Palo Alto makes it easier to add 'accessory' housing | March 10, 2017 | Palo Alto Weekly | Palo Alto Online |

Palo Alto Weekly

News - March 10, 2017

Palo Alto makes it easier to add 'accessory' housing

Council relaxes requirements and restrictions in hopes of addressing housing shortage

by Gennady Sheyner

Palo Alto residents have plenty of reasons to like "accessory dwelling units" and a few reasons to fear them.

Also known as "granny units," the additions to residential properties tend to be small, relatively inexpensive and dispersed widely throughout the city. Most importantly, they hold promise for addressing one of the city's most intractable challenges — its severe housing shortage.

At the same time, not everyone is ready to welcome new homes, particularly because some homes have been used as short-term rentals rather than permanent residences and others have created parking problems.

On Tuesday night, after hearing from a large crowd of advocates and a few critics, the City Council threw its support behind encouraging more accessory dwelling units (ADUs) when it approved a series of reforms that eliminate numerous existing barriers. By a 6-2 vote, with Karen Holman and Tom DuBois dissenting and Lydia Kou abstaining, the council also directed staff to come up with incentives the city can provide to residents who build accessory dwelling units, particularly if these units are made available for moderate- or low-income residents, seniors, people with disabilities and public employees.

Councilman Cory Wolbach crafted the motion to relax rules for building such housing.

"It's a chance to bring the family close and keep them close, whether it's a parent or grandparent or a child with a disability," Wolbach said.

Councilman Adrian Fine lauded the units for both allowing multi-generational living and for increasing residents' property rights.

"We're leaving the choice of growth up to each resident in Palo Alto, and I think that's really important," Fine said.

Dozens of people came to the meeting to the make the case for ADUs. Kate Talbot said she has two children, both of whom are approaching an age at which they will soon be moving out of her house. One of them, she said, "has special needs and will need help finding a place to live."

"I'm really hoping you will help pass the ADU ordinance so that he can continue to live in this community, which is where he's been raised among the people that he knows," Talbot said.

Resident Richard Stolee said he thinks the small units allow family members to share finances and assist each other with child care. They also have a relatively low impact on the community, Stoler said.

"I think we're tired of seeing large apartment construction all over the city, and this is one way of reducing the need for this kind of construction," Stolee said.

Others were more cautious. Resident Kristian Meisling said allowing more accessory housing will fundamentally and irreversibly alter the city's residential areas.

"It will change the single-family character of our neighborhoods. It will have a negative effect on property values," Meisling said.

Some council members expressed similar concerns and urged more restraint in eliminating regulations. Among the biggest changes the council approved was the elimination of the "minimum lot size" requirement, which allowed accessory dwelling units only on lots that exceed the minimum lot size of their zoning district by 35 percent or more (the policy, in effect, excluded properties from hosting accessory units). Now, any residential lot can include such housing.

Other changes were made to comply with recently approved state laws, which also aim to encourage more housing. Thanks to Senate Bill 1069 and Assembly Bill 2299, cities are now required to allow the conversion of portions of existing homes into accessory dwelling units. State law also pre-empts cities from using development standards such as height limit and lot size to ban such conversions; and it waives parking requirements for accessory housing near transit. The city's new ordinance will reflect these requirements.

Palo Alto's ordinance will also allow the creation of "junior accessory dwelling units" — a bedroom that is converted into its own unit (and must have a kitchenette and be no greater than 500 square feet). These spaces are also encouraged by a state law that took effect in January.

In addition to the state requirements, the council approved on Tuesday a laundry list of additional incentives, including ones that grant extra square footage to both types of units; relax parking requirements for accessory dwelling units (currently, each unit is required to have two parking spots); eliminate door-orientation requirements; and limit accessory dwelling units to 17 feet in height. Championed by Wolbach and Fine, many of these provisions generated significant debate and vehement dissent from their colleagues.

Councilman Eric Filseth called accessory housing a "logical way to proceed" but argued against relaxing the parking requirements near transit zones. He noted the very neighborhoods that are located near busy transit areas (and are, therefore, eligible for the exemptions) are the ones where the parking shortage is most acute — namely, downtown and California Avenue.

"There is a real parking problem in town, and we should be very cautious about handing out parking (space) because we've done that too much in the past and we ended up where we are," Filseth said.

Councilwoman Karen Holman said she supports the broad effort to encourage accessory housing, but rejected the added provisions proposed by Wolbach. Many of them, she said, will "have a very negative impact and negative reaction from residents."

"I want this to be a popular ordinance we're passing," Holman said.

Tom DuBois tried unsuccessfully to remove several provisions that increase the allowed density for these units. His proposal to do so was defeated 4-5, with Holman, Kou and Filseth joining him.

Staff Writer Gennady Sheyner can be emailed at gsheyner@paweekly.com.

Comments

Posted by stephen levy, a resident of University South
on Mar 8, 2017 at 6:44 am

stephen levy is a registered user.

Thank you council for easing restrictions on accessory dwelling units. The large turnout last night demonstrated the many positive ways ADUs can help different and important groups of residents. I hope you continue to say yes to making it easier to expand the types of housing that can be built here and especially smaller units.

As the speakers said last night, this is not the 1950s and the structure of families and their housung needs arecand will continue to change.

Help our housing choices respond to changing demographics, preferences and family needs.

Bravo!!!


Posted by Flexible for Families , a resident of Fairmeadow
on Mar 8, 2017 at 7:36 am

Thank you Council for bringing us into compliance with state law and then having the vision to create additional opportunities for home owners to tailor ADUs to the needs of their changing families.


Posted by anon , a resident of Evergreen Park
on Mar 8, 2017 at 7:44 am

Regardless of the out come on ADUs, some of which was mandated by the state, the mayor demonstrated a very different style of leading the council last night. Not far from the other meetings he has chaired by more overtly he allowed himself the privilege of speaking first , coming out as the first speaker and with a motion.

I guess there is no longer even any pretense of benefiting from the ideas of your colleagues and listening to their deliberation before making your decision. Very like a monarchy rather than a democracy!

Time and time again the mayor will not let his colleagues speak and seems to think Mayorship allows him dictate to the council and the people. His style results in a unsettling creep from democracy and doesn't even result in shorter meetings as Council members only have the motion and voting period to get their ideas across for discussion.

This is a rather shocking way to dismiss the ideas of others that should offend everyone one the dais and in the public.
The Mayor flouts the process and shows contempt for his colleagues and the people!

Boo!


Posted by Thanks to the new council, a resident of Downtown North
on Mar 8, 2017 at 7:50 am

This Council is suddenly taking on our housing problem in a meaningful way. This is an encouraging first step. Thanks to City Council for making it much more affordable to create more housing supply in our community. Well done!


Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 8, 2017 at 7:52 am

Not happy with this for many reasons. I have no objection to a neighbor building something for Granny, but what happens when Granny passes or when the house is sold by its present owners?

What happens about things like trash collection and other utilities, do the units have separate utility bills, separate trash containers, higher charges for sewers and storm drains, etc.?

What happens about property tax assessment?

I can see all sorts of scenarios that make this worrisome. Will the units be rented out to get a Palo Alto address for Palo Alto schools?

Parking has to be an issue as well as other quality of life issues to a neighborhood.


Posted by Question, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Mar 8, 2017 at 7:56 am

Where can we find a copy of the new rules? Thanks!


Posted by Curious, a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Mar 8, 2017 at 7:58 am

Can the Weekly publish a summary of what the current requirements are for ADUs with the passage of new rules?


Posted by Housing Housing Housing, a resident of Downtown North
on Mar 8, 2017 at 8:02 am

Thank you Palo Alto City Council for crafting such a STRONG package of ADU reforms. Hope to see many many more backyard cottages and small homes in the coming months so families can continue to grow together, and community members can remain in our community!


Posted by A victory for residents, a resident of University South
on Mar 8, 2017 at 8:09 am

Great news from last night's Council meeting! I'm so proud to see our Council listening to the needs of residents and removing outdated barriers to housing. Making it easier for residents to adapt their own homes to their needs is a win for old and young residents alike.


Posted by Happy Camper, a resident of Professorville
on Mar 8, 2017 at 8:11 am

Yes, Yes, YES! Thank you City Council for finally moving on a solution rather exacerbating our housing crisis. Those Council members who say they're "for" housing but put up obstacles are finally outvoted. Adding ADUs to our housing stock is a small but important step in the right direction. Council members Wolbach, Scharff, Fine, Kniss, Tanaka and Filseth -- thank you for your leadership!


Posted by anon , a resident of Evergreen Park
on Mar 8, 2017 at 8:15 am

I agree with resident; the impacts and logistics of this rash "one size fits all" bill were not discussed, and apparently not considered on Sacramento when crafting this bill.

Surely it is more appropriate for large cities with mass transit, not small towns like Palo alto. We are facing dwindling VTA service and have only one bus , the 22, that comes with any frequency.
Caltrain is at capacity at commute hours and does not offer most a reliable commute option.

In a recent staff report the Caltrain service at California ave was termed " not robust", and it was noted that the "area was not well served by express buses" like the downtown transit center.

Many already have illegal ADUs, and rent as many rooms in their house ( basically a Junior ADUs ) as they like so the impact may be low, but the idea that legalizing this will result in safer better accommodations for renters is pretty
unrealistic we have virtually no code enforcement in this city now, hard to imagine that increased demand will make it
more reliable.
Also, if strictly understood, what the Council passed last night could result in many existing ADUs and JADUs being shut down due to non compliance with the law!!! after all many that have very casually rented basements, semi converted garages, and rooms in their homes may not comply with the standards in the law and may not have the money to bring the units into compliance; resulting in a loss of actual places for people live.

Of course if ones true purpose is actually to eliminate of R-1 zoning, which is the goal of a small minority of folks, you
might not care about the people you hurt in the process.





Posted by Question, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 8, 2017 at 8:34 am

"Among the biggest changes that the council approved was the elimination of the "minimum lot size" requirement, which limited accessory-dwelling units to those lots that exceed the minimum lot size of their zoning district by 35 percent or more (the policy, in effect, excluded more properties from pursuing ADUs). Now, any lot with code-conforming size can include such a unit."

Can the writer please clarify what this means? We have a property just under the minimum lot size. I cannot understand from this what this specifically means to what we can and can't do.


Posted by musical, a resident of Palo Verde
on Mar 8, 2017 at 8:38 am

How does this increase revenues to the City to pay for more services?


Posted by Chao Lam, a resident of Downtown North
on Mar 8, 2017 at 8:46 am

Thank you, City Council! This is a great first step towards ensuring a diversity of housing choices in Palo Alto, especially around transit centers


Posted by Annette Isaacson, a resident of Midtown
on Mar 8, 2017 at 10:25 am

Thank you, City Council, for approving the changes to allow more ADUs and Accessory Dwelling Units, and thanks to Palo Alto Forward for stimulating the discussion and moving us closer to having some affordable housing in Palo Alto. The ADUs will provide housing for family members and care givers as well as Palo Alto workers who currently can't afford to rent in Palo Alto as well as providing income for home owners. Having an ADU on the property may make it possible for a young family to buy in Palo Alto because they will now be able to generate some income from the rental to help pay the mortgage. A Win-Win!


Posted by Authoritarian mayor, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Mar 8, 2017 at 10:58 am

Anon is correct in describing Mayor Scharff's behavior. He interrupts the people he disagrees with, but allows fast talking Wolbach to go on, and on, and on, and on. And on.

At the previous item, he pretended he couldn't understand a suggested amendment again and again until he tore it to shreds.

Skillful and manipulative, he works for development interests. No thanks to Pat Burt for choosing him to be ViceMayor so that he became Mayor.


Posted by mauricio, a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Mar 8, 2017 at 11:31 am

This is nothing but a major step toward the elimination R-1 zoning, the main goal of PAF, their corporate backers and their enablers on the CC. This town will eventually look like any depressing sardine can around the country, with the quality of life disappearing and morphing into a community where residents live in depressing density on top of each other with no infrastructure even barely sufficient enough to support it. Congestion, pollution, gridlocked traffic, more crime and urban blight is the future.


Posted by Linnea, a resident of Monroe Park
on Mar 8, 2017 at 11:33 am

Congratulations and many thanks to the City Council for the forward-thinking amendments to Palo Alto's Accessory Dwelling ordinance. This is a fine step in acknowledging changing times and the ever-changing needs of the Palo Alto community by encouraging distributed, integrated, privately funded,small-scale housing units.
I see multiple benefits for the community and for my family. As the aging parent of a disabled young adult, I will now be able to ensure low-income housing for him, or housing for myself as I age. I can fit a cottage into the neighborhood in which I have lived for 40 years rather than cutting trees, paving the entire front yard, and building a monster house.


Posted by Norman Beamer, a resident of Crescent Park
on Mar 8, 2017 at 11:36 am

The parking aspect of this is troubling. Why should areas that have permit parking allow the unit to avoid providing off-street parking? The whole point of parking permits is to relieve blocks form the problem of too may cars parked on the street. This rule will increase the number of cars on the street. Also, does anyone seriously think that being near a bus stop of a Zip-car location, etc., will significantly reduce the need for occupants to have their own cars?


Posted by Dan, a resident of Midtown
on Mar 8, 2017 at 12:23 pm

There are two possible outcomes to this... first, no real significant amount of additional ADUs get built so it doesn't make any difference (best case...most likely outcome) or second, people start trying to shoehorn them into neighborhoods and lots where they are not appropriate and there will be lawsuits, and neighbor vs neighbor conflicts. Either way the outcome will not be positive.


Posted by Carolynn, a resident of Crescent Park
on Mar 8, 2017 at 2:09 pm

What a victory for residents over developers for an integrated, diverse community. Housing that makes sense for Palo Alto, just great City Council!


Posted by Gale Johnson, a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Mar 8, 2017 at 2:33 pm

Bad bad bad. PA isn't, and shouldn't aspire to be EPA. I suspect the proponents that spoke were lined up to speak, by CC members in favor of it. If it passes I will not support or vote for any CC members who support this idea. Let the current rules stand and see how far that goes in the future. Come on, all you granny lovers, it isn't going to be grannies living in those units and you know it. Nice try on providing affordable housing in PA. You aren't dealing with the real solution, but just offering a bad one, and one that will have little, I'm sure, if enacted, any impact on the housing problem.


Posted by Gale Johnson, a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Mar 8, 2017 at 3:11 pm

To all those in favor and anxious of getting their kids out of the house and into a backyard cottage, what is your thinking on that? What suddenly happened that you don't like your kids living in your house anymore? Have any of the folks in favor, thought about the costs of building the ADU's, the added taxes, utility hookups, etc? Probably not, and neither have the brilliant proponents of the idea on CC. It falls into the dreamland category. I have those almost every night but then I wake up and realize I have a day of reality ahead. Very humbling, but it's reality in the real world.


Posted by Marie, a resident of Midtown
on Mar 8, 2017 at 3:52 pm

Marie is a registered user.

Was there anything in the ordinance to help prevent these units from becoming Air bnb units, used for short-term rentals, currently not allowed in R-1 zoning but tolerated by the city as long as Air bnb pays TOT. Is there any limit to the number of cars that can be parked in the surrounding neighborhoods?

I would like to see any ADU that doesn't require onsite parking to also be ineligible for any RPP parking permits. Otherwise the parking deficit will become even worse.

I'd also like to see a survey made of existing ADU's to see how many are used by family members, how many are LT rentals (over 30 days) and how many are air bnb units and how many result in additional cars parked in neighborhoods. You can't solve a problem unless you know the magnitude of the problem.


Posted by Curious, a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Mar 8, 2017 at 4:21 pm

I am no expert, but am I reading the zoning info right that detached ADUs still need to be set back 20 feet from the rear property line and 8 feet from the side property like, and 12 feet from the main dwelling? I don't know about your lot, but there will then be -15 feet on which to build the ADU on our lot!


Posted by Long Time Resident, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Mar 8, 2017 at 4:29 pm

I think that this plan will end up costing our city more in the long run.
Both financially, and further fracture any sense of community we once had (or hope to build). Examples:
We have one family in our neighborhood that brought in a fancy shed from the hardware store and had electricity added to house one of their kids (who comes and goes at all hours of the night).
Another neighbor houses his foreign "nanny" in another. The "nanny" ended up having a baby, and now that child attends PAUSD, and they still live in that small shed/house.
Another man brought two girls over from SE Asia who do all his cooking and housework. He told immigration that they were cousins, but they are NOT blood related by any means, just indentured to his high status family back in his homeland. These illegal women have been attending San Jose state for almost 5 years. As far as "relatives like aunties, cousins, niece/nephew" - The term is loosely used in developing countries, and you would be amazed at how easy it is to pay a big bribe to have this formally documented.
I know it is a bit off-topic, but since we can't ignore that our demographics have changed over the past few decades - the council's move seems to be nothing more than "enabling".


Posted by Authoritarian mayor, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Mar 8, 2017 at 4:32 pm

PA Forward and their developer sponsors were out in full force: architect Elaine Uang, developer Sandra Slater, architect Randy? Popp, attorney Diane Morin, realtor Amy Sung, and more. Pretending they know who would live in these units. And advocating for NO Parking Requirement.

Interestingly they didn't show their many Palantir employees.


Posted by Long Time Resident, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Mar 8, 2017 at 4:40 pm

I am with Gale on her posts. She is "spot-on" correct. No "grannies" are going to be housed in these units - at least I hope not!
The ADU's I have seen (and been inside) in Old Palo Alto, would not be fit for an elderly adult to live in. A teen, maybe.
I wanted to complain about the illegal nannie and her baby living inside one of them and also the two SE Asian servants sharing a tiny room for years in the back of another home. Outrageous! And their heat consisted of a space heater with a long orange extension cord.
What in the heck has happened to our city and society?
Are some of these council members not well traveled, or simply out-of-touch with people in their neighborhoods?


Posted by Robert, a resident of another community
on Mar 8, 2017 at 6:14 pm

I've yet to hear any complaints that are ADU specific, as in, how the impact is any different than if someone rented out a spare bedroom or a converted garage; they seems mostly to come from nosy neighbors concerned about what is going on in other people's homes. Thankfully the state has stepped in and more than likely will continue to do so.


Posted by Curmudgeon, a resident of Downtown North
on Mar 8, 2017 at 6:41 pm

"Time and time again the mayor will not let his colleagues speak and seems to think Mayorship allows him dictate to the council and the people."

Mayor Scharff has a delicate problem to finesse. If he eases up control and lets the other councilmembers speak too freely, there is a real danger that democracy might break out and produce an outcome he and his backers don't want.


Posted by Erin, a resident of Midtown
on Mar 8, 2017 at 9:20 pm

The idea that these Granny Units will somehow be used or low income housing is laughable. I predict they will be rented at market rate to the highest bidder. Without specific code, and enforcement, to make these low income units, they will not be used for that purpose. This smells like a successful effort by PAF to make Palo Alto a community of dense urban blight.


Posted by Real Curmudgeon, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 8, 2017 at 9:24 pm

"Mayor Scharff has a delicate problem to finesse. If he eases up control and lets the other councilmembers speak too freely, there is a real danger that democracy might break out and produce an outcome he and his backers don't want.
"

By Democracy, you mean greedy bay area housing owners who want to fatten up their property values and screw over the young? NIMBYism at it's finest in this comments section.


Posted by xPA, a resident of another community
on Mar 9, 2017 at 8:22 am

"The council also directed staff to come up with incentives that the city can provide to residents who build accessory-dwelling units, particularly if these units are made available for moderate- or low-income residents, seniors, people with disabilities and public employees."


Delusional


Posted by AB, a resident of Midtown
on Mar 9, 2017 at 10:06 am

I agree with Gale, Erin etc. This is a terrible idea. It will just lead to overcrowding and parking issues. I agree with Gale, the proponents were probably lined up by the council members that were in favor of this. And really, the better way to vote is by sending out ballots, as they are doing with the stormwater initiative. I would have vehemently voted against it, but had a conflict related to work and could not make the meeting. I suspect several other residents were in the same boat. Very bad direction. This city council appears to be taking PA down the path of doom.

Personally I am a homeowner and I can probably benefit from this by constructing a ADR and making some money. I just dont think though that it is in the best interests of PA, as it would worsen congestion and parking woes.

Truly ashamed to have such folks be in the council of the city I live in.


Posted by big picture, a resident of College Terrace
on Mar 9, 2017 at 11:13 am

a potential source for an increase in renters with kids in PAUSD that do not pay property tax - means a potential increase in students without an increase in revenue of per student spending

GREAT!


Posted by Online Name, a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Mar 9, 2017 at 11:19 am

Incentives for homeowners who provide city employees with ADU's? How about giving us tax credits and part of their already generous benefits packages including their downtown parking spaces?

I noticed that Palo Alto Forward didn't waste a second in announcing they're sponsoring a Tiny House design event with their architects. Tell me again who benefits from this.

Seriously, what happens to our tax rates if we build or buy an ADU? Does our entire tax rate basis on structures change? Maybe this is how Greg Tanaka will realize his dream of doubling city tax revenue!


Posted by Resident, a resident of Community Center
on Mar 9, 2017 at 11:29 am

Mayor Scharff's speaking first and coming straight out motions and limiting of discussion of minority pro-resident council members is a step down from previous mayors. The discussion of comp plan was an example of how devastating to the future of city this approach can be.

My big problem with the ADUs is the insufficient parking. The justification for exemptions is wishful thinking. How many current residents who live within 0.75 miles of CalTrain do not own a car? A very small percent but the assumption here is 100% of ADU inhabitants will not own a car. In other words, the pro-growth majority is not concerned about residents parking problems.

Secondly, without strict rules and enforcement against AirBnB renting that will be the primary use and it will greatly reduce its impact on addressing the housing shortage.

Lastly, any FAR bonus given will mean many folks will lie about their intended use to get the additional FAR unless its put into the deed. Wish there was more detail on specifically what was passed this in the article.


Posted by Jaap Weel, a resident of another community
on Mar 9, 2017 at 12:14 pm

We have a great big housing shortage in the entire Bay Area, and everybody needs to chip in and allow some housing to be built. It's very encouraging to see Palo Alto contributing to the the necessary first step in addressing the housing crisis: making the solution not illegal. Palo Alto is going to need more multi-unit zoning too, though. And I'm sure Palo Alto will get there. This ADU ordinance is a great step in the right direction.


Posted by Jaap Weel, a resident of another community
on Mar 9, 2017 at 12:36 pm

As for "PAF not showing Palantir employees": I'm a Palantir employee, and I support the ADU law, and I support upzoning, and I support Palo Alto Forward, and I'm not hiding.

When I first moved to Menlo Park in 2011, I paid $1400 in rent. Those apartments are now $2200. A modest home where you can live with kids will cost you twice that, and buying one is out of the question for many young people, even well paid computer programmers, let alone teachers or social workers.

Tech workers are moving into East Palo Alto in ever increasing numbers. I would know; I lived there myself for three years, and rented out rooms to other tech workers. And as a consequence of people like me and my lodgers moving in, the working class people that lived there beforehand are getting squeezed. Many of them choose to pack tighter and tighter into the same old houses, but that's not conducive to their health and sanity. Some of them leave the area; but often, that means not just losing access to jobs, but also being cut off from a community of friends and family, immigrants from the same town in Mexico or the same Pacific island that help and support each other, but aren't in a position to do so when their community is dispersed.

I know that everybody and their cousin in Palo Alto has a solution to the problem that involves building more housing in some other place. I know this because Palo Alto, believe it or not, is not special. Anywhere you go in the Bay Area, people will acknowledge that there's clearly a shortage of housing, but they always want to go blame it on some other place. And I agree with these people completely. The people in Oakland are entirely right that San Francisco doesn't build enough. The people in San Francisco are entirely right that Oakland doesn't build enough.

Solving the housing crisis is not helped by pointing fingers, though. You have to start at home.


Posted by Palantir pay is low, a resident of Midtown
on Mar 9, 2017 at 12:42 pm

@Jaap - yes it is well known that Palantir pay is low. But that doesn't entitle you to housing in PA and worsen the congestion in the process. Try getting into Google or FB or some such employer that will pay you enough to live in PA. Or better still, convince your employer to move out of PA. I know that will make a lot of residents happy.


Posted by Robert, a resident of another community
on Mar 9, 2017 at 12:52 pm

@Palantir pay is low

Where exactly did he claim to be entitled to housing in Palo Alto?


Posted by AB, a resident of Midtown
on Mar 9, 2017 at 1:11 pm

@Palantir pay is low - this brings up a thought - I wonder if Palantir orchestrated the large show of pro-ADU supporters in the meeting. They are known to be pushing for low cost housing, to accomomdate their employees who dont make enough to live in PA. If they did so, I lost whatever respect I had for Palantir.


Posted by Nasty Mayor, a resident of Crescent Park
on Mar 9, 2017 at 1:44 pm

[Post removed.]






Posted by Clobbered, a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Mar 9, 2017 at 2:10 pm

[Post removed.]


Posted by Gale Johnson, a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Mar 9, 2017 at 3:07 pm

Be honest now, for once. Re the featured photo of the two bedroom two bath home...how much did that cost to build and maintain...utility hookups, fees, and other costs, taxes, etc? How big is the lot it's built on? Who's living in it and how much are they paying to live in it? It's advertised as a 'granny unit' but is a real breathing granny living there? Nice try all you ADU supporters. I bet I don't get an honest answer to my questions. What a stupid way to advertise for the new ADU idea. Better fire those people responsible for that promo ad.


Posted by Marie, a resident of Midtown
on Mar 9, 2017 at 3:09 pm

Marie is a registered user.

@Long time Resident

Palo Alto code enforcement has much improved in the last couple years with additional employees. I complained via Palo Alto 311 about a shed within two feet of the sidewalk three months ago and it has been removed. It did take almost 3 months but it was an easy process and it did work.

I highly recommend all those who spot illegal, dangerous dwellings or any other code enforcement issue, to open up an account and report dangerous situations. It has also worked for getting landscaping blocking sidewalks to be trimmed.

Web Link

I also think we need to demand that the city monitor the impact on parking of ADU's and make changes to reduce that impact. If someone lives in an ADU that has no dedicated parking, then they should not be eligible for a parking permit. The limited parking in RPP's also should be extended to weekends and evenings as many areas around California Avenue are packed on weekends and evenings.


Posted by Curmudgeon, a resident of Downtown North
on Mar 9, 2017 at 4:39 pm

"Solving the housing crisis is not helped by pointing fingers, though. You have to start at home."

Oxymoron intended? Or just a pun? ;]

What we have here is the collision of a highly bloated demand with a supply of limited elasticity and little financial incentive to expand it. Result: the demanders egregiously bid up housing prices, then whine for existing residents to solve their self-inflicted problem.

Gang, there is no God-ordained necessity that you be here. If you insist on staying, then fit in. Don't expect the residents to cater to you. We are not your parents. You should be beyond that.

This is your problem to solve. Two viable options: (1) Demand your employer pay you enough to buy the housing of your dreams, else you take your indispensible self to a more generous sweatshop; and/or (2) encourage your compadres to leave until the diminishing demand de-inflates the prices all of you inflated.


Posted by Sanctimonious City, a resident of another community
on Mar 9, 2017 at 5:34 pm

Instead of calling them "Granny units", I have a better name for this initiative.

Let's call it "Air BnB Bonanza" because it will be a windfall for renting out rooms by the night for out of towners visiting our neighborhoods.

[Portion removed.]

Look at the bright side. We will all get to know our neighbors better as we circle the area looking for a parking spot since all the ones in front of our homes will now be taken. In addition, we can get some extra exersize going to and from our cars because they will now be parked two blocks away.


Posted by Obnoxious PA mayor, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Mar 9, 2017 at 5:58 pm

The mayor treats his fellow council members and the public with no respect. The arrogance!


Posted by Airbnb restrictions?, a resident of College Terrace
on Mar 9, 2017 at 6:43 pm

Did the CC limit the use of new ADUs for short rentals (i.e. Airbnb)? If not, this seems like a serious omission.


Posted by Gale Johnson, a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Mar 9, 2017 at 7:20 pm

Thanks Long Time Resident and AB, but I'm a he man.


Posted by Gale Johnson, a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Mar 9, 2017 at 8:02 pm

@AB, Those newbies were duly elected to council, so let's give them a chance and see how well they do in solving our big problems, not picking away at the fringes of the little ones. ADU's aren't a game breaker one way or the other, it's just the idea of it, in the first place, as a way to help solve our housing problem, affordable housing, and the fallacy of how that will help and happen, is what bothers me. And they all know it ain't for grannies. Grannies deserve better than being put in the backyard in a shed. Think about it! Let's see how many of the proponents follow thru and build 'granny' units in their own backyards. How many of our CC members are willing to do that? I think we might be seeing some NIMBYism from the former established anti NIMBYers.


Posted by YIMBY, a resident of Mountain View
on Mar 9, 2017 at 11:27 pm

What dwelling units do you guys live in where you don't have a parking spot and have to hunt on the street for general parking? The only places where this tends to be an issue are larger cities where getting a dedicated parking spot in your apartment building might cost an arm and a leg. Palo Alto isn't that dense, so I'd assume most residents have everything from a garage + driveway down to at least a reasonably priced spot that comes with your apartment/condo.


Posted by musical, a resident of Palo Verde
on Mar 9, 2017 at 11:39 pm

Somebody should do a 3:00am street-parking survey of R-1 neighborhoods. Looks to me like 75 percent of homes already have a car stored overnight out front. Maybe it's in self-defense.


Posted by Disaster, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 10, 2017 at 12:49 pm

I'm not opposed to these units, but the devil is in the details. Completely overlooked is the problem that you can stuff as many tenants as you want in R-1 homes. That's right -- 20, 30, 40 people and same goes for the number of cars. There is no limit to the numbers and that will be the case for the new granny units.

Code enforcement will tell you that they don't want to restrict home owners from renting out their bedrooms, living rooms, closets, or whatever. On Craigs list you can see some rooms with multiple bunk beds that sleep six or even eight to a room. What do you think will happen with the new granny units?

Motels, boarding houses, bed and breakfasts all have to meet certain licensing requirements to run their businesses. But Code enforcement is very lax when a home owner turns their R-1 home into a big boarding house business.

There needs to be restrictions on how many tenants and how many cars a home owner can have!



Posted by Judith, a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Mar 10, 2017 at 4:57 pm

I think there is an error in the hard=copy Weekly sidebar: The maximum size of a DETACHED ADU is 900 sf. The added 175 sf FAR does not get added to the ADU, but to the total for the property.


Posted by FloggrGurl, a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Mar 10, 2017 at 5:28 pm

@Anon @Authoritarian mayor-It is incredibly disheartening to read spiteful comments such as yours regarding our mayor. There is FINALLY a mayor in charge who is doing his job with professionalism, intelligence, levelheadedness, knowledge of the law, and a sense of when enough if enough. It IS up to him to make the hard calls. Like two nights in a row last week when the meetings went until midnight and if left to their own devices, certain members of our council would have droned on even longer, wasting more time reiterating the same nonsense repeatedly.

Somebody needs to take charge and it is the responsibility of the mayor, EVERY mayor, to do just that. I think we are fortunate to have Mayor Scharff leading us in these uncertain times


Posted by Skeletor, a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Mar 10, 2017 at 6:39 pm

@Gale Johnson

We shall see about that once my Evil Warriors are done with you haha!


Posted by Breath of Fresh Air, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 10, 2017 at 10:02 pm

I am so thankful to the City Council members who voted for ADU's Thank you Thank you and Yes! Yes. It is time to have forward thinking council members who are not afraid of change and are not indebted only to a minority who are afraid of change. Thank you Mayor Scharff, you are a true leader! Thank you Vice Mayor Kniss and Council Members Wolbach, Fine, Tanaka and Filseth. I am a "granny" and I plan to live in the ADU. I made plans when we bought this house 30 years ago but never could build it because of the nonsensical zoning and other restrictions. You worked until past mid night and did not get side tracked by council members that were afraid of a public outcry if they voted for or against it. Lydia Kou, for example, simply abstained. What kind of leadership was that? How was that courageous? Councilman DuBois argued that no lot smaller than over 7000 square feet should have ADU's. Fine for richer folk or those with bigger lots but how does that help the folks with smaller lots or the "granny" folks with smaller incomes or on smaller lots who need ADU's? Another naysayer was desperately trying to make sure that her vote would be fora something "popular"......and kept trying to delay the vote by asking for more discussion. As mayor Scharff said to her something like : " There is sometimes nothing wrong with a "no" vote. Thank you! Our city is finally feeling a great breath of fresh air from the new leadership.


Posted by Long Time Resident, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Mar 10, 2017 at 11:03 pm

We are going to need a clear set of rules regarding these structures.
If these units end up being used as short term rentals, it will impact a neighborhoods feeling of safety and sense of community.

Homeowners decide to buy or rent a home for a sense of security and community -otherwise most of us would have continued renting tiny apts, dorm rooms, or nightly/weekly motel rooms.

We need to get our laws in order, and make it clear to our code enforcement officers what the rules & regulations are regarding this.

A friend on Creekside Drive complained for years about a woman who rented out multiple rooms in her home for short term boarders. She told me people came and went all night long for years. She felt it degraded her once tight-knit neighborhood.

It seems like we have already had an ongoing problem with illegal structures and short term rentals. Now all we have done is legalize it for a few architects who can profit from this. In the long run, it is going to complicate things like "who does or doesn't qualify for our schools", use of our libraries and city services, and the possibly effect of adding a motel to a neighborhood.

And meanwhile, what about the existing structures with people (servants), residing in them? Like the one with the orange extension cord I mentioned in my earlier post? Are the people staying in the units eligible for our public schools?

It seems like this council has a hard time telling a handful of architects "No".



Posted by Family, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 11, 2017 at 12:44 am

I disagree with all of this concern about short term rentals. In case anyone hasn't noticed, hotels have become impossible to afford. A college friend called me because she wanted to know if ahe could sleep in her car in my driveway because the hotel she had booked in Sj, the only one covered by her per diem, seemed so unsafe, a real roach motel (in all senses of the word). She was embarrassingly grateful to sleep on a cot in the only open space I had large enough - I wasn't about to let her sleep in her car, but we were already sardined because of visiting family. We constantly see requests on our neighborhood lists for places to put up visiting relatives and friends. I would be more than happy to be able to provide affordable short term rentals for visiting Stanford families, graduate students for the summer, etc. our neighborhood is bikeable to Stanford. We could really use the money to help pay our mortgage but I feel like it's also important to make it possible for people to visit their families if we are so lucky to finally be able to build space for ours. So I would try to be reasonable. There is a need for such housing and I disagree that it will hurt meighborhood oarking.


Posted by Gale Johnson, a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Mar 11, 2017 at 2:11 pm

Okay, I concede, just like Hillary had too. There weren't enough of us at the contrived meeting to voice our opinions. Bad on her, bad on us. And, I guess I shouldn't be so upset except for the basic idea of it and how the proponents perceive it as a step forward in the solution to our housing problem. They minimize the bad affects, quality of life in our R-1 neighborhoods, etc, and promote the benefits they perceive as helping the affordable housing 'crisis?'. No enforcement, no tracking down of the past scofflaws and fining them and forcing them to comply with the new rules. And now that the barn door is open for other violators, without enforcement, there could be more of the same. The speakers at council represented a minority of opinions in our total community. Put to a vote of all PA residents it would fail miserably. Renters don't own property and they make up a big portion of our population. They have no skin in the game. Most R-1 residents aren't interested in the idea, maybe up until now, but they haven't spoken out against it. Wait until all their neighbors start building ADU's in their backyards...then they will notice. And they might even be attracted by it as an income source to help pay their mortgage or pay for their next cruise.

And now staff is faced with another task, actually a dilemma. How to orchestrate a way to give owners' benefits if their ADU residents are in a very low, low, or median income level. Sounds like a lead up to us taxpayers pitching in to fund this idea. Grrr!


Posted by YIMBY, a resident of Mountain View
on Mar 11, 2017 at 3:05 pm

"Renters don't own property and they make up a big portion of our population. They have no skin in the game."

How are they supposed to own property when you guys restrict any new supply from coming onto the market and send the cost of property sky-high as a result?


Posted by Sanctimonious City, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 11, 2017 at 7:18 pm

These new units aren't going to help YIMBY or lower rents but they could be very useful in the following situations in our neighborhoods:

- Hacker hostels
- Marijuana dispensaries
- Birthing tourism
- Qualifying for PAUSD or UC school residency for remote families
- Opare or butler quarters
- Work week crash pads for the elite San Francisco hipster commuters that are tired of taking the Google buses

The business models that are the most lucrative are the ones where the "occupants" can take shifts or double/quadruple up. As long as they move the cars parked in front of your houses at least once every three days there is nothing you can do but curse the winds and start taking Uber.


Posted by YIMBY, a resident of Mountain View
on Mar 11, 2017 at 7:53 pm

Any new supply of housing units helps with rents. The issue is that there's been nowhere near enough supply added to the pool per year to keep up with the number of people moving to the Bay Area and keep housing costs from rising. Will these grannie units help rents in an appreciable way? Not even close, we need high density housing for that, not a few in-law units here and there. But it's something.


Posted by Long Time Resident, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Mar 11, 2017 at 9:22 pm

Our mail carrier on Lowell once complained about the many homes between Emerson and Alma that had multiple families living in them, and also people residing in structures in backyards.
He told me that they continually ask him to sort the mail between each family, and he told me he refused since it was one address.
Although this has been going on for at least a decade, it will only get more complicated from here on.
I'm with Gail on her posts.
I regret not speaking out about this.
Aren't the proponents of this mostly a handful of local architects?
I think one specializes in mini buildings if I'm not mistaken.
I feel way too many things are controlled by this small group of architects and builders. People with a self-interest simply making themselves look "caring" for grannies/nannies/homeless techies.
We have enough apartments in this city, and there are also plenty of apartments in neighboring cities.


Posted by YIMBY, a resident of Mountain View
on Mar 11, 2017 at 9:36 pm

There are most certainly not "plenty of apartments in neighboring cities". There aren't plenty of apartments anywhere. The entire Bay Area is severely lacking in the number of apartments it needs to keep up with housing demand and reduce prices down from utterly insane to simply just expensive.


Posted by mauricio, a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Mar 12, 2017 at 6:38 am

A new supply of building will not help with the rent, just like every new house just keeps setting new higher prices. New buildings will not making even the slightest dent in the enormous desire by millions to have a Palo Alto address. Building owners, who are in this only for profit, will demand, and receive, insane rents, and that will push rents higher and higher, making the situation even worse. The reality is that Palo Alto is maxed out, and can't absorb anymore residents without eliminating it as a residential suburb. Those who feel like they absolutely must have a Palo Alto zip code will have to take a reality check and look elsewhere. Of course architects want dwelling units, it means huge profits for them.


Posted by YIMBY, a resident of Mountain View
on Mar 12, 2017 at 6:51 am

Your understanding of how rents increase and decrease in a market are flawed, to say the least. Also, you place way too much emphasis on people specifically wanting a Palo Alto address over a place to live. Is that a symbol of status to you?


Posted by AB, a resident of Midtown
on Mar 12, 2017 at 9:46 am

No YIMBY - Mauricio's understanding is right and you are incorrect. And yes unfortunately too many people want a PA address. And they are willing to mess up quality of life in PA just to get in. There are so many cheaper places with more room close to PA, such as EPA. But these folks are pushing PA instead to have overcrowded microunit housing, because they would rather get into PA than EPA. I really wish people did not want to come into PA and congest it even more.


Posted by musical, a resident of Palo Verde
on Mar 12, 2017 at 10:19 am

Everyone has a status. The word you want is prestige, and people spend more for it.

For a better understanding of the market, look up "prestige-pricing".


Posted by YIMBY, a resident of Mountain View
on Mar 12, 2017 at 11:44 am

Rents are a matter of supply and demand. If there are no takers for a type of room at a certain rent, then it has to come down in price for it to eventually be taken. If there are few rooms and lots of demand for them, then it's very easy to jack up the price as your chances of finding a taker increase. If demand is spread out across lots of rooms, your chances of getting someone to take that high rent decrease. I look forward to your rebuttal of Econ 101.

Second, young people want a Palo Alto address to be near work, like Facebook. Palo Alto in and of itself is not a fancy clubhouse that people want to join, despite what you may want to believe. People are cramming to get in anywhere, be it EPA or PA or anywhere else along the Peninsula.

Your sense of entitlement that drives you to want to deny the next generation a place to live is unfortunate. The generation before you built housing in Palo Alto and grew to accept the dwellers there today, but now that you're there, it's time to pull the ladder up and refuse entry to anyone else. Sad.

Musical, if you think people (other than a select slice of your generation who cares about such things) look at Palo Alto and want to live there for "prestige", then I have unfortunate news for you. In fact I've never heard of something so ridiculous. No wonder you guys want to keep people out. You look at Palo Alto like it's some Stonecutters Society that gets less exclusive with each new resident. You've placed a portion of your self worth on the fact that you live in a particular zip code.


Posted by Online Name, a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Mar 12, 2017 at 1:35 pm

As the influx of all-cash foreign buyers continue, home prices and rents will continue to soar. In the past week I've started getting calls from realtors touting their all-cash offers from "solid foreign investors."

Last week I also got my first flyer from a real estate firm claiming to be 2d behind DeLeon in sales and bragging they listed and marketed your home in "more than 50 countries:"

Yimby, try browsing those buy/sell transaction listings to see who's actually buying what. There have also been many articles on the use of blind LLC's (limited liability corporations) to buy properties while hiding the true identities of the purchasers and on the "ghost houses" that remain empty because they were bought as foreign investments / safe places to stash money, not as real residents.

Stop blaming "greedy" homeowners and stop the pipe dream that increasing the housing supply will cause prices to drop. Prices won't drop until something's done about foreign investors.

But since the city takes a percentage of the sales price -- not a flat fee -- in the "document transfer fee" when your sell your house, nothing's likely to be done to limit foreign sales "for the benefit of the poor govt employees and low- and moderate-income residents." As if it costs five times more to transfer documents on a $500,000,000 house as a $1,000,000 house.

Speaking of which, I'm curious about what happens to our real estate taxes if we do add an ADU. I assume the land value remains unchanged for tax purposes but what about the structures? Do taxes only rise on the ADU or on the main house as well?


Posted by pares, a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 12, 2017 at 1:37 pm

YIMBY -- You should consider the reason why we have a housing problem: it's the jobs! More and more jobs are located here which is driving this crazy real estate market. And the housing that is going up is mostly rentals, so guess who gets to make money off of the rents? The very rich, CEO's, venture capitalists, etc. Young tech workers want good jobs and they do get good pay here -- but then they have turn around and pay very high rents which goes right back out of their pockets. As for condos, you have a problem if there is a major earthquake causing a loss if your dwelling.

Doesn't it make more sense to locate new jobs where the housing costs are more affordable?


Posted by Online Name, a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Mar 12, 2017 at 1:52 pm

Just yesterday I googled my street name because I wanted to see the price of a neighbor's house that had just listed and stumbled across a brand new rental for a nearby 4-bedroom totally ordinary house with "very large family and living rooms." Utilities and gardener to be paid separately.

The rate? $11,000 a month! That's $2750 for each of the 4 bedrooms and whatever else the tenant can get for stuffing people into the "very large living family and living rooms."

Pretty unlikely a single family is going to pay $132,000 a year for a rental.


Posted by musical, a resident of Palo Verde
on Mar 12, 2017 at 2:46 pm

Not just a portion -- all of my self-worth.


Posted by mauricio, a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Mar 12, 2017 at 5:34 pm

YIMBY, who actually does want a Palo Alto zip code, and is very obviously not satisfied with a Mountain View one, does not understand that supply&demand theory works only in the abstract, all things being equal. If a hundred people wanted, and could afford to rent a 100 units that a city agreed to allow a developer to build for them, or rather for real estate investors, than the demand would be eliminated, since the supply has met it. When millions of people want buy and rent, and even the most development friendly city council would allow only a small portion of that demand to be satisfied, prices will actually go up, quite sharply, since the developers would sell to the highest bidders, who in turn will demand extremely high rents in order to maximize their profits.

It is foreign buyers and companies that refuse to relocate to less expensive areas who are responsible for this crisis. The more development we allow, the higher housing prices will go up, while the housing shortage will stay just as bad. building into affordability and suffecient supply is impossible, and always will be. There isn't one place in the entire world in which it has worked. London, to name just one example, has experienced an extended and unprecedented gentrification and development period, exactly what people like YIMBy dream of, yet housing prices have skyrocketed to dizzying levels, since the more they developed, the more expensive housing become, in large part also due to foreign investors, and more people then ever can't afford to live in London, even professionals commanding high salaries, who are still forced to commute into London.


Posted by Long Time Resident, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Mar 12, 2017 at 6:09 pm

@YIMBY - a quick check of apartments dot com today on available apartment rentals.
Mountain View - 678
Sunnyvale 640
Cupertino 155
Palo Alto 158
Menlo Park 200
Redwood City 388
@ Online name - As insane as it may seem, people are paying $10,000 and over to rent homes in Palo Alto. The 4 bedroom home next to ours is being rented out for over $10,000 to a family with 2 kids.

Sadly, home prices are way out of reach for most people. We rented a one bedroom and then a two bedroom apartment for over 25 years before being able to move back to Palo Alto, and the price of our home was bid up by two other bidders - one was a consortium of buyers from India, and the other was a family from China. We were lucky to have been the highest bidder, but now we are stuck with never being able to pay down out mortgage. So I can sympathize with everyone who is looking to rent to be near to their place of work.
I am not sympathetic to foreign nationals who are hiding their cash in our real estate market. We have many empty homes (unrented) in Old Palo Alto, and also homes which were purchased by foreign buyers who rent the homes back to us.
Something must change in our laws to stop this.

The housing market in Washington state (near Seattle) has also been driven up by Asian investors, and the local employees are having a hard time being able to afford rents and buy homes.


Posted by Online Name, a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Mar 12, 2017 at 10:27 pm

Long Time Resident, thanks for the reality check. I guess with all the brouhaha about the 12 (or 14) bedroom house not too far away I was assuming the worst.

A realtor who was showing another house on our block and he said he was seeing rents of around $6,000 a month for 4 bedroom houses. That was 1 week ago and the house has apparently already sold. Since there's no "Sales Pending" sign outside, I'm assuming it was an all-cash purchase.


Posted by YIMBY, a resident of Mountain View
on Mar 12, 2017 at 11:56 pm

The prices go up based on the demand alone. There's not some magic trigger that building more apartments causes those rents to go up. Your rent can increase sharply all of a sudden if your landlord thinks he can get someone to pay it, even if it's not the current tenant.


Shocking as it may seem, I really don't want a Palo Alto zip code, since that would wreck my commute and I'm not a huge fan of your downtown (I'd honestly prefer San Mateo). I just want you guys to build more housing along with the rest of the Bay Area so rents can go down. But I know how your views are more important than thousands being priced out of the area.


Posted by YIMBY, a resident of Mountain View
on Mar 13, 2017 at 12:00 am

@LongTimeResident

If you have 1000 people who want X, and 10 of it, that's not "plenty".


Posted by Granny housing horror , a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 13, 2017 at 1:14 pm

I and my neighbors are so upset about this surprising and unexpected decision to create looser housing codes for building second residences in Palo Alto. So many of us have small back yards that serve as a small peaceful sanctuary. A second dwellings in neighboring yards placed just on the other side of our back or side fences will add density to our community and deprive residents the last semblance of privacy in those small yards. A second dwelling in many cases impinges so directly on neighbors yards and houses. Certainly those owning the primary residence will build the second as far away from their house as they can-thus directly over the fence of the neighbor. Those moving in come with all the noise, activity, cars, with far less buffer from the next home than the main residence on the plot of land. Sound has no fences. This granny housing rule change will drastically change the community culture, home value, privacy, peace and quiet of those homes surrounding this second residence.

How can a decision like this which so greatly affect the character of our city be made without a city wide vote? How can just a few City Counsel members have so much power to affect our whole community's quality of life by this change. There are so many ways this decision becomes a wild card for surrounding homes, schools, parking, community density. Will the residence become an Airbnb?

Please reconsider the impact of this decision. Yes, Palo Alto needs more housing but please do not change the character of our community toward this end.


Posted by YIMBY, a resident of Mountain View
on Mar 13, 2017 at 2:40 pm

Maybe instead of having a bunch of grannie units built out across a swath of Palo Alto suburbia intruding upon your privacy and quality of life at home, you could build a bunch of grannie units in a tall building in one place and call it an apartment complex.


Posted by Sanctimonious City, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 13, 2017 at 7:48 pm

For all the armchair economists that think somehow increasing housing will lower prices then I suggest you consider the concept of inelastic demand. In that scenario, competition (read sacrifice) drives price not supply.

Unfortunately for people like YIMBY, the open border globalist elites have set up a bi-modal system designed to benefit themselves. The law of supply and demand has been replaced by the law of who-wants-to-claw-over-the-backs-of-their-compatriots-to-get-it-more.

The desperate flood in due to lax immigration policy to stack themselves like chord wood into whatever housing they can find and the wealthy send their money, then their kids and lastly their mistresses to park them in a financial and political safe harbor. For the middle and lower classes, they can move to Nevada or Texas.

So unless you win the IPO lottery twice, are willing to set up an offshore factory or digital sweatshop, or live the millennial version of the Sit-Com with three generations under one roof, then somebody else is going to want that hipster $2,500 a month loft apartment more than you will.


Posted by Todd, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 13, 2017 at 8:11 pm

Sanctimonious City, that economic theory only works because literally everyone on the entire planet wants to move to Palo Alto. There are retired hedge fun managers on the long island shore just hoping someone will build a house in Palo Alto so they can move here. There are millions of children growing up in poverty around the world and their #1 concern is whether our new city council will allow enough housing for all of them, our pro development council majority whispers quietly amongst themselves "we hope"; that is literally the future that people like YIMBY want.


Posted by YIMBY, a resident of Mountain View
on Mar 13, 2017 at 8:18 pm

@Sanct

Competition is part of the supply/demand equation already. When you have a limited supply of something and a lot of demand for it, competition over that supply will drive the price up. What you perceive as being infinite and insatiable demand for housing is the result of years of under-building alongside growing demand.

Really, what you're saying simply sounds like a claim that there's infinite demand for Bay Area housing, so lucky you, you get to throw your hands up in the air in the face of this unsolvable problem and keep raking in the untaxed property value increases. This problem is not impossible to solve, but it means chipping away at the housing shortage that's been building up year after year, and that will take a while. The alternative is the generation after yours becomes a permanent renter class as even condos become impossible to afford, and that's not OK.


Posted by Oldster, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Mar 13, 2017 at 8:33 pm

Everyone upset about this new ADU ordinance can crack open their subdivision deeds and look for language forbidding boarding houses among the real "single" family dwellings, and then get cracking in civil court to enforce their deeds against their neighbors.

Almost all Palo Alto houses south of Embarcadero and east of Middlefield have deeds preventing odd uses from no home brewing of beer to no boarding houses in what were supposed to be a "higher" class of family housing to earn the subdivider the maximum profits. These sorts of restrictive deed language still superceeds city ordinances.

And, if you don't have a deed prohibition on boarding house use, go get a neighborhood overlay by ordinance to prevent the multi-family dwellings just as several Eichler neighborhoods have stopped their neighbors from building second stories.



Posted by Todd, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 13, 2017 at 8:46 pm

Oldster, most of those deed restrictions related to keeping blacks and orientals out of new subdivisions, I wouldn't expect the city council to take them all that seriously.


Posted by Oldster, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Mar 13, 2017 at 9:51 pm

I've read dozens scores of Palo Alto deeds. Yes, some have the racial restrictions which are unenforceable by law but many have other still enforceable restrictions. For example, Mr. Seale did not want stables for horses on his subdivisions just south of Embarcadero and I've seen many Palo Alto deeds which prohibit "boarding houses" of any kind.


Posted by Sanctimonious City, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 14, 2017 at 12:32 am

Liberal progressives (and I suspect even YIMBY) know that in a geographically constrained real estate market with highly inelastic demand and liberal immigration policies that they cannot build their way to lower housing prices. For 50 years, governments around the world have tried a wide range of both supply-side and demand-side policies including tax subsidies, rent controls, re-zoning, eminent domain, low interest rates and even public housing.

The result is liberals cannot point to a single success in any major urban example. Not New York, London, Paris, Stockholm, Berlin, Hong Kong, Vancouver or San Francisco. They always fail because real estate is not a commodity, better locations are always more desirable, and the more desirable locations cannot be reproduced.

So when pressed they never provide confident or credible estimates for what number of houses would bring equilibrium for affordable housing and once reached what incremental number would break the cycle and sustain it. Instead they fall back to touting how they would enable X number of lucky people to achieve their dreams while sheepishly looking away as everybody subconsciously calculates in their head the outrageous cost per unit the tax payers would be forced to subsidize for such a small constituency (Does Buena Vista now come to mind?)

Alas, that last part provides important insight to the true liberal progressive endgame. They hide nefarious objectives under a smokescreen of good intentions. What they really want is to manipulate the levers of government to steal the labor value or assets of others through taxes and regulations in order to give it to themselves.

They could choose to sacrifice, save and invest like most do as a way to improve their standard of living. But in their philosophy, it is more important to deserve something than to earn something.



Posted by We've been HAD, a resident of Downtown North
on Mar 14, 2017 at 12:53 am

@Online Name asks a couple of good questions

"I'm curious about what happens to our real estate taxes if we do add an ADU. I assume the land value remains unchanged for tax purposes but what about the structures? Do taxes only rise on the ADU or on the main house as well?

Adding an ADU or any additional square footage is part of the FAR, so it would increase the property tax because it is an improvement. Taxes for land goes up about 2% every year.

Governor Brown's action burdens the city and its infrastructure, schools and city services but would generate revenue from increased property taxes for the State to squander and put into developer pockets. Well, well...!


Posted by YIMBY, a resident of Mountain View
on Mar 14, 2017 at 2:34 am

@Sanctimonious City

If you're advocating for less intrusive liberal government meddling, then let's get government out of zoning laws. Why does the government get to decide what I should be able to do with my land? If I want to build a 20, 30, or even a 40 story building on my own land, then why shouldn't I? And if you don't support what I do with my land, then simply don't give any patronage to the apartment complex I plan to build. The free market, unchained from liberal progressive restrictions, shall be the guiding hand to land development.


Posted by Moving Out, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Mar 14, 2017 at 5:21 pm

I lived in one of these " guest houses" for three years of Stanford ( they used to force freshmen to live in tiny dorm rooms with two other students, ostensibly so freshmen wouldn't starve their first year).

Anyway, I loved living in it: I had my own kitchen, bathroom and bedroom--what more did I need at age 19-22?

My parents were thrillbecause over the course of a year, it costa out half what the dorm did, and I ate way better food, too!


Posted by Sanctimonious City, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 14, 2017 at 7:36 pm

@YIMBY

Your point about zoning is irrelevant since we are not talking about undeveloped wide open spaces. One of the primary roles of local government is to enforce property rights and zoning laws.

If you bring it into your argument then you must concede that government could just as easily re-zone residential land for garbage landfills or for parks vs high density housing. Open space being the priority not that long ago before the great millennial migration.

The issue with the Palo Alto government is that it does not enforce existing zoning adequately. Rather, it trades zoning variances for pet projects, Federal mandates and crony constituencies. At the same time, it promotes policies that favor development without requiring new businesses and residents to pay the full cost of living here.

The result is well known externalities of traffic, pollution, crime and budget shortfalls for city services for which long time residents are forced to subsidize and endure as they watch their quality of life erode. We can all see the obvious effects where we have a high tempo of business activity and yet literally crumbling roads, schools and infrastructure.

The city could bring the situation back into equilibrium by either making new businesses and residents pay commensurately for their costs. If that were the case we would see shiny new railway grade separations, road expansions and increased mass transit service to go along with those mixed use office boxes with poor aesthetics and insufficient parking spaces.

If they took the other path, they could let the free market continue to drive prices higher to the point where businesses are forced to either pay a living wage or disperse to other locations where costs are cheaper. That would allow their employees to have a higher standard of living and a chance to build wealth just like the capitalists are doing. Right now, they are extracting value out of Palo Alto and then off shoring jobs as soon as possible while they live without the consequences in their Woodside country villas.

Liberal progressive economic policy failure is the same all over the world. Palo Alto has been shielded longer than most because of the golden goose that lays the silicon eggs. Pretty soon the only difference between Palo Alto and Detroit, Chicago or Baltimore will be we have nicer weather.


Posted by Todd, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 14, 2017 at 8:13 pm

[Post removed.]


Posted by YIMBY, a resident of Mountain View
on Mar 14, 2017 at 8:55 pm

[Portion removed.]

The only thing driving up the cost of living here is Government Intrusion in the free market preventing corporations from using their property to build and satisfy a clear demand for housing supply. Using government to restrict the free-market from meeting this demand has, of course, caused the price of that supply to skyrocket, a clear indicator of unmet demand. Removing government interference would allow businesses to meet this demand and bring pricing down to an affordable equilibrium level, but it would mean that you would need to stop using Government Interference to intrude on people's lives and control what they do.


Posted by Granny Units-NO, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 14, 2017 at 11:26 pm

I find this conversation way off the point. The fact is that adding second residencies on property that was designed for one family will lower property value of houses surrounding that property, will cause a density where neighbors will be closer and more intruding on each other's quiet and space. This is an important quality of life issue. The second home will be much closer to it's over the fence neighbors previously separated by back or side yards. This is not what we bought into when we bought our homes in these neighborhoods. Additional housing should be build as apartments near transportation hubs, not in areas where people bought their homes expecting one neighbor family in each lot.


Posted by JJ, a resident of another community
on Mar 15, 2017 at 6:03 am

You know what's an important quality of life issue? Being able to afford housing in the first place. I have zero sympathy for people who own $2m houses and want to maintain legislation that is purposefully designed to drive up the cost of housing so that those who cannot afford $2m houses don't spoil the town's rich-people-only "character."


Posted by MBM, a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 15, 2017 at 12:33 pm

Is there a summary somewhere of what, exactly, was approved?


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