resident of College Terrace
on Jul 18, 2013 at 1:07 pm

[Post removed due to referencing a previously deleted comment.]

Posted by resident for sustainability not growth, a resident of Downtown North
on Jul 18, 2013 at 2:12 pm

Next city council election, residents who care about over-development need to find at least five candidates to run for city council, who will just say No! to all out of code developments!

Posted by Donya, a resident of Barron Park
on Jul 18, 2013 at 2:38 pm

I live near Maybell and have nothing against low income senior housing. But it has to be built within the current zoning. PAHC's upzoning is for the purpose of making lots of money to pay for this and other projects. So think about it, PAHC wants to put awful sardine like market rate houses on Maybell and Clemo to finance this project.
Why not also rezone and build a gun range and a strip club to get even more funds for PAHC's projects?

I think the City Council should provide the funds PAHC needs to build the senior apartments within the current zoning. If it is a requirement to have low income housing then it is a requirement for everyone in the city and they should all pitch in. We can't say that the Maybell neighborhood, just because it has this land available, has to bear the high density so the low income housing can get built.

Posted by Zayda, a resident of Barron Park
on Jul 18, 2013 at 2:51 pm

@ big and ugly
I am the webmaster for the citizens group that is circulating the petitions. I invite you to visit I have made every attempt to maintain a credible objective site which serves as a source of accurate information, even though some members of our own group disagree with me. I invite comments from both sides of the issue so that we can have an open and honest discussion and find common ground. We in Barron Park have ALWAYS supported affordable housing for seniors, but is this isolated orchard with no proximity to the amenities, like supermarkets, the proper place or is it just a way for the city to satisfy the ravenous demands of ABAG and developers. Do you really expect us to believe that 'seniors don't drive' and that the families who purchase the 12 upscale 4-BR homes will not have multiple wage earners and multiple cars? I have a great bridge to sell you. And do you really think that the city council could or would have rejected the PAHC plan after it loaned them over $5 million and passed the resolution to the Comprehensive Plan to enable the rezoning to high density Planned Community? Regardless of what the residents wanted or thought? Come visit us at Paloaltoville and let's begin the discussion.

Posted by Craig Laughton, a resident of College Terrace
on Jul 18, 2013 at 3:14 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

Posted by big and ugly, a resident of University South
on Jul 18, 2013 at 3:15 pm

@zayda: Thanks! Very helpful. I love the idea of a community orchard! Has anyone picked up on this idea? I would be surprised, as it doesn't "maximize the profit value" of the land. Sigh.

Posted by Bob, a resident of Barron Park
on Jul 18, 2013 at 3:52 pm

Yes, keeping an orchard would be a wonderful idea. The city should use their Stanford development windfall to make it happen. The site's close proximity to so many schools and the need for open space make this a great location to preserve a small part of South Palo Alto's heritage.

Posted by Douglas Moran, a resident of Barron Park
on Jul 18, 2013 at 5:48 pm

Douglas Moran is a registered user.

On a community orchard:
The idea of preserving the orchard as such was considered by staff several years ago (I forget the date and heard about it only after the decision was made). There are federal grant programs for precisely this sort of preservation.

However, Palo Alto decided not to apply for grants (I think this was a decision within staff that didn't reach Council) because:
1. The ABAG requirements for high-density housing in Palo Alto are so exorbitant that staff is reluctant to "surrender" any parcel that might be usable for high-density to any other use (I was a member of the Technical Advisory Group on the last go-round and size of the parcel was the only factor that staff was considering -- all other measures of appropriateness were moot).
2. Staff judged the chance of a successful application for a grant to be low because of the high cost of the parcel (but a significant part of the high cost of the orchard parcel is that it was zoned for high-density housing).

Posted by R Evans, a resident of Barron Park
on Jul 18, 2013 at 6:10 pm

This is not a NIMBY referendum. Palo Altans, don’t be misled by those flyers which argue that this is all about neighborhoods against senior housing. Clearly the motivations of those supporting any referendum will vary, as will the motivations of those opposing it. While the referendum means different things to different supporters, it is, at its core, a reaction to and a rejection of, the current trajectory of Palo Alto's staff and leadership in its encouragement of high density development in residential areas and in its disregard for existing zoning.
It is also a referendum against the idea that the City should use its power to change zoning to help its friends (or anyone else) finance desired projects regardless of the merits of such projects. This sets a precedent which will inevitably accelerate the transition of Palo Alto from a suburban city to an Urban one. It is also a clear conflict of interest for city staff and the City Council.
By lending PAHC money to buy low density land with the promise inherent in the development plan that the funds to repay the loan would require rezoning of the land to high density to profit from the increased selling prices of parcels of the land made possible by the rezoning. The City attorney says that this is not a conflict of interest. Many citizens of Palo Alto disagree. It is either a direct conflict of interest or at least the appearance of a conflict of interest.
Many of the Palo Altans who signed the referendum petition believe that there should be much greater separation between those that profit from development and those with the legislative authority to rezone land, especially when such rezoning so materially leads to the profits and such rezoning is required for the City’s loan to be paid back.
Whether or not the actions of the City in this instance constitute an illegal conflict under California law, I think any fair minded Palo Altan will concede that the "partnership" between PAHC and the City evidenced by the loan of $5 million to purchase the land which is to be repaid out of rezoning profits does not pass the smell test. I also think it is a bad precedent for the City as it will inevitably lead to more and more rezonings to high density and more and more high density, market rate development all over town to pay for other projects which the City favors.
As may other readers’ comments above indicate, this is also a referendum about the process by which the City approves high density projects, as well as changes to its comprehensive plan and changes to its zoning to support such project approvals. Those who look with dismay at the changing skyline of Palo Alto, the unsightliness of many projects approved and built in Palo Alto in recent years, and the rapid pace at which Palo Alto is being urbanized, have also signed the referendum petitions.
I believe that many in the City no longer trust our decision makers, in their zeal to increase City development fees and other revenues or to meet questionable requirements from outside agencies such as ABAG, to protect the interest of present citizens of Palo Alto and protect the safety and character of our city. In the past Palo Altans may have given the City’s planners the benefit of the doubt in making decisions regarding proposed developments, believing that the planners had our best interests at heart. Things have changed, however. Palo Altans now live every day with the impacts generated by existing City projects wondering why they were ever approved. With this recent history Palo Altans no longer trust the City and its planning professionals and boards as a reliable guardians of the City’s livability, character and ambiance.
Many Palo Altans are concerned about the current council's acquiescence in the so-called expertise of its planners when it comes to the practical and visual impact of huge, high density developments and other City projects. There is a concern that the City is perhaps overly fond of, or dependent on, development-based revenues. It seems like the City’s current process is not adequately considering, addressing, and mitigating the impacts of such developments and projects.
So, for those of us living on either side of the Traffic-Calmed Arastradero corridor and for those who just have to attempt to drive through it own their way to school and to work; and for those of us who are dismayed by the negative impacts, both tangible and aesthetic, of the Arbor Real development, the Mickeys development, and other buildings recently finished our currently under construction , this is also a referendum against the "track record" of the City's planning authorities based on their approval and support of such projects.
The City has its work cut out for it to regain the trust of its citizenry. I hope the City leadership will not wait until these referenda are passed this November before it changes its perspective on what the residents of the city value had pays more attention to those who elect the council and whose taxes pay their salaries and less to developers, special interests (yes PAHC is a special interest), and ABAG.
There needs to be a new dialog between the City’s professionals and its citizens. The Comprehensive Plan should be changed, if change is justified, through work with the greater community, not at the behest of a developer. We are clearly not in the same page with city administration in this area. Instead of its enthusiastic support of practically every high density development that is presented to it, Palo Alto's leaders should have a much more conservative approach.
There will be those who say we have to pack in Palo Altans like sardines to meet the City’s commitments to ABAG. If this is the case, I say we should be working with other elected representatives of Peninsula and Silicon Valley communities to change ABAG laws, regulations, commitments, guidelines, or standards which have been interpreted to force communities to accept high density developments regardless of their impact on the surrounding neighborhoods to make them more conducive to maintaining the quality of life of Palo Altans. This may be as simple as replacing the ABAG decision makers with those focused on community instead of density. It may be as simple as showing the ABAG’s plans do not meet its goals and there are better ways to achieve the goals which are less harmful to communities.
Come on City Council, let’s get on with this work!

Posted by Not an issue, a resident of Community Center
on Jul 18, 2013 at 6:16 pm

Why does the weekly delete one of Craig laughtons references to welfare housing, but leaves in 4 others????

Posted by Gail, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jul 18, 2013 at 6:47 pm

Can we have a referendum on our incompetent city council members, too? It's time Palo Altans take control and stop the destruction of Palo Alto. Can we have two referendum's this November?

Posted by Not an issue, a resident of Community Center
on Jul 18, 2013 at 6:50 pm

Gail-- you can circulate a recall petition for individual council members. Not sure what the deadline is for November. But it will not do any good-- no master who is elected to the council, we end up with the same selfish, self- glorifying gang.

Posted by Carlos, a resident of Green Acres
on Jul 18, 2013 at 7:12 pm

Congrats to all the neighbors who worked hard to collect the signatures and show those arrogant city council members and their developer friends that small neighborhoods in South Palo Alto can fight their bullying tactics and lies.

Posted by A neighbor, a resident of Green Acres
on Jul 18, 2013 at 7:42 pm


PAHC didn't exactly plan this as well as you seem to think. They only decided to make the Maybell site a senior project because they figured (and acknowledged publicly) it would be easier politically than any other demographic, not because they had an analysis of how to best meet the need. PAHC has a history of building first and asking questions later, figuring whatever they build will best meet the need. In the past, that has resulted in vacancies, including most recently 20 out of 24 senior BMR units at Moldaw going unfilled for 3 years. Because of this controversy, some of those have finally been filled, and supposedly the City is finally renegotiating the terms to make them actually affordable to the clientele PAHC serves, but last I heard, they still hadn't filled half of them.

If the need is so great, you would think PAHC would first work to solve the problems with existing unfilled stock to understand the need better (and to give good homes right now to up to 40 seniors who need them). They have pitched the Maybell project need by saying 20% of seniors in Palo Alto live below the poverty limit, yet they acknowledge the residents of the proposed project will be those making 30% - 60% if the median area income, i.e., serving ZERO seniors with incomes below the poverty limit.

While I believe PAHC will find it easy to fill such a development, they will likely not be doing so by meeting the need they claim/everyone thinks they will. Plus, the staff report on the rezoning basically said there was no legally binding provision for the development to be designated for seniors. In other words, they may intend to build it for seniors, but if it doesn't work out, they can put whomever they wish in there. And it seems to me, they didn't exactly do due diligence on how to best meet the need.

The issue of how to serve seniors in Palo Alto also deserves some attention. The classic choice of EVERY senior in every expensive city across the nation is whether to retire somewhere less expensive or closer to relatives. This is a choice their clientele will face, too, and $1,000/month for a 600 sq ft unit in an area where everything else costs so much -- and in a development where nothing can be reached easily by foot -- may end up a less attractive choice than people assume. Many seniors with limited incomes living in Palo Alto are living in their own homes the equity of which would disqualify them from living in PAHC housing, even while their incomes are limited. Most of them choose to stay in their houses anyway. Apparently, from the Moldaw experience, many of them choose not to reinvest their equity that way to stay in Palo Alto. I think many will find the monthly expense of the planned units at Maybell a hardship for what they are getting as well. The location doesn't compare to, say, Stevenson House, which is practically across the street from a grocery store, Betty Wright center, and a community center/library.

Someone in one of the PAHC developments asked me why Palo Alto is spending so much money to keep seniors in Palo Alto anyway, when they could get three or four times the units, by setting up developments in less expensive communities in the Bay Area that can reach Palo Alto by transit. I'm not talking about shuttling seniors away, I'm talking about nicer retirement communities than could be had here, for the same money, and easily reachable. After all, the argument PAHC has made to justify the lack of adjacency of services at that property has been that no one will ever need to drive much, they'll just sit in their all day and never go anywhere. With only 47 parking spots for 60 units plus employees, yet promising no impact on the local parking at the park and neighborhoods, they also apparently think no one ever visits their clientele.

In his comments before the vote, Councilman Schmid pointed out that a downtown developer paid money to avoid putting those units in a downtown development -- downtown being a much better location for seniors, with Avenidas right there, steps from PAMF and Stanford, bus and train lines, etc -- but not enough money to pay the actual cost of the units at Maybell. Instead, the City is essentially placing the burden of those costs on the Maybell neighborhood through the financing scheme and overdevelopment inherent in the rezoning.

The neighbors haven't rejected the housing, nor the seniors, they have simply asked that the development go in under existing zoning. If Palo Alto fixed the in lieu fee situation, there would be enough money to fund it that way. If they can, as they claim, put in 45 units under existing zoning, what's the problem? They make up the difference in the 60 units by putting the vacant Moldaw BMR units online.

Palo Alto should, as Councilman Schmid suggested, fix the in lieu fee situation so PAHC could afford to honor the existing zoning in their development.

Posted by A neighbor, a resident of Green Acres
on Jul 18, 2013 at 7:45 pm

Frank, neighbors aren't "targeting" anyone, they have been put in a situation not of their choosing, and are, totally grassroots, trying to fight the overdevelopment of their residential neighborhood, protect the safety of schoolchildren, and doing so with the tools available to them. If they win, it's not going to hurt poor people. This neighborhood already hosts far more affordable housing developments than any other residential area in Palo Alto, save downtown (which is downtown, where density is more appropriate). The people responsible for this fiasco at PAHC will dust themselves off and move on to the next opportunity, they have shown themselves perfectly capable. If it means they push the City to fix the inadequate in lieu fee situation, all the better for everyone, including poor people. If it means they push the City to pay the actual cost of the affordable units, comparable to what they paid at the new development on Alma downtown, rather than placing the burden of the costs essentially on a small neighborhood, then all the better for everyone in Palo Alto, and everyone who is against the City steamrolling through such overdevelopment.

Posted by A neighbor, a resident of Green Acres
on Jul 18, 2013 at 7:52 pm

The existing zoning provides limits on height, setback, daylight plane, and density that help maintain the character of the neighborhood. Neighbors perceive the horror scenarios PAHC and the City keep floating as manipulative and dishonest for many good reasons, including the following:

1) PAHC keeps adjusting their estimate of what could be built there under existing zoning upwards. Originally they said 35 units, now they say 45. Go to Google maps and look at the site: 567-595 Maybell. See that row of 4 ranch homes on Maybell next to the orchard? Could you fit over 40 homes in the essentially square orchard next to it? With low-density residential setbacks, etc? Joe Hirsch, former planning commissioner for Palo Alto, has said the number of homes that could go in there, realistically, with internal lanes, etc., is more like 18 or fewer.

2) If developers have to live within the height restrictions (essentially two-stories) and setback limits of the existing zoning, they aren't going to dice up the property the way PAHC claims, even if they could. PAHC's proposal is for a nearly 50-feet, 4-story structure, (pre-existing zoning limit is 30 feet) and the market rate homes on Clemo, rezoned for the benefit of a for-profit developer, are 3-stories (there are no 3-story homes in Barron Park or Greenacres). To build a marketable home with enough square footage on such a small lot, a builder has to build up. But if they have to live with the existing zoning as everyone else does, they can't build chimney homes like at Mickey's, they are going to build with a bigger footprint in order to get enough bedrooms and square footage, with the zoned setbacks, to make saleable homes. That doesn't mean 1200-1400 foot 2 bedroom homes when a 2,000+ sq ft home in this neighborhood is a $2 million home.

3) In this situation, because of the loans, Palo Alto has the right to buy the property. This isn't a situation like when a private developer owns the land where the City has no choice. Knowing what it now knows about the serious safety problems of the school transit corridors which are the only outlets/inlets to the development - Marc Berman even admitted that Maybell isn't safe for the kids - the City has a duty to put safety first and if it thinks a private developer really could put up such an unsafe development, they have all the power they need to prevent it.

They can buy the property tomorrow if they wish and either convert it to a low-traffic use such as community orchard (where are all the supposed tree-lovers in this City to save the 90+ trees there now?) which wouldn't be so costly if they auctioned off the 4 ranch houses to high-end developers, or if they simply did the comprehensive traffic study to understand the infrastructure limitations and simply placed those provisions on the building of that land in the sale of it to any developer. The City has total power to prevent such a nightmare scenario, and if they allow it, given what they know and the disclosure on that property now, they will be responsible for whatever liability flows from such an irresponsible (or worse, retaliatory) decision.

Posted by A Neighbor, a resident of Green Acres
on Jul 18, 2013 at 8:02 pm

You wrote, "Can we have a referendum on our incompetent city council members, too? It's time Palo Altans take control and stop the destruction of Palo Alto. Can we have two referendum's this November?"

There are different democratic processes available to citizens. I'm just learning about them now, as are all my neighbors.

A referendum is where citizens put an ordinance or something passed by city council to a vote of the citizens of the city. It doesn't itself overturn anything, and it doesn't allow any new laws or ordinances, it just allows people to put the city ordinance to the vote of the people to decide.

An initiative is where citizens can make a new ordinance or rule themselves, like for example, stopping all development until a comprehensive traffic study of the entire city is done, etc, or changing PC zoning so that it requires a majority approval of citizens living in the adjacent neighborhoods (if the "public benefit" is real, then shouldn't developers have to prove it to the citizens themselves?) An initiative is different, and on a different time scale. It also puts the proposed new rule on the ballot for the people to decide.

You are speaking of a recall, which actually happened in 1967, where all but 2 councilmembers were recalled, because of overdevelopment. There is a process by which you can ask for recall. The people in Maybell are just ordinary neighbors engaged now in the civic process, but they're pretty overwhelmed by just this. If you were to start a recall campaign, we'd support you!

Posted by pat, a resident of Midtown
on Jul 18, 2013 at 8:55 pm

Whatever side you're on, it would be helpful to provide links to documents that support your statements, e.g., "Greg Schmid said ..." or "Marc Berman admitted ..." or "Joe Hirsch said ..." or "the staff report on the rezoning basically said ..."

Thanks -- and congratulations to all who worked so hard to get signatures!

Posted by Evergreen , a resident of Evergreen Park
on Jul 18, 2013 at 9:22 pm

Plain and simple - soon, the majority of Palo Altans are going to be over 50. What does that mean? It means we have to get ready to adapt to a new demographic. It means that NIMYISM is going to have to diminish. It means that the "I've got mine, and I'm not going to worry about whether you got yours" ethic is going to have to go away!

Palo Alto is changing. Are we going to adapt, or turn against each other?

Posted by A neighbor, a resident of Green Acres
on Jul 18, 2013 at 9:33 pm

Thanks for the kind words.

I only wished the City provided transcripts for their meetings, but they don't. There were several meetings for the rezoning, and it was during one of those meetings that Marc Berman said he'd been out to Maybell many times and said something like, it may be a "safe route to school" but it's not a safe route to school. (This despite twisting himself into a pretzel trying to support the rezoning.) Greg Schmid said all that about the in lieu fee situation on the day of the actual vote, I think. Anyway, you can watch the videos of council meetings at Web Link

Click on June, and you can see the different dates of the meetings. There aren't that many -- just click on them one after another and search on "Maybell". For sure one of the meetings was June 13.

Anyway, you can fast forward through them, but not minute by minute. Greg Schmid made his statement right before he voted, and Scharff was trying to cut off what he was saying.

I really wish it was possible for people around town to participate virtually, like in a webinar, where people could give input (about what side of an issue they are on), ask questions, etc. I think the City would get a lot more participation that way. Anyway, transcripts would be nice, too -- maybe something our new expensive communications person can look into providing!

Posted by A neighbor, a resident of Green Acres
on Jul 18, 2013 at 9:49 pm

I don't know about you, but I'm never going to have the luxury of retiring, and when my spouse does, we'll have to find somewhere less expensive to live. That's the choice most people make.

It makes a lot of sense for taxpayers to pay for affordable housing for workers because Palo Alto has a lot of jobs and there are many public benefits to having workers near their jobs. Should we be subsidizing more and more seniors to live in this very, very expensive place? That's not a rhetorical question, it's a discussion we've never had as a community. And if the answer is yes, shouldn't we be examining how to best meet the need? PAHC decided to make that development for seniors because they thought it would go over better, they didn't initially decide to make it a senior development! And they keep saying (if you watch the city council videos) that the justification is because 20% of seniors live below the poverty line in Palo Alto (the number is really under 10%), even though Tim Wong said the project will be for people at 30-60% of median income (which means no one living below the poverty line).

As for charges of NIMBYism -- the Greenacres neighborhood and Barron Park adjacent to it, where this development is proposed, already has more affordable housing developments/units than any other residential neighborhood in Palo Alto. (The only comparable is downtown, which is a more appropriate place for density than residential neighborhoods.) It's almost certainly why City Council pushed so hard, because they know this neighborhood supports affordable housing and they are quite frankly taking advantage.

The major demographic in the neighborhood is not rich CEO's either, it's seniors who have lived out their lives here. If PAHC built under the existing zoning, it would mean just 15 fewer senior spaces, but it would also mean height, setback, daylight plane, parking, and density requirements would be more in keeping with the area. And they should have to do a comprehensive traffic study, as City policy is for heightened scrutiny on school commute routes. Maybell and Arastradero are both school commute routes, and the development has no other routes in and out than those streets. It's shameful the way this development has been pushed while blatantly avoiding that responsibility, even though City Council obviously knows better.

Posted by Kevin, a resident of Greenmeadow
on Jul 18, 2013 at 9:59 pm

Kevin is a registered user.

Will there be an election in November anyway, whether or not this qualifies for the ballot?

Posted by Frank, a resident of Ventura
on Jul 18, 2013 at 10:05 pm

It is so frustrating to see so much wrong information stated with such certainty. The "lecture" above on referendum, initiative and recall is a perfect example.

In the 1960's there was a recall of some city council members back when there were 15 on the council. However, the recall had nothing to do with overdevelopment. That is simply wrong. The recall was pushed by real estate and downtown business people trying to get rid of council members they thought were against development. At the time, skyscrapers were to line University Ave. they succeeded in recalling some but not others. Enid Pearson survived but not Byron Sher (Google him - one of Palo Altos finest). This was a travesty and nothing to crow about as an example of good governance.

It was shameful as would a recall effort you threaten out of ignorance. The ignorance that has been the hallmark of maybell opponents. If you try recall, you will fail, as you should.

Posted by A neighbor, a resident of Green Acres
on Jul 18, 2013 at 10:08 pm

@ Kevin,
Isn't City Council trying to extend their time in office by getting rid of term limits or something like that? I think that means we'll have an election anyway.

I heard Scharff and Shephard are up for reelection, but is that November or June?

Posted by action needed, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 18, 2013 at 10:20 pm

I don't think it is practical to have people vote on each project.
The way to go is to establish a new high-level design review function outsourced to a recognized professional design person/firm under an initiative process. It would function in an overview capacity for major projects and all public works with regard to scale, compatibilty and aesthetics. A citizen committee would hire the person/firm. We would thereby establish boundaries as to what can take place and the extreme results we have seen here, would not occur. We would establish a level of review removed from local
influence. I believe it would work at this macro-level. Compare this
to what we have now.

Posted by A neighbor, a resident of Green Acres
on Jul 18, 2013 at 10:22 pm

Here's a link to that history of the recall
Web Link

You are right about the recall being a temporary victory for the "Establishment" (read: overdevelopment) candidates, not the Residentialists. The major point, though, is that it happened in the context of a huge fight in this town regarding overdevelopment versus preserving residential character. The article goes on to say that in the decades after that recall, "the Residentialist movement would take control of city politics... winning the battle against entrenched power." (But in that recall, as you pointed out, the "Establishment" got the upper hand. Nevertheless, the battle lines were drawn over similar conflict of preserving residential character versus overdevelopment, a battle that continued and luckily the Residentialists mostly prevailed over.)

Posted by A neighbor, a resident of Green Acres
on Jul 18, 2013 at 10:29 pm


Citizens currently have to use the administrative and legal remedies available to them. I'm not sure how your proposal would work here, the City decided what it wanted before there was any public input, and staff acted in the role of advocacy for that goal (a complaint that has cropped up on many projects in recent years).

Zoning laws should be respected and shouldn't be so easily set aside by City Council. When people buy property, the zoning is a promise of what will be there in the future. People who live in a neighborhood shouldn't have to expect that at any moment they will have to set aside their lives in order to fight such overdevelopment outside of any zoning when they bought into the neighborhood. The onus should instead be on the developer to convince the neighborhood that whatever benefit they are promising is worth the violation of zoning ordinance.

Posted by Kevin, a resident of Greenmeadow
on Jul 18, 2013 at 11:58 pm

Kevin is a registered user.

@A neighbor

The City Council can't get rid of term limits, it is state law. There was a change to either the council or school board's (can't remember which) election schedule to have the elections fall on even-numbered years, to cut down the number of low-turnout elections in town.

Posted by MP neighbor, a resident of Menlo Park
on Jul 19, 2013 at 2:57 am

@ check the FAQs - where was the affordable housing at the old PA Clinic site? There were lots of very expensive houses built there. If there was BMR housing there, I missed it. The condo buyers at 800 High St a few years ago were told that the big ugly building right behind them on Alma was going to be replaced with a senior housing facility. How many more low income people do you really want to bring into town? If they already live here, they probably aren't low income. Is the City trying to make it easier for people now in SJ or Vallejo to move to PA? City employees, firemen, and teachers make too much money to qualify for low income.

Developers do pay fat fees to the city & I think it's pretty clear that the council pays more attention to wooing them than it does to maintaining quality of services & infrastructure for the residents. With all the old ruckus about "historic preservation" in residential neighborhoods, it's too bad that so many of the very charming commercial buildings downtown have been removed for big, mostly ugly blocks with inadequate parking. In the '60s & '70s when I lived in PA, there were bookstores, theaters, Liddicoat's, and even a real supermarket on Lytton - Nivens, I think, which moved over to Stanford Shopping Center. It was also a lot safer at night than it is now. People didn't get mugged at night walking around downtown.

I don't see that life has improved for Palo Altans since then despite the millions spent hiring consultants to help the council cater to big money developers.

Posted by common sense, a resident of Midtown
on Jul 19, 2013 at 6:26 am

MP Neighbor - affordable housing at the old PA clinic site is at 845 Ramona - Oak Ct apartments. And next to 800 High, an affordable housing development for 50 families are being built (despite the fact that the neighborhood elementary school is oversubscribed, and has been for the last 9 years).

Close to half of the city employees will retire with pensions worth millions; their annual pension being between 70% - 80% of their salary. Since every fire fighter, police officer, most managers make well over $100,000/year, they won't qualify for affordable housing. Close to half of the city employees are paid over $100,000.

Posted by Ellie, a resident of College Terrace
on Jul 19, 2013 at 6:32 am

The 7 acre PA medical clinic site was redevelopment in a coordinated effort that included, unlike the person above states, wonderful below market rate housing for people of all ages - Oak Court, built by PAHC. It is on Bryant. Get your facts straight.

Posted by Margaret Fruth, a resident of Ventura
on Jul 20, 2013 at 4:10 pm

The City of Palo Alto is not required to change zoning for any project. The city is not required to facilitate developers' profits. If a project is not viable without government subsidies and accommodations, the developer is paying more than the site is worth, and asking the city to make up the difference with a hidden, indirect subsidy. Density increase is often just a gift to developers.

The government subsidies for operating existing housing for low income seniors have been almost eliminated. The secret about existing low-income housing for seniors is that in order to pay for the Iraq war, the Bush administration almost completely eliminated Section 8 funds for subsidizing operating expenses. For example, the last time I checked, the waiting list at Lytton Gardens was a few months for full-pay middle class residents, but five years long, & closed for all but two weeks of the year, for subsidized housing. PAHC insists it cannot build Maybell without the gift of a density bonus in the form of some market-rate townhouses. If that is true, they paid too much for the land. Before Maybell is approved, reliable, permanent source of funds for an operating subsidy (in addition to to start-up costs) should be secured before approving this project, unless PAHC wants to get into the market-rate housing business. They already plan to do so--the townhouses are just that. The corporation which owns Mabell has an extensive real estate portfolio; it should be able to find funds to cover start up and operating costs.

This project has been fasttracked by City of Palo Alto staff. There have been so many errors in the planning process that it may not be legally defensible. The City Council has already accepted the project in concept, by giving public funds to them in advance. The worst effect of this decision is not the giveaway of public funds, but the giveaway of advance approval of more intensive land use. If the news reports are accurate, the City Council comments so far are not credible, but instead insulting to Palo Alto's citizens.

These giveaways increase the likelihood that both decisions would not survive a court challenge; they may be decided in court or at the ballot box. To avoid these, the best option would be to figure out what the neighbors could be satisfied with.

Mayor Greg Scharff has insulted the electorate with his claim that the Council can make an "impartial" decision about projects they have already committed funds to.
The Mayor in particular should know better, since he is an attorney specializing in land use. His arrogance is one justification for keeping term limits.

Governance by lawsuits, referenda, and recalls is very expensive and time-consuming Because of the errors, the City would make better use of scarce resources by negotiating with the neighbors. In the case of Maybell, start by eliminating the market-rate housing, which has impacts far greater than senior housing. If PAHC wants to build the senior project, they should find outside funds to make the construction & operating budgets balance. Eliminating the market-rate housing entirely would reduce the impacts, especially traffic impacts enough to make the project more defensible. The City could require more comprehensive permanent project-based transportation. Existing senior housing varies greatly in number of trips and quantity of transportation provided. If the facility provides more transportation, the residents drive less, with younger, more qualified drivers. The project approval could require residents who drive to complete a DMV road test once a year as a condition of their residency.

Anyone who wants to keep Maybell as open space needs to start raising money now, to compensate the owner at fair market value. Of course, the property is not worth now what it would be worth with the gift of a zoning change.

Posted by Margaret Fruth, a resident of Ventura
on Jul 20, 2013 at 4:16 pm

Show Me the Money

I have been following with concern the proposal for low income senior housing for seniors coupled with 12 units of market rate housing. Is this project worthy of receiving taxpayer subsidies from our limited funds?

We need low income senior housing in Palo Alto, because right now there is almost none. The secret about existing Section 8 senior housing is that Section 8 operating subsidy funds to subsidize ongoing operations, (as opposed to start-up funding) have been almost completely eliminated. As a result, existing complexes, like Litton Gardens, have been converted to middle class housing. This has created an artificial scarcity of low income housing for seniors. I have been unable to find out how PAHC plans to overcome this shortage of funding for operating expenses. Of course if there is no funding for actually operating low income housing, the approvals constitute a windfall for the developer getting increased density & a sweetheart loan from the City to build what will, in fact, be market rate housing.

What we do need is more funding for subsidizing operations. Then we can figure out whether we need new construction.

This is aside from any NIMBY concerns.

Posted by A neighbor, a resident of Green Acres
on Jul 21, 2013 at 3:25 pm

I agree with you Margaret. Here PAHC had 20 out of 24 BMR senior units at Moldaw go unfilled for three years, and despite the need, no one did anything to deal with solving the problems that those units were not affordable to PAHC's actual clientele. Instead, they're on to building something else, with similarly nonexistent analysis of how to best meet the need. They claimed many times that the need was because 20% of Palo Alto seniors live below the poverty line, but with the development serving seniors at 30-60% of median area income, that means NO seniors below the poverty line will be served. There is no doubt they will fill the complex, but will they be filling the need they claim, or privileging a small group and still not serving the need? The fact that they do so little analysis about the need and how to best fill it is troubling..

Posted by Garrett, a resident of another community
on Jul 21, 2013 at 3:48 pm

It just going to become high end housing.

Will be leaving the state because to retire here is pricey and all these baby boomers are going to need a place to live.

As people get older their costs go up and their income power goes down. You know drugs, insurance and health. So what is matter with some low income housing.

Posted by Craig Laughton, a resident of College Terrace
on Jul 21, 2013 at 4:00 pm

>It just going to become high end housing.

It already is...been that way for about two-three decades. Something wrong with that? Supply and demand in action.

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