Letters to the editor | October 25, 2013 | Palo Alto Weekly | Palo Alto Online |

Palo Alto Weekly

Spectrum - October 25, 2013

Letters to the editor

A shot at the wrong target


The effort to stop Maybell housing is a wild shot at the wrong target and won't lead to land-use reform any more than shooting at a moose will catch a trout. If the goal is Planned Community (PC) zoning reform, then do PC zoning reform. Sponsor a smart, nuanced initiative protecting affordable housing development while reining in crazy-making commercial and massive market-rate residential development. All No on D will do is deprive over 100 of our elders of any hope of remaining in town.

I know a lot about PC zoning in Palo Alto, having conducted an investigation and analysis of commercial and residential PC projects, recommending substantial PC reform. But I will vote Yes on D because defeating the Maybell project won't reform or curb development, but will destroy affordable housing.

The Maybell housing is the rare appropriate use of PC zoning, providing a way to guarantee this housing will remain affordable for our low-income seniors. The 12 market-rate homes make the affordable project financially feasible given diminishing state and federal funding for this housing.

If this housing, as approved, isn't built at Maybell on one of the few remaining large parcels of land in town, it will never be built short of a miracle. Arguing otherwise simply isn't credible (see yesondpaloalto.com). Surely we won't sacrifice precious affordable housing for the fantasy of trickle-down land use reform.

I live in Barron Park and will vote yes on Measure D for affordable senior housing and an economically inclusive community.

Winter Dellenbach

La Para Avenue, Palo Alto

Safety over senior housing


We lived off Maybell for eight years before moving to Channing House.

Arastradero Apartments (66 low-cost housing units) have egress on Maybell. They have many cars using it now. Palo Alto Housing wants to build 60 more senior units, using that same egress for more cars. Most seniors need cars. Public transportation is impossible.

Maybell is hazardous now for students trying to get to four schools. Safety for our children should have priority over questionable senior housing. Please vote no on Measure D.

Sara J. Jennison

Webster Street, Palo Alto

A seismic shift


We chose Palo Alto 42 years ago for our multi-generational home because of the neighborhood quality of life. For us as working parents, with a non-English speaking grandparent in the home, the ability of our children to walk/ride bikes to school and to various activities — with safety — was critical. Today, our streets are an unsafe jungle of cars, posing a serious threat to the lives of children, including our grandchildren who live with us.

We urge everyone to vote against Measure D because City Council's actions continue to accelerate Palo Alto's overdevelopment, destroy residential neighborhoods, fail to meet the needs of Palo Alto seniors, and ignore the safety of our children and grandchildren. The seismic negative shift in the quality of life in Palo Alto — including congestion, density, parking, safety — must be halted. We must send a message to the pro-developer City Council who considers zoning regulations protecting residential neighborhoods irrelevant, situational and malleable at will. We must repudiate the questionable ethics of the City Council's multimillion-dollar investment in the project before its approval.

We must stop Measure D since it does not guarantee affordable housing for eligible Palo Alto seniors! Contrary to "proponents of rezoning," City Council has the capacity and the resources to create affordable housing for Palo Alto seniors without rezoning. Instead of affordable housing for Palo Alto seniors, Measure D only guarantees City Council's ability to rezone and destroy residential neighborhoods, with great impunity.

Please vote with us against Measure D!

Eva and George Gal

Donald Drive, Palo Alto

It's not about traffic


I am a Barron Park neighbor who enthusiastically supports Measure D and the affordable housing for seniors it will generate. I recognize the concerns about traffic on Maybell and have been in the middle of it on occasion. But Measure D is not going to worsen the situation.

Our community faces traffic challenges on numerous arteries and the reason is not affordable-housing developments. We have nearly 90,000 jobs in Palo Alto — way more than our population and well over triple the number of households (26,000 as of the 2010 census). These are the drivers who clog the roads, not seniors who don't usually need to drive during peak traffic hours.

Fixing traffic congestion will require bold, creative initiatives regardless of Measure D's fate. We need to take advantage of the complex funding formula that enables the Palo Alto Housing Corporation to build 60 affordable units for some of the many seniors in our community who need it in order to remain close to friends and family.

Elliot Margolies

El Centro Street, Palo Alto

Define the problem


Confusion over Measure D is rooted in the lack of clarity regarding the problem.

If the problem is middle class Palo Altans can't afford their mortgage and property taxes after they retire, the solution might be to reduce their property taxes so they can stay in their homes. If the problem is parents of current Palo Altans can't afford to move here to be near their grandchildren, the solution might be to allow homeowners to build cottages in their backyards. If the problem is low-income Palo Altans can't afford their apartment rent after they retire, the solution might be to subsidize bus service to lower-cost cities so they could easily return to visit family. If the problem is that low-income San Jose residents would prefer to retire in Palo Alto, the solution might be to improve living conditions in San Jose.

Until we define the problem, we can't define the solution.

Brian Suckow

Southampton Drive, Palo Alto

A good deal


The vote on Measure D is a test of whether Palo Alto's strong support for affordable housing can be sustained when people are worried about rapid change.

"No on D" feels obligated to present itself as favoring affordable housing "done right" to overcome support for giving PAHC a chance to compete with commercial developers for property to build on.

The ballot argument for "No on D" says, "We support building affordable senior housing on the Maybell parcel within current zoning." How is it being supported if it's impossible to finance?

Palo Altans for Responsible Zoning wants to eliminate all Planned Community zoning due to abuse of the process. They have attacked PAHC as if it were Jay Paul Corporation, which wants PC zoning for a huge complex near California Avenue. Yet PAHC is a nonprofit whose sole goal is to build and maintain affordable housing. There is a difference.

"No on D" calls for sympathy from the rest of the city for Maybell if the project is approved. Well, save the sympathy.

The normal process of getting community input, revising plans and then submitting them to the planning commission brought major improvements. Political pressure got further adjustments in density and appearance, as well as bicycle and pedestrian-safety measures on Maybell. This is a good deal.

I have lived in Barron Park, a block from the Maybell site, for 38 years and would welcome this project.

Please vote Yes on D.

Jerry Underdal

Georgia Avenue, Palo Alto

Keep Palo Alto inclusive


Somewhere over the last 50 years, Palo Alto ended up with around 65,000 residents and a daytime population of 110,000. The difference — 45,000 — a whole extra city's worth of people — are driving to Palo Alto and are part of Palo Alto's sky-high demand for housing. Measure D opponents lament that our city has changed. Yes, it has, and there is no going backwards.

What can we do? We can all appreciate that we live in a beautiful city, even if rush hour isn't fun. We can also remember that Palo Alto of the '60s was an inclusive community, where nurses and mail carriers could buy a single-family home. We can't roll back housing prices, but we can add 60 units of affordable senior housing. Let's remember what's important to preserve — keep Palo Alto an inclusive community. Vote Yes on D.

Pat Thomas

Alger Drive, Palo Alto

Seniors don't do rush hour


Every senior I know is way too smart to drive in rush hour. If you want less commute traffic on Maybell, count on seniors — we won't go near that mess. We don't have to. If you care about the safety of kids on bikes, vote Yes on D.

Jonelle Preisser

Grant Avenue, Palo Alto

A perfect remedy


If you support residents in the affordable housing at Buena Vista Mobile Home Park, then you should support the affordable senior housing at the Maybell site and vote Yes on Measure D.

There are dozens of seniors who live at the mobile-home park who may get displaced if the owner sells the property, which is his right. The Maybell project would build 60 affordable apartments for seniors, providing a perfect remedy for some being displaced at Buena Vista. Maybell is a solution for seniors in jeopardy at Buena Vista, not a problem, offering a permanent source of badly needed affordable housing.

A downside of rising land values is the accelerated loss of Palo Alto residents to redevelopment, with seniors particularly vulnerable. The Maybell senior housing is a responsible, affirmative measure to minimize this loss.

If you care at all about affordable senior housing, vote yes on Measure D!

Gerry Masteller

La Para Avenue, Palo Alto

Chamber says Yes on D


The Palo Alto Chamber of Commerce strongly endorses a "Yes" vote on Measure D, a sensible effort

to provide affordable senior housing in our community.

The Maybell-Clemo project was approved by a unanimous 9-0 vote of the City Council after extensive public meetings and participation by neighbors and other affected constituencies. The ordinance adopted by the council was carefully considered and offers extensive community benefits.

A "Yes" vote on Measure D will permit construction of 60 affordable senior apartments located close to El Camino transit lines, to be financed in part by sale of 12 market-rate single-family lots. The availability of well-designed, well-situated senior housing is essential to building a sustainable, diverse community of residents and customers who support Palo Alto businesses. The use of the property under current zoning would likely be up to 46 multi-bedroom residences to be sold at market prices, with a far greater impact on the neighborhood in terms of local traffic.

The Palo Alto Housing Corporation is an exceptionally effective locally based nonprofit organization that has made notable contributions over many years to our city's attractive residential environment and overall quality of life. We're proud that the PAHC is a longtime member of the Chamber of Commerce, and we believe that the Maybell-Clemo project can be another successful PAHC


Rebecca A. Teutschel

Chair, Board of Directors

Palo Alto Chamber of Commerce

Don't hold housing hostage


On Nov. 5, Palo Alto voters will be asked to vote yes or no on Measure D. A yes vote will support the unanimous decision made by the City Council on June 17 to allow the nonprofit Palo Alto Housing Corporation to build 60 affordable senior apartments at Maybell and Clemo avenues in Palo Alto.

As Barron Park residents, we support Measure D.

We've read all of the opposition's arguments. They reflect a reasonable concern about overdevelopment in Palo Alto and granting zoning variances to for-profit developers in exchange for minimal public benefits.

However, those concerns are simply not relevant to Measure D. The 60 units of senior housing is a real benefit for our community, and the nonprofit Palo Alto Housing Corporation has done tremendous good in our community for many years by providing affordable housing to Palo Alto residents. The proposed project, both the senior housing and the 12 single-family homes, are appropriately scaled for the location and neighborhood. Despite claims to the contrary, the Maybell development is consistent with the Housing Element of the city's Comprehensive Plan, in particular its emphasis on the need for more affordable housing.

Let's not hold this much-needed affordable housing project hostage because of issues with other recent developments elsewhere in the city. Let's secure the benefits of this project for Palo Alto and address larger concerns in the context of the commercial projects in which they arise and in electoral politics.

Vote yes on Measure D.

Ken and Michele Dauber

Paul Avenue, Palo Alto

League: Yes on D


The League of Women Voters of Palo Alto has long supported affordable housing in Palo Alto. We expressed our support for the Maybell project at every step of the nine-month public process through our letters and public testimony. When the Maybell project was placed on the ballot in the form of Measure D, we signed the supporting ballot statement, and we voted to endorse and advocate for a yes vote on Measure D.

Measure D affirms the Palo Alto City Council's unanimous decision to change the zoning at the Maybell site to enable the nonprofit Palo Alto Housing Corporation to build 60 units of affordable housing for low and very low-income seniors and legally require the apartments to remain affordable and age-restricted.

We especially support this project because the need for affordable housing for senior citizens in Palo Alto is so great. According to the Council on Aging Silicon Valley, nearly 20 percent of Palo Alto seniors are living near or below the poverty line; and there are hundreds of seniors in Palo Alto on waiting lists for existing low-income senior housing properties and hundreds more who are looking for affordable, independent living.

The League of Women Voters of Palo Alto urges a yes vote on Measure D on your mail-in ballot or on Election Day.

Mary Alice Thornton

President, League Women Voters of Palo Alto

Measure D: not a PC abuse


I am a Barron Park resident who has often opposed Planned Community (PC) zoning changes that have resulted in over-development in Palo Alto, yet I support a "Yes" vote on Measure D.

In my opinion, there have been many abuses of the PC zone, but Measure D is not one of them. Because land prices are so expensive, higher densities are required to keep unit prices affordable to low-income groups. To date, almost all affordable-housing projects in Palo Alto have required a zoning change.

I believe Measure D is a proper use of the PC zone because it will enable a designated low-income group to live in Palo Alto, and therefore provide more of the kind of diversity that I value.

Measure D is one of the few real opportunities to provide affordable housing for low-income seniors. Please do not confuse Measure D with some of the many bad examples of PC zoning that have occurred in the past.

Please join me on voting Yes on Measure D.

Dorothy Bender

Military Way, Palo Alto

Look around; vote yes


I support Measure D. I support community diversity and affordable senior housing in Palo Alto. I support innovation and change and empathy. The "not in my neighborhood" theme is a common way to tell people they don't belong here and should leave. The idea of kicking our residents out, because of lower income, is a sad commentary on our community values. It's not generous or thoughtful. Our pride of place should not be exclusive.

My family has lived in Palo Alto since the 1950s; my father is a healthy 101 years old; we are very lucky he can stay in his house, well cared for and safe. But what if he couldn't? Would that mean he has to leave the community he has lived in for over 60 years? How many, except the wealthy can afford to buy or rent in Palo Alto these days? Don't we have a responsibility for all our residents young and old?

I think we should look inside and look around. Think about your parents, yourself, your kids. Vote Yes on Measure D.

Andrea Schneider

Starr King Circle, Palo Alto


Like this comment
Posted by Zayda
a resident of Barron Park
on Oct 26, 2013 at 9:16 pm

@Andrea Schneider
I'm a little confused. In the recent flyer from YesOnD you are prominently featured claiming "Measure D will help seniors like ME stay in Palo Alto." You claimed you had to move to Portland because YOU couldn't afford to rent in Palo Alto. Were the rents in Mt. View, Sunnyvale or San Jose also too high? Or was it a job in Portland which lured you away from your family. Then you returned and had to move in with your 101 year old father. Now you are telling us that it is your FATHER who would be deprived of a place to live if Measure D is defeated. Who will it be next week?

Like this comment
Posted by Zayda
a resident of Barron Park
on Oct 26, 2013 at 9:53 pm


Thank you. At the hearings PAHC claimed that the occupancy rate for senior housing is 1.1 seniors per unit. That would mean 66 seniors in the Maybell Orchard apartments. YOU, on the other hand, claim that "All No on D will do is deprive over 100 of our elders of any hope of remaining in town." Is that a more realistic figure or is it just 'ad hominem hyperbole'.
You are absolutely correct. The goal IS PC zoning reform. Like 1967, Maybell Avenue is just the first battle in the city-wide war to stop the insane over-development of OUR Palo Alto. Maybell Avenue had the courage to say NO to the developers and the City Council. Now the rest of the city has been awakened to the destruction which will be caused by the likes of Jay Paul and Ken Hayes. That the traffic glut every day all over Palo Alto is not the enemy of development; it is the result of it. It is the necrosis caused by the cancer.
YOU, of all people, who want to stop the rape of the Buena Vista Mobile Home Park by the Mayor's former employer, should realize that these are not isolated cases. NIMBY is not living in isolation. It is realizing that by helping others protect their neighborhood, you protect your own.

Like this comment
Posted by NO ON D
a resident of Barron Park
on Oct 27, 2013 at 1:10 am

There are many well meaning people who advocate this rezoning based on an emotional reaction to low income senior needs. Many do not yet know that this building has only apartments in it and no amenities. They do not ask questions about whether the very large subsidies spent on this project are the best way of providing housing for low income seniors.

We do not have infinite tax money. What if subsidizing these seniors' rents is a more efficient way of Supporting them than spending millions, defacing neighborhoods and build these segregated buildings for low income seniors?

I am voting NO on D because I w ant to hear a discussion of why this is the most efficient use of the tax payer funds.

Like this comment
Posted by Joe Hirsch
a resident of Green Acres
on Oct 27, 2013 at 7:25 am

Please note that the Yes on D group banners in its mailers, etc., state "Affordable Senior Housing in Palo Alto" or "Affordable Senior Housing for Palo Alto", not "Affordable Senior Housing for Palo Altans", if that makes a difference to you. The most major proponent of high-density rezoning for this project is signaling that they really don't believe that a majority of the seniors in their Maybell proposal will be Palo Altans. Given their financing, which as I understand it includes City, County and possibly Federal money, they can't restrict the housing to Palo Altans, no matter what individuals would like to think or say.

Vote AGAINST Measure D and send this project back to were it should have started one year ago - a conversation between PAHC and the neighborhood seeking a win-win situation (ala the Terman Working Group 30+ years ago) that could have avoided bringing us to where we are now.

Vote AGAINST Measure D and its high-density rezoning in a residential neighborhood.

Like this comment
Posted by Parent
a resident of Green Acres
on Oct 27, 2013 at 8:57 am

The outcomes people want:

If Measure D passes:
City and PAHC: build apartments for seniors at Maybell, save tons of money doing it by upzoning neighborhood.

If Measure D doesn't pass (if Against D wins):
Neighborhood: A working group is formed that finds a way to put in the affordable housing in a win-win like the Terman Working Group that brought us the 92-units of affordable housing in the same neighborhood 30 years ago after just such controversy. The needs of children's safety, of the neighborhood, of the families who use the park, and the disabled children at the school programs for the disabled across the street are respected rather than ignored as everyone works out how to best achieve the housing the next day. Trust is rebuilt in the community and goals are met. (Many neighbors Against D were in that group including Joe Hirsch and have been asking for this all along.)

What people will actually get:

If Measure D passes:
PAHC: ongoing and expensive legal battles, causing more cost, division, and mistrust to the community and their reputation. They may very well not get to build anyway.

ABAG: Palo Alto can no longer claim it can't upzone residential neighborhoods to meet its goals.

If Measure D fails (if Against Measure D wins):
The City has to finally listen to and work with neighbors. A working group is formed that finds a way to put in the affordable housing in a win-win like the Terman Working Group that brought us the 92-units of affordable housing in the same neighborhood 30 years ago. The needs of children's safety, of the neighborhood, of the families who use the park, and the disabled children at the school programs for the disabled across the street are respected rather than ignored as everyone works out how to best build the housing the next day. Trust is rebuilt in the community and goals are met. (Many neighbors Against D were in that group including Joe Hirsch and have been asking for this all along.)

The proponents of rezoning, in order to push through a bad plan to make/save themselves a lot of money and convince the rest of Palo Alto that so dramatically upzoning in residential neighborhoods is a good idea, have demonized the neighbors and torn this neighborhood apart. Having worked with the AGAINST people, I know they are good people who will work out a real win-win.

By the way, the money for the new development is being made by selling off the upzoned property - the for-profit developer will then make a ton of money off of it. His profits from selling the new houses will NOT be going to support the affordable component, as people mistakenly seem to think, only the profit of selling the upzoned land will. The for-profit developer stands to make a killing, which will be going into hs own pocket.

With this project PAHC is becoming a developer for the main building - why don't they just build the houses themselves, too, and put all the profits into the affordable housing? They could afford to respect the zoning then. They would then make all the money from selling the market-rate portion, and would make even more money than the plan in Measure D by millions, while building something acceptable to the neighborhood at the same time.

Neighbors asked for this win win in City meetings, and PAHC said that's not their mission, to make money. Huh? They want to make money by selling the upzoned property to a for-profit builder, but don't want to make even more money just building the houses more in keeping with the neighborhood zoning along with the main building and selling them to help finance the main building far better? I repeat, they are using the profits from only the sale of the upzoned 55% of the land to the market-rate developer. They are literally using the densification of the neighborhood to make money. The market-rate developer will be keeping the profits of selling those homes, those greater profits will not go to support the affordable side. The costs of the plan will be borne by the neighborhood, the children's safety, the disabled children at the school across the street or the disabled, etc.

And a Supreme Court ruling in California last week - against Palo Alto of all places - gives the developer 3 years to challenge the fee written into the ordinance anyway, (which is the very incentive to densify the neighborhood in the first place). The very validity of the ordinance itself may be challengeable just on those grounds.

Voting AGAINST is the only way forward to get the housing and work together. Against is the best choice for everyone and is the healing choice. Please vote Against D.

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